By Annie Charalambous, Head of Communications at ETX Capital
The past year has been challenging on all fronts, the least of which being the nation’s finances. With many furloughed or having lost their jobs altogether, financial stresses are mounting, and getting the most out of our money is more important than ever.
Over at ETX Capital, we know that making an educated decision is imperative to success, and so we’ve looked at Google search data to reveal the most common questions budding UK traders are asking, and answered them.
What is stock trading? (9,900 monthly searches)
Stocks, or shares, are fractions of ownership in a publicly traded company, that anybody can buy (or sell) depending on the perceived value of that business. Traditionally, you’d want to get in (buy) at a lower price and hold onto that stock until it appreciates in value for you to make a profit.
What is options trading? (8,100 monthly searches)
Options are financial contracts that give their holders the ability – but not the obligation (hence option) – to buy or sell a security for an agreed-upon price on a set date, thus hedging against the risk of fluctuating market prices.
What is a CFD? (6,600 monthly searches)
A CFD, or Contract for Difference, is another type of trading contract, whereby you are speculating on the direction an instrument may move in, without owning the underlying asset.
You are therefore trading on the price fluctuation – “buying” if you believe its value will increase over time, or “selling” if you anticipate a decline.
What is forex trading? (5,400 monthly searches)
Forex, coming from foreign exchange, refers to the buying and selling of different currencies to profit from the difference in their values. The forex market is the largest in the world, seeing over $6 trillion a day in volume – everyone from holidaymakers to big banks partake in the FX market.
What is leveraged trading? (5,400 monthly searches)
Leveraged trading works in such a way that a retail trader can open a larger trade with less capital, with the broker putting up the rest of the balance (i.e., the leverage).
Having larger position sizes means your exposure is higher, resulting in bigger returns and conversely, bigger losses.
What is futures trading? (2,900 monthly searches)
Futures contracts work in such a way that two parties – a buyer and a seller – agree to exchange an asset on a fixed future date, with the profit (or loss) realized at the time of exchange.
Your profit or loss is realised at the time of the exchange, depending on how the price has fluctuated since the order was placed.
What is scalping? (2,900 monthly searches)
Scalping is the act of placing trades you intend to keep open for a very short amount of time, ranging from a few seconds to several minutes, to capitalize on high volatility or sharp spikes in the market.
While there are brokers that may allow scalping in some capacity, it is a form of market abuse if done frequently.
How to trade stocks (2,400 monthly searches)
As with any investment, research is the first step.
From choosing the right broker (you’ll want to consider fees, liquidity, selection of stocks, and of course, reputation) to finding the right markets to invest in, you should always know why you’re investing in a particular stock.
Some factors worth looking at may include analysts’ projections for stock performance, the company’s financial results (or earnings), published quarterly, as well as the dividends it pays out.
How are commodities traded? (2,400 monthly searches)
Commodities are, typically finite, physical products that have a fluctuating value. There are both hard and soft commodities, ranging from gold, silver, oil, and other natural resources to the likes of coffee, wheat, corn, and even orange juice.
Their value is dependent on supply and demand and can be influenced by anything from weather to politics.
How to trade cryptocurrencies (1,900 monthly searches)
Like forex and stocks, cryptocurrencies can be traded as either CFD products or bought and held in a virtual wallet. While more volatile than other traditional assets, cryptocurrencies can be a profitable investment if, like any instrument, you get in at the right time.
When trading crypto CFDs, you can short or sell, meaning you can profit from the drops and not just a rise in value.
Points transfers from banks into frequent flyer schemes are accelerating and trending ahead of airline passenger recovery
US points transfer activity already exceeding pre-pandemic level by 30%
Yesterday Ascenda, the technology company that makes banking rewarding, revealed consumer confidence in travel is returning quickly according to leading indicators from its bank solution TransferConnect, the world’s largest global exchange for frequent traveller miles and points.
TransferConnect facilitates the exchange of rewards currencies between financial services brands and a broad set of major airlines, hotel chains, super apps and retailers worldwide. The network enables banks across 40 markets to connect with 50 major merchants and delivers access to real-time points transfers for 1.2 billion consumers worldwide.
The newly published data is the first of its kind ever released in the industry and showcases how rewards currency exchange volume from banks into frequent flyer schemes has compared against airline Revenue Passenger Kilometers (RPKs) over the past 18 months. The analysis provides unique insight into how the multi-billion dollar bank rewards value chain has been impacted by the pandemic and where travel recovery is heading in coming months.
When COVID-19 first brought global travel to a standstill in March 2020, bank consumers naturally ceased to transfer their accumulated points into frequent flyer miles. Both RPKs and rewards transfers plummeted more than 80% during a 60-day period.
However, customers continued to earn bank rewards unabated on their everyday card spend as the pandemic unfolded, with growing points balances waiting to be redeemed. The year 2021 then brought the turning point, as news of global vaccination progress unleashed pent up travel aspirations and prompted a reinvigoration of bank point conversions into frequent flyer schemes. Since March 2021, that transfer activity has accelerated its recovery materially ahead of passengers carried. The effect is consistent across geographies and especially pronounced in the US market, where the volume of bank points exchanged into frequent flyer miles has actually surpassed pre-pandemic levels from April 2021 onward and is still continuing its upward trajectory.
In addition to these strong signals of returning consumer confidence in air travel, the analysis also reveals that hotel chains have capitalized on the pandemic to sustainably grow their share of global rewards currency transfers. Following the onset of the crisis, transfers into hotel points had naturally gained relative share as consumers were forced to opt for local vacations. Hotel points represented less than 10% of currency transfer volume in 2019, increasing three-fold in March 2020 to 30%. What’s most remarkable, however, is that the behavior change has persisted into 2021, even during the recent months of recovery, indicating that the chains have sustainably grown their level of engagement with loyalty program members.
Sebastian Grobys, Chief Commercial Officer at Ascenda, said: “As the pandemic unfolded, the world’s eyes were glued to plummeting operating statistics published by airlines and travel industry bodies across the world. Since then, there have been many attempts to analyse the slope of the recovery curve and make predictions about the future, for example looking at forward booking patterns. Today we’re excited to contribute a new and unique source of data that shows frequent flier mile transfers are rising significantly in a strong signal of accelerating recovery.”
Confidence levels are up, Millennials make their mark and interest in ethical investing hits new highs.
Confidence levels amongst UK investors have risen 20 points (62 – 82) in the last 12 months according to new research amongst 1100 UK investors (£10k+).
The Investor Index, now in its second year, is conducted jointly by London-based communications agency AML Group and research agency The Nursery Research and Planning and was launched in April 2020 to assess the immediate impact of Covid 19 on investors and the UK investment marketplace. The first report of its kind to provide an objective overview of the industry based on hard data – the study was welcomed as a barometer of post-Covid investor behaviours.
One year on, and still in the grip of the pandemic, the 2021 study has revealed some significant changes and ‘recalibrations’ amongst investors.
Confidence returns – but not to pre-pandemic levels
Over the past 12 months, confidence levels have risen most amongst older investors (55+) up 30 points (54 – 84), investors that are retired up 27 points (57 – 84), those that use financial advisers up 31 points (65 – 96) and investors with a portfolio of £200k+ – up 38 points (55 – 93).
The study has also revealed a disparity in gender confidence levels – with men indicating a 25 point rise over the last 12 months (61- 86) compared to a rise in confidence levels of just 10 points among female investors (65 – 75).
However whilst the results are cause for some degree of optimism – investor confidence levels are still 18 points down from pre-Covid levels.
Gen Z/Millennials Vs Baby Boomers – the emerging generational divide
10% of UK investors have started investing since the pandemic began – and of those new investors three-quarters (74%) are under 35s.
It’s a changing landscape with the younger investor bringing different attitudes and priorities to the investor table.
89% of under 35s have changed their investment strategy over the last year vs. 31% of 55+ investors. Younger investors are also increasingly looking to ESG products – with 27% including responsible investments in their portfolio compared to only 4% of investors aged 55 and older. Younger investors are also more focused on the long game – with 30% looking to longer term investments compared to 8% of investors 55+.
When it comes to investment decisions, younger investors are increasingly turning to family (40%), banks (30%) and friends (27%) for advice.
It’s a gift – investors demonstrate a change of attitude
57% of UK investors have changed their investment strategy since the pandemic started – with a focus on products offering ‘long term growth’ (46%) over ‘short term growth’ (30%).
Investors are increasingly concerned about their children’s financial security. 70% of investors are aware of the £3,000 wealth transfer allowance with 38% having given £500 or more over the last 12 months – with children the biggest recipients (72%). Indeed the average amount gifted in 2020 was £8087 compared to £5421 pre pandemic (2019) – a 49% increase and a clear indicator of the want for investors to safeguard futures for loved ones.
How invested is the UK investor in Responsible Investing?
Investors feel that ethical/socially responsible financial products are more important now than at the same time last year – up 9 percentage points (23% – 32%) with three in ten of those surveyed stating that they believe that these products will be more important in the future – up six percentage points (24% – 30%).
However despite investors acknowledging the importance of ESG/RI there is a continuing perception, despite contrary evidence, that it carries a performance penalty with investors ‘prioritising financial security over wider ethical considerations’ – up five percentage points (23% – 28%).
Younger investors look to DIY platforms
Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, four in ten investors under 35 (39%) have invested more with DIY platforms – compared to just 14% of 55+. And while the younger investor has indicated a ‘happy to do it myself’ attitude regarding financial planning and investments they are less confident when it comes to their feelings about the industry. Just under one-third of under 35s (29%) are confident markets will bounce back compared to more than half (52%) of investors aged 55+.
Perhaps predictably, younger investors are more tapped into trends and news stories connected to investing.
39% of under 35s cited an awareness of the growth in DIY platforms with 44% familiar with the story around Reddit users driving up the share price of Game Stop and 31% aware of the rise in silver prices. Investors aged 55+ recorded significantly lower awareness across all trends.
When putting your house on the market, there are numerous factors to consider. For instance, you may ask the question “when is the best time to sell a house?” However, before you consider putting your house on the market, you may want to ensure that it is ready first. In doing so, this could help to speed up the process and minimise the risk of losing money.
Finding the Right Agent
Deciding that you want to sell your home is the first step of the moving process, however, finding the right estate agent to help you sell your property is next. When looking to find the right estate agent, you must select the right person, as this can have an impact on the time it takes to sell your home.
As you look at the options available to you, look for the person who you feel follows the best practice, meets all the requirements and effortlessly work to industry standards. Aside from providing you with peace of mind that you have the right person capable of helping to sell your property, it can also help with increasing your chances of selling your home.
Check the House For Any Minor Repairs
Showcasing a house that looks as though it has been well-maintained, creates an impression on potential buyers that the property has been cared for over the years. As you begin the process of putting your house on market, it is worth conducting a thorough investigation of your property to see if there are any problem areas you notice that could be worth fixing.
These tasks do not need to be grand such as renovating a kitchen, they could be as small as filling in any holes in the walls or checking for any clogs in your guttering. This could be done before or after your valuation, however, doing it before might help with increasing the value of the property.
Have An Accurate Valuation First
Ensuring that you have an accurate valuation of your property is a key factor when selling your home. For instance, if you undervalue your home and it goes onto the property with too low of a value, whilst you may generate a lot of interest, if you were to sell at such a low cost then you will also lose money.
As you look to put your house onto the market, you may want to consider house valuation surveys to determine what price your property should be listed at. If you are wanting to value your house, firms such as GB Home Surveys can provide you with an accurate overall value of your property. Investing in such a service will help give you peace of mind that there are no potential pitfalls that could cause a surprise.
Worth Going Neutral
When looking at any property, neutral tones and colours tend to be the most appealing to potential buyers. In addition to brightening up the home and creating the illusion that rooms are a touch bigger than they are, neutral tones will help those viewing the property to envision themselves living there.
Ultimately, most of the updates that can be done to prepare your home for the market are unlikely to damage your bank account. Instead, they can help to increase the overall value of your property and potentially selling it far quicker – so it is worth considering implementing one of these strategies before you put your house on the market.
By Sergei Grigoriev, Executive Director, Eurotrader
With the popularity of cryptocurrency reaching a fever pitch, its development has also attracted new contenders within the trading sphere.
Virtual payments have made numerous impressions on global headlines. News networks were set ablaze following triggers such as Elon Musk’s influence on the market and reports of an investor losing millions in Bitcoin, to name a few. It therefore comes as no surprise that attention is focused heavily on the commodity.
However, despite Bitcoin being the most popular name in the crypto sphere – and having the highest valuation – there is a range of lucrative currencies existing in a growing market, each with its own benefits and downsides.
This article explores some of the benefits of emerging cryptocurrencies and the key considerations for finding the right investment.
The attraction of cryptocurrency
Much like its blockchain host, cryptocurrency boasts cybersecurity credentials that make it an attractive investment.
This ‘trustless’ style of investment reduces risk, as no bank, building society or financial adviser holds the stock for you. And despite stories of people throwing away their crypto fortunes, there isn’t any physical currency to be concerned about – significantly reducing the risk of theft or fraud that comes with traditional currencies.
Cryptocurrencies also offer another significant pull for investors: they require no middleman. While trading platforms charge fees to trade, withdraw and settle money, these are minimal compared with the hefty fees charged by other investments, like currency conversion costs.
The speed of cryptocurrency trading is also a selling point. Transactions are seamless, instant and secure, with blockchains also lessening the need for a paper trail and helping to guard you against fraud.
