Category: Infrastructure

Man in business attire checking the cryptocurrency market on his tablet with computer screens moitoring other investments in the backgorund

How To Utilize Cryptocurrency In Your Business

Man in business attire checking the cryptocurrency market on his tablet with computer screens moitoring other investments in the backgorund


Cryptocurrencies are digital or virtual coins or tokens that use cryptography to secure their transactions and to control the creation of new units. Cryptocurrencies are decentralized, which means they are not controlled by governments or financial institutions. Bitcoin, the world’s first cryptocurrency, was created in 2009. Since then, a number of new cryptocurrencies have been introduced.. Cryptocurrencies hold a variety of potential applications, from providing a more secure means of payment to facilitating cross-border transactions. As the popularity of cryptocurrencies grows, so too does the importance of understanding what they are and how they work. This blog post will provide an overview of cryptocurrencies, discuss some of the key features that make them unique, and how to utilize them In your business.


Why Consider Using Cryptocurrency in  Business?

Bitcoin is used by more than 2,300 businesses in the United States. A growing number of firms all over the world are making use of bitcoin and other digital assets for a variety of investment, operational, and transactional purposes.

The usage of cryptocurrency in business presents a slew of possibilities and challenges.

There are both unknown perils and powerful incentives. That is why organizations that want to use crypto in their operations need to have two things: a clear understanding of why they are doing it and a list of questions they should think about.


What can crypto offer your business?

Cryptocurrencies are still a relatively new phenomenon, however, let’s take a look at some of the benefits that crypto can offer your company:

  • Transparency in Transactions: Cryptocurrencies are public, unchangeable, transparent records of value transfers that may be recorded and kept in a public ledger. They are verified, and they can’t be easily hacked or controlled. This assures that cryptocurrency transactions are safe and secure.
  • Low transaction fees: Banks add transaction fees and taxes to every digital payment. It’s easy to understand since they have to pay their workers, rent the buildings, and pay utility bills. Transactions using cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies are not the same. Because they commence on online platforms, they have lower transaction costs, which makes them more popular and profitable among firms.
  • You can take cryptocurrency anywhere: Cryptocurrencies can be kept in a digital wallet (wallet) that you may manage from your computer or smartphone. This wallet allows you to take your cryptocurrency with you wherever you go, making it more convenient for your business.
  • Protected customer privacy: The problem of cybersecurity is still one of the most significant drawbacks of digitalization. We hear about major data breaches that expose people to identity theft and financial loss. The buyer can choose the type and amount of information they provide in a cryptocurrency transaction, which makes it extremely anonymous. Offering crypto as a payment option makes it more appealing to customers who place a high value on their data privacy.


How can you earn passive income?

Earning a passive income is the goal of many business owners. But, what is a passive income and how can you earn one? A passive income is an income that you earn without actively working for it. You can invest in dividend-paying stocks, rent out the property, etc. But there is another easy option to earn passive income is to stake your cryptocurrency. This is the best way to earn crypto staking rewards. By holding onto a certain amount of tokens in a specific blockchain network, you can earn rewards for participating in the network’s governance. So if you’re looking for some new investment opportunities, consider staking your cryptocurrency and earning rewards.


Is It Possible To Pay Employee Salaries With Cryptocurrency?

In recent years, the cryptocurrency market has exploded in value, with Bitcoin and Ethereum becoming two of the most valuable digital assets in the world. Due to this meteoric rise, many businesses consider using cryptocurrency as a form of payment. There are certain advantages of paying employees salaries in digital currencies:

  • Speed: Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ether, and other digital currencies can be sent up to 95% faster than traditional wire transfers.
  • No Boundaries: More and more organizations are operating remotely these days. Cryptocurrencies may be sent and received around the world with ease. That is why, for businesses with workers working from other nations, crypto payments may be a more convenient option for a worldwide workforce.
  • Attracts Better Talent and New Clients: Crypto is drawing the interest of the most forward-thinking and tech-savvy employees since it is a young, rising sector. Crypto is drawing the interest of the most forward-thinking and tech-savvy employees since it is a young, rising sector. When future employees choose a company to work for, one of the most important aspects will be payroll provider. When you begin paying employees in digital currency, you gain the attention of other crypto firms and startups, possibly attracting new customers and partners.



As you can see, there are many benefits that cryptocurrency has to offer. Whether it’s for your business or personal use, the advantages of using cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other digital currencies should be considered as an investment opportunity. With all the information we have provided in this article, hopefully, now you feel more confident about investing in a new form of currency!

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Best Service Management Conversational Tech Company 2020

Woman chatting online with a laptop


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


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


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


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


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


For business enquiries contact Kim del Fierro at AISERA vai

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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 ( “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.


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

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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.”


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:


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.

2.Coffee shops
3.Second-hand shops
5.Fast food restaurants
6.Retails chains e.g. department stores
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.

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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.

FCA Launches call for Input on Crowdfunding Rules

FCA Launches call for Input on Crowdfunding Rules

In 2015 an estimated £2.7 billion was invested on regulated crowdfunding platforms, up from £500 million in 2013, with more than 100 platforms either operating in the market or seeking authorisation. The FCA introduced rules for the regulation of crowdfunding platforms in March 2014 and committed at the time to a full review of their impact.

Christopher Woolard, director of strategy and competition at the FCA said:

“The crowdfunding market is an innovative and growing sector and one which we see as part of promoting effective competition. We introduced rules in 2014 to ensure consumers were protected without preventing the market from enhancing competition through expansion and innovation.

“Since then the market has grown rapidly and we want to explore concerns that have been expressed about developments in some aspects of the market. We believe now is the right time to consider whether our requirements remain appropriate and that we have the right rules to support the development of this dynamic market by ensuring consumers are adequately protected.”

In its call for input the FCA is seeking views on a number of issues related to loan-based crowdfunding including:
– Considering whether financial promotions, due diligence and prudential standards are still appropriate for the way the market has developed;
– Whether to mandate in greater detail the disclosure firms are expected to give consumers and the time that the disclosures must be provided;
– Whether platforms should be required to assess investor knowledge or experience of the risks involved in this type of investment.

The FCA are also interested in comments on the effect on competition of the growth of loan-based crowd funding.

