Category: Finance

2021 Budget
ArticlesFinance

Budget 2021: Chancellor Heralds the Start of a ‘Post-Covid Age of Optimism’

2021 Budget

Businesses are being urged to take full advantage of fiscal incentives and reliefs to aid their recovery as the economy rebounds from the pandemic and growth forecasts show signs of improvement.

In his Budget Statement, Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed that the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has revised up growth forecasts for the economy, which it expects to return to pre-Covid levels by the turn of the year.

Instead of announcing more tax increases, the Chancellor has chosen to focus on increasing spending in areas that will drive economic growth in order to increase the tax take and re-balance the economy in the wake of the pandemic.

 

Business rates reform and retail

The Chancellor announced plans to proceed with reforms to the business rates system by ensuring rent re-evaluation takes place more frequently – every three years from 2023. From 2023, he also announced that businesses making property improvements will not pay anything extra in business rates for 12 months.

For retail, hospitality & leisure businesses, the Chancellor announced a new 50% business rates discount up to a maximum of £110,000.

Rebecca Wilkinson, tax partner specialising in the property and construction sector at accountancy firm, Menzies LLP, said:

“These changes could help to kickstart the redevelopment of the high street as retailers in particular start to feel more confident about investing in improvements to their properties, without incurring a hefty business rates penalty for doing so.”

 

Incentives for capital investment and manufacturing

The Chancellor announced that the Annual Investment Allowance (AIA) will not drop to £200,000 at the end of this year and will stick at the much higher level of £1 million until March 2023.

Richard Godmon, tax partner at accountancy firm, Menzies LLP, said:

“This gives businesses a bit more certainty so they can plan ahead to make investments over the next 18 months. It should also help to bolster confidence at a critical time when many firms are concerned about rising costs and supply disruption.

“Some businesses that had been planning to invest in new machinery and equipment before the end of year had been worried about being able to complete them in time, due to the current supply shortages. This will allow them more time.”

 

Incentives for innovation

The Chancellor announced plans to expand the scope of R&D tax relief to include investments in cloud computing and data costs. He also announced plans to amend the system to prevent activity taking place outside the UK from qualifying for R&D tax relief. He also announced a further £22 million funding for R&D activity, separate from the Government’s investment in R&D tax credits.

Richard Godmon, tax partner at accountancy firm, Menzies LLP, said:

“This looks very favourable for businesses investing in innovation across industry sectors as more of their investment activities will qualify for R&D tax relief from April 2023. However, this scheme is still not used as much as it could be and businesses should seek advice about whether they could be submitting claims in the future.”

 

Investing in skills

As part of a package of funding for skills and education, the Chancellor announced a significant increase in funding for apprenticeships. As part of this package of funding, the Government is planning to introduce an enhanced recruitment service to support SMEs in finding new apprentices. The Chancellor has also extended the £3,000 apprentice hiring incentive to the end of January 2022 (it was due to end on the 30th November 2021).

Richard Godmon, tax partner at accountancy firm, Menzies LLP, said:

“Employers have been hiring more apprentices and take up of the £3,000 apprentice hiring incentive has been strong. Extending the incentive for a few more months will allow businesses more time to take advantage of the support available and help with sourcing suitable candidates will also be helpful.”

Finance Advisor
ArticlesFinance

Top Careers in the Investment Industry and What You Need to Acquire Them

Finance Advisor


The investment industry is one of the most lucrative industries in the world. If you’re looking for a career that pays well and has many prospects, then this may be an ideal field to pursue. However, not just anyone can break into this field. There are specific requirements that need to be met before someone can become a successful investor. In this blog post, we will discuss what careers are available in the investment industry, as well as what qualities are needed to acquire them.

 

Investment Advisor

An investment advisor helps people manage their money and plan for the future. They are knowledgeable in many different areas, such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc. They can help people decide how to invest their money and which pieces of the market will be a good fit. This career will see you have many meetings with clients as you share your knowledge in the investment industry. Having exposure can make you rank high in your career.

It’s, however, necessary to have the proper documents as this is what makes your profile impressive. Having the appropriate certification is significant. These days, some courses are made specifically for anyone planning to mold a career in investment advisory services. The Series 65 study courses can be challenging as they test you to the limits. This is what helps you become a great investment consultant. Check if there is sufficient series 65 study material for the course you pick. If you want to pass your exams, then you need plenty of resources.

 

Investment Manager

In this career path, you will have the opportunity of helping others make the best out of their investment. Practically, you will oversee their projects to make every operation fruitful. What is most fascinating about investment management is that you have options on the field you want to work in. For instance, you may consider working for insurance companies, brokerage firms, banks, and credit unions.

This job can be lucrative, primarily when you work for a well-established international company. If you want to become a competent investment manager, you need to have the right skills and knowledge. The good thing is that you qualify to become an investment manager with a Business Administration or Finance bachelor of science degree. If you have even worked for years in the industry, it makes you even more resourceful for the job position.

 

Corporate Careers

In every company, it’s the combined effort of the team that will lead the team in accomplishing the overall mission, vision, objectives, and target. This relies on input from the chief executive officers (CEOs) and managing directors (MD). In most cases, these jobs are demanding and may prompt you to work for more than the traditional hours. This is because you need to monitor every corner of the company and ascertain everything is running smoothly. Again, it involves a lot of meeting with other stakeholders, investors, and clients.

For you to become a CEO, your track record and profile need to be remarkable. You need to give an image of someone down-to-earth and unique in handling things. A company’s success rests on your shoulders hence the need for an exceptional person for the job.

There is flexibility in the types of companies you can work for, but primarily your know-how guides a lot in the field you can comfortably succeed. On the other hand, you have the freedom of either working in a public or private company.

The investment industry is growing due to economic factors such as increased demand and better technology. If you want a career in the industry, there are different options that you could consider. For instance, you can become a financial advisor, investment manager, or even pursue a corporate career. What is significant is having the right qualifications as your competency levels matter a lot.

Couple having a meeting with a debt specialist
ArticlesFinance

How Debt Settlement Works

Couple having a meeting with a debt specialist

That mountain of credit card debt is threatening to ruin your financial life if you don’t make a move – and soon. You’ve been hearing about debt settlement, a strategy that lets you skirt the last resort that is bankruptcy. But you’re unsure of what the approach entails. Well, here’s all about how debt settlement works.

 

What is Debt Settlement?

Also called debt relief, debt settlement is when you pay a firm to go to your creditors – typically credit card issuers – to see whether they’d be down for letting you pay a portion of what you owe to have your obligations marked “settled” on your credit reports. Why would they agree to that? Well, because they know your next move could very well be bankruptcy. If you file that, the companies you owe realize that they very well could wind up with nothing.

 

How Does Debt Settlement Work?

You’ll have a consultation with your debt settlement company during which your financial situation will be assessed, and a payment plan will be created. After that, you’ll be asked to make monthly deposits into a savings-like account that you control. That account will be used for leverage during negotiations with your creditors. Once you’ve saved enough, your negotiators will approach each company you owe for a settlement. After each settlement is reach and approved by you, the creditor will be paid through the account.

 

Doesn’t Debt Settlement Hurt Your Credit?

The process of debt relief will depress your credit scores – temporarily. Your scores will rebound and then some once your debts are satisfied and you’ve begun to rebuild your portfolio.

It’s good to keep in mind that your scores aren’t the best now anyway, are they?

 

How Long Does Debt Settlement Take?

Depending on the company, debt settlement takes between 24 to 48 months. That may seem like a lifetime but it’s not nearly longer than the time it would take you to try to pay the debts off yourself. That could literally take … forever. And remember, your financial slide didn’t occur overnight.

Check out recent Freedom Debt Relief reviews for more insight on this and the benefits of debt settlement.

 

What Kind of Debt Does Debt Settlement Accept?

Again, it depends on the company, but it’s usually any debt that isn’t secured – not attached to collateral such as a car or your house. Usually we’re talking credit cards, personal loans, or medical bills, and the like. Whatever the kind of unsecured debt, you’ll usually need around $7,500 of it.

 

How Much Does Debt Settlement Cost?

You can expect to shell out between 15% and 25% of either your settled or enrolled debt. Don’t pay anyone any fees up front – before settlement are reached. Charging such fees is against the law and a red flag that you might be dealing with a scam company.

 

How Can I Avoid Scams?

Yes, the industry does have a few bad actors who are more than willing to take advantage of your vulnerable financial and emotional state. So, make sure the company you choose is accredited with the American Fair Credit Council and the International Association of Professional Debt Arbitrators.

You also want to give a wide berth to any company that over promises or makes breathless “guarantees” about how it can save you money for pennies on the dollar and by a time certain, particularly if it hasn’t even gone over your financials. While debt settlement has saved scores of people like you from financial ruin, negotiations are by their very nature unpredictable.

 

Now that you know how debt settlement works, you can proceed with eliminating those burdensome debts and getting your finances in order. Just make sure you pick a credible, reputable, and established company to guide you.

Home Buyer
ArticlesFinance

Sensible Tips for First-Time Home-Buyers

Home Buyer


Buying your first home is a daunting task that can leave you feeling extremely stressed. However, by understanding some of the best pieces of advice, you can make better decisions and end up with the house you really want without spending too much on it.

 

Work Out What You Need and Can Afford

One of the biggest mistakes when buying a house is in making the wrong choice. When you go out to view houses you might fall in love with a property that isn’t right for you or that you can’t afford. Therefore, the first step is to work out your budget and stick to only looking at properties that you can afford.

Before getting started is also the time to make a list of the different factors to take into account, such as the distance to amenities, number of bedrooms and so on. Bob Vila looks at issues like renovation potential and storage space in this post. Be as clear as you can at the beginning on what you are looking for and it will be a lot easier to narrow down your options as you go.

Hopefully, what you need ties in perfectly with what you can afford. If it doesn’t, it’s time to be completely honest and see whether you need to save some more money before going any further, or else lower your expectations to a suitable level for your budget.

 

Consider Your Mortgage Options

Some people wait too late to find out about their mortgage options, committing to buying a house before they have the finances lined up. The most sensible approach is to find out about your mortgage options and how much you can borrow early on in the process.

Go online to do some research and you can use a trusted fast mortgage broker like Trussle to find the best deals. They take you through a few simple questions to work out your situation and get the most suitable quote. You will then look at fixed or variable rates from top lenders such as Halifax and Virgin Money.  Having an agreement in principle in place for a mortgage makes the whole thing less stressful later on. It means that once you find somewhere you want to buy you can move more quickly and avoid any last-minute hitches with your loan.

 

Calculate the Monthly Costs

By the time you have carried out the previous steps, you are close to knowing exactly how much the property is going to cost you. Now is the time to consider all of the costs that owning a house involves, from electricity bills to repairs, maintenance and anything else that crops up.

The hidden costs of owning a home as explained by Investopedia includes items such as insurance and taxes. You will want to carry out research on the cost of running similar homes in the area to be sure that you can afford it.

Take these tips into account and buying your first house will be more enjoyable and less of a struggle than you have probably imagined it to be.

Mortgage rate
ArticlesFinance

6 Things You Didn’t Know About Mortgage Rates and Why They Matter

Mortgage rate

Mortgage rates are instrumental in determining the affordability of home loans for anyone who wants to get on the property ladder.

While you may understand the basics, drilling down into the details and learning more about interest rates and how they apply to mortgages is sensible. So without further ado, here are handy facts to help you make informed decisions.

 

Interest rates typically rise before they fall

Holding off on securing a mortgage in the expectation that rates will fall in the near future is a bad idea. This is because at any one time it is statistically more likely for them to increase rather than decrease.

It is better to avoid worrying about picking the perfect time to get your first mortgage or refinance. Instead, compare various mortgage rates right now and get the best deal in the current market conditions.

 

Other factors can impact the affordability of a property more than mortgage rates

Obsessing over the interest rate of a mortgage package without also considering the other costs involved in buying a property is a common mistake, and one which can come back to bite buyers.

You need to look at the big picture and not only consider how much interest you will be paying on your home loan, but also other costs like property tax, maintenance, moving fees and commuting expenses where relevant.

 

Rates aren’t directly tied to the economy

While outside economic factors certainly have an impact on mortgage rates, you should not assume that they completely mirror the boom and bust cycle of the broader economy.

The COVID-19 pandemic was a great example of this; while there was widespread disruption in many industries, home loan rates remained low and actually fell in many regions.

 

The prime interest rate can be misleading

Another aspect of the mortgage market which it is tempting to fixate upon is the prime interest rate, because while this may be a seemingly solid indicator of the overall state of play in the lending market, it does not actually tally closely with the general level of the interest rate curve.

Indeed the prime rate can be significantly higher or lower than real world rates that most customers can access, so doing more research and weighing up your options is wise before you dive into any deal with a lender.

 

Interest costs can be overtaken by rising property prices

Over the course of a 25 or 30 year fixed term mortgage, you will clearly see that the interest you pay off each month mounts up to a significant amount on top of the original price of your home.

This can seem daunting and even feel like you are overpaying for the property in the long run. However, since the housing market tends to rise year on year, it is more than likely that your home will increase in value at a greater rate than the interest of your mortgage, so when you sell it, interest costs will be less of a concern.

 

Refinancing costs vary depending on the mortgage you pick

This is one of the trickier aspects, but one which can make a major difference to the appeal of particular mortgage packages.

In essence, the type of deal you strike with your lender may either make refinancing in the future more or less expensive.

Obviously this depends on your circumstances and the state of the market at the time, so get expert advice and be aware of all the terms and conditions which apply to the home loan product you choose.

Invoice Management
ArticlesFinance

The Best Tips for Paying Your Freelancers: How to Streamline Invoice Management

Invoice Management

Invoice management has become more complicated due to the many formats and programs freelancers use to process payments.

While variety is often an excellent thing for a business, your financial department will start to stagnate if you don’t streamline the invoice management process. In this article, we’ll teach you how to get a handle on your invoicing.

 

Keep Your Freelancers on the Same Page

All of your employees and independent contractors need to have a clear understanding of how your invoicing process works. You also need to explain what type of software you use, what billing cycles are acceptable, and how freelancers can better streamline their own invoicing.

For example, if you only want to use PayPal for your invoicing, but they don’t have one, give them instructions on how to open an account. Don’t start making exceptions to that rule unless absolutely necessary, like if they live in a country that doesn’t support PayPal. If the invoicing process changes, inform your freelancers at least 2 weeks before you implement them.

 

Choose the Right Billing Cycle

Different payment plans work for different projects, so speak to your clients and freelancers before implementing a billing cycle or payment schedule. Here are a few options to consider:

  • Multi-Installment Invoice: Instead of scheduled or lump sum payments, the client will pay your team only after reaching certain milestones. With these clients, businesses will typically ask for a portion of the project amount up-front, then they’ll work out payment installments over a period. A final invoice is given after project completion.

  • Final Project Invoice: At the end of a project, your company will send a final invoice to outline the scope of the work completed by the freelancer. If you also delivered other invoices to this client, list the final outstanding amount (if any) or if that total project amount has been paid. Send this invoice even if the client settled up the project.

  • Recurring Invoice: Ongoing projects or clients will require a recurring invoice at regular intervals. Work with the client to determine which schedule works for them, but weekly and monthly payments are industry standard. Getting on a regular timetable can improve the likelihood that your freelancers will be paid on time, especially if clients are diligent.

 

Manage and Create Invoices Online

Remote workers aren’t going to be excited at the prospect of waiting days, even weeks, for a physical paycheck delivery. From checkstub makers to automated invoicing software, you can improve your invoicing process from almost anywhere by removing most of the manual work.

Most business decisions are driven by money, and automating even a few of your daily processes can save you a great deal of cash in data errors and labor. Using a fill-in-the-blanks template for your invoices can eliminate human error, overpayments, and duplicate payments. In the end, reporting auditing and budgeting becomes more efficient and accurate.

 

Communicate With Clients & Freelancer to Avoid Delays

Automation software and templates can help you become more efficient, but you also need to account for common delays within your industry. Otherwise, your invoices may be late.

