This week Finance Monthly talks to Daniel Kjellén, CEO and Co-founder of Tink on the democratisation of data and what this means for both financial services businesses and consumers.
Open Banking was designed to open the retail banking market by giving everyone access to the data they needed to deliver banking services. Initially viewed as a massive boon for fintechs, and a worrying threat for banks, the mindset of the latter is shifting.
They may have been slow to start, but today the majority of retail banks are waking up to the opportunities offered by Open Banking. Banks are realising that the new battleground is the level of valuable insights and product offerings, tailored to the individual, that can win over consumers. And the key to unlocking this customer value? Data.
But CIOs and product analysts will be only too aware that data was relatively unmanageable until fairly recently. Historically, legacy systems and fragmented technology stacks have meant that getting the right data-sets in one place has been a huge struggle for banks.
What’s more, being able to use these data-sets to create data-driven insights and support data-driven sales has proved even more of a challenge. This means that, until recently, banks and consumers alike have been unable to make full use of the financial data at hand to make better, more informed decisions.
Out-engineered or the opportunity of a lifetime?
Banks might still be grappling with trying to make the best of their consumer’s financial data. But heel-dragging is not an option.
For several years, banks have been under siege from all sides. The technology that allows consumers to grant third parties access to their financial data has existed for some time, and agile fintechs have out-engineered banks in the field.
There’s no question that the advent of Open Banking has widened the data floodgates now that banks have had to open up their APIs. With data more readily accessible, third party providers in all sectors - from finance to insurance - can begin to compete with the traditional banks by introducing innovative new products and services.
What’s more, these challengers have the advantage of being more agile with their time to market; getting new software off the shelf and into people’s pockets in a fraction of the time previously taken.
Banking on the future
Banks have work to do. They’ve been caught napping by these nimble fintechs who have stolen a march.
Regulation is really only the rubber stamp on a technology-led revolution that was already well underway. Banks are now waking up to the same opportunities by partnering with agile industry players that can leverage the financial data at hand.
They need to act now to keep pace with the new market entrants who have already tapped into a world where the access to financial data is democratised, to build newer and better products for consumers. Instead of inventing the wheel once again, banks can choose to invest in the best technology that will provide them with the right data-sets that will both give them a holistic overview over their customer’s finances, and the ability to deliver data-driven sales and insights, tailored at the individual.
Why does this matter?
Open Banking has changed the way consumers can choose to manage their finances. By democratising the access to financial data, consumers are beginning to understand, and take advantage of, the benefits of sharing their financial information with third parties.
Once faithful to traditional banks, people are becoming increasingly fickle - flirting with other providers to find the best deal, service or experience on the market.
It might be intelligent personal finance technology that can predict consumer spending habits and provide advice and recommendations based on these predictive insights. Or it might be a current account platform that allows people to monitor and change their mortgage and savings in the same place, despite using different providers.
Whatever the specific solution, consumers are feeling the benefit of increased flexibility and choice, and demand for new ways to manage money is growing.
It really is win-win-win
Banks must stop viewing the democratisation of data as a zero-sum game - where their loss is a fintech’s or another bank’s gain. Instead, they should see it as an opportunity to gain an advantage by ensuring that their data analytics capabilities keep them one step ahead of their rivals.
While aggregation is just one part of the puzzle, the democratisation of data opens up a wealth of opportunities for banks. Data-driven banking will allow banks to make better commercial decisions based on their customers behaviour, while PFM (personal finance management platforms) will help banks give their customers a better experience.
There is a huge opportunity for banks to successfully monetise Open Banking through identifying where they can offer customers a better deal to meet their needs and targeting them accordingly with a personalised offer.
In this brave new world of banking, the winners will be those who decide what their unique offer to consumers will be and focus on doing it better than anyone else in the market. This might be providing the smoothest UX, the best predictive personal finance management platform, or the slickest analysis and insights tools. Or it might be offering the best products in one particular area - for example the most competitive rates on mortgages or loans
Unlocking this opportunity might require developing new customer centric platforms in house or buying technology of the shelf by partnering with fintechs to take advantage of their technology solutions.
But one thing’s for certain. Far from sounding the death knell for the banking industry, the democratisation of data will become the smart bank’s secret weapon for winning their segment.
In force since January, the Second Payment Services Directive (PSD2), aka Open banking, is a regulation that forces the largest of our banks to open up access to their data; a necessity that could change the way many people and businesses bank. Below Jerry Matthews, Commercial Manager & Head of Bridging at KIS Finance, explains everything you need to know, touching on the risks and opportunities therein, and answering the big question: is it safe?
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has started a revolution which encourages consumers to share their financial data to third-party companies, after years of being told to do the exact opposite.
The Open Banking Implementation Entity (OBIE) was created in response to the UK Government’s request for a fairer, more transparent banking and financial services. Transparent is definitely what they got.
What is Open Banking?
Open Banking is a new system which means customers can allow third party providers, other than their bank, to access their financial information.
These providers can be anything from insurance and mortgage companies to shopping sites, mobile phones and broadband providers.
The main idea is to give consumers more control of their financial information and have access to a wider range of products and services. Customers can allow the company to analyse their spending habits and offer them better deals, tailored to them.
There has been a new change in UK law which means that banks must allow FCA regulated businesses to access a customer’s personal and financial information, but the customer must give their permission first. Customers can give and withdraw permission at any time they choose.
The bank can only prevent the business access, on the customer’s behalf, if they suspect that the company is fraudulent, or not regulated by the FCA.
When will Open Banking Start?
Four of the nine largest UK account providers, Lloyds Banking Group, Nationwide, Allied Irish Bank and Danske are ready to start Opening Banking now.
Six weeks maximum has been given to RBS, HSBC, Barclays and Bank of Ireland by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). Santander’s Cater Allen has been given another year to prepare.
In order to integrate the new system smoothly, for the first 6 weeks the banks and companies offering Opening Banking services have been asked to only make it available to a small group of selected customers and to limit the amount of instructions processed.
How Will These Third-Party Providers Gain Access to our Information?
There appears to be two methods as to how your information can be accessed;
API’s: New communication technologies have been developed, Application Programming Interfaces, which are designed with customer security at the forefront. API’s are regularly used by various online tools and mobile apps to provide joined facilities, allowing software from numerous companies to, essentially, ‘talk’ to each other. This way, your information will be securely passed between companies with this technology in place.
