It’s now business-critical to consider the impact of trading within the EU under what will be entirely new rules.
We’ve been cutting through all the messy stuff for our clients so they can focus on what they do best. But for those closer to the detail, we’ve identified a few lessons from our dealings at this stage. Good lessons.
We hope they’ll resonate and help you, and of course, if you’d like to chat, you can get in touch with Damian Shirley, our Indirect Tax Partner and lead on all things Brexit, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Anyway, without further ado…
The Brexit Bible
1) Someone in the chain needs to pay import VAT when moving goods into the EU. If it’s not the customer, then most likely it’s you. You will need to register for VAT to recover the import VAT in the country concerned, so be prepared for that.
Our recommendation is to work out who the importer actually is. What do your trade terms say? Who holds risks where and who arranges transport? This can all impact our next point.
2) If you do need to VAT register in other EU member states, you may need to have a fiscal representative in the country concerned, or even an establishment in some cases, to administer the VAT. We can help to facilitate that and also think about any underlying PE issues for wider tax.
3) If you are trading B2C on a global platform, you will no longer enjoy EU simplification measures. You may need to register in all EU member states. There is no VAT threshold if you are not established in the EU. This could mean 27 new VAT registrations, but you can get in touch with us to streamline the process.
4) Customs Duty on imports into the UK will be subject to the new UK Global Tariff. What is your new classification and tariff rate? Who is responsible for paying that Duty under your terms of trade and how will it affect price negotiations?
5) If you enjoy preferential tariff rates on imports from particular countries, these won’t exist unless the UK agrees its own equivalent arrangement with the country concerned. Don’t be caught out by this.
6) You may get a double Customs Duty hit on moving goods into the UK and back out to the EU, and vice versa. Have you worked this through, and have you considered if simplification measures are available – such as Inward or Outward processing relief and Customs Duty warehouses?
If not, start thinking about it and let us know if you need help. The process to obtain approval is arduous and time-consuming at the best of times.
7) If you are importing goods on one shipment to both UK and EU markets, have you thought about the optimum interim location to hold and split the goods prior to being moved to their final destination? This could save a double Duty challenge in the worst case.
8) You need to ensure your EORI (Economic Operator Registration and Identification) status is valid for trading in the EU, and also your arrangements for goods clearance on entry into the EU are well set for seamless trade. You may well need two EORI numbers, one for UK imports/exports and one for EU imports. Don’t forget, lots of traders will be applying so don’t get caught out.
9) You are no longer ‘despatching’ goods to another EU member state – you are exporting them. The evidence requirements for moving goods VAT free from the UK are completely different under those scenarios. It’s an easy hunting ground for HMRC, so don’t get caught out and get your processes ready.
10) Some products traded B2c may require entirely different labelling and regulatory requirements when sold by non-EU established traders. Have you thought about that?
In light of the fallout from the recently introduced UK Internal Markets Bill, it may well be the case that a cliff-edge, no-deal Brexit is looming – and looming fast.
Whether you voted remain or leave (do you even remember voting?), no one can deny we’re facing unprecedented uncertainty over the next few months as we move beyond the end of the Brexit transition period into 2021. And of course, the coronavirus pandemic has further frustrated UK businesses’ preparations for the end of the transition period – now just over three months away.
What does this mean for you?
It’s now a business-critical priority to consider the impact of trading within the EU under what will be entirely new rules.
With the above in mind, is Brexit a burden to scrape through, or an opportunity to re-set your international strategy into the future; a chance to challenge where you trade, how you trade, your routes to market, and even what you trade?
Because how often do you stop to work out why you really do things the way you do?
The Golden Questions
In preparation and readiness for Brexit, we absolutely urge you to ask yourself the following:
1) Can you trade without any business interruption within your supply chain from January 2021?
2) Can you trade without increased Customs Duty costs in the UK and on the continent?
3) Can you even trade at all with the EU under your current structure?
4) Are your terms of trade and logistics arrangements set up to mitigate your VAT and Duty obligations?
5) Are your EU VAT administrative and registration arrangements understood and ready to go?
If you can’t answer a confident “yes” to any of the above, then it’s time to think. Fast.
How can we help?
We’re currently supporting a growing number of clients, spanning B2B and B2c, trading in either goods or digital services. Brexit impacts all.
We map out and review our clients’ overall supply chain structure to determine the like-for-like position, pre and post the Brexit transition period. It really doesn’t need to be described in a more complicated way than that, so, let’s keep it simple.
The output helps clients to understand the following key factors:
1) The moving forward Customs Duty cost, and who in the chain that obligation sits with under a clients’ current terms of trade.
2) VAT registration requirements when continuing to trade in the EU moving forward, and any mitigation strategies to streamline those obligations.
3) The moving forward import VAT obligations and goods clearance obligations at the UK and EU borders.
4) Any establishment requirements on the continent to allow you to continue to trade.
5) Optimisation strategies to reduce the additional administrative burden and underlying cost of trade into 2021.
Our team includes specialists in export and trade controls based in Brussels, in the heart of the EU. We can cater for whatever Brexit might throw at you and the regulatory trade minefield that comes with it. We’re also working closely with legal experts in commercial law who focus on regulatory matters such as labelling and safety.
