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TAKING YOUR BUSINESS TO THE NEXT LEVEL

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TAKING YOUR BUSINESS TO THE NEXT LEVEL

Paul Evans, area director for SME Banking in Central London,Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking

SMEs are one of the main drivers behind the British economy. Collectively they make up 99% of all businesses in the UK and contributed £1.2 trillion in turnover during 2014, according to the Department for Business Innovation and Skills. It’s clear that SMEs are crucial to the UK’s sustained recovery as well as the health of the labour market, with more than 25.2 million people employed in this sector over the past year.

With the economic recovery in full swing this year, and while the Bank of England keeps interest rates low, we believe there’s never been a better time for SME business owners to look at growing their business and expanding for the future.

However, the latest Business in Britain Report from Lloyds Bank showed SME confidence in London has cooled ever so slightly since the start of the year,even though firms expect an overall increase in profits and orders. Although the findings revealed that confidence overall remains high, the latest report is evidence of a higher level of caution from some small businesses regarding their prospects. The results also indicate that while eight per cent of firms in London plan to invest more than £1 million in the next six months, a quarter don’t plan to invest anything.

With this mind, we wanted to remind SMEs of the number of ways finance can be obtained to help both sustain and encourage growth. Whether businesses are looking to potentially expand into new markets,develop new products and services,or simply want to increase their production capabilities to meet growing demands, there are a number of ways that they can receive support.To get businesses to start thinking about their growth opportunities, and to instil confidence,we’ve highlighted three key things to consider:

Paul Evans

Paul Evans

Sector-specific finance

The first, and potentially most crucial point for SMEs to consider, is the wide range of finance options that can be tailored to their needs. Some of the general finance options available include alternative finance, such as peer-to-peer lending, as well as more traditional funding methods. However, for many small businesses, bank funding holds greater appeal, both because of the number of specialist finance products now available, and because of the market expertise that relationship managers hold. Typically banks are geared to offer sector specific funding options tailored to countless industries, rather than just a one-size-fits-all offering.

In my view, this is invaluable to growing firms. Dedicated relationship managers at banks are also a good source of expertise, and can act as a useful sounding board. They are often well connected locally and incredibly knowledgeable about the opportunities for, and challenges facing, Britain’s small businesses. Certainly at Lloyds Bank these individuals play an important role in the strategic development of the companies we partner with.

To give an example of where tailored support and finance can be beneficial,at Lloyds we recognise that the manufacturing industry is an important part of the UK’s economic recovery, so we offer funding packages that are specially designed to support the sector. And we have experts within this industry who can offer guidance throughout the whole process. We know that for manufacturing businesses that have to invest large amounts of capital in machinery, hire purchase products allow the cost of a particular purchase to be spread over an agreed period of time, instead of having to make a large one-off payment.

Improving cash flow

We also know that unlocking cash to invest is something small firms can often find difficult. Primarily because most of the cash is either tied up in assets, or used to optimise working capital, which often leaves little going into growth plans.

With this in mind, banks like Lloyds have created a range of asset based lending facilities for firms looking for a quick cash injection, allowing them to borrow money against the value of their current assets.

Similarly late payments can often be the cause of cash flow issues, so to help buffer the effects of this, businesses may want to take advantage of an invoice discounting facility. This allows owners to borrow money against unpaid invoices to bridge the gap between payments and generate much needed working capital.

Supporting international growth

Finally, we believe that it’s vital SME business owners recognise the growth opportunities offered by trading internationally. It might not seem relevant to all businesses but in our view, lenders have a responsibility to champion those businesses that are looking to start trading overseas, to enable them to expand and target new markets.

For businesses looking to fulfil opportunities overseas it’s important, in addition to looking at the funding options available, to seek out further guidance that your bank may be able to provide. This would help support the different stages of your business during its international growth.

On the funding side, my team offers a range of facilities to help with orders and payments in the international market. These include facilities where if an order is received from an international buyer, we can provide the working capital to help produce and ship the goods, as well as advancing payments directly to the business – helping SMEs avoid delays in payment processing.

