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IS NOW A GOOD TIME TO INVEST IN COMMERCIAL PROPERTY?

With the changes to the buy to let property market over the last 2-3 years, more and more landlords are turning their attention to commercial property. In this guide, I will break down why this is happening, how commercial mortgages work and the key points to consider before investing.

 

Why commercial property is such a popular investment

Commercial property can be an excellent investment as they tend to provide much stronger yields than residential buy to lets. In addition to the strong yields, they tend to be backed by long-term leases, often between 5-20 years, which in theory provides watertight income for a defined period.

These factors combined, plus the fact that there are often provisions in leases for rents to increase in line with inflation each year can make them an appealing option.

Some leases are ‘fully repairing and insuring’. This means that the tenant takes on the legal responsibility for both insuring the property and undertaking any repairs, including general wear and tear. This means that you’ll be receiving the property back in the same condition as when the lease was signed. This is a major benefit compared to residential investments, where you are responsible for both repairs and insurance of the property.

 

Picking up a bargain property

Vacant commercial properties are often much cheaper than those with solid leases in place. This means you can pick up vacant properties and increase the value quickly by finding a strong tenant who is happy to sign a long lease.

Where this approach is employed successfully, you can often refinance to release some of the uplift, allowing you to invest in further property. This strategy works especially well when you can fund the initial purchase in cash or using a bridging loan.

There does need to be an element of caution employed, however, as while the property sits vacant, you are liable for the business rates. Should it take longer than expected to find a tenant, this can add up to a significant amount.

 

How has pandemic has affected the commercial property market

The impact has certainly been felt throughout the market; however, some sectors have been affected far more heavily than others. For example, essential retail properties, such as local shops are a very strong investment and many retailers have had a strong 2020.

The flipside to this is pubs and other leisure properties. These businesses have often been forced to close at very short notice, which ultimately creates a threat of loss of rent, or even completely losing your tenant. This has created a lot of uncertainty in certain sectors and you may even struggle to secure finance if your tenant is in an industry which is considered high risk.

When looking at potential investments, you must consider how the pandemic has affected that industry, as this could have a significant short-term impact. In addition, you should also consider the long-term viability of that type of business, plus the other types of businesses who may wish to let the property if your tenant were to leave.

 

The finance options available

These property investments are usually funded using commercial investment mortgages. Commercial mortgages allow you to borrow up to 75% of the purchase price of the property, or the value for remortgages.

They work in much the same way as residential mortgages, with a lump sum being released upfront and monthly payments made to repay the loan. Some lenders will allow you to borrow on an interest-only basis, this is a popular way of improving cash flow by reducing your monthly costs.

 

The drawbacks of commercial property investment

Although the market can be a great one to invest in, as with every investment, there are some drawbacks. The main ones are the following:

  1. The commercial property market is less liquid than the residential market. This means that it can be tricky to secure the right price should you wish to dispose of the asset quickly. This means that commercial property investment is generally a longer-term strategy.
  2. The difficulties facing business owners due to the pandemic are ultimately the problem of their landlords. If your tenant falls into financial difficulty, the issue is likely to affect your rental income.
  3. Should you lose your tenants, or if the lease expires you will be liable for business rates of the property. This can be a strain on cash flow if you have a mortgage outstanding on the property, which will still need to be paid.
  4. It can take longer to find tenants for vacant properties, depending on the property and its location.

 

The main considerations before moving forward

The key to success is to fully understand the market before progressing. When looking to invest in commercial property for the first time, it’s wise to surround yourself with experts. You’ll need a good agent with local knowledge, an experienced commercial mortgage broker and a solicitor who is well versed in commercial property.

By working closely with experts, you’ll be able to avoid a lot of the common mistakes, while also learn a lot from them in a short space of time.

 

Finance

FIVE TRENDS THAT WILL IMPACT THE FINANCIAL SERVICES INDUSTRY IN 2021

Ian Johnson, Managing Director Europe at Marqeta

 

Coronavirus has shaken things up across all industries, and financial services is no different. This year, we are likely to see a much more risk averse industry, as fintechs and banks alike move into survival mode. Yet, this will also spur innovation. The shift away from cash will give a shot in the arm to digital payments, while lenders in particular will have to get creative to balance their risk against the need to dispense funds.

It’s likely to be an interesting, albeit bumpy, year. Here are five core trends that I see having a major impact in 2021.

