5 Things Shoppers Need to Know When Using Klarna for Their Christmas Shopping

The Buy Now Pay Later sector has grown rapidly in the last year with millions of people across the UK using firms such as Klarna and Clearpay to spread the cost of their online shopping. While they can be a useful tool for those who want to manage payments, they can form a very slippery slope for those who don’t fully understand what they’re getting into.

Although it has been in talks for the last few months, the sector still remains unregulated so consumers have little protection when compared to regulated products such as credit cards and overdrafts.

Holly Andrews, Managing Director at KIS Finance and personal finance expert, outlines five things that shoppers need to know about the UK’s biggest BNPL service, Klarna, while using it for Christmas shopping this year.

You will pay interest with their financing option

There are different payment options when it comes to using Klarna, and it’s very important to fully understand which method you’re using and the implications of doing so.

Klarna will often be advertised as interest-free, which is true if you use their ‘pay in 30 days’ option. This is a form of invoice which gives you 30 days to pay off the full balance, and for this you won’t be charged any interest or fees. This is also true of their ‘instalments’ option which allows you to pay in 3 equal instalments over 60 days.

However, if you use their financing option to pay in monthly instalments, then you will be charged interest on this. If you are eligible for this option, you can pay for your shopping in equal instalments over 6 to 36 months, and you will be charged a maximum APR of 18.9%.

Before you purchase anything using Klarna, you must read the terms and conditions so you know exactly what you’re getting into. Make sure you also take the interest into account when you’re calculating how much you can afford to borrow and pay back.

It can affect your credit score

If you use either Klarna’s ‘pay in 30 days’ or ‘instalments’ option, only a soft credit check will be carried out. This will not affect your credit score and other lenders will not be able to see this on your report. Klarna says that your credit score will not be affected even if you fail to pay within the specified timeframe.

However, using Klarna’s financing option will mean that a full credit check will be undertaken. This can affect your credit score as it will be classed as a ‘hard search’ and other lenders will be able to see this on your report when you make future credit applications. Your credit score may also be negatively affected if you fail to keep up with the monthly payments.
Again, make sure you read the terms and conditions so you know the full implications of which option you’re taking out.

Debt collectors can be called

Whichever payment option you use, debt collectors can be called upon if you repeatedly fail to pay under the specified payment terms.

Klarna says that they will do everything they can to avoid this. They will send you multiple reminders about your payments and they will do what they can to find an alternative payment arrangement. But if you ignore their reminders and the debt remains unpaid after several months then this will be passed to a debt collection agency.

You must remember that when you use a BNPL service, you are entering into a legally binding credit agreement. If you do not take it seriously and continue to let your debt build up then there can be very damaging consequences, including affecting your ability to obtain a mortgage in the future.

You may be charged fees for using a credit card with BNPL

Some users have been charged fees by their bank when using a credit card with Klarna’s ‘instalments’ option. Tesco Bank, Halifax, and Bank of Scotland have been named specifically for doing this.

This is likely because the bank is classing the Klarna transaction as a cash advance, and therefore applying cash advance fees. This is because you’re not paying the retailer directly.

This fee is not charged by Klarna and they are unable to prevent it, so it’s important that you watch out for this and change the card that you’re using if you are charged fees.

What to do if something is wrong with your order

If you receive a product that you didn’t order, or a product that is faulty or broken then you can pause your Klarna instalments. You need to sort the issue with the retailer, but you also need to let Klarna know that there has been a problem. You can do this on the Klarna app.

By doing this, your payment plan will be paused until you resolve the issue with the retailer, and then they will inform Klarna if any refunds need to be made.
If you are unable to resolve the issue with the retailer directly, then you can provide the information to Klarna who will then investigate further. This can take 30 to 50 days before a decision is reached.

Why Is It Important to Know Your Own Net Worth?

For most people, figuring out their net worth doesn’t seem particularly essential. As long as you know you can afford your bills, you might not be too worried about how much you’re deemed to be worth from a financial planning perspective. However, the reality is that knowing your net worth could be more important than you realize.

More than just a descriptor of what you have in your wallet and your bank account, your net worth refers to the amount by which your assets exceed any liabilities you have. In other words, it’s the difference between how much you own, and how much you owe. If your assets are more valuable than your liabilities, this means you have a positive net worth. Alternatively, if you owe more than you have in assets, your net worth is negative. This can be more common than most people realize.

 

What Does Net Worth Actually Tell You?

Calculating your net worth isn’t just about seeing how much debt you’re in or making yourself feel bad about your current financial situation. Rather, your net worth gives you an overview of your financial situation at any point in time. If you calculate your net worth now, you’ll be able to see the full result of what you’ve earned and spent until now.

Sometimes, the figure you get when you calculate your net worth is a shock, and this could mean you need to take note of your current budget and figure out how you’re going to improve your financial standing going forward. Alternatively, if you’re doing well, you might find that you can confidently continue living in a way similar to what you know now. When you calculate it on a regular basis, your net worth can essentially be seen as a financial report card which allows you to check how you’re doing from a financial perspective.

 

What Are Assets and Liabilities

To calculate your own net worth, you’ll need to consider the full value of your liabilities, or your loans, and what you owe, and the full value of the things you have. For a lot of people, assets can be difficult to define. For instance, if you found yourself in a difficult financial situation and you needed to access money fast, would you be able to figure out where you can look for money?

While some people will immediately consider things like bank accounts, investments, and brokerage accounts as assets, there are other things to consider too. You can check out a full guide here on how to choose the right life settlement company for selling your life insurance. If you’ve already paid a significant amount of cash into your life insurance policy, then that policy is an asset to utilize that also contributes to your net worth.

Your liabilities, on the other hand, can fluctuate, including everything you owe money on. This includes both ‘good debt’ like mortgages, and other loans, like personal lending, credit cards, loans for your vehicles, and so on. Sometimes it can take a lot of time and effort to understand your entire net worth completely. Remember, even your student loans are included.

 

Knowing Makes You More Mindful

Although calculating your net worth can take some time and effort, it’s actually quite valuable in the eyes of most financial advisors. Regardless of what your financial situation looks like now, knowing your net worth can help you to build wealth throughout your life, plan for your future, and improve your standing long-term. Ultimately, as you get older, and pay off more of the liabilities connected to your name, the value of your net worth should grow. The most important thing to remember is knowing where you stand financially should help you to become more mindful of your spending, so you’re better prepared to make sound decisions with your finances.

Once you know your net worth, if it’s negative, your aim should be to get rid of your loans as quickly as possible. A negative net worth doesn’t mean you need to buy more valuable assets. Rather, you should look to get out of debt as soon as you can, so your assets begin to outweigh what you owe. If your net worth is positive, you can begin to think about other ways of continuing that growth trajectory in a positive way. Either way, this could mean you decide to talk to a financial advisor.

Hidden Costs When Investing and How Not to Get Hit


By Annie Charalambous, Head of Communications at
ETX Capital

According to recent figures, Brits plan to increase their investments by almost a fifth in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic – with Gen-Z traders most keen to jump on the markets.

But are those looking to boost their profits paying over the odds without realising? A recent study claims UK investors often pay up to six times more in fees than advertised, costing some traders up to tens of thousands of pounds long-term.

ETX Capital is committed to shining a light on common hidden fees that can trip up new traders. Here’s how you can avoid feeling the pinch.

Taxing times

New traders are often unaware that profits made on their stocks and shares are subject to tax, in the same way they pay tax on salary earnings.

If your investment earnings are over £12,300 in a single year, you will have to pay Capital Gains Tax. This will either be 10 or 20 percent, depending on your annual income tax band.

However, married couples can ‘pool’ their tax-free allowance – meaning they can collectively earn up to £24,600 in trading profits each year without contributing Capital Gains Tax.

Some alternative savings vehicles also offer a larger tax-free allowance. For example, you can stash up to £20,000 each year in an ISA and earn interest on your cash.

For those looking to diversify their portfolio, many gold and silver coins are also exempt from Capital Gains Tax as they are technically legal British currency.

Commission costs

As with any commercial service, fund managers and platform providers that help traders set up and manage their investments will charge fees for their service.

However, the size of these costs can catch out unsuspecting investors. According to research, commission costs average 1.03 percent in the UK – around double the equivalent fees in the US.

While these costs are unavoidable for those who need support managing their investment funds, it is possible to reduce them. Research investment platforms and fund managers to ensure you find the most cost-effective commissions for your assets.

Alternatively, you may be able to avoid commission if you have the knowledge of the markets and are comfortable with the risk. If so, there are plenty of accessible platforms that will educate you on how to manage your stocks, forex, commodities and more. Although, keep in mind that you’ll likely have to pay fees to trade on these platforms.

Not that Stamp Duty

All stocks bought in the UK valued at £1,000 and over are subject to Stamp Duty Reserve Tax (SDRT). At 0.5 percent of the asset price, this can soon add up.

This tax is usually absorbed as part of a total fee charged by a fund manager. However, if you manage your own investments, you’ll need to submit details of your assets to the government in good time to skip late payment fines.

While SDRT marks a relatively small fee compared to the rewards on offer for successful investors, many may still wish to diversify their portfolios to avoid mounting tax bills. A common example is adding corporate bonds, which are exempt from SDRT.

Farewell feels

Many budding investors starting their trading journey simply aren’t thinking about what happens when you withdraw funds or transfer them to another platform. And for some, this means getting hit with unexpected ‘exit fees’.

These charges are typically written into the terms and conditions of an investment service and while many platforms and brokers have recently agreed to waive exit fees, there are still plenty leaving traders with a shock when the time comes to withdraw cash.

Exit fees are usually charged as a percentage fee of the withdrawn sum, which can represent a significant cost for longer-term investors.

It’s important to check for exit fees, which may also be referred to as ‘redemption fees’, before signing up for a platform or partnering with a fund manager. And those looking to escape these charges should look for providers that simply don’t apply them in the first place – or at least check the expiry date.

4 Payments Industry Predictions – What Will Disrupt the Market in 2022?

 
The most prominent disruptive forces, that are going to impact the payments industry in the upcoming year.

Having dealt with the initial pandemic aftershock, this year the key areas of focus for businesses were building economic resilience and improving customer experience. With the new year just around the corner, Marius Galdikas, CEO at ConnectPay, has commented on the main forces that will be shaping the payments market in 2022 as well as what payments market players should keep an eye on.

Internet of Payments

It is estimated that by 2025, there will likely be more than 27 billion Internet of Things (IoT) connections. The growing number of IoT devices is rapidly shaping the everyday habits of consumers, including the way they choose to pay. This led the financial world to coin a new term—Internet of Payments (IoP)—which refers to a phenomenon that enables payment processing over IoT devices, for example, smart home assistants, like Amazon Alexa, or smaller everyday accessories, such as Apple Watch. IoP is currently at a nascent stage, however, as the market is becoming more saturated with IoT-driven devices, payments market players need to develop a blueprint on how to take advantage of this disruptive force.

“The merge of IoT and payments brings consumers extraordinary convenience with reduced friction,” commented Galdikas. “As Open Banking enables third-party providers and fintechs take on the roles of IoP providers, this opens up an entirely new area for innovation. Also, IoT creates the opportunity for businesses to gather more data about the consumers, which will help to elevate user experiences.”

BaaS continuing to thrive

Banking-as-a-Service (BaaS) allows embedding financial services into any company. This gave rise to a number of new market players, which took advantage of the Application Programming Interface (API) driven platforms to enter the financial services industry. The BaaS market, valued at $356.26 Billion in 2020, is now projected to reach $2,299.26 billion by 2028.

“BaaS enables companies to leverage market-tested infrastructure without the regulatory overhang, saving a significant amount of organization’s resources. As the pandemic led many to redistribute their budget, outsourcing banking infrastructure became an even more appealing choice—leveraging banking-as-a-service enables them to direct more resources towards product innovation, rather than framework building. Therefore, BaaS providers will continue to fly high,” Galdikas commented.

Hyper-personalization

The need for personalized experiences followed consumers to the online space. While process automation will remain one of the top priorities for fintechs, the key will be finding the balance between providing efficient service and not losing ‘the human touch’. To secure future success, industry experts have emphasized leveraging real-time consumer data to provide personally tailored insights and proactive advice.

“With practically every business pouring investments into upgrading their tech framework, hyper-personalization becomes the main driver helping banking service providers differentiate from their competitors. That’s why refining their approach to be primarily customer-centric as well as proving it at scale will allow gaining a competitive edge,” the expert explained.

Focus on CBDCs

Throughout the year, central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) have been gaining momentum, with countries all around the globe, such as Sweden, Norway, South Korea, China, and others pushing the rollout and testing their application in the real world. The interest in government-backed e-money is not wavering, rather the opposite, it spurred new ideas, such as launching multiple CBDC systems, that could potentially cut off billions of transaction fees annually.

“CBDCs could provide a range of benefits, for example, lowering the cost of cross-border transactions, increasing financial inclusivity, and enhancing economic resilience of domestic payments systems. This is a tool that, if implemented thoroughly, could outweigh the offerings of payment service providers, which will have to immensely step up their game,” Galdikas noted. “As for the multiple CBDC network, the main question of ‘how long will it take?’ remains, as developing a united framework seems like a Herculean task, with each countries’ efforts moving at a different pace.”

The payments market is evolving as rapidly as ever, despite some of the challenges it had to face throughout 2021. The upcoming year is looking to bring more efficiency, personalization, and tech synergy, fueling the sector’s growth even further.

Growing a Retail Business: How Improving Your Delivery System Helps

Whether you operate an eCommerce retail business or you own a high street shop, there are several steps you can take to improve your delivery system. And with a better delivery system, you will be able to more easily grow your business. Let us find out how.

Providing the Delivery Options Your Customers Want Increases Sales

You are sure to have a website where customers can place orders, regardless of whether you have a brick-and-mortar shop or you only operate within the digital sphere. So, you need to look at ways of improving the order process for the customer.

Firstly, you need to make the process as straightforward and simple as possible. Secondly, you need to provide several delivery options.

By doing so, you will attain new customers and get repeat custom, and therefore grow your business. Why? Because customer demand is changing. Consumers want to be able to place same-day and next-day orders, choose morning or afternoon slots, and have the option of doing click-and-collect at shops.

Ensuring You Provide a Quality Service Creates Customer Loyalty

To grow your retail business, you need your customers to be happy, buy from you time and time again, and recommend your business to their friends and colleagues. To achieve that, you need to provide quality service.

While quality customer service should be a priority of any business, too many retail companies overlook how important providing quality customer service is at the delivery stage.

You should consider handling deliveries in-house instead of outsourcing to a third party to ensure your couriers are trained in how to best represent your company. You can even add personal touches that go a long way when you deal with your own deliveries.

Using Route Planning Software Leads to Better Efficiency and Increased Productivity

Quality customer service is all good and well, but unless you always ensure deliveries are made on time, you will not be able to grow your retail business. Indeed, you will end up losing customers.

Thankfully, it is easy to maintain an efficient delivery service that always delivers goods on time via using GPS to locate addresses and route planners to automatically find the most optimal routes.

Once you gain a reputation for delivering on time, you will attract more customers.

Furthermore, when you use route optimization software, drivers can deliver items quicker. That means you can expand the number of deliveries you make each day, thus enabling you to increase your productivity and profits.

Expanding Your Delivery Coverage Enables You to Reach More Customers

If you own a small physical retail business, you may only deliver items in the local vicinity at present. If that is the case, consider expanding your area of coverage.

Although using an in-house delivery system could mean you need to hire more drivers and you will need more outgoings for fuel, those costs can be more than worth it.

By expanding your delivery area, you can reach more customers and grow your business further. Simple.

Even if you operate an online retail business, you could consider expanding your delivery range by partnering with third party delivery companies to ship your products to countries all over the world.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, the precise steps you take to improve your delivery system and grow your business must be based on your specific situation.

For instance, some retail businesses are better off outsourcing their delivery systems while others find in-house delivery to be the best option.

The important thing is that you consider the above methods for improving your delivery system and spend time working out which options are best for you.

How Can Pension Schemes Align With ESG Goals?

By Tracy Walsh, partner in the pensions team at law firm Womble Bond Dickinson

Pension schemes and the industry as a whole are responding to the zeitgeist of ESG investing. Last year, the Universities Superannuation Scheme, the UK’s largest pension scheme, announced that by 2023 it will have divested from companies involved in tobacco manufacturing, coal mining and weapons manufacturers, where this makes up more than 25% of their revenues.

The government has chosen not to impose targets onto pension schemes and is instead hoping that all schemes can learn from the actions of some larger schemes like this that have set ambitious ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) investment strategies, and in particular those that have voluntarily adopted net zero targets for their investments. Pension schemes will need to engage much more with their asset managers, understand what net zero really means, and be prepared to better interrogate their managers over their fund selection and how this is being monitored.

That will require Trustees to be more clued up, and to have a much different investment strategy, than perhaps they have been in the past. But the effort is likely to be worth it, for their scheme members. ESG investing is proving to be very attractive to millennials (Trustees may be surprised by just how many of their members fall into that bracket), and is bucking the assumption that ESG investing means lower returns.

Research from Bloomberg has shown that the average ESG fund fell in value by just half the decrease registered of other funds in the S&P 500 index over the same period during the Covid-19 crisis. All of which is good news for DC fund values, and also for DB schemes that are seeking to rely less and less on the employer going forward.

Trustees should not focus solely on the “E” in ESG though. The social credentials of companies seeking investment are just as important and it seems that those companies with solid scores in their area have also performed better during the pandemic, and members will likely expect further and better particulars from their schemes about how those scores are arrived at, and how it has shaped the investment strategy for the scheme.

So how can trustees ensure that managers engage positively with investee companies on their behalf? There are some key actions Trustees should take, in order to exercise the right degree of influence and accountability among their fund managers:

 

Awareness:

Trustees should educate themselves about the S and the G in ESG, not just the E. Ask the managers and other advisers to provide training on how to interpret information, and what sources are being used to asset the ESG credentials of funds (especially social factors, such as labour standards and diversity). This will enable the Trustees to better monitor their managers and understand and interrogate the information provided by them, and in turn, managers will be forced to engage positively with investee companies

 

Accountability:

Trustees should make clear in their SIP and their risk register what their position is in relation to ESG, and how they will review the performance of their managers and investments against that position. Don’t just use boiler-plate assurances that the asset manager’s policies are consistent with the Trustees’ ESG beliefs. The voting policy is an excellent tool, even where voting is delegated, and would set out how schemes check their manager’s approach (some asset managers’ policies currently offer limited coverage of social topics) and the steps that will be taken where the managers’ voting choices diverge from the scheme’s voting policy.

 

Leadership:

Require your managers to be signatories of the UK Stewardship Code. If you are a qualifying scheme, you should also sign up, to show that you are walking the walk as well.

 

Follow through:

Select managers whose approach to ESG and sustainability issues is in line with that of the scheme, and choose those that can demonstrate that they fully integrate ESG considerations into their investment process.

Five Key Fintech to Watch in 2022

In the year ahead, consumer behaviour and early adoption of new technology are set to transform the financial services market. Banks need to adapt.

Fintechs and banks are in a race to innovate and shape the future of financial services. As new technologies emerge, traditional banks will have to adapt quickly to provide their customers with what they expect, and this will lead to the emergence of new business models across the financial services sector. That’s the view of Buckzy Payments, a leading real-time cross-border payments provider and global financial services marketplace.

Abdul Naushad, President and CEO, Buckzy stated: “The ongoing uptake by consumers of new ways to access and use financial services requires a complete rethink from traditional financial providers. Consumers are driving change on an unprecedented scale because of new technology and broader societal trends.

“It goes without saying that the pandemic has changed the way we live, work and buy. This in turn is impacting traditional banks and fintechs alike, who need to identify new solutions to deliver competitive advantage. We see five core trends driving that change as we move into 2022 and beyond.”

1. Rise of Digital/Neo banks: Banking has traditionally been a monopoly with high barriers to market entry. But the relaxation of regulations in countries around the world has paved the way for neobanks to take the initiative and attract customers with the promise of lower fees, convenient mobile banking and improved customer experience that removes in-store banking. That’s why the neobank sector was valued at $30+ billion in 2020 and is projected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate  of 47.7% over the next eight years.*  Neobanks are also attracting the unbanked customers with a combined purchasing power of $1.2 trillion. As more of the world’s population get online, expect digital banking to move ahead of in-store services.

2. Real-time cross border payments:  Approx. 40 percent of large enterprises in the US have already adopted real-time payments and this percentage is set to rise according to Levvel Research. Elsewhere in other countries and regions, approximately 50 real-time payment schemes are now up and running. Demand is high for immediacy of payment settlement that delivers competitive advantage for businesses, reduced risk for payment failure and highly improved efficiency in cash flow. As domestic schemes become more established and popular, expect real-time capabilities to extend to cross-border payments.

3. Open Banking:  During the pandemic our reliance on digital payments and self-service banking confirmed the need for banks to become more digital. Open banking is an API enabled, technology driven approach that allows banks and other providers to seamlessly deliver financial services using aggregated and authenticated customer data. Already, several countries have introduced regulations that have compelled banks to deliver open banking in response to customer demands.** Fintechs everywhere are incorporating open banking standards into their products and services. Banks that don’t embrace open banking will limit their capabilities to better service their clients and also limit their growth opportunities.

4. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML):  Machine learning applications enable the processing of large amounts of data sets and reaching valuable conclusions which, by using its algorithms, can drive effectiveness and  provide efficiencies including time saving opportunities. It analyses patterns in real-time enabling quick decisioning. A range of financial services applications already use AI/ML today for everything from fraud detection, lending approvals, and AML screening, to risk monitoring and investment predictions. Machine Learning is constantly evolving, and Fintech will continue to be one of main industries to benefit from the power of AI/ML.

5. Emergence of Banking-as-a-Services: In recent years, Banking-as-a-Service (BaaS) platforms and services have emerged as a cost-effective and efficient way for delivering financial services using open banking concepts.  Banks must adopt to a service-oriented and composable/modular architectural approach in the delivery of new and innovative digital services. BaaS is a critical component for traditional banks and financial institutions on their digital transformation roadmap. Expect many more legacy financial institutions to collaborate with fintechs by using BaaS services to bring innovative tech in-house and enhance their own offerings.

“As technologies and markets mature over the next 12 months, these core trends will create an environment for further innovation and the emergence of new business models in financial services. They create global opportunities for banks and fintechs to cooperate and extend their offerings globally in payments, lending, digital banking, instant credit and more,” concluded Naushad.

A Guide on Using the IVA Procedure to Get Rid of Debt in 2021

IVA or Individual Voluntary Agreement is a legally binding agreement between yourself and the creditors that you owe money to. It is the bankruptcy alternative and will allow an individual to be debt-free in 5 years.
You will agree on an amount you can afford each month over five years. At the end of the five years, they will clear your unsecured loan.
Being in debt can be stressful, and understanding the best debt solution is equally strenuous. Therefore, you must have a guide to explain your best options.

Understanding IVA

IVA might be what you need to consolidate all your debts into one payment that you can afford monthly over five years. The IVA procedure will allow you 60 months to organize how to pay your debtors.
Over these 60 months, you can pay a lump sum to settle your debt early as there is no set time in the 1986 Insolvency Act. It can last less than five years. Here is a guide to using the IVA to get rid of debt.

Comparing IVA Companies

Not all companies that claim to represent IVA are genuine. So it would help if you took the time to compare the companies before settling on one.

As you make the comparison, remember that IVAs are not for everybody. A good IVA company should tell if it\’s good for you.

Step 2; Make the Proposal

After speaking to a good debt consultant company, they will tell you if IVA is for you. If so, they will collate all your credit information into a proposal for a case referred to an Insolvency Practitioner.

The proposal will have all the information the IP will need. Then he will present it to your creditors in a professional manner.

The Paperwork for the Proposal

Before the IVA can draft the proposal, you must provide them with proof of your financials. Your IP will need to have the details of the circumstances that have led to your current financial difficulty.

Let your IP understand your income and expenditure so that they understand whether or not you will be able to maintain the payments that the creditors will be given for assessment. The details they will need include.

Total income
Total debt
Your expenses
Family situation (about partner)
Rent, mortgages,
Assets

The IP will need paperwork to confirm the current financial situation, rent or mortgage agreement, food, utility bills, and bank statements. Your wage or payslip will also be required to verify that you can afford the proposed IVA before it is proportioned to your creditors.

Statement of Affairs

The statement of affairs will also contain the creditor details and a breakdown of income expenditure. Your IP can gauge your disposable income from the analysis, which he will use to see what monthly installment you can afford.

Then, an interim order stops your creditors from taking further action until the IVA has been considered and either approved or otherwise.

The Sip 3 Call

Your IP will now put in a Sip 3 call when the statement of affairs is appropriately organized. This step is a legally required IVA process that helps the drafter familiarize with the applicant\’s situation.

The SIP 3 call allows the drafter to get into the history of the applicants\’ financial problems to understand how they got where they are with debts.

Step 4; The MOC

The MOC, which stands for \’meeting of creditors,\’ comes after the selected insolvency practitioner has packaged the case. Your chosen IP will arrange a venue, time, and date where the creditors will meet. However, this only happens in theory, and the creditors communicate via emails or letters.

The Meeting of Creditors Vote

All the information collected, including disposable income, debt levels, and proof of debts, is forwarded to the creditors. A proxy voting is then set up, and they either accept or reject the IVA proposal.

Here, your IP will provide a figure you can afford to pay every month.
75% of the creditors must approve the IVA for it to go through. Most creditors only agree because it is their only way of getting some money back since the other option could be bankruptcy, where the creditor receives zero.

Five Explosive Stocks from the Past Year

By Dáire Ferguson, CEO at AvaTrade

The traditional rhyme commemorating Bonfire Night begins, “Remember, remember the 5th of November”. This Bonfire night, we remember five explosive stocks from the past year.

Tesla

The electric vehicle manufacturer’s shares have exploded so far this year, more than doubling in the last six months alone. Tesla’s market capitalisation has whooshed past $1 trillion, making this figure nearly 1.5 times more than the combined market capitalisation of the next five largest automakers. 2021 has been a strong year for the company, with Tesla putting plans in place for its foray into India, one of the largest emerging car markets in the world, while demands for its cars are booming. For example, the Model 3 is the top-selling premium sedan in the world and it is currently the best-selling vehicle in Europe. Nevertheless, shares are significantly higher than fundamentals suggest they should be. While the company currently has momentum, the bubble could burst at any point – is a crash back down to earth at some point inevitable?

Macy’s Inc

The price of Macy’s, the major American department store chain, has skyrocketed this past year. Shares are up considerably over 100% since the start of the year, with the company managing its post-pandemic recovery expertly. Macy’s management team significantly reduced expenses on a permanent basis and increased the emphasis on its digital sales channel. With these moves, it’s apparent that management has acted decisively to ensure the business is in a strong position to ride out the current economic uncertainty, causing Macy’s long-term profit margins to soar like a firework. The burning question on the mind of many traders is whether the trend will continue or fizzle out.

Royal Dutch Shell

Royal Dutch Shell has sparkled. The stock plummeted after the initial outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, but the oil and gas giant has recovered over the course of the past year, reporting revenue figures of over $200 billion. What’s more, the recent oil and gas shortages around the world caused energy prices to skyrocket, which has also contributed to the increased share price of Royal Dutch Shell. But these shortages are not here to stay forever, so will this stock continue to rise?

American Express

American Express has seen its shares light up the sky with an increase of over 40% since the start of the calendar year. In terms of its quarterly performances, the credit card services company beat analysts’ forecasts by 70% and 68% respectively in the first and second quarters of 2021, and once again exceeded predictions in the third quarter. AmEx putting a greater focus on new and younger customers that may use their products for years to come has also contributed to its stock dazzling and whizzing into the top of the charts. Traders are asking themselves if this trend is sustainable.

Citrix Systems

For Cirtix Systems in 2021, its share price has fizzled, falling with a bang and a puff of smoke. There are a number of factors which have contributed to this fall. This includes the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) provider’s CEO, David Henshall, surprisingly stepping down with immediate effect last month, as well as poor financial results for all three quarters so far this year, leading to a sharp decline in the company’s profits. Will the company be able to halt this drop off, or will this downward spiral continue?

Wealth & Finance Magazine Announces the Winners of the 2021 Fund Awards


United Kingdom, 2021-
 Wealth & Finance magazine have announced the winners of the 2021 Fund Awards.

Our 2021 Fund Awards programme is designed to recognise and award those businesses and professional individuals who have not only provided excellent products and services but have also provided unbeatable commitment and dedication towards their clients and customers. The industry is constantly transforming

Now running in its sixth year, the programme is never subjected to just one particular industry. Our awards programme covers a range of financial sectors from Banks to Insurance companies and Family Offices. The Fund Awards acknowledges those who have reinvented fund services with their experience and expertise and continue to do so to serve their customers with nothing less than the best.

On the success of the winners, our Awards Coordinator Steve Simpson has stated: “I am proud of all the winners of this year’s programme as we have strived to acknowledge all those who have worked effortlessly this year to provide their customers with outstanding services. I wish them all the best for their future endeavours.”

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

ENDS

Note to editors.

About Wealth & Finance International

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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.

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Today, we have 12 unique brands, each of which serves a specific industry or region. Each brand covers the latest news in its sector and publishes a digital magazine and newsletter which is read by a global audience. Our flagship brand, Acquisition International, distributes a monthly digital magazine to a global circulation of 108,000, who are treated to a range of features and news pieces on the latest developments in the global corporate market.

ADDX Launches First Crypto Product, With Listing of Institutional-Grade Digital Asset Fund by Trovio


The fund, which aims to offer a reliable option for crypto investing, recorded a net return of 215% in 2020 and 205% in the first ten months of 2021

Private market exchange ADDX has launched its first cryptocurrency product, with the listing of a digital asset fund by investment manager Trovio Capital Management (TCM). The fund aims to provide accredited investors with a reliable option for crypto investing and has put in place institutional-grade safeguards in relation to the trade execution and custody of the fund’s underlying digital assets.

The TCM Digital Asset Fund takes a diversified approach to crypto investing. On top of core positions in Bitcoin and Ethereum, the fund invests in a set of seven other top-performing cryptocurrencies that are identified and reviewed regularly through a proprietary method of quantitative analysis. The fund recorded a net return of 215% in 2020 and 205% in the first ten months of 2021.

Relying on an institutional-quality infrastructure, the fund has an independent administrator, auditor and custodian. It is among the first digital asset funds to be audited by KPMG. Custody and trading services are provided by the Nasdaq-listed Coinbase. Investors on the ADDX platform can subscribe to or redeem units each month with the fund manager. The fund’s minimum investment size is US$10,000.

Founded in 2017, the Australia-based Trovio Group is led by veteran bankers Jon Deane and Bob Tucker. Trovio CEO Jon Deane has more than 15 years of experience managing large complex risk positions for investment banks, including JP Morgan and UBS AG. He was Managing Director and Head of Asia Commodities Trading at JP Morgan from 2014 to 2018.

Mr Deane said: “It has been a fantastic experience bringing our flagship fund to ADDX’s MAS-regulated platform. We are continuing to witness significantly wider adoption and appreciation of digital assets as a standalone asset class in a diversified portfolio. ADDX’s platform is enabling investors to seamlessly access these asset classes, whilst reducing friction often experienced via traditional channels. We look forward to working with the ADDX team on launching our other products over the coming months.”

Oi Yee Choo, Chief Commercial Officer of ADDX, said: “Cryptocurrencies are very likely the digital gold of our age. There is robust demand among investors for exposure to these digital assets. The traditional world of finance tried to keep a cautious distance initially. But today, major financial institutions either have a crypto offering or are seriously considering one. We believe the time for discussing whether cryptocurrencies have a place in an investment portfolio is all but over. The more relevant question now is around how one should manage the risk of crypto investments, from an asset custody as well as a price volatility standpoint. Professionally managed crypto funds with a good track record can potentially address these risk concerns for investors.”

Ms Choo added: “ADDX is pleased to work with Trovio on this first crypto offering to investors on our platform. The team led by Jon Deane has deep expertise in both traditional finance and the crypto space, and this is reflected in their rigorous approach to conceptualising and bringing to market this institutional-grade fund. As Singapore establishes itself as an important global hub for regulated crypto activity, ADDX seeks to make a positive contribution to the crypto landscape of the city, by adding to the rich diversity of high-quality offerings available to investors.”

ADDX, previously known as iSTOX, is a full-service capital markets platform with Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) licenses for the issuance, custody, and secondary trading of digital securities. Launched in 2017, the financial technology company raised US$50 million in its Series A round in January 2021. Its shareholders include Singapore Exchange (SGX), Temasek subsidiary Heliconia Capital and Japanese investors JIC Venture Growth Investments (JIC-VGI) and the Development Bank of Japan (DBJ). Individual accredited investors using the ADDX platform today come from 27 countries, spanning Asia Pacific, Europe, and the Americas (excluding the US).

The Safest Way to Invest: A Guide for Generation Z

By Hamzah Almasyabi, CEO at MintedTM, an investment platform which allows individuals to buy and sell precious metals.

The pandemic has caused financial concern for many, but particularly for the younger generation, who are now facing uncertain career prospects and the rising cost of living. With more than ever to consider financially, the need to save and invest for the future has become even more apparent. Taking financial security into their own hands, Generation Z have turned to modern technology to make smart investments.

Cryptocurrencies and app technologies are changing the way people manage their money, by offering a more accessible and modern route into investing. Research undertaken by precious metals savings app, Minted, found that 71% of 16–24-year-olds are investing their money, compared with only 35% of those over 55. When looking at the financial difficulties so many young people are currently facing, this statistic comes as no surprise. Up against a higher cost of housing and rising national insurance costs, Gen Z has been left with no option but to think tactically about their future, which has led many down the path and investment. The pandemic added to this need, prompting over 60% of 16–24-year-olds to start saving more and over half to start investing. With precious metals, stocks and shares, and cryptocurrencies amounting to almost 60% of total investments for this age group, it’s clear they are not afraid of exploring differing investment options.

Social media has also played a large part in the increasing number of young investors, with terms such as bitcoin and dogecoin regularly featuring on trending pages. Platforms such as Twitter, YouTube, and Reddit are useful sources of information for younger investors looking to get started and there are a number of ‘how to’ guides readily available.

Gone are the days when a physical bank is needed to support investing habits and a rise in fintech companies has seen a number of smarter investing and banking solutions hit the market, app investing being one of them. Offering users low entry costs and starting amounts, young people can delve straight into building their investment portfolio using just their smartphone.

On a mission to offer a safe and convenient route into investing, Minted is encouraging more young people to invest their money where it matters. Investing should be a viable option for the everyday person, whether they’re looking to boost their bank account, or building an investment portfolio of precious metals and cryptocurrencies.

However, as with any form of investment, a certain amount of knowledge is crucial. Proper research and education into investment routes is vital to mitigate against any potential risks. Users must be aware of the ever-changing financial landscape and that markets can be volatile, which was evident when the value of bitcoin dropped approximately 15% after Elon Musk tweeted that Tesla would no longer be accepting the currency as a form of payment back in June.

Each investment has different levels of risk. For example, cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin can be considered particularly high risk, due to their volatility. Investments into more traditional stocks and shares, or precious metals, such as gold or silver, which hold their intrinsic value, could be considered the safer option. Ultimately no matter where the money is invested, proper research and understanding is still pivotal.  

Investors relying on modern technology, such as apps, should begin by undertaking thorough research into the platform of their choice. Users should ask themselves what they are looking for from their investments and what their long-term goals are. Is it to make money quickly, or invest slowly over time for a more gradual financial growth? Are they looking for a physical product, such as gold? Establishing these goals can help ensure that the investor is making smart financial decisions that will benefit them and which suit their situation.

Looking at the credibility of platforms is also crucial; users should research how established the company is and what has been written about them online. This will give users an idea of how reliable the platforms are and whether or not they are the right option for them. Being aware of any additional fees, details of the terms and conditions, and what exactly the app is offering, is essential in preventing any nasty shocks further down the line.

For young people taking their first steps in investment, starting slow and building up experience can be beneficial in the long-term. It is generally also good practice to spread risk by investing in different asset classes and industries. Setting up a range of smaller investments, rather than one large sum, ensures that users are better protected against substantial loss and able to build a wider investment portfolio. Being realistic around affordability is another key factor to consider, as this will prevent against any financial difficulty. Markets can change quickly, so not reacting rashly to a changing landscape is vital if a portfolio is to be managed effectively.

