Akoni selected among 12 winning Fintechs to advance the future of SME banking

Akoni has been selected for the second phase of Nesta’s Open Up Challenge within the New Frontiers track. At the forefront of open banking, the Open Up Challenge is a new challenge prize by Nesta that will use this unique opportunity to shape a future for small business banking characterised by greater transparency, choice, quality and innovation.

Akoni aim to fundamentally change the way businesses bank. We use the multiple sources of business data and the power of innovation to deliver personalised prompts and products to SMEs. We are born out of the frustrations experienced by our CEO, Felicia Meyerowitz Singh, when she was an SME director managing cash. Akoni believe SMEs should receive the same services, tools and financial products as larger corporates.

Akoni has partnered with Coriolis Technologies as our trade data partner, headed by Dr Rebecca Harding, author of ‘The Weaponisation of Trade’. Trade data, in addition to our existing partnerships for company and sector data, ratings data, bank partner and product data, allows Akoni to offer SMEs support for Trade solutions as well as existing cash, savings and corporate membership solutions.

Akoni delivers significant value to small and midsize companies, increasing returns and ensuring products are aligned to the different stages of their business growth. Our platform provides personalised solutions using the various open data sources and as part of the challenge, also adding Open Banking data. Akoni is already live in the market and FCA authorised with 10+ established banking relationships. Our new platform will leverage these existing technologies to add a SME Trade Intelligence for business planning, cashflow planning and access to credit products.

The Open Up Challenge comes at a time when there is the perfect storm of market pressures impacting the sector – banks being impacted by ring-fencing and liquidity requirements under Basel III, as well as threats from innovators due to Open Banking. In the UK in particular, this will meet a latent demand among small businesses, who largely do not have access to the tools they need, but will now benefit from a simple interface combining different sources of data and enabling them to start increasing their global trading.

Felicia Meyerowitz Singh, CEO, Akoni, said:

“Our team is excited to deliver solutions for SMEs, which enable them to grow and drive their businesses forward using technology in a simple way. We believe openness of data, driven by Open banking, will contribute to a fundamental shift in business banking and are delighted to be in such excellent company amongst other startups, with our solution acknowledged by such a prestigious body.”

About Akoni

Akoni is a digital cash treasury manager, ensuring maximum deposit returns for its clients through the portability of cash and cash management tools. The firm was conceived by its CEO while working as a director of a SME business after she became frustrated that the firm’s £50 million held in cash, with no returns or tools provided from their company banks. Akoni is FCA regulated, and offers its cash management platform directly to businesses, charities and corporate member groups as well as works with banking partners. Clients can register to view the full marketplace of business deposit products from more than 80 UK banks and building societies, and then choose to instruct Akoni to execute deposit transactions on their behalf.

Using innovation and technology, Akoni delivers cash treasury services to businesses and SMEs and is leveraging the current platform and banking relationships to add SME trade intelligence and product prompts.

About Coriolis Technologies

Coriolis Technologies Ltd is a big data company providing Data as a Service to the trade and trade finance market. Coriolis Technologies’ unrivalled data covers static trade flows between countries using monthly and annual data, company data, political risk data and real-time logistics and shipping data to provide solutions for providers of trade finance, trade finance advisory and trade risk.

Coriolis Technologies use leading edge big data techniques, including Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, to help our clients answer the key questions they face.

About Nesta’s Open Up Challenge 2018

From early 2018, ‘open banking’ will be a reality in the UK.

Most small businesses will, for the first time, be able to share their banking data securely with trusted third parties via open banking APIs, and allow third parties to initiate payments on their behalf. It is the most ambitious scheme of its kind anywhere in the world, and could lead to a revolution in UK retail banking.

At the forefront of open banking, the Open Up Challenge is a new challenge prize by Nesta that will use this unique opportunity to shape a future for small business banking characterised by greater transparency, choice, quality and innovation.

Nesta are challenging talented teams from anywhere in the world to take this unique opportunity to develop next-generation services, apps and tools that help UK small businesses get game-changing value from their banking services.

The prize was selected by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) as one of a package of remedies aimed at shaking up UK retail banking.

How needless admin can hurt SMEs

Every business owner knows the tedious admin work that needs to be done to run a successful business, including accounting, employee payroll, inventory and more. It is all too easy to persevere with inefficient systems and traditional processes simply because they have formed a part of our working routine and the hassle and time required to rework these age-old practises is too daunting. Unfortunately, such thinking simply isn’t logical and these practises will inevitably not stand the test of time. For every day that we continue to allow our businesses to be burdened by unnecessary admin and archaic process, we are missing out on the opportunity to modernise, streamline and produce a thriving business that can lead to personal fulfillment and a comfortable life!