Log-In Details: Another method may be that third-party providers will request that you share your online bank log-in details directly with the company. Yes, you read that right. A separate piece of legislation, the Payment Services Directive, will allow some companies to do this.
The company can then log in to your online banking account, like they were you, to access your financial data, such as; transaction history, direct debits and standing orders. This means that the company is likely to be able to access a much larger range of information, so really, the one way to withdraw your permission to this company, for certain, is to change your account password and other security details.
Do you Actually Have to Share your Information?
I am glad to say no, this isn’t mandatory.
The new rules state that banks must allow third-parties access to your information, but you have to explicitly give that company your permission – they can’t just look at your account willy-nilly. There will be an option to either switch on or switch off Open Banking on your account.
Once you have given that company permission, it’s not set in stone either. You can withdraw your permission at any time.
So, there is some security in knowing that this isn’t some sort of new binding contract.
So, what are the Potential Risks with Open Banking?
Current surveys suggest that a majority of consumers are reluctant to hand out personal and financial data. But, with the new system, this behaviour is expected to steadily change over time.
However, this does open up massive risks surrounding data privacy and security.
There are worries concerning the fact that by creating more chains of data access, it will be much harder to prove who was at fault if the customer’s information is stolen, making it harder than it already is to be compensated in these situations.
Not to mention how people handing out personal and financial data is like a gold mine to fraudsters.
To name just one potential scam, fraudsters could easily mimic third-party providers, by copying their choice of contact, to trick people into handing over their data which leaves consumers at risk of losing their money, and potentially, their identity being stolen.
Also, giving a company your bank log-in details with the only secure way of knowing that you have cancelled your permission is by changing your password? This is the main thing that consumers are told to never do, to never hand out your bank log-in details. This leaves your details at huge risk, and something just doesn’t make sense to me.
It is absolutely vital that the industry regulators ensure that consumers are wholly protected from any data breaches if they are to use these services with confidence and trust.
Although I think there is a lot at stake for people who decide to go forwards with Open Banking, I do think, for some people, this could be a way to gain much better control over their finances.
With Open Banking, it could be made easier to assess what type of bank account is best for you by analysing how you actually use it. For example, a lot of people can be unsure of how much their overdraft is costing them, but if a company can see your account, they may be able to provide you with a much clearer perspective and give you cheaper alternatives.
Or, for people who want to save money but are struggling to do so, sharing their data with budgeting companies/apps could help them see where and how they can save money.
Below Felicia Meyerowitz Singh, Co-founder & CEO at Akoni Hub, talks Finance Monthly through the implementation of PSD2 legislation this weekend, with an overview of open banking, what it means for financial services, and what opportunities are in store for banking customers.
It’s been a long time coming but we are entering an era of greater access and better financial services that will finally put the needs of customers first.
The catalyst of achieving this much needed and long overdue result is the culmination of big debate, endless lobbying and necessary government legislation.
For years banks have sat on the most valuable asset to any business: the infinite transactional and financial data of customers that essentially define individual’s tastes, preferences, budgets and - crucially - their requirements for building and planning their lives.
High street banks - reluctant to share their oligarchy of power, held on tightly to this data - unwilling to share it with others - or use it to enrich their consumer experience and put them at the heart of their business model.
With open banking, this power will be wrestled from the big incumbents and data will be available to third parties, SMEs and new digital players. This will lead to a better future for financial services, one that increases competition and creates a greater consumer experience. More businesses will finally have a shot at delivering services that are tailored and relevant to individual customers.
Open Banking will also strengthen the role and influence of FinTech companies that have the agility and open APIs to make data sharing possible and to disrupt the status quo. We have already seen new banks like Starling Bank taking the lead, by creating partnerships with other FinTechs to create a customer rich ‘Amazon of Banking’ experience.
Together with multiple significant other sources of data being made available with consent and through API format, this will finally deliver financial products in a simple and meaningful manner, with automated prompts as companies or market products change, resulting in data innovation and improved financial outcomes, as well as removing the hassle for enterprises, saving time and money.
Key to this is delivering analytics in an easily understandable form without overwhelming businesses - leveraging the rapidly advancing data science technologies, machine learning and AI, as well as outstanding design and user experience is part of the market change we are moving towards. While the UK and EU lead the way, there are early sprigs of global growth for international solutions.
Incumbents are not resting on their laurels. Many banks and financial institutions that make up the global sector are making impressive strides to capitalise on open banking, while also exploring valuable collaborations with new innovators that can help them harness the immense value of their data.
A great example is BBVA, which has embraced the digital movement and has set itself apart from other global offerings and is putting the client front and centre. The Spanish bank has nurtured the development of impressive FinTech firms – such as the digital ID startup Covault- while also making some canny acquisitions to keep it at the forefront of innovation that resonates with a new generation of consumers and keeps them agile and technology focused. This includes the purchase of digital bank Simple.
Open banking also presents some challenges. Exposing large quantities of personal consumer data could increase the risk of cyber-attacks, hacking and identify-theft. The possible reluctance of customers to share their personal data could also derail the initiative. Educating consumers and gaining their trust around data sharing will therefore be crucial to the success of this initiative. So too the need for businesses to share information within a secure platform and for online payment providers to be scrutinised by the rigorous laws in place.
If all goes well, the developments of open banking – and the opportunities they bring to consumers– cannot be overstated. Banks will get another chance at creating better value-added services, while SMEs will finally have the access they need to deliver what their customers truly want and ultimately transform their consumer experience. Additionally, corporates are also now included in the scope of Open banking, increasing pressure on banks to deliver improved services to the neglected business market.
We only hope that customers will see the value of it all to willingly share their data and banks will leverage their relationships of trust to deliver solutions of value to their commercial client base. With their consent, the blueprint for a better future of finance can be mapped out for generations to come.
Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency built on blockchain technology, is fast becoming a major player in the currency market. Since the beginning of 2017, the value of “XBT” has rocketed by over 150% and the simplistic reason for this would be that there is more demand than there is supply. Vinay Sharma, Senior Trader at ayondo markets tells Finance Monthly more about the current state of the bitcoin and its future prospects below.
Bitcoin uses encryption techniques to regulate the generation of its units and verify the transfer of its funds. It essentially allows people to cut out middlemen and thanks to its supposed security and independence from nations and central banks, its value, along with that of other cryptocurrencies, such as Ethereum and Ripple, has soared in recent months. In the Middle East, Africa, South America and Eastern Europe, for example, concerns over the volatile governments or consistent long-term currency inflation have contributed to Bitcoin's rising valuation.