As investment apps and cryptocurrencies continue to rapidly diversify, no one can say for certain what is on the financial horizon. Whatever the future holds for investment, it is certain that the younger generations have a significant role to play in popularising new and developing platforms, as well as challenging the stereotypes of what people invest in, and more importantly, how.

Crypto Lobbying Group Pushes for Stablecoin Regulations

The Biden administration has been presenting proposals to regulate stablecoins. One of the largest lobbying groups in the industry is out with a list of recommendations.

Stablecoins are cryptocurrencies whose value is tied to fiat currencies such as the U.S. Dollar, precious metals or short-term securities. They are used to reduce the inherent volatility in digital coins. These coins are used by traders to enter and exit trades and are being increasingly used for traditional banking products such as savings accounts. However, there is little regulatory oversight and no FDIC backing.

In a new 17-page letter The Chamber of Digital Commerce, which is made up of top U.S. Treasury, Federal Reserve, and Securities and Exchange Commission officials, argues that stablecoins shouldn’t be regulated in the same way as money market funds or securities.

Instead, the asset class should be regulated as a payment system by standardizing the existing system of oversight using money transmission licensing laws applied at state level. According to the organization, Binance.US, Circle, and traditional financial players Citigroup, Mastercard are among its executive committee.

Perianne Boring is the founder and president of the Chamber. “This is a critical issue,” she stated. She added that if we receive policy recommendations that do not allow stablecoins as payment system instrument operators, “it will be pushed abroad.”

As President Joe Biden’s Working Group on Financial Markets (PWG), which includes the Treasury, Fed and other major U.S. regulators, has made recommendations to the crypto industry, it is expected that a report will soon be issued with recommendations for a regulatory framework regarding stablecoins.

This week Bloomberg reported The SEC will have significant authority to regulate stablecoins. Yahoo Finance was informed by an official who participated in the report that the SEC would not be given new authority to regulate stablecoins. Instead, the SEC will continue to exercise its existing powers.

The regulators have considered new rules for regulating stablecoins, similar to those that regulate money-market funds and new banking rules.

Since stablecoins are instantaneously settled using blockchain technology, the Chamber suggested that they be classified as digital payment systems rather than investments or securities.

According to the Supreme Court, an investment contract must have an expectation of profit in order to be considered a security. They argued that stablecoins were not intended to decrease in value and that they don’t have an expectation of profit.

Boring warned that if stablecoins were classified as securities, it would limit their use as retail payments.

Yet, Gary Gensler, the Chair of the SEC has used the analogy of stablecoins with poker chips in a casino. He told Yahoo Finance this week that crypto was like the Wild West and asked regulators for more authority to regulate them.

The Chamber suggests that the federal government offer the possibility of obtaining a national bank charter but not force it. Some virtual currency businesses have received preliminary conditional approval from the Office of the Comptroller of Currency.

Industry also opposes the regulation of stable coins as money markets funds. They argue that they don’t look like money market funds and are passive investments. Stablecoins aren’t designed to grow in value and can be used for digital payments.

Given the rapid growth in stablecoin markets, regulators are more aware of systemic risks. It currently stands at $130 billion, an increase of $37 billion from the beginning 2021. Some of the most popular stablecoins are Tether (USDT-USD), BinanceCoin (BNB-USD), and Paxos.

The industry is growing rapidly, but the global stablecoin marketplace at $132 billion represents a much smaller market than the asset value of U.S. money markets funds at more than $5 trillion.

The letter stated that regulators should tailor stablecoin regulations to reflect the risk profiles of different types of stablecoin payment systems.

It stated that federal regulators should consider additional safeguards when stablecoin payment systems are implemented at a significant scale across the country.

According to the Chamber, most stablecoin payment systems are comparable in size to corporate reward programs like Starbucks gift cards or airline miles.

Boring stated that “We are concerned about what we have heard and seen from the PWG thus far.” We believe the notion that stablecoins pose systemic risk is seriously misguided.”

Officials are concerned about stablecoin runs. The issuers have large amounts of short-term securities such as Treasuries and certificates of deposit. Investors could decide to withdraw their money suddenly if cryptocurrencies fall, which could lead to financial system disruptions or even losses.

Boring says, “There is nothing I can point out that would prove that [stablecoins] have any systemic value.”

The Digital Chamber of Commerce focuses on U.S.-based stablecoin issuers such as Circle and Tether. Boring points to the U.S. stablecoin issues like Circle’s reserves, which are almost entirely held in cash and not commercial paper like Tether.

The Chamber also claims that U.S.-based stablecoin issuers are not leveraged and pose no systemic risk. The Chamber doesn’t believe any U.S.-based stablecoin issuer has reached an important size that warrants additional oversight at the moment.

She stated that she didn’t believe there could be a run in such a scenario, provided the disclosures are accurate.

Budget 2021: Chancellor Heralds the Start of a ‘Post-Covid Age of Optimism’

Businesses are being urged to take full advantage of fiscal incentives and reliefs to aid their recovery as the economy rebounds from the pandemic and growth forecasts show signs of improvement.

In his Budget Statement, Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed that the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has revised up growth forecasts for the economy, which it expects to return to pre-Covid levels by the turn of the year.

Instead of announcing more tax increases, the Chancellor has chosen to focus on increasing spending in areas that will drive economic growth in order to increase the tax take and re-balance the economy in the wake of the pandemic.

Business rates reform and retail

The Chancellor announced plans to proceed with reforms to the business rates system by ensuring rent re-evaluation takes place more frequently – every three years from 2023. From 2023, he also announced that businesses making property improvements will not pay anything extra in business rates for 12 months.

For retail, hospitality & leisure businesses, the Chancellor announced a new 50% business rates discount up to a maximum of £110,000.

Rebecca Wilkinson, tax partner specialising in the property and construction sector at accountancy firm, Menzies LLP, said:

“These changes could help to kickstart the redevelopment of the high street as retailers in particular start to feel more confident about investing in improvements to their properties, without incurring a hefty business rates penalty for doing so.”

Incentives for capital investment and manufacturing

The Chancellor announced that the Annual Investment Allowance (AIA) will not drop to £200,000 at the end of this year and will stick at the much higher level of £1 million until March 2023.

Richard Godmon, tax partner at accountancy firm, Menzies LLP, said:

“This gives businesses a bit more certainty so they can plan ahead to make investments over the next 18 months. It should also help to bolster confidence at a critical time when many firms are concerned about rising costs and supply disruption.

“Some businesses that had been planning to invest in new machinery and equipment before the end of year had been worried about being able to complete them in time, due to the current supply shortages. This will allow them more time.”

Incentives for innovation

The Chancellor announced plans to expand the scope of R&D tax relief to include investments in cloud computing and data costs. He also announced plans to amend the system to prevent activity taking place outside the UK from qualifying for R&D tax relief. He also announced a further £22 million funding for R&D activity, separate from the Government’s investment in R&D tax credits.

Richard Godmon, tax partner at accountancy firm, Menzies LLP, said:

“This looks very favourable for businesses investing in innovation across industry sectors as more of their investment activities will qualify for R&D tax relief from April 2023. However, this scheme is still not used as much as it could be and businesses should seek advice about whether they could be submitting claims in the future.”

Investing in skills

As part of a package of funding for skills and education, the Chancellor announced a significant increase in funding for apprenticeships. As part of this package of funding, the Government is planning to introduce an enhanced recruitment service to support SMEs in finding new apprentices. The Chancellor has also extended the £3,000 apprentice hiring incentive to the end of January 2022 (it was due to end on the 30th November 2021).

Richard Godmon, tax partner at accountancy firm, Menzies LLP, said:

“Employers have been hiring more apprentices and take up of the £3,000 apprentice hiring incentive has been strong. Extending the incentive for a few more months will allow businesses more time to take advantage of the support available and help with sourcing suitable candidates will also be helpful.”

Cryptocurrency the Asset Class of the Future


By William Je, CEO Hamilton Investment Management Ltd

It is a safe statement to make that many financial institutions have in recent years, been torn as to whether cryptocurrencies are an asset class. Analysts are polarised. This is unsurprising as, over time, cryptocurrency went from being widely seen as a conduit for money laundering into a serious proposition for investors. And it’s not just the novices that’ve hopped on board with the cryptocurrency hype, even large, established companies, including the likes of PayPal, which have in turn dabbled with the digital currency as a genuine form of payment.

Major banks have also been rushing to set up crypto-related operations recently, with Morgan Stanley and Bank of America establishing a crypto-focused research division. State Street announced the launch of a dedicated digital finance division. JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs are also rolling out crypto trading services.

An asset is anything of value or a resource of value that can be converted into cash. Traditionally, an asset can often generate cashflows: stocks provide dividends, bonds provide coupons, loans provide interests. However, there are assets that do not really produce cashflows but still being considered as an important asset class.

Gold has long been considered to be an important asset class. It has very limited industrial usage and does not really generate cashflows. It is only collective thinking that gold is valuable that makes it so. In fact, this also applies to any fiat currency. After all, money is only a credit that a currency’s user gives to the issuer. For a currency to thrive, trust is the most important factor. The issuer of fiat currencies are sovereign entities which are deemed to be the most trustworthy. If there is a currency or economic crisis that the people do not trust the government, the value of the fiat currency will drop significantly. 

So, an asset’s value will depend on the collective believe and trust of the people dealing with it. It is still at an early stage to conclude that investors believe and trust in the value of cryptocurrency, but the trend is definitively positive.

Throughout the course of history, we have become accustomed to recognising ‘traditional’ asset classes. Many investors regard cash and equivalents, bonds, and stocks as conventional financial investing’s big three. However, ever since the rise to prominence of cryptocurrency – a decentralised means of digital currency – many have started to question, should cryptocurrency be regarded as an asset class? This debate is as important as ever, considering that legislators and policymakers ponder upon taxing crypto in line with other assets in the midst of a tax war we’re witnessing. Currently in the US Congress, rules on tax on constructive and wash sales are being debated. Presently, only traditional asset classes such as bonds are stocks are subject to these rules, but there has been controversy about whether commodities, and digital assets should be considered.

In recent times, society has done a tremendous job of selling us on the idea that replacing our hard-earned cash with virtual currency is a good idea, and for good reason too. It does not take too much research to see that SMEs, family run businesses, corporates, asset managers and more are all investing in the crypto market. There is, however, a hurdle of learning new terminologies and understanding a new process.

As a result, many people shy away from dealing with it. This can seem daunting and is certainly a barrier to entry for some. However, it isn’t a reason to ignore what could potentially be an immensely fruitful asset pot. Professionals must now start to change their perspective on cryptocurrency, particularly in relation to what institutional investors consider to be an asset class and adapt processes to enable us to deal with cryptocurrency more effectively. Gone are the days of solely dealing with traditional assets. We all know that there are an enormous number of crypto assets now available and certainly the pandemic appears to have played a key role in driving increasing demand from both retail and institutional investors.

It’s not a secret that Bitcoin is the most valued – and thereby attractive – cryptocurrency on the market. Experts have largely accredited this by way of its scarcity, drastically leveraging its general understanding as an asset class. Bitcoin in particular benefits from investor confidence because of its snowballing popularity. Just as people in society believe in the value of diamonds because others believe in it, cryptocurrency shares this artificial value.

This further accentuates the power of supply and demand to dictate price. As hype is artificially created as a societal construct, it causes people to blindly jump on the bandwagon. When combining this with our excessive need to want what we can’t have; the forbidden fruit principle, it’s only to be expected that the price of Bitcoin is so high.

Bitcoin was the first scarce digital asset ever created. Imagine that – a digital product with a fixed total supply of 21 million coins. For new coins to come into circulation its new supply is cut in half every four years through a “halving” mechanism, until all 21 million coins are mined. As a result, it is estimated that only 18 million coins have been mined to date. Of those some believe that 5 million are technically lost, 10 million stored in long-term cold storage, and close to 3 million on exchanges. Mankind has always based the value of a currency on this concept of scarcity – that is why precious metals have been the backbone of many economies for centuries.

The growth in the number of cryptocurrencies is changing all of this and the faith put in them by investors is driving confidence in them as an asset class. If investors continue to believe in the value of gold because others believe in it, it will remain an asset.  The difference with cryptocurrencies today, and gold of the past is therefore minimal.

But what is driving that faith, and what is underpinning the huge increases in the value of cryptocurrencies? Well maybe it has less to do with the currency itself and more to do with its ability to store value in relation to other asset classes. Widespread social adoption together with its privacy, security and transferability make cryptocurrencies an important asset class to store values. Maybe it’s time for a bit of a backward glance and look to recent history to explain this. Since 2008 and the unleashing of quantitative easing, there has been an undoubted period of price inflation. And yet if you look to the balance sheets of many central banks one thing stands out – global currencies have depreciated.

Cryptocurrencies don’t follow the same rules as fiat currencies, or even secured assets, instead things tend to get complicated.  Given a cryptocurrency does not generate or support cashflow, it needs to be valued against potential – and critically – future prices. That then opens the door to several different valuation methods and guess what – our old friend gold is back. Amongst the differing valuation models now available – the stock-to-flow method, institutional participation method, and high-net worth participation method – we find the gold valuation method. But let’s not forget this is a new asset class so we would expect investors will consider a range of valuation methodologies to estimate future value. This is, however, not risk free. It is a new asset class, and one that does not exist physically. It is not gold as we are repeatedly saying. Risks do exist and they are well known, and some would argue substantial. We are firm believers that the industry needs to face into – and support – government initiatives around regulation.

But this is not the only risk associated with cryptocurrencies. Swings in the wider macroeconomic environment, risk associated with the technology backbone – everything from electricity supply to bad faith actors, and even an ever-more vocal and powerful economic, social, and corporate governance framework – ESG as it is known. All of which add to the potential risk for crypto as an asset class in its own right.

El Salvador became the first country in the world to adopt bitcoin as its national currency, allowing people to use a digital wallet to pay for everyday goods. Many countries are considering to issue their own central bank digital currencies. All these have been telling of cryptocurrencies’ future potential in line with an asset class.

The key question remains; should institutional investors dive in and is it in fact a dedicated new asset class?

The primary reason why some don’t regard cryptocurrency as an asset class is because it’s unclear regulatory environment and high volatility. However, more and more institutional investors use cryptocurrencies to hedge against inflation and currency debasement, and to diversify their portfolios in the pursuit of higher risk-adjusted returns. Over time, institutional investors have been more inclined to consider cryptocurrency as new asset class

Bitcoin is the most famous, most written about and most volatile of the many cryptocurrencies now on the market. Given the number of methodologies available to value not only it, but all digital assets, if anything, institutional interest is only just beginning.

This is without doubt, a new asset class and one that will increasingly gain acceptance and participation of institutional investors as time goes on.

It may not be physical gold, but it could very well be digital gold.

What Do Payments Market Players Have to Gain by Acquiring NFTs?

A ploy to stay in the loop or a strategic decision? Simas Simanauskas, Head of Payments at ConnectPay, has explored further what’s in it for the payments processing giants diving into the NFT trend.

A growing number of businesses are joining in on the Non-Fungible Token (NFT) craze. Not long ago, Visa, the payments processing behemoth, bought a “CryptoPunk” – one of the thousands of NFT-based digital avatars, for nearly $150,000 in the cryptocurrency Ethereum. Following the example, Mastercard has recently entered the market as well by announcing a sweepstake to win an NFT. According to Simas Simanauskas, Head of Payments at ConnectPay, the NFT appeal can be attributed to both staying on-trend, liquidity, and its massive future potential.

The NFT market sales volume grew approximately 182 times in the first half of 2021, compared with the same period in 2020, reaching a whopping $2.5 billion. Seemingly everyone–from sports fan platforms to art houses jumped on the bandwagon. According to Simanauskas, while the actual value of NFTs is subject to much debate, it is widely seen as an appealing market for investment.

“VISA’s move to acquire one of the iconic “Cryptopunks” is nothing less than a message that traditional market players are closely following the crypto-space and looking for ways to capture part of that market,” he stated. “When and how they will do it will very much depend on the overall crypto regulation, as well as how fast the biggest crypto wallets and exchanges will adopt rigorous Know-Your-Customer (KYC) regimes.”

Others joining in on the trend

There is little evidence to suggest the NFT boom will dial down anytime soon, which seems to have attracted more payments market players to get on board. For instance, Goldman Sachs has been offering bitcoin futures trading for some time now, while Mastercard has partnered up with Circle to create a solution bridging cryptocurrencies and traditional fiat money for people wanting to spend their digital assets anywhere Mastercard is accepted.

“Since NFT is another use case of blockchain technology that has attracted massive liquidity, there can be no doubt traditional players will seek to stay relevant in the market and will look for ways to cater for NFT traders,” Simanauskas added.

Potential threats for the finance sector

However, where large sums trade hands – fraud is rampant. For instance, earlier this year, a hacker exploited security loopholes on a famous artist’s website and sold a fake Banksy NFT for $336,000. Hence, when it comes to potential threats to the finance sector, for instance, money laundering, Simanauskas notes authentication and systems will need to be made more robust.

“One could argue that a person seeking to launder funds would either buy or create multiple NFTs—which can take only minutes to create—list them on various platforms, buy them using illicit funds from multiple anonymous wallets and legitimize one’s funds as a proud digital artist. That’s not an issue of NFT, but rather one of KYC,” Simanauskas explained. “As long as crypto exchanges will do sloppy KYC and platforms will accept payments from anonymous wallets, the blockchain industry will retain its messy image.”

“On the other hand, many big players in the industry are trying to clear that reputation by bringing more transparency and internal regulation into the way they oversee client transactions. While financial watchdogs are trying to make sense of all this and prepare to regulate the crypto-space, it will largely depend on the blockchain community itself how well they can address AML/CTF and security questions that would make people trust and utilize the technology to the fullest.”

How to Ensure Safe Onboarding Procedures of Clients’ Customers?

Non-banks have been choosing BaaS (Banking-as-a-Service) due to the difficulty of getting and maintaining a banking license, which calls for meeting all the necessary requirements, like KYC (Know-Your-Customer). Chief Compliance & Risk Officer at ConnectPay, Thibaud Catry, says that it takes mutual cooperation and a strong in-house compliance team to ensure the safety of clients’ customers’ onboarding procedure.

Banking-as-a-Service (BaaS) platforms have been gaining more traction in the market as they streamline non-banking businesses’ entry into the financial services sector. Alongside the fully developed banking infrastructure, a BaaS provider takes on the responsibility to adhere to any regulatory requirements, including Know Your Customer (KYC), aimed at preventing money laundering activities and helping to better understand the customers, as well as manage risks more prudently.

Since BaaS uses KYC to onboard their client’s customers, Thibaud Catry, Chief Compliance & Risk Officer at ConnectPay, has outlined key aspects necessary to ensure that this process runs smoothly: a strong in-house compliance team and mutual collaboration.

To provide banking services companies must obtain a banking license, which is both hard to get and difficult to maintain. The necessary infrastructure to carry out transactions and handle funds can cost millions, while using BaaS is usually a fraction of the price — making these platforms a more cost-effective solution.

Infrastructure aside, businesses find it hard to enter the financial market due to strict and ever-changing regulations, which also differ depending on where in the world companies are trying to provide banking services. When choosing BaaS, non-bank entities acquire both the necessary framework as well as the assurance that they are running an operation in compliance with mandatory AML requirements and KYC, which becomes the responsibility of a BaaS provider.

The reason for constant adjustments in regulations is to combat constantly emerging new threats — in the case of KYC, their intent is to minimize illegal activities like money laundering and fraud. According to Catry, these developments are part of the various challenges that BaaS face when trying to safely carry out their clients’ customers’ onboarding process.

“Each industry has its own challenges, from geo-risk to new modern payment methods providing an additional level of anonymity and fast-changing regulatory landscape. Compliance professionals need to adapt to these nuances, learn about market changes and the potential risks linked with these transformations. When it comes to KYC, some of the main obstacles while onboarding clients’ customers emerge from poor data and record management, which both result in potential risks going undetected.”

To avoid these mishaps, Catry emphasizes the need to focus on compliance specialists. ConnectPay followed this strategy when creating their own new BaaS product, making sure that these experts made up a substantial part of the team.

“For example, a third of ConnectPay’s staff is just the KYC department. It takes quite a number of qualified professionals to keep up with all of the changing requirements and sort through all of the client’s provided data to make sure that their customers are identified and assessed correctly,” Catry emphasized. “It’s not enough to check and verify a customer just once — a BaaS provider needs to conduct ongoing monitoring to detect any possible risks and react accordingly. This is a detailed procedure which requires a number of specialists at work and, considering the current regulatory environment, financial institutions in Europe cannot afford to work with a weak compliance team.”

Although regulatory procedures are the BaaS’s responsibility, it cannot effectively meet all the necessary requirements alone. In order to make sure that everything is running smoothly, Catry says that mutual cooperation is a must.

“Using an intermediary is always a challenge for any FI. At ConnectPay, the team focuses on working with their partner to ensure that the standards they are applying regarding KYC procedures are at a minimum at the same level as ConnectPay’s standards. When it comes to ensuring the safety of onboarding client’s customers, strong cooperation, direct line of communication, and sharing best market practices is key.”

ConnectPay is constantly investing in its compliance department, making sure that all activities of the company are adhering to regulatory requirements. Additionally, any unethical business practices are eliminated during the thorough screening process, ensuring that all of the company’s customers are working inside the legal framework.

Risk and Opportunity in Today’s Crypto Market

 

For millions of new and experienced traders and investors all over the world, cryptocurrency represents one of the best ever opportunities for making a profit. Prices are volatile but still aimed in a general upward trajectory and opening a trading account takes just a few minutes. Before getting started, it’s important for people to catch up with the latest news about regulations, industry developments, pricing trends, and other factors that directly affect their potential for making money in this exciting marketplace called cryptocurrency.

 

How Things Stand in Late 2021

After a couple of extremely up and down years with prices, the major cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ethereum, are currently on an upward price surge. For example, market leader bitcoin began 2021 at $29,388 and has since risen to just above the $54,000 mark. That’s an excellent run by any definition. To put that good news into perspective and get an idea of how fast the crypto marketplace moves, consider that bitcoin’s value in July dipped to $29,789 from an astounding high to $63,237 just three months prior. Anyone thinking about entering this niche should be ready for plenty of action in both directions. The most important news in the cryptocurrency world in the second half of 2021 came out of China, a country whose government decided that alt coins were not in the best interest of national security or economic stability.

The translation is that the totalitarian communist regime that runs the mainland doesn’t like the independence and freedom that cryptocurrencies give to those who own them and invest in them. What was the fallout of the national ban? For about a week, most of the major alt coins experienced declining prices but soon shot back up as bargain hunters moved in and bought bitcoin and ethereum at those temporarily low prices. The growing acceptance of crypto coins in most nations, and the fact that the price charts tend to move up over the long-term, are just two reasons that 2021 and 2022 are set to be potentially profitable years for newcomers to the market who want to learn how to trade cryptocurrency in UK, U.S., Asian, African, and other regions.

 

Overview of Opportunities and Risks for Traders and Investors

In today’s unique economic scenario, what are the pros and cons of getting into the alt coin trading and investing world? There are dozens of factors to consider, but the following top the list.

Risk: High Volatility

One look at a bitcoin or overall crypto market chart for the past five years tells the story. The good news is that, in general, values are going up. The not so good news is that anyone who buys, owns, holds, or trades assets like bitcoin and ethereum should be ready for major swings in both directions.

Opportunity: Unlimited Potential Returns

Perhaps the biggest draw of the alt coin sector is the unlimited potential for profits. Unlike stocks, bonds, and even precious metals, cryptocurrency is a relatively new asset class, with untested highs. In just over a decade, the new form of money has gone from a low value investment that only a few people bought or sold, to a massive influence on the global economy. The major coins have attracted the interest of governments, financial institutions, retirement funds, and individuals. Offsetting the downside of volatility, for many, is the fact that a modest stake in crypto today could yield extremely high profit margins.

Risk: Security

It’s become less common, but there are still occasional news stories about this or that alt coin being hacked or suffering a security breach. In the past, several high-profile breaches and hacks have caused coin owners to lose money. Rarely have investors or coin holders lost significant amounts. However, it’s essential to remember that account holders need to secure their coins in hard wallets, which are offline forms of digital storage.

Opportunity: Anonymity

For working people who want to keep their financial business private, there’s no better place to park monetary assets than in one or more cryptocurrencies. While all transactions are traceable and verifiable on the blockchain, the identities of users are kept private. If you like financial anonymity, cryptocurrency can be a smart addition to a personal portfolio.

Risk: Coming Regulation

China was an extreme case in which a national government completely banned the use of all cryptocurrencies. But other nations already have some controls, laws, and rules in place regarding taxation and mining of cryptos. In Europe and the U.S., for example, governments are in the midst of crafting legislation that would require full and detailed annual reporting of all alt coin assets on tax filings.

Opportunity: Ease of Doing Business

Once you add alt coins to your personal account, whether in a soft or hard wallet, it’s easy to use the assets for spending, re-investing, trading, or speculation. Transaction fees are extremely low, there are no taxes on transactions (though your government might legally require reporting and paying tax), and payments for goods and services takes place instantaneously.

Top Careers in the Investment Industry and What You Need to Acquire Them


The investment industry is one of the most lucrative industries in the world. If you’re looking for a career that pays well and has many prospects, then this may be an ideal field to pursue. However, not just anyone can break into this field. There are specific requirements that need to be met before someone can become a successful investor. In this blog post, we will discuss what careers are available in the investment industry, as well as what qualities are needed to acquire them.

Investment Advisor

An investment advisor helps people manage their money and plan for the future. They are knowledgeable in many different areas, such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc. They can help people decide how to invest their money and which pieces of the market will be a good fit. This career will see you have many meetings with clients as you share your knowledge in the investment industry. Having exposure can make you rank high in your career.

It’s, however, necessary to have the proper documents as this is what makes your profile impressive. Having the appropriate certification is significant. These days, some courses are made specifically for anyone planning to mold a career in investment advisory services. The Series 65 study courses can be challenging as they test you to the limits. This is what helps you become a great investment consultant. Check if there is sufficient series 65 study material for the course you pick. If you want to pass your exams, then you need plenty of resources.

Investment Manager

In this career path, you will have the opportunity of helping others make the best out of their investment. Practically, you will oversee their projects to make every operation fruitful. What is most fascinating about investment management is that you have options on the field you want to work in. For instance, you may consider working for insurance companies, brokerage firms, banks, and credit unions.

This job can be lucrative, primarily when you work for a well-established international company. If you want to become a competent investment manager, you need to have the right skills and knowledge. The good thing is that you qualify to become an investment manager with a Business Administration or Finance bachelor of science degree. If you have even worked for years in the industry, it makes you even more resourceful for the job position.

Corporate Careers

In every company, it’s the combined effort of the team that will lead the team in accomplishing the overall mission, vision, objectives, and target. This relies on input from the chief executive officers (CEOs) and managing directors (MD). In most cases, these jobs are demanding and may prompt you to work for more than the traditional hours. This is because you need to monitor every corner of the company and ascertain everything is running smoothly. Again, it involves a lot of meeting with other stakeholders, investors, and clients.

For you to become a CEO, your track record and profile need to be remarkable. You need to give an image of someone down-to-earth and unique in handling things. A company’s success rests on your shoulders hence the need for an exceptional person for the job.

There is flexibility in the types of companies you can work for, but primarily your know-how guides a lot in the field you can comfortably succeed. On the other hand, you have the freedom of either working in a public or private company.

The investment industry is growing due to economic factors such as increased demand and better technology. If you want a career in the industry, there are different options that you could consider. For instance, you can become a financial advisor, investment manager, or even pursue a corporate career. What is significant is having the right qualifications as your competency levels matter a lot.

How Debt Settlement Works

That mountain of credit card debt is threatening to ruin your financial life if you don’t make a move – and soon. You’ve been hearing about debt settlement, a strategy that lets you skirt the last resort that is bankruptcy. But you’re unsure of what the approach entails. Well, here’s all about how debt settlement works.

 

What is Debt Settlement?

Also called debt relief, debt settlement is when you pay a firm to go to your creditors – typically credit card issuers – to see whether they’d be down for letting you pay a portion of what you owe to have your obligations marked “settled” on your credit reports. Why would they agree to that? Well, because they know your next move could very well be bankruptcy. If you file that, the companies you owe realize that they very well could wind up with nothing.

 

How Does Debt Settlement Work?

You’ll have a consultation with your debt settlement company during which your financial situation will be assessed, and a payment plan will be created. After that, you’ll be asked to make monthly deposits into a savings-like account that you control. That account will be used for leverage during negotiations with your creditors. Once you’ve saved enough, your negotiators will approach each company you owe for a settlement. After each settlement is reach and approved by you, the creditor will be paid through the account.

 

Doesn’t Debt Settlement Hurt Your Credit?

The process of debt relief will depress your credit scores – temporarily. Your scores will rebound and then some once your debts are satisfied and you’ve begun to rebuild your portfolio.

It’s good to keep in mind that your scores aren’t the best now anyway, are they?

 

How Long Does Debt Settlement Take?

Depending on the company, debt settlement takes between 24 to 48 months. That may seem like a lifetime but it’s not nearly longer than the time it would take you to try to pay the debts off yourself. That could literally take … forever. And remember, your financial slide didn’t occur overnight.

Check out recent Freedom Debt Relief reviews for more insight on this and the benefits of debt settlement.

 

What Kind of Debt Does Debt Settlement Accept?

Again, it depends on the company, but it’s usually any debt that isn’t secured – not attached to collateral such as a car or your house. Usually we’re talking credit cards, personal loans, or medical bills, and the like. Whatever the kind of unsecured debt, you’ll usually need around $7,500 of it.

 

How Much Does Debt Settlement Cost?

You can expect to shell out between 15% and 25% of either your settled or enrolled debt. Don’t pay anyone any fees up front – before settlement are reached. Charging such fees is against the law and a red flag that you might be dealing with a scam company.

 

How Can I Avoid Scams?

Yes, the industry does have a few bad actors who are more than willing to take advantage of your vulnerable financial and emotional state. So, make sure the company you choose is accredited with the American Fair Credit Council and the International Association of Professional Debt Arbitrators.

You also want to give a wide berth to any company that over promises or makes breathless “guarantees” about how it can save you money for pennies on the dollar and by a time certain, particularly if it hasn’t even gone over your financials. While debt settlement has saved scores of people like you from financial ruin, negotiations are by their very nature unpredictable.

Now that you know how debt settlement works, you can proceed with eliminating those burdensome debts and getting your finances in order. Just make sure you pick a credible, reputable, and established company to guide you.

5 Income Tax Tips for People Living and Working in Different States


Having to file your taxes in more than one state can be a complicated process. The first step is figuring out how much income tax you owe for each state. A lot of people think that they only need to pay the higher amount, but this isn’t always true. You may have a credit or offsetting deduction that makes it worthwhile to calculate what you owe for each state and then compare them before filing in both states.

1. Differences Between a Resident and Non-Resident Tax Filing Status

The state you live in considers you a resident if your intention to stay there is indefinite. You are also considered a resident of the state where your spouse and kids reside even though it may not be the same as where you currently live (if they’re with you most of the time).

If neither one of these applies, then you are considered a non-resident and only have to file taxes in the state where you currently live.

If both apply, then things get complicated because it doesn’t always make sense for your filing status to be determined by the state where you work or receive income from business activities. You should go with whichever one benefits you more.

2. Understand How to Report Income from Multiple Jobs on Your Taxes

If you work in-state and out of state, then things get a little more complicated. The best thing to do is maintain accurate records so that it’s clear which income should be reported where.

In the case that your total taxable wages are higher than $117,000 (married filing jointly) or $73,800 (single) then you will need to file taxes in both states.

In any other case, you only go where the total taxable wages are higher and use that state’s income tax rate when filling out your return there. You can report all of your W-G from outside jobs on a separate Schedule NEC – Other State Income line with the specific amount of income you earned there.

You can also take a deduction for the taxes paid on your out-of-state work as an itemized deduction to even it all out and avoid paying more in one state than another.

3. Are You Eligible for Deductibles or Credits that Could Lower Your Taxes?

There are a number of deductions that you can take advantage of on your tax return to reduce the taxes owed. You should compare these with what is available in each state and go with whichever means more money back for you.

Some examples include:

  • Charitable donations (don’t forget about non-cash items)
  • Medical expenses above a certain threshold
  • Moving expenses to a new state for work or study purposes
  • Property tax deductions (for people who own their own home)

Not all of these will be available in every single state, so you should do your research and see if any apply. The more you can deduct the lower your taxes owed are going to be.

4. Review What Counts As Income When Determining Eligibility for Certain Deductions

You may think that the amount of money you made in a certain state is what’s counted as income for your tax return, but this isn’t always true.

The most common example would be refunds from overpayments on property taxes or home loans. These are not taxable as long as they were deducted from previous returns and will lower how much you owe.

If this happens, make sure to include it on the required schedule where income from out-of-state jobs should be declared. You can also claim any deductions associated with that money if applicable.

For other types of income like bank interest or dividends, each state might have different rules about how much is counted as taxable income. It’s best to double-check with the Department of Revenue or Treasury in each state you live and work to find out what counts as income, how much it is, and if there are any deductions associated with it.

The more information you have about your total taxable wage for a year can help lower your tax liability when filing returns from multiple jobs.

5. Ensure You Have All the Necessary Records Before Filing Your Taxes

Having a record book might help keep everything organized if filing alone isn’t enough. If you’re looking for a way to speed up the process, there are tools that can help calculate your tax liability as well as file all required documents on behalf of their users. You can also generate all your pay stubs in a few minutes using paystub creator and then use it to record all deductibles, taxes, and income.

6 Things You Didn’t Know About Mortgage Rates and Why They Matter

Mortgage rates are instrumental in determining the affordability of home loans for anyone who wants to get on the property ladder.

While you may understand the basics, drilling down into the details and learning more about interest rates and how they apply to mortgages is sensible. So without further ado, here are handy facts to help you make informed decisions.

Interest rates typically rise before they fall

Holding off on securing a mortgage in the expectation that rates will fall in the near future is a bad idea. This is because at any one time it is statistically more likely for them to increase rather than decrease.

It is better to avoid worrying about picking the perfect time to get your first mortgage or refinance. Instead, compare various mortgage rates right now and get the best deal in the current market conditions.

Other factors can impact the affordability of a property more than mortgage rates

Obsessing over the interest rate of a mortgage package without also considering the other costs involved in buying a property is a common mistake, and one which can come back to bite buyers.

You need to look at the big picture and not only consider how much interest you will be paying on your home loan, but also other costs like property tax, maintenance, moving fees and commuting expenses where relevant.

Rates aren’t directly tied to the economy

While outside economic factors certainly have an impact on mortgage rates, you should not assume that they completely mirror the boom and bust cycle of the broader economy.

The COVID-19 pandemic was a great example of this; while there was widespread disruption in many industries, home loan rates remained low and actually fell in many regions.

The prime interest rate can be misleading

Another aspect of the mortgage market which it is tempting to fixate upon is the prime interest rate, because while this may be a seemingly solid indicator of the overall state of play in the lending market, it does not actually tally closely with the general level of the interest rate curve.

Indeed the prime rate can be significantly higher or lower than real world rates that most customers can access, so doing more research and weighing up your options is wise before you dive into any deal with a lender.

Interest costs can be overtaken by rising property prices

Over the course of a 25 or 30 year fixed term mortgage, you will clearly see that the interest you pay off each month mounts up to a significant amount on top of the original price of your home.

This can seem daunting and even feel like you are overpaying for the property in the long run. However, since the housing market tends to rise year on year, it is more than likely that your home will increase in value at a greater rate than the interest of your mortgage, so when you sell it, interest costs will be less of a concern.

Refinancing costs vary depending on the mortgage you pick

This is one of the trickier aspects, but one which can make a major difference to the appeal of particular mortgage packages.

In essence, the type of deal you strike with your lender may either make refinancing in the future more or less expensive.

Obviously this depends on your circumstances and the state of the market at the time, so get expert advice and be aware of all the terms and conditions which apply to the home loan product you choose.

