Category: Finance

Finance

Thinking about starting a new business? Female entrepreneurs will face more obstacles than their male counterparts

Thinking about starting a new business? Female entrepreneurs will face more obstacles than their male counterparts

Women face more obstacles when starting a business, meaning they need more support in order to succeed, reveals new research from ESCP Europe.

Females and males experience the support provided by the ecosystem for their start-up activities very differently. Women in contrast to men tend to majorly rely more on social support, which interestingly applies to start-ups in both highly supportive as well as non-supportive environments.

Professor of Management Christian Linder and his co-author Sonja Sperber from the ISM International School of Management in Frankfurt (Germany) explain

“We found that when starting up a new business, women face problems with confidence and obtaining finance, and are more critical about their own capabilities and skills. In order to still be successful, this lack of confidence is compensated by mobilising their network for support. However, in contrast, males are more confident of their capabilities to overcome support constraints on their own.”

In addition, it was found that women face a work-family conflict, and struggle more to counterbalance their different roles when committing to new business ventures.

Professor Linder adds,

“starting a business is always linked to emotional or psychological stress. When facing a lack of resources, social support can serve as a source of information as well as provide assistance.”

As a result, the start-up strategies chosen are a reflection of the individually perceived support from the ecosystem, the current life situation as well as the intended goals (as for example, high level of autonomy, financial success, status). This research shows the highly complex situation of female entrepreneurs, and concludes that there certainly is a need for stronger, sustainable foundations so that females can catch up with their male counterparts.

This research was published in ‘Small Business Economics: An Entrepreneurship Journal’.

Finance

Best European P2P Loan Platform 2019

Swaper is a P2P loan marketplace offering an easy investing in pre-funded consumer loans from Poland, Spain, and Denmark in cooperation with Wandoo Finance Group.

Launched in 2016, Swaper began life from the idea to build better financial products and to offer many different financial products. When the platform was initially under construction, the firm’s main goal was to make it according to the needs of investors. As part of this focus, the Swaper team collected opinions and feedback of experienced investors. Investors expressed a need for easily accessible mobile platform with clear and understandable overview of their investments, and a possibility to have configurable push notifications, to decide what kind of information they needs and how often. 

As a result of this newfound knowledge, the Swaper team realized that in addition to focusing on the web platform, they should be also building the mobile application. Therefore, they launched the website version of the platform and after a short while Swaper was the first P2P marketplace that was also launched as a mobile application. Today, this innovative company offers investment options into loans driven by a dedicated team who are highly experience in the financial sector, and as such are able to offer clients the benefit of their extensive market knowledge and industry understanding. All investments offered on Swaper’s marketplace start from 12% annual interest with unique loyalty bonus to earn an additional +2%.

The firm makes investment convenient through the Auto-Invest Portfolio, which investors can easily set up with just one click. This innovative approach grants investors the maximum interest income based on their chosen investment amount and period. Seeking to remain ahead of emerging market trends, Swaper has developed a Mobile Application for both Android and iOS, which provides investors with the opportunity to manage their investments easily and conveniently, and have full control over investment thanks to the push notifications.

As part of the Wandoo Finance Group, a professional IT systems developer based in Latvia, Swaper is able to leverage its parent group’s vast technological expertise and infrastructure to ensure it offers clients the most innovative and reliable solutions. In today’s modern financial market where technology is key, Swaper is making waves thanks to its revolutionary online platform. 


Alongside offering cutting-edge support and innovative financial services, Swaper is also deeply committed to providing its users with exceptional client service and support they can rely on. For the Swaper team, the key to good customer service is building good relationships with customers. They believe in thanking the customer and promoting a positive, helpful and friendly environment, which will ensure they leave with a great impression. They also feel that good customer service means helping customers efficiently, in a friendly mannerand that it is essential for the firm to be able to handle issues for customers and to do its best to ensure they are satisfied. 


It is the provision of exceptional customer service and the constant collaboration with the investors, that sets Swaper apart from its competitors. By constantly working with investors to understand their needs and update its offering and processes, the firm is able to drive customer loyalty and ensure that customer expectations are met in all cases. 


“Looking to the future, Swaper will launch a range of exciting new products and features to enhance its already impressive platform. In 2019, the firm’s focus will be on growing both sides of the marketplace by satisfying increasing investor demand, as well as loan supply from current and possibly new locations by expanding the investment opportunities on the marketplace. These developments will drive Swaper to even greater global renown and establish it as the ideal platform for anyone seeking financial services,” said Danija Misus, the Product Owner at Swaper (pictured right).


Ultimately, with the FinTech market showing no signs of slowing down and investment in this growing industry higher than ever before, Swaper has a bright future ahead of it. The firm will continue to collaborate with clients to understand their needs and remain ahead of emerging market developments.


Web Address: www.swaper.com 

 

“Swaper will launch a range of exciting new products and features to enhance its already impressive platform. In 2019, the firm’s focus will be on growing both sides of the marketplace by satisfying increasing investor demand, as well as loan supply from current and possibly new locations by expanding the investment opportunities on the marketplace.”

Swaper picture

“Investors expressed a need for easily accessible mobile platform with clear and understandable overview of their investments, and a possibility to have configurable push notifications, to decide what kind of information they needs and how often.”

Women Finances
Finance

Financial Inequality: The Gender Gap

  • There is a financial inequality gap between men and women in developing countries and their economies and there has been no sign of improvements in recent years. There is no discernable gender gap in high-income economies.
  • 69% of adults. Which is a total of 3.8 billion people around the world have a bank account or mobile money provider. This number has increased by 7% in the last 5 years.
  • About 1.2 billion adults have obtained some sort of formal financial account since 2011, when the rate of financial inclusion was just 51%.
    However, 1.7 billion people around the world remain outside of the formal financial system.
 

