Category: Articles

Pay in the legal sector
Articles

Pay in the legal sector: men vs women

April 2018 was the deadline by which large UK firms (those with more than 250 people in their employ) had to publish their pay data. The government deadline was set in order to explore whether the gender pay gap was still a prevailing issue, and if it was, how badly skewed the pay rates were between men and women.
Law firms were among the first to respond, according to The Law Society Gazette. To investigate the data further, we’re joined by accident at work solicitor firm, True Solicitor:

The April deadline

The British government requested pay data to be published by 4th April 2018. The results can be accessed here. Though it came as no surprise that the pay gap was still prevalent, the sheer scale of difference between men and women’s pay across businesses was quite alarming. The Independent reported on Ryanair’s revelation that women are paid 67% less in their company for example.

Law firm pay

Comparatively, law firms didn’t reflect too badly in their pay data, but there is indeed still a gap. A law firm in South Yorkshire reported that the women in their workplace earned a 15.9% less median hourly rate compared to their male counterparts. However, a London-based law firm saw their women’s median hourly rate at 37.4% lower than men’s.

2018 saw the largest international survey of women in law, with The Law Society receiving responses from 7,781 people. The study found that while 60% were aware of a pay gap problem in their workplace, only 16% reported seeing anything being actively done about it. 74% of men said there was progress regarding the difference in pay between the genders, but only 48% of women agreed with that statement.

Why is there a gap in gender pay?

What factor, or factors, are contributing to the gender pay gap? Is it a difference in bonuses, or are higher job positions less readily available for women?

Women received a median bonus pay that was 20% lower than their male co-workers, according to data published by the previously referenced South Yorkshire law firm. The London-based firm noted a 40% lower median bonus pay for women compared to men. It clear that bonuses are also suffering from the same gender discrimination as standard wages. Furthermore, in terms of job roles, The Law Society’s survey showed 49% of law workers believe that an unacceptable work/life balance is needed to reach senior roles and is to blame for the gender pay gap, so it is feasible that starting a family is deemed a disadvantage for women.

There’s a difference in view between men and women starting a family, says The Balance Careers, with men being regarded favourably when starting a family. But for a woman, having children brings an unfair stigma of unreliability, that they may put their family first. This can cause discrimination when aiming for higher roles within the firm, such as partner positions.

Women in higher roles

Sadly, for women who attain the status of partner in a law firm, the pay gap remains. In fact, according to The Financial Times, female partners in London-based law firms earn on average 24% less compensation than men. 34% of women earn less than £250,000, where 15% of men earn less than £250,000.

Dealing with the pay gap

The BBC published many ideas for how to resolve the gender pay gap. These suggestions include:

• Better, balanced paternity leave — allowing fathers to take paternity leave, or having a shared parental leave, would allow mothers to return to work earlier.
• Childcare support — childcare is expensive! Support for childcare expenses would help both men and women in the workplace.
• Allowing parents to work from home — the ability to work from home while raising a family would open up additional opportunities for women to balance both a career and a family.
• A pay raise for female workers — a simple solution, but a pay raise for women can quickly equalise the pay rate between men and women.

Inheritance Tax
Family OfficesIndirect TaxInheritance TaxReal Estate

Number Of Retail Investors Seeking IHT Advice Set To Rise

Advisers highlight expected increased use of flexible IHT solutions for clients

More than three out of four (78%) financial advisers expect the number of retail investors seeking help for IHT planning to increase over the next three years, according to new research from TIME Investments, which specialises in tax efficient investment solutions.  The findings come as IHT receipts hit a record £5.2 billion in 2017-18 despite the introduction of an additional nil-rate band.

Six out of ten (63%) advisers also predict an increase in the number of IHT products and investment solutions to be launched in the UK.  However, whilst this will offer more choice to investors, it also comes with a health warning – 88% of advisers questioned are concerned that new products will be launched by firms that don’t have the appropriate track record and/or expertise.

Two thirds of advisers predict an increase in the use of Business Relief (formerly known as Business Property Relief) over the next three years to help people reduce their IHT liabilities.  To encourage investors to support UK businesses, the Government allows shares held in qualifying companies that are not listed on any stock exchange and some of those listed on AIM to qualify for Business Relief. This means that once owned for two years, the shares no longer count towards the taxable part of an inheritable estate and are free from inheritance tax at point of death.

The accessibility of Business Relief investments and the range of investment opportunities available help to provide flexibility in IHT planning.  Three quarters of advisers felt that the increasing use of Power of Attorney due to rising dementia rates would contribute to the growth in the use of these flexible IHT solutions.

Henny Dovland, TIME Investments’ IHT expert comments: “The number of families in the UK being caught in the IHT net is increasing.  This represents a significant opportunity for advisers specialising in IHT and intergenerational planning and is reflected in our findings that reveal more specialist products are set to be launched in this market. However, care needs to be taken to ensure any new solutions are fit for purpose.  Our specialist team has a track record of over 22 years in this complex area.”

For further information on TIME Investments and its range of products, please visit www.time-investments.com

pros assist
AccountancyArticles

Not Just Your Accountants, But an Extension to Your Business!

Not Just Your Accountants, But an Extension to Your Business!

Pros Assist consists of a gifted team of qualified practicing members of the Institute of Financial Accountants, notably headed by the Director and Senior Financial Accountant, Alom Rouf. We profiled the firm and Alom to discover more about the innovative services that they provide to their clients.

With over 15 years of experience in private practice, advising sole traders and partnership clients alike, Alom leads the Pros Assist team in offering clients expert advice on a diverse range of business support, including guidance on business planning and funding, advising on project viability, as well as all matters relating to taxation and profit.

With such a diverse team, it enables Pros Assist to provide their clients with selection of specialist services which include; SME business advice, personal & corporate tax planning, financial analysis, company incorporation, bookkeeping & accounting and company secretarial & treasury to name just a few.

Throughout the years, Alom has gained a vast amount of experience in evaluating sole trader and partnership clients, to assess whether they would be better off incorporating. In addition to this, he advises clients on how to extract profits in the most tax efficient way. Also, Alom provides clients with a diverse range of business support, advising on project viability, business planning and funding. As the face of Pros Assist, Alom is a very professional, friendly, and approachable accountant.

The team pride themselves in being dedicated to their clients, ensuring all professional needs are taken care of to the highest standard. All members of staff are highly qualified with up-to-date training, as well as regulated by the Institute of Financial Accountants; to ensure that clients can be rest assured that they are in good hands.

One of the USPs at Pros Assist, is the proactive approach which they take in making themselves available at the client’s convenience. The team understand that SME business owners often work round the clock, so they make themselves available with ease of communication via, emails,
texts, and even social media. The teams mobile contact details are made available to the clients ensuring the highest level of care 24/7.

As for the firm’s three core strengths, these are:

• Flexibility: We make ourselves available when you are available 

• Reliability: All our staff are qualified and professionally trained with several years of experience. 

• Affordability: We work on a Fixed Fee basis, so what we quote you in the beginning is exactly what we charge you in the end.

Pros Assist specialise in business start-ups and looking after owner managed businesses. The firm offers all levels of financial assistance – whether you are looking to form your own company and don’t know where to begin, or you have some experience and want to make some changes, or if you simply require an all-round accountant to deal with all your business affairs.

Looking ahead to what the future holds for the firm, Alom and the team at Pros Assist will continue to provide their award-winning excellent advice and guidance to their clients, helping them to get their business off the ground and established in the industry.

 

Contact: Alom Rouf

Company: Pros Assist Highstone House, 165 High Street Hertfordshire, Barnet, EN5 5SU, UK

Telephone: 020 3697 0878

Web Address: www.prosassist.com

The Next Generation of Traders
Capital Markets (stocks and bonds)Stock Markets

The Next Generation of Traders

This new generation of traders is smart. Find out how traders have evolved with technology

James Mathews, CEO of Learn to Trade

The reality of trading taking place on the floor of the stock exchange, with traders shouting down telephones and punching in orders is long gone. As are the days of having to call your stockbroker and place an order. This perception might continue on TV, but the reality is that the modern trader is equipped with a mobile phone.

This new generation of traders is smart. Empowered by hyper-connectivity’s offer of unprecedented volumes of knowledge and 24/7 access to the market, they are tearing down societal constructs and preconceptions. This generation wants to be its own boss. Social media has become a platform to learn from, emulate and showcase success. Wealth creation has gone mainstream. With the millennial and Gen Z traders being some of the most enterprising members of our society, it’s little surprise that an entirely new generation of traders is now emerging. Characteristically, they are entrepreneurial and in many cases self-starters ready to follow their own paths. But, how has technology made trading and finance more mainstream to these generations?

Crypto as catalyst
The appeal of trading has in recent years been catalysed by the public’s fixation on cryptocurrency. With the allure of quick money, Bitcoin epitomised this fascination. Sage traders sceptically watched as this strange decentralised network of digital tokens became mainstream, while novices made their millions. Yet what goes up must come down, and once its value was done exploding, it started spectacularly falling. But with media hype and fabled success stories, the concept of crypto began to tempt casual observers. The ensuing rush to develop user friendly trading apps made the concept even more accessible to the everyday person.

Contributing to this has been the residual sour attitude toward the financial crisis. People have become more suspicious of and disillusioned with the “so called experts” entrusted with handling their hard-earned money. ‘They’ had nearly brought the global economy to its knees. Further backlash was also brought about from charging a lot of money to trade, whether it be pension funds or otherwise. This combination of discontent and new accessibility drove this new wave of do it yourself trading. 

Celebrity of social
Trading is complex. There’s jargon, complicated explanations, and understanding the thinking that went into a certain trading position can be almost impossible at times. Social media has changed all this too. Now there is an active, always online, accessible community of people to simplify, explain and advise. It’s easy to find out what’s going on in the market in seconds. And what’s more there is the celebrity, a new wave of Twitter traders, amateur and professional alike, who have established themselves as trading gurus to be followed, mimicked and aspired to.

The concept of “piggy backing” on other people’s trading is age old, but never before has it been so prolific. It’s proved to be extremely popular, both as a way of profiting from others’ expertise and as a way of learning. But new traders need to remember that sometimes you might be following a loser, and that making correct trades doesn’t always mean you’re being profitable overall.

Good bye 9 to 5
Trading’s popularity has risen along with the ‘side-hustle’, freelance, and sharing economy. Technology has without question been an enabling force behind all of these, as people strive for more reward and flexibility in their working lives. Indeed, there has been a concerted effort to break away from the traditional construct of 9 to 5. How trading maps to this is clear but it is not without risks. It can be seen to promise a lot, with some traders claiming to live off of one trade a day. However the reality the modern trader is facing is that it is just like any other employment in that it takes persistence, patience and grit. What it does offer though is autonomy and flexibility.

With the ever-increasing interest in the viability of pursuing a career in trading for the millennial and Z generations, an onus of responsibility has formed. We expect that in the next few years we will start to see the wider education focus shift, to start to cover money management and investment too. For far too many who missed out on this knowledge it seems like too little too late. Baby boomers now coming into retirement are left considering whether they have enough to see them through, or how they can manage their own account without having to pay people to do it for them. Increasingly, there will be more of a push from all demographics to have an entry point to the market. But with enough knowledge, experience and foresight to understand market volatility and risk anyone can trade with the technology out there and available to them.

banking brands
Banking

Bet on emotion in the battle of the banking brands

Bet on emotion in the battle of the banking brands

Yelena Gaufman, Strategy Partner, Fold7

The ongoing disruption of banking is a well-documented process, and depending on who you ask the outcome is a foregone conclusion. Though the likes of Monzo, Revolut and Starling offering compelling new visions of financial services, there’s more to these brands’ success than innovation alone.

With an Accenture report released earlier this year suggesting U.K consumer trust in banks is at its highest level since 2012, challenger banks are themselves challenged to prove their credibility and value proposition to a wider audience. Where traditional bank brands appeared to have been outmanoeuvred by digital-first rivals, they may yet steal a march on their disruptors by capitalising on a deeper emotional connection.

 

Building on trusted foundations

Where money is concerned, trust in the authority handling it is critical. Despite nimbler challengers and their ability to jump-start innovation quickly, it’s here that incumbents have the advantage. Their legacy of the brand and the institution behind it stands them in good stead as authorities to trust.

From this trust springs opportunity as existing bank brands can leverage the services they already offer to create walled-garden eco-systems that provide value to a range of customers. When banks really start to make use of the data sharing opportunities presented by legislation such as PSD2, they could leverage an array of services and partnerships to add more value to their customers.

So perhaps the battle isn’t as one-sided as it may have first seemed. But, for both sides, fully harnessing the potential of innovation means first figuring out who they want to be, and who they should be trusted by.

What makes people commit to one brand over another, and can override commodity and convenience? Emotional connection.

 

Branding for growth

Neobanks gained an early lead for the freshness and range of utilities they provide. But being feature-led throws up a new challenge: what defines their work, above and beyond the new and the useful?

As new banking and fintech brands hustle to engage new audiences, they must consider a deeper story to tell than of innovation alone. We need to know what their innovations are for – who are they serving? What role do they fulfil in our lives? The art of defining that story is in tying together the operations of a business with its product or service and a sense of purpose to the wider world.

For banking brands, a compelling brand story becomes a tool for showing new customers what they might want to buy into, but it is also useful for the business itself. Done properly, a well-formed brand becomes a strategic prism through which future business decisions can be understood. Is it right to implement feature X versus Y, based on what you stand for and the customers you choose to serve? Or in a crisis, how do you respond to customers and seek to make things right?

These answers should always come back to your brand and the emotional relationship you wish to maintain with your customers. It’s rarely a one-size-fits-all formula.

 

Demonstrating your worth

But how do you prove brand and purpose? It starts with understanding the context of your offering in the lives of your audience.

The 2000’s were a boom period for web start-ups which used increasing user connectivity to supply a new range of internet-powered services we’d never encountered before. So all manner of sites cropped up offering comparison, aggregation, ecommerce, community, entertainment and much more.

 

But as a highly competitive marketplace emerged for each of these kinds of websites, functionality on its own wasn’t a compelling means of distinguishing one from another. So the businesses behind these services had to think differently about the way they operated.

 

Fast forward to today and the vast field of nascent web 2.0 consumer businesses has shrunk massively. Those which thrive today managed to redefine their role to users, embedding the brand and its offering more deeply in our lives through emotional relationships over and above utility.

 

Rightmove’s recent ‘When life moves’ campaign (disclosure: created by Fold7), demonstrates one means of doing this. The campaign is all about our needs and desires, which change with our life stages, and how our dream of a perfect home changes alongside them. Rightmove tapped into the universal need to embrace change and sought to support its customers in that process as an active collaborator.

So RightMove successfully turned its suite of tools into a means of facilitating the hopes and dreams of its users. The result is a brand which is not just relevant to so many of us, but which we feel comforted and empowered by when we turn to it.

This is a fascinating juncture for both incumbent banks and their newer rivals, as the financial services industry opens up with new opportunity. While older brands have scale on their side and a legacy to leverage, start-ups founded on utility are arguably closer to their customer needs. If they can apply the right brand lens to their work today, we may be looking at a radically different banking landscape in the years to come.

Robotics and AI
Banking

Future-Proof Your Portfolio with Robotics and AI

Future-Proof Your Portfolio with Robotics and AI

By Travis Briggs, CEO, ROBO Global

Robotics, automation, and artificial intelligence—or RAAI—is one of the most fascinating sectors today. After all, who doesn’t get excited when talking about real-life robots and how they are transforming how we live, work and play in our everyday lives? But for investors, RAAI is much more than just a fantastical, childlike look into the future of robots. Just as computers and the Internet created a digital revolution that has transformed nearly every aspect of our lives, RAAI is bringing about a robotics revolution that promises to be even larger and drive even greater change. That’s why, at a time when every investor is seeking ways to help mitigate market risk and help drive the potential for long-term returns, many are looking to robotics and AI to help future-proof their portfolios.

 

What makes RAAI particularly promising from an investor’s perspective is that its applications and technologies are fundamental to the growth of nearly every industry and every geography around the world. Here are just a few examples of how RAAI is transforming ‘business as usual’ while rewarding investors:

 

  • Cybersecurity (+45% in 12 months)

With the rise of the digital age has come a parallel rise in cybercrime—and a fast-growing need for cybersecurity. Today, companies specialize in a vast menu of applications and technologies that use AI to help battle cybercrime such as ransomware, fileless malware, and nation-state attacks. Facebook’s data breach is just the most recent in a long string of major, highly publicized breaches that put users’ personal information in the hands of cybercriminals and resulted in serious financial consequences for the companies that have been hit. Because preventing cyberattacks is a top priority for companies of every size, demand for security solutions is driving up stock prices across this growing sector.

 

  • Healthcare (+28% in 12 months)

Innovations in healthcare robotics have helped drive up and sustain stock prices and investor returns. While the numbers are certainly making investors happy, patients are clearly the biggest winners. Healthcare robotics are making it possible to identify, invent, investigate, and implement technologies that deliver the right treatment to the right patient at the right time—and at the right cost. The wheels are already in motion to use robotics to take patients from symptom to diagnosis to treatment in a single day. Today, a surgical robot can slice a tiny grape into four perfect quadrants, peel the grape to remove precisely 1/100th of a centimeter of skin, and leave the rest of the grape perfectly in tact. This level of sub-millimeter accuracy was unthinkable just a decade ago. Handheld, intelligent computers are being used to sense, compute and record a patient’s health status. At this rate of innovation, the benefits for patients and investors alike are expected to continue to increase.

 

  • Logistics Automation (+22% in 12 months)

Amazon continues to make headlines for its innovations on the warehouse floor, but it’s certainly not alone in its quest to automate logistics processes to help drive down costs and drive up service. Logistics automation has not only had a major impact on customer expectations, but it has also rewritten the list of winners and losers in the retail space. Retailers who are investing in solutions to automate and rethink logistics in the warehouse and across the supply chain are winning market share at a rapid pace. Because logistics automation is expected to dictate tomorrow’s market leaders, the demand for new solutions is on the rise, and the industry as a whole is continuing to push the boundaries of innovation.