What to Look For in a Stock Market API

The financial market is one of the industries that has relied heavily on technological innovations for its operations. In the last few years, there have been new solutions developed to streamline the industry and make its operations seamless. One of the major driving forces for these solutions has been APIs (Applications Programming Interfaces). They have opened a channel through which companies come up with innovations to handle all their transactions and to meet the demands of the modern investor.

APIs are computing interfaces through which applications can communicate and share information with each other. This means that when building an application, developers do not have to work day and night getting the data needed for their application to meet its obligations. They can simply implement an API and obtain the data from other applications. This has made software development easier and faster. 

What are Stock Market APIs?

As discussed above, APIs allow applications to exchange data and communicate with each other. Similarly, stock market APIs provide stock applications with financial market data for their operations. Traders and investors use APIs for stock to obtain structured data from complex market data while developers use them when implementing the functionality of their applications.

A few years ago, before developers and traders started using APIs, they had no option but to collect and analyze the financial data on their own. This was raw data from different sources such as newswires, indices, and stock exchanges. Such data was difficult to analyze and compare and often led to many investment mistakes. APIs solved this problem and made things easier.

When choosing a stock market API, there are a number of things one should look for. They include;

Latency

Latency refers to the time a stock market API takes to send data from the source to the application that made the request for data. APIs with low latency are accurate with their data and sent it faster than those that have high latency. You should make sure that you choose a stock market API with low latency for the successful transmission of data.

The Scope and Source of Data

It is important to choose APIs for stock that offer a wide scope of financial data. For instance, you need an API that guarantees you data such as stock data, exchanges, forex, news, commodities, options, and economic data among others. You should test the API to make sure that all this data is available. In addition, you do not need an API that gets its data from a public source. Such data might not only be illegal but also unreliable.

Data Being Transmitted

There are free and premium stock market APIs, with each offering different types of data. Before getting one of them, you should analyze the style you use when trading and choose the one that fits you better. The free APIs will get data sometime after its publication, usually about thirty minutes later. On the other hand, premium APIs will get data in real-time. There are also other APIs (or both the free and premium APIs) that offer historical financial data. The right API depends on the style of trading one employs.

Currency

There are traders interested in trading in a specific country while others trade in international markets. Trading in a specific country requires one to use that country’s currency since exchange rates might affect the value of money. International traders need to understand different currencies and choose an API that matches their requirements. 

Scalability

The stock market is one of the most unpredictable industries we have today. There are times when everything will remain normal while other times things are below normal. However, there are times when things could spike, and the API you choose needs to be scalable enough to handle such spikes.

Security

Trading in the stock market is a confidential affair. Traders spent a lot of money buying and selling stocks. It, therefore, means that they need to work with a secure trading API. When choosing a stock market API, make sure that you get the one using secure servers and systems.

Finally, developers should choose an API with the functionality that meets their requirements. They need an API that is flexible and can integrate easily with the programming languages and the development environments that they use. With such considerations, both developers and traders will get the APIs that meet all their requirements.

The Best Tips for Paying Your Freelancers: How to Streamline Invoice Management

Invoice management has become more complicated due to the many formats and programs freelancers use to process payments.

While variety is often an excellent thing for a business, your financial department will start to stagnate if you don’t streamline the invoice management process. In this article, we’ll teach you how to get a handle on your invoicing.

Keep Your Freelancers on the Same Page

All of your employees and independent contractors need to have a clear understanding of how your invoicing process works. You also need to explain what type of software you use, what billing cycles are acceptable, and how freelancers can better streamline their own invoicing.

For example, if you only want to use PayPal for your invoicing, but they don’t have one, give them instructions on how to open an account. Don’t start making exceptions to that rule unless absolutely necessary, like if they live in a country that doesn’t support PayPal. If the invoicing process changes, inform your freelancers at least 2 weeks before you implement them.

Choose the Right Billing Cycle

Different payment plans work for different projects, so speak to your clients and freelancers before implementing a billing cycle or payment schedule. Here are a few options to consider:

  • Multi-Installment Invoice: Instead of scheduled or lump sum payments, the client will pay your team only after reaching certain milestones. With these clients, businesses will typically ask for a portion of the project amount up-front, then they’ll work out payment installments over a period. A final invoice is given after project completion.

  • Final Project Invoice: At the end of a project, your company will send a final invoice to outline the scope of the work completed by the freelancer. If you also delivered other invoices to this client, list the final outstanding amount (if any) or if that total project amount has been paid. Send this invoice even if the client settled up the project.

  • Recurring Invoice: Ongoing projects or clients will require a recurring invoice at regular intervals. Work with the client to determine which schedule works for them, but weekly and monthly payments are industry standard. Getting on a regular timetable can improve the likelihood that your freelancers will be paid on time, especially if clients are diligent.

Manage and Create Invoices Online

Remote workers aren’t going to be excited at the prospect of waiting days, even weeks, for a physical paycheck delivery. From checkstub makers to automated invoicing software, you can improve your invoicing process from almost anywhere by removing most of the manual work.

Most business decisions are driven by money, and automating even a few of your daily processes can save you a great deal of cash in data errors and labor. Using a fill-in-the-blanks template for your invoices can eliminate human error, overpayments, and duplicate payments. In the end, reporting auditing and budgeting becomes more efficient and accurate.

Communicate With Clients & Freelancer to Avoid Delays

Automation software and templates can help you become more efficient, but you also need to account for common delays within your industry. Otherwise, your invoices may be late.

Invoicing the Wrong Person or Day

While looking into why your client is late on payments, you notice that you sent your invoice to the wrong person in your client’s company. Or, you find that they don’t look at their invoices until the following business day, which delays payments further. To avoid a lengthy back-and-forth or more confusion in the future, ask your client where and when they want their invoice sent.

Reminding Clients of Late Payments

Agencies that hire content writers for blog posts may receive payments from another client or agency. Unfortunately, no matter how efficient your process is, clients will still forget to pay their bills on the date they’re due. You’ll eventually have to chase after them for unpaid invoices, which can be done automatically through software. If this pattern continues, set up a late fee.

Being Unclear About Payment Terms

Clients may assume that they’re supposed to pay their bill at the end of the month when they’re actually meant to pay every week. This will spell trouble for you and your freelancers. To avoid this, ensure that your clients agree to your payment terms in writing before beginning your professional relationship. Insert custom text in their file/invoice to remind clients of their terms.

Ways Businesses can Manage Cash Flow in a Remote Work Setup

Going remote has been like someone pressed the reset button on all business and financial operations. It has created the need for companies to revisit all business functions from scratch to make necessary changes to stay afloat. 

Additionally, remote work has brought about broken processes and workflows, zero accountability into finances, and no control or visibility into expenses to the surface.  This, coupled with distributed teams, weak communication channels, and traditional means of handling expenses, spells trouble for business finances. 

But where do companies start with fixing this problem? 

This blog helps navigate through these tricky aspects of cash management and business finances. It also provides ways businesses can stay afloat even during these testing times. So, let’s get started!

Challenges with remote cash flow management

Let’s start by saying traditional cash flow management is already a chore for your Finance teams. Add the layer of remote work to it, and you have a disaster brewing right around the corner. 

To build our case, given below are some cash flow management challenges that worsened with remote work:

1. Lack of communication and collaboration 

Finance as a function is dependent on all other departments to get work done. Thus a lack of smooth collaborations may lead to teams succumbing to lengthy and redundant processes with no reward. This has an impact on overall employee and financial productivity. 

2. No visibility or control in company finances or expenses

With paper-based reports and in-house meetings off the chart, Finance teams lack the information, insight, or time to make the right decisions concerning company finances. Unfortunately, this means no cost optimizations or rectifications around budget allocations, policies, and expense management.

3. Need to relook business expenses and policies 

Remote work has changed the type of expenses businesses incur. Unfortunately, it has also made old/existing expense policies redundant as they do not cover newer business expenses. This makes expense management a chaotic experience for all. It also leaves Finance teams with little to no knowledge about the ins and outs of business expenses.

4. Traditional processes that break with remote work

Gone are the days where employees or Finance teams could just walk into the next room for instant clarifications or rectifications. With remote work, processes that demand physical human interaction instantly fall to the ground. 

Additionally, they result in broken, inaccurate, and time-consuming manual processes that open doors to financial leaks that affect business finances. Take expense fraud, for instance. 

Thus it is safe to say, if these factors go unnoticed, they can further affect all other business processes, as healthy finances and cash flow are the crux of any sound business.

Where do companies start with remote cash management?

  • Analyze and gain insight into the current cash flow scenario, business financials, and overall state of financial processes.

  • Note what has changed and its impact on the daily operations around financial processes & management. 

  • Classify and tag challenges into categories with priorities such as operational, non-operational, and departmental. 

  • Encourage teams to leverage automation-driven technology to solve mundane and repetitive problems.

  • A good start would be the automation of expense management, payroll, and AP & AR. 

Ways businesses can effectively manage cash flow in a remote setup

Cash flow management essential dwells around having a well-rounded picture of your business finances at all times. This could be around expenses incurred by departments, teams, individuals, and even processes and operations.

Thus businesses must pay close heed to processes and find ways to course correct. Here are some easy ways to start with creating an effective financial management system for your business:

1. Understand the current state of business finances

Finance teams can only make informed data-driven decisions when they have the data, to begin with. Thus before jumping into preservation mode, Finance teams need to understand the current state of their financials. This could include income statements, AP & AR, expense management, and P&L statements.

2. Gain a grip on business spend and finances

With the data in hand, Finance teams can now conduct deep dives to understand where most spending is happening, why it is happening, and how to control or optimize it. Based on this information, Finance teams can then make informed changes to expense policies, budgets, and more. 

3. Remove human intervention where needed 

Let’s face it; there are some things better left to technology than human beings. For instance, take manual data entry, manual verifications, and even manual approvals in the expense management process. Letting software do these mundane tasks not only frees up time for your employees but also adds a layer of accuracy and certainty to the process.

4. Leverage automation-driven technology

For remote teams to function, businesses need to move to automation tech to do the heavy lifting instead. It streamlines and automates all mundane and repetitive tasks and provides data-driven insights and guaranteed policy compliance. This enables businesses to eliminate financial leaks in the system. 

Some technology businesses can start with:

5. Redefine and enforce revised remote expense policies 

Redefining how employees submit expense reports and how approvers and Finance teams verify and process reports are crucial. Start with stringent policy revision and enforcement to make the entire expense management process more manageable and straightforward for both the employees and Finance teams. This would also gear the whole company to manage and control business expenses efficiently. 

6. Look for cost-cutting and cost-saving opportunities 

If your business were to use an automated expense report software, it could benefit from the software’s advanced data analytics feature. This would mean a detailed breakdown of all expenses across departments, cost centers, top spenders, spend categories, frequently associated hotel and airlines chains, and more. This would help Finance teams with insights to optimize or reduce costs via discounts, deals, renegotiations, and more.

Conclusion 

With the pace at which businesses have to adapt to the changing times, we suggest you begin by cleaning up broken processes and making a list of things that need immediate tending. 

Then consider switching to technology-driven software to do tedious and error-prone tasks. For example, you could use an expense software that automates your entire expense management or a cash flow management software that always has a keen eye on your business finances. 

Every business owner and leadership team has to decide what changes to push for depending on their stage, the severity of problems, and other such parameters. The point is you start the conversation around change.

5 Ways to Finance Your Travel in 2022

Since vaccines are becoming more widespread, the pandemic seems to be winding down, making it safe to travel again for many people. 2022 might see a spike in trips because of the quarantine that seems to have lasted nearly two years.

As you gear up for the final quarter of 2021, you may be planning out your travels for the following year. If anything seems too overwhelming for your budget, but your heart is set on the trip you had planned, consider these five options to help you afford the vacation of your dreams.

1. Point Rewards

By using a specific airline, hotel chain or car company, you may acquire points with these companies. If you like a certain business, sign up to be a rewards or loyalty member so you don’t let your travels go to waste. Every time you hop in a plane or drive a rental car, you could be earning cents and dollars for your next travel destination.

If you’re flying a long way, these points can add up quickly. While points won’t cover every aspect of your trip, they may reward you with discounts that can take a chunk off of your bill.

2. Make a Budget

Without a stable plan, you might have to dip into your savings more than you would like. While many people use their savings to travel the world, you could choose to save up money to use for your travels instead.

Whatever the case, budgeting always saves you money. You can expect to spend less by planning out your adventure. Simply winging your journey may eat into your savings. An excellent way to help you plan your budget is to exchange the money you want for the currency of your desired destination before you get there. That way, you have a limited amount of money to work with and won’t be tempted to overspend.

3. Become a Travel Writer

Why not get paid to see the world? Travel writers are often freelancers or have their own blogs, so plenty of the responsibility to work is still on your shoulders. The average travel writer makes around $59,000 a year, so if you want to make money out of your travels and don’t mind working when you’re not out seeing the sights, it’s an excellent field to go into.

4. Opt for Housesitting Jobs

In exchange for watching someone’s belongings or taking care of their animals, you could potentially stay in someone’s home for free while they’re away on vacation. While you can’t count on housesitting as a surefire way to eliminate all of your expenses — after all, you still need to buy groceries — you can think of it as a way to lower your costs, particularly on housing. Pairing housesitting with the following suggestion is a great way to earn money while abroad.

5. Stay for the Long Term

If you don’t mind staying in one place for months at a time, think of taking on contract jobs around the world. Contract positions typically last months rather than years, so you won’t be rooted in the same place forever, but you’ll still have time to explore your chosen destination fully.

While contracting gives you the freedom to jump between jobs and receive more pay upfront, you have to remember to set some money aside for taxes and realize that you won’t receive the traditional healthcare benefits that a full-time job would offer you.

Make Your Trip Work for You

Everyone expects something different out of their travels. Whether you explore the big cities or get lost in the wilderness, you want to have a fun time. You can’t say that you’re having a great time when financial worries bog you down. Doing whatever you can to remain within budget and potentially take a chunk out of your expenses can help you enjoy your travels abroad for longer.

Building Generational Wealth Through Home Ownership

The concepts of generational wealth and property ownership have long been a bit complicated, especially when it comes to their relationship to one another. Regardless of your experience with real estate and generational wealth prior, it’s completely possible to start from the ground up — or wherever you are in your journey — and build the generational wealth you’re looking to get started through home ownership. Whether you’re curious about the specifics, you already own a home or you’re in the buying process, here are a few things to know when building generational wealth through homeownership.

What Is Generational Wealth?

One of the most important parts of this conversation is defining what it means to have — and care for — generational wealth. Although many people have a picture in their heads about what generational wealth is, there is a much broader definition than you might expect. You don’t need to be wealthy to pass down generational wealth, as the term refers to any assets, property, money or investments that you can pass down to your children or other family members. Therefore, owning a home of any kind can be considered generational wealth if you keep it within the family.

Saving Long-Term

One of the ways that owning property can help you accrue generational wealth is through saving money on the expenses of living long term. Even though owning a home comes with its own expenses, such as upkeep and maintenance in order to keep it in shape, owning property is an investment, as opposed to renting, which is an equation in which you never see your money again. Although renting is right for some people, owning a property ensures that you maintain at least some capital on your investment.

Passive Income

Not all property ownership comes with the opportunity for passive income, but if you’re looking specifically for an opportunity to grow generational wealth, finding a property that allows for passive income is the ultimate way to go, especially if you have a plan for that income to grow and develop over time. By renting out a unit on your property or even having a designated rental property, you can use it to accumulate generational wealth in addition to the generational wealth of owning the property itself.

Tax Advantages

One thing you may hear discussed frequently when it comes to the financial side of property ownership is property taxes. Even with property taxes, there are plenty of tax advantages to owning property, from tax credits to tax breaks, that can come as a result of owning different forms of property. Of course, those guidelines will differ between states and even counties, but it’s always a good idea to look into the way your taxes can work for you.

Building Generational Wealth

Although generational wealth might seem out of reach for many people, there are plenty of ways to build generational wealth for your family, and property ownership is one of the most practical options. Whether you have a rental space or a family home where you spend time together, generational wealth is about planning and thoughtfulness.

If You Freelance By the Hour, Should You Receive a Pay Stub?

As a freelancer, you are responsible for all the duties of your profession. But, you are not provided with benefits. When you freelance by the hour, it’s important to keep track of your time spent on various projects. You can use an online time tracker or download an app to help you see how much time is spent on each project.

Keep track of all this information so that you have it for tax purposes and invoices at the end of the year. If you have questions about whether or not you should receive a pay stub, read on to learn more about what they are and their importance.

1) Pay stubs help keep financial records tidier for everyone

If you have a client pay you a set hourly rate for a specific project, then a pay stub is something you can generate to help organize and track financial transactions. You’ll still deal in invoices, but pay stubs are a good place to keep track of hours you spend on specific projects.

Pay stubs are one of the easiest forms of documentation you can create for freelance work. They usually take about five minutes to create using an online paystub generator.

 

2) Pay stubs give you a place to categorize hours worked and help you reconcile your hourly compensation to your weekly cash flow

When you get paid for a project, you’ll have to come up with some way to track and reconcile the time you spent on a particular project with the money you received. You can think of an invoice as an itemized list of what you’re being paid for, but a pay stub can be easier to track and reconcile your hours spent on different projects.

Simply put, an important benefit of pay stubs is that they make it easy to reconcile the hours you worked and your hourly compensation.

 

3) It’s easier to establish proof of income and apply for credit loans

One problem freelancers have is showing proof of income when they want to apply for credit loans. In many cases, companies won’t consider your PayPal balance alone as proof of income. Pay stubs are one of the easiest ways to prove that you are being regularly paid and that your income level is reliable and consistent.

When you generate a pay stub, you can also include details such as the date, amount, time worked, and more. This will help you demonstrate that you’ve worked for a client and that the payment you received was for work that you did.

 

4) It’s an easy way to understand how you are going to bill clients, if you invoice a project separately from hourly rates for the same client

There are several different ways freelancers can bill for their work. Hourly rates are the most common, but many also choose to bill “per item” or “per project”.

If you generate pay stubs for a particular project or one of your clients’ projects, you can always break your hourly rate down into an itemized bill for clients who need more details, and you can easily split an hourly rate into an itemized bill for each client.

 

5) If you are paid on a percentage basis, it’s often more intuitive to receive a pay stub with the hours worked designated for that percentage

If you receive a client or project’s payment in a flat fee or per hour amount, it can be a challenge to calculate how much you worked. On the other hand, when you’re receiving payment for a percentage of the work that you’ve done, it’s much more intuitive to know how many hours you’ve worked and be able to divide that number by a particular percentage.

For example, if you work a certain amount of hours per week on a project, you’ll likely receive a bill based on an hourly rate, which makes it a lot easier to calculate how much you worked on a specific project. It’s a good idea to send clients a pay stub with the hours worked designated to a specific percentage.

 

6) Pay stubs help establish how much you are earning for each client, and therefore, why it makes sense for you to set up direct deposit

By utilizing your hourly compensation, you can know exactly how much you are being paid per hour for each client, and that can allow you to charge clients the appropriate hourly rates for their projects. If your client pays you per hour, you’ll know exactly how much they are paying you to perform each task. This is an important way to ensure you’re billing your clients appropriately.

How to Boost Your Mortgage Borrowing Power

Home prices have been rising and will unfortunately keep rising for the foreseeable future. With this in mind it’s possible you might want – or need – a bigger mortgage. If you’re thinking about it, there are ways you can convince the bank that you deserve more borrowing power. Take a look at these strategies to get a bigger mortgage.

1. Show more income

Proof of more income can land you a bigger loan, but that doesn’t mean you need to storm into your boss’s office demanding a raise or get a higher paying job. If you can, sure it can help, but it’s not necessary if you can’t. There are other ways to show addition to your salary or wages with other sources of reliable income.

Show proof of interest or dividends from investments, income from rental properties, alimony or child support, social security income, and money earned from a part-time job or side business. The latter comes with the stipulation that you have to have earned from this job or business for over the last two years.

2. Pay off other debt

A lender will look at your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio when you apply for a mortgage. This is the percentage of your monthly income you are dedicating to your minimum monthly debt payments. A GTI ratio of less than 36 per cent is generally considered ideal but some lenders are comfortable with going higher.

Paying off credit card debt or an installment loan can make a big difference in this figure. It’s a quick and easy way to increase how much you qualify for.

You don’t have to pay it all off in one fell swoop. You can reduce it with a balance-transfer card or refinancing an auto loan to lower your payment. You can also consolidate your debt into an installment loan.

3. Raise your credit score

A lower interest rate and therefore a slightly larger loan can be obtained with a higher credit score, but only to a certain extent.

You can raise your credit score a number of ways. Check your credit reports, stay on top of payments, and avoid applying for new accounts too often, can all help you in raising your credit score. Take advantage of self-reporting apps like Experian Boost and UltraFICO and add accounts with positive payment history, boosting your score.

4. Put at least 20 per cent down

You can get a bigger loan if you don’t have to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI). So, if you’re applying for a home loan like a Hong Leong Finance home loan and your down payment is at least 20 per cent of the house’s price, you won’t need to pay for PMI which protects the lender if you stop paying your loan.

Without the 20 per cent down payment, PMI becomes part of your monthly costs and can decrease the size of the loan you’re eligible for.

If you have the cash available after paying your 20 per cent, you can pay your lender a little more upfront to lower the rate of your interest.

5. Add a co-borrower

A co-borrower, especially one with strong credit and a steady income, can go a long way to convincing a lender that you deserve a larger loan. You and your co-borrower’s income coupled will increase the total income the lender can use to qualify you for a loan.

Co-borrowers can be spouses, domestic partners, friends, or relatives. But it isn’t just a name on a piece of paper. It’s for if people in both parties want their name on a property and agree to share the responsibilities of paying back the loan.

6. Build cash reserves

Having additional assets in the bank, or elsewhere, will help you qualify for a bigger loan, even if you don’t necessarily need cash reserves to qualify for a mortgage. If you have been putting away funds, you can prove you will be able to handle unexpected expenses and continue to make your mortgage payments. Without this, a lender would be concerned that one emergency could cause you to fall behind and will be less comfortable to offer you more.

7. Shop around

Keep an eye on comparison websites and visit various banks to get multiple rate quotes and loan offers. Comparison shopping will pay off over the course of a loan and if you get multiple preapprovals, you will get various offers and chances are they will have different amounts, allowing you to choose a lender that will offer the largest preapproved loan.

Plus, you can use your lower offers as leverage with a lender that preapproved you for a smaller amount. It’s possible they may reconsider and increase the amount they can offer you, allowing you to get the biggest mortgage at the lowest price.

Success Never Tasted So Sweet – Expand Your MIND and Your ASSETS

Scotch whisky is a symbol of British craftsmanship and tradition, of durability and reliability. And though it hasn’t been around for ever, it has been recognised throughout history. Its documented story begins in 1494, and tax records of the day show that a friar acquired eight bolls – about 2,500lbs – of malted barley, “wherewith to make aqua vitae”.

Although distillation processes may have changed over time, the value of this commodity has been driven by demand and maturation. As global appreciation of whisky has flourished, people are gradually discovering that limited edition and maturing casks from the most globally renowned distilleries could bring in top returns for those willing to hold their investment.

Why Whisky and Why Now?

The global landscape of investments has changed dramatically in recent years, with the general public now having a greater ability to take trading in to their own hands and invest and trade in a range of commodities through online platforms and investment advisors. Technology has led the way in a virtual environment to allow people to discover new and interesting markets which have previously not been explored. This being said, 2020 has also demonstrated the global volatility of stock markets and poor returns on extremely low interest rates, driving them to discover ways to diversify their asset portfolios.

A way of mitigating the risk of investments is to purchase luxury commodities which appreciate in price over the years. It has become increasingly common for people to invest in classic cars, coins, watches and artwork whilst other commodities have not been considered as viable investment opportunities. However, it is now becoming more apparent than ever that assets which have previously been considered as merely a consumer goods, have great potential for long term investors. One such luxury commodity is whisky, which has previously been washed away for our own satisfaction, is now showing great potential as an investment asset. Additionally, whisky is a tax-free asset which other traditional financial assets fail to offer investors.

Firstly, like fine wine, demand outstrips supply. Whisky that is collectible is also in demand for consumers, so a substantial proportion of any limited edition bottling will swiftly become much more limited as much of it is consumed by dedicated whisky lovers. Whisky is bottled after a period of maturation in oak barrels. Legally, this is a minimum of 3 years, but in practice, most whiskies are matured for a minimum of 8 years in order for them to develop their character.

Distilleries will usually have a ‘house style’ represented by a mass-produced bottling of a relatively young malt (such as Glenmorangie’s popular 10 year old). But they will also have older whiskies maturing at the distillery, and they can also bottle older whiskies such as a 15 or 21 year old. They might also bottle the product of a particular cask of vintage whisky, or they might offer different expressions of the whisky such as a ‘port wood finish’ or ‘sherry wood finish’ which means that in addition to being aged in traditional Bourbon barrels, the whisky has been ‘finished’ with a period of additional ageing in a port or sherry barrel which can impart different flavours. These different expressions of the whisky and older malts are the ones that are of interest to investors – production is limited, they are highly prized by collectors and consumers alike. Whiskies from some distilleries are much more collectible than others, so it is important to do due diligence on what will be desirable in the marketplace in a few years’ time when you seek to sell your whiskies on.

As with any investment, it is extremely important to make sure you’re in the best hands and have access to the best platforms in order for your investment to flourish. It is therefore imperative that investors have access to well-known distilleries which already have a reputation for investable whisky. This includes famous Scottish whiskies such as Macallan, Dalmore and Springbank, all of which Elite Wine& Whisky has strong relationships with. The collectability and rarity of whiskies is extremely important when considering investing in whisky and hence choosing the right distillery and age of cask or bottle is important when investing.

Whisky Market in 2020

In the last year, there was an extraordinary increase of between 15-20% on rare whisky bottle values, ensuring that it outperformed the established alternative asset investments such as watches, art and cars. In the last couple of years, we have witnessed some incredible whisky sales, including the following: An individual bottle of Macallan 1926 broke records at auction, selling for £1.5 million. In 2018, over £40.7m of rare whisky was sold at auction houses in the UK alone. A cask of Macallan distilled in 1989 sold for $572,000 last year – a record price for a maturing cask of whisky.

The Whisky Cask Index, a study generated by Cask 88, Braeburn Whisky and WhiskyStats.net, has shown steady growth across the previous year, as well as the rate at which casks appreciate annually being on the rise. This appreciating rate can be attributed to the positive impact of both the maturity of the whisky, as well as a response to the increasing demand as whisky supply is sold in to a more diverse range of global markets.

Comparison with Other Investments

Comparisons are made between the whisky cask market and other luxury commodities; however there are many features of whisky which make it unique. It is therefore challenging to analyse the market without considering variable factors, such as the characteristics of the cask that make it one of a kind. The complexity is also enhanced by the fact that, unlike a piece of art, or a collectible bottle of already-bottled whisky, the value of casks is not only dependent on demand, but also the maturation of the cask. Therefore a cask purchased this year will effectively become a new product as the years pass.

The Whisky Cask Index demonstrates the projected values of a sample of twenty casks from a variation of distilleries across the globe with varying age profiles. It is worth noting that in spite of the global pandemic which impacted the economy during early 2020, the Whisky Cask Index has remained optimistic, and even shown growth. In this data analysis not a single distillery index showed negative returns over the past 5 years, which is able to confirm that the market is relatively robust to negative impacts on the global economy.

Top 10 Distilleries

Overall Annual Capital Growth in this study across all distilleries and regions as of June 2020 demonstrated a 13% increase in value. This has further been broken down by distillery in order to understand the highest achieving distilleries by capital growth. The top 10 distilleries by capital growth are as follows; Laphroaig, Bunnahabhain, Staoisha, Macallan, Highland Park, Caol ILA, Springbank, Benriach, Bowmore and Jura.

It is extremely positive that no single Scottish distillery demonstrated a negative index in capital growth. Projections ranged from a predicted annual capital growth of 5.13% for a small Scottish distillery, Ardmore, to larger scale popular distilleries such as Laphroaig and Macallan, which both show projected returns approaching 20% per annum.

The top distillery by predicted annual growth is Laphroaig, in which demand is continually increasing past supply. The following two distilleries in the league table are both located in Islay, with both Bunnahabhain and Staoisha showcasing the popularity of this region. In terms of distillery territories, it is worth noting that whisky produced on Scottish islands dominate the top ten in the capital growth league table with only Macallan, Springbank and BenRiach representing mainland distilleries in this comparative list.

2021 Trends

As the whisky market grows and expands into new and established markets, it has been predicted that demand will therefore align with this growth and therefore will require supply to also increase. With increased worldwide demand of whisky, the value of whisky in casks will only increase, in particular more aged whisky, along with the value of whisky produced in 2020 and 2021 during the global pandemic due to the closures of distilleries which meant that there was reduced supply. It is therefore no surprise that name brand whiskies distilled in 2020 or 2021 will see an acceleration in growth due to the lack of availability over this time frame and increased demand making it highly investible whisky.

Recent data collated this year has been reflective of the trends which have been witnessed in the whisky market over the past few years, with extremely reassuring outcomes. This is particularly noticeable in the fact that the aforementioned whisky index did not record any negative returns throughout the period of the study. The projected annual capital growth across the distilleries is expected to continue in to 2021.

If growth continues at a comparable rate, the data suggests that investments made in to casks from one of the top ten distilleries, which Elite Wine & Whisky has access to, could see their investment double in value over the next 5 years. In times of great uncertainty, these findings provide great prospects for future days ahead.

How to invest in whisky

Whether or not you’re a passionate whisky drinker, taking the plunge in to whisky investment is extremely simple with the help of a financial expert who can educate investors in their investment. Once you have all the tools to make a well informed choice, the returns can be just as fruitful as the drinking.

Pension Awareness Day: Expert Advice for Tradespeople On How to Prepare for Retirement

  • One in eight (13%) older tradespeople (55-64s) have no financial plan for retirement 

Preparing for retirement can be challenging, and it can be difficult to know where to start. In fact, recent research by IronmongeryDirect found that one in eight (13%) tradespeople approaching retirement age (55-64s) don’t have any financial preparations for retirement. 

So, what do you need to know about saving for retirement? 

IronmongeryDirect has partnered with Fabian Taylor, senior associate and chartered financial planner in Nelsons’ wealth management team, and George Stainton, senior wealth manager at Hoxton Capital Management, to reveal helpful tips for tradespeople on how to prepare for retirement.

1. It’s never too late to start

While it’s recommended to begin planning for retirement as soon as possible, IronmongeryDirect’s research found that more than one in ten (13%) tradespeople approaching retirement age don’t have a financial plan in place. Thankfully, it’s never too late to make a start.

Fabian said: “Contributions to a pension attract tax relief from the Government. So, for every £80 you contribute, tax relief of £20 is added, making the total contribution £100. 

“As a general rule of thumb, you should try to save half the age at which you started as a percentage of your salary. For example, if you start saving at age 20, then you should contribute ten percent, but if you start at age 30, you should aim to save 15%.”

2. Saving early makes things easier 

While it’s true that you can start saving at any point during your career, it’s sensible to begin putting aside money for retirement as early as possible.

Many young people have the advantage of being able to use workplace pension schemes, but for those who opt out, are ineligible, or are planning on saving additional funds, starting early has major benefits.

George said: “If younger people are not contributing to a pension scheme, then they should make sure they have some sort of structured savings in place. Getting into the habit of saving for retirement earlier in your career will make life much more comfortable as you get closer to retirement. Let us look at a simple calculation to prove this.

“If someone needs to have a retirement pot of £500,000 at the age of 55, they will need to save £441 per month if they start at the age of 25 and see a 7% return on their investment each year. If they start saving at 35, this figure increases to £1,016 per month and dramatically increases to £2,783 per month if they start at 45 years old.”

3. Take advantage of workplace schemes

For tradespeople who work on an employed basis, they should look to enrol in their workplace pension scheme, if they have not already.

This means that they will be saving throughout their career, with additional top-ups from their employer, and while tradies should still aim to set up a private pension, a workplace scheme provides a safety net in the meantime. 

Fabian said: “If you are 22-years-old or older, earning over £10,000 and employed by a company, you will be automatically enrolled into your company’s workplace scheme. Through this, a minimum of 8% of your earnings, split between yourself and your employer, between £6,240 and £50,000, will be invested into your pension. If it is affordable, you should consider increasing contributions. If you opt out of this workplace pension, you are missing out on money from your employer.”

George said: “Thankfully, with the help of auto-enrolment, younger people are better equipped than ever to start saving for their retirement early. As the majority of the young working population will be contributing to some kind of workplace pension, they are able to benefit from the effect of long-term saving and compounded growth.”

4. Remember to plan ahead and save if you’re self-employed

Those working on a self-employed basis, unfortunately, do not have the same auto-enrolment to a workplace pension scheme that employed people do, so therefore it’s important that you make your own preparations and plan ahead for your retirement.

Fabian said: “Draw up a budget to see what you can afford to contribute each month, and do some research into the best place for you to put it that allows for investment growth and tax relief. Even if it is a small amount, every little helps.”

“Assuming a growth rate of five percent, if you were to contribute £50 per month to a pension at age 25, the pension could be worth £76,301 by age 65. However, if you don’t start saving until age 35, the pension could be worth £41,612 by age 65. The longer you wait to save in a pension, the more you may have to pay in later in life to save enough to meet your needs in retirement.”

Regardless of your age, it’s always best to prepare for retirement in advance. By ensuring that you’re making the most of workplace pensions where available, as well as saving privately, you can place yourself in the best position to enjoy retirement in comfort.

For more information and advice, visit: https://www.ironmongerydirect.co.uk/blog/tradey-retirements 

£32 Million of Fraud Stopped By Finance Industry and Police In First Half of 2021

  • Banking Protocol scheme alerts local police to suspected scams.
  • Over 4,700 emergency calls were made between January and June 2021, protecting customers from losing an average of £6,672 each to criminals.
  • Use of the scheme has led to 934 arrests since its launch in 2016.

Branch staff at banks, building societies and Post Offices worked with the police to stop £32 million of fraud through the Banking Protocol rapid scam response in the first half of this year, according to the latest figures from UK Finance. This is up 65 per cent compared to the same period last year and brings the total amount of fraud prevented to £174 million since the scheme was introduced in 2016. 

The Banking Protocol is a UK-wide scheme, launched by UK Finance, National Trading Standards and local police forces. Branch staff are trained to spot the warning signs that suggest a customer may be falling victim to a scam, before alerting their local police force to intervene and investigate. 

The latest figures reveal that branch staff invoked the Banking Protocol 4,782 times between January and June 2021, saving potential victims an average of £6,672 each. Real life case studies from the first half of the year are included at the bottom of this release. Ultimately the scheme led to the arrest of over 90 suspected criminals, bringing the total number of arrests to 934 since the protocol began. 

It is often used to prevent impersonation scams, in which criminals imitate police or bank staff and convince people to visit their bank and withdraw or transfer large sums of money. It is also used to prevent romance fraud, in which fraudsters use fake online dating profiles to trick victims into transferring money, and to catch rogue traders who demand cash for unnecessary work on properties.  

Customers assisted by the scheme are offered ongoing support to help prevent them from falling victim to scams in the future, including referrals to social services, expert fraud prevention advice and additional checks on future transactions.  

Katy Worobec, Managing Director of Economic Crime, UK Finance, commented:   

“Fraud has a devastating impact on victims so partnerships like the Banking Protocol are not only crucial in helping vulnerable people, but it also stops stolen money from going on to fund other illicit activities including drug smuggling, human-trafficking and terrorism.  

“Criminals have continued to capitalise on the pandemic to commit fraud, callously targeting victims through impersonation, romance, courier and rogue trader scams. Branch staff and the police are working on the frontline to protect people from fraud and these figures highlight the importance of their work in stopping these cruel scams and bringing the criminals to justice.  

“It’s important that people always follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign, and remember that a bank or the police will never ask you to transfer funds to another account or to withdraw cash to hand over to them for safe-keeping.” 

To build on the success of the scheme, banks and building societies are continuing to work with local police forces on expanding the process to cover attempted bank transfers made by customers through telephone and online banking. So far, 36 out of 45 police forces across the UK are signed up to the enhanced scheme. Staff working in call centres and in online banking teams notify the police when attempted bank transfers are being made which they believe may be the result of a scam.  

Temporary Commander Clinton Blackburn, from the City of London Police, said: 

“Criminals have continued to use the pandemic to prey on people’s fear and anxieties in order to steal their money, which is evident through the increase in how much the Banking Protocol has prevented being lost to heartless fraudsters so far this year. 

