Women on Top: Positive Effects on Business

Democrat candidate for the US presidency, Hillary Clinton, has said in the past that she wants to be known as the “Small Business President”. During her impressive performance on Monday’s extraordinary Presidential Debate, she made it clear that she was determined to make to small business a priority, should she be elected to office. Clinton vowed to make “starting a small business in the United States as easy as opening a lemonade stand”, which certainly spoke to a wide economic sector and a significant voting body.

Clinton has a personal affinity with the small business owner, afterall, her father was one. He owned as small printing business, and it provided for the family. “ When my dad ran his small printing business—he printed drapery fabrics in Chicago—it put food on the table; it gave us a good, solid, middle-class home and lifestyle. And I don’t think it’s old-fashioned to say that’s what I want for every family that wants to work for that here in our country today.”

If she takes over the reigns from Obama, Hillary Clinton’s strategy for promoting the growth and support of small business in the USA will be made up of several exciting features, many of which the UK government can relate to. (see http://www. great business.gov.uk/).

Her strategy includes, briefly: more accessible funding; streamlining the process of the licensing startups; revising taxes for small business; and incentivising healthcare benefits for small business employees; opening up new markets and promoting trade; providing recourse for small businesses that get “stiffed” – or aren’t paid by their dues (Trump is famous for not paying his contractors); by providing incubators and training and support for business owners; and making the government more user-friendly, making a 24-hour response time to small businesses with questions about federal regulations and access to capital programs, standard.

Back on this side of the ocean, Theresa May has been vocal in her support of small business since becoming the UK PM. She recognises that Britain’s 5.4 million small and medium sized businesses provide people with jobs, put food on families’ tables and underpin the strength of our economy and listening to, and working with smaller firms is the answer to building an economy.

Like Clinton, May is keen to promote the global expansion of UK small business elsewhere, and Brexit provides UK small business with a golden opportunity to do just this. “I also want those firms, across all the sectors of our economy, to be able to take advantage of the opportunities presented by Brexit, such as exporting to new destinations.”

The British Prime Minister has recently disbanded the business advisory group, which was set up by Cameron during the 2010 coalition, with a view to making the body more representative. The new members, Number 10 has said, will come from business big and small. This is another example of May showing her support of SMEs, and has been welcomed by small business leaders including the Federation of Small Businesses, saying that they hope for a larger voice now that the Brexit negotiations are taking place.

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Strong women at the top (l – r, above – below): Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon, UK PM Theresa May, Angela Merkel, PM of Germany and US Presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton. (Pic source: http://atlanticsentinel.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Nicola-Sturgeon-Theresa-May-Angela-Merkel-Hillary-Clinton.jpg)

According to a recent new study, a third of British women in business have felt that they had been positively affected by strong women leaders. Clinton, along with PM Theresa May, Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon and Germany’s adept Angela Merkel, amongst others, are having a marked effect on women worldwide – and on business in the UK. Crunch’s operations director, Justine Cobb, said “It’s fascinating to see that the female business community in the UK is feeling buoyed by the rise in female political leaders.”

This group of political heroines are leading by example and this is translating into economic growth in the UK. Backed up by the data collected, Crunch found that the number of women starting their own businesses had grown 42 per cent since 2010, and almost a third of all the new businesses are now founded by women. Obviously, a third is still someway to half, but at least the progress is in an upward direction.

In times of economic uncertainty, it is clear to see how valuable competent role models are, and how they can become catalysts for change in society. With inspired examples of what is possible in one’s sight, it is easier to set positive changes in our personal lives motion. The sooner that female leadership is normalised in society, the better for young girls around the world. Let’s hope that the “Small Business President” becomes just that. The small business community is watching the race for the Oval Office in hope – and with bated breath.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @akonihub or connect with us here.

 

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British SMEs: Beating the Brexit Blues

SMEs were the focus of much attention from both sides of the Brexit campaigns, and there is no surprise why. These businesses are the bedrock – the wheels and cogs – that keep our economy going.

According to government figures, SMEs accounted for 99.3% of all private sector businesses at the start of 2015 and 99.9% were small or medium-sized businesses. SMEs employed 15.6 million – 60% – of all private sector employment in the UK, making their contribution to the economy enormous. Did you know that the combined annual turnover of SMEs was £1.8 trillion or 47% of all private sector turnover in the UK? Rather impressive stats.

As a previous SME owner myself, I must confess that I was absolutely gutted when the Brexit referendum results were revealed, and wondered how many of my fellow SME business owners would be affected by the predictions of a full-on recession.

