Friday, March 1, 2019

How could the UK Fintech industry be affected by a no-deal Brexit?

Frederick Achom

The pressure continues to mount on the UK’s Prime Minister to provide some clarity on the exit deal for withdrawal from the EU. Some reports suggest she should consider delaying Brexit, bearing in mind the difficulty that exists in reaching a consensus.

And, with the date set for our exit still 29 March 2019, there is increasing concern surrounding the possibility of a no-deal Brexit and what this will mean for industry.

Why is a no-deal Brexit a possibility?

For those with Brexit fatigue, here is a brief summary of where we are. If the Prime Minister’s draft withdrawal deal is passed by Parliament, then Brexit will go ahead in March as planned. The 29 March will mark the state of the transition period deemed necessary to thrash out trade agreements.

The Prime Minster has just announced another delay to this vote, which will now take place on 12 March, just two weeks before Brexit day. Assuming it is passed, the transition would last until December 2020 at the latest. If no agreement on the final terms is agreed during this transition period, the ‘backstop’ will come into force. The backstop will allow both parties to continue trading. It means the UK would enter a single customs territory, with Northern Ireland remaining under EU single market rules to ensure an open border between the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

This met much opposition, particularly from the DUP, upon which the Prime Minister relies to stay in power. From this information, global investment research firm Morningstar predicts that there is around a 30% chance of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, where the UK would leave with no agreement at all.

The UK Fintech industry and a no-deal Brexit

London is the European capital for Fintech. Some even consider it the Fintech capital of the world. Businesses in this sector have attracted in excess of $5.08 billion worth of investment since June 2016. In comparison, Paris received $1.38 billion, Stockholm $683 million and Berlin $1.02 billion.

While it’s not known how a no-deal Brexit would affect Fintech, below I outline what we do know. Companies should be aware of the following and begin preparations if possible.

What is a third country customs regime?

In the event of a no-deal Brexit, the Government has said that the UK would enter into a “third-country customs regime” with the EU. This will mean initial supply chain disruption, at the least. There would also be delays importing and exporting software and equipment.

Imported goods and services from the EU would be considered third-party, which means they would have to pay import VAT. This will increase costs. Services from the Fintech industry heading out to the EU will mean the sender paying VAT in the country of entry. There would also be potentially extensive border delays due to more complex checks.

Potential impact on investment

Some Fintech companies have made decisive moves that have alarmed the industry. For example, one of the city’s few unicorns, TransferWise, relocated their HQ to Europe. The CEOs, Kristo Käärmann and Taavet Hinrikus, are clear that the move is partly down to the possibility of a no-deal Brexit, saying that the UK is no longer the “best place to build a Fintech business.”

However, London remains Europe’s Fintech capital, and it’s hoped that venture capitalists will continue to invest while we wait for Brexit clarification. Should we face a no-deal Brexit, this could further spook investors and inevitably this will impact small start-ups the most. To combat this possibility, start-up owners can consider launching their business outside of the UK.

How would workers’ rights be affected?

London is the such a successful Fintech hub because it has attracted the best and brightest people from around the world. An EY study shows there are more than 44,000 people working in the capital’s Fintech sector, the highest in any city in the world. According to data from Tech Nation, more than 50% of workers in London’s Fintech sector are from overseas.

The Government say that they will maintain workplace rights for EU nationals if there is a no-deal Brexit. In its advisory document it says: “The EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 brings across the powers from EU Directives. This means that workers in the U.K. will continue to be entitled to the rights they have under U.K. law, covering those aspects which come from EU law.”

However, the future of EU workers who earn less than a stipulated threshold announced by the Home Secretary, looks more uncertain. For start-ups that want to hire EU staff in junior or mid-level roles, it could mean they only have access to the domestic labour market, which could mean shortages.

Any start-up concerned the rights of its employees to work in the UK should encourage applying for permanent residency if possible. This allows a citizen from outside the country to live permanently in the UK if they have spent more than five years here. The Government says that citizens can apply for permanent residency in the UK until 31 December 2021.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

How start-ups can improve the UK’s image after Brexit

Whether you’re for or against Brexit, it’s a fact that the vote to leave the EU marks a turning point in our national history. The Government is still negotiating how to extricate the country from the EU. Until they provide clarity, we just don’t know how this will affect our economy and the way we do business.

