Reward strengthens London and South East team with new appointment

In a bid to further enhance its clients service operations and provide greater support to SMEs seeking commercial finance across London and the South East, Reward Finance Group has appointed Tom Annetts as its new relationship manager.

Tom has vast financial experience spanning over 15 years, having previously worked for Novuna, Aldermore Bank and Barclays. His primary role will be to assist Reward’s client base by guiding them through every stage of the lending process, with the company providing SMEs across the region withtailored business finance loans and asset based solutions of between £50k and £5m.

The timing of his appointment coincides with a rapid period of growth for the lender which recently achieved the key business milestone of growing its regional loan book to £15m, having opened its operational centre in the capital late last year.

Commenting on his appointment, Tom said: “I’m very excited to be joining Reward, having seen the giant strides the business has made across the region over the last 18 months. Everyone I speak to in the industry has nothing but positive things to say about the company, so I jumped at the chance to come on board.

“I’m looking forward to working closely with our portfolio of SME clients to understand their business needs and support them in accessing the working capital needed to help them overcome a difficult trading period or expand and unlock new growth opportunities.”

Simon Adcock, Reward’s regional director for London and the South East, added: “Tom’s appointment is integral to our continued growth in London and the wider region, as forging strong client relationships is at the very heart of our business success to date. He has proven experience in the commercial finance space and will be a big asset in terms of managing our portfolio of clients across the region particularly in what is currently a turbulent economic climate for many firms.”

B2B credit decisioning tool Fuse offers lenders clearer insights and 97% accuracy in affordability tests

Business credit decisioning tool Fuse by Pave offers lenders 97% accuracy in affordability tests, clearer insights into consumer affordability, reduced rate of defaulted loans, and improvements to borrower outcomes.

In addition to improved accuracy in affordability testing, Fuse by Pave – which uses Open Banking technology – offers lenders personalised insights into cashflow and credit risk of prospective borrowers. The AI-powered technology enables lenders from across the financial ecosystem to increase their credit prediction power by 22 percentage points and reduce loss rates by 30% without reducing approval rates.

Fuse by Pave estimates that its adoption in lending models could improve margins by around 7%.

Against a backdrop of the cost of living crisis, with the highest reliance on credit since 2005, millions across the UK are experiencing an increased reliance on the need to borrow. Currently, there are 12-15 million near-prime borrowers in the UK who are excluded from affordable borrowing.

Using insights generated through Open Banking, Fuse by Pave provides lenders with a richer understanding of an applicant’s current financial situation and whether the credit product they are applying for is affordable for them.

Fuse is the latest product from credit builder app Pave. Since launch, Pave has analysed more than 150,000 lending decisions, 1.5 million consumer credit reports, and over 400 million Open Banking transactions. Pave seeks to bring more financial equality to millions across the UK. As a fully regulated credit builder, receiving nearly half a million downloads to date, Pave utilises Open Banking transactions to help consumers build better access to credit.

Sho Sugihara, CEO and Co-Founder of Fuse by Pave, commented: “Given the increasing reliance on credit, lenders require a tool that offers improved affordability insights not only to meet commercial goals but also enhances outcomes for borrowers. Fuse provides a solution to this demand, by providing market-leading clarity over lending decisions.

“The data insights that Fuse offers customers enables them to build lending models that have consumers at the heart, reducing the number of defaulted loans, and ultimately protecting consumers.  Transforming the financial system is vital to improve financial equality across the UK and eventually beyond – but lenders need regulatory and financial expertise to support them during this shift. Fuse can play a central role in providing lenders with the tools they need to remove barriers to improve lending decisions, provide more personalised product and boost equality across the credit sector.”

Ahead of the introduction of the FCA’s Consumer Duty, Fuse by Pave will be launching a new product to allow lenders to proactively monitor their customers financial health. This product will diagnose consumers’ financial vulnerability, providing lenders with improved oversight on financial wellbeing, empowering vulnerable consumers and allowing them to obtain help at a much earlier stage.

Hampshire Trust Bank completes £21.1m development finance facility in four weeks

Hampshire Trust Bank (HTB) has completed a £21.1 million development exit and construction loan facility for a mixed-use development in North London.

The client was developing 48 high-quality apartments and two commercial units, as well as providing a new park for the local community.

The broker, Adam Stiles of Helix Structured Finance, contacted HTB for the refinancing of the facility into a single 75% loan to value (LTV) loan and time was of the essence.

The case was completed in four weeks from approval and two weeks after the professionals were instructed.

The total amount lent was £21.1m across two loans: a construction loan for the commercial element and a development exit loan for the residential parts, with the proceeds able to be retained once the loan is deleveraged to 55% LTV.

This meant that the developer was able to avoid penalties and reduce their interest costs plus gain valuable time to complete the commercial element and sell the residential units over 12 months to maximise profits on sales.

