Five top tips for business owners who want to save money and improve their green credentials

For business owners, managing your energy consumption is no longer just about keeping tabs on your outgoings – it’s a prerequisite for doing business. Consumer-facing companies that aren’t seen to be environmentally responsible face losing customers, while those further up the supply chain are now being asked by prospective clients to prove their green credentials.

Putting sustainability into practice should now be at the top of the agenda across every industry. Companies are becoming increasingly bold in how they communicate this to customers and stakeholders; at the end of January, The Guardian reinforced its commitment to reducing its carbon footprint by announcing a ban on advertising from fossil fuel firms.

For most business owners, however, it needn’t be that complicated. One of the simplest ways to reduce your impact on the planet and improve your bottom line is by switching to renewable energy and being smart with the energy you use. But how do we navigate the sea of information out there and find a solution that truly works for you and your company?

In this article, the experts at Opus Energy, one of the leading providers of renewable energy to businesses, gives 5 top tips on how to become more sustainable and save some money in the process. All of these can be scaled in a way that works for you – no matter what size your business is.

Start small

Implementing more sustainable practices into your business needn’t break the bank. In fact, there are plenty of small steps you can take that, when measured over time, end up going a long way. For example, did you know that turning the office heating down by 1°C you can reduce your annual heating bill by up to 8%? So, if your business spends £500 a month on energy, that small turn of the dial would save you £480 each year – the equivalent of one month’s energy.

Similar savings can be made across other aspects of your business. Take electricity costs for lighting as another example: leaving the lights on in the meeting room never seems like a big deal – but, by using motion sensitive lighting you could save enough energy to make up to 300 cups of tea. Likewise, using energy-efficient lighting can save businesses about £1,500 a year.

Another tip is to have a company-wide switch off policy. While it may seem trivial, leaving 50 computers on overnight for a year would create enough CO2 to fill a double decker bus – and cost your business £1.76 a day.

Company cars: Choose the right vehicle

While a lot has been said about leveraging the benefits of car-pooling and subscription-based mobility services, the use of cars for some companies is an unavoidable part of doing business. If your business offers company cars to your employees, it pays to ask yourself the right questions when deciding on what vehicles to go for. How long will your drivers be on the road for and what distances will they be covering? Will they be driving in city centres where Clean Air Zones are in place? And if they were to drive an electric vehicle (EV), would they have access to charging points along the way?

Taking all of this into consideration is key in saving money and reducing emissions, as it can make a huge difference in determining the correct type of vehicle necessary.

It’s also crucial that you look at the whole life costs when choosing a vehicle. It’s easy to focus on the headline sticker price – this is often the case when looking at EVs which in the past have carried a heftier price tag – but there are many other costs involved, from taxes and insurance to fuel and vehicle depreciation. So, when you add all of these up, you might find that switching to an EV fleet isn’t as expensive as you thought.

What’s more, EVs are becoming increasingly affordable, so there’s never been a better time to think of making the switch. They offer two solutions at once: reducing exhaust-related emissions and reducing the use of fossil-derived fuels. By switching your business-use vehicles, including fleet vehicles, to EVs, you can make a drastic cut your carbon footprint.

Use a smart meter

The UK Government estimates that installing energy efficiency measures could reduce the energy costs for SMEs by between 18% and 25%. One such example of this is the smart meter, which gives SME owners access to vast quantities of real-time data-related insights into how and where they use their energy. This transparency allows businesses to be smarter and more energy efficient, providing them with an easy way to be more sustainable.

Smart meters are also the backbone of the Smart Grid, which will play a significant role in the UK Government’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050 by ensuring that supply and demand are always in balance. For companies looking to be proactive in their efforts to cut their carbon footprint and play their part, the smart meter is a savvy move.

Invest in renewables

If you’ve already switched your energy supply to a more environmentally friendly tariff or provider, why not look into generating your own renewable power? If you are able to, installing solar panels are a cost-effective way of ensuring the energy your office or building uses is completely renewable.

