Castle Trust Bank renews contract and transitions to the latest Phoebus core banking servicing platform

Castle Trust Bank has renewed its contract with Phoebus for another five years and will be transitioning to the software provider’s latest core banking servicing platform.

The two firms have worked together since 2016 when Castle Trust migrated its entire mortgage book of loans onto a bespoke Phoebus system.

Upgrading to the Phoebus core servicing solution will allow Castle Trust to utilise the full range of additional functionality available. This includes the Phoebus award-winning originations and migrations API and the option to implement any number of the other 60-plus suite of “standard” Phoebus APIs.

In total, almost 50 new capabilities and enhancements will become enabled for Castle Trust to deploy, including the option to access the Phoebus AI-powered and predictive, next generation user interface.

Adam Oldfield, chief revenue officer at Phoebus, said: “We have always had a great relationship with Castle Trust and understand the workings of their specialist areas of lending. It now makes complete sense for Castle Trust to transition from the bespoke system we built for them seven years ago to our market leading, core servicing platform with all its additional functionally and contemporary, digital capability.

“The team at Phoebus looks forward to completing this transition within a four-month timeframe. We will then continue to work closely with the bank in support of its on-going lending servicing requirements, delivering significant operating cost savings whilst helping enhance its growth ambitions.

Barry Searle, managing director, property at Castle Trust Bank, commented: “The Phoebus bespoke mortgage servicing system has served us well to date, but the scale and scope of digital innovation created within the Phoebus core banking servicing platform is where we want and need to go to next.

“As a specialist lender we are always looking to create new products to fit an ever-complex lending market and the latest Phoebus software solution can help us to realise our future growth and business objectives.”

Boodil Launches a New Rewards and Loyalty App

Boodil, the open banking payment solution has announced the launch of its new rewards and loyalty app. From today, users will be able to checkout via the Boodil ‘Pay by Bank” solution at any of the retailers that have enabled Boodil as a payment method, earn points when they spend and use them on a variety of prize draws including shopping vouchers, AirPods, spa days, holiday vouchers and even cash. Following a trial with a select number of users, Boodil has now rolled out even more exciting prize draws along with a host of rewards and discounts from a variety of well known retailers such as Travis Perkins, Dominos and Dunelm.

Anyone can sign up to the app effortlessly, for free which allows users to connect their bank account for an extra 250 points per month and provides them with more personalised rewards and offers based on actual spending behaviour. Users as well as this are offered the ability to transfer any prizes they have won for a cash equivalent as an alternative.

Boodil describes themselves as the other side of the coin to American Express. CEO and Co-Founder, Harry Luscombe says “American Express is a great solution which provides customers with points when they utilise their American Express card however they charge the merchants significantly higher fees along with customers having to pay an annual fee for certain cards. The rewards available tend to favour and benefit those consumers with higher disposal income levels, with customers often having to spend tens of thousands each year to obtain meaningful value and benefit. Given the current economic climate we are in, we wanted to create a value lead proposition that enabled more engaging and rewarding experiences for customers.”

Boodil have made the spending process simple with customers not needing to download the Boodil app in order to checkout at any of their retail partners including Gorgeous Shop, Electric Tobacconist and UK Toolbox. Mobile or online banking is all consumers need to benefit from the rapid “Pay by Bank” solution. Once a user does pay via Boodil they can simply download the app and sign up using the email address they have previously used to checkout with Boodil, in order to automatically pull through the points they have previously accumulated. Users can also gain points for referring friends to the app via their unique referral code and for connecting their bank account. Boodil points can then be used on various prize draws including shopping vouchers, AirPods, spa days, vouchers for a holiday and even cash.

Sam Owens COO and Co-Founder comments “with inflation rates soaring to record highs, not seen in decades. Consumer spending habits are shifting. At Boodil we want to make the everyday spending experience fun, engaging and most importantly, rewarding. We’re really putting the consumer at the forefront of everything. The consumer discounts available on our app not only make everyday and discretionary spending more cost effective but offering the ability to win vouchers, experiences, products or even cash is a unique way of rewarding customers for utilising our solution and being loyal to the brands we work with. It will also help our retail brands attract new high intent customers, increase loyalty and engage with new audiences. Not only do brands get exposure in our mobile app but they also benefit from reduced payment processing fees via Boodil’s “Pay by Bank” solution, instant settlement of funds and the elimination of chargeback fraud.

