Category: Transactional and Investment Banking

Algotechs
Transactional and Investment Banking

Algotechs’ Algo Trading Software – The True Future Of The Investment Industry

The digital revolution has forever changed the investment world

Algotechs is a software company that generates profits using an algorithm catered to the Capital Market. In September, the firm was featured in Wealth & Finance International’s 2018 Global Business Excellence Awards, receiving the award of ‘2018’s Leading Algo Trading Company’. Following this well-deserved acknowledgement, we spoke with Roy Evans, Chief Marketing Officer at Algotechs, to find out more about this innovative firm and software.

The digital revolution has forever changed the investment world. As technology develops, the sector evolves with it, as firms look to capitalise on the opportunities and benefits of tech adoption. In recent years, this has created a schism as firms keep apace of the latest developments or choose to stick to more traditional approaches of investments and trading. In the wake of this division, few firms have made their mark as dominantly as Algotechs has. As the leading international Algo Trading company, Algotechs represents the cutting edge of a sub sector that has reinvigorated trading for the modern age.

To start the interview, Roy takes a moment to detail Algotechs’ operations. “Our software is based on a complex and intelligently designed mathematical equation. We provide the ability for any interested investor to benefit using the brilliant ATS software. Whether it be a businessman interested in diversifying his financial portfolio, a couple looking to secure their children’s future or an individual planning a better future for himself. Our company strives to allow any interested investor to profit using our software.”

This ties intrinsically to Algotechs’ mission: to provide a service that outmatches human capabilities, and by extension, their human-limitations. “Algotechs’ goal is to provide a software that can make the precise, speedy and accurate trading decisions that are limited when it comes to human capabilities. This is achieved by using an automated system that works based on years of statistical data and Capital Market trends. The software requires absolutely no previous experience or knowledge on the investors part, minimising the time consumption required to execute trades. In addition, there is absolutely no emotion involved in the decision making, no subjectivity, no hesitation or mistakes. It’s all done according to predefined, carefully calculated parameters.”

On the back of this sentiment, the conversation soon turns to the future of investments, and how, perhaps, Algotechs represents an inevitability. Algorithms, AI, machine operated systems are the words that are currently being used in the industry, as they look set to permanently replace human-based trading. Roy fundamentally agrees: “As technology changes and renews itself all the time, Capital Market technology develops as well. Today, Capital Market trading through software is becoming the more dominant option. Human trading is becoming a thing of the past, due to human-limited capabilities. Major institutions, banks and hedge funds already operate mostly using automated systems. Because of this, Algotechs’ automated trading software needs to stay on top of the game by providing precise and powerful transactions that are constantly renewed and improved.”

“While the Capital Market is on an upward trend for the past 10 years, it is relatively easy for the private trader to make profit. When -and there is always a when- the market turns a different direction, most private traders are unable to cope with the reversal of the trend and cannot maintain their successful yields, both because of the time consumption, and the lack of speed required to execute quick, precise and completely accurate trades, which is exactly what our Algorithm was designed to do. It is important to keep in mind, that history has proven that since the invention of machinery, in every confrontation between man and machine – machine has always prevailed.”

As we come to the end of the interview, Roy moves to discuss Algotechs’ future in an industry that seems all but guaranteed to favour their endeavours.  “We see a bright future with our friend referral program, which expands with new clients every day. As a successful company, we trust that our satisfied customers will want to have their friends and family members invest as well. Therefore, we have a friend referral program which provides a bonus for both the client who brings a friend as well as for the friend who joins the company. We definitely see this growing and reaching new heights.

“We have numerous new projects on the horizon, some of which include; rebranding, a new and improved website to come along with it and much more. Stay tuned to find out what other surprises we have in store! It also goes without saying that Algotechs hopes to continue providing consistently high returns and strong clientele service.”

Company Details:

Company: Algotechs

Website: www.algotechs.com

Telephone: +44 20 38 689 901 

Support Email: [email protected]

policy makers
Transactional and Investment Banking

Developed World Policymakers Place Their Bets

By, Graham Bishop, Investment Director at Heartwood Investment Management

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

Bank of England: A surprise reaction to unsurprising news

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bank of Japan: The rebel without a change

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

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

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

Why Direct Lending is so Attractive to Investors

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

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

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

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

Direct lending offers an attractive investment opportunity, gaining:

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

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

Why direct lend?

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

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

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

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

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

A gap in the market was seized

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

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

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

Direct lending isn’t a passing fad

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

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

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

Europe is catching up

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

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

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

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

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

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

An increasing number of investors

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

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

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

Untapped potential

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

Are there any downsides to direct lending?

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

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

What does the future hold?

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

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

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

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

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

Exo Investing
Transactional and Investment Banking

Recent launch of Exo Investing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Benefits of Investing in Contractors
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

5 Benefits of Investing in Contractors

5 Benefits of Investing in Contractors

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

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

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

 

1. Affordability

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

2. Flexibility

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

3. Expertise

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

4. Attitude

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

5. Availability

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

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

private debt
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

A better way for investors to capitalise on private debt

A better way for investors to capitalise on private debt

Simone Westerhuis, LGB Investments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

investment
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Storefronting in investment banking – technology and the rise of ‘window-shopping’

Storefronting in investment banking – technology and the rise of ‘window-shopping’

Abhijit Deb, Head of Banking & Financial Services, UK & Ireland, Cognizant

People’s interactions with their banks have undergone an extraordinary transformation. From the emergence of app-only challengers such as Monzo to the evolution of physical branches, technology has dramatically changed the age-old relationship. However, compared to typical high street interactions, the investment banking landscape has always been markedly different, sustained by services such as capital raising and M&A advisory. Thanks to this structure, there has never been any pressure on such firms to vary the products offered to clients.

Since the repeal of the Glass-Steagall act, a piece of legislation that separated commercial banks from their retail counterparts and the annulment of which is considered by many to be a primary cause of the financial crisis, members of the former group have become powerhouses trading on information and access to credit. In this context, huge organisations such as JP Morgan and Merryl Lynch can draw on low-cost funding without having to interact with other banks not affiliated to them. However, combined with increased competition and the cost of regulation, recent rhetoric around breaking up the power of Wall Street has caused speculation  that the act will be re-instated. Ten years on from the financial crisis that the act’s repeal supposedly ignited, these factors are putting commercial banks and the existing industry model under pressure.

Investing in technology

While the core services around equity, debt, structured finance and M&A will endure, many of the ‘low touch’ activities carried out by investment banks are being commoditised by technology. These are typically people-intensive processes such as regulatory reporting, risk management and product control. Thanks to automation, the next 10-15 years may present a vastly different landscape in which only the most highly customised, ‘high touch’ services are handled by humans. For example, investment banks could offer customised product and pricing systems for the average institutional customer, using a fraction of the time and human intervention that is needed today.

Furthermore, services such as Know Your Customer (KYC) that are core, but non-differentiated, are becoming simplified and now take minutes rather than days, in the same way that retail outfits such as Monzo have achieved. Some organisations are already using blockchain-based platforms for instant settlements, mitigating credit and counterparty risks simultaneously and paving the way for ‘exception-only’ intervention. In fact, a recent Cognizant study found that 90% of financial services executives say their firm has identified or is currently identifying processes and functions that can be automated through the technology. Even ancillary services such as research can be easily personalised for institutional and high-net-worth clients using automation, based on buying behaviour patterns. Most novel for investment banks, technology is enabling greater collaboration between banks. Using smart algorithms, organisations can select a syndicate of lenders, giving a corporation easier access to funding, through reverse auctions taking place in real-time. Lead by mass automation, investment banks are experiencing the same kind of digital disruption felt by their retail siblings.

The dawn of the storefront model

Beyond these basic process efficiencies, technology in our view has heralded the arrival of a ‘storefront’ model in investment banking, something usually associated with the retail banks. The defining factor of this is the level of personalisation provided, in this case, to institutional clients, high-net-worth individuals and even sovereign entities. Compared with the one-size-fits-all approach of old, clients are now presented with an array of product combinations depending on their requirements, in the same way that consumers would take out a loan. For example, a bond-issue could feasibly be as easy as buying a mortgage, while a mezzanine financing deal could be carried out via a series of simple, context-dependent steps to profile, risk-score and approve the financing. Therefore, we are seeing specialist investment banks without a retail arm become sophisticated ‘virtual windows’, through which clients of all risk profiles and needs will be able to shop for services.

As this model gains traction, institutional clients will also be able to ‘test-drive’ trading portfolios and other products with simulated returns. This access to sophisticated software that banks provide their clients gives them an additional incentive to buy. It is only a matter of time before similar platforms for trading and risk management are opened up to clients, in the same way that Amazon allows us to preview a book before buying. Organisations such as Goldman Sachs are leading the way in this field, tailoring their services and marketing themselves as tech firms in the business of banking. This new model forces investment banks to re-consider how they price and design products, although they often take advantage by charging a premium for personalised products, something that increases alongside the value of the customer. While it is likely to be the smaller, more agile investment banks that move down this path first ahead of larger outfits, change is coming for organisations of all sizes.

Equally interesting is how this trend will impact the fortunes of traditional investment banks that are now foraying into more mainstream consumer banking, a prime example of which is Goldman Sachs with their Marcus  lending platform which is soon to come to the UK in 2018. In Goldman’s case they will cover online deposits and extend to lending over time, seeking to both take on established high street players as well as create a more sustainable customer-base. And once traditional sell-side firms venture into the retail space, we should start to see the full extent of this ‘store-fronting’ for a wider cross-section of customers across investment and retail banks.

Crossing the bridge to personalisation

Depending on the extent that this route is chosen, the new model will require an overhaul of an organisation’s technology infrastructure and the way they price, sell, execute, clear and maintain products, all the way through from customer experience to back-end design. Investment banks are increasingly in a position where they must adapt and differentiate, or find themselves racing to under-cut competitors on price.

Ironically, while recent years have seen a huge focus on a ‘customer experience’ revolution in consumer finance, it is the sedate world of investment banking that is primed for change. Moving away from a world of bland trading and towards more tailored offerings may result in a bigger shop window with more products than retail banks, but the impact will be similar as technology simplifies the buying experience for institutional clients. This is undoubtedly a seismic shift for the industry. Whether incremental or something that happens all at once, we will see a fundamental change in how investment banks interact with their clients. Whatever the speed of transition and style of delivery, they must remember that the primary goal is to provide customers with the most intuitive service possible.

Duke Energy Renewables enters New York
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Duke Energy Renewables enters New York, purchasing one of the largest solar projects in the state from Invenergy

Duke Energy Renewables enters New York, purchasing one of the largest solar projects in the state from Invenergy

– The 24.9-megawatt solar site on Long Island is under construction

In its continuing efforts to bring affordable, renewable energy to customers across the United States, Duke Energy Renewables is acquiring the 24.9-megawatt (MW) Shoreham Solar Commons project on Long Island from Invenergy.

The project, currently under construction by Invenergy, is located in Brookhaven, New York, about 60 miles east of Manhattan. It is being built on the grounds of the former Tallgrass Golf Course and is expected to be complete in the second quarter of 2018.

The Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) will purchase the power under a 20-year agreement.

“We are excited to enter New York with a renewables project that offers many benefits to the state and local community,” said Rob Caldwell, president, Duke Energy Renewables and Distributed Energy Technology. “The solar project will help meet the energy needs of LIPA’s customers while delivering tremendous economic and environmental benefits.”

The project is expected to create more than 175 local jobs during construction and generate between $700,000 and $900,000 in annual tax revenue for the local community.

The energy generated from this project is estimated to displace 29,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually and create nearly 1 million megawatt-hours of clean, renewable energy over its lifetime. Also, with the redevelopment, Invenergy is planting an additional 2,000 trees on the site.

