Category: Corporate Finance and M&A/Deals

Cyber threat
Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsFinance

EfficientIP and IDC Report Reveals: Financial services organisations suffer $1.3M cyber attacks

Cyber threat

EfficientIP and IDC Report Reveals: Financial services organisations suffer $1.3M cyber attacks

 

88% of financial services organisations surveyed experienced DNS attacks in the past 12 months.

EfficientIP, leading specialists in DNS security for service continuity, user protection and data confidentiality, revealed the financial services sector is the most targeted industry in its 2019 Global DNS Threat Report with 88% of FS respondents experiencing under-the-radar DNS attacks in the past year.

With 900 respondents from nine countries across North America, Europe and Asia, the report found financial services organisations experienced an average of ten attacks a year, a 37% increase from last year. In addition, 47% of financial services organisations were subject to DNS-based phishing scams.

Last year, a single DNS attack cost each financial services organisation $924,390. This year the research shows that each organisations on average spent $1,304,790 to restore services after each DNS attack, the most out of any sector and an eye-watering increase of 40%.

Rising costs is only one of the consequences DNS attacks caused for the financial services sector. The most common impacts included cloud service downtime, experienced by 45% of financial organisations, and in-house application downtime (68%).

While 65% of financial organisations are either already using or planning to incorporate zero trust architecture, they still appear to be behind the curve when it comes to making use of DNS analytics for enhancing overall network security. Just over 67% perform no DNS traffic analysis for their internal threat intelligence program, and 43% have adopted very little or no automation at all in their network security policy management. This still leaves the financial services sector vulnerable to DNS attacks, which appear to be on the rise. On the positive side, financial services organisations do see real value in using machine learning to bring predictive security into their capabilities. 90% of respondents see this as particularly useful for detecting unknown (“zero-day”) malicious domains.

David Williamson, CEO, EfficientIP, commented: “Financial services organisations have always been the gate-keepers of customers’ money, providing vital services people expect to be able to use all day and night. With so much at stake, the networks of financial services organisations are a predictable, prime target for DNS attacks.

“What is a surprise is these organisations are not amplifying their security measures. They are big targets with costly breaches coming thick and fast.
As our research shows, DNS security is a business imperative for the financial sector if hackers are to be kept at bay and to prevent services from caving in on themselves.”

wealth management
Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsHigh Net-worth IndividualsWealth Management

Report calls for major digitisation of the wealth management sector but warns 84% of projects could fail

wealth management

Report calls for major digitisation of the wealth management sector but warns 84% of projects could fail

Over £20 billion of high net worth individuals’ investable wealth could be passed on to their loved ones every year, but as many as 80% of wealth manager’s don’t have an existing relationship with these beneficiaries. Digitisation is key to addressing this challenge.

A new report from Nucoro, a B2B fintech providing Wealth Management as a Service solutions, says traditional wealth managers need to totally re-engineer their operations if they are to prosper in the future. However, it warns that on average around 84% of companies generally fail at digitisation projects. 

The report entitled ‘The Future Challenges for Wealth Management’, says wealth managers and financial services companies in general need to prioritise and redefine what can be expected and achieved from digitisation, and make increased use of partnerships with expert solution providers.  

Nucoro says the digitisation of the wealth management sector needs to go beyond simply moving physical into digital, and fundamentally rethink products from the conceptual to execution. It says this is being driven by the rise of automation facilitating scalable growth, and the transformation of customers where their expectations, needs, behaviours and demographics are changing.

To illustrate this point, Nucoro estimates that on average, for the next decade over £20 billion of high net worth individuals’ investible wealth will be passed on to their loved ones every year, but as many as 80% of wealth manager’s don’t have an existing relationship with these beneficiaries. Many of these beneficiaries will be millennials who make great use of technology in all aspects of their lives, including managing their finances.

Nikolai Hack, the COO and UK MD of Nucoro commented: “As with any investment in a financial business, a central motivation should be to ultimately produce outcomes that can benefit customers. Adopting bolt-on enhancements like digital customer experiences or automations for back office functions are the best routes to upgrading the services to existing and potential clients due to their accessibility, scalability and affordability.” 

“Wealth managers must embrace technology. The industry is heavily regulated, and it therefore faces a large administrative burden, but technology can minimise the time and resources spent on tasks that are very basic but high in volume.”

The report highlights several key trends that innovative wealth managers need to address if they are to be successful in the future:

The growth of digital wealth management:

The report says it is now realistic to consider direct to consumer robo-platforms as legitimate industry challengers. By the end of 2018, they were managing $257 billion, and this could grow to $1.26 trillion by 2023. 

The rise of fintech new entrants:

While tradition still reigns supreme in wealth management, there are major indications that the next decade will see technology driven services enjoy strong growth. Taking an example from another industry, looking at the banking and payments market in Europe – new entrants (including challenger banks, nonbank payment institutions and big tech companies) that entered the market after 2005 now amass up to one third of new revenue, despite only taking 7% of the overall revenue.

Growing advice gap:

The cost of financial advice is demonstrably pricing out large sections of potential clients. A report in 2018 found that more than 40% of financial advisers has been forced to review their charging structures in the first half of 2019. This is a huge threat and opportunity for wealth managers

Wealth passed on to millennials/changing client needs

Beginning around 2030, an estimated $4 trillion of wealth is going to be passed on to millennials in the UK and North America from their parents. However, only some 20% of UK advisers currently have an existing relationship with their current clients’ beneficiaries, many of whom are millennials. This means that digital and mobile first access will become more universal as the younger generations mature. Digital finance is a highly effective engagement tool for younger generations.

Nikolai Hack said: “An unprecedented transfer of wealth is expected to be served by a shrinking pool of advisers. They will be dealing with a client base that is likely to need them to become more flexible and deliver a more modern and personal service.”

“This could mean more agile tech-driven firms will need to fill the gap. Alternatively, the existing firms could push to streamline their operational functions and manage overheads – cost cutting essentially – while handling an influx of orphaned clients at the same time.”

“For the next generation, their needs and expectations are centred on interacting with their finances via digitally accessible platforms that link their money, their everyday lives and their goals to the future. Greater customisation of service levels will also be key here.”

The reach of regulation

The number of individual regulatory changes that regulated organisations must track on a global scale has more than tripled since 2011. Tech can play a key role in helping wealth managers with this area of their business.

Conclusion

Nikolai Hack said: “For wealth managers, technology and digitisation can be applied across all functions, from onboarding clients and portfolio management to operations and reporting. It also enables wealth managers to become much more agile and focused on the needs of clients. However, wealth managers need to find the right balance between digital and human services and the key to success will be how wealth managers combine these two in order to meet the challenges now and in the future.”

From client onboarding to portfolio construction through to billing automations, Nucoro combines all the tools required to build the next generation of wealth management propositions. To help the wealth management sector move forward, Nucoro offers a new technology-based foundation built without legacies – a complete overhaul to the models of client service and accessibility. Nucoro’s is a radically different approach to the relationship between technology providers and the organisations adopting their solutions – in short, they can provide the new engine to power the next generation of financial services.

Whilst Nucoro has recently launched to the public, the technology behind it powers the retail investment platform, Exo Investing – a fully automated, AI-powered wealth management platform. Within the first year of operation, Exo won two industry awards (Best digital wealth manager OTY + Industry Innovator OTY at the AltFi awards 2018), was named as a finalist in three more and selected to two disruptive company annual indexes (Wealthtech 100 and Disruption50’s 100 most disruptive UK companies).

Nucoro is making this technology available for businesses in the wealth management sector that have the ambition to truly innovate and future-proof their businesses – and are struggling to realise their digital ambitions alone.

Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsRegulation

Financial Services Employees Put Their Employers at Risk through Unsecure Communication

Symphony “Workplace Confidential survey highlights a worryingly casual attitude to workplace communications within the Financial Services Industries

Symphony Communication Services, LLC, the leading secure team collaboration platform, reveals that financial services employees are inadvertently putting company and customer data at risk through their communication channels.

These findings form part of the Symphony Workplace Confidential survey, which looked into the growth of new collaboration tools and platforms entering the workplace. FS workers are increasingly putting their trust in these platforms to conduct business, for both internal and external communications. For instance, the survey revealed that 34% have used these platforms to share strategic plans regarding their company, 40% have shared information regarding a customer, and 30% have shared financial information regarding their own employer.

However, many collaboration platforms are not protected with end-to-end encryption, and employees using them to share sensitive data points towards a worrying gap in security knowledge. Despite the fact that 94% of survey respondents have confidence that information shared via these platforms is safe from external eyes, a shocking 28% of financial services professional surveyed were not even aware of their employer’s own IT security guidelines. Interestingly this 28% figure is actually above the survey average of 22%; a cause for concern given the highly regulated sector of financial services.

