- Survey says 75% of Brits believe that saving £1,000 would make them happier than spending £1,000
- Survey shows 69% of self-confessed ‘spenders’ have experienced post-spending guilt
- Experiment shows a brisk walk can give same psychological high as a shopping spree
A survey of more than 2,000 people¹ by Atom bank found that over half of Brits have used shopping as a mechanism to cheer themselves up or reward themselves, yet 69% of self-confessed ‘spenders’ have experienced post-spending guilt.
The app-based bank also conducted a physical experiment² to determine if shopping really can make humans happy, both mentally and biologically, revealing that post-shopping happiness is largely a psychological concept, with self-reported happiness levels increasing by 29% through shopping.
If the pandemic has taught us one financial lesson, it’s the importance of being prepared for ‘unprecedented times’ and the need to be in control of our money. As we enter a third lockdown, this has definitely taken a toll on our mental health. Money experts, Atom bank and Behavioural Psychologist at Durham University, Mario Weick, share their top tips to spending wisely this lockdown, getting your finances in order and above all, increasing happiness.
- Focus on a future goal
If you struggle to avoid temptation, one of the best ways to control your urges is to focus on a future goal that saving your money could lead to, whether that’s saving up for driving lessons or taking a step onto the property ladder.
Mario comments: “The benefits of saving money materialise over time, so focusing on a future goal can make it easier to save money, whereas focusing on the here and now may encourage spending.”
- Avoid shopping when tired or under the influence of alcohol
Mario warns: ‘Impulsive behaviour can be triggered by things such as tiredness, alcohol, or information overload.”
Browsing your favourite online sites when you’re super tired at the end of a stressful week of work, or after a couple of glasses of wine, can lead you to make purchases without fully thinking them through.
Be mindful of only shopping when you feel fully alert and rested and for added benefit, get into the habit of taking the time to mull a purchase over for at least a few hours before heading to the virtual checkout.
- Reduce your exposure to temptation
Mario comments: “It may sound simplistic, but one way to alleviate the pressure is to reduce one’s exposure and avoid the situation, if possible. Something like going for a walk could be a good idea.”
This is further backed up by Atom’s experiment, which found that shoppers got the same physical ‘high’ from taking a brisk walk, as they did from hitting the checkout button.
If you’re tempted to make a large purchase, just a 5 minute walk in the fresh air or a ten minute workout video could curb your spending. If you’re still keen on making the purchase when your heart rate returns to neutral, then it’s unlikely that your body is just craving the endorphins that shopping can bring.
- Drop the ‘all or nothing’ attitude
When you’re trying to limit your spending, you can feel like going cold-turkey is the only answer, especially in January after spending at Christmas. However, evidence suggests that this ‘all or nothing’ attitude is actually harder to maintain than a split-budget approach.
Mario adds: “Saving some income, while giving oneself a spending allowance really does appear to be the golden formula.”
“A healthy balance between restraint and allowing oneself some pleasure and spontaneity is an optimal strategy to boost happiness.”
- Spend for long-term happiness
Mario comments: “The purchasing experience is designed to give us a quick kick, with products to match that often emphasise fleeting pleasures.
“Spending money is more likely to promote happiness when the purchase is intrinsically rewarding, e.g. life experiences, personal development or on gifts that nurture meaningful relationships, rather than those driven by superficial motives.”
Take January as a time to work out what you want to gain from your purchases. Although treating yourself can give you a little boost of joy, make sure you’re not only shopping for the sake of it, or to experience the excitement of grabbing a ‘bargain’.
This chance to reflect on whether your purchase will bring you long-term happiness will give the brain time to digest properly and lower the risk of spending on things that only have a short-term impact.
Edward Twiddy, Chief Customer Officer at Atom bank comments:
“With the huge changes we’ve seen in the financial climate as a result of Covid 19, it’s more crucial than ever before for people to understand their finances and how to get the most out of their earnings.
“Through our research we want to highlight the value and importance of spending money on things that will bring long term happiness. Trips away, being together, experiencing something new and shared fun are crucial for each of us, but their cost can sometimes make them appear beyond reach.
“A new year means new savings goals, so we wanted to show that these life affirming moments are possible, whatever you might be able to afford. With products such as our Instant Saver account you can open a savings account with £0, get the same great rate no matter how much you save, and not face any limits or penalties on withdrawals. With the benefits of saving for something special really clear, we’re aiming to make the whole process easy, accessible and rewarding for everyone.”
Bitcoin slumps 6%, heads for worst week since March
By Ritvik Carvalho
LONDON (Reuters) – Bitcoin fell over 6% on Friday to its lowest in two weeks as a rout in global bond markets sent yields flying and sparked a sell-off in riskier assets.
The world’s biggest cryptocurrency slumped as low as $44,451 before recovering most of its losses. It was last trading down 1.2% at $46,525, on course for a drop of almost 20% this week, which would be its heaviest weekly loss since March last year.
The sell-off echoed that in equity markets, where European stocks tumbled as much as 1.5%, with concerns over lofty valuations also hammering demand. Asian stocks fell by the most in nine months.
“When flight to safety mode is on, it is the riskier investments that get pulled first,” Denis Vinokourov of London-based cryptocurrency exchange BeQuant wrote in a note.
Bitcoin has risen about 60% from the start of the year, hitting an all-time high of $58,354 this month as mainstream companies such as Tesla Inc and Mastercard Inc embraced cryptocurrencies.
Its stunning gains in recent months have led to concerns from investment banks over sky-high valuations and calls from governments and financial regulators for tighter regulation.
