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Zac Cohen, General Manager at Trulioo, discusses the key considerations for businesses before engaging in commerce in high-risk countries.

Doing business internationally is a complicated undertaking. Aside from the standard logistical challenges associated with doing business globally, organisations have to factor in considerations specific to different regions and countries. These considerations may include factors such as legislative, political, currency and transparency challenges.

Nevertheless, globalisation is storming ahead and businesses must be prepared to look beyond their domestic surroundings if they are to remain competitive in our global marketplace. International trade secretary Liam Fox has endorsed a move for UK-based businesses to adopt a more international focus, highlighting the importance of global competitiveness. Consequently, UK businesses are feeling the pressure to ramp up their efforts to target a more international consumer base. As if this wasn’t enough for international businesses and investors to grapple with, further complications and difficulties are liable to arise when doing business with “high risk” countries.

  1. Fraud and Corruption

A recent study by the World Bank estimated that an extra 10 per cent is added to the cost of doing business internationally as a direct result of bribery and corruption.1 Considering the immense amount of international trade, this figure is significant. The danger of doing business with countries considered to be “high risk” – defined by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) as any country with weak measures to combat money laundering and terrorist financing – is the heightened potential of inviting transactions that are either fraudulent or otherwise corrupt.1 The following considerations should be carefully observed before entering into any commercial dealings with a country considered to be high-risk.

  1. Enhanced Due Diligence

As a result of the 4th Anti Money Laundering (AMLD4) directive, developed by the European Union, businesses have to adopt a risk-based outlook. The AMLD4 specifies that EU-based businesses must collect relevant official documents directly from official sources like government registers and public documents, rather than from the organisation in question. If a potential trading partner is located in a high-risk country, or serves an industry that has a higher than normal risk of money laundering, then that partner must conduct Enhanced Due Diligence (EDD) on the business entity. This Enhanced Due Diligence process involves additional searches that must be carried out by any firm seeking to do business with this kind of organisation. These searches may include parameters such as the location of the organisation, the purpose of the transaction, the payment method and the expected origin of the payment.

  1. Ultimate Beneficial Owners

AMLD4 also outlines the need to discover the ultimate beneficial owner of a business, whether they are customers, partners, suppliers or connected to you in another business relationship.

According to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF),

Beneficial owner refers to the natural person(s) who ultimately owns or controls a customer and/or the natural person on whose behalf a transaction is being conducted. It also includes those persons who exercise ultimate effective control over a legal person or arrangement.

This is important as businesses need to understand who they are dealing with when physical verification is not a practical option. Difficulties could arise when verifying UBOs in high-risk countries as some national jurisdictions impose secrecy policies which block access to verification documentation. This problem is compounded when checking UBOs against international sanction and watch lists as there are more than 200 lists, which vary in scale and uniformity.

  1. Virtual Identification

However, verification can still be successful. Many are now turning to software that helps businesses to perform the necessary diligence checks. We gave a lot of consideration to the specific complexities of working with high-risk countries when developing our Global Gateway platform. Programmes such as these are designed to allow companies to perform the Enhanced Due Diligence, Know Your Business and Know your Customer checks that are required when doing business internationally, particularly with high-risk countries. Compliance with the various pieces of legislation on this topic should be at the forefront when implementing the necessary verification checks.

Across the world, markets are becoming increasingly more open, paving the way to a truly global economy. If companies can get to grips with the key due diligence requirements, this is a move that will ultimately benefit the global consumer and customers alike.

The top 5 biggest real estate companies in the world. We take a look at the top 5 biggest real estate companies in the world, and compare figures such as profit, sales, market value and assets.

Below Rebecca O’Keeffe, Head of Investment at interactive investor, comments on the latest global market updates offering insight into the recent Ryanair strike debacle and Brexit progress.

Global markets continue their malaise, as trade tensions weigh on sentiment amid fears that global growth will slow. With no major catalysts to drive the market higher, the risks are on the downside and the danger is that equity markets will drift lower. Earnings will allow individual stocks or even sectors to out or underperform, but the broader indices are likely to find it more difficult to gain traction.