But what is heartening news is that there have recently been some surprisingly upbeat post-Brexit surveys and barometer results published – it seems that SME owners are rallying against the forecast economic doom and gloom:

According to the September 2016 Owner Managed Business (OMB) Barometer from Bank of Cyprus UK, over half (51%) of business owners and small businesses expect revenues to increase in the next 12 months, with a mere 15% disagreeing.

Commenting on the research findings, Nick Fahy, Chief Executive of Bank of Cyprus UK said that despite the general post-Brexit blues, the UK’s business owners and small businesses remain optimistic about their prospects. There was an immediate reaction to the Brexit news, but that the nation’s vital bedrock of businesses – the shopkeepers, family-owned businesses, the small and medium business owners and the independent traders have remained stable. It was vital that the UK government kept the SMEs in mind when negotiating the best deal with the EU, as to fail to do so would let down the British people.

What was quite noteworthy in the survey, was that 55% of small business owners did not think that the UK’s Brexit trade negotiations would necessarily boost key activities – sales, export, commercial opportunities, customer base and talent pool – for their businesses. It seems that many businesses are UK based and UK focused, while others may be trading/ or planning to expand their business to with non-EU customers.

One could say that the massive fintech revolution that has taken place in the UK could be spurring these statistics on. New York, Singapore, Hong Kong , Australia are the fintech hubs outside the UK, and may be making trade with the EU less vital in that sector.

If the UK government emphasized the positive advantages of trading with the UK, creating incentives such as an attractive tax regime, and geared-to-growth regulations, this would certainly drive this industry forward and set the UK up as a more competitive option than Europe to international traders and investors.

Another huge bonus was that, according to the same survey, a large portion of SME owners (45%) believed that the UK economy was in good shape, with a 28% saying they didn’t agree.So much for the doom merchants and nay-sayers. The overwhelming feeling is that British SME owners are doing what they are best at, and simply carrying on regardless, making the best of the situation.

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So far, so good. Brexit is not having quite the negative effect we thought it would on SMEs. Google Images

In another recent survey  conducted by CitySprint, that over half the SME businesses that thought that their businesses would suffer post Brexit have now changed their minds, and believe in a more positive outcome. Two-thirds of the respondents reckoned they were in a better place than they were this time last year.

The fall in the Pound may have resulted in better exporting deals for SME that trade internationally. This has encouraged overseas buyers to snap up British-made goods, because they are available at a lower price.

City AM also recently reported that two large banks – JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley – had adjusted their outlook to a more positive one, following news that the services purchasing managers’ index (PMI) soared from 47.4 to 52.9 in August. Results below 50 indicate economic contraction – and two consecutive contractions indicate a technical recession. This recent result was an unexpected outcome – and one that showed that the economy is much more resilient than expected.

The two Morgans have now revised their expectations for the UK economy, Morgan Stanley saying that it can now predict that the UK will avoid a technical recession, to grow by 1.9 per cent this year. The bank had previously foreseen the economy shrinking by  0,4% in the third quarter, but it now foresees growth of 0.3 per cent. Which is a very positive result after all Britain has been through.

With more than half a million new businesses being created every year on this little island, we are right up there with the best nations in the world in terms of resilience, innovation and enterprise. As the Brexit blues clear, the doom-mongers are being pushed to the sidelines. Backed by more-positive-than-expected predictions from the financial sector, SMEs have every right to feel buoyant and bullish about the future British economy.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @akonihub or connect with us here.

Andy Murray: Tech Startup Champion

Winning gold for the second time at the Rio Olympics has cemented the Team Great Britain hero’s place in the annuls of sporting icons. The current reigning men’s senior singles Wimbledon champion, has a string of tennis titles to his name, 39 to be precise. He has recently added a title of another kind to his name: that of Advisor in the business of tech startups.

Even if his flag-bearing skills are in question, (and please forgive me, I couldn’t resist including this clip) his business skills certainly aren’t.

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Being a wily Scotsman, Andy Murray (@Andy_Murray) is putting his talent for spotting opportunity to work – only this time it’s off the court – by investing in tech.

“Giving recognition and support to British entrepreneurs is really important to me, especially those who are the driving force behind growth-focused businesses,” Murray said in a statement.

“Every one of these entrepreneurs is passionate and dedicated to succeeding and I’m excited to have invested in their future growth.”

His talent for investing in tech startups has cemented a long-term relationship with Seedrs, where he is an advises on areas of strategic interest, as well as being an active investor himself. The Seedrs platform allows people to invest upwards of £10,000 into companies that they like the look of in exchange for equity.