“Financial services is about transactions and efficiency. And market workers have always been innovators when it comes to communication and speed. Fifteen years ago they ‘hacked’ AOL Instant Messaging and IRC into their workflows to help them get more work done faster,” states Jonathan Christensen, Chief Experience Officer at Symphony. “They adopted these tools for the ease and speed they offered but without regard to privacy, security, or compliance. The same thing is happening today with mobile device proliferation and cloud applications moving into the workplace.”

The use of these tools helps to accommodate a new way of working, allowing employees to work remotely from any location. While this is a positive move in powering the modern workforce, this also presents its own security and compliance challenges:


● 38% admit to accessing these tools from their personal computer
● 48% use their personal phone (higher than the 38% who use a work issued phone)
● 12% even admitted to using a publicly available computer

“Taking core capabilities away with draconian IT policies is not the way forward.” noted Christensen. “Workers need responsive, flexible collaboration platforms that are also safe to get their jobs done.”

Additional findings from the survey include:


• Only 31% of survey respondents said they were very confident they always stuck to company security guidelines
• 24% had shared information for HR including personal salary information, contracts, reviews etc.
• 25% admit they have used these tools to talk badly about a customer
• 33% have connected to unsecured internet to conduct work

Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsForeign Direct InvestmentStock Markets

US and Asian brands dominate rankings of world’s most valuable technology brands

  • US tech giants take top 5 spots, Amazon is world’s most valuable technology brand with monumental US$187.9billion brand value
  • Apple, Google and Microsoft defend spots as brand values continue to surge
  • China’s WeChat breaks into top 10 as world’s strongest tech brand, more Chinese brands rising through ranks
  • New entrants from digital space: Twitter and Instagram gaining traction, as online shopping portal Taobao is most valuable new entrant
  • Baidu owned iQiyi fastest-growing, rising 326% to impressive brand value of US$4.3 billion
  • Facebook losing brand strength, recording Brand Strength Index (BSI) score of 82.9 out of 100 and AAA rating
  • IT Services brands log growth: TCS, Accenture, Capgemini, Wipro and IBM all see growth in brand value

Amazon leads tech titans

Amazon strengthens and maintains its position as the world’s most valuable technology brand. Brand value surges 25% to a record US$187.9 billion, over US$30 billion more than 2nd place Apple. Notoriously strong for service, last year, Amazon recorded its most successful Prime Day to date, with consumers purchasing more than 100 million products. This was shortly followed by the brand crossing the US$1 trillion threshold on Wall Street for the first time in its history. And due to an ever-diversifying portfolio, it seems no industry is safe from the threat and power of Amazon.

The Amazon brand is well-positioned for further growth but the presence of Chinese brands this year is most impressive and certainly not to be ignored.

David Haigh, CEO of Brand Finance, commented:

“Amazon is leaving no stone unturned as it relentlessly extends into new sectors, however its technological might still overshadows rivals to retain the status of the world’s most valuable tech brand.

The Amazon brand is well-positioned for further growth but the presence of Chinese brands this year is most impressive and certainly not to be ignored.”

Chinese brands flex muscle

While the top 5 most valuable tech brands are dominated by brands from the USA, the remaining 5 within the top 10 are from China and South Korea, asserting the dominance and competitiveness of the Asian players.

New entrant Taobao (brand value US$46.6 billion) is the most valuable, breaking into the top 10 for the first time. The Chinese online shopping website is headquartered in Hangzhou and owned by Alibaba. It is one of the world’s biggest e-commerce websites, offering its almost 620 million monthly active users a marketplace to facilitate consumer-to-consumer (C2C) retail by providing a platform for small businesses and individual entrepreneurs to open online stores

At US$50.7 billion, China’s WeChat is a rising star, having lifted its brand value 126% over the previous year. Its influence is reflected in the impressive way in which the brand has successfully created a digital ecosystem for its 1 billion Chinese users who use the platform every day to instant message, read, shop, hire cabs, and more

WeChat has broken into the top 10 for the first time, making it worthy of its strongest brand accolade, improving on last year with an upgrade to the elite AAA+ brand strength rating and a corresponding 90.4 out of 100 Brand Strength Index (BSI) score. Whilst China’s burgeoning middle class makes it attractive to continue strengthening the brand domestically, the massive growth experienced by brands as they pursue international business is also appealing

Another tech brand relying on the domestic customer base has made the most of the immense growth in demand for streaming content within the country. iQiyi is not just China’s but the world’s fastest-growing brand this year, up 326% to US$4.3 billion. The Baidu-owned online video platform is China’s answer to Netflix and hosts over 500 million monthly active users.

More likes for digital and social media brands

Netflix is rising through the ranks, with its brand value growing by a whopping 105% over the past year to $21.2 billion, Netflix is set to play the lead role in home entertainment, building a disruptive business as a universally accessible narrowcaster and in this way effectively challenging traditional broadcasting brands.

YouTube (brand value up 46% to $37.8 billion), another rapidly growing digital media brand, retains its spot in 11th place. Like Netflix, YouTube is building a broad platform for video content, in an effort to leverage its brand from merely peer-to-peer video creation and sharing to also include a growing premium and professional video library.

Similarly, Twitter (brand value up 66% to $3.2 billion) jumps almost 100 ranks to become the 258th most valuable brand in America. Another successful social media platform, Instagram is the most valuable new entrant to the ranking this year, claiming 47th spot with a brand value of $16.7 billion.

New entrant Instagram, the photo and video sharing social networking platform owned by Facebook, recorded a brand value of US$16.8 billion. The service has over 1 billion active monthly users and with the rising popularity of Instagram influencers, is also becoming the most attractive portal for digital marketing spends and bringing in impressive advertising engagement revenue.

Although rising up from sixth to fifth place, social networking site Facebook (brand value up 8.7% to US$83.2 billion) has recorded a drop in its brand strength, its AAA+ status from last year slipping down to AAA in 2019. Facebook’s corresponding Brand Strength Index (BSI) score has decreased to 82.9 out of 100.

IT Services brands log growth

Not to be ignored are the notable performances in the technology rankings clocked in by IT Services brands TCS, Accenture, Capgemini, Wipro and IBM who have all seen growth in brand value since last year.

Valued at US$26.3 billion, Accenture has grown rapidly by 56.5% since last year, a testament to its continued innovation across AI, advanced analytics and growing cybersecurity practice. The professional services and IT Services brand has made waves in the industry for its pioneering work on how companies can best achieve a smooth blockchain transformation.

Growing in brand value by 23% to US$12.8billion is India’s largest IT services conglomerate, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), bolstered by a disciplined focus on the market’s increased demand for digital services. TCS has positioned itself as a leader in providing a superior all-round customer experience, leveraging artificial intelligence and robotic automation across its transformation programs. TCS is also to be commended as the first Indian IT services brand to achieve success in the Japanese market; the Mumbai-based brand has expanded its operations in Japan and overseen a merger of three brands to create Tata Consultancy Services Japan. 

Wipro (up 25% to US$4.0 billion) is to be commended for its significant investments in digital transformation capabilities, niche acquisitions, and a recent brand refresh, which have propelled it up the rankings to 81st most valuable technology brand this year.

Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsTransactional and Investment Banking

Nevion and Sony establish a strategic partnership to provide enhanced IP broadcast production solutions

Nevion, award-winning provider of virtualized media production solutions, today announced that it has agreed with Sony Imaging Products & Solutions Inc. (“Sony”) to establish a strategic partnership in the area of IP-based solutions for broadcasters and other industries. To reinforce this partnership, Sony will also become a leading investor in Nevion by acquiring a minority stake in the company through a share purchase agreement.

In recent years, Nevion has established itself as a leading provider of IP media network solutions for the real-time transport, processing, monitoring and management of the video, audio and data signals that are used in production. This partnership with Sony will allow customers to benefit from more advanced, fully integrated and standards-based media production solutions that combine outstanding media network technology with world-leading equipment such as cameras and switchers. These solutions will make it easier for customers to move to IP in their facilities and in remote production, as well as improve their ability to create content – for example through better sharing of resources.

“This is an exciting alliance for Nevion, its customers and its partners,” said Geir Bryn-Jensen, Nevion CEO. “It is based on very complementary solutions, products and know-how, and will allow us to offer a lot more to our customers, both existing and potential, than we have been able to until now. It will also give us a much greater scalability and reach.”