 

Lenders will seek improved visibility to combat delinquency

An economic downturn unfortunately means higher delinquency rates for lenders. But businesses – in particular, SMEs – need liquidity to survive, now more than ever. To balance risk with need, more lenders will focus on enabling visibility and control after a loan is dispensed. Instead of issuing funds to a bank account, loans will be dispensed to virtual cards or wallets, allowing lenders to track exactly how and where money is spent. This way, lenders only release funds as they are needed – rather than in one lump sum.

Ian Johnson

They also have the power to approve or reject payments in real-time, based on whether the request is aligned with the terms of the loan agreement. For instance, if a company has secured a loan for IT equipment, but attempts to spend it on office refreshments, the lender can make an instant decision to permit or deny the transaction based on geolocation and other transactional data. So, borrowers should ready themselves to be much more transparent if they want to secure loans in the future.

 

Embedded payments to become more commonplace

Embedded payments has been around a long time – just look at pioneers like Uber, where payments are so integral to the customer experience that it doesn’t even feel like you’re paying anymore. In the next year, we will see this expand, with a wider variety of organisations making payments a core element of their customer experience strategies. This trend will be coupled with a shift towards transparency and privacy, where people willingly exchange their data for an improved, personalised experience.

This is something consumers do readily in many areas of online life already – shopping, social media, and so on. In 2021, we will see more banking and payment services operating off the back of this same exchange. In return for data, customers will be given smoother, more tailored payment experiences.

 

Use of cash to drop below 15%, falling from 23% of all payments in 2019

The UK and Europe’s departure from cash will continue to evolve into next year. Physical cards will begin to give way to a rise in digital payment methods – virtual cards, digital wallets, and the likes of Apple Pay and Google Pay. Banks will need to prepare for this shift; hopefully learning their lesson from the early months of the pandemic, where 88% were overwhelmed by demand for online and mobile banking. This means modernising behind the scenes, using technology to improve and streamline payment processing. Time and money also need to be invested into educating and supporting businesses and individuals that going cashless could leave vulnerable, such as small merchants and elderly people. Until this has been addressed, going cashless risks leaving the most vulnerable in our society behind.

 

Back-end bank modernisation set to continue

Traditional banks recognise that they need to be able to innovate faster, particularly on the front-end, to compete with the new waves of digital banks and fintech entering the market. While we will see continued modernisation on the back-end, as they try to unpick the complex web of legacy systems they sit upon, I would not expect this issue to be fixed in a year. Instead of taking on the risk of full migration, many banks will ‘hollow out’ certain services – leaving core services in place that are too risky to move, whilst shifting newer services onto more modern platforms to avoid coding them into legacy systems.

This will create the building blocks to build a standalone digital bank within a bank, allowing them to modernise the entire stack and then incentivising customers to make the switch. An example of this approach is Goldman Sachs’ digital bank Marcus, which has debuted to strong demand – it’ll be interesting to see if others follow suit.

 

Alternative lenders will open up the market to support post-COVID-19 recovery

The process of securing a loan has always been quite painful – involving lots of self-reporting, paper statements and credit reports. And it could take days to find out if you were successful and then even longer to access the funds. Thankfully, it is looking like those days might be coming to an end with the emergence of a new breed of alternative lender focused on transforming specific niches of lending. Take SME lending, which has traditionally been regarded as high risk/low rewards and neglected by traditional lenders.

New alternative lenders, such as Capital on Tap, are changing the stakes. Using data and modern payment platforms, they are able to make loan decisions in minutes, not months. We are seeing the same in Point of Sale lending with companies like Klarna – now, you can apply for a POS loan and get approved in seconds. These companies will set the standard in terms of expectations around lending, forcing bigger lenders to follow suit and helping to transform the loan experience.

 

Fintechs to continue leading front-end innovation

Fintechs hold the monopoly on defining what ‘good’ looks like in terms of features. From money management tools, to saving incentives, fintechs have the agility to create new, attractive products with a speed and creativity that traditional banks simply cannot match. However, true success stories of fintechs paving the way to long term profitability are rare. Established, traditional banks still hold all the capital and most of the main checking accounts, making it harder for fintechs to really get ahead. This is likely to continue into 2021, but we are seeing signs of convergence, with fintechs acting as the front-end for customers while banks provide capital in the background.

