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Watchmakers are OnDeck’s Small Business of the Month

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Watchmakers are OnDeck's Small Business of the Month

OnDeck (NYSE: ONDK), the leader in online lending to small business, today announced that Vortic Watch Company of Fort Collins, Colorado is the OnDeck Small Business of the Month for May 2018. The OnDeck monthly series spotlights the achievements of successful small businesses and how they are thriving as a result of receiving capital quickly and responsibly online.

Founded in 2013 by R.T. Custer and Tyler Wolfe, Vortic Watch Company is a small batch wristwatch manufacturing and engineering company intent on revitalizing watch manufacturing in the U.S. Vortic is the maker of The American Artisan Series, a customized wristwatch dedicated to the historical preservation of American pocket watch movements. The company was recently described as “The Craft Brewery of American Watchmaking,” by WatchTime, a popular wristwatch industry magazine.

Friends since college, Custer and Wolfe began their business journey by researching custom watch options. Quickly, they learned that not a single watch company manufactures the internal timekeeping components of a watch, known as movements, in the United States. Sensing an opportunity, the duo continued their research and soon stumbled upon the movement craftsmanship of the antique American pocket watch.

“The movements are precious remnants of American watchmaking manufacturing history,” says R.T. Custer, CEO of Vortic Watch Company. “Tyler and I decided to bring them back to life and that’s how Vortic Watch Company and The American Artisan Series was born.”

To get started, Custer and Wolfe put their concept and approach on Kickstarter and raised $40,000 to buy a 3-D printer and initial inventory. The partners then set forth on the manufacturing process.

“Manufacturing in the United States and purchasing equipment is extremely expensive. At first, we raised capital through traditional equity investments, but that only got us through product development. You can have the best product and a great website, but if no one knows you exist, it’s all for nothing,” says Custer. “That’s when we turned to OnDeck for the financing we needed for marketing and advertising. We obtained enough capital to ignite widespread interest and awareness about Vortic. Thanks to OnDeck and our marketing partners, we doubled our business in a year.”

Vortic Watch Company first received capital from On Deck in 2016. The company has renewed several times and recently paid off their balance in full as of March 2018.

“R.T. and Tyler are great examples of small business owners who not only think big, but also think smart,” says Andrea Gellert, Chief Revenue Officer, OnDeck. “Vortic Watch Company has become one of the most innovative watchmakers in the country by utilizing capital from OnDeck to meet specific business needs at critical stages in their growth. We are proud to play a small role in the success of this remarkable company.”

The custom-designed American Artisan Series watch from Vortic is completely made in the United States. The glass on the front and back is Corning Gorilla Glass similar to what is used on iPhone screens. The other metal parts are machined in Colorado at Vortic’s facility or at a domestic manufacturing partner’s site. The leather straps are hand stitched in Florida, and even the buckles are cast specifically for the company.

“We’re quite proud of the case engineering system we created, but the true value in our watches is the antique pocket watch movement,” says Custer. “Our experts search the country for old pocket watches and many of the movements we find are orphans, tossed away when their original precious metal pocket watch case was scrapped. We like to think that we’re saving a historical mechanism from being forgotten and in the process, celebrating the great American watchmaking tradition.”

After locating the original pocket watch movements, Vortic’s professional, Rolex-certified watchmakers go to work on restoring the mechanical workings. It takes three to five movements on average to create one wristwatch due to the inability to use some for reasons of age, quality, and parts availability. Vortic has a steady supply of antique movements, but estimates it can only produce up to 1,000 of these one of a kind watches per year.

“It’s a very difficult and expensive process to locate and restore one of these movements,” says Tyler Wolfe, Chief Manufacturing Officer for Vortic. “Each watch has a story, not just from the historical movement, but also from how it’s made. The watchmakers that work for us are artisans and there aren’t many watchmakers left in the United States that have the ability, and the patience, to touch these vintage movements. Thankfully the watchmakers we employ love what they do and share our passion to save as many of these movements as possible.”

The American Artisan Series by Vortic Watch Company is available online and in select retail stores. Watches are priced between $1,000 and $5,000 depending on the rarity and quality of the piece as well as the case system options chosen. Vortic has a Watch Builder on www.vorticwatches.com that allows customers to choose a specific, antique pocket watch movement from a small selection, and design the rest of the wristwatch around it, all online. When an order is placed, Vortic builds that unique piece, one at a time, just for that specific customer. For more information, visit www.VorticWatches.com

The Small Business Customer Spotlight series from OnDeck is designed to reinforce the vital importance of small business owners. Every month, OnDeck spotlights the achievements of its small business customers and how they are thriving as a result of receiving capital from OnDeck. To learn more, visit: http://www.ondeck.com/smallbusinessspotlight

Since its inception, OnDeck has provided more than $226 million in capital to small businesses in the State of Colorado.