“Duke Energy has a reputation of excellence and we are pleased to help them and their stakeholders meet the increasing demand for affordable, renewable energy,” said Invenergy’s EVP and Chief Development Officer Bryan Schueler. “Repurposing the former Tallgrass Golf Course into a solar site eliminates the use of pesticides and fertilizers on the property, protecting Long Island’s fresh water aquifer and providing environmental benefits in addition to the generation of renewable energy.”

Invenergy recently closed construction financing for the project with MUFG, the administrative agent and lead arranger.

Duke Energy Renewables will close on the transaction post-construction, pending federal and local approvals.

Duke Energy Renewables

Duke Energy Renewables primarily acquires, develops, builds and operates wind and solar renewable generation throughout the continental U.S. The portfolio includes nonregulated renewable energy and energy storage assets.

Duke Energy Renewables’ renewable energy includes utility-scale wind and solar generation assets which total 2,900 MW across 14 states from 20 commercial wind and 63 solar projects. The power produced from renewable generation is primarily sold through long-term contracts to utilities, electric cooperatives, municipalities and commercial and industrial customers. Learn more at https://www.duke-energy.com/renewable

Follow Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook.

About Invenergy

Invenergy drives innovation in energy. Invenergy and its affiliated companies develop, own, and operate large-scale renewable and other clean energy generation and storage facilities in the Americas, Europe and Asia. Invenergy’s home office is located in Chicago and it has regional development offices in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Japan, Poland and Scotland.

Invenergy has developed more than 15,900 megawatts of projects that are in operation, construction or contracted, including wind, solar and natural gas power generation projects and energy storage facilities.

Jasper Capital International Becomes Second China-Based Signatory to Hedge Fund Standards Board
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Jasper Capital International Becomes Second China-Based Signatory to Hedge Fund Standards Board

Jasper Capital International Becomes Second China-Based Signatory to Hedge Fund Standards Board (HFSB)


Jasper Capital International (”Jasper”) has become the second China-based signatory to the Hedge Fund Standards Board (HFSB), an organization that brings hedge fund managers and investors together to set standards for the hedge fund industry. As prudent stewards of client capital and as part of a commitment to adhering to the highest international standards, Jasper welcomes the HFSB’s effort to enhance global industry standards and facilitate investors due diligence.

About HFSB

Established in 2008, the HFSB is a standard-setting body for the alternative investment industry and custodian of the Hedge Fund Standards. The HFSB provides a powerful mechanism for creating a framework of transparency, integrity and good governance which improves how the alternative investment industry operates, facilitates investor due diligence and complements public policy.

The HFSB and the Standards are supported by managers accounting for over US$ 1tn in AUM. In addition, the HFSB’s Investor Chapter includes over 60 major international investors, including pension and endowment funds, sovereign wealth funds and funds of funds.

About Jasper

Jasper Capital International is a diversified, systematic investment firm founded in 2013 in Shenzhen, China. The Co-Founders were partners at its predecessor firm, Jasper Asset Management, a U.S. hedge fund headquartered in New Jersey. Jasper’s logic-based investment approach deploys a successful discipline to capture opportunities in the Chinese equity markets. As an industry leader with extensive local and global investment and risk management experience, Jasper offers investors multiple strategies designed to capitalize on China’s domestic market inefficiencies and future Chinese growth.

Jasper currently manages US$1.5 billion across four strategies: long-only bias, long/short equity, market neutral and seasoned equity offerings. Each seeks to maximize risk-adjusted excess returns by applying a rigorous, scientific methodology to strategy identification and research, back-testing and implementation.

 

Multifaceted
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Multifaceted, Passionate and Professional

Multifaceted, Passionate and Professional

Judy Joost is a multifaceted, passionate marketing and communications professional with 8+ years of experience. She is an ambitious, result-oriented, creative individual with the motivation to succeed at any level or industry while continuing to feed her desire to learn.

Judy Joost is known for being a well-organized, detailed-orientated self-starter. She promotes a positive team attitude and has the ability to balance competing demands to meet deadlines in a fast-paced environment.
Her areas of expertise are:

• Marketing;
• Corporate communications;
• Project management and;
• Client/customer service

Judy’s specialties include: event planning/execution; trade show management; internal/external communications; social media management; direct mail campaigns; e-mail Marketing; data analytics; content development; brand standards; collateral materials; create/execute high-level marketing plans; executive level PowerPoint presentations; web content management plus writing and editing.

She has used the following software: Adobe Creative Suites: InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator; MS Office; Abila (Avectra) CRM; Joomla CMS; SharePoint; WordPress; iContact; Salesforce and Eloqua – Marketing Automation Tool.
Judy’s Certification in Digital Marketing Fundamentals from the University of Vermont covers: Search Engine Optimization (SEO); paid search; email marketing; display advertising; social media; mobile marketing and analytics. Judy is currently living and working in New York City.

Additionally, Judy has managed the BT presence at the National Retail Federation conference including a customer reception taking place on the last night. She has generated 100+ new leads, created over $62m in pipeline and gained press coverage from around the globe (United States to Asia).

Judy’s responsibilities include:

– Execute marketing activities in the Americas.
– Working closely with the Americas based global banking and financial markets and retail and consumer package goods sales teams in the execution of day-to-day, short and long-term sales and marketing strategies across both verticals.
– Liaising and collaborating with the Americas marketing team on shared projects and campaigns providing GB&FM/Retail perspective.
– Leading account based workshops in terms of content, sales enablement and follow up.
– Developing specific campaigns with a digital first mindset.
– Managing relationships with key stakeholders up to and including GB&FM/Retail Americas’ executive leadership and external partners.
– Working closely with the central digital marketing team out of the U.K. to promote the company’s increased use of social and digital media as well as managing the relationship with third-party public relations and media agencies both in the Americas and globally.

Company: BT
Name: Judy Joost, Marketing Manager Global Services
Email: [email protected]
Web Address: home.bt.com
Address: 620 8th Avenue, 46th Floor, New York, New York 10018
Telephone: +1 212 205 1935

 

Great Expectations Ahead
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Great Expectations Ahead

To celebrate the success of Azizi Bank winning the Finest in Finance – Best Bank in Afghanistan award, Mohammad Salem Omaid, President and CEO writes about this bank’s amazing array of services, plus their emphasis on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities, as well as women’s emancipation in the workplace.

First of all, I must say that it is a moment of tremendous pride and honour for me on behalf of Azizi Bank, Afghanistan (the largest bank in the country), to win this prestigious Finest in Finance – Best Bank in Afghanistan award from the team at Wealth & Finance International. These sentiments were expressed sincerely by my colleagues Samrat Dutta and Mohammad Osman Nowrozi when they visited the offices of the esteemed Wealth & Finance International magazine on 29th March to collect their trophy for this prestigious award. They greatly enjoyed their visit to the UK, enjoying the stunning countryside viewed from the train and the City of London equally.

This award means a lot for me Azizi Bank, which I believe is the place to do banking in Afghanistan, with our superior customer service approach, state-of-the-art technology in line with banks from other countries. We are currently in a growing phase, and we have great expectations for the future, indeed we dream of becoming the best quality bank in Afghanistan, providing nothing but world class services.

We need such international recognition to build upon our brand and sustain its strong image. I am once again gratified to your esteemed organisation in recognising a bank from the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan for this prestigious award. I believe that Afghanistan should be viewed in a positive way, and be supported by bigger banks in other countries.

In terms of my own background, I have been associated with the bank since its inception. I started my career as a teller – and I then moved into various positions which included credit and finance – before becoming the President and CEO in August 2016. I have also served as the Azizi Bank’s Deputy CEO for 5 years. I have been widely responsible in developing local human resources and personally founded the capacity building programme at the bank.

In addition – I have a doctorate in Financial Management from one of the leading Indian University – plus an MBA with specialisation in Banking, Risk Management and Finance.

Azizi Bank and its role in the banking sector
Azizi Bank is a commercial bank in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan set up in 2006. It has been the vision of Mr. ‘Mirwais Azizi of the distinguished Azizi Hotak Group and their family, to set up an establishment in the country that provides banking services to all sectors of the population. This came at a time when banking services in the country were having challenges of their own, after the time of the Taliban regime.

The bank was initially set up with a capital of $5 million and 25 employees. Today – we have statutory paid up capital of more than $80 million with the central bank – and employ more than 1500 members of staff. The bank remains the largest banking group in Afghanistan today, with more than 145 branches spread across the country. Presently, Azizi Bank is the market leader in the country in terms of absolute business, percentage share and network.

Azizi Bank banking products
Azizi Bank is currently offering all types of banking products as per the customer needs and requirements. We offer current and savings accounts in four currencies – AFN, US Dollars, Euro & GBP. The following are the other products and services currently being offered by Azizi Bank, apart from the vanilla CASA:
• Fixed deposits with attractive rates in AFN and US Dollars;
• Salary savings & current accounts for corporates and institutions;
• Trade finance products which includes – bank guarantees, letter of credit and term loans;
• Business loans;
• Treasury products;
• Domestic and international remittances;
• Master credit and debit cards, ATM cards;
• Master pre-paid cards and;
• Western Union and SWIFT.

The bank, by the second quarter of 2017, will increase its CASA variants by introducing products targeting children, students, women, senior citizens and high net-worth corporate individuals.

The bank also offers the following services:
• Internet and mobile banking;
• 24-hour call centre facility;
• Instant account opening at all branches;
• Biometric finger print recognition at branches for enhanced security;
• Green channel at branches for fast and efficient cash dealings;
• Dedicated priority counters and lounges for VIP customers;
• Dedicated relationship manager for VIP and high net worth customers;
• ATMs, cash dispensers and video kiosks (the latter is coming soon);
• Branch less banking through POS devices and;
• Extended branch business hours.

We are evaluating further digitalisation process to enhance the level of service for customers, by introducing more innovative features and services in line with the best practices at the other international banks, thereby creating an impetus in the individual and national growth of the country.

Social responsibility in the community
Azizi Bank is extensively into Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities. In 2016, amongst other activities, we donated the first digital library at the esteemed Kardan University, which was inaugurated by HE – the Ambassador of India to Afghanistan. We have also ensured that we support the underprivileged section of the society, especially the NGOs supporting the orphanages.

Apart from other activities, we contributed to the development of the Women Breast Cancer Hospital in Kabul this year on the occasion of the International Women’s Day. We are entering into a MOU with the Ministry of Women Affairs, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan on various projects of the ministry which will also include efforts to improve educational opportunities for women.

In addition, we will shortly be organising an event for women entrepreneurs where we will be announcing customised small scale loans for this group at a reduced rate of interest, to support their empowerment in the country. We have also launched a special programme in collaboration with the provincial municipalities to plant trees for a greener Afghanistan.

The First Islamic Bank in the Republic of Afghanistan
We are converting our 100% subsidiary bank – Bakhtar Bank – into a full-fledged Islamic Bank by the end of first quarter of 2017. This will be the first Islamic Bank in the country. The total bankable population in Afghanistan is around 12% of the 32 million who live here.

Being in an Islamic country – this strategic move will further increase the banking population – and will play a pivotal role in our financial inclusion programme.

Women’s emancipation in the workplace
More than 16% of our workforce are women, all of whom play a quiet but effective role in their empowerment and emancipation. We have been constantly encouraging women to break the shackles and join the main stream. We have tied up with local agencies, backed by the USAID projects in the recruitment of talented women into the system.

The bank has always encouraged women to take up leadership positions. Indeed, we have women leading few of the major branches as branch managers and as deputies at some of the key departments in the head office, in addition to the other roles being managed at the branches and other departments.

Human resource capital
Our human resource capital consists of more than 1500 employees. The management team here has a mixture of youth and experience. We have a strong in-house state-of-art training department, who provide all kinds of training and refresher programmes, right from the orientation of new employees and basic banking up to international trade and credit programmes.

