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The study, which looks at cash and cashless technology usage in four markets—the UK, Australia, Brazil, and South Africa—shows that a cashless society may not be a realistic ambition. In fact, the survey revealed an “immovable” 24% of consumers who will never abandon cash—no matter what technological advance or leap forward is available to them.

In Brazil and South Africa, where cash use is more common, there is a strong desire for wider acceptance of cashless technologies such as payment cards and digital wallets. In both markets, 60% say that they are worried about having cash stolen from them which suggests fear of theft is a key driver rather than convenience.

In the UK and Australia, however, where the use of cashless technologies is more widespread, people are happier with their use of cash. Around 80% of people in both markets say that they are comfortable using cash.

Respondents across all countries saw cash as part of their day-to-day lives. They carry cash at all times, replenishing their wallets and purses regularly at ATMs, and are unwilling to go that last extra mile and never use cash again.

The findings suggest that cashless technologies will not replace cash completely; instead people are happier with an equilibrium between the two.

“While the proliferation of cashless payment technologies has generally led to a reduction in cash usage across developed economies, banknotes have unique properties that consumers value, such as security against fraud,” said Michael Batley, Head of Strategy, Travelex. “As long as this is the case it’s unlikely that any attempts to abandon cash completely will succeed. Even Sweden’s bid to go cashless, touted as a successful model, has seen pushback. Ultimately, only consumer demand will drive the change towards a truly cashless society and our research indicates this is further away than many realise.”

As well as revealing a lack of appetite for a cashless society, the study also reveals that opinion is split on whether it is even possible. The UK, the most ‘cashless’ country surveyed, represented the highest proportion (47%) of respondents that do not see an end to cash, closely followed by Australia (42%).

Travelex commissioned Sapio Research to survey 1,000 consumers regarding their attitudes to cash and cashless technology across four markets: the UK, Australia, Brazil and South Africa. These four countries are at different points in the “journey towards cashlessness”, as defined by Mastercard’s Measuring progress toward a cashless society report, and together give a representative overview.

(Source: Travelex)

Following the autumn budget announcement yetrerday, Finance Monthly has heard the initial reactions from experts at top accountancy firm Crowe UK. From Corporate Finance to Small Businesses and IR35, there are tax implications for many…

Matteo Timpani, Corporate Finance partner:

Entrepreneur’s Relief (ER) remains an attractive, and essential, tax incentive that drives UK innovation and entrepreneurship. That said, it is disappointing to see amendments made to the relief which may impact the ability of certain individuals to benefit from it in the short term. There will be a number of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) transactions currently in progress which will likely be put on hold to ensure participants are able to qualify for Entrepreneur’s Relief in due course.

This change only emphasises the importance of business owners taking specialist advice, and being prepared, long in advance of the time they are considering succession and exiting their business. We await the specific details of when this change will be implemented but anyone who is considering selling their business in the next 12 months, and is unsure if they, their management team and/or other shareholders will qualify for ER, should seek advice now and consider immediately the implications of this change.

Tom Elliott, Head of Private Clients:

It is not surprising to see The Chancellor reaffirm the government's commitment to Entrepreneurs' Relief, albeit with tighter conditions (qualifying period doubled to two years). However, it might have been more effective if the minimum shareholding requirement was abolished altogether – this would incentivise all employee shareholders and not just the C-suite.

The changes to Capital Gains Tax (CGT) reliefs for the sale of main residences look like an attempt at modernisation. Lettings relief has changed so as not to apply to the AirBnB model - relief applies only for shared occupation. The shortening of the ‘period of absence’ from 18 to nine months for Principal Private Residence relief will need to be monitored closely, as any slowdown in the housing market (where it may take more than nine months to sell) may result in an overall reversal.

Rebecca Durrant, Private Clients partner:

It was pleasing to see the personal allowance and higher rate tax brackets raised a year early, but it will be interesting to see whether the Chancellor treats this as a ceiling. Rates could now be frozen for following years, which would turn the tax cut into a hike very quickly. In the mid to long-term, this may not protect the inflationary impact that a no deal Brexit may have.

Phil Smithyes, Managing Director, Crowe Financial Planning

The move to raise the personal tax allowance to £12,500 and raise the higher rate tax threshold to £50,000 from 6 April next year is a move that should be welcomed by most pensioners, making their pension savings go that much further.

Under the pensions ‘freedom and flexibility’ rules, individuals could take up to £16,666 each tax year from their pension fund before they begin paying income tax. This is achieved through a combination of 25% tax-free cash (£4,166) and the new £12,500 personal tax allowance. Careful planning will help pensioners money go that further and minimise their liabilities to tax in retirement.