What a difference a week makes. Just last week, Theresa May appeared to have come up with a revised vision of Brexit that offered a middle ground and might have delivered a softer Brexit. However, resignations, rebellions, concessions and amendments now mean that it is difficult to be sure what the UK’s position actually is.  With May’s government somewhere between a hard Brexit and no deal, it will be very difficult for Europe to sign off on any deal based on the current UK confusion. The summer recess may provide some respite, but as the weeks ticks by the prospect of no deal is rising rapidly and the impact on sterling could become more severe than it already is, and international companies may once again begin to rachet up the rhetoric regarding the very real risks of a bad deal.

Ryanair are suffering multiple threats, all of which are weighing on the bottom line. Sustained higher oil prices, air traffic control strikes in Europe, bigger wage costs and increased competition are all problems for the low-cost airline. Ryanair has historically been reasonably good at hedging their oil exposure, but prolonged higher prices have increased their costs. Strikes by European air traffic controllers, in particular in Marseilles, have wreaked havoc for many European airlines, causing significant cancellations and disruption. Further strikes by Ryanair pilots are adding to their woes, alongside additional staff wage costs for pilots. The prospect of further competition in the low-cost sector from IAG is another headache that Ryanair could do without. Some of these headwinds are generic and some are self-made, but it is difficult to see much upside for Ryanair in the short term.

In light of recent reports, David Jones, Chief Market Strategist at here comments on the impact of the meeting between President Trump and President Putin, and the US quarterly earnings season, on the financial markets.

At the start of the trading week, politics remains in focus for many markets. Last week saw President Trump visit the UK and today he meets with Russia's President Putin. Apparently, there is no formal agenda for the meeting but of course given both personalities involved here there is always the possibility of surprise which could have an impact on markets.

The end of last week saw a very strong finish for stock markets - in the USA the broader S&P500 index finished at its best levels in more than five months. The question now is whether there is enough momentum left to challenge the all-time high set in January of this year. There's plenty of news-flow for stock markets this week as the US quarterly earnings season continues with the likes of Netflix, Goldman Sachs, eBay and Microsoft all reporting. For the UK, the state of the High Street remains under focus with the latest retail sales due out on Thursday. The latest UK retailer under pressure is department store Debenhams with the weekend press reporting that its credit insurers were tightening terms. The share price of Debenhams has lost more than 50% of its value so far this year.

Last week was relatively quiet one for major currency markets. The pound continues to swing on various political resignations and utterings from the UK government but is broadly unchanged over the past three weeks. It's a big week for UK economic data with the latest unemployment numbers released on Tuesday and inflation on Wednesday - the CPI reading is expected to show 2.5%. It could well mean more volatility for the pound in the days ahead.

The price of oil continues to flip-flop around the $70/barrel mark. Although this has recently set three-year highs, it has been somewhat directionless in recent weeks. Perhaps there is something from today's Trump/Putin meeting that will inspire traders to pick a side and set up a more meaningful push here.

Neil Williams, Senior Associate Solicitor at business crime experts Rahman Ravelli, considers the possible fate of cryptocurrencies.

It has been reported that more than 800 cryptocurrency projects have died a death in the past year and a half. It is a statistic that cannot be ignored for a number of reasons.

There is little doubt that the rise – and, from what we are seeing, the fall – of cryptocurrencies has been dramatic. It wasn’t a slow and steady rise in popularity. Cryptocurrency seemed to arrive in a bang. Suddenly, as if from nowhere, it was everywhere. And now, it appears, we are seeing a dramatic reversal of that trend.

To explain such a reversal requires a brief examination of the way cryptocurrency functions. In a nutshell, new digital tokens are created through an initial coin offering (ICO); which sees those behind the start-up issuing a new coin. Investors can then choose to buy that coin. By doing this, any investor is not purchasing equity in that company but the cryptocurrency that they do purchase can be used on the company's product. Such a process is, in effect, speculation. Those who invest in an ICO do so because the coins are usually cheap in their early days – and they hope that they will increase in value and provide a tidy profit if and when they cash in.

