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6.5 MILLION BRITS STRUGGLE WITH £5 BILLION CHRISTMAS DEBT

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Brits racked up an estimated £5bn of debt this festive season, according...
  • Over 1 in 10 (13 per cent) Brits ran up average debts of more than £750 to pay for Christmas
  • 38 per cent think debt collection strategies are ‘very distressing’
  • 32 per cent believe they would be better able to manage debt online rather than dealing with debt collectors face-to-face

Brits racked up an estimated £5bn of debt this festive season1, according to research by Intelligent Environments, the leading digital banking software provider. The online poll of 2,000 Brits found that over one in ten of us (13 per cent) ran into average debts of more than £750 to fund Christmas.

17 per cent even admitted to incurring late fees at Christmas for failing to make payment on debt on time.

38 per cent of people find current debt collection strategies, such as p...

38 per cent of people find current debt collection strategies, such as p…

Intelligent Environments’ research also reveals four in ten (38 per cent) people find current debt collection strategies, such as phone calls and threatening letters, ‘very distressing’, with 16 per cent saying they have purposefully avoided phone calls chasing payments. Moreover, a third of people (32 per cent) say they would rather manage their debt online in order to view current debt levels and identify when this money can be paid back without the pressure of being hounded by calls and letters.

David Webber, managing director at Intelligent Environments said: “It’s clear Christmas is a financially challenging time for many people and their families and current outdated debt collection tactics aren’t helping things. Allowing customers to manage their debt online would be a much less stressful and easier option and allow people to repay their debt in the way which suits them best.”

Webber continued: “Digital tools can increase visibility of debt, and provide additional flexibility over repayments. That puts control over debt back in customers’ hands. Intelligent Environments’ Interact® Collect addresses this. This is a digital debt collection and recovery solution, catering to financial services organisations and debt collection agencies, amongst other institutions. The platform enables people to log on to a personalised portal to view and settle their debt on- line, and on their mobile and tablet anywhere, anytime.

Brits racked up an estimated £5bn of debt this festive season, according...

Brits racked up an estimated £5bn of debt this festive season, according…

“It includes a variety of tools, such as a budget calculator, and offers a variety of payment and management options, from a direct total payment, partial payments, the ability to set up a payment plan and a “promise to pay” option which allows people to delay a payment by committing to a future date and a minimum payment amount.”

Ana is a 25 year old professional from London who has experienced trouble with debt and who believes a digital tool for managing repayments would have made Christmas 2013 far less stressful. She said: “Christmas is the season of giving, but finding and buying the perfect presents for my friends and family was an expensive affair. I ran up debts of around £1,000, which took me a long time to pay back, and left me at the mercy of the collections agency in charge of recovering the money. The company made numerous calls to both my mobile phone and my place of work, and also sent some scary letters requesting repayments.

“While I understood that I had to repay the debt, the tactics for recovering it were extremely distressing. It meant Christmas left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. A digital tool I could have logged in to and used to manage my repayments would have given me the feeling of control that I felt I lacked when being hounded by the collections agency. I also think it would have encouraged me to increase my repayments and escape from the shadow of my Christmas spending sooner, as I would have been able to see how repayments balanced against my monthly budgets and adjust them accordingly.

“This Christmas I wanted to do everything I could to avoid going through the same experience with debt collection companies. I significantly cut back my spending on presents and instead worked to very tight budgets, meaning I wasn’t quite able to get everything I wanted but at least I won’t be getting calls from angry collectors.”

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Sunak to use budget to expand apprenticeships in England

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Sunak to use budget to expand apprenticeships in England 1

LONDON (Reuters) – British finance minister Rishi Sunak will announce more funding for apprenticeships in England when he unveils his budget next week, the government said on Friday.

Employers taking part in the Apprenticeship Initiative Scheme will from April 1 receive 3,000 pounds ($4,179) for each apprentice hired, regardless of age – an increase on current grants of between 1,500 and 2,000 pounds depending on age.

The scheme will extended by six months until the end of September, the finance ministry said.

Sunak will also announce an extra 126 million pounds for traineeships for up to 43,000 placements.

Sunak’s March 3 budget will likely include a new round of spending to prop up the economy during what he hopes will be the last phase of lockdown, but he will also probably signal tax rises ahead to plug the huge hole in the public finances.

Sunak is also expected to announce a “flexi-job” apprenticeship scheme, whereby apprentices can join an agency and work for multiple employers in one sector, the finance ministry said.

“We know there’s more to do and it’s vital this continues throughout the next stage of our recovery, which is why I’m boosting support for these programmes, helping jobseekers and employers alike,” Sunak said in a statement.