In order to provide international exposure, we also send our work force for training abroad in countries such as the UAE, India and Pakistan. Our board of supervisors and the board of management includes expatriates from the US, India and other countries with an average experience of more than 18 years in the banking, financial and administrative sector across the globe. Their experience, mixed with the local enthusiasm in developing a better brand, have certainly played a significant role in the undoubted success of Azizi Bank.
Customer satisfaction and feedback
We have a systematic approach towards customer satisfaction at our branches. The branch staff are provided with regular training on customer service and delivery TAT. We have introduced a customer level feedback programme on the quality of services we provide. The call centre department makes regular calls to the customers to ascertain the quality of services provided, and updates management on the feedback and action taken on any anomalies.

Azizi Bank have been awarded the Best Bank – Customer Service and Best Retail Bank, 2016 award by the International Finance magazine, London and South Asian Partnership Summit, Sri Lanka respectively last year.

We have been receiving quite encouraging responses from our customers. The bank has seen a transformation change on the level of customer service provided over the last 18 months. Amongst all the banks in Afghanistan, Azizi Bank have the highest customer acceptance on Facebook, with a rating of 4.5 on a scale of 5. Azizi Bank is also widely accepted on the other social media pages. Last year, we received an award from an international firm for being the best socially acclaimed bank in Afghanistan.

Opportunities and challenges in the future
Azizi Bank has completed a tough and challenging, yet quite interesting journey of more than 10 years of existence in the country. We are foreseeing opportunities for the bank rather than any challenges. Success cannot be achieved unless you beat all the challenges. Our team is committed and ready to face all the challenges.

We have already incorporated the Vision 2020 plans and have very positive feelings about that, something that reverberates throughout all of our energetic team here. We have engaged one of the top US based international consultancy firm – Alvarez & Marshall, to strategise our vision of sustained growth in a systematic and phased manner.

On these premises, Azizi Bank has developed its strategic plan, with a keen eye for progress and development. The bank has planned an aggressive growth strategy through reconstitution of the sales team and various marketing strategies, i.e. tie-ups with corporates, various international joint venture initiatives for investment in the country etc.

Accordingly, Azizi Bank has drawn up our financial plan projecting strategies for growth. In its Vision 2020 initiative, the bank will witness a significant growth on all sectors thereby maintaining its position as clear market leaders and catering to the customer requirements and expectations.

Azizi Bank has initiated several measures, aimed at vigorous marketing efforts specifically branding of the bank, co-branding with other organisations, tie ups, technological innovations with an eye to cater and partner all in the developmental cycle. The bank is getting engaged in expanding the business activities into other areas through cross sale of other products, i.e. insurance products, acting as collection agents for bill collections to several service providers.

The future of the banking industry
Banking services are the economic backbone for any nation. One of the important aspects of unifying people and bringing peace in this nation – is developing the economy – and making people financially secure and independent. Azizi Bank is playing a major role here. The job market has seen a reasonable improvement over the last 3 years. Many employment opportunities are created from the government. There are several international NGOs working in the country, who believe in taking the energetic and the talented youth of the country. The mass exodus from the country have reasonably decreased over the last year.

Performance of the bank is of course dependent on various eco-political factors. In a country of Afghanistan’s stature with political insecurity, with instability looming in the minds of all there is less capital inflow as donors are uncertain of investment outcomes, as it is difficult to predict them.

However, given the present prevailing situations, and the World Bank survey reports, optimism is prevailing in selected infrastructural sectors of the economy, indeed there are prospects of substantial growth. There is much promise for foreign direct investments, and tremendous scope for the developmental of mining, quarrying (with one of the world’s richest resourceful countries), low inflation, improving education rates, more and more integration of the provinces with the capital, more sponsored infrastructure and more economic benefits trickling down owing to economic integration with other countries etc.

Real GDP growth is projected to increase to around 3.90% in 2017, from its present position of 3.10% in 2016. It is expected that these economic benefits will trickle down to the entire population. The economy will continue to be stable in the next 2-3 years.

With the economic depression, apart, a substantial quantum of investments has been planned for road infrastructure, the power sector, power transmission lines, power generators, electricity generation, the agriculture, IT, oil and gas sectors and so on are estimated to be in the tune of $2 billion.

In closing, I would like to stress that Azizi Bank will be the bank of the future in Afghanistan. As it strengthens its presence, Azizi Bank continues to review compliance, risk management skills, systems and processes and where appropriate – it aims to enhance these further.

The commitment applies to Azizi Bank’s relationship with its shareholders, customers, employees, suppliers, regulators and the community in which it operates. In addition to our vision 2020 plans, Azizi Bank will expand its presence to neighbouring countries and will open new offices in India, China, UAE, Turkey and other neighbouring CIS countries over the next 1-3 years. Finally, I would like to say that I strongly believe we are the bank of the future.

Company: Azizi Bank
Name: Mohammad Salem Omaid, President and CEO
Email: [email protected]
Web Address: www.azizibank.com
Address: Azizi Bank, Head office
Ankara Square, Opp Turkish Embassy
Main Road, Kabul, Afghanistan
Telephone: 93 (0) 701 80 15 15

Driving Force
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Driving Force

Opening its first location in 1972, today Meineke operates nearly 1,000 locations across the globe. It is also a member of the Driven Brands family, the largest automotive aftermarket franchisor with more than 10 brands and 2,500 locations. Meineke offers overall car care maintenance and repairs to customers, with services including fluid, filters and belts as well as brakes, tires, suspension and steering.

Ed Pearson is Vice President of Franchise and Sales Development for Meineke. He tells us more about the franchise’s objectives and tells us a little more about its recent successes. “Our goal is to provide a total car care experience to our customers. We’re in the relationship business, not transactional, and because of that our customers continue to come back time after time.

“Many people have a preconceived notion of the automotive industry, especially when it comes to repair and maintenance centres. At Meineke, we are constantly breaking that mould with new and innovative solutions to increase not only traffic to our centres but customer retention for our franchisees. We’ve developed and utilised new tools like online scheduling, the Meineke rewards app, and Revvy, a device customers plug into their car, to make our services more easy and accessible for customers in the communities we service.

“Additionally, from a corporate level, we are continuing our growth in the fleet sector by leveraging the current $100 million fleet footprint of our sister brand in the rental car, fleet management, private and government space, to provide even more work to our franchisees. Because of these initiatives, we’ve had a lot of success growing within our existing franchise base, which truly speaks to the strength and longevity of the Meineke franchise opportunity.”

A key aspect of Pearson’s job is to grow the Meineke brand with the right franchise partners. “To have a successful brand you have to have strong franchise owners,” he explains. “With my team of development managers, we work across North America and Puerto Rico to scope out and award licenses to those top prospects.”

It is clear to see why Meineke is such a lucrative investment opportunity. As a needs-based business, Meineke is predictable and sustainable for the long-term. “We won’t experience huge upticks or downticks,” states Pearson. “When a franchisee opens a location, costs will be kept to a minimum because of proper project coordination. Some 80 percent of new openings are through the conversion of existing buildings, rather than being built from the ground up, which keeps the investment amount low. In this regard, Meineke is versatile in its real estate model.

When franchisees don’t lose money in real estate, they’re faster to break even and become cash flow positive.

“Meineke has success under its belt as it celebrates 45 years of automotive experience and brand recognition. The name “Meineke” is instantly recognisable for most. We’ve figured out what works from business plans to day-to-day management and it’s that kind of knowledge and experience we pass onto our franchisees. This opportunity is right for franchisees looking for a brand name and a proven, predictable and scalable model. Many of our owners have multiple locations because we are designed for growth. Our IT platform allows franchisees to monitor the health of one or multiple locations without being on-site.”

With regards to potential franchisees, Pearson tells us that, whilst they look for a diverse range, an important aspect of a good franchisee is a that they are committed and an integral part of the franchise.

“All of the business systems and tools Meineke has cannot be auto-piloted by an absent franchisee. In order to achieve success, our franchise owners have to be committed contributors to their centre(s), which can be defined in a variety of ways but regardless the person we want will take charge of his or her business. We want someone who’s able to follow a system, as we’ve established and will provide our proven playbook for success.

“You don’t need to have been a mechanic in order to become a franchisee, in fact 90 percent of our prospects have zero automotive experience but they recognise Meineke’s scalable and dependable business systems. The majority of people applying today are C-level individuals from the corporate world, having had direct reports, management experience and profit and loss knowledge. Many have led by example their whole lives. All of these skill sets easily transfer to being a successful Meineke franchisee.

“Initially, we want to make sure the prospect is educated on the Meineke franchise model – what we do, our systems, our emphasis on customer service and our relationship-focused system. Obviously, there are financial requirements, real estate reviews and operational interviews to make sure expectations are the same on both ends. We get to know the prospective franchisee so we can ensure a long-lasting relationship.”

As Meineke continues to revitalise its business systems there are becoming increasingly more opportunities for franchisees to become successful. Pearson embellishes on what the future holds for the brand and its franchisees.

“We are continuing our growth and dominance within the automotive aftermarket through technology initiatives like our KPI dashboard and online scheduling application which cater to a more modern customer. Additionally, through our parent company Driven Brands we are able to leverage the power behind our parent company to provide franchisees not only with fantastic support teams but continued opportunities to not only grow their business but save more money through fleet and procurement partnerships.

“Our association with Roark Capital has given us the ability to share best practices with some of the biggest brands in franchising, furthering our goal to continue being the consumer’s first choice for all of their car care needs. Lastly, because of economic situations and cars being built to last longer, with the average vehicle around 11.5 years of age, people are choosing to keep and maintain their cars, which are both great factors for our business. Competition is always a challenge that we’re mindful of, but with over four decades in the automotive aftermarket we pride ourselves on always staying one step ahead.”

For more information on franchising with Meineke, please feel free to get in touch with them with the contact details provided here.

Company: Meineke Car Care Centers Name: Ed Pearson Email: [email protected] Web Address: www.meinekefranchise.com Address: 440 S. Church Street Suite 700 Charlotte, NC 28202 Telephone: + 1 866 675 7687

The Real Estate Market
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

The Real Estate Market

Stephan Gietl is the COO and CFO of the company and focuses on all legal, operational and number work for the firm. He tells us more about the firm and the rationale behind its inception.

“Initially the company focused on acquiring distressed assets and, as markets started to recover in 2012, the company was an early mover with luxury waterfront high-rise developments in Edgewater, Miami, amongst others The Crimson, which name has been derived as reminiscent to the great time at the AMDP program at Harvard University. The Crimson is one the only luxury boutique waterfront condominium development in Edgewater featuring a unique lifestyle only a boutique development can deliver.”

The company is currently in the middle of its 284-unit residential development 50 Paramount in Sarasota, Florida, which is slated for its grand opening in November 2017.

“The company has delivered to its investors exceptional returns up to 60% IRR due to its highly professional and diligent approach in executing projects,” explains Stephan.

“The company’s credo spending significant time on every detail of a project, rather than relying on consultants has dramatically paid off to all stakeholders of the company. The company is highly committed to achieve outstanding results from a design & quality perspective. As such the company is delivering with its 50 Paramount project, rental units which have been designed by interior designers and caters features such as integrated shower niches, opposite faucet control, glass enclosed showers and amongst others island kitchen design which usually can only be found in high end hotels or condominiums. Besides the development activities the company offers a full integrated real estate service such as Brokerage and Property Management. In the last couple of years, the company has created assets exceeding $200 million.”

Stephan tells us more about the dedicated staff members, who play a crucial role in the firm’s overall success.

“We select our staff very carefully,” he says. “We try to match the growth of our firm with the growth potential of our employees. We are proud that that we have a very high retention rate of all our personnel and a very international team to boot.”

Customers are often very impressed by the professional handling of each development step and appreciate the attention to detail that McKafka gives, as well as the quality of the final product. “We are never overpromising and deliver according to our specifications,” explains Stephan.
With regards to the future, Stephan foresees challenges ahead which the company will tackle head on, in order to retain its success rate.

“As the real estate market has turned very hot in the recent 18 months it is currently most difficult to identify reasonably priced development opportunities.

