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UK News Round-up: The Latest Stories 23/06

Each week The Fintech Times takes a lot at some of the top stories in UK fintech. This week, cash is still prominent in the UK, 38% of Brits worried about their financial security and UK is the hardest-hit country in Europe for online scams

Cash is still prominent in UK society.

With The Bank of England is due to release a new polymer £50 on Wednesday 23rd June, Cardtronics, the largest ATM provider in the UK who operate around 30% of British cash machines, conducted a survey into people attitudes about cash and found that nearly half (43%) of respondents aged 18-24 said that they often want to pay in cash, but some shops won’t accept it and so they are forced to use alternatives. A further two-fifths of those who reported being unable to pay with cash said that they did not have access to another payment method.

Marc Terry, International Managing Director for Cardtronics said: “The launch of the new £50 is a clear sign that cash is alive and well and demonstrates the Bank of England’s clear commitment to the UK’s essential cash economy for many years to come. The predictions of a cashless future are not only misleading, they are dangerously incorrect and risk alienating huge swathes of society. Over 8 million people are believed to rely on cash for their day-to-day lives so safeguarding the future of cash is clearly extremely important. Even during the lockdown when cash usage was at its lowest, the ATM network still dispensed a billion pounds in cash every week and now that restrictions are being lifted, cash usage is returning.”

Equity investment in smaller UK businesses reached a record £8.8billion last year

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Equity investment in the UK’s smaller businesses increased by 9% in 2020 to £8.8billion, the highest amount since the Beauhurst data series began in 2011, reveals the British Business Bank’s annual Small Business Equity Tracker. The strong momentum continued into Q1 2021, with the total value of equity investment in smaller businesses reaching £4.5billion, by far the highest amount ever recorded in a single quarter.

Catherine Lewis La Torre, CEO, British Business Bank, said: “The UK’s small business equity finance market had a record year in 2020 with activity ramping up in the second half. This momentum continued into the first quarter of 2021 with record-breaking levels of investment – a clear sign of returning investor confidence in UK smaller businesses and the country’s economic recovery.

“The Bank supported 21% of all announced UK equity deals in 2020, and as the impact of Covid-19 continues to affect businesses across the country, the work we do and our focus on investing with purpose has never been more important. Building on the UK’s position as a science superpower, we will continue to provide the world-class businesses of the future with the capital they need to start-up, scale-up and remain anchored in the UK.”

189 per cent increase in pension contributions from self-employed users over last 12 months

New research from digital pensions provider, Penfold has shown that the self-employed have increased their pension contributions threefold in the last 12 months. There are around 4.8 million self-employed people in the UK accounting for 15 per cent of the UK workforce. Yet just 31 per cent of the self-employed are saving into a pension.

Pete Hykin, co-founder, Penfold said: “The self-employed workforce is growing rapidly in the UK, especially post-Covid. We know that this market is massively underserved when it comes to pensions, with only a third saving for their future. This can be one of the challenges when making the leap into self-employment, it is your responsibility to set up and manage a pension – which can be daunting.

“What can also make it more tricky as a freelancer, is your income is variable each month. However, our new research shows that the self-employed are now focusing on saving for their future by increasing pension contributions by 189 per cent over the last 12 months.”

38% of Brits worried about their financial security 

Toluna’s ‘Understanding the 2021 Consumer: Global Barometer’ is a regular index that taps into a community panel of 30+ million members providing accurate and timely information on the world’s perceptions regarding the Coronavirus. The latest research surveyed 1,083 people in the UK and found 38% of people worried about financial security. 35% of those surveyed said they’re less well off now than they were before Covid-19 hit.

The pandemic has made people much more aware of their financial situation and risk. As a result, they have become more responsible about money and plan to become more financially secure, with 23% pledging to pay off our debts, 34% have vowed to get better at budgeting and 41% of people will now save more money to prepare for rainy day / unexpected events

Lucia Juliano, Head of FMCG Research at Harris Interactive, said: “ With repeated lockdowns, furlough and job losses, financial security continues to dominate our thoughts as we place increasing importance on being more financially aware and responsible and managing our money better, with more savings, that will help us through unexpected events that lie outside of our control like COVID.”