When you look at Bitcoin’s rise in the last seven years, the mind boggles. An investor who had bought 1,000USD of the cryptocurrency in 2010, would now own around 45millionUSD worth. The question many people are now asking is: is its value increasing due to mere speculation, or is it actually becoming a more widely accepted form of money? The currency is now available to many traders and investors to trade as a standard forex product. At ayondo, for example, we recently added Bitcoin to our product portfolio, meaning clients can now trade on its anticipated price movements without having to actually open up an e-wallet to purchase it on the internet.
While Trading Bitcoin does open it up to speculation, the cryptocurrency is also being accepted more widely as a medium of exchange, which after all, is the purpose of money in the first place. The number of businesses accepting Bitcoin is rapidly increasing, with the likes of Expedia, Etsy, Microsoft and Dell, to name a few, all accepting it as a form of payment, although it’s fair to say the UK is lagging behind in its Bitcoin acceptance.
So what’s next for Bitcoin? At the time of writing, its value is 2,735USD and one thing I am pretty confident of is that volatility lies ahead. Last week, for example, Morgan Stanley released a note saying that it doesn’t believe Bitcoin will be a viable currency in the future, and its value subsequently fell 20%. However, it has since recovered those losses, and whilst I largely agree with Morgan Stanley’s analysis, it certainly offers plenty of upside potential as a trading instrument, as demand in the short to medium term is more than likely to outstrip supply. Whether it will in fact become a viable medium of exchange in the future remains to be seen, but what’s undeniable, is that current interest is immense and its high variation in price offers an excellent trading opportunity.
Today marks the 50th anniversary of the ATM (the Automated Teller Machine in case you never knew), and Auriga is urging banks to seize the opportunities presented by the ATM as part of a shifting financial landscape and look at the opportunities the next 50 years bring. Below, Auriga explains to Finance Monthly what ATMs could really amount to for the banking sector and its customers.
“Brits still love their ATMs – they’re a key part of the banking process and are incredibly valuable. 43% of UK respondents to the survey using an ATM on a weekly basis so banks who don’t embrace the technology are missing out on a chance to communicate with their customers and build trust,” explains Mark Aldred, who leads Auriga’s International business.
But banks are running the risk of missing out on new revenue streams and opportunities. “1 in 10 UK consumers thinks the UK doesn’t have enough ATMs that can do more than just dispense cash,” explains Mark, “they’re much more than just cash machines now. They can process bill payments, exchange currency and even sell event tickets. The demand is there from UK customers, but banks now need to meet it.”
With bank branches around the country closing, ATMs can be the middle-ground approach between the ex branch and empty buildings with no contact at all. “A combination of self-service machines and staff could be the ticket to reviving the dwindling number of bank branches,” explains Mark, “this hybrid approach appeals most to customers, if banks can strike a balance between customer autonomy and personalised support and advice. Customers want more personalisation and ATMs are a great channel to deliver this - for example pre-set fast withdrawals for the customer who always takes out £70 for weekend expenses or allowing customers to set up their dashboard to meet accessibility needs. It all adds up to a better relationship and more trust with your customers, which can only be a good thing.”
The challenge for banks is to achieve these steps despite the constraints of sometimes outmoded legacy technologies. There are countless examples outside of UK where the right software could rejuvenate existing ATMs. That’s one of the reasons we started in this industry - we began in the Age of the Internet and challenging the internet banking market to be better than ever before and it was logical for us that the ATM could benefit from the same cloud based approach – it reduces the total cost of ownership, improves time to market and eases the development of new services.”
“What is needed is a mind-set change from the current position of offering very limited services and reducing operating cost as the single most important focus, to a more optimistic outlook of expanding revenue-generating consumer services with operating costs being only one management metric. The ATM is on the brink of some very exciting developments – with technology like artificial intelligence, data analytics and chatbots poised to bring an even better experience to the ATM – but without the right infrastructure in place banks could risk missing out” concludes Mark.
Global middle market organizations, companies with annual revenues of USD 1 million -USD 3 billion, are showing no signs of slowing down in the face of geopolitical uncertainty. Over one-third (34%) of middle market companies plan to grow 6%-10% this year, far outpacing the latest World Bank global GDP growth forecasts of 2.7%, by more than 3%-7%.
The findings released today in the EY Growth Barometer, a first-of-its-kind survey of 2,340 middle market executives across 30 countries, reveal that in spite of geopolitical tensions, including Brexit, increasing populism, the rise of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) and skilled talent shortages, 89% of executives see today's uncertainty as grounds for growth opportunities. What's more, 14% of all companies surveyed have current year growth ambitions of more than 16%.
Annette Kimmitt, EY Global Growth Markets Leader, says: "The global economic backdrop is much stronger than what the prevailing narrative has been telling us. Despite geopolitical risks and uncertainties, businesses being disrupted through new technologies and globalization rewriting the rules of supply and demand, middle market leaders are not only attuned to uncertainty, but are seizing it to grow, disrupt other markets and drive their growth agendas."
Growth ambitions vary across geographies
Despite facing two years of Brexit negotiations, start-ups (companies under five years old) headquartered in the UK are displaying the highest levels of confidence of the countries surveyed. UK start-ups are the most positive on current year growth ambitions with 26% seeking to grow by 11-25% and a further 23% looking at year-on-year growth of more than 26%.
But when looking at the largest markets, there are significant differences between the world's largest economy, the US where slightly more than a third (35%) of all companies plan modest growth increases of under 5%, compared to the world's two tiger economies – China and India – where together 42% of companies are targeting growth rates of 6%-10%. Moreover, a quarter (25%) of companies in tiger economies have current year growth plans of 11%-15%.
Technology and talent top the agenda
Executives identified technology and talent not only as the top two challenges facing the middle market C-suite today, but they are also seen as the tools by which they will overcome challenges and remain agile. Talent (23%) is cited as the top priority ahead of improved operations (21%), cutting red tape (12%) and beneficial agreements (8%) in a ranking of what is critical to meeting current growth ambitions. A staggering 93% of executives see technology as a means of attracting the talent they need. New developments in artificial intelligence (AI) are improving the recruitment and selection process for innovative start-ups to find specialist talent.
