Business Matters – Issue 4

Subscribe

Whatever it takes

At the end of December 2020, the UK government made fresh announcements about COVID-19 support.

Don’t wait for the storm to pass

Although there are many valuable government financial support measures on offer

A taxing year

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced that the Budget 2021 will be held on Wednesday 3rd March 2021

Talking tech

The COVID-19 pandemic has been the catalyst for a huge technological shift

The Brexit trade deal

The last-minute agreement might have stolen the festive headlines

Whatever it takes: COVID-19 support matrix

At the end of December 2020, the UK government made fresh announcements about COVID-19 support. To break down all of the information, we’ve created a helpful matrix of the support currently available for employees, the self-employed and businesses.

It’s been over a year since COVID-19 started making its presence known – since then, there have been unprecedented and wide-ranging implications for communities, global economies and businesses alike.

Many companies have seen their income hit – particularly in the hospitality, retail and tourism sectors. And, at an employee level, individuals have been affected by redundancy, pay cuts or the effects of being furloughed. With the current lockdown having the potential to last until the end of March, financial pressures are only likely to intensify.

Throughout the pandemic, the UK government has offered an unprecedented level of support, which has been updated and adapted alongside the shape of the economic recovery. And, with the ‘second wave’ of coronavirus wreaking fresh havoc on the economy, the government made further announcements of support at the end of December 2020.

We know there’s a lot of information to take in, so we wanted to share a summary of the support you can get, to help you navigate the changing business landscape. You can download the matrix PDF using the button below, which includes columns for individuals/employees, self-employed individuals, and businesses/employers.

Download Information Matrix

Please note that because some elements of business support are devolved, the measures a business can access may differ if it is in Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland – further information can be found at the end of this article.

The value of advice

As the implications of the current lockdown become clearer, we should take the opportunity to refocus on our business’ financial well-being and direct our efforts towards building up longer-term financial resilience.

If you’re a business owner, it’s likely you’ll be feeling a range of emotions, and may be worried about your business, your employees and your own financial future. But, while the prospect of a prolonged recession and possible further lockdowns may be daunting, there are steps you can take to navigate this new environment and emerge even stronger.

Taking professional advice will help you to focus on your goals and work out how you get there – including taking advantage of the above government support, if necessary. A regular health check can offer peace of mind, help to keep you on track, and spot any issues before they become serious. A financial adviser will also be well-versed in the support available from the government, so if you’re not sure what the latest government announcements mean for you, they can provide more clarity.

As always, our Wellesley advisers are ready when you are!

Additional information:

Matrix information accessed: 29/12/2020

Don’t wait for the storm to pass: How SMEs can raise their game in 2021

Although there are many valuable government financial support measures on offer, businesses can’t afford to just take the money, hunker down and wait for the choppy waters to calm. Here, we take a look at some government-backed schemes designed to make SMEs more competitive and resilient amid economic uncertainty.

While January 2021 served up more worries for businesses, there’s now a glimmer of hope on the horizon in the form of two COVID-19 vaccines being rolled out. As of 28th January, more than 7.4 million UK adults have now received a first dose of a vaccine, according to the BBC. So, as we enter February, what can companies do to not only survive, but also thrive, this year?

In 2020, companies were forced to step out of their comfort zones and adapt their business models to build resilience in the face of the challenges posed by the pandemic. The first priority was looking after cash, and the businesses that survived 2020 were those that managed their cashflow very carefully and also made good use of the government support on offer, such as the Bounce Back and CBILS loans.

But, as well as using this support to weather the coronavirus storm, companies must remain proactive in 2021. One way to do so is to take advantage of government-funded training schemes, which are designed to make businesses better able to compete within their own markets or pivot to new ones.

Peer Networks

When looking to adapt to the ‘new normal’, the importance of knowledge-sharing cannot be underestimated. With this is mind, one programme to consider is that offered by peernetworks.co.uk, which helps small groups of SME business owners across the UK join forces to develop solutions to issues that affect all businesses in a pragmatic way. These include common issues such as HR, technology and finance, as well as more timely matters, such as the EU transition – and, of course, COVID-19.