It is a process that has attracted plenty of enthusiastic followers. Researchers examining the market have stated that companies raised £3.8 billion through ICO’s last year, whereas the figure for this year is expected to be more than triple that. The sheer scale of investment in cryptocurrency demands that we pay attention to the problems it is currently suffering. Those problems may have implications for the financial wellbeing of many individuals and organisations who have staked a lot on the continued rise of cryptocurrency – only to discover that hundreds of such coins are already dead or worthless.

This is due largely to cryptocurrency’s unreliability factor. Many were set up with the simple intention of making fraudulent gains. Fake start-ups have been known to see the initial hard sell swiftly followed by those behind an ICO disappearing with investors’ money. Others were created but the company’s product never became a reality. And even those that have been regarded as the “major players’’ have struggled. Bitcoin, the biggest cryptocurrency, has seen its value fall by about 70% since 2017’s record high of $20,000. It is certainly still in existence and still has its enthusiastic following. But the fact that even Bitcoin has suffered a major battering to its reputation and its value shows that cryptocurrency has a credibility problem. Cryptocurrency has to be seen as a risk. And the more its credibility is eroded, the less chance cryptocurrencies – both the legitimate and fraudulent ones – may have of attracting and retaining investment.

Cryptocurrencies may, therefore, face a struggle to regain credibility – and see that reflected in rising values. Cryptocurrencies, as originally devised, are by their nature a friend of the fraudster. They have no tangible product, they allow anonymity and the lack of regulation historically has made them a virtual haven for those who want to conduct their dealings away from the authorities’ prying eyes. An awareness of this may be behind the sudden attack of cold feet among many who were so keen to invest not so long ago. But conversely, we may still be some way off the logical outcome.

What has to be recognised is that as cryptocurrencies attract the attention of mainstream investors, and even banking institutions, the lure and attraction of them is diminishing for those who wish to remain in the shadows: the very people who have given the currencies their damaging credibility problem. If such mainstream investment in cryptocurrencies continues, it is sure to be followed by closer official scrutiny and / or regulation – either of which will have the effect of further driving out those looking to make fraudulent gains. The consequence of this may not only be these types of currencies having less appeal to those who originally traded in them, it may also lead to a more stable market being created for honest investors.

We may, therefore, see another swing upwards in cryptocurrencies’ fortunes, as they become increasingly marketable and viewed as safer and more legitimate than at present. This is something that could only be hastened if and when regulation is introduced. It would be unwise, therefore, to announce the demise of cryptocurrencies.

The rapidly expanding tech startups industry is progressively becoming the future and face of the business world and those who want to nurture their inner Elon Musk are increasingly travelling abroad to emerging tech hubs. Although, Silicon Valley still remains the undisputed destination for startups and venture capitalists, a new crop of global tech hubs are rapidly expanding to match the talent oozing out of the Bay Area.

A recent study by has revealed the best rising tech hubs for people who are seeking entrepreneurial opportunities. The research took into account the average internet speed, the average business valuation, and cost of living, among other metrics.

1. Boulder, US - With the second highest internet speed, Boulder has over 5,000 business investors and an average business valuation coming in at $4.3 million. Boulder is a prime location for those wanting to start their next tech-startup.

2. Bangalore, India
- In spite of an average internet speed of 11mbps, Bangalore has over 6,000 investors and an average business value of $3.4 million making it one of the best locations on the Asian continent.

3. Johannesburg, South Africa - As one of the most affordable tech hubs for young innovators, Johannesburg boasts reasonable average monthly rent cost of $416. The city has an average business valuation of $3.6 million and over 1,200 investors.

4. Santiago, Chile - With 1,201 startups, Santiago is considered as a new home for tech startup companies, making it a great destination for those in the South American continent. The city has an average monthly rent cost of $372, making it the second cheapest city to live behind Colombo in Sri Lanka.

