Business savings: Why it’s worth shopping around

shopping

The UK is currently sweltering under a heatwave, and the sun looks set to keep shining for a few more days at least. However, the interest rate climate is uncertain, with rising inflation and the wider economic impact to be considered.

As discussed in last week’s newsflash, rates are bound to rise sometime, although the Bank of England base rate is staying at 0.25% for the time being.

What about the USA?

Rates may soon be on the move if the UK follows the US pattern.

Over the Atlantic, interest rates were held at record lows since the financial crisis. The first increase in nine years came in December 2015, then in December 2016 and again in March this year.

Base rates in America are set using the Federal Reserve funds rate (this is the amount banks and other institutions charge each other to borrow money held at the central bank).

The Daily Telegraph says: “The US Federal Reserve is expected to raise its federal funds target to between 1.00% and 1.25%, from 0.75% to 1.0%.”

Managing your savings while interest rates are low

Businesses are managing and optimising the opportunities and risks presented by Brexit and the current climate. You might have deposited money in the bank to act as a cash reserve, to save for new equipment or to fuel long-term business growth. A sensible business will make their money work as hard as possible, while keeping enough in a current account for effective cashflow.

Why leave your cash in business savings accounts that pay little or no interest when you could boost the income you receive by 10 to 12 times when you choose an account paying the highest rate?

UK businesses have £258bn in cash balances and make next to nothing on them – in some cases, businesses with cash holdings are being charged fees by their banks

A business with £2 million cash holdings could generate an additional £30,000 per year. This return could provide for a new marketing campaign or a staff member, contributing to productivity and profit.

Akoni CEO and co-founder, Felicia Meyerowitz Singh, says: “Most businesses sweat all assets, yet cash typically languishes.”

A business savings account is the best place for any surplus funds, because they usually offer higher rates than a business current account. Broadly, you can choose between two types of business savings account:

1. Fixed rate bonds

With a fixed rate bond, you choose a term from one to three years. The rates on business bonds tend to be better than variable rate accounts, and are guaranteed so you know what you’ll be getting.

Generally, the longer you’re willing to lock your funds away, the higher interest rate you’ll receive.

However, there’s no flexibility, and you won’t be able to add funds. Usually, you won’t be able to make any withdrawals before the maturity date. If you do, you’ll have to pay a significant penalty.

You could get 2.2% when you invest £500K in Secure Trust Bank for 60 months, or 2.0% over 48 months*

Check today’s fixed rates on AkoniHub >

2. Variable rate accounts

‘Variable’ means providers can change the interest rate at any time.

With an easy access business savings account, you get instant access to your funds in case of emergency. These accounts are very flexible. The minimum balance is likely to be low, and there will be few withdrawal restrictions, so you can make as many deposits and withdrawals as you wish.

Interest rates are higher with a notice account, but you will have to give notice to your provider before you can withdraw any money. Notice periods generally vary from 30 days to 120. If they allow you to access funds earlier,  there will usually be a penalty.

You could get 1.0% when you invest £500K in ICICI Bank instant access business savings account*

Check today’s variable rates on AkoniHub >

Things to look out for

It’s important to consider the small print as well as the headline rate. Here are some questions to ask:

  • Does the rate include a short-term bonus? If yes, you may need to move your savings when the rate drops
  • Is your type of company eligible? Do you meet the turnover criteria?
  • Is there a minimum investment requirement?
  • Do you need to maintain a minimum balance at all times?
  • How many penalty-free withdrawals can you make each year?
  • Are you restricted to accessing the account only in branch, by phone or by post?

Ensure you’re covered by FSCS protection

The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) protects the first £85,000 you hold in each institution with a separate UK banking licence – but only if you’re a ‘small business’ that meets at least two of these criteria:

  • 50 employees or fewer
  • £6.5 million turnover or less
  • £3.26 million balance sheet total or less

To find out more, please see our article: Are your deposits protected?

A note about tax

Interest is paid gross, so remember to notify HMRC of any tax your business owes on its savings interest.

Follow our cash management advice by shopping around to find the best rate, and you’ll be happy to pay extra tax on the extra interest you’ve earned!

*Interest rates correct at time of writing.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Register for free at AkoniHub.com

Newsflash: Are interest rates set to rise?

Graphs

Just over a week ago, we wrote about how the pound has fallen since the Brexit vote: Pound down, inflation up

How fast things change!

In the last few days, the pound has started to bounce back up against the dollar, as you can see from this chart:

GBP v USD
Source: BBC News Market Data

That’s not the only shift that’s going on.

The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meets monthly to decide what to do about UK interest rates.

Rates have been on hold at a record low of 0.25% since August 2016. The only one of the eight MPC members who votes for a rise is typically MIT professor, Kristin Forbe (and she’s leaving the committee this month). Yesterday, she was surprisingly joined by Ian McCafferty and Michael Saunders. The last time three people called for rates to increase was May 2011.

