What UK FinTech can learn from SXSW 2016

I’ve recently been at this year’s South by South West (SXSW), or ‘south by’ as it is referred to by the locals.

Although popularly known as one of the world’s largest music and film festivals, it also brings together technologists, entrepreneurs, creatives and marketers at SXSW Interactive.

My company, FinTech startup Ormsby Street, was selected to attend SXSW by UKTI as one of its Tech Ambassadors.

London’s rise to its current position as one of the main global FinTech hubs over the past years or so, has been well-documented, yet for all the undoubted successes, there is still much to learn. The bigger FinTech startups still in the main originate from the US, so what is done differently in the US to the UK and what can UK FinTech startups learn from their US counterparts on show at SXSW?

FinTech at SXSW

This was the second year we have been at SXSW, and I noticed a small but dedicated focus on FinTech compared to 2015. FinTech was everywhere this year. I attended the ‘Payment and Fintech’ section of the SXSW Startup Accelerator, which saw Chroma, a ‘new stock market for the small business economy’ win and also a similar event focused on ‘Banking and Fintech’.

A lot of FinTech solutions are focussing on moving money around – be that through novel payment systems using mobiles or the web, or international transfers. This is prime territory for innovation and an area where banks lag behind what technology can achieve because they’re using older systems.

The other area where banking is out of whack with society, is in that of trust – this was a major theme across SXSW. Trust is the real currency of banking, but the standards and the processes that banks use are very different from those that we use in the rest of our lives. For most purposes, your phone number or your social media account are enough to identify you, but for good reason this isn’t the case in banking and so innovators are trying to find a middle way on this debate between security and convenience.

Security vs Convenience

This debate was happening all across SXSW and was one of the one themes in Barack Obama’s keynote speech. I was lucky enough to get my name pulled out of the hat to attend this, and while the President didn’t comment on the current FBI and Apple case directly, he did put forward the argument that authorities need access to data on electronic devices because the ‘dangers are real’.

He outlined his commitment to strong encryption but also discussed how smartphones and other electronic devices are designed as such that data on them is permanently locked away. What are the implications if authorities are looking to catch child pornographers or disrupt terrorist plots? Weighty issues, but the challenge of balancing encryption, security and convenience is one that almost every FinTech startup must address at some stage in their development, and it’s no doubt out of concern for its own recent startup: “Apple Pay” that Apple is making a big deal of this issue.

Products, not companies

FinTech remains a really hot topic because the experience we all have with personal banking and with business finance – paper forms, signatures and face to face conversations – is all rooted in the age of paper and therefore ripe for innovation.

Yet much of the innovation at SXSW has been around product, not the companies behind them. Most of the big business here (and there is a lot) is looking for a product that will address a gap in their own offering, rather than looking to acquire a company which would remain in any way self contained.

What this means for the FinTech startups involved, is that they must make something that truly disrupts and they must be open to collaboration and partnerships with multiple big businesses at an early stage. If a new FinTech product is only of moderate convenience, then its days will be numbered before it’s snapped up by one bank or another, and while a acquisition may be the end goal for many FinTech startups, only those who can forge partnerships with multiple major banks are likely to find the route to longer term independent growth.

Finally, something that became clear from a number of sources across SXSW, is that FinTech startups face a tougher regulatory battle than those in other sectors. Every startup should plan to scale from the moment they launch, but anyone doing so in such a highly regulated market such as FinTech needs to be certain of what they doing – get it wrong and the entire business can stall.

Play our Business Match game this Valentine’s Day!

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, do you know who’s your perfect match when it comes to running your business?

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Could Paws for Thought be your perfect business match?

Check out our new Business Match game and sign up to CreditHQ this February for only £15 per month PLUS, we’re giving all new Standard subscribers a box of chocolates plus entering all new subscribers into a draw to win a meal for two at the fabulous Resident of Paradise Row in east London (or if you can’t make it to the big smoke, we’ll give you the equivalent in vouchers for a great national restaurant).

So head over to www.credithq.co.uk/businessmatch  to take advantage of this great offer and make sure you’ve found the perfect business to trade with. And good luck!

What are business credit events?

As part of a Credit Reference Agency’s determination of a credit score, they receive information relating to what they term ‘detrimental’ information.

This includes things such as County Court Judgements (CCJs), mortgages and legal events such as administration, receivership, or insolvency, all of which would indicate an increase in financial risk to the business.

