Finance Monthly. Editor’s Note Navigating the Complex Terrain of Finance in Unprecedented Times Dear Readers, Welcome to the September edition of Finance Monthly, a beacon of insight, innovation, and pragmatic advice in an increasingly complex financial landscape. As the seasons transition, so do the challenges and opportunities in finance. In this issue, we explore various elements that are at the forefront of shaping the financial industry, from the role of CFOs in shaping the future to essential guides on estate planning. CFOs: Stewards of the Future As financial landscapes become more intricate, the role of CFOs is evolving beyond number crunching. We delve into how today’s CFOs are stepping up as strategic partners in their organizations, looking beyond spreadsheets to drive value and predict future trends. Actionable ESG: More Than Just a Buzzword The environment, social governance, and sustainability are no longer sidelined discussions but central to corporate strategy. Our feature examines how CFOs are actively integrating ESG considerations into financial planning, not as an afterthought but as a core element of their role. Regulatory Watch: Digital Operational Resilience Act (DORA) In a world where digital transformation is speeding up, resilience against cyber threats is more critical than ever. In a fascinating interview with Parva Consulting, Luxembourg, we provide an analysis of the Digital Operational Resilience Act (DORA), which aims to equip you with a better understanding of what it means for financial institutions and how they can comply. An Essential Guide to Estate Planning Estate planning is often shrouded in complexity and discomfort. In this edition, we demystify the process, offering an in-depth interview with Clive Barwell, an expert in the field, who walks you through each critical step to ensure that your legacy is managed as you intend. Front Cover Feature: Insolvency and Restructuring Our cover story features an exclusive interview with Claire Middlebrook of Middlebrooks Insolvency Practitioners. Claire’s expertise in the delicate matters of insolvency and restructuring is both timely and timeless, especially as businesses adapt to the economic uncertainties of our age. As always, we hope this month’s issue provides you with the knowledge and insights to navigate the financial challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Thank you for allowing us to be part of your ongoing journey in the world of finance. Mark Palmer Editor firstname.lastname@example.org Follow us on Instagram Financemonthly Find us on Facebook Finance Monthly Stay Connected www.linkedin.com/finance-monthly Tweet us @Finance_Monthly Universal Media Ltd PO Box 17858, Tamworth, B77 9QG United Kingdom 0044 (0) 1543 255 537 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 Monthly Finance 3
Finance Monthly. Contents 4 CONTENTS FRONT COVER FEATURE 16. A DEEP DIVE INTO INSOLVENCY & RESTRUCTURING THE MONTHLY ROUND-UP News You Can’t Afford to Miss 6. BUSINESS CFO Secrets to Managing the Future How CFOs Can Take Action on ESG How CFOs Can Improve Profitability Through Digital Technology Incorporation How CFOs Can Build Trust in Their Brand Strengthening the Backbone of Modern Financial Systems Digital Operational Resilience Act (DORA) Data Equals Delivery Cost Certainty in Turbulent Times Going For Growth How to Unlock Your SMEs Fundraising Potential Sustainable Packaging Solutions 26. 30. 36. 42. 46. 50. 54. 56. An Interview With Claire Middlebrook of Middlebrooks Insolvency Practitioners
Finance Monthly. 5 Contents 62. 86. MASTERING YOUR LEGACY The Essential Guide to Estate Planning with Clive Barwell BANKING & FINANCIAL SERVICES Mastering Your Legacy The Essential Guide to Estate Planning 62. Vivalto Partner’s Equity Investment in Laboratories Delbert A New Shareholder Enters ME Food SRL Bowls & More Pesorama’s $20 Million Revolving Credit Facility 92. TRANSACTION REPORTS 96. 97. ChatGPT AND THE FUTURE OF FINANCE FINANCIAL INNOVATION & FINTECH ChatGPT and the Future of Finance How AI is Revolutionising Financial Services 86. Zulal Wellness Resort By Chiva-Som 100. CORPORATE TRAVEL & LIFESTYLE INVESTMENT The Role of Green Finance in Helping Companies Achieve Their Sustainability Goals Is it Time for African Private Equity to Take a Bold Evolutionary Step Forward? The Roll of Private Equity in Africa 70. 74. 78. 26. CFO SECRETS TO MANAGING THE FUTURE By Nicky Tozer SVP EMEA, Oracle NetSuite How AI is Revolutionising Financial Services
Finance Monthly. 6 THE MONTHLY ROUND-UP News You Can’t Afford to Miss The Monthly Round-Up WEALTH MANAGERS NEED TO EMBRACE DIGITALISATION TO ACHIEVE GROWTH DURING HYPER INFLATION UK consumers have lost £50bn in disposable income since 2021 according to the latest research and 59% of consumers with housing costs have told the British Retail Consortium that they’re expecting to cut back on their spending. But wealth managers still need to find pathways to growth by engaging new audiences. The average salary earner is facing significant economic pressure and may not identify with the term “wealth”, further deterring wouldbe customers. Wealth Managers looking to grow their businesses in this climate need to make their brand and their offerings more relatable to more people. There are steps Wealth Management firms can take to gain the trust of the average person, and change the general distrust and nervousness that the public has for the Wealth industry. This sector needs to modernise in order to shift perceptions around the accessibility of wealth managers and encourage younger generations of earners to explore how management professionals can help them. Compared to the rapidly evolving FinTech sector, the speed of adoption of new technology in the Wealth industry is considerably pedestrian. Young earners are used to accessing services with hyper convenience on their preferred device at all hours. Management firms need to take a customer-centric approach to seamlessly offer clients what they need, when they need it.
