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Wealth Management

WHY IMPACT INVESTING COULD BE MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER

By Dan Somers of Boundary Capital

 

The current pandemic is alarming, but the data suggests that an increase in crises will be the new norm. Climate, Disaster and Development Journal predicts that intense floods and storms around the world could double in frequency within 13 years, as climate breakdown and socioeconomic factors combine. Pandemics also are predicted by some to increase more and more from urbanisation, resistance to drugs, and also indirectly from climate change. According to the newest data, more than 2.8 million people in the United States experience an infection from antibiotic resistant bacteria each year. Moreover, these “superbugs” cause 35,000 deaths per year in the country. The Washington Post cited research looking at the spread of disease carrying vectors such as mosquitos (notably spreading the Zika virus) as well as the encroachment of humans and animals for the same resources e.g. bats in West Africa having their climates destroyed by climate change, forcing them to hunt nearer humans which led to the Ebola outbreak of 2014. The U.S. intelligence community’s bottom-line assessment of the risk is plain: “Over 20 years, the net effects of climate change on the patterns of global human movement and statelessness could be dramatic, perhaps unprecedented.”

It’s not all doom and gloom however: There is a groundswell of popular mainstream opinion now demanding that Governments and businesses do more to help the environment and sustainability. Action is being taken by Governments and businesses, and indeed voters, consumers and investors all now voting with their feet to drive more businesses to adopt “ESG” policies.

Last year, flows into U.S. sustainable funds more than tripled, marking the fourth year of record flows. Talking about sustainability “is a way to build better relationships with clients. In 2019, according to the Global Impact Investing Network, assets in this market totalled around $500 billion, based on surveys with 1,300 impact investors.

Investors no longer want to be associated with or contributing to companies to may harm society, on the wrong side of new sustainability guidelines or going against popular consumer views and trends.

As a result the climate solutions market could double from $1 trillion a year now to $2 trillion a year by 2025, says BofA.

Ironically, what the recent Covid-19 ‘lockdowns’ have shown is that environmental pollution can drop dramatically in coordinated activities (planned or unplanned). Recent satellite images from NASA of China also showed less air pollution amid the country’s economic shutdown, due to less transportation and manufacturing. Nitrogen oxide pollution above major cities has decreased by 30% to 50% compared to the corresponding period of last year. And since the lockdown in Italy and the drastic reduction of water traffic and tourism, residents have observed the usually muddy canals run with bright, clearer water with swarms of fishes and the canal bottom clearly visible. More and more people are looking for ways to create such impact, without the reverse consequences of course.

This is where impact technologies come in. Impact technologies are those which provide a meaningful benefit to people’s lives directly or indirectly. This might be improvements in batteries and Electric Vehicle (“EV”) technology to reduce environmental pollution, improvements in drugs and medical devices which improve life quality, AI which helps to empower ordinary citizens transparently to take decisions and improve their skills and productivity. It is only changes in the ways we do things that can have a meaningful impact and with a viable approach to economic sustainability too. Many of these technologies have a high positive social or environmental impact as well as a medium and long-term economic advantage to make a strong financial return. However, like all technology development and adoption, there are many associated risks bringing a new technology to market and productising it, particularly when the market doesn’t yet exist or is nascent.

Boundary Capital is one of a number of innovative investment firms that are trying to change the rules around impact investing. Rather than investing in ESG public companies or impactful businesses, it focuses on investing in early-stage private “B2B” (Business to Business) technology companies that have the potential to enble and transform markets to make the most impact. So rather than investing in EV charging infrastructure, it invests in the technologies that it believes will make the most difference to accelerating the adoption of EVs by improving battery life and longevity. Similarly, it doesn’t invest in tertiary healthcare, but in oxygenated wound care devices that reduces the time and cost of wound healing (and hospital beds) by over 70%. The partners are all experienced technology investors and entrepreneurs who can bring more than just finance to impact businesses to help them succeed and deliver on the promised societal or environmental benefits.

As well as six themes derived from the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, Boundary only invests in businesses that affect 100m lives or more in a meaningful way, based on a proprietary methodology measuring the lives impacted over a long-term period. These goals are also underpinned by an overall economic return for investors of 3x overall over 5 to 7 years.

Their latest investment is in Cambridge based Inotec, is a fast-growing medtech business that has developed a novel device capable of healing complex chronic wounds. The business has developed a world leading medtech product, called NATROX® Oxygen that generates pure humidified oxygen to treat a range of chronic wounds, from diabetic and venous ulcers to non-healing surgical wounds.

Dan Somers, Managing Partner at Boundary Capital says: “Impact investment has mostly been socially-driven up until now. There is now the real opportunity for investors to make a return as well as optimising the impact that their investments can make on human lives.”

Daniel Rodwell, Chief Executive of GrowthInvest adds: “We are seeing the market moving increasingly towards responsible investing, driven by a rising commitment to sustainability and a next-generation approach to wealth management.”

As long as we have an eye on medium term and place our support in the right places, we can all do our bit to mitigate some of the future crises and enjoy profitable and impactful lives.

 

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Wealth Management

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.

 

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Wealth Management

FOR PE TO SNAP UP “GOOD” COMPANIES, THEY MAY NEED TO WADE INTO “BAD” ECONOMIES

FINANCIAL MARKET

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.

Martin Soderberg

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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