Category: Finance

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

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

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

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

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

What we can expect in the near future

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

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

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

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

Investments to expect in the years ahead

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

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

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

Cash ManagementFinanceFundsMarketsRisk Management

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

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

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

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

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

Deals the firm completed globally in 2018 include advising:

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

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

Fluidly on its investment from Nyca Partners and Octopus

Anthemis on its investment in Realyse

Simply Cook on its investment from Octopus

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

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

Local Globe on its investment in StatusToday

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

BGF on its investment in Ruroc.


Ashfords LLP
ashfords.co.uk

Cash ManagementFinanceFunds

Mayflex forms a Distribution Agreement with Global Invacom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


BankingFinanceTransactional and Investment Banking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsFinanceForeign Direct InvestmentIslamic Finance

Smart Dubai Launches Guidelines on Ethical use of Artificial Intelligence

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Cash ManagementForeign Direct InvestmentPrivate FundsStock MarketsTransactional and Investment Banking

Can You Predict The Future Price of Bitcoin?

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

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

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

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

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

How do people make price predictions?

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

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

Fundamental analysis

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

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

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

For a cryptocurrency, you might look at its:

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

​Technical analysis

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

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

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

Do fundamental and technical analyses work?

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

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

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

Self-defeating and self-fulfilling prophecies

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

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

The prediction about the future creates the future.

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

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

Hearing predictions can cause people to change their behaviour.

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

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

That brings us to incentives.

The issue of intentions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luck and probability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

ArticlesBankingFinanceSecurities

Tiso outdoor pursuits retailer chooses Eurostop connected retail systems to support business growth

Scotland’s leading outdoor pursuits retailer invests in Eurostop stock management and EPOS systems for faster and more accurate management of stock replenishment and promotions

Eurostop has announced that Tiso, Scotland’s leading outdoor clothing & equipment retailer, has selected Eurostop connected stock management and EPOS systems for over 13 stores. Tiso chose Eurostop e-rmis, its stock system, e-pos touch and the business intelligence module, e-cubes, to provide the detailed stock management and replenishment that it requires to manage the variety of items sold in store and online. Over recent years Tiso has increased both its number of outlets and product range, stocking a wide variety of clothing, footwear and equipment for adventurer sports, including alpine biking, climbing, skiing and general outdoor pursuits. The recent investment in Eurostop retail systems supports further expansion plans.

Tiso selected Eurostop’s e-rmis system to enable tracking of items from warehouse to store in detail. Eurostop’s system manages the entire replenishment process, from when items are picked using a wireless scanner, to packing and delivering to stores. Integration with the stock system provides head office with up-to-date sales data of all product lines across all store and online channels. In addition, detailed business insights from sales data using Eurostop’s e-cubes module aids merchandise planning.

Chris Tiso, Chief Executive of Tiso Stores said; “The replenishment facility within e rmis was exactly what we were looking for. It gives us far greater control of store replenishment, so we have an accurate view of the business.
“Customised reporting gives us a handle on the stores’ performance, especially with our expansion plans. Our new Aviemore store will have even greater floor space for customers to try out products and investing in Eurostop systems provides us with the technology in store to provide an even better customer experience from trial to purchase.”

As part of the connected systems for stock management, Tiso has installed Eurostop’s new e-pos touch, with added functionality to manage promotions and offers at the till point.
Eurostop’s e-rmis also enables Tiso to load products easily onto the system in bulk from one spreadsheet, with SKU, colours and sizes. Purchase orders can also be created in the same way, by importing a spreadsheet with supplier details, items, cost prices and quantity saving time and reducing errors in re-keying.

Phillip Moylan, Sales Manager at Eurostop said; “Retailers like Tiso have built successful businesses by staying true to their founding principles of loving the products that they sell and providing great customer service. Eurostop’s connected retail systems have been developed to underpin a retailer’s operations with accurate stock management to support sales and buyersE. Having the information at their fingertips enables them to react to customer demand and provide a great service.”

FinanceInfrastructureReal Estate

Arrow Business Communications Limited strengthens its presence in Scotland with a third acquisition and new office in Aberdeen

Arrow is delighted to announce the acquisition of Abica Ltd and it’s subsidiary PCR IT Ltd.

Abica and PCR are leading providers of Telecoms and IT services with offices in Glasgow, further expanding Arrow’s presence in Scotland. Abica and Arrow have much in common as both deliver a similar range of solutions from the same suppliers to customers in all industry sectors.

Arrow identified the potential of the Scottish telecoms market a number of years ago with its purchase of Orca Telecom in 2015 and Siebert Telecom in 2017. In addition to the acquisitions, Arrow has also recently augmented its Aberdeen team and moved into larger offices in the West End of the city.

All of the Directors and employees of Abica will be staying on and will work within the Arrow group, ensuring a smooth transition for all of its valued clients. David Munro and Gregory Barnett, founders of Abica, will continue to lead a number of key customer relationships and day to day activities. Gregory Barnett comments, “With Arrow’s long history of building successful businesses in the telecommunications sector, we couldn’t be happier about integrating Abica into Arrow. It bodes well for an exciting future over the coming years”.

Abica has over 650 customers and has deployed a range of solutions covering Connectivity, Mobility, IoT, and Unified Communications for both private and public sector organisations. The recent acquisition of PCR IT brought further IT capability into its solution portfolio.

Commenting on the acquisition, CEO of Arrow, Chris Russell said: “This was our third acquisition in 2018 and becomes our largest one to date. Abica further strengthens our presence in Scotland and combined with our existing business there will create a real Scottish Powerhouse. The Abica and PCR teams have a wealth of experience in delivering solutions to customers whilst maintaining the strong relationships they have built up over the years, which is exactly how we strive to conduct our business in Arrow”.

Arrow was assisted on the acquisition by both EY and Kemp Little, with Abica being advised by Sequence Advisers and Taylor Wessing.

Arrow is also delighted to announce the acquisition of European Utility Management Ltd (EUM), an Energy broker specialising in Property Development and Management companies.


ArticlesFinanceRegulation

Brexit, transferring data and what it all means – Prettys explains…

The House of Commons is yet to vote on the Prime Minister’s Brexit withdrawal agreement and, until then, there are still a number of unanswered questions, including the issue of transferring data internationally post-Brexit.

 

While the government has assured people and businesses in the UK that they will still be able to transfer any data they want into Europe after Brexit, receiving it as easily has not yet been confirmed by the EU. 

Leading Ipswich-based law firm, Prettys, has an expert Data Protection team highly experienced in dealing with a wide range of issues. Matthew Cole heads up the team and explains what could happen following the vote. He also gives advice to organisations on how they should approach their data sharing processes going forward.    

 

What regulations are currently in place? 

Currently with Data Protection law and GDPR regulations, if you’re within the European Economic Area (EEA), you are free to transfer data over national borders.

However, if you are transferring data from within the EEA to outside of the EEA, then you can only do it under certain grounds. These are:

  • If the third party has an adequacy agreement in place
  • If you have explicit consent from the data subjects to transfer their information
  • If permission has been given in a contract with the data subject

If none of these factors apply, then a safeguard is required to transfer the data. And safeguards take one of three forms:

  • Binding corporate rules
  • A contract with European Commission model clauses
  • A code of practice that enables transfers, such as the U.S. Privacy Shield

What happens if the withdrawal agreement is passed?

Should Parliament approve the withdrawal agreement, we will not have to worry about data transfer until 31 December 2020. This is when the transition period comes to an end and the withdrawal agreement works towards the parties getting an adequacy agreement.

The transition period will allow the UK to get to a stage where the EU recognises it as an adequate jurisdiction and data can continue to flow as normal.

This should be fairly straightforward, as our country already has good data protection and information regulations in place following GDPR.

 

What happens if the withdrawal agreement is not passed?

Unless there is any other intervention, such as a second referendum or the Article 50 notification is revoked, it would mean the UK crashes out of the EU and, ultimately, all bets will be off.

We will effectively become a ‘third country’ from 11.00pm GMT on 29 March 2019. This will make things complicated, as there will be no recognition in place from the EU and no adequacy agreement.

This means that we will be able to continue transferring data into the EU but they will find it much more difficult to receive it.     

 

So, what can businesses do in the meantime?

The first thing businesses need to do is get an audit to indicate where they currently share data in Europe and where data is received.

They also need to be aware of:

  • Where their servers are hosted
  • If their websites are maintained in other countries
  • If they’re using cloud services based in other countries 

Once they have established where their data transfers occur, they can then look for any significant data flows between member states and the UK and establish whether they have the ability to continue transferring this data. This may require them to put a safeguard in place.

Binding corporate rules are usually the best option here but, with all the regulatory bodies they need to go through for approval, it would not be possible for a business to get this in place by late March.

Migrating data is another option many businesses are exploring, which means putting all their data in a centre in mainland Europe or vice versa. 

Mathew Cole
FinanceFunds

Young people suffer more with gift guilt at Christmas

Christmas is a time of giving, with the UK spending 821 million pounds on Christmas gifts, it is clear that us Brits are extremely generous. However, worryingly one in four Brits feel pressured to spend a lot more than they can afford, sliding them into debt that can last months after the festive season is over. A truly unwanted Christmas gift.