To fuel the growth ambitions of their organizations, more than a quarter (27%) of middle market executives plan to increase their permanent headcount and a further 14% plan to increase the number of part-time staff. Reflecting the growing impact of the gig economy on work patterns and a move to a more contingent, skills-based workforce, almost one in five (18%) companies plan to use contractors to help power their high-growth plans and fill specific gaps or needs.
However, under these global results lie significant differences in hiring plans. A majority of US companies (55%) plan to keep current staffing levels flat, compared with 31% of all respondents. These plans are almost reversed among start-ups, 53% of which plan increases in full-time staff. Nearly a quarter (23%) of all start-ups are also the most likely of all organizations to plan to hire more contractors or freelancers.
Kimmitt says: "Middle market leaders are using technology to attract and retain talent, accelerate growth, improve productivity and increase profitability. Uncertainty has become the new normal, and while geopolitical risks and trade barriers are influential factors, middle market companies are moving ahead with hiring plans."
RPA does not spell RIP to talent
While only 6% of middle market organizations are already using robotic process automation (RPA) for some business processes, the dystopian vision of large-scale layoffs is not shared by these business leaders. Fifteen percent of all middle market executive respondents believe that adoption of RPA will result in headcount reductions of less than 10%. This illustrates that middle market leaders are planning on the selective adoption of RPA to bring efficiencies to some routine operations, but as an adjunct to human talent, not a replacement.
Macro risks to growth
Middle market leaders cited increasing competition (20%) as the number one external threat to their growth plans, followed by geopolitical instability (17%) and the cost and availability of credit (12%). These threats were considered far more significant than financial headwinds of rising interest rates (8%), foreign exchange variance (8%) or commodity price volatility (6%). Leaders were twice as likely to cite competition (20%) as a risk than slow global growth (10%).
High-growth entrepreneurs are even more optimistic
As part of the EY Growth Barometer, the survey also measured 220 alumni of EY's widely-acclaimed Entrepreneur Of The Year program. Active for more than 30 years, the network has programs in more than 60 countries and 145 cities worldwide supporting high-growth entrepreneurs.
High-growth entrepreneurs are planning significantly higher growth rates than overall middle market leaders, with one in five planning to grow by 6%-10%, a further 20% by 11%-15% and yet a further one in five by 16%-25%. Nearly one in four (22%) high-growth entrepreneurs are planning current year growth of more than 26%. Additionally, almost two-thirds (61%) of this group plan increases in full-time staff and 9% plan increases in the use of contingent or gig economy workers.
Kimmitt says: "Middle market companies are the engines for global growth, representing nearly 99% of all enterprise and contributing nearly 45% to global GDP. But high-growth entrepreneurs are not only more ambitious in setting growth targets, but prioritize differently from other mid-market leaders and businesses. High-growth entrepreneurs are not fazed by the kinds of seismic shocks that Brexit and other geopolitical upheavals present. They are developing agile and flexible strategies to work with uncertainty as the new normal."
With cybercrime and ransom hacks being a common occurrence in today’s newsrooms, Karen Wheeler, VP UK Country Manager at Affinion talks to Finance Monthly about the opportunities that can arise from these kinds of threats, for the banking sector in particular.
We’re living in a world where high profile data hacking scandals and cybercrime attacks dominate our headlines on an almost daily basis. New research by Barclays has revealed that last year alone saw a total of 5.6m cases of cyber fraud reported across the UK; a figure accounting for nearly half of all UK crimes, affecting both companies and consumers alike.
The newest member of the ever-growing club of victims is the NHS, which last week saw a colossal attack in which criminals took control of computers and held hospitals at ransom. But despite the mass media coverage, it’s not just high-profile organisations that are targeted. Cyber criminals are also after sensitive customer information and payment details that can be traded on the dark web.
Clearly, no one is exempt from the threat of digital fraud, and Barclays’ research highlights the need for education on protection methods amongst UK consumers. In fact, almost 40% of people believe they can’t prevent cybercrime, according to a survey by Get Safe Online.
While there’s no doubt that cyber-crime exists, the number of reported cases suggests there could be a lack of clarity around who can be targeted and what constitutes risky cyber behaviour. Furthermore, who is responsible to protect against digital crimes and how customers can protect themselves.
Step 1: Recognise the opportunity
Following its research, Barclays’ has also announced plans to lead a £10million campaign against digital fraud with a primary aim to educate customers. Its campaign, and the current climate in which cybercrime is rife, illustrates a clear opportunity for banks to step up and adopt a role of responsibility in this field; positioning themselves as experts in educating on risk and how customers can protect their identities from digital fraud.
While some financial services institutions may question whether or not this is their job, given the amount of money they lose as a result of fraud, perhaps the question they should be asking is whether or not they can afford not to address this issue?
However, the truth is that banks are actually among the most trusted brands by consumers when it comes to data security. The Symantec State of Privacy Report in 2015 revealed that 66% of banks were the third most trusted by their customers to handle data; only hospitals and medical services ranked above. Evidently, there’s already a great deal of trust and brand value that exists for financial services institutions when it comes to handling data, meaning customers are likely to value their banks’ advice. This is something that currently, many are failing to utilise.
There’s a lot to learn from Barclays and by recognising this as an opportunity, not a challenge, banks can enable customers to make better fraud prevention choices, enhance loyalty and build deeper, more valuable customer relations in a fiercely competitive market.
Step 2: Educate and empower
By enabling people to make better security and fraud prevention choices that are backed up by relevant and knowledgeable support when things go wrong, banks can enhance their reputation amongst existing and potential customers. For example, Barclays’ upcoming digital-led safety campaign provides free support to SMEs as well as an online quiz for customers to assess their overall digital safety level - equipped with advice and tips for improvement.
Whilst this might sound like simple advice, it is guidance that could empower customers to be a little more careful about who they disclose their personal information to. Other examples might include a helpline to provide customers with peace of mind. Such a service could increase a customer’s bond and loyalty to their bank.
Step 3: Offer additional services
In addition to educating and advising customers about risks and ways to protect their identity, banks can also take further steps to build loyalty by offering additional and exclusive services. Barclays is now giving customers the opportunity to set up daily ATM withdrawal limits on their mobile banking app, to prevent the risk of security breaches. This is just one example of an additional account protection service that a bank could offer its customers on top of advice.
By taking responsibility and offering customers not just advice, but an actual service that will help protect themselves, a bank can its extend the influence into customers’ lives, improving their value and retention. In fact, our recent study looking at customer engagement found that banks that offer ‘protecting the customer’ products have 13 per cent higher customer engagement scores compared to the average, meaning they stay longer and are more likely to recommend to others.