Making this switch to renewable energy can reduce not only your environmental impact but contribute towards the wider decarbonisation across the UK’s electricity network. It’s also a way for your business to diversify, by bringing in a new stream of revenue. If done right, it can be low effort, high impact and great for the environment.

Think long term

When it comes to saving money through sustainable practices, it’s crucial that we train ourselves to think long-term, rather than simply thinking about immediate gains. The change associated with moving towards sustainability can often be a deterrent for business owners, as there is a perception that these come at a large cost. But making small changes really can pay off in a big way, both for the environment and your bottom line.

Every business is different, but by taking inspiration from the tips above and combining this with your own research, you should be able to find ways that work for you and your budget.

Healthy life healthy bank- Save £3,743 by commuting to work via bike

The UK is a nation of hardcore commuters. The average worker in the UK today will spend over a year of their life commuting to and from work — and it’s taking its toll on us mentally and physically not to mention the financial strain that comes with traveling to work.

Merlin Cycles, want to challenge the commuting status quo and propose a better alternative. So we asked the question: what would happen to your body and finances if you swapped your car for a bike for 12 months?

The answers might surprise you.

The problem with today’s commute

Today’s average commute is 56 minutes a day — an awfully long time to be sitting still listening to that radio host you can’t really stand.

Cycling can help alleviate the three key side effects of commuting:

  • Stress
  • Lack of exercise
  • Expenses

Here’s how.

1. Stress

Your commute now

In a study by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), over half of respondents said that commuting increased their stress levels.

Another study from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) found that those who have to travel over half an hour each way report higher levels of anxiety than those who don’t endure long commutes.

That means that the majority of UK workers are already stressed by the time they get to work. That’s bad news when stress has such a detrimental impact on productivity.

On the bike

As with any form of cardiovascular exercise, cycling directly counters the effects of stress.

Even on your first ride, that pedal power gets you pumping more oxygen into your bloodstream. When all that extra oxygen reaches your brain, it encourages the release of endorphins — the ‘happiness’ hormone.

Better still, it suppresses the release of the ‘stress’ hormone, cortisol.

All that works to put you in a better mood for the rest of the day. In fact, just 20 minutes of cycling could make you happier for up to 12 hours!

Of course, one of the cons of cycling is that it can be stressful dealing with rush-hour motorists. But with so much public support for more protected cycling lanes in the UK, future funding will make the commute safer for cyclists going forward.

2. Lack of physical activity

Your commute now

In the RSPH study, more than 40% of respondents said that their commute to work decreases the time they spend being physically active.

The responses align with research conducted in Texas, which found that longer commutes correlate with poorer cardiovascular fitness, increasing the likelihood of heart disease.

With the average commute to work in the UK taking 56 minutes, it’s no wonder that physical activity is taking a sideline. Between a demanding job and a family to provide for, there’s little time left to hit the gym for many people, especially when their car ride to work is carving out 5 or 6 hours of their week.

On the bike

Cycling is a fairly obvious solution to the problem of the sedentary commute. If the average commuter spent the same amount of time cycling as they currently do commuting, they would burn 560 calories a day. That’s 2,800 calories a week!

And there are more physical benefits than just losing that belly fat. Cycling regularly improves your lung capacity, meaning you get more oxygen to your muscles to alleviate those aches and pains you get from sitting at your desk or in the driver’s seat for hours on end.

Plus, you’ll sleep better as a result, making you more focused and energised the next day.

3. Expenses

Your commute now

Most of us don’t think twice about how much of our finances we sink into getting to work every day — but how much is it actually costing us?

Total Jobs found that the average person spends £146 a month commuting to and from work. That’s over £1,750 a year.

To make matters worse, it’s getting more expensive all the time. Train fares went up 3.1% in January, and regular increases to UK petrol prices are having a negative impact on car mileage.

That all adds up to some deep cuts into your net pay.

On the bike

One thing that puts people off cycling to work is the fact that they don’t want to make that first purchase: the bike itself.

But when you put things into perspective, buying a bike costs very little in the long run.

You should be able to find a decent bike for commuting for around £400. That might sound a lot, but if you spend the same as the average commuter, you’ll make that up in a couple of months.

