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  • Adds Amazon Connect expertise to growing solutions portfolio
  • Both acquisitions extend and strengthen Connect’s blue-chip client base
  • The combined acquisitions add circa US$2 million of revenues to the business

Connect Managed Services today announces the completion of two significant acquisitions. The first is CoolHarbour, a specialist customer engagement and unified communications consultancy and systems integrator and the second being the assets and technical teams of US-based, UVN. Financials of the deals have not been disclosed. Connect Managed Services is backed by, mid-market private equity investor, LDC.

CoolHarbour pioneered the adoption of Amazon Connect, the on-demand contact centre service from Amazon Web Services (AWS) in Europe and is on track to become the first UK company to gain Amazon Connect accredited reseller status in the contact centre market. The company is already actively helping Amazon sell, integrate and deploy their cloud contact centre service.

Developed on the market leading AWS platform, Amazon Connect is disrupting the established call centre market. Through its Lex service, Amazon Connect enables callers to engage with businesses using Natural Language Understanding and have their intents accurately determined to maximise the chances of reaching the correct person, achieving greater customer experiences and efficiencies. It has unparalleled integration capabilities through its Lambda servicesand delivers unmatched scalability and enterprise grade availability.

Amazon Connect’s flexible, consumption based commercial model virtually eliminates the need for traditional upfront capex investments and ensures that substantial operating cost savings can be achieved, thus empowering organisations to very quickly build contact centres and then scale up. As such, Amazon Connect is an extremely attractive proposition for forward thinking organisations looking to differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive marketplace and is highly complementary to the existing Connect contact centre portfolio of Genesys, Cisco and Avaya. It is a proven, robust solution which Amazon has been using for almost ten years across thousands of simultaneous contact centre agents throughout the world.

UVN USA currently delivers technical and engineering support to blue chip enterprises based across the United States, complementing Connect’s existing US footprint and customer portfolio.

Alex Tupman, CEO Connect Managed Services said. “Cost control, exceptional customer service along with improved business and operational capabilities remain high on everyone’s agenda. As a trusted partner, we are constantly looking for new ways to help our customers to achieve these important objectives. There is growing interest in Amazon Connect and we are already seeing a shift to AWS within our own client community, with a number moving, some or all, of their IT applications to this environment. With innovation at the core of everything we do, the timing of the CoolHarbour deal is perfect, as we are currently helping some of our clients to deploy Avaya, Cisco and Genesys implementations onto AWS. The Lex Natural Language Understanding capabilities of the CoolHarbour team adds even greater value to our Avaya, Cisco and Genesys users, enabling them to better serve their own customers’ needs. The expertise and experience they bring to the Connect family is also an important component of our own business transformation journey. Add to this the growing demand for our solutions in the United States, the UVN deal provides invaluable, technical engineering &customer support to our overall capabilities in this important market. These will help to underpin Connect’sgeographical footprint and ambitious expansion plans in North America.We firmly believe both these acquisitions provide a win, win situation for everyone involved.”

CoolHarbour was founded in 2014, by Faraz Khan, JamshaidAnwar and Wajahat Khan. The firm has been entirely focussed on providing next generation call centre technology to an impressive blue-chip customer base. The entire team is moving across to Connect, adding deep domain expertise across AWS and Microsoft cloud communications to the existing Connect capabilities. Jamshaid will be responsible for spearheading the drive to increase adoption of Amazon Connect and its related services within Connect’s rapidly expanding user community across the globe.

Jamshaid said. “It was very important that we found the right partner to help us to take the business to the next level and we are delighted to be joining the Connect team. They enjoy a great reputation for innovation and excellent customer service, together with a global reach that is second to none in the business. The opportunity to integrate our Amazon Connect call centre skills and experience with a progressive firm like Connect was exactly what we were looking for. This will be hugely beneficial for CoolHarbour’s customers as it will enable us to better support their existing infrastructure and software (Genesys, Avaya, Cisco). Together, we have now created an entity that is truly unique in the industry, and with interest in Amazon Connect growing apace, we are thrilled to be working with Alex and his management team to satisfy the growing demand for this highly innovative, and potentially disruptive, call centre capability.”

Alex concluded. “We are very excited about the first mover advantages the CoolHarbour acquisition represents both for the company and our users. Virtually every major organisation is on a business transformation journey and the adoption of AWS, across all sectors and geographies, is certainly gaining momentum. Add into the mix that most unified communications providers and contact centre vendors are also racing to develop their products to run on Amazon and the market dynamics have suddenly become very interesting indeed.”

Connect Managed Services is backed by mid-market private equity investor, LDC following the multimillion-pound management buyout in April 2014.  In June, it reported a 39% increase in turnover and a 240% increase in profits (EBITDA) for the 12 months to December 2016 compared to the previous financial year.

This track record for Connect Managed Services has been powered by significant new contract wins and has seen the business gain Advanced Technology Partner (ATP) status with Cisco. In July 2017, Connect Managed Services completed the acquisition of PC-1 which manages some of the largest contact centres in the UK for customers such as NSPCC, Northumbrian Water and Vodafone.

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Sunak to use budget to expand apprenticeships in England



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



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



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.”


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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