 

RAAI is driving fundamental change in unexpected areas as well. Agricultural robots can now determine when an individual plant needs a specific nutrient, is fighting a disease, or is battling an infestation, and can then determine what action to take (such as adding a nutrient to the water for a single plant). They can even be taught how to pick and pack even the most delicate fruits and vegetables with less damage than a human worker. Japan’s robotic caretakers are now being used to support Japan’s overburdened healthcare workforce by helping to manage medical adherence, providing much-needed entertainment and companionship, leading exercise and rehabilitation programs, and more.

 

Artificial intelligence is using the recent flood of Big Data to fuel its own renaissance. Netflix uses AI-generated algorithms to deliver search results that are matched to each user’s viewing habits, driving up sales and saving the company billions of dollars in potential lost revenue. Google relies on AI to translate the massive amounts of data it collects from the posts, comments, and search queries of its more than 1 billion users. From entertainment to insurance to self-driving cars, AI and Big Data are playing a growing and vital role.

 

While many investors are aware of robotics and AI as a market sector, only those who are aware of how deeply these fundamental technologies extend into every area of our world understand the potential it presents from an investment perspective. That reach can’t be overstated. For investors, that makes investing in RAAI an attractive strategy to capitalize on the potential for growth while helping to manage risk and provide attractive, risk-adjusted returns. The result: a portfolio that is truly future-proof by taking advantage of all the future has to offer.

private banking
Banking

How the changing world of financial services is affecting private banking

How deeper and broader relationships can help private banking to thrive in the changing world of financial services

Alex Cheatle, Ten Lifestyle Group, CEO

Private banking in the modern financial services world must continue to engage with its customers by giving them a unique, human experience. But in the information age what does that look like? How do banks make sure they don’t become commoditised in the eyes of their clients? How do they build human relationships as powerful as those created by the great private bankers of the past?

First of all, recognising that customers are not a collection of product buying decisions; not just the person who buys credit cards, invests in the stock market and has a mortgage is crucial. They are individuals that do not relate to their financial services on a product by product basis, nor do they relate to their bank on a product by product basis, unless the relationship is already commoditised. Rather, the uniqueness of each customer means that banks can take a holistic approach, wider than financial services alone, as to how they view and how they treat their clients and their propositions.

Building trust in the information age

In the debate around the state of private banking in the modern world of financial services, some seem to be foreseeing the decline of personalised private banking as we know it. However, in reality, the modern era provides excellent opportunities for private banking that it often shied away from in the past. When many private banks’ unique selling point was secrecy their ability to be wide-ranging about helping their clients was a practical impossibility, given that this made the client relationship with the bank more public and porous. Now, that this has changed, and secrecy is less central to the proposition for most banks, financial organisations are able to offer a wider range of services to their customers that they would have in the past.

One of the main advantages private banks enjoyed was the consistent and immediate human connection, created when the traditional private banker would engage with the client and their family on a personal basis. This created a recognisable connection for clients to their bank and the brand as individuals. Today, when information about banking and investment products and transactional services are just a tap away, people can end up talking to their private banker less and less. The challenge for banks is to find a way to maintain the personalised touch that was previously provided by regular and direct interaction. This can be done in ways that keeps the client interested, and that creates a new way for them to talk to and about their bank, and for their bank to build a trusted relationship with them.

As CEO of the leading lifestyle concierge service that works with HSBC, Coutts and several other leading private banks around the world, I have seen the extraordinary impact that offering non-financial services, both digitally and high-touch, can have on the commercials of private banks and wealth managers.

Being able to be more than just a bank and adding value to client’s lives in the moments that matter most to them creates a deeper emotional engagement that builds the advocacy and the trust that drives the most important commercial metrics from assets under management to client acquisition and retention – and even helps manage difficult ’next generation’ challenges. 

How do you take banking out of the bank and into a social, non-financial setting?

As humans we don’t tend to talk a great deal about our financial services. Most of us can’t remember when anyone they know asked about mortgages or wanted to discuss who their investment advisor was – it’s just not what we do. What we do talk about are our social events with family and friends.  This is where private banking can make headway and create vital personal relationships and advocacy.

Put simply, if I take my friends out for dinner at a restaurant for their birthday and it is a restaurant notoriously difficult to get a table at, my friends will ask me how I got it. Or, if I am able to get tickets for my daughter and her friends to see a concert, and the tickets are being sold at astronomical prices, but I can get them at face value, their parents will ask how I did it. In response, I will say it was thanks to the service offered to me by my bank.  This creates advocacy amongst my peers, friends and family. 

By creating a relationship where the bank knows me well enough to give me this kind of benefit, these services give me invaluable personal and social credit. As a client, I feel happy that I have been listened to by my bank, my trust in them grows because they have been able to get me exactly what I was asking for and I feel proud for being able to provide and share these experiences with my family, friends and colleagues. So, subconsciously I will be advocating for and creating a deeper bond with my bank.

In this way the bank is able to create a trusting relationship with its clients and the client is happy to advocate for the quality of the bank. It has also been shown that a bank that is able to organise a client’s private and social life becomes more trusted in the financial realm too. This leads to growth in assets under management, higher advocacy for the bank and an increase in client retention for the bank, even through the generations.

Forging emotional bonds through to the next generation

 A well-known challenge for private banking in the modern world of financial services is the next generation wealth transfer. This is obviously not a new phenomenon. The next generation have often seen the previous private banker or wealth manager as traditionally Mum or Dad’s bank. Typically, a relationship will pass on to the next generation who have never felt the individual advisor was their banker, there was no emotional connection to them or to the bank and they felt under invested personally in the relationship. By using the information that has been collected about lifestyle services and non-financial benefits provided to the next generations in the family, banks are able to understand the next generation better. The next generation can also be invited to use the banks lifestyle service before they become the main financial decision maker. This builds an emotional connection to the brand, which leads to the next generation being much more likely to stay with the bank.

Though the modern world of financial services is changing for private banking the opportunities are there to be taken advantage of. By using a holistic approach banks can maintain the human and emotional relationship that has always been vital. And, with the modern era of personalised banking and information sharing there is even more opportunity to find out about the next generation and build the brand through them.

For further information about Ten Lifestyle Group Plc, please go to: https://www.tengroup.com/.

financial terms
Finance

Learning the lingo

Learning the lingo: understanding financial terms

A study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), has revealed that only 38% of adults understand know what is meant by the term ‘inflation’. This has led to True Potential Investor creating this useful jargon buster to help us get to grips with the key terms and improve our financial understanding:

Capital
Simply put, capital is another word used for any initial funds that are invested.

Bonds
Companies who need to raise funds to meet a set goal can choose to issue corporate bonds that investors can then buy. The money raised from the investment is held for an agreed number of years. At the end — also known as bond maturity — the investor receives the money they invested plus their guaranteed interest which was agreed at the start.
The government also offers government bonds or ‘gilts’ which work in a similar way to corporate bonds and are used to fund borrowing.

Capital gains tax
This is the tax that is paid on profit that is made on certain types of investment — your ‘capital gain’. You may not need to pay capital gains tax — it depends on the amount of profit you make and whether you use the profit to buy new shares. More information can be found on the GOV.UK website.

Diversification
The process of investing across multiple areas and not just focusing on one is called diversification. For example, you can diversify your investment across a range of investment types — such as shares or bonds, for example — as well as between industries, currencies and countries.
Diversification of your investments could help you to manage the risk and reduces the impact of market uncertainty.

FTSE
The Financial Times Stock Exchange (FTSE) is used to monitor how companies or indices trading on the London Stock Exchange are performing. A number of lists are available, with each showing the fluctuations in share prices over time.

ISA
Individual Savings Accounts — or ISAs — offer a tax-free or tax-efficient option in which to save. There are two main types of ISAs: cash ISAs and stocks and shares ISAs.
• Cash ISAs — like a typical savings account, cash ISAs do not require you to pay tax on any interest that is generated.
• Stocks & shares ISAs — with a stocks and shares ISA, the money is invested with the aim of growing the fund over time. You do not pay tax on dividends.

Inflation
This term describes the amount of money in which goods and services increases over a timeframe. It is measured as an annual percentage change and can impact interest rates and share prices.

Pensions
Pensions are set up to help you put money aside for your latter years. The money you place in the pension fund is invested with the aim of growing it by the time you retire.

There are three main types of pensions:

• Workplace pensions — this type of pension is arranged through your employer. Usually, you’ll contribute an amount each month, with your employer also contributing and the government contributing tax relief too.

Personal pensions — a pension you arrange yourself, which you can contribute to whenever you want.

• State pensions — a state pension is the amount you receive from the government once you reach State Pension age. Details on how much this is and eligibility can be found at the GOV.UK website.

Stocks & shares
Investors can buy stocks in a company. However, these stocks can be broken down into a number of shares, which can also be purchased by investors. Because of this similarity, the two terms are often interchangeable.

The aim with stocks and shares is to sell them on for a greater price than you originally paid. Usually, stock and shareholders receive a proportion of the company’s profits on an annual or bi-annual basis in the form of dividends.

Yield
This term describes the performance of your investment both now and in the future. For example, if you received £5 in interest from £100 placed in a Cash ISA, your total yield would be 5% which is equal to £5.

Cryptocurrency
Finance

Why Cryptocurrency Will Define How We Do Business

3 reasons cryptocurrency is likely to be ‘the future of commerce’

I would rather see the SEC make a methodical decision, with thoughtful guidelines, to approve a cryptocurrency ETF than a rash decision to reject one. And though the agency may not reach a final decision until next year on the proposed SolidX Bitcoin Shares ETF, I think the agency will eventually approve it. The proposal (requiring a minimum investment of 25 bitcoins, or $165,000, assuming a BTC price of $6,500) seems to meet the SEC’s criteria — on valuation, liquidity, fraud protection/custody, and potential manipulation.

Cryptocurrency’s Challenges and Potential
Since 2010, when it emerged as the first legitimate cryptocurrency, bitcoin has been declared “dead” by pundits over 300 times. Critics have cited the cryptocurrency’s hair-raising price volatility, it’s scalability challenges, or the improbability of a central bank ceding monetary control to a piece of pre-set software code. Yet since 2009, bitcoin has facilitated over 300 million consumer payment transactions, while hundreds of other cryptocurrencies have emerged, promising to disrupt a host of industries. Granted, no more than 3.5% of households worldwide have adopted cryptocurrency as a payment method. But I think cryptocurrency will transform how the world does business as developers, regulators, and demographics resolve the following key issues:

1. Approval of a Bitcoin ETF
I think the US investment community will not rest until they satisfy SEC criteria for a bitcoin ETF. Approval would represent another milestone in the validation of cryptocurrencies. This bodes well for the global financial system, because cryptocurrency promises to create financial savings and societal benefits — by streamlining how the world transacts for goods and services, updates mutual ledgers, executes contracts, and accesses records.

2. Comprehensive U.S. Regulation Can Improve Protection, Innovation, and Investment
Demand is mounting for a larger, more comprehensive U.S. and global regulatory framework that protects consumers and nurtures innovation. Those institutional investors who are assessing the cryptocurrency risk/reward proposition are also awaiting regulatory guidance and protections to honor their fiduciary duties. How, if at all, for example, will exchanges be required to implement systems and procedures to prevent hacks and protect or compensate investors from them?

Effective cryptocurrency regulation requires a nuanced set of rules, a sophisticated arsenal of policing tools, sound protocols, and well-trained professionals. I think U.S. regulators will eventually get it right. And if institutions become more confident that regulations can help them meet fiduciary duties, even small cryptocurrency allocations from reputable organizations could unleash a new wave of investment.

3. Bringing the Technology to Scale
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies cannot yet process tens of thousands of transactions per second. I think developers working on technology — such as Plasma, built on Ethereum, and the Lightning Network, for bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies — will sooner or later bring leading cryptocurrencies to scale. This could unleash an explosion of new applications, allowing cryptocurrency to integrate with debit and credit payment systems, developing new efficiencies in commerce — whether B2B, B2C, or B2G — in ways we can’t fully anticipate.

4. Developing World Incentives and Demographics
Cryptocurrency adoption as a payment method could grow fastest in emerging markets. Many consumers and entrepreneurs in such regions have a strong incentive to transact in cryptocurrency — either because their country’s current banking payment system is inefficient and unreliable, and/or they are one of the world’s 1.7 billion “unbanked.” Two-thirds of the unbanked own a mobile phone, which could help them use cryptocurrency to transact, and access other blockchain-based financial services.

Data underscores the receptiveness of Developing World consumers to cryptocurrency. The Asia Pacific region has the highest proportion of global users of cryptocurrency as a transaction medium (38%), followed by Europe (27%), North America (17%), Latin America (14%), and Africa/The Middle East (4%), according to a University of Cambridge estimate. Although the study’s authors caution that their figures may underestimate North American cryptocurrency usage, they cite additional data suggesting that cryptocurrency transaction volume is growing disproportionately in developing regions, especially in:
● Asia (China, India, Malaysia, Thailand)
● Latin America (Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela),
● Africa/The Middle East (Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Tanzania, Turkey)
● Eastern Europe (Russia, Ukraine).

Demographics will also likely drive cryptocurrency adoption in the Developing World, home to 90% of the global population under age 30.

Remember The Internet – Investment Bubbles and Bursts Will Identify The Winners
High volatility is inherent in the investment value of this nascent technology, due to factors including technological setbacks and breakthroughs, the impact of pundits, the uneven pace of adoption, and regulatory uncertainty. Bitcoin, for example, generated a four-year annualized return as of January 31st 2018 up 393.8%, a one-year 2017 performance up 1,318% — and year-to-date, a return of down over 50%. Bitcoin has previously experienced even larger percentage drops before resuming an upward trajectory.

In my view, bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies will experience many more bubbles and bursts, in part, fueled by speculators. But the bursting of an investment bubble may signal both a crash and the dawn of a new era. While irrational investments in internet technology in the 1990’s fueled the dotcom bust, some well-run companies survived and led the next phase of the internet revolution. Similarly, I believe a small group of cryptocurrencies and other blockchain applications, including bitcoin, will become integrated into our daily lives, both behind the scenes and in daily commerce.

Although “irrational exuberance” will continue to impact the price of cryptocurrencies, this disruptive technology represents not only the future of money, but of how the world will do business.

policy makers
Transactional and Investment Banking

Developed World Policymakers Place Their Bets

By, Graham Bishop, Investment Director at Heartwood Investment Management

In a busy period for monetary policy news, three of the world’s major central banks held their formal committee meetings this month. What did this mean for investment markets? Graham Bishop, Investment Director at Heartwood Investment Management, the asset management arm of Handelsbanken in the UK, talks us through it. 

Bank of England: A surprise reaction to unsurprising news

The announcement that the Bank of England (BoE) would raise its base interest rate from 0.5 to 0.75% came as little surprise to investment markets, which had almost fully priced in the move. The Bank’s committee members voted unanimously for the UK’s second rate rise since the financial crisis. The committee also agreed to maintain its current levels of corporate and government bond issuances at (£10bn and £435bn respectively), contrary to some earlier media speculation over the potential for quantitative tightening.  

Given that the BoE did exactly as anticipated, and that Carney’s tone at the ensuing press conference was mildly hawkish, the only slight surprise has been the immediate market reaction – a fall in sterling and gilt yields.  While the precise reasons for this response are as yet unclear, it seems that investors were given fresh insight into the BoE’s thought process, with Governor Carney referencing 2-3% as the bank’s estimated neutral rate (i.e. the rate neither accommodative nor restrictive to economic growth). The market’s reaction suggests that it may not entirely agree with these figures. 

Perhaps this is unsurprising, given the lack of visibility ahead for the UK economy. The BoE has also just released its quarterly Inflation Report, in which it claims that CPI inflation is projected to decline towards its 2% target over the next three years. And while a downward trend is a point of general commonality across the BoE’s range of projections, the wide range of potential outcomes put forward means that there is little scope for certainty.

US: Business as usual for the Fed, but fiscal deficits are growing

In another rather predictable announcement, the US Federal Reserve (Fed) held rates steady at its committee meeting earlier this month, while sending a clear message that more rate hikes would be on the way. Amid a rising inflationary environment, in the wake of seven previous hikes, and with presidential tax cuts adding fuel to the fire, the Fed had little to do this time around. Nonetheless, another two rate hikes are expected in 2018.  At only the midpoint of the Fed’s expected rate rise path (according to the committee’s own predictions), the Fed is already close to its neutral policy rate.  

This month also saw the announcement of the US Treasury Department’s debt issuance for the second half of the year, which came in above previous estimates (and with the largest jump since the financial crisis). The Treasury is financing a widening fiscal budget gap on the heels of tax cuts and spending increases, as the government’s deficit blows out towards as possible $1 trillion by 2020. At the same time, the Fed has begun the process of reducing its balance sheet, adding more supply to the Treasury market; while its pace so far has been very gradual, this is expected to pick up. 

US monetary policy on the brink of entering restrictive territory and a rapidly expanding fiscal deficit give us pause for thought should growth falter ahead. For now, the situation is encouraging, but as things evolve we need to think carefully about US equities and related high beta plays.

Bank of Japan: The rebel without a change

The Bank of Japan (BoJ) opted to effectively maintain its current policy on Tuesday, in that it left its benchmark interest rate unchanged. But the BoJ also announced changes to the allocation of its ETF purchases (now favouring the market cap weighted Topix index rather than the price-weighted Nikkei index) as well as slight adjustments allowing greater movement around the 10-year bond yield (20bps either side of zero, as opposed to 10bp). In the latter, markets may have witnessed a small act of monetary tightening by another name. 

The yield on Japan’s 10-year government bonds initially fell following the announcement, but markets changed their mind overnight and yields leapt up to 12bps on Wednesday – their largest jump since August 2016. Equally haphazard was the market reaction to banking stocks – initially negative but with a swift change of heart, as investors seemingly realised the benefits of a move away from a lower yield environment. Further Japanese currency weakness against the dollar was also positive for both Topix and Nikkei indices. This is good news for our portfolios, which slightly favour Japanese equities.

 
Javed Khattak
Finance

A Harbinger of Global Financial Change

A Harbinger of Global Financial Change

Javed Khattak is, among many roles, the Chief Financial Officer for Humaniq, a fintech firm that aims to be the herald of the next generation of financial services. In July, Javed was named as the CFO of the Year for 2018 by Wealth & Finance International Magazine. Following this, we spoke with Javed to find out how he achieved the extraordinary success he celebrates today.