Delving deeper into the market
Bitcoin leads the cryptocurrency market in almost every department. Its popularity and value are currently unrivalled, with a market cap hovering around the $1 trillion mark.
With that said, Ethereum’s sudden surge to prominence shouldn’t be taken lightly, showing that even newcomers can quickly make waves in the market. With a market cap of $500 billion, Ethereum isn’t showing signs of slowing down.
Since Bitcoin’s launch in 2009, the creation of competing digital currencies has been steadily increasing, with a sudden boom in recent years. In terms of their functionality and operation, most alternative currencies differ wildly from Bitcoin. However, some have similar qualities to the current main player.
For example, Ethereum uses the same blockchain ledger as Bitcoin, with similar benefits. However, the system itself is geared to prioritise speed of transfer, with a different operating system that sets it apart from Bitcoin.
On the other hand, Litecoin is far more similar to Bitcoin. As its name implies, it’s a ‘lighter’ version of the reigning crypto king, however, it also offers more impressive transfer speeds.
Some cryptocurrencies run on independent, alternative systems. For example, Ripple is a centralised crypto platform, notably used for global monetary exchange, intending to make these transactions cheaper and faster than traditional international bank transfers.
Cryptocurrencies typically aim to remove themselves from the moderation of centralised governments and geopolitical market fluctuations – however, Ripple is an exception, as its most common use is by banks and other intermediaries.
The cons of engaging with smaller currencies
Bitcoin is the most established market player by almost every available metric. This can make it difficult for even innovative new cryptocurrencies, offering unique benefits, to break into the market.
This is helped by the fact that it was the first successful and widespread digital currency. Because of its unprecedented growth – and an established blockchain ledger, accessible to all – Bitcoin boasts the largest user base and offers the highest potential prices and rewards on investment.
It’s because of this dominance in the market that alternative currencies struggle to match Bitcoin in size or surpass it in growth.
Importance of diversification
With Bitcoin pricing many budding traders out of the market, there are plenty of attractive alternative investments available. It’s simply about identifying the right investment. However, this is more challenging than ever, for both experienced investors and first-time traders alike.
It’s important to understand the unique benefits offered by each currency. For example, those opting for advanced scalability and an intensively secure network will likely turn their attention to Ethereum.
Ethereum’s decentralised ledger is valued for its impressive security, relying on two separate verification processes, Smart Contracts and ‘dApps’.
Smart Contracts are functions that support safe and secure transactions on the Ethereum blockchain. Their specific code and data functions mean payments can only be processed when certain criteria are met.
It’s often said that Smart Contracts behave like vending machines. A combination of money and an inputted code allows users to access the digital currency, without the need for third-party intervention or transaction management.
Similarly, decentralised applications, or ‘dApps’, are also at the heart of Ethereum’s operation. These are ordinary applications that operate on a decentralised server, like the blockchain, and are defined by smart contracts. Importantly, they allow users to engage with the front-end interface in a way that is intuitive, secure and user-friendly.
Other Bitcoin alternatives offer further unique benefits. Litecoin, for example, is incredibly scalable and efficient. It boasts impressive speeds, with transactions up to four times faster than Bitcoin.
Litecoin is also growing in popularity, as well as being cheaper than Bitcoin – appealing to particular sectors of the trading market that are geared for small, plentiful and rapid trades.
Knowing what is right for you
To find the right investment, it’s advised to produce a checklist of what you want to achieve from your investment, as well as defining how much risk you’re willing to incur.
It’s impossible to simply declare a single cryptocurrency as ‘the best investment’. Defining your ambitions and goals as a trader first helps narrow your potential investments into a viable portfolio of assets.
Over the last decade, the range of accessible cryptocurrencies has boomed, giving traders more autonomy in their choices.
That being said, an alternative to directly investing in a single cryptocurrency is to trade CFDs. Instead of owning an asset, you speculate on market movements. If you correctly predict a market rise or fall, you may be able to earn money.
The growing number of crypto contenders, combined with the growing interest in cryptocurrencies, makes crypto CFD trading a suitable alternative to those who are following the market and are interested by different crypto currencies.
This heightened interest has led to more CFD trading platforms and retail brokers offering cryptocurrency trading pairs. Traders can trade crypto-fiat pairings, such as Bitcoin Cash USD (BCHUSD) without the need for a crypto wallet or ownership of cryptos themselves.
However, no matter your experience level or route you decide to take, research is key. In addition to analysing the fundamental nature of each currency, it’s important to understand how to build and manage a portfolio. Cryptos with different growth triggers can help diversify your portfolio and hedge against crashes, giving you peace of mind over your finances.
If you’re unsure, working with a professional can help you better understand the market, putting your mind at ease over the risks and rewards of your investments.
Becky Hutchinson, Managing Director at Minted, an investment platform which allows individuals to buy and sell gold bullion.
In light of the ‘new normal’, parents and grandparents are looking for new ways to gift, virtually or otherwise. But in a climate of stock market volatility and low interest rates, are traditional financial investments still a solid choice, and could gold bullion be a safer bet?
There’s no doubt about it, Premium Bonds have earned their reputation as a safe and steadfast savings option. First introduced by the Government in 1956, these tax-free bonds from the National Savings and Investments (NS&I) agency are now UK’s biggest savings product, with about 22 million people having over £86 billion invested in them. Every £1 Bond is given a unique number and all numbers are put into a computer called Ernie (which stands for Electronic Random Number Indicator Equipment), which draws monthly winners. For years, they have been popular to give as presents to children under 16. The parent or guardian named on the application looks after the Bonds until the child’s 16th birthday, when they are entitled to a gift that will hopefully keep on giving.
In December 2020, however, the prize fund was cut considerably and due to the drop in the Bank of England base rate, NS&I also reduced the odds of winning. As a monthly lottery, the closest thing Premium Bonds have to an interest rate is their annual prize rate, which currently stands at one percent. This is based on the average pay out, depending on the number of bonds owned and, while it isn’t completely accurate, it does allow for an estimated calculation to be made about interest gained in a year.
But winning may be harder than it seems. According to Money Saving Expert, only 30% of people with £1,000 in Premium Bonds win £25 or more per year. And, over five years, someone with £1,000 in Premium Bonds and ‘average luck’ is expected to win roughly £50. While that may seem a lot of money to a child who’s been gifted Bonds, any parent knows that £50 doesn’t go far in today’s society.
When it comes to investment options, however, Premium Bonds are as safe as they get. Operated by NS&I, which is backed by the Treasury rather than a bank, funds are easy to access and there is little-to-no risk of losing money – only a small gamble around any potential ‘interest’. However, while this level of financial security was once a significant perk, all UK-regulated savings accounts are now protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) under the savings safety rules. This extends up to £85,000 per person, per bank, building society or credit union – £35,000 more than the maximum deposit allowance for Premium Bonds.
So, is there an alternative safe-haven investment option, with a better interest rate and without a savings cap? There is and it’s far older than Premium Bonds. Gold was one of the first precious metals to be used by humans as a trading commodity and, to this day, remains a stable choice. Many children’s books tell stories of gold – from pirates to royalty – and, in sport, a gold medal has always been associated with winning. From a very young age, the intrinsic value of gold has been ingrained in most people’s minds.
Aside from the glitz and glamour, perhaps the biggest difference between gold and Premium Bonds is that gold is a tangible asset. Investors can handle their physical gold and store it as they wish or even liquidate an asset if needed. Gold doesn’t just sit pretty either; while its price may fluctuate, historically and over the long term, it trends higher. Currently, the average growth rate per year is nine percent, considerably greater than bonds or current interest rates. With this in mind, £1,000 invested in gold could be worth around £1,538 after five years.
With the popularity of the finite resource growing, more user-friendly and flexible tech-focused routes into gold investment are appearing, making gifting the precious metal much easier. Features such as reward points for referring friends and family also provide an incentive for parents to start building up points for their children. With investment platforms like Minted, people can either purchase gold with a lump sum or save set amounts every month, starting at £30. Once enough has been saved for a gold bar, the physical gold can either be stored in a secure London vault or withdrawn – something any child would be proud to own.
Despite its high-class status, gold is much more than just a luxury good and can be a viable option for every investor, at any age. As markets continue to fluctuate and interest rates drop, the price of gold could remain on its upward trajectory for some time. No matter the state of the current economic climate, the metal will always be a must-have addition to anyone’s investment portfolio and, with growing options to transfer gold virtually, the best kind of gift.
For the payments market, government-backed digital currencies could accelerate innovation by setting novel technology benchmarks, as well as rearrange some of the entry barriers for new companies looking to set up shop.
A recent survey of central banks has revealed that 86% are actively doing research into central bank digital currencies (CBDCs), 60% are already in the experimenting phase and almost 15% doing pilot testing. With CBDCs heavily gaining traction across governments worldwide, Marius Galdikas, CEO at ConnectPay, has discussed how this technological solution could impact the payments market players.
The idea of CBDCs has been circling around for a few years now, however, with the growing attention towards cryptocurrencies and money digitalization in general, banks are now focusing on how to put the idea into practise. For instance, the Bank of England together with HM Treasury has created a dedicated task force to explore potential use cases of CBDC in the UK market, as well as monitor international developments regarding the topic. Norway is pushing ahead with CBDC, too, while China is already in the process of testing digital Yuan out in the real world.
“CBDCs could be a game-changer for the payments industry. Aside from the clear benefits, for instance, low-cost cross-border payments or boosting financial inclusivity, it could also enhance domestic payments system resilience, slightly shifting dependence from the international payment processing networks,” Galdikas said.
According to Galdikas, CBDCs could be a major catalyst for the payments market, as government-issued digital currencies would be as easily accessible as current e-money payment methods, yet, in some respects, it could surpass what current market players have to offer.
“Although it has immense potential, the idea still has a long way to go. Essential decisions need to be made concerning how state-backed currencies could inherit the properties of cash, for instance, working offline or addressing the double-spending problem. Also, it’s highly likely that the central banks will not take on the responsibility to develop and implement the technology themselves, yet will want to retain the control of the currency itself,” Galdikas explained. “There is no best way to address these types of questions and that’s why specialized teams and task forces are being assembled — to come up with an approach that would combine different tools into a single solution.”
“Therefore payment service providers will have to step up their game to match the benefits CBDCs would bring to the table, which means moving up into a higher gear when it comes to innovation and delivering unique market solutions. They’ll have to be more strategic in communicating their strengths and value proposition to their target audience, too,” he added.
While outlining the benefits, Galdikas also noted how this would impact market newcomers. “CBDCs would definitely set an even higher standard for greater technological competence, which means setting up shop for new businesses is going to need a lot more investment from the get-go.”
“That said, I believe that some of the barriers would drop, for example, the requirement that only credit institutions have access to payment systems, such as SEPA. All in all, the CBDC, with inherent properties of cash, would allow for a wide variety of innovative financial solutions,” he concluded.
This could be a pivoting moment in the industry, which would greatly contribute to building a more financially inclusive society. However, a lot of questions must be addressed before then, with the main ones being technological implementation, as well as privacy concerns, which might arise due to CBDCs being state-backed.
eToro, the world’s leading social investment network, today launches BitcoinWorldWide, a thematic portfolio based on the companies in the value chain behind bitcoin. While it includes some exposure to bitcoin itself, the portfolio’s core focus is the companies operating to support further adoption.
“As it crosses into mainstream awareness, bitcoin is increasingly in the spotlight” says Dani Brinker, eToro’s Head of Portfolio Investments. “New all-time highs might make headlines, but the most significant change surrounding the world’s largest crypto is not its price, but the companies building the value chain around it. From mining operations to chip manufacturers and those delivering services to support usage, payments, exchanges and custody, there’s more to bitcoin than you might think.”
Released in 2009, bitcoin currently boasts a market capitalisation in excess of $1 trillion. Throughout the last decade, the first and most famous crypto has gone through multiple stages of adoption – from unfamiliar tech to a household name attracting institutional investment and media headlines. Last year marked another milestone, with payments companies including Square and PayPal announcing plans to support bitcoin payments, setting the groundwork for millions around the world to easily transact in bitcoin. Now, only 12 years after its founding, you can pay with bitcoin in HomeDepot, buy a Tesla, grab a Whopper or KFC (in some countries), buy games in the Xbox Store and pay your AT&T phone bill.
The portfolio includes companies such as Paypal, chip manufacturer Nvidia, mining hardware producer Canaan and newly public crypto exchange, Coinbase, as well as a bitcoin allocation. eToro considers bitcoin’s value chain to include companies operating in the mining, semiconductor, payments, exchange, custodianship and insurance spaces, as well as the asset itself. It intentionally excluded organisations that are bullish on bitcoin but lack business units related to its activity. For example, MicroStrategy, will not feature in the portfolio as its treasury holdings are its only connection to bitcoin.
“Our aim is to provide retail investors with an easy way to get exposure to companies that deliver a service or product essential to the further adoption of bitcoin,” explains Dani Brinker. “It is a broader approach to bitcoin investing that offers a diversified investment, uncorrelated with the bitcoin itself, but maintains exposure to the growth potential of the crypto sector.”
With the ever-increasing popularity of cryptocurrency and NFT (non-fungible-tokens), BluCollar.io is launching its first ICO to capitalize on an underserved market – the manufacturing industry. With little in the way of investable channels, this 2334.60 billion dollar industry (2018) in the U.S. alone, BluCollar is looking to translate those financial transactions and assets to the digital space utilizing the exploding world of NFT’s via its own marketplace.