Credit Indicator

At CreditHQ, we highlight these events to help businesses understand the potential risks in trading with other businesses.

If you know that a company has encountered payment issues that have resulted in legal action, then you are able to make decisions on whether to offer credit or to request up front payment, or whether you should be chasing outstanding debt now before a company’s situation worsens.

Sign up here to see the credit events for businesses you’re trading with, and get to understand your customers.

What is a business credit score?

Businesses get credit scores, just like individuals, which show whether they are a good risk to give credit to. As with individual credit scores, these are calculated by Credit Reference Agencies, and they are based upon factors such as historical payment performance, public record information, company filing history, and comparative data within a company’s industry.

Businesses with a good credit score are at a lower risk of defaulting on any payments they are due to make, whereas those with a lower credit score carry a higher risk of defaulting on payments.

For businesses it isn’t an indicator as to whether you should trade with them or not, but rather an indicator as to HOW you should trade with them, with the basic premise being that you take steps to reduce financial risk to your business if trading with companies that have a low credit score.

You can do this by not extending credit to them, asking for payments up front, or reducing payment periods to just a few days rather than a month or more, with the aim being get paid sooner, in case they encounter financial difficulties.

At CreditHQ, we convert this credit score into a credit indicator which uses 1-10 scores and colours to indicate high (red), medium (orange), or low (green) risk.

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If you know the level of risk then you are able to make decisions on when to chase debt, what credit terms you can offer this company, or how you can adjust should this company cease trading.

Sign up free to get started and find out how the companies you’re trading with are doing.

How to get the most out of CreditHQ

firstIf you own a small business, then knowing what your competitors, suppliers and partners are up to, and when you will get paid is a must. Here at CreditHQ, we know that this part of the business may not be the most exciting, and usually is quite a struggle and misunderstood. This is why we have made CreditHQ the easiest possible tool for you; simple, smart and focused on the important information you need to run your small business.

So how does that work?

Getting started & searching
Landing on the CreditHQ homepage you can search for a company you would like more information on . Try to be precise with your search terms – there are a lot of companies out there. You can also search by company ID. Once you’ve entered your search criteria, our engine will provide you with a list of companies matching your initial search – just choose from the list to see details. If you already have an account, you can sign in via the top right menu of the page.

Company details & Free account
On the company details page, you have access to general information about the company (such as address, phone, company status etc.). Creating an account with CreditHQ will give you access to credit & payment indicators, credit events and insights on what to do next. CreditHQ doesn’t only give you info about a company, but also helps you make the best choice regarding the credit information that you’re provided. Oh and yes- it’s free!

2Creating an account, and why?
To create an account, just follow the “create an account link”. You’ll be asked for the usual credentials and also your company details. You can either search for your company in our database, or manually enter your company details. Creating a free account is that easy.

So why should you create an account? Well, this is where CreditHQ unlocks its true power. Having a free account will give you access to your dashboard, where you can add companies and follow their credit & payment indicator evolution. You will be given meaningful insights on how to act if, for instance, a company has a low payment or credit indicator, and the reasons why that is happening. You will also be given information or your company score and how to increase it and keep it healthy. Basically we will help you and guide you through the process. You can also set up email alerts, to know all the changes of all the companies on your dashboard. All of this won’t cost you a penny.3

Upgrading
Once you are fully set up, and want to unlock even more features. just follow the link on the side menu to upgrade to a standard subscription. Standard users will get access to accurate credit and payment indicators, credit events plus recommended credit limits and detailed valuable financial information for each business.

An insight to the future
CreditHQ is still young, and growing every day. New features such as debt management and action letters are on their way to make your life as a small business user, much easier. We aim to be as small businesses are; close to their customers and listening to their needs. We read all our emails thoroughly. If you feel that the product could be using some new features and improvements, we really want to hear your ideas! Use the contact page, and get in touch with us, we don’t bite!

www.credithq.co.uk

 

6 ways to avoid bad debt on Debt Collection Awards day!

It’s the “Debt Collection Awards” today – who knew there was an awards ceremony for that?

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To maintain a healthy business and avoid bad debt, not only do you need to get paid for the goods or services you provide, but you also need to get paid on time. So, to reduce the risk of having to call the debt collectors, here are some tips:

1) Check your customers’ creditworthiness – you can use CreditHQ (it’s free), to search for the companies you trade with and find their credit worthiness. The lower the credit indicator, the greater the risk of a company facing financial difficulties.

