New study finds that 98% of women want to come back to work after maternity leave – but only 13% say it’s viable

The Careers After Babies research found that 98% of women want to return to work after having a child but just 13% can make it work full time citing the cost of childcare and lack of flexibility from businesses as the reason.

The research was carried out in late 2022 after interviewing 848 mothers on what happened to their careers after having children. The research also found that:

  • Just 24% of women go back full time after having children – 57% of them leave within two years, many due to redundancy or ill mental health
  • When companies put women back into different roles after maternity leave, 79% of women leave within two years
  • The number of women in management roles drops by 32% after having children, and the number of women in admin roles increases by 44%
  • Just 7% of couples shared parental leave and less than 25% even discussed the possibility of sharing leave
  • More than half of women are earning less than they did before they had children
  • It takes more than ten years for women to get back to the same level and salary after having children
  • 11% of women are forced to be stay-at-home mums when only 2% would out of choice
  • 86% of women would choose to work 3 days a week or more, 52% would choose 4 or more days
  • 40 of the 848 respondents were made redundant while on maternity leave
  • 14% of women choose to become freelancers as it’s the only real option that affords them the flexibility they need but lose out on job security, pay and other employment benefits

One mother interviewed said: “I couldn’t work part-time and didn’t want to be away from my children for 5 long days a week. Now, the main driver for the fact I am still part-time and freelance and won’t consider an employed role is financial. The cost of childcare is just far too high to make it worthwhile to work full-time or even 3.5/4 days a week.”

Another said: “”The cost of childcare vs income is astronomical. As someone who strongly believes in sending my child to nursery and all the benefits that it brings, but also wants the best for my family, it has been an incredibly difficult adjustment to make, financially and emotionally. I never wanted to be a stay-at-home mum as I do not believe that would be the best for my daughter (or myself), but I am also struggling to rebuild a career and care for a child!”

Jess Heagren, author of the report and founder of That Works For Me said “We all know that women’s careers are negatively impacted by having children – you just have to look at the 14.9% gender pay gap and the pathetically low 1% of female CEO’s in FTSE250 companies. But what’s so frustrating is that mums want to work! They want to contribute at home and to the economy!

“There are barriers whichever way they turn – full time childcare costs are unaffordable to the majority of women but businesses aren’t offering reduced hours either. Women make up 50% of the population, and 86% of women will be mothers by the age of 40. Businesses cannot ignore 47% of the population!

“This research gives us the empirical evidence we need to demand more from businesses when it comes to returning mums. Businesses need to do better. They need to support flexible working and focus on developing and retaining female talent. Ultimately, this diversity will benefit everyone – not just women who have children.”

2023 could shatter the wafer-thin finances of young homeowners

In November, the average home cost £294,910. That’s up £27,540 in a year, £70,457 in five years, and £125,683 in ten years. The average house price has more than doubled in that time.

Someone buying a decade ago with a 10% deposit would have needed £12,568 – that’s £16,923 less than they’d need today.

Millennial and Gen Z homeowners are much less likely than their older homeowning counterparts to have enough savings or surplus income – and less likely to score ‘good’ or ‘great’ for their overall financial resilience – according to the HL Savings & Resilience Barometer.

Sarah Coles, senior personal finance analyst, Hargreaves Lansdown said: “The gargantuan leap to get onto the property ladder has stretched younger people’s finances wafer-thin. The triple threat of expensive bills, rising mortgage rates and falling house prices could shatter them.

“The average first time buyer is 32, so Generation Z will have had to have beaten the odds to be homeowners by now. Meanwhile, even the most geriatric Millennial homeowner is likely to have bought within the past decade. There’s every chance they focused so hard on buying their first home that they’ve neglected other areas of their finances – and left themselves vulnerable if their circumstances change. They may also have stretched their budgets incredibly thin in order to buy, so if 2023 brings more inflation, an expensive remortgage and a property downturn, it could be devastating.

Over-stretched

“House prices have been climbing ever since they hit a low in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, in 2009. However, in the years since the onset of the pandemic, they have rocketed – gaining more than 10% in the past year, and 27% in three years. A huge proportion of those who bought more recently will have had to focus all their energies on building a deposit, and there’s a real risk other areas of their finances will have suffered.

