Isn’t there a better way for SMEs to send money abroad?

by Edoardo Volta, Director at Mastercard

Sending money abroad is simple, isn’t it? 

If you ask the 5.4 million Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) in the UK, it’s likely they’ll disagree. SMEs pay more than £4bn to send money overseas each year* – and it’s a complex, unpredictable and costly process. 

There are a myriad of different banks involved, all sorts of compliance requirements, and intricacies depending on which country the payment needs to be made to. 

And since smaller businesses don’t have the same negotiating power as larger companies, the challenges are magnified for them. These challenges prevent SMEs from developing international business relationships and reaching their full potential. 

Financial institutions have a responsibility to make this process better. 

We’re working on new ways to facilitate and reduce the costs of international payments, creating different solutions for different needs. 

Do you accept cards?

Increasingly, SMEs are making and receiving cross-border payments using commercial cards. Some even offer an incentive for suppliers to do so. There are benefits for both parties. The payer can manage their cash flow, as many commercial cards have a 56 day interest-free period with a low fee. The receiver gets paid quickly, and both avoid using a network of correspondent banks. Both parties also have greater visibility over the funds. 

Send it digitally

There’s another (near) real-time way businesses can pay each other. Mastercard Send is the first of its kind: a digital hub that allows businesses, retailers, governments, not-for-profits and others to send money to consumers and businesses, either domestically or across borders.

SMEs can make international payments without making a bank transfer, and funds arrive almost instantly. There are in-built compliance features, plus transaction limits and blocks to prevent money laundering. Many businesses find it saves them money when making payments. 

Without getting into the finer details, hopefully I’ve shown some faster, easier and cheaper ways to make international payments. It’s a good idea for SMEs to speak to their bank about the solutions available. 

Maybe sending money abroad doesn’t need to be so complicated after all. 

Edoardo Volta works with banks to provide SMEs with payment products that meet their changing needs.

*According to a study carried out by Money Movers in 2016, it costs UK SMEs £4bn to send money overseas each year.

 

The importance of localisation for Mobile Games, and the role ANDi will play.

By Sam Koch, ANDi Games Ltd CTO & Co-founder

Talking at GXP Summit was a great way to network and interact with others looking to do the same as us, expand internationally. As a company, we’ve already experienced some growth in particular key markets, but have also struggled to retain customers. Especially in areas like the Middle East and North Africa. This isn’t a challenge only we have encountered. The mobile gaming market in MENA is growing, but not fast enough due to the age-old issue of language barriers. 

Arabic is world’s fourth largest spoken language. Yet just 1% of content available in the localised Google Play Store & Apple App Store is in Arabic. There’s massive potential here, but for some unknown reason, neither Google or Apple have stepped up to lead the way.

So what’s the real potential in MENA? 

  • MENA is made up of 17 countries including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar and Turkey
  • There are more than 100 million Arabic speakers in the world
  • The MENA region has an estimated population of over 411 million in 2016
  • Of that figure, 252 million of the people are active smartphone users (that’s more than half!)
  • 60% of the apps downloaded are games compared to just 37% which are social media apps.
  • Ramadan is the hottest month for mobile games in the MENA (pre-dine entertainment)
  • Revenue in the mobile games segment amounts to US$291m in 2017, and it is expected to show an annual growth of 8.2% resulting to a market volume of US$400m in 2021
  • Average revenue per user currently amounts to US$10.08. Although low compared to the US’s average revenue per user of US$77.6, it’s comparative considering the US is predicting mobile game revenues to exceed US$4,796m in 2017. 

 

In a nutshell, these figures show no signs of slowing down and as the economic condition improves, it is undeniable that the demand on the mobile gaming industry would also continue to rise. Thus, a lucrative market to go after for even the smallest of development studios. And if they needed further convincing; 

In MENA, it was reported that 40% of mobile users paid to download apps in 2015 with 44% spending money on in-app purchases. These figures are expected to grow year on year, especially in wealthier countries, like Saudi Arabia, where the penetration of high-end smartphones is very high. 

So, in addition to localisation of games being a prevalent issue in MENA, could there be further challenges facing the growth of the games industry? 

We believe that there are two other main contributing factors to the slow growth and lack of localised games available. The first being the lack of game development studios in the region, delivering content to their audience. The second is down to users not using the right search engines and platforms to find games they’ll want to play. 

