Spend wisely this festive season, January is a few weeks away!

Many consumers complain that January is a long month, but like many other months, January also has 31 days. What makes it longer though, is how you spend your money during the festive season, says Adv. Kedilatile Legodi, Acting Manager: Education & Communication at the National Credit Regulator (NCR).

Adv. Legodi reminds consumers that some will receive their December salaries earlier than usual and others will be receiving bonuses. Often times, bonuses present a great temptation to buy more, however, consumers are strongly encouraged to draft a budget to ensure that they spend what they have. Consumers are further encouraged to get into a habit of allocating a portion of their budget to savings.

Consumers must remember that the salary paid in December is the same income that has to cater for January expenses such as school fees, school uniform, food, transport and others. Failure to consider January expenses before spending during the festive season, will indeed make January feel longer and financially stressful, adds Legodi.

Reckless spending over this period without due consideration of January which is a few weeks away, may lead some consumers directly into the trap of unregistered credit providers informally referred to by many as “Abomashonisa”. Desperation to borrow money in order to cope with January expenses will make you a target of unregistered credit providers who would usually advertise using phrases such as “Blacklisted consumers welcome”, “cheap credit” and often require you to pay a fee before they pay out the alleged approved loan.

Unregistered credit providers usually charge excessive interest rates and fees that are not in line with the National Credit Act. They also use unlawful tactics to collect on their debt such as retaining consumers’ identity documents, bank cards / pin numbers, SASSA cards and others. “Consumers are advised to only use NCR registered credit providers and report those that retain their instruments such as bank cards to the NCR”, advises Legodi.

Consumers should remember that credit is expensive as it includes interest, monthly service fees, once off initiation fees, etc. “Spending wisely during the festive season, will alleviate the need for consumers to borrow money in January”, concludes Legodi.

Below are tips for the festive season:

  • Plan and draw up a list of your needs;
  • Set a realistic budget for what is on the list;
  • Prioritise your home loan, rent and school fees. Where possible, pay more;
  • Buy school uniforms and stationery now when you have money;
  • Start saving for next year’s projects such as holidays, renovations, studying, retail sales/specials and do not rely on credit for this;
  • If you are battling with your debts, contact a registered debt counsellor for assistance.

MindFolio launches Locilab

MindFolio, an analytics and innovation consultancy for the global real estate market, has today announced the launch of LociLab; a bespoke community engagement platform, which provides deep consumer insights to shape the development of the public realm.

Through an online community, LociLab engages users in the early stages of planning, obtaining local public opinion via daily polls, topical discussion on message boards and integrated surveys, to provide a deeper, and often unexpected, understanding of consumer demographics and psychographics. The data is carefully considered by MindFolio’s analysts to provide its public sector clients with a unique insight into the needs, aspirations and challenges of their local community, to inform and shape the neighbouring environment.

Accessible throughout the development process, LociLab demonstrates a long-term commitment to public sector development and delivers sustained economic, environmental and social value through an online community that fosters continuous collaboration and dialogue.

Working with local authorities, councils, developers and landowners, MindFolio provides data intelligence to achieve optimum planning outcomes, ensuring that public developments are purposeful, efficient and future-proofed. Operating globally, MindFolio identifies and validates opportunities to transform environments, enhance the future user experience and build social cohesion.

MindFolio has influenced and informed some of the world’s most ambitious retail, leisure, mixed-use and urban developments, and master-planned communities including; the regeneration of Birmingham City Centre, the redevelopment vision for Westgate Oxford and the world’s first walkable mixed-use city centre in Dubai.

Karl Kalcher, Managing Director of MindFolio commented: “We are delighted to announce the launch of LociLab – a community platform, hosted digitally, which responds to a pressing need for increased, data-centric public consultation throughout the planning process. The platform ‘gives voice’ to the local community, whilst providing profound insights to local government commissioners.

“Our aim is to help our public sector clients build environments that stimulate and shape strong communities and have at their heart a profound sense of place and purpose.”

