Business savings drop since Brexit vote, while SMEs in the East of England remain top savers

The current uncertainty in the economic and political environment following last year’s Brexit vote has had a significant impact on business savings in the country. The national average on business savings has dropped a staggering 20%. However, it seems that smaller businesses are still investing a good amount of their funds in cash savings, having only dropped 5% from last year.

The good news is that we do also see an increase in business savings in parts of the country. In the East of England SMEs have increased their savings by 9% from 2016, making them once again the top savers in the country.

SMEs understand the importance of having cash readily available for regular payments. Most of the time their cash savings will remain in a savings account that business owners and managers will have most likely chosen based on their rates and the kind of returns they can make on their money. The problem is that SMEs don’t have the time and resources to be able to shop around for the best rates on a regular basis, missing the chance to truly maximize their returns. This is where the founders of Akoni realized the need to create a service that gives SMEs the same chance as larger corporations, to maximize their returns, without having to sacrifice the time they need for running and developing their business.

As the Director of Savings at Hampshire Trust Bank, Stuart Hulme, said: “Rather than stockpiling cash in current accounts, SMEs should consider shopping around for a business savings account that provides a better rate of return, enabling them to make more of their hard-earned cash.”

For more detailed statistics read more here.

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

 

 

The problem with busy-ness

Bees

Have you ever had or overheard a conversation like this?

“How are you?”
“Really busy.”
“That’s good!”

Busy-ness seems to be highly valued these days. But it’s not necessarily a good thing. In fact, it’s a scourge of our age.

Do you tweet during meetings? Check emails on your smartphone while watching TV? Find yourself texting several people at the same time as updating your social media feeds?

Multi-tasking might make you feel you’re being efficient – but switching between tasks reduces your efficiency because the human brain isn’t designed to work that way.

One theory is that it’s due to the way blood flows through the brain.

In order to think, problem-solve and create memories, the brain demands a steady supply of oxygen, glucose and nutrients via the blood. Blood helps generate new brain cells, improve communication between regions of the brain, and increase the growth of white matter. If you simultaneously activate several parts of your brain, incoming blood is distributed to the relevant areas, so reducing the volume of nutrients that can be devoted to any specific mental task.

Check the evidence

Back in 2005, Dr Glenn Wilson, psychiatrist at King’s College, London University conducted 80 clinical trials to monitor workers’ IQ throughout the day. He found that the IQ of people who were distracted by phone calls, emails and text messages could temporarily decrease by an average of 10 points (15 for men and 5 for women).

That’s a greater loss of IQ than someone smoking marijuana or missing a whole night’s sleep!

What’s more, chronic multi-taskers have increased levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, which can damage the memory region of the brain.

Sandra Bond, author of Make your Brain Smarter says: “Multi-tasking is a brain drain that exhausts the mind, zaps cognitive resources and, if left unchecked, condemns us to early mental decline and decreased sharpness.”

The brain is wired for deep and innovative thinking, but it can’t do more than one thing at a time. It toggles between one task and the next.

For example, scans show that when you talk on the phone, there is limited activation of the visual part of your brain – which is why it’s dangerous to have a phone conversation while driving (even hands-free).

The answer is focus: single-tasking, not multi-tasking

Focus may be common sense, but it may not be so easy to make a new habit. One reason is because the brain releases dopamine every time there’s an incoming ‘ping’ – this addictive neurotransmitter perpetuates the need for endless stimulation.

The good news is that it’s never too late to start single-tasking.

In a study of people aged 50 to 80 sponsored by the MetLife Mature Market Institute, the biggest predictor of sound decision-making was the ability to filter the most important information from less relevant data, and that strategic attention increases with age.

Business and busy-ness

There are times when you have to work on multiple areas at once – such as when launching a startup business like Akoni. The key is to ensure you are clear about your critical objectives, focus on delivering just one item at a time, and that you make optimal use of your time. Often, you need a well-functioning team to achieve this.

If you’re a leader, don’t let a culture of multi-tasking arise in your workplace. Do your bit by modelling best practice and your people will emulate the example you set.

Here are some tips you may find useful:

Minimise distractions so you can perform to your full potential. Turn off all notifications so you’re not interrupted. Only check your emails and voicemails once or twice a day.

Understand that ‘important’ and ‘urgent’ are not the same. Draw a four-box grid with urgent on one axis and important on the other. If a task is highly urgent AND highly important, do that first. If it’s important but not urgent, schedule a time to do it. If it’s urgent but not important, delegate the task. If it’s low on both scales, don’t do it at all.

Ensure you take regular breaks. Build in time to enjoy the simple pleasures such as family, meditation and the amazing outdoors. Fresh air is an excellent tonic to help with focus as it gives your mind the opportunity to relax while sharpening itself. Even looking out of the window for a few minutes will help to refresh you and create room for the next creative idea.

Make a ‘to do’ list, and do things sequentially. Start with the most important task and don’t do anything else until it’s finished.

Remember the story of the teacher who showed the students an empty jar. She filled it with rocks and asked “Is the jar full yet?”

“Yes,” they replied.

She then added some pebbles that settled around the rocks, and asked: “Is it full now?”

“Yes,” they replied, although less certain now.

Next, the teacher added sand to fill the gaps between the rocks and pebbles, and repeated her question.

Sure the jar was now completely full, the students said: “Yes.”

Finally, the teacher poured in a jugful of water, and filled the jar to overflowing. “Is it full now?” she asked.

“Yes,” the students confirmed.

“The moral of this story is that we all have the same number of hours in the day, and you have to fill them with the ‘big rocks’ first, otherwise there will be no room for the little things.

Follow these tips, and we hope you will eventually escape the curse of busy-ness and be able to increase your creativity and energy through focused single-tasking.

Akoni manages your cash while you focus on other important matters. Register free and set up your personalised Deposit Planner with over 300 business products at AkoniHub.com

Newsflash: Are interest rates set to rise?

graphs and charts

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

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

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

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