Susan Ball, Head of Employers Advisory Services:

In April 2017, the government reformed the IR35 rules for engagements in the public sector and early indications are that this has resulted in an increase in compliance within the public sector. This will now be replicated for the private sector, but a reasonable implementation period is vital so the effective date of 2020, and the fact the rules will only be extended to large and medium sized private businesses, are both sensible steps. The Chancellor clearly took on board the feedback from the consultation process over the summer. Engagers should start planning now based on the experience of the public sector in order to have an effective procedure in place for the start date of April 2020.

Laurence Field, Corporate Tax partner:

The Chancellor's statement was made against a background of political uncertainty, mixed economic signals and an increasingly protectionist agenda from many of our trading partners. Tax is one of the most politically high profile things a government can do, and this was one of the most political budgets a Chancellor has had to deliver for decades.

The UK doesn't raise enough tax to keep providing public services at the current level, especially given the aging demographic. A tax system that raises more tax will need to be more efficient, perceived to be more fair and find new 'pockets' of wealth or bad behaviour that can be taxed without political risk.

An autumn budget also has the advantage of kicking the can down the road given that the majority of changes will only kick in from April next year if not later. However, this is the first glimpse we have of the type of post Brexit fiscal landscape the government wants to create.

The announcement of a potential digital services tax (DST) makes sense. Global companies need to be seen to be paying their 'fair share'. They don't have votes, so are an easy target. Playing tough with the digital services tax is politically attractive even if this causes conflicts with other tax jurisdictions. It is unlikely such measures will find much opposition in Parliament given the ground has been well prepared. How our trading partners (and particularly the US) react will be the real challenge. Retaliatory measures will not help the British economy. Therefore by outlining a timetable to introduce measures in 2020 he has provided cover for trying to get international agreement. Talking tough, but deferring action makes other parts of the Budget more palatable.

Elsewhere, plastics have found themselves in the environmental firing line and it was an easy, and politically popular decision, to try and find ways of taxing its use. Requiring more usage of recycled plastics is a way of stimulating that industry while being seen to be tough on pollution. The challenge with all sin taxes is that if they are too effective, the source of revenue will dry up. The damage that plastics can do is all too obvious, the Chancellor is no doubt sincere in his desire to reduce our use, but would no doubt be grateful if industry doesn't take action too quickly.

The Apprentice recently returned for a 14th series, as 16 entrepreneurs and impresarios battle it out to win a significant investment in their respective business ventures from Lord Alan Sugar.

Creditsafe analysed the key financial data of each contestant to identify which hopeful is the real winner when it comes to business success, with former ‘Young Entrepreneur of the Year’ and ‘Media Disrupter of the Year’ Jackie Fast coming out on top.

To rank the business acumen of this year’s Apprentice candidates, Creditsafe devised a scoring model that considered the profitability of companies they've worked at, their history as directors, a current ratio of their total business assets and current liabilities, their credit score, County Court Judgments against candidates and finally, their net worth.

Jackie started her first business, Slingshot Sponsorship, in her bedroom in 2010, with only a laptop and a budget of £2,000. Six years later the business had expanded into a number of international markets and boasted a client list that included Shell, Red Bull, Richard Branson and the Rolling Stones. She later sold the business in 2016 to the Marketing Group plc for millions, having grown the company’s net worth from £23,153 in 2013 to £243,239 in 2016.

Jackie also serves as a Non-Exec Board Director of the European Sponsorship Association, one of the youngest in the association’s 30-year history. Her latest business venture is REBEL Pi, a rare Canadian ice wine brand focused on the UK market. Now a public speaker and author, her first book ‘Pinpoint’ was published in 2017, exploring the effectiveness of sponsorship in driving business growth.

Creditsafe’s data also indicates that this year’s runner-up is Kayode Damali, a 26-year-old motivational speaker and former director of the National Union of Students (NUS), making him the only contestant to have worked in a business outside of the SME space. During his time at the NUS, Kayode was appointed as a director, with the organisation producing revenues in excess of £19 million.

David Walters, group data director at Creditsafe, said: “When compared to last year, it’s clear that the slate of contestants this time around have had significantly less board level experience prior to coming onto the show. It will be interesting to see whether experience really does pays off when the contestants battle it out to be crowned the winner of this year’s Apprentice.

“From our experience, the background and past success of business leaders is an important indicator of future success. Before entering into any partnership with a new company, it’s important to do due diligence on who you’ll be doing business with and how they have performed in the past. There’s no doubt Lord Sugar will be grilling the contestants and doing his own research to ensure he picks the right apprentice.”