The research conducted by Peachy, surveyed 2002 people’s Christmas shopping habits and attitudes towards money; lifting the lid on the subtle differences between those of a different gender, age and relationship status. Financial woes are expected to affect a quarter (25%) of Britons due to a costly and pressurising Christmas new research suggests. To ease financial worries and enjoy celebrating the festive season Katre Kaarenperk-Vanatoa from Peachy suggests:
“If you haven’t planned your Christmas costs ahead, you’re left to buy all your gifts in one month. In these circumstances, try to shop wisely by sticking to a budget and creating a gift list. Do not compare your gifts to others and remember that it is sentiment that counts not the price. Sometimes, handmade gifts are more greatly appreciated than expensive gadgets.
Ideally, spread the costs of Christmas shopping as much as possible without adding interest to your financial worries in the New Year”

The research also showed that men spend more money than women, however, men believe they spend too much. Despite this, men still continue to shop at a higher budget. Overall the majority of men (66%) felt relaxed when browsing and buying gifts for their loved ones, felt less pressured to buy a more expensive gift and found it less challenging to stick to a set budget compared to women who were significantly more stressed and less money conscious despite on average spending less of their wages on Christmas gifts than men.

40% of 18-24 year old’s fretted about what others had bought them for Christmas and felt guilty if others had spent more on gifts than they had. Despite this, other age groups (35-44 and 55+) spent more of their wages on Christmas presents in contrast to 18-24 year old’s. Interestingly, 24% of 18-24 year old’s admit to poor budgeting at Christmas time despite 29% feeling the financial pinch in January and struggling with finances. Those 55 years old and over old found Christmas shopping too hectic and only 29% wished they could spend more on Christmas gifts.

Single people find it more difficult to budget and felt that they could not spend as much as they would like on presents in comparison to those in relationships. The study also highlighted that married couples do not enjoy spending time with their loved ones as much single individuals, people in relationships and partners that live together over the festive season. Which could perhaps be to do with the contestant chore of fraternising with your in-laws over the Christmas period! Arguably another unwanted Christmas gift!

ArticlesCorporate Finance and M&A/DealsFunds of Funds

5 ways cognitive assistants are revolutionising banking

Martin Linstrom, Managing Director for UK and Ireland at IPsoft, looks at the next stage in technological evolution of the banking industry and how artificial intelligence (AI) will redefine banking as we know it.

 

The banking industry has made huge strides to drive innovation by investing in new technologies over the last few decades. Commercial banks first adopted telephone banking, then came internet banking and now, for most customers, all your financial services needs can be met via an app. Now, as we enter the conversational era enabled by cognitive AI, customer expectations have evolved once again.

 

Banks have long been ahead of the curve in terms of elevating the user experience for their customers and so, it’s perhaps unsurprising that many are already looking to AI-powered digital assistants and are investing in cognitive solutions to upgrade and scale customer-facing financial management processes. Many banks are also looking at how they can provide the same simple, frictionless service to their own employees. 

 

As AI-powered customer interfaces gain mainstream acceptance, we will once again see a revolution in technological change within the banking industry. So, what functions within banks will cognitive assistants transform?

 

Building a hybrid workforce

Virtual assistants have a twofold capability which is driving innovation in the banking industry. Firstly, they can be implemented in back office functions such as finance or HR and secondly, they can supplement customer service centres. Creating a hybrid workforce of human employees and AI-powered virtual assistants can help drive enormous cost efficiencies and increase staff productivity. Employees in administrative roles can pass their repetitive tasks over to their digital colleague, freeing up their time to focus on more creative or interesting work that requires soft skills whilst customer service agents can pass standard requests through an AI system leaving them with only the most complex of customer queries to deal with.

 

Ubiquitous customer services

One of the most attractive things about AI-powered customer services for banks is its ubiquity. With virtual customer service agents available 24/7 and through a variety of channels such as live message, telephone or email, it’s a win-win situation for both bank staff and customers. From a customer’s perspective, simple requests such as password resets or international transactions can be performed in an instant and there’s no need to visit the bank or spend an hour in a telephone queue to speak to a human agent.

 

Banks adopting customer-facing AI solutions are in fact seeing increased customer satisfaction rates despite removing the human-to-human contact element. For example, since implementing IPsoft’s AI solution, Amelia, SEB, a leading Nordic bank has been able to avoid 544 hours of escalations to customer support with an average handle time of six minutes. What’s more, Amelia has reached an 85% accuracy in immediate intent recognition which has meant a faster service delivery to customers and soaring customer satisfaction. 

 

24/7 banking support

Unlike human agents, digital assistants can work around the clock, seven days a week with no breaks and without tiring. For modern consumers, particularly young digital natives who expect to be able to manage their finances at any time of the day, integrating AI into a bank’s customer service centre will soon become the norm. Chatbots are already an industry standard, therefore at the very least, banks that don’t continue scaling this technology throughout their business will find themselves at a severe competitive disadvantage, trailing behind the market by delivering an inferior customer service experience.

 

Go beyond simple chatbots

Digital assistants with cognitive intelligence capabilities represent the next leap in automation for financial institutions. Digital colleagues like Amelia are now able to perform tasks above and beyond mere transactional ones, digitising more complex financial management processes such as wealth management onboarding and mortgage applications. Unlike simple chatbots, digital colleagues are also able to develop their cognitive abilities through an advanced Natural Language Interface (NLI) which can process customer queries asked in hundreds of different ways, including slang. More importantly for the banking industry, they can handle context switching so that when a customer moves quickly from one request to another, the interface is able to process both requests without starting over.

 

Many banks have already integrated voice capabilities into their finance management solutions. Customers communicate via text or voice to gain quick answers to banking questions, tailored financial advice and can even carry out transactions all from the same channel. Voice-enabled digital assistants can handle payments and transfers, credit card activation, charge disputes and travel alerts for customers at any time, freeing up customer services teams to focus on more complex customer enquiries and giving customers full control and access to their finances. Conversational AI will become more and more widely accepted as banks start to harness the technology to help drive customer engagement and operational efficiencies.

 

Delivering better insights and improved security

Unlocking key business insights is another key driver motivating banks to invest in AI. Sophisticated systems can recognise patterns from the sheer amount of data that they are processing. Thanks to these capabilities, businesses can easily find out the most common types of transactions by customers of a certain demographic and can then retarget this group for specific marketing or sales campaigns, helping to drive revenue. These real time insights can help business leaders make better, more strategic decisions that are informed through concrete data.

 

Real-time data mining can also be applied to improve customer security as many AI tools have built-in privacy and security by design. An AI-powered virtual assistant can pick up on irregular payments immediately, flagging potential “phishers” to a human agent for additional authentication. What’s more, advanced machine learning solutions can improve over time so that banks can continue to scale up their services. Virtual assistants like Amelia can go one step further by ‘learning on the job.’ Essentially, when Amelia does not understand a request or query she can pass it on to a human colleague but remains in the conversation to learn how to resolve the issue next time.

 

The future of retail banking

The financial services industry has long been at the forefront of technological innovation. Whilst many businesses are still debating whether to invest in AI, major banks are very much leading the way to invest in the technology and are thriving as a result. As virtual assistants become increasingly more intelligent and their cognitive abilities develop, the expectations for banks and the services they offer will be elevated. Banks that rest on their laurels and refuse to acknowledge this risk falling behind permanently, particularly with the slew of challenger fintech companies that are appearing on the market, offering dynamic and tailored financial services at a lower price. 

 

 

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BUY YOURSELF A HORSE WITH BITCOIN

Equinox Racing is a London based horse racing syndicate like no other. Focused on delivering immersive experience to its members, Equinox Racing recently opened its horse’s shares to cryptocurrency. From now on, you can use your Bitcoins to buy yourself the thrill of horse racing and the privilege of horse ownership.

 

Rob Edwards, co-founder of Equinox Racing, commented: “There is a huge amount of capital in the crypto world, and not too many tangible opportunities out there. A lot of the people who invested in crypto, particularly in the early days, are punters. They are our kind of people!” 

 

Equinox Racing believes horse racing should not be limited to the chosen few but made available to enthusiasts and new audiences on a wider scale. Having nine horses and about 100 club members and owners to date, Equinox Racing offers a range of exciting experiences. Visit your horse at the stables, speak with the trainer and the jockey, follow his evolution on social media and support him at the race!

 

D Millard from Norwich, Norfolk (horse owner), commented: “Equinox Racing delivers fantastic days out, real prize money winning opportunities, and its stable of horses just continues to grow.” 

 

For the equivalent of £34,99 per month in crypto, which is the average price for gym memberships, Equinox Racing enables you to be part of something greater than a pair of weights. And ownership is available from £150 pounds (in crypto as well)! Thrill, suspense, joy, grace, excitement, exclusivity, are the words that describe the emotions experienced during a horse race.

 

J MacLeod from Ayr (horse owner) commented: “Simply amazing.  My passion for racing has grown now that I have affordable ownership.  I never thought I would be able to own any part of a horse with such a stunning pedigree.” 

 

Equinox Racing is currently expanding its horse’s portfolio and looking at new acquisitions. It is now the perfect time to get involved!

 

More information on: https://equinox-racing.co.uk

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WisdomTree launches Artificial Intelligence ETF (WTAI)

WisdomTree, the exchange traded fund (“ETF”) and exchange traded product (“ETP”) sponsor, has partnered with Nasdaq and the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) to launch an ETF providing unique exposure to the Artificial Intelligence (AI) sector. The WisdomTree Artificial Intelligence UCITS ETF listed on the London Stock Exchange today, with a total expense ratio (TER) of 0.40%.

