Category: Articles

Articles

Mark Cushway Challenges the Place of Duty in Leadership

Does doing your duty mean doggedly pursuing an aim even if the evidence around you, and the opinions of others are telling you otherwise?

Current affairs often centre on the issue of whether someone in a prominent position is doing their duty, or whether their interpretation of this duty is correct when it comes to making important decisions.

Mark Cushway, leadership expert, entrepreneur and motivational speaker, explains, ““The thing about duty is that it is not simply a noble cause to be pursued at any cost. If a leader fails to adapt, then they are failing in their duty.”



THE ART OF DECISION MAKING

“Leaders find themselves at the sharp end when it comes to making tough decisions. This can be emotionally and mentally demanding.”

These can be decisions involving firing staff or setting out bold, new strategic directions, which come with risks attached.

“Taking a measured approach to decision making means weighing up the options, but not getting distracted by considering too many of them. It also means quantifying them.”

Leadership also means looking not just at short-term repercussions but also long-term implications and impacts.

“Leaders have to be willing to adapt. Some of the confusion around duty comes from seeing it as something rigid and fixed where, in business, as a CEO it is your duty to be adaptable.”



LISTENING AND INSPIRING

Adaptability in leadership requires an ability to listen well and to understand the perspective of other people.

“You can only truly inspire others if you can demonstrate a degree of empathy towards them.”

Where a leader’s duty is to establish and maintain a business’s values and to inspire others to follow them, they need to show some transparency in how they relate to people and be open to suggestions and opinions from other quarters.

“Don’t mistake listening and adapting your approach as a weakness. Duty does not require that you wear blinkers. It does, however, require that you act in the best interests of your business, its employees, shareholders and stakeholders.”

“You cannot simply follow a pre-prepared script doggedly and be unprepared to deviate from it when real world circumstances are telling you to adapt in order to survive.”

Mark Cushway is an experienced specialist in leadership coaching. He is also an entrepreneur and motivational speaker. Discover more about him by visiting markcushway.com

Securities

Contact Centre Payments – Going Mobile

Rob Crutchington at Encoded looks at how the mobile market is changing the way customers choose to make payments

Over recent years there has been a huge increase in the number of smartphone users, apps downloaded and mobile transactions, presenting new challenges for contact centres. In fact, according to this year’s UK Contact Centre Decision Makers’ Guide (DMG) by industry analyst ContactBabel(i) “Statistics that show the number of smartphone users, volume of apps downloaded and the value of mobile transactions are rising so quickly that they would be out-of-date before the report was published”. An astonishing thought.

The rise of the smartphone
This rise of the smartphone has changed the way customers choose to interact with companies. Not just browsing for goods or services, they are now actively using their mobile devices to check balances, pay bills, order items online or post reviews. This means whether banking, checking utility bills or shopping, customers expect quick, easy access to their favourite transactional websites.

This change has meant that companies have had to make changes to the mechanics of their websites, updating them to make them truly ‘mobile friendly’. According to the ContactBabel report, of the contact centres providing mobile customer service, over 80% now have a mobile version and around 50% offer a smartphone app.

Omni-channel is now all-knowing
The key difference is that customers want to act (such as pay a bill) or make a decision (sign up for a service or buy online), rather than just browse websites. As a result, the contact centre is no longer just managing calls and emails, they must be able to handle customer enquiries and payments via text and social media, such as Facebook Messenger, Twitter and other apps to provide a superior service.

This increase in the use of mobile raises some interesting issues and challenges, highlighted in the DMG report. The nature of a mobile phone is that is can provide a lot of information about the caller including the person’s ID, their location and other stored data such as account and payment details. As ContactBabel states, “Businesses can now know more about their customers and their specific requirements and preferences than ever before”.

The obvious benefits are that the company immediately has customer information during a call, which aside from the necessary security questions, facilitates a smoother customer journey. Background data can also provide opportunities to check a customer’s browsing and purchase history, to enable agents to offer promotions and up/cross sell during the interaction.

Maximising mobile service functionality
A rise in the use of Instant Messaging (IM) where customers can choose to make payments automatically by simply replying to an IM message has also changed the role of customer services. It allows customers to make payments ‘in their time’ and reduces the number of voice calls needed to chase payments. It is also a useful tool for companies to promote products or services or for customer service surveys. ContactBabel claims that; “large operations are more likely to be using SMS to communicate with customers, with 82% of respondents from this size band doing so.” However, where larger companies go now, smaller ones are sure to follow.

Making customer data security a priority
So far so good. However, with these great opportunities also come responsibility and that means ensuring that both the customer’s ID and payment details are protected. Any payments must comply with PCI DSS regulations and the new GDPR mandate to ensure mobile and online security of data (ways to tackle these are discussed in the PCI Compliance and Card Security chapter of the ContactBabel report).

As a PCI-DSS Level One Accredited Supplier, Encoded has for some time provided contact centres and their customers with a secure payment platform to ensure that transactions are fully automated and that confidential data is stored centrally and securely. Our new customer engagement platform now expands the offering to accommodate this mobile world.

The Encoded customer engagement platform works with SMS and other forms of IM including Facebook messenger and Whats App to support outbound dialling and integrates with many other services such as email and voice to enable multi-channel transactions. Designed with PCI DSS and GDPR in mind, it ensures complete security of mobile and online customer data. It also incorporates Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology that simulates human conversations to handle routine parts of customer interactions, which means a smaller number of contact centre staff can handle a larger number of transactions.

True customer engagement reaps benefits
There are many benefits to be gained from embracing this new mobile world – from facilitating faster payments, reducing debt levels with faster resolution of accounts (and less agent time spent chasing), to keeping customers updated via broadcasts of product offers and promotions. If your contact centre hasn’t yet gone mobile, then now is the time to act. Customers will vote with their smartphone, not their feet, and choose the companies that offer true mobile omni-channel customer service.

For more information or to arrange a demonstration of the Encoded Customer Engagement Platform please visit Encoded
(i) The UK Contact Centre Decision-Makers’ Guide (15th edition – 2017-18)

Articles

From Finance to Footcare – Founder of the UK’s First and Only Gentleman’s Pedicure Room

Founder of the UK’s first and only Gentleman’s pedicure room discusses the change from cutting deals in finance to clipping toenails in his first venture

Aldwyn Boscawen founded his eponymous brand at the age of 28 after becoming one the country’s few male pedicurists and following a career in the financial sector.

As an Old Etonian, it is not what you may say is a stereotypical path. Aldwyn went on to study Surveying at the Royal Agricultural College and during this time, Aldwyn had his first introduction to dancing feet with a role building dancefloors and staging. Despite a steady income, Aldwyn had his sights set on a career in the finance sector and after graduating, landed a role in currency broking and later, futures trading. Aldwyn’s end goal was to enter the world of wealth management, and after finishing his CISI exams, the only job he was offered was in a regional office in Truro!

By chance, Aldwyn was introduced to Andrew Turnbull, co-founder of Wellesley & Co, who was on the cusp of launching of his own peer-to-peer lending platform. A case of right time, right place, Aldwyn snapped up the chance to be at the forefront of this pioneering venture and grasped with both hands the opportunity to work alongside an inspiring entrepreneur, who fast became a great mentor.

Aldwyn quickly progressed through the ranks from starting as an associate in November 2013 to his final appointment as Head of Marketing, a pivotal role that saw Aldwyn build a team that raised over £500 million of investment.

Just over 4 years later in September 2017, feeling disillusioned with the financial sector and having recently become a father to his first child, a son, Aldwyn bravely handed in his notice in pursuit of his ambitions to be at the forefront of a step change in men’s grooming.

Aldwyn said: “The idea for Aldwyn & Sons came from a typical moment of uncertainty. I was driving down Battersea Park Road with my Mother, noticing how my feet needed some attention. Passing the nail bars and beauty salons, I knew there was an answer in there, but in no way would I step across the threshold – I felt I would be laughed out of the door!

“My next thought was where could I go and feel comfortable? I knew I could not be alone in this – I am active, I play a fair amount of sport, and am tall enough that extensive footcare at home is hazardous and therefore my feet go ignored and unloved. A nail salon really wasn’t for me and there was little else on the market to address my unsightly, coarse and at times uncomfortable feet.”

It was through further market research that Aldwyn gained valuable insight and an understanding of the benefits of pedicures – “I realised that pedicures were more than the functionality of cleaning feet. They gave me ‘me time’, self-gratification and a spring in my step that very few other things could.”

Aldwyn quickly realised he was onto something and went in search of a course to learn the skills, during which time he gathered some humorous tales, being a male in a largely female dominated world – “Painting I think would have been easier if I had done many year’s painting my own nails, which I imagine many trainees may have!”

12 months later and following a lot of rejection and refinement, Aldwyn was armed with qualification and brand in hand: “I became a pedicurist with a vision, rather than a businessman with big pedicurist brand in mind.”

Aldwyn & Sons was born and threw open its doors for the very first time in November 2018 in London’s fine Fitzrovia, finding home in a ‘speakeasy’ style room at the back of a barbershop, with décor inspired by an English Gentleman’s library. The unique space can be found at the back of the acclaimed Sharps Barber & Shop on 9 Windmill Street and offers a menu of manicure and pedicure treatments, totally tailored for the modern man.

Aldwyn & Sons is an environment for the quintessentially British Gentleman and seeks to change men’s attitudes towards footcare and the way it is provided. Aldwyn & Sons encourages men to come and put their feet up, in a relaxing setting, with the core belief that all men should look after their feet, as the results affect overall health from head to toe.

Aldwyn adds: “My favourite part of the job is being the ‘footman’. I like to think that there is nothing uncool about being a male ‘Nail Technician’. I get to meet very interesting people and for a brief period in their day, offer a safe sanctuary for them to escape the trials and tribulations of the outside world.”

Taking inspiration from the role of the footman from yesteryear, Aldwyn & Sons seeks to modernise this role within today’s society. With the tradition appearing so scarcely in modern society, today ‘The Modern Footman’ has a new meaning, it is the pivotal step forward for footcare of today’s gentleman, as provided by Aldwyn & Sons.

In just over two months, Aldwyn & Sons has received critical acclaim and quickly become a go-to grooming destination for city slickers, happening hipsters and notable names alike. Today Aldwyn’s days are spent finessing the feet of London’s very best movers and shakers with a rafter of models, influencers and VIP names bustling for an appointment.

Articles

Brexit-proof Oliver Brown’s annual turnover set to hit £5million

Regarded as one of the finest gentlemen’s outfitters in the UK, Oliver Brown is the home to classic British ready-to-wear menswear and exquisite bespoke tailoring. Proprietor Kristian Ferner Robson brought the company out of liquidation in 1998 when it predominantly sold women’s country clothing. He has since transformed the business into a multi-million-pound success, with 50% growth predicted for 2019, building on the previous year’s growth of 50%.

The current Brexit-woes experienced by the high street are not affecting Oliver Brown – with more customers from Europe than ever before and spend per customer increasing significantly over the past two years, annual turnover is set to hit £5million. With worldwide appeal, Oliver Brown also attracts clients from the UAE, Australia and America –US trade is experiencing particularly strong growth, supported by the Breeder’s Cup.

At the helm of the business, Ferner Robson has used his knowledge, expertise and love of tailoring and formalwear to transform Oliver Brown’s offering. A wise decision in the early days to introduce the option to hire formalwear of the highest quality now sees Oliver Brown on target to hire over 2,000 morning suits over Royal Ascot week alone. Men’s suiting remains the key sector for the brand, with the number of suits sold growing exponentially with a 275% increase projected for 2018/19 compared to the previous year.

One of the most significant developments for their tailoring in recent years has been the store expansion – doubling in size in late 2017 – which provided space for a dedicated bespoke department. The decision to expand bespoke tailoring at Oliver Brown was borne out of the success of the existing alterations service and the brand hasn’t looked back since. Oliver Brown’s revenue from Bespoke services alone is on course to reach £750,000 by the end of 2019.

Oliver Brown boasts the most comprehensive collection of top hats in the world, as well as being an Official Licensee of Royal Ascot which contributes over £1million to the brand’s annual turnover. This licensee agreement activation was one of the greatest accolades for Kristian; as someone who spent his childhood attending race meetings with his father, this was ultimately where his interest of top hats and racing started.

Further establishing the brand in the racing world, many international champion jockeys and trainers come to the store specially to buy their suits for prestigious race meetings. Oliver Brown is also the official sponsor of the Chelsea Thoroughbreds syndicate, with Kristian himself owning a stake in a racehorse.

Alongside his love for horse racing and an extremely successful career in tailoring, Kristian also has a passion for property, having worked on a portfolio across the British capital. Kristian sought to secure an offer on his current house, a charming mews in Ladbroke Grove, by offering to make the suits for the agent who sold it to him. The interior was designed by Alberto Marcos Flores who created a scandi-inspired feel throughout by installing a living wall and digging a basement extension. Kristian’s property is currently listed with Strutt & Parker.

blockchain
BankingFinance

Swiss President Ueli Maurer to Attend 4th International Blockchain Conference

blockchain

Swiss President Ueli Maurer to Attend 4th International Blockchain Conference CV Summit in Zug

The CV Summit, held in the heart of the Crypto Valley, in Zug, Switzerland, has become one of the most important blockchain events in Switzerland. The summit’s 4th edition on March 27th will revolve around #BUIDL, focusing on the development of the technology instead of crypto speculations. The welcome address will be held by the President of the Swiss Confederation and Finance Minister Ueli Maurer, who is a strong advocate of the blockchain technology and the Blockchain Nation Switzerland.

The 4th edition of the CV Summit starts on March 26th with an Open House networking afternoon and the CV Competition Top 10 pitches at the CV Lab’s newly inaugurated Liquid Lounge. The Top 3 projects will then present their blockchain solutions the next day at the official CV Summit. The CV Competition is a startup contest for blockchain projects. Each competition targets a specific industry: this year everything revolves around the real estate industry. The winner receives $100,000 in funding, expert coaching and complementary working space at CV Labs.

