Category: Articles

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ArticlesCash Management

18-24’s Owe £225 to Buy Now Pay Later Schemes

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18-24’s Owe £225 to Buy Now Pay Later Schemes

Under-25s are increasingly likely to seek help for debt, according to debt charity StepChange with Buy Now Pay Later schemes cited as problematic for young shoppers.  

The Shop Now Stress Later Study from money.co.uk reveals that 18-24-year-olds owe a third more (£225 each) to Klarna-like buy now pay later schemes (BNPL) than the average UK shopper (£176).

How big is the fast fashion debt problem for 18-24-year-olds? 

The study found that 18-24-year-old shoppers owe £225.44 to BNPL on average, which is 28% more than the average UK shopper, who owes £176.   

The amount owed to popular BNPL schemes by 18-24-year-olds:

  1. Openpay – £360.50
  2. Zilch: £356.00
  3. Laybuy – £318.32
  4. Payl8r – £282.54
  5. Zip – £200.29
  6. Clearpay: £188.26
  7. PayPal Credit – £137.92
  8. Klarna: £122.16

The report also analysed 10 fast fashion brands based on how many times BNPL is mentioned throughout the shopping process, with Nasty Gal, Boohoo, and Pretty Little Thing the worst offenders when it comes to promoting them.  

Fashion Retailers Ranked by BNPL Promotion Mentions

  1. Nasty Gal – 46*
  2. Boohoo – 42
  3. Pretty Little Thing – 41
  4. Next – 40
  5. Nike – 40
  6. JD Sports – 38
  7. Clarks – 32
  8. Levi’s – 32
  9. Adidas – 31
  10. ASOS – 26

*Each brands BNPL score for mentions and how prominent BNPL is on their websites 

Over the past few years, Klarna, alongside other schemes such as Clearpay or Laybuy, has become a popular way for millennials and Generation Zs to buy clothes. The schemes offer the option to delay a payment or to split payments into installments. 

But debt advice charities are increasingly worried that BNPL is encouraging young consumers to spend more than they can afford.

These stores are all fostering a smash-and-grab mentality among young shoppers today. Many of them are buying their clothes purely online, often speculatively, and end up returning items that don’t fit or suit them later.

Shoppers aged 18-24 are more than twice as likely to use a payment platform (52%) than going into their overdraft (20%), but 25-34 are the biggest BNPL users. Over two-thirds have used a BNPL payment scheme like Klarna, Clearpay, or Laybuy. 

Almost a third of UK shoppers cite social media as a contributing factor (29%) in their decision to use BNPL and two thirds (55%) of shoppers aged between 18 and 34 admit to buying with the intention of returning, making millennials the most prolific returners. 

There are concerns young people might be encouraged to take on debt just to afford some new make-up or a dress for a night out.

Fast fashion is based on fleeting trends that may last no longer than a few months. Trying to keep up with such a quick turnover can be difficult, so young people turn to payment schemes to be able to afford them. 

Social media platforms, such as Instagram, exacerbate this as influencers post daily pictures in different outfits, never being seen twice in the same one, which puts pressure on young people to keep up. 

Under-25s made up 14% of those seeking help from the charity Stepchange in 2018, with an average outstanding debt of more than £6,000.

Retailers sign up with Klarna or similar BNPL schemes as it encourages more people to buy and some shoppers that use the service probably shouldn’t be. 

Impulse buying and online shopping can be very addictive. If you are thinking of using a BNPL scheme to purchase your items, think about whether you would purchase the items if you didn’t have the option to spread the cost. 

The full Shop Now, Stress Later study can be found here: https://www.money.co.uk/guides/generation-debt-trap 

business investment
ArticlesTransactional and Investment Banking

Post COVID-19 Trends: 31% Of Wealthy Individuals Intend to Support the Economy by Buying A Small Business

business investment

Post COVID-19 Trends: 31% Of Wealthy Individuals Intend to Support the Economy by Buying A Small Business

Brown Shipley, a Quintet Private Bank, has announced the results of a comprehensive research study of the nation’s wealthy. The survey of over 4000 UK consumers included a representative sample of over 800 of the nation’s ‘wealthy’ – defined as those with more than £100,000 in assets that they can readily access, 350 of whom have more than £250,000 in assets.

The research looked at how the wealthy had amassed wealth and what they want to do with the money they have, with some surprising results. Perhaps of most interest in the times of uncertainty with COVID-19, one in five (19%) of those with more than £250,000 in assets said they intended to buy a small business in the future to keep themselves busy, and a further 35% said they are planning on investing in a new business to help kickstart the economy post COVID-19.

Just under half of those wealthy individuals surveyed said they would leave an inheritance (48%). This increases slightly to 53% of those with more than £250,000 of investible assets. The research suggests that 1 in 5 (c10 million) UK adults fall under our definition of ‘wealthy’, which suggests that 5 million families may not receive an inheritance.

For those with more than £250,000 in assets, apart from leaving an inheritance, the other plans for their wealth include:

  • One in two (52%) will use the wealth to spend money on themselves, for example on  holidays; whilst one in six intend to buy luxury items, such as an expensive car or yacht (17%)
  • This is almost the same as those that wish to support a worthy cause (19%)
  • Almost six out of ten (59%) will use their wealth to fund their retirement

Whilst half plan to leave an inheritance, four in ten (39%) plan to gift some of their wealth to their families.

Regardless as to whether the wealthy plan to leave money when they pass on – the lack of planning for the future is of concern.  Only four out of ten (40%) say they had plans in place to pass on their wealth to minimise the tax paid by beneficiaries.  One in three (34%) say they will put in place plans in the next five years to minimise tax on their beneficiaries; whilst one in five (22%) say they never will.

Commenting on the research, Alan Mathewson, Chief Executive Officer of Brown Shipley said, “Whilst it is great to see that there could be significant reinvestment by the wealthy in UK businesses post COVID-19; it is worrying that so many haven’t made plans for their estates.  Solid financial planning is about wealth preservation today and having a wealth plan to meet future needs and we believe all can benefit from putting their estate in order, today.”

The research also reveals how today’s wealthy gained their affluence.  One in three (30%) of the nation’s wealthy credit an inheritance for contributing to their wealth; whilst 56% cite earnings from salaried work; and one in five (18%) say it is down to their entrepreneurialism.  Perhaps surprisingly one in twelve (7%) say that a lottery win; or gambling has helped them become affluent.  Other factors that the wealthy say have helped them amass financial assets include the performance of their pensions (44%); and investments (34%); whilst one in four (27%) have been helped by the property market.

monzo
ArticlesBanking

Consumer Opinions Towards Digital-Only Banks Fall Almost Three Times the Rate of High-Street Banks’ During Lockdown

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Consumer Opinions Towards Digital-Only Banks Fall Almost Three Times the Rate of High-Street Banks’ During Lockdown

Customer sentiment towards 10 of the UK’s biggest high-street and digital-only banks fell by 7 percentage points (pp) during lockdown, according to new research from personal finance comparison site finder.com and social analytics specialist BrandsEye.

This leaves overall consumer sentiment for the banking industry at -24% on a possible scale of +100% to -100% for the period between 1 March and 31 July.

However, over 800,000 social media posts from customers revealed that digital banks saw a sentiment decline of almost three times that of high-street banks during the pandemic. On average digital-only banks’ customer sentiment fell by 14pp compared to just 5pp for high-street banks, compared to the previous 6 months (August through to the end of February).

While this is a blow for digital-only banks, it should be noted that high-street banks had, and continue to have, a much lower overall sentiment (-13% vs -35% currently). 

When asked, over half of high-street banks’ customers (52%) said that they felt negatively towards their bank throughout lockdown with customers saying that savings rates are what frustrated them the most (29%). 

Following this was poor customer service both online (14%) and in-branch (14%). The third most common customer criticism was their lack of communication during the pandemic (11%).

The story was very similar for digital-only banks – 53% of customers felt negatively about their provider during lockdown and savings rates were again the main problem (21%).

Customers’ main method of interacting with their digital-only bank is through an app, so this is perhaps why customers’ second biggest issue was around their bank’s app (15%). 

Poor customer service appeared to be a running theme with 14% of digital-only banks’ customers complaining about the level of customer service they received over the phone and digitally.

The bank that experienced the biggest decrease in sentiment was Monese, with sentiment falling from -0.1% to -19%. Currently, Atom bank has the highest customer sentiment of 9%, however, this is a drop from 11% pre-lockdown. 

Customer sentiment towards Barclays, Lloyds and NatWest actually improved during lockdown, with Lloyds bank experiencing the largest rise in sentiment from -36% to -33%. Despite this increase, these banks still sit in the bottom three positions for overall sentiment, with Barclays having the lowest score of -42%.

The full paper, Banking in lockdown: Is the honeymoon over for challengers?, includes expert commentary from industry leaders and can be viewed and linked to here.

 

Commenting on the findings, Jon Ostler, CEO of personal finance comparison site, finder.com, said: 

“Digital-only banks have enjoyed a golden period where dissatisfied consumers of traditional banks have flocked to them, attracted by market-leading apps, innovative features and a more human way of communicating to customers. 

“Now these digital-only banks are becoming recognised players in the industry, it is natural that they will start to be held to a higher standard. This is especially true during a crisis like COVID where people are relying on their bank more than ever – some banks have handled the situation better than others.

“Digital-only banks are still comfortably ahead in the sentiment stakes compared to the incumbents but perhaps it was inevitable that the high street banks would claw back some ground. The challengers will be hoping this fall in positive sentiment is just temporary and not the start of a bigger trend.”

 

Nic Ray, CEO of BrandsEye, noted that social media is growing as a platform for customer service and continues to be a rich source of consumer insight:

“As the adoption of digital banking services accelerated during the pandemic, the industry can expect an increase in digital conversation that includes social media customer service requests and customer feedback. Swiftly identifying and responding to service requests, and surfacing valuable feedback from within all of the noise of social media will be critical to improving customer experiences and building long-term customer loyalty for both digital and high-street banks.”

 

Sentiment pre-lockdown

Sentiment post-lockdown

Atom

11%

9%

Starling

12%

-1%

Monzo

2%

-2%

Monese

0%

-19%

Revolut

-18%

-29%

HSBC

-31%

-30%

Lloyds

-36%

-33%

Santander

-21%

-33%

Natwest

-40%

-37%

Barclays

-22%

-42%

 

house prices
ArticlesCash ManagementReal Estate

September Revealed as The Best Time to Buy A House

house prices

September Revealed as The Best Time to Buy A House

New research suggests the stamp duty payment holiday isn’t the only reason Brits can make a saving on a property this month.

Watch and sunglasses specialist, Tic Watches, has conducted research and worked with experts to reveal the best time of year to find a bargain for high value products including homes, cars and holidays. The experts have compared prices to the peak time of year shoppers are searching for and buying products most frequently, to highlight how much people could really save with the right timing.

Here are the best times of year to find a deal:

January – Watches and sunglasses
  • Peak search time: 22nd-28th December
  • Potential savings: 70%

The January sales are a great time to pick up bargains on fashion items such as watches and sunglasses. Danny Richmond, Managing Director of Tic Watches, said: “For watches, the cheapest times of year to buy are generally Black Friday and January. This is when we run our biggest sales with discounts of up to 70%.

“For sunglasses, January sees the biggest discounts, of up to 40%. This is because it’s the period of lowest demand for summer products, so it’s a great time to get a bargain!”

February – A wedding
  • Peak search time: 28th July-3rd August
  • Potential savings: 50%

February sits in the middle of the wedding low season, which runs from November to April. This is generally seen as an undesirable time to get married, so as a result there are huge discounts available. In some cases, you can have a Saturday wedding in winter for half the price of the same in high season.

March – New cars
  • Peak search time: 10th-16th March
  • Potential savings: 25%

For new cars, the best time to buy is usually March and September because of bi-annual targets, although deals are to be had at the end of each quarter, depending on individual targets and stock availability.

April – Mattresses
  • Peak search time: 29th September-5th October
  • Potential savings: 53%

Dale Gillespie, Marketing Director for bed and mattress retailer, Bed SOS, said: “Retailers  tend to release their new lineups in April, so early spring is the best time to find the biggest discounts. Buying in early April, you’ll find some great value deals as retailers clear old stock to make way for the new ranges.”

May – Winter shoes
  • Peak search time: 24th-30th November
  • Potential savings: 70%

Buying shoes out of season will allow you to find the best value deals. May is a great time for this as there will be discounts on winter footwear such as boots, wellies and walking shoes, allowing you to buy good quality products for a fraction of the price. Similarly, the best deals for summer footwear can be found in autumn and winter.

June – A gym membership
  • Peak search time: 29th December-4th January
  • Potential savings: 20%

The start of summer tends to offer some of the best deals on gym membership, with January being another good month for discounts. 

There are often plenty of deals available through voucher websites such as Hot UK Deals, but if you’re signing up in person, a handy tip is to go at the end of the month. Sales staff likely have targets to hit and could be open to negotiating if they want to get their bonus.

July – An engagement ring
  • Peak search time: 29th December-4th January
  • Potential savings: 50%

July to August is the peak of the wedding season, and with all the focus on weddings, sometimes you can find big discounts on engagement rings. Also, as it is not close to any big holidays, jewellers use this time to lure in consumers with discounts.

August – Holiday clothes
  • Peak search time: 30th June-6th July
  • Potential savings: 75%

With summer drawing to a close, retailers look to clear as much seasonal clothing stock as they can. 

This is a great time to snap up bargains on items such as swimwear and shorts, which can see discounts of up to 75% for bikinis and 43% for shorts, although it’s worth saying that stocks go quickly, and there will be less choice than earlier in the summer.

September – A house
  • Peak search time: 2nd-8th February
  • Potential savings: Subject to negotiation 

Ross Counsell, Director at property firm, Good Move, said: “The best time to buy is August or September. The majority of buyers start searching at the beginning of the year, waiting until the end of summer, when there are fewer looking, you’ll have less competition.

“You’re also more likely to get a better deal, as with fewer offers on the table, sellers may well be more likely to accept a lower price.” 

October – Home appliances
  • Peak search time: 15th-21st December
  • Potential savings: 44%

Many manufacturers unveil new models in October, so older products will often be discounted. For products such as fridges, buyers can save as much as 44% at this time. 

November – Technology
  • Peak search time: 24th-30th November
  • Potential savings: 50%

Claire Roach at Money Saving Central, said: “Without a doubt, November is the best month to get deals, particularly on tech. A lot of people make the mistake of waiting for Black Friday – when the better deals are likely to be earlier on in November because retailers try to compete with Black Friday giant, Amazon.

“eBay, in particular, was 2019’s best place for tech deals, and the people who waited until further on in the month were left disappointed. Prices weren’t any better and stock was limited on highly sought after items such as the Nintendo Switch.”

December – Used cars
  • Peak search time: 17th-23rd November
  • Potential savings: Subject to negotiation 

Tim Barnes-Clay, Motoring Expert for Euro Car Parts, said: “Nobody thinks about buying a car at this time of year, as most people will feel the pinch over the festive season. With some forward-planning though, December can be a great time to get a good deal on a used car. 

“This is purely because dealers will be more inclined to get sales under their belts and therefore may be more willing to offer you a deal or negotiate.” 

Danny Richmond, Managing Director of Tic Watches, said: “It’s clear from the research that bargains can be found all year round, with the best deals coming at periods of low demand.

“It’s always best to plan your purchases ahead of time to maximise your savings. Don’t wait until winter to buy your winter coat and consider buying a new phone at the start of November, rather than waiting until Black Friday. Doing so could mean huge savings!”

For more information on when the best savings can be found, visit: https://www.ticwatches.co.uk/blog/2020/03/when-youll-get-the-biggest-savings/

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Natural CatastropheRisk Management

AIM Dividends Set to Fall By At Least A Third In 2020 Following A Record 2019 As Covid-19 Crisis Bites into Company Profits

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AIM Dividends Set to Fall By At Least A Third In 2020 Following A Record 2019 As Covid-19 Crisis Bites into Company Profits

Having reached a new record in 2019, AIM dividends flatlined in Q1 2020 on the back of a weak UK economy before succumbing to the Covid-19 recession in the second quarter, according to the latest annual AIM Dividend Monitor from global financial administrators Link Group.