“Looking at the wider picture, changes in interest rates is the single most relevant driver for the next 12 to 24 months.”

Company: McKafka Development Group Name: Stephan Gietl Email: [email protected] Web Address: www.mckafka.com Address: 20900 NE 30th Ave., AVENTURA, FL 33180 Telephone: +1 305 331 5936 (cell)

Interaction in Investing
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Interaction in Investing

Described by the co-founders as the “e-Harmony for real estate fundraising,” Peloton Street is focused on how technology can make the process of marketing deals and deploying capital more efficient by helping the investment community focus only on the opportunities that are right for them, so they can close more deals faster.

Across the corporate landscape, data-driven solutions designed connect people have been hugely successful, with everything from flat sharing to dating supported by a range of online platforms created specifically to support users in connecting with one another. However, so far nothing of this kind has been offered for the private capital markets and specifically commercial real estate finance industry; which is where Peloton Street comes in.

Peloton Street’s online platform uses data science and machine learning (a subset of artificial intelligence technology) to help facilitate actionable results and engagement between members of the investment community – a solution analogous to how online dating platforms helps 41 million Americans find “friends, dates, and relationships, and everything in between.”

By reliably collating the criteria used by investors when evaluating and deploying capital into such deals, both sides of a transaction are better ensured the outcome they are seeking. Investors are shown only the deals that they most likely to invest in, while dealmakers can focus their marketing efforts on the leads that are most likely to invest in their deal – instead of “carpet bombing” everyone out there when raising capital. Tabish explains, “The process of raising private capital is not all that different from dating and searching for a soul mate – except, that the first date in context of what we’re doing is meeting with an investor.”

Peloton Street’s artificially intelligent matching platform looks at thousands of professional investors and calculates a match for deals based not only on an assessment of investors’ preferences and similarity to other deals that they may have participated in the past but also their interaction with any new deal flow presented to them through the platform. “We believe that this behaviour is foretelling of how an investor feels about a particular deal – it’s just like the first date… if he or she is just not that into you from the get-go, then you’re probably better off looking elsewhere.”

Drawing on a vast wealth of expertise by working professionally in commercial real estate finance and investing for over 12 years, Tabish has a strong knowledge of the industry. It is how he and his technical co-founder – Neville Jos, a 20 year old computer science prodigy with a passion for data science who has been coding since the age of 12, conceived the idea for Peloton Street. Originally founded in 2013 as a crowdfunding platform with a different team, Tabish and Neville pivoted
Peloton Street to the current value proposition about a year ago after restructuring the company. “We learned the hard way that syndicating private real estate investment opportunities online was not really a scalable business model” – at least, not one that necessarily benefited from the use of technology to generate revenue.

“We found ourselves dealing with all of the same social and regulatory ‘mishigas’ that traditional investment bankers have to deal with when marketing a deal. It just wasn’t going to work; and, rather than burn through our seed round raised from friends and family, we decided to pivot and not have to deal with a lifetime of awkward dinner table conversations.”

Together, they are still working on the original mandate of helping investment capital flow to the most deserving deals, but by tackling another problem that is becoming increasingly prevalent in the commercial real estate industry. “Discretionary capital for investment is the Holy Grail, but it’s gotten a lot harder to raise today. Investors have become smarter and are more sophisticated; and, so many of them like to call the shots.”

Tabish explains that the new regulations introduced following global recession are inadvertently responsible for this new norm. According to him, the financial services industry “underwent a disaggregation that no one really likes to talk about;” however, the diaspora of financial professionals displaced during recession “have seeded a whole bunch of new companies, instead of seeking gainful employment elsewhere.” Smaller players, such as boutique private equity firms and family offices, are gaining market share and are now at the helm of an increasing number of transactions each year.

The increasing number of finance professionals “hanging their own shingles” is in part likely responsible for why capital from private unregistered securities now outpaces the amount raised through publicly registered securities (totalling more than $2 trillion in 2014). “More and more people are chasing after private capital, which in our opinion has actually made it harder to raise capital and do deals,” Tabish surprisingly explains.

“While the market is seeing more activity, this deal flow lacks homogeneity and creates a steeper learning curve for investors.” The definition of a “good deal” is highly subjective, often based on the divergent investment criteria. This environment has motivated even more investors to eschew the fund format in favour of deploying capital on a deal-by-deal basis, simply to stay in control. Peloton Street sees a significant market opportunity in using its technology to help facilitate more actionable engagement between these “users” and “providers” of capital, as players on both sides scramble to source deals and deploy capital.

Peloton Street is a FinTECH start up that uses big-data to help real estate dealmakers and investors come together and transact. We caught up with Co-Founder and CEO Tabish Rizvi to learn more about this innovative and dynamic firm.

Since commercial release of the beta platform in late October last year, Peloton Street has been signing up about 1 to 2 new users a week and having conversations with several more interested in learning more about how the platform could help them with their equity and debt fundraising efforts. “It’s going to take a little time for people to wrap their heads around how an online platform can shortcircuit the process of identifying the right investor for a deal – something that has traditionally taken weeks and months to do. The same thing happened to online dating sites and online discount brokers two decades ago,” says Tabish.

After gathering feedback from a core group of users, Peloton Street recently introduced simpler subscription-based pricing where users can pay $79, $129, or $199 depending on the features that best suit them. “We are immensely thankful to our first 50 users, who have in effect helped us put the finishing touches on the airplane as we fly,” explains Tabish. Peloton Street has been selected to join the Spring 2017 cohort of AREA.build, one of the world’s leading real estate tech incubators based in New York City; and, is “looking forward to working with and learning from the accomplished advisors and extended network. It is our opportunity to learn from the best-of-the-best in the industry.” Tabish is keen to build upon this opportunity and grow the business, all while executing effective marketing campaigns and supporting a growing client base over the coming months and years.”

Company: Peloton Street Name: Tabish Rizvi Email: [email protected] Web Address: pelotonstreet.com Address: 79 Madison Avenue, 2nd Floor, New York, NY 1001

BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

21 Credit Unions Benefits from Lloyds Banking Group Development Fund

As part of its commitment within its Helping Britain Prosper Plan*, Lloyds Banking Group is awarding a further £1m in grants to an additional 21 credit unions through the Lloyds Banking Group Development Fund, run in partnership with the Credit Union Foundation.

Established in 2014, the Fund is designed to strengthen the financial position of credit unions and give them the capacity to develop new strategies for sustained and effective growth and to provide additional much-needed responsible lending to communities across Britain.

The Fund features two kinds of grant: large awards between £50,000 and £100,000 and seed funding awards between £10,000 and £20,000.

Eleven credit unions will receive large awards, intended to provide a contribution to a their reserves and help remove barriers to growth and innovation, with another ten receiving seed funding awards to help make the changes they need to apply for a large award in a subsequent year or to pay for the costs of merger. Recipients of awards were selected by an independent grants panel.

As well as Lloyds Banking Group’s £4million investment over four years to the Fund, it also signposts customers it is unable to help, where appropriate, to their local credit union and provides volunteering support.

Robin Bulloch, Managing Director, Lloyds Bank & Bank of Scotland at Lloyds Banking Group said: “We undertook the largest survey of credit unions to date and they told us the most important role we can play in the credit union movement is as a funder. We are committed to being the leading supporter of credit unions in the UK, and our Development Fund underlines our public commitment to help Britain prosper. The £4million fund will help the sector to lend an additional £20 million to their customers1.

Liz Barclay, Chair of the Credit Union Foundation and Development Fund Grants Committee said: “The Credit Union Foundation is proud to work in partnership with Lloyds Banking Group. Their £4 million investment over four years is innovative and pioneering and now that we’re into the third year of the scheme we’re seeing a big impact on sustainable credit union growth. Credit unions provide an ethical and affordable financial service to some of the hardest to reach and most financially excluded communities in the UK. We’re seeing good quality applications for these capital awards from credit unions committed to expanding and improving the services they offer those communities.”

Simon Kirby, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, said:

“Credit unions play a vital role in their communities, providing access to affordable credit for those who need it most. This funding from Lloyds will extend the reach of the sector even further and I look forward to seeing other banks following suit.”

BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Darlingtons Solicitors: Raising the Bar

Darlingtons Solicitors: Raising the Bar

Darlingtons Solicitors LLP is a London based law firm with a reputation for dynamism and practical advice, valued by both business and individual clients throughout the city and beyond. We invited Partner Debbie Serota to tell us more.

Established in 1999, Darlingtons is a fast growing boutique law firm in London, a modern practice with 50 staff. Covering a wide range of specialisms, the firm serves clients ranging from investors and entrepreneurs to long established, international businesses. Debbie talks us through the firm’s core practice areas and how it aims to provide excellence in these areas.

“At Darlingtons our corporate and commercial team deals with a full range of corporate transactions and advisory services. We are regularly involved in sale and purchases of businesses or assets and shares, MBO, MBI, corporate restructuring, contracts and commercial, advising shareholders and directors on corporate issues. The team also specialises in advising directors and shareholders in relation to disputes that have arisen between themselves and fellow shareholders and directors. Our reputation is built on commercial, practical and insightful advice.

“Expertise and experience are key to our success, but not far behind is the working relationship between lawyer and client. We are dynamic and proactive, taking the time to understand how clients operate and what their objectives are, resulting in structured and tailored advice at the right cost and according to the client timescale.”

Legal practice is changing rapidly, clients are ever more discerning, with perceptions of service quality as well as advice quality just one example of the changes. Debbie outlines how the firm’s ongoing focus remains firmly on providing valuable services in the future.

“Clients have historically seen accountants and not lawyers as their primary trusted advisors. Whilst there are good reasons for this, lawyers are also valuable business advisors, not just to instruct when a transaction is needed or for a contract or a dispute. As lawyers, our challenge is to build proactive, valued business advisor relationships with clients and to remain adaptable and flexible to changing market and clients needs.” Company: Darlingtons Solicitors LLP

Name: Debbie Serota
Email: [email protected]
Web Address: www.darlingtons.com
Address: Darlingtons House, Spring Villa Park, Edgware, Middlesex, HA8 7EB
Telephone: 0208 951 6666

Banking Industry Should Learn from Telecoms Sector in Approach to Product Sales
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Banking Industry Should Learn from Telecoms Sector in Approach to Product Sales

Emily Farrimond, Director, Baringa Partners says: “The news that HSBC – who historically placed a strong emphasis on its local branch presence – has closed over 200 branches this year is just the latest in a series of branch closures across the industry as banks react to changes in customer behaviour and the need to reduce operating costs. However, ongoing closures is not sustainable and a new approach to product sales is needed. The banking industry should learn from the telecoms sector and create ‘The BankStore’, the Carphone Warehouse of banking.

“The BankStore would allow customers to compare the prices of retail banking products from a range of providers under one roof. Sales assistants would be able to provide independent advice on a range of products and customers would then be able to buy from any provider. If customers then want to purchase additional products from a different provider, they wouldn’t have to provide any further information as it would all be registered with The BankStore.

“As well as increasing competition in the banking industry, a key focus for the regulator, The BankStore would also support vulnerable customers who do not have access to digital channels or do not feel comfortable using them. The question is, will banks take the lead or will a new challenger step up to the plate?”

Lloyds Banking Group - Member of the Council for Digital Inclusion
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Lloyds Banking Group – Member of the Council for Digital Inclusion

Lloyds Banking Group is now playing a vital role in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s Council for Digital Inclusion.

Chaired by Matt Hancock, Minister of State for Digital and Culture, the Council brings together
representatives from government, the voluntary and private sectors to work together to create the
environment for more people to become digitally engaged and make the most of opportunities
offered by the internet.

In particular, the Council will focus on increasing levels of basic digital skills and reducing the
number of people in England who do not regularly or never access the internet at all.
Nick Williams, MD, Consumer Digital for Lloyds Banking Group is joining the quarterly sessions
and is acting as an adviser to help deliver the Council’s aims and work.