The FCA is also seeking views on its regulation of investment-based crowdfunding including:
– How conflicts of interest are managed on these types of platform;
– Whether the due diligence rules for platforms need to be strengthened;
– Whether to mandate the disclosure of risk warnings in relation to non-readily realisable securities (such as unlisted equities) held within Innovative Finance ISAs.

The call for input also signals the FCA’s intention to consult on applying the usual mortgage lending standards to Peer-to-Peer (P2P) platforms in order to give consumers the full benefit of these protections.

The FCA is asking for responses to its Call for Input by 8 September 2016.


Meatcure Seek Backers for Their “Impossibly good” Crowdfunding Campaign on Seedrs

Meatcure Seek Backers for Their “Impossibly good” Crowdfunding Campaign on Seedrs

Meatcure’s homeland in the East Midlands was one of the UK’s highest restaurant growth areas in 2015, at times outpacing London. When launching their very first restaurant in Market Harborough, a provincial market town of just 22,000 population, they hit £14,000 sales in the first week, proving to them that Meatcure had the potential to be something special.

From beginning life in Market Harborough, Leicestershire, in late 2014, in just 12 months they’d opened restaurants two and three in Leicester and Leamington Spa. Their fourth opening in Bedford is just weeks away from launching and has been 100% self funded from the success of the first three restaurants. The quick growth, mixed with a strong cult customer following has seen the demand for Meatcure to grow into further surrounding impressively profitable market towns.

Meatcure started out with a simple goal; to put the best patty in the best brioche and to create an impossibly good burger. “We build restaurants we like to hang out in, food we like to eat and surround ourselves with individual and inspiring people. Our staff have become our family and their family our customers”, that’s their motto.

Meatcure will use the funds raised to secure five new restaurant sites in market towns across the midlands and beyond. With the UK having over 500 market towns and smaller cities, Meatcure will be bringing their passion and ingenuity to a much wider audience, without compromising an ounce of quality or personal touch.

Their commitment to impossibly good saw them using their own recipes working with local suppliers and the best ingredients to create the perfect patty brioche marriage. Even with a combined 230 years experience it still took nearly twelve months to perfect the recipe. Their philosophy of doing it properly with no added rubbish sees them unrivalled in the booming burger market.

Meatcure Co Founder, Paul Rigby, commented: “There’s huge potential benefit to investing in Meatcure’s campaign. The way we build our restaurants is fast, fun and with a view to getting a good payback for our investors. It’s not rocket science, it’s mostly wood and lots of those trendy light bulbs. Our aim is to create a backdrop for our impossibly good burgers, craft beers and killer cocktails. The good news with the crowdfunding campaign is that you don’t have to wear a tool belt or steelies, we’ll do that bit for you!”

Co Founder, Rob Martyniak, added: “At Meatcure we are kind of old school about things. We make impossibly good burgers, we do steak properly, superb salads and proper food for kids. We love coffee, craft beers and killer cocktails however there are no £10 cocktails or long table waits. You’ll be greeted with an old school smile and you might even get to choose the vinyl that’s playing. I think that’s why we’ve seen the Meatcure name grow. We do what we love and we love what we do. We can’t wait for others to be a part of it.”

“Our fourth restaurant opening this month is 100% self-funded and our business model means that this campaign is expected to be our only round of crowdfunding, making now only and best time to get involved.”

Investments will be made through Seedrs, the UK’s most active investor in private companies. Ekaterina Steube, Campaigns Success Manager at Seedrs said: “We are excited to welcome Meatcure on to Seedrs. The brand is all about great food, world-class customer experience and supporting local suppliers, and their campaign reflects that. The team is exceptionally focused with highly experienced founders and we look forward to seeing the business scale.”

Meatcure are crowdfunding with Seedrs launching today and you can find out more on how to be a part of it by visiting

CFO of the Month Kepner-Tregoe - William B. Baldwin

CFO of the Month Kepner-Tregoe – William B. Baldwin

Kepner-Tregoe’s core business is bringing critical thinking capability to organizations through either training or consulting. For this process, their consulting projects involve applying their own expertise to resolve difficult client issues and to deliver specific agreed upon results.

“We are much more than just a training company—we are a capability development company,” says Baldwin. “Our extensive experience tells us that training is one part of this development. But first we must seek to understand what problem clients are trying to solve and provide a complete solution for that problem. Our competitive advantage comes from the fact that critical thinking matters and can deliver significantly improved results to organizations that employ it well. We strongly believe that no other organization does critical thinking capability development better than Kepner-Tregoe.”

As CFO of Kepner-Tregoe, Baldwin manages the company’s finance, legal, IT and certain aspects of the HR functions. He is also a member of the company’s Board of Directors and Global Leadership Team. “My responsibilities include financial planning and reporting, banking, financing, tax strategy and much more,” says Baldwin. “Over the summer, I had the opportunity to manage our operation in Japan on an interim basis which was a great experience from a business and cultural point of view.”

Over the past few years, Kepner-Tregoe has made many major investments. These include geographic expansion into China, Western Australia and Western Canada, as well as investments in consulting resources—primarily in hiring and capability development, product development, and IT systems and infrastructure implementation. “When choosing where to invest, each of our decisions involve elements that must be considered, evaluated and incorporated into our strategic and financial planning. At the same time, we also have to balance these investments with the overall financial and operations management of the company.”

In addition to these investments, Baldwin has also helped Kepner-Tregoe provide deeper opportunities for KT employees. This includes the implementation of a new ownership model through the introduction of a restricted stock plan. According to Baldwin, this “has expanded the number of employee shareholders from 15 to 50 over a three-year period and refinanced the company’s bank facilities, which ensures capital availability, when needed, at an effective cost. I have also continued to develop and modify our employee incentive plans to balance employee performance and company growth.”

Across the board, KT employees are extremely passionate about the impact their proven processes have had on supporting organizations over nearly six decades, particularly KT’s flagship problem solving and decision making methodology. “We are immensely proud of our processes and the benefits that it brings to our clients,” says Baldwin. “Believe it or not, it was actually KT’s methodology on problem solving that allowed NASA to save the astronauts from Apollo 13. It is a story that everyone in our company loves to tell because it illustrates the type of impact KT processes can have when executed well.”

