Category: Articles

WeSwap
Cash ManagementFunds

WORLD’S FIRST P2P CURRENCY EXCHANGE PLATFORM WESWAP HITS 500,000 USERS, LAUNCHES £2.3M FUNDRAISE

This morning, WeSwap, the award-winning peer-to-peer currency exchange platform, announces that in tandem with the launch of a £2.3 million funding round on leading investment platform Seedrs, it has hit 500,000 users. This raise will support the Series B investment round led by IW Capital, WeSwap’s lead investor, who has invested an additional £3.7 million in the travel money start-up, including £1.7 million of equity in this round.
 
Today’s news follows the company hitting a staggering £250 million in global currency traded on the platform since its launch in 2015, making the company the first peer-to-peer travel money fintech in the UK to do so. With award wins including Best Travel Money Provider at the 2018 and 2019 British Bank Awards, the fintech front runner has firmly cemented its role as one of the UK’s leading case studies for scale-up growth, fortifying a loyal and ever-expanding user base whilst maintaining the edge on product innovation and user experience.
 
WeSwap continues to hit remarkable milestones since its launch – presently, the currency exchange platform has over 30 travel industry partnerships, as well as booking flow integrations with online travel partners and numerous innovative travel-money products including:
 

  • A WeSwap pre-paid travel card
  • Card payments and withdrawals in over 195 countries and territories
  • Rate tracker
  • Smart Swap (where a user can pre-select an exchange rate at which they would like to execute a currency exchange)
  • Next day Travel Cash delivery
  • Buyback service

 
This is WeSwap’s third raise on Seedrs, having previously attracted over £3.5m from 3,868 investors.
 
Jared Jesner, CEO and Founder of WeSwap commented: “We have an incredibly loyal and engaged user base, something we’re truly proud of and will continue to honour with a great service. We are delighted to open up this latest round of funding, supplementing a series of debt, equity and private investment routes that have aided us in achieving some great milestones that we’re really proud of. This latest round will allow us to launch a range of new WeSwap product innovations and expand into Asia.”
 
For more information, please visit: www.seedrs.com/weswap3

Funds

Pimberly looks to expansion and sets sights on $10 million target

Pimberly looks to expansion and sets sights on $10 million target

SaaS firm helps companies manage all forms of product data

Manchester – Pimberly, the Manchester-based SaaS Product Information Management (PIM) and Digital Asset Management (DAM) platform provider, has moved into scale mode, investing to accelerate growth and achieve an ARR target of $10 million. The tech firm passed its $1 million annual recurring revenue (ARR) milestone earlier this year.

Pimberly’s PIM platform acts as a central hub for all omnichannel product data, including descriptions, specifications, sizing, pricing, availability, imagery and videos for multiple brands, currencies and geographies. Its automation and intuitive “No-Code” UI significantly streamlines ERP/eComm workflows. This helps retailers, distributors and manufacturers to seamlessly expand into new marketplaces and territories, as well as rapidly increasing time to market and the agility of their products and services.

The company has secured contracts with leading UK brands including, JD Sports, Freeman Grattan, Regatta and Card Factory, as well as international clients such as Brightstar in the US, Mconomy in the Netherlands and WhiteAway in Denmark.
Pimberly’s rapid growth follows investment from NorthEdge Capital and the UK Government. This has enabled the company to double its headcount to 40 over the last 12 months. The team is now in the process of expanding its headquarters, taking two floors within St James’s Tower in central Manchester and investing in more staff for product development, go to market and customer success.

Martin Balaam, CEO of Pimberly, said: “As new Enterprise B2B SaaS companies will know, getting your first paying clients is a huge milestone, enabling you to focus on getting to the nirvana of the $1m ARR target – I’m thrilled that Pimberly has been so well received by businesses. To surpass this target and focus on scaling to $10m ARR so quickly is just awesome”.

“It’s also a real indication that companies are increasingly focussing on their eComm/online strategies to fuel growth and can see the value that automated and effective product information management can have on their operational efficiency, their customer service and their bottom lines. This is a hugely exciting time for tech in the North West and we’re delighted to be a part of its success.”

Banking

Fast-tracking the evolution of banking with AI

By Tiffany Carpenter, Head of Customer Intelligence Solutions at SAS UK & Ireland

How intelligent decisioning solutions can help you stay relevant in the era of digital banking

Fierce competition, advances in technology, and consumer expectations for hyperpersonalised services are forcing the financial services sector to evolve. To adapt to rapid market developments, many banks and insurers are launching ambitious digital transformation projects. But do they actually deliver results?

The short answer: not often. In a recent study, McKinsey & Company found that fewer than one-third of organisational transformations succeed at improving a company’s performance, and a staggering 70% of large-scale change programmes don’t reach their stated goals. That’s a lot of effort and upheaval for very little reward. So what can we learn from this unsettling trend?

Common pitfalls

Every business and digital transformation strategy is unique, but there are four avoidable mistakes that financial services companies repeatedly make when approaching digital transformation:

  1. Misunderstanding the challenge

Whilst almost every financial institution has some kind of digital transformation strategy in play, many are focused on the technical aspects of digitisation and adapting to new channels and tools.

For example, many business leaders believe that digital transformation is mainly about replacing manual processes with automated workflows. That’s why there has been a rush to invest in robotic process automation (RPA) across the big banks and insurance players.

However, while automation can play an important role at the implementation stage, digital transformation is much more about reimagining traditional business models to succeed in new, fast-changing digital economies. In a banking context, that means redefining products and services to reflect the realities of a market where the customer is king.

  1. Pursuing disjointed initiatives

When rolling out digital transformation projects, banks often focus on innovation in individual functions or departments without considering how changes on one side of their business will affect other areas.

That’s a problem because banks have traditionally been structured along vertical product lines such as current accounts, savings, mortgages and credit cards, and horizontal business functions such as marketing, technology and finance. As a result, change programmes inevitably get stuck in the interdepartmental crossfire.

Instead, digital transformation initiatives must seek to disrupt the complex legacy operating model of the traditional bank and replace it with a more holistic, customer-focused approach.

  1. Making data unreachable

The letter “d” in digital transformation should stand for data. Without the ability to collect, store and access data, and the tools to refine it into actionable insights, banks won’t be able to leap ahead of their competitors.

For example, in an effort to serve business units with fast access to key information, many banks have established centralised data lakes. While this approach succeeds in eliminating individual data silos, it often ends up replacing them with a single large silo that is equally inaccessible.

Placing all data under the stringent governance of the IT department can make it very difficult for other business units to access and analyse time-sensitive data quickly. This can limit the value of insights and diminish the return on investment for large-scale change initiatives.

  1. Enabling cultures of resistance

The most challenging aspect of transforming any business is inspiring its employees to become advocates for change. Inertia, doubt and cynicism from people within the bank can stop transformation initiatives dead in their tracks.

That’s why setting a clear vision for change and encouraging employees to experiment with new ways of working is essential for banks to achieve a smooth adoption of new technologies and processes.

Shopping for success

In designing successful transformation initiatives, banks and other financial institutions can learn a lot from companies in other sectors that have harnessed analytics to avoid falling foul of these common pitfalls.

Take Shop Direct, which is not only the parent company of retail brands such as Very and Littlewoods, but also one of the UK’s largest nonbank lenders. While the company had thrived for many years on its traditional catalogue-based sales model, it realised that the future was not in paper. To pivot the business and remain relevant, it had to establish an online presence – and fast.

Shop Direct knew that moving its retail and financial services businesses over to an online-focused operating model would not be easy, but it had a secret weapon: vast amounts of data on customer buying habits, sales information and inventory records.

Within 12 months, Shop Direct built a solution based on intelligent decisioning software from SAS that was capable of mining useful insights from more than two years of data of customer interactions. By combining historical data with real-time context such as browsing behaviour, the company can now make instant decisions to tailor the user experience for each customer: personalised sort orders, personalised recommendations and real-time credit risk decisions.

Intelligent decisioning in banking

Similarities between the challenge faced by Shop Direct and the current ambitions of traditional banks are striking. Banks face an urgent need to reinvent their traditional business models for the digital world. Moreover, banks also possess huge volumes of customer data that they can analyse to find valuable insights about how to enhance existing services and develop new products.

AI and machine learning technologies have the potential to help traditional banks transform – but analytics on its own is not enough. Banks need to harness the insights generated by analytics to automate decisions at scale.

This means basing analysis not just on departmental data sets, but on all the information the bank possesses. It needs to include both historical transactional records and live data streams that provide immediate context on customers’ behaviour and actions. Furthermore, the analytics needs to take place in real time and drive automated actions to respond to immediate customer needs in order to truly affect the customer journey.

Corporate GovernanceGlobal ComplianceLegalRegulation

The main steps to follow for opening a business abroad

Before starting a business in a foreign jurisdiction, it is important to follow a number of steps that will ensure a good understanding of the local company formation principles and laws as well as the cultural or business particularities. Opening a company in Dubai will be different from starting a business in Germany and investors should be informed of the general incorporation conditions in the jurisdiction where they decide to base their business.

Know the local company formation rules

Company incorporation is jurisdiction-specific, meaning that each country will have its particular set of rules for the incorporation and the registration of the business, as well as for obtaining permits and licenses for running the company.

Investors who open a business or a foundation in the Netherlands will need to comply with the Company Law in the Netherlands and register the company with the Chamber of Commerce or KVK.

Some countries offer more attractive business conditions, compared to others, especially for startups, in terms of company taxation and the overall ease of doing business. Researching the particularities of a jurisdiction is the key for finding a suitable business location.

Request professional aid

In some situations, reaching out to a local law firm or professional company formation specialist can be a good solution. Investors in the United Kingdom can also request professional defense solicitor services if they have been the victims of criminal business acts while performing an economic activity in that country.

Research the market

Understanding the local needs and preferences, as well as performing a targeted market research, can be a key ingredient for businesses that are successful in foreign markets. Due diligence is important when starting a business abroad. For example, when opening a luxury car rental business in Dubai, investors can start by analyzing the competition, the market particularities and the preferences of the clients in order to determine how their services can meet the needs of the clients.

Researching the conditions for doing business and the general steps for company formation, understanding the business and cultural differences as well as getting to know the market and the clients are all good steps when deciding to open a business abroad.

Banking the Unbanked - Wealth & Finance Interational
BankingCash Management

Banking the Unbanked

Banking the Unbanked

  • About 75% of adults earning less than $2 a day don’t have a bank account
  • More than 2.5 billion people around the world don’t have a bank account
  • The poor face bureaucratic, travel distance and cost barriers

Millions of people around the globe lack power, credit and internet which result in them being unbanked. Being unbanked means not having access to the services of a bank or similar financial organization.The challenges are manifold; from not being able to receive deposits from an employer, to no credit history and being excluded from lending, to lacking the ability to safely save money or transfer money.

In 2014 there were 2 billion unbanked people. Account ownership is almost universal in high-income economies, hence, all unbanked adults live in developing economies. China and India, despite having relatively high account ownership, claim large shares of the global unbanked population because of their size. 225 million adults living there are without an account. China has the world’s largest unbanked population, followed by India (190 million), Pakistan (100 million), and Indonesia (95 million).

 

What are the challenges in banking the poor?

Three quarters of the world’s population, living in poverty, are unbanked. This is not just because of poverty, but also due to the cost, travel distance and amount of paperwork involved in opening an account. Our bank account number is almost as intrinsic to our identity as name and date of birth. Getting a job, renting a house and having an internet connection at home would be nearly impossible without some sort of financial inclusion.

Yet today the unbanked population stands at a staggering 1.7 billion globally, according to data released by the World Bank.

“Providing financial services to the 2.5 billion people who are ‘unbanked’ could boost economic growth and opportunity for the world’s poor,” said World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick. “Harnessing the power of financial services can really help people to pay for schooling, save for a home, or start a small business that can provide jobs for others. This new report on the world’s ‘unbanked’ makes the case: the more poor people are banking today, the more they are banking on their future.”

 

What further challenges stop people using a bank?

FairPlanet researched further, and even with access to a bank, evidence suggests people will still not trust the bank, the service is unreliable, and withdrawal fees are prohibitively expensive. People are not inclined to borrow because they do not want to risk losing collateral. While expanding access to various banking services (for instance, by lowering account opening fees) will benefit a minority, broader success may not be obtainable unless the actual service quality is vastly improved. Moreover, there are challenges on the demand side. Increased work needs to be done to understand what savings and credit products are best suited for the majority of the unbanked living in poverty.

 

Problem solving?

Blockchain payments allow for cheaper money transfers and lower account fees while upholding security and transparency. Open banking allows for new players to enter the field and begin assisting the underbanked in ways that have never before been allowed, and blockchain technology is poised as a key component in the entire process. With are a few companies emerging in this field and companies, such as FairPlanet, that host these payment methods, we can see a push for financial inclusivity. Serving adults who live on less than $5 a day is not only possible at scale—to a large degree, it is already happening.

