Category: Funds

Woman chatting online with a laptop
ArticlesInfrastructure

Best Service Management Conversational Tech Company 2020

Woman chatting online with a laptop

 

Increasing productivity and efficiency for its clients, Aisera’s cloud-native management software is becoming the go-to option for companies across the board. With a vast array of capabilities that is only growing, its work is one of the most exemplary when it comes to intuitively automated personal interactions. 

 

Aisera’s AISM Architecture is a fully optimized team management service that is completely cloud enabled and fully end-to-end. Using a single AI platform across a multitude of services and allowing the accomplishment of multiple tasks all supported by the same software, it is multi-function and an invaluable business tool for the streamlining of processes across the board. Aisera provides service automation and empowers its clients to operate faster and more accurately. Improving business uptime, improved productivity, cost reduction, and consumer-like self-service for employees and customers, it cuts down on the manpower needed to handle basic processes and in-house operations by automating those with an intuitive and teachable AI interface. 

 

With Aisera, a client can turn their business into a high-volume resolution engine that is scalable to their business. This is one of the ways in which it makes itself highly cost effective, as its product can be scaled to match any company and their operations, ensuring that no client receives something too big or too small to handle what they need it to. Its self-service resolutions are quick and accurate, whilst allowing both customers and employees to enjoy a personalized and proactive AI service experience. In this way, it seeks to go against the notion that AI query resolution programmes are impersonal and clunky, ensuring its solution is empathic and well-designed. The platform itself is efficient and organized, allowing all encompassing AI Service Management that drives an efficient and automated service experience. Based on the principles of conversational engagement and workflow automation, it gives all users direct access to the tools their need to be more productive easier. AI and RPA solutions handle the direct interactions with end users. 

 

These programmes are concierge-grade, and with the technologies behind them being top of the range, they can help with everything from HR and sales to customer service and internal operations. Furthermore, AI Service Management integrates seamlessly with existing ticketing systems, knowledge bases, call centres, and customer service processes to automate those resolutions in a matter of seconds. Programmed with the ability to understand intent, sentiment, and ambiguous messages that other AI solutions find difficult, its clients and their end-users find themselves impressed by Aisera’s digitized multistep employee conversations. This has been especially pivotal in the past year with the advent of a majority work from home culture. Without the ability to simply cross an office and ask a colleague, Aisera’s services allow them to get an answer quickly and efficiently without having to wait for a co-worker to be available to chat. 

 

Aisera’s services also learn quickly and efficiently, picking up on nuances and working practices exclusive to the company it is managing so it can adapt to them. Aisera combines user and service behavioural intelligence with supervised and unsupervised NLP, NLU, and NLG in order to do this. Furthermore, it connects to existing systems, tailoring itself to work with over 400 different connections such as ITSM, CSM, Alerting, Monitoring, Chat Provisions, and RPA. It is also both no-code and cloud-native, requiring no additional resources or onboarding for getting it set up – it just works. Aisera also offers clients the option of improving productivity by use of its catalogue of over 1200 pre-built workflows. With all this in mind, it’s no wonder Aisera has become the trusted AI integration platform for so many businesses, and it looks forward to helping streamline the work of many more businesses in
the future.

 

For business enquiries contact Kim del Fierro at AISERA vai aisera.com

Close up of a welcome mat that reads
ArticlesReal Estate

Study Reveals: First-Time Buyers’ Biggest Fears

Close up of a welcome mat that reads


● Over a third of first-time buyers fear experiencing a ‘house value drop/negative equity’
● More than a quarter (26%) of first-time buyers worry they won’t be able to match their deposit saving rate to the rate of house price rises
● 11% of people fear ‘breaking up with someone after buying together’

Figures* show that there are approximately 39,000 Google searches on average for ‘properties for sale’ in the UK per month. Despite clear interest in the property market, this buying process can be particularly challenging for those getting onto the property ladder for the first time.

But what are first-time buyers really worrying about? The mortgage experts at money.co.uk surveyed 1,501 first-time buyers to discover what they are most fearful of when it came to buying their first home.

Top Five First-Time Buyers’ Fears Revealed:

Fears %
1. House value drop / negative equity
31
2. Saving enough deposit vs rise in house price
26
3. Unable to afford your mortgage long-term
22
4. COVID-19 influencing a spike in prices
13
5. Breaking up with S.O. after buying together
11


The biggest concern raised by first-time buyers is experiencing a ‘house value drop/negative equity’. In fact, 31% of respondents said they are worried about their property becoming less valuable than the remaining value of their mortgage.

Nisha Vaidya, mortgage editor at money.co.uk, said: “There are a few things you should keep in mind if you want to avoid negative equity. Firstly, it’s important to make sure you pay the market value for the property, so don’t shy away from negotiating on the asking price.

“Secondly, the larger your deposit, the more equity you will have in the property. So, if you are able to save enough, putting down a bigger deposit is a good idea.”
While putting down a larger deposit is a great way to unlock lower interest rates and better mitigate shifts in house prices, over a quarter of first-time buyers said they are worried that they wouldn’t be able to save at the same pace as the rise in house prices.

Nisha Vaidya, a mortgage editor at money.co.uk, offered these tips for saving for a deposit:
● Setting a budget: In addition to understanding how much deposit you’ll need, there are other costs to consider when purchasing a home, such as survey costs, solicitor or conveyancer fees and insurance. But by setting a budget, you’ll be able to plan out your savings targets and start saving for your ideal home.
● Cut the cost of your rent: You’ve probably asked yourself the question ‘How to save money for a house’ multiple times, but one way is by paying less rent to free up more cash for your deposit fund. If you live alone, consider moving into a house share or living with family to save on rental costs.
● Get a lodger: If you live alone and have space, taking in a lodger can be a great way to help subsidise the cost of renting and give you extra money to save for a deposit. Before you begin your search for a new flatmate, check your landlord is happy for you to share their property and sub-let a room.

The third most common worry experienced by first-time buyers is being ‘unable to afford your mortgage long-term’ – a concern experienced by 22% of respondents. 

Nisha Vaidya added: “If you are worried about affording your mortgage, there are ways a buyer can get support. This type of support can include: a payment deferral, an extension to your mortgage term and a change to your mortgage type. If you are looking to buy a new home but have financial worries, using the Help to Buy scheme could offer you the support you need. 

This Governmental scheme offers buyers an equity loan they can use to help buy a new build home, allowing buyers to purchase a property with a 5% deposit and receive a loan for up to 20% of the property value, which will be interest free for 5 years. The buyers must then take out a standard mortgage for the remaining 75%.”

Moreover, the pandemic has affected us in many ways, and it has created new concerns in different aspects of our lives, including financial ones. The survey conducted by money.co.uk reveals that 13% of first-time buyers fear ‘COVID-19 influencing a spike in prices’.

This is not the only fear people have as a result of Covid-19. With many people becoming remote workers, confusion has arisen in regard to where it’s best to buy, in the eventuality of going back to the office. 5% of respondents have said they have concerns regarding the ‘uncertainty about location with working from home [WFH]’. 

Couples who buy together have also admitted that a big concern is ‘breaking up with someone after buying together’, with 11% of people fearing a separation could create difficulties with property related matters. 

Nisha Vaidya, a mortgage expert at money.co.uk, said:

“Getting on the property ladder can be a nerve-racking experience for first-time buyers, as being misinformed can cost greatly – whether it’s losing out on a dream home or losing a lot of money in the process. However, the best thing first-time buyers can do is do their homework thoroughly before embarking on this journey.
“Being equipped with the right information will cut the risk of encountering unpleasant scenarios that many first-time buyers fear, such as experiencing negative equity or being unable to afford a mortgage long-term. Once you are confident in your knowledge the process should be less risky and more exciting.”

Methodology
● Mortgage experts at money.co.uk conducted a survey in which 1,501 people participated. The question “As a first-time buyer, what is your biggest fear?” was asked.
● The survey sample is broken down as follows: 56.5% male respondents, 43.5% female respondents. 8.5% were aged 18-24, 19.5% were aged 25-34, 13.7% were aged 35-44, 17.0% were aged 45-54, 22.9% were aged 55-64 and 18.4% were aged 65+.
● Geographically, 77.7% of respondents were from England, 15.6% of respondents were from Scotland, 6.1% were from Wales and 0.7% of respondents were from Northern Ireland.

*Figures provided by https://ahrefs.com/.

Savings
ArticlesFinanceFunds

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

Savings

By Annie Charalambous, Head of Communications at ETX Capital


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

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

 

1. Premium bonds (368,000 monthly searches)

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

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

 

2. Lifetime ISA (74,000 monthly searches)

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

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

 

3. Savings accounts (74,000 monthly searches)

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

 

4. State pension (74,000 monthly searches)

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

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

 

5. Bonds (49,500 monthly searches)

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

7. Private pension (14,800 monthly searches

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

CBDC
ArticlesFundsMarkets

CBDCs Impact on Payments Market: A Push for Repositioning Barriers for Market Newcomers

CBDC


For the payments market, government-backed digital currencies could accelerate innovation by setting novel technology benchmarks, as well as rearrange some of the entry barriers for new companies looking to set up shop.

A recent survey of central banks has revealed that 86% are actively doing research into central bank digital currencies (CBDCs), 60% are already in the experimenting phase and almost 15% doing pilot testing. With CBDCs heavily gaining traction across governments worldwide, Marius Galdikas, CEO at ConnectPay, has discussed how this technological solution could impact the payments market players.

The idea of CBDCs has been circling around for a few years now, however, with the growing attention towards cryptocurrencies and money digitalization in general, banks are now focusing on how to put the idea into practise. For instance, the Bank of England together with HM Treasury has created a dedicated task force to explore potential use cases of CBDC in the UK market, as well as monitor international developments regarding the topic. Norway is pushing ahead with CBDC, too, while China is already in the process of testing digital Yuan out in the real world.

“CBDCs could be a game-changer for the payments industry. Aside from the clear benefits, for instance, low-cost cross-border payments or boosting financial inclusivity, it could also enhance domestic payments system resilience, slightly shifting dependence from the international payment processing networks,” Galdikas said.

According to Galdikas, CBDCs could be a major catalyst for the payments market, as government-issued digital currencies would be as easily accessible as current e-money payment methods, yet, in some respects, it could surpass what current market players have to offer.

“Although it has immense potential, the idea still has a long way to go. Essential decisions need to be made concerning how state-backed currencies could inherit the properties of cash, for instance, working offline or addressing the double-spending problem. Also, it’s highly likely that the central banks will not take on the responsibility to develop and implement the technology themselves, yet will want to retain the control of the currency itself,” Galdikas explained. “There is no best way to address these types of questions and that’s why specialized teams and task forces are being assembled — to come up with an approach that would combine different tools into a single solution.”

“Therefore payment service providers will have to step up their game to match the benefits CBDCs would bring to the table, which means moving up into a higher gear when it comes to innovation and delivering unique market solutions. They’ll have to be more strategic in communicating their strengths and value proposition to their target audience, too,” he added.

While outlining the benefits, Galdikas also noted how this would impact market newcomers. “CBDCs would definitely set an even higher standard for greater technological competence, which means setting up shop for new businesses is going to need a lot more investment from the get-go.”

“That said, I believe that some of the barriers would drop, for example, the requirement that only credit institutions have access to payment systems, such as SEPA. All in all, the CBDC, with inherent properties of cash, would allow for a wide variety of innovative financial solutions,” he concluded.

This could be a pivoting moment in the industry, which would greatly contribute to building a more financially inclusive society. However, a lot of questions must be addressed before then, with the main ones being technological implementation, as well as privacy concerns, which might arise due to CBDCs being state-backed.

Bills
ArticlesFinanceFunds

South West Businesses Piling on Debt, Bills and Overdrafts Mounting During Lockdown


A year on from the start of the pandemic, business finances in the South West have been badly damaged, with many business owners increasingly reliant upon costly sources of borrowing such as overdrafts and credit cards, a Business West survey has revealed.
40% of the 550 businesses that responded to the survey reported a higher level of indebtedness than a year ago, whilst a similar number (43%) had 6 months or less of cash reserves remaining, laying bare the huge financial cost of coronavirus despite extensive government interventions in the economy.
With pressures on firms growing after multiple lockdowns, 28% of businesses seeking out finance opted to utilise the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) – a government backed initiative offering favourable interest rates and flexible repayment terms, but this scheme has now ended.
Salisbury-based 365 Linen Hire, which provides tablecloths and napkins to the weddings and events industries, highlights how emergency borrowing has taken the strain for many COVID-19 impacted businesses. Its Manager Richard Gould said that as hopes were dashed of the economy unlocking earlier in the year, the business sought out BBLS funds to gear up for a summer reopening, having “held out as long as possible”.
The use of overdrafts and credit cards by local businesses is also relatively high, at 22% and 19% respectively, considering that these sources of finance are more expensive than government backed emergency finance. They are also more common than the formal government backed Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), which only 16% of respondents chose, typically larger businesses within the survey respondents. The percentage of businesses borrowing money from family and friends is also quite significant, at 11%.
Bristol-based marketing agency Feisty Consultancy was one of the businesses that complained of receiving a rough ride from their banking provider over the past 12 months.
“During the first lockdown at least, the banks were helpful in reducing/removing fees,” said Feisty Consultancy’s Managing Director Vikki Little. “But this stopped some months ago and hasn’t been reinstated, despite the fact that the situation is now worse for many businesses. I wrote to my bank regarding this and was told ‘tough’ essentially.”
If the increased prevalence of short-term borrowing wasn’t worrying enough for the state of business finances, it is particularly so for the self-employed. Two fifths of respondents identified credit cards as their main source of financing during the pandemic – a finding which suggests that the self-employed (many of whom fell through the cracks of government support schemes) were unable to access cheaper, alternative forms of borrowing.
Against this background, Business West is concerned at a potential ‘finance crunch’ coming for small businesses. With repayments starting on government backed loans and the level of (often high cost) debt from financial institutions and others, the burden of this debt is expected to act as a drag on business recovery.
Unsurprisingly, after a year of lockdown restrictions, almost half of the 550 participants reported a deterioration in their cashflow, taking this to the lowest point in the last 3 years, with responses consistent across both the services and manufacturing sectors. “It is dreadful,” said Val Hennessy of the International House language school in Bristol – one of the businesses speaking out. “Virtually no income and little prospect of a real increase in income in the near future as international travel is banned or the costs of travelling to the UK for students is too off-putting. We cannot risk borrowing anymore because the future is so uncertain.” she continued.
For businesses such as The Zoots band, government financial support has unfortunately done little to make up for the income shortfall of a year ravaged by stop-start lockdown restrictions. Its proprietor Jamie Goddard revealed that he is “currently in £30,000 debt” adding “with SEISS grants of only £2500 that covered about 1.5% of my usual turnover” and hopes they “will get something eventually” to address the situation.
Aside from widespread financial worries highlighted by the survey, the region-wide study also found that almost 40% of South West employers had experienced staffing issues as a direct result of school closures.
Stephen Sage, Managing Director of ACES Ltd – an electronics firm based in Bristol – said that along with school closures: “Social distancing measures have slowed our production along with…home working,” before adding “material shortages have also compounded the problem.”
The cumulative effect of rising debt levels and lockdown restrictions on business growth and performance across the region is plain to see.
Over half of respondents reported that their turnover, profitability and cash flow have been negatively impacted as a result of the pandemic. The percentage of businesses impacted in the retail, tourism, food and drink, and consumer services industries is even worse (over 60%), with many delaying growth plans and experiencing reduced profit margins.
Despite the pain of the past 12 months, businesses are remarkably upbeat regarding the future prospects of the UK economy, with business confidence also showing signs of lifting following government’s announcement of an irreversible roadmap out of lockdown in England. On both measures, this represents a marked uptick when compared to the last quarter’s results.
 