This is where ANDi, our first app, can make a real difference. ANDi is a machine learning recommendation system applied to mobile gaming. To provide a truly personalised experience, ANDi is a standalone app that tracks the games a user installs, uninstalls and plays, along with their location, language preferences, activity (still, sitting, walking, in a vehicle) and the time of day. ANDi stores each game, including their genre, price, file size, key words and developer details, in their own database, which is gathered through screen-scraping the app stores. The games are broken down further to include sub-genres, types of characters, interface controls and reward schemes. By tracking each user’s gaming patterns, enough data has been collected to produce Machine Learning models which in turn can provide very focused recommendations. To find users the best games, at the best times. Games they are increasingly likely to download and remain engaged with for longer. 

Using ANDi, mobile game players in MENA will be recommended games that are localised to them, based on their likes and at times they are likely to engage and download. It’s a complete solution. 

Despite the slow growth, the region is known to have several influential gaming startups. Game Cooks, based in Beirut Lebanon, have been iconic in creating arcade-inspired games for both Android & iOS devices and have looked to expand outside of mobile gaming and into the realms of Virtual Reality. Girnaas, based in Doha, Qatar is another mobile gaming developer creating some great localised titles including Go Fahed released to coincide with the Qatar 2015 – 24th Men’s Handball World Championship. ANDi is reaching out to and looking to work with several independent game developers and studios in the region, to work on improving not just our own platform, but helping developers to get their games in front of the right audience. 

ANDi supports the work of mobile game developers from around the world, not just the UK and Europe. We’re building a suite of tools and packages to help independent developers, small and large studios connect and engage with more users than ever before. Since our launch in January 2017, ANDi has attracted over 5,000 users to the app, collecting over 50,000 swipes on our ‘Tinder for games’ style discovery feature, which has resulted in over 20,000 games being downloaded via ANDi. Further analysis of initial data gathered shows that users could be matched with a game they’d want to play in less than 60 seconds. Additionally, games downloaded via ANDi are being kept up to 25% longer than those via the Google Play Store.

For more information on ANDi Games Ltd, please visit www.get-andi.com to learn more. 

Download ANDi on Android and discover new games today.

Making the Case for Mavericks

It was an honor to speak at the Global Expansion Summit in London, but to be honest, I was just as excited to be an attendee. With attendees from 700+ companies representing 60+ countries, I was eager to absorb a healthy dose of new and varied business perspectives.

It’s an interesting time to be conducting business in a global climate. Supply chains are more global than ever, but the political and trade policy climate in the U.S. and Europe could have long-tail implications. Disruption is happening across every industry and it’s precipitating significant, meaningful changes in how companies operate, compete, survive and thrive. Your supply chain may already be feeling the impact in the form of its own disruptions and changes.

In a recent report from The Economist Intelligence Unit, most companies are confident they will be able to deal with the challenges and disruptions in their supply chain over the next 12 months. But, in order to do that, they are very sensitive about lowering costs. More than half of the 500+ executives surveyed cited reducing costs as a top priority. At the same time, nearly a third of respondents identified the optimization of working capital and quicker receivable collections as areas in great need of innovation.

The state of global business underscores a critical need for improved cash flow. The ability for companies to innovate, compete and embrace disruption(and survive it!) – also known as resiliency – depends largely on their ability to optimize working capital.

For finance and supply chain executives, this requires a maverick mindset and a drive to explore new approaches to cash flow optimization. How do you find $1B or more to fund infrastructure improvements to meet demand? Or an acquisition to help you tap into new markets? Or R&D that will produce innovation?

Traditionally, companies have had four options to access the cash needed to fund large-scale business improvements:

  1.  Deep, deep cuts.
  2.  New debt.
  3.  Equity.
  4.  Selling of assets.

The problem with each of these strategies is they have negative implications on the business – either operationally or financially. Despite finance executives’ confidence in their ability to survive supply chain disruptions and challenges over the next 12 months, many companies can’t afford a material hit to operations or their balance sheets.

One of the things I spoke about at the Global Expansion Summit was the role that supply chain finance plays in this quest. I discussed how PrimeRevenue is helping several companies unlock $1B or more of working capital that was previously trapped in their supply chains. And we’re doing it in a way that helps rather than harms suppliers.

If you were in London last week, I hope you attended the Global Expansion Summit and learned how companies like PrimeRevenue are leading the charge in helping businesses successfully tackle the challenges of global trade.

