SME’s growth and significance post Brexit

Contribution of SMEs to the UK Economy

SMEs are a large and integral part of the UK economy, where they account for 99.9% of all private sector businesses. The following stats illustrate the significance of SMEs for the economic well-being of the UK.

In 2017, SMEs accounted for

  • 51% of all private sector turnover with a total combined turnover of £1.9 trillion
  • 60% of all private sector employment with a total of 16.1 million people employed
  • at least 99.5% of the businesses in major sectors

In addition to these, total business population in the UK has been continually increasing – by 4% since 2016 and 64% since 2000 – reaching a record of 5.7 million private sector businesses in Jan 2017.

Roadblocks for SME Growth

Despite the significant growth in number of SMEs, that growth does not come easy. Today, SMEs face many challenges including uncertainty created by Brexit, competition from large chains and digital players, the necessity to keep up with the ever-changing innovative landscape, expansion and development considerations, such as funding, and tackling the productivity problem.

A Yougov survey of 1000 SMEs suggested SMEs have negative confidence levels for their own companies, industries and UK economy in general. There are multiple factors contributing to this, main one being Brexit and the uncertainty surrounding it. We have a separate section focusing on Brexit, so I’ll leave this for later. Now, let’s focus on the rest.

Competition is not a new challenge for SMEs. In different shapes and forms, all businesses face competition. The key here is being able to differentiate against the competition, whether that be superior customer service, higher quality products and so on. Efficiently managing your cash holdings and maximising your return could help you sharpen your competitive edge or build one by having extra to invest in projects in line with that goal.

Keeping up with the pace of technology and digitalisation is another major challenge. Longitudinal Small Business Survey of 2016 found that 39% of SME employers had innovated in the last three years, either through the introduction of new or significantly improved goods or services, and/or the introduction of new or significantly improved processes. Considering 64% of the innovations were by companies in information/communications, for which innovation is a must to survive, there is a long way to go for SMEs in general.

This leads to the other challenge faced by most SMEs: roadblocks for expansion and development. Obtaining traditional financing has always been problematic for a large proportion of SMEs. This problem, in fact, made crowd-funding and peer-to-peer lending as popular as they currently are.  However, it is still a work in progress that requires more to open up to such alternative channels and digital solutions in general.

Most UK businesses have issues with productivity and find that problem particularly difficult to tackle. The key to productivity is developing the capabilities to be flexible and lean in order to adapt to the ever-changing landscape. This can only be attained through investments in the growing digital economy and innovations in products and processes. The result will be not only increased profit margins but also the ability to adapt and change your business model as necessary, where the latter might deem even more important for long term survival.

SMEs in post-Brexit UK

In an environment, where the hopes for a soft Brexit are close to zero, the implications of a hard Brexit on UK SMEs raises a lot of question marks. So far, the impact of the decision has been both negative and positive depending on whether you have an export or import perspective. Resulting from the devalued sterling, exporters enjoyed improved returns and UK attracted more tourists since it became a cheaper destination. However, importers are highly likely to see a negative impact on their bottom lines, if they haven’t seen this already.

As deemed highly important for the UK economy’s well-being before Brexit, SMEs are also crucial post-Brexit

1. Cash is king

Cash is key for overcoming a period of uncertainty. For many SMEs, Brexit made it impossible to plan for the future. This might mean your business has not been investing as much as it used to, leading to accumulation of cash in your balance sheet. Do you know that your cash can yield 5-10 times more if invested effectively? For hassle free cash management, Akoni can help you.

2. Access to single market

Losing access to the single market might mean losing access to 500 million potential customers and 26 million businesses in addition to losing access to the diverse talent pool. Depending on your scale, these might be critical or less important, however being able to address these issues is important for the UK economy. People are key for most start-ups and SMEs. Therefore, investing in areas to make it appealing for talent to work for your company despite Brexit is highly important. This is another area where the extra earnings on cash can be channelled.

3. Long standing relationships with banks

Brexit might also mean the obligation to form a relationship with another bank from scratch. This could be time-consuming, taking anywhere from a couple of months to years. For your deposits, Akoni offers you a shortcut, where you can build your relationship with us – in an amount of time that is significantly less than the above – and utilise our existing relationships with our panel banks.

There is no doubt that the coming few years will be interesting to watch. However, with difficulty comes opportunity.

