5 Renovations With the Best ROI in 2021

When remodeling your commercial property, one of the most important considerations is the return on investment (ROI). You want to make your property attractive to others so they’ll stop in or use your business. Plus, your clients and other companies see your building often, so you want to portray the right picture to them.

Any time you put money into your commercial property, you want to get that money back or even get more than what you put into the investment. Here are five renovations with the best ROI in 2021 to keep your business booming.

Remodeling the Kitchens

Most commercial properties have a kitchen of some sort or even kitchen appliances in a break room. Remodeling a kitchen in any building is bound to increase the property value. Freshening up the kitchen can be affordable, and it will have a great ROI in the end.

Add in some energy-efficient appliances and a new backsplash or countertop for a simple remodel. You don’t have to be fancy with it. Just keep it updated and modern.

Going Green

Implementing eco-friendly appliances and systems in your commercial property will lead to savings in energy usage. If your energy system is outdated, it’s time to take it out and invest in something newer and more efficient.

You can get a new heating and cooling system, install low-flow plumbing, put in a cool roof, and upgrade your windows. These investments will help you save money on utility bills and attract customers who have environmentally charged ideals.

Updating Safety Features

Older commercial buildings can be hazardous, especially if you haven’t renovated them for many decades. Safety should be your number one priority as the owner or operator of a commercial building if you have numerous clients and employees working there every day.

Safety features might include a fire alarm system, burglary alarms and even a designated shelter for inclement weather. Adding in new safety features will decrease the risk of a worker or visitor getting injured. Safety renovations will save you time and money overall.

Investing in Curb Appeal

The outside of your property is just as important as the inside when it comes to return on investment. Curb appeal renovations often bring in the highest ROI. Every time someone comes to your property, the first thing they see is the outside of your building.

Every year, take the time and money to invest in curb appeal. Add new mulch, keep the lawn looking trimmed and green, and add plenty of walking space for clients and customers. It will attract more people to your business when the outside looks just as clean and neat as the inside.

Upgrading the Cosmetic Features

Finally, you can boost your ROI by renovating the cosmetic features of your commercial property. For example, old flooring, chipped paint and fixtures that aren’t doing your building justice won’t bring you in as much money as possible.

Take the time to investigate your property and take note of things that could use improvement. Install new flooring, doors, lighting fixtures or anything else that needs to be updated. Keeping things fresh and modern will do wonders for your ROI.

Get to Work

Begin these renovations as soon as possible. Investing in your commercial property in these ways will bring you the highest return on your investment this year.

CBDCs Impact on Payments Market: A Push for Repositioning Barriers for Market Newcomers


For the payments market, government-backed digital currencies could accelerate innovation by setting novel technology benchmarks, as well as rearrange some of the entry barriers for new companies looking to set up shop.

A recent survey of central banks has revealed that 86% are actively doing research into central bank digital currencies (CBDCs), 60% are already in the experimenting phase and almost 15% doing pilot testing. With CBDCs heavily gaining traction across governments worldwide, Marius Galdikas, CEO at ConnectPay, has discussed how this technological solution could impact the payments market players.

The idea of CBDCs has been circling around for a few years now, however, with the growing attention towards cryptocurrencies and money digitalization in general, banks are now focusing on how to put the idea into practise. For instance, the Bank of England together with HM Treasury has created a dedicated task force to explore potential use cases of CBDC in the UK market, as well as monitor international developments regarding the topic. Norway is pushing ahead with CBDC, too, while China is already in the process of testing digital Yuan out in the real world.

“CBDCs could be a game-changer for the payments industry. Aside from the clear benefits, for instance, low-cost cross-border payments or boosting financial inclusivity, it could also enhance domestic payments system resilience, slightly shifting dependence from the international payment processing networks,” Galdikas said.

According to Galdikas, CBDCs could be a major catalyst for the payments market, as government-issued digital currencies would be as easily accessible as current e-money payment methods, yet, in some respects, it could surpass what current market players have to offer.

“Although it has immense potential, the idea still has a long way to go. Essential decisions need to be made concerning how state-backed currencies could inherit the properties of cash, for instance, working offline or addressing the double-spending problem. Also, it’s highly likely that the central banks will not take on the responsibility to develop and implement the technology themselves, yet will want to retain the control of the currency itself,” Galdikas explained. “There is no best way to address these types of questions and that’s why specialized teams and task forces are being assembled — to come up with an approach that would combine different tools into a single solution.”

“Therefore payment service providers will have to step up their game to match the benefits CBDCs would bring to the table, which means moving up into a higher gear when it comes to innovation and delivering unique market solutions. They’ll have to be more strategic in communicating their strengths and value proposition to their target audience, too,” he added.

While outlining the benefits, Galdikas also noted how this would impact market newcomers. “CBDCs would definitely set an even higher standard for greater technological competence, which means setting up shop for new businesses is going to need a lot more investment from the get-go.”

“That said, I believe that some of the barriers would drop, for example, the requirement that only credit institutions have access to payment systems, such as SEPA. All in all, the CBDC, with inherent properties of cash, would allow for a wide variety of innovative financial solutions,” he concluded.

This could be a pivoting moment in the industry, which would greatly contribute to building a more financially inclusive society. However, a lot of questions must be addressed before then, with the main ones being technological implementation, as well as privacy concerns, which might arise due to CBDCs being state-backed.

How Gold Investments Help in Business Risk Management

Gone are the days when gold was limited only to jewellery or to décor. When you think about the history of gold, you’ll find that many families have passed it on from one generation to the next as an asset. And, you should, too, particularly if you’re in business. Investing in gold can contribute so much to counter risks, making it a good strategy for risk management.

Whether or not you’re a seasoned businessman, it doesn’t change the fact that risks for businesses are always present. You can never really determine when a sudden change in the economy will happen, much like how the world was struck by unprecedented changes last year. Hence, you need to adopt effective asset protection strategies and make some crucial considerations to avoid dire consequences. One of the best options today is through investing in gold.

To convince you further of its viability, here are some great ways gold investments can help in business risk management:

1. It Offers Security of Value

One of the most compelling advantages of investing in gold is that its price will be consistently going up. Gold brings forth security of value, and this security can help smoothen out rough seas that your business might go through.

With gold, it’s normal that, sometimes, the price will go down, but it’ll always go back up again. For instance, if you bought a piece of jewellery five years ago and had it assessed by a jeweller, the value will have already increased. This becomes even so much truer with bigger gold bullions or assets, which businesses typically invest in.

With an appreciating asset, this means that you’re earning passive income. Should your business fall into the risk of low income, you can have a hedge through your asset. As a result, your financial portfolio may not suffer as much as it would’ve without this stable investment.

2. Offers Protection Against Inflation Risks

One common enemy of businesses, small or big, is inflation. If you’re not careful about following through the flow of inflation, it may kill your investment. This means losing everything you’ve worked so hard for.

Given this inherent risk of inflation in the economy, it’s never advisable just to put all your business resources in cash. Physically, the cash is kept in a bank, yes, but its value will deplete in a few years because of inflation.

Here’s a simple illustration of such a scenario: USD$100 in the past could buy you more than it can today. So, for instance, with your business, USD$10,000 can give you more today than it could ever do five to ten years from now.

To protect your business against inflation, it’s a good idea to place your eggs in different baskets so you can have a mix of stable assets. One of these stable assets is gold. There are online portals like https://learnaboutgold.com/ that can give you a better idea of how gold works as a stable asset to provide a hedge against inflation. Typically, this has something to do with its growth and stable history.

Such benefit is very advantageous to businesses, given that inflation usually comes along with dire effects. Some of the negative effects of inflation include the following:

  • If inflation continues to soar, this means that customers of your business will have lesser purchasing power. In effect, they may buy less from your business than they used to in the past.

  • Inflation can get out of hand, whereby businesses’ employees will also demand more in terms of their wages simply because their current salary could no longer buy them as much of their needs as it used to. When you’re forced to increase salaries, this means lowered profit margin for your business as well.

  • Inflation can also lead to disruptions in business planning, resulting in lower investments.

3. It Keeps Your Inventory Stable

When prices continue to soar because of inflation, this affects not just the purchasing power of customers, but also that of businesses. This is a risk that’s inherent as there really is no controlling the possible instability of economies. If your business puts too much faith on cash savings, then chances are you’ll succumb to an unstable inventory level.

Investing in gold can help you cover up the value losses of your cash savings. When the value of your cash gets too low, such that your inventory suffers, that’s when you can sell or trade gold, or make gold investments. You, then, can use the proceeds to level up your inventory.

With this, in a way, your business is protected against this business risk. Imagine how much you’d lose if your inventory won’t be able to keep up. You aren’t just losing profits, but you’re also losing potential customers that would’ve stayed happy doing business with you.

4. It’s A Good Way to Save Money For The Future

Over time, your business may need to expand so it can keep up with growth and competition. If you don’t have expansion in mind, then you’re not maximizing your business’s potential.

However, to achieve this business goal, you’ve got to save for it. Not only do you need to have a regular flow of income coming in, but you’ll also need to have money for your future investments. This means that your business has stable assets to keep up with the cost of future investments.

Apart from protecting your business against inflation, as explained in the sections above, having gold assets is also a good way to save business income for the future.

 

Conclusion

With the list above, now, you can clearly see that there are many benefits to choosing gold as your investment. When other assets don’t offer that much of a stability, gold is there to save the day. But, before you get too excited, don’t forget that it’s not always going to be positive all the time. Any investment form, gold included, isn’t without risk. The key is for you to ensure you’re investing in good providers, and that you’re able to weigh all pros and cons for your business before making a decision.

Home buying: Is There Really a Financially Best Time to Buy?

Buying a home is one of the biggest investments we make in our lives. However, while the average house price in the UK is valued at £249,633, the cost of mortgages among other factors means that the total cost of the home-buying process can vary between individuals.

Even then, house prices continue to rise year on year. In England, house prices have increased by 7.6% in the past year. Competition spurred on by the housing crisis may mean that this increase is set to continue. This raises the question: when is the best time to buy?

‘Immediately’ is not always the answer. The true cost of a house will depend on your personal finances when you buy, and it can vary depending on which financial schemes you use to help you on your homebuying journey. Jumping into a sale too soon can cost more than it’s worth.

Here, we explore the options for buying your house, what schemes you can take advantage of, and when to buy your home.

Government schemes

On 3rd March 2021, Rishi Sunak unveiled his latest budgetary plan for the nation. Included in this were schemes for home buyers which may make the process of climbing the property ladder easier for many people.

Stamp Duty holiday extension

The Stamp Duty holiday extension reduces the tax paid when buying properties. Under this scheme, homebuyers will only pay stamp duty on properties above the value of £500,000. This scheme was set to end on 31st March 2021. However, the Government has extended this until 30th June 2021.

Buying a property within this timeframe could save homebuyers up to £15,000 before the tax break ends.

The sale of properties must be completed before the 30th June deadline. However, the opportunity to save on Stamp Duty could be extended based on your buying choices. One national housebuilder, St. Modwen Homes, has its own Stamp Duty holiday extension which is available on a selected number of homes until 30th September 2021. Buying a new build property with this company can help you save thousands beyond the Government’s June deadline when you buy houses in Eastwood or houses in Newton-le-Willows, among many other locations. The housebuilder has also launched a new ‘Mortgage Paid’ offer for those buying a new-build home. Available on selected homes at developments across the country, the company will essentially pay up to six months of your mortgage. So, if you’re ready to buy now, it may already be the best time! The offer is only available for a limited time, but being six months mortgage free could save you thousands.

5% mortgage deposit

A new mortgage scheme has enabled lenders to offer mortgages to more homebuyers with lower deposits from April 2021. The Government-backed 95% loan-to-value mortgage scheme means that first-time buyers and current homeowners will be able to purchase a home with just a 5% deposit.  

The scheme will run until December 2022. So, if you want to take advantage of this new offer, applying for a mortgage before this deadline may be the best time to buy. A lower deposit means that you will have more money in your pocket on moving day to help furnish your new home, or some extra cash to save for a rainy day.

The scheme is similar to the Help to Buy: Equity Loan which is solely available for first-time buyers who are buying a new-build home. So, if you’re a first-time buyer, there’s still plenty of time to save up for a mortgage deposit and buy your dream home.

First-time buyer?

As mentioned above, it’s now easier for first-time buyers to get onto the property ladder with help from the Government-backed Help to Buy: Equity Loan scheme. Similar to the 95% LTV mortgage scheme, first-time buyers can also use a 5% deposit to buy their home.

The key difference with the Help to Buy scheme is in eligibility and how the finances are organised.

Firstly, you must be a first-time buyer and be buying a new-build home, and you will need a 5% deposit of the value of the property. The Government will provide an equity loan of up to 20% of the property value (or 40% in London), which is interest-free for the first five years. This means you will only need to borrow 75% of the property value from a mortgage lender.

The total value of the property is capped depending on where you’re buying the house, but they’ll likely be above a first-time buyer’s budget. The regional caps range from £261,900 to £600,000:

Region

Price cap

East Midlands

£261,900

West Midlands

£255,600

South West

£349,000

Wales

£300,000

North West

£224,400

South East

£437,600

London

£600,000

This scheme runs between April 2021 and March 2023.

Best time to save

If it’s not looking like the best time to buy for you right now, it’s always the right time to save. For those buying their first home, Help to Buy schemes along with various ISAs mean that you can prepare for your homebuying journey.

Unfortunately, you can no longer open a Help to Buy ISA. But those with existing accounts can continue to deposit up to £200 each month. When you buy your first home, the Government will top up your savings by 25%. You can save up to £12,000 and receive an extra £3,000 from the government. This incentive gives you up until November 2029 to save and until November 2030 to claim the 25% bonus.

Another scheme that is open to new savers is the Lifetime ISA allowance scheme. You can put up to £4,000 into your ISA each year and the Government will top it up by 25% at the end of the tax year.

This isn’t a scheme for those looking to buy a home in the short term. The money must be in the account for at least one year. The money must also be used to buy your first home, otherwise, the funds are available to withdraw when you’re over 60. You’ll be charged a 20% withdrawal fee if you withdraw the money before you’re 60.

Remember, the higher the mortgage deposit, the lower the loan amount and, therefore, the lower the repayments.

It can be argued that this is an exciting time for those who are buying a home — especially for first-time buyers. New schemes mean that those with a proactive nose to hunt out the best deals can save thousands when they buy a home. But ultimately, there’s no set date for the best time to buy. It’s up to you and your finances. The new buying schemes will be useful for those looking to buy their home in the near future as thousands of pounds can be saved. But those who are planning ahead should aim to save as much as possible before they buy their home, as in the long term, larger deposits make the mortgage application and mortgage repayments easier.

EToro Offers Exposure to Crypto Market With New Stocks Portfolio

eToro, the world’s leading social investment network, today launches BitcoinWorldWide, a thematic portfolio based on the companies in the value chain behind bitcoin. While it includes some exposure to bitcoin itself, the portfolio’s core focus is the companies operating to support further adoption.

“As it crosses into mainstream awareness, bitcoin is increasingly in the spotlight” says Dani Brinker, eToro’s Head of Portfolio Investments. “New all-time highs might make headlines, but the most significant change surrounding the world’s largest crypto is not its price, but the companies building the value chain around it. From mining operations to chip manufacturers and those delivering services to support usage, payments, exchanges and custody, there’s more to bitcoin than you might think.”

Released in 2009, bitcoin currently boasts a market capitalisation in excess of $1 trillion. Throughout the last decade, the first and most famous crypto has gone through multiple stages of adoption – from unfamiliar tech to a household name attracting institutional investment and media headlines. Last year marked another milestone, with payments companies including Square and PayPal announcing plans to support bitcoin payments, setting the groundwork for millions around the world to easily transact in bitcoin. Now, only 12 years after its founding, you can pay with bitcoin in HomeDepot, buy a Tesla, grab a Whopper or KFC (in some countries), buy games in the Xbox Store and pay your AT&T phone bill.

The portfolio includes companies such as Paypal, chip manufacturer Nvidia, mining hardware producer Canaan and newly public crypto exchange, Coinbase, as well as a bitcoin allocation. eToro considers bitcoin’s value chain to include companies operating in the mining, semiconductor, payments, exchange, custodianship and insurance spaces, as well as the asset itself. It intentionally excluded organisations that are bullish on bitcoin but lack business units related to its activity. For example, MicroStrategy, will not feature in the portfolio as its treasury holdings are its only connection to bitcoin.

“Our aim is to provide retail investors with an easy way to get exposure to companies that deliver a service or product essential to the further adoption of bitcoin,” explains Dani Brinker. “It is a broader approach to bitcoin investing that offers a diversified investment, uncorrelated with the bitcoin itself, but maintains exposure to the growth potential of the crypto sector.”

Budget’s ‘Super-deduction’ Capital Allowance Offers Logistics Sector A Golden Opportunity

By Tim Wright, Managing Director of Invar Systems
Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Budget announcement of a capital allowance ‘super-deduction’ could be a game-changer for many warehouse owners and operators.
The super-deduction, which will apply for two years, allows firms to claim 130% of their expenditure on approved plant and machinery against their tax liability. There is no list of qualifying expenditure, but just about any equipment that one might install in a warehouse or distribution centre appears to be covered and, importantly, ancillary expenditure such as building alterations and electrical system upgrades to allow equipment installation are specifically included.
The Chancellor’s aim, beyond kick-starting the post-Covid recovery, is to address the UK’s chronic underperformance in productivity growth, which was less than stellar even before the 2008/9 financial crisis (2.3% per annum), and since then has essentially flatlined at 0.4% per annum. Discussing the validity and meaning of productivity data notoriously starts heated discussions amongst economists but in the warehousing sector the issues are very real and quantifiable.
The gorilla in the room is of course the inexorable rise of e-commerce, currently representing 30% or more of trade in many retail sectors, and with similar expectations for on-demand fulfilment of orders increasingly seen in business and industrial purchasing. Clearly, fulfilling two dozen orders for individual items is immensely more laborious than serving the same volume by shipping whole cases or pallets – by a factor of 15 according to one US study – inevitably driving down productivity per hour worked.
E-commerce has also driven up product variety, and, critically, the volume of returns to be handled. Yet this comes at a time when securing and deploying warehouse staff is becoming increasingly problematic: many businesses have been heavily dependent upon European labour, which is unlikely to be earning enough to qualify to work in the UK post-Brexit, while creating Covid-safe working in labour-intensive areas is a major challenge. Along with rises in the minimum wage, this is pushing labour rates up.
In addition, increasing capacity by adding more space is not an easy option – e-commerce operators, and businesses hedging against supply chain disruption are snapping up all the available space in what is generally agreed to be an ‘under-warehoused’ country.
These challenges, although increasing, are not new and nor is the obvious solution ­– automation. But apart from the ‘marquee brands’ such as Amazon and Ocado, who have been able to invest large sums in green-field developments, the warehousing sector has been slow to adopt automation, and where it has, the tendency has been to create unintegrated ‘islands of automation’ at particular pain points.
However, for real productivity improvement a warehouse or fulfilment centre needs to address all its many interdependent activities simultaneously:  KPIs in receiving, in put-away, in picking, in packing, labelling and dispatch, as well as, in health and safety.
Importantly, this means a complete rethink of how the warehouse operates. A particular focus will be a move towards ‘goods-to-person’ operations, rather than having people spending most of their time walking unproductively between locations.
It’s easy to understand why many businesses have been reluctant to commit to change. Until quite recently, warehouse automation was ‘hard engineering’ – it involved not only major investment all in one go, but installation caused disruption, even complete shutdown, and was considered inflexible. Any change in requirements could only be accommodated by further significant investment and upheaval.
Happily, these constraints no longer apply. The development of autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) in particular has been a game changer, as has been the creation of easily reconfigurable sortation systems, re-locatable or even fully mobile pick faces, smart automated packing stations, and a raft of supporting technologies such as pick-to-light, along with Warehouse Management Systems that are becoming ever more capable, yet easier to adapt and use.
Such solutions are scalable and can be introduced flexibly, as funds allow. What’s more, they can be readily reconfigured to integrate with subsequent investments, largely off-line through the software, rather than by disruptive re-engineering that requires shutdown. They are also genuinely scalable – in many cases, simply adding more AMRs to the system can accommodate future growth or extension.
Rishi Sunak’s ‘super-deduction’ capital allowance offers the logistics sector a golden opportunity to invest in performance enhancing automation, giving fulfilment operations the boost to productivity needed to cope with the surge in ecommerce orders. It’s an opportunity not to be missed.

Finance Risks Rose 20% Over Past 12 Months: How Finance Departments Have Been Impacted

Finance teams have been one of the most heavily impacted internal teams over the past year as the COVID-19 pandemic turned the way we work on its head. During this time finance departments in all industries have experienced immense pressure, with their financial priorities rapidly changing; the need to tighten the purse strings and shifting operational challenges becoming the most common changes. While successful businesses have always placed a firm focus on ensuring their finances are in order, this has never been more of a focus than over the past year, while also being more of a challenge.

South West Businesses Piling on Debt, Bills and Overdrafts Mounting During Lockdown


A year on from the start of the pandemic, business finances in the South West have been badly damaged, with many business owners increasingly reliant upon costly sources of borrowing such as overdrafts and credit cards, a Business West survey has revealed.
40% of the 550 businesses that responded to the survey reported a higher level of indebtedness than a year ago, whilst a similar number (43%) had 6 months or less of cash reserves remaining, laying bare the huge financial cost of coronavirus despite extensive government interventions in the economy.
With pressures on firms growing after multiple lockdowns, 28% of businesses seeking out finance opted to utilise the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) – a government backed initiative offering favourable interest rates and flexible repayment terms, but this scheme has now ended.
Salisbury-based 365 Linen Hire, which provides tablecloths and napkins to the weddings and events industries, highlights how emergency borrowing has taken the strain for many COVID-19 impacted businesses. Its Manager Richard Gould said that as hopes were dashed of the economy unlocking earlier in the year, the business sought out BBLS funds to gear up for a summer reopening, having “held out as long as possible”.
The use of overdrafts and credit cards by local businesses is also relatively high, at 22% and 19% respectively, considering that these sources of finance are more expensive than government backed emergency finance. They are also more common than the formal government backed Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), which only 16% of respondents chose, typically larger businesses within the survey respondents. The percentage of businesses borrowing money from family and friends is also quite significant, at 11%.
Bristol-based marketing agency Feisty Consultancy was one of the businesses that complained of receiving a rough ride from their banking provider over the past 12 months.
“During the first lockdown at least, the banks were helpful in reducing/removing fees,” said Feisty Consultancy’s Managing Director Vikki Little. “But this stopped some months ago and hasn’t been reinstated, despite the fact that the situation is now worse for many businesses. I wrote to my bank regarding this and was told ‘tough’ essentially.”
If the increased prevalence of short-term borrowing wasn’t worrying enough for the state of business finances, it is particularly so for the self-employed. Two fifths of respondents identified credit cards as their main source of financing during the pandemic – a finding which suggests that the self-employed (many of whom fell through the cracks of government support schemes) were unable to access cheaper, alternative forms of borrowing.
Against this background, Business West is concerned at a potential ‘finance crunch’ coming for small businesses. With repayments starting on government backed loans and the level of (often high cost) debt from financial institutions and others, the burden of this debt is expected to act as a drag on business recovery.
Unsurprisingly, after a year of lockdown restrictions, almost half of the 550 participants reported a deterioration in their cashflow, taking this to the lowest point in the last 3 years, with responses consistent across both the services and manufacturing sectors. “It is dreadful,” said Val Hennessy of the International House language school in Bristol – one of the businesses speaking out. “Virtually no income and little prospect of a real increase in income in the near future as international travel is banned or the costs of travelling to the UK for students is too off-putting. We cannot risk borrowing anymore because the future is so uncertain.” she continued.
For businesses such as The Zoots band, government financial support has unfortunately done little to make up for the income shortfall of a year ravaged by stop-start lockdown restrictions. Its proprietor Jamie Goddard revealed that he is “currently in £30,000 debt” adding “with SEISS grants of only £2500 that covered about 1.5% of my usual turnover” and hopes they “will get something eventually” to address the situation.
Aside from widespread financial worries highlighted by the survey, the region-wide study also found that almost 40% of South West employers had experienced staffing issues as a direct result of school closures.
Stephen Sage, Managing Director of ACES Ltd – an electronics firm based in Bristol – said that along with school closures: “Social distancing measures have slowed our production along with…home working,” before adding “material shortages have also compounded the problem.”
The cumulative effect of rising debt levels and lockdown restrictions on business growth and performance across the region is plain to see.
Over half of respondents reported that their turnover, profitability and cash flow have been negatively impacted as a result of the pandemic. The percentage of businesses impacted in the retail, tourism, food and drink, and consumer services industries is even worse (over 60%), with many delaying growth plans and experiencing reduced profit margins.
Despite the pain of the past 12 months, businesses are remarkably upbeat regarding the future prospects of the UK economy, with business confidence also showing signs of lifting following government’s announcement of an irreversible roadmap out of lockdown in England. On both measures, this represents a marked uptick when compared to the last quarter’s results.
 
Providing his assessment of the survey findings Business West Managing Director Phil Smith comments:
“Whilst the UK’s successful vaccination programme provides genuine light at the end of the tunnel, it would appear that businesses will have to wait a little while longer before they are able to bask in the glow of a dawning economic recovery.
“There have been few winners and very many losers as a result of the pandemic, a good proportion of whom have taken on added debt to help see them through.
“In the best-case scenario, we will see pandemic related debts repaid quickly as business activity begins to ramp up and accelerate as lockdown restrictions are lifted. In the worst case, a mounting debt burden stymies business growth and proves a long-term drag on the region’s economy.
“To see businesses utilising the flexibility of the BBLS is pleasing. However, the fact that more and more businesses are turning to credit cards and overdrafts to solve cashflow issues is concerning. The reliance on friends and family may also be interpreted as a market failure that government and lenders would be wise in addressing.
“We are worried about small businesses and the self-employed’s access to suitable finance during the recovery period. At the end of March both BBLS and CBILS closed, and CBILS was replaced by the successor Recovery Loan Scheme. However, this is available via commercial bank lending and is only government guaranteed for 80% of the loan. Our findings highlight a looming finance gap for smaller firms, given the particular finance needs of smaller businesses, who appear to not be utilising CBILS, perhaps because it is harder to access this more formal bank form of financing. We think further government finance schemes for these smaller firms may be needed.
“After business’ most challenging year in living memory, it goes without saying that eyes remain fixed on the roadmap out of lockdown, as only then do we have the realistic prospect of healing the wounds inflicted by the pandemic and repairing business finances.”

Post-pandemic Financial Concerns: How Hospitality SMEs Can Make a Change

There’s no denying that the hospitality industry has been detrimentally hit by the events of the coronavirus pandemic. With the UK’s continuous lockdown measures forcing the part-time closure of hospitality and entertainment venues, the economy is faced with the largest recession since records began. Other than being subject to tightening restrictions limiting the regular functioning of hospitality venues, business have also had to invest more into safety equipment such as PPE for staff, cleaning products, and staff training programmes- causing business revenues to be dramatically impacted.

However, with outdoor hospitality having now opened on the 12th April and all indoor from the 17th May, there is now some light at the end of the tunnel for many. In the wake of the darkest days of the pandemic, when the nation experienced several tough lockdowns, this only highlights the importance of SMEs assessing their financial situation during financial adversity and indeed, in preparation for it, should it happen in the future. It’s vital that finance departments recognise opportunities to increase revenues, save on costs, and forecast potential issues that could occur.

With this in mind, Wisteria Accountants take a look at how SMEs in the hospitality sector could transform their businesses finances.

Fiscal Control and Financial Planning

Throughout the pandemic, the hospitality sector has learnt that they must prepare for every circumstance. Sudden decisions to protect the public are understandable during these adverse times. For example, last year hospitality venues had been restricted by a 10 pm curfew, further reducing footfall in bars and restaurants. This emphasises the importance of financial planning.

Functioning on an operating budget is expected for hospitality businesses. These budgets include the cost of wages, rent, and products. However, with the volatility of 2020, this budget type may not be thoroughly effective. Businesses have had to find additional money for cleaning equipment and staff training.

To help spark ideas as to how expenses could be saved, borrowing budget templates from other industries could help with this. For example, zero-based budgets create an optimistic perspective on cost-saving processes. Instead of looking for where cuts can be made, this budget allows finance departments and managers to argue why they should spend. In a zero-based budget, department leaders must justify every expense based on their utility and potential to drive revenue.

A 91 per cent majority met or exceeded their financial targets using this approach, according to one survey. The money saved by zero-based budgeting is often reinvested for growth. However, businesses may want to consider saving for future financial adversity, especially considering the pandemic. Each new period requires a new budget, allowing finance departments to understand the effectiveness of each approach and where further investment can be made.

Purchase management and cost control

For most sectors in the UK, the pandemic has caused revenue losses. However, this is especially detrimental to hospitality industries. The gross profit margin of a business in the hospitality sector is usually 30 per cent, making it one of the lowest profit margins compared to other industries. Even industries with lower profit margins, including construction and car sales, can alleviate the low margins with higher gross profit. Hospitality businesses cannot do this.

With this said, understanding the balance between a reflective cost and a fair one for your products and services is important. While most businesses will want to offer customers a fair price for food and drink, the finance department should identify the true cost of your service. A reflective cost breaks down expenses.

For instance, it would be important to consider the processes that are used to create your service and how much they cost when setting rates for a hotel room. This includes:

  • Staff wages for receptionist and cleaners

  • Electricity and water

  • Breakfast services

  • Interchange fee

  • How occupancy is affected during different seasons

  • How it may be impacted by the continuing pandemic

It’s a given that other expenses could be discovered too. But understanding how these costs are reflected in your price makes it easier to maintain a healthy profit margin.

To help reduce costs that ensure contracts are reliable and effective, a purchasing manager is advised. Finance departments should negotiate on your business’s behalf, with a quick understanding of how each contract can affect revenue and profitability. For example, some drink suppliers may provide free glasses but may be more expensive overall than suppliers who don’t. How the cost of glassware affects this profitability should be considered.

Reviewing your payment methods

When it comes to private sector employment, the hospitality sector is the third-largest sector in the UK. It employs 3.2 million people, producing £130 billion in economic activity and £39 billion in tax for the government. However, it’s important to remember that the sector is broad and variable. Many industries offer different experiences with the unified aim to deliver good entertainment, service, and reception.

However, it’s the expenses and how consumers pay that highlight how the industries differ. For example, you may expect a hotel to receive credit card payments more than a restaurant, who may primarily process more debit cards. A licenced bar or pub may accept more cash than the other examples. These differences have a large effect on your finances. As we move towards a cashless society where card payments are more accepted due to their low contact and hygienic nature, it’s important to understand how your finances may be affected.

For instance, it is a priority that your business reviews if the correct interchangeable fees have been paid after using VISA or Mastercard processes. Interchange fees represent 70 to 90 per cent of all fees paid by merchants to banks. For a sector that has relied on cash, it is clear how the pandemic has changed spending habits and how the increase of card payments will affect your finances.

To help gain a better understanding of the best practices in the sector and to find out what other businesses are paying, companies should speak to their audit accountant.  While auditors will not breach other company’s confidentiality, they will be able to aggregate their knowledge of what is going on in the sector and assist you immensely.

It’s vital that SMEs re-assess their finances since there is so much uncertainty as to how the hospitality sector will financially recover from the events of the pandemic. They need to assess the most effective ways to increase revenue and profitability. Finance departments can be a useful business partner in creating business strategy, whether they highlight future adversity or give a reflection of current expenditure. Your finance department should at the forefront of your business, guiding it through this difficult period.

Reopening of Retail Could Create Perfect Conditions for Economic Growth Over Summer


Despite Lockdown restrictions and post-Brexit trade disruption, February saw the UK economy grow by 0.4%, according to the ONS. Although not quite a boom, this minor growth in economic output is an important foundation for the months to come, and brings ever increasing optimism that the reopening of the economy through April will bring with it an even better performance. “We’re looking for a 4-5 per cent bounce in GDP in the second quarter,” said James Smith, economist at ING. 

February’s improvement from January’s slump was in large part due to the construction sector, which increased by 1.6% thanks to both new work and repair and maintenance on existing rooms and structures. Lockdown has both provided an opportunity for home improvements, as well as new challenges for the building sector as it adapts to Pandemic restrictions and safety requirements, although Ben Dyer, CEO of Powered Now, added that “restrictions seemed to have had a negligible impact on the construction sector so far.”  

As of September, Santander estimated that three in five (61%) of homeowners carried out a DIY or renovation project during lockdown. To add to the economic activity caused by these home improvements, Powered Now CEO also noted that “the Stamp Duty extension has been a house building bonanza, so growth in the industry is no surprise”.  

Now shoppers can visit their local high streets, it is hoped that the construction sector can pass the torch to the retail and hospitality sectors in driving Britain’s GDP growth. Research by Cornerstone Tax, a property tax firm working with small businesses, illustrates this highly positive consumer sentiment – with 53% of the UK wanting to spend their money at local, independent stores. 13% even want to start their own business. This is backed by PwC, which charts the highest consumer confidence since their records began. At +8, it is an incredible 34 points higher than at the start of the pandemic 

This shows that through the restrictions we have all faced, our tastes have changed. It seems the British public want not just to shop physically, but also want to shop at more specialist and independent stores, hinting at a shift in sentiments. We are now more sympathetic and supportive towards independent stores that are part of a community, rather than part of a corporate chain, and the intrepid entrepreneurs behind them that have survived so far through the Lockdowns. 

We have also seen a trend of deurbanisation in the UK – as people leave major cities to look for cheaper properties, rent and more living space now they can work from home. This has obviously effected house prices, with rural areas seeing the biggest rise and inversely London prices falling. However, it has also distributed more consumers throughout more of the UK, which means more spenders and saving stimulating economic activity throughout more of the UK, and crucially, to regions that have long needed it. 

Discussions around saving the high street are nothing new, and have been a part of the British political landscape for years, cropping up at particular moments of difficulty such as the 2008 recession, and now the Pandemic. It is not just good news for the traders themselves, or the shoppers who get to experience something more special, but also the economy as a whole. SMEs account for two thirds of employment, and half of national GDP; meaning this new focus on the high street is good news for everyone. 

David Hannah, principal consultant at Cornerstone Tax, discusses the optimism felt by business leaders in the UK: 

“It has been a tough year for many, but the light is truly at the end of the tunnel for a nation of shopkeepers who can finally serve the public. The 12th April was a vital first step towards reopening the economy safely, and it has come just in time for many – particularly the hospitality and physical retail sectors that have struggled so much through various restrictions on economic life. 

The news that the economy grew in February, even if only marginally, is welcome news for business leaders throughout the UK. This growth is only expected to go one way: up. If the UK can keep infections low, and the vaccine rollout continues uninterrupted, April should be a month of elation as pounds head to the high street.” 

How to start your investment journey and increase your income

Looking to save money for a down payment on your first house? Not sure how to invest that new inheritance? Or perhaps living through a global pandemic has inspired you to start an emergency fund?

There is never a “perfect time” to begin investing. While diversifying your assets may be the last thing on your mind this year, the good thing is that all you have to do is start. Let’s explore some ideas that will inspire you to begin your investment journey, no matter how much money you have in the bank.

Open A High-Interest Savings Account

If you have extra cash you are not using for your immediate expenses or that stimulus check is starting to burn a hole in your pocket, you may consider opening a high-yield savings account. With a high-yield savings account, you can start investing with any amount and still have the option to access the cash quickly in the event of an emergency.

There are many banks that offer options for high-yield savings accounts online that still allow access to cash if needed. Opening a savings account is a risk-free way to begin your investment journey, and there’s no better time than now to get started, no matter your age. Thanks to compound interest, your money will grow much faster than if it were sitting in your checking account, and you’ll be less tempted to spend it!

Invest In Real Estate

If you’re looking to diversify your assets, investing in real estate is a low-risk and lucrative alternative to investing in the stock market. When you invest in real estate, you are purchasing a house, condo, or apartment with the intent to find tenants and collect the rent as a profit each month.

Many investors prefer real estate as it provides a tangible, physical asset that can be accounted for and controlled. Real estate also has the potential to appreciate over time as your property’s value goes up, allowing for an additional profit upon eventual sale. If you are considering flipping a house to sell for a profit or investing in a rental property to diversify your assets, consider getting an investment property loan to get started. Just be sure that if you’re investing in a property to become a vacation rental property, you also invest in a luxurious interior to increase your return even more!

While this seems like a no-brainer investment option, there are risks involved with real estate as well. This is less of a casual investment, as you’ll need to do quite a bit of research to get started, and rental properties cannot be quickly liquidated if you need extra cash. You also need to consider additional costs such as hiring a contractor for repairs or a property manager to handle the upkeep of your building, not to mention the potential headache of dealing with renters. Despite all this, the stream of passive income and the advantage of owning a tangible asset that can only appreciate over time, make a real estate investment well worth the risk.

Invest In The Stock Market

Many would recommend you invest your hard-earned money in stocks, and experts predict the stock market has the ability to give you the highest potential return over time. When you buy stocks, you are essentially buying a tiny piece of a given company, and the stock market gives an average of 10% annual return on investments according to the S&P 500.

 A benefit to investing in stocks is that you can choose to get as involved as you want or stay hands-off in your investment strategy. If you are interested in the stock market and have the confidence to make your own judgments, it can become a fun pastime choosing where to invest your money. If you aren’t confident yet in your knowledge of the stock market, it’s easy to get started with a beginner-friendly app like Fidelity or SoFi.

The downside in this investment option is that there is some risk involved; the value of stocks can decline over time, and making an unlucky investment can actually cost you, which is the opposite of what we want! If you like the excitement of a little risk or prefer a hands-on investment approach, the ebb and flow of investing in the stock market may be for you.

There are so many options when it comes to investing your money, and the first step is knowing what type of investment is right for you. Start exploring one of these ideas to increase your income and begin your investment journey today!

Top Tips to Raising Property Investment Finance in 2021

In the UK, property remains one of the most resilient asset classes. From first-time buyers to portfolio landlords, getting established on the property ladder remains a popular way for many to grow their wealth. Depending on an individual’s circumstances and ambitions, Arbuthnot Latham, Private and Commercial Bank, explains the various routes to securing finance for property investment in 2021 and beyond.

Property finance for individuals

Many individuals, who have enough capital, will look to supplement their income by acquiring a second or third property on top of the one they live in. This will almost always involve a personal investment of capital and additional funds secured via a loan or mortgage.

The appeal of becoming a buy-to-let landlord is not just the relatively good performance of the UK residential property market, but the fact that the value of the asset can be increased with a proactive approach to property maintenance and improvement. Until now, property has been a very stable asset class, and is one that empowers the owner to increase its value over and above standard market movements. It is important to note, with any asset class, that previous performance is not an indicator of future performance.

If an individual is looking to make this sort of investment, any finance they are able to secure will be contingent on their own circumstances. For example, will they be able to show how they would personally cover a shortfall if rental income doesn’t cover interest payments?

Other factors banks consider with individual buy-to-let mortgage applications

Credit rating

Whether they are entering the property investment market for the first time or expanding their portfolio, a clean credit score is an essential part of the puzzle. Small issues like missed payments might not make a huge difference, but County Court Judgements or missed mortgage repayments will be a significant barrier to securing the finance they need.

Minimum income

Most lenders in the UK require a minimum income to consider eligibility, but there are options for those with a lower income threshold, and there are even options available that have no income requirements.

Existing portfolio or assets

What lenders are willing to offer will change depending on if the individual is new to property finance or already own properties. Some lenders won’t consider landlords who own several properties, but this varies across the UK.

Property finance for portfolio landlords

Individuals who own four or more mortgaged properties become what’s known as a ‘portfolio landlord’. When they pass this threshold, there are certain expectations on banks regarding due diligence. From here, it’s not just about their own personal circumstances. For example, a bank is required to know the status quo of the rest of their portfolio. They need a deeper understanding of how the assets might interact and will also want to gauge their understanding of the market they’re operating in.