5. Stockholm, Sweden
- Named the 9th happiest country in the world, Stockholm is the capital of Sweden and ranks number 5 for the World's Rising Tech Hubs. The city also scores highly for its internet connectivity with the second highest average internet speed of 42mbps behind Houston, Texas.

Digital Hotspots
Connectivity is a non-negotiable in the 21st century working world, especially for tech startups. Although Houston has only having 322 public wifi hotspots, the city number one for the highest average internet speed of 65 mbps. Stockholm offers some of the highest internet speed outside of the United States at 37 mbps.

Recently, there has been growing trends of millenials moving abroad for greater work opportunities. Bangalore is great for young innovators as it call home to over 7,500 startups and the largest amount of investors (6,236). While Boulder in Colorado has the highest average business valuation of $3.4 million.


The cost of living is one of the biggest concerns for many young people especially when the majority of their capital is being used to fund their venture. Helsinki has the highest average monthly rent cost of $1,548, with Tel-Aviv ($1,338), and Boulder ($1,250) respectively. Whereas Lagos has the lowest infrastructure score of 2.4, with the highest being Stockholm (4.27).

Although many still regard cities such as Silicon Valley as one of the few locations where entrepreneurs can develop their untapped entrepreneurial talent. This new study gives insight to the best alternatives rising cities to live and work for innovators outside the overcrowded Bay Area.

In light of last week’s events surrounding markets and Brexit talk, Rebecca O’Keeffe, Head of Investment at interactive investor comments for Finance Monthly.

There is no doubt that President Trump has been highly positive for US equity markets, which has fed through to rising global markets, but his increasingly erratic behaviour is making it very difficult for investors to work out whether he remains a friend or foe. His America first policy is designed to play well at home, but in classifying the rest of the world as competitors rather than allies, he has increased tensions and raised geopolitical risks for investors.

Bank of America, Blackrock and Netflix all report second quarter earnings today, which may provide further clarity for financials and the outperforming technology sector. Mixed results from three of the big US banks on Friday saw bank stocks fall, so today’s figures from Bank of America should provide further clarity for financials. Technology stocks have been the place to be invested in the first half of the year with the Nasdaq up over 13% compared to relatively flat performance elsewhere. The first of the FANGS to report, Netflix earnings are hugely important for investors to confirm whether the outperformance of technology stocks is warranted or if the market has got ahead of itself.

Calls for a second referendum and a coordinated effort by Brexiteers to undermine Theresa May’s policy and position means this could be a make or break week for the Prime Minister. Having set out a radical plan to seek what she believes is the best possible deal for the UK economy, Theresa May must now try to sell the deal to parliament this week. The hard-line Brexiteers have already indicated their objections, but they could also instigate a direct challenge to May’s leadership if they can secure the 48 Tory MP signatures necessary for a leadership ballot. After months of failed negotiations and an increasingly divisive government, this week is pivotal for Theresa May.

With holiday season in full swing, people will either be looking to book something last minute or counting the days until they set off. Aside from dreaming of stunning beaches or culture-rich city getaways, there’s a good chance many of you will be imagining the prospect a nice relaxing beer abroad. On top of that, the world cup calls for a few more pints.

For those who enjoy a tipple on their travels, it’s good to know how much you’re likely to spend – especially in an unfamiliar place. Price comparison experts Money Guru have looked at 29 of the world’s most popular city destinations to produce an essential holiday beer guide.

Their research has identified that the cheapest pint is available in Prague where you’ll only be shelling out £1.17 per beer. At the opposite end of the scale, to get yourself a pint in Dubai you’re looking at £9 each.

Here is the rundown of the top five priciest and cheapest pints you’ll find across the globe.

Top 5 – Priciest Pints

Top 5 – Cheapest Pints

Iconic tourist destinations like London (£5.19), New York and Paris (both £5.32) seem to be taking full advantage of their popularity by bumping up the cost of beer. Nordic countries also demand higher prices for pints with Copenhagen (£4.81), Stockholm (£5.14) and Oslo (£7) all sitting in the more expensive half of the leaderboard.