Block Chain

Javed Khattak is a qualified actuary, as a Fellow of the Institute of Actuaries in the UK, and an expert in finance, strategy, risk, investments, technology and start-ups. As a FTSE100 advisor, he is a recognised expert and a strong proponent of blockchain technologies, seeing them as the inevitable next step in the corporate and professional landscapes.

It is, however, his role as CFO of Humaniq that brought him to Wealth & Finance’s attention. Javed starts the interview by outlining the importance of the work he is doing at the firm, “Amongst other roles, I am the CFO of Humaniq, this role has been my primary focus over the last year. Humaniq is a financial inclusion project that, through use of technology in namely blockchain and biometric ID, aims to bring financial services to the unbanked population of the world and has successfully launched in several African countries.”

Perhaps a crucial element to Javed’s work is his advocacy for blockchain technologies, believing them to be the ‘next big thing’; a revolutionary development for innumerable sectors and fields. “Humaniq, and many other innovative ventures, are able to come into existence thanks to this technology. This is in two ways; blockchain first made the initial funding for these companies possible through ICO’s, and alongside blockchain also provides these ventures with the tools and technology to execute their novel ideas and make them a reality.” Through effective utilisation of the technology, Javed sees limitless possibilities with most sectors benefitting from it, including technology, financial services and real estate industries, alongside transforming supply chains and empowering end users (e.g. through control of their personal data).

However, Javed admits that blockchain is becoming stigmatised due to false parties adopting the name to make money quickly; this is a frequent occurrence with an exciting emerging technology but seems to be amplified in the case of blockchain and cryptocurrency. “Blockchain has become a buzz-word which is also attracting the wrong players who are using the opportunity to create outright scams and frauds. We have all seen the various non-blockchain businesses changing their trading names to add the magic word and see their stock prices rise. I believe this will all fade away once the regulators catch up and alongside the non-sophisticated ICO investors or contributors get burnt. Though amongst the noise, there are genuine players of course.”

“Fundamentally, I see blockchain as an enabler. It is still early in the technology’s lifecycle, but once the technology matures, it can and will revolutionise lives. I hope that the blockchain will do what the internet did for information and prove to be the empowering tool that helps decentralise the world’s wealth and resources.”

Javed’s work at Humaniq is only one part of his current workload; he is also the Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of two companies, Zisk Properties and JKCoach. Javed takes a moment to talk us through his history with them, “I founded Zisk Properties in 2014. Zisk is an innovative property investment business, focusing on providing investment options to people with insufficient savings or a lack of financial understanding to have a more secure future and even get on the property ladder through small steps. It already has a lot of traction, with hundreds of customers and managed to significantly outperform property markets with a weighted average return of just under 20% p.a. since its inception. Having successfully received our UK FCA registration recently, we are in the process of launching in the UK and are already in discussions to launch in UAE by end of 2018.”

“JKCoach was founded several years ago, and is an educational institute that provides coaching, tuitions and diplomas to Pakistani students with the aim to raise the education standards. By end of 2018, we will have over 500 students, with an ambition to expand into the rest of Pakistan and to be able to offer free but quality education to children from families below the poverty line in 2019.”

As you can imagine, being on the executive team of three companies results in a hectic work schedule. For Javed, this is just par for the course, “Busy probably would be an understatement. I am involved in most aspects of the ventures I am leading. Fortunately, having a great team that I can rely on helps a lot. For me, there is no average workday, as each one is very different to the previous one – the only thing that is constant is the number of hours that I am working each day!”

“What I do on any particular day depends on the ongoing projects and work-streams. Example; the past month I have been travelling significantly to speak at or be a panellist at conferences, lead a fundraising round, interviewing and hiring for new roles and spending time with our dev guys for launch of Zisk’s new web platform.”

Javed continues, bringing the interview to an optimistic close; “I am a firm believer in giving back to society – this is why I was initially attracted to Humaniq and precisely why I started Zisk Properties and JKCoach.

“In addition to this, I love technology because either a smartphone or a tablet has become a companion as information is instantly available. Financial services, like money transfers, are more accessible and cheaper. Medical advancements mean a better quality of life and improved longevity for those affected with disease or involved in accidents, and so on. As such, let us all work together to leave a part of us behind through our creativity, fostering new technologies, and not being afraid of challenges – all the while remembering to share happiness, be kind and forgiving to humanity as well as all that is around us.”

Company Details 

Name: Javed Khattak

Web Address: www.linkedin.com/in/javedkhattak

Roles:

CFO of Humaniq

Co-founder & CEO of Zisk Properties

Co-founder & CEO of JKCoach

Investment Director at Stratamis

SteelEye MiFID II
Global Compliance

Reflecting on six months of MiFID II

Reflecting on six months of MiFID II

By Matt Smith, SteelEye

The financial services industry is in the throes of a new era. In January, the biggest overhaul of its operations in the past decade was implemented – the second Markets in Financial Instruments Directive, or MiFID II for short. MiFID II had those in the industry working overtime last Christmas as they scrambled to become compliant for deadline day, but major Exchanges failing to implement the regulation on time, postponement of dark pool caps and reigning confusion meant that, for many, January 3 failed to have the impact that was expected.

In the six or so months that followed, the industry has continued to adapt to this shifting landscape and new elements of the regulation have trickled in. Below, Matt Smith, CEO of compliance tech and data analytics firm SteelEye, explains what’s been happening on the ground since ‘the day of the MiFID’ and what we can expect to see in the future.

 

Best execution

Firms’ best execution requirements under MiFID II are far from over. Regulators have consistently cited execution quality as fundamental to the integrity of the market and, accordingly, MiFID II’s best execution requirements are extensive.

The first of these, RTS28, was implemented on April 30 and required firms to publicly disclose their order routing practices for clients across all asset classes in human and machine-readable reports. This was followed soon after by RTS27, which hit firms on June 30 and requires quarterly best execution reports detailing the ‘sufficient steps’ that have been taken to achieve the best possible results for clients when executing orders. This required the capturing of a remarkable amount of data, a process aimed at increasing transparency and accountability in the industry.

But experts believe it will still be a while longer before the data generated under these reports is sufficiently detailed and consistent enough to have a significant impact on trading behaviour. There have also been problems among firms unsure of what exactly to include in the reports, with many calling for regulators to issue more detailed guidance. Perhaps the next quarterly disclosures under RTS27, due in September, will make bigger waves.

 

Research unbundling

MiFID II’s unbundling rules have, so far, been the most controversial. Under these new rules, firms need to make explicit payments for investment research in order to prove that they are not being induced to trade – meaning free research is no more.

This created a number of hurdles for buy and sell-side firms, which set about creating frameworks to evaluate the materials they produce, distribute and consume in order to understand whether or not it now needs to be paid for under MiFID II. Currently the impact on the market is unclear, but there has been early evidence of an increase in M&A activity as providers tie up their services to expand sector coverage, and the more frequent use of tech to maximise existing research platforms.

The FCA has already announced a review into the application of these new unbundling rules. This is somewhat unsurprising, given that firms were issued with no guidance on how they should negotiate and price their research under MiFID II.

 

Dark pool transparency

One of the major focuses of MiFID II was to force equity trading back onto public stock markets by reducing the use of dark pools in favour of lit book trading venues. Early evidence suggests that the share of trading on lit exchanges hasn’t risen since January, still comprising around 50% of all trades.

But, price swings have fallen, as have trading volumes in dark pools. Additionally, the LSE’s total lit order book ADV rose to £6.2bn in the first quarter of 2018 – the exchange’s highest quarterly performance in a decade. This indicates that MiFID II’s impact on transparency has been mixed. While the overall proportion of trades executed in the dark versus lit venues hasn’t changed significantly, the proportion of LIS trades is higher.

It’s also necessary to factor in the delayed implementation of these new dark pool caps, which were postponed from January to March – meaning their full impact may not yet have been shown, and Q1 summaries will not necessarily illustrate what is currently happening on the ground. We may have to wait longer still to see whether the industry has seen the light, or will continue to operate in the dark.

 

Systematic internalisers

Despite the January rush, systematic internalisers (SIs) haven’t yet been fully implemented under MiFID II. This was due to come in September, by which point any firm labelled as an SI would have to comply with their new obligations, but ESMA announced in July a further delay to the new rules.

Now, derivatives have until March to comply with the requirements and ESMA will not publish its calculations for derivatives until February due to ongoing issues with incomplete and inadequate data. This isn’t a let-off for the entire industry, though; instead of publishing all the rules, ESMA is focusing on completeness for a select number of asset classes and delaying others. Equity, equity-like and bond instruments will still have to be compliant by September 1.

 

Going forward

If MiFID II has proven anything, it’s that compliance is, more than ever, an evolving process not a one-off event. In the coming weeks, months and years MiFID II will remain an ongoing challenge for firms and strategic and operational flexibility will be needed if they are to flourish.

MiFID II absolutely has the potential to have a significant and positive impact on the industry. But collaborative partnerships, innovation and further guidance from regulators are critical to this impact being realised. In July a formal complaint was lodged against the FCA for its silence on MiFID II, and undoubtedly for those firms making the right efforts to comply with the new rules this lack of clarity is frustrating.

 

There is hope in the industry that, once clarification is provided and regulation requirements are gradually met, focus will shift from merely complying, to embracing the opportunities provided by MiFID II’s new framework. As the dust settles and uncertainty fades, a more transparent, competitive and trustworthy industry should, hopefully, emerge. 

marketing roi
Finance

ROI from marketing across various sectors

How ROI Can Vary Across Different Sectors

£115.9 million went towards direct mail marketing and online platforms in the UK automotive industry in 2016. That’s according to figures from Google’s Car Purchasing UK Report from April 2017. Of course, the car industry has a massive budget at their disposal when it comes to marketing, one that not all industries can match. Plus, with so many people vying for a digital presence, the cost of online marketing is rising. Is it really worth the cost? Audi servicing plan providers, Vindis, explores the matter across many sectors.

Automotive industry
Car shoppers are heading more and more to the online world than ever before, according to Google’s Drive To Decide Report. Over 82% of the UK population aged 18 and over have access to the internet for personal reasons, 85% use smartphones, and 65% choose a smartphone as their preferred device to access the internet. These figures show that for car dealers to keep their head in the game, a digital transition is vital.

The report also showed that 90% of car shoppers researched online before buying. 51% of buyers start their auto research online, with 41% of those using a search engine. To capture those shoppers beginning their research online, car dealers must think in terms of the customer’s micro moments of influence, which could include online display ads – one marketing method that currently occupies a significant proportion of car dealers’ marketing budgets.

In fact, 11% of the total UK Digital Ad Spending Growth in 2017 was from the car industry, according to eMarketer, which puts the industry second only to retail. The automotive industry is forecast to see a further 9.5% increase in ad spending in 2018.

But is online really impacted a buyer’s choices? 41% of shoppers who research online find their smartphone research ‘very valuable’. 60% said they were influenced by what they saw in the media, of which 22% were influenced by marketing promotions – proving online investment is working. But traditional methods of TV and radio still remain the most invested forms of marketing for the automotive sector. However, in the last past five years, it is digital that has made the biggest jump from fifth most popular method to third, seeing an increase of 10.6% in expenditure.

Fashion industry
Fashion retailers need to keep an eye on online investments, as the online world is strong for the fashion industry – ecommerce accounted for £16.2 billion in sales for the sector in 2017. This figure is expected to continue to grow by a huge 79% by 2022. So where are fashion retailers investing their marketing budgets? Has online marketing become a priority?

The British Retail Consortium stated that ecommerce made up nearly 75% of all purchases for December 2017. Online brands such as ASOS and Boohoo continue to embrace the online shopping phenomenon. ASOS experienced an 18% UK sales growth in the final four months of 2017, whilst Boohoo saw a 31% increase in sales throughout the same period.

Brands like John Lewis, Next, and Marks and Spencer have set aside millions towards their online presence, in order to make the most of the rise of online shopping. John Lewis announced that 40% of its Christmas sales came from online shoppers, and whilst Next struggled to keep up with the sales growth of its competitors, it has announced it will invest £10 million into its online marketing and operations.

People don’t enjoy the idea of wandering the high street anymore. Instead they like the idea of being able to conveniently shop from the comfort of their home, or via their smartphone devices whilst on the move.

Influencers are becoming a big thing for fashion marketing too; PMYB Influencer Marketing Agency noted that 59% of marketers for the fashion world ramped up their spend for influencers last year. In fact, 75% of global fashion brands collaborate with social media influencers as part of their marketing strategy. More than a third of marketers believe influencer marketing to be more successful than traditional methods of advertising in 2017 – as 22% of customers are said to be acquired through influencer marketing.

Utilities industry
Comparison websites are an important part of picking utilities suppliers for customers, so gaining and retaining customers falls on those websites. With comparison websites spending millions on TV marketing campaigns that are watched by the masses, it has become vital for many utility suppliers to be listed on comparison websites and offer a very competitive price, in order to stay in the game.

Compare the Market, MoneySupermarket, Confused.com, and Go Compare make up the largest comparison sites as well as being in the top 100 highest advertising spenders in the UK. Comparison sites can be the difference between a high rate of customer retention for one supplier and a high rate of customer acquisition for another. If you don’t beat your competitors, then what is to stop your existing and potential new customers choosing your competitors over you?

One of the Big Six energy suppliers, British Gas, has changed its main focus from new customer to retaining customers. Whilst the company recognise that this approach to marketing will be a slower process to yield measurable results, they firmly believe that retention will in turn lead to acquisition. The Gas company hope that by marketing a wider range of tailored products and services to their existing customers, they will be able to improve customer retention.

This priority change is reflected in British Gas’s decision to invest £100 million into their customer loyalty scheme, to reward those who stay with them. The utilities sector is incredibly competitive, so it is vital that companies invest in their existing customers before looking for new customers.

Google’s Public Utilities Report in December 2017 showed how the utilities sector has strengthened online, with 40% of all searches occurring on mobile, and 45% of ad impressions delivered on mobile. As mobile usage continues to soar, companies need to consider content created specifically for mobile users as they account for a large proportion of the market now.

Healthcare industry
Marketing in the healthcare industry is a far cry from any other sector in terms of restrictions. The same ROI methods that have been adopted by other sectors simply don’t work for the healthcare market. Despite nearly 74% of all healthcare marketing emails remaining unopened, you’ll be surprised to learn that email marketing is essential for the healthcare industry’s marketing strategy.

Around 2.5 million people have email as their main communication method, and the number is rising. This means email marketing is targeting a large audience. For this reason, 62% of physicians and other healthcare providers prefer communication via email – and now that smartphone devices allow users to check their emails on their device, email marketing puts companies at the fingertips of their audience.

With one in 20 Google searches being for health content, it’s definitely worth the investment of the healthcare industry to be online. This could be attributed to the fact that many people turn to a search engine for medical answer before calling the GP. In relation to this, Pew Research Center data shows 77% of all health enquiries begin at a search engine – and 72% of total internet users say they’ve looked online for health information within the past year. Furthermore, 52% of smartphone users have used their device to look up the medical information they require. Statistics estimate that marketing spend for online marketing accounts for 35% of the overall budget.

And that’s without considering social media marketing. Whilst the healthcare industry is restricted to how they market their services and products, that doesn’t mean social media should be neglected. In fact, an effective social media campaign could be a crucial investment for organisations, with 41% of people choosing a healthcare provider based on their social media reputation! And the reason? The success of social campaigns is usually attributed to the fact audiences can engage with the content on familiar platforms.

Should you invest?
Online marketing is clearly vital for many sectors, particularly for fashion and car sales. With a clear increase in online demand in both sectors that is changing the purchase process, some game players could find themselves out of the game before it has even begun if they neglect digital.

There’s a lot more to consider, particularly for utilities. Whilst TV and digital appear to remain the main sales driving forces, its more than just creating your own marketing campaign when comparison sites need to be considered. Without the correct marketing, advertising or listing on comparison sites, you could fall behind.

The average firm in 2018 is set to put an estimated 41% of their marketing budget towards online strategies, and this is expected to rise to 45% by 2020, says webstrategies.com. Social media advertising investments is expected to represent 25% of total online spending and search engine banner ads are also expected to grow significantly too – all presumably as a result of more mobile and online usage.

How do you view the investment? If mobile and online usage continues to grow year on year at the rate it has done in the past few years, we forecast the investment to be not only worthwhile but essential.

Sources
https://pmyb.co.uk/global-fashion-company-influencer-marketing-budget/
https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/the-uk-clothing-market-2017-2022-300483862.html
http://uk.fashionnetwork.com/news/Online-is-key-focus-for-UK-fashion-retail-investment-in-2017,783787.html#.WrOjxOjFKUk
http://www.mobyaffiliates.com/blog/retail-accounts-for-14-2-of-digital-advertising-spending-in-the-uk-in-2017/
http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/bills/article-2933401/Energy-price-comparison-sites-spend-110m-annoying-adverts.html
http://www.thedrum.com/news/2017/03/28/british-gas-shifts-acquisition-retention-marketing-know-the-value-keeping-the-right
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/uk-companies-online-advertising-spend-10-billion-more-last-year-2016-pwc-a7678536.html
https://www.webstrategiesinc.com/blog/how-much-budget-for-online-marketing-in-2014
https://www.kunocreative.com/blog/healthcare-email-marketing
http://www.evariant.com/blog/10-campaign-best-practices-for-healthcare-marketers
https://getreferralmd.com/2015/02/7-medical-marketing-and-dental-media-strategies-that-really-work/

tax entitlements
Tax

Tax entitlements you could be missing out on

Discover 5 tax entitlements you could be missing out on!

By Tony Mills, Director, Online Tax Rebates​

Whether you’re a CIS or PAYE worker, you may be surprised at what expenses you can claim back and the money you can save in your pay packet each month.

Here’s a simple guide to what tax relief you could be missing out on and how to claim:

 

  • Professional memberships

Not only can signing up to a professional membership help you move quicker up the career ladder – and get paid more – you may also be due money back on any fees.