 

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Finance

2021 IS THE YEAR FOR DIGITAL WORKFORCE MANAGEMENT IN FINANCIAL SERVICES

By Tyler Suss, Product Marketing Director at Kofax

 

Even before the pandemic, the UK financial services sector viewed digital transformation as a high priority. Though adoption of robotic process automation (RPA) technologies was already underway, the pandemic truly upended operations.

When health mandates closed offices, the ability to manage operations became more challenging and complex. Many processes still aren’t fully integrated or automated, leaving remote workers with the challenge of having to bridge the gaps in fragmented and often labour-intensive processes. More than ever, they need a digital environment in which back-office processes are automated end-to-end to be productive.

Consumers, too, are learning new ways to manage financial transactions in a COVID-19 world. They’re becoming more comfortable with mobile banking and cashless payments, behaviours likely to stick once the pandemic ends. As KPMG notes, improving productivity and meeting new customer expectations for engagement are the sector’s top priorities for the coming year.

That means firms will need to move even more quickly to digitally transform their operations if they want to remain competitive. In 2021, intelligent automation and digital workflow transformation will become the main vehicles for driving employee productivity and customer experience.

 

Tyler Suss

The Next Priority: Digital Workforce Management

There are many reasons why an intelligent automation program combined with digital workforce management will accelerate digital transformation, but the four that follow build a strong case for adopting this approach in 2021.

 

  1. Workforce Orchestration

RPA caught on like wildfire because it made automating routine, mundane tasks simple and fast. Motivation-killing work like monotonous, cut-and-paste data entry is now a drudgery of the past. What’s next? For savvy financial firms, 2021 will be all about harnessing their RPA automation expertise—and leveraging it with complementary technologies like process orchestration and document intelligence to automate their mission-critical business and create high-value workflows.

With an open intelligent automation platform, financial firms will be able to orchestrate work across people, in-house technologies, and third-party RPA bots. They can assign the right worker, whether it’s a human or digital worker, to the right task at the right time, while maintaining total control over the complexity and cost associated with a given task or project. Additionally, they can take advantage of more advanced AI technologies as they emerge.

 

  1. Risk Management and Security

In financial services especially, it’s crucial that automated processes meet audit and compliance requirements. Security is also of paramount importance, with risk mitigation being a high priority. Yet many firms don’t properly consider the security risks associated with RPA, such as the access software robots have to sensitive data. As human and digital workforces merge, a single governance environment is vital.

Central control allows managers to synchronise software robot releases with broader IT system updates, minimising disruptions and failures among the digital workforce. Robust digital workforce management software lets companies secure and monitor how information is used by all resources. The integration of identity management with financial security solutions supports unified governance over the access human and digital workers have to sensitive systems and applications.

Financial firms also need a way to address potential misuse of digital worker credentials. A sophisticated solution supports the segregation of duties, in which functions are spread out across people and departments. Managers can ensure a particular individual doesn’t have access to too much sensitive information based on the combination of digital workers they oversee.

It’s also important to remember that a digital workforce management solution should enable the organisation to manage and enforce policy controls throughout the entire lifecycle of the digital worker, from creation all the way through decommissioning. Control over the entire lifespan of digital workers enhances security, compliance and auditability.

 

  1. Total visibility into operations across the firm

In order to drive continuous improvement, achieving—and maintaining—total visibility into all resources performing tasks within a process is essential. Financial services firms need to be able to answer such questions as:

What tasks are being worked on?

What’s in the pipeline?

How does process performance compare with KPIs?

An intelligent automation platform including process discovery and visualisation provides insight into business processes across the enterprise. Executives and managers get a holistic view overcoming the boundaries between departmental silos, making it easier to identify opportunities for digital workforce automation that can have a greater impact across the entire firm.

 

  1. Scalability

 The requirement to keep pace with changes in consumer behaviour and agile competitors has only intensified during the pandemic. Scalability will be more urgent in 2021, and yet the majority of organisations have struggled to expand their automation initiatives. The biggest barrier is process fragmentation, in which resources performing the work, including automation and digital resources, exist in silos.

Fragmented operations increase overhead costs and eat into the ROI on digital transformation investments. An open, integrated platform enables common governance and permits financial firms to scale rapidly.

As the pandemic wanes, firms need to reimagine customer journeys and rethink operations to improve customer and employee experiences. The successful ones will build upon their RPA capabilities and rely on intelligent automation digital workforce management to foster more agile and competitive ways of working and thinking so they can work like tomorrow—today.

 

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