On March 27th, the official CV Summit at the Theater Casino in Zug starts with opening remarks by the newly instated Mayor of the City of Zug, Karl Kobelt. The Mayor won’t be the only political representative at the summit: later in the day, the Swiss President Ueli Maurer will provide some updates on “Blockchain Nation Switzerland”. As the head of the Federal Department of Finance, Ueli Maurer is responsible for the new blockchain regulations expected in the next weeks.
Throughout the day, experienced industry leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs will be sharing their insights and views on how to #BUIDL towards the crypto spring. Notable speakers include Jorge Sebastiao (CTO Ecosystem, Huawei Technologies), Nathan Kaiser (Chairperson, Cardano Foundation) and Niklas Nikolajsen (Co-CEO and Chairman, Bitcoin Suisse), with more to be announced soon. Companies represented at the summit include Alethena, Bitcoin Suisse, Cardano, Coreledger, Forctis.io, Bank Frick, Generali, IOHK, inacta, Kucoin, Lamassu, Lykke, Mt. Pelerin, PwC & strategy&, Swiss Economics, SwissRe Sygnum, ZBX and others.

“Over the last two years, the CV Summit has become an integral part of the Crypto Valley community and the international blockchain scene. Themed #BUIDL towards Crypto Spring, this year’s edition shows how the industry is focusing on the further development of blockchain technology after the market correction in the so-called ‘Crypto Winter’”, says Mathias Ruch, Founder & CEO of CV VC and the CV Summit.

Glossary: #BUIDL
Crypto slang for “to build” – meaning do develop the technology and the ecosystems. Derived from the term “to HODL”, which is slang in the cryptocurrency community for holding a cryptocurrency rather than selling it. It originated in 2013 in a post on a Bitcoin forum message board, when an apparently inebriated user wrote “I am hodling” (sic) instead of “holding”.

Transactional and Investment Banking

Why Are Investor Relations So Important?

Sometimes overlooked by smaller funds and companies, there has been a surge in focus on investor relations, the investment equivalent of customer service, in recent years, with many businesses now dedicated entire websites, job roles and even departments to the practice. Staff Writer Hannah Stevenson discusses the importance of good investor relations in today’s financial market.

Following the implementation of GDPR, consumers, investors and businesses around the world are becoming increasingly aware of every communication they receive from a company.

As such, compliance, in all its forms, is now even more important to businesses than ever before, and in the financial and investment space this is as vital as it always has been, if not more so. Whilst it has always been crucial to success in the investment market, now compliance, and assuring investors of compliance, has been bought to the fore.

For example, the recent announcement that the UK Government is suspending its Tier-One Investment Visa Programme, with a view to making important changes to this to combat the risk of money laundering. Bruno L’ecuyer, Chief Executive Officer of the Investment Migration Council, made the below comment on the changes and how these would affect investors.

“The UK government may not have much influence with the European Parliament these days, but it has provided an object lesson in how to manage investor migration sensibly and for the benefit of its citizens.

“According to reports, potential investors will have to agree to undergoing a thorough audit of their financial assets, proving they have control of the required capital for at least two years, and will require audits to be undertaken by suitably regulated UK firms.

“Most notably, it appears the UK government recognises the value of investment migration and desires any investment made by individuals to have a greater impact on the UK economy, which is why it is apparently looking at scrapping its own government bond option in favour of directing investment into active and trading UK companies.”

As Bruno highlights, the importance of audits and transparency in this space is as vital as ever, and firms need to be able to prove to both their investors and the authorities that they are acting properly and are fully compliant with all relevant regulations to ensure their continued success.

This is why investor relations have, over recent years, become a vital aspect of any company, fund or asset manager. Many multinational companies, such as Hitachi, Etsy and the Coca Cola Company all operate their own investor relations departments, showcasing the increasing focus companies are putting on the role.

After all, as client satisfaction and feedback become buzzwords within the corporate space, it makes sense that investor relations should also increase in importance, and many companies and investors are now embracing this side of their business. Through strong communication and specialist support, companies, investors and fund managers can ensure that their investors remain on-side and that they understand that their money is in safe hands.

Foreign Direct InvestmentFunds of Funds

Bitcoin: Stability Not Likely For Burgeoning Investment Product

Since it first became accepted as an investment product, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have been fluctuating in price and popularity, going from a viable replacement for cash and credit cards through to merely another flash-in-the-pan concept. Hannah Stevenson, Staff Writer, shares an insight into this product and how its value has changed since it first took off.

Cryptocurrencies, a digital currency that can be exchanged for goods and services in a similar way to cash, have been in circulation since around 2009, although they only became mainstream more recently. Some firms even started accepting it as genuine currency, whilst others have viewed it as an investment opportunity.

Over the years, the currencies have fluctuated in value, as investors and users alike try to understand their potential and adjust to the realities of using online currency as opposed to physical money.

On 8th May, the world’s largest and original digital currency, Bitcoin, jumped around 10 per cent within 24 hours, pushing past $3,700 for the first time in three weeks. Nigel Green, chief executive of deVere Group, commented on the increase.

“It was a relatively sudden jump, and, of course, positive news for those currently holding Bitcoin. However, the price only reached the top of the trading range and investors should not be popping champagne corks just yet.”

 “There are three likely drivers of Bitcoin’s price spike. First, there are widely published reports that according to a leaked interview with a commissioner, a Bitcoin ETF could imminently secure approval from the U.S. securities watchdog.

“Second, the development of the lightning network which will dramatically improve Bitcoin’s well-documented scalability issues, allowing it to move towards mass adoption. And third, the 2020 Bitcoin halving. The code for mining Bitcoin halves around every four years and the next one is set for May 2020. When the code halves, miners receive 50 per cent fewer coins every few minutes. History shows that there is typically a considerable Bitcoin surge resulting from halving events.”

“Bitcoin is the flagship cryptocurrency and, as such, we can expect when its values climb, it will drive prices of other major digital currencies such as Ethereum and XRP.”

This increase is a positive point for Bitcoin, which has faced many challenges in 2019 already, with a number of firms deciding that the currency’s popularity in 2017-2018 was not enough to continue to make it a viable option as a form of payment. 

Among those firms whose attitude towards Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies is forward-thinking waste management firm, BusinessWaste.co.uk, which has recently said that it is ‘reluctantly’ no longer accepting cryptocurrencies – such as Bitcoin – as payment for its services.

The company originally announced it had become the first refuse and recycling business to accept these virtual currencies as payment in 2017 in order to give flexibility to their customers in an increasingly digital age. However, the firm says that despite its efforts, the uncertainties of the market are making digital currencies an unreliable source of payment.

Mark Hall, Communications Director of BusinessWaste.co.uk, commented on the figures and his firm’s inability to accept the currency as a form of payment.

“Cryptocurrencies have become much more mainstream in recent years – which is why we were happy to move with the times and accept these digital forms of money as payment. As a business we are dedicated to being thought leaders and innovating to provide the best service to our clients, and accepting internationally-recognised digital currencies was one way we could do that – but, as with many emerging technologies, there are still wrinkles to be ironed out within the cryptocurrency market.”

These forms of currency – which include the most well-known, Bitcoin, as well as other forms such as Ethereum and Litecoin – are not tied to a particular country’s economy as with standard, or fiat, currency. This means it has a tendency to be much more volatile than fiat currency; for example, in 2010, when the currency made its first real-world transaction, 1 Bitcoin (BTC) was worth less than £0.01. In December 2017, 1 BTC was worth over £15,000 – a fluctuation many times higher than a fiat currency would experience over a 7-year period.

This volatility has come to be considered an intrinsic hazard of a currency whose value works much like traditional stocks and shares – where market rumours and movement have potentially massive knock-on effects on its value. This could have potentially serious ramifications for businesses who accept crypto payments and then find themselves with a payment which has dropped significantly in value within a short period – such as in December 2017, when 1 BTC fell in value from £15,000 to £2,500 today in response a crackdown on improper practices in the market.

However, the popularity of cryptocurrencies has also led to unscrupulous users attempting to use ‘scam’ or fake coins to pay for goods and services. Cryptocurrencies rely on key information to verify that they are legitimate, such as the ‘white paper’ which details the origins of a coin, who made it, and how it works. These papers can be forged and simply just made up – which can cause businesses who end up with scam coins to be out of pocket, and as such firms such as BusinessWaste.co.uk have come to realise their fallibility and declined to accept them as payment.

Overall, the issue of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency’s effectiveness and continued acceptance rests on proving their legitimacy as a currency and creating systems where they can be safely traded. This will remain a challenge for the future and will provide many interesting developments for investors and users alike.

Cash Management

Gender And The Investment Industry: Why The Industry Needs To Focus On Women

The investment industry has been historically dominated by men, but in today’s society exclusivity is key, as Staff Writer Hannah Stevenson highlights.

The gender pay gap has long been a key focus across the corporate market, with many firms seeking to eradicate it and usher in a new era for female empowerment. However, the equally pressing gender investment gap remains less focused on despite the fact that it is as, if not more, important.

Recently, an investigation from price comparison experts Money Guru has uncovered the top six reasons why women need to invest more than men, most of which revolved around the amount of unpaid work women did, whether it be caring, childrearing or the hours they spent poorly paid as a result of the gender pay gap.

Deborah Vickers, channel director at moneyguru.com commented on the findings of the firm’s survey and what they mean for society.

“We have never seen a gender gap when it comes to applications for credit at moneyguru.com which is great to see. Just a generation ago women were viewed as a riskier investment by banks and stores and often had to get their father or husband to sign for most loans. It shows real progress that just as many women as men are taking the lead when it comes to finding the right deals for them.”

 “However, these stats show that there is a still long way to go to empower women when it comes to their finances, especially if it is leaving them worse off in later life. Aversion to risk is something that we need to address across the board and in particular when it comes to supporting women to be more confident when it comes to financial investments.”

The underserving of women in the financial industry has also become apparent to deVere Switzerland, part of one of the world’s largest independent financial advisory organisations, which recently held the ‘Women in Finance’ summit in Zurich.

deVere Switzerland Area Manager, Daniel O’Leary, stated: “There are an increasing number of women-focused networks, events and initiatives but very few really drilling into the solution and ‘how to’ aspect of women achieving their financial goals and independence.

“But with a strong presence of women consultants in our office – more than 25%, which is considerably ahead of industry average – we are uniquely placed to help address the issue of women being historically under served by the financial advisory sector. This is why we launched Women & Finance, an invite-only event which was fully-booked within days. The strong demand is evident.”

Indeed, it appears to be one of the fastest growing areas of the industry. Recent estimates suggest that a third of the world’s private wealth is now in the hands of women. Research from Boston Consulting suggests that this number could hit £54 trillion by 2020.

When it comes to gaining investment in their business, women are equally unsupported, as Jenny Tooth OBE, CEO of UKBAA comments.

“UK Business Angels Association research has shown the disparity between the potential investment available for men and women. It found that over half (54%) of female angel investors had backed at least one female-founded business whilst only a small minority of male investors had done the same.

“It’s an old trope: men are cavalier with money, women are cautious. I’m usually reluctant to go along with generalisations, but when it comes to the pitching room I find that female entrepreneurs do undersell themselves; asking for just enough, or even less investment than they need. I hear myself saying: “Are you sure that’s all?” Whereas with men, I’m met with outrageous requests. The truth is that neither approach inspires confidence in investors.

“But the trouble women face is that they are walking into rooms filled predominantly with men, for whom a cautious approach may be a red flag. Have a growth plan, work out how to execute it, and remember that investors are not the enemy. This will help to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs and business leaders to promote women in business and good equal practices.”

These latest initiatives and studies show that the financial industry is, albeit slowly, turning towards a focus on female investments, and looking ahead the market will need to continue to drive funds and resources towards empowering women to invest to drive global growth.

Articles

British insurance industry learns more about investment opportunities in NRW, Germany

NRW.INVEST, the economic development agency of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), and the Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK) in Cologne, hosted an investor roundtable entitled “Investment landscape: Germany and the UK”. Around 40 British insurance companies and asset management companies took up the invitation to learn more about Cologne as an insurance location and investment opportunities in Germany’s most economically important federal state. The event took place in cooperation with the British Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF), an independent think tank for dialogue on global financial and economic policy.

The focus of the seminar for the insurance and financial services sector was on opportunities to enter the German market, the trending topic InsurTech and how to deal with current political developments in the United Kingdom. London is one of the most important hubs in the global insurance market. For the British sector, North Rhine-Westphalia and in particular the city of Cologne can offer numerous points of contact. “With an abundance of primary insurers, reinsurers, insurance sales companies and brokers, Cologne boasts a cumulative wealth of know-how. In addition, we have a unique university landscape in this segment: Nowhere else is there a greater choice of highly qualified graduates than here,” says Dr. Werner Görg, President of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Cologne, emphasizing the benefits for companies interested in settling in Cologne.

“NRW is a diverse business location that has been offering British investors optimum opportunities for success in both the industrial sector and the service sector for decades,” says Petra Wassner, CEO of NRW.INVEST. “Our federal state is Germany’s No. 1 investment location for UK companies. Around 1,500 British companies have already settled here – that is 22.1 percent of all British companies in Germany.”

Background: Insurance industry in NRW

The insurance sector is one of the key industries in NRW. In terms of the number of companies based here and the number of employees, NRW is the largest insurance location in Germany. In Cologne alone, more than 28,000 people work in this sector. More than 150 national and international insurance companies, including industry giants such as Axa, DEVK, Gothaer and Zurich, have their headquarters or a branch on the Rhine. In addition, the active Insurtech scene offers cooperation potential for the development of new digital business models in the industry. InsurLab Germany in Cologne, an initiative of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs, advances innovation and digitalization in the insurance industry and promotes cooperation between start-ups and established companies. Besides the Rhine metropolis, Düsseldorf and Dortmund have also established themselves as leading insurance locations in NRW. Düsseldorf is home to 26 insurance institutes, including Ergo and Provinzial, as well as international insurers such as Mitsui Sumitomo and Interlloyd. In Dortmund, groups such as Continentale and Signal Iduna value the city’s service-oriented environment and the great potential of qualified specialists in Dortmund as a research and innovation location.

FX and PaymentTransactional and Investment Banking

Cryptocurrency: What it means for divorcing couples.

Bitcoin is known as the “gold standard” of cryptocurrency. Chances are you’ve heard of it but may not really understand its importance and growing relevance. In recent years, however, banks, governments and crucially divorce lawyers are beginning to take a much more forensic interest. And if you own bitcoin or have a spouse that does and you’re heading to the divorce courts, it’s essential that your lawyers not only understand this very new type of asset but are familiar with tracing it and valuing it.