“The HL Savings & Resilience Barometer shows that overall homeowners tend to have better financial resilience than renters. This owes much to the expense of renting, but also to the fact that younger homeowners tend to be higher earners than their rent-paying counterparts. However, given that they earn more, there are some notable weaknesses in their finances.

“Those in Gen Z have faced the biggest buying challenge, and as a result, are less likely to have enough emergency savings (at least three months’ worth of essential expenses). On average, just under two thirds of all people have enough emergency savings (65%). However, among Gen Z homeowners this drops to around a half (53%). They’re also less than half as likely to have enough money left over at the end of the month to be considered resilient. The national average is 32%, whereas for Gen Z homeowners it’s 13%.

“Millennials fare better, but in every case are less likely to be financially resilient than homeowners in Gen X – many of whom bought when property was far more affordable. 63% of Millennial homeowners score ‘good’ or ‘great’ for their overall financial resilience – compared to 70% of Gen X property owners.

The risks

“Younger homeowners are also more exposed to the risks that 2023 may hold in store. By stretching further in order to get onto the property ladder, it leaves less wiggle room in their budget to cover rising costs. We know energy prices are set to rise again in April and that food price inflation is here to stay, and it’s hard to cut back on either in order to pay the mortgage.

“These owners are particularly exposed if they have to remortgage. Overall, those who have to remortgage this year will see their savings and debt resilience scores drop by around 3 percentage points. However, those who are refinancing big mortgages will suffer particularly badly.

“Younger people also face bigger risks if prices fall. The Barometer bases its forecasts on house prices dropping 10.4% from the peak by the end of 2023. It has also modelled the impact of an 18% drop. With a bigger fall in house prices, homeowners would see their average retirement resilience score drop seven times more than for renters. The fall in scores for Gen Z and Millennials was three times larger than for older people.

Better than the alternative

“However, while younger homeowners face real risks, it’s nothing compared to those their renting counterparts are wrestling with. Within every age group, renters are less resilient, so that only 23% of renters in Gen Z score ‘good’ or great’ for their overall resilience, along with 26% of Millennial renters and  21% of those renting in Gen X.”

Crypto Wild West: 85% of UK crypto firms fail to meet minimum FCA standards

Around 85 per cent of crypto-asset firms who applied to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) were unable to demonstrate they met the minimum standards required for registration under its anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing regime.

The Treasury Committee report states that the FCA found that key personnel lacked the appropriate knowledge, skills and experience to carry out their roles and control risks effectively. In a small number of cases, the financial regulator actually identified likely financial crime or direct links to organised crime, and referred the firms to law enforcement agencies.

Commenting on the statistic, Martin Cheek, managing director of leading anti-money laundering software platform SmartSearch, said: “This worrying statistic shows why the FCA must continue to take a robust stance on crypto-asset firms and exchanges that look to operate within the UK.

“The cryptocurrency industry must meet the compliance requirements of the 5th Anti-Money Laundering Directive by integrating digital compliance solutions with their own technology. As well as meeting the FCA’s requirements, this would certainly give crypto investors greater peace of mind.

“Cryptocurrency can provide a vehicle for money laundering and a front for some of the world’s worst crimes – people trafficking, tax dodging, sanctions evasion, and international corruption and its victims are often the poorest and most vulnerable in society.

“Keeping the user safe from financial crimes is paramount. By adopting cutting-edge electronic verification (EV), a crypto exchange or wallet provider can check the identity of a user, safeguard assets, and enforce accountability.

“Common practices such as requesting an ID document are no longer sufficient. Not only do they not meet KYC and AML standards, but they can also leave the door open for the exploitation of identity theft.

“EV is a technology advancement that the digital asset industry cannot ignore to manage their compliance responsibilities moving forward.”

Freedom Finance appoints Richard Parfitt as Head of Data Science

Freedom Finance, one of the UK’s leading digital lending marketplaces and embedded finance providers, has appointed Richard Parfitt as Head of Data Science.

Following this appointment, Richard will lead Freedom Finance’s data products initiative, building and managing a multi-disciplinary team to develop new services for customers and enhance data-driven capabilities driving further automation and intelligence.

In this new role, Richard will use Freedom Finance’s vast data resources to develop new services that help customers save money and access the best available financial services products, as well as improve their creditworthiness.