 

Invoicing the Wrong Person or Day

While looking into why your client is late on payments, you notice that you sent your invoice to the wrong person in your client’s company. Or, you find that they don’t look at their invoices until the following business day, which delays payments further. To avoid a lengthy back-and-forth or more confusion in the future, ask your client where and when they want their invoice sent.

 

Reminding Clients of Late Payments

Agencies that hire content writers for blog posts may receive payments from another client or agency. Unfortunately, no matter how efficient your process is, clients will still forget to pay their bills on the date they’re due. You’ll eventually have to chase after them for unpaid invoices, which can be done automatically through software. If this pattern continues, set up a late fee.

 

Being Unclear About Payment Terms

Clients may assume that they’re supposed to pay their bill at the end of the month when they’re actually meant to pay every week. This will spell trouble for you and your freelancers. To avoid this, ensure that your clients agree to your payment terms in writing before beginning your professional relationship. Insert custom text in their file/invoice to remind clients of their terms.

Cash Flow Management
ArticlesFinance

Ways Businesses can Manage Cash Flow in a Remote Work Setup

Cash Flow Management

Going remote has been like someone pressed the reset button on all business and financial operations. It has created the need for companies to revisit all business functions from scratch to make necessary changes to stay afloat. 

Additionally, remote work has brought about broken processes and workflows, zero accountability into finances, and no control or visibility into expenses to the surface.  This, coupled with distributed teams, weak communication channels, and traditional means of handling expenses, spells trouble for business finances. 

But where do companies start with fixing this problem? 

This blog helps navigate through these tricky aspects of cash management and business finances. It also provides ways businesses can stay afloat even during these testing times. So, let’s get started!

 

Challenges with remote cash flow management

Let’s start by saying traditional cash flow management is already a chore for your Finance teams. Add the layer of remote work to it, and you have a disaster brewing right around the corner. 

To build our case, given below are some cash flow management challenges that worsened with remote work:


1. Lack of communication and collaboration 

Finance as a function is dependent on all other departments to get work done. Thus a lack of smooth collaborations may lead to teams succumbing to lengthy and redundant processes with no reward. This has an impact on overall employee and financial productivity. 


2. No visibility or control in company finances or expenses

With paper-based reports and in-house meetings off the chart, Finance teams lack the information, insight, or time to make the right decisions concerning company finances. Unfortunately, this means no cost optimizations or rectifications around budget allocations, policies, and expense management.


3. Need to relook business expenses and policies 

Remote work has changed the type of expenses businesses incur. Unfortunately, it has also made old/existing expense policies redundant as they do not cover newer business expenses. This makes expense management a chaotic experience for all. It also leaves Finance teams with little to no knowledge about the ins and outs of business expenses.


4. Traditional processes that break with remote work

Gone are the days where employees or Finance teams could just walk into the next room for instant clarifications or rectifications. With remote work, processes that demand physical human interaction instantly fall to the ground. 

Additionally, they result in broken, inaccurate, and time-consuming manual processes that open doors to financial leaks that affect business finances. Take expense fraud, for instance. 

Thus it is safe to say, if these factors go unnoticed, they can further affect all other business processes, as healthy finances and cash flow are the crux of any sound business.




Where do companies start with remote cash management?

  • Analyze and gain insight into the current cash flow scenario, business financials, and overall state of financial processes.

  • Note what has changed and its impact on the daily operations around financial processes & management. 

  • Classify and tag challenges into categories with priorities such as operational, non-operational, and departmental. 

  • Encourage teams to leverage automation-driven technology to solve mundane and repetitive problems.

  • A good start would be the automation of expense management, payroll, and AP & AR. 

 

Ways businesses can effectively manage cash flow in a remote setup

Cash flow management essential dwells around having a well-rounded picture of your business finances at all times. This could be around expenses incurred by departments, teams, individuals, and even processes and operations.

Thus businesses must pay close heed to processes and find ways to course correct. Here are some easy ways to start with creating an effective financial management system for your business:


1. Understand the current state of business finances

Finance teams can only make informed data-driven decisions when they have the data, to begin with. Thus before jumping into preservation mode, Finance teams need to understand the current state of their financials. This could include income statements, AP & AR, expense management, and P&L statements.


2. Gain a grip on business spend and finances

With the data in hand, Finance teams can now conduct deep dives to understand where most spending is happening, why it is happening, and how to control or optimize it. Based on this information, Finance teams can then make informed changes to expense policies, budgets, and more. 


3. Remove human intervention where needed 

Let’s face it; there are some things better left to technology than human beings. For instance, take manual data entry, manual verifications, and even manual approvals in the expense management process. Letting software do these mundane tasks not only frees up time for your employees but also adds a layer of accuracy and certainty to the process.


4. Leverage automation-driven technology

For remote teams to function, businesses need to move to automation tech to do the heavy lifting instead. It streamlines and automates all mundane and repetitive tasks and provides data-driven insights and guaranteed policy compliance. This enables businesses to eliminate financial leaks in the system. 

Some technology businesses can start with:


5. Redefine and enforce revised remote expense policies 

Redefining how employees submit expense reports and how approvers and Finance teams verify and process reports are crucial. Start with stringent policy revision and enforcement to make the entire expense management process more manageable and straightforward for both the employees and Finance teams. This would also gear the whole company to manage and control business expenses efficiently. 


6. Look for cost-cutting and cost-saving opportunities 

If your business were to use an automated expense report software, it could benefit from the software’s advanced data analytics feature. This would mean a detailed breakdown of all expenses across departments, cost centers, top spenders, spend categories, frequently associated hotel and airlines chains, and more. This would help Finance teams with insights to optimize or reduce costs via discounts, deals, renegotiations, and more.

 

Conclusion 

With the pace at which businesses have to adapt to the changing times, we suggest you begin by cleaning up broken processes and making a list of things that need immediate tending. 

Then consider switching to technology-driven software to do tedious and error-prone tasks. For example, you could use an expense software that automates your entire expense management or a cash flow management software that always has a keen eye on your business finances. 

Every business owner and leadership team has to decide what changes to push for depending on their stage, the severity of problems, and other such parameters. The point is you start the conversation around change.

Travel Finance
ArticlesFinance

5 Ways to Finance Your Travel in 2022

Travel Finance

Since vaccines are becoming more widespread, the pandemic seems to be winding down, making it safe to travel again for many people. 2022 might see a spike in trips because of the quarantine that seems to have lasted nearly two years.

As you gear up for the final quarter of 2021, you may be planning out your travels for the following year. If anything seems too overwhelming for your budget, but your heart is set on the trip you had planned, consider these five options to help you afford the vacation of your dreams.

 

1. Point Rewards

By using a specific airline, hotel chain or car company, you may acquire points with these companies. If you like a certain business, sign up to be a rewards or loyalty member so you don’t let your travels go to waste. Every time you hop in a plane or drive a rental car, you could be earning cents and dollars for your next travel destination.

If you’re flying a long way, these points can add up quickly. While points won’t cover every aspect of your trip, they may reward you with discounts that can take a chunk off of your bill.

 

2. Make a Budget

Without a stable plan, you might have to dip into your savings more than you would like. While many people use their savings to travel the world, you could choose to save up money to use for your travels instead.

Whatever the case, budgeting always saves you money. You can expect to spend less by planning out your adventure. Simply winging your journey may eat into your savings. An excellent way to help you plan your budget is to exchange the money you want for the currency of your desired destination before you get there. That way, you have a limited amount of money to work with and won’t be tempted to overspend.

 

3. Become a Travel Writer

Why not get paid to see the world? Travel writers are often freelancers or have their own blogs, so plenty of the responsibility to work is still on your shoulders. The average travel writer makes around $59,000 a year, so if you want to make money out of your travels and don’t mind working when you’re not out seeing the sights, it’s an excellent field to go into.

 

4. Opt for Housesitting Jobs

In exchange for watching someone’s belongings or taking care of their animals, you could potentially stay in someone’s home for free while they’re away on vacation. While you can’t count on housesitting as a surefire way to eliminate all of your expenses — after all, you still need to buy groceries — you can think of it as a way to lower your costs, particularly on housing. Pairing housesitting with the following suggestion is a great way to earn money while abroad.

 

5. Stay for the Long Term

If you don’t mind staying in one place for months at a time, think of taking on contract jobs around the world. Contract positions typically last months rather than years, so you won’t be rooted in the same place forever, but you’ll still have time to explore your chosen destination fully.

While contracting gives you the freedom to jump between jobs and receive more pay upfront, you have to remember to set some money aside for taxes and realize that you won’t receive the traditional healthcare benefits that a full-time job would offer you.

 

Make Your Trip Work for You

Everyone expects something different out of their travels. Whether you explore the big cities or get lost in the wilderness, you want to have a fun time. You can’t say that you’re having a great time when financial worries bog you down. Doing whatever you can to remain within budget and potentially take a chunk out of your expenses can help you enjoy your travels abroad for longer.

US tax return and a laptop
ArticlesFinanceRegulationTax

If You Freelance By the Hour, Should You Receive a Pay Stub?

US tax return and a laptop

As a freelancer, you are responsible for all the duties of your profession. But, you are not provided with benefits. When you freelance by the hour, it’s important to keep track of your time spent on various projects. You can use an online time tracker or download an app to help you see how much time is spent on each project.

Keep track of all this information so that you have it for tax purposes and invoices at the end of the year. If you have questions about whether or not you should receive a pay stub, read on to learn more about what they are and their importance.

 

1) Pay stubs help keep financial records tidier for everyone

If you have a client pay you a set hourly rate for a specific project, then a pay stub is something you can generate to help organize and track financial transactions. You’ll still deal in invoices, but pay stubs are a good place to keep track of hours you spend on specific projects.

Pay stubs are one of the easiest forms of documentation you can create for freelance work. They usually take about five minutes to create using an online paystub generator.

 

2) Pay stubs give you a place to categorize hours worked and help you reconcile your hourly compensation to your weekly cash flow

When you get paid for a project, you’ll have to come up with some way to track and reconcile the time you spent on a particular project with the money you received. You can think of an invoice as an itemized list of what you’re being paid for, but a pay stub can be easier to track and reconcile your hours spent on different projects.

Simply put, an important benefit of pay stubs is that they make it easy to reconcile the hours you worked and your hourly compensation.

 

3) It’s easier to establish proof of income and apply for credit loans

One problem freelancers have is showing proof of income when they want to apply for credit loans. In many cases, companies won’t consider your PayPal balance alone as proof of income. Pay stubs are one of the easiest ways to prove that you are being regularly paid and that your income level is reliable and consistent.

When you generate a pay stub, you can also include details such as the date, amount, time worked, and more. This will help you demonstrate that you’ve worked for a client and that the payment you received was for work that you did.

 

4) It’s an easy way to understand how you are going to bill clients, if you invoice a project separately from hourly rates for the same client

There are several different ways freelancers can bill for their work. Hourly rates are the most common, but many also choose to bill “per item” or “per project”.

If you generate pay stubs for a particular project or one of your clients’ projects, you can always break your hourly rate down into an itemized bill for clients who need more details, and you can easily split an hourly rate into an itemized bill for each client.

 

5) If you are paid on a percentage basis, it’s often more intuitive to receive a pay stub with the hours worked designated for that percentage

If you receive a client or project’s payment in a flat fee or per hour amount, it can be a challenge to calculate how much you worked. On the other hand, when you’re receiving payment for a percentage of the work that you’ve done, it’s much more intuitive to know how many hours you’ve worked and be able to divide that number by a particular percentage.

For example, if you work a certain amount of hours per week on a project, you’ll likely receive a bill based on an hourly rate, which makes it a lot easier to calculate how much you worked on a specific project. It’s a good idea to send clients a pay stub with the hours worked designated to a specific percentage.

 

6) Pay stubs help establish how much you are earning for each client, and therefore, why it makes sense for you to set up direct deposit

By utilizing your hourly compensation, you can know exactly how much you are being paid per hour for each client, and that can allow you to charge clients the appropriate hourly rates for their projects. If your client pays you per hour, you’ll know exactly how much they are paying you to perform each task. This is an important way to ensure you’re billing your clients appropriately.

Mortgage
ArticlesFinance

How to Boost Your Mortgage Borrowing Power

Mortgage

Home prices have been rising and will unfortunately keep rising for the foreseeable future. With this in mind it’s possible you might want – or need – a bigger mortgage. If you’re thinking about it, there are ways you can convince the bank that you deserve more borrowing power. Take a look at these strategies to get a bigger mortgage.

 

1. Show more income

Proof of more income can land you a bigger loan, but that doesn’t mean you need to storm into your boss’s office demanding a raise or get a higher paying job. If you can, sure it can help, but it’s not necessary if you can’t. There are other ways to show addition to your salary or wages with other sources of reliable income.

Show proof of interest or dividends from investments, income from rental properties, alimony or child support, social security income, and money earned from a part-time job or side business. The latter comes with the stipulation that you have to have earned from this job or business for over the last two years.

 

2. Pay off other debt

A lender will look at your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio when you apply for a mortgage. This is the percentage of your monthly income you are dedicating to your minimum monthly debt payments. A GTI ratio of less than 36 per cent is generally considered ideal but some lenders are comfortable with going higher.

Paying off credit card debt or an installment loan can make a big difference in this figure. It’s a quick and easy way to increase how much you qualify for.

You don’t have to pay it all off in one fell swoop. You can reduce it with a balance-transfer card or refinancing an auto loan to lower your payment. You can also consolidate your debt into an installment loan.

 

3. Raise your credit score

A lower interest rate and therefore a slightly larger loan can be obtained with a higher credit score, but only to a certain extent.

You can raise your credit score a number of ways. Check your credit reports, stay on top of payments, and avoid applying for new accounts too often, can all help you in raising your credit score. Take advantage of self-reporting apps like Experian Boost and UltraFICO and add accounts with positive payment history, boosting your score.

 

4. Put at least 20 per cent down

You can get a bigger loan if you don’t have to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI). So, if you’re applying for a home loan like a Hong Leong Finance home loan and your down payment is at least 20 per cent of the house’s price, you won’t need to pay for PMI which protects the lender if you stop paying your loan.

Without the 20 per cent down payment, PMI becomes part of your monthly costs and can decrease the size of the loan you’re eligible for.

If you have the cash available after paying your 20 per cent, you can pay your lender a little more upfront to lower the rate of your interest.

 

5. Add a co-borrower

A co-borrower, especially one with strong credit and a steady income, can go a long way to convincing a lender that you deserve a larger loan. You and your co-borrower’s income coupled will increase the total income the lender can use to qualify you for a loan.

Co-borrowers can be spouses, domestic partners, friends, or relatives. But it isn’t just a name on a piece of paper. It’s for if people in both parties want their name on a property and agree to share the responsibilities of paying back the loan.

 

6. Build cash reserves

Having additional assets in the bank, or elsewhere, will help you qualify for a bigger loan, even if you don’t necessarily need cash reserves to qualify for a mortgage. If you have been putting away funds, you can prove you will be able to handle unexpected expenses and continue to make your mortgage payments. Without this, a lender would be concerned that one emergency could cause you to fall behind and will be less comfortable to offer you more.

 

7. Shop around

Keep an eye on comparison websites and visit various banks to get multiple rate quotes and loan offers. Comparison shopping will pay off over the course of a loan and if you get multiple preapprovals, you will get various offers and chances are they will have different amounts, allowing you to choose a lender that will offer the largest preapproved loan.

Plus, you can use your lower offers as leverage with a lender that preapproved you for a smaller amount. It’s possible they may reconsider and increase the amount they can offer you, allowing you to get the biggest mortgage at the lowest price.

Fraud
ArticlesFinance

£32 Million of Fraud Stopped By Finance Industry and Police In First Half of 2021

Fraud
  • Banking Protocol scheme alerts local police to suspected scams.
  • Over 4,700 emergency calls were made between January and June 2021, protecting customers from losing an average of £6,672 each to criminals.
  • Use of the scheme has led to 934 arrests since its launch in 2016.


