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Finance Monthly. Ed i t or ’ s No t e Hello and welcome to Finance Monthly Magazine’s second edition for 2023! After a long month of planning the year ahead and getting back on track, I am thrilled to present our February 2023 edition! I hope you enjoy our collection of articles delving into the future of banking and finance for the new year, as well as the lessons 2022 taught us. Here are some of our favourite stories from our February 2023 edition: All of this and so much more - I hope you enjoy the content in Finance Monthly’s February 2023 issue! For more financial news and commentary, please visit our website to stay up-to-date on industry news as it happens, join the conversation on our Twitter (@Finance_Monthly), like our Facebook page and follow us on LinkedIn and Instagram (@FinanceMonthly). Best wishes, Katina Male Editor firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2023 Published by Universal Media Ltd The views expressed in the articles within Finance Monthly are the contributors’ own, nothing within the announcements or articles should be construed as a profit forecast. All rights reserved. Material contained within this publication is not to be reproduced in whole or part without the prior permission of Finance Monthly. Circulation details can be found at www.finance-monthly.com Universal Media Ltd PO Box 17858, Tamworth, B77 9QG United Kingdom 0044 (0) 1543 255 537 8. Follow us on Instagram Financemonthly Find us on Facebook Finance Monthly Stay Connected www.linkedin.com/finance-monthly Tweet us @Finance_Monthly Monthly Finance 3 5 FORCES THAT WILL SHAPE FINANCE IN 2023 16. DAVOS 2023: Financing the Sustainable Energy Transition is Essential for the World’s Climate Survival 26. How Is 2023 Shaping Up So Far for Finance Teams? What Will Happen to the Crypto Industry in 2023? 44.
Finance Monthly. Con t en t s 4 CONTENTS THE MONTHLY ROUND-UP News You Can’t Afford to Miss 6. 8. FRONT COVER FEATURE Davos 2023: Financing the Sustainable Energy Transition is Essential for the World’s Climate Survival Can Payments Drive Growth in a Downturn? 16. BUSINESS & ECONOMY 20. 5 FORCES THAT WILL SHAPE FINANCE IN 2023
Finance Monthly. 5 Con t en t s Inprova’s MBO Karate Combat’s Launch of DOA Rubicon Partners Acquisition of CMD from Ideal Industries Andera Actos’s Investment in the Ozitem Group 54. TRANSACTION REPORTS 58. Best Ways to Invest Your Pension 34. 48. 30. Current Trends in the Bridging & Development Finance Industry Cyber Insurance: Could Rising Premiums be a Step in the Right Direction? BANKING & FINANCIAL SERVICES 60. 61. How is 2023 Shaping Up So Far for Finance Teams? Current Trends in the Bridging & Development Finance Industry Best Ways to Invest Your Pension How to Boost Mental and Physical Health in the Finance Sector 26. 30. What Will Happen to the Crypto Industry in 2023? Cyber Insurance: Could Rising Premiums be a Step in the Right Direction? 44. FINANCIAL INNOVATION & FINTECH 48. 34. 38.
Finance Monthly. 6 THE MONTHLY ROUND-UP News You Can’ t Af ford to Mi ss The Mon t h l y Round -Up GLOBAL ECONOMY “PERILOUSLY CLOSE TO FALLING INTO RECESSION”, WORLD BANK SAYS According to the latest forecast from the World Bank, the global economy is “perilously close to falling into recession”. The Bank expects that the world economy will grow by only 1.7% this year – a 1.3% decrease from what it predicted in June. The most recent report contributes this to the expected factors – the war in Ukraine and the COVID-19 pandemic. The key challenge for policy makers to overcome, according to the report, is the impact of higher interest rates. David Malpass, the President of the World Bank, said the downturn would be “broad-based” and growth in earnings in nearly every part of the world was expected to “be slower than it was during the decade before COVID-19”. The growth figure of 1.7% would be the lowest figure since 1991, with the exception of the 2009 and 2020 recessions.
Finance Monthly. 7 The Mon t h l y Round -Up US ECONOMY SEES JOBS GROWTH IN DECEMBER UK CHANCELLOR SETS OUT PLAN FOR ECONOMIC GROWTH Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has revealed his plan to boost economic growth in the country. In his speech in London on Friday 27th January, Hunt discusses the opportunities in “the growth sectors which will define this century”. He also pledged to build on “the freedoms which Brexit provides”. In December, price rises in the UK slowed for a second month in a row. However, the cost of food such as milk, cheese and eggs kept inflation at a 40year high. Wages have grown at the fastest rate in over 20 years but are still not able to keep up with rising prices. The UK Government borrowing hit a new high in December. Jobs growth in the US was robust in December despite the impact of rising prices. Employers added 223,000 new positions last month, pushing the jobless rate down from 3.6% in November to 3.5%, sparking hopes that the largest economy in the world will avoid a drastic economic downturn. The US Central Bank continues to increase borrowing costs in an attempt to cool the economy and ease the price pressures. As businesses struggle with the effect of higher interest rates and the fears of a decrease in consumer spending, recent news of job cuts at financial institutions and tech firms has drawn attention. However, the monthly report from the US Labor Department revealed that nearly every sector is adding new jobs. Although job losses are on the rise, especially in the tech world, the figures overall remained near historic lows last year, said Andrew Challenger, SVP at Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “The overall economy is still creating jobs, though employers appear to be actively planning for a downturn,” he said.