Whatever your position, we can work with you to maintain business continuity, which is all-important right now.
The VAT Brexit Bible
We’ll help you to cut through all the messy stuff so you can focus on what you do best. But for those closer to the detail, we’ve identified a few lessons from our dealings at this stage. Good lessons. Maybe some will resonate and help you. Click here to read the Brexit Bible.
What about your team? We think it’s critical that you set up a Brexit team within your business to project manage the process. Brexit isn’t a finance ‘thing’, and certainly isn’t an academic ‘tax thing’. This is fundamental to your international trade strategy – it may even reshape how you go to market, where you trade, and in some cases, what you trade.
There are numerous touchpoints, not least:
- Logistics; and
We can support you in preparing your best team, placement of task ownership, and shaping your Brexit and wider international plan.
Free trade deal
All this talk in the press. It’s quite a distraction, right? We recommend you don’t sit and wait for a free trade deal, because many of the above factors and requirements will potentially still be in play under a free trade deal anyway. Readiness for the worst case, no-deal scenario will at least leave you neutral if a deal is done in good time – but don’t hold your breath.
We’ll leave you with this final thought: this is a chance to shape your international strategy into the future. A chance to reset. Ready to grab it with both hands?
Get in touch with Damian Shirley, our Indirect Tax Partner and lead on all things Brexit, at email@example.com
2020 has marked the 20th anniversary of the introduction of the R&D tax relief regime in the UK. As my previous article said, we’ve seen many changes over the years, but nothing like the current circumstances!
And yet, in the time when companies need cash the most, they’re not realising the extent to which what they do qualifies (or sometimes, though less often, that they even qualify at all). Why is this still the case, after all this time?!
The answer, for me, continues to lie in the name. “Research & Development” for this purpose is such a red herring. The name continues to conjure up images of rocket science and pharmaceuticals. Yes, of course companies in these sectors are likely to be performing qualifying activities (lots of it!) but so can so many others, in a multitude of sectors.
The Cooper Parry R&D team speak to so many businesses that believe they don’t qualify for relief as they feel they are simply “doing their day job”. I think minds would be far more open with:
- Product change relief (both new and existing);
- Manufacturing process/efficiency improvement relief;
- Speed/functionality/new material/lightweighting/space constraint/value engineering relief; or
- Getting-that-idea-to-actually-work-in-practice relief!
I jest (half) of course but whilst these names roll far less well off the tongue, they give far more of a practical idea of what sorts of things companies can actually make claims for.
So, in very straightforward terms, if:
- You’ve CHANGED something (anything) in terms of what you make, how you make it, or you’ve added to your technical knowledge pool; AND
- There have been CHALLENGES in order to make those changes work, i.e. it’s taken some thought, some time and some testing….
….then you should be looking at this very closely indeed and having it done properly by someone who is properly qualified to do so.
Choosing the right specialist to help you
One of the lines we frequently hear is: “We’ve had six people come and talk to us about R&D, claiming to be ‘experts’ but this is the first time we’ve ‘got it’ and can see why we might have something to claim.” This is obviously a huge shame for the many businesses that are missing out.
So, how can you protect yourself from the “quick buck” merchants that have flooded onto the market in recent years? Thankfully, the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) recently issued their guidance on exactly this; the culmination of the work done by the Working Practices Group (WPG) set up to look at raising standards in the R&D industry (of which I was very proud and pleased to be 1 of only 5 advisors nationally to be invited and involved). You can read it here.
Some of the things they highlight and suggest looking out for are the same things (not surprisingly, having been involved) that we have advised companies to be wary of for years. Look out for some of these red flags:
- Meaningless claims like “100% success rate” or “HMRC approved methodology”
ALL R&D advisors could claim that 100% of their claims had been agreed. What the ones running this line fail to mention is how much has been knocked off by HMRC in order to push them through. NOBODY has their methodology approved by HMRC directly.
I’ve been an R&D advisor for 20 years and so yes, I’d like to think by sheer volume of claims agreed, and how little enquiry we have into our claims, that they can’t think we’re going too far wrong. But that’s still not approval. We even recently saw a statement by someone that they had dealt with the most R&D claims in the UK! (Not only grossly arrogant but laughable when they’d advised on R&D directly for less than half of the 20 years the regime has been in place).
CIOT are concerned about R&D advisors not having the professional knowledge and skill required to advise on this complex area of tax, and those who don’t keep up with the expected CPD levels. Often, claims are being done by advisors with little or no tax experience, and so they actually don’t/can’t advise (or worse don’t care) about the tax effect of the claims, both in the current and future years – meaning that promised headline benefit might not be achievable.
There are many examples here of things to ask about and red flag if they happen, like: advisors not speaking to the technical staff at the company (yet somehow managing to decide what projects do/don’t qualify!), and companies not signing off on their own R&D claim report (sometimes not even being allowed to see it, justified by it being the advisor’s own IP – which is absolute nonsense and ludicrous!).
There are 4 things I always say to companies who are thinking of choosing an R&D advisor:
1) Professional – Is the advisor a member of a professional body (e.g. CIOT) whose rules and ethical standards they will be held to account by? Are they signed up to Money Laundering Regulations etc?