 

The ETF will provide investors with liquid and cost-effective access to this exponential technology megatrend that is driving efficiencies and new business capabilities across all industries globally and redefining the way we live and work.

 

Christopher Gannatti, WisdomTree Head of Research in Europe says, “We are delighted to partner with Nasdaq and CTA, who are experts in AI and technology markets. We have worked together, leveraging our combined expertise, to re-define the AI investment landscape.”

 

“To capture the full economic value of AI we place companies in three categories; Engagers, Enablers and Enhancers*. When investors think of what this can bring to a portfolio, they should be thinking over a long time horizon and about how advances like autonomously driven cars, a digital workforce, mass facial recognition and other applications of intelligent machines could change the world,” Gannatti added.

 

Rafi Aviav, WisdomTree Head of Product Development in Europe comments, “AI is a revolutionary technology and the market for AI products and services is expected to more than triple over the next three years[1]. This fund offers a unique approach to capturing this expected growth, which is the result of a year-long collaboration between WisdomTree, Nasdaq and CTA.”

 

“The fund broadly represents the upstream[2] and midstream[3] parts of the AI value chain and so balances diversification with a focused exposure on those parts of the AI value chain that stand to gain the most from growth in the AI market,” Aviav added.

 

There is no commonly used classification system that allows one to automatically choose companies engaged in the emerging AI space, so the research for the selection of index portfolio companies is conducted by experts with deep familiarity of the AI value chain and the technology markets more broadly. This ensures the portfolio remains focused on AI opportunities rather than becoming just another broad tech fund.

 

We believe the fund’s unique approach offers the best of both the active and passive investment worlds in accessing the AI megatrend. The fund’s portfolio companies are already capitalising on the AI opportunity across industries and are well positioned for AI’s growth,” Aviav commented.

 

“AI is one of the key ‘ingredient technologies’ over the next decade – deployed everywhere from factory floors and retail stores to banks and insurance offices, creating new opportunities,” said Jack Cutts, senior director of business intelligence and research, CTA. “We’ll see this play out in January at CES® 2019 – the most influential tech event in the world – where AI will be a dominant theme, showcasing the massive potential AI has to change our lives for the better. We’re excited to partner with Nasdaq and WisdomTree to make AI investible.”

 

“Artificial Intelligence is at an inflection point to drive further economic growth and create new areas of opportunity,” said Dave Gedeon, Vice President and Head of Research and Development for Nasdaq Global Indexes.  “The Nasdaq CTA Artificial Intelligence Index serves as an important benchmark for tracking the adoption of AI across a broad range of economic sectors as this influential technology hastens advancements in productivity and capacity.”

 

WisdomTree Artificial Intelligence UCITS ETF: Under the hood

The WisdomTree Artificial Intelligence UCITS ETF tracks the Nasdaq CTA Artificial Intelligence Index.  This enables investors to gain diversified exposure which is focused on companies that stand to gain the most from growth in AI adoption and performance. The index can evolve as new AI trends and companies come on stream through a semi-annual update. The Index is currently comprised of 52 constituents globally with stringent eligibility criteria:

  • Define Universe: Companies must be listed on a set of recognized global stock exchanges and satisfy minimum liquidity criteria and market capitalization criteria to be included in the index.
  • Identify and Classify: Companies are identified as belonging to the AI value

chain and classified into the following categories: Enhancers, Enables and Engagers (see below for definitions.)

  • Determine AI Exposure: The AI exposure for each individual stock is investigated and scored.
  • Top Selection: Only companies with the top 15 scores in each category (Enhancers, Enablers and Engagers) are selected for inclusion, and their weight is allocated evenly in each category.
  • Allocate Weight: In total Engagers comprise 50% of index exposure, Enablers comprise 40%, and Enhancers comprise 10% of index exposure.

*Engagers: Companies whose focus is providing AI-powered products & services.

Enablers: Companies who are key players in this space, with some of their core products and services enabling AI. They include component manufacturers (including relevant CPUs, GPUs etc.), and platform and algorithm providers that power the development and running of AI processes.

Enhancers: Companies who are a prominent force in AI but whose relevant product or service is not currently a core part of their revenue. They include chip manufacturers, and platform and algorithm providers that power the development and running of AI-powered products & services.

 

Share Class Name

TER

Exchange

Trading Ccy

Exchange Code

ISIN

WisdomTree Artificial Intelligence UCITS ETF – USD Acc

0.40%

 

LSE

USD

WTAI

IE00BDVPNG13

WisdomTree Artificial Intelligence UCITS ETF – USD Acc

0.40%

 

LSE

GBx

INTL

IE00BDVPNG13

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Finding finance from start-up to listing

Mark Brownridge, Director General of the Enterprise Investment Scheme Association:

Securing funding as a start-up is often one of the biggest challenges that new businesses face in the primary stages of set-up. Not only is it often difficult to secure the funding itself, it is even more so when trying to get the right kind of funding for what the specific needs of the business are. Having structures in place to make it as easy as possible for innovative ideas to flourish and become fully-fledged is not only to the advantage of entrepreneurs and innovators.

 

One of the routes that allows this to happen in the UK is through the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme, which offers investors tax reliefs in order to offset the higher risks involved in investing capital into start-ups. SEIS represents an alternative to start-ups from traditional finance routes such as banks that may not be willing to lend. This is especially useful for those of the small businesses that base their proposition on intellectual property as opposed to physical assets or products. These IP rich companies often have trouble finding support without physical collateral to offer as security.

 

Individuals looking to invest through SEIS can then make decisions based upon individual cases and potential rather than being held back by regulation or corporate policy. Of course, the risk still exists but with tax and loss reliefs, it is much more likely that the risk will be seen to be worth it in the eyes of an investor. Getting ideas off the ground is arguably the most important part of encouraging new businesses and creating new jobs as they grow and expand.

Luke Davis, CEO and Founder of IW Capital: Growing a business from start-up to listing is a hugely challenging proposition at each and every stage of the process. One of the most important points of this is growing and scaling the business from start-up level into a more fully-fledged entity. This jump can seem daunting for even the most prepared of start-ups and this is in no small part due to the challenges in securing funding for expansion.

Knowledge-intensive SMEs that struggle to secure funding without assets to use as collateral for loans, can benefit from schemes such as SEIS and EIS. With an industrial focus on research and development this will be key moving forward with the Governments plans to grow the tech industry. This is reflected in the increased EIS limit for knowledge-intensive companies of £2 million per year, this change has been introduced to provide further encouragement to investors to support IP-rich businesses.

Clearly supporting SMEs is hugely important for the UK economy as they represent the employment of around 16 million people, depending on who you ask, in the UK with this number currently growing at a rate that is three times faster than for big corporations. Fuelling this growth will be key moving into a post-EU economic landscape that will rely even more heavily on domestic business and job creation.

Jonathan Schneider, Executive Chairman of Capital Step: According to a nationwide study titled – A State of the Nation – The UK Family Business Sector 2017-18- family-run businesses account for 88% of all UK firms. They operate in every industrial sector across all of the UK’s regions, employing almost half of the UK’s private-sector workforce. In no small part, the UK’s family and regional businesses represent a significant proportion of Britain’s bottom line.

Family-run and regional businesses form the life-blood of the UK’s entrepreneurial landscape, and to see so many believe that the Government is not looking after this vital sector of the UK’s business community is concerning. Equally – it is apparent that the funding options available to established family-run enterprise seem to be eclipsed – in local communities – by corporate entities who have greater exposure to the most appropriate funding options. The role of the family enterprise, community SMEs and bricks and mortar productivity across the length and breadth of the British Isles must be considered a firm priority for the UK government – deal or no deal.

As both investors and entrepreneurs, we have witnessed countless examples of business owners having to give up control of their companies in exchange for funding. In many instances, even successful founders end up with a disproportionately small reward for their hard work upon exit as a result of having sacrificed too much ownership and control along the way. The Capital Step model is specifically designed to address this issue, by providing flexible capital solutions without existing shareholders having to give up ownership or independence in exchange.

Jenny Tooth, CEO of the UK Business Angel Association: We as trade bodies, policy makers and commentators bear a significant responsibility to assist UK SMEs in what will be one of the most critical periods in their business life, ensuring contingency plans, scalability options, growth strategies and immediate resilience responses to ensure their successful navigation of the seismic impact of Brexit

The UK possesses multiple geographical regions that have blooming industries outside of the capital city, something which makes the UK incredibly unique. In spite of this, a lack of accessibility to and education surrounding finance and opportunities outside of London is creating a gap between what these regions are capable of and how much they’re utilised. As 63% of all Angel Investors within the UK are based in London and the South East, it is undeniable that there is a geographically skewed funding deficit that is hindering the growth of SMEs who are positioned outside of the capital. While potential investors of differing regional demographics may feel isolated from the investing arena, the repercussions for regional SMEs reliant on this kind of funding may limit innovation and employment growth outside of the capital.
 
The UKBAA has focused a significant amount of attention on increasing regional investment, with the implementation of many angel hubs throughout the UK, especially in Northern regions. However, there is still a long way to go to fully utilise the untapped potential found within these areas. This can only be done when it is popularly recognised that there are significant investment opportunities outside of London. 