This signals that policymakers are increasingly concerned about inflation rising even though the economy slowed to 0.2% in the first quarter.

The Bank had expected inflation to peak around 2.8% in the second half of this year, but now thinks there is a risk it will reach 3.0% by autumn.

The MPC said a further fall in the value of the pound would add to upward pressures on inflation, and that inflation had picked up more quickly than expected since last month’s economic forecast.

The committee stressed that all members agreed any increases in the interest rate would be ‘gradual and limited’.

Money managers now believe there is a 50% chance of a rate increase by May 2018, up from 12% before yesterday’s meeting.

Interest rates

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What the hung parliament means for business

Parliament

The political arena has sprung a series of significant surprises on us in recent months, including the vote for Brexit, David Cameron’s speedy resignation and replacement by Theresa May as PM, and Donald Trump being elected in America.

And now – at a time when the Conservatives seemed unbeatable – Mrs May held a snap General Election with the intention of boosting the Tory majority, and instead has ended up with a minority and coalition talks with the DUP.

The bad news is that a hung Parliament leads to uncertainty for all.

Impact of a hung Parliament

Because of the hung Parliament, the Brexit negotiations that were due to start on 19 June have now been delayed. The Queen’s Speech has also been delayed. And the value of pound is still volatile (this links to last week’s article, Pound down, inflation up).

At the time of writing, Mrs May has reshuffled her cabinet and said she has no intention of resigning. But there is speculation that she will be forced to step down and/or we’ll be voting in another General Election within a year.

All this upheaval and uncertainty seems to weaken the British position in the eyes of the rest of the world. It’s hard for other countries to see us as ‘strong and stable’ as we’d like to be.

Various organisations have been ‘taking the temperature’ of the business world, to see how UK industry leaders are responding to the uncertainty. Below, we examine some of the results.

What the surveys say

The Institute of Directors surveyed 700 members and found a ‘dramatic drop’ in confidence following the hung Parliament, and huge concern over political uncertainty and its impact on the UK economy.

As a priority, the respondents wanted the UK to reach agreement with the EU on transitional arrangements for Brexit, and to clarify the impact on EU workers in the UK.

Stephen Martin, Director General of the IoD, said: “It is hard to overstate what a dramatic impact the current political uncertainty is having on business leaders, and the consequences could – if not addressed immediately – be disastrous for the UK economy.”

The Harvard Kennedy School of Business surveyed more than 50 medium-sized businesses and trade association. Their key concerns were:

  • The overwhelming importance of securing a good trade deal with the EU
  • The concern that Brexit would lead to an increased regulatory burden not a reduction
  • The need for continued engagement with EU regulatory agencies
  • The fact that Brexit will necessarily trigger a fundamental rethink of policy towards some sectors, in particular agriculture
  • The need to upgrade customs control procedures and revamp the immigration system

‘Almost all’ expressed a preference for remaining in the single market and customs union. All the companies questioned were concerned about potentially rising costs from tariffs and customs controls while many were worried about the UK leaving the EU without a deal at all.

Peter Sands, former boss of investment bank Standard Chartered, told the BBC: “When it comes down to it, most would prefer to be in the single market – that makes it easier for them to do business, and if they can’t get that they want a free trade agreement or something as close to the single market as possible.”

We know it’s possible. For example, Israel has a special relationship with the EU since 2000 as an ‘associated state’. With its high level of scientific and research capability, Israel has a long-standing history of scientific and technical co-operation with the EU. With this type of status, the UK’s strong scientific community could continue to deliver EU access to British innovation.

The Resolution Foundation surveyed over 500 employers who employ EU/EEA nationals, and identified a huge gap between the kind of immigration system employers expect and what the new government is planning.

Nearly a third (30%) expect freedom of movement to be maintained for EU/EEA nationals moving to the UK with a job offer, while 17% expect no change to the current system.

The PM has ruled out either option, stating that her government – rather than employer demand for workers – will control migrant numbers. However, this may change now that a softer Brexit is being proposed post-election.

The Foundation warned that lower migration, along with a higher minimum wage and a tightening jobs market, could mean the end of cheap labour for many UK firms.

Changing face of Parliament

There’s still some way to go, but the good news is that Parliament is more diverse than ever. The BBC breakdown shows (out of a total of 650 newly elected MPs):

  • 208 women, compared with 191 in 2015
  • 52 people from ethnic minorities, an increase from 41 in 2015
  • 45 who openly define themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), a 40% increase since 2015
  • An increase in the number of MPs with disabilities (no official figures)
  • 51% went to comprehensive schools, 29% went to private school, 18% selective states

There will be more on diversity in a future article.

What can SMEs do?

