Blog

  • 29 Sep 2017

    The benefits of blockchain to our businesses and industries are substantial, from cost and risk reduction, immobility of data or adding transparency to transactions, businesses from most industries benefit from this new technology.

    It's so disruptive because it takes us 'back to basics'.

    The digital world has more interactions than the physical world, bringing many new implications not only to the way we do business but also to the way we interact with each other on a daily basis.

    With the rise of new technologies such as cloud computing, big data and machine learning, there is a need for a simpler and more efficient way to perform transactions.

    In November 2008, when bitcoin was brought into the public eye, it was a very exciting time; a paper posted on the Internet under the name Satoshi Nakamoto, "bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System", stated a brand-new way to approach any economic or non-economic transaction.

    Years later, there's new excitement about one of the pieces of the bitcoin puzzle - blockchain, the technology used for validating and recording those transactions, is now seen as having the potential to reshape the digital era.

    Whether you work in the financial world, real estate or any other sector, most likely you've already heard about blockchain and how this new technology is expected to disrupt most industries in the coming years, in some cases having been compared to the early years of the Internet.

    Blockchain is be considered one of the most disrupting technologies simply because somehow it takes us "back to the basics" of any transaction where there is no central authority, all parties can maintain a copy making it impossible to manipulate, and it allows you to know "who did what and when" at all time. To try to make it simple, the way blockchain works is by allowing you to make and record a transaction (i.e., the sale of a house); this transaction will become a permanent entry in the system and will create a "block" as long as this is validated by all participants. This transaction will be linked to all the previous blocks creating a "chain of evidence" feeding into an ever-growing, unchangeable and encrypted ledger that can be viewed by anyone who has the proper access to it.

    The benefits are substantial: whether you look at cost and risk reduction, immutability of data, or adding transparency to transactions, companies from most industries can benefit from this new technology. Telcos are not the exception, providing operational efficiencies by cutting internal cost and also enabling new value-added digital services for their customers.

    The U.K. Government has outlined ways the state could use blockchain technology to track payments and provide public services. Minister for the Cabinet Office Matthew Hancock has announced that government will begin looking at blockchain technology as a practical way to improve the efficiency of taxpayer money distributed as grants to agencies and partners for research and innovation. Mr. Hanock said "The Cabinet Office is looking at blockchain as a way to monitor and control what can sometimes be an incredibly complex process".

    Technology such as blockchain offers a number of opportunities to explore within government and was used as part of the bitcoin currency. Government is keen to work with cutting-edge private sector fintech companies and academics to see where it can support the sector.

    Looking to the future of blockchain, although the concept has already expanded beyond its use by crypto currencies and its benefits are starting to be clear,thereare still huge areas of adoption to completey undersatnd and apply the the benefits this technology will have across businesses and industries..

  • 30 Sep 2017

    The UK government is keen to line up a trade deal with the region’s fastest growing economies after Brexit

    The UK Trade Minister Greg Hands met with his Peruvian counterpart Eduardo Ferreyros in Peru on Wednesday as part of the UK government’s campaign to woo some of Latin America’s fastest growing economies and lay the groundwork for a possible trade deal once it leaves the European Union in 2019.

    The meeting follows Monday’s visit by Ecuador’s Foreign Trade Minister to London for talks with UK Investment Minister Mark Garnier, and last month’s meeting between UK Foreign Trade Secretary Liam Fox and his Colombian counterpart María Lorena Gutiérrez in Bogotá.

    The UK is eager to sign a deal with Peru, Colombia and Ecuador based on their existing free trade agreement with the EU.

    During his meeting, Hands announced that a multi-million pound support package for UK exporters and buyers of British goods and services in Peru.

    “When we leave the EU, we must look outward and be a beacon to guide free trade, forging independent trade agreements with growing economies around the world,” Hands said. “That’s why we are initiating trade talks with growing markets in Latin America, opening up export opportunities for British companies.”