2) Dual Qualified – Do they have a good mix of technical backgrounds, allowing them to advise across a multitude of sectors and also tax knowledge, ensuring the effects of claims on the wider tax computations and returns are dealt with in the right way?
3) Experience – How long have they been advising on R&D claims for? So many of the “PPI salesman” types have flooded the market in the last 2-3 years especially. Our senior team has 12 years’ R&D advisory experience on average (for instance).
4) Reputation – What are their links with HMRC? Do they attend the Research & Development Consultative Committee (RDCC) meetings, at which policy updates and the latest HMRC thinking are discussed? (60 advisors do, but it narrows the field). Do they have any CIOT links (like our WPG one)? How long have they known some of the specialist HMRC R&D inspectors to have built up a reputation for good practice and fair claims?
So, where does this leave us?
The R&D tax relief regimes are very dear to my heart, having done this for so long now. Done properly, it remains the most amazing part of the tax legislation and I love seeing the real upside/effect it has on businesses: new premises, machinery, staff, or even just keeping the lights on at the moment!
There are other brilliant R&D advisors around the country whom I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend in an instant. So, if you have one of those, who ticks the above boxes (the good bits, not the flags!), then I’m genuinely happy for you. The regime is, and has always been, intended to be a massive force for good.
If, however, any of the flags ring a bell, or you’ve still not quite got it, compared to the “alternative relief names” and think there might be something more there for you, please just give me a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org
Many people won’t have the pleasure of meeting someone like Helena Hills in their lifetime.
To them, we say, you’re really missing out.
Radiating positivity, Duracell Bunny energy and a rocket-fuelled, can-do mentality, the way Helena sees the world – and all its opportunities – is so needed right now. Not just in the entrepreneurial community, but everywhere, really.
That’s why a perfect match was brewing when Helena founded TrueStart Coffee with her husband Simon in 2015. Because now, she has the chance to share that feel-good energy in liquid form with their loyal customers and supporters, every single day.
So, was she born with it – this infectious enthusiasm?
No. Quite the opposite. Because as you’ll find out, Helena’s TrueStart journey has taken twists, turns and come full circle in the most incredible way.
THE MISSION: MAKING PEOPLE FEEL AWESOME
“At the very core, I want to prove that you can have a massive impact on people on a global scale by using business as a force for good. You can build a hugely impactful organisation, that is not driven primarily by shareholder return. Instead, it’s driven by a genuine reason for existing. For TrueStart, that is to make people feel awesome so they can be the best they can be.”
Helena is an unwavering advocate of the power of positive energy; surrounding yourself with positive emotions and influences, to “broaden your horizons and improve your ability to think creatively and do whatever you do.”
Now, you’re probably thinking, that’s all well and good.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE BAD DAYS?
Those days when that spark just isn’t quite there, and positivity seems so hard to reach. We all have them, and despite first impressions, Helena is no different.
When she was a child, Helena was diagnosed with ADHD. At the time, she thought that meant being a naughty, fidgety kid – largely thanks to society incorrectly branding ADHD as a behavioural disorder.
Since then, she’s found out it’s a neurobiological condition – a different wiring of the brain – and one effect of ADHD is a deficiency in the feel-good neurotransmitter, dopamine.
“Fundamentally, I wake up with a dopamine deficiency,” Helena told us, “So, no. I don’t wake up with a crazy amount of energy. I have to purposely generate that and it’s all about environment. It’s all about that positive energy.”
By understanding and appreciating how her brain works, Helena has learned to keep her dopamine levels in check by doing more exercise, spending more time in nature, having cold showers and placing tight limits on her social media time, where she says the negative energy is “so tangible”.
“IT’S A TOTAL SUPERPOWER, AS WELL AS A MASSIVE CHALLENGE”
“ADHD brains are wired in a way that we’re constantly trying to stimulate dopamine production and flow through things that feel good,” Helena explained, “Focus in people with ADHD is like a light switch. If you’re interested in that topic, it’s on. It’s called hyper-focus and I can learn everything about that topic in a few hours. But if I’m disinterested, I’m off. I just don’t give a s***. That intensity is so real for me.”
Three months ago, it was this ‘hyper-focus’ that prompted Helena’s research into how her own brain was wired. But before then, in their 11 years together, her husband Simon could count on one hand the amount of times she had even said ‘ADHD’.
That’s because Helena put it in a box and pretended it didn’t exist, determined to avoid using what she thought was a behavioural problem as an excuse for not succeeding.
“MY WHOLE LIFE HAS COME FULL CIRCLE”
“Discovering so much about ADHD freed me from this mental prison. I realise now, TrueStart is my way of bringing up my dopamine levels, because caffeine actually increases the dopamine receptor availability in a part of your brain called the ventral striatum, which is associated with the limbic system – so our emotions and memory – and is a really important part of the circuitry for decision making and reward-related behaviour.