Factors banks consider with buy-to-let applications

  • Do they keep accurate records? There are many conditions to satisfy buy-to-let properties (fire safety certificates, guarantees for electrical items, insurance, etc.) More important still for HMOs: annual gas certificates. If they’re disorganised, cannot produce documentation when asked, or their business approach obstructs a bank’s due diligence, this is a red flag when considering a finance application.

  • The bank wants to know that a buy-to-let landlord is competent: aware of their obligations and best practice

  • A portfolio landlord should understand the market they want to operate in. Banks look for investors who have a good handle on their local area. A speculative application – not rooted in a comprehensive business plan – means more risk for the bank and a higher rate of interest.

Portfolio landlords should make sure they chose a lender who is right for them. If the individual are vastly experienced, cheaper rates found on the high street can be the right approach. A note of caution here is that as different lenders’ appetites change, it could result in an ongoing dynamic of regular refinancing to achieve the cheapest rate.

Other investors might move away from -the potentially lighter touch relationship approach of the high street, and opt for a longer-term relationship of consistency where their banker understands their circumstances, has years of sector expertise and can tailor solutions to meet their needs.

This is particularly helpful when circumstances change. The pooled collective knowledge of a real estate finance team can be particularly valuable to help a portfolio landlord adapt when circumstances change.

DFW Based BluCollar to Launch Bold New ICO and NFT Marketplace For the Manufacturing Industry

With the ever-increasing popularity of cryptocurrency and NFT (non-fungible-tokens), BluCollar.io is launching its first ICO to capitalize on an underserved market – the manufacturing industry. With little in the way of investable channels, this 2334.60 billion dollar industry (2018) in the U.S. alone, BluCollar is looking to translate those financial transactions and assets to the digital space utilizing the exploding world of NFT’s via its own marketplace.

Financial Tips For Starting Your Own Business

If one positive emerges from the miserable pandemic year, we have all endured, it is that the number of people in the UK who want to start their own business – to take control of their own destiny – is on a strong upswing. And it is not just a case of people who have lost their jobs casting around for alternatives. Recent research shows that one in five adults are planning a start-up, a figure which rises to 34 per cent among 18 to 34-year-olds. Only 6 per cent said it was because they had become unemployed. So, it would appear, the entrepreneurial flame has not been dimmed by the ravages of Covid, but while the ambition to branch out on your own is admirable, it is only prudent to be aware of the pitfalls as well as the pinnacles of being your own boss.

Fintech Platform Butter Raises £15m

Butter, the London based fintech platform that started life as the UK’s first Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) travel agency, has just closed a £15.8m funding round to accelerate the rollout of its responsible open-banking based BNPL shopping app.

Who has invested?

Butter has raised £15.8m via BCI Finance, the credit arm of London based venture builder Blenheim Chalcot, as well as a number of other private Angel investors in order to expand Butter’s offering.

What is Butter?

Irritated by the lack of flexible payment options whilst planning a holiday, co-founder Timothy Davis was inspired to build the UK’s first buy now pay later travel agency, enabling travellers to spread the cost of travel arrangements over time, with full payment not due until after the trip.

Together with co-founders Stefan Hobl and Nik Haukohl, Butter achieved full FCA regulated status in 2017, and 4 years later, Butter has evolved into a British fintech platform with over 100,000 customers, offering instalments across every consumer vertical and flying the flag against other sector giants such as Klarna.

Butter quickly established a firm foothold in the travel and tourism industry as the UK’s first BNPL travel agency, providing a flexible, cost-effective way to book travel, with full payment not due until after the trip. A ‘layaway for getaways’.

When the pandemic brought the travel and tourism industry to a grinding halt two years later, Butter adapted fast, launching the UK’s first BNPL shopping app alongside their travel offering, enabling customers to spread the cost of any purchase from any online store.

What makes Butter better?

Unlike other BNPL providers, Butter’s unique “over-the-top” (OTT) solution enables customers to spread the cost of purchases with every store on the internet, without requiring merchants to support Butter via a technical integration. Instead, Butter’s in-app universal checkout takes care of paying retailers, with customers then able to repay the costs over 2, 3, or 4 monthly payments.

Popular stores in the Butter app include Amazon, Argos, BooHoo, ASOS, H&M, Zara, Hugo Boss, Sports Direct, AirBnB, Currys PC World, Ao.com, IKEA and more.

As the UK’s first FCA regulated BNPL provider, Butter has successfully developed a unique credit decisioning process with affordability at its core, utilising open banking and machine learning to ensure that lending is responsible and that customers are only able to borrow amounts based on what they can afford.

Timothy Davis, Co-Founder and CEO of Butter, commented: “Our goal at Butter has always been to provide consumers with a simple and responsible alternative to credit cards and loans, enabling them to instantly spread the cost of anything from a takeaway to a holiday over a simple and transparent instalment plan, all within one easy to use account.

We want to remove the stigma surrounding the buy now pay later offering and empower consumers by allowing them to budget and spend intelligently and in a manner that suits their individual financial needs.

We’ve set out to achieve this by building a platform focussed around transparency, responsible lending and the ability to transact on bigger ticket items compared to other providers, whilst also offering more choice to customers through our unique over-the-top solution, which enables consumers to shop any online store in existence with Butter.

The funding that we have secured via BCI will help facilitate the scale-up of our business as we continue to pioneer innovation in the buy now pay later space.”

Paul Maurici, Investment Manager at BCI, commented: “Our mission at BCI is to be the funder of choice for UK Fintech’s looking to scale.

Butter is a young and ambitious company, which combines a tech-enabled approach to lending alongside impressive customer delivery capabilities.

With its FCA authorisation already in place, the business is well placed to continue strong growth while assisting its customers in managing their money better.”

Why Investment in Small UK Technology Companies Could Provide Sustainable Returns

By Andrew Aldridge, Partner at Deepbridge Capital

The UK is widely regarded as one of the greatest places to start an innovative tech company. This shouldn’t come as any surprise given the world-class academia we have to offer, the legacy of innovation and, importantly, the funding opportunities available to entrepreneurs. Of course, we also have a language advantage for global businesses which shouldn’t be underestimated.

There can be a temptation to look to the USA and the glamour of Silicon Valley, and indeed this may be where some companies ultimately end up in order to achieve their ‘Unicorn goals,’ but that doesn’t tell the whole story.

At Deepbridge Capital, we are fortunate to work internationally and all of the aforementioned points are regularly raised as reasons for growth-focused tech companies wanting to be involved in the UK ecosystem, as well as the other sector-focused appeals of the UK.

For example, for medtech companies, the rubber stamp of having the globally-recognised NHS trialing or adopting a device can be of massive significance. Such a testimony opens doors with healthcare providers elsewhere and the scalability that offers.

To a similar degree, fintech can find a natural home in the UK, as a global financial hub, with initiatives such as the FCA Sandbox providing a test bed which can empower fintech innovators to prove concept and showcase innovation.

I could continue by looking at legal tech, biotech, agritech and many more. Indeed, the UK has developed a number of ‘hubs’ across the country to provide opportunities for collaboration and innovation in specific fields of tech. Often these hubs are associated with academia and other influential partners. Outside of the ‘golden triangle’ of London, Oxford and Cambridge, examples of such hubs, include Liverpool as a gaming and virtual reality hub (indeed our investee company vTime is at the forefront of this); Manchester as a digital hub but also the home of graphene (again, we have helped a great company in this sector, Flex-G, create a Manchester base); Edinburgh and Bristol as digital innovation hubs, and numerous less well known areas such as west Wales (working with the likes of the University of Aberystwyth) focussing on agritech.

Naturally, our excitement in all of this is centred on the investment opportunity. As highlighted earlier, the funding ecosystem in the UK is a big reason for the success of tech companies here. This is particularly true in what is often the most difficult funding stage, being the first commercialisation funding or early Series A funding.

The first funding a company received is usually self-funding, or the attraction of funding from friends, family or a supportive business angel. This is usually based on a ‘good idea’ and goodwill towards the founder. This funding tends to be relatively small ticket and, in reality, is an investment ‘punt.’

When you then get to later funding rounds, later Series A and Series B, tech companies are usually expected to have significant recurring revenues and there is no shortage of funding opportunities both here in the UK and elsewhere.

In both of these examples, the UK has a strong track record of funding, but where the UK really excels is at the stage ranging from ‘seed’ funding to early Series A. At this point, a tech company is likely to be beyond the cheque-size which can be offered purely on goodwill, but is unlikely to have the revenues to support interest from the VC, PE and institutional funds looking for a de-risked opportunity.

Historically, this funding gap has been described as the ‘chasm of death,’ as it is often where a company will choke due to lack of funding. However, this is an area where the UK has a significant competitive advantage on international peers; the Enterprise Investment Scheme.

The Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) provides the incentive to investors to support growth-focused companies through unparalleled potential tax reliefs. Over recent years, between £1.5bn and £2bn of funding each year has been availed to growth-focused companies under EIS. Founders and investors globally regularly remind us of their jealousy of the UK in this regard – it is important that UK investors and financial advisers are aware of this global envy and the fortunate position they are in.

The tax reliefs offered under EIS provide a degree of risk mitigation for investors, with early-stage investments naturally being high risk, but it is critical that investing at this stage is undertaken with due care and in conjunction with a sector-experienced investment manager.

This stage of investing has great growth opportunities and taking a company from proof of concept through to a significant annual rate of return, can be a significant value inflection journey. At this point of investing, we are looking for companies which have used their initial funding to prove concept and develop initial market traction, with our funding then empowering the commercial growth to subsequently attract large-scale co-funding for corporate growth and then an exit for investors.

There has never been more technology innovation around us and in a digital world it is natural that this is where investment opportunities will lie. If investors are looking for growth, then UK tech is a great place to be and arguably the growth point is exactly where EIS funding is applicable.

We have already seen the shift of tech companies becoming the world’s largest, so it is not a surprise that tech is at the heart of most investment portfolios. However, the long-term growth opportunities often lie at an earlier stage and the UK is a great place to empower this, thanks in part to EIS. And, why wouldn’t investors want tax reliefs, CGT free growth and potential loss relief?

How To Get Your Hands On Cryptocurrency

All you have to do is check out the news to realise that cryptocurrency is growing in popularity. As it continues its ascent, it’ll only become more and more in demand, meaning that those who want to get their hands on it may face an increasingly uphill battle.

Fortunately, you don’t have to fight anyone off to get yourself involved with the cryptocurrency market. There are tons of ways to jump into the market and make your mark with something like Bitcoin or Ethereum.

For a list of the best avenues to explore, you’ll want to check out the five suggestions outlined below.

Buying

The first thing you might think to do when trying to get hold of cryptocurrency is to buy it. However, how good of an idea this is generally depends on what a currency is worth at the time.

It’s not uncommon for them to be incredibly expensive nowadays, especially when talking about Bitcoin. Given the growing presence of cryptocurrency, the prices keep reaching new heights, which isn’t ideal for someone looking to get involved with this for the first time.

If you are going to buy, you’ll probably want to start by getting cheaper currencies through a crypto exchange. Anything that’s not Bitcoin ought to be relatively easy to acquire, although depending on the exchange service you use, it might take a few weeks for the purchase to be verified.

Airdrops

As cryptocurrency continues to amass interest, more and more projects are surfacing that expand and enhance the market. Getting involved with these projects in the early days is an excellent way for you to start building up your online wallet, as you earn tokens for doing some of the simplest tasks.

Merely downloading an app or following certain social media accounts can net you this reward because you’re helping the project gain notoriety. You’re ensuring that there’s a community around it before it hits the market, which is essential for its success. So, by doing your part, you can earn tokens that can later be traded or sold.

Microtasks, or bounties, are similar to this, although the tasks required of you are a little more advanced. Here, you might be expected to write a testimonial or film a review before earning a reward.

Competitions

For a more interesting way to get your hands on cryptocurrency, you can always give competitions a try. These generally involve you playing games for the chance to win something like Bitcoin while also having fun in the process.

Although this might seem too good to be true, it’s a legit and straightforward way of getting free cryptocurrency. If you play with Traders Of Crypto you don’t have to worry about giving away any personal information that may put you at risk. All you’ve gotta do is provide an email address, and then you can start competing.

The games range from trying to be the best trader each month to identifying bugs in code, and they’re sure to make the hunt for cryptocurrency that extra bit more interesting.

Crypto Payments

If you have an e-commerce business, one opportunity that’s open to you is accepting cryptocurrency payments when someone makes a purchase. In addition to options like credit card and Paypal, you can also allow users to buy your stock using a variety of cryptocurrency options.

What currency you can accept will largely depend on the platform your e-commerce business uses. Some sites, like Shopify, are incredibly flexible and allow for payments using several hundred different types of cryptocurrency. So, if you’re not fussy about what you get your hands on, this can be a good place to set yourself up.

Mining

To those not in the know about cryptocurrency, mining for an online currency might not make a lot of sense. However, what this actually means is that you use your computer to solve complex equations that validate what you’re mining for.

Again, this is an area where Bitcoin can be problematic for a first-timer, as the equipment required to mine this currency is incredibly expensive. You need a lot of high-end tech to be successful with this endeavour, something that you may not be willing to purchase.

Fortunately, other currencies like Ethereum and Monexo don’t have such demands and can easily be done through a more standard computer. Just be aware that mining can use up a lot of power, so the costs to you will differ depending on the price of electricity in your area, as well as the efficiency of your equipment.

It might not always be stable, but it’s clear that cryptocurrency is definitely going to play a significant role in the future. If you want to have a part in that, getting your hands on some of it now through one of these varied ways could prove advantageous.

How to Get a Jump Start on Building Credit


You may not be entirely happy with where your credit score is. However, there might be a few quick ways for you to bring it up a bit. It depends on why it’s down, but you may have the ability to add as many as 100 points relatively quickly. Let’s take a look.

Making Payments

Maybe you went on vacation – to Las Vegas, or anywhere really. Say while you were there, you got one of those Las Vegas loans. If you can make a few small payments, known as micropayments, throughout the month, that can assist with keeping those balances down and can lead to a few additional points on your credit score. Making a few payments throughout the month affects what’s known as credit utilization. After your payment history, this particular factor highly influences your overall credit score.

Credit Limits

If you get an increased credit limit on your credit cards, yet your balance remains the same or lower as you pay it down, this instantly lowers your credit utilization, and this can lead to a higher credit score. Call the issuer for your cards and ask if they can raise your limit without performing a hard credit inquiry, as this can temporarily make your score go down a bit. If you’ve had an increase in income or added a few years of positive credit history, you may have a good shot at getting your limit raised. 

Pay Your Bills

There isn’t a strategy out there that has the power to improve your credit if you’re late paying even just your utility bills. You see, your payment history is the single largest factor that affects your credit score, and making late payments can actually appear on your credit report for as long as seven years. If you make a payment 30 days or more late, call your creditor as soon as you know you’ll be late. Make payment arrangements, and ask them if they’ll consider not reporting the late payment to the credit bureau. The worst they can do is say no. Then, do all you can to bring the account current as quickly as you can.

Dispute Errors

Even if you’re making weekly payments on your credit cards, a mistake on one of the credit reports can pull your score down quickly. By the same token, repairing this can quickly make your credit score go up. Everyone is entitled to a free credit report each year from each one of the credit bureaus. Request these reports and make sure there aren’t any mistakes, such as late payments or even negative info that (due to age) should no longer be listed. Dispute any errors you see and make sure they are removed.  

Keep Cards Open

If you’re in a hurry to raise your credit score, you need to know that closing any credit accounts can actually make your mission a bit more difficult. Closing even a single credit card will mean that you lose the credit limit on that particular credit card when taken as a part of your overall credit usage. This can actually bring your score down a bit. Keep your cards open and use them periodically so that the card issuers won’t close them on their own.

Finally, mix things up a bit. If you only have loans or credit cards, think about getting a different type of credit that you don’t already have, if only to raise your score. If you improve your mix of credit – say, having both revolving credit and installment accounts, you’ll be giving your score a boost. 

Ways To Invest In Yourself That Will Pay Off Big

When you think about investing, your mind automatically goes to stocks, bonds, bitcoin, and real estate. Although these are all lucrative investment opportunities, they’re not the only things that deserve your money, time, and resources. Some of the world’s wealthiest people are individuals who took the time to invest in themselves first. They realize that when they prioritize their needs and desires, they’re better positioned to work harder and add more value to other financial ventures. 

You are your biggest asset. From the role you play in your household to the workplace, your health, knowledge, skills, and talents are factors in your ability to succeed. While investing in yourself will require money, time, and resources, it pays off big in the end. Check out these examples listed below. 

Get Your Finances In Order

You can’t expect to achieve financial success if you don’t manage your money. A great way to invest in yourself and reap the benefits is to get your finances in order. Sit down and evaluate your income, expenses, and debts. Then create a realistic budget, reduce or eliminate unnecessary spending, develop a savings strategy, pay down your debts, and work to improve your debt. Once you’ve got things in order, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment. You’re also in a better position to get loans, lines of credit, real estate, or big-ticket items you’ve always wanted without the stress. 

Continue to Learn

Knowledge is power. It’s the one thing that can never be taken away from you. Your knowledge can also help you open doors you never imagined possible. Learn what you can regularly. Whether you read a book, subscribe to an informational blog, take professional courses, or enroll in MFT programs in California to advance your career, this education can take you to new heights. Reading could open your eyes to new ideas or perspectives, allowing you to make more informed decisions. Acquiring a professional certification or college degree can increase your salary, boost your chances of landing a job, or help you run your business more effectively. 

Get Healthy

One of the best ways to invest in yourself is to get healthy. Your physical and emotional well-being ultimately dictate the quality of your life. If you want to live a long, happy, and prosperous life, you need to prioritize wellness. Not to mention, being healthy saves you money on everything from medical treatments to life insurance. So, eat a well-balanced diet, exercise, and get plenty of sleep. Simplify your life to reduce stress, find healthy ways to cope with unforeseen circumstances, and always find time to do things you enjoy. 

Work With a Mentor or Life Coach

Are you having a hard time pushing yourself to the next level? Maybe you’re struggling to figure out what the next level means for you? Whatever the case is, having a mentor or life coach on your side is an excellent investment to make. They can help you map out your future, work on overcoming obstacles, set goals, and even inspire you to preserve when you feel like giving up. 

Build A Strong Network

The saying, “You are the company you keep,” is very true. Who you surround yourself with ultimately has an impact on who you are as a person. Your inner circle should consist of like-minded people that inspire you to want to be your best self. They should be supportive, forthcoming with advice, and willing to help whenever they can. Step outside of your comfort zone and start interacting with people personally and professionally to build a network of individuals you can always count on.

Yes, financial investments are one way to generate wealth. However, those that are truly wealthy know the importance of investing in themselves. If you want to reach the next level personally, professionally, and financially, start putting yourself first. The better you are, the easier it is to be an asset to others. 

Accountancy Services for Large Businesses: What Leaders Must Look Out For

Finding the right accountant to help with your business can be a crucial step in management that you need to look out for. You cannot afford to get the financial details of your company wrong, and the right accountant will be a crucial part of this. The larger your business is, the more important it will be that you are able to meet the needs it generates.

Industry Experience

If possible, try to find an accountant who has some experience of your industry. While any accountant will be able to do the basics, there are some advantages to finding one that specialises in your chosen sector. There are many small quirks that go into different industries, and you need to make sure that you are going to find an accountant who is able to meet the needs presented by yours.

There might be a certain process or supply that you need to have to be able to run your business. To someone who is not familiar with your industry, it might appear to be a superfluous expense that can be cut from the budget when this is not actually the case. An accountant who is familiar with the specific needs of your industry is going to be able to catch small and important expenses such as this and ensure that your finances can accommodate them.

Scale

While you might be able to find an accountant who is familiar with your industry, you have to consider whether or not they are comfortable working with a business on your scale. There are many skilled accountants out there, but they might only have experience working with much smaller companies.

Having a larger company under your control means that you are going to automatically be generating far more financial data than a smaller business. Finding either an individual you trust or a company with a good reputation who specialises in corporate accounting services will help to give you some peace of mind that they are going to be able to meet your needs as a business owner and as a wider company.

Open Communication

A large company means that you are going to need to look in multiple directions at once. You need to make sure that you have people by your side who are able to come in and correctly coordinate with you to deliver the most efficient results possible. Therefore, it is incredibly important that you find an accountant who is able to communicate effectively.

You might have a busy schedule or a limited time in which you could hold meetings with them. While it is important that you do hold semi-regular meetings with your accountant, you might have to rely on reading reports from them on the occasions where you can’t meet. Therefore, they need to be able to deliver information about your finances in a way that is clear, concise, and easy for you to digest. Find an accountant who understands your needs and can work around them to deliver the results that work best for your partnership.

Finding an accountant or an accountancy team to outsource to can take time and might be more difficult than you initially think. However, with the right attitude and a willingness to work with this key professional instead of merely handing over your documents, you should be able to create a partnership that works for both of you. Handling the accounts of a large company is not easy. You need to make sure that you have found the right individual to work with you and deliver the results you expect from them, no matter what.

Answering the Nation’s 10 Most Common Personal Finance Questions

By Annie Charalambous, Content Manager at ETX Capital

The pandemic has drastically impacted our lives and our savings. Research shows that while lower-income households across the UK have had to dip into their savings to stay afloat, higher-income households have grown theirs.

It seems everyone is looking for new income streams and ways to get more bang for their buck – including navigating the often-complex world of savings and investments – and they’re turning to the internet for advice on where to start.

That’s why we’ve filtered through the noise to give you the nation’s top 10 most commonly asked questions around personal finance – and answer them too.

Which shares should I buy (49,500 monthly searches) and how? (9,900 monthly searches)

The shares you choose to invest in will depend on various factors, including the level of risk you’re willing to take, the overall market climate, and much more. Before you do buy (or short) any shares, you’ll want to do your homework on both the company and the industry at large.

For example, if you see ABC Manufacturers’ stock price is up this year, before buying in, you may want to look at how their performance stacks up against competitors like XYZ Manufacturers or view their most recent quarterly report.

There are always opportunities in the market to suit every budget and experience level, but much like picking the winning lottery numbers, there is no winning formula for what to invest in, or when.

Which companies are in the FTSE100? (40,500 monthly searches)

The FTSE100 is made up of the 100 largest (qualifying*) companies (by market cap – available shares multiplied by current share price) listed on the London Stock Exchange. The index acts as a major indicator of the UK stock market at large. Its 3 largest constituents are Unilever, AstraZeneca, and HSBC.

*To qualify, a company must meet requirements set out by the FTSE Group.

What is an ISA? (12,100 monthly searches)

An ISA, or ‘Individual Savings Account’, is a savings account available to anyone in the UK over 16, without taxing the interest earned on it. Considered a lower-risk investment, the drawbacks are that you can only hold one active ISA per year, and you are capped on how much you place in it (currently at £20,000).

There are two kinds of ISAs: a ‘cash ISA’, whereby you pay into it like you would a traditional savings account to earn interest, and a ‘shares ISA’, where your money is invested in stocks and bonds and neither the interest – nor any profit – is taxed. While the latter has more potential for greater returns, being tied to the stock market also means a greater risk of losing money.

What are bonds? (8,100 monthly searches)

A bond represents a loan, typically given to a body like a government or large company, by an investor. Governments may opt to issue bonds to raise money, and then agree to buy these bonds back at a later (agreed-upon) ‘maturity’ date. Bonds are considered a low-risk investment and can be a good way to diversify your portfolio with minimal exposure.

What is an ETF? (6,600 monthly searches)

ETFs, or ‘Exchange-Traded Funds’, are an asset type similar to index funds, in that they comprise of different stocks – usually representative of a particular sector – and are typically managed by larger companies (Vanguard, iShares, etc.). However, index funds are connected to exchanges and correlate more with that country’s economy and stock market.

What is a hedge fund? (5,400 monthly searches)

A hedge fund is an aggregated pool of money from different investors that is managed by an institution or individual. The hedge fund manager closely monitors the investment and is able to react and adjust accordingly (as per their strategy).

What is pension drawdown? (5,400 monthly searches)

Pension drawdown occurs when you continue to invest into a pension whilst simultaneously withdrawing money from it, essentially giving yourself a steady ‘income’ out of your own pension pot.

What are dividends? (4,400 monthly searches)

Dividends are a portion of a company’s profits that are distributed among its shareholders.

For example, if you buy 10 shares in ABC Manufacturing and they pay an annual dividend of £5 per share, you’ll be eligible for £50 back in your pocket that year – if you’re still holding those shares at the ex-dividend date.

 

What is cryptocurrency? (4,400 monthly searches)

Cryptocurrencies are digital-only currencies held on the blockchain. Unlike regular ‘cash’ currencies, cryptocurrencies aren’t tied to any central bank and are therefore unregulated, volatile, and considered a high-risk investment.

Those are coincidentally the same reasons for the relatively mass adoption over recent years – as more institutions accept and even integrate the likes of Bitcoin, XRP, Ethereum, and countless others, these assets risk becoming a part of the very world they were created to challenge.

The Economic Crisis, The Role of Central Banks & Whether Helicopter Money Can Save The Day

Gregory Perdon is co-Chief Investment Officer at Private and commercial Banking, Arbuthnot Latham

The world’s central banks (US Federal Reserve, Bank of England, Bank of Japan and the European Central Bank) play a crucial role in the global economy. Broadly speaking, they serve as both policy maker and lender of last resort and their objective is to help keep their respective economies in balance.  

Central banks monitor carefully the economy and the financial system and pay particular attention to the speed and temperament of growth. What do they want to see? Monetary officials like when the temperature of inflation and the economy is not too cold nor not too hot, think of it like goldilocks, namely ‘just right’. But when growth begins to overheat, that’s often when they jump into action to help cool things down. Equally when crisis hits, central bankers tend to be the first we call upon to help put out any financial fires.

How central banks manage the economy?

Well, they don’t really manage the economy; businesses and consumers do that through their buying and selling; banks do so via their lending decisions – but monetary officials still maintain a tremendous amount of influence over the economy.  One way they exert control is by setting interest rates. For example, when central banks lower borrowing costs, businesses and individuals tend to ‘feel richer’ and can divert capital they would have allocated to servicing debt into investments, hiring and spending (or at least in theory).

Central bankers can also allow lenders to increase their leverage levels, meaning banks can lend more money – which can free up the balance sheet to make more profit (assuming there is demand for lending).

Finally, through communicating (what central bankers call forward guidance), they can telegraph to the markets their intentions, enabling businesses, lenders and traders time to prepare and position.

Central banks and Quantitative Easing (QE)

What tools are left in the toolbox after interest rates have been cut to zero and capital ratios relaxed? Well when the conventional is exhausted, they go unconventional – and that’s exactly what the Fed did after the global financial crisis in 2008 – they took it to the next level via large scale bond buying programmes, otherwise known as quantitative easing (QE). 

That’s money printing, right?  Wrong, that’s a myth. QE is but a maturity transformation exercise during which the central bank buy bonds (taking them out of circulation) and replace them with cash. 

This floods the market with liquidity, pushing the price of bonds higher and the yield lower (a condition market participants refer to as financial suppression). This can drive investors into other higher yielding assets such as corporate bonds, listed stocks and property – thus creating demand for financial assets which in turn inflates their prices (or at least stabilises them). But it can also lead to the hoarding of cash.

And the Fed didn’t stop there, during the financial crisis and in their coronavirus pandemic response they also bought (and continue to buy) residential mortgage bonds. Are they interested in building a portfolio of properties and/or foreclosing? Of course not, they do this to ensure mortgage rates stay low – which creates a sense of confidence and encourages home ownership by making housing more ‘affordable’. And it has worked, look no further than the housing market data from sales to starts to prices to sentiment, it’s been a healthy market.

 

If central banks aren’t printing money, who is?

It’s the commercial/private banks (and shadow lenders) who perform the alchemy of money creation, not government. Every time a bank issues a new loan, one must think about it like a leveraged deposit. When one bank issues a loan, it becomes the deposit of another financial institution and it’s this multiplier which in essence creates new money. And of course, they also control the destruction of money – when loans are retired and credit contracts. 

But it’s not so simple, there needs to be lending opportunities in the markets and confidence in the system in order for banks to have the appetite to lend and the pricing needs to be perceived by the borrowers as attractive in order for businesses to accept the terms.

The role of governments

Coming back to crisis fighting, monetary policies can only take us so far but if we want to go the full distance, we need fiscal support.  Fiscal policy is the domain of governments, elected politicians, those individuals and committees who control taxation and spending.

Government bodies also set regulations and employment laws which can have a significant impact on the daily decisions made by businesses around the country. For example, if a government wants to orchestrate a short-term boom, they can deregulate and slash taxes (but pay the price of potential environmental damage, social unrest and/or higher government debt later).

But what happens when central banks run out of ammo, governments become desperate to foster growth, banks can’t lend and/or businesses don’t want to borrow?

Can Helicopter Money save the economy?

If conditions get bad enough, central banks and governments can throw out the rule book, circumvent the private sector, take to helicopters and go ‘all-in’. We have all heard about helicopter money, but what is it? Heli-money is fundamentally different to QE in that there is no exchange of assets. It is merely a one-way forgivable transfer (unlike QE which is a two-way exchange [but not forgiven]). In a stylised example, the government issues bonds which the central banks buy and then cancel, in turn allowing the government to issue cheques that could then be deposited into bank accounts for citizens to spend.

The attraction of implementing Heli-money is high, because it can, in theory, be used by politicians to potentially ‘address’ growing inequality. Helicopter money can appear to help a broader base of family income statements in a very ‘democratic’ fashion whereas QE has appeared to only help those having a big balance sheet. BUT it’s only optical.

Helicopter money isn’t the answer to our financial woes

The reason why QE is not a free lunch is because the money ends up back in the form of reserves, and central banks (such as the Fed) end up paying interest on reserves and excess reserves (to preserve the floor in rates), so it’s not really free.

Secondly, once the bonds are paid for and then ‘written-off’, the central bank may have its equity wiped out. Don’t forget a central bank has a balance sheet just like any other financial institution.

Finally, it may just not be legal nor is it clear who decides the size of the ‘one-off offering’ thereby putting the independence of the monetary authority in question. In order to promote financial stability and a well-functioning economy, we need to ensure central banks remain strong, solvent and independent. 

Beginner’s Guide to Alternative Investments

Alternative investment assets like collectibles, art, cryptocurrency and loans are attracting an increasing number of retail investors by offering low buy-in, high returns and efficient diversification options

Every few years the line between traditional and alternative investment opinions is re-drawn, as many alternative investment options become more and more mainstream. Everything outside the traditional investment options that are typically accessed through traditional financial institutions –  falls into the category of alternative investments. They do not include, what is now considered traditional investment options: ETFs, gold, bonds, pension funds, and others.

Alternatives category may include both physical and virtual assets, spanning real estate, art, fine wines and aged alcohol, rare items, cryptocurrency, loans, private company debt or ownership, and collectibles. There is no limit to collectible investments, as value can be found in designer sneakers, baseball cards, or even Barbie dolls.

Alternative investments can create both long-term appreciation and immediate income streams. One of the most active investor groups in alternative investing is retail investors – in other words individual investors, who want to take an active role in propelling their own financial success.  One of the most active groups, drawn to alternative investments is a millennial cohort, who exert skepticism about the power of pensions to really secure their retirement, as well as a propensity to learn to operate an alternative portfolio. Technology now allows to ensure sufficient diversification with only a few clicks, and to branch out into immediate passive income or short-term high-return opportunities. 

Five most popular alternative asset classes

1. Real estate. Part of the real estate investment market can be considered a traditional asset class – after all, even banks own real estate and hold on to it as a long term investment strategy. It’s an all-time classic to store value and a potential tool to expand earnings during positive market cycles. The biggest disadvantage of real estate are the big upfront costs and relatively low liquidity, if ownership is outright. That said, the modern – alternative investment options have become available in the real estate market, including real estate investment trust (REIT) and partial or fractional ownership ventures. Retail investors can now invest in various real estate projects by owning a part of its development and then receiving interest once it is developed.

2. Art, valuables, and collectibles. Once again, just like property ownership, some collectibles like fine wine or paintings are quite traditional – accessible to exclusive investor circles, with very high-buy in cost. The alternatives that are accessible to a wider audience, like baseball cards, or designer sneakers are easily researched on online marketplaces, like eBay. Some items can be owned outright in physical form, requiring some care and protection. But it is also possible to fractionally own any of the collectibles, including in-game items and virtual goods with residual value. This asset class has unpredictable returns with relatively difficult average appreciation, but can outperform other asset classes as an insurance. Companies like Masterworks and Otis are allowing retail investors to purchase shares in fine art pieces or unique collectibles. 

3. Crypto-assets. A hot and highly volatile asset class, which allows for both passive buy-and-hold strategies, and for trading. The chief advantage of cryptocurrencies is the relatively easy entry, with the potential to operate and hold the assets in a personally protected wallet, instead of relying on brokers or other third parties. Challenger banks, like Revolut, or  payment platforms like Paypal have integrated digital asset trading on their platforms – making it even more accessible. With recent cryptocurrency popularity, a new alternative investment asset class became popular – NFTs (Non-fungible tokens) – which are centered around collectibles, such as digital artwork, sports cards, and rarities. One trending platform would be NBA Top Shot, a place to collect non-fungible tokenized NBA moments in a digital card form.

4. Loans. Interest-bearing investments in packaged loans can bring transparent, predictable returns that outperform traditional investments. While investing in loans gives short-term returns, loans should be viewed as long-term investments. This asset class has a low entry point, while some platforms, like Mintos also sort potential investment in loans with a risk tolerance profile. It is important to diversify investment in this asset class in order to achieve stable income over time.  Investing in loans is also accessible to multiple economic areas.

5. Private company investments. Private equity and company loans are asset classes sometimes reserved for accredited investors. Because of the risky nature of private companies, some of the investments are only available to accredited buyers. Private equity is also off-limits to most retail buyers, due to its riskier nature and the higher barrier to entry. Loan investments can sometimes circumvent this limitation, by offering business loans for partial ownership and relatively low sums. More accessible option, albeit not very liquid, would again be fractional investment, or crowdfunding, which is available through platforms like Crowdcube.

Final thoughts 

Alternatives are bound to grow. Research by Prequin shows robust growth of alternative investments, to as high as $14 trillion in 2023. The Prequin report covers private wealth managers, but alternative investments are also open to retail owners, due to their variety and enhanced technological access.

The growth potential of the alternative investor sector also means adequate liquidity and price discovery will happen as more buyers join in. Fees are one of the hurdles that diminish the real returns of investment, but the more apps and investment hubs pop up, the more competition to offer low fees, increase service quality benchmark and attract investors.

Don’t Make These Money Mistakes

Paying your bills and having a little leftover each month to contribute to savings can be challenging. Even working in a well-paying career, it can be difficult to feel like you are making headway with your financial goals. If it doesn’t feel like you are progressing as you should, take a look at these common money mistakes and see if any sound familiar.

 

Paying High-Interest Debt

If you have credit card debt, there is a good chance you are throwing money away. Unless that debt is tied to a zero-interest promotional offer that you know you will pay off before the promotional period ends, you need to look at getting rid of this expense. Cutting expenses and focusing on paying off credit card debt is one way to attack the problem, but there are other options. Consider taking out a personal loan. Check online to see what rate you qualify for and choose an APR that works best for you. Unless you have a great deal on your credit card, you are sure to pay less interest by taking out a personal loan to pay off your cards.

 

Mindless Spending Stemming from a Lack of Planning

If you find that you are frequently stopping to pick up takeout on the way home from work, paying late fees on your bills, and purchasing items to replace something you know you have somewhere, you could easily save money by dedicating some time to planning. Look at your bank statement to see where you regularly spend money on your discretionary income. Pinpoint holes that are easy to plug, like fast food lunches. Packing your lunch saves money and is also generally a healthier choice.

Other questionable expenses may not be as noticeable. Do you regularly throw food out at your home? Make adjustments to your menu to reduce food waste, and you will lower your grocery spending. Do your utilities seem high? Look for easy fixes, such as hanging drapes to block drafty windows and turning your thermostat down a few degrees. Comb your bank statement for subscription services that you don’t use and cancel them. Cancelling can be a hassle, but spending a few minutes doing so can save you money each month.

 

Not Prioritizing Savings

Consider your savings account a bill like any other. If you only contribute money that you have leftover, you are sure to find that your savings aren’t growing very quickly. Instead, transfer a specific amount from your checking to your savings each pay period. Prioritize retirement savings as well. It is tempting to put saving for retirement off when you are young. Your income may be low, and you feel like you have plenty of time to contribute.

All of that is true, but the earlier you start saving, the more time the money has to grow. Your retirement savings will be much greater if you make regular deposits during your 20s and 30s. If, after examining your budget and making changes, you still struggle with having money left to save, consider taking a part-time job. Don’t think of it as a permanent move, just a chance to get out from under debt and boost your savings.

This Is What You Need to Know About the Insurance You Didn’t Know You Needed


There is no end to the questions and misconceptions people have about insurance. One of the most common misconceptions is that insurance is intended to be a discount for needed services. Indeed, many people never have reason to question this idea. After all, a visit with the general practitioner costs about $150 without insurance, and $5 or less with insurance. They measure the quality of insurance based on the perceived discount they gain.

However, this confusion drives many people to make bad decisions about insurance due to the fact that they are fundamentally wrong about what it is. Insurance is not a discount service. It is a risk management service. No one sells you insurance for events they know will occur. They sell you insurance for events they believe are less likely to occur. Insurance companies need you to pay them more money than they pay you. The house always wins. When it doesn’t, it goes bankrupt.

That is why life insurance generally costs less for people who are young and healthy. Coverage for lightning strikes is inexpensive in places that don’t have many electric storms. But in Tornado Alley, you might not find a company that offers it at all. It is primarily about risk management. Here are some other factors that will help you decide what insurance you really need versus that which you can do without:

Car Insurance

You know you need car insurance because most places require a certain amount of it before you can legally drive. But what about insurance for a car you have that you don’t drive? Do you need insurance on a car that doesn’t run? The answer might surprise you. It is more of a maybe than a yes. But it is more yes than no. Confused? Good. It is a confusing issue.

What happens if your undrivable car is stolen? Do you still expect it to be covered? If so, you are definitely going to need insurance on that parked car. What happens if it gets whisked away Wizard of Oz style? It might not be an act of any god you believe in. But insurance can still cover it. If you don’t want coverage for those things, it still might not matter. If you are paying for the car via a loan, the loan holder determines whether you can end coverage. Hint: You are going to need to keep that coverage. Remember, insurance is about risk management. The loan holder will not be taking a risk on that even if you want to. There are things you can do to reduce your insurance burden on a car that doesn’t run. But at the end of the day, you are probably going to have to carry some type of insurance on it in most states.

Renters Insurance

Everyone has heard of homeowner’s insurance. It is advertised in TV commercials. Not everyone knows about renters insurance. Only 41% of renters opt for renters insurance despite the price of renters insurance hitting average lows of $15 per month. It is clearly a type of insurance people don’t think they need. They will have a very different notion of what they need if they find themselves a victim of burglary. Your neighbor can set the building ablaze leaving you holding the bag for losses. Renters insurance might even cover accidental damage of items like smartphones and laptops.

Life Insurance

It should go without saying that everyone needs life insurance even when they are young. The problem is that young people feel invincible. So they never consider what will happen to their family if they died unexpectedly. It is even more of an issue if children are involved. When young couples get together, they blow the budget on elaborate rings. Instead of an expensive ring, insist that your partner buy life insurance instead. That is a much better sign of love and responsibility than jewelry.

Insurance is complicated and confusing. The thing to remember is that it is less about discounts for things you know will happen and more about risk management against things you don’t expect. Whether it be auto, renters, or life insurance, ask plenty of questions. And don’t stop until you get the answer you need to make a good decision. 

