iPortalis launches Provisioning, Management and Billing Portal solution

iPortalis, a Cloud Services company specialising in ICT* brokerage and aggregation, today launches a comprehensive new software portal for the management of cloud services.

The iPortalis Control Portal (iCP) is a provisioning, management and billing control portal that automates many of the complex and time-consuming tasks associated with Employee Lifecycle Management**. It is used today by multi-national enterprises and over 90 service providers, including many of the world’s largest hosters such as Apptix, Tata and NTT.

Using the iCP, an organisation can self-manage its entire portfolio of cloud and on-premise services for all users, products, subsidiary companies and geographies through a single unified interface. The platform also manages software provisioning, moves, adds, changes, deletions, software license management, billing, governance and system/services consumption reporting. Using iPortalis’ powerful back-end provisioning and management software, system administrators can deploy new subscription-based services in minutes rather than days; health check their entire provisioning and management system with just a click of a button, remotely monitor system performance for any system, anywhere in the world, from a single screen, and debug their entire provisioning workflow with zero overhead.

Enhancements available within version 7.0 of the iPortalis Control Portal (iCP) include:

– An intuitive user interface with an improved look and feel
– Enhanced Office 365 integration
– A bespoke dashboard feature
– Fully integrated billing
– New connectors (including Sonian, Acronis Backup, Symantec.Cloud and Mandarine e-learning)
– An on-line marketplace (for the efficient and cost-effective purchasing of popular cloud products)

“Our new iCP Marketplace enables organisations to purchase the latest versions of popular cloud (and on premise) services, and assign them to individuals and groups of users across an entire organisation via a single user interface” said Eric Hanig, CTO, iPortalis. “The iCP also helps organisations manage their software licenses, meet their compliance obligations, and bill services on to subsidiaries and other corporate entities around the world – with each receiving a single invoice every month/quarter in their language and currency of choice. It currently supports 22 languages, every currency, and 54 payment gateways.”

“v7.0 of the iCP has been developed in response to the needs of our customers” said Neil May. CEO of iPortalis. “They asked us to build complex multi-currency aggregated billing into our platform, a feature not commonly available on other commercially-available control portal platforms. We have also created many other powerful and unique features: such as the ability to health check an entire provisioning and management system with just a click of a button, a full white label re-branding solution for resellers, and secure integration to multiple Active Directories (incl. Azure AD), identity management and HR solutions for automated subscription management and cost control. With these enhancements, we believe that the iCP is the most advanced portal of its kind”.

“As the world’s fastest growing Collaboration Services Provider, we are committed to delivering comprehensive, high quality services across all areas; from consultancy and architecture design to systems integration, security and service delivery” said Steve Schwartz, Vice President of Unified Communications, NORAM and Global, Arkadin. “We selected iPortalis after a lengthy investigation into commercially-available portal products. We were particularly impressed with the number and scope of leading cloud products supported by the iCP, the range of self-service features it offers to deploy and manage cloud and on-premise solutions and its flexibility to adapt to unique requirements. As a multi-national organisation that operates from 53 offices in 33 countries, the ability of the iCP to support multiple languages and currencies for internal billing was also key. Over time, we’ve been very pleased with the reliability of the platform and the regular and easy-to-access updates. We enjoy a very positive relationship with the iPortalis team who are quick to respond to any support issues and always keen to explore new functionality that will support our business needs.”

Shawbrook Bank hits £250m development finance lending milestone

Shawbrook Bank has achieved £250m of lending to small and medium-sized property developers across the UK in just its second full year of operating in this market.

The milestone comes just 22 months after the Bank entered the development finance sector.

In its first full year of operating in the development finance market, lending to developers surpassed £100 million and Shawbrook is on course to more than double that figure in its second year.

The bank has helped fund more than 500 units to date, including residential refurbishments, student accommodation and mixed-use schemes.

During the second year of operation, Shawbrook’s Development Finance team has trebled in size from 5 to 15 people, with more recruits expected to follow in the next 12 months.

This expansion has allowed Shawbrook Bank to build a national reach, leveraging its Regional Business Centre network and presence in major cities such as Bristol, Birmingham, Leeds, Glasgow and Manchester.

