Category: Finance

marketing roi
Finance

ROI from marketing across various sectors

How ROI Can Vary Across Different Sectors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Social impact
Sustainable Finance

Younger Entrepreneurs Choose Social Impact As Their Top Business Priority

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

A socially minded brand of entrepreneurship

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

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

A new investment style

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

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

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

Differing approaches across the globe

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

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

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

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

Bowmark Capital
Corporate Finance and M&A/Deals

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

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

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

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

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

DasCoin
Finance

Dascoin Now Listed On Coinmarketcap.Com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Website: www.dascoin.com

Duologi
Finance

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

physical currency
Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsFinance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Failing business
FinanceInfrastructure and Project Finance

Lessons From Carillion: Act Now And Ensure Auditor Independence

LESSONS FROM CARILLION: ACT NOW AND ENSURE AUDITOR INDEPENDENCE

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

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

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

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

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

It starts with independence…

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

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

Can independence ever really be assured?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

By Arianne King, Managing Partner, Al Bawardi Critchlow

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

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

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

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

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

Crypto’s image problem

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

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

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

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

The role of regulation

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

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

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

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

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

Blockchain: the real opportunity?

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

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

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

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

What next for crypto?

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

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



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

An Ode to Banks: Collaborate And Thrive


An Ode to Banks: Collaborate And Thrive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QICGRE and Clean Energy Finance Corporation Partner In An Australian First

QICGRE and Clean Energy Finance Corporation Partner In An Australian First

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• onsite rooftop solar PV

• LED lighting

• heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system upgrades

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

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

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

SWIFT Response To Cyber Attacks | International Business Payments

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

By – Bill Camarda

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

Background: Successful International Business Payments Fraud

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Takeaway

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

The Author

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

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

International Payments: Remittances From Migrants

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

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

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

Remittances Drive Substantial International Payments

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

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

International Payments by Migrants are Important Drivers of International Trade

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

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

Risks to International Migration and Remittance Flows

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

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

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

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

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

The Takeaway

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

The Author

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

A Passion for Real Estate and Architecture
Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsFinance

A Passion for Real Estate and Architecture

Directors Fernando Levy Hara and Stephan Gietl realised their shared passion for real estate and architecture, while attending the Advanced Management Development Program in Real Estate (AMDP) at Harvard University Graduate School of Design. AMDP is exclusively for entrepreneurs and senior-level professionals, with minimum 15 years of real estate-related experience. Both Levy Hara and Gietl are in the meantime, highly sought after speakers at Harvard University, especially on real estate cycles.

Levy Hara and Gietl have specialised during the downturn of the economy in the years 2009 and 2010 in acquiring distressed assets, amongst them notes, fractured condominiums and land. Both developed residential and commercial projects in South Florida, Europe and Latin America, including the successful waterfront condominiums Regatta and Bay View Lofts in Miami Beach.
Since its inception, McKafka Development Group has acquired notes, properties and development sites exceeding $100 million in value and has sold more than 500 units mostly to international investors. With its latest condominium development, The Crimson, McKafka Development Group will certainly leave an imprint on Miami’s skyline.

McKafka Development Group was excited to announce its latest development addition, a 282-multifamily project in Sarasota, Florida. With this development, McKafka Development Group is evidencing once more its right timing for the market.

Stephan Gietl serves as the Chief Finance Officer and Chief Operating Officer of the company. Originally from Austria, he was responsible for the completion of a mix-used project called Palladium in Downtown Prague, with more than one million square feet of shopping centre, office and parking space. Stephan is instructor of executive education at Harvard and member of Harvard’s Board of Real Estate Academic Initiative.

Development services

Our development service division has a very strong capability to evaluate a project’s feasibility, from a 360-degree perspective, which makes Mckafka a first-choice developer.
The team’s sophisticated skills span our services – from distressed asset acquisition to overall development services – including key turn projects. Our dedication to every detail in the whole development chain puts Mckafka at the forefront delivering outstanding project results. Implementation of our self-developed cost and project management tools further enhances governance and goal compliance of any development project we work on.

Property management

Mckafka Property Management specialises in providing a full range of residential property management services to such owners, especially international investors. Our portfolio comprises hundreds of condominium units in Fort Lauderdale and Miami, Florida. With our fully integrated online management tool, our investors receive a full picture of their investment at their fingertips, from any mobile device. Our ability and experience in residential property management allows McKafka Property Management, LLC to serve and provide personal attention to our clients.
Realty services Helping to maximise the return of your investment, McKafka Realty’s team emphasis lies in minimising any vacancy of your property, as well as maximising your income. With our in-depth market knowledge, we assist you in generating outstanding rental and sales income.

The Crimson case

study One of our firm’s projects, The Crimson will offer buyers and investors a cost effective residential experience with ultra luxury amenities. Located at NE 27th and Biscayne Blvd, this LEED Silver project will feature 1, 2 and 3-bedroom residences, penthouses and town homes. The Crimson units range from approximately 780-1600 square feet, spanning nine different floor plans, plus there is ample storage and parking available. The building also offers six penthouses, equipped with an outdoor terrace and private hot tub.

A Wealth of Specialist Services
FinanceInfrastructure and Project Finance

A Wealth of Specialist Services

TCA Asset Management is a specialised investment boutique, established in Geneva during 2011. Managing Director Ludovic Bonnamour discusses the firm’s work, following their success in achieving the accolade of the Most Outstanding Investment Advisory Firm – Switzerland, as part of the Fund Manager Elite 2017 series.

TCA Asset Management is an innovative alternative boutique asset management firm. Established in Geneva in 2011, it is a fast-growing company, currently providing four complimentary activities: wealth management; corporate finance; family office and fund support services.

The firm was established to bear in mind any forthcoming regulatory changes and evolving client needs over the long term (i.e. greater efficiency, higher service levels, global banking and choice of services). The business was structured from a risk management perspective, rather than the usual business model adopted by EAMs of just pooling assets. This model brings a long-term perspective for both internal and external clients, enabling the company to grow continuously.

Ludovic Bonnamour is the managing director and partner of TCA Asset Management, a Swiss-based advisory boutique specialising in fund support services, wealth management and corporate finance. In his own words, Ludovic tells us more about his own role in the firm.

My role is to build and to develop the company as an overall (from the business activities to the CFO duties), so I am involved in global management and business development when assisting the team and our specialists in the day to day business for servicing clients.

“I have worked 14 years in finance and be able to acquire skills and knowledge from international companies such as Allianz and HSBC in several functions from risk management to advisory services, and alongside internal and external clients in retail banking, private banking and corporate banking activities. Specialising in alternative investments as well as in quantitative fields, I worked in the hedge funds industry, credit advisory, portfolio leverage analysis, Basel regulatory capital requirements and lending activities, while liaising with group offices before developing new services from TCA Asset Management since 2011.”

Opportunities and challenges for the industry The firms in Switzerland and abroad recently recovered from the global heavy consecutive financial crisis of the last ten years, that impacted not only the financial markets, but also the real economy Ludovic highlights.

“That highlighted clear shifts in strategy for lots of countries, governments and companies, working on new kind of technologies, new types of income streams while sometimes venturing into completely new approaches” he went on to say.

“Switzerland is now for a while, very well recognised for its manufacturing industry, for the chemical and pharmaceutical industry, as well as for its knowhow in terms of financial centre. Switzerland is for a long time recognised for its stability, universality, responsibility and excellence with proven methods and reliability” Ludovic continues.

First Triggered by the 2008/2009 crisis and the subsequent sovereign debt crisis, the last five years have had an impact on the local financial market environment in Switzerland and its wealth management industry Ludovic believes. This includes solving the problems of the past with taxation and transparency, adopting international standards, bringing market access in the EU and compatibility of products and improving the competitiveness framework conditions.

“The authority started to strengthen professionalism and regulatory requirements for managing financial assets and financial companies. At the same time, due to higher costs, sometimes decrease of profitability or even legal constraints, banks merged or closed, therefore the number of actors continuously decreased by more than 20% over the last twelve years (338 in 2004 and 266 in 2015 – source SNB).

“The private banking industry in Switzerland (in numbers) is today represented by 266 institutions and more than 2400 independent firms (from 1 to 15 employees), so that is nearly 90% of the financial actors. Independent actors so called ‘External Asset Managers’ (EAMs) manage clients’ assets through banks (custody and brokerage services) with a portfolio management approach based on an advisory or a discretionary mandate on behalf of clients.

“Nowadays, CHF 6567 billion are managed in Switzerland through banks – 50% of these assets are originated from abroad (recognised expertise by the international clients) – and this corresponds to a market share of 25.0% of the global cross-border asset management business placing Switzerland n°1.” (source SwissBanking.org)

Having worked in the field for more than 14 years, created an EAM multi boutique asset management firm, developed a cross selling approach with four activities, developed a large network of partners, banks, investors and clients in Switzerland and abroad, Ludovic can attest of a real need of services and a real opportunity to gather market shares.

