Wednesday, 30 December 2015

2016: An expensive year for employers

The government's new national minimum wage rules look to set back employers over £1 billion in the year to come. The new £7.20 minimum wage, agreed by George Osborne, will start as of April 2016.

This change looks to affect around 1.7 million UK workers, totalling over £650 million of wages to be paid by private employers.

This increase in the national minimum wage has also forced employers to raise wages for those working over the NMW to create wage differentials between employees. This helps to sustain the hierarchy and offer the opportunity for a pay rise or promotion. This increase has been called the “wage spillover” costs and will create a further expense for employers. Research by the RPC suggest that this cost will total around £230 million.

These new government changes are eligible for employees over the age of 25 in which their employer must pay them at least £7.20 per hour. George Osborne aims that this hourly rate will eventually increase to £9 by 2020. So the costs for private companies is likely to keep increasing.

As with an governmental change, there has been a fair share of criticism. Large UK employers argued that this increase could lead to their stores closing down. Alongside this, research from 1000 employers shows that 15% of companies would have to make redundancies to cope with the NMW increase (Resolution Foundation). Many economists have suggested that substantial increases, even if pursued over a few years, would need to be made incrementally and with a great deal of caution if they were to be effective.

Overall, the consensus from the majority of UK employers seems to be positive and they are supportive of the new wage changes. A recent study has shown that 93% of companies think this increase in national minimum wage is a “good idea”.

In addition to this the government has also been criticised for not planning far enough into the future when it comes to calculating the national minimum wage. They have only set plans for the first year and have not calculated what the yearly increases could amount to by 2020.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Times Are Changing: The Future of Supply Chains

“For time and the world do not stand still. Change is the law of life. Those who only look to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.” - John F. Kennedy

In order to develop a tactical procurement team that will add value to your business, you need to learn to adapt. Procurement has been done in the same way by contingent workforce leaders for years. However, the world of sourcing and contingent workforce management is transforming. Traditional sources dominate in contingent workforce management. While staffing suppliers, agencies and personal networks source most contingent talent today. But that is likely to change quickly.

During the 2000s, a few factors combined to cause additional changes in purchasing. Corporate social responsibility became critical due in part to the Internet, easier access to data, strategic sourcing and partnership working. Collaboration between procurement teams, colleagues and suppliers became more frequent. Professionals began to think deeper than cost and how to add value onto overall enterprise. Not to mention the rapid increase of outsourcing and global sourcing requires much greater levels of service contracting management.

It’s evident technology has affected procurement considerably. There has been progression from a focus on physical supply to much broader questions around value. We see, links between procurements effects inside and outside organisations, which developed from understanding both are important for procurement success. Although the world we work in has become much more complex and unpredictable, the internet provides more than enough assistance, to help us make sense of it.

The key to preparing for changes is anticipation, preparation, and the appropriate adjustments. Procurement is changing, so be prepared with these four ways to get ready.

  1. Share your knowledge: The most transformative objective to achieve will be making every member of the team better at procurement. Team performance will have a direct impact on your organisation's bottom line. When you build a “procurement mentality” in your staff, you can increase compliance, reduce risk and create more cost savings.
  2. Be strategic: Procurement must move away from the presiding focus on unit cost reduction that is still the primary focus in many organisations. You need to play a wider and more fundamental role in the organisation.
  3. Expand spend visibility: Spend visibility is an important part to all changes in procurement. If you want to control supply effectively, you need to manage spend. Spend is what you pay and supply is what you get. To manage spend you have to see it.
  4. Be prepared to use technology: The speed of technological development is only going to get faster going into the future.. Procurement professionals need to be familiar with technology and know how to use it to manage supply chains and get great business results.

“The Times They Are a-Changin” - Bob Dylan

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Predicting The Business Landscape for 2016

2015 has been the year of the entrepreneur with new business models and start-ups constantly popping up. This is due, in part, to innovative use of technology, social media and extremely low-interest rates. 2015 indeed, is a great time to start a business. However, as 2015 is coming to a close you may wonder what the future holds for 2016. 

What technology trends will create unique new business opportunities and change the worldwide business landscape for better or worse. Although we cannot predict the future, we’re going to share with you my predictions for three important changes that should be taken into account before setting up a business in the new year. 

