UK social enterprise sector reveals outstanding growth and almost £1bn in profits

social enterprise

The NatWest SE100 report is the biggest survey of the UK social enterprise sector’s turnover, growth, profitability and employment to date and compiles data from 2,120 social enterprises with a total turnover of £8.5bn contributed to UK GDP.

The research findings show that the social enterprise sector is growing strongly – with average year-on-year growth in turnover for the established social enterprises on the Index of 61 per cent. Moreover, the leading social enterprises are growing at a phenomenal rate with average year-on-year growth of the 100 fastest growing enterprises of 932 per cent.

Additionally, 57 per cent of social enterprises reported growth in their turnover with just under 2 per cent reporting turnover was consistent and just under 42 per cent reported negative growth.  Social enterprises on the NatWest SE100 Index reported a combined total of £934m in profit, with a significant proportion of this profit used to further their social or environmental goals. It was found that 60 per cent reported a profit and 40 per cent reported a loss.

The report also suggests that as social enterprises mature, we can expect them to grow into multi-million pound ventures. The average turnover of enterprises under three years old on the Index is £634,000 whilst the average turnover of enterprises which are ten years old or more is £8m.

In fact the biggest 100 enterprises – by turnover – handle most of the money that passes through the NatWest SE100 Index. The total turnover of the biggest 100 enterprises is £6.5bn which represents 76 per cent of the total turnover of the whole Index.

The NatWest SE100 report also reveals trends from the sector across England, with the South West of England demonstrating the highest growth, whilst London hosts the highest proportion of social enterprises from the Index, with the largest total turnover of £2.3bn.

Mark Parsons, Head of Community Finance and Social Enterprise, RBS, said: “The NatWest SE100 report reveals a social enterprise sector which is growing in both strength and maturity. As social enterprises continue to make a sustainable social impact to both disadvantaged and marginalised groups, they should feel buoyed by the positive news that year on year growth in turnover for established enterprises was 61 per cent, whilst the Index also reveals social enterprises grow as they mature.

“Although the latest NatWest SE100 Index has revealed positive trends for the sector, it is only when you take a closer look at the inspirational work social enterprises delivers, that the true impact of the sector can be appreciated.”

Geetha Rabindrakumar, Head of Social Sector Engagement, Big Society Capital said, “It’s encouraging to see the overall growth in social enterprise across all regions of the UK. The use of social investment has grown over this last year and we hope that social investors will play an increasingly important role in supporting the growth and resilience of social enterprises of all sizes in future.” 

Zoe Burgess, Investment Associate, Bridges Fund Management commented, “The SE100 report is always a great barometer of the health of the sector and this years’ report really highlights it growing maturity throughout the UK.  Its findings provide further evidence that mission led teams can build successful, high growth enterprises at scale while making a real difference to pressing social challenges.”

Diverse management teams attract more funding in London

management team
New analysis has revealed businesses with multiple nationalities represented at the leadership level receive significantly more funding than those with directors solely from the UK. Analysis of open data sets found that businesses with similar size boards (three-four directors) received almost four times more funding when they had two or more non-UK nationalities on the board – £13.8m – as opposed to UK-only directors – £3.5m.


The analysis – which looks at companies founded between 2004 and 2014 – highlights that some of the most successful businesses to come out of the UK in recent years have senior management teams with a cross-section of nationalities.
For example, Farfetch – the London-based luxury fashion retailer – has taken in £125m in funding since being founded in 2008, and last year was valued at £644m. As well as Portuguese founder Jose Neves, the company also has directors from France and Ireland. Similarly, Blippar – the augmented reality and artificial intelligence platform, co-founded by Jess Butcher – has board members from the UK, India, Spain and the US. The company has received around £75m in funding to date.

Fintech is flying the flag for diversity

Despite a decrease in funding in 2016, fintech remains one of the darlings of VC investment for London in particular. Data from London & Partners showed that fintech accounted for almost a quarter of circ. £2bn invested into London-based tech businesses in 2015 – with Transferwise receiving one of the most notable investments in the period (£45m). London fintech companies received a further £820m in 2016, according to Fintech Global.


In line with wider findings, analysis shows fintech – as well as being the best-funded sector in London – is also one of the most diverse when it comes to nationalities, alongside fashion and travel. Among these highly diverse sectors, roughly two thirds of businesses have at least one director from outside of the UK.


Fashion in particular has been an emerging area in London in recent years, especially when it comes to creative entrepreneurs looking to disrupt the traditional shopping model with online alternatives. There have been over 50 fashion companies started in London since 2004, and Balderton alone has investment around £700m in the industry over that period. In addition to Farfetch, Lyst is another example of a successful business with a diverse management team. The company has raised £38m in investment since 2010, with its management team including members from the UK and Slovenia.