Branch staff at banks, building societies and Post Offices worked with the police to stop £32 million of fraud through the Banking Protocol rapid scam response in the first half of this year, according to the latest figures from UK Finance. This is up 65 per cent compared to the same period last year and brings the total amount of fraud prevented to £174 million since the scheme was introduced in 2016. 

The Banking Protocol is a UK-wide scheme, launched by UK Finance, National Trading Standards and local police forces. Branch staff are trained to spot the warning signs that suggest a customer may be falling victim to a scam, before alerting their local police force to intervene and investigate. 

The latest figures reveal that branch staff invoked the Banking Protocol 4,782 times between January and June 2021, saving potential victims an average of £6,672 each. Real life case studies from the first half of the year are included at the bottom of this release. Ultimately the scheme led to the arrest of over 90 suspected criminals, bringing the total number of arrests to 934 since the protocol began. 

It is often used to prevent impersonation scams, in which criminals imitate police or bank staff and convince people to visit their bank and withdraw or transfer large sums of money. It is also used to prevent romance fraud, in which fraudsters use fake online dating profiles to trick victims into transferring money, and to catch rogue traders who demand cash for unnecessary work on properties.  

Customers assisted by the scheme are offered ongoing support to help prevent them from falling victim to scams in the future, including referrals to social services, expert fraud prevention advice and additional checks on future transactions.  

Katy Worobec, Managing Director of Economic Crime, UK Finance, commented:   

“Fraud has a devastating impact on victims so partnerships like the Banking Protocol are not only crucial in helping vulnerable people, but it also stops stolen money from going on to fund other illicit activities including drug smuggling, human-trafficking and terrorism.  

“Criminals have continued to capitalise on the pandemic to commit fraud, callously targeting victims through impersonation, romance, courier and rogue trader scams. Branch staff and the police are working on the frontline to protect people from fraud and these figures highlight the importance of their work in stopping these cruel scams and bringing the criminals to justice.  

“It’s important that people always follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign, and remember that a bank or the police will never ask you to transfer funds to another account or to withdraw cash to hand over to them for safe-keeping.” 

To build on the success of the scheme, banks and building societies are continuing to work with local police forces on expanding the process to cover attempted bank transfers made by customers through telephone and online banking. So far, 36 out of 45 police forces across the UK are signed up to the enhanced scheme. Staff working in call centres and in online banking teams notify the police when attempted bank transfers are being made which they believe may be the result of a scam.  

Temporary Commander Clinton Blackburn, from the City of London Police, said: 

“Criminals have continued to use the pandemic to prey on people’s fear and anxieties in order to steal their money, which is evident through the increase in how much the Banking Protocol has prevented being lost to heartless fraudsters so far this year. 

“The Banking Protocol continues to be one of the most vital ways of protecting vulnerable victims and preventing criminals from taking advantage of them, as banks are often the first point of contact when someone is about to fall victim to fraud. It’s also essential the public remain vigilant and follow the Take Five advice before parting with any money or personal details.” 

UK Finance is urging customers to follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign, and remember a bank or the police will never ask you to transfer funds to another account or to withdraw cash to hand over to them for safe-keeping.  

Case studies 

Romance scam 

A woman tried to send an online payment of £2500 to the USA to a friend she had previously worked with in the UK. When the payment was blocked, she visited her local bank branch. She said she had been exchanging messages with this friend on a social media platform and that they had asked for the money to pay their hospital fees. Staff invoked the Banking Protocol, and the local police attended the branch. No money was lost to this scam. 

 

Courier scam 

A woman in her 80s received a telephone call from a male claiming to be from her bank. The male claimed there was an issue with the victim’s account and in order to help her with this he needed her to withdraw money (£2000) from her account. The victim was told to attend the bank to do so and call back when home for further instructions.  

The victim attended the branch and staff confirmed to the victim that this man had not been in contact with them, and it was in fact a scam. The staff refused the withdrawal and invoked the Banking Protocol, alerting local police. Officers attended and offered fraud advice to the victim. The bank also put measures in place to further safeguard the victim from any future frauds.   

 

Investment scam 

A man in his 90s visited his local bank branch as an international payment he had attempted to make online had been stopped. He had been contacted by a company who wanted to sell shares that he held in America, saying he could get a return of £60,000 but had to send $7000 dollars which he would get back. Bank branch staff invoked the Banking Protocol and the police visited him at home. No money was lost and the police are investigating this company further. 

 

Rogue trader scam 

A woman in her 80s had builders explaining that they had been working on her neighbour’s roof and noticed that her roof also needed repairing. The victim offered to show the builders her property and they told the victim it was an urgent issue which needed to be fixed.  

The builders quoted the work (£1500) and told the victim that they needed to take the payment in cash only. The victim explained that she would need to attend the bank to withdraw this.  

At her local bank, the victim explained to bank staff what the money was for which made staff concerned it was a scam. Bank staff invoked the Banking Protocol, alerting the local police force and refused the transaction.  

Officers attended and were able to offer the victim advice and ensured no suspects were still on the scene. Officers were also able to enquire with neighbours and ensure they were supporting the victim in future. A fraud caseworker has offered her ongoing support. 

Person using financial tech (FinTech) on their phone
ArticlesFinance

How Customers’ Attitudes to Fintech Are Shifting

Person using financial tech (FinTech) on their phone

 

It’s amazing to think how far we’ve come in terms of financial technology in a few short years. Only in 2018 did debit cards overtake cash as the most popular form of payment. Since then, the number of digital transactions, payment methods, and online sales have exploded.

According to a 2019 survey, while credit and debit card payments were used by 82% of people in the Americas, other digital payment methods are showing popularity. Sixty-six per cent use the likes of PayPal and Alipay. Meanwhile, 11% use e-wallets such as Apple Pay and Google Wallet. As our transactions venture further into the world of digitization, fintech innovation growth is accelerating among businesses.

Did you know that 96% of global consumers are aware of at least one fintech platform? It’s clear that customer attitudes toward financial technology are changing – and fintech is quickly catching up to more traditional payment methods. So, let’s take a look at how our behavior is shifting, how fast fintech is growing, and what we think about it.

 

A first time for everything

The global pandemic has changed many things in our lives, and according to a survey of American adults, we can see how perceptions of fintech have changed in the past year. The survey revealed that 37% of people ordered groceries online or through an app for the first time during the pandemic. Equally, 37% of people said they were likely to continue ordering their groceries online. The pandemic has not only changed what we buy, but also how we buy products online.

It’s important to understand that, while financial technology has been useful during the pandemic, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Fintech is here to stay. 73% of Americans say that fintech is the “new normal” for payments and managing money. The reasons for this are clear: 57% of people said fintech helps them save time, 42% said it saved them money, and 37% believe that fintech reduces the stress around money management.

But how has this increasing confidence in fintech evolved? And what will guarantee financial security and the technology’s viability in the future?

 

Safe and secure

After reasonable fees, security was named as the top feature that Americans expect from their financial institutions. But is there concern that fintech will not be able to ensure the same levels of privacy and security that traditional banking and payments currently hold? Innovation shouldn’t come at the expense of security, after all.

While fintech continues to innovate, online and digital fraud are becoming more sophisticated. For ecommerce businesses, this is represented in increased chargebacks and return fraud, which take advantage of digital and automated services. For consumers, identity theft and stolen personal information mean that fintech can appear as a risky alternative to traditional banking and shopping. In fact, in a survey of financial decision-makers, 27% of respondents said that safety and security was the top threat to fintech innovation. This was also the top concern, beating other threats to fintech such as regulation and technology itself. So, how is this being tackled?

One fintech business, Signifyd, believes that driving innovation in commerce protection is as important as increasing the capabilities of financial technology.

“Increasingly the future of commerce is online. As we continue to innovate to protect our merchant customers from payment fraud and consumer abuse we remain focused on protecting the commerce experience both for the merchants in Signifyd’s Commerce Network and for their customers,” said Stefan Nandzik, Signifyd senior vice president of brand experience. “This is best achieved through data and the technology that makes it actionable.  Today, 98% per cent of all online purchases are made by consumers that have been seen before on Signifyd’s network. That allows us to provide unmatched identity-centric fraud protection.”

 

Growing trust for trusted users

It’s clear that fintech services are becoming increasingly popular and more trusted. Since the start of the pandemic, every section of financial technology has increased its user share. Banking excels in the scene, with 23% of Americans using technology to access their money. This is followed by payment services, investment, and lending. Interestingly, payment technology services have the largest percentage of fintech users with more than one account. This shows how technology is allowing consumers to vary their payment options.

While only 16% of Americans use fintech for payments, 19% have more than one account with payment providers. This suggests that among fintech users, trust is growing. Those who find utility in the technology are more likely to continue expanding their use of platforms, applications, and online services to manage their money and payments.

 

Are you a fintech enthusiast? Or have you been using fintech all this time without realizing it? As financial technology continues to innovate and its use increases, it’s important that we shift the attitudes of customers to a positive view of this essential service. Fintech is only getting safer, more secure, more convenient, and useful for our everyday transactions and banking needs.

Recession
ArticlesFinanceMarkets

The Next Great Depression — Is Your Business Ready?

Recession

By Wisteria

We are living through extremely uncertain times regarding both public safety and the global economy. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic swept the world, we were teetering on the brink of a recession. Economists such as David Blanchflower compared the pre-Covid financial landscape to that of pre-banking crash 2008. If nothing else, this is a major red flag which should give you the motivation you need to take every possible measure to protect your business.

 

Is an international recession on the horizon?

At the very beginning of the year, the UN warned that we could be facing a global recession in 2021. That was before taking the impact of Covid-19 into account. Factors including trade wars, currency fluctuations, and Brexit were all amounting to an uncertain global economy and the Unctad report, “global growth will fall from 3% in 2018 to 2.3% this year — its weakest since the 1.7% contraction in 2009”.

Add the impact of Covid-19 to the already precarious situation, and we are now expecting to be hit with a recession rivalling even the magnitude of the Great Depression (and far worse than the 2008 financial crash). As of June this year, the global growth projection for 2020 has fallen to -4.9 per cent (1.9 per cent below the forecast made by the World Economic Outlook (WEO) in April). In addition, the road to recovery doesn’t look like it will be as fast as the WEO initially predicted, and they are now only forecasting a 5.4 per cent global growth for 2021, 6.5 per cent lower than the predictions before Covid-19. Low income households are expected to feel a particular acute financial impact, and global poverty, which has been significantly reduced since the 1990s, is likely to reach another crisis point.

Because of strain on the global economy, we are expected to encounter rising levels of debt in both developing and advanced countries, as well as a “global downturn that could increase unemployment and inequality”, as stated by Kristalina Georgieva of the International Monetary Fund. Redundancies and a decline in job vacancies on an international basis are expected to follow such a crash, with unemployment rates increasing at an alarming rate.

 

How hard will the UK be hit?

The OECD’s (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) most recent reports do not look promising. Experts have predicted that the UK will likely be the worst hit country in Europe and the economy is forecasted to contract by 11.5 per cent after the first wave of the pandemic. If we end up seeing a second of Covid-19 later in the year, this contraction is predicted to increase to 14 per cent.

One of the major reasons why the UK is likely to feel such a stark economic impact is our country’s reliance on the service industry for our economic growth, a sector which has been particularly damaged by the repercussions of Covid-19.

In addition to the economic factors surrounding Covid-19, the US trade war with China has caused a larger drag on global growth than anticipated, and the UK will be on the receiving end of the economic repercussions. What’s more, the looming prospect of Brexit poses different threats to the UK’s economy. At best, the uncertainty caused by both Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic has created a hesitant consumer base in the UK. Customers are spending less and are more cautious of businesses than ever. It is a difficult time to maintain customer loyalty, as would-be consumers are tightening their purses in the fear of a looming financial disaster.

 

Learn how to protect your business

Times may be challenging, but if you think ahead, you’ll be able to safeguard your business against a recession. Businesses that prepare for every eventuality are the ones that not only survive but thrive in the face of adversity. Leaving it too late to implement a recession strategy could be your undoing, so get ahead of the game and prepare for a period of great financial difficulty. Here are some key strategies that will help your business face economic uncertainty:

  • Focus on existing customers — as we have discussed, consumers aren’t spending as much due to lack of trust and growing apprehension. Because of this, it is essential that you focus on your existing customer base during testing financial times. This will increase brand loyalty and grow customer confidence. Offer them benefits and reasons to stay true to your brand.

  • Put some adjacency and extension strategies in motion — a recession is not the time to start looking into completely new avenues of profit. However, you can’t let your services become stagnant. Adjacency strategy is the optimum solution to this — find an area adjacent to your core product or services to expand into. Extension strategy is similar: take your current service a little further and offer new and exciting opportunities or products to existing customers. Ensure that you have a flexed forecast so that the business is fully prepared for all possible outcomes of this new strategy.

  • Forge some powerful alliances — mergers, acquisitions, and alliances are all key strategies during a recession. Alliances offer a great way to expand your business without investing in anything completely new during times of uncertainty.

  • Don’t be afraid to outsource — outsourcing key elements of your business can save you time, money, and financial anxiety during a recession. Outsourcing your accounts department may allow you create scale and flexibility within your organisation.

  • Reduce inventory costs — look to see if your business has the leeway to reduce costs without sacrificing the quality of the services or products it provides. This will help to take the pressure off your finances.

  • Don’t sacrifice your marketing budget — often, brands make cuts to their marketing budgets in response to financial anxiety. However, this will spell disaster for your company. There is no time more crucial to maintain your marketing efforts and show customers that your brand is tackling the recession and winning.

  • Tighten up on your corporate governance — companies that see a downturn in performance are more likely to survive if they have good corporate governance embedded into their culture. Part of this is ensuring that the company has had a financial audit. If in doubt, contact an accountancy from that specialises in audits, tax advice, and small business VAT.

No one knows quite what to expect over the coming months and years, but now is the time to start safeguarding your business against an imminent recession. The road ahead does not look easy, but if you put certain measures in place and react in a timely manner, there’s still time to recession-proof your business and come out on top.

Cloud Finance
ArticlesFinance

Mitigating Financial Institutions’ Shift to Cloud

Cloud Finance


Accelerated by COVID-19, financial institutions are shifting to cloud to increase their infrastructure capacity and accommodate the growing demands of consumers. However, heavy reliance on cloud providers is raising new risks regarding the stability of the financial systems.

The need to be better equipped to compete in the present-day economy accelerated by COVID-19 nudged many financial institutions to migrate their operations onto the cloud. However, storing critical data in the hands of cloud providers is likely to create new challenges for finance market players. Marius Galdikas, CEO at ConnectPay, has shared his insights on mitigating related risks and maintaining the necessary levels of fraud resilience.

 

Legacy vs cloud — what is better for the financial sector?

Big Tech cloud providers, such as Amazon or Google, have played a major role in developing innovative cloud solutions and services. However, there has been rising chatter about the unbalanced concentration of power as a result of this ever-increasing data migration to the cloud. Recently, the Bank of England issued a report singling out opaque practices of major cloud providers, calling into question whether the current regulatory oversight is enough to ensure the security of cloud systems and sensitive financial data.

While security warnings might lead some companies to deploy a private cloud, Galdikas notes that, in terms of risk, setting up infrastructure, that matches the standards of Big Tech, from scratch is a difficult and expensive undertaking and, at the end of the day, probably will prove to be a riskier choice than choosing a public cloud service.

“Public cloud providers, Big Tech included, have significantly contributed to innovation in the finance sector, whereas IaaS and SaaS solutions are now the usual building blocks of every new company. Moreover, public cloud streamlines scaling, enabling to bypass capacity issues or sinking millions into underutilized infrastructure upfront,” Galdikas said.

 

Same goal, different approach

Fintechs and traditional financial institutions have been noted to take a different approach to cloud adoption.

While Fintechs at scale choose to migrate some of the operations to the private cloud, according to the Bank of England, established banks are doing quite the opposite—moving critical infrastructure onto the public cloud.

