Atom bank comments on the introduction of the Energy Bills Discount Scheme

“The Energy Bills Discount Scheme offers a significantly reduced level of support to small businesses than its predecessor. This will be a huge source of stress for businesses already struggling to pass on the cost of higher raw materials and inputs, whilst also dealing with heightened costs of borrowing due to rising interest rates.

“This looming cliff-edge is likely to also impact end consumers, as businesses will be forced to raise prices to cope with rising bills, driving up the rate of inflation.

“Whilst recent business lending arrears and delinquency rates have been reasonably flat, almost a third of small businesses may not have enough cash to absorb the impending price rise, with logistics and manufacturing sectors amongst the worst hit. As a result, we may see businesses begin to struggle once the new scheme kicks in.

“The government will need to keep an eye on how heavily this change impacts certain businesses or sectors, and may need to amend the level of support provided if it becomes clear that non-eligible firms are struggling.”

Tom Renwick, Head of Business Lending, Atom bank Partners with Scallop to Develop Blockchain Banking-as-a-Service announces a partnership with Scallop as it develops its blockchain-based banking-as-a-service platform that aims to bridge the gap between traditional finance and decentralised finance.

As an innovative fintech that provides rapidly deployable open banking services for account providers, has been selected by Scallop, the world’s first regulated Decentralised Finance (Defi) banking application.

Scallop is the world’s first licensed secured infrastructure providing a suite of banking products to empower millions of retail and banking customers.

With Scallop, both retail and institutional investors can access the benefits of decentralised ecosystems using traditional bank accounts. To ensure PSD2 open banking compliance, has deployed its gateway service, which provides top-notch security and speed to the Scallop proposition.

Commenting on the partnership, David Monty, founder and CEO of stated that “Open banking compliance can be a challenging distraction for many fintech. We’re very excited to be working with Scallop and are proud to be able to support them by entirely solving this challenge for them.” He further added that their tell.gateway dedicated interface provides Scallop with a plug-and-play approach and an affordable SaaS pricing model. Monty expressed his enthusiasm for the partnership and looked forward to being a part of Scallop’s ongoing success story.

According to Raj Bagadi, CEO of Scallop,’s expertise in open banking compliance ensures that Scallop can focus on developing its platform without being bogged down by regulatory requirements. He added, “ has provided us with the necessary tools to seamlessly integrate with traditional finance, and we’re thrilled to be working with them as we continue to bridge the gap between traditional finance and Defi.”

Banking frailties highlight the importance of cashflow considerations in the supply chain

“Despite the crises at Credit Suisse, Silicon Valley Bank, Signature Bank, First Republic Bank and rumours circulating concerning Deutsche Bank, central banks have recently increased interest rates.

“Thanks to demographic pressures creating labour shortages, some inflationary pressure is likely to remain a threat, meaning interest rates are likely to remain permanently higher than pre-Covid levels.

“There are important implications of higher interest rates when some banks are simultaneously in crisis for the supply chain.

“The era of cheap and plentiful cash appears to be over. Under such circumstances, organisations must ensure their supply chain supports cash flow as much as possible.

“The greater importance of cash flow to the supply chain means organisations are likely to put much greater emphasis on trying to restrict the geographical spread of the supply chain.

“When products are being transported, cash is tied up, and if they are shipped over long distances, cash flow can be enormously disrupted. During the period when interest rates were close to zero and credit was plentiful, the above issues were important but not as important as they are in an era of higher rates.

“As a consequence, we expect organisations to put greater emphasis on sourcing or manufacturing products in regions as close as possible to where the main market lies.

“The new emphasis on local manufacturing is an opportunity for countries like Mexico, manufacturing products for the US market, and Poland, manufacturing products for the Western European market.

Simultaneously, advances in automation technologies mean that the cost of labour is likely less important a factor than before, and we may see a shift in manufacturing to within the US and centres in Western Europe.

“And although labour shortages will mitigate the shift in manufacturing, automation technologies mean this barrier is not likely to be prohibitive.”

Oliver Chapman, CEO of OCI

Stonebridge first mainstream mortgage network to be recognised as SMP Associate Firm

Stonebridge, the national mortgage and insurance network, today announced it has become the first mainstream mortgage network to be recognised as an Associate Firm of the Society of Mortgage Professionals (SMP), cementing Stonebridge’s commitment to high professional standards.