3-D Printing

3D printing makes it possible to create an object simply by creating a digital file through computer aided design (CAD). The software then sends it to the 3D printer where the image is split into 2-dimensional representations, these are then fed through the printer that builds the object layer by layer. A rise in popularity in 3-D printing has the potential to totally revolutionize the global business landscape. Basically, 3-D printing means that anyone anywhere in the world can produce an object they want or need pretty much on demand.

Global shipments of 3D printers were forecasted to grow an astonishing 98% by the end of 2015. In 2016, these sales are expected to double. Over the next several years, it is expected that the price of 3-D printers will decline while means of use will continue to expand. 

Big Data

For the most part, Big Data has mainly been used by larger organisations in order to get a grasp of consumer behaviour. However, this is changing, relatively quickly in fact. Digital marketers and many start-ups collect distinct information about customers, then this data is used to improve their strategy. All the while collection strategy and analysis techniques are improving so many organisations are becoming better at collecting and analysing data.

In the past, companies had so much data they actually struggled to mine it for the useful information. Now, enhanced analytics means that big data is a completely different ballgame. Big data is helping organisations meet their goals and objectives. It’s being used to help retailers predict their customer's future purchases, for pre-targeting in advertising which generates additional traffic and incremental sales by targeting new customers. This only scratches the surface of how increasingly crucial and useful big data is becoming. 

Smartphone Resale Market

Smartphones are expensive. Yet consumers want their hands on new smartphones with exclusive features, without having to pay the large retail price. This has generated vast business opportunities. This is breathing new life in the mobile phone resale market, especially in markets emerging throughout South-east Asia and China. Additionally, businesses that offer services to help users unlock their iPhone iCloud accounts on second-hand phones are becoming increasingly popular. As the smartphone resale market continues to expand, business opportunities like this will continue to emerge.

What These Changes Mean

It is vital to understand how the business landscape is changing if you are an entrepreneur. Developing an understanding of new technology trends and adopting them before others are key to maximizing your potential earnings, whether you’re trying to figure out uses for big data or are planning to involve 3-D printing in your prototyping process.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Celebrating In The Workplace

Many leaders struggle when faced with a celebration in the workplace, and can be left wondering whether they should or not. The argument arises “why should we celebrate, people are already aware that we are succeeding” after yet another milestone has passed. The best answer is to get an equal balance between celebrating when necessary and not overdoing it. However, more than often celebrating when reaching a goal is forgotten about.

In procurement we regularly talk about how to maximise the effectiveness of your workforce, and this can be done through recognising and rewarding achievements.

Why should we celebrate progress?
There are two clear reasons for celebrating progress and this is to reinforce focus and momentum within your employees. During long and tedious projects, focus can get lost as employees concentrate on reaching an end goal. Employees can become engrossed and can easily miss the progress that they have made. It is very important for leaders to help employees to recognise the progress and rejuvenate their focus and team momentum.
How should you do it?
We have identified 7 simple components that will help you when considering and executing a workplace celebration.
  1. Base it on milestones.
In order to justify a celebration, you must understand the progress that has been made. Having a completed project plan will be an excellent reference, allowing you to see the milestones that were set and when they were achieved.

  1. Get the team involved.
Inform the entire team when a celebration is due and allow them to get involved in the process, from organising when and where its taking place, to selecting a gift. Giving this responsibility to participants who may not have had a direct involvement in the achievement will let them feel meaningful.

  1. Don't be shy.
Don’t celebrate half heartedly. Let your employees know how much you appreciate their hard work, commitment and overall progress.

  1. Keep the celebration in perspective.
The purpose for the celebration should be clearly outlined. This is not an opportunity to celebrate everyone and everything. Make the individuals involved feel special.

  1. Be authentic.
There is little point in holding a celebration if you are unable to give them a genuine congratulations. If you are not feeling it, hold back on doing the celebration. Authenticity is vital.  

  1. Make it an event.
It doesn't have to big or extravagant, but it does need to be an event. Spread the word around the office so everyone knows when it is.

  1. Consider gifts/rewards  
A gift can be a great surprise to add to any celebration. Why not consider a personalised card, vouchers or something else? This also relies on your office's existing gift-giving culture. Remember that the gift should be appropriate for the specific achievement.

We hope that these suggestions will aid you in your celebration decision-making. When used effectively, celebrations can increase employee motivation, productivity and overall morale.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Is technology the answer to better productivity?