Most SME entrepreneurs are working around the clock to run their business and have no further capacity to think outside the box and get creative. To tackle this issue, in our world of fast pace technological development, one of the priorities should be to scour the market for new tech that unburdens us of these repetitive tasks and leaves our minds free to create, build, invent and generally contribute to our societies with our brilliant business ideas.

Often business owners will hesitate to purchase software to make administrative tasks simpler because it seems like something they cannot afford. What they are not considering is the cost of team hours and the potential for human error, which in the long run will cost the business a lot more.

A report from Sage found that entrepreneurs currently spend an average of 120 working-days every year on admin tasks, accounting for around five per cent of the manpower of the average SME. The same research said that increasing productivity of just 5.6% in the UK could lead to an increase in GDP of at least £33.9bn a year. Considering that businesses can be more productive by simply replacing their manual admin work with computerised processes this can be very easily achieved.

What if you can use innovative technology to not just save time and money but to earn you extra money on the side?

 Many great entrepreneurs have come up with software and cloud solutions to provide automation for time saving purposes. Akoni has taken this one step further and come up with a solution for a task most SMEs don’t even consider taking on, because

  1. They are not aware of the potential earnings they could profit from
  2. They don’t have the time and resources to do it

This task is, broadly speaking, about cash management. The most underutilised asset of SMEs today is cash. A business will have a certain amount of cash savings, sitting on an account and earning nothing, when it could be generating interest rates amounting to the value of being able to invest further into the business, such as hiring more employees for example. Large corporations already do this today, because they either use treasury services offered by their banks or hire their own treasurers, who will be up to date on market rates, move cash around to different accounts based on maximum returns and deal with the paperwork involved. SMEs cannot afford this luxury and banks do not provide such services to anyone but large corporates.

Akoni’s platform revolutionises this problem and provides an easy to use service, which levels the playing field and gives SMEs the same opportunity to optimise return on their cash savings. The best part is, that there is almost no paperwork involved and virtually no time needs to be invested to do this because everything can be done in a matter of minutes in a few clicks.

Our world is moving faster than ever, don’t let your business stay behind! Use technology to your advantage for your venture to succeed.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Register free at panel.akonihub.com and follow us on Twitter

 

Are the best-known charities missing out on £0.25m a year in interest?

Recent research by Third Sector has indicated that the most prominent charities in the UK keep on average (mean) reserves of £23.3m. The research, carried out among 157 charities, suggests that this equates to almost four months’ of expenditure sitting in their bank account. Keeping reserves is very important for a healthily run charity – but how do you make the most of this money?

Our experience, from speaking to many charities over the past six months, is that they do very little to maximise income from their reserves – largely because of the hassle of selecting and changing banks. On the whole, money stays in accounts where the return is at best 0.1% but mostly 0%.

This was the exact problem that Akoni founder, Felicia Meyerowitz Singh, encountered when she was Finance Director in the insurance industry.

“We became frustrated that UK banks weren’t rewarding the cash held in accounts. So we tapped into the power of technology to generate better returns on cash holdings.”

And so Akoni was born. With the Akoni platform you can access and open multiple accounts just by opening one hub account. And with market leading interest rates on offer, from a number of partner banks, it’s simple to manage multiple accounts and increase returns without the usual hassle.

Our research shows that on average charities can make 11x more interest by creating a cash portfolio with Akoni. Assuming the 157 charities in the Third Sector research received 0.1% interest rate (on an average reserve of £23.3m), using Akoni could see their cash returns grow from £23,300 to £256,300 – a significant amount for any size of charity.

Please feel free to get in touch with me at Stephen.harvey@akonihub.com if you’d like to find out how Akoni Hub can help your nonprofit to maximise your cash.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Register free at panel.akonihub.com and follow us on Twitter

Why is Akoni different? How we set ourself apart from the crowd

SMEs are the backbone of the UK economy and yet they are chronically underserved by the banking sector. For many people this might be an unfortunate yet passing fact but for business owners across the UK, it’s an everyday reality.

At Akoni, we know how critical change in the business banking sector is for SMEs because we’ve experienced the challenges first hand.  Our founder, Felicia Meyerowitz Singh, first conceived of Akoni while she was the frustrated financial director of an SME herself. Despite holding up to £50m in cash, she found that there were few market options available to help the company maximize their returns and little interest from banks whose business services were designed around serving larger clients.