Becoming an Associate Firm means Stonebridge is aligned with the principles of the SMP, which strives to build public trust in financial services and elevate the importance and value of financial wellbeing through mortgage and protection advice.

The core principles of being an Associate Firm of the SMP are to:

  • Act in the best interests of clients, using a customer charter to aid transparency.
  • Demonstrate integrity, probity and fairness by aligning with the code of professional ethics & conduct.
  • Invest in your people by funding a policy of ongoing training and professional development.
  • Operate a clear diversity and inclusion policy, for both staff and clients.

The SMP is part of the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII), and as an Associate Firm member, Stonebridge will work with the SMP/CII community to raise the levels of professional knowledge and technical competence within the advisory space.

Stonebridge is one of the fastest growing networks in the UK, with over 1,000 advisers. At its Annual Conference last month, it announced record-breaking growth with total lending for 2022 hitting £12.6bn.

Rob Clifford, Chief Executive of Stonebridge, commented: “Stonebridge has always been committed to the raising of professional standards within our business, our individual firms, but also in terms of the entire mortgage sector. This is why we’re very pleased to be announcing our membership of the SMP as an Associate Firm which will allow us to leverage the collective knowledge, expertise, support, and resources that come with it, and for us to share that with our member firms. We’re looking forward to playing a contributory part in everything the SMP has to offer in the months and years ahead.”

Alan Vallance, Chief Executive of the Chartered Insurance Institute, said: “I am delighted Stonebridge is now able to further evidence its existing and clear commitment to clients through our Associate Firm mark. It is important members of the public are able to easily identify providers that demonstrate integrity, probity, and fairness aligned with our code of professional ethics and conduct. We are looking forward to working with such a significant mortgage and protection network to further advance public trust in holistic mortgage advice and supporting their members’ professional development.”

Cherry joins The Mortgage Marketing Forum as a corporate member

The broker forum, cherry, has joined The Mortgage Marketing Forum as a corporate member, with the ability to access the forum’s membership of industry marketers.

Cherry launched in 2005 to provide an online forum where mortgage intermediaries could communicate about industry issues, share ideas and gain access to the latest market developments. The popular forum has a loyal membership of brokers who make thousands of posts every month on numerous topics, including difficult to place cases, lenders and providers, regulation, networks, and more.

The Mortgage Marketing Forum has marketer members from across the mortgage and specialist finance sector including high street lenders, specialist residential, buy to let and bridging lenders, mortgage clubs and networks and technology firms. The Forum hosts a full events programme and provides exclusive content and training for its members.

Jeff Knight, Director at The Mortgage Marketing Forum, said: “We’re delighted to welcome cherry as the latest corporate member of the Mortgage Marketing Forum. Our community is open to marketers of all levels working in the mortgage industry, whether it’s for a lender, distributor, broker, tech company or other provider. And we help deliver training and development through regular events, access to exclusive articles and reports, and providing members with a confidential environment within which they can share ideas, thought leadership content, ask questions and share best practice. Our corporate members are an essential part of the forum, enabling us to deliver all of this for our growing and engaged membership.

Donna Hopton, Director at cherry, commented: “The cherry forum is an integral part of the broker community, providing a space to share ideas, vent frustrations and discuss best practice. So, it was only natural for us to support the Mortgage Marketing Forum, which provides a similar forum for those professionals who work in marketing in our industry.”

Remote workers tracked by managers to boost productivity

Millions of British workers are being monitored by managers using cloud based software to ensure they stay productive while working remotely.

Cloud based systems have soared in popularity since the pandemic with thousands of UK companies now keeping tabs on their workforces using the logging information provided by these software solutions.

Suppliers such as TelephoneSystems.Cloud have provided hundreds of unified communication systems across the country during the past two years and say an increasing number of companies are choosing to closely monitor the activities of their teams.

Unified communication includes VOIP technology allowing internet based telephone calls so landline numbers can be answered in worker’s homes and other remote locations.

With all calls logged and recorded, unified communication also allows for teams chat and video to all be logged and recorded and live monitored by managers.