8 Finance Monthly. Fron t Cove r Fea t ur e
A LOOK AHEAD TO 2023 2022 has, by any measure, been a difficult year in Europe. War on the continent, runaway inflation, energy security and even a corruption scandal in the European Parliament. These problems are not going away and will continue to dominate the political arena. However, 2023 will be an important year for the financial services sector and its policymakers. The start of the year is always a good moment to consider the key themes set to drive policy in the UK and EU over the next twelve months. 2023 will be an interesting year as it precedes 2024. Although that sounds obvious, 2024 will see a new European Parliament and Commission and, in all likelihood, a general election in the UK (not to mention a Presidential election in the US). In Brussels, therewill be a focus on getting the programme of the current Commission finalised as far as possible and, in the UK, the current Government will be pushing to demonstrate it should be given an extended mandate. Pressure will be building on policymakers to act, and this will need close attention. Companies should be ready to act to influence the process, whether directly or indirectly (for example through the media). David Cook, Partner at Penta, sets out the drivers for those of us watching closely where the EU and UK are going. David Cook - Partner at Penta 5 FORCES THATWILL SHAPE FINANCE IN 2023 Finance Monthly. Fron t Cove r Fea t ur e 9
Fron t Cove r Fea t ur e 10 Finance Monthly. Despite some thawing in relations in 2022, the shadow of Brexit continues to loomover both the UK and EU and competitiveness between jurisdictions has become a key concern. In the UK, the Financial Services and Markets Bill will provide regulators with a secondary objective to consider the UK’s competitiveness. The UK government has also set out its strategy for regulationintheformoftheEdinburghreforms.Thesefocusmainlyonreform to parts of the UK system that have proven unpopular and have been badged as using Brexit freedoms. Ironically, some of the highest profile reforms are in areas, like ringfencing and the senior managers’ regime, that were not actually related to EU law. In the EU regulation aims to provide the single market with ‘open strategic autonomy’. This nebulous label intends to boost the efficiency of the single market and the competitiveness of EU firms while not relying on ‘third countries’ such as the UK. The EU is looking to make tangible progress on its Capital Markets Union agenda, and tech and data will be important features in the regulatory work of the EU in 2023. A regulatory focus on competitiveness might sound attractive, but memories remain of the financial crisis, before which competitiveness was a regulatory objective, so there may be reluctance to embrace it. Also, regulators do not have a great record of promoting innovation and datadriven change in Europe, so a close eye will need to be kept on this. COMPETITIVENESS “The shadow of Brexit continues to loom over both the UK and EU and competitiveness between jurisdictions has become a key concern.”
Finance Monthly. Fron t Cove r Fea t ur e 11 2022 has been dubbed the crypto winter with huge falls in the value of cryptocurrencies and some high-profile failures in the sector, including FTX and Terra. This has led to a dilemma for policymakers in Europe. The focus on competitiveness means some want to welcome this innovative technology that many people continue to believe has an exciting future. However, the risk to investors, financial stability and even the ability to police and control the supply of money is causing sleepless nights in some institutions. The EU is, as usual, ahead of the international game when it comes to producing regulation. Its flagship regulation, MICA, is agreed and ready to pass into law (although it will be some time before it needs to be adhered to). The EU has also advanced its work on digital currencies and the ECB is currently pulling together a group on rulebook development. Similarly, the UK is preparing consultations on crypto asset regulation and digital currency. Except for new powers around financial promotions, new regulation is not expected in 2023. However, the direction will be set in 2023. Whether the UK and EU adopt similar approaches remains to be seen. A competitive environment could emerge where each jurisdiction seeks to be at the forefront around, for example, blockchain adoption or central bank digital currency. This might introduce risks around intended consequences, where regulatory approaches are not properly analysed in a rush to move forward. Equally, there could be excessive caution that limits the development of the sector in Europe. It will also be interesting to see how the UK and EU overcome the dichotomy of regulators, who will be very concerned about the risks, versus those who want an environment focused on innovation. CRYPTO “The EU is, as usual, ahead of the international game when it comes to producing regulation. Its flagship regulation, MICA, is agreed and ready to pass into law.”