“The Banking Protocol continues to be one of the most vital ways of protecting vulnerable victims and preventing criminals from taking advantage of them, as banks are often the first point of contact when someone is about to fall victim to fraud. It’s also essential the public remain vigilant and follow the Take Five advice before parting with any money or personal details.” 

UK Finance is urging customers to follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign, and remember a bank or the police will never ask you to transfer funds to another account or to withdraw cash to hand over to them for safe-keeping.  

Case studies 

Romance scam 

A woman tried to send an online payment of £2500 to the USA to a friend she had previously worked with in the UK. When the payment was blocked, she visited her local bank branch. She said she had been exchanging messages with this friend on a social media platform and that they had asked for the money to pay their hospital fees. Staff invoked the Banking Protocol, and the local police attended the branch. No money was lost to this scam. 

Courier scam 

A woman in her 80s received a telephone call from a male claiming to be from her bank. The male claimed there was an issue with the victim’s account and in order to help her with this he needed her to withdraw money (£2000) from her account. The victim was told to attend the bank to do so and call back when home for further instructions.  

The victim attended the branch and staff confirmed to the victim that this man had not been in contact with them, and it was in fact a scam. The staff refused the withdrawal and invoked the Banking Protocol, alerting local police. Officers attended and offered fraud advice to the victim. The bank also put measures in place to further safeguard the victim from any future frauds.   

Investment scam 

A man in his 90s visited his local bank branch as an international payment he had attempted to make online had been stopped. He had been contacted by a company who wanted to sell shares that he held in America, saying he could get a return of £60,000 but had to send $7000 dollars which he would get back. Bank branch staff invoked the Banking Protocol and the police visited him at home. No money was lost and the police are investigating this company further. 

Rogue trader scam 

A woman in her 80s had builders explaining that they had been working on her neighbour’s roof and noticed that her roof also needed repairing. The victim offered to show the builders her property and they told the victim it was an urgent issue which needed to be fixed.  

The builders quoted the work (£1500) and told the victim that they needed to take the payment in cash only. The victim explained that she would need to attend the bank to withdraw this.  

At her local bank, the victim explained to bank staff what the money was for which made staff concerned it was a scam. Bank staff invoked the Banking Protocol, alerting the local police force and refused the transaction.  

Officers attended and were able to offer the victim advice and ensured no suspects were still on the scene. Officers were also able to enquire with neighbours and ensure they were supporting the victim in future. A fraud caseworker has offered her ongoing support. 

How to Stand Out in a Future of Seamless Payments

When customers are shopping online or in-store, they may not pay attention to the simple process of paying for their purchases. But subconsciously, it could spell out the difference between a sale and a missed opportunity for a business. Nothing stings a merchant quite like shopping cart abandonment.

For an ecommerce business, seamless payments are vital. According to one study, 18% of US online shoppers have ditched their cart in the last three months due to long and complicated checkout processes. So how do we get this 18% back? How do we make them valuable (and paying) customers? Quite simply: up your seamless payments game.

Now is the time to improve seamless payments for your ecommerce business. Only by doing this can you guarantee your success and survival in an increasingly competitive online market space. So, let’s check out how you can improve your checkout.

 

Ways to pay

How do your customers pay when shopping on your ecommerce store? As of January 2019, 82% of shoppers in America used credit cards or debit cards to complete their online transactions. Meanwhile, only 11% of online shoppers in the U.S. would use e-wallets such as Apple Pay or Google Wallet. However, as fintech continues to innovate, we can expect the growth of digital payments to continue.

How can businesses offer a better user experience and create an improved seamless payment process then? The answer is choice. Giving customers the ability to choose will allow them to pick the way they want to pay. As e-wallets become more present in the online marketplace and more integrated with the devices we use to shop, it’s essential to offer a viable alternative to card payments and money transfer platforms. Digging out a purse, locating a credit card between IDs and loyalty cards, and finding the CSV number can be an arduous task. Just like that, it’s become a barrier that prevents a seamless transaction. Ultimately, this could be the difference between a sale or a cart abandonment.

Instead, the likes of Apple Pay and Google Wallet offer a quick and secure payment, using face scans or fingerprint checks to identify the payer. In an instant, you’ve got yourself a sale. So why does your ecommerce store not cater to the 11% of shoppers that use this payment option?

 

Seamless security

People want to know that their money is safe when they shop with you. Plus, as a business owner, you want to know that your customers are genuine. According to ecommerce protection platform Signifyd, 61% of all CNP chargebacks are payment fraud-related. Even then, your business could also be open to other avenues of fraudster abuse.

How can an ecommerce business create an improved seamless payment process while protecting the business?

It begins by understanding your customer. Patterned behavior and identity marks are recognized and can be collated as data. Is the delivery address of the order the same as usual? Has this customer made similar purchases before? And do they have a history of chargebacks? These are all questions that an ecommerce platform could ask and solve during the checkout process—without having to do any lengthy checks. In fact, Signifyd says that 98% of all online purchases today have been made by customers that their platform has seen before. A connected marketplace helps businesses to be more secure.

By using ecommerce protection platforms, your business can combine its seamless payment strategy with its fraud protection strategy. This makes it easier for your genuine customers to buy from you but more difficult for fraudsters to take advantage of you.

 

Getting ahead of the trend

While technology continues to make seamless payments easier, it’s important to remember how customer-centricity will be affected. While fintech is making transactions quicker and more secure, it is also allowing many people to gain access to financing options that had once been closed to them. This includes the development of Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) platforms, where customers can delay or stagger payments for their purchases. These small, no-interest loans could create opportunities for fraudsters to abuse a convenient service.

As digital payment options have become so ingrained in our lives, it’s surprising to remember that services such as Apple Pay have only been available in 2014. Their existence is infantile compared to card payments. More payment options are likely to reveal themselves and creating a marketplace that accepts a variety of these options is essential. Ultimately, understanding consumers and their buying behavior is key to blocking fraudsters before they attempt to abuse your business.

Seamless payments aren’t just the future of online transactions. It’s happening right now. As the online market grows, your business must not get left behind. Start thinking about how easily you would like to shop at your store, and then think about how you could improve your processes. From frictionless checkouts, user experience, and fraud prevention, your growth strategy should center around a future of seamless payments.

How Customers’ Attitudes to Fintech Are Shifting

It’s amazing to think how far we’ve come in terms of financial technology in a few short years. Only in 2018 did debit cards overtake cash as the most popular form of payment. Since then, the number of digital transactions, payment methods, and online sales have exploded.

According to a 2019 survey, while credit and debit card payments were used by 82% of people in the Americas, other digital payment methods are showing popularity. Sixty-six per cent use the likes of PayPal and Alipay. Meanwhile, 11% use e-wallets such as Apple Pay and Google Wallet. As our transactions venture further into the world of digitization, fintech innovation growth is accelerating among businesses.

Did you know that 96% of global consumers are aware of at least one fintech platform? It’s clear that customer attitudes toward financial technology are changing – and fintech is quickly catching up to more traditional payment methods. So, let’s take a look at how our behavior is shifting, how fast fintech is growing, and what we think about it.

 

A first time for everything

The global pandemic has changed many things in our lives, and according to a survey of American adults, we can see how perceptions of fintech have changed in the past year. The survey revealed that 37% of people ordered groceries online or through an app for the first time during the pandemic. Equally, 37% of people said they were likely to continue ordering their groceries online. The pandemic has not only changed what we buy, but also how we buy products online.

It’s important to understand that, while financial technology has been useful during the pandemic, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Fintech is here to stay. 73% of Americans say that fintech is the “new normal” for payments and managing money. The reasons for this are clear: 57% of people said fintech helps them save time, 42% said it saved them money, and 37% believe that fintech reduces the stress around money management.

But how has this increasing confidence in fintech evolved? And what will guarantee financial security and the technology’s viability in the future?

 

Safe and secure

After reasonable fees, security was named as the top feature that Americans expect from their financial institutions. But is there concern that fintech will not be able to ensure the same levels of privacy and security that traditional banking and payments currently hold? Innovation shouldn’t come at the expense of security, after all.

While fintech continues to innovate, online and digital fraud are becoming more sophisticated. For ecommerce businesses, this is represented in increased chargebacks and return fraud, which take advantage of digital and automated services. For consumers, identity theft and stolen personal information mean that fintech can appear as a risky alternative to traditional banking and shopping. In fact, in a survey of financial decision-makers, 27% of respondents said that safety and security was the top threat to fintech innovation. This was also the top concern, beating other threats to fintech such as regulation and technology itself. So, how is this being tackled?

One fintech business, Signifyd, believes that driving innovation in commerce protection is as important as increasing the capabilities of financial technology.

“Increasingly the future of commerce is online. As we continue to innovate to protect our merchant customers from payment fraud and consumer abuse we remain focused on protecting the commerce experience both for the merchants in Signifyd’s Commerce Network and for their customers,” said Stefan Nandzik, Signifyd senior vice president of brand experience. “This is best achieved through data and the technology that makes it actionable.  Today, 98% per cent of all online purchases are made by consumers that have been seen before on Signifyd’s network. That allows us to provide unmatched identity-centric fraud protection.”

 

Growing trust for trusted users

It’s clear that fintech services are becoming increasingly popular and more trusted. Since the start of the pandemic, every section of financial technology has increased its user share. Banking excels in the scene, with 23% of Americans using technology to access their money. This is followed by payment services, investment, and lending. Interestingly, payment technology services have the largest percentage of fintech users with more than one account. This shows how technology is allowing consumers to vary their payment options.

While only 16% of Americans use fintech for payments, 19% have more than one account with payment providers. This suggests that among fintech users, trust is growing. Those who find utility in the technology are more likely to continue expanding their use of platforms, applications, and online services to manage their money and payments.

Are you a fintech enthusiast? Or have you been using fintech all this time without realizing it? As financial technology continues to innovate and its use increases, it’s important that we shift the attitudes of customers to a positive view of this essential service. Fintech is only getting safer, more secure, more convenient, and useful for our everyday transactions and banking needs.

Why the Best Lessons in Forex Trading Tend to be Self-taught

Learning to trade forex can be a daunting prospect for new investors and there is often an inclination to buy into expensive training courses to prepare for the world of finance. While some sort of education will stand you in good stead for your forex journey, there is no substitute for real life, self-taught experiences.

To get started, you need to select a forex broker that offers an MT5 Trading Platform with a range of features that will make trading easier for you. This is crucial if you are planning to rely on self-teaching as you will need high-quality tools, charts, technical indicators and order types to enter and exit the market at the right time.

 

Getting to grips with leverage

Another factor to consider at this point is leverage. You will be able to trade “on margin” in forex, which will make your initial deposit go further. Brokers generally offer higher leverage for forex, enabling you to trade large positions and potentially increase your returns. However, it can also magnify losses, so you should wield this carefully when you start out.

Using leverage effectively is something that you can only learn when you start trading with real money. While training accounts can help you to learn these concepts, it is much more difficult to put them into practice in a “live” environment. Learning the right lessons about leverage as you start out will make you a better investor in the long term.

 

Understanding the psychological pressure

Many lessons that are self-taught are also related to the emotional side of trading forex. Again, in practice, it is easier to swallow losses and not get carried away with a hot streak of gains, but when you start trading properly, working on your “soft” skills will help you buy and sell currencies in the right frame of mind. Correct decision making can be linked to your character and disposition as much as having the best information.

This also extends to the psychological pressure of making trades on a daily basis. This is something that you will only realize when you begin trading. Even the best courses cannot prepare you for what it is really like to make fast, hard decisions that could affect your finances. That’s why it is also important to implement some degree of bankroll management, so your positions don’t consume all of your money. Experienced traders typically follow a 1%-2% rule for investing.

 

Finding the right information

Promises about quick profits from “trading gurus” and experts can be enticing for new traders but rarely is there ever a get rich strategy that works quickly. Rather than spending money on vendors that over-exaggerate quick return on investments, you should instead focus on finding good information that you can make use of to complete judicious trades.

Partnering with the right broker is vital as you will need access to interactive charts, technical indicators and analysis charts to identify currencies for investment. By practicing and putting these features into use, you can learn more from them and prepare to trade forex with steady, long-term returns in mind.

 

Learning for free

It is important to remember that it is relatively easy for investors to trade forex. All you need to do is open an account and make a minimum deposit. The low barrier to entry means anyone with a small investment can learn to trade currencies for “free” without having to spend money on an education. Arguably, this is a great place to start as you will have a blank canvas to work from.

It is crucial that you read free articles, tutorials and guides to educate yourself about key forex concepts to build a specific strategy or style of trading that can eventually deliver consistent profits. Without this hands-on, self-taught process, you will struggle to make sense of the fast-paced forex environment.

 

Closing trades

Finally, traders are focused on making profits, but central to that is knowing when to close a trade and exit the market. This is something that only experience can teach. Even traders who have trained for months or even years can fall into a trap of waiting for the market to turn back in their favor. Financial markets are inherently volatile and irrational, so you need to act decisively when both entering and exiting trades. All of these self-taught lessons are invaluable and will give you a better chance of succeeding when trading forex.

The Next Great Depression — Is Your Business Ready?

By Wisteria

We are living through extremely uncertain times regarding both public safety and the global economy. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic swept the world, we were teetering on the brink of a recession. Economists such as David Blanchflower compared the pre-Covid financial landscape to that of pre-banking crash 2008. If nothing else, this is a major red flag which should give you the motivation you need to take every possible measure to protect your business.

Is an international recession on the horizon?

At the very beginning of the year, the UN warned that we could be facing a global recession in 2021. That was before taking the impact of Covid-19 into account. Factors including trade wars, currency fluctuations, and Brexit were all amounting to an uncertain global economy and the Unctad report, “global growth will fall from 3% in 2018 to 2.3% this year — its weakest since the 1.7% contraction in 2009”.

Add the impact of Covid-19 to the already precarious situation, and we are now expecting to be hit with a recession rivalling even the magnitude of the Great Depression (and far worse than the 2008 financial crash). As of June this year, the global growth projection for 2020 has fallen to -4.9 per cent (1.9 per cent below the forecast made by the World Economic Outlook (WEO) in April). In addition, the road to recovery doesn’t look like it will be as fast as the WEO initially predicted, and they are now only forecasting a 5.4 per cent global growth for 2021, 6.5 per cent lower than the predictions before Covid-19. Low income households are expected to feel a particular acute financial impact, and global poverty, which has been significantly reduced since the 1990s, is likely to reach another crisis point.

Because of strain on the global economy, we are expected to encounter rising levels of debt in both developing and advanced countries, as well as a “global downturn that could increase unemployment and inequality”, as stated by Kristalina Georgieva of the International Monetary Fund. Redundancies and a decline in job vacancies on an international basis are expected to follow such a crash, with unemployment rates increasing at an alarming rate.

How hard will the UK be hit?

The OECD’s (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) most recent reports do not look promising. Experts have predicted that the UK will likely be the worst hit country in Europe and the economy is forecasted to contract by 11.5 per cent after the first wave of the pandemic. If we end up seeing a second of Covid-19 later in the year, this contraction is predicted to increase to 14 per cent.

One of the major reasons why the UK is likely to feel such a stark economic impact is our country’s reliance on the service industry for our economic growth, a sector which has been particularly damaged by the repercussions of Covid-19.

In addition to the economic factors surrounding Covid-19, the US trade war with China has caused a larger drag on global growth than anticipated, and the UK will be on the receiving end of the economic repercussions. What’s more, the looming prospect of Brexit poses different threats to the UK’s economy. At best, the uncertainty caused by both Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic has created a hesitant consumer base in the UK. Customers are spending less and are more cautious of businesses than ever. It is a difficult time to maintain customer loyalty, as would-be consumers are tightening their purses in the fear of a looming financial disaster.

Learn how to protect your business

Times may be challenging, but if you think ahead, you’ll be able to safeguard your business against a recession. Businesses that prepare for every eventuality are the ones that not only survive but thrive in the face of adversity. Leaving it too late to implement a recession strategy could be your undoing, so get ahead of the game and prepare for a period of great financial difficulty. Here are some key strategies that will help your business face economic uncertainty:

  • Focus on existing customers — as we have discussed, consumers aren’t spending as much due to lack of trust and growing apprehension. Because of this, it is essential that you focus on your existing customer base during testing financial times. This will increase brand loyalty and grow customer confidence. Offer them benefits and reasons to stay true to your brand.

  • Put some adjacency and extension strategies in motion — a recession is not the time to start looking into completely new avenues of profit. However, you can’t let your services become stagnant. Adjacency strategy is the optimum solution to this — find an area adjacent to your core product or services to expand into. Extension strategy is similar: take your current service a little further and offer new and exciting opportunities or products to existing customers. Ensure that you have a flexed forecast so that the business is fully prepared for all possible outcomes of this new strategy.

  • Forge some powerful alliances — mergers, acquisitions, and alliances are all key strategies during a recession. Alliances offer a great way to expand your business without investing in anything completely new during times of uncertainty.

  • Don’t be afraid to outsource — outsourcing key elements of your business can save you time, money, and financial anxiety during a recession. Outsourcing your accounts department may allow you create scale and flexibility within your organisation.

  • Reduce inventory costs — look to see if your business has the leeway to reduce costs without sacrificing the quality of the services or products it provides. This will help to take the pressure off your finances.

  • Don’t sacrifice your marketing budget — often, brands make cuts to their marketing budgets in response to financial anxiety. However, this will spell disaster for your company. There is no time more crucial to maintain your marketing efforts and show customers that your brand is tackling the recession and winning.

  • Tighten up on your corporate governance — companies that see a downturn in performance are more likely to survive if they have good corporate governance embedded into their culture. Part of this is ensuring that the company has had a financial audit. If in doubt, contact an accountancy from that specialises in audits, tax advice, and small business VAT.

No one knows quite what to expect over the coming months and years, but now is the time to start safeguarding your business against an imminent recession. The road ahead does not look easy, but if you put certain measures in place and react in a timely manner, there’s still time to recession-proof your business and come out on top.

Mitigating Financial Institutions’ Shift to Cloud


Accelerated by COVID-19, financial institutions are shifting to cloud to increase their infrastructure capacity and accommodate the growing demands of consumers. However, heavy reliance on cloud providers is raising new risks regarding the stability of the financial systems.

The need to be better equipped to compete in the present-day economy accelerated by COVID-19 nudged many financial institutions to migrate their operations onto the cloud. However, storing critical data in the hands of cloud providers is likely to create new challenges for finance market players. Marius Galdikas, CEO at ConnectPay, has shared his insights on mitigating related risks and maintaining the necessary levels of fraud resilience.

Legacy vs cloud — what is better for the financial sector?

Big Tech cloud providers, such as Amazon or Google, have played a major role in developing innovative cloud solutions and services. However, there has been rising chatter about the unbalanced concentration of power as a result of this ever-increasing data migration to the cloud. Recently, the Bank of England issued a report singling out opaque practices of major cloud providers, calling into question whether the current regulatory oversight is enough to ensure the security of cloud systems and sensitive financial data.

While security warnings might lead some companies to deploy a private cloud, Galdikas notes that, in terms of risk, setting up infrastructure, that matches the standards of Big Tech, from scratch is a difficult and expensive undertaking and, at the end of the day, probably will prove to be a riskier choice than choosing a public cloud service.

“Public cloud providers, Big Tech included, have significantly contributed to innovation in the finance sector, whereas IaaS and SaaS solutions are now the usual building blocks of every new company. Moreover, public cloud streamlines scaling, enabling to bypass capacity issues or sinking millions into underutilized infrastructure upfront,” Galdikas said.

Same goal, different approach

Fintechs and traditional financial institutions have been noted to take a different approach to cloud adoption.

While Fintechs at scale choose to migrate some of the operations to the private cloud, according to the Bank of England, established banks are doing quite the opposite—moving critical infrastructure onto the public cloud.

According to Mr. Galdikas, the two approaches vary for historical reasons. Fresh fintechs tend to use public clouds because it is an affordable solution to streamline processes and manage operations from afar. As they grow in terms of size and resources, some shift to private cloud to have a firmer grip on the security of their data. Switching to the latter diversifies the risks, considering that moving all of the critical services onto the infrastructure of a single provider might place the company in a vulnerable position. Banks, on the other hand, started with a long-standing legacy infrastructure set up and are moving to the public cloud as part of their digital transformation efforts. Even though their approach might differ, banks and fintechs share the same goal—to provide faster and safer services.

Distribution over different platforms to reduce risks

Overall, the increasing amount of critical data is hinting at a need for a more robust security framework. While setting up more regulatory safeguards should be left to the authorities, Galdikas emphasized what can be done from the financial institution’s (FI’s) point of view to mitigate the transition risks.

“The ecosystem that FIs operate in needs to be distributed between different platforms and providers both in the form of SaaS, public cloud, private cloud, and local Infrastructure service providers,” he noted. “New data protection laws are continuously being put in place worldwide, which makes operating a digital ecosystem an even more cumbersome task. For example, some countries, regions require customer data to be captured and stored, first and foremost, on infrastructure physically present in the country or dictate specific encryption algorithms to be used for such data stored,” Galdikas explained, outlining why distribution over different service providers might be more efficient in reducing risks than opting for more regulation.

He concluded by emphasizing that FIs should be leading the efforts in ensuring that systems meet the levels of fraud resilience necessary for the financial services sector.

“It is up to financial institutions to ensure that the operations they run and data they process is always secure, as they are the ones bearing the trust of their customers. Yet there are specific areas for cloud providers to maintain standards in, for instance, monitoring that safeguards are kept up to date with the current technology. Ultimately, in order to maintain the stability of the financial sector and mitigate risks, both sides will need to stay on top of technological challenges.”

Pros and Cons of Bank Loans

 

Almost everybody finds themselves borrowing money at some point in their lives. For some, it’s to afford an education. For others, it’s to buy a home or cover business expenses. Regardless of the reason, the most common way for individuals to get the financing they seek is through bank loans and lines of credit.

Loans and lines of credit require approval from the lenders based on your credit score and financial standing. Your financial health determines the loan amount, monthly repayment instalments, and interest rates. Bank loan interest is similar to credit card interest but usually lower. In this article, we’ll go into further detail about the pros and cons of bank loans.

 

Advantages of Bank Loans

 

Control Your Business

You may lack the funds to increase your stock and keep the business going. However, you can qualify for a business loan if your company can meet full payment obligations on time. The lender evaluates your financial status to determine your payment capability through the credit score.

Additionally, banks don’t need shares in your business to provide the loan amount. This way, you can maintain control and run operations without any interference. By allocating the loan, it doesn’t mean the bank will have any role in managing your business, and you can stay in control.

 

Temporary Agreement

A bank loan is a temporary agreement between your business and the bank. This means you don’t have to maintain any relationship with the lender. Your credit rating and payment history are the main determinants for qualifying the loan amount when you wish to reapply in the future. Once you complete your loan repayment, there are no more obligations to the bank.

 

Flexibility

There are different types of loans that you can choose to apply from the bank. The loans have different terms and conditions with varying interest rates. You can acquire funds to handle your business operations if you prove a low defaulting risk and cover your instalments. You can obtain a loan when needed if you don’t have any outstanding debts with the bank.

 

Bank Loan Cons

Strict Qualification Terms

A bank will heavily evaluate your risk level before you can qualify for a loan. You are required to provide various documentation and financial history to show your ability to meet the payment obligations. Your business may not meet a few terms on the qualification criteria, thus making it hard to acquire the loan.

Bank loans may also require a personal guarantor to secure the loan. Hence, they may seize your personal assets should your business default on a loan. Thus, you’re required to have a significant record or provide valued collateral.

 

Bank Loans are Secured

Your business may be in debt, and you may opt for a consolidation loan to cover your dues. Thus, the bank may require your assets as security. This way, you risk losing your assets that are integral to your business.

Other lenders may provide a loan with bad credit and may not require collateral. Your home may be collateral for a bank loan, and you lose more than just your business.

 

Cash Problems

You may take out a business loan to cover your debts and pay your suppliers or employees. It may be a low season, or customers may fail to make timely payments. The bank requires you to make monthly repayments which may strain your finances.

Most of your revenue may cover the loan leaving you in further debt or with cash flow problems. Instead of being reinvested in your business, cash will go to the bank, causing you a financial headache.

How You Can Build Wealth Throughout Your Life

You don’t have to be born with a silver spoon to build wealth throughout your life. You don’t even have to be a financial expert. A few simple principles can help you acquire and build wealth over a lifetime.

 

Go to College

The key to accumulating wealth is to make more than you spend. Going to college is one way to increase the likelihood of making a high salary. Do your research to find out what industries are growing and which ones are the most highly paid, and choose one that interests you. You can take out loans to finance your tuition costs, including student loans from private lenders. The process of checking your eligibility for private loans is usually quick and easy.

 

Avoid Debt

With the exception of your student loans and the mortgage on your home, you should avoid going into debt. This means only using credit cards if you can pay off the balance monthly and postponing the purchase of things you want until you have saved up enough money. You should avoid common mistakes like mishandling your credit, at all costs. One of the main benefits of avoiding debt is that you won’t find yourself paying interest rates that can eat up a significant amount of your income.

 

Save Money

Always having an emergency fund is the key to avoiding debt. Even the most fiscally responsible people may find themselves falling into debt when something unexpected happens, from a sick pet to a car accident to job loss. An emergency fund that initially has a few hundred dollars in it, then a few months’ worth of expenses and finally a year or more of expenses in it can carry you through these events. You won’t have to turn to credit cards or other types of loans if an emergency does happen. Be sure that you keep these savings in an account that is easily liquidated.

 

Max Out Your Retirement Account

If your employer offers a retirement account, you should put the maximum amount allowable in it. If your employer doesn’t offer one, you should save for retirement yourself via an account that you put the maximum amount into. You might think that because you are young you don’t have to worry about this, but that is actually all the more reason to do so. Money that you put away in your 20s can grow exponentially, leaving you in a great financial position when it comes time to retire.

 

Invest

On top of your emergency savings and your retirement account, you need to be investing. In order to really build up wealth, you’ll have to take some risk, so it’s important that you can afford to lose this money. You might want to work with a financial adviser to help you determine what the best investments will be for you based on your age, your goals, your income and other factors. However, teaching yourself about investing and doing it on your own is also easier than ever before thanks to apps and online brokers. Diversification should be your watchword so that you have your money spread across various investment vehicles.

Limited Access to Baltics’ E-commerce Market Addressed with New Tailored Payment Option—banklinq

The continuing global e-commerce boom highlights old issues of Local Payment Methods (LPMs) some regions, like the Baltics, still face. Offering a region-tailored solution, Nikulipe, a Fintech company, is launching a new LPM to tackle the problem.

E-commerce in 2020 has seen an impressive surge as worldwide retail online sales saw a 27.6% growth rate with sales reaching over $4 trillion. This upward trajectory is expected to continue—by 2023 global e-commerce is predicted to be worth a sound $6.5 trillion, up by 22% from 2022 estimates. The Baltics are no exception in this—Lithuania’s e-commerce revenue is projected to reach $889 million in 2021, while Latvia and Estonia are expected to reach $345 million and $405 million respectively.

The continuing e-commerce boom, however, brings back one of the key problems some regions still face—current LPM (local payment method) options do not reflect the needs of global merchants, this way limiting the access for them and potential consumers.

The Baltics region is experiencing this issue as well. More than 65% of Baltic shoppers have a preference of paying through online banking, which has become the dominant payment method in the region. However, only around 20% of them have a credit card—roughly 17% of Lithuanians and Latvians, and 29% of Estonians—bringing limitations to consumers in terms of shopping on international e-commerce platforms, as well as restricting market access for international merchants; well over 60% of Europeans tend to abandon their shopping cart, if they cannot pay with their favourite payment method. In addition, global payment providers which service the Baltic states, are often unaware of the market needs, offering access only to a small traditional and challenger bank network.

One way to address this issue is by offering an innovative payment method, specifically tailored for the region, that would be able to connect global merchants to the Baltics market in an easy and hassle-free way. Nikulipe, a Fintech company creating and connecting Local Payment Methods to access Emerging and Fast-Growing Markets, is the first one to undertake the issue that the Baltics are facing, by launching a new product for the region—banklinq.

Banklinq will be the first Local Payment Method to address regional complexities by combining the local know-how and global experience, helping international merchants become more familiar with and trusted by local shoppers, paving the way to access new user markets.

“By connecting the largest number of leading local financial institutions in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, including major traditional and challenger banks, we are easing the access for international merchants that are looking to expand their businesses and reach new customers, but are limited by regional intricacies, like regulatory processes,” explains Frank Breuss, CEO and co-founder of Nikulipe. “Incorporating region-specific payment solutions puts businesses one step ahead in the game as the local knowledge goes a long way with customers, who are used to certain ways of paying for goods and services.”

Built upon open banking and adhering to EU regulations, banklinq will offer a payment option that covers all relevant banks in the region, bringing the Baltic consumers to global merchants. One convenient API ensures an efficient market entry without being caught up in technicalities, as the local regulatory landscape, processing, collection, reconciliation, settlement, remittance and other processes will be navigated by banklinq experts.

“The Baltics is one of the fastest-growing e-commerce markets in Europe, contributing to the worldwide e-commerce growth rate of 26% last year,” observes Breuss. “This growth is attracting a number of new businesses to the region, but the current Local Payment Methods are, unfortunately, not fit for international merchants and make it more difficult for them to access the market. We want to change that.”

The growth that the global e-commerce continues to experience is, in turn, bringing back some of the rooted issues in Local Payment Methods which have not been addressed yet. The Baltics being one of the regions facing these problems as well, the region-specific solution like banklinq could be the answer to the limited access international merchants and consumers experience in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

Financial Institutions Prime Targets for Cybercriminals: Future Attacks are ‘Inevitable’

The sector looks to reduce the attack surface area after a 238% surge in cyberattacks

According to IBM, 23% of all cyber-attacks are directed at financial institutions, while the total cost of a single data breach is the second largest among all industries, costing financial organisations $5.72 million on average.

Another study indicated that 53% of data breaches are financially motivated, so the industry is constantly on the cybercrime radar. In other sectors, malicious users get a foothold through social engineering, credential stuffing, and application vulnerabilities. However, the Finance sector is different as these users primarily compromise internal corporate networks.

The pandemic has accelerated the digital shift, with enterprises focusing on securing cloud environments. Cybercriminals also leverage this change, especially when businesses move to cloud-based platforms. Financial institutions also opt for SaaS (Software-as-a-Service), PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service), and IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service), leaving additional vulnerabilities in a multi-layered environment.

Studies indicate that since the pandemic, banks faced a 238% surge in attacks. They can be devastating to the economy, given their interdependence and daily transactions. The United States Federal Reserve Bank of New York said, “compromising any of the five most active United States banks will result in significant impacts to other banks,” resulting in $130 billion of forgone payment activity. Unsurprisingly, the average cost of a data breach in Finance is 52% greater than average — around $5.85 million.

The finance sector is strictly regulated and has to comply with complex cybersecurity rules. It makes data breaches even more problematic, as organisations must pay fines and remediation costs, in addition to compensating the lost funds. These requirements call for a holistic approach.

“Organisations have to strictly authenticate both external and internal users to protect their corporate systems. Financial institutions suffer from internal actors who know the banking system’s inner workings, and state-backed hackers often target them. While cybersecurity automation today cannot guarantee holding off attackers, a reduced surface area can greatly lower the risk”, says Juta Gurinaviciute, the Chief Technology Officer at NordVPN Teams.

 

Zero Trust and IP whitelisting – a bottleneck for attackers

To minimise the cyberattack surface area, financial companies establish secure connections for employees and contractors to reach essential assets. However, unconditional trust can be harmful if malicious users compromise the connection.

“Today’s authentication is based on a Zero Trust model, meaning that employees and contractors can only access limited resources for a defined period. Even if their connection is compromised in a supply chain attack, hackers won’t do much harm as they won’t reach the rest of the internal network”, says Gurinaviciute.

The organisation can also implement an additional security layer that filters the end-point devices and apps based on their IP address. With IP whitelisting (also known as the allow list), admins can create a set of trusted employee and third-party devices, granting them access to the corporate network. This policy complicates the onset of the cyberattack, limiting its surface area.

However, manually whitelisting particular IPs can be arduous, especially for smaller organisations like FinTech startups. Companies can stay resilient by implementing third-party solutions with a centralised control panel for an efficient addition of new devices and applications.

Accenture estimates that banks will lose $347 billion to cybercrime in the coming years. Organisations with strict and robust external authentication shouldn’t overlook the resilience of their internal networks. Cooperation with technology service providers (TSPs), managed service providers (MSPs), and cloud service providers (CSPs) is inevitable. It brings efficiency and scalability but comes with a cost. To neutralise new possible attack vectors, Finance should review their contractors’ and employees’ access privileges — IP whitelisting is an appropriate first step.

Minted Launches Market-First Precious Metals Savings App

Minted, an FCA licensed UK-based fintech company, has launched a new savings app, aimed at making precious metals accessible to all. The platform’s easy-to-use app allows customers to invest as much or as little as they want each month, and to withdraw their physical gold if they wish.

The brainchild of founders Hamzah Almasyabi and Haroon Siddiq, Minted is tapping into a national savings mindset and breaking down traditional barriers to investing in gold. Through the platform, savings plans start from as little as £30 per month, with users buying gold of the highest purity from an LBMA approved delivery partner. Minted also provides customers with free insurance and the option to store their gold for free in a high-security London vault.

Gold is well-known globally as a ‘safe haven’ asset, which holds its intrinsic value and performs well compared to equity investments on a short and long-term basis. At a time of significant stock market volatility and low interest rates, gold offers investors stability and growth potential.

Minted’s app has been designed with user experience in mind, making it easy to open an account and start saving. The app allows users to control regular savings plans and see detailed insights into account balances. Once they have saved enough for a gold bar, customers can then withdraw or sell their physical gold, if they choose. Users can pay by credit or debit card, as well as PayWithMyBank and other e-wallet options.

Becky Hutchinson, MD at Minted, said: “Right from the start, we wanted to make investing in gold a possibility for absolutely everyone. There is no reason why it should still be thought of as the preserve of the extremely wealthy or experienced investors. These are uncertain times and investing in precious metals can provide stability and the prospect of strong growth.

“We’ve worked hard to ensure that our app is easy to use, intuitive and gives customers just the right amount of information to guide their investment decisions. The fintech sector is evolving rapidly and the boundaries are constantly being pushed in terms of the investment products and services coming to market. It is extremely important to us that our platform stands out from the crowd.”

Unlike other investment options, which simply offer investors exposure to gold prices, Minted’s customers actually own physical gold and can withdraw or sell at any point they choose. By investing incrementally, even customers with relatively little disposable income can build their own precious metals portfolio over time. Currently, Minted offers gold bars ranging in size from 10g to 1kg and is set to add other precious metals to its platform.

Hutchinson continues: “People may have various reasons for choosing gold: diversifying their investments, building an emergency fund, putting away money for their families in a safe place or simply saving enough to splash out on a big purchase. We believe Minted offers options for everyone, and we are extremely proud to be bringing this new product to market.”

Minted’s platform is live in the UK. Visit www.theminted.com for more info or search for ‘Minted’ on the App Store and Google Marketplace.

4 Tips for Purchasing Real Estate When You’re Self-Employed

Statistics show that many people in America are taking early resignation from their jobs to start their businesses. This is because self-employment brings in some sense of flexibility and time to tap one’s inner abilities. The only challenge at times comes when one wants to acquire a property through a mortgage.

At this point, one may lack the W-2 forms as before or the documentation to show monthly income flow. However, does it mean that it is impossible to find a lender to offer you the credit you want? The answer is no, as several approaches can guide you to securing financial support for purchasing real estate.

 

1. Smooth the Wavering Income periods

Generally, a bank will provide you with financial support depending on your financial strength. The aim is to reduce challenges when recovering their finances, say after a delay in payment. It is, therefore, necessary as a self-employed person to think around this. It is where you focus on your income generation patterns.

Try to find a method of stabilizing your income for every financial year. It may be challenging to make this happen, especially since a startup can experience some teething problems in the infancy level. However, for the sake of creating an appealing image to the lenders, consider smoothing any irregular income periods.