The cloud based technology makes it possible to observe not only individual tasks being completed by team members working hundreds of miles away from a central hub, but also allows managers to drill down into activity in real time.

Managers can produce reports comparing the productivity of individual team members enabling them to identify star performers – and slackers.

The tools are promoted as enabling companies to save cash by streamlining systems and identifying inefficiencies – such as an unproductive worker.

It also allows bosses to reward their most productive team members and to avoid time wasting by letting them see when individuals are uncontactable or in meetings.

The trend for workers to be employed at locations away from the office was massively accelerated by the pandemic and thousands of companies have since embraced hybrid working models.

But many professionals continue to face challenges to ensure their teams are fully engaged and not being distracted by the temptations of remote working.

Experts from TelephoneSystems.Cloud say remote workers can easily become disconnected with their colleagues and with their company’s objectives and culture.

Juliet Moran, from TelephoneSystems.Cloud said: “More of us are working from home now than ever before but many firms are struggling to keep their teams fully engaged.

“We believe that’s why the popularity of tools such as unified communication systems, are becoming increasingly popular.

“These tools really allow managers and directors to look under the bonnet of their business and to make sure their teams are being fully productive throughout the working day.

“They can keep an overview of the team’s work, but they also allow bosses to drill down and monitor exactly what each single team member is getting up to throughout the day.

“The feedback we have had from clients who have introduced these systems has been overwhelmingly positive with many telling us it has allowed them to increase their targets and improve profitability of their businesses.

“We believe these systems will continue to grow in popularity over the coming years with millions of home workers already being monitored in this way and many more firms introducing such systems every month.”

Despite employee privacy and GDPR concerns, employment contracts usually include clauses which allow remote workers to be monitored and also allow bosses to act if actions negatively impact the employer’s business.

Experian and NHS partner to help improve employee financial health

Experian today announced its plans to work with the Nottingham University Hospitals (NUH) NHS Trust to help Trust employees manage their finances through the current cost-of-living crunch.

Two pilot “Money Clinics” take place this week, in partnership with the Staff Wellbeing Team, Advice Nottingham, a consortium of local consumer advice centres and money expert Emma Bates. The events will provide insights, support and guidance for the Trust’s 18,000 members of staff over a two-day period.

Experts will be on hand to answer questions from NUH staff, with topics including how to successfully build a credit score, dealing with credit refusal, applying for credit, budgeting, managing debt and claiming benefits.
For those who can’t attend in person, Experian’s Head of Consumer Affairs James Jones will be conducting an online introduction to credit score management in early April.

The Experian programme forms part of a broader support package the NUH has implemented for its workers, which includes, financial education and a financial toolkit, more affordable food options, advice on making affordable meals, salary sacrifice schemes, an NUH Buy Sell or GiveAway Facebook page and more. All the support can be found on the website Financial Wellbeing | NUH.

The partnership comes at a time when many people are struggling with rising living costs. Experian analysis has shown that 61% of consumers acknowledge that cost-of-living crisis is having a significant impact on their finances.

James Jones, Head of Consumer Affairs for Experian, said: “One of Experian’s core commitments is helping people to understand and make the most of their credit score so that they can take steps to improve their financial health. We’re really pleased to be launching this programme to bring extra support to the NUH team as part of the organisation’s wider cost-of-living support plans.”

NUH Chief Executive, Anthony May, said: “With the current cost of living crisis affecting us all in different ways, we know financial management can cause feelings of stress and anxiety.

“We are very grateful to Experian for hosting two financial fairs exclusively for all NUH staff to help with money management and financial wellbeing.

“Experian is a valued partner of NUH and we know they will provide sound advice for our staff. We hope as many colleagues as possible engage with the sessions.”

The two-day events will be held on the March 15 at the Queen’s Medical Centre from 8:30am – 3:00pm and Nottingham City Hospital on the March 16 at 08:30 – 3: NUH staff are able to drop-in to the fairs at a time that suits them or can pre-book a private 20-minute 1-2-1 session across a range of money topics.

What caused the SVB collapse?