London needs diversity

Kim Nilsson, Co-Founder and CEO of Pivigo said: “Investment is a crucial part of scaling businesses, which London needs to do to retain its position of a global leader in innovation. Brexit has the potential to impact not just access to talent, but the movement of entrepreneurial individuals that see London as a hotbed for investment, creativity and collaboration. As our government navigates its negotiations, we hope to see a deal that enables London to continue to be a diverse city – and businesses to build diverse teams that represent multiple nationalities, cultures and genders – not just at the senior level, but throughout the organisation too.


“Diversity is an essential part of challenging the status quo and creating unique and exciting ideas that have the ability to penetrate national borders and stand up on the world stage. We hope this data demonstrates the importance of diversity for London, the UK and further afield, and will encourage more organisations to build business models that allow international collaboration, regardless or trade boundaries.”


Maggie Rodriguez-Piza, CEO of Funding London commented: “Research consistently shows that companies with more diverse workforces perform better financially.  At Funding London and the ‘London Co-Investment Fund’, we have found that the more diverse our companies, the more they are able to win top talent, improve their decision making, and produce better returns.”

The impact of diversity

This project is the first of its kind that uses open data to assess the impact of diversity on funding from open data sets. However, it is not the first to demonstrate the impact of diversity on performance. A 2015 report from McKinsey & Company showed that more diverse workforces perform better financially. The research found that businesses in the top quartile of ethnic diversity are 35 per cent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. In the UK specifically, greater gender diversity on the senior executive team corresponded to better financial performance: for every 10 per cent increase in gender diversity, earnings before interest and taxes rose by 3.5 per cent – the highest uplift of all the data sets in the study.

Why you should consider coworking

coworking

The workplace as we knew it ten, or even five years ago has changed. Instead of the number of square meters directly correlating to your company’s perceived success, startups and businesses are recognising the advantages to thinking lean and thinking social. Coworking is becoming a familiar sight all over London and the UK, and with big names like Regus vying for a piece of the action, I think it’s safe to say coworking is here to stay. In May alone, the term ‘coworking’ has been mentioned over fifteen thousand times on Twitter. So why is it so popular?

Price

Any business decision needs to be cost effective and startups need to be lean. Coworking spaces offer businesses space to work at more affordable rates. Whilst you can can opt for a traditional desk or office set up, coworking also allows members to hotdesk at home clubs and in many cases at other clubs within the group. Membership costs will often also include use of meeting rooms and printing costs, though always check!

Collaboration

The joy of coworking is that you never know who you’re going to meet, whilst you’ll get used to seeing the regulars and people with full time desks, there’s also the people looking to hot desk when travelling or in the area for meetings. In a coworking space you have a plethora of people with different skill sets and expertise that are normally only to happy to talk through ideas or problems.

If it isn’t ideas you’re after, maybe it’s the beer. We’re social creatures by nature, and whilst the idea of ‘networking’ may feel many with fear, free beer and pizza has a different effect! Socials and get togethers not only break the ice and help you get to know your fellow coworkers, but it can also boost your productivity and promote happy working relationships to others in the same environment. Keep your eye out for the events at your local clubs, it’s a great way to meet new people or take a break from work for a quick chat and some much needed sustenance.

Facilities

There are some fantastically designed coworking spaces. Central Working Paddington, even won an award for their space. Cheaper rates and sharing space doesn’t mean that you will forgoing the little extras or end up sitting at a wobbly desk all day. Many spaces offer fantastic meeting spaces and break out areas that you’d happily invite clients to.

To add to the positives, many coworking spaces are either conveniently located near a coffee shop or have one onsite.

There are so many great coworking spaces around the UK, offering a range of memberships to suit your schedule and budget, whether you want a one-off hotdesk, or monthly paid daily access.

Adam Blaskey, Founder and CEO of The Clubhouse commented on the trend he has noted: “A trend which we can already see here at The Clubhouse is an increase in blue chip members. Yes, we have entrepreneurs and early-stage businesses, which gives The Clubhouse a high energy atmosphere, but the vast majority of our members are medium-sized enterprises and large corporations located close by, even around the corner, who need somewhere executives can escape to when they really need to focus on a project or require overflow meeting space.

“What these people need is a place where productivity is proven to reach peak levels. We offer a range of private meeting rooms; open-plan co-working for quiet concentrated effort; lounges and flexible meeting areas for hosting important clients; wi-fi is ultra-fast and unlimited; coffee is free; newspapers are available; and there’s a dedicated team supporting all of our members’ business needs.”