In order to ensure that their high standards of service are maintained, KT implemented a set of Basic Beliefs that guide the organization. It is this set of Basic Beliefs that provide the framework for KT’s employee recognition, awarding those who go above and beyond. “Unlike many other professional service firms, KT has an extraordinary retention rate,” explains Baldwin. “I believe this is a testament to the passion our employees have for our products, the value we deliver to clients and the culture we have built over the years.”

Throughout the years, there have been many significant changes in the company’s operations, some of which have been internally driven through changes in strategy, structure and leadership. Other changes have been externally driven, particularly the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009.

“The Global Financial crisis dramatically affected our business,” says Baldwin. “So much so that our revenues declined by 32 percent between Q4 2008 and Q1 2009. However, we reacted very quickly through a number of cost containment actions. They say ‘never let a crisis go to waste’ and we fully embraced this crisis to create many positives that remain in place today. This includes our variable compensation and workforce models, quarterly incentive plans and more effective utilization of our consulting resources. Today, we remain very diligent as to how we manage our cost structure and measure what investments we choose to make in the business.”

According to Baldwin, the crisis also reinforced the importance of maintaining a strong balance sheet and building cash reserves to ensure the financial stability of the business. “It’s not a question of if another financial crisis will occur but when,” Baldwin explains. “So it’s important to ensure that your organization is prepared, and we set cash reserve goals and continue to work towards achieving those goals as well as minimizing debt for operating cash flow purposes. In fact, we have been debt free for operating cash flow purposes for the last five consecutive years.”

Working within in a highly competitive consulting and training landscape, Kepner-Tregoe understands it must stay nimble to continuously improve its approach as well. That is why Baldwin views change as something that is positive and will only serve to improve their overall services. “While people and organizations are generally resistant to change, or slow to adopt to change, I have learned that change is a necessity and can be very positive if the changes are clearly communicated, well implemented and supported by leadership across the company. Organizations and their people, particularly in today’s business and economic climates, must be quick to understand the need for change, identify what changes are required and to implement those changes in a rational manner enabling individuals and organizations
to grow and thrive.”

It is this level of responsiveness that has enabled Kepner-Tregoe to weather a dynamically changing world over nearly 60 years in business. Baldwin believes the consulting arm of the business has been particularly adept at helping the company identify, and solve, critical issues. “Our consultants are in the trenches helping clients resolve business issues that are affecting them today or will affect them in the near future. Communication between our global resources, as well as with our marketing and products group in Princeton, help keep us at the forefront these emerging business issues. “

Extending this effort, KT’s North America operations team is also forming a Customer Advisory Group. This group will consist of various clients they will work with to develop new products and services that meet today’s business needs. Alongside these measures, they also attend and present at various industry conferences throughout the world, sharing best practices and client successes. With the world becoming more globalized, Baldwin believes that social media has also become instrumental in achieving success. “Through social media platforms such as LinkedIn, we are in constant communication with user groups, industry groups and many others discussing and exchanging ideas regarding current business issues impacting a variety of industries. Hosting WebEx events also provides opportunities to discuss current business issues.” A key testament to KT’s financial success is that their North America business unit has increased its revenue by 36 percent over last year.

According to Baldwin, this growth is the result of a number of factors. Among these include greater involvement by senior leadership in business development, increased sales results from recently hired client relationship managers, greater account penetration with current clients, more effective lead generation activities and growth in certain industry
segments, particularly in operational and service excellence. “Alongside these measures, our operating profit has significantly improved as a result of several changes implemented over the past few years,” says Baldwin. “These include having a more variable compensation structure and work force, improved utilization of our consultants within their regions as well as across the company through a ‘global resource pool’ and a quarterly incentive system that rewards operating profit performance of our regions and the total company. Finally, the realization of the investments we have made in new hires and capability development of our consulting resources has added value to the projects and results we deliver our clients.”

Looking to the future, Baldwin remains optimistic that Kepner-Tregoe will continue to grow and is fully prepared to embrace any changes that come along the way. “Each year we challenge ourselves as we develop our strategic, operational and financial plans for the next three-year period. We look beyond growth in revenue, profitability and shareholder value each year to other goals and objectives. We want to continue to deliver sustainable, measurable results to our clients through our processes and help our clients build capability in our processes.

“In order to achieve this, we need to evaluate our resources, our markets and our products. We also need to ask ourselves who are we looking to hire, what capability development we provide, what product and service innovation we invest in, what markets are growing and what are emerging client needs. In evaluating these questions, it challenges us to ensure we continue to deliver results to our clients, continue to grow revenue, profitability and shareholder value and build an organization with highly capable, valued and engaged employees.”

Company: Kepner-Tregoe, Inc.
Name: William B. Baldwin
Email: [email protected]
Web Address:
Address: 116 Village Blvd., Suite 300, Princeton, NJ 08540
Telephone: 609-252-2558

Commercial Aviation Deals

Commercial Aviation Deals

Commercial aviation has been precariously placed since the summer of 2008. During this period the sector has faced a plethora of obstacles; crude oil rocketed to almost $150 a barrel, increasing competition hindered profits, and airlines faced the consequences of a global lending squeeze. Passenger number growth was also below expectation during this period, whilst aircraft production levels also fell.

Finally, after almost eight years, these market headwinds are receding. Demand for commercial aviation is again rising, due to broader global economic expansion and the growth of the middle classes in developing nations. For all of the recent challenges, the competitive environment of the noughties has ensured that airlines have optimized and improved their overall efficiency. Banks are benefitting from monetary easing and now have greater capital to lend. This is seeing them lend to larger, more secure organizations, with airlines being one such example.

Crude oil has plummeted to around $30 a barrel. Crude oil can account for 35-50% of an airline’s costs and, as this discount for the airlines is yet to translate to discount for customers, airlines are enjoying greater profits and can expect rapid advancement in growth.

In the last few weeks, Iran has completed a $25b deal to purchase 118 aircraft from Airbus. This is indicative of a general trend of expansionist attitudes to fleet acquisition in the industry. Flynas, Vietjet and United Airlines have all either placed or proposed orders for new fleets of aircraft. Orders at the annual Bahrain Airshow reached $9b in 2016 – triple the figure from 2014. Forecasts from investors for aviation industry progression in 2016-17 have therefore been unsurprisingly optimistic.

