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By Rick Brar, CEO of Brains Bioceutical


The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the global economy and financial markets will take a long time to recover. In fact, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has reported that the ongoing crisis has triggered the worst economic slump since the Great Depression and have predicted resultant losses of up to $9 trillion in global GDP figures over the next two years.

Whilst raising capital for a new business venture has never been easy, securing investment will undoubtedly seem like a near impossible task amid such turbulent and unpredictable market conditions.

However, despite widespread fear that venture-capitalists would postpone any new investment deals until the current economic conditions improve, deal activity only dropped by 6 percent in the first half of 2020, compared with the previous year.

One explanation for sustained investor interest is that many market leaders have been born out of a recession. For example, Apple and Amazon launched during the dot-com bubble burst and Uber, Airbnb and Slack all launched during the 2008 recession.

However, whilst this narrative offers hope, investors have still become extremely wary of the pandemic’s economic implications. Therefore, entrepreneurs and business leaders alike will need to continue to quickly react and adapt to changing market conditions, and adjust how they approach raising capital, if they are to be successful.


Rick Brar

Make it personal

For most companies, getting investors to back your vision can be challenging. For businesses in emerging industries, it can be particularly hard. Without such an established track record on sector returns, for most investors, it is easier to move on to the next opportunity, rather than taking the time to assess risk and rewards. The key in being able to capture the interest of a potential investor comes from your ability to connect with the individual you are pitching to on a personal level.

However, amid the current shift to doing business in a Covid-19 world, making a personal connection with someone you’ve never met can be extremely difficult. It is without a doubt that Zoom and phone calls have opened up new opportunities, but without gaining the trust of the person on the other end, you’ll never really have their full attention. Therefore, before you jump onto a call with a potential investor, make sure you’ve done your research and know who you are really talking to. Pitch on a personal level, get to know them and learn what is important to them.


Consider your communication strategies

During periods of market downturn, it can be all too easy to get caught up in the hectic pace business demands and hold back on communicating with potential investors, especially out of fear of ‘rocking the boat’. However, during a crisis, it is especially important to communicate and be open with your contacts.

At the end of the day, we are all navigating the ongoing pandemic together. Remember that there are real people on the other side of the screen and that continued communication during the most uncertain times will help to strengthen your relationships and pave a way forward.


Embrace the rise of the digital network

With travel on pause, and social distancing set to stay for the foreseeable future, entrepreneurs and business leaders must develop their digital networks if they are serious about raising capital.

Whilst getting in front of investors may now require a more creative approach, the monumental shift online has opened up the opportunity to reach out to a much wider range of investors, irrespective of their locality. In order to have an edge over your competitors, establish an online relationship management system to ensure you are communicating effectively with potential investors and also use a data room to safeguard information. This extra step will not only help to protect you from any digital breaches, but it will also demonstrate to investors that you are proactive and well equipped to operate in this new digital era.


Prioritize the Covid-19 pivot

Before you approach any potential investors, it is crucial that you review the viability of your business model in the context of the current economic climate. Is your business still profitable amid the Covid-19 pandemic? Is it still scalable and what makes your business resilient?

Any serious investors will want to know how you are responding and adapting to the ongoing crisis. Be prepared to discuss what’s working – and what isn’t – but more importantly, demonstrate that you understand the current situation and show that you are making tactical adjustments and pivoting your business accordingly.


Assess & restructure your financial models

During uncertain times, it is important to be open to negotiations when it comes to valuations. Instead of setting your sights on an extremely high figure which may deter investors, consider setting a more achievable valuation. This will not only help to gain potential investors trust, but it may also help make your funding round more attractive.

Despite the ongoing market upheaval there are a number of industries that still going from strength to strength, for example; CBD and health & fitness brands to e-commerce disruptors and education platforms. Whilst there are opportunities to thrive, the key to success, is being honest with yourself. Is now the right time for your company to raise capital? If so, make sure to build in buffers to protect your business during these uncertain times. For example, investors may need more time between funding rounds and so adapt your financial models accordingly. Demonstrating to investors that you are on top of these considerations will go a long way.


Looking forward  

It is without a doubt that these are challenging times for all businesses and the processes to secure investment have changed significantly over the past 10 months. However, if you can identify mutually beneficial opportunities and demonstrate to investors that your business is well-positioned amid the current market conditions, you can still successfully raise capital.

If anything, periods of crisis create an opportunity to accelerate change at a much quicker pace. Now it will be interesting to see which entrepreneurs and business leaders adapt best to these changing market conditions and come out of this period with a renewed focus and strategy to succeed in the long term.


Rick Brar is the CEO of Brains Bioceutical. The company produces natural CBD as an Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) for pharmaceutical applications, research & development and clinical trials. Brains Bioceutical are currently going through a £30 million funding round.



How technology can help win the war on financial crime




By Andrew Doyle, CEO of AML compliance software, NorthRow


Financial crime is on the rise and the stats are alarming. In the UK alone, 64 percent of businesses (according to data from the Global Economic Crime Survey) have experienced fraud, corruption or other incidents of financial crime within the last 24 months, while ONS stats show there were 3.7 million incidents of fraud in England and Wales in the year ending December 2022.

So it’s no surprise that financial institutions and other regulated firms are under increasing pressure from regulators (and the ever-evolving legislation they must adhere to) in the battle against dirty money. Regulators are imposing crippling fines for any compliance breaches, not to mention the significant reputational damage that comes with non-compliance.

Historically, financial firms have employed large numbers of staff to combat money laundering, but regulators are now expecting to see digital solutions in place to counter the risk of financial fraud, and with good reason. Technology can be the deciding factor in the war on financial crime and here’s why:

Better risk detection

Technology platforms can analyse historical data to predict potential incidents of money laundering, enabling organisations to take preventive measures, while also identifying unusual patterns or changes in customer risk profiles, which may also indicate suspicious activity.