Still in its infancy, the Council has laid out some early action plans and ensuring it plays a pivotal
role in making sure organisations in social housing, charity, banking, telecoms, retail and
government work together to commission and deliver initiatives to increase digital inclusion.

Nick said, “I’m delighted that Lloyds Banking Group is playing an important role in this Council. It’s
staggering that an estimated 12.6 million adults in the UK still don’t have basic digital skills, which
means people are missing out on improved job opportunities, better health and social and financial
inclusion.

“Our research in both our Consumer Digital and Business Digital Indexes show that clearly there is
more we all can do to ensure individuals and businesses are aware of the opportunities available
to them just by being online. For example we found that the average person could save £744 a
year by shopping around for online deals.”

Minister of State for Digital and Culture Matt Hancock said: “It’s essential everyone in the UK
has digital skills to create a society that works for all and keep our businesses competitive in a
fast-changing world.
“We’re taking action to help, which is why we set up the Council for Digital Inclusion to bring
together leaders from business, charities and government to help more people realise the benefits
of being online.

“We have also recently committed to make sure all adults in England who need it can receive free
training in basic digital skills.”
As well as being part of the Council, Lloyds Banking Group has also been asked by the
Department for Culture, Media and Sport to lead a ‘task and finish’ group to specifically increase
the digital skills of small businesses and charities in England.

The ‘task and finish’ group was set up following an audit by the Digital Inclusion Delivery board that
identified a lack of digital skills provisions available.

The group is made up of key cross sector leaders who will pool resources, create partnerships
across sectors and devise initiatives to help reduce the gap in basic digital skills for small
businesses and charities.

Nick adds, “Our 2016 Lloyds Bank UK Business Digital Index shows the link between digital
maturity and organisational success, and we know that the most digital businesses are more likely
to see increased turnover – so this cross sector group, focused on helping increase basic digital
skills, is crucial to increasing the awareness of the benefits and the motivation to increase digital
skills.”

Defone Global Investments
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Defone Global Investments

Company: Defone Global Investments
Name: Jones Chiu
Email: [email protected]
Web Address: www.dgifx.com
Address: Level 36, Gateway Tower 1 Macquarie Place Sydney NSW 2000
Telephone: 61 2 80513030

Best New Broker (Australia & Greater China), Most Promising Broker (Australia & Greater China), Most Robust IT Infrastructure Broker (Australia & Greater China).

Based in Australia, Defone Global Investments Limited is a highly innovative investment firm who specialise in the trading of FOREX and precious metals to both retail and institutional investors.
We spoke to Jones Chiu at Defone Global, to find out more about their company and about their ambition of making their mark on the global investment space in 2016.

One of the most impressive aspects of Defone Global is their ‘Straight Through Processing Model’, which is used to avoid manipulation and provide stable execution. Through this strategy, they eliminate repeated quotes, and clients will be able to receive the most transparent quotes and operate with the lowest spread.

Furthermore, Defone Global is committed to ensure fund security of every client. As such, they work with global banks such as HSBC, Citibank and DBS, to ensure that client funds are segregated and secured. In terms of regulation, Defone Global is regulated by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) with an “Australian Financial Services License”. ASIC is an independent government institution that administers stringent regulations to companies, investments, products and services as ordained by law.

As a result of their wealth of expertise, Defone Global cater for a highly diverse range of clients, including retail, institutional and white label. Regardless of the class of client, Defone Global ensures that each and every one of them receives the very best possible service.

“Defone Global has always upheld our ‘client first’ motto, by providing clients with a fair, open, just and transparent trading environment,” says Chiu. “Clients will be able to review the strike price and execution time of each order via the firm’s back office. All transactions are guaranteed to be open and transparent, ensuring clients’ interests are not compromised. We also provide supplementary educational tools and resources, which further enhances our clients’ trading experience.

“Moreover, Defone Global has an in-house risk management department to ensure all trades are executed on a timely basis. We adopt the internationally acclaimed trading platform MetaTrader4 (MT4), and we also contract professional IT companies to provide 24-hour support for the trading platform, ensuring its security, stability and reliability. As such, Defone Global puts investors first via enhancing client experience with services such as providing live global market data, FOREX market analysis and FOREX trading strategies. All of these services combined form a strong support system for investors.”

Clients are at the heart of everything that Defone Global does, which is why they are fully aware of client and market demands, as well as the importance of maintaining a technical edge. The firm’s back office is an advanced backend support system developed by Defone Global exclusively for their clients. The functions of this personalised system are highly intuitive and value-adding, thus providing much more effective and convenient account management support.
Defone Global Investments
“The function behind this is so clients and partners we serve can view various real time information such as transactions and trade position, commission and rebate, deposit and withdrawal,” says Chiu. “What’s more, clients can also update their personal particulars, and can access this at any time or day.”

Additionally, Defone Global also provide the MetaTrader4 (MT4) trading platform on PC, iOS and Android system. More specifically, they also provide two professional features: a ‘Multiple Account Management System’ and ‘Copy Trading’.
“The Multiple Account Management System (MAM) features the integrated management function, allowing trade managers to manage multiple accounts with a single interface,” says Chiu. “It enables asset managers to assign trade parameters to multiple personal accounts with precision and efficiency. The same trade parameters and strategies may also be allocated to each individual account according to a pre-set ratio. The MAM assists you with trade management while also enhancing your management experience.

“As for Copy Trading, this enables traders to automatically copy positions opened and managed by a selected trader. Simply select a trader you trust, and the system will manage your account according to the trader’s advice.”
Defone Global is made up of professionals from the financial industry, including insurance, bank and securities firm, with years of experience and proven track record. They also embrace the industry’s core values, such as professionalism, loyalty, responsibility and practicality. The team will propel Defone Global into the next phase of growth. “Our key to success is the all-star team here; Defone Global is empowered to provide value-added and innovative services, thus achieving stable growth in the competitive and ever-changing financial landscape.”

2016 is the year which Defone Global commences their global expansion plan, where they endeavour to increase their reach to potential clients from various geographical locations. As Chiu explains: “A very important foundation for expanding the firm’s international footprint is to ensure that we subject ourselves to a comprehensive regulatory regime, adhere to stringent regulation and ensure strict compliance. We have achieved this through our registration with ASIC. The next step would be to operate under the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID). This will give even more emphasis on fund security, which would further strengthen investor confidence.”
Based in Australia, Defone Global Investments Limited is a highly innovative investment firm who specialise in the trading of FOREX and precious metals to both retail and institutional investors.
We spoke to Jones Chiu at Defone Global, to find out more about their company and about their ambition of making their mark on the global investment space in 2016.

ALTERNATIVE INVESTMENT
According to Chiu, Defone Global has competitive advantages that could potentially stir up a new wave of competition; “We have an innovative business model and multi-modular commission scheme, which we see ourselves as a pioneer. With our commitment to the STP model, Defone Global aims to become a major channel for the small-medium forex platform provider, futures providers and even banks, thus achieving high liquidity.”

More specifically, Defone Global have their eyes set on expanding in China, due to its ever-increasing influence in the global economy. “We understand that the Greater China region is a huge growing market, and it is playing an increasingly important role in the global financial market, which has seen foreign investments pouring in. As such, Defone Global will be entering into the Greater China market, as part of our strategic plan.

“Alongside this, Defone Global have been preparing for educational events and contesting for different awards in the financial industry, so that more Chinese investors can gain a better understanding of Defone Global. We will also be participating in the 14th Shanghai Money Fair (2-4 Dec 2016), this will mark our debut in the Greater China market.”

Greater China is a highly competitive environment, and FOREX trading is no exception. As Chiu explains: “Due to the rising of the Greater China market, many forex trading platforms have emerged. As a result of many major events that unfolded, only the fittest have survived. Hence, there is a need for sustainable development and providing a comprehensive suites of services, so as to provide innovating and value-adding services to investors, such as enhanced platform and customisable software, and tapping on rich international resources to provide a comprehensive financial management solution for clients, coupled with providing sound advice and tailor-made investment plans. This will provide an even more value-added solution.”

Although Chiu is optimistic about their investments, he is still cautious considering the unpredictability that surrounds the financial markets at present. “2016 is a year of uncertainty, be it real estate or the stock market,” says Chiu. “With this uncertainty, investors have remained cautious by allowing funds to idle.

However, the forex market has outshone the industry. As an international platform provider, we are exploring how we can market Defone Global’s professional and quality platform, as well as improving our service delivery to retail, institutional and white label clients. By providing small-medium platform providers liquidity and system, only then can Defone Global become a market innovator. After the financial crisis, black swan events have become more frequent, causing big and small financial service platform providers to crash. It is therefore essential to find a solution to survive and outlast such events.

“In the current climate, the STP model has overtaken the Market Maker model, and coupled with mature risk management, service providers will be able to withstand a black swan event, and providing an innovative and sustainable model.
“Despite the many hurdles Defone Global Investments will need to overcome in order to achieve success, we are confident that we are well equipped to meet the challenges and continue to innovate and develop our services.”

 

Evotec Announces Its Intent to Acquire Cyprotex Plc
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Evotec Announces Its Intent to Acquire Cyprotex Plc

Acquisition would add world-leading high-quality ADME-Tox services and strengthen Evotec’s leadership in drug discovery

– Evotec will pay approximately £ 55.36 m (EUR 62.00 m) in cash for the full share capital of Cyprotex and funding of all existing debt of the AIM-listed company
– Proposed acquisition, unanimously recommended by the board of Cyprotex, is expected to close before year-end 2016

Evotec AG (Frankfurt Stock Exchange: EVT, TecDAX, ISIN: DE0005664809) today announced that it has made an offer to acquire Cyprotex PLC (“Cyprotex”, AIM: CRX-GB), a specialist pre-clinical contract research organisation in ADME-Tox and DMPK. Cyprotex serves the industry’s increasing requirement for earlier drug screening, regulatory requirements and reducing the reliance on animal testing.

The proposed acquisition, which has been unanimously recommended by the board of Cyprotex, is expected to close before year-end 2016. Evotec will pay approximately £ 55.36 m (EUR 62.00 m; £/EUR exchange rate of 1.12) in cash for the acquisition of all 26.1 million issued and to be issued Cyprotex shares and the funding of all existing company debt. The offer of 1.60 £ per Cyprotex share reflects a 9.4% premium to the VWAP of the past 30 trading days at AIM. The offer is intended to be implemented by a scheme of arrangement regulated by the UK takeover code, with already >50% shares secured irrevocable. The acquisition will add to Evotec’s revenues and be accretive to Evotec’s 2017 EBITDA.

Cyprotex is the world’s largest contract research organisation specialising in pre-clinical ADME-Tox and DMPK serving the Pharmaceutical, Chemical, Agrochemical and Cosmetics markets. Cyprotex, headquartered in the UK, was founded in 1999 and is publicly traded on AIM (CRX). It has 136 employees working from sites at Macclesfield and Alderley Park, both of which are located near Manchester in the UK, and at Watertown, MA, and Kalamazoo, MI, in the USA. With more than 1,500 partners, Cyprotex has a very strong customer network. Cyprotex reported H1 2016 revenues of £ 8.73 m (EUR 9.78 m) (H1 2015: £ 6.93 m (EUR 7.76 m)) with an underlying EBITDA of £ 2.34 m (EUR 2.62 m) (H1 2015: £ 1.10 m (EUR 1.23 m)).

Sharpening Evotec’s leadership role in drug discovery The acquisition strengthens Evotec’s high-end drug discovery platform and capabilities with access to the market’s most industrialised ADME-Tox platform and proven expertise in in vitro ADME screening, mechanistic and high-content toxicology screening and predictive modelling.

This perfectly augments Evotec’s drive for innovation efficiency in drug discovery by enabling its partners to make early informed decisions on a molecule’s suitability for further development. The Cyprotex platform can be leveraged in a high-throughput manner or to support integrated drug discovery projects.