We believe that it’s absurd that £50m has become an insufficient sum to attract any engagement from the banks and we are driven to provide all UK businesses, regardless of size, with the resources they need to thrive and grow.  We know that it’s much easier for a company to focus on what they do best when they’re given the tools they need to streamline their finances and efficiently increase their returns. It was this passion for equal access to an efficient and fair business banking system that first inspired Felicia to found Akoni Hub and these values remain key to Akoni’s future.

With hundreds of financial products available to small businesses it is alarming to think that so few of them have been designed and conceived by people with real experience of what a small business requires. All to often banks reserve their most powerful tools and offerings for the large corporates before presenting a much reduced selection to smaller businesses – a selection that rarely, if ever, is specifically tailored to meet the differing requirements of an SME. Akoni co-founded by a CEO with real, endlessly frustrating, experience of seeking out financial products for the SME market are different.

Financial services have traditionally been plagued by a lack of diversity that has deprived the sector of the innovation and growth that a multi-cultural environment can provide. While many companies now acknowledge how important it is for their team to reflect the broader community they serve, few have created a culture that doesn’t just tolerate diversity but actively seeks it out.

For Akoni, however, equality isn’t a choice but is integral to who we are. Our team draws from a wide range of cultural backgrounds and is led by a female founder with experience in finance. It’s disappointing that having a female founder is still of note in 2018 and that last year only 9% of funding for UK start-ups went to companies with a female founder. Yet for us, embracing diversity is a natural extension of our commitment to the values that first inspired our platform.

UK SMEs should have access to the same services that larger corporates have long enjoyed. When these services are denied to smaller businesses they miss out on valuable opportunities to access extra income. This disparity is not only unfair but is also damaging to the UK economy as the success of SMEs is critical to maximizing growth.

It’s clear that the banking sector itself must learn to embrace whatever innovation is required to give all their clients the tools needed to achieve their best results.  Akoni believes that our platform will play an important role in modelling this change and we are deeply passionate about leading the way to a future where efficient and responsive business banking is equally accessible to all.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Register free at panel.akonihub.com and follow us on Twitter

 

 

 

 

How SMEs can attract, nurture and retain talent

Akoni had the privilege of being part of London and Partners Business Programme’s recent report Access to Talent.

The findings are based on feedback from London’s tech community and reveals the ongoing issues of attracting, nurturing and retaining the talent that drives company growth.

These are problems faced by firms big and small – but the latter is the most affected. Trying to compete for talent alongside tech giants and financial firms is a challenge that most SMEs struggle to overcome.  They simply can’t afford to match the salaries of the big boys looking for the same people.

There are also fewer qualified workers to pick from these days, thanks to worries over Brexit.

So what’s the answer to the bottleneck? And how can we create a workforce that is not only talented but also as unique and diverse as the customers we aim to serve?

Government must do more to create a better image of the UK as a place that is still open for business. London is a global city that is driven by the world – our population comes from everywhere and so does our talent. We need to reflect this reality more clearly.  Campaigns that highlight success stories and what makes the UK so great for a new generation of workers are good places to start.  They need to know that we want and need them to drive our booming sector. Making it easier for skilled workers to come into Britain through fast track VISA schemes is also vital.

Businesses also have to play a part to woo staff. If an SME can’t compete in salary, then they have to make their work environments more appealing. Flexible hours, mentoring for staff, equity in the company and parental leave are excellent policies that should be a primary focus for any business that wants to stay competitive. This can also help to create a more diverse workforce, which can foster greater employee loyalty. If people feel comfortable in their workspace, and have an opportunity to express their unique perspectives in a nurturing environment, then they are more likely to stay.

Innovations for business have made it easier to do more with fewer staff – especially FinTech technology that helps simplify payments, invoices, and managing loans and savings. But nothing beats human contact and engagement. This is what sets us apart, the unique selling point for SMEs the world over: our people.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Register free at panel.akonihub.com and follow us on Twitter

 

 

 

The rise of Britain’s £7 billion ‘mum’ economy – and how to support it

Small businesses are the backbone of every economy – and behind many of them is a female founder.  They are usually mothers, with children aged 18 or under, who’ve often made the leap from full time employee to fully fledged entrepreneur to create a better work life balance for themselves and their families.