“Through this strategic partnership, we will be able to expand our end-to-end IP solution offerings that allow customers to produce live content connecting multiple locations”, said Mikio Kita, Senior General Manager, Media Solution Business Division, Professional Products & Solutions Group, Sony Imaging Products & Solutions Inc. “Working together with Nevion, we will deliver an integrated and optimal experience for our customers.”

Nevion’s CEO, Geir Bryn-Jensen concluded: “This strategic partnership with Sony is a real vote of confidence in Nevion, its vision, its strategy, its people and its IP-based media network solutions. We look forward to working closely with Sony to maximize the benefits for our customers.”

For more information about Nevion and its solutions, please visit the Nevion website.

Corporate Finance and M&A/Deals

APSCo Announces Trade Delegation to US and Canada

The Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) has announced it’s much anticipated five day Trade Delegation to New York and Toronto beginning on the 11th November 2019, following successful visits to Singapore, Brazil, Japan and China in previous years.

The event, which is kindly sponsored by Saffery Champness and Squire Patton Boggs, marks the second time the trade association has travelled with members to North America, after a delegation of 28 visited New York and San Francisco in 2017. Feedback from the previous cohort was extremely positive, with Chris Jackson, Founder Director of Understanding Recruitment commenting, “I collected a huge amount of information to take away and am now in a position to make a good and educated decision on whether we’re going to hit the States over the next 12 months”.

During the trip, delegates will receive privileged access to key contacts across the sector, briefings from specialists about business opportunities and market trends and practical advice from experienced recruitment leaders operating in the region.

The delegation will be led by Ann Swain, Chief Executive of APSCo, who commented:

“With a $133bn turnover, the US staffing market is the largest in the world, while Staffing Industry Analysts forecasts that the Canadian staffing market will be worth CAD 9.7bn in 2019. This strength, together with low barriers to entry has made the United States and Canada target destinations for ambitious firms looking to expand their global footprint and diversify their growth strategies.

“If you are looking to develop your business across the pond, or simply want to ‘dip your toe in the water’ this trip is an ideal way to make a cost-effective assessment of the opportunities available.”

Delegates will visit New York on the 11th and 12th of November and Toronto on the 14th and 15th of November, with a day travelling in between.
For further information and to book your place, please email [email protected].

Corporate Finance and M&A/Deals

Guidant Global appoints Director to drive strategic growth in Australian market

Guidant Global, part of Impellam Group is delighted to announce that it has appointed Doug Edmonds as Director, APAC with a responsibility to drive future growth in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region. The move comes as the global leader in talent acquisition and managed workforce solutions continues to make rapid progress in expanding and transforming its portfolio across international markets.

The announcement follows PwC’s latest CEO Survey – which found that 71% of Australian business leaders feel that a lack of key skills is a threat to growth – with many facing barriers to building the required workforce because of limited insights into current workforce capability and future requirements.

Guidant Global champions a better, more forward-thinking way of working and has a core philosophy of shifting the focus to people – the vibrant force that drives thriving businesses and creates energy and opportunity. With extensive experience in resourcing and managed service recruitment in Australia and Asia, Edmonds is well placed to lead the company’s strategic plans to deliver its global expertise in a way which is tailored to the local geographies. In fact, Impellam is no stranger to the region. As well as Guidant Global, group companies Comensura, Medacs Global Group and Carbon60 all have significant operations within Australasia and Guidant Global already operates in India, China, and Malaysia.

Commenting on his appointment, Doug Edmonds, Director at Guidant Global, said: “Here in Australia, and indeed in wider Asia markets, there is a real need for Guidant’s collaborative, creative and agile approach to managed service recruitment. I look forward to reconnecting with the APAC market at a time when employers are seeking solutions around talent management – and in a capacity where I can deliver Guidant Global’s commitment to finding better ways of working.”

Simon Blockley, CEO of Guidant Global, added: “This is a significant appointment for Guidant Global at a time when we are increasingly extending existing programmes into Australia and the Asia-Pacific region. Opportunities in this region are vast, and I have no doubt that Doug’s extensive experience and passion makes him the best person to drive growth strategy across APAC markets.”

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

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

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

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

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

What we can expect in the near future

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

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

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

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

Investments to expect in the years ahead

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

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

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

Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsFinanceForeign Direct InvestmentIslamic Finance

Smart Dubai Launches Guidelines on Ethical use of Artificial Intelligence

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

ArticlesCorporate Finance and M&A/DealsFunds of Funds

5 ways cognitive assistants are revolutionising banking

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Building a hybrid workforce

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

 

Ubiquitous customer services

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

 

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

 

24/7 banking support

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

 

Go beyond simple chatbots

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

 

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

 

Delivering better insights and improved security

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

 

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

 

The future of retail banking

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

 

 

Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsEquityFinanceForeign Direct InvestmentInfrastructure and Project Finance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.”

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.

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.

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

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

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.

ClearSlide and LevelEleven Announce Partnership
Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsFinance

ClearSlide and LevelEleven Announce Partnership

ClearSlide, the Sales Engagement Platform leader, and LevelEleven, the leading Sales Activity Management System, today announced a partnership and integrations that will deliver significant sales productivity improvements for any company.

According to global sales advisory firm CSO Insights, sales leaders report that improving sales productivity tops their list of priorities. But on average, sales managers have less than 20 percent of their time available to directly help reps sell. Also, more than 70 percent of companies are taking at least six months to ramp new reps and fewer than 60 percent of sales reps achieve their sales quota plans. These challenges are resulting in sales leaders wanting better, real-time visibility into how their sales staff are engaging prospects and customers to achieve sales priorities and business results.

“Nearly every sales leader I meet would like to increase the productivity of their sales teams – but they struggle to identify which activities and behaviors will make a difference,” said Jim Benton, ClearSlide Chief Strategy Officer and Co-Founder. “We are excited to work with LevelEleven because they strive to always improve how companies engage their customers. Partnerships like this offer modern tools with better guided sales activities to create amazing sales experiences in this exciting digital era of selling.”

“Sales leaders embrace LevelEleven’s Sales Activity Management System to keep salespeople engaged in the right behaviors, so that sales teams will deliver more revenue,” said Bob Marsh, CEO of LevelEleven. “Bringing ClearSlide activities and customer engagement metrics into our product adds visibility to critical new sales KPIs, increasing confidence that deals will close and sales teams are clearly focused. We’re honored to join ClearSlide’s strong partner program.”

LevelEleven has integrated ClearSlide’s open APIs into its Sales Activity Management System. This integration provides organizations a guided selling process with actions sales reps should take at each sales stage. This also provides visibility into performance against top ClearSlide KPIs such as email open rates, number of online and in-person meetings, and total engaged selling time. Sales leaders leverage the LevelEleven integration with ClearSlide KPIs to set benchmark performance levels to help scale stronger results across their teams.

ClearSlide’s partner program offers integration access to valuable ClearSlide activity and engagement data to power new digital selling processes and stronger sales enablement applications. Using open APIs, developers can dynamically upload content, programmatically launch email online meetings, and ingest robust customer engagement data into their own applications. Partners or customers interested to learn more about ClearSlide’s partner program and API development kit can easily connect with the company by emailing [email protected]

A World of Wellness
Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsFinance

A World of Wellness

Based in Florida, Code of Life’s Boutique Wellness Studio provide pilates, barre, dance and cardio classes for a highly diverse range of clients. We spoke to Hosanna De Linares, President of the studio, to find out how they provide a truly unforgettable experience.

To kick things off, could you tell our readers about what people can expect to experience when visiting your studio, and the type of exercises involved? At Code of Life’s Boutique Wellness Studio, you are trained to be mindful and aware of your body movement as you are shown how to excel to your personal best through our ever-changing exercises. Code of Life’s reformer,
barre and CoreALign classes are based on the six pilates principles:
concentration, centering, control, breathing, precision and flow. 

The reformer is a piece of resistance exercise equipment designed by Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century. It consists of a platform that moves back and forth along a carriage. Resistance is provided by the exerciser’s body weight and by springs attached to the carriage and platform.
The reformer provides finely tuned exercise resistance that allows one to work very precisely to develop good alignment, core strength and flexibility.

These things in turn, lead to daily life improvements such as better posture, graceful, efficient movement, and for many, relief from pain associated with physical imbalances such as back pain.
Designed by Jonathan Hoffman, a physical therapist and fitness enthusiast, CoreAlign was created with the belief that the body functions and heals best when movements are anatomically sound and balanced.

As a training tool, CoreAlign exercises are designed to create harmony between controlled stability and dynamic mobility, resulting in a strong, healthy and vibrant body. The CoreAlign method stimulates our core stability muscles to fire in perfect timing while performing functional exercises,
deep stretches and core-controlled aerobic training. This makes it a perfect addition to a Pilates studio, personal training or physical therapy practice.

