Phoebus Software Limited achieve management buyout backed by NorthEdge Capital

After over thirty years of private ownership, Phoebus Software Limited (PSL) has concluded a management buyout (MBO) backed by NorthEdge Capital. NorthEdge is a private equity firm that supports MBOs, development capital and equity release transactions for companies based in the Midlands and the North of England. PSL is based in Solihull, West Midlands.

The transaction will see a change in PSL Board personnel, with founders Robert Lintonbon and Peter Pontefract exiting the business. Paul Hunt will remain as CEO supported by other key directors who remain in their key positions including, Richard Pike (sales and marketing) and Neil Dyke (technology).

George Potts from NorthEdge joins the new Board. PSL will continue to aggressively recruit and invest in the best people to deliver world class products and services to its clients.

The company has a strong client portfolio of multinational financial services firms across the building society, banking and loan servicing sectors. The business was founded in 1989 as a subsidiary of Heritable Bank before becoming fully independent in 1997, and currently employs 130 staff.

In the increasingly fast-paced financial services sector, PSL delivers software and services that enhance the origination and account servicing processes across a range of products, including residential and commercial mortgages, equity release, bridge loans, asset finance and savings.

Commenting on the transaction, Paul Hunt, CEO at PSL comments, “After many successful years of supplying our clients with market leading products and services, the time is right for PSL to push on in an ever-evolving and fast paced technology sector. The investment from NorthEdge will provide very solid foundations from which to move our business, products and solutions to the next level of market requirements.”

Richard Pike adds, “This transaction is testimony to the success and growth we have had over recent years, and we thank our clients and our staff for working with us to achieve this success. The investment will enable us to accelerate the development of the Phoebus’ solutions already used by our bank, lender and outsourcing clients in the UK and Ireland. This transaction will be of great benefit to both new and existing clients moving forward.”

Rob Freer, Head of Midlands, NorthEdge Capital, said: “It’s clear to see that the team at PSL is valued by their clients and have built a strong reputation over many years. We look forward to supporting Paul and his team through further investment in product capabilities, to execute on an exciting growth strategy centred on delivering great systems into their high-growth client-base.”

Aqua Security Announces Vulnerability Shield

Aqua Security, the market leader in protecting container-based, serverless and cloud native applications, announced today version 4.2 of its cloud native security platform (Aqua CSP). In April this year, Aqua announced that it had raised $62M in Series C funding, led by Insight Partners. The company has since accelerated its growth, investing heavily in research and development, and increasing its employee headcount by 30%. Aqua CSP 4.2 introduces the innovative Aqua Vulnerability Shield, a technology that detects and prevents attacks targeting known vulnerabilities in containers.

“As organisations increase their use of containers, CI/CD pipelines, and open source components, managing vulnerabilities is increasingly challenging,” notes Fernando Montenegro, Senior Analyst, Information Security at 451 Research. “Vulnerability scanning has been a key component of container security, and is largely automated. But patching remains a manual process, creating backlogs and leaving organisations running vulnerable applications, for lack of other choices.”

Aqua Vulnerability Shield (Aqua vShield) is a patent-pending technology that uses automated vulnerability and component analysis, combined with expert security research, to generate runtime policies that can detect and block access to vulnerable components in containers. While the container image code remains unchanged, this form of “virtual patching” acts as a shield against exploitation of the vulnerabilities. Aqua vShield can be activated for vulnerabilities found in scan results, and will automatically enable the relevant targeted runtime controls. Benefits of Aqua vShield include:

  • Mitigating the risk of running vulnerable containers
  • Easier prioritisation of vulnerable images to be patched by development teams
  • Gaining visibility into vulnerability exploit attempts
  • Improving compliance posture based on the use of compensating controls

“Aqua is a key component in our security stack to secure our applications from development to production,” said Ross Hosman, Head of Information Security at Recurly, a leading subscription billing platform. “The new Vulnerability Shield virtual patching capability will allow us to optimise our patching process to reduce exposure to known threats, while providing the flexibility to address the underlying issues when it best fits our development schedule.”

