Category: Funds

Bitcoin $150000
FinanceFunds

Bitcoin to hit $15,000 as consensus grows on safe-haven status

The devaluation of China’s currency that is rattling global financial markets has revealed that Bitcoin is now becoming a safe haven asset.

The analysis from the CEO of one of the world’s largest independent financial advisory organisations comes as investors piled into the Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies this week amid growing trade tensions between the U.S. and China. 

The Chinese renminbi fell to under 7 to the U.S. dollar on Monday – the lowest in more than a decade – igniting drops in stocks and emerging market currencies and driving a rally in government bonds.

Nigel Green, chief executive and founder of deVere Group, notes: “The world’s largest cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, jumped 10 per cent as global stocks were rocked by the devaluation of China’s yuan as the trade war with the U.S. intensifies.

“This is not a coincidence. It reveals that consensus is growing that Bitcoin is becoming a flight-to-safety asset during times of market uncertainty. 

“Bitcoin is currently realising its reputation as a form of digital gold. Up to now, gold has been known as the ultimate safe-haven asset, but Bitcoin  – which shares its key characteristics of being a store of value and scarcity – could potentially dethrone gold in the future as the world becomes increasingly digitalised.”

He continues: “With the Trump administration now officially labelling China a currency manipulator, escalating the tensions between the world’s two largest currencies economies, investors are set to continue to pile in to decentralized, non-sovereign, secure currencies, such as Bitcoin to protect them from the turmoil taking place in traditional markets.

“The legitimate risks posed by the continuing trade dispute, China’s currency devaluation and other geopolitical issues, such as Brexit and its far-reaching associated challenges, will lead an increasing number of institutional and retail investors to diversify their portfolios and hedge against those risks by investing in crypto assets.

“This will drive the price of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies higher.  Under the current circumstances, I believe the Bitcoin price could hit $15,000 within weeks.”

The deVere CEO concludes: “Cryptocurrencies are now almost universally regarded as the future of money – but what has become clear this week is that they are increasingly regarded a safe haven in the present.”

IMMOATIVE
FinanceFunds

Proposed Placing of new ordinary shares to raise approximately £2.0 million Proposed broker option to raise up to £0.5 million

Immotion Group, the UK-based immersive virtual reality (“VR”) out-of-home entertainment group, announces, following the success of its recent VR installations into a range of high quality partners (“Partners”), that it has decided to focus its strategy predominantly on the roll out of its Partnership Model into high footfall locations. The visibility of higher margins and recurring revenues delivered from this model is, the Directors believe, the best strategy for the Group and its shareholders. To support this strategy, the Company is carrying out a fundraising to raise approximately £2.0 million, before expenses, via the issue of an aggregate of approximately 29.6 million new Ordinary Shares (“Placing Shares”) at a price of 6.75 pence per share (“the Placing Price”) (the “Placing”).

 

WH Ireland Limited and Alvarium Capital Partners are acting as joint brokers in relation to the Placing (the “Brokers”) and furthermore, the Company has authorised the Brokers to raise up to a further £0.5 million through a broker option (the “Broker Option”), (together with the Placing, the “Fundraising”) in order to allow existing and other investors to participate in the Fundraising.  Ordinary Shares issued under the Broker Option will also be issued at the Placing Price and will therefore be limited to approximately 7.4 million new Ordinary Shares (the “Broker Option Shares”), expected to close by 5.00 p.m. on 30 July 2019. It is intended that the net proceeds of the Fundraising will be used to accelerate the Company’s growth plans under the revised strategy. A placing agreement has been entered into today between the Company and the Brokers in connection with the Fundraising (the “Placing Agreement”).

 

The Placing is being conducted, subject to the satisfaction of certain conditions set out in the Appendix to this Announcement, through an accelerated book-build process (the “Bookbuild”), which will be launched immediately following this Announcement.

 

Operational and Trading Highlights

 

  • Currently the Group has a total installed base of 237 headsets;
  • 34 new headset installs agreed across Madame Tussauds, Washington DC; two Legoland Discovery Centres; and two Al Hokair sites in the Middle East;
  • A further 118 headsets installs agreed subject to contract, expected to be installed through the remainder of 2019;
  • Based on current headset yields, the Directors expect overall monthly EBITDA breakeven at c.410 installed  headsets (expected Q1 2020);
  • Strong revenue per headset performance in the Partner venues being driven by sector focus;
  • Launch of ‘Underwater Explorer’, ‘Thrill Coasters’ and ‘Raw Data’ themed VR stands;
  • Strong demand and enquiries from both existing and new high footfall leisure destination Partners;
  • Roll-out of the Company’s VR Cinematic Platforms with Merlin Entertainments plc (“Merlin”), now encompassing the Legoland Discovery Centre, LEGOLAND®, Sea Life, and Madame Tussauds locations with 70 headsets now installed; and
  • ImmotionVR, the Company’s own VR operations, now also includes a partnership-based model focusing on high footfall leisure destinations, such as The O2, Soar Centre in Glasgow, and Star City in Birmingham.

Fundraising Highlights

  • Proposed Fundraising of up to approximately £2.5 million before expenses at a price of 6.75 pence per share by way of a Placing and Broker Option.
  • Placing being conducted through an accelerated book-build process which will open with immediate effect following this Announcement.
  • The Placing Shares and Broker Option Shares (“New Ordinary Shares”), assuming full take-up of the Placing and Broker Option, will represent approximately 13 per cent. of the Company’s enlarged issued share capital.
  • The final number of Placing Shares will be agreed by the Brokers and the Company at the close of the Bookbuild, and the result will be announced as soon as practicable thereafter.
  • The timing for the close of the Bookbuild and allocation of the Placing Shares shall be at the discretion of the Brokers, in consultation with the Company. The Fundraising is not underwritten.
  • The Broker Option is expected to close by 5.00 p.m. on 30 July 2019.
  • The Appendix to this Announcement (which forms part of this Announcement) contains the detailed terms and conditions of the Fundraising.

Background and Current Strategy

 

Immotion Group was established to exploit the ‘Out-of-Home’ VR immersive entertainment market. Since inception, it has developed an extensive range of both CGI and live-action experiences, all of which operate on the Company’s proprietary Content Management and Reporting System. Immotion’s core offering provides virtual reality experiences to be enjoyed on sophisticated motion platforms delivering a truly engaging and immersive experience.

 

In addition to the Company’s own consumer-facing VR operation, ImmotionVR, the Company has thus far offered its solutions to third parties via both a straight sales model, as well as a revenue share model with Partners (“Partnership Solution” or “Partnership Model”). In addition, the Company has also used its CGI studio to offer the development of VR experiences for major brands, as well as licensing its own experiences into countries where it doesn’t operate.

 

Over the past year the Company has experienced positive feedback from its existing Partners as well as new potential Partners. Its innovative Partnership Model has been well received in what is a fast growing, but still nascent market.

 

The Partnership Model developed by the Company allows high footfall leisure destinations to embrace VR, adding both consumer value as well as ancillary revenue to these locations. The decision process for the Partner moves from a prolonged capital investment decision to a simple operating decision, thus speeding up the decision process considerably.

 

Feedback from Partners in regard to the Partnership Model has been very positive, with demand demonstrating a strong appeal of this model as opposed to the straight sales model. Consequently, the Company has taken the decision to focus on its Partnership Solution.

 

The Directors believe the Partnership Model, in terms of both experiences and hardware, allow Partners to enter the early stage VR market with confidence. This underpinned with the Company’s proprietary Content Management and Reporting System allows Partners, big and small, the ability to upload remotely new experiences, as well as see ‘real-time’ data on usage and revenues and to receive remote support from Immotion Group.

 

The Company has seen very encouraging results in the Partner sites generally with the aquaria sites outperforming all others.  This has led the Company to conclude that it should develop solutions for a number of high footfall “edutainment” destinations such as aquaria, zoos, science centres and museums. Initial efforts have focused on aquaria and this has now begun to gain significant traction with experiences now in 7 major aquaria locations and many further discussions ongoing. The year to date average total gross revenue per headset per month of c.£2,100 in the aquaria sector is performing 1.6x that of the historic headset averages across the Partner estate and delivers an annual margin per headset of £12,000.

 

The average annual gross revenue and average annual blended contribution margin to Immotion Group, including the ImmotionVR estate is per headset, across the continuing estate, running currently at c.£16,300 (or £1,356 per month) and c.£7,000 per annum (or £583 per month) respectively. On a Partner only basis, excluding the ImmotionVR own retail sites, based on year to date performance, this gross average revenue per headset increases to circa £18,200 per annum (£1,517 per month). At the current level of fixed operating costs (net of commercial contract work) of £240,000 per month this implies a monthly breakeven level of c.410 headsets assuming the margin contribution of £583 per month. 

 

The Directors believe that there is scope for the overall average revenue per headset to grow significantly, driven by a number of factors. The mix of sites is expected to grow in favour of Partner sites and stronger performing vertical channels within that (such as aquaria) as noted above. Furthermore, the Company is developing new marketing and selling tools to support Partners in growing revenue.  Additionally, H2 19 should yield better performance as there are a greater number of school and other holidays in H2 in USA and Europe.

 

The Directors believe the focus on the Company’s growing Partnership Model will deliver greater shareholder value as it builds these recurring revenue streams. The number of quality Partners such as The O2, Al Hokair, Merlin Entertainments, Shedd Aquarium and Santa Barbara Zoo to name but a few, all of whom are already enjoying the benefits of this model, continues to grow rapidly. With over 34 new headsets contracted, and due to be installed in the coming weeks, along with a further 118 agreed, subject to contract, this gives the Company visibility to c.389 installed headsets.

 

As noted in the final results announcement on 3 April 2019, whilst there is demand for direct hardware sales in the VR market and the Directors recognise the positive impact in the financial year in which these sales are recognised, and that they do aide cashflow, this does not in the Directors’ view outweigh the benefits of building Partner relationships with longevity and recurring revenue.

 

On balance, the Company believes due to the “one-off” transaction revenue nature of direct sales, the competitive landscape in a nascent market, the lead-times to gain decisions from prospective customers as well as the margins achievable of c.£2,500 per headset for a direct sale of hardware, makes the Partnership Solution considerably more appealing for the Group and its shareholders as a whole in the long-term.

 

The innovative Partnership Model provides a collaborative business relationship for both the Partner and the Group. The decision process for the partner is much easier, and with on-going segmental focus the Directors believe the Company can continue to drive revenue per headset up delivering added benefits for both parties. 

 

The revenue share Partner Model drives recurring revenues for both parties and with a contribution to the Group of c.£21,000 over the 3-year expected life of a VR Cinematic Platforms, the Directors believe it is a better route for the Company and its shareholders. Furthermore, the potential to grow these margins with better utilisation will further improve margins for the Company, as well as delivering a greater revenue share for Partners.

 

The Group currently has an installed base of 237 headsets, 118 of these headsets are operated by the Company’s own staff, with the balance operated by our Partners’ staff. The Group’s contracted and subject to contract pipeline is currently for a further 34 and 118 headsets respectively, which are expected to be installed throughout the remainder of 2019. The Directors are targeting an installed base of 1,000 headsets by the end of 2020.

 

Based on current contribution per headset and the current costs of operation, the Directors believe the Group will reach EBITDA breakeven when approximately 410 headsets are installed, and the Directors expect this to be achieved in Q1 2020.

 

The move to a Partnership Model will help the Company build a recurring revenue stream which the Directors believe will benefit the Group in future years as well as drive the Group to EBITDA breakeven. The short-term impact of the focus on the Partnership Model will be lower expected revenue for the 2019 financial year, as the forecast “one-off” revenue from direct sales are exchanged for recurring revenues with Partners. As the number of Partners increases, and the volume of recurring revenues increases, the revenue and profit potential for future years will not only increase substantially but will also be much more predictable.

 

As a direct result in the decision to focus on the ‘Partnership Model’ strategy the Directors have reviewed its forecasts for the year and the timing of pipeline of orders that support those forecasts. The immediate consequence of this strategy is the reduction in both top-line revenue and profit from the sale of machines, this combined with an increased overhead cost as the Company focuses its efforts on engaging quality Partners will result in lower revenue and EBITDA for 2019. As a result of this the Directors now expect the Group’s EBITDA loss (excluding one off and exceptional items) for the current financial year to remain broadly in line with the year ended 31 December 2018.

