Category: Risk Management

van driver
ArticlesInsuranceWealth Management

Insurance Premiums Continue to Slow For Van Drivers

van driver

Insurance Premiums Continue to Slow For Van Drivers

 

Van drivers across the country are benefiting from a continued reduction to their insurance premiums, contradicting the industry’s prediction of premium increases in the wake of the Ogden rate change, new analysis from data analytics company Consumer Intelligence shows.

Its Van Insurance Index shows average premiums have fallen to £1,781 in the three months to September.

Since Consumer Intelligence started tracking insurance premiums five years ago, van insurance premiums have increased across the market by 34.4%, primarily driven by increased claims costs. The value of claims are increasing as more technologically advanced vehicles require higher repair costs, exacerbated amid Brexit uncertainty by the need to import parts for vehicles manufactured overseas.

Under 25s experienced a premium drop of 9.3% in the past year, yet average prices remain the highest at £4,673. Meanwhile, in the same 12-month period, a 2.4% price rise for the over-50s saw their average premiums increase to £581 annually. This compares to £843 for van drivers aged 25-49, who noticed their premiums nudge up by just 0.3% in the last 12 months.

Drivers operating their vans as a car substitute are benefiting from falling insurance premiums. A typical ‘social, domestic and pleasure’ policy today costs £1,691 – down 3.1% in the last 12 months.

Meanwhile, drivers using their vans for business have seen premiums rise 0.3% over the same period. An average ‘carriage of own goods cover’ now stands at £1,805.

John Blevins, Consumer Intelligence’s pricing expert, said: “Whilst claims costs continue to be one of the main drivers for premium changes in this market over the long-term, we are seeing premiums trending down over the last 12 months.

“It appears that the Ogden rate reset hasn’t had quite the impact some in the industry predicted. The price reductions over the last quarter have actually confounded many forecasts.”  

Ferrari
ArticlesCash ManagementInsurance

Purchasing your dream car – can it become a reality?

Ferrari

Purchasing your dream car – can it become a reality?

 

Buying a new car over one that is second-hand can bump up the price tag, but driving off the forecourt in your dream car is a feeling like no other. In fact, thousands of car buyers each year seek their dream car with a brand-new registration. So, without breaking the bank, how can you afford your dream car?

Buying a car by credit card

Paying through your credit card company can give you added protection on the full purchase cost (often as long as the value of the vehicle is over £100 and less than £30,000). Of course, you have to be able to meet your monthly payments too.

This method allows you to put down an even lower deposit than 10% and pay the rest of the vehicle off using a debit card. It’s best to consider all options here, as often the interest that you pay on a credit card could be significantly higher than that of a finance agreement.

If you want to buy a car by credit card however, it’s best to speak to your car dealer first as some dealerships don’t accept this method of payment.

Personal Contract Purchase agreement

PCP is an agreement where the end value of the car is agreed at the start of the contract, so you can plan your payments accordingly. Payments are often less than what you’d pay in a hire purchase agreement as you pay the full price of the car, plus interest but minus the guaranteed future value of the car. You must pass credit checks before you’re eligible for a PCP agreement.

When it comes to the end of your PCP agreement, you can either pay off the future value of the car to become the full owner, hand back the keys or trade the car in as a deposit for a new finance agreement.

To lower the monthly cost, you can place down a large initial deposit if you can afford it. Saving a lump sum for a large deposit is easier than saving up for a car, while reduced monthly payments can really help out too. Always evaluate your current monthly payments before you agree to a finance agreement, as being behind on your payments can lead to financial issues.

Be aware though, if you have exceeded the forecasted mileage on the car, there will be further charges to pay. This is because more miles decrease the value of the car. Also, any damage to the car will be charged to you, so you must be prepared to take good care of the vehicle.

Hire purchase agreement

This is relatively similar to a PCP agreement. It involves monthly payments with the option to purchase the car at the end of your agreement based on its new value.

A usual deposit for a car is 10% of the car’s value, but often you can pay more to reduce the follow-up monthly payments. The rest of the car is then payed off in instalments over a period of one to five years. The longer this period, the less you have to pay each month but due to interest charges, the total cost of the car becomes higher.

As we can see, there are a range of finance options available to you for purchasing new as oppose to used cars, allowing you to drive that dream car you’ve always wanted without forking out loads of cash. Save up what you can for a significant deposit and always make sure that you can cover the payments before signing any agreements.

Climate strikes
FinanceGlobal ComplianceNatural Catastrophe

Climate change transforms high finance’s relationship with society

Climate strikes

Climate change transforms high finance’s relationship with society

 

Extinction Rebellion’s city centre disruptions and Fridays for Future’s well attended school strikes across Europe inspired by Greta Thunberg have placed climate change firmly in the public consciousness. Now more than ever before, the question is not if something should be done, but when and how. Robert Blood, managing director of NGO tracking and issues analysis firm SIGWATCH, explains how this is already forcing the financial sector to take more decisive action.

In June 2018, Legal & General told Japan Post Holdings (JPH) that it was dropping the company from its $6.7billion Future World index funds. It added that any of its funds that still held shares would be instructed to vote against the re-election of JPH’s chairman. L&G justified the move by saying that JPH had “shown persistent inaction” to address climate risk.

L&G is not alone in taking action on climate risk. BNP Paribas, AXA, Allianz, RBS, Munich Re, ING, Rabobank, Standard Chartered, Barclays and HSBC are all now committed to exiting deals and investments concerned with coal mining and coal-fired power. In the U.S., despite (or arguably because of) an administration that is openly sceptical of the need for climate action, many of the largest banks including JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citi, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs have all announced coal exits, as they have begun to do in Australia. Japan’s largest banks and insurers, and their equivalents in Singapore and China, have come late to the divestment game but they too are finally rolling out new coal pledges.

Revival of campus activism

These moves are the consequences of growing pressure from stakeholders, driven by activist groups, for almost ten years. It was in 2013 that US student environmental groups first demanded college endowment and pension funds sell off their shares in fossil fuel-related projects. Their carbon divestment campaign was modelled on the Apartheid campus divestment battles of the 1980s, which aimed to undermine the economy of South Africa by forcing U.S. firms and investors to sell off South African assets. Congress imposed investment bans too. Until the Klerk-Mandela settlement of 1993, South Africa was for almost a decade a pariah state for investors.

While the priority for campaigners has been to drive out coal, the pressure on carbon does not stop there. Under the slogan, ‘extreme carbon’, campaigners have extracted concessions from leading financial institutions on Canadian oil sands, Arctic and deep-sea drilling, shale gas, and related infrastructure such as LNG terminals and pipelines. As these specific sources become demonized, conventionally produced oil and gas becomes more and more dubious. Divestment on the basis of increased risk has a tendency to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. When money flows out of an asset type, the remaining investors are by definition exposed to increased financial risk, and this in turn stimulates additional cycles of divestment. There is a reason why fossil fuels are commonly described by climate campaigners as ‘stranded assets’. Even giants like Shell are now openly reconsidering their futures.

The success of campaigners in getting their arguments heard and taken seriously is a relatively recent phenomenon. In fact, one of the most striking developments in the financial sector of the last decade has been the ‘mainstreaming’ of environmental and social responsibility standards in investing. Until relatively recently, these were the preserve of SRI and ethical funds, often funds that had been set up at the behest of well-funded environmental groups who insisted on strict exclusion criteria.

Now, environmental and social governance (ESG) is embedded in standard fund management practice, helped by pressure from political stakeholders and customers, particularly in relation to the institutions’ own funds, to take intangible risks such as human and indigenous peoples’ rights seriously.

Financial institutions’ increased willingness to listen

The financial crisis of 2008 also played an important part. With the reputation of the financial sector in tatters, leading institutions made a conscious decision to prove their ‘value to society’ by adopting ESG, and engaging with NGOs in a far deeper and more open way than ever before.

Campaigning NGOs have not been slow to exploit investors’ new-found willingness to listen, to push their wider agenda on a wide range of environmental and social concerns. These include human and indigenous rights, sustainability, corporate environmental responsibility and benchmarking, labour standards, animal rights, even the ethics of investing in industrial scale agriculture.

As NGOs become more active and more influential, their campaigning can provide an early warning system for emerging issues for investors. On plastics and shale gas (fracking), campaigning levels rose significantly ahead of public concern, anything up to 12 months prior. This is not very surprising, since activists are effective at getting media attention and this feeds into public awareness. We are now seeing this with ‘green vegetarianism’ – the switch away from meat for environmental reasons like deforestation and climate change (see chart 1). All these correlations show how campaigners can ‘make the weather’ politically.

It will become more important for global financial institutions, as they develop ever more expansive policies and standards under pressure from NGOs and other stakeholders, to track the long-term implications of the criteria they are enforcing.

Pension funds linked to ‘politically sensitive’ workforces such as public sector employees, health and education, are especially vulnerable to this kind of pressure. The campus campaigns of the carbon divestment movement quickly moved on to targeting staff pension funds once they secured the support of a significant number of faculty. In Denmark the state pension funds have been called out by Greenpeace on the same issue. In Sweden, Greenpeace launched a boycott of payments into the mandatory state pension scheme AP3 until it agreed to divest from all fossil fuels and related infrastructure projects.

ESG goes mainstream

With leading financial institutions engaging seriously with campaigners and their concerns, doing nothing is not an option. As more major mainstream funds are managed on ESG principles, investment managers and institutions increasingly have to justify to their peers why they are not doing the same, rather than the other way round. It is no longer a question of, Are the NGOs being fair, but rather, Do the NGOs have the ear of our stakeholders, and are they already influencing rival institutions? They may be small and apparently insignificant compared to a bank or investment fund, but NGOs have become critical players in transforming what society expects from finance.

Robert Blood, managing director of NGO
Robert Blood, managing director of SIGWATCH
CAR INSURANCE
ArticlesFinanceInsurance

Six of the best ways to reduce your car insurance

CAR INSURANCE

Six of the best ways to reduce your car insurance

 

Are you aware of all the ways you can potentially reduce your insurance outlay? Here, we look at the biggest contributing factors.

We all know that cars can be expensive — and not only to purchase. There are many extra charges that you may face as a car owner, including MOT charges, road tax and fuel allowance for things like your daily commute.

There are also the hidden costs to consider if your vehicle unpredictably breaks down. However, one of the biggest expenses you’re likely to face is your annual insurance just to drive your car. In Britain, there are over one million uninsured drivers on our roads, which in turn increases premiums for those who do insure their vehicles.

For many people, a yearly payment is too big of a lump sum, so they must break it down into monthly payments. But, are you aware of all the ways you can potentially reduce your insurance outlay? Here, we look at the biggest contributing factors.

Shop around

It goes without saying that it’s important to consider your options. Like any service, you should do your research. Many insurance companies will attempt to ‘better’ the offer on the table by a different provider, so be sure to know what you want and don’t just settle with the first, or your current provider. However, remember that cheaper isn’t always better. Check what is included before agreeing to a cheaper cover.

Reduce coverage on older cars

While you may be tempted to always choose comprehensive cover for your vehicle, be aware that choosing this coverage for particularly old vehicles may not be cost effective. For example, if your car is worth £1,000 and is in a crash, there’s a possibility that your insurer will just write your vehicle off. Therefore, if your insurance is costing approximately £500 for comprehensive cover, it may not make financial sense to purchase it. Comprehensive cover is most cost effective for those with new cars, or cars that have held their value.

Have a solid credit score

Having no claims bonuses are obviously a great help when it comes to lowering the cost of your insurance. But, were you aware that your overall credit score can also have a huge impact on your car insurance? That’s because insurers take in the impression that if you’re responsible in your personal life and with other financial situations, you are less likely to file a claim.

Include a black box monitor

Some insurers will lower the annual cost of your cover if you fit a small box in your car that can help insurers to track your driving methods. This will include aspects such as braking and speed via GPS, as well as taking into account the time of day you drive. This method, also known as telematics insurance, is effective for young and inexperienced drivers, those who have a low annual mileage, or older drivers who want to prove that they’re safe behind the wheel.

Add other named drivers

It may seem strange that more drivers being named on your insurance will bring down your costs, but that’s the case for many quotes. This is because it helps the insurer tie more people into their service. This works well for younger drivers who would usually be charged an extortionate amount. Being named on their parents’ insurance can help reduce their outlay.

Increase your excess

Your premiums are based on how much your insurer is likely to pay out if you claim. By choosing to pay a higher voluntary excess, you will lower the cost of what the insurer will have to pay towards the claim. Therefore, this can lower your overall insurance. However, you must ensure that you choose an excess you will be able to afford and make sure the excess doesn’t exceed the overall value of your vehicle.

