Personal Finance. Money. Investing.

The last two years have changed the world in a myriad of ways, one of which is the lingering debt that thousands more consumers are now having to deal with. Unpaid debt or ‘problem debt’ has soared. Pre-pandemic, there were estimated to be just over 1 million UK households facing problem debt. But by mid-2021, Citizens’ Advice estimated that number would have risen to at least 1.5 million.

This increase, coupled with a cultural shift that has occurred since we first entered lockdown, has forced debt collection agencies to reconsider their methods. Digital debt collection is helping to transform the industry, not only for lenders but for borrowers too.

Finding Compassion in Collection

Most people would not automatically link compassion to debt collecting, because, in particular, those with problem debt have often only seen the uncompromising face of an outdated industry. But the sector has recently been through a period of self-reflection.

Firstsource has been working with creditors and collection agencies for over two decades. Throughout this time, we have increasingly found that using compassion, relating to borrowers, finding ways to empathise with them, has been the best way to recover debts. Building a rapport helps borrowers feel appreciated and understood, leading to much higher rates of collection.

One barrier to empathy has been that the number of borrowers has traditionally far outstripped the lenders’ ability to offer this kind of service. It is, in part, this blanket system that has given the industry its current reputation. But the advent of digitised debt collection is poised to change this.

How Debt Collection Digitised

While anyone would be hesitant to focus too much on the positives that have occurred during the pandemic, there are some rays of sunlight that have shone through. For one, consumers have begun to realise the importance of their voices. This has precipitated the aforementioned cultural change, rearranging consumer hierarchy to emphasise the adage: the customer is always right. And now many industries are looking for ways to become more customer-friendly

The debt collection industry has responded by ramping up its digital offerings. Through the use of various modern technologies, debt collectors can offer a more customer-centric service:

Digitisation has a habit of improving all services, particularly when used as a hybrid service with human interaction, and debt collection is no exception. Many digital debt collectors also offer 24/7 helplines, with phones answered by trained debt collection professionals, for when customers want instant replies from real people.

Why Digital Debt Collection Works

This digitalisation has worked in line with Firstsource’s findings that compassion is one of the best tools debt collectors have. Organisations like Martin Lewis’ Money Saving Expert, Citizens’ Advice, and a range of charities give advice to borrowers. But a pervading feeling from many borrowers that there is shame in being in debt, originating in the power imbalance that exists between debt and borrower, stops many from seeking help.

Each of these applications have started to redress this imbalance, placing more of the power with the traditional underdog in the relationship. By providing unintrusive collections that focus on allowing the customer to decide when, why, and how they are communicated with, collectors help break down the stigma surrounding debt. This is the compassion that Firstsource has been injecting into collections. Empowering borrowers lets them know they are valued and not judged, creating a collection service that is simultaneously more friendly and successful at its primary purpose.

Real Proof Digital Debt Collection Works

These aren’t just pretty words either, the benefits are already translating into real money for organisations that switch to empathetic digital debt collections. The statistics truly prove these methods are wholly more efficient than the traditional approach.

The most tangible way of measuring debt collection success is of course through the money repaid. Clients that have implemented the white-label Firstsource Digital Collection Solution have seen resolution rates climbing by up to 400%, while at the same time collection costs drop by 3-4%. In monetary terms, this has resulted in close to £200,000,000 collected each year.

Delinquency rates are also vastly improved. By providing individualised repayment plans, borrowers are far more easily able to meet the terms. This has led to almost ten million accounts being saved from becoming delinquent each year.

And finally, digital debt collection has also helped boost collectors’ profits by improving productivity. The fully configurable and compliant software easily plugs into their existing stack to begin automated delivery, giving collectors complete control over workflows, processes, and communications. This mitigates compliance and operational risks and reserves employee manpower for more intricate tasks. Employers can use this productivity to scale up their organisations while reducing costs to help for more efficient future budgeting.

Reshaping Our Perception of Debt

For many, there has been little choice but to enter problem debt since the pandemic began. In some cases, whole industries have tumbled, and the fallout has hit everyday people the most. In response, the debt collection industry must take a holistic approach when dealing with borrowers.

Empathy is a powerful tool that has for too long not been properly used by the industry. To reach the growth it strives for, the sector must not be afraid to change, and in this case, that means modernisation. But beyond that, digital debt collection is the best way, not only to improve profit and productivity but to reshape the way society sees debt itself.

