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Bounce back loans will cause bounce in alternative finance

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Bounce back loans will cause bounce in alternative finance 1

Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) losses and fraud will see more SMEs turned away from banks, says Steve Richardson, Sales Director at Reparo Finance.

Recent headlines have focused on how payment defaults and fraudulent borrowing through the Government’s BBLS scheme could amount to anywhere between £15bn and £26bn.

The immediate reaction has been that these eye-watering figures, released by the National Audit Office (NAO), will ultimately end-up costing tax-payers. While this is true, SMEs will also pay a high price for this situation.

The SME Funding Gap is Set to Widen

After the financial crash in 2008 and the subsequent recession, we saw a trend of banks restricting lending to small and medium-sized businesses. SMEs were either considered too high risk or low value by traditional lenders. These businesses became the ‘unborrowables’, which has contributed to an ever-growing funding gap when it comes to SME financing requirements. The SME Finance Forum estimated this gap to be around £3.8 trillion globally in 2018.

This funding gap will be accelerated by rock-bottom interest rates, economic uncertainty and high corporate debt. Add to this the costs of unpaid Government bounce-back loans and fraudsters exploiting a lending system more focused on emergency access rather than proper due diligence, and you have a perfect storm that penalises SMEs.

Banks will now make SME borrowing even more rigid as they become increasingly risk-averse towards SMEs. With the ever-changing coronavirus policy, we’re no closer to ‘normality’. In these circumstances, it is much easier for banks to strike a line through SME lending, rather than build a risk-weighted lending model.

Bank Lending May Become a Box Ticking Exercise 

Many banks will ignore SME funding requirements by dressing up rejection in the niceties of the Bank Referral Scheme. This redirects SMEs to other lenders with no real appreciation of why the SME applied in the first place.

Perhaps banks will entertain some low level of SME lending as a box-ticking, reputation management exercise. This is likely to be a slow and painful application process for SMEs, which is more concerned with filling out the right forms rather than the lender understanding the people and company seeking finance.

Alongside the banks’ reluctance to lend, there are likely to be logistical challenges. Banks are stretched at the moment, partly from processing government loan schemes and due to other challenges the pandemic has presented. Many banks may not have the resources to dedicate to the tricky business of SME lending.

A Bounce in the Alternative Lending Market

With the backdrop of even less engagement from traditional lenders plus the increased need for funding, SMEs are turning to alternative lenders.

Lending to SMEs is complicated; when financing these businesses, it’s harder to value risk and make lending decisions. Many of the companies have limited financial information, atypical cash flow or operate in verticals that lenders don’t understand.

In many circumstances, the alternative finance market can provide viable alternatives to SMEs. There are an array of lenders that specialise in different products and sectors.

Accessing Alternative Finance

When SMEs start to access alternative lenders, they stand a good chance of finding a lender that will have a product that fits. They will undoubtedly find lenders willing to have a conversation to understand their circumstances.

Whereas once SMEs weren’t clear on the options outside the banks, they’re becoming increasingly savvy about their range of lending options. This has led to the bounce in demand for alternative lenders, which is likely to grow as the pandemic decreases SME lending from banks.

With so many options, an excellent place to start is a commercial finance broker or your accountant. These professionals have access to the alternative lending market and can help you find the right lender.

In a world where traditional lenders may be seeing SMEs as even higher risk, it will be alternative lenders with their broad range of products and willingness to listen that will fill the gap.

Finance

What’s in store for Financial Services in 2021?

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What’s in store for Financial Services in 2021? 2

By Miroslava Betinova, Head of Strategic Sales at PPS

If there is anything that 2020 taught us, it is the need for speed when it comes to the adaptation of services and their delivery. The world was changed overnight with the arrival of a virus that challenged and shook up our daily lives to the core.

Across many sectors, organisations worked quickly to help provide services and solutions to support the changes people and businesses were having to make to adapt to new requirements. In particular, the payments and technology industries provided a lifeline not only across the corporate world, but for consumers too, making our day to day lives easier. As part of this progress, it meant that users were able to interact within the retail space in a safer manner through the use of contactless technologies that helped to prevent the spread of the virus. As we kick off the New Year, here are my top predictions for what 2021 might have in store for the world of financial services and fintech.