In developing countries, the gender gap in financial inclusion between men and women has stalled at nine percentage points. FairPlanet researched further into the current situation.

 

When governments deposit social welfare payments directly into women’s digital bank accounts it can  empower their decision-making at home.

 

Research suggests that when women have more financial autonomy, spending in the home tends to be reprioritized. With factors such as the interest of families and children. It can also boost labour force participation among women.

 

The gap is large in the Middle East and North Africa: 35% of women compared with 52% of men, have access to some type of financial account.

 

Beyond labor force participation, women face an array of problems and obstacles to getting financial services, including discriminatory laws and conservative social norms.

 

Simple accounts accessed through mobile phones might help thwart some of these barriers.

 

Mobile money accounts are often easier to open than traditional bank accounts and they have the added benefit of allowing women to transact from the safety and comfort of their homes.

 

Mobile technology and money accounts may help to close the gender gap when it comes to financial equality. However, like anything, further research and data is needed to truly predict what the future holds.


Finance

12 Expenses You Can’t Deduct Against Business Even If You Incurred Them For Business

By Jonathan Amponsah CTA FCCA, The Tax Guys

One of the key ways to reduce your tax bill is to claim all legitimate expenses you incurred for the business. But the general rule that says you can claim all expenses incurred wholly and exclusively for the purpose of your business is not as straight forward as you may think.

 

So here are some surprising things you cannot tax deduct even if you incurred them for your business.

 

  1. Accommodation

Imagine you’re an actor who lives in London. You’ve secured a contract to shoot an exciting film in Edinburgh for three months. You realised hotel costs would be too high. So, you decided to rent an apartment for three months. Surely you can claim for the costs of the rent against your profits right? Well it makes sense but HMRC will deny the claim on the basis that the expenses were not incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of your profession as an actor. Why? One of the reasons HMRC will put forward is that there is a dual purpose in incurring the expenditure, namely to meet your ordinary needs for warmth and shelter as well as your stated business purpose.

 

  1. Travel

Here’s another scenario that might surprise you. You operate as a self-employed doctor or sole trader rather than limited company. You have a home-based office. You travel to see different patients or clients on a regular basis. Your journey starts from your office (at home) and includes a few itinerant travels from one client to the other client. Can you claim the full travel expenses? Logic will tell us that yes. However, the rules deem the travel from your home office to patients / clients as ordinary commuting and therefore not tax deductible.

 

  1. Client Entertainment

As part of your sales and marketing, you decide to take clients to a relaxed restaurant to discuss new business. The purpose is to negotiate and generate new business. The income will be taxed so the expenses should be ok to put through the business, right? Unfortunately, the rules specifically disallow these expenses to be claimed against tax. Part of the reason behind this is that you could have had the same conversation over a cup of tea in the office, plus there is an element of personal benefit in the entertainment.

 

  1. Promotional Gifts

It’s true that nothing ever happens in business until a product or a service is promoted and sold. And when it’s sold at a profit, tax gets collected accordingly. However, if you promote your business by spending too much money on promotional gifts to customers and the gifts cost more than £50 per customer, you won’t be able to deduct these costs against your income. Even where the gift cost £50 or less, make sure it carries a conspicuous advert for your business.

 

  1. Clothes for Work

Imagine you’re a barrister and you’ve purchase your gown to be worn in court. You don’t wear this gown in public. Can you go ahead and claim the cost of the gown against your tax? Not according to the famous tax case of Mallalieu v Drummond which established that “no deduction is available from trading profits for the costs of clothing which forms part of an ‘everyday’ wardrobe. This remains so even where the taxpayer can show that they only wear such clothing in the course of their profession.”

However, some protective and work clothing with logos and other business branding are claimable. If in doubt, speak with a tax accountant.

  1. Staff Reward via Trust

Your staff are well engaged within your business and you want to reward them. You decide to make payment into a Trust to demonstrate that the money has been earmarked for them and waiting to be paid when they hit their targets.

 

As the money has been paid out of your bank account to the Trust, can you claim it as a legitimate business or staff expenses? Unfortunately, not. Because of a specific tax avoidance rule, this legitimate expense cannot be claimed. 

 

  1. Parking Fines

Your business is delivering some items to a customer. The driver parks for a few minutes and get a parking ticket. Surely the reason for the fine is because of business activity so it should fall under the wholly and exclusive for the purpose of business rule? Not quite. Fines incurred for breaking the rules are disallowed.

 

  1. Legal Expenses

Legal fees can be expensive right…? And whilst they do add value to your business and may save you from making costly business mistakes, not all legal costs are tax deductible. For example, fees in connection with the purchase of a business premises or investing in shares are disallowed.

 

In addition, fees that have both personal and business elements may fail the wholly and exclusive test. And legal costs associated with breaking the law are also disallowed. For example, where you’ve got a parking fine and you decide to call your lawyer to defend the case and you lose, you won’t be able to claim the legal fees.

 

  1. Wages to Spouse or Kids

A great way to keep more of your cash within the family is to employ your spouse and kids. And there is nothing wrong with this plan. However, where you pay family members over and above the market rate, where they don’t actually perform any task for the business or where you’ve structured this working arrangement incorrectly with no evidence or paperwork to back up your plan, HMRC will not allow their salaries to be put through the business. Do take care with this as it’s currently a hot spot for HMRC enquiries.

 

  1. Sponsorship

Sponsoring an event is another area that might surprise you. HMRC will disallow the cost if they can show that perhaps the sporting field you are sponsoring is a director’s, partner’s or proprietor’s regular hobby or if the party being sponsored is a relative of the business owner, or if there is no proposed or actual return on investment from the sponsorship.

 

So, the trick here is to ensure that the sponsorship deal is structured correctly and there is a clear commercial benefit for your business.

 

  1. Donations

Donations made to political parties and non-registered organisations outside of the Gift Aid regime cannot be claimed against tax. This is to stop businesses offsetting costs through privately owned ‘non-profit’ organisations.