10 things you can learn at work this week

To show up every day being the best version of yourself is a journey of ongoing improvement – marginal gains which you achieve every day. Asking the questions; what have I learnt new today? Or more specifically What have I learnt new today which is going to help me to be even better tomorrow than I was today?  is a great starting point in maintaining relevance. This ensures you can be the best version of yourself, setting yourself up to realize your personal and professional goals every day.

Life is about you being your own performance coach and taking personal ownership for your own learning as the architect of your own destiny. It’s not your employer, line manager or leader’s sole responsibility to give you your learning. High achievers create their own learning plan to keep themselves sharp and relevant every day. They are constantly honing their own winning mindset, developing the skill set to excel and building and finding the toolset to systemize what they do and how they do it.

Here are 10 things you can learn at work this week:

What your co-workers do

At work, we tend to operate in silos. A silo could be you on your own or you and your immediate team or you and your department. Look up and beyond those silos and learn what others are doing, their role, their value, the difference they make. This could be as simple as a conversation by the vending machine or an organized Lunch & Learn with different departments sharing insights of what they do, how they do it & why they do it.

What your leaders do

You may think you know what your leaders do all day but do you actually know? Ask to shadow a leader for the day so you get first-hand experience of their typical day and can share this insight with others. You may be surprised as to the breadth and depth of their day.

What your customers’ experience when doing business with you

Step into your customer’s shoes and be on the receiving end of the customer experience you and your company gives to its customers. Depending on what type of business you’re in, a great exercise is to complete a mystery shopping exercise and playback the findings to your managers. I have no doubt you’ll share some great learns.

Daily new fact

When we arrive fresh faced at a new company we usually take onboard a ton of new learning and facts about the company we are now working for. But after this induction period, the daily grind takes over and we focus on doing the job. Set yourself a daily challenge to find one new work related fact that you didn’t know.

Areas for improvement

Everything we do can be improved. Everyday are you just going through the motions without actually thinking about how you do your job? Challenge yourself to identify any areas of improvement. If the opportunity arises, introduce a work based assignment based on making improvements to the business.

How to run a project

Most businesses run projects in addition to delivering business as usual. And usually, it is the employees who are at the helm of running these projects. If there is the opportunity to run a small project in your company, take it. Not only will this open up project management skills but also detailed insight into what the project is trying to deliver.

How to chair a meeting

Chairing a meeting is probably one of the most underrated skills there is, but let me tell you it is a skill. Being time-keeper and facilitator; controlling the flow of the meeting to allow discussions to take place & decisions to be reached without over-running, is not an easy task. Take the challenge and volunteer yourself to be meeting chair of your next team meeting.

Observe the capable

Sounds obvious but observe the high-achievers. Identify their key traits, ask them how they are successful, what do they do daily to keep themselves on top. Learn from them and mirror what they do.

Observe the incompetent

Observe those who aren’t as successful – why is that, what are they doing differently to the high-achievers. Learn from their mistakes and don’t make the same.

Get social

Most people spend between 30 – 50 hours per week with their work colleagues. Learn more about your co-workers personally; what’s their back story – build emotional connections. You may be surprised you have common interests beyond work.

 

Royston Guest is CEO of Pti-Worldwide and author of business growth book, Built to Grow. A proven time-tested formula full of practical strategies, tools and ideas into what it takes to build a truly high performing organization, which delivers accelerated, sustained, and profitable growth.

Join Royston’s Built to Grow Facebook or LinkedIn Group and access exclusive content, articles and insights on how you can deliver accelerated, sustained and profitable business growth. https://www.roystonguest.com/

UK directors fear their corporate data won’t be readable in future

corporate data

As technology advances at an ever-faster rate the prospect of previously popular formats becoming obsolete is growing all the time and the readability of corporate data in the future is a growing concern.

Already files produced in Word Perfect or Lotus 123, movie clips and photographs stored in the .MOV format and information stored on floppy disks are in real danger of becoming unreadable in the near future.

Now a survey amongst IT decision makers has unveiled the real size of the problem for British business.

The survey showed that nearly three in five IT decision makers believe it is vital to keep corporate data records secure for more than 50 years. However, more than 9 in 10 directors say they are concerned about their business not being able to access or read corporate data in the long term.

Furthermore, only 35 per cent of IT decision makers say they regularly review the formats on which their electronic data is held and nearly a fifth of IT decision makers say they don’t have systems in place to preserve electronic information stored for more than five years.

Dominic Johnstone, Head of Information Management Services, Crown Records Management, said: “These results provide a real insight into a compelling topic for all businesses now and in the near future.