Finance Monthly. 7 The Monthly Round-Up LLOYDS BANK PARTNERS WITH UBS TO BOOST SUPPORT FOR UK EXPORTERS Lloyds Bank has launched a new strategic trade partnership with UBS to expand its global reach, helping its UK-based clients to do business in 170 countries around the world. Through the agreement, Lloyds Bank clients can now access a 700-strong global network of banks and access to Export Letters of Credit. This further expands Lloyds Bank’s international reach and footprint while reducing clients’ risk of exporting goods to almost anywhere in the world. Using an export letter of credit can give businesses the confidence to release goods knowing that payment will be guaranteed, so long as the terms and conditions of the letter of credit are fully met. This route also presents funding options such as discounting, enabling businesses to receive payment early. Recent research from The Institute of Export and International Trade (IOE&IT) suggests that for firms that export, almost half (49%) of their revenue comes directly from export sales. The same study also suggested that the benefits are not just financial; four in five businesses say exporting has fuelled innovation (82%), increased their headcount (79%), inspired them to widen their product range (80%), and driven digital transformation in their business (81%). Mansour Davarian, Head of Trade & Working Capital Sales at Lloyds Bank, said: “Helping our customers to access new markets has never been more important. Global export volumes have been on a rollercoaster in recent years, with many UK-based businesses struggling to take advantage of lucrative opportunities overseas. “Our new partnership with UBS gives us the capability and reach to support clients exporting to more countries than ever before. It should also provide more evidence of the power of partner banking to help businesses overcome barriers to trade. We’re excited to continue growing our own network.” Markus R. Meyer, Head CIC Transaction Banking Products at UBS, added: “Our partnership with Lloyds Bank leverages our worldwide footprint and it is with great pleasure that we see them expand their partner network. Export Letters of Credit are a lynchpin of international trade and improving their provision is an important way for the global banking community to facilitate the economic benefits offered by exporting.”
8 Finance Monthly. The Monthly Round-Up INHERITANCE TAX RECEIPTS REACH £2 BILLION FROM APRIL TO JUNE, UP £0.2 BILLION YEAR-ON-YEAR Inheritance tax receipts hit £2 billion from April to June 2023, according to data released by HMRC today. This is £200 million higher than the same three-month period last tax year. Years of house price increases, soaring inflation, and tax freezes have pushed an increasing number of families that would not consider themselves to be wealthy above the threshold for inheritance tax. In 2019/20 inheritance tax bills average over £200,000 for those who paid them, and the total inheritance tax take has increased since then – totalling £7.866 billion last tax year. But with asset prices falling, many families could find they’re overpaid. If properties or shares were valued back in 2022, but are only now being sold, there’s a strong chance you’ll be selling them for the less than the value on which you paid inheritance tax. The good news is that there is a way to claim back the overpayment Nicholas Hyett, Investment Manager at Wealth Club said: “HMRC continues to see its inflows increase, monthafter-month and yearafter-year. But as house prices start to fall, we may see beneficiaries paying more inheritance tax than they really should. Fortunately, there are two forms that can help you to claw back any of that overpaid inheritance tax: The ‘Loss on sale relief’ - IHT25 form can be used to claim back on the sale of qualifying investments such as shares. Lengthy delays in processing probate are making it difficult for people to claim and there are calls for ministers to extend the 12-month claims window. The perhaps lesser known - IHT38 form, which was used by just 3,000 people last year, allows you to claim back money on the sale of a property or land, to ensure beneficiaries are paying tax on the actual sale price and not its valuation at the time of death. Beneficiaries have four years from the date of death and could potentially save tens of thousands on some larger estates, especially now house prices are falling. Rumours that the government might be considering scrapping inheritance tax altogether could eventually clear up the backlogs. But the reality is that in some circles, inheritance tax is already considered a voluntary tax, thanks in large part to government sponsored schemes designed to encourage investment into crucial parts of the UK economy. Those concerned about inheritance tax should also consider; Giving money away early. Gifts taken out of regular income, which are not deemed to affect the giver’s standard of living, are inheritance tax free on day one – as are certain smaller gifts. Timing is key as you can give unlimited amounts away but typically these take seven years to be completely inheritance tax free. Of course, once you give away the money you’ve lost control. If you need it back for an emergency, that’s not an option. Investing in companies that qualify for Business Property Relief. These are typically inheritance tax free after two years. Investing in unquoted businesses can be risky, however, unlike giving the money away, you retain control. Investing in an AIM ISA. ISAs are not inheritance tax free. When you pass away, your loved ones could miss out on 40% of your hard-earned cash. AIM ISAs are a popular way around this. They are riskier but after two years they could be IHT free.”
