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Wealth Management

WHY DATA IS THE CRUCIAL INGREDIENT TO AGILE FINANCIAL FORECASTING

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Raymon van Viegen, CFO, Visma | Onguard

 

The economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has led many organisations to consolidate their operations in order to survive a difficult period. The events of the last 12 months have proven that unforeseen circumstances can impact on financial forecasting with little notice, and a different strategy may be required. Agility is therefore crucial to power the necessary resilience in financial forecasting that businesses need in an evolving environment, and data is a vital ingredient in the planning process. Taking this into account, how can organisations best plan ahead?

 

Leveraging data

Such is the uncertain economic climate that many CFOs are now looking to financially forecast one to three years ahead for greater long-term visibility, as opposed to a one-year projection. While a longer-term view is beneficial, supplementing this needs to be the ability to adjust within a three-month window to any mitigating external factors. Making tweaks within this timeframe means organisations can negotiate new contracts with customers and suppliers to counteract the negative consequences of decreased trading during times of recession.

Particularly during times of uncertainty, the role of financial forecasting in the wider organisation is likely to be under a greater level of board scrutiny, with business leaders looking to harness accurate financial data to drive business strategy. In order to enable agility within financial planning, the importance of access to real-time data and actionable data cannot be understated. Such is the pace of change in the financial industry that data that is even six weeks old may not provide an accurate picture for planning.

It is pivotal to ensure that internal systems are consistently available across business departments, enabling access to the relevant data when it is needed and creating a common understanding of the drivers behind future forecasting strategy. With many organisations globally still working from home, and hybrid approaches to remote/office working looking likely to continue in the future, great emphasis has been placed on digitisation models, but there is still much work to be done.

Leveraging the right technology can enable better visibility and management of financial data and access to accurate performance figures that can help shape forecasting models. As digitisation moves forward, the potential of AI fed by accurate data from across the business could in future help organisations plan ahead for possible future crises, along with a range of other applications as the technology is more widely adopted. It must be noted however that these advancements are still in the early stages for many organisations in the finance industry.

 

The human approach

While technology can do much of the heavy lifting, it is just one element to agile forecasting. The human element remains key, but the change is in taking a collaborative approach and leveraging all available talent instead of gatekeeping the knowledge between senior leaders. Organisations must also learn from industry experts and monitor external factors to feed insights from the current landscape into their financial forecasts. While it’s likely that we’ll see technology-powered data insight driving 90% of financial forecasting in the next 3-5 years, the importance of the human element will persist.

The role that humans can continue to play is evident in the communications with customers during the accounts receivable process. While data can give a real-time picture of a customer’s outstanding payment situation for example, it’s crucial for a finance professional to make an informed decision based on personal circumstances. Similarly, human experience can provide unique insights and valuable contributions as to how the financial industry will change or develop in the coming years, which data cannot provide on its own. What is clear is that the role of the finance professional will develop further in the coming years, such as in the areas of data literacy and analytics.

 

Enabling agility

The combination of data and human expertise undoubtedly plays a crucial part in accurate financial forecasting, along with technology innovations in the years to come. Businesses however need to remain mindful of external factors that can’t be anticipated, which is particularly evident from the events of the last year. Those who have implemented agile processes will be the businesses that stand out in the crowd.

Organisations need to automate repetitive processes and refocus employees on the top-level decision-making areas of the business in order to foster this agility. They can then prioritise the negotiation of terms with suppliers and customers that can be adjusted quickly to help the business adapt to a new external crisis and future-proof its financial operations. Small but incremental changes such as these can gradually help to build towards a greater level of agility across departments, avoiding the need for potentially disruptive large-scale changes to financial forecasting in the short-term which could ultimately do more harm than good.

 

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DOGECOIN MADNESS

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by Nathalie Janson, Associate Professor at NEOMA Business School

 

After the unstoppable increase of Bitcoin (BTC) since January – it added 10 000$ to its price every month since January reaching 60 000$ in April 2021  – it is now the turn of the Dogecoin to be the next cryptofrenzy.

This crypto created in three hours by Billy Markus as a joke to make fun of the Bitcoin community back in 2013 had no specific use except federating crypto geeks sharing the same sense of humor. Its capitalization quickly reached 60 million USD back then. This is why until Tuesday, April 13th 2021, its price was closed to 0 since cryptos value derives from their usefulness.

The Dogecoin belongs to the family of Altcoins using proof of stake to validate transactions – more flexible and fast compare to Bitcoin and Ether based on proof of work – but essentially not as decentralized and secured.  So far Dogecoin has mainly been used for  tipping creators of content or more interestingly to noble causes. These include raising funds for the bobsleigh Jamaïcan team to send them to the Winter Olympic Games in 2014, paying back victims of Dogecoin hack in the early days after its creation,  and raising funds to provide access to drinkable water in Africa.

 

Dogecoin… a billionaire maker joke

How comes the DogeCoin price surged in such irrational manner? Is this move another proof of market madness? A sign that we might be close to the next burst of the crypto bubble? Who knows? … Why is it so difficult to understand the pricing dynamic of cryptocurrencies?  You might think that what we experienced is the paroxysm of futility. In a week, some Dogecoin holders become billionaires, the price of the Dodge coin increasing from almost 0 to 43 cents at its highest. How mad that sounds? Similar to what happened to Gamestop, we are dealing with a community with a strong identity – the Dogecoin joined by new members like Snickers – the sweet bar and more importantly by Elon Musk – who wants to set a record and claiming April 20th being DogeDay with the clear goal to push Dogecoin up to $1. They are encouraging each other to buy more of the coins. Given the limited size of the market dominated by “whales” – five “whales” are said to control 40% of the market – the increase in purchases of Dogecoin leads to significant rise in price given the low liquidity.

