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.”

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

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

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

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

Fiscal Control and Financial Planning

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

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

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

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

Purchase management and cost control

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

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

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

  • Staff wages for receptionist and cleaners

  • Electricity and water

  • Breakfast services

  • Interchange fee

  • How occupancy is affected during different seasons

  • How it may be impacted by the continuing pandemic

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

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

Reviewing your payment methods

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to start your investment journey and increase your income

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

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

Open A High-Interest Savings Account

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

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

Invest In Real Estate

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

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

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

Invest In The Stock Market

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

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

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

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

Top Tips to Raising Property Investment Finance in 2021

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

Property finance for individuals

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

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

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

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

Credit rating

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

Minimum income

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

Existing portfolio or assets

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

Property finance for portfolio landlords

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

Factors banks consider with buy-to-let applications

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Financial Tips For Starting Your Own Business

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

Fintech Platform Butter Raises £15m

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

Who has invested?

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

What is Butter?

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

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

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

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

What makes Butter better?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Investment in Small UK Technology Companies Could Provide Sustainable Returns

By Andrew Aldridge, Partner at Deepbridge Capital

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How To Get Your Hands On Cryptocurrency

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

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

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

Buying

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

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

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

Airdrops

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

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

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

Competitions

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

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

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

Crypto Payments

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

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

Mining

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

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

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

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

How to Get a Jump Start on Building Credit


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

Making Payments

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

Credit Limits

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

Pay Your Bills

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

Dispute Errors

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

Keep Cards Open

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

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

Ways To Invest In Yourself That Will Pay Off Big

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

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

Get Your Finances In Order

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

Continue to Learn

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

Get Healthy

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

Work With a Mentor or Life Coach

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

Build A Strong Network

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

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

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

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

Industry Experience

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

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

Scale

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

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

Open Communication

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

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

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

Answering the Nation’s 10 Most Common Personal Finance Questions

By Annie Charalambous, Content Manager at ETX Capital

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are bonds? (8,100 monthly searches)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are dividends? (4,400 monthly searches)

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

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

 

What is cryptocurrency? (4,400 monthly searches)

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

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

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

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

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

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

How central banks manage the economy?

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

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

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

Central banks and Quantitative Easing (QE)

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

The role of governments

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

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

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

Can Helicopter Money save the economy?

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

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

Helicopter money isn’t the answer to our financial woes

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

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

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

Beginner’s Guide to Alternative Investments

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

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

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

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

Five most popular alternative asset classes

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

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

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

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

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

Final thoughts 

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

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

Don’t Make These Money Mistakes

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

 

Paying High-Interest Debt

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

 

Mindless Spending Stemming from a Lack of Planning

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

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

 

Not Prioritizing Savings

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

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

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


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

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

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

Car Insurance

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

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

Renters Insurance

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

Life Insurance

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

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

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


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

  • Virtually no language barrier

  • Cultural familiarity

  • Similarity between currencies

  • Relatively stable and predictable political system

  • Robust economy relative to other places

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

A Livable City

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

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

A Stable Economy

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

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

Transportation Infrastructure

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

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

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

Self-Sufficiency Set to Influence Consumer Spending in 2021


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The True Impact of Credit On Your Everyday Life


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

Character, Risk Level, And Financial Responsibility

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

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

Renting An Apartment

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

Utility Services

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

Loan And Credit Card Interest

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

Getting Things In Order

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

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

Improve Your Business and Finances with Software


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

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

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

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

1. Accuracy

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

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

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

2. Time Savings

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

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

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

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

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

3. Money Savings

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

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

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

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

4. It’s More Fun

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

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

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

5. It’s Easy to Use

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

Becoming Financially Stable

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

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

Consolidating Debt

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

Eliminating Reckless Spending

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

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

Invest in You

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

Promote Health

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

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

Create a Budget

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

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

A Good Credit Score

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

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

Retirement Funds

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

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

Find Ways to Spend Less

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

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

The Five Key Financial Services Sales Skills

By Lars Pedersen, CEO, Questionmark

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

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

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

What’s the problem?  