Benan is responsible for Akoni analytics and business development and can be contacted at benan@akonihub.com 

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

Small Business Saturday – get ready

On Saturday, the 2nd of December, it will be 5 years of Small Business Saturday. It is an event that was created to support small businesses. It attracts millions of customers each year and gives businesses an income boost before Christmas. Akoni believes firmly that SMEs are the bedrock of our economy and we do what we can to support them so we have put together a few tips to prepare for the day:

1. Prepare your customers

Don’t wait for the day to advertise your business. Make sure you tell your customers about it in advance. If you have a newsletter, tell your customers to mark the event in their calendars, with hints to special promotions. Publish multiple posts on Social Media, leading up to the day and get customers excited for your offers.

2. Know your Social Media

Publishing posts to spread the word is key to reaching as many people as possible. Be sure to use the hashtag that is trending. #SmallBizSatUK is used in more than hundred thousand tweets on the day.

3. Stand out

On Small Business Saturday you don’t want to be conducting business as usual. Make sure to make changes that would attract customers. Extend your opening hours for those who have not seen your online promotions or for those who are walking past at unlikely shop opening hours. Since that day is an event, you should treat is such. Hand out balloons to children on the street and for that extra advertising you could make them branded balloons as well. Speaking of advertising, you could encourage passersby to take selfies in front of your shop by providing fun props. This way your name might appear on various Social Media profiles, which will act as free advertising.

4. Partner with other Small Businesses

A great way of promoting your business is to partner with others. You could offer discounts for those who shop in another local business and vice versa. For example, if you own a coffee shop, you could offer a free pastry with every coffee, when shopping at the next door clothing boutique.

5. Make sure your online presence works

Regular social media posts are important. In addition you should always, but particularly on a day that you expect increased traffic, make sure everything on your website works and is up to date. If you have a blog you want to make sure you have recent and relevant blog posts. The last thing you want is for visitors to feel that the site is stale and boring. You want customers to shop on that day, but you also want them to go away with a great experience and for them to come back as a result.

Promoting your business can be a lot of work and expensive. Small Business Saturday was particularly created to focus the awareness of shoppers to businesses like yours. Our advice is to make the most of a relatively cheap, but highly affective promotional tool. While increasing revenue and advertising your business, it will also be great fun for you and your team.

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

 

 

Government launches new industrial strategy

Today sees the launch of the Government’s new industrial strategy.  Last week Nigel Wilson called for us to put back the Capital into Capitalism and that same (budget) afternoon, Phillip Hammond name checked the “Patient Capital” project that is designed to do just that.

The new strategy for industry aims to tackle weak productivity and support businesses to counter any new problems caused by Brexit. The plans are laid out in the so-called Patient Capital Reviewintended to support innovative firms to access the finance that they need to scale up. The review addresses three key areas:

  • Unlocking institutional and retail investors’ capital
  • Increasing the number of venture capital (VC) funds that can deploy patient capital at scale
  • Increasing returns to scale-up investments

In our last week’s blog on the budget announcement we mentioned the better regulated incentives for EIS as a great step for investors and start-ups. The plan is to extend the investment limits for existing EIS and VCT schemes, targeting the lack of capital availability, particularly at the boundary of the existing EIS and VCT threshold. Get all the details in the full Patient Capital Review, which you can download here.

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

Key points of the Autumn Budget 2017

The Autumn Budget announcement showed some interesting developments. Here are a few key points on what to expect from it in the near future:

Lower growth to be expected until 2022  

  • Interest rate increases might be moderate and unemployment might rise, but on the other hand the UK government needs to control household debt, which has increased 7% in the last 5 years.

Borrowings to increase from next year

  • Increases are the result of annual government borrowings being at its lowest level since the financial crisis. It would need to be done with caution as it might effect inflation, which is already under pressure.

Some help in the housing sector for first time buyers 

  • Election positive and this is good for the housing sector but the recent, and possible further, rise in interest rates will also have a great impact on the market.

More money for the NHS 

  • This is of course a positive development but keeping in mind that it will require government borrowings.

Hardly any changes in pensions

  • But this may be good for any potential forthcoming election

Stronger but better regulated incentive for EIS 

  • This is great for investors and start-ups in particular

Business rate change :

  • This change is linked to CPI rather than RPI and therefore good for small businesses

Small businesses have welcomed the chancellor’s announcements for the most part, which included aspects that will save them a lot of money. The switch to base the annual increase on business rates on the consumer price index (CPI) rather than the higher retail price index (RPI) in addition to evaluations taking place every 3 years instead of every 5 years, will help reduce steep rises experienced by businesses this year. Slightly disappointing for small businesses is the fact that there still will be a rise of a bout 3% in April in line with the CPI, which many small business leaders hoped would be frozen.

