All posts by: Iris Lefroy

Measures needed to avoid another year of decline

A fast start to the New Year with SMMT trips to CES in Las Vegas and EV100 in Beijing with UK companies, flying the flag for UK Automotive which remains ‘open for business’ as we seek to confront technological challenges and opportunities. But the first week back is also always about new car registration figures and the outcome of the previous year.

The numbers for 2019 were as disappointing as expected, with a -2.4% drop marking the third year of decline for the UK new car market. There are ongoing points of concern – political and economic uncertainty has taken its toll, but also worrying is the confusion around clean air zones and other policy measures, which have had an impact on buyer confidence.

If the market continues to decline, it will hinder the UK’s ability to meet the latest CO2 targets and will undermine our wider environmental goals. We urgently need a broad portfolio of supportive policies that will encourage investment in infrastructure, as well as measures to boost the uptake of the latest low and zero emission cars which means, first and foremost, long-term purchase incentives to help buyers make the move to these new technologies.

The 144% increase in battery electric vehicle sales in 2019 is an encouraging sign, as are the 23 new BEV models on the way in 2020, but there’s a lot of work to do to grow these cars from their 1.6% market share to the 50-70% slice of the market that the government envisages by the end of the decade.

In the long term, it’s crucial that UK Automotive builds up solid international links and is at the forefront of the shift to electrified, connected and autonomous vehicles. This week’s visits to the US and China are key as we promote the UK as a great place to do business and develop and build the latest- and next-generation cars. We have a busy calendar planned for the rest of the year and we look forward to working with you in 2020, whatever it may bring.

Crash testing reveals problems that some carmakers prefer you did not know


The European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro-NCAP) is a destruction-test procedure that takes place in several European countries, reports Iain Robertson, including Thatcham Research, in Berkshire, all geared towards improving vehicle safety.

Established in 1997, Euro-NCAP was created by seven governments, as well as both motoring and consumer bodies from every European nation. Entirely ethical, it provides independent assessments of safety standards of vehicles provided by a wide mix of car manufacturers (but not all of them), in order to formulate insurance ratings and to help each of us to determine which cars and light commercials provide the highest levels of crash resistance. Those participating members submit vehicles (at their cost) to achieve a score rating across a number of pertinent parameters.

While crash resistance is one aspect, which takes into account frontal, lateral and rollover protection, vehicle equipment levels are considered, as are interior details, such as airbags, lateral crash beams, restraints, occupant and other safety elements. While the assessments are extensive, they culminate in laboratory collision tests that replicate being driven into motorway barriers at an angle, nose-to-tail incidents and lateral poles (similar to hitting a tree, or lamppost side-on).

You are sure to have heard about ‘crash test dummies’, which are highly sophisticated scientific ‘humanoids’, loaded with electronic sensors, weighted and sized according to actual human statistics (taking age, pregnancy and sex into account), and that can cost upwards of £500,000 apiece. They can be repaired and redeployed for several applications, although inevitably damage rates can be high.

Almost every month, another list of recently tested models is publicised, in some cases, much to the chagrin of the carmakers, notably should they fail certain test elements. Take the latest VW Golf VIII, which shared an issue first raised with the VW Sharan (only a few weeks previously); in the side impact test, a door sprung open. While Volkswagen has attempted to ‘soften the blow’ by suggesting that its own tests (with automatic self-locking) prevent such an occurrence, Euro-NCAP has revealed clearly a product weakness that VW states it will resolve. Of course, the perceived risk of VW occupants being ejected from a crashed vehicle is the primary concern. Yet, the Golf has still been awarded a 5-Star score.

The same firm also submitted its Seat Mii, VW Up! and Skoda Citigo models. Intriguingly, while autonomous emergency braking (AEB) was a standard fitment on those models, it has been dropped from the latest upgraded versions, which has cost the companies two of their former 5-Star ratings, which is not heartening news for the German carmaker. Interestingly, the soon-to-be-launched Ford Puma (now a compact SUV, rather than sporty coupe), outperformed expectations and scored a superb 5-Stars.