With Britain's economy and employment levels growing much faster than other countries, productivity remains a key topic for improvement for businesses far and wide.   In a recent statement George Osborne expressed the importance of cracking the UK’s productivity puzzle in order to secure future prosperity.  Research has shown that the global financial crisis has had a negative effect on UK productivity levels. While this crisis is gradually improving, we cannot assume that our productivity levels will too.

Statistics show that even though the French shut down business during the summer holidays, they still produce more than the UK who work all year round.  A 2013 Government study provides additional support for this statement, revealing that French workers are operating at a 27% higher productivity rate per hour than UK workers.  This percentage is even higher when compared against Germany and America too.

However the ongoing investment and advancement in technology offers a promising opportunity for the productivity of the UK workforce. For example, the UK’s manufacturing sector has benefited from such technologies, allowing for them to produce 50% more than in 2009. Technology can be hugely advantageous for businesses and start-ups,  helping to reduce costs, provide access to new markets and enhance customer service. Globalisation has meant that local businesses can now be accessed worldwide, thanks to technology. This digital marketplace opens many doors for businesses, enabling them to sell their products nationally and even internationally.

Although there are a growing amount of success stories of businesses breaking into international markets, this is still not mirrored throughout the UK. Larger businesses think investing in IT and new digital innovations will guarantee them better business, but this is not the case. Businesses need to be more efficient when it comes to optimising these technologies in order to reap the rewards. The mixture of creativity, the right channels and data usage can create future opportunities.

The importance of an effective online presence is also crucial for businesses. However it is shocking to see that less than 30% of UK business have an effective online presence. Cloud-based computer file storage and sharing abilities now allow teams to collaborate across locations, providing much more flexibility. However the majority of businesses and employees understand the importance of the digital marketplace but are merely lacking the skills to take full advantage of these technological advancements.

The Government's Digital Transformation Plan is the strategy we need to transform productivity. The extra focus on the role of digital technologies will be beneficial for the UK economy and help to drive productivity. If executed effectively the potential rewards for the UK are massive.  Future investments in IT systems and training is essential for the strategy to succeed. A change in behaviour and workplace culture is also needed for productivity to improve. There is no better time than now to implement these changes and get all businesses to embrace the technology at their fingertips.

Friday, 24 April 2015

What is the the best way to manage your online reputation?

Back in the 90's before the great internet revolution, much of what we said and did was almost instantly forgotten. Our hobbies were only known by the people we did them with or told about them, not to mention job histories could not be found without references and CV's. These days thanks to Google, social media and the internet in general, what we do is here to stay - without careful reputation management at least.

Whether you've ranted on Facebook after a particularly bad Monday, misspelt Tweets or had unflattering photos of your night out posted by your friends, it can be difficult to manage your online reputation, especially now social media archives it all for posterity. Managing your online reputation isn't just about making sure any past online mishaps are hidden - it's also about making sure you show your best side, coming across knowledgeable, confident, capable and internet-savvy.

Although there are a plethora of companies who will help you clean, protect and build a professional online reputation for a price, in reality you can do it yourself for free, here's how:

1) Google

As with most things on the internet, reputation management starts with Google. The first thing you should do is search for yourself and not just on Google either, use every search engine out there as well as social networks and forums to find out everything there is (good and bad) about you on the internet.

Remember to search for your name, nicknames, maiden name, misspellings of your name - to be honest, it might even be a good idea to search for your first name coupled with some keywords. These should include things such as your hometown, current city, your employer, your university and your current occupation.

It is worth remembering that if a potential employer is going to search for you, they'd only have a limited about of information to go on. This would include your full name, email address, a phone number and possibly your social media handles. So it is important to focus your searches around these terms.

Also remember to make sure you scour through your old social media accounts, blogs and any forums you may have frequented - especially if there may be any damning posts or photos that you forgot about. Also it may be worth checking the Wayback Machine which is a way to see if any of your accounts or forum posts are archived on the internet.

Finally, remember your online persona is not just what you have personally put on the internet. Your friends, family and significant others are likely to have posted about you at some point too and they might not have been so vigilant with your online reputation.

2) Reinforce your Privacy Settings

After you've spent the initial time hunting down all the things on the internet you don't want anyone to see, you need to start the process of getting them removed. The next move is to try and get those links/photos/blog posts taken down, or at the very least made private.