 

Once the breakeven level of installations has been achieved, the contribution from each new installation flows predominantly to the bottom line. The Directors believe, assuming continued interest from partners, this model will be highly profitable in the medium to long term and is very scalable.

 

The Company has invested heavily in building a range of experiences, along with its proprietary Content Management and Reporting System and a range of themed motion platform VR offerings. This combination, along with its unique business model has enabled it to secure a range of quality leisure partners operating in high footfall locations. As the business continues its roll-out and approaches the ‘tipping point’, the Directors believe the impact in the medium to long term will be beneficial to shareholders and that the Group is well placed to take advantage of the opportunities ahead, to become a leading out-of-home immersive VR operator.

 

Martin Higginson, CEO of Immotion Group, said:

“Since inception we have invested heavily in building a range of VR experiences, the quality of which has not been seen before at affordable price points in the ‘out-of-home’ VR market. This fact, combined with our proprietary reporting software, themed stands and on-going investment in VR motion platforms has positioned us well in this nascent market.”

 

“However, it has been our determination to create a new and exciting business model that has and will define us. Creating a Partnership Solution where we work together with high footfall leisure locations to provide them with not only a new and interesting attraction, but also a valuable ancillary revenue stream has transformed our business. Demand from high quality aquaria partners is very strong and we are beginning to see demand from other verticals.”

 

“Our continued focus in creating not only the right environment as well as VR experience for our partner, is starting to show encouraging signs with revenues in our Partner estate growing strongly. The performance of our aquaria partners is particularly strong and the Directors see this as a highly scalable, potentially global opportunity.”

 

“As we move closer to EBITDA breakeven, this tipping-point business is poised for substantial growth. Our offering is unique, our experiences are the best in class, and our list of quality partners just gets better every day. With an offering that benefits our partners as much as us, we believe this model will allow us to lead this new and exciting market.”

accountancy hack
BankingFinanceFunds

Hackers set their sights on accountancy firms – 7 steps to minimize risk

Accountancy practices are facing an increase in cyber risks as criminals switch their focus to ‘softer target’ smaller firms. Joe Collinwood, CEO at CySure explains why accountancy firms are targets for hackers and what steps they can take to minimize their exposure.

When it comes to cyber crime, small accountancy practices are not exempt from the disruption that affects large organizations. If anything, their size makes them more vulnerable as they are perceived as a softer target. In the USA for example there has been an explosion in fraudulent W-2 filings and in the UK with more filings now on-line risk is increasing. So why are accountants being targeted?

• They hold large amounts of private data
• They have the information cyber criminals want – corporate financial data, social security numbers, Tax IDs, bank accounts, payroll data, identification data for validation and reporting purposes
• Accounting firms use similar software so if a criminal finds a vulnerability that can be exploited they have lots of potential victims
• Typically there is inadequate technical protection, policies and procedures that leave firms wide open to a cyber attack
• A lack of incident response and business continuity procedures means accountants are more likely to pay a cyber criminal money because they fear they may not be able to recover from an attack and the firm’s reputation will be tarnished.

Many accountancy firms are making it easier for hackers by underestimating the threat they face from cyber attacks. There were 438 (i) separate data security incidents reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in Q2 2018/2019 alone in the finance, insurance and credit sector. The cost to launch cyber attacks is negligible and the most likely method of breach is phishing i.e. human error. It’s time to think again.

Gateway to Information
Self-employed accountants and accountancy practices are on the radar of cyber criminals because of the amount of valuable data they hold. Firms collect and store highly desirable data and information on clients. This information enables hackers to pull off complex frauds at a later date. The more information they have, the better a picture they can build of the small business or person whose bank account they intend to target.
Cyber criminals view accountancy firms as a “gateway” to client information and are perceived as a soft target with few security barriers, limited cyber security tools and little or no in-house expertise. Additionally, as many firms use the same software systems, hackers are motivated to seek vulnerabilities in the software knowing there will be a substantial pay day by exploiting the weakness to attack multiple businesses.

Small but not safe
According to the Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2018 (ii), 42% of small businesses identified at least one breach or attack in the last 12 months. Depending on the severity of the attack, SMEs can suffer more disruption than their larger counterparts as they lack the processes and cyber expertise to deal with the ramifications of an attack. The impact to business operations and the inability for staff to carry out their day to day work can have longer term consequences, not only for an accountancy practice itself but also for its clients.

Minimize Risk – 7 simple steps to cyber resilience
No business is too small to be attacked, however with the right approach to security, no business is too small to protect itself. Accountancy firms can pave the way to cyber resilience by following these top cyber-security tips:
• Invest in effective firewalls, anti-virus and anti-malware solutions and ensure any updates and patches are applied regularly, ensuring that criminals cannot exploit old faults or systems
• Ensure business critical data, such as customer data and financial information, on all company assets is securely backed up and can be restored at speed
• Have simple, clear policies in place to create a cyber-conscious culture in the workplace and ensure it is communicated to all personnel so they are familiar with it
• Have regular awareness training so that employees are constantly reminded of potential scams or tactics that can be used to trick them
• Review contracts and policies with suppliers to ensure they have an accredited standard for cyber-security for themselves and their partners to protect the supply chain
• Have an up-to-date incident response plan that is practiced regularly so that employees know what to do when they suspect there is an attempted breach or if an actual incident occurs
• Consider investing in cyber insurance to cover the exposure of data privacy and security. Accountancy firms should research insurance policies carefully to understand the level of coverage offered and their responsibilities to stay within the conditions of the policy.

Where to start and what to do now
Cyber security need not be complex or prohibitively expensive, in the UK Cyber Essentials (CE) is a government and industry backed scheme specifically designed to help organisations protect themselves against common cyber-attacks. In collaboration with Information Assurance for Small and Medium Enterprises (IAMSE) they have set out basic technical controls for organisations to use which is annually assessed. In the US the National Institute Standards and Technology (NIST) framework guides organizations through complex, emerging safety producers and protocols.

By utilising an online information security management system (ISMS) that incorporates Cyber Essentials and NIST, accountancy firms can undertake a certification route guided by a virtual online security officer (VOSO) as part of their wider cyber security measures. This will help the organization to coordinate all security practices in one place, consistently and cost-effectively. Additionally, firms can take advantage of the expertise of online cyber security consultants at a fraction of the cost of a full-time in-house security specialist.

Demonstrating confidence to the client base
Cyber security certification has many benefits; it ensures standardization and is a good differentiator for accountancy firms as it shows a diligence to information security. By giving cyber security the same priority as other business goals, accountancy firms can proudly display their security credentials and demonstrate trust and confidence to their client base.

Joe Collinwood is CEO of CySure

dubai
FinanceFundsMarkets

Dubai International Financial Centre boosts UAE financial sector development and reports significant growth during first half of 2019

Maktoum bin Mohammed: “Strong performance by DIFC highlights the international financial institutions’ confidence in Dubai”

 

  • Total number of companies currently operating in the DIFC stands at 2,289 – a 14 percent increase year-on-year and a 7 percent increase since end of 2018
  • Over 250 new companies, a 10 percent increase from the same period in 2018
  • More than 660 jobs created, boosting combined workforce to more than 24,000 professionals
  • DIFC’s financial technology ecosystem doubles in size in first half of 2019 – now includes over 200 companies, of which more than 80 are fully-licensed FinTech firms
  • 425 applications received for third cohort of FinTech Hive accelerator programme – three-fold growth since 2017 and 42 percent increase from 2018

 

Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), the leading international financial hub in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region, reinforced its contribution to the UAE’s economy and its commitment to driving the future of finance, following strong performance during the first half of 2019.

The Centre saw sustained growth in the first half of 2019, welcoming more than 250 new companies, and bringing the total number of active registered firms to 2,289, demonstrating a 14 percent increase year-on-year. This has fuelled the creation of over 660 jobs, boosting the Centre’s combined workforce to more than 24,000 individuals, and has resulted in the occupancy of 99 percent of DIFC-owned buildings.

The DIFC now boasts more than 671 financial related firms, an 11 percent increase from the same period last year.  The financial services firms that joined in 2019 include Maybank Islamic Berhad from Malaysia, Cantor Fitzgerald from the United States of America, Atlas Wealth Management from Australia and Mauritius Commercial Bank. In addition, leading non-financial firms including Guidepoint MEA, Medtronic Finance Hungary Kft. and Network International, have also joined the Centre in the first six months of 2019.

His Highness Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and President of the DIFC, said: “Dubai continues to gain recognition on the global stage as the destination where business meets innovation, and the DIFC has been a significant driver of this.  The strong performance that the Centre has delivered during the first half of 2019 highlights the confidence and trust that international financial institutions have in Dubai.  Aligning with the 50-year charter announced by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the planned expansion of the DIFC will solidify Dubai’s role as a pivotal hub for companies from around the world to access regional opportunities.”

His Excellency Essa Kazim, Governor of DIFC, commented: “The DIFC has been a pioneer in the financial services sector since its inception in 2004, as the first purpose-built financial centre in the MEASA region. 15 years on, we continue to demonstrate our forward-thinking approach with the enhancement of our legal and regulatory framework, as well as the development of a comprehensive ecosystem. The Centre remains a fundamental driver in leading financial sector transformation, supporting the advancement of the UAE economy, and developing the next generation of financial professionals.”

Driving the Future of Financial Services in MEASA

In response to the strong demand the DIFC continues to witness from financial institutions across the globe, the Centre embarked upon 2019 with the announcement of new expansion plans, supporting the economic future of Dubai and the UAE. The phased growth plan will triple the scale of the leading financial hub and enable the DIFC to help deliver on Dubai’s ambitious growth agenda, whilst diversifying and transforming the financial services sector within the wider region.

The new development will provide an international focal point for FinTech and innovation, enhancing the Centre’s reputation as one of the world’s most advanced financial centres and reinforcing Dubai’s position as one of the world’s top ten FinTech hubs, as listed by FT’s The Banker.

The Centre has already seen a marked increase in the number of firms that make up its dynamic FinTech ecosystem, which more than doubled in size from over 80 to 200 companies in the last six months.  Similarly, the number of licensed FinTech firms operating in the DIFC increased from 35 to more than 80 in the first half of 2019. Key international FinTech firms that have made the Centre their MEASA base include Dublin-based software company Fenergo, InsurTech leaders Charles Taylor and Swedish crowdfunding platform, FundedByMe.

Arif Amiri, Chief Executive Officer of DIFC Authority, commented: ‘We are continuing to cement our global position as a pivotal business and finance hub, while making significant headway towards meeting our 2024 targets.  Our focus on innovation and technology is delivering a blueprint for sustainable growth as we continue our journey towards driving the future of finance. DIFC’s emphasis on transforming its lifestyle offering, alongside strategic investments within technology and FinTech means we are confident about reinforcing our position as a leading global financial centre – a great place to live, work, play and do business.”  

The Centre received 425 applications from start-ups operating in the RegTech, Islamic FinTech, InsurTech and broader FinTech sectors, for the third cohort of its DIFC FinTech Hive accelerator programme, a 42 percent increase from the 2018 programme. This also marked a three-fold increase from its inaugural cycle in 2017, exemplifying the pace of evolution of this fast-growing industry, as well as the preference of Dubai and the DIFC as the home for FinTech firms looking to scale their business across the region.  Approximately half of the applications received for the 2019 programme originated from the Middle East, Africa and South Asia. 

33 start-ups have been selected following a series of interviews, conducted in consultation with DIFC FinTech Hive’s network of 21 participating partners, including Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB), Emirates Islamic, Emirates NBD, Finablr, HSBC, National Bank of Fujairah, Noor Bank, Riyad Bank, Standard Chartered, and Visa, as well as the associate financial institution partners Arab Bank and First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB).

InsurTech start-ups will work closely with leading insurance players, AXA Gulf, Noor Takaful (Ethical Insurance), Zurich Insurance Company Ltd (DIFC), AIG, Insurance House, Cigna Insurance Middle East S.A.L. and MetLife, to help them develop game-changing solutions that address the growing requirements of the industry. In addition, this year’s finalists will be supported by strategic partner Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre (DIEDC) and digital transformation partner Etisalat.