Euro-NCAP is always seeking to improve its ratings’ mechanisms and, as new safety addenda, such as VW’s V2X connectivity (car-to-car and car-to-infrastructure) highlights, by enabling advance hazard warnings, the safety test organisation is going to include the technology as part of its procedural enhancements in the future.

Not so long ago, a factor that prevented a large number of Chinese makes and models from being imported, several Sino brands were tested and resulted in either very low, or zero, star ratings. Therefore, SAIC, the maker of MG models, must be exceptionally relieved to find that both its HS and ZS Electric models have scored the maximum 5-Stars. Nissan’s latest UK-produced Juke model has also been awarded the top rating.

Interestingly, the French PSA Group (Citroen, Peugeot and DS), which now owns Vauxhall/Opel as well, was rebuked strongly by Euro-NCAP for its ‘lack of transparency’, ‘false safety claims’ and ‘lack of ambition’ in respect of improving safety on its van-based passenger vehicles, so much so that the testing body cut short its programme for the latest Opel Zafira Life, until it complied (the potential of a damagingly low score was evident). PSA has not responded as yet but it is abundantly clear that Euro-NCAP is unafraid of baring its teeth, when it needs to.

Should you wish to access the reports, they are all in the public domain and clicking on ‘euroncap.com’ will take readers directly to the comprehensive and colourful test sheets, which are totally fascinating. On the same website, you can also see the value of destructive impacts in a selection of videos shot in real time. Taking the MG ZS EV as an example, its 5-Star rating is refined with a 90% adult, 85% child, 64% vulnerable road users and 70% safety assist results. It is interesting to note (by way of red ‘X’s) the features missing in the MG model, such as knee, pelvis and chest airbags, as well as an active bonnet (for pedestrian protection). In the latter area, ‘pedestrian vulnerability’ is regarded as a child running from behind parked vehicles, an adult either crossing the road, or running alongside it, with nocturnal behaviour and cyclists also being accounted for. As stated, the Euro-NCAP Datasheets make fascinating reading.

Crash test resilience provides standards by which cars and light commercials can be rated and many carmakers feel encouraged enough to boast of their 5-Star scores. As the only definitive tests, while each driver is responsible for the safety of his passengers and the omnipresent threat of ‘Corporate Manslaughter’ hangs in the balance, Euro-NCAP can provide a means to understanding each vehicle’s integrity and its vital safety standards. Public access to Euro-NCAP data is an important and free means to avoid false claims and misinformation promoted by some vehicle manufacturers.

Best crypto trading bots

Not every invention can drive the world towards unprecedented fields of technology. Possessing a quality of unbreakable novelty is essential to hustle through the multitude of innovations and reach upfront. Cryptocurrency is one such innovation that took the global economy on the turbulent journey. Erratic trends have been surfacing in the economy since the advent of digital money. Acceptance of cryptocurrency was slow, but surely it has conquered the human souls now and has gone beyond the limit where its sprawling growth is uncontrollable. The most recent technology in the field of cryptocurrency is the crypto trading bot. Although the bots have taken the path towards proliferation, they are yet to be accepted worldwide.

Crypto trading bots are means to upgrade your cryptocurrency exchanges by automating it. These bots control the accounts and prevent the users from plummeting down the abyss along with the currency rates. Chances for the loss of money through human errors are brought down to insignificant levels with the bots. It can analyse many cryptos and work without breaks in improving the results and increasing profits. Since they are emotionless, the work is done efficiently by eradicating the sensitive side of humans from trade. When selecting a particular crypto trading bot, make sure to check its profitability, security, reliability, transparency of content, and user-friendliness. By considering these factors, a list of the best crypto trading bots has been created.

