Internet issues posing a problem for SMEs, research suggests

Research carried out by Storey has revealed that internet connectivity issues pose the biggest risk to the productivity levels of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs).

67% of SMEs surveyed by Storey reported that internet problems hindered them the most, with 38% stating that they had experienced internet failures in the last month.

46% of respondents revealed that they have a slow internet connection. 37% believe that this is preventing them from attracting new talent.

internet

A further 21% of business leaders said that they spend more than 20 hours each month fixing technological issues.

Joff Sharpe, Head of Operations at British Land, which oversees Storey, commented: ‘SMEs in particular, with their limited resources, face a number of challenges that could hamper their productivity – and, ultimately, their success.

‘Many of these relate to managing, maintaining and looking for office space, distracting them from their core jobs of running their business.’

Government establishes new Brexit business group

The government has created a new business advisory group, comprised of five major UK business groups.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), the Institute of Directors (IoD) and manufacturers’ organisation the EEF make up the new business group, and their director generals will meet weekly with the Business Secretary, Greg Clark.

brexit

During a recent parliamentary session, Mr Clark reported that he had met with businesses, business leaders, employees and investors around the UK since the Brexit vote. The new group will seek to ensure that business has more input into the Brexit negotiations.

Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the BCC, hopes that the new business advisory group will also help to achieve a ‘business-friendly’ Brexit outcome that addresses firms’ ‘real-world needs’.

Commenting on the creation of the new business group, Mr Clark said: ‘The government is creating a new EU exit business advisory group to ensure business is not only heard, but is influential throughout the negotiations.’

Meanwhile, Stephen Martin, Director General of the IoD, stated: ‘A good Brexit outcome is one that puts the economy, jobs and prosperity right at the centre of the negotiations, so we wholeheartedly welcome the formation of this advisory group by the government.’

Smartphones set to replace visits to bank branches

Research carried out by data analyst CACI has suggested that smartphones are on course to replace bank branch visits.

By 2022, the typical consumer will visit a bank branch just four times a year, according to the research. Currently, consumers visit their local bank branch seven times a year, CACI revealed.

smartphone

It also found that individuals are increasingly utilising smartphones to carry out bank transactions, with many using apps to view and manage their finances. CACI predicts that contact between consumers and banks will rise, primarily via apps as opposed to branch visits or desktop banking.

In addition, data published by CACI estimates that banking app transactions, such as balance checks and payments, are set to more than double over the next five years.

Jamie Morawiec, Associate Partner at CACI, commented: ‘The speed and convenience of mobile banking is a huge contributing factor to its ongoing popularity, especially as banks add more functionality to their apps. Understanding who is using it, and how, is key for banks to ensure it works for everyone.

‘Banks and financial institutions must ensure that the function of the branch remains relevant, complements the digital channels and meets the specific needs of the demographics that are using them.’

Personal debt growth is ‘slowing’, BBA finds

Growth in personal debt slowed during May, data published by the British Bankers’ Association (BBA) has revealed.

download

Personal debt grew by 5.1% during May, compared to 6.4% in April. Borrowing via loans and overdrafts slowed down in particular, the BBA said.

House purchase approvals also experienced a deceleration, totalling 40,347 in May. This number is 3.3% lower when compared to May 2016, and down on the monthly average of 41,923.

The BBA found that consumers are also saving less: in the year to the end of May, personal deposits grew at a rate of 2.6% – representing the slowest annual rate of growth in saving since 2011.

Commenting on the data, Eric Leenders, Managing Director for Retail Banking at the BBA, said: ‘In the run up to the General Election, credit growth in personal loans, cards and overdrafts has slowed, which was reflected in lower spending, with increased household costs affecting growth in deposits and saving.

‘Businesses appear to be weighing up their options before raising finance to fund projects or developments. After a long period of subdued company borrowing, overall growth is starting to stabilise at a modest rate.’

Inadequate cyber security practices ‘putting SMEs at risk’, analysis suggests

Poor cyber and data security habits are putting one in ten small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) at risk, an analysis carried out by accounting software developer Reckon has suggested.

images

Reckon found that 10% of small business owners and employees regularly send confidential files via personal devices rather than work machines. It also revealed that many send sensitive documents to personal email addresses, as opposed to work ones.

The research suggested that 25% of business owners and their employees save confidential documents onto their desktops, rather than onto a central server.

Reckon warned that poor cyber security practices may expose confidential information to the risk of hacks or unauthorised use.

It stated that the 2018 implementation of the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will make adhering to basic cyber security practices compulsory.

Mark Woolley, Commercial Director at Reckon, said: ‘It’s truly concerning that so many SMEs here in the UK are ignoring basic data protection rules.

‘Incorrectly managing data and information . . . can pose financial, reputational and security issues to a business; something that no business owner wants to have to deal with.’

TUC suggests quarter of new fathers are ‘missing out’ on paternity leave and pay

An analysis carried out by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has found that more than 157,000 new dads are ‘missing out’ on paternity leave and pay.

download (10)

During 2016, there were 625,000 working dads in the UK with a child aged under one. The TUC’s analysis revealed that 25% of such fathers did not qualify for statutory paternity leave and pay. Under the current rules, eligible new fathers are permitted up to two weeks of paid paternity leave.

The analysis found that the main reason for this is that many were self-employed. Self-employed fathers don’t receive a paternity allowance, whereas self-employed mothers are entitled to receive a maternity allowance.

The TUC is calling for the government to provide new fathers with a right to statutory paternity leave from day one, increased paternity pay, dedicated leave and a paternity allowance for fathers who are not eligible for statutory paternity pay.

Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the TUC, commented: ‘It’s really important for new dads to be able to spend time at home with their families when they have a new baby.

‘But too many fathers are missing out because they don’t qualify – or because they can’t afford to use their leave.

‘We’d like to see all dads being given a right to longer, better-paid leave when a child is born.’

Queen’s Speech outlines government’s legislative agenda

The Queen has delivered her annual speech at the state opening of Parliament, in which she outlined the government’s legislative agenda.

download (9)

This year’s speech differed to speeches given in previous years: it outlined the government’s legislative plans for the next two years, as opposed to one.

Earlier in the week, the government took the decision to cancel the 2018 Queen’s Speech in order to give MPs ‘extra time to deal with Brexit laws’.

Brexit proposals granted to the UK government include the power to make any future changes to UK laws, flexibility to accommodate trade agreements with the EU and other countries, control over the import and export of goods and the ability to end the free movement of EU citizens into the UK.

Other proposals outlined in the speech include a data protection bill designed to strengthen consumers’ rights, a national insurance contributions (NICs) bill aimed at ‘making the NIC system fairer’, and a financial guidance and claims bill, which establishes a new statutory body to co-ordinate the provision of debt, money and pension guidance.

Business groups have responded to the Queen’s Speech. Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: ‘While Brexit isn’t the top immediate priority for many businesses, firms of every size and shape want to avoid turbulence and confusion during the Brexit transition. The government’s proposed bills on trade, customs and immigration must minimise adjustment costs and maximise opportunities.’

Meanwhile, Mike Cherry, National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), commented: ‘It’s good to see commitment to special support to help British businesses export to new markets around the world, which we look forward to engaging with the government on.’