Tinubu appoints new Group Sales Director

Tinubu Square, a leading provider of credit insurance, surety and trade finance solutions, has announced the appointment of Sophie Riottot as Group Sales Director. This is a strategic engagement for the company, which is restructuring its sales approach to reinforce its rapid global growth.

Sophie Riottot brings a wealth of experience to Tinubu Square. She joins the company from Dhatim, a French start-up specializing in AI-powered invoice services, where she was responsible for sales strategy and partnership development. Prior to this, she was with Microsoft for over 17 years, in a variety of prominent sales and management positions, including Head of Finance in the Services Division.

As a member of the executive committee at Tinubu Square, Sophie will be responsible for spearheading the company’s expansion into international markets beyond Europe, where fast growth offers significant potential. She will explore fresh approaches to partnerships and evangelise the role of Tinubu and it’s software solution to ensure smooth digital transformation processes for its customers.

Tinubu Square’s SaaS-based platform delivers an innovative and fully scalable solution for its clients’ needs and the company also offers in-depth knowledge of the trade credit, surety bonding and risk markets. This combination makes it a highly valuable partner for organisations focused on international expansion.

Sophie Riottot, commented: “I feel very privileged to join Tinubu Square at a time when the fast growth of the business needs to be steered to even greater success. My interest is in helping organisations to expand by fostering teamwork internally, developing innovative sales strategies and delivering results for customers.”

Tinubu Square will rely on Sophie’s expertise as it restructures with a focus on attracting new business in our markets, recruiting talent, and introducing its solutions to an ever-increasing pool of customers.

“Sophie is accustomed to driving sales strategies for both large and smaller software companies, and she will bring all of this experience to bear for us,” said Olivier Placca, Deputy CEO at Tinubu Square. “She will be setting up a flexible, efficient and scalable sales structure to support our growth, and will help us to further evolve within our niche market. Most importantly she has the knowledge and commitment to support our customers as they make their digital transformation. This is a challenge that we are confident she will meet with aplomb.”

Law firm reports increase in turnover and profit despite significant new investment

Law firm Howes Percival has once again seen an increase in its turnover and profit according to its most recent financial results.

The turnover of the firm exceeded £21m in the financial year ending May 2019, up 5.1% on the previous year. The firm has also taken the opportunity to make significant investments during this year, which it expects to lead to significant further growth in 2019/20. Nevertheless, it still managed to increase its profit by 4% during 2018/19 and it anticipates that by May 2020 it will have reached its target set in 2014 to increase turnover from £15m to £25m.

The firm’s clients include Government departments, international brands and household names such as Welcome Break, Microsoft and FTSE listed pub operator Marston’s. The firm maintains a strong core client base of SMEs and family-owned businesses, plus high net worth individuals.

2018/19 saw a significant increase in new appointments as Howes Percival added to its expertise in several key areas. Three senior corporate partners Jahid Ali, Oliver Brookshaw and banking specialist Haydon Simmonds, joined the firm in January 2019 from Spearing Waite LLP making Howes Percival’s corporate team the largest in Leicestershire.

The last 12 months has seen two further Government legal panel appointments for Howes Percival. In April 2019, the firm was re-appointed to The Insolvency Service’s £16m legal panel for England, Wales and Scotland, for a further two-year period. Howes Percival has worked for the Insolvency Service for over 20 years and is currently conducting disqualification proceedings relating to the failure of BHS and connected companies.

In September 2018, the firm was appointed to the Government’s Crown Commercial Service (CCS) Full Service panel for England and Wales, as part of a consortium.

Tessa Haskey, Howes Percival’s Chairman commented; “This is another really good set of results for the firm and I’m delighted with the progress we are making.

“This last financial year has been a period of sustained recruitment for Howes Percival. We’ve welcomed a large number of new faces in the last 12 months, boosting the total number of lawyers to over 160 across our six offices. It is a significant investment as we respond to the demands of our clients, strengthen new and well-established offices and boost specific teams.

“We’ve also had considerable success winning more Government work, with three major panel appointments in the last two years. It shows how our national reputation has grown.

“I’m delighted too that we remain a firm that nurtures trainees and develops talent from within. Of the 14 partner and senior promotions we announced last month, over a third were lawyers who started their career with us as trainees.