The second quarter usually marks a seasonal high point for dividends, so what happens in this period is very important for the whole year. It was also the quarter when companies began to react to the chilling effect of the government’s lockdown policy. Q2 AIM payouts fell by an unprecedented 33.6% on a headline basis to £266.8m. Special dividends supported the headline total. At £33m, they were almost five times larger than Q2 2019. Excluding specials, dividends fell 40.6% to £234.3m, a level last seen in mid-2016. The £107m decline was exaggerated by the promotion of Diversified Oil & Gas to the main market, and the takeover of SafeCharge and Manx Telecom, but on a like-for-like basis the decline was still over 33% year-on-year.

Two fifths of Q2 AIM payers cancelled their dividends outright, while another tenth reduced them year-on-year. Not all of these were due to Covid-19 however. For example, the biggest impact came from Eddie Stobart group, which was saved from administration late in 2019 by a capital injection from investors, but which naturally will not pay dividends during its turnaround period. The group was one of AIM’s top payers in 2018 and 2019 and accounted for one sixth of the total decline. Central Asia Metals also scrapped its payout for reasons of tough trading unrelated to the pandemic. Burford Capital, the second largest payer in Q2 2019, scrapped its dividend and reallocated the capital saved to its financing arm.

AIM dividends fell less in the second quarter than companies on the main market (where payouts halved) and a smaller proportion of companies made reductions. Two-fifths of companies reduced payouts on AIM compared to three quarters on the main market.

A culture of dividend paying has been growing on AIM. In 2019, 290 companies distributed cash to shareholders, up from 263 in 2018. The proportion paying has grown from 26% in 2012 to 35% last year. This compares to 80% on the main market. 2020 will see a break in this trend as the pandemic wreaks its historic disruption to all walks of life. It will take time for a full recovery to take place, but we would expect 2020 to mark only a temporary low point.

According to our most recent UK Dividend Monitor, the main market will yield 3.6% over the next twelve months if Link’s best case materialises, or 3.3% if Link’s worst case does.

AIM is a lower-yielding market, even in normal times. Over the next twelve months, Link expects AIM shares to yield 1.1% on a best-case basis or 0.7% on a worst-case basis. This figure is artificially distorted by the two thirds of AIM companies that do not normally pay dividends. If these are excluded (but not those that only dropped out in 2020), then the best-case yield is 1.9% and the worst case 1.1%.

Link expects total AIM payouts to drop by 34% on a best-case basis to a headline £873m in 2020, slightly better than Link’s best-case scenario for the main market (-38%). This would reduce AIM’s dividends to a level last seen around the middle of 2016. The worst-case scenario sees them falling by 48% to £698m (worse than the main market at -42%), a level last seen in late 2014. The greater uncertainty over the response from AIM companies explains the wider range between the best and worst case than for the main market.

Susan Ring, CEO Corporate Markets of Link Group said: “Even before the pandemic struck, late 2019 and 2020 were set to be different. The UK economy had already weakened significantly by the end of 2019. AIM companies tend to be more sensitive to the economic cycle because the sector complexion means defensive firms are relatively under-represented. Industrials, financials, and resources companies feature prominently on AIM. These groups find their profits rising and falling with the fortunes of the wider economy more than, say, tobacco or food producers, whose earnings are relatively insulated. On the main market, roughly half the total payout comes from defensive sectors, but on AIM just one quarter does. The rest are more exposed.

“The fact that AIM dividends fell less than the main market must be seen in the context of long-term AIM underlying dividend growth of 18% per annum. The change from an increase of that size to a sudden decline of one third is consistent with the magnitude of main market dividend cuts we have reported in our main UK Dividend Monitor. What’s more, only a minority of AIM companies pay dividends at all, and those that do will tend to be the ones with deeper pockets. Lower payout ratios in the first place play a role too, as growth companies tend to pay lower dividends in the early days. We think it likely that AIM companies may also have simply been slower off the mark than larger UK plcs which reacted with lightning speed in cancelling payouts. This may well mean a delayed impact over the coming quarters, not least as the impact on profits becomes a reality rather than a prospect.

“2020 will take the biggest hit. Our estimates come with a health warning, given the relative lack of visibility in AIM dividends and the unusually large uncertainty in the wider environment. AIM’s payouts will certainly bounce back in 2021, but even if they return to trend growth thereafter, they are unlikely to top 2019 until 2022 or 2023 at the earliest. This AIM recovery will be faster than on the main market, where it will take time to make up for the loss of £7.8bn from Shell alone.”

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ArticlesWealth Management

5 Retirement Planning Mistakes To Avoid

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5 Retirement Planning Mistakes To Avoid

Retirement planning is one of the most important financial goals, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. For a successful and secure retirement, Granville Turner, Director at Company Formation Specialists, Turner Little, shares his five retirement planning mistakes to avoid:

 

Don’t underestimate the value of a clear plan:

Whilst retirement doesn’t necessarily mean stopping work completely, for most people it does mean spending less time working. It’s important to understand what you want from your retirement, consider priorities and how you would like to spend your time, as this will most certainly affect your finances.

 

Don’t underestimate the cost of retirement:

Research suggests that 48% of individuals haven’t calculated how much money they need to save for retirement. You may think you will spend less when you retire, but whilst your commuting costs might go down, other expenses could increase. Planning is crucial. Think about your day-to-day spending and factor in other expenses such as holidays – budgeting is a key part of retirement.

 

Don’t rely solely on your pension:

Pensions have traditionally been the primary way of funding this stage of our lives, and still remain the cornerstone of good planning. But pension funds and the contributions you can make have limits, so make sure you consider income from a range of sources from the State Pension, personal or workplace pension schemes, savings, investments or even property.

 

Don’t underestimate the importance and need for diversification:

Creating a diversified portfolio of assets blended across asset classes is a winning strategy as it reduces the risk of any single asset dragging down your portfolio.

 

Don’t cash out your pension:

30% of individuals accessing their retirement pot under pension freedoms are depositing their cash straight into low-interest bank accounts. The loss of returns aside, withdrawals can have significant tax implications, so it’s important to assess your options before taking the money out of your pension.

To discuss your specific requirements with a specialist team of experts, click here.

alternative lenders
ArticlesWealth Management

Why Alternative Lenders Mustn’t Be Frozen Out During the Covid-19 Crisis

Lending

Why Alternative Lenders Mustn’t Be Frozen Out During the Covid-19 Crisis

By Douglas Grant, Director of Conister Finance & Leasing Limited

There are around 5.9 million small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs, or any business with fewer than 250 employees) in the UK according to the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills. Seen to be the backbone of any healthy economy, they drive growth, create a group of skilled and semi-skilled workers, generate competition and encourage innovation across a range of industries, as well as supporting future industrial and business expansion in the country. They keep the business sector energised, generating a healthy flow of new skills and ideas.

Since 2008, alternative lenders have risen in prominence, working alongside larger more traditional clearing banks, offering a funnel of vital liquidity through tailored and flexible lending solutions to SMEs. Today there are significant amounts of private capital (often referred to as dry powder) waiting to be invested in resilient SMEs and the market share of clearing banks has fallen significantly in a far more diversified lending sector. In the last 12 years, banks have also become much better capitalised than during the Global Financial Crisis. Previously businesses could service debt from remaining cash flows with little or no capital for investment which resulted in a zombie status for many UK SME borrowers. Today, the environment is very different although this trend has not disappeared. In fact, as a result of Covid-19, it is estimated the trend could develop further given the potential that businesses may build up £100 billion of debt by next March.

The UK Government has been quick to back sectors post Covid-19 that are resilient to recessions and market volatility, providing financial security and protection through initiatives such as the bounce-back loans scheme. This is where alternative lenders that understand the very basic needs of specialist SMEs, often in their lending infancy and operating in sectors such as infrastructure, technology and renewables, can provide the additional support and natural lending progression alongside the larger clearing banks. Alternative lenders understand the characteristics of specialist SMEs and with the flexibility they offer, empower their staff to make judgement calls on capital requirements.

The economy though is facing a double dip recession that could last well into late 2021 and it will need these resilient sectors to be protected with their existence guaranteed. Many clearing banks are working tirelessly to process emergency loan applications but with pressures piling up – for example from within their mortgage lending divisions – a lot of SMEs will become unsustainable, with some estimates predicting 780,0001 insolvent SMEs. It was concerning therefore to see that alternative lenders are potentially unlikely to receive much financing from the Bank of England to deliver emergency government loans. It is crucial that clearing banks pass on finance from the Bank of England to alternative lenders and find a way to make it work on commercial terms. SMEs must have a tripartite level of support from Government, alternative and traditional lenders working together in these difficult times.

As traditional banks deal with the impact of Covid-19 around their balance sheets, it is likely that they will have to pause financing discussions around succession and growth financing as well as recapitalisations, in order to redirect resources to addressing an enormous influx of CBILS applications from capital-starved SMEs. Those resilient SMEs who have weathered the pandemic best in their sector will be able to benefit from the potential acquisition opportunities to increase their market share and will need capital to carry this out. Alternative lenders have the know-how and flexibility to help process this type of financing quickly and effectively. Without legacy loan books and unencumbered by CBILS applications coupled with high levels of dry powder, alternative lenders working together with clearing banks can help to execute rapid credit decisions on flexible terms.

The UK business sector as a whole needs both more financial support for the alternative lending sector which is working together with traditional banks but also more sustainable initiatives to support SMEs in more resilient sectors from the Bank of England as we come to terms with an increasingly capital hungry economy – an issue that necessitates urgent attention.

gold
ArticlesMarkets

Why Gold Prices Have Been Hitting Record Highs

gold

Why Gold Prices Have Been Hitting Record Highs

Gold prices continue to rally this month as the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 continues. The precious metal closed at a little above $2,000 (£1523.05) on August 5th — a record high in the history of gold. Its earlier record peak was in 2011, a few years into the global financial crisis, when investors pushed the price of gold past the $1,900 (£1446.90) threshold.

Analysts have noted that the price of gold in recent months has been on a steady upward trend. However, during the initial stages of the pandemic, market prices rose and fell erratically. A report on gold prices by FXCM in March of this year stated that the bullion, which includes gold, performed poorly due to mass capitulation. Investors liquidated their assets out of panic as outbreaks occurred left and right. This caused the price of gold to fluctuate.

Almost two quarters into the pandemic, however, and the price of the metal continues to increase. That said, SYZ Private Banking’s Luc Filip recently pointed out that investors need to understand each asset’s characteristics in order to position themselves for recovery. And so with that in mind, here are the main explanations behind the escalation of gold prices:

 

Gold is a safe haven

Compared to other financial markets and instruments, gold is considered a safe haven in times of economic turmoil. This is due to the fundamental value of the metal, independent of other factors like economic stability. Gold is still gold — and valuable — on its own.

When a financial crisis happens, the value of assets such as stock, real estate, and currency drops. Investors tend to flock to gold given that it has historically retained most of its value during economic instability. The recession that today’s pandemic has caused is no different. And as cases continue to rise globally with no available cure or vaccine, the prevailing investment speculation is that gold will be the least risky investment option for the foreseeable future.

 

The dollar is weakening

The price of gold generally has an inverse relationship with the value of the dollar. As of this writing, NBC News reports that there are over 4.8 million COVID-19 cases in the US, and this number continues to rise across the country.

The inefficient containment of the coronavirus is one of the reasons the US has entered a recession. Though it initially rose, the dollar has dipped in value over the last few months. A weaker dollar means more gold can be purchased by investors pushing the demand — and its price — higher.

 

Investor interest is rising

Given those reasons, investor sentiment towards the metal has been positive. It is also receiving wide media coverage due to the record highs the price of gold has been hitting and surpassing. More analyses and reports on gold naturally increase interest among investors.

As the pandemic continues, Goldman Sachs predicts that gold prices will rally and pass the $2,300 (£1751.51) mark per troy ounce. This is due to the ongoing economic and political instability in the US, as well as the global public health crisis that hit the country particularly hard. Though the situation is alarming, these are considered favourable conditions for gold and thus, might make it a worthwhile investment.

online banking
ArticlesBanking

How Can the Banking Industry Emerge Stronger from The Covid-19 Pandemic?

online banking

How Can the Banking Industry Emerge Stronger from The Covid-19 Pandemic?

Around the world, many countries now face a new period of uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. While regional lockdowns had temporarily started to ease, the prospect of a second wave has caused some countries to reintroduce restrictions – a situation which may be ongoing and become a ‘new normal’ as part of the global effort to combat the virus.

Amid these challenges, society has been forced to digitalise many of its core functions at an unexpectedly fast pace, sparking unprecedented levels of innovation in a short space of time. This has led to an emergence of new digital services and triggered the transformation of key sectors including finance, education and healthcare. With growing levels of unpredictability around how the pandemic will unfold, there is a societal expectation that access to comprehensive digital services will continue and improve.

This expectation is particularly prominent in the banking industry, which rolled out an expanded range of digital services during the early stages of the pandemic to enable customers to manage their finances safely from home. New services include virtual appointments, expanded features for mobile banking and streamlined authentication processes for customer service. As banks look ahead to the future, Mobey Forum is drawing upon its Expert Groups to identify the key considerations for the industry.

 

A new era for online banking

The Covid-19 pandemic sparked a huge surge in demand for online banking; the United States is reported to have seen a 200% increase in new mobile banking registrations in April 2020, which is reflective of a broader global trend. Similarly, in the retail industry, there was a significant increase in the number of consumers using online shopping for the first time, and future ecommerce purchases from new or low frequency users are expected to increase by 160%.

While the increase in online banking services was driven by the urgent requirement for people to manage their finances without leaving home, many customers have since recognised the convenience of online access, and are calling for more comprehensive digital banking services. The pandemic also prompted many within the older generation to access digital services for the first time.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has encouraged banks to invest more time in developing tools which allow customers to manage their finances remotely. By ‘remotely’ we mean allowing customers to access their banking information independently without any third-party support,” says Mario Brkić, co-chair of the Open Banking Expert Group at Mobey Forum. The emerging social and behavioural changes caused by the pandemic require banks to undertake a careful evaluation of which financial matters can be managed in-person, and what can be dealt with online.

 

The digital identity opportunity

As well as rolling out new digital services, banks now have an opportunity to respond to the growing demand for digital identity. The pandemic has triggered a sharp increase in customers needing to verify their identity online: “During the Covid-19 pandemic, more people are relying on digital identity schemes than ever before,” says Jukka Yliuntinen, co-chair of the Digital ID Expert Group at Mobey Forum. “As an example, usage has increased in the UK where digital identity is required to access government benefits, and it is a similar situation across many of the Nordic countries.”

Mobey Forum has explored this opportunity further in a new report, entitled The Mobey Long Take – Post Covid-19 Digital Identity, which outlines why banks are in a unique position to seize the opportunity presented by digital identity, and indeed are best placed to lead the discussions and implementation going forward. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, banks have played an important role as a distribution mechanism for many of the government intervention and support strategies. They must now seize the opportunity to take this a step further and lead the development of a fairer, more trusted approach to digital identity.

 

A rise in customer data

With more customers utilising digital services, banks also have an opportunity to use the data to drive additional value for customers. However, this approach is not without challenges: “Data privacy and machine learning fairness are two of the most complex data-related challenges for banks,” says Amir Tabaković, co-chair of the Data Privacy in the Age of AI Expert Group at Mobey Forum. “On the one hand, banks need to innovate using technology and they must become data-driven to do that. On the other hand, trust is the biggest asset for banks,” he adds.

Banks have a long history of credibility and trust and their ability to demonstrate this through the secure management of customer data will be critical to creating confidence in new services. In rolling out new services, banks also have an important responsibility to ensure they remain accessible to all demographics. By sourcing feedback from the newest users of digital services – specifically those who are using them for first time – banks can test if their design is intuitive to customers.

 

Planning ahead

Covid-19 has irrevocably changed consumer habits and expectations. As we navigate the path forward, banks have a window of opportunity, to reflect on the learnings to date and use them to build a digital-first banking ecosystem which will serve customers for the years ahead. It is through this forward planning that the banking industry can help the global economy emerge stronger than before.

whisky
ArticlesMarketsTransactional and Investment Banking

Why Whisky is the Safest Investment to Make Right Now

whisky

Why Whisky is the Safest Investment to Make Right Now

Whisky Investment company Braeburn confirm why investing in whisky during economic uncertainty is a lucrative and sustainable asset for any portfolio.