The barre is used as a prop to balance while doing exercises that focus on isometric strength training, combined with high reps of a small rangeof-motion movements. Barre combines pilates, yoga and ballet moves to give you beautiful, sculpted and lean muscles. In order to provide a
variety for our customers, we continue to design and develop new and challenging exercises that will make them stronger, and will keep them wanting to come back and experience more of our fun and dynamic classes.

Through this process, you will be guided to grow stronger physically and mentally, balancing the body and mind so that when you walk out the door you move gracefully towards a well-balanced life, making your practice your lifestyle. Additionally, Code of Life also offers health coaching
to help you make positive choices that enhance your personal physical, mental and spiritual health. Also at Code of Life’s Boutique shop, you will find the best curated style activewear brands from around the world. 

Could you tell us a bit more about how long you have been running and the beautiful location that you are based in? Code of Life was born three years ago in Key Biscayne in Florida, which is an island oasis with world renowned parks at both ends. The island has become famous for both golf and tennis tournaments, and its unique surrounding means that it attracts visitors from across the globe. 

What would say are the major attractions behind your boutique studio? We focus on the fundamentals of pilates, exercises that involve practicing on the mat, reformer, barre and core align. In order to provide a variety for our customers, we continue to design and develop new and challenging exercises and we also offer wellness programs and nutritional coaching.

Tell us about a typical client a Code of Conduct?

There is no typical client at Code of Conduct and we provide form all walks of life. In the beginning, the first Code of Life clients were friends of mine, and from then one, the word spread about our services and we have continued to grow from strength to strength. 

To what extent do you think that hotel and spa industry is built around
creating unforgettable experiences and providing exquisite escapes from
everyday life?

I think this is basically what we are all about and is what we try to achieve with each and every customer that comes to our business. 

Can you outline some of the qualities of your establishment, such as extravagance, elegance, sophistication and peerless customer service that ensures visitors return again and again?

Code of Life’s space, classes and environment are designed to make you feel at home. They are like your sanctuary, a sacred space where you feel safe, where you feel free, where you know that as soon as you walk in the door all your worries and anxieties can be left behind. It is where people
can allow themselves to trust and be guided into a truly unforgettable experience.

What makes put the success of your company down to?

First and foremost, I passionately believe in what I do and what I have to offer. What makes my job so much easier is that I really love what I do, and my clients are people I care about and who I am motivated to do my very best for. 

What contribution do your staff make to the success of your firm?

Our staff are the backbone behind our success, where each instructor trains daily and is continuing to grow their own practices. We are all united by the fact that we take a personal touch to what we do, love what we do and believe in what Code of Life stands for.

Looking ahead, what challenges lie ahead in 2016 for your firm?

In this business field, success is staying current with what is constantly developing and differentiating yourself from others. We believe that our business has continued to develop and grow in line with our clients ever-evolving needs.

Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us. Is there anything else
you would like to add?

I would like to close by saying that I feel blessed to be able to do what I
love and be able to share my passion with others.


Company: Code of Life
Name: Hosanna De Linares
Email: [email protected]
Web Address: www.code-of-life.com
Address: 328 Crandon Blvd.
Suite 210. Key Biscayne, FL 33149
Telephone: +1 305 490 4201

Martindale Pharma Announces Acquisition of Viridian Pharma
Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsFinance

Martindale Pharma Announces Acquisition of Viridian Pharma

This acquisition is part of Martindale Pharma’s strategy to expand its product portfolio and actively support further growth of its hospital-initiated medicines product range.

Viridian Pharma has developed five products all of which have regulatory approval in the UK and represent first-to-market specialty hospital-prescribed medicines. The product portfolio consists of caffeine citrate injection and caffeine citrate oral solution for apnoea of prematurity in pre-term babies, sodium chloride oral solution for correction of hypernatremia in infants, sodium citrate oral solution for the prevention of respiratory complications in women undergoing caesarean sections and peppermint water for symptomatic relief of minor upper digestive complaints.

Martindale Pharma has been working with Viridian Pharma to manufacture and market the two key caffeine citrate products, and has built a strong market share of the neonatology or Special Care Baby Units in the UK over the past 10 years, exclusively using the Martindale/Viridian caffeine citrate range. Viridian Pharma will be immediately combined with Martindale Pharma’s existing growing business, which has an established UK and international footprint.

Michael Harris, Chief Executive Officer of Martindale Pharma, commented: “Martindale Pharma’s strategy is to build leading positions in defined business segments where there is a high unmet medical need and a demand for improved product presentations. This acquisition enables us to expand and strengthen our product range of essential medicines. Viridian has created a portfolio of valuable products which are a very good fit for our hospital-initiated medicines portfolio and can be marketed through our UK organisation as well as our international partner network.”

Mike Lanning, a founder director of Viridian Pharma, added: “Through the successful collaboration on our caffeine citrate range, Martindale Pharma has demonstrated the capability to ensure these important medicines are preferentially used in vulnerable patients. We are delighted that such a strong business partner has acquired the company and will support and develop the product range into the future.”

REALOGIS Real Estate Logistics Fund-Germany Acquires Logistics Property in Bielefeld
Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsFinance

REALOGIS Real Estate Logistics Fund-Germany Acquires Logistics Property in Bielefeld

The property, which extends over 4,419 square metres of warehouse and office space, is used by Deutsche Post DHL Group to operate a mechanised delivery site (German: MechZB) for parcels. Completed in 2013, the property sold for an amount in the double-digit millions.

With this latest addition included, the portfolio of the REALOGIS Real Estate Logistics Fund-Germany has grown to a total volume of around 130 million euros within a six-month period. The property just bought brings the number of fund assets up to eight. It is planned to spend another 150 million euros on acquisitions before the end of 2016.

“The prestigious occupier, Deutsche Post DHL Group, the long remaining lease term, and the great location make this logistics property a top investments in line with our fund strategy,” said Bodo Hollung, Managing Director of REALOGIS Real Estate GmbH.

The logistics property, which was completed in 2013, is located at Südring 98 in Bielefeld’s southern district of Brackwede on a plot of 15,000 square metres. The site comes with convenient access both to the town centre of Bielefeld and to the nearest motorway interchange (A2/A23). The mechanised delivery site in Bielefeld is the second of its kind in the portfolio of the REALOGIS Real Estate Logistics Fund-Germany, while the pre-acquisition audit for a third one is already in progress.

Launched in 2015 as real estate special AIF, the REALOGIS Real Estate Logistics Fund-Germany invests in new logistics properties marked by a high alternative use potential and located in well-established locations, but will also invest in existing properties distinguished by great locations and a high degree of attraction to occupiers.

The portfolio strategy aims for the greatest possible diversification in regard to size, age and location of the real estate as well as in regard to remaining lease terms. The investment volume of the fund is c. 300 million euros.

For further information, please visit: www.realogis-realestate.de

Finest in Finance
Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsFinance

Finest in Finance

We are partners with a number of international firms including Metastock, SAS, Microsoft, Citrix, Face Group, and Hootsuite. Forrester Research highlighted our efforts in the field of Natural Language Processing, Big Data, and Text Analytics for Arabic language in a report published on November 2015 entitled “The Gulf Cooperative Council’s Big Data Opportunity: How The GCC Can Use Big Data to Be More Competitive”.

In regards to the financial areas, our company launched a portal for financial market analysis and training. The project merged applications of information technology and financial market analysis in a unique portal.

The portal provides our customers with e-training courses and lectures to learn how to use technical analysis software like Metastock and Xenith in order to help them take the right decisions during their trading.

The portal also offers the possibility to attend our training programs and lectures via the internet using live webinars and virtual classroom technologies. These technologies enable the trainees to attend lectures remotely from any place, using any computer or smart phone or a tablet PC. This is achieved by using Citrix e-collaboration technologies for live broadcasting and online collaboration. Recorded lectures and webinars are also available through an integrated Learning Management System.

In addition to this portal, we offer to our clients other consultancy services which merge information technology, financial market analysis software, finance, economics and business. In this respect we offer consultancy in using information technology and financial market analysis software for financial and investment institutions and private traders. We also develop information technology solutions and software for corporations working in financial markets. Our hands-on training, support, and customisation for Metastock software is used in financial market analysis. Moreover, we support media and business institutions with financial reports and economic indicators utilising financial market analysis software.