If you didn’t attend, I’d still like to hear from you. What concerns and challenges do you have related to cash flow in the current business climate? How do you expect these to change over the next 12 months? Finally, what are you doing today to address them?

Global Mobility – A Checklist for Planning Purposes

By Arden Ng CEO Blueback Global

There is a common misconception that the expatriate program entails a full coverage of the costs, including compensation differential, of relocating to work in the host country. This may be true for certain expatriates, but for most others, the coverage of the costs and support by the employer, ranges between “minimal to less than full” coverage. For example, minimal coverage could mean that the expatriate receives none, or some (not full) adjustment to the local cost of living, receive local compensation (which may be lower than the home compensation), and does not enjoy tax equalization.

This gives rise to the question: If the expatriate may potentially be worse off financially or otherwise, than working in the home country, why would he/she make the move? Some of the factors that may help explain such a decision include:

  • Intangible reasons, e.g., attraction to the host country’sulture, living environment, or for personal reasons
    • The desire to take up new challenges of working in the host country, such as having additional work responsibilities, change in work scope, a new job position or opportunities for learning, etc.
    • Desire of the employee to seek a change in his/her work environment and team
    • To meet new people, globally
    • Gain global work experience

Global Mobility Checklist

Once the global mobility initiative is decided and approved, the next important step is to plan and execute successfully. The following checklist outlines the factors that should be considered by the company, when planning a global mobility initiative. This checklist is by no means exhaustive; it is intended to provide a framework that can be customized to each company’s unique parameters, for a successful global mobility roll-out. Thereafter, the external support from global business solutions service can help to successfully implement the global mobility framework and provides relocation assistance.

Arden Ng CEO Blueback Global is speaking at the Global Expansion Summit in 2017.

Going global: How to cross borders as a fintech

By Dr. Jens Woloszczak, Founder & CEO of Spotcap

While fintech is certainly making the world a flatter place, speaking from experience, the mechanics of operating a fintech across borders can be challenging. Success requires balancing local operations with a global approach.  

Opening offices internationally raises brand awareness on a global level, creating relevance in an era of globalisation. By extension, operating in multiple markets attracts investors and influencers with international scope. In Spotcap's case, for example, we realised that our product and platform's appeal isn't limited to one market. After launching in Spain, we expanded into the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. By managing to keep operational and organisational complexity low, we have enjoyed good levels of growth across two continents.

 

The prerequisites

Regulation can cast a dark cloud over the high-octane plans of young, innovative fintechs. Startups – particularly fintechs – need to be adept at navigating regulatory frameworks, especially while regulatory models are still in embryonic states themselves.  

As such, opening in unfamiliar regulatory territory absolutely requires local expertise, which is why it's essential to hire an industry leader who knows the market inside out. Expert navigation is crucial when dealing with harder issues like compliance, new business landscapes and access to data, as well as softer things, like customer preferences and cultural nuances.

 

A local go-to-market approach

Localisation requires abandoning a generic approach to product and marketing. Part of this is choosing new offices judiciously. Fintechs should select markets that hold regulatory similarities, rather than drastically different approaches to compliance. For example, an office in Brazil might sound seductive, but the time and manpower required to establish compliant operations there may render it commercially nonviable.

Your product, go-to-market strategy and communication should adapt to the local environment. Luckily, I've found that this comes somewhat naturally with the assembly of a strong local team. Accordingly, company culture needs to be nurtured in any international firm – it's important that team members feel connected and part of a larger entity.  

While localisation is key to success, it must be channeled through a global framework of lean, scalable principles. Essentially, you want to avoid ending up with x different settings in x different markets.

 

Brand awareness & talent

We live in a global age – an international brand is crucial to attract the attention of investors and influencers. At Spotcap we use a number of strategies to build brand awareness. A cardinal strategy is to leverage the rising trend of collaboration within fintech – i.e. partnering with corporates and stakeholders. Increased brand awareness can be capitalised on in the recruitment process.

Access to talent is a consistent pain point for startups – so much so that we recently launched a Fintech Fellowship in the UK to inspire the next generation of fintech thought leaders, while simultaneously helping to fill the talent gap. Recruiting can be challenging at any stage of a business, which is why it's good to have people on the ground in the new market, or at least people familiar with the landscape.  

By creating new international infrastructure, fintech is helping businesses transcend borders. By extension, the excitement around fintech makes it a great time to be an international fintech. However, attention must be paid to regulation, localisation and maintaining a cohesive company culture. When done right, it's an incredible industry to be part of.  