Fron t Cove r Fea t ur e 12 Finance Monthly. In an environment where public finances are suffering from severe stress, governments have been focussed on how private sector finance can be used for public policy purposes and how investors can be sure their money is used for such purposes. This is most apparently seen in the regulation around climate change where the EU’s impressive array of rules, including the Taxonomy and disclosure requirements, are becoming a huge compliance challenge for many firms operating in the EU. The UK is pursuing its own agenda and there’s an ambitious approach being developed where the divergence from EU rules is creating its own challenge. There are also plans to consider how changes in regulation can increase sustainable investment and, in the UK, other policy objectives such as levelling up and promoting innovation. Last year saw the candidates to become UK Prime Minister talking in public debates about how changes to regulation such as Solvency II could be used to promote more of this type of investment in the UK. Changing regulation in the EU and UK will create risks, burdens and opportunities for the firms that fall into scope. New disclosure requirements are likely to be hard to meet but changing investment rules could play to particular businesses’ strengths. Firms should ensure policymakers understand what’s practical and effective SUSTAINABILITY AND PRODUCTIVE FINANCE FINANCIAL CRIME A focus for regulators will be around how to reduce the levels of financial crime and keep investors safe. The losses to investors caused by the collapse of crypto-currency prices have been part of the story, but there have been a number of misselling scandals that have embarrassed regulators and shaken confidence in investing. In the UK we can expect to see the FCA act to strengthen the approach it is taking to protect consumers. We should also see regulation that helps reduce scams by increasing the requirements on banks and social media providers. In the EU there is a package of measures around anti-money laundering under development to ensure a more harmonised approach across the single marker and also create a new EUwide regulator to enhance supervision. This is likely to mean increased compliance and due diligence costs for those brought into scope.
Finance Monthly. Fron t Cove r Fea t ur e 13 ENERGY Finally, the events of 2022 mean that energy security and cost are a top priority in Europe and politicians have been quick to act to support markets and consumers. When it comes to financial services, there are three main concerns. First, can investment be increased to help reduce the reliance on fossil fuels generally, and Russian gas specifically? Second, have markets delivered efficiently for European consumers. Third, could energy market turbulence lead to turbulence on financial markets, as seen in markets such as the London Metal Exchange. Of these three, the first concern has increased the urgency around creating a regulatory framework to increase investment in non-fossil fuels (as described above). For the second point, appetite for direct intervention by authorities in markets has been rising, particularly in the EU. This is very uncomfortable for those firms active in energy markets where price caps and public sector produced financial instruments (like price benchmarks) are likely to distort markets and could undermine confidence if not properly calibrated. Policymakers, lacking specific expertise, are going to need a great deal of assistance. Finally, the third point about risk moving from energy markets to financial markets is likely to be challenging, particularly for those firms who prefer to avoid operating under the burden of financial regulation. Without proper calibration, new measures are likely to raise the costs of operating on energy markets and lead, ironically, to higher energy costs. “Without proper calibration, newmeasures are likely to raise the costs of operating on energy markets and lead, ironically, to higher energy costs.”
Business Economy 16. Davos 2023: Financing the Sustainable Energy Transition is Essential for the World’s Climate Survival Can Payments Drive Growth in a Downturn? 20.
Bus i ne s s & Economy Finance Monthly. 16
Finance Monthly. Bus i ne s s & Economy 17 The Swiss Alps never fail to lift the mood – their endless beauty and dramatic skylines allowing us to contemplate the wonders of the natural world. And as we contemplate their majesty and fragility, the desire to protect all we see is a powerful, visceral emotion. Distinguished global thought leaders meeting at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January certainly felt this way, making impassioned pleas for environmental stewardship, international cooperation and urgent action to mitigate the worst impacts of man-made climate change. Financing the Sustainable Energy Transition is Essential for the World’s Climate Survival DAVOS 2023: Nick Parsons - ThomasLloyd
Bus i ne s s & Economy Finance Monthly. 18 But the simple truth is that global warming is not going to be solved by taking more action in Western Europe, where the carbon intensity of economic growth (CO2 emissions per unit of GDP) continues to fall and where total CO2 emissions are already lower today than in any non-COVID year since 1964. Nor is the solution to be found in the United States, where total emissions have been falling for more than twenty years. Back in our Alpine paradise, we see that Switzerland’s total CO2 emissions in 2021 – the latest available figures - amounted to just 35 million tons (Mt). That’s for a full calendar year. Compare this to China whose emissions last year were 31.5 million tons per day or to India’s 52.1 million tons per week. Switzerland is responsible for less than one-thousandth of the world’s total CO2 emissions. Obviously, Switzerland is a small country. But its much bigger neighbour, Germany, produces just 1.8% of global emissions and the UK just 1.6%. It takes China just 3 weeks to emit the same amount of CO2 that Germany does in a full year. For all its tiny contribution to the planet’s problem, the fact remains that Swiss glaciers are shrinking. Davos delegates saw far less snow than in previous years and many of the lower-lying ski destinations across Europe are currently struggling to stay open. The symptoms of global warming are clearly visible in Switzerland “Obviously, Switzerland is a small country. But its much bigger neighbour, Germany, produces just 1.8% of global emissions and the UK just 1.6%. It takes China just 3 weeks to emit the same amount of CO2 that Germany does in a full year.”
