Leaving the Lab

banks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find out more about the Lab

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

Akoni exhibits at the International Fintech Conference

London
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Panos and Cinthia on the Akoni stand

First International Fintech Conference

Following our success at the Accenture fintech innovation lab and working with a number of key banks, we at Akoni were delighted to be selected to exhibit at the first international conference for global investors, regulators, and UK fintech companies, organised by HM Treasury and the Department for International Trade.

Chancellor, Phillip Hammond, said:

“Britain is the best place in the world to start and grow a fintech company. These events are a great opportunity to show why. The first ever International fintech conference brings together dynamic UK firms with an exciting vision of the future, and global investors who can support their future growth.”

Over 100 UK fintech companies were represented, with investors attending from every continent. Akoni was one of the few early stage machine B2B fintechs selected.

Asia is seen as the most exciting destination for market expansion and the UK government is working with India to create a fintech Bridge to serve China, Singapore and other markets.

Our Head of Finance & Analytics, Cinthia Danove, said: “The Department for International Trade are making huge efforts to bring Chinese money into UK, and we saw many Chinese funds walking around. UK regulators are the only ones that have Innovation as part of their mandate. They are outstanding at doing that.”

IFTC2017 2Speakers on the packed agenda included:

  • Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer
  • Mark Carney, Governor, Bank of England
  • Simon Kirby MP, Economic Secretary to the Treasury
  • Eileen Burbidge, HM Treasury’s Special Envoy for FinTech
  • Alastair Lukies, Founding Partner, Motive Partners & Prime Minister’s Business Ambassador – FinTech

We also heard from representatives of TransferWise, Funding Circle and HSBC, as well as many more.

We learned that Barclays plans to open a fintech flagship Hub next month, with 500 workspaces for startups, further cementing London as a leading fintech powerhouse.

The event was held in London on 12 April as part of a whole week dedicated to UK fintech, aiming to promote the success of the sector and attract more investment. To find out more, please follow #IFTC2017 on Twitter, visit internationalfintechconference.com or watch the video below.

UK is number one in fintech

The UK has been rated the number one global fintech hub twice in the last year. With a workforce of 600,000, the sector adds almost £7 billion to the economy each year. UK fintech is really shaking up the competition and challenging more established players to up their game – resulting in improved services to customers.

We’re proud to play a part in this revolution.

Akoni highlights to date

Large companies can pay for treasurers and treasury management systems. Akoni uses technology so that smaller businesses and SMEs can get the same benefits, but without the cost. By acting as a hub between business and banking partners, Akoni disrupts traditional banking and benefits businesses.

CEO and co-founder, Felicia Meyerowitz Singh, explains: “Scientific tools are changing the way we work in financial services, right down to conventional cash management activities that are traditionally based on Excel and TMS. Akoni plans to be a key leader and driver in delivering these changes. At last, corporates and SME businesses have access to similar facilities as global institutions do.”

The platform is also available to banks on a white-label basis, leveraging emerging Open Banking standards to provide game-changing liquidity management, customer stickiness and cost savings.

Deputy Chairman, Yann Gindre, says: “SME cash is currently non-profit making for banks, so Akoni could be a game changer.”

Having delivered cash portfolio optimisation, the Akoni R&D team are in the process of building groundbreaking cash prediction capabilities, leveraging statistical forecasting combined with Machine Learning and Neural Networks. This provides SMEs with more accurate predictions of their future cashflows as well as in-depth analytics, personalised insights and tailored prompts, aligned to their own accounting and forecasts.

CTO and co-founder, Panos Savvas, says: “Akoni will leverage data science and machine learning to forecast cashflows. By recognising historical patterns and categorising transactions, Akoni will create more accurate forecasts for SMEs and businesses.”

Having successfully completed our second round of seed investment, we have progressed to live product launch. The investment round is led by our Chairman, Duncan Goldie-Morrison, previously Chairman of Newedge Limited; CEO Credit Agricole The Americas and Head of Global Markets Group and Asia, Bank of America.