Aqua 4.2 also introduces advanced runtime protection for serverless functions, providing security teams with the ability to detect and prevent potential misuse and abuse of cloud-based serverless functions. Using the new Aqua NanoEnforcer technology, these runtime controls are suited to the ephemeral nature of functions, with negligible impact on function invocation time or memory footprint. Key features include:

  • Function drift prevention, blocking malicious code injection (“child processes”) from being added to a running function
  • Blacklisting of forbidden executables, allowing security teams to control the types of executables that developers are allowed to include in functions
  • Protecting serverless “/tmp” directories from unauthorised access and abuse
  • Honeypots that detect malicious intent by luring attackers to access functions without any risk or threat to real assets or cloud accounts

“We are committed to continue investing in innovation, expanding our platform and leading the way forward for cloud native security,” said Amir Jerbi, CTO and co-founder of Aqua. “With these new comprehensive serverless protections, Aqua is now the only solution on the market with unified and consistent controls across containerised and serverless applications.”

“Giving your bank details to someone you don’t know is like throwing money into a black hole” – Comment from Shieldpay on Cifas

New research has been published by Cifas on the number of people who are being lured into becoming “money mules”.

Tom Clementson, Director of Consumer at secure payment solution, Shieldpay, said: “Giving your bank details to someone you don’t know, especially when their intentions are suspect, is like throwing money into a black hole. It’s alarming to see so many different types of fraud becoming increasingly prevalent. So-called ‘money mules’ are unlikely to know what they are involved in but all too often if something does look too good to be true, it is. Anyone who thinks they may have been victim of fraud, or are at risk, should report it to the Police or Action Fraud straight away.

“It’s crucial that banks adopt increasingly sophisticated technology, like Shieldpay, that safeguards consumers from such crimes and prevents people’s hard-earned money lining the pockets of the fraudsters.”

Cifas Fraudscape 2019: Tackling identity fraud must remain top priority

Commenting on today’s annual Cifas Fraudscape report, Keith McGill, head of identity and fraud at Equifax, warns of the growing agility of fraudsters and highlights the opportunities for businesses to help improve outcomes: “The latest Cifas figures show worrying trends as identity fraud rose by 10% in 2018, with those aged under 21 and over 60 being increasingly targeted by fraudsters. There was also a 26% rise in cases of ‘money mule’ fraud, highlighting the agile nature of fraud and its constantly shifting battleground.

“An overall increase in identify fraud reinforces that this must remain a top priority for businesses. With over 50% of account creations now coming from a desktop or mobile, understandably organisations are prioritising smooth payment journeys to optimise customer experience, but this shouldn’t come at the expense of robust controls to protect consumers.

“The ease with which personal information can be obtained along with the anonymity of the web makes the internet a playground for fraudsters. Cyber-criminals are quick to move between channels while implementing increasingly sophisticated methods to use synthetic identities and money mules across card payments, remote banking and cheque fraud.

“Retail and telecoms companies continue to be seen as soft targets. These organisations need to strike the right balance between customer demands for fast authentication and strong security. Technological advancements and the emerging new open data landscape are making it easier than ever to have strong customer authentication without impacting the user experience, and businesses should embrace this opportunity for the benefit of all.”

Fraud continues ‘inexorable’ rise in the UK as new annual figures show 6% increase

Cifas, the UK’s fraud prevention service, today paints an alarming picture of fraud in the UK with the release of Fraudscape, the annual publication of its data that identifies and analyses the country’s fraud trends based on 323,660 cases of fraudulent conduct recorded in 2018. The data, from over 470 organisations, including major UK brands from across the sectors, is one of the most comprehensive pictures of fraud and fraudulent attempts in the UK.

With an overall increase of 6% in cases recorded by Cifas members, the new figures show significant areas of concern. Key findings from the Cifas’ annual report Fraudscape include:

Identity fraud reach record highs with plastic cards taking the brunt of the fraud. Identity fraud significantly increased in 2018, with 189,108 cases recorded an 8% increase on 2017’s figures. Plastic cards were hit the hardest with 82,608 reports of fraud, up 41% from 2017. More fraud means more victims – 19 out of 20 frauds involved a victim left to pick up the pieces. .

Cifas reports increases in identity fraud across all age groups but particularly the young and old. Victims aged 21 and under rose 26%, while the over-60s saw an alarming 34% increase on the previous year. As older people are more likely to be approved for credit and their online presence grows, fraudsters are increasingly targeting them online: in 2018 more than 33,000 over-60s were the victim of identity fraud.