Your Marketing strategy will focus on Gen Z

Putting spare change and birthday money into a ceramic pot in the shape of a cute farm animal was no doubt one of the first financial management activities we are all likely familiar with. The days of the piggy bank are long gone for today’s youth, however, who now have real-time balance APIs to count their pennies for them. For Gen Z, it is customary for birthday money to arrive via bank transfer, and for different APIs to track and even prevent their spending. As such, it’s the quirky add-ons, funky features and ‘cool’ factor additions that will appeal to this generation who were practically born with a smart phone in their hands that will give your financial products an edge. Gen Z will swift become a main target market for financial services, so their expectations should be taken seriously. If you can turn it into #instastory you can sell it – step aside SWOT analysis, it’s time to ramp up the ‘Likes’.

Fintech will wear green

This time last year Australia was on fire, young climate activists were skipping school on Fridays, and people of all generations were taking to the streets with recycled banners to speak out for the planet.

The need for climate change was recognised more than ever before within every sphere, and the fintech sector was no different. Most of us complete at least one financial transaction everyday – if not several, (for those of us with a slight online shopping addiction!) – so it is only prudent to understand how our purchasing habits, investment choices and the cards we carry in our wallet impact the only home we have.

It’s refreshing to see that climate change and environmental awareness are shifting their position in the world of finance. What was once just an obligatory tick-box exercise is now a central focus and driver behind companies’ strategies and product design. As with everything else that’s hip and trendy, there will no doubt be many more jumping onto the green band wagon this 2021. But don’t just take their word for it – do your homework to truly understand how your selected financial services provider contributes to environmental protection.

Compliance will continue to be the angel on the shoulder of every successful fintech

Whilst ‘product suitability’ and ‘speed to market’ are the words on every fintech’s lips, the long-term success, scalability, and resilience of newly launched ventures depend heavily on compliance. It’s not sexy stuff, and it certainly won’t be the source of the latest TikTok trend, but understanding the implementation and rigours of compliance will be well worth it.

One of the advantages of start-ups is that they usually have a big and resilient partner behind them with a strong understanding and knowledge of the Do’s and Don’ts. I have often been reminded of the importance of listening, so my advice to you is to listen to the angel: Invest a lot in your product; invest even more in your compliance.

Innovation will shift into 6th gear

The question I hear so often when speaking about new start-ups is: ‘Does the world really need another challenger bank?’. Probably not. But do other sections of financial services (that we use less frequently but are still an important part of our interaction with money) need a fintech makeover? Absolutely yes!

Imagine a world where pensions, mortgages, charitable donations, or early salary payments can be processed in a less tedious, paperwork-free way. 2021 will deliver innovation to the areas of financial wellbeing that we usually dread dealing with. Enhanced by Open Banking, new start-ups will bring users closer to their mortgage repayment plans, or provide a credit card facility free from the financial debt and anxiety that often accompanies them. Innovation will be shifting up a gear in this sector, so buckle up – it should be an exciting ride!

ReTech is here to stay, and it’s about more than just loyalty stamps

As the UK, Europe, and wider world continue their battles with C-19, the High Streets will continue the battle for survival. Mobile payments and NFC technology are already ensuring a contact-free shopping experience for those who choose to venture out from the comfort of their homes, but the role of online shopping and e-gift cards will step up a notch also.

e-Gift cards to help with school meals or to say thank you to dedicated key workers will become available. Using a prepaid QR code they’ll be treated to free meals at the end of what must feel like an endless shift. Virtual high-fives and digital thanks will be the theme of ReTech throughout 2021.

No one knows exactly what the future holds, but one thing is for certain: Fintech will be part of it.

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Finance

Worldline launches Data as a Service platform for online payments

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Worldline launches Data as a Service platform for online payments 3

The new service enables users to do more with their data and is paving the way for a more insightful future in the payments industry

Worldline [Euronext: WLN], the European leader in the payments and transactional services industry, today announced Ingenico’s launch of its first ever Data as a Service (DaaS) platform for payments, Ingenico Insight. The state-of-the-art solution features the latest in machine learning (ML) and data science capabilities for payments combined with an intuitive and tailored user experience. Ingenico is part of Worldline since October of 2020 and offers merchants smart, trusted and secure solutions to empower commerce.

Ingenico Insight is a new evolution in reporting, business intelligence (BI) and transaction management for payments. It transforms the traditional dashboard, used to see aggregated data, into a platform with deep-dive and payment optimization features. The platform will include capabilities to extrapolate data and make predictions and provide prescriptive measures and will offer a benchmarking ability to compare against industry averages. These features built with ML and artificial intelligence (AI) use past data to know how to influence the future.