Cyber-security attacks have, and will continue to, present a significant threat because of the connectivity of modern life, unless action is taken. There is an ever-rising level of customer data online, which both businesses and customers need to take responsibility for keeping safe. But amidst the threat and concern, there is an opportunity for financial services institutions to look beyond this and instead see the challenge as a chance to build more loyal and lasting customer relations.
You wouldn’t drink milk if it was five days past its sell-by date. You wouldn’t buy a computer in 2017 running Windows 98. Would you use data that you know is bad, incomplete or outdated? Rishi Dave, CMO at Dun & Bradstreet talks to Finance Monthly about the impact of using bad data, and what makes it bad.
Clearly, the answer here is a resounding no. Yet it seems this is common practice for many enterprises; in 2016, poor quality data alone cost the Unites States $3.1 trillion. Most companies know how important data is – managers, financial decision makers, data scientists and so many others use it every day at work. Due to the constraints of time, some employees simply have no choice but to accept the data they’re given and use it for financial contracts, supply chain management or prospecting new customers.
But this is risky business. A company can have all the data in the world at its fingertips, but realistically, how much of that data is accurate? And how is it being processed? Only by having the right tools and analytics can the consequences of bad data be avoided.
What’s the worst that could happen?
Bad data can mean many things; the data itself could be outdated, poorly formatted or inconsistent.
For sales and marketing teams, they rely heavily on the most-up-to-date, real-time data to allow them to effectively do their job properly. It’s no use calling up the MD of a company, only to find out they no longer work there or now have a different title. This can be incredibly timewasting and fundamentally limits a salesperson’s ability to sell; the average sales rep spends 64% of his or her time on non-selling activities. Wasted time leads to wasted revenue, which means bad data is directly impacting the company’s bottom line.
A vital ingredient to growth
Bad data isn’t just a timewaster, but a growth-stopper. For companies to grow, they need the right data for the right business function. Marketers need to ensure their contact database is up to date, or face stultified growth opportunities. Nowadays, businesses are demanding more intelligent, data-driven, real-time insights to realise higher return; 80% of marketers see data quality as critical to sales and marketing teams and more than half are investing to address persistent data challenges.
Incorrect names or job roles, outdated phone numbers and inconsistent & badly recycled data will actively prevent a company from reaching desired prospects. The Databerg report in 2015 found that medium sized companies were spending £435,000 on redundant, obsolete or trivial data. For SMEs, growth via data could certainly be the difference between black and red. And therefore making sure they have the right data is paramount. After all, if you water a plant with seawater, it won’t grow. Feed it with normal water and watch it flourish.
Data is an opportunity
Data has the power to transform businesses – but feed bad data in to a machine (or company), and you’ll only get bad results. From losing customers, a damaged reputation and decreased revenue, everything is at stake. Of course, no company is immune to human error. But what a company can control is its flow of data and how it uses it.
Most businesses know that they have to act to improve the quality of their data. But the way they do this is flawed; most batch cleanse, but they do this once a year at most. In the current age where data flow is constant and new information about customers, partners, suppliers and the economy is available all the time, data insight is only ever as accurate as the data feeding it.
What’s the answer?
What businesses really need to do with their data is to integrate, clean, link, and supplement it so they have an accurate database on which to build their algorithms. This starts with foundational master data.
Master data is the foundational information on customers, vendors and prospects that must be shared across all internal systems, applications, and processes in order for your commercial data, transactional reporting and business activity to be cleaned, linked, optimized and made accurate. It’s essentially the foundation of your enterprise and without it not only does your AI infrastructure breakdown, but so does your business.
Whether it’s a hospital, a financial institution or a marketing agency, ensuring you have the right quality data must be top of every agenda. Data is an opportunity; don’t waste it.
As Article 50 has finally been triggered, Michelle McGrade, Chief Investment Officer at TD Direct Investing, talks Finance Monthly through the key areas investors should consider, and answer a question many investors are thinking: ‘What are the investment opportunities open to me in a post-Brexit world?’
Following the UK’s vote to Brexit, our customers over at TD Direct Investing told us their biggest concern was how the UK Government would manage to implement its plans to trigger Article 50. And, more recently, we have seen increased uncertainty about what Brexit will actually mean, with approx. 40% saying they don’t know what impact it will have on their investments.
Here I’ve focused on six key areas I believe you should consider – and bring you 50 Investment Opportunities for Article 50.
In addition to our Best of British Fund Managers list, which highlights the 25 funds that have consistently performed over the past decade, we focused on some key topic areas: Disruption, European Recovery, Global Income, Small Caps, Contrarian and Sustainability.
Sector opportunity #1: Disruption
Politics are certainly disrupting the status quo around the world right now, but the wider theme of disruption is having a more profound impact on every aspect of our lives. Central to this is technology; a constant driver of new, and often simplified, ways in which we live. According to a recent poll we conducted on our dedicated Article 50 hub, 57% of the 324 respondents believe that Britain has the ability to stand alone as a hub of innovation.
Sector opportunity #2: European recovery
65% of people who responded to a recent TD poll believed Europe has been wounded by the populist movement. However, I think the European economy is actually on a positive road to recovery with a selection of investment opportunities. What we’ve learnt from Brexit is that no one knows how key political events are going to turn out, and what the stock markets’ reaction to those events will be. As investors, it is better to stick to what you do know and focus on a long-term investment horizon.
Sector opportunity #3: Global Income
Article 50 has been triggered, but does that mean we should start looking abroad for investment opportunities? In another one of our surveys, 57% of respondents agree with my belief that independent trade deals between Britain and other areas around the world are highly likely – therefore, looking beyond our own shores, there are a number opportunities from around the world.
Sector opportunity #4: Small Cap Recovery
The quicker a company can grow its earnings in a sustainable way the more attractive it is to investors. UK smaller company shares have delivered better total returns than larger companies over more than 60 years. You can think of small-cap investing in the same way as parenting. When the companies are at a very early stage, they are problematic. Likewise, any parent will tell you the ‘terrible twos’ is a difficult time. And once companies get too big, they are then teenagers, becoming potentially hard to manage. But in between these two phases is potentially a sweet-spot for parents and investors alike.
Sector opportunity #5: Sustainability
With events such as the UK’s vote to leave the European Union taking centre stage and leading to market uncertainty and volatility, it is worth noting there are still long-term, structural themes which can benefit investors. Sustainability is one such theme. It is becoming ever more important not just because of its significance in environmental terms, but because companies which adopt a sustainable business model are also outperforming those which don’t.