While it’s a necessity to be insured when on the road, you don’t have to pay over the odds to do so. Following the above guidelines can help you reduce your overall payments — leaving you with extra money to spend elsewhere.

bitcoin
Due DiligenceFX and Payment

Leading UK tax and business advisers BKL to accept Bitcoin as fee payment

bitcoin

Leading UK tax and business advisers BKL to accept Bitcoin as fee payment

 

The London and Cambridge-based charted accountancy firm BKL, is believed to be the first UK mid-sized accountancy firm to accept a cryptocurrency to settle invoices. BKL specialises in helping entrepreneurs, high net worth individuals and owner managed businesses across a range of business sectors. These include technology, financial services, property and farms and estates.

“As a forward-looking business, we are always exploring new ways to develop our offering. We are pleased to now offer this option to clients,” said Jon Wedge, Financial Services partner at BKL.

“We support people and businesses that work with cryptocurrencies and blockchain, and this move has been driven by demand from our clients. It’s a convenient way for many of them, particularly those in the fintech and technology sectors, to buy our services.”

Using a leading automated payment processing system, BitPay, clients of BKL can now opt to receive invoices in Bitcoin. 

“BKL are one of the most respected specialist accountancy practises serving the blockchain industry and we are very happy that they are successfully using BitPay’s B2B service” said Sonny Singh, Chief Commercial Officer of BitPay.

“This is another superb example of forward thinking professional service businesses engaging with the ever-expanding crypto currency industry.  As blockchain ventures continue to proliferate there will be an increasing worldwide demand by vendors to pay invoices in bitcoin.”

BKL will invoice their clients with a traditional fiat value, and then the client pays in bitcoin or bitcoin cash with a conversion rate provided by BitPay that is issued and fixed for 15 minutes, using an average price from leading regulated exchanges. This ensures there is no exposure to any of the price volatility that characterises the digital currencies.

BKL receives its payment electronically through BitPay, but as fiat money.

4Stop - Most Innovative Risk Management Platform (Western Europe)
Risk Management

Most Innovative Risk Management Platform (Western Europe)

Most Innovative Risk Management Platform (Western Europe)

Thanks to its impressive industry expertise, 4Stop, a leading fraud prevention provider, solves businesses riskbased approach through a modern, all-in-one KYB, KYC, compliance and anti-fraud solution at an international level. To celebrate the firm’s win in this year’s competitive FinTech Awards we profile it and share an insight into the innovative solutions it has to offer, speaking with members of the senior team to understand the true value of this exceptional solution.

Since its inception in 2016, 4Stop has onboarded various clients within its target markets of Payment Service Providers, Payment Gateways, eMobile payments, eCommerce, eWallets, and Cryptocurrency.

As all the founders of the company have collectively over 60 years of experience within the risk management realm, they understand the need for a simple, fail-safe, future-proof solution that businesses can effortlessly manage their risk requirements and more importantly with absolute confidence. When they first started their firm, their focus and challenges were to establish a product to resolve the cumbersome processes surrounding KYB, KYC, compliance and fraud prevention globally.

This drive led 4Stop to develop an all-in-one solution encompassing global data aggregation that resulted in a full suite of KYB and KYC data sources, and their proprietary risk management tools paired with automation and integrated analytics, all from a single AP. Removing the market pain point of multiple integrations and patchworked solutions to fully address risk management requirements.

Thanks to this unique technology, the firm now allows its diverse range of clients to easily perform required validation, verification and authentication at the point of onboarding through to transactional processing, both at the merchant and merchant consumer level.

Over the past three years the adoption and usability of the 4Stop solution have been well received. By encompassing a complete end-to-end solution for KYB, KYC, compliance and fraud prevention, 4Stop allows businesses to enjoy a single-view-ofrisk and it has already been proven to dramatically improve their overall performance and bottom line.

Today, the firm has achieved proven results for its clients and have cemented its place as a true revolutionary within the risk management and technology space. Businesses that have utilised 4Stop’s anti-fraud technology experience a 66.6% reduction in chargebacks in the first 2 months with an average of 81.5% approval authorisation rate. Additionally, businesses that have implemented the cascading KYC verification technology, have seen a growth of 10.9% in savings within the first two months.

4Stop’s revolutionary KYB solution is now leading the industry by performing granular business underwriting in near real-time with comprehensive data analysis surrounding business’ online presence, operational performance, structure. Comprehensive data analysis surrounding the business’ online presence, operational performance, structure, and compliance adherence. Enhanced by additional KYC due-diligence performed on directors/ UBO’s and required document retreival, businesses obtain all the data and documentation they require to confidently onboard businesses.

It is this unique solution that has driven 4Stop to win one of the 2019 FinTech Awards from Wealth & Finance International Magazine. Ingo Ernst, CEO of 4Stop, comments on the firm’s success in this award’s programme and how it is the direct result of the firm’s expert team’s hard work and dedication to excellence.

“This award is another great milestone for 4Stop. Our ever-changing online landscape demands innovation and for everyone at 4Stop, our focus is driving our technology advancements as an equalized force across all aspects of our product offering. Our teams’ hard work, diligence and passion have been the pathway for our success and we greatly look forward to continue bolstering our products to support online risk management.”

Seeking to change the face of risk management for the better, 4Stop’s KYC data hub solution encompasses one of the largest KYC data aggregations in the industry to provide true worldwide KYC data coverage. As a result, clients have access to thousands of global data points and hundreds of KYC data sources with real-time and on-demand activation. Additionally, this data creates full market profile data simulations in a seamless manner and allows businesses to make quantifiable decisions based on data science. Through 4Stop’s cascading verification logic costsavings on KYC data performance is maximised and the best data experience output is obtained. 4Stop continuously aggregates global data and KYC data sources so businesses can continue to enjoy all the data they require from their initial integration with zero touch on their IT and internal development resources.

Dedicated to safety as well as efficiency, 4Stop’s cutting-edge anti-fraud technology provides an automated and multi-faceted rules engine that performs real-time analysis with automated system actions through to providing granular risk monitoring and integrated intelligence. Businesses can apply risk thresholds and anti-fraud parameters per merchant, sub-merchant, region, type, market/ industry, date/time, etc. Clients have full control of their risk management in a fully automated manner. Through the single-view-of-risk, overall monitoring and risk analysis processes are efficient with minimal requirement for manual intervention.

Improving businesses authorisation rates, dramatically reducing chargebacks and accelerating their performance, the Businesses all-in-one solution provides everything required to manage risk from a single API.

Whilst its fully integrated solution is revolutionary in the FinTech market it enables 4Stop to overcome the KYC industry issue of managing so much data safely and effectively. The firm is constantly seeking to enhance this product for the benefit of its clients across the financial and business markets. 4Stops’s continued technological investment is based on a few variables within the market landscape.

By closely engaging within the industry through networking globally with key market leaders, events and conferences, close client engagement and staying abreast of global payment and risk management centric reports and trends.

Through this process, 4Stop develops vigorous assessments of the market landscape, emerging trends and evolving regulatory requirements, all of which are funnelled to their executive and product innovation teams to drive product expansion and ensure 4Stop’s all-in-one risk management solution remains leading-edge across the various industries in the market they services.

“4Stop has been designed to be future-proofed from a single API for our clients to manage KYB, KYC, compliance and anti-fraud technology on a global scale. It is our continued responsibility that the product does just that. Expanding our fraud technology and data aggregation accordingly to stay relevant to the rapid evolution of online payments and engagement.” States Brian Daly, Head of Product Implementation and Innovation, 4Stop.

At the point of inception 4Stop launched with a full suite of KYC data sources and their proprietary anti-fraud technology that encompasses a multi-faceted automated risk rules engine with cascading rule performance and automated system actions, alongside a dashboard with realtime intelligence and multiple reporting widgets. In early 2019 4Stop launched its global end-to-end KYB solution. Seeking to build upon its current success, moving forward 4Stop will continue to aggregate data and expand its KYB and KYC solution, in conjunction with furthering its features available such as machine learning to support the anti-fraud and risk monitoring technology. The firm has also recently completed a German-based €2.5 €Million Series A Round Investment from Ventech, the leading pan-European VC fund investing in early-stage tech-driven start-ups. This financing will help the company to expand its solution and drive real change in the market.

Ultimately, 4Stop is a global product with clients worldwide. In the coming years, the business has established a focused acquisition plan specific to regions and markets within Europe, Asia and the United States. These developments will drive the company to even greater global recognition and truly prove it as a pioneer in the risk management technology space. As many companies seek a single provider to manage all parts of their risk management cycle, 4Stop will become a key part of the payment’s ecosystem and the central aggregation hub in the eco-system.


Contact Information:
Name: Ingo Ernst
Address: Neusser Str. 85, Köln, Germany, 50670
Telephone Number: +49.151.1101.7175
Web Address: https://4stop.com/

Insurance

What finance options are there available for your engagement ring?

Often, covering the cost is also a vital element of any proposal, and the options available aren’t always obvious. There are a few important things to consider before you get down on one knee however. Things like ring insurance might come as a surprise, but it is necessary for guaranteeing peace of mind on these single high value items.

In this article we’ll take a look through some of the necessities to think about when it comes to planning the perfect proposal.

1.      Insurance

Possessions can be added to an existing contents policy, or specific jewellery cover can be taken out. For peace of mind on the off chance of theft or damages, jewellery insurance is an excellent option.

The latter is more commonly applicable when the cost of your item(s) is less than £1,000-£1,500, as this is usually covered by standard contents policies. For example, the policy holder will choose an amount to which cover is provided, so a £50,000 policy would insure your home contents as well as your special pieces of jewellery.

Furthermore, a single item limit will usually apply to each item and if the cost of the item itself exceeds the single item limit amount (around £1,000 to £1,500), then these valuables should be listed separately in a quotation. The expensive, sentimental nature of jewellery makes it a common item to want to insure. By adding your engagement ring to your home insurance policy, you are essentially futureproofing it for years to come.

2.      Finance plans

While many people choose to save up for wedding rings, some will opt for finance to spread the cost of their jewellery.

As with any finance item, it can be crucial to ensure that you read the small print and you pay on time. Some jewellers will offer a zero per cent finance rate, but clarity on the exact nature of these agreements is key to ensuring that you get a good deal. Finance can be a useful option depending on your situation, or maybe you have found the perfect ring, but you’ll require a bit of extra help to secure it for your special someone. There are various online calculators which can help you to calculate a sufficient loan amount, but it’s important to be realistic if you are looking into this option. Most retailers will have a price threshold before finance options are available, and typical time frames are six, 12, 24 and, 36 months. Often, customers can apply for finance quickly and easily at online checkouts, which takes the stress out of waiting for a decision to be made.

If taking out a finance agreement would best suit your needs, then looking into the terms and conditions is certainly advised, to cover the cost for your treasured piece.

3.      Finding the perfect ring: important questions

It’s important to have a solid idea of what you’re looking for, and you should find a trusted retailer for making the big purchase. Consider using an online retailer. Often they are more competitively priced as they don’t have the same overheads as high street retailers.

Online reviews are widely available nowadays, making it easier than ever before to evaluate your choice based on the experiences of others. On receipt of your ring, ensure that you review the supporting paperwork, including any diamond certifications and keep these safe in case you need them in the future.

You can ensure that by taking all of the above into the account, you make a purchase that your loved one will treasure for years to come.

ArticlesCash ManagementInfrastructureRisk Management

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

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

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

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

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

Cash ManagementFinanceFundsMarketsRisk Management

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

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

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

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

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

Deals the firm completed globally in 2018 include advising:

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

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

Fluidly on its investment from Nyca Partners and Octopus

Anthemis on its investment in Realyse

Simply Cook on its investment from Octopus

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

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

Local Globe on its investment in StatusToday

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

BGF on its investment in Ruroc.


Ashfords LLP
ashfords.co.uk

Cash ManagementRisk ManagementTransactional and Investment Banking

Tail expands portfolio driven by significant investment

Tail Offers Ltd is pleased to announce that Quantum Financial Holdings, a Fintech and security investment Group, has made an investment of £500,000 into the business. In addition to the financial investment Quantum has made, Tail will benefit from a suite of backoffice, infrastructure and value-added functions provided by the Quantum Group which will accelerate Tail’s significant growth to date.

“I am delighted to have been able to secure a deal with Tail which will enable them to invest in critical systems and further develop their amazing offering, driven by their exceptionally talented team,” says Floyd Woodrow, Chairman of Quantum Financial Holdings. “As well as financial investment, Quantum prides itself on bringing additional value to those companies we have an involvement in, through expertise and the streamlining of business support functions which free up key drivers in Fintech organisations to do what they do best – innovate.” 