According to Mr. Galdikas, the two approaches vary for historical reasons. Fresh fintechs tend to use public clouds because it is an affordable solution to streamline processes and manage operations from afar. As they grow in terms of size and resources, some shift to private cloud to have a firmer grip on the security of their data. Switching to the latter diversifies the risks, considering that moving all of the critical services onto the infrastructure of a single provider might place the company in a vulnerable position. Banks, on the other hand, started with a long-standing legacy infrastructure set up and are moving to the public cloud as part of their digital transformation efforts. Even though their approach might differ, banks and fintechs share the same goal—to provide faster and safer services.

 

Distribution over different platforms to reduce risks

Overall, the increasing amount of critical data is hinting at a need for a more robust security framework. While setting up more regulatory safeguards should be left to the authorities, Galdikas emphasized what can be done from the financial institution’s (FI’s) point of view to mitigate the transition risks.

“The ecosystem that FIs operate in needs to be distributed between different platforms and providers both in the form of SaaS, public cloud, private cloud, and local Infrastructure service providers,” he noted. “New data protection laws are continuously being put in place worldwide, which makes operating a digital ecosystem an even more cumbersome task. For example, some countries, regions require customer data to be captured and stored, first and foremost, on infrastructure physically present in the country or dictate specific encryption algorithms to be used for such data stored,” Galdikas explained, outlining why distribution over different service providers might be more efficient in reducing risks than opting for more regulation.

He concluded by emphasizing that FIs should be leading the efforts in ensuring that systems meet the levels of fraud resilience necessary for the financial services sector.

“It is up to financial institutions to ensure that the operations they run and data they process is always secure, as they are the ones bearing the trust of their customers. Yet there are specific areas for cloud providers to maintain standards in, for instance, monitoring that safeguards are kept up to date with the current technology. Ultimately, in order to maintain the stability of the financial sector and mitigate risks, both sides will need to stay on top of technological challenges.”

Real Estate Investment Purchase
ArticlesFinance

4 Tips for Purchasing Real Estate When You’re Self-Employed

Real Estate Investment Purchase

Statistics show that many people in America are taking early resignation from their jobs to start their businesses. This is because self-employment brings in some sense of flexibility and time to tap one’s inner abilities. The only challenge at times comes when one wants to acquire a property through a mortgage.

At this point, one may lack the W-2 forms as before or the documentation to show monthly income flow. However, does it mean that it is impossible to find a lender to offer you the credit you want? The answer is no, as several approaches can guide you to securing financial support for purchasing real estate.

 

1. Smooth the Wavering Income periods

Generally, a bank will provide you with financial support depending on your financial strength. The aim is to reduce challenges when recovering their finances, say after a delay in payment. It is, therefore, necessary as a self-employed person to think around this. It is where you focus on your income generation patterns.

Try to find a method of stabilizing your income for every financial year. It may be challenging to make this happen, especially since a startup can experience some teething problems in the infancy level. However, for the sake of creating an appealing image to the lenders, consider smoothing any irregular income periods.

 

2. Proof of Income: Pay Stubs Online

These days, workplaces are highly using pay stubs due to the endless benefits. These documents act as evidence for a specific payment or payments to workers. The other significant thing is that they are easy to create. All one needs is to find a check stub maker online. As a worker of a previous company, you may have used such e-files a lot, and they still hold your previous payment information.

While taking a mortgage, the financial service provider will want to see your financial history as a way of determining your credit score. Besides the stubs showing the payments, they also capture the taxes you owe or paid and other commissions. This is crucial during the mortgage application as it shows how responsible and capable you are with the finances.

Even for your current business, consider having the same approach-ensuring your staff has pay stubs as this will assist you when managing the payrolls. It sounds unnecessary for a startup with few workers. However, as you grow, the benefits will become more apparent.

 

3. Understand the Net Income

From your income, there is a lot of analysis which the lenders will do before making a decision on giving you financial assistance or not. One of them is to check your gross income but, most importantly, the net profits. They do this by deducting all the expenses and taxes from which they see what you have made.

They base their decision on these final figures. Sometimes, a business can receive a substantial gross income after the sales or service delivery. Many business owners fail to consider the impact of write-offs on taxable income. To be specific, all the running expenses such as meals, transportation, warehouse charges will all reduce your taxable income.

 

4. Prepare Sufficient Paperwork

Any mortgage lender intends to give you support after being sure of your current and future stability. This makes them need a lot of data from you. A full-time worker can have an easier time due to the W-2 form which they have. For your case, you may need to provide documents that show that you have been self-employed since you began business.

Additionally, they may want profit and loss statements and tax return files alongside your business license. Some even need your bank statements, assets, or any other source of income you may have.

Purchasing a property through mortgage support can be challenging when self-employed. This is because you lack documents such as W-2 forms. Even so, you have options in securing your loan. One way is through stabilization of your income and having the proper documents with you.

Smart Investments
ArticlesBankingFinance

4 Smart Investments You Can Make in College

Smart Investments

Early investing is an opportunity to set yourself up for greater wealth over the long-term. And you don’t need to wait until you get a career to do it. There are ways that college students can invest now, and some of them require very little input. People think of investing for things like retirement, but investments can fund other things as well. You could leverage investment income to travel, pay off debts, send your kids to college, and so much more. While some investments should be set aside for retirement, others can be used to enjoy life with.

 

Real Estate

Imagine living rent-free in college. If you can purchase a home, this is possible. You get roommates, and they foot the bill for the mortgage. After college, you can expand your real estate portfolio, sell it, or even continue living in it rent-free. Real estate is always considered a good investment because it’s an asset that appreciates in value if it is well-taken care of. If you purchase a multi-family home, there is even greater opportunity. Investing in duplexes and four-plexes can give you a place to live while also bringing in an income from renting out the other units.

 

Retirement Fund

Even an extra $100 a month into a Roth IRA can be a great way to store up for the future. You can start one of these as soon as you turn 18 as long as you meet the income requirements. It’s one of the easiest ways to invest for the future before you start your career. Once you get into the working world, you may be eligible for things like a 401K and company matching. These investment accounts can increase your wealth and give you a comfortable nest-egg to retire with. Some people retire earlier than others because they invested earlier.

 

Cryptocurrency (Maybe)

Right now, cryptocurrency is gaining in popularity, but is it a wise investment? Let’s look at what it is. In essence, cryptocurrencies are units that are backed by a technology company, a technology process, or a technology product. There are also meme coins like Dogecoin that are popular, but don’t have anything tangible to back it. Cryptocurrencies run on the Blockchain and in many ways are similar to stocks in that they rise and fall in value, can be sold, and traded to get something different.

Cryptocurrencies leave many people feeling like it’s just gambling. While others see the value in the technologies and what they can do for people. If you plan to invest in some cryptocurrencies, it’s best to think about it like the stock market. Don’t put anything in that you can’t afford to lose. Do your research to find crypto coins with good use cases. And don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Just like a stock portfolio, cryptocurrency investments should be diversified.

These are a great investment for college age students because the barrier to entry is low. You can put in amounts as low as a few dollars to start. There are apps and videos explaining how it all works, and some apps even give you free coins to learn more about cryptocurrencies.

 

Education

The last thing that college students want to think about is more education, but it’s a very wise investment for many students. In education for instance, teachers with a Master’s degree can command up to $3,000 more in salary in their first year of teaching. This rate increases significantly as the years of experience go up. It also qualifies them for positions in education that are not available to those with only a Bachelor’s degree. Nurses who complete a BSN to DNP program for instance are able to practice medicine under a Physician. They have an immense opportunity to diagnose and treat sickness.

Why is education such a good investment? It’s because once you get it, it cannot be taken away and you will always have it. College students should consider education in fields that are in high demand with a good outlook on income potential if they want to maximize their investment.

 

Conclusion

The keys with investing in college is to never invest money you can’t afford to lose and to diversify your investments. This means investing in different kinds of things. A diverse investment portfolio will be an asset during college and beyond. 

Saas Technology
ArticlesFinance

Zeelo Raises $12M for Expansion After 600% Growth

Saas Technology
ZeeloEurope’s leading smart commuter mobility platform for organizations, has raised $12M to accelerate its expansion in the US, Europe and Africa, investment in its SaaS technology offering and continued rollout of fully electric bus shuttle programs. Zeelo has recorded 600% revenue growth over the past 18-months, reaching regional profitability, by supporting companies in logistics and manufacturing industries, as well as post-pandemic hybrid workplaces and schools; enabling access for people in car-dependent areas to reach work and education by sustainable transportation.
The company works with employers, schools and fleet operators to deliver affordable and convenient bus programmes that provide a viable alternative to driving a car, in order to support staff recruitment and to reduce CO2 emissions from commuting. Through the use of Zeelo’s mobile apps, client workplace planning tools, route-optimisation software and asset-light vehicle model, costs are reduced by up to 42% versus using a traditional bus operator and CO2 emissions are reduced by 78%, with 30 cars being taken off the road for every trip. Zeelo offers both turnkey and SaaS solutions to multinational customers such as Ocado, Amazon and Wincanton.
“Outside urban centres, the vast majority of people need a car to access work and education. Amongst our shift-worker customers, 30% of candidates don’t turn up to the job interview in the first place because they can’t get there. Zeelo is playing an important role in improving social mobility and decarbonising transportation. In the past 18 months, employers have realised the importance of it too. Now it’s time to bring this to the masses,” said Sam Ryan, Co-Founder & CEO.
Zeelo will use the capital to accelerate US and European expansion, as well as rolling out its technology platform as a SaaS solution to fleet operator partners and encouraging the transition to zero-emission buses and coaches. The round was led by ETF Partners, with participation from InMotion Ventures and various angel investors including Neil Smith, Founder of Transit Systems.
“Zeelo’s focus on public transport deserts directly tackles the issues of car-dependency, transport emissions and social mobility. The growth of the business during the pandemic has been extraordinary and we are delighted to continue to support the business. The world needs more affordable and sustainable mass transit – Zeelo is defining the category,” added Patrick Sheehan, Managing Partner at ETF Partners.
Financial Health
ArticlesFinance

5 Tips to Boost Financial Health

Financial Health

Words by Donna Torres, General Manager of SMB Sales & Operations UK & EMEA,  Xero

Most people would agree that things like nutrition and exercise lead to a healthier and happier individual. This same principle applies to the financial health of your business. In order to maintain a successful and thriving business, it’s important to stay healthy when it comes to your finances. Here are five ways to boost your financial wellbeing as we come out of lockdown this summer:

 

1. Take Control Of Your Financial Situation

Establishing a comprehensive bookkeeping system is essential to monitoring your financial situation. Cloud accounting software, like Xero, can be used from any device – all you need is an internet connection. It gives you an up-to-date snapshot of how your business is performing,  giving you the insights you need to make the right decisions for your company. The time consuming accounting tasks are automated, and anyone from your team can access information and collaborate on activity.

 

2. Find Ways To Save Smartly

In addition to paying yourself, it’s important to set aside money and look into growth opportunities. Saving doesn’t have to feel drastic. There are opportunities to save smartly in all areas of your business, from project management to hiring. Making sure that you have the best deals from suppliers, negotiate better deals with long-term product merchants, and look at saving small amounts on a monthly basis that can be used for future projects are three ways to start saving. 

 

3. Check Your Insurance Regularly

From professional liability and property to product liability and vehicle insurance, there are many different types of insurance. Take the time to decide which ones are most suitable for your business. This will not only save you from unnecessary stress in the long term, but will also save you from hefty costs if things go wrong. 

 

4. Keep On Top Of Invoices 

Dealing with invoices can be a hassle. Monitoring them closely and keeping them clear, neat and timely will ensure clarity and will catch any errors as soon as possible  – avoiding unwanted mistakes that could impact the financial health of your business. 

 

5. Build A Cash Flow Forecast

Even if you aren’t immediately concerned about running out of cash, a cash-flow forecast is essential for any business. With the help of a cash flow forecast, you can map what has been going out and coming in, while getting an up-to-date view of your business’ cash flow. The first step when drawing up a cash flow forecast is to consider your revenue. Making realistic revenue projections based on customer buying habits in the last year is important at this stage. Then you should consider how much of this will actually go into your business’ pocket by examining your expenses. 

 

As we come out of the lockdown this summer, we all want our businesses to bounce back better. By following these five simple steps, you can ensure the financial health of your business easily and efficiently – and do just that. After all, healthier businesses are more successful businesses – and have happier owners. 

HR
ArticlesFinance

Improve HR Effectiveness With These 7 Tips

HR

Your HR team plays a huge role in the growth of your company, regardless of how big or small it is. It can either improve or downgrade your company’s performance.

For that reason, aside from paying attention to your products or services, you should also keep an eye on your human resource management. If it needs some improvement, here are some things you can do to boost its efficacy.

 

Automate Payroll

Your HR team already has a lot of things in their hands. One of them is managing the payroll. But, unlike other tasks, this one can take up so much of their time if done manually. No matter how much they love numbers, it can still take a toll on them. Filling up the necessary forms can already be exhausting alone.

Manual tasks like managing the payroll not only eat up a lot of time. It can also negatively impact your HR team’s energy as it also consumes effort. Plus, it can affect their tasks as it can be time-consuming.

To help your HR team manage your payroll better and be able to attend to other tasks at the same time, one of the things you can do is automate your payroll.

Through this, your HR team won’t have to manually manage your payroll. With features like a payroll record keeper, calculator, and more, everything will be easier. You can also stay updated with the tax laws.

With this, your HR team won’t need to spend so much time calculating, filling up forms, scheduling, recording, etc. Because with a few clicks here and there, everything will be done right away, helping you pay your employees and your taxes on the dot.

 

Use Onboarding Tools

Aside from payroll management, onboarding is also one of the many tasks of the HR department that can take up so much of their time. Scanning hundreds or even thousands of resumes alone can be time-consuming.

Even welcoming new hires requires some of their time. You need to introduce new hires to your company, show them around, provide training, and more.

Onboarding can be a bit demanding for your HR, but it’s easier to manage if you utilize onboarding tools. With this, finding the right talent for the position will be faster.

You also won’t have to spend too much time guiding your new hire in person, as onboarding tools come with features where you can easily allow your new hires to see the directories of your company.

 

Communicate

Communication is key to a good relationship. And yes, it’s also applicable in your work environment. If you communicate better with everyone in your company, you will understand better. As a result, you can avoid conflicts between your employees. This will strengthen the bond of everyone in your company.

Additionally, this will help your employees to perform better. Because with better communication, it’s easier to pass the specifics to everyone in your team. As a result, your employees will know what to do and what else needs to be done to keep up with your client’s demands.

With communication, you can also improve your company as a whole. Because through this, you will know where you need to improve and which areas need better strategizing.

Hence, always communicate with your team. Also, don’t forget to be open with their opinions and concerns too, as this will help you and your company grow.

 

Train

Change is constant. – and yes, even in the business world. Therefore, you should also never stop learning and always ensure to provide pieces of training to your employees, even to your HR team.

Identify your weaknesses. Then, strategize how you can overcome it. Seminars and training will help you a lot as you can get a better view of the field from experts. You can also get tips and tricks on how to do better for your business’ growth.

Sure, it may take some time and might require you to spend some costs. But, eventually, it will pay off.

 

Build a Vision

Having a vision is important for a company and for teams to succeed. This will give you, as well as your employees, a sense of purpose and direction. This will define both of your short and long-term goals. Plus, it will guide the decisions you make throughout the journey. So, think of what and how you want to see your company sometime in the future from now. 

 

Your human resource team is important. Yet, some companies tend to overlook it. Pay attention to your HR department too as they can greatly affect your company’s performance.

Finance technology
ArticlesFinance

The History of Finance and What the Digital Future Holds

Finance technology


To understand how the financial world has got to where it is, it’s important to look at the history, in order to gain context. Whilst finance has changed a lot over the years, the broad definition of it has stayed the same.

 

Where Currency First Began

The term of currency is broad, but its roots can be tracked down to the caveman, who could have given someone something they held valuable, such as a shiny rock, for some meat that another had hunted.