And if you’re driving a car on a lease, the monthly cost of finance plus petrol and insurance might even be the same as purchasing that bike!

In the course of your first year cycling to work, you could to save as much as £1,500 on travel costs alone. When we crunched the numbers to include the maintenance required for a car, that saving goes up to a whopping £3,743 a year!

You could save even more by taking part in our Cycle to Work scheme, which lets you get a bike for commuting tax-free.

Better on two wheels

You don’t need to be a victim to your daily commute. Cycling lets you take it back and use it for good.

It means you get regular exercise without taking time away from your home life. It cuts down your stress and leaves you feeling happier. And finally, it means you can easily top up your rainy-day fund with all the savings you’re making on monthly travel expenses.

What’s stopping you?

Half of British professionals state technology hinders work-life balance

80% of employees hoped that tech-enabled remote working capabilities would give them better work-life balance.

However the reality is far different, with almost half (42%) claiming that new smart working practices are negatively impacting their work-life balance.

The findings come from a recent survey of 2,000 professionals carried out by staffing business Walters People.

Companies are becoming increasingly digitally focussed

The business reason for digitally transforming a workplace makes sense, with three quarters (72%) of employers believing tech helps to improve workflow and overall staff productivity.

Other reasons companies state the need for a more tech-centric workplace include to strengthen collaboration between staff and improve communications (58%), remain competitive in an increasing digitally-focussed global environment (54%), help track results and streamline decision-making (22%), and attract and retain talent (17%).

Lucy Bisset, Director of Walters People Manchester comments: “Advances in technology have already changed the way companies and employees work. With teams more dispersed and covering more time zones, working with others via phone, virtual meetings and video has become a norm.

“Adopting a digital workplace has also helped companies streamline operations and enhance speed of communication, as well as accessing the information in a much more effective way.”

Buy-in from employees

85% of employees agree their productivity would be enhanced by technology, with a further 80% claiming working for a tech-savvy company would boost their morale, and 78% agreeing that tech would help enhance coordination between departments.

However, whilst the aim of digital transformation is to create a ‘smarter working’ environment it brings with it some challenges. The biggest fear from employees is the expectation to “always be on.” In fact, almost half (42%) believe tech negatively impacts their work-life balance and doesn’t allow them an opportunity to switch-off.

Further concerns include the struggle to learn and apply new technologies (31%) and the fear of technologies replacing jobs (22%).

Lucy Bisset adds: “Digital transformation of the workplace should be a top-down initiative; executive support and adoption is crucial – especially when trying to prove the commercial and rational benefits for both the organisation and the individual.

“All too often in companies we see senior leaders stick to their traditional working methods whilst expecting employees to accommodate this; as well as new, innovative processes introduced by the IT department.

“The solution is simple; if there is a new intranet or instant messaging platform introduced then the senior business executives should communicate via these means regularly. If the business has moved towards a cloud-based sharing system – then managers need to ensure that they are the primary users which will naturally drive employees to adopt these practices.”

Older workers playing catch-up

Whilst half (44%) of Millennials state that employers should adopt the latest technologies, this is significantly lower for Generation X (25%) and Baby Boomers (11%).

In fact, an overwhelming 60% of Generation X and Baby Boomers admitted to fearing the introduction of new technologies, with a third (35%) stating that they are yet to get a full grasp of current technologies used in the workplace.

What is worrying is that Millennials widely perceive technology to be at the root of workplace conflicts.

A third of Millennials (34%) reported that older workers not understanding new technology was the chief cause of conflicts in the workplace, followed by younger workers becoming frustrated at using outdated technology (33%).

Millennial professionals are also distinct from their older colleagues in their attitudes towards social media. Almost 40% of Millennials felt that employers should actively encourage workers to incorporate social media into their work, compared to less than a quarter (24%) of Generation X and just 10% of Baby Boomers.