“A good part of EAMs are now too small for being able to survive (1 to 3 people), offer only one expertise (portfolio management without advisory services or CIO), express difficulties in bringing transparent solutions and value added to their clients.

On top of all this, a vast majority of these actors are turning or have turned 55/65 years old and therefore do not want to build new teams and services. These investment boutiques cannot afford to hire senior investment specialists dedicated to macro research and products. They finally must pay external services such as our “CIO Office Solution” for getting access to a professional advisory and investment committee services”

“Surprisingly, each crisis has helped our firm to increase both its reputation and simultaneously its revenues. Due to a lack of credit in the market following the credit crunch, and based on the team expertise -we have developed an offer around corporate needs that has met people’s needs, the Bernie Maddoff story helped us to develop the fund support activities due to a need of transparency, a third-party monitoring and credibility from a recognised external team.”

“Moreover, the private banks themselves are indirectly helping us to develop businesses through their changing employment policies (reduced job security, constantly increasing pressure and decreasing rewards) and also their approach towards their clients (arbitrarily closing bank accounts of smaller clients in order to manage fewer relationships). We now talk about externalisation and independency from banks.”

Ludovic concludes that clients are more and more comparing services, looking for fee transparency, alignment of interests and open architecture while talking about investments and custodians. Our company has evolved since its inception in 2011 and developed several complimentary activities that led to several well-deserved awards and recognitions from peers based on this long-term approach.

Company: TCA Asset Management
Name: Ludovic Bonnamour – Managing Director
Email: [email protected] 
Web Address: www.tca-am.com 
Address : Rue du Port 8/10, 1204 Geneva, Switzerland 
Telephone: +41 (0)22 566 5250

Successful Placement of the €300 Million Notes Offering
FinanceInfrastructure and Project Finance

Successful Placement of the €300 Million Notes Offering

Successful placement of the €300 million notes offering


Rexel, a global leader in the professional distribution of products and services for the energy world, has successfully placed €300 million of its 2.625% unsecured senior notes due 2024 (the ”Notes”).

The delivery and settlement and the listing of the notes on the Euro MTF market of the Luxembourg Stock Exchange are expected to occur on or about March 13, 2017.

The Notes, which mature on June 15, 2024, will be callable as from March 2020. They will rank pari passu with Rexel’s senior credit facility and other senior unsecured notes. The Notes are expected to obtain the following ratings: Ba3 by Moody’s (while Rexel’s corporate rating is Ba2 with a stable outlook), BB- by S&P (while Rexel’s corporate rating is BB with a stable outlook) and BB by Fitch (in line with Rexel’s corporate rating with a stable outlook).

Rexel will use the proceeds of the issuance of the Notes, together with some available cash, to redeem all of the 5.250% senior US$ notes due June 2020 (the “2020 Notes”) of which US$330,000,000 remain outstanding. Rexel expects to redeem the 2020 Notes on or about June 15, 2017. Rexel can elect not to redeem the 2020 Notes if it does not issue the Notes or if there is a material adverse change in financial markets.

This issuance will allow Rexel to enhance its financial structure by extending its debt maturity profile and reducing its overall cost of financing.

BNP Paribas and Crédit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank acted as Joint Global Coordinators, and as Joint Lead Bookrunners for the offering. Merrill Lynch International, HSBC Bank plc and Natixis acted as Joint Bookrunners, and Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, S.A., Crédit Industriel et Commercial S.A. and Société Générale acted as Co-Lead Managers.

Patrick BERARD, Chief Executive Officer, said:

“The success of this new seven-year note issuance confirms investor confidence in Rexel’s business model and strategy. It will allow us to refinance the 5.250% notes issued in 2013 at a significantly lower cost.

This operation constitutes a further step in our continuous efforts to strengthen our balance sheet and reduce our cost of financing.”

This document is not an offer of securities for sale nor the solicitation of an offer to purchase securities in France, in the United States or any other jurisdiction.

The securities described herein may not be offered or sold in the United States or to, or for the account or benefit of, U.S. persons unless they are registered or exempt from registration under the U.S. Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “Securities Act”). The securities described herein have not been and will not be registered under Securities Act and Rexel does not intend to make a public offer of its securities in the United States.

The offer and sale of the Notes in France will be carried out through a private placement in accordance with article L.411-2 of the French Financial and Monetary Code and other applicable laws and regulations. There will be no public offering in France.

Quality
FinanceInfrastructure and Project Finance

Quality, Value and Integrity

Lennar International is a division of one of America’s largest homebuilders, Lennar Corporation (NYSE:LEN). Lennar International raises and directs foreign investments in Lennar through home sales and the United States’ EB-5 immigrant investor program and matches foreign capital with opportunities throughout the Lennar platform.

Lennar has established one of the largest geographically diverse real estate portfolios in the United States, including for sale homes, for rent homes and apartments, large master planned communities, commercial and other asset classes. Lennar is recognised as an intelligent underwriter of all manner of land positions and is a prolific purchaser, and seller, of land in the United States. The Lennar brand exemplifies our guiding principles – Quality. Value. Integrity.

Recently, Lennar International has become a beacon for foreign direct investment into the Lennar U.S. real estate eco-system, helping attract well over $4.5 billion across the platform over the last three years. Chris Marlin tells us more about his role within the organisation.

“I manage a team of incredibly intelligent, talented and hard-working people that now call North America home, but are originally from around the globe: China, Canada, Latin America, the Middle East and Europe as well as the U.S. In order to effectively communicate and appropriately react to global events, we constantly monitor the world’s geopolitical, economic and environmental status as well as what is happening with social issues, entertainment and sports. We have also created a global network of real estate professionals around the world who help us tell the Lennar story and keep us engaged in their countries.”

The firm’s success lies in the testimonies of its customers, who have nothing but praise for the company.

“We make the home buying and investment process as simple as possible” explains Chris. “Our team offers expertise in financing, guidance through the different laws and regulations foreign buyers face as well as being able to communicate in the buyer’s native language. We operate with complete transparency and integrity and our buyers and investors appreciate this level of service and professionalism.”

With regards to the future, Chris foretells both opportunities and challenges for the firm, and for the industry also.

“There is a lot of uncertainty about the world. We need to remind our partners and potential buyers that despite this uncertainty, the US offers endless reasons to invest in real estate, as long as you are investing with an experienced, consumer-oriented, transparent and highly regarded builder, co-investor, operator … like Lennar. Lennar is happy to roll out the welcome mat for everyone.

“Disruption is around every corner – and on every phone. The way the U.S. real estate industry does business could be at the vanguard of the next great disruption. Lennar sees this as an opportunity to evolve rapidly to embrace the change that is inevitable in this industry — and to lead our customers and investors into tomorrow’s realities, today.”

“However, Brand America is alive and well. The USA remains, and is expected to remain for a long time, the #1 destination for real estate capital, globally. And Lennar will continue to demonstrate why its core principles of quality, value and integrity make its platform the premier destination for US real estate investment.”

Company: Lennar International Name: Chris Marlin Email: [email protected] Web Address: www.LennarInternational.com

Investing in Macro Trading - Investing for the Future
FinanceInfrastructure and Project Finance

Investing in Macro Trading – Investing for the Future

History of Systematic Global Macro

Systematic global macro managers have a track record of producing positive annual returns for more than three decades with low to negative correlations to traditional asset classes and hedge fund strategies. They can also be classified as global macro, managed futures, or trend-following/ CTA. The core methodologies used by systematic global macro programs are well-documented in academic and financial literature.

Why ‘Systematic’ Macro instead of Discretionary?

Systematic trading has significant advantages over discretionary styles. For example, one of the challenges faced by a discretionary trader is the control of emotions during critical points of market activity or personal performance. In contrast, systematic trading programs are emotionless and do not suffer from this issue. Investment decisions are based on decades of historical quantitative research and are carried out in a repeatable, systematic, disciplined manner.

Since they are almost or entirely automated, trading systems are easily scalable and can thus far more readily accommodate new markets or new investor capital. Finally, systematic programs are typically more broadly diversified than discretionary traders, both in the number of markets analysed and in the types of strategies employed.

Potential Benefits
– Portfolio Diversification – since its September 2003 inception, Red Rock’s SGM program has produced -0.08 correlation to stocks and 0.06 correlation to bonds.
– Long or Short exposure to over 70 globally diversified, highly liquid commodity & financial futures markets spanning all market sub-categories: grains, precious and base metals, energies, foods & softs, currencies, interest rates, bonds, and equity indices.
– Opportunity to be on receiving end of ‘Crisis Alpha’ – during the Great Financial Crisis (Sep ’07 – Feb ’09) our Systematic Global Macro program netted clients +75.52% returns, while U.S. stocks lost -48.14%, International stocks lost -51.92%, Commodities lost -43.69%, and Hedge Funds were down -17.01%.
– SMAs offered at client’s choice of broker. Daily pricing, transparency & liquidity.
– Regulated futures exchanges minimise credit risk and allow for standardised contract specifications.
– Margin requirements are generally significantly less than in the cash markets, creating an opportunity to use leverage effectively.

