Archbishop struggles to overcome payday force

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Cantebury, has struggled to gain the support of fellow churches to overhaul high cost payday lenders, Financial News reports.

In 2013, Welby publically stated his desire to run payday lenders and market-leader Wonga.com ‘out of business.’ However, recent figures show that just 8.8% of 13,000 churches that fall under the Church of England are providing any kind of financial support to their local community.

Welby’s vision is to push high cost credit lenders from the high street to make way for more friendly, low cost alternatives such as credit unions.

High cost lenders such as Wonga and The Money Shop are regularly criticised for offering high levels of interest and this has resulted in putting 3 million Britons into a debt cycle. The interest rates charged can regularly exceed more than 1,000% APR and are typically charged at a maximum daily rate of 0.8% per day. (Source: Choose Wisely)

Churches focusing on other areas

The lack of support for debt solutions is by no part a failure of the churches. The figures from 13,000 of its churches showed that 2,347 run night shelters for the homeless, nearly 3,000 operate a ‘community cafe’, 4,191 have a parent and toddler group, and nearly 8,000 work with food bank charities. Additional services include lunch clubs and language classes.

But the Archbishop is still not close enough to take over the high street and offer a fully-fledged alternative to high street lenders.

Wonga undergoing administration

Archbishop Welby did, however, receive a huge boost to his campaign when Wonga.com announced last month that they were going into administration. This was a result of paying over £200 million in compensation claims from loans funded in 2012 and 2013 – making the number of ongoing claims unpayable.

Close competitor, The Money Shop, has followed suit and is no longer accepting new loan applications. Other lenders in the industry are also faced with an increase in compliants, something that they may not only need to refund but also pay an administration fee of £500 to the Financial Ombudsman Service to acknowledge every complaint.

Wonga’s demise was largely due to the rise in compensation claims advertised by claims management companies who are shifting their attention from PPI claims to payday loans, with the PPI deadline approaching in August 2019. This has also been due to the increased regulatory framework devised by the FCA, who became the City Watchdog in January 2015.

Welby continued to be outspoken about the high cost consumer finance brands, although his comments backfired in 2013 when it emerged that the C of E had invested in a fund that supported tech companies – one of which was Wonga.

Lightning strikes twice in this case. Welby has also criticised tech giants such as Amazon and other internet unicorns for exploiting UK labour and avoiding tax. However, it also emerged that the C of E has invested in Amazon.

New Budget Promises ‘End of Austerity’

Earlier this week, the Chancellor Philip Hammond announced the UK’s budget for the upcoming years against Brexit turmoil and other uncertainty. However, Hammond has announced the end of austerity with some new plans which include interest free loans, less stamp duty and a noticeable tax cut.

The basic rate tax has received an additional boost from its earlier rise to £11,850 in April and will not be a minimum of £12,500. This will act as a huge benefit to low income earners, putting an extra £650 tax free in their pockets. At the higher end of the spectrum, the higher tax bracket will go up from £46,350 to £50,000 which is a tax cut of around 5%. The downside is that those who were paying a higher tax bracket previously will now have their pension taxed at 40% compared to previously being 20%.

A huge gesture has been made to first time buyers of shared-ownership homes worth up to £500,000 – with no stamp duty charged and this will also apply to those who bought a house since the last Budget. This will give first time buyers a saving of up to £10,000 depending on whether they are in the UK or Scotland.

Hammond has also raised the introduction of ‘interest free loans’ to help borrowers who are suffering long-term debt due to high cost credit cards and payday loans. With around 3 million people in this position, the scheme has been successful in Australia and helped 4 out of 5 people that applied get out of debt. The conditions of this scheme are yet to be confirmed but will likely be at a consumer level and will not affect those companies using business loans, bridging loans or other commercial finance.

