Experian ‘one of most innovative companies in the world’

Experian® has been named among the top 100 most innovative companies in the world for the fifth year in a row by Forbes magazine. In the publication’s eighth annual list of the “World’s Most Innovative Companies,” Experian climbed to the rank of 57th and was amongst the top 10 most innovative companies headquartered in Europe.

Technology, innovation and new sources of data are fusing to create an unprecedented number of new ways to solve pressing business and consumer challenges. This accolade underscores Experian’s commitment to innovation, and using the power of data and technology to transform lives, businesses and economies for the better.

“It is an honour to be recognised for innovation for the fifth year running,” said Brian Cassin, CEO, Experian. “We have created a culture of continuous innovation focused on opportunities for businesses and consumers in today’s digital and data economy.”

Experian has jumped up 40 places in this year’s ranking, placing it alongside some of the world’s leading technology companies including Tesla, Netflix and Amazon. Forbes’ ranking identifies firms that investors believe to be innovative at present, and that will continue to achieve profitable new growth through innovation in the future. This recognition demonstrates investors’ confidence in Experian’s ability to innovate both today and in the years ahead.

New survey reveals that 30% of businesses don’t have a social media policy

A survey conducted by leading regional law firm Howes Percival has revealed that 30% of businesses surveyed did not have a social media policy – potentially leaving them exposed to reputational damage, disclosure of confidential information and inappropriate or harmful content or behaviour.

The survey of 220 business leaders, representing a broad range of sectors and size of organisation, ranging from companies with a turn-over of less than £1m to global players with a significant sector presence nationally and internationally, was designed to examine the way in which businesses engage with social media.

LinkedIn and Twitter are the most used platforms for businesses and organisations, with the majority (86%) having a presence on LinkedIn and just over three quarters using Twitter. Creating a brand identity, positive brand associations, and raising brand awareness were the predominant reasons for businesses’ social media presence.

In addition to building and raising brand awareness (49%), other core reasons businesses gave for maintaining a social media presence included improving communication and interaction with key audiences (21%), tracking competitors (10%) and increasing web traffic (9%). Only 40% of respondents said they participate in discussion groups for their sector on social media.

The survey also questioned companies about their ‘go to social media’. The most used sites were LinkedIn (89%), Twitter (54%), Facebook (37%), Google+ (16%) and YouTube (11%).

Worryingly, 4% of the organisations surveyed admitted to having a significant issue with the misuse of social media and/or the internet in their business.

Commenting on the research findings, Edward Lee, Howes Percival Partner and corporate law expert said, “Regardless of the industry you operate in or whether your business is a multi-national or a one-man band, social media offers a great opportunity for companies to establish and promote their brands and products. With millions of subscribers, they’re also an effective platform to connect with customers.

“While social media is undoubtedly a great marketing tool, inappropriate use by employees can cause real problems. We were concerned to see that nearly a third of companies don’t have a social media policy to help guard against potentially damaging postings or online behaviour, such as harassment, by employees. Thankfully, most companies said they haven’t experienced any significant problems with their employees’ online behaviour, but a small minority had. Anecdotal evidence from our survey suggests that distractions caused by social media usage by employees, especially Facebook, while at work is a major concern for some businesses.”

Edward Lee continued, “To help avoid social media pitfalls, companies should put in place a written social media policy. This should be clearly communicated to staff and should outline if, and how, internet use is limited during working time and using company computers. Sanctions for breaching confidentially online, or posting material which could damage the company’s reputation, or making offensive or discriminatory comments, should also be included.”

UK technology startup Rimilia secures place in Microsoft ScaleUp programme

Rimilia, a leading global intelligent financial automation software provider, has announced a collaboration with Microsoft after being accepted onto the current cohort of the select Microsoft ScaleUp programme.

The Microsoft ScaleUp programme, part of the Microsoft for Startups initiative, connects companies with new customers and channel partners and is underpinned by a $500 million investment to drive innovation and growth. Through a rigorous assessment, Rimilia beat hundreds of entrants to secure a place on the programme, as one of only 12 organisations accepted.

