www.wealthandfinance-news.com Q2 2022 &wealth finance i n t e r n a t i o n a l How Can Incumbent Banks Meet the Neobank Challenge? In this issue:
www.wealthandfinance-news.com 2 Wealth & Finance International - Q2 2022 Editor’s Comment Welcome to the Q2 edition of Wealth & Finance International Magazine. As always, with every issue we endeavour to provide fund managers, alongside institutional and private investors with the very latest industry news in the traditional and alternative investment spheres. 2022 has been a promising year for businesses and the trends of recent times are making a huge impact on the way businesses develop. Sustainability has become more prevalent and we have seen an influx of companies doing all they can to show strength in this practice. Not only have we seen more green measures for the environment, but we have noticed greater sustainability in the work-life balance for employers and employees. It is this sort of equilibrium that is truly motivational for all, as each one of us looks to strike a balance between success at work and success in life. This has elevated our experience of business as a whole whilst seeing this improvement on the lives of many. With that being said, we would like to present a diverse range of game-changers in the world of wealth and finance. Join us as we take a closer look at some intricate ideas, inspirational success, and many plans coming into fruition. Here at Wealth & Finance we truly hope that you enjoy perusing this issue and we look forward to seeing you again in Q3. Sofi Bajor, Editor AI Global Media, Ltd. (AI) takes reasonable measures to ensure the quality of the information on this web site. However, AI will not assume any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, correctness or completeness of any information that is available through this web site. If errors are brought to our attention, we will try to correct them. The information available through the website and our partner publications is for your general information and use and is not intended to address any particular finance or investment requirements. In particular, the information does not constitute any form of advice or recommendation by us or any of our partner publications and is not intended to be relied upon by users in making or refraining from making any investment or financial decisions. Appropriate independent advice should be obtained before making any such decision. Any arrangement made between you and any third party named in the site is at your sole risk and responsibility.
Wealth & Finance International - Q2 2022 3 4. News - Almost A Quarter of UK Business Leaders Fear Their Company May Not Survive This Financial Year Due to The Cost Of Living Crisis - The Access Group Acquires Reckon Accountants Group 6. Cloud Insurance: SaaS Solution of the Year 7. McCrea Financial Services Ltd: Finances In The Future! 8. cheqd: Going Above And Beyond For Success 10. URECO Property: A Financial Revolution 11. Ozone API Launches ‘Beyond Compliance’ Open Banking Solutions 12. How Can Incumbent Banks Meet the Neobank Challenge? 14. Longstanding Xero Director Launches Libeo In the UK Contents
www.wealthandfinance-news.com 4 Wealth & Finance International - Q2 2022 Almost A Quarter of UK Business Leaders Fear Their Company May Not Survive This Financial Year Due to The Cost Of Living Crisis Research by Nucleus Commercial Finance shows how rising prices are affecting companies as well as consumers, with concerns surrounding fuel costs and energy bills worrying UK business leaders the most • 72% of business owners think the current cost of living crisis will affect their business in some way • Almost one in four (23%) fear their company may not survive this financial year if prices continue to soar • The rising cost of fuel is currently their main cause for concern, followed by higher energy bills and cash flow • Over two thirds (68%) think their company will suffer the consequences of the cost of living squeeze, as customers won’t be able to afford their products or services anymore • For more information, please visit this page. Almost a quarter of UK business leaders (23%) fear their company will not survive the financial year due to the current cost of living crisis, new research has revealed. Around one in ten (9%) said that if the situation doesn’t change, they’d expect to go out of business in the next five years. The figures come from a new survey by Nucleus Commercial Finance, which investigated how soaring prices are affecting businesses across the country. Across the board, almost three quarters (72%) of owners said the current cost of living crisis is a cause for concern for the survival or growth of their business. With prices hitting record highs recently1, the high cost of fuel is at the top of the list of the most worrying outcomes of the current crisis for business leaders. The rising cost of energy is also a major cause for concern. According to a previous report2, small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) have faced an average gas bill hike of more than 250% in the last year. Additionally, unlike domestic customers, businesses aren’t covered by the energy price cap3 which could mean even higher running costs in an already volatile market. Cash flow, employee retention and higher transportation costs are also amongst UK’s business leaders’ biggest worries at this time. Biggest concerns for UK business leaders this financial year: • Rising cost of fuel • Rising cost of energy • Cash flow • Employee retention • Transportation costs The majority of business leaders are also concerned the current crisis will not just affect their business directly, with higher supply costs and bills, but indirectly too. In fact, with price hikes affecting consumers so highly, over two thirds (68%) of those in senior management roles expect to lose customers, as they believe that people will not be able to afford their products or services anymore. As part of their research, Nucleus Commercial Finance also spoke to several business owners directly, to find out how the current crisis is impacting them, and what measures they are taking to combat the rising costs. Rob Williams, Director at Hawthorn, a UK based clothing manufacturer, said: “Producing fabric is a part of every order we complete, and this involves using machinery which uses a lot of power and needs to be run for a considerable amount of time. Increasing energy prices therefore directly increase the costs of weaving fabric, and in the world of clothing manufacturing, where margins are often tight, this is becoming less easy to absorb.”, says Rob. “This is not the only difficulty faced in terms of rising costs, however. The price of cotton has increased recently, too, with a surge of 41% in 2021. Cotton is the most commonly used fabric in the items our customers commission us to produce, so this increase, along with higher energy costs affecting fabric production, are big contributing factors to the amount of margin we can make. “It’s important to us that our customers get a competitive price for their clothing, and that we preserve high levels of quality. However, this is proving to be more difficult at the moment, which is why we are exploring standardised designs, alongside custom-made. This way, we’ll be able to offer them a more cost-effective solution if their budget does not allow for fully bespoke” Chirag Shah, Founder and CEO at Nucleus Commercial Finance, commented on the research: “With costs sharply rising for both businesses and consumers, it’s no surprise that leaders across the country are worried about the survival and growth of their company. Our research has shown the price of fuel, transportation and energy, as well as cash flow and employee retention seem to be the most concerning aspects for UK businesses right now.“ While this is no doubt a challenging time for many companies across the country, there are measures that leaders can take to potentially ease the pressure and help with at least some of these aspects. For example, if energy bills are a big concern at the moment, you may want to review your premises and whether your current establishment is the most cost-efficient option for your business.