Lead by Terry Woodley, the Development Finance team’s approach of combining deep sector experience, regional knowledge and a more thoughtful approach to decision making means it is able to lend up to £30 million on various types of scheme, including residential, mixed-use schemes and stand-alone commercial premises, whether heavy refurbishment or ground-up projects, and those that utilise innovative building techniques.

Terry Woodley, Director of Development Finance at Shawbrook Bank, says: “We have been building our development finance proposition for the past 22 months and we are very happy at how fast it has grown.

“We have big plans for our development finance business, including significantly increasing both the number of people in the team and the amount we lend over the next year.

“One of our major advantages is that we are funded by deposits, meaning we have a steady stream of funding to keep the lending tap on all year round.

“The bank sees development finance as one of its key areas. We are determined to become the lender of choice in this space.”

Fleet Mortgages celebrates 4th birthday

Fleet Mortgages, the buy-to-let and specialist lender, is today celebrating its 4th birthday having launched on this day in 2014.

During that period, the lender has grown significantly in terms of lending activity, loan portfolio and the employee headcount of the business.

At the time of writing, Fleet Mortgages has a loan portfolio of £1.2 billion, and after eight months of 2018 has already surpassed 2017’s origination volume for the entire year, plus it still has no accounts in arrears. The business has grown from 48 employees at the end of 2015, to 97 today.

During the four years of its existence, Fleet Mortgages has hit a number of landmarks, from issuing its first mortgage on the 29th January 2015, through to its first securitisation in November 2016.

Since then it has moved into new premises, has completed two further securitisations and secured a further funding line in order to develop its buy-to-let product proposition.

Fleet Mortgages continues to focus on the buy-to-let market, offering product options across three core sectors – standard, limited company and HMO. It is specifically focused on providing mortgages to portfolio and professional landlords and recently announced that two-thirds of its purchase mortgage applications were now via limited companies.

For all standard and limited company products – except those offered at pay rate – Fleet Mortgages operates an ICR of 125% at 5%, regardless of tax rate.

Bob Young, Chief Executive Officer of Fleet Mortgages, commented: “Reaching our fourth birthday may not appear to be a ‘milestone’ moment but for all of us involved in Fleet Mortgages – especially those that have been here from that first day – it undoubtedly is.

“We have come a considerable distance in four short years and we have built an excellent lender that we believe has a strong reputation for quality not just amongst the intermediary market but also within the capital markets.

“The difference – as it so often is – being the quality of the people who work for Fleet and the work they are willing to put in to ensure we deliver the best service we possibly can to advisers and their clients.

“We have reached a number of milestones during the past four years including the growth in our overall loan portfolio, our three securitisations, and the fact we continue to have no arrears on our accounts – which is a sign of the quality of our mortgages and our focus on ensuring that only those that can afford to pay, receive a Fleet mortgage.

“Our journey has a long way yet to run but we will continue to strive to be the best we can be, and do all we can to support advisers and their clients active in the buy-to-let market.”

Atradius looks at the road ahead for the UK Automotive Sector

The impact of prolonged Brexit negotiations is taking its toll upon the UK automotive sector, warns trade credit insurer Atradius.

A new economic report by Atradius highlights that economic uncertainty has led to a 6% drop in new car registrations in the first half the year and a significant decline in investment; from £1.7bn in 2016 to just £347m in H1 of 2018. Atradius’ Automotive Market Monitor goes on to predict a rise in non-payments and insolvencies across the sector this year alongside the potential for future disruption.

“Uncertainty isn’t just a frustration to business, it is a potential catalyst for failure as it diminishes confidence and undermines the foundation for future growth”, comments Tom Danson, Head of Commercial for the Atradius Midlands region. “The industry has not only been impacted by uncertainty caused by the government’s plans to cut emission targets but also by the limbo of the ongoing Brexit negotiations, which keep continue to fuel concerns in the sector.

“UK automotive manufacturers are reliant on access to free and frictionless trade with the EU, and there is therefore concern that manufacturers could decide to divert further investment outside the UK. A hard Brexit outcome ending access to the single market and customs union without any interim arrangement would severely hurt both producers and suppliers.”