Key Return Drivers
– Futures often get incorrectly labelled as ‘zero-sum’ because for every buyer of a contract, there is a seller – and all contracts eventually expire worthless. While this is true of how futures contracts logistically work, it does not speak to the inherent return that can be mined from successful systematic futures trading. Hedgers, the very large group of market participants who wish to reduce their unknown future price risk, are continually willing to be on the receiving end of losing positions. This risk off-loading provides a risk premium for those skilled enough to be able to regularly capture it.
– Also, as highlighted by Behavioural Finance, many large market participants exhibit ‘herd’ behaviour and sub-optimal psychological biases.

How Red Rock Capital’s Systematic Global Macro Program works: g Basic statistics and quantitative analysis are used to put a framework around repeatable investor behaviour.

– The strategy was designed from the ground up to systematically capture the risk premiums made possible by hedgers and inefficient market participants who exhibit herd behaviour / biases.
– Technical data such as price, volatility, term-structure, and volume are statistically analyzed and trending environments in various markets are identified.
– If legitimate trending behaviour is identified, a long or short position is initiated in a market.
– Only a small amount of account equity is risked on each new position g Exits / stop-losses are pre-determined and aim to reduce risk and volatility.
– Winning trends are kept in the portfolio; losing trades are jettisoned to preserve capital.
– Over time performance has resulted in a payout profile that is similar to being long options; that is, the strategy experiences larger profits when a trend emerges, but relatively small losses when trends fail to materialise or reverse.
Red Rock’s edge, stemming from one of the founder’s training, is that we incorporate Probability Theory in a unique and effective manner that increases the risk-adjusted returns of our Systematic Global Macro program.

Why Red Rock Capital’s Systematic Global Macro?

Almost 13 years of proven net performance to investors – much of it when they needed it most. With all of the uncertainty in the current global marketplace such as China’s currency interventions, Brexit, Bank of Japan NIRP, and FED attempts to continue to normalise rates, high net worth investors would be wise to consider a strategy that is ‘long volatility’ – and that has shown to prosper during times when traditional asset classes have struggled the most.

About Red Rock Capital

Red Rock Capital is a multi-award winning commodity investment management firm. During 2016 Red Rock’s Systematic Global Macro Program will proudly celebrate its 13th anniversary. The firm is lead by Thomas Rollinger, most notably a devoted pupil and former protégé of quantitative hedge fund legend, Edward O. Thorp. Rollinger’s partner is Scott T. Hoffman, the original founder of Red Rock. Given recent developments with the firm, plus increasingly favorable market conditions, Red Rock is especially well-positioned to grow and thrive in the managed futures industry.

Company: Red Rock Capital
Name: Thomas Rollinger
Email: [email protected]
Web Address: www.redrockcapital.com
Address: 5000 Birch Street, Suite 3000 Newport Beach, CA 92660
Telephone: 001 949 648 9506

From Online Deal-Sourcing to Due Diligence - The next Level of Investment
Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsFinance

From Online Deal-Sourcing to Due Diligence – The next Level of Investment

Drooms, the virtual data room provider, has recently strengthened its expertise in the field of lifecycle asset management with the acquisition of DealMarket. Here, Jan Hoffmeister tells us more about the purchase and Drooms’ plans to utilise its new-found assets going forward.

Drooms (drooms.com) is the leading provider of secure cloud solutions in Europe. The software specialist allows companies controlled access to confidential corporate data across company boundaries. Confidential business processes such as commercial real estate sales, mergers & acquisitions, NPL transactions and Board communications are handled securely, transparently and efficiently by Drooms. Leading global real estate companies, consultancy firms, law firms and corporations such as the METRO GROUP, Evonik, Morgan Stanley, JLL, JP Morgan, CBRE, Rewe and UBS are among Drooms’ client base.

Co-founder and chairman of Drooms, Jan Hoffmeister, tells us more about the firm and its areas of specialism.

“At Drooms, we specialise in providing data rooms for due diligence processes in transactions. However, we know from experience that due diligence is only one (decisive) aspect of a long and complex process with several parties and a great deal of expertise involved. Failing to prepare properly for due diligence processes can be damaging for both sides of a transaction, can waste time and money for everybody involved, and can eventually even hinder a good deal.”

“With the first virtual data room in Europe in 2001, we contributed to radically transforming the due diligence process. Traditionally, the term ‘data room’ referred to the physical rooms that served as the document repositories where M&A transactions took place. The costs involved were considerable as well as the time required for the whole process. The digitisation of the process meant: faster due diligence, improved efficiency, ability to execute from remote locations. Since then, Drooms is a key player in bringing the newest technology into the due diligence market. With the release of Drooms NXG at the end of 2016, Drooms introduced for the first time artificial intelligence and automation technology into its virtual data room.”

To support investors in preparing for due diligence with the aid of thorough reporting, Drooms decided to acquire DealMarket, a Swiss FinTech company specialising in the management of complex investment projects. Thanks to DealMarket, investors have a tool where they can set up customised deal flows, enabling them to organise and monitor every step of their investment activities until the moment of truth, i.e. due diligence.

Jan explains more about DealMarket and the rationale behind the acquisition.
“Deal making is always a complex process. DealMarket’s Deal Flow management tool makes the investment project a bit less complex by allowing information and data storage on the DealMarket platform. Investors can manage how they view deals, find them and approach them throughout the deal making process.”

“Now, what increases the complexity is often the finalisation process, i.e. the due diligence, which is executed in a virtual data room. The due diligence process can add its difficulties and drag the investment process on. With Drooms’ virtual data room, the documentation management as well as the Q&A happen on one highly safe platform. This saves time since you don’t need to send documents back and forth or upload them to several platforms. Speed is of the essence when it comes to deal making – too often investments and mergers can fall through simply because the process took too long to finish. The Instant Access Technology Drooms uses guarantees documents can be processed and accessed without unnecessary delay in the process.”

Overall, the addition of Drooms helps clients with the latter stages of the investment cycle. While DealMarket helped you choose the right deals, Drooms’ data rooms make it easy to finalise the acquisition.

“With the acquisition of DealMarket we are closing in on our target of managing the entire lifecycle of valuable assets. DealMarket has done some excellent development work in this area, developing an innovative, industry-tailored solution in the process. In strengthening the Drooms team with the experience and expertise of DealMarket employees, we are now in a position to offer even more services from a single source.”

With regards to the future, Jan tells us how Drooms intends to stay one step ahead of the game.
“We have a large team of developers on-site,” he explains. “As the core of our company is its technology, they work every day to make sure Drooms NXG is a carrier of the newest technological developments. For instance, we have simplified one of the most demanding and at the same time crucial tasks within due diligence: the Q&A process. Thanks to our Q&A tool, customers can set up even the most sophisticated process completely by themselves. A feature that legal experts especially appreciate is the Findings Manager, the module allowing for the assessment of risks and opportunities inherent to a deal.

The feature is based on powerful smart content analytics. And our developers work to offer the greatest functionalities to speed up and improve a deal. The bottom line is this: if intelligent machines can help improve due diligence, then all the stakeholders will be able to spend their time executing strategic and meaningful tasks.”

Company: Drooms
Name: Jan Hoffmeister
Email: [email protected]
Web Address: www.drooms.com

Fundamental for Success
FinanceSustainable Finance

Fundamental for Success

Coupland Cardiff (CCAM) is a specialist Asian and Japanese fund management group, focused on managing capacity constrained, performance focussed funds within a risk controlled framework.
Richard Cardiff is CEO of the firm and he tells us more about its ongoing strategy. “We follow a bottom-up, fundamentally driven research process, focusing our time on detailed company visits and proprietary analysis. We believe that over time this will achieve superior results.

“In order to further enhance returns for our investors, we believe that all funds should be capacity constrained, concentrated and freed from any benchmark constraints. This allows us to express our best ideas.

“The stability of the firm over the last 12 years and the quality of portfolio managers and analysts we have in place enables us to continue to deliver exceptional returns for investors over the coming years in the fastest growing markets in the world. These are markets that have not only grown rapidly over this time but also have excellent prospects for the longer term. We’re confident that we will continue to deliver superior returns and service our clients around the world to the highest quality.”

