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Taming the complex world of international payments

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Taming the complex world of international payments

By: David Prendeville – Head of UK FX Services

When it comes to sport, the UK has its fair share of passionate fans. From football to cricket,gymnastics to swimming, many people enjoy attending games or watching tournaments. What they often forget though is that behind every sporting club, there is a business – often one with a huge international reach – and that business often faces many of the same challenges that other companies in the UK do as well.

The requirements of a once domestic sporting business have widened, calling for more sophisticated financial management to help meet rising customer ticket sales, to managing the payments for both the team’s players and staff when travelling overseas and delivering seamless and efficient digital transactions for their commercial partners and worldwide organisations.

Take America’s National Football League (NFL), for example. Not perhaps one of the first sports you’d think of in the UK but with NFL official figures reporting a UK fan base of over 13 million, including close to four million avid fans, UK customer love for the sport has begun to take a hold of many.

A new cross-border dynamic

The Jacksonville Jaguars, a Florida-based NFL team are the only team in the US league to have a dual-residency in the UK, playing one game a season in London’s Wembley Stadium. Just recently, NFL UK Managing Director Alistair Kirkwood stated that the NFL is bring an academy to London with the aimof using American football to provide students with educational, professional sporting opportunities and the chance to play at NCAA college football in the United States.

This new cross-border dynamic for what was once a business focused in one region brings with it many challenges as well as opportunities. Indeed, any business that merchandises across multiple geographies will recognise the challenge; likewise those who have customers and employees indifferent time zones and regions.

How to manage payments and transactions from customers in multiple currencies. How to ensure that currency fluctuations don’t negatively impact your bottom line or lead to increased costs for customers. How to manage and track payments in an efficient way that doesn’t impact on wider resources. These are challenges that many businesses that transact globally face.

Making what can be a complex process simpler and more efficient is crucial so that businesses can focus on growth. And it’s that what’s at the heart of what organisations that are trading internationally. They want to grow, whether that’s economic growth, increased staff, new customers or just simply making their business strong and stable for the future.

For the Jaguars, once the team had invested in the UK sporting market, it needed support to help capitalise on the many opportunities. At Western Union Business Solutions, we were able to work with the Jaguars to offer them the insight and resources through bespoke tools and expert guidance that would help them navigate currency and payments challenges.

A long-standing history of working within the UK market has allowed Western Union Business Solutions to deliver tailored market insight during a time of UK political uncertainty, driving the efficiencies of the business behind the Jaguars across all platforms. As Jaguars Chief Financial Officer Kelly Flanagan, explains the partnership has offered “seamless, efficient and bespoke service to our international currency solutions”.

Focusing on what matters most – the game

Capitalising on the rising demands from the customer, the business behind the Jaguars are now able to offer their fans jam-packed London tourist packages when visiting their favourite team which,alongside your ticket to London’s iconic Wembley stadium also include hotel accommodation at The Mayfair, airfare and a River Thames dinner cruise.

But fundamentally establishing such a partnership has meant that the Jaguars have been able to focus on what matters most – the game – so much so that following the success of the first four games in the UK, the team’s owner Shahid Khan, announced an extended commitment to London until 2020.Something which will undoubtedly lead to the continual increase of their fanatical UK fan base.

Finance

Five things shaping Britain’s financial rulebooks after Brexit

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Five things shaping Britain's financial rulebooks after Brexit 1

By Huw Jones

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain is conducting a review of its financial rulebooks and policies to see how it can keep its 130 billion pound ($184 billion) finance sector competitive after Brexit left it largely cut off from the European Union.

The government is due to issue papers in the coming days outlining its approach to financial technology (fintech) and capital markets, while further down the line it’s expected to propose changes to the funds and insurance sectors.

Here are five things set to shape the City of London financial hub following its loss of access to the EU:

BIG BANG DEBATE

Britain’s finance ministry is reviewing financial regulation and insurance capital rules, with minister Rishi Sunak raising the prospect of a “Big Bang 2.0” to maintain the City’s competitiveness, a reference to liberalisation of trading in the 1980s.

But it’s unclear how far any deregulation could go given that Britain says it won’t undermine global standards.

UK Finance, a banking body, wants a formal remit for regulators to ditch rules that put them at a competitive disadvantage globally. Insurers want cuts in capital requirements to free up cash for green and long term investments.

But the Bank of England says the City must not become an “anything goes” financial centre, and that insurers hold the right amount of capital.

Cross-border firms want to avoid Britain diverging from international norms as this would add to compliance costs.

City veterans say Britain should focus on allowing firms to hire globally, and ensuring that regulators respond nimbly and proportionately to crypto-assets, sustainable finance, long-term investing and restructurings after COVID-19.

COPYING NEW YORK

London has fallen behind New York in attracting company flotations and a government-backed review of listing rules is likely to recommend allowing “dual class” shares and a lower “free float”, perhaps for a limited period.