Adam Stiles, managing director, Helix Structured Finance, commented: “It would be an understatement to say we couldn’t have done this without Scott Apps and Robert Syrett from Hampshire Trust Bank. Both are nothing short of superstars and deserve every credit.

“When you have the pressure of delivering this sort of transaction, they asked me to trust them to deliver, and they absolutely did. I can’t thank them enough.”

Alex Upton, managing director – development finance, Hampshire Trust Bank, added: “This deal had the four Ts of development finance lending: Top broker; Top borrower; Top property; and, just to emphasise, Top broker (again!). And when you tick all of those boxes, it doesn’t matter how big or complex the deal is or how fast it needs to be done, we can deliver.”

Industry leaders defend the future of fintech at Parliamentary summit

The fintech industry will continue to play a crucial role in the UK economy, despite recent challenges such as the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Credit Suisse, according to industry chiefs.

Speaking at the Parliament Street fintech summit last night, which was hosted by Dean Russell MP for Watford and chaired by Steven George-Hilley of Centropy PR, a panel of fintech experts hit out at critics of the industry and outlined their vision for the future of the sector.

On issues such as regulation, MP Mr Russell said: “If you regulate too soon you may kill innovation, but if you do regulate too late or incorrectly then there will be loopholes, this is a major challenge that the Fintech industry faces.”

Jay Patel, Head of Product Management at regtech provider Encompass Corporation added: “Regulators have a role to play in our society but ultimately we need banks to look and interpret these regulations and make sure they are compliant for their customer base.”

Meanwhile Neh Thaker, Co-Founder of financial toolkit HedgeFlows said, “7 out of 10 SMEs could benefit from international expansion but the reality is that only 1 in 10 achieve it. SMEs don’t currently get the support and tools to effectively break down the barriers to international trade.”

Fintech entrepreneur Fraser Stewart, COO of Lyfeguard raised the issue of the skills crisis facing the industry. “We need access to education, reskilling and to show clear pathways through to Fintech. It’s also clear more needs to be done around diversity, just 2% of Fintech owners are female.”

While Khalid Talukder, co-founder of DKK Partners said: “We work in an industry where we look for efficiencies, we automate and lose the human aspect. A chatbot won’t know what things people have in their wallet that can be commercialised and they don’t give a personal touch.”

Samni Akinmusire co-founder of ImaliPay said: “Fintech entrepreneurs are usually creative wanting to solve real time problems. Innovation should follow regulation, but it can be complex. What do regulators do to catch up when innovation falls outside of regulations?”

Finally Xavier De Pauw of kennek said: “Regulation typically goes hand in hand for B2C business models, but in the B2B space there are typically fewer regulations as it’s dealing with professionals.”

West One launch residential proposition to Paradigm member firms

Paradigm, the mortgage, protection and compliance services proposition, has today announced the launch of specialist mortgage lender, West One’s, residential proposition to its member firms.

Paradigm member firms will now have access to West One’s recently-launched residential offering which covers purchase, remortgage and unencumbered properties.

West One offers a range of residential mortgage products across three tiers, Prime Plus, Prime and Near Prime, with loan sizes of £25k to £1m available, repayment terms of three to 40 years, a fast-track remortgage service and multiple product options.

West One offers a personal underwriting approach to complex cases, with each residential deal having a dedicated manager. There are also dedicated and experienced broker support teams on hand to assist with any enquiries or issues.

Criteria highlights for West One’s residential offering includes:

  • Standard maximum LTI up to five times income across all plans.
  • LTIs over five times income considered on Prime Plus Flex and Prime Flex subject to meeting eligibility requirements.
  • Mortgages available to employed, self-employed and retired applicants.
  • LTVs up to 85% including first-time buyers.
  • Capital raise available for almost any legal purpose including debt up to 85% LTV.
  • Fast track remortgage service provided by on-site solicitors, available for loan sizes up to £750k.

West One also offer a range of buy-to-let mortgages, as well as bridging loans, development finance and second-charge mortgages.

Richard Howes, Director of Mortgages at Paradigm, commented: “There is a growing complexity to residential borrowers’ needs and circumstances, which means there is an increase in need for specialist mortgage products from lenders who fully understand this market, and can tailor their service and criteria to those specific needs. We are therefore very pleased to be able to offer West One’s new residential proposition to Paradigm member firms, who we know are increasingly active in the specialist residential space and are always looking for quality lenders who can provide individual support for both them and their clients. We have been working with West One for some time, offering its buy-to-let products to Paradigm firms, so we’re very pleased to be able to work together, pushing out this new specialist residential proposition, which I’m sure will be welcomed widely by our members.”