Phil Sugden, Director at flexible workspace solutions provider, Portal Group, discusses below how the Managed Office Solutions concept has reduced the risk of capital expenditure for fast-growing companies when relocating offices.

In a rapidly evolving market place, businesses are often growing at an entirely unpredictable rate. While growth is one of the most highly valued characteristics of any successful organisation, it often causes logistical and financial challenges when relocating to a larger workspace under the traditional office lease and the serviced model.

Businesses that opt for the traditional lease model are highly restricted in terms of flexibility, fit out and capital expenditure, thus limiting future developments and changes. While the serviced model offers more flexibility, businesses still face limitations on how they can use the office environment to reflect their brand.

Selecting an integrated service offering, such as Managed Office Solutions (MOS), offers a ‘third way’ for businesses to relocate to larger premises. Using MOS, offices are tailored to the client’s exact needs with the added advantages of risk mitigation, the removal of capex requirements and contract terms to meet business planning horizons.

The typical challenge for a small business that has outgrown its existing premises is finding and setting up an alternative location with access to high-calibre talent in a short space of time. In addition, extensive lease lengths can restrict SMEs from finding a new workspace that is wholly suited to their growth strategy.

Historically, companies opting for the traditional lease model have committed to the security of lengthy 10, 15 or even 20 year leases. As business plans often change several times over lengthy lease terms, this certainty has come at a critical price of flexibility in an often volatile economic climate.

The contract lengths for MOS, however, typically range from 3-5 years and therefore enable companies that require a high number of workstations, to more closely align their accommodation requirements with their actual business needs, allowing them to expand or downsize as required.

When expanding under the traditional office lease, businesses are required to self-source and invest substantial capital expenditure in what would be a large, ‘from-scratch’ project. Outsourcing fit-out and facilities management providers when relocating offices can be a costly and time-consuming process.

In addition, the exit fees and dilapidation costs can present even the most well-established businesses with a weighty unnecessary expenditure at the end of a lease.

As a result, small to medium sized businesses are now viewing their office space requirements as a strategic component of their business plan, and thus opting for more flexible leasing options at a fixed price, with no additional costs.

Leases are rapidly becoming an outdated concept, and under more flexible workspace contracts such as Managed Office Solutions (MOS), agreements can be negotiated so they are based on inclusive managed contracts that are priced on a per workstation basis with no capital expenditure or risk.

By having a single cost for the property, facilities management, fit out and ongoing management, flexible methods like MOS remove what can be considerable associated upfront capital expenditure costs, while allowing business funds to be utilised more effectively on operational costs for the property itself.

Simply put, the new wave of shared offices options are allowing SMEs to not only access all the services they need at a cost-certain price, but to work within a flexible financial model that actively encourages their individual development and culture.

Below Graeme Dillane, manager, financial services, InterSystems, offers insight into best practices in the financial services industry, highlighting where current weaknesses lie and how they can overcome.

Increasing trade volumes and periods of high market volatility create technology challenges for financial services firms. This is especially true for sell-side firms, which can experience extremely high transaction volumes, since they partition already high volumes of incoming orders into an even greater number of smaller orders for execution. At the same time, they must support a high number of concurrent analytic queries to provide order status, risk management, surveillance and other information for clients.

This requirement for multi-workload processing at high scale, coupled with the highest levels of performance and reliability, has historically been difficult to satisfy. Compounding the challenge, transaction volumes grow not only incrementally and within expectations, but can also spike due to unexpected world events.

A critical component of a sell-side firm’s technology infrastructure is its transaction management and analytics platform. The platform must be reliable and highly available. A failure, or even a slowdown of the platform, can have severe consequences as it can take many hours to rebuild order state and resume normal operations after a failure. In the meantime, the firm’s ability to process additional trades and provide order status is compromised and financial losses mount.

To successfully handle growth and volatility without performance or availability issues, the platform must balance transactional workloads with the concurrent analytic demands of downstream applications at scale. Financial services organisations, particularly sell-side firms, must process millions of messages per second, while simultaneously supporting thousands of analytic queries from hundreds of systems that must report on the state of orders while performing other queries.

Currently, in-memory databases are widely used, primarily due to their ability to support high-performance data-insert operations and analytic workload processing. However, in-memory databases alone are not an ideal platform for transaction management and analytics for several reasons:

Finding a Solution

So, given these challenges, how can financial services organisations find a solution that enables them to simultaneously process transactional and analytic workloads at high scale?