“Long term digital preservation hasn’t made big headlines so far but many companies may be in for a shock because the reality is that any information which is 10 years old or more is seriously at risk.

“The speed at which software and hardware evolves is forcing old formats to quickly become obsolete and there is no guarantee they will be readable in future.”

Johnstone is aware that many businesses simply store their information in the cloud in the belief it is safe; but they frequently don’t consider how, or if, it will be read in 10 or 20 years’ time.

He said: “It’s not surprising that cloud storage is so popular, it’s a relatively cheap and safe way to store information. But if the attached systems are not upgraded regularly and there is no lifecycle management in place there really is no guarantee all that information can be accessed and read when you really need it.

“Only a third of IT decision makers in our survey said they regularly review formats on which their electronic data is held. The big worry is that many of them may find their corporate information is lost in the long term.”

Rising trend in deals between UK SMEs and corporates threatened by 28% fall

collaborative investment

Despite the recent fall, large organisations still invested £21bn in 1,111 deals with UK SMEs in the last tax year, 31 per cent more than the £16bn large organisations invested in UK R&D in 2016, showing a healthy appetite remains for partnering with SMEs.

As corporates continue to make multi-billion investments in working with SMEs with very different strengths, deal volume rose from 1,326 during the 2013/14 tax year to a peak of 1,536 in 2015/16, before falling to 1,111 in 2016/17.

Between 2013/14 and 2016/17 large organisations, headquartered both at home and abroad, made 5,447 deals with UK SMEs, known to have exceeded £102bn. This far surpasses the £62bn large organisations invested in UK research and development between 2013 and 2016* and equates to more than a seventh of the £683bn total UK business investment.

Jonathan Blair, Managing Partner, Bond Dickinson comments: “Collaboration with SMEs has become a key strategy for delivering corporate innovation. Business leaders know that neither corporates nor SMEs are perfectly built to deliver innovation alone, but the reach and power of one, combined with the agility of the other can be a potent combination.

“With the economic uncertainty in both the UK and Europe the short-term hiatus in deals is understandable, but innovation continues to be a key priority for businesses facing disruption from all corners. On the brink of a major shift in its international trade relationships the UK has much to gain from these dynamic partnerships between PLCs and startups.”

The Brexit effect – short-term slump or long-term trend?

The most recent data is set in the context of a disappointing run of business investment results since the Brexit referendum. Business investment shrank by 1.5 per cent in 2016 according to the ONS – the first contraction since 2009 – and in 2017 has continued to lag behind the recovery of GDP. Economic consultancy Cebr is currently forecasting a 3.4 per cent fall in business investment for 2017.

Focusing only on deals between large organisations and SMEs this new data does not include headline-grabbing deals such as the takeover of ARM Holdings by Japanese bank Softbank, or InBev’s purchase of SABMiller – both of which were greeted with relief by the UK Government. The data suggests it’s those deals between large and small companies that have dropped off since the spring of 2016.

Financial services lead the way

This new study shows financial services far ahead of all other industry sectors in terms of both the volume and value of deals with SMEs. Large financial services firms engaged in 1,864 deals with SMEs over the last four financial years, investing more than £31bn and making up 34 per cent of the national deal volume, in comparison to the 7.2 per cent that financial services and insurance account for in UK GDP. While deal volume fell in 2016/17, it was by 6 per cent less than the national average.

Another striking finding is the way in which large financial services firms are collaborating with SMEs. Over the last four years three in four deals between large financial services firms and UK SMEs were minority stake purchases, rather than full acquisitions or joint ventures. This compares to a national average of just 44 per cent minority stake purchases.

Minority report

What’s more this may be on the increase, with 81 per cent of deals involving financial services firms in 2016/17 being minority stake purchases. Noting the way large banks are partnering with fintech startups to push through digital transformation strategies, Bond Dickinson’s report concludes that leaders from other sectors may be able to learn from this alternative to the pitfalls of attempting to integrate SMEs within a large business. The data shows the insurance sector is following a similar pattern, which may reflect similarities in insurtech and fintech.

Simon Pilling, Corporate Partner, Bond Dickinson adds: “Multinationals earning in dollars are in clover right now, and borrowing costs are at an all-time low, yet we’ve still seen this fall in deals with UK SMEs. Negotiations are being strung out as corporates continue to work out how the final EU deal, or lack of one, will affect them.

“Yet fortune favours the brave, and this slowdown creates a window of opportunity for strategic acquisitions. Added to an incredibly strong startup ecosystem, first rate universities and a tech talent pool to rival Silicon Valley, there might not be a better time to secure the perfect innovation partner.”