Dr Mario Polywka, Chief Operating Officer of Evotec, commented: “The ability to test or predict a molecule’s suitability as a drug at an early stage is critical in the drive to increase the efficiency of drug discovery.

The proposed acquisition of Cyprotex is a completely logical step to strengthen Evotec’s position as the world’s leading partner of choice for driving such efficiencies in drug discovery to the industry. The proven technology platform of Cyprotex and its expert and dedicated employees will be a strong addition to our best-in-class drug discovery platform and resources.

We also expect that both organisations will leverage their extensive partner networks to identify further commercial synergies.”

Dr Werner Lanthaler, Chief Executive Officer of Evotec, added: “Our focus to make the most innovative and capital efficient drug discovery platform will be perfectly extended by Cyprotex. Given our strong performance over the last years, a very good outlook of our business into the coming years, and the commercial profile of Cyprotex we also feel very comfortable in using the cash on our strong balance sheet for this accretive acquisition. We are very much looking forward to welcoming the employees of Cyprotex within the Evotec Group after closing of the transaction.”

Intellectual Property Cyber Theft Expected to Rise
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Intellectual Property Cyber Theft Expected to Rise

The number of intellectual property (IP) cyber theft incidents in the next 12 months is expected to increase, according to 58 percent of respondents to a recent Deloitte poll. When asked which category of potential adversary they believe is most likely to attempt theft of their organizations’ IP, the prevailing percentage of respondents (20.1 percent) answered “employees or other insiders.” Yet, only 16.7 percent of respondents said access to IP is very limited, on a need-to-know basis only.

“While many of us know — or have experienced firsthand — how a cyberattack can severely disrupt business, loss of an asset as critical as IP can be crippling for most organizations,” said Don Fancher, principal, Deloitte Financial Advisory Services LLP, national leader, Deloitte Forensics & Investigations and Deloitte Forensic leader, Deloitte Global. “Managing risks to trade secrets, drawings, plans or proprietary know-how that drive your organization’s revenue and competitive advantage often includes quantifying how loss of that IP would impact the business, preparing to identify and pursue adversaries, and building a defensible chain of data custody to counter future IP cyber theft threats.”

As cited in the Deloitte Review article, “The hidden costs of an IP breach: Cyber theft and the loss of intellectual property,” IP can constitute more than 80 percent of a single company’s value today. And yet, 44.1 percent of respondents to the Deloitte poll collectively feel that assessing the impact of IP loss and managing relationships would be the largest challenges faced by their organization. Sectors expecting a higher than average increase in IP cyber theft in the next year included: power and utilities (68.8 percent); telecom (68.8 percent); industrial products & services (64.7 percent); and automotive (63.9 percent). Those sectors expecting higher than average insider IP theft attempts included: automotive (32.2 percent); oil & gas (27.2 percent); and real estate services (26.2 percent).

Tips for assessing the potential impact and protecting against intellectual property loss include:

Define the critical assets (e.g., facilities, source code, IP and R&D, customer information) that must be protected and the organization’s tolerance for loss or damage in those areas.
Validate that any partners or suppliers involved in IP creation or utilization collaborate with the cyber risk program.
Evaluate whether exposing some IP in the public domain may make the organization more subject to attack.
Consider whether the competitive landscape points to new cyber threats to IP protection.
Improve cyber resilience to manage brand impact and market position in the event of IP theft.

Taking a holistic approach toward cybersecurity isn’t just about balancing technical expertise with information technology investments, or about contingency planning. Organizations need to define their cyber risk, up front, in conjunction with their strategic priorities when making decisions on protecting their most critical assets because they recognize what the adverse consequences would be otherwise.

Adnan Amjad, cyber threat risk management practice leader for Deloitte Advisory Cyber Risk Services and partner at Deloitte & Touche LLP added, “Predicting IP data theft is tough, as adversaries don’t fit one specific mold. A robust insider threat mitigation program leverages a broad set of stakeholders to define potential insider threats and risk appetite, establish appropriate policies, procedures, controls and training and utilizes the combination of business knowledge, virtual and non-virtual data and technology to more effectively safeguard vital information.”

Here are key considerations for building an insider threat mitigation program:

Define your insider threats: Don’t be surprised if your organization hasn’t defined what an insider threat is.
Trust but verify: Establish routine and random auditing of privileged functions, which are commonly used to identify insider threats across a broad spectrum of threats in a variety of industries.
Connect the dots: By correlating precursors or potential risk indicators captured in virtual and non-virtual arenas, your organization can gain insights into micro and macro trends regarding the high risk behaviors exhibited across the organization.
Stay a step ahead: Insiders’ methods, tactics and attempts to cover their tracks will constantly evolve, which means that the insider threat program and the precursors that it analyzes should continuously evolve as well.
Set behavioral expectations: Define the behavioral expectations of your workforce through clear and consistently enforced policies.
“As the cybersecurity conversation begins to shift from a focus on technology to a broader discussion involving all essential business functions, an organization’s insider threat program should evolve in a similar way,” concluded Amjad.

Understanding the Pound’s Flash Crash: What Triggered It?
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Understanding the Pound’s Flash Crash: What Triggered It?

For traders, economists, and British citizens, the morning of Friday 7th October 2016 started with a bang. As the Asian session kicked into action, the value of the pound suddenly and mysteriously dropped by an astonishing 10 per cent. This fall occurred in a matter of minutes, leaving spectators open-mouthed with shock.

The phenomenon saw the price of GDP drop to between 1.10 and 1.20 from its previous 1.26, sending shockwaves through the financial markets. The effect was felt across all sterling crosses, with major pairings like the EUR/GBP, GBP/AUD, and GBP/JPY combinations each displaying rapid movement.

Here, we look at what catalysed this strange occurrence, and whether this is a trend that we can expect to see repeating itself in the future…

What Caused the Flash Crash?

One point that has left commentators, brokers, and traders alike scratching their heads in bafflement is the cause of the flash crash. It seemed to come out of nowhere, with no identifiable catalyst to trigger such dramatic movement.

Early commentary identified three main causes: negative comments from the President of France, Francois Hollande; rogue algorithms; and a fat finger order. However, none of these seemed to account for such movements in and of themselves, leaving spectators with no satisfactory answer.

So could any of these suggestions provide a starting point when it comes to reaching a final sterling conclusion? The answer is not a simple one, and the truth is that though each of them could have contributed, not one of them could have had such an impact in isolation. Thus, they cannot be held responsible for the flash crash.

How Did the Flash Crash Happen?

According to experts FxPro, flash crashes are caused by a number of factors working in tandem with each other. They require a perfect storm of events to catalyse them: a trigger, exceptionally low liquidity, market making algorithms, and large stop orders. If any one of these is absent, the bomb will not explode.

Liquidity is arguably the key component in these situations. Should the trigger arise under ordinary market conditions, there might be a correlating market move, but the depth of liquidity and behaviour of market participants would typically absorb any extreme adverse effects.

Where such liquidity is absent, problems begin to arise, and this is what we saw on Friday 7th October. Largely, this was down to sheer ill luck, with the lack of liquidity attributable to the early hour.

The result was catastrophic for sterling. The initial reaction triggered orders that could not be matched at contemporary market prices. This meant that they had to begin matching with bids or offers that were further and further from their real market value.

The phenomena witnessed quickly spiralled. Algorithms kicked into action, directly responding to these dramatic market movements. They attempted to utilise the rapidly gathering momentum in order to take a few pips out of the move for themselves, and in doing so moved the market in an ever more drastic direction.

The effects of this were exacerbated once again when large stop orders began to be triggered. When hit, these sent further large market orders, snowballing until numerous orders had been wiped out.

Could a Second Flash Crash Occur?

The flash crash we saw was catastrophic for the value of sterling, yet it was not necessarily an isolated event. As much as we would like to be able to say that it was a one off, it was a symptom of a flawed system – a system that could easily misfire a second time.

The only way to entirely prevent a repeat would be by fundamentally amending the rules of trading. Working within the current framework, it does not matter whether brokers or liquidity providers claim to have developed solutions: they have not, because they cannot.

Unfortunately, replicating futures exchanges does not seem to offer a viable remedy either. Although many of these have successfully implemented circuit breakers, the currency markets trade from too many separate venues to make such an approach successful.

How Can You Prepare for Flash Crashes?

The flash crash involving the British pound helped to demonstrate a significant flaw in the currency trading system; one that we all must go to pains to combat.

For brokers, this means developing systems capable of keeping time with rapid market movements. These must be able to trigger all orders correctly irrespective of the speed of market happenings. As an additional measure, a capital buffer to absorb the most extreme scenarios is also advisable.

For traders, the main way to guard against disaster is by adopting a long-term view on low leverage. You must ensure that your long position puts you at no risk of being stopped out should a second flash crash occur, so that your success on the currency markets is not jeopardised by a simple and almost impossible to predict twist of fate.

Weyerhaeuser Company Declares Dividend on Common Shares
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Weyerhaeuser Company Declares Dividend on Common Shares

Weyerhaeuser Company today announced that its board of directors declared a dividend of $0.31 per share on the common stock of the company, payable in cash on November 18, 2016 to holders of record of such common stock as of the close of business on October 28, 2016.

About Weyerhaeuser

Weyerhaeuser Company, one of the world’s largest private owners of timberlands, began operations in 1900. We own or control more than 13 million acres of timberlands, primarily in the U.S., and manage additional timberlands under long-term licenses in Canada. We manage these timberlands on a sustainable basis in compliance with internationally recognized forestry standards. We are also one of the largest manufacturers of wood and cellulose fibers products. Our company is a real estate investment trust. In February 2016, we merged with Plum Creek Timber Company, Inc. In 2015, Weyerhaeuser and Plum Creek, on a combined basis, generated approximately $8.5 billion in net sales and employed nearly 14 thousand people who serve customers worldwide.

Monroe Capital Reaches Final Close on Private Credit Fund II LP
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Monroe Capital Reaches Final Close on Private Credit Fund II LP

Monroe Capital LLC today announced the final close of Monroe Capital Private Credit Fund II LP (“Fund”) at $800 million of limited partner commitments, eclipsing the Fund target of $600 million. When combined with target fund leverage, the Fund will have approximately $1.5 billion of total investable capital or buying power, the largest fund raised in Monroe Capital’s 12-year firm history.

The Fund invests in private credit transactions originated and underwritten by Monroe Capital. The investment strategy is focused primarily on senior secured loans and unitranche loans to private equity sponsored and non-sponsored middle market companies located throughout the U.S. and Canada. This Fund is Monroe Capital’s eleventh investment vehicle since its founding in 2004. The Fund received commitments from over 20 new institutional investors located in the U.S. and Europe, including leading public and private pension plans, insurance companies, universities, endowments, foundations, religious organizations, hospitals, non-profits, sovereign wealth funds, family offices and other institutional investors. In addition to the limited partner commitments, the Fund has secured term credit facilities to complement its available capital.

According to Ted Koenig, President and CEO of Monroe Capital, “Private credit is an appealing area for institutional investors due to the ability to generate consistent yield in a yield starved world. Investors have many choices in this space, most of which are newly created firms over the last several years. I am very pleased and proud that the sophisticated institutional investor and limited partner community has come to understand and appreciate the differentiated absolute returns and consistent risk adjusted returns that Monroe has been able to generate for them each and every year over a 12-year period, regardless of the business cycle or the economic environment. This is truly a testament to our organization and our people.”

Monroe Capital, a $3.6 billion private credit asset manager, was formed in 2004 and has been a consistent and reliable provider of transactional debt financing both pre and post credit crisis. Monroe has 70 employees, inclusive of an investment team of approximately 45 professionals with an average of 17 years of credit, private equity, and investment experience; a national transaction sourcing network of eight offices located through the U.S.; and a proven investment discipline and strategy over multiple economic cycles.