The answer comes in the form of the Hybrid Transaction/Analytical Processing (HTAP) database.

Traditionally, online transaction processing (OLTP) and online analytical processing (OLAP) workloads have been handled independently, by separate databases. However, operating separate databases creates complexity and latency because data must be moved from the OLTP environment to the OLAP environment for analysis. This has led to the development of a new kind of database which can process both OLTP and OLAP workloads in a single environment without having to copy the transactional data for analysis. HTAP databases are being used in multiple industries for their ability to uncover new insights, create new revenue opportunities and improve situational awareness and overall business agility for organisations.

The best HTAP database platforms deliver the performance of an in-memory database with the persistence and reliability of a traditional operational database. They are optimised to accommodate high transactional workloads and a high volume of analytic queries on the transactional data concurrently, without incident or performance degradation, even during periods of market volatility.

They have a comprehensive, multi-model database management system (DBMS) that delivers fast transactional and analytic performance without sacrificing scalability, reliability or security. They can handle relational, object-oriented, document, key-value, hierarchical, and multi-dimensional data objects in a common, persistent storage tier.

Moreover, the best of these embody features that make them attractive for mission-critical, high-performance transaction management and analytics applications. These include:

High-performance for transactional workloads with built-in persistence – The ideal scenario is to find a data platform that includes a high-performance database that provides transactional performance equal to, or greater than, in-memory databases along with built-in persistence at scale.

Data is not lost when a machine is turned off, eliminating the need for database recovery or re-building efforts. By using an efficient, multi-dimensional data model with sparse storage techniques, data access and updates are accomplished faster, using fewer resources and less disk capacity.

High-performance for analytic workloads – Seek out solutions that provide a range of analytic capabilities, including full SQL support, enabling you to use their existing SQL-based applications with few or no changes. Since the database stores data in efficient multidimensional structures, SQL applications achieve better performance than traditional relational databases.

Consistent high-performance for concurrent transactional and analytic workloads at scale - Ideally, solutions should provide the highest levels of performance for both transactional and analytic workloads concurrently, at high scale, without compromising performance for either type of workload. Since rising order volumes increase both the transactional and analytic workloads on the system, a data platform must scale to handle such workloads without experiencing performance or availability issues.

Positive Prospects

This article has highlighted that many financial services organisations are, for a variety of reasons, currently crying out for ways in which they can simultaneously process transactional and analytic workloads at high scale. Fortunately, help is now at hand. Thanks to the latest breed of data platforms for high-performance transaction management and analytics applications, both transaction processing and analytic queries are supported concurrently, at very high scale, with built-in durability and with the highest levels of reliability – and at a low total cost of ownership.

Commuting to work has been a topic of many conversations. We all discuss and explore our options: walking, cycling, driving, car sharing, or staying with the good old public transport. For people working, offshore choices are limited and safety concerns are high and many. Reflex Marine Ltd, a company founded over 25 years ago, dedicates all its time and resources to developing and facilitating safe crew transfers by crane. FROG, Reflex Marine’s main product, found its way to all continents and their many offshore platforms, vessels and installations. FROGs helps transfer over a million offshore workers each year; it’s a simple yet safe, efficient and flexible way to reach your work post on the sea.

Earlier this month, we sat down with Sandra Antonovic, Chief Operating Officer for Reflex Marine and we talked about revolutionising marine transfer.


Maybe we could start by quickly summarising what is it that you do at Reflex Marine?

The role of Chief Operating Officer is a very complex and layered one in any company, maybe more so in Reflex Marine, because we are small in number of people (less than 20), yet we cover the market globally and are involved in all stages of product development, product testing, product manufacturing, product marketing, positioning and placement, and finally post-sale client support and service. The very essence of my job is understanding the market and the ways it grows, changes and/or shifts; creating a space for our company in that market and then making sure we deliver in the most efficient and effective way possible. It is an incredibly interesting, eclectic and multi-faceted job covering anything from designing, negotiating and closing a fleet deal with a major client, to looking at the cash flow or projected earnings.


How do you ensure you can effectively do your job without feeling overwhelmed?

People reach corporate or C-suite positions because they have the ability to stay focused regardless of what goes on, they can filter through the noise and they are able to make decisions in matter of seconds, if necessary. These people perform best in high-paced, very demanding environments, and they are able to deliver in the most strenuous circumstances. Their motivation, their drive and their stamina comes from within, not from the outside. Once your motivation starts depending on other people or circumstances, you are limiting yourself and what you can achieve. At the very beginning of my career, almost 25 years ago, I understood that growth, both personal and professional; but also the growth of a business; is all about willingness to accept responsibility and accountability, as well as about being comfortable outside your comfort zone.