“After years of working in the manufacturing industry, we realized that not only do we have massive amounts of transactions that are happening worldwide with a need to move more freely than through traditional monetary infrastructure to keep up, but we’re also sitting on an insane amount of real-world assets that can be tokenized to raise capital. We figured we couldn’t be the only people in this position, so BluCollar was born” – says Sam Bohon, Founder of BluCollar
With a two-part strategy to launch this brave new marketplace, BluCollar will first launch its token on the cryptocurrency marketplace. Based on the standard of Ethereum, by far the most popular open-sourced cryptocurrency blockchains on the market and championed by VISA, PayPal, and popular celebrity investors such as Mark Cuban, and Richard Sherman – BluCollar Token is poised to have a successful ICO Launch on May 15th – August 15th 2021 at BluCollar.io.
Of course, this is just the beginning. The BluCollar NFT Marketplace is the real hero of the show, allowing manufacturing companies including metal fabrication, construction, and supply companies to tokenize their assets and sell them as NFT’s. These assets can include digital drawings, marketable blueprints, and schematics, as well as real-world assets such as supplies, equipment, and commercial real estate. This enables the companies themselves to raise much-needed capital as well as provide investable ownership to employees as well as the general public looking for a new investment stream. And of course, the currency that powers the marketplace will be BluCollar Token, in itself an investable crypto asset.
“At the end of the day, we want to help our industry move into the digital age and empower what has always been a rather traditional environment to maximize their financial might. From the workers on the floor to the top CEO’s we can all benefit together through BluCollar and we can’t wait to kick it off!” Sam says.
After the launch of both the token and marketplace, BluCollar doesn’t plan to rest on its laurels. With a pipeline of spin-off projects such as token and NFT staking and a massive pr campaign already in the works, the sky is the limit in spreading awareness at what a truly massive industry and investable resource this truly is and we’re just at the beginning.
BluCollar was created to give the manufacturing industry a cryptocurrency and NFT marketplace that represents and empowers the true workforce and disrupts the financial constraints of the current marketplace.
Butter, the London based fintech platform that started life as the UK’s first Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) travel agency, has just closed a £15.8m funding round to accelerate the rollout of its responsible open-banking based BNPL shopping app.
Who has invested?
Butter has raised £15.8m via BCI Finance, the credit arm of London based venture builder Blenheim Chalcot, as well as a number of other private Angel investors in order to expand Butter’s offering.
What is Butter?
Irritated by the lack of flexible payment options whilst planning a holiday, co-founder Timothy Davis was inspired to build the UK’s first buy now pay later travel agency, enabling travellers to spread the cost of travel arrangements over time, with full payment not due until after the trip.
Together with co-founders Stefan Hobl and Nik Haukohl, Butter achieved full FCA regulated status in 2017, and 4 years later, Butter has evolved into a British fintech platform with over 100,000 customers, offering instalments across every consumer vertical and flying the flag against other sector giants such as Klarna.
Butter quickly established a firm foothold in the travel and tourism industry as the UK’s first BNPL travel agency, providing a flexible, cost-effective way to book travel, with full payment not due until after the trip. A ‘layaway for getaways’.
When the pandemic brought the travel and tourism industry to a grinding halt two years later, Butter adapted fast, launching the UK’s first BNPL shopping app alongside their travel offering, enabling customers to spread the cost of any purchase from any online store.
What makes Butter better?
Unlike other BNPL providers, Butter’s unique “over-the-top” (OTT) solution enables customers to spread the cost of purchases with every store on the internet, without requiring merchants to support Butter via a technical integration. Instead, Butter’s in-app universal checkout takes care of paying retailers, with customers then able to repay the costs over 2, 3, or 4 monthly payments.
Popular stores in the Butter app include Amazon, Argos, BooHoo, ASOS, H&M, Zara, Hugo Boss, Sports Direct, AirBnB, Currys PC World, Ao.com, IKEA and more.
As the UK’s first FCA regulated BNPL provider, Butter has successfully developed a unique credit decisioning process with affordability at its core, utilising open banking and machine learning to ensure that lending is responsible and that customers are only able to borrow amounts based on what they can afford.
Timothy Davis, Co-Founder and CEO of Butter, commented: “Our goal at Butter has always been to provide consumers with a simple and responsible alternative to credit cards and loans, enabling them to instantly spread the cost of anything from a takeaway to a holiday over a simple and transparent instalment plan, all within one easy to use account.
We want to remove the stigma surrounding the buy now pay later offering and empower consumers by allowing them to budget and spend intelligently and in a manner that suits their individual financial needs.
We’ve set out to achieve this by building a platform focussed around transparency, responsible lending and the ability to transact on bigger ticket items compared to other providers, whilst also offering more choice to customers through our unique over-the-top solution, which enables consumers to shop any online store in existence with Butter.
The funding that we have secured via BCI will help facilitate the scale-up of our business as we continue to pioneer innovation in the buy now pay later space.”
Paul Maurici, Investment Manager at BCI, commented: “Our mission at BCI is to be the funder of choice for UK Fintech’s looking to scale.
Butter is a young and ambitious company, which combines a tech-enabled approach to lending alongside impressive customer delivery capabilities.
With its FCA authorisation already in place, the business is well placed to continue strong growth while assisting its customers in managing their money better.”
By Andrew Aldridge, Partner at Deepbridge Capital
The UK is widely regarded as one of the greatest places to start an innovative tech company. This shouldn’t come as any surprise given the world-class academia we have to offer, the legacy of innovation and, importantly, the funding opportunities available to entrepreneurs. Of course, we also have a language advantage for global businesses which shouldn’t be underestimated.
There can be a temptation to look to the USA and the glamour of Silicon Valley, and indeed this may be where some companies ultimately end up in order to achieve their ‘Unicorn goals,’ but that doesn’t tell the whole story.
At Deepbridge Capital, we are fortunate to work internationally and all of the aforementioned points are regularly raised as reasons for growth-focused tech companies wanting to be involved in the UK ecosystem, as well as the other sector-focused appeals of the UK.
For example, for medtech companies, the rubber stamp of having the globally-recognised NHS trialing or adopting a device can be of massive significance. Such a testimony opens doors with healthcare providers elsewhere and the scalability that offers.
To a similar degree, fintech can find a natural home in the UK, as a global financial hub, with initiatives such as the FCA Sandbox providing a test bed which can empower fintech innovators to prove concept and showcase innovation.
I could continue by looking at legal tech, biotech, agritech and many more. Indeed, the UK has developed a number of ‘hubs’ across the country to provide opportunities for collaboration and innovation in specific fields of tech. Often these hubs are associated with academia and other influential partners. Outside of the ‘golden triangle’ of London, Oxford and Cambridge, examples of such hubs, include Liverpool as a gaming and virtual reality hub (indeed our investee company vTime is at the forefront of this); Manchester as a digital hub but also the home of graphene (again, we have helped a great company in this sector, Flex-G, create a Manchester base); Edinburgh and Bristol as digital innovation hubs, and numerous less well known areas such as west Wales (working with the likes of the University of Aberystwyth) focussing on agritech.
Naturally, our excitement in all of this is centred on the investment opportunity. As highlighted earlier, the funding ecosystem in the UK is a big reason for the success of tech companies here. This is particularly true in what is often the most difficult funding stage, being the first commercialisation funding or early Series A funding.
The first funding a company received is usually self-funding, or the attraction of funding from friends, family or a supportive business angel. This is usually based on a ‘good idea’ and goodwill towards the founder. This funding tends to be relatively small ticket and, in reality, is an investment ‘punt.’
When you then get to later funding rounds, later Series A and Series B, tech companies are usually expected to have significant recurring revenues and there is no shortage of funding opportunities both here in the UK and elsewhere.
In both of these examples, the UK has a strong track record of funding, but where the UK really excels is at the stage ranging from ‘seed’ funding to early Series A. At this point, a tech company is likely to be beyond the cheque-size which can be offered purely on goodwill, but is unlikely to have the revenues to support interest from the VC, PE and institutional funds looking for a de-risked opportunity.
Historically, this funding gap has been described as the ‘chasm of death,’ as it is often where a company will choke due to lack of funding. However, this is an area where the UK has a significant competitive advantage on international peers; the Enterprise Investment Scheme.
The Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) provides the incentive to investors to support growth-focused companies through unparalleled potential tax reliefs. Over recent years, between £1.5bn and £2bn of funding each year has been availed to growth-focused companies under EIS. Founders and investors globally regularly remind us of their jealousy of the UK in this regard – it is important that UK investors and financial advisers are aware of this global envy and the fortunate position they are in.
The tax reliefs offered under EIS provide a degree of risk mitigation for investors, with early-stage investments naturally being high risk, but it is critical that investing at this stage is undertaken with due care and in conjunction with a sector-experienced investment manager.
This stage of investing has great growth opportunities and taking a company from proof of concept through to a significant annual rate of return, can be a significant value inflection journey. At this point of investing, we are looking for companies which have used their initial funding to prove concept and develop initial market traction, with our funding then empowering the commercial growth to subsequently attract large-scale co-funding for corporate growth and then an exit for investors.
There has never been more technology innovation around us and in a digital world it is natural that this is where investment opportunities will lie. If investors are looking for growth, then UK tech is a great place to be and arguably the growth point is exactly where EIS funding is applicable.
We have already seen the shift of tech companies becoming the world’s largest, so it is not a surprise that tech is at the heart of most investment portfolios. However, the long-term growth opportunities often lie at an earlier stage and the UK is a great place to empower this, thanks in part to EIS. And, why wouldn’t investors want tax reliefs, CGT free growth and potential loss relief?
All you have to do is check out the news to realise that cryptocurrency is growing in popularity. As it continues its ascent, it’ll only become more and more in demand, meaning that those who want to get their hands on it may face an increasingly uphill battle.
Fortunately, you don’t have to fight anyone off to get yourself involved with the cryptocurrency market. There are tons of ways to jump into the market and make your mark with something like Bitcoin or Ethereum.
For a list of the best avenues to explore, you’ll want to check out the five suggestions outlined below.
The first thing you might think to do when trying to get hold of cryptocurrency is to buy it. However, how good of an idea this is generally depends on what a currency is worth at the time.
It’s not uncommon for them to be incredibly expensive nowadays, especially when talking about Bitcoin. Given the growing presence of cryptocurrency, the prices keep reaching new heights, which isn’t ideal for someone looking to get involved with this for the first time.
If you are going to buy, you’ll probably want to start by getting cheaper currencies through a crypto exchange. Anything that’s not Bitcoin ought to be relatively easy to acquire, although depending on the exchange service you use, it might take a few weeks for the purchase to be verified.
As cryptocurrency continues to amass interest, more and more projects are surfacing that expand and enhance the market. Getting involved with these projects in the early days is an excellent way for you to start building up your online wallet, as you earn tokens for doing some of the simplest tasks.
Merely downloading an app or following certain social media accounts can net you this reward because you’re helping the project gain notoriety. You’re ensuring that there’s a community around it before it hits the market, which is essential for its success. So, by doing your part, you can earn tokens that can later be traded or sold.
Microtasks, or bounties, are similar to this, although the tasks required of you are a little more advanced. Here, you might be expected to write a testimonial or film a review before earning a reward.
For a more interesting way to get your hands on cryptocurrency, you can always give competitions a try. These generally involve you playing games for the chance to win something like Bitcoin while also having fun in the process.
Although this might seem too good to be true, it’s a legit and straightforward way of getting free cryptocurrency. If you play with Traders Of Crypto you don’t have to worry about giving away any personal information that may put you at risk. All you’ve gotta do is provide an email address, and then you can start competing.
The games range from trying to be the best trader each month to identifying bugs in code, and they’re sure to make the hunt for cryptocurrency that extra bit more interesting.
If you have an e-commerce business, one opportunity that’s open to you is accepting cryptocurrency payments when someone makes a purchase. In addition to options like credit card and Paypal, you can also allow users to buy your stock using a variety of cryptocurrency options.
What currency you can accept will largely depend on the platform your e-commerce business uses. Some sites, like Shopify, are incredibly flexible and allow for payments using several hundred different types of cryptocurrency. So, if you’re not fussy about what you get your hands on, this can be a good place to set yourself up.
To those not in the know about cryptocurrency, mining for an online currency might not make a lot of sense. However, what this actually means is that you use your computer to solve complex equations that validate what you’re mining for.
Again, this is an area where Bitcoin can be problematic for a first-timer, as the equipment required to mine this currency is incredibly expensive. You need a lot of high-end tech to be successful with this endeavour, something that you may not be willing to purchase.
Fortunately, other currencies like Ethereum and Monexo don’t have such demands and can easily be done through a more standard computer. Just be aware that mining can use up a lot of power, so the costs to you will differ depending on the price of electricity in your area, as well as the efficiency of your equipment.
It might not always be stable, but it’s clear that cryptocurrency is definitely going to play a significant role in the future. If you want to have a part in that, getting your hands on some of it now through one of these varied ways could prove advantageous.
The Bitcoin price nears $50,000 and will continue to reach new highs in this first quarter of 2021 – but investors should also expect volatility due to increasing regulatory scrutiny.
This is the warning from Nigel Green, CEO and founder of deVere Group, one of the world’s largest independent financial advisory and fintech organisations.
It comes after the cryptocurrency hit more than $49,700 for the first time in history on Sunday the 14th of February.
