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THE HIDDEN DANGERS OF A LIMITED LIABILITY PARTNERSHIP

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HIDDEN DANGERS OF A LIMITED LIABILITY PARTNERSHIP

If you are an employee offered promotion, being asked to become a member of an LLP may seem like a no brainer when the tax advantages are the sole consideration. However, there are down sides to giving up employee status that need to be weighed in the balance.

HIDDEN DANGERS OF A LIMITED LIABILITY PARTNERSHIP

HIDDEN DANGERS OF A LIMITED LIABILITY PARTNERSHIP

LLPs or Limited Liability Partnerships are a hybrid corporate business vehicle offering the benefits of limited liability but allowing members the flexibility of organising their structure as a traditional partnership.

LLP members are self-employed for tax purposes and therefore save the business the cost of employer’s National Insurance Contributions (NICs). In addition, the LLP member also obtains the cash flow benefit of a delayed payment of tax compared to an employee taxed under PAYE. The flip side is that an LLP member has fewer protections in law if things go wrong.

Rather than an employment contract, an LLP member’s rights and obligations are based on the terms of the LLP agreement. This is a written agreement recording what has been agreed about the internal workings of the LLP. Among other things, it will cover profit-sharing, admission of new members, management and decision-making, retirement and expulsion and the entitlements and obligations of outgoing members, including confidentiality obligations and restrictive covenants to protect the business when members leave.

An LLP member may be an equity member who has invested capital in the LLP and is to receive a share of profits or a fixed share member who has a fixed share of the equity and guaranteed minimum drawings of the LLP.

In the recent case of Tiffin v Lester Aldridge LLP the courts looked at the status of a fixed share LLP member. Mr Tiffin was a fixed share partner who was remunerated by way of a small fixed share of profit; he was entitled to extra profit based on a number of profit points; he contributed some capital and had voting rights. He unsuccessfully claimed employment rights and alleged unfair dismissal. Had Mr Tiffin been paid by way of a fixed share of profit without contributing capital and without voting rights, the result may well have been different. The case makes it clear that the status of individuals within an LLP will depend upon what was intended at the time of joining i.e. whether or not a relationship of partnership or akin to partnership was to be created. The starting point will often be the Membership Agreement and any relevant documents from the time of joining.

Whilst LLP members do not qualify for many employment protection rights, they have similar rights to employees not to suffer unlawful discrimination on the grounds of race, sex, age, sexual orientation, religion or belief and disability.

Peter De Maria Doyle Clayton

Peter De Maria Doyle Clayton

A common area for dispute, not surprisingly, is money – both in terms of what the member must put in, their entitlement to profit and their rights on leaving, such as repayment of capital, payment of their profit share, repayment of loans and payment for their share of the goodwill. These aspects need to be covered in the agreement to avoid disputes occurring.

Problems commonly arise when members want to force another member to leave. An LLP member cannot be required to leave unless the agreement includes a power of expulsion, even if there are good grounds for forcing them out. It is therefore important that before becoming a member an individual reviews the LLP agreement and makes themselves familiar with any clause covering the expulsion grounds that the LLP may rely upon such as incapacity, bankruptcy or gross misconduct. Expulsion clauses must be complied with otherwise the individual may challenge it on grounds that (i) the procedure has not been followed; (ii) it was discriminatory; (iii) it was done in bad faith; or (iv) the grounds that the LLP relied upon do not justify the expulsion.
LLP agreements should also include a compulsory retirement clause which allows the LLP to require a member to retire after a set period of notice for no particular reason. Retirement will generally mean that the member receives more notice and is entitled to more money on leaving than is the case with expulsion.

Take the case of several members considering that one of the others is not performing to the required standard and wanting him to leave. The agreement will need to be looked at to see what it says about retirement and expulsion. Misconduct will normally be a ground for expulsion but, depending on how misconduct is defined, it may not cover a member not pulling his weight. Likewise, if expulsion has to be agreed by all the other members, it will not be possible if one of the other members does not agree. If expulsion is not an option, then the retirement provisions will need to be considered. If there is no express term, the LLP’s options for forcing a member to leave are limited. It can agree terms for a voluntary retirement but cannot simply take the individual’s share – he is entitled to be paid his share. In the absence of any LLP agreement provisions and where no agreement can be reached, the only way to remove the member is the drastic step of winding up the business.