 

So, what is Cryptocurrency? 

 

Essentially cryptocurrency is a virtual currency which has no physical form as it exists only in the online network, that network is completely decentralised so there is no third party bank or government that the currency has to go through, instead, the technology allows users to send bitcoin directly to another person (this allows users to be pseudo-anonymous as details that a bank would usually want to verify identity are not required).  The details of the transaction are encrypted, and the transactions are then bundled into and recorded on a “blockchain” the details of which cannot then be changed by anything or anyone and are based purely on a mathematical algorithm.   

 

Why do divorcing couples and lawyers need to know about it?

 

Just as with cash in the bank or property, cryptocurrency is an asset which the court will have the power to distribute within the divorce case. It follows, therefore, that a holding must be disclosed within the proceedings as both parties are under a duty to provide full and frank disclosure of all their assets at the outset of the case and ongoing. However, for as long as there have been divorces, there have been parties who try to hide assets. 

 

The courts are certainly used to this kind of bad behaviour and have a number of powers at its disposal to deal with offenders. However, bitcoin is a very new type of technology, established only in 2009 and, therefore, is only recently starting to appear in divorce proceedings. Divorce lawyers and the courts are having to learn a whole new language for dealing with this new technology. 

 

Tracing cryptocurrency. 

 

The first most important step is to establish that cryptocurrency exists. If it is disclosed by the owner, then all well and good. However, cryptocurrency, by its very nature, is pseudo-anonymous and, because it is unregulated, it is much harder to trace. It is, therefore, much easier for a spouse to either hide the existence of cryptocurrency or the value of their holding than with other kinds of asset.

 

In order to establish the existence or ownership of cryptocurrency, a search needs to be made of money entering the digital arena. It is much easier to trace cryptocurrencies that are traded via an online exchange and bought with funds from a bank account as that initial transaction can be relatively easily identified. If found that would give a party a strong basis to argue that their spouse owns cryptocurrency and that further investigations should be ordered by the court. 

 

However, once within the digital arena it is much more difficult to trace where the money goes next, or if the initial purchase was made directly. If then moved offline, for example if a person transfers their digital wallet containing their holding onto a USB stick, tracing becomes virtually impossible. 

 

A digital forensics expert will almost certainly be necessary. They can be instructed to search the alleged holder’s computer and email to try and find the relevant purchase transactions and trace the wallet where the cryptocurrency is held. A court order giving permission for this will be necessary and would likely be ordered if there is sufficient evidence (in the form of the initial transaction) or perhaps reasonable suspicion that cryptocurrency exists. 

 

A word of warning however. Care should be taken not to spend more money on hiring professionals to search for the cryptocurrency than what it is worth. Of course, one will not necessarily know how much a holding might be worth until they find it, a very difficult catch 22 situation but one that needs to be considered regularly. A good divorce lawyer will be able to guide a client on this. 

 

What is cryptocurrency worth?

 

This is perhaps the most difficult question to answer. As with stocks and shares, the valuation can change throughout the divorce process, but with cryptocurrency the market is much more volatile. The value of cryptocurrency is liable to change drastically throughout the divorce proceedings; a spouse with a substantial bitcoin holding at the start of the divorce process might have diminished considerably by the time of final hearing or settlement. It will be imperative, therefore, to obtain a valuation at every stage of the process and prior to any settlement negotiations so that the parties know what they are dealing with

 

 

 Dr Stephen Castell, commented:

‘Given the high volatility of cryptocurrency prices, and the possibility of compromise, and even theft, if the holding in question is retained only within a centralized exchange (there have been several high-profile instances of compromised cryptocurrency exchanges, and/or such exchanges going bust), the divorce lawyer may decide to seek from the court an order to sell the cryptocurrency at an early point in the proceedings, or, alternatively, to do this, as a matter of prudent protection of asset value, by mutual agreement between the parties.  This could remove uncertainty and volatility and fix and secure the value of a cryptocurrency holding in more reliable, more liquid, currencies, such as USD or GBP, to be placed in an escrow bank account pending resolution of the divorce proceedings.’

 

However, whilst the courts retain their discretionary powers to redistribute assets on divorce in accordance with the section 25 factors it is unclear what powers the court will have to actually redistribute cryptocurrency holdings themselves if they exist only in the network and if there are difficulties with realising their value. As this is new technology and as yet there are no reported cases dealing with these assets giving practitioners guidance on how to advise clients, it is clear we are entering a brave new world. Added to that the fact that there is no regulation it raises questions as to how any Order for Transfer or Sale could be enforced. 

 

Nonetheless, cryptocurrency is here to stay, and the author predicts that this type of asset will become more prevalent as time moves on and the language that lawyers use, and the powers of the courts, will evolve with it. 

 

A City Law Firm recognise digital assets are a valuable commodity that needs addressing in Wills; business transfers and as discussed during divorces. We understand not every divorce financial arrangement is clear cut, so we do get to understand the issues in detail as the landscape changes we are there to move with it 

Karen Holden is the Founder of A City Law Firm

Cash Management

POS goes Mobile – Is this the death of CASH

 

  • Mobile POS Systems forecasted to reach $660 million USD by 2025
  • Bank and ATM closures mean limited access to cash
  • Opens opportunities for small businesses and hospitality trade

 

The future of payment is going mobile.  Over the past few years we are seeing a steady decline in cash transactions with two thirds of payments made by card.  With the introduction of contactless it is much easier to tap and go rather than take cash out of the bank.  

 

Mobile POS or the abbreviated term mPOS is a payment system that allows customers to pay on a business mobile.  Many businesses are using this method of POS as it allows them to take payment in a far more efficient way as opposed to having a POS fixated in some part of the building. Presently, the market size of Global Mobile POS Systems is valued at 170 million USD.  According to recent published report Global Mobile POS Market 2019 forecasts that this figure will accelerate to 660 million USD by 2025.

 

As we are heading to a cashless society, businesses that operate on a cash only basis are losing out on customers, such as small businesses like nail salons and the take away shops down the high street.  This type of businesses cannot afford to lease or sign up to a fully integrated EPOS system as it is associated with an exorbitant cost that most cannot afford.  

 

Increasingly small and independent companies are catching on to mPOS.  The benefits for a retailer from going to cash only to cashless only are many.  There are considerations to take on board when handling cash on a business premise.  For one there is the cost of insurance. It eliminates time and manpower spent cashing up at the end of the day.  More importantly bank branches are closing at a rapid rate since a lot of customers are choosing to do their banking online. As a result, businesses are struggling to bank cash and are having to use the services of a cash courier which is another cost to manage.  ATM’s are fast disappearing which means limited access to cash has propelled card payments and businesses need to accommodate if it wants to survive in what is fast becoming a cashless society.

 

The incentives of mPOS are attractive. Most mPOS providers are offering no contracts, no set up fee and instant activation.  Here are the top five mPOS providers: 

 

  1. iZettle
  2. Square POS
  3. Shopify POS
  4. Pay Pocket Mobile
  5. Charge Anywhere

 

A1 Comms, a specialist in business communications have seen an increase in the purchase of business mobile phones especially amongst independent cafes, restaurants and market/stall holders.  A1 Comms understands small businesses  are independent in nature, and so they want to minimise overhead costs. Due to the agile nature of the business in which they operate, they are looking for cloud-based solutions to help support with the continuous changing dynamics. 

For more information please get in touch with [email protected]

Securities

Ashfords LLP, Apex Airspace and MHA MacIntyre Hudson hosting seminar on Airspace Development

Law firm Ashfords LLPs’ Paul Olliff, a Legal Director in the firm’s Real Estate Team, is collaborating with property firm, Apex Airspace, and Chartered Accountants, MHA MacIntyre Hudson, to host an informative presentation – ‘The only way is up’ – on airspace development.

Ashfords’ Paul who advises both national and international clients on a range of commercial real estate matters is a key speaker at the educational event. Topics will cover why airspace development can make existing assets deliver more, generate new value and save substantial costs.

The event is being held on Friday 1 March at St Paul’s Cathedral in London and is set to attract a wealth of property developers, landlords and investors all looking to enhance their value or collaborate to realise value in airspace across the City.

Pioneers in airspace development, Apex Airspace, convert unused airspace above residential, commercial and public buildings into new homes. The company is passionate about how airspace development can help to solve the capital’s housing shortage and are thrilled that the Mayor of London has approved a £10 million deal with Apex Airspace which will see 500 new homes built, of which 50% will be affordable. It is the first time the Mayor has supported an “airspace developer”. Apex will use the funding to create homes above existing ones or over stations, offices, shops and car parks.

Ashfords’ Paul commented:

“It’s not surprising that developing airspace is becoming so popular, particularly in London, given the lack of space on the ground and the lack of residential housing, coupled with the advances in construction techniques. The funding authorised by the Mayor of London for such a development shows its rise to prominence on a national and political scale. I’m looking forward to speaking at the seminar alongside Apex, who have just secured £10 million from Sadiq Khan and are one of (if not the) leader in this sector.”

For more information please contact Paul Olliff, Legal Director in Real Estate at Ashfords LLP, on [email protected] or call 020 7544 2455.

Corporate Finance and M&A/Deals

Guidant Global appoints Director to drive strategic growth in Australian market

Guidant Global, part of Impellam Group is delighted to announce that it has appointed Doug Edmonds as Director, APAC with a responsibility to drive future growth in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region. The move comes as the global leader in talent acquisition and managed workforce solutions continues to make rapid progress in expanding and transforming its portfolio across international markets.

The announcement follows PwC’s latest CEO Survey – which found that 71% of Australian business leaders feel that a lack of key skills is a threat to growth – with many facing barriers to building the required workforce because of limited insights into current workforce capability and future requirements.

Guidant Global champions a better, more forward-thinking way of working and has a core philosophy of shifting the focus to people – the vibrant force that drives thriving businesses and creates energy and opportunity. With extensive experience in resourcing and managed service recruitment in Australia and Asia, Edmonds is well placed to lead the company’s strategic plans to deliver its global expertise in a way which is tailored to the local geographies. In fact, Impellam is no stranger to the region. As well as Guidant Global, group companies Comensura, Medacs Global Group and Carbon60 all have significant operations within Australasia and Guidant Global already operates in India, China, and Malaysia.

Commenting on his appointment, Doug Edmonds, Director at Guidant Global, said: “Here in Australia, and indeed in wider Asia markets, there is a real need for Guidant’s collaborative, creative and agile approach to managed service recruitment. I look forward to reconnecting with the APAC market at a time when employers are seeking solutions around talent management – and in a capacity where I can deliver Guidant Global’s commitment to finding better ways of working.”

Simon Blockley, CEO of Guidant Global, added: “This is a significant appointment for Guidant Global at a time when we are increasingly extending existing programmes into Australia and the Asia-Pacific region. Opportunities in this region are vast, and I have no doubt that Doug’s extensive experience and passion makes him the best person to drive growth strategy across APAC markets.”

Articles

Tax Preparation Specialist Issues Tax Relief Guidance for Employees Who Incur Work-related Expenses

Employees in the UK are being encouraged to explore their tax relief options to ensure they are not left footing the bill for their work-related expenses. Tax preparation specialist David Redfern, managing director of DSR Tax Claims Ltd, added his support to a HMRC Twitter campaign to ensure that employees are made aware of their entitlement to various tax reliefs which are open to them.

 

While taxpayers who are required to submit a Self Assessment tax return tend to have a good awareness of the various business expenses they are entitled to claim tax relief for, employees who are taxed via the PAYE (Pay As You Earn) system frequently have less knowledge of tax relief options. Redfern commented “Taxpayers who pay their tax through the PAYE system often have the mistaken belief that they aren’t entitled to tax relief, yet many employees would be surprised to know that there are a number of areas of tax relief for their day to day working expenses that they could be entitled to. Perhaps they work from home or wear a uniform to work that they are responsible for laundering – these are all hidden areas of tax relief that employees should be aware of to make sure they aren’t missing out”.

 

Redfern has discovered that travel expenses regularly form the greatest proportion of potential employee tax relief, with employees able to claim mileage for any work-related journeys they make in their own vehicle, excluding their journeys to and from their usual place of work. HMRC have approved mileage rates which can be used to calculate the tax relief that can be claimed, with car journeys up to the first 10,000 miles being worth 45p per mile. In addition to mileage rates, employees can claim travel expenses such as public transport costs, parking fees as well as overnight accommodation and food and drink costs for business travel outside of the employee’s normal journey to work. Redfern stated “HMRC allows these expenses to be claimed as tax relief because they recognise that employees shouldn’t be left out of pocket just for doing their job – however, the expenses do need to be incurred for business purposes and there needs to be some evidence that they were actually incurred so keeping accurate records of mileage and expenses is vitally important”.

 

Other work expenses that can form tax relief entitlement include the costs of laundering and maintaining any work uniform they are expected to wear, or repairing and replacing tools and equipment required to undertake the employee’s job. Redfern commented that this can include professional subscriptions and union fees which are required as part of the employee’s job role, stating that “These hidden expenses can soon mount up but if these costs are essential to your job, they can often be claimed as tax relief. Laundry costs can be claimed as a flat expense if you haven’t the patience for calculating exactly how much you spend cleaning your work uniform – HMRC issues a list of flat rate expenses per profession, which can make claiming much easier, and there is a standard £60 flat rate for those professions which aren’t listed”. Initial purchase costs cannot be claimed as tax relief.

 

Flat rate expenses can also be used to calculate costs associated with working from home, dependent on the hours per month spent working from home. Redfern added “HMRC’s flat rate expenses are an ideal way of ensuring that claiming tax relief is a simple process. People can be put off by the notion that it will be a complicated process so the flat rate system is great for those taxpayers who don’t want the hassle of keeping receipts and calculating exact costs”. However, for those taxpayers who believe that their expenses are greater than the flat rate deduction rate, there is the option of claiming exact expenditure providing they provide evidence that the expense was incurred.

 

Redfern emphasised that these tax reliefs cannot be claimed if the employee has already been reimbursed for their expenses and any expenses must have been incurred for work purposes only. He added “In most cases, claiming these tax reliefs is a simple online process – however, if your expenses are greater than £2,500 in any tax year, you will need to register for Self Assessment to claim them”.