Freedom Finance’s current technology is integrated across brands like Argos, ASDA Money, Co-op Bank, Creation and The Very Group. In his new role, Richard and his team will work with Freedom Finance’s partners to create a suite of packaged data services that enhance the embedded finance services available and the group’s D2C consumer finance platform.

Richard joins Freedom Finance after 8 years at 118 118 Money where he was most recently Head of Decision Science. Prior to this, he worked at Citibank Diners Club, Business & Decision, British Gas & The Royal Mint. Through his 25-year data science career, Richard has built a passion for the careful use of data in making business decisions.

Freedom Finance is at an exciting stage of its growth journey following fresh investment from Pollen Street Capital to continue the development of this proposition and the 2022 appointment of Emma Steeley as CEO.

Richard Parfitt, Head of Data Science at Freedom Finance, commented: “I am delighted to be joining Freedom Finance at an exciting time for the business. Nick and his team are knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and I am looking forward to working with him to make the most of the business’ opportunities in open banking and its extensive existing data resources.”

Nick Allen, Chief Technology Officer at Freedom Finance, said: “I am pleased to be bringing Richard’s extensive experience in capitalising on data capabilities to Freedom Finance. Improvements in the use and quality of data across the industry mean that technology focused businesses, like Freedom Finance and our partners, are able to provide borrowers with the most appropriate credit solutions available to them.”

Just Mortgages gets set for growth with five new regional directors

National brokerage Just Mortgages has kicked off the new year with the appointment of five new regional directors to support its growing self-employed division.

Mark Ferneyhough and Jason Whiteley have been appointed to support brokers in the north, Ben Peart and Jon Taylor will cover the south and Preeti Ferrier will represent the Midlands. All five appointments bring a wealth of experience having been promoted from either area or development director roles within Just Mortgages.

Each one is responsible for up to four area directors or sales managers and a further 15 mortgage and protection advisers. The move provides the necessary scope for expansion, enabling the self-employed division to grow to more than 1,000 advisers without any further structural changes.

Just Mortgages has expanded rapidly in recent years and the new appointments support the growing numbers in the self-employed team, which is set to reach 500 advisers this year.  The line-up is set to expand too with plans for a further regional director for the Midlands later in 2023.

Carl Parker, national director of Just Mortgages said the move highlights the continued success of the self-employed division, as well as the wealth of talent found across the business.

“One of our core principles has always been to hire great people and provide them the tools, support and opportunities to develop and reach their full potential. This experienced director line-up certainly exemplifies this and is a clear statement of intent of our ambitious growth plans for the division.

“This team, along with our area directors will be an invaluable resource for our brokers across the country, providing advice and guidance as well as support for new and existing advisers looking to develop their business. We wish all five well in this next stage of their career with Just Mortgages.”

Speaking on his appointment, Ben Peart said: “I’m really pleased to be taking on this exciting opportunity and to be a part of the continued growth and expansion of Just Mortgages. I’m looking forward to using my experience to help shape the development and strategic direction of the self-employed division, as well as working with the fantastic team of area directors to push forward plans to best support our brokers.

“It’s great to be with a company that rewards hard work and provides a clear path for progression. These changes not only lay down the correct foundation for future growth but allow us to stay close to advisers even as the division continues to scale.”

Mark Ferneyhough added: “I’m delighted to be taking the next step in my career with Just Mortgages. The family feel in the business and the way you are encouraged to grow and develop not just your own skills but those of your colleagues and the brokers we work alongside is truly refreshing. I’m looking forward to the challenge and ultimately helping our self-employed businesses achieve their goals.”

December retail figures – Consumers starting to cut back, but real test still to come

The Office for National Statistics has reported retail sales figures in Great Britain for December:

  • Retail sales volumes are estimated to have fallen by 1% in December 2022 following a fall of 0.5% in November.
  • Total non-food stores sales volumes (department, clothing, household and other non-food stores) fell by 2.1% over the month.
  • Online spending values fell by 2.9%.

Charlie Huggins, Head of Equities at Wealth Club commented: “The decline in retail sales volumes accelerated in December, with consumers starting to cut back on spending because of increased prices and affordability concerns.