In December 2015 CCAM launched the CC Japan Income & Growth Trust plc, the first Japanese Investment Trust for 20 years. It was also the first income orientated Japanese investment trust to be launched. Managed by Richard Aston, who also runs a similar open-ended strategy and despite difficult market conditions, it now has nearly £100m in net assets. In addition, last year the trust met its stated dividend of 3p per ordinary share. The share price has also increased by 22.4%.
As CEO, Richard is tasked with overseeing the management of the firm, sales and marketing activities, as well as overseeing the management of all operational aspects involved in delivering excellence to clients, however he is quick to praise his dedicated team.

“Being a boutique asset manager, our staff are everything to CCAM and the quality of our staff is, we believe, second to none. All play a significant role in the success of the firm from front to back office. CCAM is wholly owned by members of the team and as such is not distracted by external factors or required to make compromises to our main objectives, which are to achieve excellence in three key areas: investment performance, operations and client service. Testament to this is the fact that staff turnover has been very low.

“Our fund management team have spent their careers investing across Asia and Japan and have strong track records. All 7 portfolio managers are specialists in their investment field and between them they undertake around 2000 company visits a year. We believe that the combination of scrutinising data as well as analysing companies at a face-toface level allows us to truly understand a stock, interpret markets with greater clarity and deliver superior performance.”

Indeed, the feedback received from CCAM’s clients is very encouraging. “The key feedback we get is that they very much like the concentrated portfolios and our commitment to capacity constrained products. Also that we specialise in investing in Asia and Japan instead of trying to be a ‘jack of all trades.’ The fact we are single area specialists and are prepared to be frank about the prospects of regions, whether good or bad, sets us apart from more generalist investors and is of great appeal to our clients.”

With regards to the future, Richard sees both opportunities and challenges ahead, for 2017 and beyond. Not least the fact that more investors are moving away from the crowded and unproductive centre-ground offered by more generalist funds into both the EFT and the highly active fund specialist market. “As a specialist, we are perfectly placed to benefit from this trend,” he comments.
“The challenges we’ll face are similar to many other asset management firms and will be based around regulatory changes and any potential challenges that might materialise as we move closer toward Brexit. It’s also important for us to continue to ensure we have the highest quality of staff to service our clients around the world.”

“Speaking of the wider industry, again, it’s the continuing deluge of new regulation coupled with how we will have to operate as a business in the new post-Brexit world – when we discover what Brexit means for the industry. No-one knows what that will look like yet so our strategy in Europe will undoubtedly adapt to any potential new model.”

Company: Coupland Cardiff Asset Management Name: Richard Cardiff Email: [email protected] Web Address: www.couplandcardiff.com Address: 31-32 St. James’s Street, London, SW1A 1HD Telephone: 44 207 321 3470

Earning Their Stripes
FinanceInfrastructure and Project Finance

Earning Their Stripes

Zebra Technologies’ products and solutions are currently used by 95% of Fortune 500 companies across the manufacturing, healthcare, transportation and logistics and retail industries. Zebra’s IoT-enabled devices and solutions have improved everything from efficiency for global shipping networks to retail stocking environments. With the unparalleled visibility Zebra provides, enterprises can become as smart and connected as the world we live in.

Among the firm’s recent innovations is the Zebra SmartSense™ for Retail asset visibility solution, an Enterprise Asset Intelligence (EAI) offering that delivers deeper visibility into retail operations, provides better business insights and enables smarter decisions. This innovative solution combines UHF RFID, video and a new micro-location capability — to identify and track the journey and location of merchandise, associates and shoppers in a retail store in real-time.

A powerful edge analytics engine analyses data from these sources to provide intelligent, actionable insights to achieve optimal stocking levels, detect and identify misplaced merchandise or assets, pinpoint theft and enhance store promotions and product placement activities.

In addition, Zebra’s TC8000 touch mobile computer drives significant gains in productivity in warehouse operations and decreases worker fatigue with its ergonomic design. This product earned the Red Dot Award for Design Innovation in 2016. Zebra also recently introduced the next evolution in enterprise mobile computing: the TC5 Series touch mobile computers.

As part of its dedication to supporting clients and providing them with the very best solutions that meet their needs, many senior staff work closely with clients, including CEO Anders Gustafsson. Working with customers, partners, investors, employees and other stakeholders to help improve enterprises by connecting the physical and digital worlds to drive innovation, efficiencies and global economic growth, Anders supports the creation of the “intelligent enterprise”.

The rate of technological change is rapid, and businesses need to be able to adapt quickly to keep up. Zebra’s solutions offer real-time operational visibility into their enterprises to help them achieve this goal, as he is keen to emphasise.

Gustafsson said, “At Zebra, we believe data is perishable. Its value is time-sensitive and has a limited shelf life. Businesses must make sense of data before it expires. However, enterprises are losing valuable insights as there are many disjointed sources generating and collecting data on their own, contributing to only bits and pieces of the big picture, instead of rendering a broad view. Decoding these data collected through IoT-enabled devices and wearables will help companies accelerate their decision-making processes and make more informed business decisions.”

“According to IDC, every person online will create 1.7 megabytes of new data every second by 2020. At this rate, the concept of “perishable data” is more relevant than ever. We see that one of the challenges next year will be for businesses to translate captured data into actionable insights as fast as they can.”

“Furthermore, the future of connection known as the Internet of Things (IoT) is already here. Enterprises will spend $235 billion this year to connect devices to the IoT, Gartner estimates. That’s up 22% from 2015.”

“Overall, the greatest challenge in our increasingly connected world is successfully adopting and leveraging new technology to provide operational efficiency and agility in real-time. Despite the potential that IoT presents, it is only with the proper set of enabling technologies that enterprises can extract the full value from their IoT investments. Zebra is helping enterprises adopt a more dynamic workflow through IoT-centric sensor technology, powerful cloud computing software, and connected enterprise-class mobile computers.

The IoT has enabled everything from improved efficiency for global shipping networks to devices that receive environmental feedback from home appliances and minimize their energy use. Thousands of new use cases are in development right now such as smart toothbrushes and intelligent can openers. The good news is many organisations already have the building blocks in place to digitise their operations.”

Therefore, in order build upon this success, over the coming years Zebra will continue to work toward realizing its company’s vision to create a smarter, more connected global business community, together with its partners, to offer better operational visibility to enterprises around the world.

Focuses will include converting the physical to the digital, giving businesses insights into the location, motion and state of their assets, people and transactions and then harnessing this new wave of technology with Enterprise Asset Intelligence (EAI). EAI refers to a businesses’ ability to obtain real-time visibility into every aspect of its operations, enabling them to improve productivity, reduce expenses, empower mobile workforces and increase opportunities for sustainable growth.


Company: Zebra Technologies Web Address: www.zebra.com

Winners Directory January 2017
Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsFinance

Winners Directory January 2017

Winners Directory – January 2017

Private Equity Investor of the Year 2016
Company: Universal-Investment
Email: [email protected]
Web Address: www.universal-investment.com
Address: Theodor-Heuss-Allee 70, 60486 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Telephone: +49 69 71043-114


Real Estate Fund Manager of the Year
Company: TH Real Estate
Name: Gemma Young
Email: [email protected]
Web Address: www.threalestate.com
Address: 201 Bishopsgate, London, EC2M 3BN
Telephone: +44 (0) 20 3727 8000

The Cutting Edge of Finance and Technology
FinanceInfrastructure and Project Finance

The Cutting Edge of Finance and Technology

The reporting and analytics team at Qtrade is the other half of the finance team along with the corporate accounting team. While each team has their core responsibilities, the two teams are tied at the hip and have a reliance upon each for information and data exchange.

As previously mentioned, Qtrade is multi-entity, multi-line of business corporation that offers a variety of solutions
along the wealth continuum. While each line of business is focused on their own activities, it is up to the reporting and
analytics team not to only provide reporting and analytics to the individual entities, but also provide key, critical corporate data and maintain a holistic view of Qtrade.

At most firms, the role of Business Intelligence (‘BI’) usually falls under the realm of IT. BI is traditionally an IT based function that consists of databases and technical based employees who use databases to create code to produce reports for business users. While the technical employee is familiar with the data and producing code, it is the business users who provide most of the analysis and vetting of the output. However, in 2015 Qtrade essentially created a new reporting and analytics department under the CFO to take over the BI function. It is my honour and responsibility to lead this team.

At Qtrade, BI is part of the reporting and analytics team, meaning that unlike most firms it is a finance function and not an IT function. In order to accomplish this goal of moving the BI function to finance two things had to occur; first an investment in technology and second, creating a team of financially based analysts who could not only perform the analysis, but write the code to draw upon the data themselves.

For the technology part, Qtrade has created a SQL based data warehouse. While data warehousing is not unique or proprietary to Qtrade, it is an evolutionary step forward for the firm. The challenge with being a multi-line of business firm is that many of the lines of businesses have their own or multiple pieces of software that are used during the course of the day, all containing data. While the data warehouse is now functional at Qtrade, we are still adding new data sources to it. At Qtrade we have identified 26 disparate systems of data we will be incorporating into the data warehouse to provide a single source of information for the whole firm.