Worldline customers can act intuitively and in real-time, investigate datapoints individually (such as separate transactions or disputes), take control of data and identify and resolve conversion, chargeback or fraud related issues much faster. By enabling this deep-dive capability into separate datapoints, Worldline is making reporting and problem-solving easier and more precise.

To allow businesses to manage data across the entirety of the payments funnel, the solution can also be tailored to the employee using it. For instance, a fraud manager will be most interested in payment disputes and fraud issues, while payment managers will want to know more about authorization and conversion rates. The solution ensures they see the data they need and recognizes multiple stakeholders such as fraud, finance, operations, developers, and payment managers.

Anne-Claude Tichauer, Global Head of Portals, Digital Commerce, Merchant Services at Worldline explained: “I’m very excited about this product because it is a big change for payment management. Ingenico Insight goes a step further than traditional dashboards, providing tailored advice on top of in-depth insight in payments. Moreover, we built it with a UX centric approach, incorporating feedback from customers along the way. This makes it intuitive and user friendly. You can play around with data while making smarter decisions effortlessly.”

Going forward, Worldline has confirmed that it will continuously evolve the platform, to enhance its capabilities, features and functionality. The roadmap includes the addition of autonomous analytics, ML powered chargeback advice and easier refunds and chargebacks.

Ingenico Insight has launched in beta version and is available now. To learn more about the solution, visit: ingenico.com/insight

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Employee Ownership Trusts increasing in popularity amid a backdrop of continuing uncertainty

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Employee Ownership Trusts increasing in popularity amid a backdrop of continuing uncertainty 4

With 2020 behind us, the impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Brexit are still being felt throughout the economy, and will no doubt continue to cast a cloud of uncertainty for a good while yet.  Businesses and business owners find themselves in a state of flux, not quite knowing which way to turn as circumstances continue to evolve so rapidly.

A traditional sale to an aligned trade purchaser or private equity investor may still be appropriate to many business owners seeking to exit in uncertain times, the long lasting effects of Covid-19 are likely to give rise to an increase in protracted commercial negotiations over company valuations, particularly if trading performance for 2020/21 have been supressed for a long period of time, and the scarcity of potential purchasers who are fair and commercial, rather than those seeking a potential bargain or reasons to de-risk the deal. However, if the thought of going at it for another three to five years is even lower down the list, there are other alternatives available to an owner looking for a different way to hand over the mantle

The advent of Employee Ownership Trusts (EOTs) in September 2014 has opened the door to many owners searching for alternative succession plans, creating a framework for greater employee engagement, and participation in the upside of future success.

Castle Corporate Finance have helped a number of owners and management teams through the process of a sale of shares to an Employee Ownership Trust, enabling not only succession for founders, but also allowing companies to manage and implement ambitious growth plans. The evidence to date [insert source reference to EOA website] indicates a significant increase in productivity within employee owned businesses – perhaps another factor contributing to their increasing popularity.

“Employment Ownership Trusts are not the answer for everyone but offer a distinct path for many owners or founders who may have explored traditional exit routes without success, and who may not be aware of the existence or the potential benefits of an EOT. The number of employee-owned businesses is rising rapidly, and we expect that trend to continue in the coming year as founders seek to de-risk, and management teams seek ways to involve their workforce in the running of the company.” said Victoria Ansell, director at Castle Corporate Finance.

One of the other substantial benefits for sellers is also the generous tax break on this form of exit which currently exists, in the form of 0% capital gains tax on the proceeds of sale, provided the transaction complies with the legislative framework. Employees could also gain a tax-free cash bonus of up to £3,600 per employee per year.

Knowing who to turn to for advice is the important first step for any business owner looking to explore the options available to them. An EOT could be the right solution but there are important criteria and conditions to be met.

“Castle can initially help to assess the feasibility of an EOT, firstly as an exit strategy for the current owner(s), but secondly as to whether it is a viable framework for the company itself as one looks to the future. We can help to assemble (and project manage) an experienced team of professionals to support sellers and the trustees of the EOT alike, covering valuation, taxation, and legal aspects, and drawing all those strands together. Finally, by supporting shareholders or management when presenting the EOT to employees: helping to ensure that transition to employee ownership gets off on the right foot from the beginning is vital.” Victoria said.

Employee-owned businesses in themselves are not new and business models of shared ownership have been around in one form or another for over a century. However, this model is less than ten years old, and many are still not aware of it. Castle Corporate Finance believe it should form part of any discussion around succession plans, and particularly at this time the EOT framework could be a lifeline to some business owners who want to share the success of their businesses with their employees.

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