Saxo Payments Banking Circle VP of Marketing appointed to the Executive Board of the European Women Payments Network

Miranda McLean, VP of Marketing at ground-breaking financial utility, Saxo Payments Banking Circle since its launch, has been appointed to the Executive Board of the European Women Payments Network.

The European Women Payments Network (EWPN), is focused on championing the skills and expertise of women in the burgeoning FinTech and payments sectors. In particular, through mentorship, leadership programmes, networking events and workshops, EWPN is providing the opportunity for women to learn, network, share and celebrate their achievements.

The appointment of Miranda McLean to the Executive Board signals the EWPN’s ambition to further extend its reach and influence throughout the European business community.

‘”The FinTech sector is, itself, breaking new ground and challenging the status quo”, explained Miranda McLean. “It therefore makes sense for those working in this sector to advocate diversity and inclusiveness – and for women to lead that cause.

“I am tremendously excited to have been appointed to the Executive Board and look forward to working with my colleagues to continue to extend the reach and influence of the EWPN.”

Miranda McLean has built a considerable reputation for developing and executing successful marketing strategies for a wide range of financial services businesses over more than two decades. Starting her career at Thomson Financial, she has also held senior positions at Reuters, Standard and Poor, Lexis Nexis, Equifax and Ukash. In 2015 she was appointed by payments start-up, Saxo Payments, to create the brand identity and marketing strategy which has taken the cross border financial utility to a multi-million dollar business in less than three years.

As a highly motivated marketer, Miranda believes barriers to opportunity only exist if vision is blinkered. She has committed to self-development and improvement at every stage of her career to build a wealth of experience in global and European brand development, execution and management. She aims to bring that enthusiasm and energy to her new role at EWPN.

Martha Mghendi-Fisher, Founder of the European Women Payments Network added: “Since our formation in 2015, we have focused on building a strong network of women working in the sector who can share their experiences to help others to progress their careers. Now we want to take the Network to the next level of influence and Miranda McLean’s experience in the field of marketing will be invaluable to hone our messages and extend our reach.”

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, 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.”

Reaction to Welsh Government abolishment of council tax imprisonment

Alistair Chisholm, head of advice sector policy and partnerships at PayPlan, wrote an industry report ‘I can’t believe we still do that’ in November 2017. The report, a joint project between PayPlan and the Institute of Money Advisers revealed:

  • There is a postcode lottery when it comes to prison – only a minority of councils still use court action to imprison council tax debtors.
  • The average debt level of people subject to committal action in court for council tax arrears in 2016/17 was just £2,213.00 – below the level for which the law allows bankruptcy to be considered.
  • Council tax debt is not a crime. People sent to prison for council tax debt have weaker protections in court than criminals. For example, they have no time taken off for good behaviour, and the appeal process is usually very expensive and hard to use.

Commenting on the announcement by the Welsh Government about its intentions to abolish imprisonment for those with council tax debt, Alistair said: “We are delighted by this announcement – it’s great to see that the Welsh Government has decided to change this outdated law. Sending people to prison because they are behind with a bill can be devastating – for them and their families. Prison should be for serious crimes, not local debt.

“I have enormous respect for the women who were sent to prison for council tax debt in Wales who have spoken out about this issue in court and in the media. They have made a huge difference. Our review of councils across England and Wales last year found that the Vale of Glamorgan Council committed 14 people to prison in 2016/17 as a result of council tax arrears, the second highest for a council in the UK. I hope it will be some comfort for these individuals that in the future other people won’t have to suffer being locked up for local debts.

“Those struggling with debt should not feel they are unfairly lumped together with criminals. We hope this announcement will see Welsh councils work more closely with advice agencies and those members of their community struggling financially so that council tax debt collection is proportionate and fair.

“It’s now time for government authorities in England to stand up and take notice of these changes, and get up to speed with counterparts in Scotland and Northern Ireland where this outdated practice is already unlawful.”

Robert Wilson, Chief Executive of the Institute of Money Advisers, adds: “As well as action by government and local councils, we need improved training for magistrates and court staff. Dealing with the growing number of people who have serious money problems requires expertise. Debt is complicated, and officials need an informed, professional understanding of the realities of living with financial difficulty. We would like to see the courts and the Ministry of Justice working more closely with money advisers”.

Business rates appeals from 2010 remain unresolved

More than 133,000 businesses are still waiting for an appeal of their business rates valuation from 2010 to be resolved, council leaders reveal.

More than 1 million businesses have challenged their business rates bill since 2010. The Local Government Association said figures published this month show 133,060 appeals have still yet to be ruled on.