On Facebook, make sure your privacy settings are tightened up, this can easily be done in a few seconds and is an essential step. Limit the audience for statuses and posts you've shared to Friends-only, also click where it says 'Limit Past Posts' so that your past post will also be friends-only. This action cannot be undone, so make sure you don't have a need to do have any of the posts public, however this saves a lot of time over doing it one post at a time.

On Twitter, open up Setting and click Security and Privacy. Here you can make your tweets private and then they can only be viewable by your followers and people you approve to follow you.

A quick word of warning though, employers and other potential online stalkers are smart, so just making your social media accounts private may not be enough. The only way to guarantee no one will see the content you don't want out there is to have it removed or ask the person who uploaded it to take it down. As much as untagging yourself removes it from your profile, the photo still remains visible unless the original uploader takes it down. It also worth noting, you can ask Google to remove personal information from its search results, but this doesn't apply to content you or others have put on the internet.

3) Change your Name?

This isn't as drastic as it sounds, we don't mean legally changing it or anything that dramatic. But having a work name which is a variation of your full name for professional purposes may be advisable. In the same way people in entertainment have 'stage names', a work name can provide a useful buffer against your personal internet life leaking into your professional internet life.

If your name is very hard to find online because it is quite a common one, like John Smith, choosing a variation to separate yourself from the millions of other more famous Mr Smith's that will come up in a search can be advantageous. Adding a middle name or another initial to your professional can make it easier for future employers to find you and not a John Smith account dedicated to trolling someone they particularly hate on Twitter.

The best way to have a clear distinction between your personal and professional accounts is to changing both the name of your personal accounts and professional accounts. This way they will never get confused, for your personal account you could use a nickname or your first and middle names. For the professional accounts try using your full name, initials of your middle name and surname. This way it is unlikely someone will come across either account by mistake.

4) Online Brand Building

One of the best ways to manage your online reputation is to be proactive with your brand. Suppressing embarrassing content will only get you so far, in a way it is best to concentrate on your future and build new content you would want people to see. By adding new content in the form of new social network accounts, blog posts, articles and forum post, you can improve your professional standing online and even position yourself as a leader in a particular field. This is particularly important because Google looks for new content and weights it as being far more relevant than your university photos.

Here are our top tips for branding yourself online:

 - Start a blog or personal website. This doesn't have to be a professional blog, although that's preferable for your career, it could simply be a blog showing work safe posts about your life. Also consider purchasing the domain name for your name (although John Smith might be hard to aquire).

- Professional Social Media Accounts. Create a separate Facebook for your professional identity, you can then add your boss, co-workers and colleagues, but make sure to post (interesting and work safe) content to this account. It will seem very suspicious if you never post anything to this profile and not to mention they'll think your quite boring. If you're going to join social networks do so under your professional identity, LinkedIn is a good example, as well as review sites like Amazon and Trip Adviser; alumni sites like Friend Reunited; and blogging sites like Tumblr. This lets your potential employer know you're a well rounded person.

 - Be an Expert. As we said above, being an expert in your field can be very beneficial for not only your career but managing your online reputation. Getting placed in industry blogs or magazines can really help you out on both counts. It is particularly valuable to online reputation management as these publications are likely to have a much higher clout on Google and will show up first in search results. As well doing this, you can solidify your position as an expert by posting on industry specific forums, writing a blog as well as doing video blogs and through your social media interactions.

- A Word of Warning. Although you might think completely cleaning your online presence is the best thing to do, a completely blank or sterile presence is not ideal. It will make people suspect that you're hiding something much worse than a few drunken uni pics. It will be obvious to anyone who does this sort of thing as a job that you're cultivating it and they're likely to search much harder. You want to reflect yourself in a way that shows your a professional, but you have a personality too.

5) Stay Vigilant

Finally, it is worth remembering a great online reputation is priceless, but it doesn't take much to fall to pieces. Be on your guard, Google Alerts let you track search terms (such as your name), and be notified immediately when a new search with that term pops up. The Google Alerts page even has a handy "Me on the web" widget, which lets you create alerts for your name and email address.

Have separate email addresses.If you decide to go the route of different names or personal and professional profiles, use two different email addresses. Many social networks let people search users by email address or find users in their contact list (by email address). In fact, if you can, use separate everything for personal and professional accounts: separate phone numbers, separate names etc...