A lot of people in the offshore industry, particularly offshore safety, say that Reflex Marine revolutionised marine transfer. What is it like to work for such a company, and how do you see that ‘revolution’?

Yes, you are absolutely right, Reflex Marine very much revolutionised the way people think about offshore crew transfer; and it certainly revolutionised marine transfer. Almost singlehandedly, Reflex Marine transformed marine transfer from an obsolete and risky operation to one of the safest methods of crew transfer offshore. We remained revolutionaries over the years, in how we do business, in how we approach the market and in how we keep reinventing ourselves; never forgetting our prime purpose: designing and delivering products that ensure the highest level of offshore safety.  Working for Reflex Marine has always been a great honour for me.


You say that Reflex Marine remained a revolutionary over the years. Could you please expand on that?

Reflex Marine has always been and always will be a company that pushes the boundaries and explores the unexplored, not just in what kind of products we design and manufacture, but in how we do it. When we talk about offshore crew transfer, it often sounds “either/or” – either you use helicopters, or you use crane transfer; either you use crane transfer, or you use gangway. In practice, in real life situations, things are never that black or white. Commuting to work onshore looks simple in comparison. Every morning we make a choice how to get to work – walking, cycling, taking the metro, or a bus, or driving a car. Going to work offshore doesn’t give us that many options, and the way of commuting is predefined by the operator. Helicopters are good for getting people from the port to remote installations in deep water; gangways are useful when we need to get large number of crew from a vessel to the platform; and then there is transfer by crane, which gives flexibility and cost effectiveness.  Thirty years ago, transferring people by crane had its challenges – people were transferred in net ‘baskets’, unprotected and exposed. “How can we keep the cost effectiveness and flexibility offered by crane transfer while ensuring people are safe and protected from impacts and harsh weather?”, was the question Philip Strong, Reflex Marine’s CEO and the person behind the FROG idea, kept asking himself as he embarked on a journey of improving safety of offshore crew transfer. Several years later, the first FROG was sold. The original FROG range was launched in 1999 and fifteen years later, the re-designed and re-engineered FROG-XT range was introduced to the global market.


Would you say that design and technical features helped your product differentiate itself on the market and would you say it helped you define the unique selling proposition?

Very much so. The FROG-XT Personnel Transfer Carriers (PTCs) are personnel transfer device designed to provide increased passenger protection when carrying out the transfer of personnel between vessels and installations. Crane personnel transfers are carried out for a wide variety of reasons including routine, urgent operational and emergency reasons. The FROG-XT can accommodate a stretcher to transfer injured personnel in a protected environment. ‘The FROG-XT comprises the following two main assemblies: firstly, the stainless steel outer framework containing polyethylene buoyancy panels; secondly, a spring-dampened seating assembly mounted on a central column. All materials have been selected specifically to minimise corrosion in the marine environment. The outer framework protects passengers from impacts and contains the buoyant elements which ensure the FROG-XT floats and is self-righting in water. The outer shell lands on four feet that provide shock absorption and ensure that the FROG-XT is stable on uneven surfaces or when landing on a heaving vessel. The outer shell also has four large open accesses that allow rapid unimpeded entry and exit. During transit passengers are seated and secured with full harnesses to protect them against whiplash and falling. Seating is mounted on a sprung carriage to provide protection against heavy landings. The lifting assembly is of a special design to prevent rotation.

Each Reflex Marine personnel transfer product is specified within the following controlled documents: » Build Manual – A controlled document with all relevant manufacture and assembly instructions and quality and documentation requirements; » Drawing Package – A complete listing of all pertinent drawings (in all pertinent to the model and revision); » Design Dossier – A controlled document with all relevant, design calculations and standards, risk assessments and compliance testing data; » User Manual – A controlled document with the required end-user information and maintenance and inspection requirements for use throughout the product life.


Safety of the transfer operation is both a function of the design and of the operation of the FROG-XT unit. The FROG-XT Design Dossier sets out to establish the performance expectations and define the safe operating envelop of the design and to understand the risks of operation and how these might be operationally mitigated and controlled.