(Source: Creditsafe)

New research reveals a UK technology market which has attracted the eye of US businesses and seen a huge increase in transactions, with acquisitions of UK technology companies up 386% in 2017 than there were in 2009).

Of the 247 UK companies to have exited into the US in 2017, almost a third (32.3%) of those were technology companies, followed by manufacturing, which has also seen an increasing interest from the US over the same period.

While technology has been one of the principle drivers of the UK M&A market in the mid-market, the results highlight there has also been a wider trend of increasing activity from US acquirers. Overall, the UK has seen the acquisition of companies below £1billion increase by 86% over the last decade (2009 to 2017), with sectors such as Business Services and Manufacturing having increased in the number of sales to US acquirers.

Commenting on the findings, Andy Hodgetts, Senior Corporate Finance Manager at Buzzacott said: “The UK’s technology landscape is changing dramatically and is far more active than it was just under a decade ago. Silicon Valley is no longer the sole proprietor for developing new innovations, the UK is a hotbed for talent, and in the US’ acquisitions of UK companies, they are gaining access to that talent pool.

Hodgetts continued: “There has been a lot of uncertainty around Brexit and what it means for the UK, which has left many businesses unsure as to when might be a good time for them to sell. What we are seeing however is that there are a number of opportunities and buyers out there, especially in the US. For UK companies that are planning on exiting, but have waited due to the uncertainty the UK faces, it is important to not just think about companies within the UK that might want to acquire the business, but explore internationally too as there are plenty of buyers available, whatever the sector.”


(Source: Buzzacott)

Last week it was announced that the UK has overtaken the US on fintech investment for the first half of 2018. Simon Wax, Partner at Buzzacott below looks at how companies must address and identify their sweet spot in the market to ensure long term success.

It’s terrific to see the UK is leading the way when it comes to fintech. Funding is at an all-time high and the UK should certainly feel proud of its ability to attract more investment into the sector than any other country.

To secure continued success for the UK’s fintech scene, it’s vital that these young companies are able to scale successfully, and to do this, they will need to overcome some challenges. Increased uncertainty around Brexit and how this will impact the UK’s access to the digital single market, the availability of skilled technical workers and even funding for R&D are all key risks for small businesses.

Scaling fintech companies need to focus their efforts on long-term success, not being the biggest money maker. The risk is companies may lose sight of what they originally set out to do, a trap in which young companies can easily fall into, when not careful. Leaders must take a methodical and responsible approach to fundraising, bring in investment which matches their aims, rather than taking the first offer of funds. There are many options out there such as UK R&D funding, through sources such as the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund or Innovate UK. Scaling fintech companies must address and identify their sweet spot in the market, and develop a business plan focused on which best suits their model. That way, scaling businesses can secure their success in the market, and grow in a way that is right for their business.

Cristiano Ronaldo may be out of the World Cup, but he certainly is not out of the headlines. With each passing year the football and financial worlds have become ever more entwined and the recent excitement around Ronaldo wearing Juventus colours has resulted in colossal movement in the markets. Below Carlo Alberto De Casa, Chief Analyst at ActivTrades, discusses the prospects and impacts of Ronald’s moves on the markets.

Juventus is one of three Italian team teams to be publicly listed on the stock exchange but as the biggest club in Italy by some distance, both in stature and in finance, it’s not unsurprising a move for the five-time Ballon D’or winner has caused a seismic shock.

The Old Lady of Turin has won the last 7 Serie A title in a row but has been missing the Champions League from its collection since 1996. Having lost 5 finals in the biggest European competition for clubs between 1997 and 2017, this is seen as a move to undo this spell.

On Monday evening speculation began that Ronaldo could be on his way to Italy. Juventus were trading at about 66 cents per share then. In just 3 days of trading the value of the shares jumped to a peak of 0.81, a new 5-month-high. Given that the club has more than 1 bn shares, the total capitalization of Juventus jumped by around €150 million.

On Friday, Juventus shares jumped further to 0.90, adding another 90 million of market cap and reaching a 16-month high, on levels seen last time when Juventus reached the final of Champions League in 2017.

Only 34% of the club is listed on the stock exchange however, and another significant increase of the value of the club was reported by Exor, the holding of FCA (formerly known as car manufacturer FIAT), who control the remaining 63.7%. Exor now says it is seeing a theoretical increase of their assets by around €400 million.

It’s also thought that FIAT will play a crucial part in this deal, paying a part of Ronaldo’s salary and using him as a testimonial for their cars. The exponential jump in the volume of shares is also staggering with around 15 million of shares traded yesterday and over 38 million by Thursday.