Wealth & Finance International - Q2 2022 5 The Access Group Acquires Reckon Accountants Group The Access Group (“Access”) and Reckon today announced they have reached agreement for Access to acquire Reckon Accountants Group, including APS and Reckon Elite, in Australia and New Zealand. The acquisition reinforces Access’ commitment to the region and importantly to the accountant’s industry, signaling its intent to rapidly advance its tax and practice management offering for ANZ accounting firms. Today’s announcement marks the 10th acquisition in three years for Access in the Asia Pacific region, building on the purchases of Attaché, Unleashed, Joyful, Volcanic, Sage Australia and Asia businesses, Definitiv, EziTracker, Fastrack360 and Vincere since 2019. Reckon is a leading provider of practice software and business management solutions designed specifically for accounting firms. The Access Group has gone from having no presence in the region to 2019, to today supporting more than 35,000 customers, with 900 colleagues, across five countries. This continued investment in the region is proof of the UK-headquartered Group’s focus on the Asia Pacific region as a centre of growth and becoming a leading provider of world-class business software solutions. Commenting on the announcement, Kerry Agiasotis, President of The Access Group Asia Pacific said: “The acquisition of Reckon Accountants Group further reinforces Access’ commitment to the accountant’s industry in Australia and New Zealand, which commenced with the purchase of HandiSoft as part of its acquisition of Sage’s Australia and Asia businesses in 2021. With this being our 10th acquisition in the region in just three years, it shows our strong commitment toward rapidly scaling Access Asia Pacific to best support our customers evolving needs.” “We are bringing together two businesses with a strong track record over more than 30 years delivering end-to-end solutions tailored to the specific needs of accounting firms in ANZ. With The Access Group and Reckon Accountants Groups combined industry experience, capabilities and resources, we are uniquely placed to continue to deliver the breadth and depth of software solutions that accounting firms require to adapt their practices to their clients’ rapidly changing needs.” “The combination of our expanded tax and practice management portfolio coupled with cloud technologies and the Access Workspace platform, come together to create an exciting set of new possibilities for our accounting customers. From hosting existing applications, integrating with new cloud point solutions or replacing with whole new cloud native application suites, our aim is to give our clients confidence that we will support them into the future at a pace that works for them.” Reckon CEO Sam Allert said: “This partnership is good news for our customers, our employees and for the market. The proposed transaction agreement with The Access Group represents a compelling offer, which is also clearly in the best interests of our shareholders. The Board has always maintained that the sum of the company’s parts is worth more than what has been attributed to the whole, and this proposed transaction validates this. “For our APS and Reckon Elite customers, we are thrilled to bring them the deep specialisation that Access boasts within the practice management market, and offer an extended portfolio of solutions that will deliver added value to our customers and theirs. “We have spent more than 20 years imagining ways to create brave, new and progressive accounting firms. This acquisition is the natural next step to ensuring continued investment in our vision to simplify business for the benefit of all our customers. “In joining with The Access Group our teams can broaden the service and solutions available to customers, build on the vision for growth we all share, and ultimately make this a reality for our growing client base. “In addition, Reckon will be in a much stronger position to unlock further shareholder value through the growth and development of the remaining Business and Legal Groups not captured in this agreement. These divisions have represented approximately 70 per cent of the company’s revenue and a significant portion of EBITDA prior to the initiation of this agreement. “With this transaction, Reckon will be well placed to accelerate the strategy of delivering a complete suite of accounting & payroll cloud solutions to help small businesses turn ambition into accomplishment, building upon our 114,000 cloud customers, as well as pursue practice management opportunities in the legal market. Proceeds from the sale will also allow the company to reward shareholders with a special dividend, continuing our trend of providing a stable income stream,” Mr Allert said. Access’ vision is to deliver cutting edge software solutions that can be progressively adopted in a way and at a pace that works for each business and each employee. By integrating new software applications with legacy ones through Access Workspace, businesses can choose their own pathway for advancing their systems and allow employees to establish their own personalised Workspace. “We are transforming our customers’ ability to give every employee the freedom to do more through fully integrated software as a service solutions, and the acquisition Reckon Accountants Group complements and accelerates this vision for Accounting firms in ANZ,” concluded Mr Agiasotis. The Access Group and Reckon reach $100m agreement to sell the Reckon Accountants Group, with leading Practice Management solutions APS and Reckon Elite joining Access’ flagship HandiSoft suite.