“ADHD is usually treated with stimulant medication. I’m unmedicated, but coffee is doing a similar thing for me by helping me treat my unusually low dopamine receptor availability and function much better on a daily basis with everything from executive function skills to overall mood, motor control and emotional regulation. I truly believe I was put on this earth to change how people feel in their daily lives for the better. And I’ve found out coffee has such huge potential to do just that.
“I’m like wow. My whole life has come full circle here. I’ve literally built my treatment and the treatment for everyone else in the world who needs to feel better, and I’m quite mind-blown by that actually.”
Although Helena didn’t know it at the time, looking back, you can trace her superpower to the very roots of TrueStart and the incredible brand it’s become.
IT ALL STARTED WITH SPORT
The idea for TrueStart was born when Helena and Simon were competing in triathlons. They were spending a lot of time on the road together. And they were drinking a lot of coffee.
Why? Because it made her feel good. But not always.
Sometimes, multiple cups would do nothing. And other times, one cup would make her feel sick and send her heart palpitations through the roof.
Helena knew something wasn’t right, so, she started researching caffeine and found out the levels in different coffees can vary massively.
“Sometimes, you can be having 30mg, which is nothing really,” she told us, “but if you go to Starbucks and have a big coffee, you can be having 700-800mg in those things.”
THAT REALISATION FLICKED THE SWITCH
Helena went deeper, researching all the different variables. From the obvious ones, like the types of beans used, all the way through to the amount of rainfall on a specific crop.
Then, she spoke to suppliers in Columbia, where she had lived previously, to develop a sourcing process to launch the first coffee that had a consistent level of caffeine in every cup. No crashes. No jitters. That same awesome feeling. Every time.
To this day, clean, healthy, ethically sourced products are an irreplaceable part of the brand’s image and their customers’ loyalty. But in the beginning, TrueStart’s success was as much about Helena and Simon’s personality, as it was their drinks.
PERSONAL BEST COFFEE
Their first ever product was called ‘Performance Coffee’, and their first time trialling it came at a small, local 10km race.
Helena and Simon turned up, boombox in hand, pumping out music and handing out free shots of coffee to the runners.
“We were like, ‘here’s your TrueStart, have an awesome race!’ Honestly, it was about 20 people. But they were coming back afterwards saying ‘I got a PB!’ They were our first mega fans, our first TrueStarters engaging with us and it was so fun. I could see that our presence had helped everyone else really enjoy the event and I was buzzing.”
From there, they started doing bigger and bigger events, with one goal: bringing the positive vibes and making people feel great. They quickly made a name for themselves in the endurance sports world, and just three years in, that culminated in a high-profile slot at a big show in Birmingham’s NEC.
If you bought a coffee from the NEC café it was TrueStart, and everyone was walking round with TrueStart branded cups, which must have felt great, right?
WRONG. HELENA AND SIMON FELT SUFFOCATED
“We spoke to our customers and they said they loved TrueStart before a run or sport. It sat in their sports bag, but they still had Nescafé in their cupboard. We thought, this is wrong. TrueStart is not on the path to being the globally impactful, feel-good brand we want it to be. It’s on a path to becoming coffee for sport, which honestly, really bores the living s*** out of me.
“And if TrueStart isn’t on a path to becoming what we want it to be, then we don’t want it to exist at all.”
IT WAS TIME TO START AGAIN
That summer, Helena and Simon quit alcohol and went to one of their favourite music festivals in Germany. Bringing the festival mindset to daily life fits perfectly with TrueStart’s mission, but at the time, for non-drinkers, the only choices were Red Bull or water. So, the pair were making their instant coffee and putting it in water bottles every day instead.
That was the inspiration they needed to start selling cold brew, or coffee in a can, which branched TrueStart out from the sports-centric image Helena wanted to escape. And by using purely natural extract to flavour their drinks, they set themselves apart as the guilt-free, refreshing alternative, in a market drowning in sugar, sweeteners and other artificial ingredients.
Then, there was the visual branding. Their early products looked quite serious on shelves – a far cry from the boombox-wielding, good-vibes-bringing personalities of Helena and Simon that TrueStart fans adored.
Through a now good friend, they worked with a branding agency, and fell in love with the concept of legs diving into water on brightly coloured packaging – the very design you’ll see on their logo today.
For Helena, this was what TrueStart was all about. Making a splash. Living life to the full. And diving into whatever the world means to you.
IT WENT DOWN A STORM
TrueStart added a DBA Design Effectiveness Award to their ever-growing list of prestigious titles, including ‘Scale-Up Entrepreneur of the Year’ at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards, and NatWest’s everywoman Brand of the Future.
More importantly, their customers loved it, too, and last year and the year before they enjoyed a whopping 200% growth.
Now, they were on the right path, and TrueStart seemed set to fulfil even Helena’s wildest dreams.
The rollercoaster that has rocked so many businesses. But how was it felt in the coffee world?
“Before COVID, 47% of the UK’s coffee was consumed in the office,” Helena told us, “When lockdown started, 95% of our revenue disappeared overnight. Our coffee shop closed, and a lot of our customers were in hospitality and offices. Our team had to go on furlough, and my number one priority was making sure none of them lost their job. At the same time, we lost our childcare and we had a 3-month-old and a 1-year-old to look after.