9 Finance Monthly. The Monthly Round-Up WORLD’S FIRST ISLAMIC FINTECH FOCUSED ON GIVING ACCESS TO GLOBAL PRIVATE FUNDS, COMPLETES ITS PRE-SEED FUNDING ROUND Digital investment platform Mnaara has completed a US$500,000 pre-seed round funded by investors from the UK, US, Middle East and Singapore. The round will enable Mnaara to grow its team and continue developing its Shariah-compliant investment solutions catering to the globally underserved mass-affluent market. Mnaara is the world’s first investment platform offering equitable access to Shariah-compliant global private markets funds through a complete digital experience. The funds follow strict Shariah screening guidelines which limit and control what are considered non-ethical activities in Islamic finance, such as gambling, tobacco, alcohol, and arms, in addition to generating income from interest. Financial guidelines are also followed with respect to using excessive leverage and financial derivatives. Saad Adada, founder and CEO of Mnaara, said: “This is a very exciting time for our business. We are creating a gateway that allows our clients to invest in top performing funds without compromising their values. Our platform democratises access to private markets that were previously only available to the select few, via a seamless digital journey accessible from anywhere in the world. “Our investment approach ensures that all investments are made in accordance with Islamic finance principles and guidelines. We’re on a mission to enable a community of Shariah-conscious investors by connecting them with the best investment opportunities globally. “Currently, those who want to diversify their investments, while maintaining a Shariah-compliant portfolio, have extremely limited options. We feel it is important that private markets are open to all, which is why we have created Mnaara.” PAYHAWK PARTNERS WITH YAPILY TO PROVIDE MORE CONVENIENT BANK ACCOUNT TOP-UPS ACROSS EUROPE AND UK Payhawk, the fast-growing spend management platform, which combines company cards, reimbursable expenses, and accounts payable in one solution, today announces it has partnered with open banking API, Yapily, to create a seamless and instant payment experience for finance teams when upgrading their Payhawk wallets. Through the benefits of open banking, Payhawk eliminates lengthy, manual payment processes that cause user friction and leads to unnecessary cash flow uncertainty for businesses. The integration with Yapily - rolled out in key markets for Payhawk including the UK, France, Spain, Portugal, and the Benelux - allows Payhawk to offer its customers the ability to link one or more bank accounts from over 2,000 banks and institutions from dozens of countries and lets users easily top up their debit accounts and repay credit accounts from a linked bank account.
10 Finance Monthly. The Monthly Round-Up NIESR WARNS 60% CHANCE OF RECESSION FOLLOWING 5 YEARS OF LOST ECONOMIC GROWTH Economic experts have warned of 5 years of lose economic growth and a 60 per cent change of a recession due to being unprepared for geo-political tensions and socio-economic circumstances, according to the National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR) A triple blow of Brexit, Covid and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is said to have badly affected the UK economy, increasing the gap between the prosperous and less well-off parts of the country as the spending power of many workers will likely remain below pre-pandemic levels until the end of 2024. As inflation currently sits at 7.9 per cent, the NIEST forecast suggests that it will continue to remain above the Bank of England’s 2 per cent target until early 2025 and this means that the cost of living will also continue to rise. For the poorest 10 per cent of the UK, an income boost of £4,000 a year would be needed to have the same living standards as they enjoyed in the year before Covid-19, while wages in London are expected to be 7 per cent higher by the end of next year than in 2019, regions such as the West Midlands they are forecast to be 5 per cent lower. Dr Yi Ding, Assistant Professor of Information Systems at the Gillmore Centre for Financial Technology, said: “The UK economy has taken a significant hit over recent years and it is no surprise that uncertainty remains, impacting areas such as FinTech investment and funding for academic research. The UK aims to cement itself as a leading global hub of innovation and place to do business but without a stable economy and access to investment, the research institutions, start-ups and SMEs that are vital to driving the UK economy will continue to fight an uphill battle. Promoting research and development despite turbulence is essential to unlocking new areas of economic growth through technology, ideas and the creation of highly skilled jobs.” Khalid Talukder, Co- Founder of DKK Partners addressed: “As we continue to ride the wave of uncertain economic times, business owners may feel concerned about the current outlook, however, we must remain confident and continue business as usual to support future economic growth. For the economy to grow, we need innovation. The UK has its sights set on Tech Superpower status and without SMEs supporting this mission, acting as key innovation drivers, it will not be possible.” “Businesses have faced tough times over the past few years however those who have remained robust can have confidence that better times are ahead. The government has been offering business support since the beginning of the year, more recently announcing the digital sandbox to support business innovation, supporting SMEs and promoting international relations, and as the UK fights for economic stability, businesses should continue operations as usual to support the growth of the economy.” Steven Mooney, CEO of FundMyPitch, added: “As turbulent economic times continue to flood the news
