VAT Support Group is launched with MoJ guidance inbound

VAT Support Group is launched to help High Court enforcement businesses and creditors deal with the forthcoming Ministry of Justice (MoJ) guidance on charging VAT.

The MoJ has committed to publishing guidance which will change the way VAT is collected by High Court enforcement businesses. It’s thought that industry changes will be required to ensure compliance.

Just, the enforcement market integration business say’s the advice will be issued within the next few weeks.

The support groups, launched today are free to join and plan to keep everyone who may be affected by the changes up to date on progress, provide access to the guidance and offer advice and support with any process or programming needs.

They are free to join, and any advice or support given is also free. You can sign-up for a group by registering your details here:

Creditors & Litigation partners

High Court enforcement businesses

Commenting on the launch, Just Founder and Chairman Jamie Waller said: “We are pleased to receive confirmation from the MoJ that they will issue guidance on the correct application of VAT within the next few weeks. This matter has been left unresolved for six years, and I am pleased that we were able to bring it to a conclusion. We will now divert our energy and offer the industry the support needed to ensure compliance with the instructions we receive.

“We are offering this support to anyone that employs the services of High Court enforcement and to the High Court enforcement businesses themselves. As an integrator, our potential suppliers must implement the issued guidance swiftly and without delay to protect the reputations of the industry as a whole. As we have built our systems and processes with these changes in mind, we are perfectly positioned to help others make the changes necessary to deliver a safe service for all.”

Second charge mortgage new business volumes up by 19% in 2019

Commenting on the full year 2019 new business figures for the second charge mortgage market, Fiona Hoyle, Head of Consumer and Mortgage Finance at the Finance & Leasing Association (FLA), said: “The second charge mortgage market reported double-digit growth in each month of 2019. New business volumes reached over 28,000 agreements in 2019, which was the highest annual total since 2008.

“Although still a relatively small sector, second charge mortgages are proving popular with consumers and we expect the market to continue to grow in 2020.”

Salary growth in charity finance sector halves since 2018

Growth in average salaries for finance professionals within the UK charity sector dipped from 6 per cent in 2018 to 3.24 per cent in 2019.
At the same time, the rise in average earnings for women was almost double that for men, increasing by 4.08 per cent and 2.4 per cent respectively, according to the 2019 Charity Finance Salary & Benefits Survey Report published by Robertson Bell today.

The survey conducted by Robertson Bell, a leading provider of finance talent for the charity and wider not for profit sectors, analysed the results from over 1,000 respondents across the charity finance sector.

It found that while average salaries have continued to rise year on year, albeit at a slower pace than previously, those in senior roles saw the greatest increase over the last 12 months.

Finance professionals working for charities with an annual turnover of less than £10 million, saw the average salary for a permanent senior manager rise to £67,000 per annum compared to £44,000 for a mid-management position, and £31,000 for non-management postholders.

For those operating within mid-size charities, whose annual turnovers are between £10 million and £60 million, the difference in earnings between a senior executive and a non-management colleague is £89,000 for the former and £32,000 for the latter.

Within the UK’s largest charities that have a turnover exceeding the £60 million mark, the pay gap between senior executive and non-management professionals is at its sharpest.

A director, for instance can expect to earn on average £128,000 per annum, compared to a senior (£65,000), middle-management (£54,000) and non-managerial (£29,000) colleague within the same organisation.

Stuart Bell, CEO of Robertson Bell, commented on the last 12 months: “Despite the political and economic uncertainty that dominated 2019, employer hiring intentions remained strong within the charity and wider not for profit sector as a whole.

“One of the key findings of this survey is that 7 out of 10 [68 per cent] charity finance professionals admit to being open to new career opportunities. There are two things at play here.

“First is that competition for talent within the sector is higher than ever before, which is creating a greater array of career opportunities for people. And second, demand for talent – especially at senior and executive level – remains high but the availability of that talent is low, which in turn is pushing salaries upwards.