An eclectic mixture of destinations populates the middle of the leaderboard with Toronto (£4.10), Barcelona (£4.18), Kuala Lumpur (£3.81) and Tokyo (£3.53) all providing beers at prices that aren’t likely to make people perform a double take.

However, for the more price conscious traveller there are plenty of options available, with a range of popular bucket list destinations including Johannesburg (£1.63) and Rio de Janeiro (£2.21) offering beer prices that won’t break the bank.

There are also some surprises to be found, cities that most would consider to be on the costly end of the spectrum such as Berlin (£2.72) and Seoul (£3.28) are actually relatively reasonable when it comes to beer.

Commenting on the findings, James MacDonald, Head of Digital at Money Guru said: “It’s eye-opening to uncover such a large difference in the price of a pint of beer across the globe. The disparity in cost turns what should be an enjoyable experience into a penny-pinching exercise. Luckily Money Guru’s research highlights the top cities to get more pint for your pound.”

So, whether you’re a beer aficionado, a social drinker or just like a couple every so often, it’s wise to factor alcohol into your holiday budget. For more information on their findings, you can see the entirety of Money Guru’s research here.

Multi-currency payments provider FairFX has revealed that since the Brexit referendum, the Euro has decreased 13% against the pound increasing financial pressure on businesses who operate cross border.

Uncertainty over future trade agreements alongside fluctuating currency rates have put the spotlight on the cost of doing business internationally and highlights the importance of monitoring foreign currency transactions.

An estimated 17% of UK based SMEs are doing business internationally, boosting their own bottom line, as well as the UK economy.  Whilst international expansion offers access to new markets, ambitions for growth need to be well planned financially, starting with the basics.

35% of SMEs state cashflow is a barrier to growth, making smart currency moves essential when it comes to international payments, and by getting the best value for every international transaction, both business ambition and cashflow can be supported.

FairFX Top tips for getting the best value when making international payments:

  1. Know what you want

To get the best international payment provider for your business you need to know what you want. Consider how regularly you’ll be sending and receiving money overseas, how many currencies you’ll need to transact in and understand the costs associated with making both singular and regular transactions.

Fees and charges can vary by transaction type, day, time and speed you require the transaction to be completed in, so list out the different transaction types you may want to make and understand how the fees and charges can vary so you don’t get caught out. Understand how currency rates are set and how they compare to other providers. This can be confusing to unpick so speak to a currency expert if necessary.

  1. Review your current payment package

High street banks don’t offer the best value when it comes to international business payments. Using your current banking provider to handle international as well as domestic transactions may be convenient but defaulting to them might mean you’re missing out on better rates and lower fees.

As your business grows and develops, your business banking needs will also evolve and if you’re transacting regularly small charges can add up, meaning you could be paying a high price for an unsuitable service. 

  1. Select a transparent, convenient and consistent service

If you’re regularly buying from and selling abroad, fees could soon take a portion of profit from your bottom line. Pick a provider whose fees are transparent and made clear upfront so you can better manage your expenses. Look for a service where rates are consistently good – don’t be lured with teaser offers that expire and leave you trapped or unaware of post introductory fees and charges.

  1. Understand the market you’re operating in

Keeping track of currency movements can be easier said than done, so sign up for a reliable rate watch service, like the one provided by FairFX which alerts you when currencies you operate in have moved in your favour. This way you can make international payments when rates give you a commercial advantage.

  1. Maintain your standards

The rigorous standards you set for expenses and payments at home don’t stop when your employees pass border control, so find a solution where you are confident in who is spending what. Consider prepaid corporate cards which allow you to transact with competitive exchange rates and top-up in real-time, giving your staff the funds they need to travel for work, providing peace of mind and control over expenditure on a global scale.

  1. Watch the way your employees pay

When it comes to travel, regardless of whether your staff are hosting meetings or need to cover the cost of their own accommodation and essentials, make sure you’re in charge of the exchange rate they are using for their payments.