If you’re a member of a professional body like the Federation of Master Builders, The Chartered Institute of Building or National Federation of Builders for example and pay the subscription fees yourself, you can make a claim…worth 20 percent to a basic rate taxpayer.

If you have not claimed previously, you may be able to make a claim for the last four years. HMRC usually make any adjustments needed through your tax code for the current tax year. If a claim is made after the end of the tax year, this will be repaid by way of a payable order or bank transfer.

 

  • Capital allowances

 Many contractors are missing out on valuable tax relief due to their lack of knowledge around capital expenditure. This can have a significant impact on finances.

If you’re a builder working under CIS, for anything you purchase for business use – such as equipment, machinery and vehicles – you’re eligible to claim capital expenses.

You can claim an allowance of up to 100 percent in the year of purchase on certain items although cars are restricted to 18 percent per annum in most cases. Assets you owned before you started the business may also be claimed if you now use them for your business.

 

  • Tools & Equipment

 Your tools; where would you be without them? If you have to purchase your own tools, you may be due a tax refund on their cost, as well as money back on the costs of maintenance and replacement.

If you’re a PAYE worker, you can make a claim if the same or similar item is not available from your employer. Whereas if you’re a CIS worker, you can claim all tools as an expense.

 

  • Uniform

If you wear a compulsory branded uniform and/or protective clothing at work or on-site, you could be due a one-off rebate for the upkeep. This can be backdated to the last four tax years and received as a single payment, while any future claims will be paid in wages.

Limits on claims vary by industry but the standard flat rate expense allowance for uniform maintenance is £60 for this tax year, meaning basic-rate taxpayers can claim £12 back and higher-rate payers £24. It only takes a couple of minutes online to check using an online calculator.

 

  • Travel

By trade, you’re unlikely to be working from a fixed address every day. The cost of travelling between home and the site you’re assigned to may be claimed as an expense for tax purposes.

 

A workplace is considered temporary if your contract is below 24 months. If your contract length is uncertain, the workplace will be seen as a temporary workplace until you have been there for 24 months, it would then be considered permanent.

Be sure to keep any travel or fuel receipts to make an expense claim via your employer.

 

  • Finally, stay safe…

Don’t fall victim to fraudsters who are sending fake emails and text messages promising tax rebates.

Never hand out any personal or payment details to companies you haven’t approached personally before or to HMRC who will only ever contact you via post or your employer.

Why Direct Lending is so Attractive to Investors
Transactional and Investment Banking

Why Direct Lending is so Attractive to Investors

At a time when investment and wealth preservation is as challenging as ever, direct lending offers an alternative for asset managers looking to invest.

There is a growing trend for non-bank lenders to loan money to companies, cutting out the middleman. Indeed, institutional investment is now the direct lending in the UK as it has been seen as a way to source alternative finance and funding for a variety of industries.

Direct lending started in the UK in 2005 with consumers borrowing from other consumers. Today, borrowers have increased and widened across many asset classes and the types of lenders have also expanded.

Direct lending is often now used to describe P2P lending and this reflects the growing number of diverse lenders keeping up with the high demand from borrowers.

Direct lending offers an attractive investment opportunity, gaining:

– Higher returns than a savings account could
– Lower volatility than stock markets

Likewise, borrowers are attracted by the lower rates and quick loan decisions.

Why direct lend?

Other investment options aren’t as reliable as they used to be so it has become prudent to invest elsewhere.

Stock markets remain volatile and therefore now difficult to find a safe-haven for money.

Add to this the decreasing yields on the usual ‘go to’ investment products and savings accounts that now offer little return.

Furthermore, Q4 2017 saw inflation rise to 3.0% – with the ever threat of increasing inflation. 

Direct lending is also attractive when compared to other credit-grade investment choices:

A gap in the market was seized

Traditional banks have cut back on business lending in recent times, especially to SMEs, as tighter regulations have changed the post-financial lending culture. These tighter regulations aim to reinforce bank capital requirements and reduce leverage.

This has created an opportunity for alternative lenders and this gap in the market is being seized by investors who are offering loans to mid-market companies as an answer to low-yield problems.

Direct lenders can work under more favourable circumstances, therefore taking on the companies with high leverage simply because they don’t have to adhere to capital requirement guidelines. This results in more attractive returns for the investor.

Direct lending isn’t a passing fad

Direct lending was relatively untapped until recently, but research by the Alternative Credit Council (ACC) has led them to predict that global lending is expected to break the US $1 trillion mark by 2020.

The UK direct lending market is substantial and has grown considerably in recent years – with plenty of room for direct lending to continue to grow further.

The UK direct lending market accounted for £4.5 billion of lending in 2017 – this is an increase of 21% in a year.

Europe is catching up

In 2017, European direct lending grew to around US $22bn, alongside the growth of mergers and acquisitions amongst SMEs. With SMEs seeking alternative ways to finance this growth the two are intrinsically linked.

Institutional lenders now account for more than half of the direct lending in the UK – yet the UK media still remain skeptical about the industry. One of the reasons for this is that direct lending is often mistakenly confused with equity crowdfunding in the media.

Direct lending is much more established in the US and Asia and Europe is set to follow. In fact, shrewd P2P investment is helping clients who may not be able to get finance from banks and this in turn is injecting sluggish economies.

The borrowers benefit from loans that are secured and have straightforward and open arrangement fees from the start.

In turn, investors have the potential for attractive yields, low volatility and low correlation compared to other asset classes:

European direct lenders are teaming up to chase bigger deals and more high-profile firms. For example Zenith Group Holdings Ltd and Non-Standard Finance Plc used direct lenders to meet their financial needs.

An increasing number of investors

Direct lending started with asset managers lending to mid-market companies and therefore filling in the gaps left by the banks. Now other types of companies such as P2P platforms are joining in and taking up the market for smaller loans, while the asset managers have the expertise for the larger loans – creating an even more prosperous and thriving investment climate.

In fact, in 2017 there were more than one hundred direct lending platforms facilitating more than £4.5 billion of lending.

In turn, fund managers can offer bigger loans as the money flows, making direct lending more attractive with potential for returning clients.

Untapped potential

There is plenty of untapped potential from retail gatekeepers who have yet to wholly embrace direct lending:

Are there any downsides to direct lending?

The extra leverage that makes direct loans more attractive to a borrower, is also a higher risk to take if the economy takes a dive.

The need for direct loans grew from the banks refusing businesses simply due to tightening of restrictions – these were safe and dependable businesses that were suddenly cut off when previously they wouldn’t have had a problem. However, due to a more competitive and growing direct lending market, a growing number of direct lenders seek out the higher-risk financing to companies in trouble.

What does the future hold?

The rate of growth in the direct lending market is slowing, but this is all for the greater good as a ‘flight to quality’ is predicted as better lending platforms outperform weaker or less scrupulous ones.

However – there is still plenty of room for growth long term as reflected in the forecasting statistics.

In 2018, there will likely be an increase in collaboration between direct lenders and traditional lenders – they will complement each other – with banks seeing direct lending as a source of capital.

Another factor will be the concept of open banking which is spreading with a ripple effect across the financial world. For example, the UK’s Open Banking Initiative promotes the use of open application programming interfaces (APIs) to provide access to bank customers’ transaction data. This is certainly something to watch in the future with regard to how direct lenders can use this valuable data.

Direct lending will certainly experience change as it evolves in the coming years, but it is here to stay as an alternative investment opportunity which offers good returns – and ultimately it is uncorrelated and relatively liquid in comparison to other classes.

Exo Investing
Transactional and Investment Banking

Recent launch of Exo Investing

  • Launch of Exo leap-frogs existing online retail wealth management services in landmark moment in the democratisation of investment technology
  •  Exo’s unique use of AI offers investors  a truly individualised, adjustable ETF portfolio, daily risk management and absolute transparency, for a low online fee

It was confirmed today that the investment backing the development and launch of the ground-breaking ‘Exo Investing’ retail digital wealth management platform included a private investment from Benjamin and Ariane de Rothschild.  

This investment was alongside that from the founders of Madrid-based ETS Asset Management Factory who supply Exo with its Quantitative investing technology and capabilities and the former heads of the La Compagnie Benjamin de Rothschild SA, Daniel Treves and Hugo Ferreira, who is also the Chairman of Exo Investing.   

The launch of Exo Investing earlier this year saw retail private investors gain access – for the very first time – to the same sophisticated AI-powered Quantitative investment and risk management technology developed over 30 years by quantitative investment manager ETS for institutional investors and the wealthy clients of Private Banks.

Acting as an expert ‘investment co-pilot’,  Exo’s use of AI sets  it apart from even the most sophisticated of the existing robo-advice platforms, introducing new standards of control, personalisation and risk management.

Moving away from the traditional model of static products and predefined portfolios, Exo instead builds each investor a personal, adjustable portfolio of ETFs based on their own investment preferences. Each portfolio is then monitored 24/7 and recalibrated as frequently as daily to both the individual’s risk appetite and changing market conditions, continually managing each client’s long term risk.

Lennart Asshoff, CEO of Exo Investing said“This investment paves the way for Exo to continue developing this ground-breaking solution for the retail market. Opening the door for thousands of private investors to the important benefits that Quantitative investment science offers is very satisfying having seen what a pivotal difference it can make to investment outcomes during my years working at ETS.

“This level of individually tailored portfolio and risk management has never been available to the retail investor before.  The wider public have never been more reliant on their personal investments for their future financial security and we want to open the door to a new category of investing for as many people as possible,  making truly personalised investing available at scale.”

Hugo Ferreira, Chairman of Exo Investing said“Exo Investing is an exciting example of how the latest advances in technology – from artificial intelligence to the growth in computing power available through the cloud – can be utilised to democratise access to the best services available. For years we have wanted to find a way to provide the huge financial advantage that ETS’s systems deliver to a much wider audience, and Exo is just that. The Fintech zone has a track record of democratising finance and we are proud of Exo as the latest and one of the more significant additions, this time in the increasingly crucial world of private investing.

“My long career managing risk for large organisations around the world has taught me that to successfully ride out market turmoil like the 1987 crash, the internet crises of 2001 and the sub-prime debacle of 2008, you need humility, discipline, transparency and risk control.  I found these in spades 20 years ago in the quantitative investing models developed by ETS.  Now Exo is utilising AI and recent  increases in computing power to offer the same portfolio management technologies to a far wider market and at a highly competitive price.  This is a watershed moment for the private investor.”      

With a potential market size of more than 3.2 million private investors in the UK,  and armed with an obviously superior yet competitively priced proposition,  Exo is set to shake up the existing online investing market significantly.  No existing platform, of whatever scale, offers the private investor so much for so little. As this fact becomes more widely known by the UK’s mass affluent market, Exo is set to  build enviable scale and accolades for transforming outcomes for the private investor.

FairFX
Banking

FairFX launches international business account

  • FairFX to build upon its banking capability with introduction of the Fair Everywhere business current account
  • Fair Everywhere removes the barriers to do business across borders with multi-currency wallets and foreign exchange fees that save businesses time and money
  • Secure Mastercard cards allow customers to streamline business spending around the world
  • Millions of SMEs will no longer have to be penalised by banks which charge extortionate fees

International multi-currency payments provider, FairFX is today announcing the launch of its new global business current account.

The Fair Everywhere business account brings together FairFX’s expertise in international payments with services designed to make global business banking easier, faster and cheaper for those who don’t want borders to limit their business ambitions.

The new Fair Everywhere account allows you to:

  • Manage all your day-to-day business banking and international money transfers in one current account with balances in Sterling, Euro and US Dollar.
  • Open your doors to the world with foreign exchange rates that are game changing for business’ bottom lines.
  • Bank with a business that works as hard as you do – customers have unlimited access to a UK-based customer support team Monday to Saturday.
  • Spend in over 210 countries worldwide with a chip & PIN secure Mastercard debit card
  • Fit your banking around you with the Fair Everywhere mobile app.
  • Get 3.5% cashback rewards from over 50 UK high street retailers simply for doing business as usual.
  • Automate your bill payments through direct debits or standing orders directly from your account.

The account is initially only available to 1,000 customers with existing FairFX Business customers offered priority access. Other businesses can sign up to join the waiting list. 

Ian Strafford-Taylor, CEO of FairFX said: “The Fair Everywhere account is for businesses that don’t see barriers in borders. We’ve brought together the best of both our banking and currency platforms and kept it simple with a straight forward, all inclusive price of £50 per month for an all singing, all dancing account that works as hard as you do.

“We know that most SMEs are not limited by their ambitions and as such they should not be limited by working with banks that penalise them with extortionate fees, complex pricing structures and poor service.”

“We will be launching additional subscription tiers for businesses turning over different amounts and introducing a pay-as you-go pricing option very quickly, to ensure we provide a flexible service that helps our customers be more effective.”

“With Fair Everywhere, we have taken our winning formula of combining market leading value with unmatched service standards and applied it to the underserved SME banking market. This international business account makes it easy for SMEs to manage their day-to-day finances as well as their international payments at exchange rates that are what we believe to be the fairest around and all from a single account.”

“The Fair Everywhere cards will also be issued by the FairFX Group after the Group became a principal member of Mastercard in 2017, which gives us even more control over our supply chain to enhance the product and customer experience.” 

“This launch is a big step for FairFX towards building out our banking and payments offering, and we’re excited about growing with our customers.”

Visit Fair Everywhere to find out more about the international business account.

Social impact
Sustainable Finance

Younger Entrepreneurs Choose Social Impact As Their Top Business Priority

A new wave of global entrepreneurs are setting up their businesses with the aim of making a positive impact on society, according to a new report from HSBC Private Banking. The Essence of Enterprise report found that the younger generation of entrepreneurs are leading this trend, with 24% of entrepreneurs aged under 35 motivated by social impact compared to 11% of those aged over 55. The report, now in its third year, is one of the largest, in-depth studies into the motivations and ambitions of entrepreneurs, researching the views of over 3,700 successful entrepreneurs in eleven countries. The report also found that this new generation of entrepreneurs is embracing angel investing, viewing it as a way to connect and collaborate with their peers.

A socially minded brand of entrepreneurship

One in five entrepreneurs considers social responsibility, being active in the community, or environmental responsibility as their top priority as a business owner, rather than prioritising areas such as maximising shareholder value or economic prosperity. Those who prioritise social impact have a greater propensity to engage in angel investing, (55% of impact-focused entrepreneurs versus 44% of entrepreneurs who prioritise commercial factors), and report a stronger willingness to rely on mentors for advice and support (75% of impact-focused entrepreneurs versus 66%).

The report also suggests a strong relationship between an emphasis on social impact and entrepreneurial ambition. 33% of the entrepreneurs projecting high growth ambitions state that they started their ventures with the intention of creating positive social impact, compared to 28% of those projecting the lowest growth. This suggests social impact should be seen as an integral part of the recipe of entrepreneurial success, and not separate from it.

A new investment style

Almost half of respondents (47%) have invested in other private, non-listed businesses, funnelling both capital and expertise back to the entrepreneurial community. However, the research reveals that a new younger generation of entrepreneurs is investing at a much higher rate than their older peers, with 57% of entrepreneurs under 35 undertaking angel investing compared to 29% of entrepreneurs aged over 55.

Differences also exist between the generations in how they perceive and approach angel investing. Over half of younger entrepreneurs (57%) view angel investing as a way to connect and collaborate with peers, staying up to date with industry progress and disrupters and to grow their knowledge and expertise.  Entrepreneurs of an older generation view angel investing as a way to diversify and grow their investment portfolio, approaching angel investing in a more informal style, through their own network of personal contacts. 43% of those over 55 view friends as the best route to new business, while 44% of those under 35 turn instead to professional advisers to source new investment opportunities.

HSBC Private Banking Global Chief Investment Officer Stuart Parkinson said: ‘It’s clear younger entrepreneurs want to do good, and we would be wrong to dismiss this as youthful idealism that will act as a brake on financial success.  They know that their business cannot have the impact they want without sustainable growth, and they are focussed on achieving both. They see a similar virtuous circle when it comes to angel investing; they are happy to invest in the wider business community, to contribute to each other’s successes and to learn from one another.”

Differing approaches across the globe

The report also brings to light the differences in the entrepreneurial mind-set in markets around the globe. Entrepreneurs in the Middle East (66%) are the most active angel investors, with the US (54%) and Mainland China (53%) next in line. By contrast, 45% of UK entrepreneurs are angel investors, along with 35% in Germany and 33% in Switzerland.

Regional traditions have paved the way for different approaches to angel investing between these markets. In the US, angel investing is highly professionalised; investors source new opportunities through formal channels, such as financial or professional advisors. In comparison, entrepreneurs in the Middle East source new opportunities informally, mainly through friends (Use financial advisors US 51%, Middle East 38%) (Use friends US 45%, Middle East 53%) They also perceive their role to be supportive, cultivating business development and leadership skills. In the US, entrepreneurs view their role as a challenger, optimising the performance of the management team by challenging their thinking and strategy.

In Europe, investors are more likely than those in other regions to perceive angel investing as a way to grow and diversify their portfolio, rather than as a way to build their network and share expertise.

In relation to social impact, entrepreneurs in the US and China show a greater emphasis on environmental concerns – 8.1/10 prioritise environmental issues in their business planning compared with 6.7/10 in the UK, Singapore, Switzerland and Australia. When asked about their desire to contribute to communities, entrepreneurs from the Saudi Arabia (64%) and UAE (62%) are most likely to reference being active in the community and civil society as important to their business operations compared to the global average of 44%.

vc funds
Equity

Build a better VC and founders will beat a path to your door

More capital seeking hard and fast returns

With returns from traditional asset classes eroded by low interest rates, there’s plenty of dry powder looking to ride the tech wave while it lasts. Amongst the riskier asset classes, (notwithstanding the cash flooding into cryptos and ICOs), VC is becoming an increasingly attractive destination for capital seeking hard and fast returns.

As an indicator, VC assets under managements have tripled in just 3-4 years, while corporate venturing is back with a vengeance. Pitchbook data also shows that recent VC vintages are distributing capital back to LPs at a much faster pace than older ones, as well as carrying down more than 70% of their capital by the third year of investment.

Compared to the return timelines of adjacent asset classes, one can see why VC presents an attractive alternative, especially with the average Private Equity fund taking a staggering nine years to achieve a Distribution to Paid-in Capital (DPI) of 1.0x.