Be diplomatic.This is especially important if you're managing the online reputation of a business: words carry about 10x as much weight, and 5x less humor, especially when they're written down and posted on the Internet. Think before you post, especially if you're responding to someone, and try to err on the side of "overly diplomatic." Think about it this way: you're not going to get in trouble for not tweeting something controversial.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

FTSE slumps amid Eurozone uncertainty

Disappointing retail sales in the UK combined with a bleak economic outlook in the Eurozone have contributed to a decline in the price of shares for many of the leading companies on the FTSE.

The exchange fell by 18.3 points to 7010.11, following an unexpected drop in retail sales in March and a slump in German growth. The German DAX is down more than 1 per cent. Poor figures in French stocks are also adding to the pressure.

Uncertainty in Greece continues to cause instability in markets as the country runs out of time to resolve its economic crisis. The upcoming election in the UK is yet another source of uncertainty for some traders.

Positive movers included United Utilities, up 12.5p, Citigroup up 50p to 950p and Severn Trent up 17p. Tesco made a recovery of 2.4p, after their record breaking loss of £6.4bn. William Hill fell 3.6 per cent, after reporting a 19 per cent drop in first quarter profits.

Shares in the engineering firm Rolls-Royce were the best performer on the FTSE, up more than 4%, after the company announced a new chief executive.

In the currency markets the pound rose 0.64 per cent against the dollar and gained 0.75% against the euro.

UK retail sales were down 0.5% in March from February. Figures show that consumers are still cautious about spending.

Keith Richardson, managing director for retail at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking said "Even with continued falls in fuel and food prices, consumers are responding to this current period of uncertainty by being just as careful about their own spending as they have been for the past few years.

"Despite the fact that Mother's Day fell in March and Easter fell early in April, this wasn't enough to bring forward any boost in spending into March, doing nothing to allay fears that while consumers may have a little more money in their pockets, they are spending it on leisure treats like eating out and going on holiday, rather than on High Street goods," he said.

Alan Clarke, at Scotiabank, said: "The monthly data all point towards sluggish Q1 GDP next Tuesday, not the sort of reading that the coalition government will be hoping for."

But Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight, said that although the retail data was "disappointing", wage growth and low inflation should bolster consumer spending over the coming months.

"Despite March's weaker-than-expected performance, the prospects for retail sales and consumer spending look bright, as purchasing power has strengthened and should continue to do so," Mr Archer said.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Pound vs Euro: What does the future hold?

The euro has seen better days. Quantitative easing, turmoil in Greece and a slow recovery from recession are just a few factors that have brought uncertainty to the continent. What does the future hold for sterling? It is hard to say due to a high degree of volatility in the market.

Fund manager, Neil Woodford expects that the pound will suffer due to uncertainty surrounding the upcoming election and beyond. "The dollar is strong because there's increasing uncertainty about the world economic order and increasing political uncertainty. 

"Investors always seek the dollar at times of uncertainty. But also the US economy is outperfoming other developed economies around the world.

"Europe is weak principally because of QE [quantitative easing] and the weakness of the European economy. Sterling is in the middle. A view on sterling in the near-term is going to be influenced by the outcome of the general election. I have to say that based on where the polls are now the political uncertainty after the election is not going to be good news for the currency. I expect it to be relatively weak.”

Jim Mellon, a successful investor with a reported net worth of £850m thinks now is a good time to buy property in Europe. He said a year ago that the euro would fall significantly, and a fortnight ago he said that he believed the euro had now reached the bottom against the pound.

Jeremy Warner, economic commentator for The Telegraph said that he expected only a marginal effect from the election in the UK. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard said that what happens on the continent will have a more significant impact on the pound than domestic issues. He predicts that both currencies will be weak, but the euro will remain weaker, with a seven to ten per cent fall against the pound over the coming six weeks. Holiday makers may wish to wait and get even more bang for their buck when it comes time to exchange currencies.

Head of investments at Skerritts, Andew Merricks has a different view. He thinks that the pound is in a lose-lose situation regardless of the outcome of the election. A win for the tories would mean an EU referendum as promised, and the question of Scottish independence will still be looming. If Labour win or lead a coalition the danger to public funds could also provoke further instability in the pound.

He said “This election does look as though it is a lose/lose for sterling, at least in the short term. Go out and get your holiday money now, unless you have decided that the place to be in 2015 for a relaxing break is Russia or Ukraine, of course.”

Thursday, 2 April 2015

E.on fined £7.8m for overcharging customers

Energy regulator, Ofgem has fined E.On £7.75m for incorrectly charging some customers exit fees and overcharging on bills.

