Bibby Financial Services expands global headquarters in Banbury

Independent financial services provider, Bibby Financial Services (BFS), has announced the expansion of its global headquarters in Banbury, North Oxfordshire, in line with its strategic growth plan.

First moving to Banbury Business Park in 2016, BFS has now relocated its Construction Finance and Export Finance divisions from Packington House, Horse Fair, to the refurbished Pembroke House offices in Adderbury.

Global Chief Executive of Bibby Financial Services, David Postings said: “We have long wanted to develop a global headquarters that would enable our operational teams and central support functions to work more closely, so I’m delighted that these plans have come to fruition.

“The expansion of our offices in Banbury reflect the business’s growth in recent years, and will undoubtedly help us to enhance the level of service for our clients, while increasing the well-being of our people.”

Victoria Prentis, Member of Parliament for North Oxfordshire, commented: “We are very lucky to have a thriving economy with virtually no unemployment in our area. Bibby Financial Services’ decision to expand its Global Headquarters in Banbury sends a strong signal that North Oxfordshire is the place to do business. I am looking to visiting the new offices and meeting staff once they have settled in.”

In 2018, BFS was awarded 48th place in the Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For, the seventh time the business has featured in the top 100.

Over 300 employees in departments including Operations, HR, Learning and Development, Marketing and Communications, IT Services, Business Change, Finance, Risk and Strategy have moved to the new 17,000 sq. ft. site.

David Postings added: “Being a great place to work, attracting and retaining leading talent are a key elements of our success. Our expanded premises demonstrates our commitment to both our people and the Banbury area, and I look forward to welcoming our clients and business partners alike to Pembroke House over the coming months.”

Following a comprehensive fit-out, Pembroke House now includes Restaurant 1807, in reference to the year in which Liverpool entrepreneur, John Bibby, formed BFS’s parent company, the Bibby Line Group.

Today, BFS supports 10,500 SMEs in more than 300 industry sectors across Europe, North America and Asia. It has 18 regional offices in the UK, employing more than 900 people.

Less than a third of business payments were made on time in Q2

Research from Dun & Bradstreet reveals that UK businesses prompt payments deteriorated in in the three months to June (Q2). On average, less than a third (31.5%) of payments were made on time compared to 31.3% in the previous quarter. The average payment delay in the UK is around 15 days, two days higher than the European average.

Dun & Bradstreet’s UK Quarterly Industry Report shows a clear split by sector, with ‘Health/Education/Social’ and ‘Finance/Industry/Property’ recording the sharpest deterioration in payment performance (down by 1.7% and by 1.4% respectively quarter-to-quarter). However, more positive results were recorded for the Consumer Manufacturing sector which demonstrated the largest improvement, followed by the ‘Eating and Drinking’ (0.8%) and ‘Materials Processing/Mining’ (0.6%) sectors.

Late payments remain a significant problem for UK-based small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). On average, larger companies of 251 employees or more only paid 8.1% of their payments promptly, compared with smaller companies of 250 employees or less, which averaged at 25.7% for paying their suppliers on time.

Commenting on the results, Markus Kuger, Senior Economist at Dun and Bradstreet said: “What is perhaps most worrying from the data is the sheer volume of late payments UK-based companies are having to contend with, not least as a result of weaker retail sales and the uncertainty of the impact of Brexit on businesses. Although there is legislation in place to assist small businesses with their struggle against late payments, the majority of the time they take no action for fear of alienating their larger customers. Late payments affect businesses across the sectors and of all sizes and give rise to tighter financial conditions and higher administrative, transaction and financial. With continued uncertainty for the foreseeable future, it is likely that we will see further deterioration in prompt payments due to rising headwinds triggered by the Brexit vote.”

Rates reforms will fail without modernisation drive

Scottish Government plans to introduce more frequent business rate revaluations will fail without a modernisation drive, according to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB). The small business campaign group has urged Ministers to deliver a reformed system ahead of the next Scottish Parliament elections.

In an official response to a consultation on proposed business rates legislation, the FSB warns the Scottish Government that the delivery of a more modern and user-friendly tax system looks unlikely without Ministers providing leadership and resources.

Andrew McRae, the FSB’s Scotland policy chair, said: “Tens of thousands of Scottish smaller firms get a leg up thanks to the Scottish Government’s Small Business Bonus scheme. But even those in receipt of this help can find the rates system bureaucratic and old-fashioned.

“We urged Ministers to introduce more frequent revaluations, so that firms’ bills better reflect market conditions. But for that to work, we need the system to purr, rather than creak. In our view, a more modern system would pay dividends for both the taxpayer and the state.”

The next business rates revaluation in Scotland will take place in 2022. FSB has urged Ministers to deliver a modern rates system a year ahead of the next Scottish Parliament elections in 2021.

