Category: Banking

UK Budget
ArticlesBankingCash ManagementFinance

Budget’s ‘Super-deduction’ Capital Allowance Offers Logistics Sector A Golden Opportunity

UK Budget
By Tim Wright, Managing Director of Invar Systems
Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Budget announcement of a capital allowance ‘super-deduction’ could be a game-changer for many warehouse owners and operators.
The super-deduction, which will apply for two years, allows firms to claim 130% of their expenditure on approved plant and machinery against their tax liability. There is no list of qualifying expenditure, but just about any equipment that one might install in a warehouse or distribution centre appears to be covered and, importantly, ancillary expenditure such as building alterations and electrical system upgrades to allow equipment installation are specifically included.
The Chancellor’s aim, beyond kick-starting the post-Covid recovery, is to address the UK’s chronic underperformance in productivity growth, which was less than stellar even before the 2008/9 financial crisis (2.3% per annum), and since then has essentially flatlined at 0.4% per annum. Discussing the validity and meaning of productivity data notoriously starts heated discussions amongst economists but in the warehousing sector the issues are very real and quantifiable.
The gorilla in the room is of course the inexorable rise of e-commerce, currently representing 30% or more of trade in many retail sectors, and with similar expectations for on-demand fulfilment of orders increasingly seen in business and industrial purchasing. Clearly, fulfilling two dozen orders for individual items is immensely more laborious than serving the same volume by shipping whole cases or pallets – by a factor of 15 according to one US study – inevitably driving down productivity per hour worked.
E-commerce has also driven up product variety, and, critically, the volume of returns to be handled. Yet this comes at a time when securing and deploying warehouse staff is becoming increasingly problematic: many businesses have been heavily dependent upon European labour, which is unlikely to be earning enough to qualify to work in the UK post-Brexit, while creating Covid-safe working in labour-intensive areas is a major challenge. Along with rises in the minimum wage, this is pushing labour rates up.
In addition, increasing capacity by adding more space is not an easy option – e-commerce operators, and businesses hedging against supply chain disruption are snapping up all the available space in what is generally agreed to be an ‘under-warehoused’ country.
These challenges, although increasing, are not new and nor is the obvious solution ­– automation. But apart from the ‘marquee brands’ such as Amazon and Ocado, who have been able to invest large sums in green-field developments, the warehousing sector has been slow to adopt automation, and where it has, the tendency has been to create unintegrated ‘islands of automation’ at particular pain points.
However, for real productivity improvement a warehouse or fulfilment centre needs to address all its many interdependent activities simultaneously:  KPIs in receiving, in put-away, in picking, in packing, labelling and dispatch, as well as, in health and safety.
Importantly, this means a complete rethink of how the warehouse operates. A particular focus will be a move towards ‘goods-to-person’ operations, rather than having people spending most of their time walking unproductively between locations.
It’s easy to understand why many businesses have been reluctant to commit to change. Until quite recently, warehouse automation was ‘hard engineering’ – it involved not only major investment all in one go, but installation caused disruption, even complete shutdown, and was considered inflexible. Any change in requirements could only be accommodated by further significant investment and upheaval.
Happily, these constraints no longer apply. The development of autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) in particular has been a game changer, as has been the creation of easily reconfigurable sortation systems, re-locatable or even fully mobile pick faces, smart automated packing stations, and a raft of supporting technologies such as pick-to-light, along with Warehouse Management Systems that are becoming ever more capable, yet easier to adapt and use.
Such solutions are scalable and can be introduced flexibly, as funds allow. What’s more, they can be readily reconfigured to integrate with subsequent investments, largely off-line through the software, rather than by disruptive re-engineering that requires shutdown. They are also genuinely scalable – in many cases, simply adding more AMRs to the system can accommodate future growth or extension.
Rishi Sunak’s ‘super-deduction’ capital allowance offers the logistics sector a golden opportunity to invest in performance enhancing automation, giving fulfilment operations the boost to productivity needed to cope with the surge in ecommerce orders. It’s an opportunity not to be missed.
ArticlesTransactional and Investment Banking

How to start your investment journey and increase your income

How to start your investment journey and increase your income

Looking to save money for a down payment on your first house? Not sure how to invest that new inheritance? Or perhaps living through a global pandemic has inspired you to start an emergency fund?

There is never a “perfect time” to begin investing. While diversifying your assets may be the last thing on your mind this year, the good thing is that all you have to do is start. Let’s explore some ideas that will inspire you to begin your investment journey, no matter how much money you have in the bank.

 

Open A High-Interest Savings Account

If you have extra cash you are not using for your immediate expenses or that stimulus check is starting to burn a hole in your pocket, you may consider opening a high-yield savings account. With a high-yield savings account, you can start investing with any amount and still have the option to access the cash quickly in the event of an emergency.

There are many banks that offer options for high-yield savings accounts online that still allow access to cash if needed. Opening a savings account is a risk-free way to begin your investment journey, and there’s no better time than now to get started, no matter your age. Thanks to compound interest, your money will grow much faster than if it were sitting in your checking account, and you’ll be less tempted to spend it!

 

Invest In Real Estate

If you’re looking to diversify your assets, investing in real estate is a low-risk and lucrative alternative to investing in the stock market. When you invest in real estate, you are purchasing a house, condo, or apartment with the intent to find tenants and collect the rent as a profit each month.

Many investors prefer real estate as it provides a tangible, physical asset that can be accounted for and controlled. Real estate also has the potential to appreciate over time as your property’s value goes up, allowing for an additional profit upon eventual sale. If you are considering flipping a house to sell for a profit or investing in a rental property to diversify your assets, consider getting an investment property loan to get started. Just be sure that if you’re investing in a property to become a vacation rental property, you also invest in a luxurious interior to increase your return even more!

While this seems like a no-brainer investment option, there are risks involved with real estate as well. This is less of a casual investment, as you’ll need to do quite a bit of research to get started, and rental properties cannot be quickly liquidated if you need extra cash. You also need to consider additional costs such as hiring a contractor for repairs or a property manager to handle the upkeep of your building, not to mention the potential headache of dealing with renters. Despite all this, the stream of passive income and the advantage of owning a tangible asset that can only appreciate over time, make a real estate investment well worth the risk.

 

Invest In The Stock Market

Many would recommend you invest your hard-earned money in stocks, and experts predict the stock market has the ability to give you the highest potential return over time. When you buy stocks, you are essentially buying a tiny piece of a given company, and the stock market gives an average of 10% annual return on investments according to the S&P 500.

 A benefit to investing in stocks is that you can choose to get as involved as you want or stay hands-off in your investment strategy. If you are interested in the stock market and have the confidence to make your own judgments, it can become a fun pastime choosing where to invest your money. If you aren’t confident yet in your knowledge of the stock market, it’s easy to get started with a beginner-friendly app like Fidelity or SoFi.

The downside in this investment option is that there is some risk involved; the value of stocks can decline over time, and making an unlucky investment can actually cost you, which is the opposite of what we want! If you like the excitement of a little risk or prefer a hands-on investment approach, the ebb and flow of investing in the stock market may be for you.

There are so many options when it comes to investing your money, and the first step is knowing what type of investment is right for you. Start exploring one of these ideas to increase your income and begin your investment journey today!

Helicopter money
ArticlesBanking

The Economic Crisis, The Role of Central Banks & Whether Helicopter Money Can Save The Day

Helicopter money

Gregory Perdon is co-Chief Investment Officer at Private and commercial Banking, Arbuthnot Latham

The world’s central banks (US Federal Reserve, Bank of England, Bank of Japan and the European Central Bank) play a crucial role in the global economy. Broadly speaking, they serve as both policy maker and lender of last resort and their objective is to help keep their respective economies in balance.  

Central banks monitor carefully the economy and the financial system and pay particular attention to the speed and temperament of growth. What do they want to see? Monetary officials like when the temperature of inflation and the economy is not too cold nor not too hot, think of it like goldilocks, namely ‘just right’. But when growth begins to overheat, that’s often when they jump into action to help cool things down. Equally when crisis hits, central bankers tend to be the first we call upon to help put out any financial fires.

 

How central banks manage the economy?

Well, they don’t really manage the economy; businesses and consumers do that through their buying and selling; banks do so via their lending decisions – but monetary officials still maintain a tremendous amount of influence over the economy.  One way they exert control is by setting interest rates. For example, when central banks lower borrowing costs, businesses and individuals tend to ‘feel richer’ and can divert capital they would have allocated to servicing debt into investments, hiring and spending (or at least in theory).

Central bankers can also allow lenders to increase their leverage levels, meaning banks can lend more money – which can free up the balance sheet to make more profit (assuming there is demand for lending).

Finally, through communicating (what central bankers call forward guidance), they can telegraph to the markets their intentions, enabling businesses, lenders and traders time to prepare and position.

 

Central banks and Quantitative Easing (QE)

What tools are left in the toolbox after interest rates have been cut to zero and capital ratios relaxed? Well when the conventional is exhausted, they go unconventional – and that’s exactly what the Fed did after the global financial crisis in 2008 – they took it to the next level via large scale bond buying programmes, otherwise known as quantitative easing (QE). 

That’s money printing, right?  Wrong, that’s a myth. QE is but a maturity transformation exercise during which the central bank buy bonds (taking them out of circulation) and replace them with cash. 

This floods the market with liquidity, pushing the price of bonds higher and the yield lower (a condition market participants refer to as financial suppression). This can drive investors into other higher yielding assets such as corporate bonds, listed stocks and property – thus creating demand for financial assets which in turn inflates their prices (or at least stabilises them). But it can also lead to the hoarding of cash.

And the Fed didn’t stop there, during the financial crisis and in their coronavirus pandemic response they also bought (and continue to buy) residential mortgage bonds. Are they interested in building a portfolio of properties and/or foreclosing? Of course not, they do this to ensure mortgage rates stay low – which creates a sense of confidence and encourages home ownership by making housing more ‘affordable’. And it has worked, look no further than the housing market data from sales to starts to prices to sentiment, it’s been a healthy market.

 

If central banks aren’t printing money, who is?

It’s the commercial/private banks (and shadow lenders) who perform the alchemy of money creation, not government. Every time a bank issues a new loan, one must think about it like a leveraged deposit. When one bank issues a loan, it becomes the deposit of another financial institution and it’s this multiplier which in essence creates new money. And of course, they also control the destruction of money – when loans are retired and credit contracts. 

But it’s not so simple, there needs to be lending opportunities in the markets and confidence in the system in order for banks to have the appetite to lend and the pricing needs to be perceived by the borrowers as attractive in order for businesses to accept the terms.

 

The role of governments

Coming back to crisis fighting, monetary policies can only take us so far but if we want to go the full distance, we need fiscal support.  Fiscal policy is the domain of governments, elected politicians, those individuals and committees who control taxation and spending.

Government bodies also set regulations and employment laws which can have a significant impact on the daily decisions made by businesses around the country. For example, if a government wants to orchestrate a short-term boom, they can deregulate and slash taxes (but pay the price of potential environmental damage, social unrest and/or higher government debt later).

But what happens when central banks run out of ammo, governments become desperate to foster growth, banks can’t lend and/or businesses don’t want to borrow?

 

Can Helicopter Money save the economy?

If conditions get bad enough, central banks and governments can throw out the rule book, circumvent the private sector, take to helicopters and go ‘all-in’. We have all heard about helicopter money, but what is it? Heli-money is fundamentally different to QE in that there is no exchange of assets. It is merely a one-way forgivable transfer (unlike QE which is a two-way exchange [but not forgiven]). In a stylised example, the government issues bonds which the central banks buy and then cancel, in turn allowing the government to issue cheques that could then be deposited into bank accounts for citizens to spend.

The attraction of implementing Heli-money is high, because it can, in theory, be used by politicians to potentially ‘address’ growing inequality. Helicopter money can appear to help a broader base of family income statements in a very ‘democratic’ fashion whereas QE has appeared to only help those having a big balance sheet. BUT it’s only optical.

 

Helicopter money isn’t the answer to our financial woes

The reason why QE is not a free lunch is because the money ends up back in the form of reserves, and central banks (such as the Fed) end up paying interest on reserves and excess reserves (to preserve the floor in rates), so it’s not really free.

Secondly, once the bonds are paid for and then ‘written-off’, the central bank may have its equity wiped out. Don’t forget a central bank has a balance sheet just like any other financial institution.

Finally, it may just not be legal nor is it clear who decides the size of the ‘one-off offering’ thereby putting the independence of the monetary authority in question. In order to promote financial stability and a well-functioning economy, we need to ensure central banks remain strong, solvent and independent. 

Alternative Investments
ArticlesFinanceTransactional and Investment Banking

Beginner’s Guide to Alternative Investments

Alternative Investments

Alternative investment assets like collectibles, art, cryptocurrency and loans are attracting an increasing number of retail investors by offering low buy-in, high returns and efficient diversification options

Every few years the line between traditional and alternative investment opinions is re-drawn, as many alternative investment options become more and more mainstream. Everything outside the traditional investment options that are typically accessed through traditional financial institutions –  falls into the category of alternative investments. They do not include, what is now considered traditional investment options: ETFs, gold, bonds, pension funds, and others.

Alternatives category may include both physical and virtual assets, spanning real estate, art, fine wines and aged alcohol, rare items, cryptocurrency, loans, private company debt or ownership, and collectibles. There is no limit to collectible investments, as value can be found in designer sneakers, baseball cards, or even Barbie dolls.

Alternative investments can create both long-term appreciation and immediate income streams. One of the most active investor groups in alternative investing is retail investors – in other words individual investors, who want to take an active role in propelling their own financial success.  One of the most active groups, drawn to alternative investments is a millennial cohort, who exert skepticism about the power of pensions to really secure their retirement, as well as a propensity to learn to operate an alternative portfolio. Technology now allows to ensure sufficient diversification with only a few clicks, and to branch out into immediate passive income or short-term high-return opportunities. 

Five most popular alternative asset classes

1. Real estate. Part of the real estate investment market can be considered a traditional asset class – after all, even banks own real estate and hold on to it as a long term investment strategy. It’s an all-time classic to store value and a potential tool to expand earnings during positive market cycles. The biggest disadvantage of real estate are the big upfront costs and relatively low liquidity, if ownership is outright. That said, the modern – alternative investment options have become available in the real estate market, including real estate investment trust (REIT) and partial or fractional ownership ventures. Retail investors can now invest in various real estate projects by owning a part of its development and then receiving interest once it is developed.

2. Art, valuables, and collectibles. Once again, just like property ownership, some collectibles like fine wine or paintings are quite traditional – accessible to exclusive investor circles, with very high-buy in cost. The alternatives that are accessible to a wider audience, like baseball cards, or designer sneakers are easily researched on online marketplaces, like eBay. Some items can be owned outright in physical form, requiring some care and protection. But it is also possible to fractionally own any of the collectibles, including in-game items and virtual goods with residual value. This asset class has unpredictable returns with relatively difficult average appreciation, but can outperform other asset classes as an insurance. Companies like Masterworks and Otis are allowing retail investors to purchase shares in fine art pieces or unique collectibles. 

3. Crypto-assets. A hot and highly volatile asset class, which allows for both passive buy-and-hold strategies, and for trading. The chief advantage of cryptocurrencies is the relatively easy entry, with the potential to operate and hold the assets in a personally protected wallet, instead of relying on brokers or other third parties. Challenger banks, like Revolut, or  payment platforms like Paypal have integrated digital asset trading on their platforms – making it even more accessible. With recent cryptocurrency popularity, a new alternative investment asset class became popular – NFTs (Non-fungible tokens) – which are centered around collectibles, such as digital artwork, sports cards, and rarities. One trending platform would be NBA Top Shot, a place to collect non-fungible tokenized NBA moments in a digital card form.

4. Loans. Interest-bearing investments in packaged loans can bring transparent, predictable returns that outperform traditional investments. While investing in loans gives short-term returns, loans should be viewed as long-term investments. This asset class has a low entry point, while some platforms, like Mintos also sort potential investment in loans with a risk tolerance profile. It is important to diversify investment in this asset class in order to achieve stable income over time.  Investing in loans is also accessible to multiple economic areas.