Articles

What are the top ways to save on everyday spending?

We’re always on the lookout for ways to save money, especially after our bank balances have taken a hit over the festive period. Of course, there are the traditional ways of saving such as budgeting and setting aside a certain amount of funds each month. But, without overly restricting your leisure activities, what everyday changes can you make to spend less?

1.      Spend less on your energy bill

Make small everyday changes to lower the cost of your energy bill.

Did you know that 4% of your energy bill is attributed to cooking? Work on lowering this if you can. Your oven stays warm for a long time after you’ve switched it off. Try turning it off 10 minutes before you’re finished cooking to save on energy.

Instead of turning your thermostat up during the colder months, layer up instead to save on pennies! Switching down by just one degree Celsius can save you £85 per year — it all adds up. When it comes to showering, cutting your shower time down to 5 minutes instead of 15 minutes can save you £98 per year — less singing and faster washing!

2.      Storing food properly

When we’re packing food away in the fridge or freezer, we usually don’t think about how it’s stored. But, the way that you put away your goods can have an impact on your energy bill.

If you pack your freezer more tightly, this keeps more of the cold air in when you open the door. This means that the appliance doesn’t have to work as hard to lower the temperature again. The same applies for the refrigerator too — a full fridge requires less energy to stay cool than one that’s empty. If you’re struggling to pack your fridge or freezer full, filling it with newspaper can do the job.

3.      Save money booking holidays

Even when we’re trying to save money, we all deserve a holiday now and then! The good news is that you can save money by following a few top tips the next time you book a vacation.

Try and fly out on a Friday if you can, this can save you 18% on your airfare compared to if you flew out on a Sunday. Taking into consideration the average cost of a flight and the fact that the average Brit goes on holiday three times a year, you could save £85 annually by following this top tip.

Be calculative about when you book your holiday too. You can save £36 per year by booking your trip on a Monday as flights are 5% cheaper.

Consider packing more economically too. You can save £144 per year by only taking hand luggage on your flights. Squeeze more into your suitcase by rolling clothes and packing garments in your shoes.

4.      Meal prepping

Being prepared when it comes to grocery shopping and planning lunches for the week can help save on cash.

Even making a shopping list before you head to the supermarket can help. In fact, 60% of people who take a shopping list to the supermarket said it saves them money. It stops you buying things that you don’t necessarily need and helps you stick to your budget.

Create a meal plan for the week too. This means that you’re only buying what you need and don’t need to spend money on unexpected lunches out. Statistics have shown that you can save an impressive £1,300 per year by preparing lunch at home rather than eating out during the week.

5.      Eco-conscious coffee drinking

There are a few ways that you can be eco-conscious about your coffee drinking while saving money.

First of all, you can start by making your coffee at home when you can. You can save £507 per year by making your coffee at home instead of buying one each day from a retailer. If you prefer coffee from the store, why not take your own cup? This is helping the environment and you can save £150 per year as many high street retailers now offer 50p off coffee when you present your own cup.

 

Make the small changes above and watch your pennies turn into pounds this year! For more saving tips, check out True Potential Investor’s Life Hacks interactive.

PensionsWealth Management

What are the top ways to save on everyday spending?

We’re always on the lookout for ways to save money, especially after our bank balances have taken a hit over the festive period. Of course, there are the traditional ways of saving such as budgeting and setting aside a certain amount of funds each month. But, without overly restricting your leisure activities, what everyday changes can you make to spend less?

1.      Spend less on your energy bill

Make small everyday changes to lower the cost of your energy bill.

Did you know that 4% of your energy bill is attributed to cooking? Work on lowering this if you can. Your oven stays warm for a long time after you’ve switched it off. Try turning it off 10 minutes before you’re finished cooking to save on energy.

Instead of turning your thermostat up during the colder months, layer up instead to save on pennies! Switching down by just one degree Celsius can save you £85 per year — it all adds up. When it comes to showering, cutting your shower time down to 5 minutes instead of 15 minutes can save you £98 per year — less singing and faster washing!

2.      Storing food properly

When we’re packing food away in the fridge or freezer, we usually don’t think about how it’s stored. But, the way that you put away your goods can have an impact on your energy bill.

If you pack your freezer more tightly, this keeps more of the cold air in when you open the door. This means that the appliance doesn’t have to work as hard to lower the temperature again. The same applies for the refrigerator too — a full fridge requires less energy to stay cool than one that’s empty. If you’re struggling to pack your fridge or freezer full, filling it with newspaper can do the job.

3.      Save money booking holidays

Even when we’re trying to save money, we all deserve a holiday now and then! The good news is that you can save money by following a few top tips the next time you book a vacation.

Try and fly out on a Friday if you can, this can save you 18% on your airfare compared to if you flew out on a Sunday. Taking into consideration the average cost of a flight and the fact that the average Brit goes on holiday three times a year, you could save £85 annually by following this top tip.

Be calculative about when you book your holiday too. You can save £36 per year by booking your trip on a Monday as flights are 5% cheaper.

Consider packing more economically too. You can save £144 per year by only taking hand luggage on your flights. Squeeze more into your suitcase by rolling clothes and packing garments in your shoes.

4.      Meal prepping

Being prepared when it comes to grocery shopping and planning lunches for the week can help save on cash.

Even making a shopping list before you head to the supermarket can help. In fact, 60% of people who take a shopping list to the supermarket said it saves them money. It stops you buying things that you don’t necessarily need and helps you stick to your budget.

Create a meal plan for the week too. This means that you’re only buying what you need and don’t need to spend money on unexpected lunches out. Statistics have shown that you can save an impressive £1,300 per year by preparing lunch at home rather than eating out during the week.

5.      Eco-conscious coffee drinking

There are a few ways that you can be eco-conscious about your coffee drinking while saving money.

First of all, you can start by making your coffee at home when you can. You can save £507 per year by making your coffee at home instead of buying one each day from a retailer. If you prefer coffee from the store, why not take your own cup? This is helping the environment and you can save £150 per year as many high street retailers now offer 50p off coffee when you present your own cup.

 

Make the small changes above and watch your pennies turn into pounds this year! For more saving tips, check out True Potential Investor’s Life Hacks interactive.

Legal

The facts behind PCP

Being realistic, we all have a bit of Hyacinth Bucket instilled in us — in that rivalry with our neighbours is something that is preconditioned within us. When the hypothetical family from number 28 parade the street in their new Mercedes GLE, doing somewhat of a victory lap, Google is just seconds away as we scout our next big purchase.

Getting the opportunity to drive the car of your dreams, for many of us, will either be completely financially unviable, or be the root cause of a serious marital dispute. But, as John Paul Getty once remarked, “if it appreciates, buy it. If it depreciates, lease it.” Many throughout the UK have taken the once-oil tycoon’s advice and done just that.

AA research suggests that after three years, a car will have depreciated by 60% from its original showroom price tag, and that is if the car is averaging 10,000 miles per year. The biggest losses come in the first year however, with a deduction of around 40% being made by the end of the first 365 days. Obviously, there are different ways of putting the brakes on depreciation. Keeping the car clean, regular servicing in accordance with manufacturer’s guidelines, and one eye on the mileage gauge, will all go a long way in reducing potential losses.

But is there another option to consider?

PCP

A personal contract purchase (PCP) is proving itself to be a popular option amongst those who pick finance, with 78% of those choosing the agreement. Admittedly, it goes against everything our parents have told us to do, in regard to owning our own car, but if you can battle those initial demons, then we’re here to show you why this might be for you.

Cost

Fronting the cash for a brand-new car is not something we can all do with apparent ease, as in reality not everyone has tens of thousands of pounds kicking about in their spare bedroom. With PCP, the payment is broken down into three major chunks. Firstly, you’ve got the initial deposit which is usually 10% of the car’s showroom value. Secondly, the monthly payments which will include enough to cover the depreciation costs incurred throughout the contract. Finally — and this is where things change  once the final payment of the contract has been made, you get the option to either return the car or take a new one on a new contract. Or, you can pay a balloon payment and then the car is yours.

By taking out a PCP lease, the monthly repayments are significantly lower than they would be with a finance deal. The option then presents itself is to drive a car that you would initially have deemed to be significantly out of your price range. Therefore, if you don’t have a big deposit and want lower monthly repayments, then this might be exactly what you’re after.

Mileage

Congestion charges, heavy traffic, and the cherry on the top of the cake — parking. Three reasons many drivers in the UK have steered away from the daily commute in the car and opted for public transport. A decade ago, our decision when purchasing a car will have depended hugely on our day-to-day usage — but when that isn’t the same, why should the choice be?

The average annual mileage of a car in the UK is 7,900. One drawback of renting your car through PCP is that is that when initially taking out the contract, you are given a mileage restriction and if you exceed this, you will be penalised. If, however, you would consider yourself to be one of those average UK drivers, then PCP offers no qualms. The opportunity to purchase a new contract once your current one is up means you aren’t going to have spent your days driving around in an old car with high mileage.

The beauty of PCP, particularly if you don’t use your car for your daily commute, is you can effectively buy a weekend car. When purchasing a new car outright, you are restricted by the constant reminder that you will have this car for the foreseeable future. With PCP, you can buy the car that caters exactly to the needs of your evenings and weekends. For example, an SUV if you go camping with the kids most weekends throughout the summer, or a two-door roadster, if your Sundays are filled by coastal runs. And, if your circumstances do change, you can simply exchange the car.

Not only has PCP offered motorists a car they would never have been able to otherwise afford, it has in some sense saved the British car market. For the past three years, the number of new car sales in the UK has stayed above 2.5million units per year, in comparison to 2011 when it was only 1.9million.

Premium brands such as Audi, Mercedes, BMW and Jaguar Land Rover have all performed outstandingly through the system. This is due to the fact these cars hold their value better, and therefore depreciation is less, ultimately benefiting both dealer and driver. Mercedes reported a 100% upturn in UK sales since 2010.

The statistics makes sense, with more and more dealerships offering customers the opportunity to own a new car for £99 a month, when their total gym membership and mobile phone contract equates to more — well, it’s a no brainer.

Corporate GovernanceRegulation

What does ULEZ have in store for us?

The world is constantly changing – and the world of driving is no different! The concept of the electric car is gradually growing as the UK government plans to eliminate diesel and petrol-powered cars by 2040.

However, before that is the introduction of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in central London. Here, alongside Lookers who offer Ford Motability Cars, we look at what ULEZ is and what it means to motorists.

Just what is ULEZ and when can we expect it to come into play?

To travel in the ULEZ, your vehicle will need to meet a new, tighter exhaust emission standard. Failure to do so will see you needing to pay a daily charge if you want to travel inside the area of the ULEZ.

The introduction of an Ultra Low Emission Zone is intended to help improve the air quality in central London. Currently, air pollution is one of the biggest challenges London is facing. As road transport is the biggest source of the health-damaging emissions in London, the government is tightening its rules regarding traffic.

ULEZ is set to come into play from 8th April this year, with the area to be expanded from 25th October 2021. This expansion will see the zone include the inner London area. 

How will ULEZ affect your vehicle?

If your car doesn’t meet the criteria, you’ll face a £12.50 charge each day. This charge runs every day of the year too.  Generally, if you own a petrol car that was registered after 2005, it will meet the ULEZ standards. If you own a diesel car, it’s normally those registered after September 2015 that will be exempt from the charge.

If you own a van, minibus or specialist vehicle, you’ll face slightly different regulations than those in a car. Minimum emission standards are:

  • Petrol: Euro 4
  • Diesel: Euro 6

Petrol models sold from January 2006 should meet these standards, as too should diesel vans which were sold from September 2016. Like cars, the daily fee for those which don’t meet the standards is £12.50.

Motorbikes and mopeds also carry the same cost for failing to have a model that meets the standards. Generally, motorbikes, or similar vehicles, will reach the required Euro 3 standards if they were registered with the DVLA after July 2007.

The cost rises considerably for lorries, coaches and large vehicles that aren’t up to the required standard. Any that don’t meet the Euro VI standards (usually those registered before 2014) must pay a daily charge of £100.

It’s important to note that these costs are in addition to any applicable Congestion Charge.

Are there any exemptions?

If you live within the boundaries of the ULEZ, you’ll receive a ‘sunset period’. This entitles you to a full discount of the charges, so you have more time to have a vehicle that meets the required standards. This discount will run until 24th October 2021. After this time, residents must pay the full charge.

Also benefitting from a sunset period are drivers with a disabled or disabled passenger vehicles tax class. Their exemption runs until 26th October 2025, unless their vehicle changes its tax class. Blue Badge holders, however, must pay the charge from its introduction date.

If you own a historic vehicle and it has historic vehicle tax, you’ll be exempt. This is the case unless the vehicle is used commercially. Agricultural and military vehicles are also exempt, as are certain types of mobile cranes.

