Business On a Budget: Your Top Five Tools

 

In tough economic times, it’s important for small businesses to get as much bang for their buck as possible. Online and electronic tools can often allow you to make the most out of limited resources.

Here are five essential tools for businesses on a budget:

1. Company website

It seems like an obvious one to start with. Very few small businesses these days operate without a company website but not every business makes the most of their site’s potential. Your website serves as a virtual shop window. For many customers it’s their first port of call when they want to find out more about you, your products and services.

Your website should be engaging but it should also be functional, allowing visitors to achieve the task they want to in a simple and streamlined fashion. If you have customers overseas, you might want to look into website localisation. Online search is also increasingly going mobile, and mobile optimised websites are increasingly being seen as a must-have.

2. Reputation monitoring

Whether you have a strong online presence or not, the chances are that your customers are having a conversation about you online. There are numerous companies offering online reputation monitoring services but a good free tool is Google Alerts. This allows you to enter a keyword (such as your company name) and receive email alerts whenever that keyword is mentioned in Google’s search results. You can easily monitor the online conversation and respond or take remedial measures as appropriate.

3. Communication tools

Emails might have overtaken the humble telephone as the most convenient way to communicate, but there are still times when talking to another human being is more appropriate or far more likely to yield better results. Video conferencing systems are now far more streamlined than the jerky picture of early efforts, and even budget personal laptops now usually come complete with inbuilt cams. Professional systems allow intercity and international meetings without the hassle and expense of travel. Skype is a well known brand offering both voice and multimedia communications and can be useful in business as well as private use.

4. Accounting software

Keeping meticulous accounts is essential in any business, both for tax purposes and in keeping a grip on your company finances. A comprehensive online account management tool is ideal, providing a simple way to record all the money that goes in and out of the business. In-house staff can keep records without accountancy training or expertise and, as data is being stored online your accountant can access the information he needs at a remove.

5. Payroll software

Similarly, online payroll software can help streamline another essential process. UK companies have undergone something of an upheaval this year, being obliged to comply with new Real Time Information (RTI) rules.

This means that information relating to all employees’ pay must be submitted to HMRC electronically as and when they’re paid, as opposed to annually as was previously the case. Good quality payroll software can streamline the process and help you comply with the new rules.

4 Ways to Improve Your Forex Investment Strategy

There’s no doubt that there is money to be made by trading in the foreign currency market. The trouble is that there is also money to be lost, so it’s important that new investors take their time learning how to trade so they don’t lose money. If you’ve heard success stories from forex traders and want to see what it’s all about, here are some ways you can learn more and practice your technique.

1. Sign up for a few brokers’ demo accounts. Many brokers have free demo accounts that you can sign up for and practice trades. As you trade, you’ll be able to see how much money you are making (or losing, as the case may be). This is a safe way to gain skill and confidence before you begin trading for real.

2. Follow the latest forex news. Some sites such as Alpari offer economic news that is mainly orientated toward FX traders. You’ll learn the latest trends and what to expect in the upcoming weeks as far as investments go. You can also learn vital strategies that can help you improve your market success.

3. Hang out in trader chat rooms. Many online brokers have a space where traders can chat with one another. This is another great place to spend your time. You can ask questions of those who have more experience, and they can share their strategies with you. You can also learn about others’ successes and failures.

4. Find a mentor. If you know someone who has experience with forex trading, why not take them out to lunch and ask some questions. That person may even be willing to mentor you until you learn more.

Forex trading can make people a lot of money, but it’s also riskier than other types of trading. Take your time learning about the market before you jump in and make your first real trade.

The Global Rise of Litigation Funding

The recent increased interest in litigation funding has been most keenly felt in the jurisdictions of England & Wales and Australia, as well as to a lesser extent, the United States. But what about elsewhere?

Well, in other areas of the world, the process of litigation funding is not so simple. Globally, the rise of litigation funding has, and continues to be, hampered by the continued prohibition of both maintenance and champerty:

  • ‘maintenance’: meaning the funding of litigation by a third party who is a stranger to the dispute
  • ‘champerty’: the funding of a litigation by a stranger third party in exchange for a percentage of the win.

Canada

Canada has seen more funding recently, since the ‘Manulife’ decision last year. The judge held that the funding agreement in that case did not violate rules on champerty and maintenance and was beneficial to access to justice.

South Africa

In 2004 the Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa held that the need for the rules of maintenance and champerty had diminished in light of the right of access to justice enshrined in the Constitution of South Africa and the coming into force of the Contingency Fees Act 66 of 1997 which made speculative litigation possible by permitting “no win, no fees” agreements between legal practitioners and their clients.

Germany

Like England, Germany has no common law doctrine of champerty or maintenance.  Here, the litigation funding market is thriving, with particular emphasis on cartel damages cases.

Jersey

In Jersey, the litigation funding market was given a boost when the courts approved the use of funding in the Valetta Trust case.

Hong Kong

Solicitor Winnie Lo was jailed for 15 months for conspiracy to ‘maintain’ in Hong Kong back in 2009. However, hope remains for the funding market, as her conviction was overturned on appeal, where the Court recommended that reform should be considered for this area of the law.

Litigation funding has now taken its place on the worldwide stage as an invaluable tool for litigators and their clients.  The likelihood is there will be a lot more global developments in this field over the coming months and years.