Top 3 Cryptocurrency Trading Bots

1. Cryptohopper

Cryptohopper is the only trading bot that works based on cloud technology, which makes the trade platform function through the bots even when the computer is switched off or sleeping. This feature of Cryptohopper makes it unique and popular than the other bots. As this is the only bot that embeds external signalers, it stands as the best option for novice users. Many technical indicators are employed to configure the sales, and through a manual approach, it makes the bot useful to the experienced users also. You can avail of its services for free for the first month, and it can be upgraded later by paying for the various updates.

2. 3Commas

The features of trailing loss and trailing profit in 3Commas made it the first trading bot with the ability to adapt to the changing trends in the market. The market conditions will be analyzed effectively by the bot and decisions will be made on your behalf to make the maximum profit. Since the 3Commas bot is hosted online, it is available all day around. Logging into your account from any internet supporting device is made possible through this bot service. The most popular exchanges, such as Binance, Kucoin, and Bittrex, can be connected to this bot and thereby make your transactions faster. The cheapest package available on 3Commas is that of $22 per month, and the most expensive one would be that pf $75 per month. Those who use the Huboi exchange can get the services of 3Commas for free.

3. Kryll.io

Kryll.io stands as the best option for the ones who have no much experience in the field of programming. By using this bot, you will be able to employ many trading strategies, which a normal human brain wouldn’t execute. Logical operators, notification blocks, market indicators, value triggers, and information related to technical analyses are linked, and as a result, the users are provided with an enhanced experience. Artificial Intelligence has also been employed in Kryll to create a better interface and analyze risks. When establishing strategies is not your forte, advanced marketplace principles can be used. Kryll charges considerably low fees per month when compared to other bot platforms.

Conclusion

Crypto trading bots have taken over the place of the users in making crucial decisions. Before buying a trading bot, make sure to go through reviews of all the top ones on the list. Equipping your accounts with these bots will only enhance your experience, so spend your money only on the ones that are worth it.

Ultimate Finance provides more than £1.6bn of funding in 2019

Specialist asset-based lender, Ultimate Finance, broke its own annual lending record by providing funds of more than £1.6bn to SMEs across the UK last year.

The newly released figures show that Ultimate Finance finished the year with a record high loan book of £265m. Further growth in the size of the company’s client base means Ultimate Finance ended the year supporting more companies than ever.

This growth is on the back of continued focus on strengthening relationships with introducers across the UK and another year of strong development of Ultimate Finance’s asset-based lending portfolio. Highlights include:

  • The average size of Invoice Finance deals more than doubling with facilities of up to £5m
  • Asset Finance hitting a new annual high, with the loan book exceeding £55m
  • The Bridging Finance loan book growing close to £40m, an exceptional year-on-year increase of 23.5%

Josh Levy, CEO at Ultimate Finance, said, “Ultimate Finance has prospered in 2019 against the backdrop of an unsettled year for many UK businesses. Uncertainty surrounding Brexit and the general election were contributing factors to business investment falling in five of the last six quarters, however it is encouraging to see business confidence returning. In this context, I’m proud to announce another record-breaking year of lending for Ultimate Finance with over 1,000 new businesses supported by our funding solutions.

“Our flexible, solution-driven approach to funding and excellent customer service increasingly make us the funder of choice for businesses wanting to invest and thrive. To that end we were pleased to be a founding signatory of the SME Finance Charter to demonstrate our unwavering commitment to facilitating growth for ambitious businesses in all market conditions.

“Our continued growth mirrors a trend of businesses becoming simultaneously more comfortable with alternative finance providers and moving away from traditional banks. This trend, along with the investment in developing our introducer relationships, present us with a big opportunity for 2020 to continue supporting more businesses around the UK.”

NACFB announces new event to recognise broking excellence

A new platform for national recognition within the intermediary market launches today as the National Association of Commercial Finance Brokers (NACFB) announces its inaugural Commercial Broker Awards.

The awards ceremony will be hosted at Edgbaston Cricket Ground in Birmingham from 12pm-8pm on Thursday 23rd April 2020, where the winners of each award category will be announced.