Boodil’s open banking-enabled rewards app, upon receiving first-party open banking consent, utilises consumer spending trends to personalise the rewards, discounts and offers for each user within the app.

The new features are all live in the Boodil app today, which can be downloaded from the Apple and Google Play stores. If you use code: 226NR9Acow when you download the app you will also get an additional 250 points when you sign up.

ABA Statement on FDIC’s Quarterly Banking Profile

“Despite a period of stress in the banking system, the FDIC’s latest Quarterly Banking Profile demonstrates the continued resiliency of the overall sector. In the first three months of the year, the data show that the broader industry weathered the challenges of rising interest rates and the uncertain economy while increasing net income.

“Banks of all sizes have proactively bolstered their capital levels amid extraordinary headwinds, while increasing the reserve coverage ratio to a record level. Credit quality remains on firm footing as banks tighten their underwriting standards. Even with recent challenges, lending increased 0.4% during the quarter when excluding the transfer of loans to the FDIC. On an annual basis lending increased 7.5%.

“As anticipated, banks saw deposit outflows during the period, yet insured deposits increased and total deposits remained well above pre-pandemic levels. Continued deposit outflow is to be expected as part of the normal monetary tightening cycle and the record rise in deposits during the pandemic, though as Chairman Gruenberg noted this outflow has already begun to moderate.

“Overall, the industry remains well-capitalized and highly liquid, allowing banks to continue serving as critical economic drivers. In addition to being the primary source of credit for consumers and businesses, banks are significant national employers. Banks added just over 4,000 positions in the first quarter, with industry employment rising by more than 40,000 year-over-year to more than 2.1 million people.”

Sayee Srinivasan, ABA Chief Economist

Trade with Brazil booms post-brexit as UK pushes for LatAm markets

Trade between the UK and Brazil has seen rapid growth in the last five years following significant UK government efforts to push for improved bilateral trade relations and a reduction in red tape, analysis from global financial services firm Ebury reveals.

The latest trade data showed that Brazilian imports to the UK have more than doubled in the past half-decade, with imports in Q1 2023 standing at £773m, 52% higher than total imports for the same quarter in 2018 (£510m).

Similarly, the UK has seen a notable 46% uptick in exports to Brazil, with the latest data revealing a £204m increase from £458m in Q1 2018 to £662m in the same period of 2023.

The peak in trade reflects growing efforts from the UK government to strengthen ties with non-EU countries following Brexit. In November 2022, The Double Taxation Agreement reduced costly barriers to trade, investment and cross-border work, a significant milestone in the countries’ economic relationship.

“The Double Taxation Agreement will further intensify trade by reducing the complexity and cost of doing business which should drive long-term investment between both countries.” commented Jack Sirett, Partner at global financial services firm Ebury.

“Brazil is a G20 member and both Latin America’s largest economy and most populous nation, so easing frictions offers businesses in the UK a significant opportunity to open up new trading channels.”

Eduardo Moutinho, Market Analyst at Ebury’s Brazil office, said, “The UK’s move towards LatAm markets has faced considerable barriers, for instance, strict regulation and China’s status as South America’s largest trading partner.”

“It’s very encouraging to see the UK’s progress in overcoming these hurdles, the Double Taxation Agreement and Rishi Sunak’s recent £80 million pledge to Brazil’s Amazon Fund show real promise for this trading relationship.”

Surveying training academies urged to join ‘Bushtucker Trail’ charity challenge

Surveying companies right across the UK are being urged to join a new charity challenge in aid of Lionheart, the independent charity for RICS professionals.

Kicking off from the 1st of June, ‘The Bushtucker Trail’ challenge is open to any surveying company in the UK, with the organisers particularly wanting those individuals within a firm’s training academy, or in the early stage of their career, to take part.

Academies within Countrywide Surveying Services, e.surv Chartered Surveyors, Sava and SDL Surveying are already signed up, with teams of 25 competing against each other to see how far along ‘The Bushtucker Trail’ route they can move over the course of the month by walking, running, cycling and swimming.

The Trail runs from Melbourne to Cairns which takes in the entire East Coast of Australia and is approximately 4,800 kilometres – just shy of 3,000 miles.

The progress of any team taking part will be captured via the Strava app, and plotted on the ‘Bushtucker Trail’ charity map, with updates posted on Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.

At the end of the month, the firm/academy that has moved the most distance will be declared the winner.