5. Private company investments. Private equity and company loans are asset classes sometimes reserved for accredited investors. Because of the risky nature of private companies, some of the investments are only available to accredited buyers. Private equity is also off-limits to most retail buyers, due to its riskier nature and the higher barrier to entry. Loan investments can sometimes circumvent this limitation, by offering business loans for partial ownership and relatively low sums. More accessible option, albeit not very liquid, would again be fractional investment, or crowdfunding, which is available through platforms like Crowdcube.

Final thoughts 

Alternatives are bound to grow. Research by Prequin shows robust growth of alternative investments, to as high as $14 trillion in 2023. The Prequin report covers private wealth managers, but alternative investments are also open to retail owners, due to their variety and enhanced technological access.

The growth potential of the alternative investor sector also means adequate liquidity and price discovery will happen as more buyers join in. Fees are one of the hurdles that diminish the real returns of investment, but the more apps and investment hubs pop up, the more competition to offer low fees, increase service quality benchmark and attract investors.

Expand business
ArticlesBankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Looking for the Right U.S. City for Your U.K. Business Expansion? Here’s What You Need to Know

Expand business


We are used to reading about U.S. businesses expanding to Europe. We often overlook the growing trend of
E.U. based businesses expanding to the U.S. There are many good reasons a U.K. company, in particular, would be interested in expanding to a location across the pond. Those reasons include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Virtually no language barrier

  • Cultural familiarity

  • Similarity between currencies

  • Relatively stable and predictable political system

  • Robust economy relative to other places

Although the U.S. is a mess right now relative to more stable periods from the past, it is still a viable capitalistic republic with a functional economy ripe for a strong rebound. Coronavirus is not just a U.S. phenomenon. We are in a pandemic. Everyone is having to deal with it at some level. There is also political unrest in much of the world. The U.K. is still unpacking what it means to no longer be a part of the E.U. 2020 was a reality for everyone. The real emphasis is on how we recover worldwide. U.K. businesses and U.S. consumers can benefit each other in the recovery process. When looking for a U.S. expansion city, here are a few things to consider:

 

A Livable City

Before looking too closely at any single metric, what you need is a livability assessment. Is the city the kind of place where your potential customers would want to live? If expanding to New Jersey, you wouldn’t just look at the housing market in Jersey City. You would assess the overall reality of living in Jersey City.

Livability scores are based on a variety of factors. Two of the most important factors to consider are crime and housing prices. Boston, NYC, and San Francisco are not the most livable solely on the basis of stratospheric housing costs. But a place like Jersey City would still be in the running because of the high safety index and reasonable cost of living. Obviously, there is more to consider. When you are opening in a new city, you have to consider more than your market. You also have to consider your workforce. Your employees might not be able to afford to live in a city where the cost of living is too high. When you move your business to a city, you become a part of that city and that community. Pick a city where you wouldn’t mind calling home.

 

A Stable Economy

One of the markers of a stable economy is a survey of foreclosures in the area. It is clearly a bad sign when the foreclosure rate is moving in the wrong direction. You can also look at the price range of properties in foreclosure. If the upper end of the housing market is suffering high foreclosure rates, that is a much bigger problem than foreclosure at the lower end of the range. That is where most foreclosures would be anyway.

You also need to look at economic markers over time. A place where things are great one year but horrible the next will not be a good location on which to base the economic future of your company. It is better to expand to a place that has slightly less money, but is more stable and predictable.

 

Transportation Infrastructure

What is the average commute time for workers in that city? Long commute times indicate poor transportation and housing options. Commute times would be shorter if people could live closer to work. If people are commuting from two cities away, that says something about livability.

It also has indications for retail success. Ease of moving about in a city affects who can shop at your stores. If it is hard to get to, it will be hard to attract customers. Look for a place where there is good public transportation and walkable neighborhoods.

There are many good reasons to consider expanding your business to the U.S. Just be sure to pick a city that is highly livable, economically stable, and easily navigable.

credit
ArticlesBanking

The True Impact of Credit On Your Everyday Life

credit


There’s a common misconception that credit doesn’t matter until you’re applying for a mortgage, credit card, or personal loan. Truthfully, most people don’t even review their credit history until they need to borrow money or a line of credit. Although having a good financial record does apply in these circumstances, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Ultimately, a consumer’s credit is used in many different areas of their lives. 

 

Character, Risk Level, And Financial Responsibility

Creditors, lenders, retailers, and service providers use credit reports to assess potential customers. There are risks involved in loaning money, credit, products, or services. If consumers don’t repay their balances in a timely fashion, these establishments suffer a loss. As such, getting a general idea of a person’s creditworthiness helps businesses to make an informed decision. 

Whether you know it or not, your credit score and history tell a lot about how you handle your finances. It showcases your level of character and financial responsibility, which dictates your risk level. If your credit is less than satisfactory, it can have a significant impact on your everyday life. Continue reading to learn more. 

 

Renting An Apartment

A good credit report is indeed necessary to acquire a home loan. However, did you know that it can also affect your ability to rent an apartment? Though you’re not borrowing any money to secure a property lease, you are making a promise to pay your rent on time. Landlords rely on rental payments to maintain the mortgage, keep the property intact, and cover other expenses. If you don’t pay, this puts them in a bind. If your credit check shows that you don’t pay your bills on time, it could backfire. Some applicants are rejected and unable to find a suitable place to live. Others are required to pay a higher deposit as a means of security for landlords. 

 

Utility Services

Water, electricity, and gas are some of the basic necessities of everyday life. However, you may not know that your credit history has a significant impact on your ability to get utility services in your home or apartment. Utility companies need to know that you’re going to pay for these services. So, they review your credit report for more information. If you have a low score, past due balances, and collection accounts, this sends up red flags. If you’re not turned down for services altogether, chances are you’ll be required to pay a sizable deposit to get started. The utility company holds the deposit in an account that’s used if you fall behind on the bill. 

 

Loan And Credit Card Interest

Your credit score doesn’t just help determine if you get approved for a loan or credit card; it’s also a determining factor in how much you’ll pay in interest. The higher the interest rate, the more expensive it is for you to borrow money. Over the lifetime of the loan or credit card account, consumers can spend extra hundreds if not thousands of dollars in interest alone. How much more money you’ll pay, is determined by your creditworthiness. Someone with a credit score of 650 is going to pay more for a mortgage, student loan, or credit card than someone with a score of 750 or higher. 

 

Getting Things In Order

As you can see, your credit impacts a lot more than you think. Whether you’re trying to rent an apartment or get utility services setup, your credit is evaluated to determine your character, risk level, and financial responsibility. Essentially, a person with poor credit will have a difficult time acquiring things they need. Even if they do, chances are they’re going to pay a lot more. That’s why consumers are encouraged to use financial management practices and resources like no credit check online loans to improve their credit. 

Life is already challenging enough. Why make things harder if you don’t have to? Now that you have a clearer understanding of how your credit impacts everyday life, you can take steps to turn things around for the better. 

Money transfer
ArticlesBankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Top 10 International Money Transfer Companies You Need to Know

Money transfer

The relevance of international money transfer companies is growing fast. It’s because slow and expensive bank wire transfers are a big problem for many people. Businesses need cheaper transfers for making and accepting payments. International investors need them as much as small business owners. Losing up to 3% on each transaction (bank transfer cost) can make their investments unviable. Most of all, migrant workers need these transfers as the cost of remittances matters a great deal for them and the global economy. There are also international travelers and other people who mostly use these services for convenience.

All in all, the demand in this market is high and it’s no surprise that dozens of money transfer providers sprung up all over the world. However, not all of them are equally good and trustworthy. As this industry is not well-regulated yet, it’s essential that you choose a provider with extreme care. The following International Money Transfer Top 10 list will help you find the best provider based on your needs. Bear in mind that while there are many great companies that offer affordable transfers, they also have specializations. Therefore, you should consider the type of transfers you need in order to choose the best company for you.

Top 10 International Money Transfer Companies to Fit Every Customer

Western Union

Western Union is, possibly, the most well-known yet most disliked money transfer provider worldwide. No matter negativity surrounding this company, it deserves a place on any top list for international money transfer companies because no other company can reach this far. In fact, for many migrant workers Western Union is the only available option.

This is a money transfer provider focused on remittances and it has an unmatched network of offices worldwide. The company supports 145 different currencies and offers in-person cash pickups even in the most remote places. Literally, there are Western Union money transfers in areas where no other international money transfer companies operate and even banking is severely limited.

That said, Western Union transfers are very expensive. They are the most expensive in the industry. The level of customer service and overall customer support is also not very good. The company has thousands of negative reviews on platforms like Consumer Affairs and BBB Customer Complaints.

The exact cost of the transfer depends on the currency, destination, and transfer amount. The company itself is highly trustworthy and regulated by multiple authorities. Western Union has been in business since 1851. It remains one of the most reputed names in the industry despite high transfer costs.

MoneyGram

MoneyGram is another reputed and remittances-oriented veteran in the money transfer industry. This company was founded in 1940 and it keeps growing and improving even through the current crisis. MoneyGram transfers are also quite expensive. However, it’s on the top 10 international money transfer companies list due to its wide global reach. The company offers cash pickups and supports 58 currencies for online transfers. Note that more currencies are supported if you make a physical transfer through a shop.

There is no minimum transfer amount, so MoneyGram is well-suited for small remittances. But transfer fees and currency exchange rates offered by the company are rather unfavorable. The cost of a transfer can reach 10% to some more remote destinations, like Ethiopia. Also, MoneyGram has multiple negative customer reviews.

It’s important to note that MoneyGram is a licensed and one of the most reliable international money transfer companies. It’s also regulated by multiple financial authorities, like the FCA. Therefore, for all that these transfers aren’t cheap, you can be sure they are 100% safe.

Xoom

Xoom is another great money transfer provider for remittances. It allows you to send transfers, no matter how small, to 131 countries and supports 79 currencies. Xoom earned its place on the top 10 international money transfer companies list due to the fact that it offers cheaper remittances. It also has a very good mobile app and is generally a user-friendly service.

However, at the moment Xoom allows you to send money only from Canada and the USA. Within those countries it’s also a very popular service for small personal transfers. These transactions are very cheap and fast. International money transfers through Xoom will cost more as the transfer amount increases. That’s why it’s a good service for remittances but not the best choice for large investment or business transfers.

TransferWise

TransferWise is currently the biggest among the “new generation” of international money transfer companies. It’s valued at $5 billion, which means it’s grown by about $1,5 billion in the last year alone. This company offers the cheapest international small transfers you can find today. Due to its fixed currency exchange margin and the minimum transfer amount of $1 it’s perfect for remittances and other small personal transfers. However, note that TransferWise doesn’t offer discounts for high-volume transactions.

The company is innovative and growing fast, including its global coverage. It’s also transparent in its pricing and highly safe. It’s regulated by multiple financial authorities, including the FCA. It’s also one of the few licensed to work in the US.

The level of customer satisfaction for TransferWise is very high. The mobile app and online transfers are very user-friendly.

Notably, TransferWise offers some of the lowest foreign currency exchange rates for international money transfers. These rates are unmatched for small transfers. The only reason it’s not currently the leader of the top 10 international money transfer companies list is that TransferWise’s global reach is not yet as wide as Western Union. However, considering its rate of growth and popularity, this might change soon.

OFX

OFX is one of the most notable international money transfer companies today due to the high versatility of its services. This is an online-based company with 10 offices worldwide and 115 bank accounts. Due to this, OFX can offer cheap and fast international money transfers to both businesses and individuals.

The minimum transfer amount with OFX is $100 and the company offers rather low exchange rates and fees. This is why it’s well-suited for small transfers. But most importantly for businesses and investors, OFX has flexible margins. Therefore, the larger is your transfer, the cheaper it will be.

Moreover, the company has a corporate desk and offers very helpful services for businesses and investors. This includes hedging and dedicated currency guidance.

Customer satisfaction rate for OFX is high and the company is regulated by the FCA and other relevant authorities. All transfers are available at zero fees and the company is transparent and traded publicly. Its yearly turnover is around $20 billion. As online international transfer companies are, in essence, currency wholesalers, the large volume is what allows them to keep FX rates low.

One small issue that customers report with OFX is that waiting times for support can be long.

Payoneer

Payoneer is somewhat limited in its functionality and types of transfers you can make through it. However, it offers such a great balance of price and ease of use that it deserves a place among the top 10 international money transfer companies. It also must be noted that the company is constantly growing and improving. Just recently it announced a $3.3 billion deal with SPAC: Betsy and it’s going public. Already Payoneer offers very fair currency exchange rates and transfer fees. The new announcement shows that we can expect it to get even better soon.

Payoneer money transfers have a huge global reach and the comp-any is popular with online merchants, expats, travelers, etc. There are no good high-volume discounts. That’s why it’s not the best for large transfers. However, it’s an excellent solution for quick and cheap small-to-medium transfers. 5 million people are using Payoneer already and the majority of customer reviews are positive.

One of the best Payoneer features is that it allows freelancers to easily withdraw payments they accept from clients through a Mastercard. The solution is also a good choice for SMEs that need to accept payments from multiple countries.

AirWallex

AirWallex is one of the international money transfer companies targeting the eCommerce sector. This company offers secure and reasonably affordable transfers and is rather popular worldwide. Please note that one cannot use AirWallex as a private client to make small transfers. However, online merchants can benefit from this service greatly as it’s secure and regulated by many authorities, including FINTRAC, FCA, ASIC, and HK Customs and Excise Department. Exchange rates offered by the company are very good.

At the moment, AirWallex supports 50 currencies. It’s open for business clients from Europe, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, and China. There is no minimum transfer amount and fees are very low.

There aren’t many customer reviews of this company available online. However, those that exist are mostly positive. AirWallex was founded only in 2015. But it managed to build a solid reputation of reliability within its niche. It’s also known to have a very good app. The company is growing steadily and already has eight offices worldwide and over 300 employees. Its turnover has reached $3 billion a year and it currently plans expanding to the US market.

WorldFirst

WorldFirst is one of the online money transfer industry veterans. Recently this company has undergone a major overhaul. It was purchased by Alibaba Group and with this huge influx of funding it managed to rise fast. Today WorldFirst offers the best FX margins in the entire industry. It’s one of the best solutions for making large transfers at a fixed margin. Due to its close association with Alibaba, the company also offers a wide range of useful services for eCommerce merchants.

All in all, WorldFirst is near the top 10 international money transfer companies because it’s nearly impossible to find a cheaper and more reliable solution for businesses and independent investors. It’s not the best option for small transactions because the minimum transfer size is $1000.

The company is transparent in its pricing and supports over 130 currencies. It has multiple offices worldwide and accepts clients from all over the world, except for the USA. Customers usually praise low rates as well as great service. WorldFirst is rather innovative and its apps are highly advanced but easy to use.

In fact, using WorldFirst international money transfers is so easy you can make a transaction in a few minutes. The registration process takes less than a minute. The company’s global reach is unmatched by any of its direct competitors (Currencies Direct, Moneycorp, TorFX).

Moneycorp

Moneycorp is among those international money transfer companies that are rapidly growing and improving today. Just recently it announced joining Shortlist to provide simple and affordable payments for freelancers. This is a good reminder that despite being an industry veteran (founded in 1962) the company thrives on innovation. Its annual turnover is near $40 billion now and Moneycorp prides itself on working with high-wealth clients.

This is one of the top 10 international money transfer companies that are perfect for investors and businesses. The company offers lower rates for large transfers and many additional services, including guidance from currency experts. Note that Moneycorp has won numerous awards and has the highest D&B rating in the industry.

The minimum transfer is only $50, which makes it possible to use Moneycorp for small private transfers as well. However, the provider has the best rates saved for customers who make high-volume transactions. The company has offices in several European countries, the US, the UAE, Hong Kong, Brazil, and Australia. It’s regulated by multiple authorities, such as the FCA, ACPR, and FINCEN. It supports 120 currencies and over 90% of all customer reviews are positive.

Currencies Direct

Currencies Direct is another of international money transfer companies that work primarily with high-wealth clients. It offers many helpful services for investors and business owners. This includes offering expertise on global real estate investments.

The company has a $7.5 billion annual turnover and 22 offices in different countries. It offers some of the best exchange rates for high-volume transfers. It also offers a very efficient and friendly multi-lingual customer support service.