Combining these disparate data sources, of which two are the finance database and the ERP into one centralised system allows the reportingand analytics team to create some very thorough financial analysis oftrades, assets, clients, lines of business etc. to create new holistic reports,channel profitability statements, an A to Z cost per trade analysis and so on.

These are items Qtrade would not have been able to produce without this new team. The team does not have to go looking for information, we are the single, central point of data and information. We ensure that when there is a report, a KPI, a data point, that it should only be provided by reporting and analysis to create reporting and data integrity across the firm. In too many firms, and historically Qtrade was no exception, you had multiple people producing similar reports with inconsistent output. At Qtrade we are well down the path to eliminating this.

While the reporting and analytics team does have a technical resource on it to maintain the ETL’s and databases, the rest of the team are finance based analysts who have the ability to code. The team has a mixture of finance, economics and statistical undergraduates and almost every member of the team has or is pursuing a financial designation such as the CPA, CFA and MBA. At Qtrade, we expect that our financial analysts to be fluent in coding and be able to talk about such items as data fields and schemas as well as profitability and gross margins. At Qtrade we firmly believe we are the new breed of financial analysts where finance and IT crossover. We are a hybrid of finance and IT.

By being a hybrid of IT and finance, this creates many opportunities for Qtrade, not the least being efficiencies. By being the familiar with the source data and also being financially savvy, it reduces the amount of back and forth between the end business user for who the reporting and analytics is being created for. However, since the analyst can do both the coding and analysis and is familiar with not only that particular line of business, but what is happening corporate wide, it allows the analyst to provide additional insight to the request. It also allows the team to create their own analytics to support both the CFO and CEO. We turn data into information that decisions can be made on.

The hiring challenge for Qtrade is to find this unique set of individuals, who also possess soft skills such as customer service as the team does see itself as a customer service team to both our B2B partners and internal customers. However, we hold the firm belief that in 10 years from now the hybrid analyst will become the industry standard and we here at Qtrade are trying to be on the cutting edge of creating the new hybrid world of finance and technology!

Name: Gregory Hood
Company: Qtrade Financial Group
Email: [email protected]

World-Class Quality Services
FinanceInfrastructure and Project Finance

World-Class Quality Services

Swiss International is a financial services company that facilitates the entire process of participating in global financial markets. Being an integrated service provider – they cover the entire process from ‘research and advisory’ services – to the ultimate ‘execution and clearing’ of a transaction. In a special interview, the firm’s Ahmad Shibley reveals more about the world-class quality services they provide for their clients’, and their unrivalled reach into global markets. The firm is both an asset management company and a finance Boutique with exciting plans and high hopes for the future.

We have worked hard to put together a highly-qualified team of professionals, from the most junior sales executive to the senior management. A cosmopolitan culture consisting of people from various cultural, social and professional backgrounds allows us to interact with and accommodate effectively clients with differing backgrounds and expectations. Some of the most respected and highly renowned names in the country provide the backing and support to our company, which lends us the highest level of recognition socially and professionally.

What specific areas does your firm specialise in?
Our reach in global markets is unrivalled in the local markets by providing brokerage accounts for clients to execute their trades. Our coverage includes most geographical and product markets. From simple currency
crosses in the spot market to the complexities of the derivatives market, we deal across the spectrum. The products/markets that we currently offer work on the principle of ‘leveraged trading’ (leverage means trading
with a face value much larger than the amount provided upfront as a deposit/security) and this leads to unmatchable rates of returns.

Whatever and wherever clients want to trade, our trading platforms offer unparalleled access to the most liquid financial markets in the world. Online and mobile trading services ensure that you are never more than a click or two away from the client’s next trade.

How does your firm stand out from the crowd in these competitive times?
We are continuously working on developing our IT infrastructure 24/7, we have a specialised IT team of about 15 individuals from various IT backgrounds, all of whom work nonstop to improve and introduce new products to our clients. In the world of finance, IT is crucial to ensure that we can offer services to clients and meet their expectations. We have recently launched our new client onboarding and management platform, called ‘Private Cabinet’ which has improved the effectiveness and speed of client onboarding on a real-time basis.

Hence clients can open up an account online from anywhere in the world, and have it approved in real time and fund their account in real time 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This has proved to be very successful with many of our clients who come from a variety backgrounds and cultures, since our ‘Private Cabinet’ product is available in several languages. Through this product, our clients can also open real-time sub accounts, carry out internal transfers (real-time) and perform withdrawals and funding. Clients can also try out our ‘Private Cabinet’ by visiting my.swissfs.com (which is mobile friendly and we will soon be launching an app on smart phones platforms, but trading platforms are already available as an app). Technology is therefore our backbone and it as what we work on to give us a competitive edge against others in the market.

How does it feel to have won the award Asset Manager of the Year 2016?
It feels great to have been nominated, and indeed to win this prestigious award! This will give the whole team here much motivation to work even harder and to achieve other awards too. The asset management side of the business here is a fairly new division, because our core focus and strength is on providing clients that want to trade international markets with a brokerage account, and we have provided such a platform for over 15 years. While this had been the firm’s core focus, a few years ago, we started received queries from existing and new clients asking about managed accounts, because they did not have the time to trade on their own or the experience to do so.

How is your company performing at present?
The company is currently in its growth stage and we are expanding to other countries and regions, indeed we are really excited about our expansion progress and we will soon open up two new offices in Saudi Arabia, in Riyadh and Jeddah. On a personal level, my focus is on leading the expansion strategy that has been approved by the board here.

Can you tell me about your own role in the firm as CEO, and the reputation you have gained for providing your clients innovative and successful money management and advisory services?
I am currently the CEO of Swiss International Financial Brokerage Co, having been a founder of the company. Since its inception in 2001, I have worked in all the departments from back office to sales and so on. As the CEO, my overall focus is on the achieving the goals set by the board, whilst at the same time achieving full client satisfaction.
As for providing our clients with innovative new products, we recently launched our Emerald Fund Managed Account Program in 2016. It has proved to be an instant hit with our clients. Having achieving above average returns, whilst at the same time reducing the risk and overall exposure. The program is managed by one of our expert fund managers, who has over 22 years’ experience as a trader.

Can you provide some more insight into the Emerald Fund Managed Account Program?
Emerald Currency Fund offers investors the opportunity to invest directly in the FX Market and potentially benefit when this decreases or increases in value, relative to others. ECF is actively managed on a day-to-day basis and may hold long and short positions in up to twenty currency pairs. The fund is a combination of long-term trend trading and day trading, based on intraday volatility. ECF team has been testing different trading strategies for years and has built the model that consists of our best strategies, which combine long and short term trading.

We have a dedicated trading team who work around the clock – monitoring our trades, positions and model and adjust parameters – based on the expectation, news or any possible shock to market. Moreover, we collaborate with a team of analysts that are feeding our trading desk with exclusive research and potential moves in the currency market, based on fundamentals.

What role the staff play in the success of your company?
First of all, we are proud of our people, and secondly the technology we use. I believe that one does not work without the other. Indeed, it is our people who create growth, builds value and the overall growth that we have achieved. Our staff come from a variety of different cultures, something that brings more tolerance and understanding of each other, because the staff spend more time with colleagues their families at times. We are therefore proud of the firm’s culture and are continuously working on improving the human capital aspect of our work.

What challenges and opportunities do you and your company face in the future?
Swiss International Financial Brokerage’s most important challenge is always working around the clock to beat our current technology and outpace the market with new and exciting developments. Our second challenge is that along with our expansion into new markets, we have had to work with new regulations that are sometimes more like a barrier to entry into such new markets. As for opportunities in the future, with our expansion into new markets we are working to turn the firm into a publicly listed company that the employees can have a percentage ownership into the company that they helped to build, hence working harder!

Is there anything you would like to add?
Just a reminder to our readers is that Swiss Finance is not just an asset management company, but it is also a finance boutique. The company is actually a brokerage house with an asset management department. Hence, we essentially provide a one-stop-shop to all our financial needs and requirements. I would be always more than happy to be answer any questions your readers may have and they can get in touch at any time by using the contact information below.

Company: SWISS INTL. FINANCIAL BROKERAGE CO. K.S.C.C.
Name: Ahmad Shibley
Email: [email protected]
Web Address: www.swissfs.com
Telephone: +965-22020490

UK House Price Index for October 2016
FinanceInfrastructure and Project Finance

UK House Price Index for October 2016

The October data shows an annual price increase of 6.9% which takes the average property value in the UK to £216,674. Monthly house prices have risen by 0.1% since September 2016. The monthly index figure for the UK was 113.6.

In England, the October data shows an annual price increase of 7.4% which takes the average property value to £232,655. Monthly house prices fell by 0.1% since September 2016.