www.wealthandfinance-news.com 6 Wealth & Finance International - Q2 2022 SaaS Solution of the Year “I find it quite fascinating that a student from a small country in a big world could eventually end up with multiple clients across the globe. Because typically insurance players work cross borders and they know some guys with similar digitization problems.” - Axel Sjøstedt , CEO of Cloud Insurance Axel Sjøstedt was studying at university and did some tech consulting on the side to pay his student financing. One day, a large insurance broker approached him with a problem of undigitised experience. They received reports via snail mail and manually entered the information into an old system. After seeing a company as big as this using slow and outdated methods, Sjøstedt believed there was an opportunity to help insurers worldwide with their digitalization. After finishing their studies, Sjøstedt and Håvard L. Nilsen realized an opportunity for a new business and founded their InsurTech SaaS. Functionality “The old ways of doing things simply don’t cut it. Younger consumers have grown up with sleek apps and digital processes and expect products relevant to them specifically. As a result, insurance firms need to improve their customer experience to meet these new demands. And this is what Cloud Insurance was built to do. Our mission is to help insurance firms innovate and offer attractive products to their customers.” - says Sjøstedt. The company provides extensive and seamless policy and claims management capabilities, distribution network, customer journey, reporting functionality, and much more. Its technology lets clients build a digital insurance solution to launch new markets, onboard new partners, and improve customer experiences. One of the biggest boons of Cloud Insurance is how it lets firms spend less time worrying about the technology and more time on offering customers the best products. Sjøstedt said, “if you work with us, our goal is that IT should be an enabling factor so these talented product developers and business developers can go out and do what they want to do in order to reach their business goals or grow their business.” Clients successfully integrate the Cloud Insurance core system with their corporate IT infrastructure, add new products, go live within as little as four weeks, and have improved both back- and frontend functionality. They claim a 50% decrease in time-to-market, a 40% rise in revenue, and a 50% boost to customer satisfaction. More about Cloud Insurance features here. Global outlook When the company was founded in 2016, the founders made a critical decision. They wanted to become a global business. This international growth is now well underway. Starting in their home country of Norway, they gained customers and users in more than 20 countries on five continents. Recently they’ve opened an office in the UK, launched a partner program in South Africa, and signed several big contracts in USA, Australia and Sweden. Success with Insurance Distribution Cloud Insurance has also gradually focused on the distribution side of insurance. One of their clients, Maiden Life and General (MLG) was struggling to find the IT resources to build the necessary functionality for their current distribution partners. Cloud Insurance created a seamless, end-to-end customer journey platform for the MLG team to handle the administration of their policies and premium collection. Today, this platform has become a key strategic component of their partner solutions. By being able to simply plug into the platform integrated with white labeling capabilities, MLG’s distribution partners now offer a diverse catalog of insurance products as well as tailor their online offers to meet the specific needs of each distribution partner. In addition, they improved their time-to-market by 50%, earning them a significant competitive advantage while making things simpler for their partners. With rising trends, such as embedded insurance, there are many more ways to meet potential customers. Firms need to be ready to adapt and reach people wherever they might be. APIs for more opportunities Cloud Insurance’s APIs are designed for those insurers looking to rise to the challenge. Not only can they sell through various third parties, but they can also access dynamic pricing by leveraging IoT sensor data to change prices on an individual level. Additionally, companies can implement microinsurance policies that can be turned on and off at will. Next steps The insurTech set several big goals for this year. These include increasing its customer base, expanding into more geographies, and moving into new verticals. Additionally, they’re looking to increase their financials by 2.5-times compared to 2022. To top it all off, Cloud Insurance is also exploring a Series A funding round. Company Name: Cloud Insurance Contact Name: Alex Astengo Contact Email: [email protected] Web Address: https://www.cloudinsurance.io Feb22158
Wealth & Finance International - Q2 2022 7 Finances In The Future! No one knows what the future will be, but with the right team at your side, it is possible to prepare for it. McCrea Financial Services Ltd has built a reputation for excellence in this field, providing much needed support for their clients. In the Retirement Planning Awards 2022, the team were named Best Pension Income Planning Specialists – Scotland. We look at the reasons behind their success to uncover more. Relationships lie at the heart of McCrea Financial Services. Every decision they make and piece of advice they give is designed to support their clients through potentially life-changing situations. Proudly independent, this is a team that knows its advice is tailored specifically to fit the needs of their clients with no outside influences at all. The team has taken on clients from a host of different backgrounds, including individuals, SME business owners and the management of various group schemes. Each requires unique support which the McCrea Financial Services team are happy to provide. Instead of focusing purely on a financial solution, the team take a holistic approach which explores high quality planning, excellent customer service levels and regular reviews, engagement, and contact. The team’s success in this field is what inspired them to broaden the services they offer. McCrea Mortgages with specialist fully independent advice for all mortgage and protection matters to further supplement the financial advisory service. Working in tandem, the firm has proven itself to be a powerhouse for the sector. The ultimate demonstration of the team’s considerable skills comes from the way in which a significant amount of the team’s business comes from existing client referrals. Putting together an exceptional team has been crucial to setting the high standards to which clients have become accustomed. Whilst the work that is done for clients is always professional, it is also as personable as possible at all times. The importance of building strong relationships is what drives the company forward, and why people continue to come back for financial advice. The value of good customer service is not lost on the McCrea Financial Services team, as they know that for some clients a chat about the weather, their family and their next holiday is just as important as finding out how their funds have performed that year! The challenge across the financial sector is bringing in new advisory talent from a diverse range of backgrounds. Despite being a relatively small business, this has not tempered the ambition of the firm in this regard. Whilst continuing to seek experienced advisors, McCrea Financial Services is also trying to bring through trainees and graduates to gain experience in a well run Mar22419 organisation. Given the size of the firm, such a decision is a large commitment, but it is one which ensures that new talent has a chance of entering into the financial planning sector. Before looking ahead, it’s worth considering the difficulties that the team have been able to overcome in the last couple of years. Remote working brought about new possibilities and has resulted in a firm which is now more agile with excellent blended working opportunities. Previously expansion would have required a larger office with big overheads. Now it needs the development of tech-based solutions to increase the incredible efficacy of the business. When looking to the future, it’s worth considering those options which will consider you in your entirety. The importance of people is what has driven the team at McCrea Financial Services to their current success. We celebrate their remarkable achievement and cannot wait to see what they do next! Company: McCrea Financial Services Ltd Name: Elaine Hamilton Email: [email protected] Web Address: mccreafs.co.uk The ultimate demonstration of the team’s considerable skills comes from the way in which a significant amount of the team’s business comes from existing client referrals.