There are large number of factors that affect the safe conduct of marine personnel transfers. These include crew skill and experience, met-ocean conditions, landing areas, vessel station keeping capability and response to sea conditions, visibility and line of sight. A combination of many factors will determine the risk involved.


What is the situation in the offshore industry generally, when we talk about safety in crew transfer?

Before Reflex Marine’s work began, there was no central database for marine transfer incidents. By collecting and analysing data spanning a 20-year period, the company was been able to isolate when and where these incidents happen. Crucially, this allows us to consider how best to protect personnel with the carriers we create. As expected, the study showed that most incidents happen on the vessel itself. Less predictable was the high level taking place during pick-up, which can result in serious injuries or fatalities, compared to those caused by heavy landing, which are more likely to result in minor injuries. From detailed analysis, it was found that many incidents are caused by the pendulum ‘swing factor’: an often unavoidable misalignment between the crane line and the transfer device. The research showed that the pivotal risk factors in transfers are equipment design and crane operating error. Very few incidents relate directly to the condition of the transfer device or crane; instead, the design of the equipment often has a powerful effect on its safety. A lack of training, planning and preparation was also a concern in a considerable number of the incidents studied. Using these findings, Reflex Marine tailored their carriers to address the specific risks crews face. With falls during pick-up causing serious injuries or even fatalities, Reflex Marine developed devices that offer additional safety measures. Passenger fall restraints are a design essential in all of their carriers, preventing loss of grip or dislodging. A protective outer frame and buoyancy panels reduce the dangerous effects of side impact, which frequently results from the pendulum ‘swing factor’. Reflex Marine also put in place comprehensive training programmes to encourage safe practice.


We touched a few times on a new market approach the company developed. Tell us a bit more about that.

Reflex Marine Ltd designs, engineers, manufactures and markets crew transfer carriers, also known as FROGs. The company was founded 25 years ago, and our dedication to safety and efficiency earned us over one million transfers per year, with over eight consecutive years without a lost time incident. We were always very focused on the quality and safety. The last oil price downturn, a few years ago, showed us that we need to be equally focused on the market and The Client.

Our core market has always been offshore oil and gas. IOCs, drilling companies, supply vessel companies. We never really looked elsewhere, at least not in the strategic, long-term way. The oil price was stable, purchase orders were coming through, market share sounded okay, and we carried on for years. Our main ambition was to improve our original FROG range; and we certainly did that with our FROG-XT range, launched back in 2014.

We were proud of our work and product innovation, delivered by our in-house designers and engineers. We were then, and still are today, the only manufacturer of personnel transfer carriers delivering the products developed and rigorously tested taking into the account different body types, impacts different operational transfer situations might have on a human body, human behaviour and weather conditions. FROG-XT range was tested using techniques and approach very similar to those testing a VOLVO car. We were keen to deliver the safest crew transfer option, and we succeeded. One question remained, though – how do we make sure we can continue our work amidst severe market fluctuations that are impacting our bottom line?

Looking back, the answer now seems obvious, but back in 2015 it raised a few eyebrows and meant the entire team had to get outside of their comfort zone. We decided to diversify to other offshore sectors. We started researching merchant shipping, tankers, VLCCs, ports, navy and coastal guard, and yes, LNG. The potential was enormous. Our decision to diversify triggered many changes in how we work and with whom. We were actively pursuing the market and we started creating our own opportunities through layers of activities: editorials and interviews; attending and exhibiting at large expos; speaking at conferences; organising webinars and using any and every other opportunity to share our knowledge and experience. We never chased contracts, we chased opportunities to share what we know, for free. We chased opportunities to discuss and debate; but most of all, we chased the opportunities to listen and learn.

The narrative became very important – the context – why did something happen, how did it happen, what caused it and so on. The company used to look at numbers only, revenue, expenses, manufacturing costs, overheads. Having a more corporate finance angle and approach the entire team started to appreciate the need and importance to have narratives accompanying every report, and to have an understanding of the context. We focused on analysis, on market research, on understanding our weaknesses and on working hard to mitigate the risks they could have created. We became very bold in our thinking; and it helped with the general attitude and team’s confidence.

We recognised that the market conditions changed. While that change started long before the oil price drop, it became evident and emphasised during the last oil price crisis. The cost of oil production offshore has always been high, so it comes as no surprise that oil operators and the industry’s supply chain generally made a lot of effort to reduce the time of exploration and production. What used to take two years, now takes eight months, and so on. For suppliers that meant only one thing – adapt, and do it fast. You have to reduce your lead time, your transit time, you have to lower the prices and you have to be available 24/7. Flexibility and responsiveness are the key ingredients.