Lucy Bisset shares her top tips to improve the rate of adoption for nee technology:

  1. Choose technology wisely: When you’re shopping around for a new technology — be it a customer relationship management (CRM) program or software to better manage employee timesheets — bear your team’s interests in mind. Functionality is critical, but so is user-friendliness. Technologies that require multi-day training programs and hefty user manuals are a sure-fire recipe for stalled adoption.
  2. Communicate it properly as soon as possible: In the early stages, start by encouraging employees to submit their opinions about the technology you want to introduce. This will help the idea gain acceptance by the people who will use it the most. You will also need to ensure that each employee who will be affected, understands how the changes will help them in the long run. Involve each of them in every stage of decision making and let them know the importance of it to business growth. Acceptance of new technology in the workplace is a crucial stage for effective performance and accurate feedback.
  3. Highlight the Benefits: Technology can do so much to make our lives easier, but the process of learning new technology can still be daunting. To ensure team members are bought in, help them understand the decision to implement new technology. Identify the limitations or problems in the current processes. Help them see how technology could solve those problems and make their job run smoother. Although fear is normal in the face of change, we can’t let fear stop us from making a good decision. Ultimately, technology will make their job easier and allow them to be more productive, but employees may need help to see past any perceived short-term pain to the long-term vision.
  4. Give your employees time to get used to the idea: Before you implement any new process or software, give your employees a few months to understand what you are changing and why. Talk about the benefits to your employees (rather than just the business itself) and let them know they are welcome to ask as many questions as they like to ensure they have all the information. Be transparent and open, don’t leave things out because trust is what is going to be most valuable between you and your employees.
  5. Slowly introduce new concepts: If you can introduce your employees to your new software in phases, it’s less likely to be overwhelming for them. Depending on the system and size of your company, it can sometimes take a year or more to get all of your employees to use a new piece of tech, so be prepared to factor that into your timeframes.
  6. Have champions: There are always people who readily accept new technology. These are your champions and influencers. They can help convince reluctant co-workers where no one else can. The champions act as the early adopters of the technology and can aid in the training and the support of other team members. The more individuals that fall within this category of genuine champion, the easier the transition will be to company or department-wide acceptance.
  7. Customise training: Familiarity with and interest in digital technology varies widely among employees and so your training efforts should reflect those differences. Some employees might prefer an online training session; others might need a bit more handholding and support in the form of a personal coach.
  8. Listen to feedback: Develop a system of collaborative communication targeting the employees’ perceptions, concerns, and experiences with the new technology. The environment must feel safe for employees to voice their opinions truthfully, so it may be worthwhile to set up an anonymous survey that users can complete, or appoint a group representative that employees trust to communicate the general sentiment about the new technology.
  9. Highlight quick wins: Once employees begin to use the technology more and more, draw attention to the positive impact it’s having on your organization. Publicising quick wins helps build a case for change.
  10. Talk about it during the on-boarding process: New employees can be a great starting point if your older employees are reluctant to budge because they are already in a position to adopt new processes. Start new employees off on the new system and encourage them to use the new technology on a regular basis to phase out the older process.
  11. Give It Enough Time: Implementing and adopting new technology won’t be easy for your team. One of the reasons for the failure of most adoption is the assumption that technology will be easily integrated into company culture and start to give positive results immediately. You should rethink this and set long-term expectations. To start with, you should be prepared for errors and misunderstandings. Research about the average performance of the introduced technology and the expectation based on the resources you have. Allow employees to embrace it slowly and ensure you set targets and realistic expectations
  12. Evaluate the Performance: When introducing new technology to your organisation, it is crucial to measure the performance, results, the return on investment (ROI), the impact on the users and so on. The measures can then be deployed to identify the minor and major problem areas and how to make it work more efficiently for your business procedures. Set the tracks so as to be able to compare the performance before and after the introduction. Be open to the feedback and criticisms from your employees and ensure the suitable environment for their candid feedback.

Kate Swinscoe promoted to Group head of marketing at AutoProtect Group

Kate Swinscoe, former marketing manager of automotive FinTech, DealTrak, has been promoted to the role of Group head of marketing for the wider AutoProtect Group (APG).

Following DealTrak’s addition to APG’s existing portfolio of motor assets in December 2019, this newly created position will see Kate oversee the marketing and brand strategy for AutoProtect, DealTrak, i-Comply and Shine!