Sector opportunity #6: Contrarian
Sometimes opportunities arise in the basic act of going against the prevailing sentiment – when a fund is unloved or has, let’s say been out of fashion.
Other opportunities: Best of British Fund Managers
A lot has happened in the markets over the last 10 years; the global financial crisis, the price of Brent crude oil falling to its lowest point since 2003, and more recently the EU referendum and the drop in sterling.
Despite the volatile market conditions - and headlines – some fund managers have truly earned their stripes. Our Best of British research, now in its third year, identifies the top 25 UK fund managers who have consistently outperformed their benchmark and sector average over the last decade.
There is some crossover between Britain’s Top 25 fund managers and the above categories, including MFM Slater, Royal London UK Equity Income and Kames Ethical Equity, who would all appear in both lists - double the credit for their potential.
|Aim of the fund
|Henderson Global Technology
|To aim to provide capital growth by investing in companies worldwide that derive, or are expected to derive, profits from technology.
|Baillie Gifford International
|The Fund aims to produce attractive returns over the long term by investing principally in companies worldwide, excluding the United Kingdom.
|Polar Capital Global Insurance
|To achieve capital growth through investment in companies operating in the international insurance sector.
|Henderson European Selected Opportunities
|The fund aims to provide long-term capital growth by investing in European company shares.
|Old Mutual Europe (ex UK) Smaller Companies
|The aim is to achieve long term capital growth through investing primarily in an equity portfolio of smaller companies incorporated in Europe (ex UK) or incorporated outside of Europe (ex UK) which have a predominant proportion of their assets and/or business operations in Europe (ex UK).
|BlackRock Continental European Income
|The aim is to achieve an above average income from its equity investments, compared to the income yield of European equity markets (excluding the UK), without sacrificing long term capital growth.
|Jupiter European Special Situations
|The Fund's investment policy is to attain the objective by investing principally in European equities, in investments considered by the manager to be undervalued.
|Artemis Global Income
|The fund aims to achieve a rising income combined with capital growth from a wide range of investments. The fund will mainly invest in global equities but may have exposures to fixed interest securities.
|Fidelity Money Builder
|Fund Manager Ian Spreadbury has gained valuable perspective through his long tenure at Fidelity, his 10 prior years at L&G, and his earlier actuarial career. Having built the team at Fidelity in the 1990s, he is able to get the most out of the analyst team. He also designed the investment process, which remains in place.
|Veritas Global Equity Income
|The investment objective of the fund is to provide a high and growing level of income and thereafter to preserve capital in real terms over the long term.
|Royal London UK Equity Income
|The investment objective and policy of the Fund is to achieve a combination of income and some capital growth by investing mainly in UK higher yielding and other equities, as well as convertible stocks. (No. 11 in TD's 2017 Best of British list)
|Threadneedle UK Equity Income
|The fund seeks to achieve an above average rate of income combined with sound prospects for capital growth. The ACD’s investment policy is to invest the assets of the Fund primarily in UK equities.
|The fund aims to provide income. At least 80% of the fund will be invested in shares of UK companies. The fund aims to provide an income in excess of 110% of the FTSE All Share index yield.
|JPM Emerging Markets Income
|The fund seeks to provide a portfolio designed to achieve income by investing primarily in Equity and Equity-Linked Securities of Emerging Markets companies in any economic sector whilst participating in long-term capital growth.
|Schroder Asian Income
|The Fund’s investment objective is to provide a growing income and capital growth for Investors over the long term primarily through investment in equity and equity-related securities of Asian companies which offer attractive yields and growing dividend payments.
|First State Global Listed Infrastructure
|The Fund invests in a diversified portfolio of listed infrastructure and infrastructure related securities from around the world.
|L&G UK Property
|The objective of this fund is to provide a combination of income and growth by investing solely in the Legal & General UK Property Fund (the ‘Master Fund’). It may also hold cash where necessary to enable the making of payments to unitholders or creditors.
|Fidelity Strategic Bond
|The fund invests in a portfolio primarily of sterling denominated (or hedged back to sterling) fixed interest securities. Derivatives and forward transactions may also be used for investment purposes.
|CF Woodford Income Focus Fund
|A new fund from Neil Woodford launched 20th March 2017 is proving popular with our customers. Developed to meet investor demand for a fund offering a higher level of income and follows the launch of the CF Woodford Equity Income Fund, in June 2014, and the Woodford Patient Capital Trust in April of the following year.
|SMALL CAP RECOVERY
|Liontrust UK Smaller Companies Fund
|The investment objective of the Fund is to provide long-term capital growth by investing primarily in smaller UK companies displaying a high degree of Intellectual Capital and employee motivation through equity ownership in their business model.
|MFM Slater Growth
|The investment objective of the Scheme is to achieve capital growth. The Scheme will invest in companies both in the UK and overseas but concentrating mainly on UK shares. (No1 in TD's 2017 Best of British list)
|Legg Mason IF Royce US Smaller Companies Fund
|The Fund’s investment objective is to generate long-term capital appreciation. The Fund invests at least 70 per cent of its Total Asset Value in common stocks of US Companies.
|Franklin UK Mid Cap Fund
|The fund will primarily invest in the equity securities of UK companies listed in the FTSE 250 Index.
|The aim of the Fund is to achieve capital growth over the medium to longer term. The Fund will invest predominantly in global equities and in particular will invest in such equities in those sectors identified by the investment manager as providing solutions to the challenges of sustainability.
|Kames Ethical Equity
|The investment objective is to maximise total return. The fund invests in equities and equity type securities in companies based in the UK, principally conducting business in the UK or listed on the UK stock market which meets the Fund's predefined ethical criteria. (No. 19 in TD's 2017 Best of British list)
|Royal London Sustainable Leaders
|The fund seeks to provide above-average capital growth through investment in companies that have a positive effect on the environment, human welfare and quality of life. (No 24 in TD's 2017 Best of British list)
|M&G Global Emerging Markets
|At M&G, fund manager Matthew Vaight likes investing in cheaper companies and is encouraged by their improving capital management trend. Plus, emerging markets help to diversify investment is a good portfolio diversifier.
|Man GLG Undervalued Assets
|Henry Dixon buys companies that are cheap, have been forgotten by the markets and have a promising upside. He has a disciplined approach and conducts thorough analysis of company balance sheets to understand the company’s assets and liabilities.