Mr Green says: “Last week was a massive one for Bitcoin, reaching new all-time highs amid soaring interest from institutional investors.
“Morgan Stanley, the U.S. investment giant is reported to be considering investing in Bitcoin through its $150 billion investment arm; Elon Musk’s Tesla announced it had invested $1.5 billion in the digital currency and was getting ready to accept it as payment; BNY Mellon confirmed that it had created a digital assets unit to build a custody and admin platform for crypto assets; and Mastercard said it would give its merchants the option to accept cryptocurrencies later this year.
“In addition, Miami confirms it is considering paying workers and collecting taxes in cryptocurrency and the mayor of the city wants to hold Bitcoin in the city’s treasury.
“This all follows the likes of PayPal’s decision last year to allow customers to buy, sell and hold Bitcoin and as Wall Street giants like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan issue RFIs (request for information) to explore Bitcoin and crypto asset custody.”
He continues: “There is a clear direction of travel: institutional investors are taking Bitcoin more and more seriously as a financial asset and a medium of exchange. They are increasing their exposure to it at a faster rate than ever before.
“This is pushing cryptocurrencies ever more into the mainstream financial system and, subsequently, driving the price skywards.”
The deVere chief goes on to say: “With the growing institutional demand combined with ultra-low interest rates, we can expect Bitcoin – which has already given a 55% return so far year to date after the 300% gain in 2020 – to reach new highs in this first quarter of 2021.
“However, with increasing dominance and value, comes increasing regulatory scrutiny.
“Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies will come under the spotlight from watchdogs like never before and this can be expected to create volatility in the market.”
His warning comes as central banks and governments around the world ramp up their focus on digital currencies.
In the U.S. in recent days, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen raised again the prospect of future cryptocurrency regulation and as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) could reportedly investigate Elon Musk over Tesla’s $1.5 billion Bitcoin purchase.
Nigel Green concludes: “Institutional investors are increasingly appreciating that in this tech-driven, ultra low interest rate, low growth world, and where there is diminishing trust in traditional currencies, digital and borderless cryptocurrencies may be becoming a better fit.
“We can expect the price of Bitcoin to surge to fresh highs as a result. But investors must be aware that regulatory pressures will cause price turbulence.”
Self-employed and side-hustler movement continues to thrive despite challenges caused by COVID-19
Over 55s are leading the way in starting new businesses or side hustles during the pandemic
By choosing a challenger banking, newly formed businesses are more likely to grow
Research released on Monday by Mettle, the NatWest-backed business account, using YouGov’s platform, estimates that the UK’s growing self-employed and side hustler movement will contribute an estimated £125 billion in turnover to the UK’s economic recovery in 2021. Furthermore, small and medium-sized businesses (with 1-49 employees) are estimated to contribute approximately £310.46 billion.
Pre-pandemic in 2019, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) found over 1.1 million people were either employed in two jobs or self-employed in addition to having another job. COVID-19 has only accelerated this and the growth of the self-employed and side hustler movement, with changes in employment and lifestyles pushing more people to work for themselves than ever before – either through choice or out of necessity of being furloughed or made redundant. The population of self-employed workers in the UK now sits at over five million, making up 15% of the UK’s workforce.
Around 25% of all UK adults now consider themselves to be a side hustler, according to Henley Business School. Having ‘a side hustle’ in addition to a full-time job (from freelance design work, to a passion such as wedding photography), has for the first time for many, become a necessity to supplement income.
Mettle’s research surveyed 2,194 self-employed workers to uncover the role of this segment in boosting the UK economy, the barriers they faced when starting their venture, and the role of banking organisations in helping them thrive.
According to the research, the most popular motivation for going solo was the flexibility and freedom it provided (57%), followed by their desire for a change in work/life balance (38%), and wanting more meaning and purpose in their life (24%).. Those aged 55 and over are leading the way when it comes to self-employment, with 38% of limited companies and side hustles formed post-March 2020 having been established by that age group.
The rapidly expanding self-employed and liquid workforce movement is being supported by a rise in challenger banking solutions that provide online products and services. The majority (83%) of respondents who use challenger bank services and feel supported by them, felt this was because of the ability to do everything virtually, their bank’s ability to get things done quickly (61%) and the fact that their innovative technology and products are more compatible with their business needs (51%).
Compounding this, the COVID-19 pandemic is making the challenge of running a business or side hustle even more difficult. 57% of those surveyed are not looking to expand their business or side hustle or enter a new sector in 2021, with over a quarter of respondents specifically not looking to expand (29%) citing the UK’s economic uncertainty as the reason why. More than ever solutions like Mettle are of utmost importance to help this audience to manage their finances, and to support their maintenance, growth and contribution toward the UK’s economic recovery.
Marieke Flament, CEO of Mettle, commented: “More people are choosing to start or create something of their own than ever before due to changing lifestyles, personal circumstances, or fulfilling a personal ambition. This research highlights the importance of this growing movement for the UK’s economic recovery in 2021 – particularly amongst the over 55 age group.
“The smallest end of the SME market has historically been underserved in terms of business banking, with the majority of incumbent institutions focusing on large commercial customers and corporates. This made it difficult for small business owners to get set up quickly, get paid and tax ready. We champion self-employed workers and side hustlers and are dedicated to building our product to serve them and their needs.
“As the UK looks to rebound from the economic damage caused by COVID-19, it’s absolutely vital that this segment has access to the support and services it needs to thrive. Mettle’s position within NatWest means we can facilitate this. We leverage the experience and risk knowledge of NatWest, but we also operate like a start-up, so we can move at pace and offer a product that enables self-employed and side hustlers to start, run and grow their businesses successfully.
“Banking doesn’t need to be complex, and we think new small business owners, self-employed workers and side hustlers should be able to rely on their bank to help them easily navigate day-to-day processes as they focus on overcoming the macro-economic hurdles outside of their control.”
Bitcoin was driven to new record highs on Tuesday morning – trading above $48,000 – as investors continue to pile in on the news that Tesla bought $1.5bn worth of the cryptocurrency.
A filing with the U.S. financial regulator on Monday reveals that the electric car company run by the world’s richest person, Elon Musk, has made the massive purchase of the digital asset which has jumped more than 300% in a year.
The surge in the price of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, including Dogecoin – which was also fuelled by an endorsement by Musk on Twitter over the weekend – comes as digital currencies become mainstream due to soaring interest from both retail and institutional investors, increasing levels of mass adoption, and as global interest rates remain at historic lows.
But how does a new crypto investor choose a platform on which to buy, sell, hold and exchange?
Nigel Green, an influential cryptocurrency expert and CEO of deVere Group, one of the world’s largest independent financial advisory and fintech organisations, says there are five fundamentals.
He says: “More and more people are wanting to invest into cryptocurrencies, knowing that they are the future of money.
“But many, even those who have extensive knowledge of the stock market, have concerns about selecting the right cryptocurrency exchange.
“The total capitalisation of the cryptocurrency market is now an estimated $1.2 trillion, but it is still lightly regulated. This means that it’s vital that investors know what to look for in an exchange.”
He continues: “There are five fundamentals for your checklist.
“First, security. The system of a private exchange for saving consumer documents as well as funds should be as decentralised as possible as if it’s all on a couple of web servers, that makes them easy hacking targets.
“Investors should also look for a system that utilises two-step verification throughout login, such as a password, and also quick-expiring codes received through the app.
“Avoid exchanges which offer cheap trade costs or services but are based in areas around the world where investor security is weak.
“In addition, investors ought to assess exchanges as well as the businesses behind them as they would certainly do with any other organisation that they would depend on to protect their money.”
“Second, costs. Some exchanges are proficient at addressing costs in advance, while others hide them. Go for the exchanges that are upfront and transparent.
“Third, simplicity and ease of use. Take into account that you’re not always going to trade from your desktop. In fact, finding an exchange that focuses on ‘on-the-move’ trading via a secure app is often a better option.
“Fourth, dependability. Does the exchange run efficiently when trading quantity is high, or when the currencies rate is see-sawing? Some exchanges are notorious for their system accidents and trading stops.
Fifth, client service. Make sure an exchange has a chat or fast communication service integrated.”
Mr Green concludes: “Whilst Elon Musk’s Tesla, and other institutional investors, including PayPal amongst others, will have teams of crypto experts behind them, retail investors can also get involved.
“Investing in cryptocurrencies remains highly speculative and it is not for everyone – but one of the keys to success would be selecting the right crypto exchange.”
44% of investors are now looking to back UK-based companies rather than global firms – 9,629,000
45% of investors feel their ‘risk-appetite’ has increased due to Covid-19, as traditionally safe investments in big companies are no longer viable – 6,942,000
27% of investors are looking to invest in sectors created by the Covid-19 pandemic, such as PPE, social distancing equipment and virtual solutions – 5,674,000
19% of investors believe the coronavirus pandemic has opened more investment opportunities than it has closed – 6,278,000
Investing was one of the most unpredictable aspects of 2020 for anyone concerned with the market, whether that be a sophisticated portfolio or just a workplace pension. The stock market crash at the start of the lockdown and continued economic disruption has left many wondering what the future will hold, while soaring tech stocks have added further complexity to an ever changing market. But what has the Covid pandemic taught investors?
The overall effect of this period has led investors to reconsider what they are doing with their investable assets. To understand this shift, SME investment specialist IW Capital has conducted nationally representative research to uncover the sentiments of the UK’s investors.
Look beyond the panic
Each period of disruption, like that felt last year, offers opportunity for companies to adapt quickly to the changing times and although there has been a lot of worry and negativity surrounding the new lockdown restrictions, we have to look to the positives with one of them being the roll out of the Covid vaccines. Working with both entrepreneurs and investors, there is a clear desire from the small business community for growth investment and to take a big step growth-wise this year. With a 12% increase in new businesses starting up during 2020 compared to 2019, 2021 is set to create some exciting investment opportunities for investors throughout the country.
The unexpected happens
This year has taught us that the unexpected does happen. Investors need to look to the future and prepare for the unexpected to improve financial resilience. This could be by having liquid assets or a rainy-day fund you can use if investment values fall, which is particularly important if you’re drawing an income from investments. Having options for when the unexpected does occur should be part of any investors financial plan and is something that has been brought to the forefront for many as a result of the pandemic.
Maintain a diverse portfolio
The Covid pandemic has had a far-reaching impact across a variety of sectors, however some industries have been affected far more than others, with travel and hospitality being forced to close for months at a time and unable to trade. In contrast, the pandemic has created opportunities for some sectors too, such as manufacturing and biotech. While a diverse portfolio will still have suffered volatility, it can help lessen the impact. Investing in a range of assets, industries and locations can help spread the risk. When one investment falls, another may perform better helping to create balance.
Don’t overreact to market volatility
When the pandemic first hit and the stock market plummeted, many investors began to panic and looked to sell shares in order to avoid potential future losses, but when investing, a long-term time frame and goal is so important. Short-term volatility is often smoothed out once you look at investment performance over a longer time frame. It can be frustrating to see that investment values fell in 2020, but when you look at performance over the last five years, for example, you’ll probably still see an upward trend.
Luke Davis, CEO of IW Capital:
“Investing and investing wisely has never been easy by any stretch but this year has been particularly difficult for investors at every level. 2020 demonstrated the value of long term investing and future planning. The stock market crash in March triggered a real halt in investment, and although the market hasn’t fully recovered, there has been strong growth since November and in places in the US share indexes are actually higher than the last year.
“There have been winners and losers from each stage of the pandemic with sectors like travel feeling the true impact of the pandemic and others like online solutions seeing growth and opportunity in a time of financial turmoil. But, this is true of any world event and has forced investors to look to be more future facing.”
More loans, larger businesses and a regional shift – these are some of the trends and insights that fintech business lender MarketFinance observed during 2020.
MarketFinance lent a total of £342.4m across all solutions, over the first 11 months of 2020. Representing a 3.4% increase in total lending over the same period in 2019 (£331.1m)
The profile of companies using invoice financing changed significantly during COVID-19. Those businesses using invoice financing were both larger than usual (an average turnover of £2.1m, compared to £1.3m in 2019, a 60% increase) and received 83% more financing on average than they did in 2019
Businesses in London, Hertfordshire, the East of England and the South West experienced the greatest drops in invoice financing year on year, with a 45% decrease in London alone. These geographies are hubs for the Support Services and Information & Communication industries, indicative of how hard these sectors have been hit by COVID-19
Demand for business loans soared with a 13-fold increase in loans between Q2 and Q3 2020. The majority of loans (60%) were made to businesses in Support Services, Wholesale & Retail Trade, Manufacturing and Construction.
Q1 and Q2 2020
The UK’s economic prospects showed signs of turning early in 2020, as Brexit-related uncertainty began to fade. Despite the promising start to the year at MarketFinance, with larger businesses borrowing, this upward turn halted suddenly when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived. The country and economy, effectively, went into lock down at the end of March. However, during this time when UK GDP crashed by 2.2% across Q1, it was also the first sign of the coming shift for many companies towards new alternative financial mechanisms.
As of Q2, 46% of businesses reported that income was down by 50% and so the number of companies using invoice finance dropped by 35%. However, while smaller companies with a narrow spectrum of business activity looked to other financial solutions, larger businesses with diversified workflows (and therefore revenue streams) were able to continue using invoice-backed facilities to boost their cash flow. The average revenue of these companies was over double what it had been during the same period the previous year, growing to £2.1m, an increase of 127%. In fact, while approved company applications for invoice finance went down, invoice values actually went up. The average size of an invoice being financed increased significantly in Q2 in comparison to the previous four quarters.