Despite this expected boom, a dearth of qualified commercial pilots is now a genuine obstacle to industry growth. A lack of aviators is now a more pressing issue than any concerns surrounding global economics, terrorism or even the price of oil. Boeing has stated that by 2034, 558,000 additional commercial pilots will be necessary to service expanding fleets on a global scale.

While the gravitas of the problem is appreciated within the industry, the current pilot training infrastructure is insufficient to offer a solution. Therefore, private training academies provide high-potential investment and acquisition opportunities not only in the existing climate, but also in the decades to come.

Pilot training organizations with a proven track record, established airline relationships and a powerful brand offer the greatest security. Naturally this marks them out as a better prospect for investment and acquisition. Penetrating the market as a start-up is a more significant challenge. The risk/return ratio is not as enticing an investment opportunity – especially as national aviation regulators are more rigorously enforcing stringent standards for training and safety in pilot academies.

Different types of training academy offer different opportunities to potential investors. Academies offering an all-encompassing experience including end-to-end pilot training solutions (whereby airlines can outsource the entirety of their training requirements), rather than solely flight training, are the most desirable investment option. Pilot training facilities offering an array of flexible and bespoke training solutions, such as the Multi-Crew Pilots License, will be at an advantage owing to their propensity to variable regulatory and airline requirements.

The Asia-Pacific region will enjoy the strongest growth within the commercial aviation sector as almost half of the world’s growth in air traffic will be located there. Three billion people are projected to have entered the middle classes by 2030. A large proportion of this number will be across the Asia-Pacific region where budget carriers will service the new budget-wary middle class. Some of the best returns on investment will therefore come from pilot training academies supplying the budget Asian carriers with their pilots.

Aircraft and simulator manufacturers, including Airbus and Boeing among other industry players are also expanding into the pilot training market. The $220m purchase of CTC Aviation by space communications system L3 is a recent example of this. The experience and flexibility of established training providers will see them capitalize on the market’s new growth opportunities. The next 3-5 years will see significant growth in the number of pilot training academies and the expansion of existing academies.

The possibility of a shortage of qualified commercial pilots threatens to hinder the growth of the commercial aviation Industry irrespective of the lessening economic issues and projection of continually low oil prices in the coming years. Investing in the pilot training academy market at this time will offer strong growth and returns on your investment, while allowing the aviation sector to maximize its considerable potential by imbuing the industry with the pilot personnel it needs.


Forming Funds in 2016

Forming Funds in 2016

Starting from consulting services to facilitate the decision making process of what type of fund should be incorporated
according to the individual needs and preferences of each client, following to the preparation and submission of the application packages for the granting of a license from the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission, and finally to the provision of any other services necessary for the efficient operation of the Fund. PwC operates as a “one-stopshop” for Funds and Fund Managers.

PwC has a wealth of experience in servicing international clients in the financial services industry. Partners and members of staff of the Firm are actively participating on the Board and sub-committees of the Cyprus Investment Funds Association (CIFA), which aims to promote the local fund’s industry. In cooperation with CIFA and other local market players, PwC is engaged with the enhancement of the local legislation for funds. Changes in the fund’s regulatory environment.

World-class asset management companies and Alternative InvestmentFunds (AIFs) may serve many different markets, but they have one thing in common: they understand that regulatory compliance and transparency are becoming an important element of the new business environment. It is expected that AIFs will spend a bigger portion of their time and resources over the coming years figuring out how to address regulatory matters. At the same time, it is also important to highlightthat regulatory pressures and calls for additional transparency create opportunities for AIFs to enter in new markets which were previously dominated by financial institutions (i.e. P2P lending etc.). To help market participants plan for the future, we have considered the likely changes in the alternative asset management industry landscape over the coming years and identified key areas of success. Our regulatory compliance experts can help interested parties to navigate the regulatory maze.

The Cyprus funds market
Over the last couple of years, Cyprus has developed as a regional domicile for investment funds and asset managers, and coupled with its competitive strategic location, it has become the most accessible bridge for managers from the Middle East, Asia and the CIS region to enter the EU funds’ industry. Furthermore, the local Alternative Investment Funds (AIF) Law which came into effect in July 2014 provides a level playing field along the lines of the frameworks of the main European investment fund hubs. It is thus apparent that Cyprus’ competitive position is significantly strengthened.

A noteworthy increase of funds applications has been observed which is very positive for the industry as it means that customers have surpassed the point where they remained at the decision making process and have now proceeded to the implementation stage. Given the breadth of options provided by the AIF legal framework, various types of funds can be set up in Cyprus, a fact that has already been recognized and appreciated by investors (both local and foreign) and is already being exploited.

Why set up a fund in Cyprus? Cyprus offers the full spectrum of legislative framework to all fund products (UCITS and non UCITS). In particular, it provides fund managers to structure as Alternative Investments Fund Managers, as presented in the relevant EU directive, or a MiFID compliant Investment Firm, both offering EU “passporting” ability. Cyprus is a well-regulated EU member state, combines tax efficient features of a modern financial centre with the necessary infrastructure for the funds’ industry. It has a UK based legal system, independent judiciary and friendly business environment. Furthermore, in Cyprus there is a low cost base, efficient and investor friendly government authorities with minimal red tape.

On a tax perspective, according to the taxation system in Cyprus, no withholding tax applies on distributions to investors and no taxation of capital gains. Also the services provided by the Investment Manager of the fund are not subject to VAT, hence the value base of the fund is not eroded with a non-recoverable cost. Moreover, the company legal form for a Fund can take advantage of the double tax treaty network of Cyprus.

Alternative Investment Fund with limited number of persons
Private investors may choose to set up an Alternative Investment Fund with limited number of investors (AIFLNP). It can take one of the following legal forms:
• Fixed or Variable capital company;
• Limited Liability Partnership.

The number of investors in the AIFLNP may not exceed 75 and they need to be well-informed/professional investors.