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Fast growing asset based finance sector presents clear opportunities for challenger banks

Author: Kevin Day, CEO, HPD LendScape

ABF sector is growing fast

Asset Based Finance (ABF) has seen record levels of lending in recent years, with more firms than ever choosing to use this funding option. This trend is a sign of how ABF is increasingly taken seriously as a viable source of finance, which is becoming more widely accepted among businesses. Driving this growth in ABF are the larger, more established banks, but they have been increasingly focusing on large corporates. This provides an opportunity for challenger banks to expand their operations into the mid-market, and although the varying quality of credit among SMEs means it’s an exercise they should do with care, the potential returns are well worth it.

Funding record set last year

Last year set a lending record for the ABF, which largely comprises invoice financing and asset-based lending (ABL), with funding reaching £22.2 billion, an increase of around 5% compared to 2016, itself a previous record. The total number of businesses accessing ABF was 40,333 in 2017, while the number of clients with a turnover of more than £10 million increased to over 5,000, up 7% on last year. In total ABF finance now supports companies with total turnover of around £300bn.

Big banks freeing up the mid-market

Catalysts for the growth of the sector are the big lenders, major banking groups and other established financial institutions. However, a feature of their expansion is that they are moving up the credit scale, with a shift of focus to those companies with a more secure, conservative financial profiles. Many of the big banks are no longer willing, or perhaps even able, given the capital requirements, to lend to small and mid-cap size firms. But the move of these mainstream lenders up the credit quality spectrum has not reduced the needs of SMEs, many of which have limited financing options for common growth challenges, such as the need for investment into new products or moves into new markets.  

Clear opportunity for challenger banks….

Some challenger banks are already active in the ABL sector. For instance, asset finance accounts for over 20% of Aldermore’s lending portfolio, with a further around 4% accounted for by invoice financing. Secure Trust is another challenger that has been building its business in the ABL sector. However, the retreat from providing ABL to SMEs, gives challenger banks an opportunity to target the corporate mid-market and further accelerate their expansion in ABF.

…But they should proceed with care

Although the prospects are promising for challenger banks to boost ABF to SMEs, they should proceed with care. Credit quality is more variable in the mid-market and companies’ revenues, cash flow and costs can be a little more unpredictable as they are more sensitive to changes in market direction or client losses. So challenger banks should be sure that their due diligence and research on businesses looking for ABF is rigorous, including closely examining the credit quality of the accounts receivables, sales concentration and the aging of the accounts receivables.

Private equity-backed businesses offer further potential

Another area challenger banks and other alternative lenders should consider targeting are private equity backed companies. The flexibility that asset-based lending provides to a private equity borrower, such as scalability, works well for acquisitions. Additionally, what ABF can offer which is compelling for those needing finance as well as financial sponsors, such as private equity, is the flexible but limited covenant structure, greater debt capacity, and often a lower price. In the private equity arena, innovative transaction structures involving ABF have the potential to provide sponsors with an alternative to more typical and complex approaches, such as those involving Revolving Credit Facilities.

SMEs seeking to refinance from new lenders

Typically, businesses already using ABF as part of their funding strategy would typically refinance using the same lender. However, in the last few years there has been a trend for borrowers to turn away from their incumbent lenders and explore alternative options, including challenger banks, which can often offer more sophisticated and attractive financing terms. Challenger banks should capitalise on this trend by SMEs to consider a greater variety of re-financing options to further expand their ABF operations.

Technology can play a key role

For both challenger banks and other boutique financial institutions seeking to enter the market, as well as SMEs looking to access ABF, the influx of new technologies is a definite plus. These new technology options mean ABF is increasingly accessible for even the smallest SMEs as increased speed of service allows companies to receive the funds they need quickly due to sophisticated data capture and analysis techniques. For institutions such as challenger banks solutions such as the HPD LendScape® platform help to automate and streamline ABF processes, making it easier for banks to lend and enabling businesses to manage their loans and provide their collateral data for analysis via a single platform, making the process easier to manage for resource-pressed SMEs.

ABF market in the UK is evolving 

ABF is maturing fast in the UK, both in terms of invoice financing and asset based lending and this is likely to continue. An increasing range of companies are seeking to access the funding, while an ever expanding range of lenders is targeting the sector. Challenger banks could play a key role in this trend, with their more innovative, flexible tech-driven approach. With 33% of UK GDP coming from SMEs, if challengers were to significantly expand their ABF finance that would give a considerable funding boost for businesses and a growth uplift for the economy.

 

Website: https://www.hpdsoftware.com/

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IVA or bankruptcy: what is the best solution for your debts?

If you are suffering from severe cash flow issues, you may be considering both bankruptcy or an individual voluntary arrangement (IVA). Bankruptcy and IVAs are both legally-binding and formal insolvency options between you and your creditors. However, while they might appear similar, there are some vast differences to consider before entering into one of the procedures. Most importantly, you should always seek insolvency advice before doing so to ensure you are not impacting your future finances.

 

With that in mind, Business Rescue Expert – a licensed insolvency practitioner firm – is sharing the difference between the two and what you can expect from both insolvency procedures.

 

Choosing an IVA or bankruptcy

Recently, both insolvency procedures have hit the news due to a number of high-profile celebrities suffering cash flow issues. Katie Price is the most recent victim, with her bankruptcy woes documented in the media. However, she is certainly not the only to face cash flow issues, with the total number of individual insolvencies continuing to rise in 2018. The Q2 Insolvency Service report made for particularly tough reading, with the number of individual insolvencies at its highest since Q1 2012. IVAs accounted for 62% of the total, with bankruptcy behind a further 14%.

 

Individual voluntary arrangements were, originally, intended as a better alternative to bankruptcy. IVAs are, generally, considered the more suitable option for those with assets they wish to protect. The procedure is defined as ‘less extreme’ than bankruptcy and also provides moratorium for the individual, with the breathing space helping to regain control of the issue and get to the root cause of the cash flow problems. However, an IVA is a much longer procedure than bankruptcy, and you could be tied up in the process for up to seven years.

 

Bankruptcy, on the other hand, is often considered as it is much shorter than an IVA – typically lasting no longer than 12 months. Unlike an IVA, however, your assets will be forfeit, and that could include your vehicle and house.

 

There are both advantages and disadvantages to each and, if you are not particularly savvy as to those, we suggest seeking advice to ensure you go down the right path.

 

Can the procedures affect my home?

The effect of the procedures on your home is a common cause of worry for many. If you do enter an IVA procedure, you will not be forced to sell your home. However, if it is highly possible that you could be asked to remortgage six months prior to the end of your IVA to free up any capital to repay your debts. This will only ever happen, though, if it is affordable for you. If not, an additional 12 months may be added to your IVA.

 

In the case of bankruptcy, however, your home will likely be affected. If there is any equity tied up in the house, your creditors may ask you to sell to repay their debts. Either way, you should seek advice at the earliest possible opportunity.

 

What about my car?

Another major cause for concern is your vehicle. IVAs ae much longer procedures than bankruptcy and, as such, you are likely to be able to keep your car. The same, unfortunately, cannot be said for bankruptcy, as the sale of your car could offer a large contribution to your debts. However, if you do require your car/van for your trade and rely on the vehicle to make money and repay your debts, you will, likely, be able to keep it. If this is the case, you must speak to your bankruptcy trustee immediately.

 

Could my job be impacted?

When you do enter insolvency or bankruptcy, the details will be made public. While that doesn’t mean a front page story in your local newspaper, your details will be placed on the Insolvency Register. Similarly, a notice will be placed in The Gazette for your creditors to find. If you work in the finance industry or are a director of a company, both procedures can significantly affect your standing.

 

If you file for bankruptcy, you cannot act as a director of a limited company. However, there is no such prohibition with an IVA. But, there is likely to be restrictions on handling client’s funds and some companies may have stipulations in their contracts for hiring those who have entered or are in the procedures.

 

Why choose an IVA?

There are many reasons to choose an IVA – especially as the consequences appear less severe than bankruptcy. The IVA will be completed after no more than seven years and you can then begin building your credit. Whilst you are in the procedure, your creditors cannot make further demands for repayments or take legal action against you for the debts. Similarly, your assets are afforded more protection, with also far less consequences on your future career – particularly if you are hoping to act as a director for a company.

It’s also important to note the disadvantages, however. If you are looking for a short arrangement with your creditors, you must be aware than an IVA can last up to seven years. Your credit rating will also be affected due to the procedure, meaning you will have to work to build your credit report once complete.

 

Why choose bankruptcy?

Filing for bankruptcy does come with advantages, especially for those that are looking to repay their debts quickly. It is completed in around 12 months. However, if there is any evidence of fraud – such as hiding your assets or not detailing all finances – the trustee could apply for a bankruptcy restriction order, meaning you could be deemed bankrupt indefinitely.

 

Similarly, if you don’t have many belongings/assets or equity tied up in your house, bankruptcy could prove a suitable option. Creditors cannot also demand anymore payments while in the procedure.

 

Like an IVA, bankruptcy does have its disadvantages. The procedure will, almost certainly, affect your ability to work in the finance sector and will stop you from acting as director of a company.

 

Ultimately, there are many differences between the two and any advice you can obtain can only help to ensure you choose the correct option.