Often referred to as ‘mumpreneurs’ – these women, collectively, are driving the UK’s economic growth. According to a report published by think tank Development Economics, these power women generated £7.2 billion in revenue for the nation in 2014 and supported over 200,000 jobs.  By 2025, the mum economy will generate £9.5 billion for the UK and add even more employees to their books.

From retail shops and management consultancies to booming empires, female founders are making an impact across sectors – while also raising children.

But why are we still labelling women as mumpreneurs? Is this really necessary?

After all, men who start their own companies aren’t referred to as ‘dadpreneurs’ and many would argue that the term ‘mumpreneur’ is rather patronising and limiting.

The report Shattering Stereotypes from the Centre for Entrepreneurs, claims many women overwhelming prefer terms such as “founder” or “business owner”.

Indeed, the time has come to move away from labels – and to call mums that run businesses by what they truly are – entrepreneurs. The next step is to support them more on their scaling journeys.

Compared to male-owned companies, female entrepreneurs face unique challenges – the biggest being capital-raising.  Women are less likely to get funding from VCs or a loan from a bank, despite the number of women entering the business world.

Women launch over half of new businesses in the UK – yet very few grow those business to more than £1m turnover. They simply can’t get the financial support to scale – even though it’s a well-documented fact that female entrepreneurs generate a better return on investment than men. Yet with so few female VCs out there to help stamp out sexism and bias in the investment world, the lack of funding offered to women remains an ongoing problem. And the lack of investment leads to budget constraints that prevent founders from getting the staff they need to manage business growth.

Building a support network that can facilitate networking opportunities and introduction is also frequently cited as a challenge.

Add to the mix the issue of staying cash flow positive and trying to get clients to pay on time – and you wonder how women could put up with the trials and tribulations of going out on a limb and setting up a new business.

Fortunately, many female led businesses are finding a light at the end of the tunnel with new fintech innovations that are offering different ways of raising money and managing daily operations.

Crowdfunding platforms, for example, are providing a lifeline for female entrepreneurs – while also democratising the investment landscape and making it easier for women to invest in companies – including female led businesses.

Seedrs and Crowdcube are great vehicles that are helping female entrepreneurs get the funding they need to scale.

Meanwhile, digital invoicing is helping to chase payments automatically, taking the hassle away from the entrepreneur – while our own digital cash management platform is helping business owners find the best savings vehicles for their deposits with a click of a button – without the hassle of paperwork or the need to hire a treasurer to do the work.

An increase in mentoring programmes and government grants are also offering an extra boost to female entrepreneurship, but there’s still a long way to go before women are on the same level as their male counterparts.

At the very least we owe it to the economy to do more to champion female leaders in business.  The extra billions earned for the nation’s coffers would secure the future prosperity of our country – while playing a crucial role in helping to close the unacceptable gender gap in business.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Register free at panel.akonihub.com and follow us on Twitter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Investment growth for charities – but potential for higher earnings from cash deposits!

Charity Financials recently published Charity Income Spotlight report makes for interesting and positive reading, highlighting the significant growth in investment income that charities are enjoying. It states that income from investments among the top 5,000 charities increased 6% year on year, with total investments among this group now worth £3.29bn, £600m more than in 2008.

Making money working harder in this way creates a very valuable income stream for charities, generating valuable unrestricted funds to further an organisation’s mission.

But our insight is that charities can do even more.

Judging by the charities we have spoken with over the past months, investment money is one part of the portfolio and cash deposits are a separate, and mostly neglected, part. Charities need to keep cash in the bank – as reserves, committed project funding, for operating expenditure – and this is where greater income can be generated.

Our insight suggests that charities could raise at least 10x more from cash deposits in banks – based on a split portfolio that includes instant access accounts. This equates to in the region of £60,000/yr on a £5m cash deposit – it would take 1,000 supporters giving £5/month for a year to raise that!

But how?

With Akoni’s digital cash management platform you can find the best rates (suited to your term and risk requirements), open accounts and manage your cash across multiple accounts in a couple of clicks without the paperwork.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Register free at panel.akonihub.com and follow us on Twitter

IFGS 2018 – Akoni’s Experience

The day after the Innovative Finance Global Summit event (IFGS2018), we wake up with a smile of success and our minds full of new energy and inspiration.

The event gathered the global FinTech community at the historic Guildhall and Square Hall here in London, the Fintech capital of the world. It was 2 days of interesting talks, sharing of ideas, networking and culminating in the start-up pitch competition, Pitch360. Attendees were made up from a vast range of players in the field, from the world leading innovators, institutions and investors, to policy makers, regulators and international trade bodies.