While the ULEZ may be an issue for drivers of older cars, it’s important to remember that it has been designed to help us in our everyday life and is just another step on the government’s drive for a cleaner UK. It’s clear that the government is aware of the issue that pollution is causing and is trying to eradicate further damage to our planet.

Insurance

What finance options are there available for your engagement ring?

Often, covering the cost is also a vital element of any proposal, and the options available aren’t always obvious. There are a few important things to consider before you get down on one knee however. Things like ring insurance might come as a surprise, but it is necessary for guaranteeing peace of mind on these single high value items.

In this article we’ll take a look through some of the necessities to think about when it comes to planning the perfect proposal.

1.      Insurance

Possessions can be added to an existing contents policy, or specific jewellery cover can be taken out. For peace of mind on the off chance of theft or damages, jewellery insurance is an excellent option.

The latter is more commonly applicable when the cost of your item(s) is less than £1,000-£1,500, as this is usually covered by standard contents policies. For example, the policy holder will choose an amount to which cover is provided, so a £50,000 policy would insure your home contents as well as your special pieces of jewellery.

Furthermore, a single item limit will usually apply to each item and if the cost of the item itself exceeds the single item limit amount (around £1,000 to £1,500), then these valuables should be listed separately in a quotation. The expensive, sentimental nature of jewellery makes it a common item to want to insure. By adding your engagement ring to your home insurance policy, you are essentially futureproofing it for years to come.

2.      Finance plans

While many people choose to save up for wedding rings, some will opt for finance to spread the cost of their jewellery.

As with any finance item, it can be crucial to ensure that you read the small print and you pay on time. Some jewellers will offer a zero per cent finance rate, but clarity on the exact nature of these agreements is key to ensuring that you get a good deal. Finance can be a useful option depending on your situation, or maybe you have found the perfect ring, but you’ll require a bit of extra help to secure it for your special someone. There are various online calculators which can help you to calculate a sufficient loan amount, but it’s important to be realistic if you are looking into this option. Most retailers will have a price threshold before finance options are available, and typical time frames are six, 12, 24 and, 36 months. Often, customers can apply for finance quickly and easily at online checkouts, which takes the stress out of waiting for a decision to be made.

If taking out a finance agreement would best suit your needs, then looking into the terms and conditions is certainly advised, to cover the cost for your treasured piece.

3.      Finding the perfect ring: important questions

It’s important to have a solid idea of what you’re looking for, and you should find a trusted retailer for making the big purchase. Consider using an online retailer. Often they are more competitively priced as they don’t have the same overheads as high street retailers.

Online reviews are widely available nowadays, making it easier than ever before to evaluate your choice based on the experiences of others. On receipt of your ring, ensure that you review the supporting paperwork, including any diamond certifications and keep these safe in case you need them in the future.

You can ensure that by taking all of the above into the account, you make a purchase that your loved one will treasure for years to come.

Banking

allpay.cards Instrumental in Launch of New Amaiz Business Banking Service for Solopreneurs

Leading UK card manufacturer and bureau, allpay.cards has announced it is the card provider for the new Amaiz mobile business banking service for solopreneurs. Amaiz aims to help people free-up time by supplying an app to give sole traders and small business owners access to fast, mobile banking services backed up with accounting and back office smart tools.

The account is quick to set up, enables fast UK bank transfers, plus Direct Debit management and a contactless business card with 3-D Secure protection, in-app card freeze and instant PIN reminders. As part of the service, an expert accountancy team are also available to help sole traders with general bookkeeping and accounting questions.

Steve Taklalsingh, managing director & CFO, Amaiz explains: “Featuring bespoke tools to support agile, ‘always-on’ small businesses, the Amaiz banking service makes life easier for solopreneurs by removing the headache of admin and accounting. Filing tax returns is more straightforward and invoices can be prepared from the app. Categorised transactions quickly assess where a business owner may be overspending and help to prepare for tax self-assessment in advance with all the details in one place releasing solopreneurs’ time to focus on the day job!

“We worked with allpay.cards for the design, manufacture and supply the bank cards for our new service,” confirms Taklalsingh. “allpay.cards provides services to a number of challenger banks and having been impressed with positive feedback from their customers we made our choice. In addition, the allpay.cards team are committed and proved supportive, quick and responsive to work with. For example, once we’d agreed the card design, they were able to manufacture a full run in just 10 working days (other manufactures can typically take around 6-12 weeks).

“allpay.cards also manages the secure personalisation of the cards at its state-of-the-art PCI compliant UK manufacturing facility which includes encoding the chip, adding the name and expiry and security code onto the cards. The bespoke fulfilment team then follow a secure process to hand match and attach the cards before they are shipped to the new card holder. If a card is ordered at 6am on a Monday it is dispatched by 5pm on the same day and this rapid turnaround is just one way the account can make life easier for small business owners.”

Emily Lovelock, head of sales at allpay.cards explains: “We provide the full end-to-end physical card service for Amaiz. From the guidance of the technical setup and creation of the card designs right through to manufacture and dispatch. We have full quality control and flexibility of the process at our UK accredited site, which we can be a more flexible provider than some of our competitors who manufacture their cards overseas.”

For more information please visit: https://allpay.cards/ or www.amaiz.com

Transactional and Investment BankingWealth Management

Promising Regional Start-up Gets Funding from Hungarian Companies

  • Enter Tomorrow Europe, a venture capital fund operated by Lead Ventures has gained share in Czech start-up Neuron Soundware, utilizing investments from MOL and Eximbank.
  • The Czech start-up analyses sounds and vibrations to detect when industrial machines need maintenance.
  • Apart from the Hungarian companies, the EUR 5,7 million investment is also supported by two Czech capital funds, Inven Capital and J&T Ventures.

Lead Ventures continues to expand its portfolio with the help of MOL, Eximbank, together with Czech capital funds. Together, the business partners invested EUR 5,75 million in Czech company Neuron Soundware. The start-up is one of the first companies in the region to implement sound-based diagnostics of industrial machinery, which greatly helps factories using such equipment.

Enter Tomorrow Europe, a capital fund operated by Lead Ventures, supported by MOL and Eximbank used funds from Hungary for its latest /5000 venture capital investment. Together with Inven Capital, a member of ČEZ Group, Lead Ventures gained share in the Czech Neuron Soundware company.

Neuron Soundware was founded as a start-up in Prague in February, 2016. Currently, they employ 20 experts and last year, they had revenue of almost half a million Euros. The company provides AI-based solutions for several industries, including the energy industry. Their software analyses the sounds made by industrial machines, and can detect even the smallest of changes or unusual noises, indicating that the equipment is faulty or in need of maintenance. Their technology is already used by several global corporations, including Daimler, BMW, Innogy, E.ON, Airbus and LG.

“We know exactly how pumps, gearboxes, cylinders, electromotors, or compressors should sound. The sounds of all regular components of a machine are stored in a database. But that is not enough, our artificial intelligence software is able to distinguish problem noises from regular process hum and surrounding sounds, giving the customer the certainty that the machine will not pull off any unpleasant surprises,” says Pavel Konečný, founder and CEO of Neuron soundware.

“Predictive maintenance is a part of Industry 4.0. Neuron’s exciting technology has the potential to create a real break-through in this area. We trust that, with our newest regional investment, this innovative solution can improve the efficiency of several industries,” added Ábel Galácz, CEO of Lead Ventures.

“Start-ups from Central Europe, which have already been tested, have great potential to break through in global markets. As part of our strategy, we are looking for innovative solutions that can increase effectivity of technical processes in industrial services. Like our recent entry into Slovak GA Drilling, our entry into Czech Neuron Soundware is an example of a successful connection of small start-ups with a strong international company for further growth,” said Oszkár Világi, MOL Group Chief Innovation Officer.

The full value of the investment is EUR 5.75. Almost half of that sum is provided by Lead Ventures ETE, using funds from MOL and Eximbank. The rest of the price is covert by Inven Capital and Neuron’s previous investor, J&T Ventures.

Managing over EUR 100 million, Lead Ventures aims to support start-ups with innovative ideas all over the CEE region, assisting them to take their products or services to the global market. MOL has been supportive of the goals of the investment fund before. In March, for example, Lead Ventures signed a EUR 4,2 financing deal with the Slovakian GA Drilling company. GA Drilling focuses on developing a revolutionary electronic plasma technology, creating plasma drills capable of penetrating deeper layers of the ground at a reduced energy cost, making geothermic energy more accessible. As part of the deal, experimental drill heads are now being tested at MOL’s own hydrocarbon facilities.

Transactional and Investment Banking

Mike Bagguley, Former Barclays International COO & Financial Trading Industry Leader, Backs Inforalgo with Investment & Board Role

Inforalgo, the Capital Markets data automation specialist, has announced that Mike Bagguley, formerly COO at Barclays International and a respected financial investment industry leader, has invested in the firm and joins as a board advisor.

Mike, who brings a wealth of experience gained in senior trading and leadership positions across Barclays Investment Bank, approached Inforalgo during a search for firms that offer the opportunity to significantly reduce risk and costs in the market’s businesses.

“Inforalgo’s approach is enormously appealing, because it rationalises the technology and operating platform that firms need to manage,” he said. “Its portfolio of powerful data integration solutions allow transactions to be recorded, processed and reported in a single action, reflected end to end, electronically aided by smart automation. These independent, smart data automation solutions remove considerable pain for financial institutions and broker-dealers, allowing them to get on with doing optimal deals without worrying about how everything will be input, processed and reported.

“In this volatile market where new opportunities come and go quickly, and international regulators are continuously updating and adding to transparency and reporting requirements, Inforalgo has identified a sweet spot with a series of high-impact solutions that are unmatched,” he added.

“Inforalgo has an unrivalled track record as platform-independent data connectivity and compliance automation specialists, and its expansion into automated cross-jurisdictional regulatory reporting is further confirmation that it is ahead of the industry curve.”

Commenting on Mike’s appointment and his injection of funds to support the company’s next growth phase, Jordan Ambrose, Inforalgo’s CEO, said, “We are delighted and honoured to have Mike’s involvement and investment, and excited to be building out our senior management team at this pivotal point in our company’s development and expansion. Mike brings with him a wealth of industry experience and insight, and we look forward to his invaluable input.”

Mike Bagguley
Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsRegulation

Financial Services Employees Put Their Employers at Risk through Unsecure Communication

Symphony “Workplace Confidential survey highlights a worryingly casual attitude to workplace communications within the Financial Services Industries

Symphony Communication Services, LLC, the leading secure team collaboration platform, reveals that financial services employees are inadvertently putting company and customer data at risk through their communication channels.

These findings form part of the Symphony Workplace Confidential survey, which looked into the growth of new collaboration tools and platforms entering the workplace. FS workers are increasingly putting their trust in these platforms to conduct business, for both internal and external communications. For instance, the survey revealed that 34% have used these platforms to share strategic plans regarding their company, 40% have shared information regarding a customer, and 30% have shared financial information regarding their own employer.

However, many collaboration platforms are not protected with end-to-end encryption, and employees using them to share sensitive data points towards a worrying gap in security knowledge. Despite the fact that 94% of survey respondents have confidence that information shared via these platforms is safe from external eyes, a shocking 28% of financial services professional surveyed were not even aware of their employer’s own IT security guidelines. Interestingly this 28% figure is actually above the survey average of 22%; a cause for concern given the highly regulated sector of financial services.

“Financial services is about transactions and efficiency. And market workers have always been innovators when it comes to communication and speed. Fifteen years ago they ‘hacked’ AOL Instant Messaging and IRC into their workflows to help them get more work done faster,” states Jonathan Christensen, Chief Experience Officer at Symphony. “They adopted these tools for the ease and speed they offered but without regard to privacy, security, or compliance. The same thing is happening today with mobile device proliferation and cloud applications moving into the workplace.”

The use of these tools helps to accommodate a new way of working, allowing employees to work remotely from any location. While this is a positive move in powering the modern workforce, this also presents its own security and compliance challenges:


● 38% admit to accessing these tools from their personal computer
● 48% use their personal phone (higher than the 38% who use a work issued phone)
● 12% even admitted to using a publicly available computer

“Taking core capabilities away with draconian IT policies is not the way forward.” noted Christensen. “Workers need responsive, flexible collaboration platforms that are also safe to get their jobs done.”

Additional findings from the survey include:


• Only 31% of survey respondents said they were very confident they always stuck to company security guidelines
• 24% had shared information for HR including personal salary information, contracts, reviews etc.
• 25% admit they have used these tools to talk badly about a customer
• 33% have connected to unsecured internet to conduct work

Articles

Craig Butterworth Joins Symphony: The Secure Collaboration Platform

Symphony Communications LLC, the secure collaboration platform, has appointed Craig Butterworth as Head of Global Account Management. 