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BORROWING £50 MORE FOR A CAR LOAN COULD SAVE YOU UP TO £1600 IN INTEREST

Borrowing more for a car loan could save you money, according to research by What Car? 

 

 

Borrowing just £50 more for a new car loan can make it cheaper than taking out a smaller loan according to new research by What Car?, the UK’s leading consumer advice champion.

Analysis of the UK’s leading high street lenders suggests that borrowing the extra amount could save motorists up to £1600 over the course of the repayment period.*

Loans of £5000 typically have lower interest rates than smaller loans. For example, the repayment total of a £5000 loan from TSB over four years comes in around £1300 cheaper than the repayment of a £4950 loan over the same period.

Similarly, at Lloyds the repayment on a £7500 loan over four years is £1601 less than the repayment for borrowing £7450.

What Car? editor Steve Huntingford said: “We would always recommend borrowing as little as possible, but where the loan amount is close to the threshold for a lower interest rate, borrowing as little as £50 extra could save you 10 times that amount, so borrowers should do their homework.”

This trend was most commonly seen when analysing borrowing of amounts between £4500 and £8000.

Research shows that UK motorists are increasingly using finance options to aid with the purchase of cars. Within the first six months of 2018 there was a rise of 8% in car finance lending, with it topping £10 billion.**

However, while taking out a slightly bigger loan can save you money, there is a cut-off point, with loans of more than £8000 costing the borrower more the more they borrow.Savvy shoppers are able to capitalise on these trends by not only borrowing smartly, but by using the What Car? Target Price on What Car? New Car Buying to ensure they get the best deal. 

Car finance top tips: 

Shop around – compare the types of finance available and choose the best option available to you

Don’t stretch yourself – only borrow within your means, making sure you can afford the repayments

Additional charges – be aware of additional charges and always read the small print of your loan to be sure you don’t end up with any nasty surprises

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Mobeus invests £9M in fast-growth customer experience specialists, Ventrica

Ventrica, a European, award-winning, outsourced contact centre, has attracted a £9 million investment from Mobeus Equity Partners. Ventrica provides intelligent, multi-lingual and omni-channel outsourced customer service to a range of global ‘blue-chip’ brands.

“Ventrica is right in the sweet spot for the growing outsourcing contact centre market”

Southend-based Ventrica was founded in 2010 by Dino Forte and has undergone rapid growth, doubling in size over the last two years. Ventrica is an innovation leader in the changing sales and customer service sector. As e-commerce continues to grow, especially in the retail space, and customers expand their communication channels from the phone to email, social media and webchat, companies are increasingly looking to specialists to provide around the clock customer-facing support. Ventrica works closely with its clients, leveraging its people, technology (including support for Artificial Intelligence and Automation) training and resourcing expertise to provide a high quality service, across multiple channels, that supports their brand and their values. 

Ventrica is already one of Essex’s top employers and now plans European expansion

Ventrica is a key employer in Southend and in 2017 the company launched a second site in the town. Employing over 450 staff, and growing to 600 this year, it is one of the town’s major private employers. With support from Mobeus, the company plans further investment to expand its footprint in the UK and Europe to support its growing multi-lingual client base that serve customers across global markets. However the strategy is to remain medium-sized.

Danielle Garland, Mobeus Investment Manager, said, “Ventrica is right in the sweet spot for the growing outsourcing contact centre market – it is large enough to deliver multilingual and leading-edge technology solutions to its blue-chip clients but small enough to be dynamic and innovative and to provide the personalised service its clients require. As more clients onshore back to the UK, Ventrica is very well placed to continue to deliver very strong growth.”

Dino Forte, Ventrica CEO, added, “Mobeus stood out as the right partner because of the team’s immediate enthusiasm for, and deep understanding of, our offering at Ventrica. We have a significant market opportunity and are winning new customer contracts at an increasing rate and of an increasing scale. With Mobeus as a partner, we are well positioned to strengthen our team to support our significant growth whilst also allowing us to better focus on our existing clients which will be our key priority moving forward. 

Mobeus Partner Ashley Broomberg worked with Danielle Garland who sourced and led the transaction on behalf of Mobeus. Guy Blackburn, Mobeus Portfolio Director, has joined the board to support Ventrica in achieving its full potential. Dino Forte was advised by Sarah Moores and Rob Dukelow-Smith (Forward Corporate Finance). 

Finance

Scrutiny on the Data Supply Chain

Scrutiny on the Data Supply Chain

by Martijn Groot, VP of Product Management, Asset Control

The idea of a ‘supply chain’ is most commonly associated with the manufacturing process, however, the concept is now increasingly being applied to the way that financial services firms manage data. While businesses across the financial services space deal with growing volumes of raw data, rather than raw materials, the parallels are striking.

As with any supply chain, being able to trace materials or data across the whole process is very important. In the data supply chain, financial services companies need to understand and to audit what happens to the data across the process, who has looked at it, how it has been verified and they also need to keep a full record of any decisions that are made. Ultimately, they need to ensure traceability, that they can track the journey of any piece of data across the supply chain and see both where it has been and where it finally ends up.   

The benefit for financial services firms who reach the end of this data supply chain is that the result of this process supports informed opinion that in turn drives risk, trading and business decisions. 

Bringing the data together in this way is important for many financial services firms. After all, the reality is that these businesses, today even more than pre-crisis, typically have many functional silos of data in place, a problem made still worse by the preponderance of mergers and acquisitions taking place across the sector in recent times. Typically today, market risk may have its own database, so too credit risk, finance stress testing and product control. In fact, every business line may have its own data set. Moreover, all these different groups will all also have their own take on data quality. 

More and more financial services appreciate that this situation is no longer sustainable. The end to end process outlined above should help to counteract this but why is it happening right now? 

Regulation is certainly a key driver. In recent years, we have seen the advent of the Targeted Review of Internal Models (TRIM) and the Fundamental Review of the Trading Book (FRTB) both of which demand that a consistent data set is in place. It seems likely that the costs and the regulatory repercussions of failing to comply with this will go up over time.

Second, it is becoming increasingly costly to keep all these different silos alive to support it. A lot of these silos are internally developed systems. The staff who originally developed them are often no longer with the business or have a completely different set of priorities, so it makes for a very costly infrastructure. Finally, there is a growing consensus that if a standard data dictionary and vocabulary of terms and conditions are used within the business, and there is common access to the same data set, that will inevitably help to drive a better and more informed decision-making process across the business.


Finding a Way Forward

To address these issues and find a way of overcoming the data challenges outlined above, organisations can begin by ensuring that they have a 360˚ view of all the data that is coming into the organisation. They need to make sure they know exactly what data assets there are in the firm – what they already have on the shelf, what they are buying and what they are collecting or creating internally. In other words, they need to have a comprehensive view of exactly what data enters the organisation, how and when it does and in what shape and form.

Firms need to, therefore, be clearer not only about what data they are collecting internally but also what they are buying. If they have a better understanding of this, they can make more conscious decisions about what they need and what is redundant and prevent a lot of ‘unnecessary noise’ when it comes to improving their data supply chain.

They also need to be able to verify the quality of the data of course – and that effectively means putting in place a data quality framework that encompasses a range of dimensions from completeness to timeliness, accuracy, consistency and traceability.

To deal with all these data supply chain issues, of course, businesses need to have the right governance structure and organisational model in place. Consultants can help here in advising on processes and procedures and ensure for example that the number of individual departments independently sourcing data is reduced and there is a clear view in place of what is fit for purpose data.

The Role of Technology

Technology can play a key role, of course, in helping organisations to get a better handle on their data supply chains. For most businesses, a primary requirement is to have good data sourcing and integration capability in place. This means systems that understand financial data products but also the different data models and schemas that are in place to identify instruments, issuers, taxonomies and financial product categorisations.

The chosen solutions should also be able to quickly and easily move between one set of identifiers and classification schemes to another. Organisations also need the capability to support the workflow process and workflow integration to effectively manage a process whereby users can easily interact with the data either to include their own data in the integration or to check the result of various screening rules that affect the quality of the data.

Businesses also need a data reporting capability. Technology chosen to fulfil this role must be capable of providing metrics on the impact of all the different data sources the organisation has bought, what benefits it has achieved from those sources; what kind of quality are they and what gaps are there in the data, and where is the organisation in providing this data to business users for ad-hoc usage.

Beyond understanding and monitoring their supply chains and ensuring that an auditing and traceability element is in place, financial services businesses must also guarantee that data governance and data quality checking is fully implemented. After all, to get the most from their data supply chains they must make the data itself readily available to users to browse, analyse and support decision-making processes that ultimately contribute to driving business advantage and competitive edge.

TravelPerk
Finance

TravelPerk announces 39m GBP Series C investment

TravelPerk announces 39m GBP Series C investment led by Kinnevik to transform 1 trillion GBP business travel market

TravelPerk, the Barcelona-based startup which has become the fastest growing ‘Software as a Service’ company in Europe, has secured 39 million GBP in Series C funding from some of the world’s most successful technology investors including Kinnevik, Yuri Milner and Tom Stafford. This new funding will enable the firm to expand into new markets and accelerate its dramatic growth towards its ambition to become the world’s leading corporate travel management platform.