The minimum transfer with Currencies Direct is $100 and the company charges no transfer fees. It’s regulated by the FCA, SARB, FINTRAC, and FinCEN. It also has a Level 1 D&B rating and supports 39 currencies.

Bottom Line: International Money Transfer Companies Are Changing the World

As globalization is growing billions need to be transferred worldwide every year for business and personal purposes. Money transfer companies with their cheaper and more efficient transactions are going to become the new norm for international payments. This means that we can expect more competition in the industry, which will prompt even better offers.

Saving money
ArticlesBankingRegulationTransactional and Investment Banking

Simple Ways to Save Money That Often Go Overlooked

Saving money

One of the most fundamental concepts of generating wealth is knowing how to save money. When you master the art of stretching your earnings further, you have more resources to invest and save towards a more secure future. While shopping around for the best price, using coupons, and other common savings tactics are ideal, other strategies go overlooked, costing you hundreds of dollars each year. Continue reading to learn more. 

 

Skip ATM Fees

When you need access to cash, the ATM is the fastest way to retrieve it. It saves you from standing in long lines at the bank and allows you to get money 24/7. Be that as it may, you incur a fee when you use ATMs outside of your bank’s network. The fee might only be $2-5, but when you calculate that over the number of times you use the ATM in a month, it adds up. Not to mention, most banks charge an additional fee for using out-of-network ATMs. You can save several dollars every year by merely using no-fee ATMs or making purchases using the debit card linked to your bank account. 

 

Overdraft Protection

Even the most financially organized person can overlook a bank transaction. You forget that your cell phone bill is on automatic withdrawal. The funds aren’t available in your checking account. The payment gets returned, and you’re left with a $25-$35 fee to cover. While setting reminders can reduce the chances of overdraft fees, there’s another solution – overdraft protection. This is an “insurance” policy offered by banks where transactions totaling more than your available balance are honored or paid using a linked savings account, saving you hundreds in fees each month. 

 

Rebates

Using coupons or taking advantage of sales when making a purchase are common ways to save money, but they’re not the only solutions. Most people tend to overlook rebate opportunities. Though not applied at the time of purchase, rebates can quickly add up. If you frequently shop online, applying for an Amazon rebate could save you hundreds of dollars on everyday purchases. Believe it or not, there are several cashback and rebate programs you can sign up for to save on everything from groceries to apparel. 

 

Buy Generic

As a consumer, you’ll always pay for the brand’s name and reputation, from your medications to your clothes. For example, a pair of athletic shoes from Payless shoe store will cost you less than a pair you purchase from Nike. Since Nike is the more popular brand, it will always be more expensive than a generic brand from your local retailer. However, if you dig deeper, you’ll learn that these shoes are made in the same factories using the same materials, ultimately providing you with the same quality. So, it’s safe to say that you would save yourself hundreds if not thousands of dollars by being open-minded about generic or lesser-known brands. 

 

Timeliness

When it comes to wasting money, timeliness is a huge factor. When you don’t pay your bills in a timely manner, you incur late fees, penalties, and sometimes added interest. Depending on how frequently you practice this behavior, you could be watching hundreds of thousands of dollars go down the drain. You can remedy this problem by ensuring that you pay your bills on time. Set up automatic payment plans or set reminders to ensure that you have the available funds to cover the bill. If you’re having difficulty keeping up with the due dates, talking with service providers about making adjustments is recommended. 

As the saying goes, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” On the surface, these habits may not seem like much. Incurring a $2 ATM or $35 overdraft fee, spending more on a popular brand, or missing the deadline for a utility or credit card bill seems minuscule, but if you were to add it up over the course of a month or year, chances are you’d be surprised. Keep more of your money in your pocket by developing better financial habits and taking advantage of the resources available to help you save more each day.

Female Investor
ArticlesBankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Here Is What Your Company Can Do to Attract More Women Investors

Female Investor

Women make up about 50% of the population while controlling only 30% of the wealth. This is the worldwide statistic that is set to dramatically change in the right direction over the course of the next decade. As bad as the numbers appear, they actually represent good news. This is a big improvement that is set to continue. Women’s growing wealth prompts the need for changes in the banking sector. That said, it is not all good news. MSN goes on to say:

“Although a third of the world’s wealth is under women’s control today, four in ten wealthy women are currently not involved in the management of their family finances compared to only one in ten men.”

Dramatic change is afoot. And that foot will be wearing Prada. More women are bursting through the glass ceiling, as well as the glass walls and glass doors. You want to be on the right side of history, as well as the right side of your growing female clientele. Here is hot to make sure they do business with you as opposed to your competition:

 

Speak Directly to Women

It is never the right thing to address someone indirectly. If you have a question for a woman, don’t ask her male partner or associate. Speak to her directly. Advertisers often make this mistake. Your marketing does not need to talk down to women. It needs to talk directly to women.

If your healthcare services include women’s health issues, you need to make sure you are speaking to that target audience. If you don’t know how to do that, bring in a healthcare public relations firm that can. If you want to target investment products to women, you are in luck. You have an audience that is rapidly growing. They already want to do more investing. You just have to craft your message so that you are making a direct appeal to the customers you want to attract.

One of the best ways to draw and not repel women investors is to put women in charge of the sales and marketing efforts. Men are used to talking to other men in ways that would be counterproductive when talking to women. The best way to speak directly to women is to let a woman do the speaking.

 

Go Where the Market is Ready

Gender egalitarianism is not alive and well in many parts of the world. Change is happening everywhere. But that change is much slower in some places as opposed to others. If you want to attract more women to your investment platforms, start in the places where more women are empowered to respond to your message.

Women investors in loans rose by 43% in Europe in 2020. Europe has a long history of empowered women. It is a good place to find women investors. The U.S. requires a bit more nuanced effort. Women control a great deal of wealth in the States. 20201 saw the swearing in of the first female vice president. It is overcoming a checkered past with regard to women’s rights. But the market for women investors is set to explode as millions of women become more empowered. Go where the market is ready to reap the greatest rewards.

 

Provide More Offerings Suitable for Women

One of the best things Apple did with Apple Watch was to make two sizes. They never marketed the smaller watch for women. But since women tend to have smaller wrists, it is a sensible option. It is a product useful for women without it being festooned with pink flowers.

When possible, design products to be unisex. When not possible, include an option suitable for the other 50% of the market. If you want women to invest in your company, make it a company that offers something for everyone.

Women are 50% of the population. It will not be long before they are at least 50% of the controlling influence of wealth. Their investing power is here, and growing. You can partner with this new generation of investors by appealing directly to them, being there when the market is ready, and giving them a reason to invest in your company by having offerings suitable for everyone. 

Afghanistan Currency
ArticlesBankingFinanceForeign Direct InvestmentIslamic Finance

Securing Stability & Success in Afghanistan’s Economy

Afghanistan Currency

As the largest commercial bank in Afghanistan, it may have also proven difficult for Azizi Bank to simultaneously ascertain the title of best commercial bank. Yet, that is exactly what this outstanding financial institution has done, and has rightfully been awarded that title of 2020’s Best Commercial Bank, Afghanistan in this quarter’s issue of Wealth & Finance International Magazine. Join us as we find out more about what the bank has to offer, what makes it so unique, and why it is deserving of this international recognition.

Azizi Bank is the largest commercial bank in Afghanistan, and it has been maintaining that position since its inception in 2006. Being the country’s largest banking group, there is a Pan-Afghanistan presence that stretches across more than thirty provinces and a headquartered office in Ankara Square in Kabul. The work of Azizi Bank started with the professional and entrepreneurial commitment of its founder, Mr Mirwais Azizi of the Azizi Hotak Group & Family and is presently under the leadership of a young and dynamic Chief Executive Officer Dr. Prof. Mohammad Salem Omaid. What makes Azizi Bank unique is the fact that its professional customer service and the sense of belonging that every client and customer has. Each and every employee carries with them this sense of welcoming and belonging, and strives to ensure that all interactions with customers are done so in a way that makes them feel like they are a part of the family feel that the bank presents. In addition to this, there is a wealth of digital innovation and product excellence on show here also. Azizi Bank has invested significant time, money, and manpower into ensuring that every product is designed to suit a client requirement, and this commitment distinguishes the bank to be the most distinctive and superior bank across Afghanistan.

For almost fifteen years, Azizi Bank has been managed under the governance of a very competent and effective Board of Supervisors, who brings a vast repertoire of knowledge and experience in their various fields, and are internationally acclaimed in their respective work. At the management level, there is a brilliant mix of youth and experience, which leads to both innovation and stability across the board. Today, Azizi Bank has more than fifteen hundred employees, and with a fifteen percent female work force, it is playing a quietly effective role in women’s emancipation and empowerment across Afghanistan. Aside from Azizi Bank, there are another eleven banks in the country, including two banks from Pakistan. The total banking deposit is approximately USD 3.2 billion, with all assets totalling approximately five billion USD.

As a country, Afghanistan has witnessed strong economic growth and developing in banking systems when compared to the previous two decades. Growth in the financial sector, specifically within the banking sector itself, was considerable. Thus, national income increased, and there was massive promotion in many of the other macroeconomic factors, including exchange rates, inflation, balance of payments, government revenues, investment, international trade, industrial production, and employment levels. Azizi Bank has always played a pivotal role towards each and every reform of the Central Bank of the country, and has marked itself out as a pioneering force of financial inclusion programs and branchless banking. Recently, in a bid to further bolster these initiatives, Azizi Bank has signed an MOU with the Afghan Postal Service to provide branchless banking through their more than four hundred and fifty post offices covering the country and some of its most remote locations.

The team at Azizi Bank is also made up of the bankers of choice for some of the major UN agencies, such as UNICEF, WHO, and WFP, who are present and working in Afghanistan. Azizi Bank is all about enabling these agencies to make their payments and disbursements to the far and rural areas of the country. Furthermore, this outstanding bank is the only bank in the country to have a mobile wallet solution, called AZIPAY, for all types of payments, including paying utility bills, education fees, groceries, and airline tickets. There is even excellence with the more comprehensive financial inclusion initiatives, with Azizi Bank having converted one of its subsidiary banks into a full-fledged Islamic Bank in the country. This is the first and only full services Islamic Bank in the country to date. With Afghanistan having more than 99% of its population being Muslims, such a change will definitely pave the way for more people coming into the banking fraternity, thereby improving the financial inclusion ratio of the country.

Since its inception, there have been several core founding values that have been the focal point of the bank and its championing of sustained financial growth in Afghanistan. Azizi Bank has always believed in innovations, and has never stepped back away from investing in innovative technological initiatives. The bank also has the best in class management board and senior management in the country, comprising of experienced bankers with an averages of more than two decades’ experience from the United States, India, Pakistan, Africa, and Europe. Azizi Bank has also always believed in the learning and development initiatives towards capacity building, and have built a comprehensive policy on the same. These structural reforms have brought in change within the bank to a large extent, and have always made it unique compared with other peer banks working in the country.

As has already been conveyed above, Azizi Bank prides itself on being a technology-driven back that makes full use of some of the latest technological innovations from across the world. With society moving towards more digitalization than ever before, the customer’s perceptions have changed on what they can access and want from their banking services. Afghanistan in particular is a country where more than half of population has a smart phone, and there is greater opportunity for banks to invest more into technology than ever before. Azizi Bank has foreseen this opportunity prior to its competitors and peers, and is now in a position where it can adapt to the ever-changing present and future. One of the ways in which the bank has taken the initiative and seized the day regarding innovative technology is by being a prominent voice on several developmental projects aimed at meeting financial customers’ expectation all across Afghanistan.

Providing technologically-savvy services banking services is the goal for many institutions, especially now that the world is moving towards an increasingly digital society. With the gradual transition towards advanced digital banking, there comes a greater need for traditional banks to keep up with modern systems and innovative ways of doing things. Azizi Bank has also initiated different tailor-made products for both deposits and advances meant for different levels of society, including accounts for children, students, women, senior citizens, retail businesses, small and medium enterprises, and entrepreneurs to name just a few. Despite the wealth of innovation on show at Azizi Bank, there have also been challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The arrival of the pandemic meant that Afghanistan, which is a predominantly import-driven economy, witnessed a surge in the cost of commodities, thereby affected the normalcy of life and common people. Industries of all sectors and types were affected, and so was the fate of the financial sector as well. In essence, the economy and economic growth of the whole country took a massive hit. There has been some impact on Azizi Bank amidst the pandemic, which has sustained itself almost a year and still counting. With the initial lockdown in place for the first few months of 2020, business was seriously hampered, though there was no significant decline for deposits. Where Azizi Bank really was affected was new business. Overall trade finance and the recovery of loans has been another key area affected by the pandemic, although the Central Bank of Afghanistan did come out with a detailed recovery plan to aid the situation and get the country back on its feet as soon as possible.

Pandemic or otherwise, Azizi Bank did have a strategic business plan in place, as well as a disaster recovery plan considering the geography of operation. The bank is always prepared and ready to face any sort of adverse situation, including this current crisis. As a bank, Azizi Bank also took steps and made plans even before the government made any sort of official announcement in terms of business contingency, staff contingency, and operational contingency initiatives and operations. Azizi Bank took immediate steps to ensure total safety and stability for itself and its staff, even before the lockdown was announced. All mediums of communication were used to reach staff and the public, and the bank stopped all meetings, conferences, customer gatherings, and training. In the immediate aftermath of the announcements made by many world governments, including Afghanistan, Azizi Bank formed a committee to analyse and make plans to curve this emergency situation.

Safety precautions including complete sanitization, thermal meters, face masks and gloves, and more were initiated at all the branches for both customers and staff alike, whilst plans were also made to rotate the staff so as to avoid close proximities. Expatriate staff members were also encouraged to work from home where possible, thereby minimising the risk of transmission and infection. Armed with these various safety measures and initiatives, life will eventually return to normality for Azizi Bank. However, with the ongoing political uncertainty still prevailing and international donors reluctant to pump in additional funds, this latest COVID-19 scare will definitely affect the overall growth of the Afghanistan economy. Stability will take time, but Azizi Bank will see it through.

Outside of the financial work carried out by Azizi Bank, there is also a deep-rooted and ever-present commitment to charity work and community-based initiatives. Azizi Bank is the only banking institution in Afghanistan that has a sustained CSR Policy and Responsible Banking. For the team, they consider CSR as one of the most important aspects of growth, and the institution also supports the important cause of the government in terms of sustainability initiatives. Supporting society as a whole is equally important, and there are a great many ways in which Azizi Bank does this too. The bank’s involvement on CSR initiatives has made a great impact across society and for the brand of Azizi Bank.

In working on these initiatives, the bank has been quite active for the last five years on various initiatives across the country and has therefore received considerable amounts of appreciation from the government and wider society. From a community service perspective, Azizi Bank has supported multiple hospitals and homes in terms of providing medicines, essential utilities, infrastructure development, food materials, stationeries, and organising blood donation camps. The team at Azizi Bank have also focused their time on various environmentally sustainable and green initiatives. Working in this area, the bank has endeavoured to stand out by starting a green initiative that involved planting thousands of trees across Afghanistan. Alongside this, there are also campaigns on saving water and pollution control, two of the most prominent environmental sustainability issues faced by many all over the world.

Azizi Bank has recently partnered with the National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) of the government of Afghanistan, and this partnership will surely lead to collaborative work on various other initiatives aimed at increasing environmental sustainability. Finally, the last core area that Azizi Bank works in outside of its own four walls is that of community support. Azizi Bank has always sought to provide free training sessions to local college graduates and management students alike, with topics ranging from banking and finance, to the inner workings of an economy, and much more. Whilst this is a community support initiative aimed at giving finance students the best possible knowledge around, it also doubles as the perfect recruitment opportunity. Qualifications is one thing, but Azizi Bank also encourages fresh graduates to push their way to the forefront of the industry and make an impression with their dedication and commitment to understanding finance.

Ultimately, Azizi Bank is far more than just an exceptional institute of finance. Rather, it everything a country could possibly want from a bank that seeks to be innovative, be a unifying force that invests in the future, and delivers outstanding financial services to everyone in the country. Azizi Bank is constantly redefining its own success, and is fully deserving of this latest success from Wealth & Finance International Magazine as being recognized as 2020’s Best Commercial Bank in Afghanistan.