Either way, we are still on the edge of a brand-new era for the UK. Our global position is changing all the time at the moment, and how we work together following Brexit will determine how we’re perceived. UK start-ups will have a meaningful role in shaping the UK’s brand when we have left the EU.

A positive opportunity for UK start-ups

Over the years, I’ve worked with lots of start-up investment projects. I’ve met many entrepreneurs, innovators and start-up owners, and I know how passionate they are about their future. This energy is priceless, and show be harnessed to take the country forward post-Brexit.

At the moment, the UK remains fifth largest economy in the world, but whether this will be the case after Brexit remains to be seen. The Government is working to secure trade deals and presumably make the transition as smooth as possible. In the meantime, there has been speculation that other countries could replace the City of London as the global financial capital. However, the UK has a quality that other countries don’t – the ability to directly influence foreign investors through its culture, history and traditions.

How is the UK perceived around the world?

Every year, the British Council conducts a survey called From The Outside In, which shows how young people who live in other G20 countries perceive the UK. Results from the 2018 survey show that the generally positive impression enjoyed by the UK has remained relatively unchanged since the vote. More than 71% say that they still think the UK is an attractive business proposition.

Interestingly, the survey shows that the UK’s power lies in its people, not its Government or institutions. More than half of respondents are unaffected entirely by the vote, while 14% say they’re more likely to want to do business with the UK. Just 19% say that it has affected their opinion in an adverse way.

Start-ups should utilise information like this to really understand the position they hold not just in the UK’s economy, but the wider global business sector. We have a really strong foundation in the UK to work from post-Brexit. Intelligent communication, branding, marketing and an open, trustworthy position can capitalise on this.

What should UK start-ups do?

Lots of people underestimate the role UK start-ups could have in the global economic community. By using the same tactics as established multinationals, start-up owners can grow their client base and their influence. By attracting investment and being agile enough to adapt to the changing needs of the global economy, UK start-ups are ideally placed to create brands, services and products with a human face.

     1.    Prove your product or service really works.

Our business infrastructure is admired around the world, and our position in the global economy combines to create a generally favourable impression from overseas. And while the UK Government may seem slow to react to situations, the external perception of the UK is still positive.

We benefit particularly from the impression that ‘British-made’ means quality. The expectation that companies and products from the UK will be exemplary does add some pressure, but also gives an opportunity to prove it’s true. This covers everything from the product or service itself, to how you sell it, your online presence, advertising, customer service and social media.

      2.    Use cultural codes in your communications.

The UK still has the reputation of being mostly polite, well-mannered and trustworthy. Small start-ups should capitalise on this and use it in communications, whether with customers or suppliers. Demonstrating calm, rational, polite customer service and selling techniques can enhance a UK start-up’s reputation overseas.

     3.    Show you are welcoming and open-minded.

A negative consequence of the perception surrounding Brexit is that the UK is intolerant to foreign people and businesses. Show this isn’t the case through your marketing, as well as the product and service. Use a language in your communication that is subtly open and welcoming and doesn’t alienate anyone. You can also use design to create something accessible, welcoming and appealing to everyone in your target market. This will engender feelings of acceptance within your target demographic and show you are open, inclusive and welcoming.

There is not doubt that UK start-ups can meaningfully contribute to the future of our economy. Working together holistically with overseas customers from all around the world will help to build an impression of a UK that’s open for business and happy to work with everyone. Start-ups could form the backbone of the UK’s economy after Brexit and improve the way we are seen by other countries.

Monday, February 11, 2019

How will Brexit affect UK small businesses and entrepreneurs?

Small businesses, start-ups and entrepreneurs are at the heart of the UK’s economy. How the sector reacts to Brexit and the challenges it may bring is key to the buoyancy of the economy after the UK leaves the EU.

But with so much speculation concerning the likely terms of the country’s withdrawal from the trading block, how should small businesses prepare? I’ve been investing in exciting entrepreneurs, small businesses and start-ups for many years, and I hope that my advice on how to prepare for Brexit will strike a chord with anyone looking for some assistance.