Butterworth joins Symphony from Nomura, where he served as Managing Director and Global Head of Client Ecosystem – a business led front-to-back digital transformation program. With over 18 years’ experience in capital markets, he previously held Head of Sales roles at Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), State Street and Royal Bank of Canada (RBC).

 

Passionate about mentoring, career guidance and talent development, Butterworth served as Chair of Nomura’s Global Markets EMEA Graduate Steering Committee, a role he also fulfilled during his time at RBS.

 

On his appointment, Butterworth commented: “I am looking forward to helping Symphony’s biggest clients and shareholders get the most from the platform, as a core foundational pillar of their digital transformation initiatives.”

 

Butterworth started his career at Goldman Sachs after receiving a BSc (Hons) in Economics from the University of Warwick. He is an accomplished race car driver, having won a number of championships in karts and cars since he began racing at 10 years old. He is married with two children and lives in the Essex countryside.

 

Symphony recently raised $165 million in a fresh funding round. It will use the new capital to evolve its newly launched Market Solutions business, to accelerate growth and deliver a new wave of innovation to enterprises as they replace traditional collaboration tools.

Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsForeign Direct InvestmentStock Markets

US and Asian brands dominate rankings of world’s most valuable technology brands

  • US tech giants take top 5 spots, Amazon is world’s most valuable technology brand with monumental US$187.9billion brand value
  • Apple, Google and Microsoft defend spots as brand values continue to surge
  • China’s WeChat breaks into top 10 as world’s strongest tech brand, more Chinese brands rising through ranks
  • New entrants from digital space: Twitter and Instagram gaining traction, as online shopping portal Taobao is most valuable new entrant
  • Baidu owned iQiyi fastest-growing, rising 326% to impressive brand value of US$4.3 billion
  • Facebook losing brand strength, recording Brand Strength Index (BSI) score of 82.9 out of 100 and AAA rating
  • IT Services brands log growth: TCS, Accenture, Capgemini, Wipro and IBM all see growth in brand value

Amazon leads tech titans

Amazon strengthens and maintains its position as the world’s most valuable technology brand. Brand value surges 25% to a record US$187.9 billion, over US$30 billion more than 2nd place Apple. Notoriously strong for service, last year, Amazon recorded its most successful Prime Day to date, with consumers purchasing more than 100 million products. This was shortly followed by the brand crossing the US$1 trillion threshold on Wall Street for the first time in its history. And due to an ever-diversifying portfolio, it seems no industry is safe from the threat and power of Amazon.

The Amazon brand is well-positioned for further growth but the presence of Chinese brands this year is most impressive and certainly not to be ignored.

David Haigh, CEO of Brand Finance, commented:

“Amazon is leaving no stone unturned as it relentlessly extends into new sectors, however its technological might still overshadows rivals to retain the status of the world’s most valuable tech brand.

The Amazon brand is well-positioned for further growth but the presence of Chinese brands this year is most impressive and certainly not to be ignored.”

Chinese brands flex muscle

While the top 5 most valuable tech brands are dominated by brands from the USA, the remaining 5 within the top 10 are from China and South Korea, asserting the dominance and competitiveness of the Asian players.

New entrant Taobao (brand value US$46.6 billion) is the most valuable, breaking into the top 10 for the first time. The Chinese online shopping website is headquartered in Hangzhou and owned by Alibaba. It is one of the world’s biggest e-commerce websites, offering its almost 620 million monthly active users a marketplace to facilitate consumer-to-consumer (C2C) retail by providing a platform for small businesses and individual entrepreneurs to open online stores

At US$50.7 billion, China’s WeChat is a rising star, having lifted its brand value 126% over the previous year. Its influence is reflected in the impressive way in which the brand has successfully created a digital ecosystem for its 1 billion Chinese users who use the platform every day to instant message, read, shop, hire cabs, and more

WeChat has broken into the top 10 for the first time, making it worthy of its strongest brand accolade, improving on last year with an upgrade to the elite AAA+ brand strength rating and a corresponding 90.4 out of 100 Brand Strength Index (BSI) score. Whilst China’s burgeoning middle class makes it attractive to continue strengthening the brand domestically, the massive growth experienced by brands as they pursue international business is also appealing

Another tech brand relying on the domestic customer base has made the most of the immense growth in demand for streaming content within the country. iQiyi is not just China’s but the world’s fastest-growing brand this year, up 326% to US$4.3 billion. The Baidu-owned online video platform is China’s answer to Netflix and hosts over 500 million monthly active users.

More likes for digital and social media brands

Netflix is rising through the ranks, with its brand value growing by a whopping 105% over the past year to $21.2 billion, Netflix is set to play the lead role in home entertainment, building a disruptive business as a universally accessible narrowcaster and in this way effectively challenging traditional broadcasting brands.

YouTube (brand value up 46% to $37.8 billion), another rapidly growing digital media brand, retains its spot in 11th place. Like Netflix, YouTube is building a broad platform for video content, in an effort to leverage its brand from merely peer-to-peer video creation and sharing to also include a growing premium and professional video library.

Similarly, Twitter (brand value up 66% to $3.2 billion) jumps almost 100 ranks to become the 258th most valuable brand in America. Another successful social media platform, Instagram is the most valuable new entrant to the ranking this year, claiming 47th spot with a brand value of $16.7 billion.

New entrant Instagram, the photo and video sharing social networking platform owned by Facebook, recorded a brand value of US$16.8 billion. The service has over 1 billion active monthly users and with the rising popularity of Instagram influencers, is also becoming the most attractive portal for digital marketing spends and bringing in impressive advertising engagement revenue.

Although rising up from sixth to fifth place, social networking site Facebook (brand value up 8.7% to US$83.2 billion) has recorded a drop in its brand strength, its AAA+ status from last year slipping down to AAA in 2019. Facebook’s corresponding Brand Strength Index (BSI) score has decreased to 82.9 out of 100.

IT Services brands log growth

Not to be ignored are the notable performances in the technology rankings clocked in by IT Services brands TCS, Accenture, Capgemini, Wipro and IBM who have all seen growth in brand value since last year.

Valued at US$26.3 billion, Accenture has grown rapidly by 56.5% since last year, a testament to its continued innovation across AI, advanced analytics and growing cybersecurity practice. The professional services and IT Services brand has made waves in the industry for its pioneering work on how companies can best achieve a smooth blockchain transformation.

Growing in brand value by 23% to US$12.8billion is India’s largest IT services conglomerate, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), bolstered by a disciplined focus on the market’s increased demand for digital services. TCS has positioned itself as a leader in providing a superior all-round customer experience, leveraging artificial intelligence and robotic automation across its transformation programs. TCS is also to be commended as the first Indian IT services brand to achieve success in the Japanese market; the Mumbai-based brand has expanded its operations in Japan and overseen a merger of three brands to create Tata Consultancy Services Japan. 

Wipro (up 25% to US$4.0 billion) is to be commended for its significant investments in digital transformation capabilities, niche acquisitions, and a recent brand refresh, which have propelled it up the rankings to 81st most valuable technology brand this year.

Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsTransactional and Investment Banking

Nevion and Sony establish a strategic partnership to provide enhanced IP broadcast production solutions

Nevion, award-winning provider of virtualized media production solutions, today announced that it has agreed with Sony Imaging Products & Solutions Inc. (“Sony”) to establish a strategic partnership in the area of IP-based solutions for broadcasters and other industries. To reinforce this partnership, Sony will also become a leading investor in Nevion by acquiring a minority stake in the company through a share purchase agreement.

In recent years, Nevion has established itself as a leading provider of IP media network solutions for the real-time transport, processing, monitoring and management of the video, audio and data signals that are used in production. This partnership with Sony will allow customers to benefit from more advanced, fully integrated and standards-based media production solutions that combine outstanding media network technology with world-leading equipment such as cameras and switchers. These solutions will make it easier for customers to move to IP in their facilities and in remote production, as well as improve their ability to create content – for example through better sharing of resources.

“This is an exciting alliance for Nevion, its customers and its partners,” said Geir Bryn-Jensen, Nevion CEO. “It is based on very complementary solutions, products and know-how, and will allow us to offer a lot more to our customers, both existing and potential, than we have been able to until now. It will also give us a much greater scalability and reach.”

“Through this strategic partnership, we will be able to expand our end-to-end IP solution offerings that allow customers to produce live content connecting multiple locations”, said Mikio Kita, Senior General Manager, Media Solution Business Division, Professional Products & Solutions Group, Sony Imaging Products & Solutions Inc. “Working together with Nevion, we will deliver an integrated and optimal experience for our customers.”

Nevion’s CEO, Geir Bryn-Jensen concluded: “This strategic partnership with Sony is a real vote of confidence in Nevion, its vision, its strategy, its people and its IP-based media network solutions. We look forward to working closely with Sony to maximize the benefits for our customers.”

For more information about Nevion and its solutions, please visit the Nevion website.

FundsFunds of Funds

Showpad Secures $70 Million in Series D Funding

Investment will accelerate global expansion and drive continued platform innovation by the world’s largest sales enablement software provider

Showpad, the leading sales enablement solution, has secured $70 million in Series D funding, a combination of debt and equity, led by Dawn Capital and Insight Partners with participation from existing investor Hummingbird Ventures and new investor Korelya Capital. Silicon Valley Bank provided the debt financing for the deal. The investment will fuel Showpad’s continued global expansion and new product development as Showpad accelerates delivery on its mission to empower sales and marketing to sell the way modern buyers want to buy.

 

Showpad is the world’s largest sales enablement software provider, with more than 1,000 customers worldwide spanning a breadth of industries including manufacturing, healthcare, technology, and financial services. With more than 90 percent year-over-year growth, Showpad’s rapid expansion is indicative of the explosive growth of the sales enablement market segment. According to Gartner, 15 percent of all sales technology spending will be applied to sales enablement technology by 2021.

 

“The growth we’ve experienced in the past year is proof that sales enablement solutions are now a must-have for B2B businesses. We pride ourselves on empowering modern sales teams to increase win rates, deal size, and buyer engagement with a single, scalable platform and a consumer-like user experience,” said Pieterjan Bouten, CEO of Showpad. “The continued support of our investors is validation of our vision for the sales enablement market and our ability to deliver innovation that maximises sales productivity and optimises marketing impact.”

 

Showpad has experienced explosive growth in recent years. In the U.S., the company has experienced 150 percent year-over-year revenue growth and grew the headcount of its Chicago office to more than 150 employees in just 18 months. With this investment, Showpad will drive continued growth in the sales enablement market by adding more than 200 new jobs to its global workforce of 400 in 2019. This investment will also drive the next chapter of the company’s geographic and platform expansion, including deeper penetration into the European market, which Showpad has dominated since its founding in 2011. In addition to its headquarters in Belgium, Showpad has offices in London, Munich, Poland, Chicago, San Francisco, and Portland.

 

With organisations accelerating their investments in sales enablement, Showpad remains focused on extending its leadership position in the sales enablement industry. In 2018, Showpad acquired two technology companies to broaden its sales enablement capabilities, including the $50 million acquisition of sales training software, LearnCore, and the acquisition of meeting intelligence platform, Voicefox. As a result, Showpad now offers the most flexible and complete sales enablement platform and is recognised as a Leader in The Forrester Wave™: Sales Enablement Automation Platforms, Q3 2018.

 

“To date there has been enormous innovation in automating the marketing and sales workflow. However, in the end, sales comes down to one person selling to another,” said Norman Fiore, General Partner at Dawn Capital and member of the Showpad Board. “Historically, this has been an offline process that has been wildly inconsistent and opaque. Showpad’s suite of products succeeds in bringing this process online for the first time with data-rich feedback loops on the effectiveness of teams, managers, salespeople and even individual pieces of sales content.”

“Its AI-driven recommendation engines work at all these levels recommending, for example, the most effective next piece of content for specific customers or the most appropriate training for an individual seller. Since we first invested in 2014, Showpad has consistently demonstrated its ability to define and lead the sales enablement category and we are thrilled to double down on this category, co-leading their Series D alongside Insight.”

 

To learn more about Showpad’s product, mission and vision, visit showpad.com

EquityFunds of FundsInfrastructurePrivate Client

Fairjungle raises €1.8m to accelerate is growth in the European business travel market

The Paris-based start-up, founded by former McKinsey mangers and Apple engineers, has recently raised close to €2m to accelerate the deployment of its modern business travel management solution in France, the rest of Europe, and beyond.

Fairjungle shifts into second gear. After making a name for itself in 2018 in the world of business travel, the start-up intends to accelerate its growth in 2019 with this raise of €1.8m. This round is highlighted by a complementary group of investors such as entrepreneurs Thibaud Elzière (Fotolia, eFounders; PayFit investor) and Eduardo Ronzano (Keldoc; Meero investor), business travel expert Bertrand Mabille (former Europe MD of Carlson Wagonlit Travel), and Whitestones Ventures, an investment fund led by Goldman Sachs alumnus Youssef Kabbaj.

