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GLOBAL FINTECH INVESTMENT REMAINS ROBUST BUT UK LOSES GROUND: KPMG PULSE OF FINTECH REPORT

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GLOBAL FINTECH INVESTMENT REMAINS ROBUST BUT UK LOSES GROUND: KPMG PULSE OF FINTECH REPORT

In Q3 the UK attracted US$636m of global fintech investment while Europe as a whole attracted US$1.6bn compared to US$5bn in the US and over US$1bn in Asia.

 Total UK fintech funding roughly halved between Q2 and Q3’17 with total investment falling to US$636m from over US$1.2bn. Year-on-year the picture is far more positive as the unease around Brexit appears to have softened, Q3’16 saw just US$120m invested.

Looking at the spread of activity between countries and their capital cities, Paris and London respectively were host to 90 percent of the deal value in those countries. Germany did not follow this same trend with nearly half of the deal volume occurring outside Berlin.

Germany accounted for the largest share of fintech investment in Europe this quarter buoyed by the US$806 million secondary buyout of ConCardis. The UK, meanwhile, accounted for 7 of Europe’s largest deals, including US$100 million+ rounds to Prodigy Finance and Neyber.

Richard Gabbertas, Head of Financial Services regions, KPMG UK, comments: “London is the finance centre of the UK and has been for a long time so it’s only natural that it will attract a disproportionate amount of fintech activity but, I hope to see that change in time as other centres catch-up. Edinburgh, Manchester and other regional cities are making huge strides in developing promising fintech centres, diversifying and boosting the local job market. I hope that in the next few years we start to see more support, from government, corporates and investors for our budding regional fintech hubs.”

Globally, the US led fintech investment in Q3’17, with US$5 billion deployed across 142 deals. Europe and Asia lagged considerably behind the US, with Europe fintech deals accounting for US$1.66 billion of investment across 73 deals, and Asia accounting for US$1.21 billion across 41 deals.

Despite healthy investment activity, the volume of VC fintech deals dropped dramatically in Q3’17, particularly at the earlier deal stage. The number of angel and seed stage fintech deals plummeted to 67 for the quarter , a low not seen since Q1’13. This reflects the trend of investors focusing on larger deals and higher quality companies with proven business models.

“The fintech market continues to rapidly evolve with an increasing diversity of funding participation and sources, geographic spread and areas of interest,” says Murray Raisbeck, Global Co-Lead, KPMG Fintech. “We are seeing the emergence of fintech leaders who are looking to expand internationally to scale their platforms, as well as large technology giants moving into adjacencies to create new value for their customers.  This is a trend that is expected to continue and could force incumbent financial institutions to take bolder steps in response.”

Key Q3’17 Highlights 

  • Global fintech investment was US$8.2 billion in Q3’17, down from US$9.3 billion in Q2’17.
  • VC funding increased to US$3.3 billion invested across 211 deals, up from US$3.01 billion in Q2.
  • The median deal size for angel/seed stage deals at the end of Q3’17 stood at US$1.4 million – up from US$1 million in 2016, while the median deal size for early stage rounds was also up to US$5.5 million from US$5.1 million in 2016. The median deal size of late stage deals was even year over year at US$16 million.
  • While overall corporate VC funding has declined so far this year, the participation rate remains high.  Corporates have participated in 18 percent of all fintech VC deals globally (YTD)
  • Fintech venture-backed exit activity skyrocketed in Q3’17, almost tripling quarter over quarter from US$270 million to US$940 million. This reflects the second-best quarter on record for fintech exits.
  • Insurtech VC deals and investment are on track to reach record highs by end of the year. By the end of Q3’17, more than US$1.5 billion had been invested by VCs in insurtech across 179 deals, compared to US$1.8 billion across 203 deals in all of 2016.

Europe continues to make strong gains in the fintech space in Q3’17 

Total fintech investment in Europe dipped in Q3’17 to US$1.66 billion, from US$2 billion in Q2. VC funding was particularly strong in Q3 at over US$700 million. Median late stage fintech deal size for the quarter sat at US$17.3 million, well above 2016’s US$10.2 million.  Corporate VC investment in Europe has skyrocketed compared to 2016, with a record setting US$647 million already invested with CVC participation YTD. Corporate participation in fintech VC deals is also up dramatically – from 13 percent in 2016 to 20 percent in 2017 YTD.