 

2. Proof of Income: Pay Stubs Online

These days, workplaces are highly using pay stubs due to the endless benefits. These documents act as evidence for a specific payment or payments to workers. The other significant thing is that they are easy to create. All one needs is to find a check stub maker online. As a worker of a previous company, you may have used such e-files a lot, and they still hold your previous payment information.

While taking a mortgage, the financial service provider will want to see your financial history as a way of determining your credit score. Besides the stubs showing the payments, they also capture the taxes you owe or paid and other commissions. This is crucial during the mortgage application as it shows how responsible and capable you are with the finances.

Even for your current business, consider having the same approach-ensuring your staff has pay stubs as this will assist you when managing the payrolls. It sounds unnecessary for a startup with few workers. However, as you grow, the benefits will become more apparent.

 

3. Understand the Net Income

From your income, there is a lot of analysis which the lenders will do before making a decision on giving you financial assistance or not. One of them is to check your gross income but, most importantly, the net profits. They do this by deducting all the expenses and taxes from which they see what you have made.

They base their decision on these final figures. Sometimes, a business can receive a substantial gross income after the sales or service delivery. Many business owners fail to consider the impact of write-offs on taxable income. To be specific, all the running expenses such as meals, transportation, warehouse charges will all reduce your taxable income.

 

4. Prepare Sufficient Paperwork

Any mortgage lender intends to give you support after being sure of your current and future stability. This makes them need a lot of data from you. A full-time worker can have an easier time due to the W-2 form which they have. For your case, you may need to provide documents that show that you have been self-employed since you began business.

Additionally, they may want profit and loss statements and tax return files alongside your business license. Some even need your bank statements, assets, or any other source of income you may have.

Purchasing a property through mortgage support can be challenging when self-employed. This is because you lack documents such as W-2 forms. Even so, you have options in securing your loan. One way is through stabilization of your income and having the proper documents with you.

3 Strategies That Could Help Improve Your Day Trading Profits

Utilising day trading strategies can be a great help to those looking for ways to capitalise on small, frequent price movements.

Whilst trading in financial markets, you will notice various popular trading strategies many use. However, you will also notice that the success you have using one strategy, may differ from the success someone else had. Meaning, that you have to trial and choose which trading strategy is the best one for you.

These are a selection of techniques for you to trial and decide which one is the best trading strategy for you.

Invest In Learning About Algorithmic Trading

As artificial intelligence and machine learning continue to rise, so has the advancement in algorithmic trading. This innovative tactic uses computer programs to automatically place buy and sell orders following a specified set of rules. In doing so, the trade should generate profits at a speed that is impossible to achieve by a human trader.

Understanding the rules of algorithmic trading and how it works can be challenging without support. Similar to the rise in artificial intelligence courses becoming available, there are algorithmic trading programmes designed to provide you with the tools to discover market efficiencies and make a higher volume of frequent trades. For instance, this algorithmic trading programme is aimed at those working in the trading space as well as those wanting to gain a deeper understanding of algorithmic trading and the potential it has. The course focuses on developing your ability to successfully implement your trading strategies.

Avoid Over And Under Trading

A common trait shared by most traders is being ambitious. Unfortunately, there is a time where they are too ambitious. With a feeling that they must always be doing something, many traders often forget the importance of patience and the quality of the trades. Both of which place higher importance over the number of trades.

Aside from overtrading, under-trading is also a common issue. Traders will find the right setup but fail to conduct the trade, whether it is due to analysis paralysis or lack of self-confidence, or another reason.

Put Plans In Place In Case Weakness Strikes

Every trader has their strengths and weaknesses, which over time become more noticeable to them. For instance, their weakness could be not taking a loss when they should. Instead, the loss gradually becomes bigger. Another weakness could be taking trades that do not align with their trading plan, which means the trades are based on an unproven strategy, potentially causing greater losses.

Identify your weaknesses and create a personal plan for how you will respond in the event you notice yourself making one of these errors. There are various tactics you can implement to help you eradicate or prevent causing yourself greater losses. Included in your plan could be closing trades immediately and taking a mandatory break after. This will prevent you from losing more than you already have, as well as allow you time to refocus your attention back to trading.

Finding the right trading strategy for you will take time and experience. It is a case of seeing which tactics do not work and avoid using them and instead, find ones that do work or that need adjusting slightly to see an improvement in your daily trading profits. Whilst the concept of trial and error sounds time-consuming it’s certainly worthwhile.

Finastra and Salt Edge Collaborate to Provide a More Personalized Banking Experience


Combined offering provides instant PSD2 and global Open Banking compliance for an open, secure and personalized banking experience

Finastra today announced its collaboration with Salt Edge to improve the speed of compliance with the Payments Service Directive 2 (PSD2) and other global Open Banking standards, for banks and Electronic Money Institutions (EMIs) worldwide. The integration of the Salt Edge Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution, Open Banking Compliance, with Finastra’s core banking solutions, Fusion Essence and Fusion Equation, enables institutions to build the necessary architecture to support end-to-end banking requirements and compliance through one Application Programming Interface (API). The integration is carried out via Finastra’s open development platform, FusionFabric.cloud.

In an increasingly competitive global marketplace, banks and EMIs are under pressure to optimize their core processes, increase profitability, reduce the time to market for new products, and continue to innovate and personalize their offerings. The opening up of data has provided a good foundation for achieving this. In fact, Finastra’s State of the Nation research found that, globally, 94% of professionals at financial institutions agree that Open Banking is important to their organization, with 63% reporting that it has enabled them to improve customer experience and 59% stating that it has helped attract new types of customers. However, complying with PSD2 and regional Open Banking standards can be a time-consuming, expensive and complicated task.

Dmitrii Barbasura, Co-Founder & CEO at Salt Edge said, “Finastra’s commitment to unlocking the power of finance for everyone supports our goal to simplify all components of Open Banking and PSD2 compliance for both financial providers and end customers. The partnership extends our network coverage from our existing      customers to Finastra’s wide customer base, while the pre-integration of our combined best-in-class solutions allows end customers to benefit from more inclusive financial services thanks to Open Banking.”

Open Banking Compliance provides full coverage of regulated markets with cross-bank and pan-European API standards, such as Open Banking UK and The Berlin Group in the EU, as well as newly regulated markets such as AustraliaBrazil and the GCC. The comprehensive set of APIs gives Third-Party Providers (TPPs) access to instant and secure account information, payment initiation and a full-stack developer portal. Additionally, the integration provides added security, with a TPP verification system and mobile-first application to comply with strong customer authentication (SCA) and dynamic linking requirements.

Anand Subbaraman, General Manager, Banking at Finastra said, “Salt Edge has a proven track record of success with more than 100 API implementations for financial institutions globally. Bringing Open Banking Compliance into our suite of core banking solutions makes compliance quick and seamless for both Finastra and Salt Edge customers, while giving them the tools to create better and more personalized products and services. For the end user, the benefit is a much quicker, more secure and relevant banking experience that truly accommodates their needs. We are excited to partner with Salt Edge and welcome them into our ecosystem.”

Quick Tips to Help You Start Buying and Selling Stocks on a Busy Schedule

Very few of us are blessed with a lot of spare time at the moment. The pandemic has hit us all extremely hard, and if we’re not worrying about our health or our jobs, we’re looking for ways that we can shore up our finances with some good investments in case there are more rainy days to come. Now, you might think that the only way to make any real money on the stock market is to treat it essentially as a full-time job. But buying and selling stocks and shares has never been easier, and if you know what you’re doing, it is a great way to improve your investment portfolio.

If you want to get started trading quickly, then there are a few simple steps that you need to take. Some are about making you more confident and capable to make the kinds of moves that you need to be making to actually see a return on your investment. Some are about keeping you safe in both in terms of potential losses and from cybersecurity threats. Let’s break down the most important things that you need to know before you dive in.

Research Which Trading Platform You Want to Be Using

The easiest way to get trading quickly and to make sure that you’re comfortable doing so is by finding the right trading platform. There are many different platforms out there and most of them are aimed at different kinds of traders with different kinds of needs. For example, people in high finance who have been trading for years would not be using the kind of platform aimed at a nervous first timer who wants to keep things as low-stakes as possible.

One of the most common things that both veterans and rookies look for is an ETF platform. ETF stands for exchange-traded funds, which means that you can make one investment which translates into investing in hundreds of different funds. You can create a diversified portfolio with a single click. There are several different platforms that provide this, but you will need to be keeping an eye out for fees, the range of assets, markets and economies you can invest in, customer support and the regulation it is subject to. Instead of scrolling results for best ETF trading platform UK, read this guide to the pros and cons of each of the major platforms. BuyShares offers detailed breakdowns to trading and investing for every experience level.

Know How Much You Have to Spend

If you want to get started trading as soon as possible, then you need to make sure that you have the funds to do so. Most platforms will offer you a few different payment options, whether that’s through your credit or debit card, PayPal and so on, but the important thing is that you absolutely must know how much you have to work with.

Having a crystal-clear idea will allow you to sell and buy with confidence, and it will also help you to avoid spending more than you can afford. It is important to remember that there are no guarantees on the stock market, and that even a “sure thing” is vulnerable to fluctuations. Do your budgeting before you get started so you don’t make any mistakes you can’t fix.

 

Keep Your Finger on the Pulse

Some investors are what’s known as “passive.” That means that they are perfectly happy to buy their shares and leave them to (hopefully) appreciate in value with as little involvement from them as possible. Everyone else is described as “active”, meaning that they are constantly checking on their stock performance to see if now is the time to check out or double down on their investment.

If you’re going to be the latter and you want to get started right away, then you should make sure that you have the tools and the time. Choosing the right trading platform will give you a great head start, and many will have a mobile app to help you keep tabs on your investments wherever you are. Online trading has seen a real boom during the pandemic so you won’t be short on options.

Get Your Security In Place Now

It probably won’t have escaped your notice that online scams and cybercrime rose to deeply worrying levels over the course of the pandemic. These scams aren’t just about people getting text messages about missed deliveries, vaccine appointments or people lying about their COVID status. We’ve seen everyone from major corporations to small businesses face issues with their finances and data. If you’re looking at getting into trading, then security is not a step that you can afford to miss, no matter how much of a hurry you’re in. Check out your platform’s security measures and don’t be afraid to ask questions if you have any particular causes for concern. Set up a different email address for trading, take greater care with your passwords and be as careful as you can.

New Paper Predicts the Rise of Custom Equity Portfolios for Institutional Investors

Managing customised equity portfolios in-house is one of the biggest trends to develop over the next few years among institutional investors, according to a new report from quant technologies provider SigTech.

In his whitepaper ‘How custom equity portfolios are disrupting pension funds’ ESG and index investing,’ Daniel Leveau, who manages SigTech’s strategic initiatives for institutional investors, argues that the combination of digitising the value chain of the investment management industry, ESG taking centre stage in the investment process and investors’ need to customise their equity investments, has created new opportunities for the industry. 

“Five years ago, the idea of creating and executing your own index strategies in-house would have been a daunting task. Today, it is 100% achievable. Custom equity portfolios allow institutional investors to define the investable universe and tailor their investment strategy to incorporate specific ESG policies and to directly hold individual securities”, comments Leveau. 

“By applying the concept of alternative indexing methods, investors can gain exposure to various risk factors that are optimal for them. One might want global equity exposure with larger downside risk, another a larger bias to small caps, whereas a third investor might desire a stable income from dividend payments. The same goes for ESG. No two ESG policies are alike. By owning the securities directly, investors can decide to what degree they want to be an active owner through voting and direct engagement.

“Investing is not about searching for an existing product that offers the best possible fit to the investor’s needs. It is about creating a product that 100% fulfils the investor’s requirements.”

Below we look in more detail at how ESG and indexing can be combined effectively and how the digitisation of the investment management sector now enables transparent, customised solutions that are created in direct alignment with the asset owner’s requirements.

ESG and indexing in combination

How does combining ESG and indexing work in practice? Today, investment products are mostly offered in “one size fits all” versions in the form of mutual funds or ETFs. An increasing number of index products that implement ESG policies have entered the market recently, but it is unlikely that these are fully aligned with an individual investor’s specific ESG policy. Aside from a lack of alignment, investors struggle with ESG rating agencies which often assign wildly divergent ESG scores to companies. 

The divergence is attributed to how the rating agencies define and measure ESG performance. Many of the criteria are hard to measure and assigning a rating for a specific criterion is often not as precise as using input from a firm’s financial statement. This ambiguity around ESG performance makes it hard to form a universal standard for ESG ratings.

Apart from this suboptimal situation, investing in a pooled investment vehicle – as opposed to owning the individual securities directly – such as an index fund or an ETF, makes it even more difficult for an investor to become an active owner. A pooled investment vehicle only gives the investor indirect ownership of a security. Investors don’t have the right to vote at a company’s annual meeting and it is more difficult to actively engage with these companies to constitute change. Lately, large institutional investors have increasingly come under fire for being anonymous owners and not taking full responsibility over their investments. 

Instead, Investors would be better off tailoring equity investments according to their desired risk factor exposure and incorporating their unique ESG policy. “One-size-fits-all” products are not the solution, investors need to embrace customisation and direct ownership of securities.

Digitisation

The commoditisation of investment strategies (e.g., through rules-based products such as index and smart beta products) is driven by technological advancements and has resulted in fee pressure for asset management products. Gradually it is also impacting the distribution process. Instead of offering pre-packaged products, fully transparent customised solutions are created in direct alignment with client’s requirements. To enable investors to profit not only from efficiency gains, but also from customisation, scalable turnkey solutions are now offered by service providers.

Rethinking equity portfolios

The investment management industry is undergoing tremendous change. Indexing and ESG are reshaping investor portfolios, whereas digitisation is impacting the industry’s entire value chain. Investors no longer need to look for an existing investment vehicle that is most closely aligned to their needs. They can now create a bespoke product that meets their requirements fully.  Custom equity portfolios are expected to become one of the biggest growth areas in asset management and are one of the industry’s most exciting new developments.

3 Things to Remember Before You Start Trading

Trading is not something you can engage with on blind optimism alone. To succeed, you require a specific frame of mind.

Professional traders buy and sell financial instruments, such as stocks and bonds, and time their exchanges with precision for optimum returns. They don’t invest long-term either, but rather make a succession of deals so that they can turn themselves a faster profit.

Still, the trading challenges are plentiful, and you can expect to face some degree of hardship on your journey. Instead of learning through trial and error, we’ve compiled some advice to help you get started below.

Know Yourself

Traders know who they are at their core and don’t buckle under pressure. They aren’t overly ambitious, nor do they rush their decision-making processes.

You need to be a headstrong individual if you’re to succeed in trading, eager to follow your instincts and chart your own path to success. However, it’s vital to undergo a measured approach and to know your limits from the start.

Small-time investors often use online investment platforms, but the pressures can be insurmountable if they’re inexperienced in the world of trading. Unless you have a sizable amount of trading capital you can freely squander without consequence, this isn’t something you can throw yourself into with vague hopes. Craft is required first.

Traders also bring much of themselves to their pursuit. You’ll need to power through stress, make sacrifices in your timekeeping, and continuously research trading strategies to polish your skills. If you feel you possess that level of commitment, you’re ready to proceed to the next step.

Adopt a Learner’s Mentality

Traders’ instincts are sharp, and they refine them over the sum of years. They also pair their intuition with learned knowledge.

If possible, find a mentor figure whose wisdom you can tap into. Regularly consult them for guidance throughout your trading career. Be sure to temper your expectations with the perspective afforded by your experiences.

Traders are smart enough to know that the learning process never stops. They’ll embark on trading courses to embolden their prospects and learn about algorithmic trading. These programmes will help you unearth market efficiencies, recognise profitable market patterns and make trades at higher frequencies. Algorithmic trading courses are aimed at professional traders and newcomers alike, so keep them in mind as you advance your career.

Anticipate Changes

Traders are often mischaracterised as deceptive individuals, but they operate firmly within the bounds of many laws.

These laws vary from country to country. For instance, Thailand has their own trading rules and regulations that must be adhered to. Foreigners are banned from operating in specific sectors, while business there is generally conducted in an intensely personal and formal fashion. Certain jokes are unwelcome, and you can expect any associates to want to know you deeply before lifting a finger in trading with you.

It’s essential to be sensitive to any cultural differences when you’re trading internationally. Otherwise, you’ll encounter numerous roadblocks, and time is money for traders. Conduct all your research of what is required in each country and then commence with your plans. 

Trader’s must be confident, intuitive, and educated if they hope to succeed in their endeavours.

Try This Quicker and Better Plan to Grow Your Wealth

At some point in your life, you will face the decision of growing your income. If you decide to commit to this idea, you might have made plans to rise up the corporate ladder, put a small down payment on a new house, and build an excellent credit score. You may even have decided to set aside a certain amount of money each month for unexpected expenses. 

While these are all good ideas, you are more likely to grow your wealth at a faster rate by leveraging wealth-building strategies such as increasing your credit limits, starting your own business, and getting serious about investing. 

Let’s take a closer look at how these strategies can help you build more wealth than merely becoming a better corporate citizen. 

Increase Your Credit Limit 

When you apply for a credit line to increase your credit limit, you will be able to get the help you need to get your finances in order. The additional funds can help pay down debt and put food on the table. Being able to use your card will give you a confidence boost and make you feel more secure about making future purchases. Utilizing a credit line app to facilitate this process can be a more streamlined approach.   

Extending your credit limit helps you increase your overall financial security by reducing the risk of over-drafting or failing to make payments on time. In addition, by giving lenders more information about your credit history, they may be more willing to approve loan requests — especially given that they may not have access to information about your overall financial health.  

Start Your Own Business 

Starting a small business can provide many benefits to its owner beyond getting rich. These include increased income, better working conditions, freedom from debt, and the satisfaction of owning your own business. 

Being a business owner can be exciting and empowering. But you don’t need to sacrifice your lifestyle or give up all the things that make you happy. Successful entrepreneurs have made their business of choice work without sacrificing their standards of living. Independent business owners have found that being self-employed is more rewarding than working for someone else. 

As you build your business, keep your exit strategy in mind. Constantly look for ways to add to the value of your company. The more value you can create, the higher you will be able to ask for it when you’re ready to sell it. 

Get Serious About Investing 

When it comes to investments, the stock market is a great place to start. 

Becoming a great investor requires a combination of skill, luck, and discipline. With a little money and some time, most people can buy and sell stocks successfully. But if you want to succeed at investing, you need to go beyond simply following trends. You need to identify which stocks are likely to provide good results for you over the long term, even if they don’t pay as much as you’d like right now.  

Focus on stocks with a high multiple and provide solid evidence that they’re undervalued. When you’ve identified good stocks to buy, don’t sell them cheap just because they’re depressed. Instead, use your knowledge of the market to drive your price up while ensuring that the underlying business is healthy. 

Most investors will lose money when they try to time the market or pick profits. But a few dedicated people actually make money by choosing the right companies and time periods and then playing the stock rise and fall guessing game just right. They understand that stocks go up because corporations are spending more on advertising and selling products and that both factors affect a company’s earnings per share (EPS). They also recognize that EPS is the most reliable way to measure economic growth in any market. 

Growing your wealth is a big decision that carries significant consequences. But the benefits of making that decision far outweigh any drawbacks. To grow your wealth at a faster rate, try one or more of these suggestions. 

4 Smart Investments You Can Make in College

Early investing is an opportunity to set yourself up for greater wealth over the long-term. And you don’t need to wait until you get a career to do it. There are ways that college students can invest now, and some of them require very little input. People think of investing for things like retirement, but investments can fund other things as well. You could leverage investment income to travel, pay off debts, send your kids to college, and so much more. While some investments should be set aside for retirement, others can be used to enjoy life with.

Real Estate

Imagine living rent-free in college. If you can purchase a home, this is possible. You get roommates, and they foot the bill for the mortgage. After college, you can expand your real estate portfolio, sell it, or even continue living in it rent-free. Real estate is always considered a good investment because it’s an asset that appreciates in value if it is well-taken care of. If you purchase a multi-family home, there is even greater opportunity. Investing in duplexes and four-plexes can give you a place to live while also bringing in an income from renting out the other units.

Retirement Fund

Even an extra $100 a month into a Roth IRA can be a great way to store up for the future. You can start one of these as soon as you turn 18 as long as you meet the income requirements. It’s one of the easiest ways to invest for the future before you start your career. Once you get into the working world, you may be eligible for things like a 401K and company matching. These investment accounts can increase your wealth and give you a comfortable nest-egg to retire with. Some people retire earlier than others because they invested earlier.

Cryptocurrency (Maybe)

Right now, cryptocurrency is gaining in popularity, but is it a wise investment? Let’s look at what it is. In essence, cryptocurrencies are units that are backed by a technology company, a technology process, or a technology product. There are also meme coins like Dogecoin that are popular, but don’t have anything tangible to back it. Cryptocurrencies run on the Blockchain and in many ways are similar to stocks in that they rise and fall in value, can be sold, and traded to get something different.

Cryptocurrencies leave many people feeling like it’s just gambling. While others see the value in the technologies and what they can do for people. If you plan to invest in some cryptocurrencies, it’s best to think about it like the stock market. Don’t put anything in that you can’t afford to lose. Do your research to find crypto coins with good use cases. And don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Just like a stock portfolio, cryptocurrency investments should be diversified.

These are a great investment for college age students because the barrier to entry is low. You can put in amounts as low as a few dollars to start. There are apps and videos explaining how it all works, and some apps even give you free coins to learn more about cryptocurrencies.

Education

The last thing that college students want to think about is more education, but it’s a very wise investment for many students. In education for instance, teachers with a Master’s degree can command up to $3,000 more in salary in their first year of teaching. This rate increases significantly as the years of experience go up. It also qualifies them for positions in education that are not available to those with only a Bachelor’s degree. Nurses who complete a BSN to DNP program for instance are able to practice medicine under a Physician. They have an immense opportunity to diagnose and treat sickness.

Why is education such a good investment? It’s because once you get it, it cannot be taken away and you will always have it. College students should consider education in fields that are in high demand with a good outlook on income potential if they want to maximize their investment.

Conclusion

The keys with investing in college is to never invest money you can’t afford to lose and to diversify your investments. This means investing in different kinds of things. A diverse investment portfolio will be an asset during college and beyond. 

The Most Common Tax Problems You Can Avoid By Being Aware

It is the responsibility of businesses and individuals to file their tax returns and ensure all taxes are paid on time. Typically, tax returns are filed with no issues, although occasionally the Inland Revenue Service (IRS) and local tax authorities may notice problems with a tax return that they wish to investigate by carrying out an audit. 

Tax audits can be done by mail or office visits and IRS agents usually only focus on certain items in a tax return, which they will likely request supporting documents for to confirm their accuracy. 

Sometimes, tax audits can become complicated, time-consuming, and even costly if fines are imposed, this is especially the case when a taxpayer is unprepared for an audit. 

Even though there is always a risk of being given notice of an audit, there are several tax problems and ways to solve them that every taxpayer should be aware of, which you can read more about in this article. 

Poor Record Keeping

One of the most common causes of receiving an audit notice is inaccurate, missing, or suspicious items either in the recorded income or deductible items sections of a tax return. Therefore, to ensure all their records are accurate and honest, a taxpayer should ask themselves questions like ‘How Long Should You Keep Tax Records in Case of an Audit?’, ‘Which records are the most important?’ and ‘What should you do when records are missing?’. According to federal law, taxpayers are required to keep copies of tax returns for three years, however, some audits where the IRS suspects someone has underreported their income by more than 25 percent, may request records from as far back as 6 years.   

Messy record-keeping can make it difficult to find documents that support the accuracy of a tax return and increase the chance of being audited.  On the other hand, well-organized financial records can make an audit a small affair, the documents and records a taxpayer should carefully collect and store include bills, canceled checks, employment records, ledgers and logs, legal papers, loan agreements, receipts, and shareholding income. 

Overestimation of Donations

Charitable donations are encouraged by the IRS as they offer a deduction in return for donating cash, clothes, food, and other essentials. One problem that arises from this is that the value of the donated goods is determined by the taxpayer when filing a tax return, and as a result, the value may end up being excessively inflated leading to a larger deduction that someone may not be entitled to. Ideally, the IRS prefers to see taxpayers value donated items at between 1% and 30% of the price they were purchased for. 

Mathematical Errors

Another common mistake found in tax returns that will gain the attention of the IRS is math errors due to columns not adding up or calculations for items such as capital gains not being completed correctly. Therefore, it is vital that taxpayers carefully check over their tax forms to ensure all the calculations and total figures are correct. 

Failing to Report Income

Reducing the amount of declared income may be tempting for some taxpayers when filing time comes around as it would decrease their tax liability. However, this is not recommended by accountants and tax experts, and if someone gets caught by the IRS for failing to report income they will have to pay back taxes, a fine, and interest on the money owed. 

Filing a Tax Return Late

It is important to complete and file a tax return before a deadline set by the IRS expires, typically the filing deadline is in April, May, or June with the 2020 deadline being May 17, for example. 

Taxpayers that fail to file their returns and pay any owed taxes by deadline day will be liable to pay interest and penalties. The penalty for late filing is 5% of the unpaid taxes for each month of lateness. 

Taxpayers can apply for an extension, usually until the autumn, to provide them with more time to complete and file their returns, although they will be charged a penalty of 0.5% of unpaid taxes and interest. 

Overdoing Expenses

Businesses and individuals alike can claim for deductible costs and expenses which can reduce the amount of tax owed, examples of deductibles are expenses related to clothing, a home office, education, donations, and travel. 

Whilst it is fair to list work-related expenses in a tax return, people must also be careful not to list items that could be deemed as personal expenses as these cannot be legitimately claimed and will be highlighted by the IRS for an audit. 

Filing a tax return is something that everyone must do on an annual basis and most of the time things go smoothly, tax is paid on time and the IRS is satisfied. Unfortunately, occasional errors are made when filing tax returns which can cause problems and potentially an IRS audit, however, this can be avoided if taxpayers remain aware of the possible mistakes when completing returns so they can learn to avoid them.  

Winners of the 2021 FinTech Awards Announced

United Kingdom, 2021- Wealth & Finance magazine have announced the winners of the 2021 FinTech Awards.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the financial landscape has been dominated by long-standing brick and mortar establishments for decades. But, times are rapidly changing, and new ground is ripe for the taking for those with the expertise, experience and drive to take it. Over just the last ten years, we’ve seen start-ups capitalise on adaptability and agility– alongside technological innovation – to provide exceptional services that are client centric and dynamic.

Now in its fifth year, Wealth & Finance magazine’s FinTech Awards was launched to recognise the firms that are redefining finance and banking for the modern age, and for the ever-changing modern consumer.  

At launch, Awards Coordinator Emma Pridmore commented: “I offer a sincere congratulations to all of the winners of this year’s programme. It has been wonderful to correspond with you all, and I hope you have a fantastic rest of the year ahead. Here’s to a fantastic remainder of 2021 and beyond.”

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

ENDS

Note 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.

About AI Global Media

Since 2010 AI Global Media has been committed to creating engaging B2B content that informs our readers and allows them to market their business to a global audience. We create content for and about firms across a range of industries.

Today, we have 12 unique brands, each of which serves a specific industry or region. Each brand covers the latest news in its sector and publishes a digital magazine and newsletter which is read by a global audience. Our flagship brand, Acquisition International, distributes a monthly digital magazine to a global circulation of 108,000, who are treated to a range of features and news pieces on the latest developments in the global corporate market.

Alongside this, we have a luxury-lifestyle magazine, LUXlife, which appeals to a range of high-net-worth individuals, offering them insight into the latest products, experiences and innovations to ensure they can live the high-life to its fullest.

Awards

Showcasing the companies who have worked hard in striving to give their clients the best service and products is important to us. We know and understand how tough making a successful business can be, and so everyone at AI Global Media takes great pride in our awards programmes.

Our awards programmes run across each brand and are completely free to enter, take part in and win. All our winners are offered complementary marketing packages, meaning all businesses despite their size and marketing budget can be rewarded. Additionally, we offer a wider range of marketing materials which winners can purchase for extra coverage on our platform including: cover features, magazine articles and newsletter inclusions.

5 Tips to Boost Financial Health

Words by Donna Torres, General Manager of SMB Sales & Operations UK & EMEA,  Xero

Most people would agree that things like nutrition and exercise lead to a healthier and happier individual. This same principle applies to the financial health of your business. In order to maintain a successful and thriving business, it’s important to stay healthy when it comes to your finances. Here are five ways to boost your financial wellbeing as we come out of lockdown this summer:

1. Take Control Of Your Financial Situation

Establishing a comprehensive bookkeeping system is essential to monitoring your financial situation. Cloud accounting software, like Xero, can be used from any device – all you need is an internet connection. It gives you an up-to-date snapshot of how your business is performing,  giving you the insights you need to make the right decisions for your company. The time consuming accounting tasks are automated, and anyone from your team can access information and collaborate on activity.

2. Find Ways To Save Smartly

In addition to paying yourself, it’s important to set aside money and look into growth opportunities. Saving doesn’t have to feel drastic. There are opportunities to save smartly in all areas of your business, from project management to hiring. Making sure that you have the best deals from suppliers, negotiate better deals with long-term product merchants, and look at saving small amounts on a monthly basis that can be used for future projects are three ways to start saving. 

3. Check Your Insurance Regularly

From professional liability and property to product liability and vehicle insurance, there are many different types of insurance. Take the time to decide which ones are most suitable for your business. This will not only save you from unnecessary stress in the long term, but will also save you from hefty costs if things go wrong. 

4. Keep On Top Of Invoices 

Dealing with invoices can be a hassle. Monitoring them closely and keeping them clear, neat and timely will ensure clarity and will catch any errors as soon as possible  – avoiding unwanted mistakes that could impact the financial health of your business. 

5. Build A Cash Flow Forecast

Even if you aren’t immediately concerned about running out of cash, a cash-flow forecast is essential for any business. With the help of a cash flow forecast, you can map what has been going out and coming in, while getting an up-to-date view of your business’ cash flow. The first step when drawing up a cash flow forecast is to consider your revenue. Making realistic revenue projections based on customer buying habits in the last year is important at this stage. Then you should consider how much of this will actually go into your business’ pocket by examining your expenses. 

As we come out of the lockdown this summer, we all want our businesses to bounce back better. By following these five simple steps, you can ensure the financial health of your business easily and efficiently – and do just that. After all, healthier businesses are more successful businesses – and have happier owners. 

A Closer Look at the Real Benefits of Getting Insured

A lot of people often overlook the importance of getting insurance, especially if they still feel fine. After all, what could possibly go wrong, right?

But, it turns out, that’s one of the reasons why you should, as no one knows what exactly will happen. Maybe you feel alive and well today, but what about tomorrow or the next day?

Insurance is beneficial. And you don’t have to wait until something happens to you to experience its perks. And what are these advantages, you say? Let’s take a close look at them, shall we?

Protection for Loved Ones

Many people often don’t purchase insurance for themselves as they don’t think they will need it in the future. But, apparently, even if you’ve passed on, it will still benefit your loved ones.

One of the well-known benefits of insurance is the provision of financial protection for your loved ones. Since everyone doesn’t have any idea about what’s going to happen in the future, in case you pass, you won’t have to worry about your loved ones as your insurance can help give assistance to them.

In case something happens to you, your insurance will be the one that will take care of your loved ones’ finances, depending on your plan. It’s a safety net for them, even if you’re already gone.

So, in case you still have a sibling or a child that needs financial support for their studies, you won’t have to worry as your insurance will take care of it. The same thing goes for your parents or spouse who are financially dependent on you.

Protection from Expenses

Nothing is certain, especially these days. You can get caught in a car accident, get injured at work, or your fire can catch fire. When this happens, it’s not always easy to finance yourself and your family, especially if the incident has stopped you from working.

The good news is that insurance can help you with such expenses. Car and home insurance, for instance, can help cover property and injury liabilities in case of expensive claims should an accident happens.

At first, some may think it’s not worth it, but over time, it can help you a lot financially. While the coverage of your insurance depends on several factors such as your insurance provider’s policy, deductibles, and your chosen plan, to name a few, you will still be able to enjoy a huge deduction for the damages and liabilities in case something happens.

Safe Keeping for Future

Life is full of memorable moments. And most of them require financial security for you to enjoy without worrying too much about your finances, especially the unforeseen ones. To ensure that you’re always financially prepared for whatever circumstances come, your insurance will help you.

Insurance isn’t just about the claims your family can have in case unfortunate things happen to you. Insurance can also help you secure your future, as well as your loved ones’. It can help you safe-keep your savings.

Depending on the policy of your chosen insurance, you can save up for your own future education goals, your child’s education, your health, marriage, post-retirement plans, and other milestones in your life, as well as your loved ones’.

Peace of Mind

Life is full of uncertainties, especially today. You wouldn’t know when you’ll get caught in an accident, contract diseases, or whatnot, which may require you to break the bank. And because of that, thinking of them even just for a bit can be a bit stressful, especially if you’re not financially secure.

It’s hard to enjoy and live life to the fullest when you’re worried about your finances and your future. Purchasing insurance, though, can help keep headaches at bay.

If you have insurance for your properties and for your health, you won’t need to worry about your finances. In case you get caught in an accident, your insurance has you covered.

If something happens to your property, your insurance can help you with the finances. And if something happens to you, and you’re the breadwinner of your family, your insurance can secure your family’s future for you.

For that reason, you won’t have to spend so much of your time thinking about what will happen to your future or to your family in case something happens to you.

Nothing is certain in the world. And if you’re unprepared, you’ll not only suffer from stress, but your loved ones may experience difficulties too if you’re not financially prepared. So, as early as now, purchasing insurance is always worth considering.

Improve HR Effectiveness With These 7 Tips

Your HR team plays a huge role in the growth of your company, regardless of how big or small it is. It can either improve or downgrade your company’s performance.

For that reason, aside from paying attention to your products or services, you should also keep an eye on your human resource management. If it needs some improvement, here are some things you can do to boost its efficacy.

Automate Payroll

Your HR team already has a lot of things in their hands. One of them is managing the payroll. But, unlike other tasks, this one can take up so much of their time if done manually. No matter how much they love numbers, it can still take a toll on them. Filling up the necessary forms can already be exhausting alone.

Manual tasks like managing the payroll not only eat up a lot of time. It can also negatively impact your HR team’s energy as it also consumes effort. Plus, it can affect their tasks as it can be time-consuming.

To help your HR team manage your payroll better and be able to attend to other tasks at the same time, one of the things you can do is automate your payroll.

Through this, your HR team won’t have to manually manage your payroll. With features like a payroll record keeper, calculator, and more, everything will be easier. You can also stay updated with the tax laws.

With this, your HR team won’t need to spend so much time calculating, filling up forms, scheduling, recording, etc. Because with a few clicks here and there, everything will be done right away, helping you pay your employees and your taxes on the dot.

Use Onboarding Tools

Aside from payroll management, onboarding is also one of the many tasks of the HR department that can take up so much of their time. Scanning hundreds or even thousands of resumes alone can be time-consuming.

Even welcoming new hires requires some of their time. You need to introduce new hires to your company, show them around, provide training, and more.

Onboarding can be a bit demanding for your HR, but it’s easier to manage if you utilize onboarding tools. With this, finding the right talent for the position will be faster.

You also won’t have to spend too much time guiding your new hire in person, as onboarding tools come with features where you can easily allow your new hires to see the directories of your company.

Communicate

Communication is key to a good relationship. And yes, it’s also applicable in your work environment. If you communicate better with everyone in your company, you will understand better. As a result, you can avoid conflicts between your employees. This will strengthen the bond of everyone in your company.

Additionally, this will help your employees to perform better. Because with better communication, it’s easier to pass the specifics to everyone in your team. As a result, your employees will know what to do and what else needs to be done to keep up with your client’s demands.

With communication, you can also improve your company as a whole. Because through this, you will know where you need to improve and which areas need better strategizing.

Hence, always communicate with your team. Also, don’t forget to be open with their opinions and concerns too, as this will help you and your company grow.

Train

Change is constant. – and yes, even in the business world. Therefore, you should also never stop learning and always ensure to provide pieces of training to your employees, even to your HR team.

Identify your weaknesses. Then, strategize how you can overcome it. Seminars and training will help you a lot as you can get a better view of the field from experts. You can also get tips and tricks on how to do better for your business’ growth.

Sure, it may take some time and might require you to spend some costs. But, eventually, it will pay off.