www.wealthandfinance-news.com 8 Wealth & Finance International - Q2 2022 Going Above And Beyond For Success cheqd is a new revolutionary company that is striving for the betterment of the future. It is creating a world in which individuals have total control over their personal data – an issue that is becoming increasingly prevalent thanks to the rise of technology. Javed Khattak is the company’s devoted CFO, named CFO of the Year in 2018, reclaims his title as CFO of the Year in 2022. cheqd is building a better future – one where consumers and organisations can establish trustworthy relationships, control their personal data, and maintain a sense of security. cheqd firmly believes that companies should not make money off people’s data without their consent. This means their informed and clear consent, not just pressing ‘I agree’ when the convoluted terms and conditions are displayed. To make this a reality, cheqd provides solutions that enable verifiable credentials to be transferred between stakeholders in a trustworthy, secure, and efficient manner. By extension, cheqd endeavours to support and enhance the current data economy business models and establish the flexibility and incentive to create new ones. As such, it achieves this by offering bespoke commercial models and governance structures, which have all been built upon cheqd’s own public permissionless blockchain network. This network features cheqd’s dedicated crypto-token (CHEQ) which is used as a form of payment within the ecosystem. In addition, the company supplies a suite of mobile and backend software tools that selfsovereign identity (SSI) vendors can embed in their own client-facing software. Consequently, the company, through great passion and devotion, has acquired numerous achievements. For example, CHEQ has been listed on Osmosis, the largest decentralised exchange in the Cosmos ecosystem. In addition, the Company has also successfully bridged its token onto the Ethereum blockchain allowing access to CHEQ in the Ethereum ecosystem as well. It is already listed on two centralised crypto exchanges; Gate.io and Bitmart, with more exciting news in the pipeline. Over 60 validators were welcomed on board once the cheqd network was launched, including 20 self-sovereign identity application vendors, digital identity start-ups, investors, and Cosmos-native or cross-chain network validators. The network has been an enormous success, and already millions of CHEQ tokens have been traded. cheqd’s clients are expected to include governments, public organisations, multinational companies, banks, financial services companies, Apr22173 Web3 projects, and consultancies that handle personal documents and identification. “But it won’t stop there,” explains Javed Khattak, CFO, “we will be able to serve any client that needs to identify a unique person or object, real or virtual.” There are numerous examples as to how this could work – for example, in the event that a self-driving car fuels up at a charging station, both objects would be able to identify each other’s identity with the aim to pay for the transaction using the same ecosystem. “The SSI industry and market is mostly untapped and continuously growing; we seek to introduce a plethora of benefits to the market, helping save billions worth of money while improving ‘security’ of personal credentials for individuals. cheqd aims to become the market leader in doing so and I believe, is already leading the pack,” Javed states. Behind the company is a team that Javed describes as a ‘family’. He believes that prior to hiring, it’s important to ensure that the individual shares the same values and that they’ll be compatible with the existing internal culture. In addition, each team member should be both exceptional and passionate about their area of expertise. cheqd’s team meets the aforementioned criteria – the team share the collective goal to be a force for good in the world, and they are inspired to leave a positive legacy. Despite its global reach, there is a great effort to remain in contact and support each other. The close-knit family feel comes as no surprise – with a team of empathetic, creative, and fun people, cheqd has cultivated an environment where individuals can thrive. Fraser Edwards, co-Founder and CEO, and Ankur Banerjee, coFounder and CTO of cheqd both agree that the company wouldn’t be the same without Javed. Ankur shares, “Javed has absolutely been critical to the success of a young and ambitious startup like cheqd. From the very first conversation that we had, I saw that unlike everyone else we spoke to about coming onboard as CFO, Javed had a real passion for the blockchain space. Instead of just being interested in the numbers and finances, I’ve always appreciated that he takes the time to understand the technology and product aspects and contributes meaningfully to building out our product roadmap.” Fraser tells us, “I still consider ourselves at cheqd extremely lucky to have Javed as part of the team and still remember myself and my co-Founder, Ankur, being shocked by the quality of his application for a company so young as ours. Javed brings a unique and priceless combination of deep experience, endless imagination and focused pragmatism that mean we have achieved far, far more than we would have without him.” With regards to the acceleration of the firm, Fraser adds, “The speed we have been able to execute with, $3.3m raised, product launch, over 60 partners, inside a year is a huge advert for his skillet. On a personal level, I already see Javed as someone who will be a lifelong friend, one of the many benefits I’ve had from cheqd.” Not only does Javed know how to improve the workplace – for the sake of people’s freedom and positivity – but he knows how to elevate a business, in line with goals, values, and ever-evolving dreams. Therefore, cheqd is not simply about numbers and finances, it is about friendship and exploration of goals for employers, employees, and clients. Internally improving each service it offers, Javed guarantees cheqd’s technical strategies reach every layer of its clients business. Fraser shares, “It’s genuinely refreshing in this deeply complex space at the intersection of Web 3.0, digital identity, and privacy technology to see someone like him who also is keen on the ethical aspects of what freely-accessible digital identity can do in terms of improving financial inclusion.” A balance between financial security and growth, alongside human connection, is where businesses need to be. And Javed achieves this for his team with his expert knowledge and guiding hand. All of these comments reflect the entire company overall, as Javed has led it to accomplishment time and time again. A significant portion of the company’s success can be attributed to Javed, who serves as cheqd’s Chief Financial Officer. Prior to his position at cheqd, Javed led businesses in a variety of capacities, including as a Founder, a CEO, CFO, and CTO. Throughout his