The way things are going, there’s no way of predicting how the situation will play out over the long-term. In fact, it’s currently changing on a daily basis. In the short-term, SMEs will no doubt attempt to carry on business as usual. Here are some tips:

  • Companies large and small are pondering their investment decisions. Use AkoniHub to find the bank with the best interest rate. That way, your business deposits will grow faster, while the politicians sort themselves out
  • Focus on building your pipeline and business confidence. In the here and now, many firms across the UK have been doing well
  • Understand the key threats and opportunities that lie ahead
  • The future of devolution is an important consideration in business planning. So review the impact of further volatility in sterling as firms weigh up their business models and plans to invest or recruit.

For the vast majority of companies in the business communities we visit, Brexit feels far away and far off — what matters are the high upfront cost of doing business, poor broadband, the inability to recruit successfully for vacancies or transport gridlock. Different regions may also have their own view. In many parts of England, upcoming elections for new city/regional mayors whose powers matter to local business success could overshadow anything that happens in the national polls.

In the British tradition, let’s all try to keep calm and carry on. The UK must be seen to remain open for business, with a government committed to supporting enterprise. This means a clear timetable and ongoing pressure via industry bodies and associations for value add.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Register for free at AkoniHub.com

Pound down, inflation up. What does this mean for SMEs?

Calm

What goes up must come down, they say. Either way, there is no reason to panic!

When you put things into a longer context, say five years, you can see that – whatever happens – we’ve probably been there in the past, and will probably be there again in future.

Let’s explore the current situation where we’re seeing a lower pound and rising inflation.

Plummeting pound

Alas! Poor pound. It’s been falling for ages – although it does seem to be making a slight recovery in 2017, as shown on this five-year chart compiled by the FT. (The sudden drop just before July last year was a result of the Brexit referendum vote.)

Pound

A weak pound can benefit small businesses who export their goods and services or sell to tourists. The Guardian recently reported the following success stories:

Wrendale Designs of Lincolnshire source nearly all their materials from the UK, and export greetings cards, home furnishings and giftware to the US. Co-founder, Jack Dale predicts 30% growth in turnover this year.

“The US market is doing really well for us,” he says. “We’ve kept our prices constant but obviously the dollars we’re earning convert to around 15% more pounds.”

The Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh has had its busiest year ever, with visitor levels up 9% on last year and the number who take a tour up by 12%.

Julie Trevisan Hunter, head of marketing, says: “The weakness of the pound has made Scotland an attractive holiday destination, particularly for short-haul travellers. At the same time, the value of the pound versus the euro has made staycations more attractive for people from the rest of the UK.”

For fashion brand, Gandys, online international sales are up 21% by volume and nearly 13% in value, while in-store sales in London have seen a 14% boost, largely due to shoppers from overseas.

“We’re doing really well with tourists who are spending a lot more money in our flagship Spitalfields store because they’ve effectively got a 15% discount,” says co-founder, Paul Forka.

International sales have also rocketed for male grooming brand, The Beard and the Wonderful, who sell products online through their own site and via eBay.

Founder, Steve Sanger, says: “Before, around 4/5 of our business was in the UK but now it’s more like a 50/50 split. On lower cost items a 15% discount may only bring your cost down by less than a pound, but it gets you at the top of search results when people prioritise by price.”

Bibby Foreign Exchange allows “hedging” of dollar and euro purchases, where an SME fixes a price a month or two in advance so they know they will have enough in the bank for an upcoming purchase.

MD, Michael McGowan, has seen a sharp rise in SMEs being more comfortable to deal in dollars and euros. Similarly, business is brisk in turning dollars and euros earned abroad back into pounds.

“A few years ago, many British SMEs were resistant to selling in another currency but since the drop in the pound, they’re increasingly willing to deal in euros or dollars,” he says. “You’re effectively getting 15% more margin for the same transaction.”

Soaring inflation

Meanwhile, UK inflation has been rising since 2015. This chart shows the past five years:

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Source: tradingeconomics.com

The Bank of England set an inflation target of 2%. However, in April 2017, consumer prices increased 2.7% year-on-year, following a 2.3% rise in each of the previous two months, and inflation is now running at its highest rate since September 2013.

But why?

According to TradingEconomics.com, the upward trend is mainly connected with the reduced value of sterling since the Brexit vote last year, as well as the rising cost of air fares (due to a late Easter), and electricity prices. With a falling pound, imports are more expensive. At the same time, fuel and food prices are rising.

Ben Brettell, senior economist at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “Transport costs account for more than a third of the inflation figure. Oil is priced in dollars, and sterling has fallen around 13% since last June’s referendum.”

With the average pay rise at 2.3%, and inflation increasing at the same or higher rates, employees are no better off, which puts pressure on household income and spending.

In BBC reports, the Bank of England said it expects inflation will peak at 2.8%, although some economists think it could rise above 3%.

And what does this mean for interest rates?