“Investors globally are becoming more mature about their investments in fintech, even as the startups themselves mature,” explains Jonathan Lavender, Global Chairman, KPMG Enterprise. “Moving forward, we are going to see investors increasingly looking for companies to deliver value, and to demonstrate their ability to achieve results.” 

US accounts for vast majority of fintech investment in Americas during Q3’17 

While total fintech investment in the Americas dropped in Q3’17, it is important to note that Q2’17 included a significant outlier deal in the US$3.6 billion buy-out of Canada-based DH Corp.

The US drove the majority of investment in Q3’17, with US$5 billion invested, including six of the quarter’s top global deals. Unlike in Europe and Asia, first time financings in the US appear to be relatively strong, with the amount invested on track to potentially exceed 2016’s totals despite a drop in the number of deals.  Canada also saw a significant level of direct fintech investment activity, with US$312 million invested.

 Asia fintech investment rises to over $1 billion for first time in 2017 

Asia experienced a solid increase in fintech investment in Q3’17, with US$1.21 billion raised across 41 deals. VC funding was up considerably – accounting for just over US$1 billion in investment. China accounted for over half of Asia fintech investment at US$745 million. India investment dropped for the third straight quarter, with only US$87.7 million in VC invested.

Corporate participation in Asia fintech VC deals remained high at 22 percent of overall round counts, although actual direct investment has been quite minimal in 2017 with just US$840 million invested YTD in associated deal value. 

*Data for the Pulse of Fintech report provided by PitchBook.

Investing

An outlook on equities and bonds

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An outlook on equities and bonds 1

By Rupert Thompson, Chief Investment Officer at Kingswood

The equity market rally paused last week with global equities little changed in local currency terms. Even so, this still leaves markets up a hefty 10% so far this month with UK equities gaining as much as 14%.

The November rally started with the US election results but gathered momentum with the recent very encouraging vaccine news. This continued today with the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine proving to be up to 90% effective in preventing Covid infections. This is slightly below the 95% efficacy of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines already reported but this one has the advantage of not needing to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures. One or more of these vaccines now looks very likely to start being rolled out within a few weeks.

Of course, these vaccines will do little to halt the current surge in infections. Cases may now be starting to moderate in the UK and some countries in Europe but the trend remains sharply upwards in the US. The damage lockdowns are doing to the recovery was highlighted today with the news that business confidence in the UK and Europe fell back into recessionary territory in November.

Markets, however, are likely to continue to look through this weakness to the prospect of a strong global recovery next year. While equities may have little additional upside near term, they should see further significant gains next year. Their current high valuations should be supported by the very low level of interest rates, leaving a rebound in earnings to drive markets higher.

Prospective returns over the coming year look markedly higher for equities than for bonds, where return prospects are very limited. As for the downside risks for equities, they appear much reduced with the recent vaccine news and central banks making it clear they are still intent on doing all they can to support growth.

Both factors mean we have taken the decision to increase our equity exposure. While our portfolios already have significant allocations to equities and have benefited from the rally in recent months, we are now moving our allocations into line with the levels we would expect to hold over the long term.

Our new equity allocations will be focused on the ‘value’ areas of the market. The last few weeks have seen a significant rotation out of expensive high ‘growth’ sectors such as technology into cheaper and more cyclical areas such as financials, materials and industrials. Similarly, countries and regions, such as the UK which look particularly cheap, have fared well just recently.

We think this rotation has further to run and will be adding to our UK exposure. This does not mean we have suddenly become converts to Boris’s rose-tinted post-Brexit view of the UK’s economic prospects. Instead, this more favourable backdrop for cheap markets is likely to favour the UK.

We will also be adding to US equities. Again, this does not represent a change in our longstanding caution on the US market overall due to its high valuation. Rather, we will be investing in the cheaper areas of the US which have significant catch-up potential.

We are also making a change to our Asia ex Japan equity holdings. We will be focusing some of this exposure on China which we believe deserves a specific allocation due to the strong performance of late of that economy and the sheer size of the Chinese equity market.

On the fixed income side, we will be reducing our allocation to short maturity high quality UK corporate bonds, where return prospects look particularly limited. We are also taking the opportunity to add an allocation to inflation-linked bonds in our lower risk, fixed income heavy, portfolios. These have little protection against a rise in inflation unlike our higher risk portfolios, which are protected through their equity holdings.