The Law allows the establishment of an AIFLNP with various investment compartments, each one of which will have its own investment policy. However, the limitation on the number of the investors is applicable to the whole scheme. In addition, exceptions may apply in the need to appoint a manager or/and custodian.

The main benefits of an AIFLNP include the fact that there are no restrictions on the type of investments of the fund, there is no defined minimum initial capital requirement and no onerous ongoing reporting requirement to the Regulator.

Company: PricewaterhouseCoopers Ltd
Web Address:
Name: Chris Odysseos
Email: [email protected]
Telephone: 00357 22 555000
Name: Maria Athienitou
Email: [email protected]
Telephone: 00357 22 555000

Taurus acquires PFS software

Taurus acquires PFS software

Taurus Administration Services, the accounting and fund administration provider, has acquired Pacific Fund Systems’ PFS-PAXUS integrated share registry/fund accounting platform to support its expansion into the European market, which it expects to grow as a result of the Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive.

Taurus will target start-up and sub-US$100 million funds often regarded as being too small by the larger fund administrators. Taurus has been appointed administrator to three alternative investment funds and has seen its assets under administration grow over the last two years from US$80 million to US$192 million in 11 funds. It has offices in Madrid, Geneva and the Cayman Islands and is looking to open a new office in Europe in 2016.

Nicholas Calleja, Chief Financial Officer, MPG, commented: “The UCITS regulations require funds to invest in funds that are highly liquid, which means mainstream assets such as equities, bonds and foreign currency only. But that does not
help investment professionals who want to construct diversified portfolios that include less liquid alternative assets.

“Thanks to the AIFMD the alternatives market in Europe is now potentially huge – the fund industry is gearing up to deal with demand for alternatives pursuant to the directive. However, most of the fund administrators in the market are so large they have no interest in start-ups or funds with less than $100m. A lot of boutique managers that struggle to find administrators still want to grow in size and Taurus is extremely well placed to provide the services they need.

“The selection of PFS-PAXUS has been mainly due to the integrated nature of the system where the share registry is fully integrated with the system’s general ledger. We are focused on growing our business and in deploying PFS-PAXUS we are confident that this strategic decision will assist us in doing so.”

Taurus, a subsidiary of the Managing Partners Group (MPG), Taurus currently administers a diverse portfolio of investment funds and entities including hedge funds, mutual funds, UCITs, property funds, feeder funds, multi-share
class funds, and funds with various segregated portfolios that follow various investment strategies.

Rakuten Launches Global FinTech Fund

Rakuten Launches Global FinTech Fund

Rakuten, Inc. has announced the official launch of the Rakuten FinTech Fund, a new US$100 million global investment fund focused on investments in disruptive early to mid-stage fintech startups that offer attractive return potential with strategic relevance. The fund will target investments in startups and growth companies primarily in the U.S. and Europe and build on the success of previous fintech investments made by Rakuten, including Currency Cloud, WePay and Bitnet.

The Rakuten FinTech Fund is part of a natural evolution for Rakuten’s collection of fintech businesses: Rakuten Card, Rakuten Securities, Rakuten Bank, Rakuten Life Insurance, as these business units have grown in scale within Rakuten’s ecosystem, and become leading industry players. The ability to invest in fintech start-ups allows Rakuten to stay at the forefront of innovation, and the opportunity to empower fintech companies and positively impact Internet financial services globally. Rakuten Fintech Fund will support entrepreneurs through Rakuten’s expertise in financial services, including access to its fast growing divisions in on-line banking, credit cards, insurance, securities and asset management in Japan and internationally. The fund operations will be run with Managing Partner Oskar Mielczarek de la Miel acting as the fund advisor.

Hiroshi Mikitani, CEO of Rakuten commented, “Rakuten is committed to empowering great entrepreneurs around the world and Rakuten’s new FinTech Fund represents another milestone in our global expansion of the financial services business.”

Commenting on the emergence of fintech startups offering innovative solutions to old problems, Oskar Miel said, “If you just look at the last couple of years, companies like Currency Cloud, WePay or Bitnet are great examples of disruption changing the landscape in payments and providing innovative solutions that address fundamental needs of global customers. The Rakuten FinTech Fund is dedicated to helping these businesses accelerate disruption and innovation in historically more traditional and conservative markets.”

While the fund’s immediate focus will be on companies based in fintech centers such as London, San Francisco, New York and Berlin, Rakuten FinTech Fund plans to gradually expand operations around the globe.

SMEs Call for Stricter Payment Terms to Better Manage Cash Flow Npower Business Survey Reveals Cash Flow Frustrations

SMEs Call for Stricter Payment Terms to Better Manage Cash Flow Npower Business Survey Reveals Cash Flow Frustrations

The research highlighted that late payments have a substantial negative impact on a business’ ability to manage its cash flow and despite 57 per cent of organisations putting in place strict payment terms when it comes to working with clients, many still feel not enough pressure is being placed on customers to pay on time.

However, the survey revealed that while some methods for managing cash flow are in widespread use, such as adopting fixed-rate energy contracts, others are being ignored: notably the ability to stop estimated bills by installing smart meters and Automated Meter Reading (AMR) meters.

Notably, 69 per cent of SMEs recognise that fixed rate energy contracts can help them to better manage their finances and 64 per cent already subscribe to one. However, whilst 27 per cent of SMEs recognise that having an AMR would also help with cash flow, only 6 per cent of respondents have a smart meter installed falling to 3 per cent for AMR meters.

“With late payments a blocker to managing cash flow there are a number of initiatives an organisation can take to keep a hold on their finances,” says Phil Scholes, SME Markets Director at npower Business. “Fixing an energy plan for one, two or three years is a great example of how a business can make financial forecasting much simpler, but we also know that installing AMRs or smarter meters can also provide even more financial peace of mind. This is why we’re switching to smarter metering by installing AMR meters in businesses across the country.”

US Fund Managers Begin Positioning for Money Fund Reform

US Fund Managers Begin Positioning for Money Fund Reform, Says Fitch

While clients continue to be patient and industry assets remain stable, fund managers are launching, closing, and merging funds, updating investment guidelines, and working through the operational aspects of reform.