Build a Vision

Having a vision is important for a company and for teams to succeed. This will give you, as well as your employees, a sense of purpose and direction. This will define both of your short and long-term goals. Plus, it will guide the decisions you make throughout the journey. So, think of what and how you want to see your company sometime in the future from now. 

Your human resource team is important. Yet, some companies tend to overlook it. Pay attention to your HR department too as they can greatly affect your company’s performance.

The History of Finance and What the Digital Future Holds

To understand how the financial world has got to where it is, it’s important to look at the history, in order to gain context. Whilst finance has changed a lot over the years, the broad definition of it has stayed the same.

Where Currency First Began

The term of currency is broad, but its roots can be tracked down to the caveman, who could have given someone something they held valuable, such as a shiny rock, for some meat that another had hunted.

In truth, the definition of a transaction has largely stayed the same but has just become more open in what it defines. Eventually, as communities started to form together into bigger groups, such as towns and cities, simple trades wouldn’t really work.

In ancient times it was the Sumerians, one of the oldest civilisations in the world, who realised that they needed another method. This was because of the rise of farming, which meant most people had access to food and had it in abundance, making it pointless to trade. The leaders at the time recognised this need, and invented money to help control how society traded.

How the Industrial Revolution Changed Finance

Fast forward a few thousand years, and there was suddenly an abundance of new technologies that were designed to make human life easier. One of the major ones, was steam.

Steam powered technology led to steam trains, which also led to railways and transport that was capable of travelling to different countries much quicker than ever. As you can imagine, this made communication and business more organised, as they could meet quicker and make transactions quicker than ever.

It was around this time that banks started to open their doors for the first time, and with different nations trading more and more, the governments of the world started to mandate and license trading.

How Assets Were Important

Physical assets have been important to the financial world for a number of years. When thinking of assets, you can think of gold bars, which are often held by banks and governments in vaults to accrue interest and hold something of value to strengthen their financial capital.

Most people will hold some sort of asset, whether that be something trivial such as vintage memorabilia, or something more concrete, such as property. Property is considered a major asset, as it very rarely declines in value, usually becoming more valuable as work is done and the housing market changes.

One of the worst assets you could hold, is a new car. New cars will lose almost 30% of their value as soon as they drive away from the shop, and after a few years, could lose almost 60% of its initial value. The market of second-hand cars is flooded with stock, meaning new cars offer little value in the financial world.

How Digital Assets Have Become Important

Digital assets have become more important to the business world, as it can help them with influencing buying behaviour. These assets can represent a visual product or service, or just be something that you as an individual or corporation hold.

A digital asset can be defined as anything that stores content digitally. Most of the time, it will be something that holds some sort of monetary value, but it doesn’t always have to. For companies, it could be something that is only valuable to them, or it could be something that has nothing to do with them that is used to turn a profit.

Banks often hold many digital assets as of recent years. Previously, they only had vaults of physical cash, but these days they’ve turned their attention towards digital outlets such as cryptocurrencies as they see it as a one-day valuable piece of stock.

You can also get images, photos, videos or any sort of online file or document that would count as a digital asset. Throughout recent history, there have been an emergence of new digital assets. For example, MP3s almost came out of nowhere in the early 1990s, and it didn’t take them long to start dominating the digital space and be shared amongst people.

You can identify a digital asset in three main ways. The first being, it needs to be purely digital, in terms of how you use it and share it. It also needs to be uniquely identifiable in its nature, and not something confusing. Lastly, it needs to hold some sort of value to whoever holds it.

There are many ways you can grow your digital asset portfolio with Unagii and their access to yields across many digital blockchains. Unagii is an automated service, so the hard work is taken off your plate as your organization’s rewards and monetary value is unlocked.

Fintech Explained

Fintech stands for financial technology, which as you can imagine, covers a wide range of topics. You could even explain the introduction of Fintech to thousands of years ago, when scales were used to weight money.

Of course, the technology has evolved quite a bit since then, but the core element of it has stayed the same. Aside from other ancient monetary techniques of collecting and counting money, the term became more broadly used in society in the last few hundred years, especially in the 19th century.

This was when money started to be able to move differently around the world, through telegrams or even morse code. This changed the world as it was known back in the day, as it opened up a range of different investment opportunities, and awoke people to the idea of financial technology.

It wouldn’t be long until new financial technologies started to appear in society, through something known as an ATM. Of course, these are very common now, but the first only appeared in 1967, after a switch from analogue to more digital finance.

During the 1970s, the world’s first digital stock exchange opened up known as NASDAW, as well as the society for worldwide interbank financial telecommunications, to help regulate the communication between financial institutions making international transactions.

Digital banking started to appear more commonly from the 1990s onwards, where PayPal was introduced amongst other payment systems. It wasn’t until the financial crisis of 2008, that fintech had to evolve once more.

This is where cryptocurrency was born, and smartphones started to dominate everyone’s life. This meant apps had to be built to help users navigate the financial world, this led to banks creating their own digital banking products and allowed third-party companies to have access to financial data.

The rest, as they say, is history. Contactless payments were introduced and have become a preferred method of payment, through cards, phones and even watches. 

What Banking Will Look Like in the Future

With many banks now looking to purchase crypto such as Bitcoin to hold as an asset, you can be sure that banking will look more digital in the future. Of course, global economies were devasted during the recent COVID-19 pandemic, which lost billions across the world due to business closures and lack of cashflow.

This has led to blockchain financial institutions becoming more popular, and this will only continue to expand. Financial technologies are predicted to become smarter, where the ways in which money is collected and managed will change and become more universally accepted across multiple platforms.

Many UK Financial Organisations are Unprepared to Adapt to Unforeseen Challenges


Industry research commissioned by nCino surveyed 200 senior executives in financial services on their digital transformation efforts

nCino, Inc. a pioneer in cloud banking and digital transformation solutions for the global financial services industry, today revealed new research on the views of senior executives within financial institutions on their ongoing digital transformation journeys. All surveyed executives plan to increase spend or volume of digital transformation projects over the next 12 months, highlighting the importance for the sector.

“As the banking industry continues to evolve, this research highlights several emerging themes that are accelerating or playing a role in the transformation of both new and traditional financial services,” said Jennifer Geary, General Manager – EMEA at nCino. “We’re excited to see how technology is providing a foundation for change, and that investments are being planned to improve processes that can benefit both consumers and financial institutions.”

Transformation to meet customer demands

More than three quarters (78%) of respondents believe their organisation is unprepared to react and adapt to unforeseen challenges. Covid-19 is one such example which the executives surveyed argue negatively affected their ability to service customers. As a result, over one in three (35%) executives are focused on improving their organisation’s resilience to future disruption through implementing new agile technology.

Over half (52%) of consumers now demand a more personalised experience from their bank and, as a result, financial institutions have had to re-evaluate how they tailor the customer journey. However, almost half (47%) of executives say they do not have access to the right information to deliver an exceptional customer experience, with almost two in five (39%) struggling to unify their customer data across platforms and channels.

It is therefore unsurprising that a third (33%) of senior executives expect to increase spend on digital transformation projects that focus on improving customer retention rates. In addition, 31% of executives say establishing a strong customer experience is a significant reason for implementing artificial intelligence and machine learning tools.

Investment in transformation set to rise

Transforming their organisation through new agile technology is of paramount importance to all executives surveyed, whereby all state they are increasing investment over the next year.  Investment levels, however, vary. Over a fifth (22%) are looking to increase spending between £1 million and £5 million over the next 12 months. A slightly larger number of respondents (28%) are expecting a £500k-£1m increase. Despite spend increasing across the industry, cost pressures are the main barrier organisations face when looking to implement new technology.

Speed at the heart of transformation projects

Improving the speed of delivery of products is the main factor (40%) driving increased spend in digital transformation projects. With customer satisfaction now a top priority and the demand for loans rising during the pandemic, it is paramount that organisations overcome delays in updating their product offerings. For example, when making lending decisions for customers, over a quarter (26%) of senior executives struggle to make timely decisions. The CIBLS loan scheme, which supported U.K. businesses to stay afloat throughout the pandemic, highlighted why it is so important for the loan approval process to be fast to benefit both the economy and customer satisfaction.

Transformation benefits are not clear

There is a lack of understanding of the benefits new technology can bring to financial institutions; in fact, 31% of respondents state this is the main barrier for implementing it within their organisation. It is therefore unsurprising that over a quarter (28%) of senior executives feel there is a lack of internal knowledge or expertise around the benefits of new technology and therefore, limited internal desire for new projects.

 

Transform for good

Nearly half (44%) of financial organisations are adopting technology to respond to environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) trends. In fact, a third of executives (33%) are looking to increase spend on digital transformation to improve their organisations’ ESG efforts. Other areas organisations are focusing on include the reduction of paper consumption (42%), travel (36%), and branches (27%). Over the last year, it has become evident that some financial institutions can easily continue the service provided to customers through replacing paper and regular branch visits with digital channels. This has had a positive impact on the environment and therefore, is being implemented into ESG initiatives. While only 37% of organisations are establishing carbon neutral goals, less than 1% noted they were doing nothing in response to the pressures of ESG.

“Financial institutions need to prioritise between short-term and long-term objectives and work to align their products and services with their clients’ expectations and needs. Having the right strategy is important, but so is having the right partner and technology that can offer the flexibility and agility needed to react, adapt and continue to delight clients through any unforeseen challenges or opportunities,” concludes Geary.

3 Viable Financing Options for Small Businesses

Man in a business suit with a blue notebook against a blue background

It’s no secret that traditional lenders tend to be hostile to small businesses. Things are even worse if you’re in a business with a high failure rate. Small businesses are sadly those who are the most in need of a loan. If you’re a new business and don’t believe you have the history needed to get a loan, know that there are many options out there you can choose from. It’s all about knowing where to look and what to do to be an eligible candidate. Here are a few viable financing options for small businesses.

SBA Loans

SBA loans are loans that are backed by the Small Business Administration. We say backed because you will still have to go through an SBA-approved third-party lender.

The requirements are different than with other loans, but a lot of it will rest on your personal credit score. So, this is one is something you should consider if you’re been handling your personal finances responsibly and amassed a respectable history.

If you want to access SBA loans for your business, you also have to be prepared for a long and strenuous process. It will likely take weeks before your application is processed, and you get a response. But if everything is in order and you filled your application correctly, there is a strong chance you’ll be accepted, so we suggest you look into it more in detail.

Invoice Factoring

Invoice factoring is a special type of financing that allows you to borrow money against your accounts receivable. You can borrow money against invoices that are due to you at a later date. The factoring company will take part of that money as a fee and will also collect the invoice themselves.

This is a great option for those who have very poor credit. That’s because your client’s credit, and not yours, will be used to determine if you’re eligible or not. So, if you have a lot of accounts receivable and good clients, this could be an option.

Equity Financing

Then you have the option of offering equity in your business in exchange for money. The stake in your business will usually be proportional to the money that will be put up. For instance, if you have a business that is valued at $100,000, you could ask for $10,000 for 10% of the company.

This also means, however, that you’ll be welcoming new owners on board and will have to split your profits from now on. This can be both a good or a bad thing.

If you bring in someone with expertise in areas that you need, you could end up saving money by not having to hire outside help. They might also help make your business more profitable. On the other hand, you could end up bumping heads with them and they could become disruptive. You could also become frustrated by their lack of participation.

There are also cases where you might have to contemplate giving majority control of your company. Again, this is something you’ll need to evaluate yourself about, as they may be better equipped to run a business. Many will also refuse to give the reigns to someone who doesn’t have a formal finance background, so you have to prepare for that.

These are all financing options that you could explore as a small business owner. Look at each one of those in detail and see which one would be the best depending on your situation.

Answering the Nation’s Top 10 Trading Questions

By Annie Charalambous, Head of Communications at ETX Capital

The past year has been challenging on all fronts, the least of which being the nation’s finances. With many furloughed or having lost their jobs altogether, financial stresses are mounting, and getting the most out of our money is more important than ever.

As interest rates sit at historic lows, people are starting to rethink just how and where they invest their savings, and trading is one such avenue that’s seen a rise in activity over the pandemic.

Over at ETX Capital, we know that making an educated decision is imperative to success, and so we’ve looked at Google search data to reveal the most common questions budding UK traders are asking, and answered them.

What is stock trading? (9,900 monthly searches)

Stocks, or shares, are fractions of ownership in a publicly traded company, that anybody can buy (or sell) depending on the perceived value of that business. Traditionally, you’d want to get in (buy) at a lower price and hold onto that stock until it appreciates in value for you to make a profit.

 

What is options trading? (8,100 monthly searches)

Options are financial contracts that give their holders the ability – but not the obligation (hence option) – to buy or sell a security for an agreed-upon price on a set date, thus hedging against the risk of fluctuating market prices.

 

What is a CFD? (6,600 monthly searches)

A CFD, or Contract for Difference, is another type of trading contract, whereby you are speculating on the direction an instrument may move in, without owning the underlying asset.

You are therefore trading on the price fluctuation – “buying” if you believe its value will increase over time, or “selling” if you anticipate a decline.

 

What is forex trading? (5,400 monthly searches)

Forex, coming from foreign exchange, refers to the buying and selling of different currencies to profit from the difference in their values. The forex market is the largest in the world, seeing over $6 trillion a day in volume – everyone from holidaymakers to big banks partake in the FX market.

 

What is leveraged trading? (5,400 monthly searches)

Leveraged trading works in such a way that a retail trader can open a larger trade with less capital, with the broker putting up the rest of the balance (i.e., the leverage).

Having larger position sizes means your exposure is higher, resulting in bigger returns and conversely, bigger losses.

 

What is futures trading? (2,900 monthly searches)

Futures contracts work in such a way that two parties – a buyer and a seller – agree to exchange an asset on a fixed future date, with the profit (or loss) realized at the time of exchange.

Your profit or loss is realised at the time of the exchange, depending on how the price has fluctuated since the order was placed.

 

What is scalping? (2,900 monthly searches)

Scalping is the act of placing trades you intend to keep open for a very short amount of time, ranging from a few seconds to several minutes, to capitalize on high volatility or sharp spikes in the market.

While there are brokers that may allow scalping in some capacity, it is a form of market abuse if done frequently.

 

How to trade stocks (2,400 monthly searches)

As with any investment, research is the first step.

From choosing the right broker (you’ll want to consider fees, liquidity, selection of stocks, and of course, reputation) to finding the right markets to invest in, you should always know why you’re investing in a particular stock.

Some factors worth looking at may include analysts’ projections for stock performance, the company’s financial results (or earnings), published quarterly, as well as the dividends it pays out.

 

How are commodities traded? (2,400 monthly searches)

Commodities are, typically finite, physical products that have a fluctuating value. There are both hard and soft commodities, ranging from gold, silver, oil, and other natural resources to the likes of coffee, wheat, corn, and even orange juice.

Their value is dependent on supply and demand and can be influenced by anything from weather to politics.

 

How to trade cryptocurrencies (1,900 monthly searches)

Like forex and stocks, cryptocurrencies can be traded as either CFD products or bought and held in a virtual wallet. While more volatile than other traditional assets, cryptocurrencies can be a profitable investment if, like any instrument, you get in at the right time.

When trading crypto CFDs, you can short or sell, meaning you can profit from the drops and not just a rise in value.

Different Types of Investment Portfolio

Whether you are new to the world of investing or just looking to diversify your holdings, there are a number of key decisions that must be made. One of the first being which type of portfolio is most likely to suit you during your investment journey. Continue reading to familiarise yourself with the different types of investment portfolio and how to choose the right one for you.

Aggressive

Aggressive is one of the most common types of investment portfolio. It seeks out large returns and the high risks associated with investing in them and tends to favour capital appreciation over safety. The type of strategies associated with an aggressive investment portfolio will usually allocate a large number of assets to stocks and little to none in bonds or cash-based investments. They are suited to young adults with small portfolios. This is due to the fact that young investors can sustain market fluctuations and losses much more easily than experienced investors with a lot to lose. Most investment advisors only recommend this strategy if it is applied to a small percentage of your entire investments. If you are looking for a high risk portfolio with an equally high return on your investment, it may benefit you to check out the Golden Butterfly Portfolio.

Retirement-blended

With interest rates continuing to decline, the traditional retirement portfolio is almost obsolete. Retirees must lay the groundwork and take the appropriate steps towards building a substantial retirement fund decades in advance. With life expectancy rates surging across the globe, this is now more important than ever. If you are an investor nearing retirement age, you may benefit from a blend of both income-oriented and growth-oriented investments. A common example is stocks and bonds. By taking a step back from alternative investments and sharpening your focus, you can generate long-term growth that is much more likely to grow in line with inflation. This increases your chances of receiving a relatively constant return on investment and softens the blow of equity deteriorations over time.

Income

When you invest, your returns can be relayed to you through dividend pay-outs or stock price appreciation. An income investment portfolio is the name given to a portfolio that consists primarily of stocks that pay dividends. Income portfolios tend to generate positive cash flow. Examples of investments that produce income include real estate investment trusts, or REITs, and master limited partnerships, or MLPs. A real estate investment trust, in particular, is a great way to invest in real estate without the commitment of actually owning a property outright. A master limited partnership, on the other hand, is a limited partnership that is traded publicly on an exchange. These companies will pass on a large percentage of their profits to shareholders in exchange for positive tax status. Income investment portfolios can be a handy way of diversifying your current income sources and supplementing your existing retirement fund.

Speculative

If you are looking for a high risk investment portfolio with high returns, a speculative portfolio may be the best option for you. It is commonly compared to gambling and involves a much greater degree of risk than most types of investment portfolio. Speculative investments focus on market fluctuations and movements. Most speculative investors are uninterested in the fundamental value of an asset or the annual income it may generate. They tend to focus on how much they can sell it on for at a later date. Examples of speculative investments include real estate, stocks, currencies, fine art, currencies, commodities, and collectables. They may also include Initial Public Offerings, or IPOs, and healthcare or digital technology firms in the process of developing a cutting-edge product or service. Most investment advisors tend to recommend that no more than 10% of an investor’s assets are used to fund a speculative investment portfolio.

Hybrid

As the name suggests, a hybrid investment portfolio involves a combination of a number of different investments. It offers the greatest level of flexibility and versatility compared to other types of investment portfolio and typically includes bonds, commodities, real estate, and perhaps even fine art. As with income investment portfolios, a hybrid investment portfolio may also include real estate investment trusts and master limited partnerships. Typically, hybrid investment portfolios contain both stocks and bonds and are diversified across multiple assets. This allows investors to balance both risk and return and establish an investment portfolio that suits their own individual needs and requirements. It is also a great option for first-time investors as it exposes them to equity and tends to be relatively low risk.  

When it comes to investing, there is a lot to learn. One of the first factors to consider is which type of investment portfolio to opt for. From aggressive and retirement-blended to income, speculative, and hybrid, there is guaranteed to be one out there to suit your knowledge and experience of the investment market.

Insurance Brokers Secure Success

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an extraordinary effect on every part of our lives. All over the world, people have changed the way in which they live to help other people to survive through this most difficult of times. We take a look at one of the construction industries most distinguished commercial lines firms, Fairbanks Insurance Brokers Inc., to understand how they have been able to make a difference to their clients during unprecedented circumstances.

Through even the most difficult of times, business must keep running. The ability to trade and to keep economies moving is vital. The COVID-19 pandemic upended so many standards by which we do this work, however. In very short order, the world was changed forever, with a quick impact seen all over the globe. It wasn’t something that businesses could prepare for. It wasn’t something they could react to.

For the team at Fairbanks Insurance Brokers, under the strong leadership of Jason Fairbanks, it was a time that demanded quick action and a rapid response. The team offer commercial insurance products for artisans and builders working within the construction industry, with clients who range from the local neighbourhood handyman to your corporate CEO’s. When clients work with the team at Fairbanks Insurance Brokers, the product they buy above all else is peace of mind. Having the right coverage during the most critical times is, quite frankly, an invaluable resource.

Family owned and operated, it’s little wonder that when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, this was a firm that was able to move quickly to secure its footing. Many businesses felt the impact of the pandemic quickly, and those who had chosen Fairbanks Insurance Brokers were grateful for the family approach that each client shares. No two clients are the same, and each requires unique support to ensure success. The success of Fairbanks Insurance Brokers comes from the way in which clients don’t just sign up, they stay with the firm year after year.

The nature of insurance means that the Fairbanks Insurance Brokers team offer a wealth of knowledge on different lines of products, with some of the most popular including general liability, workers compensation, commercial auto and surety bonds. For around a dollar a day, in some cases, clients can operate in a way that is as safe as possible, with security on hand if the worst happens.

While many organizations will boast of 100 years “combined” experience as a misleading marketing tactic to obtain business, Fairbanks Insurance Brokers focuses on a proven track record that showcases their exceptional knowledge of both the products they sell and the customers they serve. Only by combining both can the team ensure their clients get the best coverage available for the lowest possible rates. The value of the company comes not from pulling together both seasoned brokers and thoroughly trained CSR’s but from what the team as a whole can offer.

The thriving nature of the team at Fairbanks Insurance Brokers comes from an approach that embraces the importance of the staff who run the organization. As company president Jason Fairbanks explains, “If you see your business as a tree, the staff is the irrigation, and the workload is the water. For the tree to grow strong and sturdy in a healthy environment it is essential that the irrigation keeps clean water flowing on a consistent basis from an uncontaminated well providing nutrients critical for healthy growth. Growing the company, while knowing when you hand over the reins and responsibility to others, the workload will continue to flow in a consistent and stable manner”.

Fairbanks has found this to be incredibly tricky. The most important company secrets and business relationships are at the heart of how the firm operates. As the business achieved further success, he had to expand how it operated and change how he worked. As a unified group, the team had to collaborate to secure the business during the unprecedented circumstances of 2020. A key part of how Fairbanks has secured this success is in the way he assures the staff that they do not work for him or his company, but beside him with their company. “Everyone performs harder when they know that their work is appreciated and making a difference in something important, and furthermore, the hard work undertaken by staff members means that they can easily see what an asset their hard work has become to the success of the company” he adds.

The secret of expanding this family enterprise in a way that retains all of the benefits of a small operation, while reaching even more clients, is finding the right talent. While some companies believe that hiring someone with multiple years’ experience means that they will need limited training and that alone will save them lots of money in the long run, Fairbanks thinks otherwise. They take the time to show new employees the ropes from the beginning all the way through to the end, training them all like right-hand men and women. Instead of bringing other business practices to the table, the aim is a fresh start by getting rid of bad habits and to create an environment that supports the greater goal of the overall company and its philosophy.

As such, when the Fairbanks Insurance Brokers team look for new staff, they tend to stray away from the cookie cutter “industry superstar” but strive to seek out people who have the right personality for the position being offered. At this firm, personality is key and has been vital to thriving in the last few years. Most people can be trained for a job, but few can be trained with the right temperament to deliver truly outstanding customer service.

Taking this approach has allowed the team to seek candidates who might not have had the opportunity to take that next step to a thriving career due to the lack of means or overall experience. With all the difficulty finding new staff under the current circumstances and extensive e benefits being offered through COVID-19 government relief programs, you may be forced to get creative in some areas more than other. Former day care employees working as customer service reps. Former gym membership counsellors working in your sales department. It meant that when somebody had to believe in them to protect the best interests of the company at heart, and they returned the favour by stepping up to the plate for giving them the opportunity when others may have chosen to pass on their candidacy altogether.

When the pandemic hit, it was a chance for this intrepid team to prove themselves. Reminiscent of the 2008 financial collapse, it was clear to Fairbanks that he needed to act quickly by making hard decisions to manage a dangerous situation to protect the company and the people who work for it.

He explains, “COVID-19 is like the world’s most wretched criminal organization. Gaining unthinkable power over powerful bureaucrats and world leaders, not by paying them off with large sums of money, but by wreaking havoc on the world by driving fear into the heart and soul of every breathing human being with something to lose. It ploughed through the world population like an unexpecting crowd being hit by a garbage truck flying out of a mountain of popcorn at 80 miles per hour”.

During this time the team were forced to be conservative in many areas that they normally would have not been. As a result of the collaborative approach he has always championed, staff were encouraged – and willing – to put unconditional love and effort into keeping the business afloat. This stopped a bad situation from manifesting into something far worse, essentially adding cracks to the foundation of the business.

Thanks to this caring and careful approach, Fairbanks Insurance Brokers has not only survived to 2021, but is a growing and thriving business as well. The specialist knowledge of his staff, combined with the ruthless commitment to customer service, has kept businesses wanting to use their services. The credit must lie with the long-term strategy that has brought this about. As the rest of the market becomes increasingly competitive, with some businesses willing to say anything to get a payment and bind a quote, the honesty and integrity that sets Fairbanks Insurance Brokers apart is a welcome relief to many.

For business enquires contact Jason Fairbanks at Fairbanks Insurance Brokers, Inc. via www.contractorsinsurancecompany.com or email at [email protected]

Best Service Management Conversational Tech Company 2020

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

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

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

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

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

For business enquiries contact Kim del Fierro at AISERA vai aisera.com

How is Fintech Transforming Banking in Central Asia?


By Abdullo Kurbanov and Zuhursho Rahmatulloev, co-founders of Alif

When we think about the markets driving the financial technology (fintech) revolution, London, New York and San Francisco immediately spring to mind. In many ways, it makes sense for these cities to be at the forefront of fintech innovations. Each of these cities accommodate diverse pools of financial and professional service specialists, attract significant investment, and boast world-leading digital infrastructure.

Since 2015, challenger banks and fintech companies have launched in these locations, offering new products and services that seek to transform consumer finance and retail investment. In doing so, they are collectively helping to empower society through digital solutions. 

While it is important to acknowledge the fintech ecosystems in advanced economies, we should not let these overshadow some of the exciting developments currently on display in emerging markets. Regions like Central Asia are on the brink of what we deem to be a “fintech revolution”, led by a new generation of fintech companies. Importantly, these companies are taking an agile approach by addressing localised issues through the creative deployment of technology.  

Tajikistan is one such country in the middle of a profound digital transformation. With the aim of achieving better financial efficiency and inclusion gains, the country’s fintech industry is helping to digitally empower its citizens. Moreover, at the regional level, by applying tech to address the current banking challenges faced by people based in Central Asia, such as remittance payments and Sharia-compliant fintech platforms,  the Central Asian region is set to become a global leader in Shariah compliant fintech.

International remittances

Admittedly, a core driver of economic development in the Central Asia region is remittances. Over the years, the mass migration of people to Russia from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and some other former Soviet Union countries has resulted in economies that rely on remittances as one of the core contributors to GDP. According to the World Bank, remittances accounted for 33% of Tajikistan’s GDP in 2019 – equating to $2.5 billion. In Uzbekistan, personal remittances received in 2019 totalled 14.75% of GDP.

Remittances do play an important role in supporting domestic households and ensuring countries are positioned to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. However, the complexity and costs involved in arranging these payments can lead to people paying extremely high fees. Banks and money transfer operators (MTOs) are typically responsible for managing such payments. The costs arise when these operators need to engage with several intermediaries, not to mention the margin on the exchange rate. 

Research by the World Bank concluded that COVID-19 has led to a decline in remittance payments in Europe and Central Asia; a consequence of weak economic growth, currency depreciation and unemployment in migrant host countries.

It is here that fintech models can drastically reduce the costs involved in such transfers while also providing greater transparency over how the payment is managed. It is estimated that if every remittance payment made in 2018 to the Europe and Central Asia region had been facilitated through Fintech models, consumers could have collectively saved US$1.59 billion.

These cost savings arise from the lower transfer costs and fees when compared to traditional operators. The payments can also be arranged instantaneously, which ultimately reduces the chances of individuals looking to informal, high-risk avenues of transferring finance.

Evidently, fintech can have important distributional effects by supporting those who rely on remittances. By making the process cost-efficient and transparent, consumers can significantly reduce the amount of fees and costs paid for any type of remittance transfer.

Empowering the region with Islamic fintech

With most people in Central Asia identifying as practicing Muslims, the region is ripe for the growth of modern, technologically enhanced Islamic banking. At the core, Islamic finance is based on the principle that money does not have an inherent value. Instead, it is seen as an instrument used to exchange products and services – things that do have value. Islamic finance also prohibits interest payments. In other words, people should not be able to make money from money.

However, there is so much more to Islamic fintech than simply ensuring the core beliefs of Islamic finance are integrated into fintech platforms. Considering the sustainability and development goals of Central Asia, the fact Islamic finance promotes risk sharing, encourages financial inclusion, and is focused on social welfare outcomes, ensures it can play a positive role supporting the economic progression of the region. The provision of Sharia-compliant banking through fintech solutions not only improves the digital capabilities of the region but contributes to broader social and economic goals.

Creating a digital ecosystem in Central Asia

Digital connectivity is a key enabler of economic productivity, growth and market innovation. As more and more services are offered online, there is a need to ensure that everyone around the world is digitally enabled. Despite this, the World Bank estimates that nearly half of all people in Central Asia are not digitally connected. This is a concerning figure, highlighting the need for a long-term strategy which directs investment into the infrastructure and skills needed for the region to have internet access.

Private and public sector cooperation is needed to facilitate this digital transformation. For example through ongoing consultations and meetings between public bodies, and local companies at the helm of digital innovation. A digital ecosystem needs to be created, and fintech companies can assist in two practical ways. 

The first is through the practical deployment of accessible technologies that assist with people’s daily financial needs. From consumer and retail financing, such as buy now pay later (BNPL), point-of-sale financing through to transparent online channels that facilitate cross-border currency transfers, fintech companies are ensuring the development and proliferation of technology that practically address the common needs of those based in the region.

The second way is through education, skills and training. Digital literacy empowers individuals, and this can only be achieved if people are encouraged to pursue education that betters their understanding of technology, particularly when it comes to finance. For growing fintech companies in the region, it makes sense to implement academy programmes to create a skilled workforce. Such education programmes will also provide the inspiration needed to support a new generation of tech entrepreneurs keen to learn how to programme, thereby reducing the factors that might tempt younger generations to move outside of the region.

Fuelling growth and innovation through tech

Fintech is naturally positioned to help empower Central Asia and support the digital transformation of the region. From offering an easier and more accessible way of managing remittance payments through to the provision of Sharia-compliant services and financial education, fintech will be integral to the economic advancement of Central Asia. Importantly, fintech companies are heeding the call with companies like Alif applying the latest technology to ultimately improve the way people can manage their finances.

Based on what we are seeing unfold now, Central Asia could establish itself as competitive global hub in fintech innovation through the release of platforms, products and services that support issues typical to the region, particularly when it comes to Islamic finance. For these reasons, we are optimistic about the future prospects of fintech in digitally transforming Central Asia in the coming years.

Investment in Small UK Firms Booms Despite Covid


By Luke Davis, IW Capital.

New data from the British Business Bank has revealed that UK smaller companies received a record £8.8 billion of equity investment in 2020 despite the disruptive effects of both Covid and Brexit. This record growth looks set to continue in 2021, with £4.5 billion of investment reported in the first three months of the year already, while our own research at IW Capital – where we provide vital growth finance for SMEs – reveals that 16% of UK investors are looking to back startups and SMEs in 2021.

The figures come from the British Business Bank who first started to track this form of investment over ten years ago. The Bank was also a key contributor to this record, supporting over 20% of all UK equity in 2020 – the majority of which involved the newly launched Future Fund.

The Fund, launched in May 2020, provides convertible loans, ranging from £125k to £5m to eligible investee companies. Technology and IP-based businesses have so far made up around 40% of the companies receiving investment, with Business and Professional services following at 26% of the firms. This still leaves, however, a significant portion of the market if not uncatered for then certainly under-funded – a chronic problem for UK businesses over the past decade.

SMEs are a vital sector of economies the world over, but especially so in the UK, where firms with fewer than 250 employees contribute over £2 trillion to the economy. They make up 99.9% of private sector businesses and employ around 60% of the workforce, and as such are crucial to the UK economy and its growth. This is a significant portion of the overall GDP and much of it is spent in local communities – something which has come to the fore during the pandemic.

Considered in tandem with the fact that before the pandemic, small firms were hiring at a rate three times higher than large companies, this evidence demonstrates just how powerful SMEs will be in tackling potential unemployment as a result of the end of furlough.

Investment in small firms also almost always comes with advice, guidance and an outside perspective that can prove invaluable to a business looking to grow, scale or simply survive – especially in the current climate. Through angel investment and other forms of private finance, entrepreneurs are offered advice, connections and introductions that can make the difference between success and failure or scale and stagnation.

This investment support comes at a time of record optimism in the SME sector, with three quarters of CEOs expecting overall economic conditions in the UK and Ireland to improve over the course of the next 12 months. The combination of optimism and investment backing could spell a perfect storm for growth in the sector that is so vital to the UK economy.

The economy in 2021 is already heating up, with it set to return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of the year, and its continued growth will be fuelled by the small businesses that provide its foundation.

The record level of investment reported in 2020 is great news and – from our experience through the last year and a half – not at all surprising. There has never been more demand to support SMEs and startups in their growth journey, whether that be through the Enterprise Investment Scheme or any other route to provide funding, and the trend is by no means over.

Our research indicates that a significant proportion of the UK’s investment community are actively investing in these firms. Opportunities in this sector exist not only for great returns but also to make a real difference in the life and growth of a business. something that is becoming more important for investors as they adopt a more altruistic approach.

IW Capital invested in at least six different growth SMEs during 2020 and the majority of them have grown at a rapid pace thanks to our support. The growth of these businesses ranges from sustainable packaging that pivoted to produce plastic-free PPE, to apps making seamless hospitality service possible during a pandemic. The unifying elements they all possess are passion, determination and talent, all qualities that the UK entrepreneurial sector has in spades.

How to Manage Your Finances More Effectively?

Even if you think that your salary is not that low, you might routinely discover that for some reason, you have underestimated your monthly spending. Although you are not the only one, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t put plenty of effort to ensure that you have some savings that could be much needed when something unexpected happens.

It might be easier said than done, but it doesn’t mean that you are fighting a losing battle. In a moment, we’ll explain how to manage your finances more effectively so that you can live a more stress-free life. It will require a fair bit of self-discipline, but it’s worth the effort.

Pay off Your Debts

Once you have determined how much you spend on each category and have set up a budget plan that makes sense for you, make sure that you stick to it and don’t deviate from it unless necessary. If there are expenses that seem unreasonable or unnecessary, try to cut down on them and see how much money could save over time.

If there are any debts that need paying off urgently, then pay them off as soon as possible before they take over your life completely. If the amount you owe is too much for you to repay on your own, you can always consider getting a personal loan, such as the one offered by societyone.com.au. On top of that, consolidating several loans into a single one can help you pay off your debt faster.

Track Your Spending

In order to determine your spending habits and see where your money goes, we recommend that you track each and every expense you make. If you are going to use a budgeting app, it will be recorded and calculated automatically. A paper-based system will require more manual work on your part. If you want to be more organized, don’t forget to include recurring expenses such as electricity/water bills, insurance premiums, etc., in your monthly plan.

Make a List of Your Expenses

Once you have determined how much you spend on average monthly, you can start making a list of all the things you spend money on. If you are not tracking your expenses, you might have overlooked some of them, while others might appear to be unreasonable. For example, it doesn’t really make sense for a 25-year-old person to spend $800 on groceries every month. This might just be the case if they live with their parents and have a very generous allowance, but it’s unlikely that they earn that much money on their own. Another example is clothing. Let’s say that you spent $500 on clothes last month. If you make $2,000 per month, then this might be a bit excessive.

There are also expenses that you might need to cut down, even if they seem like a necessity. For example, if you spend $100 on coffee every month, it might be time for you to reconsider your priorities or at least reconsider how much coffee you drink every day. Although this is somewhat subjective, we can give you an example of an excellent way to do it. For instance, if you want to cut down on coffee, try to reduce the amount of money you spend on this commodity by a dollar or two each month. Once you have done that for a couple of months, you should be able to stop buying coffee completely. This way, you will slowly start getting used to your new lifestyle, and in the meantime, you will save quite a bit of money.

Make a Budget Plan

Once you have determined how much you spend on each category, it’s time to create a budget plan. First of all, we recommend that you try to stick with the same categories as before, but if there are some items that you feel can be moved from one category to another, then go ahead and do it. The second thing that you should do is to look for opportunities where you can cut down on spending without significantly reducing your quality of life.