“Before, e-commerce was next to nothing in terms of our revenue, but we worked really hard to flip that round. Looking back, I don’t know how we did it, those first three months of proper lockdown. We were full time hustling on the business whilst full time parenting, packing up hundreds of orders from the office.”
TrueStart had to adapt to a once-in-a-lifetime shift in their customers’ behaviours and locations. Fast.
So, how did they do?
THE NUMBERS SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES
Revised growth forecasts for this year are even higher than the last two, approaching a staggering 300%.
All their people have been unfurloughed – a fact Helena is particularly proud of. And at the time of writing, they just hit #18 on the Amazon instant coffee best sellers list, which is an astonishing feat in itself, particularly with corporate coffee giants like Nescafé selling so many different iterations of their products.
It seems, when your own reason for existing is married with that of your business, there’s no hurdle too high to stop you from making that happen. But with founders who are this positive, this passionate, and this downright awesome, we never expected anything else.
HUNGRY FOR MORE HUB CP?
It’s the community we created to celebrate and bring together the most adventurous, rebellious, entrepreneurial minds of our day.
If that sounds like you, you should join our LinkedIn group, and to get a flavour of everything we’ve done with the community so far, check out this page.
HMRC have recently released various forms of confirmation and guidance (both by email directly and by changing their own manual online) around how R&D incentives claims will be impacted by furlough payments, including those that have been met by the Government through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) over the last few months.
Below, I have summarised some of the key points that claimants will need to take care with when compiling the claims in respect of the accounting periods that cover the Summer months of 2020.
- Bounceback/CBILS/CLBILS loans, as previously stated, are all notified state aid, meaning that they could potentially prevent a Small or Medium Enterprise (SME) from making a claim under the SME regime (and instead default to the much less generous Large company scheme. However, whilst each claim scenario will be addressed on its own merits, HMRC’s expectation is that the above wholesale reduction (of the benefit of the entire claim from c25% to c10%, not just the amount covered by the loan) would only happen where the loan “relates specifically to….expenditure incurred on an R&D project, rather than providing general support for the company”.
- CJRS is different, as it IS NOT a notified state aid and so the entire costs of the claimed project point above, wouldn’t apply. Instead, only the costs covered by the loan (treated like a subsidy of the costs for this purpose) would be subject to the reduction to the Large company scheme and the lower benefit.
However, it seems like both of the above are likely to be moot points. Here’s why:
- The vast majority of the above Covid support loans have been applied for as general business support loans.
- For periods where employees were furloughed and CJRS funding was claimed to cover it, employees were not available to work and hence could not have been performing qualifying activities for R&D claims purposes in any case (there could have been elements of training and study that could be claimed for post 1 July but this is likely to be fairly minor in the grand scheme of things).
Claimant companies will, of course, need to ensure they properly apportion time (and costs) between furlough/non-furlough periods when preparing their claims for the accounting period covering Summer 2020. For example, for an annual claim for a staff member normally 80% qualifying who was furloughed for 4 months, the amount to be included in the claim is 80% x 8/12 of remuneration.
HMRC have additionally confirmed that periods of holiday and sick pay taken during furlough CAN be included in the staff costs calculation (subject to appropriate apportioning for CJRS) and claimed under the Large scheme.
If you’ve got any questions about how furlough payments will affect your claims, you can get in touch with me at email@example.com
Pop the cork. We’ve picked up two prizes at the 2020 School Leaver Awards. And we couldn’t be happier.
The awards celebrate the top early careers employers and training providers – the crème de la crème for young talent looking to enter the world of work and hit the ground running.
So, when we found out we’d been crowned Top Employer in Accounting & Professional Services, beating the likes of PwC, EY, Grant Thornton and RSM, you can imagine our excitement.
And it didn’t stop there.
We also won the award for Most Innovative Recruitment Campaign across every industry, from a group of finalists including behemoth brands like Rolls-Royce and Cisco.
The campaign, fronted by the ever-bullish Pablo, a much-loved member of the CP herd, was described as “demonstrating clear impact, enticing school leavers to both Cooper Parry and the accounting industry.”
Together, these awards are a big deal for us
Why? Because they show us everything is going to plan. Our laser-focus on creating an incredible culture is attracting and retaining the most electrifying, brilliant brains around. And as we say hello to the 30 graduates and school leavers who joined us just a couple of days ago, long may that continue.
April Bembridge, our Chief People Officer, said:
“We are absolutely delighted to have won two awards at the 2020 School Leaver Awards. Ensuring we can attract the very best up-and-coming talent is critical, so we are extremely proud to win Top Employer. There were some incredible accountancy firms amongst the finalists, all deserving of their place, but we’ve worked hard to make Cooper Parry the workplace of choice for young talent.
“Winning Most Innovative Recruitment Campaign has shown us the value of understanding what future generations are looking for in an employer. Targeting our offering and hiring campaigns to meet their needs really pays dividends. And now, we’ll be taking these lessons forward with us to keep pushing boundaries and stay ahead of the pack.”
A single intelligent system that can boost productivity, enable remote working, reduce costs, improve customer service and provide unprecedented management insights. Sounds too good to be true, right?