Throughout history, whisky has proven a reliable investment even in time’s of economic decline. Whisky proved a popular choice during the Great Depression, and recent market behaviour would suggest that ‘liquid gold’ will continue to have significant financial gain despite the current climate.

“Societal turbulence is often a time when investors take stock of their portfolio and examine new ways in which they can protect and profit from their savings, this global pandemic is no different.” states Braeburn’s Sales Director, Samuel Gordon.

Whisky investment has been rising in popularity over the last decade, by 582%, according to The Knight Frank 2020 Wealth Report. This report also shows sales of scotch to India, China and Singapore rising by 44% in the first half of 2018 alone. However, in actuality, it’s whisky casks specifically, that offer the security and consistency that evade traditional asset classes.

With the surge in demand for single malts, distilleries are struggling to keep up. The process for crafting quality spirits that enthusiasts desire, happens over lengthy periods of time. Distilleries ultimately can only make and store so much resulting in a continually increasing value. As a result, independent bottlers, blenders and other investors are known to pay highly and quickly in current secondary markets.

While economic uncertainty can bring new levels of volatility to traditional financial markets like stocks, shares and housing. Samuel explains that whisky doesn’t follow these market trends and isn’t impacted by the reactive and turbulent swings of traditional investments.

“Instead of decreasing during periods of economic downturn, historically, whisky casks have increased in value. When whisky remains in its cask, its continuing is maturation process. Over years, the whisky interacts with the cask, taking on beautiful and unique flavours from the wood. Although in time, there is a golden moment to bottle whisky, in general, the longer it’s left the more distinguished and deep the flavour becomes along with the ability to demand a higher resale value.”

Unlike other industries that are impacted by developing technology and evolving consumer behaviour, the whisky industry is prized on its heritage and historical methods. Whisky has maintained consistency through every type of economy and returns are still on the rise.

Over the last five years, casks have earned an average of 12.4% per annum. The average cask doubles in value every 5 years with casks from popular distilleries earning even higher returns. This again, is due to the maturation process which allows whisky to ride through difficult times whilst still increasing in value. Instead of the cask values rising and falling violently with political and economic changes like the traditional stock market, whisky is left to mature in the cask, only to appreciate in value.

Whisky casks offer diversification into tangible assets allowing investors to enhance their portfolio across different asset classes. Traditional ‘paper’ investments puts future success solely in an endeavour outside the investors control. With whisky casks, no matter what happens in the economy, the whisky can always be bottled and sold, even if the market is down or a distillery closes. With an asset grounded in intrinsic value, an investor can safeguard wealth.

An important factor in whisky cask investment is that is offers further security against forgery or fakes. Unlike art, antiques and even bottled whisky, whisky casks mitigate this risk because the Scottish Government requires that they are stored under strict oversight.

Casks are stored in government bonded warehouses that are required to keep meticulous records. Because of this careful and impartial monitoring, investors can be confident in the provenance and value of their casks.

Samuel concludes,

“Whisky casks are a unique investment. They offer unique characteristics and can complement a portfolio in good times or bad. With a real, intrinsic value whisky casks are unlike any other tangible asset. And with the demand for authentic, mature single-malt casks on the rise, they’re more lucrative than ever.”

taxes
ArticlesTax

Tax Evasion, Avoidance And Efficiency: Which Are Legal?

taxes

Tax Evasion, Avoidance And Efficiency: Which Are Legal?

Tax is a subject close to the hearts of most individuals, and business owners.  3 terms frequently used in conversations around tax savings are tax avoidance, tax evasion and tax efficiency.

James Turner, Director at York-based Turner Little, tells us that these are themes that run through most conversations with clients, old and new, and it is his job to ensure that clients are correctly advised on the legal stand point of tax efficiency, and tax avoidance, to ensure that no client unwittingly falls into the trap of tax evasion. 

“Tax efficiency, explains James, is what the majority of people are trying to achieve. It is understanding the best ways to legally make the most of your personal or business income that is the key to success. There are a number of ways to make sure your income is as tax efficient as possible, and as a result ensuring that you maximise your income. Our job, when advising people in relation to tax matters, is not only to provide guidance that is consistent with the letter of the law, but also to ensure our clients comply with the spirit of the law.   

“Tax avoidance, is where an individual or company, utilises tax systems to legally minimise their tax liabilities, for example, contributing to a pension scheme or incorporating and trading from a tax-efficient jurisdiction.  When structures are set up correctly, these ensure the person or company pays as little tax as possible whilst staying within the letter, and spirit, of the law.

“Tax evasion on the other hand is where a person, or company intentionally sets out to not pay tax, either business or personal and they do so through lying, hiding and cheating the system. Turner Little are often approached by people looking to find a way to do this, and we always tell these clients that we cannot do business with them.   

In terms of UK tax efficiency for the lay person, there are a number of vehicles available, set up by Government, that can be utilised to make your income more tax efficient. These include using pensions, ISAs, checking you are on the correct tax code, and using HMRCs Marriage Allowance to transfer some of your earnings to a lower rate tax paying husband or wife. By taking advantage of the numerous government allowances each year, you can bring your tax liabilities down. For businesses, investments around Venture Capital Trusts, and Enterprise Investment Schemes could also maximise your bottom line. 

 

ISAs

ISAs are the most widely recognised investment method, set up by the government to specifically encourage savings and investments by offering generous and accessible tax breaks. You can invest up to £20,000 each year, without paying tax, and any capital invested into an ISA is allowed to grow in a tax-free environment. This means, that any income derived will also be exempt from taxes

 

Pensions

With pensions, money is exempt from tax on the way in, exempted when it is invested and only taxed on the way out. Pension contributions are tax-free up to your annual allowance, and, like ISAs, are also allowed to grow in a tax-free environment. Once you have paid into a pension scheme, the amount can be further invested into assets, which provide an income or growth without the need to pay tax.

 

Venture Capital Fund Investment

Investment in a Venture Capital Investment Fund is an excellent way to reduce either personal, or company profits. 30% of the capital amount investment can be claimed back via personal tax reductions. Investors can inject up to £200,000.00 into the Fund, in order to claim the maximum tax savings.  Shares in the venture capital fund must be kept for 5 years otherwise the tax relief will have to be paid back. Investing in a Venture Capital Fund will also afford savings on Capital Gains Tax on profits from selling your VCT shares. Dividends from the fund are also received tax free.

 

There are also other ways that individuals and businesses can legally reduce their tax liability.

 

Using a Trust or Foundation

A useful vehicle in long term asset management, and succession planning is creation and utilisation of a Trust or Foundation.   Gifts of assets into Trust or Foundations, including property, money and pension funds, remove them from your estate, meaning that in the event of death, not only do you have full control over who receives the asset, but the recipient also will not be required to pay inheritance tax.  As the asset is no longer your own, it belongs to the Trustees, should you need later life residential care, the value of the asset will not be eroded. The timing of gifts into Trust is crucial as such gifts can still form a part of your estate should you die with seven years of making the gift.   

Foundations work in a similar way, in terms of the inheritance tax savings. Foundations are interested in controlling your assets for a specific group of people or purpose, of your choosing, rather than individuals, as is usually the case with the trust. 

Trusts and foundations are very specialised areas. Obtaining specialised advice when implementing Trust and Foundations is essential to ensure that the structure implemented meets your specific needs.

 

Offshore Company Formation

The world today is a very small place, and many businesses trade globally, thanks to the ubiquity created by the internet.  Businesses can therefore place themselves in the most tax efficient jurisdiction to suit the needs of the business owner, and their clients.

It is important to note that tax rules constantly change, and efficiencies depend on individual circumstances. For more information, please visit www.turnerlittle.com

Turner Little do not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. We would always advise that you seek advice from an independent financial adviser.

Turner Little specialises in creating bespoke solutions for individuals and businesses of all sizes. The knowledge and expertise of their specialists ensures that you will receive the best advice for your situation, no matter how complex.

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ArticlesBankingWealth Management

Fintech Usage Jumps by Over 50% During the Lockdown Period

fintech

Fintech Usage Jumps by Over 50% During the Lockdown Period, with 21% Securing New Financial Products Without Speaking to a Single Human Being

A new survey of more than 2,000 UK adults commissioned by Yobota has uncovered how integral technology has been for people managing their finances during the lockdown. It found that:

• 64% of UK adults have been reliant on technology to manage their finances since March, up from the 42% before the lockdown.

• Checking accounts (88%), transferring money (80%), withdrawing funds out of an investment (35%) and searching for new financial products (27%) have been the most common uses of fintech.

• 21% have secured new financial products without speaking to a human being.

• 15% of people have been frustrated by their banks’ poor technology. 

• The figure rises to 28% among those aged between 18 and 34.

 
The majority of Britons have relied on financial technology (fintech) to manage their finances during the lockdown, new research from Yobota has revealed. 
 
The London-based technology company commissioned an independent survey among more than 2,000 UK adults. It found that 64% have become reliant on mobile and online banking to manage their finances since March, which is a sharp increase from before the lockdown, when just 42% of the nation were using fintech.
 
The most common uses of fintech have been checking one’s accounts (88%), transferring money (80%), closing or withdrawing funds out of an investment (35%) and shopping around for new financial products (27%). Millions of people have also used fintech to open new savings accounts (26%), apply for credit cards (18%), and extend overdrafts (17%).
 
Over a fifth (21%) of fintech users said they have successfully secured new financial products during the lockdown without having to speak to a single human being. 
 
However, Yobota’s research also exposed that 15% of consumers have been frustrated by their banks’ poor technology, with this figure rising to 28% among those aged between 18 and 34.
 
One in three (31%) people say the lockdown has opened their eyes to how many different ways technology can be used to manage their finances, with 42% planning to continue using tech much more even as bank branches re-open.
 
Underlining the increasing importance of fintech, almost half (47%) of consumers say their tech offering is a “key consideration” when choosing a financial services provider.
 
Ammar Akhtar, CEO of Yobota, said: “In light of the financial distress caused by COVID-19, millions of Britons have needed fast access to loans, credit cards and overdrafts, not to mention advice and guidance. Crucially, they have had to rely on mobile and online banking for almost all of this.
 
“Today’s research shows how some people have found managing their finances during the lockdown simple thanks to the advanced, easy-to-use fintech solutions deployed by their providers. However, others have clearly been frustrated and let down by their bank’s technology. 
 
“This must be addressed. Even as the lockdown passes, people will not be in any rush to queue up in bank branches or have lengthy telephone calls, meaning financial services companies must keep pace with the demand for fintech. As the survey results show, those who don’t risk losing customers.”

Retirement
ArticlesCash ManagementPensions

Forward Planning: 7 Easy Tips for Managing Your Retirement Savings

Retirement

Forward Planning: 7 Easy Tips for Managing Your Retirement Savings

We’ve all dreamed about a blissful retirement, spending more time with the people we love, in places we love and doing things we love. But is it just a pipe dream, or are you financially prepared for the life you wish to lead?

The good news is, it’s never too early to start preparing for retirement. Whilst most of us spend our twenties paying off student debt, as we approach our thirties, our financial priorities change somewhat as we’ve technically been there, done that, got the house, mortgage and family. It’s a time when we experience career progression, leading to promotions, bigger salaries and more funds that can be stashed away for later years.

To help you begin forward planning for the future, Alex MacEwen, expert at The Wealth Consultant has come up with 7 easy tips to get you on your way to achieving the retirement you imagine.

 

Before we begin, you might be thinking just how much stashing away should we do? According to research commissioned by finder.com:

– 55% of UK adults estimate that they will need £100,000 to live comfortably in retirement.

– Only 28% of people believe they are on target to meet this.

– The recommended amount for a comfortable retirement is between £260,000 – £445,000.

 

Shocked? Maybe it’s time to start planning the life you deserve.

 

1. Get independent financial advice

The future is an unknown – How should I save for retirement? Am I saving enough? How much will I need to live on? By enlisting the help of a professional, independent advisor, you will find the answers to all these vital questions. Your independent financial advisor will help you plan and make decisions based on your lifetime goals. They will advise on the various products that most suit your needs instead of pushing a product to boost their sales.

 

2. Create a realistic spending plan

Determine a budget by assessing your income, salary, interest, dividends, any rental income or child support. Define your outgoings, housing bills, utilities, transport, food, perhaps you are still paying off student loans. Decide on the things you really could sacrifice in the name of saving – do you need so many European city breaks? Are you still paying membership fees for facilities you never use because you keep forgetting to cancel the membership? Scrutinise your balance sheet and commit to saving as much as you can. Your future self will thank you, trust me.

 

3. Monitor old and new workplace pensions

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of landing a new job and just as easy to lose track of your old workplace pension! But it is important to keep track to know the value of your pension pot as this will help you decide whether it’s worth merging the old pension with the new one, and will give you an idea of how much you have saved for the future. It’s important to check the pension management fees as your previous employer will stop making contributions to old funds once you change jobs, the fees keep rolling, depleting your pension pot in the process. If you have a defined contribution pension, it is always worth checking where your pension funds have been invested, both from a risk level perspective and to ensure it aligns with your values.

 

4. Review investment performance

Keep track of your investments to ensure your portfolio is flourishing. If something isn’t working, figure out why. Perhaps it’s just a case of sitting tight and keeping your cool, or maybe time to diversify into a different sector or explore international opportunities to minimise losses. Remember, even if you have a few disappointing investments in your portfolio, a portfolio that is steadily increasing in value is always a sign that conditions are good.

 

5. Minimise retirement tax

After spending a lifetime working and sensibly putting money away for retirement, it’s important to ensure you keep as much as that money as possible. How? By ensuring your savings are as tax efficient as possible. This will mean working with an experienced financial advisor to ensure you are making use of all the tax allowances and pension tax relief.

 

6. Estate planning

Your inheritance and estate plan should set out your values and your intentions for how you wish your estate to be divided up and managed when the time comes. By focusing on your estate planning now, you can manage your tax obligations and safeguard the financial stability of those you hold dear. Inheritance matters can be challenging emotionally and financially, so it’s important to get professional advice and protect your wealth for future generations.

 

7. Save as much as you can

Save as much as you can, while you can. Achieving your dream retirement means making small short-term sacrifices in favour of saving for the future life you want. Remember, topping up your pension now means you will benefit from tax relief up to the annual limit of £40,000.

markets
ArticlesTransactional and Investment Banking

Ten Credit Markets Warnings Signalling Long-Term Alpha Opportunity

markets

Ten Credit Markets Warnings Signalling Long-Term Alpha Opportunity

The longest equity bull market since the Second World War led to high valuations and increased leverage. Now as the cycle turns, valuation multiples will inevitably contract and high debt levels will put pressure across the capital structure.

The weak structure of the credit markets and reduced liquidity will likely lead to increased volatility, more downgrades, increased default rates, lower recoveries and stronger terms for new lenders in a post Covid-19 world.

Below, Marc SYZ, managing partner of SYZ Capital, highlights ten warning signals that encapsulate the deteriorating fundamentals and illustrate the potential long-term alpha opportunities for alternative investors.

 

Complacent credit agencies

Since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), we have seen a sharp deterioration in net leverage across the board. As an example, BB rated bonds are now more levered than single B bonds were in the GFC. The inevitable rating downgrade to come can therefore only be a lagging indicator.

 

Corporate leverage expands threefold

Since 2009, GDP has grown 47% – from $14.6trn to 21.5trn – while corporate credit markets have increased almost threefold. While US household debt has marginally increased by 10% over the period, and housing related debt has remained stable, the sub-investment grade market has vastly expanded, both in high yield bonds and leveraged loans.

 

Elevated leverage puts PE under pressure

Leverage has gone up on average 1.5x across the board since the GFC, and even 3-4x for some cyclical sectors – such as retail, travel and leisure. These will be the first to suffer. Looking at LBO loans, the debt level is also significantly higher. The leverage for large LBOs is even more extreme, with a debt/EBITDA ratio greater than 6x for roughly 60% of universe – double its pre-crisis average.

 

EBITDA adjustments on the way

The published leverage ratios above may be misleading as adjustments – such as add-backs, proforma, etc. – often account for 20% of published EBITDA, which leads on average to a 1x leverage increase from published numbers.