Of course, it might all be a risky investment. With shares that could continue their rally but could also quickly turn in the opposite direction if the “affaire Ronaldo” is not going to become reality. The market movement however is certainly helping to shift the balance of the company even if we are not talking in real cash money.

But what does this all mean?

Juventus will be hoping to make a large amount of money from this operation and the markets also believe that this could be excellent from a financial point of view, despite its huge costs. Once you account for marketing, the receipts from shirt sales and ticket prices in the stadium (prices for tickets at the Juventus stadium just went up by around 25-30%) its clear to see how with a little help from the markets, a transfer of this magnitude can begin to pay for itself. Pundits often discuss how much clubs are paying for players – but often forget to discuss how much a club can claw back in return.

Juventus mught need upwards of €200m to complete a deal for Ronaldo over four years. They are willing to pay him €30 million a year but once taxes are factored in it could be higher at maybe €55million. A four-year contract including his transfer fee of €100 million could therefore take this to an astronomical amount. The questions is – how much will Juventus actually end up paying?

Figure 1: The Juventus share price since speculation began.


Although the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive II (MiFID II) was implemented at the start of the year, work for the financial services industry to comply with this new regulation is far from over. Still remaining are a number of uncertainties, with multiple milestones and deadlines for specific requirements set throughout 2018 and beyond.

Hailed as one of the biggest overhauls of the financial services industry in decades, MiFID II introduced 1.4m paragraphs of rules and a number of new obligations for firms operating in the sector. These included new and extended transparency requirements, new rules on payments for research, increased competition in trading and clearing markets and guidelines to promote financial stability. With many of these rules being delayed or their introduction staggered over the course of the year, there is still a challenging path for the industry to navigate.

Below, Matt Smith, CEO of compliance tech and data analytics firm SteelEye, explains for Finance Monthly the key steps financial organisations should take over the course of the year to ensure they are meeting MiFID II’s demands.

Q2 2018: Best execution under RTS27 and 28

MiFID II has two major “best execution” requirements which must be met by financial services firms – regulatory standards RTS27 and 28. As part of their obligations, RTS28 mandates that firms report their top five venues for all trading. With a deadline of April 30, the purpose of RTS 28 is to enable the investing public to evaluate the quality of a firm’s execution practices. Firms are required to make an annual disclosure detailing their order routing practices for clients across all asset classes.

Obligations include extracting relevant trade data, categorising customers and trading activity, formatting the data correctly in human and machine readable formats, adding analytical statements and placing all of this information in a publicly available domain.

Limiting disclosure to five trading venues makes complying with these obligations relatively simple for small firms with straightforward trading processes. As a firm’s activity increases in complexity, however, so does its reporting obligation and managing RTS28’s data component could become a significant burden, as compliance departments spend time classifying trades, normalising data, formatting reports and completing administrative tasks.

RTS28 is followed soon after by RTS27, which will hit the industry on June 30. RTS27 requires trading venues to provide quarterly best execution reports, free of charge and downloadable in machine readable format, and is intended to help investment firms decide which venues are most competitive to trade on. All companies that make markets in all reportable asset classes that periodically publish data relating to the quality of execution will be required to comply with RTS27.

The necessary publication of these reports requires the gathering and analysis of a significant quantity of data, which must detail price, costs, speed and likelihood of execution for individual financial instruments. Investing in the right technology ahead of the June deadline will ensure firms have the solutions needed to help digest such data and analyse it to inform their trading decisions. As we move through 2018 and 2019 however, analysis of this data, rather than being an additional burden, should help firms refine their best execution processes and generate a competitive business edge.

Q3 2018: Increasing transparency under Systematic Internalisers

One of MiFID II’s main aims was increasing transparency in the financial services industry in an attempt to avoid repetition of the 2007-2008 financial crash. In order to do this, a number of new rules attempting to regulate ‘dark pool’ trading were implemented, allowing regulators to police them more effectively and bring trading onto regulated platforms.

This system of increased transparency is designed to be effected through MiFID II’s new expanded Systematic Internaliser (SI) regime, the purpose of which is capturing over-the-counter trading activity to increase the integrity and fairness of industry trading and reduce off-the-book trades. For a firm to become an SI, they must trade on their own account on a ‘frequent and systematic basis’ when executing client orders. However, it is currently unclear what precisely ‘frequent and systematic’ means and as a result, many in the industry have been left without the necessary guidance to be able to implement these new rules correctly.

In August 2018, ESMA is set to publish information on the total number and volumes of transactions executed in the EU from January to June 2018. Any firm that has opted in under the regime or that meets the pre-set limits for ‘frequent and systematic’ basis will thereafter be classified as an SI under MiFID II.