11 Finance Monthly. The Monthly Round-Up headlines, more must be done to support the lifeblood of our country, the small and medium-sized businesses that drive innovation and economic growth. The UK lacks financial support and funding towards smaller businesses and entrepreneurs looking to develop their ideas and grow.” “When you consider the fact that they not only support innovation, but they offer increased job opportunities, supporting the future stability of the country, the importance of support and investment is clear. While funding is needed, government support and initiatives must also continue to be provided and alongside investor interest, SMEs can receive the support they need to boost the nation’s economic growth.” Prof Stephen Millard, NIESR deputy director for macroeconomic modelling and forecasting, said: “The triple supply shocks of Brexit, Covid and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, together with the monetary tightening that has been necessary to bring inflation down, have badly affected the UK economy. “As a result, we expect stuttering growth over the next two years and GDP [gross domestic product] to only recover to its 2019 quarter four level in 2024 quarter three. The need to address the UK’s poor growth performance remains the key challenge facing policymakers as we approach the next election.” CLUB OF INVESTORS LED BY CBE CAPITAL INVESTS IN SIX SENSES, PORTO HELI, GREECE London-based real asset investment firm CBE Capital has led a club-deal investment into a new Six Senses resort and branded residences to be developed in Porto Heli on the Greek mainland. The EUR150m development is financed by a club of equity investors including the Greek Goutos family, the New York-based fund Taconic Capital (advised by Cedar Capital) and CBE Capital. The project is among the first institutional-level investments in the Greek hotel sector led out of the UK. Set to open in 2026, the Six Senses Porto Heli will offer around 60 rooms and suites, most with private plunge pools and private terraces or gardens, along with a three-bedroom retreat villa. In addition, there will be ten branded residential villas for sale, offering five to eight bedrooms. The property is located in two private bays in the elegant municipality of Ermioni, with the famous islands of Spetses and Hydra within its sight lines. Geza Toth Feher, Managing Partner of CBE Capital: “With increased uncertainty around interest rates and inflation in established markets, our focus on high-yielding opportunities in Italy and Greece is really paying off. We at CBE are immensely proud of this transaction which will add an exciting new chapter to the Peloponnesian region.” Six Senses Porto Heli is yet another addition to CBE’s involvements in luxury hotel acquisitions in Southern Europe. CBE has arranged deals valued over EUR1b including the recently opened La Palma Capri by Oetker Collection and the Corinthia Rome which is under development. Building on this strategy, CBE has appointed UBS to raise up to 400m EUR in additional equity from a small number of institutional investors for its growing pipeline of investments in ultraluxury resorts, hotels, and branded residences.
12 Finance Monthly. The Monthly Round-Up UNICARD ACQUIRES ECEBS DIGITAL TICKETING BUSINESS FROM VISA Unicard LTD, an established provider of Smart Ticketing and payment solutions to the public and commercial transport sector, today announced its acquisition of Smart Ticketing specialists Ecebs from Visa, in a market transaction that will enable Unicard to offer a more comprehensive range of solutions in the UK, and abroad. The move sees Unicard add contactless EMV to its extensive solutions portfolio, comprised of an industry leading Smart Ticketing platform, supporting both commercial and concessionary fare schemes, alongside its suite of ITSO, ABT (Account Based Ticketing), MaaS (Mobility-as-a-Service), and rail ticketing solutions. The contactless EMV solution, which allows passengers to tap in and out using a payment card, will be substantially accretive to Unicard’s capabilities. It enables the business to directly respond to needs of Local Authorities and transport operators, and puts it at the centre of the rapidly growing smart mobility sector. The comprehensive range of solutions caters directly to the deployment of multi-operator, multi-token, multi-modal services across trains, buses, e-Scooters and other forms of transport. The expansion will cement Unicard’s significant leadership position in the UK market for smartcard ticketing and concessionary travel. Unicard’s solutions have been adopted by over 70 Local and Regional Authorities in England and Scotland, including Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), Transport Scotland, Mersey Travel and Solent Transport, as well as the provision of central back office for Rail Delivery Group. Unicard can now add Transport for Wales and, significantly, Transport for London (TfL) to the list. Unicard aims to work with new customer Nottingham City Council to help support its Future Transport Zone (FTZ) ambitions, where the city council could benefit from Unicard’s experience with the rollout of MaaS for TfWM’s Swift travel scheme, and the MaaS and rail accreditation elements of Solent Transport’s Breeze travel App, in line with the respective FTZ programme aspirations. Sean Dickinson, CEO of Unicard, explained: “Acquiring Ecebs has strengthened Unicard’s position in the smart travel market, and significantly extends our capabilities and footprint. We’re committed to delivering accessible, inclusive and integrated ticketing solutions for both our new and existing customers, while also helping them deliver new, innovative smart travel schemes.” Sean added: “Our three guiding principles in approaching the acquisition were about selecting the right partner, ensuring continuity of business for ours, and their customers, whilst maintaining our reputation as a partner renowned for its market innovation, close working relationships and importantly, customer care. Unicard has a strong heritage in the industry, but it’s important for us to retain Ecebs’ expert knowledge and market insight to continue providing high quality products and services to all our customers and their passengers.” Russell Mccullagh, General Manager of Ecebs, commented: “Unicard is a well-respected business with shared interests and a similar culture. We’re confident that both companies’ customers can expect to see continuous innovation and the ongoing delivery of high-quality services, offering real flexibility and a superior experience for the travelling public.” Unicard has also signed a commercial agreement with Visa to use Cybersource, its global payments platform. This gives the company an opportunity to offer its services across international borders. However, its immediate focus remains expanding its footprint in the UK. Moving forward, customers will benefit from Unicard’s industry-leading secure ticketing, identity, payments and data management capabilities to both companies’ customers. These include its MaaS-ready ITSO HOPS suite, Smart Office cardholder and customer management solution, mobile apps, ITSO integration tools, and accredited Rail Suite middleware platform for retailing UK rail tickets. In addition, as a cloud-first provider, Unicard plans to migrate all of Ecebs’ on-premise infrastructure to the cloud to provide more scalable and, ultimately, more cost-effective services to its customers. Sean Dickinson, CEO of Unicard