Far from it, says Liza Russell, who, as CEO of Inbotiqa, is leading the business through a period of incredible growth and towards a multi-million-pound turnover.
The fintech firm provides a workflow-management tool for large-volume shared email inboxes, predominantly in banks and large financial service providers. And, with 124 billion business emails sent worldwide every day, we’re talking serious numbers.
“The level of emails that arrive in some shared inboxes is staggering,” says Liza, “and this can mean it’s all too easy to miss an important communication; the consequences of which can be extremely significant.”
Think millions of pounds significant. Co-founders Ludre Stevens and Vishal Shanbhag were working in financial services when they saw exactly this happen at another firm. A single email was overlooked, and the critical instruction was missed, resulting in a large regulatory fine. They were instantly convinced that there must be a better way.
Intelligent business email
Cue YUDOmail, a workflow tool applied on top of email, to help improve management and ultimately performance. Aimed largely at enterprise clients, it can track which employee emails have been allocated to whom, what the priorities are, and when a task has been completed. Crucially, it logs every piece of communication in one place for audit purposes.
Not content with these benefits, the development of YUDOsmart will take things up a notch, further improving efficiency by using machine learning (ML) to automatically allocate emails based on their content. It identifies which task the emails relate to and assigns them accordingly, also taking individual capacities into account and distributing workloads evenly within a team to prevent bottlenecks.
It’s clever stuff.
Fit for purpose
“The thing with email,” says Liza, “is that while it’s incredibly useful, it was never designed to be used in such great volumes and it’s very difficult and time-consuming to track every action or task that comes through.
“Our tools make email fit for purpose in today’s business world. Communication is optimised and processes are streamlined – as a result, email volumes can be reduced by 40%. This, in turn, reduces operational risk and costs.”
Liza explains: “The technology links email, chat and voice together, ensuring that all communications about a particular case can be managed in one thread. Internal approvals and external discussions, changes to priorities, written memos, telephone calls, attachments, required actions and deadlines… everything is contained in one place. This means every element can be managed, tracked and actioned to the specified timescales.
“This is especially important in regulatory environments. Missed critical instructions can incur consequential losses and regulatory fines – as Ludre and Vishal witnessed back in 2011. So, we have made a commitment to be RegTech ready which means that our products stand up to the robust regulatory requirements, providing a high level of data and a comprehensive audit trail.
“Nothing is deleted. At any point, it is possible to look back at what decisions were made when, why, and by whom. Every single touchpoint is captured.”
A more productive workforce
“Besides the regulatory benefits this system is also great for driving accountability. Managers have access to an analytical dashboard and can view in real time exactly what has and hasn’t been completed and by whom. It is possible to see right down to the smallest detail such as how long an email remains unopened and whether the content has been actioned or just opened, looked at and/or forwarded on to someone else.
“This obviously monitors productivity, but there’s also a duty of care element. Why hasn’t that person delivered, when they’re usually highly efficient? A call can soon be made and a problem fixed, before it turns into a bigger issue. And, with a rise in remote working, it will become increasingly important to keep track of employees in this way.
“If you think about it, we’re potentially going from six or so large corporate offices to 600 or more personal offices. And if people aren’t sitting down for face-to-face meetings, a different way of working is needed to make sure that nothing slips through the net.
“By allocating emails to individuals, our tools create that personal queue of work, collating information together so no matter where an employee is working from, they’ll always have everything they need at their fingertips.”
A new challenge
This attention to detail is one of the things which blew Liza away when she first came across Inbotiqa. Wanting out of the corporate world, she was looking for a smaller team and a new challenge. With experience in building teams and scaling up and with a background in banking and financial services (she previously spent time in operations in retail banking and wealth management at RBS, Coutts and PwC), the product really resonated.
She says: “I’ve managed these large multinational teams where every instruction is critical and cannot be missed. I know, from experience, just how important it is.”
Liza joined as part of a management restructure in 2018 and she hasn’t looked back. Not one to do things by halves, one of her first achievements was taking Inbotiqa through the application process for the Barclays Accelerator powered by Techstars, recognised as one of the most selective fintech programmes in the world. After five gruelling interviews and a tough Dragon’s Den-style pitch, the firm was chosen as one of just ten companies to join the 2019 programme – narrowed down from an initial shortlist of more than 700.
“It was a really intense period,” she says. “We had three months of business development courses, mentoring sessions and networking with some amazing industry experts and investors; all culminating in a Demo Day. That’s when you present your business, essentially pitching for investment and mentors.
“We were actually the only company in that year’s cohort to already be generating revenue. At that point we already had clients, so we were looking for the next step up.”
And boy did they get it.
Along with one other company, Inbotiqa was the quickest firm to agree a Proof of Concept with Barclays.
Tools that speak for themselves
“As with many large corporates, change can be a slow process and it can take time to get decisions made and agreements in place,” she said. “But we’ve found that once we do get over the line and the trial period starts, the product demonstrates its value extremely quickly. We have evidence that our tools really work and that’s powerful.
“Now we’re focused on growing our internal footprint within the companies with which we’re already working. The more people who are using the platform, the more essential it becomes for additional users to sign up – and there’s a tipping point at which it makes sense to roll it out across the whole business. In one instance, we have over 1,100+ users in one division, another about to sign up and more progressing through the demo stage. So, we’re making good progress.