 

Growth of weakening covenants

Covenant-lite loans have increased significantly since the GFC and now represent more than 80% of the $1.2trn US leveraged loan market. Without these protections, company performance can deteriorate materially before triggering a credit event.

 

Rising default rates

Annual default rates peaked at about 10% in the last recessions – reaching about 13% during the GFC. This time around, as a direct result of no or little covenants, we expect a much lower default rate in the short term, but deteriorating metrics and potentially higher default rates by the end of 2020.

 

Lower recoveries

The absence of covenants allows borrowers to ‘kick the can down the road’, as lenders do not have the possibility to exercise oversight and act before it is too late. This time around, we should expect lower recoveries, as the credit event will likely occur when the financial conditions and balance sheet of the borrower have materially deteriorated.

 

Passive investor base

Since the GFC, we have seen a tremendous growth in passive investment products, or actively managed ones with rigid investment mandates often associated with liquidity mismatch. As per leveraged loans and particularly relevant for the private equity industry, their ownership is dominated by CLOs, which in turn are owned by a variety of bank

and nonbank lenders. Most of these passive investors have ‘bucketed’ mandates and may become forced sellers upon a downgrade.

 

Lack of liquidity

Market making activities significantly declined since the GFC because many banks exited the business and those remaining had to shrink this activity. As an example, dealer high yield inventories fell from $40bn to $3bn, and overall corporate bonds inventories declined from $250bn to $30bn.

 

Rise in volatility

As the credit agencies catch up with downgrades, this will cause many distressed opportunities as some passive investors will be forced to dispose of securities that no longer fit their mandate.

The weakest segment of the market is the lower investment grade BBB bonds. As these get downgraded to sub-investment grade in an environment characterised by limited liquidity and a much smaller natural audience for high yield paper, the price drops of such ‘fallen angels’ will be important.

Downgrades will trigger forced selling. Such forced selling will occur in a low liquidity environment, creating excessive price drops and volatility. The current environment will create various opportunities for our flagship strategy across its investment verticals.

Distressed investing, restructuring, litigation financing and secondaries appear to be well positioned, but also private equity, as not all companies will be equally affected. High growth can still be found in a recessionary environment for patient, disciplined, diligent and selective investors.

Martin Lewis
ArticlesBankingCash Management

Martin Lewis Financial Education Textbook Rolled Out to 700 Schools Across the UK

Martin Lewis
Photo credit: The Money Saving Expert 

Martin Lewis Financial Education Textbook Rolled Out to 700 Schools Across the UK

The first ever financial education textbook to hit Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales will be rolled out over the next 15 months.

This week, Young Money announced the launch of the first ever financial education textbook to hit schools in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Over 45,000 books will be sent free to schools over the next 14 months, as well as an accompanying teacher’s guide (available digitally). The textbook will also be available as a free PDF download to anyone who wants it.

This launch follows the successful roll-out of the textbook in England. In November 2018 340,000 copies of the very first financial education textbook in the UK, ‘Your Money Matters’, were delivered into English secondary schools. This was funded by Martin Lewis, the Money Saving Expert, with a personal donation of £325,000 to the financial education charity Young Money to develop and distribute this milestone resource and accompanying teacher’s guide.

Aimed at supporting the financial capability of those aged 15 to 16, the reality is that the textbook has been used across multiple year groups and within a wide range of subject areas.

Since being delivered into every state-funded secondary school in England, the Money and Pensions Service funded an evaluation of the impact that Your Money Matters has had:

• 89% of teachers said that Your Money Matters would improve the quality of financial education in their schools.

• 88% of teachers said the textbook would increase their confidence to deliver financial education.

Subject Head at a Community school, said:

‘Excellent resource! Much needed for youngsters. We are very grateful to have received the textbooks and received excellent feedback from students. One student told me that our Financial Capability lessons changed the way her parents look at finances and motivated them to change the way they deal with money as a family.’

A Year 12 student, commented:

‘It’s so broad as well – if you want a general outline it is perfect for that. I actually brought one home so I could look through the university stuff. My older brother wanted to know about a work pension… I said ‘I have this textbook’ so he looked at that. He found it useful – it had the general information that he needed.’

Following the success that Your Money Matters has received in England, the Money and Pensions Service and Martin Lewis are splitting the cost of the £368,000 project, funding Young Money to develop versions of the textbook for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. State-funded secondary schools in each nation will receive both printed and digital copies of their textbook over the next 14 months:

Northern Ireland – January 2021 (12,000 copies in total)

Scotland – March 2021 (21,500 copies in total)

Wales – September 2021 (12,500 copies in total)

What is in the textbook?

The educational textbook contains facts and information as well as interactive activities and questions for the students to apply their knowledge. The chapters are as follows:

1. Savings – ways to save, interest, money and mental health
2. Making the most of your money – budgeting, keeping track of your budget, ways to pay, value for money, spending
3. Borrowing – debt, APR, borrowing products, unmanageable debt
4. After school, the world of work  student finance, apprenticeships, earnings, tax, pensions, benefits
5. Risk and reward – investments, gambling, insurance
6. Security and fraud – identify theft, online fraud, money mules

Whilst the key financial topics will remain largely the same, a review in each nation, consisting of focus groups with teachers and devolved government representatives for education, is being conducted to identify the amendments required. This will ensure that the textbook in each nation maps to the respective education curriculum as well as taking into account the specific needs and financial legislation in each country.

Once complete, up to 75 copies will be delivered for free into every secondary school in each nation.

Why do we need the textbook?

Financial education is part of the national curriculum for every nation in the UK. Whilst integrated into each curriculum in different ways, it is an important part of secondary school education. Various pieces of research have identified that teachers’ confidence in delivering financial education is relatively low – there is little training provided to support this – and the degree to which young people receive financial education in school is hugely variable.

The textbook addresses this by covering key financial information in a relevant and engaging way for students. To accompany the textbook there will be an online teacher’s guide which will support teachers in each nation to use the textbook to enrich their own financial education provision in a variety of ways.

There is a strong need to help young people understand financial matters. For example, fewer than three in ten 14 to 17-year-olds plan ahead for how they’ll buy things they need, and one in ten 16 to 17-year-olds have no bank account at all. Gaining knowledge and confidence in financial issues is crucial to leading to better decisions now and in later life.


Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert (though donating in a personal capacity) comments
:

“The pandemic has shown the lack of personal financial resilience and preparedness of the UK as a whole. Not all of that can be fixed by improving financial education, but a chunk of it can. Of course, we need to educate people of all ages, yet young people are professionals at learning, so if you want to break the cycle of debt and bad decisions, they’re the best place to start.

I was one of those at the forefront of the campaign to get financial education on the national curriculum in 2014, and we celebrated then thinking the job was done. We were wrong. Schools have struggled with resources and there’s been little teacher training. Something else was needed to make it easy for schools and teachers. So even though I questioned whether it’s right that a private individual should fund a textbook, no one else would do it, so I put pragmatics over politics and did it in 2018.

I’m delighted that now we’ve proved the success of that book in England. The Money and Pensions Service has agreed to team up to provide this much-needed resource for the rest of the UK’s nations – adding a rightful sense of officialdom to the whole project.”


Sharon Davies, CEO at Young Money and Young Enterprise comments
:

“We are thrilled that Young Money is able to develop the Your Money Matters textbook for every UK nation. Financial education is critically important for all young people, and it is fantastic that the difference this has already made within England can now be extended to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. We look forward to working with our partners in each of these nations over the next year.”

Sarah Porretta, Strategy and Insights Director at the Money and Pensions Service comments:

“We know that learning about money when we’re young can have a direct impact on the ability to manage money later in life. However, too many young people are entering adulthood without being prepared for the money-related challenges that lie ahead.

The launch of the Your Money Matters textbook in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland is a vital step towards more teachers having the confidence, skills and knowledge to teach financial education. As part of our UK Strategy for Financial Wellbeing, we want to see a further 2 million children and young people getting a meaningful financial education so that they become adults able to make the most of their money and pensions.”

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ArticlesBankingCash Management

How Millennials Can Get Ahead With Their Money

millennials

How Millennials Can Get Ahead With Their Money

Millennials are often painted as globe-trotting creatures that spend more money on avocadoes than their future. But that can’t be further from the truth. Millennials tend to be good savers, at least compared to other generations. Industry data shows that more than 70% of millennials have started putting money away for retirement and beyond.

“Millennials still struggle with investing. Often because they feel they don’t know enough about the market, but it’s never too late to invest in your understanding. It’s a great way to make your finances work harder for you,” says Granville Turner, Director at company formation specialists, Turner Little.

Here are some things you can start doing now, or preparing for, to set yourself up for a future of learning and investing:

 

Start early

The most apparent advantage millennials have over older generations is the luxury of time. Whilst everyone can weigh up the risks and rewards of investing, you’re particularly well-placed to see a solid return on your investments.

 

Challenge risk

When you invest money for longer, you can become less phased by the ups and downs and be able to view inevitable declines as opportunity instead. It’s better to look at yearly or even longer figures for a more accurate reflection of performance.

 

Put your money to work

Money that sits in a savings account, uninvested, is almost certain to lose value over time due to inflation, or a creeping higher cost of goods and services. If your money is growing or earning you a return, it’s going to help you reach your financial goals faster.

 

Start small

Many millennials believe you need to have a serious amount of money to start investing. But in reality, even small contributions can build over time. The important thing is to start early, and make it a habit.

If you’re ready to start having the right conversations about the future of your finances, get in touch with us today. With years of knowledge and expertise, we’ll be able to assist with any enquiries, no matter how complex.

UK credit score
ArticlesBankingCash ManagementWealth Management

Mapped: The UK’s Highest and Lowest Credit Score Hotspots

UK credit score

Mapped: The UK’s Highest and Lowest Credit Score Hotspots

The south is home to eight of the top ten areas with the highest credit scores in the country according to new analysis by Share to Buy.

Using the latest data from two major credit agencies, Share to Buy have mapped out the UK’s average credit scores by county showing where the country’s best scorers live, and who currently tops the national average of 570.

According to Google search data, interest around loans peaked between March and June 2020, with the phrase ‘can I get a loan’ rose by 11% compared to the same period last year, while the phrase ‘how to improve credit score’ was up by almost 27% since 2019.

UK credit score

The above image shows the England’s highest and lowest credit score hotspots rated out of 1699. 

Oxfordshire comes in at the top with a score of 1258, whilst Lancashire is bottom with 1132.

Top Five: Highest Credit Scores in the Country

Oxfordshire has the highest average credit score in the country, over two and a half times the national average of 570 and 154 points higher than Nottinghamshire, the area with the lowest credit scores in the UK.

 

Highest Credit Score Areas

Total Score out of a possible 1699

1

Oxfordshire

1258

2

Surrey

1255

3

Dorset

1239

4

Hampshire

1236

5

Berkshire

1236

Bottom Five: Lowest Credit Scores in the UK

All counties analysed have higher credit scores than the national average, but some areas in the UK lag behind their neighbours.

 

Lowest Credit Score Areas

Total Score out of a possible 1699

1

Nottinghamshire

1104

2

County Durham

1112

3

Leicestershire

1117

4

Yorkshire

1119

5

Lancashire

1132

What Impacts a Credit Score Positively

Several factors can impact credit scores throughout our lives. Registering to vote is an excellent place to start, as most credit scoring companies use this to help confirm your identity and address. Three ways to impact your Score positively include:

1. Set up direct debits where possible: Consistent, regular payments look good on your profile, so try to set up direct debits for as many payments as you can to ensure you pay on time and in full regularly. 

2. Maintain older accounts: The average age of your bank account is taken into consideration by credit scorers, so try to stick to one account that can be well managed over the long-term.

3. Don’t borrow more than you can afford: Always ensure you can meet minimum repayments easily, and pay off accounts sooner if you can. This shows you can manage within your set limits.

 

What Impacts a Credit Score Negatively

Credit scorers look for certain red flags when assessing your eligibility. Here are a few things you should try to avoid:

1. Missing payments: If this happens regularly, you could have a potential default flagged on your profile, and this can stick around for up to six years.

2. Lending beyond your means: Borrowing more than you can afford means sticking with repayments will be tricky, and when debt piles up, it can quickly become unmanageable. If you get a debt relief order or apply for bankruptcy, your credit score will be significantly impacted.

3. Regularly applying for credit: Each time you apply for credit, lenders will perform a ‘hard’ search on your credit history, and this is logged on your profile. If too many of these are logged, it could become a possible red flag.

 

Commenting on their average credit score analysis, Nick Lieb, Head of Operations at Share to Buy says:

“Many people have been asking us what constitutes a good credit score when trying to buy a home. The topic is more relevant than ever right now as we navigate our way through the uncertainty of the last few months, but with so many variables, and credit score companies all calculating scores differently, it’s not an easy question to answer.

We have combined data from two of the biggest agencies for our credit score review, and while it’s interesting to see the variation in numbers, average credit score is just one of several factors that play a part in your ability to get a mortgage. Therefore, even if your credit score is not where you want it to be, this shouldn’t be a deterrent in your search for a home”.

financial markets
ArticlesCapital Markets (stocks and bonds)MarketsNatural Catastrophe

Markets Have More Upside Potential Despite Second Wave Fears

financial markets

Markets have more upside potential despite second wave fears

By Luc Filip, head of private banking investments at SYZ Private Banking

While fears of a second wave of coronavirus bring renewed volatility to Europe and the US, investors are looking East for reassurance. China, which entered the pandemic three months ahead of the rest of the world – and now boasts positive economic growth – offers a useful template for the trajectory of the rest of the developed world. 

As witnessed in China, we expect a significant pickup in activity from Europe and the US now that social distancing measures are relaxed. The downward trend has finally slowed in these areas and economic indicators have risen above April lows, marking a positive first step in this direction. This was, and will likely continue to be, led by activity in the service and consumption sectors, as social distancing measures are lifted further and people learn to live in the new post-Covid environment. 

We anticipate the recovery will be faster than consensus expects, with the real possibility most economic activity could return close to pre-crisis levels by the beginning of next year. In fact, we believe the unprecedented amount of fiscal and monetary policy stimulus might fuel a temporary overshoot of economic growth in 2021 – before falling back toward more subdued long-term trends. 

Despite the very real risk of a second wave, of which we are already seeing signs, we do not believe this will result in another full- blown lockdown in developed countries. Instead, we would likely see more targeted measures, which would not derail economic recovery. Nevertheless, the recovery will remain concentrated in developed countries following in China’s footsteps, while the rest of the developing world – countries mostly dependent on manufacturing and commodity export – are likely to experience a far less robust recovery. 

 

Positioning for recovery

Before these positive developments are fully priced in by markets, now is still the time to increase risk exposure. But with ultra-low bond yields and sky-high equity valuations, many investors do not know where to turn. The key is to consider every aspect of an asset’s characteristics, including its merits compared to the available alternatives, as there is always relative value to be found.

Equity valuations, which regained pre-crisis highs in some sectors, may appear expensive given the current economic situation. However, it is necessary to go beyond purely intra-equity market metrics and consider equity valuations within the current rate environment. Taking into account the excess return currently offered by stocks over cash and bonds, equities are not expensive at all. In the US, this equity risk premium is close to a historic high. Therefore, combining both internal equity metrics and risk premia, we still see value in equities. 

 

Covering all bases 

Nevertheless, our confidence in the economic recovery does not discount the high probability of volatility in the markets – due to downside risks such as the speed of the recovery, the geopolitical situation, the likelihood of a second wave and a second lockdown. 

Therefore, diversification is crucial – across asset classes, regions and sectors. In the eventuality of a negative surprise, our exposure to gold, long treasuries and hedging equity strategies will protect the portfolio. Meanwhile, we increased our exposure to US and European equities in May through passive instruments to obtain wide-ranging coverage across all sectors. We also took advantage of the recent lower volatility to purchase additional portfolio protections as they became cheaper. 

Another key to managing downside risk is to focus on quality. We prefer holding proven quality assets which are continuing to perform well – even if they are more ‘expensive’. On the equities side, this means stocks with strong balance sheets, cashflow and brand, which are well positioned for the new normal of digitalisation – such as Google, Mastercard and L’Oréal. On the credit side, we reduced our exposure to high yield, as we anticipate a painful recovery for many companies, and reinvested the money into investment grade corporates – which are supported by the Federal Reserve’s purchasing programme. 