When disputes do arise which cannot be resolved, litigation may be the only course. However, LLP agreements often require disputes to be resolved in private by arbitration or mediation.

There are obvious advantages to joining a limited liability partnership, but it is important to understand the consequences of changing from employee to partner and not to overlook the potential hidden dangers. Individuals should consider whether becoming an LLP member is appropriate for them, whether it will benefit them in the long-run and seek legal advice as necessary.

Peter De Maria is Partner at UK’s largest employment law firm, Doyle Clayton

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Mobile engagement will prove vital for enhanced customer experience in the world of finance

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Mobile engagement will prove vital for enhanced customer experience in the world of finance 1

By Nick Millward, VP Europe at mGage

With the world becoming more digital – as smartphones play an intrinsic part of everyday life – customer behaviours are changing, and the financial services industry should look to further enhance their mobile engagement to deliver exceptional experience and increase customer loyalty. With Gartner predicting that 89 percent of businesses are facing competition based predominantly on the consumer experience, the need for excellent customer service has never been greater.

Today, customers require a seamless experience from their financial service providers, where banking tasks can be handled easily and securely from mobile devices. They also expect businesses to be present at whatever time they want and on whichever channel they use the most.

In fact, 73 percent say they are more likely to leverage digital banking and payments following the current situation. Therefore, financial brands need to commit to a move to mobile and allow a variety of financial tasks to be carried out via mobile messaging to deliver exceptional customer service, which in turn will increase customer retention.

Mobile channels for financial services

Consumers are clear about how they want brands to communicate with them. They want brands to take note of their preferences for which platform to use, to deliver them engaging and interesting messages, or send them information that makes their lives easier, and they want brands to provide some assurance that they have got security right too. There are a variety of channels available for financial services to utilise without customers having to download additional applications from those that they already use frequently. From next-generation Rich Communication Services (RCS), to Push Notifications and SMS, these are all perfect communication platforms for delivering the best possible customer service.

To meet customer demand for more conversational and personalised interaction, businesses should utilise the new RCS messaging platform, which brings text messages to life. In the financial sector, RCS can act as a customer’s real-time branded personal assistant where queries can be answered within the platform by utilising automated chat and rich media items such as mini bank statements can be sent. RCS also builds customer trust with features such as logos and branding and the verified sender scheme, which provides an additional layer of security and boosts consumer confidence. As a platform, RCS can achieve 14 times higher engagement rates and has a two-way nature allowing for users to initiate conversations.

The utilisation of Push Notifications can also prove beneficial for the financial sector to complement the growing use of banking apps, with the message being delivered to the mobile device without the user having to be in the mobile app itself. It allows banks to send timely, relevant notifications to their customers – whether to check a balance, review the latest interest rates, or inform them of the approval of an application. With 55 percent of consumers using their mobile banking app as the primary way to check their account balance, Push Notifications are a key way to alert customers to any changes or important information that they need to be aware of, without relying on them opening the app. Being the most universal form of non-voice communication, SMS is available on any mobile phone device and will remain a key part of a brand’s communication strategy as a channel that many people know how to use, regardless of their demographic. SMS messaging has provided financial institutions with a ubiquitous channel to support the customer journey, with 83 percent of financial organisations confirming that after deploying this technology they have witnessed a greatly improved customer experience.

SMS still remains a technology that can increase efficiency while lowering service costs – providing a cheaper and faster service for consumers that often results in a better service experience too. This will prove key for banks and financial organisations that do not have large call centres, giving customers an alternative form of contact. It also gives businesses a tool for a variety of tasks, such as sending balance updates, fraud alerts, one-time password and payment reminders, as well as using it to verify any new transactions or payees that have been set up via a banking app.

Offering a range of innovative solutions which each bring their own benefits, the power of mobile messaging must not be underestimated, with 88 percent of financial organisations admitting that it has greatly impacted their customer experience. Through these channels, brands can achieve higher rates of engagement in line with customer expectations for instant support.

Customers want brands on mobile

As the world becomes more digital, customers are demanding a move to mobile, making it essential for brands to leverage mobile messaging or enhance their current offering to stay ahead of the competition. With two thirds of consumers now preferring to use text over voice when receiving customer service and 77 percent of people aged 18-34 saying they are likely to have a positive perception of a company offering text capabilities, it is clear that there is a large appetite for these solutions.