Murray has invested in fifteen startups to date – with focuses as wide ranging as a dog-tracking GPS device (Dog Tracker Nano), to Beeline – a GPS navigating device and app for cyclists to beauty – blow LTD – a London-based beauty on demand service.

“Andy is a great example of an investor who understands early stage investment and the importance of building a diverse investment portfolio aligned with a wider investment strategy. Seedrs was named the most active investor in private companies in the UK last month, and our continued growth and leading position in the market are testament to our reputation and the support from people like Andy,” said Jeff Lynn, CEO and Co-founder of Seedrs.

If his tennis career is anything to go by, this man is bound to succeed.

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http://businesslife.ba.com/Media/images

He’s been in the game since the tender age of 3, when his mother, Judy, would take him to their local tennis courts in Glasgow. He played in his first competitive tournament at age five and by the time he was eight he was competing with adults in the Central District Tennis League.

The world-ranked number two has competitiveness in his genes – his brother, Jamie is a two-time Grand Slam winner and a Davis Cup champion, currently the world No. 4 doubles player and a former doubles world No. 1. His mum, Judith “Judy” Murray (née Erskine) is a Scottish tennis champ herself, having won 64 titles in Scotland during her junior and senior career.

The young Andy Murray could have easily followed in the footsteps of his maternal grandfather, Roy Erskine, who played professional football for the Hibernian Football Club in the 1950’s – deciding to focus on his tennis career in, despite having been invited to train with Rangers Football Club at their School of Excellence.

In 2012, by beating Novak Djokovic at the US Open, incredible tenacity and grit resulted in Murray being the first British player since 1977 and the first British man since 1936, to win a Grand Slam singles tournament. In 2013, Murray was the first British player to win the Wimbledon Championships, and entrenched his influence over SW19 winning again in 2016, becoming the first British man to win multiple Wimbledon singles titles since 1935.

On or off the court, this man is a true champion who is bound to conquer whatever he turns his attention to, because he has a fiercely competitive will and the work ethic to back this up.

Feature image: http://cdn.crowdfundinsider.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Andy-Murray.png

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @akonihub or connect with us here.

 

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Inspiring Women in Tech Series #1: Lady Judge buys into Tech Startup

“Lady Judge” sounds like a female heroine character from comic book series. She even looks like one – her trademark high-collared immaculately white Victorian style blouse under the tailored black suit. Her blonde hair neatly pinned up. At the same time very feminine and incredible capable – one senses her determination – her undeniable steely strength. The minute I heard of her, I have been fascinated by the brilliant Lady Barbara Thomas Judge, CBE.

A one-time chair of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, her current interests span energy and infrastructure as well as pensions. This Queen B for Business hit the headlines this week in what some would imagine is a surprising move – and one showing hugely positive faith in the future of tech start-ups in the UK. Judge is swapping her position as Pension Protection Fund Chair for another kind of Chair – as the head of 2-month-old UK based start-up, hibob. Thrilled Ronni Zehavi, co-founder and CEO of hibob, says: “Lady Barbara’s track-record in supporting British SMEs and the pension industry is second to none.”

“Small and medium sized businesses are the backbone of our economy,” said Lady Judge. “Yet the daily pressure they face to remain compliant and retain their staff is huge.”

Interestingly, Judge was working as a part-time computer programmer at University in Pennsylvania around 1966. Her influential and well-respected mother, Marcia Singer, worked as associate dean of the New York Institute of Technology. Judge sees her mother as the number one inspiration to the young Barbara Sue Singer. “She… taught women in the 1950s and 1960s that they should work because they have a brain, and that they should earn their own money because money brings independence. She taught me to get back on the horse if I fell off.”

Women are scarce in the lofty boardrooms that Lady Judge has made her territory, and her mission is to encourage women in business to succeed. One way she does this is by making policy to place at least one other woman on the same board, and ideally at least three of them.

On CNN she told Ananpour, “One woman is an oddity, two is ok – but at three you’re not “women”, rather it’s just “people”, and once you’re just people the dynamic changes.” Have a look at this interview with Amanpour on CNN in 2015 – where Lady Judge’s determination to bring more women to the boardroom is made clear:

Watch: CNN Amanpour Lady Judge interview 2015/04/13

Judge has even suggested that business be forced to use quotas (even though she doesn’t agree with quotas, generally) to top up female representation in business boards. “Women are great multi-taskers and very smart. They bring diversity to the board table.”

She strongly advocates that studying science and mathematics is the way forward for women. “A woman can boost her prospects by studying maths or accountancy. If a young woman studies maths, she will earn a third more than if she did not. I studied history and believe I have been playing catch up my whole life.”