Generating performance while managing risk requires a flexible active approach to asset allocation. Through the crisis, our preference for quality, rigorous diversification and tactical protection have enabled our portfolio to participate in the market recovery, while mitigating downside risk. 

ftse 100
ArticlesMarkets

New Tool Shows The FTSE 100 Is Recovering Slower Than Other Global Markets

ftse 100

New Tool Shows The FTSE 100 Is Recovering Slower Than Other Global Markets

The Coronavirus lockdown decimated economies all over the planet, but while some stock markets are showing signs of recovery, the UK’s FTSE 100 is taking longer to bounce back.

Since falling to its lowest point in March, the FTSE 100 has climbed by 23%, which seems impressive, until you compare it with other global indices. Both the Nasdaq and Dax have risen by over 50%, while other key markets, such as China’s CSI 300, have also significantly outperformed the FTSE since the pandemic hit.

Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG Markets, Europe’s largest online derivatives trading provider, believes the FTSE 100 is “an index that has become a victim of its own composition”. Financials currently represent its biggest sector and Beauchamp says “a huge chunk of the index in terms of weighting is really underperforming”. 

He adds that the recent resurgence in sterling has also hit the FTSE, as its firms have lost value overseas.

For traders looking to keep track of the global indices and their relative rates of recovery, Daily FX has launched an innovative new tool that provides an instant snapshot of international market performance. 

Market Health allows traders to get a complete picture of global markets and indices in a single place. The free tool provides an instant picture of global market performance, currency strength and exchange opening and closing times. 

Using data from Quandl, Market Health allows users to take a macro look at global markets and indices including the Dow Jones, S&P 500, FTSE 100 and DAX 30 to help formulate and deliver on trading strategies.

Split between three main viewpoints, users can easily switch between world overview, stock exchange open times and index performance.

world overview

The global view combines exchange opening times and currency performance, presented on a world map. The map, displayed as a heat map, shows currency strength against a base currency of your choice.

The stock exchange opening times showcase eight global stock exchange markets with details of exactly when they open and close, how long they’re open for and whether or not they’re closed for any public holidays. 

The performance section groups major market indices into geographical groups and is a quick way to get a picture of whether a geographical market is up or down. Users can also filter by developed or emerging markets.

opening times
exchange performance

Peter Hanks, Analyst at DailyFX, explains how the tool is useful for experienced traders like himself: “It is useful to use the tool on specific days when trying to discern which market or region was most impacted by an event. For example, if the Federal Reserve has an interest rate decision, since the central bank typically has the most influence over the American markets, we would expect to see the most activity in those regions. If, on the other hand, another region has outpaced the US markets, there may be another theme at play that is driving market activity, so the tool is great at providing a bird’s eye view of the market.”

He goes on to explain how the tool is also useful for new traders: “When starting off on your trading journey, understanding the impact of other market sessions is very important. Volatility in one region can easily carry over into another, so being aware of when regions are active or inactive is very useful as the crossover periods are often flush with liquidity and can set the tone for an entire session.”

He explains how the tool is useful in the current situation: “Having an instant view of global market health is particularly useful for fast-moving world events such as today’s pandemic. The Market Health tool will be useful to many for getting a quick snapshot of what Covid-19 is doing to the world’s economies and how the different markets are reacting as we are all in different stages of the health crisis.”

David Iusow, Market Analyst at DailyFX, said: “Before a day begins, a trader needs to know how markets around the world have performed in other time zones. It is the first overview that one can get of the general market conditions and from which one can deduce the start of trading on the domestic stock exchange. Similarly, a market status map facilitates the identification of relative outperformance of markets during regular trading hours. The DailyFX market status has the advantage of a clear and interactive structure, giving traders exactly the benefits, they need to start a day.”

To use the Market Health tool click here: https://www.dailyfx.com/research/market-status

order finances
BankingCash ManagementPrivate BankingPrivate Funds

10 Minute Money Challenges to Get Your Finances in Order

order finances

10 Minute Money Challenges to Get Your Finances in Order

Auditing finances can sometimes feel like a huge chore, and things may have been forgotten about or pushed to the bottom of the to-do list during the pandemic. This guide by KIS Finance has listed some very easy and quick 10-minute money challenges that people can do in order to get their finances back on track if things have started to get out of control.

Check your direct debits and standing orders

A great place to start is by checking through all of your direct debits and standing orders to make sure there’s nothing you’re paying for which you shouldn’t be. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to miss some payments coming out of your account, especially if they’re small and you’ve got a lot of them, but it’s so important to make sure you’re aware of every single one.

Go to your mobile banking app and go through the lists of direct debits and standing orders. Look at every payment and ask yourself three questions: do you need it?, can you afford it?, and is it worth it?
Bills are obvious; you must pay them. But do you have a gym membership which you only use a couple of times a month? In which case, it may be worth researching into whether you can buy a day pass or pay for gym classes as you go – this could work out much cheaper if you don’t go very often.

Subscription services is another category to look at. Are you paying for three streaming services that all do the same thing? If so, can you live with just one or two of them?

This task shouldn’t take you very long at all, and you’ll be surprised at how much money you can save.

Check for any recurring payments

Another important thing to check for are any recurring payments – otherwise known as Continuous Payment Authorities (CPAs). They work essentially like a direct debit, but they’re different in the fact that they use the long card number instead of your account number and sort code and the company can take money whenever they think they’re owed.

The reason you need to do this separately is because they won’t appear in the lists of direct debits or standing orders, they will appear on your bank statement as if they’re a debit card payment. Most will be taken on a monthly basis, so just have a look through the last few months of bank statements and see what’s coming out regularly.

You may have purposefully set some of these up, Amazon Prime and Spotify are examples. In which case, apply the same three questions as mentioned in the point above and cancel any that you can live without.
However, you may have set some up by mistake and these are important to get rid of. This may have been a free trial that you forgot to cancel, or some retail websites have in the small print that you will be signed up to a monthly CPA after making your first purchase and you didn’t realise. You do have the right to cancel any CPAs that you no longer wish to pay.

Compare your bills

If you’re not somebody who compares suppliers and just let your bills roll over every year, then this task is a must.

In some cases, the difference between the cheapest and most expensive tariffs for products like gas, electricity, and insurances can be hundreds of pounds a year. So, a quick check through a comparison website could make a big difference to your finances.
This should be done just before each of your current tariffs/policies come to an end, so you don’t end up paying any early exit fees. You’ll normally just have to fill out some personal details and any information required for the specific product, then you’ll be given a list of all the providers where the cheapest one is normally at the top. With most comparison websites, they will do a lot of the work for you when it comes to switching, so you just have to select which product you want and make any relevant payments.

This won’t necessarily have any immediate effects on your finances, but it will definitely benefit you in the long run.

Switch bank accounts

Switching bank accounts sounds like a massive job, but most of the major banks now offer an online 7-day switching service where they do everything for you, so actually it doesn’t take much time at all and it’s definitely worth the effort.

All you have to do is go to a comparison website which lists all of the available current accounts and compare who’s offering the best interest rates, perks, and functions. It’s important to do this every once and a while and especially when you have a change in financial situation, for example, an increase in income or a big change in the amount you have saved.

Once you’ve decided on the best current account for you, simply go to their website and say you’d like to open an account with them and then they’ll do the rest. They’ll swap over all of your regular payments like direct debits and standing orders and the only thing you’ll have to do is give your new account details to your employer.

Remove your card details from websites

Most online retail stores give you the option to save your card details after you’ve purchased something in order to make the payment process faster next time. Whilst it’s convenient that you don’t have to fill out the details manually every time, it can actually make you spend more when all the effort is taken out of the process.

If you struggle with spending too much and you’re a bit of an impulse shopper, take some time to go through the websites where your card details are saved and remove them. Then, next time you come to purchase something from that website, having to get your card and fill out the details will just give you a little extra thinking time as to whether it’s something you really need.
This isn’t something that will dramatically change your financial situation, but it is something that will help towards curbing the spending if that’s something you struggle with.

banksy brexit
Capital Markets (stocks and bonds)Markets

What is the Post-Brexit Outlook for Sterling?

banksy brexit

What is the Post-Brexit Outlook for Sterling?

As we head through the agreed Brexit transition period, many questions remain. One of these uncertainties is that there’s no definitive answer whether by 2nd January 2021, a deal will be in place. One of the key areas of concern is what effect Brexit will have on the standing of sterling as, inevitably, the currency will be affected.

It seems like far more than four years ago now that the UK made the momentous, and unexpected, decision that it no longer wanted to be part of the EU. Since then, a great deal of metaphorical water has passed under the bridge and it was only Boris Johnson’s bold election move last December that finally achieved the Tory majority needed to pass the legislation.

But, as we head through the agreed transition period, many questions remain. One thing that is for certain is that there will be no extension to this beyond 1st January 2021. However there is no definitive answer yet on what the arrangements will be concerning the UK’s dealings with the EU after then. It’s equally uncertain whether, by 2nd January, a deal will be in place, and some observers believe that a no-deal Brexit is becoming a real possibility.

One of the key areas of concern is what effect Brexit will have on the standing of sterling as, inevitably, the currency will be affected.

Volatility is key

Perhaps the early signs weren’t good, as its value on the currency markets immediately plunged by around 10% on the announcement back in June 2016 that the country was set to go it alone. Since then, the trend seems to have been that its value has rallied whenever rumours of a softer, more negotiated split with the EU have been circulating. For example, back in October 2019 when it was believed, incorrectly as it turned out, that the transition period might be extended, the value of the currency rallied strongly on the world markets.

But, each time there is a feeling that the future is a little more uncertain, sterling’s essential volatility comes to the fore, once again causing considerable turbulence in the currency exchanges.

Good news for some…

Of course, this isn’t necessarily bad news for everyone – with people who derive some benefits from forex trading being a case in point. Through making the right decisions, and operating using a recommended forex broker, traders stand to benefit from significant changes in relative values between paired currencies. For those in this category, choosing an effective broker is a relatively simple process as in-depth reviews of said brokers abound.

… but not for others
Cargo Ship, By Szeke

Volatility in the value of sterling is, unsurprisingly, not such good news for many other sectors of the UK economy. A prime example is the country’s manufacturing industry, especially in the case of firms that rely on importing components and materials from abroad. At a stroke, they can find themselves having to pay more to continue operating – a cost that they are generally likely to pass straight on to the consumer.

Incidentally, this is not the only impact that Brexit is predicted to have on UK industry. There is a very real fear that it will limit the amount of investment available for research and development which could well have a far wider knock-on effect.

Because the value of sterling has always been so closely linked with confidence in the economy as a whole, the consequences of a country hamstrung in its efforts to develop and innovate could also make themselves apparent.

Looking on the bright side

But we should perhaps be wary of falling into the trap of becoming too pessimistic and gloomy about the prospects for sterling in a post-Brexit world. Deal or no-deal, the UK will definitely be able to open up new trade deals with the rest of the world once the restrictions imposed by EU membership have been lifted. Depending on the nature of those deals, this could mean sterling receives a real shot in the arm and that, now more than ever, will be what everyone should be hoping for.

pension
FundsPensionsPrivate BankingWealth Management

UK Gender Income Gap for Single Pensioners Widens by Almost 20% in Four Years

pension

UK Gender Income Gap for Single Pensioners Widens by Almost 20% in Four Years

Men over the age of 75 receive £114 a week more from their pension income than women of the same age, according to a new report.

Single male pensioners receive up to 26 per cent more income than female pensioners, according to official data compiled by digital wealth advisory firm, Fintuity. The findings, analysed using data compiled by the Office for National Statistics, reveals that the gender pension gap between single men and women was only eight per cent in financial year (FY) 14/15, noting a rise of 18 per cent in four years.

In 2018/19, the average incomes for males, who were under 75 and 75 or over, were £441 and £429 per week, respectively during this period. At the same time, these figures were significantly lower for the same age groups of women: their average income per week reached £333 for those under 75, and £315 for 75 or over.

Furthermore, according to analysis from Fintuity, a woman in her 20s would need to save approximately £1,300 extra per year in order to close the gender pensions gap. However, this average amount increases depending on age. For example, the average 30 year old woman would require an additional £2,000, a 40 year old woman would require an additional £2,900 and a 50 year old woman would need to acquire a further £5,300 in order to close the gender pensions gap.

Gross income of single pensioners consists of different sources, including; benefit income, occupational pension income, personal pension income, investment income and earning income. According to the most recent pensions data, in FY 18/19 occupational pensions income for men was on average 35 per cent higher than women, compared to 23 per cent four years prior.

The personal pension income gap was 63 per cent in FY 18/19, compared to 46 per cent in FY 14/15, and, the investment and earnings income gap between male and female pensioners increased from five and eight per cent in FY 2014/15, to a massive 61 and 74 per cent respectively. Suggesting that women are not as capable of making savings and investments due to low income which results in lower level of pensions.

Ed Downpatrick, Strategy Director, Fintuity comments:

“Despite government initiatives to improve the pensions income for women, it’s clear that no amount of support programmes can make up for the occupational gender disparity in the UK. This problem needs to be tackled head-on, with correct support initiatives put in place to enable women to get a much fairer deal.

“With Fintuity, women and men of all ages can receive professional, yet affordable, financial advice in order to see what options are available to them so that they can manage their pension income. All of this can be conducted online, via our digital platform, making professional financial help more accessible than ever.”

For more information on how to effectively save, spend wisely, understand alternative income routes, or improve monthly pension payments, please visit: https://fintuity.com/ 

Take care of what you share privacy and protection in a pandemic
LegalRegulation

Take care of what you share: privacy and protection in a pandemic

Take care of what you share: privacy and protection in a pandemic

Caroline Holley, Partner, Family & Divorce, and Oliver Lock, Associate, Reputation Management, Farrer & Co

A good reputation, hard won, can be ruined in moments. Never have those words been more true than in this strange new “normal”.

The coronavirus lockdown period has resulted in an exponential increase in the time that people are spending online, with greater use of video calls and social media platforms. This brings with it a number of security and confidentiality issues, some of which may not ordinarily be at the forefront of people’s minds.

Privacy has long been a concern of many, but recently we have seen a sharp rise in confidentiality provisions being included in a range of agreements, such as employment contracts, pre or post nuptial agreements, parenting plans used by separated parents, as well as non-disclosure agreements (NDAs).

Those who have entered into such agreements would be wise to review them in light of their new online lives. Others may think now is the right time to revise agreements to include new, or tighten up existing, confidentiality provisions.

Social Media
Social media use has become more prevalent than ever. People often share huge amounts of personal information on various social platforms, not only in terms of what they say directly, but also information gleaned from photos or videos posted or articles shared or retweeted. The potential pitfalls are wide-ranging and extend beyond simple privacy concerns. Both online and physical security, as well as reputational issues, need to be given careful consideration.

Employment contracts

Contracts for household staff, particularly nannies, regularly include confidentiality provisions, such as clauses preventing disclosure of personal information obtained during employment. However, they can also extend to the employee’s own use of social media. An open Instagram account of a high-profile family’s nanny could disclose the whereabouts of the family, details of their home or private photographs of children. There have been notable incidents where well-known individuals have been burgled when away from home, as a result of information gleaned from social media posts.

Pre and post nuptial agreements

Couples in relationships can have very different approaches to social media. Whereas one half of a couple may enjoy a large following or generate an income from their profile, the other may eschew social media entirely, potentially creating considerable conflict.

Some couples are therefore choosing to agree their intended approach to social media in nuptial agreements, ensuring that the family privacy is protected even in the event of marital breakdown. Right at the outset of their relationship, couples can discuss their views of social media – what they are comfortable sharing and with whom – and having reached a consensus, can record that understanding either in a pre-nuptial agreement or NDA.  As can be imagined, it is much easier to come to a consensus early on in a relationship than it is after it has ended.

Agreements such as these are flexible and entirely bespoke, dealing with the couple’s private life, business affairs or financial information that may have been shared by either party. They may include clauses on whether photographs of future children or of the interior or exterior of their home be shared, a particularly important consideration for those in the public eye.

As the number of people earning an income from their social media presence and posts grows, it has become even more important to consider such agreements, and the potential financial impact of them, when agreeing provision in a pre-nuptial agreement.