It’s time to get on your bike for final Christmas orders

The home delivery specialist ParcelHero has updated its Christmas deadline tool revealing the final order dates for all the UK’s favourite stores; and it’s warning shoppers will need to get on their bikes to book final online orders, as stores such as Evans Cycles’ final order deadline for Christmas delivery is December 16th.

Says ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks MILT: ‘Many shoppers do like to leave it as late as possible to order online; perhaps in the hope of last-minute bargains, or just because of good old-fashioned procrastination. Whatever the reason, they should not leave it too long as a number of stores’ deadlines are as early as Monday 16th. This is particularly the case if they specialise in heavier items such as cycles or furniture. In contrast some other retailers, such as Amazon and Net-a-Porter, are actually offering Christmas Eve same-day ordering. It will pay shoppers to look up the final dates for the store they have in mind.’

Reveals David: ‘Retailers’ deadlines are rapidly coming upon us, and we really don’t recommend ordering too late. Last year we Brits spent £133bn online at Xmas and an astonishing 880 million parcels were delivered before the big day. With the parcel network that busy it’s safer to place your orders in good time. And, don’t forget, our last recommended date for sending a parcel by courier in the UK is December 20th to ensure its safe arrival.’

Here’s ParcelHero’s Amazon to Zara list of Christmas deadlines:

  • Amazon – 24th December
  • Argos- 24th December
  • ASOS – 22nd December
  • Boden – 23rd December
  • The Body Shop – 23rd December
  • Boohoo – 22 December
  • Debenhams – 23rd December
  • Evans Cycles – 26th December
  • Firebox – 23rd December
  • Gap – 23rd December
  • HP – 22nd December
  • John Lewis – 22nd December
  • Littlewoods – 23rd December
  • Next – 22nd December
  • Paul Smith – 19th December
  • The White Company – 19th December
  • Very – 23rd December
  • Zara – 18th December

UK business environment beats France and Germany for SMEs to thrive

Good access to finance, a flexible labour market and low levels of bureaucracy for small firms put the UK ahead of leading European economies, according to Euler Hermes.

The UK is providing a better business environment for SMEs to thrive than France or Germany, according to research from Euler Hermes, the world’s leading trade credit insurance provider.

The insurer, which published the SME Business Climate Index (SME-BCI) in its latest report Business Climate: Which country is best in class for SMEs? scored the UK strongly for access to finance, its flexible labour market and low levels of bureaucracy, areas in which France and Germany struggle.

British businesses also have the best opportunities to secure credit in Europe, according to the findings.

The UK was placed seventh overall behind Canada, the US, Singapore, Belgium, the Netherlands and Hong Kong in the analysis of 13 leading economies, with the research citing more competitive tax policies and less complicated exporting processes as the reasons behind their higher ranking.

France and Germany were placed eighth and eleventh respectively.

The UK was placed joint bottom for beneficial tax policies alongside Germany and the Czech Republic. Only Ireland was ranked lower as a favourable market for exporters, according to the findings.

Ana Boata, senior European economist at Euler Hermes, said: “The UK is faring well against its other leading European economies and provides its SMEs with good access to finance, a flexible labour market and a comparably low amount of red tape.

“But it has some work to do to catch up with the likes of Canada, the US and Singapore, where companies face far fewer constraints than British firms.

“Looking ahead, providing a strong platform to export will prove a key factor and while export growth helped the UK avoid recession in Q3, the short-term outlook is not encouraging. We expect the economy to contract by -0.1% in the next two quarters and Brexit has the potential to reduce future opportunities for the union’s SMEs through the introduction of tariffs and an increasing amount of paperwork.”

The SME-BCI assessed 13 economies – Canada, Hong Kong, the US, the Netherlands, Singapore, Belgium, the UK, Germany, Poland, Ireland, France, Slovakia and the Czech Republic – on six components – red tape, tax policy, labour market flexibility, financing, export opportunities and competition.