 

  1. HMRC Penalties

Penalties imposed by HMRC and other government departments are not tax deductible. So, avoid those penalties and get your accounts and tax returns done on time.

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Jonathan Amponsah CTA FCCA is an award-winning chartered tax adviser and accountant who has advises business owners on entrepreneurial tax reliefs. Jonathan is the founder and CEO of The Tax Guys.  www.thetaxguys.co.uk

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.

Cash ManagementFinanceSecuritiesTransactional and Investment Banking

What is next for cryptocurrency?

The rise of cryptocurrency is to be seen as a democratising force within the global economy. For example, secured token offering, has emerged as a true competitor to the traditional Initial Public Offering (IPO) for growing businesses. Judging from the growing acceptance of cryptocurrency by countries and companies, it is predicted that institutional investors will move towards secure cryptocurrency investments over the next decade, if not earlier. Ana Bencic, President and Founder of NextHash explores this phenomenon in more detail.

 

Uber Technologies Inc.’s large initial public offering launched in May and the ride-hailing app has run into some trouble. Uber proposed to go public with a $120 billion valuation, to be pitched by financiers at Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs ahead of its IPO. Nonetheless, the company eventually listed with a $75.5 billion market cap. The New York Times elucidated that institutional investors, many who privately owned Uber stock, would not purchase additional shares at a higher price. Uber had received in excesses of $10 billion from institutional investors and private equity firms, among other investors, according to the report and many bought their Uber shares at valuations below $61 billion.

 

The ride-hailing giant priced its IPO on Thursday 9th May at $45 a share, raising a minimum of $8.1 billion and putting Uber’s IPO well behind some of the other, large offerings on the U.S. market in recent years. Facebook Inc raised $16 billion its offering in 2012, while Visa Inc. raised close to $18 billion in 2008 and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. brought in around $25 billion in 2014.

 

Initial Public Offerings can offer companies the prospect to raise new equity capital; to monetise the investments of private shareholders such as corporation founders or private equity investors and to enable simple trading of existing holdings or future capital raising by becoming publicly traded enterprises. 

 

Nevertheless, for companies looking to list, there are potential drawbacks. Foremost, there is the risk that the required funding will not be raised. Additionally, the cost for accounting, marketing and legal professionals to get to the point of an IPO can be sizeable. It might also necessitate a significant amount of time and effort from the management team, potentially disrupting them from their primary task of running the business. Furthermore, as in Uber’s case, there is a. While no promises can be made in these circumstances, many may be looking at the recent state of these tech unicorns (privately held start-up enterprises valued at over $1 billion) such as Uber and even Facebook may have people pondering if the next big thing will follow the same path. 

 

Aside from financial sacrifice, the time and effort to get to the IPO stage and the administration required once a company has gone public or floated, is considerable. For companies at the front-line of technological advancements, time is of the essence. According to Street Directory, an IPO typically takes between six and nine months. In some cases, this procedure can take up to 18 months. For high-growth businesses, this kind of interval may well bump potential unicorns off their path to a £1 billion valuation and present their rivals with a huge advantage. So what other prospects do highly scalable businesses have? 

 

The cryptocurrency market provides distinctive opportunities for businesses in need of access to vital growth finance and for investors desiring access to potential unicorn businesses at an early stage. This is made likely by cryptocurrency platforms’ capacity to operate across borders, an advantage that isn’t possessed by conventional markets.

 

In April, the French parliament permitted a ground-breaking financial sector bill which aims to encourage both cryptocurrency traders and issuers to set up in France. Organisations looking to issue or trade both existing and novel cryptocurrencies will soon have the option to apply for official accreditation.  The scheduled certification process exhibits a degree of official acknowledgement of the cryptocurrency marketplace. Bills like this enable French investors to trade and invest cryptocurrencies, as well as facilitating businesses to be traded as a Secured Token Offering which would give investors, traders, and entrepreneurs a way to trade and exchange tokens for cryptocurrencies, bringing the ecosystem into the cryptocurrency world. In exchange for charging tax, France is laying the foundations for the Europe-wide adoption of cryptocurrency trading.

France is pushing for the European Union to adopt a regulatory framework on cryptocurrencies.

 

There has been a largely positive attitude towards cryptocurrency by several countries. Malta, Slovenia and France are strong examples of those who are encouraging the implementation and use of cryptocurrency for trading and investment. The ability to invest or trade freely and across borders is an attractive prospect for businesses, who are able to receive financial investment from foreign parties.

 

New technologies are allowing businesses that are not in a jurisdiction that has cryptocurrency regulation in place yet to be included in the new, second generation of scaling business investment. 

 

With Brexit on the horizon for the UK, economists are making their forecasts about how the worth of the pound will be affected. Due to the interdependence of the pound and euro, some have claimed that in either of the potential outcomes- there will likely be some loss in value to these traditional forms of currency.  Cryptocurrencies offer an alternative to traditional, fiat currencies for both consumers and companies, due to their unique advantages of being decentralised, transparent and wholly unaffected by the Brexit situation

 

With incongruent regulation and legal frameworks throughout the globe, platforms that empower a corporation or investor in one jurisdiction to trade or exchange tokens or currency with another trader in another country with a different statute could open the doors to potential unicorn companies to thousands of family offices, hedge funds and institutional investors in a matter of years. In the medium term, platforms that give businesses access to global growth finance could help developing countries and the wider global economy grow at a truly competitive rate to their Western counterparts. 