The energy giant has also been ordered to pay back £400,000 to affected customers, with refunds ranging from £8 to £12.

The hefty fine will be paid to Citizens Advice, a community charity that helps vulnerable customers, Ofgem said today in statement.

This isn't the first time E.On has been caught out by the energy regulator. They were fined £12m as recently as May 2014 for miss-selling energy contracts, following an investigation by Ofgem spanning two years. It is estimated half a million households were affected.

Under rules laid out by Ofgem, energy suppliers have to give customers a full 30 days notice of price rises to allow customers to switch supplier if they choose to, before the new charges come into effect.

If a customer signals their intention to switch supplier within 30 days they should not be subject to any exit fees or higher tariff. Eon was found to have billed customers for price rises in January 2013 and January 2014.

"This error and the delay in providing the information is serious and E.On has failed to protect these consumers," Ofgem said, adding that this had been taken this into account in determining the level of penalty.

"The level of penalty package today also reflects that E.On has made the same error previously as well as making senior level commitments that it rectified its processes," the regulator added. "Also taken into account was that E.On notified Ofgem of the billing issues and has cooperated throughout the investigation."

E.On has issued an open apology to customers. "This is not the first time that E.ON has made this error and the company sincerely apologises to those affected." it said.

Eon is now in the process of trackign down customers to provide refunds by the end of April this year. Sarah Harrison, senior partner in charge of enforcement at Ofgem, said: "It is vital that suppliers play by the rules so customers are encouraged to engage in the market.

"E.ON's errors meant customers who took the chance to switch were wrongly charged. It is important that E.ON has repaid potentially affected customers and cooperated with the investigation. However it's absolutely unacceptable that E.ON failed to provide these vital customer protections yet again and this persistent failure is the reason for the high penalty."

In a statement it said: “Following reports from E.ON, Ofgem opened an investigation into the errors in June 2014 and has agreed today’s penalty package in recognition of the company’s errors. These errors meant that some customers were overcharged, although in the majority of cases this was by less than £10.”

Friday, 27 March 2015

Liquidity storm could throw UK into chaos

The Bank of England has warned that global liquidity and the threat of Greek default could throw the UK economy into chaos.

The FPC (Financial Planning Committee), which is tasked with maintaining financial stability at thhe Bank Of England said that liquidity - the degree to which assets can easily be traded - may have become "more fragile" in some markets around the world.

Mark Carney, governor of the Bank Of England said they would be working with the Financial Conduct Authority to assess whether asset managers could cope with a fast paced change in market conditions.

"The Committee remains concerned that investment allocations and pricing of some securities may presume that asset sales can be performed in an environment of continuous market liquidity, although liquidity in some markets may have become more fragile," the FPC said this week.

"Trading volumes in fixed income markets have fallen relative to market size and recent events in financial markets, including in US Treasury markets in October 2014, appear to suggest that sudden changes in market conditions can occur in response to modest news. This could lead to heightened volatility and undermine financial stability."

Although the FPC has highlighted the risk that liquidity poses to the UK, members said the Bank Of England would work with market participants to ensure that they were aware of the risks and price liquidity appropriately in an attempt to mitigate negative effects.

Just last month Mr. Carney warned that diverging monetary policies across North America, the UK, Europe and and Asia may cause further turbulence and "test capital flows across the global economy, including emerging markets."

The FPC was also quite clear that the situation in Greece posed a real threat to the UK, "There also remain significant risks in relation to Greece and its financing needs, including in the near term."

"Any of these risks could trigger abrupt shifts in global risk appetite that in turn might lead to a sudden reappraisal of underlying vulnerabilities in highly indebted economies, or sharp adjustments in financial markets."

Writing to George Osbourne, Mr. Carney said that the risk to financial stability remained "elevated" and added that he would review UK bank capital rules that might result in lenders having to raise their buffers.

The Bank Of England will ask asset managers about their strategies for managing liquidity of their funds. "This would inform assessment of the extent to which markets are reliant on investment funds offering redemptions at short notice," the FPC said.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

How do companies deal with the problems posed by in-direct procurement spending?

Is maverick spending by non-procurement employees the biggest challenge relating to indirect procurement? 
Recently Supply Management conducted a market intelligence survey in which 71% of respondents said that a lack of oversight of what employees, with purchasing power but outside the procurement function, spend in categories ranging from work wear to HR services were among the top issues they faced. 