“We owe our success to the capabilities and hard work of our staff and we are pleased to announce that they will again receive a bonus under our staff bonus scheme.”

Trade Ledger launches new cloud technology for Invoice Finance Providers

Trade Ledger, the world’s first open banking business lending platform has launched a new turn-key Automated Invoice Finance Platform for banks and alternative finance providers looking to deliver faster and more flexible working capital solutions to their business customers. Launched to coincide with the commercial finance sector’s key event, the NACFB Expo, the solution is designed to help financial institutions adopt state-of-the-art technology without having to make major infrastructure changes or commit significant IT investment.

The new cloud-based platform, which can be delivered in as little as eight weeks, is the first in a range of preconfigured lending solutions delivered ‘as-a-Service’ as part of Trade Ledger’s global enterprise technology, focused on driving digital transformation for incumbent commercial banks and specialist business lenders. Trade Ledger already has agreements in place for the platform to transform the lending operations of commercial finance providers in Australia, Europe and Asia, and it expects further growth in these regions throughout 2019.

Commenting on the new solution, Martin McCann, CEO at Trade Ledger said: “Lenders in the invoice finance sector must start paying more attention to the advancements in the provision of cheaper, faster and more intelligent business finance solutions. New tech-driven entrants like Market Invoice, Iwoca and OakNorth are challenging the incumbents’ stranglehold on this market. As a specialist B2B technology company, Trade Ledger can provide the same capabilities ‘as-a-Service’ to lenders looking to transform their credit operations and super-charge their ability to compete.”

Trade Ledger provides the most modern API-based LaaS (Lending-as-a-Service) platform and the only one built specifically for the new world of Open Banking. The technology reduces origination costs by as much as 60%, increases return on customer acquisition campaigns by over 100%, and enables lenders to access new market segments that current clunky products prevent access to. Unlike many platforms aimed solely at ‘auto-decisioning’ for micro businesses, Trade Ledger specialises in what it calls ‘auto-assisted decisioning’ which augments the traditional relationship-based credit process with new digital data, advanced workflow approvals, centralised messaging, role-based task management & integrated document management.

The platform is highly secure having attained ISO27001 cloud security compliance, and critically is the only option in the market globally that supports every type of secured and unsecured lending product. Lending products supported include commercial loans, unsecured loans, receivables finance, supply chain finance, asset finance, import/export finance, inventory finance, supply chain finance, reverse factoring and trade finance. It is fully interoperable with any other modern third-party service providers and comes pre-integrated with a range of other API enabled platforms like accounting packages (Xero, Sage, Intuit), Microsoft Dynamics365, DocuSign & Equifax. Most recently, the platform has also integrated with transactional trade credit insurer, Nimbla.

Trade Ledger uses open APIs, machine learning, artificial intelligence and robotic process automation to enhance or replace old and costly legacy systems, to provide new cutting-edge working capital solutions to business customers. The new Automated Invoice Finance Platform offers end-to-end loan origination capabilities and is fully white-labelled to provide the infrastructure and automation capabilities for:

  • Lead Generation
  • Digital Application
  • Due Diligence & Onboarding
  • Credit Risk Decisioning
  • Settlement
  • Loan Management
  • Reconciliation

According to EY’s most recent report – ‘The Future of SME Banking’, demand for UK SME credit reached £59 billion in 2018 and businesses can spend more 30 hours of work and lenders take over 90 days to onboard 1 new customer for 1 credit product. Leveraging its new platform, Trade Ledger can cut the application time down to as little as 4-minutes, removing lengthy and manual paper-based underwriting processes; bridging the gap in customer and staff digital experience; and improving the suitability of lending products and pricing.

Martin McCann, CEO at Trade Ledger added: “We approach the automation of traditional products like invoice finance by applying our inherent understanding of the supply-chain. The team has taken our decades of experience in the global enterprise technology sector and focused on creating the world’s most advance data-driven lending platform.”

The Institute of Export & International Trade and Bibby Financial Services join forces to support UK importers and exporters

The Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT) and one of the UK’s leading independent financial services providers, Bibby Financial Services (BFS), are delighted to announce a new partnership that will provide the UK’s exporters and importers with regular updates and tools relating to international currency markets.