 

CONCLUSION

 

Cryptocurrencies have spent the last few years in a stage of growth and maturation. The emergent importance of blockchain-based cryptocurrencies is easy to grasp today. From the snowballing rate of adoption of Ethereum and Bitcoin by conventional institutions, the instituting of digital-assets trading platforms and the implementation of cryptocurrency-specific legislation by numerous countries both inside and outside of the EU- cryptocurrency is seeing far greater adoption by both institutional and private traders/investors. With the ability to invest in a corporation from anyplace in the world, quicker than by traditional means and with a far greater potential for a swift return on investment, cryptocurrency offers manifold unique and substantial advantages that have fortified it a lasting place in society.

 

 

Foreign Direct InvestmentHigh Net-worth Individuals

Puzzel receives growth investment from Marlin Equity Partners

Puzzel, a leading European omni-channel cloud contact centre software provider, today announced the completion of a majority recapitalisation and growth investment from Marlin Equity Partners (“Marlin”), a global investment firm with over $6.7 billion of capital under management. Puzzel’s best-in-class, multi-tenant cloud contact centre as a service (“CCaaS”) platform allows clients worldwide to manage and optimise their customer interactions across voice, email, chat and social media platforms.

“Puzzel’s leading position in the market, knowledgeable employees and pioneering technology platform positions us well to successfully scale our business,” said Børge Astrup, CEO of Puzzel. “Marlin has a proven track record of supporting and partnering with high-growth software businesses and we look forward to working with them to execute our strategic plan to accelerate growth, bring new and added functionality to our customers and expand into new markets.”

“In Puzzel, we saw a business with a comprehensive omni-channel CCaaS solution that is both scalable and flexible, and designed to support contact centres of all sizes,” said Mike Wilkinson, vice president at Marlin. 

“The company has experienced tremendous growth across Europe that is being further fuelled by feedback and advocacy from market-leading customers. We are excited to partner with an exceptional management team to seek new partnerships, invest in new opportunities to enhance the product suite and expand the company’s geographic presence.”

About Puzzel
Puzzel is a leading cloud-based contact centre software provider and one of the first pioneers to develop a cloud-based contact centre offering. Today, Puzzel combines its omni-channel technology with artificial intelligence capabilities to provide comprehensive, end-to-end customer interaction solutions in an age of digitisation. Puzzel was named a Challenger in the 2018 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Contact Centre as a Service, Western Europe, Report 2018 for the fourth consecutive year for its strong growth, functional capabilities, strengths in standards and compliance, customer service and support. The company is headquartered in Oslo, Norway, with offices in six European markets including the U.K. For more information, please visit Puzzel.

About Marlin Equity Partners
Marlin Equity Partners is a global investment firm with over $6.7 billion of capital under management. The firm is focused on providing corporate parents, shareholders and other stakeholders with tailored solutions that meet their business and liquidity needs. Marlin invests in businesses across multiple industries where its capital base, industry relationships and extensive network of operational resources significantly strengthen a company’s outlook and enhance value. Since its inception, Marlin, through its group of funds and related companies, has successfully completed over 140 acquisitions. The firm is headquartered in Los Angeles, California with an additional office in London. For more information, please visit Marlin Equity

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].

Finance

Solar power company says commercial-scale solar power will offer businesses financial rewards without feed-in tariffs

Contrary to the opinion of much of the renewable energy sector, the abolition of the Government’s feed-in tariff scheme (FiTS) today is not necessarily bad news. Commercial-scale roof-top solar power is booming and will continue to flourish even when the FiTS ends, says solar power company, Mypower, which was responsible for introducing solar power to Gloucester Cathedral as well as to industry, commerce and farms. The FiTS has supported the development of renewable energy since 2010, but Mypower believes its removal will boost the commercial sector’s adoption of solar power and help companies to significantly reduce their operational costs. Government should now focus upon energy storage technology as this is the next barrier to clean energy growth.

Roof-top commercial-scale solar energy has been successfully competing with ‘conventional’ energy generation in the mainstream market for some time. It is a financially viable source of energy being at least 60% cheaper than National Grid supplied electricity, costing 4-6p/kilowatt hour (kWh) compared to a minimum of 14p/kWh respectively. Solar PV systems are 50% more efficient and two-thirds cheaper than ten years ago: a 50kW system costing £130,000 in 2009 now costs under £40,000. Solar power now offers companies a return on investment of over 14%.

Mypower has been designing and installing solar PV systems to SME’s, corporates and farmers for ten years, and believes that removing the FiTS will create a stable and market driven demand for solar PV systems within the corporate sector: “Ending Feed-In Tariffs removes reliance on Government policy which is a positive move for companies. Plus they can already receive greater payment for the spare power they sell to the National Grid than was being offered by the Government scheme.” explained Ben Harrison, Managing Partner at Mypower.

He continued “Previously, there was uncertainty about how Government policy would change the FiTS along with widespread negativity in the marketplace reacting to announcements over the years, dissuading many from considering solar power at all. Plus some companies’ perceived the FiTS as complex and others wouldn’t consider taking subsidies as a matter of principle.”

Mypower believes the feed-in tariff scheme has been the incentive that stimulated end users’ interest and purchasing. However, it has now done its job and is no longer required. The next impairment to advancing renewable energy, thinks Ben, is the current limitation in energy storage capacity. The Government needs to concentrate attention upon supporting this area. Dedicated investment and volume sales are required to make the same dramatic leaps forward in energy and batter storage technology as happened in the past decade for solar-generated electricity.

Last year, the UK Government launched the Faraday Challenge to invest £248 million into battery development companies and initiatives between 2018-2022. In comparison, President Macron has just announced the French Government’s investing £597 million (700 million Euros) into battery cell manufacturing, whilst the German government has committed over £1,750 million (2 billion Euros) for building battery cell factories. The German Government offers subsidies to homeowners to install battery storage, with Italy and Ireland planning to introduce their own schemes.

“We’d urge the UK Government to consider an on-going subsidy system aimed at accelerating the development of the next generation of this technology. Whoever discovers the holy grail of energy storage will have discovered the goose that lays the golden egg and it would be a significant boost to the UK economy if it could be a British company.” said Ben.