FORWARDLANE LAUNCHES EMERGE – GENERATIVE AI PLATFORM TO SUPERCHARGE NEW GEN OF FINANCIAL SERVICES PROFESSIONALS ForwardLane, the provider of AI-powered intelligence solutions, announces today the launch of its new generative decision intelligence platform EMERGE to help solve many enterprise challenges such as data transparency, data privacy and data security issues within the wealth, asset management and insurance industries. Following conversations with C-Suite executives and Data & Analytics teams in financial services firms, it became clear to ForwardLane that the complexity of deploying private, secure, and accurate generative AI is a big challenge and a large drain on resources. EMERGE enables a new generation of professionals in advisory, distribution, sales, marketing, business intelligence, management, and product to harness the power of generative AI to easily find, create, preview, publish, and interact with entirely new and unknown insights – while remaining private, secure and accurate. This reduces reliance and demand on data science teams, while freeing them up to strategically scale D&A capabilities across the organization without the overhead of analytics aggregation, data processing, insight creation, Large Language Model fine-tuning, and last mile delivery of Insights and Next Best Actions. From an IT and Cybersecurity standpoint, the EMERGE platform resolves some of the biggest enterprise challenges today: it ensures private data remains private and does not get shared externally; provides transparency and explainability in how answers are arrived at; and produces a full audit log to ensure compliance with regulators. EMERGE combines the power of ForwardLane’s state-of-the-art composite AI - EMERGE-GPT - with Visual Insight Generator, a zero-code tool to easily create insights from data in natural language without the need for any LLM technical expertise. Together with ForwardLane’s Next Best Action platform, this enables the full circle of insight creation, orchestration, lastmile delivery, and usage feedback. Nathan Stevenson, Founder and CEO, ForwardLane said: “We have been leveraging AI since 2016 and have made significant investments in building an enterprise-grade Next Best Action platform for wealth, asset management and insurance. EMERGE is an applied Generative AI solution for financial services that brings together the best functionalities of ForwardLane’s ViGOR and privacy-friendly EMERGE-GPT. It gives financial services firms the ability to rapidly activate their existing data and data science investments and deliver insights to their frontline advisory and sales professionals.” Wealth, Asset Management and Financial Services Professionals can use EMERGE to: Prioritize clients, identify opportunities, and spot risks across their clients and prospects. Get read-outs of up-todate client intelligence and analytics with recommended Next Best Actions Receive Next Best Action recommendations that integrate via API with workflow links, such as personalized content pieces, marketing campaigns, and actions such as proposals, client engagement plans, and personalized communications. Transform daily workflow with the ability to read 100X faster, as well as summarize and interact with PDF, XLS, DOC and other files up to 25,000 pages on a secure, self-service basis to obtain key takeaways, action items, and insights to share with clients. Obtain buying behavior insights, advisor priority, and opportunity and risk scores with data fused from internal and external data including advisor intent data, CRM, marketing, advisor team buying data, and many broker-dealer data packs without violating enterprise data licensing terms, a boon for fund wholesalers. Enterprises can use the EMERGE platform on a white-label basis and it can be deployed on their preferred cloud platform or hosted by ForwardLane, ensuring full control and compliance with data licensing and transfer requirements. Designed to be transparent, flexible, easily deployable, and upgradeable and compliant with financial services regulations, the solution is currently in limited beta testing with premier partners, while interested parties can join the waitlist with wider availability coming in Q3’23. Finance Monthly. The Monthly Round-Up
Finance Monthly. The Monthly Round-Up 14 TINK AND AN POST EXPAND PARTNERSHIP TO MAKE FREE MONEY MANAGEMENT SERVICES AVAILABLE TO ALL Tink, the market leader in open banking, has announced the expansion of its existing partnership with Irish postal services provider An Post. Just 16 months since the initial partnership was announced, An Post’s free Money Manager smart budgeting tool is now available to everyone in Ireland, expanding access to the service beyond solely An Post Money customers. Using Tink’s open banking technology, the Money Manager smart budgeting tool securely links people’s current accounts and credit cards from all major banks in one place, giving them a deeper understanding and more holistic view of their financial behaviour over longer periods of time. Completely personalised, it allows users to better manage their savings and set budgets to stay on track with their financial goals. To facilitate this, spending and budget alerts show users when they are approaching their personally-set limits enabling them to adjust their spending accordingly. They also receive useful insights into things such as unusual transaction patterns and can categorise spending into different categories so that money can be mapped and tracked on an ongoing basis – helping to reduce financial surprises. BIBBY FINANCIAL SERVICES PROVIDES FUNDING FOR COMPARISON TECHNOLOGIES TO ENABLE MANAGEMENT BUYOUT Independent funder, Bibby Financial Services (BFS), has supported major telecommunications comparison company Comparison Technologies with a multi-million pound funding line, in order to facilitate a management buyout. Headquartered in Maidstone, Kent, Comparison Technologies is a leading independent comparison, switching and customer acquisition platform in the UK. It delivers 300,000 customers and over £250 million lifetime value annually to its industry-leading partners operating in the Pay TV, broadband and mobile markets. In July, the business required a new funding partner to enable a management buyout, and support its continued cashflow to allow subsequent growth - and was introduced to BFS’ Corporate team by Darren Miller and Bilal Hasan at FRP Corporate Finance. Led by Corporate Sales Manager Michael Reid, BFS provided a multi-million pound Invoice Discounting (ID) package. BFS was chosen as Comparison Technologies’ funding partner due to its understanding of the business’ requirements, and its ability to quickly offer a flexible facility structure. Peter Callander, CFO, Comparison Technologies said:”As we enter a new era of the business, it was crucial that we partnered with a funder that recognised our specific business needs and our vision for the future. The team at BFS have exceeded our expectations, and I am excited about what is ahead for Comparison Technologies with BFS at our side.” Darren Miller, Partner, FRP Corporate Finance added: “Comparison Technologies is comprised of a team of hardworking and dedicated professionals, evident in the management buyout that took place in order to take the business forward. We’re delighted to have advised the management team on its MBO, and to have facilitated this partnership with BFS, which proved it was the best fit due to its attitude, flexibility, and commitment to matching the business’s needs.“