Providing his assessment of the survey findings Business West Managing Director Phil Smith comments:
“Whilst the UK’s successful vaccination programme provides genuine light at the end of the tunnel, it would appear that businesses will have to wait a little while longer before they are able to bask in the glow of a dawning economic recovery.
“There have been few winners and very many losers as a result of the pandemic, a good proportion of whom have taken on added debt to help see them through.
“In the best-case scenario, we will see pandemic related debts repaid quickly as business activity begins to ramp up and accelerate as lockdown restrictions are lifted. In the worst case, a mounting debt burden stymies business growth and proves a long-term drag on the region’s economy.
“To see businesses utilising the flexibility of the BBLS is pleasing. However, the fact that more and more businesses are turning to credit cards and overdrafts to solve cashflow issues is concerning. The reliance on friends and family may also be interpreted as a market failure that government and lenders would be wise in addressing.
“We are worried about small businesses and the self-employed’s access to suitable finance during the recovery period. At the end of March both BBLS and CBILS closed, and CBILS was replaced by the successor Recovery Loan Scheme. However, this is available via commercial bank lending and is only government guaranteed for 80% of the loan. Our findings highlight a looming finance gap for smaller firms, given the particular finance needs of smaller businesses, who appear to not be utilising CBILS, perhaps because it is harder to access this more formal bank form of financing. We think further government finance schemes for these smaller firms may be needed.
“After business’ most challenging year in living memory, it goes without saying that eyes remain fixed on the roadmap out of lockdown, as only then do we have the realistic prospect of healing the wounds inflicted by the pandemic and repairing business finances.”
Property investment
ArticlesFinanceFundsReal Estate

Top Tips to Raising Property Investment Finance in 2021

Property investment


In the UK, property remains one of the most resilient asset classes. From first-time buyers to portfolio landlords, getting established on the property ladder remains a popular way for many to grow their wealth. Depending on an individual’s circumstances and ambitions, Arbuthnot Latham, Private and Commercial Bank, explains the various routes to securing finance for property investment in 2021 and beyond.

 

Property finance for individuals

Many individuals, who have enough capital, will look to supplement their income by acquiring a second or third property on top of the one they live in. This will almost always involve a personal investment of capital and additional funds secured via a loan or mortgage.

The appeal of becoming a buy-to-let landlord is not just the relatively good performance of the UK residential property market, but the fact that the value of the asset can be increased with a proactive approach to property maintenance and improvement. Until now, property has been a very stable asset class, and is one that empowers the owner to increase its value over and above standard market movements. It is important to note, with any asset class, that previous performance is not an indicator of future performance.

If an individual is looking to make this sort of investment, any finance they are able to secure will be contingent on their own circumstances. For example, will they be able to show how they would personally cover a shortfall if rental income doesn’t cover interest payments?

 

Other factors banks consider with individual buy-to-let mortgage applications

Credit rating

Whether they are entering the property investment market for the first time or expanding their portfolio, a clean credit score is an essential part of the puzzle. Small issues like missed payments might not make a huge difference, but County Court Judgements or missed mortgage repayments will be a significant barrier to securing the finance they need.

Minimum income

Most lenders in the UK require a minimum income to consider eligibility, but there are options for those with a lower income threshold, and there are even options available that have no income requirements.

Existing portfolio or assets

What lenders are willing to offer will change depending on if the individual is new to property finance or already own properties. Some lenders won’t consider landlords who own several properties, but this varies across the UK.

 

Property finance for portfolio landlords

Individuals who own four or more mortgaged properties become what’s known as a ‘portfolio landlord’. When they pass this threshold, there are certain expectations on banks regarding due diligence. From here, it’s not just about their own personal circumstances. For example, a bank is required to know the status quo of the rest of their portfolio. They need a deeper understanding of how the assets might interact and will also want to gauge their understanding of the market they’re operating in.

 

Factors banks consider with buy-to-let applications

  • Do they keep accurate records? There are many conditions to satisfy buy-to-let properties (fire safety certificates, guarantees for electrical items, insurance, etc.) More important still for HMOs: annual gas certificates. If they’re disorganised, cannot produce documentation when asked, or their business approach obstructs a bank’s due diligence, this is a red flag when considering a finance application.

  • The bank wants to know that a buy-to-let landlord is competent: aware of their obligations and best practice

  • A portfolio landlord should understand the market they want to operate in. Banks look for investors who have a good handle on their local area. A speculative application – not rooted in a comprehensive business plan – means more risk for the bank and a higher rate of interest.

Portfolio landlords should make sure they chose a lender who is right for them. If the individual are vastly experienced, cheaper rates found on the high street can be the right approach. A note of caution here is that as different lenders’ appetites change, it could result in an ongoing dynamic of regular refinancing to achieve the cheapest rate.

Other investors might move away from -the potentially lighter touch relationship approach of the high street, and opt for a longer-term relationship of consistency where their banker understands their circumstances, has years of sector expertise and can tailor solutions to meet their needs.

This is particularly helpful when circumstances change. The pooled collective knowledge of a real estate finance team can be particularly valuable to help a portfolio landlord adapt when circumstances change.

Stimulus Check
Funds

8 Great Ways to Use Your Stimulus Check

Stimulus Check

You’re getting the stimulus check, which is great news for those experiencing financial hardship. Now, it’s time to think about how you’re going to use it. The following are a few ways to help yourself and the nation’s economy.

  1. Clear Debts

One of the best suggestions on how to use stimulus check money is to pay down some debt. If you can decrease the amount you owe, the money saved going forward can be used to buy a new car or maybe even start a business. You’ll be freer, and that’s priceless.

  1. Vacation

Face it, people have had a rough year, and if you want a vacation, then maybe that’s the best thing you can do. It’s a way to recharge your batteries and feel good again. The vaccine is going to reopen things soon, so just plan your vacation with this cash. Stay within the US to boost the economy.

  1. Treat Yourself

Maybe you’ve been a little wary about spending because of everything going on. Things are turning around, so why not consider treating yourself with this check? There must be something you’ve wanted for a long time, like an entertainment center or something similar.

  1. Sustainability

The pandemic has taught us the value of self-sustainability. You can use this check to start your journey. There are many ways you can do this, from buying a chicken coup to have access to fresh eggs at home or investing in a greenhouse to grow vegetables.

  1. Home Repairs

Some folks have been sitting on much-needed home repairs for some time. It’s time to address those repairs, and you can use the check for that. You’ll be stimulating the local economy if you use a repair person from your community. Your home will function a lot better, so it’s a wise decision.

  1. Car Repairs

Maybe it’s not your home that needs to be repaired but your car. People sometimes put off repairs as long as the vehicle is still running. You don’t have to take that risk because you have this check coming. You’ll be supporting mechanics, and that’s a good thing to do during these times. Have an inspection done to see what needs fixing.

  1. Invest

If you feel like you’ve got enough money saved, then consider investing. Granted, there are markets where you might not want to invest just yet, especially if they’re in trouble, but there are a few industries still thriving. Do your research and find out where it might be a good idea to invest. This is an excellent way to ensure that your wealth keeps growing; it’s not like these checks will keep coming though they probably should because they are doing a lot of good.

  1. Save

Sometimes, the smartest thing you could do is just save the money. Maybe you want to make sure you have the cash for your kids to go to college. This could go a long way in making that a reality for you. Maybe you just want to save to buy your kid’s first car. There are many reasons to put your money away, so if there’s nothing else, then this is your wisest move. You don’t want to waste money frivolously, so just keep that in mind.

These are some ways you can use the stimulus check coming your way. You can use other ways, but you know your financial situation and goals, so choose carefully.

gold money investment
ArticlesFinanceFundsTransactional and Investment Banking

Why People Are Going Gold As An Investment

gold money investment


Gold is one of the safest investments available, apart from a savings account. This is because of its stability, even in uncertain times. In the past, owning gold was quite controversial because of the worries surrounding its price fluctuation and potential instability. Now, however, more people choose to invest in gold as part of their overall assets because of its many benefits. For one, investing in precious metals is a good way to protect your savings.

When you hear about the benefits of investing in gold or buying gold products, most people associate it with investing in jewelry. While this is certainly a key component to any well-rounded portfolio, gold itself is a much broader asset. Gold can be used to buy or trade almost anything – bonds, mutual funds, stocks, commodities, and even estate. If you’re looking for a way to diversify your portfolio but are worried about your investments in gold being exposed to more risk than other assets, then look into investing in precious metals as a part of your portfolio.

Here’s why people are turning to gold as one of their investment options:

1. You Can Start Even With Only A Small Amount

One of the greatest advantages of investing in gold like Oxford Gold is that you don’t need to have a substantial amount of money to start. You can begin, even with only a small amount. Hence making it a very accessible option even for those with limited funds to start with at the moment.

Even if you start small, the key is for you to slowly increase your investment, so you can stabilize it in the long run.

 

2. It’s A Very Safe Investment

Gold is considered to be a safe investment. As an investment, it won’t lose its value unlike other stocks and bonds, which are very susceptible to the volatile market.

It’s highly unlikely that you’ll encounter any problem with the value of this precious metal. You can easily earn a lot of money with your gold investment and even increase your wealth within a short time.

 

3. It’s A Stable Hedge Against An Unstable Market

Gold is one of the most stable assets that you can choose to invest in. Even when the stock market goes down, gold continues to retain its value. Therefore, you can consider it as a very safe investment choice.

The thing with gold is that it’s a very limited asset because it’s a precious metal. This stays the same, even if the demand does increase. Because of this, the price continues to go up. This situation makes it a very stable hedge against an unstable market.

 

4. It Gives You A Good Return On Investment

One of the other reasons why gold is also becoming a very popular investment form is that it guarantees a very good return on investment.

There are several factors that influence the rate of return that a precious piece of metal can offer. First, it’s very easy to mine and sell the metal. Second, it doesn’t require too much investment capital to start off with. You can simply start selling jewelry and coins to get started.

With these two factors alone, you can rely on a faster ROI. This means you can start paying back whatever capital you spent on your gold. The profits will also come in faster than expected. It can bring your financial status a sense of security.

 

5. It Protects Against Inflation And Economic Fluctuations

If there’s a dip in the value of currencies around the world, owning precious metals such as gold or silver is a great way to protect yourself against the fluctuations in the value of money.

Because of its value being tied to the U.S. dollar, precious metals are usually the safest investments out there. They don’t depreciate like other assets. This protects you against inflation, as you know the value of your gold investments stays stable, at least.

This makes gold a good form of long-term investment. You don’t have to worry about it losing its value over time. It’s something that can keep increasing in value on a regular basis, so you have great security in knowing they are protecting your wealth.

It also increases the likelihood that if you do sell your assets, you will receive a high enough amount to cover your losses, if you incur any. This can also help provide economic stability for you, particularly when you’re going through big changes, such as newly starting a business, for example.

 

6. It’s Easy To Diversify

The last benefit to investing in gold, in particular, is that they’re easy to diversify. There are so many different investments you can make with them. You can invest in fine gold jewelry, gold coins, ETFs, gold bars, bullion, and coins, for instance.

Gold bars are smaller than bullion coins and are less susceptible to theft. If you want a simple, low-risk investment, invest in gold bars. You can purchase them at banks or from online brokers, and you can store them in safety like a safety deposit box or a bank safe.

Diversification is a great way to increase the value of your investments and protect yourself in case of a crash. Investing in just one gold investment can diversify your portfolio significantly, and you don’t have to sell your holdings to take advantage of these diversified investments.
In the past, investors used to get along just fine without diversifying their portfolios. However, the world’s economy has changed, and most investors have had to deal with the global recession. It’s thereby imperative for investors to start diversifying their portfolios to protect themselves from these negative indicators.

 

Conclusion

Investing in gold is a very good choice for you, even if you’re a newbie investor. These reasons above are precisely why so many have gotten into investing in gold as their choice. The key is for you to just learn more about it and make sure that you understand everything there is for you to know about gold investing. You can learn so much more about it and comprehend it in totality, depending on your risk tolerance, liquidity, and risk level. In doing so, you know that you’re on the right path towards the proper way of investing in gold.

flexible payment
ArticlesFinanceFundsRegulation

Flexible Pay: Could it Become a New Trend Amid Pandemic?

flexible payment


In the light of the pandemic many are experiencing financial difficulties and are feeling the pressure of waiting for payday. Research carried out by Money Advice Service has previously discovered in the UK there 8.3 million adults who have found meeting monthly bills a “heavy burden” and have missed more than two bill payments in a six-month period. With the current economic climate and new research performed by EY, the weight of financial commitments is now at the forefront of people’s minds, as a result employers are exploring ways to alleviate the financial pressures currently felt by many.

 

What is flexible pay?

Flexible pay is a new concept whereby employees are paid with an on-demand option. This means if the employee requires their pay early, they can call their earnings to date to fulfil their financial needs removing pressures.

Flexible pay provides an on-demand solution to overcome financial difficulties without the need to ask for an advance from the employer which, in itself, is a daunting task. Flexible pay provides employees with on-demand access to their salary without cause to provide reasoning to why they need access to their salary early.

 

What employees needs it can address

In a study performed by EY, 73% of UK workers find it a challenging to meet everyday expenses or worry about not being able to meet them. In the report EY found 58% of people who have experienced financial difficulties have also reported a material deterioration in their health and wellbeing. Additional pressure stemming from financial difficult can cause mental health issues if long term strain of finances is not addressed.  The stresses associated with these financial burdens can impact other aspects of people’s lives from health and mental wellbeing to work life and personal life.

Flexible pay provides employees with a solution that does not result in additional borrowing and interest associated with borrowing.

 

The benefits it can generate for employers

Flexible pay is a solution that benefits the employer as well as the employee in several ways.