UK small businesses are getting ready for Brexit

The deal negotiated by the Prime Minister has just been struck down by Parliament, with a majority of 149 MPs voting against it. This is a blow for Theresa May as she struggles to honour the results of the Referendum and maintain trade links and ties with European countries.

There are now only a few likely scenarios left, which include a so-called ‘People’s Vote’, a second Referendum, a General Election or the UK crashing out of the EU with no deal at all.

It’s this final scenario that is causing the most concern for small businesses, and in particular those that rely on smooth cross-border supply chains. The Government is obviously aware of the worries this potential scenario is causing the sector and has published a number of documents on its website with advice for small businesses.

Broadly speaking, businesses should follow the steps taken right now by companies that deal in exports and imports from countries outside of the EU. You can find all kinds of advice, information and statistics about this here, including info on customs, excise and VAT.

What the Government says

These documents provide advice for all kinds of businesses in different sectors. In addition, the Government says that they will contact the UK SME sector with more instructions before the country leaves the EU.

At the moment, the date for Brexit is still fixed at 29 March 2019, but we know that this could be subject to change, given the difficulties in negotiation over the last couple of years.

However, small businesses should consider this the date that we will leave the EU and consider how they will operate under a no-deal Brexit. The issue of the Irish backstop has so far been a stumbling block in reaching a resolution.

The backstop is essentially a form of insurance that would allow Northern Ireland to continue trading under the customs union for a longer period of time. It has been negotiated by the Prime Minister to stop the potentially chaotic scenario of trade ceasing entirely on 29 March 2019, a situation which both sides would like to avoid.

Under the Prime Minister’s proposed deal, there is a transitional period for the UK to sort out trade deals and other logistical matters. The idea is that this lasts until July 2020, with the option to extend if necessary. However, as this deal has now been voted down, it’s unclear as to the next steps.
Preparing for a no-deal Brexit is the best way forward until we have more clarity from the Government. That way, the worst-case scenario can be dealt with. Either way, small businesses are traditionally resilient and it’s their strength that will continue to boost the UK’s standing after Brexit.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

What will happen to UK entrepreneurs when the EU money runs out?

How will Brexit affect UK entrepreneurs?

We are rapidly approaching the date set for Brexit, and UK entrepreneurs are still largely in the dark about what will happen when EU funding ceases.

The referendum vote in 2016 didn’t mention much about European funding structures, and it’s unlikely that the average voter knows about them. But they have a huge effect on the UK’s SME sector, and when the money stops coming in, we could have a tricky transition period.

UK entrepreneurs unclear on funding

An average of 2.5 billion Euros has been pumped into the UK annually from EU funds between 2014 and 2020. Funding structures like the European Structural Investment Fund (ESIF) and the European Investment Bank have been propping up the SME sector for decades.

UK Government figures show that the biggest percentage of the money coming into the country goes towards funding UK SMEs. Similarly, the European Investment Bank has paid about 117 billion Euros to projects in the UK. This money goes towards innovation and funding small businesses and entrepreneurs. The European Investment Fund goes towards venture capitalists. There are other funds, such as Horizon, that specifically support innovation.

Funding structures like this go right to the centre of the entire EU debate – whether the UK is best off out or in. Either way, when we leave the EU, the money will stop. And it’s unclear how this will affect entrepreneurs, despite some Government plans being announced.

How will it affect investment?

There’s little doubt that Brexit will affect investment. The EU funding programmes that support entrepreneurs by maintaining a trade environment, clearly play a large part in decisions made by venture capitalists and angel investors.

As an investor, when it comes to deciding what to do with my own money, it’s helpful to have a secure infrastructure informing my decisions. We are leaving the EU on 29 March 2019, and whatever the final deal is, there will undoubtedly be a transitional period for investors as well as entrepreneurs. We’ve already seen the kinds of impact it will have following the EIF freezing funding for VCs directly following the referendum in 2016.

Regional differences in the UK

A greater number of leave voters come from regions such as the Midlands and the North East. CEO of the UK Business Angels Association (UKBAA), Jenny Tooth says: “The irony is that these are the regions that will suffer the most from the withdrawal of EU funds.”.