Suren Thiru, head of economics at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “Businesses continue to report that the substantial increases in the cost of raw materials and other overheads over the past year are still filtering through the supply chain, and are therefore likely to lift consumer prices higher in the coming months. However, it remains probable that the current period of above target inflation is transitory in nature, with little evidence that higher price growth is becoming entrenched in higher pay growth. This should give the Bank of England sufficient scope to keep interest rates on hold for some time yet, despite their recent warning.”

Interest rate increases by the Bank of England are uncertain, particularly in relation to controlling prices.

Which means that – if your business has money in the bank – you have to do your best to make the most of it. And that means using your Akoni Hub to find the account paying the best interest on your cash deposits. We also provide a personalised report with best practice relating to cash management, collecting funds owed to you and paying your suppliers.

After that, you can put your feet up, relax, and have a cup of coffee.

 Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Register for free at AkoniHub.com

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Innovation in the UK

innovation

When you think of UK innovators, who comes to mind?

Maybe it’s Wallace, the eccentric inventor from the claymation series, Wallace & Gromit, created by Nick Park of Aardman Animations. Some of Wallace’s ‘cracking contraptions’ are based on real-life inventions, such as the bed that tips up to wake its owner, an idea that was first shown at The Great Exhibition of 1851.

Park admits that Wallace’s inventions are often ‘using a sledgehammer to crack a nut’ and most of the comedy comes from things going wrong! If you have time, you might enjoy this compilation:

On the other hand, maybe you think of Sir Clive Sinclair, who produced the first slimline pocket calculator, the first mass-market home computer, and – of course – the Sinclair C5 battery electric vehicle. His latest invention is a folding bicycle for commuters.

Or perhaps Sir James Dyson comes to mind, he who created the bagless vacuum cleaner, airblade hand-dryer and bladeless fan.

Whoever you think of, you can bet that not every one of their inventions has been a commercial success!

So what’s the connection between innovation and business growth?

How innovation impacts business growth

In PwC’s ‘Breakthrough Innovation and Growth’ survey of 1,757 C-suite executives (including 201 from the UK), researchers found a direct link between companies that focus on innovation and faster growth.

  • 93% of respondents say ‘organic growth through innovation’ will drive the greater proportion of their revenue growth
  • The UK’s most innovative companies grew on average 50% faster than the least innovative over the last three years
  • 32% of UK companies see innovation as ‘very important’ to their success (compared with a global average of 43%)
The report also stated that top innovators treat innovation just like any other business or management process.

Innovation is a driver for rapid and profitable revenue growth and is recognised by the executives we interviewed as being integral to sustaining the long-term future of their business. For 43%, innovation is a ‘competitive necessity’ for their organisation, increasing to 51% in five years.

As it’s the case that innovation is a commercial necessity, happily, the Government offers some help!

Government support of innovation

Innovate UK works with people, companies and partner organisations to find and drive the science and technology innovations that will grow the UK economy. Since 2007, they have committed over £1.8 billion to innovation, matched by a similar amount in partner and business funding, and helped more than 7,600 organisations with projects estimated to add more than £11.5 billion to the UK economy and create 55,000 extra new jobs.

So how is UK innovation doing today, on the global stage? Not too badly, by the look of the Forbes list!

Flying the flag for UK innovation

Each year, Forbes ranks companies by their ‘innovation premium’ – the difference between their market capitalisation and the net value of cashflows. The difference between them is the bonus given by equity investors on the ‘educated hunch’ that the company will continue to come up with profitable new growth.

Seven UK businesses appear in the Forbes list of the world’s most innovative companies 2016:

  • ARM Holdings #12 Multi-national semiconductor and software design
  • Reckitt Benckiser Group #51 Multi-national consumer goods
  • Smith & Nephew #70 Wound management and surgical devices
  • SAB Miller #79 Multi-national brewing and beverages (now owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev)
  • Capita #86 International professional services and business process outsourcing
  • Liberty Global #88 International TV and broadband
  • ITV #97 Commercial TV network

And what are the predictions for the future? Real Business produces a regular report, where they handpick their shining stars for coming years!

Future 50

Real Business has recently published their 2017 list of the 50 most disruptive companies in the UK. They say:

From mobile to marketing, and from retail to recruitment, Britain is full of industries that are dominated by industry heavyweights taking positions for granted and not innovating. Each year, our Future 50 ranking gives the young players a chance to shine.

To some extent, they may be looking into a crystal ball, but if past performance is any guide, Real Business predictions can be taken seriously! UK startups they have previously highlighted that have gone on to become household names include:

  • Songkick: Allows people to organise and track their favorite bands, get concert alerts, and buy tickets
  • Made.com: Designs and sells homewares and furniture online, and across experiential showrooms in Europe
  • Secret Escapes: Exclusive travel club offering huge discounts on hand-picked luxury hotels and holidays
  • Funding Circle: Peer-to-peer small business lending, connecting investors with businesses looking for capital
  • Crunch: Online accounting and accountants for freelancers, contractors & small businesses
  • GoustoAward-winning food boxes containing fresh ingredients delivered weekly
  • Revolut: Removes currency exchange fees so people can send, exchange and spend money globally at no charge

Looking forward

One businessperson who represents innovation on a global scale is Jack Ma. He is the founder and chairman of Alibaba – the Chinese ecommerce company that’s become the world’s largest retailer. Speaking last year at the Asia Cooperation Dialogue in Bangkok, Mr Ma claimed that: “Data will be the new resource.”