Looking ahead to the remainder of 2016 and beyond, we are working on utilising big data analytics and social media analytics to provide our customers in the financial sector with insights and indicators that help them in sensing and measuring the market trends and taking the proper decisions. In this respect, we have developed a Sentiment Analysis API for Standard Arabic language and Kuwaiti dialect. We have also developed a social media analytics system optimised for Standard Arabic language and Kuwaiti Dialect. These systems can be utilised to analyse the investors’ trends, sentiment, and tone in relation to financial markets, stocks, news and other events affecting the local and regional financial market landscape.

We are also focusing on Social Trading by merging our experience in information technology, social media analytics, and financial markets to provide our clients with a robust interactive social trading environment which can be applied to local, regional, and international financial markets.

Company: Information Age for I.T. Consultations
Name: Dr. Salah Alnajem
Email: [email protected]
Web Address: www.information-age-consulting.com
Address: Ali Tower, Floor 7, Office 9, Abdullah Al Mubarak Street, Al
Qiblah, Kuwait City, Kuwait
Telephone: 965 90097970

NAS Invest and BlueRock Fund Acquire Residential Properties Worth EUR 50 Million
Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsFinance

NAS Invest and BlueRock Fund Acquire Residential Properties Worth EUR 50 Million

Overall, NAS Invest and BlueRock Fund have acquired close to 200 residential units across the Berlin districts Charlottenburg, Wilmersdorf, Tiergarten and Mitte over the first six months of the year. The two partners expect to invest another EUR 100 million over the next years. NAS Invest is responsible for property asset management and the implementation of the individual project strategies, while BlueRock is in charge of AIFM compliant fund management and reporting.

“Our deep network enabled us to acquire these residential properties in Berlin off market. We will now modernise and reposition them in line with our fund strategy,” says Nikolai Dëus-von Homeyer, managing director at NAS Invest.

“The Berlin residential market still has huge growth potential. Our ability to leverage a local network enables us to identify unique investment opportunities that stand out in the European market including from a risk return perspective,” adds Ronny Pifko, director and founder of BlueRock Fund.

NAS Invest and BlueRock Fund target core plus and value add properties across German metropolitan regions and more particularly in Berlin for the “NAS Berlin Residential Growth” fund.

Please go to www.nas-invest.com and www.bluerockfund.com for additional information.

Beacon Rail Acquires Ascendos Rail Leasing
Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsFinance

Beacon Rail Acquires Ascendos Rail Leasing

The combined Beacon and Ascendos portfolio includes 225 locomotives and over 1,000 freight wagons on lease in the UK, Scandinavia, Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland and Germany, 55 passenger train units on lease in the UK and Germany, 67 double decker coaches on lease in Denmark, and 13 sets of Mark 5 coaches which will be operated by TransPennine Express in the UK.

Commenting on the closing, Ted Gaffney, Chief Executive Officer of Beacon, said: “The closing on the acquisition of Ascendos marks the beginning of a new chapter for Beacon Rail. We are committed to providing quality, state of the art rolling stock to the UK and European freight and passenger markets and welcome the Ascendos employees to the Beacon family.”

Pamplona Capital Management (“Pamplona”) acquired Beacon in May 2014 through Pamplona Capital Partners III, LP, a 2011 vehicle with $2.7 billion of committed capital. Since closing, Beacon has been an active acquirer of assets through portfolio acquisitions, the placement of new build orders and the closing of sale / leaseback transactions with various freight and passenger operators, significantly increasing the scale of the portfolio and diversifying both the lessee and asset base.

Committed debt financing for the transaction has been provided by ING Bank and Deutsche Bank AG, London Branch. Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP and Lowenstein Sandler LLP acted as legal counsel for Beacon and Pamplona. Clifford Chance LLP acted as legal counsel for the lenders.

Winners Directory
Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsFinance

Winners Directory

Business Elite CEO of the Year 2016
Company: ADVFN PLC
Email: [email protected]
Web Address: http://uk.advfn.com/
Address: 26 Throgmorton Street, London EC2N 2AN
Telephone: 44 (0) 207 0700 961

Business Elite CEO of the Year 2016
Company: Crescent Petroleum
Email: [email protected]
Web Address: www.crescentpetroleum.com
Address: P.O. Box 211, Corniche Al Buhaira, Sharjah,
United Arab Emirates
Telephone: 971 (6) 572 7000

Business Elite CEO of the Year 2016
Company: Maria Mallaband Care Group Ltd
Name: Philip Burgan
Email: [email protected]
Web Address: www.mmcg.co.uk
Address: Westcourt, Gelderd Road, Leeds LS12 6DB
Telephone: 0113 2382690

Business Elite 2016
Company: Moneyweb Limited
Name: Paul Robinson
Email: [email protected]
Web Address: www.moneyweb-ifa.com
Address: 11 Betton Business Park, Racecourse Road,
East Ayton, Scarborough, YO13 9HD
Telephone: 01723 378234

Business Elite CEO of the Year 2016
Name: Kelvin Kirby
Company: Technology Associates Limited
Email: [email protected]
Web Address: www.techassoc.com
Address: Technology House, Shottery Brook Office Park,
Timothy’s Bridge Road, Stratford-upon-Avon,
Warks CV37 9NR
Telephone: 44 (0) 1789 292 150

Business Elite MD of the Year 2016
Company: Delivered Health Solutions. Ltd
Name: Barbara McCall Meeks
Email: [email protected]
Web Address: www.deliveredhealthsolutions.co.uk
Address:The Bridge Business Centre,Cheshire
House,Gorsey Road, Widness,WA8 0RP
Telephone: 0151 422 9335

Business Elite MD of the Year 2016
Company: Hunters Solutions Limited
Name: Mark Hunt
Email: [email protected]
Web Address: www.hunterssolutions.co.uk
Address: 15 Fish Street, Northampton,
NN1 2AA
Telephone AND 01604 621110

Business Elite MD of the Year 2016
Company: Wick Hill Ltd
Name: Ken Ward
Email: [email protected]
Web Address: www.wickhill.com
Address: River Court, Albert Drive, Woking, Surrey,
GU21 5RP
Telephone: 01483 227600

2016 Tax Firm of the Year
Company: Lamont Pridmore
Name: Graham Lamont
Email: [email protected]
Web Address: www.lamontpridmore.co.uk
Address: Offices throughout Cumbria
Telephone: 0800 234 6978

Five Ways that SMEs Can Prepare for Brexit
Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsFinance

Five Ways that SMEs Can Prepare for Brexit

 #1: Fix International Money Transfers

The very spectre of Brexit has caused shockwaves across the currency markets, so it seems likely that a ‘leave’ vote would have a significant impact on the value of sterling. According to expert Ali Steed, once of the biggest complications for SMEs would lie in sending currency overseas, thanks to an almost inevitable short-term weakening of the pound. Although this may not be the worst news for companies with little interest in overseas markets, any enterprises that deal with companies abroad, either to import or export, would certainly feel the fallout.

The solution is surprisingly simple: you need to use a currency service rather than the bank. In doing so, you’ll be able to make sizeable savings on your international money transfers, and may even be able to negotiate fixed rates for a set period of time. This will help you to plan ahead and lessen the impact on your business, leaving you clear of the current and able to strike out for the shore.

#2: Reassess Employee Contracts
EU law has played a significant role in shaping the rules and regulations that constitute employment law within our own country, and without its strictures in place, the format of current contracts could be open to amendment. Although the government may choose to preserve what is already set down, there would be no onus on it to do so, so experts suggest looking at existing documents with a Brexit in mind.

Holiday pay and rest breaks should be particular areas of focus, and you’ll need to decide whether or not you would want to amend these if changes were to be implemented on the heels on an EU exit. Although your existing contracts would have to remain unchanged, as this is what both parties have agreed to, this could offer some room for manoeuvre in the event of employing new members of staff.

Furthermore, you will need to ensure that any non-British workers would be legally permitted to remain within your employ should the country vote to leave. It may be worth talking over these issues with any members of staff concerned, and forewarning them if you feel it likely that a visa or work permit may become necessary. Alternatively, if you feel it unlikely that they would be able to remain in their positions, you may want to consider how you would fill their job roles in the event of their departure from your company.

#3: Start to Budget
The likelihood is that a vote to leave the European Union would cause significant financial upheaval for many British businesses, at least in the short-term. This would likely necessitate a reduction in expenditure, and it can be handy to see where you can cut costs in advance of the event itself. Even if such measures prove redundant, you’ll still have minimised your outlay and increased profitability, so you have little to lose by reviewing your spending.

So where should you start? Your energy bills ought to be an early point of focus, and you may find that you can save a sizeable amount simply by changing your provider. On top of this, it may be a good time to review your insurance policy, and to look at whether a new supplier could offer you more competitive terms than your current one. Although these actions may prove time consuming, the more money you save, the stronger the position you’ll be in if uncertainty reigns.