“Open Banking will change the way consumers and retailers interact and we want to be at the forefront of facilitating that change,” says Philipp Keller, CEO of Tail Offers Ltd. “We are already focused on expanding our offering to a national audience and this will be accelerated through Quantum’s involvement.” 

“As our offer portfolio expands, we will continue to deliver a readymade white label rewards solution to corporate and financial institutions which will, in turn, enhance their own customer propositions. We are excited to embark on the next step of our journey with a partner that not only provides us with capital but, more importantly, with the right network and infrastructure to use it effectively,” Keller concludes. 

Part of the inaugural Tech Nation Fintech programme, Tail is one of the leading cashback solution providers for Open Banking. Already available for Monzo and Starling customers, its most recent addition includes Volopa, a London-based card provider active in the corporate and private banking sector. 

The Tail app integrates directly with a user’s bank account to provide tailored, high-value offers and cashback rewards in the most convenient way possible. Via its industry-first, cashback, self-serve platform, Tail enables hyperlocal, local and national merchants to use a tailored, data-driven rewards solution to engage directly with customers. 

For further information, please email [email protected] 

ArticlesBankingMarketsRisk Management

The fragile line between financial returns and social good – how much can, and should, personal values influence a portfolio and asset allocation

By Charlotte Filsell – Head of Client Relationship Management at Sandaire.

In many industries no two clients are the same. In Family Offices this is particularly evident. Every family, and every individual within that family, is entirely unique and is continually growing, evolving and shifting their needs and priorities.

This is a fascinating and complex journey to help families navigate. Where this is especially pertinent, is finding the delicate balance between financial returns and social good. As such, it’s incredibly important that families have access to delicate guidance and careful stewardship, so they can find the right balance to match both their values and their long-term needs – and to match their individual and familial priorities.

As families navigate a generational wealth transfer to the younger generations, social good and impact investing becomes more apparent. There is undoubtedly an increasing trend from the younger generation, to go beyond a simple financial transaction or donation to worthy causes. When it comes to using their wealth, millennials tend to be more concerned about making their money go further, making a larger impact, and are interested in finding sustainable interventions and solutions. Differences certainly exist across generations, but what unites family members, is the motivation to make the world a better place.

In philanthropy, this can be reflected in a desire to learn about an issue and understand the nuances in order to direct effort and resources as effectively as possible. To achieve this effectively, it’s crucial to work closely with clients to assist with their philanthropic endeavours, including helping to find causes that are important to them and guiding on how they might be able to make a positive contribution. In addition to this, connecting clients to other families in the same situation, or perhaps further along the philanthropy journey, allows them to share ideas and experiences, and apply these to their own particular investment desires.

In no small part because this is such a personal yet complex issue, families are increasingly looking for advisers who not only understand the intricacies of the financial and investment landscape, but who have a thorough grasp on the values and philanthropic intentions of the client. This can make a huge difference. It’s incredibly important to provide thoughtful guidance and careful stewardship to help families strike the right balance. This can take many forms – an effective family office must shift with the needs of the families it serves and take on the role that’s required – whether that’s a leader, a partner, a facilitator, or a mediator.

The trend towards Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) has led to the integration of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into investment decisions. The development of SRI and impact investment is offering the prospect of achieving returns measured in more than merely financial terms; it is embedding values and responsibility into investment decisions. While many businesses may have long been delivering more than financial returns, social and impact investing is bringing intention to the fore in investment selection and outcome measurement into the evaluation of success.

The crucial role of the family office is to help steer the families we serve through this fascinating and complex process, developing a successful wealth plan that futureproofs their wealth, whilst satisfying their philanthropic interests and passions. Although a fragile line, we believe that a portfolio can satisfy both financial return objectives and positive social impact that reflects a client’s personal values, acknowledging that a balance will need to be struck depending on the needs of each individual client.  

Cash ManagementMarketsRisk ManagementTax

Top tips when it comes to completing your self-assessment tax return

The time of year is almost upon us where millions will have to complete their self-assessment tax return. Whether that’s as a sole trader, a freelancer, a contractor or running your own businesses, anyone who works for themselves will have to complete their forms before the annual January 31 deadline. For many, it can seem like a daunting task, so is there anything you can do to make the process easier?

 

 

James Foster, Commercial Manager at specialist accountancy provider Nixon Williams

At Nixon Williams, we manage a large client base of small businesses, contractors and self-employed individuals, which means we complete thousands of tax returns each year. This experience has provided us with an in-depth knowledge of the process and how to maximise efficiency when it comes to completing a self-assessment tax return submission.

 

The majority of the working population have their tax deducted at source from the company that they work for, however, anyone that is self-employed has to complete a self-assessment tax return in order to be taxed appropriately on their earnings by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

 

When you start working for yourself, your workload includes everything that you might need to do to make your business a success – from marketing and advertising to admin and ordering stationery. You may find that managing your finances is more complex than you might have expected as you will need to keep records of all the money you spend in the running of your business, as well as how much you earn. Many people decide to use the services of a professional accountancy firm like ours to help them through the process, but some decide to manage everything themselves. Either way, there are some simple things you can do to make the process as straightforward as possible, so here are my top five tips:

 

  • Get organised – compiling all your invoices and receipts ahead of time is the best way to alleviate last minute stress when it comes to self-assessment forms. Ideally, you’ll have kept some form of spreadsheet or an online portal up to date throughout the year of your accounts, and you can use that to finalise your tax return. But if that’s not the case, don’t wait until the very end of January to get started. There are often missing pieces of information you’ll need to track down, so give yourself plenty of time to work through everything. And don’t forget – if it’s your first time completing your Self-Assessment Tax Return, make sure you’re registered with HMRC in time.    

 

  • Know the key dates for completion – If you decide to complete your tax return online then the deadline for this is any point up until the 31st January, whereas a paper tax return needs to arrive with HMRC by the 31st October the previous year. If you haven’t sent an online tax return before then you will need to register and HMRC advises you to do this no less than 20 working days before the deadline.

 

  • Separate your work and personal bank account – a number of self-employed people operate with just one bank account for personal and business use, but this can make it hard to separate out your business expenses from your personal expenses. It’s often easier to identify which costs are related to your business by having a separate business bank account. This will not only help you keep a track of your business expenditure throughout the year, but it will make your life a lot easier when it comes to your tax return.
  • Know the expenses and tax reliefs that you can claim – if you are a sole trader, for example, make sure that you know the expenses that you can claim in your tax return, as there may be some items you might forget about such as business mileage and expenses relating to working from home. It’s also beneficial to know about other tax reliefs that you are entitled to such as personal pension and gift aid payments.

 

  • Tax returns can be complex so use an accountant – having professional support can be really beneficial because an accountant should not only assist with the compliance side of things (i.e. helping you to file your tax return on time) but they will also give you pro-active advice where appropriate.  Tax returns are something most accountancy practices deal with on a daily basis from April to January, alleviating a lot of the financial stress away from clients and helping them to focus on what they do best – making a success of their business.

 

Running your own business and managing the many tasks that come with it can often push your tax return submission to the bottom of your ever-growing pile of work to do – but help is always available from professionals with the right experience and knowledge of the latest legislation. You can find further information on completing your self-assessment tax return on the Nixon Williams website here.

Cash ManagementFundsRisk ManagementWealth Management

Samuel Knight International on track to continue major growth following investment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cash ManagementRisk ManagementWealth Management

YOTHA LAUNCHES WORLDWIDE INNOVATIVE NEW PLATFORM WILL MAKE YACHT CHARTERING SIMPLER, FASTER AND FAIRER

YOTHA, the new digital yacht charter platform connecting owners, charterers and yachting professionals, has launched worldwide with a promise to bring trust and transparency to the yachting market.

YOTHA’s digital technology will make yacht chartering faster, simpler and more straightforward and www.yotha.com will become an invaluable tool for everyone involved in the industry.

YOTHA offers a unique chartering experience, allowing customers to negotiate directly with the owner’s representative, book their trip online and then benefit from a free concierge service which helps them to create their own bespoke itinerary.

More than 100 of the world’s finest luxury yachts are available for charter on the platform, which has launched worldwide for the 2019 season after a beta version was successfully tested last summer. Hundreds more yachts from the global charter fleet will be added to the platform in the coming months.

YOTHA was founded by Philippe Bacou, who has owned and chartered luxury yachts for more than 15 years. Frustrated by his own experiences as an owner, he decided to create a unique digital platform that would enrich the charter experience, shaking up the market in the same way that Booking.com has revolutionised the hotel industry.

By making chartering easier, YOTHA will expand the market and attract a new generation of charterers. Its unique features include:

  • A facility to negotiate the charter price online, supervised by a 24/7 customer care service
  • Substantially reduced commissions – YOTHA takes an 8% commission if a yacht is booked directly through the platform, or 4% if the booking is made through a broker, compared to the standard industry commissions of 15% to the broker and an additional 5% to the central agent
  • A simple, fair electronic charter contract balancing the interests of charterers, owners and professionals
  • All financial transactions secured and guaranteed under the supervision of FINMA, the Swiss banking regulator
  • Partnerships with luxury brands, including award-winning concierge service Quintessentially Switzerland, and leading yacht service providers

YOTHA will encourage more owners to charter their yachts because they will have greater flexibility, including shorter charters and more off-season deals. It will empower their captains, allowing them to connect with charterers through the YOTHA app in advance of their trip to plan the perfect itinerary whilst providing all their favourite food and drink on board.

Amongst the 114 yachts currently registered for charter on the online platform are some of the best-known super yachts in the global fleet, including the 90m Lauren L, the award-winning 50m Vertige and the 55m Mustique. Smaller motor yachts and sailing boats are also available on the platform. Yachts are available for the end of the Winter season in the Caribbean and the upcoming Summer season in the Mediterranean.

Philippe Bacou, Owner and Founder of YOTHA says:

“I am excited that YOTHA now opens the way for the digital transformation of the luxury yachting industry. Our ambition is that our innovative new solution for chartering will improve the customer experience, offer new services and help attract new customers to luxury yachting. We are keen to explore fresh ways of expanding the charter business and want to form partnerships with investors, brokers and other key industry players.”

“At YOTHA, we hope to increase the size of the market both in charter volume and services through in-depth industry co-operation”

“It is an exciting time to be involved in the Yacht charter industry and we hope to improve the experience for everyone involved in the industry: charterers, brokers, agents, captains, crews and owners.”

BankingCash ManagementMarketsRisk Management

FISCAL TECHNOLOGIES LAUNCHES NEXT GENERATION PURCHASE-TO-PAY RISK MANAGEMENT PLATFORM

FISCAL Technologies, a world leading provider of forensic financial solutions and services, today announced the launch of NXG Forensics®, the next generation Purchase-to-Pay (P2P) risk management platform.

NXG Forensics is forged from FISCAL’s 15 years of experience protecting organisational spend and combines a comprehensive range of industry-recognised tests with Machine Learning to deliver unparalleled risk protection. It is designed specifically for Finance, P2P, Shared Services and AP teams and sits securely in the cloud, to reduce payment risks, fraud and compliances issues.

The powerful user interface and diagnostic reporting elevates finance teams away from transaction processing to strengthening internal controls that reduce costs, protect working capital and drive process improvements.

Protects organisational spend

NXG Forensics integrates into all major ERP systems and delivers constant protection and monitoring with the highest possible risk detection rate. By using a platform of continually evolving detection methods and machine learning, new fraud tests are regularly added to keep organisations ahead of emerging threats.

Delivers immediate and tangible cost savings

NXG Forensics provides unique daily forensic insights about payment risks before they impact working capital or damage reputation. The comprehensive reporting centre provides detailed and powerful diagnostics to quickly identify and understand exceptions and enable corrective actions to be taken.

Drives process improvement

The forensic analysis engine in NXG Forensics improves supplier risk profiling and identifies more high-risk transaction exceptions than ever before, whilst radically reducing the number of false positives. This generates actionable insights for root cause analysis, leading to faster resolution and creating time efficiencies.

David Griffiths, CEO at FISCAL Technologies comments “Organisations are facing an unprecedented rise in geo-political risks to their Purchase-to-Pay supply chains. Changing regulations along with the increasing speed and complexity of transaction processing all add to the challenge of protecting against payment risk, fraud and compliance breaches. NXG Forensics provides the most effective way to manage this risk and optimise financial performance both in the short and long-term.”

The next generation NXG Forensics platform is available immediately to empower finance teams to continually protect organisational spend with a continuous preventative approach. Implementation is fast and efficient, supported by a proactive customer success programme, built on strong relationships and a supportive knowledge-sharing environment to ensure maximum benefit is achieved.