“Against this backdrop, it follows that finance professionals at all stages of their career recognise that the shortage of available skills means that employers will increase average earnings in a bid to attract the talent they need to fill the roles they have; hence, why so many people are open to a new move.”

Professional qualifications

The data highlighted the importance of professional qualifications and their relation to earnings. Accordingly, middle management post holders possessing a recognised accountancy qualification such as CIMA, CIPFA, ACCA or ACA, earn on average 15 per cent more. For their senior and executive colleagues, this rises to almost 20 per cent.

Regional variances

Location too has an influence on salary levels. London continues to offer higher renumeration than elsewhere in the country, with senior roles such as Finance Directors and Head of Management Accounts seeing an average salary increase of 9 per cent over the last 12 months. Meanwhile, the prospects for interim finance professionals remain highest in the capital.

Flexible working and gender

“There has been an interesting shift when it comes to flexible working within the sector too,” adds Stuart Bell. “Our data shows a widening in the salary gap between mid- and senior- level candidates who work both from home and the office (higher), and those that are purely office or purely home based (lower).

“This suggests that an increasing number of employers within the sector are embracing and even encouraging greater flexible working, and this may be playing a part in the rise in average earnings among women.

“Our analysis shows that women’s average earnings across the charity finance function have spiked by 4.08 per cent since 2018, whilst salaries for men rose by 2.4 per cent.”

Sector migration

The survey also found that the charity sector has seen an influx of senior finance professionals moving from commercial sector, with the finance function increasingly being organised along the same lines as those more commonly associated with a corporate entity both in terms of approach and attitude.

Matt Millar, Director at Robertson Bell, commented: “There has been a general trend of moving towards a ‘business partnering mentality’ across the finance function within charities.

“This, I believe, has been a catalyst for the significant increase in senior finance professionals opting to make the switch from commercial to not for profit employment over the last 12 months. I expect this will continue throughout 2020 and for the foreseeable future.”

“The bottom line is that employers need to attract and retain good people, and it is getting harder to do so. As such, salaries will rise in accordance with that demand and certain roles such as Financial Accountants and Financial Controllers, the increase is likely to be faster than for other roles within the charity finance remit.”

Hope Capital completes complex £4m deal on country house

Hope Capital has started the year with a bang with a complex £4million deal. Hope Capital completed the £4 million loan on a magnificent multi-million pound four-storey country house, set in extensive land with a number of outbuildings plus recreational facilities.

The loan was required to repay an existing charge, on which the client was paying a high interest rate; Hope Capital also provided an additional £500,000 for business purposes pending the sale of the property.

The short-term nature of the loan complexities around multiple planning permissions, together with the client’s status made it challenging for him to access mainstream finance. However, Hope Capital was able to get comfortable with the intricacies of the case, by researching every facet of the property, the client and their previous transactions combined with full due diligence.

While the loan application was in process, the client’s business interests required him to spend much of his time overseas and in different time-zones. Hope Capital overcame this by using video-conferencing, ensuring contact was maintained throughout the loan process so that any issues were ironed out without him needing to be in the country. This significantly sped the case up.

Although the planning and legal elements of the case were complex, Hope Capital’s flexible approach enabled these to be rapidly overcome.

Commenting on the deal, Gary Bailey, managing director of Hope Capital, said: “This was a complicated deal but with Capital B as the client’s broker, the client, solicitors, planning experts, valuers and insurers all working together, Hope Capital showed once again that we can get deals done quickly and provide clients with the solutions they need.

“The deal threw up a number of challenges, however Laura Carr and the underwriting team used their combined experience to find an appropriate solution for the client.”

Andre Bartlett a director of Holborn based brokerage Capital B says, “I had been to a number of lenders who just could not deal with the complexity of this case. Then I approached Hope Capital and now wish that I had gone to them straight away. The team at Hope were incredibly helpful, they overcame every obstacle, working in partnership with lawyers and valuers as well as myself to help make the transaction as easy as possible. Many other lenders would have waited until my client was in the country to deal with everything which would have significantly prolonged the time to completion, but Hope Capital were happy to use video conferencing.