Despite widespread predictions of outflows from institutional prime money funds – those most affected by the reforms – asset flows have been positive so far. According to iMoneyNet data, total money fund assets increased by 6.2% since July 2014, when the reforms were passed, with institutional government funds growing faster than prime, 11% to 4.8%. Money fund flows typically incorporate seasonal factors, and it is too early to tell if the stronger flows into government funds (which are less impacted by reforms) are indicative of clients repositioning their cash holdings in response to reform. Investors are likely to shift some cash out of institutional prime funds closer to the effective date of the main thrust of the reforms, in October 2016.

Money fund managers are also taking steps to restructure their funds to gain a competitive position. Fidelity recently announced that it will convert a number of large retail prime money funds (with assets north of $100 billion) to government funds. Fidelity said many of its clients had indicated that they would prefer the stable net asset value (NAV) and exemption from the fees and gates provisions of the reform that government funds offer. This was also Goldman Sachs’ rationale when it noted recently that its government funds are now in compliance with the reforms and that they have opted out of the fees and gates provision. Finally, a number of money fund managers have announced they will be merging or liquidating funds that have not attracted enough assets, with some small managers like Touchstone Investments exiting the business as the burdens and costs of compliance with the new reforms prove too high.

While government funds are expected to take up most of the money leaving prime money funds, some cash will likely find its way to other short-term products, including ultra-short bond funds, private 3c-7 money funds, and separately managed accounts. Fund managers have been discussing these options over the past few months with clients that may not want to remain in prime money funds with a floating NAV.

A few managers have launched new ultra-short bond funds in recent months as an alternative to prime money funds. The bond funds, launched by large money fund managers like Goldman Sachs, Invesco, and Western Asset, typically strive to offer higher yields than prime money funds, and take slightly more risk. For example, the Goldman Sachs Limited Maturity Obligations Fund, rated ‘AAA/V1’ by Fitch, is allowed by prospectus to have a weighted average maturity (WAM) of as much as 270 days, compared to a maximum of 60 days for money funds.


Malaysia Airlines set for major restructuring

Najib Razak, the PM, announced the widely expected news on Friday (August 8) that Malaysia Airlines is to be taken into state hands. It is the carrier’s last bid for survival, as it faces down two devastating episodes this year.

Still reeling from the MH370 and MH17 tragedies, which saw a total of 537 lives lost, the Malaysian sovereign fund Khazanah announced that it would step in. On Friday of last week, it issued a buyout of all minority shareholders.

Tragedy, competition and costs

Giving the fund overall control of the airline, it will then restructure the operation which has existed since British colonial rule.

The issue with the firm is not just the devastating losses it has felt however. Domestically, it was already facing tough competition from budget airlines. The subsequent tragedies have been even more devastating as a result.

There are also significant staffing issues. The airline presently employs 19,500 staff, operating a fleet of 108 aircraft. Conversely, its biggest rival has 14,240 staff for 103 planes.

In their most recent end of year financials, Malaysia Airlines posted $240,000 (approximately £143,000) in revenue per employee. Rival Singapore Airlines meanwhile generated $699,500 (approximately £416,700) per employee.

With operating costs up by 5% and revenues down by 2%, the $1.1bn loss Malaysia Airlines has experienced in the last nine years becomes easier to understand. This compares to Singapore Airline’s profit of $7.1bn in the same time frame; all without experiencing one year of loss.


There are options for the Malaysian carrier to get back on its feet though, according to analysts.

The firm could make more use of its own low-cost airline Firefly for example. A greater exploitation of the hub capacity for the airline at Kuala Lumpur international airport has also been suggested.

Cutting more unprofitable routes is also necessary, while one unnamed executive is reported in the Financial Times as urging the firm to cut long-haul flights too. The same executive is also said to call for greater use of the Oneworld network it recently became a member of.

It will not be easy to turn around the firm though. The airline will face significant protests from its workforce over efforts to reduce it for example.

How hungry the political appetite is for the work will also be an important factor, with the upcoming general election in the country likely to detract from the task in hand.

Politics a Risk to UK Growth

Politics a Risk to UK Growth, Says CBI

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has upgraded its forecast for GDP growth as the recovery continues to take hold. But it warns politicians of all shades to put incentivising business investment ahead of short-term electioneering.

The CBI—the UK’s leading business group—is forecasting GDP growth of 3.0% in 2014, up from the previous forecast of 2.6%, and 2.7% in 2015, up from 2.5%.
The economy grew by 0.8% in the first quarter of 2014 and quarter-on-quarter GDP growth of 0.7% is expected for the rest of this year and next.

Yet while economic signs are encouraging, the CBI said political uncertainty remains a major risk to the recovery. Setting out its headline priorities one year out from the general election, the CBI urged politicians to stick with what is working and tackle the UK’s long-term economic challenges.

Among the measures the CBI is calling for are committing to eliminate the budget deficit, scrapping the immigration target and raising the tier 2 visa cap, ensuring big infrastructure decisions are taken with a long-term strategic view and avoiding damaging market interventions.

John Cridland, CBI Director-General, said: “The UK now has more stable economic foundations, and political risks must not jeopardise this.

“The recovery is advancing after a strong performance in the first quarter of 2014. Prospects are bright and we expect the recovery to broaden out this year, with greater support from business investment in particular.

“Businesses recognise the realities of election time but want all parties to ensure their policies make a positive difference. Politicians must be wary of the risk of headline-grabbing policies that weaken investment, opportunity and jobs,” added Cridland.

Optimism Soars Among Smaller UK Manufacturers

Optimism Soars Among Smaller UK Manufacturers

Optimism amongst the UK’s smaller manufacturers has surged to its highest level since records began in 1988, according to the CBI’s latest SME Trends Survey.

The new data comes as small and medium-sized manufacturers say that total orders and output rallied in the three months to April.

Numbers employed also enjoyed a sharp boost, and employment is expected to grow at an even stronger pace during the next quarter.

The survey of 366 SME manufacturers showed that domestic orders rose strongly, whilst export orders bounced back from a fall in the previous quarter. Both are expected to see robust growth in the next quarter.

Output grew solidly for the third consecutive quarter, with output expectations for the next three months at their highest level since January 1995.