All teams taking part will be raising money for LionHeart – a charity focused on helping RICS members and their families in times of need. From APC candidates, right through their career and into retirement, to past members and their partners and dependents, LionHeart is focused on those who require help, from providing financial grants to confidential advice and counselling, through to legal and work-related support.

Donations can be made at:

Last year, Countrywide and SDL Academies went head to head in a Route 66 Charity Challenge in aid of Lionheart, raising over £3,6000 in the process.

To find out more information on LionHeart, and to see the work it undertakes and who it can help, please visit:

Sarah Chalmers-Stevens, Head of Professional Development at CSS, said: “Last year we managed to raise a significant amount of money for Lionheart, and we’d like to open up this year’s Charity Challenge to the entire surveying community. We’ve already been joined by e.surv and Sava this year, but we’re really hoping for multiple teams to join us in order to heighten the competition and increase the amount of money we can raise.”

Adrian Drummond, Assistant Training & Quality Care Manager at SDL Surveying, commented: “In 2022, ourselves and Countrywide went head to head across the US, so this year we’re ‘heading’ to Australia and really hoping that other surveyors will get involved, particularly those who have strong Academy set-ups. Taking part is great fun and we’re doing it for a really worthwhile cause that makes a big difference in our sector.”

Claire Martin, Learning & Development Technical Partner at e.surv Chartered Surveyors, added: “e.surv are thrilled to be joining Countrywide Surveying Services, Sava and SDL to not only raise money for such an important cause linked to our profession, but also create some wonderful teamwork, have fun with colleagues within our organisation and have a great excuse to put on our trainers and get out in the fresh air.”

Helen Orme, Head of Customer Engagement at Sava, commented: “Sava are excited to be able to join Countrywide, e.surv, SDL and other firms to raise funds for Lionheart. The Sava team are looking forward to the challenge and have even organised to have a running machine in the office to add more steps in during the working day. We hope other firms will join us to help provide as much support to Lionheart as we can.”

Agents ‘most concerned’ with Renters (Reform) Bill

“The Renters (Reform) Bill is the biggest worry facing agents today.”

That’s the word from HF Assist, a dedicated support service for agents (and part of the HFIS group), at a recent Q&A webinar it co-hosted with PayProp, a leading client accounting platform.

Representatives of HF Assist told viewers uncertainty over the bill and its impact on the industry was the top reason agents have been calling the hotline. It trumped worries over current notice periods for Section 8 and Section 21 evictions, company lets and when to use them, tenancies including bills during the current cost of living crisis, right to rent checks, and securing access for inspections, maintenance and viewings.

Lettings surgery

The webinar was the latest in a series of HF Assist lettings surgeries, giving property professionals a chance to ask industry experts hot-button questions affecting their businesses, such as ongoing compliance issues and understanding the latest developments in the private rented sector.

Addressing attendees’ concerns over the Renters (Reform) Bill, Julie Ford, HF Assist advisor, reassured viewers that while Section 21 evictions would end, they were still permissible today and there were question marks over how soon the legislation would be implemented once the bill becomes law.

Neil Cobbold, Managing Director, PayProp UK, further explained that when Section 21 is abolished, other grounds for evictions would be strengthened including repossessing a property for sale or if close family need to move in.

Coping with change

According to Mike Morgan, PRS Membership and Resolution Lead, the worries over the bill mirror what he experienced recently when new PRS legislation was introduced in Wales. In that case, the HF Assist helpline experienced a surge in calls to help agents comply with the new rules.

“We know only too well the worries that already busy agents have about the changes, and we will be working closely with them to reassure and give support. Our helpline gives you access to our expert team at the end of the phone or through a dedicated online chat service, making sure you are informed and prepared for the changes. HF Assist members can also use our free resources to help advise and provide the best service to their landlords and tenants.”

Other concerns over compulsory pet insurance, landlord redress membership, non-purpose-built student lets and the transition to periodic tenancies were also discussed.

Commenting on the webinar, Cobbold said, “It was great to have such an engaged audience on the recent lettings surgery webinar, but it was clear that they had big questions over the Renters (Reform) Bill. While there aren’t many surprises for the industry, as the measures were already included in the 2022 Fairer Private Rented Sector White Paper, the lack of detail around how and when these measures will be implemented is a real worry for the agents.

“As an industry, we need to see more details from the government and be part of the discussion as the bill goes through the parliamentary process. A high level of engagement with property professionals will be key to ensuring these reforms deliver to the benefit of all parties.”