That’s the approach we take here at Akoni.

We use digital technology to increase returns for the average SME via a simple, user-friendly solution. We take public data from various sources that’s currently in a disparate form and format, and bring it together to make sense and add value to the company. This includes public financial data from Companies House, and banking product deposit data from both well-known high street banks and less known challenger banks.

By only including data from UK-regulated banks on our marketplace, it ensures SMEs always have government protection as guaranteed by the FSCS.

Harnessing data is how our personalised online Cash Management platform will improve financial outcomes for businesses. In future, we shall enhance cash management further, with automated prompting using artificial intelligence and machine-learning.

We’re proud to be part of such a long-standing history of British innovation.

Looking back

The UK has been leading global innovation since the industrial revolution. Just for the record, let’s end with a few renowned British innovations:

  • 1822 Charles Babbage’s ‘difference engine’
  • 1837 First computer = Babbage’s ‘analytical engine’
  • 1943 Colossus, the first electronic, digital, programmable computer
  • 1966 Cash machine and PIN system patented
  • 1989 World Wide Web first proposed by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, with HTML language and HTTP protocol the year after

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Register for free at AkoniHub.com

SMEs “losing billions” due to poor cash management

Coins

When her Majesty the Queen launches a ship, she smashes a bottle of Champagne against the bow and the world’s media gather to hear her speech.

We do things a little more discreetly here at Akoni!

This week – after months of hard work behind the scenes – we are proudly launching our exciting new platform to help SMEs manage their cash.

We are starting with what the marketers call a ‘soft launch’. There’s no big public fuss or palaver, and we haven’t invited any royals along. Although, admittedly, we might toast the event with a cheeky glass of fizz!

But why is there a need for Akoni in the first place?

Because, even in this low interest rate environment, UK SMEs collectively miss out around £3bn per year on interest on the £258bn they have in cash balances. We think that’s wrong, and decided to do something about it!

There are banks that offer interest rates up to 2.2% compared to high street 0%. However, most companies are not aware of the better rates that are out there, due to lack of product transparency. What’s more, they are put off by the perceived cost of switching.

How Akoni benefits SMEs

It takes time to shop around for the best business bank account, and then transfer your cash deposits to the product where they will achieve the best interest rate.

This is where Akoni comes in.

At AkoniHub, SMEs can download their personalised cash report and search latest rates at a glance. Then, using our simple Deposit Planner, they can unlock the potential of their cash and maximise the returns they receive.

Here’s an example

The average business improves their return by 10-12 x current income. For example, an SME has £2 million cash  held in an instant access account. By transferring the money to banks with higher rates, the company would generate an additional £30,000 per year, even maintaining the same deposit maturity period.

That return could buy more than a few bottles of Champagne! More feasibly, it could provide for a new marketing campaign or a staff member, contributing to the SME’s productivity and profit and boosting the UK economy.

Felicia Meyerowitz Singh, CEO and co-founder of Akoni said: “SMEs are the engine of the UK economy. By saving them time and helping them make more money, Akoni will make a real impact.”

And there’s more!

A survey by Soldo states that UK SMEs collectively lose more than $10.2 billion every year, because they aren’t managing their cashflow properly.

The research found that SMEs average over four hours per week on managing company finances such as invoices, employee expenses and financial forecasting. The scale of the task grows with the size of the business, but even 15% of startups said they found daily cash management to be a particularly difficult challenge.

Soldo Founder and CEO, Carlo Gualandri, said: “If staff were freed up to dedicate their time to the activities that made a big difference to the company, productivity levels would rocket.”

Technology is the answer.

In order to save time and money, technology is helping to automate many business systems and processes, and cash management is no exception.

We’ve harnessed technology to build a range of simple and efficient tools that are now available for SMEs to use straightaway:

See Akoni’s tools at a glance

  • Deposit Marketplace
    Check today’s best rates at a glance, and filter them according to the governance requirements of your business.
  • Cash Management
    Your personalised Cash Management Report shows how much interest you gain by utilising Akoni’s tools, and provides tips and guidance for optimal cash flow management.
  • Deposit Dashboard
    Build your cash deposit portfolio by trying different alternatives until you find what works for your business.
  • Income and Expenditure Planner
    Enter your key cash inflows and outflows to create an efficient portfolio that maximises returns, while ensuring future expenses are covered.
  • Financial Bootcamp Report
    Get sector-based data that will help you identify opportunities and areas for cash management improvements.