Cases which are indicative of money mule activity are up across the board with a 26% increase from 2017, and Cifas has seen a steep incline in those aged 40- 60 becoming involved in such activity, increasing 35%. This illustrates that being drawn into such criminality is not a problem limited to younger generations.

Chief Executive Officer of Cifas, Mike Haley, says: “Fraud in the UK continues to rise and fraudsters are constantly finding new methods of committing fraud. From identity theft through to using the young and naïve as money mules to launder money, the economic and social harm to the nation is growing. The only way to fight the threat is to combine communication and collaboration, working together to present a united front against the perpetrators. As no one can expect to deliver effective defense against ever-present threats without the full picture, Fraudscape is a crucial weapon in fraud prevention, allowing us to see where the current attacks are coming from and where future dangers lie.’

Finstar and NDGIT receive Finance IT Innovation Award 2019

The Finstar® Open Banking Ecosystem of Hypothekarbank Lenzburg (HBL) was awarded the Finance IT Innovation Award 2019 together with the NDGIT platform and partners Sonect and neon. The Swiss Competence Center Ecosystems thus honours its high degree of innovation, customer orientation and relevance for the DACH financial market. The award was given in the category “Ecosystems”.

Together, NDGIT, HBL, neon and Sonect have achieved a great deal. They not only launched Switzerland’s first Open Banking platform but also created a prime example of banking as a service.

HBL’s original in-house core banking system “Finstar” is now used by ten other banks and financial service providers. The resulting FinTech ecosystem has grown steadily since its launch and now includes twenty different digital partners whose services enrich the online banking experience of consumers and business customers.

NDGIT as a key figure in the digital transformation of banks

NDGIT, the provider of the first API platform for banking and insurance in Europe, supplies the technological backbone for the HBL platform. This acts as a central interface between the core banking system, Finstar, and the various FinTechs. Its flexible middleware enables partners to connect easily with minimal effort through Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that connect to the API platform.

Switzerland’s Open Banking Dream Team

“It’s a great honour to have our expertise in the field of Open Banking recognised. At the same time, it confirms our role as a strong technology partner, paving the way for financial institutions’ networked future. HBL’s ecosystem is a perfect example of how Open Banking can successfully develop new business areas. For HBL it’s improving the user experience of its customers by delivering new services, and also driving opportunities for core banking systems through the provision of Banking-as-a-Service to other banks,” says Oliver Dlugosch, CEO of NDGIT.

As the most digital bank in Switzerland, HBL’s role at the heart of the ecosystem was crucial to the Open Banking project. Having already received a Euro Finance Tech Award with NDGIT in 2017, it was delighted to have its achievement recognised again.

“The new award shows that we are seen as a pioneer in digital networking for the financial industry. At the same time, it creates a new benchmark for our activities and increases the pressure to maintain our status through consistent development. We are happy to accept this challenge,” comments Marianne Wildi, CEO of Hypothekarbank Lenzburg. “With 40 years of experience, Finstar not only understands the business of integrated IT solutions for universal banks but is also able to reinvent itself and stay ahead of the pack.”

Also, part of the Open Banking team is Swiss FinTech start-up Sonect, a provider of virtual ATMs that enable app users to withdraw money at traditional stores without the need for conventional ATMs.

“First of all, as part of the HBL Ecosystem, we are delighted to be able to offer our customers real added value with our services, including a greater density of payout facilities. To be honoured, through the award, is a plus that we did not expect,” adds Rik Krieger, co-founder of Sonect AG.

neon, Switzerland’s first account app, was involved in the project right from the start. As a result of the initiative, it has developed a new product promise for neon users: the smartphone-optimized private account for everyday needs, without basic charges, but with outstanding user experience and Swiss deposit insurance. Simon Youssef, co-founder of neon Switzerland confirms, “Our collaboration with HBL and NDGIT is an excellent example of how innovative partners, working together, can quickly grow and scale-up their business.”

Rent in London up 21.7% since 2011 compared to 9.1% pay rises

There is a massive shortage of homes for rent at reasonable rents for workers in the lower pay grades, says GMB London

A new study by GMB of official data shows that between 2011 and 2018 rent prices for 2 bedroom flats in London increased by 21.7% to an average of £1,450 per month, whilst over the same period, monthly earnings increased by just 9.1%.