The Atradius report considers the potential impact of a no-deal Brexit, which could see UK car production becoming more expensive should tariffs rise. Under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, there would be a tariff of 10% on vehicles and 4.5% on components. The introduction of stricter customs controls would hamper the just-in-time delivery of parts from EU suppliers and lead to higher stocks, which would increase costs; on average, cars made in the UK contain in the region of 60% EU-imported components. Further, overseas car producers with operations in the UK could suffer from a deterioration in profits and an impairment in assets, while the sector would also lose benefits from EU funds for manufacturing research and development.

On a more positive note, the weaker pound has been helping exporters to sustain automotive production growth, with exports accounting for around 80% of vehicle production. The EU remains the biggest export market for automotive sales, accounting for 54% of exports last year. However, conversely, currency volatility has also pushed up the cost of importing both vehicles and components. This is significant for the sector with around 82% of domestic-sold vehicles and 60% of automotive components imported from the EU. The recent decrease in new car registrations compels dealers and manufacturers to consider absorbing a share of these increased costs, negatively impacting their margins. Meanwhile, lower production will impact suppliers, particularly those who had invested in expanding their facilities expecting robust growth to continue. Car dealerships are also being squeezed by the drop in domestic car sales with some having to restructure and downsize.

Tom Danson continued: “Risk has always been an inherent part of trade but in today’s more uncertain economic climate, the focus on risk is becoming more acute. Non-payments and business failures are unfortunately all too common and are becoming increasingly difficult for businesses to predict. What’s more, the current economic challenges come at a time when there are significant sector-related issues on the horizon such as emission curbing, new technologies and changing consumer habits. The concern is that even without trade tariffs, the sector could face a challenging period ahead over the next five years.

“However, for Atradius, as a trade credit insurer, the changing pattern of risk is something we are very used to, indeed it is pretty much business as usual. As a trade partner, we work with customers to identify the risks that are important for them and provide expert advice in order to facilitate trade while providing protection should anything go wrong. Above and beyond this, we help customers to identify new opportunities and equip them with the real-time insights and analysis to successfully and safely navigate the path of global trade.”

Bibby Financial Services expands global headquarters in Banbury

Independent financial services provider, Bibby Financial Services (BFS), has announced the expansion of its global headquarters in Banbury, North Oxfordshire, in line with its strategic growth plan.

First moving to Banbury Business Park in 2016, BFS has now relocated its Construction Finance, Trade Finance and Export Finance divisions from Packington House, Horse Fair, to the refurbished Pembroke House offices in Adderbury.

Global Chief Executive of Bibby Financial Services, David Postings said: “We have long wanted to develop a global headquarters that would enable our operational teams and central support functions to work more closely, so I’m delighted that these plans have come to fruition.

“The expansion of our offices in Banbury reflect the business’s growth in recent years, and will undoubtedly help us to enhance the level of service for our clients, while increasing the well-being of our people.”

Victoria Prentis, Member of Parliament for North Oxfordshire, commented: “We are very lucky to have a thriving economy with virtually no unemployment in our area. Bibby Financial Services’ decision to expand its Global Headquarters in Banbury sends a strong signal that North Oxfordshire is the place to do business. I am looking to visiting the new offices and meeting staff once they have settled in.”

In 2018, BFS was awarded 48th place in the Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For, the seventh time the business has featured in the top 100.

Over 300 employees in departments including Operations, HR, Learning and Development, Marketing and Communications, IT Services, Business Change, Finance, Risk and Strategy have moved to the new 17,000 sq. ft. site.

David Postings added: “Being a great place to work, attracting and retaining leading talent are a key elements of our success. Our expanded premises demonstrates our commitment to both our people and the Banbury area, and I look forward to welcoming our clients and business partners alike to Pembroke House over the coming months.”

Following a comprehensive fit-out, Pembroke House now includes Restaurant 1807, in reference to the year in which Liverpool entrepreneur, John Bibby, formed BFS’s parent company, the Bibby Line Group.

Today, BFS supports 10,500 SMEs in more than 300 industry sectors across Europe, North America and Asia. It has 18 regional offices in the UK, employing more than 900 people.

Qualco UK retains its ISO 27001 accreditation

Qualco UK has retained its ISO 27001:2017 certification by The British Assessment Bureau, having first achieved it three years ago.