Wealth & Finance International - Q2 2022 9 career, he has established and still leads multiple successful businesses, such as Seerbytes, Zisk Properties, Zisk Investments, and Javed Khattak Consulting. His success in business has led Javed to sit as a Board Member and Advisor to several other companies, including regulated funds. Moreover, Javed is a highly-skilled mathematician, who is a Fellow of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries in the UK. He writes, “I truly believe maths is the mother of all sciences. In addition, I don’t like being confined to a particular role or a subject. And at times I have found the modern day world to be puzzled by it. But there are countless examples of polymaths throughout history who have helped change the world. While I don’t consider myself a genius, I certainly believe that polymaths make for better professionals and their cross-disciplinary exposure sparks creativity as well as offers them the ability to view a problem from several lenses.” Within the business, Javed revels in his involvement in the different areas, as this allows him to gain a 360-degree view. As a result, he maintains a deep understanding of the challenges and problems and is equipped to use them to drive results-based outcomes. This is, in part, one of the reasons why Javed enjoys working with cheqd and its team. Both Fraser and Ankur welcome Javed’s drive and passion to be more than just a CFO for the project. In essence, he has done it all – but his success over the years has come with many challenges. Throughout both his professional and personal life, Javed has used challenges to bolster his learning. “I don’t believe in shortcuts,” he says, “I have found that, often, doing the right thing is the most difficult of options available in a given situation. The higher the stakes, the more difficult it is. But over the long term, if you have the patience to persevere, it pays off in a big way!” His approach to his role as CFO has made him a hit amongst his colleagues – Eduardo Hotta, the Head of Marketing and Community, testifies that Javed has contributed a great amount to structuring cheqd’s finances and navigating the company through unexplored blockchain regulatory waters. Eduardo continues, “through his impressive skills, he managed to decrease our burn rate and therefore increase our company’s runaway. Another important thing to mention is his contribution in shaping cheqd’s amazing work culture.” It appears that for Javed that the work never ends – but this is the way he likes it. He is entirely devoted to his work and is excited about the future of cheqd, along with the ways in which he can contribute to its success. In 2022, cheqd is developing core identity functionalities, and helping its partners in bringing to life successful use cases within their industries. cheqd is in the process of adding a deeper integration for its network and token into the Cosmos and other blockchain ecosystems, which will help the company to further engage with the market. Furthermore, the company is exploring the emerging Web3 use cases, such as DEX ecosystems, DAOs, NFTs, Gaming, and DeFi applications, which it will leverage for its network strength. Contact: Javed Khattak Company: cheqd Web Address: http://www.cheqd.io Personal Web Address: http://www.javedkhattak.com
www.wealthandfinance-news.com 10 Wealth & Finance International - Q2 2022 A Financial Revolution The challenge with property investment is finding people who are willing to treat your money as they would their own. The team at URECO Property do precisely this, setting out to revolutionise the market as a whole. Their incredible efforts have been recognised in the Ethical Finance Awards 2022. Awarded the titles of Best Ethical Property Investment Company 2022 – UK and W&F Accountability Excellence Award 2022, we thought it the right time to dig a little deeper into the successes of this astonishing organisation. The investment experience is one which is fraught with risks, but it doesn’t have to be. Certainly, that’s the perspective of the team at URECO Property. With a simplified fee-free model and a commitment to co-investing in every opportunity, the team have worked hard to change the way in which people see property investment. Honesty and transparency are qualities often missed in the financial markets, but most welcome to investors. This fund primarily approaches HNW, UHNW individuals (minimum investment £50K) and family’s offices. The firm doesn’t charge any upfront fees and only profits when its investors do. By placing this process at the backend of the process, the firm are unique in the market. That said, the various commuter belt properties that the team have developed target annual returns of 6%–8% p.a. net to the fund. Since opening their doors, the URECO team have managed to deliver numerous direct, underwritten opportunities to investors, cutting out middle-management wherever possible. URECO Property works alongside its own fund manager, URECO Capital, whilst also owning and operating its own design and construction firm. This allows the team a holistic perspective on the industry, able to control the build process as far as possible without any inflationary pricing and counterparty risk. Because URECO has invested capital rank their investment as subordinate to the senior capital provided by investors, it is their investments which are harmed first. As such, it’s little wonder that investors trust the team to deliver – their risk are essentially underwritten. Because the whole process is essentially under the purview of the URECO team, it makes decisions that support the needs of its investors. Investing in the commuter belt, therefore, has been transformative for the team. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the world has changed and the housing market is no exception. Before the pandemic, the team chose these areas because London was becoming unaffordable, and people were moving out. The change in how everyone lives, and works has seen a massive rise in working from home, and people wanting property to enjoy. The success of URECO has seen the team operating their FCA regulated development investment fund offering clear advantages to investors of diversification and pooled capital. The firm is also doing an internal series A raise to raise working capital to keep up with increasing demands and interest. What is clear from the continued interest is that what the team has to offer is something that people are still intensely interested in. Since opening their doors, the team at URECO have made enormous strides for the financial industry. Their work has shown there is a new and better way forward that can benefit more people than ever before. With such an impressive track record at their fingertips, it’s little wonder that so many people continue to flock to the team to take advantage of their considerable success. We cannot wait to see what they do next! Company: URECO Property Name: Philip Goodman Email: [email protected] Web Address: www.urecoproperty.com May22030
Wealth & Finance International - Q2 2022 11 Ozone API Launches ‘Beyond Compliance’ Open Banking Solutions Ozone API, developer of the leading standards-based software for open banking and open finance, has launched a suite of solutions that enable banks to move beyond compliance and convert their APIs into more strategic and commercial channels. The enhancements to Ozone’s open API platform give banks and financial institutions the ability to comply with PSD2, create new open banking and open finance revenue streams and deliver services including Variable Recurring Payments (VRPs) and Confirmation of Payee (CoP). Ozone’s founding team led the creation of the UK open banking standard, and delivered the sandbox for the Open Banking Implementation Entity (OBIE). Ozone now powers open finance interfaces for more than 50 banks and financial institutions around the world, delivering high-performing, standardscompliant open APIs. Variable Recurring Payments (VRPs) VRPs are a relatively new addition to the open banking standards, first introduced in the UK standard last year. They allow TPPs to grant a long lived consent to customers for repeating automated payments within defined parameters, enabling a much broader range of payments use cases. The upgrade to Ozone’s platform provides banks with the tools needed to expose VRP APIs and monetise the opportunity. Ozone was the first to enable VRP when the standards were updated last year and powered the VRP Hackathon in partnership with Mastercard, Worldpay, Accenture and others; which showcased some truly innovative solutions from participants (see full list of winners here https:// vrphackathon.com/). The CMA has set a deadline of July 2022 for the UK’s 9 largest banks to implement VRPs for sweeping services and these banks are expected to launch their own commercial or premium VRP offerings imminently. Ozone’s market-leading Open API platform ensures all other institutions will not be left behind when the CMA9 banks introduce VRPs. Chris Michael, CEO and Co-Founder of Ozone API, said: “The market is evolving beyond simple compliance. With Variable Recurring Payments launching in the UK, the moment has arrived where Open Banking starts to become commercial.” Simplified Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) Ozone is also excited to launch the Ozone Authenticator. This is a mobile application which allows financial institutions to deliver a full authentication and consent management solution to satisfy regulatory and business requirements for Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) relating to open banking and open finance. The Ozone authenticator can be delivered as a stand alone app or integrated into the financial institution’s existing mobile application. Confirmation of Payee (CoP) Ozone also offers an advanced solution to help banks protect their customers from fraud. Account-to-account payment fraud is a growing problem, with the latest figures showing that losses caused by authorised push payment (APP) fraud soared by 71% in the first half of 2021, which has now overtaken the amount stolen in card fraud. As the risk of APP fraud intensifies, CoP is becoming a minimum requirement for banks. The Ozone CoP solution helps any banks deliver inbound and outbound CoP APIs, either standalone or as a simple bolt on to their open banking API solution. Open finance Open finance is now starting to become a reality around the world. The Central Bank of Brazil recently launched the country’s open finance regulation and it is only a matter of time until the UK does the same. Ozone enables all financial institutions to deliver high performing APIs that reduce the complexity of open finance and reduce the cost of ownership. Ozone has already seen great success in Brazil, powering open banking APIs for many of Brazil’s banks through its partnership with Tecban. Huw Davies, Co-founder and Chief Commercial Officer at Ozone API, said: “Since PSD2, banks have faced a serious challenge in implementing open API technology. We enable banks to meet this challenge and overcome the complexity of building open banking services that comply with standards. The next step is to help banks move beyond compliance and use open banking technology to create commercial channels. The Ozone API solves the headaches of complying with PSD2 and enables banks and financial institutions to build new revenue streams in the era of open banking and finance.” Oct21051
www.wealthandfinance-news.com 12 Wealth & Finance International - Q2 2022 How Can Incumbent Banks Meet the Neobank Challenge? The momentum behind the global neobank movement shows no sign of slowing down in its challenge to incumbent banks. Last month, Nordic neobank Lunar raised USD$77M in additional Series D funding, which valued the bank at more than USD$2B. The Aarhus, Denmark-based bank, founded in 2015, also launched launched a crypto trading platform and B2B payments for small and medium business customers. On the other side of the world, in February Indian neobank Niyo raised USD$100 million in a new financing round and announced plans to add lending and insurance to its offerings. Niyo was also founded in 2015 and claims to have more than four million customers, with 10,000 new users signing on each day. The well-known neobank model After several years, the neobank model is by now familiar. Most operate exclusively online and offer customers digital-first, mobile-friendly