Councils do not set business rates or rule on challenges by businesses making appeals. But the result of appeals is that councils must put money aside from delivering the services that local taxpayers pay for and expect until appeals are decided.

The LGA said councils have been forced to divert £2.5 billion away from stretched local services over the past five years to cover the risk of business rates appeals, as they have to fund half the cost of any backdated refunds.

Ahead of a Westminster Hall Debate today (Wednesday) on business rates, the LGA is calling on the Government to take the financial risk from business rates appeals away from local government.

The LGA said government plans to allow councils to keep more of the business rates they collect, a move which has been long-called for by local government, makes it even more imperative for reform of the system to protect councils from the growing and costly risk of appeals. This is because they may become liable to pay back even more of the cost of any backdated refunds.

Council leaders are also recommending a time limit for appeals, except in exceptional circumstances. In Scotland, there is a six month time limit for businesses to appeal their valuation.

Alongside reviewing the process for appeals and clearing growing backlogs, the LGA is also urging the Government to:

– Modernise the way business rates affect different ratepayers, to ensure that sectors such as online businesses make a fair contribution and that councils are given maximum flexibility on reliefs.

– Tackle the issue of business rates avoidance, which the LGA estimates leads to the loss of £230 million each year.

Cllr John Fuller, Vice Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Resources Board, said: “Ongoing delays in tackling business rate appeals from 2010 are heaping further financial uncertainty and pressure on our local services at a time when every penny counts towards giving councils the best chance of protecting services over the next few years.

“It is right that a business is able to challenge their valuation if they genuinely believe it to be incorrect.

“Despite not setting business rates or ruling on appeals, councils are having to take billions of pounds away from already stretched local services, such as adult social care, protecting children and supporting businesses and boosting local growth, to cover the financial risk and uncertainty arising from this backlog of appeals. This is completely unfair.

“As we move towards a system where councils will keep more of the business rates they collect locally, communities need to be protected from the shifting of resources to address the risk of business rates appeals. With local government in England facing an overall funding gap that will exceed £5 billion by 2020, this money is needed to fund vital services and help plug growing funding gaps.”

SIA the first network provider certified for instant payments of the ECB

SIA is the first Network Service Provider to have acquired certification from the Eurosystem (ECB and national central banks in the Eurozone) to provide access to TIPS – TARGET Instant Payment Settlement – the new pan-European service for settlement in central bank money of instant payments, the launch of which is planned for November 2018.

The startup of the TIPS service will further support the integration and innovation of the market for retail payments in euros.

At present, SIAnet is the only network infrastructure to have passed all the Eurosystem tests regarding aspects of security, performance, reliability and governance. Consequently, European banks and other Payment Service Providers (PSPs) can participate, through the SIA network, in the pilot phase of the TIPS service.

The infrastructure already handles instant payments at European level through the connection to EBA Clearing’s RT1 system, in operation as of 21 November 2017 and with over 1 million transactions carried out with a value of 635 million euro.

SIA thus offers its services as the only access network to both pan-European instant payment platforms – RT1 and TIPS. Thanks to a solution totally managed by SIA which guarantees superfast connections through a new low-latency messaging technology, banks can focus on their core business, reducing the costs and operating impacts related to the management of complex infrastructures.

“The certification awarded by the Eurosystem testifies to the excellence of SIAnet, which meets all the requirements of reliability, speed and solidity necessary for instant payments. Furthermore, it confirms the important role of SIA as primary technology provider in the area of network services, also with a view to the creation of the Eurosystem Single Market Infrastructure Gateway in 2021. The ESMIG project will enable access by banks, via a single interface, to the market infrastructures managed by the Eurosystem, strengthening the cybersecurity and resilience of strategically important systems”, commented Nicola Cordone, Deputy CEO of SIA.

With the launch of instant payments at the tail end of last year, citizens and businesses in 34 countries in the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) can send and receive cash up to a limit of 15,000 euro in a single transaction in less than 10 seconds through a service active 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in line with the SEPA Instant Credit Transfer (credit transfer with immediate and irrevocable credit) scheme of the European Payments Council (EPC).

Over a third of Brits think the UK will be cashless in 10 years or less

Online research from Equifax, the consumer and business insights expert, reveals over a third (37%) of Brits believe the UK will be a cashless society within the next 10 years. Over half (53%) of 16-34 years olds believe we’ll be reliant on digital and card payments by 2028, compared to just 22% of those aged 55 or above.