Furthering the Centre’s commitment to supporting FinTech in the region, DIFC hosted the first Demo Day for the inaugural cycle of the Startupbootcamp programme in April 2019, alongside HSBC and Mashreq.  The event showcased innovative concepts from ten graduates of the programme, consisting of entrepreneurs from the UAE, Singapore, United Kingdom, Greece, France, Thailand, Ghana, Morocco, Ukraine, and the Czech Republic.

The Centre’s thriving FinTech community benefits from the strong relationships the DIFC has continued to build with key international accelerators through ongoing delegations and partnership agreements. The DIFC signed four MoUs during the first half of 2019, one with Dubai SME to help foster entrepreneurship in the UAE and further the National Innovation Agenda, as well as three additional agreements with FinTech Saudi, Milan’s FinTech District and FinTech Istanbul, expanding the Centre’s network of international FinTech hubs to 14.

Furthermore, DIFC has worked to increase access to funding by engaging and building its Venture Capital ecosystem, as well as investing directly into promising FinTech start-ups.  In March 2019, the Centre announced the appointment of Middle East Venture Partners and Wamda Capital to manage USD 10 million of its dedicated USD 100 million FinTech fund.  To date, DIFC has received more than 50 applications from a variety of financial technologies, including payments, roboadvisory, blockchain and KYC platforms.  The applications received have been in equal parts from early and growth stage firms, signifying interest from firms across the start-up business cycle.

Supporting Human Capital Development and Delivering Sustainable Impact

As part of the DIFC’s efforts to support continued professional development and strengthen the regional talent pool, the DIFC Academy offers world class financial and legal education through strategic partnerships with 26 leading educational institutions and government entities. To date, the DIFC has seen more than 5,500 graduates successfully undertake executive education courses and programmes in finance, business and law, as well as two dedicated Masters of Laws (LLM) programmes.

Knowledge sharing and thought leadership remained a core focus for the financial centre in 2019. The third edition of the Dubai World Insurance Congress (DWIC) and the second edition of the Global Financial Forum (GFF) welcomed more than 700 industry leaders to each flagship event. Key speakers at DWIC included James Vickers, Chairman of Willis Re International and David Watson, Chief Executive Officer for Europe, Middle East and Africa and International Casualty at AXA XL, who shared global perspectives on reinsurance growth strategies. Meanwhile, the GFF, which brought together more than double the number of business leaders compared to the inaugural event in 2018, attracted the likes of Sir Gerry Grimstone, Former Chairman of Barclays Bank PLC and emerging markets guru, Mark Mobius.

In recognition of DIFC’s efforts towards building one of the world’s leading financial centres over the last 15 years, the Centre was the only free zone in the UAE to receive the Dubai Quality Award in April 2019. The award is a reflection of the DIFC’s hard work and dedication in building a sustainable and progressive business environment. 

In May 2019, another milestone for sustainable business growth was achieved as Majid Al Futtaim launched the world’s first benchmark corporate Green Sukuk at Nasdaq Dubai, supporting Dubai’s growth as the global capital of Islamic economy. The Green Sukuk investment will be used to finance and refinance Majid Al Futtaim’s existing and future green projects, including green buildings, renewable energy, sustainable water management, and energy efficiency. 

Enhancing the Legal & Regulatory Framework to Fuel Growth

The Centre has been at the forefront of enhancing its legislative infrastructure to provide the DIFC community with access to opportunities within the MEASA region, whilst providing greater stability and certainty when doing business in the DIFC. The Centre’s robust legal and regulatory framework remains the most sophisticated and business-friendly Common Law jurisdiction in the region, aligned with international best practice.

DIFC continues to support the development of the financial services sector and foster the UAE’s economic growth by encouraging the development of the domestic funds market. In May 2019, the DIFC’s independent regulator, the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA), announced the a new regime to facilitate the passporting of funds, in collaboration with the UAE’s other financial regulators. The UAE passporting regime is a regulatory mechanism for the promotion and supervision of investment funds that encourages foreign licensed firms in financial free zones based in other countries to enter the local market.  

With the aim of ensuring businesses and investors can operate across the region with confidence, the DIFC also unveiled the new Insolvency Law in June 2019, enacted by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. The new law facilitates a more efficient and effective bankruptcy restructuring regime for stakeholders operating in the DIFC.

In addition, the DIFC has continued to create an attractive environment for the 24,000 strong workforce based in the Centre to thrive, whilst protecting and balancing the needs and interests of both employers and employees. To support its vision, the DIFC unveiled its new Employment Law in June 2019 to address key issues such as paternity leave, sick pay, end-of-service settlements and more.

As part of the Centre’s blueprint for the transformation of the financial centre and in line with global retirement savings trends the DIFC launched the Employee Workplace Savings (DEWS) scheme, which will see the evolution of end-of-service benefits from a defined benefit scheme to a defined contribution scheme, while offering a voluntary savings component for employees.

The Centre also unveiled a new unified, simplified and more expansive Prescribed Companies regime that makes structuring and financing in the DIFC faster, flexible and more cost-effective. The new regime encompasses structures previously offered by the Centre, including Intermediate Special Purpose Vehicles (ISPVs) and Special Purpose Companies (SPCs).  This has contributed significantly to a robust pipeline of prospective business from the aviation financing sector, as well as generating substantial interest from family offices looking to utilise these structures in their succession planning.

Creating a Vibrant Retail & Lifestyle Experience

Today, 91 percent of DIFC’s prime retail space is occupied by 432 leading lifestyle, art, fashion and food & beverage brands, an offering that will be significantly boosted once Gate Avenue is fully open.  Upon officially opening its doors to the public, the new development will provide seamless connectivity to the Centre’s comprehensive lifestyle offering, from The Gate building through to Central Park Towers.  The new retail experience will feature over 100 days of unique arts, culture and wellness activations, making DIFC the destination where business meets lifestyle.

During the first half of 2019, Hilton Hotels & Resorts announced the opening of Waldorf Astoria, Dubai International Financial Centre. The 275-key hotel occupies the 18th to 55th floors of the Burj Daman complex, including 46 suites and 28 residential suites offering unobstructed views of the Downtown Dubai skyline.  Combined with the two other world-class hotels based in the Centre, Four Seasons and the Ritz-Carlton DIFC, this brings the total number of hotel rooms available to those visiting the DIFC to 722.

In addition, the Centre welcomed a number of new culinary concepts to the DIFC’s gourmet scene including ‘Marea’, the New York fine dining experience led by multi-Michelin starred chef, Michael White as well as Grecian inspired ‘Avli by Tasha’. In March 2019, it was announced that renowned chef Nusret Gökçe is set to launch casual dining concept ‘Saltbae’ at the Centre this year.

DIFC is also home to one of the UAE’s largest collections of public art with sculptures from internationally renowned artists including Manolo Valdés and is the foundation for initiatives such as the One Mile Gallery in partnership with Brand Dubai which showcases the best of local, regional and international design and promotes art, innovation and entrepreneurship. 

The Centre also welcomed its seventh elite art gallery, Sconci Gallery to the DIFC in the first half of 2019. Established in Rome during 1977, the gallery has collaborated with leading artists and international auction houses to showcase collections from masters of modern and contemporary art, as well as emerging artists. 

During March 2019, the DIFC hosted the most successful edition of the hugely popular Art Nights in the last five years. The event, which marks the beginning of Dubai’s coveted art season, Art Dubai 2019, saw participation from international and local art galleries and artists, as well as installations accompanied by electric musical performances and light installations from interdisciplinary artists.

Funds

Xolo secures $6.8m in Series A funding, launches “a virtual company” service for modern freelancers

Xolo (formerly known as LeapIN), the online platform for launching and running one-person businesses anywhere in the world has announced the completion of $6.8m (€6m) Series A funding, and a launch revolutionary form of entrepreneurship. The launch of the “virtual company” service will enable millions of professional freelancers around the world to radically reduce the complexity and cost of engaging with national governments and operate in a borderless world. The service will cut the time needed to launch a freelance business from weeks to minutes. 

 

Xolo’s investment round was led by European venture firms Karma Ventures (Estonia), Vendep Capital (Finland), and Leap Ventures (France). 

 

The company has been offering a full suite of services for global freelancers from 2015, including company formation online, access to banking, and full accounting and compliance service. The new “virtual company” product will bring that concept further by removing the last obstacles to launching their business.

 

Allan Martinson, Chief Executive Officer at Xolo, said: “We are focusing on 40 million professionals globally who have chosen to run their business independently. Estimated one million new freelancers start their professional journeys each year. Our ultimate goal is an absolutely seamless service that brings time spent on administrating a freelance business to zero.”

 

Xolo will now offer two products: Xolo Go and Xolo Leap. Xolo Go will allow launching a freelancing business in mere minutes as “a virtual company”, complete with a dedicated bank account, invoicing, expense management and payouts. Xolo Leap allows launching an EU-registered company with full banking service, accounting and tax compliance based on Estonia’s innovative e-Residency concept. 

 

“Administrating independent professional business in a traditional way may take up to two days a month. Our aim is to cut that down to near zero by offering an incredibly simple online platform that merges company formation, banking, accounting, and other services. We’re taking care of the bureaucracy so that millions of talented professional freelancers can focus on running their businesses,” Martinson continued. 

 

Xolo has thousands of customers around the world who use it as a subscription-based software-powered service, with 93% recommending the service that processes over €10,000,000 in customer revenues every month.

 

“Xolo is the quickest and easiest way to launch and run a one-person freelancing business in Europe. Our largest markets are Germany, Spain, France, the UK, Ukraine and Turkey. Our typical customers are software developers, management consultants or designers. Many of them are describing launching on Xolo as a life-changing event,” said Martinson.

 

“We are fascinated by Xolo’s vision of powering the revolution of free work. This, combined with the company’s proven service and talented team, is a formula for success,” said Margus Uudam, the partner with Karma Ventures. 

 

Sakari Pihlava, a partner at Vendep Capital, said: “Xolo is building something revolutionary – an interface between the micro-businesses and the governments that eliminate the complexity of reporting and compliance”.

 

Karma’s Margus Uudam and Vendep’s Sakari Pihlava will join Xolo’s board.

 

Xolo was founded in May 2015 when its founders had the urge to revolutionize the way microbusinesses are set up and managed. Using this funding, it aims to expand its operations across Europe and globally to allow more entrepreneurs to join the market.

WeSwap
Cash ManagementFunds

WORLD’S FIRST P2P CURRENCY EXCHANGE PLATFORM WESWAP HITS 500,000 USERS, LAUNCHES £2.3M FUNDRAISE

This morning, WeSwap, the award-winning peer-to-peer currency exchange platform, announces that in tandem with the launch of a £2.3 million funding round on leading investment platform Seedrs, it has hit 500,000 users. This raise will support the Series B investment round led by IW Capital, WeSwap’s lead investor, who has invested an additional £3.7 million in the travel money start-up, including £1.7 million of equity in this round.
 
Today’s news follows the company hitting a staggering £250 million in global currency traded on the platform since its launch in 2015, making the company the first peer-to-peer travel money fintech in the UK to do so. With award wins including Best Travel Money Provider at the 2018 and 2019 British Bank Awards, the fintech front runner has firmly cemented its role as one of the UK’s leading case studies for scale-up growth, fortifying a loyal and ever-expanding user base whilst maintaining the edge on product innovation and user experience.
 
WeSwap continues to hit remarkable milestones since its launch – presently, the currency exchange platform has over 30 travel industry partnerships, as well as booking flow integrations with online travel partners and numerous innovative travel-money products including:
 

  • A WeSwap pre-paid travel card
  • Card payments and withdrawals in over 195 countries and territories
  • Rate tracker
  • Smart Swap (where a user can pre-select an exchange rate at which they would like to execute a currency exchange)
  • Next day Travel Cash delivery
  • Buyback service

 
This is WeSwap’s third raise on Seedrs, having previously attracted over £3.5m from 3,868 investors.
 
Jared Jesner, CEO and Founder of WeSwap commented: “We have an incredibly loyal and engaged user base, something we’re truly proud of and will continue to honour with a great service. We are delighted to open up this latest round of funding, supplementing a series of debt, equity and private investment routes that have aided us in achieving some great milestones that we’re really proud of. This latest round will allow us to launch a range of new WeSwap product innovations and expand into Asia.”
 