  • Cash flow neutral option for employers
    • Unlike other benefits often provided by employers, flexible pay is a cash flow neutral option. This means employers are not having to factor an upfront payment before the work has taken place.

  • Seen more favourably by employees
    • As with other employee benefits, flexible pay offers the opportunity for employees to look favourably upon their employers. This is a benefit that is designed to help remove a common factor that triggers stress, where work life can also be a contributing factor, flexible pay helps remove stresses outside of the workplace.

  • Attract Talent
    • When recruiting employee benefits can often sway talent to choose to work with a specific employer. Flexible pay demonstrates the employer is not only aware of the employee needs but also shows they are looking to support the employee with benefits designed to provide solutions to employee’s needs whether short or long term.

  • Improve Productivity
    • With many working remotely as a result of the pandemic, mental health and wellbeing has been a focus for employees as it can often impact productivity. By alleviating financial strain that often negatively impacts the employee’s mental health and in turn, their productivity the employer helps prevent their employee’s productivity from being affected.

 

How to roll it out in your business

Part of the challenge when introducing new benefits to employees is how to integrate it within the business. With flexible payment it requires set-up, training and rolling out to employees.

 

So what are the initial requirements?

  1. Flexible pay requires integration with the employer’s payroll system to enable a proportion of the employee’s salary to be available to call upon at the rate it is accrued.

  2. Employees will be required to measure the time worked; this could be through some form of a timesheet to record what has been worked when. This measurement will help calculate the accrued earning.

If payroll is performed in-house, training your finance team is vital to ensure only the salary accrued is available to the employee and any changes to payroll processing processes with particular attention to your payroll software. Training will need to focus on how employee accrued salary data is collected and processed as part of your payroll solution whether outsourced or not. 

Once the changes to your payroll is available to your employees it is important to educate them on what it means for them, what is changing for their payroll and, of course, how they can use flexible pay to call their salary early if need be.

 

IRIS FMP UK is an international payroll solutions provider that is able to offer bespoke payment solutions to businesses to reflect the employer and employee needs including flexible payment options. We are supporting thousands of international and UK based SME organisations. With over 40 years’ experience, we are committed to providing our clients with the very best service, offering transparency, reliability and honesty.

ArticlesFundsFunds of Funds

Conister Reports Record Lending

  • 2020 lending totals £131 million, surpassing 2019 by 7%

  • Conister has also received an additional allocation of £5 million from the British Business Bank to focus on resilient businesses seeking funding

  • Conister has lent £9 million through the British Business Bank’s BBLS

Conister Finance & Leasing Limited (“Conister”), part of Manx Financial Group PLC (AIM:MFX), today announces that it achieved record lending levels in 2020, by advancing deals totalling £131 million, representing a 7% increase on the total amount lent throughout 2019 (£122 million), by providing critical funding to small and medium sized enterprises (“SME”) as they navigate the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The growth in funding facilities can in part be attributed to Conister’s accreditation to various Government backed loan schemes to help support struggling businesses in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (“CBILS”), Conister has advanced £9 million in vital funding across 35 loans and recently announced that it had applied for and received an additional allocation of £5 million to focus on resilient businesses still seeking funding.

Conister has consistently supported the Government’s financial assistance for UK businesses which it believes has been a crucial lifeline to many. In addition to the CBILS lending, Conister has advanced a further £9 million across 246 loans through the Bounce Back Loans Scheme (“BBLS”), against an initial allocation limit of £10 million. 

Douglas Grant, Managing Director of Conister, commented: “We must ensure that the financial security of businesses is protected to allow those that are sustainable to flourish in the future. Up to now, the BBLS and CBILS have performed a fundamental role in keeping many SMEs alive and acted as an important triage system to identify and support qualifying businesses needing credit. However, we believe that we have now passed this phase. Unfortunately, we must recognise that many businesses will not survive this pandemic, particularly if provided with an unsustainable debt burden. It is imperative for the future that we now focus on identifying and protecting our most resilient business sectors.”

“At Conister we have delivered upon all of our initial objectives. We had an allocation limit of £20 million for the CBILS and BBLS schemes and so far, we have lent £18 million, and we will fully allocate the remaining £2 million in the coming weeks. Without doubt, the scale of applications was enormous and so we applied for and received an additional allocation of £5 million for the CBILS scheme and we will focus lending this to robust business sectors that we believe will thrive in the future. Conister will continue to do all it can, working alongside Government and traditional lenders, to support British businesses.”

Jo Dyer, Portfolio Business Manager at First Business Securities, a recipient of a BBLS loan facility through Conister, said: “Conister showed the support and leadership we needed when we first received an increase in requests for payment holidays in April, leading to an ever more likely cash-flow problem. We were impressed with their speed and efficiency and their service won’t be forgotten in future.”

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Examining the Pros of Stablecoins

Stablecoins are a form of cryptocurrency that differs in one key way to the likes of Bitcoin and Ethereum – they’re stable, hence the name. Rather than experiencing volatility on the markets, those who purchase stablecoins can relax knowing that their investment won’t fluctuate in price. This makes them beneficial for not just individuals, but businesses that accept cryptocurrency as well.

The main type of stablecoin that we are going to look at in this article is centralized stablecoins. These are backed by fiat currencies 1:1 and so you often see them referred to with the currency next to their name – for example USDT (Tether) and GUSD (Gemini USD). The reason they are classed as centralized is because they are backed by a central organization, such as a government, a bank, or a company.

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of centralized stablecoins.

 

Easy to Purchase

Opting to buy USDT and other stablecoins is very easy, and can be done by anyone with an internet connection. Platforms like Paxful make it easy for anyone to sign up, open a wallet, and buy USDT in whatever amount they want. You can purchase stablecoins using your debit card, PayPal, gift cards, credit cards, Western Union and more. It has never been as easy as it is today to get started.

 

Allows You to Use Fiat Like Crypto

When most people get started with cryptocurrencies, they can find it hard to understand just how much of a particular cryptocurrency they’re getting for their dollar. However, because stablecoins are pegged to a Fiat currency, it’s not quite so difficult to understand. Looking at Tether again, we can see that one USD equals one USDT. Tether experiences the exact same price movements as the USD, making it easier to understand and invest in.

 

Low Fees

Because of the peer-to-peer nature of stablecoins, and the lack of intermediaries, transactions tend to be a lot cheaper than with traditional finance. Credit card payments and bank transfers, for example, both charge a fee and commission, which can be exceedingly high when transferred abroad. This is not the case with stablecoins. Also, as mentioned above, due to them being pegged to a Fiat currency, it’s possible to transfer your USD to USDT, transfer the USDT to a friend, and then have them transfer it back to USD to save on transaction fees.

 

They’re Not Volatile

The main advantage of stablecoins over other types of cryptocurrency is that they’re not affected by the same price fluctuations. This is something that is crucial if the world is going to accept cryptocurrencies in the mainstream. No-one wants to accept payment for something, or receive their paycheck, without stability as the amount they receive could change dramatically from day to day. Due to their nature, stablecoins are helping to overcome many of the challenges faced by traditional cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum, which will only help to encourage the spread.

As you can see, stablecoins have a clear place in the economy. It will be interesting to see if they ever replace Fiat currency in the future.

Finance Management
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Beating the City – Could it Pay to be Your Own Fund Manager

Finance Management

By Ben Hobson, Markets Editor, Stockopedia 

For investors, it’s an incredibly unsettling time. Uncertainty continues to sweep the stock market and it’s anyone’s guess just how far the economic impact of coronavirus will spread. 

Some sectors have been sucker-punched by the crisis, such as airlines, leisure and travel. In a few cases, companies are facing a battle for survival. 

However, you can beat the City with a little know how. 

Ben Hobson, Markets Editor at Stockopedia explains why now might be the perfect time to break free and run your own investment portfolio.

 

Keep your costs down 

Ideally, you want to keep the annual costs of running your own portfolio below 2.5% to beat the cost of owning a fund. 

Fund expense ratios are often listed very appealingly at, for example, 0.75%, but this often fails to take into account a layer of hidden fees and transaction costs that can easily take the true cost of investing in a fund up to and beyond 2.5% or even as much as 4% annually. 

Diversification can deliver higher returns and buffer against market downturns, but you don’t need upwards of 100 stocks to benefit, like in many mutual funds. After all, as the number of stocks you own increases, so do the costs of rebalancing the portfolio. 

The optimal level of diversification for a portfolio is arguable, but some luminaries have argued that you only need 6-8 stocks to get the lion’s share of diversification benefits. Research shows that 15 stocks in a portfolio can give 87% of the benefits of full diversification. 

From our own analysis, it starts to pay to be your own fund manager when you’ve got £25k to invest or more – but even trading smaller sums can provide valuable experience as you build your portfolio. 

 

Give every stock a role  

Try and take a more portfolio-based approach and think about your overall strategy. That means worrying less about individual stocks (narrow framing) and seeing the bigger, long-term picture. 

Narrow framing is when you make decisions without thinking about their wider impact, like the effect of a stock purchase on your portfolio. This can lead to all sorts of potentially costly mistakes and could mean your portfolio becomes over-laden with stocks that all have similar characteristics, leaving you over-exposed. 

Instead, give every stock a role that serves the rest of the portfolio. That mix might include large-cap blue-chips, small-cap growth plays, fast-moving cyclicals and perhaps some dependable defensives. And follow a firm strategy and fight the instincts of selling winners and holding losers. 

 

Resist the urge to react  

Fund managers are well trained to keep a level head. After all, it isn’t their money they’re winning or losing. 

Being your own fund manager is a time-consuming activity and with your own money at stake, it’s easy to become oversensitive to market movements.  

However, checking your portfolio too much or becoming emotionally wrapped up in day-to-day market shifts means you’ll be likely to miss the opportunity to reap the rewards of holding on for an uptick in value. Don’t forget that each trade  costs you in fees, which can add up over time and eat away at returns.  

To anchor your thought processes and protect against that urge to react instantly to market movements, make sure you build and refine your own investment strategy, then apply it consistently across your portfolio.  

 

Time to go global 

Home bias can increase risk and cost money in terms of missed opportunities.  

It’s never been easier to go global with your investments, with electronic markets and masses of company information available at your fingertips, so if you’re managing your own portfolio there really is no excuse not to look further afield for the best investments.. 

Investing is always risky and prudence is required when dealing in unfamiliar markets – but exercising caution and demanding a margin of safety is always good practice regardless of where you are investing . 

One way of partially addressing this concern is to rule out developing markets (or use ETFs) and focus instead on the big, global indexes. 

You can also mitigate concerns around a lack of knowledge of overseas markets by sticking to systematic, factor-based investing methods. This approach analyses a share’s core fundamentals – like value, quality and momentum – over time to project future rises or dips in value, which can help to minimise the risks of behavioural biases and knowledge gaps. 

Equity Crowdfunding
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Research Says Equity Crowdfunding Makes Firms More Appealing to Future Investors

Successful equity crowdfunding campaigns make companies more appealing to future venture capital financing, reveals new research from Trinity Business School.

According to research from Dr Francesca Di Pietro, Assistant Professor in Business Strategy at Trinity Business School, firms that successfully obtain equity crowdfunding, in which people invest in a company in return for shares in that firm, are more likely to attract future venture capital financing.

The researchers suggest that this is because receiving equity crowdfunding signals an entrepreneurs’ quality, as well as the firms’ market appeal, making the company more appealing to venture capital investors.

In undertaking the study, the researchers used a dataset of 290 UK firms that had successfully fundraised using two prominent equity crowdfunding sites.

Di Pietro and her colleagues also analysed and compared how different shareholder structures impacted the likelihood of future venture capital investment, finding that firms who used the nominee shareholder structure (in which shares are held and managed by crowdfunding platforms in place of actual shareholders) were more likely to receive subsequent venture capital finance than companies using a direct shareholder structure.

The research adds to discussions around the entrepreneurship and signalling theory by recognising the role of crowdfunding as a mechanism for companies to signal their value using those who have already invested.

Dr Francesca Di Pietro, Assistant Professor in Business Strategy at Trinity Business School, says:

“For entrepreneurs: If you are thinking about launching an equity crowdfunding campaign, you may want to consider the “nominee shareholder structure”, i.e. one legal shareholder (i.e., the nominee/platform) that holds the shares on behalf of the crowd investors.”

This research was published in the Journal of Corporate Finance.
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UK Medicinal Cannabis Company Eco Equity Hits £18.3 Million Funding Target

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Company set on being a leading supplier in Europe as market opens up
UK-based medicinal cannabis company Eco Equity, owned by  private equity fund vehicle JPD Capital, has raised £18.3 million to enable it to become one of Europe’s leading suppliers of medicinal cannabis.
Eco Equity – founded in 2018 – is a London-based company with operational facilities in Zimbabwe, including a state-of-the-art greenhouse cultivation facility, having secured one of five licences to cultivate cannabis for medicinal purposes in Zimbabwe in late 2018. Cultivation was due to start as scheduled in the second quarter of 2020, however coronavirus has delayed that until the end of Q4 2020.
Eco Equity has been operating under the corporation structure of medicinal cannabis investment vehicle JPD Capital since its inception and recently closed round two of its fundraising, having reached the target of £18.3 million (US$24.3m).
Jon-Paul Doran, CEO of JPD Capital, said: “Research has shown that there are tremendous benefits from medicinal cannabis for people with illnesses such as epilepsy, arthritis and many more.”
He added: “We want to position ourselves as one of the leading pharmaceutical producers of medicinal cannabis. As a low-cost producer we believe we can bring the produce into the UK through the right channels at a price point which makes it accessible to people who desperately need it.”
Medicinal cannabis was legalised for prescription in the UK in 2018, joining the growing number of countries around the world have already legalised medical cannabis or are considering doing so.
Eco Equity is currently a private listing and was offering pre-IPO shares at £0.10p each at its inception in 2018, after a recent audit by Baker Tilly in 2020 Eco Equity was valued at US$210m (£163m) and shares valued at US$0.72 (£0.56p).
Eco Equity is now a fully funded entity within the JPD Capital portfolio and is now engaged in rapid scaling of its operation and infrastructure to achieve fully operational status. The company is expected to generate US$57.7 million (£43.3m) in gross revenues when fully operational, with EBT of nearly US$33.8 million (£25.4m).
Said Jon-Paul Doran: “We are thrilled to have been able to close our second round of funding for London based Eco Equity and see our first portfolio entity become fully funded.  Since launching over two years ago, our flagship operation with cultivation in Zimbabwe has grown from strength to strength and we are pleased to be able to reward our investors.”
Eco Equity’s Managing Director Tommy Doran in Zimbabwe said: “The coronavirus pandemic has caused issues for many organisations this year, and it is always particularly tough for new industries to avoid collapse. The medicinal cannabis industry has continued to show resilience in the face of adversity, and with the company set to begin cultivation at the beginning of 2021, we are looking forward to the year ahead, rather than looking back on what has been a difficult year across the globe.”
As part of its Q3 and Q4 2020 activities, which require the company to transition from fund raising activity into cultivation and supply for its wholesale customers. Eco Equity has negotiated significant off-take contracts, securing the sale of all produce and ensuring Eco Equity is cash flow positive in 2021, this will generate significant and scalable revenue as the company moves towards an IPO next year.
The third quarter of 2020 was also a period of strategic collaborations for both Eco Equity and JPD Capital. Eco Equity started a Research and Development collaboration with the Harare Institute of Technology (HIT) a Zimbabwe-based scientific institute dedicated to “technopreneurial” leadership. 
JPD Capital began its collaboration with the UK Conservative Drug Policy Reform Group (CDPRG) chaired by Crispin Blunt MP, who advocate evidence-based drug policy. The group exists to find and examine the evidence to support policymakers in reducing harm and securing the benefits of evidence-based drug policy.
JPD Capital has also announced its expansion into Europe, including the creation of medicinal cannabis company Íbero Botanica, a joint venture between Verdex Group and JPD Capital, with facilities in Almeria, Spain.  
Verdex Group is an EU licensed Spanish company for research, cultivation and production of cannabis for medicinal and therapeutic pharmaceutical medicine. Verdex Group owns and operates two greenhouse cultivation sites and over 100 hectares of outdoor sites across the Andalucía region in the south of Spain.
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ArticlesReal Estate

How to Create a Home Renovation Budget

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How to Create a Home Renovation Budget

Do you have plans to remodel your home? There are many steps involved when you take on a renovation. That said, you should always start with your budget. This way, you can make changes you love while you make smart financial decisions. That’s a must for any project.