The ‘Halo Effect’ of traditional venture capital

Fund performance data shows only a dozen of the top VC firms generate consistently high profits. Between 3-5 percent of firms generate 95% of the industry’s profits, whilst the big name funds in the upper decile rarely change.

In a world where these firms are only as good as their last unicorn, this creates a ‘halo effect’ around a handful of well-known, long-standing funds, making it much harder for new entrants with no track record to attract exceptional founders. Meanwhile, a VC fund requires a 3x return to be considered a good investment by LPs, creating a lot of pressure to identify outliers and invest in “fund returners”.

So what defines a VC fund’s success? Is it all about picking winners? Do the top funds have a magic-8 ball to predict the next big market, or the hottest new tech? Or are markets there for the taking, with interest from the top funds compounding valuations through a self-fulfilling prophecy? Surely, it’s all down to the agency of brilliant founders, who gravitate towards the funds with the most capital and the best advice?

VC’s differentiation challenge

While it is hard to assess the additionality of advice over cash, at a later stage, picking winners is notably easier: more mature startups are typically generating revenue (though still unprofitable) and have moved beyond the most uncertain market and product development stages. The odds of a successful exit are also higher, with average loss-rates down to 30% and shorter holding periods (six years, on average).

However, it is also harder for funds at this level to differentiate themselves and attract the best founders looking for the ‘smartest capital’ (cash + advice), although normally it defaults to whichever fund offers the highest valuation. So “if the pound in my pocket is no different to the pound in yours”, how can funds articulate their ‘value add’?

Scanning websites of the best-known funds, they highlight their talent network and team of GPs, but it’s the fund’s track record that stands out, but in practice, the additionality of cash plus advice is extremely intangible.

Since 2009, a handful of US funds, (most notably Andreessen Horowitz) have started to buck the trend, working harder for their portfolio, hustling for them, providing introductions to their network of customers, acquirers and next round money. At the same time, the rise of the micro-VCs (investing across the pre-Series A spectrum) has also crossed the channel into the UK and Europe. However, instead of following an identikit model, these funds are finding a better way…

The earlier the better?

Considering the circumstances, investing earlier makes a lot of sense, not least for pursuing fresh pastures, but also for the most capital efficient returns, where investors can justify a higher reward for the increased risk they are taking, following on relentlessly in the winners of each portfolio.

However, the risks aren’t trivial, and according to Pitchbook, the loss rate amongst pre-series A startups is greater than 65%. Mark Suster, an investor at Upfront Ventures, captures this in his “1/3, 1/3, 1/3” principle: He expects one-third of his investments to be written down to zero, one-third to return the principal, and the remaining third to deliver most of the returns.

There’s no shortage of microfinancing available to pre-seed (“idea” stage) startups (crowdfunding, ICOs, angels, grants, accelerators), but it takes more than just cash + advice to build a rocket, and traditional VC funds are not set up to operate at this level.

Breaking the “two and twenty” model

While accelerator models attempt to plug the gap, investing small amounts of cash, and providing advice via their support networks, they don’t provide startups with the rocketfuel they need. There are also more sophisticated ways of investing than placing small cheques on lots of different bets. VC can add a lot at this level, but at pre-seed and seed, the traditional venture capital model breaks down for three main reasons:

  1. From a risk-return perspective, fund economics don’t work. For most funds, it would require an unmanageable number of deals to beat the odds of a 35% success rate, and still return 3x to the the fund.
  2. The traditional VC workflow doesn’t scale: a handful of GPs/investors receiving polished pitch decks and warm introductions from well-networked founders stands in stark contrast to the thousands of “idea stage” submissions, and systematic screening efforts required. There’s a huge amount of serendipity involved, and this needs to be ‘designed in’ at scale.
  3. Most importantly, startups at this stage require more than just cash + advice. Founders need help to build stuff, and that requires resources most funds can’t sustain out of the traditional two and twenty model.

De-risking through operational support

At Forward Partners, we believe there’s a better way to support early stage founders. Charging a higher management fee to LPs (the percentage of their investment that contributes towards a fund’s operating expenses) unlocks a unique value-add in a team of operators. This allows funds to offer tech, growth and product expertise as well as the hands-on help that founders need in their first year of operations.

By offering a ‘scale up team in miniature’ with experience across UX, design, full-stack development, talent, growth, PR and comms, a VC can truly help to mitigate the mistakes made by early stage startups, build stronger foundations for startups.

About Forward Partners:

Forward Partners is the UK’s leading early-stage VC fund, providing a game changing combination of capital and operational support to supercharge tech startups. Our unique model is helping to build the UK’s next generation of talented AI, e-commerce and marketplace businesses.

proserv
Private ClientWealth Management

Preserving a Heritage of Excellence

Preserving a Heritage of Excellence

Proserv is a global leader with a worldwide presence, offering a fresh alternative in the delivery of engineering and technical services to the energy, process and utility markets. We spoke to Andy Anderson, Regional President MEA at Proserv, to find out more about the company and its innovative services.

Andy, could you begin by providing our readers with a brief overview of Proserv Middle East and the services you offer?

“Proserv is a global leader and a fresh alternative in the delivery of engineering and technical services to the energy, process and utility markets, supporting clients throughout the lifecycle of their assets. We operate in six regions throughout 22 facilities and 12 countries, offering 24/7 local support services. Core to the Proserv offering is our ability to manufacture, deliver and support solutions locally through our highly experienced pool of technicians and engineers.

“We have been based in the UAE for over 25 years, largely servicing customers across the energy sector, including offshore and onshore services, equipment design and manufacturing. Proserv has supplied the vast majority of installed wellhead controls in the region through its legacy brands – Brisco, CAC and eProduction Solutions.

“We deliver a broad range of hydraulic safety shut down systems for wellheads, chemical injection systems, downhole and surface sampling systems, from bases across the region; all of which are backed up by a strong technical team who are able to install, commission and maintain equipment in the field.”

Talk us through your approach to client service. How do you maintain the high standards synonymous with the Proserv brand?

“Meeting and exceeding our clients’ expectations is vital to ensuring our ongoing success. We strive to develop and maintain this through establishing business relationships built upon experience, competency and trust. We focus on regular face-to-face engagement with our clients, taking the time to understand their requirements.

“We then revert with a solution that is in line with our company ethos – Ingenious Simplicity. This concept is based upon challenging convention in an industry that continues to ‘over engineer’. Ingenious Simplicity is about being flexible and responsive to clients’ needs, while reducing unnecessary levels of complexity in order to get the job done in a cost effective manner.”

Following on from this, what is it that makes Proserv Middle East unique? How do you distinguish yourselves from your competitors, and present yourselves as the best option for your clients?

“Proserv has an extensive brand heritage spanning over 40 years. Through our acquisitions, we have shown the importance of embracing this heritage alongside a commitment to constantly evolve and develop innovation.

“A key topic in our industry right now is ageing wells, and as a result E&Ps are searching for adequate partners to support their OEM requirements, without full system replacement. Many parts for the old wells are now obsolete or superseded and so Proserv has recognised this and positioned itself as a partner of choice who can re-engineer the part required to maintain production.

“Also, we actively listen and collaborate with our clients to find cost effective solutions for their maintenance and production issues. A great example of this was the development of our cost-effective Smart Box solution. Also, we are currently working on the development of an Asset Enhancement Global Intelligence Solution (AEGIS), which will be released, to our customers this June.

In order to provide quality services, exceptional staff are crucial, so please tell us more about the culture within Proserv Middle East and the things you do to maintain and develop it. What do you look for when attracting new staff and how do these traits help them integrate into your company?

“Our growth is driven by a team of dedicated and talented people who provide the company with expertise in engineering and business, creating pioneering solutions that allow us to remain competitive. As a service EPC, our people are our biggest asset and we nurture an environment that encourages creativity and employee-driven innovations.

“In the UAE, we employ more than 20 different nationalities and unite through a clear set of values. The five values – encompassing teamwork, service, communication, entrepreneurship and right thing, right way, guide each of our decisions and behaviours. When we recruit new people to join our team, we look beyond a person’s technical ability and experience and place emphasis on ensuring a person’s values are aligned to Proserv’s. Internally, we provide training for our staff, encouraging continuous development and learning through our internal ‘Proserv Academy’. One example is our ‘technician training school’ which we have developed and implemented for the needs of our Saudi business. The school will enable many young Saudis to gain the necessary skills to learn and develop as part of the Proserv family.”

As your regional headquarters are in the UAE, can you please tell us a bit more about the opportunities and challenges you experience being based there?

“The UAE has the world’s seventh largest proven reserves of both oil and natural gas, estimated at 97.8 million barrels and 215 trillion cubic feet. There is no doubt that oil will continue to provide income for both economic growth and the expansion of social services for decades to come. In the coming years, natural gas will play an increasingly important role in the UAE’s development – particularly as a fuel source for power generation, petrochemicals and the manufacturing industry.

“The industry itself is going through a difficult transition; CAPEX is not always a viable option for our end user clients and OPEX is typically only being spent to perform safety or production critical work. However, with ADNOC being restructured and the oil price creeping up towards $70 per barrel, new investments are planned for the short/medium term. These challenging times have called for a fresh approach in maintaining operational efficiency, whilst decreasing OPEX through scheduled and maintained inspections, but also longer term planning. Our approach has been to offer services across the complete life of field through locally supplied products and services. We have existing long-term service contracts with our clients, where we have proven we can repair or upgrade existing assets, rather than replacing them, thus enabling them to maintain production and reduce downtime at a fraction of the cost.

“The UAE serves as a Centre of Excellence for Proserv’s growing business and organisational presence in the Middle East and Africa market. Our regional headquarters and equipment-manufacturing facility is located in Dubai, while the service centre is located in Abu Dhabi.”

In your opinion, what are the key advantages to being based in the UAE? Are there any core areas of growth that you believe make it the ideal hub for your business?

“For some time, the UAE has been viewed as an energy hub/gateway for the Middle East region. While many companies located in the UAE solely distribute products made in the USA/EU across the Middle East market, Proserv manufactures and provides services from its local facilities in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

“Proserv recognises that the best support for our clients is achieved by local, in country support. The energy industry is a 24-hour operation, and, as such, has a need for timely service capability. We are able to immediately mobilise service engineers/technicians with local visas/work permits to address unplanned events that can cause our clients expensive downtime via lost or reduced production. Also, we provide client specific intelligence solutions to map and track inventory parts, enabling us to provide or quickly call off replacement parts. Our focus remains on world-class respond and resolve solutions.”

Reflecting on the past 12 months, what have been the most prevalent trends in your industry and how has your business adapted around these?

“Last year was a year of innovation for us. Our track record, coupled with our ability to create new value for our clients, allows us to continue to expand our business. The opening of our facility in Saudi Arabia – an Aramco Approved Manufacturing and Service Facility – was a key moment for us back in 2016 with the region very much continuing to be a key growth market for us.”

Looking ahead, what does the future hold for Proserv in the Middle East? Do you have any future plans or projects you would like to share with us?

“Moving forward, Proserv will continue to secure its footprint within the GCC through the establishment of a Manufacturing & Service facility in KSA, as well as investing in expanding our service centre in Abu Dhabi. This will further strengthen our capabilities and capacity to service the increasing demand for our product and services within the region.”

Contact Details 

Company: Proserv Middle East

Address: Jebel Ali Facility, Jebel Ali Free Zone, Dubai, 16922, UAE

Phone: 00971 4 808 3500

Website: www.proserv.com

Select Element
Bowmark Capital
Corporate Finance and M&A/Deals

Bowmark Capital backs buy-out of leading alternative legal services provider

“This is all about access to capital for our next stage of growth,” comments LOD CEO Tom Hartley. “We have been exploring alternative options since the summer of 2017 following our successful merger with AdventBalance in Asia and Australia in 2016.”

Neville Eisenberg, BCLP Partner responsible for LOD, said: “BCLP is extremely proud to have been a pioneer in the alternative legal services market. Nurturing the creation of LOD over 10 years ago, and supporting its growth and considerable influence over the legal market as a high quality provider of flexible legal services, has been an extraordinary journey for us all. We believe that LOD is ideally placed for further growth and that this new investment by Bowmark will help facilitate LOD’s ambitious plans. BCLP has committed to remain close to LOD, partnering with the business for its flexible lawyer needs and we look forward to seeing the results of this exciting new chapter in LOD’s development.”

Bowmark Managing Partner Charles Ind said: “We have been tracking the alternative legal services sector for a number of years and are delighted to have the opportunity to become the principal shareholder in LOD and support the whole LOD team as they build on the impressive growth they have achieved to date.”

Hartley adds, “BCLP has been a great owner, client and partner and this is the logical next step for us to take. LOD has already been a separate entity from BCLP for the last six years, during which time we’ve seen excellent growth.  We want to maintain that expansion by continuing to add new service lines, geographies and technology to our existing offering for our lawyers, consultants and clients. LOD is now in the perfect position to continue to lead the alternative legal services market supported by the capital and expertise of Bowmark.”

DasCoin
Finance

Dascoin Now Listed On Coinmarketcap.Com

Coinmarketcap is used by crypto experts and new adopters alike and is ranked as the 44th most popular website in the US according to Amazon rankings.  DasCoin’s Coinmarketcap listing gives the coin and its associated ecosystem, heightened credibility in the sector.

Michael Mathius, CEO of DasCoin said: “We’re excited to be recognised by Coinmarketcap.com.  This shows how much we’ve developed DasCoin and gives us enhanced visibility within the cryptocurrency space.”

Coinmarketcap lists more than 1,600 cryptocurrency prices among other key statistics about the coins and tokens including:

  • Total market capitalisation
  • Current price
  • 24-hour trading volumes
  • Circulating supply
  • Gain/loss

In April, DasCoin became available to trade on public exchanges CoinFalcon, BTC-Alpha and EUBX with several more in the pipeline.  DasCoin will only be traded on public exchanges that operate the same strict “Know Your Customer” authentication protocols that underpin DasCoin itself.

More than 750 million DasCoin have already been minted since March 2017. Members of the NetLeaders community purchase licenses giving them access to a certain number of Cycles – units of capacity – on the blockchain. These Cycles can either be used for a variety of services or submitted to the DasCoin Minting Queue and converted into DasCoin. There will be a total volume of 8.589 billion DasCoin.

DasCoin possesses and operates best-in-class Blockchain technology based upon BitShares’ distributed ledger technology, known as Graphene.  BitShares is one of the longest ledger in existence and is one of the highest performing ledgers with capacity exceeding 100,000 transactions per second.

Addtionally, DasCoins are not “mined” like those of Bitcoin and other proof-of-work coins. The minting process results in a significant reduction in energy consumption, as well as a more equitable distribution of value.

About DasCoin: DasCoin is a better way to store and exchange value and is the next step in the evolution of money. 

DasCoin is the blockchain-based currency at the center of an innovative digital asset system that seeks to optimize the strengths and eliminate the weaknesses of existing currency systems. It is fast, efficient, balanced, secure and scalable. 

DasCoin is focused on creating a digital currency that delivers superior performance through greater operational efficiency, increased transaction capacity, wider distribution, better governance and greater regulatory compliance. Protected by industry leading security protocols and a permissioned blockchain, DasCoin is a pioneer in the sector with the goal of becoming the world’s first mainstream digital currency.

Website: www.dascoin.com

gdpr
Global ComplianceRegulation

Debunking Five Crucial GDPR Misconceptions

There’s now less than a month to go until the European Union’s (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force, and yet research shows that many businesses are still struggling to understand what they need to do. Worse still, many remain unaware of the full extent of the legal implications of non-compliance – whether deliberate or accidental. A YouGov poll in March found that 72% of British adults hadn’t even heard of the regulation, whilst a study by Crowd Research Partners carried out in April found that just 7% of companies worldwide were ‘fully prepared’ for GDPR’s arrival.

These figures should be cause for concern, since GDPR represents a huge change in the way in which every business uses, manages and protects personal data. It enshrines the sanctity of personal data ownership with the individual, with businesses merely the custodians. And as Jan Phillip Albrecht LL.M, Member of the European Parliament and Vice Chair of its Civil Liberties, Home Affairs and Justice Committee wrote in 2016: “It is paramount to understand how GDPR will change not only the European data protection laws but nothing less than the whole world as we know it.”

With this in mind, here are the five most common myths about GDPR, and some steps you can take to ensure you’re on the way to being geared up for the change.

This isn’t just about the EU

One of the biggest misconceptions about GDPR seems to be that it’s only an issue for companies physically based in the EU. This is not the case. GDPR essentially applies to any business anywhere in the world wanting to sell products and services to EU customers, or monitor their behaviour using personal data. In other words, if you’re based in Dubai wanting to do business with a customer in Germany, then GDPR – or equivalent standards – still apply.

It’s not as simple as following the rules

One of the reasons why GDPR is causing a certain amount of angst – amongst those who have, in fact, heard of it – is that it is principle-based regulation, which means that judgement will be based on whether data has been processed in accordance with designated principles, rather than hard and fast rules. If a company is investigated by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), then the ICO will look at whether ‘effective’ consent has been obtained by the data’s owner and whether that data is deemed ‘current’. This leaves the door open for interpretation, which would be entirely at the ICO’s discretion and involve a legal-based assessment. This means there’s a big job for the legal profession in helping businesses understand and act on their responsibilities.

It’s about more than just compliance

The other source of confusion in all of this is that many companies have assumed that this is a compliance, or even a technical issue, which can simply be left to the relevant team to deal with. The problem is that GDPR is so all-encompassing that any individual handling data in an organisation will undoubtedly require training to understand the regulatory demands and what to do in order to comply. It also means assessing processes for handling a serious data breach and examining every contract – with employees and subcontractors – to ensure that they are GDPR compliant. For some companies, it may also mean hiring a dedicated data protection officer or at the least gaining specialist legal advice on their current practice and system.