Firms’ investment intentions for buildings in the year ahead are flat, but spending for plant & machinery remains firmly positive, at its strongest level since July 1995.

Katja Hall, CBI Chief Policy Director, said: “It’s very encouraging to see record levels of optimism among smaller manufacturers, on the back of robust growth in domestic and export orders, and a leap in output levels.

“Hiring is also on the up, and is set to strengthen as we look ahead into 2014.

“As confidence beds in, we need to see more firms exporting their products to high-growth markets across the globe, giving a healthy and sustainable boost to the UK’s recovery.”

Key findings include 39% of firms reporting an increase in total new orders, with 19% saying they decreased, giving a balance of +20%. 33% of firms said output increased and 16% said it decreased, giving a balance of +17%, with growth next quarter predicted to rise to its fastest pace since January 1995 (+23%).

Retail investment platforms

Retail investment platforms

An annual benchmarking study into the operating costs of UK retail investment platforms has identified increasing cost efficiencies in the operation of both fund supermarkets and wrap platforms.

The study, by business and financial advisers Grant Thornton UK, suggests that platform operators have redesigned their operating models over the past few years to focus on cost control, but proposes that more can be done to enhance user-experience and transaction processing speeds.

Based on anonymised volumetric data directly supplied by platforms, the annual benchmark reveals that core operating costs of fund supermarkets and wrap platforms currently account for around 25 per cent of their average revenues. Including IT running costs, this rises to 40 per cent across both models. It also identifies a decline of up to 35 per cent in IT and operational outsourcing rate cards over the past decade – further alleviating cost pressures and encouraging continued investment in new technologies.

Kenn Taylor, partner, financial services advisory at Grant Thornton UK, said: “There’s been a lot of speculation in recent years around the demise of platforms and a potential wave of consolidation in the marketplace; but what the study shows is that following significant investment across platforms, the economics of their underlying business models remain sound. Though the arguments for economies through scale now seem somewhat overinflated, platforms still need to control distribution, investment and governance costs, as these can still make a big difference to the prospects of profitability.”

Grant Thornton’s study also identified relatively low levels of automation in trade processing rates. It identifies a disconnect in the marketing claims of many firms’ transaction speeds and the true straight through processing (STP) rates on platforms, with some having automation levels of less than 25 per cent of the core process type.

Taylor said: “High STP rates offer the ‘double-whammy’ benefit of improving customer experience and reducing costs, so given the relative youth of the platform market, it’s perhaps surprising that more processes are not automated. In today’s digital age, many of the older platforms will need to invest heavily to catch up and not only remain cost-competitive, but also to keep customers and advisers engaged with their propositions.”

Crossrail Delivers Regeneration Opportunities

Crossrail Delivers Regeneration Opportunities

A new report suggests that development opportunities exist both in and beyond central London thanks to Crossrail—the new high frequency, high capacity railway for London and the South East—provided communities are ready to act on the project’s regeneration potential.

The report, commissioned by Future of London, a regeneration and housing network, looks at UK and overseas rail-and-regeneration examples, and involved stakeholder interviews as well as in-depth studies of six different stations along the route.

The report offers a 20-point “act now” checklist for boroughs and cross-sector partners who want to boost regeneration activity before Crossrail opens in 2018. It also provides eight recommendations to help future infrastructure projects deliver even greater London-wide regeneration benefits.

“This report enables local authorities to capitalise on the regeneration and development potential created by Crossrail,” said Katie Kerr, Senior Planner and report contributor at professional services firm Arup, which co-sponsored the research . “Every community along the route is different but sharing best practice is an effective way to ensure that local authorities can help their areas to become vibrant, productive and sustainable places to live. Initiatives don’t all have to be costly as small-scale changes can make a big impact but now is the time to act.”

As part of Crossrail, central London hubs such as Tottenham Court Road and Bond Street have already seen increased property values and development, partly thanks to Crossrail’s integration of high-specification station design, over-station development and urban realm, working with host boroughs, Transport for London and other partners.

However, the combination of land values, footfall, community interaction and well-resourced boroughs doesn’t yet exist in some of the places Crossrail will stop.

The report goes on to recommend that the legislative remit needs to be broadened, asserting that if regeneration is part of the business case for an infrastructure project, Parliament must provide the enabling powers—such as land acquisition—and funding structure to support that.

Disconnect between Infrastructure Needs and Public Concern

Disconnect between Infrastructure Needs and Public Concern

The research shows that the government and businesses need to do a much better job of explaining the UK’s infrastructure investment needs, shifting the focus to why it matters locally and what benefits projects will bring.

It reveals that two thirds of people (65%) agree that decisions should be delayed so that the public’s views can be heard properly, even if this means that infrastructure weaknesses are not tackled when they need to be. That compares with only 24% who don’t think decisions should be delayed. People are currently more concerned by the inconvenience and potential disruption of upgrade work than the risk of failing to act.

The CBI commissioned research shows a stark disconnect between the need to invest in infrastructure to ensure the long-term success of our economy, to support businesses to grow and compete internationally and general public perception. Nearly half of respondents are satisfied with the state of national infrastructure, with only a quarter (27%) dissatisfied. But according to the World Economic Forum the UK ranks only 28th in the world for the quality of infrastructure.

Most public opposition which results in large infrastructure projects, like new power generation, roads, rail and aviation capacity, being held up is due to a lack of relevant information, failure to tackle residents’ legitimate concerns, and using the wrong decision-makers and spokespeople.

Instead the CBI argues that infrastructure needs to be ‘sold’ to the public based on:
• The quality of life for local people – cited by 46% of respondents
• Local job opportunities – cited by 44%
• Local environment – cited by 37%.

The CBI poll found that people overwhelmingly trust technical experts to make national infrastructure decisions over politicians (64% versus 22%). But they also want their voice to be heard – when asked who they most trusted to represent local views about a project 42% said “me and people like me”.

John Cridland, CBI Director-General, said:
“Our research reveals a major disconnect between what infrastructure investment we need for our long-term economic success compared with what the public accepts. We urgently need to upgrade our energy infrastructure to avoid future power shortages, for example.

“To bridge this perception gap government and businesses need to redouble their efforts to tell a convincing human interest story, which people can relate to and which explains the urgency of the investment the UK needs.