Silicon Valley Bank, the 16th largest bank in the country, failed on Friday and was taken over by the FDIC, after a run on the bank Wednesday and customers withdrew $42 billion of deposits by the end of Thursday. SVB mostly served technology workers and startups, including some of Silicon Valley’s biggest names, such as Roku.

SVB provided banking services to nearly half of all US venture-backed technology and life science companies and has benefited from the massive tech industry boom in recent years.

So how can companies and startups prevent getting caught up in this in the first place?

​​”For a startup, the best insulation against a bank collapse, like we witnessed with SVB, is to be cash flow positive, like we are at We funded the development of our Low-Code AI platform largely by selling innovation consulting services, and this focus on positive cash flow and profits has reduced our risks by decoupling our business from the Pandemic or an SVB banking collapse. When SVB collapsed, we thought we could lose 92% of our cash because it was an uninsured deposit at SVB. However, because of our disciplined approach to running a cash flow positive startup, our financial projections showed that we’d survive the collapse, even in a worst-case scenario. It’d be tight, but we’d get through it,” explains CEO and Co-Founder of Jon Nordmark.

“Our view of these external disasters is that they build our company’s character. Bank collapses, pandemics, the dot bomb, the 2001 terrorist attacks — they are all stress tests. Disciplined companies survive them, and come out the other side stronger. Lessons learned from my first company,, which thrived through the dot-bomb and the terrorist attacks have taught me the value of running a tight ship financially. As a result, has almost always been cash flow positive and we’ve pretty much bootstrapped to become a $10 million revenues software AI startup. Startups should gate new hires to new revenues, startups should be highly experimental,” Jon states.

“So many startups struggle and even fail because they focus on getting funding and keeping investors happy, rather than sustainably growing their business and customer base. Customer-funded businesses can better weather economic storms and keep their employees for the long-term,” said Co-Founder and CTO Brian Sathianathan

Budget commentary

“For many businesses that have already weathered the storms brought by Brexit, Covid-19, rising inflation and soaring interest rates, the end of the Energy Bill Relief Scheme could be ‘the final nail in the coffin.’

“Our data from the first few months of this year indicates businesses are already struggling with cash flow. We’ve received a growing number of claims for late and failed payments across all sectors, but particularly in the retail, construction, and food sectors, and last year claims were up by a staggering 85% across the board. It’s unlikely that businesses in these sectors, particularly the SMEs that will struggle the most to absorb these costs, will be able to benefit significantly from the limited support available, so we’re likely to see insolvencies hit pre-covid highs over the coming months.

“To protect themselves, businesses need to ensure they are actively managing rising costs and protecting the bottom line if they want to remain operational. There have been some welcome signs that pressure is easing with interest rates and inflation rises slowing, but there’s no doubt that the next few months will be challenging.”

Tanya Giles, Head of SME Business, Atradius UK

SVB crisis shows the need for diversified funding options for corporates, says supply chain specialist

“SVB was important for more than one reason. Much of the publicity concerning the crisis has centred on the importance of the bank in providing deposit facilities for tech startups that might otherwise have struggled to find a bank willing to provide normal services. Without support from the FED and HSBC’s takeover of SVB in the UK, these deposits may have been in jeopardy.

“But there was more to SVB than a provider of traditional banking facilities to techs without years of trading history. Techs often have complex financial requirements, as indeed do many of the Venture Capitals that fund them. In the small, closely connected world of Silicon Valley and the global tech ecosystem for which it is the core hub, SVB was a key player in providing loans and complex financial services.

“The supply chain is a good example of a complex ecosystem that requires sophisticated financial arrangements. But unfortunately, banks are not always well-placed to understand the unique challenges of the supply chain.

“This is why it is so important companies have a detailed understanding of their supply chain, funding options and, indeed, the importance of funding diversification.

OCI is a procurement partner rather than a supply chain financier. However, since the business has strong sourcing and supplier management capabilities plus logistical operations across all continents, OCI are an obvious go-to for scrambling organisations whether in the physical or digital space.

“Furthermore, there is more to the supply chain than the obvious physical product journey. The digital supply chain is just as important and complex.

“OCI has the financial might to plug some of the funding gaps caused by the plight of SVB and, moving forward, can help organisations understand diversified financial options within both the physical and digital supply chain.”

Oliver Chapman, CEO, OCI