Dáire Ferguson, CEO, AvaTrade
The last few years have provided us with a series of unpredictable political and social events that have led to high levels of volatility in the stock markets. In the past four years alone, we have witnessed the Brexit vote in 2016, the inauguration of Donald Trump’s presidency in 2017, and a global pandemic in 2020. In each case, these events have gone against expectations and provoked wild market movements.
These are certainly challenging times, but current events offer traders equipped with the right knowledge and tools an opportunity to profit handsomely. Of course, volatility is a double-edged sword: traders can just as easily incur losses. So how can they capitalise on the opportunities while managing risk and protecting their assets?
Why volatility is lucrative
When we consider recent events that have impacted the global stock markets, traders have been given an abundance of opportunities to capitalise on the volatility. Stock prices for companies have risen and fallen astronomically owing to the far-reaching effects of the pandemic, where some have coped better than others.
Social media is one area where investment is particularly interesting because these companies are liable to grow rapidly. For example, despite already being well-established as one of the social media giants, Twitter saw its shares almost triple in value on the AvaTrade platform between July 2018 and July 2019 jumping from just above US$15 to a peak of around US$45.
When we consider recent weeks, traders could have made a generous profit on Snapchat had they bought its shares ahead of the announcement that it would stop promoting posts from US President Donald Trump. Following this announcement towards the end of June, Snapchat’s shares shot up 11% on the AvaTrade platform.
The other side of the coin
On the other hand, not all tech-based companies are finding it easy at the moment. Uber was one of the most falling stocks in the same week as Snapchat rose, dropping by 8.3%. Taxi services have understandably struggled during lockdown, so this is more than likely to be the reason for Uber’s decrease. The ride-hailing company also issued a statement around this time that all passengers need to wear facemasks which, although an admirable safety measure, may have contributed further to its drop in market value, as other taxi companies have not followed suit.
It can be relatively easy to read market reactions in hindsight, as we’ve done here. But doing so in the moment is far harder. Traders could conceivably have purchased stocks in Uber following the face mask announcement in the belief that this decision would encourage better consumer trust in the company and increase its worth. As we have seen, however, traders would have stood to make a significant loss on this call.
Undoubtedly, market volatility can be lucrative, but being able to manage risk is also critical.
How to protect assets
While an ear to the ground and a good nose for market movements will serve traders well, not everyone can rely on years of experience, nor can they necessarily be confident in any given situation, particularly given the unpredictability of today’s markets. To address these worries a number of risk management tools have been entering the field, offering an extra layer of security for traders. These tools can be useful for both experienced traders wanting to execute strategies in riskier climates and those relatively new to the trading world looking for additional support.
There are a number of different forms of protection available to traders. For instance, AvaTrade is one of a number of brokers that offer “take profit” and “stop loss” orders. These see traders define price points at which the system will automatically sell their asset in order to lock in profits or cut losses. This can be a valuable tool for ensuring traders make rational decisions and don’t hold onto positions for too long, risking a favourable position going sour or a bad position getting worse.
Other tools, such as AvaTrade’s AvaProtect, even go so far as to offer total protection against loss for a defined period. This approach sees the trader simply check a box to take out protection on an asset in exchange for a small fee based on the size and risk of the position. This means that if a strategy does not perform as well as initially expected, traders can recover any and all losses on the trade, minus the initial cost of taking out the protection.
As with every sector, advancements in technology continue to evolve in the trading space and, with access to the right tools, traders can feel confident that they can profit from the market without taking on too much risk.
Certainly, 2020 will continue to be a tumultuous and challenging year, especially economically. Upcoming political events, such as the US elections and a possible Brexit trade deal later in the year, combined with the ongoing impact of the coronavirus, are likely to keep triggering market shifts. For traders – armed with the tools to keep a tight grip on risks – this will mean further opportunities to profit.
DON’T RISK IT ALL WITH NON-COMPLIANCE
By Paul Sleath, CEO at PEO Worldwide
Did you know non-compliance costs more than twice the cost of maintaining or meeting compliance requirements?
Yet, companies continue to overlook proper compliance procedures, choosing to ‘wing it’ or do it on a shoestring budget instead.
We get it. Today’s business owners have a multitude of priorities to juggle, top of which is turning a profit and growing. When you’re focusing on driving success, compliance can easily fall by the wayside.
But success is of little consequence if a government entity dissolves your company because you failed to comply with certain legal requirements.
Keeping on top of regulations
In the corporate world, compliance involves adhering to a wide range of laws and standards designed to protect your employees, customers and other stakeholders — and generally making sure you “do the right thing”.
