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ONLY 13% OF BUSINESSES RECEIVE THEIR AGREED LOAN FROM THE BANK

UK businesses face a major funding crisis, ArchOver finds, with 34 per cent saying late payment has caused their business to fail

 

British companies are facing a funding crisis because banks are not supporting the future of UK PLC. Businesses desperate for finance to support their growth are only receiving on average 70 per cent of the agreed loan – which means over a third (37 per cent) are unable to launch a new product or service as a result.

 

Research commissioned by ArchOver, which reviews the funding landscape for UK businesses in the last year, has found that one in five companies are being rejected for a loan by banks, and of those 17 per cent were put off or unable to apply for any further loan, crushing the entrepreneurial spirit of UK SMBs.

 

The research also identified the catalysts for companies requiring additional financing and what type of loan they secured.

 

More than two in five (43 per cent) were prompted to seek finance in order to fund digital transformation, whilst 39 per cent needed a loan facility to fund the move to a new premises or purchase new equipment. More worryingly, over a third (35 per cent) of businesses required credit to cover short-term cash flow issues – a threat to their ability to function overall.

 

ArchOver discovered that part of the reason for this is that companies are facing an epidemic of late invoice payments, causing cashflow problems that are compounded by the lack of bank support. Less than one in twenty respondents (under 5 per cent) said their invoices are paid on time all the time. Just under half of them (49 per cent) said they receive fewer than half of their invoices by the due date.

 

That’s pushing many into the arms of dangerous financing options. Four in five (81 per cent) of businesses have considered using invoice discounting to fix their cashflow problems. But over-promising is built into invoice discounting. The same amount of respondents (80 per cent) said their business is now over-dependent on invoice discounting – like opium, it provides a quick hit, but at the cost of addiction and long-term expense.

 

Conversely, nearly six in ten (58 per cent) of those who’ve used invoice discounting now believe peer-to-peer (P2P) lending is safer, and 54 per cent believe they can obtain a better rate on their loan with a P2P provider than through a bank.

 

“The funding system for UK businesses is broken”, commented Angus Dent, CEO. “2018 was a tough year to be an SME to say the least, but companies aren’t bowing down just yet – despite the best efforts of the banks. Our research shows that despite their optimism, high-growth companies are being turned away time and again by big funders who, we’re told, have postponed all decisions on sub-£10m loans until after 29 March. That businesses have to run into the arms of unscrupulous invoice discounters to find cash is an indictment of the finance industry’s treatment of British business.

 

“Brexit is about to make the funding picture even harder for businesses. But there are options that won’t ignore you or suck you dry. If they want to keep growing in 2019, UK companies need to look for financiers who’ll get to know them deeply and support them through the storm – not just make a quick buck from them.”

 

To read the full report, please visit the report website.

 

 

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Banking

THE CO-BRAND CREDIT CARD MARKET – SINK OR SWIM

CREDIT CARD MARKET

By Chris Vinnicombe, VP Financial Services at Acxiom

The co-brand credit card market is the result of the partnerships between many of the world’s largest credit card issuers and consumer goods businesses like airlines, hotels, and retailers. By leveraging existing technology investments in digital, data, and analytics, the co-brand credit card market has attracted affluent consumers over the years. Indeed, it has remained a powerful component of retail loyalty programmes and strategies that generate revenue not only for the issuer, but for retail partners as well.

 

The market today

Historically, rewards have been critical to retaining and attracting consumers. However, businesses are increasingly finding that this benefit alone is not enough. In today’s world of data, one-size-fits-all loyalty programmes show little customer intimacy, since they don’t pay attention to individual attitudes, behaviours, and expectations.

Co-branded credit cards have faced competitor pressure to sweeten the rewards pot to draw customer traffic and differentiate their card programmes. Above that when consumers around the world are used to relevant adverts, offers and suggestions, the market increasingly seems out of touch when the offers don’t hit the mark.

It is now time for credit card companies to take a hard look at their proposition to determine which offerings consumers still value and to create benefits that are digital first, easy to use and truly relevant to how they live.

 

Increasing cardholder engagement

Today, engagement has become a significant part of this challenge. Cardholder engagement is critical in the market since it measures who has an active relationship with their card, rather than those where it sits unused at the bottom of a draw.

One of the issues is that many cardholders feel they are of little interest to the card issuer after starting the relationship. When offerings remain the same and don’t reflect consumer lifestyle changes, it leads to a decline in spend and balance activity.

For example, if a person is consistently purchasing long-haul, luxury summer holidays on their card and receiving a reward of discounts on Christmas staycations it just won’t be claimed. Ultimately, if the user isn’t likely to claim a reward it defeats the whole point of user offerings in the first place and will lead to a decay in the relationship over time.

To change this dynamic, card issuers need to focus on becoming far more customer-centric, addressing pain points, fulfilling desires and engaging with the consumer as an individual. Whether they are frequent travellers, trend setters, have an affinity to luxury products, cash back collectors, etc. Keeping up with interests and offering tailored rewards will create a more personalised experiences for customers and increase loyalty.

 

Customer experience – reach for the skies

A key example of this is the airline sector. Co-branded credit cards play an important role for airlines and their card issuers, each of which benefit from credit card engagement and purchasing behaviour. The cards also play an integral role in frequent flyer programmes, helping drive flyer loyalty.

Nowadays, airline customer interactions can come through many channels like customer service centres, online travel agencies, websites, and more which can create a complex ecosystem of customer data. The co-brand card partners see significant transaction data that identifies travel activity and purchasing patterns that are strong triggers for airline marketing programmes. All these interactions generate crucial information on passenger needs and preferences that enable up-sell/cross-sell, pricing and preferred experiences (i.e. early boarding or flight update notifications).