Technology is no panacea

Likewise, GDPR is not something that can be ‘fixed’ with technology. A lot of people have mistakenly assumed that GDPR is only concerned with extreme data hacking cases, but the regulation imposes draconian sanctions for a range of other breaches, too. For example, if consent of use has not been properly obtained, or the data is not processed as set out in the regulations, then serious penalties, including hefty fines, could be on the cards. There are also some data breach risks that simply cannot be fixed by technology, for example a staff indiscretion or mistake such as leaving confidential information in a public place. What’s more, GDPR forbids reliance on automated decision making, as typically seen when loan companies refuse customers based purely on an automated credit score. The point is that this regulation demands that companies take a holistic and intelligent approach to the treatment of personal data – it’s not a question of picking and choosing the bits you want to adopt or relying on your systems to do the job for you.

This isn’t just another overhead

It’s hard to overstate the risk of getting this wrong – the potential fines are on a level we’ve never seen before in data protection. Certain infringements are subject to fines of up to €20 million or 4% of worldwide annual turnover – whichever is higher. Severe breaches also run the risk of class actions. But the fines only tell part of the story. The Facebook/Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal wiped around £25 billion off the social media platform’s value in the first 24 hours after the story broke and the reputational fallout continues. Businesses simply cannot afford the reputational damage that could be wrought by such a significant change.

Not sure if you’re in breach of GDPR regulations? Take the GDPR quiz to test your resilience.

Four things you should do straight away:

1. Review your processes for data breach notification, security and risk assessment.
2. Ask yourself whether the data you handle could be anonymised.
3. Review your contracts for GDPR compliance.
4. Consider hiring a data protection officer or seeking specialist legal advice.

http://www.bestcriminaldefencebarrister.co.uk/ 

FairFX
FX and Payment

9 top International Payment tips for businesses

Multi-currency payments provider FairFX has revealed that since the Brexit referendum, the Euro has decreased 13% against the pound increasing financial pressure on businesses who operate cross border.

Uncertainty over future trade agreements alongside fluctuating currency rates have put the spotlight on the cost of doing business internationally and highlights the importance of monitoring foreign currency transactions.

An estimated 17% of UK based SMEs are doing business internationally, boosting their own bottom line, as well as the UK economy.  Whilst international expansion offers access to new markets, ambitions for growth need to be well planned financially, starting with the basics.


35% of SMEs state cashflow is a barrier to growth, making smart currency moves essential when it comes to international payments, and by getting the best value for every international transaction, both business ambition and cashflow can be supported.


FairFX Top tips for getting the best value when making international payments

 

  1. Know what you want

To get the best international payment provider for your business you need to know what you want. Consider how regularly you’ll be sending and receiving money overseas, how many currencies you’ll need to transact in and understand the costs associated with making both singular and regular transactions. 

Fees and charges can vary by transaction type, day, time and speed you require the transaction to be completed in, so list out the different transaction types you may want to make and understand how the fees and charges can vary so you don’t get caught out. Understand how currency rates are set and how they compare to other providers. This can be confusing to unpick so speak to a currency expert if necessary.

 

  1. Review your current payment package

High street banks don’t offer the best value when it comes to international business payments. Using your current banking provider to handle international as well as domestic transactions may be convenient but defaulting to them might mean you’re missing out on better rates and lower fees.

As your business grows and develops, your business banking needs will also evolve and if you’re transacting regularly small charges can add up, meaning you could be paying a high price for an unsuitable service

  1. Select a transparent, convenient and consistent service

If you’re regularly buying from and selling abroad, fees could soon take a portion of profit from your bottom line. Pick a provider whose fees are transparent and made clear upfront so you can better manage your expenses. Look for a service where rates are consistently good – don’t be lured with teaser offers that expire and leave you trapped or unaware of post introductory fees and charges.

 

  1. Understand the market you’re operating in

Keeping track of currency movements can be easier said than done, so sign up for a reliable rate watch service, like the one provided by FairFX which alerts you when currencies you operate in have moved in your favour. This way you can make international payments when rates give you a commercial advantage.

 

  1. Maintain your standards

The rigorous standards you set for expenses and payments at home don’t stop when your employees pass border control, so find a solution where you are confident in who is spending what. Consider prepaid corporate cards which allow you to transact with competitive exchange rates and top-up in real-time, giving your staff the funds they need to travel for work, providing peace of mind and control over expenditure on a global scale.

 

  1. Watch the way your employees pay

When it comes to travel, regardless of whether your staff are hosting meetings or need to cover the cost of their own accommodation and essentials, make sure you’re in charge of the exchange rate they are using for their payments.

 

The FairFX corporate prepaid card allows staff to pay for expenses with the amount of money you have approved them to spend, whilst you can track and report on spending on the integrated online platform, so there is no reliance on employees using their own payment methods, choosing the exchange rate and fees charged and reclaiming the cost from your business.

 

  1. Benefit from the best rates

Exchange rates fluctuate from day to day with the euro currently 13% lower than before the Brexit referendum announcement, a sum that on a large transfer could make the difference between profit and loss. Consider a forward contract to ensure you can benefit from peak rates by fixing international transactions up to a year in advance.

 

  1. Ask an expert

If you are regularly making international payments it is worth finding an expert to help you with services not offered by your bank to help minimise risk and maximise the return of doing business overseas.

 

  1. Set up a stop loss or limit order

Protect your business against market downturns with the aid of a Stop Loss, which will ensure any losses are limited if you’re aiming for a higher rate and the market takes a turn.

Also consider a Limit Order where you set up ‘target’ exchange rates and ask your currency dealer to process the transaction when the rate you’ve set is achieved to give you certainty over how payments will affect your bottom line.


Ian Stafford-Taylor, CEO
of FairFX said:

“Easy access to international currency at market-leading rates whether travelling abroad or sending and receiving payments is vital for businesses breaking into and operating successfully internationally, especially in a market where rates are constantly fluctuating.

“Many small and medium sized businesses settle for high street bank accounts which can charge extortionate fees for international transactions and offer poor service. The right account and sensible planning could add up to big savings, something that SMEs can ill afford to waste in a competitive marketplace

“As future trade agreements post Brexit become clearer businesses could find themselves with heavy workloads as they adjust the way they operate, so finding a trusted payment provider and reaping every possible benefit when it comes to currency will continue to be crucial for success.”

5 Benefits of Investing in Contractors
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

5 Benefits of Investing in Contractors

5 Benefits of Investing in Contractors

By: James Trowell, head of tax and accounting at contractor specialists, Dolan Accountancy

For most startups, the most common issue they face is cash flow. The need to expand to increase that level of cash flow often involves hiring staff. Whilst this is a positive in terms of managing the ever increasing workload, paying for staff is another story as it absorbs even more of your income. The solution? Look to the flexibility and expertise offered by contractors.

In this article we will explore the top 5 benefits of using contractors to help you grow your business.

 

1. Affordability

The whole process of recruiting and training staff can soon add up cost wise. Recruitment agencies will often charge a fee for filling your vacancy and even advertising yourself can have an associated cost. You’ll also have to consider the cost of your time to train that person up in the role they have filled as well as their actual salary. By hiring a contractor to fill your position, you have the option to choose someone with the expertise or specialist skills that you need so the time needed to train them is often negligible.

2. Flexibility

Unlike a permanent member of staff, contractor’s can work on a project by project basis, so you could just pay for their expertise as you need it. Contractor’s tend to choose this path as they like to be able to set their own hours, which really could be a massive benefit for you. For example if you dropped an email on a Friday night with a list of assignments, you could be coming in on Monday morning to find the list is completed! Remember a contractor is a small business like you and good ones will be keen to meet deadlines, deliver above your expectations with the hope that you will want to engage in their services again.

3. Expertise

Contractor’s are unlikely to have made the move to contracting unless they are experts in their field. This means they keep up to date with the latest industry trends, be that in technology or statistics. This is excellent news for you, as you and your company can benefit for their knowledge. For example they are likely to adopt cutting edge technology and could suggest a new piece of software which could increase your productivity. Not only do you benefit from this knowledge but you also don’t have to pay for them as a salaried employee in the long term.

4. Attitude

When a new member of staff joins a business, they tend to need weeks if not months of training before they can contribute positively to your turnover. Contractors however are used to working on their own and getting on with the job in hand immediately. This means that they ‘hit the ground running’ so you will see a positive input to your business quickly. You will need to be good at setting clear briefs and expectations though, but you shouldn’t need to sit down and explain everything. Instead you can focus on your business knowing your contractor will be completing their projects in the background.

5. Availability

The great thing about using a contractor within your business is that they only need to work for you when required. So if you have a specific project you need some help on, but dont have the capacity yourself, a contractor can come in and fill that gap in the short term. They also tend to build relationships with their employers so that they can be called back in to make additions to their work or start new projects, with the knowledge that both parties have prior experience of eachother.

About the author: James Trowell, is head of tax and accounting at contractor specialists, Dolan Accountancy. Starting off in the admin team at SJD Accountancy James’ role expanded over the years, working his way to accountant and then team manager. Three months ago, Trowell took on the head of accounting and taxation position at Dolan

Are banking biometrics about to take off?
BankingSecurities

Are banking biometrics about to take off?


Are banking biometrics about to take off?

We’ve all been there; sitting at a computer struggling to remember a password, or entering the wrong pin number at a cash point while a queue forms behind you. Thanks to the rise in biometric technology, consumers can look forward to a decreased reliance on remembering alphanumeric passwords.

Through the integration of the technology into smartphones, people around the world have been using their fingerprints to unlock their devices for years and today millions of people are familiar with biometrics and its benefits. The recent unveiling of the iPhone X and Apple’s facial recognition system moves things one step further.

These applications have shown consumers how easy it is to use their biometrics to access their personal devices. This has created a consumer who is comfortable with the technology and have it integrated into other elements of their life, like banking or at the checkout – a point reinforced when looking at a recent study, where 86 percent of consumers said they are interested in using biometrics to verify, identity or to make payments. The financial sector has begun to react to this growing level of acceptance.

MasterCard recently announced its commitment to guaranteeing that every one of its customers will have access to biometric authentication services by April 2019 – a decision made off the back of their own research with Oxford University, which found 92 percent of banking professionals wanted to introduce biometric ID, and 93 percent of consumers would prefer biometric security to passwords. As we have seen before, new technologies challenge traditional business models and transform the way organisations interact with their customers – this is no different.

Many established financial institutions and economies around the world are now getting behind biometrics. In India, NCR has been involved in a nationwide rollout of next-generation ATMs offering biometric user authentication, in addition to cash recycling and other features that could prove beneficial for banks and customers.

Bahraini Fintech firm Eazy Financial Services offers the next step in the evolution of biometrics journey of creating a seamless customer experience. The company has been working with NCR on the region’s first biometric payment network. The system will allow consumers to register their fingerprint with their bank and use this biometric data to initiate ATM or point-of-sale transactions, removing the need for a card. The combination of security and convenience this technology delivers is an attractive proposition for a customer.

Today’s digitally driven consumers want the way they shop and bank to be consistent across every channel, including how they identify themselves when making a payment. As biometric identification increasingly becomes standard across smartphone devices, the combination of these two technologies is starting to win the battle for hearts and minds when it comes to simplicity, convenience and seamlessness across all channels.

However, there are still some hurdles to overcome as far as biometric technology is concerned, particularly when it comes to customer acceptance and security. One of the biggest causes of failure for technology is low adoption, and even though the figures show that consumers want to see more of the concept, the solution must be simple, logical and easy to use it if it’s to be adopted.

Like any burgeoning technology, biometric authentication still has its fair share of challenges to meet and questions to answer. But these obstacles are quickly being overcome, partly through the work of mobile phone manufacturers, which is paving the way for biometrics to become a vital component of the 21st-century payments landscape.

Duologi
Finance

Specialist finance platform launches to offer 30% sales boost to retail sector

Backed by global investment firm, Oaktree Capital, the company offers merchants the chance to increase their sales, boost customer satisfaction and grow profitability through the delivery of tailored point-of-sale finance options.

Duologi research shows that by providing finance options to customers, merchants can expect to achieve a 30% average uplift in sales, with 57% of shoppers saying they would have bought elsewhere if finance wasn’t available.

In the retail market which – in the past six months alone – has struggled with ongoing store closures and profit uncertainties, the question of consumer spending power is of particular importance. Duologi’s platform allows retailers to offer flexible loans to their customers, from £150-£25,000 on 3-60 month terms; many at a 0% interest rate. Lending decisions are typically made within just four seconds, allowing shoppers to immediately purchase goods, either online or in-store.

Unlike many other similar businesses currently in the market, Duologi does not offer a ‘one size fits all’ model; aiming instead to work with each partner on an individual basis to ensure a bespoke service is created for each. The platform is powered by ground-breaking technology, built from scratch in London, allowing retailers to quickly and simply start offering finance to their customers.

Duologi is led by co-CEOs, John Taylor and Gary Little, who between them count more than 50 years’ consumer lending experience at institutions such as Barclays and Close Brothers. Since launching in September 2017 as a two-man start-up, the business has already secured £100m in annual rolling commitments, with ambitions to have a seven-figure lending book within five years.

 

Gary Little, co-CEO of Duologi, said: “Retail is having a tough time at the moment, so it’s more important than ever that brands set their business apart from competitors and keep up with today’s savvy consumers. Innovative, user-friendly finance solutions can do just that; providing shoppers with the flexibility to purchase items from your store and pay back the cost in a way that suits them.”

 

John Taylor, co-CEO added: “Our vast experience in this industry means that our finance products are backed by decades of expertise and specifically tailored to the way the retail sector works. We look at each business individually in order to create an approach that fits with that particular organisation’s needs.

“There is a whole host of retail brands out there that we can support and add value to, and we are committed to building specialist solutions that will help these businesses deliver robust sales growth and customer loyalty. We are incredibly excited to be launching Duologi and look forward to working hard to create innovative solutions for our partners.”

physical currency
Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsFinance

Why physical currency in a digital economy is still a must for UK travelers

Why physical currency in a digital economy is still a must for UK travelers

Trailing closely behind Sweden and Canada, the United Kingdom is the world’s third most cashless society. According to UK Finance, cash will be used for a mere 21 per cent of all payments by 2026. Increasingly, countries around the world are making definite moves towards a futuristic economy based on fully digital transactions for goods and services, with cash often portrayed as obsolete. In Sweden, 80 per cent of all transactions are made by cards via the mobile payment app, Swish.

However, deeming the role of cash in society as obsolete – according to travel money provider WeSwap – is far from accurate. WeSwap’s Founder and CEO Jared Jesner believes that as a nation, our adoration of travel means that although we are moving closer towards becoming a cashless society within our own borders, when we go abroad this all changes- people still like the comfort of cash in their pocket when they explore the unknown. According to a report in Reuters citing the Bank for International Settlements, the study found that the use of cash is actually rising in both developed and emerging markets. “Some of the breathless commentary gives the impression that cash in the form of traditional notes and coins is going out of fashion fast,” said Hyun Song Shin, BIS economic adviser and head of research “despite all the technological improvements in payments in recent years, the use of good old-fashioned cash is still rising in most, though not all, advanced and emerging market economies.” Furthermore, the Bank for International Settlements found that in recent years, the amount of cash in circulation has increased to 9 percent of GDP in 2016 from 7 percent of GDP back in 2000. That said, the same study stated that debit and credit card payments represented 25 percent of GDP in 2016, up from 13 percent in 2000.

Cash’s resiliency comes at a time when the odds are seemingly stacked against its historically ubiquitous presence, with the critical mass of consumers owning more credit and debit cards today than ever before, using them for smaller transactions than in years past. Moreover, thanks to new technologies, consumers are able to use contactless payments via their mobile devices to pay for things in record numbers. These now societal norms have led to predictions that cash is dying as the world moves to digital payments. WeSwap asserts this prediction as flawed.

Jared Jesner, WeSwap’s CEO, was surprised to learn how integral cash remains to society when he founded the digital payments start-up. Despite being credit card-dependent at home, travelers inevitably need to access hard currency beyond UK borders, especially as UK residents going abroad can never be certain how many shops, restaurants, or tourist attractions will accept credit cards. Jesner is optimistic about the potential to change the landscape of payments, having founded WeSwap to make currency exchange cheap and fair for ordinary people “I’m incredulous to the fact that we still ‘buy’ money when we should just be swapping with each other.”

With Futurologists long predicting cash will one day become obsolete, contextualised by the advent of blockchain technology, mobile money and similar innovations, a transition towards a more cashless society is inevitable, but not to the extent where notes are no-more. For all the convenience that digital payments offer, travelers remain reluctant to fully part with their hard currency. WeSwap believes that a security-based connection secures the role of cash amongst travellers—and creates a need for a fair and transparent currency exchange.

wealth management
Private FundsWealth Management

Wealth management and digital engagement

“Hey, Siri, how do I keep my clients?” Wealth management and digital engagement

By John Wise, Co-founder, CEO and Chairman, InvestCloud

Many wealth managers are wondering why millennials fire them after an inheritance. It’s a daunting problem with a very simple cause: millennials don’t see the value that wealth managers add. This is primarily due to a lack of empathy and resonance on the wealth manager’s part with younger generations.

There is a lot of money in motion right now. As Baby Boomers retire and Gen X’ers start planning for retirement, many are selling small businesses, downsizing their homes and starting to tap their retirement plan assets. Because of these dynamics, in the US alone, over $60 trillion of assets are becoming liquid and transitioning between generations now. This money is up for grabs.

The primary inheritors are millennials, and they are becoming a major presence. This generation represents approximately 30 percent of the US population. They are the largest age group demographic in the country and a close third of the investor base – around 30 million investors. This generation is already the next big thing in investing.

Millennial money

What are millennials going to do with this money? Well, it is not the same as previous generations, as the adoption of wealth managers is low among millennials. A recent report from Accenture shows that only 20 percent of millennial investors say they will work with an advisor exclusively. This is partly due to 57 percent feeling their advisor is only motivated to make money, and about one-third feeling their advisor doesn’t get to know them.

The result is devastating for the sector: up to six 6 out of 10 clients leave their benefactor’s advisor upon inheritance – i.e., the millennial fires the advisor upon receipt of the money. This is coupled with a distrust bias toward large brands – with an exception until recently for the tech platforms they use every day. This distrust is especially true of financial brands for a generation defined by the recent global economic crisis.