With these channels, users can receive support or raise an issue at a time of their choosing to give ultimate convenience. For example, RCS and SMS can be used to report lost or stolen cards, or raise a query relating to a transaction instantaneously without having to wait on the phone for long periods of time.

With 78 percent of consumers admitting that texts have given them more autonomy and confidence when interacting with their bank due to the convenience and accessibility it offers, mobile messaging has proven to be a beneficial resource to improve the customer journey in the financial sector.

Future of messaging

In today’s industry, where customer loyalty is highly valued and it is relatively easy to switch banks, it is imperative that businesses provide the best customer experience and offer a competitive edge. By utilising mobile messaging and enhancing their current communications, brands can unlock convenience and customer-centricity to receive heightened levels of engagement and stay relevant to their customers.

With operational savings by as much as 20 percent, it highlights just how beneficial mobile messaging can be for financial service organisations worldwide. By listening to customer expectations and the growing trends being witnessed in the industry, financial institutions can leverage such solutions to achieve the associated advantages to set them apart from their competition and ensure their success in the future.

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Why are there so few female CEOs and what does it take to succeed in a male dominated industry?

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Why are there so few female CEOs and what does it take to succeed in a male dominated industry? 2

By Gayle Carpenter, Director of creative agency, Sparkloop  

When you think about inspirational female leaders or role models, names such as Malala Yousafzai, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Michelle Obama, spring to mind.

But for me, I just can’t get Melanie Griffiths in Working Girl out of my head, strutting her stuff in those 1980’s shoulder pads! That film was pretty ground-breaking, addressing previously unspoken topics such as equal rights for women in the workplace, feminism, and the wage gap; topics that are still relevant today.

Although twenty years on, have things changed much for the role of women in the workplace? From where I’m standing as a female Creative Director, women are still striving to be treated equally.  So actually, things haven’t really moved on and efforts to redress this balance are moving all too slowly.

In 2016, Forbes cited that women made up only 11% of creative directors worldwide. Looking at current statistics, over 2 million people are employed in the creative industry in the UK, but there is still a glaring gender imbalance faced by the entire sector with just 12%-16% of creative directors across design, concept and film being female.*

We talk about the tide turning but is it really? And when? What do we do about it?

The Importance of Female Role Models

The next statistic from Forbes is one that resonates  the most with me and is something we absolutely need to address: 88% of young women say they lack female role models in the industry.

I have worked hard to become one of that 12%-16% who can write ‘Creative Director’ in my email signature and therefore feel that this role comes with a huge responsibility to be a role model,  to be someone that other aspiring female directors can relate to, learn from and be encouraged by. It is my duty, and the duty of all females in the same position, to look over my shoulder and encourage women to follow me rather than forging ahead and leaving them in my wake.

Realise the Dream

To stay at the top and thrive, there are a number of factors that I adhere to:

Be confident in your ability – embrace what YOU can bring to the table and enhance the positive differences.

Have empathy – Encourage team members to feel safe and confident in their own abilities.

Build a great team around you – Your team is largely your key to success, so it is essential to take time to choose the right people to support you. In my experience, female led teams are often more loyal as they thrive on the support and empathy they are shown.

An article from the Harvard Kennedy School cites that ‘Previous research has shown that mixed gender teams are more generous and egalitarian, and that teams with a larger percentage of women perform better by building meaningful relationships and creating successful work processes.’

Gayle Carpenter

Gayle Carpenter

Be heard but don’t shout – strike a balance between being heard and being too confident. You have an opinion and it matters but you can cut through the noise rather than shout above it.

An equal partnership

On a personal level, women are, of course, traditionally disadvantaged if they have to take time out of their career to start a family. Challenge the perception that this automatically pushes you back down the career ladder and encourage partners to become a more equal co-parent. Sharing the responsibility will afford you the opportunity to pursue your career, and with less guilt.

Old boys rule

There are definitely hurdles which continue to make it difficult for women to get to the top and the most evident one in my experience is that despite ‘times changing’ and women starting to bridge that gaping male/female divide, there is still an old boys network at play.