The Dogecoin case is an emblematic case showing how subjective value is in economics. Indeed, like Bitcoin, the price of Dogecoin only depends on its acceptance that in itself depends on the size of its network that suddenly increased.

Why now? First, Elon Musk started to show his interest in the Dogecoins by tweeting about it. Why does Elon Musk opinion matter? Because he symbolizes the success story of a man who is a visionary. After all, if Elon Musk invests in Bitcoin and supports Dogecoin it must be for a reason, and he may be right like he has been right about the industrialization of electric cars as the success of the Tesla demonstrates. He performs a role similar to leading investors in traditional financial markets like Warren Buffet.

Secondly, the Coinbase initial public offering contributed to a rally in the cryptocurrencies market, with no exception for the Dogecoin. Over the week-end, the major cryptocurrencies – BTC and Ethereum dropped for technical reasons due to a sharp decrease in the hash rate after an electricity shortage in the Xinjang province in China. When that happens, it usually benefits altcoins.

More broadly speaking, the crypto market is frenetic since the beginning of the year. This frenzy is a symptom of a global economy that is still suffering from severe restrictions in some activities but at the same time is also experimenting acceleration in others. Combined with overgenerous monetary policy feeding liquidity in search of profitability away from traditional markets because of low interest rates and over rated stock markets, this is a perfect combination for investors to try anything new to boost their portfolio return if you add on the top of that, growing concerns about the return of inflation in the US.

In this context how long will the Dogecoin rally last? This essentially relies on the determination of its fans to support it but after a while, it will need to be more than a symbol!

 

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Wealth Management

WHY COMPLICATED INCOME STRUCTURES SHOULDN’T PREVENT HIGH NET WORTH INDIVIDUALS FROM INVESTING IN PROPERTY

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Mike Coates, Founder and CEO of Commercial Expert

 

An investor’s preference is usually to split their investment across different funds, in a varied and balanced way.  Research has shown that the most popular investments made by high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) vary between stocks, shares, hedge funds, private equity, and real estates (residential and commercial properties).  The allocation of funds is predominantly governed by taxes, goals and individual preferences.

However, in the past decade, HNWIs have encountered barriers to accessing finance because of the way lenders approve loans.

 

The barriers facing HNWIs

In the aftermath of the GFC of 2008, a notable trend to emerge was lenders seeking to minimise the level of risk to which they were prepared to expose themselves. This was achieved through adopting a more stringent selection criteria when it came to assessing an individual’s financial situation before approving a loan.

As a result of this change in lending behaviour, securing finance has ultimately become more difficult across the board, including, ironically, HNWIs, whom you might expect would be unaffected. The reason HNWIs might struggle is because the new lending culture favours those with straightforward finances, and a regular income.

However, for HNWIs, this is not usually the case.  For example, a HNWI’s portfolio could be split across various asset classes and jurisdictions; their income may be irregular or derived abroad (including off-shore tax-havens); many HNWIs are expats and may be receiving income in different currencies.  When these factors are considered, it’s easy to see why HNWIs might be classed as ‘high-risk’ in the eyes of some lenders.  As a result, many HNWIs have struggled to secure funding or even a credit card.

Consequently, for HNWIs looking to take advantage of the current low borrowing rates, as well as the tax relief by securing finance, they will be better off finding a reputable financial adviser or broker who will take a more holistic view when it comes to assessing their financial situation.

Financial advisers have established relationships with a wide portfolio of lenders who aren’t just the regular high street banks and building societies. There are certain lenders who are used to dealing with clients that have huge property portfolios and are experienced in calculating the stress levels on existing portfolios. They are able to use different assessment criteria in order to approve loans, even where applicants have a low debt service coverage ratio (DSCR).  They may also request to see your SA302 (self-assessment tax returns for the last 4 years), tax overviews and accounts in order to gain a deeper understanding of your income structure. Where people have deferred tax, this also gets taken into consideration.  At the end of the day, it’s about having your foot in the door with the right lenders, that helps to determine your ability to secure a mortgage as an HNWI.

 

Reasons to invest in property

Compared to private equity and hedge funds, real estate investment is by far the least risky option. Real estate is safe and is set to lead us to recovery following the aftermath of Covid-19.

What we witnessed during the global pandemic was that contrary to early predictions, rental prices remained relatively stable and property prices rocketed. The UK house price index, published in January 2021, revealed that the average house price increased by 7.5% year-on-year. i   Initially, the stamp duty tax relief may have been attributed to the increase, however, as the tax relief deadline approaches, there doesn’t appear to be any sign of a slow-down.  This indicates that other factors are underpinning the rise. Many believe that lockdown has forced people to reassess their priorities, with an increasing number of people desiring more generous living and outdoor space in areas away from cities.

 

What properties to invest in

As it currently stands, almost 60% of HNWIs have revealed that they invest in real estate. ii The properties are usually where they themselves reside, or in “offshore” areas where they enjoy going on holiday.  If properties are situated in tourist hotspots with nearby beaches or mountains, they are often rented out to tourists during peak holiday seasons and available for their own holiday use during off-peak times.

 

Final thoughts

If you want to invest in properties either in the UK or abroad, don’t be deterred by previous failed attempts at securing finance. It is a good move to appoint a specialist commercial finance broker with access to the whole of market, who can undertake all the research required, and recommend a suitable lender and product.

There are only a handful of lenders who are equipped to deal with HNWIs, with complex income structures, therefore it’s crucial to make sure you’re speaking with the right people.

 

References:

i https://moneytothemasses.com/owning-a-home/house-prices-2/what-is-going-to-happen-to-uk-house-prices

ii https://www.fool.com/millionacres/real-estate-investing/articles/what-are-high-net-worth-individuals-investing-in-now/

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