If staff are currently paying their own expenses and then claiming back, make sure they don't fall into any exchange rate traps. Advise them to always pay in the local currency when travelling and avoid exchanging at the airport.

The FairFX corporate prepaid card allows staff to pay for expenses with the amount of money you have approved them to spend, whilst you can track and report on spending on the integrated online platform, so there is no reliance on employees using their own payment methods, choosing the exchange rate and fees charged and reclaiming the cost from your business.

  1. Benefit from the best rates

Exchange rates fluctuate from day to day with the euro currently 13% lower than before the Brexit referendum announcement, a sum that on a large transfer could make the difference between profit and loss. Consider a forward contract to ensure you can benefit from peak rates by fixing international transactions up to a year in advance.

  1. Ask an expert

If you are regularly making international payments it is worth finding an expert to help you with services not offered by your bank to help minimise risk and maximise the return of doing business overseas.

  1. Set up a stop loss or limit order

Protect your business against market downturns with the aid of a Stop Loss, which will ensure any losses are limited if you’re aiming for a higher rate and the market takes a turn.

Also consider a Limit Order where you set up ‘target’ exchange rates and ask your currency dealer to process the transaction when the rate you’ve set is achieved to give you certainty over how payments will affect your bottom line.

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Ian Stafford-Taylor, CEO of FairFX said: “Easy access to international currency at market-leading rates whether travelling abroad or sending and receiving payments is vital for businesses breaking into and operating successfully internationally, especially in a market where rates are constantly fluctuating.

“Many small and medium sized businesses settle for high street bank accounts which can charge extortionate fees for international transactions and offer poor service. The right account and sensible planning could add up to big savings, something that SMEs can ill afford to waste in a competitive marketplace.

“As future trade agreements post Brexit become clearer businesses could find themselves with heavy workloads as they adjust the way they operate, so finding a trusted payment provider and reaping every possible benefit when it comes to currency will continue to be crucial for success.”

(Source: FairFX)

The latest research from national audit, tax and advisory firm Crowe Clark Whitehill, together with the University of Portsmouth’s Centre for Counter Fraud Studies (CCFS), reveals a national fraud pandemic totalling £110 billion a year. For context, that figure would build more than 110 Wembley Stadiums, or cover the annual budget for every single local authority in England combined. Put differently, the figure would cover the UK’s Brexit divorce bill almost three times over, or cover the salaries of 4.8 million nurses for a year.

The Financial Cost of Fraud 2018’ estimates that the UK economy could be boosted by £44 billion annually if organisations step up efforts to tackle fraud and error.

Globally, fraud is costing £3.24 trillion each year, a sum equal to the combined GDP of the UK and Italy, or enough to build more than 3,000 Wembley Stadiums.

The report, which is the only one of its kind, draws on 20 years of extensive global research from 40 sectors, where the total cost of fraud has been accurately measured across expenditure totalling £15.6 trillion.

Since 2008, there has been a startling 49.5% increase in average losses with businesses losing an average of 6.8% of total expenditure. Driven by technological advances and increasing digitisation, businesses now face a threat which is growing in scale and mutating in complexity.

Fraud is the last great unreduced business cost. Included in the report are examples where fraud has been accurately measured, managed and losses minimised, including a major mining company which reduced losses due to procurement fraud by over 51% within a two-year period, equating to USD 20 million at a time when commodity prices were falling.

Insurance fraud is an another sector to look into. It is happened by changing the beneficiaries. A proper investigation can minimize the vast effect. When any individual is getting life insurance over 75 years, the particular company must go through all the original documentation and proper channels.

Jim Gee, Head of Forensic & Counter Fraud at Crowe Clark Whitehill, comments: “The threat of fraud is becoming increasingly like a clinical virus – it is ever-present and ever-evolving. The bad news is that digitalisation of information storage, and process complexity, coupled with the pace of business change, have created an environment where fraud has thrived, grown and continued to mutate. The better news is that there are examples where organisations have measured and minimised fraud like any other business cost and greatly strengthened their finances.”