Dual class shares are stocks in the same company with different voting rights, while “free float” refers to the proportion of a company’s shares that are publicly available.

The potential changes could attract more tech and fintech companies whose founders typically want to retain a large degree of control.

It could also recommend making it easier for special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) – businesses that raise money on stock markets to buy other companies – an area in which New York has also dominated, with Amsterdam catching up fast.

UK asset managers warn that strong corporate governance standards could be diluted by tinkering with listing rules.

BEYOND SANDBOXES

Britain is home to one of the world’s biggest innovative fintech sectors, its “sandboxes” – which allow fintech firms to test new products on real consumers under regulatory supervision – copied across the world. But Brexit means Britain has to work harder to attract and retain fintechs as they will no longer have direct access to the world’s biggest trading area.

A government-backed review to buttress the sector is due to report back on Friday with recommendations that could include cutting red tape for fintechs that want to recruit staff from across the world, and make listing in Britain more attractive.

Other ideas could include helping fledgling fintech navigate government departments and regulators more easily, along with ways of boosting funding for start-ups.

FUNDS ARE THE FUTURE

Britain is reviewing how to make itself a more competitive place for listing investment funds, a core tool for bringing fresh capital into markets.

UK-based asset managers run many funds listed in the EU, but this global system of cross-border management known as delegation could be tightened up by the bloc.

Having more funds listed in Britain would also mean that the shares they hold would be traded in London. Billions of euros in trading euro shares have left the UK for Amsterdam since Brexit due to the bloc’s restrictions on where funds can trade shares.

THINK GLOBAL

As the City will get only limited access at best to the EU, industry officials say it makes more sense to focus on getting better access to other markets like Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan and the United States, while at the same time keeping the UK financial market open to the world, including the EU.

Negotiations between Britain and Switzerland for a “mutual recognition” deal in financial rules is the way to go, industry officials say. Better global access would also keep the City ahead of EU centres like Amsterdam, Paris and Frankfurt.

($1 = 0.7056 pounds)

(Reporting by Huw Jones. Editing by Mark Potter)

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How the Brexit Agreement Failed the Financial Services Sector

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How the Brexit Agreement Failed the Financial Services Sector 2

By Steve Taklalsingh, MD UK Business, Amaiz

Over the Valentine’s weekend, it was announced that during January, the first month that the new Brexit-related changes came into force, Amsterdam overtook London as the largest financial trading centre in Europe. Approximately €9.2bn (£8.1bn) worth of shares were traded on Amsterdam’s exchanges each day in January, against €8.6bn in London. How did that happen and why is Brexit to blame?

The Brexit deal for the Financial Sector

The Christmas Eve Brexit agreement delivered an unfair market for UK companies in the Financial Services Sector. The deal meant we were left in a situation where EU-based banks wanting to buy European shares cannot trade via London. EU shares that were previously traded in the UK have moved to the EU on advice of the European regulator. In addition, EU FinTech companies can operate in the UK but, as ‘equivalence’ (agreeing to recognise each other’s regulations) has not been agreed, our FinTech companies cannot now operate in the EU. You can already see evidence of EU companies, particularly those based in Amsterdam and Germany, eyeing up the UK market.

As a sector we’ve never been shy of boasting about our 12% contribution to the UK’s GDP. FinTech, in particular, has been a UK success story. This vibrant scene is looked on with some envy and I’m very proud to be part of it.  Internationally, having a foothold in this market, and a London address, was the aspiration of financial services companies who wanted to be taken seriously, but not anymore.

Action to solve the market distortion

The Bank of England chief Andrew Bailey has warned that there are signs that the EU plans to cut off the UK from its financial markets and has urged them not to do so. The indications are that the Government is aware of the ‘problem’ but doesn’t appear to see the clear urgency in resolving it. It has been reported that there are ongoing talks to harmonise rules over financial regulations (equivalence) and that they’re working towards a March deadline.

Number 10 has said they are open to discussions on the equivalence issue and claims that the Government has ‘supplied the necessary paperwork’ and boasts of the UK’s strong regulatory system. It lays the fault of delay firmly at the doorstep of the EU: “Fragmentation of share trading across financial centres is in no one’s interest.” I’m disappointed that they’re not, in public, recognising the seriousness of the situation.

Research on the impact of Brexit

At Amaiz we have worked hard to understand the implications of Brexit. At the beginning of December we carried out research which focussed on the impact on financial services. The report, Brexit Brink: Are British SMEs about to fall off the edge of Europe – or building new bridges? is based on a survey of SMEs across the UK and you can download it free from www.https://journal.amaiz.com/amaiz-guide/.  Our findings gave us valuable insight into the deal that was needed for Financial Services.