However the research shows that while the use of cash is declining1, it still has its fans. In the survey, conducted with Gorkana, respondents said coins are their top payment choice for vending machines (60%), parking meters (57%), charity donations (53%), and buses (52%), and paying with notes is the preference for taxis (42%).

While 46% of people use cash less often that they did three years ago, more than half (54%) of respondents use cash either as or more often, and almost three in five (59%) think shops, cafes or market stalls that only accept cash are convenient.

The findings also highlight that although the use of digital payments via contactless cards and online transactions is growing rapidly1, some people are still wary about security. Over a quarter (27%) of respondents don’t feel confident payments via websites or contactless cards are secure, and 26% think it’s difficult to track money spent using digital methods.

Sarah Lewis, Head of ID and Fraud at Equifax, said: “We’re in the midst of an exciting smart payments revolution. We can pay for our lunch with our watches and passers-by are now able to donate to buskers via contactless. This growth of new payment technologies is drawing us closer to a cashless society, but long standing preferences for cash remain in certain situations, particularly among older consumers.

“The shift to digital payments in the new economy raises important questions about the role of different payment methods, and highlights the need to balance the convenience people want with security. As digital and online payments continue to grow, so too does the associated fraud. It’s vital that new technology is maximised to give people the reassurance they need as they change the way they spend.”

Content Guru Scores Top Marks in New Education Framework

UK-based customer engagement technology leader, Content Guru, has been enlisted into the new Education Framework, where it will make its award-winning cloud communications services available to members of Crescent Purchasing Consortium (CPC). CPC provides specialist procurement advisory and contract management services to the UK’s Further Education and Higher Education sector, as well as to schools and Academy Trusts. In total, CPC serves members in more than 5000 separate institutions, from Chesterfield College to Cardiff University.

Content Guru will supply services for two lots – ‘Integrated & Unified Communications Solutions’ and ‘PABX Systems, PSTN Lines, Call Packages and Billing Solutions’ – through CPC’s procurement partners, Northern Procurement Group Ltd (NPG). The customer engagement company’s ubiquitous cloud platform, storm®, Europe’s largest communications integration facility, was selected on account of its field-proven delivery of omni-channel services to educational organisations around the world. Content Guru’s client portfolio in the sector includes UCAS and King’s College London, which use storm’s scalability to seamlessly handle spikes in demand whilst delivering service continuity, including on A-Level results day.

Martin Taylor, CMO of Content Guru, commented: “The Education Framework represents an important strategic step forward in the provision of high-quality communication capabilities for educational establishments. The Content Guru team is looking forward to introducing the UK education sector to our world-class portfolio of cloud communications solutions, which hundreds of large private-sector organisations use to power their customer engagement. This new framework will allow us to unlock enterprise-grade capabilities for education at an accessible price point.”

Steve Davies, Director of Procurement at Northern Procurement Group, commented: “We are delighted to welcome Content Guru onto the Education Framework. With an increasing breadth of services, we are constantly looking to recruit suppliers who can push the boundaries and deliver a high calibre service to all our members. I am excited to see how proven services will transform the way the sector communicates.”

CSA confirms programme for 2018 UKCCC with key focus on technology

The Credit Services Association (CSA), the voice of the UK debt collection and debt purchase sectors, has confirmed the full programme for this year’s UK Credit and Collections Conference (UKCCC), including a keynote address by Romana Pearson, Head of Consumer Credit at the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

The conference is divided into morning and afternoon plenary sessions, including a panel debate on the pros and cons of Fintech, and a discussion on how to resolve the issue of mounting consumer debt. Between the plenaries, delegates will have a choice of five breakout streams, including two streams devoted to technology and innovation, as well as Compliance & HR and International Relations. Although 25 May has passed, and GDPR is now in force, as an industry, there is still a lot of work to do. Delegates will also have the chance to attend a number of dedicated GDPR workshops delivered by Toni Vitale of Winckworth Sherwood, focusing on the regulator’s current and future priorities, fines, and some of the challenges with compliance, all to help reassure businesses that they are still on the right track.

Within the technology and innovation streams specifically, experts will discuss such issues as Payment Initiation Services (PIS), the role of Artificial Intelligence and machine learning, and how Open Banking applies to businesses large and small. The much-heralded Senior Managers and Certification Regime (SMCR) will be a particular focus within the Compliance stream, whereas the International Relations stream will explore the practical impact of Brexit on collections and provide an update on the new FENCA Code of Conduct.

The GDPR stream will be split into three workshops: the first looking at the current and future priorities of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO); the second exploring the challenges of regulation compliance; and the third outlining future Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR).