Take a look at how to create a home renovation budget.

 

1. Identify Different Goals

Why have you decided to renovate your house? You may want to add new counters to your kitchen or gut your entire first-floor bathroom. In any case, it’s essential to narrow your focus so that you don’t become too haphazard with your choices.

Be sure to write down your goals. If you want to remodel your basement, you can state that you want to add different floors, install a bar and switch light fixtures. These distinctions will ensure you aren’t roped into any expensive additions.

 

2. Research Estimated Costs

Then, you can research how much your intended changes will cost. Take an afternoon to look into estimations for your renovations. A quick web search can help you find potential prices. Feel free to contact local contractors to see how much you’ll need to set aside for labor, too.

You can find alternatives to materials that may be too expensive, as well. If you think new windows aren’t possible, you can seek other effective methods to increase your room’s natural light. There’s usually an alternative for whatever change you want to make.

There are many DIY budget options you can consider costs to keep prices down. For instance, you can always refurbish cabinets and drawers on your own. This process will save you money — and you can learn a handy lesson.

 

3. Determine Resale Value

It’s also smart to consider your project’s return on investment (ROI). Will your renovation provide enough resale value to make sense financially? You may want to skip that massive shower unless it’s a must-have for your family. Otherwise, you’ll waste money on a feature homebuyers don’t like.

That doesn’t mean you can’t add particular features. It’s up to you whether your plans make sense for your budget. Try to look into these figures beforehand so that you can model your plans correctly.

 

4. Consider Potential Surprises

You don’t want to set aside too little money for your project. There may be unexpected surprises that occur while your contractors work. It’s smart to overestimate rather than underestimate. This way, you have enough cash to address those problems without hesitation.

Put at least 10% extra into your budget so that you have that cash. If you don’t spend any, you’ll be able to use that money for other purposes in your renovation or elsewhere. Try not to start work until your budget adequately covers those potential expenses.

 

Use These Tips to Build Your Home Remodel Budget

A budget is necessary for every project you complete on your home. Be sure that your budget has enough research put into it so that you avoid major costs. As a result, you can enjoy a new space in your home without any major financial hiccups.

ArticlesReal Estate

Homeless Heroes: 87% Of Public Sector Workers CAN’T Afford A Mortgage in the UK

Homeless Heroes: 87% Of Public Sector Workers CAN’T Afford A Mortgage in the UK

With our public sector workers going above and beyond the call of duty over the last six months, property and mortgage experts at OnlineMortgageAdvisor.co.uk wanted to find out if people working in public sector roles could afford a mortgage and where in the UK would be most feasible .

After looking at all average annual salaries for all public sector roles, along with property price averages across the UK, the results were astonishing.

 

London Mortgage Affordability

Across all eight chosen public sector professions (NHS GP Doctor, Firefighter, Police Officer, Social Worker, Secondary School Teacher, Primary School Teacher, NHS Nurse (Registered Nurse), and Military Soldier) none were able to afford a mortgage in London.

Even though the London weighting allowance was added to our front-line heroes, they were still unable to buy a London property.

However, the OnlineMortgageAdvisor team understood that mortgages are usually achieved with a second income. Finding the average London salary of £34,473, they used this to determine the potential for a joint mortgage and still it proved unattainable.

 

UK Mortgage Affordability

Based on their income alone an NHS GP was the only public sector profession that could afford a mortgage within the UK. With an average annual salary of £64,999, an NHS GP could afford to live in seven out of 11 regions in the U.K. such as the West Midlands, East Midlands, North West England, North East England, Wales, Scotland, and finally Yorkshire and The Humber.

Yet, the other seven key workers; Firefighters, Police Officers, Social Workers, Secondary School Teachers, Primary School Teachers, NHS Nurses (Registered Nurses), and Military Soldiers could not afford to live in any of the regions listed.

 

UK Mortgage Affordability with a Partner

The only way our front-line heroes could afford to have a mortgage is by living with a significant other. OnlineMortgageAdvisor took the average UK incomeearning of £29,600.

NHS GP Doctor

The take-home for a NHS GP and their partner would be an average of £94,599 making them the highest income earners for all eight selected public sector workers. Therefore a  NHS GP was able to afford mortgages across these nine regions: East of England, South West of England, West Midlands, East Midlands, North West of England, North East of England, Wales, Scotland, and Yorkshire and The Humber.

Firefighter

After extinguishing blazing fires and rescuing civilians from dangerous situations, our brave firefighters have a potential household earning of £61,308, leaving them able to buy within seven regions across the UK (West Midlands, East Midlands, North West of England, North East of England, Wales, Scotland, and Yorkshire and The Humber).

Police Officer

Keeping our streets safe police officers come in third place with a joint average potential income of £59,594, granting them properties in the West Midlands, East Midlands, North West of England, North East of England, Wales, Scotland, and Yorkshire and The Humber.

Social Worker

Social workers follow closely behind with an average household income of £59,437, permitting them properties in the West Midlands, East Midlands, North West of England, North East of England, Wales, Scotland, and Yorkshire and The Humber.

Secondary School Teacher

Secondary school teachers are the last public sector workers to afford seven regions in the UK, with a joint potential income of £59,244 on average, meaning they can afford properties in the West Midlands, East Midlands, North West of England, North East of England, Wales, Scotland, and Yorkshire and The Humber.

Primary School Teacher

Our early learning educators come in sixth place with a household earning of £56,244. They can subsequently afford a mortgage in the East Midlands, North West of England, North East of England, Wales, Scotland, and Yorkshire and The Humber.

NHS Nurse (Registered Nurse)

After braving the front-line over the past six months, our NHS nurses come second to last with an average household income of £54,706. The extra £4,706 allows NHS nurses to buy in one more region than our military soldiers (East Midlands, North West of England, North East of England, Wales, Scotland, and Yorkshire and The Humber).

Military Soldier

They may be protecting and keeping us safe, but our soldiers are unfortunately at the bottom of the mortgage affordability list with an average earning of £50,139 if applying with a partner, allowing soldiers to only afford properties in the North West of England, North East of England, Wales, Scotland, and Yorkshire and The Humber.

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Adding Value to Your Investment Property This Autumn

property

Adding Value to Your Investment Property This Autumn

Property investment can be a great way to provide a nest egg for you and your family or a method by which you can turn a quick profit with some relatively simple steps.

Property will always be bought and sold and whilst the market takes dips and dives, it generally puts itself right over time. If you can find the right property, the perfect blend of price and scope for improvement, you may want to make the investment.

The property market tends to be weighted with first-time buyers looking to get on the ladder and first-time buyers accounted for 51% of the United Kingdom’s buying market last year. Those buyers are usually looking for a home that needs little work; meaning investors with means to turn a low-cost property into the buyer-friendly finished article can make a handsome profit.

So which areas should you be focusing on if you are an investor? We have picked several key elements in which a little investment goes a long way.

 

Bathroom and Kitchen

Of course, the bathroom and kitchen are two elements you can make an investment in to increase the value of a property. Ideal Home Magazine suggests you can add as much as 5% on to the existing property price with a new bathroom, although that may be a smaller increase with a first-time buyer property. The important consideration you have to make is balancing design against cost – it is easy to let your creativity run wild when installing a new kitchen for example, but remember to remain functional, at the lower end of the price spectrum and not get too ambitious. At the end of the day, you need to find the right balance between a striking new kitchen and cost-effectiveness.

Heating

The kitchen and bathroom have a ‘wow’ factor, something that might impress a buyer as they enter the property. A far less visually appealing element to think about is the heating system, and in particular, the boiler. It is likely that a first-time buyer has stretched themselves in terms of deposit and will not want hidden costs or work that needs carrying out immediately, so a new boiler might add peace of mind, and a little more value to your investment.

The benefits are not just short-term stability for the buyer. In HomeServe’s guide to installing a new boiler, they point out that you can improve a home’s energy efficiency with a fresh appliance, even if the old one has not broken down. That is another key selling point, as bills will be lower for the potential buyer, another aspect you can use to move your property quickly.

 

Garden

If your investment property has a garden, consider giving it a bit of a makeover. When you sell a house, you sell a dream, especially to those first-time buyers. If the garden is overgrown and needing attention, it could cost you thousands of pounds, according to the Express, by giving the buyer the mindset that there is room for negotiation. For little cost, you can tidy up the outdoor space and make it attractive. When buyers look around homes, they picture themselves living there and a nice garden will conjure up images of balmy summer evenings with a barbeque on. That will not be the case if the grass is long and the furniture grotty and crumbling.

 

Install a New Front Door

Selling a house is all about first impressions, and so is retaining the price point you have set. If a potential buyer turns up at the kerb to find a shabby front door with peeling paint, it sets the wrong tone for the rest of the viewing.

By putting in a new front door, or even just refreshing the old one, you make the house look fresh and new from the outside, setting the scene for the rest of the viewing. A striking colour can also help lodge your property in the mind of the buyer, especially if they have seen several properties in one day. Also, if the area you invest in has some level of crime, installing a secure front door with a new locking system might give buyers some peace of mind.

house prices
ArticlesCash ManagementReal Estate

September Revealed as The Best Time to Buy A House

house prices

September Revealed as The Best Time to Buy A House

New research suggests the stamp duty payment holiday isn’t the only reason Brits can make a saving on a property this month.

Watch and sunglasses specialist, Tic Watches, has conducted research and worked with experts to reveal the best time of year to find a bargain for high value products including homes, cars and holidays. The experts have compared prices to the peak time of year shoppers are searching for and buying products most frequently, to highlight how much people could really save with the right timing.

Here are the best times of year to find a deal:

January – Watches and sunglasses
  • Peak search time: 22nd-28th December
  • Potential savings: 70%

The January sales are a great time to pick up bargains on fashion items such as watches and sunglasses. Danny Richmond, Managing Director of Tic Watches, said: “For watches, the cheapest times of year to buy are generally Black Friday and January. This is when we run our biggest sales with discounts of up to 70%.

“For sunglasses, January sees the biggest discounts, of up to 40%. This is because it’s the period of lowest demand for summer products, so it’s a great time to get a bargain!”

February – A wedding
  • Peak search time: 28th July-3rd August
  • Potential savings: 50%

February sits in the middle of the wedding low season, which runs from November to April. This is generally seen as an undesirable time to get married, so as a result there are huge discounts available. In some cases, you can have a Saturday wedding in winter for half the price of the same in high season.

March – New cars
  • Peak search time: 10th-16th March
  • Potential savings: 25%

For new cars, the best time to buy is usually March and September because of bi-annual targets, although deals are to be had at the end of each quarter, depending on individual targets and stock availability.

April – Mattresses
  • Peak search time: 29th September-5th October
  • Potential savings: 53%

Dale Gillespie, Marketing Director for bed and mattress retailer, Bed SOS, said: “Retailers  tend to release their new lineups in April, so early spring is the best time to find the biggest discounts. Buying in early April, you’ll find some great value deals as retailers clear old stock to make way for the new ranges.”

May – Winter shoes
  • Peak search time: 24th-30th November
  • Potential savings: 70%

Buying shoes out of season will allow you to find the best value deals. May is a great time for this as there will be discounts on winter footwear such as boots, wellies and walking shoes, allowing you to buy good quality products for a fraction of the price. Similarly, the best deals for summer footwear can be found in autumn and winter.

June – A gym membership
  • Peak search time: 29th December-4th January
  • Potential savings: 20%

The start of summer tends to offer some of the best deals on gym membership, with January being another good month for discounts. 

There are often plenty of deals available through voucher websites such as Hot UK Deals, but if you’re signing up in person, a handy tip is to go at the end of the month. Sales staff likely have targets to hit and could be open to negotiating if they want to get their bonus.

July – An engagement ring
  • Peak search time: 29th December-4th January
  • Potential savings: 50%

July to August is the peak of the wedding season, and with all the focus on weddings, sometimes you can find big discounts on engagement rings. Also, as it is not close to any big holidays, jewellers use this time to lure in consumers with discounts.

August – Holiday clothes
  • Peak search time: 30th June-6th July
  • Potential savings: 75%

With summer drawing to a close, retailers look to clear as much seasonal clothing stock as they can. 

This is a great time to snap up bargains on items such as swimwear and shorts, which can see discounts of up to 75% for bikinis and 43% for shorts, although it’s worth saying that stocks go quickly, and there will be less choice than earlier in the summer.

September – A house
  • Peak search time: 2nd-8th February
  • Potential savings: Subject to negotiation 

Ross Counsell, Director at property firm, Good Move, said: “The best time to buy is August or September. The majority of buyers start searching at the beginning of the year, waiting until the end of summer, when there are fewer looking, you’ll have less competition.

“You’re also more likely to get a better deal, as with fewer offers on the table, sellers may well be more likely to accept a lower price.” 

October – Home appliances
  • Peak search time: 15th-21st December
  • Potential savings: 44%

Many manufacturers unveil new models in October, so older products will often be discounted. For products such as fridges, buyers can save as much as 44% at this time. 

