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THE APP ECONOMY LEADING UK BUSINESS INTO A NEW ERA

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THE APP ECONOMY LEADING UK BUSINESS INTO A NEW ERA

By Marc Cooper, Vice President of EMEA at Vend.

In the past, when a business wanted to upgrade or improve its technology there weren’t many options. One was to buy a system that could do everything – or at least as much as possible – which often came with limitations. Or, purchase separate software products and endure the tricky process of trying to get them working together. Thankfully there’s been some big changes in the last few years. Mobile and cloud-based technologies have broken down the door. Connectivity is king.

And customers are demanding it too. They now expect the same level of service, the same brand feel, and the same experience with a company no matter whether they’re communicating with staff, the website, receiving promotional emails, or paying an invoice. So it’s important that every touchpoint, from sales to inventory tracking, ecommerce, loyalty programs and payment options are completely in sync. Siloed systems for different areas of a business just don’t cut it anymore.

The rise of a global app economy

The growth of new cloud-based business applications means true connectivity is now achievable, and affordable. Just like the consumer apps we all use, such as personal banking (or more likely, Pokémon Go), these business apps can be easily downloaded from an app store onto an iPad or mobile device. They can then easily link with other industry-leading apps that provide complementary services – such as Vend’s retail management software that integrates with Xero for accounting, Deputy for staff scheduling, iZettle for payments, Collect for loyalty, and more.

In this way, businesses can essentially build their own bespoke enterprise systems. They can pick and choose from a community of world-class apps that integrate seamlessly with each other. And there’s no more time-consuming and expensive set up. Cloud-based systems are by their nature affordable and scaleable. It can literally take around 10 minutes to set up a business app and start selling, and they can grow with a business, without the need for costly hardware upgrades.

This is a big deal. Mobile apps are becoming such an important part of the business landscape that Apple is ramping up its work in this space. Specially selected mobile apps such as Vend, Xero, Deputy and others are working closely with Apple, to fully integrate business tools on iPad. A whole global app ecosystem is growing, to provide complementary cloud and mobile software for retailers and SMBs.

Building business empires with connected apps

Independent retailers and businesses which aren’t held back by legacy systems, are already using this ecosystem to better manage their business. For example, cooking supplies retailer Borough Kitchen have used a cloud based POS app on iPad from day one, integrated with accounting and ecommerce to run their Southwark, Hampstead and Chiswick stores.

“We use our POS Vend with our accounting software to pull in our received orders, track our payables, and pay our suppliers on time. With the cloud, everything is easily scalable, intuitive and backed with great support. Unlike traditional software, we see frequent updates and constant improvements that make it easier for us to manage our business,” says David Caldana, Co-Founder of Borough Kitchen.

Similarly, accountants are starting to recommend ‘add-on’ products to provide a full strategic and business advisory service, and help clients run their business more efficiently. For example, a business might start with an accounting system such as Xero and then expand their operations by adding on other apps.

“Over the years a number of add-ons have been developed, which enable Xero to be tuned to a business’ unique needs. Clients need us to understand what these add-ons do and to recommend the best of breed to them,” says Nathan Keely, partner at chartered accounting firm Carpenter Box.

“In retail for instance, by using software such as Xero with Vend as an ‘add-on’, all a retailer needs is an iPad, a lockable cash drawer and a bluetooth scanner. There is therefore no capital spend on items such as tills – instead just an easy to use and responsive cloud-based system with stock control and management tools as standard for a manageable monthly fee.”

“The specialist software now available have enabled us to understand more about our clients and recommend suitable solutions, whilst allowing them to operate more efficiently. They see savings in terms of both time and money, so it’s a real win-win situation.”

A new reign for business and customer experience

Connected apps mean that businesses are able to automate every aspect of their workflow, with systems ‘talking’ to each other and automatically syncing or updating. And as they run on mobile devices, business owners are unshackled from their desks – they can check-in on the business from anywhere, see performance in real-time, and make decisions on-the-go.

This means business owners can spend far less time on manual tasks, such as balancing the books, or organising holiday schedules and staff rosters. But one of the biggest benefits of these integrated mobile technologies is the way it enables a more personalised and seamless customer experience.

In a retail store for example, linking a POS app with a specialist loyalty app means retailers can collate shopper information and offer targeted rewards and perks directly to a customer’s smartphone. Or, integrating a store’s sales system with their online shop ensures that all inventory and customer data is synced across both channels. This prevents ‘double-sells’, where the last of a product is accidentally sold to two customers at once, and means all product and customer details can be easily managed from one central location.