For more information, please visit: www.seedrs.com/weswap3

Funds

Pimberly looks to expansion and sets sights on $10 million target

Pimberly looks to expansion and sets sights on $10 million target

SaaS firm helps companies manage all forms of product data

Manchester – Pimberly, the Manchester-based SaaS Product Information Management (PIM) and Digital Asset Management (DAM) platform provider, has moved into scale mode, investing to accelerate growth and achieve an ARR target of $10 million. The tech firm passed its $1 million annual recurring revenue (ARR) milestone earlier this year.

Pimberly’s PIM platform acts as a central hub for all omnichannel product data, including descriptions, specifications, sizing, pricing, availability, imagery and videos for multiple brands, currencies and geographies. Its automation and intuitive “No-Code” UI significantly streamlines ERP/eComm workflows. This helps retailers, distributors and manufacturers to seamlessly expand into new marketplaces and territories, as well as rapidly increasing time to market and the agility of their products and services.

The company has secured contracts with leading UK brands including, JD Sports, Freeman Grattan, Regatta and Card Factory, as well as international clients such as Brightstar in the US, Mconomy in the Netherlands and WhiteAway in Denmark.
Pimberly’s rapid growth follows investment from NorthEdge Capital and the UK Government. This has enabled the company to double its headcount to 40 over the last 12 months. The team is now in the process of expanding its headquarters, taking two floors within St James’s Tower in central Manchester and investing in more staff for product development, go to market and customer success.

Martin Balaam, CEO of Pimberly, said: “As new Enterprise B2B SaaS companies will know, getting your first paying clients is a huge milestone, enabling you to focus on getting to the nirvana of the $1m ARR target – I’m thrilled that Pimberly has been so well received by businesses. To surpass this target and focus on scaling to $10m ARR so quickly is just awesome”.

“It’s also a real indication that companies are increasingly focussing on their eComm/online strategies to fuel growth and can see the value that automated and effective product information management can have on their operational efficiency, their customer service and their bottom lines. This is a hugely exciting time for tech in the North West and we’re delighted to be a part of its success.”

PensionsWealth Management

What are the top ways to save on everyday spending?

We’re always on the lookout for ways to save money, especially after our bank balances have taken a hit over the festive period. Of course, there are the traditional ways of saving such as budgeting and setting aside a certain amount of funds each month. But, without overly restricting your leisure activities, what everyday changes can you make to spend less?

1.      Spend less on your energy bill

Make small everyday changes to lower the cost of your energy bill.

Did you know that 4% of your energy bill is attributed to cooking? Work on lowering this if you can. Your oven stays warm for a long time after you’ve switched it off. Try turning it off 10 minutes before you’re finished cooking to save on energy.

Instead of turning your thermostat up during the colder months, layer up instead to save on pennies! Switching down by just one degree Celsius can save you £85 per year — it all adds up. When it comes to showering, cutting your shower time down to 5 minutes instead of 15 minutes can save you £98 per year — less singing and faster washing!

2.      Storing food properly

When we’re packing food away in the fridge or freezer, we usually don’t think about how it’s stored. But, the way that you put away your goods can have an impact on your energy bill.

If you pack your freezer more tightly, this keeps more of the cold air in when you open the door. This means that the appliance doesn’t have to work as hard to lower the temperature again. The same applies for the refrigerator too — a full fridge requires less energy to stay cool than one that’s empty. If you’re struggling to pack your fridge or freezer full, filling it with newspaper can do the job.

3.      Save money booking holidays

Even when we’re trying to save money, we all deserve a holiday now and then! The good news is that you can save money by following a few top tips the next time you book a vacation.

Try and fly out on a Friday if you can, this can save you 18% on your airfare compared to if you flew out on a Sunday. Taking into consideration the average cost of a flight and the fact that the average Brit goes on holiday three times a year, you could save £85 annually by following this top tip.

Be calculative about when you book your holiday too. You can save £36 per year by booking your trip on a Monday as flights are 5% cheaper.

Consider packing more economically too. You can save £144 per year by only taking hand luggage on your flights. Squeeze more into your suitcase by rolling clothes and packing garments in your shoes.

4.      Meal prepping

Being prepared when it comes to grocery shopping and planning lunches for the week can help save on cash.

Even making a shopping list before you head to the supermarket can help. In fact, 60% of people who take a shopping list to the supermarket said it saves them money. It stops you buying things that you don’t necessarily need and helps you stick to your budget.

Create a meal plan for the week too. This means that you’re only buying what you need and don’t need to spend money on unexpected lunches out. Statistics have shown that you can save an impressive £1,300 per year by preparing lunch at home rather than eating out during the week.

5.      Eco-conscious coffee drinking

There are a few ways that you can be eco-conscious about your coffee drinking while saving money.

First of all, you can start by making your coffee at home when you can. You can save £507 per year by making your coffee at home instead of buying one each day from a retailer. If you prefer coffee from the store, why not take your own cup? This is helping the environment and you can save £150 per year as many high street retailers now offer 50p off coffee when you present your own cup.

 

Make the small changes above and watch your pennies turn into pounds this year! For more saving tips, check out True Potential Investor’s Life Hacks interactive.

FundsFunds of Funds

Showpad Secures $70 Million in Series D Funding

Investment will accelerate global expansion and drive continued platform innovation by the world’s largest sales enablement software provider

Showpad, the leading sales enablement solution, has secured $70 million in Series D funding, a combination of debt and equity, led by Dawn Capital and Insight Partners with participation from existing investor Hummingbird Ventures and new investor Korelya Capital. Silicon Valley Bank provided the debt financing for the deal. The investment will fuel Showpad’s continued global expansion and new product development as Showpad accelerates delivery on its mission to empower sales and marketing to sell the way modern buyers want to buy.

 

Showpad is the world’s largest sales enablement software provider, with more than 1,000 customers worldwide spanning a breadth of industries including manufacturing, healthcare, technology, and financial services. With more than 90 percent year-over-year growth, Showpad’s rapid expansion is indicative of the explosive growth of the sales enablement market segment. According to Gartner, 15 percent of all sales technology spending will be applied to sales enablement technology by 2021.

 

“The growth we’ve experienced in the past year is proof that sales enablement solutions are now a must-have for B2B businesses. We pride ourselves on empowering modern sales teams to increase win rates, deal size, and buyer engagement with a single, scalable platform and a consumer-like user experience,” said Pieterjan Bouten, CEO of Showpad. “The continued support of our investors is validation of our vision for the sales enablement market and our ability to deliver innovation that maximises sales productivity and optimises marketing impact.”

 

Showpad has experienced explosive growth in recent years. In the U.S., the company has experienced 150 percent year-over-year revenue growth and grew the headcount of its Chicago office to more than 150 employees in just 18 months. With this investment, Showpad will drive continued growth in the sales enablement market by adding more than 200 new jobs to its global workforce of 400 in 2019. This investment will also drive the next chapter of the company’s geographic and platform expansion, including deeper penetration into the European market, which Showpad has dominated since its founding in 2011. In addition to its headquarters in Belgium, Showpad has offices in London, Munich, Poland, Chicago, San Francisco, and Portland.

 

With organisations accelerating their investments in sales enablement, Showpad remains focused on extending its leadership position in the sales enablement industry. In 2018, Showpad acquired two technology companies to broaden its sales enablement capabilities, including the $50 million acquisition of sales training software, LearnCore, and the acquisition of meeting intelligence platform, Voicefox. As a result, Showpad now offers the most flexible and complete sales enablement platform and is recognised as a Leader in The Forrester Wave™: Sales Enablement Automation Platforms, Q3 2018.

 

“To date there has been enormous innovation in automating the marketing and sales workflow. However, in the end, sales comes down to one person selling to another,” said Norman Fiore, General Partner at Dawn Capital and member of the Showpad Board. “Historically, this has been an offline process that has been wildly inconsistent and opaque. Showpad’s suite of products succeeds in bringing this process online for the first time with data-rich feedback loops on the effectiveness of teams, managers, salespeople and even individual pieces of sales content.”

“Its AI-driven recommendation engines work at all these levels recommending, for example, the most effective next piece of content for specific customers or the most appropriate training for an individual seller. Since we first invested in 2014, Showpad has consistently demonstrated its ability to define and lead the sales enablement category and we are thrilled to double down on this category, co-leading their Series D alongside Insight.”

 

To learn more about Showpad’s product, mission and vision, visit showpad.com

EquityFunds of FundsInfrastructurePrivate Client

Fairjungle raises €1.8m to accelerate is growth in the European business travel market

The Paris-based start-up, founded by former McKinsey mangers and Apple engineers, has recently raised close to €2m to accelerate the deployment of its modern business travel management solution in France, the rest of Europe, and beyond.

Fairjungle shifts into second gear. After making a name for itself in 2018 in the world of business travel, the start-up intends to accelerate its growth in 2019 with this raise of €1.8m. This round is highlighted by a complementary group of investors such as entrepreneurs Thibaud Elzière (Fotolia, eFounders; PayFit investor) and Eduardo Ronzano (Keldoc; Meero investor), business travel expert Bertrand Mabille (former Europe MD of Carlson Wagonlit Travel), and Whitestones Ventures, an investment fund led by Goldman Sachs alumnus Youssef Kabbaj.

Corporate travel in the technology age
Launched at the end of 2017 by former managers and engineers from McKinsey and Apple, the start-up has developed a solid reputation as an innovative challenger in the world of business travel.

Today, Fairjungle allows business travellers to book all their trips on a single platform in just a few simple clicks, while saving their companies 20-25% on their travel budgets.

Using proprietary algorithms based on the latest machine learning technologies, Fairjungle helps customers reduce the average booking time from 25 minutes to 60 seconds.

Voted 2018 Start-up of the Year at the IFTM Tourism Fair, Fairjungle’s platform today boasts more than 400 airlines and over a million accommodation options, all available at the best prices on the market.

For CEO Saad Berrada “everything started from our experience as consultants at McKinsey. We spent a fortune travelling but had to do so via a user experience dating back to the 1980s. With the technological tools we have today it was mindboggling that there was such a large gap between leisure and business travel. Thus, we set ourselves the goal of providing business travellers with an experience closer to that of Amazon than that of the La Redoute phone catalogue. We worked with a team of former Apple engineers and designers to rethink everything from the ground up; that’s how Fairjungle was born!”

For Youssef Kabbaj, managing partner of Whitestones Ventures (www.whitestones.vc) “FairJungle is a one stop shop solution for lean organizations who want more efficient business travel while improving massively the user experience and streamlining the booking process. The market is enormous and the team is amazing. We are very proud at Whitestones Ventures to be part of this adventure as investors and as (very satisfied) clients.”

Fairjungle redesigned the typical booking process of a business traveller to save time and money for all stakeholders involved. Thus, the platform now allows users to book and prepay their next trip (flight and hotel) in less than one minute (vs. an average 25 minutes with traditional tools). On the employer side, travel management is facilitated through automated travel policy functionality, a travel budget approval module, and an accounting reconciliation support tool.

The start-up has also innovated by offering a gamification module allowing businesses to save nearly 30% on their business travel expenses, while improving employee satisfaction. How? By directly influencing the purchasing behaviour of employees and rewarding them for choosing cheaper travel options. Think of it as an “inverted” loyalty program that promotes savings, realigning the financial interests of the company (the payer) and the travelling employee (the trip consumer).

A barely disrupted €260 billion market
With this raise of nearly €2 million, Fairjungle intends to shake up the European business travel market, estimated at more than €260 billion. Although the market is still largely in the hands of traditional, poorly-digitised agencies, new players are developing abroad. TripActions, a California start-up, is positioned in the same segment in the US and is now valued at more than €1 billion. Fairjungle’s formula for success is to focus on technology and the user experience for both the traveller and employer.

Fairjungle Co-Founder & CTO, Bertrand Guiheneuf, trained at Apple and was long-time right-hand man of Jean-Marie Hullot, CTO of Apple. For him “the opportunity is, above all else, a technological one. The journey, and especially the business trip, has been inadequately disrupted by digital technology: the technical culture dates back to the 1980s and 90s. Much of business travel today is still done manually. This limits the possibilities of existing solutions but also opens up a world of exciting possibilities for a team trained in the development of consumer applications, like Fairjungle.”

Fairjungle shifts into second gear
By leveraging the latest technologies (e.g., artificial intelligence, NDC), Fairjungle is primarily targeting modern companies that are looking for a tool to help them manage their journeys easily and with better costs, whether or not they currently use a travel agency.