In addition to financial support, business owners can also get access to expert guidance through banks. This is particularly helpful for firms looking overseas, with our partnership with UK Trade and Investment. We also help with various other aspects of international trading, such as securing contacts for businesses in different countries, maintaining relationships with foreign banks and helping with currency issues.

We’ve just seen Small Business Advice Week draw to a close and want to ensure people are continuing to think about what else they want to achieve before the end of the year. Whatever your business’s situation, whether you are planning to invest in additional assets, increase export activity, or improve cash flow, you should explore the many different funding options out there and grab opportunities with both hands. Through this, we can cement firm foundations for a sustained and robust economic future.

ENDS

Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking

  • Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking provides comprehensive expert financial services to businesses of all sizes, from start-ups and small businesses to mid-sized businesses and multinational corporations.
  • Maintaining a network of relationship teams across the UK, as well as internationally, Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking delivers the mix of local understanding and global expertise necessary to provide long-term support to its clients.
  • Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking offers a broad range of finance beyond term lending and this spans import and export trade finance, structured and asset finance, securitisation facilities and capital market funding. Its product specialists provide bespoke financial services and solutions, including tailored cash management, international trade, treasury and risk management services.

Support for SMEs

  • In 2014, Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking grew its net lending to SMEs by 5% year-on-year, or over £1 billion (net), and announced a further commitment to grow lending to SMEs by £1 billion (net) each year to 2017.
  • Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking works with government to support small British businesses and offers competitively priced lending with support from the Funding for Lending Scheme.
  • In 2014 the Bank helped more than 100,000 start ups get off the ground as part of its commitment to supporting British enterprise.

To see the latest SME factsheet please visit: http://www.lloydsbankinggroup.com/media/media-kit/sme-fact-sheet/ 

Business

Adoption of tech in private markets lags behind industry trends

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Adoption of tech in private markets lags behind industry trends 1
  • Nine out of ten financial institutions have accelerated their digitisation strategy as a result of Covid-19.
  • Yet just 26% of financial institutions say that technology currently plays a core role in delivering private markets services.
  • Firms say that private markets technology will have the greatest impact on operational efficiency, regulatory governance and client experience. 

Wealth managers must urgently increase their use of technology in offering private market investments or they risk being left behind by their competitors in less than five years.

The latest research report, ‘Digitising Private Markets’, from leading fintech firm Delio, shows that financial institutions’ adoption of digital tools across their operations has increased substantially as a result of Covid-19 this year. But many firms have been slow to accelerate their use of technology to deliver private markets services,  despite recognising the improvements it could make to back-office organisation and regulatory compliance, not to mention enhancing client services. Delaying adoption of a digital strategy could leave firms trailing behind competitors within five years, according to Delio CEO and co-founder Gareth Lewis.

Gareth Lewis said: “Any firm that is serious about providing a complete wealth management service to their clients, needs to deliver a holistic private markets solution. Technology will be fundamental to the delivery of these services and needs to be implemented across the board sooner rather than later. Firms that fail to act quickly face losing ground and potential new clients to more tech-savvy competitors.

“While I understand that client relationships are still vital in this area, companies can’t become complacent. We live in a more instantly-connected world and customers – especially new clients who are more likely to have been entrepreneurial as they generated their wealth – want more digital access to their finances than ever before. It’s time to take an omnichannel approach that combines the best elements of technology and personal advice; this will deliver a market-leading approach.”

Providing clients with access to private markets has been a challenge for many financial institutions, due to the difficulties in scaling a part of their business that is operationally complex to deliver, requires strict regulatory governance and has traditionally been driven by personal relationships between client and adviser. It is one of the reasons many institutions only started to develop a private markets solution in the last 12-18 months.

However, better use of technology can help firms to deal with each of these hurdles more efficiently, providing access to a market that has consistently outperformed publicly listed investments over the last decade. McKinsey’s most recent Private Markets Review highlighted that the value of private assets under management had grown by $4tn or 170% in the last ten years, compared to 100% growth in global public assets over the same period. 