Felicia said: “Akoni solves a problem that most SMEs don’t even know they have, and enables them to access  corporate-level returns on their cash.”

Signup for free at AkoniHub.com

Coming soon…

But we’re not stopping there!

Akoni members will soon be able to access a range of additional cash management services on the platform, such as an Automated Cash Allocation algorithm and advanced Cash Projection tools. It’s all part of the Akoni mission to help UK SMEs to make the most of their cash.

We think her Majesty would be proud.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Register for free at AkoniHub.com

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Are your deposits protected?

Padlock

Individuals and businesses are rightly concerned about risking their cash, especially since the 2007/8 financial crisis.

As you may remember, the problems started in the US with the sub-prime lending crisis and collapse of Lehman Brothers. This led to a run on UK’s Northern Rock that forced the government to intervene and guarantee deposits, followed by the need to step in and save HBOS and RBS (owner of NatWest).

FSCS

After NatWest was deemed ‘too big to fail’, the government launched the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) – an independent fund designed to protect your money if the worst happens.

The FSCS applies to all organisations regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), and covers all UK-regulated current accounts, savings accounts and cash ISAs held in banks, building societies and credit unions.

If your bank collapses, it’s likely that you’ll lose access to the cash temporarily, but you should get your money back within seven days.

As part of the Akoni service, we share advice on making the most of your cash. So here are six things you need to know about how the FSCS protects your deposits:

1. The amount of protection you get has increased from £75,000 to £85,000

The amount protected in each UK-regulated financial institution increased by £10,000 on 30 January 2017.

Chief Executive, Mark Neale, said: “Our new limit will protect about 98% of the UK public, so people can be sure their money in banks, building societies and credit unions is safe.”

2. Joint accounts get double protection

Cash in joint accounts is protected up to £170,000 – half each. But beware. If you have another account with the same institution, your individual savings totalling over £85,000 won’t be covered.

3. In some cases, up to £1m will be protected for six months

If your savings balance is temporarily high due to a life event such as selling your main home (not a second home or buy-to-let property), inheriting money, redundancy, or a payout from insurance or compensation, the FSCS protects up to £1m for up to six months if your provider fails.

This allows extra time to plan. Meanwhile, you can move the cash into an account that pays higher interest, and maximise your cash.

4. Check which institution owns your bank

Remember, the limit is not £85,000 for every account, it’s for every financial institution. So you need to know which institution ultimately owns the brand name where your account is held.

The definition of ‘institution’ depends on what licence the bank holds. For example, Halifax and Bank of Scotland are sister banks, and your money is covered up to £85,000 combined. However, RBS and NatWest are also sister banks, but their limits are separate.

See the list on the Bank of England website >

5. Check that the FSCS covers the bank where your money is deposited

Most banks that are located in the UK are also regulated in the UK, including some that are owned overseas, such as Spain’s Santander. However, there are a few EU banks that are not UK-regulated, such as use Fidor and RCI Bank. Instead, they use a ‘passport scheme’ which gives protection from their home government.

Find out more on the FSCS website >

6. Spread the risk

We recommend you deposit less than £83,000 in any one institution, which leaves room for interest to grow. We also suggest you spread your money across at least two institutions. This is because if one bank collapses, there will be a delay in releasing your funds via the FSCS, meanwhile, you will still be able to access your cash in the other.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Register for free at AkoniHub.com

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Meet the new challenger banks

The UK financial services sector is going through unprecedented upheaval, with new banks being launched all the time.

Banks make their money by attracting savings and lending out the money at a higher rate of interest. New banks need to increase their lending, which means they need to grow deposits – they do this by offering higher rates of interest on savings accounts. Some of these new banks are therefore offering the best interest rates on savings.

It therefore makes sense to move your savings around more often – and that’s exactly where Akoni’s cash management service fits in.

Why challenger banks

The ‘Big Five’ UK banks hold 85% of the personal current account market – Lloyds has about 27% market share,  Barclays and RBS have 18% each, HSBC has 12% and Santander has 10%. The top four banks also hold about 80% of the small business liquidity market.

People used to be loyal to traditional high street banks because they thought bigger institutions were safer. However, this mindset is changing. Here are the main reasons why:

  1. Traditional banking was discredited by a series of scandals
  2. The business model for high street banks was reformed after the financial crisis of 2008, when the UK Government had to prop up the banking system with a massive £1 trillion
  3. Legislative reform led to improved competition within the banking sector (according to Savings Champion, over 1 million retail customers have already taken advantage of easier switching)
  4. Customers witnessed or experienced poor value, bad customer service and mis-selling
  5. Low interest rates are driving savers to shop around
  6. Most High Street banks focus on acquisition of new customers rather than retention of existing customers
  7. The EU and UK Governments provide deposit guarantees relating to the risk of bank failures.  In the UK this is provided by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), with further information provided below.