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Britain to introduce greener gasoline at petrol stations by September

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Britain to introduce greener gasoline at petrol stations by September 1

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain is set to introduce E10 gasoline, a motor fuel blended with 10% renewable fuels, by September this year, a move that could cut annual CO2 emissions by 750,000 tonnes, the government announced on Thursday.

Current gasoline blends in Britain contain no more than 5% ethanol (E5), but the introduction of the E10 grade could cut transport emissions equivalent to removing 350,000 cars from the roads, the government said.

Bioethanol is made from materials including low-grade grains, sugars and waste wood.

“Using bioethanol in place of traditional petrol can reduce CO2 emissions and, therefore, increasing the ethanol content of petrol could help us meet our climate change targets,” the government said.

Farmers welcomed the move which should lead to a significant rise in demand for some crops.

“Not only will this mandate provide a boost for the UK wheat and sugar sectors, it will play an important and immediate role in delivering the government’s green agenda, especially as it may be some years before we are able to make a countrywide shift to fully electric vehicles,” the National Farmers Union said in a statement.

The government said that the E5 blend would remain available at pumps in the “Super” grade for older vehicles that may not be compatible with E10.

Britain consumed around 11.7 million tonnes of gasoline in 2019, according to the latest government data, accounting for about a third of overall road transport fuel use.

The move is a major boost to Britain’s biofuels producers with Vivergo Fuels announcing plans to reopen a bioethanol plant in Hull, north-eastern England, which has been closed since September 2018.

Vivergo Fuels, a unit of Associated British Foods PLC., said the plant would start manufacturing ethanol in early 2022.

The bioethanol plant can produce up to 420 million litres of bioethanol and use up to 1.1 million tonnes of feed wheat.

The government statement also said a bioethanol plant owned by Ensus in north-east England would increase production.

Ensus is a unit of CropEnergies.

“Ensus is even now running at a high capacity usage level. But naturally such a market expansion is very welcome in view of the plant’s future development,” said CropEnergies Chief Executive Stephan Meeder, adding he expected the British ethanol market to grow by up to 600,000 to 700,000 cubic metres per year.

(Reporting by Ahmad Ghaddar and Nigel Hunt, Additinal reporting by Michael Hogan; editing by David Evans and Jonathan Oatis)

 

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How can finance leaders regain a long-term planning focus amidst the Covid crisis?

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The coronavirus crisis is highlighting one of the most fundamental tensions that business leaders face:Do they pursue purpose or profit.

Vicky Wordsworth carved a reputation as a financial management specialist within private-equity backed businesses, before becoming CFO of the 158-year-old family-owned group of communications specialists – Bailie Group. Here, she considers the need for finance leaders to look beyond the turbulence of the pandemic and plan for the future…

The role of a finance leader is multifaceted. At the core, is a need to protect the balance sheet. However, in supporting the strategic progress of a business, there is increasingly a need for the profession to manage uncertainty to mitigate risks and leverage opportunities too.

This was true long before the onset of Covid-19. A Gartner guide from 2019 for example, highlighted that finance leaders were spending 25-50% of their time navigating unfamiliar situations, even then. And many years earlier, a Wall Street Journal article from 2014 cited advice from Deloitte which encouraged senior finance executives to drive corporate-wide, critical decision-making, that balances strategy, risk and finance in uncertain times.

So, while the health crisis has been a colossal blow to not just the world of commerce, but humanity on the whole, from a finance perspective, we do know what to do.

The onset of short-termism

Another Gartner report, issued in the earlier wave of the pandemic, warned CFOs against short-term and unsustainable cost cutting measures, and understandably so – knee-jerk financial decisions can have devastating longer-term consequences in terms of everything from supply chain security to the retention of valued talent.

However, for many organisations – particularly those without the luxury of healthy cash reserves – it very quickly became about survival. So yes, finance leaders may have been forced to take some rapid actions they would have rather not, but in most cases the decisions will not have been made recklessly. They will still have been considered, albeit at pace.

This agility is an important trait for finance professionals – crisis or no crisis. As a private equity CFO – my former role – the fluidity of decision making reflected the speed with which stakeholders wanted to drive up the value of the business and realise an ROI as quickly as possible. Here aggressive targets may have been the pressure points – not a global pandemic – but the need to act fast and think about a comparatively more short-term outlook, was key.

Moving the dial

For businesses that are a going concern, the objectives are very different to those associated with the PE model. So, the challenge for CFOs in these environments, is to regain a longer-term outlook, ASAP.

Admittedly this isn’t easy amidst so much economic turbulence, and some companies, sadly, are having to manage cash on a daily basis just to ensure staff get paid. But we know that pure short-termism can jeopardise the future financial integrity of businesses, while stifling innovation in the process.