Few Words about the bank’s CEO – Dr. Prof. Mohammad Salem Omaid

A result oriented proficient starting his professional journey with Azizi Bank in 2006 as a Finance Officer and successfully ascending the steps to become the President and CEO. In his career span of more than 14 years, Dr. Omaid handled diverse roles having rich & extensive experience in Finance & Accounting, Corporate Accounts Trade Finance, Corporate Credit Financing, Operational Banking, Investment Banking and Retail Banking. Initiated several measures, Bank Products, Technological products aimed at promoting the bank and its objectives. Dr. Omaid’s contribution towards refining the banking structure in the country earned him appreciations & accolades not only from the Govt. & Public body within the country but also from the international agencies worldwide.

Dr. Omaid’s experience and knowledge for a sustainable growth earned him several international accreditations and he is also the only afghan conferred with the honorary professorship of Academics, Oxford. He is also the Member of the Europe Business Assembly, UK, The World Confederation of Businesses, USA and an active member of BAFT, USA. He is also associated with the ICC, Banking Commission, Afghanistan and is the Chairman of the Afghanistan Banks Association.

He is also the recipient of the Asian Banker “Young Banker” Award in 2017, being the only one from the Central Asian Region till date. In 2020, Dr. Omaid is conferred with the Professional Doctorate by the European International University, Paris for his endurance, commitment and leadership in shaping a bank in Afghanistan as per international standards.

A visionary leader and a highly respected citizen in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

For more information, please contact Samrat Dutta at www.azizibank.af

Woman credit card
ArticlesBankingCash Management

How to Build Credit the Right Way

Woman credit card

People say that money makes the world go round, but the truth is that good credit provides you with the most opportunities. Building credit can be a challenge if you don’t have any previous history. However, it’s an essential part of life and can simplify many situations.

Keep reading to learn three methods of building credit the right way.

 

1. Open a Credit Card

Most people know that opening a credit card will influence their overall score and history. However, they don’t know how to maximize it for their own benefit. Here are three factors to consider.

 

Choosing a Secure Credit Card

There are many credit cards available on the market, but it’s essential to know the difference between secured and unsecured cards. Simply put, secured cards require an upfront deposit that minimizes the risk for the issuer. With a secured card, you can build your credit without risking going into debt. They’re typically much easier to obtain an unsecured card — making them a good option for anyone with limited credit history. The only downside is that your deposit creates a cap for your spending limit.

 

Getting a Co-Signer

If you’d like to have an unsecured card and don’t have a credit history, you can consider getting a co-signer. This person would agree to take on your debt if you default on paying. If they have good credit, then you’re more likely to get approved. The downside is that most major credit card companies do not allow for co-signers. You’ll need to research your options if you’d like to take this approach.

 

Making Regular Payments

To build good credit, you’ll want to make regular payments regardless of the card type. It’s always best to pay off the debt in full. Keep in mind that late payments can cause additional interest and penalty charges to accrue. Additionally, your payment timeliness influences your score.

 

2. Apply for a Loan

When the situation calls for it, loans are extremely beneficial. They typically have lower interest rates than credit cards and can allow an individual to purchase something outside of their savings range. Many loans are also known as good debt because they help a person pursue investments that improve their life. They also influence credit and can help build a long-standing history.

From this standpoint, it would be worthwhile to make a significant purchase or investment using a loan. These purchases encourage natural credit building. Keep in mind that you should only borrow as much money as your feel comfortable paying back. Defaulting on a loan will damage your score, so it’s worth setting up an automatic repayment program.

 

3. Become an Authorized User

One of the easiest ways to build safe credit is by becoming an authorized user on another’s account. When added, you gain access to their available funds and earn a credit history without liability. Unlike co-signing, if the other person stops paying, you are not responsible for covering their fees. However, it’s beneficial to choose someone who pays their bills on time and is financially stable, so their account does not negatively affect your score.

 

Be Patient

You can use these three ways to grow your credit and check the results using annual score reports. Good scores allow you to get lower interest rates on future loans and credit cards and improves your chances of getting approved. Building credit takes time, but it pays off in the long run.

female investor stock market
ArticlesBankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Women Investors in Loans Rose by 43% in Europe in 2020

female investor stock market
Mintos, the largest marketplace for investing in loans in Europe, saw a stable increase among women investors in the EU, with the sharpest growth in Estonia, where women constituted 36% of all newly registered Estonian investors. Meanwhile, Germany led the way with the highest number of women investors overall. 
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Mintos, the leading alternative investment marketplace for investing in loans in Europe, has reported an increase in women investors in 2020. The company, which holds 40% of the market share in the EU, saw women investors increase by 43% over the course of 2020. Women constituted 15% of the total 363,312 investors on the marketplace that houses the majority of women retail investors in Europe. 
The most active women investors in loans last year were based in the Baltic region, most notable when looking at the proportion of investment activity by gender in a county by country comparison. In Estonia, women made up 36% of all the country’s newly registered investors last year, while in Latvia and Lithuania the number was 25% and 18%, respectively.
In terms of total number of women investors, Germany led the way with 3160 women investors, who constituted 13% of all investors. In Estonia, there were 2129 new women investors, while in Spain—1442.
“The fact that an increasing number of women consider and actually start investing is a victory to everyone, knowing how underrepresented this group of investors is,” said Martins Sulte, CEO and Co-founder of Mintos. “It also shows that alternative investments, especially loans, are an attractive asset class for women investors.”
The demographic breakdown also shows that the average amount of first investment among women investors, who chose to invest on the marketplace ranged from €20 to €1300. Women investors who chose their first investment amount on Mintos in the range from €0-50 were from countries such as Germany, Denmark, Finland, Andorra, Serbia, Monaco. Investors from Austria, Estonia, Spain, Czech Republic, Poland, Portugal, Lithuania, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Italy, Romania, Belgium, Slovakia, Hungary, Greece, Sweden, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway and the Netherlands chose from €50 to €200, while Irish, Icelandic and Albanian investors leaned towards the €200-1300 investment level.
The company also reports that an average woman investor had an outstanding balance of €2,028 at the end of the last year, compared to €4,164 at the end of 2019. The company links this to women investors being more cautious last year due to the impacts of the pandemic, even though the total number of women investors increased. In January 2021 the investment volumes steadily increased, yet it is too early to make any projections at this moment in time.
The total interest earned among all women investors on Mintos at the end of the year was €11.5 million, with the average amount of interest earned per woman investor depending on the country and start date. In Germany, the average interest earned by the end of 2020 was €929, while in the Baltic countries of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania it was €315, €727 and €849, respectively.
The overall interest in alternative investments among women has been an encouraging trend globally. With more women joining the workforce earlier and staying longer, women now control about $72 trillion of the world’s investable wealth, a number expected to grow as years pass.
Small business loan form .
ArticlesBankingCash Management

‘Normal’ Bank Lending to SMEs Down 10% Last Year As Banks Focus On CBLIS & BBLS Loan

Small business loan form .
  • £61bn of CBILS & BBLS loands handed out to SMEs

  • Alternative lender market vital for SMEs looking to grow in 2021

The outstanding value of non-emergency lending by banks to SMEs has dropped by 10% from £168bn in December 2019 to £152bn in December 2020, shows new research from ACP Altenburg Advisory, the debt advisory specialist.

ACP Altenburg Advisory says the research shows that once CBILS and BBLS loan schemes come to an end, SME businesses are likely to struggle to obtain finance from banks which is not partly or fully underwritten by the Government.

Total CBILS and BBLS lending to SMEs has ballooned from £4bn in April 2020, to a total of nearly £61bn that has been lent by December 2020*.

Once the CBILS and BBLS schemes come to an end, ACP Altenburg Advisory says banks may have limited appetite to lend and increase their exposure to the SME sector any further, given the significant increase in overall SME lending over the past 12 months when including the emergency lending.

Many banks are already reducing non-emergency lending to new to bank business customers. As CBILS and BBLS loans are underwritten by the Government, banks have been able to offer better terms for those loans than for ‘business as usual’ lends, which do not provide lenders with the same safety net.

ACP Altenburg Advisory says, therefore, alternative lenders are likely to be sought after in the coming months as SMEs find it more difficult to obtain finance from traditional lenders.

Will Senbanjo, Partner at ACP Altenburg Advisory, says: “CBILS and BBLS loans have dominated banks’ lending activities to such an extent that they have limited capacity to write normal loans to SMEs. This means that businesses looking to grow may struggle to obtain the funds they need.”

“SMEs looking to raise additional funds for growth in the months ahead may need to look at the alternative options, such as asset-based lending or alternative lender funding. Alternative lenders are open for business and are keen to deploy capital to well-managed businesses that have strong growth potential.”

Debt advisers can be crucial in helping a business to obtain the right funding package to fit their business needs. Advisers can help a business understand and explore the various funding options open to them, and then help them present their business to the most appropriate lenders in the right way.

*Based on data from the Bank of England and the British Business Bank. SMEs are defined as businesses with less than £25m turnover.

gold money investment
ArticlesFinanceFundsTransactional and Investment Banking

Why People Are Going Gold As An Investment

gold money investment


Gold is one of the safest investments available, apart from a savings account. This is because of its stability, even in uncertain times. In the past, owning gold was quite controversial because of the worries surrounding its price fluctuation and potential instability. Now, however, more people choose to invest in gold as part of their overall assets because of its many benefits. For one, investing in precious metals is a good way to protect your savings.

When you hear about the benefits of investing in gold or buying gold products, most people associate it with investing in jewelry. While this is certainly a key component to any well-rounded portfolio, gold itself is a much broader asset. Gold can be used to buy or trade almost anything – bonds, mutual funds, stocks, commodities, and even estate. If you’re looking for a way to diversify your portfolio but are worried about your investments in gold being exposed to more risk than other assets, then look into investing in precious metals as a part of your portfolio.

Here’s why people are turning to gold as one of their investment options:

1. You Can Start Even With Only A Small Amount

One of the greatest advantages of investing in gold like Oxford Gold is that you don’t need to have a substantial amount of money to start. You can begin, even with only a small amount. Hence making it a very accessible option even for those with limited funds to start with at the moment.

Even if you start small, the key is for you to slowly increase your investment, so you can stabilize it in the long run.

 

2. It’s A Very Safe Investment

Gold is considered to be a safe investment. As an investment, it won’t lose its value unlike other stocks and bonds, which are very susceptible to the volatile market.

It’s highly unlikely that you’ll encounter any problem with the value of this precious metal. You can easily earn a lot of money with your gold investment and even increase your wealth within a short time.

 

3. It’s A Stable Hedge Against An Unstable Market

Gold is one of the most stable assets that you can choose to invest in. Even when the stock market goes down, gold continues to retain its value. Therefore, you can consider it as a very safe investment choice.

The thing with gold is that it’s a very limited asset because it’s a precious metal. This stays the same, even if the demand does increase. Because of this, the price continues to go up. This situation makes it a very stable hedge against an unstable market.

 

4. It Gives You A Good Return On Investment

One of the other reasons why gold is also becoming a very popular investment form is that it guarantees a very good return on investment.

There are several factors that influence the rate of return that a precious piece of metal can offer. First, it’s very easy to mine and sell the metal. Second, it doesn’t require too much investment capital to start off with. You can simply start selling jewelry and coins to get started.

With these two factors alone, you can rely on a faster ROI. This means you can start paying back whatever capital you spent on your gold. The profits will also come in faster than expected. It can bring your financial status a sense of security.

 

5. It Protects Against Inflation And Economic Fluctuations

If there’s a dip in the value of currencies around the world, owning precious metals such as gold or silver is a great way to protect yourself against the fluctuations in the value of money.

Because of its value being tied to the U.S. dollar, precious metals are usually the safest investments out there. They don’t depreciate like other assets. This protects you against inflation, as you know the value of your gold investments stays stable, at least.

This makes gold a good form of long-term investment. You don’t have to worry about it losing its value over time. It’s something that can keep increasing in value on a regular basis, so you have great security in knowing they are protecting your wealth.

It also increases the likelihood that if you do sell your assets, you will receive a high enough amount to cover your losses, if you incur any. This can also help provide economic stability for you, particularly when you’re going through big changes, such as newly starting a business, for example.

 

6. It’s Easy To Diversify

The last benefit to investing in gold, in particular, is that they’re easy to diversify. There are so many different investments you can make with them. You can invest in fine gold jewelry, gold coins, ETFs, gold bars, bullion, and coins, for instance.

Gold bars are smaller than bullion coins and are less susceptible to theft. If you want a simple, low-risk investment, invest in gold bars. You can purchase them at banks or from online brokers, and you can store them in safety like a safety deposit box or a bank safe.

Diversification is a great way to increase the value of your investments and protect yourself in case of a crash. Investing in just one gold investment can diversify your portfolio significantly, and you don’t have to sell your holdings to take advantage of these diversified investments.
In the past, investors used to get along just fine without diversifying their portfolios. However, the world’s economy has changed, and most investors have had to deal with the global recession. It’s thereby imperative for investors to start diversifying their portfolios to protect themselves from these negative indicators.

 

Conclusion

Investing in gold is a very good choice for you, even if you’re a newbie investor. These reasons above are precisely why so many have gotten into investing in gold as their choice. The key is for you to just learn more about it and make sure that you understand everything there is for you to know about gold investing. You can learn so much more about it and comprehend it in totality, depending on your risk tolerance, liquidity, and risk level. In doing so, you know that you’re on the right path towards the proper way of investing in gold.

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ArticlesBankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Investing Full Time: What You Need to Know

investing for beginners


Do you dream of pursuing a career in investing but are unsure where to start?


Lets start with the basics

Investments. A broad term that can be used to describe the purchase of a large form of collateral, such as a house or other class of asset. Or smaller item investments can also be used to describe a luxury watch, a prime example of this is when an Air Force Vet purchased a ‘Cosmograph Daytona Oyster Rolex’ back in 1974 for $350, later to find out the exact model is now worth $700,000 in 2020. 

However big or small you want to start your investment journey, as long as you’re prepared to make a long-term commitment your life goals are achievable.

Although investing can increase your wealth whilst staying ahead of inflation, there are always risks involved with ANY investment – which is why it’s important to diversify your portfolio.

Putting this in simpler terms: increase your chances by dividing your capital into various opportunities covering diverse and alternative markets.

 

Do you need a minimum amount to invest with?

To become a retail investor you can start out with under £1000, which you can build on over time. Although most private equity or pre-IPO opportunities have a required minimum investment amount. The offering entity also have to ensure they have enough assets under management (AUM) to achieve their investment goals and cover overheads.

 

Broaden your horizons

If you’re a seasoned or more experienced investor, you may feel passionate about stocks and bonds, but have you considered private equity investment opportunities? These have outperformed the traditional investment asset classes this year.

In a FundRise report titled “Why Private Markets Outperform Traditional Publicly-Traded Stocks and Bonds” it concludes how the evidence strongly supports the view that an allocation of 15% or more of a portfolio to private [investments] leads to higher returns and should be taken seriously by all investors.

 

Be prepared for risk

All investments involve some degree of risk. If you intend to purchase securities – such as stocks, bonds, or mutual funds – it’s important that you understand before you invest that you could lose some or all of your money. … The reward for taking on risk is the potential for a greater investment return.

 

Don’t sell at the first sign of profits!

It’s a wise tactic to allow your investments time to mature as they will likely continue to increase. It is however advised to exit a trade in decline as soon as you can. If you follow this rule, the money you make on your positive investments will far outpace any failed opportunities.

 

Keep your finger on the pulse

If you’re going to pursue a full-time career in investing you will need to access analytical industry insights and keep informed regarding new opportunities or evolving market conditions. Platforms such as Investopedia, Forbes, Bloomberg to name a few will keep you well informed.  

 

The more you learn, the more you earn…

Not only can you interact with digital platforms and even turn on your notifications to receive regular updates… reading some world-renowned books that feature some of the most successful entrepreneurs will help. Investment books are a key element of your personal development and can develop a money-making mindset.