This is illustrated in that 70 percent of polled millennials would rather go to the dentist than listen to what their banks are saying. Worse still, a further 70 percent – across all age groups – say they would accept financial advice from a Google, Facebook, Apple or robo-advice platform instead of a traditional financial business. This is an engagement crisis for wealth managers.

So how do managers reverse this trend and engage investors?

Re-booting engagement – offline and online

Millennials are reported to have poor attention spans, a fear of missing out (FOMO) and a love of digital communication methods. While these observations don’t apply to all millennials, there probably isn’t going to be a mass exodus from short playlists and social media to steak dinners and golf.

Empathy is the key to better engagement – both offline and online. First of all, an obvious point: wealth management businesses need younger people to better engage with the latest generation of investors and to speak their language.

But empathy must be both in-person and digital. If in-person means connecting with investors in real life, then digital means relating it both in browser and through mobile apps. Digital is one of the saving graces for wealth management businesses – it makes them appear younger, and millennials clearly value digital, especially in finance.

Digital requirements

Any digital offering needs to meet certain requirements. Firstly, it needs to be available at any time, any place and via any device to give millennial clients power over how and when they interact with their wealth. Think of how the services they use every day work, such as Google, or how they choose to connect – i.e., a preference for mobile, app-based platforms.

It also needs to distinctly appeal to the user. This means it must be intuitive, involved and individual. The user experience needs to appeal directly to the client, all content should be unique to them and it must be worth their time to use the platform. When it comes to engagement, it’s not just other financial service providers that are the competition. Wealth managers are up against social media and entertainment streaming platforms as well.

Thought also needs to be given to specific functionality – what does your digital platform offer? The Accenture report mentioned above goes some way to calling out the specific requirements from this generation.

For example, 67 percent want a robo component and real-time tracking of transactions, payments and other financial data from their investment manager. A further 66 percent want a self-directed investment portal with advisor access, with 65 percent needing gamification for engagement and to help them learn more about investing. Those requiring social media and sentiment indices in the platform to help with investment decisions is around 62 percent.

Remember, though, that these offerings are not one-size-fits-all – they still require tailoring to the individual.

Using the best of both worlds

This doesn’t mean a complete shift to digital-only services. If a client has significant assets – and particularly as his or her life gets more complicated – a broader advice scale is needed, rather than simply having assets allocated to a handful of ETFs. The interaction of digital and human empathy is the key to effectively servicing these specific needs.

This is hybrid wealth management: offline and online services that work harmoniously together to create a better experience for the client, and greater levels of engagement for the manager. It means a better understanding of clients and therefore leads to more opportunities to expand the share of wallet, impacting the all-important bottom line.

So, how do financial businesses resonate better with millennials? Appoint younger people. Use digital. You can still be full service – helping manage life events like retirement planning, college planning, trusts, wills, parental long-term care planning and the like. But make sure you focus your business model on delivering from a place of empathy both in-person and digitally.

crypto tax
Indirect TaxTax

Understanding your tax obligations in the crypto world

Understanding your tax obligations in the crypto world

By Arianne King, managing partner at London based commercial law firm, Al Bawardi Critchlow

With Bitcoin’s value slipping and reports suggesting that Q1 of 2018 was the worst quarter in its history, it seems the recent wild run on the crypto-scene has come to an end. Yet, digital currencies continue to attract the interest of the governments, investors, commentators and fintech innovators alike.

The reason for this is two-fold. On one hand, the technology that underpins cryptocurrencies – blockchain – holds disruptive potential likened to that of the internet itself. With its transparent, permanent and immutable record keeping, the potential of the technology to secure transactions between multiple parties is hard to argue with.

On the other hand, regulators are increasingly ramping up efforts to establish the legal status of e-money as the technology matures. It is clear that traditional financial institutions and lawmakers plan to get more involved in addressing this and the current lack of regulatory oversight in the UK today.

Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, and others have consistently called for the crypto asset ecosystem to be held to the same standards as the rest of the financial system – and there have been some signs of progress here. Earlier this month, for example, one of the world’s top cryptocurrency exchanges, Coinbase, was granted a licence to operate by the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), confirming it had been assessed and met certain anti-money laundering and processing standards, deeming it suitable to acquire a regulated status in the UK.

That said, the way in which cryptocurrency is taxed is fast becoming a burning issue. This is especially the case for current and prospective investors.

 

Understanding your obligations

Worryingly, many investors may not even be aware that they owe tax on their cryptocurrencies today. As in nearly every other aspect of tax, different countries and jurisdictions will have varying guidelines for declaring tax and equally different approaches to tackling evasion. As such, depending on where you are domiciled for tax, you may be breaking the law – or about to.

In the US, tax authorities view the likes of Bitcoin, Ripple and other cryptocurrencies as a form of property, rather than a true currency, and so it may be subject to capital gains tax. Taxpayers are therefore required to declare all cryptocurrency transactions in their annual tax returns, with the applicable tax applied to each deal. Meanwhile, in Germany, Bitcoin is classified like stocks and shares – capital gains tax is applied to profits made within the first year of ownership. After this point, their transaction will fall within the scope of a non-taxable ‘private sale’, exempting them from further taxation.

When it comes to enforcement, however, the US Inland Revenue Service (IRS) takes a much more active role monitoring virtual currencies and managing the infrastructure that enables trading than its European counterparts to date. In February of this year, for example, it assembled a dedicated team of investigators to counter tax evasion in the cryptocurrency industry. It argues that Bitcoin, and others like it, can be used in the same fashion as foreign bank accounts to facilitate tax dodging. It recently compelled Coinbase to send data on 13,000 of its users as part of an investigation of this kind – a move we may see from HMRC here in the UK in the future.

 

Tax in the UK

In Britain, the guidance provided by HMRC about cryptocurrencies is limited to a policy paper from March 2014. That said, while an official framework for cryptocurrency related tax remains forthcoming in the UK, the Treasury’s current regime may still mean that some individual investors are falling foul of compliance with the law as it stands.

Overall, the Revenue looks at the personal circumstances of an individual to inform a decision on whether tax is paid on crypto gains or not. The individual must prove whether they are a hobbyist or a professional investor and they will be taxed accordingly.

First of all, HMRC treats hobbyist traders in the same way that it treats those involved in other speculative activities, like gambling: they are currently exempt from paying tax on gains. This approach is fortunate in that it recognises the inherent volatility of the bitcoin market and means that a personal investor would not be hit with a tax bill for gains subsequently lost because of coin values plummeting.

Alternatively, if HMRC considers that an individual or corporation involved has a professional interest in the industry, then taxes would be payable. This is assessed on a case by case basis so the resulting decision, in this respect, will often be difficult to predict. If liable, profit and loss activity must be reflected in accounts under normal Corporation Tax rules. This is applicable to those involved at all levels of the process – whether trading, mining or operating an exchange and providing supporting services.

 

Where to next?

As with all income and gains generating assets, a tax system for cryptocurrencies will surely emerge – such a system and associated measures would also go some way towards addressing concerns that virtual currencies are still being used to enable fraud, money laundering and finance illicit activities like cybercrime.
The advice is to fully research your situation by contacting HMRC, an accountant or a tax adviser and keeping a full record of any advice given. If it appears that the HMRC are likely to find that your gains are taxable, it would be wise to put aside any gains in a contingency account to cover any tax that might fall due. Despite the decentralised nature of cryptocurrencies and the associated hype about this, they are taxable as financial assets by law in many countries. Ultimately, even in the crypto world, the old adage of  death and taxes still applies.

 

private debt
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

A better way for investors to capitalise on private debt

A better way for investors to capitalise on private debt

Simone Westerhuis, LGB Investments

As fixed income yields disappoint, secured loan notes issued by growth businesses could be an attractive avenue for investors, whether they be wealthy individuals or family offices, writes Simone Westerhuis, Managing Director, LGB Investments.

Despite the recent rising rate environment, interest rates are still very low by historical standards and as a result private debt has emerged as one of the chief opportunities for investors searching for yield. This is especially true of high net worth individuals (HNWI) and family offices, as, faced with long-term low interest rates, meagre bond returns, poor hedge fund performance and fluctuating equity markets, they have increasingly turned to alternatives: real estate, private equity and – perhaps most strikingly – to the private credit markets to secure the returns they need for their portfolios.

HNWI and family office investors are particularly well positioned to benefit from the growing appetite from businesses for non-bank funding. According to Preqin’s 2017 Global Private Debt report, the average current allocation of a private debt investor stands at 4.7 per cent of assets under management (AUM). Family offices allocate more than double this figure – 10.7 per cent of AUM – to private debt, more than any other type of investor. This, as Preqin notes, can be attributed to “fewer restrictions, increased flexibility and an appetite for higher returns compared to other asset classes”. In contrast to conventional fund managers, HNWIs and family offices are less tightly regulated and view secondary market liquidity as less important.

But as the private debt market has become more popular, its composition has shifted over the past decade. Up until about the mid-2000s, activity was mainly dominated by distressed debt and mezzanine financing. More recently the trend has been towards direct lending.

Marrying small and medium-sized growth businesses with financing from wealthy individuals, family offices and the mass affluent has considerable appeal on both sides. From the growth businesses’ perspective, it bypasses some of the difficulties that come with borrowing from banks that have retrenched in the post-financial crisis climate, making them inflexible and sluggish counterparties. Without the ability to turn to the corporate bond market to raise funds, SMEs are often willing to pay a premium for increased flexibility and speed of execution.

From an investor’s perspective, meanwhile, direct lending can seem a compelling proposition. One of the main advantages is diversification and the prospect of earning uncorrelated returns to the equity markets. At a time when stock markets have produced strong returns for over a decade one may wonder how long this trend could last. The other is the potential for higher yields relative to the public bond markets. Direct lending offers an attractive, steady cash flow in a climate where quantitative easing has driven bond yields down.

But there are also risks that need to be carefully considered. There is, of course, the heightened credit risk that comes from lending to growth businesses, coupled with the fact that that private debt has yet to be tested in an economic downturn. An important consideration is the intermediary or platform that investors use to manage their loan portfolios. While P2P platforms have simplified the distribution process, they could potentially pose a higher default risk to investors who have little insight into the quality of companies they are directly lending to. When a borrower defaults, the investor often finds himself helpless to take any action directly.

Going through investment funds or trusts, meanwhile, may provide more protection against defaults through established debt recovery procedures. But the risks can vary markedly depending, for example, on whether the manager chooses to use leverage to boost returns and cover fees. The key to success will often depend not only on the manager’s ability to analyse risk, but also on its access to deal flow and ability to fix problems when they occur.

LGB Investments has helped develop another variant of the direct lending instrument: secured loan notes. These are secured, fixed-rate instruments with maturities ranging from six months to five years. Issued by SMEs and growth businesses under the terms of a programme, which enables repeated issuance, they often have seniority in a borrower’s capital structure. Most importantly, loan note programmes will have a designated Security Trustee who holds the collateral for all noteholders on trust and will take action on behalf of noteholders when difficulties arise.

To date, the main investors in these secured loan notes have been individual wealthy investors and family offices, although they are also increasingly catching the attention of institutions. There are a number of reasons investors have found these instruments to be attractive. An obvious one is their relatively high yields and short maturities. The notes offer investment returns of around 6-10 per cent per annum, with the interest rate determined by the credit standing of the issuer and investor demand. By contrast, publicly traded corporate bonds typically generate yields of 2-5 per cent in the current climate. Secured loan notes Issues are commonly listed on a recognised stock exchange to take advantage of the Quoted Eurobond Exemption from withholding tax on interest.

We find that another real advantage is that the programmes offer frequent re-investment opportunities and can often accommodate reverse inquiries from investors sitting on cash. Investors have an opportunity to really familiarise themselves with an issuer and can increase their allocation to a name over time. Robust security arrangements help assuage some of the concerns investors to growth businesses might have about taking on excessive credit risk.

Through our Corporate Finance department, LGB & Co. has established secured loan note programmes for 20 mid-market companies raising close to £100 million to date from HNWIs, family offices and institutions. A recent example was the £40m loan note programme for Reward Finance Group Limited, one of the UK’s fastest growing alternative finance providers. Our research suggests there is substantial room for expansion and that the UK’s immediate addressable secured loan note market is worth around £500m.

Investors do need to carefully evaluate the risks of lending to SMEs – whether through secured loan notes or through other instruments – against their investment goals. But as part of a balanced and diversified portfolio, we believe that in an environment where low yields are the norm and alternatives such as hedge funds are underperforming, secured loan notes offer an attractive way to tap into private debt markets.

crowd funding
FundsFunds of Funds

Top Five Crowdfunding Myths

Top Five Crowdfunding Myths

Joel Hughes, Head of UK and Europe at Indiegogo

Launching a crowdfunding campaign is a lot easier said than done. It takes a lot of effort before the launch, during the campaign and even after funding is complete. Despite the fact that crowdfunding has been around for almost two decades, there are still many misconceptions about what makes a successful campaign, so before you launch your crowdfunding campaign, make sure you have all your facts straight. Joel Hughes, Head of UK and Europe at Indiegogo, debunks the five most common crowdfunding myths.

Myth #1: A good idea is enough to get you funded

Reality: Having an interesting idea is often just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to crowdfunding success. There are thousands of active campaigns for all sorts of gadgets and products across multiple crowdfunding platforms at any given moment.

To reach your goal, you need to develop a plan of action to spread the word about your campaign. Don’t restrict this just to your immediate network of friends and family. Make sure that everyone and anyone knows about it. There are tons of ways to spread the word including social media channels, direct emailing, LinkedIn networking events, and more. If you combine a few of these methods you’ll reach more people, so mix it up!

Myth #2: The work starts when the campaign starts

Reality: Crowdfunding requires hard work long before launch. You can’t just post a description of your project on the campaign page and expect backers to be willing to invest. You need to have all your ducks in a row before you launch.

We recommend beginning work on the campaign at least two months before your official launch date. This is the minimum amount of time needed to create a strong email list and build a community around your idea – two essential factors in your campaign’s success. Use this time to do your research, have a schedule, gather a strong team, define roles, and line up all your assets before your launch. If you prepare well in advance, you’ll be able to work in an efficient manner for the duration of your campaign.

Myth #3: It’s all about the money

Reality: A successful campaign isn’t about just reaching your funding goal. Crowdfunding offers more than just a boost in finances. It’s a great way to validate your idea and generate some buzz.

Crowdfunding is changing how entrepreneurs and innovators are bringing products to market. It is enabling thousands of innovators to generate brand awareness and facilitate a larger conversation with backers and potential customers, all while still in the product development process.

Myth #4: All crowdfunding platforms are the same 

Reality: There are a wide variety of platforms that you can choose from, so you need to understand the nuances between them in order to identify which one is best for your project. Choosing the right crowdfunding platform is important to the success of a crowdfunding campaign in converting people who view your campaign into backers.

Be sure you research what each platform offers, including fees, flexibility, customisation and support to help you run a successful campaign. Depending on your product, there may be some platforms that are more appropriate than others. Another factor to consider is the fundraising model each platform uses as there are several available, including rewards, equity, donation, hybrid, and lending.

Myth #5: A big social following is required to be successful

Reality: Social media is a great way to spread the word about your crowdfunding campaign, however, it’s not the only way.

The fundamental key for effective outreach is engagement. When planning your outreach strategy, keep your request as personalised as possible in order to increase the chance of a contribution. Email, for example, is often a more effective way of reaching contributors because it’s direct and personal. Avoid sending mass ‘BCC emails’ and instead send individually tailored messages. Whilst this might take more time, it’s likely to result in more contributions.

Regardless of your assumptions about starting a business, the most important thing to remember is that crowdfunding is much more than a months’ long campaign to reach a funding goal. It can also be used to raise awareness amongst consumers and for market validation. There are a plethora of factors to take into consideration before launching a campaign such as who’ll be part of your team, what incentives you’ll be offering your backers and how you’ll be building your database of contacts. Once you have your assets all lined up and you’re ready to go. It’s time to click the ‘launch’ button and dispel the crowdfunding myths once and for all.

 

Failing business
FinanceInfrastructure and Project Finance

Lessons From Carillion: Act Now And Ensure Auditor Independence

LESSONS FROM CARILLION: ACT NOW AND ENSURE AUDITOR INDEPENDENCE

By Mehran Eftekhar, Group Finance & Corporate Services Director, Nest Investments

With a parliamentary inquiry into the collapse of Carillion underway, Britain’s four biggest accountancy firms are facing new scrutiny. All of the Big 4 apparently failed to detect a near £1 billion overvaluation of assets in the company.

The UK’s Financial Reporting Council (FRC) is calling for the competition regulator to investigate audit failings leading up to Carillion’s collapse. One of the biggest issues the Carillion story has exposed is the varied quality of independent oversight in the business.

The FRC investigation will look at the ethical and technical standards of the auditors involved. Their independence and integrity will be under the spotlight like never before. The FRC’s Chief Executive, Stephen Haddrill, has told MPs there needs to be more competition in the major accounting and audit markets. Unfortunately, independence – or the lack thereof – is a contentious issue already debated but with little resulting action. Back in 2013, the Big 4 were heavily criticised for their close personal relationships with chief executives. Nothing was done.

Taking lessons from the Carillion example, and the countless before it, is vital for all growing businesses. Whilst the FRC’s investigations will take many months, there are crucial, simple steps businesses can take now to safeguard the quality of their own audits.

It starts with independence…

A key to delivering quality auditing and accountancy services is understanding the business model whilst remaining independent. This independence is characterised by integrity and objectivity when assessing clients’ businesses and accounts. Auditors must carry out their work fearlessly, freely, without bias and without vested interests in the audit’s outcome so that the reports they produce are accurate and correctly evidenced.

To be truly independent, an auditor must achieve something experts call ‘independence of mind’. This means that the auditor can make unilateral decisions and does not find itself facing conflicts of interest that impact upon financial reporting. Pressures from senior executives, as well as the auditor’s internal pressures to upsell additional services, and the emotional pull of interpersonal relationships are all factors that can impact on true auditor independence.

Can independence ever really be assured?

The short answer is no. But there are several steps that business leaders can take to ensure greater independence as their corporate governance framework develops.