Dr Alfred Pilgrim, CTO at FISCAL Technologies concludes “We are committed to making our forensic analysis platform the best-in-class and enabling our customers to protect effectively their Purchase-to-Pay cycle against risk and fraud. NXG Forensics demonstrates our continued focus on innovation and desire to offer the best risk prevention framework. It will empower organisations to be increasingly responsive to increasing complexity and changing regulations.”
For more information please visit www.fiscaltec.com

Cash ManagementRisk Management

Why Are Investor Relations So Important?

Following the implementation of GDPR, consumers, investors and businesses around the world are becoming increasingly aware of every communication they receive from a company.

As such, compliance, in all its forms, is now even more important to businesses than ever before, and in the financial and investment space this is as vital as it always has been, if not more so. Whilst it has always been crucial to success in the investment market, now compliance, and assuring investors of compliance, has been bought to the fore.

For example, the recent announcement that the UK Government is suspending its Tier-One Investment Visa Programme, with a view to making important changes to this to combat the risk of money laundering. Bruno L’ecuyer, Chief Executive Officer of the Investment Migration Council, made the below comment on the changes and how these would affect investors.

“The UK government may not have much influence with the European Parliament these days, but it has provided an object lesson in how to manage investor migration sensibly and for the benefit of its citizens.

“According to reports, potential investors will have to agree to undergoing a thorough audit of their financial assets, proving they have control of the required capital for at least two years, and will require audits to be undertaken by suitably regulated UK firms.

“Most notably, it appears the UK government recognises the value of investment migration and desires any investment made by individuals to have a greater impact on the UK economy, which is why it is apparently looking at scrapping its own government bond option in favour of directing investment into active and trading UK companies.”

As Bruno highlights, the importance of audits and transparency in this space is as vital as ever, and firms need to be able to prove to both their investors and the authorities that they are acting properly and are fully compliant with all relevant regulations to ensure their continued success.

This is why investor relations have, over recent years, become a vital aspect of any company, fund or asset manager. Many multinational companies, such as Hitachi, Etsy and the Coca Cola Company all operate their own investor relations departments, showcasing the increasing focus companies are putting on the role.

After all, as client satisfaction and feedback become buzzwords within the corporate space, it makes sense that investor relations should also increase in importance, and many companies and investors are now embracing this side of their business. Through strong communication and specialist support, companies, investors and fund managers can ensure that their investors remain on-side and that they understand that their money is in safe hands.

ArticlesFinanceRisk ManagementWealth Management

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

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

 

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

 

Choosing an IVA or bankruptcy

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Can the procedures affect my home?

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

 

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

 

What about my car?

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

 

Could my job be impacted?

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

 

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

 

Why choose an IVA?

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

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

 

Why choose bankruptcy?

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

ACE Packages New Multinational Insurance Solution for UK and Ireland Customers
InsuranceRisk Management

ACE Packages New Multinational Insurance Solution for UK and Ireland Customers

This cover will be spanning, traditionally separate lines of business, for UK and Ireland based companies with one or more overseas subsidiaries. The cover has been designed by a specially-created project team, selected from across the region and from multiple disciplines, responding to the latest broker and client research.

During 2014, the ACE project team spoke with around 30 UK broker organisations to identify how multinational insurance solutions could be better structured to support the changing needs of their clients as they expand internationally. The common themes that emerged from this research were the need for flexibility, coherence and easily-tailored solutions, combined with the importance of seamless coverage across a client’s international operations and traditional insurance lines. Emphasis was given to the importance of clear and relevant solutions for those organisations that are just beginning to trade internationally or operate in a limited number of overseas territories.

ACE Multinational Partner has been designed to meet these needs as well as the requirements of the Insurance Act 2015, due to take effect next year. At the heart of the new proposition is a recognition of the importance of a globally compliant insurance programme in an increasingly complex regulatory and compliance environment.

Detailed benefits include:

– ACE’s broadest-ever cover as standard and available across a range of lines of business, including property, business interruption (including money, goods in transit, contract works and machinery breakdown), general liability (including environmental liability), employers’ liability, computer, global terrorism.

– Flexible cover to suit all sizes of clients.

– Simple, customer-friendly and jargon-free wording.

– Removal of insurer avoidance remedy for innocent non-disclosure.

– No basis of contract clause (See related ACE press release for full details1).

– Standard policy is warranty free.

– Access to local underwriters across the UK and Ireland, empowered to make underwriting decisions.

– Access to ACE’s global network and local regulatory and compliance know-how – including the ACE Worldview online portal which offers 24/7 real-time programme information.

– Dedicated relationship managers, underwriting, claims and engineering personnel around the world.

– Multinational training and support for brokers throughout the region, where they want it.

Sally Blyfield, ACE Multinational Partner project leader for the UK and Ireland at ACE said:

“Recent ACE research2 shows that the vast majority of European companies believe their risk profile has become more multinational over the past three years. With a mounting array of international regulations bringing ever more complex compliance requirements, they are increasingly at risk of fines, reputational damage and the potential for invalidated claims if their insurance programmes fail to perform as expected. ACE Multinational Partner provides trusted ‘belt and braces’ protection backed-up by comprehensive global service, and we have packaged it in a way that we are confident will work effectively for companies of all sizes and industries.”

Phil Sharpe, Chief Operating Officer for the UK and Ireland at ACE said:

“When we spoke to brokers about their clients’ multinational insurance needs last year, compliance with local insurance standards, advice and support managing international risks and access to on-the-ground account and claims assistance were among the priorities they highlighted. Through our own operations in 54 countries, a global network spanning 200 territories and a team of 2,000 claims handlers around the world, ACE has the right people in the right places to deliver the high level of responsiveness our clients demand and deserve, while minimising cultural and language barriers and time zone issues.”

Darlingtons Solicitors: Raising the Bar
Due DiligenceRisk Management

Darlingtons Solicitors: Raising the Bar

Established in 1999, Darlingtons is a fast growing boutique law firm in London, a modern practice with 50 staff. Covering a wide range of specialisms, the firm serves clients ranging from investors and entrepreneurs to long established, international businesses. Debbie talks us through the firm’s core practice areas and how it aims to provide excellence in these areas.

“At Darlingtons our corporate and commercial team deals with a full range of corporate transactions and advisory services. We are regularly involved in sale and purchases of businesses or assets and shares, MBO, MBI, corporate restructuring, contracts and commercial, advising shareholders and directors on corporate issues. The team also specialises in advising directors and shareholders in relation to disputes that have arisen between themselves and fellow shareholders and directors. Our reputation is built on commercial, practical and insightful advice.

“Expertise and experience are key to our success, but not far behind is the working relationship between lawyer and client. We are dynamic and proactive, taking the time to understand how clients operate and what their objectives are, resulting in structured and tailored advice at the right cost and according to the client timescale.”

Legal practice is changing rapidly, clients are ever more discerning, with perceptions of service quality as well as advice quality just one example of the changes. Debbie outlines how the firm’s ongoing focus remains firmly on providing valuable services in the future.

“Clients have historically seen accountants and not lawyers as their primary trusted advisors. Whilst there are good reasons for this, lawyers are also valuable business advisors, not just to instruct when a transaction is needed or for a contract or a dispute. As lawyers, our challenge is to build proactive, valued business advisor relationships with clients and to remain adaptable and flexible to changing market and clients needs.”

Company: Darlingtons Solicitors LLP
Name: Debbie Serota
Email: [email protected]
Web Address: www.darlingtons.com
Address: Darlingtons House, Spring Villa Park, Edgware, Middlesex, HA8 7EB
Telephone: 0208 951 6666

Effective Threat Detection Strategies for the Financial Industry
Due DiligenceRisk Management

Effective Threat Detection Strategies for the Financial Industry

The research, which forms part of NJR’s cyber security report: how real is the threat and how can you reduce your risk, shows that 23 per cent of employees use the same password for different work applications and 17 per cent write down their passwords, 16 per cent work while connected to public wifi networks and 15 per cent access social media sites on their work PCs. Such bad habits and a lack of awareness about security mean that employees are inadvertently leaving companies’ cyber doors wide open to attack.

This research is supported by a report which incorporates the advice from fifteen experts in the field. Here, Tony Berning, OPSWAT, discusses effective threat detection strategies for the financial industry.

“Over the past few years, the financial industry has been moving towards more digitisation and greater accessibility, mostly due to the industry’s competitive nature. In retail banking, customers expect access to their accounts at all times, from any device that has access to the Internet. Banks are also offering more services than ever before, from digital deposits to money transfers, and any bank that does not offer these services will surely lose customers to competitors that do. Unfortunately, these new services provide an easy way for cyber criminals to attack financial institutions. Some of the threats affecting the financial industry have taken advantage of this digitisation trend by using multiple channels to extract funds that they have compromised.

Similar forces are driving commercial banking towards increased automation and connectivity. With the majority of trades of equity, currency and commodities now done via electronic exchange, transaction speed can make or break a trade. Automated algorithms now execute trades so quickly that the physical distance trade orders travel (at the speed of light), to reach trading platforms significantly impacts profitability. This focus on speed has pushed more operations to become automated with less focus on human interaction.

This combination of greater automation with more information being stored on interconnected networks means that financial institutions have more to lose if hit by a cyber attack. Because of the potential for large gains, malware developers have rapidly adapted their methods, creating new types of threats such as banking malware. There are many different attack vectors that need to be considered, as well as various strategies that attackers may use that need to be addressed.

For instance, some attackers may attempt to get information out of financial institutions, such as customer information, account numbers, etc that they can then use for financial gain. An example of this is the recent Shifu attacks on Japanese banks. Other attackers may be looking to compromise systems within an organisation and modify their behaviour to either move cash out or to create conditions that they can profit from. Other attackers may not have a financial motive at all, instead aiming to sabotage critical networks for geopolitical reasons.

When designing a data security policy, threats need to be addressed as part of a comprehensive program. The first step is to ensure that proper authentication is in place before conducting any transactions, such as multi-factor authentication to ensure that customers are who they say they are. After confirming their identity, it is still important to check all data in the transaction to ensure that the user isn’t unknowingly bringing in any malware. This can be done by defining a secure data workflow to detect and eliminate any threats.

Handling sensitive data is best addressed by keeping it within segregated networks that have limited access to outside networks, reducing the likelihood that the data can be extracted by any malware that has managed to compromise the secure network. A combination of secure data workflow policies and unidirectional transfer devices (data diodes) can be used to make sure that high-security networks stay appropriately isolated.

A regular security scan should be part of any financial institution’s security strategy. Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) can stay in a network for long periods of time, avoiding detection and waiting to carry out an attack. ZeuS, one of the most persistent threats in the financial industry, has been around for almost nine years and is constantly adapting to compromise more systems. The Shifu virus has continued spreading as well, moving from Japan to the UK. Anti-malware engines are always updating their detection techniques and databases, so it is important to perform regular system scans and continue to check files for threats, even in secure networks that have been fully scanned before.

Financial institutions are at risk from cyber threats because of the large amounts of money they handle as well as the technological innovations they are making that leave them vulnerable to new attack vectors. It is crucial that these organisations consider the security implications of any new technology, in order to keep up with the evolving threat landscape.”

To read more useful and practical insights into topics including: How to assess the scale of your risk level; Managing the immediate aftermath of a security breach; How different sectors are affected, download the full report – http://www.norriejohnstonrecruitment.com/downloads/cyber-security/

The Business Elite UK CEO of the Year 2016
InsuranceRisk Management

The Business Elite UK CEO of the Year 2016

Celebrating its tenth anniversary since writing its first policy in January 2006, Dewsall has built a business which now writes premiums of over £100m annually, insuring businesses across nine European countries, providing a range of products to SMEs across many sectors.

When asked what he thought he would achieve back in 2006, Dewsall explains: “Europe was going through many changes and I had worked successfully across a number of insurance markets. It was clear to me that with the right brand and capital backing, we could build a service offering that would be defined by quality and trust. We set about building Gable from a standing start, creating a product portfolio that was designed to meet what the customer required. It was about offering bespoke products through a selected distribution network of brokers around Europe who we could work with and build a trusted brand in the insurance sector.”

Clearly, customers liked what they saw, and Gable now provides a range of commercial insurance products through specialist brokers in the UK, France, Italy, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Germany, Sweden and Spain.

Gable commenced underwriting in the UK market with its construction liability insurance products. Over subsequent years since then it has consistently expanded its product range and the number of European markets in which it operates, achieving uninterrupted growth in both premiums written and insurance profits.

“Since inception we have managed our growth carefully, balancing the requirements of our customers with the management of risk. Ultimately, we are there to support our customers with bespoke products that can allow them to do what they are good at. Over the last ten years we have seen many different situations where businesses that we insure have required swift action by us to help them get back on their feet after an event which threatens their business. At the same time, we have managed to qualify our overall risk by the purchase of reinsurance from world-wide A-rated reinsurers” he continues.