The difficulties presented by the international lockdowns associated with Covid-19 has meant that 86% of firms report that they have accelerated their digital adoption this year, with 70% making quicker decisions on technology projects specifically.

Yet, a significant minority of organisations believe that digitisation will not necessarily play a prominent role as we begin to adapt to the ‘next normal’. More than a third of firms (35%) believe that they will still rely on traditional client engagement strategies in the short to medium term.

Having developed private markets solutions for more than 70 international institutions over the last five years, Delio firmly believes that technology can add significant value at both an organisational and client level.

Gareth Lewis added: “Client relationships will still be at the forefront of any wealth management proposition, there is no question about that. However, I also believe that technology can enhance how advisers build relationships with their clients. If I had an investment opportunity that I wanted to pitch to 50 clients, why wouldn’t I want to share that information digitally beforehand to gauge their appetite? Failing to accept that busy clients want to be able to access data at any time, no matter where they are, is a potentially damaging mistake that could cost slow-moving companies dearly.”

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Covid-19 disruption drives five new retail supply chain trends

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Covid-19 disruption drives five new retail supply chain trends 2

The business disruption caused by COVID-19 has resulted in four out of five (82%) retailers changing their approach to stock management and is driving five retail supply chain trends.

This is according to a new report from logistics company Advanced Supply Chain Group (ASCG), which shows how the pandemic has caused stock management issues for 92% of retailers. The impact of this is leading to an evolution of the long-practiced lean management process Just in Time (JIT) and 42% of retailers planning to grow sales by selling through more channels.

The report, Retail Supply Chains in the ‘New Normal’, is based on the findings from interviews with 200 senior retail professionals involved in buying, stock inventory management and supply chain management. It reveals five retail supply chain trends including:

1) Time for Change 

To address delays caused by COVID-19, retailers have adapted timings at the beginning and end of their supply chains. Of the retailers which have made changes to supply chain strategies, 41% have allowed longer leads times on stock ordered, while four in ten (40%) have extended delivery times provided to customers.

2) Localising Stock 

COVID-19 disruption led to two thirds (66%) of retailers receiving stock late, whilst a similar number (63%) experienced shortages in the availability of goods. This is seeing retailers prioritise investment in stock availability (57%), which includes building more localised levels of stock to minimise the risk of out of stock scenarios.

This shift in behaviour has the potential to completely change Just in Time (JIT). Only a quarter (25%) of retailers believe JIT has some form of feasibility while the pandemic remains ongoing.

Claire Webb, managing director at ASCG, has more than 13 years’ experience working in retail leadership roles. She comments: “Just in Time will have to change because it’s less able to cope with increasing unpredictability – it quickly becomes ‘just out of time’. Supply chains will evolve as retailers aim to better mobilise stock, keeping it more agile to sweat its value across multiple routes to market.”

3) Real Time Visibility

The research shows retailers rank balancing stock flow versus stock piling as the biggest supply chain challenge following the pandemic. They want to avoid not being able to satisfy customer demand because of unavailable stock, but equally don’t want to tie-up too much capital in stock at risk of depreciation.

To address this challenge, 40% of retailers are investing in improving the accuracy of inventory management, whilst a third (33%) pinpointed smart, connected technology that improves the accuracy and visibility of stock as the most effective method of strengthening supply chain resilience. Changing stock inventory management to make stock movement and levels more visible was also a high-ranking priority for 37% of retailers.

4) Stock Optimisation 

The ongoing economic uncertainty and unpredictable customer demand caused by COVID-19 are seeing retailers hone-in on the performance of the goods they’re selling. 41% of retailers are investing in auditing their stock to improve profitability. These pandemic-driven stock reviews have also resulted in a third (33%) of retailers diversifying the stock they sell, with the same amount also changing strategies to better focus on stocking and selling their highest margin goods.

5) Diligence Against Disruption 

In response to the impact of COVID-19, a third (33%) of retailers are developing contingencies to protect against supply chain disruption. This involves tactics such as increasing the number of suppliers they source goods from, working with a larger number of logistics providers to spread risk and also increasing overall stock levels.

