By Aaron Hughes, managing director of Equiniti Riskfactor
UK Government research published in December 2017 showed that there are around 5.7 million Small and Medium Sized enterprises, employing less than 250 people. 5.5 million of these businesses employ less than 10.
UK SME’s turned over £19 trillion in 2017, 51% of all private sector turnover. The sector is dynamic, innovative and growing, and vital to the health of the economy.
This huge market segment is under-served by the Banks due to perceived risk and cost to serve, yet presents real growth opportunities. To achieve that in the face of technical innovations and new entrants to the market, Banks will have to offer SMEs what they want, and drive down the cost to serve through innovative new products and delivery channels.
What SMEs look for from their bank will vary depending on the size of the business, but it will include a seamless onboarding process, an easy digital experience, trusted advice and value-added services.
Here, we suggest 5 ways Banks can win and retain profitable SME business.
- Understand and segment the market.
There are multiple ways of segmenting the SME market. Turnover, staff numbers or sector may be the traditional ones but increasingly lenders are becoming more sophisticated and looking at factors like the complexity of the business, rather than its size, or the stage in its business lifecycle.
An early-stage business has different needs from a mature business. Businesses enjoying fast growth have more in common with each other, than they may have with more stable businesses in the same sector.
Building products and delivery channels to match the segments can bring simplicity and efficiency.
- Simplify and automate the onboarding process
Online account opening, and digital decisioning for new credit facilities and renewals, are all essential. Routine processes that require staff time can cost up to 20 times more than if they were automated. In addition, Customers increasingly prefer digital interactions. Without a secure online automated Compliance and KYC process, account opening costs rise to the point where it is uneconomic for the lender to accept some SMEs, and micro-businesses in particular.
- Speed of Response
Customers’ online interactions with Banks often compare unfavourably with their online retail experience. 24-hour access is vital, as well as ensuring only products of interest to that Customer are on offer when they access their accounts.
They will have different needs during the course of their relationship with the Bank. But the Bank must pro-actively identify these needs and offer solutions and advice that is relevant to that business. And when a Customer takes up an offer, they want to self-serve, and click through to product approval. Automated credit approval driven by better data will speed up the process and improve credit risk.
- Provide Value Adds
SMEs want to know what their Banks can give them to help them run their business better. This can range from the advisory, helping them with working capital optimisation, to networking opportunities. Tools to help them get paid quicker and allow them more flexibility with suppliers. Metrics that will help them benchmark themselves against similar businesses in their sector.By using data they already have, the Banks can help the SMEs track their cash flow, and plan for growth.
- Accounting Data Integration
Analysing transactional data from Customer accounts to help them with cash flow management is valuable to the Bank and the Customer. But integrating this with their financial accounts package gives the opportunity of providing value-add services that will drive Customer retention and advocacy.
Through their Banking apps, Customers can see income and expenses analysis, and cash flow forecasts, create budgets, and review their receivables and payables positions. Banks can automate the end to end payment cycle, providing finance when needed, with full visibility of the business. Data integration will also allow the Banks to automate credit approval for new facilities and renewals.
These integrated apps will increase interaction with the Bank, with lower cost and greater convenience for the Customer, and allow more tailored advice and relevant products to be offered.
Alexa? Run the payroll.
By 2025, digital natives – those born after 1980 and grew up with digital technology – are expected to make up over 60% of the workforce. A further 30% will be converts, older but fully engaged with the online world. They are working in or running SMEs now. Already their expectations are for a digital banking experience on a par with Apple, Google or Amazon. So the entry of these tech giants into business banking would raise competition to a new level. Digital natives are already beginning to demand a full range of voice activated banking services for SMEs, and these companies have the technology resources to deliver this globally.
To maintain any meaningful share of the SME banking market in the face of that competition, Banks will need to offer the digital banking experience and wide range of specialist value-add services the changing market will demand.
House of Commons Library Briefing Paper No 06152, 28th December 2017 “Business Statistics”
How to lead a high-performing team
By Matthew Emerson, Founder and Managing Director, Blackmore Four
When we think about a great team, the image we conjure up almost always includes a superstar leader. A smiling Sir Alex Ferguson guiding Manchester United to countless domestic and European successes year after year. The conductor of an orchestra, drenched in sweat, turning to take rapturous applause from an appreciative audience. The self-styled entrepreneur-turned-CEO who has steered their company’s share price, profit margins and brand recognition to levels of international envy. Our bias to assign the leader credit or blame for successes or failures that are actually outcomes of a team effort is strong and widespread, and results in both positive and negative outcomes for individual leaders that often overlook any team-based root causes.