On the first day, Akoni’s CEO Felicia Meyerowitz Singh was part of a panel session on Closing the Gender Gap in Fintech, in which Akoni pledged that we will maintain or exceed our 50% female workforce. She strongly believes that diversity will improve the range of products available. Currently only 29% of the workforce in Fintech is female and as Susanne Chishti said, this won’t change very fast if diversity is on a voluntary basis rather than if there are regulatory targets.

This was one of many interesting discussions we heard in the past two days and we are only beginning to process the content. Who knows what we all can produce from such inspiration.

Day 2 was very exciting for us, as we were one of the winners in the start-up pitch competition, Pitch360, for our category – Banking/Enterprise solutions. Akoni Hub’s platform, for maximising returns on business cash holdings, our Dynamic Cash Forecasting tool and our potential white labelling solution, were celebrated with the win and received amazing feedback.

It was a wonderful experience and Akoni looks forward to hearing more of the other fantastic start-ups we met.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Register free at panel.akonihub.com and follow us on Twitter

Akoni’s Dynamic Cash Forecasting

Acquiring banking products is a lengthy process of paperwork, taking 30-100 days to process. Businesses shy away from even finding out what opportunities they might be missing , for the simple reason that they don’t have the time to deal with it. With Akoni’s tools, particularly its ability to use powerful innovation on data from multiple sources, the process can be cut down to 1-3 days, or even be dealt with in real time in some cases.

This was exhibited recently at Finovate Europe, 6-9 March London, when Tesobe and the Open Banking Project, chose to include Akoni’s Dynamic Cash Forecasting as part of its demonstration.

This dynamic cash forecast uses data from public and private sources to analyse a company’s cash flow needs on a monthly basis, and produce a forecast for their cash balance needs throughout the year. In reporting the monthly cash requirements of the company, the platform will also highlight any expected cash surplus for a given month.

What do companies do with this surplus cash? Typically, nothing.

It will continue to exist as an unused asset delivering next to nothing in terms of revenue, and given the current inflation rates, it will often depreciate. However, Akoni not only maps out the cash surplus each month but can instantly produce a cash management planner that shows how the spare funds could be allocated to bank accounts that will achieve a real return on the cash. This is all done within the company’s stated governance and compliance requirements.

However, most SMEs and small corporates don’t have the resource or the time to deal with opening multiple new bank accounts and instructing and withdrawing deposits on a regular basis; so how does this help?

The great thing about Akoni’s offering is that it allows the user to open the multiple recommended bank accounts, make deposits and withdrawals, and generally manage their cash without the hassle or paperwork typically required. The cash plan can be put into action with no more paperwork than the single onboarding form that is required at the outset. In terms of the user’s effort, bank accounts and deposits can then be made live with nothing more than a few clicks. The simplicity of the cash management is perfectly illustrated in our short video.

As more and more SMEs continue to onboard with Akoni, we hope to further cut away at the staggering amount of unworked cash that is sitting under their control. With sign-up being for free, and Akoni offering a genuinely hassle free solution, there’s no excuse for delaying another day. Get started now!

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Register free at panel.akonihub.com and follow us on Twitter

What did we learn from the Spring Statement?

What an upbeat outlook!

With UK growth at 1.7% in 2017, rather than the predicted 1.5%, estimates are now set at 1.5% in 2018, 1.3 % in 2019, 1.3% in 2020, 1.4% in 2021 and 1.5% in 2022. So, in 2018, the UK will experience the slowest growth of all G7 economies, with the exceptions of Italy and Japan. In the Eurozone, the UK will be just ahead of Greece, Italy and, perhaps, Belgium…

Among the potential good news, we heard about:

  • Stronger tax receipts, which will reduce the UK borrowing to £45.2Bn in 2018 and below the 2% target of national income.
  • Spending is to be treated with a “a balanced approach” but part of the surplus will be committed to public services.
  • A review of the VAT system for small businesses but unfortunately, as it is merely a consultation at this stage, it is unlikely to have an impact in 2018
  • The business rate revaluation has been brought forward to 2021 to reflect the current property market

At the same time, Hammond also touched on topics including housing construction, curbing plastic waste and a new digital strategy.

In conclusion, a very political spring statement with little in the way of new announcements and still no understanding or accurate assessment regarding the potential impact of Brexit.

Does anybody remember that the 2018 growth prediction, before Brexit, was 2.1%….