November – Technology
  • Peak search time: 24th-30th November
  • Potential savings: 50%

Claire Roach at Money Saving Central, said: “Without a doubt, November is the best month to get deals, particularly on tech. A lot of people make the mistake of waiting for Black Friday – when the better deals are likely to be earlier on in November because retailers try to compete with Black Friday giant, Amazon.

“eBay, in particular, was 2019’s best place for tech deals, and the people who waited until further on in the month were left disappointed. Prices weren’t any better and stock was limited on highly sought after items such as the Nintendo Switch.”

December – Used cars
  • Peak search time: 17th-23rd November
  • Potential savings: Subject to negotiation 

Tim Barnes-Clay, Motoring Expert for Euro Car Parts, said: “Nobody thinks about buying a car at this time of year, as most people will feel the pinch over the festive season. With some forward-planning though, December can be a great time to get a good deal on a used car. 

“This is purely because dealers will be more inclined to get sales under their belts and therefore may be more willing to offer you a deal or negotiate.” 

Danny Richmond, Managing Director of Tic Watches, said: “It’s clear from the research that bargains can be found all year round, with the best deals coming at periods of low demand.

“It’s always best to plan your purchases ahead of time to maximise your savings. Don’t wait until winter to buy your winter coat and consider buying a new phone at the start of November, rather than waiting until Black Friday. Doing so could mean huge savings!”

For more information on when the best savings can be found, visit: https://www.ticwatches.co.uk/blog/2020/03/when-youll-get-the-biggest-savings/

Retirement
ArticlesCash ManagementPensions

Forward Planning: 7 Easy Tips for Managing Your Retirement Savings

Retirement

Forward Planning: 7 Easy Tips for Managing Your Retirement Savings

We’ve all dreamed about a blissful retirement, spending more time with the people we love, in places we love and doing things we love. But is it just a pipe dream, or are you financially prepared for the life you wish to lead?

The good news is, it’s never too early to start preparing for retirement. Whilst most of us spend our twenties paying off student debt, as we approach our thirties, our financial priorities change somewhat as we’ve technically been there, done that, got the house, mortgage and family. It’s a time when we experience career progression, leading to promotions, bigger salaries and more funds that can be stashed away for later years.

To help you begin forward planning for the future, Alex MacEwen, expert at The Wealth Consultant has come up with 7 easy tips to get you on your way to achieving the retirement you imagine.

 

Before we begin, you might be thinking just how much stashing away should we do? According to research commissioned by finder.com:

– 55% of UK adults estimate that they will need £100,000 to live comfortably in retirement.

– Only 28% of people believe they are on target to meet this.

– The recommended amount for a comfortable retirement is between £260,000 – £445,000.

 

Shocked? Maybe it’s time to start planning the life you deserve.

 

1. Get independent financial advice

The future is an unknown – How should I save for retirement? Am I saving enough? How much will I need to live on? By enlisting the help of a professional, independent advisor, you will find the answers to all these vital questions. Your independent financial advisor will help you plan and make decisions based on your lifetime goals. They will advise on the various products that most suit your needs instead of pushing a product to boost their sales.

 

2. Create a realistic spending plan

Determine a budget by assessing your income, salary, interest, dividends, any rental income or child support. Define your outgoings, housing bills, utilities, transport, food, perhaps you are still paying off student loans. Decide on the things you really could sacrifice in the name of saving – do you need so many European city breaks? Are you still paying membership fees for facilities you never use because you keep forgetting to cancel the membership? Scrutinise your balance sheet and commit to saving as much as you can. Your future self will thank you, trust me.

 

3. Monitor old and new workplace pensions

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of landing a new job and just as easy to lose track of your old workplace pension! But it is important to keep track to know the value of your pension pot as this will help you decide whether it’s worth merging the old pension with the new one, and will give you an idea of how much you have saved for the future. It’s important to check the pension management fees as your previous employer will stop making contributions to old funds once you change jobs, the fees keep rolling, depleting your pension pot in the process. If you have a defined contribution pension, it is always worth checking where your pension funds have been invested, both from a risk level perspective and to ensure it aligns with your values.

 

4. Review investment performance

Keep track of your investments to ensure your portfolio is flourishing. If something isn’t working, figure out why. Perhaps it’s just a case of sitting tight and keeping your cool, or maybe time to diversify into a different sector or explore international opportunities to minimise losses. Remember, even if you have a few disappointing investments in your portfolio, a portfolio that is steadily increasing in value is always a sign that conditions are good.

 

5. Minimise retirement tax

After spending a lifetime working and sensibly putting money away for retirement, it’s important to ensure you keep as much as that money as possible. How? By ensuring your savings are as tax efficient as possible. This will mean working with an experienced financial advisor to ensure you are making use of all the tax allowances and pension tax relief.

 

6. Estate planning

Your inheritance and estate plan should set out your values and your intentions for how you wish your estate to be divided up and managed when the time comes. By focusing on your estate planning now, you can manage your tax obligations and safeguard the financial stability of those you hold dear. Inheritance matters can be challenging emotionally and financially, so it’s important to get professional advice and protect your wealth for future generations.

 

7. Save as much as you can

Save as much as you can, while you can. Achieving your dream retirement means making small short-term sacrifices in favour of saving for the future life you want. Remember, topping up your pension now means you will benefit from tax relief up to the annual limit of £40,000.

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FundsPensionsPrivate BankingWealth Management

UK Gender Income Gap for Single Pensioners Widens by Almost 20% in Four Years

pension

UK Gender Income Gap for Single Pensioners Widens by Almost 20% in Four Years

Men over the age of 75 receive £114 a week more from their pension income than women of the same age, according to a new report.

Single male pensioners receive up to 26 per cent more income than female pensioners, according to official data compiled by digital wealth advisory firm, Fintuity. The findings, analysed using data compiled by the Office for National Statistics, reveals that the gender pension gap between single men and women was only eight per cent in financial year (FY) 14/15, noting a rise of 18 per cent in four years.

In 2018/19, the average incomes for males, who were under 75 and 75 or over, were £441 and £429 per week, respectively during this period. At the same time, these figures were significantly lower for the same age groups of women: their average income per week reached £333 for those under 75, and £315 for 75 or over.

Furthermore, according to analysis from Fintuity, a woman in her 20s would need to save approximately £1,300 extra per year in order to close the gender pensions gap. However, this average amount increases depending on age. For example, the average 30 year old woman would require an additional £2,000, a 40 year old woman would require an additional £2,900 and a 50 year old woman would need to acquire a further £5,300 in order to close the gender pensions gap.

Gross income of single pensioners consists of different sources, including; benefit income, occupational pension income, personal pension income, investment income and earning income. According to the most recent pensions data, in FY 18/19 occupational pensions income for men was on average 35 per cent higher than women, compared to 23 per cent four years prior.

The personal pension income gap was 63 per cent in FY 18/19, compared to 46 per cent in FY 14/15, and, the investment and earnings income gap between male and female pensioners increased from five and eight per cent in FY 2014/15, to a massive 61 and 74 per cent respectively. Suggesting that women are not as capable of making savings and investments due to low income which results in lower level of pensions.

Ed Downpatrick, Strategy Director, Fintuity comments:

“Despite government initiatives to improve the pensions income for women, it’s clear that no amount of support programmes can make up for the occupational gender disparity in the UK. This problem needs to be tackled head-on, with correct support initiatives put in place to enable women to get a much fairer deal.

“With Fintuity, women and men of all ages can receive professional, yet affordable, financial advice in order to see what options are available to them so that they can manage their pension income. All of this can be conducted online, via our digital platform, making professional financial help more accessible than ever.”

For more information on how to effectively save, spend wisely, understand alternative income routes, or improve monthly pension payments, please visit: https://fintuity.com/ 

How COVID-19 is Impacting the Rental Market
MarketsReal Estate

How COVID-19 is Impacting the Rental Market

How COVID-19 is Impacting the Rental Market

TurboTenant, an
all-in-one, free property management tool, releases its latest industry report
– “How COVID-19 is Impacting the Rental Market.” This report
highlights key rental market indicators from March 2020 in cities throughout
the U.S. who have and are currently following social distancing and
stay-at-home orders.

You can read the report and how COVID-19 is Impacting the
Rental Market here.

TurboTenant’s new trend report analyzed 18 cities and four
key rental market indicators: total active listings, change in number of active
listings, total renter leads and the average number of renter leads per
property. While the full effects of the coronavirus on the housing market are
still unknown, delisting and new home listings steeply declined in March.
TurboTenant’s report found while some markets reflected those trends, others
had strong markets.

TurboTenant Highlights that New York, Denver and Houston all
experienced large net losses for new listings with New York holding the biggest
decrease at -65.17% while San Diego, Atlanta and Cleveland all experienced net
gains in listings. Lead growth in 14 of our cities, including Jersey City and
Denver, fluctuated throughout the month, but ended lower than they started. In
cities such as Boston, Houston and Milwaukee, leads were higher at the start of
April than at the beginning of March.

The reasoning for the report to be created is to give “insights
on how the rental market is starting to react to the COVID-19 pandemic,”
said Sarnen Steinbarth, TurboTenant Founder and Chief Executive Officer.
“With the peak rental season approaching, we want landlords to be prepared
and informed about the trends nationwide and in their own cities.”

“It is imperative to monitor rental trends during the
coronavirus pandemic,” Steinbarth said. “This report along with our
past and future trend reports, will help educate not only landlords, but also
property investors, businesses and the public.”

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ArticlesFundsStock Markets

How Clued Up Are You On The FTSE 100?

hsbc

How Clued Up Are You On The FTSE 100?

Brits incorrectly believe household favourites Tesco and Sainsburys are in the top 10 biggest companies of the FTSE 100, according to a new poll by IG Markets.

The trader polled 2,000 adults, alongside the launch of its Decade of Trade tool, to discover how clued up the general population are on the FTSE 100. The results show that as a nation we are fairly savvy when it comes to our knowledge of the stock market and over two-thirds (77%) are knowledgeable on the definition of shares.

Online trading platform, IG Markets, created the Decade of Trade tool to help Brits gain an understanding of the FTSE 100 and to allow traders to view not only how companies in the markets are performing now, but how they have performed over the last ten years. The tool covers twelve world markets including the FTSE 100, DAX40, ASX200 and HANG SENG.

When asked to name which companies are in the top ten of the FTSE 100 from a list, Brits identified eight out of ten businesses correctly. The mistakes came from thinking the supermarkets had a bigger presence than they do, with Brits believing Tesco (23rd in the FTSE 100) and Sainsburys (100th in the FTSE 100) to be in the top 10 market share.

 

Perceived top 10 of FTSE 100

Actual top 10 of FTSE 100

BP (+3)

HSBC

HSBC (-1)

Royal Dutch Shell A

GlaxoSmithKline (+4)

BP

Unilever (+6)

Royal Dutch Shell B

Tesco (+18)

AstraZeneca

British American Tobacco (+2)

Diageo

Royal Dutch Shell A (-4)

GlaxoSmithKline

Royal Dutch Shell B (-4)

British American Tobacco

Sainsbury (+91)

Rio Tinto

AstraZeneca (-5)

Unilever

 

Brits failed to identify beverage company, Diageo, whose brands include Smirnoff, Baileys and Guinness and mining corporation, Rio Tinto, as top 10 FTSE 100 companies.

Brits were also tested on their knowledge of the FTSE’s sector market share. The results showed there is a perception that Oil and Gas, Chemicals and Banks and Persona are the three largest sectors of the FTSE 100 when it is actually Oil and Gas, Banks and Persona and Household Goods.

Respondents were also asked what they perceive to have the biggest impact on the FTSE 100, and just over a quarter (27%) thought the Brexit referendum would have the biggest impact on the stock market.

 

Top five things Brits think have impacted the FTSE 100

  1. Interest rates (43%)
  2. Economic releases about earnings reports (35%)
  3. The Bank of England quarterly inflation report (27%)
  4. Brexit referendum (27%)
  5. Eurozone politics (26%)

 

Almost four in ten (39%) correctly thought all of the above factors have an impact on the FTSE 100.

To view the Decade of Trade tool, click here: https://www.ig.com/uk/special-reports/decade-of-trade

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ArticlesPensions

43 Or Younger? Here’s How To Recoup Your Years Of Lost Pension Income By Investing Today

pension

43 Or Younger? Here’s How To Recoup Your Years Of Lost Pension Income By Investing Today

In October this year, the pension age is due to increase from 65 to 66 years old, with a further increase to 67 by 2028 and plans to increase this even further by 2046 to 68 years old.

Leading Peer to Peer investment platform, Sourced Capital, has looked at the lost pension income for those facing the additional three years at work, the current median age of those in line to work until they’re 68, how long they still have left in the workplace, and just what they would need to invest today via private pension funds vs peer to peer platforms, in order to recoup their lost pension income between now and the time they retire.

Not only are we set to work for longer, but we’re also in line for a pension pay cut to the tune of £8,767.20 for the first year for those working to 66, climbing to £20,588.71 for two additional years for those working until the age of 67, and an eye-watering £47,582.06 over three years for those working until the age of 68 when also accounting for the minimum pension increase of 2.5% per year*.

That means anyone born after 6th April 1978, at a current median age of 42.5 years old, faces being nearly £50k out of pocket from lost state pension income as a result of the Government moving the pension age goal posts.  

However, there are moves you can make now to bridge this gap and increase your lost pension pot through investing wisely.

A Private Pension Fund

Over the last decade, private pension funds have averaged a return of 5.9% per annum. 

Therefore investing £1,000 today based on this average while considering compound interest and a yearly compound interval, would return just £4,314 over a 25.5 year term. Nowhere near enough to bridge the pension gap.  

Investing into the same scheme with £10,000 would return a more favourable return of £43,137, but it would take an investment of £14,370 today in order to make both your money back and the additional pension loss of £47,582 by the time you hit 68 (£61,987). 

For those with deeper pockets, investing £50k would return a total of £215,684 over the same period, while £100k would bring a return of £431,367.  

Peer 2 Peer Platforms 

But, a more interesting investment option is a Peer to Peer platform such as Sourced Capital. While your capital is at risk, with annual returns of as much as 10%, you could bridge the pension pay gap with a much smaller initial investment today.

In fact, with a return of 10% per a year, it would take an investment of just £4,595 today to see a return of £52,215 over a 25.5 year period, enough to recoup your initial investment along with an additional £47,620 to cover your three years of lost pension income.

Founder and Managing Director of Sourced Capital, Stephen Moss, commented:

“The requirement to work for longer is one that won’t sit well for those that have paid into pension schemes for many of their working years, only to see as many as three years worth of pension payments vanish to the tune of almost fifty thousand pounds.

But there’s a silver lining and for those that stand to lose the most, there are other investment options available that could see them recoup this lost pension pot by investing less than five thousand pounds now with an eye on the future.