Paul Huxter, Head of Clubs & Networks at West One, said: “In the current challenging economic environment we find ourselves in, our residential products will help Paradigm firms and their advisers find the right solution for their clients. Through the trusted partnership we have built with their members we will assist in getting their specialist residential cases placed.”

Together appoints new Personal Finance Chief Operating Officer

Specialist lender Together has announced the appointment of Chloe Cotgrave to the position of Personal Finance Chief Operating Officer.

Her remit will be overseeing all operational areas for Together’s personal finance customers, including the underwriting, customer service and collections departments, as well as first line assurance and customer experience.

Chloe joined Together six years ago, first as Head of Customer Assurance and Experience later becoming Head of Customer Transformation. She was responsible for delivering significant projects for the Cheadle-based lender, and has played a key part in driving the company’s increased understanding and use of customer feedback, Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Voice Of Customer (VOC).

Previously, she has held positions in industries including automotive services and energy; playing an important part in large organisations such as The AA, British Gas and Centrica.

As a result, she brings to her new role a fundamental understanding of customer service, with experience leading change programmes to deliver positive outcomes for customers, and excellent communication and leadership skills.

Chloe said: “I am delighted to be starting in this new role; one in which I can bring together all of the experience I have amassed across my career into one remit. Having started in a call centre myself, I have a firm understanding of what it’s like to work on the front line supporting customers.

“I will continue to work with the excellent personal finance team to deliver our strategic objectives and deliver great service to our customers.”

Pete Ball, CEO of Personal Finance at Together said: “I am pleased to be able to announce Chloe’s appointment into the senior leadership. She brings a wealth of skills, experience within our company and a passion and drive that is a true asset to the business.

“Her promotion is a great example of succession planning in action, and it is particularly pleasing that we are able to fill this role internally. We have an incredibly healthy pipeline of talented people at Together, which both supports colleague’s career aspirations and delivers benefits at all levels of the business.”

Novuna Business Finance response to the Chancellor’s Budget

“With the growth outlook among small businesses remaining eerily static for the past year with just a third (32%) of small businesses anticipating some form of growth this quarter, any initiative that would encourage investment and expansion is much needed and wanted. The Chancellor’s full capital expsening for IT equipment, plant and machinery, alongside the increase in Annual Investment Allowance to £1m, will make investment more attractive to a business owner. This is a positive step in the right direction.”

Joanna Morris, Head of Marketing and Insight at Novuna Business Finance

FSB Scotland: Budget slim pickings leave smaller firms short changed

Responding to today’s UK Budget, the Federation of Small Businesses’ (FSB) Scotland Policy Chair, Andrew McRae, said: “Today’s budget doesn’t offer much practical help to smaller firms worrying about their costs and cashflow.  Many will be disappointed at a lack of headline measures to provide the immediate support they so badly need.

“There was nothing, for example, on business energy prices once the current support scheme stops at the end of the month.  We needed something better than the, simultaneous insignificant and expensive, current replacement plan.

“Neither did we hear anything about cashflow and tackling late payment – a move that would get money, money that’s already been earned, moving round the economy and working.

“One bright spot, though, was on fuel duty.  Firms – especially those in our more remote and rural areas, or who need to travel the country to do business – will breathe a sigh of relief that it’s been frozen for another year following calls from FSB and others.”

Mr McRae continued: “There were a number of longer-term policy announcements – such as investment zones – and it will be interesting to see their impact on the Scottish economy.  At least one of these zones will be in Scotland, so whatever’s brought forward, wherever it is, the local business community must be fully involved and on-board.

“And long-term action to help parents, those with health conditions and others who are no longer economically active back into the workforce is of course acutely needed.  Again, we’ll need to see exactly what today’s schemes will mean here in Scotland.

“What we do know is that, by enabling more people to return to work, smaller firms will have an even greater pool of talent to harness and find it easier to solve their recruitment woes.”

The predicted ‘boring budget’ has given some thrills for businesses, says ParcelHero

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s predicted ‘boring’ Budget was not quite the snooze-fest some political pundits had predicted, following the roller-coaster economic policies of last year. The delivery expert ParcelHero says there were a few eye-opening moments and some positive news for businesses large and small – even though the much-criticised increase in corporation tax, from 19% to 25%, is still set to go ahead.

ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks M.I.L.T., says: ‘From starting with the surprise news that the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) believes the UK economy won’t now go into recession (though it will contract by 0.2% this year), this wasn’t quite the big snooze that many pundits had been predicting.

‘Perhaps the most interesting news for manufacturers and other businesses was the (admittedly widely trailed) announcement of 12 new Enterprise Zones. These could create new Docklands-style developments across the UK, according to the Chancellor. They will be introduced in the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, the North East, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, East Midlands, Teesside and Liverpool, as well as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Each will be funded by £80m over the next five years. The Enterprise Zones are expected to gain tax relief and business rates help, and bring together regional governments and local universities to boost R&D projects, etc.