Government review to order zero-hours contracts overhaul

zero-hours contract

The BBC understands Matthew Taylor, the head of the Royal Society of Arts who is leading the inquiry, will say that some workers might be being exploited by businesses.

The “right to request” fixed hours will be similar to the present right to request flexible hours – after having a child for example.

Employers would have to respond “seriously” to the request and give reasons for their decision.

The move comes as the employers group, the Confederation of British Industry, revealed it backed the idea.

In its submission to the Taylor review, the CBI also said that all employees should have their terms and conditions set out in a written statement.

The new “right to request” fixed hours could be used by some of the 900,000 people on zero-hours contracts, a number that has risen from 143,000 in 2008.

The contracts have been attacked for allowing some firms to keep people in insecure work, depress wages and deny people their full employee rights.

McDonald’s chief executive, Paul Pomroy, told the BBC that about 20 per cent of employees on zero-hours had asked for a move.

But that 80 per cent were comfortable with no guaranteed hours.

He said that for many employees such contracts offered the flexibility they wanted and that McDonald’s still offered full rights to people who worked on them.

“Our staff really appreciate the flexibility they get from zero-hour contracts,” Mr Pomroy said.

“Two years ago our staff started to tell us they needed some form of contracted hours because they wanted to get mobile phone contracts, car loans and – as they got older – mortgages to buy houses.

“So we had to change and listen to our people.

“And we have tested fully flexed contracts where you can either stay on zero hours or move to some form of permanent hours.

“Interestingly, 80% of people in our restaurants stayed on zero hours – they want that flexibility and 20% are moving to one of the offers around the fixed hours.

“In this modern world that we live and work in, it is not all the stereotype – we have students that want flexibility when they are studying, we’ve also got mums and dads that want flexibility around child care and grandparents that are earning a bit of money while looking after their grandchildren and they want to be off in the school holidays.

“Certainly don’t ban them.”

UK remains top destination for foreign investment but signs gather of Brexit impact

The UK retained its title as Europe’s most attractive location for international investment, but worrying signs emerged of a decline in the country’s appeal after Brexit, reports The Independent.

The country secured its highest ever level of inward investment in 2016 beating Germany, France and Spain, according to EY’s research.

A total of 1,144 foreign direct investment (FDI) projects were agreed in the UK last year, an increase of 7 per cent on 2015.

The UK’s share of European FDI in 2016 fell from 21 per cent to 19 per cent after a stellar performance in 2015, which saw a 20 per cent increase in the number of FDI projects.

Asian investors have a particularly positive view of the UK, with 30 per cent saying they intend to invest in the next 12 months, followed by Western Europe (24 per cent) and North America (21 per cent).

In addition, 37 per cent of investors that are already established in the UK plan to invest further in the next 12 months.

However, Steve Varley, EY’s UK chairman, warned of a “significant and worrying deterioration in investors’ longer-term expectations of the UK’s future evolution as an FDI location”.

He added: “Most notably there has been a sharp decline in how global investors rank the UK on key attractiveness criteria such as: quality of life; educational standards; stability and transparency of the political, legal and regulatory environment; transport and logistics infrastructure; and local labour skills, which have all been the major sources of strength for the UK’s FDI proposition in recent years.”

Among global investors surveyed, 32 per cent said they expect the UK’s attractiveness to FDI to improve over the coming three years, while 31 per cent expect it to decline.

Both figures are significantly worse than long-term averages of 53 per cent and 8 per cent respectively. Since March 2016 the share of investors with a negative view of the UK’s medium term prospects for FDI have almost doubled.

Mark Gregory, EY’s chief economist said: “Decisions on the majority of investments made in 2016 would have been made up to three years ago, which helps to explain the UK’s solid performance last year, but signs of a slowdown are on the horizon.”

Jacques Vert owner races to find investor with 1,100 jobs at risk

shopping

The owner of women’s fashion labels including Jacques Vert and Windsmoor is this week racing to secure new investors, amid fears that it could be forced into administration, putting more than 1,000 jobs at risk, reports Sky News.

Sky News has learnt that Style Group Brands, which is privately owned, is trying to find new backers in the coming days.

Without new investment, industry insiders said there was “a very real risk” that administrators would be called in.

One retail sector source said that all options, including talks with potential buyers, were still ongoing, with an outcome unlikely until next week.

If it does appoint administrators, KPMG would handle the process, the source added.

The development comes two months after it emerged that Style Group Brands had appointed KPMG to explore a sale or restructuring of the company amid a tough business environment for high street retailers.