|Guinness Global Energy
|The portfolio is concentrated, with only 30 names in it and is managed by a highly experienced and dedicated team of three: Wil Riley, Jonathan Waghorn and Tim Guinness.
|BEST OF BRITISH
|N.B. The following descriptions are focused on the fund managers who featured in TD's Top 25 Best of British list
|CF Lindsell Train UK Equity
|Nick Train is a highly experienced manager. His process is differentiated and has proved successful over a number of market cycles. Train seeks companies with unique and strong franchises which can prosper through a number of business cycles. Turnover is very low, with positions only sold if the managers no longer consider a company to be of sufficient quality.
|Liontrust Special Situations
|Cross has a wealth of experience investing in small-cap companies and has been supported by Julian Fosh since May 2008. His process focuses on the importance of intangible assets and how key employees are motivated and retained. The fund has large active positions, and therefore tends to have a very different performance profile to the benchmark and its peer group.
|Majedie UK Equity
|The fund is structured into four sub-portfolios; three large cap and one small cap, with each manager given the freedom to run their sub-portfolio as they deem appropriate. The common philosophy is the desire to be pragmatic and flexible. The fund has delivered consistent returns across different market environments with relatively low volatility.
|Schroder UK Dynamic Smaller Companies
|Paul Marriage has generated substantial outperformance in different market conditions since taking control of this fund in 2006, though he has proved particularly effective during falling markets. Marriage seeks companies that offer differentiated products, are leaders within niche markets, exhibit margin growth, and have high-quality management. While the fund’s core holdings will fit these criteria, he can also invest in companies on a shorter-term view, aiming to take advantage of value opportunities.
|Troy Trojan Income
|Troy has a culture based on capital preservation, strong risk-adjusted returns, and steady long-term capital and income growth. Brooke has been consistent in his approach through market conditions both favourable and unfavourable to his style. The fund is a relatively concentrated portfolio of quality companies which have to meet strict criteria before being considered for investment.
|Kirrage and Murphy have demonstrated a strong working relationship and shared a sound investment philosophy since taking over the management of this fund in July 2006. They employ a deep value approach to investing in recovery or special situations, seeking to identify unloved companies that are trading at a discount to their fair value but have good long-term prospects. While their deep value style does lead to shorter periods of underperformance, their core discipline of buying cheap stocks gives good long-term outperformance.
|SLI UK Smaller Companies
|Having run this fund since its launch in 1997, Nimmo is a highly experienced small-cap investor. While his process has led to strong long-term performance, the fund’s quality growth tilt, with valuation a secondary consideration, can at times cause performance issues.
|JOHCM UK Opportunities
|Wood has more than 25 years’ investment experience and has stuck to his investment approach through multiple market cycles. The portfolio features stocks across the equity style spectrum, and Wood’s willingness to sell aggressively, and his bias towards quality stocks, have helped the fund in the long term.
|Jupiter UK Special Situations
|Whitmore's approach reflects his genuinely contrarian and value-oriented investment philosophy. He looks for companies that are intrinsically undervalued but are nevertheless well-run and have sound balance sheets. Whitmore has proved an astute investor over the years, with a clear ability to select stocks in a dispassionate and disciplined fashion. He has shown the courage of his convictions in constructing the portfolio, which can look quite different to the benchmark, including high levels of cash (typically 10%) when he feels there are insufficient opportunities.
|Schroder UK Alpha Income
|Hudson has run the fund since its launch in 2005. He positions the fund in line with where he feels the market is in the business cycle. This is reflected in a weighting to seven different buckets: commodity cyclicals, consumer cyclicals, industrial cyclicals, growth, financials, growth defensives and value defensives.
|Old Mutual UK Smaller Companies
|Nickolls is an experienced small-cap investor who benefits from the input of the wider Old Mutual team, including Richard Buxton. He seeks companies for the fund that have the ability to grow earnings faster than average over time, the scope to generate a positive surprise, or the potential to be re-rated relative to the market.
|IP UK Strategic Income
|Barnett has managed the fund since January 2006 and is a skilled UK equity investor. He has a long-term focus and a contrarian style, mixing a high-level macro view with bottom-up stock picking, and copes well with the large amount of assets he is responsible for.
|CF Woodford Equity Income
|Woodford is one of the UK’s most experienced equity income managers. The fund aims to deliver a positive capital return while growing income, and Woodford has proved willing to stick to his strategy even during periods of poor performance.
|Investec UK Special Situations
|Mundy is a seasoned and talented manager who has achieved considerable success across a variety of market conditions. He has a deep value, contrarian approach, seeking companies whose share prices have fallen at least 50% relative to the market. Mundy also places importance on dividend yield, which has helped reduce volatility of returns.
|Old Mutual UK Alpha
|Buxton is a hugely talented UK equity manager with many years’ experience. His established and proven process combines stock-level analysis with top-down insights, taking a long-term approach to identifying undervalued companies often with a contrarian angle. His approach typically leads to outperformance in rising markets but lags in falling markets.
|AXA Framlington UK Select Opportunities
|Thomas is one of the market’s most experienced and talented managers. His investment philosophy emphasises diversification via a multi-cap approach, with a focus on medium and smaller companies. The long-term, high-conviction approach can lead the fund’s performance to differ significantly from its peers.
|Adrian Frost continues to run this fund. With its considerable size, the fund tends not to have the flexibility to invest further down the cap scale, unlike many peers. Gosden left the group at the end of June 2016, but Frost has committed to at least three more years on the fund and the group plans to recruit an experienced manager as a replacement.
|Liontrust Macro Equity Income
|Bailey’s understanding of the equity market and company analysis dovetails with Luthman’s macro views and insights. A focus on certain parts of the market via themes can lead the fund to have significant active positions at a sector level. The team has shown it can add value through both top-down economic themes and stock selection.
|JOHCM UK Growth
|Costar uses a clear, well-executed process which he has used throughout his career. His analysis is focused on what drives a share price and he attempts to determine what is already priced in and what is yet to be recognised. Given his distinctive style performance can be volatile, but the fund has a strong long-term cumulative performance record.
|Schroder UK Smaller Companies
|Brough seeks to build the core of the portfolio around companies operating in areas of secular growth with strong business franchises. A smaller allocation is made to firms that may benefit from a cyclical upturn or rerating. The fund invests lower down the market-cap scale than many of its peers. The fund's long-term performance remains solid relative to the benchmark index and peers.
|Artemis UK Special Situations
|A highly experienced manager, Stuart runs the fund with a small- and mid-cap bias, seeking companies which are unloved or undervalued, or undergoing change. Stuart has managed the fund since 2000 and has demonstrated the ability to add value in a variety of market conditions, although performance can be volatile.