The idea of interest free loans has been applauded by Money Saving Expert figure Martin Lewis and MP Stella Creasy who has long campaigned about the detriment of high cost loans. The Chancellor has been warned about making similar errors that occurred when the government offered Universal Credit, which only worsened consumer debt by giving them access to finance beyond their means.

Other positive additions from the Budget include a plan to offer tax relief to high street stores and include facilities to improve footfall. Elsewhere, tech companies coming from outside of the UK will be prone to paying higher tax, providing that they are earning more than £500m globally.

£500m is also being made available for the Housing Infrastructure Fund, under £30 billion would be used to upgrade the UK’s roads and a further £650m of grant funding for social care for English authorities.

Top Advice for New Investors

If you want to start investing, you may feel intimidated at first. There are many different options, along with opinions, about which type of investment strategy is the best. An excellent way to avoid feeling so overwhelmed is to start off with some basic investments to learn how the process works. Once you feel more confident about managing your money this way, you can start to branch out into other investments. Here are some of the most important things to remember as you start investing.

Start With Automatic Investments

Do you have a retirement account? Many employers offer sponsored retirement plans and may even match some portion of the money you contribute to your own retirement. If you are not already investing in this way, it’s an excellent place to start. There may be tax advantages for saving and investing money through a retirement account, and most of these plans don’t require any active oversight from you. If your employer doesn’t offer a retirement savings plan, you can open one up yourself through a financial institution.

Create a Custom Portfolio

You can gain insights from investment managers who can work with you to create a personalized portfolio. By discussing how much risk you are willing to take, resources you currently have, potential for earnings and plans for your future with a professional, you can give your portfolio a broad foundation that can help optimize both long-term and short-term goals. As your circumstances change, your portfolio can adapt to meet your needs.

Square Your Investments in Your Budget

Once you feel ready to invest some of your savings into the stock market, it’s important to make sure you don’t overcommit yourself. If you’re like most people, you probably plan to use your investments to save money and grow your wealth, rather than to form a portion of your active income. As with any type of savings account, you need to plan for your investments in your monthly budget. Set aside a certain amount every month to invest, and make sure to account for that money in your budget so you aren’t relying on it to pay your bills.

Understand Investment Risks and Rewards

Different types of investments come with unique inherent risks. As a general rule, low-risk investments offer more security but less opportunity for growth. On the other hand, higher-risk investments provide more opportunities for both growth and loss. There are numerous things that can affect the risk level of a stock or investment opportunity, so it’s important to have at least a basic understanding of how much risk you want to take with your money. Knowing how current events can affect investments can help you determine how to spread out your money in a combination of high-risk and low-risk options.

Choose Risk Based on Your Unique Situation

As a general rule, the amount of risk you accept in your investments should be tied to your overall financial situation and your life circumstances. For example, if you are using investments to save for retirement, it’s a good idea to choose higher risk/reward options during your younger years and move toward more secure investments as you get closer to retirement. A financial advisor can help you know how to balance risk and reward in the way that makes the most sense for your life.

Investing can be a complex process, but understanding the basics is an important first step toward taking an active role in managing your money. You can use investments to save for retirement and grow your overall wealth. Spending a little time to set up a retirement account and understand how stocks and investment portfolios work can lead to financial rewards.

Online Concert and Event Ticket Sales on the Rise

Have you bought concert or event tickets online recently? You’re not alone. Data from Pollstar shows that ticket sales increased significantly in 2017, with the total ticket for the year up 10% from the same period in 2016.

It’s a significant increase — one that’s not just due to rising consumer spending and a stronger economy, but changes in consumer habits.

More than ever, consumers are going online to buy their tickets instead of buying tickets from offline merchants. Platforms like Facebook allow an increasing number of event promoters to market their events and sell concert tickets directly, often using ecommerce software.

It’s an interesting development, and one that’s helping event promoters reach a wider, more eager audience than ever before.

For consumers, it’s also a great development. Buying tickets online saves time, while making event attendance easier than ever for fans. Instead of needing to carry a physical ticket, many events are opting for scannable, digital barcodes sent to attendees via email.