Finance Monthly. Bus i ne s s & Economy 19 but the root cause is thousands of kilometres away. The eight largest economies in Asia collectively produce 18.9 billion tons of CO2 per annum. And though China accounts for more than 70% of this, the other seven have greater total emissions than the entire EU-27 group of nations. These Asian countries - driven by rapid economic and population growth - are increasing both their CO2 emissions and the carbon intensity of their output. A just and sustainable energy transition for them is an urgent global priority, delivering for the region’s Industrial Revolution without the environmental damage and pollution suffered in Europe and North America when countries there first grew prosperous. The benefits of investment in Asia’s energy infrastructure – greening its electricity production, stabilising its transmission grids, and making it more efficient – will be felt not just in that region, but around the world. Global warming is, by definition, a global problem and addressing its primary cause will benefit everyone. Not just the rapidly growing populations in Asia’s South and South-Eastern nations, but coastal atolls, small island states and even, yes, Swiss alpine resorts. Key to this energy transition is understanding not just why Asia matters in its own right, but why it is so important to the rest of the world. For Europe and North America to offshore vast swathes of manufacturing industry to that continent then to lecture about emissions is not just hypocritical, but ultimately self-defeating in the absence of remedial action. There is only one planet and its weather systems are both complex and interconnected. Asia matters to all of us. Mobilising capital at pace and at scale to support and accelerate the region’s energy transition is of the utmost urgency. Yes, we can all play our very modest part in Western Europe but diligently recycling our trash and signalling our virtue by driving $70,000 electric cars is really not going to shift the dial on climate change globally. Instead, we should be investing in real assets that have real and measurable impact. Already, fund managers in Europe have downgraded more than $140bn in so-called ESG and sustainabilitybranded products which they fear would leave them vulnerable to regulatory sanctions under the EU’s SFDR reporting regime. Downgrading their classifications from Article 9 to 8, or from 8 to 6 is a tacit acknowledgment that financial assets cannot meet the sometimes exaggerated claims of their sponsors. These funds would be better utilised to meet the pressing needs of the real world and to finance a just and fair energy transition. Energy policy across the Asia region is framed to attract foreign capital to fund the development of sustainable infrastructure assets. With the public and private sectors working together, longterm contracts, the rule of law, rapid economic growth and sheer demand pressure make this the decade of Asian investment opportunity. For international investors, financing Asia’s energy future has never looked like a more attractive proposition.
Many economies are experiencing a downturn, andwhileaslowingeconomy feels uneasy, recessions are usually short with long periods of economic stability following. By examining current payment trends, we look at the opportunities for businesses to grow and how they can sow the seeds of prosperity while considering some of the obstacles that will be encountered. CAN PAYMENTS DRIVE GROWTH IN A DOWNTURN? Richard Smith Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder at Payen Bus i ne s s & Economy Finance Monthly. 20
Emerging markets and simplifying cross-border trade Many businesses are looking to trade with customers in new, fastgrowing and emerging markets to become less dependent on domestic markets that have either met full potential growth, are stagnant or are in decline. As such, cross-border transactions are growing fast, with global transactions increasing from $29 trillion in 2019 to $39 trillion in 2022. Underpinning this surge were factors like global trade improvements, cross-border B2C payments, growth in online businesses and borderless e-commerce. As an outcome, and to compete in the global marketplace, businesses around the world are turning to their banks and fintech partners for faster, securer and more transparent payment solutions. Online payments allow merchants and consumers to conduct crossborder trade in goods inwhich they have a comparative advantage. At the click of a button, people can purchase products and services from across the world. In 2021, 2.14 billion people – almost a third of the world’s population – bought goods and services online. Another survey found that in the European Union (EU), 74% of internet users had shopped online. Transactions in a global digital marketplace across countries depend on sellers and purchasers using compatible payment systems. In many parts of the world, this is tricky. Europe, for example, has differences in payment preferences across member states and is partly the Finance Monthly. Bus i ne s s & Economy 21
Bus i ne s s & Economy Finance Monthly. 22 a Single European Payments Area (SEPA) – whereby customers can make cashless payments via credit transfer and direct debit anywhere in the EU and in many non-EU countries, including the UK. Here, using alternative payment systems designed to be compatible with widely used payment methods, like PayPal, improve interoperability and alleviate some of these issues. Facilitating SME growth Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are as central to economic growth and employment as they are to innovation. Access to more traditional online payments can be difficult for unproven enterprises, so alternative payment systems have emerged as the solution for many. In providing a single easy payment mechanism, merchants can circumvent banks and card companies and instead engage with a single service provider and ensure customers can have their preferred payment method – whether a debit or credit card, bank account or other. According to the European Commission’s Annual Report on European SMEs 2021/22, SMEs constituted about 99.8% of all European enterprises and contributed about 65% of overall employment, highlighting their economic importance. Alternative online payments support the growth and further expansion of SMEs online, enabling them to enter new and emerging markets by harnessing online trade – and supporting the domestic economy. Without access to alternative payment methods, many SMEs would be without the support to trade globally. Artificial intelligence (AI) and Software-as-a-service (SaaS) expansion AI has supported many enterprises’ efforts to bring in new revenue streams. Now, digital payment systems are increasingly looking to harness its possibilities. It can be applied to help with data storage capabilities, predictive models, and user experience and empowerment. It can also support compliance, fraud detection, and cybersecurity. To protect a user’s financial security, AI-powered algorithms can analyse payments and transactions, gather data from different online payments and transactions, learn the patterns from former fraud cases, and determine a pass or fail verdict in near real-time. AI minimises fraud for complex, high-volume transactions and human error in flagging suspicious transactions and will significantly impact the overall fraud resistance of digital payment systems. It can also be used by businesses to determine how best to pay suppliers or enhance customer service and expandmarket research. With a talent shortage and a limited pool of graduates with specialist data skills impacting the ability of businesses to see through their digital transformation projects – AI can help here too. Taking on repetitive and time-consuming tasks so employees are free to handle more complex tasks where a human touch is needed. Steered by the talent and skills conundrum, SaaS is of growing relevance for many businesses. 2.14 B “In 2021 people – almost a third of the world’s population – bought goods and services online.” 74% “In the European Union (EU), of internet users had shopped online.”