We’re also proud that Akoni was selected as a finalist of the Accenture fintech innovation lab in London, leading fintech startups in Retail Banking, working with large global banks including RBS, Lloyds, HSBC, Barclays, etc, and presented amongst the top three retail stream fintech startups.

The government is planning another international fintech conference in October. We look forward to taking part there too.

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

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Akoni selected for the Accenture Fintech Innovation Lab

The Akoni team is excited to announce we are one of five Retail Banking fintech startups selected for the Accenture Fintech Innovation Lab in London, amongst the cohort of twenty across categories including CIB, Insuretech and Tech4Tech.    The Lab is a three month accelerator and mentorship programme uniting fintech startups with global financial services institutions, including HSBC, Barclays, RBS, Lloyds Banking Group, Citibank, Santander, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, amongst others.      The programme focuses on meeting the top execs and decision-makers at partner banks as well as legal, pitching and proof of concept mentoring.

Further information on the programme and the other startups selected can be found at https://newsroom.accenture.com/news/fintech-innovation-lab-london-kicks-off-largest-programme-in-its-five-year-history.htm

The Akoni team is ensconced in our new offices, and surrounded by an awesome environment and passionate teams, with the bonus of incredible London views.    We are looking forward to the acceleration of the experience!    Our team is working on several product releases and collaborating with various new partners over the next few months, aiming to deliver value for the UK’s 5.3 million businesses!   We are already thoroughly enjoying the shared experiences with other startups, the awesome Accenture lab team and our mentors and banks.

About Akoni:

Akoni is an innovative fintech startup which aims to improve financial outcomes for businesses while at the same time providing banks with benefits including customer loyalty and increased margin through Basel III LCR reductions.

The Akoni platform is a digital cash treasury manager and uses technology and data science to provide customers a cash portfolio manager, business marketplace which is updated daily, and personalised cash report and dashboard, as well as innovative cashflow projection tools including algorithm-based allocations, automated monitoring and utilising statistical techniques and neural networks for projection outcomes.

Akoni’s chairman and lead investor, Duncan Goldie-Morrison, is a seasoned banking CEO and Chairman. Mr. Goldie-Morrison  was previously CEO of The Americas Credit Agricole CIB, Head of Global Markets and Asia, Bank of America, Chairman of Newedge Group SA and Newedge UK, President Ritchie Capital Management and Director Kleinwort Benson Bank. The business is further supported by the Deputy Chairman, Yann Gindre, previously CEO of Natixis UK and the Americas and financial services veteran.

Founder and CEO, Felicia Meyerowitz Singh, explains: “Scientific tools are changing the way we work in financial services, right down to conventional cash management activities that are traditionally based in Excel.  Akoni plans to be a key leader and driver in delivering these changes. At last, corporates and SME businesses have access to similar cash management facilities to institutions with in-house treasurers and Treasury management systems. We are delighted to be part of the Accenture fintech lab, working with people and organisations of such calibre and looking forward to the programme innovation drive for our business.” 

Banking sector undergoes disruption

The UK banking sector is already facing a range of issues, including ‘banking as a service’, ongoing cost reduction pressures, opportunities and challenges as a result of CMA requirements, open APIs and PSD2, and the Challenger Banks bringing a new approach to services and customer solutions. Businesses are part of this change, with the latest Accenture 2020 SME Banking report showing that 70% of businesses are prepared to pay non-banking customers for financial services.

To date, fintech innovation has been focused primarily on consumer banking for B2C and lending for B2B. Now, for the first time, Akoni brings technology benefits to UK SMEs and businesses for cash treasury management, with further business products planned in future roadmap.

For more information, please contact Felicia@akonihub.com

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

Onwards and Upwards: StrongJones renames itself Akoni

There are many advantages to being involved in the very first stages of a startup: the buzz of pitching to potential investors; the pressure to innovate and invent new and improved product on a regular basis; the kick of meeting new recruits to the Dream pretty much every time you see each other. You form a formidable posse knowing that each of you has a common belief in the vision of your startup’s success.