“Online sales were particularly weak as the absence of lockdown restrictions, and the Royal Mail strikes encouraged more last minute shoppers into stores.

“However, the real test for retailers will be what happens in 2023.

“Pressure on UK consumers is mounting and is likely to build in the coming months. With many people on fixed rate mortgages, the impact of interest rate rises has yet to be really felt.

“It’s times like these that tend to sort the wheat from the chaff. Retailers must be able to generate profit and cash, while offering customers value for money. If not, they risk following the same path as Joules and Made.com.”

The IMF’s latest data on the economic implications of global fragmentation are concerning

Geopolitical instability and the cost of living crisis raises questions about how financial services can help more people achieve financial security and businesses weather uncertain times. The IMF’s latest data on the economic implications of global fragmentation are concerning – deeper fragmentation, particularly in less developed countries, can be a harbinger for further instability and deeper economics woes for these economies, their people and businesses. We as business leaders must work together to push even harder to build a more stable international financial system. My hope is that if we do that we can help avoid the dire predictions of the IMF.

Monetary arrangements and capital flows among countries are governed by rules, mechanisms, and institutions that have developed over decades. In addition, a fragmented global payment system and financial regionalisation have placed emerging economies at greater risk due to the insufficient payment infrastructure. A rapidly changing world requires them to evolving and transform in order to promote financial stability and economic development. As a result, leaders around the world must ensure financial services are distributed equitably, with a view to improving resiliency and financial inclusion, as the provision of financial services is crucial to the creation of inclusive economic opportunities.

We in the financial services and financial technology industry must continue to design and build infrastructure that facilitates further integration of payment systems, banking services, responsible access to capital and investing. This includes making international payments more efficient, safer, and more inclusive by connecting public digital platforms and legacy systems within countries and across continents. This will help drive more inclusivity, not further fragmentation. This will help identify and scale promising innovations to maximise the positive impact to businesses and consumers in high-growth markets. Platforms like PayU that can act as a bridge between ecosystem players – global merchants, banks, and local consumers – will be crucial in this push for inclusivity, growth and further economic integration.

Mario Shiliashki, Chief Executive Officer at PayU Global Payments

It’s time to consider the business impact of APIs

APIs need to be discussed in terms of business impact. For too long, the API (application programming interface) has been considered a pure technology topic. But with the need to digitise core business operations and deal with rising security threats, business and technology leaders must elevate API strategic discussions. Meanwhile, organisations need to end the hotchpotch of APIs that act as point solutions and adopt a modern integrated platform approach to APIs that will deliver business optimisation and improve the customer experience.

It is essential to look at the effect of APIs on the business, particularly as organisations deal with the three big impacts of war, recession, and inflation, which are putting pressure on all types of business. Moreover, APIs are a central pillar of three trends: digital transformation, improving data access and sharing and enhancing the customer experience, which were identified in a study we recently commissioned with research firm Vanson Bourne.

In the study, 58% of business technology leaders reported they were engaged with driving the digital transformation of their organisations, and half of those surveyed were heading up projects to increase the use of data for business insight. Just under half (49%) were delivering technology-led improvements to the customer experience. However, these three demands will not be met if developers are hindered in their ability to innovate through poor API integration.

APIs, therefore, can have a big impact on the organisation, enabling the CIO and their team to create a great customer experience and improve the operations of the organisation, which benefits colleagues with a better working environment. With infinite use cases from the very top of the organisation to the bottom of the supply chain, enterprises undergoing significant change must approach APIs with a strategic vision.

It is therefore concerning that 74% of organisations have not fully rolled out an API strategy, and 95% are experiencing challenges with their customer identity access management (CIAM) platform. The research indicates that enterprises are not identifying the business objectives that they want to achieve with APIs.

Some of this stems from the arrival of the API in the technology stack; it was a technology that was often pushed by the IT department, leading to a lack of understanding or business line investment into the opportunities APIs offered.

The good news is that, as organisations embrace digitisation to deal with the economic pressure on the business, the benefits of APIs are better understood. Our survey found that 90% of enterprises in the UK and Ireland believe their developers would be better placed to innovate if the user experience was more connected for building, managing, and integrating APIs. And 84% believe that building, managing, and integrating APIs should be treated as one process rather than isolated aspects of the API lifecycle.