Finance Monthly. Bus i ne s s & Economy 23 Finding data engineers to build workflows and a skilled team to operate and manage the platforms the business uses is critical. As such, SaaS is becoming more appealing for businesses so that the only focus for business leaders is using the service while leaving the configuration, optimisation, fine-tuning, and performance management in the hands of an expert. Sustainability Digital adoption and its paperless, task-automated systems bring more environmentally friendly business practices. Today, customers, staff, and investors judge businesses by their approach to sustainability and make decisions based on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria. As a result, every organisation must have a strategy with corporate social responsibility (CSR) measures at its core. All industries are looking to adopt greener practices, and fintech and financial services providers are no exception. As with most sectors, banks and financial services providers rely increasingly on data centres. With greater scrutiny on sustainability, there’s a growing appetite for data centres that use sustainable energy. And the supply is there, with some even sporting carbon-negative credentials and the ability to provide energy back to the grid to support during spikes in demand. The expectation for sustainable measures remains high for all businesses both front of house and behind the operational scenes – any organisations showcasing their CSR role in the market, and supporting sustainable initiatives and practices, will need to be authentic. Get it right and it could also contribute to attracting talent as you expand. Powering growth in global markets for prosperity Global payments make crossborder trade possible – opening businesses to emerging markets and facilitating SME growth, the backbone of a domestic economy. Having a provider with the right expertise in the regions you want to operate is critical to unlocking new markets. Complemented with AI to improve and streamline operations and SaaS expansion to help with the global skills shortage, even small businesses have the opportunity to bring in international custom. The next few years will be rough for many businesses, but understanding past and present trends can help explain how best to weather them. And with this knowledge, you’ll be well placed to put your business in a position where, come the end of the recession, it’s ready to take advantage of the following stability. inspiration behind “All industries are looking to adopt greener practices, and fintech and financial services providers are no exception.”
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Banking Financial Services 26. How is 2023 Shaping Up So Far for Finance Teams? Current Trends in the Bridging & Development Finance Industry Best Ways to Invest Your Pension How to Boost Mental and Physical Health in the Finance Sector 30. 34. 38.
Faltering Supply Chains, Cashflow Concerns, Greener Economic Choices & Back-to-Basics Accounting HOW IS 2023 SHAPING UP SO FAR FOR FINANCE TEAMS? Bank i ng & F i nanc i a l Se r v i ce s 26 Finance Monthly.
The festivities at the end of last year are now a fading memory, and so are most people’s new year’s resolutions. But with one month of 2023 already gone, it seems like a good time to revisit how the year is shaping up for finance teams and the companies they support. Hugh Scantlebury Co-Founder & CEO Aqilla Finance Monthly. Bank i ng & F i nanc i a l Se r v i ce s 27
28 Finance Monthly. Bank i ng & F i nanc i a l Se r v i ce s Faltering supply chains and cashflow concerns In the UK, COVID-related restrictions are most definitely a thing of the past. However, the protests in China at the end of last year were a stark reminder of the country’s ongoing zero-COVID policy and the restricted freedom of movement. Without getting involved in the human rights dimension of this issue, China’s zeroCOVID policy continues to impact global supply chains. While it’s true that businesses are adapting, they’re doing so by holding more raw materials and finished products for longer — and moving away from just-in-time production. This has implications for cash flow and, therefore, for finance teams. Indeed, cash flow is one of the biggest contributors to company closure and bankruptcy. For this reason, I suggest that finance teams pay even closer attention to order books, delivery schedules, balance sheets, and invoices to avoid unplanned and unmanageable shortfalls. Price rises and greener spending decisions Rising gas, electricity and fuel prices have made for a tough winter, and businesses have had to make difficult decisions — often based on intelligence gathered, interpreted and presented by finance teams. This has made for a tough winter and many difficult decisions — often based on intelligence gathered, interpreted and presented by finance teams. It’s difficult not to let emotions get involved when sharing data that could lead to job cuts, office closures and other hard choices. But my advice would be to present the information logically, accurately and responsibly to make the right decisions — and then help the business to grow stronger and more resilient. While the war in Ukraine plays a significant part in keeping fuel and energy prices high, a lack of long- “The biggest problem for the remainder of this year still comes from inflationary pressures.”