The deadline for SI declaration follows shortly afterwards in September, which is when investment firms must undertake their first assessment and, where appropriate, comply with the SI obligations, which will become a quarterly obligation from then on.

Firms’ reporting obligations will increase considerably should they be classed as an SI. They will be required to notify their national competent authority; make public quotes to clients on request for their financial instrument; publish instrument reference data, post-trade data, and information on execution quality; and disclose quotes on request in illiquid markets. Adopting an effective pre- and post- trade transparency solution can help any firm set to be classified as an SI in September meet their obligations well ahead of the deadline in four months’ time.

Q4 2018: The impact of the pricing of research

Another major change under MiFID II is the regulation’s new rules on payment for research, which had previously been distributed to fund managers, effectively free of charge, but paid for indirectly through trading commissions. The provision of equity research is now considered to be an inducement to trade and the sell-side is only able to distribute their research to fund managers that pay for it. Moreover, an extra burden of red tape and reporting is being introduced as, by the end of 2018, investment firms must have provided clients with detailed information related to the costs and associated charges of providing investment services.

Research has effectively moved from an unpriced to a priced model and fund managers are now having to find a budget for research, with most firms electing to absorb that cost, which will inevitably impact their bottom line. The sell-side meanwhile will have to grapple with how to price their research, an unenviable task, given JPMorgan’s strategy to grab market share from smaller rivals by charging $10,000 for entry-level equity research.

Even before the aggressive pricing strategy adopted by the investment banking behemoth, the sell-side was facing consolidation and significant analyst job losses as the shrinkage of overall payments for research services to investment banks continues and asset managers become increasingly selective about the products and services they procure from investment banks. What is already certain is that the pricing and quality of investment research will be subject to closer scrutiny than ever before, driving up competition among research providers and triggering fragmentation and innovation in the marketplace.

Q1-2 2019: The UK’s departure from the European Union

While the FCA has stated that Brexit – at least currently – will not have an impact on their enforcement of MiFID II rules, the UK’s departure from the EU still leaves considerable uncertainty for those in the market. One recent survey found that 14% of surveyed compliance professionals had no idea how Brexit would affect their compliance requirements.[1] There is speculation that the UK could opt for ‘MiFID II-lite’ in all or some areas in order to better align it with the UK’s financial markets. This could mean that, while the industry must comply with MiFID II for this next year, after April 2019 a whole host of new rules and amendments could come into force.

As one of the core architects of the MiFID II rules, including many of its record-keeping and reporting principles, the FCA is unlikely to favour watered-down standards that could see London regarded as a less safe or transparent marketplace. However, with so much still up in the air, preparations should be made in order to ensure a swift transition once Brexit comes into force.

The strength of the UK’s regtech and fintech offering means the City should be well-placed to adapt to whatever shape MiFID II takes post-Brexit. To help prepare, strategy teams should work on plans for various post-Brexit scenarios in order to help weather the challenges that the UK’s EU departure will bring. UK players will undoubtedly emphasise their strengths in financial talent, product development, AI, fintech and regtech, helping the UK retain its leading position in the European financial market.


Contactless and online banking have pulled cash out of the pockets of most people, and while there are those that believe cash will always be a vital part of the international economy, there are some parts of the world that are borderline cashless. Below Shane Leahy, CEO of Tola Mobile, elves into the possibilities of cashless countries around the world.

With more digital payment options now readily available to consumers than ever before, the depreciation in use of traditional forms of payment, such as bank notes and the humble coin, has been inevitable. When we would once delve into our pockets for some cash, consumers today are now increasingly reaching for their mobile devices to complete purchases quickly and conveniently.

The rise of mobile payments technology over the last few years has played a particularly huge hand in enabling both merchants and customers worldwide to facilitate more cashless transactions. With the global mobile payment transaction market forecast to reach US$2.89 trillion in revenue by 2020, the rapid uptake of mobile-centric methods and the resulting shift towards a more cashless consumer culture is showing no signs of slowing.

Yet, not only have these technologies made fast digital payments accessible for smartphone owners in the more technologically advanced areas of the world; it has also empowered consumers in many emerging markets around the world to undertake instant and secure payments through their mobiles, without the need for physical cash or a registered bank accounts. In fact, it is these same developing regions in which we are now seeing the most widespread and advanced adoptions of mobile payment solutions, which are rapidly eliminating cash as a dominant form of payment amongst consumers within these markets.