“In the current climate, to not consider the financial benefits of making relatively painless reductions in losses to fraud and error is foolhardy. The message to all organisations is measure, mitigate and manage fraud, or your bottom line will continue to suffer.”

Mark Button, Director of the Centre for Counter Fraud Studies at the, University of Portsmouth, adds: “This research shows that the most accurate measurement of fraud in organisations continues to show an upward trend. Many organisations are losing significant amounts to fraud and much more can be done to reduce losses.”

“Organisations could do much more to enhance prevention through a number of measures such as effective vetting of new staff, investing in data analytics and developing an anti-fraud culture.”

(Source: Crowe Clark Whitehill)

It is becoming clear that trade digitisation has huge potential to unlock access to world trade for small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The move away from laborious, manual, paper-based processes will lever simpler access to trade finance, now that it is being provided by more agile, technology-friendly alternative funding providers. Here Simon Streat, VP of Product Strategy at Bolero International, discusses the new wave of digital change and the drive it’s providing for SMEs worldwide.

Regulatory burden has meant that SMEs often don’t fulfil certain criteria for banks to justify lending to. The demands of anti-money laundering (AML), Know Your Customer (KYC) rules, sanctions and other banking stipulations have been deemed too time-consuming and too costly to be worth the trouble where smaller exporters and importers are concerned. This is a significant blow, since by some estimates, more than 80% of world trade is funded by one form of credit or another. Until now, if your business was deemed too small to be worth considering for finance, there was hardly anywhere else to go.

The result has been deleterious to the prosperity of SMEs and detrimental to international trade. In 2016, the ICC Banking Commission’s report found that 58% of trade finance applications by SMEs were refused. This, as the authors pointed out, hampered growth, since as many as two out of every three jobs around the world are created by smaller businesses.

This rather depressing view was supported by a survey of more than 1000 decision-makers at UK SMEs which was conducted in February this year by international payments company WorldFirst. It found that the number of SMEs conducting international trade dropped to 26% in Q4 2017, compared with 52% at the end of 2016. Economic conditions and confidence have much to do with this, but so does access to trade finance.

There is a growing realisation, however, that if digitisation makes sense for corporates seeking big gains in speed of execution, transaction-visibility and faster access to finance and payment, it definitely will for SMEs. The ICC Banking Commission report of 2017 estimated that the elimination of paper from trade transactions could reduce compliance costs by 30%.

Over the past few years, for example a number of trade digitisation platforms have emerged offering innovative business models for supplying trade finance and liquidity, while optimising working capital, and enhancing processes for faster handling and cost savings. Progress is under way, but it requires expertise.

Fintechs in trade hubs such as Singapore, where there is huge emphasis on innovation, are taking the lead, transforming the availability and access to finance for SMEs. By making the necessary checks so much faster and easier and opening up direct contact with a greater range of banks, digital platforms enable customers to gain approval for financing of transactions that would otherwise be almost impossible. Not only that, they enjoy shorter transaction times and enhanced connectivity with their supply chain partners.

If we scan the horizon a little further we can also expect to see SMEs benefit from the influence of the open banking regulations, which require institutions to exchange data with authorised and trusted third parties in order to create new services that benefit customers.

Although the focus of these new regulations is primarily the retail banking sector, the tide of change will extend to trade finance, creating a far more sympathetic environment for the fintech companies and alternative funders. Yet the fintechs cannot do it alone, they need to be part of a network of networks that operates on the basis of established trust and digital efficiency.

No technology can work unless it is capable of satisfying the raw business need of bringing together buyers, sellers, the banks into transaction communities. That requires the building of confidence and the establishment of relationships, along with – very importantly – a real understanding of trade transactions and the processes of all involved. It also requires on-boarding and you can only achieve that once everyone knows a solution will deliver the efficiency gains it promises, as well as being totally reliable, secure and based on an enforceable legal framework. All this requires a level of expertise and insight that cannot simply be downloaded in a couple of clicks.

Nonetheless, it seems pretty obvious that thanks to digitisation, the market for SME financing in international trade is set for real expansion.

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.

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