Compliance and customer experience: It’s not a trade-off

Consumers today are used to smooth, instant transactions made in real time and free from the lengthy wait times previously endured when making a trip to the bank. Improving the customer journey is now a main focus for banking leaders and 51% of organisations worldwide cite “improving the customer experience” as one of their top priorities. Product experience has become a deciding factor when choosing financial services providers, especially for digital natives for whom online purchases are second nature. In most sectors, it has become imperative for businesses to pivot their customer-facing processes to meet the expectations of this demographic, with some sectors adapting quicker than others. However, highly regulated industries such as finance, banking, and insurance have moved slower when it comes to developing services that offer a seamless online customer experience, with only 37% of organisations having a formal CX plan. This is due in part to the inherent challenges these sectors face in terms of red tape. Meanwhile, disruptive business models such as fintech and challenger banks have the ability to deliver the same services quickly and effectively, attracting digital natives and snatching market share from old-school players.

The message seems simple on paper. Having a more agile approach towards customer experience is vital to remain relevant for the growing group of potential customers that have little wish to conduct business with pen and paper. However, there are some significant challenges associated with this.

Tighter regulations and penalties for non-compliance, along with a sharp rise in online financial fraud during the pandemic, have made it more important than ever to safeguard existing processes. And yet, some businesses are still not prioritising a smooth digital user experience, despite the clear consequence of losing existing and prospective customers.

The solution to this starts with a change in mindset. The realisation that compliance and customer experience are not at odds, but in fact they coexist quite successfully.

Adopting a different approach

The first step is to understand that your company culture is expressed through technology – your digital customer touchpoints. This means aligning compliance-related aspects of your customer interactions with a customer-centric culture. It was reported by the FCA that only 36% of consumers see financial firms as ‘honest and transparent’ in their dealings with them. As an example, to build trust and loyalty among customers when performing background checks for loans, if you explain in simple language why certain information is required – it will foster confidence that their personal data is safe with you. And it’s important that you apply this approach consistently across your entire offering. Rather than being a regulation-fuelled roadblock to customer satisfaction, due diligence can be a way to show that a business cares for its customers and their wellbeing.

Second, a common mistake is to attempt to digitalise everything at once. There is no shame in identifying low-hanging fruit first to benefit from quick wins and then build from there. One starting point could be to implement automated data lookups to publicly-available company information, which verifies who has the right to sign an agreement on behalf of the company doing business with you. It is a simple yet powerful way to automate the slow, manual process of collecting physical agreements and chasing down the right people.

Then, once this piece is in place, businesses can take it further by implementing an e-signing solution that makes it possible to get the agreement signed by all parties within the same digital workflow. This helps get an experienced partner on board who has both the necessary know-how, as well as the technology in place.

Bridging the gap between compliance and experience

Businesses often forget that digital transformation is as much about mindset as it is about technology. For highly regulated industries, the first step is to view compliance as a business enabler rather than a hindrance, and to understand that with the right approach, you can make your back office operations more secure and efficient while enhancing customer satisfaction. Recognising that customer experience and compliance are not at odds is a key step in becoming more competitive in an increasingly disrupted industry. While the road forward may require changes in investment and how we design and implement business processes, success does not necessarily depend on expensive, long-term IT projects, just as a smoother customer experience relies on much more than purely technical solutions.

Tage Borg, CTO, Scrive

Connected workplace culture key to productivity and profits

The key to unlocking employee productivity is to cultivate a ‘connected culture’ in which staff find it easy to communicate with one another, business leaders have been told.

Workplace communication experts at TelephoneSystems.Cloud have analysed the latest research on what holds businesses back from being highly productive.

According to one study, 71% of those employees who said they were more productive feel well-connected to their colleagues.

Well-connected teams see a productivity increase of 20-25% meaning UK businesses that fail to effectively adapt to hybrid working are massively underperforming.

In real terms, disengaged employees cost the world an incredible $7.8 trillion in lost productivity in 2022.

The problem of keeping employees connected with their colleagues and engaged with their work has become more difficult for businesses in recent years.

Pre-pandemic office workers went into the office 3.8 days per week but post-pandemic this has been reduced to just 1.4 days a week.

Organisations that can put effective communication systems in place and minimise the silo effect that hybrid working can encourage are 3.5 times more likely to outperform the competition.