Video Calls
The coronavirus epidemic and resulting lockdown has seen many of us have turn to video calls to facilitate many daily activities; from work, and social arrangements, to exercise classes or even church services.

Keeping in touch with the outside world in this way has been a lifeline to many. But some people are using this technology without due consideration of security concerns and, again, confidentiality and privacy issues arise. Users may be sharing far more information than intended – their location, security weaknesses, evidence of expensive artwork on the wall, or even family photos. This is particularly concerning when the call could be recorded, or if there are a number of unknown people on the call. The simplest way to guard against such issues is to add a blank background to all calls, a feature available on most platforms, to ensure privacy, security and reputation are all protected.

What if an agreement is breached?
Breaching an NDA or confidentiality clause may be very easy to do without realising.  For example, it may have been agreed that neither party will share pictures of their children, but one of them forgets to remove family photos from the wall behind them in a video call. For couples on good terms, this may not be such an issue. But should the relationship have broken down, this could have serious consequences. Actual liability will always depend on the exact terms of the agreement and the level of fault asserted. But, as a minimum, parties are usually expected to take reasonable steps to ensure information does not get into the public domain.  

International considerations
Restrictions arising from the pandemic vary between countries and for those who continue to travel, it is important to keep abreast of the differing rules in different locations. In Singapore, for example, it has been reported that permissions to work have been withdrawn from a number of expats as a result of social media images showing them out socialising in breach of lockdown rules there.

Coronavirus has changed the way that we live and work, quite possibly forever. Restrictions are now beginning to lift but even so, our reliance on the growing online world is most likely to remain. It is important to consider these issues as we go forward into the ‘new normal’, remaining alert to possible breaches of agreements and ensuring that in future, appropriate provisions are incorporated into personal agreements.

 

boost economy
Finance

How The UK Furlough Scheme Boosted the Economy

The term furlough refers to a temporary leave of absence. Under the current economic and employment situation, a large number of employees in the UK have been furloughed. The UK Furlough Scheme is providing fixed wages to the employees who would have otherwise been unemployed.

What is the Furlough Scheme, and How Does it Work Now?

The UK Furlough Scheme is the government’s response to the economic damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic and its financial implications. The furlough scheme was launched on April 20, 2020, and aimed to reduce unemployment and related costs. The UK Furlough Scheme comprises of Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS).

While Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme focuses on paying the wages of employees who would have been laid off otherwise, the SEISS comes in the form of grants to self-employed individuals whose businesses have been adversely affected by COVID-19. To be eligible for grants under the SEISS, you must earn over 50% of your total income from self-employment, and your average annual profit must be less than £50,000. The individuals must have been self-employed from before April 6, 2019, and must have filed tax returns for the financial year 2018-19. The amount of grant will be based on the average of tax returns for the past three tax years.

For applications to the CJRS, the employers must have started a CJRS scheme before March 19, 2020, and should be enrolled for CJRS online. All employees, whether part-time, full-time, flexible, agency or zero-hour contracts, can be put on furlough. The coverage of the UK Furlough Scheme varies from town to town, depending on the percentage of employees furloughed. For instance, the maximum coverage is in the cities of Crawley, Burnley, Slough, Sunderland, and Birmingham, with the largest number of employees sent home by their employers. Crawley reported 33.7% of the employees furloughed in May 2020, while Cambridge reported 17.4% of the employees furloughed in the same period, being one of the least affected cities.

The employers and self-employed individuals are utilising the UK Furlough Scheme optimally. According to data released by the government, over one million firms were using the job retention scheme in May 2020 wherein the wages of 8.4 million workers have been covered. On the other hand, the self-employed income support scheme received 2.3 million claims for over £6.8 billion in income support. The construction industry has been the most affected and had the highest number of claims under the SEISS. The government has paid out a total of £1.76 billion to 680,000 construction employees who were furloughed due to the pandemic. The companies that have used the schemes include Costain, Morgan Sindall, and Wates, among others.

Updates on the Scheme and How is it Changing

The UK Furlough Scheme was launched on April 20, 2020, and planned to cover the wages for March, April, and May. The furlough scheme was later extended to cover the month of June and has now been announced to run until October 2020. Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, the government pays 80% of the furloughed employees’ wages to the employer, up to £2,500 per month, in addition to the national insurance and pension contributions.

For the months of June and July, the government will continue to pay the same and employers will not be required to pay anything; however, the employers will need to bear the national insurance and pension payments from August 2020 onwards. For September, the state will pay 70% of the employees’ wages and the employer will be required to take care of the remaining 10% and the insurance and pension payments, while in October 2020, the state will pay 60% and the employer will pay the remaining 20% of the wages.

Similarly, for the SEISS, the government currently pays 80% of the average monthly trading profits, paid out for three months together, capped at £7,500 in total. After the extension of the scheme in May 2020, the government will pay 70% of the average monthly trading profits, capped at a maximum of £6,750.

Benefits of the UK Furlough Scheme

The UK Furlough Scheme has proved to benefit the workers, employers, government and the economy on the whole. The scheme has helped to keep the unemployment rates low and avoid the financial and emotional costs associated with laying off and rehiring employees. Thus, the scheme has limited the damages caused by the pandemic and kept the money flowing in the economy.

Additionally, the advance notice about the furlough prepared people to save up the amount of money they would lose by reducing their expenses. The money saved can then be invested in general investment accounts, money market funds and short-term CDs to generate additional income. The returns on the investment will make up for the lost income.

How Does the Furlough Scheme Affect Pension?

The government has made it clear that furloughed payments are pensionable. The employers can claim the pension contributions made for the furloughed employees; however, the amount is capped at the minimum automatic enrolment contributions equating to 3% of the qualified earnings. For employers making additional pension contributions over and above the minimum, only the minimum amount can be reclaimed from the government.

Moreover, if the employer elects to top up the salary of their employees beyond the 80% offered by the state under the UK Furlough Scheme, the total salary is pensionable. The additional costs related to the top-up wages paid by the employer need to be borne by the employer itself. For the self-employed individuals, it is advisable to continue making payments towards their personal pension schemes or SIPPs every month so that they can sail through the difficult financial times later and also save on taxes.

What is the cost of the Scheme to the UK Government?

The UK Furlough Scheme is currently supporting about 7.5 million jobs. As a result, by June 2020, the government has already spent over £20.8 billion on the Job Retention scheme. The cost is expected to reach £80 billion by the end of October 2020. Furthermore, 70% of the individuals eligible under the SEISS have made a claim, for a total cost of £9 billion to the UK government.

Problems with the Scheme

The UK Furlough Scheme is proving to be highly beneficial for individuals and employers. However, the scheme is very expensive for the government and is costing about £8 billion a month. The generous nature of the scheme can pose potential problems for the economy as it may deter the transition of the economy to recovery. The scheme cannot keep on supporting the jobs that will not remain viable in the post-COVID economy and will only delay the restructuring of the businesses. Despite the high costs associated with the UK Furlough Scheme, it has been a saviour for the UK economy and its workers. The scheme has helped to avoid a surge in unemployment and saved many workers from layoffs. The hold on economic activities and the associated damages would rather be more temporary than permanent, owing to the scheme, as the workers will be able to go back to their businesses and the economy will bounce back sooner than later.

saving pounds
ArticlesFinance

Britons are Set to Accumulate £75.5bn in Savings as Lockdown Sparks a ‘Money Revolution’

  • UK adults with discretionary income set to save on average a record £1,434 in the three months to June 
  • More than double the previous quarterly record for household saving of £37.2bn set in Q1 2010
  • Surge in people investing and using digital banking services for the first time

Britons with unspent discretionary income are set to accumulate £75.5bn in savings in just three months as lockdown sparks a ‘money revolution’, eToro can reveal.

Joint research by the multi-asset investment platform and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) shows those fortunate enough to have more discretionary income during lockdown are on course to save an average of £1,434 each in the three months to June.

The restrictions on movement have meant that, despite many workers being furloughed and the financial hardships associated with that, a significant number of people have been able to make regular savings on travel costs and other daily expenses.

In fact, the staggering £75.5bn of savings these Brits are forecast to make in the second quarter of 2020 will be more than double the previous quarterly record of £37.2bn set in Q1 2010.

Bank of England data reveals households saved a record amount in April alone and paid off a record £7.4bn of debt, more than two-thirds of which was on credit cards.

Further, eToro’s research can reveal that lockdown has sparked a widespread revolution in the way people use and think about money.

More than two-fifths (42%) of Brits – or 22 million people – plan to keep up their new savings habits even after lockdown is lifted, which would turn Britain from a nation of spenders into a nation of savers almost overnight.

It can also be revealed that an estimated 3.8 million UK adults have invested in the stock market for the first time since February this year. This suggests the market volatility caused by Covid-19 has awoken in many the idea of investing in shares as a means of wealth accumulation.

eToro’s research also reveals how coronavirus is speeding up the UK’s transformation into a largely cashless society.  

During lockdown, more than a third (37%) of UK adults stopped using cash altogether, the research shows, while an estimated 2.2 million say they won’t use cash again even after the threat of Covid-19 diminishes. This is on top of the 5.5 million people who stopped using cash prior to the crisis.

Lockdown has also led to an explosion in the use of digital banking platforms, the research shows.

An estimated 9.4 million Brits have adopted new apps and websites to manage their cash during lockdown.

Further, more than a quarter (27%) of Brits – or 14.4 million people – expect to increase their use of digital banking apps post-lockdown. 

Iqbal V. Gandham, UK Managing Director of eToro, says“Our research shows that lockdown has ushered in a revolution in terms of the way we manage, view and treat money. 

“For many of course there have been significant challenges with debt and loss of income. However, in just a few short months, a significant proportion of the UK households that are in a position to set money aside have moved away from spending and cheap credit and turned to saving.

“At the same time, this pandemic has awoken in millions the idea that the stock market can be used as a potent means of generating wealth and prosperity, while many of us have also embraced new, digital ways of managing that wealth.

“The period of lockdown has severely impacted the economy and household finances, but one of the positives is that it has transformed how we engage with money, which will hopefully make many of us better equipped to manage our finances in the future.”

Pablo Shah, an economist at CEBR, says: “Brits are on course to save a staggering £75 billion between April and June – more than triple the quarterly levels recorded prior to the coronavirus crisis. 

“The period of lockdown has narrowed spending opportunities and encouraged precautionary saving activity, which will bring the household saving ratio to an all-time record high of 23%.

“The survey results also reveal the longstanding behavioural shifts that will be brought about by the period of lockdown. Consumers use of digital platforms to manage their finances is expected to increase significantly, while the shift away from cash to digital payments is set to accelerate.”

cryptocurrency
Finance

The Emerging World of Cryptocurrency

As the name suggests, cryptocurrencies are an emerging currency based on cryptography. Bitcoin is the most famous example, but new ones are being launched all the time. But with so much information out there about cryptocurrencies, it can all get a bit bemusing.

“As it happens, cryptocurrencies have been in existence for quite some time, and many believe they are the future of currency, so it’s important to invest in your understanding,” shares James Turner, Director at company formation specialists, Turner Little.

So, here’s our simple cryptocurrency explainer – how they work, why they matter, and where to start if you’re considering investing in them.

How do they work?

There are a limited number of digital ‘coins’ available, and powerful computers ‘mine’ these coins by solving highly complex equations. People are then able to buy and sell these ‘coins’ via cryptocurrency exchanges. Cryptocurrencies are stored in digital wallets and can be exchanged for certain goods and services, although it’s important to note that not everyone accepts them. To reduce the risk of fraud, every transaction is recorded in a blockchain.

What is a blockchain?

A blockchain is a distributed ledger. In other words, every transaction is recorded as a new block of information in an encrypted chain of data. With traditional currencies, banks oversee the ledger, whereas with blockchain, it is shared and synced across multiple places. This means if anyone attempts to alter the blockchain, it will no longer match the other copies that exist.

Why do cryptocurrencies matter?

Cryptocurrency is transforming the financial landscape because it de-centralises financial transactions. Essentially, people no longer need to use banks to transfer money. Its fans say that this democratises money and respects people’s privacy. Its detractors say that this relative lack of oversight and regulation can make it unreliable.

Cryptocurrency also has periods where it has risen sharply in value in a short period of time, which has attracted investors. That said, its price has generally been quite volatile compared to traditional currencies.

Should I invest in cryptocurrency?

“There is no simple answer to this question, nor can we give direct financial advice. As with any potential investment, it’s worth considering the risks and rewards and consulting a financial advisor,” adds James.

To discuss your personal situation and find out more about the options available with cryptocurrency, get in touch with us today.

Bas NieuweWeme
FinanceWealth Management

Lockdown has crystallised what the S stands for in ESG

The coronavirus crisis and subsequent lockdown have finally given real clarity on how to evaluate companies’ ability to tackle social issues, “crystallising” what the S in ESG really means, according to Bas NieuweWeme CEO of Aegon Asset Management.

Historically the social element of ESG has always been more challenging to evaluate as it typically relies on qualitative measures with limited means to assess actual performance.

However, the severe impact from coronavirus and the changes to the way people have had to both work and live means this has very much now come to the fore.

“The lockdown has allowed a crystallisation of the real performance on social issues versus mere policies and positioning,” NieuweWeme said.

“We can now look at how companies have behaved during this crisis. For example, are they providing employees sufficient equipment and appropriate facilities to do their jobs, have they shared the burden of the crisis when it comes future board remuneration, and have they abandoned their employees or customers in these difficult times?”

The importance of employees’ health and safety in terms of both mental and physical wellbeing has risen in prominence during the lockdown and is at the forefront of our emergence from it.

NieuweWeme said the role for investors now was to assess how businesses have actually adapted practices and working environments to ensure employee wellbeing.

“Previously we have usually relied on discussions with executive boards, while assessing policies on areas such as diversity & inclusion, childcare and flexible working among others, while using sites such as Glassdoor to get a feel for corporate culture. Key events sometimes highlight poor performance on social issues and provide us with an opportunity to engage with the worst performers, but coverage is limited to what is reported publicly.” he said.

“Going forward, we will be keeping a close eye on how companies implement new rules and regulations around employees’ safety and wellbeing, and on the executive and shareholder remuneration of those companies accepting public bailout funds.”

More broadly in terms of markets and the economy, NieuweWeme said the current crisis was a clear catalyst for change.

“From an investment perspective, if there is any good to come from this episode, it is the fact it has created greater awareness about Environmental, Social and Governance issues,” he said.

“In respect to the environment, I think many of us have enjoyed that during lockdown there has been less pollution and consequently fresher air, while nature has seemingly started to reclaim some of our urban environment.  There is also some preliminary scientific research pointing to links between air pollution and Covid-19 mortality.  These, as well as other factors mean environmental standards will come under increasing scrutiny post pandemic.”

Aegon Asset Management runs €206m* in responsible investment solutions on behalf of its clients. Its responsible investment team, led by Brunno Maradei, comprises 13 investment professionals.

For more information about Aegon Asset Management, visit www.aegonassetmanagement.com

value stocks
ArticlesFinanceMarkets

These 5 stocks prove that value investing isn’t dead

Investors who ignore so-called “value stocks” are at risk of missing out on good long-term gains, RWC Partner’s Ian Lance warns.

While the valuation gap between growth and value stocks has been exceptionally wide for some time, that gap will not grow continuously, Lance believes.

In fact, Lance believes some of the most interesting investment opportunities throughout the coronavirus have been value stocks.

Some of them, he explains, have highly profitable subsidiaries that are actually worth more than the entire group, meaning you get, in essence, two investments for the price of one.

Lance says: “Some of our most successful investments have been ones in which sentiment towards a company becomes so negative, that the valuation ends up making no sense versus the worth of its various parts.

“Valuations have become very irrational and have reached the point where they are excessively punished for a temporary earnings decline. Therefore, we believe that the current market throws up the opportunity to buy great companies with long-term returns and earning potential.”

Below, Lance sets out five unloved companies that he thinks have decent long-term potential or that have highly-profitable subsidiaries that make them worth investing in.

Royal Mail

RMG owns a European parcels business, GLS, which makes a 6-7% margin in a normal market environment and which has grown at mid to high single digit (benefitting from structural growth of online retail). In 2019, GLS made an operating profit of £180m and is therefore worth c.£2b if we put it on a multiple of 11x. The current market cap of the entire group is £1.7b and therefore the UK business is not just in for free but actually valued at around £300m.