MarketFinance became an accredited CBILS lender and so the quantity and concentration of loans advanced increased by a significant 13 times compared with Q2. Interestingly, over a third (36%) of all loans to manufacturing companies went to those based in the Midlands.
Anil Stocker, CEO of MarketFinance commented: “Small businesses will play the pivotal role in the UK’s economic recovery as we emerge from the pandemic, and we are confident that the bounce back will, with the right support, be swift. These linchpins of our economic fabric will require innovative, sustainable and tailored financial solutions that are fit for purpose in a post-pandemic world. It is up to all of us – accountants, brokers, business advisors, banks and lenders – to continue to step up to the plate and help these businesses survive and thrive.”
Invoice finance was showing gradual growth as of mid-November 2020, suggesting some normalisation of business activity, despite the second UK lockdown. Although the number of companies using invoice finance per quarter dropped by 55% from Q1 to Q2, the figures for Q4 appear to be trending up on both Q2 and Q3. There’s some way to go before we see levels return to those of 2019, but there’s every sign of businesses recovering well as we move into 2021.
COVID-19 continues to affect global supply chains. Manufacturing, Wholesale & Retail Trade, and Construction companies have sought further funding to see them through the pandemic and beyond. Manufacturing companies received 19% of all MarketFinance loans across industries. 32% went to companies in the Midlands, 21% to companies in London and another 21% to companies in the South West, also continuing the trend from Q3. Facing significant challenges to both importing and exporting, Wholesale & Retail Trade companies received 15% of loans across industries, with 40% of these to companies in London.
Anil Stocker added: “Of course, the challenges and uncertainties that 2020 has presented won’t end come January. Businesses will have to navigate the aftermath of COVID-19 for months to come. However, although a lot of businesses have felt a negative impact over the past year, many have executed successful pivots and taken advantage of new opportunities that presented themselves. We’re hopeful that this strong comeback signals we’re already past the worst of the situation. We’ve also been incredibly proud of business support networks up and down the country. They’ve rallied together to support businesses throughout the year and we expect to see this support continue. We’re excited to carry on providing SMEs with the working capital they need to grow, innovate and build towards a successful future.”
ParcelHero says today’s ONS retail figures show e-commerce devoured over 31% of early Christmas spending as the High Street shut up shop once again in November.
November’s retail sales estimates, released today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), reveal the High Street’s loss was online’s gain. Online sales spiked by 74.7% in value as early-bird Christmas shoppers hit the internet in record numbers.
The home delivery specialist ParcelHero says that the closure of non-essential stores across England for the second time this year caused the value of overall retail sales to fall back in November -4.1% compared to the previous month. This had a devastating impact on town centre stores’ sales but created record sales online.
ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks MILT, says: ‘England’s High Streets became ghost towns once more, as shoppers hunkered down in the warmth and safety of their own homes to snap up thousands of early Christmas bargains. Black Friday had an epic lead-in this November and Brits made the most of it by snapping up online bargains at Amazon and their favourite stores. The boom in online sales was so strong that it dragged up the volume of all retail sales by 2.4% compared to November 2019.
“This was great news for online retailers but highly challenging for their delivery partners as the value of department stores,” online orders increased by 157.2% and household goods stores and non-food sites saw sales rise by 124.7%. The sheer volume of home deliveries will have had a knock-on effect as Christmas orders really kicked in early this month.
“It’s no coincidence that the second lockdown was topped and tailed by the failure of well-known names such as Edinburgh Woollen Mill at the beginning and Debenhams and Topshop at the end. This was a truly dark month for the High Street with names such as Peacocks, Jaeger and Burton also collapsing into administration. Clothing stores reported the sharpest decline in sales volumes in November with a monthly fall of -19.0%. Retailers said that, despite extensive online Black Friday promotions, the enforced closure of stores had affected sales. Clothing sales were still a whopping -30.5% below pre-pandemic levels seen in February.”
“However, many retailers have woken up and smelled the Christmas gingerbread-flavoured coffee. 86.9% of businesses remained trading during Lockdown 2.0 suggesting that, despite store closures, many were able to continue to trade online.”
“Both consumers and retailers need to proceed cautiously for what remains of this year to avoid the impact of still soaring online sales. The beginning of the week is being dubbed ‘Manic Monday’ as last-minute orders are expected to swamp courier networks. For more information on how retailers can reduce the impact of the second wave by comparing carriers,” prices and services, see ParcelHero’s updated guide at https://www.parcelhero.com/en-gb/uk-courier-services.
Finance experts say THIS is how to bag the best Black Friday bargains
With the second lockdown coinciding with Black Friday, shoppers will be vying to take advantage of bargains online this year more than ever before.
The sheer volume of discounts and deals can be overwhelming, so experts at Hitachi Personal Finance have provided top tips on how shoppers can navigate the chaos and secure the best deals.
- Start early
A lot of businesses launch deals early in an attempt to spread out demand and avoid their systems becoming overloaded. Take some time to have a look around for the items on your wish list and to find the best deal early to make sure they aren’t already sold out by the time Black Friday hits.
- Check product price histories
Whilst reviewing the quality of the goods you are in the market for is important, doing some digging into a product’s previous price history is invaluable. Black Friday deals get their appeal from being the cheapest offers around, but this may not necessarily be the case. Making use of price comparisons sites, such as Google Shopping, will help you be certain you’re getting the best value for money and that your deal really is a good one.
- Have a list of retailers ready
If you’re after one particular item, such as a new laptop or smartphone, the chances are you’re not alone, and overcrowded retail sites can often run slowly or even crash due to heavy traffic. A key tip to try and negate this is to find several different retailers that all sell the product you want, then set up accounts with each one in advance with your purchase details securely stored so you’re ready to bag the best deal and check out efficiently.
- Make the most of loyalty perks
A lot of retailers often offer their members or those with loyalty cards exclusive offers or early access to deals. Signing up for a loyalty membership is usually free and very simple to do, and it’s this time of year when the persistent newsletters and emails tipping you off about the best bargains will come in handy.
- Abandoned basket discounts
Doing almost a dummy run of buying the products you want can be hugely beneficial, not just in terms of streamlining your shopping, but can lead to retailers offering targeted discounts to items left in your online shopping basket. Try bundling together everything you want but leave at the checkout stage, you may find you receive an email from the retailer offering you specific deals without having to endure any stress.
Vincent Reboul, Managing Director of Hitachi Capital Consumer Finance, commented: “The effects of the pandemic have seen online shopping sales skyrocket this year, which is undoubtedly going to have an impact on what is already a busy day for retailers and shoppers on Black Friday.
“Those irresistibly low prices often facilitate a mad dash to the checkouts, with everyone racing against each other to make sure they get the items they’re after, which can be a huge cause of stress and frustration.
“With the vast majority of activity focused online this year in light of current restrictions, we are confident that our guidance will enable this year’s shoppers to relieve some of the pressure, by taking necessary steps to plan their Black Friday shop early and get themselves ahead of the competition.”
For more expert insight into how you can have a successful Black Friday experience, please visit: https://www.hitachipersonalfinance.co.uk/latest-posts/money/top-tips-for-bagging-a-bargain-this-black-friday-and-cyber-monday/
Black Friday Weekend Spending Set to Hit £3m Every Minute
Nearly £3m is set to be spent every minute over Black Friday weekend, according to a new report.1
The VoucherCodes.co.uk Shopping for Christmas 2020 report, carried out by the Centre for Retail Research (CRR), shows that despite lockdown 2.0, UK consumers are set to spend a total of £7.504bn over the Black Friday weekend – a 12.4% drop on 2019 due to store closures.
Despite the decline, online sales are forecast to increase almost £2bn across Black Friday weekend, with total online sales rising 52.9% from £3.771bn (2019) to £5.764bn this year.
Online spending is predicted to peak on Black Friday itself when £1.34m will be spent every minute. Offline spending will hit its highest amount at £0.96m every minute on Cyber Monday, resulting in a total of 1.740bn.
Online vs offline spending (currency values are in Sterling millions)
Prior to lockdown 2.0, the report found that over a third (37.3%) of UK respondents said they would not shop in-store during Black Friday promotions. This suggests that physical stores would have still seen a shortfall in sales due to lack of consumer confidence regardless of lockdown measures.
However, due to the imposed restrictions in the UK, the research anticipates that offline sales over Black Friday weekend will fall by a staggering 63.7% compared to 2019, from £4.795bn to £1.740bn.
London is expected to lead the charge with online sales and will also have the biggest share of total spend (£1.312bn) within the UK across the weekend. If areas in Scotland remain out of tier four lockdown by the end of November, Scots are set to spend the most offline, totalling to £362.1m.
Regional Black Friday weekend spending in 2020 breakdown (currency values are in Sterling millions)
East of England
Yorkshire & Humberside
While the weekend itself will be popular among shoppers, most retailers will continue their sales within the ‘Black Friday fortnight’.2 During this time, sales are expected to hit a total of £23.090bn. Online total spend is forecast to more than double offline sales £15.480bn and £7.610bn respectively.
Anita Naik, Lifestyle Editor at VoucherCodes.co.uk, commented: “The new lockdown measures have certainly shaken the bricks-and-mortar retail sector for a second time this year, and Black Friday will no doubt be a huge missed opportunity for many stores across the UK.
“However, as we know, over the past few years there has been a rapid shift to online shopping and this Black Friday weekend there will be plenty of deals to be found online despite lockdown 2.0. This year we expect to see sales soar across the online retail sector, and this will continue to grow in the run up to Christmas too.
“With so many discounts over the Black Friday weekend, it can be hard to know if you’re definitely getting the best deal for your money. There are tools which can help such as setting up alerts for things you want to buy or using DealFinder by VoucherCodes. The clever browser extension does all the hard work for you and ensures you never miss a deal again.”
Should Investors Stay Underweight Europe? Three Reasons Why It’s Time to Reconsider That View Now
After a decade encompassing Brexit and the euro crisis, and amid disappointing returns relative to other markets, many investors have written off European equities, but River and Mercantile’s James Sym believes that stance now needs to change.
Investors underweighting European equities now run the risk of missing the recovery in the region, according to Sym, manager of the recently launched ES R&M European Fund, with the continent offering attractive valuations, a leading position in up and coming sectors, and political unity.
Europe’s major equity indices have lagged the US and other regions so far this year, with the double-digit gains seen in some US markets far ahead of country-specific and broad indices on the continent.
However Sym, who joined River and Mercantile this year, says this disparity has created a glaring opportunity for investors.
“European equities have been unloved and under-owned since last year, with August the first month that investors started to return to the asset class,” he says. “Turning points are often the best moments for relative returns – but it is critical to position ahead of that.”
Below, Sym outlines three factors as to why investors should be reconsidering their European exposure now.
1. A better crisis
The time to own European assets is when the region is making top down political progress towards convergence. That was true with the establishment of the euro in the cycle from 2002, it was true post “do whatever it takes”, and it is true today.
In some ways Europe needs a crisis to spur it into action. For years it has been obvious that for the euro to be sustainable there needs to be balance sheet mutualisation across Europe and fiscal transfers. The coronavirus crisis has finally catalysed this move, which should serve to bring the cost of capital down for unloved companies across the continent.
Under the recovery fund plans, the European Commission is likely to become one of the biggest AAA-rated bond issuers in the world. The initial issue was 14 times oversubscribed. This gives the periphery access to capital markets under the same terms as Germany or the Netherlands. Additionally, the net effect of the grant element of the structure is that German taxpayers are paying for peripheral infrastructure investment. This should bring down the risk premium for the region and be good for growth.
2. Leading position in ESG
“In a post-Covid environment, the world is coming Europe’s way. Simply put, European stakeholder capitalism was never the ideal light-touch regulatory environment which big tech needed to thrive. This has been a big drag for equity returns as the FANG phenomenon drove US equity returns. However, pre-eminent themes for the next cycle, such as energy transition, are areas in which Europe excels and it has companies well placed to deliver this. Meanwhile, the regulatory noose is starting to circle some of the large US technology companies. At the very least it should be, or become, a more level playing field.
3. Unloved stocks
“With outflows for most of the last year, many investors find themselves underweight the region now, while index levels remain far below their highs – unlike other regions, such as the US.
“Year-to-date, the MSCI Europe index is down 14%, while the MSCI World is up 3%. There is a relative valuation opportunity, and it looks even more attractive if you drill down further.
“The landscape in Europe is one that is full of growth funds which are (clearly) full of growth stocks which have outperformed. But if you look elsewhere, there are some really attractive opportunities that offer investors a great chance to take part in an economic recovery post the Covid disruption.
“While interest rates stay low, government spending stays high. We now see the mechanism for populism to ultimately lead to inflationary outcomes which if it transpires would set up a potentially difficult market for many clients.”
 According to Calastone research, as quoted by Investment Week
 According to Bloomberg data, to 22nd October
7 Things People Get Terribly Wrong About Stocks and the Stock Market
To the perfect layman, stocks can seem intimidating. The market is so diverse, and financial news can seem like they’re in a completely different language. This also leads to people making their own misinformed opinions about the market. The sad part is that these beliefs are often fueled by a bias people have about business in general.