Ours is a startup company in the earliest phase of development. The idea behind the business is feasible – we’ve proved that with our model works well: we’ve identified our target market, and it looks promisingly large enough to sustain a business – in fact the more research we do, the better it looks. No doubt changes will be made and pretty much every aspect of the company will be revised and reviewed many times until perfected, but the point is, the ball is in motion, and it’s direction is being determined by our little team. 

As part of the development process, we’ve been trying out names for our startup. We’ve all been looking at the market reactions to the original name, StrongJones, and we’ve been engaging in much “new name” banter. This has lead to much team hilarity, as you can imagine – but it has also lead to much thought about our brand essence, and where we are heading.

As a consequence, it has been unanimously decided that StrongJones no longer suits us, we have moved on. Our target market is More in so many ways. We need a name that is more inclusive – more accessible and more current, after all our target market is professional, money-savvy, forward thinking and innovative.

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OLD LOGO AND NAME: StrongJones is being replaced with the more up-to-date name, “Akoni”

 Out with the old, and in with the new

We have decided on “Akoni” as our new business name (in case you were wondering, Akoni is pronounced: [ 3 syll. a-ko-ni, ak-oni ] ahKOW-Niy- †). Akoni is often used in the Hawaii as a name derived from the longer version Akonani – however its language of origin is Latin, it being a variant form of the English male name Anthony. Akonani, Akoni and Anthony all mean (more or less) the same thing: “inestimable or priceless”.

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NEW LOGO AND NEW NAME: Akoni means “Invaluable”

Akoni has been born out of a real need to help SME owners to find a better way to maximise the cash savings they have worked so hard to accumulate. The driven and experienced team is headed up by Felicia Meyerowitz Singh, no stranger to the finance world. Felicia, chief tech genius, Panos Stavvos, and experienced banking industry advisor, Yann Gindre, met whilst studying at London Business School, and have managed to set up an experienced and skilled team, bringing in Duncan Goldie-Morrison as the chairman. One could hardly wish for a better grouping of capable business brains whose combined extensive experience covers global and UK banking, insurance, financial accounting and systems and technology, data analysis and especially SME businesses.

So – watch out for the next steps in our Akoni evolution. This is a startup now – but just you wait. Akoni will make an enormous difference to SME businesses across the UK – and further afield – in the near future. In the meantime, the team behind the new name will keep those innovative ideas coming, because they’re passionate about making Akoni a success.

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

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6 Reasons Why Professionals Want to Work at SMEs

Statistics show that the SME sector continues to grow: 58.3% of small companies plan to take on staff over the next six months, up from 56.7% last year and just 48.9% the year before. There is no doubt that the future of business rests on the bedrock of upcoming SME’s. Small companies are vital to the economy’s growth – and even more so now after Brexit. It is not surprising, therefore, that the perks of working for a small business are being noticed by the best of the jobseekers.

When Linkedin conducted its latest Job Job Satisfaction Survey, it found that 87% of professionals that took part were keen to work for a startup or small business (employing 10 or less than 10 employees), rather than at larger companies. The survey questioned more than 10,000 professionals and over 3,500 employers worldwide. 

There were some surprises amongst the statistics: the survey found that 45% employees of small businesses were Very Satisfied or Fulfilled at work; that SME’s had some of the most loyal employees possible – 3 out of ten 10 wanted to stay where they were for the rest of their lives. Just over one in three small business employees were willing to take a wage cut to work at a startup or small business, and 77% say they would recommend their small business to their friends and family as an employer.

It was found that being able to align one’s values with one’s employers values was crucial to job satisfaction. Salary and promotional opportunities are key motivators for professionals today. Another major factor was work/ life balance (see our previous blog on this) which topped the list – even before salary – for people over 40.