    Garnier said that the UK was ready to “make the most of the abundant opportunities and start negotiating as an independent nation once we leave the EU Customs Union”.

    Trade in goods and services between the UK and South American countries totaled £12.4bn in 2015.

    Fruit, nuts and coffee are the main imports from South America into the UK, which its largest exports to the region include distillates, cars and medical equipment.

  • 21 Sep 2017

    Today marks the provisional application of the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta).

    Ceta opens the door to a new era of UK-Canada relations, enabling companies to trade easily by removing 98 per cent of tariffs on all exports.

    Canada has a huge demand for world-class British products and services. From Jaguar Land Rovers produced in the Midlands, to local cheese made in North Wales and spirits distilled in Dorset, Canada bought £7bn worth of British goods and services in 2015 alone.

    Likewise, Britain will see reduced tariffs on popular Canadian imports, including iconic industrial goods, medical devices and, of course, maple syrup. British companies will also have an increased ability to access procurement markets at different levels of government in Canada, as well exchange expertise more easily. The Canadian government recently launched a new infrastructure bank, consolidating major projects underpinned by a commitment to renew and rebuild across the vast country.

    It is clear that the opportunity is there for businesses and entrepreneurs of all kinds to tap into the considerable demand for products, skills and expertise on both sides of the Atlantic.

    It is also important to note that Ceta will have no impact on food and environmental standards in the UK or Canada. Decisions on public services, such as the NHS, will remain in the hands of the respective governments.

    Canada and Britain’s bilateral relationship is one based on shared values and a deep commitment to the benefits of global free trade.

    As one of Britain’s strongest and closest allies, the UK serves as Canada’s largest export market in the EU. The UK is also Canada’s seventh biggest source of goods imports, and second greatest source of service imports.

    As the world’s 10th largest economy with a population of over 35m, Canada offers vast opportunities for UK exporters. That makes Ceta hugely significant in both its scope and size. It will remove unnecessary barriers for businesses, generating both jobs and economic growth in both countries. And it will be good for consumers too. UK-Canada bilateral trade naturally expected to increase in the coming years.

    Britain’s Department for International Trade will continue to help UK companies to make the most of this boost and lay solid foundations for our trading ties with Canada.

    Likewise, we are looking forward to seeing Canadian companies will bring innovation, competition and dynamism to the British market.

    Our similar political, legal, social and business conventions make it easy for us to work together. This was exemplified by Theresa May’s visit to Canada earlier this week and her meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Both leaders welcomed the deepening of trade relations, and agreed to seek a seamless transition of Ceta as Britain exits the EU.

    Canada and the UK recognise and support each other’s leading roles as powerful, global nations which champion free trade. As a result of this shared commitment, global opportunities continue to open for businesses on both sides.

    We look forward to Ceta serving as a shining example of how countries can embrace progressive trade, paving the way for a bright, prosperous and more open future.

  • 21 Sep 2017

    In this era of disruption, it’s absolutely necessary to redefine business models and archetypes as a whole. 

    Traditional financial services companies, and banks in particular, are behind the curve in terms of technology. An Accenture report claims that most big banks have systems as old as the 1970s or even 1960s, which mean that newer IT systems are just patched on top of the core to deliver online and mobile banking capabilities. This means that most of the budget is used for maintenance rather than for innovation as their aging systems are creaking.

    Taking the adoption of mobile and online banking as an example, most companies wait until a technology reaches a certain level of maturity before investing into it. The fact that these incumbents use antiquated tech propels the rise of fintech companies who utilize technology to make financial services more efficient and could potentially disrupt the financial services industry.

    Blockchain however, has caught not only the eye of fintech companies, but the traditional incumbents as well. The reason for this is that when mutual distributed ledgers (aka blockchains) hit maturity, it will have a sweeping impact on financial business models.

    What exactly is Blockchain?

    The most popular blockchain is the technology which underpins Bitcoin. It provides an indelible record of all Bitcoin transactions to a high level of cryptographic security. Historically, mutual distributed ledgers have been perceived to be insecure and complex. 