One particular area of the world in which cashless payments have broken down many of the previous barriers to entry for both merchants and consumers is Sub-Saharan Africa. It has been demonstrating a rapid mass-market adoption of mobile money services of late and has so far outstripped the rest of the world in terms of its approach to cashless payments. So much so that it now accounts for more than half of the total 277 mobile money deployments worldwide.

One of the biggest driving forces behind this development has been mPesa, the mobile phone based money transfer service which now boasts over 30 million subscribers across various African countries, including Kenya, Congo, Tanzania, Mozambique and Ghana. Unlike apps such as Paypal and NFC-based mobile enabled credit card methods like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay which have been gaining traction in Western regions, the sheer simplicity of the technology required to conduct cashless payments across Africa has contributed to its growing uptake of mobile money options.

In contrast to these methods, which require users to invest in a modern and more expensive smartphones to utilise the technology, mobile money transactions across Africa can be carried out using the most basic handset and without needing an internet or data connection. By leveraging a low-level service menu provided on every GSM phone, this technology is widely accessible and therefore able to support the region’s current technological infrastructure.

What’s more, services such as Apple Pay and Paypal still also require users to link a bank account in order to complete mobile payments, making these methods largely inaccessible for the millions of unbanked consumers in developing regions. These factors also have an impact on merchants as they will have to pay more to process transactions conducted through a linked bank account, than they would if it was made directly through a physical credit or debit card.

With this and the growing preference towards cashless payment methods globally combined, it is unsurprising that the rate at which Sub-Saharan Africa is adopting mobile money is much faster than that of any other region. At the end of 2016, there were over 500m registered mobile money accounts in the region alone, a figure which has undoubtedly now significantly increased.

The establishment of mobile money across Sub-Saharan Africa is now giving much of its previously unbanked population unprecedented levels of financial inclusion and freedom to make purchases anywhere, at any time, a move which has undoubtedly played a significant role in the growth of cashless transactions and gradual decline in other payment methods. What’s more, these services have significantly reduced the concerns over carrying physical cash for consumers within these countries and have replaced them with a simple and secure means for them to instantly access funds and pay for goods and services.

Not only has this rise in mobile money use facilitated an increase in consumer empowerment; it has also paved way for merchants who have previously combatted against the region’s developing infrastructure, in which periods of downtime and network outages cause huge disruption and can often lead to lost funds when payments are made via credit cards. By ensuring a seamless and instant digital transfer of funds from customers to the merchants, the appeal of cashless options has increased dramatically, providing merchants with more business continuity and offering these countries an opportunity to drive economic growth.

While there is still some way to go before cash is rendered expendable globally, there are various countries Sub-Saharan Africa, such as Kenya and Tanzania which are currently leading the way in terms of changing consumer behaviour and quickly adopting a cashless approach. For now, cash still remains king across most Western and other countries. However, as consumers continue to seek convenience and security, it is certain that we will see a growing shift towards digital payment methods and a continued demise of physical cash worldwide.

Thousands of tax refund claims have been made within the first few weeks of the new tax year, according to research conducted by Rift Tax Refunds.

The tax refunds specialist has analysed their own company data to discover thousands of Brits are claiming back what the tax man owes them.

With the rising cost of food bills, travel costs and other essential expenses, it is becoming more expensive to get to work each year, yet HMRC finds itself sitting on millions of pounds in unpaid tax refunds for expenses year on year.

However, the latest research by Rift Tax Refunds’ shows that Brit’s are becoming tax savvy to ensure they claim back what they are owed.

Despite only a few weeks into the new financial year, Rift Tax Refund’s company data revealed that over 5,000 claims have been filed already, with the value of tax claims totalling over a staggering £3.5 million.

Due to the rise in living and travel costs, Rift Tax Refunds have seen the value of an average 4-year claim rise 20% to £3,023.56 over the past few years. Similarly, the HMRC have noted a 25% increase in expenses claims since the 2014/15 tax year.

Bradley Post, Managing Director at Rift Tax Refunds comments: “‘We’re delighted that thousands of people have already come to RIFT for help with their tax refunds this year.

“While the number of claims made this year is based on Rift Tax Refund data, due to the rise in living and travel expenses we can assume that our statistics are reflected industry-wide.

“As the HMRC sit on millions of pounds in unpaid tax refunds, it is important for those who are eligible to claim to keep their receipts well documented to ensure they are able to claim back everything they are owed.”

(Source: Rift Tax Refunds)

China has been beating its currently forecast growth rate. According to official data, China's economy grew at an annual pace of 6.8% in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period in 2017.

Over the past year China has seen national economic growth that is unparalleled and unprecedented worldwide. This week Finance Monthly set out to hear Your Thoughts on the following: Is China's economic growth rate on the rise? How resilient can Chinese business maintain current growth? Will consumer demand continue to fuel its growth spurt?