Andrew McRae said: “What we’ll need to see alongside these new laws are Ministers dragging the system into the 21st century. That means a new national digital interface to pay your bill and apply for help. That means bodies involved in the system working in harmony. That means the provision of intelligible information about how your bill is calculated to ratepayers.”

In its submission, FSB argues that a new digital rates interface could integrate with the Scottish planning and licensing systems. Further, the small business body strongly supports Scottish Government moves to introduce new rates help for firms renovating or improving property.

Andrew McRae said: “Scottish Ministers have shown an appetite for reform with the introduction of their new Business Growth Accelerator. But they can’t stop there. While FSB supports many of these legislative changes, they must be matched with the grit to succeed.”

Bibby Financial Services announces new support for UK importers

Global financial services provider, Bibby Financial Services (BFS), has extended its Trade Finance proposition enabling UK importers to pay overseas suppliers in advance of goods being manufactured and shipped.

Under standard Trade Finance arrangements, suppliers are paid when title ownership is transferred from supplier to customer – ordinarily following shipping. BFS’s new prepayment feature facilitates deposits and full payments for international and domestic suppliers earlier in the trade process.

Managing Director of Trade Finance at BFS, Phil Tobin says the development will allow importers to consider a wider range of suppliers and ease cashflow pressure.

Phil said: “Offering prepayments and deposits in this way is unique and will enable importers to access funding to pay suppliers earlier in the cycle, alleviating cashflow pressure and enhancing their bargaining power.

“Critically, this will allow UK businesses the freedom to find new supply chains and to increase overseas trade at a time when many SMEs are considering how to protect profit margins amid the uncertainty of Brexit.”

According the IMF and the Bankers Association for Finance & Trade, over a quarter of global trade transactions (27%) involve cash-in-advance[i]. Through its enhanced service, BFS provides supplier deposits or full prepayment via ExWorks transactions.

Phil Tobin commented: “Many of our clients tell us that supply-chain relationships have changed since the referendum. Now, with just six months to go before the UK’s formal EU divorce, businesses need to be as versatile as possible to adapt to this changing environment.

“This development gives importers the option to work with international suppliers they may not have had access to before and can strengthen the relationships they have with existing suppliers. Furthermore, businesses will be able to negotiate early payment discounts with suppliers as a result of full or partial payment earlier in the trade cycle.”

The UK’s trade deficit narrowed to £1.86bn in June from £3.14bn in the previous month. Exports increased by 2.7 per cent to £52.41bn and imports rose by 0.2 per cent to £54.27bn.

Phil Tobin added: “While exporting undoubtedly presents growth opportunities for the UK, importing is an equally important form of international trade, which is often overlooked. Importing is a vital means of efficiency and growth for millions of businesses and supply chains throughout the world so it is critical that the public and private sector can do everything they can to support international trade, particularly given the backdrop of Brexit.”

Henry Howard Finance makes further senior appointments

Two new key appointments have been made at one of the UK’s leading independent funder, Henry Howard Finance to help support the independent funder’s continued growth.

Marie Dunkley and Charlie Ryley join the firm to strengthen its commitment to expanding its equipment finance offering.

Marie Dunkley, from Bristol, joins Henry Howard Finance as Head of Vendor, Hard Asset Finance, to create a new vendor-led asset finance stream from her role of UK sales director for construction, transport and industrial at DLL De Lage Landen.

Prior to this, Marie held senior roles at Hitachi Capital and GE Capital and has previously won the NSA Sales Director of the Year Award.

Ms Dunkley said: “I’m delighted to join Henry Howard Finance – the company’s forward-thinking approach, customer-centric ideals and growing own-book lending is an exciting journey that I’m keen to be part of as they establish a stronger presence in vendor asset finance.”

Charlie Ryley, from Cardiff, also joins Henry Howard Finance’s innovative vendor finance team as an account manager under the leadership of Gyles Thompson, after spending time in a role at Pinnacle Telecom (Wales) Ltd.

Mr Ryley said: “A major priority for Henry Howard Finance is to ensure all customers are provided with the best possible service. Previous roles have set me up well for that challenge and I’m really pleased to be joining such as innovative company that continually puts the customers first.”

Henry Howard Finance has supported more than 30,000 companies across the UK and recently celebrated a year-on-year increase of 50 per cent in own-book lending.

Commenting on the appointments, Mark Catton, CEO of Henry Howard Finance, said: “I am thrilled to be welcoming Marie and Charlie into our team. We continue to enjoy success across our markets and we are very pleased to have their experience to help us manage this growth and build high quality customer relationships.”

Promotional Activity – Protecting the Benefits of Leasing

Personal Contract Hire (PCH) leasing has become big news in car retailing and in doing so is promoting the wider appeal of leasing with its wider benefits, not least of all cash flow and affordability. However, Allen Jones MD at financial software experts Copernicus, which provides leading-edge leasing calculator tools, is keen to ensure that businesses stay compliant when it comes to some of the promises being made.