    However, this particular blockchain has several features which financial services companies find compelling. It’s decentralized (doesn’t have a single point of failure), secure (utilizing cryptography to validate every transaction), immutable history (write-once, spend-only attribute of the ledger), efficient (exchange of information is fast and easy) and transparent (everything is documented). 

    To put it simply, multiple distributed ledgers are just a method of recording data digitally, and can be applied to anything that needs to be independently recorded and verified as having happened e.g. transactions, agreements, contracts, ownership, etc. 

    According to a SWIFT Institute Working Paper, it is the robustness and relative simplicity of the Bitcoin blockchain that has sparked the interest of similar technology to be applied to wholesale markets’ securities settlement as this can potentially reduce costs and risks. 

    And according to a White and Case report, a similar blockchain can also be used to improve and enhance currency exchange, supply chain management, trade execution and settlement, remittance, peer-to-peer transfers, micropayments, asset registration, correspondent banking and regulatory reporting (relating to “know your customer” and anti-money-laundering rules).

    Long Term Cost Benefit.

    In a broad sense, all these financial services processes are experiencing operational inefficiencies due to both sides of a trade, transaction or transfer of information or assets keeping separate records of the event (and if applicable future obligations).

    Consequently, since there are two separate records, a lot of effort and resource is spent reconciling the two records at each step of contract execution to make sure that both records match. In theory, spend on data related processes such as obtaining, checking, reconciliation can dramatically be reduced by mutual distributed ledgers.

    Risk Benefit

    Fragmentation of security operations could affect spikes in ‘trade fails’ during market stress. The SWIFT Institute Working Paper cited earlier also claims that lack of transparency regarding security ownership and commitment in re-hypothecation combined with commingling of client assets proved challenging in the resolution of Lehman Brothers International and could have been avoided through use of mutual distributed ledgers. 

    In plain English, it was hard to know who owns what, and which assets or transactions were linked to other assets or transactions, so you if your current or future transactions were affected by Lehman Brothers, it took time to figure it out. 

    A simplistic example is that if Lehman Brothers were A, A owed B, B owed C, C owed D. If you were D, it might take time for you to realize that A might not be able to pay B, therefore C might not be able to pay you in the future because there is no way to trace back down the alphabet. 

    If a mutual distributed ledger was present, hypothetically D might know that A could be related to C ultimately repaying D because all assets and ownership of them are transparent.

    Speed of Execution

    Mutual distributed ledgers can use smart contracts (computer protocols that facilitate, verify, or enforce the negotiation or performance of a contract) in accordance to business rules. 

    Since these can be customized on a contract by- contract basis, transactions can be streamlined by cutting out counterparties and intermediaries. This means that trades and contracts can potentially be executed at a much faster rate because the middlemen are replaced with techology.

  • 14 Sep 2017

     

     

    1.   Evaluate

    • The best way to improve your business model is to evaluate where you currently stand. A quick assessment and see which areas of your current business model are strong and which are weak. Once you know which of the eight areas of a business model has the most opportunity, you can begin the process of fine tuning your business model.

    2.  Compare

    • How does your competition’s business model stack up versus yours? If you are like most companies, there are areas of your business model which are superior and areas of your business model that are inferior. There may be an opportunity to emulate the business model aspects that are superior to yours. For example, the Android operating system emulated the ease-of-use of Apple’s operating system. In addition to comparing your business model with others in your industry, you should compare your model with seemingly unrelated industries. Companies within a single industry tend to conform to a norm. Sometimes it is helpful to see how other businesses and industries compared to yours.

    3.  Borrow Best Practices

    • All businesses have competitors, direct and indirect. Your competition’s business model provides opportunities to emulate best practices. Even Google copies Apple. In the most objective fashion, look at what your competitors do better than you. Are there any opportunities in these competitor’s best practices. Remember, to truly innovate your business model you must do more than simply emulate. There’s an old saying, “The fastest way out of business is imitating your competition.”Imitating your competition is not innovation.  However, taking a good idea started by your competitor and taking it to an entirely new level is innovation.