For example, if you have decided that you don’t need a car because public transportation is sufficient, then think about how much money you would be able to save by not purchasing one. If you are thinking about cutting down on your phone bill, think about how much money you can save by switching to a cheaper provider or changing your plan. This way, it will be much easier for you to stick with your budget plan.

Conclusion

You don’t have to be an economics expert to know how to manage your finances effectively. Still, it’s a valuable skill everyone should have! After all, you never know what will happen in the future, and if you spend your money in an unreasonable way, you may be in trouble.

If you want to develop good spending habits, you can start with baby steps. Determining what you spend your money on is a great starting point, and you can use various budgeting tools to help you with that. Ultimately, you can think about establishing an emergency fund and increasing your savings.

Study Reveals: First-Time Buyers’ Biggest Fears

The biggest concern raised by first-time buyers is experiencing a ‘house value drop/negative equity’. In fact, 31% of respondents said they are worried about their property becoming less valuable than the remaining value of their mortgage.

Nisha Vaidya, mortgage editor at money.co.uk, said: “There are a few things you should keep in mind if you want to avoid negative equity. Firstly, it’s important to make sure you pay the market value for the property, so don’t shy away from negotiating on the asking price.

“Secondly, the larger your deposit, the more equity you will have in the property. So, if you are able to save enough, putting down a bigger deposit is a good idea.”
While putting down a larger deposit is a great way to unlock lower interest rates and better mitigate shifts in house prices, over a quarter of first-time buyers said they are worried that they wouldn’t be able to save at the same pace as the rise in house prices.

Nisha Vaidya, a mortgage editor at money.co.uk, offered these tips for saving for a deposit:
● Setting a budget: In addition to understanding how much deposit you’ll need, there are other costs to consider when purchasing a home, such as survey costs, solicitor or conveyancer fees and insurance. But by setting a budget, you’ll be able to plan out your savings targets and start saving for your ideal home.
● Cut the cost of your rent: You’ve probably asked yourself the question ‘How to save money for a house’ multiple times, but one way is by paying less rent to free up more cash for your deposit fund. If you live alone, consider moving into a house share or living with family to save on rental costs.
● Get a lodger: If you live alone and have space, taking in a lodger can be a great way to help subsidise the cost of renting and give you extra money to save for a deposit. Before you begin your search for a new flatmate, check your landlord is happy for you to share their property and sub-let a room.

The third most common worry experienced by first-time buyers is being ‘unable to afford your mortgage long-term’ – a concern experienced by 22% of respondents. 

Nisha Vaidya added: “If you are worried about affording your mortgage, there are ways a buyer can get support. This type of support can include: a payment deferral, an extension to your mortgage term and a change to your mortgage type. If you are looking to buy a new home but have financial worries, using the Help to Buy scheme could offer you the support you need. 

This Governmental scheme offers buyers an equity loan they can use to help buy a new build home, allowing buyers to purchase a property with a 5% deposit and receive a loan for up to 20% of the property value, which will be interest free for 5 years. The buyers must then take out a standard mortgage for the remaining 75%.”

Moreover, the pandemic has affected us in many ways, and it has created new concerns in different aspects of our lives, including financial ones. The survey conducted by money.co.uk reveals that 13% of first-time buyers fear ‘COVID-19 influencing a spike in prices’.

This is not the only fear people have as a result of Covid-19. With many people becoming remote workers, confusion has arisen in regard to where it’s best to buy, in the eventuality of going back to the office. 5% of respondents have said they have concerns regarding the ‘uncertainty about location with working from home [WFH]’. 

Couples who buy together have also admitted that a big concern is ‘breaking up with someone after buying together’, with 11% of people fearing a separation could create difficulties with property related matters. 

Nisha Vaidya, a mortgage expert at money.co.uk, said:

“Getting on the property ladder can be a nerve-racking experience for first-time buyers, as being misinformed can cost greatly – whether it’s losing out on a dream home or losing a lot of money in the process. However, the best thing first-time buyers can do is do their homework thoroughly before embarking on this journey.
“Being equipped with the right information will cut the risk of encountering unpleasant scenarios that many first-time buyers fear, such as experiencing negative equity or being unable to afford a mortgage long-term. Once you are confident in your knowledge the process should be less risky and more exciting.”

Methodology
● Mortgage experts at money.co.uk conducted a survey in which 1,501 people participated. The question “As a first-time buyer, what is your biggest fear?” was asked.
● The survey sample is broken down as follows: 56.5% male respondents, 43.5% female respondents. 8.5% were aged 18-24, 19.5% were aged 25-34, 13.7% were aged 35-44, 17.0% were aged 45-54, 22.9% were aged 55-64 and 18.4% were aged 65+.
● Geographically, 77.7% of respondents were from England, 15.6% of respondents were from Scotland, 6.1% were from Wales and 0.7% of respondents were from Northern Ireland.

*Figures provided by https://ahrefs.com/.

UK Investors Have Their Say

Confidence levels are up, Millennials make their mark and interest in ethical investing hits new highs.

Confidence levels amongst UK investors have risen 20 points (62 – 82) in the last 12 months according to new research amongst 1100 UK investors (£10k+).

The Investor Index, now in its second year, is conducted jointly by London-based communications agency AML Group and research agency The Nursery Research and Planning and was launched in April 2020 to assess the immediate impact of Covid 19 on investors and the UK investment marketplace. The first report of its kind to provide an objective overview of the industry based on hard data – the study was welcomed as a barometer of post-Covid investor behaviours.

One year on, and still in the grip of the pandemic, the 2021 study has revealed some significant changes and ‘recalibrations’ amongst investors.

Confidence returns – but not to pre-pandemic levels

Over the past 12 months, confidence levels have risen most amongst older investors (55+) up 30 points (54 – 84), investors that are retired up 27 points (57 – 84), those that use financial advisers up 31 points (65 – 96) and investors with a portfolio of £200k+  – up 38 points (55 – 93).

The study has also revealed a disparity in gender confidence levels – with men indicating a 25 point rise over the last 12 months (61- 86) compared to a rise in confidence levels of just 10 points among female investors (65 – 75).

However whilst the results are cause for some degree of optimism – investor confidence levels are still 18 points down from pre-Covid levels.

Gen Z/Millennials Vs Baby Boomers – the emerging generational divide

10% of UK investors have started investing since the pandemic began – and of those new investors three-quarters (74%) are under 35s.

It’s a changing landscape with the younger investor bringing different attitudes and priorities to the investor table.

89% of under 35s have changed their investment strategy over the last year vs. 31% of 55+ investors. Younger investors are also increasingly looking to ESG products – with 27% including responsible investments in their portfolio compared to only 4% of investors aged 55 and older. Younger investors are also more focused on the long game – with 30% looking to longer term investments compared to 8% of investors 55+.

When it comes to investment decisions, younger investors are increasingly turning to family (40%), banks (30%) and friends (27%) for advice.

It’s a gift – investors demonstrate a change of attitude

57% of UK investors have changed their investment strategy since the pandemic started – with a focus on products offering ‘long term growth’ (46%) over ‘short term growth’ (30%).

Investors are increasingly concerned about their children’s financial security. 70% of investors are aware of the £3,000 wealth transfer allowance with 38% having given £500 or more over the last 12 months – with children the biggest recipients (72%). Indeed the average amount gifted in 2020 was £8087 compared to £5421 pre pandemic (2019) – a 49% increase and a clear indicator of the want for investors to safeguard futures for loved ones.

How invested is the UK investor in Responsible Investing?

Investors feel that ethical/socially responsible financial products are more important now than at the same time last year – up 9 percentage points (23% – 32%) with three in ten of those surveyed stating that they believe that these products will be more important in the future – up six percentage points (24% – 30%).

However despite investors acknowledging the importance of ESG/RI there is a continuing perception, despite contrary evidence, that it carries a performance penalty with investors ‘prioritising financial security over wider ethical considerations’ – up five percentage points (23% – 28%).

Younger investors look to DIY platforms

Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, four in ten investors under 35 (39%) have invested more with DIY platforms – compared to just 14% of 55+. And while the younger investor has indicated a ‘happy to do it myself’ attitude regarding financial planning and investments they are less confident when it comes to their feelings about the industry. Just under one-third of under 35s (29%) are confident markets will bounce back compared to more than half (52%) of investors aged 55+.

Perhaps predictably, younger investors are more tapped into trends and news stories connected to investing.

39% of under 35s cited an awareness of the growth in DIY platforms with 44% familiar with the story around Reddit users driving up the share price of Game Stop and 31% aware of the rise in silver prices. Investors aged 55+ recorded significantly lower awareness across all trends.

Building An Inclusive Digital Future For Every Child

By Sunita Grote, Ventures Lead, UNICEF Office of Innovation & Thomas Davin, Director, UNICEF Office of Innovation

Witnessing the scale of the global pandemic has shown us a paradox: as schools, businesses, and borders closed, our lives went online, children and young people turned to online learning; companies shifted to remote working; and our gatherings with family and friends crossed time zones over video conferencing. We turned to the digital world to deliver our groceries, discover new treasures and experiences, and manage our finances and futures.

The pandemic instigated a mindset shift and accelerated the digital future — but not for the entire world. Half of the world’s population doesn’t have access to the internet.  For many children around the world, the pandemic simply stopped access to lifesaving and essential services like education, healthcare, protection from violence— and the number of children living in multidimensional poverty has soared to approximately 1.2 billion due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is also estimated that 142 million more children are now living in monetary poverty as parents lose their jobs and income sources.

1.7 billion adults still lack the most basic financial services, leaving them unable to adequately access and invest in their health, education, entrepreneurship – and the chance to protect themselves and their future in the wake of another crisis.

We need to build the infrastructure and systems that enables the most marginalised communities to access digital services. This means closing the current gaps in access, financing, capacity and priority to develop valuable solutions that leverage the latest technological breakthroughs.

Closing the gaps to build inclusive digital economies

UNICEF’s Innovation Fund aims to close these gaps by financing early stage, open-source emerging technology with the potential to impact children on a global scale. The Innovation Fund has grown into a $35M+2267ETH+8BTC pooled fund that has invested in 118 solutions across 57 countries, and provides product and technology assistance, support with business growth, and access to a network of experts and partners. Beyond building solutions, the Fund sets out to diversify the community of entrepreneurs that benefits from capital. We put special emphasis on supporting solutions built by the traditionally underrepresented in venture capital – to date, 40% of our investments are in female-led companies. We exclusively support  open source solutions to ensure that these become digital public goods, opening access to them and the value they generate to communities around the world.

The Fund’s investments have generated solutions supporting the global response to COVID-19. These include, for instance, the HealthBuddy chatbot that provides information and addresses misconceptions in 7 languages, built on Ilhasoft’s platform Bothub. UNICEF’s Magic Box platform is able to analyse and develop models based on data provided to us by our partners, predict the spread of COVID-19 and analyse the impact of social distancing measures on children and their families in developing and emerging markets. UNICEF focused our efforts on developing and accelerating solutions that can provide services to and insights on markets that are often neglected by the rapid pace of technological development.

Leveraging the latest technological breakthroughs for children

Blockchain-based solutions allow us to rethink how problems are solved.The technology allows for greater transparency and efficiency in systems, better coordination of data across multiple parties, and the possibility for greater community engagement in decision-making that is more difficult with traditional technologies or systems.

In a crisis that required a shift to digital services, we saw blockchain and cryptocurrencies provide value to the COVID-19 response.

We have seen UNICEF’s leadership in establishing a crypto-denominated fund provide new opportunities to new partners,  committing resources toward innovation, including for the COVID-19 response, and toward COVAX efforts. Chainlink, a decentralised oracle network,    contributed to UNICEF’s Innovation Fund and will provide technical expertise to investment companies around smart contracts. Binance Charity donated $1 million in crypto to support UNICEF’s global vaccine rollout and released limited-edition NFTs with proceeds going towards COVAX.

Blockchain-based solutions also have the potential to improve the efficiency of the response. Our portfolio company StaTwig is piloting its blockchain-based app by partnering with the Government of India to track and improve the delivery of rice, supporting their effort to secure food for millions living in poverty – a need amplified by the onset of COVID-19. 

Our newest cohort of investments is building solutions toward greater financial inclusion. The startups are  exploring solutions to make payments to frontline workers more efficient, facilitating cross-border transfers, developing community currency, improving access to saving and lending services, and more. This is the first cohort to consist of majority female-led companies; and expands our portfolio to Rwanda and Iran.

Improving transparency and efficiency of our investments

This cohort is also the first to receive equity-free investments in USD and or cryptocurrency through UNICEF’s CryptoFund – a new financial vehicle allowing UNICEF to receive, hold, and disburse cryptocurrency – a first for the UN. The CryptoFund enables us to apply the benefits of blockchain to our own operations and improve our efficiency and transparency at a time when we need to find ways to achieve more with limited resources. We can now make investments in under a few minutes for under a few dollars, all while being fully transparent around where funds are being used.

This flexibility and speed allowed UNICEF to quickly disburse funds and invest further in eight Innovation Fund companies developing features to mitigate the hardships of COVID-19 on children and youth. One of the companies was Somleng (Cambodia), which needed to quickly scale its low-cost Interactive Voice Response Platform to work with the government to send vital information about COVID-19 — and eventually run its Emergency Warning System.  We are now working to bring this flexibility and speed to our government and other public partners – by building and offering digital public goods to manage and track cryptocurrencies more efficiently through our Juniper suite of tools.

Building the new digital economy

We now all share the experience of a global pandemic and resulting lockdowns, and those of us with access to digital services found ourselves still interconnected in the “new normal” and able to participate meaningfully – and benefit from – the digital economy. Decentralised systems are generating unprecedented revenues and returns in the current market – with benefits currently going into the hands of few.

COVID-19 has proven that only when access to the benefits of digital systems is universal, can we respond quickly and prepare for – or stay afloat and thrive during – the next crisis. Imagine a world where solutions, data, financing, and talent are instead accessible and more evenly distributed as public goods; where scarce resources are channeled towards solutions that are designed to bring both financial and social value for all.

Emerging technologies and digital public goods offer an incredible possibility to realise this inclusive, accessible world – where the digital economy is distributed so that everyone, even the most vulnerable, holds a key to safety, resiliency, and future growth and opportunities. We must venture into supporting untapped, underrepresented communities in a transparent way so that, together, we can build a digital future for every child and every young person to survive and thrive.

How to Ensure Your House Is Ready For the Market

When putting your house on the market, there are numerous factors to consider. For instance, you may ask the question “when is the best time to sell a house?” However, before you consider putting your house on the market, you may want to ensure that it is ready first. In doing so, this could help to speed up the process and minimise the risk of losing money.

Finding the Right Agent

Deciding that you want to sell your home is the first step of the moving process, however, finding the right estate agent to help you sell your property is next. When looking to find the right estate agent, you must select the right person, as this can have an impact on the time it takes to sell your home.

As you look at the options available to you, look for the person who you feel follows the best practice, meets all the requirements and effortlessly work to industry standards. Aside from providing you with peace of mind that you have the right person capable of helping to sell your property, it can also help with increasing your chances of selling your home.

Check the House For Any Minor Repairs

Showcasing a house that looks as though it has been well-maintained, creates an impression on potential buyers that the property has been cared for over the years. As you begin the process of putting your house on market, it is worth conducting a thorough investigation of your property to see if there are any problem areas you notice that could be worth fixing.

These tasks do not need to be grand such as renovating a kitchen, they could be as small as filling in any holes in the walls or checking for any clogs in your guttering. This could be done before or after your valuation, however, doing it before might help with increasing the value of the property.

 

Have An Accurate Valuation First

Ensuring that you have an accurate valuation of your property is a key factor when selling your home. For instance, if you undervalue your home and it goes onto the property with too low of a value, whilst you may generate a lot of interest, if you were to sell at such a low cost then you will also lose money.

As you look to put your house onto the market, you may want to consider house valuation surveys to determine what price your property should be listed at. If you are wanting to value your house, firms such as GB Home Surveys can provide you with an accurate overall value of your property. Investing in such a service will help give you peace of mind that there are no potential pitfalls that could cause a surprise.

Worth Going Neutral

When looking at any property, neutral tones and colours tend to be the most appealing to potential buyers. In addition to brightening up the home and creating the illusion that rooms are a touch bigger than they are, neutral tones will help those viewing the property to envision themselves living there.

Ultimately, most of the updates that can be done to prepare your home for the market are unlikely to damage your bank account. Instead, they can help to increase the overall value of your property and potentially selling it far quicker – so it is worth considering implementing one of these strategies before you put your house on the market.

Digital Adoption in Wealth Management in 2021

By Will Bailey, Chief Strategy Officer, InvestCloud

Just over one year ago, the world of wealth management was forced to turn digital overnight.

For many in the sector, the resulting digital drive forced technology adoption faster than we had ever seen. A KPMG study, conducted in April 2021, finds that 74 percent of organisations have accelerated operational digitisation, compared to 50 percent in August 2020 – showing the direct impact of the pandemic on priorities. But while the pace of digital adoption has increased, there are still many opportunities to innovate and differentiate a firm and ensure a better competitive advantage through technology.

But first, there needs to be a better understanding of digital adoption, and what it can achieve.

Adoption to date

Traditionally, many firms have geared digital adoption to the back-office – streamlining processes and simplifying human input. This of course makes perfect sense in terms of reducing costs, but it often also comes at the cost of improving the client experience.

The “point solution” approach, caused many in the industry to use digital as a means to solve specific business pain points – firms are now buried under point solutions for client onboarding, portfolio management, and report generation. Driven by the desire to grow and retain clients or find operational efficiency, managers made these one-off changes to keep with the times or to offer specific add-on functionality to remain relevant to clients. But relying on this piecemeal approach alone will not suffice and has resulted in fragmented operating environments that still rely on human processes or Microsoft Excel to see across the organisation.

The problem with the “point solution” approach is demonstrated in a report published in April 2021. It found that 63 percent of wealth platforms show significant digital capability gaps compared to investor expectations. And just 37 percent of investors give their platforms top scores for the digital experience.  This highlights a significant gap between investor expectations and the tools wealth managers actually need in order to carry out their job.

Those who have gotten digital right recognise it as a core component of their client engagement and servicing strategy. Digital must be an extension of the brand and the ongoing dialogue between client and advisor. This requires wealth managers eschew point solutions in exchange for a holistic and consistent dialogue with clients.

This move in how we view digital will help meet the rapidly shifting attitudes amongst clients. Clients now require instant access to information and the ability to take action; accessible at anytime, anywhere and on any device of their choosing. Firms who make the effort to improve their digital offering will continue to earn their place to compete in the market — whilst those who do not will be rendered obsolete.

The current environment

The pandemic saw digital transition from a “nice to have” to business critical. As we look to exit from the pandemic, digital’s role in wealth management will not lessen but will continue to increase as client behaviours establish the “new normal.”

Wealth managers pride themselves on delivering great client experiences, either in plush offices or wherever their clients demand. Client expectations – already shifting towards digital-first – have now been irrevocably changed as they become used to on-demand services.

The basics of client engagement need to be re-considered. What can clients access online? What do they view? What do we need them to see? These questions must be answered – but managers must answer these with an empathetic lens applied to ensure the client feels like their experience is individual to them.

Increasingly, this is leading to a rise in the notion of delivering holistic advice via digital.

Defining digital holistic wellness

Holistic wellness is about moving beyond traditional wealth management and brokerage services towards catering to a client’s entire financial life and beyond. It means managers can go beyond the traditional remit and get even closer to clients – becoming the center of their financial lives and extending to cover all assets.

But with a greater remit, managers face more complexity. This is where digital delivers value.

Digital tools allow managers to create holistic wellness by capturing information about their clients that goes far beyond simply finances. This includes health, family, physical assets, and life goals. It develops a complete view of the client by deploying digital tools that allow the clients to share information in their own time over the course of their relationship with an adviser.

This begins right at the start of the relationship with dedicated pre-client portals that facilitate engaged prospects to seamlessly become clients and provide advisors and clients with digital tools to give a holistic view of the future. This – combined with behavioural science, machine learning and amplified intelligence tools – allows advisers to foster deep relationships quickly and intuitively with clients, rather than taking months to build up acquired knowledge via traditional means.

Ultimately, this empowers the client with community, knowledge, and a sense of relief. This is critical at a time of unstable financial markets and where advisers cannot have physical interactions with clients.

2021 and beyond

As we look to exit from the pandemic, wealth management will continue to digitise.

The “old think” technology adoption approach that creates fragmented experiences will give way to “new think,” digital client and adviser interactions that are part of one continuous relationship.

New think requires managers to challenge orthodoxy and resist the dual threats of increasing commoditisation and fee compression facing the sector. To achieve new think, every manager must buy in to the thinking that every digital journey starts with the client and each client is unique, the digital journey must support the uniqueness while enabling standard practices and procedures to allow for scale.

This is why providing holistic wellness is so important to the future of many advice firms – it further resists issues facing wealth managers. Provided both digitally and via high-touch human contact, holistic wellness creates a “sticky” experience for clients, making them more likely to stay with you and even expand share of assets if you can provide a more complete service offering.

While the sector might be looking forward to a return to normal in the coming months, now is the time to review technology adoption to date and think about how digital can enable the business and unlock new revenue streams. The opportunities are there – so long as comprehensive digital solutions are embraced, and everything is designed with the client in mind.

Changing the Game: Looking at the Benefits of Alternative Cryptocurrencies

By Sergei Grigoriev, Executive Director, Eurotrader

With the popularity of cryptocurrency reaching a fever pitch, its development has also attracted new contenders within the trading sphere.

Virtual payments have made numerous impressions on global headlines. News networks were set ablaze following triggers such as Elon Musk’s influence on the market and reports of an investor losing millions in Bitcoin, to name a few. It therefore comes as no surprise that attention is focused heavily on the commodity.

However, despite Bitcoin being the most popular name in the crypto sphere – and having the highest valuation – there is a range of lucrative currencies existing in a growing market, each with its own benefits and downsides.

This article explores some of the benefits of emerging cryptocurrencies and the key considerations for finding the right investment.

The attraction of cryptocurrency

Much like its blockchain host, cryptocurrency boasts cybersecurity credentials that make it an attractive investment.

This ‘trustless’ style of investment reduces risk, as no bank, building society or financial adviser holds the stock for you. And despite stories of people throwing away their crypto fortunes, there isn’t any physical currency to be concerned about – significantly reducing the risk of theft or fraud that comes with traditional currencies.

Cryptocurrencies also offer another significant pull for investors: they require no middleman. While trading platforms charge fees to trade, withdraw and settle money, these are minimal compared with the hefty fees charged by other investments, like currency conversion costs.

The speed of cryptocurrency trading is also a selling point. Transactions are seamless, instant and secure, with blockchains also lessening the need for a paper trail and helping to guard you against fraud.

Delving deeper into the market

Bitcoin leads the cryptocurrency market in almost every department. Its popularity and value are currently unrivalled, with a market cap hovering around the $1 trillion mark.

With that said, Ethereum’s sudden surge to prominence shouldn’t be taken lightly, showing that even newcomers can quickly make waves in the market. With a market cap of $500 billion, Ethereum isn’t showing signs of slowing down.

Since Bitcoin’s launch in 2009, the creation of competing digital currencies has been steadily increasing, with a sudden boom in recent years. In terms of their functionality and operation, most alternative currencies differ wildly from Bitcoin. However, some have similar qualities to the current main player.

For example, Ethereum uses the same blockchain ledger as Bitcoin, with similar benefits. However, the system itself is geared to prioritise speed of transfer, with a different operating system that sets it apart from Bitcoin.

On the other hand, Litecoin is far more similar to Bitcoin. As its name implies, it’s a ‘lighter’ version of the reigning crypto king, however, it also offers more impressive transfer speeds.

Some cryptocurrencies run on independent, alternative systems. For example, Ripple is a centralised crypto platform, notably used for global monetary exchange, intending to make these transactions cheaper and faster than traditional international bank transfers. 

Cryptocurrencies typically aim to remove themselves from the moderation of centralised governments and geopolitical market fluctuations – however, Ripple is an exception, as its most common use is by banks and other intermediaries.

The cons of engaging with smaller currencies

Bitcoin is the most established market player by almost every available metric. This can make it difficult for even innovative new cryptocurrencies, offering unique benefits, to break into the market.

This is helped by the fact that it was the first successful and widespread digital currency. Because of its unprecedented growth – and an established blockchain ledger, accessible to all – Bitcoin boasts the largest user base and offers the highest potential prices and rewards on investment.

It’s because of this dominance in the market that alternative currencies struggle to match Bitcoin in size or surpass it in growth.

Importance of diversification

With Bitcoin pricing many budding traders out of the market, there are plenty of attractive alternative investments available. It’s simply about identifying the right investment. However, this is more challenging than ever, for both experienced investors and first-time traders alike.

It’s important to understand the unique benefits offered by each currency. For example, those opting for advanced scalability and an intensively secure network will likely turn their attention to Ethereum.

Ethereum’s decentralised ledger is valued for its impressive security, relying on two separate verification processes, Smart Contracts and ‘dApps’.

Smart Contracts are functions that support safe and secure transactions on the Ethereum blockchain. Their specific code and data functions mean payments can only be processed when certain criteria are met. 

It’s often said that Smart Contracts behave like vending machines. A combination of money and an inputted code allows users to access the digital currency, without the need for third-party intervention or transaction management.

Similarly, decentralised applications, or ‘dApps’, are also at the heart of Ethereum’s operation. These are ordinary applications that operate on a decentralised server, like the blockchain, and are defined by smart contracts. Importantly, they allow users to engage with the front-end interface in a way that is intuitive, secure and user-friendly.

Other Bitcoin alternatives offer further unique benefits. Litecoin, for example, is incredibly scalable and efficient. It boasts impressive speeds, with transactions up to four times faster than Bitcoin.

Litecoin is also growing in popularity, as well as being cheaper than Bitcoin – appealing to particular sectors of the trading market that are geared for small, plentiful and rapid trades.

Knowing what is right for you

To find the right investment, it’s advised to produce a checklist of what you want to achieve from your investment, as well as defining how much risk you’re willing to incur.

It’s impossible to simply declare a single cryptocurrency as ‘the best investment’. Defining your ambitions and goals as a trader first helps narrow your potential investments into a viable portfolio of assets. 

Over the last decade, the range of accessible cryptocurrencies has boomed, giving traders more autonomy in their choices. 

That being said, an alternative to directly investing in a single cryptocurrency is to trade CFDs. Instead of owning an asset, you speculate on market movements. If you correctly predict a market rise or fall, you may be able to earn money.

The growing number of crypto contenders, combined with the growing interest in cryptocurrencies, makes crypto CFD trading a suitable alternative to those who are following the market and are interested by different crypto currencies.

This heightened interest has led to more CFD trading platforms and retail brokers offering cryptocurrency trading pairs. Traders can trade crypto-fiat pairings, such as Bitcoin Cash USD (BCHUSD) without the need for a crypto wallet or ownership of cryptos themselves. 

However, no matter your experience level or route you decide to take, research is key. In addition to analysing the fundamental nature of each currency, it’s important to understand how to build and manage a portfolio. Cryptos with different growth triggers can help diversify your portfolio and hedge against crashes, giving you peace of mind over your finances.

If you’re unsure, working with a professional can help you better understand the market, putting your mind at ease over the risks and rewards of your investments.

The Nation’s Most-Searched Savings Strategies… and How to Access Them

By Annie Charalambous, Head of Communications at ETX Capital

Britain is pinching its pennies. According to the FT, UK household savings have increased nearly 2 percent in the last quarter as 20 million Brits commit to saving more of their income after the pandemic settles. That being said, many Brits aren’t sure where to start when it comes to managing finances.

We’re taking a look at how the nation is researching its savings options, revealing the UK’s most-searched strategies and we’ll even explain how to take the first steps towards them.

1. Premium bonds (368,000 monthly searches)

Premium bonds are a unique, interest-free way to save. You buy the bonds (in this case, a minimum amount of £25, and a maximum of £50,000) from NS&I, and each month you enter a prize draw in which your odds are 34,500 to 1, and you can win between £25 and £1 million. You won’t earn interest on your bonds, but instead, it’s the interest that funds the prizes.

Anyone can buy premium bonds, and this can be done on the NS&I website. Your money is secure in premium bonds and you can cash out all – or part of – your bonds at any time.

 

2. Lifetime ISA (74,000 monthly searches)

Lifetime ISAs are specialised savings accounts designed for those aged 18 to 40 to save for retirement or a first home. They allow you to save up to £4,000 each tax year, and the government adds 25 percent to whatever you contribute.

Anyone within these age limits can open a Lifetime ISA with a bank or building society. They can be paid into until you turn 50, however, money can only be withdrawn once you turn 60, or to buy a first property once the account has been active for 12 months. If you withdraw money before these key dates, you’ll lose your government contribution.

 

3. Savings accounts (74,000 monthly searches)

A savings account is a traditional bank or building society account, which lets you deposit money and earn interest each month. Savings accounts often have a low, if any, minimum starting amount, anyone over the age of 18 can open one, and your money can typically be withdrawn at any time. For these reasons, savings accounts are a common, low-risk approach to saving money.

4. State pension (74,000 monthly searches)

The UK state pension is a weekly financial sum for retirees. Anyone with 10 years of National Insurance contributions or more is eligible for some level of the state pension – with 35 years qualifying you for the full amount.

State pensions can currently be claimed once you turn 66, however, this is set to increase to 67 in 2028. The basic state pension is £137.60 per week but you may be able to claim more, depending on your earnings over your career.

5. Bonds (49,500 monthly searches)

A bond represents a loan, typically given by an investor to any government or company, which agrees to buy it back at an agreed date, with interest.

Anyone can buy bonds. Savings bonds can be accessed from banks and building societies, while Government bonds can be bought through their dedicated Debt Management Office website.

6. Fixed-rate savings account* (14,800 monthly searches)

Fixed-rate savings accounts offer a guaranteed rate of returned interest, on the agreement that deposited funds aren’t withdrawn for a set time. They typically offer higher rates of interest than traditional savings accounts and are also resistant to market fluctuation.

Anyone can open a fixed-rate savings account with a bank or building society, however some institutions may require a minimum deposit amount or set term length, so this may not be the ideal route for everyone.

7. Private pension (14,800 monthly searches

Unlike the state pension, which workers automatically contribute to through their National Insurance, private pensions require active entry and payments. Private pensions can include both workplace pensions, arranged by employers (who typically also contribute) or personal pensions.

Anyone of working age can set up a pension. Some, like ‘final salary’ and ‘career average’ pensions will pay out a pre-agreed sum upon retirement, while other pension types may invest your money, meaning you’re able to earn higher interest (at higher risk).

8. Child savings account (14,800 monthly searches)

Child savings accounts are similar to regular ISAs but are designed for parents to save for their children (18 and under). These give children the opportunity to learn how to manage and save money, and they can even withdraw money before they’re old enough to open a regular savings account.

Some alternatives to children’s savings accounts include Junior ISAs and Children’s Bonds. These may offer greater returns and tax breaks but often put limits on when and how funds can be accessed.

9. Student bank account (12,100 monthly searches)

Some banks and building societies offer specialised savings accounts for those in higher education. These typically act in the same way as a regular ISA but offer sign-up incentives for students, like discount public travel cards and 0 percent overdrafts.

As the name suggests, only active students can open student bank accounts and providers will require savers to prove their identity with a valid student card.

9 Mistakes You Need to Avoid When Selling Your House

You might not be aware of this, but selling your house is not going to be easy. In fact, it is very likely to end up being incredibly time-consuming, costly, and stressful. After all, there aren’t many billboards next to the roads that state “We want to buy your house in California!” or “We will pay any price you want for your home”.

Fortunately, selling your property can become a bit easier if you educate yourself on the topic. If you want to do just that, then you should definitely keep reading! In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about the mistakes you should avoid when selling your house. They include but are not limited to getting emotional, hiding major problems, selling during winter months, setting an incredibly unrealistic price, and not accommodating your buyers. Let’s get started.

Getting Too Emotional

As a person who is selling their home, try to keep your emotions out of the process. While it is understandable to get attached to the place where you have lived for a long time, you should not let that get in the way of making a rational decision. Remember that selling your house is a business transaction, and business transactions are all about cold hard facts and figures.

Ignoring Home Repairs

Before putting your house on the market, it is crucial that you make some home repairs. At a bare minimum, you might want to replace the front door and windows, paint the interior, and do some landscaping. If you aren’t sure whether garage doors in your home work perfectly fine, you might be interested in a garage door tune up to avoid any problems with potential buyers.

More than anything else, you need to make sure that your house looks lovely! It is also a good idea to clean up the clutter and get rid of any personal stuff, as it will only take up space and not benefit you in any way.

Contacting an Agent Right Away

Many people believe that they should contact real estate agents as soon as they decide to put their house up for sale. However, this is not always necessary.

In fact, many agents will tell you that it is often better to begin marketing your house yourself through online advertisement websites, social media, and word-of-mouth. The reason why this can be beneficial is due to the fact that an agent may sell your home for less in order to get the commission.

Hiding Major Problems from Buyers

It is a good idea to be upfront with potential buyers about any defects or problems that your house may have. After all, everyone can be furious when they realize they bought a home that has a significant flaw.

For instance, if one of the rooms has mold or smells funny, it would be better to inform your potential buyers about it. This way, they can take it into account when making an offer. If you do not tell them, they might try to negotiate, only to walk away when they find out about the issue. As a result, you will only waste your time and harm your reputation as a seller.

Forgetting About Home Staging

Home staging is an excellent way for sellers to get more money for their homes. Studies have shown that staged homes sell faster and for more money than those that are not staged.

In order to successfully stage your house, you are going to need to accessorize the interior and get rid of most of the clutter. You might also want to consider changing the color schemes throughout each room. Doing these simple things can significantly impact your chances of getting a good deal when you present your home to potential buyers later on.

Selling During Winter Months

There is no doubt that some people will buy a house at any time of year. Nevertheless, there are certain times of the year when buyers are less likely to buy. For instance, few people go house hunting during the winter months. Therefore, if you want to increase the odds of selling your house quickly and for the best possible price, it would be wise to avoid selling from December through March.

Setting an Unrealistic List Price

If you want to sell your house quickly and for top dollar, you need to set a reasonable list price. Many people believe that setting an incredibly high list price will result in a quick sale. It may be true in some cases. However, there is also a risk involved with this type of strategy.

For starters, you might set your list price too high and end up losing a ton of money on buyers who are unable to afford such a property. Another possibility is that a lower price might invite one of your potential buyers to pay more than your asking price to secure a deal. As a result, you may end up taking what the property is actually worth without scaring away customers.

Failing to Accommodate Buyers’ Needs

To sell your house as fast as possible, you should think about accommodating your buyers’ needs. For example, if they need flexibility in terms of closing day or moving day, it would be wise for you to accommodate them, as if you fail to do it, they might even walk away from a deal. The same logic applies if they want certain upgrades or appliances replaced prior to buying your home or if they have pets or children with special needs.

Selling for Less

Many homeowners decide to sell their homes for less than they are actually worth. While some people do this by lowering their list price, others set unrealistic expectations regarding the final sale price. The truth is that you will end up losing money if you are going to follow in their footsteps.

Do not succumb to the time pressure. Instead, try to sell your property at a reasonable price. One method you can try is doing some research on comparable properties so that you can get a clear idea of what your property is worth.

The Bottom Line

There is no denying that selling your house is going to be a stressful experience. However, if you want to make it easier on yourself, try to avoid the mistakes listed above. If you do so, then it is very likely that you will sell your home faster than you expect!

Remember to do all the necessary repairs and try your hand at promoting your property and home staging. By doing these things, you will boost your chances of finding interested buyers and increasing your home’s value at the same time. Additionally, you might want to be straightforward about the major issues with your home and avoid getting too emotional. This way, you will look more professional as a seller and gain a good reputation among home buyers.

E-commerce In Post-COVID Economy: What Has Changed?


Fintech innovations during the pandemic have been a crucial driving force for businesses worldwide. A number of solutions launched or quickly adapted to aid the growing global payments demand, contributing to growth of the e-commerce sector by 26% globally.

Fintech startups played a significant role in the global financial industry during the pandemic. Payments companies especially, have brought rapid solutions to aid the transition in commerce, which shifted from physical to digital in a matter of months. Many brick-and-mortar businesses began to offer online services, which led to a significant 26% jump in global e-commerce activity last year. That said, the question whether the need for e-commerce-boosting Fintech solutions will remain after the pandemic still lingers.