Finance

Balancing the Books on delivery – the right approach for retailers

A clear and well-prepared delivery strategy can be the stepping stone for retail growth; gaining and retaining customers to help drive revenue. Every facet of delivery, from checkout to doorstep influences the likelihood of that customer purchasing from that retailer again. Poorly executed delivery costs UK retailers up to £1.2 billion in avoidable costs each year, according to IMRG’s latest estimates, which emphasises the importance of choosing the right delivery approach.

So, what aspects of delivery should retailers be investing in as a priority? Where should they be focussing their efforts in order to maximise their return?

Are retailers looking at customer experience incorrectly?

There has been a trend in recent years for retailers to flock towards ‘next day or no cost’ delivery but operational and commercial common sense tells us that there is no such thing as ‘free delivery’ for retailers. The online supply chain has a finite capacity for an ‘everything tomorrow’ approach and retailers need to consider this before jumping to ‘free delivery’ as a first port of call.

There is a real danger of retailers over-promising and under-delivering when the average shopper doesn’t necessarily want a premium delivery option all the time. Every shopper is different, and every delivery may have different requirements depending on what it contains, and why and when it has been ordered. All of this should be taken into account as part of a robust delivery strategy.

Your last-minute shoppers will always want ‘fast and free’ but what most shoppers really want is a clearly communicated delivery offer that follows through on what is promised. Perhaps retailers should instead be looking at offering a broader range of delivery options and the chance to specify when or where the delivery will arrive. Customers wants convenience, so retailers need to offer the widest range of delivery options they can to appease them. This is emphasised by the latest research into consumer delivery from IMRG and Global Freight Solutions, which outlines that in 2018, 41 percent of consumers indicated they had abandoned their cart due to insufficient delivery options.

The Brexit effect

As the deadline for Brexit gets ever closer and remains uncertain, its impact on delivery looms larger.

Up until now, it has provided opportunities for online selling into Europe with a weaker pound making UK retailers a more attractive proposition to EU shoppers. Since the referendum decision at the end of June 2016, we have seen the proportion of UK cross-border volume going to Euro destinations, increase.

However, this may all be about to change. With so much uncertainty surrounding Brexit, there will be a lot to learn about dealing with the EU in the coming months and years, so common sense suggests contingency plans must be made, which should legislate for:

  • Longer cross-border delivery lead times

  • Reviewing all HS code classification to ensure products attract the correct duties and taxes

  • Making changes to customer messaging, in order to manage expectations

  • Implementing growth strategies in non-EU markets (eBay, Etsy, Alibaba)

  • Enabling transparent delivery and duty cost information at point of checkout

  • Implement paperless trading (PLT) services for non-UK destinations to speed customs clearance and reduce transit times

The retail industry is anticipating longer and more complex duty and tax processes, and higher delivery costs with longer delivery lead times into EU markets. Retailers will need to reach out to carrier management experts to navigate this new territory and ensure it doesn’t hamper their business.

Delivering for the right price

The dilemma for retailers is working out how to provide a delivery offering that gives a more specific and sustainable customer experience with better control of costs in both the UK and cross-border environments. That isn’t easy without support.

To make this possible, a multi-carrier approach is required, enabling access to a range of delivery services, using order characteristics and specific customer requirements to offer the right solution from a sensible set of options relevant to the destination country.

So, for ecommerce brands, what are the fundamentals their delivery strategy needs to offer? What is essential in order for their business to be successful?

  • Delivery to a designated address

    • A standard ‘free’ or at low cost option

    • An express option at a small premium

    • A timed/specified day option at a higher premium (weekend or evening delivery)

  • At least one click & collect option (if available):

    • Free in-store collection

    • Third-party (pick-up point/locker) at a lower cost than the standard designated address delivery

These solutions are all readily available to retailers, it’s often just a case of pulling them together. But when you are busy running a business, it can be difficult to make the time.

What’s holding retailers back from delivering?

Even if businesses want to offer that ‘Amazon-style’ delivery of both choice and convenience, in order to compete with the likes of Amazon Prime, they are often being hampered by their own internal constraints. For example, the cost and complexity of integrating more delivery options and carriers into their systems may prove a stumbling block. Moreover, the effort in managing multiple carriers at once, particularly for an SME, may be far too big a task. That’s before considering the expertise needed on knowing which services to offer or how to access them.

An affordable delivery strategy

The concept of ‘free delivery’ seems to have deeply engrained itself into the minds of consumers and retailers alike, but many retailers seem so desperate to offer it, they don’t stop to think about whether or not they should first. Provided delivery is well-communicated and well-executed, retailers can remain competitive.

The reality is, not every retailer is going to have the same resources and scope to carry out the delivery approach of the big brands, so it doesn’t make sense to blindly follow them. Retailers need to be devising delivery strategies within the context of their customers, capabilities, and commercial plan. A great delivery offering does not have to break the bank.

Retailers need not be restricted by what they can do in-house either. Enterprise carrier management experts can be of great assistance in these situations when taking it all on alone seems overwhelming or unachievable. These managed service experts can help retailers scale their business cost-effectively through delivery, so that they’re not being wasteful. Convenient delivery options that are supported by clear communication is the way forward for retailers.

FinanceSecurities

72% of Brits Have Fallen Victim to These Scamming Techniques

Did you know that every year, £190bn of Brits’ money is lost to fraud – a figure which is a little less than both the health and defence budgets combined? Unfortunately, it gets much worse – an investigation by price comparison experts, Money Guru, have revealed that almost three quarters (72%)of Brits have fallen victim to scamming techniques at some point.

In order to help raise awareness of this growing problem, they have created the ultimate guide to spotting and stopping scams.  