UK is the hardest-hit country in Europe for online scams

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New research by Uswitch.com, the comparison and switching service, has revealed impersonation scams as collectively having had the highest financial impact from fraud in the UK. £96.6 million was lost to impersonation fraud of police or bank staff in 2020, alongside £53.7 million lost to other types of impersonation scams, such as the recent Royal Mail impersonation phishing scam.

Looking at fraud across the whole of Europe, the findings reveal the UK as the country most impacted financially by fraud, with more than one in nine (12%) Brits affected and a value of £8,908 lost per 1,000 inhabitants.

Nick Baker, broadband expert at Uswitch.com comments: “Fraudsters are becoming ever more sophisticated in their methods, creating scams for all types of products and services, such as loans, dating, holidays, and business opportunities.

“Sadly, people of all ages can fall victim to fraud. Not only do online scams target vulnerable individuals, but they also go after major corporations, smaller businesses, and the public sector.

“There are, however, several ways to avoid falling for internet scams. With better knowledge and an awareness of the different types of online fraud, you can spot these scams before it’s too late.

UK businesses confident of growth but need employees with new skills

The gradual lifting of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions and opening of key sectors has left 86% of UK businesses feeling confident about growth prospects for H2 of 2021, according to the latest quarterly Demand for Skilled Talent report by recruitment specialist Robert Half.

Overall business confidence levels have increased by 10% compared to January 2021, with 28% of employers now saying they feel ‘very confident’ and over half (58%) are ‘somewhat confident’ of growth this year in the report which analyses trends in demand for specific talent.

The biggest factor standing in the way of growth is employers struggling to find employees with the right mix of skills, with the majority focused on reskilling and upskilling employees to meet evolving business needs and opportunities brought on by the pandemic. The most in-demand employee skills for H2 2021 are hybrid skills (a combination of soft and technical), digital and data capabilities, change management and communication. Worker data has been taken from online surveys conducted by Robert Half between April-May 2021.

Matt Sigelman, CEO of Burning Glass Technologies, adds: “The pace of skill change globally continues to accelerate. Tech, digital and data handling skills continue to be in ever-increasing demand across all sectors. The development and use of hardware, software, e-commerce apps and cloud-based collaboration platforms, as examples, are no longer solely the preserve of dedicated IT departments as virtually all areas of business are becoming highly dependent on the use of technology in their day-to-day operations. From a business perspective, all managers need to foster a culture of constant learning for workers to remain agile, adaptable and sufficiently skilled in order to keep up with the rapid pace of innovation.”

Cyber fears as Parliamentary staffers lose almost 100 devices in two years

Parliamentary staffers have lost a total of 96 laptops, tablet computers and other gadgets in the last two calendar years, according to official figures.

The data, which was obtained by Parliament Street think tank under Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation, examined device losses by Parliamentary staffers over the calendar years of 2020 and 2019.

In total 41 laptops reported missing and 36 tablets. The remaining missing items included 11 phones and 6 skype headsets. The data showed that there were 11 incidents of devices being reported as lost on trains, 3 left on a bus and 6 lost in a car over the two-year period. In addition, 16 devices went missing on estate and 13 reported missing off estate. 1 tablet was stolen in a hotel and 1 laptop was stolen on the London Underground across the two years.

Edward Blake, Area Vice President EMEA, Absolute Software comments: “Devices used to carry out parliamentary duties will contain a goldmine of confidential data that could be lethal if it fell into the hands of cybercriminals. It’s critical that parliamentary authorities have the necessary systems in place to track missing devices, enabling them to freeze and wipe lost or stolen laptops, protecting public data from fraudsters.”

“If a lost laptop ends up in the wrong hands, the organisation in question could be facing a far more costly predicament than first anticipated. Sophisticated cybercriminals can steal the data contained on these devices, access more businesses files, or intercept emails between colleagues, all with relative ease once a device has been compromised.”

“Therefore, it is more critical than ever to have a permanent digital connection to every endpoint, as well as the ability to lock, freeze or wipe the device if it is at risk of being compromised.”

Author

  • Polly is a journalist, content creator and general opinion holder from North Wales. She has written for a number of publications, usually hovering around the topics of fintech, tech, lifestyle and body positivity.

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