“Looking further ahead, the aim is to sign up multiple major banks, giving them the capability to talk to each other through the platforms and have all their communications logged in the same way. There is so much potential. It’s incredibly exciting.”
A business going places
Liza lists a string of other new opportunities, from additional major banks to more BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) clients. She’s currently going through an investment round and says securing additional funding would provide a real platform for further growth. The ambition is to double the number of employees from 16 to 32 within 12-18 months – and it’s likely this would turn Inbotiqa into a multi-million-pound company overnight.
“And we’ve not even touched on the other sectors that we could work with,” she added.
“We’ve always targeted financial services because that’s our combined background. We understand the processes and we could clearly see the potential for growth. But any sector that uses high-volume shared email inboxes could reap the productivity, customer service and cost benefits from ML – the NHS, legal sector, utilities companies, ecommerce and Government – to name but a few.”
With a list like that, something tells us we’ll be hearing a lot more about Inbotiqa in the not too distant future.
Our London-based Tech & High Growth team keeps on growing, and this time, it’s not just new team members we’re excited to announce, but a new offering for our clients, too.
Sarah Abrahams, Head of Growth Finance, and Nick Hawkins, Associate Director, have both joined the team led by Steve Leith to support high-growth and technology businesses in their search for seed to Series A funding.
With 13 years’ experience in the early-stage finance industry, Sarah spent the last seven years at Grant Thornton, leading the firm’s national activity on growth finance and raising over £400m for her clients in the process.
Sarah is also a Non-Executive Director for the Mayor of London’s ‘Greater London Investment Fund’ – a £100m fund of funds providing loan and equity finance for London SMEs. In 2017, she was named as a “Future Leader” at the Women in the City Awards. And in 2019, her team was a finalist for “Best Finance Team” at the Women in Finance Awards.
Nick was an integral part of Sarah’s team at Grant Thornton, too, and he spent the last six years supporting scale up companies on growth capital transactions, with particular experience and interest in technology, food and drink, leisure and retail.
A chartered accountant and holder of the Corporate Finance qualification, Nick received the ICAEW “Outstanding Achievement Award” for Corporate Finance Strategy and Advice after scoring the highest mark globally in 2018. And recently, Nick acted as lead adviser on a number of high-profile, cross-border transactions.
See why we’re excited to have them on board?
We will be supporting high-growth startups and scaleups to maximise their fundraising efforts by connecting them with the highest potential investors, securing the most favourable terms benchmarked to other funding rounds, and protecting management team time in getting through an investment round process.
Growth companies need expert advice to optimise their fundraising strategy. Sarah and Nick come with deep connections in the investor community. And together, they’ll help us deliver great outcomes to support growth plans.
“Joining the Cooper Parry Tech & High Growth team was a complete no-brainer for me. Everything that Cooper Parry stands for, from its bold brand and progressive culture to its own impressive growth story, is completely resonant with the types of companies that I work with. I’m excited to be part of a firm that is investing, innovating and shares my passion for supporting high-growth companies to scale.”
“I am thrilled to be working with Sarah and Steve as part of the High Growth team at Cooper Parry. It is refreshing to see an advisory firm that, like our most ambitious clients, is growing so quickly and investing in its people and market offerings. Now, more than ever, we need companies with the vision and ambition to scale to get the capital they need, and I am excited to be helping them in that journey.”
Steve Leith, our Relationship Partner and Head of Tech & High Growth, added:
“I am delighted to welcome Sarah and Nick to the team. They add an important component in our support for high potential and high-growth companies – funding advice for Seed and Series A rounds. With the investment landscape in flux, companies at this stage face many challenges in closing funding rounds, all whilst striving to maintain their existing growth trajectories. Sarah and Nick can make a massive difference to the success and outcome of the fundraising process.”
Bearing the brunt of a global pandemic comes with once-in-a-lifetime challenges. Seeing the health and social care sector rise to them with aplomb has been nothing short of incredible. And despite the challenges of COVID-19, our Corporate Finance team has continued to progress and complete deals in the sector.
Each year we bring together leaders from health and social care businesses to discuss the hottest topics in the sector and it will come as no surprise that this year’s conversation felt very different to 2019.
The deep insights and discussion were still there though. And what a time to have them.
We’ve covered some of the key themes and highlights below.
WHAT LESSONS SHOULD WE LEARN FROM LOCKDOWN?
Many of our guests came from businesses providing social care and the stark contrast between how the government treated their sector and the NHS was a constant theme.
The decision to discharge 25,000 hospital patients to care homes before the introduction of routine coronavirus testing wasn’t just a poor one, it was a dangerous one too. We knew elderly people were especially at risk and with the close proximity of people in care home environments, without the preparation to segregate, it only takes one case for the virus to spread rapidly.
More complications arose for our guests who were working across multiple local authorities. They spoke about a lack of clear guidance from any commissioning bodies, with each local authority singing off a different hymn sheet.