 

Some of the most popular books for a guide to investment:

Rich Dad Poor Dad (1997) by Robert Kiyosaki

The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America

Beating the Street (1993) by Peter Lynch

The Intelligent Investor (1949) by Benjamin Graham

Think and Grow Rich (1937) by Napoleon Hill

If you want to invest, educating yourself is a key part of that process. To conclude, anyone can become an investor, starting small and begin progressing into new markets is always a good place to start.

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ArticlesFinanceTransactional and Investment Banking

“The Modern Investor” Setting New Investment Rules

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Retail investors have made quite an impact on the stock market recently, although several seasoned investors deem them as amateurs set to make wrong decisions and lose their wealth. Other experts believe modern investors are becoming a force to be reckoned with.

There is a lot of focus on addressing the modern investors, who are mostly millennials and became a more visible investor group in 2020 by investing heavily in tech stock, seeing the opportunity to hedge against the potential inflation and at the same time exploring alternative investment asset classes. Some seasoned investors are saying the modern investors are just chasing a trend and playing with fire, while others believe the cohort should be taken seriously.

Who is the modern investor?

Modern investors are predominantly millennials, both in age and spirit. Though most of them, especially in the US, have yet to acquire more wealth than their predecessors, baby-boomers, millennials are a growing power in the investment world, already influencing the current industry.

The driving force behind modern investors’ ability to change the industry is technology. From robo-advisors to gamification, tech-savvy investors are increasingly relying on and using apps and the internet. When once investing was a privilege accessible only to well-off citizens, now technology has made it only a few clicks away, presenting a plethora of opportunities to invest not only in the traditional assets like stocks or bonds, but also alternatives like arts, wine, loans, and others. 

Contrary to the general view, modern investors are well-informed. A survey by Accenture revealed that 90% of financial advisors believe their millennial clients are more aware about their investing options than they were five years ago, indicating that the interest and engagement in investing is nevertheless growing.

Alternative investments – crucial part of modern portfolio

Blackstone research on new investor behaviour also shows that alternative investments are rising in popularity as investors are seeking alternative investments to find yield, some for higher returns, or protection from rising rates, or a haven against market volatility.

As modern investment portfolio changes, adapting to potential market changes may require a search for new sources of funding. One of the growing alternative investment asset classes— popular with millennial investors—is investment in loans. Their biggest advantage is higher returns in comparison to passive income instruments, in addition to being a more predictable alternative to growth stocks. As a debt-based product, investment in loans is also less volatile.

“Modern investors have shown everyone in the past year that they are a force that needs to be taken seriously,” said Martins Sulte, CEO and Co-founder of Mintos, the leading alternative investment platform for investing in loans in Europe. “We have worked closely with this investor segment, with over 370 000 retail investors on our platform, who give us feedback that they turn to alternative investments, and investing in loans in particular, as a means to manage their savings or create them.”

Mr Sulte also added that modern investors are more prudent than the industry might think, seeing diversification and alternatives as a way to future-proof their portfolios. 

“We see a trend towards diversification even within our platform, which indicates that modern investors are not reckless as some make it out to be,” he said. “With pensions funds or bank accounts offering low savings rates, we see people search for better options and find passive investing as a solution for higher returns. While we cannot compare investing in loans to savings accounts at a bank due to both being entirely different forms of financial service and risks involved in any form of investing, we do understand and lately witness in greater amounts the interest for making money work much more for oneself.”

Conclusion

For many modern investors, especially those using trading apps, a retail portfolio may include a rather random selection of assets. That said, the retail investors are quick learners and are not as naive as some observers deem them to be. Undoubtedly, there are those that follow the trend, but the modern investors are making their moves and the market is responding accordingly. 

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ArticlesBankingMarketsStock MarketsTransactional and Investment Banking

What Has Covid Taught Investors

Covid stock investors
  • 44% of investors are now looking to back UK-based companies rather than global firms –  9,629,000

  • 45% of investors feel their ‘risk-appetite’ has increased due to Covid-19, as traditionally safe investments in big companies are no longer viable – 6,942,000

  • 27% of investors are looking to invest in sectors created by the Covid-19 pandemic, such as PPE, social distancing equipment and virtual solutions – 5,674,000

  • 19% of investors believe the coronavirus pandemic has opened more investment opportunities than it has closed – 6,278,000

Investing was one of the most unpredictable aspects of 2020 for anyone concerned with the market, whether that be a sophisticated portfolio or just a workplace pension. The stock market crash at the start of the lockdown and continued economic disruption has left many wondering what the future will hold, while soaring tech stocks have added further complexity to an ever changing market. But what has the Covid pandemic taught investors? 

The overall effect of this period has led investors to reconsider what they are doing with their investable assets. To understand this shift, SME investment specialist IW Capital has conducted nationally representative research to uncover the sentiments of the UK’s investors.

 

Look beyond the panic

Each period of disruption, like that felt last year, offers opportunity for companies to adapt quickly to the changing times and although there has been a lot of worry and negativity surrounding the new lockdown restrictions, we have to look to the positives with one of them being the roll out of the Covid vaccines. Working with both entrepreneurs and investors, there is a clear desire from the small business community for growth investment and to take a big step growth-wise this year. With a 12% increase in new businesses starting up during 2020 compared to 2019, 2021 is set to create some exciting investment opportunities for investors throughout the country.

 

The unexpected happens 

This year has taught us that the unexpected does happen. Investors need to look to the future and prepare for the unexpected to improve financial resilience. This could be by having liquid assets or a rainy-day fund you can use if investment values fall, which is particularly important if you’re drawing an income from investments. Having options for when the unexpected does occur should be part of any investors financial plan and is something that has been brought to the forefront for many as a result of the pandemic. 

 

Maintain a diverse portfolio

The Covid pandemic has had a far-reaching impact across a variety of sectors, however some industries have been affected far more than others, with travel and hospitality being forced to close for months at a time and unable to trade. In contrast, the pandemic has created opportunities for some sectors too, such as manufacturing and biotech. While a diverse portfolio will still have suffered volatility, it can help lessen the impact. Investing in a range of assets, industries and locations can help spread the risk. When one investment falls, another may perform better helping to create balance.

 

Don’t overreact to market volatility

When the pandemic first hit and the stock market plummeted, many investors began to panic and looked to sell shares in order to avoid potential future losses, but when investing, a long-term time frame and goal is so important. Short-term volatility is often smoothed out once you look at investment performance over a longer time frame. It can be frustrating to see that investment values fell in 2020, but when you look at performance over the last five years, for example, you’ll probably still see an upward trend.

 

Luke Davis, CEO of IW Capital:

“Investing and investing wisely has never been easy by any stretch but this year has been particularly difficult for investors at every level. 2020 demonstrated the value of long term investing and future planning. The stock market crash in March triggered a real halt in investment, and although the market hasn’t fully recovered, there has been strong growth since November and in places in the US share indexes are actually higher than the last year. 

“There have been winners and losers from each stage of the pandemic with sectors like travel feeling the true impact of the pandemic and others like online solutions seeing growth and opportunity in a time of financial turmoil. But, this is true of any world event and has forced investors to look to be more future facing.”

APR
ArticlesBankingCash Management

68% of Credit Card Holders Don’t Know What An APR is and Why This Is Costing Them Money

APR

Key findings:
•69% of people, overall, could not correctly define what an APR is an what it’s used for.

•68% of credit card holders do not know what an APR is.

•66% of mortgage holders do not know what an APR is.

According to KIS Finance’s financial survey, only 31% of adults in the UK could correctly identify what an APR (Annual Percentage Rate) is, including its purpose and how it should be used.

Even more worryingly – a massive 68% of credit card holders don’t know what an APR is, bearing in mind that the APR is undoubtedly one of the most important factors when comparing unsecured financial products like credit cards and personal loans.

The two most common believed definitions of APR were:

•The interest rate alone, without any fees or costs

•The maximum amount that a lender is allowed to charge


How do the figures look when split by age group?

Percentage of people in each age group who could not correctly define what an APR is:

18 – 24: 87.5%
25 – 34: 63%
35 – 44: 77%
45 – 54: 71%
55 – 64: 60%
65+: 73%

 

Only 12.5% of those aged between 18 and 24 know what an APR is

The lack of basic financial knowledge in the 18 to 24 age group is worrying. Having a basic understanding of everyday financial terminology, plus general money and debt management, is an essential life skill.

This leads to the question of whether more financial education should be taught in schools as a key life skill.

Financial education was introduced to the UK’s National Curriculum in 2014, however, findings from The London Institute of Banking & Finance’s Young Persons’ Money Index 2019 backs up our data as it revealed that students still say they are not getting enough access to financial education and they worry about money. Only 17% of students said they had access to financial education within the last year, and just 4% are taught financial education as a separate subject.

Holly Andrews, Managing Director of KIS Finance says:

“Financial education is clearly needed based on these recent findings and financial advisors must take steps to ensure applicants do have a clear understanding of the commitment they are entering in to.

We have long been an advocate of these, and other similar matters, being covered as part of the high school curriculum to ensure everyone has this knowledge when they leave school. From the age of 18, people will be offered unsecured borrowing and it’s essential that they understand all the key points of what they are taking on.”

 

The largest group of credit card holders struggle to define what an APR is

Another main concern is that 60% of 55-64 year olds couldn’t say what an APR is. And according to KIS Finance’s survey, this is the age group with the largest percentage of people who currently have a credit card. Given the often high costs associated with credit cards, it’s worrying that so many people are not aware of the right way to make sure they’re getting the best deal.

 

So, why is it important to understand APRs?

Holly Andrews continues to describe the importance of understanding APRs and the dangers of not doing so.

“Whenever you apply for an unsecured personal loan or credit card you will be quoted the APR. This is very important to understand because the APR tells you what the lender will charge you for borrowing the money over a one year period.

The APR takes into account the interest charges plus any other fees or costs charged in setting up the loan. The APR therefore represents the ‘true price’ of your loan.

The APR is essential for you to be able to plan exactly how much you will have to repay on a loan or credit card. Credit cards are a little different however as you’re only charged interest if you don’t repay the balance in full every month.

APRs are a very useful tool for comparing financial products on a like-for-like basis and will allow you to make more informed decisions. It can be tempting to simply go for the product with the lowest interest rate, but the APR will give you a better idea of what the loan will cost overall.

Even if the interest rate is higher on one product, if the APR is lower, this will be the more cost effective option over the course of a year.

The findings of this survey are worrying because the majority of people cannot be choosing the cheapest products, and those working in the finance industry use the term ‘APR’ freely assuming it’s well understood.

 

What is a representative or typical APR?

“It’s also important to understand the difference between representative APRs and the actual APR you’ll be charged. Lenders can’t show an exact figure for what you’ll be charged on a product without knowing your individual financial circumstances, so on promotional content they will display a ‘representative’ or ‘typical’ APR.

The ‘representative’ or ‘typical’ APR is the rate that at least 51% of the company’s customers must be able to obtain for the finance facility being advertised. Companies can’t advertise APRs that barely anyone can qualify for. You may not be in this 51%, that’s why you may be charged a different rate when it comes to actually applying for the product and after the lender has looked at your credit history and your current financial situation. This could mean that the rate you actually receive may be higher or lower than the one advertised.”

 

What are the dangers of not understanding APRs?

“If you don’t understand what the APR is on the financial products you’re taking out, you could end up being charged a lot more than you were expecting or budgeting for. If this is the case and you can’t meet the required repayments on your loan or credit card, you could see yourself winding up in a lot of debt and seriously damaging your credit rating. Not to mention the stress that being in debt can cause, so making sure you understand the true cost of borrowing is really important to make sure you get the best deal possible, and you don’t wind up over committing yourself financially.”

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ArticlesBankingCash Management

The Co-operative Renews Support of The Hive, As Part of Its Ongoing Commitment to the UK’s Co-operative Businesses

Co-operative bank
  • The Co-operative Bank has committed an additional £400,000 to support The Hive – a programme to help new and existing co-operatives delivered by Co-operatives UK

  • The Co-operative Bank’s customer-led Ethical Policy outlines its commitment to nurture and support the co-operative sector, having previously invested £1.3 million in this programme since 2016

  • Rose Marley, Co-operatives UK’s new CEO anticipates ‘a new wave of entrepreneurs responding to a need to do things differently’

The Co-operative Bank has announced it has renewed its partnership with The Hive, a support programme for the UK’s co-operatives, delivered by Co-operatives UK.

The Hive, which The Co-operative Bank has supported with a total investment of £1.7 million since 2016, has helped over 1,000 co-operatives and groups with support including direct business advice, workshops, training and mentoring. Part of the funding from The Co-operative Bank has also helped develop a digital registration service for co-op start-ups – a first for the sector. As part of this process, new co-ops will also be able to access free business banking from The Co-operative Bank.

Since the launch of The Hive in 2016 some of the key achievements over the last four years include:

  • Over 1,000 groups have received support worth in excess of £600,000.

  • 50 free introductory sessions facilitated across the UK, attended by more than 500 groups, looking to start a co-operative or wanting to learn more.

  • Over 80 new co-operatives have been incorporated.

  • 40 ‘Community Shares’ support packages provided, raising more than £6 million of community investment in the development of co-operatives and their communities

  • The support has impacted more than 20,000 volunteers, members and employees as well as their wider communities.

  • Supporting co-ops throughout Covid-19, helping them navigate the various business support schemes, working through business forecasting and cost saving opportunities and helping businesses ‘pivot’ to online trading.

This news follows Co-operatives UK research which suggested co-operatives may be far more resilient to economic shocks and significantly more likely to survive compared with other businesses. After their first five years, 76% of co-operatives are more likely to succeed when compared with other businesses (42%). Co-operatives contribute £38 billion to the UK economy and the UK’s 7,063 independent co-ops employ 241,714 people with over 14 million members who own and have a say in how they operate.

Nick Slape, Chief Executive Officer, The Co-operative Bank said “As a bank built on co-operative values and ethics we remain committed to supporting the co-operative sector, giving like-minded people, innovators and groups the support they need to succeed when UK businesses face unprecedented challenges during this extremely difficult time. We hope that through our ongoing support of The Hive and partnership with Co-operatives UK, we can make a real difference to people running or looking to start a co-operative.”

Rose Marley, Chief Executive, Co-operatives UK said “The pandemic has really made people think about their business and working lives. As more and more people are looking at how they might improve their future working lives for themselves, their families and the communities they are based in, we are delighted that The Co-operative Bank is supporting new and existing co-operatives to do just this.

“Our research demonstrates that co-operatives are almost twice as likely to survive the early years of business compared to traditional business models, and workers are looking for fairer and more equitable ways to do business and challenge the status quo.

“Leeds Bread Co-op is a brilliant example of how The Hive has supported businesses through the pandemic. And with continued support from The Co-operative Bank, The Hive will continue to create more robust and resilient business that will make a real difference to the communities they are rooted in.”

Leeds Bread Co-op is an independent artisan bakery and workers’ co-operative. They received support from The Hive to help them adapt in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Lizzie, a Worker Owner at Leeds Bread Co-op said “We had a massive drop in sales from our wholesale customers who had to close because of government restrictions in the spring. We decided to cease trading temporarily for the safety of our staff and local community and to give ourselves some breathing space whilst we worked with an advisor from The Hive on urgent financial modelling and collective decision-making about our priorities. This was in addition to financial support from The Co-operative Bank as part of the Bounce Back Loans Scheme (BBLS). We’re now back open, with social distancing measures in place as well as a new click and collect service and home deliveries, meaning we can still continue to trade in these challenging times. Support from the Hive was a lifeline at a critical time.”

In addition to supporting co-operatives through The Hive, The Co-operative Bank also provides tailored accounts specifically for community and co-operative businesses. The Community Directplus Current Account gives registered charities, community interest companies, co-operatives and credit unions an ethical way to bank for free. Community Directplus customers also have the opportunity to apply for up to £1,000 for project funding from the Co-operative Bank’s Customer Donation Fund which helps support special projects and fundraising opportunities.

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ArticlesBankingFX and PaymentSecurities

PixelPlex Shares Details of Its New Crypto Arbitrage Platform

Trading app

 

PixelPlex, a global provider of blockchain-powered solutions, has announced the successful launch of a crypto arbitrage platform. The new application is designed to provide cryptocurrency traders with an effective tool with which they can grab the most beneficial deal.
PixelPlex developers have pointed out that one of the most important features of their platform is the built-in arbitrage bot, as it does crypto trading itself and helps users to make a profit.