This study was jointly produced by Euler Hermes Economic Research and Euler Hermes Rating. Established in 2001 and based in Hamburg and Paris, Euler Hermes Rating was the first credit rating agency to be registered under the EU regulation on credit rating agencies. It is specialized in delivering independent credit opinions on SMEs and MidCaps. Moody’s has a 4.99% stake in Euler Hermes Rating GmbH. In June 2017, Euler Hermes Rating launched TRIBRating, a robust assessment of creditworthiness for SME’s developed through the Euler Hermes collaboration with Moody’s Investors Service.

Hope Capital partners with Connect for Intermediaries

Hope Capital has partnered with Connect for Intermediaries as Connect adds the bridging lender to its panel.

Hope Capital has been chosen for its exceptional service levels, turnaround times and flexibility and its wide range of lending of up to 24 months on residential, commercial and mixed-use property across England, Wales and Scotland. Hope Capital also lends against land, with or without planning permission, while its rates start at just 0.69%.

Hope Capital’s appointment to Connect’s panel provides Connect’s appointed representatives with a flexible new lending option, and provides access to those who use Connect’s packager and referral arms.

Kevin Thomson, sales director at Connect for intermediaries says, “We have worked with Hope Capital off panel for some time and as a result we have no hesitation in now formally putting them on to our lender panel. The efficient team at Hope Capital have very quick turnaround times, are incredibly flexible and are always there to help, ensuring that when brokers phone them direct, they will always get to speak directly to an underwriter or a senior decision maker.”

Gary Bailey, MD of Hope Capital says, “We understand that for many brokers, bridging is something that they only see a need for occasionally. For these brokers it can be very useful to have help to guide you through the bridging market to find the best lender and the best products for each client. Connect for Intermediaries are experts in the bridging market and provide brokers with all the help and expertise that they may need, we are delighted to partner with Connect and their members.”

The UK – not quite out of the woods yet

With under three weeks to go to the UK general election, it is looking increasingly likely that the Conservatives will be returned with a majority. They remain at least 12% ahead of Labour in the polls and the gap has if anything been rising, rather than falling. Just as important, although Johnson’s approval ratings are not great, they are way better than Corbyn’s disastrous ratings. While the potential for tactical voting and alliances between the Remainer parties means a Conservative victory is still not a done deal, it is now looking much the most likely outcome.

We have seen both parties launch their manifestos and the common theme is an end to austerity and higher government spending. In the case of the Conservatives, the rise in spending implies a fiscal boost to the economy next year of around 0.5% of GDP. In the case of Labour, the plan is for a much more substantial increase in spending. On the tax front, Conservative plans for higher spending mean there is little room for tax cuts if they are to keep to their new fiscal rules. These target a balanced budget for current day-to-day spending, while allowing a 50% increase in investment spending. Even so, the Conservatives are proposing a rise in the threshold for national insurance tax. Labour, meanwhile, appears to believe it can afford a much bigger increase in spending because of the large tax increases it is proposing.

Labour’s planned tax hikes are only part of the reason why a Labour victory would cause market turmoil. Its extensive privatisation plans – which would be carried out at below market price – and the requirements for worker/consumer representation on company boards and UK listed companies to hand over 10% of their equity to workers are all viewed with trepidation. But with the risk of a Labour victory looking small and the danger of a No-Deal Brexit much reduced, we remain comfortable with our recent decision to add to our UK equity positions. We have moved back to a more neutral position, with the UK now making up close to 40% our total equity holdings.

Although UK equities have outperformed since early October, they have only recaptured part of their marked underperformance over the previous few years and continue to look good value. Similarly, the pound may have recovered to $1.29 from a low of $1.22 but remains well below its levels prior to the 2016 referendum. Our base case is that both the pound and UK equities have room to recover further and we could in time add again to our UK holdings. However, we are holding off for the moment because risks remain. Even if there is a Conservative victory and Johnson’s Brexit deal is ratified, we face the prospect of a new, albeit rather less dramatic, cliff edge.

Johnson is proclaiming that there will be no extension to the Brexit transition period – during which nothing much will change – beyond the end of 2020. But it is far from clear what if any kind of trade deal can be negotiated with the EU in only 12 months. While the prospects for the UK economy are undoubtedly improving, much of Johnson’s gung-ho talk is likely to prove to be wishful thinking. We may no longer be negative on the UK but believe it is too early to turn to outright optimistic.