Articles

With Great Speed Comes Great Responsibility: Securing the Future of Banking

Driven by new technological capabilities and ever-increasing customer expectations, the pace of change in financial services is increasing exponentially. Consumers of financial services want everything to happen more quickly, from real-time payments to immediate access to deposited checks. In the midst of this push for speed, it is essential not to sacrifice security. And it needn’t be an “either or” proposition. With the right approach, financial institutions can balance speed and security, and use both to enhance their customers’ experience.

 

Developing such an approach requires an awareness and acknowledgement of potential risks in the current financial services landscape. Along with greater speed come new fronts in the fight against financial crime. Here are three areas to prioritise.

 

Detecting Financial Crime in Real-Time

A decade ago, transactions typically moved in batches and high value payments took hours – if not days – to process. Real-time offers a wealth of opportunities to the industry, businesses and consumers, but there are inherent risks to any evolution in financial services.  As money moves more quickly and the window for detecting and stopping bad transactions narrows, fraud prevention takes on increased urgency. When all the processing and network steps are considered, each must be completed within a second at most, including validation, compliance checking, accounting and fraud detection.

 

Arising as a result of European regulations, payment-hub technology enables the management of all payment types on a single platform and promises better risk analysis, faster settlement, lower routing costs and a real-time view of transactions. Still, as all of those payments are flowing quickly through a central hub, financial institutions have to monitor for fraud at the same speed.

 

Managing Third-Party Risk

Consumer-focused technology companies are resetting expectations for financial services. This is driving financial institutions to adapt and embrace innovative technologies at every step of the customer experience, whether through in-branch teller kiosks, artificial intelligence (AI) based consumer assistance or integration with third-party fintechs.

 

Open banking regulations in Europe and other parts of the world are making it a priority to integrate with fintechs and other third-party companies with which customers have existing relationships. Under the regulations, financial institutions must provide trusted third parties access to customer information when consumers allow it. Even in parts of the world where open banking is not a regulatory requirement, financial institutions are moving toward similar integration capabilities to hasten innovation and meet consumer demand.

 

Once again, the technology presents many opportunities for consumers and financial institutions, but it also raises the stakes on security. If financial institutions begin engaging consumers more often through fintechs, identification and validation will become even more crucial.

 

In the new interconnected financial services landscape, it’s not enough for a financial institution to ensure their own systems are secure, they also have to consider the security of the companies accessing information through their systems. This consideration takes on multiple layers when considering the different channels and services fintechs and other third-party companies represent. Financial institutions’ security strategies will need to account for payments, lending and card issuance, just to name a few.

 

Financial institutions are responding by adjusting their strategies in terms of due diligence, updating processes, and monitoring and evaluation.

 

Leveraging Data

Financial institutions’ success in managing risk in the future will be largely dependent on how well they assess, leverage and control their data. The sheer volume of information flowing through financial institutions poses what can appear to be an overwhelming challenge, particularly when there is a need to make sure this data is also accurate, current and useful.

 

Deploying technologies, such as advanced analytics, machine learning and AI, will enable financial institutions to manage data quickly, accurately and efficiently. Data can then be used as a powerful tool to better understand customers and get a clearer picture of typical (or atypical) behaviour. While data on its own is useful, analysis against broader sets of information can reveal patterns that improve the ability to differentiate between normal activity and fraudulent transactions.

 

Financial institutions can draw on a wide range of information sources to inform internal data sets, validate models and take a more agile approach to risk management. Monitoring card usage trends and capabilities, such as geolocation, allows more risk monitoring to take place behind the scenes, while biometric authentication enables more streamlined customer interactions that are simultaneously more secure. Financial institutions can also benefit from coming together as an industry to share intelligence and build shared databases of ‘bad’ devices and suspicious activity.

 

Securing the Future of Financial Services

Speed is a key factor for the future of financial services, and with the right strategy financial institutions can balance the need for speed with the imperative for security. As the introduction of faster financial services accelerates, security will become a differentiator for financial institutions that deliver it well.

 

digital tax
FinanceFundsTaxTransactional and Investment Banking

The importance of Making Tax Digital to the UK mid-market

The importance of Making Tax Digital to the UK mid-market

Written by Steve Lane, CTO at Access Group

With UK Government’s Making Tax Digital (MTD) deadline less than two months away, the race is on for UK organisations to understand the impact of MTD on their business. MTD could mean a significant shift in operations for some organisations, which means they need to act now in order to get themselves in order for the impending deadline.  


What MTD requires

The Making Tax Digital programme will require UK businesses with annual turnovers above the VAT threshold of £85,000 to keep digital records for VAT and submit their returns digitally. The points-based penalty system means business taxpayers gather points with each late submission of an MTD report, those with multiple businesses must submit tax reports for each of their businesses. To ease the transition process, HMRC is allowing the use of ‘bridging software’ to support the digitised submission and account information retrieval from spreadsheets. However, those without it in place risk not being able to carry out their business as usual.

While all respondents in Access Group’s survey use some type of electronic system for financial management, 96 percent of mid-market businesses still process a portion of their tax returns manually, for example performing off-system calculations, which could be problematic come 1st April if businesses fail to use bridging software to support the digital submission of their VAT returns. Which begs the question, why do some organisations still rely heavily on manually calculating? A large proportion of the finance professionals surveyed explained that they haven’t transitioned to 100 percent digital processes due to a lack of knowledge and training (26 percent) while others said it’s the fact that multiple legal entities are involved in VAT registration (23 percent).


Putting off MTD is no longer an option

Manually entering VAT is inefficient and opens businesses up to human error. Under the new regulations, mid-market businesses could stand to lose not only money in fines, but credibility within their field. Putting off making the necessary technical changes to your business is no longer an option.  

There are certain things that businesses simply cannot afford to ignore, for instance:  


Transformation

Deploying new business software isn’t always an easy decision. Especially when there are multiple ways to ensure your organisation remains compliant with government regulations. Considerations need to be made for either full business software transformation or a single solution update i.e. bridging software, to support. Given the impending deadline, businesses must act now, to ensure they’ve put in place measures that abide by the regulations.


Accreditations

When deciding to begin a digital transformation project, particularly with digitising financial systems, choosing a partner that has the proper government accreditations is vital. Acronyms like ISO or IL are ones to look out for.


Productivity

Digitising financial systems offers the business not only a more efficient, and free of human error way of working, but a more productive way as well. Entrusting admin-heavy tasks to intelligent software can free up time elsewhere to focus on innovation, business development and growth ambitions.

Whilst it’s important that businesses’ financial systems are all set for the 1st of April deadline, to think about Making Tax Digital solely in terms of tax compliance would be to miss the point. It’s the perfect opportunity for UK business’ senior management teams to take a broader perspective – one that turns this regulatory burden to the business’ advantage. The organisations who act now are the ones who will see greater efficiency and productivity, driving both business growth and profitability. It’s good practice to update your operational processes at any moment in time, the MTD deadline provides a good excuse for companies to do just that. Given the pressures coming from Government organisations to digitise and the complexities that go into technology investment, mid-market businesses need to ensure their finance teams’ house is in order to remain compliant and avoid fines in the new era of digital tax.

Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsSustainable FinanceTransactional and Investment Banking

The growth of the wind energy sector both in the UK and abroad

Greener initiatives are being utilised more and more across the globe, as Earth’s citizens try to safeguard the planet’s resources. We may have relied a lot on fossil fuels like gas and coal in the past, but due to these sources not being sustainable we’re now ambitious about developing practices which are more environmentally friendly.

The market for renewable energy now includes everything from wind turbines to wave power. Wind power is proving particularly popular, with the amount of energy generated across windfarms in just 2016 found to have exceeded the amount created via coal power plants in the UK for the first time ever. In fact, over 40 per cent of all the energy generated on Christmas Day 2016 was as a result of renewable sources and 75 per cent of that sum was from wind turbines.

As coal-fuelled electricity has dipped to its lowest output for 80 years, the future certainly looks bright for the renewables market and, in particular, the wind energy sector. Join joint integrity software experts HTL Group as they explore just how much potential this industry holds…

What we can expect in the near future

The wind energy sector had to reconsolidate record-breaking growth for the years between 2014 and 2016. In total, the global installed capacity at the end of 2016 was 486,790 MW — an impressive figure by anyone’s standards.

Growth is expected to pick-up once more in the years ahead though. In fact, there are predictions which expects the global installed capacity to rise to 546,100 MW. This year, this figure was anticipated to hit 607,000 MW before reaching 817,000 MW by 2021. Although the rate of growth is anticipated to slow, it’s clear that wind power will continue to occupy a large energy share on a global scale.

How is each area of the world performing? Asia, North America and Europe are expected to remain the dominant wind power markets. By 2021, it’s anticipated that Asia will create 357,100 GW of energy from wind turbines. Europe is expected to hit 234,800 GW, while North America is likely to generate 159,100 GW.

What’s more, emerging markets are predicted to continue their development. For example, Latin America will grow to 40,200 GW by 2021 — up from 15,300 GW in 2016 — while the Middle East and Africa will more than quadruple their output, growing from 3,900 GW in 2016 to 16,100 GW in 2021.

Investments to expect in the years ahead

Additional investments will obviously be required in order for the sector’s continued growth to be supported. In 2016, €43 billion was spent across Europe on constructing new wind farms, refinancing, fundraising and project acquisitions — an increase of €8 billion compared to 2015.

Offshore windfarms appear to be getting more attention than sites found onshore. Investments onshore dropped by 5%, while offshore reached a record-breaking €18.2 billion. Impressively, the UK is leading the way, raising €12.7 billion for new wind energy projects. This more than overshadows the country in second place, Germany, with €5.3 billion.

The total investment may be lower then. However, it’s clear that wind energy will remain vital to the global movement towards greener, more sustainable energy both now and in the future.

Cash ManagementFinanceFundsMarketsRisk Management

TOP RANKINGS FOR ASHFORDS LLP IN PITCHBOOK’S GLOBAL LEAGUE TABLES

Ashfords has again been ranked as one of the most active law firms globally in venture capital. The firm has been ranked 2nd in Europe for 2018 by PitchBook, which provides a comprehensive ranking of private equity and venture capital activity worldwide.

Ashfords is the only independent UK law firm to appear in the top five most active firms in Europe and has been placed in the top 5 in each of the past eight quarters.

PitchBook’s global review details top investors by region, firm headquarters, as well as the most active advisers and acquirers of PE-backed and VC-backed companies.

Chris Dyson, Partner and Head of Ashfords’ technology sector, commented: “Ashfords’ recognition in this prestigious league table confirms the team’s position as a leading venture capital practice in Europe. The team has deep expertise in this area and are very proud to work alongside many leading investment funds and growth companies.”

Deals the firm completed globally in 2018 include advising:

Notion Capital, Eden Ventures and BGF Ventures on the $350m sale of NewVoiceMedia to Vonage

Form3 on its investment from Draper Esprit, Barclays and Angel CoFund

Fluidly on its investment from Nyca Partners and Octopus

Anthemis on its investment in Realyse

Simply Cook on its investment from Octopus

WhiteHat on its investment from Lightspeed, Village Global, Anil Aggarwal, and Wendy Tan White

Mobius Motors on its investment from Pan-African Investment Company, Playfair Capital, VestedWorld and others

Local Globe on its investment in StatusToday

Holtzbrinck Ventures and Notion Capital on the sale of Dealflo to OneSpan

BGF on its investment in Ruroc.


Ashfords LLP
ashfords.co.uk

Cash ManagementRisk ManagementTransactional and Investment Banking

Tail expands portfolio driven by significant investment

Tail Offers Ltd is pleased to announce that Quantum Financial Holdings, a Fintech and security investment Group, has made an investment of £500,000 into the business. In addition to the financial investment Quantum has made, Tail will benefit from a suite of backoffice, infrastructure and value-added functions provided by the Quantum Group which will accelerate Tail’s significant growth to date.

“I am delighted to have been able to secure a deal with Tail which will enable them to invest in critical systems and further develop their amazing offering, driven by their exceptionally talented team,” says Floyd Woodrow, Chairman of Quantum Financial Holdings. “As well as financial investment, Quantum prides itself on bringing additional value to those companies we have an involvement in, through expertise and the streamlining of business support functions which free up key drivers in Fintech organisations to do what they do best – innovate.” 

“Open Banking will change the way consumers and retailers interact and we want to be at the forefront of facilitating that change,” says Philipp Keller, CEO of Tail Offers Ltd. “We are already focused on expanding our offering to a national audience and this will be accelerated through Quantum’s involvement.” 

“As our offer portfolio expands, we will continue to deliver a readymade white label rewards solution to corporate and financial institutions which will, in turn, enhance their own customer propositions. We are excited to embark on the next step of our journey with a partner that not only provides us with capital but, more importantly, with the right network and infrastructure to use it effectively,” Keller concludes. 

Part of the inaugural Tech Nation Fintech programme, Tail is one of the leading cashback solution providers for Open Banking. Already available for Monzo and Starling customers, its most recent addition includes Volopa, a London-based card provider active in the corporate and private banking sector. 

The Tail app integrates directly with a user’s bank account to provide tailored, high-value offers and cashback rewards in the most convenient way possible. Via its industry-first, cashback, self-serve platform, Tail enables hyperlocal, local and national merchants to use a tailored, data-driven rewards solution to engage directly with customers. 

For further information, please email [email protected] 

Cash ManagementFinanceFunds

Mayflex forms a Distribution Agreement with Global Invacom

Mayflex, the distributor of Converged IP Solutions, announces it has formed a distribution agreement with Global Invacom. The deal will see Mayflex and Global Invacom targeting Multi-Dwelling Unit projects by liaising with System Integrators, Consultants and End Users.

Global Invacom, the global provider of satellite communications equipment, specialises in Fibre Integrated Reception System (“FibreIRS”), delivering Satellite TV reception. Global Invacom’s vision is to increase the awareness of the advantages of FibreIRS and to work alongside Mayflex to help specify FibreIRS alongside cabling, data and CCTV Security.

Aaron Ghera, Sales Manager at Global Invacom, commented on the alliance: “Having seen interest from a number of organisations, we’re delighted to form a distribution agreement with Mayflex, who we believe have the resources, industry knowledge and proficiency to support our strategies.”