Olivier Desbarres, Managing Director, 4xGlobal Research:

With mounting concerns about the impact of potential protectionist measures on global trade and growth there has been much focus on GDP data releases for the first quarter of the year. China accounted for nearly 30% of world growth last year so Q1 numbers had top billing even if doubts remain as to the reliability of Chinese GDP data.

Chinese GDP growth remained stable in Q1 2018 at 6.8% year-on-year, in line with growth in the previous 10-quarters but marginally higher than analysts’ consensus forecasts and quite a bit faster than the government’s 6.5% target for the full-year of 2018.

The stability of Chinese growth has done little to alleviate concerns that this pace of growth may not be sustainable, given the changes in the underlying driver of growth, or even advisable going forward.

In recent years, aggressive bank lending to households, companies and local government has funded rapid investment growth, including in large infrastructural projects and the property market, and driven overall Chinese growth. Property development investment growth continues to rise at above 10% yoy.

This has led to a sharp rise in public and private sector debt as well as environmental pollution. The government has responded with a raft of measures, including a crackdown on the shadow banking sector, a tightening of real estate companies’ access to credit, a tightening of the approval of local infrastructure projects and pollution controls. These measures may in the medium-term help reduce or at least stabilise debt levels, channel funds to a manufacturing sector which has seen a rapid growth slowdown (to around 6% yoy) and reduce environmental damage. Property sales growth, a leading indicator of property investment, has indeed slowed to around 3.5% yoy.

However, near-term there are concerns that these deleveraging and environmental measures could put pressure on Chinese growth at a time when net trade’s contribution to overall Chinese growth is potentially under threat. For starters, the structural shift in China has seen buoyant consumer demand and imports curb the trade surplus. Moreover, if the war of words between the US and China over import tariffs escalates into a full-blown war China’s trade surplus could erode further and household consumption run into headwinds.

The transition from one economic model to another is challenging for any government and China’s leadership has so far avoided a potentially destabilising rapid fall in GDP growth. The increasing focus on high valued-added exports, consumption and broader quality of life indicators is unlikely to go in reverse. However, this transition may not always been smooth as policy-makers deal with the overhang from years of excessive lending and investment. This could well result in slower yet more balanced and sustainable economic growth in coming years.

David Shepherd, Visiting professor in Global Macroeconomics, Imperial College Business School:

Recent figures for Chinese GDP growth suggest the economy is expanding roughly in line with Government targets, with growth at 6.85% compared to the stated 6.5% target. Moving forward, the question is whether this kind of rate can be sustained or whether we can expect to see lower or perhaps even higher growth over the coming months and years?

The outstanding growth performance of the Chinese economy over the last 20 years stems from a successful programme of industrialisation based on market reforms, capital investment and a drive for higher exports. But that was in the past, and it is unlikely that these factors alone can be relied upon to sustain future growth, partly because of a change in the political environment in the United States, which has become increasingly antagonistic towards the Chinese trade surplus, but mainly because of purely economic factors related to high market penetration and the rise of competing low-cost producers in Asia and elsewhere. While exports and capital investment will always be important for China, if further high growth is to be sustained it will have to come either from higher domestic consumption or increased government spending.

The share of government spending in the Chinese economy is currently only 14% of GDP and the Chinese economy would undoubtedly benefit greatly from increased expenditure on health, education and other public services. While this could in principle be a significant engine for growth, in practice there are significant constraints on the ability and willingness of the government to finance increased spending, not least because of an already high fiscal deficit. The implication is that if high growth is to be sustained in the future it will almost certainly require a move towards higher consumption.

In contrast to the United States and the United Kingdom, where consumption has increased significantly over the last 20 years and now accounts for almost 70% of GDP, in China consumption spending has if anything been falling and currently accounts for only 40% of GDP. For the US and the UK, consumption is arguably too high and both economies would benefit from lower consumption and increased capital investment and exports.

In China, the opposite re-balancing is required, and the relevant consideration is how a sustainable increase in domestic consumption can be achieved. Consumption typically rises when real wages rise and when households choose to save less, but in China, saving rates are high and the share of labour income in national income has been falling. The challenge for policy makers is to find the best way to change these conditions, to reduce saving and boost wages at the expense of profits and other business incomes, all in a context of considerable uncertainty about the economic environment. It is now almost nine years since the current economic expansion began and, if history is any guide, the next recession is not too far down the road. But how that would affect China’s growth performance is another story!