This article was contributed by Laura Moulden on behalf of Vannin Capital.  To find out more about Corporate Litigation for your business, visit their website.

The Spread Betting of the Man who Almost Brought Down UBS

Kweku Adoboli is before Southwark Crown Court, on trial for gambling away £1.4bn of the money of his employer, the Swiss bank, UBS. Consequently, the bank’s share price fell by £2.8bn, or 10 percent, at a time when it was attempting to recover from coming close to collapse in the course of the 2008 financial crisis. As a result of his actions, bank management was shaken up, strategy was changed, internal controls were tightened and some bonuses were reduced.

Adoboli, 32, plead not guilty to two counts of fraud and two of false accounting dating as far back as 2008 and faces a prison term of as much as 10 years. There was much detail of this rogue trader’s considerable spread betting habit.

The defendant opened an account at the spread betting company, IG Index, in March 2010. He lost £123,000 of his own money this way in the year before he was arrested. It would be interesting to know if such an unsuccessful trader began by using a trading demo account, but this is not known. He was given two warnings by UBS’s compliance department, as his account breached the rules of the bank because he had failed to disclose it and was dealing in shares without clearance. He received warnings one and two months after opening the account and was informed that a further offence would be referred to the Human Resources department. But otherwise, no action was taken. When UBS prohibited spread betting by traders in May, 2011, Adoboli opened a second account with City Index, with which he traded up to his arrest and won £18,700.

Adoboli was paid £360,000 a year, but he owed £4,181 to two banks and two credit card companies. Adoboli lost so much of his money that he was forced to turn to payday lenders. Adoboli’s accounts showed a number of payments to Wonga.com, Moneybox.com, Payday UK, Wageday Advance, Pounds to Pocket, Everyday Lending, Credit Expert and Lending Stream.

The trial has been told that Adoboli, a graduate of Nottingham University and one-time head boy at his public school, “fraudulently gambled” to boost his status and make him one of the elite of City traders who earns vast sums. He stands accused of using umbrella funds to disguise unauthorised trades. Umbrella funds are illicit accounts employed to conceal fraudulent trades. At one point, he had caused a loss of £7.4bn, which would have been enough to cause the collapse of the bank

Electronic chats apparently show that a colleague on the Exchange Traded Funds (ETF) desk, John Hughes, was aware of the umbrella. One read, “Thank f*** for your umbrella,” another said, “We might need to unlock some umbrella” and a third went, “How much umbrella?”

The defense of Adobli is that a line manager, John Di Bacco, was aware that Adoboli had exceeded the trading limit of his desk, but the event resulted in a large profit, and he was merely told to seek clearance in future. His counsel described this as “a gentle rap over the knuckles.”

It is unclear why Adoboli made the plea he did. He devised and managed the fraud, so knowledge of his activities by managers is no defense. Worst still, an email to his manager in September of last year shows him saying that the ETF trades in the ledger did not have a counterparty, and that he had been attempting to make enough money to cover his losses before the September expiry date.

Long-Term Investment Strategies

There is a portion of the American population that is familiar with the inner workings of the stock market, but for most people, it still remains a bit of a mystery. With all of the ups and downs that consumers have seen ever since the crash of 2008, people remain very leery of getting involved on any level with the market. According to an article released in USA Today, nearly six out of ten Americans either don’t invest in the market or think it’s a bad idea. The unfortunate reality is that personal investments will become a large portion of future income. Not every area of market investment has seen such dramatic shifts and here’s a list of some of the best long-term investment strategies that people should look into:

Coming Up With The Capital

Most people live from check-to-check. This is one of the unfortunate realities of the current market. Coming up with the start-up capital to begin investing is obviously the first step. Some people have used a home or auto refinance strategy to come up with the money. Another option is to open up a separate account that is automatically withdrawn from you paycheck, possible a foreign currency account. You should first look at your monthly budget to figure out how much you can afford. This might require some changes to your spending habits but the sooner you start saving, the better.

Considering the Long-term

You need to take the long view on what you’re going to need in the future. For years now, 401k’s and IRA’s have been the most popular investment vehicles for those looking to save for retirement. 401k’s are traditionally offered by employers to their workers as a way to put aside money. This money is matched by employers, usually up to six percent. Some people prefer IRA’s due to the diversity of options. These are two of the most stable long-term strategies that have a very low level of risk and should be a part of any savings approach.

Diversification

People who jump into the stock market are often unaware of the risk of investing in too few options. If you’re putting any amount of your savings towards the market, you need to diversity your holdings. Mutual Funds are the best way to spread out the risk through many stocks.Another interesting strategy would be to try Forex Capital Markets trading with FXCM as it could protect you from some of the market volatility if things go back. Ideally, you shouldn’t put any more than ten percent of your holdings in any single stock option. Spread everything out across options like property, commodity, and mutual funds so you are giving yourself extra protection against the collapse of any single investment sector.

There are many other savings options for consumers and if you’re not that familiar with all of the options, it would be best to speak with an investment professional first. You can also look online for other tips towards similar goals. You can always invest in the short-term in various stocks currently trading on the market, but it’s essential that you don’t confuse the two. You don’t want to risk money that you can’t afford to loose on a stock that has too much risk attached to it.