In fact, the right investment now could not only recover these lost in pension payments but could do so by the age of 65, allowing you to retire ‘early’ without any financial penalty.

As with all investments, there is an element of risk. However, opting for the right platform can help reduce this dramatically. For example, all of our investors get a first charge against the property invested in, which gives a greater level of protection and lowers risk but is something that not all platforms do.  

We always recommend that investors only opt for FCA approved companies which again reduces risk, while we also only loan at a maximum loan to value of 70%. We also offer all investors the chance to view a project and to learn directly from us which again, is something that other platforms don’t offer, but for us, it provides greater transparency and trust while helping improve knowledge on a particular investment.” 

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ArticlesFunds

Aligning Marketing and Sales

marketing

Aligning Marketing and Sales

Geoff Webb, VP of Strategy at PROS.

It might surprise you to hear that in many financial services organisations, the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) often has the biggest IT budget. The reason is relatively straight-forward: in recent years there has been an immense investment in MarTech, and it’s made the discipline of marketing very tech-heavy. So much so in fact, that marketing departments now spend more time staring at dashboards, spreadsheets, and AI-fueled analytics than almost any other part of the business.

In fact, this trend is accelerating. Gartner research into CMO budget spend in 2018 revealed that as many as 57 percent of CEOs are prepared to invest more in marketing.

Yet, while this huge focus on technology has armed CMOs with an incredible level of insight (including where your mouse goes on their site, what kinds of content you read online, and so on), it has also resulted in a rather one-sided technology investment, especially for B2B financial services firms who are eager to demonstrate to their customers that they both understand and care about them as individuals.  

We think it’s time for perception surrounding ownership of the technology budget to change. While marketing departments may be happily sailing on an ocean of usable data, their colleagues in the sales department may be struggling to respond to an explosive change in buyer behavior and expectations.

The reality is that today’s CRO’s (Chief Revenue Officers) are facing extraordinary pressure to transform their departments – especially in the face of a growing shift towards digital commerce models. Once upon a time, a sales executive could rely on experience, insight, and interpersonal skills to close a deal and keep the customer buying – but today, that’s a much more difficult task.


Evolving with your sales team

An increasing number of buyers are now moving away from the traditional model of calling up their sales rep and asking for a quote. Instead, they’re seeking the convenience of being able to buy online, without needing to pick up the phone, send an email, or – heaven forbid – meet in person. Simply put, for the day-to-day business of buying, purchasers want the speed and convenience of e-commerce. Yet studies also show that buyers want to know there will be a well-informed sales executive available at the end of the phone, should they need one.

Managing this shift from meeting in person to being mostly offline/sometimes in person isn’t easy, and requires sales professionals to be fully informed about their customers, have visibility into transactions as they’re occurring (should the customer need help) and be ready to provide insight and guidance.

The solution to supporting this change for the sales team lies – just as it did for the marketing team – in the deployment of technology. In the same way that MarTech has transformed marketing teams, sales departments need to adopt highly specialised technology that can help them to be more personalised, faster, more efficient, and ultimately capitalise on the increased number of leads.

When we look at where much of the investment in sales automation technology is currently, we see it at the operational level. As is stands, sales professionals can spend as little as 36 percent of their time actually selling, meaning they are dwindling away precious time and productivity on administrative tasks. However, there is a deeper need to be met for sales leadership, a more fundamental question as we shift towards more complex, multi-channel digital selling – how do I make my sales people not only more productive, but more informed?


Getting personal

We’re now seeing the emergence of several next-generation sales technologies that are able to go beyond operational efficiency and provide the same degree of analytic-based insight to CROs that marketing technology provides to CMOs.

Top of the list are technologies that can enable more intelligent quoting for complex products (where configuration can be highly time-consuming and prone to expensive errors), and some good examples of this are products like heavy equipment or high-tech medical devices.

Arming sales executives with the tools they need in order to support these kinds of purchases, replete with information not only about the product, but about the specific needs of that customer, can slash the time needed to respond correctly to a request. Studies show that delivering highly personalised responses to buyers not only increases win rates, but also increases the value of the sale. Customers are much more likely to pay additional for something if they know that the product being offered is personalised to them and designed with their specific needs in mind. This includes the product itself, how it’s packaged, how it’s delivered and how it’s priced.

Driving the bottom line together

Yet, all these changes are indicative of a more profound change that looms on the horizon for financial services firms.

Aligning marketing and sales has long been a challenge that has vexed the c-suite. At their heart, misalignments often arise from a lack of common understanding regarding the nature of their customers and the market needs. And these misalignments are expensive and disruptive, wasting time, effort, and opening cracks in customer satisfaction that agile competitors can exploit to steal market share.

But what if sales and marketing had a common, clear, and consistent understanding of their customers and their needs? What if, instead of arguing about messaging and focus, sales and marketing teams were completely aligned?

One of the keys to achieving this will be sharing the same big data lake and analytic/AI engine to give rise to a unified and common sense of the who, where, what, and how of customer engagement. This changes everything – because now the entire business becomes a single, focused unified force to deliver precisely what the customer needs, every day, with every interaction.

It might seem ironic that technologies such as big data, cloud platforms and AI will serve to transform the most ‘human’ aspects of financial services sales and marketing, yet this is exactly what’s starting to happen. What’s more, freed of disruptive disagreements about what customers want, businesses can finally start to align all their energy into delivering a customer experience that sets them apart.

So, while the CMO might be getting the lion’s share of the tech budget today, we expect to see more sharing with other teams to happen in future. Of course, adopting this more hybrid sales model might bring cultural, organisational, and even revenue implications with it, but the rewards on offer couldn’t be clearer.

offshore
BankingCash ManagementOffshore

5 Reasons Why You Need To Bank Offshore

offshore

5 Reasons Why You Need To Bank Offshore

Offshore banking is often associated with negative connotations in regard to tax evasion and criminal activity, but this couldn’t be further than the truth. Despite what you may hear, offshore banking is completely legal. Put simply, they’re bank accounts held in a country other than the one you permanently reside in.

So why do you need one? James Turner, Director at York-based Turner Little, takes us through the benefits of banking offshore.

They’re not just for the ultra-wealthy

A common misconception is that offshore banks are just for ultra-high net worth individuals, who want to hide their money. Anyone can benefit from using an offshore bank account, depending on what their needs are. At Turner Little, we work with our clients to specifically identify their needs, and tailor our solutions based on our extensive experience and understanding of the banking industry.

They’re safe

Offshore banks are often considered to be politically and economically stable, with any associated risk considerably reduced. Using an offshore bank, based in a highly regulated, transparent jurisdiction that offers individuals an element of protection with a deposit compensation scheme, enables you to feel safe in the understanding that your wealth will be protected from the risks of capital accessibility restrictions, control and potential currency devaluation.

 
They provide flexibility and control

Banking offshore is completely flexible, often offering the same high level of service you would expect with traditional, onshore banking. It has always been a successful way of ensuring you maintain control over your long-term finances, which ultimately means you have greater freedom without depending on any one country. This convenience and flexibility is especially relevant for those who travel regularly, or have international assets.

You’ll always have easy access

Offshore banks have evolved over the last decade, and offer 24/7 online banking. This means that no matter where you are, you’ll always have easy access to your funds. Depending on which bank you choose, you’ll also have access to accounts in multiple currencies, allowing you to manage accounts and automate payments whenever you need.

You’ll be able to build on your investment portfolio

Many countries offer tax incentives for foreign investments and provide you with a wide choice of both funds and investments. There is no shortage of opportunities that are fiscally sound, designed to promote a healthy investment environment and, most importantly, legal.

offshore banking
BankingOffshoreWealth Management

Offshore Banking: Breaking The Taboo

offshore banking

Offshore Banking: Breaking The Taboo

It’s not what you think. Offshore banking is often slandered, and most commonly associated with tax evasion. But this begs to question – what do people really know about offshore banking? James Turner, Director at York-based Turner Little tells us everything we need to know about offshore banking.

“Offshore banking, simply put, is banking done in a country other than the one you live in. That’s it. It doesn’t mean tax evasion, it doesn’t mean hiding money, it doesn’t mean fraud, it’s perfectly legal – and convenient.

“There are both financial and legal advantages to banking offshore. At Turner Little, we recommend clients consider the why, before they consider the where. Banks in certain countries tend to be less stable, whilst other offshore jurisdictions are incredibly stable and provide easy account set-up and access online.

“One clear benefit is having access to a multi-currency account. If you have international financial obligations, the ability to transfer money between currencies is a relatively fast and painless experience, with some offshore banks able to provide competitive rates in comparison to regular banking services.

“Depending on the bank you choose, offshore banks can act as a private banking facility, where lending and credit facilities can be more flexible and tailored specifically to your needs. A good offshore bank will also be able to provide you with a wide array of funds and investments that are appropriate to your risk profile and the outcomes you want to achieve.

“Offshore banking is also one way you can ensure your financial information is kept private. It’s also a way in which you can protect your assets against financial instability. Offshore banking works if you use it correctly, and if all the documentation is correct – this is where we come in. At Turner Little, we familiarise ourselves with the regulations necessary for compliance in a multitude of offshore jurisdictions – so you don’t have to. When the rules are followed, offshore banking is legal and gives you the means to better protect your assets, providing you with both financial strength and freedom.” 

divorce
Family OfficesHigh Net-worth IndividualsReal Estate

Divorce: Jurisdiction and Financial Relief Applications

divorce

Divorce: Jurisdiction and Financial Relief Applications

By Stephanie Kyriacou, associate in the family team at law firm, Shakespeare Martineau.

Many high-net-worth individuals (HNWI) lead truly international lifestyles, travelling the world, owning multiple residences and holding assets all across the globe. However, whilst this internationally-mobile way of living certainly has its benefits, for couples navigating the emotional process of divorce, dealing with multiple legal jurisdictions can often cause issues, particularly if one side of the divorcing party has been unfairly treated by the foreign courts.

Luckily, if an individual believes that they have suffered financial hardship as a result of a financial order in a foreign jurisdiction, there may be an avenue which they can pursue to balance the scales, provided by the English and Welsh courts. The UK’s legal system has long been considered one of the most fair and agreeable around the world in terms of settling financial matters upon divorce, and there is a reason why London itself is known as the ‘divorce capital of the world’.

Sadly, the foreign courts are often not as generous as their English and Welsh counterparts and the disparity between the sums awarded can often result in extreme financial hardship for spouses who get the raw end of the deal.

This access to financial relief in the UK revolves around Part III of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984 (MFPA 1984). This act allows spouses who have been divorced overseas, and who have a proven connection to the UK, to access financial remedy in the UK, if they have been treated unfairly by foreign courts and have exhausted all avenues to correct that unfairness in that overseas court.

However, whilst this piece of legislation can offer a lifeline to those individuals who have not received adequate financial provision in an overseas jurisdiction, there are a number of criteria which need to be met before an application can be made under Part III of the MFPA 1984. The application itself is a two-stage process and the applicant must first apply for permission (leave) to make the application. The factors the court will examine when determining whether to allow an application to proceed to the second stage can be found in sections 15-16 MFPA 1984. If the applicant is successful at the first stage, they will proceed onto the second stage, whereby they will go on to make the substantial application for financial remedy.

When determining whether to make an order, the court will base its decision on the connection that both parties to the marriage have with England and Wales, and with the foreign court, as well as any financial benefit which the applicant or a child of the family has or will receive as a consequence of the foreign divorce. Other factors which will be considered include any rights that the applicant has, or has had, to apply for financial relief from the other party under the foreign court – including reasons why they may not have done – as well as the availability of any property in England and Wales and the extent to which an English order will be enforceable, along with the elapsed time since the foreign divorce.

Whilst putting the wheels in motion as soon as possible after the foreign divorce has been granted is preferable, the case of Z v Z [2016] EWHC 911 is authority that even with a five-year delay, a court will still consider an application if the other criteria are met.

Whilst the requirements for making at Part III application may seem quite complex, at face value they centre on being able to evidence a strong link to the UK, either through residency or assets. The case of Agbaje v Agbaje [2010] UKSC 13 is the leading authority in this area and a provides a good illustration of how a Part III application for financial relief can be made, and what the courts will be considering when choosing whether to grant an application. In this case, the husband and wife were Nigerian and had been married for 38 years, with assets totaling circa £700,000, much of which were tied up in two London properties. All five of their children were born in London and the couple had spent large chunks of their life in England. Despite the wife living in London, the husband applied for a divorce in Nigeria and his wife was awarded £86,000 worth of property assets in Lagos, and £21,000 as lump sum maintenance payment. Not happy with this financial award, the wife issued proceedings under Part III of the MFPA 1984 and was awarded 39 percent of the couple’s total assets, allowing her to carry on her life in London.

This is a relatively common situation which is experienced by a large number of the spouses of HNWIs, but should give hope that in the event of hardship or mistreatment in divorce proceedings handled by a foreign court, there is a safety blanket offered by the MFPA 1984. Whilst many high-net-worth individuals will have factored pre-nuptial agreements into their marriages, which include clauses dictating where they would like their divorce heard in the event of a relationship breakdown, some will not, and it is those who the English and Welsh legal system supports through this channel.

telecoms
Cash ManagementFundsMarketsTax

UK Telecoms Industry Boasts Fastest Growing R&D Spend Of Any Sector

telecoms

UK Telecoms Industry Boasts Fastest Growing R&D Spend Of Any Sector

The telecoms industry is the UK’s fastest growing sector when it comes to spending on R&D, the latest ONS data has revealed.
Telecoms businesses increased their spending on research and development by £192m to £947m, according to the latest statistics for 2018 which were released recently.

This was a rise of 25.4%, taking it to a four-year high. However, the sector is still some way off its all-time high of £1.5bn set in 2007, analysis by R&D tax relief specialist Catax shows.

Total R&D spending by telecoms firms totalled £755m in 2017 and £797m in 2016.

The amount that UK businesses across all sectors have invested in R&D continues to grow, rising £1.4bn to £25bn in 2018 — up 5.8%. Manufacturing was associated with £16.3bn of R&D spending, up 4.7%, but pharmaceuticals remained the biggest product group with £4.5bn of R&D spending, up 3.3%.

The number of staff employed by UK businesses also continued to grow, rising 7.3% annually to exceed 250,000 full-time equivalents for the first time.

Mark Tighe, chief executive of R&D tax relief specialists Catax, said: “The telecoms industry is extremely important to the UK strategically and it is reassuring to see such growth in investment.

“There is still some way to go if this investment is to recover to levels seen before the financial crash, however, and it is vital this happens if Britain is to continue to be a key technological player on the world stage.

“More broadly, this is the second full year that Brexit Britain has shrugged off the political poison after the EU referendum and posted great gains in terms of R&D investment, running head and shoulders above the long-term average.