Most companies had been preparing for Brexit for some years.  Whilst there were some that hoped and campaigned for the referendum result to be overturned, that seemed unlikely.  The results of our research in December showed that people were as ready as they could be:

  • Nearly half (49.2%) of company decision makers had reviewed new regulations set to take force on 1 January 2021 (if there was a no deal Brexit) and made changes to ensure their companies would meet them.
  • Only 17% of companies said they had failed to prepare.

The changes that company leaders believed would have the most impact were those to regulations (37.4% of respondents said this was a concern), increased costs of doing business (37.2%), and reduced access to suppliers (35.5%).  Overall, 57% of companies believed that Brexit would have a negative impact on their business, and some (6.6%) believed it would destroy their business.

The research found that larger companies were more prepared for Brexit than smaller ones. That’s likely to due to their ability to devote resources to solving the challenges Brexit presents. Those employing between 1 and 10 people were most concerned about increased costs (45.7%) and those with between 11 and 50 employees about taxes and VAT (41.3%).

Larger companies in Financial Services prepared for Brexit by registering companies and offices within the EU so that they could continue trading there. This acted as a fail-safe solution that avoided issues, whether a deal was struck or not, and whatever the nature of that deal.  Smaller companies don’t have the resources to do this; they could not open another office on the off chance that they would need it, so Brexit put them in a more vulnerable position.

Impact on the economy

Of course, Brexit came at a time when we were all trying to manage the devastating impact of the pandemic. The FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) and FSB (Federation of Small Business) both published figures in January that show the terrible impact of the pandemic on SMEs in the UK. The FCA found that 59% of smaller financial firms expected that their profits would take a hit this year[1]. The FSB found that nearly 5% of smaller companies expect to be forced to close within 12 months, the largest proportion in the history of the Small Business Index and would mean that 295,000 companies will close this year[2].

A plea to the Government

The Government has worked hard to find ways to help small businesses survive the pandemic in order to save jobs. The economy is experiencing an unprecedented recession, with all hopes laid on a swift bounce back as soon as lock down ends. Until then we are in ‘war’ mode. However, helping businesses survive is not just about handing out cash. What the Financial Services Sector urgently needs is a fair regulatory framework and marketplace in which UK business can operate. Instead, the Government has allowed distortions that continue to damage one of the country’s key sectors – one that can drive us out of recession – and appear laid back about resolving the situation!

[1] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-britain-markets/up-to-4000-financial-firms-could-fail-due-to-covid-says-uk-regulator-idUKKBN29C0R7?edition-redirect=in

[2] https://www.fsb.org.uk/resources-page/at-least-250-000-uk-small-businesses-set-to-fold-without-further-help-new-study-warns.html

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Bitcoin tumbles 17% as doubts grow over valuations

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Bitcoin tumbles 17% as doubts grow over valuations 3

By Tom Wilson and Tom Westbrook

LONDON/SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Bitcoin tumbled 17% on Tuesday, sparking a sell-off across cryptocurrency markets as investors grew nervous at sky-high valuations and leveraged players took profit.

The world’s biggest cryptocurrency suffered its biggest daily drop in a month, falling as low $45,000. Bitcoin was last down 11.3% at 0939 GMT.

The drop extended a slump of nearly a fifth from a record high of $58,354 hit on Sunday – though bitcoin remains up around 60% for the year.

“The kinds of rallies we’ve been seeing aren’t sustainable and just invite pullbacks like this,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at OANDA.

Ether, the world’s second largest cryptocurrency by market capitalisation that often moves in tandem with bitcoin, also dropped more than 17% and last bought $1,461, down almost 30% from last week’s record peak.

Cryptocurrency markets have been running hot this year as big money managers and companies begin to take the emerging asset class seriously, piling money into the sector and driving confidence among small-time speculators.

A $1.5 billion investment in the crytocurrency by electric carmaker Tesla this month has helped vault bitcoin above $50,000 but may now lead to pressure on the company’s stock price as it has become sensitive to movements in bitcoin.

Rising government bond yields over recent days have hit riskier assets, spilling over into leveraged bitcoin markets, said Richard Galvin of crypto fund Digital Asset Capital Management.

“Markets were quite hit from a leverage perspective so that didn’t help,” he added.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who has flagged the need to regulate cryptocurrencies more closely, also said on Monday that bitcoin is extremely inefficient at conducting transactions and is a highly speculative asset.

Critics say the cryptocurrency’s high volatility is among reasons that it has so far failed to gain widespread traction as a means of payment.

Analysts said key price levels have played a large part in determining the direction of crypto markets.

“Because we’re so lacking in fundamentals, it’s the big figures that have proved to be support and resistance points,” said Michael McCarthy, chief strategist at brokerage CMC Markets in Sydney.

“$50,000, $40,000 and $30,000 are the key chart levels at the moment. If we see it heading through $50,000, selling could accelerate.”

(Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Nick Macfie)

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