Corporate travel in the technology age
Launched at the end of 2017 by former managers and engineers from McKinsey and Apple, the start-up has developed a solid reputation as an innovative challenger in the world of business travel.

Today, Fairjungle allows business travellers to book all their trips on a single platform in just a few simple clicks, while saving their companies 20-25% on their travel budgets.

Using proprietary algorithms based on the latest machine learning technologies, Fairjungle helps customers reduce the average booking time from 25 minutes to 60 seconds.

Voted 2018 Start-up of the Year at the IFTM Tourism Fair, Fairjungle’s platform today boasts more than 400 airlines and over a million accommodation options, all available at the best prices on the market.

For CEO Saad Berrada “everything started from our experience as consultants at McKinsey. We spent a fortune travelling but had to do so via a user experience dating back to the 1980s. With the technological tools we have today it was mindboggling that there was such a large gap between leisure and business travel. Thus, we set ourselves the goal of providing business travellers with an experience closer to that of Amazon than that of the La Redoute phone catalogue. We worked with a team of former Apple engineers and designers to rethink everything from the ground up; that’s how Fairjungle was born!”

For Youssef Kabbaj, managing partner of Whitestones Ventures (www.whitestones.vc) “FairJungle is a one stop shop solution for lean organizations who want more efficient business travel while improving massively the user experience and streamlining the booking process. The market is enormous and the team is amazing. We are very proud at Whitestones Ventures to be part of this adventure as investors and as (very satisfied) clients.”

Fairjungle redesigned the typical booking process of a business traveller to save time and money for all stakeholders involved. Thus, the platform now allows users to book and prepay their next trip (flight and hotel) in less than one minute (vs. an average 25 minutes with traditional tools). On the employer side, travel management is facilitated through automated travel policy functionality, a travel budget approval module, and an accounting reconciliation support tool.

The start-up has also innovated by offering a gamification module allowing businesses to save nearly 30% on their business travel expenses, while improving employee satisfaction. How? By directly influencing the purchasing behaviour of employees and rewarding them for choosing cheaper travel options. Think of it as an “inverted” loyalty program that promotes savings, realigning the financial interests of the company (the payer) and the travelling employee (the trip consumer).

A barely disrupted €260 billion market
With this raise of nearly €2 million, Fairjungle intends to shake up the European business travel market, estimated at more than €260 billion. Although the market is still largely in the hands of traditional, poorly-digitised agencies, new players are developing abroad. TripActions, a California start-up, is positioned in the same segment in the US and is now valued at more than €1 billion. Fairjungle’s formula for success is to focus on technology and the user experience for both the traveller and employer.

Fairjungle Co-Founder & CTO, Bertrand Guiheneuf, trained at Apple and was long-time right-hand man of Jean-Marie Hullot, CTO of Apple. For him “the opportunity is, above all else, a technological one. The journey, and especially the business trip, has been inadequately disrupted by digital technology: the technical culture dates back to the 1980s and 90s. Much of business travel today is still done manually. This limits the possibilities of existing solutions but also opens up a world of exciting possibilities for a team trained in the development of consumer applications, like Fairjungle.”

Fairjungle shifts into second gear
By leveraging the latest technologies (e.g., artificial intelligence, NDC), Fairjungle is primarily targeting modern companies that are looking for a tool to help them manage their journeys easily and with better costs, whether or not they currently use a travel agency.

Having seen the power of Fairjungle’s platform, a large number of start-ups and SMEs, as well as some larger companies such as OVH, are onboard. With additional success abroad, especially in London and Dubai, the company sees big things ahead beyond France.

Articles

GBP 5 million awarded to small business startup, Swoop, by UK’s Banking Competition Remedies’ Capability and Innovation Fund

Swoop, a FinTech solution that supports SMEs to access funding, has been awarded GBP 5 million (Euro 5.6 million) by the UK’s Banking Competition Remedies (BCR) – an independent body working on behalf of Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). BCR aims to ensure RBS is continually promoting competition within banking, and fair access for SMEs to the banking services market, with funds becoming available when an alternative body can better deliver this goal.

Founded by Andrea Reynolds and Ciaran Burke in 2018, Swoop harnesses the power of technology to champion itself as a ‘one-stop, money shop’, acting as a virtual CFO for SMEs and supporting them through the funding, saving and financial advice landscapes.

The award will support Swoop to continue its mission of increasing access and opportunity for SMEs across the UK, Ireland, and further afield. To be awarded the GBP 5 million fund, Swoop completed a bid, outlining how its product offering supports SMEs in a way that traditional banks do not. Swoop’s successful bid outlined its commitments to increased competition and to SMEs, with some of these commitments including:

• A commitment to supplement any award with its own capital investment. Swoop has closed over GBP 1.5m in funding from public organisations such as NESTA and Enterprise Ireland, as well as private investors from the UK, Ireland, and Asia, since its launch just over twelve months ago.

• Swoop also committed to further invest in its proprietary, cloud-based technology and API enabled platform to deliver a sophisticated all-in-one SME finance platform by Q2 of 2020, leading to increased demand and access to funding for SMEs. The new technology, which will be created collaboratively by Swoop and SME tech partners, will include, amongst other features, a fully integrated marketplace of lenders, grant agencies, equity investors and finance product providers, and a mobile, on-the-go product for users.

• At present, Swoop boasts over 1,000 funding providers on its active database. Swoop has committed to onboarding 540,000 SMEs, approximately 15% of the business current account market.

• Swoop will continue to work with all UK banks and CASS to deliver an end-to-end automated process for business current account opening to remove the hassle from switching. It also commits to helping SMEs reduce overdrafts, unsecured loan rates and bank fees. Swoop’s virtual CFO will be continuously scanning the market for better rates and service, and will automate switching for individual or all financial products.

• Swoop commits to reducing the funding disparity between London and the rest of the UK, particularly for equity finance.

• Internally, Swoop commits to building a culture of diversity and inclusion as it grows its workforce by 50 across the UK and Ireland. As is stands, Swoop has a 49:51 gender workforce, led by a female CEO.

CEO and co-founder of Swoop, Andrea Reynolds said: “Our successful bid for this GBP 5 million Capability and Innovation Fund from Banking Competitions Remedies will enable Swoop to fast forward the execution of its vision and strengthen our position to support more SMEs sooner.

“SMEs are a hugely important part of all economies. The effective provision of finance and banking services to these businesses is crucial for boosting economic performance. Over recent years, we have seen a significant growth in alternative finance, challenger banks, and a burgeoning investor base coupled with government grant and tax relief schemes, but this expanding supply of finance requires intelligent and timely delivery.

“Swoop serves as a virtual CFO connecting SMEs to the best solutions for their business needs. The future of SME banking is about more than one FinTech, one bank or one source of finance. It is about delivering independent curation of the right service and the right type and blend of finance, for every SME, at the right time.

Co-founder of Swoop, Ciaran Burke said: “We have found that the administrative burden of applications and the confusion that goes along with this are some of the most challenging barriers for SMEs to overcome when it comes to applying for funding, or when it comes to making changes to their businesses.

“Our unique matching algorithm seamlessly connects SMEs to suitable and viable options. The funding award will allow us to help those who we at Swoop care most about – those at the heart of business communities across economies such as sole traders, micro, small and medium businesses. We make it easy for them to understand their financial position, their spending habits and subsequently easily access loans, grants, investment, savings and services bespoke to their needs.”

For more on Swoop’s successes and its journey to date visit swoopfunding.com or @swoopfunding on social media.


Stock MarketsTransactional and Investment Banking

Duncan Kreeger launches prop tech business TAB APP

West One loans founder and CEO of TAB Duncan Kreeger has launched a fractional ownership proposition, TAB APP. Investors, once the app is fully launched, will be able to invest in commercial and residential property in three clicks.

Duncan has created a simple explainer video to make the complicated world of fractional ownership, rental yields and investing simple for potential users. Visit app.tabldn.com for more information

Watch the video below

Duncan Kreeger said: “Having worked within the property and financial services industry all my life I’ve long thought about how I can make a serious change to make people’s lives easier and allow the general public to have access to rental returns without the heavy investment of a BTL purchase. That’s why I bring you TAB APP, we’ll give users long term sustainable returns on commercial and residential property from investing from £1,000. I’m delighted with what we’re creating with my app developers Elemental Concept.”

The TAB APP is not yet ready for users to download and invest, this will be coming within the next month as the APP is currently going through the first batch of user testing. Users can register to test the app by emailing [email protected]

Funds

APSCo members share unused levy funds for benefit of wider recruitment profession

Umbrella members of the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCohave donated unused Apprentice Levy funds to assist others in sending delegates on the Executive MBA in Human Capital.

The new programme, which is being delivered by Cranfield School of Management and was developed in conjunction with APSCo and Grant Thornton UK, is the first EMBA which is tailored specifically for the recruitment and talent management sectors.

Members which have shared parts of their own Apprenticeship Levy pots for the benefit of the wider recruitment profession include Orbital Payroll Group, Sterling Group and PayStream.

This has been made possible thanks to new rules introduced in April, whereby employers who can’t use their entire pot to upskill their own people are able to donate 25% of their funds to other companies rather than it being absorbed by the Treasury. Due to the large payrolls umbrella companies run, they typically have significant Levy pots.

When donated funds are coupled with APSCo bursaries, the cost of the EMBA for members is reduced from £27,000 to £7,000.

Jonathan Myatt, Director, Orbital Payroll Group said:

“As a payroll provider, we have a sizable Apprenticeship Levy pot that we cannot feasibly exhaust within our own organisation. However, through donating a portion of our unused funds to other APSCo members which are not Levy payers, we are providing recruitment professionals with an opportunity to upskill themselves to MBA level and putting money to good use that would otherwise simply be absorbed by the Treasury.”

Janene Rudge, Commercial Director, Sterling Group added:

“Sterling are delighted to be working with APSCo to assist with the funding for the Executive MBA. Encouraging and supporting employees with further qualifications and training is extremely beneficial for both the company and the employee and Sterling are pleased to be part of this.”

A spokesperson from PayStream said:

“PayStream is delighted to be supporting this exciting new initiative with APSCo. Investing in and training our future recruitment stars is something that PayStream strongly believes in and we are sure that this Executive MBA programme will prove to be a great success and highly sought after by many UK recruitment professionals.”

Ann Swain Global CEO at APSCo, commented:

“It’s fantastic that APSCo members have come together to donate their surplus levy funds to help the wider recruitment industry. I’m very thankful to everyone involved in supporting the Executive MBA programme and ensuring that our people continue to be able to learn the valuable skills that will strengthen the profession.”

If you would like further information on using or sharing Apprenticeship Levy funds to finance this programme, please contact Elaine Jacobs on +44 (0)20 7383 5100 or at [email protected]

Funds

Crypto Millions Lotto Launches the World’s Largest Bitcoin Lottery

Ofertas365 Limited is proud to announce the launch of its brand new lottery – Crypto Millions Lotto. Crypto Millions Lotto is the world’s largest online crypto lottery and provides a unique opportunity for players to play with Bitcoin – and to also win Bitcoin as prizes.

New customers will receive three free lines as an introductory offer and if that isn’t enough of an incentive, consider the jackpot which starts at a whopping US$30 million and rolls over on each draw until it is won!

All customers can be assured that the draws are completely trustworthy, transparent and fair as they are based on the outcome of the German National Lottery. Operational since 1955, the German National Lottery has an exemplary reputation in the industry and is televised twice weekly at times which are sure to quickly become the focus of Crypto Millions Lotto players around the world: at 6.25pm on Wednesdays and 7.25pm on Saturdays – Central European Time.

Bringing Bitcoin into the mainstream

In addition to offering exceptional prizes, Crypto Millions Lotto effectively bypasses the qualifying requirements of residency and any need to participate in local currency, which are common playing conditions of many existing lotteries around the world. Key to Bitcoin’s appeal is the payment freedom it provides, whereby it can be sent and received anywhere in the world, at any time, without the burden of national borders or the unnecessary bureaucracy of traditional currencies.

However, one of the most significant features of the launch of Crypto Millions Lotto is the major step it represents in bringing the world’s most widely used alternative currency further into the mainstream.

As Sulim Malook, CEO at Ofertas365, states: “We are delighted to launch Crypto Millions Lotto and believe that giving away three chances to win prizes worth tens of millions of dollars will encourage Bitcoin usage and adoption. Our affiliation with two top notch fiat-to-crypto exchanges – Coinbase and Wirex – will ensure new players get the best possible user experience, the cheapest fees and the most competitive fiat-to-Bitcoin conversion rates.”