LG Provides Efficiency and Security to Cash Transactions
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

LG Provides Efficiency and Security to Cash Transactions

As any Credit Union manager can tell you, the primary reason their members visit a branch is to conduct cash transactions. Unfortunately, tellers spend most of that transaction time with their heads down, counting cash.

To help tellers use valuable face time with customers more productively, PNCU has installed 3 LG CNS LTA-350 cash recyclers in two of their branches. The system verifies and counts bills automatically, giving tellers a new ability to interact with members—focusing on building relationships and upselling profitable products and services.

“Using the LTA-350, our tellers cash checks, make bill payments and process all deposits in half the time it usually takes,” says PNCU President, James Kelly. “The large touchscreen is easy for tellers to use and it fits the way they work. Most important, it gives them more time to talk directly to our members when they come in, which is key to growing our business.”

The system recycles cash for redistribution, so bank and credit union branches don’t need to keep as much cash on hand, another important benefit. “Now nearly all cash within the branch can be secured. There are fewer cash buys and sells and cash management is much more efficient,” explained Billy Back, President of US LG CNS.

The LTA-350 is being distributed across North America through best-in-class resellers that include BranchServ, who provide integration support and service. Qualified resellers throughout the U.S. are joining the team to deliver and support leading-edge technologies from LG CNS.

“LG CNS is known for providing user-friendly solutions that increase efficiency and security in bank branches,” said Mr. Back. “With the LTA-350, you can see and measure the time savings, increased security, productivity gains and higher levels of customer satisfaction. That’s a big win for everyone.”

LafargeHolcim Ltd to Launch Squeeze-Out for Remaining Lafarge Shares
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

LafargeHolcim Ltd to Launch Squeeze-Out for Remaining Lafarge Shares

LafargeHolcim Ltd announces that it has decided to initiate a squeeze-out process for all issued and outstanding shares of Lafarge S.A. After surpassing the necessary 95 percent threshold in share capital and voting rights and following a decision by the Board of Directors, LafargeHolcim Ltd plans to request the AMF to implement a squeeze-out procedure pursuant to their general regulations for Lafarge S.A. shares not tendered to the Public Exchange Offer.

LafargeHolcim Ltd will publish further details on the squeeze-out upon filing with the AMF.

About LafargeHolcim 

With a well-balanced presence in 90 countries and a focus on Cement, Aggregates and Concrete, LafargeHolcim (SIX Swiss Exchange, Euronext Paris: LHN) is the world leader in the building materials industry. The Group has 115,000 employees around the world and combined net sales of CHF 33 billion (EUR 27 billion) in 2014. LafargeHolcim is the industry benchmark in R&D and serves from the individual homebuilder to the largest and most complex project with the widest range of value-adding products, innovative services and comprehensive building solutions. With a commitment to drive sustainable solutions for better building and infrastructure and to contribute to a higher quality of life, the Group is best positioned to meet the challenges of increasing urbanization. 

Investing in the EU: Is it Safe Post-Brexit?
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Investing in the EU: Is it Safe Post-Brexit?

Brexit certainly sent shockwaves through the world economy. A decision that very few people expected, Brexit certainly had quite large ramifications. However, more than a month on, the dust is now certainly setting, which allows us to assess the post-Brexit landscape. So, with this in mind, is investing in the EU post-Brexit safe? And how can you protect yourself? In this post, we take a look at how the markets reacted to the announcement and whether you should invest.

Immediately, Markets Tanked but is this the Best Time to Sell?

There’s no way to sugar-coat this, the market went into absolute panic and meltdown immediately after the news of a Brexit broke. As such, those who owned stocks and shares became incredibly tetchy, panicking and fleeing the markets in an attempt to minimise losses. As a result, on the Friday and Monday following Brexit, US stocks lost $1.4 trillion. The FTSE fell by almost 10%, and the pound fell to $1.28, the lowest level since the 1980s.

However, although these numbers are definitely incredibly bad, it’s also important to not get lost in short-termism. Nobody predicted the Brexit result, which means that there’s very little point discussing how many people could have sold before the decision was announced. Almost all analysts as well as pollsters and betting markets were confidently a remain vote, so for many, a bounce was expected on Friday morning, rather than devastating losses.

Rebounds for Those That Held Their Positions

Although the losses were certainly dramatic, those who didn’t panic were rewarded on subsequent days when stocks rebounded almost as quickly as they fell. For example, the Stoxx 600, a Europe-wide index, made up almost all of the 11% that it lost post-Brexit and the FTSE 100, which reached staggering depths, almost recovered to a yearly high.

Is it Safe to Invest?

As such, although there was still a great amount of uncertainty, opportunities to trade arose. In an increasingly globalised world, many traders remain understandably worried about Britain leaving the EU, breaking the cycle and sending shockwaves. However, opportunities are still present, and investing in the EU is far from unsafe, as the above gains show. So, with this in mind, what trading strategies can you adopt to help navigate the volatility and ensure that you can make money in these uncertain times?

Go Small – Although opportunities are arising, volatility breeds uncertainty, and this can lead to large market movements. As such, be cautious with your investment decisions and really consider the amount that you invest. Trading smaller amounts may lead to lower profits, but it can also help safeguard you from big movements and prevent you from being wiped out.

Think of the Long Term – Although volatility can allow you to gain money in seconds, you can lose it all, too. Instead of cashing out when the going gets tough, consider long term investments where you can ride out the volatility and be confident that you’ll be better off in three to five years. Not every trade has to be a ‘quick win’.

Don’t Follow the Crowd – In times of uncertainty, it can be easy to adopt a herd mentality and follow the crowds. However, this breeds volatility and could lead to you making a decision you’ll later regret. Instead, stick with your trading strategy. After all, it’s got you this far.

Monitor Markets More Closely than Ever Before – Economic indicators can give you more information than ever before at times like this, so monitor the calendar closely. The Federal Reserve, the Bank of England and the EU itself will all be making announcements, and simply monitoring an economic calendar, such as the one offered by Hantec, can make sure you’re abreast of them.

To conclude, although losses were huge in the markets following Brexit, many large recoveries have since been made. As such, investing is dangerous but not impossible. Follow these trading tips, and you could make money from the volatility.

Weakened GBP Leaves UK Companies Vulnerable to Foreign Acquisitions
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Weakened GBP Leaves UK Companies Vulnerable to Foreign Acquisitions

ARM Holdings PLC, a Cambridge based technology design company have recently agreed acquisition terms with the Japanese telecommunications giant Softbank Group Corporation. The £24.4 bn deal will see Softbank take over as owners of ARM, however ARM’s CEO, Simon Segars has announced that there will be no change in the way ARM is managed, or in its business model going forward. Segars also explained that the only major change that ARM will implement over the next 5 years is to double the amount of people it will employ, both in the UK and overseas.

Why are UK Companies Attracting Overseas Investors?
Coming so soon after the Brexit vote and the resulting drop in the strength of the GBP, many are wondering if the weakened GBD is likely to lead to more acquisitions of UK companies and whether this is a good thing or not.

UK companies are currently an enticing prospect for overseas investors and the reason for this is that they can get better value for money while the GBP remains weak compared to other currencies. What cost £24.4bn today could be worth much more tomorrow, should the GBP rise in value and so effectively the weakened GBP means that UK companies can be bought at discount prices. It also means that in terms of imports and exports UK companies may struggle to be competitive in the short term.

Business Solutions
There are companies, however, who can ease the burden of the weak GBP and Ebury are one such company. Ebury are a business solutions company and one of the areas they specialise in is currency. Businesses can get access to competitive rates on currencies and therefore operate more competitively when importing and exporting. Other solutions could include a government fronted strategy for bringing back much of the lost manufacturing business back to UK soil. This would take time and would not put an immediate halt to the acquisition of UK businesses, but the message it would send out may make foreign investors think twice.

The Great British Sell Off
Prime Minister Theresa May announced in July that she would be taking measures to make sure that the acquisition of UK companies was in the interests of the UK economy before they could go ahead. May did however welcome the news of the Softbank takeover of ARM.

May’s announcement has yet to be acted upon and in the meantime more UK companies are being bought by overseas investors. Recently, UK pharmaceutical group AstraZenica announced that it was to sell its anti-biotics division to American Viagra producers Pfizer and Poundland is being sold to South African conglomerate Steinhoff.

If we are not to see the UK business sector decimated by foreign takeovers, then maybe the first thing to be done rests with the people who own desirable UK businesses. If the directors of successful UK companies say no to foreign investors and focus more on collaboration, then perhaps we can stay in control of businesses and progress at the same time.

First Choice for Legal Assistance in Romania
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

First Choice for Legal Assistance in Romania

Gheorghe Mușat founded Mușat & Asociații in the early 1990s as one of the first law firms in
Romania, after the fall of the communist regime. Acting in an emerging market and having as
clients French, German, Italian, U.K. or U.S. corporations looking for business opportunities,
Mușat & Asociații rapidly became one of the investors’ ‘first choice’ for legal assistance in Romania.

High profile international companies such as Societe Generale, Rhone-Poulenc (currently Sanofi Avensis), Cement Francais, Renault, Bouygues, AT&T, American International Group

(A.I.G.), SHELL and British Petroleum chose to work with Mușat & Asociații since its founding in 1990. The start of the privatisations era to strategic investors launched by the Romanian government in 1995, provided the opportunity for Mușat & Asociații to enlarge its portfolio of foreign clients, which represents over 80% of the firm’s client base.

During its 25 years of activity, Mușat & Asociații has become one of the most reputable names among law firms in Romania, positioning itself as a genuine market leader. The firm has been at the forefront of the country’s legal and business development, launching new areas of practice, and acting as a pioneer in the field, while constantly developing value added, tailor–made legal services, aimed at enabling client business in a legally sound environment. The firm is also renowned for anticipating the evolving needs of its clients, providing ground breaking work, and being involved in the biggest transactions on the local market. 

Mușat & Asociații has an impressive portfolio of mandates, and offers support in all areas of business law, including mergers & acquisitions, privatisation, litigation & commercial arbitrations, banking & finance, energy & natural resources, IP & competition, corporate law, telecommunications
& IT, labour, fiscal, capital markets, real estate, environmental law, PPP, healthcare & pharma, insolvency & restructuring, shipping and aviation as well as insurance. 

The firm regularly provides legal services to many of the most renowned and valued corporations in Romania, and worldwide, including a third of the Top 100 and half of the Top 500 largest companies, as well as to local public and financial institutions in intricate corporate and financial transactions and complex dispute resolution procedures. 

The firm’s portfolio comprises over 2,500 clients, most of which are international corporations, such as (to name few of them): Enel SpA, GDF Suez, Colas, European Investment Bank (EIB), European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland), ING Real Estate – ING Bank, Fortis Bank, KBC Bank, Raiffeisen Bank, Banca Transilvania, BNP Paribas, China Development Bank, OTP Bank, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, Roche, Abbott, General Electric, American International Group (AIG), General Electric, General Motors, Orange, Microsoft, Intel, Oracle, Google, Apple, AON, Amazon.com, AT&T, Nokia, Alcatel – Lucent, Telecom Italia, Thyssen Krupp, Generali, AFI Europe, Electrolux, Caterpillar, Monsanto, Deutsche Bahn, SAB Miller, Credit Suisse – Zurich, Credit Suisse Agricole, Grupo Lar, TNT

Romania, Siemens, Daimler A.G., Generali Immobilien AG, GE Capital, Servier Pharma, Tigranit and so on. In addition, Mușat & Asociații legal teams have been praised many times
by important foreign publishers for their noted expertise. In 2015, Mușat lawyers won the ‘Law Firm of the Year in Romania’ award, a distinction handed out annually by the reputed British publisher ‘The Lawyer’ to European law firms with outstanding achievements in the reference
year.