However opinions on how to deal with the issue are split. 34% percent suggest non-procurement professionals must be trained more effectively in procurement processes and a further 16% said supplier numbers should be consolidated. A further 31% percent from the private and public sectors said control of indirect spend should be handed to the procurement function, as this is one way to keep the spending in line to control the problem. This is despite the results showing that indirect costs appear to be a responsibility shared over a number of different departments within organisations: procurement (63 per cent), senior department heads (42 per cent), finance (39 per cent) and operational staff (25 per cent).
“We are a government procurement department so can only advise other departments on spend – rather than take ownership – which is frustrating,” one respondent said. “We can provide the best advice but the stakeholders can decide to overrule our advice and do what they want.”
Many of the other challenges in relation to indirect procurement are linked to maverick spend and stakeholder management. Nearly half (46 per cent) cite misclassified items and poor reporting as a challenge, 45 per cent say little understanding exists of where indirect spend lies and how much it covers. And 49 per cent say lack of ownership by stakeholders is a problem.
Again, respondents were split on the best way to increase the influence and profile of procurement in the organisation. Nearly half (47 per cent) of the 360 people surveyed said a higher status in the boardroom would help, 42 per cent said procurement needs better oversight and reporting metrics of departments’ spend and 36 per cent said more training should be available to stakeholders.
But respondents also admitted that their skills for managing indirect spend fall short in some areas. When it comes to improving their understanding of indirect spend, 54 per cent said they need to analyse supply chain and commercial commitments and 46 per cent said they need the ability to benchmark prices.
“It’s a complicated picture and one not easily overcome with basic strategy or sweeping statements,” said Chris Aston, director, Expense Reduction Analysts.
“The focus is constantly shifting between direct and indirect spend and not always in the same direction. There are huge gains to be made by allowing procurement strategies to be given higher status by businesses, and better analysis of indirect spend can have significant benefits.”
David Noble, group CEO, CIPS, added: “Boardrooms are starting to wake up to the need for professionally qualified supply chain managers because of the added value that best practice, ethical sourcing can add to their bottom line and the role they play in safeguarding their business’ reputation.”

Friday, 13 March 2015

Greece too slow to address mounting debt, says president of EU commission

Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission has criticised the sluggish pace of progress in talks over Greece's mounting debt.

In meeting with Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Mr. Juncker said he was not satisfied. The Greek PM is in dire need of EU support for reforms in order to unlock vital funds for his country and avoid the possibility of bankruptcy and being ejected from the Eurozone.

Mr. Tsipras has pledged to end austerity measures in Greece, such plans have been opposed by Greece's EU creditors. Greece managed to negotiate a four month extension on its bailout terms last month after heated talks with creditors.

Hoping to persuade EU leaders of its promise and worthiness of credit, Greece has announced a series of reforms, but it would still like the EU to agree new, more lenient terms for the repayment of its debts.

In the eventuality that no agreement is reached, Greece risks being unable to meet its agreed payments. In the next two weeks alone it will need to find €6bn to pay its creditors.

Mr Juncket also said that he was "not satisfied with the developments in recent weeks".

"I don't think that we have made sufficient progress, but we'll try to push in the direction of a successful conclusion of the issues we have to deal with."

"I am totally excluding a failure, I don't want a failure. I would like Europeans to go together. This is not the time for division," he said.

Speaking alongside Mr Juncker, Mr Tsipras said he remained optimistic. "If there is political will, everything is possible," he said.

In a previous meeting with Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, Mr. Tsipras urged the EU to back growth in Greece. "Now is the time to give hope to the Greek people, not only 'implement, implement, implement' and 'obligations, obligations, obligations,'" said Mr Tsipras.

Analysts described last months's interim bailout agreement as a climbdown for the Greek government, which gained power in the country under the promise that it would have half of the Greek debt re-written off.

Even if the bailout extension is approved, Greece still has a huge mountain to climb in meeting its debt obligations.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Cloud is slowly gaining popularity within the financial sector, but many companies have been slow to adopt it...

Cloud is slowly gaining popularity within the financial sector, but many companies have been slow to adopt it and put in place a proper strategy for cloud. Unsurprisingly, the main concerns are over the security of cloud systems.