So – why is it so desirable to work for a startup or small business?

1. Small business are perceived as being more flexible – “more human” – when it comes to making demands on their employees. If one is part of a small team, each member matters more – to get employees performing at their best, it is important that they are supported in their work. Working from home, flexible hours, bringing kids or dogs to work – there is often a way of making challenges into advantages for the business and the employee, with a bit of creative thinking.

2. Get ahead – much faster. Because each person in a small company is relied upon from the get go,  taking on further responsibility as the company expands, and therefore your rise through the ranks is quicker. Your talents are also more noticeable because there aren’t another hundred of you doing the same job.

3. Hard, but satisfying work: It goes without saying that you are expected to produce the goods – and often for less – but there are such great rewards. To be involved at the start of a small business is always a good thing – you will ride the wave of success, and be a part of the financial wealth when that comes.

4. Culture fix: Most small businesses are very picky when it comes to new employees – and for good reason. Apart from having to have the appropriate skill set, the candidate also needs to fit into the company culture. Creativity and genius flows in a safe place to innovate and conceptualize – and everyone’s different personalities need to gel, for maximum results. Each company has it’s own quirks and fitting in comfortably with these are essential.

5. Broaden your skill set: In small companies there is more likelihood of learning new skills and possibly even working across different departments. Sometimes everyone needs to “muck in” to finish a presentation for a deadline or cover for someone who is off on leave. You’ll see how the business operates as a whole, and develop transferable skills.

6. You can make a big difference: In an a small business it is hands-on. The chance to grow and to be there as the company develops, is exciting. Many people feel satisfied in their jobs at SME’s because they’re able to see real, tangible results of their work.

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Small business may be the most attractive employment option to professionals, yet it struggles to reach the right talent. Social media and an online presence can help boost your profile in the right places in order to overcome this challenge. Image: Pexels.com

Interestingly, SME owners who took part in the same survey said that they found it difficult to attract the talent they need, because of competition from larger organisations in the job market. They battled to become noticed.

Many SME’s don’t have a specific brand – they often grow fast and are so busy managing this, that their very persona is never honed. This is an essential step in the growth of a successful small business – if you don’t know who you are – what your authentic core values are – how are customers or top drawer job-seeking professionals going to find you? Providing happy employees the brand marketing tools to sing your praises over social media, small businesses can really make an impact in all the right areas.

Times are changing – a grand job title is not much of a motivator any more. Compensation, work-life balance and opportunities for advancement rank as the three major motivators amongst job-hunters. They want to be contributors who can make a positive impact on a business, hopefully learning new skills in the process. That is why SME’s are attracting the talent they deserve, and shall continue to do so.

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.

Cashflow Tips for Your Expanding SME

As an owner of a small business for over ten years, I’ve seen my fair share of cash flow crises. It’s the one thing that all small and medium (and large) business owners experience somewhere along the line, and dread.

Here are some tips we’ve compiled to help SME business owners plan ahead, and may help avoid the cash flow crunch:

ONE: Cash Flow Forecasting

The first thing to do is to predict where and when the business’s cash is coming in to cover what is going out, and make some profit on the side. Imagine if a client didn’t pay on time and plan for that. Set realistic earnings targets a year into the future, planning ahead week by week. List your SME’s income and expenditure on a spreadsheet, taking factors such as the peaks and troughs of trade, the overhead costs of running the office during the various seasons and staff leave, amongst other factors, into account.

TWO: Accounting Software

Cloud based tools allow SME’s to scale up and migrate their software as the company grows. Depending on your business profile, some of the most popular cloud-based tools out there are Xero, Freshbooks, Quickbooks and Sage, which provide solutions that are affordable and easy to use. They feature time-saving features such as automated entries, invoicing, bill payments, expense reports, financial reports and reconciliations – all key to keeping your cashflow fluid.