Supported by market-leading technology

For Bitcoin holders, the process to start playing for the coveted US$30 million jackpot is very quick and easy. For those who need to buy Bitcoin, they are directed straight to market leading affiliate partners – Coinbase and Wirex.

The need for guaranteed peace of mind for players using Bitcoin with Crypto Millions Lotto is stressed by Pavel Matveev, CEO of Wirex: “In common with our partners Ofertas365, Wirex also know about delivering a unique service. As the world’s only licensed business account that allows payments in both crypto and traditional currency, we are pleased to provide our service to Crypto Millions Lotto. Our UK Financial Conduct Authority approval will undoubtedly provide the financial security that players require. Wirex delivers unbeatable value, flexibility and transaction speed by combining the efficiency of cryptocurrency payments with the universal acceptance of traditional fiat currency accounts, on a global scale.”

Licensed for everyone to enjoy

These capabilities make them a perfect match, as Ofertas365 is licensed to operate in more than 100 countries which includes anywhere online gambling is not prohibited. The company’s jackpots are comparable to the biggest State and National lotteries in the US and Europe, and for peace of mind are insured at Lloyd’s of London, the world’s leading insurance market.

Sulim Malook concludes: “We believe that our lotteries and games will provide a great deal of enjoyment because it’s much more fun to win Bitcoin than fiat

currency! We welcome further collaborations and partnerships that will expand and guarantee our offering.”

Capital Markets (stocks and bonds)Transactional and Investment Banking

London Tech Week: Blockchain for Business Summit launches today

Blockchain for Business Summit starts today as part of TechXLR8, London Tech Week’s flagship event. Now in its third year, the summit leaves hype, speculation and cryptocurrencies behind to focus on real-world use cases from industries and business leaders who are reaping the rewards of blockchain right now.

Daniele Mensi, CMO of NextHash, spoke at the Global Blockchain Congress in Dubai and gave the following commentary: 

Digital securities, Security tokens, tokenised securities or investment tokens are Financial securities that are compliant with SEC regulations and can provide investors with equity, dividends, revenue or profit share rights. With Digital Security offerings, the lack of complexity ensures that fundraising can be consolidated and the reduced need for middlemen means that investors experience a shorter lockup period. Often, these digital securities represent a right to an underlying asset such as proof of real-estate, cashflow or holdings in another fund. These benefits are all written into a smart contract and the digital securities are traded on a blockchain-powered exchange.

Because the blockchain market is decentralised and active 24/7 by nature, it is in a state of virtual liquidity when compared with the traditional financial markets. That is, one can trade 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and the market is never closed.

Ana Bencic, President of NextHash, has provided commentary on the potential of blockchain technology.

“Cryptocurrency trading spearheaded the rise of blockchain and these now provide a conduit between investors and businesses, utilising the technology to provide secure transactions for companies and institutions. As blockchain technology grows ever more popular with investors and traders everywhere, countries and companies that have adopted the technology at an early stage will be the front runners of this new technology. Others would be wise to use London Tech Week as an opportunity to see the true benefits of blockchain in financing businesses and get involved in tomorrow’s unicorns now.”

Articles

Venture capitalists who work together increase the success of ventures – up to a point

Venture capitalists who work together increase the success of ventures – up to a point

Venture capital firms with a track record of working together by investing in the same venture are more likely to produce a successful venture, but working together repeatedly will eventually have a negative impact, new research from the UCL School of Management finds.

The research, published in the Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, involved the analysis of 4,550 U.S. entrepreneurial ventures receiving investments from collaborating venture capitalists from 1980 to 2017.

Professor Joost Rietveld and co-authors from Europe and Australasia found that venture capital firms working together on syndicated investments can reduce risks like investors behaving selfishly or sitting back and letting a colleague do all the work, but continuing to collaborate again and again brings its own set of risks including relying too much on trust.

The benefits of reducing these risks outweighed the costs of other risks increasing, but only up to a point. After this peak, the costs outweighed the benefits and ventures were less likely to succeed.
Moreover, there are two factors involved in shaping the dynamics of this relationship: age of the venture and geographical spread.

“The positive and negative effects of investing together were both increased in younger ventures compared to older ventures. This means investing in older ventures may be a safer investment, but younger ventures can have increased benefits as well as greater potential risk,” says Rietveld.

“More geographically spread syndicates also increased the effects of having worked together before on venture success, both positive and negative. Despite this, syndicates that were closer in their location caused the success of working together repeatedly to peak sooner and decline faster. Being closer together showed benefits after less collaboration but also led to drawbacks sooner.”

There has been much discussion over whether venture capitalists working together on investments make ventures more or less likely to succeed. This research suggests that collaborating with the same partners over and over again can reduce certain risks. However, this leads to an increase in other risks. Therefore, these collaborations should not be repeated indefinitely as continuing to work together will increase the likelihood of negative outcomes. Including venture failure.

Transactional and Investment Banking

Ashfords LLP advises shareholders in Ocado’s £17 million investment into vertical farming

Earlier today, Ocado announced a £17 million investment into the vertical farming industry, including an investment into Jones Food, Europe’s largest vertical farm. The investment into Jones Food, represents one of the largest investments into a UK agritech company so far this year. Law firm, Ashfords LLP, advised Guinness Asset Management, the majority shareholder of Jones Food, in the transaction.

Vertical farming is an emerging industry in which crops are grown indoors in controlled environments, reducing waste, water and pesticides. Ocado has stated that it will use its know-how in automation and distribution to make Jones Food more efficient and potentially integrate it with other Ocado services to be able to deliver fresh products to customers within an hour.

Giles Hawkins, Corporate Technology Partner at Ashfords commented: “We’re delighted to have worked with Guinness Asset Management on this transaction. Vertical farming as in industry has attracted a lot of venture capital investment over the years, but is only now beginning to deliver as energy costs decline and the technology and know-how have developed. We are looking forward to seeing what the company will do with Ocado’s backing.”

The Ashfords team was led by Giles Hawkins and included Jonathan Groves and Nicola Manclark.

BankingCash Management

Cardiff Business Secures £2.5m Second Charge Bridging Loan Within Just 3 Working Days

Pure Commercial Finance Secures £2.5m Second Charge Bridging Loan Within Just 3 Working Days

Commercial brokerage breaks records with speedy funding when previous lender pulls out of multi-million-pound deal last minute.

Pure Commercial Finance, the Cardiff-based brokerage, recently saved a multimillion-pound development by sourcing £2.5m of funding in just three days.

The client, an experienced property developer who wishes to remain anonymous, had a large site with planning permission for multiple homes. An existing lender had taken a charge out on the land to fund the project up to that point, but further finance was needed to complete the job to the developer’s high-quality standards.

This finance was secured, but even though loan documents had already been issued, the lender pulled out at the last minute.

The developer was blindsided and needed £2.5m of funding in days to prevent the development collapsing. Ben Lloyd of Pure Commercial Finance was approached by the developer to save the project, despite its very short turnaround time and a valuation which only covered the first charge amount.

Pure needed a new lender that would take a second charge behind the existing debt and would look at the overall merit of the land value and the final project, rather than the previous valuation. With these complications there are very few lenders that Pure could turn to and rely upon to deliver, so they approached Bushell Investment Group (BIG) who had shown the Pure team a proven track record of delivery in these types of situations.

The average industry turnaround time is around three weeks for second charge loans, but Pure completed the deal within three working days.

Ben Lloyd, Managing Director of Pure Commercial Finance said:

“Bushell Investment Group is an absolutely outstanding lender for complex jobs, especially in a time sensitive situation. I can tell that the BIG team worked as fast as humanly possible and that they wanted to prove that they could get this deal done.

“I worked very closely on this deal with Lee Bushell, the founder and principal of BIG, to make the deal happen.

“Even though there wasn’t a second valuation, which would turn off many lenders, BIG were comfortable with their own research that the asset was worth significantly more and decided to progress with the loan without the need for a new valuation.”

Transactional and Investment Banking

Symphony Communications Doubles Down on Automation and Global Community Growth at Annual Innovate Asia Conference

Launches Symphony Market Solutions to Address Growing Industry Need for Automation

Appoints Mrs. Queenie Chan as New Head of APAC

Symphony Communication Services, LLC, the leading secure team collaboration platform, is doubling down on investment in workflow automation and global growth. Ahead of its annual Innovate Asia Conference, and alongside the concurrent announcement of its latest Series E fundraise of $165 million, the company today revealed:

  • The launch of Symphony Market Solutions to address the growing need in financial services for system integration, digital transformation and workflow automation
  • Reaching a milestone 1,000 unique bots created and running on the Symphony platform
  • Appointing Mrs. Queenie Chan as the new Head of APAC to lead growth in the region

“Symphony, trusted by over 405 companies and 450,000 users, has already proven that its unique security and compliance model is indispensable to companies who care about data security and sovereignty. With the foundation of our business solidly anchored we are now focusing on how we can deliver the deepest benefits of our platform to our global community, who rely on the Symphony to perform mission critical work every day,” said David Gurle, founder and CEO at Symphony. “Deep value, for us, means providing users better and faster ways to work. Doubling down on workflow automation with Market Solutions is the first step in achieving this vision.”

Further information and demonstrations regarding today’s news will be shared live at Symphony’s annual Innovate Asia Conference, held in Singapore on June 13, 2019. 

 

Symphony Solves Complicated Workflows With Launch of New Market Solutions

Symphony today launched Symphony Market Solutions to address the growing need for workflow automation in financial services and other sectors.

Symphony Market Solutions is a suite of standardized, licensable software solutions purpose-built to simplify and automate complex and time-consuming workflows. Market Solutions will include: financial services workflow tools purpose-built for automation of trade life-cycle, enhancing client services across banking and wealth management and more; and enterprise integrations and workflows for IT, operations, sales, HR, developers and more. Symphony customers are already using these Solutions to achieve business outcomes including improved client experiences and employee productivity.

Specific Market Solutions available for customers today include a new workflow tool called SPARC, which lets Buy-side and Sell-side traders seamlessly shift from real-time conversation to RFQ negotiation, all in the same chat room; and other solutions such as integrations for Salesforce, ServiceNow, Confluence, Jira and GitLab. 

Since introducing its Software Developer Kit (SDK) in 2018, Symphony clients have developed more than 1,000 unique bots operating on the platform today. This number indicates the growing interest within the financial services community to leverage Symphony for key workflow automation initiatives. With Market Solutions, Symphony is now taking this to the next level by offering customers packaged and licensable solutions for the most requested workflows and automations.

“When we looked at the sheer number of bots that customers were developing, and we began to see patterns emerge when customers talked about the use cases they were looking to solve with them. This led us to identify the need for a standardized set of workflow automations that could be deployed across the Symphony community – as opposed to bespoke development of proprietary bots,” said Goutam Nadella, EVP of  Symphony Market Solutions. “Our Market Solutions can help alleviate the pain of the most complex, time consuming activities for our customers, while also helping them enhance the services they provide to their own end customers. Symphony customers will be able to install turnkey workflows to automate the completion of RFQs or even resolve a trade break, so that our users can better focus on what they do best: making the strategic decisions that their client depends on.”

All Market Solutions are built, licensed and supported by Symphony. Additionally, as part of the Market Solutions offering, Symphony also provides a wide range of licensable third party applications to enhance and facilitate customer’s digital transformation and workflow automation initiatives.

Symphony Names Mrs. Queenie Chan as Head of APAC to Lead Regional Growth and Development

In her new role as Head of APAC, Queenie Chan, formerly Head of North Asia, will lead Symphony’s expansion in this key region. Symphony is already well-established in the region: it hosts offices in Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo and 32% of its users are located across eight key APAC countries including China, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Australia, India and Hong Kong. 

“After having spent 15 years in Capital Markets in Asia with banks including CSLA, Barclays and Goldman Sachs, I wanted to join a high growth technology firm. Symphony was definitely the right choice as it has offered me an incredible opportunity to grow myself and the business,” said Chan. “I am very proud and grateful to the global Symphony team, and of our accomplishments to date in Asia.  I can’t wait to embrace wholeheartedly the next opportunities as we introduce Symphony Market Solutions to the market.”

Banking

Those living ‘unbanked’ and what that means for financial inequality

Those living ‘unbanked’ and what that means for financial inequality

Inequality is a major issue around the world. However, it is even worse amongst those who have no access to banking. The World Bank estimates that about three-quarters of the world’s poorest are unbanked. If the world is to solve the problem of financial inequality on a global scale, there is a need to ensure that there is basic access to banking services.

 

What does it mean to be unbanked?

 

An unbanked person is one who does not hold an account at a formal financial institution. As a result, such a person cannot access basic global financial services such as a savings account, credit, money transfers, and much more. To access these services they use informal means.

 

Who are those that live unbanked?