In 2013, the firm won the ‘The Law Firm of the Year in Romania’ award granted by the International Financial Law Review. That was the second time that Mușat & Asociații was granted this prestigious award, after the distinction received in 2011, when Romania was included
for the first time on the list of countries nominated for the International Financial Law Review (IFLR) awards. Moreover, in 2012, Musat & Asociatii won the Gold Award for the ‘Best Law Firm in Central and Eastern Europe’, an accolade awarded by the 2012 International Legal Alliance Summit & Awards, for excellent results obtained on the Romanian market by the Musat & Asociatii team, both 
with regard to the mandates portfolio in the mergers & acquisitions area of practice, and to the management strategy adopted. 

Furthermore, the renowned publication Chambers Europe awarded the ‘Romanian Law Firm of the Year’ trophy to Musat & Asociatii, the law firm with the best performance in Romania, during the ‘Chambers Europe Awards for Excellence 2011’ gala. Mușat & Asociații has 16 partners and more than 100 associate lawyers – the team being one of the largest on the Romanian market. Mușat partners have been with the company for several years, which ensures stability and cohesion within the team, but we are also recruiting new talent each year.
The core management structure has remained intact in recent years, and this gives consistency to the business model and ensures the sustainability of our development and performance plan. 

A Capital Markets Fellow
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

A Capital Markets Fellow

Based in Austria, Raiffeisen Centrobank AG is a leading specialist bank, covering the entire spectrum of services and products around equities and certificates. We are a subsidiary of Raiffeisen Bank International AG. and are focussing on our core regions in Austria and Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), also including Russia. Raiffeisen Centrobank AG covers approximately 130 equities in the CEE region, as well in Russia and Turkey.

In total, the company research universe of Raiffeisen Centrobank AG contains approximately 130 equities on the cash equity side, and we are the leader for structured financial products, particularly certificates, in our region. We are currently issuing up to 4,500 products, of which the majority are custom-made products for retail customers. These products range from 100% capital guaranteed to highly leveraged products. In terms of our history, Centrobank itself was founded in the 1970s, whereas the cash equity and certificates side of the bank began in 2002, when we were taken over by Raiffeisen.

Raiffeisen Centrobank AG also focuses on trading, which does not mean proptrading in a common sense but pure market making. This is quite important for Raiffeisen Centrobank AG, because we can offer liquidity on all exchanges for equities and all the structured procuts we are issuing. Essentially, Raiffeisen Centrobank AG is a bank by definition and an equity house, which is quite rare today in Europe. The firm’s strong regional focus is on Central Eastern Europe, Austria and Russia. All the companies that we cover and many of the investors we are servicing are located in this region.

As a result of having two separate business lines, Raiffeisen Centrobank AG has a highly diverse range of clients. On the cash equity side, we offer our research and corporate access to institutional clients only, as pension funds, insurance companies and portfolio managers. It is mainly institutional investors where we offer both research and corporate access. On the certificate side, this is focussed on retail private banking, mainly specialising on the network of banks we are located in across Europe.

Raiffeisen Centrobank AG works in a highly demanding industry, which is why we always hire staff who are highly motivated and are hungry for success for both themselves and the business. We are highly specialised, so we have staff that are dedicated to one specific area too. Due to our relatively small size, our staff have to take on a high level of responsibility in comparison to larger corporate banks, but I view this as a positive aspect which is certainly a highly motivating factor.
A Capital Markets Fellow

There are a number of issues facing banking at the moment, Brexit being one of them. From my perspective, I was expecting a much deeper impact after 23rd June but I do think there is a growing need to establish confidence in the Euro again. I found the market reaction to be surprisingly soft, and was even more surprised at how the issue has been completely ignored in some respects. I feel that the market has not yet realised that it will weaken the Eurozone, and the fact is that there is still little knowledge about what will happen, and it can be difficult to judge what happens next.
In terms of how this impacts us, Raiffeisen Centrobank AG’s business model means that it will not have much of an effect. Of course, one of the most important markets for cash equity is London and I think this will continue to be the case, but if this changes we will simply follow our investors if they are willing to change their location. It is definitely not good for Europe, but having said that it is not something that directly impacts our business.

Looking ahead, there are many obstacles Raiffeisen Centrobank AG will need to overcome in order to continue to succeed. The main challenge facing us, are regulatory issues, which are impacting our business. This results in issues such as how portfolios are defined and which product is allowed to be sold.

Personally, I think the amount of new regulations needs to come to an end and should be executed in a proportional way, which keeps in the mind the size of the bank too. I believe that governments should view capital markets as something that can benefit them rather than a threat, and I also cannot stress enough the many benefits that it can bring.

Specialists in Project Development
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Specialists in Project Development, Trade and Finance

Today we are amongst others developing 3 solar projects with 185 MW, 2 biodiesel plants with 140 000 tons and a starch wheat processing factory, total value €625 million.
Besides these large projects, we develop also a range of smaller projects in specialty food production and agriculture, with investments from about 1 million Euro and up.
MDT was set up at the end of 2014, as a result of merging several companies, which have been active since the beginning the 1990#s in Ukraine, Hungary and Russia.

The company specialises in infrastructure, agricultural and food production projects. Agriculture and food production in particular are booming because of the sanctions. This gives our investors much higher returns and values than similar projects in Europe.

MDT are working with Russian as well as European industry and private investors. We are especially working with private investors and family offices, who are now increasingly interested in participating in our projects, as they normally do not have any possibility to directly participate and profit from such economic developments today in Russia. According to the Prequin Infrastructure and Alternative Investor Outlook for 2016, 42% of investors that invest directly are looking to increase this
type of exposure and none are looking to decrease their direct allocations. These tendencies we feel very much as interest and requests for investments are continuously increasing.

Therefore, we also invest into the development of our firm’s staff, which are a group of specialists in project development, trade and finance, all with long standing experience in the Russian as well as international business. The challenges that lie ahead in 2016 for MDT concern finalising some
of the financing pools for our projects. For the achievements of our work, we have recently been awarded the 2016 Distinguished Entrepreneur Award from the National Foundation for Business Development, which has been set up by order from President V. Putin in 2015.


Company: MDT Torg Ltd.
Name: Thomas L. Puskas
Email: [email protected]
Web Address: www.mdt-torg.ru
Address: 105066 Moscow,
ul. Dobroslobodskaya 16/3
Telephone: +79996754029

Comerica Bank's California Index Ticking Up
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Comerica Bank’s California Index Ticking Up

Comerica Bank’s California Economic Activity Index grew by 0.8 percentage points in July to a level of 121.7. July’s reading is 38 points, or 45 percent, above the index cyclical low of 84.1. The index averaged 119.8 points for all of 2015, six and two-fifths points above the average for all of 2014. June’s index reading was 120.9.

“The Comerica Bank California Economic Activity Index increased again in July, its fourth consecutive gain. Five out of eight index sub-components were positive for the month, including payroll jobs, state exports, unemployment insurance claims (inverted), housing starts and the NASDAQ 100 Tech Stock Index. In July, the state added a relatively weak 18.6 thousand jobs, but job growth bounced back in August. Real estate markets in Northern California are cooling relative to their overheated state over the last few years. According to the Case-Shiller data, house prices in San Francisco eased by 0.1 percent in July, but are still up by 6.1 percent over the previous year. Cooler real estate markets in Northern California will let some froth out of the market, pre-empting a larger correction later,” said Robert Dye, Chief Economist at Comerica Bank. “Los Angeles house prices gained 0.2 percent in July and are up by 5.5 percent over the last year.”

The California Economic Activity Index consists of eight variables, as follows: nonfarm payrolls, exports, hotel occupancy rates, continuing claims for unemployment insurance, housing starts, national defense spending, home prices, and the NASDAQ-100-Technology Sector Index (NDXT). All data are seasonally adjusted, as necessary, and indexed to a base year of 2008. Nominal values have been converted to constant dollar values. Index levels are expressed in terms of three-month moving averages.

Comerica Bank, with 102 banking centers in the key California markets of San Francisco and the East Bay, San Jose, Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, Fresno, Sacramento, Santa Cruz/Monterey, and the Inland Empire, is a subsidiary of Comerica Incorporated (NYSE: CMA). Comerica is a financial services company headquartered in Dallas, Texas, and strategically aligned into three major business segments: the Business Bank, the Retail Bank, and Wealth Management. Comerica focuses on relationships and helping businesses and people be successful.

Castle Hall Alternatives
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Castle Hall Alternatives

Castle Hall Alternatives helps investors build comprehensive due diligence programs across hedge funds, private equity and long only portfolios. Built upon Castle Hall’s next generation online diligence architecture, OpsDiligence® assists institutions, fund of funds, advisors, endowments and family offices evaluate whether or not asset managers meet operational best practice. We caught up with the firm’s seasoned professional, Christopher J. Addy, to find out more about the industry’s largest and most experienced teams, and their unique position in the market

Who are your clients?
Castle Hall works with institutional and private Investors, including public and private pension plans, sovereign wealth funds, financial services firms, endowments, foundations, family offices and multi-family offices, as well as advisors to these institutional and private investors.

What sets your company apart from other?
OpsDiligence® – Castle Hall’s award-winning, proprietary operational due diligence client portal, combined with one of the industry’s largest and most experienced teams, contribute to the firm’s unique position in the market. Castle Hall remains with no conflicts within our work, because we are only engaged by allocators, not managers. Furthermore, we provide clients with the flexibility to request reviews across all asset classes and investment types, without constraint to a pre-set list of funds or managers.

What are the biggest challenges facing the company at present?
Castle Hall continues to grow capacity and product and service lines, so maintaining the firm’s growth and meeting the evolving needs of our clients is the top priority for us..

Looking to the future, what is the most important aim for the business?
Castle Hall Alternatives seeks to provide operational due diligence services and platforms that allow allocators and investment advisors to focus their time and efforts on value-added analysis of data, rather than on the data gathering and presentation process.

Independent Legal & Will Solutions Ltd
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Independent Legal & Will Solutions Ltd

Independent Legal and Will Solutions Ltd (iLAWS) are now one of Scotland’s largest Estate Planning professionals advising on and producing effective and robust wills, powers of attorney, care cost planning and although not directly authorised themselves, routes to fully authorised and independent Financial Advisers for a Client’s savings and pensions needs. Although based in Glasgow, ILAWS have many associate partner solicitor firms from Aberdeen to Edinburgh and beyond allowing them to cover most of Scotland.

Why are ILAWS doing so well?
ILAWS are unique in their approach to customer service. They will not produce documents for any Client until they have completed a detailed Client Questionnaire of the Clients situation and their requirements. This ensures that the Client receives the best possible advice.

Director Tony Marchi says, “it is always easy for a firm do the minimum of background work with a Client. We have seen this done by other firms and unfortunately because the correct amount of time and care has not been taken, the Client ends up with the wrong product or poor advice resulting in things going wrong. This has never been our approach. We want to treat every Client like a personal family member, ensuring that we give them the time and the correct advice. Actually, it works for us as well as the Clients because the Clients are taken care of properly and we end up get a tremendous amount of referral business.”

ILAWS try to make things easy for a Client. Particularly unusual in the industry is the fact that they will go out and visit with Clients in their own homes as well as office appointments. This means the Clients relax more in their own surroundings and don’t have to worry about getting out to city office appointments. “Some Clients are elderly, and it just doesn’t make sense to drag them out to see us when we can more easily go and visit them,” says Elaine. ILAWS will also do evening appointments when the Client has finished work to save them having to take time off to deal with these things.

The business has continued to grow steadily over the last number of years, and there is no mystery as to why this is happening. Good customer care coupled with a proper professional advice has seen each client referring other members of their family and friends back to ILAWS and their client bank has swelled to an enviable size. “Although, we are extremely proud of our achievements so far, this is something which we keep a close eye on and recruit accordingly to ensure that no matter how many Clients we have, we are always ahead of the game in providing every one of them with the resource to ensure a pleasant and efficient service” Elaine Hamilton concludes.