What is the Government doing about the effects of funding withdrawal? They have set up some institutions aimed at lowering the risk of problems due to no EU funding. These include the British Business Bank and an agency named Innovate UK, which will give funding to the tech sector. Less specified help has also been announced for the ‘regions’ through the Industrial Strategy. Despite these measures, there will be a tricky transitional phase for entrepreneurs in the UK.

Family businesses affected

Funding problems don’t just apply to start-ups. Family businesses have also expressed concern in a survey by finance provider Capital Step, which shows 40% of respondents think that Brexit could “break family businesses.”

Whatever happens to the final deal, both entrepreneurs and established businesses in the UK are facing an unspecified period of uncertainty. When a deal is ratified, trade talks will follow, and no one is sure what that will mean for the UK.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Do you have what it takes to take charge of your start-up?


Over the years working with start-up entrepreneurs, I have seen and heard many ideas that are worth taking forward. However, many of the best ideas get left behind, due to anxiety over disruptive projects and a lack of effective skillsets.

When start-ups soar, it’s easy to forget the disruptive ideas that began their journey. And when start-ups fail, it is often down to a leader who doesn’t have the right skillset to constantly iterate.

Why start-up ideas can fail

Many of the best ideas come from the abstract. That is, services and products that don’t fully exist yet. Instead, they are in the ‘thinking’ phase, and need the right kind of leadership to move them through to fruition.

With no laid-out roadmap or tangible product, teams can fall by the wayside and ideas that should have been great fail to gain traction. Dealing with innovation and disruptive business ideas requires a unique, and often rare, skillset. Managers who have it are distinct and vital to the success of a start-up.

Functioning with negative capability

Recently, Nathan Furr, assistant professor of strategy at INSEAD introduced a concept he calls ‘negative capability’. Co-author of ‘Leading Transformation: How to Take Charge of Your Company’s Future, Furr says that what is often missing from a team is negative capability, which he defines as the ability to effectively function in the abstract.

To grasp what he means, let’s examine ‘positive capabilities’. Bristol Business School’s Robert French outlined these and says that they are usually linked with successful general management. He says they are:
positive capabilities generally linked with successful general management as:

·         Being able to understand complex new ideas.
·         Being able to manage the implementation and execution of these new ideas.
·         Being able to manage different roles within the start-up in to execute new ideas.

These charateristcs are usually technical, and involve maintaining discipline, leading teams and managing the organisational structure. They’re valuable skills for company managers, and particularly so for any company working within an innovative, disruptive environment. However, alone they’re not enough to guarantee success. 

New ideas distract team members from their ordinary work. As they are now in uncharted territory, this often invokes anxiety. Teams in this position “tend to move toward avoidance tactics – defaulting known structures, which then lead to the collapse of the new project.”

A disruptive start-up must have a leader who is able to handle uncertainty and the unknown. The necessary entrepreneurial skillset for entrepreneurs to thrive also includes the ability the adapt and change tack. Here are three other vital skillsets:

     1. Divergent thinking

Effective start-up leaders must be able to take in lots of different ideas and connect information that are usually poles apart. Furr refers to this as “divergent thinking” and maintains that the leader must focus on the end result while also processing a lot of contrasting information.

      2. Convergent action

These disruptive leaders must be able to take the information and “execute on new ideas in order to create something tangible.    

      3. Influential communication

The leader must also be able to communicate in an influential way. Without this the disruptive idea can fail. They must: “inspire other leaders and decision-makers to believe, support, and act on a novel idea or opportunity.”

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Up and Coming Artist of the Week: Matt Small

If you’ve read about me in my past interviews you will know that one of my passions and hobbies is collecting art, as well as vintage cars and wine. Every chance I get I make time to attend art shows, with the intention of increasing my art collection. Although over the years I have collected art from the world’s famous artists, I’ve also looked for undiscovered artists with world-class talent.
One artist who is not yet popular in the mainstream but that I predict soon will be, is the artist known as Matt Small. Immediately I saw his work for the first time I collected a few for my apartment. I appreciate anything great, so please
check out more of his work from:
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Interview With Eventual Millionaire: Need an Investor for Your Startup?

Freddie is a serial entrepreneur and investor. He goes into exactly where you need to be to find funding and gives tips on scaling a business. Plus he wants to invest in 20 businesses by 2016 – so he gives you the opportunity to pitch him!
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