By Rupert Thompson, Head of Research at Kingswood

The different UK election outcomes and what they could mean for markets

We have recently added to our UK equity holdings, eliminating the bulk of our longstanding underweight of UK equities. Although uncertainties undoubtedly remain, our view is that the risk of the two most market unfriendly outcomes – a No-Deal Brexit or Labour winning a majority – is now quite small. With the pound and UK equities both still cheap, we no longer believe a sizeable underweight of UK equities is warranted.

  • While the outcome of the election remains somewhat uncertain, a Conservative majority now seems the most likely outcome. The Conservatives have a commanding lead in the polls, which has increased if anything in recent weeks, and importantly Corbyn remains much more unpopular than Johnson. Last night’s TV debate looks unlikely to have changed matters much with no out-and-out winner. Meanwhile, the threat to the Conservatives posed by the Brexit Party has been reduced significantly by the latter’s decision not to contest Conservative seats. Even so, the possibility of widespread tactical voting, the failure of the polls to correctly predict recent election results, and the possibility of an alliance between some of the ‘Remainer’ parties still mean the outcome is far from a done deal.
  • A Conservative victory would be the most positive outcome for the markets given their pro-business policies and the likelihood that Johnson’s Brexit deal would be ratified. Sterling would very likely rise to $1.35 or so from $1.29 currently and UK equities recover a further part of their marked underperformance relative to other markets in recent years. Despite their bounce since mid-October when the risk of a No-Deal fell substantially, UK equities have only unwound a small part of this underperformance and continue to look relatively cheap compared to other markets. The pound also remains well below pre-2016 levels and is cheap. UK small/mid cap would very likely also outperform large cap as domestic economic fears would ease while UK large cap would be held back to some extent by the relatively large proportion of their earnings coming from overseas (75% of FTSE 100 earnings come from overseas versus 50% for the FTSE 250), which will be worth less in sterling terms if the pound recovers further.
  • A Labour majority would clearly be the worst outcome for the market but we believe this remains low risk given the continuing poor ratings of both Labour and Corbyn. If Labour did win a majority, their radical nationalisation plans, which now include Water, the Railways, the National Grid, Royal Mail and BT’s Openreach subsidiary, would clearly hit particular segments of the market hard, particularly as the businesses would probably be purchased at below the market price. Their plans for compulsory employee share ownership – with companies required to hand over 10% of equity to workers – and compulsory worker /consumer representation on the boards of all UK listed companies would also be viewed with trepidation. Still, Labour’s bark would very likely be worse than its bite – not least because of the difficulties in actually carrying out its more radical plans. Only if there were a Labour majority – rather than a Labour-led minority government – would Labour very likely be able to carry out such policies. On Brexit, by contrast, Labour’s policy is as market friendly as the Conservative’s policy – with Labour calling for a deal to be ratified in a referendum and the possibility therefore that the UK could end up remaining in the EU after all.
  • A hung Parliament is clearly possible with a minority Labour Government supported by a combination of the SNP/Liberal Democrats/Green Party. But Lib Dem/SNP support may be hard to secure. The Lib Dems have said Corbyn can’t be Labour leader if they are to have their support and any agreement with the SNP would be tied to SNP demands for a Scottish referendum. This scenario would clearly lead to continued uncertainty on the policy front – other than on Brexit – but our view is that in this scenario, Labour would not be in a strong enough position to carry through most of its more radical policy proposals.
  • Both Labour and the Conservatives are planning substantial rises in Government spending – particularly investment. The gap between the two parties in this area is much smaller than normal although Labour is still planning a significantly larger boost than the Conservatives. The Government has torn up its fiscal rules, replacing its target of a balanced budget by the mid 2020s with an aim of balancing the current budget (which excludes public sector investment) by the middle of the next parliament. It also aims to limit borrowing for investment to 3% of national income (up 50% from current levels) and keep debt service costs below 6% of national income. Labour’s new fiscal rules also include balancing the current budget but are significantly loose for investment and debt service costs. These new rules give both parties the leeway needed to accommodate their plans for a substantial boost to investment spending. But they limit the scope for the Conservatives to cut taxes and boost current spending much further – indeed, Johnson has this week abandoned the previous plan to cut the corporation tax rate from 19% to 17%. As for Labour, its plans for significant tax increases mean it has considerably greater room to raise current spending than do the Conservatives.
  • A Conservative victory would very likely lead to Johnson’s Brexit deal being ratified and would clearly remove some of the Brexit-related drag on UK growth over the last couple of years. Even so, significant uncertainties will still remain. Johnson is sticking to his pledge that the transition period (during which nothing much will change) will end in December 2020. At best, the UK/EU will probably only be able to agree a very limited kind of trade deal within a year (particularly given Conservative plans for regulatory divergence from the EU). Other trade deals should also take a number of years to put in place. Consequently, while we expect UK growth to recover a bit as Brexit uncertainty eases and the boost from higher government spending kicks in, we still expect it to remain sluggish next year at 1.25-1.5%.