 

FairPlanet’s researched further. The unbanked are mainly:

  • Those in households with unstable or low incomes
  • Those in less – educated households
  • Younger households
  • More female than male
  • Disabled households of working age

Some of the reasons why these groups are unbanked are:

  • There is not enough money to open or maintain an account
  • Avoiding financial institutions gives them more privacy
  • They do not trust banks
  • Accounts fees are unpredictable or too high
  • Problems with credit, ID, or former accounts
  • Banks do not meet them at their point of need
  • Inconvenient hours and locations

 

What does this mean for financial inequality?

 

There is a high correlation between global statistics on the unbanked and poverty. For one, 75% of all unbanked people are poor. Besides that, they are unable to access basic social support services. In the developing world, it means things are much worse for women. There is a majority of ubanked women – 55% women compared to 46% of men.

 

For the unbanked, access to any financial services comes at an extra cost. For instance, they have to account for the cost of travel when they need financial services. This takes away crucial hours that could be used to earn. Besides that, they are left at the mercy of loan sharks who charge exorbitant prices for loans; this only serves to drive them further into poverty.

 

The technology advances that might help

While the unbanked don’t have bank accounts, credit cards or loans – they do have smartphones. Globally, six billion people around the world have access to a mobile phone – which includes at least half of the world’s unbanked population. The mobile money market is making great headway in developing countries.

The hyper connected digital world of today’s commercial environment is one where participants are required to have a bank account to send and receive payments both at home and abroad. Services like Venmo, Paypal, and Payoneer aren’t compatible with the unbanked population, and services that are, such as Western Union and Ria, are exploitatively expensive.

With the advent of blockchain technology, the unbanked will have access to digital payments and remittances. One promising technology that could help to provide banking services to those with no or limited access to the banking industry is the blockchain. Blockchain technology is a decentralized, distributed and public digital ledger that is used to record transactions across many computers so that any involved record cannot be altered retroactively, without the alteration of all subsequent blocks.

 

This way, they will have the information needed for them to set up bank accounts and go on with their lives using this technology. The digital and verifiable profile, which is secured by the blockchain, will allow former refugees to access loans and build business wherever they go. In the process, it will be a step towards helping to solve the issue of global poverty. While most poor people do not have access to financial services, they do have smartphones and these can be used to capture their details digitally.

 

FairPlanet, a non profit platform concerned with human rights issues, is launching SatoshiPay on their site, an innovative micropayment solution. With a free $10 to donate, they are a perfect example of a company taking the right steps to a financially inclusive world.

Derivatives and Structured Products

How switching to online purchasing can save your business hundreds of pounds… per item!

Dave Brittain, Senior Manager from Amazon Business UK

A huge expense to all businesses that is often overlooked is the cost of those essential day to day items. While many purchasing departments simply contact suppliers in order to replenish items such as pens, paper or ink, they often use multiple providers for these types of basic products, making the process more disjointed and far less cost-effective than it ought to be.

So how can businesses streamline the process and save money at the same time?  The answer lies in digital procurement.

Online marketplaces help businesses to locate and purchase multiple items in one place and can tailor themselves based on previous purchasing behaviours in order to improve and simplify the process. Having access to hundreds of millions of products from various suppliers drives transparency and at Amazon Business we’ve noticed that this can lower the cost of procurement by up to 70%.

Product search and offer comparison

Business customers that use an online marketplace have access to an extensive range of products from office supplies, laptops and keyboards, to industrial goods and janitorial items. Having different variations of similar products allows consumers to compare and review options from different brands and suppliers to evaluate what products are the best value for money, all within one marketplace. Buyers can compare products from different sellers in seconds, and the website algorithms will recommend items with the best delivery times, features and price to make the selection process more streamlined.

Supplier selection and qualification

Most businesses build strong relationships with their suppliers which are based on knowlegde of the services they provide and trust that has been built over the years. For this reason, many companies stick with the same suppliers and do not explore alternative options, which could generate huge savings in the long run. For those looking into these types of savings, online marketplaces reduce the time spent on supplier selection by pooling multiple suppliers together and recommending them based on reputation, services offered and customer reviews. This reduces the costs of qualifying suppliers and creating individual supplier records. The service is also particularly beneficial for start-ups which may not have the budget to select suppliers through trial and error.

Approval workflows

Procurement time can also be significantly reduced, as employees can make product purchases themselves. Some online marketplaces offer approval workflows which allow employees to trigger an automatic approval process with a single click. This allows for a quicker turnaround for purchasing without losing control and visibility of outgoings. Detailed business analytics are also available post-purchase, allowing business owners to identify which departments are incurring the highest expenses.

Reconciliation and invoicing

A huge benefit of using an online marketplace for orders is that all purchases, and therefore invoices, are obtained from a single source. Business customers can easily access detailed delivery times, product and supplier information for each order, and reviewing previous purchases is made simpler. This means that there is a reduced number of invoices sent to finance teams making it easier for them to reconcile payments.

Overall, although there will always be a place for traditional procurement, making the switch to an online marketplace can significantly reduce business expenditure, while simultaneously reducing time spent on product acquisition and providing a more detailed review of the business’s outgoings.

Stock Markets

How digital is disrupting the world of early stage investing

 By Oliver Woolley, CEO, Envestors

 

The landscape we have today is the same landscape we had fifty years ago. We’ve got investment networks, clubs, incubators and accelerators, all of whom actively help investors to find opportunities and scale-ups to secure funding – but they are all closed and separate. Our vision for the future is one in which all these groups connect to one another, without sacrificing control or independence. We’ve built a software platform to do just that. Using an aggregated approach, we can bring the world of early-stage investing together in a way that benefits all of those involved.

 

For scale ups, it means working with one party and gaining wide exposure rather than promoting a deal through a number of disparate networks. For investors, it means having access to a near unlimited number of deals, all filtered according to interest and managed in a single location – regardless of network of origin. For investment facilitators, it means a greatly improved experience for their investors and decreased operational overheads.

 

 

Results – immediately!

 

We live in an age of instant gratification. This spans across all areas of our lives – from instantaneous validation on Twitter and one-hour Amazon delivery, to 24-hour news at our fingertips. So why should the investment experience be any different? If I can find out about anything in the world from wherever I happen to be, why should I – as an investor – wait for a pitch session to find out about investment opportunities?

 

ROBO: a behavioural change

 

Borrowing a term from the retail industry, ROBO (Research Online, Buy Offline) reflects a broad behavioural change. People no longer head to a shopping centre to browse for an item, they go online and find what they want and then go down to the store to get it. In many cases, they opt not to go to the store, satisfied with the information they have found online, and make an immediate purchase. This behaviour isn’t particular to consumers: a study, by Forrester Research, found that 68% of business to business buyers researched online independently and a further 62% say they go as far as developing a selection criteria and vendor list based on digital content.

 

So, why is it different with investing? When people prefer to get information instantaneously and independently, why do we ask them to wait for a pitch event? Using digital, information on potential investment opportunities and any relevant details can be ready for investors to read at their leisure. Further to that, information can be interactive. Potential investors can ask management teams questions – using online channels – and get answers in real time.

 

Achieving diversity

Digitisation has fuelled the unprecedented growth of start-ups in the UK.  This has produced a vast – and occasionally overwhelming – array of opportunities, resulting in a trend showing networks are becoming more niche and sector specific. While regional investment networks have long been part of the landscape, they are joined by networks specialising in – for example – Greentech, MedTech or women-owned businesses.  This is not a bad thing, but it has caused further fragmentation.

 

Experienced investors know, that if they are to get the best chance of a return on their investments, a diverse portfolio is a must. However, such specificity throws diversity out the window, leaving investors only one option – joining multiple networks and doing a lot of leg work to build and manage their portfolios.

 

Digital to the rescue. With an aggregated platform, regional and niche networks can connect to one another and share deals at the click of a button. This allows networks to protect their greatest asset – their investors – while offering them a broader array of investment opportunities without doing all of the vetting and admin.

 

Responding to uncertainty

 

By mid-2018, the impact of a looming Brexit was already starting to be felt across the industry.  With predictions of economic troubles in the UK in the short term, many investors tightened their purse strings, becoming increasingly selective over which investments to make. Yet, at the same time, reports show that foreign investment is at an all-time high: in 2017, a whopping £6bn was invested over the course of the year, with 396 of these deals involving at least one investor from abroad.

 

This is another opportunity that could be capitalised by digital. With a digital platform, deals can flow across borders – giving investors the ability to further diversify their portfolios, while giving businesses a better opportunity to find investment.

 

The benefits of using digital are clear so it is time for the investment sector to make changes. Some key players are already on board (for example, The SetSquared Partnership and Britbots).  I’m sure that more will be following and gaining the benefits.

Cash Management

What can cryptocurrencies offer during political upheaval?

Commentary by Ana Bencic, founder & CEO of Nexthash

The political and economic climate within the UK has been uncertain in recent months. The value of the pound has been turbulent and it has been rising and falling in response to political events, such as the Brexit vote and the recent departure of the prime minister. Investors who have been taking notice of the unpredictable nature of fiat currency’s’ value in relation to political events, as well as the near-constant rise in the value of several cryptocurrencies, will be looking at what makes cryptocurrency a viable alternative to traditional currency.

 

After experiencing a 4-month slump due to Brexit insecurity, the pound rose back up to $1.2710 shortly after the Theresa May’s announcement of resignation. Unfortunately, the recovery was short-lived and the pound almost immediately lost 3% of its value in the following days. Now, traders are showing concern that the next prime minister may seek a tough Brexit deal, which may hurt the value of the pound more than before. With more uncertainty than ever in the market, including the inability to hold above 1.27, the pound, it is clear that the value of pound sterling is predicated on political factors.


In stark contrast, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin appear to be unaffected by political upheaval. The value of Bitcoin recently exceeded $8000, after a period of sustained growth over several months. Investors who are wary of traditional currencies will be attracted to the fact Bitcoin does not rely on any financial institutions or third-party entities. Bitcoin is a decentralized currency that uses peer-to-peer technology, which enables all functions such as currency issuance, transaction processing and verification to be carried out collectively by the network. While this decentralization renders Bitcoin free from government manipulation or interference, the flipside is that there is no central authority to ensure that things run smoothly or to back the value of a Bitcoin. Bitcoins are created digitally through a “mining” process that requires powerful computers to solve complex algorithms and crunch numbers. They are currently created at the rate of 25 Bitcoins every 10 minutes and will be capped at 21 million, a level that is expected to be reached in 2140.

Additionally, Bitcoin effectively increases efficiencies, adds security to transactions and eliminates traditional methods of fraud. Some economic analysts predict a big change in crypto is forthcoming as institutional money enters the market. Moreover, there is the possibility that crypto will be floated on the Nasdaq, which would further add credibility to blockchain and its uses as an alternative to conventional currencies. Some predict that all that crypto needs is a verified exchange traded fund (ETF). An ETF would definitely make it easier for people to invest in Bitcoin, but there still needs to be the demand to want to invest in crypto, which some say may not automatically be generated with a fund.

 


Cryptocurrencies are increasing in popularity with each passing day, as traditional investors & traders start to use it more often and several major first-world nations pass legislation in support of cryptocurrency trade and investment. At this point in time, there are 14 million Bitcoins in circulation. Countries with underdeveloped infrastructure and nations experiencing devaluation of their national currency can seize the advantages of cryptocurrencies- for the simple reason they are able to move money across their country’s borders with far greater ease than traditional currency. Cryptocurrencies exist outside of the control of central banks, where traditional accounts can be garnished or frozen. In fact, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin exist outside the regulations and laws that allow this to happen, it’s very rare to be unable to access your coins.





 

 

Funds of Funds

Rural communities receive a significant boost from The Prince’s Countryside Fund

In June, The Prince’s Countryside Fund has awarded half a million pounds of grant funding to 26 grassroots, community-led projects across the UK, which will benefit people living and working in rural areas.

The Prince’s Countryside Fund awards grants to local organisations, and since 2010 has distributed over £10 million. The Fund’s mission is to help ensure a vibrant rural economy with a thriving and resilient farming sector at its heart, and its grant programme is a major focus of activity to achieve this.

The broad range of successful projects will create locally-delivered solutions to the ever-pressing challenges facing rural communities – from farmer mental health support in Wales, to rural skills training in the north east, and the creation of rural hubs in Northern Ireland.

The Rural Four programme supported 13 of these projects with thanks to players of People’s Postcode Lottery. Rural Four aims to tackle isolation in rural areas and is funding projects including social hubs in Norfolk and rural transport schemes in Northamptonshire. It is helping rural communities in Norfolk and Cheshire to improve their digital connectivity by installing high speed broadband in a central hub, which is open to all, and to provide digital skills training in Lincolnshire.

Announcing the grant recipients, Claire Saunders, Director of The Prince’s Countryside Fund said: “It is great to see so many organisations coming up with unique ways to combat the challenges that are facing rural communities and to know these projects are key to making a difference. From funding a community brewery in East Anglia, to a mentoring and land access programme for young entrants to agriculture in Northern Ireland – The Prince’s Countryside Fund is committed to improving the quality of life, in all aspects, for all people living and working in our great British countryside.