THREE: Strong Business Process

By definition, a business process is an activity or set of activities that will accomplish a specific organizational goal. Ensuring that your business has a strong business process, and is focussed on growth and  financial success makes the company more streamlined and efficient – which will translate directly to  your cashflow, as you will be getting the maximum out of your company to earn the best turnover for the least amount of input possible.

Ensure fiscal control by segregating duties in the financial department –  i.e. separate people working on the bank reconciliations and invoice billing.  If the SME is small, the business owner should always check the bank reconciliation, making sure they keep up to date with company finances. Enhance the business process by, for example, integrating CRM programmes that facilitate and streamline one’s marketing and client relations strategy, or by using cloud based invoicing which link your marketing and sales teams.

FOUR: Optimal Payment Terms

Always remember that your clients have different business priorities to your company’s. The longer they can delay paying your company, the better for their business. Negotiate terms with your clients that suit both sides – and bargain hard. On long-term projects, explore progress payments, never accept back-to-back payments (you get paid when the client gets paid) and make sure you are getting the most agreeable terms possible from your suppliers. Negotiate the best deal woith suppliers, but keep them on your side by settling their bills within their terms too. Business is all about relationships, and building up a loyal supply base is one of the secrets to success.

Offering clients incentive to pay early is a good way to ensure bills are settled timeously – small discounts or free delivery for early payment goes a long way to fostering good client relations, and getting the payments in quicker.

Make sure that you are using the most cost effective manner of payment – bank charges on card transactions can be steep, online payments may take days to clear – ultimately you need something to investigate the most effective payment method for your business needs.  You can speak to your bank relating to the most efficient services provided and the costs per transaction.

coffee-cup-mug-deskFIVE: Funding Your SME

When your business needs funding, the first place to go is the high street banks -still the largest funding source for SME’s. There are also a number of challenger banks out there, offering great deals. Should you need alternative funding sources, then consider  financing though companies like TradeRiver or FundingCircle (who provide a thirty second eligibility check, with no impact on your credit rating, and has a £60million facility via the government-back British Business Bank) or BoostCapital (online application and an answer within 24 hours, with access to the funds within two days).

SIX: Deliver the Goods

Make sure the customer has no excuses not to pay. Deliver a good quality product, on time and within the brief. Realise that without customers you don’t have a reason to exist. Customer complaints should be taken seriously as these will alert you to problems that could indicate a serious leak in your cash flow. Disputes hold up payments, which leads to cash flow problems.

Listen to your clients – if they have suggestions to improve your User Journey, or your product, implement them. You should see the difference in your bottom line. Ask your happy customers to write company review on TrustPilot or Which.co.uk or s similar website. Good reviews are what drive sales. Sales translate into cash. Regular cash coming in helps your cash flow.

SEVEN: Make Your Cash Work

SME business savings are often a blindspot when it comes to the banks, and now there are an increasing number of alternative savings accounts out there that are tailored towards the SME market. If you have your business’s cash savings stored in a savings account earning next to nothing, we at StongJones suggest you shop around for a better deal. There are many banks such as Investec, ICIC, SBI as well as the challenger banks which are offering competitive rates. There is a growing awareness amongst financial institutions of the need to cater for SME’s, recognising that they are the future of business in the UK.

Finally…

Being an SME owner comes with many challenges. Well known businessman and entrepreneur Sir David Tang once said that the three most dreaded words in the English language were “Negative Cash Flow “. However, if one can get the basics right, and gets a good operating system in place, then your business has a far better chance of surviving the first few crucial years, and will be well prepared for future expansion.

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 #3: Eileen Burbidge, MBE

Eileen Burbidge (@eileentso) has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. “I saw really smart people get nothing but others who hit the jackpot — even though they weren’t that hard-working but because they had timed it right. One of my guiding principles now is that the best you can do is try to increase your exposure to luck and recognise lucky options.”

One can be presented with opportunities, but securing them is another talent altogether. Describing herself as an “accidental venture capitalist”, Ms Burbidge credits her progress with being naturally curious and adventurous, her workaholic tendencies, good communication skills and quick thinking.