ISO 27001 is the internationally recognised framework which helps organisations manage and protect their information assets so that they remain safe and secure at all times.  By achieving this certification, Qualco has demonstrated its commitment to data protection and continuous improvement. This is a crucial standard for Qualco with recertification occurring every three years.

The ISO 27001 certification allows Qualco to have an independently verified framework to apply across its business processes which identify, manage and reduce risks to information security and considers not only IT but all business operations.

The requirements cover all aspects of the organisation including senior management commitment to information security, compliance with the GDPR and Data Protection Act, and a demonstrable approach to continual improvement of the system.

Victoria Oliver, Head of Compliance for Qualco UK, commented, “We are delighted to retain this ISO certification from the British Assessment Bureau. Qualco takes a proactive approach to security as data and our customers’ data is pivotal to what we do. As technology continues to grow and evolve in the financial services sector, we work to ensure that our information security controls remain safe and effective.” 

Bibby Financial Services expands global headquarters in Banbury

Independent financial services provider, Bibby Financial Services (BFS), has announced the expansion of its global headquarters in Banbury, North Oxfordshire, in line with its strategic growth plan.

First moving to Banbury Business Park in 2016, BFS has now relocated its Construction Finance and Export Finance divisions from Packington House, Horse Fair, to the refurbished Pembroke House offices in Adderbury.

Global Chief Executive of Bibby Financial Services, David Postings said: “We have long wanted to develop a global headquarters that would enable our operational teams and central support functions to work more closely, so I’m delighted that these plans have come to fruition.

“The expansion of our offices in Banbury reflect the business’s growth in recent years, and will undoubtedly help us to enhance the level of service for our clients, while increasing the well-being of our people.”

Victoria Prentis, Member of Parliament for North Oxfordshire, commented: “We are very lucky to have a thriving economy with virtually no unemployment in our area. Bibby Financial Services’ decision to expand its Global Headquarters in Banbury sends a strong signal that North Oxfordshire is the place to do business. I am looking to visiting the new offices and meeting staff once they have settled in.”

In 2018, BFS was awarded 48th place in the Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For, the seventh time the business has featured in the top 100.

Over 300 employees in departments including Operations, HR, Learning and Development, Marketing and Communications, IT Services, Business Change, Finance, Risk and Strategy have moved to the new 17,000 sq. ft. site.

David Postings added: “Being a great place to work, attracting and retaining leading talent are a key elements of our success. Our expanded premises demonstrates our commitment to both our people and the Banbury area, and I look forward to welcoming our clients and business partners alike to Pembroke House over the coming months.”

Following a comprehensive fit-out, Pembroke House now includes Restaurant 1807, in reference to the year in which Liverpool entrepreneur, John Bibby, formed BFS’s parent company, the Bibby Line Group.

Today, BFS supports 10,500 SMEs in more than 300 industry sectors across Europe, North America and Asia. It has 18 regional offices in the UK, employing more than 900 people.

Less than a third of business payments were made on time in Q2

Research from Dun & Bradstreet reveals that UK businesses prompt payments deteriorated in in the three months to June (Q2). On average, less than a third (31.5%) of payments were made on time compared to 31.3% in the previous quarter. The average payment delay in the UK is around 15 days, two days higher than the European average.

Dun & Bradstreet’s UK Quarterly Industry Report shows a clear split by sector, with ‘Health/Education/Social’ and ‘Finance/Industry/Property’ recording the sharpest deterioration in payment performance (down by 1.7% and by 1.4% respectively quarter-to-quarter). However, more positive results were recorded for the Consumer Manufacturing sector which demonstrated the largest improvement, followed by the ‘Eating and Drinking’ (0.8%) and ‘Materials Processing/Mining’ (0.6%) sectors.

Late payments remain a significant problem for UK-based small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). On average, larger companies of 251 employees or more only paid 8.1% of their payments promptly, compared with smaller companies of 250 employees or less, which averaged at 25.7% for paying their suppliers on time.

Commenting on the results, Markus Kuger, Senior Economist at Dun and Bradstreet said: “What is perhaps most worrying from the data is the sheer volume of late payments UK-based companies are having to contend with, not least as a result of weaker retail sales and the uncertainty of the impact of Brexit on businesses. Although there is legislation in place to assist small businesses with their struggle against late payments, the majority of the time they take no action for fear of alienating their larger customers. Late payments affect businesses across the sectors and of all sizes and give rise to tighter financial conditions and higher administrative, transaction and financial. With continued uncertainty for the foreseeable future, it is likely that we will see further deterioration in prompt payments due to rising headwinds triggered by the Brexit vote.”