BT

BT’s Openreach division generates £2.6b of Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Amortisation (EBITDA) which we have valued at £22b. This represents a multiple of just over 8x historic EBITDA which compares favourably with other utilities and therefore ought to be achievable. The enterprise value[1] of the entire group is currently £31b meaning that all the other businesses are being valued at £9b, which is only 3x their historic cash EBIT of £2.8b. Rumours surfaced in the a recent Financial Times piece that BT might be about to monetise a stake in Openreach.

Marks and Spencer

Marks and Spencer have a food retail business which makes £237m of Earnings Before Interest and Tax. If we value this at 12x historical EBIT, add their £750m investment Ocado at cost (less the future performance payments), take away net debt and give no benefit for the company’s freehold property, the total is around £2.0b, which is in line with today’s market cap. The entire clothing and home business, which is still the largest clothes retailer in the UK and which last year made a profit of £224m, is therefore in for free.

ITV

ITV is, in effect two business; broadcasting which is very reliant on advertising revenue and content production. In 2019, the content production business made EBIT of £267m and we might value this at around £3.5b (13x EBIT). The enterprise value of the entire group is £3.8b meaning that the broadcast business which last year made c.£500m of EBIT is being valued at around £300m in the stock market. Another way to think about this is that companies like Netflix spend around $15b a year on content production; for a fraction of this, they could have ITV’s entire back catalogue and all future content.

Capita

Capita has a software business which made just over £100m of EBIT in 2019. As these businesses are high margin (28% in this case) they tend to be valued quite highly. Using a multiple of 15x(which would be the low end of their peers) would value this division at £1.5b which is not far short of the enterprise value of the entire group of less than £2b. The rest of the businesses, which in 2019 made around £200m are thus only being valued at around 2x EBIT.

Each of these companies has a strong franchise within them that is being undervalued by a market that is fixated on short-term earnings momentum and hence creating some genuine bargains in the market today.

managing finances
FinanceRisk Management

How can tech help people manage finances during isolation?

Yiannis Faf, CEO, What We Want

The spread of coronavirus has caused an incredible amount of disruption to lives and economies worldwide. The British Government has taken far-reaching steps in an effort to minimise the impact on the UK in both regards, by encouraging the population to practise isolating.

Such a massive overhaul of day-to-day life will come as a shock to many. However, for non-key workers who are staying at home, there are many things that can be done to allow life to still feel normal. Spending time on Facetime, Zoom on in WhatsApp groups, for example, can allow you to stay connected.

In terms of finance, self-isolation provides its own host of challenges and opportunities. With the help of tech, those staying at home should be able to successfully combat or maximise on these.

Here are five ways we can use tech to overcome financial challenges during self-isolation:

  1. Management

First and foremost, COVID-19 is affecting people’s finances and the way they manage them. With consumers unable to visit their local bank branch or speak to an advisor in person, many will be concerned about financial management. However, technology is on hand to offer a bit of reassurance throughout this testing time. 

Money management applications can be useful throughout this process. Mint, for example, is an application that collates all your income, expenditure and other any other important finance information, helping to outline your overall financial position.

For some, self-isolation might inspire a large financial overhaul, and prompt an investigation into digitally-oriented ‘challenger banks’ like Monzo or Revolut. Whilst these banks might seem targeted at younger people, they offer an incredibly streamlined way of managing your money, thanks to their well-designed and easy to use mobile apps and online platforms. For example, every time a purchase is made, an account holder will receive a notification and their app will be updated, ensuring they are able to easily track their expenditure. In a period of economic uncertainty, that’s certainly a major upside.

  • Switching providers

With more time on our hands, many consumers will consider reviewing the costs of their major outgoing. This includes switching providers.

There are many comparison websites that provide a clear breakdown of the options available. Here, the various products, benefits and charges of different firms will usually be clearly laid out, allowing consumers to find the best option to suit their needs and make an informed financial decision.

  • Bargain hunting

At a time when we are unable to visit bricks and mortar stores, we are forced to shop online. With these changes comes an added benefit – it is easier to find the best deal.

Whether it is toiletries, groceries or clothing, online shopping enables consumers to quickly scan multiple retailers to find the desired product at the best price. This could result is further cut-backs in ones expenditure.

  • Small acts of kindness

Here’s another, more heart-warming idea. Technology can go a step beyond aiding an individual’s personal finance and can be used to help others within the community.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, crowdfunding apps are being used by local communities to raise money for worthy local causes. These causes can be of any size; from raising money to help a local retailer stay in business, to a supermarket shop for a vulnerable neighbour. Demonstrating small acts of kindness has never been more important to boosting the morale of communities, and it certainly is encouraging to seeing technology facilitating this.

At WhatWeWant we have seen use of our crowdfunding app increase notably over recent weeks for this very reason. Even though we are separated physically, using crowdfunding technology – and social media to share funding campaigns – can help direct cash to great causes.

To that end, during the Coronavirus pandemic WhatWeWant is donating all fees, including payment provider fees, to the National Emergencies Trust. We do not want to profit from people using our app for such worthwhile reasons. What’s more, we can also use this money to support a vital charity that is doing great work to help people through this crisis.

  • Safety

Finally, technology can do more than simply help improve your finances when in self-isolation; it can also protect you. When going to the shop, for example, using a contactless card saves you from touching the receiver, thereby minimising the spread of the virus.

Moreover, cybersecurity and fraud detection measures are stronger than ever – with people managing their finances and shopping online more than ever during this period, this is an important point. We can rest easier knowing the banks and retailers are putting more robust measures in place to protect our finances.

There is no doubt that we are currently living in unprecedented times. However, for those looking to improve personal finances, or indeed help vulnerable people within the community, technology undoubtedly offers some much-welcome comfort throughout this difficult time. We must embrace this during this difficult time.

Yiannis Faf is co-founder of the crowdfunding app, WhatWeWant. The app, which allows users to upload what they want for an upcoming event for themselves, or someone else. Users can contribute to what their friends and family want as well as notifying them to contribute to whatever you have uploaded. Once enough has been raised, users simply use the money. During the Coronavirus pandemic, WhatWeWant is donating all fees, including payment provider fees, to the National Emergencies Trust. 

online broker
FinanceWealth Management

Quick Tips for Choosing the Best Online Broker

There are plenty of factors that contribute to making someone a successful trader. You need the right strategy, a good idea of your chosen market, and a commitment to constant learning. However, you’ll also need access to the right tools – including an excellent online broker. For those of you who are new to this industry, a brokerage service is something that facilitates the purchases and sales that you make each day to build a successful profit in your space. There are a lot of different options to choose from, including specialist companies that focus on a particular exchange, and experts that offer advice on how to make the most of your finances. The question is, how do you choose a broker that you can trust? If you’re not certain, the following tips could help you to make the right choice. 

Know What you Need

Before you start searching on Google for the ideal company, you need a good idea of what you actually need. Are you the kind of person who mostly wants to go it alone with your accounts? If so, you won’t need access to a bunch of professional services, but you might want to keep your fees and commissions as low as possible. If you’re new to the marketplace, then it might be helpful to search for a business that offers practicing with a demo account. These environments allow individuals to put their skills to the test and explore new strategies without spending any money. Some organizations may refer to these learning opportunities to paper trading. Be honest with yourself about where you are in your journey into securities and assets and use that information to decide what sort of broker is right for you. 

Look at Credibility

If you were going to buy a new television, you’d want to read the reviews first to see if other consumers thought it was worth the cash. In the same way, when you’re trying to decide which expert to work with on your investments, it’s best to check out their reputation. Examine the website for trust signals that put your mind at ease. For instance, some companies will have certifications from certain financial authorities. You can also find out if the accounts on a site are protected with things like two factor authentications. This reduces your chances of ending up with a stolen account after you’ve made a decent amount of cash. Checking for testimonials and mentions from other happy clients can also be useful too.

Try Before You Buy

Finally, remember that a lot of brokerage firms offer you the chance to check out an account and see what trading feels like before you commit to any long-term fees. If you’re not sure whether a particular company is right for you, it may be a good idea to test them out for a while and see how you feel. You can always switch to another company if you feel that you’re not getting the right results first time around. Just be sure you haven’t signed up for any long-term discounts on yearly subscriptions or anything like that before you switch.

banking
BankingPrivate BankingWealth Management

Quintet opens for business in Switzerland

Quintet Private Bank, headquartered in Luxembourg, operating in 50 European cities and parent of London-headquartered Brown Shipley, has opened for business in Switzerland.

The launch of Quintet in Switzerland follows the successful closing of the acquisition of Zurich-based Bank am Bellevue – the wealth management business of the Bellevue Group – including approval of the transaction by the relevant regulatory authorities.

Switzerland’s newest private bank, located in the heart of Zurich’s financial center, will seek to expand Bank am Bellevue’s base of domestic and international clients, leveraging the country’s status as a global wealth management hub and Quintet’s own family of leading private banks.

Under the leadership of CEO Emmanuel Fievet and with some 40 staff, half of whom formerly served at Bank am Bellevue, the firm aims to carve a niche in this highly competitive space by combining the agility that comes with smaller size and the group’s financial resources and reach.

The Swiss firm is actively recruiting additional staff and intends to double its current headcount over the next 12 months. According to Fievet, Quintet is placing particular emphasis on identifying experienced relationship managers who share its commitment to earning the trust of the individuals and families it serves.

In Switzerland, Quintet aims to define a new standard in private banking by combining a highly personalized approach with independent, unbiased advice. With firm in-house investment convictions and open architecture, clients have access to the solutions that are right for them – provided by a team that is passionate about helping them achieve their goals through an innovative investment process tailored to each client’s individual requirements.

“Today, as we mark the closing of this important transaction, we are opening new doors of opportunity for people with an entrepreneurial mindset,” said Fievet, a member of the Quintet Group Executive Committee since October 2019 who earlier served as CEO and Head of International Private Banking at Edmond de Rothschild (Suisse). “With the right team, corporate culture and financial resources – and with a long-term horizon – we have a unique opportunity to challenge the status quo.

“I am very excited about building a new and different kind of private bank, which is small enough to be truly personal and big enough to offer access to the world,” he said. “In partnership with my colleagues here in Zurich and across Europe, we will focus on what matters most to our stakeholders, cutting through complexity, embracing diverse perspectives and growing our business – one client at a time.”

“The launch of Quintet in Switzerland is a milestone for our firm,” said Jakob Stott, Group CEO and member of the Board of Directors at Quintet Private Bank, which will also open its first branch in Copenhagen later this year, subject to regulatory approval.

“Even as we continue to invest in great people, geographic expansion and long-term growth, we will keep our eyes firmly fixed on the real prize: Doing the right thing – and not just the easy thing – for the individuals and families we serve.”

About Quintet Private Bank:

Quintet Private Bank (Europe) S.A., founded in 1949 and staffed by 2,000 professionals, is headquartered in Luxembourg and operates in 50 European cities, spanning Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland and the UK. Widely recognized as a private banking leader, Quintet serves wealthy individuals and their families, as well as a broad range of institutional and professional clients, including family offices, foundations and external asset managers.

About Brown Shipley:

Brown Shipley is a wealth manager offering clients informed financial advice and tailored services on all aspects of wealth planning, investment management and lending. Brown Shipley has offices in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Cambridge, Leeds, Edinburgh, Norwich and Nottingham; and a heritage dating back to 1810. For further information, please visit: www.brownshipley.com

For further information, please visit: www.quintet.com

Wealth Management
Wealth Management

A Wealth Consultants Guide to Changing Wealth Managers

Wealth managers are there to seek counsel and guidance with your investment funds. Like a critical friend, they are there to help with strategy and suggest solutions to any financial queries. But what if your wealth manager is not helping you meet your financial goals? What are your options?

Changing your wealth manager can seem like an overwhelming process. It definitely can be. But if you know what you should look out for – you won’t have a single problem. If you’re reading this article, you’re in the right place because we will share some of the best tips from Alex MacEwan, founder of The Wealth Consultant.

Why Should You Change Your Wealth Manager?

Do you know that feeling when you think that nothing can improve the relationship for better and that it’s the right time to move on?

Many people have been feeling this about their wealth managers – yet not many take action to actually change them.

Why?

Because everyone is afraid of the “overwhelming” process that can occur as a result.

Perhaps your wealth manager isn’t listening to you, brushes off your requests, and only calls you when they should take action on your portfolio?  Or maybe they are the friendliest person out there – and yet your financial situation is not be getting better. If their advice isn’t changing and you aren’t seeing progress – it’s another good time to think about looking elsewhere.

When is the Best Time to Change a Wealth Manager?

No matter how badly you want to make change wealth managers,  you should play it smart. There could be timing issues if you switch mid-year. Also, you might end up occurring prorated fees if your wealth manager is charging you annually and you leave before the end of the year. 

Therefore, think long-term and always think ahead. In most cases, this will even mean that you will have to go and read the fine print of your contract with your wealth manager to gain the best understanding. Since every contract and its terms will be slightly different – this is the best way to determine the best time for you to get a new financial advisor.

How to Efficiently Change Wealth Manager to Meet Your Financial Goals

  1. Read the Fine Print

Reading the fine print of your management contract isn’t fun, but it’s the only way to gain the best understanding of your own situation.

If you aren’t sure how to find the correct time to leave your advisor – it’s highly recommended to focus on the termination part of the fine print. Are you charged annually? Is there a termination fee if you leave before the end of the year?

These details can tell you what the best time is to change your wealth manager without experiencing any financial losses.

  1. Think of the Service You Want

By now, you probably know why you want to leave your wealth manager. These reasons are helpful because when you think about them, you can know what to look out for in a new professional.

It is recommended to figure out and write down all flaws you’ve experienced, but also what type of services you require. You shouldn’t forget about the good things your current wealth manager did for you, and list them as well, since you want your new wealth manager to match these services too.

  1. Collect Your Investment Records

If you are leaving your current wealth manager, he or she is obliged by law to transfer the historical records of your portfolio to your new wealth manager. Before you even ask for the transfer, you should ask for a copy of the transaction history so you are ready to make the transfer.

Funds can also be transferred quickly and simply through automated systems like ACATS (automated customer account transfer service). In some cases, these automated transfer services may mean you do not have to let your existing provider know that you are leaving.

  1. Get Professional Help

Other than knowing what you want from your new wealth manager and collecting your previous investment records – you won’t have to do any “dirty” work yourself.

How come?

Wealth Consultants can provide you with professional help and a free digital introduction to introduce you to three different wealth managers, that match your requirements.

Professionals will handle the transfer for you and ensure that you aren’t missing out on anything. They will also deal with organising technicalities such as fund requests, initializing investment transfers, and more.

  1. Be Ready for New Relationship

Once you have found a new wealth manager, you should go over the information you’ve received and the terms you’ve set with your new wealth manager. But what should you be looking out for?

Check to see if there are any expected services missing in your contract, as this is the right time to make additional changes if needed. Also, ask your new wealth manager about any sales charges you might be expecting so there are no hidden costs.

 

At this point, you’re pretty much set with your new wealth manager. However, double checking things and learning how they work is highly recommended to ensure you are always getting the best financial advice and service.  

investgrowth
Cash ManagementFinance

Why financial planning tools should be at the forefront of every modern wealth management firm

There has been a radical shift in client’s behaviour towards portfolio construction. No longer is there a requirement for costly active portfolios and instead, many would rather opt for passive low-cost investment products. With a range of advisors providing this offering, the market has become fiercely competitive. Wealth & Finance International sits down with InvestCloud’s Chief Growth Officer (CGO) Mark Trousdale, who gives his views on why modern financial planning tools should be at the forefront of every wealth management firm.

What is behind the trend of moving away from active portfolios towards passive investment products?

Both active and passive investment products have had their days in the sun. If you look at large-cap blended funds from 1985 to 2019, active and passive are nearly neck and neck on the number of years in which those portfolios performed better. In bull markets, many passive portfolios are rising, so active portfolios risk missing the wave. In bear markets, contrarian active portfolios sometimes avoid the pitfalls of the broader market. The rising popularity of passive portfolios is not a judgment of performance in a vacuum – it’s a judgment of performance against fees. Active portfolios simply cost more to invest in than passive portfolios; and given that active portfolios have not consistently outperformed passive ones, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to justify those higher fees.