Finance Monthly. The Monthly Round-Up Taxation Awards2023 FM WINNERS EDITION COMING SOON Click here or visit www.finance-monthly.com for more information Year upon year, the Finance Monthly Taxation Awards recognise and celebrate excellence across the increasingly diverse and dynamic tax industry – highlighting firms and individuals who work diligently to provide essential tax services. Monthly Finance
Most of the insolvencies we handle within Middlebrooks are those who have suffered at the hands of the pandemic, hospitality, and retail both online and shop front. Front Cover Feature 16 Finance Monthly.
Claire, thank you for joining us today. Please start by providing an overview of your background in insolvency and restructuring and how you became CEO of Middlebrooks. I started Middlebrooks in 2015. Previously I had been a partner in a top 50 accounting firm. I wanted to start my own boutique restructuring and insolvency firm that was at the centre of positive futures – and that’s the Vision at the centre of Middlebrooks. Following university, I immediately entered the accountancy profession in the restructuring team of the then Arther Anderson in Leeds, where I began my training as a Chartered Accountant. This was an exciting time in restructuring, and we were involved in many global restructurings, from logistics companies to photo printers and everything in between. The part of my work that I have always enjoyed was speaking to the directors individuals and helping provide them Claire Middlebrook stands out in the ever-evolving world of insolvency and restructuring with her hands-on experience and unique perspective. Having kickstarted her career with Arthur Anderson and eventually launching Middlebrooks, her trajectory speaks volumes about her expertise in the sector. As businesses grapple with financial challenges, Claire’s approach offers a mix of pragmatic solutions and a deep understanding of the landscape. In this discussion, we’ll unpack the latest trends, challenges, and solutions in the insolvency space, drawing from Claire’s extensive experience and the case studies she’s encountered over her career. Join us for a candid and informative conversation. A DEEP DIVE INTO INSOLVENCY AND RESTRUCTURING with Claire Middlebrook of Middlebrooks Insolvency Practitioners Finance Monthly. Front Cover Feature 17
with a pathway to their own positive future. This generated the Mission of Middlebrooks, to work in a profitable and enjoyable learning team environment, finding a tailored positive future for individuals or companies in times of financial distress. In 2005 I relocated from Leeds to my home county of Fife and have worked predominantly in the central belt of Scotland ever since. These experiences have allowed me to create a robust professional network up and down the UK and offer solutions across the four home nations. Middlebrooks Insolvency Practitioners offers a broad range of services, including Company Voluntary Arrangements (CVAs), liquidations, and pre-pack administrations, among others. What trends do you see regarding professional assistance needed, and why do you think this is? I have now worked in the insolvency and restructuring profession for 22 years, and of late, there is certainly a move towards the use of more formal restructuring processes. I believe that this is due to the more complicated needs of the companies that are coming forwards, but also that there is a greater awareness of what we in the restructuring industry can do. When companies are facing financial distress, it is often easier to avoid difficult conversations and look to ‘ostrich’. Unfortunately, this then limits options when a process is needed. The current trend of administrations and CVA’s is due to the early intervention of recovery professionals, and in most cases, these cases do provide better outcomes for all stakeholders – including saving jobs. The other trend currently is the use of CVLs. According to the Insolvency Service, the use of CVL’s (Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidation) in June 2023 was 21% higher than in June 2022. I believe that this trend is directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic and bounceback loans. Based on your experience, what are some common signs a business might be heading towards insolvency? It’s difficult to generalise the signs of impending insolvency as each case can be different. I have experienced a slow curve into an insolvency event based on declining market share/market conditions and a quick rush, often following a significant incident. For those companies facing a slow descent, the signs from the outside usually begin with communications slowing down and emails being unanswered when usually the company is communicative. A further sign is being passed between different layers of management with no real resolution, and this often doesn’t need to be solely concerned with money. A general downturn in service standards accompanies the slow descent into an insolvency event – it is likely that management-level staff will also begin to leave. Any significant incident can trigger an insolvency event – the key to working with these types of companies is open communication; ensuring that your central network of contacts feels able to share news can ensure that the incident doesn’t start a domino effect! COVID-19 has had a significant impact globally. Specifically in Scotland and, more broadly, the UK, how has the pandemic influenced the rate and nature of insolvencies? As I mentioned earlier, I am a significant supporter of what the government did during the unprecedented days of the pandemic. Regrettably, I also feel that the can was somewhat kicked down the road. It’s our role at Middlebrooks to sit with each company and work through the decision tree to ensure that the tailored solution is found. Front Cover Feature 18 Finance Monthly.