Advanced analytics can help companies identify complex patterns across large datasets, making it easier to detect networks of fraud. It is also possible to assign risk scores to transactions or entities based on their likelihood of being associated with money laundering. This helps in prioritising high-risk cases for investigation.

Andrew Doyle

Enhanced customer due diligence

Automated software platforms can analyse customer information, public records, and other data sources to perform thorough due diligence on clients, identifying potential risks or suspicious behaviour before they are signed up.

RegTech automates the process of verifying customer identities and conducting enhanced due diligence on individuals and on companies, ensuring compliance with Know Your Customer (KYC) and Know Your Business (KYB) regulations, both vital components of anti-money laundering efforts.

More accurate identity verification

Biometric verification is a powerful tool in enhancing anti-money laundering and fraud detection. It involves using unique physical or behavioural characteristics of an individual to verify their identity. Traits like fingerprints, facial features, iris patterns, and voiceprints are unique to each individual and are nearly impossible to replicate or forge. This makes them highly reliable for verifying that clients are who they say they are.

Biometric verification can also reduce the number of false positives in fraud detection by providing a highly accurate means of confirming the identity of a customer. This leads to more reliable results and lessens the need for manual intervention.

Continuous and real-time monitoring

Real-time alerts allow for immediate action when suspicious activity is detected. This can prevent or minimise potential financial losses and damage to a company’s reputation. By identifying and acting upon suspicious activities in real-time, financial institutions can reduce the risk of financial losses associated with incidents of economic crime.

Continuous monitoring with real-time alerts can also help refine the accuracy of anti-money laundering systems over time. This reduces the number of false alerts and decreases the need for manual intervention.

To the future

According to data from Capgemini, 68 percent of UK institutions are already looking into real-time anti money laundering monitoring systems to stay ahead of potential threats while 86 percent, says Refinitiv, agree that innovative digital technologies have helped them identify financial crime.

So the data tells us that companies are already heading in the right direction when it comes to fighting fraud, but as the landscape of financial crime continues to evolve, financial firms must ensure they do the same.

By leveraging the right technology, businesses can ensure they not only meet regulatory requirements and safeguard their operations, but also protect their reputations and crucially, maintain that all important customer trust.

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In 2024, payments will evolve to broaden accessibility




Attributed to Roy Aston, COO at Paysafe.


As we look to 2024 and beyond, businesses will need to adapt experiences to changing consumer needs and demands, working with payments providers to increase accessibility, offer broader choice, and more.

We break down some the forces driving evolution in payments over the coming years.

Payments need to be available to everyone, everywhere

Regardless of their location or situation, consumers do not want to wait when it comes to payments. The proliferation of smart devices has given users access to everything, all at once, and this is also expected when making transactions.

In 2024, banks and financial institutions will continue to push ahead with this journey to offer smooth, secure payments to everyone, everywhere, delivering services at the lowest possible barrier to entry. This also means ensuring consumers, even those that are unbanked or underbanked, have access to remittances and cross-border payments.

The first step in achieving this goal will be to improve reliability, security and availability, which may see traditional payment methods like debit and credit cards – still the most popular payment methods – become less dominant, while alternative payment methods (APM) like eCash and digital wallets will grow.

This is because, with the right payment provider, merchants can ensure these APMs are available anywhere in the world – eCash, for example, does not require a bank account to use. In addition, digital wallets and online cash can offer swift, secure transactions, helping users overcome security issues by not requiring them to enter their financial details.

Financial companies will embrace collaboration in 2024

While businesses can address consumer payment concerns using APMs, they must also look to bolster their own defences as the threat landscape changes. Increasingly advanced technology, like AI models, are now accessible to far more people, including threat actors.

To combat this escalating threat, it’ll be no surprise to see more financial companies collaborate in 2024 as they seek to improve cyber risk mitigation. This makes perfect sense – and would be a positive step for the industry – though it is easier said than done.

Businesses must share data legally, while aimed toward a positive purpose, rather than for pure profit. For example, if a financial organisation gains intelligence on a cyber group, they could share this with other companies to protect against bad money movement.

Ideally, collaboration could help improve anti-fraud, anti-money laundering, and cyber security measures, and more broadly reduce risk for businesses and consumers alike. But first, thinking around data governance may need to change.

Existing trends will evolve

While exciting new trends will emerge in 2024, we’ll also see the evolution of some that have yet to reach their full potential.

Embedded payments, for example, will continue to develop, with more businesses bringing together financial products with features like loyalty schemes to offer more added value to consumers.

Decentralised finance, too, should continue to build momentum in 2024. While decentralised finance, and specifically NFTs, have faced challenges this past year, it will be no surprise to see companies get to grips with changing regulatory requirements and continue to build in this area.

Open banking could also see a big 2024, with more APIs becoming available, and companies starting to develop new solutions to enhance customer experience and reduce friction in the payment ecosystem.

And while evolution rather than revolution is a necessity in technology, it’s always exciting to look ahead to the big trends that could shape the future – perhaps not in the year ahead, but beyond.

The future is quantum

Quantum computing is a trend that is as exciting as it is potentially frightening. Able to perform computations that are exponentially faster than ever before, quantum computing represents a new frontier and it will be thrilling to see how it is used in the years ahead.

Combined with AI, for example, quantum computing could optimise processes at a speed and scale never seen before – with serious benefits passed onto consumers.

In the nearer term, however, ensuring payments are available and accessible for everyone must remain the focus in 2024.

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