According to the Global Business Travel Association, 50% of business travel happens outside of company policy often because existing platforms are outdated, can’t offer the choice or prices of consumer sites, and require travel managers and finance teams to endure multiple platforms, emails and calls back and forth to manage a single trip – costing companies valuable time and money, while frustrating employees and preventing growth.

TravelPerk is solving this problem by simplifying the process for hundreds of thousands of travelers from some of the world’s most influential companies including Uber and Transferwise – cutting the time needed to manage a trip from 3 or 4 hours to just 10 minutes. By streamlining the process, TravelPerk is saving companies more than 20% in annual travel costs.

The company’s unique platform hosts the world’s largest bookable travel inventory, and brings all the necessary tools and resources to manage trips from booking to accounting into one simple, smart, consumer-standard interface. The platform allows travelers to quickly and seamlessly compare, book and invoice cars, trains, flights and hotels from a wide range of major providers including Booking.com, Expedia and Airbnb – with 24/7 support.

TravelPerk CEO Avi Meir said: “We believe business travel should be as simple as personal travel – if not easier. As businesses grow beyond borders, organising trips is one of the most painful and unnecessary obstacles they face to expanding.

“TravelPerk is breaking new ground to propel business travel into the 21st century, disrupting a mammoth and outdated 1.3 trillion USD market – ensuring distance is never a barrier to future growth.”

“We are proud to have the backing of investors with a unique track record of supporting other market disruptors that have transformed entire industries.”

In this latest round, the company is also being supported by existing investors such as Felix Capital, Target Global, Spark Capital, LocalGlobe, Sunstone and Amplo, who back market-changing unicorns including Slack, Trello, Farfetch, Deliveroo and Delivery Hero.

Since being founded in 2015 by CEO Avi Meir and CPO Javier Suarez, TravelPerk has increased revenues by 700% growth year on year, and has now raised nearly 75m USD in total funding.

This new injection of funding will equip TravelPerk to expand into new markets, enlarge its client base by working more with small enterprises and augment its technology offering including integrating travel and expenses management into the platform.

Having tripled the size of its team in the past year, TravelPerk is opening its first office in the UK, and is soon also to build bases in Berlin, Amsterdam and Paris. The UK business travel market was worth 50 billion USD in 2017, and this initial investment will allow TravelPerk to simplify travel for customers such as Aesop, Bowers & Wilkins, Adyen and Farfetch.

Chris Bischoff, Senior Investment Director at Kinnevik, said: “We are excited to invest in TravelPerk, a company that fits perfectly into our investment thesis of using technology to offer customers more and much better choice. Booking corporate travel is unnecessarily time-consuming, expensive and burdensome compared to leisure travel. Avi and team have capitalised on this opportunity to build the leading European challenger by focusing on a product-led solution, and we look forward to supporting their future growth.”

financial terms
Finance

Learning the lingo

Learning the lingo: understanding financial terms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are three main types of pensions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cryptocurrency
Finance

Why Cryptocurrency Will Define How We Do Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Javed Khattak
Finance

A Harbinger of Global Financial Change

A Harbinger of Global Financial Change

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

Block Chain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Company Details 

Name: Javed Khattak

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

Roles:

CFO of Humaniq

Co-founder & CEO of Zisk Properties

Co-founder & CEO of JKCoach

Investment Director at Stratamis

marketing roi
Finance

ROI from marketing across various sectors

How ROI Can Vary Across Different Sectors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Social impact
Sustainable Finance

Younger Entrepreneurs Choose Social Impact As Their Top Business Priority

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

A socially minded brand of entrepreneurship

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

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

A new investment style

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

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

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

Differing approaches across the globe

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

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

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

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

Bowmark Capital
Corporate Finance and M&A/Deals

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

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

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

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

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

DasCoin
Finance

Dascoin Now Listed On Coinmarketcap.Com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Website: www.dascoin.com

Duologi
Finance

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

physical currency
Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsFinance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Failing business
FinanceInfrastructure and Project Finance

Lessons From Carillion: Act Now And Ensure Auditor Independence

LESSONS FROM CARILLION: ACT NOW AND ENSURE AUDITOR INDEPENDENCE

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

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

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

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

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

It starts with independence…

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

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

Can independence ever really be assured?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Cryptocurrency; flash in the pan or long-term investment opportunity?
FinanceInfrastructure and Project Finance

Cryptocurrency; flash in the pan or long-term investment opportunity?

Cryptocurrency; flash in the pan or long-term investment opportunity?

By Arianne King, Managing Partner, Al Bawardi Critchlow

Cryptocurrencies have dominated media headlines over the past few months, and no wonder with the value of a single Bitcoin – the original digital currency – growing by more than 1000% in 2017. It would be hard to think of another investment opportunity capable of delivering those returns.

Of course, these figures don’t paint the full story of Bitcoin. 2017 was a rollercoaster ride, with plenty of spectacular price fluctuations along the way, especially during the month of December, when the value of a coin rose from approximately £8,100 to in excess of £14,500 in just a matter of days. Since then, Bitcoin’s crown has slipped a little. At time of writing, a single coin is valued at approximately £8,700, but it’s still worth bearing in mind that this still represents a healthy profit for anyone who invested prior to December’s remarkable rise.

It’s not all about Bitcoin though. Other cryptocurrencies have also begun to attract the attentions of potential investors. Ethereum, Dash and Ripple are just three of note, but there are countless others springing up on a seemingly daily basis.

Investors must of course exercise extreme caution before entering this market, especially as many industry experts consider Bitcoin’s recent slide could be a sign of things to come. But nevertheless, governments, traditional banks, financial regulators, and both commercial and hobby investors are increasingly investigating how they can participate in the market.

So, could this be the year when cryptocurrencies gain traction with everyday investors?

Crypto’s image problem

To achieve mainstream appeal, digital currencies must first shake off their close associations with the criminal underworld. Their links to the Dark Web, for money laundering, funding terrorism and drug trafficking, as well as many other illegal activities, represents a major barrier to investors.

The market still has a long way to go to disassociate itself with these shady beginnings. While there are now many legitimate Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) of new currencies, regulators – most notably the US Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) – are still warning investors to be on the lookout for bogus ICOs. Scams are so problematic that in China the government has banned ICOs altogether.

A lack of adequate security is another factor inhibiting mainstream participation. November 2017’s $31m hack on a Tether Treasury Wallet was just one in a long line of thefts.

While it’s easy to paint a bleak picture of cryptocurrencies, it is still worth remembering that not every ICO is a ruse and not every wallet is vulnerable to hackers. The modus operandi of virtual currency operators vary considerably, as do their underlying technology infrastructures. Due diligence should be undertaken before contemplating any type of investment, however small.

The role of regulation

Digital currencies have gained momentum because, for the most part, they fall outside of the jurisdiction of governments, regulators and central banks. As true global currencies, they do not recognise trading arrangements or geographic boundaries. This frictionless quality is their appeal, but it also makes them hard to monitor and regulate.

That hasn’t stopped traditional financial institutions and law makers from trying to get involved. Indeed, over recent months many of the more traditional players have shifted from being mere observers to taking a more active role.

In particular, regulation is set to be tightened. Laws being muted by the UK and some EU governments recognise the need to update anti-money laundering legislation so it is fit for the digital age. As a by-product, it could also bring much needed credibility and stability to what is an immature, volatile market.

Of course, cryptocurrency-related regulation is itself immature and in a state of flux, as law makers attempt to keep pace with this rapidly evolving market. Even though the crypto-market is open to everyone via the internet, legislation and regulations vary considerably between countries. Activity that is perfectly legal in one country, might be illegal in another. For example, in Bangladesh, crypto is outlawed completely; anyone investing could be found guilty of money laundering. At the other end of the scale, SBB, the Swiss rail operator, accepts Bitcoin as payment.

While some countries will undoubtedly use regulation to inhibit or even ban adoption, more openminded regulation may provide the impetus required to take digital currencies mainstream. That said, if momentum continues to build, the day will soon arrive when it is almost impossible for any regulator to outlaw or restrict their use.

Blockchain: the real opportunity?

Blockchain is the technology that underpins cryptocurrencies and, despite the headlines about wallet hacks, it is inherently secure.

Each blockchain contains a decentralised ledger of all transactions which can neither be amended or deleted. Each individual block in the chain has a timestamp and a link to the previous block; this forms a chronological chain that is encrypted to ensure records cannot be altered by others. Theft or fraud is extremely difficult, not just because of the encryption, but also because copies of each blockchain are distributed throughout a peer to peer network. No changes can be made to the blockchain without that change being applied to all blocks in the chain.

This represents a major advancement over traditional banking systems, which are often based on older technology with known vulnerabilities. Indeed, the Australian Stock Exchange recently announced its plans to replace its current clearing system with blockchain technology.

Blockchain security is likely to be the crypto market’s greatest attribute as it strives to establish its mainstream credentials.

What next for crypto?

Few people would have predicted what has happened to Bitcoin’s value over the past few months. What will happen in 2018 is largely anyone’s guess. However, there are signs that it – together with other cryptocurrencies – are beginning to appeal to a wider set of investors.

Increased interest from the regulators, coupled with mainstream financial brands incorporating blockchain technology into their daily business operations, is beginning to provide credibility and stability to what is still a very immature and unpredictable market. While it’s still very much in its adolescence, it will be interesting to see the rate at which the market grows up.