They were left to develop their own plans and put their own measures in place to assess people safely before the transition process. Often, when they were asked to take people in, they didn’t know where they were coming from, what the conditions were, or what tests had been performed on them.
One CEO described it as “chaotic”, and added, “we were just led to believe we had to save the NHS, which I think we did. But at what cost? We’ll find out.”
Figures suggest UK care homes have seen around 30,000 excess deaths during the coronavirus outbreak compared to the same time last year.
HOW IMPORTANT HAS TECHNOLOGY BEEN?
While health and social care is, of course, physical by nature, lockdown accelerated digital plans in many of our guests’ businesses.
Another CEO spoke of their transition away from paper to automated planning documentation, a digital platform that shows what’s going on across the business from any handheld device, using Zoom to maintain contact and do day service provisions and refresher training delivered through virtual classrooms.
The importance of keeping in touch with staff digitally and making them feel supported and safe to go to work each day was echoed by many and we heard about digital wellbeing packages put together by a business specialising in children’s care.
We were also joined by a HR Director from a care company who said, in terms of training and L&D, that lockdown had actually helped their efforts. That’s because although they had a big influx of new people into the business, who all needed inductions, by using technology they had more engagement as people didn’t need to travel and there was a cost saving for the business, too.
With nine in ten GP appointments now conducted virtually and the increase in residents keeping in touch with friends and family by virtual channels, care providers need to ensure that they have the technology to support this trend, which is likely to continue.
On another webinar earlier in the week, one of our guests heard about a business partnership around healthcare monitoring in homes, using sophisticated AI to measure things like blood pressure, heart rate and temperature.
“The GP community’s response has been mixed,” he told us, “there are doctors and nurses, half of them would probably turn their noses up and say what are you doing taking blood pressure? But the other half are receptive, and I think it’s got to go that way. If people living in their homes do those basic checks, blood pressure, temperature and so on, if it stops hospital admissions, it’s got to go that way.”
SO, IS THE FUTURE OF CARE DIGITAL?
Well, no. Not quite. Because as one business owner reminded us, in the world of social care, social isolation is a huge issue and an even bigger issue with family and neighbours not visiting anymore because of fear.
COVID has taken us right back to the basics of human need. We all need physical touch. We all need that face-to-face contact. That’s especially true when it comes to old, vulnerable, isolated people. And technology can’t replace that.
WHAT WILL THE SECTOR LOOK LIKE IN FIVE YEARS?
A few of our guests backed up what we’ve been seeing in the M&A market. PE has been looking at the sector and realising how resilient, well-managed and self-reliant it’s been. Right now, combined with the lessons that the health and social care sector has learnt recently, it appears to be a great space to be in and that should lead to better, stronger businesses going forward.
One of our guests raised the topical point about whether we need to have an insurance scheme in place, because poor health is indiscriminatory and the cost of living in care is around £50-70,000 a year.
They also mentioned the extra five million people over the age of 65 we’ll have in the next 15 years, saying, “we’re not building enough care home spaces for that. The hospitals won’t cater for it. There’s got to be insurance backed funding for the care of older people because there’s going to be millions more of them around.”
The issue of funding was raised, too, and our guests voiced concerns around the huge disparity between the £150bn spent a year on the NHS and the spend on social care. Because if that gap isn’t closed, we’ll be left with a lot of sick people, either at home without adequate care, or admitted to hospitals that are struggling to find beds.
THAT’S A WRAP
Fantastic insights from fantastic businesses. Where will the healthcare sector be this time next year? We’ll be using all our contacts and experience to deliver commentary that answers just that, and of course, we’ll be bringing together more healthcare leaders again to discuss one of the most exciting, active industries out there.
Click here to find out more about the deals we’ve been completing recently.
COVID-19 has meant many lessees have been unable to fully utilise their leased assets. They’re facing financial difficulties. And as a result, we’re seeing a number of rent concessions – such as reduced rentals or payment holidays –being provided to them.
You may have read here about how accounting for COVID-19-related rent concessions for businesses applying International Accounting Standards has been simplified. But if you’re a business applying UK Accounting Standards, you’ve probably been sat there thinking, well, what about me?
The good news is there are proposals in place to make some temporary changes to UK GAAP (FRS 102) on accounting for rent.
Much-welcomed by businesses trying to make sense of a myriad of renegotiations with landlords resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the move looks to make it easier for lessees to account for such changes.
Where a lessee has received rent concessions as a direct consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as temporary rent reductions or payment holidays, the amendment allows lessees to account for them over the period the concession is intended to compensate, reflecting the substance of the concessions and their temporary nature. This is a much simpler process than having to spread the concession over the life of the lease, which would be necessary under the current rules.
This is planned to take effect for accounting periods commencing on or after 1 January 2020, and early application will be permitted once a decision is made by the Financial Reporting Council to bring the proposed changes into effect (expected by the end of September). If you want more detail on the proposed changes, click here.
So, if you’re planning to review all your new rent arrangements and make sure they’re being accounted for correctly, you may want to hold fire until the accounting requirements are firmed up.
Sure, lease accounting can get complex
But that’s why we love it. So, if you have any questions or would like some more detail, speak to Cat Kelly, our Head of Retail, at firstname.lastname@example.org