Style is owned by Sun European Partners, a private equity investor which has also backed retailers including Dreams.

The company‎ trades from more than 1,850 outlets in 470 separate locations in the UK, Europe and Canada, and employs 1,100 people – the vast majority of whom are based in stores.

Style describes itself as the UK’s largest womenswear concession retailer, owning brands which also include Dash, Eastex and Precis.

It was formed from the merger of Jacques Vert and Irisa Group‎, and has a presence in department stores including Debenhams, House of Fraser and John Lewis’s online operation.

A potential sale or restructuring – which sources said could lead to a reduction in‎ the number of outlets under a new owner – comes amid a flurry of auctions of women’s fashion brands.

The parent company of Oasis and Warehouse is also up for sale, while Jaeger recently changed hands after falling into administration.

Hobbs is also on the market, with shareholders in LK Bennett recently pumping millions of pounds into the business to fund expansion plans.

Clothing retailers are facing growing pressure from the impact of inflation, which will lead to substantial price hikes, and concern about the consumer spending climate.

Other costs such as those associated with the national living wage and apprenticeship levy are also posing a significant challenge on the high street.

A Sun European spokesman declined to comment on Monday.

Amazon steps up battle with Netflix and Sky by adding new UK channels

Amazon

Amazon is to add more than 40 TV channels to its UK streaming service, including ITV and live sport for the first time, upping the stakes against rival Netflix and pay-TV operators such as Sky, reports The Guardian.

Amazon will offer the channels at an extra cost to Amazon Prime members, who pay £79 a year or £7.99 a month for on-demand video including exclusive shows such as American Gods, The Grand Tour and Man in the High Castle.

The individual pricing for the new channels ranges from £1.49 to £9.49 a month, with subscribers choosing and paying for individual services, rather than for a bundle as with the traditional pay-TV model used by Sky. Netflix’s standard video on-demand service costs £7.49 a month while Sky’s cheapest package of channels is £22.

ITV will offer its live TV and ad-free catch-up service for £3.99. Conspicuous by their absence are the UK’s other main free-to-air broadcasters – the BBC, Channel 4 and Channel 5.

“We don’t focus on our competitors,” said Alex Green, the managing director of Amazon’s TV channel rollout across Europe. “We focus on how we can improve our service for customers.”

At launch, Amazon is offering channels including Gold Rush broadcaster Discovery and its Eurosport subsidiary, which will lead to Amazon offering live sport for the first time globally, starting with the imminent French Open and Olympic coverage from next year.

Other channels include NBC Universal’s reality TV service Hayu, which has shows such as Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Made in Chelsea and The Real Housewives franchise, and Amazon’s own Bollywood channel Heera.

There will also be films from providers including the BFI and studio MGM, which has movies such as The Hobbit.

“This move represents a massive broadening of content,” said Richard Broughton, an analyst at Ampere. “It makes Amazon increasingly competitive with both Netflix and Sky, although at an increasingly higher price point.”

There are also none of Sky’s channels, which is not a surprise given the broadcaster would see the launch as competition for its own subscribers.

Green, a former BT TV director who is also launching 25 channels on Amazon’s German service this week, said the focus at this stage was more on subscriber channels than free partners.

“It is day one and we think that this will grow and grow,” he said. “For the first time, Prime members in the UK and Germany will be able to choose to watch premium TV channels without having to sign up to a bundle or a contract, giving them the freedom to pay for only what they want to watch.”

Most of the mainstream channels on the service, such as Discovery, will be priced at about £4.99. However, there will be a broad pricing selection from £1.49 for Panna, a video cookery service, to £9.99 for Daily Burn, which offers live workouts.

For Discovery, which threatened to pull off the Sky platform after a dispute over its channel carriage deal earlier this year, it marks the first time its channels have been made available direct to the consumer.

For Amazon, offering the channels individually at an extra cost is an unusual tactic as it has mostly focused on sweetening its Prime subscription service – most recently adding the option of attending exclusive live gigs and giving free access to thousands of digital magazines such as Time and OK! without upping the cost of the service.

“The main challenge Amazon has is that it is offering all of the channels standalone, which is potentially extremely expensive,” said Broughton. “The a la carte model has been tried a few times in the pay-TV market before. Research suggests that people say they want to pick and choose but in practice they prefer buying a big bundle and get ‘all-they-can-eat’ TV. In time, Amazon may look at aggregating some of the channels it is offering into a pay-TV style package.”

Green said that so far the launch of Amazon channels in the US, which has grown to 107 partners since late 2015, had “exceeded expectations” in terms of subscriber numbers.