“I have nothing but praise for the team at Hope and they will definitely be the first lender I call for all future bridging loans. Thanks to the innovative thinking of BDM Steve Allen, we made this into a deal that made sense.”

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.

The failing high street: top four lessons for small businesses

Profit warnings have become commonplace in the national media, with once-booming businesses such as Mothercare, Beales and Patisserie Valerie revealing that they have been crippled by a rise in online competition, or in the latter case, mismanagement. Tony Hughes, negotiations and sales specialist at Huthwaite International, a leading global provider of sales, negotiation and communication skills development, examines the lessons the business community can take from these events.

1) The economy is changing

There are significant factors at play that are leading to the death of some of the high-street’s most well-known, and in some cases, well-loved brands.

The rise in the digital economy has been used as a scapegoat for many of the big businesses struggling to compete amidst profit warnings. While brands such as Blockbuster and HMV can be forgiven for blaming digital technology for outsmarting their offering – can the likes of Coast and Toys R Us, especially given consumer demand for clothes and toys remains relatively strong regardless of economic conditions?

Simply put, these businesses are struggling to compete in a changing market. Traditionally the likes of Toys R Us had competitors on the high street, but other than that, major competition was somewhat limited. Fast forward to the present and both businesses, although entirely different in their offering, face the same challenges; competition increasing ten-fold not from other high-street retailers, but from online counterparts offering a more convenient, cheaper alternative for products of a similar quality.

2) The role of strategic negotiation to boost profit is under-used

Of course, it’s not just these challenges that the high-street is struggling to overcome, and at times of trouble it’s key for retailers to maximise their margin wherever possible. However, when it comes to this, many overlook the crucial role that strategic negotiation can play.

Take rental costs. Clearly, it’s more cost effective to manage a warehouse using AI and minimal labour costs, than a store with set opening hours, high rental overheads and major contractual obligations. While these are often credited as being the final nail on the coffin of a failing retailer, how many have taken a systematic approach to negotiating on their fixed overheads?

The same can be said for the multitude of suppliers working with a given retailer: applying a systematic approach to negotiating on every deal can bring major benefits, and the “negotiate with us or we go out of business and you lose us as a customer” position can be used as leverage.

In the short-term, particularly at times of trouble, this approach is essential. Huthwaite’s research shows us that businesses with a systematic approach to sales and negotiation are proven to experience 42.7% greater growth to the bottom line than those without.

To succeed, businesses must consider areas in which they can negotiate to save money and improve cash flow across the entire organisation. This includes a whole range of organisational considerations, with our data showing that six out of the top ten most effective margin maximising strategies relate to negotiation. These being:

1) Improving productivity (53%)

2) Reducing overheads (53%)

3) Cost-effective purchasing (50%)

4) Improving customer retention (49%)

5) Reducing fixed costs (48%)

6) Managing general operating costs from suppliers (41%)

3) It’s likely there might be more victims

Despite negotiation playing a major role in driving potential business profitability and growth, our research has found that they aren’t always implementing a formal approach to negotiation.

If retailers don’t consider strategic negotiation as part of their broader business strategy, there’s really no getting away from profit loss. Negotiation is a critical aspect of business and as such retailers should be using this to their advantage. Companies with an effective, systematic approach in place experience 42.7% greater growth than those without. A figure which is difficult to ignore in light of such uncertainty on the high street.

4) The power of trust shouldn’t be underestimated

While a different beast altogether, Patisserie Valerie presents some interesting lessons too. It is now apparent that in Patisserie Valerie’s case, investment and lending has been totally mismanaged. Revelations of two secret company overdrafts totalling £10million reveal a whole series of issues, which immediately raise major concerns regarding trust.

And trust, when it comes to running a business – not least when it comes to negotiating your way out of trouble – trust is a huge factor for success, or in this case, survival. Put simply, without reputation you sacrifice bargaining power.