Having joined Leeds-headquartered DealTrak in March 2019, Kate will now split her time between APG’s platform hub in Yorkshire and the APG HQ in Essex – overseeing a five-strong team tasked with delivering PR, advertising, digital, website, event and campaign functions.

Kate Swinscoe, Group head of marketing said: “I’m thrilled to have been given such a fantastic opportunity to lead the marketing function at AutoProtect Group.

The brand brings together best-of-breed products and services in technology, insurance and damage repair for the automotive market, and I can’t wait to develop a strategy which will take our proposition to market – and really drive it forward!”

Matthew Briggs, CEO at APG added: “Kate brings over 15 years’ worth of marketing experience to APG at what is undoubtedly a very exciting time for the Group. She has already proven herself to be an invaluable asset to the DealTrak team over the past 10 months.

“I’m confident that she will spearhead a cohesive brand and marketing strategy which supports both short and long-term corporate goals, and continue to drive new business enquiries and cross-sell opportunities to support sales conversion.”

Kate’s promotion is the fifth management appointment in as many months, with Matthew Briggs named as CEO of APG, Martin Hill moving from the position of MD at DealTrak to a Group-wide role of director of strategic partnerships, Gary Burton joining DealTrak as head of delivery and Tara Williams returning to the Group as managing director of i-Comply online as well as APG’s chief risk and compliance officer.

To further bolster expertise at the company, which is set to unveil the latest iteration of its interface later this year, DealTrak is also looking to appoint a number of developers, within the coming weeks.

Use of “buy now, pay later” products in the UK set to more than double by 2023, finds new report

The UK’s eCommerce market, currently the third largest in the world, is set to be worth £319.8 billion by 2023, according to a new report from FIS™ (NYSE: FIS), a global leader in financial services technology.

The newly released Worldpay from FIS 2020 Global Payments Report found that eCommerce growth in the U.K. is being fueled by online sales through mobile devices, which are increasing 13 percent per year, while desktop-based purchases are advancing at six percent. Meanwhile, “Buy Now, Pay Later” (BNPL) services are the fastest-growing online payment method in the UK, growing twice as quickly as bank transfers and more than three times the rate of annual growth in digital wallets, according to the new report.

The Worldpay data shows that BNPL options are growing 39 percent in the UK and are on course to double their market share of online purchases in the country by 2023.[1] BNPL payment services such as Afterpay or Klarna allows consumers to delay payment or to pay by installments over a set period.

The new Worldpay report highlights the growth of digital wallets in the U.K., which are set to become the most popular online payment method by 2023, accounting for 33 percent of the market. Digital wallets are also the fastest growing payment method in-store, growing 20 percent annually, the new report found.1 Globally, digital wallets are forecasted to grow to 52 percent of the eCommerce market by 2023, according to the new Worldpay report.1

“Convenience is the driving force behind the boom in digital and mobile wallets,” said Shane Happach, EVP, head of global eCommerce, Worldpay Merchant Solutions, FIS. “Global consumers now expect convenient and connected, omnichannel experiences. ‘Buy Now, Pay Later’ delivers a more intuitive level of convenience and access for consumers than traditional credit cards. As digitally savvy Gen Z consumers come of age, this is especially significant as younger consumers are more used to making snap purchases and then deciding later if they want to keep it.”

While Britons are not likely to go cashless in the near future, the new FIS report shows that digital and card-based payments are rapidly becoming the preferred choice across all sales channels. In the UK, cash is in steep decline at a rate of -10 percent annually and is predicted to account for only 16 percent of offline sales by 2023.1

“We are reaching a tipping point for eCommerce,” Happach said. “Advanced technologies from voice-enabled commerce to biometric verification are maturing at the same time as digitally native demographics are coming of age and becoming regular consumers. Merchants looking to remain relevant must establish user-friendly applications, deploy omnichannel best-practices that deliver personalization at scale, and reduce friction through the shopping experience.”

The UK productivity puzzle

Last week’s comments from the new home secretary, Priti Patel, on the UK’s post-Brexit immigration policy raised some eyebrows from employers around the country, especially those that rely on cheap labour.