Growing towards world domination

Soon, we can expect to see more and more businesses running entirely on apps. As these groups of connected, cloud-based systems are rapidly implemented in areas such as retail, we will see a wave of revitalised IT systems across many other industries – from manufacturing, to transport, to finance. Faster, better, more transparent and personal services will become the norm in all parts of our lives. A new reign is about to begin, and it’s definitely win-win.

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UK seeks G7 consensus on digital competition after Facebook blackout

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UK seeks G7 consensus on digital competition after Facebook blackout 1

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

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Britain to offer fast-track visas to bolster fintechs after Brexit 2

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.”

SCALING UP

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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G20 to show united front on support for global economic recovery, cash for IMF

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G20 to show united front on support for global economic recovery, cash for IMF 3

By Michael Nienaber and Andrea Shalal

BERLIN/WASHINGTON/ROME (Reuters) – The world’s financial leaders are expected on Friday to agree to continue supportive measures for the global economy and look to boost the International Monetary Fund’s resources so it can help poorer countries fight off the effects of the pandemic.

Finance ministers and central bank governors of the world’s top 20 economies, called the G20, held a video-conference on Friday. The global response to the economic havoc wreaked by the coronavirus was at top of the agenda.

In the first comments by a participating policymaker, the European Union’s economics commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said the meeting had been “good”, with consensus on the need for a common effort on global COVID vaccinations.

“Avoid premature withdrawal of supportive fiscal policy” and “progress towards agreement on digital and minimal taxation” he said in a Tweet, signalling other areas of apparent accord.

A news conference by Italy, which holds the annual G20 presidency, is scheduled for 17.15 (1615 GMT)

The meeting comes as the United States is readying $1.9 trillion in fiscal stimulus and the European Union has already put together more than 3 trillion euros ($3.63 trillion) to keep its economies going despite COVID-19 lockdowns.

But despite the large sums, problems with the global rollout of vaccines and the emergence of new variants of the coronavirus mean the future of the recovery remains uncertain.

German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz warned earlier on Friday that recovery was taking longer than expected and it was too early to roll back support.

“Contrary to what had been hoped for, we cannot speak of a full recovery yet. For us in the G20 talks, the central task remains to lead our countries through the severe crisis,” Scholz told reporters ahead of the virtual meeting.

“We must not scale back the support programmes too early and too quickly. That’s what I’m also going to campaign for among my G20 colleagues today,” he said.

BIDEN DEBUT

Hopes for constructive discussions at the meeting are high among G20 countries because it is the first since Joe Biden, who vowed to rebuild cooperation in international bodies, became U.S. president.

While the IMF sees the U.S. economy returning to pre-crisis levels at the end of this year, it may take Europe until the middle of 2022 to reach that point.

The recovery is fragile elsewhere too – factory activity in China grew at the slowest pace in five months in January, hit by a wave of domestic coronavirus infections, and in Japan fourth quarter growth slowed from the previous quarter with new lockdowns clouding the outlook.

“The initially hoped-for V-shaped recovery is now increasingly looking rather more like a long U-shaped recovery. That is why the stabilization measures in almost all G20 states have to be maintained in order to continue supporting the economy,” a G20 official said.

But while the richest economies can afford to stimulate an economic recovery by borrowing more on the market, poorer ones would benefit from being able to tap credit lines from the IMF — the global lender of last resort.

To give itself more firepower, the Fund proposed last year to increase its war chest by $500 billion in the IMF’s own currency called the Special Drawing Rights (SDR), but the idea was blocked by then U.S. President Donald Trump.

Scholz said the change of administration in Washington on Jan. 20 improved the prospects for more IMF resources. He pointed to a letter sent by U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to G20 colleagues on Thursday, which he described as a positive sign also for efforts to reform global tax rules.

Civil society groups, religious leaders and some Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. Congress have called for a much larger allocation of IMF resources, of $3 trillion, but sources familiar with the matter said they viewed such a large move as unlikely for now.

The G20 may also agree to extend a suspension of debt servicing for poorest countries by another six months.

($1 = 0.8254 euros)

(Reporting by Michael Nienaber in Berlin, Jan Strupczewski in Brussels and Gavin Jones in Rome; Andrea Shalal and David Lawder in Washington; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Susan Fenton and Crispian Balmer)

 

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