“On a daily basis, I see and hear adverts promoting the availability of cars through PCH. What occurred to me is that these promises are so good, which in turn led me to wonder just how compliant they were with advertising regulations. Our research suggests that businesses could be placing themselves and potentially their leasing suppliers at risk.”

Copernicus asked a mixed demographic panel of consumers to review leasing promotions from a selection of 16 brokers/dealers/leasing providers based upon a basket of promotional platforms including; TV, radio, email promotion, online search and social media. Consciously subjective to mirror a customer’s car ‘buying’ journey, the overall conclusion from the Panel was that they found the promotion of PCH confusing.

In part, confusion was caused by a lack of understanding of leasing when compared to outright purchase, HP and PCP finance. Beyond this, not all promotions highlighted the type of ‘relevant risks’ that the FCA expects to be available to consumers that would support the principle of Treating Customers Fairly.

Common issues included:

Mileage and excess mileage – it was common to find no reference to any excess mileage implications at all while one site suggested that this was likely to be ‘only a few pence’ per mile;
Scant, or no information regarding end of contract vehicle condition requirements;
A lack of clarity on the issue of ownership at the end of the agreement period.
Beyond these potential compliance issues, the panel identified other areas of confusion:

A common misunderstanding of the ‘rentals in advance’ as a concept, as opposed to a deposit, or ‘initial payment;’

Confusion about the rationale of a price differential between business and personal users;
An absence of ‘traditional information’ – cash price of the car and the type of Representative Example & APR information most expected to experience
Allen concludes;“There was a broad span of quality in the promotions assessed and certainly the brevity of platforms such a social media, create their own challenges. However, the overall conclusion is that with the likelihood that the growth in PCH activity will lead to greater scrutiny; providers can benefit by providing a more customer-centric experience. Clarity in the product and risks should be very transparent at an early stage.”

Ultimate Finance boosts senior team

Leading SME funding partner Ultimate Finance has appointed three senior sales professionals to further strengthen support for SMEs in London and the South East.

The new senior recruits are made up of Nick Haggitt, Head of Sales, Matthew Taylor, Senior Regional Director and Chris Mitcham, Regional Director. Between them, they bring more than 50 years’ experience in the sales and financial services sector, including significant time spent at challenger banks, alternative lenders and high street banks.

The team will be responsible for ensuring Ultimate Finance continues to deliver the support and finance solutions small businesses throughout the region require, while driving increased business growth and awareness in the area.

Research highlights that although the region hosts the companies with the highest growth, London is also the area where start-ups are most likely to fail. Ultimate Finance offers financial support to give SMEs the platform they need to succeed – from asset-based lending and invoice finance, to bridging loans and trade finance.

Ron Robson, CEO at Ultimate Finance, said: “A third of all SMEs in the UK are located in London and the South East and it’s vitally important companies in the area are given the support needed to not only survive, but thrive in these testing times. This is why we’ve invested in three senior appointments within the regional sales team, making sure we further strengthen our offering in the area and continue to deliver the fast and flexible funding small businesses need.

“I’m proud to see just how passionate they are about joining us on the Ultimate Finance journey. Our latest results highlight the continued growth the business has enjoyed, and I look forward to the team continuing to meet and exceed expectations.”

Ultimate Finance has enjoyed 150% growth since it was acquired by independent investment firm Tavistock Group, in July 2015 and this summer announced it had reached a lending milestone of £200m finances available to SMEs across the UK.

Banking Circle tackles cashflow gap faced by online merchants

Banking Circle, the global scale financial utility, has launched Banking Circle Receivables Factoring giving Payment Services Providers (PSPs) and FinTechs another add value for their client offering. Through this new lending solution, PSPs can now offer their merchant customers the facility of instant settlement of receivables due, without waiting for settlement cycles or invoice due dates.

As a next-generation provider of mission-critical banking infrastructure – from payments to lending – Banking Circle is providing PSPs with the tools to offer their customers a unique solution to the age-old business problem, that of managing cashflow. With Banking Circle Receivables Factoring, a lending decision is made instantly, online, enabling the merchant to receive payment immediately. And once the merchant’s debt has been settled, repayment is made directly to Banking Circle, into a dedicated account in the name of the merchant. This means the PSP can offer its merchants a seamless and streamlined service, without having to take any of the risk. The merchant also benefits from a confidential solution.

Anders la Cour, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Banking Circle commented, “With settlement cycles of up to 90 days on some invoices, merchants can be out of pocket for up to three months after dispatching goods to a customer. This can cause potentially serious problems with paying suppliers, employees and landlords.