Clearly, some people are better at leading teams than others. It is quite reasonable, therefore, to try and identify the traits that distinguish effective leaders from those who consistently fail to get the best out of people they work with. Literally hundreds of research studies have attempted to see which traits predict leadership effectiveness. However, none have succeeded in identifying any set of universal traits that could reliably distinguish and predict effective leadership from the rest.
For one thing, research has shown that there is no one leadership style that works well across all situations. A style that may be just what is needed when working with skilled and trusted colleagues to develop a team may fail badly when a newly-formed team encounters a challenging situation that requires a quick, decisive team response.
A second problem with leadership styles stems from our assumption that leader behaviour is the cause of member behaviour and team dynamics. In fact, a leader’s style may, in many circumstances, be as much a consequence of members’ behaviours as it is a cause of that behaviour. For example, if a leader is charged with managing a team of subordinates who are both competent and cooperative, the leader is likely to be more effective responding with a considerate, participative leadership style. However, if team members are obviously not capable in carrying out the work and, moreover, demonstrate aggression in their dealings with the leader, a much more structured, directive and autocratic style is likely to be exhibited, to varying degrees of effectiveness. Excellent team leaders are aware of their natural styles—they know what they like to do, what they can do easily and well, and what they can accomplish.
On the one hand, we tend to overattribute responsibility for collective outcomes to the team leader. Although that tendency is often exaggerated there is no doubt that what a team leader does (and doesn’t do) is highly consequential for team performance. Instead of focusing on a leader’s generalised behaviour (style) and who they are (character, superhero), the focus should be shifted onto what it is they actually do (action).
Effective leaders focus on the four basic factors we discussed in the previous articles in this series, starting with a compelling direction and clear accountability. The team need to know that they are a real, interdependent team and that normalised behaviours, high expectations and trusting relationships are agreed across the group.
Sometimes most of these conditions will already be in place when a team is formed and fine-tuning them will not pose much of a leadership challenge. Other times, when the focus has been on individual work not teamwork, it will take great effort to establish these four basic factors.
Behavioural leadership skills
Great team leaders do not rely on any single strategy for promoting high team performance. Instead, they work hard in getting all of the factors we have been discussing aligned and pulling in the same direction. However, it’s not sufficient for those who lead teams merely to know about the factors for high performance; they also need to know how to create and maintain those factors—in a word, they need to be skilled in leading teams.
Effective team leaders are skilled in executing actions that narrow the gap between what is happening in the group or its context, compared with what the leader believes should be happening. They are also skilled at managing their emotional response, resisting the impulses of acting too quickly and dealing with one’s anxieties.
Effective leaders demonstrate their ability to tap into the collective resources and coach teams in order to exploit potential to the fullest extent. Being able to exploit those special moments at the beginning, middle and end of task and team life cycles can prevent future breakdowns or factors that hinder high performance.
The ability to inspire others is another commonly identified, essential behavioural skill for leaders of high-performing teams. The is no single best way to provide it, but the key is to identify which of your skills and styles can best be used to create in others the passion you feel for your work and then to hone and develop those resources as one core element in your personal repertoire of team leadership skills.
Leading high-performing teams
There is no way to “make” a team perform well, let alone sustain outstanding high performance. Teams create their own destinies to a great extent. After a team has launched itself on a particular path, its own actions create additional experiences which then guide members’ subsequent behaviour, which can set in motion either a cycle of ever-increasing competence and commitment or a downward spiral that ends in collective failure.
Once members have established their shared view of the world and settled into a set of behavioural routines, there is not a great deal that leaders can do to change the team’s basic direction or momentum. What leaders can do is make sure the team is set up right in the first place, action the four factors and then constantly hone and learn to develop a number of key skills specific to team leadership.
Matthew Emerson is the Founder and Managing Director of Blackmore Four, an Essex based management consultancy working with leaders of ambitious businesses to achieve outstanding performance through periods of growth or significant change.
Starting his career at Ford Motor Company, Matthew has developed his expertise in Organisational Effectiveness in key senior HR, Organisational Development and Talent roles, predominantly in Financial Services (Credit Suisse, Barclays and DBS) and most recently as the Group Head of Talent and Performance at UBS AG.
Having worked in and across Asia for six years as well as having ‘global’ responsibility in a number of his roles, Matthew has an appreciation of international and multi-cultural working environments. He also has a multi-sector perspective, having worked with organisations in Manufacturing, Healthcare, Education and Technology.
Oil prices steady as lockdowns curb U.S. stimulus optimism
By Noah Browning
LONDON (Reuters) – Oil prices were steady on Monday as support from U.S. stimulus plans and jitters about supplies competed with worries about demand due to renewed lockdowns to prevent the coronavirus from spreading.