Ms Patel announced plans that will effectively prohibit most businesses from recruiting outside the UK for unskilled jobs requiring qualifications equivalent to below an A-level, or who are to be paid less than £25,600 annually. Does this spell the end of cheap labour for the UK economy? And what impact will this have on productivity?

The UK, like a lot of Western economies, has suffered from a productivity decline since the mid-2000s, with productivity growth rates effectively flatlining since the 2007 financial crisis (see graph below). On the flip side, employment has been a bright spot of the economy despite lacklustre GDP growth. This is a perplexing situation for the Bank of England, whose mandate is to keep prices stable and to some extent maintain low unemployment. These goals have been met over the past couple of years, preventing the Bank of England from raising interest rates.

While the economy has maintained a high level of employment, business investment in capital has been virtually non-existent. Instead, employers have substituted investment for a large supply of cheap labour from abroad. UK businesses are well behind some of their European peers, who deploy nearly three times as many robots according to data published by the International Federation of Robotics.

But the new stance on immigration policy means that businesses will no longer be able to rely on low skilled migrant workers. The obvious conclusion is that they will need to raise wages and invest more instead. The Tories have already shown a willingness to fight employers on this by raising the Living Wage. Current noises from the government suggest that immigration was never envisioned to be an alternative to increased investment in automation. The prime minister argues that he and his colleagues are entrusted to set the rules of the economic game, which for too long has been rigged against the interests of low wage staff. Ironically, this paints Labour as the party backing free movement, and the Conservatives championing workers’ rights.

Whenever automation is mentioned, the instinctive reaction is to anticipate robots pushing humans out of work. In countries such as South Korea and Sweden, however, the bots are not displacing humans entirely, simply pushing them into higher paid work. This is seen by some economists as more than welcome, against a backdrop of UK wages only just beginning to rise above levels seen during the global financial crash.

That said, there are clear flaws in Ms Patel’s thinking. One of her headline arguments is that more than eight million people – or 20% of the workforce aged between 16 and 64 – are currently economically inactive. She argues that the new immigration policy will mean that they will be able to fill the void left by a diminished immigrant workforce. This ignores the critical fact that when those classed as economically inactive are surveyed, only 1.87 million out of 8.48 million say they want to work. Of the remainder, the majority are students, sick, elderly, or caring for others. It is currently unclear how the home secretary intends to persuade such people into employment.

If the government is successful in channelling business investment towards automation and labour-saving practices, it is likely to result in rising minimum wages. This could enhance employee morale and work ethic, as well as reducing turnover of staff. But what this means for businesses and the economy is more of a puzzle.

By Sohail Singal, Associate Director at Chatham Financial

UK CPI data – comment

Commenting on today’s UK CPI data, Andy Scott, Associate Director at Chatham Financial, said: “Sterling recovered some of its early session losses following inflation data that showed consumer prices rose at a stronger than expected pace last month. The data adds weight to the argument against the Bank of England cutting interest rates, following a significant rebound in the monthly data on the economy since December’s election. While the jump higher in January’s CPI number doesn’t in itself mean an end to the two-year downtrend in the pace of inflation, there were signs of upwards pressure on future prices that will likely put an end to any discussions of an imminent rate.

“Sterling is trading close to its highest levels since the Brexit referendum result in 2016 against a number of its G10 counterparts, including the Euro, which is weakening due a recession in German manufacturing. The reduction in UK political instability and increased certainty over Brexit have driven renewed interest in the UK currency, along with an upturn in optimism over the UK economy. With the Eurozone economy bogged down by continued headwinds from the numerous challenges facing the manufacturing sector, there is a lot of potential for Sterling to gain further against the Euro in the months ahead, particularly if the Boris bounce translates into a meaningful economic rebound.”

Research reveals Brits bemoan stupid colleagues as biggest bugbear of office life

More than a third (35%) of UK office workers have said being forced to deal with unskilled and inefficient colleagues is the biggest bugbear in their daily life, according to a new survey of 1,000 office workers.

Women in particular appear to be fed up carrying their colleagues, with 40% claiming this is their biggest annoyance, compared to 30% of their male counterparts.