Wales shows an annual price increase of 4.4% which takes the average property value to £147,065. Monthly house prices have risen by 1% since September 2016.

London shows an annual price increase of 7.7% which takes the average property value to £474,475. Monthly house prices fell by 1.2% since September 2016.

The regional data indicates that:

– the East of England experienced the greatest increase in its average property value over the last 12 months with a movement of 12.3%;
– the East of England also experienced the greatest monthly growth with an increase of 1.3%;
– the North East saw the lowest annual price growth with an increase of 2.7%;
– the North East also saw the most significant monthly price fall with a movement of -1.3%.

Home sales in the UK increased by 1.0% between September and October. Compared with October 2015 the level of home sales in October 2016 is 8.0% lower. See the economic statement.

Sales during August 2016, the most up-to-date Land Registry figures available, show that:

– the number of completed house sales in England fell by 20.3% to 67,396 compared with 84,565 in August 2015;
– the number of completed house sales in Wales fell by 11.6% to 3,558 compared with 4,025 in August 2015;
– the number of completed house sales in London fell by 39.3% to 6,607 compared with 10,881 in August 2015;
– there were 514 repossession sales in England in August 2016;
– there were 45 repossession sales in Wales in August 2016;
– the lowest number of repossession sales in England and Wales in August 2016 was in the East of England.

Access the full October UK HPI. For more information, click here.

FCA Publishes Interim Feedback on Review of the Rules for Crowdfunding
FinanceInfrastructure and Project Finance

FCA Publishes Interim Feedback on Review of the Rules for Crowdfunding

Based on a review of the feedback received, issues seen during the supervision of crowdfunding platforms currently trading and consideration of applications from firms seeking full authorisation, the FCA believes it is appropriate to modify a number of rules for the market.

Initial findings

Loan-based and investment-based crowdfunding

For both loan-based and investment-based crowdfundingplatforms they have found that, for example:

• It is difficult for investors to compare platforms with each other or to compare crowdfunding with other asset classes due to complex and often unclear product offerings;
• It is difficult for investors to assess the risks and returns of investing on a platform;
• Financial promotions do not always meet their requirement to be ‘clear, fair and not misleading’ and;
• The complex structures of some firms introduce operational risks and/or conflicts of interest that are not being managed sufficiently.

Loan-based crowdfunding

In the loan-based crowdfunding market in particular they are concerned that, for example:
• Certain features, such as some of the provision funds used by platforms, introduce risks to investors that are not adequately disclosed and may not be sufficiently understood by investors;
• The plans some firms have for wind-down in the event of their failure are inadequate to successfully run-off loan books to maturity and;
• The FCA have challenged some firms to improve their client money handling standards.
Proposals for new rules to be considered in Q1 2017
The FCA plan to consult on additional rules in a number of areas. These include more prescriptive requirements on the content and timing of disclosures by both loan-based and investment-based crowdfunding platforms.

For loan-based crowdfunding, the FCA also intend to consult on:
• Strengthening rules on wind-down plans;
• Additional requirements or restrictions on cross-platform investment and;
• Extending mortgage-lending standards to loan-based platforms.

The FCA’s current rules on loan-based and investment-based crowdfunding platforms came into force in April 2014. They aimed to create a proportionate regulatory framework that provided adequate investor protection whilst allowing for innovation and growth in the market.

The call for input in July 2016 launched a post-implementation review of these rules. The paper summarised market developments since 2014 and some of the FCA’s emerging concerns. 

Andrew Bailey, Chief Executive of the FCA said, “our focus is ensuring that investor protections are appropriate for the risks in the crowdfunding sector while continuing to promote effective competition in the interests of consumers. Based on our findings to date, we believe it is necessary to strengthen investor protection in a number of areas. We plan to consult next year on new rules to address the issues we have identified.”

Further work

Their on-going research and investigatory work should be completed early in 2017. At that stage, the FCA will complete the post-implementation review and determine whether further consultation on rule changes is needed.
Responding to his update from the FCA on proposed new rules for the crowdfunding sector, RSM financial services partner Damian Webb commented, “The increased focus and oversight in the peer to peer sector has to be welcomed.

The peer to peer sector has grown exponentially over the past five years, from small start-ups we now have large established financial institutions. The sector has benefitted from the “light touch” approach previously adopted by the FCA but noting the current and forecast scale of these institutions it is only right that the FCA looks to bring the sector in line with existing regulations and best practice.

“There is a real risk that in the absence of the FCA regularising the sector, practices could emerge which undermine the position of investors. Any fall-out could fundamentally undermine our growing FinTech sector and undermine the UK’s reputation for financial probity.”

November Winners’ Directory
FinanceInfrastructure and Project Finance

November Winners’ Directory

International Real Estate Excellence
Company: Angels Sales and Lettings
Name: Prem Singh
Email: [email protected]
Web Address: www.angelshomes.co.uk
Address: 184 Hertford Road, Enfield EN3 5AZ
Telephone: 44 (0)208 443 1000

UK Corporate Excellence
Company: LED Eco Lights Ltd
Name: Sophia Burr
Email: [email protected]
Web Address: www.ledecolights.com
Address: Unit 7, J4 Camberley, 15 Doman Road, Camberley, Surrey
GU15 3LB
Telephone: 01276 691 230

Money Management Awards
Company: MacIntyre Hudson
Name: Holly Brookes
Email: [email protected]
Web Address: www.macintyrehudson.co.uk
Address: 201 Silbury Boulevard, Milton Keynes MK9 1LZ
Telephone: 01908 662255

UK Regional 2016 – Recognised Excellence in Open Source Solutions
Company: OpusVL
Name: Stuart J Mackintosh
Email: [email protected]
Web Address: http://opusvl.com/
Address: Drury House, Drury Lane, Rugby,
Warwickshire, CV21 3DE
Telephone: 01788 298 450

70% of Students Are Already 'Skint' and Living in Their Overdraft
FinanceInfrastructure and Project Finance

70% of Students Are Already ‘Skint’ and Living in Their Overdraft

1 in 5 prospective students expected to be financially stable with no money worries at all, yet a huge 70% label already themselves as skint and already in their overdrafts.

Interestingly, prospective students shared that they expected their parents to support them financially each month, contributing on average £179 every four weeks to fund their wild and wonderful lifestyle. However, the reality data shows that 50% of students receive nothing!

Those that do get financial help from their parents receive on average £2568 a year (£214 a month). With an estimated 1.1 million students in the UK, and 50% of those receive help… the total amount coming from banks of mums and dads across totals to £1.4 billion per year.

The average student spends £65.70 a month on food, £354 a month on rent, £93.50 a month on bills, £38.50 a month on travel, £62 a month of beauty/fashion treats, and £64.50 on getting drunk and partying.

With total outgoings of around £678.20 a month but an average income as a student of £469 a month – there’s no doubt that 70% of students are already in their overdrafts

Despite the struggles, 53% of UK students don’t work whilst at University.

44% of students said they spent the majority of their money in fresher’s week on rent however a huge 42% said going out was their priority during fresher’s. 18% of students threw their money straight into a shopping trip during fresher’s week and 2% booked a holiday.

14% of students have a credit card as well as their loan to ensure they can make the most of their time living away from home.

Living costs across the UK of course vary meaning the cost of being a student (income vs outgoings) are different for each region.

The Reality of a Student House

When it comes to student housing, the majority of current students live in a run-down house shared with complete strangers. A huge 95% of students expected to live in a warm house – however, just 5% enjoy such a luxury. 15% of students can’t afford to heat their homes throughout winter, and, because of this, 1 in 5 live in a house that suffers with mould. It was found that many choose to sleep in numerous jumpers just to keep warm.

Case study, Robert from York St Johns, lived in a corridor with a bed sheet as a curtain for 12 months to evade sky high renting costs in the city. Read about his experience here.

Students were found to spend just £16.40 on their weekly shop with 1 in 4 expecting to share meals with everyone in the house, cooking large batches to make it cheaper per head. However, a huge 70% of students said they don’t share their food and 18% even admitted to arguing over cupboard and fridge space.

1 in 3 expected to lose weight as a student, but the majority don’t! On average each student adds 14lb to their waistline. However, this can’t be blamed on an increase in takeaways – as a huge 36% said they can’t even afford one!

Reality of Life after Graduation

Expectations of life after graduation are a bit more realistic! Just 16% of students expect to graduate with a first class degree, the majority expect to have a salary of less than £15,000 a year and just 12% of students expect to own their own house once they finish.

The reality data of life after graduation shows that the majority (42%) graduate with a 2:1, interestingly the average student moves onto a post-grad salary of £24,498.35 a year.

However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows for some! More than 1 in 4 graduates move back in with mum and dad and their dreams of travelling the world before starting their career are diminished!

Explore the full study here.