In an interview in 2015 with Director Magazine, she said that her aim is to “…die at my desk”.

Well, let’s hope that won’t happen for a very long time!

Heather Greig (These views are entirely my own.)

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @akonihub or connect with us here.

 

And Facebook Just Keeps Growing…

Suddenly there’s a lot of interest in our fintech startup Facebook page – StrongJonesUK.

Have a look here:   fb-art.jpg

What is interesting is that I was under the impression that Facebook was lagging behind other social media platform. It had been “cool” a few years back, but that it had peaked and was now on a plateau, even a slow downward turn.  With Twitter and Linkedin, Instagram, YouTube and all the other platforms heavily in use, it seemed like an “older person’s” (i.e. my friends and I in our early forties) social media network.

Well – Go “older person’s network”!

According to the BBC Business article this morning, Facebook profits are up 186%! They earned $ 2bn (£1.5bn) in the period from April to June 2016, up significantly from the same period last year, which was $ 719m in 2015.

By comparison, Twitter’s MAU increased by just 3% in that period.

The anticipated revenue was $ 5.8bn, but Facebook brought in $ 6.4bn. Mark Zuckerberg was pretty chuffed, as you can imagine.

“Our community and business had another good quarter,” he said, “We’re particularly pleased with our progress in video as we move towards the world where video is at the heart of all our services.”

A year ago I moved to London and left my family, my friends, my colleagues behind. During this week, I was commenting to a friend who was staying in a remote town for business, (over Facebook, as it turns out!), how this particular social medium has been a huge factor in getting over the sense of isolation. I was and am able to tune in to people no matter where they are in the world, and still be a part of their lives. Social Media (and Facebook can take a lot of the credit) has changed the world.

And being social media savvy and banking tech savvy is not an option anymore. You are simply unable to compete if you don’t have access to these platforms.

Banks have their work cut out in trying to adapt and invent products and approaches to deal with the ever-changing demands of their clients. Just the other day, the StrongJones team were thrilled to be invited to compete in the annual BNP Hackathon, proving we are amongst the brainiest 96 startups in the fintech space! The event engrossed teams in eight cities across the world over the weekend of the 17th – 19th June.

And Tech-savvy banking is our game! Our StrongJones financial management for individuals, SMEs and retail is in the Beta stage of it’s growth. At StrongJones we offer up-to-date technology and precise, current banking product information to our customers. It’s really worth test-driving our personalised Savings Marketplace and Digital Dashboard, which, by informing you of the best rates available on the market, help you maximise your cash savings. Drop me a mail if you are interested in joining our Beta Group at heather@strongjones.co.uk

So – I’m not surprised that Facebook has done so well recently – it is still accessible, user-friendly and effective. It has adapted with the times, in fact, has lead the rest in many areas. All I can say is that there may be other platforms out there, but Facebook is still a very user-friendly and Truly Social network for me.

Have a look at StrongJones www.strongjones.co.uk

Go on – Follow and “Like” StrongJones wherever you can find us!

These views are strictly my own.

Heather Greig

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @akonihub or connect with us here.

#UKisOpen to #Business

As we have been advocating at StrongJones, the UK is Open for Business.   As a consistent Top 5 global economic performer, Britain has demonstrated that the full range of business products and services add value to our own domestic market as well as multiple overseas countries.   We are happy that the new Chancellor, Philip Hammond is to showcase Britain’s attractions as a place to invest in a post-EU referendum world.   This will be conveyed at the first gathering of the EU countries’ finance ministers and central bank governors since the referendum.

Hammond’s announcement came hot on the heels of London Mayor, Sadiq Khan’s #LondonIsOpen campaign which launched this week – urging investors and visitors to engage with the city.

220px-Philip_Hammond,_Secretary_of_State_for_Defence Philip Hammond

The chancellor said, “Britain is open for business and one of the most attractive destinations in the world for international investment.‎” The focus is on boosting trade and investment beyond Europe.   Have a look at the catchy #LondonIsOpen campaign video, launched as part of the #LondonIsOpen campaign, below:

Global Business Support for the Campaign

The global trade theme was immediately taken up by new British PM Theresa May, Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, a host of celebrities and major business voices including Sir Richard Branson, Hilton, Merlin Entertainments and Google.   Theresa May was quoted saying, “This is a unique opportunity to take advantage of international trade and business and strengthen our ties across the world culturally as well as financially.

… And a Word for Small Business from the new PM

“Furthermore, small business is the lifeblood of our country and I will do everything I can to maximise opportunities for everyone, not just the privileged few.”