Currency fluctuations are among the biggest concerns of the UK’s SME exporters and importers. According to BFS’s ‘Trading Places’ report, 67% of SMEs said they had been adversely affected by FX requirements.

With so much uncertainty around Brexit, the value of the pound continues to fluctuate regularly, impacting the bottom line of importers and exporters within the UK. It remains crucial for UK businesses – particularly SMEs – to stay on top of currency fluctuations.

Businesses need to be taking steps to mitigate the risk of a fluctuating pound cutting into their overseas international profits and affecting their international supply chain competitiveness.

The new partnership between BFS and IOE&IT will provide:

  • Daily bulletins on the currency markets to members of the IOE&IT
  • An online Currency Calculator tool on the IOE&IT website, which provides spot conversions for a company’s immediate needs
  • Thought leadership articles and presentations in the IOE&IT’s ‘World Trade Matters’ journal and programme of regional ‘World Trade Summits’
  • Regular free webinars supporting exporters and importers on how they can mitigate the impact of currency rate fluctuations

This programme of activities will be supported by BFS’s world class team of FX specialists, providing a platform for UK businesses to trade confidently overseas.

Andrew Perris, UK Head of FX at BFS, was delighted to say: “The impact of Brexit has been twofold for UK SMEs; more expensive imports and currency volatility. To enable businesses to take advantage of growth opportunities, we must do what we can to create a supportive environment for them to flourish. We’re thrilled to be working with the IOE&IT to offer UK importers and exporters the knowledge and support they need to navigate these uncertain times and unlock the opportunities that international trade can bring.”

Lesley Batchelor OBE, Director General of the IOE&IT, added: “During any period, exporters and importers should be up to date with the currency fluctuations that could affect their business. With Brexit causing further movement than usual in the value of the pound, this need becomes even greater. We are therefore delighted to be working with BFS to provide our traders with the information and help they need to mitigate the significant risk around currency fluctuations at this time.”

The new partnership is the latest in a series of moves from the IOE&IT to enhance its support for the UK’s exporter and importer community.

Alongside its recently expanded training and education programmes, the IOE&IT has secured a succession of strategic partnerships to ensure its members have access to the information and advice needed to prepare properly for Brexit – whatever form it may take.

British businesses sitting on £600bn that could be used to fund growth

British businesses could have £593 billion locked up in excess working capital, potentially hampering growth and leaving them exposed to economic uncertainty, according to new research from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking.

The Lloyds Bank Working Capital Index combines the bank’s proprietary research and IHS Markit’s UK Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) data to calculate the working capital pressures businesses are under.

Analysis of nearly 9,000 firms revealed a total of £142 billion is tied up in working capital, a £15 billion rise on last year and a £41 billion hike on 2015. When compared against historical and industry best levels of cash flow efficiency, and extrapolated across UK businesses with more than 50 employees, this equates to £593 billion of excess working capital.

Working capital, the amount of money that a company has committed to the day-to-day costs of doing business, includes overheads such as stock and unpaid invoices.

Stockpiling dominates working capital pressures

Today’s figures indicate stockpiling is the biggest contributor to the increased amount of cash tied-up in working capital. The data shows business inventory levels have risen every year since 2015, with firms investing more than £8 billion this way in the last 12 months alone.

Stockpiling has led larger firms to increase inventory by 33 per cent on average in the last three years. Aerospace and defence, industrial manufacturing and pharmaceuticals were among the sectors experiencing the fastest inventory growth.

The trend for stockpiling pressurises firms’ cash flow, potentially leaving them unable to access the funds needed to manage unforeseen opportunities or challenges.

Looking ahead, more than a third of firms (35 per cent) said business and political uncertainty was the biggest concern affecting the way they plan to manage working capital in the year ahead. This was followed by changes to payment terms (16 per cent) and stockpiling (15 per cent), although this was heavily weighted to manufacturers.

With unpaid bills also weighing on businesses minds, data from the Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking Business Barometer found that 65% are taking proactive steps to collect overdue invoices1. According to the Working Capital Index, small firms typically have cash conversion cycles which are seven days longer than those of larger firms2.