The engineering team has also explained how it works. The bot simultaneously buys and sells the same amount of bitcoins (or any other cryptocurrency) from two different exchanges. Meanwhile, their equivalent amount in fiat is different, so the trader makes money on the difference in currency rates.

The PixelPlex bitcoin trading platform contains a data collection mechanism, an algorithm for finding profitable deals, a tool for handling cryptocurrency volatility, and the ability to exchange cryptocurrencies for fiat money and vice versa.

The company’s team of experts have commented on more details of their solution. They have mentioned several major risks usually associated with crypto arbitrage, such as a halt in trading caused by the accumulation of all funds on one exchange and high transaction fees that lead to zero profit or even financial losses. To prevent and eliminate these issues, a graph theory-based optimal search algorithm was developed.

The algorithm receives data from leading exchanges like Binance, Bittrex, Kraken, and others, then it selects the best trading deal and executes the transaction before the market changes and the trader passes the opportunity.

As noted by PixelPlex, their platform is capable of making instant decisions, thereby allowing traders to rest and check their account balance once in a while. They claim that their arbitrage software includes all the features every trader needs: the ability to set thresholds for trades and profits, trade directly or through a minor pair, and access investment strategies that are typically not available when using conventional methods.

Another feature that may not be immediately noticeable, but equally important, is the intuitive user interface. The PixelPlex designers and developers have placed opening and closing deals buttons a few clicks apart and included a built-in set of options to let users customize the solution. Copy-trading and all the information in the app are presented in graphs and charts.

In the end, PixelPlex representatives have noted that their crypto arbitrage solution is easy to integrate and carry over to any business environment.

Digital Banking
ArticlesBanking

Over a Quarter of Brits Now Have an Account with a Digital-Only Bank

Digital Banking
  • The number of Brits with a digital-only bank account has gone up by a percentage increase of 16% 

  • Almost 1 in 6 Brits (17%) plan to open a digital bank account over the next 5 years

  • The top reason for opening an account was the convenience of banking online for the third year running

  • However, 16% of traditional banking customers who aren’t planning to switch said their bank had been helpful during the COVID pandemic

Currently over a quarter of Brits (27%) say they have at least one bank account with a digital-only bank, according to personal finance comparison site finder.com.

This is a percentage increase of 16% from last year when 23% of Brits said they had an account with a digital bank. It is also over 3 times the amount of Brits who had one in January 2019 (9%).

Finder’s 2019 research found that 24% of Brits intended to have a digital-only account by 2024. However with 27% now having an account, Brits have gone digital 3 years earlier than expected.

A further 17% of Brits intend to join them over the next 5 years, with 11% planning to do so over the next year. This could mean that 44% of Brits could have an account with a digital bank by 2026. If this percentage were applied to the UK adult population, it would equal almost 23 million people.

The top reason for opening an account continues to be convenience that digital-only banks provide, for the third year running (26%). The second most common reason was that users needed an additional account and setting up a digital account seemed to be the easiest option (20%). Customers also wanted to transfer money more easily (19%), making this the third biggest priority.

People wanting a trendy card is still driving signups as well, with 1 in 10 (10%) existing, or future, customers citing this as a reason to get an account.

Despite the increase in digital-only banking customers, the numbers who aren’t considering one have actually risen. Last year, 23% of respondents said they aren’t considering a digital-only bank account, but this has risen substantially to 42% in the latest survey. 

This is likely a result of increased customer loyalty, 58% of those without a digital bank account said they felt as though their incumbent bank had treated them well and therefore had no desire to open a digital bank account. Additionally, 16% felt as though their incumbent bank had performed particularly well during the pandemic. 

Over a third (36%) of those without a digital bank account said they had not decided to bank with digital providers because they preferred to be able to speak to someone in branch. 

Digital banks are still most popular with younger generations, 46% of gen Z say they currently have a digital bank account, with a further 28% intending to get one over the next 5 years. This would mean that by 2026 just under three quarters of gen Z (73%) could have a digital bank account. 

Commenting on the findings, Matt Boyle, banking specialist  at finder.com said: 

“This research shows that digital-only banks are here to stay, with the number of users in the UK rising for 3 years straight. On top of this, Starling and Revolut announced this year that they have made a profit for the first time, really demonstrating that digital banks are starting to become a serious part of the banking furniture. 

“The pandemic has also played a role in the rapid digitalisation of the banking industry, with those who had never experienced online banking having no other choice but to take their finances online. It seems that Brits are starting to realise the convenience that can come with digital banking and this is reflected in our research.”

To see the research in full visit: https://www.finder.com/uk/digital-banking-adoption

Finance
ArticlesBankingTransactional and Investment Banking

2021’s Major Investment Risks – But Why it Could Be a Year of Massive Opportunity

Finance

Investment headwinds will “still exceed the tailwinds” in 2021 – but there could be more “major opportunities now than in perhaps the last 10 years” if you know where to look.
 
This is the bold and, given 2020, perhaps surprisingly optimistic forecast from Nigel Green, chief executive and founder of deVere Group, one of the world’s largest independent financial advisory and fintech organisations.
 
It comes as investors around the world focus on rebalancing portfolios for 2021, after a year no-one expected.
 
Mr Green says: “2020 was a year for which nobody had planned.
 
“This included investors, many of whom were caught spectacularly off-guard by not having properly diversified portfolios, which left them open to untold financial risks.
 
“Looking ahead to 2021, it is likely that investment headwinds will still exceed the tailwinds – but, I believe, that there are also more major investment opportunities to be had in the next year than perhaps in the last decade.”
 
‘Headwinds’ are the factors that likely weigh on growth and returns, and ‘tailwinds’ are those that can be expected to boost growth and help drive positive returns.
 
He continues: “The major long-term headwind from the fallout of 2020 is unemployment, which will hit demand, growth and investment.
 
“There’s also the roll-out of a mass global vaccination agenda which will be a lengthy process and logistical minefield, plus there are the ‘vaccine sceptic’ concerns to address.
 
“Meanwhile there are geopolitical issues that could impact on investor returns. These include the significant readjustment that will need to happen following Brexit, U.S.-China trade relations which are likely to become increasingly competitive especially in the tech sector, and the rising border tensions between India and China, amongst others.”
 
However, despite the significant headwinds, the deVere CEO flags three major investment tailwinds in 2021.
 
“First, the rollout of the Covid vaccines which means economies can be expected to begin solid recoveries,” he says.
 
“Second, President-elect Joe Biden will enter office and his administration promises a more predictable approach to trade and foreign affairs – and the markets like certainty.
 
“And third, it is likely that governments will continue to offer fiscal support packages as their economies recover from the pandemic, offering a ‘floor’ for markets.”
 
Mr Green goes on to add: “To quote Einstein, ‘In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity.’
 
“This is why, after such a monumental crisis, I believe that if you know where to look and act appropriately to build your wealth, there could be plenty of key opportunities to come.
 
“The pandemic has accelerated history, speeding up and exacerbating major trends in just a few months, that ordinarily might have taken decades to be fully realised.”
 
He maintains that the global economy, how we live, do business and interact remains fundamentally changed.  “It is doubtful the world will go back exactly to how it was pre-Covid – there are many aspects of the ‘new normal’ which people like and support, just a home working.  As such, some of the major shifts are unlikely to be reversed,” he notes.
  
“As such, investors need to look for the lower entry points of quality companies to top-up their portfolios and, critically, they need to bear in mind how the world has changed. 

“Their portfolios must reflect the future, not the past.”
 
Mr Green concludes: “Headwinds will surpass tailwinds in 2021 as the world readjusts, but it’s essential that investors stay invested. As we know, history has shown us that stock markets tend to go up over the long-term.
 
“But as the world moves ahead to a post-pandemic era, it’s crucial that investors ensure their portfolios are suitably diversified across asset classes, sectors, currencies and regions, so as to make the most of the considerable opportunities that will inevitably present themselves.”

digital payment
ArticlesBankingFX and Payment

FICO UK Credit Market Report November 2020

digital payment

New Data Raises Concerns About Post-Christmas Payments as Consumers Raise Card Spending

Global analytics software provider FICO today released its analysis of UK card trends for November 2020, which reflects the mixed financial fortunes of UK consumers as well as highlighting the continuing debt waiting game.

“Our new data shows that despite the introduction of the second national lockdown, credit card spend increased in November, as Christmas shopping got underway, boosted by Black Friday,” explained Stacey West, principal consultant for FICO® Advisors.

“Spending on UK credit cards is now only 2.6 percent lower than a year ago; either consumers are feeling confident enough about their finances to increase their spending levels or they simply need the cheer of Christmas to counteract the continued gloom of COVID-19, whether they can afford it or not. The concern is that a proportion of spend is being funded by the current government financial support for those on furlough. Payment holidays on existing credit agreements are also probably taking the pressure off outgoings and giving some consumers a false sense of financial wellbeing.”

“There could be a real issue after Christmas as payment deferrals come to an end in early 2021 and furloughs at the end of April (unless they are once more extended). Christmas debts will be unmanageable for some. The sudden introduction of tier 4 and the anticipation that these measures will be in place for months means extra pressure and hardship on many businesses, especially at one of the most profitable times of year.”

 

Spend on UK cards increased and percentage of payments to balance dropped

Average spending on UK credit cards increased by £19 to £638 in November and is now only 2.6 percent lower year on year.

But the percentage of payments to balance fell for the first time since June. The percentage paying the minimum amount on their cards also increased for the first time since June and was especially noticeable for accounts opened less than a year.

 

Increase in missed payments

The one missed payment rates continue to be dynamic, reducing in November; for accounts open less than a year, the percentage of accounts missing one payment reached over a two-year low. However, the average balance on accounts missing one payment is now only £4 lower than a year ago.

Of greater concern is the percentage of accounts and balances with two missed payments, which increased for the fourth consecutive month. The average balance on these accounts grew to over a two-year high in November. Here too, there has been large annual growth in the average balance, which is now £252 higher than November 2019. For three missed payments it is £411 higher.

West added: “We are now starting to see that consumers missing payments have higher average balances. There are also signs that once a payment is missed, this is never recovered. A robust pre-delinquency process is, therefore, more important than ever to prevent the customer going down the collections route. Pre-collections treatment can open the dialogue on the sensitive subject of financial difficulties and help avoid negative actions and increased stress once payments start to be missed.”

Digital banking
ArticlesBanking

My Digital and Ecospend open up banking services for the Quantum Workforce

Digital banking

Accounting and payroll services for the temporary labour market transformed by Open Finance

Today Quantum Employment Design (QED) leader My Digital announces its collaboration with Ecospend Technologies Ltd, a pioneer in digital payment services and Open Finance. The new digital service will provide the disruptive innovation that UK accounting services need for the modern Quantum Workforce ushered in by the changing labour markets of the pandemic.

Powered by Ecospend’s Open Banking technology, My Digital will provide leading-edge accounting and payroll services to the temporary labour market by offering:

– Faster payments and instant receipt for work completed with strong authentication & authorisation of payments to heighten security

– Enriched financial data for umbrella companies, recruitment agencies and Professional Employer Organisations with AI-driven data analytics to improve relevance to clients

– Full GDPR compliance for data handling for My Digital’s clients, who will have complete access to their data and the ability to manage their consent in real-time

The gig economy, which has long been subject to outdated systems and methods, is ripe for dramatic change as Quantum Employment continues to rise, with one in seven workers in the UK on flexible contracts. Ecospend and My Digital’s collaboration is an early and compelling entrant to this exciting new marketplace which is driven by young people with high expectations of digital banking.

“We are very pleased to be helping My Digital bring authenticated account information rapidly and efficiently to its clients using our Open Banking infrastructure,” said Metin Erkman, founder and CEO of Ecospend. “We see My Digital’s platform leading the way in bringing the benefits of Open Banking to the business community,” Erkman added.

John Whelan, CEO of My Digital concluded, “Open Banking is a transformational change for businesses, and we are delighted to have partnered with Ecospend to deliver this banking service for those supporting the Quantum Workforce. Our aim is to accelerate the evolution of QED to match the needs of a growing sector which is increasingly digitally savvy. Our partnership with Ecospend means we are now moving into a higher gear and able to deliver on the expectations for digital banking.

The collaboration is fully operational. Ecospend and My Digital are looking forward to a long and fruitful partnership and leading the way in the temporary labour market of the financial services marketplace.”

Offshore banking
ArticlesBankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Advantages of offshore banks: What they have to offer millennials

Advantages of offshore banks: What they have to offer millennials


James Turner Headshot

Contrary to popular belief, offshore banking isn’t just for the super-rich, nor is it illegal. 

In reality, and with professional advice, the average person can open a perfectly legal offshore bank account within a matter of hours – ideal for busy, on-the-go millennials.

For the generation facing increasing financial challenges, it is more important than ever for millennials to acquire savings sooner, rather than later. With climbing house prices, higher relative costs of living, and the need to save more money for retirement, many millennials are planning their futures’ by setting up savings accounts in overseas institutions. But is this the most secure way of holding your hard-earned savings?

While the answer to this question is largely dependent on individual circumstance, there are many potential benefits to banking offshore; from earning higher interest rates and tax benefits, to having the ability to bank in foreign currencies. Offshore banking can be particularly beneficial for those who regularly travel overseas for work, as it allows you to receive multiple currencies without the need to pay for exchange fees. As such, there’s no risk of you losing out on exchange rate fluctuations.

Banking with confidence and having more security is a significant factor for people choosing to bank offshore. It can offer greater asset protection against possible future threats, such as divorce lawyers, creditors and legal action – which is essential for millennials with substantial amounts of money. This makes offshore banking a secure solution for managing your money well. However, it is worth noting that the security of your savings will depend on the regulations of where your bank is based.

For an added level of reassurance, many jurisdictions also offer strict, financial privacy and confidentiality agreements. This means that your personal information will not be passed on to any third parties, so your assets are shielded to safeguard your individual or company information.

At Turner Little, we offer privacy-assured banking to suit your bespoke needs. Whether you’re an individual or a business, our services include arranging bank accounts and credit cards with both UK and offshore institutions. So get in touch with us today and see how we can help you prepare for your future.

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ArticlesBankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Why Are Crypto Transaction Speeds So Important?

bitcoin transaction

Why Are Crypto Transaction Speeds So Important?

Would you wait five minutes to make a purchase in-store? Probably not. And this is why crypto transaction speeds remain the biggest roadblock to adoption.

Bitcoin credit cards, PayPal crypto purchases, DeFi apps for Ethereum. Mainstream cryptocurrency adoption seems closer than ever. But we’re still missing a piece of the puzzle. Slow transaction speeds and lack of scalability mean that cryptocurrencies are still unsuitable for day-to-day use and relegated to the world of traders and investors.

 

Transactions Need to Be Fast to Be Usable

The big challenge faced by the major cryptocurrencies is transaction speed and network load. Let’s put the scale of the challenge into context. Bitcoin can process just 5 transactions per second. Compare that to Visa’s 1,700 transactions per second.

Additionally, Bitcoin transactions need to wait for a new block to go through, which means it could be ten minutes before a transaction is actually verified.

Take a moment to imagine how you pay for your groceries. If you decide to pay with cash, it is instantaneous, free, and private. If you pay with a credit or debit card, it’s fast, low-cost, but not private in that it leaves a trail that can be used to determine your purchase. If you decided to pay with Bitcoin? It’s slow, high cost, but private.

Now let’s look at it from the merchant’s perspective. Cash can be processed as fast as the cashier can put it in the till and is effectively free. Visa is easy, eliminates the risk of employees stealing, and is cheap.

Bitcoin is slow, hard to liquidate, and could cost the company a lot of money in terms of wasted time and processing fees. At the moment there are simply very few reasons for large merchants to accept cryptocurrency.

Additionally, the price of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies fluctuates significantly. This can be good for companies like MicroStrategy that is estimated to have made over $100 million in profits on its Bitcoin holdings. However, difficulties assessing the true value of a transaction with a volatile asset could cause losses for a merchant, or open them up to accusations of overcharging if processing takes too long.