The Rimilia solution automates the complete account receivables process, enabling organisations to control their cashflow and cash collection in real-time, using sophisticated analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) to predict customer payment behaviour and easily match and reconcile payments, removing the uncertainty of cash collection.

Whilst the Rimilia solution integrates with any ERP system, Rimilia already has a number customers on the Microsoft Azure platform including Interserve, Speedy Hire, Securitas and Rentokil. Rimilia has commenced migrating its global blue chip customer base onto Azure, and recent customer wins are being deployed onto the Microsoft Azure application service, delivering enhanced security, resilience, scalability and responsiveness.

MD Microsoft for Startups, Warwick Hill said: “We were struck by Rimilia’s solution. We constantly look to drive value for both Microsoft Clients and the companies being supported in our ScaleUp program – Rimilia is a perfect example of that sweet spot. The ability for our clients to leverage Rimilia’s solution to automate and digitally transform their accounts receivable and audit processes will drive the co-sell partnership for years to come. The power of Microsoft Azure and Dynamics365, coupled with Rimilia’s specific industry and software expertise is a powerful combination.”

Steve Richardson, CCO and co-founder of Rimilia, said: “We are delighted to be working on the Microsoft Startups programme. Microsoft has been tremendously supportive and professional throughout the whole onboarding process. Having never lost a customer to a competitor the extra “stickiness” of working with Microsoft will consolidate that position as well as create a base to support our ambitious expansion plans.”

Equifax joins Scottish Financial Enterprise

Equifax, the consumer and business insights expert, has joined Scottish Financial Enterprise (SFE) to enhance its collaboration, engagement and partnerships with fellow SFE members.

Equifax organises, assimilates and analyses data on millions of consumers and businesses worldwide and is one of the largest sources of detailed consumer and business data in the UK.

Using the combined strength of unique trusted data, technology and innovative analytics, Equifax has grown from a consumer credit company into a leading provider of insights into consumer behaviour and drivers behind the economy. This intelligence helps its clients drive their businesses forward and consumers access the products and services they can reasonably afford.

Equifax also helps organisations to protect against fraud and comply with regulation, and consumers protect their identity and access credit.

Robert McKechnie, Senior Manager for Vertical Propositions at Equifax, said: “As a data and insight business, we know how important it is to work directly with the financial services industry, so we’re delighted to join SFE which provides an excellent opportunity to help shape and drive financial services across Scotland and the wider UK.

“The financial services sector has always been a strong component of the Scottish economy with global banks, insurance and asset management companies, as well as legal and accountancy firms located throughout the country. From an Equifax perspective, we see a huge amount of our focus in the coming years being proactively participating in advancements in Open Banking and Commercial Credit Data Sharing – and our relationship with SFE will enhance our collaboration, engagement and partnership approach in these areas. We very much look forward to a long-lasting relationship with Scottish Financial Enterprise and its member organisations.”

Graeme Jones, Scottish Financial Enterprise Chief Executive, said: “Equifax has shown a real interest in supporting the financial services industry here in Scotland and becoming an active partner in SFE. I have no doubt Equifax will be a great addition to our diversifying and expanding membership, which reflects the changing landscape of financial services in Scotland.

“Scotland has a long-track record of innovation and it’s positive to see data and insight companies, such as Equifax, looking to form partnerships within our sector and also support the work SFE and our members are doing to strengthen financial services in Scotland for the long-term.”

Stonebridge Group records record month for mortgage apps

Stonebridge Group, the mortgage and insurance network, has today (14th June 2018) announced its best ever month for mortgage applications with its advisers last month seeking £800 million of loans for clients.

May’s figures showed a considerable 16% month-on-month increase from April, with the previous best month for Stonebridge being back in February this year.

Stonebridge’s year-to-date figures for mortgage applications also show an overall 16% increase on the same period in 2017.