Some think it’s a scam. Others think that it’s impossible to make steady earnings, or that only big players do so. On the other end of the spectrum, you have those who look at historic figures for the Dow Jones and think that you can’t lose with the stock market and others that think that they can just listen to the news and make trades based on announcements and events. Both of these are wrong and being overly optimistic is just as bad as being overly skeptical. Let’s take a look at some of the things people get wrong about stocks and the stock market.
You can Never Lose with Stocks
This is probably one of the strangest myths about stocks. Some people think that they can just hold some stock and that it’ll always bounce back. These people think that selling is an automatic loss and that stocks are meant to be held forever.
What they don’t realize is that they may be losing money in more than one way when doing this. First, they may end up with stocks that are not bouncing back or becoming almost useless due to disruption in the industry or market conditions. But there’s another area where they may be losing and not realizing it.
Let’s say that you invest $2,000 on stock “A” while failing to invest in stock “B”. If the first stock goes from $20 to $15 you might want to hold on to it until it bounces back. And maybe it does and hovers at around the $22 mark. You’re feeling pretty good about yourself.
But what if I told you that stock “B” went from $15 to $30 during that same period? This is indeed a loss, and it’s referred to as an opportunity cost. This is the amount of money you’re losing for having your money tied up in stagnant or underperforming assets while being unable to capitalize on winners. This is why you need to be somewhat fluid and forget the notion that all stocks always bounce back. We have plenty of historical evidence to back that up also.
It’s Easy to Tell Winners and Losers Apart
One of the biggest myths about stock market investing is that you can easily tell a winning and losing company apart. But that’s simply not true. Two companies might look completely the same, even issue the same type of press releases, and have similar market valuations. But you can’t try to just judge market sentiment based on price movements. You have to dig deeper.
It is often when an industry is going through a rough period that you will truly be able to separate the two. You can expect to see consolidation, and this is when you might find out that a company is running low on reserves, or that it has really bad debt. This is the type of stuff you’ll need to start worrying about if you’re intending to play the long game. This will also help traders in addition to understanding chart patterns and using technical indicators to understand the truth behind those price fluctuations.
You have to come with the mindset that it’s hard to tell winners from losers. This will push you to do more research and not go based on a false sense of confidence thinking you’ve identified a pattern after seeing a sudden uptick in price.
You can Only Make Money when Stocks go Up
This is another myth, and people are often surprised when they learn that you can actually bet against a stock and still make money. This is called selling short, and one of the most important tactics you’ll need to learn when trading.
Selling short is when you agree to borrow stocks from a broker in the expectation that it will be lower at a later time. Let’s say that you decide to sell a few shares of Johnson & Johnson short. You agree to borrow 100 shares at $145. That’s a $14,500 investment. The stock then falls to around $130 3 weeks later. You then can pay back the 100 shares which now cost you $13,000. This means that you made a $1,500 profit minus commission.
While this can be a very powerful strategy, you also have to know that it can go both ways. What this means is that you could end up owing more money if the stock goes in the other direction. What this also means is that the stock market isn’t strictly about “buying low and selling high” as they say. You can make money in any direction the stock market is going.
Getting Started is Difficult and Demands a Lot of Money
A lot of people also have the idea that you can only invest in the stock exchange if you have tens of thousands of dollars, but it’s not entirely true. As a matter of fact, it’s possible to start with as little as $500 to $1,000, though some advocate that you start with at least $2,000.
It really depends on what sort of trading you were thinking of doing. If you fell in love with the idea of day trading, then you might be surprised to find out that you need to have at least $25,000 at all times in your account if you intend to do more than 4 trades per day over a 5 day period. However, there’s nothing that stops you from starting with a minimal investment if you intend to buy stocks and hold.
Getting started is also not as difficult as you think. It might seem daunting at first, but once you get a hold of the basics, you realize that the stock market is much simpler than you may think. If you want to get a solid foundation on how to buy stocks, we strongly recommend you check out WealthSimple. They have a piece where they run down how to pick a broker and trading platform and a few strategic tips as well. You’ll learn what you need to look at in a stock when to invest, and a few basic stock market terms.
You Gotta Go with Blue Chips
There is also this group that believes that blue chips are the only way to go. We’re not saying you should not invest in them. As a matter, they can be great.
They can be a good source of passive income through dividends, tend to hold their value during tough times, and are great stores of value. However, when market conditions bounce back, these stocks stay right in the middle.
While you want to always have a few blue chips in your portfolio, you also have to invest in stocks that have growth potential. Again, this is where you need to think about opportunity cost. By having all your capital on blue chips, you are missing opportunities on fast-growing stock when you could easily hedge your bets by diversifying.
You Should Hold You Money During a Crash
This is somewhat related to the point we made earlier about stocks making money in any direction. The worst times for traders are times of stability, believe or not.
A stock market that has a lot of movement in any direction is what they actually look for. This is where the real opportunities are, whether the market is going up or down. That’s why you have to always pay caution to the wind and not be afraid of major financial downturns. This doesn’t mean that money is lost, it is only changing hands.
This also means that you can also start looking at sectors and stocks that are moving in the other direction. Financial crashes are usually the manifestation of a much deeper problem, and that’s when you need to start looking at who’s providing the solutions.
Risky Stocks are Automatically Bad Stocks
It really depends on your strategy again. If your goal is to hold for the long term, then maybe you want to go with safe stocks with moderate potential for growth and loss. This also means that you’ll get moderate returns if any. Some people might prefer to invest based on value, while others prefer to bet on short term movement. Both are very valid strategies and might suit a different type of investor.
With risky stocks, there is so much potential. Yes, you could lose, but there are always ways to mitigate it. The greatest risk comes with greater rewards, so instead of focusing on whether a certain stock is too risky, look at short term price movement armed with the right knowledge and tools to make informed and calculated bets.
These are just some of the things people get wrong about stocks in general. Once you dispel those myths, you can start truly understanding what the stock market is all about and form a realistic idea of it.
How Much Is the Online Food Industry Worth?
If you’ve ordered your groceries or takeout online this year, you’ve contributed to the massive wealth of the online food industry. Currently, the global online market is worth $111.32 billion, and the industry is only growing. Food delivery services are expanding, and more grocery stores offer online ordering now than ever before. From caviar to beer, you can satisfy even the wildest cravings with the touch of a button.
What exactly led to this surge in net worth, and how will the events of 2020 affect the industry in the coming years?
A Brief History
Food delivery is nothing new. The first pizza delivery occurred way back in 1889 in Naples, Italy. Then, in World War II, chefs and volunteers delivered meals to citizens seeking cover from bomb threats. In the 1950s, soldiers returning from war popularized pizza delivery in the States and, 10 years later, food trucks entered the scene.
However, online ordering didn’t make its debut until the early 2000s when GrubHub and major pizza chains began creating mobile applications. By 2015, online ordering began to overtake mobile ordering and, two years later, DoorDash university startups began implementing robot delivery. Meal kit delivery services like Blue Apron also launched during this time.
A Growing Industry
Since then, online ordering has become commonplace. Now, amid a global pandemic, food delivery is enjoying a major moment in the spotlight.
To avoid the grocery store — and the subsequent risk of contracting the coronavirus — millions of people are ordering their groceries online. During March, 31% of U.S. households used online grocery ordering, with 10.3 million of them using this service for the first time. Thus, this relatively new form of online ordering is becoming a major contributor to the wealth of the online food industry.
Digital foodservice orders are also experiencing a boom as many restaurants had to close their doors to dine-in customers during the pandemic. In May, these online orders increased by 138%, and now, new users represent nearly half of third-party food delivery apps. Of course, the global economic slowdown has slowed the overall growth rate of the online food industry. However, it will likely experience a major rebound next year.
The Future of Online Food
According to surveys, 43% of individuals using online grocery services are very likely to continue doing so. Moreover, 30% of households who didn’t use these services in March would likely try it over the next few months. Likewise, experts expect those who tried online food delivery during the pandemic to continue using mobile applications and online ordering even after restaurants re-open.
Still, more than 50% of Americans are cooking at home more than they were before the pandemic. Thus, restaurants will have to continue diversifying their services to offer DIY meal kits and experimental food bundles if they want to attract these newfound chefs. If more businesses rise to the challenge, the online food industry will likely expand and exceed even the most optimistic future predictions.
Why Gold Prices Have Been Hitting Record Highs
Gold prices continue to rally this month as the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 continues. The precious metal closed at a little above $2,000 (£1523.05) on August 5th — a record high in the history of gold. Its earlier record peak was in 2011, a few years into the global financial crisis, when investors pushed the price of gold past the $1,900 (£1446.90) threshold.
Analysts have noted that the price of gold in recent months has been on a steady upward trend. However, during the initial stages of the pandemic, market prices rose and fell erratically. A report on gold prices by FXCM in March of this year stated that the bullion, which includes gold, performed poorly due to mass capitulation. Investors liquidated their assets out of panic as outbreaks occurred left and right. This caused the price of gold to fluctuate.
Almost two quarters into the pandemic, however, and the price of the metal continues to increase. That said, SYZ Private Banking’s Luc Filip recently pointed out that investors need to understand each asset’s characteristics in order to position themselves for recovery. And so with that in mind, here are the main explanations behind the escalation of gold prices:
Gold is a safe haven
Compared to other financial markets and instruments, gold is considered a safe haven in times of economic turmoil. This is due to the fundamental value of the metal, independent of other factors like economic stability. Gold is still gold — and valuable — on its own.
When a financial crisis happens, the value of assets such as stock, real estate, and currency drops. Investors tend to flock to gold given that it has historically retained most of its value during economic instability. The recession that today’s pandemic has caused is no different. And as cases continue to rise globally with no available cure or vaccine, the prevailing investment speculation is that gold will be the least risky investment option for the foreseeable future.
The dollar is weakening
The price of gold generally has an inverse relationship with the value of the dollar. As of this writing, NBC News reports that there are over 4.8 million COVID-19 cases in the US, and this number continues to rise across the country.
The inefficient containment of the coronavirus is one of the reasons the US has entered a recession. Though it initially rose, the dollar has dipped in value over the last few months. A weaker dollar means more gold can be purchased by investors pushing the demand — and its price — higher.
Investor interest is rising
Given those reasons, investor sentiment towards the metal has been positive. It is also receiving wide media coverage due to the record highs the price of gold has been hitting and surpassing. More analyses and reports on gold naturally increase interest among investors.
As the pandemic continues, Goldman Sachs predicts that gold prices will rally and pass the $2,300 (£1751.51) mark per troy ounce. This is due to the ongoing economic and political instability in the US, as well as the global public health crisis that hit the country particularly hard. Though the situation is alarming, these are considered favourable conditions for gold and thus, might make it a worthwhile investment.
Why Whisky is the Safest Investment to Make Right Now
Whisky Investment company Braeburn confirm why investing in whisky during economic uncertainty is a lucrative and sustainable asset for any portfolio.
Throughout history, whisky has proven a reliable investment even in time’s of economic decline. Whisky proved a popular choice during the Great Depression, and recent market behaviour would suggest that ‘liquid gold’ will continue to have significant financial gain despite the current climate.
“Societal turbulence is often a time when investors take stock of their portfolio and examine new ways in which they can protect and profit from their savings, this global pandemic is no different.” states Braeburn’s Sales Director, Samuel Gordon.
Whisky investment has been rising in popularity over the last decade, by 582%, according to The Knight Frank 2020 Wealth Report. This report also shows sales of scotch to India, China and Singapore rising by 44% in the first half of 2018 alone. However, in actuality, it’s whisky casks specifically, that offer the security and consistency that evade traditional asset classes.
With the surge in demand for single malts, distilleries are struggling to keep up. The process for crafting quality spirits that enthusiasts desire, happens over lengthy periods of time. Distilleries ultimately can only make and store so much resulting in a continually increasing value. As a result, independent bottlers, blenders and other investors are known to pay highly and quickly in current secondary markets.
While economic uncertainty can bring new levels of volatility to traditional financial markets like stocks, shares and housing. Samuel explains that whisky doesn’t follow these market trends and isn’t impacted by the reactive and turbulent swings of traditional investments.
“Instead of decreasing during periods of economic downturn, historically, whisky casks have increased in value. When whisky remains in its cask, its continuing is maturation process. Over years, the whisky interacts with the cask, taking on beautiful and unique flavours from the wood. Although in time, there is a golden moment to bottle whisky, in general, the longer it’s left the more distinguished and deep the flavour becomes along with the ability to demand a higher resale value.”
Unlike other industries that are impacted by developing technology and evolving consumer behaviour, the whisky industry is prized on its heritage and historical methods. Whisky has maintained consistency through every type of economy and returns are still on the rise.
Over the last five years, casks have earned an average of 12.4% per annum. The average cask doubles in value every 5 years with casks from popular distilleries earning even higher returns. This again, is due to the maturation process which allows whisky to ride through difficult times whilst still increasing in value. Instead of the cask values rising and falling violently with political and economic changes like the traditional stock market, whisky is left to mature in the cask, only to appreciate in value.
Whisky casks offer diversification into tangible assets allowing investors to enhance their portfolio across different asset classes. Traditional ‘paper’ investments puts future success solely in an endeavour outside the investors control. With whisky casks, no matter what happens in the economy, the whisky can always be bottled and sold, even if the market is down or a distillery closes. With an asset grounded in intrinsic value, an investor can safeguard wealth.
An important factor in whisky cask investment is that is offers further security against forgery or fakes. Unlike art, antiques and even bottled whisky, whisky casks mitigate this risk because the Scottish Government requires that they are stored under strict oversight.