“For the first time in history a quarter of a million people nationwide are engaged full time in keeping the UK at the cutting edge. This is going to make a huge difference to Britain’s prospects outside the EU.

“The rate at which UK businesses are adding R&D staff to the workforce remains impressive, virtually matching the previous year with a rise of 7.3%.”

ecommerce
FundsWealth Management

Five Ways To Compete With Bigger ECommerce Stores

ecommerce

Five Ways To Compete With Bigger ECommerce Stores

 

The eCommerce industry is fiercely competitive which can make it difficult to succeed. It is hard to compete with the bigger brands in your industry because they will have the reputation and visibility online to attract new customers, but there are a few key strategies that you can use which will help you to compete at a higher level and both attract and retain customers.

Once you are able to do this, your reputation should skyrocket which only makes it easier to get new customers and become one of the key players in your field.

Here are a few ways that you can compete with the bigger ecommerce stores:

1. Digital Marketing

The first and most important step to take is to increase your marketing efforts. As it is so competitive, this needs to be an area of investment so that you can benefit from greater results. Using SEO and PPC can deliver both long-term and short-term results so that you can immediately increase your visibility and garner more visitors to your store.

2. Improve Customer Service

Even in an online industry, consumers need to feel important and valued but even this is an area that the bigger brands can struggle with. Make sure that you are looking after your customers, responding to queries and complaints swiftly and thanking them for their custom. Additionally, it should be easy for them to contact you whether this is with live chat, on social media, via email or phone.

3. Analyse The Competition

A smart business owner will always keep a close eye on their competitors and learn from them. Identify the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors and find ways to use this information to your advantage to compete at a higher level. You can use reverse image search on your own products to find other stores selling the same item. This will help you to discover who your competitors are and enable you to carry out research.

4. Write Unique Product Descriptions

One area where larger ecommerce stores struggle is with product descriptions, as they often have so many products that they end up using the default description from the manufacturer. Creating unique, detailed descriptions can be effective for converting customers and increasing your visibility online. In addition to unique product descriptions, you could also use augmented reality apps, customer reviews and product videos to give visitors a much better sense of the product.

5. Adjust Pricing

Most consumers will compare products at a few different places before settling on an eCommerce store. Adjusting your pricing could help you to lure customers away from the competition and to your business, and a slight reduction should balance out with the increase in sales. Additionally, you also need to make sure that shipping is affordable as this is the primary reason for abandoned carts.

Hopefully, these tips will help your ecommerce store to start competing at a higher level and attract customers away from the bigger stores. It is fiercely competitive online but if you are intelligent and strategise, then it is possible to find success and challenge the bigger brands.

Wealth and Finance
Cash ManagementPensionsPrivate BankingReal EstateWealth Management

The Mosaic of Modern Wealth: Wealth Advisers Must Keep Pace with Globally Mobile Clients

Wealth and Finance

The Mosaic of Modern Wealth: Wealth Advisers Must Keep Pace with Globally Mobile Clients

 

By Axel Hörger, CEO Europe at Lombard International Assurance

The world’s wealthiest people are on the move. According to this year’s Knight Frank Wealth Report, 26% of ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWIs) are planning on emigrating in the next year. An astounding 36% already hold a second passport. For many, the ability to move their lives, families and assets freely around the world is the new norm.

This trend has been growing for well over a decade, fuelled by increased competition between countries seeking to attract the world’s wealthiest and drive investment. From France to Thailand, countries are seeing the benefit of adopting competitive tax regimes, investment-based visa schemes, and fast-tracked citizenship programmes. Since 2000, 20 EU member states have implemented these types of policies, resulting in approximately $28 billion in foreign direct investment.

For countries like Malta and Cyprus, this has led to a much-needed economic boost as thousands of wealthy individuals have invested in their local economies in return for residency or citizenship. In Portugal, attractive tax rates have in part led to a remarkable economic rebound, with GDP growth set to be one of the highest in Europe, while Lisbon and Porto consistently top the list of most attractive places to live in the world. As countries look to replicate this type of success story, global mobility is only set to increase.

But as global mobility increases so too does the complexity of managing wealth. Globally mobile clients will look to their advisers to be able to seamlessly manage their cross-border wealth, regardless of where they look to base themselves. And as many of the residency by investment programmes have a time limit, moving to a third or fourth country over a ten-year period is becoming increasingly normal. Wealth solutions for truly globally mobile clients need to be able to facilitate this unprecedented level of cross-border movement.

Advisers will also have to be aware that the globally mobile HNW and UHNW client base they are serving is expanding. In 2018, $8.7 trillion of personal financial wealth was held cross-borders – roughly 4.2% of the global total. The fabric of modern-day wealth is evolving as the sources and destinations of this wealth are set to change significantly over the coming years. For example, Boston Consulting Group predicts that by 2023, the value of Asia’s cross-border wealth will have grown by 150%.

Wealth advisers will need to keep pace with this dramatic shift and cater for the changing needs of this growing client base. Driven by continuing economic and political uncertainty in the region, HNWIs and UHNWIs from emerging markets will increasingly seek asset safety, protecting against currency depreciation, and the desire to gain stable returns through international diversification. What these clients need are wealth structuring solutions that can manage cross border wealth spread across multiple developed markets. They will also need advisers who are able to navigate effectively around any regulatory or cultural differences between markets.

The mosaic that makes up the lives of modern wealthy people is constantly shifting and being redesigned as wealth is distributed across a more diverse range of ages, genders and nationalities than ever before. What drives wealthy people around the world has never been so complex. For wealth advisers, this means greater difficulties and greater opportunities. The wealth management industry needs to understand the changing landscape that faces HNWIs and UHNWIs and offer solutions that can help them to navigate the uncertainty and complexity.

When I speak to clients, what they are looking for is comfort that their adviser has expertise across multiple markets and jurisdictions. What they want is a feeling of control over their wealth and life’s legacy wherever they are, wherever they want to be, and regardless of what lies ahead.

For more information about Lombard International Assurance, visit our website.

gdp
FundsRegulationTaxWealth Management

Boom or bust? Brexit’s impact on innovation and R&D

gdp

Boom or bust? Brexit’s impact on innovation and R&D

 

Brexit will undoubtedly affect life in the UK in several ways. The nature and extent of its impact, however, is anyone’s guess. Regarding research and innovation, on the surface not much should change. The R&D Tax Credit Scheme is a government initiative and while it is subject to European Union rules, ultimately the money is provided by HMRC, so the amount of funding available for creative pursuits should not be affected.

But Brexit will likely alter the entire business landscape for UK companies and these wider changes may indirectly affect the state of play for those looking to innovate.

Here innovation funding specialist MPA, which is exhibiting at Advanced Engineering 2019, looks at the implications of Brexit on innovation and R&D in the UK, and whether the current political uncertainty will actually give way to a more prosperous environment for businesses.

Funding freedom

According to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, UK spending on R&D rose by £1.6 billion in 2017 to £34.8 billion, placing it 11th in the EU for R&D expenditure as a percentage of GDP.

While such figures are impressive, with an average of £527 spent for each person in the UK, the spending is somewhat restricted by EU regulations. R&D tax credits are classed as ‘state aid’ by the EU and as such there are currently limits on how much the government can hand out to companies.

Once the UK leaves the union, this cap is removed, opening the door to higher value handouts and less strict qualification criteria. Such a move would be welcomed by SMEs across the country and would signal to the world that the UK is strongly encouraging innovation. Plans to increase funding are already in place, with the government’s long term industrial strategy aiming to raise R&D investment to 2.4% of GDP by 2027.

There’s widespread anxiety about the impact of Brexit on British industry and the government faces significant pressure to provide a boost for the economy. Investment in innovation would be a clear statement that the country is still thriving despite the political overhaul.

With the government potentially looking to reallocate some of the money they currently send across to Brussels, there could be funds available for such action.

Regardless of the nature of the UK’s trading relationship with the EU post-Brexit, innovation is always going to be vital for businesses to stand out and thrive in competitive industry landscapes. If trade deals put UK companies at a disadvantage on the world stage, the need to be creative and forward-thinking increases tremendously.

International collaboration

While international funding for UK research has fallen in recent years,from £5.6 billion in 2014 to £5 billion in 2017, it still comprises 14% of all investment in innovation. But it’s not just the financial connection to Europe that UK companies will have to cope without after Brexit, but the level of continental collaboration currently in operation at universities and research centres across the country.

UK industry and innovation is revered across the globe, with our institutions producing world-leading work in every sector. Such breakthroughs are only possible by bringing together the best people from across both Europe and further afield. In fact, in the decade prior to the 2016 referendum, 50% of all UK research publicationsinvolved a co-author from overseas. Moving forward, Brexit may make it more difficult for businesses to recruit staff from overseas and make cross-country projects rather impractical, if not impossible. There is talk of plans to only allow immigrants who earn over £30,000 to stay in the country and this could make it difficult for bodies to continue hiring skilled international research assistants and graduates as salaries for these jobs are generally below the threshold.

Britain’s booming tech industry has given the country potential to dominate and grow in IT and many other sectors. Mark Sewell, CIO of Microsoft recruitment partner Curo Talent, explains that for the many industries developing IT infrastructure, such as in financial services, there is concern that there may not be enough IT talent available to match increased demand. The average age of the IT workforce is increasing, and Britain’s education system is not producing an adequate number of skilled workers to replace these employees once they retire. This is exacerbated by Brexit and its restriction on access to talented EU-workers. To continue this development, businesses need IT workers with the skills to deploy the latest technology, unfortunately this talent pool may become limited.

Such barriers may force businesses to seek ventures elsewhere. Even British companies might start to launch their innovative operations overseas, targeting countries which have both good R&D incentives and simpler immigration policies, allowing multi-national teams to work without obstacles. Asian nations might be among those that benefit, with China and South Korea as potential suitors. In recent years, South Korea has been one of the world’s biggest investors in R&D and UK businesses could cash in on the country’s commitment to progress.

Uncertain fortunes

As with most aspects of Brexit, no-one really knows how the UK leaving the EU will impact on homegrown innovation. While some relevant policies will remain unchanged, such as the general R&D claim process, there are wider-reaching implications which could affect British researchers.

The UK has an excellent reputation for innovation and this could prove significant. If our economy suffers as a result of Brexit, the value of the pound against other currencies will fall. As such, global businesses may see British companies as attractive investments, as their quality services and projects will suddenly be available for smaller sums. This could potentially fill the void left by current EU funding.

R&D tax credits and Patent Box relief will play a crucial role in establishing the UK as a creative force post-Brexit. Once EU funding for projects is removed, the importance of the domestic HMRC initiative will amplify tremendously, potentially causing a rapid increase in applications.

Continuing and improving the financial incentives for businesses to spend time on R&D will ensure that the country continues to be at the forefront of innovation. MPA’s guidance on the R&D Tax Credit Scheme and Patent Box relief will help you see whether your company qualifies for the initiative.

MPA is exhibiting at Advanced Engineering 2019 and can be found at stand C14 in the Automotive Engineering section.

Retirement fund
Cash ManagementPensionsTransactional and Investment Banking

Retirement fund is top saving priority for Brits

Retirement fund

Retirement fund is top saving priority for Brits

 

Over half (58%) of Brits wish they had invested in their future and retirement at an earlier age, according to new research by savings and mortgage provider Nottingham Building Society, known as The Nottingham.

The survey of 2,000 UK adults looked at the biggest saving priorities for the nation, and what age we wish we had started investing in different aspects of our lives, from health and careers to money management. A retirement fund was ranked as the biggest saving priority, despite only 29% of respondents admitting to actively saving towards their future.

The top ten most important saving priorities for Brits are:

  1. Retirement fund

  2. ‘Rainy day’ fund

  3. House deposit or increasing equity

  4. Holiday fund

  5. Funds to partake in my hobbies / outside of work activities

  6. Debt repayments

  7. New car

  8. Children’s saving account

  9. Children’s education

  10. Wedding fund

Debt repayments didn’t make the top five saving priorities for the nation, however, of the respondents who are currently saving, paying off or planning to pay off their debt, this saving was ranked second in importance, indicating that those who are currently in debt are prioritising this over saving for other factors such as a house deposit (ranked fourth in importance), or a new car (ranked seventh).

However, when it comes to what Brits are actually saving for, the most common goal was a ‘rainy day’ fund, with over a third (34%) of Brits currently saving towards this. Interestingly, more than double are saving towards a holiday (29%) than a house deposit (13%), despite a house deposit being ranked as a higher priority overall.

When it comes to the ages the nation wish they had started investing in different aspects of our lives, Brits found that they wished they had invested towards their retirement at age 31, when on average they actually began investing at 39 – almost a decade later. On average, UK adults begin saving towards a ‘rainy day’ fund at 34, despite wishing they had started at 28.

Retirement data

 

Jenna McKenzie-Day, Senior Savings Manager at The Nottingham, said: “Our research found that on average, homeowners wish they had begun planning to buy their first home three years earlier than they started, with a similar picture being painted for those saving for their future. Interestingly, it found that Brits wish they had started their retirement fund a staggering eight years before they actually began saving.

“Whether you are saving for your first home or starting your retirement plans, products such as the LISA, which is available for those looking to plan for their future, offer a 25% government backed bonus on annual savings  up to £4,000, those extra eight years of savings could have increased their future savings by a potential £8,000 – making it the perfect product to start your saving journey.”

To find out more about the Nottingham’s LISA, visit: https://www.thenottingham.com/lifetime-isa/

Employee spending
FundsWealth Management

Friday 10am is peak time for employees splashing the company cash

Employee spending

Friday 10am is peak time for employees splashing the company cash

 

  • Company cards are most used at supermarkets and service stations

  • Fast food is bought more often than train tickets

  • Workers are most reliant on caffeine on Wednesdays, with West Midlands the coffee capital

Business owners and finance bosses may want to look away on Friday mornings as this is the most popular time for spending on company cards, according to new research. 

 

The data from business card provider, Capital on Tap, reveals that businesses spend more money on its company cards at 10am on Fridays than any other time during the working week, with the following hour also among the costliest periods. 

 

The top five times of the week for spending on company credit cards: 

1.       Friday 10am: users spend 225% more than they would usually  

2.       Tuesday 10am: users spend 223% more than they would usually 

3.       Monday 11am: users spend 214% more than they would usually 

4.       Friday 11am: users spend 213% more than they would usually 

5.       Wednesday 11am: users spend 208% more than they would usually 

 

Supermarkets and service stations are the most frequented locations for company credit cards, with the highest number of weekly transactions (16.7% and 15% of all weekly purchases respectively). 