The network puts the increase in application business down to an increase in productivity from its advisers and AR firms, plus a 4% increase in the average mortgage applied for.

Mortgage application business was split between 55% purchases and 45% remortgages/product transfers.

The record month shows Stonebridge Group bucking the wider market trend with the Bank of England recently announcing that the number of new mortgage ‘commitments’ agreed by lenders had fallen to £61.1 billion in Q1 2018, a 5.9% drop on the previous quarter. This was the lowest amount since Q1 2016.

The network has close to 550 active advisers, spread across 250 AR partner firms; a further 16 advisers are currently in the network’s pipeline and will be brought under its umbrella shortly.

Jo Carrasco, Business Partnerships Director at Stonebridge Group, commented: “Despite some of the general market figures coming out of the Bank of England for recent months, and the year to date, we have had a very strong start to the year in terms of mortgage activity. Our applications continue to move upwards and to post a record month in May, following similar activity levels throughout 2018 is very pleasing.

“Productivity from advisers within the Stonebridge Group is predominantly the reason for this, coupled with an increase in the average loan size, and it’s clear there is a growing demand for mortgage advice from the general public, particularly given the increased complexity and the fact that clients want access to the whole of market.

“It’s for this reason that we are worried by some of the measures proposed in the FCA’s recent Mortgages Market Study Interim Report. The benefits of advice should be clear to all, and the fact the regulator appears to think lenders have over-egged the pudding in terms of following MMR is not helpful. Our advisers provide a quality service with the added protection that advice offers; for the regulator to be supportive of a process which pushes more consumers via direct channels and makes it easier to conduct execution-only business is a retrograde step, and should be resisted by all within our industry.”

Corlytics grows in A&O’s Fuse programme

Corlytics, the innovative regulatory risk intelligence and analytics team has secured a new banking client, following the success of its time in Allen & Overy’s Fuse programme.

Set up in September 2017, Fuse is a tech innovation space where hand-picked innovative fintech and legaltech companies, Allen & Overy lawyers, technologists and their clients collaborate to explore, develop and test legal, regulatory and deal-related solutions. Having spent six months at Fuse Corlytics, a recognised world leader in determining regulatory risk impact, hopes to collaborate with A&O on further opportunities.

Extending the A&O ecosystem
Corlytics was originally selected for its advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) modelling that it has used to develop its regulatory enforcement database. The internal team at Corlytics is made up of leading data scientists, seasoned technologists, proven banking risk practitioners and expert lawyers.

Mike O’Keeffe, general manager of Corlytics Solutions explains, “The access to the Fuse innovation programme was a huge boost both in the development of our products and critically to access to senior banking clients. Having been part of the programme, we are now working directly with new clients introduced to us by A&O.”

He continues, “Being part of the programme at Fuse, we have become part of its ecosystem. That has benefited us enormously. Lending extra credibility to our offer. As part of the extended ecosystem, A&O is now overseeing some cutting edge innovative work with two further banking clients.”

Shruti Ajitsaria, Head of Fuse at Allen & Overy, added: “Working alongside the first cohort of Fuse companies has enabled us to keep abreast of the constantly changing legal and regulatory tech ecosystem. We are really pleased with the standard of the companies that first joined us and the transformative work already underway. We have now invited a second wave of companies who joined us at the start of May and we look forward to further successes.”

myGini launches unique customer loyalty app for European financial service organisations

myGini Inc., a San Francisco-based provider of leading-edge software solutions for the fintech sector, has launched its state-of-the-art consumer loyalty engine into the European financial services market. myGini is the first integrated payments and shopping app to provide financial institutions with their own easily installed reward program triggered by MasterCard and Visa card transactions. It allows banks to increase customer loyalty and transaction volume by encouraging customers to make the financial organisation’s debit or credit card their card of choice.

myGini connects cardholders, retailers and banks by combining retail offers with real-time push notifications without the need for a log-in or to open the app every time a purchase or cash transaction takes place. Financial institutions and retailers can generate innovative offers and promotions to create a better shopping experience based on previous shopping behaviour, while providing customers with a wide range of user functionality including transaction monitoring, spending control settings, card unblocking and finance instalment capabilities.