Additional good news is that the staircase tax, introduced in September of this year, has been abolished. This tax meant that businesses in offices linked by communal lift, corridors or stairs should be treated as occupying more than one property, meaning receiving multiple bills and costing tens of thousands more.

Businesses will also be impacted by the increase of the National Living Wage from £ 7,50 to £ 7,83. They will need to ensure that they are paying employees aged over 25 the new rate from April 2018 onwards.

The one thing missing in the announcement, which we at Akoni support, is an Entrepreneur ISA as recommended by Aldermore and a Small Business savings allowance, to encourage businesses to save for future investments. We will keep you updated when things develop in this regard.

If you have any questions about the budget we’d be happy to share our views and to hear from you.

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

Autumn Budget 2017 – What we expect

Chancellor Phillip Hammond will announce his second budget tomorrow.

Below is an overview of some of the points that the Chancellor is likely to raise in relation to UK businesses.

1. Business Rates

The Chancellor’s changes to the business rates system in April meant that there would be big changes to what businesses would have to pay. The public uproar has meant that Philip Hammond is thought to be considering a range of solutions to address some of these issues, including a possible self-assessment style process. This however, has also come under fire as an additional administrative cost to businesses.

2. VAT for self-employed

There are 4.81m self-employed people in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), as of September 2017. Increasing the national insurance contributions for them has been a subject of budget discussions since the publication of the March Budget. Even though the proposal was scrapped following public controversy, it is now expected that the threshold at which the self-employed must pay VAT, currently at £85,000, will be lowered.

Issues particularly relating to the start-up community:

3. EIS- investments

It is widely anticipated that the Enterprise Incentive Scheme (EIS), which provides tax relief worth 30% for investments in high-risk companies plus Capital Gains Tax exemption on the disposal of those shares after a set period, will be amended. EIS has been a useful source of finance for start-up companies since its introduction in 1994. However, the EIS has been put under review, with many anticipating that the relief will be cut to 20% and that there will be a requirement for these shares to be held for longer.

4. Scale Ups

Although the independent Office for Budget Responsibility is expected to cut growth in the short term for this year from 2 per cent to about 1.6 per cent, there is still a lot of confidence in business and opportunities for capital investment, to remain positive. Nonetheless, there is a gap in funding for scaling up successful start-ups. One potential option being suggested is to make changes to the R&D tax credits or patent box claims, taking steps to make it easier for people to claim, reducing the complexity and speeding up the process.

We are interested to see the chancellor’s announcement tomorrow. Stay tuned for further updates.

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

 

 

How Enterprise Social Networking is Changing the Role of Middle Management

Following is a guest blog post from Okappy. A leading market network technology for job management. They share their insight on current trends in social and market network technologies for industry.

When Facebook (or “Thefacebook” as it was then known) originally launched in 2004, it was intended as a small private network for use exclusively by students of Harvard College. Fast forward 13 years, Facebook has two billion users worldwide and has changed the ways in which many of us organise and even carry out our social lives.

Now, building on the fundamentals of social networking sites such as Facebook, enterprise social networks (ESNs) are set to change our working lives in much the same way.

What is Enterprise Social Networking?

Enterprise social networking can be understood as to serve the same purposes as other more recognised forms of social networking, but specifically in application to the working world rather than in a primarily social context.

Joining existing ESNs such as Connections by IBM and Yammer owned by Microsoft, Facebook launched its very own ESN known as Facebook Workplace in October 2016. As reported by Techcrunch, Facebook Workplace has already been adopted by 30,000 organisations in just one year.

Regardless of whether one ESN will eventually reign supreme or whether competing ESNs will continue their coexistence, what is clear is that ESNs are here to stay.

How is Middle Management Affected?

The working department that is arguably set to undergo the greatest transformation by result of enterprise social networking is that of middle management.

As ESNs open up direct channels of communication between senior managers and junior workers, the necessity for middle managers as mediators in hierarchical organisations will be put to question.

However, far more than merely relaying any messages coming from the top of an organisation, middle managers are the people expected to take charge of their working environments—whether online or offline. In directing and moderating an organisation’s use of an ESN, the role of middle management gains new significance as it is brought up to date within the modern working world.

The Changing Role of Middle Management

Middle managers are expected to lead, so the first new task imposed upon them by enterprise social networking is simply to involve themselves in this new form of networking before anyone else.

This may seem a daunting prospect to some of the less technologically minded middle managers out there, but ESNs are designed to be as user friendly as possible. With a little time and energy, anybody can get to grips with how they work. Most of the skills required for an ESN’s operation are also transferrable from more traditional forms of social networking, so middle managers who already use social networks have no excuses.