In truth, the definition of a transaction has largely stayed the same but has just become more open in what it defines. Eventually, as communities started to form together into bigger groups, such as towns and cities, simple trades wouldn’t really work.

In ancient times it was the Sumerians, one of the oldest civilisations in the world, who realised that they needed another method. This was because of the rise of farming, which meant most people had access to food and had it in abundance, making it pointless to trade. The leaders at the time recognised this need, and invented money to help control how society traded.

 

How the Industrial Revolution Changed Finance

Fast forward a few thousand years, and there was suddenly an abundance of new technologies that were designed to make human life easier. One of the major ones, was steam.

Steam powered technology led to steam trains, which also led to railways and transport that was capable of travelling to different countries much quicker than ever. As you can imagine, this made communication and business more organised, as they could meet quicker and make transactions quicker than ever.

It was around this time that banks started to open their doors for the first time, and with different nations trading more and more, the governments of the world started to mandate and license trading.

 

How Assets Were Important

Physical assets have been important to the financial world for a number of years. When thinking of assets, you can think of gold bars, which are often held by banks and governments in vaults to accrue interest and hold something of value to strengthen their financial capital.

Most people will hold some sort of asset, whether that be something trivial such as vintage memorabilia, or something more concrete, such as property. Property is considered a major asset, as it very rarely declines in value, usually becoming more valuable as work is done and the housing market changes.

One of the worst assets you could hold, is a new car. New cars will lose almost 30% of their value as soon as they drive away from the shop, and after a few years, could lose almost 60% of its initial value. The market of second-hand cars is flooded with stock, meaning new cars offer little value in the financial world.

 

How Digital Assets Have Become Important

Digital assets have become more important to the business world, as it can help them with influencing buying behaviour. These assets can represent a visual product or service, or just be something that you as an individual or corporation hold.

A digital asset can be defined as anything that stores content digitally. Most of the time, it will be something that holds some sort of monetary value, but it doesn’t always have to. For companies, it could be something that is only valuable to them, or it could be something that has nothing to do with them that is used to turn a profit.

Banks often hold many digital assets as of recent years. Previously, they only had vaults of physical cash, but these days they’ve turned their attention towards digital outlets such as cryptocurrencies as they see it as a one-day valuable piece of stock.

You can also get images, photos, videos or any sort of online file or document that would count as a digital asset. Throughout recent history, there have been an emergence of new digital assets. For example, MP3s almost came out of nowhere in the early 1990s, and it didn’t take them long to start dominating the digital space and be shared amongst people.

You can identify a digital asset in three main ways. The first being, it needs to be purely digital, in terms of how you use it and share it. It also needs to be uniquely identifiable in its nature, and not something confusing. Lastly, it needs to hold some sort of value to whoever holds it.

There are many ways you can grow your digital asset portfolio with Unagii and their access to yields across many digital blockchains. Unagii is an automated service, so the hard work is taken off your plate as your organization’s rewards and monetary value is unlocked.

 

Fintech Explained

Fintech stands for financial technology, which as you can imagine, covers a wide range of topics. You could even explain the introduction of Fintech to thousands of years ago, when scales were used to weight money.

Of course, the technology has evolved quite a bit since then, but the core element of it has stayed the same. Aside from other ancient monetary techniques of collecting and counting money, the term became more broadly used in society in the last few hundred years, especially in the 19th century.

This was when money started to be able to move differently around the world, through telegrams or even morse code. This changed the world as it was known back in the day, as it opened up a range of different investment opportunities, and awoke people to the idea of financial technology.

It wouldn’t be long until new financial technologies started to appear in society, through something known as an ATM. Of course, these are very common now, but the first only appeared in 1967, after a switch from analogue to more digital finance.

During the 1970s, the world’s first digital stock exchange opened up known as NASDAW, as well as the society for worldwide interbank financial telecommunications, to help regulate the communication between financial institutions making international transactions.

Digital banking started to appear more commonly from the 1990s onwards, where PayPal was introduced amongst other payment systems. It wasn’t until the financial crisis of 2008, that fintech had to evolve once more.

This is where cryptocurrency was born, and smartphones started to dominate everyone’s life. This meant apps had to be built to help users navigate the financial world, this led to banks creating their own digital banking products and allowed third-party companies to have access to financial data.

The rest, as they say, is history. Contactless payments were introduced and have become a preferred method of payment, through cards, phones and even watches. 

 

What Banking Will Look Like in the Future

With many banks now looking to purchase crypto such as Bitcoin to hold as an asset, you can be sure that banking will look more digital in the future. Of course, global economies were devasted during the recent COVID-19 pandemic, which lost billions across the world due to business closures and lack of cashflow.

This has led to blockchain financial institutions becoming more popular, and this will only continue to expand. Financial technologies are predicted to become smarter, where the ways in which money is collected and managed will change and become more universally accepted across multiple platforms.

Finance
ArticlesFinance

Many UK Financial Organisations are Unprepared to Adapt to Unforeseen Challenges

Finance


Industry research commissioned by nCino surveyed 200 senior executives in financial services on their digital transformation efforts

nCino, Inc. a pioneer in cloud banking and digital transformation solutions for the global financial services industry, today revealed new research on the views of senior executives within financial institutions on their ongoing digital transformation journeys. All surveyed executives plan to increase spend or volume of digital transformation projects over the next 12 months, highlighting the importance for the sector.

“As the banking industry continues to evolve, this research highlights several emerging themes that are accelerating or playing a role in the transformation of both new and traditional financial services,” said Jennifer Geary, General Manager – EMEA at nCino. “We’re excited to see how technology is providing a foundation for change, and that investments are being planned to improve processes that can benefit both consumers and financial institutions.”

 

Transformation to meet customer demands

More than three quarters (78%) of respondents believe their organisation is unprepared to react and adapt to unforeseen challenges. Covid-19 is one such example which the executives surveyed argue negatively affected their ability to service customers. As a result, over one in three (35%) executives are focused on improving their organisation’s resilience to future disruption through implementing new agile technology.

Over half (52%) of consumers now demand a more personalised experience from their bank and, as a result, financial institutions have had to re-evaluate how they tailor the customer journey. However, almost half (47%) of executives say they do not have access to the right information to deliver an exceptional customer experience, with almost two in five (39%) struggling to unify their customer data across platforms and channels.

It is therefore unsurprising that a third (33%) of senior executives expect to increase spend on digital transformation projects that focus on improving customer retention rates. In addition, 31% of executives say establishing a strong customer experience is a significant reason for implementing artificial intelligence and machine learning tools.

 

Investment in transformation set to rise

Transforming their organisation through new agile technology is of paramount importance to all executives surveyed, whereby all state they are increasing investment over the next year.  Investment levels, however, vary. Over a fifth (22%) are looking to increase spending between £1 million and £5 million over the next 12 months. A slightly larger number of respondents (28%) are expecting a £500k-£1m increase. Despite spend increasing across the industry, cost pressures are the main barrier organisations face when looking to implement new technology.

 

Speed at the heart of transformation projects

Improving the speed of delivery of products is the main factor (40%) driving increased spend in digital transformation projects. With customer satisfaction now a top priority and the demand for loans rising during the pandemic, it is paramount that organisations overcome delays in updating their product offerings. For example, when making lending decisions for customers, over a quarter (26%) of senior executives struggle to make timely decisions. The CIBLS loan scheme, which supported U.K. businesses to stay afloat throughout the pandemic, highlighted why it is so important for the loan approval process to be fast to benefit both the economy and customer satisfaction.

 

Transformation benefits are not clear

There is a lack of understanding of the benefits new technology can bring to financial institutions; in fact, 31% of respondents state this is the main barrier for implementing it within their organisation. It is therefore unsurprising that over a quarter (28%) of senior executives feel there is a lack of internal knowledge or expertise around the benefits of new technology and therefore, limited internal desire for new projects.

 

Transform for good

Nearly half (44%) of financial organisations are adopting technology to respond to environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) trends. In fact, a third of executives (33%) are looking to increase spend on digital transformation to improve their organisations’ ESG efforts. Other areas organisations are focusing on include the reduction of paper consumption (42%), travel (36%), and branches (27%). Over the last year, it has become evident that some financial institutions can easily continue the service provided to customers through replacing paper and regular branch visits with digital channels. This has had a positive impact on the environment and therefore, is being implemented into ESG initiatives. While only 37% of organisations are establishing carbon neutral goals, less than 1% noted they were doing nothing in response to the pressures of ESG.

“Financial institutions need to prioritise between short-term and long-term objectives and work to align their products and services with their clients’ expectations and needs. Having the right strategy is important, but so is having the right partner and technology that can offer the flexibility and agility needed to react, adapt and continue to delight clients through any unforeseen challenges or opportunities,” concludes Geary.

Man in a business suit with a blue notebook against a blue background
ArticlesFinance

3 Viable Financing Options for Small Businesses

Man in a business suit with a blue notebook against a blue background

It’s no secret that traditional lenders tend to be hostile to small businesses. Things are even worse if you’re in a business with a high failure rate. Small businesses are sadly those who are the most in need of a loan. If you’re a new business and don’t believe you have the history needed to get a loan, know that there are many options out there you can choose from. It’s all about knowing where to look and what to do to be an eligible candidate. Here are a few viable financing options for small businesses.

SBA Loans

SBA loans are loans that are backed by the Small Business Administration. We say backed because you will still have to go through an SBA-approved third-party lender.

The requirements are different than with other loans, but a lot of it will rest on your personal credit score. So, this is one is something you should consider if you’re been handling your personal finances responsibly and amassed a respectable history.

If you want to access SBA loans for your business, you also have to be prepared for a long and strenuous process. It will likely take weeks before your application is processed, and you get a response. But if everything is in order and you filled your application correctly, there is a strong chance you’ll be accepted, so we suggest you look into it more in detail.

Invoice Factoring

Invoice factoring is a special type of financing that allows you to borrow money against your accounts receivable. You can borrow money against invoices that are due to you at a later date. The factoring company will take part of that money as a fee and will also collect the invoice themselves.

This is a great option for those who have very poor credit. That’s because your client’s credit, and not yours, will be used to determine if you’re eligible or not. So, if you have a lot of accounts receivable and good clients, this could be an option.

Equity Financing

Then you have the option of offering equity in your business in exchange for money. The stake in your business will usually be proportional to the money that will be put up. For instance, if you have a business that is valued at $100,000, you could ask for $10,000 for 10% of the company.

This also means, however, that you’ll be welcoming new owners on board and will have to split your profits from now on. This can be both a good or a bad thing.

If you bring in someone with expertise in areas that you need, you could end up saving money by not having to hire outside help. They might also help make your business more profitable. On the other hand, you could end up bumping heads with them and they could become disruptive. You could also become frustrated by their lack of participation.

There are also cases where you might have to contemplate giving majority control of your company. Again, this is something you’ll need to evaluate yourself about, as they may be better equipped to run a business. Many will also refuse to give the reigns to someone who doesn’t have a formal finance background, so you have to prepare for that.

These are all financing options that you could explore as a small business owner. Look at each one of those in detail and see which one would be the best depending on your situation.

Investment Portfolio
ArticlesFinance

Different Types of Investment Portfolio

Investment Portfolio

Whether you are new to the world of investing or just looking to diversify your holdings, there are a number of key decisions that must be made. One of the first being which type of portfolio is most likely to suit you during your investment journey. Continue reading to familiarise yourself with the different types of investment portfolio and how to choose the right one for you.

 

Aggressive

Aggressive is one of the most common types of investment portfolio. It seeks out large returns and the high risks associated with investing in them and tends to favour capital appreciation over safety. The type of strategies associated with an aggressive investment portfolio will usually allocate a large number of assets to stocks and little to none in bonds or cash-based investments. They are suited to young adults with small portfolios. This is due to the fact that young investors can sustain market fluctuations and losses much more easily than experienced investors with a lot to lose. Most investment advisors only recommend this strategy if it is applied to a small percentage of your entire investments. If you are looking for a high risk portfolio with an equally high return on your investment, it may benefit you to check out the Golden Butterfly Portfolio.

 

Retirement-blended

With interest rates continuing to decline, the traditional retirement portfolio is almost obsolete. Retirees must lay the groundwork and take the appropriate steps towards building a substantial retirement fund decades in advance. With life expectancy rates surging across the globe, this is now more important than ever. If you are an investor nearing retirement age, you may benefit from a blend of both income-oriented and growth-oriented investments. A common example is stocks and bonds. By taking a step back from alternative investments and sharpening your focus, you can generate long-term growth that is much more likely to grow in line with inflation. This increases your chances of receiving a relatively constant return on investment and softens the blow of equity deteriorations over time.

 

Income

When you invest, your returns can be relayed to you through dividend pay-outs or stock price appreciation. An income investment portfolio is the name given to a portfolio that consists primarily of stocks that pay dividends. Income portfolios tend to generate positive cash flow. Examples of investments that produce income include real estate investment trusts, or REITs, and master limited partnerships, or MLPs. A real estate investment trust, in particular, is a great way to invest in real estate without the commitment of actually owning a property outright. A master limited partnership, on the other hand, is a limited partnership that is traded publicly on an exchange. These companies will pass on a large percentage of their profits to shareholders in exchange for positive tax status. Income investment portfolios can be a handy way of diversifying your current income sources and supplementing your existing retirement fund.

 

 

Speculative

If you are looking for a high risk investment portfolio with high returns, a speculative portfolio may be the best option for you. It is commonly compared to gambling and involves a much greater degree of risk than most types of investment portfolio. Speculative investments focus on market fluctuations and movements. Most speculative investors are uninterested in the fundamental value of an asset or the annual income it may generate. They tend to focus on how much they can sell it on for at a later date. Examples of speculative investments include real estate, stocks, currencies, fine art, currencies, commodities, and collectables. They may also include Initial Public Offerings, or IPOs, and healthcare or digital technology firms in the process of developing a cutting-edge product or service. Most investment advisors tend to recommend that no more than 10% of an investor’s assets are used to fund a speculative investment portfolio.

 

Hybrid

As the name suggests, a hybrid investment portfolio involves a combination of a number of different investments. It offers the greatest level of flexibility and versatility compared to other types of investment portfolio and typically includes bonds, commodities, real estate, and perhaps even fine art. As with income investment portfolios, a hybrid investment portfolio may also include real estate investment trusts and master limited partnerships. Typically, hybrid investment portfolios contain both stocks and bonds and are diversified across multiple assets. This allows investors to balance both risk and return and establish an investment portfolio that suits their own individual needs and requirements. It is also a great option for first-time investors as it exposes them to equity and tends to be relatively low risk.  

 

When it comes to investing, there is a lot to learn. One of the first factors to consider is which type of investment portfolio to opt for. From aggressive and retirement-blended to income, speculative, and hybrid, there is guaranteed to be one out there to suit your knowledge and experience of the investment market.

Investment small business
ArticlesFinance

Investment in Small UK Firms Booms Despite Covid

Investment small business


By Luke Davis, IW Capital.

New data from the British Business Bank has revealed that UK smaller companies received a record £8.8 billion of equity investment in 2020 despite the disruptive effects of both Covid and Brexit. This record growth looks set to continue in 2021, with £4.5 billion of investment reported in the first three months of the year already, while our own research at IW Capital – where we provide vital growth finance for SMEs – reveals that 16% of UK investors are looking to back startups and SMEs in 2021.

The figures come from the British Business Bank who first started to track this form of investment over ten years ago. The Bank was also a key contributor to this record, supporting over 20% of all UK equity in 2020 – the majority of which involved the newly launched Future Fund.

The Fund, launched in May 2020, provides convertible loans, ranging from £125k to £5m to eligible investee companies. Technology and IP-based businesses have so far made up around 40% of the companies receiving investment, with Business and Professional services following at 26% of the firms. This still leaves, however, a significant portion of the market if not uncatered for then certainly under-funded – a chronic problem for UK businesses over the past decade.