 

Proof of Work Consensus Is Part of the Problem

Another key problem is scalability. Even if merchants were to decide that cryptocurrency was worth their time, a sudden rush of new users would lead to Bitcoin, and any other Proof of Work (PoW) blockchain, facing significant congestion problems.

PoW requires networks of computers, or miners, to solve complicated equations in order to validate and secure blocks of transactions. Each block takes around 10 minutes to process and can hold around 500 transactions.

In order to ensure their transactions are added to a block, earlier users can offer miners an additional fee. As more users vie to use the network, increased fees are needed to speed up processing times. This creates high costs and significant bottlenecks.

As long as this problem persists, any attempts by merchants to adopt cryptocurrency will simply cause more problems, making it unsuitable for day-to-day use.

 

Second Layer Solutions Could Solve the Challenge

There are a number of proposed solutions to these problems. Setting aside the sea of altcoins that promise to fix the perceived problems with cryptocurrency, there are two main solutions being proposed: alternative forms of consensus and second layer solutions.

 

Proof of Stake

Ethereum, and the planned 2.0 update, is the first major attempt at integrating Proof of Stake (PoS) consensus methodology. Ethereum 2.0 will roll-out a new PoS compliant blockchain called Casper.

This will allow users to “stake” Ethereum in order to validate transactions. This will have two main effects. The first is that miners will no longer be necessary, making transaction times and costs more predictable. The second is that it will provide a way for users to monetize their Ethereum without liquidating, improving stability.

However, there are concerns about Proof of Stake. In particular, there are fears that it monopolizes power in the hands of crypto whales, undermining the decentralized nature of the network.

 

Second Layer

This is part of why most solutions for Bitcoin are focused on building a second layer that would remove the need for small transactions to be immediately recorded on the blockchain.

The most prominent proposal is the Lightning Network. This network would allow two users (for example a shop and card issuer) to open up a channel with each other. Thus they could redistribute funds between their new channel, which works as a shared wallet.

Once both parties want to confirm the transactions, they close the channel and the final balance is stored on the blockchain. This methodology is not dissimilar from the way small businesses often deliver cash to the bank at the end of the day. And it would be simple to implement with the right infrastructure.

 

To Become Currency, Crypto Needs to Be as Simple as Cash

In order for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to supplant cash, developers need to think about why cash and credit cards work so well. Any crypto alternative needs to combine the privacy of cash with the ease of use of credit.

To do that cryptocurrency users will need to embrace alternative solutions like PoS or the Lightning Network. It will likely be some time until you can pay for your groceries with Bitcoin, but don’t discount that possibility just yet.

gold bullion
ArticlesTransactional and Investment Banking

Gold: Let’s get physical

gold bullion

Gold: Let’s get physical

By Shahid Munir, co-founder of MintedTM

It has been a turbulent year for the economy as a result of Covid-19, so it is no surprise that interest in gold has risen sharply within the investment world. The financial shock caused by the pandemic has left currencies and markets across the globe in vulnerable and unpredictable positions. With that in mind, more investors are turning to gold as an alternative way of strengthening their investment portfolio.

However, with the price of gold continuing to rise alongside its popularity, what is the best way to invest in the precious metal and how can new investors take a leap into the world of gold for the first time?

 

Gold, a safer option?

Gold has been synonymous with wealth and prosperity for hundreds of years. Coins were first introduced in 550 BC and quickly became the global currency before paper money came into existence. Ever since then, the precious metal has been an integral part of the globe’s wealth portfolio. During times of economic instability, gold is often looked at as somewhat of an oasis, compared with other investment options. With a history of retaining its value even when currencies and markets are in flux, gold remains a favoured asset as a result of its fundamental, intrinsic value anywhere around the world.

Despite the uncertainty the pandemic has caused, gold’s price continues to rise, potentially heading towards $3,000 per ounce in the near future. Now, with increasing numbers of people seeking a stake in this safe haven asset, the demand and the value for the precious metal will likely continue to rise in months to come.

 

Understanding gold investment

When investing in gold, it is important to note that it should only make up a portion of an investment portfolio, rather than the entirety. However, whilst signposting about ways to invest in other financial products, such as ISAs or premium bonds, is clear, there are multiple ways to invest gold, many of which aren’t often discussed.

A popular way that investors choose to own gold is through a mutual fund or Exchange Traded Fund (ETF). An ETF requires customers to pass their money over to a fund that will then pool it together with other investors’ money to buy a specific amount of gold, storing it in a high security vault. Although both mutual funds and ETFs work in a similar manner, mutual funds invest in gold mining companies, unlike ETFs, which invest in physical gold bullion. It is important to note that with both ETFs and mutual funds, investors do not own physical gold and are therefore more exposed to market fluctuations. Some ETFs, despite being described as ‘physically-backed’, are also not backed by physical gold, which can also be a risk to investors.

For some, investing in gold mining stocks through a mutual fund may be a better option than an ETF. A mutual fund will invest in a company that mines, however as investments will be contingent on the success of the company, rather than the value of the gold itself, investors will be exposed to any stock market turbulence or changes within the company that could affect this. Anyone investing in gold mining stocks should be prepared to carry out extensive research into the right gold mining companies, before selecting one to invest in.

Some investors may wish to own physical gold bullion and could therefore consider buying gold coins or bars. Whilst buying directly from dealers requires customers to ensure the gold is of a high purity level, and to ensure that they arrange suitable storage, tech platforms, such as Minted, make the process much more straightforward. Minted’s customers can choose how much money they want to invest as part of a regular savings plan, and the gold is stored in a high security London vault. Once enough has been saved for a gold bar, there is the option to either keep it in storage, or to withdraw it and have it delivered.

Unlike the other methods of investing in gold, owning gold bullion gives people complete control over their investment. With the opportunity to sell gold either back to a dealer or via the market, owning bullion is a relatively easy method of buying and investing in gold. 

 

So, should you invest?

The pandemic has sent ripples through the financial world, that will no doubt leave scars for years to come. This being said, the value of gold remains particularly strong, and many first timers are looking to invest.

Simply put, there is no set way to invest in gold; it depends on individual situations, appetite for risk, and long-term goals. For those seeking potentially higher returns in the shorter term, buying gold mining stocks or gold ETFs may be the better choice. However, for those looking to have more control over their investment, buying gold bullion could be the best choice. The price of investments cannot be influenced by bankers or politicians, has value all over the world, and can be stored and sold however customers choose.

digital europe
ArticlesMarketsTransactional and Investment Banking

Should Investors Stay Underweight Europe? Three Reasons Why It’s Time to Reconsider That View Now

digital europe

Should Investors Stay Underweight Europe? Three Reasons Why It’s Time to Reconsider That View Now

After a decade encompassing Brexit and the euro crisis, and amid disappointing returns relative to other markets, many investors have written off European equities, but River and Mercantile’s James Sym believes that stance now needs to change.

Investors underweighting European equities now run the risk of missing the recovery in the region, according to Sym, manager of the recently launched ES R&M European Fund, with the continent offering attractive valuations, a leading position in up and coming sectors, and political unity.

Europe’s major equity indices have lagged the US and other regions so far this year, with the double-digit gains seen in some US markets far ahead of country-specific and broad indices on the continent.

However Sym, who joined River and Mercantile this year, says this disparity has created a glaring opportunity for investors.

“European equities have been unloved and under-owned since last year, with August the first month that investors started to return to the asset class[1],” he says. “Turning points are often the best moments for relative returns – but it is critical to position ahead of that.”

Below, Sym outlines three factors as to why investors should be reconsidering their European exposure now.

 

1. A better crisis

The time to own European assets is when the region is making top down political progress towards convergence. That was true with the establishment of the euro in the cycle from 2002, it was true post “do whatever it takes”, and it is true today.

In some ways Europe needs a crisis to spur it into action. For years it has been obvious that for the euro to be sustainable there needs to be balance sheet mutualisation across Europe and fiscal transfers. The coronavirus crisis has finally catalysed this move, which should serve to bring the cost of capital down for unloved companies across the continent.

Under the recovery fund plans, the European Commission is likely to become one of the biggest AAA-rated bond issuers in the world. The initial issue was 14 times oversubscribed[2]. This gives the periphery access to capital markets under the same terms as Germany or the Netherlands. Additionally, the net effect of the grant element of the structure is that German taxpayers are paying for peripheral infrastructure investment. This should bring down the risk premium for the region and be good for growth.

 

2. Leading position in ESG

“In a post-Covid environment, the world is coming Europe’s way. Simply put, European stakeholder capitalism was never the ideal light-touch regulatory environment which big tech needed to thrive. This has been a big drag for equity returns as the FANG phenomenon drove US equity returns. However, pre-eminent themes for the next cycle, such as energy transition, are areas in which Europe excels and it has companies well placed to deliver this. Meanwhile, the regulatory noose is starting to circle some of the large US technology companies. At the very least it should be, or become, a more level playing field.

 

3. Unloved stocks

“With outflows for most of the last year, many investors find themselves underweight the region now, while index levels remain far below their highs – unlike other regions, such as the US.

“Year-to-date, the MSCI Europe index is down 14%, while the MSCI World is up 3%[3]. There is a relative valuation opportunity, and it looks even more attractive if you drill down further.

“The landscape in Europe is one that is full of growth funds which are (clearly) full of growth stocks which have outperformed. But if you look elsewhere, there are some really attractive opportunities that offer investors a great chance to take part in an economic recovery post the Covid disruption.

“While interest rates stay low, government spending stays high. We now see the mechanism for populism to ultimately lead to inflationary outcomes which if it transpires would set up a potentially difficult market for many clients.” 

 

[1] According to Calastone research, as quoted by Investment Week

https://www.investmentweek.co.uk/news/4019853/uk-equity-fund-outflows-hit-record-gbp-2bn-june-august-deal-jitters

[2] https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_20_1954

[3] According to Bloomberg data, to 22nd October

car loan
ArticlesCash Management

Are You Ready to Get a Car Loan? Here are the Signs

car loan

Are You Ready to Get a Car Loan? Here are the Signs

Applying for a car loan can be both an exciting and scary process for those in search of the right loan, especially if you’re a first-time borrower. Buying a car can quickly become a much more complex process than the buyer originally anticipated, leading to some anxieties and stresses related to the shopping process if you go in unprepared. 

Things can be further complicated when a loan is involved, because adding financing to anything requires more work. Car loans are a relatively unique type of funding too, similar to mortgages in the sense that they get their own allocation of funds in comparison to general personal loans. 

Car loans should also be examined closely before electing to take on the repayment of one, because fine print misreading can lead to trouble down the road. Car repayments can add up quickly if you’re not careful, so be sure this isn’t overlooked.

If you’re planning to obtain financing for your next, or first, car purchase, it’s important to ensure you’re ready to undertake this responsibility. So, here are a few signs you’re ready for a car loan: 

 

You’ve Done Your Research

Buying a car is something that’s a big deal for most consumers. Unless you’re relatively wealthy or just purchasing a vehicle for novelty purposes to add to a collection, fronting the capital for a new car is not something to be scoffed at. 

When you’re making a purchase on something that exceeds thousands, and usually five figures, in value, this is a serious financial burden you’re taking on. Failing to make the payments can significantly damage your credit reputation, and also leave you without a reliable means of transportation as well.

This is why doing your research is important. On the car yes, but most importantly on the car loan. The car loan market can present a wide variety of options available to those buyers who are looking to finance. 

You can finance your car through an independent financial institution, or often times a dealer as well, with dealers sometimes offering unique caveats like “0% APR for the first 12 months” or something of the like. 

Different lenders will come with different rates, and different borrowers will get different rates based on their credit worthiness. It’s important to know your credit standing, and what type of interest rate you can expect to get on the loan because of it. 

You’ll need to do some independent research and compare the offers available to you for the vehicle you wish to buy. This way, you won’t just be walking into a dealership prepared to take whatever is placed in front of you. If you’ve taken this step and are fully aware of the best route to go, you may be ready for a car loan. 

 

The Rest of Your Finances are in Order 

This isn’t a personal finance class, but is it qualifying information in regards to whether or not you’re ready to take on a car loan. Because of that, it’s important that car buyers give themselves an honest audit on where they stand financially before proceeding. 

Taking out new loans with bad credit, a lot of outstanding balances, accounts sent to collections, insufficient income, or even sufficient income but strapped with a lot of other debt, could all easily turn your dream into a nightmare. Adding a car loan to an unstable stack of financial issues might just topple the tower, so it’s important to make sure you’re ready for this responsibility. 

Take an objective self-assessment of your financial situation before you consider purchasing a new vehicle, or taking out a car loan on one especially. This is easily accomplished by looking at your debt-to-income ratio, account balances, outstanding balances, monthly expenses, and so on. You know what you can afford and must act accordingly.

If you’ve taken it upon yourself to undergo this process and have determined that you’re financially prepared to handle it, then you are likely ready for a car loan. 

 

You Trust Yourself to Make Timely Payments

One of the worst things that can happen to an otherwise financially stable person is to forget to pay a bill on time. Imagine you’re just scrolling through social media before bed and suddenly, there’s no Wi-Fi. Oh, wait…you forgot to pay the bill this month. 

Yeah, forgetting to pay for things you can otherwise afford isn’t a financial literacy issue, but rather just something that must be remembered. The same goes with making payments on a car loan, with failure to pay eventually resulting in repossession of your car.

Now, in most cases you’ll probably be contacted by your lender if you’ve missed a payment at all, and repo not usually coming until after a couple. This isn’t always the case though, and it can depend heavily on who exactly you purchased the car from, and who you financed it with as well. 

You’re unlikely forget two or three times after being reminded, but if you purchased from a less lenient dealer or borrowed from a lender of the same cloth, one missed payment could be enough to do you in and damage your credit. 

The simplest way to avoid this ever even coming close to happening is to just authorize automatic payments each month. The money will be withdrawn from your account on a specified date each month to cover the payment. Just make sure the funds are there and it’s taken care of for you. It’s like direct deposit, but uh, in reverse. 

However, if this has never been an issue for you and you’re really on top of things, you’re definitely ready for a car loan

 

So, are You Ready for a Car Loan?

If you’ve read this far and are able to check all three of these boxes, you likely have nothing to worry about. You’re probably the kind of person who pays off the credit card balance as soon as it posts and only uses it to get cashback points anyway. You’re on top of things financially. 

If not, don’t worry. Even asking the question “am I ready for it” is a step in the right direction to financial responsibility, and eventually your dream car.

uk bank notes
ArticlesBanking

Savers Are Set to Miss Out on MILLIONS in Returns After Epic £75.5bn Savings Haul in Lockdown

uk bank notes

Savers Are Set to Miss Out on MILLIONS in Returns After Epic £75.5bn Savings Haul in Lockdown

Savers are set to miss out on millions in returns after an epic £75.5 billion savings haul in lockdown, according to a new report by Atom bank. 

On average Brits saved £1,974 each in lockdown, equating to £75.5bn across the UK[1], yet at least half of this is reported to be sitting in a savings account, likely offering minimal returns. Millennials saved the most out of all reported age groups – averaging at £2,200 each. 

In total 73% of people have been using lockdown as an opportunity to save and just 8% have spent more than usual during lockdown, Of those that have been saving, half (50%) said they’ve been putting it in an instant savings account so that they can access it easily when they need it. 

But with multiple rate cuts from the Bank of England leaving interest rates pitifully low, savers are set to pocket just £1.94 each in interest. After the latest rate cut, the current average interest rate on savings accounts across the big six banks[2] stands at just 0.01%.[3] . 

The situation is only set to worsen for savers as 82% of people say they will continue their new found saving habits, despite the little reward. Negative interest rates are also on the horizon, which if implemented, could see bank rates fall further and even result in banks charging people for holding money. 

It comes as Atom launches a new savings account with an interest rate of 0.75% – one that is 75 times better than the Big 6, with no restrictions on withdrawals and no minimum deposit required at opening. By way of comparison, for the amount each person saved on average during lockdown (£1,974), they would have pocketed £13.81 in interest each if their money had been sitting in Atom’s new Instant Saver – £12 more than if they had stashed their money with one of the big six.