Casks are stored in government bonded warehouses that are required to keep meticulous records. Because of this careful and impartial monitoring, investors can be confident in the provenance and value of their casks.
“Whisky casks are a unique investment. They offer unique characteristics and can complement a portfolio in good times or bad. With a real, intrinsic value whisky casks are unlike any other tangible asset. And with the demand for authentic, mature single-malt casks on the rise, they’re more lucrative than ever.”
Markets have more upside potential despite second wave fears
By Luc Filip, head of private banking investments at SYZ Private Banking
While fears of a second wave of coronavirus bring renewed volatility to Europe and the US, investors are looking East for reassurance. China, which entered the pandemic three months ahead of the rest of the world – and now boasts positive economic growth – offers a useful template for the trajectory of the rest of the developed world.
As witnessed in China, we expect a significant pickup in activity from Europe and the US now that social distancing measures are relaxed. The downward trend has finally slowed in these areas and economic indicators have risen above April lows, marking a positive first step in this direction. This was, and will likely continue to be, led by activity in the service and consumption sectors, as social distancing measures are lifted further and people learn to live in the new post-Covid environment.
We anticipate the recovery will be faster than consensus expects, with the real possibility most economic activity could return close to pre-crisis levels by the beginning of next year. In fact, we believe the unprecedented amount of fiscal and monetary policy stimulus might fuel a temporary overshoot of economic growth in 2021 – before falling back toward more subdued long-term trends.
Despite the very real risk of a second wave, of which we are already seeing signs, we do not believe this will result in another full- blown lockdown in developed countries. Instead, we would likely see more targeted measures, which would not derail economic recovery. Nevertheless, the recovery will remain concentrated in developed countries following in China’s footsteps, while the rest of the developing world – countries mostly dependent on manufacturing and commodity export – are likely to experience a far less robust recovery.
Positioning for recovery
Before these positive developments are fully priced in by markets, now is still the time to increase risk exposure. But with ultra-low bond yields and sky-high equity valuations, many investors do not know where to turn. The key is to consider every aspect of an asset’s characteristics, including its merits compared to the available alternatives, as there is always relative value to be found.
Equity valuations, which regained pre-crisis highs in some sectors, may appear expensive given the current economic situation. However, it is necessary to go beyond purely intra-equity market metrics and consider equity valuations within the current rate environment. Taking into account the excess return currently offered by stocks over cash and bonds, equities are not expensive at all. In the US, this equity risk premium is close to a historic high. Therefore, combining both internal equity metrics and risk premia, we still see value in equities.
Covering all bases
Nevertheless, our confidence in the economic recovery does not discount the high probability of volatility in the markets – due to downside risks such as the speed of the recovery, the geopolitical situation, the likelihood of a second wave and a second lockdown.
Therefore, diversification is crucial – across asset classes, regions and sectors. In the eventuality of a negative surprise, our exposure to gold, long treasuries and hedging equity strategies will protect the portfolio. Meanwhile, we increased our exposure to US and European equities in May through passive instruments to obtain wide-ranging coverage across all sectors. We also took advantage of the recent lower volatility to purchase additional portfolio protections as they became cheaper.
Another key to managing downside risk is to focus on quality. We prefer holding proven quality assets which are continuing to perform well – even if they are more ‘expensive’. On the equities side, this means stocks with strong balance sheets, cashflow and brand, which are well positioned for the new normal of digitalisation – such as Google, Mastercard and L’Oréal. On the credit side, we reduced our exposure to high yield, as we anticipate a painful recovery for many companies, and reinvested the money into investment grade corporates – which are supported by the Federal Reserve’s purchasing programme.
Generating performance while managing risk requires a flexible active approach to asset allocation. Through the crisis, our preference for quality, rigorous diversification and tactical protection have enabled our portfolio to participate in the market recovery, while mitigating downside risk.
New Tool Shows The FTSE 100 Is Recovering Slower Than Other Global Markets
The Coronavirus lockdown decimated economies all over the planet, but while some stock markets are showing signs of recovery, the UK’s FTSE 100 is taking longer to bounce back.
Since falling to its lowest point in March, the FTSE 100 has climbed by 23%, which seems impressive, until you compare it with other global indices. Both the Nasdaq and Dax have risen by over 50%, while other key markets, such as China’s CSI 300, have also significantly outperformed the FTSE since the pandemic hit.
Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG Markets, Europe’s largest online derivatives trading provider, believes the FTSE 100 is “an index that has become a victim of its own composition”. Financials currently represent its biggest sector and Beauchamp says “a huge chunk of the index in terms of weighting is really underperforming”.
He adds that the recent resurgence in sterling has also hit the FTSE, as its firms have lost value overseas.
For traders looking to keep track of the global indices and their relative rates of recovery, Daily FX has launched an innovative new tool that provides an instant snapshot of international market performance.
Market Health allows traders to get a complete picture of global markets and indices in a single place. The free tool provides an instant picture of global market performance, currency strength and exchange opening and closing times.
Using data from Quandl, Market Health allows users to take a macro look at global markets and indices including the Dow Jones, S&P 500, FTSE 100 and DAX 30 to help formulate and deliver on trading strategies.
Split between three main viewpoints, users can easily switch between world overview, stock exchange open times and index performance.
The global view combines exchange opening times and currency performance, presented on a world map. The map, displayed as a heat map, shows currency strength against a base currency of your choice.
The stock exchange opening times showcase eight global stock exchange markets with details of exactly when they open and close, how long they’re open for and whether or not they’re closed for any public holidays.
The performance section groups major market indices into geographical groups and is a quick way to get a picture of whether a geographical market is up or down. Users can also filter by developed or emerging markets.
Peter Hanks, Analyst at DailyFX, explains how the tool is useful for experienced traders like himself: “It is useful to use the tool on specific days when trying to discern which market or region was most impacted by an event. For example, if the Federal Reserve has an interest rate decision, since the central bank typically has the most influence over the American markets, we would expect to see the most activity in those regions. If, on the other hand, another region has outpaced the US markets, there may be another theme at play that is driving market activity, so the tool is great at providing a bird’s eye view of the market.”
He goes on to explain how the tool is also useful for new traders: “When starting off on your trading journey, understanding the impact of other market sessions is very important. Volatility in one region can easily carry over into another, so being aware of when regions are active or inactive is very useful as the crossover periods are often flush with liquidity and can set the tone for an entire session.”
He explains how the tool is useful in the current situation: “Having an instant view of global market health is particularly useful for fast-moving world events such as today’s pandemic. The Market Health tool will be useful to many for getting a quick snapshot of what Covid-19 is doing to the world’s economies and how the different markets are reacting as we are all in different stages of the health crisis.”
David Iusow, Market Analyst at DailyFX, said: “Before a day begins, a trader needs to know how markets around the world have performed in other time zones. It is the first overview that one can get of the general market conditions and from which one can deduce the start of trading on the domestic stock exchange. Similarly, a market status map facilitates the identification of relative outperformance of markets during regular trading hours. The DailyFX market status has the advantage of a clear and interactive structure, giving traders exactly the benefits, they need to start a day.”
To use the Market Health tool click here: https://www.dailyfx.com/research/market-status
What is the Post-Brexit Outlook for Sterling?
As we head through the agreed Brexit transition period, many questions remain. One of these uncertainties is that there’s no definitive answer whether by 2nd January 2021, a deal will be in place. One of the key areas of concern is what effect Brexit will have on the standing of sterling as, inevitably, the currency will be affected.
It seems like far more than four years ago now that the UK made the momentous, and unexpected, decision that it no longer wanted to be part of the EU. Since then, a great deal of metaphorical water has passed under the bridge and it was only Boris Johnson’s bold election move last December that finally achieved the Tory majority needed to pass the legislation.
But, as we head through the agreed transition period, many questions remain. One thing that is for certain is that there will be no extension to this beyond 1st January 2021. However there is no definitive answer yet on what the arrangements will be concerning the UK’s dealings with the EU after then. It’s equally uncertain whether, by 2nd January, a deal will be in place, and some observers believe that a no-deal Brexit is becoming a real possibility.
One of the key areas of concern is what effect Brexit will have on the standing of sterling as, inevitably, the currency will be affected.
Volatility is key
Perhaps the early signs weren’t good, as its value on the currency markets immediately plunged by around 10% on the announcement back in June 2016 that the country was set to go it alone. Since then, the trend seems to have been that its value has rallied whenever rumours of a softer, more negotiated split with the EU have been circulating. For example, back in October 2019 when it was believed, incorrectly as it turned out, that the transition period might be extended, the value of the currency rallied strongly on the world markets.
But, each time there is a feeling that the future is a little more uncertain, sterling’s essential volatility comes to the fore, once again causing considerable turbulence in the currency exchanges.
Good news for some…
Of course, this isn’t necessarily bad news for everyone – with people who derive some benefits from forex trading being a case in point. Through making the right decisions, and operating using a recommended forex broker, traders stand to benefit from significant changes in relative values between paired currencies. For those in this category, choosing an effective broker is a relatively simple process as in-depth reviews of said brokers abound.
… but not for others
Volatility in the value of sterling is, unsurprisingly, not such good news for many other sectors of the UK economy. A prime example is the country’s manufacturing industry, especially in the case of firms that rely on importing components and materials from abroad. At a stroke, they can find themselves having to pay more to continue operating – a cost that they are generally likely to pass straight on to the consumer.
Incidentally, this is not the only impact that Brexit is predicted to have on UK industry. There is a very real fear that it will limit the amount of investment available for research and development which could well have a far wider knock-on effect.
Because the value of sterling has always been so closely linked with confidence in the economy as a whole, the consequences of a country hamstrung in its efforts to develop and innovate could also make themselves apparent.
Looking on the bright side
But we should perhaps be wary of falling into the trap of becoming too pessimistic and gloomy about the prospects for sterling in a post-Brexit world. Deal or no-deal, the UK will definitely be able to open up new trade deals with the rest of the world once the restrictions imposed by EU membership have been lifted. Depending on the nature of those deals, this could mean sterling receives a real shot in the arm and that, now more than ever, will be what everyone should be hoping for.
Investors who ignore so-called “value stocks” are at risk of missing out on good long-term gains, RWC Partner’s Ian Lance warns.
While the valuation gap between growth and value stocks has been exceptionally wide for some time, that gap will not grow continuously, Lance believes.
In fact, Lance believes some of the most interesting investment opportunities throughout the coronavirus have been value stocks.
Some of them, he explains, have highly profitable subsidiaries that are actually worth more than the entire group, meaning you get, in essence, two investments for the price of one.
Lance says: “Some of our most successful investments have been ones in which sentiment towards a company becomes so negative, that the valuation ends up making no sense versus the worth of its various parts.
“Valuations have become very irrational and have reached the point where they are excessively punished for a temporary earnings decline. Therefore, we believe that the current market throws up the opportunity to buy great companies with long-term returns and earning potential.”
Below, Lance sets out five unloved companies that he thinks have decent long-term potential or that have highly-profitable subsidiaries that make them worth investing in.
RMG owns a European parcels business, GLS, which makes a 6-7% margin in a normal market environment and which has grown at mid to high single digit (benefitting from structural growth of online retail). In 2019, GLS made an operating profit of £180m and is therefore worth c.£2b if we put it on a multiple of 11x. The current market cap of the entire group is £1.7b and therefore the UK business is not just in for free but actually valued at around £300m.
BT’s Openreach division generates £2.6b of Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Amortisation (EBITDA) which we have valued at £22b. This represents a multiple of just over 8x historic EBITDA which compares favourably with other utilities and therefore ought to be achievable. The enterprise value of the entire group is currently £31b meaning that all the other businesses are being valued at £9b, which is only 3x their historic cash EBIT of £2.8b. Rumours surfaced in the a recent Financial Times piece that BT might be about to monetise a stake in Openreach.
Marks and Spencer
Marks and Spencer have a food retail business which makes £237m of Earnings Before Interest and Tax. If we value this at 12x historical EBIT, add their £750m investment Ocado at cost (less the future performance payments), take away net debt and give no benefit for the company’s freehold property, the total is around £2.0b, which is in line with today’s market cap. The entire clothing and home business, which is still the largest clothes retailer in the UK and which last year made a profit of £224m, is therefore in for free.
ITV is, in effect two business; broadcasting which is very reliant on advertising revenue and content production. In 2019, the content production business made EBIT of £267m and we might value this at around £3.5b (13x EBIT). The enterprise value of the entire group is £3.8b meaning that the broadcast business which last year made c.£500m of EBIT is being valued at around £300m in the stock market. Another way to think about this is that companies like Netflix spend around $15b a year on content production; for a fraction of this, they could have ITV’s entire back catalogue and all future content.
Capita has a software business which made just over £100m of EBIT in 2019. As these businesses are high margin (28% in this case) they tend to be valued quite highly. Using a multiple of 15x(which would be the low end of their peers) would value this division at £1.5b which is not far short of the enterprise value of the entire group of less than £2b. The rest of the businesses, which in 2019 made around £200m are thus only being valued at around 2x EBIT.
Each of these companies has a strong franchise within them that is being undervalued by a market that is fixated on short-term earnings momentum and hence creating some genuine bargains in the market today.
- New tool charts global commodity trading over the last decade
- China has overtaken the USA as the world’s biggest importer of oil
- The UK is the 8th best European country at reducing its oil imports
The UK has reduced its oil imports by more than a fifth (21%) in five years, a new online tool from Daily FX has revealed.