Claire Webb concludes: “Each of the trends emerging from the impacts of COVID-19 share a common theme of tackling margin dilution. Retailers and logistics partners have spent years optimising supply chains to remove unnecessary costs that cannibalise margins. This is now being turbo-charged as retailers aim to extract maximum value from each hard-fought sale and to build loyalty in increasingly uncertain and price-sensitive markets.

“Smart, connected technologies and bespoke supply chain software systems will be critical for retailers adapting to COVID-19. This can prove the difference in effectively managing stock movement and levels to avoid availability issues and costly stock depreciation and obsolescence.”

Click here to read more about the five trends and download the full report ‘Retail Supply Chains in the ‘New Normal’; Evolving from Disruption to Delivering Excellence’.

Full link to the report; https://www.advancedsupplychain.com/latest/white-paper-retail-supply-chains-in-the-new-normal/

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Remote leadership anxieties

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Remote leadership anxieties 3

It’s a difficult time to be navigating the complex world of business. Whilst adapting to new ways of working remotely, a practice which looks to become the new norm, professionals at all levels of business are experiencing new challenges.

Whether workers are going for a promotion, trying to keeping up team morale or fire-fighting a never-ending to do list, times are hard and without being able to interact with colleagues face to face, simple tasks can suddenly become complex. Even those in more senior positions are needing to find new ways of working, to effectively manage and nurture not only their teams but also themselves.

A recent report by RADA Business, Beating Workplace Performance Anxiety, revealed that, contrary to what many may believe, anxiety is actually most prominent amongst those at senior director level, with 94% of professionals struggling with anxiety around communicating. This group were also found to suffer feelings of anxiety the most – 10 times per month – which is twice the national average.

However, the world-renowned performance coaches at RADA Business, the commercial subsidiary of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, build upon actor training techniques, centred around body, breath and voice, to help business professionals develop the necessary skills to improve their performance in the workplace.

To help senior business professionals navigate the anxiety-inducing world of remote leadership, Kate Montague, RADA Business tutor shares her answers to some of the more common questions, which have been put to the RADA Business team since the lockdown began, by senior leaders.

I’m finding remote working stressful, how can I manage this stress more effectively?

As leaders, we have to accept that there will be times when things become stressful and Covid-19 certainly hasn’t been an exception to this. Acknowledging that we are out of alignment with our working habits currently and seeking the tools and techniques to help is the first step.

At RADA Business we look at where stress is manifesting itself and it often extends beyond the psychological and takes a physical form in the spine and showing up in our posture. Taking a stretch, rolling out the shoulders and releasing the neck is a healthful activity between calls.

Conscious breathing also helps to make us more comfortable physically, and also calms the nervous system. Take a moment to sit or stand tall, then become aware of your breath and breathe deeply and fully a few times a day. This is a useful tool for reducing stress and helps to clear the mind. Deep breathing in this way releases dopamine, the body’s ‘happy’ hormone, which helps to make us feel better, more emotionally responsive and less emotionally reactive. If you’re stressed focus on lengthening the out-breath, or if you’re tired and need recharging, focus on taking a few fuller in-breaths.

I’m struggling to land my messages through virtual mediums, how can I show up effectively online?

There is definitely a knack to presenting effectively via virtual mediums, and getting it right will certainly help you convey both confidence and professionalism.

Firstly, consider your posture: make sure you’re sitting tall, lengthening through the spine. Think of your pelvis as a foundation stone to your spine, let it relax into the base of the chair.

Ground yourself with your feet flat on the floor – this will help you to connect your breath to your speech so you’re able to communicate with depth of tone and clarity.

When using visual platforms, consider your framing to ensure your head is nicely centred, balanced on your shoulders, and neither too close nor too far from the camera. Lighting is also hugely important on video calls – we need to be well lit from the front so those we’re presenting to are able to read those all-important expressions, which are key to communication. If you have a tendency to rush, remember to take moments to pause and breathe. Using eye contact to connect with your listeners will help slow down your communication so others have more time to process and absorb what you have to say.