(Reporting by Andy Bruce, editing by David Milliken)

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UK seeks G7 consensus on digital competition after Facebook blackout

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UK seeks G7 consensus on digital competition after Facebook blackout 2

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain is seeking to build a consensus among G7 nations on how to stop large technology companies exploiting their dominance, warning that there can be no repeat of Facebook’s one-week media blackout in Australia.

Facebook’s row with the Australian government over payment for local news, although now resolved, has increased international focus on the power wielded by tech corporations.

“We will hold these companies to account and bridge the gap between what they say they do and what happens in practice,” Britain’s digital minister Oliver Dowden said on Friday.

“We will prevent these firms from exploiting their dominance to the detriment of people and the businesses that rely on them.”

Dowden said recent events had strengthened his view that digital markets did not currently function properly.

He spoke after a meeting with Facebook’s Vice-President for Global Affairs, Nick Clegg, a former British deputy prime minister.

“I put these concerns to Facebook and set out our interest in levelling the playing field to enable proper commercial relationships to be formed. We must avoid such nuclear options being taken again,” Dowden said in a statement.

Facebook said in a statement that the call had been constructive, and that it had already struck commercial deals with most major publishers in Britain.

“Nick strongly agreed with the Secretary of State’s (Dowden’s) assertion that the government’s general preference is for companies to enter freely into proper commercial relationships with each other,” a Facebook spokesman said.

Britain will host a meeting of G7 leaders in June.

It is seeking to build consensus there for coordinated action toward “promoting competitive, innovative digital markets while protecting the free speech and journalism that underpin our democracy and precious liberties,” Dowden said.

The G7 comprises the United States, Japan, Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Canada, but Australia has also been invited.

Britain is working on a new competition regime aimed at giving consumers more control over their data, and introducing legislation that could regulate social media platforms to prevent the spread of illegal or extremist content and bullying.

(Reporting by William James; Editing by Gareth Jones and John Stonestreet)

 

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Britain to offer fast-track visas to bolster fintechs after Brexit

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Britain to offer fast-track visas to bolster fintechs after Brexit 3

By Huw Jones

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain said on Friday it would offer a fast-track visa scheme for jobs at high-growth companies after a government-backed review warned that financial technology firms will struggle with Brexit and tougher competition for global talent.

Finance minister Rishi Sunak said that now Britain has left the European Union, it wants to make sure its immigration system helps businesses attract the best hires.

“This new fast-track scale-up stream will make it easier for fintech firms to recruit innovators and job creators, who will help them grow,” Sunak said in a statement.

Over 40% of fintech staff in Britain come from overseas, and the new visa scheme, open to migrants with job offers at high-growth firms that are scaling up, will start in March 2022.

Brexit cut fintechs’ access to the EU single market and made it far harder to employ staff from the bloc, leaving Britain less attractive for the industry.

The review published on Friday and headed by Ron Kalifa, former CEO of payments fintech Worldpay, set out a “strategy and delivery model” that also includes a new 1 billion pound ($1.39 billion) start-up fund.

“It’s about underpinning financial services and our place in the world, and bringing innovation into mainstream banking,” Kalifa told Reuters.

Britain has a 10% share of the global fintech market, generating 11 billion pounds ($15.6 billion) in revenue.

The review said Brexit, heavy investment in fintech by Australia, Canada and Singapore, and the need to be nimbler as COVID-19 accelerates digitalisation of finance, all mean the sector’s future in Britain is not assured.

It also recommends more flexible listing rules for fintechs to catch up with New York.

“We recognise the need to make the UK attractive a more attractive location for IPOs,” said Britain’s financial services minister John Glen, adding that a separate review on listings rules would be published shortly.

“Those findings, along with Ron’s report today, should provide an excellent evidence base for further reform.”

SCALING UP

Britain pioneered “sandboxes” to allow fintechs to test products on real consumers under supervision, and the review says regulators should move to the next stage and set up “scale-boxes” to help fintechs navigate red tape to grow.

“It’s a question of knowing who to call when there’s a problem,” said Kay Swinburne, vice chair of financial services at consultants KPMG and a contributor to the review.

A UK fintech wanting to serve EU clients would have to open a hub in the bloc, an expensive undertaking for a start-up.

“Leaving the EU and access to the single market going away is a big deal, so the UK has to do something significant to make fintechs stay here,” Swinburne said.

The review seeks to join the dots on fintech policy across government departments and regulators, and marshal private sector efforts under a new Centre for Finance, Innovation and Technology (CFIT).

“There is no framework but bits of individual policies, and nowhere does it come together,” said Rachel Kent, a lawyer at Hogan Lovells and contributor to the review.

($1 = 0.7064 pounds)

(Reporting by Huw Jones; editing by Jane Merriman and John Stonestreet)

 

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