No matter what industry or type of business you work in, compliance is a big deal. But when you’re looking to expand your operations into markets all over the world, it’s an entirely different ballgame.
As you grow and move into new jurisdictions, you’ll encounter a whole host of new regulations — from tax returns and statutory filing to international employment rules about payroll — and face much higher compliance costs than operating solely in one location.
Many countries require that filings and contracts are made in the local language and change their regulations frequently. Without a contact on the ground, it can be difficult to keep up. Each country will also have its own authorities and governing bodies to deal with.
For example, in the US, you have the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to contend with while companies operating in the UK will need to comply with the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) standards.
Compliance across borders
The point is, no two countries are the same, and when you’re trying to operate across multiple locations, things can get messy.
Late filing in Denmark could lead to your company being dissolved within a few months. In Serbia, the tax regulations are so confusing that many companies have taken to paying extra tax where they have no liability just to ensure they don’t get stung with any penalties.
If you’re expanding into Spain, it’s worth knowing that terminating employee contracts is notoriously tricky, and you’ll have to budget for a severance fee (which equates to 33 days of salary per employment year).
In Singapore, you’ll be responsible for sending the monthly payment (including both yours and the employee’s respective contributions) to the Central Provident Fund (CPF) — a key pillar of the country’s social security system. This payment has to be sent by the 14th of the following month.
A couple of notable points to bear in mind if you’re expanding into Germany is that employees can only be leased for a maximum of 18 months. After this, you must hire them permanently or let them go. Chain leasing is also prohibited, meaning the company holding the licence must contract directly with the party receiving the labour.
And if you’re global expansion journey is taking you down under to Australia, you’ll need to pay a Fringe Benefit Tax (FBT) if you’re providing certain benefits to your employees — even if a third party provides them.
Without this knowledge of local regulations, you quickly (albeit unintentionally) run the risk of non-compliance and find yourself on the wrong side of the law.
So, what could happen if you don’t comply?
There’s no way around it, if you fall foul of compliance, you’ll end up paying for it — one way or another.
Penalties come in multiple forms. The most common penalties for non-compliance are fines, which may be levied against the company or individual directors.
However, one of the most financially damaging events a company faces is having their products blocked at the border or being forced to destroy merchandise due to compliance issues. In some cases, non-compliance can even result in the mandatory closure of ALL operations within that country or imprisonment of the directors.
Even if your organisation is not given an actual penalty, the inconvenience and costs of righting the mistake, damage to the company’s reputation and possible loss of contracts could prove disastrous.
But the highest cost of non-compliance is business disruption. When found to be non-compliant, you may be forced to implement changes before business can resume, which can have a knock-on effect on other areas of your organisation.
Whether you’re looking for a PEO in the UK, US, Spain or Singapore, compliance should be your top priority. So, it’s worth seeking the help of a Global PEO with local knowledge of your chosen country to ensure you always remain on the right side of international employment laws.
That’s where we come in. At PEO Worldwide, we ensure you remain compliant at all times by taking full responsibility for hiring, contracts, employee benefits, payroll and termination if needed. To find out more about our global employment services, don’t hesitate to get in contact.
FOR PE TO SNAP UP “GOOD” COMPANIES, THEY MAY NEED TO WADE INTO “BAD” ECONOMIES
By Martin Soderberg, Partner at SPEAR Capital
There’s no shortage of global challenges for investors currently, especially for those concerned with private equity (PE). PE and risk managers with their fingers on the pulse are turning to often overlooked opportunities in emerging markets. As Martin Soderberg discusses, while there are arguably higher levels of risk associated with such investments, the key is being able to identify good companies – and some of these may be found in bad economies.
While the current state of global markets and the enduring pandemic are anything but favourable for fundraising, some estimates indicate that up to $2.5 trillion in unutilised capital was sitting in PE houses globally earlier this year, simply waiting for the tide to turn. The McKinsey Private Markets Review 2020 reveals that $1.47 trillion of investor capital was deployed through the PE asset class globally in 2019. This represents impressive growth of private market assets under management by 10% for the year, on the back of total growth of 170% for the past decade. While, as any risk or asset manager will tell you, past performance is no guarantee of future results, the existing levels of available capital (if prudently allocated) have the potential to extend this decade of growth through the COVID-19 storm.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has already announced that it expects global growth to contract by 3% for 2020, representing a revised downgrade of 6.3 percentage points from January 2020. The IMF concluded that a revision of such magnitude over such a short period is an indication that the world is in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression and in a far worse position than during the Global Financial Crisis of 2009. While some would argue that investment in any country is potentially unstable in the current recession – evidenced by prices in investor safe havens such as gold skyrocketing to all-time highs, almost testing the $2,000 level this week – stability exists within key sectors such as healthcare and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs). This was exemplified late last year through Nigerian edtech learning platform uLesson’s closing of a $3.1 million seed-level round led by TLcom Capital, to address infrastructure and learning gaps in Africa’s education sector.