Looking for the Right U.S. City for Your U.K. Business Expansion? Here’s What You Need to Know


We are used to reading about U.S. businesses expanding to Europe. We often overlook the growing trend of
E.U. based businesses expanding to the U.S. There are many good reasons a U.K. company, in particular, would be interested in expanding to a location across the pond. Those reasons include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Virtually no language barrier

  • Cultural familiarity

  • Similarity between currencies

  • Relatively stable and predictable political system

  • Robust economy relative to other places

Although the U.S. is a mess right now relative to more stable periods from the past, it is still a viable capitalistic republic with a functional economy ripe for a strong rebound. Coronavirus is not just a U.S. phenomenon. We are in a pandemic. Everyone is having to deal with it at some level. There is also political unrest in much of the world. The U.K. is still unpacking what it means to no longer be a part of the E.U. 2020 was a reality for everyone. The real emphasis is on how we recover worldwide. U.K. businesses and U.S. consumers can benefit each other in the recovery process. When looking for a U.S. expansion city, here are a few things to consider:

A Livable City

Before looking too closely at any single metric, what you need is a livability assessment. Is the city the kind of place where your potential customers would want to live? If expanding to New Jersey, you wouldn’t just look at the housing market in Jersey City. You would assess the overall reality of living in Jersey City.

Livability scores are based on a variety of factors. Two of the most important factors to consider are crime and housing prices. Boston, NYC, and San Francisco are not the most livable solely on the basis of stratospheric housing costs. But a place like Jersey City would still be in the running because of the high safety index and reasonable cost of living. Obviously, there is more to consider. When you are opening in a new city, you have to consider more than your market. You also have to consider your workforce. Your employees might not be able to afford to live in a city where the cost of living is too high. When you move your business to a city, you become a part of that city and that community. Pick a city where you wouldn’t mind calling home.

A Stable Economy

One of the markers of a stable economy is a survey of foreclosures in the area. It is clearly a bad sign when the foreclosure rate is moving in the wrong direction. You can also look at the price range of properties in foreclosure. If the upper end of the housing market is suffering high foreclosure rates, that is a much bigger problem than foreclosure at the lower end of the range. That is where most foreclosures would be anyway.

You also need to look at economic markers over time. A place where things are great one year but horrible the next will not be a good location on which to base the economic future of your company. It is better to expand to a place that has slightly less money, but is more stable and predictable.

Transportation Infrastructure

What is the average commute time for workers in that city? Long commute times indicate poor transportation and housing options. Commute times would be shorter if people could live closer to work. If people are commuting from two cities away, that says something about livability.

It also has indications for retail success. Ease of moving about in a city affects who can shop at your stores. If it is hard to get to, it will be hard to attract customers. Look for a place where there is good public transportation and walkable neighborhoods.

There are many good reasons to consider expanding your business to the U.S. Just be sure to pick a city that is highly livable, economically stable, and easily navigable.

Self-Sufficiency Set to Influence Consumer Spending in 2021


In times of sudden and dramatic change, people tend to react in one of two ways. They either tense up and resist the inevitable for as long as humanly possible or take a deep breath and adapt to the new normal.

Generally speaking, the coronavirus pandemic has forced many of us to decide which way we’re going to react. While many people have chosen to live in denial, others see the pandemic as an opportunity for self-improvement.

For most folks, 2020 was the year when they realized they weren’t nearly as self-sufficient as they thought. In the absence of products and services we took for granted, it became apparent to many that achieving some sense of normalcy would require self-sufficiency.

With most experts anticipating another year of mask-wearing social distancing, it’s safe to say the self-sufficiency trend will continue through 2021 and beyond. With this in mind, investors and wealth management professionals will want to get on board before it’s too late.

Investing in the self-sufficiency industry opens up hundreds of possibilities. That’s because, as a result of the pandemic, the push for self-sufficient living permeates through every aspect of our lives. For example, due to working from home, many people are learning how to make coffee for the first time. Previously, they made a daily stop at Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts on the way to work. Since that’s no longer a feasible option, they opt to brew gourmet coffee at home.

If you’re an investor in early 2021, do you buy stock in one of the nation-wide coffee shop chains or online services sending monthly boxes of gourmet coffee to homes across the country? While the question assumes a false dichotomy (you could hedge your bets and invest in both or invest in neither), it highlights the gut-check security of investing in any business that’s currently selling a do-it-yourself alternative to things we outsourced before the pandemic.

However, investors must know the difference between a gimmick and a pot of gold. Do-it-yourself baking kits? That’s a winner. Do-it-yourself foundation repair kit? That’s probably not something people will want to tackle on their own in any circumstances.

With that said, the current trend towards self-sufficient consumerism doesn’t mean investors need to give the cold shoulder to big business mainstays. While so-called disruptive industries have been the topic du jour among investors for years, the prevailing pattern suggests industry giants will adapt to the new normal. If the new normal is more consumers choosing to DIY things they previously paid others to provide, it won’t be lost on those in control of the world’s largest companies.

2020 was a year to remember for all the wrong reasons. With that said, the pandemic and events surrounding it have led many to make changes to the way they do things. On the consumer side, individuals take on more responsibilities, while businesses are tasked with adjusting to changing consumer trends. While the overarching circumstances are unique, this pattern is business as usual. Investors should take note.

The True Impact of Credit On Your Everyday Life


There’s a common misconception that credit doesn’t matter until you’re applying for a mortgage, credit card, or personal loan. Truthfully, most people don’t even review their credit history until they need to borrow money or a line of credit. Although having a good financial record does apply in these circumstances, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Ultimately, a consumer’s credit is used in many different areas of their lives. 

Character, Risk Level, And Financial Responsibility

Creditors, lenders, retailers, and service providers use credit reports to assess potential customers. There are risks involved in loaning money, credit, products, or services. If consumers don’t repay their balances in a timely fashion, these establishments suffer a loss. As such, getting a general idea of a person’s creditworthiness helps businesses to make an informed decision. 

Whether you know it or not, your credit score and history tell a lot about how you handle your finances. It showcases your level of character and financial responsibility, which dictates your risk level. If your credit is less than satisfactory, it can have a significant impact on your everyday life. Continue reading to learn more. 

Renting An Apartment

A good credit report is indeed necessary to acquire a home loan. However, did you know that it can also affect your ability to rent an apartment? Though you’re not borrowing any money to secure a property lease, you are making a promise to pay your rent on time. Landlords rely on rental payments to maintain the mortgage, keep the property intact, and cover other expenses. If you don’t pay, this puts them in a bind. If your credit check shows that you don’t pay your bills on time, it could backfire. Some applicants are rejected and unable to find a suitable place to live. Others are required to pay a higher deposit as a means of security for landlords. 

Utility Services

Water, electricity, and gas are some of the basic necessities of everyday life. However, you may not know that your credit history has a significant impact on your ability to get utility services in your home or apartment. Utility companies need to know that you’re going to pay for these services. So, they review your credit report for more information. If you have a low score, past due balances, and collection accounts, this sends up red flags. If you’re not turned down for services altogether, chances are you’ll be required to pay a sizable deposit to get started. The utility company holds the deposit in an account that’s used if you fall behind on the bill. 

Loan And Credit Card Interest

Your credit score doesn’t just help determine if you get approved for a loan or credit card; it’s also a determining factor in how much you’ll pay in interest. The higher the interest rate, the more expensive it is for you to borrow money. Over the lifetime of the loan or credit card account, consumers can spend extra hundreds if not thousands of dollars in interest alone. How much more money you’ll pay, is determined by your creditworthiness. Someone with a credit score of 650 is going to pay more for a mortgage, student loan, or credit card than someone with a score of 750 or higher. 

Getting Things In Order

As you can see, your credit impacts a lot more than you think. Whether you’re trying to rent an apartment or get utility services setup, your credit is evaluated to determine your character, risk level, and financial responsibility. Essentially, a person with poor credit will have a difficult time acquiring things they need. Even if they do, chances are they’re going to pay a lot more. That’s why consumers are encouraged to use financial management practices and resources like no credit check online loans to improve their credit. 

Life is already challenging enough. Why make things harder if you don’t have to? Now that you have a clearer understanding of how your credit impacts everyday life, you can take steps to turn things around for the better. 

Improve Your Business and Finances with Software


It doesn’t matter if you’re a business owner or an individual simply looking for a way to boost your financial standing, there are steps you can take to move in the right direction.

One of the first things you should do is consider the benefits of software.

There’s a software application for almost everything, ranging from budgeting to building your credit score to managing your debt. On top of this, there are advanced applications, such as master data management software, that are more inclined to help you maintain control over your company finances.

If you’re wondering if software is the right solution to your financial problems, you’re in luck. Here’s a list of five benefits of implementing software into your financial strategy:

1. Accuracy

Take for example a budget that you track with a basic spreadsheet or pen and paper. While it’s possible that you’re able to maintain accuracy, it’s also more likely that you’ll make a mistake.

But with software, this is never a concern. You’re relying solely on the application to maintain your accuracy, so the only thing you have to worry about is the inputs. Proper budgeting takes accuracy. 

Without accurate numbers, you can’t expect your finances to be in order. 

2. Time Savings

Who wants to waste valuable time managing their personal finances? Not most people!

If you continually find yourself wasting time and wondering how to speed up, the answer is likely to be a software application.

Pinpoint where you’re losing time, find a few software solutions that make sense, and give them a try.

As you save time, you’ll come to realize that you have more time for tasks that have a greater chance of moving the needle. 

Tip: if you find that a software program is costing you time—not saving you time—you should think about moving on. It’s counterproductive. 

3. Money Savings

Even if you have to pay for a software program, there’s a good chance you’ll save money in the long run.

Sticking with the example above, imagine a situation in which you make a budgeting mistake because you weren’t using software.

By the time you catch this mistake, it’s already cost you money, such as in bank fees or a client that’s upset with you and canceled their service.

If you want to save money—and everybody does—consider the way that software can help you do just that. 

4. It’s More Fun

At first, you may not agree with this. After all, you have to learn a new way of doing things. 

Even though there’s a slight learning curve in many cases, you’re likely to have more fun over the long run.

There’s something cool about using an app that allows you to maintain efficiency and save you time and money. It makes you feel good about the steps you’re taking. It makes you realize that you’re doing your part in making the most of your financial circumstances. 

5. It’s Easy to Use

There’s no doubt about it. Many people shy away from using software because they don’t want to deal with the learning curve. 

It’s 2021 out there, so this is no longer a problem. When you choose a high-quality software solution, it’ll be easy to learn and use. So, you can get up and running within a matter of minutes.

Adding to this, most software providers have robust learning centers and customer service teams. There are answers to be had and people who can provide feedback in a timely manner.

Tip: don’t just ship if you’re facing an early learning curve. Stick with what you’re doing. It’s likely that you’ll eventually catch on. And when you do, that’s when the real benefits start to flow in. 

Final Thoughts

So, there you have it. This should give you a better idea of how you can use software to improve your business and finances.

If you’re ready to take action, choose a few solutions and implement them in your daily life. This will allow you to see what works, what doesn’t, and where to go next.

What are your thoughts on using software to assist you with money management related tasks? Have you done this in the past at work? How about in your personal life?

Becoming Financially Stable

Do you feel like you are always going through ups and downs with your income? Unfortunately, riding a financial roller coaster won’t allow you to achieve wealth or even hit your long term goals. 

Thankfully, you no longer have to live life that way. 

Consolidating Debt

An excessive amount of debt can make you cash poor regardless of your income. Consolidating credit card debt will free up money from your budget. Applying for credit cards that offer balance transfer interest-free or finding low-interest refinance mortgage loans are a few options to help you get out from under the debt.

Eliminating Reckless Spending

Many people mismanage their money. They see something they want and buy it giving no thought to repayment. Unfortunately, spending money on impulse is a sure way to remain financially unstable. There are a few preventative measures you can put in place to reduce your chances in the future. 

First, if you can’t browse, don’t visit stores unless you have things you need. Second, pay with cash. You’ll get a genuine sense of how much something costs and only have a set amount of money on hand. Finally, when you do shop, bring a list and stick to it. 

Invest in You

One of the best ways to achieve financial stability is to earn to your full potential. If you accept less than you’re worth, then you could be cheating yourself out of comforts in life. If you took a job without a college degree or left college with a bachelor’s degree, take some classes and earn your master’s. The higher your education, the higher your earning potential. 

Promote Health

While genetics may put you at a greater risk of contracting a disease or illness, it doesn’t mean that you have to drain your finances to experience a good quality of life. Promoting a healthy lifestyle is something you can control. 

Eat foods high in nutrition and avoid saturated fats and excessive amounts of salt and sugar. Kicking bad habits like smoking, drinking and drugs is also beneficial to a prolonged life. Getting regular exercise will prevent weight gain and costly health issues. 

Create a Budget

Budgeting your money teaches you how to save and spend it wisely. Without a budget, you might not have funds set aside for a vacation, to buy a home, pay for emergencies or your retirement. 

A budget also keeps spending under control. You know what you owe and to whom it goes. This allows you to make changes that benefit your finances. 

A Good Credit Score

Having a good credit score is essential to your finances. A high score opens the door to financial opportunity. You have access to the best interest rates when buying a home or a car, or taking out a personal loan. You can rent a property and avoid deposits for utilities. 

A good credit score also means you can apply for credit cards offering the best perks and the lowest interest rates. Today, a high score also provides access to the best insurance companies and can even play a positive role in securing a good job. 

Retirement Funds

You may think that retirement is far into the future. However, it comes along quickly. Having money set aside for your golden years will ensure you maintain the same quality of life. 

If you want to invest in the stock market, find a qualified broker. If your employer offers a 401(k) or other pension benefits, enroll. 

Find Ways to Spend Less

Spending less on the things you need such as food, transportation and living expenses will increase your net worth without sacrifice. Use coupons and perks stores offer to reduce costs for everyday living. When shopping for big-ticket items, compare prices and wait for times throughout the year where prices are lower. 

The good news is you can become sound with your finances and reap the benefits of a good quality of life. 

The Five Key Financial Services Sales Skills

By Lars Pedersen, CEO, Questionmark

Many financial services firms rely on the effectiveness of their salespeople to drive revenues and growth.

But many salespeople may not be maximizing their performance. As a result, they may be hindering the firm’s performance.

To unlock potential, financial services firms should assess the top behaviors and skills of their best-performing salespeople. They can then replicate these skills across the broader salesforce through relevant training and support.

What’s the problem?  

Financial services firms depend on making sales. But half of financial services salespeople expect to miss their annual target.

Regardless of this, many salespeople believe that the targets they were set were reasonable.

So, while some salespeople may be performing well, many may be underperforming, despite the investment in training them.

Five key skills

The most successful salespeople have clear behaviors and skills that enable them to sell more than their peers. 

By measuring the skills of the best performing workers with staff assessments, employers can get a good understanding of what works and what doesn’t. Firms can then train other salespeople in these skills.

There are often five key skills that firms look for in their salespeople.

First, digital marketing. Some 82% of customers look up salespeople or their companies on LinkedIn before responding to their communications. A strong digital presence will help with lead generation.

Second, first-class knowledge. Customers know they can get basic information online.  During a conversation with salespeople, they want to go to the next level of detail.

Third, consultancy. A would-be customer expects a salesperson to understand their business and their challenge and identify products that are right for them. Customers want advice on how to use products effectively.

Fourth, qualifying leads accurately. Some salespeople waste too much time pursuing leads that are unlikely to convert. They should be able to spot a future opportunity early on and be ruthless in ignoring those that are unlikely to bear fruit.

Last, communication. Both speed and quality of communication are essential. Calls must be returned. Emails have to be answered quickly. 

How assessments help

Assessments, which measure progress by testing skills, help employers to understand the skills that their people have. By measuring such progress, employers can help improve it.   

Regular skills assessments give employers reliable and accurate information on the strengths and weaknesses of their salesforce. 

They can then introduce training to address weaknesses, and to replicate the skills and behaviours of the best performers. They can also test the effect of training with further assessments.  

That’s why one in six US Fortune 100 companies use Questionmark’s enterprise-grade assessment platform.

Providing a competitive advantage

When the financial services industry is changing as rapidly as it is, firms must know their people have the skills they need to maximize performance and their potential. 

Getting a clearer picture of why some salespeople perform well, and others don’t, is crucial.

Building this picture through robust skills assessments could make a difference to performance and drive both sales and revenues.

Top 10 International Money Transfer Companies You Need to Know

The relevance of international money transfer companies is growing fast. It’s because slow and expensive bank wire transfers are a big problem for many people. Businesses need cheaper transfers for making and accepting payments. International investors need them as much as small business owners. Losing up to 3% on each transaction (bank transfer cost) can make their investments unviable. Most of all, migrant workers need these transfers as the cost of remittances matters a great deal for them and the global economy. There are also international travelers and other people who mostly use these services for convenience.

All in all, the demand in this market is high and it’s no surprise that dozens of money transfer providers sprung up all over the world. However, not all of them are equally good and trustworthy. As this industry is not well-regulated yet, it’s essential that you choose a provider with extreme care. The following International Money Transfer Top 10 list will help you find the best provider based on your needs. Bear in mind that while there are many great companies that offer affordable transfers, they also have specializations. Therefore, you should consider the type of transfers you need in order to choose the best company for you.

Top 10 International Money Transfer Companies to Fit Every Customer

Western Union

Western Union is, possibly, the most well-known yet most disliked money transfer provider worldwide. No matter negativity surrounding this company, it deserves a place on any top list for international money transfer companies because no other company can reach this far. In fact, for many migrant workers Western Union is the only available option.

This is a money transfer provider focused on remittances and it has an unmatched network of offices worldwide. The company supports 145 different currencies and offers in-person cash pickups even in the most remote places. Literally, there are Western Union money transfers in areas where no other international money transfer companies operate and even banking is severely limited.

That said, Western Union transfers are very expensive. They are the most expensive in the industry. The level of customer service and overall customer support is also not very good. The company has thousands of negative reviews on platforms like Consumer Affairs and BBB Customer Complaints.

The exact cost of the transfer depends on the currency, destination, and transfer amount. The company itself is highly trustworthy and regulated by multiple authorities. Western Union has been in business since 1851. It remains one of the most reputed names in the industry despite high transfer costs.

MoneyGram

MoneyGram is another reputed and remittances-oriented veteran in the money transfer industry. This company was founded in 1940 and it keeps growing and improving even through the current crisis. MoneyGram transfers are also quite expensive. However, it’s on the top 10 international money transfer companies list due to its wide global reach. The company offers cash pickups and supports 58 currencies for online transfers. Note that more currencies are supported if you make a physical transfer through a shop.

There is no minimum transfer amount, so MoneyGram is well-suited for small remittances. But transfer fees and currency exchange rates offered by the company are rather unfavorable. The cost of a transfer can reach 10% to some more remote destinations, like Ethiopia. Also, MoneyGram has multiple negative customer reviews.

It’s important to note that MoneyGram is a licensed and one of the most reliable international money transfer companies. It’s also regulated by multiple financial authorities, like the FCA. Therefore, for all that these transfers aren’t cheap, you can be sure they are 100% safe.

Xoom

Xoom is another great money transfer provider for remittances. It allows you to send transfers, no matter how small, to 131 countries and supports 79 currencies. Xoom earned its place on the top 10 international money transfer companies list due to the fact that it offers cheaper remittances. It also has a very good mobile app and is generally a user-friendly service.

However, at the moment Xoom allows you to send money only from Canada and the USA. Within those countries it’s also a very popular service for small personal transfers. These transactions are very cheap and fast. International money transfers through Xoom will cost more as the transfer amount increases. That’s why it’s a good service for remittances but not the best choice for large investment or business transfers.

TransferWise

TransferWise is currently the biggest among the “new generation” of international money transfer companies. It’s valued at $5 billion, which means it’s grown by about $1,5 billion in the last year alone. This company offers the cheapest international small transfers you can find today. Due to its fixed currency exchange margin and the minimum transfer amount of $1 it’s perfect for remittances and other small personal transfers. However, note that TransferWise doesn’t offer discounts for high-volume transactions.

The company is innovative and growing fast, including its global coverage. It’s also transparent in its pricing and highly safe. It’s regulated by multiple financial authorities, including the FCA. It’s also one of the few licensed to work in the US.

The level of customer satisfaction for TransferWise is very high. The mobile app and online transfers are very user-friendly.

Notably, TransferWise offers some of the lowest foreign currency exchange rates for international money transfers. These rates are unmatched for small transfers. The only reason it’s not currently the leader of the top 10 international money transfer companies list is that TransferWise’s global reach is not yet as wide as Western Union. However, considering its rate of growth and popularity, this might change soon.

OFX

OFX is one of the most notable international money transfer companies today due to the high versatility of its services. This is an online-based company with 10 offices worldwide and 115 bank accounts. Due to this, OFX can offer cheap and fast international money transfers to both businesses and individuals.

The minimum transfer amount with OFX is $100 and the company offers rather low exchange rates and fees. This is why it’s well-suited for small transfers. But most importantly for businesses and investors, OFX has flexible margins. Therefore, the larger is your transfer, the cheaper it will be.

Moreover, the company has a corporate desk and offers very helpful services for businesses and investors. This includes hedging and dedicated currency guidance.

Customer satisfaction rate for OFX is high and the company is regulated by the FCA and other relevant authorities. All transfers are available at zero fees and the company is transparent and traded publicly. Its yearly turnover is around $20 billion. As online international transfer companies are, in essence, currency wholesalers, the large volume is what allows them to keep FX rates low.

One small issue that customers report with OFX is that waiting times for support can be long.

Payoneer

Payoneer is somewhat limited in its functionality and types of transfers you can make through it. However, it offers such a great balance of price and ease of use that it deserves a place among the top 10 international money transfer companies. It also must be noted that the company is constantly growing and improving. Just recently it announced a $3.3 billion deal with SPAC: Betsy and it’s going public. Already Payoneer offers very fair currency exchange rates and transfer fees. The new announcement shows that we can expect it to get even better soon.

Payoneer money transfers have a huge global reach and the comp-any is popular with online merchants, expats, travelers, etc. There are no good high-volume discounts. That’s why it’s not the best for large transfers. However, it’s an excellent solution for quick and cheap small-to-medium transfers. 5 million people are using Payoneer already and the majority of customer reviews are positive.

One of the best Payoneer features is that it allows freelancers to easily withdraw payments they accept from clients through a Mastercard. The solution is also a good choice for SMEs that need to accept payments from multiple countries.

AirWallex

AirWallex is one of the international money transfer companies targeting the eCommerce sector. This company offers secure and reasonably affordable transfers and is rather popular worldwide. Please note that one cannot use AirWallex as a private client to make small transfers. However, online merchants can benefit from this service greatly as it’s secure and regulated by many authorities, including FINTRAC, FCA, ASIC, and HK Customs and Excise Department. Exchange rates offered by the company are very good.

At the moment, AirWallex supports 50 currencies. It’s open for business clients from Europe, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, and China. There is no minimum transfer amount and fees are very low.

There aren’t many customer reviews of this company available online. However, those that exist are mostly positive. AirWallex was founded only in 2015. But it managed to build a solid reputation of reliability within its niche. It’s also known to have a very good app. The company is growing steadily and already has eight offices worldwide and over 300 employees. Its turnover has reached $3 billion a year and it currently plans expanding to the US market.

WorldFirst

WorldFirst is one of the online money transfer industry veterans. Recently this company has undergone a major overhaul. It was purchased by Alibaba Group and with this huge influx of funding it managed to rise fast. Today WorldFirst offers the best FX margins in the entire industry. It’s one of the best solutions for making large transfers at a fixed margin. Due to its close association with Alibaba, the company also offers a wide range of useful services for eCommerce merchants.

All in all, WorldFirst is near the top 10 international money transfer companies because it’s nearly impossible to find a cheaper and more reliable solution for businesses and independent investors. It’s not the best option for small transactions because the minimum transfer size is $1000.

The company is transparent in its pricing and supports over 130 currencies. It has multiple offices worldwide and accepts clients from all over the world, except for the USA. Customers usually praise low rates as well as great service. WorldFirst is rather innovative and its apps are highly advanced but easy to use.

In fact, using WorldFirst international money transfers is so easy you can make a transaction in a few minutes. The registration process takes less than a minute. The company’s global reach is unmatched by any of its direct competitors (Currencies Direct, Moneycorp, TorFX).

Moneycorp

Moneycorp is among those international money transfer companies that are rapidly growing and improving today. Just recently it announced joining Shortlist to provide simple and affordable payments for freelancers. This is a good reminder that despite being an industry veteran (founded in 1962) the company thrives on innovation. Its annual turnover is near $40 billion now and Moneycorp prides itself on working with high-wealth clients.

This is one of the top 10 international money transfer companies that are perfect for investors and businesses. The company offers lower rates for large transfers and many additional services, including guidance from currency experts. Note that Moneycorp has won numerous awards and has the highest D&B rating in the industry.

The minimum transfer is only $50, which makes it possible to use Moneycorp for small private transfers as well. However, the provider has the best rates saved for customers who make high-volume transactions. The company has offices in several European countries, the US, the UAE, Hong Kong, Brazil, and Australia. It’s regulated by multiple authorities, such as the FCA, ACPR, and FINCEN. It supports 120 currencies and over 90% of all customer reviews are positive.

Currencies Direct

Currencies Direct is another of international money transfer companies that work primarily with high-wealth clients. It offers many helpful services for investors and business owners. This includes offering expertise on global real estate investments.

The company has a $7.5 billion annual turnover and 22 offices in different countries. It offers some of the best exchange rates for high-volume transfers. It also offers a very efficient and friendly multi-lingual customer support service.

The minimum transfer with Currencies Direct is $100 and the company charges no transfer fees. It’s regulated by the FCA, SARB, FINTRAC, and FinCEN. It also has a Level 1 D&B rating and supports 39 currencies.

Bottom Line: International Money Transfer Companies Are Changing the World

As globalization is growing billions need to be transferred worldwide every year for business and personal purposes. Money transfer companies with their cheaper and more efficient transactions are going to become the new norm for international payments. This means that we can expect more competition in the industry, which will prompt even better offers.

Study Reveals UK Among World’s Worst For Its National Debt – Equal to £40K Per Person by 2025

Government debt could be as high as £2.75 trillion by 2025, nearly £40K per person

The COVID-19 pandemic has been financially challenging for tens of millions of Brits, but none more so than for the UK Government who has borrowed billions so far to fight the Coronavirus and keep the economy afloat. 

 

Just like businesses, governments have balance sheets and competing priorities for their money. And a new study by investing platform Stockopedia.com, comparing national debt across the globe during the pandemic, has found the UK is among the worst in the world for its rising debt levels. 

 

According to the study, the UK’s net national debt was £2.02 trillion in the final months of 2020. To put this into perspective, that’s £30,042.05 for every person living in the UK (67.3 million of them) and ranks the UK in 7th place globally for the most debt per person.

The UK’s net debt is up from £1.67 trillion at the end of 2019 (or £25,020 per person), before COVID-19 had reached our shores.  

 

Out of the G20 and EU countries, the UK has seen the 3rd largest impact on national debt during the pandemic, up 22.75 percent, behind Spain (+25.58 percent) and Italy (+25.8 percent). 

 

Net debt takes into account a country’s financial assets like gold, currency and deposits, debt securities, insurance and pensions to give a truer figure of what’s owed. Of course, this isn’t debt that the public has to pay back; rather, it’s a reflection of the financial hole in the UK economy that will affect everyone in one way or another.  

 

In order to start getting its finances under control, the UK Government announced a public sector pay freeze in November, despite this workforce playing a frontline role during the pandemic. This will affect the income of 5.5 million people, although NHS staff are exempt.  

 

It’s also expected that the Chancellor will increase income tax, National Insurance contributions and VAT in the coming months to raise what could be an extra £19bn of revenue a year, further squeezing the finances of tens of millions but helping to pay off some of its debt. 

 

What’s more, the IMF is projecting the UK’s debt could be as high as £2.75 trillion by 2025. That’s equal to £39,905 for every person living in the UK – estimated to be 68.88 million in four years’ time. 

 

This means the UK is set to become the 5th worst country globally for its amount of national debt per person, overtaking Italy and Ireland. 

 

The UK isn’t the only country globally facing spiralling national debt. The study reveals Japan is in the most debt, with its economy hit hard by the global recession in 2008/9, as well as the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami in 2011, and subsequently the COVID-19 pandemic.  

 

Calculated proportionate to its population, Japan’s net national debt of over 932 trillion Yen (roughly £6.5 trillion) accounts for a staggering £52,758 per person.  

 

The United States follows closely in 2nd place with a net national debt of almost £50k per person, totalling over $22.2 trillion. Meanwhile, closer to home, Ireland is in 3rd place with debts of over £36k per person (totalling over 204 billion Euros).  

 

At the other end of the rankings, there are only four countries who are debt-free: Lesotho, Kazakhstan, Luxembourg and Norway. While it’s true they all have varying amounts of gross debt, this is completely offset by their valuable financial assets. 

 

You can explore the full data from the study here.

 

Ben Hobson, Markets Editor at Stockopedia.com commented on the findings: 

 

National debt is a reality of the modern world. But few could imagine the impact the COVID-19 pandemic would have on major world economies, as well as smaller nations. 

 

While it can be difficult to predict how the situation will change in the coming year, what’s certain is that there’s a long road ahead for financial recovery, as highlighted by the IMF projects up to 2025. What’s clear is that we’re likely to see the situation become worse before it gets better.” 

 

Simple Ways to Save Money That Often Go Overlooked

One of the most fundamental concepts of generating wealth is knowing how to save money. When you master the art of stretching your earnings further, you have more resources to invest and save towards a more secure future. While shopping around for the best price, using coupons, and other common savings tactics are ideal, other strategies go overlooked, costing you hundreds of dollars each year. Continue reading to learn more. 

Skip ATM Fees

When you need access to cash, the ATM is the fastest way to retrieve it. It saves you from standing in long lines at the bank and allows you to get money 24/7. Be that as it may, you incur a fee when you use ATMs outside of your bank’s network. The fee might only be $2-5, but when you calculate that over the number of times you use the ATM in a month, it adds up. Not to mention, most banks charge an additional fee for using out-of-network ATMs. You can save several dollars every year by merely using no-fee ATMs or making purchases using the debit card linked to your bank account. 

Overdraft Protection

Even the most financially organized person can overlook a bank transaction. You forget that your cell phone bill is on automatic withdrawal. The funds aren’t available in your checking account. The payment gets returned, and you’re left with a $25-$35 fee to cover. While setting reminders can reduce the chances of overdraft fees, there’s another solution – overdraft protection. This is an “insurance” policy offered by banks where transactions totaling more than your available balance are honored or paid using a linked savings account, saving you hundreds in fees each month. 

Rebates

Using coupons or taking advantage of sales when making a purchase are common ways to save money, but they’re not the only solutions. Most people tend to overlook rebate opportunities. Though not applied at the time of purchase, rebates can quickly add up. If you frequently shop online, applying for an Amazon rebate could save you hundreds of dollars on everyday purchases. Believe it or not, there are several cashback and rebate programs you can sign up for to save on everything from groceries to apparel. 

Buy Generic

As a consumer, you’ll always pay for the brand’s name and reputation, from your medications to your clothes. For example, a pair of athletic shoes from Payless shoe store will cost you less than a pair you purchase from Nike. Since Nike is the more popular brand, it will always be more expensive than a generic brand from your local retailer. However, if you dig deeper, you’ll learn that these shoes are made in the same factories using the same materials, ultimately providing you with the same quality. So, it’s safe to say that you would save yourself hundreds if not thousands of dollars by being open-minded about generic or lesser-known brands. 

Timeliness

When it comes to wasting money, timeliness is a huge factor. When you don’t pay your bills in a timely manner, you incur late fees, penalties, and sometimes added interest. Depending on how frequently you practice this behavior, you could be watching hundreds of thousands of dollars go down the drain. You can remedy this problem by ensuring that you pay your bills on time. Set up automatic payment plans or set reminders to ensure that you have the available funds to cover the bill. If you’re having difficulty keeping up with the due dates, talking with service providers about making adjustments is recommended. 

As the saying goes, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” On the surface, these habits may not seem like much. Incurring a $2 ATM or $35 overdraft fee, spending more on a popular brand, or missing the deadline for a utility or credit card bill seems minuscule, but if you were to add it up over the course of a month or year, chances are you’d be surprised. Keep more of your money in your pocket by developing better financial habits and taking advantage of the resources available to help you save more each day.

How to Know When to Use an Alternative and When to Stay the Mainstream Course

At some point in your life, you have been encouraged to think outside the box. In the simplest terms, it means to consider something that stands outside the mainstream. However, that advice needs a lot more nuance to be truly useful. You don’t want to take a hostile view toward the mainstream solution. Most of the time, the mainstream solution is the best one. After all, that is how it became the mainstream in the first place. It is the thing that works most often.

That said, the typical solution does not work all the time. There are reasons for that. We are all different and have different needs. Some situations are outside the norm so they need outside the box thinking. It is not always obvious which situations require an alternative solution.

Some things are obvious. You don’t want alternative pilots who did alternative pilot training. That is clearly a very bad idea. You don’t want alternative electricians who went to alternative electrician school. You only need to try alternative food products to know you don’t want alternative food.

You also want traditional term life insurance. You need an insurance company that is going to be there over the long term, and will cover you in predictable and comprehensive ways. You can find non-traditional value if you shop around. Get your term life quotes to find a plan that’s right for you. There is no alternative to good insurance. Here are a few things where alternatives are more appropriate:

Alternative Business Financing

Right now there is a lot of interest in alternative business financing. It is not easy to find financing for startups from traditional sources. This is especially true for tech startups. They are often founded by people who had an idea, a dream, and some space in their mother’s basement. What they didn’t have was money. They also lacked the ability to get a bank loan.

Fortunately, they had their idea during a time of angel investors and crowdfunding. some of the most interesting products have made their way to market with the help of alternative financing. Fitbit is one such example. It was able to survive long enough to be a real competitor to Wear OS and was eventually purchased by google. For many startups, the alternative financing route is the better first choice.

Alternative Diets

All special diets are alternative diets. You have the USDA guidelines. Then, you have everything else. Such guidelines are a good general rule for the general public. But if you are diabetic with special needs, you need an alternative diet. This applies for all sorts of situations such as food allergies. Celiac disease is no fun and requires a diet without gluten. Peanut allergies can be life-threatening. Peanut products are in more ingredients than you might think.

When it comes to what you can and cannot eat. You need to listen to your doctor. They might even refer you to a dietary specialist. Some people respond best to well considered, highly curated meal plans. You can’t just eat like everyone else. And you can’t take the well meaning advice of your friends and family. When it comes to your special needs diet, you have to think outside the big box supermarket advertising and look to alternatives more tailored to your needs.

Alternative Tech

Many people suffer from RSI because they use a computer all day. We interface with the computer via keyboards, trackpads, and mice. The keyboard as we know it was not designed for comfort or ergonomic health. The good news is there are alternative keyboards you can buy that can give you a better chance of avoiding RSI. The same is true for pointing devices. You have to look beyond the mainstream to find them. But they are there. Millions swear by them.

Don’t despise the mainstream. It is mainstream because it works most of the time for most people. But you are not most people. You are uniquely you. Sometimes you have to walk a different path. If you are looking for business financing, a special diet, or special tech for special needs, think outside the box. Many brilliant alternatives await.

8 Great Ways to Use Your Stimulus Check

You’re getting the stimulus check, which is great news for those experiencing financial hardship. Now, it’s time to think about how you’re going to use it. The following are a few ways to help yourself and the nation’s economy.

  1. Clear Debts

One of the best suggestions on how to use stimulus check money is to pay down some debt. If you can decrease the amount you owe, the money saved going forward can be used to buy a new car or maybe even start a business. You’ll be freer, and that’s priceless.

  1. Vacation

Face it, people have had a rough year, and if you want a vacation, then maybe that’s the best thing you can do. It’s a way to recharge your batteries and feel good again. The vaccine is going to reopen things soon, so just plan your vacation with this cash. Stay within the US to boost the economy.

  1. Treat Yourself

Maybe you’ve been a little wary about spending because of everything going on. Things are turning around, so why not consider treating yourself with this check? There must be something you’ve wanted for a long time, like an entertainment center or something similar.

  1. Sustainability

The pandemic has taught us the value of self-sustainability. You can use this check to start your journey. There are many ways you can do this, from buying a chicken coup to have access to fresh eggs at home or investing in a greenhouse to grow vegetables.

  1. Home Repairs

Some folks have been sitting on much-needed home repairs for some time. It’s time to address those repairs, and you can use the check for that. You’ll be stimulating the local economy if you use a repair person from your community. Your home will function a lot better, so it’s a wise decision.

  1. Car Repairs

Maybe it’s not your home that needs to be repaired but your car. People sometimes put off repairs as long as the vehicle is still running. You don’t have to take that risk because you have this check coming. You’ll be supporting mechanics, and that’s a good thing to do during these times. Have an inspection done to see what needs fixing.

  1. Invest

If you feel like you’ve got enough money saved, then consider investing. Granted, there are markets where you might not want to invest just yet, especially if they’re in trouble, but there are a few industries still thriving. Do your research and find out where it might be a good idea to invest. This is an excellent way to ensure that your wealth keeps growing; it’s not like these checks will keep coming though they probably should because they are doing a lot of good.

  1. Save

Sometimes, the smartest thing you could do is just save the money. Maybe you want to make sure you have the cash for your kids to go to college. This could go a long way in making that a reality for you. Maybe you just want to save to buy your kid’s first car. There are many reasons to put your money away, so if there’s nothing else, then this is your wisest move. You don’t want to waste money frivolously, so just keep that in mind.

These are some ways you can use the stimulus check coming your way. You can use other ways, but you know your financial situation and goals, so choose carefully.

Here Is What Your Company Can Do to Attract More Women Investors

Women make up about 50% of the population while controlling only 30% of the wealth. This is the worldwide statistic that is set to dramatically change in the right direction over the course of the next decade. As bad as the numbers appear, they actually represent good news. This is a big improvement that is set to continue. Women’s growing wealth prompts the need for changes in the banking sector. That said, it is not all good news. MSN goes on to say:

“Although a third of the world’s wealth is under women’s control today, four in ten wealthy women are currently not involved in the management of their family finances compared to only one in ten men.”

Dramatic change is afoot. And that foot will be wearing Prada. More women are bursting through the glass ceiling, as well as the glass walls and glass doors. You want to be on the right side of history, as well as the right side of your growing female clientele. Here is hot to make sure they do business with you as opposed to your competition:

Speak Directly to Women

It is never the right thing to address someone indirectly. If you have a question for a woman, don’t ask her male partner or associate. Speak to her directly. Advertisers often make this mistake. Your marketing does not need to talk down to women. It needs to talk directly to women.

If your healthcare services include women’s health issues, you need to make sure you are speaking to that target audience. If you don’t know how to do that, bring in a healthcare public relations firm that can. If you want to target investment products to women, you are in luck. You have an audience that is rapidly growing. They already want to do more investing. You just have to craft your message so that you are making a direct appeal to the customers you want to attract.

One of the best ways to draw and not repel women investors is to put women in charge of the sales and marketing efforts. Men are used to talking to other men in ways that would be counterproductive when talking to women. The best way to speak directly to women is to let a woman do the speaking.

Go Where the Market is Ready

Gender egalitarianism is not alive and well in many parts of the world. Change is happening everywhere. But that change is much slower in some places as opposed to others. If you want to attract more women to your investment platforms, start in the places where more women are empowered to respond to your message.

Women investors in loans rose by 43% in Europe in 2020. Europe has a long history of empowered women. It is a good place to find women investors. The U.S. requires a bit more nuanced effort. Women control a great deal of wealth in the States. 20201 saw the swearing in of the first female vice president. It is overcoming a checkered past with regard to women’s rights. But the market for women investors is set to explode as millions of women become more empowered. Go where the market is ready to reap the greatest rewards.