Platform build

Organisations embracing the opportunity offered by APIs are adopting a platform approach. Over 80% of the business technology leaders surveyed said the technology they currently use to build, manage and integrate APIs needs to be completely overhauled or has extensive room for modernisation. Among executives surveyed, 45% say their organisations are looking to increase the speed that new digital products and services go to market, 48% want to enable more innovation, and 42% have increased security requirements. And, as the economic ecosystem becomes increasingly connected, 80% of these businesses are using or planning to use a single platform for employees, partners and suppliers.

But organisations are struggling. Over half (53%) say they face challenges in re-using existing APIs in new projects or business services. Existing API platforms are often hard to use and hinder efforts to build, integrate and manage APIs, according to 48% of business technology leaders. A similar number (47%) find that existing APIs limit the ability to customise APIs or scale – two key demands of the increasingly digital business environment.

A platform approach to APIs enables enterprises to optimise business processes, data flows, and customer services and increase security. Security of APIs is, unsurprisingly, highly important to transformation leaders, and 78% said their organisation is using an identity and access management (IAM) platform and 67% use a CIAM platform.

Digital core

The central problem is that not all APIs are equal. When an organisation defines an API, there must be a planned and clear approach to what the business wants to achieve with it. This means having an agreed set of metrics between business lines and the IT department to measure and know the role of each and every API. This will allow the business to define which APIs can be monetised. For example, a major Spanish hotel chain is providing services to the banking sector as a result of being able to see which of its APIs can be monetised. At present, however, most enterprises are not able to monetise the full range of APIs within their estate because they don’t have the right levels of metrics and governance in place.

APIs and integrated developer platforms, when managed effectively, become the digital core of the business, and as anybody that does yoga or pilates knows, a strong core makes every other form of exercise easier and more rewarding. A strong core enables other parts of the body to be more effective. A good digital core does the same for the organisation, adding power to business processes, employees, digital customer services and the products the business is known for.

APIs, therefore, have the potential to create a big impact on the business and have to be considered in terms of this impact. Organisations looking to digitise, whether to deal with pressure points or meet the demands of their customers, have to discuss APIs not as a technology but as a method of delivering a business outcome. A platform approach enables a more secure, efficient, and innovative digital business, one that has a digital core and monetisation opportunities.

By Ricardo Diniz, Vice President & General Manager, Europe, WSO2

Experts Say Open Finance Will Play an Essential Role in Financial Inclusion in Brazil

Brazil is now at the forefront of Open Finance in the world, and the implementation of the open financial system has the potential to positively impact financial inclusion. This was the main theme of a discussion led by industry pioneers at an virtual Campfire organised by Open Banking Excellence (OBE), the global centre of community and knowledge driving change in Open Finance.

In the UK, a study of unbanked people and those who only use basic accounts found that Open Banking could save 0.8% of their total income simply by reducing fees. For “overstretched” and heavily indebted people, savings grew to 2.5%.

During the discussion, Helen Child, Founder of Open Banking Excellence (OBE), correlated this data with a survey by Instituto Locomotiva which points out that 34 million Brazilians do not have a bank account or hardly use one. “If those 34 million people were taking home a minimum wage, it would be a total savings of almost R$ 4 billion”, she argued. “So whatever stats you look at, and by whatever your stitch you’re measuring, I think we can all agree that this is worth doing and worth doing right. Something that we can all be very proud to play a part in.”

In the opening session, Julia Koch, Business Development Manager at the British Consulate in Brazil, and Luana Soratto, Head of Product and Use Cases for Open Finance at PicPay, took a deep dive into the Brazilian context for financial inclusion. “We are a developing country, and even before talking about the unbanked, we need to talk about the digitally excluded. It is very difficult for someone to be included in the financial system without being inserted in the digital environment. And that’s 15% of the population today”, reflected Luana.

The conversation was followed by a panel moderated by Ricardo Pandur, Business Strategy Senior Manager at Accenture, in which a group of experts approached the opportunities to use Open Finance to advance financial inclusion. Ísis Galote Souza e Silva, Open Finance Group Product Manager at Itaú Unibanco, spoke about the importance of the market being inspired by the not so optimistic statistics raised in the opening session. “When we look at our society and look at these statistics, we feel uncomfortable. We need to use the regulatory track of Open Finance to create solutions and use cases here to achieve and change these statistics to a more positive scenario for our society as a whole”, suggested Isis.