Nothing hurts productivity more than high staff turnover and with 58% of UK workers expressing a desire to work in a hybrid model businesses need to adapt quickly to grow.

With 21% of workers reportedly quitting their jobs because of a lack of an effective hybrid working solution, business leaders are under pressure to get their communication right.

The risk to businesses of losing staff in 2023 is born out by research that suggests that 43% of employees are somewhat or extremely likely to consider changing jobs.

Effective communication increases employee retention by 4.5 times compared to businesses that don’t have connected workplace cultures.

And with 52% of employees saying they stay in a job because they feel valued and supported, effectively connecting and communicating with employees is crucial for businesses that want to be productive and retain staff.

Juliet Moran, founder of TelephoneSystems.Cloud believes that having a connected workplace culture means cultivating a  staff feeling of a deep sense of belonging, community and commitment to each other and the business – something that can’t be achieved without great communication.

She said: “Easy and effective communication between staff has never been more important for businesses as we all adapt to a new normal of hybrid working post-pandemic.

“Multiple studies point to the direct relationship between effective communication and the kind of productivity increases that will supercharge growth.

“Well-connected teams are the key to increased productivity and business growth – conversely disengaged employees cost business trillions each year.

“Nothing hurts productivity more than a high staff turnover and it’s clear that businesses that want to retain staff need to keep them feeling engaged and part of their teams and wider business.

“Cloud-based phone systems bring together apps and versatile voip phones that keep the whole team connected no matter where and when they are in the world.

“Retaining staff and allowing them to be as productive as they can be will help businesses to create connected cultures, be more productive and unlock profits.”

Birmingham jobs partnership wins WM Adult Learning Award

A successful skills and employment partnership which has provided training and jobs for over 1,000 unemployed people since 2016 in Birmingham has been recognised for its impact at this year’s West Midlands Adult Learning Awards.

Nominated by the city’s BMet College, outsourcing provider Sigma Connected was awarded the title of Best Large Employer at the 2023 West Midlands Adult Learning Awards, a scheme backed by the West Midlands Combined Authority.

The partnership, which saw a sector-based Work Academy Programme launched in 2016, was given the award for the joint initiative which has seen over 1,000 people in the Birmingham area given the opportunity to retrain and gain new skills, with over 90% recruited into full-time roles at Sigma Connected.

The programme is part of Sigma Connected’s commitment to Impact Sourcing, which provides job opportunities to those from often disadvantaged areas or situations.

Mike Harfield, chief operating officer at Sigma Connected, said: “To be recognised for our long-term partnership with the team at BMet is a great milestone for us.

“From day one it has been about upskilling people, offering retraining opportunities, and ultimately, entry to a permanent career for people who for one reason or another are struggling to get into work. It has worked superbly and the feedback from those who have taken part in the past seven years has been incredible. This award shows our success but also underlines the impact we have made. It’s a very proud moment.”

BMet’s vice principal Suzie Branch-Haddow, added: “Our partnership with Sigma Connected has been a huge success and been driven by a long-term commitment to providing training and opportunities.

“We have been delighted to play our part with people’s transition into the Sigma Connected family and it means so much to see years of work recognised through this award.”

Phoebus achieves its highest rankings in Best Companies Index

Solihull-based technology firm Phoebus has excelled in the Best Companies Index moving up the rankings to take a top 25 spot in the technology sector.

Phoebus is the 16th best technology company to work for in the UK and was also ranked 28th best company overall for the West Midlands.

About 1,000 companies take part in the Best Companies Index and Phoebus did exceptionally well to be placed as the 42nd best mid-sized company to work for in the entire country.

Phoebus is a financial software provider offering technology services to banks, building societies, lenders and third-party servicers.

Kate Langton, chief people office at Phoebus, attended the Best Companies televised live event in Media City, Salford and took part in a panel discussion hosted by television presenter Dan Walker.

The event focussed on all aspects of managers and how this impacts engagement levels of colleagues and organisations. Kate was asked to share best practice at the event regarding how Phoebus recognises colleagues in the business.

Kate talked about how Phoebus wishes to celebrate success and say thank you throughout the year to colleagues with various award schemes in place and social events. The firm also has shout out boards as well as more formal 1:1s and reviews for career progression.

Commenting on the achievement Kate said: “Phoebus is a growing company and our colleagues are at the heart of the business, which is reflected in our rankings in the Best Companies Index. We are proud to be in the line up with so many other excellent companies and to achieve the highest places to date in the league tables.”