Temperamental video conferencing software and poor Wi-Fi connections can cause some technical problems through online mediums. Be sure to check in with your audience and have them feedback by asking some simple probing questions such as “Is everything clear up to this point?”, or field any questions they may have. This will ensure your message has been received and has landed as you intended.

How can I reassure my team while I’m struggling with my own anxieties?

Firstly, acknowledge your own challenges. Bosses often face burnout when they refuse to admit they’re struggling, however when you are willing to look after yourself first you’re in a far better position to help and reassure others. Take time each day to tune in and listen to yourself as you would a friend and provide your own coaching. Ask yourself: “How am I doing?”, consider the answer and apply to yourself the response you might give a friend if they were to say: “I’m feeling anxious, stressed, burnt out…”. Give space to connect with your kindness and empathy. Acknowledge where you’re doing a good job, and make space for your inner guidance to show you where to go next in terms of a difficult decision or action. We all feel anxious at times, so let those feelings come forward, remember to breathe, and address them in the moment so they are processed, which will help you to reconnect with your innate clarity and intuition.

When reassuring your team, whether they’re feeling angry, anxious or upset let them bring their own feelings forward too, rather than suppress them – they’ll respond to this. In body-led psychotherapy we say all feelings are welcome: it’s a non-shaming, non-judging atmosphere. Schedule in 10 minutes each week to check in with the team and ask them how they are coping, what they need, or how things could be better. Inclusion has never been so important so allow your team to vent, or share what is current for them, and show that you see them.

My progression feels stinted, how can I impress my superiors when they can’t see and hear me at work?

Make yourself visible by being proactive. It’s easy to feel as though we’re doing lots of work and not getting noticed, especially when working remotely, but having clear intentions and going out of your way to make them visible will help you to be seen. Don’t let the boss do homework, instead offer them what you have to share – send them something to watch or read; offer to lead a meeting; offer to head up a new project – serve it to them on a plate. Be sure to ask for guidance and feedback too, as this will help to keep the conversation going and ensure you are front of their mind. Put yourself out there and let yourself be visible.

How do I keep up team morale while we are short staffed?

Being short staffed is never easy but the relationship you have with your team is everything. Rapport and intimacy become even more important when a team is downsized, so regular check-ins are essential. It’s important to ensure that your team’s workload is relatively balanced in order to prevent exhaustion and burnout. Schedule regular catch-ups with the team to oversee their work but be careful not to micro-manage – teams are more responsive when they’re able to work to their own deadlines, whilst still meeting your needs of course. Also bear in mind that the warmth of giving praise helps to re-engage teams who may be under pressure or missing colleagues who are no longer around. We thrive on celebrating the wins, so be sure to factor in time to thank the team, perhaps at the start of an update meeting or why not setup a quick ‘digital round table’ with the pure intention of praising the team? Be sure to take your time when delivering praise and make eye contact with your team – this will give your message a clear sense of genuineness.

I’m trying to move into a new role but now isn’t a good time and I feel stuck, how can I get noticed?

If it really isn’t the time then focus your energies on a new temporary goal that you’re able to get passionate about in the interim and that will allow you to grow in other ways. You may find that taking time to acquire new skills in other areas will have an impact on your routine performance and there are plenty of ways to skill up. Make time for a short-term course, undertake a side project, engage in continued professional development (CPD) – anything to keep your mind active and to keep you growing whilst your usual routine is feeling static. Developing a new project or hobby that you can talk passionately about often comes with a new sense of confidence and enthusiasm, two traits that are bound to help get you noticed by the people at the top.

During these challenging past few months, business leaders have seen just how resilient they can be. In the face of adversity, there’s now potentially a deeper awareness of how performance at work is impacted by how well we nurture the holistic self – the spirit, mindset, physical and emotional well-being all play a part in how we deliver. There has been an acknowledgement of strengths while simultaneously more willingness to acknowledge vulnerability. This really is key as it leads to deeper human connections, which is the bottom line of any business. Regardless of what trade we’re in, it’s all about human endeavour and although stressful for many, the recent months have helped us to learn about balance and to become more attuned to what we as individuals need, as well as how to be more responsive to our colleagues and clients.

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