As well as the conference programme, this year’s event will play host to the 2018 Credit and Collections Technology Awards to recognise excellence and innovation in the UK credit and collections industry. It also reflects the Association’s growing recognition of technology as being vital to the future success of businesses in the sector. Entries for the awards are now open.

Payments community calls on Government to show courage in supporting the UK payments industry

The Emerging Payments Association (EPA) has today published its response to HM Treasury’s (HMT) call for evidence on cash and digital payments in the new economy. The response lists a series of recommendations from the payments community on how government can encourage consumer adoption of new innovations and how the UK can become a less-cash society.

EPA members call upon HM Treasury, and government, to further develop an environment that fosters investment for innovations in the sector and to seed the subsequent waves of digital payments services. The community also commends UK regulators for continuing to create an environment which enables strong innovation and competition between payment providers to deliver great propositions for end users.

The EPA highlights the importance of a continued focus on financially including all user groups and states that the payments industry needs to engage customers who are not using digital payments today to ensure that the benefits of digital payments are spread fairly across society.

The response also details the FinTech community’s position on cash, noting that there is a long-term need for cash but highlighting that government and regulators need to do more to deliver appropriate security measures for cash payments – equivalent to the demands for security for digital payments.

EPA members have requested that government and regulatory bodies should actively engage with the payments industry to influence the scale of opportunity for developing digital payment services, enabling further growth of cashless payments and support the industry’s digital inclusion agenda.

The industry also recognises the need for consumers to be fully engaged in understanding the opportunities and benefits of moving more to digital payments in order for ongoing cash reduction to be achieved.

‘We’re entering the most exciting phase in the evolution of payments,’ says Tony Craddock, Director General of the Emerging Payments Association. ‘The stars are aligned for the UK to show the world, that with the UK government’s support, everyone moving money can benefit from new payments technology.’

Claims companies rush for profits before a new regulator takes hold

On 5th June the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) published a consultation on regulating Claims Management Companies (CMCs) when they fall under the remit of the FCA on 1st April 2019. It is expected that a great many of them will fail to obtain FCA authorisation once the new regulator examines their practices. In March 2018 there were 594 claims management companies operating in the financial services sector alone.

So there is a rush to make profits whilst there is still time. CMCs are supposed to be registered with the existing Claims Management Regulator (CMR), but published figures show that in the year to March 2018, 602 businesses were notified to the CMR as suspected of unregistered (and therefore unregulated) trading. The CMR sent 90 warning letters to unregistered firms, investigated 8, removed 5 websites and cautioned just one firm.

Additionally, since April 2013, the regulator has visited 1384 registered CMC’s with around 100 found to be in breach of a ban on referral fees alone. Twenty-two warnings were issued but no fines were imposed and only one licence was revoked.

The big question is whether law firms will be caught by FCA regulation, or shelter under the supervision of the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority (SRA)? Two regulators with different rules controlling the same activity could lead to significant gaming by some firms to avoid restrictions on their current practices.

A thematic review published by the SRA indicated that some law firms charged as much as 50% of the total claimed for clients. Lenders said that some firms submitted large numbers of pro-forma complaints. This is a common trend by claims management companies and no-win no-fee lawyers. Large numbers of pro-forma complaints are made to financial services firms with little or no detail – sometimes even when the firm has made no loan at all to the complainant! The hope is that the firm will be swamped with claims and simply make pay-outs without checking the circumstances. Some firms have received communications from legal firms threatening court proceedings in respect of alleged mis-selling of loans when there has been no previous customer complaint at all.

A MoneyCheats spokesperson said: “Many claims management companies and no-win-no fee lawyers are persuading people to make false or inflated compensation claims. They often take 25%-50% of any pay-outs. ​Sometimes they demand upfront fees of hundreds of pounds which are not always refunded when claims fail. Many are flouting regulatory rules to investigate the existence and merits of each element of a potential claim before presenting it, but rather send out hundreds of speculative, unsubstantiated, claims in the hope of pay-outs. Now they are intensively rushing to make profits before they become regulated by a much tougher regime in 2019 when they will need to be authorised and supervised by the FCA.

“The current situation cannot be right. Compensation should be paid to those who have genuinely suffered detriment. There should not be a profit making enterprise either for the complainant, a claims management company or a no-win-no-fee lawyer. The cost of goods and services rises for decent people because of unjustified pay-outs and the staffing costs of complaints handling. People with justified compensation claims are being delayed because claims staff are overloaded and the Financial Ombudsman Service, whose new streamlined approach to speed matters up, has attracted much criticism from complainants and firms alike for unfair results.

“It is time to de-rail this gravy train which is careering dangerously out of control.”