“We are simply telling the wrong story on infrastructure. Rather than talking about gross domestic product and fiscal multipliers, we should be explaining about the local economy, a boost in local jobs for local businesses, like cafes, B&Bs and construction firms.

“The public will delay decisions if their views haven’t been heard – proper consultation and community engagement must be built in from the start or it will come back to bite the project later on.

“The public trust technical experts to make infrastructure decisions, rather than politicians, so the CBI would like to see all parties consider the merits of the Armitt Review, which suggested setting up an independent national infrastructure decision-making body.”

Steve Holliday, CEO of National Grid, said:
“In the UK we need to ensure we continue to have a secure and affordable energy supply, while meeting our ambitious low carbon targets. This is about how people will heat and light their homes in the future and how we keep our factories and offices going.

“As new power stations open and others close, it is vital that we invest in our energy infrastructure to create jobs and make sure we power the economy. At National Grid, we are investing around three billion pounds a year in our energy networks. Our capital city, for example, is receiving a major billion pound upgrade to meet increasing demand for electricity, which is why we’re re-wiring the capital underground through the London Power Tunnels project.

“We need the public’s buy-in to meet these challenges, so we must have an open and honest conversation about our infrastructure needs and how they affect people every day.”

Case study: National Grid – London Power Tunnels Project
London uses 20% of the UK’s electricity and that demand is increasing by 4% every year. This means that the capital’s transmission infrastructure needs updating. The London Power Tunnels project is re-wiring the capital, with new 400kV cables, underground through a network of 32km of tunnels.

The tunnels will run from Hackney in the east to Willesden in the west and from Kensal Green in the north to Wimbledon in the south. There are 14 access shafts at key points along the tunnel route, in built-up areas of the capital.

Being the second largest part of consumer electricity bills, any delay to the project through public opposition would potentially inflict extra costs and risk power cuts. National Grid has worked closely with local people to help them understand why the work is required and to mitigate any uncertainty and disruption in their daily lives. This includes:
• Extensive consultation with local residents two years before the project began
• Public exhibitions and early face-to-face briefings – before work started National Grid hosted events for community groups, councillors and politicians to learn about the project and ask the project team questions
• On on-going open dialogue through a dedicated Freephone line and freepost address
• Regular community update letters and leaflets to 20,000 residents along the 32km tunnel route
• A dedicated website and Twitter feed.

National Grid also set up an Energy Education Centre (EEC) located at London Power Tunnel’s headquarters in Willesden Junction.

• The EEC delivers tailored school sessions which provide information about energy production, its usage and the need to change our relationships with energy now in order to preserve our future. It explains to pupils all about the role of National Grid, the LPT Project and how they can start thinking about embarking upon a career in science and engineering

• The EEC combines educational materials with creative learning and tours around the live engineering site, in order to put the work in perspective. Every single visit at the EEC is voluntarily hosted by at least one engineering expert from National Grid who is on hand to enthuse our young visitors about science and engineering, help facilitate the sessions, and stimulate discussion

• The EEC supports National Grid’s wider education and skills strategy to engage with young people and strengthen their interest in STEM subjects, and raise awareness of science and engineering as a career.

UK Growth Brings Skills Into Focus

UK Growth Brings Skills Into Focus


As UK businesses enjoy a positive start to 2014, a leading international training organisation warns that growth could be severely curtailed for those that fail to address their immediate
sales-base requirements.

Confidence in the UK economy is noticeably increasing, with falling unemployment and manufacturing and retail sectors recording strong growth. In fact, the International Monetary Fund puts UK growth at 2.4 per cent – stronger than any other European economy.

According to a recent CBI report, to truly fulfil this growth, Britain needs to close the gap between schools, colleges, universities and the work place with world-class apprenticeship and earn while you learn schemes.

Doug Tucker, Managing Director of Sales Commando, believes this needs to be taken a step further.

“With growth comes re-employment. Companies that laid people off during the recession are now desperate to build up staff numbers to fulfil increasing demand and competition. And it is going to become very competitive.

“The only way companies can compete to win as the economy rights itself is through sales. And that requires up-to-the-minute, professional sales training.”

Sales Commando recently polled its clients, not just in the UK but in all of the international markets within which it operates. Unsurprisingly, the biggest area of concern was the need “to sell better.”

“Bridging the gap between education and business is an on-going challenge and the CBI is right to champion this cause. But of equal importance is the need to equip sales forces with the ability to capitalise on a rapidly growing economic environment and changing realities by selling more effectively.”

Doug warns: “Companies that fail to sell better will fail ultimately as they’re surpassed by others who progress and expand. Now the UK is emerging from one of its most severe recessions of recent times, sales skills are being brought sharply into focus.”

Confluence Launches in Dublin

Confluence Launches in Dublin


Confluence, the global leader in investment data management automation, has continued its expansion by opening an office in Ireland.

Regulatory challenges such as AIFMD have meant that fund managers are increasingly looking to data automation to help manage their investments. Located in Dublin’s popular Silicon Docks district, the new operation extends Confluence’s European presence beyond London and Luxembourg, where the company has serviced the European asset management industry since 2006.

Despite the increase in regulation, many fund managers still rely on manual spreadsheets to track investments that make up a multi-trillion dollar industry. Confluence has been working to create a smooth, automated process which saves time and improves accuracy.

Commenting on the opening, Skip Smith, Chief Operating Officer of Confluence said, “The global fund industry’s appetite for data consolidation and automation solutions is increasing. The Dublin office is part of our strategic plan to meet the rising needs of back office professionals. Our goal is to support asset managers and service providers as they look to solve the complex data management challenges associated with regulatory issues, and other cross-border
reporting challenges.”

Smith concluded, “Ireland is a financial gateway to the global fund industry and it was a natural next step for our business to open an office in one of the international fund jurisdictions. The Irish funds industry supports an innovative business environment within a renowned regulatory landscape and Ireland’s status as an international hub for the funds industry is deserved.”

Confluence provides data consolidation and automation solutions to more than 40 percent of leading global investment managers. Ireland hosts over 40 percent of global alternative investment industry fund assets and an infrastructure that provides distribution and domicile services to over 12,000 funds.