Introducing the challenger banks

New banks are now challenging the market share held by the five major high street banks. These challenger banks are more specialised, with simpler business models and greater transparency.

To help familiarise you, here’s a brief introduction to just a few of the new entrants in the UK banking sector:


AldemoreAldermore Bank

Independent bank launched in 2009 and based in Peterborough. Among other investors, it was originally backed by private-equity company, AnaCap Financial Partners LLP (who are now planning to launch Abacus – a digital bank), and has since been floated on the stock exchange. CEO is Phillip Monks, who gained 30 years’ experience at Barclays and Arab Bank. Focus is on UK SMEs, with funds lent to small businesses and as mortgages.


Amicus

Amicus

Amicus is a fast-growing specialist financial services group, providing finance for property and other assets, as well as invoice factoring for SMEs. It’s headed by John Wilde, formerly of SME Invoice Finance, JP Morgan and UCB Bank plc. The group was set up in London in 2009, and applied for its banking licence in 2016.


british business bank

British Business Bank

This government-owned and independently managed bank is dedicated to developing smaller businesses. It provides finance to start a business, grow to the next level, or stay ahead of the competition.


Cambridge and CountiesCambridge and Counties Bank

Launched in 2012, this bank was formed by a partnership between Trinity Hall, Cambridge and the Cambridgeshire Local Government Pension Fund. It provides business savings accounts, property finance and asset finance. CEO is Mike Kirsopp, who previously spent 30 years in commercial lending including at Lloyds.


csbaCommunity Savings Bank Association

CSBA aims to create a UK-wide network of customer-owned, regional banks that use local savings to grant loans to local people, community groups, and SMEs. The Chairman is James M Moore, and the initiative is supported by The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA).

Copernicus Bank

Since 2012, Aidan Brady and Michael Rossman of Danela Ventures Partners Limited have been building a new UK corporate banking platform to target corporate clients. It will run an open ledger/balance sheet and not engage in deposit-based maturity/risk transformation. The launch date has not yet been announced.


HampshireHampshire Community Bank

A new not-for-profit bank launched recently to serve the Hampshire community, headed by Richard Werner, Professor of Banking at Southampton University, and Sir Vince Cable as Chairman. It’s modelled on small local banks such as Sparkasse and Volksbank in Germany, and aims to ‘create credit for productive purposes’ by lending mainly to SMEs.


Metro BankMetro Bank

When Metro Bank launched in 2010, it was the first new independent UK bank on the High Street for more than 100 years. It has 27 branches in London and southeast England, all open seven days a week, and about 360,000 customers. CEO is Craig Donaldson, who used to hold senior roles with RBS, Barclays and HBOS. Funds are lent as mortgages, personal loans and credit cards in the UK.


oaknorthOakNorth Bank

OakNorth is run by entrepreneurs not bankers, and provides funding for business and property. The CEO is Rishi Khosla, and the Chairman is Cyrus Ardalan.


Paragon BankParagon Bank

Based in Solihull, Paragon Bank launched in 2014 after being a buy-to-let mortgage lender for years. It’s quoted on the stock market. MD, Richard Doe, was previously CEO of ING Direct UK. Funds are lent to UK borrowers and as car loans.


RedwoodRedwood Bank

Redwood was co-founded by Jonathan Rowland and Gary Wilkinson to provide SMEs with commercial mortgages and deposit accounts. The bank is based on the border between Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.


ShawbrookShawbrook Bank

Launched in 2011 and based in Essex, this UK bank is owned by the Special Opportunities Fund (SOF). CEO is is Richard Pyman, a banker for 20 years. The management team are formerly from RBS Group. Funds are lent to individuals and UK SMEs.


FSCSFinancial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS)

This free and independent scheme was set up to boost confidence in small banks. It means that customers will be compensated if UK-authorised financial services firms stop trading.

The FSCS protects deposits and savings up to £85k, as well as investment business, home finance, insurance policies and insurance broking. If your savings balance is temporarily high due to a specified ‘life event’, the FSCS protects up to £1m for up to six months.

Note that some EU banks are not UK-authorised as they are covered by their own scheme instead. You should be aware that cash saved in those banks is not protected under the FSCS and will usually be covered by the home country government guarantee.

Visit Akoni Hub’s latest rates to view leading business deposit products.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Register for free at AkoniHub.com

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Leaving the Lab

As you may know, Akoni was among only 20 startups selected for the fifth Accenture Fintech Innovation Lab London. It was a honour to be chosen out of more than 300 applicants from around the globe.

Tom Graham, programme director for the Lab, said: “The Fintech Innovation Lab London is helping startups forge ties to thrive at home and abroad…[and] offers lightbulb moments to banks with exciting innovations that can help make financial services work better.”