A survey recently conducted by Cloud Security Alliance revealed that 61 per cent of respondents had a cloud strategy in the formative stages in their company. 47 per cent of those said they had plans to use a combination of in-house IT, public and private cloud. 18 per cent planned to use private clouds. None of those surveyed had plans to primarily use public cloud.

The survey also revealed a link between use of electronic transaction channels and cloud policy. The more an organisations customer base used electronic transaction channels, the less strict the cloud policy in place.

“The results of this report are insightful into understanding how the financial services industry is progressing in terms of cloud adoption and how cloud providers can best serve their interests and needs,” said Jim Reavis, chief executive of the Cloud Security Alliance. “We hope that cloud providers and financial institutions can use this as guidance to help accelerate the adoption of secure cloud services in the financial industry.”

Financial service firms are keen to see more transparency and more control of auditing from their cloud providers, this was desired even more than improved data encryption. The top reason for those moving to the cloud, according to the survey, was flexible infrastructure capacity. This was closely followed by the need for reduced time for provisioning. The top services and uses of cloud amongst those surveyed was CRM, application development and email.

When looking at compliance requirements when moving to the cloud, top of the list was data protection at 75 per cent, corporate governance at 75 per cent and PCI-DSS at 54 per cent.

“The responses overall showed a very active market for cloud services in the financial services sector,” said Chenxi Wang, vice president, cloud security and strategy at CipherCloud, which sponsored the report. “Cloud has made solid in-roads in this industry with many firms looking to harnessing the power of cloud. There’s plenty of room for growth, particularly for providers who can fill the void for the auditing and data protection controls that are at the top of respondents’ cloud wish list.”
The survey also looked at how finance, insurance, security and government decision makers take action within their organisations. From standardising cloud services, to identifying which policies will have most impact, to understanding how best to educate users.

Over 100 professionals were surveyed, with organisations varying in size and from locations across the Americas, EMEA and APAC regions.

While financial organisations have been slower to adopt cloud services, it's clear that they are catching up and starting to reap the rewards of these new services. If you would like to know more about how cloud can benefit your organisation, financial or otherwise, give us a call or email and we will be happy to discuss the best tailored solutions for your business.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Speculation of $60 anchor for oil

Another jump in US crude stockpiles pushed the price of oil down to $61 a barrel on Thursday, going against indications that there was to be an imminent rise in global demand.

The United States government's latest supply report shows that domestic inventories of oil rose last week to 434.1 million barrels, setting a record high for the seventh consecutive week.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

British Gas reports slump in profits

Owner of British Gas, Centrica has reported a 35 percent slump in profits, prompting speculation that energy prices will remain low, with the possibility of further cuts coming this year.

The company reported that profits had fallen to £1.7 billion in 2014 due to the drop in gas and oil prices worldwide. Customers used a fifth less energy last year, the warmest on record, causing further problems for British Gas.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Government plans to improve UK infrastructure by opening up vast public network

The British government is opening up over 13,000 miles of publicly-owned digital networks in a bid to help improve access to high-speed broadband in areas of the country that are not well served by existing providers.

The government, realising the necessity of high speed internet in the modern age has pledged to spend at least £1.5 billion of taxpayers' money on public sector networks and infrastructure each year.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Mortgage rate war wages

A new war is under way in Britain as banks slash their mortgage rates. The last month alone has seen a drastic fall in prices of £1,700. 

Friday, 23 January 2015

How low will petrol prices fall?

As crude oil prices continue to fall, consumers are making the most of the lowest petrol prices in six years.

Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury's and Asda have all slashed the price of petrol and diesel at the pump, with a garage in Birmingham being the first to break the magical £1 a litre mark.

How much further can we expect prices to fall?

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Swiss Franc Soars After Euro Peg Is Scrapped

The Swiss bank slashed interest rates to -0.75 percent, abandoning its control of the exchange rate. Causing the Swiss franc to rise by almost 30 percent against the euro.

The Swiss National Bank's decision to scrap its exchange rate control saw the currency move to parity with the euro. Previously the franc was restricted to a maximum value of €0.83. Swiss stock markets immediately dived by more than 10 percent, sending the euro-franc currency markets into a state of panic.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Inflation Shrinks To All Time Low

In December of 2014 the UK saw inflation drop to a record breaking low of just 0.5 percent. This news has delighted British consumers, but could also hint at a more worrying prospect - a global deflation.

This new low marked the fourth time in a five month period that we have seen a fall in inflation. Currently the lowest since records began in 2000.