While the country remains the 12th biggest global importer of oil, including petroleum oils, it has taken great strides towards reducing its reliance on such environmentally-harmful fuels.
Between 2013 and 2018, the UK had the eighth-best rate in Europe for reducing such imports, with its intake dropping by 76.9 million barrels (from 359 million to just over 280 million).
Malta (93%) and the Republic of Moldova (92%) experienced the most significant decreases across the continent.
The data has been visualised on a new interactive tool built by Daily FX, the leading portal for forex trading news, which displays global commodity imports and exports over the last decade.
The tool shows that China has recently overtaken the USA as the world’s biggest importer of oil. The Asian giant imported nearly 3.4 billion barrels in 2018, which was over 240 million more than the USA. China tops the list having increased its oil imports by 64% since 2013 – nearly six times the rate of its rival (11%).
The top 10 global importers of oil (2018) are:
- China – 3.38 billion barrels
- USA – 3.14 billion barrels
- India – 1.65 billion barrels
- Japan – 1.09 billion barrels
- The Republic of Korea – 1.09 billion barrels
- Germany – 622 million barrels
- Netherlands – 506 million barrels
- Italy – 460 million barrels
- France – 397 million barrels
- Singapore – 376 million barrels
Daily FX’s unique tool allows traders to spot developments in the flow of commodities and the growth of both supply and demand while comparing the changes to critical economic indicators.
One trend highlighted by the tool is the decreasing reliance on oil among African countries. Five of the world’s ten best nations at reducing oil imports are found on the continent, including the top four. Morocco, Kenya, Burundi and Gambia all decreased such imports by over 99%.
John Kicklighter, Chief Currency Strategist at Daily FX, said: “The world is changing and so is the way that it uses energy. Renewable and environmentally-friendly fuel options are the future, and while the end of crude oil is still far off, there will be considerable changes in the world’s top importers and exporters. Our new tool helps track those changes.
“While some of the larger countries have increased their appetite, it is interesting from an investor’s perspective to see the UK exploring alternative energy sources and reducing its dependence on oil.”
Global Commodities’ takes the form of a re-imagined 3D globe where the heights of countries rise and fall to show the import and export levels of a range of commodities over the last decade. The data visualisation allows users to switch views from a single commodity or market and show information relevant to that commodity or market’s performance.
To learn more about Global Commodities and view the tool, visit: https://www.dailyfx.com/research/global-commodities
all-in-one, free property management tool, releases its latest industry report
– “How COVID-19 is Impacting the Rental Market.” This report
highlights key rental market indicators from March 2020 in cities throughout
the U.S. who have and are currently following social distancing and
You can read the report and how COVID-19 is Impacting the
Rental Market here.
TurboTenant’s new trend report analyzed 18 cities and four
key rental market indicators: total active listings, change in number of active
listings, total renter leads and the average number of renter leads per
property. While the full effects of the coronavirus on the housing market are
still unknown, delisting and new home listings steeply declined in March.
TurboTenant’s report found while some markets reflected those trends, others
had strong markets.
TurboTenant Highlights that New York, Denver and Houston all
experienced large net losses for new listings with New York holding the biggest
decrease at -65.17% while San Diego, Atlanta and Cleveland all experienced net
gains in listings. Lead growth in 14 of our cities, including Jersey City and
Denver, fluctuated throughout the month, but ended lower than they started. In
cities such as Boston, Houston and Milwaukee, leads were higher at the start of
April than at the beginning of March.
The reasoning for the report to be created is to give “insights
on how the rental market is starting to react to the COVID-19 pandemic,”
said Sarnen Steinbarth, TurboTenant Founder and Chief Executive Officer.
“With the peak rental season approaching, we want landlords to be prepared
and informed about the trends nationwide and in their own cities.”
“It is imperative to monitor rental trends during the
coronavirus pandemic,” Steinbarth said. “This report along with our
past and future trend reports, will help educate not only landlords, but also
property investors, businesses and the public.”
How Clued Up Are You On The FTSE 100?
Brits incorrectly believe household favourites Tesco and Sainsburys are in the top 10 biggest companies of the FTSE 100, according to a new poll by IG Markets.
The trader polled 2,000 adults, alongside the launch of its Decade of Trade tool, to discover how clued up the general population are on the FTSE 100. The results show that as a nation we are fairly savvy when it comes to our knowledge of the stock market and over two-thirds (77%) are knowledgeable on the definition of shares.
Online trading platform, IG Markets, created the Decade of Trade tool to help Brits gain an understanding of the FTSE 100 and to allow traders to view not only how companies in the markets are performing now, but how they have performed over the last ten years. The tool covers twelve world markets including the FTSE 100, DAX40, ASX200 and HANG SENG.
When asked to name which companies are in the top ten of the FTSE 100 from a list, Brits identified eight out of ten businesses correctly. The mistakes came from thinking the supermarkets had a bigger presence than they do, with Brits believing Tesco (23rd in the FTSE 100) and Sainsburys (100th in the FTSE 100) to be in the top 10 market share.
Perceived top 10 of FTSE 100
Actual top 10 of FTSE 100
Royal Dutch Shell A
Royal Dutch Shell B
British American Tobacco (+2)
Royal Dutch Shell A (-4)
Royal Dutch Shell B (-4)
British American Tobacco
Brits failed to identify beverage company, Diageo, whose brands include Smirnoff, Baileys and Guinness and mining corporation, Rio Tinto, as top 10 FTSE 100 companies.
Brits were also tested on their knowledge of the FTSE’s sector market share. The results showed there is a perception that Oil and Gas, Chemicals and Banks and Persona are the three largest sectors of the FTSE 100 when it is actually Oil and Gas, Banks and Persona and Household Goods.
Respondents were also asked what they perceive to have the biggest impact on the FTSE 100, and just over a quarter (27%) thought the Brexit referendum would have the biggest impact on the stock market.
Top five things Brits think have impacted the FTSE 100
- Interest rates (43%)
- Economic releases about earnings reports (35%)
- The Bank of England quarterly inflation report (27%)
- Brexit referendum (27%)
- Eurozone politics (26%)
Almost four in ten (39%) correctly thought all of the above factors have an impact on the FTSE 100.
To view the Decade of Trade tool, click here: https://www.ig.com/uk/special-reports/decade-of-trade
Twitter Co-Founder Backs Uk Bitcoin Banking App
London-based fintech firm Mode, advised and backed by Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, has launched its Bitcoin banking mobile iOS app. This will make Bitcoin – the world’s most popular digital asset which many refer to as ‘digital gold’ – accessible to everyone at the touch of a button.
The platform is available to users globally, except in the United States of America.
A Mode account can be opened in less than 60 seconds, with Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements completed in less than two minutes through AI-enabled identity verification technology. Once users are whitelisted, depositing GBP via bank transfer and buying Bitcoin takes seconds.
Mode’s launch is supported by new research (1) which reveals that many current and potential Bitcoin investors are unhappy with the platforms and services currently on offer. Findings (2) also reveal the potential for strong Bitcoin market growth, as 42% of people who currently own Bitcoin plan to buy more, 51% of people surveyed indicated they may buy Bitcoin soon, and just a small fraction of respondents, around 7%, said they have no intention of currently buying the digital asset.
Through its new easy to use app, Mode aims to bring down the barriers and open up the Bitcoin market to everyone, not just tech-savvy or professional investors. As a result, users can get started with only £50, and unlike many other apps, Mode only charge a very competitive fee of 0.99% at the time of purchasing and selling Bitcoin. Mode doesn’t charge for transferring GBP in and out of users’ accounts, and funds are credit almost instantly via Faster Payments – a process that can take up to 5 days with some of the most renown crypto exchanges.
Users can buy Bitcoin with bank cards or via a bank transfer, which is then safeguarded through one of the world’s leading digital asset custodians, BitGo.
In addition to its new app, Mode has also announced plans to launch a Bitcoin interest-generating product later this year, which would allow users to earn passive income on their Bitcoin holdings without having to touch their assets.
Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, joined Mode as an advisor of the project. He has also invested in Mode and acts as a non-executive director of R8, Mode’s parent company.
“Although there are multiple existing ways to access the Bitcoin market right now, few appeal to the everyday person, who wants to buy and hold some Bitcoin. Most of the current apps all have one problem at their core—access.” Biz Stone commented; “Mode has removed needlessly complex processes from their app, building a beautiful and responsive UI and UX rivalling that of the major challenger banks—while also launching a completely new and innovative Bitcoin product.”
Ariane Murphy, Head of Communications and Marketing, Mode, said: “Our new app not only enables us to capture the huge growth in the Bitcoin marketplace, but also tackles many of the issues people have with the current platforms and storage services available, which our research shows are significant. The Mode app addresses transaction restrictions issues, low speed/high cost, lack of security and most importantly, tackles the poor user experience typically associated with Bitcoin apps.”
“Until the beginning of this year, we pilot-tested our app with some 1,000 early subscribers and their feedback has been very positive. This, coupled with the strong growth in the marketplace, means we are confident that now is the right time to launch to the wider pubic.”
Challenges to tackle in the digital asset markets – new research
Mode recently conducted research (1) with people who already own digital assets, revealing that 41% of respondents described the process of transacting Bitcoin through existing solutions as average or poor, with just 13% describing the process as excellent.
Some 37% say the level of security offered by the platforms they have used is again average or poor, with 41% claiming security is good and 21% excellent – signifying some room for improvement.
In terms of overall user experience, just 56% describe other digital asset services as good or excellent, with 32% saying it is average and 11% describing their experience as poor.
Mode is part of R8 Group, a UK fintech group which raised $5m in a heavily oversubscribed funding round in April 2019, backed by an experienced management team with extensive experience in the financial services and technology sectors. Prominent members of the R8 Group include serial entrepreneur Jonathan Rowland, and Twitter co-founder Biz Stone.
Top Five UK Money Transfer Markets Receive More Than £10bn
New analysis reveals the top five money transfer markets for UK residents that account for nearly one third of the total sent home.
New analysis by Paysend, the UK based fintech, reveals that just five markets account for nearly one third of the total money transferred home from the UK.
Paysend analysed the latest data from the World Bank. It shows that foreign workers, international students and expats in the UK send money to more than 130 countries worldwide.
However, of the £24.2bn sent home in 2018, more than £10bn is sent to just five markets. The top 10 markets account for more than half of the total, receiving £13bn in total.
Alberto Macciani, CMO of Paysend, said: “Moving money changes lives. We can see how a group of new internationalist workers, students and expats are driving the growth of money transfers in the UK. Often these transactions are life changing for those that send or receive them. Money transferred might go on education, healthcare, or to give families the ability to buy a home or start a business”.
“Rather than simply acting as a ‘hand out’, research shows that money sent back home creates independence and sustainability, for the recipient and their communities and especially for women it represents a vital source of independence and equality.”
Launched two years ago, Paysend’s card-to-card money transfer service, Global Transfers, already serves over 1.3m users worldwide.
The growth stems from the emergence of increasingly mobile segments of the work force and the continued growth of international students. These are people who live and work in one country while financially providing for, or relying on, others in another country.
Some 270m foreign workers will send $689bn back home this year, according to the World Bank. This figure is a landmark moment. Global money transfers have overtaken foreign direct investment as the biggest inflow of foreign capital into emerging economies.
Alberto Macciani continued: “Global Transfers enables our customers to move money in an instant. With fixed, transparent and low fees, more of our customers’ money is enjoyed by those they care about. We focus on making our key corridors more efficient, but at the same time we work to improve our geographic coverage to ensure we are building a true global outreach.
We’ve made what was once a laborious, slow and expensive process to pay, hold and spend money across borders now simple, quick and low cost. We will launch new services soon to make paying, holding and sending money globally even easier and cheaper.”
UK Telecoms Industry Boasts Fastest Growing R&D Spend Of Any Sector
The telecoms industry is the UK’s fastest growing sector when it comes to spending on R&D, the latest ONS data has revealed.
Telecoms businesses increased their spending on research and development by £192m to £947m, according to the latest statistics for 2018 which were released recently.
This was a rise of 25.4%, taking it to a four-year high. However, the sector is still some way off its all-time high of £1.5bn set in 2007, analysis by R&D tax relief specialist Catax shows.
Total R&D spending by telecoms firms totalled £755m in 2017 and £797m in 2016.
The amount that UK businesses across all sectors have invested in R&D continues to grow, rising £1.4bn to £25bn in 2018 — up 5.8%. Manufacturing was associated with £16.3bn of R&D spending, up 4.7%, but pharmaceuticals remained the biggest product group with £4.5bn of R&D spending, up 3.3%.
The number of staff employed by UK businesses also continued to grow, rising 7.3% annually to exceed 250,000 full-time equivalents for the first time.
Mark Tighe, chief executive of R&D tax relief specialists Catax, said: “The telecoms industry is extremely important to the UK strategically and it is reassuring to see such growth in investment.
“There is still some way to go if this investment is to recover to levels seen before the financial crash, however, and it is vital this happens if Britain is to continue to be a key technological player on the world stage.
“More broadly, this is the second full year that Brexit Britain has shrugged off the political poison after the EU referendum and posted great gains in terms of R&D investment, running head and shoulders above the long-term average.
“For the first time in history a quarter of a million people nationwide are engaged full time in keeping the UK at the cutting edge. This is going to make a huge difference to Britain’s prospects outside the EU.
“The rate at which UK businesses are adding R&D staff to the workforce remains impressive, virtually matching the previous year with a rise of 7.3%.”