Having seen the power of Fairjungle’s platform, a large number of start-ups and SMEs, as well as some larger companies such as OVH, are onboard. With additional success abroad, especially in London and Dubai, the company sees big things ahead beyond France.

Funds

APSCo members share unused levy funds for benefit of wider recruitment profession

Umbrella members of the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCohave donated unused Apprentice Levy funds to assist others in sending delegates on the Executive MBA in Human Capital.

The new programme, which is being delivered by Cranfield School of Management and was developed in conjunction with APSCo and Grant Thornton UK, is the first EMBA which is tailored specifically for the recruitment and talent management sectors.

Members which have shared parts of their own Apprenticeship Levy pots for the benefit of the wider recruitment profession include Orbital Payroll Group, Sterling Group and PayStream.

This has been made possible thanks to new rules introduced in April, whereby employers who can’t use their entire pot to upskill their own people are able to donate 25% of their funds to other companies rather than it being absorbed by the Treasury. Due to the large payrolls umbrella companies run, they typically have significant Levy pots.

When donated funds are coupled with APSCo bursaries, the cost of the EMBA for members is reduced from £27,000 to £7,000.

Jonathan Myatt, Director, Orbital Payroll Group said:

“As a payroll provider, we have a sizable Apprenticeship Levy pot that we cannot feasibly exhaust within our own organisation. However, through donating a portion of our unused funds to other APSCo members which are not Levy payers, we are providing recruitment professionals with an opportunity to upskill themselves to MBA level and putting money to good use that would otherwise simply be absorbed by the Treasury.”

Janene Rudge, Commercial Director, Sterling Group added:

“Sterling are delighted to be working with APSCo to assist with the funding for the Executive MBA. Encouraging and supporting employees with further qualifications and training is extremely beneficial for both the company and the employee and Sterling are pleased to be part of this.”

A spokesperson from PayStream said:

“PayStream is delighted to be supporting this exciting new initiative with APSCo. Investing in and training our future recruitment stars is something that PayStream strongly believes in and we are sure that this Executive MBA programme will prove to be a great success and highly sought after by many UK recruitment professionals.”

Ann Swain Global CEO at APSCo, commented:

“It’s fantastic that APSCo members have come together to donate their surplus levy funds to help the wider recruitment industry. I’m very thankful to everyone involved in supporting the Executive MBA programme and ensuring that our people continue to be able to learn the valuable skills that will strengthen the profession.”

If you would like further information on using or sharing Apprenticeship Levy funds to finance this programme, please contact Elaine Jacobs on +44 (0)20 7383 5100 or at [email protected]

Funds

Crypto Millions Lotto Launches the World’s Largest Bitcoin Lottery

Ofertas365 Limited is proud to announce the launch of its brand new lottery – Crypto Millions Lotto. Crypto Millions Lotto is the world’s largest online crypto lottery and provides a unique opportunity for players to play with Bitcoin – and to also win Bitcoin as prizes.

New customers will receive three free lines as an introductory offer and if that isn’t enough of an incentive, consider the jackpot which starts at a whopping US$30 million and rolls over on each draw until it is won!

All customers can be assured that the draws are completely trustworthy, transparent and fair as they are based on the outcome of the German National Lottery. Operational since 1955, the German National Lottery has an exemplary reputation in the industry and is televised twice weekly at times which are sure to quickly become the focus of Crypto Millions Lotto players around the world: at 6.25pm on Wednesdays and 7.25pm on Saturdays – Central European Time.

Bringing Bitcoin into the mainstream

In addition to offering exceptional prizes, Crypto Millions Lotto effectively bypasses the qualifying requirements of residency and any need to participate in local currency, which are common playing conditions of many existing lotteries around the world. Key to Bitcoin’s appeal is the payment freedom it provides, whereby it can be sent and received anywhere in the world, at any time, without the burden of national borders or the unnecessary bureaucracy of traditional currencies.

However, one of the most significant features of the launch of Crypto Millions Lotto is the major step it represents in bringing the world’s most widely used alternative currency further into the mainstream.

As Sulim Malook, CEO at Ofertas365, states: “We are delighted to launch Crypto Millions Lotto and believe that giving away three chances to win prizes worth tens of millions of dollars will encourage Bitcoin usage and adoption. Our affiliation with two top notch fiat-to-crypto exchanges – Coinbase and Wirex – will ensure new players get the best possible user experience, the cheapest fees and the most competitive fiat-to-Bitcoin conversion rates.”

Supported by market-leading technology

For Bitcoin holders, the process to start playing for the coveted US$30 million jackpot is very quick and easy. For those who need to buy Bitcoin, they are directed straight to market leading affiliate partners – Coinbase and Wirex.

The need for guaranteed peace of mind for players using Bitcoin with Crypto Millions Lotto is stressed by Pavel Matveev, CEO of Wirex: “In common with our partners Ofertas365, Wirex also know about delivering a unique service. As the world’s only licensed business account that allows payments in both crypto and traditional currency, we are pleased to provide our service to Crypto Millions Lotto. Our UK Financial Conduct Authority approval will undoubtedly provide the financial security that players require. Wirex delivers unbeatable value, flexibility and transaction speed by combining the efficiency of cryptocurrency payments with the universal acceptance of traditional fiat currency accounts, on a global scale.”

Licensed for everyone to enjoy

These capabilities make them a perfect match, as Ofertas365 is licensed to operate in more than 100 countries which includes anywhere online gambling is not prohibited. The company’s jackpots are comparable to the biggest State and National lotteries in the US and Europe, and for peace of mind are insured at Lloyd’s of London, the world’s leading insurance market.

Sulim Malook concludes: “We believe that our lotteries and games will provide a great deal of enjoyment because it’s much more fun to win Bitcoin than fiat

currency! We welcome further collaborations and partnerships that will expand and guarantee our offering.”

Funds of Funds

Rural communities receive a significant boost from The Prince’s Countryside Fund

In June, The Prince’s Countryside Fund has awarded half a million pounds of grant funding to 26 grassroots, community-led projects across the UK, which will benefit people living and working in rural areas.

The Prince’s Countryside Fund awards grants to local organisations, and since 2010 has distributed over £10 million. The Fund’s mission is to help ensure a vibrant rural economy with a thriving and resilient farming sector at its heart, and its grant programme is a major focus of activity to achieve this.

The broad range of successful projects will create locally-delivered solutions to the ever-pressing challenges facing rural communities – from farmer mental health support in Wales, to rural skills training in the north east, and the creation of rural hubs in Northern Ireland.

The Rural Four programme supported 13 of these projects with thanks to players of People’s Postcode Lottery. Rural Four aims to tackle isolation in rural areas and is funding projects including social hubs in Norfolk and rural transport schemes in Northamptonshire. It is helping rural communities in Norfolk and Cheshire to improve their digital connectivity by installing high speed broadband in a central hub, which is open to all, and to provide digital skills training in Lincolnshire.

Announcing the grant recipients, Claire Saunders, Director of The Prince’s Countryside Fund said: “It is great to see so many organisations coming up with unique ways to combat the challenges that are facing rural communities and to know these projects are key to making a difference. From funding a community brewery in East Anglia, to a mentoring and land access programme for young entrants to agriculture in Northern Ireland – The Prince’s Countryside Fund is committed to improving the quality of life, in all aspects, for all people living and working in our great British countryside.

“This has been our most competitive round of grant applications in Fund history, with nearly 300 applications requesting £10 million of funding. The applications were all of a very high standard and we are delighted to be working with the 26 successful beneficiaries.”

The Fund will be open again for grant applications in January 2020. More details can be found at www.princescountryside.fund.org.uk/grants.

Infrastructure

The skills needed to become an independent non-executive director

By David Selves, Broadcaster and Business Advisor at The Selves Group

Authorised Fund Managers (AFMs) across the UK are scrambling to fill up to 480 independent non-executive director vacancies to comply with new legislation released by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

 

As part of the legislation, the FCA requires that all AFMs must have a minimum of two independent directors on their board by Monday 30th September 2019. So, with just three months until the deadline, AFMs are actively looking for suitable professionals to fill this gap, but who are the desired candidates and what skills do they need to possess?

 

Essentially, the primary role of a non-executive director (NED) is to impart a creative contribution to the board by providing independent oversight and constructive challenge to the executive directors. Assigned to question the status quo of an organisation, NEDs typically do not engage in the day-to-day management, but are involved in policymaking and planning exercises.

 

Ideally, NEDs should not be from the industry in question, thereby enforcing impartiality in the best interests of the company stakeholders. In addition, they should either be worldly – which may mean simply having a vast experience of life in general across numerous disciplines, rather than senior roles in another industry – or be what is referred to as an ‘expert customer’; a person who potentially might use the product or service offered.

 

Regardless of industry experience, NEDs must be independent thinkers and question strategy, management techniques, performance and standards of ethics and conduct. Predominantly, they should always take an independent view on the promotion and external appointments of senior executives.

 

NEDs also need to understand the workings of the company before they accept a position because they will have exactly the same responsibilities in law as executive directors. Whilst they should be given sufficient industry training to be able to effectively challenge the executive directors, they must also ensure that they have the time to keep up to date with ever-changing industry standards.

 

For progressive businesses, the value of a NED is that they bring a broader perspective. Companies often appoint NEDs for their contacts, particularly in the bigger cities, but that can be a dangerous route. The idea of a NED is not to facilitate wheels within wheels, but in fact quite the opposite. A NED should act as a centre of influence to ensure the company contacts the right external groups. Moreover, smaller companies are increasingly finding that the relatively low cost of NEDs is a very worthwhile investment.

 

In short, NEDs need to bring a host of skills to the table. AFMs want someone who has a wide experience of life, is independent of thought and deed, acts impartially, and is a well-rounded and respected individual. While on the job, the ideal NED should provide constructive challenge both strategically and operationally, offer specialist advice where qualified to do so, and never be afraid to hold management to account.

David Selves is a business advisor at The Selves Group. He has enjoyed an eventful 50-year career as a seasoned broadcaster, entrepreneur, publican and hotelier. Making his name in business hospitality by purchasing struggling hotels and turning them into award-winning venues, David has built a reputation as a respected and highly regarded businessman. He was also the former Regional Chairman and National Board Member of the Small Business

Funds

How to understand and learn to love your business accounts

By Jonathan Amponsah CTA FCCA, The Tax Guys

 

Business owners need to understand the language of numbers if their business is to succeed. 

 

Let’s looks at how to understand your year-end or management accounts, what you need to know and red flags to look for. The aim is to take away the fear of accounting and help you connect with your numbers.

 

  1. Profit

 

The first thing to check is whether you’re making profit and if that profit figure makes sense. Do this by looking at the profit and loss account and scrolling down to the bottom which will show a profit (positive figure) or a loss (negative figure).

 

Then look at the top figure (the sales) and glance through the list of expenses.

 

Take the bottom figure (let’s assume it’s £15,000 profit). Divide it by the top figure (assume £100,000 sales). This gives you 0.15, meaning for every £1 of income, you’re generating 15p in net profit.

 

Is this level of profit what you had in mind? Does the 15% net profit margin deliver the right return?  

 

 

  1. Is Your Business in a Good State?

 

Does the business have a positive balance sheet value? The balance sheet statement shows what your business has and what it owes. Note the number at the bottom. It’s normally called capital and reserves. A positive figure means your business has some value.

 

A negative figure is a red flag. It means if things carry on as they are, you won’t have a business for long.  Take action and start by improving profits.

 

Reviewing the balance sheet ask simple questions like; is this how much I owe my creditors? is this how much my customers owe me? If the amount your customers owe you is higher, it’s a red flag. Get the debtors list, review and start making calls.

 

  1. Cashflow

 

Your profit figure shows £15,000 as above but your bank balance is only £3,000. Where did the £12,000 go? A financial statement called the cashflow statement reconciles your cash to your profit. Even without a statement you can check:

 

Have your customers paid you late?

Have you drawn more money or dividends out?

Have you paid your suppliers early?

Have you purchased some equipment?

 

If you answer yes to any of these, then chances are that’s where the £12,000 is sitting.

 

  1. Using trends

 

Compare the current year or the current month’s figures to the previous year or month to make sure you are making progress towards your milestones and also to spot anomalies.