 

Taking customers for granted

The majority of people (62%) view savings accounts as a place to safeguard money so they don’t overspend, whereas just 21% think they are a genuine investment opportunity, or a place to grow their money. As a result, banks have been getting away with offering incredibly low rates and giving little back in return for their customer’s hard earned cash. What’s more, two in five (42%) could not confidently say what the interest rate is on their savings account, meaning many are left unaware of how their money is or (more likely) isn’t performing. 

Just over 1 in 2 (55%) also said they believed high-street banks are prepared to take advantage of their customers, by offering little in returns and enforcing high – and growing – fees and charges. Lloyds, Halifax and Bank of Scotland recently upped the charge on their overdrafts and customers with a poor credit rating could be charged as much as 49.9%, which was initially due to be implemented in April but was delayed due to the pandemic.

When it comes to interest rates offered by banks, 1 in 2 people (46%) said they would describe the state of interest rates as bad and that they couldn’t generate any additional money. Over 1 in 10 (13%) even said terrible, and that they stood to lose money.

Recent figures from the Bank of England also revealed how more than 1 in 10 of us (13%) even stockpiled bank notes at home during the pandemic, showing how people would rather keep cash at home than in a bank.

 

Opportunities to save

Of those that have been saving more in lockdown, two thirds (62%) have saved money by staying at home and shopping less.

60% also saved due to restaurants and pubs being closed and a third (35%) saved from not commuting to and from work. One in three (30%) also saved money by making their own lunches. 

Lockdown has also caused people to change their food shopping habits with 35% of people reporting a change, for example buying in bigger or smaller batches.

Looking ahead, 82% say they are likely to continue saving, and as restrictions tighten across the UK we could even see this figure increase.

 

Financial confidence about the future

Despite the pandemic, people remain largely confident about both their short and long-term financial futures. Just under half (49%) report feeling confident about money in the short-term, with almost one in five (16%) saying they are ‘very’ confident.

When it comes to their long-term financial future, well over two fifths (43%) say they are confident, with well over a tenth (14%) ‘very’ confident. 

Millennials are the most likely out of any age group to feel confident about both their short-term financial future (62%) and long-term financial future (55%). 

Mark Mullen, CEO of Atom bank, commented: “Banks have been taking customers for granted for years. Lockdown has simply brought this into sharper focus. Brits have saved millions with little return for their efforts, while some of the UK’s biggest banks even pressed ahead with upping overdraft rates to an absurd 40% flat fee. 

“For too long it’s been the norm to offer customers shockingly low interest rates. People are even stockpiling cash in their homes rather than in a bank account, which shows just how little they think they’ll gain by trusting the big six with their money. Atom is here to remind us all that when you save, your money is used by banks to allow someone else to borrow. The borrower should get a great deal from the bank – whether to buy their home or sustain and grow their business – but so should the saver. It’s time to shine a light on the behaviour of big banks and to do the right thing by our customers. 

“People need to act now and take control of their finances. Our new Instant Saver has a rate that’s 75 times higher than the UK’s biggest banks, and with no short-term bonus rate to lure you in, no limits on withdrawals and no minimum amount required at opening, it offers people much-needed flexibility while their cash works harder for them. 

“We’ve built a bank that delivers award-winning customer service – one that’s determined to push the market in the favour of customers.”

student budget
ArticlesCash Management

How to Manage Your Student Budget

student budget

How to Manage Your Student Budget

What’s the age-old adage? Take care of the pennies and the pounds look after themselves. Well, this is just as important at university as it is anywhere else. 

When at university, you will be operating on a smaller budget than if you’re out of education. A student loan will only last you so long, so see how you can manage your student budget at university. 

Save up your vouchers and look for student discounts

Vouchers come in handy more than you can think! While it’s unlikely that you’ll be saving up £2,000 in vouchers over a one year period, you could still find yourself saving a fair bit on quite a few items when you go shopping. 

Tesco have a Clubcard points system which can entitle you to various discounts and perks, so signing up for a Clubcard is a good way of saving money and a good way of being able to offset potential costs against your points.

Some companies offer various student discounts and will have a lot of vouchers geared towards helping students that need to save money. Music streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music and TIDAL all have student programmes that will save you money in the long run, all you need is proof of being a student. 

Use your NUS Card

Your student NUS Card exists to help you out on the high street. Many students find themselves in need of a good deal here and there and an NUS Card is a great way of doing that. 

An NUS Card is mainly used as a form of identification for students and is essential for far more than just finding good deals in Nando’s! An NUS Card is also used for students that are looking for student council tax exemption as well. 

While you will need to pay an initial fee of £13, it’s worth it in the long run! On those rare occasions, you and your friends decide to go out for a meal, you will see 20-25% wiped off your overall bill. 

Look into transport options

Student Railcards are the best way for students to get around. 

For a lot of students, travelling to and from university or to certain campuses or even visiting home can start to tot up for you and can have a very negative impact on your student budget, so the best thing to do is to pick up some kind of subsidised travel service.

For some students, this will mean taking advantage of a travel bursary that is offered by their university, for others it will be about taking advantage of things like the aforementioned student railcard. 

Some universities also have transport systems offered as part of their campus, whether it be a coach service, integrated bus services, train systems that run through the campus itself or even a monetary scheme to help out. You can check out university rankings and see which universities are ranked best in their areas for transport. 

Use your university’s gym

Most universities will have their own gym on campus, which will help you to keep in shape. It makes sense to use your university’s gym rather than use a more expensive high street option that will likely cost an awful lot of money. 

It is unlikely that you would be charged for using a university gym and on the off-chance you are charged, it is likely to cost less than a regular high street gym would cost. 

A university gym will also have the added benefit of having a wider array of equipment for you to use as they will likely receive more people at the gym than a regular gym would, who said you couldn’t get ripped when saving money?

Avoid the meal deal

We’ve all been there, a long day and you fancy something quick to eat, so you quickly pick up the Tesco meal deal and drop £3 on a sandwich, a packet of crisps and a drink. Though it can be helpful sometimes and a good way of keeping yourself well-fed and hydrated, the deals do add up!

Five days-a-week of meal deals leads to £15-a-week being spent on lunch alone, factored over the course of a month and you’ll see yourself spending a whopping £60 on lunch alone! 

With this in mind, we recommend picking up the ingredients you need for lunch and preparing your own meal at home. This will mean that you will have food left over for dinner or for later lunches and the ingredients together will cost less or about the same as a whole meal deal does, while offering more possibilities. 

gender and savings
ArticlesBankingCash Management

Britain’s Stark Gender Savings Gap: Women Have a Third Less Money Saved Than Men

gender and savings

Britain’s Stark Gender Savings Gap: Women Have a Third Less Money Saved Than Men

New research published today reveals a stark difference in the amount of money British men and women have in savings, exposing a 32% gender savings gap.

The consumer study, by leading discount site VoucherCodes.co.uk, reveals that the average man in Britain has £24,880 in savings – 32% more (£8,038) than the average British woman. The widest gender savings gap is found amongst millennials, with female respondents in that age group reporting 60% less in savings than their male counterparts – a whopping £15.9k. This is followed by Gen Z, with a 47% gender savings gap.

 

Average men’s savings

Average women’s savings

Gender savings gap (£)

Gender savings gap (%)

Millennials

£26,553

£10,633

£15,900

60%

Gen Z

£17,552

£9,343

£8,209

47%

Gen X

£18,000

£11,265

£6,735

37%

Brits

£24,880

£16,842

£8,038

32%

Baby boomers

£29,902

£29,064

£838

3%

 

Gender pay gap making an impact

With the latest government statistics revealing that there is currently a 17.3% gender pay gap in the UK[i], the research also looks at how this directly impacts women’s savings. Just 38% of British women said that their current wage is enough to allow them to save their goal amount each month, much fewer than the 51% of men in Britain who say the same. In addition to having the widest gender savings gap of any generation, millennials also report the largest disparity between the sexes when it comes to whether their wage allows them to save. Just 36% of millennial women say that they are able to put away the cash they want to each month, compared to 55% of men. On the other end of the scale, baby boomers have the smallest disparity of any generation, as 50% of women and 53% of men said that their earnings mean they are able to save their goal amount.

 

Savings depleted by COVID-19

Just over six months after lockdown was introduced in the UK, coronavirus has widened the gender savings gap even further. Whilst, overall, British men and women have reported a similar impact upon their finances, with 24% of men and 26% of women confirming the virus has had a dramatic negative effect on their savings, the true picture is somewhat bleaker. The study reveals that more women than men are relying on previous savings to cover essential costs during the pandemic, depleting their already smaller savings pot. A third of women (35%) admit to dipping into their savings over the last six months, compared to just 15% of men. This figure jumps to more than half for furloughed women (54%), again higher than men on the scheme (40%).

The impact is even more pronounced for furloughed workers. Two thirds of those on furlough (64%) said that the scheme and resulting pay cut has meant that they have not been able to contribute their desired savings each month. Yet again, the data suggests that furloughed women have seen the biggest hit to their financial security as a result of COVID. Over three quarters of women on the scheme (78%) have not been able to save as much money as pre-pandemic, contrasting just half of furloughed men (50%).

 

A brighter outlook?

Looking ahead to a pandemic-free future, the nation remains cautiously optimistic when it comes to predicting whether coronavirus will have a long-lasting impact on their savings. Over half (55%) of British women and 57% of British men think their savings will be able to recover in the long term. Earlier in their savings journey, Gen Z-ers predict a tougher time, with just 42% of women and 50% of men predicting that their savings will make a full recovery. Unsurprisingly, those most worried about the future are women who have been furloughed, with 77% admitting they are concerned that they will never be able to replenish lost savings.

 

Anita Naik, Lifestyle Editor at VoucherCodes.co.uk, comments: “This report is really eye opening, exposing how far we as a nation need to come to achieve financial equality. It’s especially concerning to see that young women and those who have been enrolled on the furlough scheme during COVID-19 have been most affected, as this represents such a large number of women in the UK.

“To help reduce the amount you rely on your savings, budgeting is the most effective way to ensure that all essential costs are covered. Citizens Advice offer a free and easy to use budgeting tool on their website that works for any budgeting needs. When shopping, make a habit to always check for deals that could shave valuable cash off your purchase. If you shop online a lot, install a handy browser extension such as DealFinder by VoucherCodes – a free Chrome extension that automatically finds the best discounts as you shop, so that you never miss out on a deal.“

savings and investment
ArticlesCash ManagementWealth Management

Spending and Investments Top List of Life’s Most Difficult Decisions

savings and investment

Spending and Investments Top List of Life’s Most Difficult Decisions

New research has revealed the nation’s hardest decisions, with financial quandaries and how to invest your money topping the list of the most difficult decisions that Brits struggle to make.

The study, commissioned by Barclays Plan & Invest in partnership with researchers at UCL, set out to explore the challenges faced when making decisions – from the every-day choices of what to wear or eat, to the more important, longer-term decisions.

The extensive research revealed that financial concerns consistently rank top of the list when it comes to the hardest decisions, including choosing where to buy a house (32 per cent), how to invest your money (25 per cent) and how to spend your hard earned savings (25 per cent). The only non-financial decision to make the top five was choosing a partner, with nearly one quarter struggling to make up their minds when picking their other half.

 

The top 5 toughest decisions Brits face:
  1. Where to buy a house
  2. Whether or not to change jobs
  3. How to invest your money
  4. Choosing to spend some of your savings for a major purchase (house, car etc)
  5. Choosing a partner

Dr Bastien Blain, Research Associate at UCL, who co-authored the study, comments: “Our research has revealed that we are consistently bombarded with choice, often creating a sense of decision fatigue. This cognitive fatigue makes us more impulsive and therefore prone to choosing small, immediate rewards over larger, delayed ones. This may well explain why financial decisions are consistently ranked the hardest, as they require the most attention.” 

 

Nature or nurture?

The research also revealed a gender-divide when it comes to decision making. According to the study, women appear to be better decision makers when it comes to monetary matters, as nearly one third of men struggle to decide how to invest their money compared to just 21 per cent of women. This might be down to the power of female intuition, as the majority of women (43 per cent) reported that they base their decisions on gut instinct.

These findings are somewhat surprising, as women are often considered to be less confident when it comes to investing, with men taking up the lion’s share of the investment market. However, it does at least align with a historical difference in stocks and shares performance, with the average women’s investment portfolio on the Barclays Smart Investor platform beating that of their male counterparts over a three year period (April 2012-June 2016)*. The annual return on investments for men was, on average, a marginal 0.14 per cent above the performance of the FTSE 100, while for women it was 1.94 per cent higher.

 

Relieving the pressure

With one in four Brits struggling to make investment decisions, these findings highlight the need to give people the right tools and advice to plan for their financial future.

Plan & Invest, a new digital advice service from Barclays, has been designed to support people who don’t have the confidence or time to invest on their own. Customers will complete an in-depth questionnaire on their goals, timeline and risk appetite and Barclays will then use the latest technology to combine these findings with their expert team’s pick of investments, to create a personalised plan that can follow over 10,000 potential investment paths.

Robert Smith, Head of Behavioural Finance at Barclays Wealth Management and Investments, offers some insight into the research findings: “It comes as no surprise that financial, and particularly investment, decisions rank so highly as some of life’s tougher choices. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of investments on offer or be put off by the amount of  jargon – particularly if you’re new to investing. When deciding where to invest, some may instinctively choose to invest in the market closest to them, or may be swayed by what is trending in the news. However, creating a diversified portfolio, focused on an individual’s personal goals and attitudes is the most advisable strategy when investing.

“But for those who don’t have the confidence to make their own investment decisions, it’s worth considering a digital advice service, such as Barclays Plan & Invest, where you can get experts to create a personalised investment plan and make all of the difficult investment decisions on your behalf.”

ArticlesCash Management

Are You Financially Prepared For A Baby?

Are You Financially Prepared For A Baby?

Any parent will tell you that the moment you hold your little one in your arms, your priorities change. Having a baby is one of life’s most beautiful and joyous occasions, but it is also one of the most life-changing events with a substantial price-tag attached. Research shows that your little bundle of joy will cost, on average, £231,843 – a frightening figure for many soon-to-be parents. And with the spiralling costs of childcare and education, this figure is expected to rise.

Life with a newborn is a world away from a child-free life. The first month alone can put a strain on your finances; from nappies and clothing to feeding equipment, toys and furniture. Many parents say that they weren’t prepared for the initial costs, and when paired with tiredness and fatigue, this can put a lot of pressure on the relationships around you. That’s why it is important to budget well and manage your assets before the pitter-patter of tiny feet.

 

Take Control

To help ease this financial pressure, you should consider setting up a regular bank account with easy access to savings as soon as possible. We recommend choosing an account with no minimum balance to give you maximum control and flexibility over your finances. It is also a good idea to choose an account with the ability to set up standing orders and direct debits, so you can manage your money well without the fear ‘baby brain’ forcing you to forget a payment.

And while your baby may be a long way off adulthood, it’s always good to plan for the future. As such, you should consider setting up a trust fund once your baby arrives. This legal arrangement will ensure your assets are held safely for the beneficiary until they are of an age to manage their money responsibly. A trust fund can be of great support to your child; it can help ease the burden of university fees or help them get on the housing ladder when the time comes.

 

Make a Will

We recommend making a Will as soon as possible after your baby is born. Not only does this ensure that your assets are passed down to your offspring, but more importantly, a valid Will means you have full control over who cares for your child (if they are below the age of 18) in the event of your passing. It also allows you to decide who should look after your child’s inheritance until they are old enough to manage their money themselves.

It is also possible to make a Will even before your baby is born. Without knowing their name, you can leave your estate to your child. And if you have more than one, you can stipulate that you divide your estate equally between children.

At Turner Little, we have years of experience in delivering professional and specialist advice to those who need it most. We work closely with you to put a bespoke plan in place so you can to manage your money well. This includes helping you to financially prepare for your baby’s arrival, as well as managing your child’s finances as they grow, giving them the best possible start in life. To find out more about how we can help you prepare for the future, get in touch with us today.

klarna
ArticlesCash Management

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

klarna

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fashion Retailers Ranked by BNPL Promotion Mentions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

business investment
ArticlesTransactional and Investment Banking

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

business investment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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