The platform is particularly easy to adopt either as a shopping app or as an SDK (Software Development Kit) for an existing mobile banking app, reducing integration efforts required from banks by leveraging existing infrastructure and myGini integration with MasterCard and Visa APIs. It provides banks and retailers with an extensive range of ‘offer’ platforms to replace paper-based coupons and rebates and allows them to easily segment cardholders into target groups such as low spenders, revolvers and transactors.

Because myGini has been designed to address most frequently asked call centre questions, it reduces call centre operational costs. Mehmet Sezgin, founder and CEO of myGini Inc., explains: “myGini provides two core benefits that really break new ground in the European card market. First, its loyalty engine offers retailers a highly sophisticated platform to roll out creative promotions that draw repeat customers. Second, its real-time push notifications, which cardholders receive with every purchase, simultaneously trigger parallel offers from their banks, a feature that boosts transaction activity and builds customer engagement.”

Sezgin, a payments and banking expert with broad worldwide experience, continued, “The dynamics between card issuers and merchants are unique in each country. However, this is not the case for cardholders. No matter where they live, consumers recognise a winning value proposition when they see it.” He added, “as Europe is much more advanced on contactless terminals, I am confident that myGini’s HCE capability to allow cardholders to pay with Android phones will be better appreciated on this side of Atlantic.”

Insure-tech start-up Credable expands operations to cover buyers in 24 countries

Sweden’s SME exporters can now assess the credit worthiness of potential overseas business partners and protect their payments with them online in less than two minutes.

Credable, a Swedish insure-tech start-up which offers invoice insurance to SMEs, is from today providing cover in 24 European countries. The firm believes that the market for Swedish SMEs seeking financial support for overseas trade is underserved. As 59% of Sweden’s exports are within the EU* and exceeded Euros 20bn in the first quarter of 2018**, helping smaller firms protect their payments when venturing abroad both helps them and represents a huge market opportunity.

Launched in the Swedish market in March this year and growing rapidly, Credable is now taking the next step of providing cover across Europe as a direct response to growing demand and feedback from existing and potential clients.

In less than two minutes, the service allows companies to go online and check the creditworthiness of their customers for free and, based on a real-time credit rating, instantly purchase credit insurance on individual invoices. Companies can even insure invoices up to 15 days after they have been issued, giving the busy SME business owner added convenience and peace of mind.

As no other trade credit insurance company in the world is able to offer this service; Credable is revolutionising the trade credit insurance and payments market in favour of smaller firms. By helping Swedish SMEs protect their unsecured accounts receivables Credable provides reassurance to companies looking to export that their clients in distant territories are trustworthy financial partners and their payments are protected if any problems arise.

Credable Managing Director, Richard Garnier explains:
“Since our launch last March we have seen strong interest in our proposition especially from exporting SMEs and high growth companies working with new customers – two groups in particular for whom on-demand credit checks and instant invoice insurance make real sense.”

Garnier adds:
“Invoice insurance is both an alternative and a complement to traditional forms of short term financing for companies which include invoice discounting, supply chain financing and factoring. These sort of financing products are not always best suited to the SME’s needs. In fact our customers tell us that they can be costly, time consuming and difficult to manage as well as being primarily designed to cater only for domestic trade.”

The total invoice financing market worldwide in 2017 amounted to 2,472 billion euro, a growth of 4% since 2016***, which suggests companies are becoming increasingly concerned about late and non-payment of invoices. However, in Sweden alone, of the 20 billion euros of invoices financed, only 5% represent cross border trade****. This astonishing difference is likely as a result of factoring and financing companies being limited to domestic markets.

Credable is part of Euler Hermes, the world’s largest trade credit insurance company.

Making Scottish LPs subject to money laundering checks is the right move – but Government should go further

John Dobson, CEO of anti-money laundering verification platform, SmartSearch welcomes the news that the UK Government has announced plans to reform legislation governing the use of Scottish Limited Partnerships.