At Bailie Group, for example, the purpose of our organisation is to invest in ideas and people which make a positive difference, and properties that inspire. We therefore have some bold ambitions – not to mention a sharp monthly reporting rigour – and we’re continually growing, both organically and via acquisition. But we naturally have a longer horizon too, which cannot – and will not – fall by the wayside because of Covid. The board needs to support the company, the people within it, and society, far into the future.

Vicky Wordsworth

Vicky Wordsworth

Looking inwardly to develop long-term plans

To do this, last March was all about looking inwardly to check that we were OK. We temporarily paused a commercial property overhaul for example, and some due diligence work on an impending acquisition also took a momentary back seat while we ensured our ‘house was in order’. Thankfully, in our case, we have a robust management structure and strong cash reserves from previous years’ reinvestment, so our position was stable. But this evaluation exercise was important nonetheless as we certainly didn’t have ‘global pandemic’ on our risk register.

We formed a Covid-19 committee who met every day to make rapid decisions, under pressure, for the benefit of the business, our people, and clients. But we were quick to look outwardly again – after only 1-2 months – to begin focusing on the medium term.

The pace with which this shift can take place will naturally vary from one organisation to the next, and it would be wrong to suggest it’s easy. But the most important point to note is that the adjustment is almost always essential, as soon as practicably possible, and it’s never too late to turn the dial.

Nurturing a vision

Personally, 2020 was less about long-term planning for Bailie Group, as we were already in the final year of a three-year plan. We’re fortunate, in that respect, to have previously had that vision, not to mention an operating model which doesn’t bog decision makers down in tactical constraints.

But even without these fortunate elements, and however prolonged this period of difficulty may feel, finance executives and their senior management teams can still be visionary.

Presuming organisations have taken advantage of all funding currently available, and undertaken sensible cost reviews to remove unnecessary spend, the next key action is to devise a plan inclusive of clear milestones, roles and responsibilities, to bring it to life. Love or loathe the term ‘pivot’, it is evidence that lateral thinking can ignite previously untapped revenue streams, and some businesses may be yet to fully realise their potential here.

We’re about to currently formalise our new three-year plan – purely because we’re at that part in our strategic cycle, not because of Covid. And while our tactical goals for the next 12 months naturally reflect the current climate, our purpose remains true, and so our strategy is largely unchanged as a result. We’re going to push boundaries and drive more positive change in our communities, because that’s why we exist. We’re still looking out for additional acquisition opportunities, having completed on one in October 2020, and we have recently announced a substantial innovation fund to ignite the fire in the bellies of our progressive Group companies.

We’ve earmarked investment for wellbeing too, as the health of our people will prove crucial to our longer-term success, and training and development is currently in sharp focus. We’re keen to ensure our colleagues feel engaged, fulfilled and supported now, in readiness for us returning to some degree of BAU, in the future. In fact, this has been an essential part of our budget setting.

We also feel prepared, which is important. Nobody can say with any real certainty what the future holds for the economy. If confidence starts to build, particularly in H2, we will see GDP rise and market opportunities open up once again. We have to maintain that optimism, but we’re continually looking outwardly for cues that influence our ongoing decision making, and advice from peers who also want British business to succeed.

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Britain’s financial watchdog appoints five women to top roles

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Britain's financial watchdog appoints five women to top roles 2

By Huw Jones

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s financial watchdog announced five new appointments on Thursday, creating an executive committee dominated by women as it pressures the firms it regulates to get serious about diversity.

The Financial Conduct Authority, under CEO Nikhil Rathi who took up the reins last October, said Stephanie Cohen will be its new chief operating officer, with Jessica Rusu becoming its first chief data, information and intelligence officer.

Sarah Pritchard has been appointed executive director for markets, while Emily Shepperd will take up a newly created role of executive director for authorisations, it said.

The overhaul also comes as the watchdog aims to show lawmakers it has learned lessons after a damning report that said its executive committee was responsible for not responding fast enough to problems at now defunct London Capital & Finance investment fund.

The FCA also appointed Clare Cole as director of market oversight, and she will lead the watchdog’s response to a forthcoming review of UK company listings rules.

The review is expected to recommend changes to attract more tech and fintech listings.

Rathi, a former finance ministry and London Stock Exchange official, began an internal shake-up last November with a merger of retail and wholesale supervision units to create a “holistic” view of activities.

There are now seven women and four men on the FCA’s executive committee.

Rathi had said previously that he would seek to increase diversity within the FCA’s own ranks, and last year he said he wanted firms that it regulates to deliver on diversity in a sector where women and BAME communities remain underrepresented.

The FCA said the new appointments were part of its transformation into a “data-led” regulator of more than 60,000 firms, and were aimed at speeding up decision-making.

Britain’s large financial sector is navigating Brexit, which left it largely adrift from the European Union with chunks of stock and swaps trading shifting to the bloc, but freeing up the FCA to write its own rules.

(Reporting by Huw Jones; editing by Tom Wilson and Hugh Lawson)

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