Rates reforms will fail without modernisation drive

Scottish Government plans to introduce more frequent business rate revaluations will fail without a modernisation drive, according to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB). The small business campaign group has urged Ministers to deliver a reformed system ahead of the next Scottish Parliament elections.

In an official response to a consultation on proposed business rates legislation, the FSB warns the Scottish Government that the delivery of a more modern and user-friendly tax system looks unlikely without Ministers providing leadership and resources.

Andrew McRae, the FSB’s Scotland policy chair, said: “Tens of thousands of Scottish smaller firms get a leg up thanks to the Scottish Government’s Small Business Bonus scheme. But even those in receipt of this help can find the rates system bureaucratic and old-fashioned.

“We urged Ministers to introduce more frequent revaluations, so that firms’ bills better reflect market conditions. But for that to work, we need the system to purr, rather than creak. In our view, a more modern system would pay dividends for both the taxpayer and the state.”

The next business rates revaluation in Scotland will take place in 2022. FSB has urged Ministers to deliver a modern rates system a year ahead of the next Scottish Parliament elections in 2021.

Andrew McRae said: “What we’ll need to see alongside these new laws are Ministers dragging the system into the 21st century. That means a new national digital interface to pay your bill and apply for help. That means bodies involved in the system working in harmony. That means the provision of intelligible information about how your bill is calculated to ratepayers.”

In its submission, FSB argues that a new digital rates interface could integrate with the Scottish planning and licensing systems. Further, the small business body strongly supports Scottish Government moves to introduce new rates help for firms renovating or improving property.

Andrew McRae said: “Scottish Ministers have shown an appetite for reform with the introduction of their new Business Growth Accelerator. But they can’t stop there. While FSB supports many of these legislative changes, they must be matched with the grit to succeed.”

Impact of ‘no deal’ Brexit on insolvency “deeply concerning” – R3

The potential impact of a ‘no deal’ Brexit on cross-border insolvency cases, as set out by the Government in a just-published technical note, is deeply concerning, says insolvency and restructuring trade body R3.

Commenting, Stuart Frith, R3 president, says: “We would be deeply concerned about the impact of a ‘no deal’ on the UK’s insolvency and restructuring framework. The strength of the UK’s insolvency and restructuring framework partially depends on its pan-European reach. At the moment, EU regulations mean UK insolvency and restructuring procedures and judgments are automatically recognised across the EU – and vice versa. A loss of this recognition, as would happen in a ‘no deal’ situation, would be bad news for UK businesses and creditors.

“Reciprocal automatic recognition means it’s relatively quick and cost effective to retrieve the assets of insolvent UK-based companies or individuals wherever those assets are in the EU. It means the insolvencies of companies with a presence across the EU can be dealt with through one insolvency procedure rather than several. This keeps costs down and increases the chances of business rescue, which, in turn, boosts returns to creditors.

“If the current EU-UK insolvency framework is not preserved post-Brexit then it will become much more expensive and difficult to resolve UK and EU insolvency cases where UK-EU cross-border work is required.

“This will jeopardise creditor returns, business and job rescue, lending and investment, and it will damage the UK’s reputation as a place to do business.

“The insolvency and restructuring framework is there to provide businesses, lenders, and investors with the confidence that, in the event of an insolvency, they will see at least some of their money back. Adding barriers to this process where a UK company has a presence in the EU would damage confidence in trading with, lending to, and investing in that company.

“The Government has repeatedly outlined a desire to seek a post-Brexit agreement which closely reflects the principles of mutual cooperation that exist under the current EU framework. This is welcome and R3 is happy to support the Government’s pursuit of its objective.

“In the event of a ‘no deal’, it’s important that the Government takes steps to improve the domestic insolvency framework in order to maintain its international competitiveness. The Government has just published plans to deliver a package of major insolvency reforms first proposed in 2016, but the timetable for introducing them is not clear. Introducing the reforms would be a good step towards mitigating some of the problems which the loss of automatic recognition might cause.”