Payments industry experts expect the increase of Fintech solutions to continue driving the growth of e-commerce for the foreseeable future, citing the change in user behaviour. To further this, Frank Breuss, CEO and co-founder of Nikulipe—a Fintech company creating and connecting Local Payment Methods (LPMs) in the Fast-Growing and Emerging markets—has noted that some challenges, which have undermined e-commerce before, remain unsolved and so the need for Fintech solutions will remain for the foreseeable future.

Breuss explained that the pandemic highlighted one of the main challenges that e-commerce faced for years prior to 2020—the willpower to move towards digital payments. The pandemic restrictions, in turn, have forced many companies to accelerate the implementation of digital payments and virtual customer support in their businesses.

“Prior to COVID-19, many retail companies around the world had been mulling over digital service offerings. However, a relatively small segment of early adopters treated it as an urgent need. The pandemic effectively drove many companies that previously relied on brick-and-mortar stores to explore digital channels to ensure business continuity and survival.”

E-commerce platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce and others allowed even small businesses to make a quick digital switch without going through huge infrastructural investments. They offer easy creation of an e-shop, as well as access to payment gateways and plugins, which enabled business owners to manage essential customer relationship management (CRM) tasks like making appointments, creating a contact list and managing orders in real time.

During this time, Fintechs working in the Payments industry have also introduced various services and solutions to ease the financial burden on consumers during the difficult economic situation. As an example the ‘Buy Now Pay Later’ (BNPL) option, which allows shoppers to pay in installments, was made available to many more customers in recent years. Mobile payments have also shown a dramatic growth, becoming a lifeline for the Emerging markets as mobile phones are more widely accessible than bank accounts. Experts regard this as a giant step towards achieving financial inclusion globally.

According to Breuss, low financial inclusion has been and continues to be a significant impediment to the growth of e-commerce, especially in Emerging markets. As a result, over 2 billion people worldwide are unable to participate directly in global online trading. In Africa, where about 60% of the population remain unbanked, Fintech companies have come to the rescue. Many African countries recorded huge Fintech investments last year, peaking at $1.35 billion by Q4 2020. This is expected to see Africa’s contribution to global trade rise significantly over the next few years.

“At Nikulipe, we are working on meeting consumers’ needs to be able to pay with the Local Payment Method of their choice—not just at their local but also at global merchants. This became even more relevant since the COVID-19 crisis,” explained Breuss. “During the last one and a half years, Fintechs working in the Payments industry came up with a number of solutions to ease e-commerce tool adoption and they still have a significant role to play in the growth of e-commerce and global trends over the next decade,” he added.

As the world begins to make a gradual return to normalcy, e-commerce will have to continue solving the challenges it faces. While the move to digital payments has seen significant progress, a majority of LPMs still exclude global merchants, limiting consumer choice. Financial inclusion has moved forward as well with BNPL and mobile payments gaining popularity, but suitable LPM solutions and internet accessibility remains restrictive to the wider inclusion. Region-specific regulations remain another hurdle to figure out, and these ongoing challenges could be solved only with continued Fintech involvement.

Expert Warns Against the Dangers of TikTok Investing Craze


By Ben Hobson, Markets Editor, Stockopedia

When users of the online discussion site Reddit banded together recently to bid up the price of shares in GameStop Corp., it showed just how influential – and risky – some online investing communities can be.

But Reddit isn’t the only online resource that’s proving popular with investors. Social media platforms are attracting large audiences looking for ideas – including TikTok.

Videos with the hashtag #Investing have so far racked up over 2.2 billion views on TikTok, opening up a world of investing to millions of younger people. But it comes with big risks – there is a very real danger of losing money if (and when) things go wrong.

Ben Hobson, Markets Editor at Stockopedia talks about some of the dangers of the TikTok investing craze and how to avoid the risks…

More and more young people are turning to social media platforms like TikTokto find investments with the promise of life-changing profits. 

Economic turmoil and low trust in financial institutions has left a generation of investors thinking differently about where they invest and who they listen to. In fact, according to brokerage Charles Schwab, 80 percent of millennial and Gen Z investors believe recent economic difficulties are making it harder to get good investment returns.

With social media platforms like TikTok enjoying huge global reach, it’s no surprise that they’re now influencing the investment decisions of millions around the world. 

Earlier this year, the now infamous trading frenzy in US games retailer GameStop Corp, showed how “viral” trends can have a huge impact on individual securities. That was intensified by TikTok videos encouraging viewers to take considerable financial risks in return for what they portrayed as a guaranteed win. For many, the episode simply resulted in losses.

Events at GameStop and other stocks like it have raised fears that apps like TikTok are a new frontier for the kind of stock market manipulation regulators have been battling for decades.

Recently, the Financial Conduct Authority has specifically warned that videos on apps like TikTok are a major risk to young and inexperienced investors.

Part of the problem is that the sense of community on social media platforms can lead to herd mentality. This psychological togetherness is what makes the apps popular. But it’s a huge risk in investing and it’s often blamed for whipping up manias and bubbles.

Sadly, it’s the unprepared amateur investors that are most likely to be left with stomach-churning losses when the frenzy dies down.

Beware of scams

Beyond videos that overpromise, there are also outright scams. And TikTokhas been a lucrative target for criminal groups.

These scams range from the notorious ‘Money Mule’ money laundering scam to much more common ‘day trading’ cons and even celebrity-endorsed money-making schemes.

Videos from these accounts often promise high returns for following their advice and signing up for exclusive subscription services to get ‘insider knowledge’ on the markets. 

Users can find themselves enticed to visit websites that often have very little information about the company’s management, location or details about what they do. These are serious red flags and should be avoided at all costs.

Be careful who you trust

Social media has created a revolution in the way consumers connect and interact. But the risks for investors tempted by the promise of quick wins are very high.

Excessive promotion, clickbait, herd mentality and even criminal scams are not always easy to detect. So be wary of these risks. 

Always double-check any advice you find on social media using a trusted, independent source. With additional research, you can make an informed risk versus reward calculation to see if something is worth investing in while guarding against false claims or scams.

Here are some top tips to remember:
  1. Be wary of users that promote high-return investments. Remember that risk and reward go hand-in-hand, so if what is on offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.

  2. Investigate investment ideas by doing your own research. There is no easy button in investing but doing your homework can pay off. There’s no such thing as a perfect investment, but financial data will tell you what you are dealing with.

  3. Remember the age-old warning about consulting a financial adviser. At the very least, discuss your ideas with someone you trust before parting with cash.

  4. Never open an e-currency account to transfer money to an investment scheme. This is an unregulated space that fraudsters use to avoid detection.

  5. If you’re keen on becoming a successful investor, consider signing up to a reputable investment platform for expert guidance, ratings and portfolio management support.

  6. If you’re in any doubt at all, swipe-up and walk away.

How To Improve Your Business’ Cash Flow Through Invoice Factoring


Managing business cash flow can be difficult. It involves more than looking at profits and losses. It’s also about looking at revenue streams as a whole and the factors affecting them. Sometimes, an enterprise will have to wait for a few weeks for payments, and this can negatively impact your operational expenses on a daily basis.

Luckily, invoice factoring may be an option for organizations that want to quickly ensure steady cash flow. Under this scheme, you can raise funds to cover regular expenses such as fuel, rentals, taxes, and employees’ salaries.

If you think your business can benefit from giving invoice factoring a try, read on for more information about this particular financial method. In this article, you’ll discover how invoice factoring can improve your cash flow while you’re waiting to be paid by your customers.

What Is Invoice Factoring?

This involves a business ‘selling’ its unpaid invoices to factoring businesses. In return, the latter pays a portion of the invoice values and returns the rest after the customer has paid. Some businesses may be discouraged from turning to invoice factoring since it can significantly reduce your profit margins. However, if you prefer to have a steady cash flow without resorting to loans—which may hurt your finances further with their exorbitant interest rates—this may be a good option to consider.

Besides, in selling your accounts receivables to a factoring company, you may still get up to 98% of your invoices’ total value. Most factoring companies take charge of the billing and collections, saving you time from chasing after customers and minimizing the risk of incurring bad debt.

Why Is Cash Flow Management Important For Your Business?

Without steady income, a business can’t operate smoothly. Relying solely on customers for cash inflow can cause several problems. Your employees won’t be able to work properly if they’re not paid. Government offices will run after your business for not paying taxes on time. Simply put, your business can’t grow.

Proper cash flow management is crucial in any business organization. What many don’t understand is that it isn’t limited to earnings and losses. Cash flow covers all aspects of your business income streams along with the factors influencing them: expenses, debts, payables, receivables, and inventory.

How Does Invoice Factoring Improve Your Business Cash Flow? 

Having a steady cash flow is crucial in business sustainability and growth. Enterprises should aim for more cash inflows and shouldn’t have to wait for customer payments to finance operations. Invoice factoring improves business cash flow in the following ways:

  • This method allows you to meet your financial obligations on time, preventing your business from incurring penalty fees and overdue charges.

  • Instead of getting loans that require collateral plus out-of-pocket application costs and come with high interest rates, your business can save cash with invoice factoring. The money you save from loan-related fees may not be substantial, but it can still help improve your cash flow.

  • Being free from chasing non-paying customers, your finance department can perform other important tasks and increase productivity.

  • Paid on time and working in great conditions, your marketing staff will be able to focus on your company’s promotional strategies and attract more customers, increasing your income potential.

  • Because your business will no longer suffer from delays and shortages due to limited cash flow, you can take in more customers and, consequently, see your profits rise.

  • With enough money on your hands, you can consider expanding your business. Consider buying new assets or pieces of equipment to make your business more efficient.

  • Having extra cash at your disposal allows you to prepare for contingency. Reliability increases your brand reputation, and more customers are inclined to transact with you as a result.

  • As your brand reputation increases, an increasing number of customers would be willing to purchase your offerings.

  • A steadier cash inflow allows your business to take on more projects, including expansions and partnerships, which in turn would allow your business to have a more stable financial standing.

Invoice factoring is an attractive prospect for businesses without a credit score or even those with poor credit scores. Banks and lending institutions look at a borrower’s credit score before deciding whether to approve or reject an application. Comparatively, factoring companies don’t look at your business’ credit scores but rather those of your customers, who now owe them money.

Additionally, some invoice factoring companies offer longer payment terms, which may work to your advantage. Check out this article if you want to learn more about invoice factoring and its benefits.

On the other hand, invoice factoring may have hidden costs, so taking this route is more costly than choosing government-backed financial programs. What’s more, your business may still be held liable if your customers default on their payments.

In choosing the best factoring company, a good rule of thumb is to carefully look into their terms and conditions. Make sure there are no hidden fees, and they should have a dispute resolution system. 

The Wrap-Up

Invoice factoring can be an attractive option for businesses that need immediate cash flow. If you’re struggling to collect payments, consider invoice factoring in order to finance your daily business operations. Just make sure that your customers are able to pay promptly in order to avoid headaches.

When used properly, this alternative business financing method can help enhance your business cash flow without pushing your business into a financial sinkhole.

How To Increase the Value of Your Business

If there is a possibility that you may sell your business at some stage in its life, no matter whether that is in 3 years or 30, you need to consider increasing its value. By doing so, you increase your chances of securing a more profitable sale in the future.

Selling a business can be tough. If you have put years of effort into building yourself a profitable company, you’ll want to be secure in the knowledge that you will eventually complete a worthy sale.

Here we provide a range of tips that will each help you to not just maintain the value of your business, but steadily increase it over the years up until its sale.

 

Understanding your business’s current value

Knowing where you currently stand in terms of business success and value, is vital. If you have a clear starting point, you have a base in which you can prove your growth in the future to your buyers. It is always worth you finding out the current value of your business in order to identify areas in which you have grown over the following years.

A buyer will be interested in a clear depiction of growth with sufficient evidence being provided – this represents great business value. If you spend a decent amount of time looking into every element of your business and analysing where it provides you with value, you can use this knowledge to your advantage.

 

Taking the right steps towards improving business value

Along with the efforts that you are currently making to ensure that your business is successful, you can follow a few simple steps that will help to secure that value. By doing these as additional steps, you boost your chances of success in a future sale.

  1. Ask for advice

There are plenty of experts out there who can help to advise on improving your business, managing cash flow and keeping financial troubles at bay. Professional help could make the difference between you maintaining value and gaining value.

If you are facing financial trouble, it’s always best to get this under control before you consider selling your business, if you can. A valuable business is a profitable business.

 

  1. Invest and update

Actively investing in new equipment, machinery or whatever it may be that your business relies on in its day to day operations, is important. The more outdated your business operation becomes, the more that your overall value reduces over time.

Spending money on new equipment and technology may seem like a large investment at first, but you will soon see the benefits. Don’t let the initial spending put you off – this is often what causes financial issues within companies. Some businesses will fail to modernise and as a result, become slow in their processes and start seeing losses.

 

  1. Repeat what works

If you know what already works well for your business, you can continue to do this and strive to improve it even further. Spend time assessing where your priorities lie and what you can afford to leave on the backburner.

If a part of your business is running efficiently and doesn’t require much attention, let it continue to be successful whilst you focus on other areas. If you can implement those winning processes in other areas, do so.

 

  1. Keep an eye on cash flow

Buyers will obviously pay close attention to a business’s cash flow. If your future cash flow projections show it being set to increase, you will automatically attract keen buyers. Document this growth clearly and go back to step 1 should you find yourself having problems with cash flow.

Cash flow is clearly important in any business. Make sure that you are dedicating enough time into managing this area before it becomes a major issue.

 

  1. Don’t forget the importance of customer service

Whether you have a large or small customer base, it is key that you keep those customers happy. If you have a good relationship with repeat customers and spend

time getting to understand the needs of new ones, you will please future buyers.

By documenting what you learn about your customer base, you have a valuable document of information that a future buyer will really appreciate.

There are clearly a lot of ways in which you can help improve the value of your business. What is important to remember, is that you need to have future value in mind at all times. If there is a chance that you may complete the sale of your business at some point, you need to be sure that you are offering buyers a valuable and profitable business.

If you can optimise your current processes to help increase value, then do so. It is unlikely that you will lose out by focusing on these areas, so allocate the time you need to really make it work.

Five Things You Need to Know Before Sending Money Abroad

Millions of Brits provide financial support to their families overseas, with an average of £7.7 billion being sent from people in the UK to support loved ones each year.  

With money transfer apps becoming the new norm, it is now easier than ever to send money to family and friends back home. People can make payments from the comfort of their homes or on-the-go without having to enter a physical store or bank.

However, as with any modern apps, there are a few things to bear in mind in terms of online security whilst sending or receiving money from abroad. The experts at global cross-border payments company WorldRemit have compiled some top tips for any first-time sender. 

1. Secure your email address

Most companies require an email address to set up an account, therefore it’s important that you ensure that your email is protected with a strong password to prevent anyone from gaining access to not only your emails, but any apps you use via this address.

Strong passwords include a combination of lower and uppercase letters, numbers, and symbols, it’s also important to ensure that you don’t use the same password for multiple applications.

2. Avoid public wi-fi

Although it seems convenient to connect to a public wi-fi to make a quick money transfer, the open access can be a security threat, allowing unauthorised users to intercept your sensitive personal information or gain access to your device.

It is recommended to avoid logging into online banking or money transfer apps, or managing your mobile wallet using a public network.

Instead, either waiting until a secure wi-fi network is available, or using mobile data, is the safest way to use money transfer apps while you’re out and about.

3. Research the app you’re downloading

Before you download a money transfer mobile app, try to find more information about the company online. If there is little to no online presence, stay away from it. On social media, always look for the verified “blue tick” next to the business name. Last year, WorldRemit launched a Transfer Tracker App which allows recipients of money transfers to track their funds. The app is free to download through the Google app store in a number of countries including India and Nigeria.

4. Keep your operating system up to date

Whenever your smartphone’s operating system, internet browser or applications notify you that there are updates available, be sure to install them as soon as possible.

Many of these updates are fixing bugs or weaknesses in order to help you stay safe online.

5. Use a pricing comparison tool to get the best deal

The cost of sending money abroad takes numerous factors into account, for example, the exchange rate as well as any sending fees. 

Be sure to use a pricing comparison tool to ensure you’re getting the best deal ahead of making the commitment and sending the funds. 

A spokesperson from WorldRemit added: “Sending money overseas for the first time may seem like a daunting task, but it’s actually easier now than ever before. 

“With WorldRemit, you can send in 70 currencies to more than 130 countries worldwide, in a safe and secure manner, and it can be done within minutes – it’s as easy as sending a text message.

“If it is your first time sending money to your loved ones overseas, we have customer service advisers available to help 24/7, to make your money transfer journey as seamless as possible.”

Start Up Loans Set to Unlock the Potential of Young Entrepreneurs Following the Pandemic

Start Up Loans, part of the British Business Bank, today sets out its commitment to unlock the talent of thousands more people across the UK by helping them to start their own business. The disruptive impact of Coronavirus on the UK’s economy and traditional working patterns has catalysed many to reconsider their careers, whether because of additional time to reflect during lockdown, furlough or a change in employment status.

With Sustainable Financing on the Rise, Expert Advises How Fintechs Could Step Up ESGs Activities

An increasing number of businesses are focusing on how to embed ESG (Environment, Social, and Governance) goals into their strategies. As the notion of sustainability is gaining more ground in the finance sector as well, Marius Galdikas, CEO at ConnectPay, has shared how fellow fintechs could incorporate ESG practices into their business and what impact it could have on fuelling further growth.

Playing the Long Game: How to be Successful at Long-term Investing

By Ben Hobson, Markets Editor, Stockopedia 

 

Read the financial headlines and it would be easy to believe that an investment fortune can be made with just one trade.  

 

While it’s true that some people do get lucky with one “magic” stock during their investment journey, most successful investors build their personal wealth and security over the long term. 

 

Investing is mostly a waiting game. Sticking to a predetermined strategy is key to success in this field – while not letting emotions compromise your judgement. 

 

In the modern age of investing, this isn’t easy. New and experienced investors are being bombarded with more information and ideas than ever before. But in all this noise comes the increased risk of mistakes and misinformation – making the idea of getting quick money sound all the more tempting. 

 

That’s why Ben Hobson, Markets Editor at Stockopedia shares his insights on how to manage your portfolio for the long run.

 

 

Have a plan  

 

Investment strategies naturally change over time and making mistakes is unavoidable as markets fluctuate.  

 

Understanding the risks ahead of time and looking at the bigger picture can help you manage the highs and lows so that you stay committed for the long term. 

 

Not only will this give you confidence, but it will help you manage the fear of loss that can lead some investors to throw in the towel.  

 

Everyone is guilty of dipping into savings to fit their needs – whether it be for a treat or a surprise expense – but it’s vital to know precisely how much you’re willing to invest. 

 

For the most part, the longer you remain invested, the more you’re likely to benefit from compounding returns over time. So, being confident that you can afford the amount you have invested today, and in the years that follow, is paramount. 

 

A strategic stance 

 

Investors and investment strategies are all different and investing advice takes many forms and can seem confusing to those starting out. Yet the historical drivers of stock market profits are surprisingly consistent.  

 

Keep it simple and create a strategy around the three factors that many professional investors focus on – Quality, Value and Momentum. This way, you’re aligning with factors that have historically driven the strongest performances in the stock market over time. 

Remember that high profitability and cash flows are markers of a strong business and are likely worth looking at. Be vigilant of low or no profits, thin margins, debt and precarious balance sheets – businesses with these are usually worth avoiding. 

 

Valuation is vital when choosing a stock. Unloved shares that can be bought for a snip may offer supersized returns. But paying a fair price for higher quality or promising growth is just as viable.  

 

Finally, looking at trends and history can help you gauge a stock’s performance. Positive momentum is one of the most significant return drivers in investing. Share prices that are rising strongly often continue to do so. 

 

The perfect all-weather portfolio 

 

Stocks, sectors and markets move in their own cycles. When one zigs, the other zags, so think about the roles that each investment type plays in your portfolio and how many positions you feel comfortable with managing. 

 

Any investor worth their salt would recommend spreading out finances across a range of investment types and trying out different strategies. 

 

Diversification between different market-cap sizes, investment styles, industry sectors and even international geographies can protect you from being too exposed to unnecessary risks and can smooth out your investment returns over time. 

 

For example, having your money invested in funds and bonds can be less risky than a volatile stock, but having both could help limit losses and increase the chances of a positive return. 

 

Keeping a balance 

 

When your portfolio is in place, understanding where to prioritise your attention lets you rest easy at night rather than fretting over small changes. 

 

One or two big winners can quickly dominate your allocation, but those big winners can also be life changing. 

 

Don’t get too caught up in your portfolio performance – you need to let your investments breathe. If anything, getting too caught up in the losses can make you miss an uptick in value around the corner. 

 

Overtrading can not only fuel emotional investing, but fees and charges can quickly mount. Trading fees all chip away at your portfolio, so avoid throwing money at unnecessary trades – especially when you’re bored. 

The Co-operative Bank Achieves Growth Targets & Launches Value Add Services For SME Customers

Two years on from its successful £15m award of funding from the Capability and Innovation Fund, The Co-operative Bank has delivered on its commitments to launch value added services such as a preferred Business Insurance provider and a mobile banking app for its SME customers. The Bank is also attracting a higher volume of new customers as the number of business accounts opened was 62% more in 2020 compared with 2019. To date, the bank has also doubled its target of acquiring customers through the Business Banking Switch scheme (achieved 12% against a target of 6%).

Do You Want to Learn About Tax Fraud? Here Are Some Valuable Resources in 2021

So, you want to know all about tax fraud? Well, that is one of the duties of every patriotic citizen. We have to educate ourselves on ways in which we can comply with the laws of the land. Else, we may end up paying for crimes we commit through ignorance.

 

First Things First: What is Tax Fraud?

According to Investopedia, tax fraud is when you or a business entity consciously and deliberately falsifies the required information in filing tax returns. That way, they can limit the amount of tax they are liable to pay.

It is clear now that tax fraud is not just an error. Furthermore, there are different categories of tax fraud, with each of them having diverse penalties. If you do not have proper guidance or advice, what seems to be a small matter can go out of hand.

On the other hand, individuals may not intend to falsify their tax information. It can be accidental tax fraud. This happens when you are not keen during the tax season.

Whichever the intent of the tax fraud, both will cost and put you at loggerheads with the tax collector.

 

How Serious is Tax Fraud?

The IRS doesn’t pursue tax fraud for every individual. However, when they catch you, the penalty is quite harsh. In such a case, the government will force you to repay your tax coupled with an expensive fine.

The Internal Revenue Service takes it seriously when you file a false return or any other legal document. When upon investigation substantive information turns up, Tax Fraud charges could result. That is a grave crime that could send you to jail for five years if you are found guilty.

 

The Cost of Tax Fraud in 2021

Tax Fraud is quite common in the US as it is in the rest of the world. For instance, it is estimated that Tax Fraud costs the United States $190 billion a year. In the year 2020, IRS reports identifying tax fraud costing $2.3 billion.

Looking at the cost of Tax Fraud yearly, one can’t help but ask themselves who in the world are these Fraud stars. Well, these are corporations and individuals. Company employees also fall under the “individuals” categories. How do you deal with that as an employer?

 

How to Prevent Employee Tax Fraud in 2021

You do not know an employee whom you have just hired to work for you. You are looking for the right applicant with the right skills and qualifications to fill a particular position in your company.

The essential quality that you should not overlook is integrity. That goes a long way since you build a partnership on trust. Moreover, that calls for some digging on your part.

It is a popular business principle that your employee is the closest person to you for your business to grow. You have to consider the relationship between you and your employees as a partnership. No matter how “insignificant” their job may seem.

Your company’s success also depends on the input that every worker contributes on the job in addition to honesty. Else, you will see your business on its knees sooner than later.

Therefore, it is best to put in check any possible incident of employee tax fraud before it happens. That is where a background check for employment comes in.

 

How Employee Background Checks Help Prevent Tax Fraud

It is best to put an axle to the root of the problem rather than the stem. An employee who is dishonest in their tax payment may not be honest in their dealings with the day-to-day duties. So take care of the problem before hiring them.

Pre-employment background checks help you to discover the following information about applicants;

  1. Consistency.

  2. Honesty.

  3. Criminal records, which includes IRS charges.

However, you ought to be careful not to trample on the potential employee’s rights. There is a thin line there. That is why you need a professional to help you do that.

Therefore, background checks on employment play a significant role in uprooting problems such as future tax fraud, among others.

 

Do You Want to Learn About Tax Fraud? Here are Some Valuable Resources in 2021

From what you have learned so far, you realize who critical it is to guard against tax fraud. If you’d like to learn more about Tax Fraud, here are some great sources for you;

  1. The internet has a lot of information on tax fraud. Below are some credible sources you can search out;

·    FedorTax.com has a wealth of knowledge regarding this subject. Mainly because they are Attorneys and Counselors at Law, that is a great place to begin.

·    Investopedia.com is also a great place to learn about tax fraud. They have a lot of research done on the subject.

·    IRS.gov also informs you on how you can report tax fraud. It is worth your time.

  1. IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers. You can visit any IRS center near you to get your questions answered.

  2. The Taxpayer Advocate Service office is another place where you can get help and get more info on tax fraud.

  3. The local library is a great place to get your questions answered. However, if your attendant cannot give you answers, they can direct you to a local organization that will be of great help to you.

Conclusion

Whether you run a company or an employee, tax fraud is a serious crime that will cost you. Therefore, it is vital to learn about tax fraud and guard against committing the crime by all means. Do not forget to do legal background checks on employees to ensure integrity and transparency for a healthy and successful business.

A Complete Guide To Foreclosure Investing


Whether you’re new or a veteran in a real estate business, foreclosure investing is an incredible strategy to pay attention to. It’s understandable to have hesitations. People’s perception of foreclosure investing could easily affect your judgment.

Well, you shouldn’t have to be. Contrary to some beliefs, you can actually use it as your opportunity to start a business venture. You can potentially expand your investment portfolio if you can successfully invest in foreclosed properties. Doing so will also boost your chance to generate revenue.

How Foreclosure Occurs

But first, you need to understand why foreclosures happen. It starts when someone decides to acquire a property. One may own a property without paying the entire cost at once in terms of down payment. 

Typically, people can settle the payment for a small portion of the total cost, usually around 3-20% of the price, and borrow the remaining amount. The borrowed amount shall be payable within 2-3 years, depending on the contract term.

Unfortunately, accumulating money needed for the payment may not be easy as allocating thousands of dollars for such may be difficult. Or their earnings may not be enough to meet this obligation. 

Hence, it’ll be stipulated in the loan agreement that the property they’ll buy will also serve as your collateral. If they lose the capability to continue the payment, the lender will confiscate the property. Real estate lien allows lenders to withhold such property if they fail to pay off such debt.

During foreclosure, the lender repossesses the property, and they lose the right of its ownership. The lender will then sell the property to catch up with the amount they lent you. Thus, the lender gets the right to dispose of your property.

Should You Buy Foreclosed Property?

There’s absolutely a good reason for purchasing a foreclosed property. As mentioned, these properties can come cheap. Thus, it can create enticing profit margins, which are not common on other real estate properties. Being a new investor, it’ll be a wise decision if you would start with such an investment.

Conducting Analysis For Investment Property

No matter how cheap or promising the foreclosed property is, you can’t be impulsive when investing in foreclosure properties. You can ensure a successful investment property if you don’t hurry to buy the first ones you see. Thus, it would be best if you do your due diligence before buying one.

This is in the form of conduct an analysis of the particular property you wish to acquire. When conducting your analysis, you should look for the best properties that could indicate the highest ROI. Hence, the higher the number you can potentially earn, the more promising it becomes for an investment. 

Finding Foreclosed Homes

Try to be resourceful if you want to buy a foreclosed home as there are several ways of finding foreclosed properties. One of which is going to the local County Recorder’s Office to check the list of foreclosing homes.

You can also visit websites and read the local newspapers to check foreclosed homes for sale. Furthermore, auction houses which conduct foreclosure sales can also give you a list. You may also seek help from the local real estate agents to help you find foreclosed homes.

Additional Cost Of Foreclosed Property

One of the considerations in real estate investment is, buying such properties will generally involve additional costs intended for the renovation. 

The real estate investment strategy concept is to acquire foreclosed properties that require renovations below the current market price. So, you must be ready to settle the additional expenses.

Utilizing The Experts

If you’re serious about investing in foreclosures, you must bring experts to your team. One of the people you can trust is a qualified agent. You must understand that there’ll be plenty of tasks that demand time and effort when investing in foreclosures. It’ll be tough for you to carry out everything on your own. 

From obtaining funds to doing the renovations, you’ll need experts to help you. With that in mind, here are some key players you can add to your team:

  • Property Manager: You’ll need a property manager to take charge of marketing your property. Your property manager will also be responsible for collecting the rent and managing the homes for their maintenance once you start using the foreclosed property to generate real estate income.

  • Loan Officer: Loan officers may not be necessary if you have the whole amount ready to buy a foreclosed property. If not, you should find a loan officer to help you with a mortgage or any form of financing so you can purchase the property. You must establish a harmonious relationship with a loan officer when looking for financing, particularly if you ‘e planning to acquire numerous properties.

Conclusion

With the great opportunities investing in foreclosed properties, you may want to start now. Gone are the days you’ll feel intimidated by this kind of venture. With the right knowledge about investment foreclosed property, you’ll know you’re doing the best thing.

However, remember this venture doesn’t guarantee success unless you put hard work and exert more time into it. Before you begin with your business, you must equip yourself with a team. Get the best people in your team and maximize their expertise. You’ll soon enjoy high profits from your investments.

Why Gift Premium Bonds When You Can Gift Gold?


Becky Hutchinson, CEO at Minted, an investment platform which allows individuals to buy and sell gold bullion.

In light of the ‘new normal’, parents and grandparents are looking for new ways to gift, virtually or otherwise. But in a climate of stock market volatility and low interest rates, are traditional financial investments still a solid choice, and could gold bullion be a safer bet?

There’s no doubt about it, Premium Bonds have earned their reputation as a safe and steadfast savings option. First introduced by the Government in 1956, these tax-free bonds from the National Savings and Investments (NS&I) agency are now UK’s biggest savings product, with about 22 million people having over £86 billion invested in them. Every £1 Bond is given a unique number and all numbers are put into a computer called Ernie (which stands for Electronic Random Number Indicator Equipment), which draws monthly winners. For years, they have been popular to give as presents to children under 16. The parent or guardian named on the application looks after the Bonds until the child’s 16th birthday, when they are entitled to a gift that will hopefully keep on giving.

In December 2020, however, the prize fund was cut considerably and due to the drop in the Bank of England base rate, NS&I also reduced the odds of winning. As a monthly lottery, the closest thing Premium Bonds have to an interest rate is their annual prize rate, which currently stands at one percent. This is based on the average pay out, depending on the number of bonds owned and, while it isn’t completely accurate, it does allow for an estimated calculation to be made about interest gained in a year.

But winning may be harder than it seems. According to Money Saving Expert, only 30% of people with £1,000 in Premium Bonds win £25 or more per year. And, over five years, someone with £1,000 in Premium Bonds and ‘average luck’ is expected to win roughly £50. While that may seem a lot of money to a child who’s been gifted Bonds, any parent knows that £50 doesn’t go far in today’s society.

When it comes to investment options, however, Premium Bonds are as safe as they get. Operated by NS&I, which is backed by the Treasury rather than a bank, funds are easy to access and there is little-to-no risk of losing money – only a small gamble around any potential ‘interest’. However, while this level of financial security was once a significant perk, all UK-regulated savings accounts are now protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) under the savings safety rules. This extends up to £85,000 per person, per bank, building society or credit union – £35,000 more than the maximum deposit allowance for Premium Bonds.

So, is there an alternative safe-haven investment option, with a better interest rate and without a savings cap? There is and it’s far older than Premium Bonds. Gold was one of the first precious metals to be used by humans as a trading commodity and, to this day, remains a stable choice. Many children’s books tell stories of gold – from pirates to royalty – and, in sport, a gold medal has always been associated with winning. From a very young age, the intrinsic value of gold has been ingrained in most people’s minds.

Aside from the glitz and glamour, perhaps the biggest difference between gold and Premium Bonds is that gold is a tangible asset. Investors can handle their physical gold and store it as they wish or even liquidate an asset if needed. Gold doesn’t just sit pretty either; while its price may fluctuate, historically and over the long term, it trends higher. Currently, the average growth rate per year is nine percent, considerably greater than bonds or current interest rates. With this in mind, £1,000 invested in gold could be worth around £1,538 after five years.

With the popularity of the finite resource growing, more user-friendly and flexible tech-focused routes into gold investment are appearing, making gifting the precious metal much easier. Features such as reward points for referring friends and family also provide an incentive for parents to start building up points for their children. With investment platforms like Minted, people can either purchase gold with a lump sum or save set amounts every month, starting at £30. Once enough has been saved for a gold bar, the physical gold can either be stored in a secure London vault or withdrawn – something any child would be proud to own. 

Despite its high-class status, gold is much more than just a luxury good and can be a viable option for every investor, at any age. As markets continue to fluctuate and interest rates drop, the price of gold could remain on its upward trajectory for some time. No matter the state of the current economic climate, the metal will always be a must-have addition to anyone’s investment portfolio and, with growing options to transfer gold virtually, the best kind of gift.

Why Choose Alternative Finance?

With retail, hospitality and leisure businesses opening again, and demand for suppliers, manufacturing and construction greater than ever, it is important that companies have the facilities to expand, grow and invest in the future. With cash flow becoming one of the main concerns for SMEs in the last year, it’s important to get the balance right, and with mainstream lenders come long waiting times, increased scrutiny and endless criteria, more business are seeing their applications for loans, finance and leasing being rejected than ever before. This level of scepticism has a significant impact on businesses and their operations

However, alternative finance is an option that cannot be underestimated, and has the ability to support suppliers, businesses and their clients in selling more and investing in their products and services. There are many reasons why businesses are turning to alternative finance, and will continue to do so.

Common sense

Mainstream lenders have different processes to alternative lenders, and therefore business plans and propositions with genuine strength and durability can be misunderstood or ignored. We specialise in being a common sense lender, listening to your story and finding out how we can make finance work for you, rather than the other way around. Common sense means decisions are made by people who understand your industry and what you want to achieve.

Competitive rates

This is, and should be, important for any business owner. It affects your bottom line and how your business operates financially, which is crucial to ensuring you succeed. By offering competitive rates, alternative lending is an attractive option for businesses who may be in doubt about the value for money they can get elsewhere. It’s important for us, and it’s important for you, that’s why we make it a priority to secure competitive rates for your business.

Quick

More so than ever the queues have been getting longer, processing time and waiting for decisions is not what you should be doing when trying to secure finance to improve your business. Our team work directly to ensure all necessary steps are completed in an efficient manner to give you the best chance of getting your funds quickly, as we understand how important every second is. Alternative lending means you have a dedicated team working tirelessly to help you and your business, your clients and your customers.

Experts in your sector

Knowing your sector and industry gives us alternative finance the edge, because we work closely with suppliers, customers and industry bodies to understand what makes it tick and what’s important. That’s why when you bring us some Quirky Kit that banks or lenders may not see as valuable, we make it our mission to help you secure it. There’s not much we haven’t seen, and it can be frustrating dealing with people who don’t understand why you need your equipment, what it’s for or how it can benefit your business. By specialising in this area of equipment finance, alternative finance has a significant advantage.

Improve cash flow

It’s important to keep on top of cash flow, and it can be a dilemma when you want to invest but don’t want to spend. Using alternative finance to secure a loan or equipment finance for your business you can improve your service or product, make it more cost effective, more efficient and increase revenue, allowing you to take care of overheads, bills, wages and other expenditures. This allows you to keep any cash you have for a rainy day, whilst also improving your business. You can find out more on how to improve your cash flow by viewing our guide here.

Freedom to grow your business

Another benefit of alternative finance is the freedom to grow your business. This means that we will support you in how you plan to use the loan or finance, as you know your business better than anyone, meaning you know how to make it succeed, and keep to your ongoing commitments. Compare this to mainstream lending which may require more detail and may be more strict with the delegation of your agreement, we want you to have freedom.

Whether you’re in manufacturing, engineering, hospitality, leisure, or any other industry, alternative finance can be a great option to support your business in its next stage, helping to increase revenue, decrease costs and improve service to your customers

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.”