A commentary from Rick Nicholls, Managing Director, Bastien Jack Group Ltd, UK property developer.
In short, we have opportunity.
Initial shock at the prospect of leaving the EU sent the markets into decline, but have they not reacted pretty much as anticipated? Never letting a crisis go without opportunity, selling high to force a low, and then buy back? Since then there has been some indication stability is returning to the markets though GBP to USD and Euro are still trading lower. This is a good thing for UK exports, making them more competitive, assisting those companies that rely on export markets to grow. The UK vote for Brexit probably doesn't mean that the housing market in the UK is about collapse either. While some uncertainty in the short term may reduce house price growth, for the longer-term property investor, this could be a good opportunity for investing.
The foreign property investor has a boost in value-for-money
In the 24 hours after the Brexit vote, the value of sterling fell on foreign exchange markets. Not by as much as predicted but by around 6% against the euro and 8% against the dollar. As I'm writing this, the pound is now worth €1.11. This fall means the European property investor has more sterling to spend.
Demand for property, specifically in London from foreign investors is still likely to increase, interest has been high from China and Asia as their currency exchange has automatically allowed them a discount on current prices. This though is likely to bea short window of opportunity as we see markets recover from the initial shock.
Domestic demand will remain strong
Demand from home buyers and renters probably won't collapse either.
There is concern that demand for housing will fall in London and the UK. However, parliamentary research produced for the 2015 Parliament put demand at between 232,000 to 300,000 new housing units per year through to 2020. Demand for new homes is exceeding supply by around 150,000 every year. This demand, fed by the number of new households created each year, is unlikely to fall below the level of supply.
Immigration will probably remain strong
One of the main negotiations the UK and EU will have to discuss is the free movement of people. Despite the ‘Leave' campaign suggesting a limit to immigration, we now understand there needs to be movement but objective negotiations will have take place. This will form a significant part of the negotiations to leave the EU.
Outside the EU, the Prime Minister's current visit to India has the subject of immigration firmly on the agenda for a post Brexit trade deal.
Fundamentals of the UK Property Market
The uncertainty of the exact outcome of Brexit may cause the property investor a little nervousness, but the fundamentals for UK property remain strong.
In terms of capital growth, there are a number of comparable data choices but the Real House price tracker provides more meaningful guide to house prices and has been adjusted for the effects of inflation over the same period. Results confirm the increases in house prices have risen faster than inflation, and includes the last recession where the fall can be seen as a correction when compared to the overall property performance.
There has been widespread comment as to the likely effects on house prices, with falls of between 5% and 10% for areas outside London, though little evidence can be found to support this so far.
The BTL investor has also seen positive movements since 2001 with the size of private renters beginning to grow again.
Annual rent rises too have accelerated in recent years and these are not limited to London. Bristol and Brighton both enjoyed increases, averaging circa 18% in 2015 compared to the previous year. The insurer Homelet reported similar rises in the North (Newcastle upon Tyne and Edinburgh) with around 16% over the previous year. Ultimately the increases are attributable to what's happening in their specific area and will be influenced by strong fundamentals. Perhaps Hull can expect some positive growth when it is crowned City of Culture?
Rents in London have continued to rise with greater pace than other areas in the UK but have slowed since 2014, therefore a narrowing of the rent inflation gap between London and the rest of the UK.
Even with the recent policy change for buy-to-let investors paying additional stamp duty, more people have turned to BTL investments perhaps as an alternative to low interest rates, bolstered with the knowledge the pace of house building has not kept up with demand therefore sustaining their investment. At the time of the referendum result, there was speculation the base rate would reduce from 0.5% to 0.25% which did take place in August. The Bank of England indicated they would consider reducing further if the economy worsened, which so far has not been the case. It was also confirmed at the time, they also would add money to support confidence and restrict banks freezing liquidity, if not this would probably cause a further credit crunch and restrict mortgage finance. The governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, confirmed the reserve of £250bn can be made available if required.
Carney further commented the substantial capital held and large liquidity gives banks the flexibility to continue to lend to businesses and individuals even during challenging times. This suggests provision and safeguards are in place to maintain current lending to suit demand.
Since the referendum, the markets have rallied well and only recently fallen as investors are perhaps concerned that central banks around the globe are easing up on the monetary policies given the uncertainty of the US election result.
In the UK, mortgage approvals by the main banks increased in September after a 19-month low in August. They were lower than the year before but speaking with our local agents, they suggest it's down to a lack of supply of new build property rather than purchasing confidence.
There are four main areas for focus as we get to grips with the prospect of the UK outside the EU.
1) Calm - we have some indication this is already with us; the markets do seem to have calmed. This is probably due to all the positions the markets took on ‘Remain' have now well and truly played out. It's not over yet though, the volatility is set to continue until Article 50 has been triggered and a new directional plan from the government for the UK to leave is known.
2) Change - Nothing ever stays the same, what works for today may not be right for tomorrow. A pertinent example is Kodak, they tried to ignore new technology hoping it would go away by itself on the basis of it being too expensive, too slow, too complicated etc. It wasn't and their market changed irreversibly in a relatively short period of time, moving from wet film to digital technology.
3) Opportunity - Leaving the EU does provide opportunity. With price correction, there is opportunity to procure better land deals than prior to the referendum, as there may be fewer developers with available funding. Contractors had full order books and build costs had become very high prior to the referendum. We are aware some development contracts have been cancelled as a result of Brexit. Therefore, there might be more opportunity to reduce build costs as price elasticity plays out. The current volatility will ease. The fact the UK has to build more houses to meet demand won't change.
Bastien Jack Group Ltd has a strong project pipeline and always procures sites which have strong fundamentals and in areas where people want to live. There is a huge amount of due diligence which goes into every site appraisal including courting many local agents and advisors to confirm local demand and Gross Development Values. Speaking with agents in our pipeline areas, they have confirmed confidence is still strong and enthusiastic house viewings are still going ahead. As long as lending is still being offered and liquidity remains within the economy, there remains a great opportunity for us to progress.
(Source: Bastien Jack Ltd)