Provide More Offerings Suitable for Women

One of the best things Apple did with Apple Watch was to make two sizes. They never marketed the smaller watch for women. But since women tend to have smaller wrists, it is a sensible option. It is a product useful for women without it being festooned with pink flowers.

When possible, design products to be unisex. When not possible, include an option suitable for the other 50% of the market. If you want women to invest in your company, make it a company that offers something for everyone.

Women are 50% of the population. It will not be long before they are at least 50% of the controlling influence of wealth. Their investing power is here, and growing. You can partner with this new generation of investors by appealing directly to them, being there when the market is ready, and giving them a reason to invest in your company by having offerings suitable for everyone. 

How Your Leadership Team May Be Ruining Your Business

Any business’s objective is to make a profit or be sustainable over time. To achieve that outcome, one must understand the steps necessary to accomplish the results desired and all the little things that go into making that goal a reality.

Did you know that employee satisfaction, job performance, and productivity are linked with excellent or poor management? 

There are many factors for this, but in general, the saying that nobody “quits a job, they quit a boss” is the difference in your organization’s success or failure.  

In any conversation regarding high-end achievement versus mediocre results, factors such as timing, speed, positioning, motivation, and leadership are all points that are recognized as to why a project is successful or not. 

Analyze Your Team’s Successes

All too often, the focus on why a project succeeds is on tangibles such as improved market position, increased sales, and the like. 

Most organizations focus on the most obvious metric to analyze, and that is customer engagement and sales. For example, a brewery is only as successful as its sales, and to grow sales, there needs to be increased brand awareness. 

Utilizing a customer data platform that allows the brewery to streamline all the marketing, sales, and service processes for its organization can enhance its brand awareness and outreach. 

The brewery will need to improve engagement by increasing brand awareness through product placement, marketing, or other strategies. 

One area that is too often ignored is the morale and general sense of well-being that team members have for their jobs and management. A poorly run organization struggles with retaining quality team members, declining productivity, and lost labor hours due to illness and other factors. 

Too often, a poorly run organization believes that to correct its course, a reshuffling of management is vital. That may be true in some instances; however, one solution is for leadership to take stock of what may be their failings and correct those behaviors. 

For example, employees tend to look unfavorably at management when communication between management and labor is poor, disconnected from the employees ’ concerns, or seems arbitrary and detached negatively. 

Find The Patterns To Success And Empower Your Team

This issue may accelerate your organization’s disconnect, especially when an achievement isn’t shared with all the contributing members that helped make that achievement or milestone possible. Part of what makes for effective leadership is to find patterns in your successes and analyze your shortcomings.

Often little achievements are located in the minutia, small actions that add up to become a significant achievement. As a leader, you should be focusing on the small steps that your team members take in their workflow and enhancing their opportunities for success. 

Become A Better Communicator

The most crucial step in becoming a better leader is to become a better communicator. Too often, misunderstandings create an environment built on tension and more significant problems. There are three primary communication principles: listen, speak, and empower. 

These three processes will create an environment that your team members will become more invested in, increasing job satisfaction and enhance productivity as a result.

  1. Listen First
  2. Speak Clearly
  3. Delegate Tasks And Empower Solution-Based Thinking

Focusing on empowering labor through engaging conversations and encouraging better lines of dialogue helps improve the perception of the organization’s leadership.

Improved relationships help team members believe in the company’s value, which has a real-world impact on performance and productivity. 

Become A Better Leader

A goal of good leadership is to empower your team members to have a set of small achievements that can create a sense of cohesion to the project as a whole. 

These small achievements take on momentum on their own and help your project and organization make larger and larger accomplishments. By sharing in the process, you’re creating an environment where team members can feel pride and attachment to those outcomes. The key then is to share in the accomplishments. 

A leader’s actions will set the trajectory for any project and determine its possible success. Leaders as a whole are made from a series of experiences, reflection, iteration, and education. In fact, through self-awareness and education, most people can learn to become a more effective leader. 

To create sustained growth and success for your organization, you need to focus resources on educating your management team on more effective ways to lead your teams. 

How to Gracefully Exit the Business World and Move to the Next Phase of Life

There is this little thing called retirement. It is held up as the prize for a life well lived with time and resources left to enjoy. Not everyone wants life’s golden parachute. Some prefer to work all the way up to the end. They never want to slow down. They always want to be in the mix. Those who have risen to the top of their field don’t necessarily look forward to the day when they are no longer in charge. Being in the middle of things and riding the wild wave is what gives their life meaning.

Then, there’s you. Your goal might be to get out of the rat race as early as you can and spend as much time with your family and money as you can, while you can. The most interesting things to do in life still on your list have nothing to do with business, work, or making money. You want to see the world, have a few adventures, and tend the farm. You are ready to cash out and find the sunset where you will eventually head off into. This is how you get out gracefully and move on to the next adventure:

Get Top Dollar for the Sale

Walking away from a business without selling it for a good price is as unthinkable as walking away from a house without getting a good return on your investment. Make no mistake about it: Your business is not just something that supports you and your family during the time you have the business. It is a lifelong investment that can be cashed out just like a whole life insurance policy. The only question is how best to cash it out.

You already know you can sell your retail business ventures. You might not have been aware that you can also find people to buy Amazon FBA business ventures. Though based on Amazon services and infrastructure, it is still your business. You have built up that business to be more valuable now than when it was started. That is like equity in a home.

In the case of your business, you have equity. You don’t have to go through a lengthy process to find a buyer and negotiate a deal. You can close the deal in as little as 45 days. If you are ready to walk away from your business and enjoy the next phase of life, don’t just get rid of it in a fire sale. And don’t go through years of headaches finding the perfect buyer. There are better options available for you to get a profitable return on your life’s work.

Tie Up Loose Ends

Is it time to get off the investing roller coaster? Are you tired of waiting around to learn the next lesson Covid has in store for you? You are not wrong for seeking an off-ramp. If you have been considering retirement, now is an excellent time to actualize that consideration.

What you want to do before leaving the business world is simplify your life. There are a lot of strands to untangle when moving away from business. You need to work with an accountant to make sure your tax responsibilities are taken care of. You need to give your employees plenty of time to find new work and prepare personalized, glowing letters of accommodation. If you don’t want to deal with complications later, tie up all the loose strands in advance so that you can put it all behind you.

Start Something New

There is a good case to be made against early retirement. The biggest danger is not retiring from business, but retiring from meaningful endeavors. Don’t walk away from your business to sit in a rocking chair. Never put a rocking chair on your porch. You still have things to do.

You can walk away from the rat race without walking away from meaningful pursuits. This is the time in your life when you are free to try something new without needing to worry about it being profitable. You can do something just because it is important to you. That is the perfect exclamation point to a life well lived.

It is different for everyone. When it is time for you to walk away, you’ll know. Just be sure to get the best possible return from your business investment. Tie Up Loose Ends. And start something new. 

Securing Stability & Success in Afghanistan’s Economy

As the largest commercial bank in Afghanistan, it may have also proven difficult for Azizi Bank to simultaneously ascertain the title of best commercial bank. Yet, that is exactly what this outstanding financial institution has done, and has rightfully been awarded that title of 2020’s Best Commercial Bank, Afghanistan in this quarter’s issue of Wealth & Finance International Magazine. Join us as we find out more about what the bank has to offer, what makes it so unique, and why it is deserving of this international recognition.

Azizi Bank is the largest commercial bank in Afghanistan, and it has been maintaining that position since its inception in 2006. Being the country’s largest banking group, there is a Pan-Afghanistan presence that stretches across more than thirty provinces and a headquartered office in Ankara Square in Kabul. The work of Azizi Bank started with the professional and entrepreneurial commitment of its founder, Mr Mirwais Azizi of the Azizi Hotak Group & Family and is presently under the leadership of a young and dynamic Chief Executive Officer Dr. Prof. Mohammad Salem Omaid. What makes Azizi Bank unique is the fact that its professional customer service and the sense of belonging that every client and customer has. Each and every employee carries with them this sense of welcoming and belonging, and strives to ensure that all interactions with customers are done so in a way that makes them feel like they are a part of the family feel that the bank presents. In addition to this, there is a wealth of digital innovation and product excellence on show here also. Azizi Bank has invested significant time, money, and manpower into ensuring that every product is designed to suit a client requirement, and this commitment distinguishes the bank to be the most distinctive and superior bank across Afghanistan.

For almost fifteen years, Azizi Bank has been managed under the governance of a very competent and effective Board of Supervisors, who brings a vast repertoire of knowledge and experience in their various fields, and are internationally acclaimed in their respective work. At the management level, there is a brilliant mix of youth and experience, which leads to both innovation and stability across the board. Today, Azizi Bank has more than fifteen hundred employees, and with a fifteen percent female work force, it is playing a quietly effective role in women’s emancipation and empowerment across Afghanistan. Aside from Azizi Bank, there are another eleven banks in the country, including two banks from Pakistan. The total banking deposit is approximately USD 3.2 billion, with all assets totalling approximately five billion USD.

As a country, Afghanistan has witnessed strong economic growth and developing in banking systems when compared to the previous two decades. Growth in the financial sector, specifically within the banking sector itself, was considerable. Thus, national income increased, and there was massive promotion in many of the other macroeconomic factors, including exchange rates, inflation, balance of payments, government revenues, investment, international trade, industrial production, and employment levels. Azizi Bank has always played a pivotal role towards each and every reform of the Central Bank of the country, and has marked itself out as a pioneering force of financial inclusion programs and branchless banking. Recently, in a bid to further bolster these initiatives, Azizi Bank has signed an MOU with the Afghan Postal Service to provide branchless banking through their more than four hundred and fifty post offices covering the country and some of its most remote locations.

The team at Azizi Bank is also made up of the bankers of choice for some of the major UN agencies, such as UNICEF, WHO, and WFP, who are present and working in Afghanistan. Azizi Bank is all about enabling these agencies to make their payments and disbursements to the far and rural areas of the country. Furthermore, this outstanding bank is the only bank in the country to have a mobile wallet solution, called AZIPAY, for all types of payments, including paying utility bills, education fees, groceries, and airline tickets. There is even excellence with the more comprehensive financial inclusion initiatives, with Azizi Bank having converted one of its subsidiary banks into a full-fledged Islamic Bank in the country. This is the first and only full services Islamic Bank in the country to date. With Afghanistan having more than 99% of its population being Muslims, such a change will definitely pave the way for more people coming into the banking fraternity, thereby improving the financial inclusion ratio of the country.

Since its inception, there have been several core founding values that have been the focal point of the bank and its championing of sustained financial growth in Afghanistan. Azizi Bank has always believed in innovations, and has never stepped back away from investing in innovative technological initiatives. The bank also has the best in class management board and senior management in the country, comprising of experienced bankers with an averages of more than two decades’ experience from the United States, India, Pakistan, Africa, and Europe. Azizi Bank has also always believed in the learning and development initiatives towards capacity building, and have built a comprehensive policy on the same. These structural reforms have brought in change within the bank to a large extent, and have always made it unique compared with other peer banks working in the country.

As has already been conveyed above, Azizi Bank prides itself on being a technology-driven back that makes full use of some of the latest technological innovations from across the world. With society moving towards more digitalization than ever before, the customer’s perceptions have changed on what they can access and want from their banking services. Afghanistan in particular is a country where more than half of population has a smart phone, and there is greater opportunity for banks to invest more into technology than ever before. Azizi Bank has foreseen this opportunity prior to its competitors and peers, and is now in a position where it can adapt to the ever-changing present and future. One of the ways in which the bank has taken the initiative and seized the day regarding innovative technology is by being a prominent voice on several developmental projects aimed at meeting financial customers’ expectation all across Afghanistan.

Providing technologically-savvy services banking services is the goal for many institutions, especially now that the world is moving towards an increasingly digital society. With the gradual transition towards advanced digital banking, there comes a greater need for traditional banks to keep up with modern systems and innovative ways of doing things. Azizi Bank has also initiated different tailor-made products for both deposits and advances meant for different levels of society, including accounts for children, students, women, senior citizens, retail businesses, small and medium enterprises, and entrepreneurs to name just a few. Despite the wealth of innovation on show at Azizi Bank, there have also been challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The arrival of the pandemic meant that Afghanistan, which is a predominantly import-driven economy, witnessed a surge in the cost of commodities, thereby affected the normalcy of life and common people. Industries of all sectors and types were affected, and so was the fate of the financial sector as well. In essence, the economy and economic growth of the whole country took a massive hit. There has been some impact on Azizi Bank amidst the pandemic, which has sustained itself almost a year and still counting. With the initial lockdown in place for the first few months of 2020, business was seriously hampered, though there was no significant decline for deposits. Where Azizi Bank really was affected was new business. Overall trade finance and the recovery of loans has been another key area affected by the pandemic, although the Central Bank of Afghanistan did come out with a detailed recovery plan to aid the situation and get the country back on its feet as soon as possible.

Pandemic or otherwise, Azizi Bank did have a strategic business plan in place, as well as a disaster recovery plan considering the geography of operation. The bank is always prepared and ready to face any sort of adverse situation, including this current crisis. As a bank, Azizi Bank also took steps and made plans even before the government made any sort of official announcement in terms of business contingency, staff contingency, and operational contingency initiatives and operations. Azizi Bank took immediate steps to ensure total safety and stability for itself and its staff, even before the lockdown was announced. All mediums of communication were used to reach staff and the public, and the bank stopped all meetings, conferences, customer gatherings, and training. In the immediate aftermath of the announcements made by many world governments, including Afghanistan, Azizi Bank formed a committee to analyse and make plans to curve this emergency situation.

Safety precautions including complete sanitization, thermal meters, face masks and gloves, and more were initiated at all the branches for both customers and staff alike, whilst plans were also made to rotate the staff so as to avoid close proximities. Expatriate staff members were also encouraged to work from home where possible, thereby minimising the risk of transmission and infection. Armed with these various safety measures and initiatives, life will eventually return to normality for Azizi Bank. However, with the ongoing political uncertainty still prevailing and international donors reluctant to pump in additional funds, this latest COVID-19 scare will definitely affect the overall growth of the Afghanistan economy. Stability will take time, but Azizi Bank will see it through.

Outside of the financial work carried out by Azizi Bank, there is also a deep-rooted and ever-present commitment to charity work and community-based initiatives. Azizi Bank is the only banking institution in Afghanistan that has a sustained CSR Policy and Responsible Banking. For the team, they consider CSR as one of the most important aspects of growth, and the institution also supports the important cause of the government in terms of sustainability initiatives. Supporting society as a whole is equally important, and there are a great many ways in which Azizi Bank does this too. The bank’s involvement on CSR initiatives has made a great impact across society and for the brand of Azizi Bank.

In working on these initiatives, the bank has been quite active for the last five years on various initiatives across the country and has therefore received considerable amounts of appreciation from the government and wider society. From a community service perspective, Azizi Bank has supported multiple hospitals and homes in terms of providing medicines, essential utilities, infrastructure development, food materials, stationeries, and organising blood donation camps. The team at Azizi Bank have also focused their time on various environmentally sustainable and green initiatives. Working in this area, the bank has endeavoured to stand out by starting a green initiative that involved planting thousands of trees across Afghanistan. Alongside this, there are also campaigns on saving water and pollution control, two of the most prominent environmental sustainability issues faced by many all over the world.

Azizi Bank has recently partnered with the National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) of the government of Afghanistan, and this partnership will surely lead to collaborative work on various other initiatives aimed at increasing environmental sustainability. Finally, the last core area that Azizi Bank works in outside of its own four walls is that of community support. Azizi Bank has always sought to provide free training sessions to local college graduates and management students alike, with topics ranging from banking and finance, to the inner workings of an economy, and much more. Whilst this is a community support initiative aimed at giving finance students the best possible knowledge around, it also doubles as the perfect recruitment opportunity. Qualifications is one thing, but Azizi Bank also encourages fresh graduates to push their way to the forefront of the industry and make an impression with their dedication and commitment to understanding finance.

Ultimately, Azizi Bank is far more than just an exceptional institute of finance. Rather, it everything a country could possibly want from a bank that seeks to be innovative, be a unifying force that invests in the future, and delivers outstanding financial services to everyone in the country. Azizi Bank is constantly redefining its own success, and is fully deserving of this latest success from Wealth & Finance International Magazine as being recognized as 2020’s Best Commercial Bank in Afghanistan.

Few Words about the bank’s CEO – Dr. Prof. Mohammad Salem Omaid

A result oriented proficient starting his professional journey with Azizi Bank in 2006 as a Finance Officer and successfully ascending the steps to become the President and CEO. In his career span of more than 14 years, Dr. Omaid handled diverse roles having rich & extensive experience in Finance & Accounting, Corporate Accounts Trade Finance, Corporate Credit Financing, Operational Banking, Investment Banking and Retail Banking. Initiated several measures, Bank Products, Technological products aimed at promoting the bank and its objectives. Dr. Omaid’s contribution towards refining the banking structure in the country earned him appreciations & accolades not only from the Govt. & Public body within the country but also from the international agencies worldwide.

Dr. Omaid’s experience and knowledge for a sustainable growth earned him several international accreditations and he is also the only afghan conferred with the honorary professorship of Academics, Oxford. He is also the Member of the Europe Business Assembly, UK, The World Confederation of Businesses, USA and an active member of BAFT, USA. He is also associated with the ICC, Banking Commission, Afghanistan and is the Chairman of the Afghanistan Banks Association.

He is also the recipient of the Asian Banker “Young Banker” Award in 2017, being the only one from the Central Asian Region till date. In 2020, Dr. Omaid is conferred with the Professional Doctorate by the European International University, Paris for his endurance, commitment and leadership in shaping a bank in Afghanistan as per international standards.

A visionary leader and a highly respected citizen in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

For more information, please contact Samrat Dutta at www.azizibank.af

Bitcoin to Hit Fresh Highs – But Standby for Regulator-Triggered Price Swings

The Bitcoin price nears $50,000 and will continue to reach new highs in this first quarter of 2021 – but investors should also expect volatility due to increasing regulatory scrutiny.

This is the warning from Nigel Green, CEO and founder of deVere Group, one of the world’s largest independent financial advisory and fintech organisations. 

It comes after the cryptocurrency hit more than $49,700 for the first time in history on Sunday the 14th of February.

Mr Green says: “Last week was a massive one for Bitcoin, reaching new all-time highs amid soaring interest from institutional investors.

“Morgan Stanley, the U.S. investment giant is reported to be considering investing in Bitcoin through its $150 billion investment arm; Elon Musk’s Tesla announced it had invested $1.5 billion in the digital currency and was getting ready to accept it as payment; BNY Mellon confirmed that it had created a digital assets unit to build a custody and admin platform for crypto assets; and Mastercard said it would give its merchants the option to accept cryptocurrencies later this year.

“In addition, Miami confirms it is considering paying workers and collecting taxes in cryptocurrency and the mayor of the city wants to hold Bitcoin in the city’s treasury.

“This all follows the likes of PayPal’s decision last year to allow customers to buy, sell and hold Bitcoin and as Wall Street giants like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan issue RFIs (request for information) to explore Bitcoin and crypto asset custody.”

He continues: “There is a clear direction of travel: institutional investors are taking Bitcoin more and more seriously as a financial asset and a medium of exchange. They are increasing their exposure to it at a faster rate than ever before.

“This is pushing cryptocurrencies ever more into the mainstream financial system and, subsequently, driving the price skywards.”

The deVere chief goes on to say: “With the growing institutional demand combined with ultra-low interest rates, we can expect Bitcoin – which has already given a 55% return so far year to date after the 300% gain in 2020 – to reach new highs in this first quarter of 2021.

“However, with increasing dominance and value, comes increasing regulatory scrutiny. 

“Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies will come under the spotlight from watchdogs like never before and this can be expected to create volatility in the market.”

His warning comes as central banks and governments around the world ramp up their focus on digital currencies. 

In the U.S. in recent days, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen raised again the prospect of future cryptocurrency regulation and as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) could reportedly investigate Elon Musk over Tesla’s $1.5 billion Bitcoin purchase.

Nigel Green concludes: “Institutional investors are increasingly appreciating that in this tech-driven, ultra low interest rate, low growth world, and where there is diminishing trust in traditional currencies, digital and borderless cryptocurrencies may be becoming a better fit.

“We can expect the price of Bitcoin to surge to fresh highs as a result.  But investors must be aware that regulatory pressures will cause price turbulence.”

Self-employed Workers Estimated to Contribute £125 Billion to Drive the UK’s Economic Recovery

  • Self-employed and side-hustler movement continues to thrive despite challenges caused by COVID-19

  • Over 55s are leading the way in starting new businesses or side hustles during the pandemic

  • By choosing a challenger banking, newly formed businesses are more likely to grow

Research released on Monday by Mettle, the NatWest-backed business account, using YouGov’s platform, estimates that the UK’s growing self-employed and side hustler movement will contribute an estimated £125 billion in turnover to the UK’s economic recovery in 2021. Furthermore, small and medium-sized businesses (with 1-49 employees) are estimated to contribute approximately £310.46 billion.

Pre-pandemic in 2019, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) found over 1.1 million people were either employed in two jobs or self-employed in addition to having another job. COVID-19 has only accelerated this and the growth of the self-employed and side hustler movement, with changes in employment and lifestyles pushing more people to work for themselves than ever before – either through choice or out of necessity of being furloughed or made redundant. The population of self-employed workers in the UK now sits at over five million, making up 15% of the UK’s workforce.

Around 25% of all UK adults now consider themselves to be a side hustler, according to Henley Business School. Having ‘a side hustle’ in addition to a full-time job (from freelance design work, to a passion such as wedding photography), has for the first time for many, become a necessity to supplement income.

Mettle’s research surveyed 2,194 self-employed workers to uncover the role of this segment in boosting the UK economy, the barriers they faced when starting their venture, and the role of banking organisations in helping them thrive.

According to the research, the most popular motivation for going solo was the flexibility and freedom it provided (57%), followed by their desire for a change in work/life balance (38%), and wanting more meaning and purpose in their life (24%).. Those aged 55 and over are leading the way when it comes to self-employment, with 38% of limited companies and side hustles formed post-March 2020 having been established by that age group.

The rapidly expanding self-employed and liquid workforce movement is being supported by a rise in challenger banking solutions that provide online products and services. The majority (83%) of respondents who use challenger bank services and feel supported by them, felt this was because of the ability to do everything virtually, their bank’s ability to get things done quickly (61%) and the fact that their innovative technology and products are more compatible with their business needs (51%).

Compounding this, the COVID-19 pandemic is making the challenge of running a business or side hustle even more difficult. 57% of those surveyed are not looking to expand their business or side hustle or enter a new sector in 2021, with over a quarter of respondents specifically not looking to expand (29%) citing the UK’s economic uncertainty as the reason why. More than ever solutions like Mettle are of utmost importance to help this audience to manage their finances, and to support their maintenance, growth and contribution toward the UK’s economic recovery.

Marieke Flament, CEO of Mettle, commented: “More people are choosing to start or create something of their own than ever before due to changing lifestyles, personal circumstances, or fulfilling a personal ambition. This research highlights the importance of this growing movement for the UK’s economic recovery in 2021 – particularly amongst the over 55 age group.

“The smallest end of the SME market has historically been underserved in terms of business banking, with the majority of incumbent institutions focusing on large commercial customers and corporates. This made it difficult for small business owners to get set up quickly, get paid and tax ready. We champion self-employed workers and side hustlers and are dedicated to building our product to serve them and their needs.

“As the UK looks to rebound from the economic damage caused by COVID-19, it’s absolutely vital that this segment has access to the support and services it needs to thrive. Mettle’s position within NatWest means we can facilitate this. We leverage the experience and risk knowledge of NatWest, but we also operate like a start-up, so we can move at pace and offer a product that enables self-employed and side hustlers to start, run and grow their businesses successfully.

“Banking doesn’t need to be complex, and we think new small business owners, self-employed workers and side hustlers should be able to rely on their bank to help them easily navigate day-to-day processes as they focus on overcoming the macro-economic hurdles outside of their control.”

How to Build Credit the Right Way

People say that money makes the world go round, but the truth is that good credit provides you with the most opportunities. Building credit can be a challenge if you don’t have any previous history. However, it’s an essential part of life and can simplify many situations.

Keep reading to learn three methods of building credit the right way.

1. Open a Credit Card

Most people know that opening a credit card will influence their overall score and history. However, they don’t know how to maximize it for their own benefit. Here are three factors to consider.

Choosing a Secure Credit Card

There are many credit cards available on the market, but it’s essential to know the difference between secured and unsecured cards. Simply put, secured cards require an upfront deposit that minimizes the risk for the issuer. With a secured card, you can build your credit without risking going into debt. They’re typically much easier to obtain an unsecured card — making them a good option for anyone with limited credit history. The only downside is that your deposit creates a cap for your spending limit.

Getting a Co-Signer

If you’d like to have an unsecured card and don’t have a credit history, you can consider getting a co-signer. This person would agree to take on your debt if you default on paying. If they have good credit, then you’re more likely to get approved. The downside is that most major credit card companies do not allow for co-signers. You’ll need to research your options if you’d like to take this approach.

Making Regular Payments

To build good credit, you’ll want to make regular payments regardless of the card type. It’s always best to pay off the debt in full. Keep in mind that late payments can cause additional interest and penalty charges to accrue. Additionally, your payment timeliness influences your score.

2. Apply for a Loan

When the situation calls for it, loans are extremely beneficial. They typically have lower interest rates than credit cards and can allow an individual to purchase something outside of their savings range. Many loans are also known as good debt because they help a person pursue investments that improve their life. They also influence credit and can help build a long-standing history.

From this standpoint, it would be worthwhile to make a significant purchase or investment using a loan. These purchases encourage natural credit building. Keep in mind that you should only borrow as much money as your feel comfortable paying back. Defaulting on a loan will damage your score, so it’s worth setting up an automatic repayment program.

3. Become an Authorized User

One of the easiest ways to build safe credit is by becoming an authorized user on another’s account. When added, you gain access to their available funds and earn a credit history without liability. Unlike co-signing, if the other person stops paying, you are not responsible for covering their fees. However, it’s beneficial to choose someone who pays their bills on time and is financially stable, so their account does not negatively affect your score.

Be Patient

You can use these three ways to grow your credit and check the results using annual score reports. Good scores allow you to get lower interest rates on future loans and credit cards and improves your chances of getting approved. Building credit takes time, but it pays off in the long run.

Wealth & Finance Magazine Announces the Winners of the 2020 Artificial Intelligence Awards

United Kingdom, 2021- Wealth & Finance magazine has announced the winners of the 2020 Artificial Intelligence Awards.

This year’s programme marks a continuation of the extraordinarily successful inaugural awards. From software developers working on next generation tech, to the firms that utilise best in class options to deliver exceptional results, this programme has sought to distinguish those who are working hard to define future of an industry just realising its full potential.

Awards Coordinator Jessie Wilson took a moment to congratulate the winners: “Artificial Intelligence remains a powerful tool indeed for those looking to capitalise on the possibilities of technology to enhance established industries. The Artificial Intelligence Awards were created to showcase the firms that are making extraordinary strides in the arena, and look set to hone best practices. Congratulations to everyone, and I wish you all a wonderful and productive year ahead.”

To learn more about our deserving award winners and to gain insight into the working practices of the “best of the best” in AI, please visit the Wealth & Finance website (http://www.wealthandfinance-news.com/) where you can access the winners supplement.

ENDS

Notes to editors.

About Wealth & Finance International

Wealth & Finance International is a quarterly publication dedicated to delivering high quality informative and up-to-the-minute global business content. It is published by AI Global Media Ltd, a publishing house that has reinvigorated corporate finance news and reporting.

Developed by a highly skilled team of writers, editors, business insiders and regional industry experts, Wealth & Finance International reports from every corner of the globe to give readers the inside track on the need-to-know news and issues affecting banking, finance, regulation, risk and wealth management in their region.

‘Normal’ Bank Lending to SMEs Down 10% Last Year As Banks Focus On CBLIS & BBLS Loan

The outstanding value of non-emergency lending by banks to SMEs has dropped by 10% from £168bn in December 2019 to £152bn in December 2020, shows new research from ACP Altenburg Advisory, the debt advisory specialist.

ACP Altenburg Advisory says the research shows that once CBILS and BBLS loan schemes come to an end, SME businesses are likely to struggle to obtain finance from banks which is not partly or fully underwritten by the Government.

Total CBILS and BBLS lending to SMEs has ballooned from £4bn in April 2020, to a total of nearly £61bn that has been lent by December 2020*.

Once the CBILS and BBLS schemes come to an end, ACP Altenburg Advisory says banks may have limited appetite to lend and increase their exposure to the SME sector any further, given the significant increase in overall SME lending over the past 12 months when including the emergency lending.

Many banks are already reducing non-emergency lending to new to bank business customers. As CBILS and BBLS loans are underwritten by the Government, banks have been able to offer better terms for those loans than for ‘business as usual’ lends, which do not provide lenders with the same safety net.

ACP Altenburg Advisory says, therefore, alternative lenders are likely to be sought after in the coming months as SMEs find it more difficult to obtain finance from traditional lenders.

Will Senbanjo, Partner at ACP Altenburg Advisory, says: “CBILS and BBLS loans have dominated banks’ lending activities to such an extent that they have limited capacity to write normal loans to SMEs. This means that businesses looking to grow may struggle to obtain the funds they need.”

“SMEs looking to raise additional funds for growth in the months ahead may need to look at the alternative options, such as asset-based lending or alternative lender funding. Alternative lenders are open for business and are keen to deploy capital to well-managed businesses that have strong growth potential.”

Debt advisers can be crucial in helping a business to obtain the right funding package to fit their business needs. Advisers can help a business understand and explore the various funding options open to them, and then help them present their business to the most appropriate lenders in the right way.

*Based on data from the Bank of England and the British Business Bank. SMEs are defined as businesses with less than £25m turnover.

Bitcoin, Dogecoin Hit All-time Highs Driven By Elon Musk – But How To Choose An Exchange?

Bitcoin was driven to new record highs on Tuesday morning – trading above $48,000 – as investors continue to pile in on the news that Tesla bought $1.5bn worth of the cryptocurrency.

A filing with the U.S. financial regulator on Monday reveals that the electric car company run by the world’s richest person, Elon Musk, has made the massive purchase of the digital asset which has jumped more than 300% in a year.

The surge in the price of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, including Dogecoin – which was also fuelled by an endorsement by Musk on Twitter over the weekend – comes as digital currencies become mainstream due to soaring interest from both retail and institutional investors, increasing levels of mass adoption, and as global interest rates remain at historic lows.

But how does a new crypto investor choose a platform on which to buy, sell, hold and exchange?

Nigel Green, an influential cryptocurrency expert and CEO of deVere Group, one of the world’s largest independent financial advisory and fintech organisations, says there are five fundamentals.

He says: “More and more people are wanting to invest into cryptocurrencies, knowing that they are the future of money.

“But many, even those who have extensive knowledge of the stock market, have concerns about selecting the right cryptocurrency exchange.

“The total capitalisation of the cryptocurrency market is now an estimated $1.2 trillion, but it is still lightly regulated. This means that it’s vital that investors know what to look for in an exchange.”

He continues: “There are five fundamentals for your checklist.

“First, security. The system of a private exchange for saving consumer documents as well as funds should be as decentralised as possible as if it’s all on a couple of web servers, that makes them easy hacking targets.

“Investors should also look for a system that utilises two-step verification throughout login, such as a password, and also quick-expiring codes received through the app.

“Avoid exchanges which offer cheap trade costs or services but are based in areas around the world where investor security is weak.

“In addition, investors ought to assess exchanges as well as the businesses behind them as they would certainly do with any other organisation that they would depend on to protect their money.”

“Second, costs. Some exchanges are proficient at addressing costs in advance, while others hide them. Go for the exchanges that are upfront and transparent.

“Third, simplicity and ease of use. Take into account that you’re not always going to trade from your desktop. In fact, finding an exchange that focuses on ‘on-the-move’ trading via a secure app is often a better option.

“Fourth, dependability. Does the exchange run efficiently when trading quantity is high, or when the currencies rate is see-sawing? Some exchanges are notorious for their system accidents and trading stops.

Fifth, client service. Make sure an exchange has a chat or fast communication service integrated.”

Mr Green concludes: “Whilst Elon Musk’s Tesla, and other institutional investors, including PayPal amongst others, will have teams of crypto experts behind them, retail investors can also get involved.

“Investing in cryptocurrencies remains highly speculative and it is not for everyone – but one of the keys to success would be selecting the right crypto exchange.”

Why People Are Going Gold As An Investment

Gold is one of the safest investments available, apart from a savings account. This is because of its stability, even in uncertain times. In the past, owning gold was quite controversial because of the worries surrounding its price fluctuation and potential instability. Now, however, more people choose to invest in gold as part of their overall assets because of its many benefits. For one, investing in precious metals is a good way to protect your savings.

When you hear about the benefits of investing in gold or buying gold products, most people associate it with investing in jewelry. While this is certainly a key component to any well-rounded portfolio, gold itself is a much broader asset. Gold can be used to buy or trade almost anything – bonds, mutual funds, stocks, commodities, and even estate. If you’re looking for a way to diversify your portfolio but are worried about your investments in gold being exposed to more risk than other assets, then look into investing in precious metals as a part of your portfolio.

Here’s why people are turning to gold as one of their investment options:

1. You Can Start Even With Only A Small Amount

One of the greatest advantages of investing in gold like Oxford Gold is that you don’t need to have a substantial amount of money to start. You can begin, even with only a small amount. Hence making it a very accessible option even for those with limited funds to start with at the moment.

Even if you start small, the key is for you to slowly increase your investment, so you can stabilize it in the long run.

2. It’s A Very Safe Investment

Gold is considered to be a safe investment. As an investment, it won’t lose its value unlike other stocks and bonds, which are very susceptible to the volatile market.

It’s highly unlikely that you’ll encounter any problem with the value of this precious metal. You can easily earn a lot of money with your gold investment and even increase your wealth within a short time.

3. It’s A Stable Hedge Against An Unstable Market

Gold is one of the most stable assets that you can choose to invest in. Even when the stock market goes down, gold continues to retain its value. Therefore, you can consider it as a very safe investment choice.

The thing with gold is that it’s a very limited asset because it’s a precious metal. This stays the same, even if the demand does increase. Because of this, the price continues to go up. This situation makes it a very stable hedge against an unstable market.

4. It Gives You A Good Return On Investment

One of the other reasons why gold is also becoming a very popular investment form is that it guarantees a very good return on investment.

There are several factors that influence the rate of return that a precious piece of metal can offer. First, it’s very easy to mine and sell the metal. Second, it doesn’t require too much investment capital to start off with. You can simply start selling jewelry and coins to get started.

With these two factors alone, you can rely on a faster ROI. This means you can start paying back whatever capital you spent on your gold. The profits will also come in faster than expected. It can bring your financial status a sense of security.

5. It Protects Against Inflation And Economic Fluctuations

If there’s a dip in the value of currencies around the world, owning precious metals such as gold or silver is a great way to protect yourself against the fluctuations in the value of money.

Because of its value being tied to the U.S. dollar, precious metals are usually the safest investments out there. They don’t depreciate like other assets. This protects you against inflation, as you know the value of your gold investments stays stable, at least.

This makes gold a good form of long-term investment. You don’t have to worry about it losing its value over time. It’s something that can keep increasing in value on a regular basis, so you have great security in knowing they are protecting your wealth.

It also increases the likelihood that if you do sell your assets, you will receive a high enough amount to cover your losses, if you incur any. This can also help provide economic stability for you, particularly when you’re going through big changes, such as newly starting a business, for example.

6. It’s Easy To Diversify

The last benefit to investing in gold, in particular, is that they’re easy to diversify. There are so many different investments you can make with them. You can invest in fine gold jewelry, gold coins, ETFs, gold bars, bullion, and coins, for instance.

Gold bars are smaller than bullion coins and are less susceptible to theft. If you want a simple, low-risk investment, invest in gold bars. You can purchase them at banks or from online brokers, and you can store them in safety like a safety deposit box or a bank safe.

Diversification is a great way to increase the value of your investments and protect yourself in case of a crash. Investing in just one gold investment can diversify your portfolio significantly, and you don’t have to sell your holdings to take advantage of these diversified investments.
In the past, investors used to get along just fine without diversifying their portfolios. However, the world’s economy has changed, and most investors have had to deal with the global recession. It’s thereby imperative for investors to start diversifying their portfolios to protect themselves from these negative indicators.

Conclusion

Investing in gold is a very good choice for you, even if you’re a newbie investor. These reasons above are precisely why so many have gotten into investing in gold as their choice. The key is for you to just learn more about it and make sure that you understand everything there is for you to know about gold investing. You can learn so much more about it and comprehend it in totality, depending on your risk tolerance, liquidity, and risk level. In doing so, you know that you’re on the right path towards the proper way of investing in gold.

Investing Full Time: What You Need to Know

Do you dream of pursuing a career in investing but are unsure where to start?


Lets start with the basics

Investments. A broad term that can be used to describe the purchase of a large form of collateral, such as a house or other class of asset. Or smaller item investments can also be used to describe a luxury watch, a prime example of this is when an Air Force Vet purchased a ‘Cosmograph Daytona Oyster Rolex’ back in 1974 for $350, later to find out the exact model is now worth $700,000 in 2020. 

However big or small you want to start your investment journey, as long as you’re prepared to make a long-term commitment your life goals are achievable.

Although investing can increase your wealth whilst staying ahead of inflation, there are always risks involved with ANY investment – which is why it’s important to diversify your portfolio.

Putting this in simpler terms: increase your chances by dividing your capital into various opportunities covering diverse and alternative markets.

Do you need a minimum amount to invest with?

To become a retail investor you can start out with under £1000, which you can build on over time. Although most private equity or pre-IPO opportunities have a required minimum investment amount. The offering entity also have to ensure they have enough assets under management (AUM) to achieve their investment goals and cover overheads.

Broaden your horizons

If you’re a seasoned or more experienced investor, you may feel passionate about stocks and bonds, but have you considered private equity investment opportunities? These have outperformed the traditional investment asset classes this year.

In a FundRise report titled “Why Private Markets Outperform Traditional Publicly-Traded Stocks and Bonds” it concludes how the evidence strongly supports the view that an allocation of 15% or more of a portfolio to private [investments] leads to higher returns and should be taken seriously by all investors.

Be prepared for risk

All investments involve some degree of risk. If you intend to purchase securities – such as stocks, bonds, or mutual funds – it’s important that you understand before you invest that you could lose some or all of your money. … The reward for taking on risk is the potential for a greater investment return.

Don’t sell at the first sign of profits!

It’s a wise tactic to allow your investments time to mature as they will likely continue to increase. It is however advised to exit a trade in decline as soon as you can. If you follow this rule, the money you make on your positive investments will far outpace any failed opportunities.

Keep your finger on the pulse

If you’re going to pursue a full-time career in investing you will need to access analytical industry insights and keep informed regarding new opportunities or evolving market conditions. Platforms such as Investopedia, Forbes, Bloomberg to name a few will keep you well informed.  

The more you learn, the more you earn…

Not only can you interact with digital platforms and even turn on your notifications to receive regular updates… reading some world-renowned books that feature some of the most successful entrepreneurs will help. Investment books are a key element of your personal development and can develop a money-making mindset.

Some of the most popular books for a guide to investment:

Rich Dad Poor Dad (1997) by Robert Kiyosaki

The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America

Beating the Street (1993) by Peter Lynch

The Intelligent Investor (1949) by Benjamin Graham

Think and Grow Rich (1937) by Napoleon Hill

If you want to invest, educating yourself is a key part of that process. To conclude, anyone can become an investor, starting small and begin progressing into new markets is always a good place to start.