 

There are also more purchases made on company cards in fast food establishments (4.9%) than for more traditional business activities such as rail travel (2.8%) and overnight accommodation (3.3%). In fact, Saturday lunchtime is the most popular time for fast food spending, with KFC (£11.67 spent per visit) proving more popular with workers than Burger King (£11.25) and McDonalds (£8.12). 

 

Out of hours spending at the pub is also a popular business expense, with end-of-week celebrations the peak time for spend in drinking establishments – 21% of this taking place between 8pm-9pm on a Friday. 

 

Gone are the days of the Monday morning ‘pick me up’, with only 19.2% of the week’s coffee purchases taking place at the beginning of the traditional working week. Instead, workers are looking for a midweek caffeine boost, with 21.4% of coffees being bought on a Wednesday. 

 

West Midlanders are the most reliant on coffee to fuel their working week, spending £9.22 in coffee shops on an average visit, while those in Wales are least dependent on the beverage (£6.56). 

 

Coffee spend per region: 

1.       West Midlands: £9.22 

2.       Northern Ireland: £8.79 

3.       North East: £8.79 

4.       Scotland: £8.70 

5.       Yorkshire and the Humber: £8.48 

6.       East: £8.41 

7.       North West: £8.30 

8.       South West: £7.80 

9.       London: £7.62 

10.   South East: £7.40 

11.   East Midlands: £7.22 

12.   Wales: £6.56 

 

David Luck, CEO of Capital on Tap, said: “It is interesting to find when workers are spending most on their work credit cards and spot patterns in how businesses are evolving. Finding that Friday evenings are popular for pub spending and Saturdays are peak times for fast food shows that business expenditure is not as traditional as we might have thought. 

 

“A refreshing diversity of spend was seen on Capital on Tap cards. Given our ability to service those that traditional banks opt-out of, it’s no surprise to see service station costs, lumber yards and parking lots as part of the funding use – retailers that are traditionally popular outside of the bigger cities.”  

R&D tax relief
FundsTransactional and Investment BankingWealth Management

Capital on Tap Celebrates the Milestone of Lending Over One Billion Pounds to Small Businesses

R&D tax relief

Capital on Tap Celebrates the Milestone of Lending Over One Billion Pounds to Small Businesses

 

In seven years from creation, the fintech company Capital on Tap, celebrates a major milestone of lending over 1 billion pounds to more than 65,000 small and medium enterprise businesses across the UK. 

By 2018, Capital on Tap had lent £500m to small businesses, and in the short timeframe that followed to September 2019, has now doubled this number to hit the milestone of £1bn. The quick, two-minute online application has drawn-in customers from various industries who praise the lending service for its ease of use. 

The one billionth pound customer Elaine Speirs, founder of Speirs Consultancy Ltd in biopharmaceuticals, said: “It was very easy, very fast. I don’t remember having to have a conversation with anyone, and I got my credit card within a couple of days.”   

“The app is really easy to use on my phone, and there’s a website where I can track all payments; it’s just very simple, I don’t really have to think about it.” Elaine continued that “my own bank turned me down as I was a new business, and without even applying for a loan – that was after 25 years of banking history with them, which I was quite taken aback by.” 

The Capital on Tap ‘soft searching’ function is ideal for new business owners as it allows customers to find out if they’re eligible for a loan without impacting their credit score. This method challenges typical lenders and empowers customers, particularly benefiting those in rural parts of the UK who could suffer approval delays of up to three weeks. In addition, once the Capital on Tap fund is agreed; the money is available online in a matter of minutes, streamlining the lending function and supporting those who may struggle with traditional lending platforms. 

Support given by Capital on Tap has been commonly found to facilitate travel, allowing customers to work internationally without charging any extras. Sean Swart, founder of PICS Consultancy Ltd, highlights that “I am often required to move around as part of my job and the Capital on Tap card removes stress around cash flow created by expenses, mainly those from travel expenditure which is created as a by-product of my job.” 

David Luck, CEO at Capital on Tap, commented: “We started Capital on Tap in 2012, with a mission of making it faster and easier for small and medium enterprises to obtain working capital. Since lending money to our first customer back in 2013, I never thought we would have lent over £1bn to more than 65,000 small businesses in just seven years.” 

“We have worked to develop a lending platform that not only makes funding easier for small businesses, but also provides a service for traditional banks. Not only do we pride ourselves in supporting small businesses in the main cities, we provide a unique service for those in provincial areas, where traditional banks fall short.” 

For more information, visit the Capital on Tap website: https://capitalontap.com/

The importance of sports to the UK economy
ArticlesBankingFinanceFunds

The importance of sports to the UK economy

The importance of sports to the UK economy

The importance of sports to the UK economy

 

There’s no doubt that the summer of 2018 will be difficult to top! With an uncharacteristically hot summer making for the perfect backdrop to all the barbecues we ever dreamed of, alongside an unpredictably fantastic performance in the World Cup for the English football team that single-handedly boosted the nation’s spirits even further, it was by all accounts a cracking summer. 2020 is set to bring us another worldwide celebration of sport with the Olympics in Tokyo, so you’d be forgiven for thinking 2019 might end up being something of a lull for the sporting world to recharge.

Not so. In fact, some news correspondents are forecasting another great year for UK sports. In particular, cricket is set to be the focus of the year while men’s football takes a backseat, as both the Cricket World Cup and the Ashes series are to be held in England.

Even a ‘quiet’ year has so much going on in the sporting world then. With that in mind, just how integral is the sporting industry to the overall UK economy? In this article, we will cover how the sporting industry supports the UK both in a financial capacity and beyond.

Input to the economy

If you’re not into sports (and perhaps even if you are), the wages enjoyed by sporting professionals might seem ludicrous. In particular, the six-figure weekly wages of top-league football players is a point of contention for some. What are we, as a nation, getting in return for such a cost?

Well, beyond the enjoyment of watching sport, the industry supports a huge part of the UK economy. According to CareerBuilder, the sports industry tallies up a whopping £23.8 billion annually for the economy. Let’s put a little context on that figure with a look at other contributors to the economy. The tourism industry, which the sporting industry technically supports as well thanks to the number of sports fan tourists seeking out games to spectate, brings in £24.5 billion for the economy every year.

Meanwhile, the Royal Family brings in around £1.8 billion to the UK economy each year, depending on the number of royal weddings of course! But this is outstripped by even one single contributor of the sporting world, with cycling drawing in £3 billion each year on its own. It’s a clear contrast that shows just how important the sporting industry is to the nation’s economy, standing toe-to-toe with the tourism industry.

Input beyond finances

Naturally, the sporting sector brings in benefits for the UK beyond financial too. There’s the sense of community it fosters, such as the nationwide burst of pride we all felt, sports fans or not, when England performed so well in the World Cup! This sense of social value also extends to supporting skills outside of sports — for example, numeracy skills in underachieving young people were seen to increase by 29% when becoming a regular sports participant.

Then, there’s the employment side of things. The sporting industry supports over 400,000 full-time positions in England alone.

Plus, there’s the obvious health factor. Participating in sports, which is undoubtedly spurred and motivated in many ways by fans looking up to athletes they admire, brings a much-needed boost to the nation’s health.

Protecting the commodity

The pitches

With such a strong presence in the UK’s financial stability, what is being done to ensure our sports capabilities are world-class? Well, for one, we have to maintain the best venues for both the players and spectators! A poor pitch can have a huge impact on the game it is hosting. Take Euro 2016, for example: while that year’s unusually wet summer left the French pitches in a terrible state, the UK’s football pitches were kept in prime condition. Of course, wet weather is the very foundation of which groundkeepers are experienced in here in the UK! With hybrid turf technology, undersoil heating, and pop-up sprinklers, our fields are ready for any eventuality. Keeping the soil warm ensures the grass doesn’t fall into its dormant, brown hue and stays green all winter.

As well as keeping the grass warm to avoid it going dormant, adequate draining is also needed to keep the grass from succumbing to the usually damp and dreadful British weather. One such method utilised by football pitches is pipe and slit drained pitches, which consists of a layer of firmed topsoil, stone back-fill, subsoil, and a perforated plastic pipe, along with a slit drain and sand blinding layer to allow water to drain down and away.

Sports funding

Of course, it’s not just football being maintained to such a high level. Thanks to UK Sport investing in a range of sports with money from the National Lottery and Exchequer income, other sporting disciplines are also flourishing on UK soil.

Particularly with the run-up to the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, current funding is generous indeed. Example figures include £29,624,264 to cycling, £9,838,913 to taekwondo, and £16,457,953 to gymnastics.

The world of sport is hugely beneficial to the UK, in terms of economy and society. The sector sees a huge amount of funding and manpower, but for good reason, with the industry bringing in so much and putting the UK in the global eye as a key sporting participant.

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Two Thirds of Buyers are Struck With Anxiety Fighting the Challenges of Buying Their First Home

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Two Thirds of Buyers are Struck With Anxiety Fighting the Challenges of Buying Their First Home

 

This year, reports revealed that first-time buyers (FTBs) account for more than half (51%) of the nation’s buying market for the first time since 1995 and with the average deposit for a first-time home now sitting at £33,000, today new research has revealed that mortgages have as much impact mentally as they do financially on first-time buyers.

According to a survey of 2,000 FTBs currently in the market for a home, commissioned by online bank Atom bank, two thirds (64%) have admitted to feeling anxiety when tackling the challenges of getting a mortgage and purchasing their first home.

A lack of education around mortgages is playing a huge part in buyers’ anxiety. Of the 64% of buyers who have felt anxious whilst looking for a house, a massive three quarters (74%) attribute being unsatisfied with their knowledge of mortgages as a key factor.

The process has become so overwhelming for some, that over a third (37%) of buyers recently considering purchasing a new property have pulled out due to the stress of it all.

3 in 5 (58%) admit that a key contributing factor to their high stress levels is saving for a large enough deposit. Though the stress is not limited to those on a lower income, as almost half (47%) of households earning more than £80,000 a year have said they’re struggling to save for a deposit. This is in spite of the fact they’re earning nearly three times the national average wage (£29,009).

Mortgage Complexity and Mental Health

The research reveals the complexity of the current mortgage process is causing first-time buyers to doubt whether mortgage companies actually understand the challenges modern buyers face.

More than 7 in 10 people (72%) who are anxious about the challenges of purchasing a home don’t think that mortgage companies fully comprehend the challenges buyers face. The consensus is heightened by the fact that more than three quarters (78%) of the nation believe the mortgage process is too complex and needs to be more consumer-friendly. More than a third (37%) of buyers – from builders to barristers – with a postgraduate degree feel dissatisfied with the mortgage process and with 7 in 10 (70%) of Brits looking to move in to their new home this year still feeling anxious about the prospect, the mortgage process proves to be daunting from start to finish.

The challenge is too much for one person’s shoulders, as a fifth (21%) of buyers going through the mortgage process by themselves have had to pull out due to stress, compared to only 6% of those going through it with at least one other person. This still takes its toll on those in a relationship, as two thirds (65%) have claimed that although they haven’t pulled out of the market, the process has given them anxiety.

Spend or Save: Where does all the money go?

The turn of the 21st century has brought a new challenge for millennials trying to save for a deposit. The average person spends £1,740 a year on amenities such as streaming and on-demand services, phone bills and electronic devices. Modern technology has also made travelling much more accessible, with the average person spending £1,152 a year on trips. Combining the two means the average person spends £2,892 a year on both exploring and everyday tech, which is more than 1% of the average UK house price (£230,292).

In efforts to balance the books, nearly half (46%) of buyers would be willing to move back home with their parents to save money. Higher earners are the most likely to move back home, as nearly half (47%) of those earning over £34,000 would move home to save money for a deposit, compared to 2 in 5 (39%) people earning under £34,000.

However, those living by themselves (69%) and former university students (53%) are least likely to move home, despite 3 in 5 (60%) students claiming that saving for a deposit is their biggest obstacle, as well as paying off their university debt which is on average £50,800.

 But moving home is just the start for some, as 2 in 5 (38%) of buyers admit that their only way of saving a large enough deposit is through financial support from either a family member or partner. The reliance on family help grows with the buyer’s age; Generation X are twice (26%) as likely as millennials (13%) to ask for financial help when they’re trying to buy.

Despite a double income, two thirds (65%) of those in a relationship say that the biggest obstacle they face is saving for a deposit, compared to half (50%) of singletons. Having children stretches finances further, as 2 in 5 (38%) buyers rely on financial help from their family or partner, compared to 1 in 5 (22%) of those without children.

Stick or Twist: Flying the nest

Over a third (37%) of FTBs look to buy in the same area they grew up, with a quarter (25%) stating that they will look to buy somewhere that’s close to their friends. Traveling may give millennials the confidence to buy a new home in the unknown, as a quarter (25%) look to move away from the area they grew up in to experience some where new, while only 1 in 10 (10%) of generation X are willing to move away from their childhood area to try something new.

A key factor behind many buyers’ move is their job as a quarter (26%) look to buy a property closer to work. Many buyers looking to change jobs are caught in a predicament, as 2 in 5 (38%) look to buy somewhere that will give them better job opportunities, but nearly half (46%) are struggling to save the deposit they need to get in to those desired areas.

 

Education, Misconceptions and Help

Millennials believe knowledge is key, as 1 in 5 (19%) stated that a lack of education is the key reason behind the stress issues for first time buyers, whereas only 1 in 13 (8%) people from generation X believe a lack of education is to blame.

The process starts with confusion, as 43% of people found it complicated to choose a company or mortgage broker to get the ball rolling, while two thirds (63%) of buyers have stated that choosing a mortgage type is the most complicated part of the process.

Half (51%) of buyers who recently pulled out of the market explained that having their documents in order was the most stressful part of the process, with their little knowledge on key terms being a key issue.

The research has revealed the most common words in the mortgage process that buyers had either never heard of or didn’t understand are:

Highest percentage of words that were never heard of

Over half the nation (52%) wish they’d been taught more in school about the mortgage process. Worryingly, almost as many people would seek mortgage advice from a parent (55%) as they would a professional (57%), despite the abundant challenges new buyers face.

The lack of education on mortgages has left buyers unaware of multiple schemes that can help first-time buyers get on the property ladder. 4 out of 5 (83%) buyers with children have never heard of a ‘Family Offset Mortgage’, over a third (37%) have never heard of the ‘Right to Buy’ scheme and nearly 4 in 5 (78%) are unaware of the ‘Starter Home Initiative’.

Mark Mullen, CEO of Atom bank, said: “Today’s findings have showcased just how much impact the mortgage process can have on a first-time buyer, before they’ve even entered the market.

“Buying a home is commonly the largest investment most people will make in their life time, which is stressful enough without worrying about the mortgage process. This makes it vital that buyers feel at ease from as early on in the process as possible. The results show that there is a real disconnect between advisors and buyers, as many people are seeking advice from their parents, who may have not purchased a property in decades.”