For example, if your phone costs or utility costs have gone down by, say 30%, compared to last year, ask yourself why. Is this because of the cost cutting decision you made a year ago? Or the change in tariff decision?

  1. Margins

 

It is very important to know your Gross profit margin. The next time you get your accounts, take the direct costs of sales or direct expenses (variable costs) from the revenue. Divide that number by the revenue. This is your gross profit margin.

 

Say your revenue is £100,000 and your materials or direct labour or direct expenses cost £70,000. The difference of £30,000 divided by £100,000 revenue gives you a margin of 30% i.e. every £1 of sale, you’re making 30p in gross profit. This tells you how profitable you are at the gross margin level and whether your business model works or not.

 

Two red flags: if you’re making £30,000 in gross profit but your fixed costs are say £35,000, something needs to change if you’re to remain in business. Also, if your margin is far below the industry average, you need to understand why and take corrective action.

 

  1. Breakeven

Breakeven is the point where your total income equals your total costs.

 

The reason you need an idea of your breakeven number is so that you know how much income to make to cover all your costs.

 

How do you get this number from your accounts? You will first need to know your total fixed costs; the costs that do not change regardless of the amount of sales you make e.g. rent, admin team costs, rates, fixed line contracts. In your profit and loss account, it should be most items listed under admin expenses – although do watch out for any variable costs that find their way under admin costs.

 

You then need the gross profit margin. You divide the total fixed costs by the gross profit margin and this tells you the amount of sales you need to make at any given period to cover all your costs.

 

Let’s assume you have calculated the margin as 30% and your fixed costs as £35,000 as per the example above.

 

£35,000 divided by 30% gives you a figure of £116,667. Remember the income is currently £100,000. This tells you that your business needs to grow its income or review its costs if you’re to stay in business. Armed with this number you’re in control rather than flying blind.

 

 

  1. What’s Your Business Worth?

 

You now know how to get and make sense of your profit figure. You also know what to look out for when you review your balance sheet and the meaning of the balance sheet value. And how to look out for the cash drain in your business. Did you know that these give you a starting point in measuring the value of your business?

 

Healthy profits, good cashflow and positive balance sheet values are signs of a valuable business. Of course, there are many other factors to consider when valuing your business and other key drivers of business value. However, understanding your accounts will help you make the right decisions for building the value of your business.

 

 

Conclusion

 

Numbers are the language of business. It’s important that you or someone skilled in accounting interprets them.  That way you’ll understand the story the numbers are telling you and can use this to inform your business decision-making. I hope the areas discussed here are helpful. Remember to keep talking to you accountant regularly as there are other key numbers to review.

Equity

eFounders and Yousign join forces to build the European leader on the eSignature market

Yousign, a major player on the French eSignature market, and eFounders, the startup studio at the inception of successes like Aircall, Front, and Spendesk, have joined forces to build a leader on the European eSignature market. eFounders has taken a substantial stake in Yousign by bringing its expertise and its international experience in order to build a European leader alongside American competitors.

The market for eSignatures has grown beyond $1 billion in 2018, and is expected to grow by 30% each year for the next 10 years. Europe, via the eIDAS regulation, and the USA, via the ESIGN Act, have adapted their legislation to make eSignatures legal and recognised. The obvious advantages have firmly established electronic signatures in the day-to-day processes of businesses across the world and across industries. Yousign’s customers include Cisco, Admiral Group, and Chrysler reflecting this diversity.

Launched in 2013 and certified at EU level, Yousign has thousands of clients in France using their app and API services. Yousign raised $3.3 million in early 2018 to fund its triple digit growth.
Founded in 2011, eFounders is a startup studio. Together with entrepreneurs, eFounders has launched 20 SaaS startups and is now taking on a new challenge by partnering up with an already established team.

“We’re used to building companies from scratch. Entering an existing company is new for us. We’re thrilled to be able to join the Yousign adventure and work with them towards a shared objective. We met Luc and Antoine 4 years ago when we were considered working in that space. We followed their progress and kept in touch until this summer when the opportunity to work together presented itself. “

— Thibaud Elzière, founder @eFounders

Both companies bring complementary assets to the table. Yousign has assembled a great team, deep understanding of the market, a large customer base, as well as a solid technical infrastructure. eFounders brings product and marketing expertise as well as international experience in SaaS.

“We immediately hit it off and knew from the get-go that we both had plenty to gain from relying on our complementary expertise.”

— Antoine Louiset, founder @Yousign

“The market is huge, and hugely competitive. We decided to partner up with eFounders to aim for the next level. We’re hoping that with their experience and expertise we can turn Yousign into the European eSignature leader. “

— Luc Pallavidino, founder @Yousign

After launching in France, Yousign is now entering Germany, the UK, and Spain. European countries are all subject to the same legislation, but Yousign will adapt to local cultures and markets in a way that it’s US-based competitors have not been able to.

“eFounders has focused on creating tools to help SMBs in their digital transformation and we consider eSignatures to be a key part of that transition. Our desire to position ourselves on this market and Luc and Antoine’s vision on how to address it compelled us to join forces with Yousign and to deliver our know-how and our resources. We’re excited by the challenge ahead and for the journey we will be taking together with Yousign’s founding team.”

— Quentin Nickmans, founder @eFounders

OffshoreWealth Management

How to choose the right country for opening a company

How to choose the right country for opening a company 

The world we live in today has made it quite easy for most of us to start our own company. The Internet has created a lot of new business opportunities and ideas which can be successfully put to use and to the benefit of others. With so many options, choosing the country to set up a business in is one of the most important challenges.

Selecting the country to open a company depends on the money one is willing to invest, the industry or the profession of the business person and, of course, the legislation in that particular country. Plus, one also needs to consider the many frauds which have developed along with the appearance of the Internet. One must always consider asking for legal advice from a criminal defence lawyer, if confronted with a possible fraud.

Let’s see what one should consider in terms of country of choice when deciding to start a business.

Taxation is essential when opening a business

Most business persons consider taxation as one of the most important aspects when choosing a country to start a business in. There are onshore and offshore destinations, if we are to categorize countries from a taxation point of view; however, there are also countries which provide for low taxes just as offshore states. For example, large companies can decide to set up subsidiaries in Labuan, one of the most important offshore jurisdictions in Malaysia, while benefiting from a very good taxation system.

Offshore jurisdictions are still preferred by many investors

Offshore countries remain among the preferences of many foreign entrepreneurs who consider they can reduce their taxes and ensure a higher degree of confidentiality if they decide for such a jurisdiction. Let’s take Seychelles, for instance: setting up an offshore company in Seychelles will definitely offer a good protection when it comes to the assets of the owner, if one chooses this business form. Investors can also decide to open onshore companies and complete activities just like in any other onshore jurisdiction.

Going for traditional country

There are also entrepreneurs who decide to go the old-fashioned way and settle their companies in traditional countries with well-established regulations. These are usually European countries, such as Germany, France, Spain and Italy which have evolved a lot in the last few years, especially in accommodating the needs of the new generation of investors which rely on new technologies. Those who decide to operate in Italy, for example, are advised to use the services of a local law firm in order to integrate their businesses under the legal requirements of the authorities here.

No matter the country one decides for setting up a business, what matters in the end is for that country to answer the needs of entrepreneur, while his or her products or services answer the needs of the clients in that country.

Funds of Funds

Credit Kudos Raises £2.2m in Latest Round of Funding

Credit Kudos, challenger credit bureau and leader in commercial applications of Open Banking, announced today they have raised £2.2m in their latest round of funding. Funding is led by Ascension Ventures, through its social impact fund Fair by Design, with additional investment from existing investors NFT Ventures and Entrepreneur First’s Next Stage Fund. New backers include Dragons’ Den star Sarah Willingham; prolific angel investor Charlie Songhurst (investor in Affirm, ClassPass, and Coindesk); and key figures from the credit industry, including both the former CEO and MD of Callcredit, now TransUnion, John McAndrew and Graham Lund. The investment will be used to drive further growth within the UK and support expansion into Europe, alongside further investment into Credit Kudos’ platform.

Credit Kudos, which launched its Open Banking platform in January 2018, was co-founded by software engineers Freddy Kelly and Matt Schofield. Upon returning to the UK after working in Silicon Valley, Freddy faced a myriad of challenges accessing credit due to his ‘thin’ credit file. With little to no recent financial activity in the UK, Freddy was offered only limited credit product options, with higher interest rates and restrictions. This experience led Freddy to co-found Credit Kudos to help all people access affordable credit.

In the UK alone, it is estimated that 1 in 4 UK families have less than £100 in savings, demonstrating a pervasive need for access to affordable credit. However, due to insufficient data, many individuals with the most need for credit are at risk of being pushed into high-cost credit options, and have the hardest time accessing affordable loans. It was also revealed that financially excluded individuals pay on average a “poverty premium” of £490 per annum.

Credit Kudos’ mission is to advance financial inclusion through new applications of technology. Credit Kudos provides lenders, brokers and financial institutions with a highly accurate and transparent scoring system based on consumer consented data, providing a fairer representation of an individual’s creditworthiness. Credit Kudos’ solution enables lenders to make better decisions, whilst simultaneously helping previously overlooked individuals access credit.

Investment in this round by Ascension Ventures’ social impact fund Fair by Design (FBD), is a testament to Credit Kudos’ work towards the advancement of financial inclusion and reducing the poverty premium, to enable previously overlooked individuals access to mainstream credit through alternative measures of creditworthiness. “Credit Kudos is very much at the centre of the FBD investment thesis,” said Emma Steele, Investment Manager for Ascension Ventures “They are a core solution to tackling the lack of fair and affordable access to credit for customers, with thin files or no credit history. We very much back Freddy’s ambition to change the way the risk profile of a potential borrower is assessed. By doing that, Credit Kudos has the potential to 1) advance financial inclusion by improving approval rates for people previously excluded by the system 2) help prevent borrowers from being forced into higher priced products and 3) make it easy for lenders to check affordability. We are excited to back the team on this journey.”

Also providing further investment is the world’s leading talent investor, Entrepreneur First. Entrepreneur First have been a part of the Credit Kudos story since inception. Matt Clifford, Entrepreneur First CEO said, “Credit Kudos is tackling a highly complex and challenging problem, taking a new approach that leverages machine learning to power smarter decisions. We are thrilled to be doubling down on our commitment to the team and their vision.”

This funding round has brought a number of new backers including BBC Dragons’ Den star Sarah Willingham, “I’m thrilled to be backing the Credit Kudos team and their mission to make credit scoring fairer and easier for both businesses and consumers. Sadly the traditional methods are still opaque and confusing and all too often consumers are penalised despite being very creditworthy. Applying new data and technology to the problem gives Credit Kudos the ability to make smarter decisions, empowering consumers and giving them greater choice. I look forward to seeing Credit Kudos make a lot of lives easier.”

Securing further investment from both original investors and further industry leaders is evidence of Credit Kudos’ success and growth since Open Banking became a reality in early 2018. “This investment allows us to scale up our business to meet the demands of a post-Open Banking and PSD2 world,” said Freddy Kelly, Credit Kudos CEO. “This funding will be used to expand our engineering and development team to continue to deliver first to market technology across our platform, as well as supporting expansion into wider Europe.”


ArticlesCash ManagementInfrastructureRisk Management

Samuel Knight’s aggressive five-year growth plan leads to new office opening in Baghdad

Newcastle-based Samuel Knight International has announced plans to open a new office in Baghdad as part of its extensive international growth plans. This move will support clients of the specialist global energy and rail recruitment firm and further ensure the company abides by compliance laws in Iraq.

Haider Kadhim, Samuel Knight’s Iraq Country Manager will be the point of contact for clients and candidates in the city. The firm will officially launch the office opening in an event next month that is expected to see representatives from the Department of Trade Industry along with other several reputable organisations attend.

Commenting on the firm’s success, Steve Rawlingson, CEO at Samuel Knight said:

“Our aggressive five-year growth plan is manifesting at such an impressive rate, taking the company to exciting new territories. The team is working diligently to surpass expectations set out in the plan and ensure Samuel Knight is cemented as the leading global energy and rail recruitment specialist. Our Baghdad office will give us a distinctive edge over our competition and allow for more exciting business opportunities. Once the office becomes more established and client acquisition develops, we will certainly be adding more consultants and manpower in the city.”