30% of Brits Duped into Authorising Access to Their Bank Account – With No Legal Protection

Although we live in an increasingly digital world, you may be surprised to discover that a lot of fraud actually happens face-to-face, over the phone or through postal services. Smart scammers have begun ticking people into handing over crucial details and access to accounts through this method otherwise known as Authorised Push Payments (APP). Out of the £500m lost in the first half of 2018, 30% (£145m) of that was lost through APP.

What’s worse is that currently, people subject to this kind of scam have no legal protection to cover. Under current regulations, if your bank has not taken enough action – such as not reimbursing you or by not responding – then you have no right to complain or escalate your complaints to any authority.

 

72% of Brits Were Scammed Over a Two-year Period

Scamming is something that can happen to any of us – and it does, on a regular basis. A report from Citizens Advice revealed that 3 out of 4 of us (72%) were scammed over a two-year period between 2015-2017. Even if you haven’t personally been scammed, chances are you’ll know someone who has 1 in 10 reported knowing someone who has been a victim of fraud.

Almost Half (44%) of Fraud Victims Do Not Receive a Full Reimbursement

Research from the Office for National Statistics has revealed that a little less than half of those who were a victim of fraud received no or a partial refund. As you can see from the graph below, the majority of reported losses are under £250 (62%) but almost a quarter of Brits (22%) have been scammed out of £500 or more.

39% of Brits are Targeted by Scammers for Oversharing on Social Media

There’s a certain stereotype that fraud is only something that happens to the older generation. Whilst this is partially true – 5 million people over the age of 65 believe they have been targeted by scammers – they are not the only target demographic.

Scammers have begun targeting those who are active on social media. In fact, 39% of Brits are targeted due to oversharing their highlights online. In addition, 51% of us store e-receipts on our phone which again are targeted by scammers due to holding sensitive information.

Top 10 Scams to Be Aware Of

  1. Rogue traders and bogus callers – getting you to set up an account for a catalogue.
  2. Scams by telephone, letter or email – a fraudster pretending to be your bank or telephone provider, and asking you to share your details.  
  3. Pensions – offering unsolicited advice, a pension review or an investment opportunity.
  4. Money mules – someone attempting to use your account to launder funds, whilst promising a fee in return.
  5. Copycat websites – charging a fee to review or process official documents, or selling items that aren’t really for sale.
  6. Tech support – being told your computer has a virus and that it can be fixed – for a fee.
  7. Employment scams – paying for training courses that don’t exist.
  8. Auction sites – buying goods that don’t exist, through auction sites or asking you to pay through a bank transfer.
  9. Ticket scams – selling a fake ticket on an illegitimate site, which unfortunately can’t be refunded.
  10. Phishing – receiving a text or email asking you to log into your account, which will then reveal your password to cybercriminals

 

How to Avoid a Scam

  • Never give away your personal details such as passwords and bank account numbers. Legitimate companies will never ask for these.
  • Never let a stranger into your home.
  • Never download attachments or files from an email pr click any links within an email.
  • Never directly transfer money to someone unless you trust them 100% and always keep track of your transactions.
blockchain
BankingFinance

Swiss President Ueli Maurer to Attend 4th International Blockchain Conference

blockchain

Swiss President Ueli Maurer to Attend 4th International Blockchain Conference CV Summit in Zug

The CV Summit, held in the heart of the Crypto Valley, in Zug, Switzerland, has become one of the most important blockchain events in Switzerland. The summit’s 4th edition on March 27th will revolve around #BUIDL, focusing on the development of the technology instead of crypto speculations. The welcome address will be held by the President of the Swiss Confederation and Finance Minister Ueli Maurer, who is a strong advocate of the blockchain technology and the Blockchain Nation Switzerland.

The 4th edition of the CV Summit starts on March 26th with an Open House networking afternoon and the CV Competition Top 10 pitches at the CV Lab’s newly inaugurated Liquid Lounge. The Top 3 projects will then present their blockchain solutions the next day at the official CV Summit. The CV Competition is a startup contest for blockchain projects. Each competition targets a specific industry: this year everything revolves around the real estate industry. The winner receives $100,000 in funding, expert coaching and complementary working space at CV Labs.

On March 27th, the official CV Summit at the Theater Casino in Zug starts with opening remarks by the newly instated Mayor of the City of Zug, Karl Kobelt. The Mayor won’t be the only political representative at the summit: later in the day, the Swiss President Ueli Maurer will provide some updates on “Blockchain Nation Switzerland”. As the head of the Federal Department of Finance, Ueli Maurer is responsible for the new blockchain regulations expected in the next weeks.
Throughout the day, experienced industry leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs will be sharing their insights and views on how to #BUIDL towards the crypto spring. Notable speakers include Jorge Sebastiao (CTO Ecosystem, Huawei Technologies), Nathan Kaiser (Chairperson, Cardano Foundation) and Niklas Nikolajsen (Co-CEO and Chairman, Bitcoin Suisse), with more to be announced soon. Companies represented at the summit include Alethena, Bitcoin Suisse, Cardano, Coreledger, Forctis.io, Bank Frick, Generali, IOHK, inacta, Kucoin, Lamassu, Lykke, Mt. Pelerin, PwC & strategy&, Swiss Economics, SwissRe Sygnum, ZBX and others.

“Over the last two years, the CV Summit has become an integral part of the Crypto Valley community and the international blockchain scene. Themed #BUIDL towards Crypto Spring, this year’s edition shows how the industry is focusing on the further development of blockchain technology after the market correction in the so-called ‘Crypto Winter’”, says Mathias Ruch, Founder & CEO of CV VC and the CV Summit.

Glossary: #BUIDL
Crypto slang for “to build” – meaning do develop the technology and the ecosystems. Derived from the term “to HODL”, which is slang in the cryptocurrency community for holding a cryptocurrency rather than selling it. It originated in 2013 in a post on a Bitcoin forum message board, when an apparently inebriated user wrote “I am hodling” (sic) instead of “holding”.