He continued, “Our plan is to minimise the amount of contacts required for a single project. For instance, rather than approaching four different supplies for your data, security, cabling and Satellite TV, Mayflex will supply all four services from one point of contact. By providing an integrated system solution, we can add more value to our customers and develop relationships that will see similar integrated systems across the UK.”

Ross McLetchie, Director of Sales, commented, “I am delighted to welcome Global Invacom on board with Mayflex. Incorporating this brand into our existing product portfolio will open up a host of new customer opportunities.”

Ross continued, “It is an exciting start to the year for Mayflex, as this agreement comes just shortly after the launch of Excel’s new Passive Optical Networks (PON) Solution.”

Similar in concept to PON infrastructure, FibreIRS technology is a new method of carrying satellite signals via fibre rather than coax. There are various advantages of using fibre such as reduction in signal loss, increased distance capacity, scalability and improved cost efficacy.

Ross concluded, “New customers to Mayflex can be assured of a first rate, knowledgeable team of sales and technical personnel. Partners will be provided with dedicated account management and the support needed to ensure the correct solution is specified and delivered on a project by project basis. I am confident that Excel’s new PON Solution and the Global Invacom range will become a staple part of our product portfolio and look forward to working with all parties involved.”

The FibreIRS technology itself was developed and manufactured by Global Invacom with the intention of revolutionising the satellite tv market. Over the years we’ve seen the development of similar products throughout the industry, however Global Invacom is determined to be at the forefront of the satellite industry and Mayflex are enthusiastic to support this drive.

The range of Global Invacom products will be widely available to purchase from Mayflex from February 2019. Global Invacom will also be sponsoring the upcoming Excel Partner Briefing events, taking place across the country in Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow and London. There will be presentations on both the Excel PON Solution and Global Invacom’s FibreIRS Technology, as well as representatives available in the exhibition areas to discuss any requirements. Visit www.mayflex.com for further details or speak to the sales team on 0800 75 75 65.


BankingFinanceTransactional and Investment Banking

Investors prefer ‘disruptive’ start-ups, but give them less money

Entrepreneurs pitching ‘disruptive’ start-ups are 22% more likely to get funding, but receive 24% less investment than less risky ventures, according to new research from Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM).

A disruptive start-up, breaking away from existing products, services and business models, can potentially bring colossal returns for investors. But these ventures are also risky, with a considerable possibility of failure, says Timo van Balen, a researcher at RSM.

Timo analysed data of 918 start-ups from Start-Up Nation Central, a private non-profit organisation that has collected data on all Israeli start-ups since 2013. He compared the characteristics of each profile’s vision statement, aimed at investors, with how much funding the venture secured.

Alongside fellow researchers, Murat Tarakci of RSM and Ashish Sood of the University of California Riverside, he discovered that increasing the communication of a start-up’s disruptive vision improved the odds of receiving funding by an average of 22%. But it cut the amount invested by an average of 24%. This amounted to $87,000 less in the first investment round and $361,000 less in the second investment round.

Timo says: “Entrepreneurs increasingly talk about ‘disruption’, framing their products, technologies and ventures in this way to secure financial capital. We found that emphasising this image of a venture’s potential market disruption does increase the odds of receiving first-round funding. This is because the promise of being a ‘game-changer’ fosters investors’ expectations of extraordinary returns on their money. However, a highly disruptive venture’s future success is often uncertain, which deters investors from making large speculative investments into it.”

The research suggests that entrepreneurs can craft the communication of their vision to help achieve their funding goals.

Timo says: “Despite the temptation to pitch a venture as disruptive, entrepreneurs should be judicious with the ways they attempt to secure funding. If getting an investment of any size is very important, pitching a highly disruptive vision might be key to grabbing the right people’s attention. But if it’s more important to attract bigger investments, it might be smart to avoid communicating a disruptive vision of the effect of your start-up.”

Articles

Former global leader of financial services at PwC, Nigel Vooght, joins Inforalgo as non-executive chairman

Inforalgo, the Capital Markets data automation specialist, has announced the appointment of Nigel Vooght, the former Global Leader of Financial Services at PwC, as non-executive chairman. He brings over 20 years’ experience in the industry to the role, in addition to a deep knowledge of strategy and management.

With detailed first-hand knowledge of the market, its regulatory complexity and use of Fintech and Regtech tools and solutions, Nigel will add significant value to Inforalgo and its clients.

Commenting on his attraction to the post, Nigel said, “Inforalgo is a firmly established and trusted provider of critical, high-impact solutions for solving regulatory complexity and other substantial data management issues in financial markets, particularly capital markets trading. With a new platform that harnesses the cloud and addresses financial institutions’ deepest and most cumbersome challenges with speed and agility, Inforalgo is looking at significant market potential.”

“We’re absolutely delighted that Nigel is joining us, and that he has identified the vital role we play for our clients,” added Jordan Ambrose, Inforalgo’s CEO. “It isn’t always easy to appreciate the behind-the-scenes technology, the clever part that happens in the background – connecting systems, and enabling reliable real-time data feeds and intelligent automation around tracking and reporting. But the capabilities we offer are something fundamental that every financial services organisation needs in this fast-paced, competitive and strictly regulated market. Nigel absolutely recognises that, so this match is a great meeting of minds. We’re thrilled to have him on board.”

ArticlesBankingMarketsRisk Management

The fragile line between financial returns and social good – how much can, and should, personal values influence a portfolio and asset allocation

By Charlotte Filsell – Head of Client Relationship Management at Sandaire.

In many industries no two clients are the same. In Family Offices this is particularly evident. Every family, and every individual within that family, is entirely unique and is continually growing, evolving and shifting their needs and priorities.

This is a fascinating and complex journey to help families navigate. Where this is especially pertinent, is finding the delicate balance between financial returns and social good. As such, it’s incredibly important that families have access to delicate guidance and careful stewardship, so they can find the right balance to match both their values and their long-term needs – and to match their individual and familial priorities.

As families navigate a generational wealth transfer to the younger generations, social good and impact investing becomes more apparent. There is undoubtedly an increasing trend from the younger generation, to go beyond a simple financial transaction or donation to worthy causes. When it comes to using their wealth, millennials tend to be more concerned about making their money go further, making a larger impact, and are interested in finding sustainable interventions and solutions. Differences certainly exist across generations, but what unites family members, is the motivation to make the world a better place.

In philanthropy, this can be reflected in a desire to learn about an issue and understand the nuances in order to direct effort and resources as effectively as possible. To achieve this effectively, it’s crucial to work closely with clients to assist with their philanthropic endeavours, including helping to find causes that are important to them and guiding on how they might be able to make a positive contribution. In addition to this, connecting clients to other families in the same situation, or perhaps further along the philanthropy journey, allows them to share ideas and experiences, and apply these to their own particular investment desires.

In no small part because this is such a personal yet complex issue, families are increasingly looking for advisers who not only understand the intricacies of the financial and investment landscape, but who have a thorough grasp on the values and philanthropic intentions of the client. This can make a huge difference. It’s incredibly important to provide thoughtful guidance and careful stewardship to help families strike the right balance. This can take many forms – an effective family office must shift with the needs of the families it serves and take on the role that’s required – whether that’s a leader, a partner, a facilitator, or a mediator.

The trend towards Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) has led to the integration of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into investment decisions. The development of SRI and impact investment is offering the prospect of achieving returns measured in more than merely financial terms; it is embedding values and responsibility into investment decisions. While many businesses may have long been delivering more than financial returns, social and impact investing is bringing intention to the fore in investment selection and outcome measurement into the evaluation of success.

The crucial role of the family office is to help steer the families we serve through this fascinating and complex process, developing a successful wealth plan that futureproofs their wealth, whilst satisfying their philanthropic interests and passions. Although a fragile line, we believe that a portfolio can satisfy both financial return objectives and positive social impact that reflects a client’s personal values, acknowledging that a balance will need to be struck depending on the needs of each individual client.  

Infrastructure

61% of Brits are worried the high street will disappear in the next 10 years

New research by KIS Finance has revealed that consumers are worried the high street is going to be lost completely due to the current store closures in the news.


From surveying 1,000 consumers in the UK, KIS unearthed startling findings including:

•61% of Brits are worried the high street will disappear in the next ten years due to recent store closures in the news

•Northern cities have by far been worst hit by store closures

•Food and beverage, value and fashion brands are predicted to be the next victims of the high street

•If local high streets had free parking and easy accessibility, consumers would be more likely to shop in-store


As part of its research KIS mapped out which cities had been hit the hardest by the major store closures of the last year, including those announced already in 2019 such as M&S and Patisserie Valerie. This revealed northern cities such as Leeds and Glasgow had been hit far harder than their southern counterparts. The top cities impacted were:

1.Leeds
2.Glasgow
3.Aberdeen
4.Bradford
5.Cardiff
6.Doncaster
7.Leicester
8.Manchester


By partnering with James Child, Retail Analyst at EG, we can see there doesn’t seem to be any sign of these closures letting up, he says: “It is quite likely that there will be a continuation, if not a proliferation of the negative headlines in retail. The raft of CVA’s and administrations in the sector has culminated in an expected 1,600 store closures across the UK, with over 18 million square foot of prime retail real estate vacated. When we break down the events of 2018 there are some trends which we could well see exacerbated into 2019 – due to fragile trading conditions and economic uncertainty.

There are certain sub-sectors that will face more pressure others. The fallout from the department store will continue at pace, with the future of House of Fraser, and Debenhams in particular should come to a head, a merger quite possible with a reduction of their overstretched portfolios. Food and beverage, value and fashion brands will come under more strain as over stretched markets begin to weed out weaker offers as retail Darwinism bites.”


When asked what would tempt them back to the great British high street, the top answers from Brits were:

•More staff to ensure that the experience is quicker (41%)

•Clearer stock check in store (34%)

•24-hour service so that you can shop at any time (27%)

•Self-checkout service to avoid queues (26%)


After asking consumers what they think the high street will look like in ten years, it seems that consumers are worried that independent stores won’t exist, the below is listed from most likely to least likely.

1.Restaurants
2.Coffee shops
3.Second-hand shops
4.Bars
5.Fast food restaurants
6.Retails chains e.g. department stores
7.Clubs
8.Cinemas
9.Banks
10.Travel agents
11.Independent retailers


Holly Andrews, Managing Director at KIS Finance says;

“With store closures flooding our news-feeds recently, we were interested to find out what the future holds for the high street and how consumers’ shopping habits might affect retailers’ footfall. It is obvious from our research that people do still like going into store to shop, but it just isn’t as accessible as online shopping is.

To save the high street many retailers need to ensure that they are thinking innovatively about how to draw customers in with clearer in-store stock checks, more staff and extended hours during busy periods. The reason why so many retailers are struggling with their stores is because consumer shopping habits are changing and the high street needs to change with it, creating a more community led atmosphere with more accessibility and variety for everyone.”

After surveying Britain’s consumers and finding out what the high street could look like in the future, KIS Finance have collaborated with Sam Edwards, an illustrator from London, to visual these changes.

BankingCash Management

ETS Corporate Business Brokers Sell Coffee shop London within 24 Hours!

Tram Coffee Shop in Richmond sold to a new business. ETS Corporate business brokers sell cafe London in record time!

Manuel and his wife Anna Conceicao contacted Zach Dogar of ETS Corporate Business Brokers after they had a sudden medical emergency. Anna required urgent treatment which was to start in 5 weeks and they could no longer operate the business.

They had only opened the business in October 2018 with an investment of over £35,000. ETS Corporate placed the business on the market on the 12th November 2018 and within 24 hours had secured a non-refundable deposit of £5,000 from the Buyers. The sale was concluded on the 22nd December 2018, at record speed thanks to ETS Corporate associations with a good team of lawyers and the determination and initiative from the Owners. It was sold for the full asking price of £34,995, ensuring the medical treatment was administered on time and the Clients were able to recoup their investment.

This case demonstrated that ETS Corporate is very quick, efficient and have excellent industry knowledge. They know where to pitch the sale price to get the result for the client whilst obtaining the best price. Their [lockout fee|(a non-refundable deposit paid by the Buyer when a sale is agreed) ensured that the buyer was serious and genuine and they know what information to place on the marketing to get the most effective result. They also work with a diligent team to get the job done for the Client.


This very new coffee house business was being sold due to illness. It has been operating since October 2018 with a husband and wife team.

The goal of the business was to be the artisan coffee house of choice for the local community in Richmond, the address being 226 Upper Richmond Road West, East Sheen, Richmond SW14 8AH. It attracted shoppers, downtown business workers, tourists who visit the city, and students, by providing a higher quality experience than any competitor.

The coffee bar was an independent family run coffee house that offered residents, visitors and the business community a different, more personal style of artisan coffee house by providing a uniquely flavorful coffee and cakes as well as a comfortable environment to socialise, relax or work. It had huge potential in the short time it has been open.

It offered some individual and unique foods as all cakes, salads, toasties, and baguettes are hand made in house on demand. They also offered a warm, trendy and light atmosphere as well as a personalised welcome and service to all their customers.

The Owners had planned to obtain a drinks licence and open later from Thursday to Saturday in order to serve cold meats and cheese platers as well as other Mediterranean foods accompanied by wine/beer. In addition, they wanted to apply for an A3 licence so that they could extend their menu by including hot food options. This change of use was already contemplated in the current lease.


The Owner contacted many business brokers and decided to use ETS Corporate for many reasons. They were able to place the business on the market within 24 hours and offered a personal and professional service. Further, ETS Corporate did not charge upfront fees and was therefore motivated to sell and results focused, as they pay for each client’s marketing upfront themselves; a majority of agents charge upfront fees. The valuation was realistic and Anna and Miguel were confident in ETS Corporate abilities.

If the Owners had not sold the business, they were going to lose all their investment and still be liable for rent under the lease. It was imperative that the business was sold within 4-5 weeks before Anna’s treatment started.

The owner was initially referred from Daltons Business, with whom ETS Corporate have a long-standing relationship.


ETS Corporate first of all obtained all the information from the Owners and was on the market within 24 hours of instruction. This was after a valuation was done within hours of being contacted and all paperwork was signed electronically. ETS Corporate have a very automated system, which is largely internet based and therefore are able to move very quickly and without the need to send salespeople to clients. All valuations and the whole process is handled by Zach Dogar, who has over 22 years experience in the industry.