 

Why is financial planning now more important to financial advisors (and clients)?

Fund fees are not the only ones under the microscope. Transaction fees have fallen significantly, and in some cases to zero – such as Charles Schwab’s move to eliminate fees in October 2019. Advisory fees are also under threat. The market has been taking a critical look at value for money in all areas of financial services. The lower the value of a service – or the more commoditised it is – the harder it is to justify high fees. One area that cannot be commoditised is financial planning, and investors really rate it. After all, what is the point of wealth management if not to ensure financial wellness and help families achieve their goals? Advisers are increasingly emphasising their financial planning offerings to stay at the forefront of investor value creation.

 

How is fee compression affecting firms? Will it get better or worse? How does this affect competitive dynamics in the market?

As noted above, fee compression is having a big impact on several areas of financial services, and it’s only going to get more intense for traditional offerings. But as we’re seeing with financial planning, service innovation and value focus are keys to success. I’m a big believer that price is only an issue in the absence of value. The imperative must be to innovate, focusing on value as the north star. This will spur further competitive dynamics in our market.

 

What do wealth managers and financial advisers need to do with regards to their business models and operations to support this?

In order to innovate and focus on value, advisers should focus on enhanced client communication. This involves empowering clients to interact with their advisers, view account information, track their private assets and held-away accounts, store life’s important documents, consume curated content, build goals and make confident decisions alongside their advisers. At the same time, advisers and other wealth managers need to focus on building in automation to improve operational efficiency. Across the middle and back office, advisers can automate account opening, simplified account funding, scalable model creation and distribution, automated rebalancing, personal balance sheet aggregation, one-click proposal creation and other digital advice apps. This list goes on. The aim is to reduce the number of manual, repetitive and laborious tasks so advisers can instead focus entirely on value creation.


From a technology perspective, what do firms need to implement? Should they build or buy?

Many firms focus on answering the build versus buy question. For advisers and wealth managers, delivering technology effectively is rarely a core competency. That’s not to say that these firms don’t have great tech talent – many do. But their track records are atrocious when it comes to delivering technology solutions on time or on budget. Most in-house technology projects ultimately fail for this reason. Besides considering explicit (vendor) vs. sunk (internal team) costs, firms should also look at risk costs – ‘can do’ is not the same as ‘have done’, and failing clients in this market is not an option. The value proposition to build simply doesn’t exist.

At the same time, buying technology off the shelf can seem like it will save money, but most financial technology is monolithic and cannot be customised at scale.  Logo-swapping is not customisation and clients will notice the lack of flexibility or functionality open to them.

By themselves, build and buy both lead to unsatisfactory results. Advisers and wealth managers should not approach this as one or the other and instead focus on how to take control of technology in a cost-effective, fast-to-deliver way.

The answer to this is via subscriptions to digital platforms that are flexible and modular – build and buy. With a truly modular platform, you can add functionality as your business evolves, versus an all-or-nothing proposition. This also controls recurring costs, because you pay for only what you need. The best type of platform is one that also supports mass customisation – a framework to flexibly configure and customise the look and feel as well as the workflow, integration points and data scope. From a risk and cost perspective, this should be able to be delivered in no more than six months at a price that beats your internal measures. These are all the benefits of a build and buy – the best of both, with none of the downsides.


Should wealth managers/financial advisors look to patch process with different technologies, or should they be focused on digital transformation?

Whether it’s the right answer to complement or replace existing processes and technologies depends on the process and technology in question. A firm should not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Instead, they should leverage existing investments if they are of value. But equally, firms have loads of technical debt, and can spend a significant portion of their budgets servicing bad tech. So, it’s about reviewing the technical tapestry critically and being strategic about enhancements. This is where hyper-modular apps and functions come into their own, as it means firms use only what they need, complementing their valued investments.


What other considerations do wealth managers and financial advisers need to take into account, e.g. from a digital/engagement perspective?

Investors simply expect more for their money these days, and the norms of consumer digital offerings have crept into many of their psyches. Wealth managers and financial advisers need to be extremely forward-thinking about how they automate workflows, and how they communicate with and manage their clients. Not only is a website no longer anywhere near enough, but also a basic client portal is no longer enough. Advisers and wealth managers should focus on truly enhancing client communication through things like enabling multi-channel adviser interactions and dynamic, holistic digital advice financial planning. These are the things that will matter most to them.


What other trends will affect how wealth managers and financial advisers conduct their business in 2020?

Wealth managers and advisers can expect further fee compression as well as even greater investor emphasis on financial planning. Depending on the demographic, ESG is coming much more into the mainstream. So, expect investors to be demanding more intuitive and engaging tools to compare financial products at a glance in order to help them achieve their goals. It would also not be surprising to see firms outside the US start to offer Turnkey Asset Management Programs (TAMPs) or TAMP-like platforms, which may fundamentally alter how wealth managers and advisers deliver services.

Mark Trousdale, EVP, serves as InvestCloud's Chief Growth Officer (CGO)

Mark Trousdale, EVP, serves as InvestCloud’s Chief Growth Officer (CGO). In this role, Mark is responsible for growing InvestCloud’s adoption and revenue in a consistent fashion, currently focused on the UK and broader EMEA, and headquartered in London. Mark’s responsibilities include business development, regional P&L and executive committee participation. As part of InvestCloud’s founding team, Mark has served in a number of different roles at InvestCloud throughout the years, building upon nearly 20 years of experience in financial and professional services. Prior to joining InvestCloud, Mark led the western region Asset Management Advisory practice of Deloitte. Mark holds a BA with Honors and an MA with Distinction from Stanford University.

Customers out in the cold the removal of banking services under UK civil and criminal law
BankingFinance

Customers out in the cold: the removal of banking services under UK civil and criminal law

Customers out in the cold the removal of banking services under UK civil and criminal law

By Jonathan Tickner (Head of Commercial Litigation & Civil Fraud), Neil Swift (Partner), James Gardner (Barrister) and Amalia Neenan (Legal Researcher) at Peters & Peters Solicitors LLP

Financial crime is one of the biggest threats facing the global economy. The 2019 Crime Survey for England & Wales indicated that 3,863,000 fraud offences were committed last year alone, with a high number of cases also unreported. The sheer volume presents law enforcement authorities with an impossible burden were they to investigate and prosecute every offence. And it is unlikely the problem ends here. The National Crime Agency (NCA) has warned that Covid-19 may heighten the risks of fraud and money laundering, with organised crime capitalising on the pandemic.

The old adage is that a problem shared is a problem halved: enter stage left the private sector, in particular the banks, who provide the front line response with Anti-Money Laundering measures to prevent criminals from obtaining bank accounts and laundering the profits of their crimes. But what if criminals obtain access to this system?

To tackle accounts suspected of harbouring ill-gotten gains, there are two measures available. Firstly, civil law provisions that permit banks to close a customer’s account without justification. Secondly, for law enforcement, the criminal law mechanism of Account Freezing and Forfeiture Orders (AFFOs) under The Criminal Finances Act 2017. However, although different in their outworking, both carry the risk of an unreasonable and unexplained deprivation of banking services for those swept up by their heavy-handed use and further detrimental effects for individuals and corporate entities.   

No Rhyme or Reason?
In the same way that customers are not obliged to stay with one bank forever, banks also have the ability to end contractual relationships with customers by closing their accounts. Banks will normally only close an account if the customer has been put on notice within a reasonable timeframe (at least 30 days for personal accounts). In these circumstances, the courts have traditionally been hesitant to interfere with a bank’s decision to cut ties with the account holder – termination on notice has been treated as an absolute contractual right. However, it becomes more contentious when banks execute these functions without giving reasonable, or indeed any, notice or reasons. This can occur either when the bank suspects the account holder of fraudulent activity, or when it decides that the risks associated with operating the account (sometimes particular to the account holder, sometimes not) outweigh the benefit to the bank in maintaining the relationship. Here, the bank’s discretionary decision whether to terminate a customer’s account may be subject to contractual fetters.

An attempt to impose such limits on a bank’s determination was recently made by a customer in
N v Royal Bank of Scotland Plc [2019]. N held approximately 60 accounts with Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). Of key importance was Clause 9.4 of RBS’ Account Terms, which governed the contractual right to terminate banking services. The clause stipulated that RBS “will give the Customer not less than 60 days’ written notice to close an account, unless [it] considers there are exceptional circumstances”. Exceptional circumstances usually concern suspected fraudulent activity, and in this case RBS froze a number of N’s accounts, ultimately terminating the relationship on a without notice basis due to these suspicions. N initially asserted that RBS’ determination that there were exceptional circumstances was unreasonable or irrational. However, the High Court found that RBS had been entitled to terminate the relationship without notice as RBS had investigated the issue of potential criminality and had in good faith, and rationally, assessed whether there had been exceptional circumstances that justified the closure of N’s accounts without notice. The appeal dismissal on 10 March 2020 reaffirmed the court’s position in favour of the bank.

However, can it ever truly be
‘reasonable’ to deprive a person of access to banking facilities without warning? Understandably, the provision exists to ensure that if accounts are being used perpetrate fraud – either by storing the proceeds of crime or as a vehicle for money laundering – that the wrongdoer is not alerted to the possibility that the account will be closed, allowing time to move funds. But what happens if there is no fault, fraud or justifiable reason? This commonly occurs where banks take steps to ‘de-risk’ by sector. 

 

Freezing Cold!
AFFOs have the potential to result in similar problems, if used haphazardly. These new powers allow for authorised law enforcement agencies to freeze and forfeit accounts suspected to contain the proceeds of crime, and have been viewed as a great success by law enforcement. For instance, in December 2019, the NCA secured nine orders against property tycoon, Malik Riaz Hussain, amounting to £190 million.

Yet, the heavy-handed use of AFFOs risks undermining their legitimacy. Similar to the contractual removal of banking facilities, these orders are obtained without notice to the account holder. All an officer needs are reasonable grounds to suspect that the property is recoverable. Once again, the key issue centres on this notion of
‘reasonableness’, and if left unchallenged, or not challenged properly, the ‘reasonable’ belief of one officer can lead to further consequences. An ill-advised response from the account holder may open up further investigations. Even if successfully defended, the mere fact that their account holder has been suspected of holding the proceeds of crime may cause the bank to rethink the desirability of the relationship. 

 

Domino Effect
Both the civil and criminal law systems have similar detrimental effects on respondents, and a ‘domino effect’ on other accounts can occur. When a banking relationship begins, the new institution will no doubt wish to know what happened with the old, particularly if their own risk assessment indicates issues.

Nonetheless, remedies are available. The difficulties created by a bank giving notice to terminate can be assuaged. Subject Access Requests (made against both banks and compliance databases that have been used by banks to assess customer risk profiles) pursuant to the GDPR can be an effective way of discovering information that has likely caused or contributed to the refusal of financial services. Individuals can then seek to have damaging information removed pursuant to the GDPR if it is (inter alia) inaccurate or misleading.

The effects of AFFOs can be moderated too. No matter how modest the balance at stake, it is vital that a robust challenge is put forward to protect the account holders’ other accounts and their ability to bank. If necessary, AFFOs can be varied to permit the release of funds for this purpose. 

Given the scale of the world’s ‘financial crime problem’ , the public and private sector will inevitably continue to embrace such measures to respond to suspicions of fraud and risk as they are quick and cheap. Whilst undoubtedly effective, the challenge is ensuring that they provide a fair and proportionate response in the fight against fraud, with an acceptable level of transparency and customer certainty.

UK reduces its oil imports by over 75 million barrels in five years
Foreign Direct InvestmentMarkets

UK reduces its oil imports by over 75 million barrels in five years

UK reduces its oil imports by over 75 million barrels in five years
  • New tool charts global commodity trading over the last decade
  • China has overtaken the USA as the world’s biggest importer of oil
  • The UK is the 8th best European country at reducing its oil imports

The UK has reduced its oil imports by more than a fifth (21%) in five years, a new online tool from Daily FX has revealed.

While the country remains the 12th biggest global importer of oil, including petroleum oils, it has taken great strides towards reducing its reliance on such environmentally-harmful fuels.

Between 2013 and 2018, the UK had the eighth-best rate in Europe for reducing such imports, with its intake dropping by 76.9 million barrels (from 359 million to just over 280 million).

Malta (93%) and the Republic of Moldova (92%) experienced the most significant decreases across the continent.

The data has been visualised on a
new interactive tool built by Daily FX, the leading portal for forex trading news, which displays global commodity imports and exports over the last decade.

The tool shows that China has recently overtaken the USA as the world’s biggest importer of oil. The Asian giant imported nearly 3.4 billion barrels in 2018, which was over 240 million more than the USA. China tops the list having increased its oil imports by 64% since 2013 – nearly six times the rate of its rival (11%).

The top 10 global importers of oil (2018) are:

  1. China – 3.38 billion barrels
  2. USA – 3.14 billion barrels
  3. India – 1.65 billion barrels
  4. Japan – 1.09 billion barrels
  5. The Republic of Korea – 1.09 billion barrels
  6. Germany – 622 million barrels
  7. Netherlands – 506 million barrels
  8. Italy – 460 million barrels
  9. France – 397 million barrels
  10. Singapore – 376 million barrels

Daily FX’s unique tool allows traders to spot developments in the flow of commodities and the growth of both supply and demand while comparing the changes to critical economic indicators.

One trend highlighted by the tool is the decreasing reliance on oil among African countries. Five of the world’s ten best nations at reducing oil imports are found on the continent, including the top four. Morocco, Kenya, Burundi and Gambia all decreased such imports by over 99%.

John Kicklighter, Chief Currency Strategist at Daily FX, said: “The world is changing and so is the way that it uses energy. Renewable and environmentally-friendly fuel options are the future, and while the end of crude oil is still far off, there will be considerable changes in the world’s top importers and exporters. Our new tool helps track those changes.

“While some of the larger countries have increased their appetite, it is interesting from an investor’s perspective to see the UK exploring alternative energy sources and reducing its dependence on oil.”

Global Commodities’ takes the form of a re-imagined 3D globe where the heights of countries rise and fall to show the import and export levels of a range of commodities over the last decade. The data visualisation allows users to switch views from a single commodity or market and show information relevant to that commodity or market’s performance.

To learn more about Global Commodities and view the tool, visit:
https://www.dailyfx.com/research/global-commodities

THE FUTURE OF TAX HAVENS
Finance

The Future of Tax Havens

THE FUTURE OF TAX HAVENS

 

The EU recently added four countries and jurisdictions to its blacklist of tax havens, including British overseas territory the Cayman Islands.

“The EU set up the system in 2017, to put pressure on countries to crack down on tax havens and unfair competition, sanctioning those it considered unfair in offering tax avoidance schemes. However, with this news coming in just weeks after the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, many are concerned it’s a sign of things to come,” says Granville Turner, Director at Offshore Company Formation Specialists, Turner Little.

“The Cayman Islands have become well known for being a tax haven, offering foreign individuals and businesses a minimum tax liability, making it a prospering environment for offshore banking. The significant tax benefits aren’t the only offering making the Cayman Islands advantageous, they also have confidentiality clauses in place to protect the privacy of assets, as well as the individuals or business’s reputation. In September, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) listed the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Ireland, as world-leading tax havens, together with Hong Kong, Singapore and Switzerland. Some of these countries offer similar benefits to the Cayman Islands and none of them are on the EU blacklist,” adds Granville.

At the same time, the EU has removed the Bahamas from its watch list, after deeming the island fully compliant with tax standards, a decision that acknowledges that the Bahamas has implemented all the necessary reform to address concerns regarding economic substance, removal of preferential exemptions and automatic exchange of tax information.

“For those with assets in the Cayman Islands, it’s important to realise the blacklisting may be short-lived, and the fundamental change to existing structures should be considered in this light. There may however in the interim be increased reputational concerns surrounding the Cayman Islands, and new funds or structures may wish to consider an alternative jurisdiction,” says Granville.

At Turner Little, we specialise in creating bespoke solutions for both individuals and businesses of all sizes. The knowledge and expertise of our specialists, ensures we are able to assist with any enquiries, no matter how complex. To find out more about how we can help you,
get in touch with us today.