The event is an opportunity for the NACFB to thank its broker Members. Standard tickets are priced at £125 per ticket and £1250 per table, but, for a limited time only, NACFB broker tickets will be subsidised to just £50 per ticket or £500 per table with the exclusive discount code: NACFBBROKER60

The events will see fourteen award categories from which NACFB brokers can select; ranging from sector specific awards to deal of the year and sole trader categories. Non-NACFB members will not be considered for shortlisting and the awards are not open for Patron lenders of the Association. The deadline for all entries is 17.00 on Friday 7th February 2020.

A panel of industry leaders will produce a shortlist after which all NACFB lenders will then submit their votes for the winner. All shortlisted NACFB brokerages will be notified in the last week of February.

Graham Toy, NACFB chief executive, looked ahead to the new flagship event: “Our November Gala Dinner recognises Patrons who are best in class, but the Commercial Broker Awards will turn the spotlight onto our broker Members – who remain at the very heart of everything we do.

“The aim of the event is to have an 85/15 broker/lender split, and we would encourage our community of brokers to bring their partners and clients along with them to join in the celebrations.”

NACFB brokers can submit a nomination from a full list of award categories and secure their place at the Commercial Broker Awards by visiting www.commercialbrokerawards.co.uk

IHS Markit comment on UK GDP

“The latest GDP data add to signs that the UK economy stagnated at best in the fourth quarter of last year as heightened political uncertainty, Brexit risks and weaker global demand all colluded to dampen spending by both business and households. The good news is that all these headwinds are showing signs of moderating, if not even turning into tail winds, as we move into 2020. However, downside risks remain elevated.

November decline raises risk of fourth quarter contraction

Official data from the Office for National Statistics showed the economy contracting 0.3% in November, worse than the unchanged picture expected by economists, but broadly in line with the trend signalled by recent survey data.

“Manufacturing led the decline, with output dropping 1.7%, but the vast service sector also contracted, with output falling 0.3%. The construction sector surprised to the upside, with a 1.9% surge in output, though data for this part of the economy are subject both marked volatility and revisions, suggesting this upturn be taken with a pinch of salt.

“The November downturn leaves the economy growing by a subdued 0.1% in the three months to November, with upward revisions to prior months having helped offset the latest decline. However, in year-on-year terms, output is just 0.6% higher than a year ago, which is the worst performance since 2012. Moreover, so far the GDP data for the fourth quarter are running 0.1% below the third quarter, precisely in line with the indication from the IHS Markit/CIPS PMI survey data. Output needs to rise by at least 0.2% in December to avoid the economy contracting (barring any revisions to back data), but the PMI hints at ongoing malaise at the end of the year.

Survey data raise hopes of faster growth in coming months

“More encouragingly, survey evidence suggests growth may being to pick up in coming months. Although the survey data collected in December showed business activity remaining broadly stagnant, sentiment regarding future output rose sharply, especially after the general election. The headline all-sector PMI continued to run at one of its lowest levels seen over the past decade, stuck just below the 50.0 no change level for a fourth month running at 48.9 in December, but the output expectations index jumped to its highest for over a year. A similar improvement in confidence was seen in the Deloitte CFO survey.

“The rise in sentiment suggests that increased political clarity, notably in relation to Brexit, has boosted business confidence regarding investment and spending, and could drive growth higher in coming months. The prospect of increased government spending has also brightened the outlook. At the same time, global economic growth has shown signs of picking up, meaning external demand should act as less of a drag on the UK as we head into 2020. The worldwide PMI surveys registered the fastest pace of output growth for eight months in December, buoyed in part by manufacturing stabilising after an easing of trade tensions.

“Threats to the outlook remain elevated, however, notably including uncertainty over future trading arrangements with the EU. There’s also a distinct possibility that trade wars could continue to hit growth, especially if the US focus shifts from China to Europe. Oil prices could also rise amid current geopolitical risks, squeezing household budgets and raising costs.