Dewsall and his team have certainly delivered on the promise to customers, with high upper quartile retention rates supporting year-on-year growth in the business, allied with a series of new products. Gable has also carefully built a network of trading relationships with a range of specialist brokers in each of the countries in which it has expanded into, providing bespoke products such as Deposit Guarantees, Commercial Bonds, Latent Defect and its core range of Commercial Combined products.

Gable produced another year of growth in 2015 with the underlying business producing a strong core underwriting performance, achieved against a backdrop of challenging markets. Commenting on Gable’s 2015 performance, Dewsall comments: “As always, we have remained focussed on delivering high service levels to our customers whilst managing underwriting profits, delivering a strong and growing cash position which has continued to increase by over 40% on 2014.”

Where does Gable go from here?

Dewsall reveals that his team will continue to focus on building Gable’s brand reputation in each of the markets in which it now operates and continue to listen carefully to what its customers are asking for.

“Clearly we have the key advantage derived from our efficient underwriting platform, affording us the ability to write profitable business across multiple sectors and differentiate through service, product specification, claims handling and settlement to our customers. This has allowed us to grow the business while still maintaining our pricing discipline. There are still a number of markets where we are being asked to provide new bespoke products, there is still much to play for, despite the changes to the regulatory regime across the EU which is a challenge to everyone in the insurance business.

We know that we can build significantly on what we have already achieved, so in essence, it will be more of the same for us” he explains.Gable’s distribution is focused on exclusive distribution relationships in different territories and markets, utilising its networks of brokers, building some commercial partnerships with some major broking networks along the way. Gable’s European business outside of the UK accounts for over 50% of gross written premiums, with an increasingly diversified book of business.

“Our continued strong growth is driven by our bespoke products provided through our expanding European wide distribution channels. Although the economic environment in general remains challenging, I believe we have excellent momentum and can foresee continued expansion supported by our European broker network. The fundamentals of our business are sound and underpin our optimism and growth ambitions for the future” he enthuses.

About William Dewsall

William Dewsall has over 30 years’ experience in the European insurance market having worked at Jardine Glanville (UK) and Alexander Stenhouse. In 2000 he established his own underwriting agency, writing insurance risks in the UK and worldwide on behalf of a number of insurers including Italian giant, Assicuriazoini Generali. He was instrumental in developing policy wordings for the Contractors and Liability insurance sector, credited in the foremost sector reference ‘Construction Insurance and UK Construction Contracts’. He is registered with the FCA as an approved person for insurance activities.

Company: Gable Holdings Inc
Name: William Dewsall, CEO
Email: [email protected]
Website: www.gableholdings.com
Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7337 7460

Leading Dutch Insurance Group Aegon Invests in Microfinance
InsuranceRisk Management

Leading Dutch Insurance Group Aegon Invests in Microfinance

Aegon began investigating the potential of microfinance investments in 2014. The Aegon The Netherlands Risk & Capital Committee which approved the mandate concluded that microfinance was a good fit within Aegon’s portfolio, stating that: “In the current low interest rate environment the returns from microfinance are attractive, the risks and durations are acceptable, and there is essentially no correlation with other asset classes Aegon invests in.”

The biggest single challenge, according to Marcel van Zuilen, a portfolio manager at Aegon Asset Management, was reporting requirements. “Solvency II introduced far-reaching ‘look-through’ reporting requirements. Microfinance funds need to report on their investments in a great amount of detail so that the investor can demonstrate to the regulator that it is compliant. If you consider that data needs to come from microfinance institutions in places like Cambodia, Nigeria and some 100 other countries you realize that’s no simple task.”

To truly understand the microfinance investment chain and to select the microfinance funds that can handle Aegon’s demands necessitated the development of a new area of expertise, which according to Harald Walkate, Global Head of Responsible Investment at Aegon Asset Management, can now also be leveraged to service Aegon and external investment clients in a sustainable manner.

A solid track record and diversified investment products

Swiss-based responsAbility looks back on a 13-year track record of successful microfinance investments. Managing a whole series of investment solutions, responsAbility is the world’s largest private investor in the area of microfinance. At the end of 2015, responsAbility-managed investment vehicles had USD 1.9 bn of capital invested in 314 financial institutions across 76 developing and emerging countries. responsAbility has been active in the Dutch market since January 2016. The largest microfinance fund in the world, which is managed by responsAbility, is now available for retail distribution in the Netherlands along with the vehicles dedicated to institutional investors.

Building on its solid experience in the area of microfinance, responsAbility has since expanded its operations to cover other development-related sectors such as energy and agriculture. In the financial year 2015, responsAbility grew its assets under management by 22% to CHF 3 billion. As was the case each year since 2011, this reflects inflows of new assets totalling around USD 500 million – of which 50% stemmed from retail investors, 31% from institutional investors and 19% from public sector investors. In 2015, a total of 12 responsAbility investment vehicles invested almost USD 1 billion in 522 financial institutions, agricultural companies and energy firms – carrying out more than 700 transactions in this context.

Alexandre Coquet, Head of Sales France & Benelux, stated: “We are pleased to welcome Aegon to our funds’ investor base, especially since their decision to invest followed a very thorough evaluation process. To successfully develop and manage development investments, what is needed first and foremost is a sound knowledge of local markets. Around 150 experts working at our 9 offices across 4 continents identify new investment opportunities on an ongoing basis, thus laying the foundations for the continued successful development of our business.”

For further information, please visit: http://www.aegon.com/Home/ and http://www.responsability.com/investing/

CEO of the Month
Due DiligenceRisk Management

CEO of the Month

Can you give a brief overview of what your company does and your role within it?

To prioritize safety and minimize the impact of disruptive events, organizations need to be able to quickly assemble information and determine exactly who needs to receive each communication. Then, just as importantly, an organization needs to reliably deliver this information to virtually anyone, on any device or contact path, anywhere in the world. An example might be managing a substantial IT outage– network engineers tasked with responding to the problem need one level of information, customer service representatives need another, and both need messages delivered to them in seconds. Global companies need to send notifications in multiple languages, and given the diverse ways people communicate, in multiple modes—via voice, email, text, digital signage, two-way radio, and so on. Our applications automate this process and deliver notifications at very large scale for over 2,700 enterprise customers, including 24 of 25 of North America’s busiest airports, 6 of 10 of the world’s largest auto makers, and in the U.S., 7 of the 10 largest investment banks and 4 of the 10 largest healthcare providers.

My tenure at Everbridge began with my joining the Board of Directors in 2010. In late 2011 we merged a software company I had founded in 2009, CloudFloor, Inc., into Everbridge and I became CEO and Chairman of the Board. Everbridge was founded after the tragic events of September 11, 2001, when the need for instant, reliable communications to prioritize safety became clear. To build our business over the last 15 years we have been fortunate enough to attract great people – in fact over 50 of our current team members have worked together in multiple successful previous ventures. We have a saying at Everbridge: “first the team because the team is the business”—it is our way of highlighting the importance of people. My role is to lead the strategic corporate direction that enables our continued growth while being capital efficient. We focus on the top and bottom lines and pay close attention to a number of key performance metrics. Our entire Senior Management Team also spends a significant amount of time with customers. I personally spend a lot of time with new and current customers who are often the source of our best ideas for improving our platform and extending it to new applications and markets.

Can you go into more detail about the services you offer?

Let me give you a couple of examples of how our products are used. The City of Boston, local hospitals, companies, and a number of nearby towns are all customers of Everbridge. When the Boston Marathon bombing happened, the Boston police used our software to contact and coordinate the actions of first responders. Hospitals used it to communicate to and bring in trauma surgeons to treat the wounded. The Watertown Police Department used it to keep citizens informed as police conducted a door-to-door search for the bombers. Local towns used it to advise citizens to stay indoors, and corporate customers used the software to check on the safety of their employees running in the Marathon.

These were all uses of our core application, Mass Notification. This application organizes the process for constructing and securely and reliably sending out notifications in seconds. It is based on a Software as a Service Architecture, with multiple data centers around the world, so we can scale to sending out millions of messages simultaneously and our infrastructure is never constrained by the severe weather issues that customers may be facing. We deliver messages via over 100 different modalities. In 2015, we sent out over 1 billion messages, we have contact data for over 100 million people, and our platform can deliver messages to over 200 countries and territories and in 14 languages and dialects.

A second application is IT Alerting. When an IT outage or cyberattack occurs at a company, the resulting service downtime can cost thousands or tens of thousands of dollars per minute. Companies use our IT Alerting application to rapidly notify and organize responders across departments in order to shorten the time to restoring service. Incident management procedures can be pre-built into the system based on rules so that the software knows what groups need to be represented, what type of information they should receive, who to contact within the groups, how they are best reached, and, if people with the right skill sets do not respond in a prescribed period of time, who to escalate to. Other stakeholders, such as executive team members and customer service representatives, can be simultaneously notified with messages appropriate to them so they are kept properly informed. Automating the process lowers costs, improves speed, and avoids errors at what are often times of high stress.

We are also leveraging the power of our underlying platform with additional applications. We have introduced a secure messaging application which enables healthcare organizations to replace patient home visits with telemedicine check-ins and to rapidly organize teams to respond to code alerts in hospitals. Safety Connection, our newest solution, enables organizations to determine if traveling or mobile employees are safe in the event of a man-made incident or natural disaster, to get them instructions, and to ensure that buildings have been fully evacuated when required. Safety Connection is the first Internet of Things (IoT)-related application we have introduced. With sensor data and connected devices becoming ubiquitous, we see a growing need for companies to organize employees to respond to whole new classes of alerts and believe IoT applications and use cases represent a significant new market opportunity for us. 

How does it feel to be awarded CEO of the Month?

I am honored to receive this award. I’m especially pleased for our team. We put a strong emphasis on our management team working together— we win or lose as a team. This is a nice win for our team.

What are the main challenges you face in your role, at the helm of the business?

People are by far our most important asset. In the hot tech space, competing against giants like Google and Amazon for talent is difficult. We focus a great deal of effort on attracting, hiring and retaining great people. We have also worked hard to develop our culture. This has been aided by our mission, which is to not only build great technology solutions but to deliver solutions that help people. We hear stories from customers using our solutions to help find a missing child, or to successfully evacuate an area after a dangerous chemical spill, and these results makes all of us at Everbridge proud of what we do!

On the execution side, we have an enormous opportunity to expand our business internationally. Our current sales are driven 85% from North America and 15% internationally. The international space is ultimately much larger than the U.S.—these markets are more mobile oriented, they have a wider diversity of communications requirements, and are just as prone to emergencies and critical events, both man-made and natural. A key question for us is where to build organically overseas and where to buy or partner. The wrong decisions can cost us years of missed opportunity. International growth is an accelerator for Everbridge— we’ve got to get this right.

When hiring staff, what kind of people are you looking for that will help you drive your business?

We are strong operators and I look for senior people who are intelligent, curious, and have a track record of doing what they say they will do and being accountable. We also hire a fairly large number of people as their first or second job after college. Here, I want people with good intellects and a real hunger to learn. Just as important as people’s skills is their fit with our culture. Our teams and leaders are highly collaborative so we involve a lot of people in the interviewing process to make sure we and the candidates are excited about the opportunity to work together.

Can you tell us about your career background prior to becoming a CEO?

I have actually been a CEO for most of my professional career. My second real job as a 21 year old involved my founding of a software company. Since then I have held multiple public and private company Chairman and CEO positions. Some examples include serving as CEO of Gomez, Inc., a private company and leader in the internet performance management space, of S1 Corporation, a public company and the first to provide on-line banking in North America, and of Interleaf, a public company that provided software tools for e-content management. The common thread among the companies I have led was that they were all profitable, high-growth tech companies. Following on from this, how did you attain the position of CEO? I became CEO when Everbridge acquired a company I had founded, CloudFloor, Inc. Everbridge was looking to rebuild the core technology underpinning its platform based on a cloud infrastructure. The Cloud- Floor solution, and the management team behind it, were a great fit.

How do you think your company has performed while you have been CEO?

I set stretch goals and am a tough grader so I tend to not often be fully satisfied with how we perform. That said, we have made dramatic progress over the past 5 years on pretty much all fronts — our people, our products and the underlying platform, customer wins and follow-on purchases, and our vision for the future have led to top-of-class growth overall for Everbridge. From 2012 to 2015 we have achieved average annual revenue growth of 35-40% versus approximately 10% growth in total sales in 2010. And we have been able to achieve this growth without any new capital infusion. I am very excited about where we are and where we are going.

As CEO, what do you see as the main challenges for your company in the future?