“For SMEs trading online, long payment cycles can therefore be a stumbling block and severely limit a merchant’s potential for growth as it cannot remain competitive in the digital market. Through Banking Circle Receivables Factoring, PSPs can offer merchants instant settlement of payments due, without them having to wait for the buyer or marketplace to pay.

“Through Banking Circle, PSPs can ensure the merchant receives their payment instantly, keeping cash flowing and the business competitive.”

Audit watchdog urged to strengthen corporate governance for large private companies

The Chartered Institute of Internal Auditors (Chartered IIA) has submitted its response to the Financial Reporting Council’s (FRC) consultation on The Wates Corporate Governance Principles for Large Private Companies: calling for the principles to be further strengthened and for the audit regulator to play a central and proactive role in their application.

In its response, the Chartered IIA has urged the audit regulator to strengthen its proposed principles for large private companies – which is essentially a corporate governance code covering these specific businesses – by more closely mirroring measures contained within the UK Corporate Governance Code for public listed firms, coupled with a call for the regulator to take charge of monitoring the application of the principles.

Dr Ian Peters, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Internal Auditors said:
“Large private companies are integral to supporting jobs and growth; this is why we must strengthen corporate governance for these businesses and help to ensure they continue to prosper”.

These companies constitute a massive proportion of the economy; they contribute to productivity, generate employment, and provide vital goods and services.

However, the collapse of BHS, itself a large private company, exposed a number of corporate governance deficiencies, including a lack of transparency and accountability – with its collapse having a catastrophic impact on stakeholders including suppliers, workforce, customers, and the wider economy.

“There are many other well-known companies that are not publicly listed, but are nonetheless strategically important for our future prosperity; therefore, ensuring their longevity and success is vital. We believe the additional corporate governance measures we have put forward for large private companies should help to achieve this.”

The key recommendations contained within the Chartered IIA’s response to the FRC include that the principles should be updated to state:
That there should be separation between the chair and chief executive.
That there should be transparent, rigorous and formal appointment procedures for directors.
The importance of having an appropriate balance of both executive and non-executive directors.
That non-executive directors should have sufficient time to meet their board responsibilities and that non-executive directors should provide constructive challenge, strategic guidance, offer specialist advice and hold management to account.
That the board’s approach to stakeholder engagement should be made available to material stakeholders on an annual basis.
All of these recommendations mirror those already contained within the UK Corporate Governance Code which covers publicly listed companies and we believe there is a strong case for including them in the code for large private companies so as to enhance and strengthen corporate governance in the UK.
Finally, the Chartered IIA has recommended that monitoring the application of the new code should be the responsibility of the FRC. The Chartered IIA sees the role of promoting good corporate governance in public interest entities as part of the core work of the FRC. We therefore believe it is fundamental that the audit regulator plays a pivotal and pro-active role in how the Wates Principles are applied.

Company liquidations in the UK increased 23% in Q2 2018 compared to Q2 2017

Data released from Dun & Bradstreet reveals that year-on-year, the number of companies liquidated in the three months to June rose to 4,148 from 3,372 of the same period the previous year, an increase of 23%.

Dun & Bradstreet’s UK Q2 Industry Report, which looks at data from April to June, found Retail and Construction to be the sectors most susceptible and at high risk of failure & payment delinquency. Of all the sectors, Retail Trade recorded the sharpest increase in the number of liquidations in Q2, up by 23.5% on Q1.

Year-on-year total retail insolvencies increased by 36.7%, and a robust increase in retail sales over the same period was not enough to prevent a quarterly rise in the number of bankruptcies. The data also revealed a small but noticeable rise in the number of construction companies liquidating in Q2. Overall, 688 companies liquidated in Q2, compared with 662 in Q1.

Commenting on the results, Markus Kuger, Senior Economist at Dun and Bradstreet, said: “With uncertainty rising over the next months, ahead of the final stages of the Brexit negotiations, we expect retail sales growth to remain modest in the quarters ahead as consumer spending continues to be restrained. A slowdown in sales growth means that the number of liquidations could rise in the coming quarters. Indeed, the uncertainty surrounding the retail sales outlook remains high. However, the still-low unemployment rate will continue to provide a boost to domestic sales volumes.”

Kuger continued: “The construction industry plays an important role in the UK economy; the entire sector contributes some £90bn in gross value added to the UK economy and supports 2.9m jobs. Lower momentum in this sector is likely to weigh on real GDP growth in the quarters ahead.

“With the number of insolvencies increasing, especially for the UK’s retail and construction companies, businesses should keep a close eye on the Brexit negotiations as international trade and investment regulations will depend on their outcome in the long term. It’s also important to monitor the UK’s payments performance, which has been poorer than the European average for several quarters, as this could have a detrimental impact on a business’ finances and increase its risk of failure.”