SMEs are a vital sector of economies the world over, but especially so in the UK, where firms with fewer than 250 employees contribute over £2 trillion to the economy. They make up 99.9% of private sector businesses and employ around 60% of the workforce, and as such are crucial to the UK economy and its growth. This is a significant portion of the overall GDP and much of it is spent in local communities – something which has come to the fore during the pandemic.

Considered in tandem with the fact that before the pandemic, small firms were hiring at a rate three times higher than large companies, this evidence demonstrates just how powerful SMEs will be in tackling potential unemployment as a result of the end of furlough.

Investment in small firms also almost always comes with advice, guidance and an outside perspective that can prove invaluable to a business looking to grow, scale or simply survive – especially in the current climate. Through angel investment and other forms of private finance, entrepreneurs are offered advice, connections and introductions that can make the difference between success and failure or scale and stagnation.

This investment support comes at a time of record optimism in the SME sector, with three quarters of CEOs expecting overall economic conditions in the UK and Ireland to improve over the course of the next 12 months. The combination of optimism and investment backing could spell a perfect storm for growth in the sector that is so vital to the UK economy.

The economy in 2021 is already heating up, with it set to return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of the year, and its continued growth will be fuelled by the small businesses that provide its foundation.

The record level of investment reported in 2020 is great news and – from our experience through the last year and a half – not at all surprising. There has never been more demand to support SMEs and startups in their growth journey, whether that be through the Enterprise Investment Scheme or any other route to provide funding, and the trend is by no means over.

Our research indicates that a significant proportion of the UK’s investment community are actively investing in these firms. Opportunities in this sector exist not only for great returns but also to make a real difference in the life and growth of a business. something that is becoming more important for investors as they adopt a more altruistic approach.

IW Capital invested in at least six different growth SMEs during 2020 and the majority of them have grown at a rapid pace thanks to our support. The growth of these businesses ranges from sustainable packaging that pivoted to produce plastic-free PPE, to apps making seamless hospitality service possible during a pandemic. The unifying elements they all possess are passion, determination and talent, all qualities that the UK entrepreneurial sector has in spades.

Managing Finances
ArticlesFinance

How to Manage Your Finances More Effectively?

Managing Finances


Even if you think that your salary is not that low, you might routinely discover that for some reason, you have underestimated your monthly spending. Although you are not the only one, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t put plenty of effort to ensure that you have some savings that could be much needed when something unexpected happens.

It might be easier said than done, but it doesn’t mean that you are fighting a losing battle. In a moment, we’ll explain how to manage your finances more effectively so that you can live a more stress-free life. It will require a fair bit of self-discipline, but it’s worth the effort.

 

Pay off Your Debts

Once you have determined how much you spend on each category and have set up a budget plan that makes sense for you, make sure that you stick to it and don’t deviate from it unless necessary. If there are expenses that seem unreasonable or unnecessary, try to cut down on them and see how much money could save over time.

If there are any debts that need paying off urgently, then pay them off as soon as possible before they take over your life completely. If the amount you owe is too much for you to repay on your own, you can always consider getting a personal loan, such as the one offered by societyone.com.au. On top of that, consolidating several loans into a single one can help you pay off your debt faster.

 

Track Your Spending

In order to determine your spending habits and see where your money goes, we recommend that you track each and every expense you make. If you are going to use a budgeting app, it will be recorded and calculated automatically. A paper-based system will require more manual work on your part. If you want to be more organized, don’t forget to include recurring expenses such as electricity/water bills, insurance premiums, etc., in your monthly plan.

 

Make a List of Your Expenses

Once you have determined how much you spend on average monthly, you can start making a list of all the things you spend money on. If you are not tracking your expenses, you might have overlooked some of them, while others might appear to be unreasonable. For example, it doesn’t really make sense for a 25-year-old person to spend $800 on groceries every month. This might just be the case if they live with their parents and have a very generous allowance, but it’s unlikely that they earn that much money on their own. Another example is clothing. Let’s say that you spent $500 on clothes last month. If you make $2,000 per month, then this might be a bit excessive.

There are also expenses that you might need to cut down, even if they seem like a necessity. For example, if you spend $100 on coffee every month, it might be time for you to reconsider your priorities or at least reconsider how much coffee you drink every day. Although this is somewhat subjective, we can give you an example of an excellent way to do it. For instance, if you want to cut down on coffee, try to reduce the amount of money you spend on this commodity by a dollar or two each month. Once you have done that for a couple of months, you should be able to stop buying coffee completely. This way, you will slowly start getting used to your new lifestyle, and in the meantime, you will save quite a bit of money.

 

Make a Budget Plan

Once you have determined how much you spend on each category, it’s time to create a budget plan. First of all, we recommend that you try to stick with the same categories as before, but if there are some items that you feel can be moved from one category to another, then go ahead and do it. The second thing that you should do is to look for opportunities where you can cut down on spending without significantly reducing your quality of life.

For example, if you have decided that you don’t need a car because public transportation is sufficient, then think about how much money you would be able to save by not purchasing one. If you are thinking about cutting down on your phone bill, think about how much money you can save by switching to a cheaper provider or changing your plan. This way, it will be much easier for you to stick with your budget plan.

 

Conclusion

You don’t have to be an economics expert to know how to manage your finances effectively. Still, it’s a valuable skill everyone should have! After all, you never know what will happen in the future, and if you spend your money in an unreasonable way, you may be in trouble.

If you want to develop good spending habits, you can start with baby steps. Determining what you spend your money on is a great starting point, and you can use various budgeting tools to help you with that. Ultimately, you can think about establishing an emergency fund and increasing your savings.

Investment market
ArticlesFinanceMarkets

UK Investors Have Their Say

Investment market

Confidence levels are up, Millennials make their mark and interest in ethical investing hits new highs.

Confidence levels amongst UK investors have risen 20 points (62 – 82) in the last 12 months according to new research amongst 1100 UK investors (£10k+).

The Investor Index, now in its second year, is conducted jointly by London-based communications agency AML Group and research agency The Nursery Research and Planning and was launched in April 2020 to assess the immediate impact of Covid 19 on investors and the UK investment marketplace. The first report of its kind to provide an objective overview of the industry based on hard data – the study was welcomed as a barometer of post-Covid investor behaviours.

One year on, and still in the grip of the pandemic, the 2021 study has revealed some significant changes and ‘recalibrations’ amongst investors.

 

Confidence returns – but not to pre-pandemic levels

Over the past 12 months, confidence levels have risen most amongst older investors (55+) up 30 points (54 – 84), investors that are retired up 27 points (57 – 84), those that use financial advisers up 31 points (65 – 96) and investors with a portfolio of £200k+  – up 38 points (55 – 93).

The study has also revealed a disparity in gender confidence levels – with men indicating a 25 point rise over the last 12 months (61- 86) compared to a rise in confidence levels of just 10 points among female investors (65 – 75).

However whilst the results are cause for some degree of optimism – investor confidence levels are still 18 points down from pre-Covid levels.

 

Gen Z/Millennials Vs Baby Boomers – the emerging generational divide

10% of UK investors have started investing since the pandemic began – and of those new investors three-quarters (74%) are under 35s.

It’s a changing landscape with the younger investor bringing different attitudes and priorities to the investor table.

89% of under 35s have changed their investment strategy over the last year vs. 31% of 55+ investors. Younger investors are also increasingly looking to ESG products – with 27% including responsible investments in their portfolio compared to only 4% of investors aged 55 and older. Younger investors are also more focused on the long game – with 30% looking to longer term investments compared to 8% of investors 55+.

When it comes to investment decisions, younger investors are increasingly turning to family (40%), banks (30%) and friends (27%) for advice.

 

It’s a gift – investors demonstrate a change of attitude

57% of UK investors have changed their investment strategy since the pandemic started – with a focus on products offering ‘long term growth’ (46%) over ‘short term growth’ (30%).

Investors are increasingly concerned about their children’s financial security. 70% of investors are aware of the £3,000 wealth transfer allowance with 38% having given £500 or more over the last 12 months – with children the biggest recipients (72%). Indeed the average amount gifted in 2020 was £8087 compared to £5421 pre pandemic (2019) – a 49% increase and a clear indicator of the want for investors to safeguard futures for loved ones.

 

How invested is the UK investor in Responsible Investing?

Investors feel that ethical/socially responsible financial products are more important now than at the same time last year – up 9 percentage points (23% – 32%) with three in ten of those surveyed stating that they believe that these products will be more important in the future – up six percentage points (24% – 30%).

However despite investors acknowledging the importance of ESG/RI there is a continuing perception, despite contrary evidence, that it carries a performance penalty with investors ‘prioritising financial security over wider ethical considerations’ – up five percentage points (23% – 28%).

 

Younger investors look to DIY platforms

Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, four in ten investors under 35 (39%) have invested more with DIY platforms – compared to just 14% of 55+. And while the younger investor has indicated a ‘happy to do it myself’ attitude regarding financial planning and investments they are less confident when it comes to their feelings about the industry. Just under one-third of under 35s (29%) are confident markets will bounce back compared to more than half (52%) of investors aged 55+.

Perhaps predictably, younger investors are more tapped into trends and news stories connected to investing.

39% of under 35s cited an awareness of the growth in DIY platforms with 44% familiar with the story around Reddit users driving up the share price of Game Stop and 31% aware of the rise in silver prices. Investors aged 55+ recorded significantly lower awareness across all trends.

Digital world
ArticlesFinance

Building An Inclusive Digital Future For Every Child

Digital world

By Sunita Grote, Ventures Lead, UNICEF Office of Innovation & Thomas Davin, Director, UNICEF Office of Innovation

Witnessing the scale of the global pandemic has shown us a paradox: as schools, businesses, and borders closed, our lives went online, children and young people turned to online learning; companies shifted to remote working; and our gatherings with family and friends crossed time zones over video conferencing. We turned to the digital world to deliver our groceries, discover new treasures and experiences, and manage our finances and futures.

The pandemic instigated a mindset shift and accelerated the digital future — but not for the entire world. Half of the world’s population doesn’t have access to the internet.  For many children around the world, the pandemic simply stopped access to lifesaving and essential services like education, healthcare, protection from violence— and the number of children living in multidimensional poverty has soared to approximately 1.2 billion due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is also estimated that 142 million more children are now living in monetary poverty as parents lose their jobs and income sources.

1.7 billion adults still lack the most basic financial services, leaving them unable to adequately access and invest in their health, education, entrepreneurship – and the chance to protect themselves and their future in the wake of another crisis.

We need to build the infrastructure and systems that enables the most marginalised communities to access digital services. This means closing the current gaps in access, financing, capacity and priority to develop valuable solutions that leverage the latest technological breakthroughs.

 

Closing the gaps to build inclusive digital economies

UNICEF’s Innovation Fund aims to close these gaps by financing early stage, open-source emerging technology with the potential to impact children on a global scale. The Innovation Fund has grown into a $35M+2267ETH+8BTC pooled fund that has invested in 118 solutions across 57 countries, and provides product and technology assistance, support with business growth, and access to a network of experts and partners. Beyond building solutions, the Fund sets out to diversify the community of entrepreneurs that benefits from capital. We put special emphasis on supporting solutions built by the traditionally underrepresented in venture capital – to date, 40% of our investments are in female-led companies. We exclusively support  open source solutions to ensure that these become digital public goods, opening access to them and the value they generate to communities around the world.

The Fund’s investments have generated solutions supporting the global response to COVID-19. These include, for instance, the HealthBuddy chatbot that provides information and addresses misconceptions in 7 languages, built on Ilhasoft’s platform Bothub. UNICEF’s Magic Box platform is able to analyse and develop models based on data provided to us by our partners, predict the spread of COVID-19 and analyse the impact of social distancing measures on children and their families in developing and emerging markets. UNICEF focused our efforts on developing and accelerating solutions that can provide services to and insights on markets that are often neglected by the rapid pace of technological development.

 

Leveraging the latest technological breakthroughs for children

Blockchain-based solutions allow us to rethink how problems are solved.The technology allows for greater transparency and efficiency in systems, better coordination of data across multiple parties, and the possibility for greater community engagement in decision-making that is more difficult with traditional technologies or systems.

In a crisis that required a shift to digital services, we saw blockchain and cryptocurrencies provide value to the COVID-19 response.

We have seen UNICEF’s leadership in establishing a crypto-denominated fund provide new opportunities to new partners,  committing resources toward innovation, including for the COVID-19 response, and toward COVAX efforts. Chainlink, a decentralised oracle network,    contributed to UNICEF’s Innovation Fund and will provide technical expertise to investment companies around smart contracts. Binance Charity donated $1 million in crypto to support UNICEF’s global vaccine rollout and released limited-edition NFTs with proceeds going towards COVAX.

Blockchain-based solutions also have the potential to improve the efficiency of the response. Our portfolio company StaTwig is piloting its blockchain-based app by partnering with the Government of India to track and improve the delivery of rice, supporting their effort to secure food for millions living in poverty – a need amplified by the onset of COVID-19. 

Our newest cohort of investments is building solutions toward greater financial inclusion. The startups are  exploring solutions to make payments to frontline workers more efficient, facilitating cross-border transfers, developing community currency, improving access to saving and lending services, and more. This is the first cohort to consist of majority female-led companies; and expands our portfolio to Rwanda and Iran.

 

Improving transparency and efficiency of our investments

This cohort is also the first to receive equity-free investments in USD and or cryptocurrency through UNICEF’s CryptoFund – a new financial vehicle allowing UNICEF to receive, hold, and disburse cryptocurrency – a first for the UN. The CryptoFund enables us to apply the benefits of blockchain to our own operations and improve our efficiency and transparency at a time when we need to find ways to achieve more with limited resources. We can now make investments in under a few minutes for under a few dollars, all while being fully transparent around where funds are being used.

This flexibility and speed allowed UNICEF to quickly disburse funds and invest further in eight Innovation Fund companies developing features to mitigate the hardships of COVID-19 on children and youth. One of the companies was Somleng (Cambodia), which needed to quickly scale its low-cost Interactive Voice Response Platform to work with the government to send vital information about COVID-19 — and eventually run its Emergency Warning System.  We are now working to bring this flexibility and speed to our government and other public partners – by building and offering digital public goods to manage and track cryptocurrencies more efficiently through our Juniper suite of tools.

 

Building the new digital economy

We now all share the experience of a global pandemic and resulting lockdowns, and those of us with access to digital services found ourselves still interconnected in the “new normal” and able to participate meaningfully – and benefit from – the digital economy. Decentralised systems are generating unprecedented revenues and returns in the current market – with benefits currently going into the hands of few.

COVID-19 has proven that only when access to the benefits of digital systems is universal, can we respond quickly and prepare for – or stay afloat and thrive during – the next crisis. Imagine a world where solutions, data, financing, and talent are instead accessible and more evenly distributed as public goods; where scarce resources are channeled towards solutions that are designed to bring both financial and social value for all.

Emerging technologies and digital public goods offer an incredible possibility to realise this inclusive, accessible world – where the digital economy is distributed so that everyone, even the most vulnerable, holds a key to safety, resiliency, and future growth and opportunities. We must venture into supporting untapped, underrepresented communities in a transparent way so that, together, we can build a digital future for every child and every young person to survive and thrive.

Savings
ArticlesFinanceFunds

The Nation’s Most-Searched Savings Strategies… and How to Access Them

Savings

By Annie Charalambous, Head of Communications at ETX Capital


Britain is pinching its pennies. According to the FT, UK household savings have increased nearly 2 percent in the last quarter as 20 million Brits commit to saving more of their income after the pandemic settles. That being said, many Brits aren’t sure where to start when it comes to managing finances.

We’re taking a look at how the nation is researching its savings options, revealing the UK’s most-searched strategies and we’ll even explain how to take the first steps towards them.

 

1. Premium bonds (368,000 monthly searches)

Premium bonds are a unique, interest-free way to save. You buy the bonds (in this case, a minimum amount of £25, and a maximum of £50,000) from NS&I, and each month you enter a prize draw in which your odds are 34,500 to 1, and you can win between £25 and £1 million. You won’t earn interest on your bonds, but instead, it’s the interest that funds the prizes.