The key challenge is to continue add and retain great people while scaling the business. As one measure, we have gone from sending under 50 million notifications in 2010 to over 1 billion in 2015, and from fewer than 20 million people connected to our solutions to over 100 million people connected today. We’ve put in place a scalable architecture on the platform side but we are going to need to hire great sales and marketing, operations, and technical staff, to continue to mature some of our operational processes, and to increase the sophistication of some of our management processes. It’s very important for us to stay ahead of the curve in these areas.

Do you have any plans for 2016 and beyond that you would like to share with our readers? We have been adding new solutions which open up new addressable markets. We have gone from two products on our critical communications platform in 2010 to seven products today. The new products leverage the power and scalability of our underlying platform. In 2016, we have announced Safety Connection, which adds a new location dimension to notifying traveling and mobile employees to keep them safe. We’ll continue to ensure that our customers have effective ways to communicate with people no matter where they are through our resilient platform and innovative applications.

Company: Everbridge
Name: Jaime Ellertson, Chairman & CEO
Web Address: www.everbridge.com
Address: North America Headquarters – East Coast, 25 Corporate Drive,
Burlington, MA 01803 USA
Telephone: 1 818 230 9700

Survey Reveals Misconceptions About Investment Performance and Risk
Due DiligenceRisk Management

Survey Reveals Misconceptions About Investment Performance and Risk

A focus on short-term financial performance and misunderstandings about the nature of investment risk may have an impact on American investors’ financial well-being. According to a new TIAA-CREF survey, 36% of respondents look to one-year performance as the most important indicator of an investment’s return, with an additional 16% looking to quarterly performance as most important. Nearly half (47%) have purchased a fund based on its performance during the previous year rather than looking at its performance over a longer-term investment horizon such as five or 10 years.

“It’s important to look at the big picture when evaluating investment performance. One year or one quarter is a short period of time when you consider that many individuals are investing for 30 years or more,” said Roger W. Ferguson, president and chief executive officer of TIAA-CREF. “Fortunately, investors can avail themselves of a range of resources, including professional financial advice, which can help them make well-informed investment decisions and build portfolios designed to meet their specific financial goals—whatever they may be.”

While investors continue to grapple with the challenges of market volatility, it’s even more critical for them to understand key investment concepts around diversification, asset allocation, risk and returns. However, among those surveyed, 71% of American investors believe they can eliminate investment risk by having a diversified portfolio; in fact, while a diversified portfolio can help to manage investment risk, there is no way to eliminate it altogether. Similarly, although investors should maintain an appropriate level of risk in their portfolios, many are unclear about how that works: 53%think that higher risk guarantees higher returns.

All investors would benefit from better access to financial education on these topics. But for Gen Y, the challenges posed by unpredictable markets and their impact on investing decisions are even more pronounced. While 29% of all respondents misunderstand the nature of various asset classes, indicating that they believe that all investments offer the same level of risk, 40% of Gen Y report the same, and 64% of Gen Y think that higher risk guarantees higher returns.

Investing for Better Outcomes

Despite some misconceptions about investment performance, American investors have a clear picture of what they want from their portfolio. Two-thirds of investors believe it’s more important that their portfolio allows them to achieve their life goals, such as funding a comfortable retirement or paying for a college education, versus one-third who place more importance on a portfolio that consistently meets specific investment criteria, such as a certain percentage return.

In order to achieve their objectives for their investments, however, investors need to ensure they are not taking actions that can undermine long-term performance. For instance, 36% of respondents say that market volatility is the most likely reason they would rebalance their portfolio – in contrast to most advisors’ recommendation to ride out market fluctuations as part of a long-term investing strategy. Fewer say they are most likely to rebalance when most advisors would recommend – at a regular time of year like a birthday (21%) or after a life change such as marriage, the birth of a child or grandchild, or the death of a spouse (20%).

“Having a well-defined vision of one’s financial goals is a good first step for investors,” said Ferguson. “Once you have set your priorities, a financial advisor can help you find the approach that is right for you. By looking at your risk tolerance and your short-term and long-term goals, a financial advisor can help you pick the investment options that may work best with your financial plan.”

No matter what’s going on in the market, TIAA-CREF has focused on delivering long-term results for our clients at competitive costs for nearly 100 years. Morningstar has awarded 65 percent of TIAA-CREF mutual funds and variable annuities overall ratings of 4 and 5 stars, and the organization has won the Lipper Award for Overall Best Large Fund Company, based on delivering risk-adjusted returns, for three years in a row.

Impact Investment Market Opportunities for Wealth Management Sector
Natural CatastropheRisk Management

Impact Investment Market Opportunities for Wealth Management Sector

The report identifies key product and service offerings by major private banks in these regions. It also highlights key strategies adopted by wealth managers, fund managers and governments worldwide to target impact investors. The analysis is based on extensive primary research with key experts in the field to determine current trends and future expectations, enabling financial advisors to remain competitive in the wealth management industry. Impact investments have become a new investment option among HNWIs and UHNWIs worldwide. They have significantly increased in market size, despite their relatively recent development in 2007. JP Morgan and Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) estimated the market size of impact investments at around US$46 billion in 2013. In the UK market, impact investments valued GBP200 million in 2014, and are set to grow to GBP1 billion by 2016.

While 67% of impact investment funds are headquartered in Europe and North America, 70% of impact investment capital is being channeled towards emerging markets. Microfinance and financial services combined accounted for 42% of global impact investment funds in 2014. This was followed by energy at 11%, housing at 8% food and agriculture at 8%, and healthcare at 6%. Impact investments are becoming more important among European governments and UHNWIs. Demand for socio-economic impact investments is growing in emerging economies. Limited availability of developed social enterprises is a barrier for impact investment growth.

Different investment types – ‘finance first’ or ‘impact first’ – make the asset rather complex and difficult to value. This has led to the development of a separate wealth management division in private banks, often known as sustainable investing, responsible investing, or social finance divisions. While the majority of impact investment supply-side participants – HNWIs, corporate investors, asset managers, wealth managers and private banks – are based in developed countries such as the UK and the US, the majority of demand-side participants are based in emerging countries such as South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, China, Brazil and India. This structure generates gaps in the wealth management market, requiring further research. This report aims to provide an in-depth analysis of key market insights and the future outlook of impact investment over the forecast period.

This report covers areas like attitudes of wealth managers and private banks to targeting impact investors, a global market snapshot of impact investments, strategies for targeting impact investments and key market regulations as well as high-profile HNWI and UHNWI impact investors. The research helps understand significance of impact investments in the wealth management sector, and recognize how this asset class can have potential benefits to private banks. Be informed about latest market trends on impact investment products and services offerings in the six regions studied, and draw competitor analysis, Be aware of attitudes of wealth managers and private banks towards the future outlook of impact investments and Make informed decisions about impact investment growth and build better business strategies to target impact investors with the help of this report. Comprehensive table of contents and more on Insight Report: Impact Investments 2015 – Global Opportunities here.

Impact Investing Cleared for Take-off
Natural CatastropheRisk Management

Impact Investing Cleared for Take-off

 Two major hurdles to the broader adoption of impact investing are being cleared by structural changes in the capital markets and new guidance issued by the Department of Labor that makes it easier for retirement plans to offer environmental, social and governance (ESG) solutions to investors planning for retirement.

In a new whitepaper, “Impact Investing: The Performance Realities,” Merrill Lynch analyzes these structural changes and the growing body of evidence showing that investors can do well financially by investing in organizations that are doing what’s right for the environment and society. The paper tracks key developments in the impact investing arena, pointing to rapid growth and innovation that are due largely to growing client demand over the past decade, as well as the improving quantity and quality of ESG data.

A recent Merrill Lynch client survey of 1,500 U.S. investors found that awareness and education about impact investing are also among the keys to its continuing growth.

“More of our clients want their portfolios to reflect their beliefs on issues such as social mobility, climate change, women’s rights and other key issues,” said Anna Snider, author of the paper and head of Global Equity and Impact Investing Due Diligence, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management. “Many investors have held back because of a commonly held belief that investing for a better world requires a trade-off in performance. We believe that a combination of more reliable data, enhanced portfolio construction techniques and innovation in structures and investment approaches will start to turn that outdated assumption on its head.”

“Impact Investing: The Performance Realities” assesses the real state of impact
In developing the whitepaper, Merrill Lynch analyzed proprietary, academic and industry data to gain insight into the impact investing landscape. Key findings include:
• Many impact investments can be used in a market-based portfolio without a significant increase in risk, and can serve to lower overall portfolio volatility and aid in the risk adjusted profile of portfolios.
• The risks of many impact investments are not necessarily greater than their traditional counterparts, but they often are different – and understanding those risks is critical for investment decision-making.
• Most impact-oriented, diversified public equity and fixed income strategies can provide market-like returns – and some more-targeted public and private strategies may even outperform.
• Merrill Lynch found wide recognition that companies lacking good governance, which fail to consider environmental risks or disregard community impacts, are ignoring risks to their bottom line.
• New public-private financing structures are gaining interest from not-for-profit organizations, policy makers and government issuers, and there’s been a marked increase in social impact partnerships, green bonds and direct capital investments in thematic ventures such as health and energy.
• Institutional investors, who were among the first to incorporate impact investing criteria into their mandates, still account for the largest share of assets. Recent substantial growth in indexes, network services and other collaborative or aggregative sources of social responsibility data are now making it possible for all investors to use ESG data, along with traditional financial analysis, to make informed decisions about investing in sustainable companies.

Supporting client survey points to need for education and awareness
Merrill Lynch’s client survey of 1,500 U.S. investors found that awareness and education about impact investing are also among the keys to its continuing growth. The survey found:
• Younger investors – millennials under the age of 35 – are leading the way in the demand for impact investing investments. More than any other age group, they are interested in investing in companies that share similar values and are more likely to believe they can achieve competitive returns (59%).
• Millennials also place greater importance on the issues they consider important than on financial returns (47%).
• Nearly one-half (48%) of the 1,500 investors surveyed would be more likely to incorporate impact investing strategies into their portfolios if assured it didn’t mean sacrificing returns.
• Three in five (62%) investors aren’t yet convinced that impact investing investments can deliver competitive returns.
• Approximately half of investors would be spurred to add ESG investments to their portfolio if they better understood them.
• Fewer than 25% of investors are aware of the impact investment options available to them.

Global Wealth and Investment Management and impact investing
Bank of America’s wealth and investment businesses launched their impact investing platform in August 2013 with a range of investment offerings across asset classes and themes, extensive insight and thought leadership, and a major commitment from Bank of America totaling more than $70bn in lending, financing and other investments, as well as $100mn in grants, over a 10-year period.

As of September 2015, Bank of America’s investment businesses had more than $9.7bn in assets with a clearly defined impact investing approach. Of these assets, approximately $8.1bn are assets under management and $1.6bn are advised assets. These businesses include Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, U.S. Trust, Merrill Edge and the institutional investment business.

While there are many impact strategies that have long track records, as the investment approach is expanding, there are many strategies that may have limited performance history. Data availability and standardized frameworks are still evolving for the private and public impact investments industry and will be subject to multiple improvements in coming years. As such, reporting around the particular impacts of impact investing strategies are subject to the manager’s definition of those results, and investors should be aware of these issues prior to investment. Finally, as impact investing approaches are being more widely integrated into investment processes, it is important for investors to acknowledge that certain portfolio managers and other investors offering solutions in this space are still in their developmental stage, and investors need to be aware of these risks. 

Continued Expansion of the Calvert Responsible Index Series
Natural CatastropheRisk Management

Continued Expansion of the Calvert Responsible Index Series

Calvert Investments, Inc., a global leader in responsible investing, announced today the introduction of two new indexes in the Calvert Responsible Index Series: the Calvert Developed Markets Ex-U.S. Responsible Index (CALDMI) and the Calvert U.S. Mid Cap Core Responsible Index (CALMID).

“Calvert is committed to meeting the evolving needs of our clients with both active and indexed responsible investing products,” said John Streur, CEO, Calvert Investments. “Calvert has 30 years of leadership in helping responsible investors define and assess the environmental, social and governance impacts of the corporations they own. Combine this with our shareholder engagement and we can help investors drive real positive change in the world.”

The indexes are driven by the Calvert Research System, a proprietary research platform that synthesizes multiple sources of non-financial data, including environmental, social, and governance (ESG) data. Calvert analysts identify and weight the ESG factors that are most material within each of 156 sub-industries, then rate and rank every company to build the list of index constituents. The firm continues to build upon its global responsible investment research expertise with the newest additions to its responsible index series and related low-cost index funds that will track them and institutional separate account products.