Alastair Johnson, CEO and Founder, Nuggets:

Napoleon once referred to China as the ‘sleeping giant’. It’s looking, certainly in terms of its economy, like the giant is finally rearing its head. China’s unprecedented and unparallelled growth in the e-commerce sector trumps that of other nations, boasting a 35% rise in the past year (with a market twice the size of that of the rest of the world).

There is a great deal of focus, not only in online retail commerce in and of itself, but in the bridges built to link it to peripheral services. China dominates the O2O (online-to-offline) model, strengthening the connection between strictly digital commerce and brick-and-mortar merchants. Instead of displacing traditional commerce, the nation’s retail industry is instead evolving by combining physical stores with increasingly innovative online solutions.

Development of applications such as WeChat and Alipay have lead to a seamless user experience, whereby individuals can simply access stores and make purchases from within the app. It integrates with some of the biggest players in ecommerce, including the behemoths that are Alibaba, and ULE.

Worth considering on the telecommunications front is China’s plan to bootstrap a new network for 5G (versus simply building atop existing ones). Given that 80% of online purchases are done on mobile (versus under half in the rest of the world), this development will only serve to further strengthen the connection between mobile devices and e-commerce.

It’s hard to see the trend dying down anytime soon. Businesses appear to have grasped the importance of user experience, and identified the lifeblood of the industry: consumer demand. New wealth in the nation is fuelling purchasing power. To maintain this hugely successful uptrend, companies in the sector should continue to foster an ecosystem of interconnectivity, both with retailers and tech companies. Smartphone manufacturers anticipate that their growth in 2018 will be slow in China, due to saturation and slow upgrade cycles. Brands will need to look to Western markets for continued development.

Jehan Chu, Chief Strategy Officer, Caspian:

China's rise is not only measured by its achievements, but also by its insatiable appetite to develop new industries. Despite the ban on ICO's and cryptocurrency exchange trading in China, there has been a surge in interest and development in Blockchain technology - the underlying rails of crypto.

From new startups like Nervos (blockchain protocol) and veterans like Neo (US$5bil coin market cap tech) to institutions like Tencent (Blockchain as a Service) and Ping An (internal infrastructure projects), China is leading the world in developing efficient solutions using Blockchain technology. In addition, increased restrictions inside of China have spurred ambitious Chinese developers and entrepreneurs to decamp to crypto-friendly cities like Singapore and San Francisco, creating expert and cultural diaspora networks that span the globe but lead back to China.

Looking forward, it is clear that the sheer volume of engineering talent combined with its seamless adoption and endless ambition to build the new Internet on top of blockchain will keep China at the forefront of technology for decades to come.

We would also love to hear more of Your Thoughts on this, so feel free to comment below and tell us what you think!

As a society, we cherish our right to privacy probably more than anything else. Sharing is great, and we all enjoy it, but there is always that other side, the untold story, the personal, the secret. Now, let’s extrapolate this to a societal level. How many information is out there, purposely being concealed for the sake of greater good, for the sake of our own safety? The number is probably unfathomable. Today, when everything is online, and our lives are intertwined with a world most of us know nothing about, privacy and safety become an issue of epic proportions.

That is why we need to talk about cybercrime and utilize the very best VPNs . However, instead of writing a tract of tedious length, here is an infographic that outlines the most important cybercrime facts all of us should be aware of in 2018.

www.Zagg.Com/Register for Zagg customers

(Source: BestVPNs)

Investors on the Assetz Capital platform are expecting to feel a negative impact from the UK’s economic situation in the next three months, despite the government lauding growth of 0.8% in Q4 2017.

The peer-to-peer lending platform canvassed the views of its investors in the Q1 Assetz Capital Investor Barometer. Asked how the economic situation would impact their lives in the next three months, only 13% said it would have a positive impact. 51% expected no impact, but 36% thought it would have a negative impact.

When asked how the economy had affected them in the three months prior, investors were again gloomy, with only 15% saying they have felt a positive impact. 60% said it had no impact, while 25% reported a negative impact.

Stuart Law, CEO at Assetz Capital said: “In contrast to the positive outlook which is expected to be announced in the Spring Statement, there doesn’t appear to be a great deal of optimism about the economy at the moment, with a growing number of our investors anticipating a negative impact in the next quarter. As Brexit creeps closer and the reality of a no-deal outcome seems more likely, uncertainty about the future of the economy seems to have taken its toll.

“Interest rates remain low while inflation remains relatively high, so many people are effectively losing money each day. It is no surprise, therefore, that alternative financial investments are continuing to gain traction, as people become willing to take on a little more risk – as with any investment – in order to see potentially fairer returns.”

(Source: Assetz Capital Investor Barometer)

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