Anyone can buy premium bonds, and this can be done on the NS&I website. Your money is secure in premium bonds and you can cash out all – or part of – your bonds at any time.

 

2. Lifetime ISA (74,000 monthly searches)

Lifetime ISAs are specialised savings accounts designed for those aged 18 to 40 to save for retirement or a first home. They allow you to save up to £4,000 each tax year, and the government adds 25 percent to whatever you contribute.

Anyone within these age limits can open a Lifetime ISA with a bank or building society. They can be paid into until you turn 50, however, money can only be withdrawn once you turn 60, or to buy a first property once the account has been active for 12 months. If you withdraw money before these key dates, you’ll lose your government contribution.

 

3. Savings accounts (74,000 monthly searches)

A savings account is a traditional bank or building society account, which lets you deposit money and earn interest each month. Savings accounts often have a low, if any, minimum starting amount, anyone over the age of 18 can open one, and your money can typically be withdrawn at any time. For these reasons, savings accounts are a common, low-risk approach to saving money.

 

4. State pension (74,000 monthly searches)

The UK state pension is a weekly financial sum for retirees. Anyone with 10 years of National Insurance contributions or more is eligible for some level of the state pension – with 35 years qualifying you for the full amount.

State pensions can currently be claimed once you turn 66, however, this is set to increase to 67 in 2028. The basic state pension is £137.60 per week but you may be able to claim more, depending on your earnings over your career.

 

5. Bonds (49,500 monthly searches)

A bond represents a loan, typically given by an investor to any government or company, which agrees to buy it back at an agreed date, with interest.

Anyone can buy bonds. Savings bonds can be accessed from banks and building societies, while Government bonds can be bought through their dedicated Debt Management Office website.

 

6. Fixed-rate savings account* (14,800 monthly searches)

Fixed-rate savings accounts offer a guaranteed rate of returned interest, on the agreement that deposited funds aren’t withdrawn for a set time. They typically offer higher rates of interest than traditional savings accounts and are also resistant to market fluctuation.

Anyone can open a fixed-rate savings account with a bank or building society, however some institutions may require a minimum deposit amount or set term length, so this may not be the ideal route for everyone.

 

7. Private pension (14,800 monthly searches

Unlike the state pension, which workers automatically contribute to through their National Insurance, private pensions require active entry and payments. Private pensions can include both workplace pensions, arranged by employers (who typically also contribute) or personal pensions.

Anyone of working age can set up a pension. Some, like ‘final salary’ and ‘career average’ pensions will pay out a pre-agreed sum upon retirement, while other pension types may invest your money, meaning you’re able to earn higher interest (at higher risk).

 

8. Child savings account (14,800 monthly searches)

Child savings accounts are similar to regular ISAs but are designed for parents to save for their children (18 and under). These give children the opportunity to learn how to manage and save money, and they can even withdraw money before they’re old enough to open a regular savings account.

Some alternatives to children’s savings accounts include Junior ISAs and Children’s Bonds. These may offer greater returns and tax breaks but often put limits on when and how funds can be accessed.

 

9. Student bank account (12,100 monthly searches)

Some banks and building societies offer specialised savings accounts for those in higher education. These typically act in the same way as a regular ISA but offer sign-up incentives for students, like discount public travel cards and 0 percent overdrafts.

As the name suggests, only active students can open student bank accounts and providers will require savers to prove their identity with a valid student card.

Covid e-commerce
ArticlesFinance

E-commerce In Post-COVID Economy: What Has Changed?

Covid e-commerce


Fintech innovations during the pandemic have been a crucial driving force for businesses worldwide. A number of solutions launched or quickly adapted to aid the growing global payments demand, contributing to growth of the e-commerce sector by 26% globally.

Fintech startups played a significant role in the global financial industry during the pandemic. Payments companies especially, have brought rapid solutions to aid the transition in commerce, which shifted from physical to digital in a matter of months. Many brick-and-mortar businesses began to offer online services, which led to a significant 26% jump in global e-commerce activity last year. That said, the question whether the need for e-commerce-boosting Fintech solutions will remain after the pandemic still lingers.

Payments industry experts expect the increase of Fintech solutions to continue driving the growth of e-commerce for the foreseeable future, citing the change in user behaviour. To further this, Frank Breuss, CEO and co-founder of Nikulipe—a Fintech company creating and connecting Local Payment Methods (LPMs) in the Fast-Growing and Emerging markets—has noted that some challenges, which have undermined e-commerce before, remain unsolved and so the need for Fintech solutions will remain for the foreseeable future.

Breuss explained that the pandemic highlighted one of the main challenges that e-commerce faced for years prior to 2020—the willpower to move towards digital payments. The pandemic restrictions, in turn, have forced many companies to accelerate the implementation of digital payments and virtual customer support in their businesses.

“Prior to COVID-19, many retail companies around the world had been mulling over digital service offerings. However, a relatively small segment of early adopters treated it as an urgent need. The pandemic effectively drove many companies that previously relied on brick-and-mortar stores to explore digital channels to ensure business continuity and survival.”

E-commerce platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce and others allowed even small businesses to make a quick digital switch without going through huge infrastructural investments. They offer easy creation of an e-shop, as well as access to payment gateways and plugins, which enabled business owners to manage essential customer relationship management (CRM) tasks like making appointments, creating a contact list and managing orders in real time.

During this time, Fintechs working in the Payments industry have also introduced various services and solutions to ease the financial burden on consumers during the difficult economic situation. As an example the ‘Buy Now Pay Later’ (BNPL) option, which allows shoppers to pay in installments, was made available to many more customers in recent years. Mobile payments have also shown a dramatic growth, becoming a lifeline for the Emerging markets as mobile phones are more widely accessible than bank accounts. Experts regard this as a giant step towards achieving financial inclusion globally.

According to Breuss, low financial inclusion has been and continues to be a significant impediment to the growth of e-commerce, especially in Emerging markets. As a result, over 2 billion people worldwide are unable to participate directly in global online trading. In Africa, where about 60% of the population remain unbanked, Fintech companies have come to the rescue. Many African countries recorded huge Fintech investments last year, peaking at $1.35 billion by Q4 2020. This is expected to see Africa’s contribution to global trade rise significantly over the next few years.

“At Nikulipe, we are working on meeting consumers’ needs to be able to pay with the Local Payment Method of their choice—not just at their local but also at global merchants. This became even more relevant since the COVID-19 crisis,” explained Breuss. “During the last one and a half years, Fintechs working in the Payments industry came up with a number of solutions to ease e-commerce tool adoption and they still have a significant role to play in the growth of e-commerce and global trends over the next decade,” he added.

As the world begins to make a gradual return to normalcy, e-commerce will have to continue solving the challenges it faces. While the move to digital payments has seen significant progress, a majority of LPMs still exclude global merchants, limiting consumer choice. Financial inclusion has moved forward as well with BNPL and mobile payments gaining popularity, but suitable LPM solutions and internet accessibility remains restrictive to the wider inclusion. Region-specific regulations remain another hurdle to figure out, and these ongoing challenges could be solved only with continued Fintech involvement.

TikTok
ArticlesFinance

Expert Warns Against the Dangers of TikTok Investing Craze

TikTok


By Ben Hobson, Markets Editor, Stockopedia

When users of the online discussion site Reddit banded together recently to bid up the price of shares in GameStop Corp., it showed just how influential – and risky – some online investing communities can be.

But Reddit isn’t the only online resource that’s proving popular with investors. Social media platforms are attracting large audiences looking for ideas – including TikTok.

Videos with the hashtag #Investing have so far racked up over 2.2 billion views on TikTok, opening up a world of investing to millions of younger people. But it comes with big risks – there is a very real danger of losing money if (and when) things go wrong.

 

Ben Hobson, Markets Editor at Stockopedia talks about some of the dangers of the TikTok investing craze and how to avoid the risks…

More and more young people are turning to social media platforms like TikTokto find investments with the promise of life-changing profits. 

Economic turmoil and low trust in financial institutions has left a generation of investors thinking differently about where they invest and who they listen to. In fact, according to brokerage Charles Schwab, 80 percent of millennial and Gen Z investors believe recent economic difficulties are making it harder to get good investment returns.

With social media platforms like TikTok enjoying huge global reach, it’s no surprise that they’re now influencing the investment decisions of millions around the world. 

Earlier this year, the now infamous trading frenzy in US games retailer GameStop Corp, showed how “viral” trends can have a huge impact on individual securities. That was intensified by TikTok videos encouraging viewers to take considerable financial risks in return for what they portrayed as a guaranteed win. For many, the episode simply resulted in losses.

Events at GameStop and other stocks like it have raised fears that apps like TikTok are a new frontier for the kind of stock market manipulation regulators have been battling for decades.

Recently, the Financial Conduct Authority has specifically warned that videos on apps like TikTok are a major risk to young and inexperienced investors.

Part of the problem is that the sense of community on social media platforms can lead to herd mentality. This psychological togetherness is what makes the apps popular. But it’s a huge risk in investing and it’s often blamed for whipping up manias and bubbles.

Sadly, it’s the unprepared amateur investors that are most likely to be left with stomach-churning losses when the frenzy dies down.

 

Beware of scams

Beyond videos that overpromise, there are also outright scams. And TikTokhas been a lucrative target for criminal groups.

These scams range from the notorious ‘Money Mule’ money laundering scam to much more common ‘day trading’ cons and even celebrity-endorsed money-making schemes.

Videos from these accounts often promise high returns for following their advice and signing up for exclusive subscription services to get ‘insider knowledge’ on the markets. 

Users can find themselves enticed to visit websites that often have very little information about the company’s management, location or details about what they do. These are serious red flags and should be avoided at all costs.

 

Be careful who you trust

Social media has created a revolution in the way consumers connect and interact. But the risks for investors tempted by the promise of quick wins are very high.

Excessive promotion, clickbait, herd mentality and even criminal scams are not always easy to detect. So be wary of these risks. 

Always double-check any advice you find on social media using a trusted, independent source. With additional research, you can make an informed risk versus reward calculation to see if something is worth investing in while guarding against false claims or scams.

 

Here are some top tips to remember:
  1. Be wary of users that promote high-return investments. Remember that risk and reward go hand-in-hand, so if what is on offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.

  2. Investigate investment ideas by doing your own research. There is no easy button in investing but doing your homework can pay off. There’s no such thing as a perfect investment, but financial data will tell you what you are dealing with.

  3. Remember the age-old warning about consulting a financial adviser. At the very least, discuss your ideas with someone you trust before parting with cash.

  4. Never open an e-currency account to transfer money to an investment scheme. This is an unregulated space that fraudsters use to avoid detection.

  5. If you’re keen on becoming a successful investor, consider signing up to a reputable investment platform for expert guidance, ratings and portfolio management support.

  6. If you’re in any doubt at all, swipe-up and walk away.

SME Investment
ArticlesFinance

Almost a Third of SMEs Invest to Make Businesses Safe for the Summer

SME Investment
  • Nearly eight out of ten small businesses are confident of a summer boost in trade
  • But over a third are worried about the impact of continued social distancing

 

 
SMEs are increasing their investment in protective measures for both customers and staff as they remain cautiously optimistic that the summer will bring a boost to trade, according to research by Recognise, the UK’s newest SME bank.
Almost a third (30%) of smaller firms told Recognise they would be spending on PPE or protective measures for staff, while one in five (22%) of SMEs said they would be investing in protective measures for customers.
Overall, nearly eight out of ten (78%) SMEs said they were confident of a boost in business in the summer if Covid restrictions were removed completely, an 11-percentage point increase on the 67% of smaller businesses who said they were confident of a seasonal uplift when questioned by Recognise in March this year.
Confidence is highest in the retail sector, one of the areas most impacted by lockdown measures, with 86% of smaller retailers telling Recognise they are confident of increased trade in the summer, compared with 60% in March.
But Covid is still causing concern for smaller businesses. Recognise found that over a third (37%) of SMEs said they were concerned that restrictions, such as social distancing, could hamper trade or reduce customer numbers. The figure increased in the hospitality sector where more than half (52%) of SMEs said they were worried  that continued restrictions would dampen business.
Less than a third (30%) of SMEs said they were worried that customers would be too afraid to shop or do business with them because of the fear of catching Covid-19, compared with 20% in March.
As a result, many SMEs are increasing their spending to ensure they can make the most of summer trading, whatever the circumstances. Recognise found:
  • 41% of SMEs in the hospitality sector had already, or said they were planning to invest in outside seating
  • 35% of all SMEs said they would be investing in new equipment including IT, up from 22% in March
  • 30% of smaller firms said they would be spending on PPE or protective measures for staff, up from 25% in March
  • 22% of SMEs said they would spend on PPE or protective measures for customers, up from 20% in March
 
However, previous concerns around the long-term impact of Covid lockdowns on business seem to have diminished. The number of smaller firms worried about replacing customers lost during lockdown has fallen to 20% (down from 26% in March), while worries that customers will have taken their business elsewhere have dropped to 14% of all SMEs (compared to 18% in March).
According to Jason Oakley, CEO of Recognise, the latest findings reveal the resilience of the UK’s SME sector. He explained: “SMEs remain cautiously optimistic that business will continue to improve as we get closer to the summer. If that means continuing to operate within certain restrictions, you can be certain they will adapt their businesses to welcome as many customers as possible.
“This can-do attitude is shown by the growing number of SMEs planning to invest in their businesses in readiness for the summer. While expenditure on protective equipment is to be expected, higher spending on marketing and promotional activity suggests that smaller businesses are coming out of lockdown with ambition and plans to win customers.”
Recognise’s research found that using cash surplus remains the most popular option for funding the investment in business, as indicated by 20% of all SMEs (up from 14% in March). 17% of smaller firms said they planned to use government loan schemes to fund spending (up from 14% in March), while 15% intended to borrow from their bank (up from 13% in March). A further 6% of SMEs surveyed said they would borrow from a lender other than their bank, the same as in March.
Recognise provides lending to the UK’s SME sector via a network of regional Relationship Managers in London, Midlands, Manchester and Leeds, backed up by the latest cloud-based technology to provide quick lending decisions and fast access to funds.
The bank aims to provide more than £1.5 billion of business lending over the next five years. Business and personal savings accounts will be launched later this summer.
Business value
ArticlesFinanceWealth Management

How To Increase the Value of Your Business

Business value


If there is a possibility that you may sell your business at some stage in its life, no matter whether that is in 3 years or 30, you need to consider increasing its value. By doing so, you increase your chances of securing a more profitable sale in the future.

Selling a business can be tough. If you have put years of effort into building yourself a profitable company, you’ll want to be secure in the knowledge that you will eventually complete a worthy sale.

Here we provide a range of tips that will each help you to not just maintain the value of your business, but steadily increase it over the years up until its sale.

 

Understanding your business’s current value

Knowing where you currently stand in terms of business success and value, is vital. If you have a clear starting point, you have a base in which you can prove your growth in the future to your buyers. It is always worth you finding out the current value of your business in order to identify areas in which you have grown over the following years.

A buyer will be interested in a clear depiction of growth with sufficient evidence being provided – this represents great business value. If you spend a decent amount of time looking into every element of your business and analysing where it provides you with value, you can use this knowledge to your advantage.

 

Taking the right steps towards improving business value

Along with the efforts that you are currently making to ensure that your business is successful, you can follow a few simple steps that will help to secure that value. By doing these as additional steps, you boost your chances of success in a future sale.

  1. Ask for advice

There are plenty of experts out there who can help to advise on improving your business, managing cash flow and keeping financial troubles at bay. Professional help could make the difference between you maintaining value and gaining value.

If you are facing financial trouble, it’s always best to get this under control before you consider selling your business, if you can. A valuable business is a profitable business.

 

  1. Invest and update

Actively investing in new equipment, machinery or whatever it may be that your business relies on in its day to day operations, is important. The more outdated your business operation becomes, the more that your overall value reduces over time.