Ed Thurman, Managing Director of Global Transaction Banking at Lloyds Bank, said: “While businesses tying up significant amounts of cash can be an indicator of confidence, against a backdrop of uneven growth figures across core sectors, we shouldn’t be complacent.

“Our research confirms businesses are stockpiling as a precautionary measure, in the face of political and economic uncertainty, to ensure they are in a strong position to face into any potential challenges. Such a deliberate response to an ongoing situation can be risky as cash invested in inventory is rarely easy to release meaning firms are less able to invest in growth or respond to unexpected changes in demand.”

Working capital pressure most acute in manufacturing sector

The PMI data used as an early warning indicator in the Working Capital Index unveils overall pressure to increase working capital has remained relatively flat year-on-year, with a current UK reading of 104.9 (vs 104.6 in 2018)3.

Meanwhile, the reading for the manufacturing sector is at an all-time high of 130.7 (vs 111.0 in 2018)4. The UK’s services and construction sectors measured readings of 99.8 and 107.7 respectively5.

A reading of more than 100 indicates pressure to devote more cash to working capital, while a reading of less than 100 indicates pressure to prioritise liquidity.

Lloyds Bank’s Index found that nearly a third (29 per cent) of manufacturers cited stock build-up as their primary working capital concern, with businesses currently holding elevated stock levels which they plan to run down in the year ahead.

Regional variations

Firms in the East of England have the greatest relative opportunity to free up cash with nearly 11 per cent of total revenue currently tied up in working capital, having seen a 47% jump in inventory levels since 2015.

Those in London have the smallest relative opportunity (just over 5% of revenue), likely due to its weighting to the service sector, although even in London inventory levels grew 23% since 2015.

Can people make good decisions in your meeting rooms? It may be dangerous to assume they can

Pack people into a meeting room and the longer the meeting lasts the higher the carbon dioxide (CO2) levels rise and the faster their cognitive ability declines – not just a little but some aspects by between 35 and 90%. Meeting rooms are often not a good environment for making important decisions!

Every time we breathe in, we inhale about 400 parts per million (ppm) of CO2, when we breathe out, we exhale 40,000 CO2 ppm. As the CO2 in the room climbs from 1,000 ppm to 2,500 ppm and beyond, our basic activity declines by 35%, our ability to use information drops by 60% and our initiative crashes by 95%. The normal atmosphere in a working meeting room is between 1,500 and 3,000 ppm of CO2. Opening the window, particularly if your offices are near a main road or city centre, may just exacerbate the problem because the levels outside may be even higher.

As if this was not enough, when the meeting room is heated in winter (increased by body heat output at around 90 watts per person) the atmosphere can become drier and be perfect for the spread of viruses such as colds and flu, which hang around in the air when humidity is low. Meeting rooms concentrate the problem but offices generally can suffer. Back in 1970 office workers had an average of 56 square metres of space each. Now this is typically down to 14 square metres per person.

Jonathan Copley, of Siemens Smart Infrastructure explains, “In our efforts to save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we have almost hermetically sealed modern buildings. The air can quickly become toxic. Even if there is a ventilation system, it is often poorly maintained and with inadequate settings. Controlling the CO2 levels can produce anything from 2 to 18% improvement in productivity. Controlling humidity can significantly reduce the spread of viruses. The solution starts with putting in a few, inexpensive sensors, so that you know what is happening in offices and meeting rooms. Control may be as simple as opening a window for a while or setting the ventilation controls higher and temperature lower. Installing proper air quality control systems can quickly be paid for through increased productivity, lower employee turnover and a happier workforce”.

“Top tips for getting top quality productivity from your staff?” says Jonathan Copley. “Keep CO2 levels below 1,000ppm. Manage humidity levels to between 40 and 60%. If you work in a big city or industrial area check for Fine Dust particles which can cause respiratory diseases. Make sure people are working in daylight or daylight equivalent lighting, you’ll get fewer problems and absenteeism. Monitoring is easy. Fix the problems only if you have them!”

Making a healthy office by creating the perfect workplace brings the best out of your people!

Bibby Financial Services appoints Global Head of Digital

Bibby Financial Services (BFS) has appointed digital marketing expert and renowned pâtissier, Laure Moyle, as its Global Head of Digital to help drive its digital customer experience.