Led by the UK’s 38 Local Enterprise Partnerships, Peer Networks is free to join and offers access to one-to-one mentoring, coaching and advice, with each group led by a skilled professional facilitator. Find out more about it here.

Small Business Leadership Programme (SBLP)

Another programme designed to make businesses more resilient is the Small Business Leadership Programme (SBLP), which aims to help small businesses tackle the impact of COVID-19 and develop potential for future growth and productivity, while also focusing on employee support and well-being. This government scheme is designed for companies with two to 249 employees, and takes the form of a free 10-week programme, covering areas including HR, operations and supply chains, productivity and profitability, sustainability and how to be more resilient.

The programme will be delivered via 20 business schools across the UK, with two senior managers from each company taking part in interactive weekly webinars and peer-to-peer sessions. They will also receive personalised support from leading business school experts. Read more here.

Participant Kevin O’Mara, Managing Director of Staffordshire-based specialist executive chauffeuring business Advanced Journey Chauffeuring, says the scheme has been a lifeline. He explains:

“We were losing revenue and visibility through the pandemic, but the course inspired us to launch a communications exercise to let our customers know we were back in action and the steps we’d taken to ensure Covid-safe travel, and really put ourselves ‘out there’ on social media platforms and virtual business marketing groups.

“As a result, we’ve attracted major new corporate clients who’d lost their incumbent service-providers through Covid-19. We couldn’t have turned things around without the help, expert advice and support we received to navigate us through some critical decision making.”


Recovery Advice for Business Service

Last but not least, it’s also worth taking a look at the government-supported Recovery Advice for Business Service run by Enterprise Nation. Launched in July 2020, this initiative gives SMEs access to business advisers and experts on business topics across all sectors, to help them bounce back from the pandemic.

Business experts, supported by the UK’s major professional and trade bodies, have rallied behind the initiative – including The Institute of Chartered Accountants England & Wales, Chartered Institute of Personnel Development, Advertising Association, Law Society, Management Consultancies Association and Business Service Association. Find out more about the scheme here.

 

New year, new opportunities for recovery

To conclude, then, remaining competitive and resilient in 2021 will take a lot of looking outside the box. As well as making the most of the financial support offered by the government, there are other avenues of support available to businesses, such as those detailed above.

If you’re interested in these training schemes, there are many state-funded and private options out there – if you’re unsure about which is best for your business, why not talk to an adviser at Wellesley Wealth Advisory? Our expert and friendly team can help you find the most appropriate provider for you.

Where the opinions of third parties are offered, these may not necessarily reflect those of St. James’s Place or Wellesley Wealth Advisory.

A taxing year? How the Spring Budget could impact your business

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced that the Budget 2021 will be held on Wednesday 3rd March 2021. With rumours swirling about what he may do to start filling the hole in the economy, alongside some worrying forecasts, we take a closer look at what the red briefcase might hold for businesses.

Since the new date was announced in December 2020, there has been much speculation about the content of the upcoming Budget, which is Rishi Sunak’s second since he became Chancellor, and notably the first Budget since Brexit. It was delayed from November last year, with the Treasury continually bringing in measures of support in the meantime – for example, the Winter Economy Plan, and various extensions to the furlough scheme.

But what will the Spring Budget hold for businesses? Will we see tax-raising measures? How likely is more support for the hospitality sector? Here’s what might be in store.

Striking the balance

As Sunak looks to set out his latest economic strategy, there are two major factors at play – on the one side, there’s the need to find a way to start recouping the £300 billion the government has used to fund coronavirus support measures. And on the other side, there’s mounting pressure to provide more financial support to businesses in the wake of a double-dip recession.1

Indeed, the Spring Budget will come as the UK faces the fallout from the second wave of the pandemic. Official forecasts have predicted the biggest economic decline in 300 years, with the UK’s national income expected to fall by 11.3% in 2020 and not return to pre-crisis levels until the end of next year.2

What’s more, the Office for Budget Responsibility has predicted that unemployment will increase to 2.6 million.3 These ominous figures will likely be at the forefront of Sunak’s mind while he also juggles planning how the Treasury will pay for its record borrowing, which will rise to its highest level outside of wartime.4

So, will the Chancellor opt to start recovering funds or will he provide more support as the coronavirus pandemic continues to damage the economy? Or a mix of the two?