Beyond concerts and sporting events, ecommerce technology is increasingly playing a role in other event industries. A growing number of conferences, meetups and other events now use ecommerce software to manage their ticket sales and attendance process.

Part of this trend is an increase in the accessibility of technology for selling tickets. Platforms such as Shopify have changed what was once an expensive, technically demanding process into something that anyone with basic computer skills can complete.

But part of it is also due to an increasing level of interest in ecommerce in general. More than ever before, consumers are spending their discretionary income online instead of frequenting high street retailers and other offline shopping destinations.

Interested in learning more about other ecommerce trends? The infographic below touches on four interesting ecommerce trends to watch out for, from the rise of point programs to chatbots and artificial intelligence.

What is vehicle tracking and could your business use it?

If your business uses a large fleet of vehicles, you’re likely to have come across telematics, also known as vehicle tracking. The telematics industry is steadily growing, with a recent report stating that it will accelerate at a compound annual growth rate of over 7% by 2022. But what is vehicle tracking, and does it really benefit businesses? Here, we’ll look at exactly what is involved in tracking your fleet, how it can save money in the long run, and what businesses it’s best suited to.

Telematics simply tracks your vehicle

Vehicle tracking does just that—it tracks your vehicles. This includes keeping a tab on where the vehicle is via GPS, as well as offering the driver navigations. Some vehicle tracking systems, such as Movolytics, also keep track of your vehicles in motion, such as speed, fuel emissions, driver behaviour, and even distance travelled. The data collected is then fed back to managers to show how efficiently vehicles are being driven, and whether this could be improved.

Vehicle tracking can cut business costs

There are many benefits to vehicle tracking which could help your business save money and improve customer service. Fuel is one of the largest expenditures for any business that relies on a fleet, and the rising prices of diesel and petrol are not ideal for business owners. However, fleet tracking can be used to show how efficiently vehicles are being driven, and therefore whether fuel is being used as economically as possible. Driving habits such as speeding, harsh braking and acceleration, idling, and taking longer routes are all linked to bad driver behaviour and increased fuel usage. However, vehicle tracking logs these behaviours, so you and your drivers can see where you may be able to improve, whether this is by driving at slower speeds or avoiding harsh braking and accelerating.

Vehicle tracking softwares can also be used as navigational systems, offering live traffic updates to your drivers, while providing an alternative route. This allows drivers to avoid getting stuck in traffic, which eats up company time, and needlessly wastes fuel by increasing idle times. Vehicle tracking software can also track how long each vehicle has been on the move, keeping an eye on how much time each driver is spending on shift. This makes it easier for businesses to enforce breaks on drivers, reducing the chances of them being overworked and potentially getting sleepy behind the wheel. This in turn keeps the drivers safe, minimising the risks of crashes and ensures your drivers are alert.

Businesses that can benefit from vehicle tracking

Any business that requires a fleet of vehicles can benefit from a vehicle tracking system, from collection/delivery-based businesses to taxi services. These businesses rely on getting to customer destinations as quickly as possible, and being able to depend on a built-in navigation system with live traffic updates can massively help drivers get to their destinations faster. These vehicle tracking systems are especially useful for managers, who will be able to make sure that drivers are taking the quickest, most efficient routes they can. This improves customer service as customers are dropped to their destination as quickly as possible, and drivers are able to complete more jobs.

It’s not just business owners whose companies use vehicles who can benefit from telematics, insurance providers can use it too.  If a customer files a claim on a telematics-equipped car, you’ll be able to see how fast they were driving, when, and where, allowing you to make an informed decision when processing the claim.

Whether you have a small or large fleet, telematics systems can help all drivers improve their driving skills, making them aware of any bad driving habits they may have developed over the years, such as idling or harsh braking. Vehicle tracking software can also help to improve communication and administration, while improving fuel efficiency and reducing overall fuel costs.