Reflex Marine reduced the number of its employees by 30%, but increased productivity and responsiveness by 50-60%. We have a much better understanding of the global markets and we are able to see and comprehend the fine layers of the industry. We moved from a company that operates from 9-5 in one time zone, to a company that operates almost 24/7 in all time zones. It doesn’t mean people don’t sleep; it just means we do things in a very different way than we used to. The focus is on the outside, on the market, on the client, and on our role in helping them solve their problems. The change in focus changed everything for us.

Defining and developing a strategy for any region inevitably includes understanding the wider geopolitical context, market volatility, currency fluctuations, and inevitably, the oil price trend. Having that context helped us define and deliver the strategy that improves, strengthens and facilitates the operations of our clients.


What is the role of international agreements, regulations and bodies in understanding SWOT analytics and strategy planning?

International agreements, regulations and regulatory bodies can have quite a significant role in strategy planning and looking at SWOT analysis. One of the most recent examples is when Brazilian regulatory body for offshore operations changed the regulation on what types of carriers can be used to move people back and forth while working offshore. That change stipulates that people have to be seated, and we are one of two companies that manufactures personnel transfer carriers for seated passengers. Needless to say this change had and will have a huge impact on our strategy, from supply chain, manufacturing, post-sale approach, market communications and general focus.


What is next for Reflex Marine?

Keep innovating. Standing still is a terminal illness. We have a very defined idea on where we want to be two years from now, but also five and ten years from now. I see Reflex Marine as a company that will always be an innovator, both in products we place on the market, but more so in the approach we take and particularly, in how we execute our ideas. Execution will be the key, understanding the market and behavioural change is essential, without those things there is no real progress, no real revolution (laughs). I am confident and excited about Reflex Marine’s future.



Finance Monthly speaks to Pierre-Noël Formigé, the Founder and CEO of Swiss company SEQUOIA, about the wealth management and estate planning solutions that his company provides, as well as his tips on maintaining and growing wealth for future generations.


Can you tell us about the core services that SEQUOIA offers?

SEQUOIA offers a holistic approach of wealth management thanks to a genuine "open architecture" which includes: wealth management, establishment of funds, management of funds - advice and follow-up, estate planning (trusts, foundations, companies), services of family offices, life insurance, financing (real estate, aircrafts, boats), reports and record keeping, risk management, compliance and regulatory assistance.


What would you say are the particular benefits for individuals of having professional assistance in relation to managing their wealth?

There are numerous benefits for individuals that decide to trust SEQUOIA with their wealth management. Our aim is not only to offer financial services, but also a financial experience and networking. Each solution and experience that we offer are specifically and uniquely tailored. SEQUOIA’s modularity and extensive experience allow for easy adaptation to our clients’ expectations.


What strategies do you and your team at SEQUOIA implement to ensure that your clients’ goals and objectives are achieved?

At SEQUOIA, clients are in the centre of our decision-making processes - they are our key priority. We have developed a well-informed overview of each of our clients’ financial situation, as well as a better understanding of clients’ goals and limitations.

Every portfolio construction starts with a discussion with the client or its representative, in order to fully understand their objectives and deliver a tailored-made investment proposal, allowing to approach and negotiate with partners. Our team can, at the request of the manager, take on a direct role in the relationship with customers, in accordance with their objectives and needs.


In your experience, are individuals fully aware of their assets and worth so that they can take advantage of tax planning?  Which types of assets are usually missed?

SEQUOIA’s clients are fully aware of their assets, however, they might not be fully aware of their tax impact. We ensure that clients have better tax awareness, as it does have the potential to improve individuals’ returns. According to surveys, while many factors impact investors, the majority of high-net-worth investors say that it’s more important to minimize the impact of taxes when making investment decisions, thus we offer the right measures to help high-net-worth clients reduce the taxes owed on income and investment gains.

In order to do so, we put a lot of effort in selecting the right investment products. We try to take advantage of some losses, and implement additional strategies that can help our clients to manage, defer, and reduce taxes. However, sometimes, clients do not mention their real estate assets, which could have an effect on tax planning; we provide advisory services in relation to that too.


What solutions do you offer in respect of maintaining and growing wealth for future generations of the same family?