29 Finance Monthly. Bank i ng & F i nanc i a l Se r v i ce s term planning around the UK’s energy security policies has left us more vulnerable than we might otherwise be to global market price fluctuations. Moving away from fossil fuels and continuing our commitment to net zero is admirable — and, in my view, essential. Finance teams may feel that this falls outside their remit. But it’s possible to effect small changes that can have a significant impact — for example, making the economic case for switching to 100% renewable energy tariffs and championing hybrid/ electric vehicles. Inflationary pressures and back-to-basics accounting The biggest problem for the remainder of this year still comes from inflationary pressures. This ongoing financial uncertainty means Summing up… We haven’t talked about the ongoing skills shortage across our industry. But I’d like to see this addressed in 2023 by more positive encouragement and support to improve diversity within finance and accounting teams. This isn’t a short-term fix, but if we make genuine in-roads here, our industry and society will be all the better. More widely, I hope that as 2023 progresses, some financial pressures will begin to subside. Raw materials may decrease in price as economies are depressed by inflationary and recessionary impacts. Therefore, the cost of commodities and raw materials could be lower, so products and services could come down in price. But ultimately, who really knows what will happen during the rest of 2023! Last year, we didn’t know there would be a war in Ukraine, and many people didn’t see the energy crisis coming. So, there will most likely be plenty of unknowns to negotiate as we travel through the year. But close financial monitoring and management will keep you ahead of the problems, allowing you to adapt before the circumstances become irrecoverable. For more information on Aqilla, please visit: www.aqilla.com accounting and finance teams need to get back to basics: Are you running finance and accounting systems that can cope with change while also monitoring gross margins, monthon-month profitability, costs, and overheads? Do you have access to reporting capabilities — potentially through big data analysis — to help identify heat graphs, visualise where changes are happening, and make early interventions when necessary? As the year progresses, this ability to analyse and interpret large amounts of data will be even more crucial for making informed financial decisions and presenting findings promptly, clearly and concisely to senior managers. This will be key to navigating the year ahead because, as Stripe, Amazon, Meta, and Twitter are demonstrating right now, it’s not just important to have a good business; you’ve got to run a good company for it to succeed in the long term.
Current Trends in the BRIDGING & DEVELOPMENT Finance Industry Steve Smith Sales Director at Roma Finance We speak with Steve Smith - Sales Director of Roma Finance responsible for executing the commercial strategy and managing the sales team to enhance the broker experience and business growth. He has an impressive background and is focused on supporting the finance and property market. Roma Finance loves to lend and is dedicated to delivering an experience less ordinary. Focussed on bridging and development finance for property developers, investors and landlords, Roma delivers consistency and certainty allowing borrowers to achieve their property aspirations. Roma benefits from multiple funding lines, allowing the team to be highly flexible and agile while offering high levels of proactive support. Bank i ng & F i nanc i a l Se r v i ce s 30 Finance Monthly.
What are some of the key trends in the bridging and development finance industry in the current environment? The bridging and development market is exceptionally busy right now and I don’t see this changing in the near future. With buy-tolet mortgage rates the way they are, bridging finance, which has always been viewed as a more expensive option, has become a more attractive option. There are also huge opportunities for property investors in the market in this climate and at Roma, we are experiencing heightened enquiries and completions. Bridging lending is up with a record £1.4bn lent in the third quarter of 2022, according to the latest figures from the Association of ShortTerm Lenders. At Roma, we’re seeing strong levels of demand for refurbishments and plenty of commercial-to-resi conversions. We’ve also noticed a rise in coliving among groups of friends and family, particularly in the bigger cities, and the shape of our towns and cities is changing as retailers move out. Finance Monthly. Bank i ng & F i nanc i a l Se r v i ce s 31
32 Finance Monthly. Bank i ng & F i nanc i a l Se r v i ce s But it’s the residential sector that has been huge for us this year, with record demand. What are the challenges the bridging and development finance industry will be faced within 2023? The main challenges are the macro-environmental factors which are outside of our control – the cost-of-living crisis, the ongoing Ukraine war and political factors. The global backdrop and the UK economy are clearly the biggest challenges and, of course, the bridging sector isn’t immune to the wider world. It looks like we’re heading for recession and house prices will probably fall up to 10% this year. Some areas of the commercial sector – such as office space, pubs, restaurants and big retail sites are still experiencing challenges and will continue to do so in 2023. We have to be realistic about the market, but there’s plenty to be positive about too. Supply chains look to remain positive, and we are an island with not enough houses – there will always be demand. How are you planning to respond to these? Roma has achieved significant growth in 2022. This year we will be more innovative. We’re planning to launch desktop valuations and in-house legals, because these are the areas where delays are currently out of our control because of external suppliers. So we plan to bring them under our control. We also want to launch some new products that meet the needs of the current market, and we’re flexible enough to get them out quickly. Our multiple funding lines allow us to be creative in the interests of all parties. What’s your favourite thing about working within the bridging and development finance industry? The bridging and development world is really very interesting, and it is fantastic to see the creations that we are involved in. I love meeting the developers and seeing their visions come to life, knowing that we had a part in it. The property industry is forward-thinking, and we have been involved with some fantastic developments including Carbon Zero properties – these are obviously popular given the present energy issues we are experiencing. What are some of Roma Finance’s biggest achievements? In 2022 we saw exceptionally high growth and back-to-back record months. We saw a high across new business, completions and more importantly redemptions
33 Finance Monthly. Bank i ng & F i nanc i a l Se r v i ce s in October. This record was then smashed in November. The industry remains busy. We have achieved big things in addition to our business growth, striving to ensure our customers have all the support they need to achieve their best possible outcome. We have launched and enhanced RomaFLOW, the fast-track bridging “As an overarching rule, the way Roma acts is our biggest achievement.” process to allow borrowers to complete their financial applications quickly without hassle. We are extremely proud of our tailored ‘Customer for Life’ process, allowing borrowers to transition through an entire project from development to bridge to buy-to-let. It allows a smooth, consistent process through and the release of funds at the end to move onto the next project. As an overarching rule, the way Roma acts is our biggest achievement. To put this into perspective, not one customer who was disadvantaged by either a time or money perspective wasn’t able to apply for a Roma fee-free COVID extension on their loan. Those COVID-extended loans have all had successful outcomes. COVID may seem like a memory to many now but the way we act has not changed. What are your goals for the future? A big goal is to continue to improve the industry as a whole. There is still so much education to do across the board. The world of bridging is so different to what it was 20 years ago and the big opportunities for property investors can often only come into fruition with bridging and development finance lending. Every decision made at Roma is based on the customer journey, and we will plan to continue this philosophy. “A big goal is to continue to improve the industry as a whole.”