Foreign Direct InvestmentFunds of Funds

Bitcoin: Stability Not Likely For Burgeoning Investment Product

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

digital tax
FinanceFundsTaxTransactional and Investment Banking

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

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

Written by Steve Lane, CTO at Access Group

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


What MTD requires

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

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


Putting off MTD is no longer an option

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

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


Transformation

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


Accreditations

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


Productivity

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

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

Cash ManagementFinanceFundsMarketsRisk Management

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

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

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

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

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

Deals the firm completed globally in 2018 include advising:

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

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

Fluidly on its investment from Nyca Partners and Octopus

Anthemis on its investment in Realyse

Simply Cook on its investment from Octopus

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

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

Local Globe on its investment in StatusToday

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

BGF on its investment in Ruroc.


Ashfords LLP
ashfords.co.uk

Cash ManagementFinanceFunds

Mayflex forms a Distribution Agreement with Global Invacom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Infrastructure

61% of Brits are worried the high street will disappear in the next 10 years

New research by KIS Finance has revealed that consumers are worried the high street is going to be lost completely due to the current store closures in the news.


From surveying 1,000 consumers in the UK, KIS unearthed startling findings including:

•61% of Brits are worried the high street will disappear in the next ten years due to recent store closures in the news

•Northern cities have by far been worst hit by store closures

•Food and beverage, value and fashion brands are predicted to be the next victims of the high street

•If local high streets had free parking and easy accessibility, consumers would be more likely to shop in-store


As part of its research KIS mapped out which cities had been hit the hardest by the major store closures of the last year, including those announced already in 2019 such as M&S and Patisserie Valerie. This revealed northern cities such as Leeds and Glasgow had been hit far harder than their southern counterparts. The top cities impacted were:

1.Leeds
2.Glasgow
3.Aberdeen
4.Bradford
5.Cardiff
6.Doncaster
7.Leicester
8.Manchester


By partnering with James Child, Retail Analyst at EG, we can see there doesn’t seem to be any sign of these closures letting up, he says: “It is quite likely that there will be a continuation, if not a proliferation of the negative headlines in retail. The raft of CVA’s and administrations in the sector has culminated in an expected 1,600 store closures across the UK, with over 18 million square foot of prime retail real estate vacated. When we break down the events of 2018 there are some trends which we could well see exacerbated into 2019 – due to fragile trading conditions and economic uncertainty.

There are certain sub-sectors that will face more pressure others. The fallout from the department store will continue at pace, with the future of House of Fraser, and Debenhams in particular should come to a head, a merger quite possible with a reduction of their overstretched portfolios. Food and beverage, value and fashion brands will come under more strain as over stretched markets begin to weed out weaker offers as retail Darwinism bites.”


When asked what would tempt them back to the great British high street, the top answers from Brits were:

•More staff to ensure that the experience is quicker (41%)

•Clearer stock check in store (34%)

•24-hour service so that you can shop at any time (27%)

•Self-checkout service to avoid queues (26%)


After asking consumers what they think the high street will look like in ten years, it seems that consumers are worried that independent stores won’t exist, the below is listed from most likely to least likely.

1.Restaurants
2.Coffee shops
3.Second-hand shops
4.Bars
5.Fast food restaurants
6.Retails chains e.g. department stores
7.Clubs
8.Cinemas
9.Banks
10.Travel agents
11.Independent retailers


Holly Andrews, Managing Director at KIS Finance says;

“With store closures flooding our news-feeds recently, we were interested to find out what the future holds for the high street and how consumers’ shopping habits might affect retailers’ footfall. It is obvious from our research that people do still like going into store to shop, but it just isn’t as accessible as online shopping is.

To save the high street many retailers need to ensure that they are thinking innovatively about how to draw customers in with clearer in-store stock checks, more staff and extended hours during busy periods. The reason why so many retailers are struggling with their stores is because consumer shopping habits are changing and the high street needs to change with it, creating a more community led atmosphere with more accessibility and variety for everyone.”

After surveying Britain’s consumers and finding out what the high street could look like in the future, KIS Finance have collaborated with Sam Edwards, an illustrator from London, to visual these changes.

Cash ManagementFundsRisk ManagementWealth Management

Samuel Knight International on track to continue major growth following investment

Samuel Knight International, the global recruitment and project man-power specialist headquartered in Newcastle, has announced significant investment from Gresham House Ventures. Samuel Knight, which was established in 2014 and has offices in London and Bristol, provides skills and energy solutions to the energy and rail sectors on a permanent, contract and temporary basis.

The company has demonstrated impressive growth since its formation. Last year, it achieved £13m turnover and took home ‘Team of the Year’ at the Great British Entrepreneur awards. 2018 also saw Samuel Knight securing major new client contracts in more than 30 countries, boosting headcount and expanding the business to accommodate business growth.

The growth capital investment from Gresham House Ventures, using funds from the Baronsmead Venture Capital Trusts, will fund Samuel Knight’s near-term growth plans. These include increasing headcount at the offices in Bristol and London and adding local talent to the Newcastle team, from entry level graduates to experienced consultants. The company is also planning international expansion with the potential acquisition of two sites abroad.

The recruitment drive is geared up to support expansion across the energy and rail space given increasing demand from clients and candidates. Samuel Knight is focusing on achieving greater market share and boosting awareness of the brand through targeted marketing and business development. The investment will also allow Samuel Knight to further invest in technology to continue innovation within the business.

Steven Rawlingson, CEO at Samuel Knight said: “We have a clear vision of what we want to achieve with the investment, and how this will help us to support commercial goals. We are delighted to have secured the funding from Gresham House Ventures, who share in our ambition and vision to grow the business. The investment will enable us to strengthen our global offer, expansion plans and team growth.”

Paul Kaiser, Katy Lamb and Michael McCulloch from UNW LLP provided financial advice to Samuel Knight International.

Katy Lamb, Senior Corporate Finance Manager at UNW who led the transaction said: “Having worked with the business since late 2017, helping management prepare for the investment, we were delighted to advise on the finance raise and have enjoyed working with such a dynamic, fast-growing business. It’s also great to see investment into the North East.”

Steve Cordiner, Director at Gresham House said: “Steven and the Samuel Knight team have done a fantastic job in growing the business so rapidly in such a short time period and we are proud to be partnering with such an ambitious team. There is huge scope for Samuel Knight to expand globally and we look forward to supporting the business on this phase of its journey.”

Anthony Evans, Adam Rayner and Harry Hobson from Muckle LLP provided legal advice to Samuel Knight International.

Shoosmiths LLP provided legal advice to Gresham House and Dow Schofield Watts provided the financial due diligence.
The Gresham House Ventures team invests equity of up to £5m in growth businesses, supporting founders with bold ambitions for the future, whilst providing transformational capital and expertise to accelerate business potential.

Cash ManagementFundsPrivate Funds

Underestimating the digital wealth start-up threat

A recent report from GlobalData found that only 10% of wealth managers perceive robo-advisors as an immediate threat.  With the entire financial industry racing towards widespread digital adoption, it begs the question – shouldn’t they be more worried?John Wise, CEO, Co-Founder and Chairman of InvestCloud investigates.

The biggest mistake wealth managers are making is holding on to the long-standing belief that robo-advisors will only serve the lower retail market. This is the same mistake ‘brick and mortar’ stores made in sizing up Amazon as a threat; they fail to appreciate the competitive advantage a digital platform has.

Many high earners are turning to robo-advisors and digital processes for a better return on their portfolio. A recent survey from InvestCloud found that 49% of investors are using mobile apps to manage their wealth. A further 48% are using a firm’s digital offerings as a key differentiator when choosing their manager. As investors continue to be more digitally savvy, this will certainly increase.

As things stand, digital can feel like the enemy to traditional wealth managers.

The need for hybrid wealth management

What many wealth management firms are failing to recognise is that it doesn’t have to be one or the other. By deploying a hybrid model of digital and traditional services, these firms can compete successfully in this changing digital environment.  

Traditional ‘brick and mortar’ wealth managers are faced with two key challenges today. The first of these is the well-documented fee compression. The second is the transfer of wealth from aging boomers to younger, more tech savvy and less financially educated generations – Generation X, Millennials and – soon – Generation Z.

At this inflection point, everyone has one question on their mind: How are firms going to attract new clients and retain existing ones in a cost-effective manner? 

The hybrid model of human and digital advice means advisers can use cost-effective technology from the robo space and combine it with differentiated and engaging client experience. This will be key to serving younger demographics. Hybrid advisors will be able to scale like a robo-adviser, being able to serve more clients, while ensuring continued engagement with existing clients through face to face interactions and digital empathy tools.

This change is already happening. Those who can see it as an opportunity and not as a threat will have the upper hand.

Creating a truly personailsed digital service

 

While automation plays a critical role in increasing a firm’s profitability, it is only one side of the equation. Clients will measure the quality of a service by what they see, so continually improving the quality of their digital experience is critical.

When an adviser cannot speak and interact with clients face-to-face, it can often be difficult to create and maintain a strong relationship that keeps a client sticking with your business. Instead, advisers need to create the same level of service online. Financial institutions instead need to build digital relationships, where each client can be engaged on their own terms.

This is why the digital experience is so important. It is not just about providing online services – wealth management clients also require a truly personalised, beautifully designed, intuitive and easy-to-work-with platform that caters to all their individual needs.

But this should not be one-sided. The client and adviser portals need to be directly linked, so the adviser can see what the client is looking at, or even influence the dialogue remotely using chat, video or direct messaging. This way, advisers can deliver complete personalisation.

The importance of data

Firms can not solely focus on the client-facing aspects of their business. Looking behind the scenes is equally important.

Getting information correct and accessible is key to success when operating at scale. Adopting a data warehouse is the most important aspect of any digital strategy. Information is power – but only if it is correct, gathered in one place, and is in a structured format.

Many traditional firms fail to appreciate how information from correctly managed data can be leveraged to better serve their customers. To use the Amazon analogy again – the amount of client information they can use from customer profiles is something brick and mortar stores can only dream of.

Using the right digital platform, wealth managers can collect client data, but also monitor how this information changes. For example, they can see which demographic pays closest attention to market changes, or how a client’s investment objective or risk tolerance changes over time.

Those using the right digital platforms can access deep behavioral analytics, which in turn helps them support more clients with less resources. Data in today’s digital environment goes beyond ‘csv’ files to include text, chat, documents, and pictures. Imagine an advisor on a call where the client is asking about a recent capital call transaction. Centralised platforms enable advisors to access all relevant client information, including primary documents from the custodian or fund administrator.  

The last piece of the puzzle is adoption. How are digital platforms helping wealth management firms increase adoption and retain existing clients?

Behavioral science functions combine unique and customisable digital personas. The right platform will allow financial institutions to connect with all their clients, despite vast differences in wealth, age, outlooks, and all the numerous facets that make them unique. Digital engagement requires human empathy, and personalised platforms can make each user feel  that their financial concerns are understood, whether they are Baby Boomers, Generation X or Millennials.

These elements are what constitutes a great overall digital strategy in 2019. Armed with the right tools, advisers will have an advantage over the robo advisers.

This is the holy grail of hybrid wealth management: Automated digital processes combined with the advantage of human insight. Being able to undertake ad hoc tasks for clients or difficult-to-do exercises that are a challenge, can now be automated with the click of a button. Digital empathy – expressed through the right tools – will set you apart. Longer retention, higher AUM growth and improved quality and operational efficiency all await.

With the right digital strategy, robo advisers have nothing on you.

FundsMarketsRegulationWealth Management

FTI Consulting Resilience Barometer Sheds Light on Lack of Business Preparedness

At this week’s World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, FTI Consulting launched their inaugural 2019 Resilience Barometer which explores how G20 companies are tackling an interconnected, technologically disrupted and increasingly regulated world. Astonishingly, the report has found that whilst companies anticipate challenges, such as cybersecurity and data, they remain largely unprepared.

 

In an age categorised by the WEF as “The Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution” (4IR), it is more important than ever for G20 companies to be instrumental in supporting societies and governments navigating unavoidable uncertainty and volatility. FTI Consulting’s new report outlines the key challenges we face as we move into 2019 by investigating company preparedness to 18 scenarios which could have a negative impact on turnover, value and reputation.