Due DiligenceRisk Management

Shifting the Risk Landscape

Despite market fluctuations occasionally drawing deep breaths from investors as global economies endeavour to move on from the global financial crisis, investment managers have generally enjoyed returning stability and significantly improved trading conditions in recent years.

However, new and emerging challenges are shifting the risk landscape for investment managers, notably the growing threat of cyber-attacks — with cyber criminals finding ever more inventive ways to compromise systems — and increasing regulatory investigations. This poses a challenge not only for investment managers but also their insurer partners in finding ways to address the complexities as they arise and to mitigate the associated risks.

From a regulatory perspective, there is now far greater scrutiny of Financial Institutions across the US, UK and Europe. In the United Kingdom there has been an increase in the number of private warnings issued in recent years. These are a low-touch way of addressing less serious issues, as opposed to a full investigation for more serious and obvious regulatory breaches. While these, in effect, serve as a warning, usually with no lasting implications for the firm, any individuals implicated will likely see this recorded on their employment file, which could affect their prospects.

Private warnings can affect people within an organisation who may not be at the most senior levels, such as anti-money laundering officers or compliance managers. The only way they can challenge a private warning after it has been issued is via a judicial review, which is time consuming and costly. While insurance cannot fund the costs of a Judicial Review, it can provide funding to affected individuals to contest a potential action at the point where the regulator declares its intention to issue a private warning by way of a ‘minded to’ letter. This assistance can be extremely valuable for investment manager clients and is one example of how innovative insurance brokers and insurers are developing insurance products capable of meeting their needs in complex situations such as this.

Part of the issue for investment managers with much of modern-day regulation globally is that it is not prescriptive and therefore can often be difficult to interpret – or be confident you have interpreted it correctly. This has prompted many to voice the concern that it is not a question of if they have a regulatory issue but when.

There has also been an increase in more visible regulatory enforcement action, with numerous examples of investigations or fines being made against FCA-regulated entities. To date, most of the regulatory scrutiny has fallen on the banking sector and not in the investment management space. However, there are organisations within the insurance industry that are making provisions to assist investment managers as it is far better to help clients be prepared, rather than respond after regulatory action has been initiated. Regulatory investigations can take up considerable time and resources and insurance can be an effective tool to offset those costs while supporting investment managers in assisting the regulator with an investigation. Mitigation cover, which allows costs to be incurred under the policy prior to the insurer being notified, is a further development designed to help reduce or mitigate a third party claim, which is clearly valuable for both the insured and insurer.

The other issue of particular concern for many investment managers is the growing risk of a cyber breach and subsequent loss of data. This threat has also long been testing the minds of legislators as to how best to counter the threats. The EU Data Protection Directive, which will lead to specific legislation in the UK, will set out guidelines and penalties in the event that data is lost. Investors too are concerned by the threat of a cyber-attack and, in the same way that potential investors will ask if an investment manager has professional indemnity (PI) insurance, we expect investors will begin to routinely question if adequate cyber cover is in place in order to have the confidence to invest.

Part of the problem here is that while the insurance market provides a broad variety of cyber cover, through the traditional PI, crime and computer crime policies, the introduction of Cyber as a standalone product (available since the late 1990’s but something that has really come into focus in recent years) – which covers, for example, the specific costs relating to a data breach or non-damage business interruption, has caused confusion to insurance buyers.

It is not uncommon therefore to discover that clients don’t fully understand the level of cyber cover they already have and so it is for their broker to not only explain but identify any gaps. Following a broker’s assessment, some clients may say they do not want a standalone policy but it is still the broker’s job to identify the potential issues to ensure the client can make an informed choice.

Currently insurance market conditions are hugely favourable for investment managers due to the competition arising from ample capacity within the market. Investment management firms are very attractive to insurers — with a relatively benign recent claims history many insurers are keen to underwrite more business in this segment. This is also an attractive area to those insurers that used to underwrite tier-one banks and which are looking to diversify their portfolios. All of which spells good news for investment managers.

Demand for standalone cyber products is likely to increase and, given the availability of insurance capacity and the appetite of insurers to gain market share, so too will the availability of multi-year premiums with a locked in discount, which some clients have obtained this year.

Given these conditions, there is great potential for insurance to build its relationship with, and be of greater assistance to, investment management firms. The mature specialty insurance markets in London have a long history of innovation, which is a fundamental reason why London has remained a leading market for complex commercial risks globally. Brokers and insurers that are willing to identify where the exposures are for individual clients, and take a proactive approach to understanding the shifting complexities, will continue to produce innovative insurance solutions that can assist investment managers with these emerging issues, as they seek to grow their standing in this appealing area of financial services.

U.S. Foreclosure Activity Decreases 6 Percent in August
InsuranceRisk Management

U.S. Foreclosure Activity Decreases 6 Percent in August


RealtyTrac® (www.realtytrac.com), the nation’s leading source for comprehensive housing data, today released its August 2015 U.S. Foreclosure Market Report™, which shows a total of 109,561 U.S. properties with foreclosure filings — default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions — in August, down 12 percent from the previous month and down 6 percent from a year ago. The 6 percent year-over-year decrease in August followed five consecutive months with year-over-year increases.

The report also shows one in every 1,205 U.S. housing units had a foreclosure filing in August.
“Foreclosure starts in August continued to search for a new floor below even pre-recession levels, indicating the housing recovery of the past three years is built on a solid financing foundation,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. “But the continued rise in bank repossessions indicates more batches of bank-owned homes will be rippling through the housing market over the next three to 12 months as lenders list these properties for sale.

“This influx of bank-owned inventory may be good news for an inventory-challenged housing market, but buyers and investors interested in purchasing these bank-owned homes should understand they tend to be lower-value properties in areas where house values have not recovered as quickly and are more likely to have deferred maintenance issues that will need to be addressed,” Blomquist noted. “The average estimated market value of REO properties nationwide is now 33 percent below the average market value of non-distressed properties, and homes that were repossessed in the second quarter of this year on average had been languishing in the foreclosure process for 629 days.”
Foreclosure starts drop to lowest level since November 2005

A total of 45,072 U.S. properties started the foreclosure process for the first time in August, down 1 percent from previous month and down 19 percent from year ago to lowest level since November 2005. So far in 2015, foreclosure starts have averaged 49,362 per month, below the pre-crisis average of 52,279 per month in 2005 and 2006.
Foreclosure starts decreased from a year ago in 30 states, including California (down 29 percent from year ago), Florida (down 40 percent), New Jersey (down 38 percent), Texas (down 17 percent), and Maryland (down 26 percent).
Counter to the national trend, foreclosure starts increased from a year ago in 19 states, including New York (up 20 percent), Virginia (up 16 percent), Missouri (up 77 percent), and Massachusetts (up 61 percent) and Minnesota (up 20 percent).

Bank repossessions increase from a year ago in 36 states
There were a total of 36,792 U.S. properties repossessed by lenders through foreclosure (REO) in August, down 22 percent from previous month but still up 40 percent from a year ago, the sixth consecutive month with REOs increasing on a year-over-year basis. Bank repossessions in August were still well above their pre-crisis average of 23,119 per month in 2005 and 2006, but well below their peak of 102,134 in September 2010.
Bank repossessions increased from a year ago in 36 states, including Florida (up 23 percent), California (up 31 percent), Texas (up 168 percent), Ohio (up 35 percent), and New Jersey (up 295 percent).
“Foreclosure sales from the Trustee still require cash at the time of sale, so as a result lower-priced properties to mid-priced properties tend to sell for close to full value. Higher-priced foreclosures, while rare, can sometimes present an opportunity. With stricter lender requirements we are most likely a few years away from foreclosures truly having an impact on home values in the area,” said Greg Smith, owner/broker at RE/MAX Alliance, covering the Denver market in Colorado where foreclosure activity was down 45 percent from a year ago.
Counter to the national trend, bank repossessions decreased from a year ago in 13 states, including Georgia (down 55 percent), Illinois (down 22 percent), Wisconsin (down 7 percent), Connecticut (down 36 percent), and Kentucky (down 45 percent).

Scheduled foreclosure auctions drop to nine-year low
A total of 41,308 U.S. properties were scheduled for a future foreclosure auction in August, down 14 percent from the previous month and down 19 percent from a year ago to the lowest level since May 2006 — a more than nine-year low. Scheduled foreclosure auctions in August were about one-fourth of their peak of 158,105 in March 2010 but still above their pre-crisis average of 33,634 a month in 2005 and 2006.
Despite the national decrease, scheduled foreclosure auctions increased from a year ago in 23 states, including New Jersey (up 38 percent), Pennsylvania (up 18 percent), New York (up 64 percent), South Carolina (up 38 percent), and Massachusetts (up 21 percent).

Nevada, Maryland, New Jersey post highest state foreclosure rates
Nevada foreclosure activity increased 4 percent from a year ago in August — driven largely by a 233 percent jump in bank repossessions — and the state posted the nation’s highest foreclosure rate for the first time since September 2014. One in every 507 Nevada housing units had a foreclosure filing in August, more than twice the national average.
Maryland foreclosure activity was unchanged from a year ago despite a 429 spike in bank repossessions, and the state posted the nation’s second highest foreclosure rate for the third month in a row. One in every 534 Maryland housing units had a foreclosure filing in August.

New Jersey foreclosure activity increased 3 percent from a year ago — driven largely by a 295 percent year-over-year increase in bank repossessions and 38 percent year-over-year increase in scheduled foreclosure auctions — and the state posted the nation’s third highest state foreclosure rate for the third month in a row. One in every 539 New Jersey housing units had a foreclosure filing in August.

Florida’s foreclosure rate dropped out of the top three highest among the states for the first time since June 2012 thanks in part to a 33 percent year-over-year decrease in foreclosure activity in August to the lowest level since April 2007.
South Carolina foreclosure activity increased 11 percent from a year ago in August, boosting the state’s foreclosure rate to the fifth highest nationwide. One in every 863 South Carolina housing units had a foreclosure filing in August.

Other states with foreclosure rates ranking among the top 10 nationwide in August were Illinois at No. 6 (one in every 921 housing units with a foreclosure filing), North Carolina at No. 7 (one in every 970 housing units), New Mexico at No. 8 (one in every 1,005 housing units), Indiana at No. 8 (one in every 1,037 housing units), and Ohio at No. 10 (one in every 1,037 housing units).

64% of Leading APAC Bankers Feel Unprepared for a Cyberattack
Due DiligenceRisk Management

64% of Leading APAC Bankers Feel Unprepared for a Cyberattack

As incidents of cybercrime continue to make headlines across the globe, financial institutions are giving more attention to cybersecurity, but a new survey by FICO suggests that APAC banks may be lagging. In a survey conducted at FICO’s Asia Pacific CRO Forum, 64% of senior bank executives from the region said they feel unprepared for cyber-attacks today, despite cybersecurity being a clear priority for them.

The survey showed uncertainty from bankers about their institution’s preparedness, with 55% of senior APAC bank executives were unsure if their organization currently ran regular audits of data and networks to check if the company had suffered data loss.

An additional 58% of respondents said they had not heard of a predictive analytics alternative to traditional rules-based SIEMs (security information and event management).

However, awareness appears to be rising with 73% of respondents said their CEO/ company board had prioritized a review of cybersecurity in the last 3-6 months.

The survey was conducted at the 2015 FICO Asia Pacific CRO Forum, held earlier this year in Bangkok, Thailand. A total of 34 senior risk officers and banking executives representing 23 financial institutions across the region participated.

Dan McConaghy, President of FICO Asia Pacific, said, “For many banks, cybersecurity is a shared domain of the IT and Fraud departments. In order to effectively combat ever-evolving cybercriminals, it is necessary for financial institutions in Asia Pacific to connect fraud and cyber information, systems and investigations. This holistic approach is needed to
limit damages to customers, systems and the bank’s reputation.”

FICO has leveraged extensive IP assets from its banking technology, including streaming analytics and anomaly detection techniques used within its market-leading FICO® Falcon® Fraud Manager software, for the creation of an analytics-driven cyber security solution that is highly differentiated from current industry offerings and complementary to existing infrastructures and investments.

Land Insurance Industry Boosted Thanks to Merger
InsuranceRisk Management

Land Insurance Industry Boosted Thanks to Merger

The merger is just part of the South Carolina based brokerage firm’s expansion across the US. The company will merge with Mississippi Land & Lakes, a Meridian based real estate company that has decades of experience in timberland, farmland, forestry consulting and recreational land sales and management. The firm is considered one of the premier recreational design and development companies in the Southeastern United States, making it an influential partner for National Land Realty.