In London, Greenwich is the borough that has seen the biggest rise in rent. Between 2011 and 2018 rent of a 2 bedroom flat increased by 50%, to an average rent of £1,350 per month. Meanwhile, wages in the borough increased by just 7.2%.

Other London boroughs with a significant gap between pay-rises and rent are; Lewisham, where rent increased by 47.4%, yet wages have increased by just 16.8%; Newham, where rent increased by 47.4%, yet wages have increased by just 9.5%; Barking and Dagenham, where rent has increased by 45.5%, yet wages by just 16.4%; Waltham Forest, where rent has increased by 42.9% since 2011, and wages have increased by 16.1%; and Croydon, where rent for a two-bedroom flat has increased by 41.2% to an average of £1,200 per month, whilst wages have increased by just 11.7%.

The figures for the 33 London boroughs are set out in the table below. This is from a new study by GMB London Region of official data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) for 33 boroughs in London. It shows the median rent of a 2-bedroom flat in 2018, the percentage change in rent-prices between 2011 and 2018, and the percentage change in monthly earnings between the 2011 and 2018. [See notes to editors for sources and definitions]

Warren Kenny, GMB Regional Secretary said: “These official figures show increases in average rents for two bedroom flats of 30% or higher in 14 of the 33 London boroughs in the seven years since 2011. The average increase for all the boroughs is 21.7%. By comparison average earnings in the same period rose by 9.1% in London.

“In Greenwich rents went up by no less than 50% so that a two bedroom flat now absorbs about 70% of the average net pay of a resident in the borough.

“Policy mistakes have made the housing position for lower paid workers worse. Council homes for rents at reasonable levels were aimed at housing the families of workers in the lower pay grades and did it successfully for generations.

“These were sold off – but crucially not replaced as a matter of Tory dogma. Housing benefits was introduced instead to help pay rents for those on lower paid and the costs to the taxpayer has ballooned to over £24 billion a year. It would have been far cheaper to build the council homes.

“The chickens are now coming home to roost on these policy mistakes. There is a massive shortage of homes for rent at reasonable rents for workers in the lower pay grades. There is now no alternative to higher pay to pay these higher rents plus a step change upwards in building homes for rent at reasonable rents.

“Regeneration companies like Be First in Barking and Dagenham, need to take look at these statistics and see that they need to be offering more affordable housing. Rents in Barking and Dagenham are up 45.5% since 2011, compared to a 16% rise in wages. Earlier this year GMB also found that 30% of Barking and Dagenham residents in employment were earning less than a living wage. These companies have to start offering at least 50% of all new builds as social housing.

“Dogmatic opposition to allowing councils to build homes for rent is a luxury we can’t afford. So too are plans by property developers and councils to demolish over 100 council estates in London and replace them with luxury housing.

“These high rents are here to stay. So too are younger workers living for longer in private sector rental accommodation. As a direct consequence, employers must be prepared to pay much higher wages to staff to enable them to afford these much higher rents.

“If employers don’t respond with higher pay they will face staff shortages as workers, especially younger people, are priced out of housing market.

“It makes little sense for these workers to spend a full week at work only to pay most of their earnings in rents. They will vote with their feet.

Drop in the value of remortgaging could suggest those making home improvements are sourcing alternative funding

Jonathan Sealey, CEO at Hope Capital says “The latest UK Finance figures show that after a low end to 2018 and start to 2019, things are really starting to pick up in the homemover lending market.

“First-time buyer mortgages have seen a rise of 7.9%, but this is not a huge surprise, as it is this area of the market that has remained strong throughout what has been quite a muted period in the mortgage market. What is encouraging is that we can see that for the second month running homemover mortgages are up, marking a rise of 6.4% on a year ago. And while I wouldn’t want to suggest this is a huge shift in sentiment, it is a positive sign, and, as the summer months tend to be the busiest in terms of home purchase, this figure will likely rise further over the next few months.

“Interestingly though, remortgaging – which has been strong for many months – is down 6.2% for simple finance and up just 0.3% for remortgages with equity withdrawn, In terms of the value of these, both simple refinance and equity remortgages are down. With a steady rise over the past few years in the trend for making home improvements rather than moving, this could suggest some homeowners looking to remortgage in order to add value to their homes ie for a larger equity withdrawal – are now looking to alternative funding for a more tailored service. Specialist lenders are continuing to see steady business coming through suggesting that customers increasingly turn to lenders who can offer them a more bespoke solution.”