Foreign Direct InvestmentFunds of Funds

Bitcoin: Stability Not Likely For Burgeoning Investment Product

Since it first became accepted as an investment product, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have been fluctuating in price and popularity, going from a viable replacement for cash and credit cards through to merely another flash-in-the-pan concept. Hannah Stevenson, Staff Writer, shares an insight into this product and how its value has changed since it first took off.

Cryptocurrencies, a digital currency that can be exchanged for goods and services in a similar way to cash, have been in circulation since around 2009, although they only became mainstream more recently. Some firms even started accepting it as genuine currency, whilst others have viewed it as an investment opportunity.

Over the years, the currencies have fluctuated in value, as investors and users alike try to understand their potential and adjust to the realities of using online currency as opposed to physical money.

On 8th May, the world’s largest and original digital currency, Bitcoin, jumped around 10 per cent within 24 hours, pushing past $3,700 for the first time in three weeks. Nigel Green, chief executive of deVere Group, commented on the increase.

“It was a relatively sudden jump, and, of course, positive news for those currently holding Bitcoin. However, the price only reached the top of the trading range and investors should not be popping champagne corks just yet.”

 “There are three likely drivers of Bitcoin’s price spike. First, there are widely published reports that according to a leaked interview with a commissioner, a Bitcoin ETF could imminently secure approval from the U.S. securities watchdog.

“Second, the development of the lightning network which will dramatically improve Bitcoin’s well-documented scalability issues, allowing it to move towards mass adoption. And third, the 2020 Bitcoin halving. The code for mining Bitcoin halves around every four years and the next one is set for May 2020. When the code halves, miners receive 50 per cent fewer coins every few minutes. History shows that there is typically a considerable Bitcoin surge resulting from halving events.”

“Bitcoin is the flagship cryptocurrency and, as such, we can expect when its values climb, it will drive prices of other major digital currencies such as Ethereum and XRP.”

This increase is a positive point for Bitcoin, which has faced many challenges in 2019 already, with a number of firms deciding that the currency’s popularity in 2017-2018 was not enough to continue to make it a viable option as a form of payment. 

Among those firms whose attitude towards Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies is forward-thinking waste management firm, BusinessWaste.co.uk, which has recently said that it is ‘reluctantly’ no longer accepting cryptocurrencies – such as Bitcoin – as payment for its services.

The company originally announced it had become the first refuse and recycling business to accept these virtual currencies as payment in 2017 in order to give flexibility to their customers in an increasingly digital age. However, the firm says that despite its efforts, the uncertainties of the market are making digital currencies an unreliable source of payment.

Mark Hall, Communications Director of BusinessWaste.co.uk, commented on the figures and his firm’s inability to accept the currency as a form of payment.

“Cryptocurrencies have become much more mainstream in recent years – which is why we were happy to move with the times and accept these digital forms of money as payment. As a business we are dedicated to being thought leaders and innovating to provide the best service to our clients, and accepting internationally-recognised digital currencies was one way we could do that – but, as with many emerging technologies, there are still wrinkles to be ironed out within the cryptocurrency market.”

These forms of currency – which include the most well-known, Bitcoin, as well as other forms such as Ethereum and Litecoin – are not tied to a particular country’s economy as with standard, or fiat, currency. This means it has a tendency to be much more volatile than fiat currency; for example, in 2010, when the currency made its first real-world transaction, 1 Bitcoin (BTC) was worth less than £0.01. In December 2017, 1 BTC was worth over £15,000 – a fluctuation many times higher than a fiat currency would experience over a 7-year period.

This volatility has come to be considered an intrinsic hazard of a currency whose value works much like traditional stocks and shares – where market rumours and movement have potentially massive knock-on effects on its value. This could have potentially serious ramifications for businesses who accept crypto payments and then find themselves with a payment which has dropped significantly in value within a short period – such as in December 2017, when 1 BTC fell in value from £15,000 to £2,500 today in response a crackdown on improper practices in the market.

However, the popularity of cryptocurrencies has also led to unscrupulous users attempting to use ‘scam’ or fake coins to pay for goods and services. Cryptocurrencies rely on key information to verify that they are legitimate, such as the ‘white paper’ which details the origins of a coin, who made it, and how it works. These papers can be forged and simply just made up – which can cause businesses who end up with scam coins to be out of pocket, and as such firms such as BusinessWaste.co.uk have come to realise their fallibility and declined to accept them as payment.

Overall, the issue of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency’s effectiveness and continued acceptance rests on proving their legitimacy as a currency and creating systems where they can be safely traded. This will remain a challenge for the future and will provide many interesting developments for investors and users alike.

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.”

digital tax
FinanceFundsTaxTransactional and Investment Banking

The importance of Making Tax Digital to the UK mid-market

The importance of Making Tax Digital to the UK mid-market

Written by Steve Lane, CTO at Access Group

With UK Government’s Making Tax Digital (MTD) deadline less than two months away, the race is on for UK organisations to understand the impact of MTD on their business. MTD could mean a significant shift in operations for some organisations, which means they need to act now in order to get themselves in order for the impending deadline.  


What MTD requires

The Making Tax Digital programme will require UK businesses with annual turnovers above the VAT threshold of £85,000 to keep digital records for VAT and submit their returns digitally. The points-based penalty system means business taxpayers gather points with each late submission of an MTD report, those with multiple businesses must submit tax reports for each of their businesses. To ease the transition process, HMRC is allowing the use of ‘bridging software’ to support the digitised submission and account information retrieval from spreadsheets. However, those without it in place risk not being able to carry out their business as usual.