 

Better together

For the co-brand credit card market to work, partners need to work together seamlessly. Sharing customer information is vital to the interwoven marketing capabilities needed to be successful.

It all starts with the data foundation. A shared space for data to be safe provides a privacy-compliant environment that allows marketers and partners to connect different types of data while protecting and governing its use. This is the bread and butter for people-based marketing that enables partners to engage consumers across today’s highly fragmented landscape of channels and devices.

These data safe havens provide the ability to ingest customer records from partners, as well as core campaign and engagement logs used where businesses can measure and analyse success. This data can also be enhanced by third-party sources (demographic data, propensity models) to enrich the view of the consumer and create new insights to support new audience creation for marketing programmes.

However, organising, managing, and deriving insights from large sets of consumer data is complicated. To overcome this, companies should rely on connectivity solutions that integrate data to provide a single view of the customer. These identity resolution services resolve first-, second-, and third-party data, exposure and transaction data to represent real people in a privacy-compliant way.

Having this omnichannel view of the consumer can then be utilised to support consumer targeting, personalisation, and measurement bettering the offering to the user and maintaining relevance in the customer’s wallet.

Ultimately, data is helping the co-brand credit card market to stay relevant to consumers today. It is no longer enough to offer one-size-fits-all rewards to card users as competition in the industry hots up. Increasing customer loyalty and engagement is name of the game and using data from across both partners is helping firms to be more competitive, responsive and personalised than ever to drive new business uptake while keeping existing customers coming back for more.

 

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Banking

FOUR WAYS OPEN BANKING AND AI WILL REVOLUTIONISE ACCOUNTANCY

BANKING

Ed Molyneux, CEO and co-founder of cloud accounting software company, FreeAgent

 

It’s been just over two years since the term Open Banking became a tangible reality in the UK. Since then, the nine largest banks and building societies in Great Britain and Northern Ireland have signed up to take part in the initiative, meaning they must allow regulated businesses to access their customers’ financial data, as long as the customer has provided permission.

Open Banking was imposed by the Competition and Markets Authority to spur competition between banks and make customers’ banking information more accessible to third parties. And this phenomenon has already been transformative for accountancy, providing third-party financial service providers standard ways to access consumer banking transactions, and other data from financial institutions – a seamless alternative to the teetering piles of paperwork traditionally associated with accounting. Paired with other new innovative technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), Open Banking has the power to change the day-to-day lives of accountants and more broadly, the world of finance.

This article examines the fundamental ways Open Banking and AI can and are already being utilised by accountants.

 

Real Time Insights

Through the use of Open Banking, accountants can have real-time access to their clients’ most up-to-date banking data every single day. This means no more chasing clients for the necessary information that you need to do your usual day-to-day work. This also benefits your clients, as they can continue with their daily workload knowing that their bank transactions are being shared with you directly, accurately and automatically. Suddenly their do-list looks a bit shorter!

 

Adios paperwork

Traditionally, accountants have had to deal with an enormous amount of paperwork, including invoices, expense receipts, bank statements and other important documents. Combined across the profession, this amounts to mountains of paper that have to be analysed and filed. One of the greatest benefits of technology and digital accounting is that it alleviates the stress of keeping important information in physical files. As well as less mess in the office, this means invoices, expenses, receipts can be kept in one place – online. This enables accountants to be more efficient on a day-to-day basis as they are able to easily find documentation by simply typing in what they are looking for to search for it.

Luckily for accountants, and also for the environment, Open Banking and cloud software platforms ensure that important data can transfer seamlessly and safely between your bank and your financial accounts. Already, cloud accounting software makes it possible to have one tidy dashboard that gives an overview of the business in its entirety. As well as being the guardian of files, using technology to set up a bank feed will allow accountants to track incomings and outgoings, link invoices and payments and view interactive charts of all their clients’ accounts.

 

Working from anywhere

The last five years have seen the progression to flexible working increase significantly. Millennials in particular have a desire to work out of the office. A survey conducted with over 19,000 working Millennials across 25 countries revealed their top five priorities when looking for a job, with 79% stating flexible working was a must. Further analysis from BBC 5 Live revealed a 74% jump in the number of people working from home between 2008 and 2018.

As well as the natural increase in the number of people working remotely, accountancy is one of the many professions being affected by the current turbulence being caused by the Covid-19 virus. This month, the government announced everyone should work from home if they can. Now, more than ever, people are away from the traditional office space and working instead from the confines of their own home, with technology acting as the glue that in many cases is keeping their business together. For accountants this means remote access to financial data is an absolute essential.

 

Add consultancy to the equation

With more efficient processes and easier methods of making and tracking transactions, technology and Open Banking will ultimately free up a whole lot of time for the accountants. Clearing up the calendar will make room for new kinds of work and enable accountants to spend more time on consultancy and value-added services, where previously these may have been perceived as a bonus service or from the client-side, a service at a much larger additional cost.

As well as consultancy, these technologies will have other, less direct impacts on the client-side. For example instead of needing a shoebox full of receipts, Open Banking and AI will lead to more confident and self-managed clients. If a client is keeping accurate books themselves, then the accountant no longer has to do all of the numerical admin. Rather, the value add lies in providing higher-level insights around the numbers and offering useful advice such as “it is time to put your prices up, as your profits are lower this year“.

Ultimately, AI and Open Banking are opening the gateway to a more efficient and effective accountancy industry. While benefiting the clients by making new space for consultancy and added value services, new technology ultimately streamlines an accountants’ entire job. Because they are constantly dealing with stacks of financial information, the consequences of misplacement of one document or inefficiently tracking systems hold higher stakes than usual. Luckily there is no need for accountants to grapple with old-school methodology anymore as AI and Open Banking are already readily available and at their fingertips.

 

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