Prioritising support for business?

The answer might be found in his statement when announcing the Spring Budget date, saying: “This will deliver the next phase of the plan to tackle the virus and protect jobs”.

In his November spending review, Sunak outlined his plans to prioritise jobs, businesses and public services. Some changes have been introduced already, including the furlough scheme being extended by an extra month to 30 April 2021, with the government continuing to pay 80% of wages during this time. There’s also speculation that he might use the Budget to extend it again, as the government has previously been criticised for extending it too late.

The government is also coming under pressure to announce more support for businesses before the Budget. In January, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) stressed the need for a new package of cash grants, and an extension of a range of tax cuts to help struggling businesses during the third national lockdown.5 Hospitality and tourism businesses are also calling for the government to extend the reduction of VAT (from 20% to 5%) or risk 310,000 redundancies across the sector.6

Taxing matters

There’s some debate over whether we are likely to see tax rises in the Spring Budget – on one hand, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has warned that tax rises of more than £40 billion a year are “all but inevitable” to stop debt from spinning out of control7, but other industry commentators believe that now is the wrong time, and significant tax rises would actually be damaging to economic recovery.

One thing that experts seem to agree on is that a rise in the rate of Capital Gains Tax (CGT) is very likely in the near future (but not necessarily in the Budget) – especially since the government has pledged not to increase rates of income tax, VAT nor NIC in this parliament.

The Office for Tax Simplification (OTS) has made recommendations on the reform of CGT, which could result in closer alignment with rates of Income Tax that would, in some cases, see CGT rates more than double from the current rates. If you’re considering selling or gifting business assets, disposing of a company, or making a transfer to a trust, you may therefore want to do this before the Budget – if you’re in a position to do so.

Last but not least, we expect Sunak to outline the post-Brexit tax plans, including the implications for VAT.

All eyes on the Chancellor

To conclude, then, it is clear the government will start seriously looking at recouping funds in order to balance the economic books, but whether any major changes will be announced in the Spring Budget remains to be seen, as the UK economy is far from out of the woods. Businesses will hope that, instead of choosing to raise tax, the Chancellor will look to boost economic recovery in other ways, such as schemes like ‘Eat out to help out’ to encourage public spending.

But it is clear that now is the time for businesses to plan ahead for potential future tax rises. When it comes to CGT in particular, the government’s direction of travel appears abundantly clear, even if it doesn’t happen in March.

At Wellesley, we will be keeping a close eye on the Spring Budget announcements, and, if you have any questions, or wish to discuss Capital Gains Tax, please contact us today.

Sources:

1 https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/jan/15/uk-heads-for-double-dip-recession-as-gdp-falls-26
2, 3, 4, 7 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-55352605
5 https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/jan/15/sunak-renewed-pressure-firms-more-covid-support-financial-help-double-dip-recession
6
https://www.business-live.co.uk/retail-consumer/hospitality-sector-warns-310000-job-19616696

The information contained does not constitute investment advice and is not intended to state, indicate or imply that current or past results are indicative of future results or expectations.

Talking tech: 7 trends to watch in 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has been the catalyst for a huge technological shift, accelerating trends that have changed everything from the way we work to the way we shop, and even the way we live. But what are these trends, and what role will they play in determining the winning companies of tomorrow? We take a look.

It’s hard to imagine life without mobile phones, isn’t it? But, did you know that it took 16 years for half the world to own one?

Indeed, it’s historically taken decades for even the most influential technologies to reach mass adoption, but, in recent years we’ve seen this timeline shorten as consumers embrace new technologies much faster – for example, it took only nine years for half the world to adopt the smartphones that came hot on the heels of the traditional mobile.

And, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many key tech trends rocketed, exceeding pre-pandemic forecasts. As we adapted to lifestyle changes, tech companies did too – helping us enter the world of virtual quizzes and concerts, online shopping and working from home. This presented ample opportunities for organisations, with certain tech trends driving the next wave of fast-growing businesses.