“In the near term, we will know more about how the UK economy started 2020 with release of the January flash PMIs on 24th January, which are likely to provide an important steer to policymakers. Recent Bank of England rhetoric has highlighted how any failure of the survey data to show the improvement in confidence feeding though to faster economic growth is likely to lead to a swift cut in interest rates.”

Accountancy, teaching and law most difficult professions to access without…

Accountancy, teaching and law are believed to be some of the most difficult professions to access without a university degree, according to a new survey commissioned by AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians).

The survey, which saw Opinium Research speak with 2,005 adults, comes as thousands of young people across the UK are completing their UCAS applications ahead of next Wednesday’s deadline (15 January). Out of those surveyed, three-quarters (77%) ranked being a solicitor as very difficult to get into if you didn’t go to university, followed by teaching (69%), accountancy (64%) and investment banking (62%).

Many people also thought being from a lower-income background was a significant barrier to entering these professions. 59% of people thought this would hold someone back from becoming a teacher, whilst 57% felt it would limit someone’s ability to become an engineer. Just under half (47%) of respondents said a lower-income background could prevent someone becoming an accountant, with 18 to 34-year-olds more likely to agree with this compared to over-55s (49% and 36% respectively).

Although being from an ethnic minority background was considered less of a challenge to enter these career paths than coming from a low-income background, almost a third of people (31%) said being from an ethnic minority background would make becoming an investment banker difficult. Other roles seen as harder for ethnic minority candidates to enter were solicitor (27%), business analyst (23%), HR manager (23%) and accountant (22%).

Cost of becoming professional seen as significant barrier

The survey also found that the cost of qualifications was seen as a major obstacle to many sectors. On average, Britons believe it costs £27,432 to become a solicitor (including but not limited to undergraduate degrees, masters degrees and specific qualifications). Meanwhile, qualifying as an accountant was estimated to cost £21,356, closely followed by becoming an investment banker (£21,341). By comparison, training as an HR manager was considered less expensive, with respondents thinking qualifications would set you back £15,657.

Despite the perceived high cost of training, accountancy is considered to be a well-paid career, with almost half (49%) of respondents describing it as such, whilst 13% said it was a ‘rewarding’ job and one in ten (9%) described it as ‘stimulating work’. There are some negative stereotypes associated with the profession – 43% of people thought accountancy was ‘serious’, with over a quarter mentioning ‘long hours’ (27%) and seeing it as ‘stuffy’ (26%).

However, only 8% of those surveyed thought accountancy was ‘elitist’. This view was echoed by AAT members and students – 57% and 62% respectively said they believed accountancy was open to everyone, regardless of their background.

Mark Farrar, chief executive, AAT, said:

“Going to university after completing school education remains a popular route – and there is no doubt that, for many of the thousands of young people currently completing their UCAS forms, putting down various university options remains their best route to take.

“But it’s not the only path available. There are other ways of accessing the accountancy profession, such as taking a vocational route like an apprenticeship. This approach wouldn’t saddle you with debt, nor would it cost several thousand pounds of your own money. Instead, you can earn while you learn – often in a junior accounting role supplemented by time to study accounting qualifications, the cost of which is frequently covered by your employer. Apprenticeships add to the diversity of their workforce, too – and many large accounting practices feature highly in the UK Government’s social mobility index.

“And AAT qualifications are open to all – meaning you can become a professional accountant irrespective of your background, class or ethnicity. Despite common misconceptions, accountancy isn’t a profession dominated by men from higher-income backgrounds – two-thirds of AAT members and student members are female, while many thousands of our students are from lower income backgrounds and taking their first steps in an exciting career in finance.”

Domain Therapeutics secures €6m debt financing

Domain Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company specialised in the discovery and development of new drug candidates targeting G Protein-Coupled Receptors (GPCR) in neurology, oncology and rare diseases, announces it has closed a €6m ($6.7m) debt financing to expand its proprietary drug portfolio and prepare the next round of financing.