ETS Corporate was able to find a suitable Buyer for the Owners within 24 hours including securing a £5,000 lockout fee and complete the sale within just over 5 weeks of instruction.

For the Clients, they were able to sell and get their investment back and get on with the treatment which was starting after only one month.

The Buyer’s Roya and Amir Fanaie were very keen on the site which is extremely busy and on a prominent corner plot. They wanted to offer authentic and traditional Iranian dishes that are not available locally.

They re-named the business Neeman after their two sons and as well as coffee and tea, they offer healthy drinks and smoothies. They also provide pomegranate Juice, which is very popular in Iran.

They are planning to introduce other dishes such as:

Haleem for which Roya has her own recipe;
Various home-made Iranian soups again from an old family recipe; and
Shirin Pollo which is a sweet Iranian dish

All the dishes will be slightly adapted for the British palate.

Amir found the service ETS Corporate offered to be “very good and particularly good was the punctuality, politeness and honesty. We were very happy with the time scale. We were first-time Buyers and you helped a lot.”

Roya said “to be honest, the service was very reliable and friendly. “When we paid the non-refundable deposit of £5,000, you emailed us back in 10 minutes to let us know you have it I can trust you and your company” The non-refundable deposit or lockout fee is very important as it ties the Buyer to committing to Buy the business at the agreed price and this stops Buyers taking advantage of the situation by threatening to pull out in an attempt to reduce the price.


Read the full case study here

For a free e-book “How to sell a cafe” click here

Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsFinanceForeign Direct InvestmentIslamic Finance

Smart Dubai Launches Guidelines on Ethical use of Artificial Intelligence

  • Smart Dubai outlines standards for AI systems to ensure they are fair, transparent and accountable
  • World’s first city-government endorsed Smart AI Ethics Self Assessment Tool launched to help assess level of ethics in AI systems
  • Initiative aims to accelerate Dubai’s goals of becoming an AI powered city of the future

Dubai’s quest to become the world’s smartest city has received a strong ethical grounding with the unveiling of guidelines for the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). The new ‘Ethical AI Toolkit,’ which provides advice to individuals and organisations offering AI services, has been formulated by the Smart Dubai Office (Smart Dubai) – the government department that has a mandate to make Dubai the world’s happiest city through innovation.

 

Outlining the need for the new guidelines, Smart Dubai says that they will encourage organisations that deliver AI services to place a priority on fairness, transparency and accountability and that they will serve to elevate the city’s position as a thought leader in in the adoption of AI across government services and beyond.

 

“Our vision is for Dubai to excel in the use of technology to maximise human benefit and happiness, as well as to be a global technology standard-setter. Artificial Intelligence plays an integral role in all of this. And with the use of AI growing exponentially across the globe, the ethical dimension of this nascent but rapidly proliferating technology is an increasing topic of discussion on the international stage,” said Her Excellency Dr. Aisha bint Butti bin Bishr, Director General of the Smart Dubai Office.

 

“There is an understanding by governments, NGOs and the private sector that AI regulation is needed, but that the field is not yet mature enough to devise fixed rules to govern it. However, organisations still require guidance and regulators still need to begin to learn how to oversee this emerging technology, but without creating restrictions that could stifle innovation. Smart Dubai’s Ethical AI Toolkit aims to provide advice in this area for all those involved in the AI sector,” she added.

 

As part of the toolkit, Smart Dubai has also launched the world’s first city-government endorsed AI Ethics Self-Assessment Tool. The AI Ethics Self-Assessment Tool is built to enable AI developers and operators evaluate the ethical level of their AI system, if implemented using Smart Dubai’s AI Ethical Principles and Guidelines.

 

Smart Dubai’s Ethical AI Toolkit was created using a benchmarking exercise and a consultation approach. Government sector entities, such as the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, Dubai Electronic Security Centre, Dubai Health Authority, the Roads and Transport Authority, Dubai Municipality, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority and Dubai Land Department, were consulted during the initial feedback gathering, as were private sector companies including Microsoft, IBM, Google, Etisalat and PWC.

 

Smart Dubai is actively encouraging ongoing critiquing from across the AI community in relation to the guidelines. This feedback, combined with Smart Dubai’s research, aims to help iterate the Ethical AI Toolkit so that its framework and guidance keeps pace with technological advancements. The office is also establishing an Advisory Board, comprising leading AI and ethics experts from the private and public sectors, who will review the guidelines and help make continuous ongoing improvements to them.

 

Smart Dubai says that it wants to start discussions between different stakeholders in Dubai around AI ethics and for all components in the city’s technology ecosystem to work together to achieve a unified approach and reach common agreement on becoming more responsible on the use and development of AI systems. The office highlighted that it would like to see the Ethical AI Toolkit evolve into a universal, practical and applicable framework that informs ethical requirements for AI design and use and one that offers tangible suggestions to help stakeholders adhere to the ethics principle.

 

“By fusing data and innovation we’re preparing Dubai to become the AI city of the future. Artificial Intelligence will streamline day-to-day work life by providing fast and easy access to a wealth of data-driven information. Its consequences will be far-reaching and will impact every area of life, so creating guidelines for AI operatives is essential to provide an ethical underpinning to this evolution. Our aim is to offer unified guidance that is continuously improved in collaboration with our communities, with the eventual goal being to reach widespread agreement and adoption of commonly-agreed policies to inform the ethical use of AI, not just in Dubai but around the world,” said His Excellency Younus Al Nasser, Assistant Director General, Smart Dubai and CEO, Smart Dubai Data.

 

Smart Dubai’s Ethical AI Toolkit addresses some of the key issues around establishing regulatory principles relating to AI. These include the rapid evolution of the AI landscape that is leading to a fragmented approach to ethics, with each company dealing with ethical issues in their own way. They also intend to clear the ambiguity around what constitutes ethics in AI, as it is thought that ambiguity could supress innovation through entities holding back on research because they are unsure of future government actions. The toolkit also aims to improve trust in AI systems, with confidence in them cemented by the public being able to see that companies are following the new advice that is published transparently online.

BankingCash Management

TrueLayer launches one of Europe’s first Open Banking based Payments API

TrueLayer, Europe’s leading provider of Open Banking and financial APIs, has launched one of the first Open Banking and PSD2 based Payments API. 

 

The API, which is in public Beta, offers a new way for businesses and consumers to pay for goods and services or transfer money. It is an alternative to credit and debit card payments, bank transfers and traditional payments processors. 

 

By using the payment initiation process created by PSD2 – the European Directive that oversees ‘Open Banking’ in the EU – the API confers a number of benefits:

 

  • Immediate settlement – cleared funds are received in few minutes (during business hours) – in contrast to the several days experienced by most businesses
  • Secure and fraud-proof – the API requires active bank authentication before any money can leave the account. This means high security and extremely low fraud rates
  • Cheaper – as there is no credit extended and fraud is highly unlikely payments do not have the high fees of card transactions
  • Streamlined – customers do not need to manually type in a business’s bank account number to transfer money to a business

 

The API works with all major UK banks, and more specifically, the CMA9. TrueLayer, which was one of the first companies in Europe to be approved as an Authorised Payment Institution with PSD2 permissions – Account Information Services and Payment Initiation Services, believes this API marks a major milestone in the development of Open Banking in the UK and the liberalisation of financial services.

 

Francesco Simoneschi, CEO and co-Founder of TrueLayer, said: “Companies often throw out cliches such as ‘game-changing’ or ‘disruptive’ when they launch a new product, but in this instance we are looking at a very meaningful and very important innovation. It puts the banks back at the centre of the payment process, allowing them to create competitive and differentiated payment experiences as well as enabling entirely new opportunities for deeper purchase flows into the banks’ mainstream digital channels. For fintech applications and merchants, payments initiation fills a huge gap in the European payments market for use cases that are currently largely underserved by traditional payments products. 

 

“The fraud prevention aspect of the API alone would have made a huge impact, however, it is just one of a range of benefits. Near instant transactions, low fees and a streamlined process are all significant and tangible improvements for businesses and consumers. 

 

“When Open Banking was launched this was the development many people in the financial industry were waiting for. It is a new form of online payments that will add much needed competition and open the door to range of innovative applications. Our entire team has worked incredibly hard to develop it and the most exciting aspect is that it’s only the beginning.”

 

The Payments API began beta testing with a dozen companies including digital wealth manager Moneyfarm and ‘build your own fintech’ platform Wealth Kernel. 

 

Giovanni Dapra, CEO and co-Founder of Moneyfarm, said: “We firmly believe that technology has the capacity to radically improve customer experiences in the financial services industry and, ultimately, help people realise their financial goals.

 

“This is why we’re delighted that TrueLayer has launched an Open Banking Payments API. Its potential to ease a lot of pain points by improving the security, speed and availability of transactions is very exciting. We have been anticipating a breakthrough like this from Open Banking which will directly benefit our clients and encourage further innovation in this space.”

 

Joe Campbell CTO of WealthKernel, said: “TrueLayer’s new API will enable our clients to quickly build products and services that offer a highly secure fully integrated payments experience. Not only does it greatly reduce our operational costs and risks, it also improves conversions and provides a great user experience. 

 

“This is an incredibly important step in the realisation of Open Banking’s potential. It provides a vehicle for a host of new applications to enter the market which will vastly improve how financial services work for businesses and consumers. We’re very impressed by the Payments API and excited to see the innovative ways it will be used.”

 

TrueLayer expects to launch an updated Payments API later in 2019 which will add features such as future dated payments, standing orders and batch payments.

 

The Payments API launch follows last month’s extension of TrueLayer’s Data API to Germany. Over the last year it has secured a series of major partnerships with companies including Zopa, ClearScore, CreditLadder, Canopy, Plum, BitBond, Emma, Anorak. It also has a number of undisclosed partnerships in the pipeline with major companies in the consumer and financial space that will go live in the next 12 months. 

Cash ManagementMarketsRisk ManagementTax

Top tips when it comes to completing your self-assessment tax return

The time of year is almost upon us where millions will have to complete their self-assessment tax return. Whether that’s as a sole trader, a freelancer, a contractor or running your own businesses, anyone who works for themselves will have to complete their forms before the annual January 31 deadline. For many, it can seem like a daunting task, so is there anything you can do to make the process easier?

 

 

James Foster, Commercial Manager at specialist accountancy provider Nixon Williams

At Nixon Williams, we manage a large client base of small businesses, contractors and self-employed individuals, which means we complete thousands of tax returns each year. This experience has provided us with an in-depth knowledge of the process and how to maximise efficiency when it comes to completing a self-assessment tax return submission.

 

The majority of the working population have their tax deducted at source from the company that they work for, however, anyone that is self-employed has to complete a self-assessment tax return in order to be taxed appropriately on their earnings by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

 

When you start working for yourself, your workload includes everything that you might need to do to make your business a success – from marketing and advertising to admin and ordering stationery. You may find that managing your finances is more complex than you might have expected as you will need to keep records of all the money you spend in the running of your business, as well as how much you earn. Many people decide to use the services of a professional accountancy firm like ours to help them through the process, but some decide to manage everything themselves. Either way, there are some simple things you can do to make the process as straightforward as possible, so here are my top five tips:

 

  • Get organised – compiling all your invoices and receipts ahead of time is the best way to alleviate last minute stress when it comes to self-assessment forms. Ideally, you’ll have kept some form of spreadsheet or an online portal up to date throughout the year of your accounts, and you can use that to finalise your tax return. But if that’s not the case, don’t wait until the very end of January to get started. There are often missing pieces of information you’ll need to track down, so give yourself plenty of time to work through everything. And don’t forget – if it’s your first time completing your Self-Assessment Tax Return, make sure you’re registered with HMRC in time.    

 

  • Know the key dates for completion – If you decide to complete your tax return online then the deadline for this is any point up until the 31st January, whereas a paper tax return needs to arrive with HMRC by the 31st October the previous year. If you haven’t sent an online tax return before then you will need to register and HMRC advises you to do this no less than 20 working days before the deadline.

 

  • Separate your work and personal bank account – a number of self-employed people operate with just one bank account for personal and business use, but this can make it hard to separate out your business expenses from your personal expenses. It’s often easier to identify which costs are related to your business by having a separate business bank account. This will not only help you keep a track of your business expenditure throughout the year, but it will make your life a lot easier when it comes to your tax return.
  • Know the expenses and tax reliefs that you can claim – if you are a sole trader, for example, make sure that you know the expenses that you can claim in your tax return, as there may be some items you might forget about such as business mileage and expenses relating to working from home. It’s also beneficial to know about other tax reliefs that you are entitled to such as personal pension and gift aid payments.

 

  • Tax returns can be complex so use an accountant – having professional support can be really beneficial because an accountant should not only assist with the compliance side of things (i.e. helping you to file your tax return on time) but they will also give you pro-active advice where appropriate.  Tax returns are something most accountancy practices deal with on a daily basis from April to January, alleviating a lot of the financial stress away from clients and helping them to focus on what they do best – making a success of their business.

 

Running your own business and managing the many tasks that come with it can often push your tax return submission to the bottom of your ever-growing pile of work to do – but help is always available from professionals with the right experience and knowledge of the latest legislation. You can find further information on completing your self-assessment tax return on the Nixon Williams website here.

Cash ManagementForeign Direct InvestmentPrivate FundsStock MarketsTransactional and Investment Banking

Can You Predict The Future Price of Bitcoin?

You can’t spend five minutes reading about cryptocurrencies without stumbling across at least one prediction for the future price of Bitcoin.

Across forums, social media, newsletters, blogs, news sites and every other corner of the internet — financial analysts, expert investors, bankers, tech icons, and new enthusiasts offer up their views.

Some cite careful analysis, some base it on past trends. While others are guessing or acting on their ‘intuition.’ Their predictions are varied, ranging from a plummet to zero, to millions.

With all this noise surrounding the Bitcoin price, you might be wondering whom to believe. Or if you should believe anyone at all. Is it possible to predict the future?

Investing begins with education, not buying. So it’s important to think about the information you base your buying decisions on.

How do people make price predictions?

There are two types of analysis used for predictions: fundamental and technical.