#4: Communicate with Your Overseas Clients
Planning ahead is part of running a successful business, but when uncertainty looms, its importance escalates. If we are to leave the European Union, this could have extensive implications for your relationships with overseas clients, and it’s important to talk over how this might affect you, and how its impact could be lessened.

Open communication is key, and rather than burying your head in the sand, you need to consider the import and export complications that would be caused by a departure. Only by discussing this will you be able to solidify supply chains in advance, so take the time to explore the potential problems that may be caused, and how you and your clients or suppliers can best work around them. This may include forward contracts to ‘fix’ current exchange rates for a period of a year or so, helping to clarify where each of you will stand despite the pervasive uncertainty that surrounds you.

#5: Start to Look Beyond the EU
International trade can be essential to SMEs with growth on their minds, but it needn’t all be tied up with the EU. There are hundreds of countries whose markets you could tap into, and if relations between existing partners become muddied by the after-effects of a departure, it’s handy to have a diverse client base in place to fall back on. This means that now might be the ideal time to start expanding your horizons.

As expert Martin Campbell explains: “If the UK does vote for Brexit, then trading with the EU will become harder. Small British businesses will have to develop new markets and opportunities.”

Whatever the outcome of June’s referendum, the only thing we can reliably predict is that it will have consequences. How greatly they affect you, however, is down to you, and so we’ve given you the tools to stand firm against whatever the future holds. Will you choose to use them?

London and San Francisco Agencies team up to Create International Challenger Network
Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsFinance

London and San Francisco Agencies team up to Create International Challenger Network

Developing a presence in the U.S. market has been a key strategic goal for VCCP and coincides with MUH-TAY-ZIK | HOF-FER’s rapid growth and high-profile account wins since its inception in 2010. In the past year MUH-TAY-ZIK | HOF-FER has more than doubled its staff from 40 to 85 people, with plans to open an office in New York City, and increased its revenue by 88% from $9 million to $17 million. VCCP intends to further grow its presence in Europe and Australia and MUH-TAY-ZIK | HOF-FER in the Americas and Asia.

The partnership between the two agencies heralds the creation of a “Challenger Network for Challenger Brands” with both sharing creative and business objectives centred on challenger brands, that will be amplified into greater global opportunities. VCCP’s current clients (O2,BMW Motorcycles, Molson Coors, and easyJet), will be joining the likes of AAA, Audi, method, Netflix, OXO, and SoFi from the roster of MUH-TAY-ZIK | HOF-FER.

The acquisition has been financed by Providence Equity Partners, a private equity investor in media and communications businesses, which acquired Chime Communications in 2015. Terms of the deal are not disclosed.

Adrian Coleman, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of VCCP, commented:

“This marks a landmark achievement for VCCP, which has experienced rapid growth since it was founded 14 years ago. We’ve grown to become an increasingly global advertising agency of 500 people and continue to deliver disruptive and creative campaigns for our clients.

“We believe that creativity is the biggest multplier for any business and together with MUH-TAY-ZIK| HOF-FER we will be able to deliver campaigns all over the world as we continue to expand and grow the business.”

John Matejczyk, Co-Founder and Executive Creative Director at MUH-TAY-ZIK | HOF-FER, commented:

“At MUH-TAY-ZIK | HOF-FER, we look forward to working with VCCP to realise our shared visions, grow the business and to unleash creativity for our clients.”

Matt Hofherr, Co-Founder and Director of Strategy at MUH-TAY-ZIK | HOF-FER, commented:

“VCCP is a perfect fit for our agency. We share a like-minded attitude,culture and unique dedication to the brands we work with.”

Andrew Tisdale, Managing Director at Providence Equity Partners, added:

“This is a really exciting combination for both agencies. John, Matt, Adrian and Charles have a really clear view of how they will collaborate closely to bring great ideas to their clients around the world and build a strong global business together.”

Corinthia Hotels Announces the Acquisition of the Grand Hotel Astoria
Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsFinance

Corinthia Hotels Announces the Acquisition of the Grand Hotel Astoria, Brussels

The Corinthia Grand Hotel Astoria will comprise 121 bedrooms and suites, as well as extensive banqueting, dining and spa facilities.

Situated in a prime location on Rue Royale in the heart of the city, the hotel was built in 1909 at the request of King Leopold II. It was for many years considered to be among the world’s finest luxury hotels and has welcomed a number of illustrious guests during the course of its history including former British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill and former US President Dwight Eisenhower.

Corinthia is committed to restoring the property, which has been vacant for the past decade, to its former glory.
Corinthia chairman Alfred Pisani said:

“We have earned an unparalleled reputation for restoring buildings of historical value and turning them into luxury hotels. The Corinthia Grand Hotel Astoria will be no exception.

“We aim to make this hotel the best in Brussels – committing the same passion and attention to detail as we have done with our hotel redevelopments in London, Budapest, St Petersburg and other major cities. We have full confidence in the city and are proud to have acquired such a gem in the heart of Europe.”

The Corinthia Grand Hotel Astoria’s façade and ground floor enjoy listed protection status, though the upper bedroom floors are currently stripped down to brick work awaiting full reconstruction. The property also includes adjoining land upon which the current structure will be extended. Works shall commence once all designs are completed.
Further luxury hotel projects are expected to be announced in the coming weeks to complement Corinthia’s growing portfolio of luxury hotels in prime locations.

The Value of Mergers and Acquisitions Targeting Industrials Companies
Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsFinance

The Value of Mergers and Acquisitions Targeting Industrials Companies

By contrast, volume actually declined from 12,223 to 12,089 over the same timeframe. 2016 has gotten off to a fairly slow start; in the first three months of this year USD 264,287 million has been invested across 4,684 transactions. If the first quarter is a sign of things to come H1 2016 is unlikely to be a record breaker and will probably bring to an end two consecutive six month periods of increasing values. The result is hardly surprising as 2016 has been fairly quiet in terms of M&A activity across the board so far. Zephyr’s Global Q1 2016 report shows dealmaking of USD 861,749 million across 20,040 deals worldwide in the first three months of the year, marking a decline on both fronts from Q4 2015 and Q1 2015.

Despite the fact that 2016 has not been a recordbreaker thus far, either globally or within the industrials segment, the latter has actually seen a few sizable transactions signed off. All of the year’s top ten deals to date were worth over USD 3,000 million, while one broke the USD 40,000 million barrier. This was ChemChina’s USD 43,000 million agreement to acquire Swiss agricultural pesticides and fertilisers maker Syngenta via its CNAC Saturn (NL) subsidiary. This was followed by a transaction worth USD 11,300 million as the Sherwin-Williams Company agreed to buy Minneapolis-headquartered paint, coatings and coating intermediates manufacturer the Valspar Corporation. Third place was taken by a deal worth USD 5,729 million as Anhui Water Resources Development Co signed on the dotted line to take over Anhui Construction Engineering Group Co. If transactions of similar sizes can continue to be announced between now and the end of June, there is still hope that dealmaking can reach similar levels to those recorded in 2016.

A number of world regions have been targeted in industrials deals worth a significant amount in 2016 to date. The most valuable region is the Far East and Central Asia, which has received investment of USD 114,241 million, placing it well ahead of second-placed Western Europe with USD 75,817 million. North America was third with USD 53,725 million. Despite the gulf between these regional values, the three regions were actually targeted in a very similar number of deals; Far East and Central Asia topped the rankings with 1,621, followed by Western Europe with 1,419 and North America with 1,000. The Far East and Central Asia’s impressive value result is not surprising given that companies in the region were targeted in four of the quarter’s ten largest transactions. The most valuable of these was the aforementioned Anhui Construction Engineering Group Co deal, while others targeted in high value deals include CITIC Real Estate, Liaoning Zhongwang Group and Inotera Memories. The USD 75,817 invested in Western European industrials firms was significantly boosted by the USD 43,000 million Syngenta deal, which was the largest deal signed off worldwide across all sectors in Q1 2016.

Although 2016 has not exactly sprinted out of the blocks in terms of deal activity in the industrials sector, there is every chance that a few more deals on a similar scale to those mentioned could be announced over the coming months. This would undoubtedly have a considerable effect on overall results for the sector and could even push results closer to the levels recorded throughout 2016. However, it is worth noting that 2016 hit record highs in terms of dealmaking worldwide and will likely prove a hard act to follow.