While all respondents in Access Group’s survey use some type of electronic system for financial management, 96 percent of mid-market businesses still process a portion of their tax returns manually, for example performing off-system calculations, which could be problematic come 1st April if businesses fail to use bridging software to support the digital submission of their VAT returns. Which begs the question, why do some organisations still rely heavily on manually calculating? A large proportion of the finance professionals surveyed explained that they haven’t transitioned to 100 percent digital processes due to a lack of knowledge and training (26 percent) while others said it’s the fact that multiple legal entities are involved in VAT registration (23 percent).


Putting off MTD is no longer an option

Manually entering VAT is inefficient and opens businesses up to human error. Under the new regulations, mid-market businesses could stand to lose not only money in fines, but credibility within their field. Putting off making the necessary technical changes to your business is no longer an option.  

There are certain things that businesses simply cannot afford to ignore, for instance:  


Transformation

Deploying new business software isn’t always an easy decision. Especially when there are multiple ways to ensure your organisation remains compliant with government regulations. Considerations need to be made for either full business software transformation or a single solution update i.e. bridging software, to support. Given the impending deadline, businesses must act now, to ensure they’ve put in place measures that abide by the regulations.


Accreditations

When deciding to begin a digital transformation project, particularly with digitising financial systems, choosing a partner that has the proper government accreditations is vital. Acronyms like ISO or IL are ones to look out for.


Productivity

Digitising financial systems offers the business not only a more efficient, and free of human error way of working, but a more productive way as well. Entrusting admin-heavy tasks to intelligent software can free up time elsewhere to focus on innovation, business development and growth ambitions.

Whilst it’s important that businesses’ financial systems are all set for the 1st of April deadline, to think about Making Tax Digital solely in terms of tax compliance would be to miss the point. It’s the perfect opportunity for UK business’ senior management teams to take a broader perspective – one that turns this regulatory burden to the business’ advantage. The organisations who act now are the ones who will see greater efficiency and productivity, driving both business growth and profitability. It’s good practice to update your operational processes at any moment in time, the MTD deadline provides a good excuse for companies to do just that. Given the pressures coming from Government organisations to digitise and the complexities that go into technology investment, mid-market businesses need to ensure their finance teams’ house is in order to remain compliant and avoid fines in the new era of digital tax.

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

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

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

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

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

What we can expect in the near future

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

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

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

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

Investments to expect in the years ahead

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

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

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

Cash ManagementFinanceFundsMarketsRisk Management

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

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

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

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

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

Deals the firm completed globally in 2018 include advising:

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

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

Fluidly on its investment from Nyca Partners and Octopus

Anthemis on its investment in Realyse

Simply Cook on its investment from Octopus

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

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

Local Globe on its investment in StatusToday

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

BGF on its investment in Ruroc.


Ashfords LLP
ashfords.co.uk

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Mayflex forms a Distribution Agreement with Global Invacom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


BankingFinanceTransactional and Investment Banking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsFinanceForeign Direct InvestmentIslamic Finance

Smart Dubai Launches Guidelines on Ethical use of Artificial Intelligence

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Cash ManagementForeign Direct InvestmentPrivate FundsStock MarketsTransactional and Investment Banking

Can You Predict The Future Price of Bitcoin?

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

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

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

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

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

How do people make price predictions?

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

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

Fundamental analysis

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

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

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

For a cryptocurrency, you might look at its:

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

​Technical analysis

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

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

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

Do fundamental and technical analyses work?

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

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

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

Self-defeating and self-fulfilling prophecies

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

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

The prediction about the future creates the future.

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

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

Hearing predictions can cause people to change their behaviour.

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

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

That brings us to incentives.

The issue of intentions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luck and probability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

ArticlesBankingFinanceSecurities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FinanceInfrastructureReal Estate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


ArticlesFinanceRegulation

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

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

 

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

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

 

What regulations are currently in place? 

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

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

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

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

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

What happens if the withdrawal agreement is passed?

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

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

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

 

What happens if the withdrawal agreement is not passed?

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

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

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

 

So, what can businesses do in the meantime?

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

They also need to be aware of:

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

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

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

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

Mathew Cole
FinanceFunds

Young people suffer more with gift guilt at Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

ArticlesCorporate Finance and M&A/DealsFunds of Funds

5 ways cognitive assistants are revolutionising banking

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Building a hybrid workforce

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

 

Ubiquitous customer services

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

 

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

 

24/7 banking support

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

 

Go beyond simple chatbots

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

 

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

 

Delivering better insights and improved security

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

 

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

 

The future of retail banking

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

 

 

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BUY YOURSELF A HORSE WITH BITCOIN

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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WisdomTree launches Artificial Intelligence ETF (WTAI)

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

WisdomTree Artificial Intelligence UCITS ETF: Under the hood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Share Class Name

TER

Exchange

Trading Ccy

Exchange Code

ISIN

WisdomTree Artificial Intelligence UCITS ETF – USD Acc

0.40%

 

LSE

USD

WTAI

IE00BDVPNG13

WisdomTree Artificial Intelligence UCITS ETF – USD Acc

0.40%

 

LSE

GBx

INTL

IE00BDVPNG13

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Finding finance from start-up to listing

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author: Kevin Day, CEO, HPD LendScape

ABF sector is growing fast

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

Funding record set last year

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

Big banks freeing up the mid-market

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

Clear opportunity for challenger banks….

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

…But they should proceed with care

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

Private equity-backed businesses offer further potential

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

SMEs seeking to refinance from new lenders

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

Technology can play a key role

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

ABF market in the UK is evolving 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

Choosing an IVA or bankruptcy

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Can the procedures affect my home?

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

 

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

 

What about my car?

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

 

Could my job be impacted?

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

 

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

 

Why choose an IVA?

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

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

 

Why choose bankruptcy?

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Car finance top tips: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finance

Scrutiny on the Data Supply Chain

Scrutiny on the Data Supply Chain

by Martijn Groot, VP of Product Management, Asset Control

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Finding a Way Forward

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

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

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

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

The Role of Technology

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

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

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

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