“The Modern Investor” Setting New Investment Rules


Retail investors have made quite an impact on the stock market recently, although several seasoned investors deem them as amateurs set to make wrong decisions and lose their wealth. Other experts believe modern investors are becoming a force to be reckoned with.

There is a lot of focus on addressing the modern investors, who are mostly millennials and became a more visible investor group in 2020 by investing heavily in tech stock, seeing the opportunity to hedge against the potential inflation and at the same time exploring alternative investment asset classes. Some seasoned investors are saying the modern investors are just chasing a trend and playing with fire, while others believe the cohort should be taken seriously.

Who is the modern investor?

Modern investors are predominantly millennials, both in age and spirit. Though most of them, especially in the US, have yet to acquire more wealth than their predecessors, baby-boomers, millennials are a growing power in the investment world, already influencing the current industry.

The driving force behind modern investors’ ability to change the industry is technology. From robo-advisors to gamification, tech-savvy investors are increasingly relying on and using apps and the internet. When once investing was a privilege accessible only to well-off citizens, now technology has made it only a few clicks away, presenting a plethora of opportunities to invest not only in the traditional assets like stocks or bonds, but also alternatives like arts, wine, loans, and others. 

Contrary to the general view, modern investors are well-informed. A survey by Accenture revealed that 90% of financial advisors believe their millennial clients are more aware about their investing options than they were five years ago, indicating that the interest and engagement in investing is nevertheless growing.

Alternative investments – crucial part of modern portfolio

Blackstone research on new investor behaviour also shows that alternative investments are rising in popularity as investors are seeking alternative investments to find yield, some for higher returns, or protection from rising rates, or a haven against market volatility.

As modern investment portfolio changes, adapting to potential market changes may require a search for new sources of funding. One of the growing alternative investment asset classes— popular with millennial investors—is investment in loans. Their biggest advantage is higher returns in comparison to passive income instruments, in addition to being a more predictable alternative to growth stocks. As a debt-based product, investment in loans is also less volatile.

“Modern investors have shown everyone in the past year that they are a force that needs to be taken seriously,” said Martins Sulte, CEO and Co-founder of Mintos, the leading alternative investment platform for investing in loans in Europe. “We have worked closely with this investor segment, with over 370 000 retail investors on our platform, who give us feedback that they turn to alternative investments, and investing in loans in particular, as a means to manage their savings or create them.”

Mr Sulte also added that modern investors are more prudent than the industry might think, seeing diversification and alternatives as a way to future-proof their portfolios. 

“We see a trend towards diversification even within our platform, which indicates that modern investors are not reckless as some make it out to be,” he said. “With pensions funds or bank accounts offering low savings rates, we see people search for better options and find passive investing as a solution for higher returns. While we cannot compare investing in loans to savings accounts at a bank due to both being entirely different forms of financial service and risks involved in any form of investing, we do understand and lately witness in greater amounts the interest for making money work much more for oneself.”

Conclusion

For many modern investors, especially those using trading apps, a retail portfolio may include a rather random selection of assets. That said, the retail investors are quick learners and are not as naive as some observers deem them to be. Undoubtedly, there are those that follow the trend, but the modern investors are making their moves and the market is responding accordingly. 

What Has Covid Taught Investors

  • 44% of investors are now looking to back UK-based companies rather than global firms –  9,629,000

  • 45% of investors feel their ‘risk-appetite’ has increased due to Covid-19, as traditionally safe investments in big companies are no longer viable – 6,942,000

  • 27% of investors are looking to invest in sectors created by the Covid-19 pandemic, such as PPE, social distancing equipment and virtual solutions – 5,674,000

  • 19% of investors believe the coronavirus pandemic has opened more investment opportunities than it has closed – 6,278,000

Investing was one of the most unpredictable aspects of 2020 for anyone concerned with the market, whether that be a sophisticated portfolio or just a workplace pension. The stock market crash at the start of the lockdown and continued economic disruption has left many wondering what the future will hold, while soaring tech stocks have added further complexity to an ever changing market. But what has the Covid pandemic taught investors? 

The overall effect of this period has led investors to reconsider what they are doing with their investable assets. To understand this shift, SME investment specialist IW Capital has conducted nationally representative research to uncover the sentiments of the UK’s investors.

Look beyond the panic

Each period of disruption, like that felt last year, offers opportunity for companies to adapt quickly to the changing times and although there has been a lot of worry and negativity surrounding the new lockdown restrictions, we have to look to the positives with one of them being the roll out of the Covid vaccines. Working with both entrepreneurs and investors, there is a clear desire from the small business community for growth investment and to take a big step growth-wise this year. With a 12% increase in new businesses starting up during 2020 compared to 2019, 2021 is set to create some exciting investment opportunities for investors throughout the country.

The unexpected happens 

This year has taught us that the unexpected does happen. Investors need to look to the future and prepare for the unexpected to improve financial resilience. This could be by having liquid assets or a rainy-day fund you can use if investment values fall, which is particularly important if you’re drawing an income from investments. Having options for when the unexpected does occur should be part of any investors financial plan and is something that has been brought to the forefront for many as a result of the pandemic. 

Maintain a diverse portfolio

The Covid pandemic has had a far-reaching impact across a variety of sectors, however some industries have been affected far more than others, with travel and hospitality being forced to close for months at a time and unable to trade. In contrast, the pandemic has created opportunities for some sectors too, such as manufacturing and biotech. While a diverse portfolio will still have suffered volatility, it can help lessen the impact. Investing in a range of assets, industries and locations can help spread the risk. When one investment falls, another may perform better helping to create balance.

Don’t overreact to market volatility

When the pandemic first hit and the stock market plummeted, many investors began to panic and looked to sell shares in order to avoid potential future losses, but when investing, a long-term time frame and goal is so important. Short-term volatility is often smoothed out once you look at investment performance over a longer time frame. It can be frustrating to see that investment values fell in 2020, but when you look at performance over the last five years, for example, you’ll probably still see an upward trend.

Luke Davis, CEO of IW Capital:

“Investing and investing wisely has never been easy by any stretch but this year has been particularly difficult for investors at every level. 2020 demonstrated the value of long term investing and future planning. The stock market crash in March triggered a real halt in investment, and although the market hasn’t fully recovered, there has been strong growth since November and in places in the US share indexes are actually higher than the last year. 

“There have been winners and losers from each stage of the pandemic with sectors like travel feeling the true impact of the pandemic and others like online solutions seeing growth and opportunity in a time of financial turmoil. But, this is true of any world event and has forced investors to look to be more future facing.”

Flexible Pay: Could it Become a New Trend Amid Pandemic?

In the light of the pandemic many are experiencing financial difficulties and are feeling the pressure of waiting for payday. Research carried out by Money Advice Service has previously discovered in the UK there 8.3 million adults who have found meeting monthly bills a “heavy burden” and have missed more than two bill payments in a six-month period. With the current economic climate and new research performed by EY, the weight of financial commitments is now at the forefront of people’s minds, as a result employers are exploring ways to alleviate the financial pressures currently felt by many.

What is flexible pay?

Flexible pay is a new concept whereby employees are paid with an on-demand option. This means if the employee requires their pay early, they can call their earnings to date to fulfil their financial needs removing pressures.

Flexible pay provides an on-demand solution to overcome financial difficulties without the need to ask for an advance from the employer which, in itself, is a daunting task. Flexible pay provides employees with on-demand access to their salary without cause to provide reasoning to why they need access to their salary early.

What employees needs it can address

In a study performed by EY, 73% of UK workers find it a challenging to meet everyday expenses or worry about not being able to meet them. In the report EY found 58% of people who have experienced financial difficulties have also reported a material deterioration in their health and wellbeing. Additional pressure stemming from financial difficult can cause mental health issues if long term strain of finances is not addressed.  The stresses associated with these financial burdens can impact other aspects of people’s lives from health and mental wellbeing to work life and personal life.

Flexible pay provides employees with a solution that does not result in additional borrowing and interest associated with borrowing.

The benefits it can generate for employers

Flexible pay is a solution that benefits the employer as well as the employee in several ways.

  • Cash flow neutral option for employers
  • Seen more favourably by employees
    • As with other employee benefits, flexible pay offers the opportunity for employees to look favourably upon their employers. This is a benefit that is designed to help remove a common factor that triggers stress, where work life can also be a contributing factor, flexible pay helps remove stresses outside of the workplace.

  • Attract Talent
    • When recruiting employee benefits can often sway talent to choose to work with a specific employer. Flexible pay demonstrates the employer is not only aware of the employee needs but also shows they are looking to support the employee with benefits designed to provide solutions to employee’s needs whether short or long term.

  • Improve Productivity
    • With many working remotely as a result of the pandemic, mental health and wellbeing has been a focus for employees as it can often impact productivity. By alleviating financial strain that often negatively impacts the employee’s mental health and in turn, their productivity the employer helps prevent their employee’s productivity from being affected.

How to roll it out in your business

Part of the challenge when introducing new benefits to employees is how to integrate it within the business. With flexible payment it requires set-up, training and rolling out to employees.

So what are the initial requirements?

  1. Flexible pay requires integration with the employer’s payroll system to enable a proportion of the employee’s salary to be available to call upon at the rate it is accrued.

  2. Employees will be required to measure the time worked; this could be through some form of a timesheet to record what has been worked when. This measurement will help calculate the accrued earning.

If payroll is performed in-house, training your finance team is vital to ensure only the salary accrued is available to the employee and any changes to payroll processing processes with particular attention to your payroll software. Training will need to focus on how employee accrued salary data is collected and processed as part of your payroll solution whether outsourced or not. 

Once the changes to your payroll is available to your employees it is important to educate them on what it means for them, what is changing for their payroll and, of course, how they can use flexible pay to call their salary early if need be.

IRIS FMP UK is an international payroll solutions provider that is able to offer bespoke payment solutions to businesses to reflect the employer and employee needs including flexible payment options. We are supporting thousands of international and UK based SME organisations. With over 40 years’ experience, we are committed to providing our clients with the very best service, offering transparency, reliability and honesty.

Conister Reports Record Lending

  • 2020 lending totals £131 million, surpassing 2019 by 7%

  • Conister has also received an additional allocation of £5 million from the British Business Bank to focus on resilient businesses seeking funding

  • Conister has lent £9 million through the British Business Bank’s BBLS

Conister Finance & Leasing Limited (“Conister”), part of Manx Financial Group PLC (AIM:MFX), today announces that it achieved record lending levels in 2020, by advancing deals totalling £131 million, representing a 7% increase on the total amount lent throughout 2019 (£122 million), by providing critical funding to small and medium sized enterprises (“SME”) as they navigate the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The growth in funding facilities can in part be attributed to Conister’s accreditation to various Government backed loan schemes to help support struggling businesses in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (“CBILS”), Conister has advanced £9 million in vital funding across 35 loans and recently announced that it had applied for and received an additional allocation of £5 million to focus on resilient businesses still seeking funding.

Conister has consistently supported the Government’s financial assistance for UK businesses which it believes has been a crucial lifeline to many. In addition to the CBILS lending, Conister has advanced a further £9 million across 246 loans through the Bounce Back Loans Scheme (“BBLS”), against an initial allocation limit of £10 million. 

Douglas Grant, Managing Director of Conister, commented: “We must ensure that the financial security of businesses is protected to allow those that are sustainable to flourish in the future. Up to now, the BBLS and CBILS have performed a fundamental role in keeping many SMEs alive and acted as an important triage system to identify and support qualifying businesses needing credit. However, we believe that we have now passed this phase. Unfortunately, we must recognise that many businesses will not survive this pandemic, particularly if provided with an unsustainable debt burden. It is imperative for the future that we now focus on identifying and protecting our most resilient business sectors.”

“At Conister we have delivered upon all of our initial objectives. We had an allocation limit of £20 million for the CBILS and BBLS schemes and so far, we have lent £18 million, and we will fully allocate the remaining £2 million in the coming weeks. Without doubt, the scale of applications was enormous and so we applied for and received an additional allocation of £5 million for the CBILS scheme and we will focus lending this to robust business sectors that we believe will thrive in the future. Conister will continue to do all it can, working alongside Government and traditional lenders, to support British businesses.”

Jo Dyer, Portfolio Business Manager at First Business Securities, a recipient of a BBLS loan facility through Conister, said: “Conister showed the support and leadership we needed when we first received an increase in requests for payment holidays in April, leading to an ever more likely cash-flow problem. We were impressed with their speed and efficiency and their service won’t be forgotten in future.”

68% of Credit Card Holders Don’t Know What An APR is and Why This Is Costing Them Money

Key findings:
•69% of people, overall, could not correctly define what an APR is an what it’s used for.

•68% of credit card holders do not know what an APR is.

•66% of mortgage holders do not know what an APR is.

According to KIS Finance’s financial survey, only 31% of adults in the UK could correctly identify what an APR (Annual Percentage Rate) is, including its purpose and how it should be used.

Even more worryingly – a massive 68% of credit card holders don’t know what an APR is, bearing in mind that the APR is undoubtedly one of the most important factors when comparing unsecured financial products like credit cards and personal loans.

The two most common believed definitions of APR were:

•The interest rate alone, without any fees or costs

•The maximum amount that a lender is allowed to charge

How do the figures look when split by age group?

Percentage of people in each age group who could not correctly define what an APR is:

18 – 24: 87.5%
25 – 34: 63%
35 – 44: 77%
45 – 54: 71%
55 – 64: 60%
65+: 73%

 

Only 12.5% of those aged between 18 and 24 know what an APR is

The lack of basic financial knowledge in the 18 to 24 age group is worrying. Having a basic understanding of everyday financial terminology, plus general money and debt management, is an essential life skill.

This leads to the question of whether more financial education should be taught in schools as a key life skill.

Financial education was introduced to the UK’s National Curriculum in 2014, however, findings from The London Institute of Banking & Finance’s Young Persons’ Money Index 2019 backs up our data as it revealed that students still say they are not getting enough access to financial education and they worry about money. Only 17% of students said they had access to financial education within the last year, and just 4% are taught financial education as a separate subject.

Holly Andrews, Managing Director of KIS Finance says:

“Financial education is clearly needed based on these recent findings and financial advisors must take steps to ensure applicants do have a clear understanding of the commitment they are entering in to.

We have long been an advocate of these, and other similar matters, being covered as part of the high school curriculum to ensure everyone has this knowledge when they leave school. From the age of 18, people will be offered unsecured borrowing and it’s essential that they understand all the key points of what they are taking on.”

The largest group of credit card holders struggle to define what an APR is

Another main concern is that 60% of 55-64 year olds couldn’t say what an APR is. And according to KIS Finance’s survey, this is the age group with the largest percentage of people who currently have a credit card. Given the often high costs associated with credit cards, it’s worrying that so many people are not aware of the right way to make sure they’re getting the best deal.

So, why is it important to understand APRs?

Holly Andrews continues to describe the importance of understanding APRs and the dangers of not doing so.

“Whenever you apply for an unsecured personal loan or credit card you will be quoted the APR. This is very important to understand because the APR tells you what the lender will charge you for borrowing the money over a one year period.

The APR takes into account the interest charges plus any other fees or costs charged in setting up the loan. The APR therefore represents the ‘true price’ of your loan.

The APR is essential for you to be able to plan exactly how much you will have to repay on a loan or credit card. Credit cards are a little different however as you’re only charged interest if you don’t repay the balance in full every month.

APRs are a very useful tool for comparing financial products on a like-for-like basis and will allow you to make more informed decisions. It can be tempting to simply go for the product with the lowest interest rate, but the APR will give you a better idea of what the loan will cost overall.

Even if the interest rate is higher on one product, if the APR is lower, this will be the more cost effective option over the course of a year.

The findings of this survey are worrying because the majority of people cannot be choosing the cheapest products, and those working in the finance industry use the term ‘APR’ freely assuming it’s well understood.

What is a representative or typical APR?

“It’s also important to understand the difference between representative APRs and the actual APR you’ll be charged. Lenders can’t show an exact figure for what you’ll be charged on a product without knowing your individual financial circumstances, so on promotional content they will display a ‘representative’ or ‘typical’ APR.

The ‘representative’ or ‘typical’ APR is the rate that at least 51% of the company’s customers must be able to obtain for the finance facility being advertised. Companies can’t advertise APRs that barely anyone can qualify for. You may not be in this 51%, that’s why you may be charged a different rate when it comes to actually applying for the product and after the lender has looked at your credit history and your current financial situation. This could mean that the rate you actually receive may be higher or lower than the one advertised.”

What are the dangers of not understanding APRs?

“If you don’t understand what the APR is on the financial products you’re taking out, you could end up being charged a lot more than you were expecting or budgeting for. If this is the case and you can’t meet the required repayments on your loan or credit card, you could see yourself winding up in a lot of debt and seriously damaging your credit rating. Not to mention the stress that being in debt can cause, so making sure you understand the true cost of borrowing is really important to make sure you get the best deal possible, and you don’t wind up over committing yourself financially.”

How to Secure a Cheaper UK Home Insurance Policy

The cost of home insurance in general is quite high in the United Kingdom, especially if you live in one of the major cities like London, Oxford or Winchester among others. There is, of course, a direct correlation between the average cost of home insurance and that of the local real estate in any area, so we are not likely to see home insurance costs coming down significantly anytime soon. If anything, all trends point towards both home and health insurance becoming even more expensive in 2021.

But despite that fact, there is still an opportunity for homeowners to save money on their insurance premiums, as long as they know how to cut costs without cutting the necessary benefits. Here are a few tips that should help.

Don’t Trust Any Insurance Agent Blindly

This is a difficult task because insurance agents are convincing professionals who will be looking to sell you the best deal that they can. It’s a “best deal” scenario for the agents and their employers, but not quite for the customers in most situations! This is not to say that every insurance agent will always try to upsell, but that is a very likely scenario, given that it’s their job to do so.

Every insurance agent works for an insurer and they have targets to meet. Therefore, there is no possible way that an agent will help you find the best home insurance deal across all insurance companies in the UK. At best, an honest agent will guide you in finding a good policy from their company, which could suit your needs quite well. That is not exactly a bad deal either, but it’s nowhere close to the kind of money you could be saving by comparing quotes from separate insurance companies.

So, don’t just listen to agents blindly, but compare home insurance online first with a site like Quotezone.co.uk. This is a neutral platform that anyone can use for an unbiased home insurance comparison. You will receive quick quotes from multiple insurance companies simultaneously, and will then be able to compare the quotes side-by-side. They help homeowners find the best possible deal, by letting customers use the competition between top home insurers in the UK.

See If a Combined Policy isn’t Cheaper

Home insurance policies are often divided into insurance for the structure/building (house, apartment, etc.) and insurance for the contents within that insured building. Combined policies are usually cheaper, because you will be getting both building insurance and content insurance from the same company. The homeowner will still need to compare their quotes online to find the very best deal, but combined policies are almost always cheaper than insuring the building and its contents separately.

Do be careful in ensuring that the policy doesn’t ultimately end up adding unnecessary for optional extras you don’t actually need, though.

Make a List of the Coverage Your Home Insurance Policy Should Have

There are several advantages to having a list which clearly highlights all your home insurance needs. It will make it easier for you to:

  • Prioritise what you need the most, instead of being swayed by an agent’s own interests
  • Find policies that cover most of those benefits within the base plan
  • Find policies that cost the lowest after adding benefits which you must, if applicable
  • Compare home insurance policies online with better results, based on the previously mentioned steps

 

Avoid Paying Unnecessary Interest on Your Premiums

Monthly, bimonthly or quarterly home insurance plans will almost always cost more than if you pay annually or biannually instead. This is because insurers will charge anything between 5% and 10% interest on the total premium when you opt for a payment plan.

If you own property in a prime location, not insuring your home is a very bad idea. There is a high chance that it will eventually cost you a lot more if you decide to skip home insurance altogether. Besides, as long as you manage to use the tips we just discussed, your insurance policy won’t feel so financially draining anymore. If you already have an ongoing policy that is putting a strain on your finances, start looking for other options so that you can shift to a cheaper and better policy as soon as the current contract comes to an end.

Examining the Pros of Stablecoins

Stablecoins are a form of cryptocurrency that differs in one key way to the likes of Bitcoin and Ethereum – they’re stable, hence the name. Rather than experiencing volatility on the markets, those who purchase stablecoins can relax knowing that their investment won’t fluctuate in price. This makes them beneficial for not just individuals, but businesses that accept cryptocurrency as well.

The main type of stablecoin that we are going to look at in this article is centralized stablecoins. These are backed by fiat currencies 1:1 and so you often see them referred to with the currency next to their name – for example USDT (Tether) and GUSD (Gemini USD). The reason they are classed as centralized is because they are backed by a central organization, such as a government, a bank, or a company.

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of centralized stablecoins.

Easy to Purchase

Opting to buy USDT and other stablecoins is very easy, and can be done by anyone with an internet connection. Platforms like Paxful make it easy for anyone to sign up, open a wallet, and buy USDT in whatever amount they want. You can purchase stablecoins using your debit card, PayPal, gift cards, credit cards, Western Union and more. It has never been as easy as it is today to get started.

Allows You to Use Fiat Like Crypto

When most people get started with cryptocurrencies, they can find it hard to understand just how much of a particular cryptocurrency they’re getting for their dollar. However, because stablecoins are pegged to a Fiat currency, it’s not quite so difficult to understand. Looking at Tether again, we can see that one USD equals one USDT. Tether experiences the exact same price movements as the USD, making it easier to understand and invest in.

Low Fees

Because of the peer-to-peer nature of stablecoins, and the lack of intermediaries, transactions tend to be a lot cheaper than with traditional finance. Credit card payments and bank transfers, for example, both charge a fee and commission, which can be exceedingly high when transferred abroad. This is not the case with stablecoins. Also, as mentioned above, due to them being pegged to a Fiat currency, it’s possible to transfer your USD to USDT, transfer the USDT to a friend, and then have them transfer it back to USD to save on transaction fees.

They’re Not Volatile

The main advantage of stablecoins over other types of cryptocurrency is that they’re not affected by the same price fluctuations. This is something that is crucial if the world is going to accept cryptocurrencies in the mainstream. No-one wants to accept payment for something, or receive their paycheck, without stability as the amount they receive could change dramatically from day to day. Due to their nature, stablecoins are helping to overcome many of the challenges faced by traditional cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum, which will only help to encourage the spread.

As you can see, stablecoins have a clear place in the economy. It will be interesting to see if they ever replace Fiat currency in the future.

Synergy Quantum: Most Innovative HNWI Technology Firm, Europe – 2020

Synergy Quantum is the technology brand of Synergy Asset Management. It was born to address one of the most prominent concerns of the world’s wealthiest families: THEIR PRIVACY

To ensure safety and wellbeing of its clients, SYNERGY QUANTUM has been developing QUARTZ, an exclusive tool to shield, protect and control all sensitive data and communication of HNWIs.

Quartz is a suite of digital tools that SECURE ALL PRIVATE DIGITAL DATA AND COMMUNICATION of HNWI with post-quantum cryptography in the safety of the Swiss mountains.

Synergy Quantum intends to deliver the most premium, secure and integrated digital experience to guarantee complete control, protection and privacy of HNWI’S data and communication.

The Co-operative Renews Support of The Hive, As Part of Its Ongoing Commitment to the UK’s Co-operative Businesses

  • The Co-operative Bank has committed an additional £400,000 to support The Hive – a programme to help new and existing co-operatives delivered by Co-operatives UK

  • The Co-operative Bank’s customer-led Ethical Policy outlines its commitment to nurture and support the co-operative sector, having previously invested £1.3 million in this programme since 2016

  • Rose Marley, Co-operatives UK’s new CEO anticipates ‘a new wave of entrepreneurs responding to a need to do things differently’

The Co-operative Bank has announced it has renewed its partnership with The Hive, a support programme for the UK’s co-operatives, delivered by Co-operatives UK.

The Hive, which The Co-operative Bank has supported with a total investment of £1.7 million since 2016, has helped over 1,000 co-operatives and groups with support including direct business advice, workshops, training and mentoring. Part of the funding from The Co-operative Bank has also helped develop a digital registration service for co-op start-ups – a first for the sector. As part of this process, new co-ops will also be able to access free business banking from The Co-operative Bank.

Since the launch of The Hive in 2016 some of the key achievements over the last four years include:

  • Over 1,000 groups have received support worth in excess of £600,000.

  • 50 free introductory sessions facilitated across the UK, attended by more than 500 groups, looking to start a co-operative or wanting to learn more.

  • Over 80 new co-operatives have been incorporated.

  • 40 ‘Community Shares’ support packages provided, raising more than £6 million of community investment in the development of co-operatives and their communities

  • The support has impacted more than 20,000 volunteers, members and employees as well as their wider communities.

  • Supporting co-ops throughout Covid-19, helping them navigate the various business support schemes, working through business forecasting and cost saving opportunities and helping businesses ‘pivot’ to online trading.

This news follows Co-operatives UK research which suggested co-operatives may be far more resilient to economic shocks and significantly more likely to survive compared with other businesses. After their first five years, 76% of co-operatives are more likely to succeed when compared with other businesses (42%). Co-operatives contribute £38 billion to the UK economy and the UK’s 7,063 independent co-ops employ 241,714 people with over 14 million members who own and have a say in how they operate.

Nick Slape, Chief Executive Officer, The Co-operative Bank said “As a bank built on co-operative values and ethics we remain committed to supporting the co-operative sector, giving like-minded people, innovators and groups the support they need to succeed when UK businesses face unprecedented challenges during this extremely difficult time. We hope that through our ongoing support of The Hive and partnership with Co-operatives UK, we can make a real difference to people running or looking to start a co-operative.”

Rose Marley, Chief Executive, Co-operatives UK said “The pandemic has really made people think about their business and working lives. As more and more people are looking at how they might improve their future working lives for themselves, their families and the communities they are based in, we are delighted that The Co-operative Bank is supporting new and existing co-operatives to do just this.

“Our research demonstrates that co-operatives are almost twice as likely to survive the early years of business compared to traditional business models, and workers are looking for fairer and more equitable ways to do business and challenge the status quo.

“Leeds Bread Co-op is a brilliant example of how The Hive has supported businesses through the pandemic. And with continued support from The Co-operative Bank, The Hive will continue to create more robust and resilient business that will make a real difference to the communities they are rooted in.”

Leeds Bread Co-op is an independent artisan bakery and workers’ co-operative. They received support from The Hive to help them adapt in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Lizzie, a Worker Owner at Leeds Bread Co-op said “We had a massive drop in sales from our wholesale customers who had to close because of government restrictions in the spring. We decided to cease trading temporarily for the safety of our staff and local community and to give ourselves some breathing space whilst we worked with an advisor from The Hive on urgent financial modelling and collective decision-making about our priorities. This was in addition to financial support from The Co-operative Bank as part of the Bounce Back Loans Scheme (BBLS). We’re now back open, with social distancing measures in place as well as a new click and collect service and home deliveries, meaning we can still continue to trade in these challenging times. Support from the Hive was a lifeline at a critical time.”

In addition to supporting co-operatives through The Hive, The Co-operative Bank also provides tailored accounts specifically for community and co-operative businesses. The Community Directplus Current Account gives registered charities, community interest companies, co-operatives and credit unions an ethical way to bank for free. Community Directplus customers also have the opportunity to apply for up to £1,000 for project funding from the Co-operative Bank’s Customer Donation Fund which helps support special projects and fundraising opportunities.

PixelPlex Shares Details of Its New Crypto Arbitrage Platform

PixelPlex, a global provider of blockchain-powered solutions, has announced the successful launch of a crypto arbitrage platform. The new application is designed to provide cryptocurrency traders with an effective tool with which they can grab the most beneficial deal.
PixelPlex developers have pointed out that one of the most important features of their platform is the built-in arbitrage bot, as it does crypto trading itself and helps users to make a profit.

The engineering team has also explained how it works. The bot simultaneously buys and sells the same amount of bitcoins (or any other cryptocurrency) from two different exchanges. Meanwhile, their equivalent amount in fiat is different, so the trader makes money on the difference in currency rates.

The PixelPlex bitcoin trading platform contains a data collection mechanism, an algorithm for finding profitable deals, a tool for handling cryptocurrency volatility, and the ability to exchange cryptocurrencies for fiat money and vice versa.

The company’s team of experts have commented on more details of their solution. They have mentioned several major risks usually associated with crypto arbitrage, such as a halt in trading caused by the accumulation of all funds on one exchange and high transaction fees that lead to zero profit or even financial losses. To prevent and eliminate these issues, a graph theory-based optimal search algorithm was developed.

The algorithm receives data from leading exchanges like Binance, Bittrex, Kraken, and others, then it selects the best trading deal and executes the transaction before the market changes and the trader passes the opportunity.

As noted by PixelPlex, their platform is capable of making instant decisions, thereby allowing traders to rest and check their account balance once in a while. They claim that their arbitrage software includes all the features every trader needs: the ability to set thresholds for trades and profits, trade directly or through a minor pair, and access investment strategies that are typically not available when using conventional methods.

Another feature that may not be immediately noticeable, but equally important, is the intuitive user interface. The PixelPlex designers and developers have placed opening and closing deals buttons a few clicks apart and included a built-in set of options to let users customize the solution. Copy-trading and all the information in the app are presented in graphs and charts.

In the end, PixelPlex representatives have noted that their crypto arbitrage solution is easy to integrate and carry over to any business environment.

Over a Quarter of Brits Now Have an Account with a Digital-Only Bank

  • The number of Brits with a digital-only bank account has gone up by a percentage increase of 16% 

  • Almost 1 in 6 Brits (17%) plan to open a digital bank account over the next 5 years

  • The top reason for opening an account was the convenience of banking online for the third year running

  • However, 16% of traditional banking customers who aren’t planning to switch said their bank had been helpful during the COVID pandemic

Currently over a quarter of Brits (27%) say they have at least one bank account with a digital-only bank, according to personal finance comparison site finder.com.

This is a percentage increase of 16% from last year when 23% of Brits said they had an account with a digital bank. It is also over 3 times the amount of Brits who had one in January 2019 (9%).

Finder’s 2019 research found that 24% of Brits intended to have a digital-only account by 2024. However with 27% now having an account, Brits have gone digital 3 years earlier than expected.

A further 17% of Brits intend to join them over the next 5 years, with 11% planning to do so over the next year. This could mean that 44% of Brits could have an account with a digital bank by 2026. If this percentage were applied to the UK adult population, it would equal almost 23 million people.

The top reason for opening an account continues to be convenience that digital-only banks provide, for the third year running (26%). The second most common reason was that users needed an additional account and setting up a digital account seemed to be the easiest option (20%). Customers also wanted to transfer money more easily (19%), making this the third biggest priority.

People wanting a trendy card is still driving signups as well, with 1 in 10 (10%) existing, or future, customers citing this as a reason to get an account.

Despite the increase in digital-only banking customers, the numbers who aren’t considering one have actually risen. Last year, 23% of respondents said they aren’t considering a digital-only bank account, but this has risen substantially to 42% in the latest survey. 

This is likely a result of increased customer loyalty, 58% of those without a digital bank account said they felt as though their incumbent bank had treated them well and therefore had no desire to open a digital bank account. Additionally, 16% felt as though their incumbent bank had performed particularly well during the pandemic. 

Over a third (36%) of those without a digital bank account said they had not decided to bank with digital providers because they preferred to be able to speak to someone in branch. 

Digital banks are still most popular with younger generations, 46% of gen Z say they currently have a digital bank account, with a further 28% intending to get one over the next 5 years. This would mean that by 2026 just under three quarters of gen Z (73%) could have a digital bank account. 

Commenting on the findings, Matt Boyle, banking specialist  at finder.com said: 

“This research shows that digital-only banks are here to stay, with the number of users in the UK rising for 3 years straight. On top of this, Starling and Revolut announced this year that they have made a profit for the first time, really demonstrating that digital banks are starting to become a serious part of the banking furniture. 

“The pandemic has also played a role in the rapid digitalisation of the banking industry, with those who had never experienced online banking having no other choice but to take their finances online. It seems that Brits are starting to realise the convenience that can come with digital banking and this is reflected in our research.”

To see the research in full visit: https://www.finder.com/uk/digital-banking-adoption

Your Business Is Successful: What To Do Next

In the world of business, huge triumphs are hard fought for.

Therefore, it’s important that you don’t squander all that your entrepreneurial journey has meant to you so far. While it can be incredibly difficult to reap any rewards from your own venture, it’s almost just as difficult to retain your success in the days ahead. A balanced, rational approach is undoubtedly needed.

Success is not the end of your journey, but a new beginning. Here’s a few ideas on what to do next.

Remain Rational

Even if your finances have undergone a radical makeover in recent times, it’s still important to be level-headed.

In October 2018, The Guardian reported on an American entrepreneur who made millions in commercial radio, but lost it all after falling victim to a textbook investment scam that could have easily been avoided. He died broke. Obviously, there’s a lesson to be learned here.

It’s easy to feel like you’re invincible after success has come your way. However, success can be a fickle thing and provide a false sense of security. No one is above human error and the occasional bout of poor judgement. So, invest by all means, but do so via legitimate channels for a strategic gain, and keep your wits about you.

Reward Yourself Smartly

Just as it is easy to fall prey to dodgy investment schemes, its also possible to spend in excess and waste your money via your own volition.

There are people in the world who would claw tooth and nail for a tiny fraction of what you have, so it’s important to not only enjoy your success, but to respect it also. That means utilising it wisely and enjoying the fruits of your labours in a controlled, strategic, and smart fashion.

If you want to dabble in high-end property, for example, then consult million-pound mortgage experts. The dedicated brokers of Ennes Global negotiate the best possible lending terms, and endeavour to provide all their clients with a smooth, clean transaction experience. Answering questions, running calculations, and providing strong advice – it’s all their bread and butter. Every investment you make that’s backed by their services is guaranteed to be a good one.

Find the Pattern

Congratulations, you’re successful! Now things need to stay that way.

Coronavirus has widely been reported to be the bane of businesses the world over. However, it’s undeniable that some industries have thrived despite all the doom and gloom. Online retailers, fast food services, and delivery companies have all seen a huge uptick in their productivity and profits. Of course, there’s also the real chance the boom won’t last when the crisis is abated.

Find the pulse of your success as soon as it arrives and ascertain whether it’s a temporary bit of fortune or the product of a real, recurring strategy of your own making. Many businesses ebb and flow, sometimes not staying at the pinnacle of their potential for long, so it’s important to identify exactly what is going right in your firm and sticking to whatever is working like glue.

It’s also important to plan for when outside circumstances like pandemics, the economy, and shopping trends might change. What then? Keep an eye on the future, and make sure your business is flexible enough that it isn’t a one trick pony. That way, things won’t collapse the moment the wind changes, because while firms can experience a huge surge in profits, they can crash into oblivion just as hard also.  

How to get Approved for Finance

Applying and then being rejected for equipment finance or loans for your business can be disappointing and frustrating, not to mention time consuming, even more so in the current climate. This is why we are encouraging our businesses to follow the correct process and work with us to process their applications efficiently and have a better chance of securing the best deal possible.

It’s safe to say that lenders do not need an excuse to turn down applications, which means your application needs to tick every box, cross every ‘t’ and dot every ‘i’, in order to give you the best possible chance. Our job is to help you, so here are some of our top tips on how to get approved for finance.

Have a target outcome in mind

Lenders will either provide finance for your equipment, to help support your business and its operations, selling to customers, such as a frying range for a chip shop, oven for a restaurant or squat rack for a gym. However, you may require a business loan, which may support your business by helping to invest in equipment, stabilise cash flow as well as giving you money for a rainy day. By establishing which of these two target outcomes is suitable for you and your business, you can ensure you get the right finance for the right reasons, giving your business the best time of investment.

Get the right equipment

Most lenders prefer equipment in a good condition from a recognised supplier, such as those we work with at Johnson Reed. The finance for your equipment will be secured against the value of the asset, therefore the working condition, type and origin of the equipment will help to reassure the lender that it can help your business, whether its use is directly or indirectly connected to turnover, in order to be sure your business can repay the finance. This gives the lender confidence in your business and the investment.

Have a rationale

Your business is more likely to be accepted for finance if you have a clear rationale or business plan for the purchase. By answering the following questions:

What is the finance for?

How will it be used?

How will it benefit your business

How will it help you generate turnover?

the lender will be able to clearly see the plan for the business, how it can generate revenue using the finance, giving confidence to the lender to accept your rationale and confidence that you can make repayments. Being prepared and knowing your business inside out, as of course you do, is exactly how you can you can boost your chances to secure that all important investment for your business.

Check your credit score and documents

By having your credit score in order (we use Experian), with updated history, addresses, details and information, as well as any documents ready-to-hand. Having information and documents such as bank statements, accounts, ID and rationale for investment can all help to ensure your application is processed quickly and efficiently, without delays or hesitation from the lender.

Think like an underwriter

You need to install confidence in underwriters when applying for finance. They are paid to assess your application by scrutinising every aspect of it, to establish whether there are any doubts about you or your business, and its ability to succeed in repaying the finance that you need. Therefore, it makes sense to think like one, try and visualise what they are thinking when processing your application. Are you presenting the best case for your business to be approved? Are you presenting a clear rationale, with up-to-date documents and reasoning behind any questions they have regarding your business? The answer to these questions needs to be ‘yes’ to give your business the best chance.

We know how important investing in your business is, and how it has to be done right. This is why we offer hands-on support to our clients in securing their funds, at the best price, because rates matter, to us and to you, when it’s your business.

If you are interested in a business loan, equipment finance or leasing from Johnson Reed, visit our website, drop us a call (0161 429 6949) or an email ([email protected]).

2021’s Major Investment Risks – But Why it Could Be a Year of Massive Opportunity

Investment headwinds will “still exceed the tailwinds” in 2021 – but there could be more “major opportunities now than in perhaps the last 10 years” if you know where to look.
 
This is the bold and, given 2020, perhaps surprisingly optimistic forecast from Nigel Green, chief executive and founder of deVere Group, one of the world’s largest independent financial advisory and fintech organisations.
 
It comes as investors around the world focus on rebalancing portfolios for 2021, after a year no-one expected.
 
Mr Green says: “2020 was a year for which nobody had planned.
 
“This included investors, many of whom were caught spectacularly off-guard by not having properly diversified portfolios, which left them open to untold financial risks.
 
“Looking ahead to 2021, it is likely that investment headwinds will still exceed the tailwinds – but, I believe, that there are also more major investment opportunities to be had in the next year than perhaps in the last decade.”
 
‘Headwinds’ are the factors that likely weigh on growth and returns, and ‘tailwinds’ are those that can be expected to boost growth and help drive positive returns.
 
He continues: “The major long-term headwind from the fallout of 2020 is unemployment, which will hit demand, growth and investment.
 
“There’s also the roll-out of a mass global vaccination agenda which will be a lengthy process and logistical minefield, plus there are the ‘vaccine sceptic’ concerns to address.
 
“Meanwhile there are geopolitical issues that could impact on investor returns. These include the significant readjustment that will need to happen following Brexit, U.S.-China trade relations which are likely to become increasingly competitive especially in the tech sector, and the rising border tensions between India and China, amongst others.”
 
However, despite the significant headwinds, the deVere CEO flags three major investment tailwinds in 2021.
 
“First, the rollout of the Covid vaccines which means economies can be expected to begin solid recoveries,” he says.
 
“Second, President-elect Joe Biden will enter office and his administration promises a more predictable approach to trade and foreign affairs – and the markets like certainty.
 
“And third, it is likely that governments will continue to offer fiscal support packages as their economies recover from the pandemic, offering a ‘floor’ for markets.”
 
Mr Green goes on to add: “To quote Einstein, ‘In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity.’
 
“This is why, after such a monumental crisis, I believe that if you know where to look and act appropriately to build your wealth, there could be plenty of key opportunities to come.
 
“The pandemic has accelerated history, speeding up and exacerbating major trends in just a few months, that ordinarily might have taken decades to be fully realised.”
 