Asia Plantation Capital Expands its Horizons
FinanceInfrastructure and Project Finance

Asia Plantation Capital Expands its Horizons

Award-winning plantation management company Asia Plantation Capital held its Thailand Annual General Meeting on Saturday, 21 October 2016, at the Renaissance Bangkok, Thailand. Asia Plantation Capital is delighted to announce that despite the slowdown in global economic activity, its revenues grew 6% in Thailand and similarly increased by around 4.5% in Singapore in FY2015.

Addressing the crowd of 300 Thailand-based plantation owners and stakeholders, Mr. Barry Rawlinson, Chief Executive Officer of the APC Group, opened the AGM by detailing how the company expanded its horizons with exponential growth throughout 2016, despite facing several challenges. Mr. Rawlinson also spoke about the ongoing effects of climate change in the agriculture sector, and how the company has worked tirelessly to address the relevant issues and mitigate the negative effects.

Asia Plantation Capital remains steadfast to its ethos of ‘holistic sustainability’. Throughout 2016, the company has embraced programmes and directives that are more than mere Corporate Social Responsibility projects, ensuring that equal care, consideration and encouragement are given to all members of staff — from top and middle management all the way through to plantation workers and their families.

Jinda Tonkhambai outlined the details of past projects, as well as those that have been carried out over the last year, from which many local communities have benefited. Asia Plantation Capital’s projects have focused on local infrastructure – such as schools and places of worship – improving the lives of all the people who live in and work around the company’s areas of operation.
Three 4th year students from the Faculty of Forestry, Kasetsart University, Bangkok, were also presented with scholarships at the meeting, comprising the payment of tuition fees of up to THB 150,000 over the course of four years.

In light of the company’s ongoing expansion and the additional plantations that are needed to meet the growing demand for products, Phanitta Matwangsaeng from General Administration, updated attendees on the processes and due diligence carried out prior to the purchase of land. Technical details, such as the land designing process, plot diagrams, water systems, and tree management systems, were also further explained by architect, Phoom Matwangsaeng.

Nadiah Abdullah, Operations Manager, presented the significant milestones that have been reached this year on behalf of Asia Plantation Capital Berhad (APCB) – the Malaysian arm of the APC Group – with the emphasis placed on the major joint ventures that have been entered into, as well as the breakthroughs that were made in research and development.

The factory – the largest agarwood distillery in Southeast Asia – now sees some new manufacturing processes, as well as an expanded nursery facility and a laboratory with state of the art equipment to monitor oil quality and production methods.

One of the most significant achievements for APCB has been the recent recognition and unconditional approval of its products by the SSM (Suruhanjaya Syarikat Malaysia) which is Malaysia’s equivalent to the MAS (Monetary Authority of Singapore), and the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) in the UK.

Experts in the field, Robin Jewer – Agricultural Director, and Boonchuay Jomkhamsee – Forestry Specialist, provided information on the current state of Asia Plantation Capital’s plantations that were affected by excessive rainfall, along with the measures that were taken to deal with erratic weather patterns. For example; all company plantations now manage the risk by using rain gauges and moisture measuring metres to ensure that a tree has access to just the right amount of water. This in turn, significantly reduces water usage, as well as the power that is required to pump water.

Special Scientific Advisor and Associate professor, Dr Pakamas Chetpattanondh, from the Prince of Songkla University, also presented the audience with her ongoing research on the medicinal and healing benefits of Oud oil – specifically regarding its anti-ageing properties and its potential efficacy in treating various forms of cancer.

Described as ‘the miracle plant’, Asia Plantation Capital is now heavily invested in bamboo as another ‘agrocrop’ in which the group of companies perceives a great deal of potential. As yet another part of the group’s commitment to securing innovative, sustainable, commercial solutions and new technologies, it is supporting Boo-Tex™, which is developing a new range of luxury bamboo fabrics for the fashion and sportswear industries. Mr Roger Hargreaves, Chairman of Asia Plantation Capital Thailand, took the opportunity to update the attendees on the exciting developments in the sector and provided a comprehensive overview of the ever-expanding commercial bamboo landscape. 

The audience was also given updates on French, niche, luxury perfume house, Fragrance Du Bois, by Clotilde Antoine, Brand and Retail Manager. The young and innovative brand scaled new heights this year with new partnerships being forged, and openings in Paris, Hong Kong, Milan, Marbella, and its very own European flagship boutique in Geneva.
Additionally, the brand also decided to widen and augment its portfolio of products with the introduction and launch of an alcohol-free ‘Lite Attars’ collection and ‘Nature’s Treasures’ – an original collection of hand-blended, non-Oud based perfumes, using only natural ingredients of the finest quality.

Asia Plantation Capital also announced that it will be entering into exclusive ‘off-take’ agreements with Fragrance Du Bois and a to-be-announced beauty and personal care company – ultimately increasing the demand for the Oud supplied by Asia Plantation Capital, and further securing the end market for Asia Plantation Capital produced agarwood products.
It was also revealed during the meeting that the Asia Plantation Distilleries ‘super distilleries’ are expected to be fully operational by the year 2020.

In his closing speech, APC Group’s CEO, Barry Rawlinson said, “2016 has been an exceptionally good year for all of us at Asia Plantation Capital, as we have reaped the rewards that have accrued from the ‘hard yards’ and the long hours we have put in. Despite the challenges we have faced, we have managed to ensure that performance, growth and momentum across all regions have been maintained.”

Rawlinson concluded, “On behalf of the company, I would like to thank all our stakeholders, shareholders and every member of staff for their contribution and support. These are exciting times for our company, and you can rest assured that as stakeholders, we have your best interests in our hearts and minds, as well as at the forefront of each and every decision that we make.”

CNH Industrial Acquires Kongskilde Agriculture Brands
Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsFinance

CNH Industrial Acquires Kongskilde Agriculture Brands

CNH Industrial N.V. announced today its agreement to acquire the agricultural Grass and Soil implement business of Kongskilde Industries, part of the Danish Group Dansk Landbrugs Grovvareselskab.

This business develops, manufactures and sells solutions for agricultural applications in the Tillage, Seeding and Hay & Forage segments under various brands, including Kongskilde, Överum and JF.
The acquisition comprises a transfer of assets related to the Tillage, Seeding and Hay & Forage activities of Kongskilde Industries. The manufacturing footprint of this business includes two plants in Europe, located in Poland and Sweden. The transaction is subject to various closing conditions, including regulatory approvals.

As a result of the agreement with DLG A.m.b.A., CNH Industrial’s global agricultural machinery brand New Holland Agriculture will undergo a significant product portfolio extension that will strengthen its Tillage, Seeding and Hay & Forage product offering. New Holland has a long-established leadership in the hay tools segment going back to 1940 with the introduction of the first self-tying baler to American farmers, a major breakthrough in hay harvesting. Today, New Holland is a leading global brand and an industry-leader in North America in hay tools with a complete product offering of hay equipment used in a variety of agricultural, dairy, and livestock industries.

“We are proud to welcome the well established products and brands of Kongskilde, Överum and JF into the CNH Industrial Group. It is our intention to build upon these proud heritages and significantly increase their market access as part of our worldwide distribution network,” commented Richard Tobin, CEO of CNH Industrial.

Through this agreement New Holland will be able to provide its worldwide customers with further innovative and comprehensive equipment solutions for their farming needs in tillage, seeding and Hay & Forage

CNH Industrial N.V is a global leader in the capital goods sector with established industrial experience, a wide range of products and a worldwide presence. Each of the individual brands belonging to the Company is a major international force in its specific industrial sector: Case IH, New Holland Agriculture and Steyr for tractors and agricultural machinery; Case and New Holland Construction for earth moving equipment; Iveco for commercial vehicles; Iveco Bus and Heuliez Bus for buses and coaches; Iveco Astra for quarry and construction vehicles; Magirus for firefighting vehicles; Iveco Defence Vehicles for defence and civil protection; and FPT Industrial for engines and transmissions. More information can be found on the corporate website: www.cnhindustrial.com

DanSmoke to Offer Unique Benefits for Ryanair Passengers
Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsFinance

DanSmoke to Offer Unique Benefits for Ryanair Passengers

DanSmoke, the number one electronic cigarette brand in Europe, is kicking off the New Year in a high-flying manner. The e-cigarette forerunner is joining forces with another European favourite, the airline giant Ryanair in an international ad campaign. The DanSmoke “luggage tag”, along with a discount voucher will appear on millions of boarding passes starting this month.

With online shops in 18 European countries and with more planned for this year, DanSmoke™ is the leading name in the industry of electronic cigarette products. Now this fast-growing brand seems to have found its perfect match in Ryanair, Europe’s favourite airline carrier. The ongoing collaboration combines the global reach and scale of Ryanair, with the innovative products of DanSmoke in an effort to raise awareness about the benefits of e-cigarettes over combustible tobacco.