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

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

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

Five key skills

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How assessments help

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

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

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

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

Providing a competitive advantage

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

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

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

Top 10 International Money Transfer Companies You Need to Know

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

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

Top 10 International Money Transfer Companies to Fit Every Customer

Western Union

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

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

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

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

MoneyGram

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

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

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

Xoom

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

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

TransferWise

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

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

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

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

OFX

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

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

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

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

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

Payoneer

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

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

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

AirWallex

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

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

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

WorldFirst

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

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

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

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

Moneycorp

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

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

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

Currencies Direct

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

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

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

Bottom Line: International Money Transfer Companies Are Changing the World

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

You can explore the full data from the study here.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Simple Ways to Save Money That Often Go Overlooked

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

Skip ATM Fees

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

Overdraft Protection

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

Rebates

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

Buy Generic

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

Timeliness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alternative Business Financing

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

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

Alternative Diets

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

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

Alternative Tech

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

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

8 Great Ways to Use Your Stimulus Check

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

  1. Clear Debts

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

  1. Vacation

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

  1. Treat Yourself

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

  1. Sustainability

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

  1. Home Repairs

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

  1. Car Repairs

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

  1. Invest

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

  1. Save

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speak Directly to Women

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

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

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

Go Where the Market is Ready

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

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

Provide More Offerings Suitable for Women

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

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

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

How Your Leadership Team May Be Ruining Your Business

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

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

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

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

Analyze Your Team’s Successes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find The Patterns To Success And Empower Your Team

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

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

Become A Better Communicator

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

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

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

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

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

Become A Better Leader

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get Top Dollar for the Sale

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

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

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

Tie Up Loose Ends

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

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

Start Something New

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

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

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

Securing Stability & Success in Afghanistan’s Economy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Build Credit the Right Way

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

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

1. Open a Credit Card

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

Choosing a Secure Credit Card

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

Getting a Co-Signer

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

Making Regular Payments

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

2. Apply for a Loan

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

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

3. Become an Authorized User

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

Be Patient

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDS

Notes to editors.

About Wealth & Finance International

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why People Are Going Gold As An Investment

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

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

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

1. You Can Start Even With Only A Small Amount

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

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

2. It’s A Very Safe Investment

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

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

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

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

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

4. It Gives You A Good Return On Investment

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

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

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

5. It Protects Against Inflation And Economic Fluctuations

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

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

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

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

6. It’s Easy To Diversify

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

Investing Full Time: What You Need to Know

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


Lets start with the basics

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

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

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

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

Do you need a minimum amount to invest with?

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

Broaden your horizons

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

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

Be prepared for risk

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

Don’t sell at the first sign of profits!

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

Keep your finger on the pulse

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

The more you learn, the more you earn…

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

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

Rich Dad Poor Dad (1997) by Robert Kiyosaki

The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America

Beating the Street (1993) by Peter Lynch

The Intelligent Investor (1949) by Benjamin Graham

Think and Grow Rich (1937) by Napoleon Hill

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

“The Modern Investor” Setting New Investment Rules


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

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

Who is the modern investor?

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

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

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

Alternative investments – crucial part of modern portfolio

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

What Has Covid Taught Investors

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look beyond the panic

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

The unexpected happens 

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

Maintain a diverse portfolio

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

Don’t overreact to market volatility

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

Luke Davis, CEO of IW Capital:

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

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

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

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

What is flexible pay?

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

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

What employees needs it can address

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

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

The benefits it can generate for employers

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

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

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

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

How to roll it out in your business

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

So what are the initial requirements?

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

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

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

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

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

Conister Reports Record Lending

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The two most common believed definitions of APR were:

•The interest rate alone, without any fees or costs

•The maximum amount that a lender is allowed to charge

How do the figures look when split by age group?

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Holly Andrews, Managing Director of KIS Finance says:

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

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

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

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

So, why is it important to understand APRs?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is a representative or typical APR?

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

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

What are the dangers of not understanding APRs?

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

How to Secure a Cheaper UK Home Insurance Policy

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

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

Don’t Trust Any Insurance Agent Blindly

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

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

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

See If a Combined Policy isn’t Cheaper

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

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

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

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

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

 

Avoid Paying Unnecessary Interest on Your Premiums

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

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

Examining the Pros of Stablecoins

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

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

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

Easy to Purchase

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

Allows You to Use Fiat Like Crypto

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

Low Fees

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

They’re Not Volatile

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

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

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