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Investing

Optimising tax reclaim through tech: What wealth managers need to know in trying times

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Optimising tax reclaim through tech: What wealth managers need to know in trying times 2

By Christophe Lapaire, Head Advanced Tax Services, Swiss Stock Exchange

This has been a year of trials: first, a global pandemic and, now, many countries facing the very real possibility of a recession. For investors, private banks, and wealth managers, these tumultuous times have manifested largely in asset price volatility, ultra-low interest rates and uncertainty about when things may level out, as well as questions about what can be done to safeguard portfolio performance.

The answer here lies within identifying and creating efficiencies to maximise performance and minimise cost, and while there is a slew of options as to how to do this, they are often siloed or have a single USP. Tax optimisation, on the other hand, provides benefits to all, not just in increasing returns for investors, but also in creating economies of scale across stakeholders, creating millions – if not billions – in savings for banks.

Evolving tax reclaim

The tax reclaim process used to be a tedious one banks had to manage themselves, and required detailed, industry and country-specific knowledge to stay on top of constantly shifting requirements and regulations. And when we consider that many countries – such as the UK – allow for capital gains exemptions, tax optimisation may not seem like an integral part of the process. However, this isn’t the case for all countries, and can lead to severe after-tax implications on global portfolios.

Furthermore, even if you’re able to avoid double taxation, getting the money back is not always as simple as it sounds. This, combined with the fact that countries often have contradictory taxation rules or requirements, makes navigating the tax reclaim space a challenge even for those with the right expertise and experience.

Ultimately, providing tax optimisation to investors ends up being a heavy lift for private banks and wealth managers, who often don’t have the right solutions, are relying on outdated technology and manual processes. While this is generally fine for business, it is no longer fit for the purpose when it comes to tax optimisation. To date, knowledge and expertise have been the key to protecting and maintaining profitable investments and avoiding tax leakage. However, through tax optimisation services starting to emerge, portfolio managers can now manage and reinvest easily.

Today, technology has evolved the process so that banks are able to access and submit tax reclaim – and the relevant documentation – online, leaving the tech provider to coordinate next steps with custodians and tax authorities behind the scenes. In essence, taking the legwork out of the process while assuring consistency and completeness in execution.

Simplifying tax through tech

While tax optimisation may seem like an easy choice in theory, it is not always the go-to for every private bank or wealth manager. Without the right supports and setup, including innovative technologies and automation, tax reporting must be done manually, leading to labour intensive processes and huge time wastage. Changing these processes can be overwhelming for those used to a certain way of operating.

By making tax reclaim digital, banks will be more able to optimise returns and gain efficiencies while reducing redundancies and unnecessary complexities. Cloud based solutions or platforms can offer a safe and secure solution for banks, wealth managers, and investors to access and submit any information required, processing the data automatically for conformity and completeness.

It is critical that providers who intend to offer tax services are able to do so efficiently with the right software and data processing capabilities. Not only does this drive continuity in service and efficiencies in process, but it is the only sustainable way to handle such a complex landscape sustainably without wasting time or money.

End-to-end, technologically driven tax services offer a huge number of advantages to private banks and wealth managers, the most important of which is the ability to provide continuity through tumultuous times. As we move through the end of 2020 into 2021 this will only be increasingly important as banks, managers and investors look to provide new services to clients and strengthen existing relationships in a difficult market.

As investors seek to find returns amid the global economic downturn, the demand for innovative solutions will only increase. Technology like cloud-based software, AI, and data optimisation can all serve to improve not just the tax reclaim processes, but the overall client experience within capital markets.  Private banks and wealth managers are suitably equipped to provide these innovative solutions, but those who do not prepare themselves effectively and keep ahead of trends will run the risk of losing current and new clients to someone who can offer more for less.

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Equity Sharing – How do you choose the right plan for you?

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Equity Sharing – How do you choose the right plan for you? 3

By Ifty Nasir, co-founder and CEO of Vestd, the share scheme platform

In a survey of 500 SMEs, nearly half told us that the pandemic had made them re-evaluate how they operate. That’s not surprising as they’ve been faced with some unique challenges this year. Government support during the early stages of the pandemic, is now being extended till March 2021 but many businesses continue to struggle.