 

By Dr. Jens Woloszczak, Founder &CEO of Spotcap

Jens holds a degree in industrial engineering from the Technical University of Berlin and studied economics at Cass Business School. He worked as a consultant for McKinsey & Company for more than five years, where he focused on the commercial banking sector. Working for major European banks, Jens experienced the outdated approach these banks took towards working with SMEs. He co-founded Spotcap after seeing an opportunity in the industry: to use technology to change the SME banking landscape.He will be speaking at the Global Expansion Summit in 2017.

Financially prepare your business for global expansion with these 4 tips

By Adam Reynolds, CEO of webexpenses

In the last two years webexpenses has transformed from a small UK based company into an innovative global solution with offices in Sydney, Brisbane and the latest venture in Austin, Texas. Webexpenses CEO, Adam Reynolds reflects on the four key financial elements that have been pivotal to the success of the expansion.

1. Financial planning is key

Financial planning is crucial when expanding your business, it is the deciding factor for location, strategy and goals. We began with analysing our business expenditure over a projected three-year period, covering all areas of the business such as recruitment, systems, people, development, marketing, events, office costs. Although these costs are subject to fluctuation, they give a good insight into short term and long term business expenditure.

As well as company outgoings you also need to consider return, profit and multiple financial outcomes. Although you cannot predict the market reaction to a new business, it's a good idea to scenario model potential returns. General guidance suggests that anything under three years for an overseas entity to start being self-sufficient is very good.

2. Choose the right investment strategy

You have to explore both investment strategies to make sure you select the best suited one to your business as well as preparing for both successes and failures.

High value strategy

The maximum impact approach, invest heavily, build teams and campaigns and launch big from the onset to achieve quick returns. This technique however can be risky, uncontrollable variables that can come with a new market may slow down the process of a high revenue return.

The drip approach

The gradual approach of lower investment, learning and tweaking as you go. By building a smaller but more dynamic team, once you have an awareness of the key factors in the region then you continue to drip in the investment, building the team and market awareness. Economically this is a safer plan, but returns will take much longer to yield.

The key to making a decision on investment strategy is understanding your financial funding, how much money you have to invest, where it is coming from, how long will it last and what the breakeven point is. There are a range of options - self funding, equity release, borrowing, external investment.

3. Local and global management

It’s important to prepare your team for what the potential challenges are when managing an expansion. Ultimately one of the main factors that need to be considered is whether it’s possible to manage the financial elements in the local country. Will the accounting practices and tax implications be managed in-house or will you use a specialist consultancy? How will the team forecast and invoice across multiple territories as well as the group? Will the software that is in place manage this or will new applications need to be put in place and embedded?

Once the territory move has started, the finance team needs to continue the agility. At webexpenses we generally review our plans/forecast on a monthly basis and revise up or down based on actual performance and also market conditions.

If investment is being exchanged into overseas currency the market performance will impact, for example the Brexit decision last year took the conversion of £ Sterling to AUD from £1=$2.2 to £1=$1.6. On a half-million-pound investment that fluctuation equates to $300,000 AUD, which had a severe impact on both our planning and execution – a quarter of our planned investment had just potentially disappeared.

4. Stay agile and review

Expanding your business can be a long process, so you need to put all relevant practices into motion to ensure it’s a successful one.

It’s important to continuously review the system and approaches you have in place to effectively plan for the future. Ultimately business costs will be multiplied so be financially smart, build in contingency plans and over estimate on outgoings to ensure no nasty surprises.

Adam Reynolds, CEO of webexpenses, is speaking at Global Expansion Summit 2017. 

Essex is an integral extension of London’s world-leading finance cluster

Essex is an integral extension of London’s world-leading finance cluster, crucial for Financial and Professional Services companies.  From a reduced-cost Essex base, businesses can access the City of London in as little as 30 minutes and enjoy fast data connectivity and therefore high-speed trading.

The local skills base offers…

• The second highest concentration of finance and insurance workers in the EU

• A pool of 413,000 finance workers – 1/3 of the UK’s total supply

• A location next to London, Europe’s no.1 finance hub

• Over 7,000 students enrolled in finance and business related degrees each year giving investors access to a highly talented, youthful workforce

Some of the many reasons why Essex has been selected as a business location by leading financial services and outsourcing companies including Liverpool Victoria (LV), Royal Sun Alliance (RSA), Cofunds, First Data, International Financial Data Services (IFDS), MS Amlin and Ventrica.