Laure joins BFS with a unique background in digital marketing and financial services. Her professional experience includes working for Assurant Inc. for four years, where she developed the company’s ‘Protect Your Bubble’ brand. During this period, she established new digital partnerships and helped to launch key business relationships to promote core consumer insurance products. Prior to this, she worked for Friday Media Group, where she developed new revenue streams and spearheaded innovative retargeting campaigns. Laure’s expertise has been shared by both The Daily Telegraph and Forbes, where she has offered SMEs specialised advice and digital insight.

In 2014 Laure left Assurant to pursue her dream of becoming a full-time baker. She founded “The Pudding Fairy” in July of the same year, allowing her to share her passion for baking and utilise her digital expertise to develop a sophisticated e-commerce business model.

The business was a huge success and saw Laure recognised across the UK as a highly accomplished baker and chocolate artist, with her work featuring in national publications such as The Guardian, and her creations ordered by celebrities including Ed Sheeran. Her expertise has also led to her appearing as a regular commentator for BBC Radio 2 and BBC Radio 5 Live on “The Great British Bake Off”.

Laure will be based in BFS’s headquarters in Banbury, Oxfordshire, where she will lead a team of six. In her new role, Laure is tasked with increasing BFS’s digital footprint as well as facilitating the sharing of digital marketing expertise across BFS’s global network.

Speaking of her appointment, Laure said: “The experience of setting up and running my own business has been more challenging than I could have imagined but from which I have learned so much. When BFS got in touch about a job where I could continue to offer SMEs advice on how to get more from their digital content, and share some of my own hard-earned experience, I was delighted. They take such a positive approach to the companies they work with, have a brilliant people focused culture and an impressive appetite among the senior leadership to futureproof the business.

“Combined with the breadth of opportunities to add value to an already great business, I’m looking forward to getting started.

“For fans of my baking – fear not. I will continue to bake in the evenings…even if I won’t be getting much sleep!”

Anna Lisa Tazartes, Global Marketing Director, added: “As increasing numbers of SMEs embrace the digital age, we want to ensure that our digital experience matches their expectations. We are making significant steps to optimise our digital customer experience and the appointment of Laure will take us one step further.

“Appointing someone with as varied and exciting background as Laure is an exciting moment for BFS, and we look forward to her sharing both her vast depth of digital knowledge and the occasional sweet treat!”

Form3 in partnership with Ebury Partners are awarded £5m funding

The Board of Banking Competition Remedies Ltd (BCR) has announced today that Form3 in partnership with Ebury Partners are awarded £5m funds of the Capability and Innovation Fund Pool D grant.

The grant will support Form3 and Ebury in building the first API‐based global transaction platform for UK SMEs, to be distributed at scale through Financial Institutions (FIs).

Form3 and Ebury are two highly innovative, fast‐growing and cloud‐native UK FinTech companies, whose models are designed to scale rapidly and provide substantial benefits to SMEs by offering them access to their global transaction platform.

This funding announcement is one of the 5 innovative projects that have been awarded the BCR Pool D funds out of 60 applications received.

Combining Form3’s powerful APIs and Ebury’s sophisticated currency management, trade finance, payment and collection capabilities will enable a wide range of new and existing Financial Institutions providers in the SME space to offer services that traditionally only global institutions have been able to offer to their corporate customers. As a result, SMEs will be able to procure better services at lower costs from a wide range of FIs, fully integrated by their relationship bank.

Form3 and Ebury are already driving the transformation of financial services in the UK and globally, and proved their ability to work together to bring innovative solutions to the market when Ebury became the first ever non‐bank participant to join the Faster Payments Scheme in March 2018 building on Form3 native‐cloud technology.

Commenting on the announcement, Michael Mueller, CEO of Form3 said, “Form3’s FI API payment technology and Ebury’s global SME transaction services are already disrupting payments and forex. Our plan is to combine these unique capabilities to significantly disrupt the market and give UK SMEs access to these services at scale through our FI clients, enabling UK SMEs to grow their businesses internationally and focus on their core businesses.”

Juan Lobato, Ebury CEO said“Form3 and Ebury global transaction platform will accelerate the transformation of the finance function of SMEs trading internationally.”