RBS edges towards investor settlement after bank makes 11th-hour offer

rbs

It is thought that one of the main financial backers of a shareholder action group that is taking the taxpayer-owned lender to court is minded to accept a settlement with RBS, after the bank doubled the offer it was prepared to make to investors, reports The Telegraph.

An agreement would put a stop to a 14-week trial that was originally due to kick-off today and which would force RBS’ former chief executive Fred Goodwin to take to the witness stand.

Investors have accused RBS of misleading them about the true state of its financial health in the prospectus for the £12bn rights issue almost a decade ago, allegations the lender denies. Just months after the cash call RBS was forced into a government bailout, inflicting losses of around 80pc on investors who had backed it in the fundraising.

The highly-anticipated court battle over the shareholders’ claims was postponed at the eleventh hour today after Ross McEwan, the lender’s boss, personally intervened in last-ditch negotiations over the weekend to hike the bank’s settlement offer to 82p-a-share.

That prompted Jonathan Nash QC, who was acting for the claimant shareholders in the hugely complicated civil case, to ask Mr Justice Hildyard to delay the start of the trial for 24 hours this morning because he was “hopeful of making progress” towards a settlement. The judge agreed to the adjournment in front of a packed courtroom.

The trial was later pushed back further to Wednesday after representatives of the claimants confirmed “significant progress” had been made in light of RBS’s “greatly increased” offer.

The action group, which comprises 9,000 retail investors and about 20 institutional shareholders, is backed by Trevor Hemmings, the tycoon who owns Preston North End football club. Mr Hemmings is believed to be inclined to accept the last-ditch offer made by RBS.

It remains unclear what stance the majority of investors in the action group will take towards the offer and whether some will attempt to press on with the legal action. The group has already splintered once, with about 18,000 retail investors and some City investors accepting a 43.2p offer from RBS late last month.

Separately, another four claimant groups of investors that were originally part of the lawsuit accepted a 41.2p-a-share deal with RBS in December, when the bank put aside £800m to settle the legal action.

A trial would be a costly blow to RBS as it would lead to months of public scrutiny of the actions of its former bosses during the financial crisis, when the bank had to be bailed-out.

The lender has already spent over £100m preparing for the trial and is expected to rack-up a further £25m in costs if it goes ahead, one of the most expensive legal bills in the history of the High Court.

It would push Mr Goodwin, who was stripped of his knighthood following the financial crisis, back into the spotlight, as well as other former directors, including ex-chairman Tom McKillop, who are also defendants in the lawsuit. Mr Goodwin, who was nicknamed “Fred the Shred” for his ruthless cost-cutting, took the brunt of public anger during the crisis.

Scottish SMEs yet to fully grasp export opportunities, new research suggests

exporting

Manufacturing sector SMEs showed the strongest export capability, with 63 per cent of those surveyed saying they export outside the UK; followed by SMEs in the media/marketing/advertising sector, and the education sector.

Findings also show that the bigger the company’s annual turnover, the more likely they are to export; whilst companies with small annual turnover appear to shy away from exporting.

Roughly 60 per cent of SMEs with an annual turnover of £10 million or more are exporting, compared to 41 per cent of companies with an annual turnover of between £1 million and less than £10 million; and 24 per cent of companies with an annual turnover of less than £1 million. Scottish SMEs in their first year of trading are least inclined to export with just 13 per cent exporting outside the UK.

For the Scottish SMEs that do export, they primarily focus on the EU, with the US coming in second, other European countries outside the EU coming third, and Canada fourth.

Commenting on the findings, Emma Jones MBE, Founder of Enterprise Nation said: “Scotland is a great place to run a business with strong heritage and a skilled workforce. However it’s clear from these findings that there is still some nervousness from SMEs in the country about selling globally, despite the huge opportunity it brings.

“With the uncertainty of Brexit and the resulting uncertain UK economic landscape, it’s really important to spread your risk and broaden your customer base. Exporting more delivers this, which is why I’ll be talking on this topic and asking panelists for views at the Amazon Academy today to boost confidence amongst Scottish small business exporters.”

The findings are published on the day of the first ever Amazon Academy event held in Scotland – a free one-day event that gives practical support and guidance to Scottish SMEs wanting to grow their businesses online. Over 600 Scottish business leaders and tech start-ups are registered to attend the Amazon Academy today at the EICC in Edinburgh.

Currently more than 10,000 Scottish businesses use Amazon’s digital and physical infrastructure to export around the world, contributing to last year’s export total of £1.8bn from UK businesses selling through Amazon Marketplace – a 29 per cent year-on-year growth.