TransUnion launches new tool to support UK finance providers and empower consumers to take control of their financial passport

TransUnion, one of the UK’s leading credit reference agencies, has announced the launch of CreditView – a new, white-labelled, interactive solution which provides consumers with access to their credit scores whilst helping finance providers to engage customers, increase brand loyalty and personalise offers.

CreditView comes in a modular format, which can be tailored to create individual brand experiences. The app-based dashboard enables lenders to provide consumers with ongoing visibility of their current credit profile. This includes access to their credit score and report, daily alerts to provide early warning of changes to their credit profile – a useful tool for fraud monitoring – and month-on-month score comparisons to help consumers better understand and manage their credit.

In turn, this deeper insight into consumer behaviour helps lenders increase customer loyalty and generate greater value by better understanding their customers. The enhanced insights enable targeted offers that are suited to the customers’ individual scores and patterns of activity, which increases the likelihood of acceptance. TransUnion has found that consumers who self-monitor their credit score are three times more likely to open a new account, while 40% experience an increase in their score within six months of regular monitoring.

Commenting on the launch, Kelli Fielding, managing director of consumer markets at TransUnion said, “According to our recent research, two thirds (66%) of consumers don’t know what their credit score is and less than four out of 10 (38%) feel confident that they know what information is stored in their credit report. Given the important role that credit scores play today – with over a fifth of those we surveyed saying their credit score has helped them achieve a life goal – it’s essential that consumers understand this information.”

TransUnion’s study of UK consumers illustrated that they are most concerned about their credit score when interacting with finance providers and applying for either a mortgage, loan, or credit card. Given the findings also showed banks to be one of the most trusted sources of financial information, there is an opportunity – or perhaps even a duty – for banks and finance providers to help consumers understand their data and the power it unlocks.

Fielding continued: “With CreditView, it’s easy for finance providers to support consumers in taking control of their credit score, which in many ways is like a financial passport that enables access to a host of opportunities. This, in turn benefits their business thanks to increased loyalty. Our research found that over a third (35%) of customers believe that banks and finance providers are responsible to some degree for their credit report, so whilst it’s important we empower consumers by helping them to better understand credit scoring, we also need to recognise the role that both finance providers and credit reference agencies have to play here.”

CreditView will also soon be introducing a simulator function which allows consumers to input a variety of different scenarios, such as adding a credit card or loan, to help them understand impacting factors and view the consequential effects on their credit score. This enhanced financial awareness will further increase consumers’ ability to make better financial decisions, and improve their experiences when applying for financial products.

Asia Report by Atradius

Trade credit insurer Atradius has published an economic report on Asia, analysing the risks and opportunities of trading within the region.

The Atradius Country Report on Asia was prepared as an intelligence tool, designed to equip businesses with vital political and economic and insights as well as a performance outlook across individual industries. The report analyses the main Asian economies, including China, India, Japan, Indonesia and Vietnam and also features Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and the Philippines.

Within the report, Atradius reveals that business insolvencies in China are expected to increase further in 2019 due to the economic slowdown and the ongoing rebalancing of the economy away from manufacturing and towards services. From a sector perspective, highly indebted companies in industries with excess capacity are particularly vulnerable, these include, aluminium, cement, coal, construction steel/metals and commodity trading. Due to the ongoing uncertainty over the future direction of the US trade policy, Chinese businesses dependent on sales to the US are also at risk, especially in segments where US competitors are vocal in calling for an end to ‘unfair trade’, such as metal, electrical machinery/electronics, textiles and tyres.

Richard Reynolds of trade partner Atradius which protects businesses from the risk of trading domestically and overseas, said: “When it comes to trading in Asia, China and India are giant economies while Singapore is an advanced city state that punches above its economic weight. Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam represent approximately $2.3tn with a combined population exceeding half a billion, many of whom are close to entering a more prosperous middle-class lifestyle. From this, it’s clear to see why Asia is an attractive market for overseas trade. However, any trade relationship should always be underpinned by solid research, including a comprehensive understanding of the market and analysis of any potential risks. At Atradius, our experts constantly monitor and assess global markets to provide real-time insights allowing us to support businesses to identify opportunities, warn of risks and ensure the relationship is developed upon strong foundations which is crucial to futureproof an export journey.”