He maintains that the global economy, how we live, do business and interact remains fundamentally changed.  “It is doubtful the world will go back exactly to how it was pre-Covid – there are many aspects of the ‘new normal’ which people like and support, just a home working.  As such, some of the major shifts are unlikely to be reversed,” he notes.
  
“As such, investors need to look for the lower entry points of quality companies to top-up their portfolios and, critically, they need to bear in mind how the world has changed. 

“Their portfolios must reflect the future, not the past.”
 
Mr Green concludes: “Headwinds will surpass tailwinds in 2021 as the world readjusts, but it’s essential that investors stay invested. As we know, history has shown us that stock markets tend to go up over the long-term.
 
“But as the world moves ahead to a post-pandemic era, it’s crucial that investors ensure their portfolios are suitably diversified across asset classes, sectors, currencies and regions, so as to make the most of the considerable opportunities that will inevitably present themselves.”

Beating the City – Could it Pay to be Your Own Fund Manager

By Ben Hobson, Markets Editor, Stockopedia 

For investors, it’s an incredibly unsettling time. Uncertainty continues to sweep the stock market and it’s anyone’s guess just how far the economic impact of coronavirus will spread. 

Some sectors have been sucker-punched by the crisis, such as airlines, leisure and travel. In a few cases, companies are facing a battle for survival. 

However, you can beat the City with a little know how. 

Ben Hobson, Markets Editor at Stockopedia explains why now might be the perfect time to break free and run your own investment portfolio.

Keep your costs down 

Ideally, you want to keep the annual costs of running your own portfolio below 2.5% to beat the cost of owning a fund. 

Fund expense ratios are often listed very appealingly at, for example, 0.75%, but this often fails to take into account a layer of hidden fees and transaction costs that can easily take the true cost of investing in a fund up to and beyond 2.5% or even as much as 4% annually. 

Diversification can deliver higher returns and buffer against market downturns, but you don’t need upwards of 100 stocks to benefit, like in many mutual funds. After all, as the number of stocks you own increases, so do the costs of rebalancing the portfolio. 

The optimal level of diversification for a portfolio is arguable, but some luminaries have argued that you only need 6-8 stocks to get the lion’s share of diversification benefits. Research shows that 15 stocks in a portfolio can give 87% of the benefits of full diversification. 

From our own analysis, it starts to pay to be your own fund manager when you’ve got £25k to invest or more – but even trading smaller sums can provide valuable experience as you build your portfolio. 

Give every stock a role  

Try and take a more portfolio-based approach and think about your overall strategy. That means worrying less about individual stocks (narrow framing) and seeing the bigger, long-term picture. 

Narrow framing is when you make decisions without thinking about their wider impact, like the effect of a stock purchase on your portfolio. This can lead to all sorts of potentially costly mistakes and could mean your portfolio becomes over-laden with stocks that all have similar characteristics, leaving you over-exposed. 

Instead, give every stock a role that serves the rest of the portfolio. That mix might include large-cap blue-chips, small-cap growth plays, fast-moving cyclicals and perhaps some dependable defensives. And follow a firm strategy and fight the instincts of selling winners and holding losers. 

Resist the urge to react  

Fund managers are well trained to keep a level head. After all, it isn’t their money they’re winning or losing. 

Being your own fund manager is a time-consuming activity and with your own money at stake, it’s easy to become oversensitive to market movements.  

However, checking your portfolio too much or becoming emotionally wrapped up in day-to-day market shifts means you’ll be likely to miss the opportunity to reap the rewards of holding on for an uptick in value. Don’t forget that each trade  costs you in fees, which can add up over time and eat away at returns.  

To anchor your thought processes and protect against that urge to react instantly to market movements, make sure you build and refine your own investment strategy, then apply it consistently across your portfolio.  

Time to go global 

Home bias can increase risk and cost money in terms of missed opportunities.  

It’s never been easier to go global with your investments, with electronic markets and masses of company information available at your fingertips, so if you’re managing your own portfolio there really is no excuse not to look further afield for the best investments.. 

Investing is always risky and prudence is required when dealing in unfamiliar markets – but exercising caution and demanding a margin of safety is always good practice regardless of where you are investing . 

One way of partially addressing this concern is to rule out developing markets (or use ETFs) and focus instead on the big, global indexes. 

You can also mitigate concerns around a lack of knowledge of overseas markets by sticking to systematic, factor-based investing methods. This approach analyses a share’s core fundamentals – like value, quality and momentum – over time to project future rises or dips in value, which can help to minimise the risks of behavioural biases and knowledge gaps. 

3 Signs That Crypto Is Going Mainstream

This Bitcoin bull run is different from 2017’s because cryptocurrency is showing all the signs of going mainstream in the next couple of years

For a long time, cryptocurrency was the preserve of a small group of tech enthusiasts and hardcore libertarians. This began to change in 2017 when Bitcoin hit staggering heights and the front pages of most newspapers. After the great crash of 2018, however, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies dropped off the radar of mainstream consciousness.

Bitcoin was still a popular asset but primarily one for savvy individuals trading on exchanges and consumers making derivatives bets via smartphone apps. But the latter half of 2020 saw a change. Today, all the signs point to crypto going mainstream and becoming part of our daily lives.

1. The PayPal Effect

With over 305 million active accounts and a merchant network of 22 million, PayPal has a large reach. This is why the company’s bombshell announcement that it would start allowing users to buy, and more importantly spend, cryptocurrency was so big. Users would be locked into PayPal’s network, which will not be enough for crypto purists. But it provides an easier way than ever before for people to buy and sell cryptocurrency.
PayPal’s decision will help to normalize cryptocurrency for large numbers of people and merchants who would never have considered it before. The key is that most people are familiar with how PayPal works. So it provides a frictionless way for merchants to accept crypto payments without being forced to integrate new tools into their e-commerce packages. In other words, it makes cryptocurrency simple.
The decision has come with some limitations. For the moment, it is limited to the United States. And perhaps more important, users will be unable to withdraw cryptocurrency from the PayPal wallet. This means that PayPal is acting as a sort of “crypto gateway,” rather than allowing users to truly own and control their cryptocurrencies.
That being said, the deal is still significant and represents a leap forward in crypto education and acceptance.

2. Institutional Capital Is Obsessed With Bitcoin

The most recent Bitcoin bull run differs from 2017 because it is being fuelled in part by institutional investment capital. Household names in the investment world, including Grayscale, MassMutual, and even Goldman Sachs, have jumped headfirst into the world of cryptocurrency. Indeed Greyscale now has over $19 billion in crypto-assets and that figure looks set to grow.
This rush of investor capital is significant as it represents a “stronger hand” than many of the retail investors currently in cryptocurrency. Many companies that are betting on crypto will be looking to hold their assets for the long term. One of the more ambitious claims was from Microstrategy, which is looking to hold onto its newly acquired BTC for 100 years or more. 
In theory, this capital increases the underlying value of Bitcoin. This effect is compounded because the supply of Bitcoin is capped at 21 million. This means that scarcity will cause an increase in value as demand continues to rise. In the long term, this will lead to other cryptocurrencies being lifted by Bitcon’s rising tide, as investors late to the party seek a better deal with more affordable options.
 

3. A Crypto Ecosystem Is Being Built

The other success story of 2020 is Ethereum, which has grown by more than 455% to $723. This impressive growth has been driven primarily by an explosion in DeFi apps, and the much-anticipated update to Ethereum 2.0.
DeFi apps are designed to mimic real-world financial instruments and have attracted around $14 billion in locked crypto assets. The most popular so far have been lending apps and decentralized exchanges.
The apps work using smart contracts and the vast majority use the ERC20 token protocol. This means they use the Ethereum blockchain. These smart contracts enable decentralized apps to do things like allowing P2P crypto exchanges and lending without the need for a 3rd party adjudicator.
The problem is that each contract functions as a transaction and so needs to be approved by validators on the Ethereum blockchain. The sheer popularity of DeFi apps has led to a significant slowdown in 2020, which some saw as a block on growth. The Ethereum 2.0 update will go some way towards fixing this via a switch to Proof of Stake, which will improve scalability.
If the Ethereum 2.0 update proves to be workable, it could be a bedrock upon which a fully decentralized crypto ecosystem is built. This will enable crypto holders to access financial services without being forced to use fiat currency and could open up a whole new world.

Crypto Is Here to Stay

Perhaps the biggest sign that the world is warming up to crypto comes from JPMorgan’s own Jamie Dimon. The famous executive was one of the more vocal voices comparing Bitcoin, and by extension cryptocurrencies generally, to a scam akin to the famous Dutch tulip mania. Now he openly admits that Bitcoin and the technologically underpinning it has potential, but it is simply not his “cup of tea.”
With even staunch skeptics coming around, it’s clear that cryptocurrency is here to stay and you may even find yourself using your own crypto wallet in the near future. If you aren’t already, that is.

FICO UK Credit Market Report November 2020

New Data Raises Concerns About Post-Christmas Payments as Consumers Raise Card Spending

Global analytics software provider FICO today released its analysis of UK card trends for November 2020, which reflects the mixed financial fortunes of UK consumers as well as highlighting the continuing debt waiting game.

“Our new data shows that despite the introduction of the second national lockdown, credit card spend increased in November, as Christmas shopping got underway, boosted by Black Friday,” explained Stacey West, principal consultant for FICO® Advisors.

“Spending on UK credit cards is now only 2.6 percent lower than a year ago; either consumers are feeling confident enough about their finances to increase their spending levels or they simply need the cheer of Christmas to counteract the continued gloom of COVID-19, whether they can afford it or not. The concern is that a proportion of spend is being funded by the current government financial support for those on furlough. Payment holidays on existing credit agreements are also probably taking the pressure off outgoings and giving some consumers a false sense of financial wellbeing.”

“There could be a real issue after Christmas as payment deferrals come to an end in early 2021 and furloughs at the end of April (unless they are once more extended). Christmas debts will be unmanageable for some. The sudden introduction of tier 4 and the anticipation that these measures will be in place for months means extra pressure and hardship on many businesses, especially at one of the most profitable times of year.”

Spend on UK cards increased and percentage of payments to balance dropped

Average spending on UK credit cards increased by £19 to £638 in November and is now only 2.6 percent lower year on year.

But the percentage of payments to balance fell for the first time since June. The percentage paying the minimum amount on their cards also increased for the first time since June and was especially noticeable for accounts opened less than a year.

Increase in missed payments

The one missed payment rates continue to be dynamic, reducing in November; for accounts open less than a year, the percentage of accounts missing one payment reached over a two-year low. However, the average balance on accounts missing one payment is now only £4 lower than a year ago.

Of greater concern is the percentage of accounts and balances with two missed payments, which increased for the fourth consecutive month. The average balance on these accounts grew to over a two-year high in November. Here too, there has been large annual growth in the average balance, which is now £252 higher than November 2019. For three missed payments it is £411 higher.

West added: “We are now starting to see that consumers missing payments have higher average balances. There are also signs that once a payment is missed, this is never recovered. A robust pre-delinquency process is, therefore, more important than ever to prevent the customer going down the collections route. Pre-collections treatment can open the dialogue on the sensitive subject of financial difficulties and help avoid negative actions and increased stress once payments start to be missed.”

Research Says Equity Crowdfunding Makes Firms More Appealing to Future Investors

Successful equity crowdfunding campaigns make companies more appealing to future venture capital financing, reveals new research from Trinity Business School.

According to research from Dr Francesca Di Pietro, Assistant Professor in Business Strategy at Trinity Business School, firms that successfully obtain equity crowdfunding, in which people invest in a company in return for shares in that firm, are more likely to attract future venture capital financing.

The researchers suggest that this is because receiving equity crowdfunding signals an entrepreneurs’ quality, as well as the firms’ market appeal, making the company more appealing to venture capital investors.

In undertaking the study, the researchers used a dataset of 290 UK firms that had successfully fundraised using two prominent equity crowdfunding sites.

Di Pietro and her colleagues also analysed and compared how different shareholder structures impacted the likelihood of future venture capital investment, finding that firms who used the nominee shareholder structure (in which shares are held and managed by crowdfunding platforms in place of actual shareholders) were more likely to receive subsequent venture capital finance than companies using a direct shareholder structure.

The research adds to discussions around the entrepreneurship and signalling theory by recognising the role of crowdfunding as a mechanism for companies to signal their value using those who have already invested.

Dr Francesca Di Pietro, Assistant Professor in Business Strategy at Trinity Business School, says:

“For entrepreneurs: If you are thinking about launching an equity crowdfunding campaign, you may want to consider the “nominee shareholder structure”, i.e. one legal shareholder (i.e., the nominee/platform) that holds the shares on behalf of the crowd investors.”

This research was published in the Journal of Corporate Finance.

MarketFinance Lends £342m, End of Term Report Shows Trends and Insights

More loans, larger businesses and a regional shift – these are some of the trends and insights that fintech business lender MarketFinance observed during 2020.

Key insights
  • MarketFinance lent a total of £342.4m across all solutions, over the first 11 months of 2020. Representing a 3.4% increase in total lending over the same period in 2019 (£331.1m)

  • The profile of companies using invoice financing changed significantly during COVID-19. Those businesses using invoice financing were both larger than usual (an average turnover of £2.1m, compared to £1.3m in 2019, a 60% increase) and received 83% more financing on average than they did in 2019

  • Businesses in London, Hertfordshire, the East of England and the South West experienced the greatest drops in invoice financing year on year, with a 45% decrease in London alone. These geographies are hubs for the Support Services and Information & Communication industries, indicative of how hard these sectors have been hit by COVID-19

  • Demand for business loans soared with a 13-fold increase in loans between Q2 and Q3 2020. The majority of loans (60%) were made to businesses in Support Services, Wholesale & Retail Trade, Manufacturing and Construction.

 
Q1 and Q2 2020

The UK’s economic prospects showed signs of turning early in 2020, as Brexit-related uncertainty began to fade. Despite the promising start to the year at MarketFinance, with larger businesses borrowing, this upward turn halted suddenly when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived. The country and economy, effectively, went into lock down at the end of March. However, during this time when UK GDP crashed by 2.2% across Q1, it was also the first sign of the coming shift for many companies towards new alternative financial mechanisms.

As of Q2, 46% of businesses reported that income was down by 50% and so the number of companies using invoice finance dropped by 35%. However, while smaller companies with a narrow spectrum of business activity looked to other financial solutions, larger businesses with diversified workflows (and therefore revenue streams) were able to continue using invoice-backed facilities to boost their cash flow. The average revenue of these companies was over double what it had been during the same period the previous year, growing to £2.1m, an increase of 127%. In fact, while approved company applications for invoice finance went down, invoice values actually went up. The average size of an invoice being financed increased significantly in Q2 in comparison to the previous four quarters.

Q3 2020

MarketFinance became an accredited CBILS lender and so the quantity and concentration of loans advanced increased by a significant 13 times compared with Q2. Interestingly, over a third (36%) of all loans to manufacturing companies went to those based in the Midlands.

Anil Stocker, CEO of MarketFinance commented: “Small businesses will play the pivotal role in the UK’s economic recovery as we emerge from the pandemic, and we are confident that the bounce back will, with the right support, be swift. These linchpins of our economic fabric will require innovative, sustainable and tailored financial solutions that are fit for purpose in a post-pandemic world. It is up to all of us – accountants, brokers, business advisors, banks and lenders – to continue to step up to the plate and help these businesses survive and thrive.”

Q4 2020

Invoice finance was showing gradual growth as of mid-November 2020, suggesting some normalisation of business activity, despite the second UK lockdown. Although the number of companies using invoice finance per quarter dropped by 55% from Q1 to Q2, the figures for Q4 appear to be trending up on both Q2 and Q3. There’s some way to go before we see levels return to those of 2019, but there’s every sign of businesses recovering well as we move into 2021.

COVID-19 continues to affect global supply chains. Manufacturing, Wholesale & Retail Trade, and Construction companies have sought further funding to see them through the pandemic and beyond. Manufacturing companies received 19% of all MarketFinance loans across industries. 32% went to companies in the Midlands, 21% to companies in London and another 21% to companies in the South West, also continuing the trend from Q3. Facing significant challenges to both importing and exporting, Wholesale & Retail Trade companies received 15% of loans across industries, with 40% of these to companies in London.

Anil Stocker added: “Of course, the challenges and uncertainties that 2020 has presented won’t end come January. Businesses will have to navigate the aftermath of COVID-19 for months to come. However, although a lot of businesses have felt a negative impact over the past year, many have executed successful pivots and taken advantage of new opportunities that presented themselves. We’re hopeful that this strong comeback signals we’re already past the worst of the situation. We’ve also been incredibly proud of business support networks up and down the country. They’ve rallied together to support businesses throughout the year and we expect to see this support continue. We’re excited to carry on providing SMEs with the working capital they need to grow, innovate and build towards a successful future.”

UK Medicinal Cannabis Company Eco Equity Hits £18.3 Million Funding Target

 
Company set on being a leading supplier in Europe as market opens up
UK-based medicinal cannabis company Eco Equity, owned by  private equity fund vehicle JPD Capital, has raised £18.3 million to enable it to become one of Europe’s leading suppliers of medicinal cannabis.
Eco Equity – founded in 2018 – is a London-based company with operational facilities in Zimbabwe, including a state-of-the-art greenhouse cultivation facility, having secured one of five licences to cultivate cannabis for medicinal purposes in Zimbabwe in late 2018. Cultivation was due to start as scheduled in the second quarter of 2020, however coronavirus has delayed that until the end of Q4 2020.
Eco Equity has been operating under the corporation structure of medicinal cannabis investment vehicle JPD Capital since its inception and recently closed round two of its fundraising, having reached the target of £18.3 million (US$24.3m).
Jon-Paul Doran, CEO of JPD Capital, said: “Research has shown that there are tremendous benefits from medicinal cannabis for people with illnesses such as epilepsy, arthritis and many more.”
He added: “We want to position ourselves as one of the leading pharmaceutical producers of medicinal cannabis. As a low-cost producer we believe we can bring the produce into the UK through the right channels at a price point which makes it accessible to people who desperately need it.”
Medicinal cannabis was legalised for prescription in the UK in 2018, joining the growing number of countries around the world have already legalised medical cannabis or are considering doing so.
Eco Equity is currently a private listing and was offering pre-IPO shares at £0.10p each at its inception in 2018, after a recent audit by Baker Tilly in 2020 Eco Equity was valued at US$210m (£163m) and shares valued at US$0.72 (£0.56p).
Eco Equity is now a fully funded entity within the JPD Capital portfolio and is now engaged in rapid scaling of its operation and infrastructure to achieve fully operational status. The company is expected to generate US$57.7 million (£43.3m) in gross revenues when fully operational, with EBT of nearly US$33.8 million (£25.4m).
Said Jon-Paul Doran: “We are thrilled to have been able to close our second round of funding for London based Eco Equity and see our first portfolio entity become fully funded.  Since launching over two years ago, our flagship operation with cultivation in Zimbabwe has grown from strength to strength and we are pleased to be able to reward our investors.”
Eco Equity’s Managing Director Tommy Doran in Zimbabwe said: “The coronavirus pandemic has caused issues for many organisations this year, and it is always particularly tough for new industries to avoid collapse. The medicinal cannabis industry has continued to show resilience in the face of adversity, and with the company set to begin cultivation at the beginning of 2021, we are looking forward to the year ahead, rather than looking back on what has been a difficult year across the globe.”
As part of its Q3 and Q4 2020 activities, which require the company to transition from fund raising activity into cultivation and supply for its wholesale customers. Eco Equity has negotiated significant off-take contracts, securing the sale of all produce and ensuring Eco Equity is cash flow positive in 2021, this will generate significant and scalable revenue as the company moves towards an IPO next year.
The third quarter of 2020 was also a period of strategic collaborations for both Eco Equity and JPD Capital. Eco Equity started a Research and Development collaboration with the Harare Institute of Technology (HIT) a Zimbabwe-based scientific institute dedicated to “technopreneurial” leadership. 
JPD Capital began its collaboration with the UK Conservative Drug Policy Reform Group (CDPRG) chaired by Crispin Blunt MP, who advocate evidence-based drug policy. The group exists to find and examine the evidence to support policymakers in reducing harm and securing the benefits of evidence-based drug policy.
JPD Capital has also announced its expansion into Europe, including the creation of medicinal cannabis company Íbero Botanica, a joint venture between Verdex Group and JPD Capital, with facilities in Almeria, Spain.  
Verdex Group is an EU licensed Spanish company for research, cultivation and production of cannabis for medicinal and therapeutic pharmaceutical medicine. Verdex Group owns and operates two greenhouse cultivation sites and over 100 hectares of outdoor sites across the Andalucía region in the south of Spain.

How businesses can prevent themselves from financial crime- an expert advises

1. What are the biggest challenges that corporates face when it comes to fraud management?

Money moves around the world faster now than ever before, and many electronic transfers are settled in real time. Most financial transactions are completed with no face-to-face interactions. These are good things; they facilitate global trade and keep the wheels of global commerce turning. However, these transformational capabilities come with risks that must be managed. Managing these risks effectively and doing so in a way that doesn’t introduce friction to business operations and the customer experience are the biggest challenges facing businesses when it comes to fraud management.

Fraud threats are evolving as quickly as money moves. Criminals are becoming more sophisticated and are singularly focused on exploiting any situation and any weakness. For example, according to the Federal Trade Commission in the United States, between 1st January and 22nd September this year, U.S. citizens have lost more than $145M to COVID-19 scams. In the U.K., during the first half of 2020, U.K. Finance tells us a total of £207.8 million has been lost to authorised push payment fraud.

Criminals leverage technology and are constantly refining their tactics to commit fraud and find new ways of hiding their activities. The rising use of mobile devices and contactless transactions have also opened more channels for cyberattacks. In this environment, corporates are challenged to balance expectations for instant, real-time and seamless services with the need for security.

2. How is automation playing a role in fraud and risk management?

Automation is enabling corporates to deliver better fraud and risk management systems and formulate effective prevention strategies.

The fuel powering intelligent automation is data. For example, intelligent automation technology, a combination of robotic processing automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI), can act on and analyse large volumes of structured and unstructured data efficiently, leading to valuable, accurate insights that would be out of reach otherwise.

Automation can also help reduce operational costs and streamline workflows. Employees spend less time on manual, time-intensive tasks, and focus instead on the strategic aspects of fraud and risk management.

 

3. What technological and infrastructure investments do corporates need to make in order to keep ahead of criminals?

Keeping ahead of criminals is a never-ending race. Fraud prevention really is an area where up-to-date capabilities and techniques can make a difference. As fraud continues to evolve, so do financial crime prevention technologies. Therefore, it is vital for businesses to make the appropriate technological investments, not only to keep pace with current challenges, but also to stay ahead of any potential emerging threats. Corporates can take advantage of tools such as advanced analytics to detect characteristics that are indicative of previous attacks and uncover new attack vectors by identifying unusual behavior patterns. Intelligent automation and insightful data management systems can be utilised to optimise operations and results. With effective technology, corporates can maximise data assets to monitor, detect and combat emerging threats, as well as reduce false positives and minimise customer friction.

For all organisations nowadays, security is a differentiator. Everyone wants to do business with corporates that provide security and have integrity. Trusted providers can help advise, and implement, various tools to ensure that corporates have the appropriate and most up-to-update capabilities.

 

4. How can corporates formulate optimal “best practices” for fraud prevention and risk management?

Best practices consist of several key elements. As mentioned earlier, appropriate technology investment and implementation is considered a best practice. Sharing data with peers and creating a data consortium is another powerful best practice; it can improve data integrity and detection accuracy, allowing for better fraud prevention and management. Shared data insights drive increased collaboration between corporates, financial institutions, law enforcement and regulators, something all can benefit from. Common data usage can facilitate more effective fraud risk management while also assisting law enforcement.

Internal collaboration is also a best practice. Enterprises can share data, as well as use common technology and tools, such as alert and monitoring systems, across different business units, from corporate finance to sales departments. This enables corporates to generate more reliable data and gain a better overview of risk.

5. How can robust fraud prevention and risk management strategies be a differentiator for businesses?

Combatting financial crime and any associated activities is an increasing priority for corporates and their customers. Beyond the immediate effect on business, preventing fraud and countering money laundering support the moral imperative to limit the impact of crime on society. Fraud and money laundering are not victimless crimes – they are often conducted by the same organised crime groups that perpetrate human trafficking and drug trafficking, both predicate crimes for money laundering. With the access organisations have today to more innovative and advanced technologies, they can better defend their customers, and conduct business securely and seamlessly.

A robust fraud prevention and risk management strategy can be a key differentiator for organisations versus the competition. It enables corporates to retain customer trust, create better relationships with partners and regulators, and develop a better reputation amongst society.

PayPal Will Soon Include Bitcoin on Its Platform — Is This Good News?

Blockchain tech is going mainstream as the traditional finance world begins to embrace its disruptive potential.

Bitcoin and Ethereum are the market leaders when it comes to cryptocurrency investment by institutions or consumers trading in retail markets. And it’s no secret that both digital assets have helped create many millionaires. But it’s the technology that undergirds it that has the power to change the world.

Blockchain has plenty of applications but centralised blockchains could help to ease the many problems that currently plague our international money-transfer system.

Slow, Expensive Transfers Remain a Major Pain Point

A big challenge for financial institutions is cross-border and cross-country transfers. This is because there is a heavy reliance upon correspondence banks and other middlemen. One of the early attempts to ease this problem came from blockchain company Ripple.

Ripple is better known for its payment network and protocol, rather than its currency (XRP). The project uses an open-source peer-to-peer decentralized platform that acts as an agnostic form of money transfer. It does this using RippleNet, a network of institutional payment providers like banks and money services businesses that leverage Ripple’s technology.

Ripple uses a network of “gateways” to serve as the link between two parties who want to make a transaction and provide liquidity to the system. This helps the company avoid the problems faced by traditional currencies. It also keeps transaction fees as low as $0.00001. Reportedly, one-third of the world’s major banks are already using the platform.

Traditional Fintech Companies Are Jumping on Blockchain

The success of Ripple hasn’t gone unnoticed. For some time now, a number of companies have been toying with blockchain technology. The most recent, and impactful, was the fintech giant PayPal. While there have been many other fintech companies adopting crypto, like Revolut, the news that PayPal was making it possible to buy and sell Bitcoin made big waves.

The company confirmed that users in the US would be able to trade Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and Bitcoin Cash using their PayPal accounts. The service will be rolled out to Vemo and other geographical areas over the first half of 2021 and users will be able to use their cryptocurrency to purchase goods and products via PayPal.

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies saw a sudden price rise as many traders and investors learned the news. It was generally seen as a sign that cryptocurrency had taken another big step towards the mainstream.

But there is a problem. PayPal users will not be able to withdraw cryptocurrency from the company’s ecosystem and there is a good reason for it.

Bitcoin Isn’t Ready for the PayPal Effect

Bitcoin still suffers from a scalability problem. During any major rise in transaction volume, the waiting times for a single Bitcoin transaction increases significantly. This “PayPal effect” could have a disastrous impact on the reputation of cryptocurrency.

There are around 350 million users and 26 million vendors in the PayPal ecosystem, compared to Bitcoin’s estimated 190 million users. To understand the impact that this sudden influx of users could have, it is useful to look at how the DeFi craze impacted Ethereum in September.

As the number of DeFi apps exploded, the transaction costs on the network skyrocketed. In September, miners made over $160 million, a 39% increase from the month before. This was due to an increased number of transactions triggered by DeFi. Now imagine if Bitcoin suddenly gained 350 million more users, few of whom really understand how blockchains operate.

This would be a massive problem. Visa is able to process around 1,736 transactions a second. Currently, Bitcoin can guarantee less than 5 transactions per second. And as more transactions hit the blockchain, their costs will skyrocket. Until Bitcoin can move away from Proof of Work consensus, the PayPal effect remains a major threat.

It’s Not All Bad News

In order to combat this effect, PayPal has decided to make it possible to access cryptocurrency through their network, and not withdraw it. Other limitations will help to keep down the volume of cryptocurrency taken into the network and mitigate the impact — at least until second layers such as the lightning network are in place to reduce scalability problems.

The good news is that PayPal has opened up an easier way for people to become acquainted with using cryptocurrency. It has the potential to normalize the practice of paying for goods and services using it, something which is currently difficult to impossible except for niche purchases such as VPNs.

This change would have two important effects:

  • It makes it easier for vendors to justify accepting Bitcoin. As more vendors adopt cryptocurrency payments, the utility for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies will increase significantly, and more people will see it as a viable method of payment.

  • It might shock the crypto community into accelerating to make solutions more scalable, either by shifting towards Proof of Stake as Ethereum has. Or by adding in second-layer solutions.

While many crypto enthusiasts won’t be happy with PayPal’s closed garden, this is a positive step towards the mainstream. It will take time before PayPal is able to open up withdrawal features, but they likely will if regulations and scalability allow it.

Can You Use Precious Metals For Retirement?

The appeal of precious metals, for many investors, is difficult to pass up, particularly gold bullion. It’s one of the most popular and sought-after investments in the entire world, especially since it can provide lucrative returns for any retirement account.

While investing in precious metals for retirement is a good idea for any investor, there are several essential things to keep in mind. For instance, most 401k retirement plans only allow for direct ownership of pure gold (such as gold coins), or else you risk being barred from investing. In most cases, this isn’t an issue for regular investors, but for those with a lot of money tied up in precious metals like gold, it can be a huge problem. Fortunately, there are more ways to invest in precious metals that don’t involve direct ownership of gold itself.

Buying Physical Precious Metals 

Many people wonder if buying physical precious metals for retirement is a good idea. The answer to this is that there are many reasons that physical precious metals are an excellent investment. It is, however, important to consider certain factors before investing in these precious metals so you’ll know if this is a good idea for you. Here are some of them:

  • To ensure that you’re getting the most out of investing in these precious metals for retirement, make sure that you’re realistic about the amount of money you can use to purchase because this will vary depending on your current lifestyle. You should also make sure you’re choosing a reliable precious metal investment dealer like Orion Metal Exchange that can help you with buying and selling such metals.
  • It’s also essential to think about the amount of money you’ve saved in the form of a 401k or other retirement account. While these accounts offer tax benefits, they’ll only be available to people over the age of 60. This means if you want to use the money in these accounts to purchase gold and silver, you would need to be able to come up with at least six to eight figures as a down payment on the gold and silver alone. 
If you want to find a way to increase your retirement income, then purchasing physical precious metals is a great way to do it. Buying these types of metals is also an excellent way to diversify your portfolio. If you’re not familiar with physical precious metals, you may want to talk to a financial advisor to help you choose which precious metals you should invest in.   
  • You can find a wide range of metals in the form of coins, bars, and even jewelry. Because of their value, when you sell them in the future, they’ll bring you more money than when you started. Bullion coins are also a great way to help protect your investment against inflation. These coins are also easy to sell when you need to get rid of a large amount of cash. Many gold and silver coins are available, and you sell them more than their worth because they’re more likely to increase in value than any other type of materials. 
Buying physical gold or silver for your retirement investment may seem like an unnecessary expense, but it can save you much in the long run. The benefits of buying physical precious metals for retirement are extremely strong. It’s easy to see why so many people decide to invest in these valuable pieces. 

Investing In Precious Metals Stocks 

Precious metals stocks work just like any other stocks—you invest in them, hoping that the company will succeed and that the value of the stocks you purchased will go up. In the case of precious metal stocks, however, the company in the equation refers to one that focuses on the mining, refining, selling, or any other aspect of precious metals production or distribution.

There are several types of precious metals stocks, including the following:

  • ETFS or exchange-traded fund stocks are a type of investment where you don’t really own actual precious metals. Instead, what you have are assets which are backed by these precious metals.
  • Mining stocks are shares issued by companies that mine precious metals. These prices of these stocks are often directly linked to the price of the precious metals themselves. Other factors that affect the price of mining stocks are political turmoil, economic fluctuations, the success of mining ventures, and even miners going on strike.
  • Precious metal certificates aren’t really considered as stocks, but they’re also a type of investment that doesn’t require holding actual precious metals. For instance, if you purchase a gold certificate, you’ll get a document that states you own this amount of gold. This is a less popular option nowadays, especially because of the company that issued the certificate goes under, the certificate is essentially worthless. 
One of the best benefits of investing in precious metals stocks for retirement is that it’s an investment tool designed to help people with limited investment funds better manage and preserve their wealth. They offer an excellent way to ensure that your money is protected against possible threats to your finances, such as losing your source of income, inflation, and even natural disasters.  

To take advantage of the benefits of investing in precious metals for retirement, you should understand the ins and outs of the investment, including the risks associated with this type of investment. It’s a good idea to contact your investment advisor or insurance broker to learn more about how you can maximize your retirement savings. With the right knowledge, investing in precious metals can prove very lucrative because you can get a great return on your money.  

Conclusion 

Now the answer to the question of whether precious metals can be an investment for retirement is yes. The two most popular ways to invest is by buying physical precious metals or getting stocks. When you buy physical precious metals, you can have gold coins or bullions that you can sell in the future. As for stocks, precious metals are known to withstand market fluctuations, so you can have higher chances of diversifying and growing your retirement portfolio.

My Digital and Ecospend open up banking services for the Quantum Workforce

Accounting and payroll services for the temporary labour market transformed by Open Finance

Today Quantum Employment Design (QED) leader My Digital announces its collaboration with Ecospend Technologies Ltd, a pioneer in digital payment services and Open Finance. The new digital service will provide the disruptive innovation that UK accounting services need for the modern Quantum Workforce ushered in by the changing labour markets of the pandemic.

Powered by Ecospend’s Open Banking technology, My Digital will provide leading-edge accounting and payroll services to the temporary labour market by offering:

– Faster payments and instant receipt for work completed with strong authentication & authorisation of payments to heighten security

– Enriched financial data for umbrella companies, recruitment agencies and Professional Employer Organisations with AI-driven data analytics to improve relevance to clients

– Full GDPR compliance for data handling for My Digital’s clients, who will have complete access to their data and the ability to manage their consent in real-time

The gig economy, which has long been subject to outdated systems and methods, is ripe for dramatic change as Quantum Employment continues to rise, with one in seven workers in the UK on flexible contracts. Ecospend and My Digital’s collaboration is an early and compelling entrant to this exciting new marketplace which is driven by young people with high expectations of digital banking.

“We are very pleased to be helping My Digital bring authenticated account information rapidly and efficiently to its clients using our Open Banking infrastructure,” said Metin Erkman, founder and CEO of Ecospend. “We see My Digital’s platform leading the way in bringing the benefits of Open Banking to the business community,” Erkman added.

John Whelan, CEO of My Digital concluded, “Open Banking is a transformational change for businesses, and we are delighted to have partnered with Ecospend to deliver this banking service for those supporting the Quantum Workforce. Our aim is to accelerate the evolution of QED to match the needs of a growing sector which is increasingly digitally savvy. Our partnership with Ecospend means we are now moving into a higher gear and able to deliver on the expectations for digital banking.

The collaboration is fully operational. Ecospend and My Digital are looking forward to a long and fruitful partnership and leading the way in the temporary labour market of the financial services marketplace.”

Advantages of offshore banks: What they have to offer millennials

Contrary to popular belief, offshore banking isn’t just for the super-rich, nor is it illegal.  

In reality, and with professional advice, the average person can open a perfectly legal offshore bank account within a matter of hours – ideal for busy, on-the-go millennials.

For the generation facing increasing financial challenges, it is more important than ever for millennials to acquire savings sooner, rather than later. With climbing house prices, higher relative costs of living, and the need to save more money for retirement, many millennials are planning their futures’ by setting up savings accounts in overseas institutions. But is this the most secure way of holding your hard-earned savings?

While the answer to this question is largely dependent on individual circumstance, there are many potential benefits to banking offshore; from earning higher interest rates and tax benefits, to having the ability to bank in foreign currencies. Offshore banking can be particularly beneficial for those who regularly travel overseas for work, as it allows you to receive multiple currencies without the need to pay for exchange fees. As such, there’s no risk of you losing out on exchange rate fluctuations.

Banking with confidence and having more security is a significant factor for people choosing to bank offshore. It can offer greater asset protection against possible future threats, such as divorce lawyers, creditors and legal action – which is essential for millennials with substantial amounts of money. This makes offshore banking a secure solution for managing your money well. However, it is worth noting that the security of your savings will depend on the regulations of where your bank is based.

For an added level of reassurance, many jurisdictions also offer strict, financial privacy and confidentiality agreements. This means that your personal information will not be passed on to any third parties, so your assets are shielded to safeguard your individual or company information.

At Turner Little, we offer privacy-assured banking to suit your bespoke needs. Whether you’re an individual or a business, our services include arranging bank accounts and credit cards with both UK and offshore institutions. So get in touch with us today and see how we can help you prepare for your future.

ADVANTAGES OF OFFSHORE BANKS: WHAT THEY HAVE TO OFFER MILLENIALS

Contrary to popular belief, offshore banking isn’t just for the super-rich, nor is it illegal.  

In reality, and with professional advice, the average person can open a perfectly legal offshore bank account within a matter of hours – ideal for busy, on-the-go millennials.

For the generation facing increasing financial challenges, it is more important than ever for millennials to acquire savings sooner, rather than later. With climbing house prices, higher relative costs of living, and the need to save more money for retirement, many millennials are planning their futures’ by setting up savings accounts in overseas institutions. But is this the most secure way of holding your hard-earned savings?

While the answer to this question is largely dependent on individual circumstance, there are many potential benefits to banking offshore; from earning higher interest rates and tax benefits, to having the ability to bank in foreign currencies. Offshore banking can be particularly beneficial for those who regularly travel overseas for work, as it allows you to receive multiple currencies without the need to pay for exchange fees. As such, there’s no risk of you losing out on exchange rate fluctuations.

Banking with confidence and having more security is a significant factor for people choosing to bank offshore. It can offer greater asset protection against possible future threats, such as divorce lawyers, creditors and legal action – which is essential for millennials with substantial amounts of money. This makes offshore banking a secure solution for managing your money well. However, it is worth noting that the security of your savings will depend on the regulations of where your bank is based.

For an added level of reassurance, many jurisdictions also offer strict, financial privacy and confidentiality agreements. This means that your personal information will not be passed on to any third parties, so your assets are shielded to safeguard your individual or company information.

At Turner Little, we offer privacy-assured banking to suit your bespoke needs. Whether you’re an individual or a business, our services include arranging bank accounts and credit cards with both UK and offshore institutions. So get in touch with us today and see how we can help you prepare for your future.

Why Are Crypto Transaction Speeds So Important?

Would you wait five minutes to make a purchase in-store? Probably not. And this is why crypto transaction speeds remain the biggest roadblock to adoption.

Bitcoin credit cards, PayPal crypto purchases, DeFi apps for Ethereum. Mainstream cryptocurrency adoption seems closer than ever. But we’re still missing a piece of the puzzle. Slow transaction speeds and lack of scalability mean that cryptocurrencies are still unsuitable for day-to-day use and relegated to the world of traders and investors.

Transactions Need to Be Fast to Be Usable

The big challenge faced by the major cryptocurrencies is transaction speed and network load. Let’s put the scale of the challenge into context. Bitcoin can process just 5 transactions per second. Compare that to Visa’s 1,700 transactions per second.

Additionally, Bitcoin transactions need to wait for a new block to go through, which means it could be ten minutes before a transaction is actually verified.

Take a moment to imagine how you pay for your groceries. If you decide to pay with cash, it is instantaneous, free, and private. If you pay with a credit or debit card, it’s fast, low-cost, but not private in that it leaves a trail that can be used to determine your purchase. If you decided to pay with Bitcoin? It’s slow, high cost, but private.

Now let’s look at it from the merchant’s perspective. Cash can be processed as fast as the cashier can put it in the till and is effectively free. Visa is easy, eliminates the risk of employees stealing, and is cheap.

Bitcoin is slow, hard to liquidate, and could cost the company a lot of money in terms of wasted time and processing fees. At the moment there are simply very few reasons for large merchants to accept cryptocurrency.