The Lab was developed to help startups refine and test their proposition through a three-month accelerator and mentorship programme. This year, it was held in the Trampery Republic, an innovation facility at East India in London’s Docklands.

Sigga Sigurdardottir, Head of Customer and Innovation at Santander, said: “It’s positive to see London taking a leading role in shaping and defining the global fintech innovation agenda.”

Akoni’s time at the Lab has recently finished, and we’re now back at our offices in Westminster.

It was a privilege to be part of the programme, and to experience the various benefits that will help Akoni, our customers, and our partners. For example, we were able to network with many fascinating people, including the Accenture team and other innovative startups.

Our team were invited to attend bank events, and had the chance to meet top execs and decision-makers from global financial services institutions including HSBC, Barclays, RBS, Lloyds Banking Group, Citibank, Santander, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs and more. Collaboration with banks is a key part of the Akoni offering, so these introductions are invaluable to our growth and the service we offer.

What’s more, we had personal mentoring from experts within the fintech and banking sectors, which provided us with useful insights. We were also granted the chance to deliver follow-on presentations with Accenture and banks.

This all added up to provide Akoni with the acceleration we’d hoped for.

Felicia Meyerowitz Singh, CEO and co-founder of Akoni confirmed: “The Lab has accelerated our proposition and helped us refine our value to businesses and banks. We have made invaluable connections and gained amazing mentorship from the banks. Banks are now working with us, and we see this as an endorsement of our collaboration.”

Find out more about the Lab

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Register for free at AkoniHub.com

Time to spring clean your business

It’s Easter week. With the long weekend, many children off school, and people taking holiday, customers can often be a bit quieter. So it’s a good time to do some strategic planning, financial planning and marketing for your business. Here are some ideas to inspire you:

Measure how much time you spend working ‘on the business’ compared with the time you spend working ‘in the business’. As a small-business owner, it is tempting to get bogged down in the everyday detail, but it is wise to take time to step back and look at the bigger picture.

Are you spending roughly equal amounts of time on:

  • Marketing activities to fill your pipeline and win new clients?
  • Admin activities – all the jobs that need to be done to keep your business ticking over?
  • Actually doing the work you need to do to make money?

Are you easily distracted by social media? Use an app to measure how much time you are spending – you may be surprised. Decide whether you can outsource some or all of this activity.

Things are changing fast ever, so we recommend you update your business plan at least every quarter. Are you on track to achieving your goals for the short-term and long-term? What, if anything, do you need to change? Do your goals need to be revisited in the first place?

Map out your workflow so you can spot the bottlenecks and resolve them. What can you automate or delegate to save valuable time? For example, if you hate dealing with bookkeeping, accounting, payroll and invoicing, these tasks are better done by a professional. Can you move your software into the cloud? Or introduce apps that will improve your systems and processes?

Customers

Customer retention is cheaper than customer acquisition, and engaging with your customers is the only way to know what’s working and what’s not. Ask for customer feedback, and make any changes that may be necessary to keep them delighted. Also investigate why customers leave your business – this can provide even more valuable insight.

Identify any non-profitable clients or time-wasters, and consider whether it is time to let them go so you are free to take on more worthwhile customers.

Check the customer journey (as if you are a mystery shopper) to make sure the experience they receive is seamless. Also check your competitors’ websites to see what they are doing.

Colleagues

Similarly, review your staff roles and responsibilities. Do you have the right people with the right skills doing the right things, or do you need to make some changes?

Spend time with your people. Nothing is better than a face-to-face interaction to build relationships, understand  their motivations and issues, and unleash their potential and productivity.

It’s dangerous to stay still, so brainstorm new ideas with colleagues at all levels in the organisation. You never know where the next inspiring product or service concept will come from – it may well be from an employee who is closer to the customer than you are.

Good housekeeping

Read your own website and social media output to double-check that the content is up to date and conveying your core message clearly. Is the URL https? If yes, Google will boost your site up the rankings. Is it mobile-friendly? If not, it needs to be, because Google will no longer show the link in the results when searched on a mobile device.

Empty your email inbox, and resolve to check messages only once each day. Filter any junk mail to a spam folder, and unsubscribe from newsletters that you no longer read. This simple tip will make you far more productive.

It’s said that a tidy desk is a sign of a tidy mind, so file your paperwork, clean your workspace, and refresh your décor.

Money money money

Review your expenses. Talk to your regular suppliers to negotiate a better deal in return for your loyalty. Look at any ongoing subscription charges to see whether there are any you should cancel. Check that your business insurances are up to date.

Order your personalised cash report from Akoni, and move your cash into accounts that generate more interest.

Look after yourself

And finally, some suggestions to help keep you happy and healthy:

  • Review whether your personal goals are still in line with your business goals
  • Remember to take time off so you return to the business with a fresh mind
  • Celebrate successes with your team

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Register for free at AkoniHub.com