“The internet and technology have the power to democratise the ability to start and run your own business, and gives SMEs global reach that’s low cost and flexible,” said Doug Gurr, UK Country Manager, Amazon. “As long as you have a laptop, internet connection, and a great product, you can essentially be local and sell global. That’s why we’re in Edinburgh today – to show SMEs small and large, urban and rural – how selling online can help open their business to a global customer base and drive growth.”

Tech startup raises £3.5million pre-seed funding and opens an innovation centre

humaniq
After reaching 10.000 participants with its Crowd Sale reaching $4 Million, Humaniq is launching a new Innovation Centre in Cambridge.
This expansion will enhance the capabilities of Humaniq to solve critical and chronic issues of the world by repurposing Artificial Intelligence and DeepTech for social good and enabling leading scientists and entrepreneurs to solve the most critical problems facing humanity.
“This new innovation centre will provide an opportunity to be part of a lasting and growing ecosystem which has found success in many areas of innovation and which Humaniq will be able to contribute to and learn from as we grow” said Alex Fork, founder of Humaniq.
Cambridge is home to several innovation clusters, universities, leading academic research, and entrepreneurial institutes that provide the right environment and ecosystem for the AI and Blockchain Lab. Within this initiative there will be regular hackathons and conferences to attract the best talent and solutions with a focus on solving critical global challenges.
“Humaniq’s Cambridge office will act as a beacon in the continuous support of finding new and innovative solutions and bringing together academics, researchers, entrepreneurs, government, and industry to solve real-world problems globally using exponential and emerging technologies through an ever progressive social security environment and sustainable cooperative ecosystem for the betterment of humanity” said Hazem Danny Al-Nakib, Chief Innovation Officer & Executive Advisor of Humaniq, and partner at Deep Knowledge Ventures.
This innovation centre will enable Humaniq to work with leading academics and organisations. It will be the basis for efficient interaction with a global scientific network. It is part of Humaniq’s broader strategy to collaborate with universities, research institutes, private and public organisations to grow its Scientific and Academic Advisory Board.
“Through this centre we will ensure that Humaniq will have direct access to the best scientists and experts in the field of Artificial Intelligence and Next-generation IT-technologies. Cambridge will be the focal point for Humaniq’s innovation centre and building deep tech infrastructure through research institutions as well as incubators and accelerators.” said Dmitry Kaminskiy, co-founder of Humaniq and managing partner of Deep Knowledge Ventures.

Administration is the biggest concern for employers implementing auto enrolment

auto enrolment

The research consisted of making around 10,000 phone calls to employers which are representative of the UK company population and then conducting in-depth interviews with senior HR decision makers in 300 randomly selected businesses to capture their attitude and current perspective on benefit provision.

When asked ‘what aspect of implementing auto enrolment did you find to be the most challenging?’ 37 per cent opted for administration whilst 23 per cent stated cost. So, while the costs of implementing auto enrolment are thought to be a financial strain on many companies, significantly more employers highlighted their administration duties as being a bigger challenge. 10 per cent find making time for planning and meetings to be the most challenging, closely followed by other challenges – communications, dealing with queries, technology, lack of support and timescale to implement.

While using a financial adviser for support was the most popular answer at 42 per cent, nearly 60 per cent of employers didn’t take this route and so may not have got advice on the best products and solutions available for them and their employees. This 60 per cent received support from either a pension provider, in-house support or an accountant.

Employers were also asked if a new pension was put in place to fulfil their auto enrolment commitment. It found that 57 per cent of employers put a new pension scheme in place. They would need to make sure that these schemes are eligible, cost effective and also that they are fit for purpose for the changing needs of their workforce.

Most companies are managing their auto enrolment administration in-house. This is probably a sensible approach for larger companies with bigger HR resources although is possibly not the most cost effective way for smaller companies to manage their pension duties. Others manage their auto enrolment through a pension provider or payroll/accountant.

Sean McSweeney, Corporate Advice Manager, Chase de Vere, says: “We are fully supportive of pension auto enrolment. This is an important initiative as we are facing a pension time-bomb with people living for longer and not saving enough to support themselves in retirement.

“However, the burden of implementing auto enrolment has fallen on employers and they can face real challenges. Our research shows that administration is their biggest concern and this will continue as employers have to abide by ongoing rules, although costs will also rise for many employers as minimum contribution levels are increased in April 2018 and again in April 2019.

“It’s not surprising that employers are trying to manage their auto enrolment scheme with little or no support, although this could be a false economy. To get the maximum benefit for the money they are spending, employers need to regularly review their pension arrangements and ensure effective communication and engagement with their employees. For many companies the best way to achieve this is to use an experienced corporate financial adviser.”