Here are seven trends that were disruptive before the pandemic (and some of which became essential during it) – and we think will therefore become revolutionary drivers of growth in the post-pandemic era.

 

  1. E-commerce

E-commerce (aka online shopping) has been growing immensely in recent years, but went into overdrive in 2020, as customers were stranded at home during lockdowns. ACI Worldwide found that e-commerce transactions in the UK saw a 168% increase in May 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.1 In the US (one of the world’s largest retail markets), e-commerce penetration spiked 5% in two months – an amount that took the industry six years to reach before the pandemic.

  1. Cloud technology for businesses

Cloud-based technology (which delivers computing services and storage over the internet) proved essential to help companies adapt to homeworking during lockdown – but, looking long-term, it can drive change in how businesses communicate with employees and customers, and manage their technologies, devices and data sources. But it’s not just homeworking that has prompted a boom in cloud operations – personal data collected by the NHS’s coronavirus test and trace system is stored on Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud infrastructure.2

  1. On-demand consumption

Technology companies are evolving to cater to the ’right now’ consumer, leading to new delivery formats and business models for just about anything, including shopping, watching, listening, learning and reading. Customer expectations were already shifting towards on-demand apps and services (e.g. Amazon Prime, Deliveroo, Uber) but this intensified during the pandemic, thanks to the various lockdowns and ‘tier’ restrictions in play.

  1. Health technology

Aside from how technology has supported the world’s response to COVID-19, the healthcare sector is evolving fast, seeking new approaches to health technology and therapies. In recent years, we’ve seen things like robotic surgeries, liquid biopsies, continuous glucose monitoring, immunotherapies, and customised genetic therapies. The medical community has also embraced new genetic analysis for a range of uses in recent years, which is likely to be applied to treating a host of diseases.

  1. Sustainability

Did you know that more than 30% of the world’s food is lost or wasted every year? While not a prominent trend during the pandemic, technology will play a major role in working towards zero food waste in the future, as consumers become more conscious about sustainability. For example, a mobile app developed by start-up Phenix helps large food retailers, local businesses, manufacturers and wholesalers sell excess food to consumers at half price and donate the rest to food charities, saving 120,000 meals each day – in short: “Putting those who have too much in contact with those who have too little”.3

 

  1. Remote working

According to the Office for National Statistics, in April 2020, almost half of the people employed in the UK did some of their work from home.4 Services that emulated ‘in-person’ practices therefore became the order of the day – and we saw a boost in popularity of virtual chat technologies like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, and project management software, such as Basecamp and Monday.com. So, as some level of homeworking looks set to continue into 2021, it will be interesting to see what other technological developments arise!

  1. Robotics and autonomy

There may come a time where we don’t ‘drive’ our own vehicles. While driverless cars may seem rather futuristic, robotics and automation tools are very much available, and have a chance to shine in a time marked by lockdowns and travel restrictions. Many businesses were hurt when their supply chains were disrupted due to these restrictions, so companies are reconsidering bringing outsourced manufacturing back to their home markets. This will be costly, so they will look into boosting productivity through robotic and automated means, providing long-term growth opportunities for companies that provide these technologies.

Gaining momentum

Many of these changes were taking place already, but the world’s response to the pandemic means that they’re speeding up quickly. We believe these seven trends will continue to grow in the coming years, especially if COVID-19 leads to long-term changes in the ways that we live and work. If you’re looking for the next generation of breakout growth stocks, you’ll likely find it in the list above!

For advice on how to build a diversified investment portfolio while looking at new opportunities, please contact Wellesley today.

Sources:

1 https://internetretailing.net/industry/industry/uk-ecommerce-sales-continue-to-rise-growing-168-in-may–but-fraud-grows-too-21526
2 https://www.publictechnology.net/articles/news/nhs-moves-major-systems-aws-cloud
3 https://wearephenix.com/en/
4 https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/employmentandemployeetypes/bulletins/coronavirusandhomeworkingintheuk/april2020

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

The Brexit trade deal: What does it mean for investors and businesses?

The last-minute agreement might have stolen the festive headlines, but how should businesses and investors react to the news, as our future trading relationship with the EU becomes more clear?