They’re used for everything from the stock market to Bitcoin. While other types of analysis do exist, these are the main ones.

Fundamental analysis

Fundamental analysis is all about intrinsic value. You look at the factors that give something value, then decide if it’s under or overvalued. Publicly traded companies release lots of information to help with this. So, for a stock you might look at a company’s:

  • Revenue (how much money it’s making)
  • Profit margins (how much of the revenue is profit)
  • Growth potential (how much money it could make in the future)
  • Management (how competent the people in charge are)

Some of these factors can be defined in numbers. Others come down to the judgement of the analyst.

For a cryptocurrency, you might look at its:

  • Price growth (how the price has grown over time)
  • Scalability (if it has the potential to keep growing)
  • Security (if the network is secure and safe from attacks

​Technical analysis

Technical analysis is different as it focuses on an asset’s price, not the asset itself. Maybe you’ve heard the phrase ‘past performance is not an indicator of future performance.’ But technical analysis bases future predictions on the past. This can be based on a short time frame (hours or even minutes) or long (months or years.)

To do this, you look for patterns and trends in price charts, such as:

  • The average price over a chosen time span
  • The price at which a lot of investors start buying
  • The price at which a lot of investors start selling
  • The overall price trend

Do fundamental and technical analyses work?

There’s no straightforward answer to that question. Both techniques can be useful, but they also have their limitations for cryptocurrencies.

Fundamental analysis works when investors base their decisions on fundamentals. This isn’t always the case for Bitcoin. Many investors base their decisions on the decisions they expect others to make.

Technical analysis assumes that a market follows rational rules and patterns. It’s less useful for cryptocurrencies because the market is still young. There isn’t as much past data to analyse. Cryptocurrencies also have less liquidity than something like stocks.

Self-defeating and self-fulfilling prophecies

When we talk about price predictions, we run into an important concept: self-defeating and self-fulfilling prophecies.

Making a prediction about the future can end up changing what actually happens.

The prediction about the future creates the future.

This isn’t the case when we talk about a system like the weather because we can’t change it.

But when you make predictions for a system involving people, it’s different.

Hearing predictions can cause people to change their behaviour.

Sometimes this happens in a way that prevents the prediction from coming true — a self-defeating prophecy — or it can cause the prediction to come true — a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Predictions about cryptocurrency prices have the power to influence how investors act. If it’s predicted the Bitcoin price will increase, this encourages more people to buy. This can drive up the price, and vice versa.

That brings us to incentives.

The issue of intentions

Incentives are what motivate people to do what they do. It’s an important concept in investing. Financial gain is a powerful driving force.

Most investors understandably want to do whatever will make them the most money. This can include making predictions that benefit them.

Let’s say you come across an article where the author claims Bitcoin will be worth $100,000 by December 1st 2019. Rather than taking that at face value, it’s important to ask: why are they saying this? If they know for certain, why don’t they put all their money into Bitcoin, and make a huge profit? Why are they sharing that information?

Likewise, if someone claims Bitcoin will drop, you might wonder why they’re saying that. If they know for certain, why don’t they keep quiet, short it, and make a big profit?

In both cases, we need to consider the underlying incentives.

If someone stands to profit from the Bitcoin price increasing, it’s natural they’ll predict it’s going to do that. They’re hoping this will turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. If someone stands to benefit from it decreasing or to suffer if it increases, it’s not unexpected that they’ll predict it’s going to decrease.

Luck and probability

But if no one can predict the future, how come some people do make correct predictions?

Maybe you heard that your brother’s roommate’s cousin’s coworker’s uncle correctly predicted the price of Bitcoin. Or you’ve seen someone on Youtube who seems to always get it right.

The fact that no one can predict the future doesn’t mean no one can make correct predictions.

It comes down to luck, probabilities, and information asymmetries.

First, luck. Every day, thousands of people make predictions about Bitcoin prices. It’s inevitable that some of them will be correct by luck.

As they say, even a stopped clock is right twice a day. With so many people making predictions, it’s likely a percentage of them will be correct.

When professional forecasters make predictions, they usually base them on probabilities. What’s the most likely outcome? A weather forecaster might say it’s going to rain tomorrow because there’s a 62% probability. They don’t know it for sure. It’s just more likely than not.

Then there’s insider information. If you know something most investors don’t, you have a big advantage. For example, if you have insider information that Apple is about to release a new product, it’s reasonable to expect the stock will go up. But other investors buying Apple stock aren’t aware of that information, so they can’t predict it.

Insider information is less meaningful for cryptocurrencies. There’s a less direct link between fundamentals and prices. Events that seem like they should cause an increase or decrease can do the opposite or nothing.

Conclusion

The next time you look at a cryptocurrency price chart, imagine a crowd of people in a stadium, all moving at different times but appearing to create an organised rippling motion. Because that’s what you’re seeing: the combined actions of many people.

There’s no mystical, secret order to it. There’s just lots of people making decisions based on the information they receive.

Cash ManagementFundsRisk ManagementWealth Management

Samuel Knight International on track to continue major growth following investment

Samuel Knight International, the global recruitment and project man-power specialist headquartered in Newcastle, has announced significant investment from Gresham House Ventures. Samuel Knight, which was established in 2014 and has offices in London and Bristol, provides skills and energy solutions to the energy and rail sectors on a permanent, contract and temporary basis.

The company has demonstrated impressive growth since its formation. Last year, it achieved £13m turnover and took home ‘Team of the Year’ at the Great British Entrepreneur awards. 2018 also saw Samuel Knight securing major new client contracts in more than 30 countries, boosting headcount and expanding the business to accommodate business growth.

The growth capital investment from Gresham House Ventures, using funds from the Baronsmead Venture Capital Trusts, will fund Samuel Knight’s near-term growth plans. These include increasing headcount at the offices in Bristol and London and adding local talent to the Newcastle team, from entry level graduates to experienced consultants. The company is also planning international expansion with the potential acquisition of two sites abroad.

The recruitment drive is geared up to support expansion across the energy and rail space given increasing demand from clients and candidates. Samuel Knight is focusing on achieving greater market share and boosting awareness of the brand through targeted marketing and business development. The investment will also allow Samuel Knight to further invest in technology to continue innovation within the business.

Steven Rawlingson, CEO at Samuel Knight said: “We have a clear vision of what we want to achieve with the investment, and how this will help us to support commercial goals. We are delighted to have secured the funding from Gresham House Ventures, who share in our ambition and vision to grow the business. The investment will enable us to strengthen our global offer, expansion plans and team growth.”

Paul Kaiser, Katy Lamb and Michael McCulloch from UNW LLP provided financial advice to Samuel Knight International.

Katy Lamb, Senior Corporate Finance Manager at UNW who led the transaction said: “Having worked with the business since late 2017, helping management prepare for the investment, we were delighted to advise on the finance raise and have enjoyed working with such a dynamic, fast-growing business. It’s also great to see investment into the North East.”

Steve Cordiner, Director at Gresham House said: “Steven and the Samuel Knight team have done a fantastic job in growing the business so rapidly in such a short time period and we are proud to be partnering with such an ambitious team. There is huge scope for Samuel Knight to expand globally and we look forward to supporting the business on this phase of its journey.”

Anthony Evans, Adam Rayner and Harry Hobson from Muckle LLP provided legal advice to Samuel Knight International.

Shoosmiths LLP provided legal advice to Gresham House and Dow Schofield Watts provided the financial due diligence.
The Gresham House Ventures team invests equity of up to £5m in growth businesses, supporting founders with bold ambitions for the future, whilst providing transformational capital and expertise to accelerate business potential.

Cash ManagementFundsPrivate Funds

Underestimating the digital wealth start-up threat

A recent report from GlobalData found that only 10% of wealth managers perceive robo-advisors as an immediate threat.  With the entire financial industry racing towards widespread digital adoption, it begs the question – shouldn’t they be more worried?John Wise, CEO, Co-Founder and Chairman of InvestCloud investigates.

The biggest mistake wealth managers are making is holding on to the long-standing belief that robo-advisors will only serve the lower retail market. This is the same mistake ‘brick and mortar’ stores made in sizing up Amazon as a threat; they fail to appreciate the competitive advantage a digital platform has.

Many high earners are turning to robo-advisors and digital processes for a better return on their portfolio. A recent survey from InvestCloud found that 49% of investors are using mobile apps to manage their wealth. A further 48% are using a firm’s digital offerings as a key differentiator when choosing their manager. As investors continue to be more digitally savvy, this will certainly increase.

As things stand, digital can feel like the enemy to traditional wealth managers.

The need for hybrid wealth management

What many wealth management firms are failing to recognise is that it doesn’t have to be one or the other. By deploying a hybrid model of digital and traditional services, these firms can compete successfully in this changing digital environment.  

Traditional ‘brick and mortar’ wealth managers are faced with two key challenges today. The first of these is the well-documented fee compression. The second is the transfer of wealth from aging boomers to younger, more tech savvy and less financially educated generations – Generation X, Millennials and – soon – Generation Z.

At this inflection point, everyone has one question on their mind: How are firms going to attract new clients and retain existing ones in a cost-effective manner? 

The hybrid model of human and digital advice means advisers can use cost-effective technology from the robo space and combine it with differentiated and engaging client experience. This will be key to serving younger demographics. Hybrid advisors will be able to scale like a robo-adviser, being able to serve more clients, while ensuring continued engagement with existing clients through face to face interactions and digital empathy tools.

This change is already happening. Those who can see it as an opportunity and not as a threat will have the upper hand.

Creating a truly personailsed digital service

 

While automation plays a critical role in increasing a firm’s profitability, it is only one side of the equation. Clients will measure the quality of a service by what they see, so continually improving the quality of their digital experience is critical.

When an adviser cannot speak and interact with clients face-to-face, it can often be difficult to create and maintain a strong relationship that keeps a client sticking with your business. Instead, advisers need to create the same level of service online. Financial institutions instead need to build digital relationships, where each client can be engaged on their own terms.

This is why the digital experience is so important. It is not just about providing online services – wealth management clients also require a truly personalised, beautifully designed, intuitive and easy-to-work-with platform that caters to all their individual needs.

But this should not be one-sided. The client and adviser portals need to be directly linked, so the adviser can see what the client is looking at, or even influence the dialogue remotely using chat, video or direct messaging. This way, advisers can deliver complete personalisation.

The importance of data

Firms can not solely focus on the client-facing aspects of their business. Looking behind the scenes is equally important.

Getting information correct and accessible is key to success when operating at scale. Adopting a data warehouse is the most important aspect of any digital strategy. Information is power – but only if it is correct, gathered in one place, and is in a structured format.

Many traditional firms fail to appreciate how information from correctly managed data can be leveraged to better serve their customers. To use the Amazon analogy again – the amount of client information they can use from customer profiles is something brick and mortar stores can only dream of.

Using the right digital platform, wealth managers can collect client data, but also monitor how this information changes. For example, they can see which demographic pays closest attention to market changes, or how a client’s investment objective or risk tolerance changes over time.

Those using the right digital platforms can access deep behavioral analytics, which in turn helps them support more clients with less resources. Data in today’s digital environment goes beyond ‘csv’ files to include text, chat, documents, and pictures. Imagine an advisor on a call where the client is asking about a recent capital call transaction. Centralised platforms enable advisors to access all relevant client information, including primary documents from the custodian or fund administrator.  

The last piece of the puzzle is adoption. How are digital platforms helping wealth management firms increase adoption and retain existing clients?

Behavioral science functions combine unique and customisable digital personas. The right platform will allow financial institutions to connect with all their clients, despite vast differences in wealth, age, outlooks, and all the numerous facets that make them unique. Digital engagement requires human empathy, and personalised platforms can make each user feel  that their financial concerns are understood, whether they are Baby Boomers, Generation X or Millennials.

These elements are what constitutes a great overall digital strategy in 2019. Armed with the right tools, advisers will have an advantage over the robo advisers.

This is the holy grail of hybrid wealth management: Automated digital processes combined with the advantage of human insight. Being able to undertake ad hoc tasks for clients or difficult-to-do exercises that are a challenge, can now be automated with the click of a button. Digital empathy – expressed through the right tools – will set you apart. Longer retention, higher AUM growth and improved quality and operational efficiency all await.

With the right digital strategy, robo advisers have nothing on you.

ArticlesCash ManagementWealth Management

The 5th Money Laundering Directive; mandating the use of electronic verification

Money launderers using increasingly sophisticated methods of moving illegally-earned cash through criminal networks. In response, anti-money laundering (AML) law is constantly evolving, and successive legislative updates reflect the EU’s determination to keep pace.

Following the Panama Papers, Paris and Brussels terrorist attacks, the 5th Money Laundering Directive – published in the European Journal in June 2018 – made some important amendments in an attempt to counteract terrorist financing and increase the transparency of financial transactions.

One of the biggest changes was the stipulation that electronic verification is used when undertaking Customer Due Diligence and Know Your Customer procedures.

Member states will have until late 2019 to implement the 5th Money Laundering Directive. As we know, the UK is due to leave the EU on March 29, but the UK Government has already committed to implementing the Directive to ensure its position as a major international financial player.

Electronic verification must be used where possible

Regulated businesses have always been able to use electronic verification as either an alternative or supplementary to traditional documents such as passports, driving licences and utility bills. But with the 5th Directive now stipulating that electronic verification is used where possible, regtech has been thrust into the spotlight.

The preamble to the Directive reads: “Accurate identification and verification of data of natural and legal persons are essential for fighting money laundering or terrorist financing. The latest technical developments in the digitalisation of transactions and payments enable a secure remote or electronic identification”.

It then goes on to state the following “Those means of identification as set out in Regulation (EU) No 910/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council should be taken into account, in particular with regard to notified electronic identification schemes and ways of ensuring cross-border legal recognition, which offer high-level secure tools and provide a benchmark against which the identification methods set up at national level may be checked. In addition, other secure remote or electronic identification processes, regulated, recognised, approved or accepted at national level by the national competent authority may be taken into account”.

While not all European countries have electronic identification solutions, the UK has a long-standing acceptance of such methods of identification and as a result, leads Europe in terms of regtech. In fact Of the 60 European companies on the RegTech 100 list, half were from the UK, up from 26 last year, which shows just how dominant the UK is in this sector and how much it is growing.