Additionally, the price of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies fluctuates significantly. This can be good for companies like MicroStrategy that is estimated to have made over $100 million in profits on its Bitcoin holdings. However, difficulties assessing the true value of a transaction with a volatile asset could cause losses for a merchant, or open them up to accusations of overcharging if processing takes too long.

 

Proof of Work Consensus Is Part of the Problem

Another key problem is scalability. Even if merchants were to decide that cryptocurrency was worth their time, a sudden rush of new users would lead to Bitcoin, and any other Proof of Work (PoW) blockchain, facing significant congestion problems.

PoW requires networks of computers, or miners, to solve complicated equations in order to validate and secure blocks of transactions. Each block takes around 10 minutes to process and can hold around 500 transactions.

In order to ensure their transactions are added to a block, earlier users can offer miners an additional fee. As more users vie to use the network, increased fees are needed to speed up processing times. This creates high costs and significant bottlenecks.

As long as this problem persists, any attempts by merchants to adopt cryptocurrency will simply cause more problems, making it unsuitable for day-to-day use.

 

Second Layer Solutions Could Solve the Challenge

There are a number of proposed solutions to these problems. Setting aside the sea of altcoins that promise to fix the perceived problems with cryptocurrency, there are two main solutions being proposed: alternative forms of consensus and second layer solutions.

 

Proof of Stake

Ethereum, and the planned 2.0 update, is the first major attempt at integrating Proof of Stake (PoS) consensus methodology. Ethereum 2.0 will roll-out a new PoS compliant blockchain called Casper.

This will allow users to “stake” Ethereum in order to validate transactions. This will have two main effects. The first is that miners will no longer be necessary, making transaction times and costs more predictable. The second is that it will provide a way for users to monetize their Ethereum without liquidating, improving stability.

However, there are concerns about Proof of Stake. In particular, there are fears that it monopolizes power in the hands of crypto whales, undermining the decentralized nature of the network.

 

Second Layer

This is part of why most solutions for Bitcoin are focused on building a second layer that would remove the need for small transactions to be immediately recorded on the blockchain.

The most prominent proposal is the Lightning Network. This network would allow two users (for example a shop and card issuer) to open up a channel with each other. Thus they could redistribute funds between their new channel, which works as a shared wallet.

Once both parties want to confirm the transactions, they close the channel and the final balance is stored on the blockchain. This methodology is not dissimilar from the way small businesses often deliver cash to the bank at the end of the day. And it would be simple to implement with the right infrastructure.

 

To Become Currency, Crypto Needs to Be as Simple as Cash

In order for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to supplant cash, developers need to think about why cash and credit cards work so well. Any crypto alternative needs to combine the privacy of cash with the ease of use of credit.

To do that cryptocurrency users will need to embrace alternative solutions like PoS or the Lightning Network. It will likely be some time until you can pay for your groceries with Bitcoin, but don’t discount that possibility just yet.

Finance experts say THIS is how to bag the best Black Friday bargains

With the second lockdown coinciding with Black Friday, shoppers will be vying to take advantage of bargains online this year more than ever before.  

The sheer volume of discounts and deals can be overwhelming, so experts at Hitachi Personal Finance have provided top tips on how shoppers can navigate the chaos and secure the best deals. 
 

  1. Start early
    A lot of businesses launch deals early in an attempt to spread out demand and avoid their systems becoming overloaded. Take some time to have a look around for the items on your wish list and to find the best deal early to make sure they aren’t already sold out by the time Black Friday hits.  
     
  2. Check product price histories
    Whilst reviewing the quality of the goods you are in the market for is important, doing some digging into a product’s previous price history is invaluable. Black Friday deals get their appeal from being the cheapest offers around, but this may not necessarily be the case. Making use of price comparisons sites, such as Google Shopping, will help you be certain you’re getting the best value for money and that your deal really is a good one.  
     
  3. Have a list of retailers ready
    If you’re after one particular item, such as a new laptop or smartphone, the chances are you’re not alone, and overcrowded retail sites can often run slowly or even crash due to heavy traffic. A key tip to try and negate this is to find several different retailers that all sell the product you want, then set up accounts with each one in advance with your purchase details securely stored so you’re ready to bag the best deal and check out efficiently. 
     
  4. Make the most of loyalty perks
    A lot of retailers often offer their members or those with loyalty cards exclusive offers or early access to deals. Signing up for a loyalty membership is usually free and very simple to do, and it’s this time of year when the persistent newsletters and emails tipping you off about the best bargains will come in handy. 
     
  5. Abandoned basket discounts
    Doing almost a dummy run of buying the products you want can be hugely beneficial, not just in terms of streamlining your shopping, but can lead to retailers offering targeted discounts to items left in your online shopping basket. Try bundling together everything you want but leave at the checkout stage, you may find you receive an email from the retailer offering you specific deals without having to endure any stress. 

 
Vincent Reboul, Managing Director of Hitachi Capital Consumer Finance, commented: “The effects of the pandemic have seen online shopping sales skyrocket this year, which is undoubtedly going to have an impact on what is already a busy day for retailers and shoppers on Black Friday.  

“Those irresistibly low prices often facilitate a mad dash to the checkouts, with everyone racing against each other to make sure they get the items they’re after, which can be a huge cause of stress and frustration. 

“With the vast majority of activity focused online this year in light of current restrictions, we are confident that our guidance will enable this year’s shoppers to relieve some of the pressure, by taking necessary steps to plan their Black Friday shop early and get themselves ahead of the competition.”  

For more expert insight into how you can have a successful Black Friday experience, please visit: https://www.hitachipersonalfinance.co.uk/latest-posts/money/top-tips-for-bagging-a-bargain-this-black-friday-and-cyber-monday/    

Black Friday Weekend Spending Set to Hit £3m Every Minute

Nearly £3m is set to be spent every minute over Black Friday weekend, according to a new report.1

The VoucherCodes.co.uk Shopping for Christmas 2020 report, carried out by the Centre for Retail Research (CRR), shows that despite lockdown 2.0, UK consumers are set to spend a total of £7.504bn over the Black Friday weekend – a 12.4% drop on 2019 due to store closures. 

Despite the decline, online sales are forecast to increase almost £2bn across Black Friday weekend, with total online sales rising 52.9% from £3.771bn (2019) to £5.764bn this year. 

Online spending is predicted to peak on Black Friday itself when £1.34m will be spent every minute. Offline spending will hit its highest amount at £0.96m every minute on Cyber Monday, resulting in a total of 1.740bn.  

Online vs offline spending (currency values are in Sterling millions) 

Online/offline 

2019 results 

2020 forecast 

 % Change 

Friday 

Sat/ Sun 

Monday 

2019 totals 

Friday 

Sat/ Sun 

Monday 

2020 totals 

2019-20 change 

Online 

£1,141 

£1,105 

£1,525 

£3,771 

£1,925 

£1,928 

£1,911 

£5,764 

52.9% 

Offline 

£1,386 

£1,895 

£1,514 

£4,795 

£458 

£678 

£604 

£1,740 

-63.7% 

Total 

£2,527 

£3,000 

£3,039 

£8,566 

£2,383 

£2,606 

£2,515 

£7,504 

-12.4% 

Prior to lockdown 2.0, the report found that over a third (37.3%) of UK respondents said they would not shop in-store during Black Friday promotions. This suggests that physical stores would have still seen a shortfall in sales due to lack of consumer confidence regardless of lockdown measures.  

However, due to the imposed restrictions in the UK, the research anticipates that offline sales over Black Friday weekend will fall by a staggering 63.7% compared to 2019, from £4.795bn to £1.740bn.  

London is expected to lead the charge with online sales and will also have the biggest share of total spend (£1.312bn) within the UK across the weekend. If areas in Scotland remain out of tier four lockdown by the end of November, Scots are set to spend the most offline, totalling to £362.1m. 

Regional Black Friday weekend spending in 2020 breakdown (currency values are in Sterling millions) 

Region 

Offline 

Online 

Totals 

London 

£196.50  

£1,115.20  

£1,311.70  

South East 

£191.00  

£946.90  

£1,137.90  

East of England 

£122.70  

£587.10  

£709.80  

North West 

£131.60  

£571.20  

£702.80  

Scotland 

£362.10  

£334.70  

£696.80  

South West 

£106.40  

£499.30  

£605.70  

West Midlands 

£103.70  

£458.60  

£562.30  

Yorkshire & Humberside 

£94.90  

£412.50  

£507.40  

East Midlands 

£86.00  

£374.40  

£460.40  

Wales 

£187.70  

£168.80  

£356.50  

North East 

£45.50  

£192.60  

£238.10  

Northern Ireland 

£111.80  

£102.80  

£214.60  

Totals 

£1,739.9 

£5,764.1 

£7,504.0 

While the weekend itself will be popular among shoppers, most retailers will continue their sales within the ‘Black Friday fortnight’.2 During this time, sales are expected to hit a total of £23.090bn. Online total spend is forecast to more than double offline sales £15.480bn and £7.610bn respectively.  

Anita Naik, Lifestyle Editor at VoucherCodes.co.uk, commented: “The new lockdown measures have certainly shaken the bricks-and-mortar retail sector for a second time this year, and Black Friday will no doubt be a huge missed opportunity for many stores across the UK. 

“However, as we know, over the past few years there has been a rapid shift to online shopping and this Black Friday weekend there will be plenty of deals to be found online despite lockdown 2.0. This year we expect to see sales soar across the online retail sector, and this will continue to grow in the run up to Christmas too.  

“With so many discounts over the Black Friday weekend, it can be hard to know if you’re definitely getting the best deal for your money. There are tools which can help such as setting up alerts for things you want to buy or using DealFinder by VoucherCodes. The clever browser extension does all the hard work for you and ensures you never miss a deal again.” 

Gold: Let’s get physical

It has been a turbulent year for the economy as a result of Covid-19, so it is no surprise that interest in gold has risen sharply within the investment world. The financial shock caused by the pandemic has left currencies and markets across the globe in vulnerable and unpredictable positions. With that in mind, more investors are turning to gold as an alternative way of strengthening their investment portfolio.

However, with the price of gold continuing to rise alongside its popularity, what is the best way to invest in the precious metal and how can new investors take a leap into the world of gold for the first time?

Gold, a safer option?

Gold has been synonymous with wealth and prosperity for hundreds of years. Coins were first introduced in 550 BC and quickly became the global currency before paper money came into existence. Ever since then, the precious metal has been an integral part of the globe’s wealth portfolio. During times of economic instability, gold is often looked at as somewhat of an oasis, compared with other investment options. With a history of retaining its value even when currencies and markets are in flux, gold remains a favoured asset as a result of its fundamental, intrinsic value anywhere around the world.

Despite the uncertainty the pandemic has caused, gold’s price continues to rise, potentially heading towards $3,000 per ounce in the near future. Now, with increasing numbers of people seeking a stake in this safe haven asset, the demand and the value for the precious metal will likely continue to rise in months to come.

Understanding gold investment

When investing in gold, it is important to note that it should only make up a portion of an investment portfolio, rather than the entirety. However, whilst signposting about ways to invest in other financial products, such as ISAs or premium bonds, is clear, there are multiple ways to invest gold, many of which aren’t often discussed.

A popular way that investors choose to own gold is through a mutual fund or Exchange Traded Fund (ETF). An ETF requires customers to pass their money over to a fund that will then pool it together with other investors’ money to buy a specific amount of gold, storing it in a high security vault. Although both mutual funds and ETFs work in a similar manner, mutual funds invest in gold mining companies, unlike ETFs, which invest in physical gold bullion. It is important to note that with both ETFs and mutual funds, investors do not own physical gold and are therefore more exposed to market fluctuations. Some ETFs, despite being described as ‘physically-backed’, are also not backed by physical gold, which can also be a risk to investors.

For some, investing in gold mining stocks through a mutual fund may be a better option than an ETF. A mutual fund will invest in a company that mines, however as investments will be contingent on the success of the company, rather than the value of the gold itself, investors will be exposed to any stock market turbulence or changes within the company that could affect this. Anyone investing in gold mining stocks should be prepared to carry out extensive research into the right gold mining companies, before selecting one to invest in.

Some investors may wish to own physical gold bullion and could therefore consider buying gold coins or bars. Whilst buying directly from dealers requires customers to ensure the gold is of a high purity level, and to ensure that they arrange suitable storage, tech platforms, such as Minted, make the process much more straightforward. Minted’s customers can choose how much money they want to invest as part of a regular savings plan, and the gold is stored in a high security London vault. Once enough has been saved for a gold bar, there is the option to either keep it in storage, or to withdraw it and have it delivered.

Unlike the other methods of investing in gold, owning gold bullion gives people complete control over their investment. With the opportunity to sell gold either back to a dealer or via the market, owning bullion is a relatively easy method of buying and investing in gold. 

So, should you invest?

The pandemic has sent ripples through the financial world, that will no doubt leave scars for years to come. This being said, the value of gold remains particularly strong, and many first timers are looking to invest.

Simply put, there is no set way to invest in gold; it depends on individual situations, appetite for risk, and long-term goals. For those seeking potentially higher returns in the shorter term, buying gold mining stocks or gold ETFs may be the better choice. However, for those looking to have more control over their investment, buying gold bullion could be the best choice. The price of investments cannot be influenced by bankers or politicians, has value all over the world, and can be stored and sold however customers choose.

Building A Total Picture of Wealth Through Digital Engagement

Wealth managers are only able to best serve their clients when they truly know them. But it can be hard to ensure they have all the right information, or the right resources in place to gather the data they need. 

Information has never been more vital than it is today. In order to resist the commoditisation of wealth management and counteract fee compression, many advisers are turning to providing holistic financial advice. Here, wealth managers are devising strategies to not only build wealth, but also to manage expenses, protect a client’s family, lifestyle and assets, plan income for now and in retirement, and determine how to pass wealth onto the next generation – all in a tax-effective manner. 

But this is only possible if a wealth manager can completely understand each client’s unique needs and circumstances. Collecting and collating this information is a long and arduous process, beginning with onboarding and continuing right through the client’s lifecycle. Providing holistic advice requires a manager to build the total wealth picture of a client. So how can this be achieved? 

  

The role of effective digital engagement 

Wealth advisers are used to collecting certain types of information – existing holdings, retirement ambitions, other goals and so forth. To create a holistic proposition, wealth managers must go deeper. 

This must begin not just at the onboarding stage, but even further upstream. Creating prospect portals allows wealth managers to create functionality where the prospect themselves can enter relevant information. Then, as the client progresses to onboarding, account opening and investing, they enter more information that enables a manager to build a more complete picture. 

At all stages of the client lifecycle, digital engagement allows managers to better understand not just their client’s finances, but also their concerns, fears and hopes for the future. This is achievable through effective digital warehousing – where data is not simply stored in silos but integrated in one place, run through data science engines and fed back into other areas of the business. 

Through a digital warehouse, every click and view can be recorded, which gives managers data on the areas visited most frequently by the client. This integrated information can include all manner of structured and unstructured data – external news, social media and documents, alongside market and portfolio data. Having this information allows managers to create bespoke packages and investment opportunities for their clients and therefore provide a more structured approach to wealth management. 

  

Applying gamification techniques

Gamification allows financial advisers to understand clients and present information to them in a way that inspires end-user action. Examples include push notifications to encourage end-users to act on information, or risk questionnaires made more engaging by rewarding completion. Gamification is also a powerful tool for data collection – which needs to be at the heart of any financial firm.  

Looking at wealth management for HENRYs – high earners who are not rich yet – the Smart Dynamic approach can be used. This means gamifying educational materials, so users are motivated to digest material at a quicker pace. Using this method results in investors becoming more confident in understanding financial jargon, therefore more confident in making important decisions with their money. Similarly, the Appointment Dynamic technique is used to encourage users to ‘play’ on a regular basis. For example, a wealth manager can highlight specific articles to be read later or encourage clients to move up ‘levels’ with the content they read. 

Delving deeper into digital personas and behavioural science, wealth managers should look at the following two personas; a self-selector and a goals-based planner. The self-selector typically occurs in the sophisticated mass affluent as well as high-net-worth individual (HWNI) segments. As these groups know the market, they want in part self-sufficient, seeking advice for some circumstances but engaging directly with others. A wealth manager can tailor content that speaks directly to these personas, allowing for a better customer experience.  

The HENRY group usually aligns to the goals-based planner persona. This covers all aspects of financial wellbeing, making asset management programmes easier to understand. To do this, the wealth manager gathers information regarding investment goals and risks in order to create a bespoke plan. Clients that are engaged with their wealth manager will remain loyal – this particularly applies to millennials, the next vanguard of the HNWI market. In 2017, Accenture produced a report that revealed 65 percent of millennials want gamification that will help them learn more about investing and keep them more engaged with their portfolio. 

  

The final piece of the puzzle 

Through gamification of digital wealth services, wealth managers can unlock engagement, while gathering information about their clients. However, gamification must be aided by decision theory.    

Decision theory reinforces a wealth adviser’s recommendations. For example, an adviser can understand if a client makes decisions based on herd mentality – investing in the same things as their peer group – or whether they have a lower risk aversion and are open to counterintuitive investments. This allows advisers to frame client recommendations accordingly.   

Another example of applied decision theory is Availability bias. This is when clients receive information they understand, and in context. For example, a dip in an investor’s portfolio value can concern him or her but framing this information correctly will ensure the client stays on the investment plan.    

Decision and gamification theories can be applied across client discovery, investment selection and proposal generation. For advisers serving mass affluent markets, online portals and digital onboarding is commonplace – usually in the form of risk profiling tools and questionnaires.  

The combination of digital engagement, gamification and decision theory is a winning strategy that shows us that clients react well when their experience resonates and is unique to them. It keeps clients close, more informed and engaged – from onboarding and right through the client lifecycle. 

It is with these techniques that wealth managers can create the full digital package for their clients, therefore securing customer loyalty and growth. Especially through turbulent markets and the societal threats of this year, education is power, so what better way to keep up than at the click of a button? 

Should Investors Stay Underweight Europe? Three Reasons Why It’s Time to Reconsider That View Now

After a decade encompassing Brexit and the euro crisis, and amid disappointing returns relative to other markets, many investors have written off European equities, but River and Mercantile’s James Sym believes that stance now needs to change.

Investors underweighting European equities now run the risk of missing the recovery in the region, according to Sym, manager of the recently launched ES R&M European Fund, with the continent offering attractive valuations, a leading position in up and coming sectors, and political unity.

Europe’s major equity indices have lagged the US and other regions so far this year, with the double-digit gains seen in some US markets far ahead of country-specific and broad indices on the continent.

However Sym, who joined River and Mercantile this year, says this disparity has created a glaring opportunity for investors.

“European equities have been unloved and under-owned since last year, with August the first month that investors started to return to the asset class[1],” he says. “Turning points are often the best moments for relative returns – but it is critical to position ahead of that.”

Below, Sym outlines three factors as to why investors should be reconsidering their European exposure now.

 

1. A better crisis

The time to own European assets is when the region is making top down political progress towards convergence. That was true with the establishment of the euro in the cycle from 2002, it was true post “do whatever it takes”, and it is true today.

In some ways Europe needs a crisis to spur it into action. For years it has been obvious that for the euro to be sustainable there needs to be balance sheet mutualisation across Europe and fiscal transfers. The coronavirus crisis has finally catalysed this move, which should serve to bring the cost of capital down for unloved companies across the continent.

Under the recovery fund plans, the European Commission is likely to become one of the biggest AAA-rated bond issuers in the world. The initial issue was 14 times oversubscribed[2]. This gives the periphery access to capital markets under the same terms as Germany or the Netherlands. Additionally, the net effect of the grant element of the structure is that German taxpayers are paying for peripheral infrastructure investment. This should bring down the risk premium for the region and be good for growth.

2. Leading position in ESG

“In a post-Covid environment, the world is coming Europe’s way. Simply put, European stakeholder capitalism was never the ideal light-touch regulatory environment which big tech needed to thrive. This has been a big drag for equity returns as the FANG phenomenon drove US equity returns. However, pre-eminent themes for the next cycle, such as energy transition, are areas in which Europe excels and it has companies well placed to deliver this. Meanwhile, the regulatory noose is starting to circle some of the large US technology companies. At the very least it should be, or become, a more level playing field.

3. Unloved stocks

“With outflows for most of the last year, many investors find themselves underweight the region now, while index levels remain far below their highs – unlike other regions, such as the US.

“Year-to-date, the MSCI Europe index is down 14%, while the MSCI World is up 3%[3]. There is a relative valuation opportunity, and it looks even more attractive if you drill down further.

“The landscape in Europe is one that is full of growth funds which are (clearly) full of growth stocks which have outperformed. But if you look elsewhere, there are some really attractive opportunities that offer investors a great chance to take part in an economic recovery post the Covid disruption.

“While interest rates stay low, government spending stays high. We now see the mechanism for populism to ultimately lead to inflationary outcomes which if it transpires would set up a potentially difficult market for many clients.” 

[1] According to Calastone research, as quoted by Investment Week

https://www.investmentweek.co.uk/news/4019853/uk-equity-fund-outflows-hit-record-gbp-2bn-june-august-deal-jitters

[2] https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_20_1954

[3] According to Bloomberg data, to 22nd October

How to Create a Home Renovation Budget

Do you have plans to remodel your home? There are many steps involved when you take on a renovation. That said, you should always start with your budget. This way, you can make changes you love while you make smart financial decisions. That’s a must for any project.

Take a look at how to create a home renovation budget.

1. Identify Different Goals

Why have you decided to renovate your house? You may want to add new counters to your kitchen or gut your entire first-floor bathroom. In any case, it’s essential to narrow your focus so that you don’t become too haphazard with your choices.

Be sure to write down your goals. If you want to remodel your basement, you can state that you want to add different floors, install a bar and switch light fixtures. These distinctions will ensure you aren’t roped into any expensive additions.

2. Research Estimated Costs

Then, you can research how much your intended changes will cost. Take an afternoon to look into estimations for your renovations. A quick web search can help you find potential prices. Feel free to contact local contractors to see how much you’ll need to set aside for labor, too.

You can find alternatives to materials that may be too expensive, as well. If you think new windows aren’t possible, you can seek other effective methods to increase your room’s natural light. There’s usually an alternative for whatever change you want to make.

There are many DIY budget options you can consider costs to keep prices down. For instance, you can always refurbish cabinets and drawers on your own. This process will save you money — and you can learn a handy lesson.

3. Determine Resale Value

It’s also smart to consider your project’s return on investment (ROI). Will your renovation provide enough resale value to make sense financially? You may want to skip that massive shower unless it’s a must-have for your family. Otherwise, you’ll waste money on a feature homebuyers don’t like.

That doesn’t mean you can’t add particular features. It’s up to you whether your plans make sense for your budget. Try to look into these figures beforehand so that you can model your plans correctly.

4. Consider Potential Surprises

You don’t want to set aside too little money for your project. There may be unexpected surprises that occur while your contractors work. It’s smart to overestimate rather than underestimate. This way, you have enough cash to address those problems without hesitation.

Put at least 10% extra into your budget so that you have that cash. If you don’t spend any, you’ll be able to use that money for other purposes in your renovation or elsewhere. Try not to start work until your budget adequately covers those potential expenses.

Use These Tips to Build Your Home Remodel Budget

A budget is necessary for every project you complete on your home. Be sure that your budget has enough research put into it so that you avoid major costs. As a result, you can enjoy a new space in your home without any major financial hiccups.

Are You Ready to Get a Car Loan? Here are the Signs

Applying for a car loan can be both an exciting and scary process for those in search of the right loan, especially if you’re a first-time borrower. Buying a car can quickly become a much more complex process than the buyer originally anticipated, leading to some anxieties and stresses related to the shopping process if you go in unprepared. 

Things can be further complicated when a loan is involved, because adding financing to anything requires more work. Car loans are a relatively unique type of funding too, similar to mortgages in the sense that they get their own allocation of funds in comparison to general personal loans. 

Car loans should also be examined closely before electing to take on the repayment of one, because fine print misreading can lead to trouble down the road. Car repayments can add up quickly if you’re not careful, so be sure this isn’t overlooked.

If you’re planning to obtain financing for your next, or first, car purchase, it’s important to ensure you’re ready to undertake this responsibility. So, here are a few signs you’re ready for a car loan: 

You’ve Done Your Research

Buying a car is something that’s a big deal for most consumers. Unless you’re relatively wealthy or just purchasing a vehicle for novelty purposes to add to a collection, fronting the capital for a new car is not something to be scoffed at. 

When you’re making a purchase on something that exceeds thousands, and usually five figures, in value, this is a serious financial burden you’re taking on. Failing to make the payments can significantly damage your credit reputation, and also leave you without a reliable means of transportation as well.

This is why doing your research is important. On the car yes, but most importantly on the car loan. The car loan market can present a wide variety of options available to those buyers who are looking to finance. 

You can finance your car through an independent financial institution, or often times a dealer as well, with dealers sometimes offering unique caveats like “0% APR for the first 12 months” or something of the like. 

Different lenders will come with different rates, and different borrowers will get different rates based on their credit worthiness. It’s important to know your credit standing, and what type of interest rate you can expect to get on the loan because of it. 

You’ll need to do some independent research and compare the offers available to you for the vehicle you wish to buy. This way, you won’t just be walking into a dealership prepared to take whatever is placed in front of you. If you’ve taken this step and are fully aware of the best route to go, you may be ready for a car loan. 

The Rest of Your Finances are in Order 

This isn’t a personal finance class, but is it qualifying information in regards to whether or not you’re ready to take on a car loan. Because of that, it’s important that car buyers give themselves an honest audit on where they stand financially before proceeding. 

Taking out new loans with bad credit, a lot of outstanding balances, accounts sent to collections, insufficient income, or even sufficient income but strapped with a lot of other debt, could all easily turn your dream into a nightmare. Adding a car loan to an unstable stack of financial issues might just topple the tower, so it’s important to make sure you’re ready for this responsibility. 

Take an objective self-assessment of your financial situation before you consider purchasing a new vehicle, or taking out a car loan on one especially. This is easily accomplished by looking at your debt-to-income ratio, account balances, outstanding balances, monthly expenses, and so on. You know what you can afford and must act accordingly.

If you’ve taken it upon yourself to undergo this process and have determined that you’re financially prepared to handle it, then you are likely ready for a car loan. 

You Trust Yourself to Make Timely Payments

One of the worst things that can happen to an otherwise financially stable person is to forget to pay a bill on time. Imagine you’re just scrolling through social media before bed and suddenly, there’s no Wi-Fi. Oh, wait…you forgot to pay the bill this month. 

Yeah, forgetting to pay for things you can otherwise afford isn’t a financial literacy issue, but rather just something that must be remembered. The same goes with making payments on a car loan, with failure to pay eventually resulting in repossession of your car.

Now, in most cases you’ll probably be contacted by your lender if you’ve missed a payment at all, and repo not usually coming until after a couple. This isn’t always the case though, and it can depend heavily on who exactly you purchased the car from, and who you financed it with as well. 

You’re unlikely forget two or three times after being reminded, but if you purchased from a less lenient dealer or borrowed from a lender of the same cloth, one missed payment could be enough to do you in and damage your credit. 

The simplest way to avoid this ever even coming close to happening is to just authorize automatic payments each month. The money will be withdrawn from your account on a specified date each month to cover the payment. Just make sure the funds are there and it’s taken care of for you. It’s like direct deposit, but uh, in reverse. 

However, if this has never been an issue for you and you’re really on top of things, you’re definitely ready for a car loan

So, are You Ready for a Car Loan?

If you’ve read this far and are able to check all three of these boxes, you likely have nothing to worry about. You’re probably the kind of person who pays off the credit card balance as soon as it posts and only uses it to get cashback points anyway. You’re on top of things financially. 

If not, don’t worry. Even asking the question “am I ready for it” is a step in the right direction to financial responsibility, and eventually your dream car.

Savers Are Set to Miss Out on MILLIONS in Returns After Epic £75.5bn Savings Haul in Lockdown

Savers are set to miss out on millions in returns after an epic £75.5 billion savings haul in lockdown, according to a new report by Atom bank. 

On average Brits saved £1,974 each in lockdown, equating to £75.5bn across the UK[1], yet at least half of this is reported to be sitting in a savings account, likely offering minimal returns. Millennials saved the most out of all reported age groups – averaging at £2,200 each. 

In total 73% of people have been using lockdown as an opportunity to save and just 8% have spent more than usual during lockdown, Of those that have been saving, half (50%) said they’ve been putting it in an instant savings account so that they can access it easily when they need it. 

But with multiple rate cuts from the Bank of England leaving interest rates pitifully low, savers are set to pocket just £1.94 each in interest. After the latest rate cut, the current average interest rate on savings accounts across the big six banks[2] stands at just 0.01%.[3] . 

The situation is only set to worsen for savers as 82% of people say they will continue their new found saving habits, despite the little reward. Negative interest rates are also on the horizon, which if implemented, could see bank rates fall further and even result in banks charging people for holding money. 

It comes as Atom launches a new savings account with an interest rate of 0.75% – one that is 75 times better than the Big 6, with no restrictions on withdrawals and no minimum deposit required at opening. By way of comparison, for the amount each person saved on average during lockdown (£1,974), they would have pocketed £13.81 in interest each if their money had been sitting in Atom’s new Instant Saver – £12 more than if they had stashed their money with one of the big six.

Taking customers for granted

The majority of people (62%) view savings accounts as a place to safeguard money so they don’t overspend, whereas just 21% think they are a genuine investment opportunity, or a place to grow their money. As a result, banks have been getting away with offering incredibly low rates and giving little back in return for their customer’s hard earned cash. What’s more, two in five (42%) could not confidently say what the interest rate is on their savings account, meaning many are left unaware of how their money is or (more likely) isn’t performing. 

Just over 1 in 2 (55%) also said they believed high-street banks are prepared to take advantage of their customers, by offering little in returns and enforcing high – and growing – fees and charges. Lloyds, Halifax and Bank of Scotland recently upped the charge on their overdrafts and customers with a poor credit rating could be charged as much as 49.9%, which was initially due to be implemented in April but was delayed due to the pandemic.

When it comes to interest rates offered by banks, 1 in 2 people (46%) said they would describe the state of interest rates as bad and that they couldn’t generate any additional money. Over 1 in 10 (13%) even said terrible, and that they stood to lose money.

Recent figures from the Bank of England also revealed how more than 1 in 10 of us (13%) even stockpiled bank notes at home during the pandemic, showing how people would rather keep cash at home than in a bank.

Opportunities to save

Of those that have been saving more in lockdown, two thirds (62%) have saved money by staying at home and shopping less.

60% also saved due to restaurants and pubs being closed and a third (35%) saved from not commuting to and from work. One in three (30%) also saved money by making their own lunches. 

Lockdown has also caused people to change their food shopping habits with 35% of people reporting a change, for example buying in bigger or smaller batches.

Looking ahead, 82% say they are likely to continue saving, and as restrictions tighten across the UK we could even see this figure increase.

Financial confidence about the future

Despite the pandemic, people remain largely confident about both their short and long-term financial futures. Just under half (49%) report feeling confident about money in the short-term, with almost one in five (16%) saying they are ‘very’ confident.

When it comes to their long-term financial future, well over two fifths (43%) say they are confident, with well over a tenth (14%) ‘very’ confident. 

Millennials are the most likely out of any age group to feel confident about both their short-term financial future (62%) and long-term financial future (55%). 

Mark Mullen, CEO of Atom bank, commented: “Banks have been taking customers for granted for years. Lockdown has simply brought this into sharper focus. Brits have saved millions with little return for their efforts, while some of the UK’s biggest banks even pressed ahead with upping overdraft rates to an absurd 40% flat fee. 

“For too long it’s been the norm to offer customers shockingly low interest rates. People are even stockpiling cash in their homes rather than in a bank account, which shows just how little they think they’ll gain by trusting the big six with their money. Atom is here to remind us all that when you save, your money is used by banks to allow someone else to borrow. The borrower should get a great deal from the bank – whether to buy their home or sustain and grow their business – but so should the saver. It’s time to shine a light on the behaviour of big banks and to do the right thing by our customers. 

“People need to act now and take control of their finances. Our new Instant Saver has a rate that’s 75 times higher than the UK’s biggest banks, and with no short-term bonus rate to lure you in, no limits on withdrawals and no minimum amount required at opening, it offers people much-needed flexibility while their cash works harder for them. 

“We’ve built a bank that delivers award-winning customer service – one that’s determined to push the market in the favour of customers.”

7 Things People Get Terribly Wrong About Stocks and the Stock Market

To the perfect layman, stocks can seem intimidating. The market is so diverse, and financial news can seem like they’re in a completely different language. This also leads to people making their own misinformed opinions about the market. The sad part is that these beliefs are often fueled by a bias people have about business in general.

Some think it’s a scam. Others think that it’s impossible to make steady earnings, or that only big players do so. On the other end of the spectrum, you have those who look at historic figures for the Dow Jones and think that you can’t lose with the stock market and others that think that they can just listen to the news and make trades based on announcements and events. Both of these are wrong and being overly optimistic is just as bad as being overly skeptical. Let’s take a look at some of the things people get wrong about stocks and the stock market.

You can Never Lose with Stocks

This is probably one of the strangest myths about stocks. Some people think that they can just hold some stock and that it’ll always bounce back. These people think that selling is an automatic loss and that stocks are meant to be held forever.

What they don’t realize is that they may be losing money in more than one way when doing this. First, they may end up with stocks that are not bouncing back or becoming almost useless due to disruption in the industry or market conditions. But there’s another area where they may be losing and not realizing it.

Let’s say that you invest $2,000 on stock “A” while failing to invest in stock “B”. If the first stock goes from $20 to $15 you might want to hold on to it until it bounces back. And maybe it does and hovers at around the $22 mark. You’re feeling pretty good about yourself.

But what if I told you that stock “B” went from $15 to $30 during that same period? This is indeed a loss, and it’s referred to as an opportunity cost. This is the amount of money you’re losing for having your money tied up in stagnant or underperforming assets while being unable to capitalize on winners. This is why you need to be somewhat fluid and forget the notion that all stocks always bounce back. We have plenty of historical evidence to back that up also.

It’s Easy to Tell Winners and Losers Apart

One of the biggest myths about stock market investing is that you can easily tell a winning and losing company apart. But that’s simply not true. Two companies might look completely the same, even issue the same type of press releases, and have similar market valuations. But you can’t try to just judge market sentiment based on price movements. You have to dig deeper.

It is often when an industry is going through a rough period that you will truly be able to separate the two. You can expect to see consolidation, and this is when you might find out that a company is running low on reserves, or that it has really bad debt. This is the type of stuff you’ll need to start worrying about if you’re intending to play the long game. This will also help traders in addition to understanding chart patterns and using technical indicators to understand the truth behind those price fluctuations.

You have to come with the mindset that it’s hard to tell winners from losers. This will push you to do more research and not go based on a false sense of confidence thinking you’ve identified a pattern after seeing a sudden uptick in price.

You can Only Make Money when Stocks go Up

This is another myth, and people are often surprised when they learn that you can actually bet against a stock and still make money. This is called selling short, and one of the most important tactics you’ll need to learn when trading.

Selling short is when you agree to borrow stocks from a broker in the expectation that it will be lower at a later time. Let’s say that you decide to sell a few shares of Johnson & Johnson short. You agree to borrow 100 shares at $145. That’s a $14,500 investment. The stock then falls to around $130 3 weeks later. You then can pay back the 100 shares which now cost you $13,000. This means that you made a $1,500 profit minus commission.

While this can be a very powerful strategy, you also have to know that it can go both ways. What this means is that you could end up owing more money if the stock goes in the other direction. What this also means is that the stock market isn’t strictly about “buying low and selling high” as they say. You can make money in any direction the stock market is going.

Getting Started is Difficult and Demands a Lot of Money

A lot of people also have the idea that you can only invest in the stock exchange if you have tens of thousands of dollars, but it’s not entirely true. As a matter of fact, it’s possible to start with as little as $500 to $1,000, though some advocate that you start with at least $2,000.

It really depends on what sort of trading you were thinking of doing. If you fell in love with the idea of day trading, then you might be surprised to find out that you need to have at least $25,000 at all times in your account if you intend to do more than 4 trades per day over a 5 day period. However, there’s nothing that stops you from starting with a minimal investment if you intend to buy stocks and hold.

Getting started is also not as difficult as you think. It might seem daunting at first, but once you get a hold of the basics, you realize that the stock market is much simpler than you may think. If you want to get a solid foundation on how to buy stocks, we strongly recommend you check out WealthSimple. They have a piece where they run down how to pick a broker and trading platform and a few strategic tips as well. You’ll learn what you need to look at in a stock when to invest, and a few basic stock market terms.

You Gotta Go with Blue Chips

There is also this group that believes that blue chips are the only way to go. We’re not saying you should not invest in them. As a matter, they can be great.

They can be a good source of passive income through dividends, tend to hold their value during tough times, and are great stores of value. However, when market conditions bounce back, these stocks stay right in the middle.

While you want to always have a few blue chips in your portfolio, you also have to invest in stocks that have growth potential. Again, this is where you need to think about opportunity cost. By having all your capital on blue chips, you are missing opportunities on fast-growing stock when you could easily hedge your bets by diversifying.

You Should Hold You Money During a Crash

This is somewhat related to the point we made earlier about stocks making money in any direction. The worst times for traders are times of stability, believe or not.

A stock market that has a lot of movement in any direction is what they actually look for. This is where the real opportunities are, whether the market is going up or down. That’s why you have to always pay caution to the wind and not be afraid of major financial downturns. This doesn’t mean that money is lost, it is only changing hands.

This also means that you can also start looking at sectors and stocks that are moving in the other direction. Financial crashes are usually the manifestation of a much deeper problem, and that’s when you need to start looking at who’s providing the solutions.

Risky Stocks are Automatically Bad Stocks

It really depends on your strategy again. If your goal is to hold for the long term, then maybe you want to go with safe stocks with moderate potential for growth and loss. This also means that you’ll get moderate returns if any. Some people might prefer to invest based on value, while others prefer to bet on short term movement. Both are very valid strategies and might suit a different type of investor.

With risky stocks, there is so much potential. Yes, you could lose, but there are always ways to mitigate it. The greatest risk comes with greater rewards, so instead of focusing on whether a certain stock is too risky, look at short term price movement armed with the right knowledge and tools to make informed and calculated bets.

These are just some of the things people get wrong about stocks in general. Once you dispel those myths, you can start truly understanding what the stock market is all about and form a realistic idea of it.

Homeless Heroes: 87% Of Public Sector Workers CAN’T Afford A Mortgage in the UK

With our public sector workers going above and beyond the call of duty over the last six months, property and mortgage experts at OnlineMortgageAdvisor.co.uk wanted to find out if people working in public sector roles could afford a mortgage and where in the UK would be most feasible .

After looking at all average annual salaries for all public sector roles, along with property price averages across the UK, the results were astonishing.

London Mortgage Affordability

Across all eight chosen public sector professions (NHS GP Doctor, Firefighter, Police Officer, Social Worker, Secondary School Teacher, Primary School Teacher, NHS Nurse (Registered Nurse), and Military Soldier) none were able to afford a mortgage in London.

Even though the London weighting allowance was added to our front-line heroes, they were still unable to buy a London property.

However, the OnlineMortgageAdvisor team understood that mortgages are usually achieved with a second income. Finding the average London salary of £34,473, they used this to determine the potential for a joint mortgage and still it proved unattainable.

UK Mortgage Affordability

Based on their income alone an NHS GP was the only public sector profession that could afford a mortgage within the UK. With an average annual salary of £64,999, an NHS GP could afford to live in seven out of 11 regions in the U.K. such as the West Midlands, East Midlands, North West England, North East England, Wales, Scotland, and finally Yorkshire and The Humber.