Spending long hours at work because their office doesn’t offer flexible working (30%) follows close behind, along with dealing with “out-of-touch” management (27%) and being forced to regularly work outside of “core working hours” (27%).

The results are part of a new independent survey commissioned by accounting automation software specialists, CaseWare UK looking at the attitudes of UK workers to office life and how they adapt to the introduction of new technology.

Given that unskilled colleagues are the biggest source of annoyance, it’s no surprise that improving staff training and development (31%) is in the top three priorities for workers wanting to improve their office environment, just behind introducing more reliable technology (34%) and removing unnecessary processes (32%).

One in five (20%) would urge their employer to introduce flexible and mobile working policies to make their workday more tolerable, while 18% want more focus of hiring qualified staff and improving recruitment.

Shez Hamill, Director at CaseWare UK, said: “There appears to be no shortage of annoyances in the workplace that get people’s blood pressure rising. Today’s workforce is increasingly demanding and business leaders need to wake up to issues their employees are facing, or they will see them heading for the door. Technology can be a great enabler within a business, but if the commitment to maintain and improve processes isn’t there, then it can be immensely frustrating for workers.”

Research by CaseWare UK in 2016 showed that 12% of workers said they were dealing with poor standards of technology. This figure has more than doubled to 26% who say their workplace features poor, out of date technology – including both software and hardware.

Top 10 office gripes
1. Dealing with unskilled co-workers
2. Keeping up with constantly changing industry regulations
3. Spending long hours in the office due to lack of mobile/ flexible working
4. Dealing with out of touch management
5. Working outside of core working hours (e.g. 9:00am to 5:30pm)
6. Poor standard of workplace technology
7. Inability to update systems and processes
8. Inability to attract new/ young talent
9. Non-responsive board of directors
10. An over reliance on manual processes

Value of UK exports to non-EU countries rises in 2019

The value of British goods sold to countries outside of the EU increased throughout 2019, according to Lloyds Bank Commercial Bank. The increase helped offset the falling value of UK exports to the continent.

While analysis of the latest trade figures from HMRC revealed that the EU is still the UK’s single largest trading partner, the value of British goods exported to the continent fell from £173.3 billion in the year ending Q1 2019 to £168.5 billion in the year ending Q3 2019, according to the Lloyds Bank International Trade Index.

Prior to this, the value of UK goods exported to the EU had grown consistently since 2016.

The Index, compiled in partnership with IHS Markit, showed that the UK sold £177.1 billion of goods to markets outside the EU in the year ending Q3 2019, up from £170.9 billion in the year ending Q1 2019.

Accounting for the trend, the report shows over the last three years, UK exports to Asia and the USA have grown at a compounded rate of 11.3% and 7.7% respectively, while new exports orders to the EU grew by just 6.9% per year.

The value of British exports to the UK’s top 10 markets in Asia grew over the same three-year period. Whisky and spirits exports grew rapidly, with sales to Vietnam and India increasing by 204% and 73% respectively.

The Lloyds Bank International Trade Index also found economic contraction in Europe contrasted with the performance of countries outside the EU in the final quarter of 2019, highlighting further opportunities for UK exporters in far-away markets in 2020.

According to IHS Markit PMI data, the economies of Germany and the Netherlands – two of the top five destinations for UK exports – softened for the first time in over six years.

Germany’s PMI for Q4 2019 was 49.7, down from 50.3 in Q3, while the Netherlands saw an index of 48.5 in Q4. Weaker economic conditions were also recorded in Italy, Austria, Poland and the Czech Republic (49.8, 46.8, 45.9, 44.8). A reading of above 50 indicates growth, while one below 50 signifies a decrease.

Meanwhile, economic growth was measured in the USA (51.9) and China (52.6), and across Asia (51.1) between October and December.

Gwynne Master, managing director and global head of trade for Lloyds Bank Global Transaction Banking, said: “It’s encouraging to see that UK exporters aren’t limiting themselves to markets close to home. The fluctuating economic environment could prompt more businesses to take advantage of a diverse range of overseas markets, which in turn will hopefully enable increased sales and revenue for UK exporters.