Transmitting heritage built from generation to generation and building a better future for entrepreneurs is the essence of SEQUOIA Group. Our team of professionals provides high-quality services in order to manage our clients’ wealth, taking future generations into account.

From portfolio management - with tailor-made investment solutions matching the clients’ needs, to liability management - which includes heritage planning, distribution agreements, trustee and real estate project management, SEQUOIA provides a cost-effective turnkey solution based on legally compliant practices to deal with the impact of new regulatory landscape and the different legal, technical and operational risks.


How challenging is it to work in an ever-changing regulatory environment?

It is obvious that the status quo cannot be maintained in this ever-changing regulatory environment, however, SEQUOIA’s approach regarding this is to constantly adapt and understand those changes to serve our clients better. Choices that have been made in the past may not be completely relevant in today’s environment or vice versa, but our job is to continuously develop strategies that are relevant to our clients.



Martin de Heus, Head of Business Development at Onguard tells Finance Monthly the situation may get worse before new methods such as segmentation drive improvement.

The issue of late payments is often seen as a major problem for small businesses only, with large corporates cast as the ‘villains’, wielding power by holding cash owed to their suppliers. There is some truth in this assumption. According to YouGov, late payments left UK SMEs £266 million out of pocket in 2016.

However, the business world is a symbiotic environment with few real heroes and villains. The impact of late payment on small businesses is often fast and dramatic – and so more visible. YouGov research also shows that 63% of medium-sized businesses receive late payments at least once a month, compared to 40% of small businesses. According to this study, the impact of late payments in this sector can lead to reduction of innovation spend and even more worryingly, the inability to pay salaries and ultimately, redundancies.

This may be because mid-range companies are most likely to be coping with outdated IT infrastructure with limited support. As a result, they are unable to automate the entire order to cash process and apply methods of segmentation for risk assessment and to ensure customers are invoiced and sent statements by their favoured and most effective method, albeit by post, email or even SMS. This form of segmentation is already considered best practice in the Netherlands and other European companies – and there are now signs of growing popularity in the UK.

But, if in reality, the late payment scourge affects all businesses, what about the belief that it’s

specifically a UK problem? In a further study conducted a few years ago, more than 62% invoices submitted by UK firms were paid late, compared with just 40% in other European countries – so this conjecture does hold some weight.

On top of this, YouGov reports that one in ten business owners believe that the problem has become worse since Brexit – with political and economic uncertainties making firms even more reluctant to part with their money.

So, what can businesses of any size do to manage their cashflow. Here are five things that any self-respecting business should put into place now to help get those payments in more quickly

Be clear about your payment terms

If you don’t make your payment terms obvious, then you can’t really blame the purchaser for hanging on for as long as they can before paying. Make sure your team the correct terms know too. Getting them into print will make the rule more definite and remove any doubt about what is expected and give your customers a consistent message.

Reward early payers

The stick rarely works as well as the carrot – as round after round of research has proved. Incentives for ‘good behaviour’ – that is paying on time can lead to better, feel-good relationships all round.

Stagger invoices

So many companies still batch process invoices once a month. True, it’s convenient, but sending out as soon as a product or service has been delivered could bring more satisfactory results. It also means you benefit from a constant flow of money.

Come down quickly on unpaid debts

Building relationships with your client’s accounts department can pay dividends. If a payment is late get in touch straight away to help create a sense of urgency. If the two departments are on good terms nobody will want to jeopardise this and the client will want to help.

Use segmentation techniques to prioritise and minimise risk

These methods are already strong in many B2C environments where payment methods have multiplied over the past few years. Segmentation can be used to define how statements and invoices are sent and the type of debtor you are dealing with. To give a simple example – in most cases it would be unproductive to send an octogenarian a statement via social media, yet this route could be highly effective when communicating with twenty-year-olds.

Now segmentation is being used increasingly by B2B companies too. Not only can it help in choosing the most effective way of communicating with the company, but it can also help companies pinpoint the types of customers most likely not to pay on time. With this knowledge, accounts departments are aware of the risks and can focus resources on collecting these payments rather than being heavy-handed with all customers including those who always meet the deadline.

Invest in the right tools

The main barriers to automated order to cash and increasingly sophisticated segmentation are out-of-date systems or, worse still, clunky spreadsheets. Credit management software which streamlines and automates the entire order to cash process are becoming used increasingly to solve the late payment challenge, saving time and building better customer relationships. They best integrate with existing ERM and are highly configurable enabling segmentation and other data analysis for the most efficient collection of money owed.

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