Bank i ng & F i nanc i a l Se r v i ce s 34 Finance Monthly.
Jacob Wolinsky BEST WAYS TO INVEST YOUR PENSION In the past, retirement planning followed a simple formula, you work, build savings and then you retire. Although the mechanics of retirement have remained the same, today’s retirees are facing increasing challenges as they financially prepare themselves for their golden years. For starters, life expectancy has increased, making the average retirement period longer. Research shows that babies born after 2007, around 50% of those are expected to live to 104 years in the US. Coupled with a longer retirement is the soaring cost of living, which in recent months has reached stratospheric levels, as inflation and macroeconomic problems have seen prices climb to their highest in more than four decades. More and more companies have scrapped the idea of a defined pension benefit as well. The shift in workplace loyalty among newer generations has given soon-to-be retirees and current employees less financial support from employers toward their pensions. Today, the average monthly Social Security benefit for a retired worker is about $1,681, and will potentially rise to $1,827 in 2023. For the millions of soon-to-be-retired Americans, plumping their savings and boosting their pension with some alternative investment opportunities will be one of the best options they have as they look to navigate the uncertain financial road ahead. Retirees planning to pay off their mortgage, travel to exotic destinations, migrate to a different state, or even do a cross-country road trip will need a bit of cash to do all these things while still being able to live comfortably. Here’s a look at some alternatives to invest your pension for a more comfortable retirement. Finance Monthly. Bank i ng & F i nanc i a l Se r v i ce s 35
DIVIDEND INCOME FUNDS Often individuals will purchase stocks or dividend-yielding stocks that provide them with an alternative income stream. For retirees that are looking to minimise their risk against a volatile market, dividend income funds can provide a steady income over the years, especially if companies decide to raise their dividend payouts. Dividend income funds often consist of a fund manager that manages the fund and the dividend-paying stocks, which makes it a more suitable choice for any person, even if they have no prior trading or investing experience. In some instances, companies will allocate dividends that may be taxed at a lower rate compared to that ordinary income or interest. In this case, these dividends are classified as “qualified dividends” and should be held in non-retirement accounts or funds. REAL ESTATE INVESTMENT TRUSTS In 2020, around 58.1% of workingage baby boomers, between the ages of 56 and 64 were most likely to own at least one type of retirement account. Often, working individuals who are soon to retire will either have an IRA, Roth IRA, or a standard 401(k). While these products can produce significant savings for retirees, investing in real estate, or at least in a real estate investment trust allows them more opportunities to grow their wealth and their retirement portfolio. Like a dividend mutual income fund, a REIT is a mutual fund that either owns or invests in real estate property. These funds are typically managed by a team of fund managers, and in most instances, investors are allocated an income as the fund matures over time. REITs are a simpler, yet a safer option for retirees, as it allows them a better chance to invest in property and real estate, without directly exposing themselves to market volatility. Think of it as a way to increase your savings and wealth, regardless of whether you’re planning to use those savings to build your dreamhome or relocate abroad to Canada or somewhere exotic - REITs often provide better security for pensioners. ANNUITIES When planning to invest in annuities, it’s best to consider the two types of annuity products that are available. 58.1% “In 2020, around of working-age baby boomers, between the ages of 56 and 64 were most likely to own at least one type of retirement account.” Bank i ng & F i nanc i a l Se r v i ce s 36 Finance Monthly.