Prior to the pandemic, low-interest rates and a benign creditor landscape had allowed the much talked of ‘zombie company’ to continue. The pandemic offered a short reprieve for these companies. Most of the insolvencies we handle within Middlebrooks are those who have suffered at the hands of the pandemic, hospitality, and retail both online and shop front. We treat these people using the legislation under which we operate but also with the Middlebrooks ethos – it’s a difficult time, and we carefully explain all options to the individuals. That being said, there has been a rise in the number of insolvency cases where there is an element of fraud. Either theft by former directors or misuse of Bounce Back Loans. In those circumstances, we ensure that we can do what we can to gather those funds using the legislation to repatriate funds to the public purse. What options do businesses have when facing financial difficulties, mainly due to unforeseen circumstances such as the pandemic and, more recently, energy and global commodity prices, particularly as you have experience in agriculture and construction? Seeking early advice is by far the best way to maximise the best outcome. The key factor in what options are available is where the directors / Board are at in terms of a longer-term future. Some Board members I have worked with are at the end of their rope. Normally, I am called in after months of stress, and the directors are tired. In those circumstances, I and the Middlebrooks team work to correctly close the business and protect the directors in their fiduciary duties. In other circumstances where the directors and the Board are up for continuing if contacted at the right time, the range of options is more comprehensive and can be tailored to the circumstances. This can involve anything from informal arrangements with creditors for debt forgiveness to more statutory arrangements such as administrations or CVAs. Each of these options has its pros and cons, and it’s our role at Middlebrooks to sit with each company and work through the decision tree to ensure that the tailored solution is found. For example, a company that has prized contracts may benefit from a CVA, whereas the cessation of a limited company and sale to a third party through an administration process may prove the best option to save employee jobs. Could you describe a particularly challenging case you’ve handled where you were able to help a company successfully restructure? Over the years, I have had the privilege of working with many companies who have sought my advice at one of the difficult and often private times a company can face. In one instance, I worked with a London-based firm in the specialist Seeking early advice is by far the best way to maximise the best outcome. Finance Monthly. Front Cover Feature 19
construction industry. This firm was a generational family business with a turnover of circa £20MIL. As with many firms, the initial lockdowns were hard, and coupled with the ill health of the financial director, HMRC debts built up. In the initial consultation, the executive Board indicated they were tired and wished to give up. Over the course of the following several weeks, it was discovered that a younger director who didn’t have a full seat on the Board wished to step up. The course of the assignment changed from administration to negotiation with HMRC and the Bank, which had provided a significant Coronavirus Loan. It has been a great feeling to see those directors over the years and see them save the jobs of more than 200 people. How can companies prepare and guard themselves against potential insolvency, especially in an unpredictable business environment? The focus is knowing your business. In the ebb and flow of day-to-day trading, there can be lean months and fuller months. If this is the normal course of trading, then, whilst part of the stress of running a business, it is normal. As such, really knowing your business does help seek that early intervention, thereby giving you options. Many businesses will run with a budgeted cashflow, and my first piece of advice would be to ensure that your business has one if you don’t. That is the starting point. Once your cash flow has been created, you can then run scenarios on the cashflow. For example, what would happen if a major client stopped using your services? Are you too reliant on that one client? Does your business need to diversify? These types of questions can assist in determining whether advice needs to be sought from a restructuring professional. Given the topicality of the Bounce Back Loan scheme, what advice would you provide to a director who has taken a Bounce Back Loan for legal and legitimate purposes and cannot meet the repayment obligations? What options might they have to navigate this situation? Currently, in 8 out of 10 situations, the topic of a Bounce Back Loan does exist. At the risk of repeating, the Bounce Back Loan Scheme was, in my opinion, the right thing for the government to do at the time. However, it is also the right thing for the government to expect these loans to be ingathered for the public purse. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way in which the whole world works, and this has led to the markets for some businesses not being there anymore. Front Cover Feature 20 Finance Monthly.