An Ode to Banks: Collaborate And Thrive
FinanceInfrastructure and Project Finance

An Ode to Banks: Collaborate And Thrive


An Ode to Banks: Collaborate And Thrive

Open banking will soon be with us, while some people are still fighting to accept APIs as the new reality, for many the dialogue has moved on and they now look to identify partners with whom they can collaborate and thrive. Andrew H Brown, Chief Risk Officer, Earthport Plc, tells us more.

The pace of change in the financial system is ever increasing: new infrastructures, legislation and regulation, and market and product evolution. But, who pays for these changes?

Ultimately, the consumer pays for every change, either directly or indirectly, but as PSD2 goes live in January 2018, there is some anxiety about this mandated move towards “open” banking. Some of that angst focuses on who is to pay for continued development of the infrastructure. Are the costs of the required broader access to be borne by the banks or shared across the entities that provide alternative services via that access?

Such a debate is hardly surprising when the impact will be, at least in some areas, to end the banking monopoly that has existed for many years over a wide range of financial services. Should the banks that developed and maintain these utilities be forced to give “free” access to other commercial (potentially competitive) entities?

In truth, any and all costs always end up with the customer, and if there is an individual consumer behind that, with him or her. Sothe oft referenced concept of “free banking” has always been something of a fallacy, albeit one that has perpetuated for decades.

As banks and their core services become more akin to utilities, the opacity of the pricing of these services is a cause of concern, so the provision of pricing transparency in offerings such as Earthport’s own is increasingly a competitive differentiator.

During the financial crisis, the bail-out of banks via the public purse challenged the definition of a free market – at least as it had been applied to banks. A “free market” after all, removes the need for a “lender of last resort” allowing banks to operate outside of regulation and standalone.

The crisis demonstrated that banks and governments are indelibly linked, that sovereign nations need a robust and stable banking system, and that that system must not be allowed to fail in times of stress. Banks are under obligation to adhere to legislation, regulation and codes of practice, and to meet a variety of social responsibilities. These include the provision of services to the most vulnerable in society, access for rural communities etc. Sometimes these complex obligations are evident in direct legislation (e.g. requiring the provision of free or low-cost current accounts) sometimes supported through government programmes (e.g. those ensuring the provision of ATMs in remote and/or less profitable areas).

We didn’t quite get to see what would happen if the system actually unwound, but we came perilously close. Moreover, despite widespread criticism of the banks, their legacy systems, and indeed their internal cultures, we have yet to see a mass exodus of bank customers to alternative providers. Nevertheless, it should have been something of a wake-up call.

PSD2 and open banking are, at least in part, responses to the financial crisis. A recognition of too much concentration risk in the system. Banks now fear a different risk; that such legislative prescription will support their disintermediation, driving wholesale industry changes that will erode their market share across a wide range of financial services.

But for those that do adapt to this brave new world (and it is now inevitable) choosing the right partners means banks can benefit from their most valuable assets: the scale of their customer bases, the associated deep rich data, and the hard to erode Trust that consumers have in their brands. The right partners can enable banks to leapfrog development costs, unchain themselves from monolithic legacy systems and directly leverage exciting new technologies to provide cheaper, better and more efficient services.

To do this they will need to act with some urgency, some institutions continue to invest heavily in aged systems lacking the flexibility to move with the changing dynamic. However, this new regulatory framework around the “free market” will be good news for consumers.

It means a greater choice of better services. The mythical free banking era is long gone as banks struggle to make the margins they did in the past, hampered by low interest rate regimes, more challenging capital and other regulatory demands, and fresh competition from nimble providers without legacy issues.

Most banks now realise that life will never be the same as it was before 2008 – and some are already making forays into the brave new world, working with carefully identified partners, learning how to be successful after the vertically integrated model is re-tooled, determining new pricing models across multi-party chains. Given what we experienced over the past decade, sharing the risk and the reward isn’t such a bad thing, is it?

QICGRE and Clean Energy Finance Corporation Partner In An Australian First
FinanceInfrastructure and Project Finance

QICGRE and Clean Energy Finance Corporation Partner In An Australian First

QICGRE and Clean Energy Finance Corporation Partner In An Australian First

In an Australian retail property first, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) will invest $200 million into QICGRE’s flagship Shopping Centre Fund (QSCF) to undertake improvements in energy performance across the QSCF shopping centre portfolio.

The senior debt facility is the CEFC’s largest property investment commitment to date and will support improvements in its Australian shopping centres located in Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales and the ACT.

Australian shopping centres, which account for 36 per cent of commercial building energy consumption, are a relatively untapped opportunity to transform energy use and reduce carbon emissions. They also provide the opportunity to make local communities “greener” by engaging with customers with initiatives to improve sustainability and reduce energy use.

There more than 1,750 shopping centres in Australia, and yet less than 10 per cent of them have attained National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) ratings that measure how well they perform in terms of energy use. That represents enormous potential for improvement.

Shopping centres have substantial energy needs with large enclosed malls and retail areas necessitating ‘year-round’ heating and air-conditioning supply. There is a range of environmental initiatives that can be implemented to deliver energy efficiencies in shopping centre operations

QSCF’s retail footprint encompasses over 1 million square metres of floor space and, each year, accommodates more than 130 million visitations, generating more than $5 billion in retail transactions.
Through the CEFC’s agreement with QSCF, QICGRE will provide a pathway to reducing energy consumption and will undertake customer engagement activities that inform shoppers of the initiatives being carried out.

Steve Leigh, Managing Director of QICGRE said the agreement reached with CEFC was an important milestone in the history of the organisation.

“All of the funds in our portfolio are guided by a firm commitment to driving improvements in ESG-related initiatives, and in particular focusing on energy reduction and security across the portfolio.

“In a broader sense, successfully delivering these initiatives contributes to achieving our triple bottom line objectives incorporating economic and environmental factors, and social priorities.

“Our ESG Strategy and operating procedures align with globally recognised standards and we partner with respected organisations to assist us in the delivery of programs designed to achieve industry best-practice.”

QSCF Fund Manager, Michael Fattouh said: “This partnership with CEFC presents a unique opportunity to align QSCF’s capital management strategy, that seeks to diversify its sources of funding, with QICGRE’s broader ESG ambitions to drive sustainability initiatives and manage energy risk across our retail portfolio. The CEFC facility is also QSCF’s first “green debt” facility and the first major investment CEFC has committed to the Australian retail sector, for which we are extremely proud.”

“QSCF is also commencing work with the CEFC to understand potential pathways to achieving net zero carbon emissions across its portfolio, building on QICGRE’s recently announced target of generating 30 per cent of all base load power for retail asset common areas from renewable energy by 2025.”

While the energy efficiency targets will be achieved through strategies specific to each building, environmental initiatives identified may include:

• onsite rooftop solar PV

• LED lighting

• heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system upgrades

• sub-metering and energy data monitoring systems to provide data to optimise energy management processes.

A series of energy efficiency and clean energy initiatives will be rolled out across the portfolio in the short and medium term. Although the shopping centres involved are of different ages and are at different levels of sustainability, QICGRE is targeting a minimum 4-star NABERS (excluding GreenPower) rating for all assets in its portfolio within 5 years, which will translate to energy savings of between 30 and 40 per cent.

SWIFT Response To Cyber Attacks | International Business Payments
Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsFinance

SWIFT Response To Cyber Attacks | International Business Payments

SWIFT Responds to Cyber Attacks on the World’s International Business Payments Infrastructure

By – Bill Camarda

When businesses make cross-border payments, settle a trade or perform many other common financial tasks, standardized messages are sent to make it happen. Six billion of those messages traveled over the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication’s (SWIFT’s) secure messaging platform last year: it is used by over 11,000 financial firms, markets and corporations in some 200 countries to make international business payments. So it’s no surprise that SWIFT has been under attack by global cybercriminals – or that it is now responding aggressively. Its response affects every SWIFT member and, indirectly, the businesses that trade across borders and that therefore make use of SWIFT’s network.

Background: Successful International Business Payments Fraud

One weekend this past February, hackers fed SWIFTNet an authentic-looking set of instructions to move nearly $1 billion from the Bangladesh Central Bank’s New York Federal Reserve Bank account to multiple banks throughout Asia. , Most of those requests were declined (though, in one case, a simple typo may have been all that saved the money from being lost). However, $81 million was transferred to a bank in the Philippines. After that, the money was evidently forwarded to a forex service, redeposited in the Philippines bank, withdrawn again and laundered into cash at local casinos. From there, it disappeared.

The public still doesn’t know many of the details of this crime – not least, who did it and whether “state actors” were involved, as has been suggested by some informed observers. But several aspects of the attack have been widely reported, and they raise significant concerns.

Cross-Border B2B Payments Fraud Was Carefully Planned and Exploited Widespread Vulnerabilities

Attacks against bank customers have unfortunately become familiar, but these attacks are different: they aim to victimize the banks themselves, through the global infrastructure they use to move money around the world to make international business payments.

It appears that the criminals spent at least a year planning their attack on the Bangladesh Central Bank. The accounts which received the stolen funds had lain dormant for quite some time, and investigators found evidence of smaller forays against other institutions in the months leading up to the attack. The criminals seem to have infected Bangladesh Central Bank’s computers with malware designed to prevent SWIFT’s software from printing the transaction copies that financial institutions expect and check. Since the heist took place on a weekend, nobody seems to have realized until Monday morning. SWIFT has also said that the criminals somehow used valid credentials to initiate the money transfers, though it isn’t known how these were acquired.