Christmas Party Clampdown 2019: Bosses tighten their belts

Office Managers across the UK are either scrapping Christmas parties altogether or cutting budgets according to a survey by office provider Offices.co.uk

Over half of bosses surveyed said they were spending less this year than last, and that’s not the half of it. Where Christmas parties are taking place some sound terrible – one party idea was limited to just a coffee and mince pie.

“We are aware of the unique set of challenges this year: Elections, Brexit and potentially long Christmas break – and it seems bosses across the country are seriously watching their Festive spending – but there is no need to be a Grinch”, says Jonathan Ratcliffe from Offices.co.uk

Bosses worries are perhaps justified – Christmas Parties have become a huge risk – not only the financial risk, but that of staff misconduct and bad behaviour.

“We’ve had our fair share of problems at our own Christmas Parties, but we’d never cancel it all together” Ratcliffe adds.

The trend for parties to be moved to January seems to be hot, especially in retail – where the Christmas period is busy, or critical to businesses bank balances.

The Worst Reported Office Christmas Parties for 2019:
Lauren, Leeds “Our office manager is putting on coffee and mince pies. That’s it. We’re not even going for drinks this year!”.

Sofia, Shoreditch: “We were told that if we want decorations, that you can decorate your desk – however the office won’t have any decorations at all this year, not even a tree”.

Robert, Nottingham: “Bosses have told us that we are not have an official party, but that if you want to go for a drink then do that – like normal then?”.

Here are a few ideas for trimming down Christmas Party costs:
MOVE DATES: Banish staff January blues by having a fun January party instead

TEAM BUILDING: Incorporate some form of team building, like cocktail making or a team challenge

USE THE OFFICE: Turn a meeting room into a party room, and get pizza in

USE YOUR STAFF: Every office has a budding DJ, party organiser or chef – use free staff

DRINKS AND NIBBLES: £100 goes a long way in wine, orange juice and nibbles

“There is no need to spend thousands on a Christmas Party, but cancelling it altogether is seriously Scrooge-like!”, Ratcliffe concluded.

6 tech solutions to enhance your SME

Recent studies have shown that as many as 65% of small and medium sized businesses are losing time and money through failing to adopt technology and use it to its full potential.

Although the large majority of SMEs use the internet for business purposes, including online banking and emailing customers, many of these owners have admitted to not possessing basic digital skills and knowledge beyond this. This is despite a proven correlation between digital skills and a high business turnover.

So why wouldn’t an SME want to adopt a few simple tools to help streamline their business processes? In this article, Opus Energy, renewable energy provider to businesses, shares its top 6 tech solutions for helping business owners save both time and money.

Get a project management tool

Being able to stay on top of your workload is important, but when you’re juggling twenty different tasks, it’s easy to lose track of where you are.