products and services, often with lower fees and lower interest rates, and accessible via an easy-to-use smartphone app. Services vary from basic online banking and debit/credit cards: to loans, investments and savings: up to merchant accounts, insurance - and even equity trading and cryptocurrency. Neobanks typically start off by specializing in particular products and services. But for many, the ultimate aim is to build a multi-country, full-service digital bank offering multiple products and services - including current accounts, loans, international payments, insurance and investments. New technology means fewer financial burdens Unlike incumbent banks, neobanks don’t have the financial burden of staffing and managing traditional physical branches. They also benefit from not having legacy technology assets and overheads to maintain. They can pursue profitability without the cost burdens of infrastructure, physical premises, staff, and - initially, at least - shareholder dividend payouts. Neobanks’ use of cloud technology means they avoid having to spend heavily up-front on expensive IT infrastructure. And thanks to standardized open banking APIs, neobanks can build and bring to market products and services that enable faster, more frictionless fund transfers between account holders, other financial providers, and transactions with merchants. With these foundations in place - and sustained by a steady flow of private equity cash - neobanks are free to focus their time and effort on creating and launching easy-to-use current accounts and other products that prioritize a top-notch customer experience. They also have the freedom and flexibility to come up with other innovative digital-based services for customers to access and use online or on their mobile phone. They can test and then roll out new digital features and products quickly and easily - and then tear them down just as quickly and easily if they don’t work out. Taking on customer frustrations The rise of neobanks comes at a time when customers have become dissatisfied and frustrated with established incumbent banks for a number of reasons - a lack of transparency, an absence of useful new features, plus hidden or expensive fees for everything from overdrafts to closing your current account and moving to another bank. Focusing on customer frustration and other pain points is central to neobanks’ ongoing success. As consumer trust in neobanks grows and users become more confident and familiar with technology, incumbent banks are set to lose customers and market share. Reaching niche and underserved markets The retail banking market is overcrowded. But neobanks are finding pockets of opportunities with significant but underserved sub-markets - such as millennials, gig economy workers and micro businesses. It’s an approach that’s paying off. Neobanks are squeezing the market share of older established banks from both ends: at one end, with personal accounts and other consumer-facing services, and more recently at the other end with business-focused offerings such as buy-to-let loans for property investments and bridging loans for small businesses. Banking after the pandemic Neobanks were already in a strong position before the Covid-19 pandemic. But the consequences of the pandemic have created new opportunities for them. Small and medium businesses need access to extra credit to help their recovery from the economic slowdown caused by Covid-19. In addition, people who were stuck at home during national lockdowns are now using online and mobile banking services significantly more than they did so previously. These changes have reportedly accelerated digital banking’s progress by up to ten years. Neobanks are set to benefit from these developments. But if neobanks can benefit, so too can incumbents. However, to do so, they must Jun21296 It is estimated that there are more than 250 neobanks worldwide. Incumbent banks should focus on faster time to market for new products and service plus new ways to add value and increase loyalty with their customers, says Abdul Naushad, CEO of Buckzy Payments.
Wealth & Finance International - Q2 2022 13 abandon their outdated methods, overcome their reluctance to change, and adapt their operations and their mindsets to customers’ changing needs and wants. Make digital the priority Wherever possible, incumbents need to emulate their younger, more agile rivals. They must prioritize digital - in particular mobile. Many incumbents currently spend their money in the wrong way, on large, multi-year IT projects that eventually lead to the launch of new services. But this approach takes too long and is too expensive. It’s a similar story with new apps and features. At the moment, a new app developed by an incumbent gets held up for at least a month in a staging area where Risk and Compliance will test and check it. That’s crazy. Accelerate time to market for new services The answer is to implement test-driven development. Here at Buckzy, we want our developers to write code: submit it: and 30 minutes later it’s in production. We’ve automated black box testing and UAT (user acceptance testing), to ensure that the new features and functions we introduce are secure and don’t interfere with existing systems. Time to market has to be the priority. At Buckzy, risk and compliance experts are part of our development teams and validate new code as it’s created, which accelerates the entire testing and resolution cycle and so reduces the time to market for new features and services. Importantly as well, incumbents should take on board the idea, “don’t make perfect the enemy of good”. By this we mean that rather than delay the launch of a new product or service because it’s not complete, banks should not be afraid to launch it anyway, but then be prepared to make small incremental changes, updates, and improvements on an ongoing basis. Fresh ideas and new approaches In their ongoing contest with neobanks, the principal challenge for incumbent banks is to be more open to fresh ideas and new approaches. These might initially seem costly with no guarantee of an immediate financial return. But their value is longer term and lies in restoring trust, retaining existing customers – and even gaining new ones. Incumbents can ensure they stay trusted service providers to their customers by creating useful and worthwhile services that generate new incremental income, and which also define and drive the future direction of the wider industry.