Yet, the other seven key workers; Firefighters, Police Officers, Social Workers, Secondary School Teachers, Primary School Teachers, NHS Nurses (Registered Nurses), and Military Soldiers could not afford to live in any of the regions listed.

 

UK Mortgage Affordability with a Partner

The only way our front-line heroes could afford to have a mortgage is by living with a significant other. OnlineMortgageAdvisor took the average UK incomeearning of £29,600.

NHS GP Doctor

The take-home for a NHS GP and their partner would be an average of £94,599 making them the highest income earners for all eight selected public sector workers. Therefore a  NHS GP was able to afford mortgages across these nine regions: East of England, South West of England, West Midlands, East Midlands, North West of England, North East of England, Wales, Scotland, and Yorkshire and The Humber.

Firefighter

After extinguishing blazing fires and rescuing civilians from dangerous situations, our brave firefighters have a potential household earning of £61,308, leaving them able to buy within seven regions across the UK (West Midlands, East Midlands, North West of England, North East of England, Wales, Scotland, and Yorkshire and The Humber).

Police Officer

Keeping our streets safe police officers come in third place with a joint average potential income of £59,594, granting them properties in the West Midlands, East Midlands, North West of England, North East of England, Wales, Scotland, and Yorkshire and The Humber.

Social Worker

Social workers follow closely behind with an average household income of £59,437, permitting them properties in the West Midlands, East Midlands, North West of England, North East of England, Wales, Scotland, and Yorkshire and The Humber.

Secondary School Teacher

Secondary school teachers are the last public sector workers to afford seven regions in the UK, with a joint potential income of £59,244 on average, meaning they can afford properties in the West Midlands, East Midlands, North West of England, North East of England, Wales, Scotland, and Yorkshire and The Humber.

Primary School Teacher

Our early learning educators come in sixth place with a household earning of £56,244. They can subsequently afford a mortgage in the East Midlands, North West of England, North East of England, Wales, Scotland, and Yorkshire and The Humber.

NHS Nurse (Registered Nurse)

After braving the front-line over the past six months, our NHS nurses come second to last with an average household income of £54,706. The extra £4,706 allows NHS nurses to buy in one more region than our military soldiers (East Midlands, North West of England, North East of England, Wales, Scotland, and Yorkshire and The Humber).

Military Soldier

They may be protecting and keeping us safe, but our soldiers are unfortunately at the bottom of the mortgage affordability list with an average earning of £50,139 if applying with a partner, allowing soldiers to only afford properties in the North West of England, North East of England, Wales, Scotland, and Yorkshire and The Humber.

How to Manage Your Student Budget

What’s the age-old adage? Take care of the pennies and the pounds look after themselves. Well, this is just as important at university as it is anywhere else. 

When at university, you will be operating on a smaller budget than if you’re out of education. A student loan will only last you so long, so see how you can manage your student budget at university. 

Save up your vouchers and look for student discounts

Vouchers come in handy more than you can think! While it’s unlikely that you’ll be saving up £2,000 in vouchers over a one year period, you could still find yourself saving a fair bit on quite a few items when you go shopping. 

Tesco have a Clubcard points system which can entitle you to various discounts and perks, so signing up for a Clubcard is a good way of saving money and a good way of being able to offset potential costs against your points.

Some companies offer various student discounts and will have a lot of vouchers geared towards helping students that need to save money. Music streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music and TIDAL all have student programmes that will save you money in the long run, all you need is proof of being a student. 

Use your NUS Card

Your student NUS Card exists to help you out on the high street. Many students find themselves in need of a good deal here and there and an NUS Card is a great way of doing that. 

An NUS Card is mainly used as a form of identification for students and is essential for far more than just finding good deals in Nando’s! An NUS Card is also used for students that are looking for student council tax exemption as well. 

While you will need to pay an initial fee of £13, it’s worth it in the long run! On those rare occasions, you and your friends decide to go out for a meal, you will see 20-25% wiped off your overall bill. 

Look into transport options

Student Railcards are the best way for students to get around. 

For a lot of students, travelling to and from university or to certain campuses or even visiting home can start to tot up for you and can have a very negative impact on your student budget, so the best thing to do is to pick up some kind of subsidised travel service.

For some students, this will mean taking advantage of a travel bursary that is offered by their university, for others it will be about taking advantage of things like the aforementioned student railcard. 

Some universities also have transport systems offered as part of their campus, whether it be a coach service, integrated bus services, train systems that run through the campus itself or even a monetary scheme to help out. You can check out university rankings and see which universities are ranked best in their areas for transport. 

Use your university’s gym

Most universities will have their own gym on campus, which will help you to keep in shape. It makes sense to use your university’s gym rather than use a more expensive high street option that will likely cost an awful lot of money. 

It is unlikely that you would be charged for using a university gym and on the off-chance you are charged, it is likely to cost less than a regular high street gym would cost. 

A university gym will also have the added benefit of having a wider array of equipment for you to use as they will likely receive more people at the gym than a regular gym would, who said you couldn’t get ripped when saving money?

Avoid the meal deal

We’ve all been there, a long day and you fancy something quick to eat, so you quickly pick up the Tesco meal deal and drop £3 on a sandwich, a packet of crisps and a drink. Though it can be helpful sometimes and a good way of keeping yourself well-fed and hydrated, the deals do add up!

Five days-a-week of meal deals leads to £15-a-week being spent on lunch alone, factored over the course of a month and you’ll see yourself spending a whopping £60 on lunch alone! 

With this in mind, we recommend picking up the ingredients you need for lunch and preparing your own meal at home. This will mean that you will have food left over for dinner or for later lunches and the ingredients together will cost less or about the same as a whole meal deal does, while offering more possibilities. 

Britain’s Stark Gender Savings Gap: Women Have a Third Less Money Saved Than Men

New research published today reveals a stark difference in the amount of money British men and women have in savings, exposing a 32% gender savings gap.

The consumer study, by leading discount site VoucherCodes.co.uk, reveals that the average man in Britain has £24,880 in savings – 32% more (£8,038) than the average British woman. The widest gender savings gap is found amongst millennials, with female respondents in that age group reporting 60% less in savings than their male counterparts – a whopping £15.9k. This is followed by Gen Z, with a 47% gender savings gap.

Average men’s savings

Average women’s savings

Gender savings gap (£)

Gender savings gap (%)

Millennials

£26,553

£10,633

£15,900

60%

Gen Z

£17,552

£9,343

£8,209

47%

Gen X

£18,000

£11,265

£6,735

37%

Brits

£24,880

£16,842

£8,038

32%

Baby boomers

£29,902

£29,064

£838

3%

Gender pay gap making an impact

With the latest government statistics revealing that there is currently a 17.3% gender pay gap in the UK[i], the research also looks at how this directly impacts women’s savings. Just 38% of British women said that their current wage is enough to allow them to save their goal amount each month, much fewer than the 51% of men in Britain who say the same. In addition to having the widest gender savings gap of any generation, millennials also report the largest disparity between the sexes when it comes to whether their wage allows them to save. Just 36% of millennial women say that they are able to put away the cash they want to each month, compared to 55% of men. On the other end of the scale, baby boomers have the smallest disparity of any generation, as 50% of women and 53% of men said that their earnings mean they are able to save their goal amount.

Savings depleted by COVID-19

Just over six months after lockdown was introduced in the UK, coronavirus has widened the gender savings gap even further. Whilst, overall, British men and women have reported a similar impact upon their finances, with 24% of men and 26% of women confirming the virus has had a dramatic negative effect on their savings, the true picture is somewhat bleaker. The study reveals that more women than men are relying on previous savings to cover essential costs during the pandemic, depleting their already smaller savings pot. A third of women (35%) admit to dipping into their savings over the last six months, compared to just 15% of men. This figure jumps to more than half for furloughed women (54%), again higher than men on the scheme (40%).

The impact is even more pronounced for furloughed workers. Two thirds of those on furlough (64%) said that the scheme and resulting pay cut has meant that they have not been able to contribute their desired savings each month. Yet again, the data suggests that furloughed women have seen the biggest hit to their financial security as a result of COVID. Over three quarters of women on the scheme (78%) have not been able to save as much money as pre-pandemic, contrasting just half of furloughed men (50%).

A brighter outlook?

Looking ahead to a pandemic-free future, the nation remains cautiously optimistic when it comes to predicting whether coronavirus will have a long-lasting impact on their savings. Over half (55%) of British women and 57% of British men think their savings will be able to recover in the long term. Earlier in their savings journey, Gen Z-ers predict a tougher time, with just 42% of women and 50% of men predicting that their savings will make a full recovery. Unsurprisingly, those most worried about the future are women who have been furloughed, with 77% admitting they are concerned that they will never be able to replenish lost savings.

Anita Naik, Lifestyle Editor at VoucherCodes.co.uk, comments: “This report is really eye opening, exposing how far we as a nation need to come to achieve financial equality. It’s especially concerning to see that young women and those who have been enrolled on the furlough scheme during COVID-19 have been most affected, as this represents such a large number of women in the UK.

“To help reduce the amount you rely on your savings, budgeting is the most effective way to ensure that all essential costs are covered. Citizens Advice offer a free and easy to use budgeting tool on their website that works for any budgeting needs. When shopping, make a habit to always check for deals that could shave valuable cash off your purchase. If you shop online a lot, install a handy browser extension such as DealFinder by VoucherCodes – a free Chrome extension that automatically finds the best discounts as you shop, so that you never miss out on a deal.“

Adding Value to Your Investment Property This Autumn

Property investment can be a great way to provide a nest egg for you and your family or a method by which you can turn a quick profit with some relatively simple steps.

Property will always be bought and sold and whilst the market takes dips and dives, it generally puts itself right over time. If you can find the right property, the perfect blend of price and scope for improvement, you may want to make the investment.

The property market tends to be weighted with first-time buyers looking to get on the ladder and first-time buyers accounted for 51% of the United Kingdom’s buying market last year. Those buyers are usually looking for a home that needs little work; meaning investors with means to turn a low-cost property into the buyer-friendly finished article can make a handsome profit.

So which areas should you be focusing on if you are an investor? We have picked several key elements in which a little investment goes a long way.

Bathroom and Kitchen

Of course, the bathroom and kitchen are two elements you can make an investment in to increase the value of a property. Ideal Home Magazine suggests you can add as much as 5% on to the existing property price with a new bathroom, although that may be a smaller increase with a first-time buyer property. The important consideration you have to make is balancing design against cost – it is easy to let your creativity run wild when installing a new kitchen for example, but remember to remain functional, at the lower end of the price spectrum and not get too ambitious. At the end of the day, you need to find the right balance between a striking new kitchen and cost-effectiveness.

Heating

The kitchen and bathroom have a ‘wow’ factor, something that might impress a buyer as they enter the property. A far less visually appealing element to think about is the heating system, and in particular, the boiler. It is likely that a first-time buyer has stretched themselves in terms of deposit and will not want hidden costs or work that needs carrying out immediately, so a new boiler might add peace of mind, and a little more value to your investment.

The benefits are not just short-term stability for the buyer. In HomeServe’s guide to installing a new boiler, they point out that you can improve a home’s energy efficiency with a fresh appliance, even if the old one has not broken down. That is another key selling point, as bills will be lower for the potential buyer, another aspect you can use to move your property quickly.

Garden

If your investment property has a garden, consider giving it a bit of a makeover. When you sell a house, you sell a dream, especially to those first-time buyers. If the garden is overgrown and needing attention, it could cost you thousands of pounds, according to the Express, by giving the buyer the mindset that there is room for negotiation. For little cost, you can tidy up the outdoor space and make it attractive. When buyers look around homes, they picture themselves living there and a nice garden will conjure up images of balmy summer evenings with a barbeque on. That will not be the case if the grass is long and the furniture grotty and crumbling.

Install a New Front Door

Selling a house is all about first impressions, and so is retaining the price point you have set. If a potential buyer turns up at the kerb to find a shabby front door with peeling paint, it sets the wrong tone for the rest of the viewing.

By putting in a new front door, or even just refreshing the old one, you make the house look fresh and new from the outside, setting the scene for the rest of the viewing. A striking colour can also help lodge your property in the mind of the buyer, especially if they have seen several properties in one day. Also, if the area you invest in has some level of crime, installing a secure front door with a new locking system might give buyers some peace of mind.

How Much Is the Online Food Industry Worth?

If you’ve ordered your groceries or takeout online this year, you’ve contributed to the massive wealth of the online food industry. Currently, the global online market is worth $111.32 billion, and the industry is only growing. Food delivery services are expanding, and more grocery stores offer online ordering now than ever before. From caviar to beer, you can satisfy even the wildest cravings with the touch of a button. 

What exactly led to this surge in net worth, and how will the events of 2020 affect the industry in the coming years?

A Brief History

Food delivery is nothing new. The first pizza delivery occurred way back in 1889 in Naples, Italy. Then, in World War II, chefs and volunteers delivered meals to citizens seeking cover from bomb threats. In the 1950s, soldiers returning from war popularized pizza delivery in the States and, 10 years later, food trucks entered the scene. 

However, online ordering didn’t make its debut until the early 2000s when GrubHub and major pizza chains began creating mobile applications. By 2015, online ordering began to overtake mobile ordering and, two years later, DoorDash university startups began implementing robot delivery. Meal kit delivery services like Blue Apron also launched during this time. 

A Growing Industry 

Since then, online ordering has become commonplace. Now, amid a global pandemic, food delivery is enjoying a major moment in the spotlight. 

To avoid the grocery store — and the subsequent risk of contracting the coronavirus — millions of people are ordering their groceries online. During March, 31% of U.S. households used online grocery ordering, with 10.3 million of them using this service for the first time. Thus, this relatively new form of online ordering is becoming a major contributor to the wealth of the online food industry. 

Digital foodservice orders are also experiencing a boom as many restaurants had to close their doors to dine-in customers during the pandemic. In May, these online orders increased by 138%, and now, new users represent nearly half of third-party food delivery apps. Of course, the global economic slowdown has slowed the overall growth rate of the online food industry. However, it will likely experience a major rebound next year. 

 

The Future of Online Food

According to surveys, 43% of individuals using online grocery services are very likely to continue doing so. Moreover, 30% of households who didn’t use these services in March would likely try it over the next few months. Likewise, experts expect those who tried online food delivery during the pandemic to continue using mobile applications and online ordering even after restaurants re-open. 

Still, more than 50% of Americans are cooking at home more than they were before the pandemic. Thus, restaurants will have to continue diversifying their services to offer DIY meal kits and experimental food bundles if they want to attract these newfound chefs. If more businesses rise to the challenge, the online food industry will likely expand and exceed even the most optimistic future predictions.

World Mental Health Day: Does More Money Correlate With More Happiness?

Industries with Correlations Between Average Weekly Earnings and Anxiety

Anxiety was scored in the same way to happiness, by asking adults aged 16 and over to rate on a scale of 0 to 10 where 0 was not at all and 10 was completely anxious, how anxious they were feeling

The top-scoring industries with a correlation between anxiety and average weekly earnings were as follows:

  1. Retail Trade and Repairs – 74.52%
  2. Manufacturing-Other – 72.07%
  3. Manufacturing – Engineering and Allied Industries – 70.67%
  4. Education – 68.51%
  5. Accommodation and Food Service Activities – 68.04%

Although these are not as strong as the 80%+ correlations that are shown against happiness and average weekly earnings, there is still something to be taken from these results.

Happiness is strongest with average weekly earnings in retail and trade repairs, but this is also the highest correlation with anxiety. Most of the industries that reflect happiness, also reflect more anxiety.

Anxiety is not to be mistaken with unhappiness and you can have both alongside each other. We can hypothesise from these results that as wages increase, job responsibility increases and can cause more anxiety in the role.

Interestingly, health and social work scored the lowest correlation with anxiety at 53.40%. This industry is infamous for having high stress and anxiety levels but these results may show that anxiety does not increase with weekly wages.

Those That Reported as Living Comfortably or Completely Satisfied with Income Reported Higher Levels of Anxiety.

Respondent income was scored on the same scoring system as happiness (so is subjective to how happy they are about their level of income instead of actual income which is scored objectively in ‘average weekly earnings’) and was broken up into:

  • Completely satisfied
  • Mostly satisfied
  • Somewhat satisfied
  • Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied
  • Somewhat dissatisfied
  • Mostly dissatisfied
  • Completely dissatisfied

Managing financially also followed the same scoring system and was broken up into:

  • Living comfortably
  • Doing alright
  • Just about getting by
  • Finding it quite difficult
  • Finding it very difficult

Those who ranked themselves as ‘completely satisfied’ with their income showed a correlation with higher levels of anxiety at 65.68%.

Those who reported as ‘living comfortably’ reported an 89.97% correlation with anxiety.

With this, we can see that the higher the earnings, most likely from roles with higher responsibility and stress levels, the higher the anxiety.

Again, this does not correlate with happiness but we can conclude that for 65-80% of those who live comfortably or are completely satisfied with their income, the higher their levels of anxiety.

Correlation Between Bonuses and Happiness

Many companies throughout the UK provide bonuses to boost staff productivity and morale, however, it appears these bonuses may not be providing increasing feelings of happiness.

When workers were surveyed regarding if bonuses correlated with happiness, the correlation percentages were small and relatively inconclusive.

The industry with the highest correlation between bonuses and happiness was the construction industry, despite being the top scorer, showed at only 41%.

This could be interpreted in a few ways. Perhaps the bonus sums are not high enough to justify a change in attitude or income satisfaction may be high enough that some extra will not bring elation.

It could also be that performance-based bonuses can cause more stress in the workplace as employees push themselves to meet targets to achieve these. The outcome may not justify the means.

 

Income Satisfaction and Happiness

You may be forgiven in believing industries who previously reported a correlation between higher weekly and happiness would also report a high correlation with satisfaction with income and happiness.

Higher earnings do not necessarily equal income satisfaction. Those on more modest incomes can still report higher levels of income satisfaction and happiness.

The industries that had the largest correlations between income satisfaction and happiness are:

  1. Retail Trade and Repairs – 87.81%
  2. Administrative and Support Service Activities – 87.74%
  3. Education – 85.71%
  4. Accommodation and Food Service Service Activities – 84.87%
  5. Health and Social Work – 81.98%

The industries that had the lowest correlations between income satisfaction and happiness are:

  1. Mining and Quarrying – 9.28%
  2. Professional, Scientific & Technical Activities – 24.15%
  3. Manufacturing – Chemicals and Man-made Fibres – 29.18%
  4. Financial & Insurance Activities – 29.46%
  5. Real Estate Activities – 29.95%

Changes in income have very little correlation on happiness for mining and quarrying, likely because of the perceived poorer working conditions that remain regardless of income changes and the impact on the health of the worker.

Overall, retail trade and repairs show to have the highest correlations between income satisfaction and average weekly earnings, as well as income satisfaction and happiness but also showed high correlations with anxiety.

We can conclude from this, money can equal happiness but only in certain industries, as long as we are also willing to take on higher levels of anxiety.

Spending and Investments Top List of Life’s Most Difficult Decisions

New research has revealed the nation’s hardest decisions, with financial quandaries and how to invest your money topping the list of the most difficult decisions that Brits struggle to make.

The study, commissioned by Barclays Plan & Invest in partnership with researchers at UCL, set out to explore the challenges faced when making decisions – from the every-day choices of what to wear or eat, to the more important, longer-term decisions.

The extensive research revealed that financial concerns consistently rank top of the list when it comes to the hardest decisions, including choosing where to buy a house (32 per cent), how to invest your money (25 per cent) and how to spend your hard earned savings (25 per cent). The only non-financial decision to make the top five was choosing a partner, with nearly one quarter struggling to make up their minds when picking their other half.

The top 5 toughest decisions Brits face:
  1. Where to buy a house
  2. Whether or not to change jobs
  3. How to invest your money
  4. Choosing to spend some of your savings for a major purchase (house, car etc)
  5. Choosing a partner

Dr Bastien Blain, Research Associate at UCL, who co-authored the study, comments: “Our research has revealed that we are consistently bombarded with choice, often creating a sense of decision fatigue. This cognitive fatigue makes us more impulsive and therefore prone to choosing small, immediate rewards over larger, delayed ones. This may well explain why financial decisions are consistently ranked the hardest, as they require the most attention.” 

Nature or nurture?

The research also revealed a gender-divide when it comes to decision making. According to the study, women appear to be better decision makers when it comes to monetary matters, as nearly one third of men struggle to decide how to invest their money compared to just 21 per cent of women. This might be down to the power of female intuition, as the majority of women (43 per cent) reported that they base their decisions on gut instinct.

These findings are somewhat surprising, as women are often considered to be less confident when it comes to investing, with men taking up the lion’s share of the investment market. However, it does at least align with a historical difference in stocks and shares performance, with the average women’s investment portfolio on the Barclays Smart Investor platform beating that of their male counterparts over a three year period (April 2012-June 2016)*. The annual return on investments for men was, on average, a marginal 0.14 per cent above the performance of the FTSE 100, while for women it was 1.94 per cent higher.

Relieving the pressure

With one in four Brits struggling to make investment decisions, these findings highlight the need to give people the right tools and advice to plan for their financial future.

Plan & Invest, a new digital advice service from Barclays, has been designed to support people who don’t have the confidence or time to invest on their own. Customers will complete an in-depth questionnaire on their goals, timeline and risk appetite and Barclays will then use the latest technology to combine these findings with their expert team’s pick of investments, to create a personalised plan that can follow over 10,000 potential investment paths.

Robert Smith, Head of Behavioural Finance at Barclays Wealth Management and Investments, offers some insight into the research findings: “It comes as no surprise that financial, and particularly investment, decisions rank so highly as some of life’s tougher choices. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of investments on offer or be put off by the amount of  jargon – particularly if you’re new to investing. When deciding where to invest, some may instinctively choose to invest in the market closest to them, or may be swayed by what is trending in the news. However, creating a diversified portfolio, focused on an individual’s personal goals and attitudes is the most advisable strategy when investing.

“But for those who don’t have the confidence to make their own investment decisions, it’s worth considering a digital advice service, such as Barclays Plan & Invest, where you can get experts to create a personalised investment plan and make all of the difficult investment decisions on your behalf.”

Are You Financially Prepared For A Baby?

Any parent will tell you that the moment you hold your little one in your arms, your priorities change. Having a baby is one of life’s most beautiful and joyous occasions, but it is also one of the most life-changing events with a substantial price-tag attached. Research shows that your little bundle of joy will cost, on average, £231,843 – a frightening figure for many soon-to-be parents. And with the spiralling costs of childcare and education, this figure is expected to rise.

Life with a newborn is a world away from a child-free life. The first month alone can put a strain on your finances; from nappies and clothing to feeding equipment, toys and furniture. Many parents say that they weren’t prepared for the initial costs, and when paired with tiredness and fatigue, this can put a lot of pressure on the relationships around you. That’s why it is important to budget well and manage your assets before the pitter-patter of tiny feet.

Take Control

To help ease this financial pressure, you should consider setting up a regular bank account with easy access to savings as soon as possible. We recommend choosing an account with no minimum balance to give you maximum control and flexibility over your finances. It is also a good idea to choose an account with the ability to set up standing orders and direct debits, so you can manage your money well without the fear ‘baby brain’ forcing you to forget a payment.

And while your baby may be a long way off adulthood, it’s always good to plan for the future. As such, you should consider setting up a trust fund once your baby arrives. This legal arrangement will ensure your assets are held safely for the beneficiary until they are of an age to manage their money responsibly. A trust fund can be of great support to your child; it can help ease the burden of university fees or help them get on the housing ladder when the time comes.

Make a Will

We recommend making a Will as soon as possible after your baby is born. Not only does this ensure that your assets are passed down to your offspring, but more importantly, a valid Will means you have full control over who cares for your child (if they are below the age of 18) in the event of your passing. It also allows you to decide who should look after your child’s inheritance until they are old enough to manage their money themselves.

It is also possible to make a Will even before your baby is born. Without knowing their name, you can leave your estate to your child. And if you have more than one, you can stipulate that you divide your estate equally between children.

At Turner Little, we have years of experience in delivering professional and specialist advice to those who need it most. We work closely with you to put a bespoke plan in place so you can to manage your money well. This includes helping you to financially prepare for your baby’s arrival, as well as managing your child’s finances as they grow, giving them the best possible start in life. To find out more about how we can help you prepare for the future, get in touch with us today.

7 Expert Budgeting Hacks From A Wealth Consultant

COVID restrictions have had a significant impact on people’s ability to work and earn a living, with millions of workers having been furloughed or, even worse, losing their jobs. Many people have had to adapt their way of living now that finances are under considerable strain. We all need to do more to tighten our belts by introducing what might seem small, cost-saving measures on their own, but as a collective, they go a long way and make a significant impact.

Lucky for us, The Wealth Consultant expert, Alex MacEwen provides us with his 7 budgeting hacks that work for all budget types.

1. Make a budget personal to each month

Understanding your monthly budget can help you gain control over your money. It allows you to prioritise your spending, track your goals, and help you realise when you need to stop spending. Owning your expenditure and knowing how much you have available to spend each month, can make planning more realistic. If you keep this in mind, finances in January won’t be so stretched. Following your budget means having planned expenses in the festive season with the appropriate allowances. The same should be applied for the summer holiday season.

2. Manage housing costs

One of the most significant expenses for people is housing. If you’re a homeowner, your mortgage might be your greatest fixed expense. Although the base rate of interest is at an all-time low, it’s worth keeping an eye on the latest re-mortgage deals and interest rates. You can save thousands of pounds over the life of your mortgage by shopping around.

If you’re renting, now might be the time to downsize, resize or move to another area. According to the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA), landlords are dramatically reducing the rent on larger properties to secure long-term tenants to weather the drop in demand from overseas corporate clients. It costs nothing to enquire, and you might be surprised at what you can negotiate on if you are prepared to take a two or three-year contract.

3. Change eating habits

We all need a little downtime, but if you’re watching your expenditure, you should consider dining in. Eating at home means precisely that, but it doesn’t mean you can’t go out for a pre-dinner drink.

There’s no doubt it’s cheaper to cook and eat at home, but sometimes the planning and budgeting can take the pleasure out of eating. Create a meal plan. There are apps available to download that make light work of budgeting, so you can decide what you want to eat and shop accordingly. Many supermarkets are offering deals, discounts when buying in bulk, and many have offers on luxury products designed to increase sales at the weekends. Remember these deals do not save money if you end up throwing the food away. Invest in a freezer alongside creating your meal plan, so you can reap the rewards in the long term.

4. Reduce your utility bills

Our utility bills are an area of your budget that you probably overlook, often because it’s too time-consuming or difficult to swap companies if you want to change. Ofgem, the government regulator for gas and electricity, has detailed information on how to switch energy suppliers and shop for a better deal. And while you’re shopping around, it’s worth bearing in mind that it’s not always the well-known utility providers who offer the best deals, so consider using internet-based providers as well as the classics. Price comparison websites are paid to represent the companies that appear on their sites – but the discounts they offer are genuine. They still do not take account of independent utility providers or brokers, so shopping around is a wise financial move.

To help things along during winter, keep an eye on heating bills. Most utility providers will install a smart meter for free when you enter an 18-month contract with them. The smart meter has a separate display unit that shows you how much money has been spent over an hour or day, enabling you to keep track of costs.

5. Seek advice from a professional

If in doubt, call in the professionals. Our free of charge digital introduction service is the perfect opportunity for you to review your current money situation and make goals towards achieving future wealth.

6. Look into an automatic savings plan

An automatic saving plan is a stress-free way to save money. Once you have worked out a budget to suit your lifestyle, set up a standing order into a savings account or consider a bond or fixed-term savings plan. The automatic element of doing this eliminates the temptation to overspend on items you don’t need, and you will be surprised at how effortless saving can be.

7. Include your debt obligations in your budget

Alongside your budget, make a list of your debts and continuously refer to it, especially as you pay your bills. Listing your debt obligations helps you to understand where you stand financially and gives you the chance to create a strategy to maintain your lifestyle. Just knowing the facts is a step to creating long-lasting wealth.

Surges Dominate The Search And Social Landscape For Insurance

The latest report on search and social, analyses fresh data on Insurance mentions and demands. The report, Insurance Spins Fast on Social, looks at consumer behaviours, interests and attitudes to reveal a pattern of ‘topic surges’ since the pandemic started. Starting with claims and cancellations these long bell-shaped curves of conversation and search have moved Brexit concerns on travel and requests for recommendations. Underlying all chatter since March has been a constant demand for better clarity on policies.

Co-authored by Immediate Future and Sagittarius Agency, the report also looks at the top 10 insurers alongside the top comparison website to detail share of voice. Admiral, Aviva and AXA get the most mentions on social. Admiral consistently gains the largest share of positive sentiment. In the summer, 61% of posts were identified as being positive. None of the other brands achieved such advocacy.

Katy Howell, CEO at immediate future, says, “These surges are like snowballs. They start small, gaining momentum till they melt away weeks later. It’s very different from a peak or a social moment as they often last some time and frequently overlap. As a consequence, perceptions and attitudes associated with surges tend to stick in peoples’ minds. Insurance brands should be keeping a close eye on conversations, correlate to search demand, and be agile enough to react when needed”

Analysis of 773,791 mentions of insurance on social media is accompanied by the latest search data and details:

• The volume and engagement of different types of insurance from travel and health, to car and business insurance.
• Topic and interest surges alongside moments and expressed emotions.
• Compares the top 10 insurance brands by share of voice as well as message penetration and perception when it comes to cost and renewals.
• Details the triggers and motivations for purchase that are likely to continue to the end of the year.

There are also some interesting differences between search and social. Health insurance mentions have remained consistently high since lockdown on social (increasing 51% at the end of summer), yet on search, it’s Travel insurance that spiked early followed by a lift, more recently, in Car insurance.

Paul Stephen, CEO at Sagittarius Agency shares the potential opportunity for insurance brands, “The contrast between relatively standard search behaviour and an increase in social means that the power of recommendation is about to leap. Social research and proof have taken centre stage again.

“Added to which better clarity on policies that are explained on social and discoverable in the longtail of search ease the customer journey, simplifying the decisions to buy”, he continues

The report takes the data analysis to the next step and offers insurance brands advice and direction as to how to approach social as consumer interest surges in different directions. More on the report findings at http://bit.ly/InsuranceInsight

18-24’s Owe £225 to Buy Now Pay Later Schemes

Under-25s are increasingly likely to seek help for debt, according to debt charity StepChange with Buy Now Pay Later schemes cited as problematic for young shoppers.  

The Shop Now Stress Later Study from money.co.uk reveals that 18-24-year-olds owe a third more (£225 each) to Klarna-like buy now pay later schemes (BNPL) than the average UK shopper (£176).

How big is the fast fashion debt problem for 18-24-year-olds? 

The study found that 18-24-year-old shoppers owe £225.44 to BNPL on average, which is 28% more than the average UK shopper, who owes £176.   

The amount owed to popular BNPL schemes by 18-24-year-olds:

  1. Openpay – £360.50
  2. Zilch: £356.00
  3. Laybuy – £318.32
  4. Payl8r – £282.54
  5. Zip – £200.29
  6. Clearpay: £188.26
  7. PayPal Credit – £137.92
  8. Klarna: £122.16

The report also analysed 10 fast fashion brands based on how many times BNPL is mentioned throughout the shopping process, with Nasty Gal, Boohoo, and Pretty Little Thing the worst offenders when it comes to promoting them.  

Fashion Retailers Ranked by BNPL Promotion Mentions

  1. Nasty Gal – 46*
  2. Boohoo – 42
  3. Pretty Little Thing – 41
  4. Next – 40
  5. Nike – 40
  6. JD Sports – 38
  7. Clarks – 32
  8. Levi’s – 32
  9. Adidas – 31
  10. ASOS – 26

*Each brands BNPL score for mentions and how prominent BNPL is on their websites 

Over the past few years, Klarna, alongside other schemes such as Clearpay or Laybuy, has become a popular way for millennials and Generation Zs to buy clothes. The schemes offer the option to delay a payment or to split payments into installments. 

But debt advice charities are increasingly worried that BNPL is encouraging young consumers to spend more than they can afford.

These stores are all fostering a smash-and-grab mentality among young shoppers today. Many of them are buying their clothes purely online, often speculatively, and end up returning items that don’t fit or suit them later.

Shoppers aged 18-24 are more than twice as likely to use a payment platform (52%) than going into their overdraft (20%), but 25-34 are the biggest BNPL users. Over two-thirds have used a BNPL payment scheme like Klarna, Clearpay, or Laybuy. 

Almost a third of UK shoppers cite social media as a contributing factor (29%) in their decision to use BNPL and two thirds (55%) of shoppers aged between 18 and 34 admit to buying with the intention of returning, making millennials the most prolific returners. 

There are concerns young people might be encouraged to take on debt just to afford some new make-up or a dress for a night out.

Fast fashion is based on fleeting trends that may last no longer than a few months. Trying to keep up with such a quick turnover can be difficult, so young people turn to payment schemes to be able to afford them. 

Social media platforms, such as Instagram, exacerbate this as influencers post daily pictures in different outfits, never being seen twice in the same one, which puts pressure on young people to keep up. 

Under-25s made up 14% of those seeking help from the charity Stepchange in 2018, with an average outstanding debt of more than £6,000.

Retailers sign up with Klarna or similar BNPL schemes as it encourages more people to buy and some shoppers that use the service probably shouldn’t be. 

Impulse buying and online shopping can be very addictive. If you are thinking of using a BNPL scheme to purchase your items, think about whether you would purchase the items if you didn’t have the option to spread the cost. 

The full Shop Now, Stress Later study can be found here: https://www.money.co.uk/guides/generation-debt-trap 

Post COVID-19 Trends: 31% Of Wealthy Individuals Intend to Support the Economy by Buying A Small Business

Brown Shipley, a Quintet Private Bank, has announced the results of a comprehensive research study of the nation’s wealthy. The survey of over 4000 UK consumers included a representative sample of over 800 of the nation’s ‘wealthy’ – defined as those with more than £100,000 in assets that they can readily access, 350 of whom have more than £250,000 in assets.

The research looked at how the wealthy had amassed wealth and what they want to do with the money they have, with some surprising results. Perhaps of most interest in the times of uncertainty with COVID-19, one in five (19%) of those with more than £250,000 in assets said they intended to buy a small business in the future to keep themselves busy, and a further 35% said they are planning on investing in a new business to help kickstart the economy post COVID-19.

Just under half of those wealthy individuals surveyed said they would leave an inheritance (48%). This increases slightly to 53% of those with more than £250,000 of investible assets. The research suggests that 1 in 5 (c10 million) UK adults fall under our definition of ‘wealthy’, which suggests that 5 million families may not receive an inheritance.

For those with more than £250,000 in assets, apart from leaving an inheritance, the other plans for their wealth include:

  • One in two (52%) will use the wealth to spend money on themselves, for example on  holidays; whilst one in six intend to buy luxury items, such as an expensive car or yacht (17%)
  • This is almost the same as those that wish to support a worthy cause (19%)
  • Almost six out of ten (59%) will use their wealth to fund their retirement

Whilst half plan to leave an inheritance, four in ten (39%) plan to gift some of their wealth to their families.

Regardless as to whether the wealthy plan to leave money when they pass on – the lack of planning for the future is of concern.  Only four out of ten (40%) say they had plans in place to pass on their wealth to minimise the tax paid by beneficiaries.  One in three (34%) say they will put in place plans in the next five years to minimise tax on their beneficiaries; whilst one in five (22%) say they never will.

Commenting on the research, Alan Mathewson, Chief Executive Officer of Brown Shipley said, “Whilst it is great to see that there could be significant reinvestment by the wealthy in UK businesses post COVID-19; it is worrying that so many haven’t made plans for their estates.  Solid financial planning is about wealth preservation today and having a wealth plan to meet future needs and we believe all can benefit from putting their estate in order, today.”

The research also reveals how today’s wealthy gained their affluence.  One in three (30%) of the nation’s wealthy credit an inheritance for contributing to their wealth; whilst 56% cite earnings from salaried work; and one in five (18%) say it is down to their entrepreneurialism.  Perhaps surprisingly one in twelve (7%) say that a lottery win; or gambling has helped them become affluent.  Other factors that the wealthy say have helped them amass financial assets include the performance of their pensions (44%); and investments (34%); whilst one in four (27%) have been helped by the property market.

Consumer Opinions Towards Digital-Only Banks Fall Almost Three Times the Rate of High-Street Banks’ During Lockdown

Customer sentiment towards 10 of the UK’s biggest high-street and digital-only banks fell by 7 percentage points (pp) during lockdown, according to new research from personal finance comparison site finder.com and social analytics specialist BrandsEye.

This leaves overall consumer sentiment for the banking industry at -24% on a possible scale of +100% to -100% for the period between 1 March and 31 July.

However, over 800,000 social media posts from customers revealed that digital banks saw a sentiment decline of almost three times that of high-street banks during the pandemic. On average digital-only banks’ customer sentiment fell by 14pp compared to just 5pp for high-street banks, compared to the previous 6 months (August through to the end of February).

While this is a blow for digital-only banks, it should be noted that high-street banks had, and continue to have, a much lower overall sentiment (-13% vs -35% currently). 

When asked, over half of high-street banks’ customers (52%) said that they felt negatively towards their bank throughout lockdown with customers saying that savings rates are what frustrated them the most (29%). 

Following this was poor customer service both online (14%) and in-branch (14%). The third most common customer criticism was their lack of communication during the pandemic (11%).

The story was very similar for digital-only banks – 53% of customers felt negatively about their provider during lockdown and savings rates were again the main problem (21%).

Customers’ main method of interacting with their digital-only bank is through an app, so this is perhaps why customers’ second biggest issue was around their bank’s app (15%). 

Poor customer service appeared to be a running theme with 14% of digital-only banks’ customers complaining about the level of customer service they received over the phone and digitally.

The bank that experienced the biggest decrease in sentiment was Monese, with sentiment falling from -0.1% to -19%. Currently, Atom bank has the highest customer sentiment of 9%, however, this is a drop from 11% pre-lockdown. 

Customer sentiment towards Barclays, Lloyds and NatWest actually improved during lockdown, with Lloyds bank experiencing the largest rise in sentiment from -36% to -33%. Despite this increase, these banks still sit in the bottom three positions for overall sentiment, with Barclays having the lowest score of -42%.

The full paper, Banking in lockdown: Is the honeymoon over for challengers?, includes expert commentary from industry leaders and can be viewed and linked to here.

Commenting on the findings, Jon Ostler, CEO of personal finance comparison site, finder.com, said: 

“Digital-only banks have enjoyed a golden period where dissatisfied consumers of traditional banks have flocked to them, attracted by market-leading apps, innovative features and a more human way of communicating to customers. 

“Now these digital-only banks are becoming recognised players in the industry, it is natural that they will start to be held to a higher standard. This is especially true during a crisis like COVID where people are relying on their bank more than ever – some banks have handled the situation better than others.

“Digital-only banks are still comfortably ahead in the sentiment stakes compared to the incumbents but perhaps it was inevitable that the high street banks would claw back some ground. The challengers will be hoping this fall in positive sentiment is just temporary and not the start of a bigger trend.”

Nic Ray, CEO of BrandsEye, noted that social media is growing as a platform for customer service and continues to be a rich source of consumer insight:

“As the adoption of digital banking services accelerated during the pandemic, the industry can expect an increase in digital conversation that includes social media customer service requests and customer feedback. Swiftly identifying and responding to service requests, and surfacing valuable feedback from within all of the noise of social media will be critical to improving customer experiences and building long-term customer loyalty for both digital and high-street banks.”

 

Sentiment pre-lockdown

Sentiment post-lockdown

Atom

11%

9%

Starling

12%

-1%

Monzo

2%

-2%

Monese

0%

-19%

Revolut

-18%

-29%

HSBC

-31%

-30%

Lloyds

-36%

-33%

Santander

-21%

-33%

Natwest

-40%

-37%

Barclays

-22%

-42%