Making good people redundant improves cashflow in the short term but will have a long-term damaging impact on the business. At the same time, motivating employees, who are working remotely and worried for their jobs, is not easy.  It’s therefore not surprising that equity sharing, in the form of ‘share’ and ‘option’ schemes has become even more popular, with one in four SMEs now sharing equity with their employees and wider team

However, sharing equity can be a complex area and is easy to get it wrong. When it goes wrong there is a danger that you create tax issues (for you and your employees), de-motivate your team and even create future funding issues for the company. It is therefore really important that you choose the right scheme to set-up, but make sure you manage it too.

Below is a brief summary of the main schemes used by Start-ups and SMEs in the UK today. There are similar schemes and considerations globally.

  1. EMI Option Schemes – This is the most tax efficient scheme. Recipients pay just 10% Capital Gains Tax (CGT) on any value growth. The employer can also offset both the cost of the scheme and the value growth achieved by employees against its Corporation Tax  liability. You can also set conditions to control the release of equity, such as time served or performance. The recipient can’t simply walk away with shares, having delivered no value (which is one of the top concerns of many of the businesses and founders we talk to).  EMI Option Schemes are used by 41% of SMEs (who share equity) and, for good reason, are the most popular. Read our full guide to EMI for more information.
  2. Ordinary Shares  – This is the issuance of  full ordinary shares in the business, often without conditionality and with immediate effect. They are most often issued against cash investment. Once an employee (or any other recipient) has ordinary shares, you have no control over what happens to the shares thereafter. The individual can simply walk away with the shares, so we don’t normally recommend them for contribution that’s yet to be delivered. They’re also not tax efficient, as the recipient will have to pay tax at their marginal Income Tax (IT) rate, on any value the shares have at that point. These are used by 31% of SMEs.
  3. Growth Schemes  – These are a good option when the founders have built value into their company. The recipient only shares in the capital growth of the business from the date that the shares are issued.  You can give growth shares to anyone (not just employees) and you can attach additional conditions. These shares limit the risk of the recipient having to pay income tax on receipt of the equity, as they do not hold any value when they are issued but do pay CGT on the value growth at sale. Growth schemes are used by 31% of SMEs. Read the full details on Growth Shares here.
  4. Share Incentive Plan – SIP –  This is a tax efficient plan for all employees that gives companies the flexibility to tailor the plan to meet their needs.  Share Incentive Plans are used by 23% of SMEs.
  5. Unapproved Options – These are not very tax efficient as the recipient will pay IT on any value inherent in the share, above the exercise price, when they exercise the option. That said, they do provide more flexibility than the other options and are the easiest to set up as you don’t need HMRC approval. Unapproved Options are used by 22% of SMEs.

Is it worth the hassle? Earlier this year (i.e. during the first lockdown ) we carried out a piece of research with  business leaders,  exploring their attitude towards sharing equity with employees and wider team.  We spoke to over 500 owners of SMEs and identified six main business benefits to doing so:

  • Recruitment. You can combine salary with equity, to create compensation packages that match, or improve on, offers made by other more established companies with deeper pockets.
  • Retain the best talent. Share schemes are proven to increase employee retention and can help you reduce if not avoid hiring costs.
  • Increase productivity and performance. Studies have shown that employees who are also shareholders are more committed to their work and contribution because they feel directly vested in the growth in value of ‘their’ company.
  • Improve employee engagement and happiness. The more all employees feel included in the mission, direction, and success of the business, the more they’re motivated to contribute to the company.
  • Relieve cashflow pressure. Equity can be used to reduce the need for finance. Instead of paying people top rates and large bonuses, you can incentivise them via shares or options…giving them a share of the future they are helping to create.

Recruitment and retention are clearly the key drivers. It’s not too surprising to see why. Companies succeed or fail largely due to the quality of the people they manage to attract and retain. However, for smaller and start-up employers, attracting the right people can be difficult.  Good people are typically attracted to the idea of working for a house-hold name brand, they look for job security and are enticed by comprehensive employee benefit packages and high salaries that are unaffordable by most smaller companies. Employee share schemes are an effective way for smaller companies to compete in the job market against larger companies, with that potential for a massive/significant upside.

However, at this challenging time, it’s not all about money, keeping people focussed and motivated during the pandemic is at the top of most employers’ worry list.  If you choose the right scheme, equity sharing encourages employees to align their motivations to that of the long-term success of the business, over the immediate or short-term gains. And, right now, that is perhaps worth more than anything.

If you’d like to get into the detail then check out our guide to employee share schemes.

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