‘The really bad news for businesses was that the whopping climb in corporation tax, up from 19% to 25%, will go ahead as planned. However, its impact could be slightly offset by some other tax measures. This particularly applies to those companies investing in R&D, IT equipment, etc. Under Hunt’s “Full Expensing” plans, every pound a company spends on new IT equipment and new plants and machinery can immediately be deducted in full from taxable profits. Smaller businesses will also have an increased Annual Investment Allowance of up to £1m, meaning 99% of SME companies will be able to deduct the full value of all their investment from taxable profits.

‘Transport and distribution companies could benefit from a new £8.8bn pot for sustainable transport initiatives across the regions. Many working drivers will be delighted by the news that there will be an extra £200m spent on filling in the UK’s thousands of potholes. The announcement that fuel duty will remain frozen and the 5p reduction will be maintained for another year will also be welcomed by many owner-drivers.

‘Many transport and supply-chain companies wanted to see considerably stronger greener measures. While there were few initiatives to get Britain’s motorists switching to electric power, news of a new carbon capture scheme, backed up with £20bn in support, will be greatly welcomed. This could cut around 20-30m tonnes of CO2 per year by 2030.

‘As well as being the “boring budget”, this was also expected to be the “back to work” budget. Retailers and other businesses will be pleased to see several measures around increased childcare that will help parents afford to return to employment. The launch of so-called “Returnaships” (apprenticeships for more mature workers, focussing on flexibility and previous experience) will also help boost the amount of people available to work.

‘There was very little to wake up High Street retailers in this Budget, however, with no new moves to reduce business rates or boost other retail initiatives. However, High Street pubs and hospitality businesses will want to raise at least half a glass to the Chancellor for freezing the cost of a draught pint. From 1 August, the duty on draught drinks in pubs will be up to 11p lower than the duty in supermarkets.

‘All in all, this was certainly no KamiKwazi  budget, full of shock tax cuts. Perhaps solid but slightly dull is just what most UK businesses were looking for. However, retailers across the UK will want to see further support for our endangered High Streets in Budgets to come.’

Small business strivers snubbed at meagre Spring Budget

Responding to the Chancellor’s Spring Budget, Martin McTague, National Chair of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said: “The Chancellor has set high expectations for supporting small firms during these challenging times, but today’s Budget will leave many feeling short-changed. The distinct lack of new support in core areas proves that small firms are overlooked and undervalued.  Budgets are about tough choices, and with today’s £billions being allocated to big businesses and households, 5.5million small businesses and the 16 million people who work for them will be wondering why the choice has been made to overlook them.

“We’ve got a Budget that on energy helps households but not small firms.  On business taxes, it spends £27bn extra on big businesses, arguing that small businesses are already catered for. This will leave to a feeling of being left behind instead of being considered equal partners in economic recovery – trickledown economics here simply does not work.

“Proposals to help people with health conditions are ill-designed and won’t help people get back to work, and we fear the work capability assessment changes won’t happen for years. The Chancellor has failed to take any action to make it easier for small firms to recruit people locked out of the labour market. Those with health conditions and disability have been let down by a Government that does nothing to work with small employers and is continuing with its failing Jobcentre-focused approach. Small measures on subsidising occupational health are welcome but not the big bang needed.

“Measures on the over 50s are token efforts at best, though we are pleased the Government is committing to the skills bootcamp model.

“The principle of what’s announced on childcare is positive – but this Government’s Achilles heel is in delivery and practicalities, so there needs to be more work with providers to make sure it can work. Providers will be worried that funding will not meet the expectations set out. The Government must remember that delivering safe childcare is not just a matter of social justice, but a matter of economic imperative. The key test for providers will be whether the funding still allows them to cover their costs – while balancing the books at the same time.

“The fuel duty freeze is a result of FSB’s campaigning and the springboard small firms need to help navigate the difficult roads ahead. This will save them money and provide some breathing space, allowing them to focus on growth.

“However, some of today’s smaller measures will benefit the economy. The increase in draught relief will also go a long way to helping the Great British Pub.  The enhanced R&D tax credit is a significant step towards promoting innovation. However, the large proportion of firms who fall outside of the 40% intensity threshold will be left feeling mystified by the change in policy since last Autumn. R&D tax credits have been the most effective industrial policy of the last ten years, creating cutting edge products and services in the small business community.

“While there are some positive words in today’s Budget, the Government’s lack of support for small firms in critical areas is glaring. The Chancellor stressed that the UK is one of the best places to do business and we’ll avoid a technical recession this year – but small businesses need more ambition and more focus. Action is what counts if we are to reverse the 500,000 small businesses lost over the last two years. It’s high time the Government put small firms at the top of the agenda and lend them the necessary support on the path to economic recovery.”