Three quarters of financial services firms are family businesses

A new report by the Institute for Family Business Research Foundation reveals the sizeable contribution family firms continue to make to the UK economy. In financial services the 65,000 family-owned businesses employ 272,000 people. They make up 75 per cent of private sector firms.

The report shows how the family business sector continues to grow, shining a light particularly on how small family firms are growing and investing for the future.

Speaking about the new report, Institute for Family Business (IFB) Director General Elizabeth Bagger said: “Family businesses are at the heart of communities across the country. And this new report shows they are a vital force in our economy too – and how their continued growth will benefit the UK as a whole. Financial services family businesses create a substantial proportion of employment, and we are proud to champion and delighted to celebrate this incredible contribution.

“Family firms clearly have the appetite and ambition for growth. They’re investing in skills and looking to the long term. As a country we need to help more of our smaller family firms to overcome the barriers they face, and support them in scaling up and successfully transferring ownership through the generations.

“For those first generation family businesses looking at succession for the first time, it’s important too to realise that you aren’t alone. There are successful, multigenerational family businesses all around the country who you can learn from.

“The family business sector offers so much potential for long term growth. Championing and supporting our mid-sized firms, and helping smaller family businesses to scale up, must be a priority as we look at what our economy will look like in the years ahead.”

For the first time the report includes information on who manages family firms and female representation in leadership roles. The report reveals that family SMEs are more likely to have female leaders than non-family firms – 81 per cent family SMEs, compared to 58 per cent in non-family SMEs, reported having at least female director, owner or partner.

The report shows that while 91 per cent of family SMEs are family managed, as businesses grow, they are more likely to employ non-family members to run the business, with around half of medium sized family firms non-family managed.

Mid-sized family firms – the UK’s Mittlestand – showed higher levels of growth with 56 per cent of mid-sized family firms growing their turnover, and 51 per cent increasing the size of their workforce over the past year.

Scottish Small Business Confidence Springs Back

Scottish business confidence has bounced back into the black for the first time in a year, according to new figures from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

In the second quarter of 2019, FSB’s Scottish Small Business Index (SBI) increased by a record 37.5 points to +3.3. This is only the second time since 2015 that business optimism in Scotland has been in positive territory – and comes after two quarters of record-breaking lows.

In contrast, the UK Index has fallen further into negative territory, down to -8.8 points from -5 last quarter. This is the fourth straight quarter in which the UK index has been below zero, a first in its near 10-year history.

Andrew McRae, FSB’s Scotland policy chair, said: “After five years lagging behind the UK average – and some record low readings over the last six months – it’s a refreshing change to see Scotland bucking the trend in a positive way.

“It’s hard to point to a single factor behind this. The mini heatwave around Easter has reportedly given some important sectors a bit of a bounce. Equally, the Brexit extension in April let businesses breathe a sigh of relief that the threat of crashing out of the EU without a deal had receded for the immediate future.

“But, this sentiment can fall back just as quickly as it has risen. We need to use this narrowing window of opportunity to get Scotland’s businesses some clarity on what the post-Brexit trading environment is going to look like.”

Though slightly more businesses are still reducing staff numbers rather than hiring (the difference is 8.9%), recruitment intentions for the next quarter are firming up, with 15.8 per cent expecting to expand their workforce.

Despite the more positive outlook, businesses are not without their headwinds. 70.3 per cent of respondents said that the cost of running their business is increasing. One in two (49.3%) say utilities is the main cause of this increase while 48 per cent say labour costs are a primary cause of higher costs.

As a result, four in ten (39%) small firms report that profit levels are down this quarter, which is slightly above the UK figure of 42 per cent.

Andrew McRae cautioned: “We shouldn’t be lulled into a false sense of security. Taken as a whole, these figures underline that we can’t take our eye off the ball when it comes to addressing day-to-day issues facing small businesses. Costs are still on the up – and if revenues don’t keep pace any remaining profit will be squeezed from the business.

“At the same time, there are a raft of new regulations on the horizon – on everything from compulsory bottle deposit schemes, to workplace parking levies, to low emissions zones. If these aren’t implemented deftly, they will present unnecessary obstacles to small businesses, at a time when they have enough on their plate.”