In Britain we are a nation built on solid foundations, and we need to continue with our pragmatic attitude to manufacturing and services, to trade, support small business and function as we did before.  SME’s are part of the future of this nation’s economy. There is now, like never before, a need to create new trade links and to strengthen the old ones.  SME’s are in the “trenches” on the frontline of this new quest, and need all the hope and support from political and other institutions.

With our new StrongJones start-up, we are committed to supporting SME’s. We noticed that many SME’s had hard-earned cash earning next to nothing sitting in Savings Accounts due to the attitude of the high-street banks and their large margins and looked to change this – providing the tools and the marketplace for results.   Our team have all grown businesses and have direct experience working hard on all aspects of operations to deliver returns – teams, our lease, our production and customer services. Yet what should be simple – cash management and cash returns – has somehow become complex and time-consuming due to the way banks work.   We have created a simple solution, all with a few clicks.  The StrongJones platform allows businesses to canvas the markets with tools personalised to their business requirements and cashflow needs.     With our tools we can ensure that these cash Savings will be earning the maximum interest possible — even in times of extreme change.

Sign Up & Join Our Beta Group

We are setting up a Beta user group, and if you’re an SME in the UK with cash currently providing a minimal return, we can add significant value.

With StrongJones, you don’t have to worry about the future of your cash, you can be assured you have taken the best options to maximise your Savings. This differential can enable the business to invest in new technology or projects, or employ that extra person.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @akonihub or connect with us here.

Image from The Telegraph, Google Images

 

 

 

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Banking’s Future as an Information Business

Why Barclays Sees Banking’s Future as an Information Business

Through Gov.UK Verify, Barclays’ customers can use their bank credentials to authenticate themselves to access tax returns and other government services. Simon said the bank is working on an “attributes exchange” that would enable a person to show, using a mobile banking app, that Barclays has verified certain information about them. For example, the app could vouch that a customer is old enough to drink in a pub, so they doesn’t have to show a driver’s license with an exact birthdate, or confirm their last three addresses to a landlord, saving both parties time spent looking up old lease documents or checking references. Offering such a service will make customers more likely to stay with the bank and to use more of its products, Barclays is betting.

Digital services like identity management will be a key for banks to offer as the nature of financial services changes, said Dan Latimore, senior vice president of the banking practice at the research firm Celent. In a world where nonbank firms can offer banking services, traditional financial institutions need to focus on data to offer services or insights that a fintech startup can’t, he said.

“We have been advocating that banks take a look at the treasure trove of data they possess,” he said. “As they come under further attack from fintechs, they have to think about what differentiates them. I think what Barclays is doing is a great example of mobilizing the resources banks have and offering differentiating products and services.”

Though consumers are generally wary of sharing personal information or having their personal data accessed, Latimore noted that in general “they have shown they are willing to give to get. You just have to demonstrate what you are giving them is worthwhile.”

Besides, banks are required to know increasingly more about their customers under stiffening anti-money-laundering regulations. Acting as identity providers, they might spare their customers from having to expose all that personal information to various other parties with weaker data security practices.

In general, the U.K. has put a focus on using financial innovation for consumers’ benefit. In 2014, the government put out a call for evidence on how best to deliver an open standard for application programming interfaces and to ask whether more open data in banking could benefit consumers. The government has since asked the banking and fintech industries to work together on the creation of a framework to introduce an open API and open banking standard in the U.K.

Another service from the new Barclays unit mines individual customers’ spending data to give them insights into their financial habits. Down the line, Simon said, Barclays is looking to offer services pegged to these insights to help customers manage their financial lives. For example, if a customer is spending more on heating and electricity than the average resident in their area, a message in their mobile or online banking may appear asking if they want help switching utility providers. (Customers would have to opt in for these services, Simon said.)

The information group offers services even to noncustomers. For example, the Barclays website offers a Local Insights feature where anyone can type in their U.K. postcode to access an array of local economic data. This can be helpful to small businesses, Simon said, who can examine data such as how much spending on entertainment or eating out residents of their area do.

Giving away this information helps grease the wheels of commerce, which ultimately is good for the banking industry, Simon said. “The more we can use the power of big data to help the economy grow, the better it is for us.” But he acknowledged that the giveaway also serves as soft marketing for the bank to businesses that may need financial services in the future.

“What is the bank of the future?” Simon said. “It’s becoming a data-driven organization that is there to help customers manage their lives.”

http://www.americanbanker.com/news/bank-technology/why-barclays-sees-bankings-future-as-an-information-business-1080128-1.html

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @akonihub or connect with us here.