These reports show that the crime involved extremely careful planning, and the exploitation of vulnerabilities not dissimilar from those used in many other cyberattacks. While the malware involved was well-targeted and relatively sophisticated, it probably found its way into a network through familiar means: perhaps physically, through a USB stick, or electronically, via an email attachment.

Legitimate SWIFT credentials were stolen: perhaps by an insider, perhaps by “tricking” someone into sharing them, or perhaps by a garden-variety network security compromise caused by a vulnerability that could have been fixed in time. What’s more, cyberattacks on the infrastructure banks use for international business payments are ongoing. In October 2016, a cybersecurity firm announced that it detected malware that can be used to hide fraudulent SWIFT transactions within the networks of 10 to 20 financial institutions, mostly in the United States, Hong Kong, Australia, the United Kingdom and Ukraine.”

Based on what’s known, existing technical safeguards and greater human vigilance can help, and such measures may now be more crucial than ever. That’s where SWIFT’s latest response comes in.

SWIFT’s Response: Mandatory Controls and Greater Transparency In International Business Payments

To help understand why SWIFT responded as it has, it’s worth noting that SWIFT’s own network was not compromised. Member companies link to Swift in three ways: a few install a direct interface; some use a SWIFT-provided cloud solution and others use a service bureau, which typically assists with some aspects of SWIFT-related security.

So in September 2016 at its annual global conference, SWIFT announced that it will require members to significantly harden their own information infrastructures against attack – and, ultimately, to demonstrate that they’ve done so. Starting Spring 2017, “customers will be required to provide self-attestation against 16 mandatory controls on an annual basis … the standards will be made applicable to all customers connected to SWIFT, including those connected through service bureaus.”

Beginning in January 2018, a random selection of SWIFT customers will be required to show proof from internal or external auditors that they’ve actually met these requirements. If a customer proves non-compliant, SWIFT will inform both its regulators and its counterparts. At the same time, SWIFT will also add 11 more “advisory” (i.e., voluntary) controls.

SWIFT hasn’t formally announced which controls it will require or recommend: the preliminary list is promised by the end of October 2016, with community feedback to follow. However, The Wall Street Journal has reported that the standards will require the physical lockdown of equipment used to connect with SWIFT; better control over tokens containing SWIFT credentials; more security training and cyber incident response plans. Some of these measures are technical, but others – such as security training – involve all participants in the international business payments process and may indirectly involve outside business partners who aren’t SWIFT members.

Meanwhile, SWIFT is more actively encouraging financial institutions to share information about indications of compromise and modus operandi when they discover they are being attacked, whether successfully or not. This has been described as a step towards a gradual change in culture, as large institutions increasingly recognize that it is extremely difficult to fend off sophisticated cyberattacks alone.

To support SWIFT’s request for cooperation, SWIFT CEO Gottfried Leibbrandt revealed that at least three more attacks were foiled this summer. He also made it clear that he expects such attacks to continue, and to grow in sophistication. For SWIFT member organizations, scrupulously following SWIFT’s forthcoming rules will likely be an important part of the solution, but only part. As SWIFT Chairman Yawar Shah put it, “this will be a long haul, and will require industry-wide effort and investment, as well as active engagement with regulators … a concerted, community-wide response.”

The Takeaway

Companies that make cross-border B2B payments via wire transfer are, of course, aware of the growing prevalence of hackers attempting to perpetrate fraud in their midst. Businesses may wish to familiarize themselves with SWIFT’s mandatory security requirements as they are announced, and as they evolve over time. Even though the requirements may not apply to a company just because it makes international business payments via wire, following the recommendations are likely to enable better security than not following them.

The Author

Bill Camarda is a professional writer with more than 30 years’ experience focusing on business and technology. He is author or co-author of 19 books on information technology and has written for clients including American Express Private Bank, Ernst & Young, Financial Times Knowledge and IBM.

International Payments: Remittances From Migrants
Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsFinance

International Payments: Remittances From Migrants

Migrants’ International Payments May Mean Developing Countries Are Better Markets than they Appear

The last three decades have seen a large increase in the number of people living and working outside their countries of origin. The World Bank estimates that between 1990 and 2015, the number of migrants worldwide rose from 152 million to 250 million, and now make up about 3.4 percent of the global population. Many migrants send money back via international payments methods to families and friends in their countries of origin – in amounts substantial enough to turn some developing countries into better markets for international businesses than they may at first appear.

As the proportion of migrants in the world population has grown, the dollar value of these international payments, known as “remittances,” has also risen. In April 2016, a World Bank report forecasted that 2016 migrant remittance payments would total $603 billion, of which $431 billion would go to developing countries. These estimates are for remittances made using official international payment methods – the report suggested that unrecorded/unofficial payments could be much larger.

Remittances Drive Substantial International Payments

By far the largest source of remittance payments is the United States: in 2015, international payments worth over $133.5 billion were made by migrants working in the U.S. Of this, nearly $24 billion went to Mexico, $16.25 billion went to China, and nearly $11 billion to India. Other developed countries also remit funds, though on a smaller scale. In 2015, migrants in the United Kingdom sent global payments totaling nearly $25 billion back to their families; the largest recipients were Nigeria ($3.7 billion) and India ($3.6 billion). Migrants in Australia also remitted over $16.5 billion, much of it to China and India.

Remittances thus represent a substantial transfer of funds from the developed world to developing countries, significantly exceeding official development aid. In 2015, India was the largest remittance-receiving country with an estimated $69 billion, followed by China ($64 billion), and the Philippines ($28 billion). But although remittances to China and India are large in money terms, they are not large in relation to the size of their economies. In contrast, remittances make up over 25 percent of GDP for some smaller developing countries: in 2014, over 40 percent of the economy of the central Asian republic of Tajikistan relied on international payments from migrants.

International Payments by Migrants are Important Drivers of International Trade

These large inflows to developing countries create opportunities for international businesses. Families with access to funds from overseas may purchase more imported goods and services: for example, in 2014 remittances financed around 25 percent of imports in Nigeria and about 20 percent in Senegal. Remittances also support the development of local businesses, creating opportunities for international B2B sales. In Vietnam, for example, money sent by overseas Vietnamese has boosted local businesses and real estate markets: the World Bank says “about 70 percent of remittance inflows to Ho Chi Minh City (HCM) went into production and business, and some 22 percent to the real estate sector.” In Vietnam, also, the central bank uses remittance income to stabilize the banking sector, which helps to encourage trade finance for export and import businesses.

For many developing countries, remittances are an important source of foreign currency, enabling them to build up FX reserves. Strong FX reserve buffers reassure international businesses that their local business partners will be able to obtain the foreign currency needed to meet their obligations. Strong FX reserve buffers also encourage the development of local branches, subsidiaries and franchises, since businesses can be confident that the profits earned from local business can be repatriated when needed.

Risks to International Migration and Remittance Flows

There is a popular view in many developed countries that migrants are a burden, draining money from the country while making demands on services such as healthcare and competing with native-born workers for jobs. But the full picture is more complex. Many international businesses rely on migrant workers, both skilled and unskilled, to enable them to deliver value for money to their customers. Migrants pay taxes and contribute to the local economy where they live and work.

Research by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the World Bank and the International Labor Organization shows that overall, migrants contribute more to the economies of their host countries than they take out.

However, the international payments landscape may be growing more challenging for countries that rely on remittances. This is for two reasons. Firstly, banks under pressure to comply with tighter anti-money laundering (AML) legislation in developed countries are closing the accounts of international payment solutions providers in developing countries. The Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) observes that in some countries in the Pacific area, these account closures potentially deprive people in rural areas of access to funds, which could cause severe economic problems. In 2016, Australia’s four big banks exited from the country’s remittance business, raising concerns that unregulated money transfer providers would spring up to serve migrant needs, making AML control more difficult.

Secondly, exchange rate movements affect the value of international payments. In the last two years, the strong dollar has benefited recipients of funds from the U.S., but adversely affected countries receiving remittances in euros or sterling. The oil price also affects migration patterns in oil-producing countries: migration from Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries to Russia, for example, has declined in the last two years due to the ruble’s weakness and Russia’s recession. Falling migration inevitably reduces remittance flows. The World Bank identifies the prospect of the oil price remaining low as a key risk to the growth of remittances in 2016-17.

For many migrant workers, being able to make international payments to friends and family in their countries of origin is a key driver of their decision to work overseas. Businesses looking to attract migrant workers may wish to consider ways of mitigating adverse developments in the international payments landscape, for example by partnering with a trusted international payment solutions provider to help workers make international payments and manage their FX risk effectively.

The Takeaway

Historically, remittances via international payment solutions have provided a strong, stable flow of income for many countries, which can offer rich opportunities for international businesses. However, tighter regulation of banks and adverse exchange rate movements also threaten remittance flows for some countries.

The Author

With 17 years experience in the financial industry, Frances is a highly regarded writer and speaker on banking, finance and economics. She writes regularly for the Financial Times, Forbes and a range of financial industry publications. Her writing has featured in The Economist, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. She is a frequent commentator on TV, radio and online news media including the BBC and RT TV.