Tips on How to Do Well Against Strong Business Competition

It is imperative as a business owner to look at how you stand against your competitors. You need to know what their strategies are so that you can also come up with better strategies to defeat them.

The first step is to understand your direct competitors. Avoid hitting huge targets when you are not capable of taking them down since those efforts might backfire. Analyse your direct competition and determine how you can do better.

Keep up with the latest systems

You need to automate parts of your business or have an upgrade. It is not only for convenience but also to save time. In any business, making the most of your time is crucial. You can’t be behind when your competitors are already moving forward. For instance, if you are still manually doing your accounting or book keeping services, you need to find software that could help speed things up.

Improve your website

Most people are searching for information online these days. You can win their hearts if you have a site that is easy for them to navigate if they need to find information. The site also needs to be mobile-friendly. Make it effortless for people to find information when they are on their phones. If it takes a lot of time, you might lose the interest of potential customers.

Maximise the use of modern technology

You need to invest in new technology since it represents the future. Even if you need to spend a lot on advanced technology, you won’t mind it given what you get in return. For instance, if you can use drone technology to help hasten the processes in your company, use it. You don’t need to invest right away. The point is for you to be open-minded and understand what technology has to offer.

Outsource some services

You don’t need to hire full-time staff to do everything at work. The problem with a full-time employee is that you need to pay this person on a monthly basis, along with other benefits. However, if you outsource the said service, you pay per contract. Once the project is over, you don’t need to pay the person anymore. For instance, if you ask someone to deal with payroll, you can hire someone to do it only when you need the said service. You can rehire the person or agency next time when you need to deal with payroll again.

Don’t forget traditional advertising

 Even if your goal is to focus on modern technology and maximising new trends, don’t ignore traditional ads. You need to invest in posters, banners and pop up exhibition stands. Even if you think they are no longer useful these days, the truth is there are still people who get information from these sources. You might miss out on the opportunity to attract them as customers if you don’t invest in these marketing strategies.

You need to do everything possible to remain on top of your game and win against strong competitors.

 

Key Considerations for Shoppers

Shoppers have a lot of things to consider when it comes to making their decision to purchase. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the key ones.

If you have an ecommerce website that’s receiving traffic, but you haven’t been experiencing the volume of orders you were expecting, it’s obvious that something on the site is hindering conversions.

While every business is different and product types vary enormously, consumer expectations and online behaviors remain amazingly consistent. Because of this, marketers are able to identify the principles that most influence online sales.  Here are some key considerations for improving your ecommerce site.

Reviews

Online reviews have become incredibly prevalent in recent years, and are now an essential part of the buying process for the majority of consumers. In fact,as of 2012 over 70% of online shoppers will read through multiple reviews before making a purchase, and many consider them as trustworthy as a personal recommendation.

It’s clear that reviews are powerful, so if you’re not using them on your site, you should be. The more you have, the more likely you are to make a sale. They can be hosted on site or pulled through from an external platform, and you can use modifiers to order them from best to worst. If you don’t have many reviews, consider using a special offer or discount to incentivize customers to leave one, or perhaps even giving products away. It’ll be worth it in the end.

Logistics

The importance of offering fast and reliable delivery cannot be overstated. In many instances, being able to receive an item the same or following day can be the difference between a sale and a consumer going elsewhere. When top packaging supplier Rajapack spoke to online marketplace Trouva about their last mile logistics, they stated that the logistics chain needs to be kept simple and speedy to prompt the user to buy.

Although there’s a great deal going on behind the scenes when it comes to logistics, and expedited shipping can be tricky for retailers, consumers increasingly expect that they’ll get their products as quickly as possible. Offering and highlighting speedy delivery on your website can make the world of difference.

Quality and Pricing

The relationship between quality and pricing is a huge factor when it comes to buying decisions. While some purchases will be more cost than quality lead, and vice versa, most consumers like to achieve the best balance they can between the two.