2) Set credit limits – often smaller and younger companies will have a lower score, which doesn’t necessary mean they won’t pay, but you can consider setting a lower credit limit until you are confident that they can and will pay on time.

3) Know when you should get paid – manage your cash flow by forecasting when invoices are due and keeping an eye on any changes in payment patterns and delays with your existing customers.  For new customers who you are yet to trade with, check when they are likely to pay you. Search for the company on CreditHQ and look at the payment indicator – the lower the number, the greater the risk of a company paying their bills late.

4) Monitor the companies that you are trading with – you can set up an account on CreditHQ (did I mention, it’s free!), and create a ‘Watch list’; you’ll then get alerts when credit or payment indictors change for the companies that you are watching, so you’ll know if who you might need to chase for payments.

5) Give clear terms – make your terms visible to your customers by publishing them on your website, on your invoices and send a copy to your customers upfront. Include a clause stating that you continue to own the goods or services until they have been paid for.  You could offer discounts for payments made within 30 days, and charge interest on anything over (you’re legally entitled to), but if you chose to do this, make sure your terms specify this.

6) Manage your invoicing processes:

  • Send invoices on time.
  • Make sure you find out the right person or department to send the invoice to, and request an acknowledgement that it has been received.
  • Keep up to date records on who owes you what and when.
  • When an invoice is due, chase it.
  • Stop supplying customers who don’t pay on time.
  • Resolve any disputes quickly – payments are usually withheld until the customer is satisfied.
  • If you have customers who regularly pay late, increase the prices that you charge them, or cancel any credit facilities.

If you don’t get paid, even after chasing, then here’s what to do next..

Before you go down the debt collection path, try one last time to recover the debt yourself, phone and write to the customer and let them know that this is your next course of action, as this may be enough to get them to pay. Also try and find out why they haven’t paid, as it may be a problem with their accounts system, or they may be having problems, and you could agree a repayment schedule.

Decide if the amount is worth pursuing – it may not be worth your time or the cost to collect, so let it go and move on.

4105722502_a442444bb9_mIf you do decide to pursue the debt, then use a debt collection agency, or take legal action using a solicitor or via the small claims court (https://www.gov.uk/make-court-claim-for-money/overview). A reputable debt collection agency can chase late payments in a professional manner, without alienating the customer.

Make sure you check the costs – there may be a flat fee or a percentage of the debt recovered, or both, and ask about additional charges.

Don’t delay chasing any bad debt and good luck. Please do remember to reduce your risk though, by knowing your customers better – use CreditHQ to check them out!

If you on the other end of the debt collection process, and are being pursued by debt collectors, then here is advice on how to deal with it: http://www.money.co.uk/article/1009025-how-to-deal-with-debt-collectors.htm

At Amazon, it’s all about cash flow – and what they can get away with…

Amazon is well known for rapid growth but relatively low profit – its founder Jeff Bezos famously asking shareholders to sacrifice this year’s profits in order to invest in long-term customer loyalty and product opportunities that will create bigger profits next year and for years to come.

But the real story behind Amazon’s ongoing growth is shown not so much by its profits, which dipped in 2012 after a few years of growth and have yet to return to 2010 levels, but by its cash flow.

Every small business knows that “cash is king” but it’s somewhat of a surprise to see larger companies paying quite so much attention to it as amazon clearly do.

Amazon’s Cash Flow vs Profit – (C) HBR Blog

Amazon’s strategy hasn’t been about profit, it’s been about growth, and the reason that amazon has been able to grow so dramatically into many different areas in recent years is that they have the operating cash flow to do it.  I’d recommend the HBR article for the details, but long story short?  Amazon, just like a small business, have held profits low by reinvesting much of their free cash in growth – and have boosted the availability of that free cash.

With such a strong position in the minds of customers, Amazon are using their ability to shift a high volume of product to negotiate very long payment terms with their suppliers.  As a growing profitable company, their credit is good of course, so in return for access to volume (and many other benefits) suppliers are putting up with very long payment terms – quite simply it’s worth it.

Can your business start the virtuous circle that Amazon have found?  Good cash flow fuelling growth, fuelling good credit, fuelling good cash flow? Or are you extending credit where credit’s not really due?

It might be time to take a leaf out of Amazon’s book.

Or at least some reading from the excellent HBR.BLOG