Once middle managers have set an example for the correct use of an organisation’s ESN, they will ultimately be the people responsible for the ESN’s upkeep. While it’s true that senior managers will have access to an organisation’s ESN, the chances are that they will not have much time to really engage workers on the platform and encourage progress. Naturally, this responsibility will fall to middle management.

Middle managers must actively participate on ESNs, clearly posting targets and inciting discussion. If any workers are unfamiliar with social networking or are struggling to learn the nuances of ESNs on their own accord, then it is down to middle managers to give appropriate support and guidance.

Middle managers can also use the internal analytics provided by ESNs in conjunction with their own professional judgement in assessing adoption rates and the effectiveness of any features that ESNs offer. Where there are failings, middle managers must ask why.

When an ESN has been successfully implemented within an organisation, middle managers will then be able to communicate at any time and in any location with however many workers they wish. Not only does this mean they will be able to give workers real-time updates round the clock, it also means that they will be able to lead remote workforces and not just workers with whom they share office space.

By expanding working environments beyond the physical walls of an office, middle managers will be able to manage larger workforces than ever before.

What to Remember

Despite all the new opportunities made possible by enterprise social networking, perhaps the most important thing for middle managers to do is to not underestimate the value of the face-to-face interaction that they themselves provide.

It can be difficult for workers to trust and put their faith in an organisation that operates entirely online, and workers lose motivation when they can no longer perceive the human element within the organisation they work for. In an increasingly technological era, middle managers are still required to influence and inspire workers in the real world.

Enterprise social networking does not diminish the role of middle management, it simply changes it.

 

—Freddie Kentish, Okappy

 

About the Author: Okappy is a B2B innovative communications and collaborations platform for job management. Okappy combines social and market network technology to communicate and collaborate with employees, subcontractors, across different sites and with different clients. For more insights from them, check out their blog.

 

Bureau Van Dijk Data Innovation Interview

Akoni partnered with Bureau Van Dijk as their products serve us well at various steps of our business. Our main purpose is to help SMEs maximise returns on their cash deposits, quickly, easily and securely. In order to deliver on this business premise, especially the quickly, easily and securely part, Felicia explains that we turn to several of Bureau Van Dijk’s products.

Watch the video to get the full picture.

 

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

Here’s Akoni’s Interview with the Banker

In September, we wrote about our video interview with The Banker.  The Banker, it is part of the Financial Times Group and the interview was held in the Financial Times building.

As promised we give you the video with our CEO Felicia Meyerowitz Singh speaking with Joy Macknight about Akoni. Enjoy, and feel free to contact us if it sparked your interest and you’d like to know more.

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

Latest bank rate changes

Following our update about the Bank of England last week, banks are now increasing their savings and deposit rates to benefit companies with available cash. The leading product alerts include:

Term Deposit Accounts

  • Cambridge & Counties Bank: term: 60 months at 2.20%
  • United Trust Bank: term: 24 months at 1.%
  • United Trust Bank: term: 12 months at 1.45%
  • Yorkshire Bank: term: 6 months at 1.00%

Instant Access Accounts

  • Kent Reliance: 0.90%
  • State Bank of India: 0.75%
  • ICICI Bank United Kingdom: 0.75%
  • The Loughborough Building Society: 0.55%

Notice Accounts

  • Redwood Bank: 95 days notice at 1.35%
  • Money Corp: 90 days notice at 1.31%
  • The Mansfield Building Society: 30 days notice at 1.25%
  • Hodge Bank: 100 days notice at 1.25%

We at Akoni are here to help with any questions you might have and to get your business cash working at maximum capacity. Please get in touch with our team of experts to provide you with access to recommended products.

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

 

Bank of England Rates Rise

All eyes are on the Bank of England this week as we expect them to increase interest rates this Thursday, from 0.25% to 0.5% due to a large rise in consumer credit but also rising inflation and lower growth, mostly due to Brexit.

It remains a difficult decision for the Bank of England. Any rate increase will have a direct impact on private households but also for businesses. When it comes to mortgages, most providers have already started to raise their rates. On the upside, the increase will benefit the cash market by increasing returns on cash deposits. This will make it even more important to generate additional revenues by identifying the best returns offered by the banks. Akoni can assist businesses with that by providing a platform that scans the market for the best rates and cash can then be continuously allocated in a way that will maximise returns. If you are a business saver looking at term deposits we suggest you open accounts just after the Bank of England announcement. This will ensure returns are maximised, with in some cases doubling the income to your company.

A no rate increase would shock the financial market following the build-up and level of expectations. Akoni is following the developments closely.

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