For this reason, applying a discount or limited offer to a quality product can be a powerful way to drive sales through your site. For example, even consumers who are price lead will often perceive a high quality product with a good discount as better value than the lowest cost option.

User Experience

Arguably the biggest factor when it comes to online conversion rates is the layout and functionality of the site, and its impact on the user experience. Your site needs to be well-designed, with a range of quality product images, simple and logical navigation, and prominent CTAs on every page.

The speed of the site is huge factor too as consumer patience can often be measured in milliseconds. Many users browsing on a mobile device will leave a website altogether if it takes more than 2 seconds to load, so optimising your site is vitally important.

Similarly, if a site is labelled as not secure, users are very unlikely to feel comfortable making a purchase, or even filling out a form.

Conclusion

There are likely many other more specific considerations when it comes to achieving more online sales through your ecommerce site, but the fundamental principles can be distilled from the topics covered here and applied to every step of the customer journey.

Consumers want things to happen as smoothly and quickly as possible – both onsite and off, and to be reassured that they are spending their money wisely, and sharing their information safely.

Take control of your pension – a guide to SIPPs

According to recent reports, a rising number of Brits are failing to save enough for their retirement. In fact, around 35% think that saving for a potential emergency is more important, which is placing their long-term financial future in danger.

This is particularly true given the dwindling value of the existing State pension in the UK, which continues to decline as the national retirement age rises.

Fortunately, Self-invested Personal Pensions (SIPPs) can help people to optimise the value of savings. So here’s brief guide to SIPPs and their benefits to savers.

What is a SIPP?

In simple terms, a SIPP is a personal pension that offers you access to a more diverse range of both domestic and international assets.

At the same time, it also offers you greater control over your finances, which is ideal if you have specific market knowledge and are able to leverage this to your own advantage.

Like other pension vehicles, SIPPs are also able to grow free from Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax, while they’ll also offer relief on your own contributions. Any money that you invest into your SIPP will be topped up by 20% by the taxman, while higher and additional-rate tax payers could claim an extra 20-25% in relief.

In the case of some providers like Bestinvest, you may even be able to transfer existing pension funds into a single SIPP while potentially having some of the associated costs of changing providers covered. This can save you up to £500 in exit fees in some instances, while also creating an easier-to-manage pension that can driver higher returns.

Breaking down SIPPs and the associated jargon

Beyond these basics, you may find that SIPPs are surrounded by a number of niche industry terms that are largely unfamiliar. This type of jargon can deter savers from opening such accounts as they believe them to be too complex and difficult to manage.

Aside from the fact that you can open a SIPP that is managed by experienced wealth managers, you can also break down some of the jargon to create a far greater level of understanding.

You’ll often hear the term ‘annual allowance’ used in relation to SIPPs, for example, which is the amount you can pay into your account each year while benefiting from tax relief.

In the current tax year, the annual allowance is £40,000 for anyone with income of up to £150,000 each year. Anyone with more than £150,000 of income has a tapered annual allowance, reducing by £1 for every £2 of income above £150,000, down to a minimum of £10,000 for those with income of more than £210,000. .

‘Annuity’ is another often misunderstood example of SIPP terminology, and one that is also synonymous with traditional pensions. This is a method of drawing income from your fund, as when you purchase an annuity you pay a lump sum to receive a guaranteed income for life.

This income will come in exchange for some or all of your retirement savings, so it’s something that requires detailed consideration before you make an informed and final decision.

How will Brexit affect house prices?

After the referendum held in 2016 in which the British public democratically voted to exit the European Union, it is safe to say there has been a lot of uncertainty about a lot of things. One of these things is the status of the housing market.

Britain’s housing market is starting to grind to a halt in certain parts of the UK as the time for our departure from the EU draws ever closer. In fact, prices in London fell 0.4 per cent over the last year. The UK also saw weak growth for the East and South East of England. The number of sales in these areas has seriously declined, causing the prices to drop.