Commercial PEP and Sections solutions needed

The Directive also requires member states to produce lists of politically exposed persons (PEP). However, these lists will not give specific names, just the position of these individuals, which means there will still be the need for commercial PEP and sanctions platforms that collate and maintain these databases.

New Central Registers of Beneficial Owners

The UK has always tended to “gold plate” the money laundering directives when enacting them into legislation, but this has not been the case with many other European members; under the 5th Directive, this will have to change. Following the 5th directive, member states must create central registers of beneficial owners and must allow a clear rule of public access so that third parties can establish who the beneficial owners of corporate and other legal entities are.  

Art dealers now come under AML regulations

Another interesting change under the 5th Directive brings in new business sectors for the first time including art dealers dealing with transactions over 10,000 EUR, all forms of tax advisory services and estate/letting agents where the monthly rent is 10,000 EUR or more.

Tougher rules on Virtual Currency Exchange Platforms and Custodian Wallet Providers

One of the ‘increasingly sophisticated’ methods launders use to facilitate terrorist financing and money laundering is virtual currencies.

In response, the 5th Directive stipulated that virtual currency exchange platforms (VCEP) and custodian wallet providers (CWP) will now have to register with national authorities, undertake customer due diligence, monitor transactions and report suspicious transactions.

It is hoped that as a result of these new regulations FIUs will be able to monitor and detect terrorist financing and money laundering through virtual currencies

The 5th Directive also calls for member states to create central databases comprised of virtual currency users’ identities and wallet addresses.

What happens next?

Member states have to amend their existing legislation or create new laws to bring the 5th Directive changes into force, which in the UK, this means the Government will need to amend the 2017 money laundering regulation which came into force last year or create a whole new piece of legislation.

All regulated firms – those that are regulated now and will be following the changes in the 5th directive – should be aware of these changes and what they mean in terms of their own compliance. SmartSearch can provide a one-stop shop for electronic verification checks – PEP, KYC and sanctions -giving firms the peace of mind that they are meeting all their money laundering regulations.

By Martin Cheek, MD, SmartSearch
FundsMarketsRegulationWealth Management

FTI Consulting Resilience Barometer Sheds Light on Lack of Business Preparedness

At this week’s World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, FTI Consulting launched their inaugural 2019 Resilience Barometer which explores how G20 companies are tackling an interconnected, technologically disrupted and increasingly regulated world. Astonishingly, the report has found that whilst companies anticipate challenges, such as cybersecurity and data, they remain largely unprepared.

 

In an age categorised by the WEF as “The Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution” (4IR), it is more important than ever for G20 companies to be instrumental in supporting societies and governments navigating unavoidable uncertainty and volatility. FTI Consulting’s new report outlines the key challenges we face as we move into 2019 by investigating company preparedness to 18 scenarios which could have a negative impact on turnover, value and reputation.

 

Highlights of the report include:

  • The resilience score for the G20 is only 40 points (out of a top score of 100 points) and turnover has been lowered by an average of 5.1% over the last 12 months, a major cause for concern in an environment that is growing more and more challenging.
  • We have found that the biggest threat to resilience in 2019 is that of ‘cyber-attacks stealing or compromising assets’ and 30% of companies we surveyed said this had happened to them in 2018. Yet whilst 28% of business leaders predict that this will occur to them over the next year, just 45% say that they are taking proactive steps to manage this risk.
  • 87% of companies expect a major crisis in 2019, yet only 4 in 10 are very confident in their ability to manage such a scenario.
  • One-third (1/3) of companies acknowledged that they are not doing enough to keep their data safe.

Kevin Hewitt, Chairman of FTI Consulting EMEA region explained that: “This report looks to identify and unpick the challenges, and opportunities, that companies are facing today as they manage risk and enhance their corporate value. More must be done to ensure sufficient infrastructure and processes are in place to proactively manage business threats in 2019. With significant expertise and experience, FTI Consulting is well placed to help businesses effectively respond in an effective and efficient way.”

 

Following the launch of the FTI 2019 Resilience Barometer, FTI Consulting will be attending the WEF in Davos this week and are available for more in-depth analysis of these results and how FTI Consulting can help your company build resilience and protect value in the face of challenges brought about by the 4IR.

Articles

Liquidware Invests in Further EMEA Expansion

Liquidware, the leader in adaptive workspace management, today announced that 2018 was a record year and, to continue the momentum, has invested in hiring new technical resources in the UK, Benelux and the Nordics.

Coupled with the growth and investment, Liquidware reported unparalleled uptake for its Essentials bundle of user environment management, application layering and visibility solutions as the market consolidated with other point solution vendors being acquired. With the absorption of AppSense and RES into Ivanti and FSlogix being acquired by Microsoft, former partners of these companies are now actively signing up with Liquidware.

“We witnessed unprecedented demand for our solutions during 2018,” commented Morteza Esteki, VP Sales EMEA. “In particular, we secured the largest application layering deal to date in EMEA for our FlexApp software, signed with some of the largest systems integrators in the region, hired some first-class technical industry talent from companies such as Softcat and Ivanti and saw our penetration increase dramatically into verticals such as Financial Services, Government and Health Care. Our world-class solutions continue to be recognised by industry experts and analysts as leading the field in managing user workspaces.”

Stratusphere UX monitoring, diagnostics and visibility software, is becoming the defacto solution for many channel partners and systems integrators across Europe for monitoring user experience in their large customer bases. Stratusphere UX has proven itself as the indispensable solution during all stages: pre-migration, migration and as on-going management solution. Many channel partners use Stratusphere UX for assessment and health-checks.

ProfileUnity user environment software is being built into customers’ new workspaces design to better manage their users as they bid farewell to their legacy UEM solutions. Thanks to its unique multi-tenancy capabilities, ProfileUnity is a great solution for managing workspaces in a multi-tenant environment. Version 6.8 is bringing many capabilities to the table that greatly assist the life of an IT admin.

In addition, Liquidware reported a 95% renewal rate for all customers in the region, which is a testament to the level of customer satisfaction for Liquidware’s offerings.

“Managing the devices, applications, services and data that users rely on everyday has been a challenge for IT administrators since desktop computing became a reality. But with business ever more dependent on IT systems working effectively and the added pressure to ensure data security, workspace management has become a critical issue. When you add in the expanding range of devices now being used, ease of management and visibility of systems is now an essential, not a ‘nice to have’,” said Tony Lock, Distinguished Analyst, Freeform Dynamics.

BankingCash ManagementFX and Payment

MILLIONS OF BRITS MISSING OUT ON THE BENEFITS OF OPEN BANKING REVOLUTION

Out of control spenders want to save but research reveals that Open Banking revolution is passing them by

 

12 months after the launch of Open Banking in the UK, awareness of it and understanding of what it means is desperately low, despite Brits’ desire to get hold of their finances.

 

  • Just 9% of the survey group, which was representative of all GB adults (aged 18+) used Open Banking services.
    • In fact, what understanding there is about Open Banking services is non-existent, or simplistic and confused.
  • Fewer than 1 in 4 people – 22% – have heard of it; 4 in 5 don’t know what it means or entails.

 

The findings appear in a new report from Splendid Unlimited, the company helping retailers and the big banks design & build new digital platforms. Splendid Unlimited’s findings are taken from the Unlimited Group Omnibus and also use online community methodology.

 

A nation Scouring and Saving

In a nationally representative omnibus survey, it is revealed that:

  • One third (29%) of Brits feel they lost some control of their spending over the Christmas period
  • Fewer than 4 in 10 (39%) were able to save for the Christmas festivities
  • Unsurprisingly more than half (57%) of Brits are now scouring the internet, friends and the media for money saving tips – rising to three-quarters (73%) of tech-savvy 18-24 year olds
  • Half of Brits (48%) are looking to save in January.

 

Innovation can help the nation

Overall, the findings clearly demonstrated widespread interest in and the demand for simple, reliable and independent financial advice. Yet there was a disconnect between this need and consumers’ knowledge of the many ways Open Banking applications can save you money, which include:

 

  • Automatic savings programmes, with algorithms on apps such as HSBC’s Connected Money and Chip allowing Brits to save small amounts that can be measured from time to time against specific goals – like a once-in-a-lifetime trip
  • “Quick Switch” from Bean which alerts consumers if they are on overly expensive recurring contracts and points you towards a better deal
  • Automatically generated bills calendars from apps like Yolt, which take the guesswork out of financial planning.

 

Asked to describe Open Banking in their own words, the top two definitions were: banks sharing your information (26%) and all accounts in one place (15%). Beyond this was little clarity – comments included “it’s online banking”, “it’s data sharing” and “it’s easier”.

 

Despite these impressive initiatives, first impressions of Open Banking were mainly negative – demonstrating a clear communications failure. When participants were offered further information, however, second impressions were far more positive – highlighting the apparent opportunity Open Banking service providers are yet to harness.

 

The research also highlighted that there is some dissatisfaction with a number of aspects common amongst Open Banking services and, also, some criticism of specific apps – suggesting a need for Open Banking service providers to re-think and refine their product offerings in order to make the most of the legislative change.

 

Participants saw pros and cons across all apps tested. They positively rated Yolt for the ability to see all accounts in one place, spend breakdown and transparency; Chip for the same, and its perceived independence; and Consents. Online for the proposition of security and privacy.

 

Although HSBC’s Connected Money came out on top, participants questioned whether their own financial situation was complicated enough to warrant using this app and expressed concern about Chip siphoning off money for investing, even if overdrawn and for AI “managing my money”; Bean for possible bias; and Consents. Online for complexity – especially, its use of complex language.

 

Clarity, transparency and simplicity are key attractors. AI, bias and complexity are key dissuaders. Overall, the findings show that trust was a key issue. At a time when trust in financial institutions has stalled[i] and public concern about data breaches and data security have never been higher[ii], it seems there is a perception that the ‘open’ in Open Banking infers a lack of security.

 

Paul Bishop, Founder and MD of Splendid Unlimited, the company helping retailers and the big banks build these new digital platforms, said:

 

“Open Banking providers are failing to address the lack of trust, privacy and security concerns, and ignorance of the benefits of using their products that have limited uptake of their services to a mere 9%.

 

“These findings highlight a number of key challenges Open Banking service providers must now address.

 

“But they also offer key lessons for the effective and successful roll-out of other new technology-driven service innovations – notably, the further and more widespread introduction of blockchain technology – both in the financial services sector, and beyond.”

 

ABOUT THE RESEARCH

 

Splendid Unlimited transforms businesses digitally, making the customer experience of interacting with the brand on and offline, simple and seamless.

 

Splendid Unlimited’s findings are taken from the Unlimited Group Omnibus and also uses online community methodology.

 

The Unlimited Group Omnibus is a nationally representative omnibus survey of 2,005 adults from across Great Britain, between September 28 and October 5 2018. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

 

Survey results on Christmas & January are drawn from a nationally representative, weighted survey of 2,053 adults across Britain between 19th and 21st December 2018, conducted by Walnut Omnibus.

 

Twenty-four people were also interviewed via an online community over the course of four days. The aim was to interview 24 people who used Open Banking initiatives but this was challenging, so participants all had an account with a challenger bank and were a mix of ages, gender and socio-economic background.

Cash ManagementRisk ManagementWealth Management

YOTHA LAUNCHES WORLDWIDE INNOVATIVE NEW PLATFORM WILL MAKE YACHT CHARTERING SIMPLER, FASTER AND FAIRER

YOTHA, the new digital yacht charter platform connecting owners, charterers and yachting professionals, has launched worldwide with a promise to bring trust and transparency to the yachting market.

YOTHA’s digital technology will make yacht chartering faster, simpler and more straightforward and www.yotha.com will become an invaluable tool for everyone involved in the industry.

YOTHA offers a unique chartering experience, allowing customers to negotiate directly with the owner’s representative, book their trip online and then benefit from a free concierge service which helps them to create their own bespoke itinerary.

More than 100 of the world’s finest luxury yachts are available for charter on the platform, which has launched worldwide for the 2019 season after a beta version was successfully tested last summer. Hundreds more yachts from the global charter fleet will be added to the platform in the coming months.

YOTHA was founded by Philippe Bacou, who has owned and chartered luxury yachts for more than 15 years. Frustrated by his own experiences as an owner, he decided to create a unique digital platform that would enrich the charter experience, shaking up the market in the same way that Booking.com has revolutionised the hotel industry.

By making chartering easier, YOTHA will expand the market and attract a new generation of charterers. Its unique features include:

  • A facility to negotiate the charter price online, supervised by a 24/7 customer care service
  • Substantially reduced commissions – YOTHA takes an 8% commission if a yacht is booked directly through the platform, or 4% if the booking is made through a broker, compared to the standard industry commissions of 15% to the broker and an additional 5% to the central agent
  • A simple, fair electronic charter contract balancing the interests of charterers, owners and professionals
  • All financial transactions secured and guaranteed under the supervision of FINMA, the Swiss banking regulator
  • Partnerships with luxury brands, including award-winning concierge service Quintessentially Switzerland, and leading yacht service providers

YOTHA will encourage more owners to charter their yachts because they will have greater flexibility, including shorter charters and more off-season deals. It will empower their captains, allowing them to connect with charterers through the YOTHA app in advance of their trip to plan the perfect itinerary whilst providing all their favourite food and drink on board.

Amongst the 114 yachts currently registered for charter on the online platform are some of the best-known super yachts in the global fleet, including the 90m Lauren L, the award-winning 50m Vertige and the 55m Mustique. Smaller motor yachts and sailing boats are also available on the platform. Yachts are available for the end of the Winter season in the Caribbean and the upcoming Summer season in the Mediterranean.

Philippe Bacou, Owner and Founder of YOTHA says:

“I am excited that YOTHA now opens the way for the digital transformation of the luxury yachting industry. Our ambition is that our innovative new solution for chartering will improve the customer experience, offer new services and help attract new customers to luxury yachting. We are keen to explore fresh ways of expanding the charter business and want to form partnerships with investors, brokers and other key industry players.”

“At YOTHA, we hope to increase the size of the market both in charter volume and services through in-depth industry co-operation”

“It is an exciting time to be involved in the Yacht charter industry and we hope to improve the experience for everyone involved in the industry: charterers, brokers, agents, captains, crews and owners.”