Essex based financial services companies are also working in tandem with academics in Essex. Insurance company, the Hood Group, have recently received government backing for an AI project which will see data scientists from the University of Essex working with the company to innovate insurance through data.

The business professional financial services sector is a growing sector in Essex. Fintech company Thames Card Technology, one of the UK’s largest plastic card manufacturers, has seen demand in their services increase with the surge in electronic and contactless payments and Bibby, the UK’s largest independent invoice finance provider, has just announced their expansion.

FIND OUT MORE

Contact INVEST Essex to find out more about property, people and support for your expanding financial services business in Essex, UK.

Product Market Fit, Forecasting And Not Running Out Of Cash

By Paul Fifield, Chief Revenue Officer, UNiDAYS

 

Product Market Fit

Before you even think about expanding anywhere you have to be sure you have product/market fit. Literally this is THE most important foundational aspect of your business to get right. Or everything will be a disaster. You will maybe raise money, build a sales team and invest in marketing but all that effort will come to nothing. Zip. Nada. Years of wasted time.

So how do you know when you have it?  Well this is also hard (what isn’t in this game!) but I have a fairly simple way of testing it that I think works. And here’s the thing, you have to strict about this. Your business is emotionally almost like your own child, so you need to be as objective as possible and be prepared to hear the truth, as painful as it may be to hear. 

The test is this. Imagine you said to your customers - hey we’ve got some bad news. We’re gonna shut the company next week. It's been a long slog, we’re all tired and we’re going to work on something else. The lights are literally going out. What would their reaction be? If they would be a little inconvenienced, it’s annoying but they respect your decision, you have not got product market fit. If however they would run for the hills screaming, beg you to reconsider and feel like it could materially damage their own careers and their business then you probably have product market fit. 

I’m sure this is not foolproof, but the mental exercise should be revealing. It may be that you could actually ask the hypothetical question to some friendly clients to actually test it out. 

If you use this method, or scour the internet for other ways of determining fit, you must have a high level confidence that your product is really solving a big problem and it creating real value. 

 

Forecasting and Not Running out of Cash

So making the assumption you have product market fit, the next big task is creating a forecast. Let me focus on entering the US market, something I’ve done twice. 

You will do the following. Either alone or with a few trusted people like the head of sales, you will build a spreadsheet with a revenue line. You may well start to think the following:

  • The market is massive 

  • There are hundreds or even thousands of companies that could buy our product 

  • Or millions and millions of users 

  • It's going to be wild 

  • We can grow there and become massive!  

You may be right, but I can promise you one thing, it will take way way longer than you ever thought. Remember it probably took quite a long time to get decent traction here in the UK, your home market. 

There is some basic logic you can apply here. Let’s say you are an enterprise software solution. You have a 6 month sales cycle.  You open up in a WeWork in NY and get cracking. First you need to hire two sales people. In one of the most competitive talent markets in the world. So its takes 3 months before you have your two crack sales people. Then it takes 2-3 months before they are fully ramped on your fairly complex product. Then it's a 9 month sales cycle because you discover with no referenceable US clients, it's taking longer to build trust and, in amongst all this you realise the pricing needs to change. And the first deals you get are only trials so you cant get a year's payment up front….. So that’s 15 months until your first deal.  And not even much cash to show for it. 

As an aside, I would strongly recommend that you start selling into the US from the UK first. On an ESTA you can be in the US for up to three months and you have a fair amount of leeway on coming in and out. Get those referenceable clients, test the market and start to build an understanding of how the market may differ from the UK. 

So in summary...

don't fall into the trap of forecasting a big number too soon because the market is massive and all you read about is huge numbers other one-in-a-million companies are achieving, then build a cost base around that. You will be at extreme danger of running out of cash and join a very large pile of UK companies that failed trying to expand into the US with unrealistic expectations. Be conservative, there is no shame in that.  Amazing companies started this way. 

Do your first pass. Then halve it. Investors will do the same in their heads anyway so do it for them! I get it's a hard balance to strike - you have to excite the investor with your sales projections but you need to find that right balance.    

As a final note, when you are up and running, monitor your sales metrics like a hawk. And if any sales cycle or close ratio assumptions are going awry in any meaningful way, act early, act boldly and act fast. 

Paul Fifield, Chief Revenue Officer, UNiDAYS, is speaking at Global Expansion Summit 2017.