As a result of these revelations, many potential house buyers are asking themselves two important questions. First of all, is Brexit to blame for this decline in the property market? And secondly, how might it take effect on house prices as Britain’s negotiations with the EU as it reaches its climax in the months ahead?

How has Brexit affected house prices so far?

There have always been concerns that the Brexit Vote would lead to a rapid crash in the price of property, but these have not yet really come to fruition since the UK has not actually yet left the EU. However, house price growth has well and truly slowed down since the EU referendum result was announced on the 24th of June 2016. There is considerable variation depending on the area, however.

Prices in Northern Ireland and the North, South West and the Midlands of England grew at roughly the same rate as it did before the referendum, which is about 4 to 5 per cent a year. Meanwhile, the growth in property prices in Scotland has actually increased significantly. It is London and the commuter belt which have taken the hardest hit in decreasing house prices.

At the time of the referendum, house prices in London were growing at an annual rate of 12 per cent. However, recent statistics show that this fell by 0.4 per cent in the year to May this year – this, in turn, has dragged down the overall national average significantly.

At this point, the biggest factor in the fall is the lack of demand for buy-to-let investors and this is trickling down to other industries such as mortgage applications, second charge mortgages and bridging loans. Tax and various regularity changes have eaten into landlords’ profits and have ultimately discouraged potential investors from being able to buy new properties to rent out.

What could happen next?

Essentially, what Brexit means for the housing market is what it means for the economy. This is because the housing market is very influenced by wages as well as interest rates, both of which will be affected by Brexit.

Many experts do expect that Brexit will have a negative effect on wages to some extent, adding that if the UK was not leaving the EU, the wage growth would actually be higher.

The truth is that we will not know the full impact the Brexit will have on house prices until Britain and successfully and officially departed from the EU.

Equity Release Industry Now Worth £3 Billion

The equity release industry broke through the £3 billion barrier in 2017, with over 37,000 new customers signing up to remove equity from their home. Homeowners over 55 years old are able to release up to 35% of the value of their property and receive the funds in one lump sum which is tax free.

The main benefit is that families can continue to stay in their existing home which the lender receives a stake in and is able to recover their funds when the homeowner dies or moves into full time care. The remaining sums are passed onto their children or next of kin of the homeowners in the form of inheritance.

What has fuelled the increase in demand for equity release?

The increased costs of living and ageing population have spurred the equity release industry. Whereby seniors had previously saved a certain amount and relied on their pensions, this may no longer be sufficient to maintain a high standard of living in the UK today. Furthermore, the rise in competition in the industry and the use of TV and radio has made the product more mainstream and more competitive products available for customers.

How much did households release from their home?

The average household that used equity release in the final quarter of 2017 withdrew around £62,539 from their home, an increase from £59,002 in the previous quarter.

Commonly referred to as lifetime mortgages, the financial product assumes that you will continue to live in your estate for the rest of your life. Lifetime mortgages have flexible options allowing you to release all the money you require upfront or via instalments to give you a regular income. You also have the choice over whether you want to make full or partial repayments or if you want the product to run until you die.

A full reversion plan is another option allowing homeowners to receive 20% to 60% of the property’s value but giving up the homeownership status of your property but living in the premises as a tenant.

This is considered a much riskier option for applicants because the house will be appraised under the market value and will typically limit the amount of inheritance that you pass onto your children. Hence, it is better suited to those homes that need more money upfront and are less interested in what they leave behind.

What do homeowners use equity release for?

Data from Access Equity Release shows that senior citizens use equity release for a number of reasons. Some use the product as a replacement for a pension or to secure a regular income following the increase in the costs of living.

Elsewhere, there is a demand for funding home improvements and refurbishments to make their property friendlier for senior-living.

Family-oriented residents have opted for equity release as a way to pass on money to their children, including paying for tuition, weddings and helping their offspring with their first deposits and to get on the property ladder.