It is true that the Bounce Back Loans were given with no personal guarantee. However, I have seen some financial institutions approach the directors of companies for repayment plans, even if the loans were used correctly. It is, of course, a personal choice as to what the director wishes to do in those circumstances, and we are not here to judge – the director could agree to take on the liability personally, but I would caution against a longterm payment plan as we have seen some significant interest rate rises which could affect that. HMRC will not allow a director to strike off a company if there is a Bounce Back Loan. As such, the director can seek advice from insolvency professionals. Based on individual circumstances, experienced insolvency professionals can guide the director through the best-tailored process for them and their business. This could include negotiating a payment plan if the company has a longer-term future or properly closing the company down, ensuring that the director does not incur any personal liability. One of the benefits of early interaction with an insolvency professional is the time for them to set out route maps based on the information that they can ingather – the more time, the better information, which can lead to sensitised cashflows and future market conditions being tested against business plans. It’s true that no one has a crystal ball, but making decisions based on research and information is the best way to progress and can assist in the tailored solution. How do you approach working with the stakeholders involved in an insolvency process, such as creditors, employees, and directors? Within an insolvency process, there are often multiple competing interests. However, there is often one common thread – it is a stressful experience. When called in by the directors, they are the first stakeholders we meet. Normally directors are experiencing extreme stress, and, in many cases, this does lead to physical illness. At the outset, the team are always in informationgathering mode. We have several standard documents that do need to be completed from a statutory perspective, and this forms the basis of how we can provide advice and develop a tailored strategy for the company. The main part of this stage is listening and understanding the journey that the directors and the company have been on up until that point. This narrative is then compared to formal accounts, and a full picture of the situation is formed. It is usual at this stage that we would uncover the priority issues, for example perishable items that we may need to deal with first from an asset perspective or indeed from a liability perspective those creditors who have gone further down the road of debt recovery. This then gives us a ‘to-do’ list in order. Irrespective of our priority todo list when called in, our team at Middlebrooks speak with any employees. An employee’s claim is complex and often needs multiple meetings and conversations to ingest the information, collate it, verify, and then send it to the government for processing. In our experience, early and often communication is vital for this group of stakeholders to reassure them. In addition, we work hand in hand with government agencies, such as PACE (Partnership Action for Continuing Employment), to get employees the information they need to make claims or seek new employment as swiftly as possible. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way in which the whole world works, and this has led to the markets for some businesses not being there anymore. Finance Monthly. Front Cover Feature 21
In any insolvency proceedings, once appointed, our role is to act on behalf of all creditors equally. To this end, there are several documents that are sent to the creditors, and whilst we require to set out the legislation, I have always been in favour of ‘tabloid style’ communication for creditors. In many cases, we face creditor apathy. This can sometimes lead to making our role difficult – as we act on behalf of creditors, we often need their input, but when faced with mountains of paperwork, I can understand why this may turn people off responding! In my experience, creditors are most interested in whether they will receive funds back from the process and when. Whilst it is right and proper that they be given lots of information to make decisions, they are also running their own businesses, and even institutional creditors don’t often get involved in the process. There have been significant changes to the legislation to ease the burden of screeds of correspondence to creditors – such as the use of portals which most IPs offer. However, to get the most out of the process for all, I believe that we could go further in this area. Can you share the steps a business should take once they realise they may face insolvency? The main area is to ensure you have limited your potential personal liability and to avoid the pitfalls, the following areas should be considered: 1. You are under a duty to preserve its assets and minimise its liabilities. 2. You must ensure that any action you take will not result in any creditors or members being preferred or given an advantage, in particular connected parties. 3. Further credit must not be taken for any goods or services. 4. You should not accept the delivery of goods already ordered which have not been paid for. 5. No assets should be disposed of, except to the extent necessary to meet essential costs and expenses, and you should take care not to allow any of the company’s creditors to obtain possession of assets pending investigation by a subsequently appointed liquidator. 6. You should not supply any goods or services on credit to existing or potential creditor. 7. Cash or cheques received by the company should be handed over to us for payment into a separate client’s account. 8. Any overdrawn bank account must not be used. 9. Adequate insurance coverage must be maintained. Please advise us immediately if insurance cover expires before the date of the meetings. 10. Company Credit cards should not be used by staff. 11. No payments should be made to existing creditors. 12. Goods should not be dispatched with carriers or hauliers who are owed money. Restructuring and insolvency professionals are well placed to have sensitive conversations surrounding your business – most offer an initial free meeting; in these circumstances, it is best to seek an early conversation to ensure that you protect your own personal position – don’t wait until five to midnight! and There have been significant changes to the legislation to ease the burden of screeds of correspondence to creditors – such as the use of portals which most IPs offer Creditors are most interested in whether they will receive funds back from the process and when. Front Cover Feature 22 Finance Monthly.