There are lots of handy online tools to help you manage projects more efficiently. For example, Trello and Asana use the Kanban methodology, a production-line style approach which enables you to see what work you need to complete, and when. This can help you stick to deadlines, keep your priorities organised and ensure nothing gets forgotten or dropped.

Make the most of the cloud

It’s been argued that the one of the biggest impacts on businesses over the last few years has been the introduction of cloud technology, but not everyone is reaping the benefits yet.

In the past, people would use programs on their computers or building servers to do their work, but cloud-based software allows the same programs to be accessed through the internet. As long as you have an internet connection, you can complete your work anywhere, when it suits you.

Cloud software like Office 365 allows multiple users to simultaneously collaborate on the same document, without creating multiple versions. Users can see changes in real-time, including who has made what changes, which saves time as you don’t have to wait for other people to finish editing before you can start.

At the same time, it’s easier to protect sensitive information and prevent data loss with cloud-based software. For example, Office 365 has advanced security features to safeguard your data. From encrypted emails to mobile device management and threat intelligence, you can be confident that your data and intellectual property is well protected.

Train yourself and your employees online

As a small business owner, it’s vital to continue to develop and expand you and your team’s knowledge, whether that be in your specific sector, or more general business updates. In an ideal world we would attend all of the seminars, meetings and training events possible, but these can be costly and time consuming.

However, self-paced training and online business training programs, which are often free, are the ideal way to expand your know-how from your own office.

There are various business training resources that will cover everything and anything you need to research and educate yourself on, so get familiar with these tools and pick the right options for you and your team. Don’t forget podcasts either; they can be a great source of entertainment, but they are also a viable tool for education, and you can listen at any time, even on the commute.

Share your calendar with everyone and anyone

Finding a time that works for you and a supplier, a new client or even a lunch date with friends can often be an exercise of email tennis, with dates and times suggested back and forth over email for weeks before anything is set in stone. Using online calendars will allow others check your availability for meetings. This not only takes the management of your calendar out of your hands but will save everyone a lot of admin time and hassle.

Digitalise your invoices

When it comes to getting paid, the easiest way to track and log your finances is online. There are currently several companies offering similar invoicing services, so businesses need to do their research to ensure that the chosen system will complement their working methods and will be adaptable to their business.

In fact, a digitalised and streamlined online invoicing service may be an appropriate alternative for your business that allows you to manage your billing process quicker and more proficiently.

Track every second of your time

Whether or not you bill customers and clients by the hour, there is much to be gained from keeping track of where you and your team’s time goes each day. This not only ensures you bill those who pay by the hour, but helps you spot where you can be more time efficient, and which tasks are taking up too much of your time.

Like bookkeeping tools, there are many of these time-tracking tools available so be sure to select one which will integrate easiest into your day to day activity.

MyPeople Partners With Connect360 Global

MyPeople Group, a leading provider of cloud-based relationship and performance analytics solutions, has announced that Connect360 Global has joined its rapidly expanding partner program. Connect360 Global is a consultancy firm that provides innovative solutions that enable clients in financial services and manufacturing to drive operational efficiency, growth and productivity.

According to Nick Andrews, MD of Connect360 Global: “We are delighted to be partnering with MyPeople as it has unrivalled expertise in using analytics to achieve a high performance culture in the business environment. Proven in elite sport, the company’s cloud-based analytics platform enables organisations to scientifically track and measure how culture changes impact performance, provides insights into ‘cultural strength’ and shows the role that individuals and teams play in translating this into business success. MyPeople is a perfect match for our solution portfolio which provides clients with channel intelligence through robotic process automation and AI.”

Connect 360 Global focuses on a number of core market sectors including consumer electronics, financial services and manufacturing. With over 20 years’ experience of the IT sector, the company will be offering MyPeople’s entire portfolio of analytics solutions which include relationship analytics, values-adoption, high performance culture and recruitment.

“We are pleased to welcome Connect360 Global to our partner program,” added Christian Hughes, CEO of MyPeople Group. “As a Silver Tier partner, the company will be instrumental in the ongoing development of our market-leading analytics platform to meet the rapid growth in demand from organisations wanting to create winning, high performance cultures.”