 

Highlights of the report include:

  • The resilience score for the G20 is only 40 points (out of a top score of 100 points) and turnover has been lowered by an average of 5.1% over the last 12 months, a major cause for concern in an environment that is growing more and more challenging.
  • We have found that the biggest threat to resilience in 2019 is that of ‘cyber-attacks stealing or compromising assets’ and 30% of companies we surveyed said this had happened to them in 2018. Yet whilst 28% of business leaders predict that this will occur to them over the next year, just 45% say that they are taking proactive steps to manage this risk.
  • 87% of companies expect a major crisis in 2019, yet only 4 in 10 are very confident in their ability to manage such a scenario.
  • One-third (1/3) of companies acknowledged that they are not doing enough to keep their data safe.

Kevin Hewitt, Chairman of FTI Consulting EMEA region explained that: “This report looks to identify and unpick the challenges, and opportunities, that companies are facing today as they manage risk and enhance their corporate value. More must be done to ensure sufficient infrastructure and processes are in place to proactively manage business threats in 2019. With significant expertise and experience, FTI Consulting is well placed to help businesses effectively respond in an effective and efficient way.”

 

Following the launch of the FTI 2019 Resilience Barometer, FTI Consulting will be attending the WEF in Davos this week and are available for more in-depth analysis of these results and how FTI Consulting can help your company build resilience and protect value in the face of challenges brought about by the 4IR.

BankingHedgeMarkets

Alternative SME finance provider Capify secures £75 million credit facility from Goldman Sachs

Capify, a leading alternative SME finance provider in the UK, has secured a £75 million credit facility from Goldman Sachs Private Capital (“Goldman Sachs”) to support its future growth plans and provide working capital to thousands of British SMEs over the coming years.

 

The Greater Manchester-based fintech company will use the new facility to accelerate the growth of its lending business to UK SMEs through its merchant cash advance (MCA) and business loan products. 

 

Capify has been active in the UK since 2008, executing over 9,000 transactions for UK SMEs seeking working capital for their business. Since inception, Capify has helped deliver £150 million in business loans and merchant cash advances in the UK.

 

“This is a landmark achievement for Capify and we are very pleased that we have secured this financing with Goldman Sachs, one of the premiere capital providers in the world,” said David Goldin, Founder and CEO of Capify.

 

“This new multi-year credit facility allows us to deliver on our own growth plans, whilst providing much needed access to capital for UK SMEs to help them to grow, to boost the economy and to create jobs.”

 

“The credit facility validates our company as a leader in the marketplace and underlines the strength of our business model to provide simple, affordable and smart financial options to UK SMEs.”

 

Pankaj Soni, Executive Director at Goldman Sachs Private Capital, said: “Capify is one of the leading SME finance providers in the UK. We have been impressed with the management team, business model and innovative finance solutions for SMEs. We look forward to supporting their growth in the years ahead.”

 

“We are extremely excited about our future relationship with Goldman Sachs,” added John Rozenbroek, Chief Financial Officer at Capify. “The credit facility will enable us to continue on our growth trajectory while offering even more attractive and innovative solutions to thousands of small businesses in need of capital.”

 

David Goldin, Founder and CEO of Capify.

Real EstateWealth Management

Vent-Axia’s Energy Efficient Ventilation just the Ticket for Luxury Eco Mansion

Picture credit: © Recent Spaces

Leading British fan manufacturer Vent-Axia has been specified as part of a luxurious, £5.5m contemporary off-plan eco mansion in Kent, presently listed with Savills. The Ancona mansion in Hythe is designed to be sustainable and low impact, with three of Vent-Axia’s Sentinel Kinetic High Flow Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery (MVHR) units chosen to provide quiet, energy efficient and effective ventilation and heating throughout the proposed 8,323 square foot home.

Envisaged by developer, Kelly Penson, and designed in conjunction with OnArchitecture working with energy advisors and Passivhaus consultants, Conker Conservation, Ancona is a rare opportunity in the UK to buy a luxury home off-plan. Resembling a Beverly Hills mansion but designed for the British weather, the plans show how a modern build can combine very contemporary aesthetics with sustainable living. The proposed home features cantilevered terraces with wild flower sedum grass roof coverings, three above ground floors, an indoor pool complex and gym, a master bedroom suite with magnificent panoramic sea views and a modern, stylishly-lit wine cellar.

The comprehensive Vent-Axia MVHR system, specified and designed by Built Environment Technology Ltd, harnesses geothermal temperatures for heating in the winter and cooling in the summer, all controlled via a tablet or phone. There are three ventilation zones – the garage; the ground floor including the gym and communal area between the gym and spa; and the 1st and 2nd floors, each with a designated Sentinel Kinetic High Flow MVHR unit.

“MVHR is an integral part of any Ecohome, Ancona is designed to be almost airtight making air changes via MVHR essential. Vent-Axia’s Sentinel Kinetic MVHR offers pre-conditioned air changes taking heat from outgoing air and applying it to fresh air. Ancona will be a calm, comfortable airy space which will be pollen free and help ensure good indoor air quality”, said Kelly Penson from EcoMansions. People are feeling increasing pressure from society and peers to be much more mindful of our carbon footprints and our impact on this planet. At EcoMansions we aim to provide our clients with more environmentally friendly legacies to enjoy. Our ethos is to provide luxury contemporary homes using the very best available eco friendly technology, products and materials wherever possible to provide the best achievable low energy efficiencies and therefore homes fit to endure our ever-changing climatic conditions.”

The Sentinel Kinetic MVHR units have integral humidity sensors for intelligent air quality control. The sensor increases speed in proportion to relative humidity levels, saving energy and reducing noise. It also reacts to small but rapid increases in humidity, even if the normal trigger threshold is not reached. This unique feature ensures adequate ventilation, even for the smallest wet room. A summer bypass provides passive cooling when conditions allow whilst a frost protection mode ensures maximum ventilation during the coldest periods. A digital controller is mounted on the front of the units and a remotely-wired version has also been included for each.

Ancona uses geothermal ducting that feeds into the three Sentinel Kinetic MVHR units with manual shut-off dampers included for each MVHR Unit, to provide the option of geothermal or atmospheric intake air. Geothermal ducting will provide some free cooling in the summer and some free heating in the winter, which will create a wonderful clean and healthy air quality and year-round temperature in the home. In addition, pollen filters on the MVHR will help hay fever sufferers and inhabitants suffering from other allergies such as dust. Where the MVHR air outlets and inlets penetrate the thermal envelope, appropriate insulating material has been specified to ensure minimum heat loss.

EcoMansions’ goal is to create a substantial home that costs no more to run than a normal family home, even including the existence of both a pool and jacuzzi, with a predicted A-Grade (96) EPC & SAP rated living space. The project is designed with triple glazing and a solid wall construction incorporating 100% recyclable clay blocks. Materials are, wherever possible, made from or with recyclable, recycled, sustainable, low carbon footprint materials without compromising the very high specification and performance of the home. An 8kW solar PV panel system has been included in the design to help keep the low energy house inexpensive to run and provide much if not all of the electrical energy requirements for the home. Battery banks have been specified to store excess energy from the daylight hours to use at night time.

Low carbon, energy saving and clean, Sentinel Kinetic High Flow MVHR is ideal for larger homes and offers a whole building heat recovery system combining supply and extract ventilation in one unit. Warm, moist air is extracted from ‘wet’ rooms through ducting and passed through the heat exchanger before being exhausted outside and fresh incoming air is preheated via the integral heat exchanger. The unit can extract from up to fourteen wet rooms and a communal kitchen while still achieving almost 90% heat recovery. It has two fully adjustable speeds and a purge setting and its energy saving Vent-Axia DC motors further improves efficiency and carbon reductions.

The units benefit from the latest high efficiency, backward curved impeller design, ensuring the lowest possible energy consumption, ultra quiet operation and an exceptional performance range covering small one bed apartments to the largest of houses. Recognised in SAP PCDB, the lightweight MVHR unit is simple to install with a horizontal duct option for space-saving installations and a unique folding filter for removal when access is restricted. The models can be mounted vertically in a roof space or on a suitable wall and ducting can be attached to the unit horizontally, vertically or both. Left or right-hand installation further adds to its installation flexibility.

To find out more about Ancona visit https://search.savills.com/property-detail/gblhchcks180166. For further information on all products and services offered by Vent-Axia telephone 0844 856 0590 or visit www.vent-axia.com.

FinanceInfrastructureReal Estate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


FinanceFunds

Young people suffer more with gift guilt at Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

FundsGlobal ComplianceTransactional and Investment Banking

The rise of renewable energy

You can’t deny that businesses around the world have taken a greater focus on sustainability — and although this has been damaging for some companies, it has been a great shift for others. One prime example of this is the renewable energy sector; while traditional energy markets are faltering and facing a challenging road ahead, the renewables sector is breaking records.

Although a lot of markets rely on natural resources to operate, the renewables industry use resources that naturally replenish. Collected under the umbrella term of renewables is solar, wind and wave power, alongside biomass and biofuels.

As the market continues to grow, HTL Group, specialists in controlled bolting for the wind energy sector, analyses where the renewables sector is at now:

The market’s performance

The recent years have been successful for the renewables sector. In 2016, 138 gigawatts (GW) of renewable capacity was created, showing an 8% increase on 2015, when 128 GW was added.

Occupying 55% market share and using 138 GW of power, the renewable energy sector is in the lead. Following in second place, coal created 54 GW of power-generating capacity, while gas created 37 GW and nuclear created 10 GW.

Renewables’ huge contribution to the global power-generating capacity accounted for 55% of 2016’s electricity generation capacity and 17% of the total global power capacity, increasing from 15% in 2015.

Research released by the UNEP highlighted that the renewable sector prevented 1.7 billion tonnes of CO2 in 2016 alone. Based on the 39.9 billion tonnes of CO2 that was released in 2016, the figure would have been 4% higher without the availability of renewable energy sources.

Renewable market investment

Regardless of the continued growth of the sector, investments actually decreased in 2016. In 2016, $242 billion was invested in the sector, showing a 23% decrease on 2015’s figures. This reduction can largely be attributed to the falling cost of technology in each sector.

However, this could be down to the alterations made to markets on a country-specific basis. In 2016, Europe was the only region to see an increase in investment in the renewables sector, rising 3% on 2015’s figures to reach $60 billion. This performance is largely driven by the region’s offshore wind projects, which accounted for $26 billion of the total, increasing by over 50% on 2015’s figures.

Across Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Belgium, investment seems to be strong. UK investment slipped by 1% on the previous year, while Germany’s investment dropped by 14%.

Believe it or not, investments made from China decreased from 2015’s $78 billion to $37 billion. Investment from developing nations also dropped in 2016 to a total of $117 billion, down from $167 billion in 2015. In 2016, investment had almost levelled out between developed and developing countries ($125 billion vs $117 billion).

What does the future look like?

With greater developments, the future looks bright for the renewable sector. From the falling cost of technology to societal shifts like the 2040 ban to prevent the sale of new petrol- and diesel-fuelled cars, the future certainly looks positive for the sector — even if investment has declined in the past year.

In the future, it is inevitable that the sector will overtake more traditional markets on a global scale, revolutionising how we generate and consume energy.

This article was provided by HTL Group, hydraulic torque wrench suppliers.

ArticlesCorporate Finance and M&A/DealsFunds of Funds

5 ways cognitive assistants are revolutionising banking

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Building a hybrid workforce

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

 

Ubiquitous customer services

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

 

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

 

24/7 banking support

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

 

Go beyond simple chatbots

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

 

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

 

Delivering better insights and improved security

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

 

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

 

The future of retail banking

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

 

 

Cash ManagementFinanceFunds of FundsHedgeWealth Management

BUY YOURSELF A HORSE WITH BITCOIN

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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WisdomTree launches Artificial Intelligence ETF (WTAI)

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

WisdomTree Artificial Intelligence UCITS ETF: Under the hood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Share Class Name

TER

Exchange

Trading Ccy

Exchange Code

ISIN

WisdomTree Artificial Intelligence UCITS ETF – USD Acc

0.40%

 

LSE

USD

WTAI

IE00BDVPNG13

WisdomTree Artificial Intelligence UCITS ETF – USD Acc

0.40%

 

LSE

GBx

INTL

IE00BDVPNG13

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Finding finance from start-up to listing

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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