“This has been our most competitive round of grant applications in Fund history, with nearly 300 applications requesting £10 million of funding. The applications were all of a very high standard and we are delighted to be working with the 26 successful beneficiaries.”

The Fund will be open again for grant applications in January 2020. More details can be found at www.princescountryside.fund.org.uk/grants.

Cash ManagementFinanceSecuritiesTransactional and Investment Banking

What is next for cryptocurrency?

The rise of cryptocurrency is to be seen as a democratising force within the global economy. For example, secured token offering, has emerged as a true competitor to the traditional Initial Public Offering (IPO) for growing businesses. Judging from the growing acceptance of cryptocurrency by countries and companies, it is predicted that institutional investors will move towards secure cryptocurrency investments over the next decade, if not earlier. Ana Bencic, President and Founder of NextHash explores this phenomenon in more detail.

 

Uber Technologies Inc.’s large initial public offering launched in May and the ride-hailing app has run into some trouble. Uber proposed to go public with a $120 billion valuation, to be pitched by financiers at Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs ahead of its IPO. Nonetheless, the company eventually listed with a $75.5 billion market cap. The New York Times elucidated that institutional investors, many who privately owned Uber stock, would not purchase additional shares at a higher price. Uber had received in excesses of $10 billion from institutional investors and private equity firms, among other investors, according to the report and many bought their Uber shares at valuations below $61 billion.

 

The ride-hailing giant priced its IPO on Thursday 9th May at $45 a share, raising a minimum of $8.1 billion and putting Uber’s IPO well behind some of the other, large offerings on the U.S. market in recent years. Facebook Inc raised $16 billion its offering in 2012, while Visa Inc. raised close to $18 billion in 2008 and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. brought in around $25 billion in 2014.

 

Initial Public Offerings can offer companies the prospect to raise new equity capital; to monetise the investments of private shareholders such as corporation founders or private equity investors and to enable simple trading of existing holdings or future capital raising by becoming publicly traded enterprises. 

 

Nevertheless, for companies looking to list, there are potential drawbacks. Foremost, there is the risk that the required funding will not be raised. Additionally, the cost for accounting, marketing and legal professionals to get to the point of an IPO can be sizeable. It might also necessitate a significant amount of time and effort from the management team, potentially disrupting them from their primary task of running the business. Furthermore, as in Uber’s case, there is a. While no promises can be made in these circumstances, many may be looking at the recent state of these tech unicorns (privately held start-up enterprises valued at over $1 billion) such as Uber and even Facebook may have people pondering if the next big thing will follow the same path. 

 

Aside from financial sacrifice, the time and effort to get to the IPO stage and the administration required once a company has gone public or floated, is considerable. For companies at the front-line of technological advancements, time is of the essence. According to Street Directory, an IPO typically takes between six and nine months. In some cases, this procedure can take up to 18 months. For high-growth businesses, this kind of interval may well bump potential unicorns off their path to a £1 billion valuation and present their rivals with a huge advantage. So what other prospects do highly scalable businesses have? 

 

The cryptocurrency market provides distinctive opportunities for businesses in need of access to vital growth finance and for investors desiring access to potential unicorn businesses at an early stage. This is made likely by cryptocurrency platforms’ capacity to operate across borders, an advantage that isn’t possessed by conventional markets.

 

In April, the French parliament permitted a ground-breaking financial sector bill which aims to encourage both cryptocurrency traders and issuers to set up in France. Organisations looking to issue or trade both existing and novel cryptocurrencies will soon have the option to apply for official accreditation.  The scheduled certification process exhibits a degree of official acknowledgement of the cryptocurrency marketplace. Bills like this enable French investors to trade and invest cryptocurrencies, as well as facilitating businesses to be traded as a Secured Token Offering which would give investors, traders, and entrepreneurs a way to trade and exchange tokens for cryptocurrencies, bringing the ecosystem into the cryptocurrency world. In exchange for charging tax, France is laying the foundations for the Europe-wide adoption of cryptocurrency trading.

France is pushing for the European Union to adopt a regulatory framework on cryptocurrencies.

 

There has been a largely positive attitude towards cryptocurrency by several countries. Malta, Slovenia and France are strong examples of those who are encouraging the implementation and use of cryptocurrency for trading and investment. The ability to invest or trade freely and across borders is an attractive prospect for businesses, who are able to receive financial investment from foreign parties.

 

New technologies are allowing businesses that are not in a jurisdiction that has cryptocurrency regulation in place yet to be included in the new, second generation of scaling business investment. 

 

With Brexit on the horizon for the UK, economists are making their forecasts about how the worth of the pound will be affected. Due to the interdependence of the pound and euro, some have claimed that in either of the potential outcomes- there will likely be some loss in value to these traditional forms of currency.  Cryptocurrencies offer an alternative to traditional, fiat currencies for both consumers and companies, due to their unique advantages of being decentralised, transparent and wholly unaffected by the Brexit situation

 

With incongruent regulation and legal frameworks throughout the globe, platforms that empower a corporation or investor in one jurisdiction to trade or exchange tokens or currency with another trader in another country with a different statute could open the doors to potential unicorn companies to thousands of family offices, hedge funds and institutional investors in a matter of years. In the medium term, platforms that give businesses access to global growth finance could help developing countries and the wider global economy grow at a truly competitive rate to their Western counterparts. 

 

CONCLUSION

 

Cryptocurrencies have spent the last few years in a stage of growth and maturation. The emergent importance of blockchain-based cryptocurrencies is easy to grasp today. From the snowballing rate of adoption of Ethereum and Bitcoin by conventional institutions, the instituting of digital-assets trading platforms and the implementation of cryptocurrency-specific legislation by numerous countries both inside and outside of the EU- cryptocurrency is seeing far greater adoption by both institutional and private traders/investors. With the ability to invest in a corporation from anyplace in the world, quicker than by traditional means and with a far greater potential for a swift return on investment, cryptocurrency offers manifold unique and substantial advantages that have fortified it a lasting place in society.

 

 

Infrastructure

The skills needed to become an independent non-executive director

By David Selves, Broadcaster and Business Advisor at The Selves Group

Authorised Fund Managers (AFMs) across the UK are scrambling to fill up to 480 independent non-executive director vacancies to comply with new legislation released by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

 

As part of the legislation, the FCA requires that all AFMs must have a minimum of two independent directors on their board by Monday 30th September 2019. So, with just three months until the deadline, AFMs are actively looking for suitable professionals to fill this gap, but who are the desired candidates and what skills do they need to possess?

 

Essentially, the primary role of a non-executive director (NED) is to impart a creative contribution to the board by providing independent oversight and constructive challenge to the executive directors. Assigned to question the status quo of an organisation, NEDs typically do not engage in the day-to-day management, but are involved in policymaking and planning exercises.

 

Ideally, NEDs should not be from the industry in question, thereby enforcing impartiality in the best interests of the company stakeholders. In addition, they should either be worldly – which may mean simply having a vast experience of life in general across numerous disciplines, rather than senior roles in another industry – or be what is referred to as an ‘expert customer’; a person who potentially might use the product or service offered.

 

Regardless of industry experience, NEDs must be independent thinkers and question strategy, management techniques, performance and standards of ethics and conduct. Predominantly, they should always take an independent view on the promotion and external appointments of senior executives.

 

NEDs also need to understand the workings of the company before they accept a position because they will have exactly the same responsibilities in law as executive directors. Whilst they should be given sufficient industry training to be able to effectively challenge the executive directors, they must also ensure that they have the time to keep up to date with ever-changing industry standards.

 

For progressive businesses, the value of a NED is that they bring a broader perspective. Companies often appoint NEDs for their contacts, particularly in the bigger cities, but that can be a dangerous route. The idea of a NED is not to facilitate wheels within wheels, but in fact quite the opposite. A NED should act as a centre of influence to ensure the company contacts the right external groups. Moreover, smaller companies are increasingly finding that the relatively low cost of NEDs is a very worthwhile investment.

 

In short, NEDs need to bring a host of skills to the table. AFMs want someone who has a wide experience of life, is independent of thought and deed, acts impartially, and is a well-rounded and respected individual. While on the job, the ideal NED should provide constructive challenge both strategically and operationally, offer specialist advice where qualified to do so, and never be afraid to hold management to account.

David Selves is a business advisor at The Selves Group. He has enjoyed an eventful 50-year career as a seasoned broadcaster, entrepreneur, publican and hotelier. Making his name in business hospitality by purchasing struggling hotels and turning them into award-winning venues, David has built a reputation as a respected and highly regarded businessman. He was also the former Regional Chairman and National Board Member of the Small Business

Banking

Open banking: Threat or opportunity?

By Tiffany Carpenter, Head of Customer Intelligence at SAS UK & Ireland

Redefining banking in a financial services market where your biggest competitor may be Amazon or Google, not a traditional bank.

 

Open banking may not have made much of an impression on consumers yet. But it’s a topic that the industry cannot afford to ignore. Tier one UK banks are already bound to grant licensed startups access to transaction-level data, and smaller banks are likely to have to follow suit in the near future. The potential impact on the banking landscape is profound.

 

Today, the standard business model for retail banks is to build strong relationships with their customers by offering free current accounts and other incentives. These services are a net cost to the business, but they help the banks win trust and provide a channel for marketing more profitable products, such as mortgages, loans and wealth management services.

 

Open banking threatens to sweep this business model away like an avalanche. Agile fintech companies are already developing apps that aggregate all the financial services that a customer receives from any provider, creating a single point of control.

 

This will certainly improve the banking experience for most consumers. But it will also add a new layer between banks and their customers. All communication with the customer will happen via the app – and the app provider will control that communication channel, not the banks.

 

According to market analysts, this poses a real threat. If a bank can’t upsell high-value services to its customers, it may be left with a thin share of the market. Banks could be drowning in current accounts while app providers skim the cream of profitable loans and investment services off the top. Bain & Company point out that similar disruptions in industries, such as music and travel, have seen incumbents’ profits fall by 10% to 20%, often within fewer than five years.

 

Threat or opportunity?

 

While the stakes are high, the odds are still in the banks’ favour – at least for now. For decades, they have collected data on millions of customers and billions of transactions, across the whole spectrum of financial services. This data is a priceless source of insight that banks can use to create customer experiences that their data-poor fintech competitors simply can’t match.

 

For example, instead of just helping customers make payments or check their balance, a new generation of banking apps could provide users with much more relevant, personalised advice. By comparing individual spending patterns with the behaviour of a wider population of users, they could pinpoint topics that users really care about –reducing utility bills, for example, or paying off a mortgage – and suggest helpful strategies for meeting their financial goals.

 

Serious competition

 

Banks aren’t just worried about competition from fintech startups. There’s also a risk that other data-rich companies could make a beeline for the financial services market. Amazon, Apple, Google and other tech giants already have enormous quantities of information about consumer spending habits, as well as some of the world’s most talented data scientists, UI and UX developers. If they want to build the world’s best banking app, they seem to have all the right tools already. What’s to stop them from seeing financial services as their next market to dominate?

 

Again, the answer is that banks still have the advantage, at least in the short term. There is more to a user’s personal finances than just online shopping habits. And banks have a much more complete picture of how people borrow, spend and invest their money across mortgages, loans, credit cards, savings accounts, stocks and funds.

 

More importantly, customers trust their bank to manage both their information and their money. As a heavily regulated industry, banks simply cannot afford to play fast and loose with their customers. Meanwhile, barely a week goes by without another scandal about an internet company selling, losing or misusing customer data.

 

So while you probably trust online retailers to deliver your shopping, you might still have a few qualms about letting them manage your pension.

 

That said, customers’ trust and loyalty are finite commodities. If banks don’t act on their advantage now, they will lose it little by little. An outstanding user experience can easily seduce customers. And if you can’t provide one, your competitors certainly will.

 

On your marks

 

In short, the race to build the killer banking app is on – and banks, fintechs and other players are all in the running. Whoever gets there first will win it all, leaving the others scrambling to redefine their role in a banking industry that bears little relation to today’s world.

 

The difference between winning and losing, as we’ve already hinted, will be in the data. If banks can mobilise the treasure trove of data they already possess and harness artificial intelligence and machine learning to bring insights closer to the point of customer interaction, then they will be in a powerful position to lead the next stage in the evolution of financial services.

 

And that’s not just wishful thinking. Take a look at our case study with ICA Banken. SAS solutions are helping ICA Banken analyse customer behaviour online and combine it with historical banking data to create a fully personalised and customised user experience. While customers browse the ICA Banken site, intelligent algorithms automatically assess their needs and display helpful information and relevant offers in real time, resulting in a tenfold increase in conversion rates for the bank’s campaigns.