Spending money on new equipment and technology may seem like a large investment at first, but you will soon see the benefits. Don’t let the initial spending put you off – this is often what causes financial issues within companies. Some businesses will fail to modernise and as a result, become slow in their processes and start seeing losses.

 

  1. Repeat what works

If you know what already works well for your business, you can continue to do this and strive to improve it even further. Spend time assessing where your priorities lie and what you can afford to leave on the backburner.

If a part of your business is running efficiently and doesn’t require much attention, let it continue to be successful whilst you focus on other areas. If you can implement those winning processes in other areas, do so.

 

  1. Keep an eye on cash flow

Buyers will obviously pay close attention to a business’s cash flow. If your future cash flow projections show it being set to increase, you will automatically attract keen buyers. Document this growth clearly and go back to step 1 should you find yourself having problems with cash flow.

Cash flow is clearly important in any business. Make sure that you are dedicating enough time into managing this area before it becomes a major issue.

 

  1. Don’t forget the importance of customer service

Whether you have a large or small customer base, it is key that you keep those customers happy. If you have a good relationship with repeat customers and spend

time getting to understand the needs of new ones, you will please future buyers.

By documenting what you learn about your customer base, you have a valuable document of information that a future buyer will really appreciate.

There are clearly a lot of ways in which you can help improve the value of your business. What is important to remember, is that you need to have future value in mind at all times. If there is a chance that you may complete the sale of your business at some point, you need to be sure that you are offering buyers a valuable and profitable business.

If you can optimise your current processes to help increase value, then do so. It is unlikely that you will lose out by focusing on these areas, so allocate the time you need to really make it work.

ESG
ArticlesFinanceSustainable Finance

With Sustainable Financing on the Rise, Expert Advises How Fintechs Could Step Up ESGs Activities

ESG

 Embedding ESG goals could help fintechs become more immersed in sustainable banking, thus improving their market resilience.
An increasing number of businesses are focusing on how to embed ESG (Environment, Social, and Governance) goals into their strategies. As the notion of sustainability is gaining more ground in the finance sector as well, Marius Galdikas, CEO at ConnectPay, has shared how fellow fintechs could incorporate ESG practices into their business and what impact it could have on fuelling further growth.
ESG investing has skyrocketed over recent years, as more and more investors have started to consider the impact of their money. This shift in attitude is already well-reflected in the market —  last year companies with better ESG ratings had greater returns in almost every month. The finance sector is no exception, with major players boosting their financing goals to trillions of dollars. In the US alone, six largest banks in the country have pledged to eliminate all financing activities related to greenhouse emissions by 2050.
According to Galdikas, although fintechs may not have massive budgets to finance low-carbon initiatives, it should not be a limiting factor to support ESG goals. In fact, neglecting the subject may result in decreased company value and missed opportunities.
“First of all, ESG issues are becoming more important for stakeholders looking to invest long-term. Neglecting the topic may lead to a poor ESG “risk score”, which is closely monitored by business partners and investors. This could negatively impact the company’s reputation, followed by decreased market value, as well as losing the edge against the “more green” competitors,” Galdikas explained.
He also noted a few strategies for how fintechs could become more immersed in sustainable banking and improve their market resilience.
“One of the ways could be setting up “green pricing” for ESG-driven businesses, as in offering tailored pricing options for your services. It could be set case-by-case, taking into consideration how the company operates and what strategies it uses to achieve their business goals. Making sure that they’re consistent in their actions will allow you to sift out potential fraudsters as well,” Galdikas advised.
“Also, take time to overview your current client portfolio. ConnectPay works with digital-only businesses, thus large scale manufacturers or other industries, contributing to high carbon emissions, are not in our client base. Yet fintechs with a wider scope of customers should re-evaluate if businesses they are working with operate with ESG-values in mind.”
Another way to support the sustainability movement is to reorganize in-house processes with a goal to lessen CO2 emissions, for instance, by reducing business trips. “Albeit it may not be as relevant with the ongoing pandemic, which put a halt on international travel, but sooner or later the world will recover, thus it’s important to keep this in mind for future reference.”
While the Environmental aspect usually retains the main focus in the context of sustainability, Social and Governance criteria need to be approached with the same determination. In Fintech, this could be addressed by tackling the gender gap. At the moment, women make up less than 30% of the industry’s workforce. At ConnectPay, however, the team is split almost equally in half, having 48% women and 52% men.
“Diversity in the team inspires new ideas, improves decision-making and leads to higher overall performance, all the while contributing to better integration of ESG goals,” the expert concluded.
Investment
ArticlesFinance

Playing the Long Game: How to be Successful at Long-term Investing

Investment

By Ben Hobson, Markets Editor, Stockopedia 

 

Read the financial headlines and it would be easy to believe that an investment fortune can be made with just one trade.  

 

While it’s true that some people do get lucky with one “magic” stock during their investment journey, most successful investors build their personal wealth and security over the long term. 

 

Investing is mostly a waiting game. Sticking to a predetermined strategy is key to success in this field – while not letting emotions compromise your judgement. 

 

In the modern age of investing, this isn’t easy. New and experienced investors are being bombarded with more information and ideas than ever before. But in all this noise comes the increased risk of mistakes and misinformation – making the idea of getting quick money sound all the more tempting. 

 

That’s why Ben Hobson, Markets Editor at Stockopedia shares his insights on how to manage your portfolio for the long run.

 

 

Have a plan  

 

Investment strategies naturally change over time and making mistakes is unavoidable as markets fluctuate.  

 

Understanding the risks ahead of time and looking at the bigger picture can help you manage the highs and lows so that you stay committed for the long term. 

 

Not only will this give you confidence, but it will help you manage the fear of loss that can lead some investors to throw in the towel.  

 

Everyone is guilty of dipping into savings to fit their needs – whether it be for a treat or a surprise expense – but it’s vital to know precisely how much you’re willing to invest. 

 

For the most part, the longer you remain invested, the more you’re likely to benefit from compounding returns over time. So, being confident that you can afford the amount you have invested today, and in the years that follow, is paramount. 

 

 

A strategic stance 

 

Investors and investment strategies are all different and investing advice takes many forms and can seem confusing to those starting out. Yet the historical drivers of stock market profits are surprisingly consistent.  

 

Keep it simple and create a strategy around the three factors that many professional investors focus on – Quality, Value and Momentum. This way, you’re aligning with factors that have historically driven the strongest performances in the stock market over time. 

Remember that high profitability and cash flows are markers of a strong business and are likely worth looking at. Be vigilant of low or no profits, thin margins, debt and precarious balance sheets – businesses with these are usually worth avoiding. 

 

Valuation is vital when choosing a stock. Unloved shares that can be bought for a snip may offer supersized returns. But paying a fair price for higher quality or promising growth is just as viable.  

 

Finally, looking at trends and history can help you gauge a stock’s performance. Positive momentum is one of the most significant return drivers in investing. Share prices that are rising strongly often continue to do so. 

 

 

The perfect all-weather portfolio 

 

Stocks, sectors and markets move in their own cycles. When one zigs, the other zags, so think about the roles that each investment type plays in your portfolio and how many positions you feel comfortable with managing. 

 

Any investor worth their salt would recommend spreading out finances across a range of investment types and trying out different strategies. 

 

Diversification between different market-cap sizes, investment styles, industry sectors and even international geographies can protect you from being too exposed to unnecessary risks and can smooth out your investment returns over time. 

 

For example, having your money invested in funds and bonds can be less risky than a volatile stock, but having both could help limit losses and increase the chances of a positive return. 

 

 

Keeping a balance 

 

When your portfolio is in place, understanding where to prioritise your attention lets you rest easy at night rather than fretting over small changes. 

 

One or two big winners can quickly dominate your allocation, but those big winners can also be life changing. 

 

Don’t get too caught up in your portfolio performance – you need to let your investments breathe. If anything, getting too caught up in the losses can make you miss an uptick in value around the corner. 

 

Overtrading can not only fuel emotional investing, but fees and charges can quickly mount. Trading fees all chip away at your portfolio, so avoid throwing money at unnecessary trades – especially when you’re bored. 

Foreclosure
ArticlesFinance

A Complete Guide To Foreclosure Investing

Foreclosure


Whether you’re new or a veteran in a real estate business, foreclosure investing is an incredible strategy to pay attention to. It’s understandable to have hesitations. People’s perception of foreclosure investing could easily affect your judgment.

Well, you shouldn’t have to be. Contrary to some beliefs, you can actually use it as your opportunity to start a business venture. You can potentially expand your investment portfolio if you can successfully invest in foreclosed properties. Doing so will also boost your chance to generate revenue.

 

How Foreclosure Occurs

But first, you need to understand why foreclosures happen. It starts when someone decides to acquire a property. One may own a property without paying the entire cost at once in terms of down payment. 

Typically, people can settle the payment for a small portion of the total cost, usually around 3-20% of the price, and borrow the remaining amount. The borrowed amount shall be payable within 2-3 years, depending on the contract term.

Unfortunately, accumulating money needed for the payment may not be easy as allocating thousands of dollars for such may be difficult. Or their earnings may not be enough to meet this obligation. 

Hence, it’ll be stipulated in the loan agreement that the property they’ll buy will also serve as your collateral. If they lose the capability to continue the payment, the lender will confiscate the property. Real estate lien allows lenders to withhold such property if they fail to pay off such debt.

During foreclosure, the lender repossesses the property, and they lose the right of its ownership. The lender will then sell the property to catch up with the amount they lent you. Thus, the lender gets the right to dispose of your property.

 

Should You Buy Foreclosed Property?

There’s absolutely a good reason for purchasing a foreclosed property. As mentioned, these properties can come cheap. Thus, it can create enticing profit margins, which are not common on other real estate properties. Being a new investor, it’ll be a wise decision if you would start with such an investment.

 

Conducting Analysis For Investment Property

No matter how cheap or promising the foreclosed property is, you can’t be impulsive when investing in foreclosure properties. You can ensure a successful investment property if you don’t hurry to buy the first ones you see. Thus, it would be best if you do your due diligence before buying one.

This is in the form of conduct an analysis of the particular property you wish to acquire. When conducting your analysis, you should look for the best properties that could indicate the highest ROI. Hence, the higher the number you can potentially earn, the more promising it becomes for an investment. 

 

Finding Foreclosed Homes

Try to be resourceful if you want to buy a foreclosed home as there are several ways of finding foreclosed properties. One of which is going to the local County Recorder’s Office to check the list of foreclosing homes.

You can also visit websites and read the local newspapers to check foreclosed homes for sale. Furthermore, auction houses which conduct foreclosure sales can also give you a list. You may also seek help from the local real estate agents to help you find foreclosed homes.

 

Additional Cost Of Foreclosed Property

One of the considerations in real estate investment is, buying such properties will generally involve additional costs intended for the renovation. 

The real estate investment strategy concept is to acquire foreclosed properties that require renovations below the current market price. So, you must be ready to settle the additional expenses.

 

Utilizing The Experts

If you’re serious about investing in foreclosures, you must bring experts to your team. One of the people you can trust is a qualified agent. You must understand that there’ll be plenty of tasks that demand time and effort when investing in foreclosures. It’ll be tough for you to carry out everything on your own. 

From obtaining funds to doing the renovations, you’ll need experts to help you. With that in mind, here are some key players you can add to your team:

  • Property Manager: You’ll need a property manager to take charge of marketing your property. Your property manager will also be responsible for collecting the rent and managing the homes for their maintenance once you start using the foreclosed property to generate real estate income.

  • Loan Officer: Loan officers may not be necessary if you have the whole amount ready to buy a foreclosed property. If not, you should find a loan officer to help you with a mortgage or any form of financing so you can purchase the property. You must establish a harmonious relationship with a loan officer when looking for financing, particularly if you ‘e planning to acquire numerous properties.

 

Conclusion

With the great opportunities investing in foreclosed properties, you may want to start now. Gone are the days you’ll feel intimidated by this kind of venture. With the right knowledge about investment foreclosed property, you’ll know you’re doing the best thing.

However, remember this venture doesn’t guarantee success unless you put hard work and exert more time into it. Before you begin with your business, you must equip yourself with a team. Get the best people in your team and maximize their expertise. You’ll soon enjoy high profits from your investments.

Gold
ArticlesFinanceMarkets

Why Gift Premium Bonds When You Can Gift Gold?

Gold


Becky Hutchinson, Managing Director at Minted, an investment platform which allows individuals to buy and sell gold bullion.

In light of the ‘new normal’, parents and grandparents are looking for new ways to gift, virtually or otherwise. But in a climate of stock market volatility and low interest rates, are traditional financial investments still a solid choice, and could gold bullion be a safer bet?

There’s no doubt about it, Premium Bonds have earned their reputation as a safe and steadfast savings option. First introduced by the Government in 1956, these tax-free bonds from the National Savings and Investments (NS&I) agency are now UK’s biggest savings product, with about 22 million people having over £86 billion invested in them. Every £1 Bond is given a unique number and all numbers are put into a computer called Ernie (which stands for Electronic Random Number Indicator Equipment), which draws monthly winners. For years, they have been popular to give as presents to children under 16. The parent or guardian named on the application looks after the Bonds until the child’s 16th birthday, when they are entitled to a gift that will hopefully keep on giving.

In December 2020, however, the prize fund was cut considerably and due to the drop in the Bank of England base rate, NS&I also reduced the odds of winning. As a monthly lottery, the closest thing Premium Bonds have to an interest rate is their annual prize rate, which currently stands at one percent. This is based on the average pay out, depending on the number of bonds owned and, while it isn’t completely accurate, it does allow for an estimated calculation to be made about interest gained in a year.

But winning may be harder than it seems. According to Money Saving Expert, only 30% of people with £1,000 in Premium Bonds win £25 or more per year. And, over five years, someone with £1,000 in Premium Bonds and ‘average luck’ is expected to win roughly £50. While that may seem a lot of money to a child who’s been gifted Bonds, any parent knows that £50 doesn’t go far in today’s society.

When it comes to investment options, however, Premium Bonds are as safe as they get. Operated by NS&I, which is backed by the Treasury rather than a bank, funds are easy to access and there is little-to-no risk of losing money – only a small gamble around any potential ‘interest’. However, while this level of financial security was once a significant perk, all UK-regulated savings accounts are now protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) under the savings safety rules. This extends up to £85,000 per person, per bank, building society or credit union – £35,000 more than the maximum deposit allowance for Premium Bonds.

So, is there an alternative safe-haven investment option, with a better interest rate and without a savings cap? There is and it’s far older than Premium Bonds. Gold was one of the first precious metals to be used by humans as a trading commodity and, to this day, remains a stable choice. Many children’s books tell stories of gold – from pirates to royalty – and, in sport, a gold medal has always been associated with winning. From a very young age, the intrinsic value of gold has been ingrained in most people’s minds.

Aside from the glitz and glamour, perhaps the biggest difference between gold and Premium Bonds is that gold is a tangible asset. Investors can handle their physical gold and store it as they wish or even liquidate an asset if needed. Gold doesn’t just sit pretty either; while its price may fluctuate, historically and over the long term, it trends higher. Currently, the average growth rate per year is nine percent, considerably greater than bonds or current interest rates. With this in mind, £1,000 invested in gold could be worth around £1,538 after five years.

With the popularity of the finite resource growing, more user-friendly and flexible tech-focused routes into gold investment are appearing, making gifting the precious metal much easier. Features such as reward points for referring friends and family also provide an incentive for parents to start building up points for their children. With investment platforms like Minted, people can either purchase gold with a lump sum or save set amounts every month, starting at £30. Once enough has been saved for a gold bar, the physical gold can either be stored in a secure London vault or withdrawn – something any child would be proud to own. 

Despite its high-class status, gold is much more than just a luxury good and can be a viable option for every investor, at any age. As markets continue to fluctuate and interest rates drop, the price of gold could remain on its upward trajectory for some time. No matter the state of the current economic climate, the metal will always be a must-have addition to anyone’s investment portfolio and, with growing options to transfer gold virtually, the best kind of gift.