www.wealthandfinance-news.com 14 Wealth & Finance International - Q2 2022 Longstanding Xero Director Launches Libeo In the UK • Libeo is a fully integrated and automated business-tobusiness invoice management and payments platform, bridging the gap between invoice management, payments, reconciliation and accounting • A European leader and specialist in B2B payments with a network of over 150,000 interconnected companies, Libeo has just launched in the UK • Libeo is off to a strong start with its UK launch accompanying technology and network approach offering the best payment experience • The expansion will be led by Glen Foster, Managing Director for the UK & Northern Europe, with vast experience in start-ups, accounting and growing businesses, having previously worked at Xero as Sales Director, UK & EMEA After several successful years of operation in France and across mainland Europe, businessto-business (B2B) payments specialist Libeo has officially launched in the UK market. Libeo is a firm European leader in digitised payments, and is now moving into a more mature market in the realm of digital transformation. With the leadership of newly appointed Glen Foster, Managing Director for the UK and Northern Europe, the move will be powered by Libeo’s competitive advantage and its innovative differentiating features. THE MARKET FOR B2B PAYMENT SOLUTIONS IN EUROPE AND THE UK Across Europe, there is still strong reliance on offline, pen-and-paper payment methods. While B2C payments have become mostly digitised in recent years, only around 25% of B2B invoices are filed electronically, according to Eurazeo. The UK is Europe’s most mature fintech market for consumers, both in terms of size and usage, according to the EY Global Fintech Adoption Index. However, the rate of adoption of fintech among SMEs in the UK is far lower, with 49% of UK businesses still using paper cheques to pay suppliers. Users of B2B payment solutions have heightened expectations regarding their payment experiences. This is because of their experience as retail consumers, making them aware of the possibilities for business payments processes. Technology must be used to add value to B2B payments, innovating the customer experience through automation and integrated processes. The UK has seen greater growth in payment solutions, with many new players constantly joining the market. The effect this growth has on stakeholders is twofold. On one hand, they are convinced that payments are a hot topic in the industry. On the other hand, they struggle to understand what the difference is between these different players in the industry, and what each one provides that is different. The large number of companies entering the B2B payment market reflects a shift taking place, where they attempt to fill the gap between consumer and business payment solutions. However, despite being surrounded by several competitors, Libeo is proud to offer their users the best payment experience. CURATING THE BEST PAYMENT EXPERIENCE Within the digital payments market, Libeo offers a unique and innovative user experience, with many flexible solutions. Firstly, Libeo has accounts payable (AP) and accounts receivable (AR) capacities, while most of its competitors specialise in one or the other. By enabling users to both pay and get paid, Libeo offers greater convenience and possibilities to its clientele. By relying on all major payment rails, including Open Banking, BACS and Faster Payment, Libeo’s platform digests the complexity of payment rails, crafting the best experience for clients. In addition, Libeo’s platform provides one clickpayments with no limits on amount, and without the need to have money stored in a digital wallet or to log in to a bank account. Libeo payments work with all bank accounts, as well as foreign currencies. Further to this, Libeo is one of the only platforms to combine advanced workflows with the best payment experience. This gives Libeo a competitive edge against many other payment solutions platforms that offer generalist tools with simplified workflows, or fail to offer integrated services and systems, forcing accountants to spread their work across several apps created specifically for accounting, automation and payments. By integrating a comprehensive payment experience with advanced workflows, Libeo clearly sets itself apart from the competition. This enables Libeo’s users, whether business owners or accountants, to not only save more time with automated invoice management, but to reduce direct and indirect costs associated with manual invoice management, ultimately facilitating more efficient, data-driven businesses. A NEW MANAGING DIRECTOR TO SUPPORT THIS EXPANSION Libeo’s expansion into the UK is supported by the appointment of Glen Foster, a new Managing Director for the UK and Northern Europe. Glen has an extensive history of working with accounting software firms, and scaling up businesses. His focus is on driving world-class customer experiences powered by cutting-edge technology, while stimulating quality revenue and growth in SaaS companies. Glen is passionate about providing SME business owners with financial clarity, and giving them the tools needed to make their business succeed. He is a strong believer in the quality services and products Libeo provides their customers, and is equally passionate about Libeo’s values and mission to allow SME business owners to focus on the things that matter. Managing Director for the UK and Northern Europe, Glen Foster, said: “I’ve always been passionate about SMEs and accountants and bookkeepers, and Libeo gives me the opportunity to continue to support both, with great technology. I know all too well the challenges with paying and getting paid, and the impact that can have on a business owner. Equally, I’ve seen over the last 15 years how accountants specifically have widened their services to incorporate things such as supplier payments for clients, giving clients the time back to focus on running successful businesses.” Co-founder and CEO of Libeo, Pierre Dutaret said: “Our success in France is a strong indicator of the needs of the sector. The issues faced by our French customers are similar to those we identified in the UK - particularly within the SME segment - and we are confident that we can respond to them in a very relevant way. Our expansion into the UK, supports our ambition in becoming the European leader in business-to-business payments.”www.wealthandfinance-news.com