After months of often-fraught talks, the UK and the EU (finally) agreed on a post-Brexit trading relationship on Christmas Eve. While it surely wasn’t intended to steal Father Christmas’s thunder, the announcement was certainly seen as a ‘gift’ by preventing the worst-case scenario of severe disruption due to a no-deal Brexit.

The resolution of the thorniest negotiating points, including fishing rights and the ‘level playing field’ rules on competition, and business rules, means that the UK will continue to trade goods with EU members, without tariffs.

There are more agreements to be reached between the UK and the EU on important topics, which will further clarify what the UK’s trading relationship with the EU will look like, and the outlook for different sectors of their respective economies. But, in the short term, what does the agreement mean for businesses and investors?

Short-term changes for businesses

There are several new EU rules for UK businesses to get to grips with in the short term – something that government minister Michael Gove has admitted will cause some “bumpy moments”.1 Businesses have been urged to make sure they understand the new rules on importing and exporting goods, including the different rules that apply to trade with Northern Ireland, and to consider how they will make customs declarations on EU trade.

Gove continued:

“The nature of our new relationship with the EU – outside the Single Market and Customs Union – means that there are practical and procedural changes that businesses and citizens need to get ready for”.

Although time will tell on the long-term implications of Brexit and the EU trade deal, there was some immediate fallout at the end of the transition period on 31st December 2020.

From the start of 2021, VAT became payable on all purchases from users of online marketplaces (OMPs) located offshore, such as AliExpress. The old Low Value Consignment Relief (LVCR), which meant no import VAT on consignments of goods valued at £15 or less, disappeared at the end of 2020. Details of the timing of the abolition emerged in July 2020 in a paper issued by HMRC.2

Online Marketplaces are now required to collect VAT on all sales under £135 if a seller is not registered within the UK. This is regardless of whether the product is declared to ship from abroad or is placed in a UK fulfilment house.

The abolition of the LVCR has looked inevitable for some time and is due to happen across the EU from July 2021. This might be a relatively minor consequence of the end of the transition period, but the lack of publicity means it could have come as a nasty surprise to some businesses.

 

How markets have reacted to the deal

Investors will no doubt take some reassurance from the ‘Christmas Eve agreement’, at least in the short term – as we await more clarity, and further agreements on issues such as financial services.

In December, UK stocks rose in anticipation of a trade deal, before the London stock market closed for Christmas ahead of the announcement. In mid-January, post-Brexit optimism from investors propelled the pound to its highest since 2018 against the dollar.3 Although this rise later flattened out, it’s undeniably a sign of the pound strengthening – something that will certainly be of interest to foreign investors.

No doubt, markets will continue to react as the 1,250-page agreement is digested and understood more fully in the weeks to come. And, as for new trade deals, watch this space! It will be interesting to see how the UK moves forward over the coming months, now that we have an independent trade policy for the first time in nearly 50 years.

Why investors should look beyond Brexit

However, despite being in its last throes of uncertainty, some confusion over Brexit remains. But investors should remember not to get caught up in short-term market movements – after all, the single biggest driver of markets this year will likely be how successfully the world responds to COVID-19.

We’ve previously written about the importance of taking a long-term view – even in times of crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic and big events like the US Election – and the same goes for Brexit. Investing with a long-term horizon gives you the best chance of achieving your financial goals, and riding out the volatility that comes with political events like Brexit. What’s more – don’t forget taking a diversified approach is a brilliant way of sheltering your investments from any market turbulence created by Brexit or other events.

Here at Wellesley, we’ll be closely following the Brexit trade deal, and will highlight any key issues that arise for businesses and investors.

Sources:

1 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-55463506

2 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/changes-to-vat-treatment-of-overseas-goods-sold-tocustomers-from-1-january-2021/changes-to-vat-treatment-of-overseas-goods-sold-to-customers-from-1-january-2021

3 https://www.reuters.com/article/britain-sterling/update-1-sterling-rises-above-1-37-for-first-time-since-2018-uk-inflation-rises-idUSL1N2JV0UM

The value of an investment with St. James’s Place will be directly linked to the performance of the funds selected and may fall as well as rise. You may get back less than the amount invested.