Company: Bureau van Dijk
E-Mail: [email protected]
Web Address: www.bvdinfo.com

Study Proves Female Board Members Improve Share Price
Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsFinance

Study Proves Female Board Members Improve Share Price

Michael Ferrary’s ‘Observatory on the feminisation of companies’, a nine-year study into the feminisation of business, has exposed that the 15 companies in the French CAC40 with the most women managers have significantly outperformed the 25 other listed companies.

Shares in these firms have risen by 60% from 2006 to 2016, despite the overall benchmark falling by 4.43% in the period.

Ferrary says: “The lesson businesses must learn is that having female managers on the board not only lends itself to the firm’s reputation, but also drastically affects its bottom line. By bringing in top female talent, companies are both increasing their intake of professionals and staying ahead of the curve. This applies not only at the top levels of business, but across the whole spectrum and around the world. In countries such as the UK, for example, only 2% of CEOs in all its listed companies are female, rising to 4% for senior managers – but this needs to change if businesses are looking to outperform their competition.”

He says: “It’s time for managers to sit up and take notice of the facts, not only for their own profitability, but for the many other benefits. Female board members are likely to increase a company’s reach – or at least effectiveness – due to their influence, yet this is not where their impact stops. Placing inspiring women at the top could motivate other female members of staff, directly enhancing their individual performances. And with business so competitive, can companies really afford not to be strategically planning their board room gender ratios to maximise their bottom lines?”

Capital Partnership to Acquire Northgate Capital
Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsFinance

Capital Partnership to Acquire Northgate Capital

Religare, the India-based diversified financial services group, acquired a majority interest in Northgate in 2010. Completion of the transaction is subject to the satisfaction of certain conditions precedent, including certain regulatory approvals. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Founded in 2000, Northgate is a leading venture capital and private equity firm with $4.8 billion in assets under management (AUM) as of 1 April 2016 on behalf of institutional and private investors in North America, EMEA and Australia. The firm makes both direct company venture capital investments, where it leverages its network of global relationships to help create value for its portfolio companies, and indirect company investments by investing in venture capital and private equity funds. Northgate portfolio companies represent some of the most successful start-up companies across multiple verticals including Telecom, Fintech and Media. Northgate portfolio companies have had multiple IPOs and successful exits.

The Capital Partnership has maintained a strong relationship with Northgate for the past 12 years and its managed funds collectively represent one of the largest investors in the Northgate funds. The proposed acquisition will build on The Capital Partnership’s growing venture capital and private equity investment portfolio, which currently accounts for around 25 percent of its assets under management, and reinforces the firm’s commitment to the US market. This acquisition will enhance the alignment of interests between investors and shareholders of Northgate, creating “a firm owned by an investor, for the investors.” Following the acquisition, Northgate will retain its investment and operational autonomy as distinct from The Capital Partnership.

In conjunction with the transaction, it is anticipated that Ali Ojjeh, Managing Partner of The Capital Partnership and a 12-year member of Northgate’s Limited Partner Advisory Board, will assume the additional role of Chairman of Northgate. Dr. Hosein Khajeh-Hosseiny, a current member of Northgate’s Management Committee, will continue to lead the firm as its Managing Partner and as CEO. Following the closing of the transaction, it is proposed that each of Mr. Ojjeh and Dr. Khajeh-Hosseiny will participate as members of the Northgate Investment Committee, together with Brent Jones and Thomas Vardell, two of the co-founders of Northgate.

Commenting on the proposed acquisition, Ali Ojjeh, Managing Partner and co-founder, The Capital Partnership, said:
“The Capital Partnership has a successful 18-year track-record in venture capital and private equity investments, which is highlighted by our existing 12-year relationship with Northgate. Silicon Valley plays an increasingly important role in global value creation across all sectors which is highlighted by technology companies’ share of the S&P 500, which has more than doubled in the last 30 years and represents approximately 20% of the index today. Technology remains a significant driver of global economic output and growth and we believe that expanding our commitment to Northgate will help our investors capitalize on the growth opportunities in one of the world’s major hubs for innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Dr. Hosein Khajeh-Hosseiny, Managing Partner, Northgate, said: “We are excited to expand our collaboration with The Capital Partnership, which manages funds with longstanding investments in our (Northgate) funds. Since purchasing its ownership stake in 2010, Religare has made tangible contributions to our institutionalization and the growth of our network beyond the US. We are delighted with Religare’s choice of The Capital Partnership as our buyer. With a strong understanding of Northgate, global technology and capital markets as well as investors in start-ups and funds, The Capital Partnership is well-suited to help us build on our growth and network to fully realize our potential as a strong, long-term, value-creating platform for our ecosystem of partners.”

Sunil Godhwani, Chairman and Managing Director, Religare, said: “Given the tremendous future growth potential that India offers for a diversified financial services platform like ours, we have taken a strategic view to consolidate and refocus our energies on our existing lending and other domestic businesses. Before deciding to divest our stake in Northgate and arriving at the best possible course of action, we had carefully considered a number of factors keeping in mind the best interests of the investors and the franchise. Our partnership over the years with Northgate has been enriching and we extend our best wishes to the team for their future endeavors.”

For The Capital Partnership, the deal was headed by Ali Ojjeh and led by Amy Harvey, head of legal and compliance, Casey Gordon, head of private equity and business development, and Tim Savage, CFO. Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP acted as legal advisors to Religare. Morrison & Foerster LLP served as legal advisor to The Capital Partnership.

The Capital Partnership’s team will continue to work with Northgate to help identify resources necessary to build on its leadership position, expand globally, and continue to deliver world-class investments to its investors.

Have Hope and Don’t Give Up
Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsFinance

Have Hope and Don’t Give Up

Link to article on Wealth and Finance Magazine Here

In a nutshell, Allied Wallet’s astounding Next Gen Payment Gateway allows for simpler integrations for merchants and payment processors. Following on from the firm’s recent 10th anniversary, Dr. Andy Khawaja reflects on the phenomenal impact his firm has had and where he sees it going in the future, such as plans to put it on the New York Stock Exchange by the second quarter of 2017.

The biggest problem today is that banks are not giving entrepreneurs the chance to invest in any
businesses, but Allied Wallet invest in them and enable them to succeed. By doing this, Allied
Wallet are creating more jobs and helping entrepreneurs fulfil their dreams. Dr. Andy Khawaja’s
message is for entrepreneurs not to give up, but to have hope, even if they fail and encounter
problems on the way.

How would you introduce your services to someone who has never heard of Allied Wallet before?
I would describe Allied Wallet in three steps. Firstly, we are a company who can accommodate B2B merchants in a single shopping cart used for transactions. Secondly, you can be in anywhere in the world and we can carry out your  transaction in its local currency. Lastly, but certainly not least, we have a state-of-the-art gateway to handle any sort of transaction or payment method, and is also one of the safest tools for the prevention of fraud and ensuring the safety of our customers.

As a result of the quality of the services we provide, we have expanded our company to having offices around the world, including London, California, Frankfurt, Hong Kong and India. In a nutshell, Allied Wallet’s astounding Next Gen Payment Gateway allows for simpler integrations. Following on from the firm’s recent 10th anniversary, Dr. Andy Khawaja reflects on the phenomenal impact his firm has had and where he sees it going in the future, such as plans to put it on the New York Stock Exchange by the second quarter of 2017. 

Following on from celebrating Allied Wallet’s 10th year anniversary earlier this year, what reflections do you have about the growth of the company? 

Allied Wallet are constantly growing and I am pleased to say that we signed up with Merrill Lynch six months ago, and we are also looking at putting Allied Wallet on the New York Stock Exchange by the second quarter of 2017. The future of the company is based on creating even more opportunities for entrepreneurs and allowing an even greater number of merchants to process online. I want to make sure that we can spread to more regions and make sure that everybody will have the access to secure payments via mobile or online.

How does Allied Wallet approach clients?

Allied Wallet serve all of our clients in a very professional way. We try to understand what is they are selling, what it is they have and trying to achieve, and where their customers are located so we can accommodate them. For example, if you try and serve customers in Germany and Scandinavian
countries, they tend to use payment methods like Giropay or Klarna, instead of Mastercard or Visa. So what we do, is include that as a payment option for our services, and in this way we can increasingly accommodate them. The view of Allied Wallet is that we do not have any competition, as I believe that what we are doing in the market is very unique. We provide services centred on what the customer needs, and customise them in a way that can accommodate the merchants and make sure that they do not shop around. When you go to a bank, all they do for you is to activate an account for you. With Allied Wallet, we can accept almost every payment on the earth, and customise it to work for them. We have 155 million users worldwide, so when you have the Allied Wallet logo on it, you have options that our wallet members can start using. It is a no brainer really!

What opportunities are you looking out for at the moment?