Aaron Morais, Payments Compliance Officer at Google, argued the regulator plays an essential role in this construction: “Due to the Central Bank’s very strong agenda of innovation, openness and development, financial inclusion today is one of their key objectives and the regulatory aspect ended up guiding many of these agendas. I see benefits for citizens, who will have new and better products, more suited to their reality. And I see possibilities for the market agents themselves, who today create products based on regulatory innovation, like Open Finance.”

Fabricio Violin, Open Finance and Innovation Executive Manager at Banco BV, even highlighted opportunities that he already sees at his institution. “35% of the customers who shared data with BV had some increase in income. This is very promising. Obviously, still on a not so large scale, but it gives an idea of ​​the potential for generating value for both sides”, he highlighted.

“From the moment we see a more open market, financial services offers with no fees, which are important to include individuals in the system, we believe that there will be a more sophisticated offer from the point of view of a deep understanding of the client, also due to the leverage that Open Finance brings in terms of obtaining data”, added Marcos Xavier, FX/FI/Credit/Derivatives Sales Trader at BTG Pactual.

Expectations for 2023

Participants raised the main points they would like to see materialized in 2023. “I would like Open Finance to grow in terms of use cases, not only in financial inclusion as a whole, but so we can continue to grow as the largest Open Finance market in the world”, Pandur.

“The structure and the rules are in place, and I think it’s fundamental that in 2023 we start to see Open Finance as part of people’s lives”, added Aaron Morais, Payments Compliance Officer at Google . Ísis went further: “I would like us to expand this agenda to other sectors other than finance. We are experiencing the potential within the financial market, but there is a lot of potential for Open Data as a whole.”

When it comes to the technical implementation, Violin mentioned variable recurring payments as a key feature. “It’s something that could drive a lot of cool ideas, a lot of use cases that we could build. Everyone here in the room is full of ideas to use this when it becomes available and I think it will be another step towards integrators. It’s going to be something that will simplify the lives of many customers.

Review of Fair4All Finance Published

An independent review of financial inclusion body Fair4All Finance details the non-profit’s achievements to date and recognises that, given the scale and complexity of the problem being addressed, it is too early to judge fully the impact the organisation can have on tackling financial exclusion and the development of the market in affordable credit.

The review found that Fair4All Finance can credibly claim to have become a trusted and respected voice in the sector and can point to broad support across government and mainstream finance for its research and style of influencing institutions. It has also provided support to the community finance sector through a very challenging period.

The review notes that, as well as its activities supporting and investing in existing affordable credit providers, addressing financial inclusion requires systemic change for mainstream finance to play its necessary role in developing the provision of inclusive finance, including affordable credit. Changes in policy and regulation will also be required.

The Oversight Trust commissions a Quadrennial Review of the four companies receiving money under the Dormant Asset Scheme in England, one each year in turn. The review looks at the organisation’s effectiveness in delivering against its mission. This year’s review was of Fair4All Finance, the organisation set up by DCMS in 2019 to address the issue of financial inclusion.

The report identified five issues for Fair4All Finance’s leadership to address in its planning for the future:

  • Focus on defining the impact it is targeting, given the complex bundle of issues around financial inclusion.
  • Develop its strategy for successful engagement with mainstream finance.
  • Address issues related to engagement with the community finance sector to help it grow.
  • Build on its positive start as a successful influencer.
  • Further develop its organisational effectiveness and transparency.

The Oversight Trust welcomes the actions detailed in Fair4All Finance’s response to the report. and looks forward to further discussion of its plans and monitoring its progress in the context of the organisation’s updated business plan.

Sir Stuart Etherington, Chair of the Oversight Trust, says: “After a successful start, now is the time for Fair4All Finance to take stock and focus its strategy and define what are achievable goals.

“In three years, it has chalked up some notable successes including its coordination role in the No Interest Loan Scheme, providing grants in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and its investments in the community finance sector.

“The report outlines a number of issues for Fair4All Finance to consider under five main headings covering its areas of work. We welcome Fair4All’s commitments under each of these and look forward to further discussion of how these will be reflected in its business plan and progress will be monitored.”