As I have moved up this male dominated career ladder, it has definitely been a challenge to be taken seriously. At times, being female has hampered my chance of winning work and I have definitely been treated differently to men in the process. A particular anecdote from my career highlights this reality – when I was leading a design team, despite my professional, calm nature and passionate yet measured opinions, I was still referred to by the all-male board as ‘Feisty Gayle’. My rather more ego-driven and loud male counterpart was just ‘assertive’. Why is that?

Accept and adapt

It does take courage, grit and determination to succeed at the top as a female creative director, and to earn the respect you deserve, but the advice I have given in this article is for any individual who wants to be successful in business or who wants to lead a team.

As a female leader, take the time to encourage women in all sectors to believe they can get to the top, if this is what they really want, and lead by example. Let’s face it, there isn’t much of a historical framework in place to refer to but, bit by bit, we can build one.

As an aspiring female director, and if you really want to make it, don’t fight the system as it stands. Acknowledge it and do something about it as it’s not going anywhere fast. It is important to take stock, remind yourself you are not a man, and believe that you can succeed as a female.

And you really don’t have to wear a 1980’s power suit to be taken seriously in business -– we have at least moved away from that – unless you want to of course!

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Why hybrid working will shift the economy, not ruin it

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Why hybrid working will shift the economy, not ruin it 3

By Pete Braithwaite, COO at B2B self-service portal KIT Online,

Today explained that despite the major drive to get people back to the office, which the government has now U-turned on, the future comes in the form of hybrid working, which could make cities outside of London and Manchester have access to a larger pool of talent.

“When we’ve seen how well we can perform at home, the idea of going back into the office five days a week is a little unnecessary. Of course with some roles, including many in healthcare, working from home isn’t an option, some do not have the space or desire to work from home and others prefer the social and creativity aspect of working in the office, which is fine. But we can’t scare people to return to the office when they’re trying to protect themselves and their family’s health, and they can do their jobs perfectly well at home,” he said.

“The future is neither working from home or working in the office. It’s hybrid working, with the ability to work from anywhere. Being around people is what inspires some. For others, it’s nature. Who’s to say we can’t be productive by working in a retreat in the countryside so long as we have the right equipment and services to keep us connected? When people work at home during the day, the local shops, restaurants and entertainment venues in their immediate vicinity are likely to be positively impacted.  This could lead to a shift to a revitalised and more localised economy with employment spread more evenly rather than just in city centres.”

Pete Braithwaite

Pete Braithwaite

New remote-working technology has helped many companies to adapt easily to the new ways of working. Many national and international teams were already using video-conferencing software but this has become the day-to-day modus operandi for most successful teams now. Other companies have taken the opportunity to review their systems and ensure that they are fit for a more distributed workforce, investing in more portable devices that help employees work anywhere around the house and balance work with parenting. The move away from a desktop reliance has made lives easier.

“The fourth industrial revolution is much closer than we thought. I fully understand that the Government wants to breathe more life into our cities, but the genie isn’t going to go back into the bottle – working from home isn’t going to go back to being only when someone has a doctor’s appointment.

“Instead, there needs to be a blended way of working. Otherwise, the best people will leave for a business which is adapting faster.”

His comments come after some claimed the demise of the so-called ‘Pret economy’, whereby fewer people are going to cafes, shops and restaurants on their lunch and on their commute. But Braithwaite delves on the recent story of the CEO of Pret, who announced last week that instead of following businesses, they’re now following their customers.  Pret has adapted its business model, using Deliveroo to deliver at home and to students, selling coffee beans in Waitrose and, most radically, introducing a coffee subscription model.

“Successful companies aren’t downsizing, but instead they’re adapting. The future will be leaner and the economy will shift as people spend their money differently, such as in suburbs and on home renovation.”

Recent stats revealed that numbers of people spending in London’s suburban town centres have picked up fast, and small independent traders in towns such as Okehampton recently reported more customers through their doors, after a recent YouGov poll found 30% of consumers say they have used local retailers more since the pandemic hit.

“Cities won’t die, but well-paid workers, with the rise in remote working, could actually become less congregated in London, and spread themselves thinner, thus spending more in other locations. IT will need careful investment, and human interaction will still be King, but you don’t need to have one without the other,” he concluded.

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