Allied Wallet are looking at what has happened with Alibaba, in terms of their virtual mall which is doing very well in China at the moment. So we are basically looking at having a similar product that is very similar to Amazon, Alibaba and eBay but which is exclusive to Allied Wallet. It is going to be hosting about 3 million shops in there, hopefully getting a billion users per day within 72 months.

What is the biggest problem facing entrepreneurs today?

The biggest problem is that banks are not giving entrepreneurs the chance to invest in any businesses today. Allied Wallet believe in business and invest in them and give them to chance. We give them a virtual line of credit where we open the account without a deposit or a security, whereas banks just say ‘no’. We say ‘yes’, and invest in businesses with our product and give them the chance to succeed. If you do not invest today, they may never will. 

What impact is Allied Wallet having on the world today?

We have had a truly phenomenal impact. We are creating more jobs, and are helping more and more entrepreneurs fulfil their ideas. We have given them the chance, and invested in their idea so we can help them build up their idea, build up their business and help grow the economy.

What advice would you impart to inspire upcoming entrepreneurs?

I would simply say to have hope and do not give up. If all the doors are closing on your face, still do not give up. One of the most important things from my experience is not being afraid to fail. Failing is not a loss, but at the start. Nobody succeeds straight way, but we all encounter problems along the way

CFO of the month
Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsFinance

CFO of the month

First of all, could you give us a brief background about Bel Brands USA?

How has your subsidiary contributed to the phenomenal success of the Bel Group? Bel Brands USA were formed in 1970 and are headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. Perhaps the most impressive facts about us is we have doubled growth in the past four years, making the U.S a significant contributor to Bel’s overall $2.8 billion in global sales in 2014. This growth is fuelled by the success of Bel Brands USA’s most popular brands, which are Mini Babybel and The Laughing Cow. As a global leader with over 150 years of industry experience and products ‘Bringing Smiles’ to 400 million consumers annually, Bel has 28 manufacturing sites worldwide, and three of these are in in the United States. These are located in Leitchfield, Kentucky, Little Chute, Wisconsin, as well as our newest plant in Brookings, South Dakota, which opened its doors for production in July, 2014. As a company that is continually focused on innovation and growth, Bel has big plans to expand its portfolio over the coming years to meet the ever changing needs of consumers and continue its mission of “Sharing Smiles” around the world.

As CFO, are there are specific financial undertakings that have been instrumental to your success?

Specifically speaking, I firmly believe that our use of SAP software has been key to our success over the past number of years. We have implemented SAP very successfully since 2010 and this has grown to become the back bone of our company from an ERP standpoint. As a result, we now have a very good level of integration from all functions. We are now at a phase where we are implementing a lot of additional applications that complement SAP, and will achieve more automation and state of the art reporting for our business partners. As such, this will allow them to the best decision possible for the company from a value creation standpoint

Are there any major deals or operations which you believe have helped your company grow and succeed even further?

In terms of deals, we acquired the Boursin brand from Unilever back in 2008 and it’s been a fantastic add to our existing brand portfolio. Since then, we have grown the brand a lot through focusing on our Boursin puck business and also through couple innovations.

At the moment, Bel brands is very excited to announce also the launch of The Laughing Cow—Cheese Dippers, which is currently happening now. We worked really hard to get the dippers cheese snack — soft cheese packages with tiny breadsticks — from Europe to the United States, and this took two years as the company needed to consider what changes would be needed to appeal to consumers in the US. Furthermore, the company is also interested in making another acquisition in the US at some point if the target is relevant to our brand portfolio.

Since your began at Bel Brands USA in 2008, you have been a key contributor in growing Bel Brands from $150 MM in net sales to $400MM. Can you tell us about this, and how your role has evolved throughout this period?

Generally speaking, my key role as the CFO has been building the finance team capabilities. When I joined, finance was accounting only and resources were mainly spread out between our different locations. My initiative was to centralise all finance functions into Chicago, where I revamped the accounting department with strong talents and created an FP&A department (financial planning and analysis) in order to manage budgeting process, partner with our business leaders and provide financial support to all our key business decisions. We have now an efficient and scalable team, with only a limited head count increase since 2008, despite the company doubling in size.

Furthermore, we have also put in place a category finance role to help marketing with innovation, new products and new customer decisions. This partnership has been a tremendous success, and FP&A has been valued as a critical asset to the organisation.

As the US subsidiary of a French listed group, we are not subject to The Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which protects investors from the possibility of fraudulent accounting activities by corporation. Nonetheless, we still have to strengthen our internal control resources and process as it was somehow very limited. In that respect, we have created a dedicated department to build internal control culture within the organisation and also roll out key initiatives, with the right level of balance to controls in order to keep the entrepreneurial spirit and agility we have within our team while putting processes in place. On the whole, we found that this has been working fine and we have great momentum from our company employees working on those initiatives.

Alongside these implementations, we have also put in place a hedging strategy in order to provide cash flow visibility to our shareholders, which is critical given the high volatility we have seen on the commodity markets those past few years (record highs then record lows, etc.). This took a great deal of education as this was first time ever the company was implementing that initiative, but we had strong support from our Paris team.

As a core member of Bel Brands leadership team, what have you done to define and implement company vision, mission and values?

Looking back on my time here, I can honestly say that I very much enjoy being a core member of the Bel Brands leadership team, primarily because it is defined and implemented by a strong vision, mission and set of values that we live by every day. As a member of the U.S. Leadership Team, I am also an ambassador of the Bel Values. Our employer values are “Dare, Commit and Care”, and as a leader, we must be the examples of these values and live by those values. You can display and train your people on the company values but nothing is better than when you walk to talk.

How has the firm grown and developed over the years?

Companies across all industries have had it difficult since the financial crisis, and it hasn’t been a stellar ride for our company either over the past eight years. As in any start-up company, we experienced hyper growth during the first couple years when the priority was to serve customer at any price. Unfortunately growth is hiding a lot of sins and some important topics are put on the side of the road as priority is toward growth.

From my experience, start-ups definitely need to take a step back, build all the key pillars of their organisation, culture, tools and processes and avoid becoming “too big too fast”. This is particularly important as you have to be ready when growth slows to mitigate turmoil and need the flexibility to put the company back to growth in the smoothest and quickest way possible. This involves taking the time to put in place a long term strategy and sticking to it is critical in the company success. In 2013 and 2014, we had a slowdown with one of our business and also some major projects going on with the opening of our new Brookings mega Mini Babybel plant. We are now back to high and sustainable growth, well prepared for the future with strong teams and have delivered a very solid 2015. And the good thing is, we still have a lot of growth potential and very exciting projects on the agenda. I can tell you that ‘routine’ is definitely not a word in Bel Brands dictionary!

Can you tell us a bit about the launch of new products and what this entails?

What has been your experience of launching the various new flavours of the Laughing Cow launched over the years? This year we are proud to have two new launches within our one of our most popular brands—The Laughing Cow. One is a new flavour and one is a completely new product offering within the brands. We introduced the new Asiago cheese flavour and it has been working quite successfully with our consumers. As a company, we make a strategic effort to be aware of new flavour trends and products, so we can provide our consumers with what they want. In our consumer research, we learned that Asiago flavour was very popular, so we are happy that we could develop this flavour within our Laughing Cow brand.

As mentioned earlier, we are very excited about this launch of The Laughing Cow—Cheese Dippers, as it meets the needs of our consumers who love The Laughing Cow, but desired to have the product in a portable format that meets their on-the-go lifestyle.

Finally, what does the future hold for your firm? Bel is a consistently growing company, driven primarily by the strong momentum of its core brands and international sales. This continuous growth reflects the relevance of the company’s sales and marketing strategy, as well as the strength of its distribution network. Our ambition is to double in size by 2025, and to meet this challenge, Bel relies on the power of its brands. We are continually focused on R&D and new product innovation to continue to bring our consumers new products, flavours and cheese formats that will continue to make Bel one of the top three branded cheese makers in the world. We also recognise as a company, that having a presence in new, emerging global markets is key to growing our business internationally.

Finally, what does the future hold for your firm?

Bel is a consistently growing company, driven primarily by the strong momentum of its core brands and international sales. This continuous growth reflects the relevance of the company’s sales and marketing strategy, as well as the strength of its distribution network. Our ambition is to double in size by 2025, and to meet this challenge, Bel relies on the power of its brands. We are continually focused on R&D and new product innovation to continue to bring our consumers new products, flavours and cheese formats that will continue to make Bel one of the top three branded cheese makers in the world. We also recognise as a company, that having a presence in new, emerging global markets is key to growing our business internationally.

Website: www.belbrandsusa.com