Cathy Haguewood, a broker for MLL, stated that the merger was a real lifeline for the business. ‘We have been looking for a new real estate partner for 18 months, and are thrilled to be joining the National Land Realty team. I haven’t seen another company with such professionalism and attention to detail, in addition to their world-class marketing program.’

The two businesses offer complimentary services, with Mississippi Land & Lakes’ unique recreational consulting services set to integrate well with National Land Realty’s industry-leading marketing and brokerage services. Jason Walter, CEO of National Land Realty said of the merger: ‘This merger continues National Land Realty’s expansion across the country, bringing more opportunities for our land sales and investment customers. Not only does the Meridian team have a wealth of real estate experience, they also offer comprehensive recreational design and development services, which includes lake and lodge development, roads and wildlife food plot layout and construction.’

Economic Confidence Rebounds amongst Italian Business Leaders
Due DiligenceRisk Management

Economic Confidence Rebounds amongst Italian Business Leaders

Confidence amongst Italian CEOs bounced back in the first quarter of 2015, following continued low commodity prices and the European Central Bank’s significant quantitative easing package. The YPO Global Pulse Confidence Index for Italy rose 5.3 points to 61.6, its highest level for a year.

Confidence rose in all three key indicators within the survey, with Italian CEOs reporting that they expected to increase revenue, headcount and fixed investment in the 12 months to come.

Across the European Union, CEOs remained positive about the prospects for their organisations and the wider business environment. The YPO Global Pulse Confidence Index for the EU climbed 1.3 points to 62.5, matching the record high that it achieved in the second quarter of 2014.

For the first time in the Global Pulse Index’s six-year history, EU confidence is now higher than the global composite level of 61.5, and only marginally below the world’s two most optimistic regions, Asia, which landed at 63.6, and the United States, which came in at 63.3.

“The results indicate that Italy is receiving a timely boost in economic confidence, after a challenging few years in Europe, following favorable economic policies, low fuel prices and the continued devaluation of the euro,” said Federico Grom, founder and CEO of Grom and a member of the YPO Italy Chapter. “Business leaders in Italy will likely remain cautious throughout the next year, aware of the many threats to sustained economic growth.”

The YPO Global Pulse Confidence Index declined 1.0 point in the April 2015 survey to 61.5 from 62.5. The global index continued to track closely to its peak level for the cycle, but growth prospects around the world were increasingly uneven. While confidence rose in Asia and the European Union and remained high in the United States, the indices for Latin America and non-EU Europe both tumbled to 52.4, their lowest levels since the YPO survey began.

Key findings

Italian business leaders positive about short-term business climate: Two-thirds of Italian CEOs expected the business and economic conditions affecting their organisations to improve in the next six months, with the other third predicting that conditions will remain the same.

Looking ahead 12 months, Italian business leaders were more conservative. Twenty percent indicated they expected to increase their headcounts within the year; 40% indicated increasing capital spending during the same time period.

Confidence levels converge across region: In first quarter 2015, confidence levels evened out across the major European economies, as many countries that had experienced extremely fragile levels of confidence over the past few quarters bounced back. France jumped 9.1 points to 61.2, its highest level since the second quarter of 2011, Greece climbed 8.1 points to 58.8, and Germany gained 2.6 points, landing at 60.8, its highest level since the final quarter of 2010.

In contrast, with its forthcoming national elections in the balance, confidence in the United Kingdom remained almost unchanged, edging up by just 0.1 point to 68.7, still in firmly optimistic territory.

YPO Global Pulse Confidence Index

The quarterly electronic survey, conducted in the first two weeks of April, gathered answers from 2,211 chief executive officers across the globe. Visit www.ypo.org/globalpulse for more information about the survey methodology and results from around the world.

About YPO

YPO (Young Presidents’ Organization) is a not-for-profit, global network of young chief executives connected through the shared mission of becoming Better Leaders Through Education and Idea ExchangeTM. Founded in 1950, YPO today provides 22,000 peers and their families in more than 125 countries with access to unique experiences, extraordinary educational resources, access to alliances with leading institutions, and participation in specialised networks to support their business, community and personal leadership. Altogether, YPO member-run companies employ more than 15 million people around the world and generate US$6 trillion in annual revenues. For more information, visit www.ypo.org.

Life Insurers Challenged by Competitive Landscape
InsuranceRisk Management

Life Insurers Challenged by Competitive Landscape

Chief financial officers (CFOs) at North American life insurance companies say they continue to face sizable competitive challenges to their profitability, yet only a small number (20%) believe they are well prepared to respond to this competitive environment.

Life insurers cited competition (61%) and cost management (61%) as the top challenges to their profits this year, and seem only somewhat better prepared (46%) to address the cost pressures, according to a Life Insurance CFO Survey conducted by global professional services company Towers Watson’s (NASDAQ: TW).

Insurers also acknowledge that the competitive environment (78%) is the biggest challenge to their growth objectives, and the majority rank the economic environment (56%) and regulatory landscape (56%) as the main impediments to meeting their risk objectives. In response to their various challenges, insurers are trying several measures, such as expanding into new products or markets (44%), increasing distribution (39%), and implementing or improving risk management processes, including financial discipline, and risk and capital processes (39%).

“Life insurers face difficult market conditions characterized by moderate return on equity, flat to sluggish sales growth and protracted low interest rates. These threats make countering their competitive challenges even more daunting,” said Elinor Friedman, Towers Watson’s Life Insurance practice leader for the Americas. “Insurers have significant work ahead, yet they have opportunities, too. By developing an organized, comprehensive strategy that firmly connects growth and profit objectives with risk goals, they can counter these strong competitive challenges and exert more control over their business.”

The survey established that CFOs are grappling with technology implementation even as they continue to understand the competitive benefits it provides. They ranked technology limitations (56%) as the primary internal obstacle in realizing their profit goals, and information technology (83%) as the greatest cost and expense management challenge, which far outpaced regulatory and accounting compliance (44%). Nearly three-fifths (59%) said the effective use of technology to create value with customers is their leading distribution-related challenge.

“Operationally, the survey showed that insurers need to utilize technology more effectively,” said Friedman. “This spans multiple functions of their business, from financial modeling, pricing and product development, to distribution and customer service. With the right technology and financial models in place, life insurers can turn data into discernible information, which will help them better understand and serve their customers, and improve top- and bottom-line growth.”

The survey also revealed that insurers’ satisfaction level with their financial models varied by use and that the full benefits of their models have not been realized. While three-quarters expressed a high level of confidence with model results for cash-flow testing and over half (56%) for valuation, insurers are less enthusiastic about other functions, such as hedging (36%) and pricing (22%). Further, insurers are only moderately satisfied with the timeliness of their models. At best, half are extremely pleased with their hedging models, but their satisfaction trails off to a low of 9% for their economic capital or capital

Business Owners Save 300 Hours a Year with Automated Accounting App
Due DiligenceRisk Management

Business Owners Save 300 Hours a Year with Automated Accounting App

IP Commerce, Inc., developer of innovative products and services that automate business processes for small business owners, launched the newest version of Commerce Sync today.

Commerce Sync is a software application that automatically transfers sales information from a point of sale (POS) system or e-commerce solution directly into accounting software on a daily basis.

“Commerce Sync is an extremely valuable tool that helps optimize and streamline our business processes and ultimately saves us valuable time and money.”

Drawing on its profound understanding of both point of sale (POS) solutions and accounting software, IP Commerce created Commerce Sync to alleviate the burdensome task of manual accounting. The application transfers sales information, including taxable and non-taxable income, tips, discounts, sales tax and refunds – for businesses with one or many locations – into any QuickBooks or Xero account. Commerce Sync is available to business owners that use either Stripe or Clover POS for accepting payments.

U.S. small and medium sized businesses spend billions of hours each year managing their finances. Commerce Sync relieves business owners of this burden by reducing the time spent on manual data entry and increasing the accuracy of their financial accounting. In fact, Commerce Sync saves the average small and medium-sized business (SMB) 300 hours a year – the equivalent to $15,000 annually.

“As a start-up, it is imperative to make sure everything is in place as we grow,” said Bill Willkins, Founder and Chief Operating Officer of PupJoy, a Chicago-based online specialty store for dog lovers. “Commerce Sync is an extremely valuable tool that helps optimize and streamline our business processes and ultimately saves us valuable time and money.”

Commerce Sync has a simple activation process and is fully customizable. The latest version of the app introduces multiple levels of service that range in feature sophistication thereby catering to a wide range of business needs.

“We want to empower merchants to focus on what matters most – growing their business,” said Charlie Wilson, President and Chief Executive Officer of IP Commerce. “With the ultimate goal of helping small business owners and entrepreneurs succeed, we have spent the last year listening to our customers and realizing the true value of the service we offer. We are thrilled to make these innovative enhancements readily available to the market.”

Zurich Responds to International Demand for Comprehensive Cyber Policy
Due DiligenceRisk Management

Zurich Responds to International Demand for Comprehensive Cyber Policy

 It’s never been more important to protect a company’s balance sheets and reputations from cyber risk. Over the past decade we have seen an increase in the costs to organisations as a result of cybercrime and despite advances in cyber security it is clear the hacker is currently winning the battle. Data breaches, network outages, corrupt data, lost customers, regulatory fines, litigation claims, and cyber-extortion payments are issues the majority of companies rarely have the necessary resources to effectively address. Therefore, to protect and help organisations get back to business following a breach, Zurich has developed ‘Security and Privacy ‘ protection and ‘DigitalResolve’.

Zurich’s research highlighted that outside of the US global companies main cyber concern was their first party exposures as a result of a breach rather than their potential liabilities.

For this reason ‘Security and Privacy Protection’ coverage has been specifically developed to cover these first party exposures as well as cover for 3rd party liabilities and includes a new cover to provide loss of income following a data breach or damage to reputation.

‘Zurich Security and Privacy Protection’ also includes a global breach response service called ‘DigitalResolve’. Following a breach, Zurich clientswill be provided with a single dedicated Incident Manager, with 24/7/365 availability to manage the resources needed to recover from a damaging cyber event. The ‘DigitalResolve’ team of global trusted expert providers, co-ordinate and triage the cyber-attack incident response from it’s first notification right through to it’s successful conclusion. ‘

 

Insurers Say Predictive Modeling Is Boosting Their Profits
InsuranceRisk Management

Insurers Say Predictive Modeling Is Boosting Their Profits

Towers Watson first surveyed P&C insurers on their predictive modeling techniques in 2009; since then, a growing proportion of insurers have reported positive impacts on rate accuracy (98% of insurers in 2014 versus 68% 2009), loss ratios (91% versus 57%) and profitability (87% versus 57%).

The survey shows that the increasing percentage of insurers currently using predictive modeling for underwriting, risk selection, rating and pricing continues the long-term growth trend across every line of business compared to last year. For personal lines, auto experienced the most growth (97% in 2014 versus 80% 2013). Two commercial lines (property and auto) sustained year-to-year increases of 19 percentage points in the use of modeling. Specialty lines exhibited the largest increase (44% versus 13%).

Concurrent with insurers’ confidence that the value of predictive modeling for their business is growing, the survey notes its applications are being deployed more broadly across the enterprise, beyond just risk selection and pricing. While less than 30% report they are currently using predictive models to evaluate fraud potential, claim triage, litigation potential or target marketing, an additional 36% anticipate doing so over the next two years across all those applications.

“Insurers’ profitability in the competitive P&C market is hard earned,” said Brian Stoll, director, P&C practice, Towers Watson. “However, many are recognizing the value of predictive modeling to favorably impact loss costs, expenses and premium growth. In fact, more than nine out of 10 (92%) personal lines carriers say sophisticated risk selection and rating techniques are an essential driver of performance, while 86% of small to midsize commercial lines tell us it’s either an essential or a very important driver.”

Insurers say price integration (overlay of customer behavior and loss cost models in setting prices) is one area where progress has been slow. Two-thirds aren’t using price integration for any products, while most have not yet moved on to price optimization for products.

“The disparity between insurers’ optimal use of price integration techniques and the actual level of implementation is surprising. Insurers may be missing the strong competitive advantage that model integration provides,” said Klayton Southwood, director, P&C practice, Towers Watson.

In other notable findings, nearly two-thirds (65%) of respondents characterize their companies as data-driven organizations. For insurers that don’t, access to data and data warehouse constraints are the primary reasons, as opposed to philosophical considerations or disinterest. Carriers exhibit varying levels of adoption of approaches commonly considered to be characteristic of data-driven organizations.

Personal auto carriers are making progress with usage-based insurance (UBI) offerings, with nearly one-quarter (23%) having launched products or planning to in the next year. Further, a clearer road map is emerging for insurers to implement UBI in their auto operations — nearly three in five personal auto (59%) and commercial auto (58%) insurers say they’re in planning stages or considering adoption.