The chain now needs to continue trading successfully as it has done, while negotiate a multitude of deals to ensure it weathers the coming quarter. While consumer confidence is unlikely to take a major hit, the real challenge will be dealing with finance partners and suppliers. Clearly the chain’s trust capital is now gone, reducing its leverage and opening the door for suppliers and partners to put their costs up to protect themselves, and impose unfavourable terms, at least while the business remains on shaky ground.

Again, the role of strategic negotiation has to take centre stage. Despite being on the back foot, the chain has a fantastic brand and a proven customer base and these are factors the management should take forward to the negotiation table.

Top Tech Trends in Contact Centres

The contact centre industry is rapidly changing thanks to technological innovations, changes in employee working habits and expanding customer expectations (such as quicker response and resolution times). These changes combined have made contact centre professionals have to restructure their centres, taking on new technologies in order to meet the new expectations set.  Below we’ll take a look at some of the technologies which are shaping the future of call centres.


Statistics show that employees like working from home. It lowers stress, raises productivity and ultimately improves job satisfaction. However, not all jobs are suitable for working at home, so it is important that the right technologies are implemented to try to make it as doable as possible.

Employees can’t take their work phones home with them, so in place of desk phones, you can implement softphones (software phone). Often built into CRM or UC systems, softphones bring all the functionalities of a telephone onto a computer or mobile device, and offer a way for agents to have telephone services to hand without the need for hardware.

Artificial Intelligence

Contact Centres have already begun to be early adopters of Artificial Intelligence. AI is already used for performance monitoring and analytics, predicting customer needs and also for chatbots. Another interesting way AI will be used is for speech analytics – whereby, the AI can recognise the tone of the caller, then match the caller with an agent based on the agent’s personality and skill level.

Live Chat and Social Media

A study carried out by Call Center Helper found that 40% of managers want to implement live chat next, 22.5% want messaging apps 15% of Call Centre Managers want social media to be the next technology they implement into their call centre.

All these features enable real-time communication, with live chat being used on the company website, messaging apps (such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger) happening over mobile, and social media interactions occurring on both mobile and desktop.

All these platforms enable customers to create interactions with companies on platforms that they already frequently use, making it easy for them to begin their enquiry as they are already familiar with how their platforms work. This ultimately has a positive effect on the customer experience if the resolution as handled effectively.

Unified Communications

Nowadays, customers want to have their own choice of how they interact with businesses. And when they do interact with a business, they don’t have to have to repeat themselves or explain their issue when it comes to a follow-up. For example, a customer calling in after sending an email wants to be able to pick up where the email left off, not start the query from the beginning.

This is where Unified Communications solutions come in. UC tools are online platforms designed to integrate telephony, email, social media, chat and more communication methods into one, allowing the agent to quickly see the correspondence between that of the business and the customers.

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Next Read: 10 Tips to Motivate Call Centre Employees (Infographic)

Finance market needs to take immediate action as UK Government enshrines 5th Money Laundering Directive into UK law

The government has introduced the Fifth EU Money Laundering Directive (5MLD) into UK law as of last Friday 20th December. It was introduced as part of ‘The Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (Amendment) Regulations 2019’ and will come into force on 10th January 2020.

This is an amendment to existing regulation, the ‘Money Laundering Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017’, but has some fundamental new inclusions that everyone in financial services will need to take action on.

A key amendment to the regulation is new wording which says that wherever possible businesses must use electronic verification for their anti-money laundering checks rather than just looking at paper-based documents such as passports and driving licenses. The wording says:

“(19) Information may be regarded as obtained from a reliable source which is independent of the person whose identity is being verified where […]

(a) it is obtained by means of an electronic identification process, including by using electronic identification means or by using a trust service (within the meanings of those terms in Regulation (EU) No 910/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23rd July 2014 on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market(11)); and…

b) that process is secure from fraud and misuse and capable of providing an appropriate level of assurance that the person claiming a particular identity is in fact the person with that identity.”.