Population growth and urbanisation typically drive consumption in these and other sectors. Sub-Saharan Africa has experienced growing numbers of first-time migrants into cities and leading economic nodes, with pre-COVID estimates that 50% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s population will be living in cities by 2030. In addition, burgeoning middle classes and the younger populations of developing nations is resulting in increasing levels of disposable income. At a media briefing in June, however, the IMF projected that Sub-Saharan Africa’s economy will contract 3.2% in 2020 – double the contraction forecast earlier in April. FMCGs will have taken a knock across all markets and varying recovery periods, which also ought to be borne in mind. So PE firms need to revise their approaches to investor engagement, strategy and transparency to convince, secure and guide investor capital into emerging markets presently.
Finding the right quality asset
There is of course a definite need for macro analysis of the country your investment or acquisition target is stationed in. Along with the six different forces macro environments typically consist of – namely Demographic, Economic, Political, Ecological, Socio-Cultural, and Technological – under the current coronavirus circumstances additional consideration by investors and risk managers also needs to be given to the COVID-19 policies and responses being implemented by the countries these companies operate within, as well as the fiscal measures being implemented. Although these are particularly complicated and extraordinary variables to attempt to measure, their impact on GDP contraction as well as debt-to-GDP ratios within the countries concerned can potentially be forecast in the short- to medium term.
With this in mind, it’s worth identifying scalable entities with realistic potential for regional expansion where instilling a balanced measure of operational and strategic influence is possible at management and board levels. A recent example is PE firm Mediterrania Capital Partners, which focuses on growth investments in SMEs and mid-cap companies in North and sub-Saharan Africa, acquiring a stake in Akdital Holding, which operates five clinics in Morocco.
It’s important that liquidity management takes precedence over solvency, which often serves as an indication of top line growth. At the same time, one must also take into account worst-case scenarios within the markets one is investing in and plan accordingly for crisis scenarios, such as debt, liquidity options and operational costs that can be scaled back.
In addition, micro and macro risk management should be thorough, particularly in light of escalating trade wars between developed nations and instances of seemingly nationalistic legislation being passed that may be unfavourable to specific emerging markets and spur further GDP contraction. Furthermore, evaluation of local political risk and the potential for obstruction or intrusion at investment and operational levels should be borne in mind.
The lockdown conditions associated with COVID-19 have also significantly impacted logistics planning and provision, across borders to neighbouring states as well as overseas. Furthermore, we’re in a period of increased currency volatility which has a knock-on effect on export and import potential. However, such limitations create broader opportunities for PE firms to generate further value by concentrating greater focus on ESG in the markets in which they already operate. Such focus is typically undervalued, yet has the potential to generate greater revenue while ultimately attracting further investment – providing firms are willing to transparently evidence tangible progress..
PE and foreign direct investment scepticism
When entering and engaging with companies that have scalable investment potential in emerging markets, one should expect varying degrees of caution by companies in emerging markets, which is sometimes misinterpreted as protectionism. Historical injustices in many Sub-Saharan nations have understandably dented local confidence in foreign direct investment. Furthermore, companies will be wary of recurring instances where opportunistic investments by PE entities rendered relatively worthwhile returns for investors but created debt rather than any genuine value for the company concerned.
Therefore transparency and the ability to wear your PE credentials on your sleeve is paramount, such as evidence of accelerated revenue growth, increased capital expenditures and expanded profit margins in the financial reporting of your existing portfolio. If your portfolio is little more than smoke and mirrors designed to conceal debt as well, slowing revenue growth or capital expenditure as a percentage of sales declined and little evidence of revamped strategies and additional management perspective, then you’re setting yourself up to fail.
There will be continuing debate for some time to come as to whether reluctance to invest in emerging markets will be a PE stumbling block, given the hunt for yield. Thoroughly investigated company investment opportunities have to be afforded genuine investment value in terms of expansion and enrichment, not only for yields to materialise but also for the yields to be worthy of the investment itself. While now is the time for PE firms to begin putting in the groundwork, as much as an additional year, by conservative estimates, may need to be factored in before capital can realistically be deployed. But for those who carefully identify unwavering trends in emerging markets over the next six to 12 months and articulate genuine opportunities to investors, there is scope for the PE asset class to exhibit substantial growth over the course of the coming decade, while capitalising on the “good” companies blooming in “bad” economies.
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