Her Chinese parents (her father was an engineer and her mother worked in finance) instilled in her a tough work ethic from an early age. In an article by Ben Rooney, Eileen says that she couldn’t see what the big fuss about Tiger Moms was. She laughs now, but said that she thought that was how everyone was raised. “My parents had this view that they had to work much harder than non-immigrants. They impressed the same view upon us as kids. ‘You are not going to get the breaks when anyone looks at you,’ they would say, ‘so you have to prove that you belong there.’

In the US, for Burbidge, the fact that she was a woman was secondary to the fact that she was ethnically different. “I have had more to prove, and more to overcome, looking Chinese, than I have for being female. I grew up thinking that if I were white, I could do whatever I wanted. I thought white girls had it easy. It never even occurred to me that white girls would say they were disadvantaged.

As one can imagine, Burbidge is passionate about being a great example of how women can thrive in the tech world. She says that women should use the fact that they are a minority to their advantage  – “being conspicuous can be an opportunity to stand out“, and revels in memories about when she has been in meetings as a token female and has ended up flooring the men around the table with her intelligent contributions. She has said many times that being a woman has not been a hinderance to her in this field, and that in fact it is an industry where you can create whoever you want to be behind the computer screen.

Eileen-Burbidge

Burbidge studied computer science at the University of Illinois, “before it was trendy”, and started her career in San Francisco working for a telecoms company. This was the start of the tech boom in Silicon Valley and she rode the tech boom wave, becoming Market Development Manager at Apple Computer. Between 1996 and 2003, Burbidge lived the life, likening the atmosphere in Silicon Valley to Wall Street in the 70’s. She moved across to London in 2004, thinking that gaining international experience would be a good idea, expecting to return to the US after 2 years. Lucky for London, she stayed. “It’s so much more fulfilling to work in tech in the UK because it is earlier in its life cycle and you can shape it more.

Her career path took her to iconic tech companies which were relatively new – Skype, Yahoo and Ambient Sound Investments. She went on to co-found White Bear Yard with Stefan Glaenzer and Robert Dighero, who became her partners at Passion Capital, a leading early-stage technology and internet VC firm, which was launched in 2011.

Apart from working at Passion Captial, Eileen acts as board director for DueDil, Digital Shadows, wireWAX, Lulu and other portfolio companies. When assessing potential startups to invest in, her criteria for possible  are rather interesting: be friendly to the receptionist. Relationships are important. People are your company. How you treat people is vital. Burbidge looks for dedicated individuals who are willing to put in the hours and the passion required to make a success of their ideas.

The London tech scene has exploded, with the digital economy growing a third faster than the UK economy as a whole. Earlier this year, the Tech City cluster of businesses reported that 1.56 million people were employed in digital companies in the UK, with 328,000 of those in London.Digital is already 10 per cent of UK GDP and it is forecast to be 15 per cent in 2017… (It’s) the sector with the greatest job creation compared to the national average and we have 10 times as much venture financing coming into London tech as we had five years ago…. it’s fantastic that the Government has recognised it — economic growth is consistent with its mantra as a government but also in terms of job creation.” 

Listen to Eileen Burbidge being interviewed by TechCrunch here:

Despite the Brexit vote, Burbidge remains positive. The UK, and London “remains the biggest tech centre in Europe and continues to attract the best talent and companies from all over the world. These are attractive factors for any investor and there will be plenty of opportunities for investment in the coming months and years ahead,” she responded to a recent report by the investment database Pitchbook for London & Partners, the promotional body for the London Mayor’s office.

With the passionate-about-tech Eileen Burbidge here as Chair of TechCity UK, as HM Treasury’s Special Envoy for FinTech and Tech Ambassador for the Mayor of London.our official Tech Ambassador – are we surprised the message for UK’s tech scene’s future is a bright one?

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

 Featured photograph by Techworld.com

 

 

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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.