(Reporting by Ritvik Carvalho; additional reporting by Tom Wilson; editing by Dhara Ranasinghe, Karin Strohecker, William Maclean)
Britain sets out blueprint to keep fintech ‘crown’ after Brexit
By Huw Jones
LONDON (Reuters) – Brexit, COVID-19 and overseas competition are challenging fintech’s future, and Britain should act to stay competitive for the sector, a government-backed review said on Friday.
Britain’s departure from the European Union has cut the sector’s access to the world’s biggest single market, making the UK less attractive for fintechs wanting to expand cross-border.
The review headed by Ron Kalifa, former CEO of payments fintech Worldpay, sets out a “strategy and delivery model” that includes a new billion pound start-up fund and fast-tracking work visas for hiring the best talent globally.
“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.
“This review will make an important contribution to our plan to retain the UK’s fintech crown,” finance minister Rishi Sunak said, adding the government will respond in due course.
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.
Britain increasingly needs to represent itself as a strong fintech scale-up destination as well as one for start-ups, it added.
The review recommends more flexible listing rules for fintechs to catch up with New York.
“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,” said Kay Swinburne, vice chair of financial services at consultants KPMG and a contributor to the review.
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.
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,” Swinburne said.
($1 = 0.7064 pounds)
(Reporting by Huw Jones; editing by Hugh Lawson and Jason Neely)
Enhancing efficiency in international trade – the time is now
By Carl Wegner, CEO of Contour
Despite significant advances in digital enterprise technology in recent years, international trade remains overwhelmingly manual and fraught with inefficiency.
Financial market participants spend millions of dollars to save fractions of seconds. Central banks are rushing to offer “fast” domestic payments in under three seconds. But cross-border trade relies on payments involving more than one country and bank, with no common central bank to provide cover and currency conversion. It takes at least a day or, in most cases, two – and that’s not even the most inefficient part of cross-border trade.
These processes are lightning quick compared to trade-related finance and risk mitigation products such as Letters of Credit (LCs), which can take over a week to settle. These involve more parties, more complexity, more paper and less trust.
In global trade finance, a bank will agree to pay an overseas seller after receiving proof that the seller has met their obligations. There is no common network for the seller to provide this proof, and no global database of shipments. Sellers rely on the gold standard of banking communication: wet ink-signed paper documents. Collecting, presenting and checking these documents can take days, if not weeks, stalling payments and leaving goods sitting on the dock rather than working through the economy.
The perceived credibility of “wet ink” signatures on documents is holding the industry back even as other areas are embracing new technologies. Unfortunately, it is all the industry has and the highest common denominator of communication. Bringing trade finance into the twenty-first century will need the development of a new gold standard – a common and trusted digital infrastructure. Luckily, the technology to ease this change and inject massive efficiency gains into the industry is now available.
More than a few small tweaks
Banks, buyers, sellers, shipping companies, ports, customs, and so on; the number of parties involved in international trade and the relative lack of trust among them makes any change a significant challenge.
Even before paper documents are involved for proof of shipment, there are trust challenges in communication for trade finance. While banks have a trusted form of communication among themselves, this does not extend to corporates or other parties. These groups are left with paper communication, email and fax – hardly efficient methods of communication. The industry needs a network, a common identity, and a way to share data securely and privately with all participants. This is the first step and can lead to significant increases in efficiency, especially if communication between participants can be synced in real-time.
Building the network
The future of global trade communication is decentralised. With today’s technologies, it is no longer feasible to have the world’s sensitive trade data sitting in one place susceptible to attack or commercial manipulation.
Every bank and corporate must own their own data and share it only with their trading partners where necessary. Decentralised technologies go further than this, allowing data to be synchronised with trading partners, enabling a new level of trust between parties through the deceptively complicated concept of ”what I see, you see”.
The practicalities of title transfer
The problem of paper and wet-ink signatures seems simple to solve once the network is in place. Remove the couriers, upload PDFs of all that paper onto the decentralised and synchronised network built to authenticate the sender, and trade is digitised. However, while this process is easy in theory, the variety of documents involved in a single transaction complicates matters – especially when it comes to the transfer of title.
The bill of lading is a key example of this – issued in triplicate on original letterhead and signed by an authorised party on behalf of the ship’s captain. They represent title to the documents and can be used as a negotiable document much like a bank cheque.
Digitising these documents has come a long way in the last few years, with specialised platforms and digital registries created and new legal standards drafted to allow electronic bills of lading (eBLs) to be used instead. But adoption still lags behind, and for their efficiency to be realised across the majority of global trade, the concept of digital documents such as eBLs needs to be married to decentralised networks for trade finance.
The security issue
For documents not related to title transfer, the long-held argument that an original signed document is more secure than a digital version is extremely outdated. With the right protocols in place, a digital document can present a more private and secure option than its physical counterpart.
Even an uploaded PDF can be a “digital document” with the right controls in place. Using a decentralised network every member will have an immutable audit log for every transaction, with the uploading party taking responsibility for the documents they introduce to the network in the same way a sender can take responsibility through their signature. These security protocols will also enhance the time it takes to manage trade documents, allowing parties to track and match items to real-time data.
There has already been phenomenal success in combining a decentralised network with electronic bill of lading solutions. Rather than seven days, the time from presentation to payment instruction can be reduced to 24 hours. However, for any of this to be achieved at scale, we need coordinated collaboration to ensure a new global digital standard can emerge, rather than a series of disconnected digital islands.
Fortunately, the industry is well on its way. The Asian Development Bank recently reported that 85% of banks are gearing up to serve the trade finance needs of more businesses through technology, addressing concerns such as inefficiencies and KYC, showing a clear demand for more efficient processes to be established in the sector.
While removing a few hours from overseas payments is a worthwhile goal, reducing a week from trade finance processes can have an even greater impact on businesses’ working capital efficiency and accelerating growth in the wider global economy.
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