After raising €3.5m ($3.9m) in 2019 from an existing shareholder, Seventure Partners, Domain Therapeutics will use this additional financing to accelerate the development of its valuable portfolio. The French Public Investment Bank (Bpifance), Banque Populaire Alsace Lorraine Champagne (BPALC), Credit Industriel et Commercial (CIC) and Caisse d’Epargne Grand Est Europe (CEGEE) have participated in this non-dilutive financing as a strategic step towards a significant fund raising in 2020 aimed at supporting the development of its most advanced assets.

“This transaction shows the confidence of the banks in Domain Therapeutics and its business model and recognises our ability to syndicate financial partners around our business objectives,” said Pascal Neuville, CEO, Domain Therapeutics. “This loan is part of our stepwise strategy leading to a series C in order to speed up our business activities.”

Domain will launch multiple programs, on valuable GPCR targets, aimed at reinforcing its portfolio of first-in-class drug candidates and at generating multiple-target collaboration opportunities with pharma partners.

LendInvest promotes senior executive to CEO role

LendInvest, the UK’s leading marketplace for property finance, has announced that its co-founder and CEO, Christian Faes, is handing over day-to-day management of the business to a long-serving member of the management team.

From 13 January, Rod Lockhart becomes CEO of LendInvest and joins the company’s board of directors. Christian Faes, who co-founded LendInvest in 2008, remains fully committed to the business and will stay employed by the company in the role of executive chairman.

Rod Lockhart joined LendInvest in 2015 and under his direction, LendInvest’s capital markets and fundraising activities have grown exponentially. The company’s lending capital base has increased to £1.8bn in the last four years, and Rod has personally overseen LendInvest’s £259m RMBS securitisation (AAA-rated) as well as a number of large investments from investors such as HSBC, Citigroup, Nomura and National Australia Bank.

Rod has had a close working relationship with Christian Faes and his co-founder, Ian Thomas, even before joining LendInvest. Between 2013 and 2015, Rod acted as LendInvest’s external fund manager while working as a senior director at CBRE.

Christian Faes commented: “After 11 years my co-founder and I are extremely proud of what we’ve built. LendInvest is a powerhouse in UK fintech – a company that has raised almost £2bn, has been consistently profitable, and has proven that it is a financially viable and sustainable business.

“The company is in an excellent position and no-one is better placed than Rod to take over day-to-day management of the business. This will allow me to focus on what I love doing as a founder and entrepreneur, which is the outward facing work for the company and working on our strategy and vision.

“Ian and I have worked with Rod for more than seven years, both while he was at CBRE and then as part of our team, and he has been an important partner and instrumental in helping us achieve the success that we have.

“LendInvest remains a founder-led business and I am still completely committed to building the leading mortgage lender in the UK. I’m looking forward to working closely with Rod, the wider team, and the board as we roll out the company’s long-term strategy.”

Rod Lockhart added: “I’m honoured to become CEO of LendInvest at such an exciting time in its growth. Under Christian’s leadership, LendInvest has become a powerhouse for UK fintech – one that is consistently profitable and able to demonstrate its sustainability, while investing in innovation and continually challenging outdated industry norms.”

Chris Barnes, partner of Atomico & board director of LendInvest, added: “We’re delighted to see this natural shift in the LendInvest leadership team. The company and its shareholders will continue to benefit from the clarity of Christian’s vision for LendInvest over the long-term, and will reap the rewards of Rod’s stewardship at an operating level. This is promising news for one of UK fintech’s biggest success stories.”

 

Growth stabilising in most advanced economies

Composite leading indicators (CLIs), designed to anticipate turning points in economic activity relative to trend six to nine months ahead, point to growth stabilising, albeit below long-term trends, in most advanced economies.

The CLIs continue to point to stable growth momentum in Japan, Canada and the euro area as a whole, including France and Italy. In the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom the signs of stabilisation, flagged in last month’s assessment, have been confirmed.

Among major emerging economies, stable growth momentum remains the assessment for Russia and China (for the industrial sector). Growth is expected to gain momentum in Brazil but the CLI for India continues to point to easing growth momentum.

OECD- Paris, 13 January 2020