“Last year, tension between the world’s biggest economies undoubtably had an impact on global trade. Productive talks and a new deal between China and the US signed last month could represent the start of this tension dissipating, creating further opportunities for UK exporters.”

The Lloyds Bank International Trade Index brings together export growth and supply chain indicators to provide timely insights into the challenges and opportunities for UK exporters.

The Airbus settlement – the significant facts behind the figures

The deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) between Airbus and the Serious Fraud Office means the company will pay €991M – making it the UK’s largest DPA – as part of a €3.6 billion global settlement. But Aziz Rahman of corporate crime solicitors Rahman Ravelli believes it is not just the numbers that are important about the settlement.


While Airbus is probably relieved to have avoided prosecution over alleged bribery, the huge amount of money it is having to pay to settle such allegations has generated headlines. But the Airbus settlement is noteworthy for other reasons.

For a start, it marks the first time that the SFO has decided to use the wide territorial reach of the UK’s Bribery Act. Yes, the possibility has always been there but this is the first occasion where it has been fully utilised. Airbus has come under investigation in the UK – and effectively been penalised here – for activity that was not conducted in the UK. The counts on the indictment cover Airbus conduct in Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Indonesia and Ghana. There has been enforcement in the UK by the SFO, not to mention widespread mutual legal assistance between countries. The SFO has been emboldened by the collaboration effort and has shown it is well placed to co-ordinate with others in the investigative process. This accords with many of the soundings that have been growing ever louder from the SFO’s current regime.

Whether this case heralds a new era of post-Brexit cooperation – enquetes sans frontieres, for want of a better phrase – is something that will only become clear with time. But it would not be going too far to say that this is a case that sets the standard for future investigations – and raises the bar high for what is expected of corporations.

Significantly, the SFO examined the internal investigation documents – including interviews with Airbus employees – as Airbus waived legal professional privilege on a limited basis. The SFO also undertook its own independent investigation. This could be seen as an indicator that the SFO is looking to create a culture of companies under investigation waiving privilege.

If that is the case, it is an approach that is being taken in spite of, rather than as a result of, the 2018 Court of Appeal ENRC judgement; which overturned a controversial High Court decision that had narrowed the scope of legal professional privilege in internal investigations. This is arguably not a surprise. In its “Corporate Co-operation Guidance’’ issued last year, the SFO asserted that if an organisation claims privilege it will be expected to provide certification by independent counsel that the material in question is privileged. And before that guidance was issued, some senior SFO figures had talked of the possibility of companies being required to waive privilege in order to show co-operation.

While this settlement emphasises the importance the SFO has come to attach to privilege, it also shows how the wider issue of co-operation carries huge weight in such an investigation. The DPA explains in great detail the lengths Airbus went to in order to assist the investigation. To name just some of its actions, Airbus confirmed the existence of corruption concerns, identified issues that investigators were unaware of, reported conduct that had happened largely overseas and collected more than 30 million documents. In addition, its new board cooperated fully with investigators and created a new company-wide approach to compliance.

There can be little doubt that if Airbus was to receive lenient treatment it had to show a major departure in its workplace culture from the ways it had previously set about obtaining business. The fact that it did this is a feather in its cap. As for individuals, given the sheer amount of documentation it is hard to see how a smoking gun will be found in the arsenal which has been inventoried. It will be a brave decision by the SFO to once again test the strength of its convictions about individuals under investigation, when so far their efforts have led to no convictions at all. And a potential further defeat could take the shine of what is, on the face of it, a stunning victory.

Airbus can, therefore, pat itself on the back, having engineered that all-important escape from prosecution. But this is a case that shows the stringent demands now placed on any corporation that wants to have any chance of avoiding a trial.

On paper, the SFO seems to have secured the silver medal on the podium in terms of the penalty values. However it will perhaps come as no surprise that the US has again raised the stakes with the value of the penalty it has imposed but has graciously allowed the French to take the credit. After all, this is their domain, and therefore their problem. And the fact that Boeing may have issues may have had some bearing on this.