Brent crude futures for March rose 7 cents, or 0.1%, to $55.48 a barrel by 1210 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude for March was up 5 cents, or 0.1%, at $52.32.
“Sentiment was buoyed by expectations for a blockbuster coronavirus relief package … (but) the tug of war between stimulus optimism and virus woes is set to continue,” said Stephen Brennock of broker PVM.
U.S. lawmakers are set to lock horns over the size of a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package proposed by new President Joe Biden, financial stimulus that would support the economy and fuel demand.
European nations, major consumers, have imposed tough restrictions to halt the spread of the virus, while China reported a rise in new COVID-19 cases, casting a pall over demand prospects in the world’s largest energy consumer.
Barclays raised its 2021 oil price forecasts, but said rising cases in China could contribute to near-term pullbacks.
“Even though the pandemic is not yet slowing down, oil prices have good reasons to start the week with gains,” said Bjornar Tonhaugen from Rystad Energy.
Supply concerns have offered some support. Indonesia said its coast guard seized an Iranian-flagged tanker over suspected illegal fuel transfers, raising the prospect of more tensions in the oil-exporting Gulf.
“A development that always benefits prices is the market turbulence that conflicts create,” Tonhaugen added.
Libyan oil guards halted exports from several main ports in a pay dispute on Monday.
Output from Kazakhstan’s giant Tengiz field was disrupted by a power outage on Jan. 17.
(Editing by David Goodman and Edmund Blair)
Dollar steadies; euro hurt by vaccine delays and German business morale slump
By Elizabeth Howcroft
LONDON (Reuters) – The dollar steadied, the euro slipped and riskier currencies remained strong on Monday, as currency markets were torn between optimism about U.S. stimulus plans, and the reality of slow vaccine rollout and the economic impact of lockdowns in Europe.
Market sentiment had turned more cautious at the end of last week as European economic data showed that lockdown restrictions to limit the spread of the virus hurt business activity, dragging stocks lower.
The safe-haven dollar declined gradually overnight, and riskier currencies strengthened. It then recovered some losses after European markets opened, and was at 90.224 against a basket of currencies at 1152 GMT, flat on the day.
On one hand, market sentiment is supported by hopes for President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion fiscal stimulus plans, as well as the expectation that central banks will continue to provide liquidity.
But, in Europe, the extent of the risk appetite was limited by a lack of progress in rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine as well the economic impact of lockdown measures.
German business morale slumped to a six-month low in January, surprising market participants who had expected the survey to show a rise.
“It’s very much a case of hopes for the future against the reality of the first quarter of this year which is going to still prove to be fairly troubled,” said Jeremy Stretch, head of G10 FX strategy at CIBC Capital Markets.
“For now at least, the optimism that we’re hoping for has been somewhat delayed and that has taken a little bit of steam out of the euro and just put a little bit of support back in the dollar but ultimately I think it is still a case of those high-beta commodity currencies, reflation currencies, will continue to perform well,” he said.
Analysts expect a broad dollar decline during 2021. The net speculative short position on the dollar grew to its largest in ten years in the week to Jan. 19, according to weekly futures data from CFTC released on Friday.
The U.S. Federal Reserve meets on Wednesday and Fed Chair Jerome Powell is expected to signal that he has no plans to wind back the Fed’s massive stimulus any time soon – news which could push the dollar down further.
“The process of tapering QE is likely to be a gradual process which could last throughout 2022, and then potentially be followed by the first rate hikes later in 2023,” wrote MUFG currency analyst Lee Hardman.
“In these circumstances, we continue to believe that it is premature to expect the US dollar to rebound now in anticipation of policy tightening ahead, and still see scope for further weakness this year,” he said.
The euro was down around 0.1% against the dollar, at $1.2153 at 1207 GMT. At the European Central Bank meeting last week, President Christine Lagarde said the bank was closely watching the euro. The euro surged 9% last year versus the dollar and reached new two and a half year highs earlier in January.
But despite this verbal intervention, traders remain bullish on the euro, expecting the bar for a rate cut to be high.
Elsewhere, the Australian dollar, which is seen as a liquid proxy for risk, was up 0.2% at 0.7726 versus the U.S. dollar at 1208 GMT.
The New Zealand dollar was up 0.5%, while the commodity-driven Norwegian crown was up 0.2% the euro.
The safe-haven Japanese yen was flat on the day at 103.815 versus the U.S. dollar.
Graphic: USD, https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/qmypmyjdxpr/USD.png
(Reporting by Elizabeth Howcroft, editing by Ed Osmond and Chizu Nomiyama)
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