For starters, fixed annuities are often considered to provide retirees with a guaranteed income for life, which can help them hedge inflation and potentially offer tax-deferred growth. The second annuity product is fixed index annuities, which have the same benefits related to the before mentioned but have marked-related growth factors. This means that fixed index annuities are considered more of a risk, as they can fluctuate with the market, but depending on the index it may be related to, the reward may often be higher than regular annuities. There are several benefits to annuities, and retirees should consider each product and their benefits individually before adding it to their retirement portfolio. EXCHANGE TRADED FUNDS Often considered a traditional investment option, ETFs are mutual funds that are a mix between stocks and bonds that often track the index benchmark. With ETFs, individuals have the option to buy and sell their mutual fund at any point, as they are priced in real-time, and traded on the stock exchange. Usually, retirees or early novice investors will opt for ETFs as these are considered safer investment options, and are relatively affordable to buy. Important is the fact that the longer you hold an ETF mutual fund or any related stock pick, the better your chances of increasing its value over time. This is true for most investments, and when it comes to ETFs, it’s easy to hold onto it well into retirement, only to later sell it off once it has reached a pinnacle. The longer you hold, the more valuable the fund, and the more likely you are to save on fees and additional costs which can be directed towards your retirement fund. WHY IS INVESTING IMPORTANT IN RETIREMENT? There are several important reasons why one should look at different investment opportunities well before or during retirement. Traditional pension and retirement plans, such as a 401(k) or Keogh Account are no longer enough to financially sustain you during your retirement. The soaring cost of living, volatile markets, and uncertain labour conditions have made it increasingly hard for many individuals to plan and save for their retirement. Instead of holding onto the idea that life savings or an emergency fund will be enough to keep you going once you hit retirement, it’s best advised to start looking for alternative pension options that can help give you a comfortable retirement. FINAL THOUGHTS As many soon-to-be retirees enter their golden years, some have opted to park their pensions in several investment opportunities that can provide them with a sustainable income. Not only are there more options available for retirees in terms of boosting their retirement portfolio and savings, but often these products can provide better financial security as well. Planning for the future can be hard, as we’re not sure what to expect or what to plan for. Yet, it’s rather better to have a financial safety net in place now so that by the time you retire, you can live comfortably off your earnings. Finance Monthly. Bank i ng & F i nanc i a l Se r v i ce s 37
Bank i ng & F i nanc i a l Se r v i ce s 38 Finance Monthly. MENTAL and How to Boost in the Finance Sector PHYSICAL HEALTH David Kindlon - CEO at Eppione
Finance Monthly. Bank i ng & F i nanc i a l Se r v i ce s 39 1. Health Insurance Physical and mental health are often discussed as separate issues, but in reality, they’re intrinsically linked. Poor physical health can often lead to deteriorating mental well-being, especially when faced with long waiting times for treatment. Likewise, people suffering with mental health issues may be less likely to care for their physical well-being, leading to further health problems. Supporting employees to access healthcare can help foster a healthier, happier workforce. Corporate health insurance policies often come with a wide range of benefits to help members live a healthier lifestyle, get diagnosed sooner, and access the treatment they need more quickly than through the NHS. Of course, this includes a wide array of physical conditions – from back pain to cardiac issues, and from maternity care to cancer. But many health insurance policies also include various supports for mental health, such as counselling and addiction support. 2. Health Cash Plans With a health cash plan, employees can claim back some or all of the cost of certain routine treatments and appointments that aren’t covered by health insurance. Employers generally pay a monthly fee for each employee to be on the scheme, and each individual can then reclaim their expenses up to a set limit. There are usually different tiers available, so businesses can select a plan that meets both their budget and the workforce’s needs. Employees can typically claim back the cost of things like dental treatment and check-ups; health screenings; well-being treatments such as massages; physiotherapy; and counselling. If a business is currently unable to fund health insurance for your workforce, a health cash plan can offer some support to help employees care for their physical and mental health. However, even if businesses do have a health insurance plan in place, a health cash plan may cover a number of areas not included in the policy – so it may be worth offering both simultaneously. 3. Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) EAPs are one of the most common benefits offered by employers. These Supporting employees to access healthcare can help foster a healthier, happier workforce.
40 Finance Monthly. Bank i ng & F i nanc i a l Se r v i ce s programmes offer confidential, professional support for a wide range of personal issues, including alcohol and substance misuse, financial or legal problems, stress and burnout, and mental health problems. Many offer a referral service to help direct employees to the support they need, while also offering direct counselling and treatment. Often, EAP services are also available to other family members in the employee’s household – helping to support their whole family’s health and well-being. While many companies offer an EAP, employees are often unaware that it’s available to them – either because they were never told or have forgotten. So, to get the most out of the programme, be sure to communicate to employees what’s available and how to access the programme. 4. Gym Memberships Encouraging employees to exercise more frequently through a gym membership can help improve both their physical and mental wellbeing. There are a few options for offering gym membership as an employee benefit: • Fully fund employee gym memberships such as through an employee benefit that grants access to various gyms and fitness brands, or by agreeing a corporate membership with a specific gym. • A set contribution towards a gym membership, whereby both the employer and employee make payments towards the membership fee. This might be suitable for businesses with a lower employee benefits budget. • Make contributions to gym memberships. Businesses can allow employees to pay for their memberships through a salary sacrifice scheme. Employees can choose their own gym, and themonthly charges are deducted from their pre-tax salary to save themmoney on tax contributions. 5. Meditation and Mindfulness Helping employees to practice meditation and mindfulness can deliver several mental well-being benefits, including reduced stress and increased focus and emotional intelligence. Businesses could consider: • Hosting mindfulness and meditation sessions, either at the workplace or offsite. There are