1) Keep auditors separate from your Board of Directors
Understand that an external auditor makes their living from the fee that you pay them. Naturally, this creates pressure to work in a way that will not jeopardise engagement. Whether subconsciously or not, this can potentially impact upon the independence of the audit’s outcome. Many studies have found that the larger the fee, the more likely an auditor is to fluff their role and produce an audit that panders to their client, rather than giving them the advice they need. To avoid manipulation of figures, usually inadvertent or subconscious, auditors need to be protected from the Board of Directors in a way which allows them to challenge statements without fear of recrimination. Brief your Board and check egos at the door, if you want independent results.

2) Help auditors to understand your business
Very often audits start without understanding the client business model: a quick, tick-box exercise does not work. External auditors must have a purpose and the required knowledge of the processes they are auditing. It is very well checking historical information, but projections going forward with a comprehensive business plan provide valuable information. Make sure your auditors have transparent access to this in order to provide the most objective review possible.

3) Diversify suppliers
Often audit firms are large organisations that provide multiple services to one client. Tax advice, ICT consultancy and even marketing communications support are some of the additional services offered by the Big 4. Adding substantial non-audit fees into your professional relationship can seriously impact upon auditor independence. Reduce the auditor’s dependence on you, and preserve their independence, by shopping around for other suppliers.

4) Don’t keep using the same audit firm
Finding an external firm that you like can sometimes be a challenge, but it is important to rotate audit contracts so that personal relationships do not hamper auditor independence. By keeping the same audit firm year after year, it is nearly impossible for external auditors to not become conflicted between reporting financial vulnerabilities or failings and the need to maintain relations and contracts. Instead, when an auditor knows that their contract is to be replaced, they become inclined to produce work of an extremely high and independent quality, to avoid the embarrassment of the incoming audit team exposing their errors.

Currently the United States is leading the way in ensuring auditor independence. There is a legal requirement on businesses to review audit control procedures every three years, ensuring that external audits are carried out professionally and independently. No such system has been formally implemented in the UK. The Carillion story may see tides turning in the near future.

Businesses must ensure they are being provided with the highest quality audit reports. Follow the steps above to avoid the same fate as Carillion. Your reports will be of higher quality and you will secure the future of your business.

 

3EAccounting
AccountancyRegulation

A Sneak Peek into the Success Story of 3E Accounting

A Sneak Peek into the Success Story of 3E Accounting

3E Accounting Pte. Ltd. stands out as one of the leading service providers, especially in Singapore Companies Registration and Corporate Secretarial Services, with its one-stop solution that covers all of its client’s accounting and regulatory requirements. We spoke to Managing Director, Lawrence Chai, to gain an insight into the firm’s impressive success.

Throughout Singapore, many people are looking for a reliable services provider who can fulfil their accounting, taxation, secretarial, immigration, human resources, payroll, legal, marketing and other compliance need. Located in Novena, 3E Accounting makes the cut as one of the leaders in these cost-effective professional solutions for startups and small- to medium-sized firms with their principle: efficiency, effectiveness and economy.

The professional team at 3E Accounting, which comprises highly experienced and expert professionals in Singapore’s financial, tax, corporate and regulatory milieu, is one of the important reasons that factorised the success of the company.

The husband and wife team, who are also the founders of 3E Accounting, Lawrence Chai and Stephanie Chua are the driving force behind the continuous success that 3E Accounting achieves. Before starting up 3E Accounting, the pair worked for an audit firm where work-life balance was not an important part of the workplace culture. When they were expecting their first child in 2011, the thought of having more family time prompted them to start their accounting firm.

Another key factor was that they both noticed the discrepancy in services at some other firms in Singapore. Many accounting companies are offering overpriced financial services which not many people can afford. Drawing on their combined years of experience in the industry, both Lawrence and Stephanie were confident that they could start an accounting firm that offers financial services at affordable price.

“We started everything from scratch. I assumed the role of Managing Director, while Stephanie assumed the role of Director. It might sound incredible that a small firm started in 2011with two staff and limited clients would have penetrated the market (high, medium and low segment) at such an incredibly fast rate. Yet, we did it!”

“As of now, we are proud to say that 3E Accounting is currently one of the leading service providers in Singapore that supports entrepreneurs to start their business with our one-stop solutions.” said Lawrence. Having built the company from scratch, Lawrence clearly has a goal in mind and he outlines the vision of the firm, detailing what techniques will be used in order for staff to hit their targets and achieve the overall mission, something he is clearly excited about. 3E Accounting is not just a normal accounting firm, but a one-stop solution provider that offers all the services under one roof. The diversity in services shows that 3E Accounting is truly the one-stop solution services provider in Singapore.

In addition to this, expanding the geographic footprint of the business to the whole world has always been one of its core goal. 3E Accounting expanded into Malaysia in 2014, and it is currently the leading services provider in Malaysia. In 2016, 3E Accounting started its own international accounting network: 3E Accounting International network, which is managed by 3E Accounting International. It’s expanding and growing fast with 54 countries, 86 offices and 1,300 staff worldwide today. The “Best Home-grown Global Accounting Network” award was the important milestone as it endorsed the reputation of the international network.

Lawrence goes into a bit more detail about the accounting network.

“We are the Accounting Alliance that consists of top international accounting firms across the globe. 3E Accounting International accounting network only recognises accountancy companies or global corporate service providers with strong professional backgrounds and product knowledge. Our Accounting Alliance members will embrace a service culture that emphasises efficiency and effectiveness through personal touch, swift response times, reliability and innovative thinking. We work together within the global framework provided by the international alliance of global accounting firms, where most of our member firms can provide integrated one-stop solution services and international accounting services to our clients.”

Capitalising on its global success, 3E Accounting has also garnered a reputation for being a tech savvy accounting firm. It has also recently become the first accounting firm to implement the revolutionary double robotic technology. The adaptation of the emerging robotics technology in the workplace provides a flexible working environment for staff. Besides, this technology also enables the firm’s valuable workers to contribute and communicate with other team members, regardless of the geographical barriers.

Moreover, 3E Accounting is well aware of the urgency of employing software or online tools in today’s business world, and Lawrence and Stephanie understand how this can benefit all companies in the long run. Therefore, specialists in 3E Accounting will take the initiative to introduce suitable software or tool that suits their customer’s business. In relation to this, 3E Accounting is now a Xero Certified Advisor, providing Xero Cloud Accounting Software in Singapore on valuable business and tax advice that assists our client’s in setting up Xero software. Furthermore, 3E Accounting is also a QuickBooks ProAdvisors that provides QuickBooks Online Services in Singapore to our clients, as well as deep product knowledge and a stellar client service.

On top of that, 3E Accounting value talents more than anyone else does. They believe that solving the hardest problems requires the best people. “We think that the best people will be drawn to
the opportunity to work on the hardest problems and that’s where we build our firm around that belief.” The large pool of professionals in 3E Accounting is one of the notable reasons that the firm outperforms its peers. There is a right mix and number of accredited and experienced professionals in the team, such as a registered qualified accountant, qualified secretaries, a qualified tax agent and a qualified GST agent, along with a qualified HR personnel, and lastly a qualified immigration consultant. Besides, they have a strong network with professionals and specialists from different fields, who they can refer their client to for help, that consists of good lawyers, bankers, fintech companies, auditors, software vendors, property agents, insurance agents and many more. The strong network and resources are a kind of assurance to clients that they can get any required assistance when they come to 3E Accounting.

3E Accounting put client interests ahead of the firm’s. To ensure that clients are able to have an input into the firm’s operations, 3E Accounting uses its complaints system as a customer whistleblowing charter, because the firm believes that customers’ views count and should be acted upon. Their almost 100% customer satisfaction score vouches their reputation. Every complaint is personally handled by Lawrence and is taken with incredibly seriousness, and dealt with the utmost urgency. The team are committed to responding to clients within 24 hours, and the management are always monitoring the system to ensure all staff adhere to the principle.

As a leading player in the finance industry, Lawrence gives us his views on the state of the industry at present, and explains what major challenges the company and the industry face. He then goes on to describe how 3E Accounting stays ahead of emerging developments within the industry.

“Fundamentally, the major challenge that we are facing now is the adaptation of technology by accounting firms and how to transform the business to be future-ready. For 3E Accounting, we incorporate technology into our workplace and stay updated on all new developments. We adopt technology and get ourselves ready for the future, as we have migrated most of our services to the cloud as well as a hybrid IT environment with physical servers and cloud based servers.

“We have strong banking relationships with our banking counterpart – OCBC Bank. 3E Accounting has been recognised as an OCBC Platinum Partner in 2017 in Malaysia. This is not an ordinary recognition and we are one of the few companies to get it,” Internally, it is vital that all of Lawrence’s employees are working towards the same mission and heading the same direction.

He explains how he cultivates the good internal culture within the firm, ensuring that staff can provide the very best service to its clients. “Honestly, I am proud to say that we have a family-oriented working environment at 3E Accounting. We started 3E Accounting when we were expecting our first child, and that is the
main reason that we were inspired to be the best employers in a leading firm that promotes a good work-life balance in accounting industry. The company offers employees a flexible working arrangement, allowing employees to take leave at any time to take care of their family. With our family-oriented culture, we are able to attract majority of the staff force of more than 90% female for the past five years. At 3E Accounting, we wanted to make a difference.”

“Another thing worth mentioning is we have a low staff turnover rate and high staff retention rate. We do not find it difficult to get talent and we can attract talent to join us easily. Furthermore, we focus on staff professional growth. We provide opportunities and chances to our staff to grow and learn. For example, we trained our administration staff to become immigration consultant, human resource personnel as well as compliance officers. We focus on the capability and experiences rather than just certificate itself.” On 28 November 2016, the team was honoured to have the Senior Minister of State, Mrs Josephine Teo, to visit its headquarter office in Singapore. During the visit, Mrs Teo got to know the good employment practices that have been adopted by 3E Accounting, as well as the technology that the firm has used to enhance work productivity. This aspired the firm to continue to cultivate the work life balance culture.

3E Accounting’s efforts pay off with awards and recognitions. On 1 November 2017, 3E Accounting PLT and 3E Accounting Pte. Ltd were both honoured to be awarded separately, the Best Company Registration Specialist of the Year 2017/2018 in Malaysia and Singapore respectively. 3E Accounting was also listed as the Top 30 Accounting Firms in Singapore, as well as being featured in Singapore Business Review’s Magazine for January 2016 issue. This global growth, together with awards and recognition from some of the world’s leading industry experts, highlights 3E Accounting’s ongoing prosperity.

Ultimately, the current management and organisation of 3E Accounting demonstrates the future of accounting firm. The team always work hard to retain its position as the leading services provider. “Our mission is to help our clients make distinctive, lasting, and substantial improvements in their businesses. We believe we will be successful if our clients are successful. Also, we aim to be the world’s leading corporate service provider, offering services beyond excellence. Lastly, we strive to help SMEs, not because we want to make profits, but because we want to see the SMEs to grow with us”

 

Contact: Lawrence Chai

Address: 51 Goldhill Plaza #07-10/11 Singapore, 308900

Phone: +65 66909262

Website: www.3ecpa.com.sg

housing investment
FundsReal Estate

Real Estate Investments Delivering Mixed Fortunes

Real Estate Investments Delivering Mixed Fortunes

Statistics from the Office of National Statistics, released this February, have shown what many experts in the property sector had been discussing for some time. With prime central London districts in desperate need of further housing, investments into this area would seemingly be a ‘no-brainer’. A large influx of property developers should be praised however it seems that their market positioning hasn’t left them in as good stead as they would have previously hoped.

It seems that many of the developers lost sight of their main audience for the projects and have left themselves in a precarious situation.in need of housing, but this housing has been developed at a price point far above the limit of those who in need of it. As planning applications frequently go to the highest bidder who has large-scale profits ahead of the need to provide ample housing.

Potential doubt over the impact that a lack of impetus from foreign investors will have across the sector, has been the topic of much speculation. With findings published by Land Registry supporting the idea that foreign investors are “shying away from the capitals market”. The figures show a 55% decrease in the number of high-end new build homes sold in London’s most select areas.

In fresh statistics (February 2018) paint a good picture of the UK market, where over the course of 2017 house prices rose by 13.7%, increasing the average UK House price to £258,580. The largest increases were found in Cambridge and the Orkney Islands at 15.7% and 18.2% respectively. These figures do not spread down into the South East where the housing market is traditionally most prosperous.

Of the areas which demonstrated the sharpest decrease, three of the top five are in Greater London, of which two are historically the most affluent areas of London in The City and Kensington & Chelsea with respective decreases of 5.3% and 10.7%. The house prices in these areas have fallen due to the trend of high-end ‘ultra-luxury’ property remaining unsold for long periods of time has been. Analysis from Hometrack has shown

Market analysis from Hometrack demonstrates how figures representing changes in asking price to agreed sale have increased as home-owners continue to take more off the value of their property to increase the likelihood of a completed sale. Over the past 4 years in central London this figure has “grown from 0.5% in 2014 to 4% today, with discounts of up to 10% registered in inner London.”

This downturn in sales has affected all parts of high-end London housing as a report by Mayfair agents demonstrates. There is a recurring pattern of exclusive housing with no residents. This couldn’t be seen in a more exaggerated fashion than when looking at The Shard, this famous building remains in the headlines for its incredible architecture, however, the infamous apartments at the top of The Shard remain unsold almost 5 years after they were initially put on the market. This is at a considerable cost of over £50m. This isn’t a unique situation, as in London alone, almost 2,000 apartments valued over £750,000 remain unsold over a year since their initial entrance into the market.

As Land Registry figures show that since the financial crash of 2008, property values have stuttered in their ability to regain the peak they hit prior to 2008. Over 10 years have passed since this peak and relatively poor performance can be seen when filtering the results by months with the highest rate of completed property sales, from 1995 onwards, there is only one single month post 2008 that features in the top 100.

This trend isn’t exclusively a problem in the United Kingdom. Prime real estate markets across Europe and the United States have suffered a fall in demand leaving the most ostentatious of properties without residents, in what the Financial Times describes as “the five-year global boom…. .appears to be ending in a global glut”

business abroard
Corporate TaxTax

What are the main tax concerns for businesses looking to set up a branch abroad?

The hundreds of different nations across the globe – all with different laws and different tax rules – offer businesses an exciting platform to expand their trade. Financial advisers can look how to best advise their business clients on how to minimise their tax bill, using their knowledge and expertise to identify the best opportunities across the world. Expanding abroad is very expensive as it is but you can save money through an understanding of the tax system.

Challenging economic times mean that companies are looking to save money where they can and reduce their tax payments to stay competitive – especially if they feel that they are paying more tax than is fair.

Tax jurisdictions deliberately attract business by cutting their tax rates

Tax jurisdictions which are struggling economically deliberately cut their corporate tax rate with the pressure to compete and attract more business. Britain is known to be exceptionally ‘high tax’, so it makes financial sense for businesses to look for alternatives-even if they do sometimes go too far!

While companies may look to pay less VAT, they contribute vast amounts to the UK economy in other ways – but they need to stay competitive in order to do so. A huge amount of tax comes from UK businesses, but only a small amount of that is corporation tax. Therefore in its current form, corporate tax is perishing, because a product is no longer made in just one country.

Location, location, location

It is universally acknowledged that companies can minimise their tax bills by setting up branches abroad. For example, Google UK operates in Ireland and Bermuda, taking advantage of the low tax rates and state that they have a responsibility to their shareholders to minimise costs. Google deliberately chose Ireland as its nucleus to coordinate marketing and sales across Europe.

When a business chooses where to locate its distribution and service hubs, headquarters and factories, it makes financial sense to choose a low-tax jurisdiction. Obviously tax is just one of the criteria when a business is looking to set up a branch abroad – they also have to locate near local suppliers and an expert workforce.

It is extremely doubtful that a universal corporate tax law will be implemented across Europe in response to this movement, as this would mean that countries such as Ireland would lose out, no longer able to offer a cheap rate to cut the amount companies must pay on profit thereby no longer attracting business when they desperately need to.

Transfer pricing

Cash-needy governments are looking to crack down on businesses saving tax abroad, but even if a company can’t set up a branch abroad it can still move its taxable profits overseas. For example, the UK part of the business lending money to other branches abroad – this is known as ‘transfer pricing’. Intercompany transactions are of course perfectly legal.

Setting up a branch abroad for the first time

With the knowledge that taxes vary from country to country, the first step is to maximise tax efficiency by finding out what tax you are required to pay in which country.

Planning your move is crucial – your financial advisor will need to look into whether you need to create a permanent establishment abroad and whether it will benefit your business better as a branch or a subsidiary.

Other factors to negotiate or consider include whether you should recruit staff locally, or bring UK staff (UK tax resident or overseas residency) and how that will impact tax you pay. You will need to register for local tax and take into account your foreign currency, banking obligations and repatriation of profits.

These are the main tax concerns which can have significant consequence for your business:

• Payroll tax obligations

Payroll Tax is worked out by your wage total that you pay out per month and is collected in each branch of the business

• The impact of the OECD BEPS programme

The Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) designed a plan known as the BEPS programme, to try to reform the international tax system

• Controlled Foreign Companies legislation

The legislation is designed to prevent low tax jurisdictions benefiting from UK profits

• Withholding taxes

This is a tax deduction in wages, paid directly to the government

• Transfer of Assets Abroad

The Transfer of Assets Abroad (TOAA) prevents UK nationals using foreign transfers to save on tax

• Thin capitalisation

Thin capitalisation is where a business is financially boosted via a high level of debt compared to equity

• Structuring of operations including the foreign branch exemption

UK businesses can apply for profits of their branches abroad to be exempt from UK taxation

• Double tax treaty issues

Bilateral tax treaties alleviate double taxation when it happens – most EU countries have this in place

• Corporate tax residency

HMRC are seeking to maximise tax during this currently unstable economic time

• Operation of the UK R&D and Patent Box tax regimes

Businesses can apply for a lower corporation tax rate for profits made by patented inventions.

There are many key benefits for a business in setting up a branch abroad, including tax savings that can be found in the government incentives of the country you choose to move to.

Differing countries are sure to want to attract your business and a branch abroad offers access to a potentially untapped market, an increase in global brand identity and better business recognition and support in a more encouraging environment.

Seeking expert tax advice will allow you to watch out for the pitfalls and take advantage of the opportunity to expand and grow your business.