    4.  Become a Futurist

    • Hockey great Wayne Gretzky claimed that the secret to his success was skating to where the puck was going to be versus skating to where the puck was. Gretzky lacked the natural talent of many other hockey stars. However, his ability to predict the near future outweighed pure talent. The ability to look into the future and spot trends can be a valuable asset. Many business people avoid predicting the future because they are afraid they will be wrong. This is a terrible reason not to predict the future. No one can predict the future with 100% accuracy. It’s a question of how wrong you will be not if you will be wrong.

    5.  Play with the channel

    • If your business model has become stale, moving towards different parts of the distribution channel or value chain can greatly improve your business model. In many instances, the vendors or retail sellers of our products may be getting the best part of the value chain. Adjusting the channel or value chain can radically improve your business model.

    6.  Exploit the latent market

    • Studies have shown that the average product or service seizes only 13% of the potential market. Where is the other 87%? This large percentage of buyers is typically undesirable, unseen, underserved, or undetected. The average American home has 2.73 television sets and 2.55 people. That’s nearly 400,000,000 television sets in the United States. In the 1940s, major television manufacturers were happy to sell one television per block. Television manufacturers assumed they were saturating 100% of the available market; today we have televisions in refrigerators.

    7.  Up your technology investment

    • Superior technology can be a competitive advantage.  If your business model needs work, there may be an opportunity leveraging technology. Much of Wal-Mart’s success is due to their superior distribution technology. Don’t think that small companies can leverage technology too. Here are some examples how small companies can better leverage technology:
      • Virtualize the sales process on the web
      • Create custom plug-ins for accounting packages such as QuickBooks
      • Create WordPress plug-ins for their customers or vendors
      • Utilize offshore freelancers
      • Use voice recognition technology for customer service just like the big companies
      • Create an iPhone or Android app
      • Use mobile asset management technology

    8.  Be bold

    • Creating a better business model is all about versioning. Much like software, the beta version has kinks. Don’t sweat it. Nothing ever works perfectly on the first version. You must be willing to experiment with business model innovation to enjoy its benefits. Not trying a business model innovation simply because you are concerned it might not work is a lousy strategy. Instead, try Cheap Fast Failure with Upside©.  If the business model experiments you try will not put you out of business, go for it.

  • 12 Sep 2017

    London retained its crown as the world’s top financial center in a ranking that surveys industry professionals, extending its lead over New York and Hong Kong despite ongoing uncertainty about the implications of Brexit.

    The U.K. capital fell only two points in the latest Global Financial Centres Index published by Z/Yen and the China Development Institute, the smallest decline among the top 10 centers. New York held on to second place, but fell 24 index points overall, “presumably due to fears over U.S. trade,” the survey said.

    Frankfurt, Dublin, Paris and Amsterdam -- all set to gain banking jobs that will likely have to leave London -- all rose. In Asia, Hong Kong leapfrogged Singapore into third place, while other U.S. cities followed New York in losing points.

    "Overall assessments for the European centers continued to fluctuate as people speculate about which centers might benefit from London leaving the EU," Mark Yeandle, associate director of London-based think tank Z/Yen and author of the FCI, said in the study, released Monday. “Protectionism and barriers to international trade concern many -- especially in the USA.”

    London’s role as the world’s banking hub is under threat if Brexit costs firms based in the city their ability to easily serve clients across the European Union. Most international banks currently sell their goods and services throughout the bloc from bases in London, but those so-called passporting rights are unlikely to be extended after the U.K. quits the EU in 2019.

    The index has been released twice yearly since 2007, with the three major Asian centers gradually closing the gap with London and New York over the decade. It ranks 92 cities on a 1,000-point scale, combining data ranging from tax rates to crime from bodies including the World Bank and OECD with survey responses from more than 3,000 people, addressing broad areas including the business environment, infrastructure, human capital and reputation.