But suggests all sectors, even with a small risk of money laundering should also be subject to checks.

Scottish Limited Partnerships (SLPs) are currently not subject to AML checks, but unlike most investment vehicles, they have their own legal ‘personalities’ which means they can hold assets, borrow money from banks and enter into contracts in their own right.

This flexible and somewhat ‘anonymous’ structure means they are popular with legitimate businesses but also leaves them open to abuse, as John explains:

“The real owners of SLPs are able to hide their activity by not listing themselves and using foreign bank accounts. SLPs therefore offer anonymous ownership and control while giving the impression of a respectable UK business – a perfect veil for criminal activity. So perfect, in fact, that it is estimated that as many as half of all SLPs are being used to launder dirty cash”

The National Crime Agency says a “disproportionately high volume” of suspected criminal activity involves SLPs, with one money laundering scheme reportedly using more than 100 SLPs to move $80 billion out of Russia.

And Transparency International’s report ‘Offshore in the UK’ found that just five ‘frontmen’ were responsible for more than half of the 6,800 SLPs registered between January 2016 May 2017, and that half of all SLPs are registered at just 10 addresses.

John continues: “It is clear that something needed to be done, and the proposed reforms include that all those seeking to register a limited partnership have to register with an anti-money laundering supervisory body and to provide evidence of this.

“This is a very sensible move but I would go further and say that AML checks should be rolled out across the financial sector and made more stringent in areas that should already be doing comprehensive checks. For example, luxury goods retailers such as high-end cars, jewellery, antiques – any business, where large financial transactions take place, is open to abuse by money launderers.”

There is some opposition to the added cost and time needed to carry out AML checks on Scottish LPs and the same would be true of other sectors, but John says that with the latest technology, this is no longer an issue

“Carrying out money laundering checks used to be a slow, cumbersome process, with documents being checked by hand, which is why only sectors most at risk to money laundering have been subject to checks.

“But, thanks to advances in technology, electronic anti-money laundering platforms can complete AML checks and automatic sanction and PEP screening in a matter of seconds. So there is no reason why the Government shouldn’t legislate that any area that is in any way at risk to fraudulent financial activity is subject to proper AML checks.”

Reward Finance enjoys another record year

Reward Finance Group, the Leeds and Manchester-based alternative finance provider, has posted another record set of year-end figures, as it continues to expand in both regions.

During the course of the year ending February the company delivered over 120 new deals, an increase of 32% over the previous year.

Year-end loan book increased by 29 percent to £53m, which provided fee and interest income of £9m, up from £7.5m the previous year. Profit before tax hit £4m in what is only Reward’s sixth full year of operation.

In addition, following demand from clients and introducers, Reward increased its maximum loan term to two years which has been facilitated through an additional £40m cash injection, by Foresight Group, during the course of the year.

The impressive growth was facilitated by the opening of a new Manchester office and the recruitment of nine experienced people across both offices, which has almost doubled the team.

Commenting on the results Tom Flannery, joint managing director of Reward Finance, said, “Reward was at the forefront of the alternative finance market and from the start we have always looked for a point of differentiation from other lenders. Quick decision making and certainty of delivery, on short term lending, were two things that had all but disappeared for SME’s. Over the years we have expanded our product range to ensure we can meet all the cash flow requirements of businesses and by ensuring the client has the funds when they need them.

“To be able to do this it was essential to build a knowledgeable and empathetic team to adopt a common sense approach and build long lasting relationships through responsible lending.”

Looking to the year ahead Nick Smith, group sales and marketing director of Reward Finance, said, “It was an excellent year all round and we are keen to build on our continued success by attracting even more experienced and well connected funders to the team. We will also be concentrating on establishing ourselves as a key player in the North West.

“Consistency, transparency and the ability to understand a client’s borrowing needs, to develop a bespoke solution around them, are the values that underpin the Reward model”