All firms in the financial services sector will need to implement these changes immediately. This means lenders, financial advisers and any third parties including accountants, solicitors and estate agents. Other sectors to now fall under the regulations include crypto-currency exchange platforms and letting agents, where the rent is €10,000 per month or more. Failure to comply with the regulations can result in prosecution and heavy financial penalties.

Martin Cheek, managing director of SmartSearch commented, “The Fifth Money Laundering Regulations coming into law may well catch a number of people by surprise, happening, as it has, so close to Christmas. It comes into effect on the 10th January, so companies will not have long to prepare.

“It is the need for electronic verification that is likely to take most people by surprise. Any lenders or IFAs who do not already have a trusted means of doing this will need to implement this immediately to ensure they are compliant and save themselves from a heavy fine.

“The regulations are designed to help tackle rising levels of fraud and eliminate money laundering, things that are likely to be a key priority for everyone this year.”

SmartSearch, the UK’s leading provider of electronic verification has provided a guide as to five of the key amendments to the regulations, which can be found on its website at:

5MLD: SmartSearch’s guide to Top 5 changes for business

With new European regulations set to be implemented in the New Year, anti-money-laundering specialists SmartSearch have produced a guide to the top five changes for businesses likely to be affected by the regulations:

  1. Strict conditions for the issuing of e-money and prepaid cards
  2. A clampdown on virtual currency bringing cryptocurrencies into scope for the first time
  3. Registers of beneficial ownership to be made publicly accessible
  4. Better access to information for Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs)
  5. Increased due diligence for individuals and businesses in high-risk countries

The Fifth EU Money Laundering Directive (5MLD) is due to be transposed into domestic law by 10th January 2020.

The Treasury has yet to produce final regulations for British businesses but the Directive sets out minimum requirements for Member States. The UK government has previously indicated that it will implement and enforce the new rules regardless of the country’s future relationship with the EU.

The Directive also specifically endorses the use of electronic ID verification, and states that it should be used wherever available.

Money-laundering regulations affect a wide range of businesses in the property sector including lenders, estate agents, brokers and conveyancers. The new Directive will further expand this to letting agents for high-value properties.

Failure to comply with the regulations can result in prosecution and heavy financial penalties.

Commenting on the launch of the guide, Martin Cheek, managing director of SmartSearch commented: “Although we’ve yet to see final details, the new money-laundering regulations are bound to have a serious impact for large numbers of firms in the UK and across the EU.

“We have called on the Government to publish the final rules without delay so businesses can prepare more effectively and ensure they are compliant. In the meantime, our ‘Top Five’ guide is aimed at giving them a bit of a helping hand.”

Full details of the guide can be found at

Brits ready to see the light on retina recognition

More than six in ten Brits (62%)* would be happy to try retina recognition identification, according to new research from Equifax, the business and consumer insights expert.

In general, respondents were very open to trying new forms of biometric verification, including fingerprint (61%), facial recognition (57%) and palm verifier (57%). There was, however, some reluctance when it came to verification by heartbeat recognition (45%) and keystroke dynamics (44%).

The survey, conducted online with OnePoll, also revealed fingerprint was currently the most widespread form of biometric verification, regularly used or tried by 54% of respondents, followed by facial (32%) and voice (29%) recognition. Unsurprisingly, the use of biometric verification is more prevalent among 18-24 year olds, especially when it comes to fingerprint (78%) and voice recognition (43%).

Keith McGill, Head of ID & Fraud at Equifax, said: “It’s encouraging to see a healthy openness to try new forms of identification verification. Biometric verification is safer and less fallible than traditional, knowledge-based verification, and its future development and success will be an important pillar in the fight against online financial fraud.

“People will accept and adapt to technology that makes their lives easier and their finances more secure. However, developers, while making huge technological strides in their field, must be mindful of educating consumers on the inherent benefits biometric verification offer to build public trust and accelerate its mass adoption.”