“We’re very pleased to be working together with Ryanair to promote our products. With 189 destinations in 30 countries, Ryanair covers all our current and future markets. So together we make a really great team,” said Robin Roy Krigslund-Hansen, DanSmoke’s CEO.

Moreover, e-cigarettes, which contain nicotine, but no tar or carbon monoxide, have fast become a popular alternative for smokers looking for an efficient cessation aid that they can use everywhere – be it on the ground or up in the sky. DanSmoke has currently over 50 000 customers around Europe – a figure which is likely to rise, as new countries are added to the list of markets covered.

The DanSmoke “luggage tag” will be featured extensively on boarding passes across the Ryanair network of destinations. During the campaign, nicotine-craving globetrotters can use their Ryanair boarding pass as a key to discount in DanSmoke webshops.

Three New Brands to Cape Town
FinanceInfrastructure and Project Finance

Three New Brands to Cape Town

The world’s leading hotel company, Marriott International, Inc, today announced plans for the construction of three new hotel properties in Cape Town, in partnership with the Amdec Group.

Marriott International Introduces Three New Brands to Cape Town. Shown: Johannesburg Marriott Hotel Melrose Arch

These will be three new hotels in the city: one under the company’s signature brand, Marriott Hotels®, which will be the first Marriott Hotel in Cape Town; the second under the upscale extended stay brand, Residence Inn by Marriott®, the first for South Africa; and the third the upper-moderate tier lifestyle brand, AC Hotels by Marriott®, which is the first hotel under this brand for the Middle East & Africa (MEA) region.

These three planned developments will add over 500 rooms to Cape Town’s hotel accommodation offering. Bringing 189 additional rooms to Cape Town, the AC Hotel Cape Town waterfront will be located at The Yacht Club in the Roggebaai precinct at the gateway to Cape Town’s waterfront, while at Harbour Arch (the current Culemborg node), currently the location of several major construction projects, will be the site of the 200-room Cape Town Marriott Hotel Foreshore and the 150-room Residence Inn by Marriott Cape Town Foreshore.

This announcement is an extension of Marriott’s existing partnership with the Amdec Group, initiated in 2015 with the announcement of the development of the first two Marriott branded hotels in South Africa. These two properties, situated in the popular upmarket Melrose Arch Precinct in Johannesburg, are scheduled to open in 2018, and are the Johannesburg Marriott Hotel Melrose Arch and the Marriott Executive Apartments Johannesburg Melrose Arch.

Amdec’s total investment in these Cape Town and Johannesburg developments amounts to over R3 billion between the two cities which will have positive economic spinoffs and a massive impact on job creation.

The new developments bolster Marriott International’s robust growth strategy across the MEA region, which is geared to expand the global group as a leading travel company both within the region and internationally. According to Arne Sorenson, President and Chief Executive Officer, Marriott International, Inc., “Africa is particularly important to Marriott International’s expansion strategy because of the continent’s rapid economic growth, expanding middle class and youth population, as well as the increase of international flights into the continent. With over 850 million people in sub-Saharan Africa alone, there are enormous opportunities.”

Marriott International’s growth plans for the continent are impressive: by 2025 the company aims to expand its current presence in Africa to 27 countries, with over 200 hotels and around 37,000 rooms.

As for South Africa, Alex Kyriakidis, President and Managing Director, Middle East and Africa for Marriott International, comments that, “The significance of this announcement for both the city of Cape Town and for South Africa cannot be underestimated. The developments in both Cape Town and Johannesburg confirm the country’s importance to the international travel market – for both the business and leisure traveler. From the perspective of tourism, the addition of three hotels in Cape Town, catering for different market segments among both international and domestic visitors, will strengthen the position of the city as one of the world’s top destinations, and we are confident that Cape Town will gain huge benefits from the likely increase in visitor numbers expected in the future.”

James Wilson, Chief Executive Officer of the Amdec Group, says: “Marriott’s new hotels will become landmarks in South Africa and appeal to travellers from all over the country, the continent and the world. We are proud to develop world-class properties in both Cape Town and in Johannesburg. Melrose Arch in Johannesburg is well established as a magnificent multi-faceted New Urban quarter focussed on creating an unforgettable experience with a vibrant atmosphere in a secure environment where people can work, shop, relax and stay. Amdec is thrilled to continue our growing partnership with Marriott International in Cape Town where The Yacht Club will offer an exclusive urban experience in an energised precinct on a working harbour superbly connected to all the buzz of city living in a location steeped in history. In addition we are delighted to be constructing two new hotels at Harbour Arch (on the current Culemborg node) where we hope to replicate the magical atmosphere experienced at Melrose Arch. Melrose Arch, The Yacht Club, and Harbour Arch are all perfect locations for Marriott’s first hotel properties in South Africa.”

It is anticipated that, during the construction phase, approximately 8 000 construction related jobs will be created. Once the hotels are completed, over 700 new hospitality jobs will be created – 470 in the three new Cape Town hotels and 320 in Johannesburg.

Cape Town’s importance in the world tourist market has been confirmed in recent years with the ever-increasing visitor numbers to the city. The addition of further accommodation to meet the growing demand will place the city in an even stronger position as a top global destination.

Rexel Launches a New Employee Share Purchase Plan in 14 Countries
FinanceInfrastructure and Project Finance

Rexel Launches a New Employee Share Purchase Plan in 14 Countries

Rexel, a global leader in the professional distribution of products and services for the energy world, announces the launch of a new employee share purchase plan, entitled Opportunity16, through which its employees will have the opportunity to acquire shares in the company by participating in a capital increase under preferential conditions.

This offering will be open to nearly 90% of the Rexel Group’s employees, covering 14 countries[1]. In most of the eligible countries, subscription will be through employee shareholding funds (“fonds communs de placement d’entreprise”, or “FCPE”) that received approval from the “Autorité des Marchés Financiers” (“AMF”) on June 17, 2016.

Eligible employees will be able to purchase shares at a price of € 11.08[2] per share, corresponding to a subscription price equal to 80% of the average opening price of the Rexel share on the Euronext Paris stock exchange over the 20 trading days preceding September 5, 2016. The Opportunity16 subscription period will begin on September 12 and end on September 26, 2016 (inclusive).

This new employee share purchase plan is the fifth such plan launched by Rexel following those offered in 2007, 2010, 2012 and 2013. Employee shareholding is a key component of its corporate culture and with Opportunity16, Rexel aims to actively engage its employees in its strategic roadmap as key contributors to the Group’s growth.

ExpressBusinessLoans.com Offers Emergency Funding
FinanceInfrastructure and Project Finance

ExpressBusinessLoans.com Offers Emergency Funding

 Small businesses affected by Hurricane Matthew are advised that the Disaster Assistance Express Small Business Loan is currently offering funding in 24 – 48 hours. ExpressBusinessLoans.com will be processing applications starting October 7th for the next 30 days. There is no application fee and no down payment required. The application and supporting documents required can be submitted online.

Hurricane Matthew is making steady progress towards the Florida coast and is expected to make landfall at late October 6th. Hurricane Matthew’s path is projected to wreak havoc along the east coast for the rest of the week with wind speeds reaching up to 140 MPH. This will be the strongest hurricane to make landfall since Hurricane Andrew, which inflicted nearly $46 billion in inflation adjusted damage.

Unlike the SBA disaster loan programs, the Express Business Loan has no use restrictions and can be used to expand your business. No collateral is required. Insurance proceeds that result from Hurricane Matthew are not required to be applied toward the repayment of your loan balance. Personal financial statements are not required for approval or loan disbursement. Terms are available up to 3 years. Certain programs will require no personal guaranty.

ExpressBusinessLoans.com wishes that the small businesses and communities affected by Hurricane Matthew are able to recover quickly.

US Labor Market May Be Entering a Weaker Growth Phase
FinanceInfrastructure and Project Finance

US Labor Market May Be Entering a Weaker Growth Phase

Following a 167,000 job gain in August, the economy generated 156,000 jobs in September.

September’s steady but unspectacular employment numbers suggest that the combination of tight labor markets, falling profits, and higher wages may slow job growth in the coming months, but the news is not all negative. Though the unemployment rate rose slightly to 5.0 percent, this is largely due to rising labor force participation. Wages have now grown by 2.6 percent during the past year. A combination of more confident workers and still risk averse firms is making it increasingly difficult for businesses to find the right workers at the right price.

One possible bright spot could come from the mining industry which was unchanged this month after two years of continued job losses. Higher oil prices, which the recently announced OPEC deal is helping to sustain, could lead drillers to reengage.

The continued weakness in manufacturing may generate headlines among political pundits, but even in Midwestern swing states like Ohio and Michigan, health sector workers outnumber manufacturing ones.

The chances of a Fed rate hike in December may have declined in response to the slowing pace of job growth, but this still remains the likely scenario.