News in brief: payments, women, HR, think tanks

News in brief
News in brief

Banks charging SMEs nearly £4bn in hidden transfer fees

A new study has found that UK banks charge SMEs nearly £4bn in hidden transfer fees each year to make international payments. Around 96% of these fees are hidden from the customer using the exchange rate offered. This is the first time that a study into the actual rates charged by banks has been conducted.

International trade is worth over £700bn to UK SMEs according to McKinsey & Co and recent figures from Oxford Economics show that the number of SMEs doing business in more than six countries will increase 129% in the next three years. 50% of all UK SME international trade is with Europe.

The study, UK SMEs International Payments Analysis, was conducted by payments consultancy Accourt and commissioned by Money Mover, the online currency exchange and international payments service. It highlights the lack of transparency by banks around the fees they charge SMEs and how these fees are calculated.

Women in Franchising event sees record numbers

The British Franchise Association (BFA) has declared its Women in Franchising event an overriding success, with record numbers attending and superb post-event feedback. The event, which took place on 17 November at Stratford Manor in Warwickshire, was organised to urge more women to consider the benefits of franchising.

The BFA/NatWest Franchise Survey 2013 revealed that women were the sole or main operators of 30% of franchise outlets in the UK. At this time, that is nearly double the proportion of all SMEs in the UK (15.5% according to government figures).

“Our Women in Franchising event couldn’t really have gone any better, we had a record attendance, 40 per cent up on last year, and an awareness-raising campaign reached an audience of more than two million people. All the feedback we have received has been very positive,” commented head of operations at the BFA Pip Wilkins.

Birmingham earns reputation as an entrepreneurial hotspot

Birmingham has delivered the biggest growth in start-ups of all UK core cities, attracting a 95% increase in new companies during the last financial year, according to analysis of Bureau van Dijk's FAME database for the Greater Birmingham Growth Hub. The city is also still home to more new companies than any other regional destination.

Nearly 13,000 companies were set up in the city during 2014/15, compared with 6,640 the previous year - a 95% rise. This growth outstrips all other UK cities; Bristol was the second most successful city, with an increase of 83%, followed by Manchester with 77%. London was fifth, with a 70% increase.

The findings reflect Birmingham's reputation as an entrepreneurial hotspot. The city has the most incubator programmes in the UK outside London, and has doubled its number of accelerator programmes in two years, as highlighted by research from Telefonica.

SMEs not reporting absences efficiently

A survey of 250 UK SME managers, conducted by digital group risk insurer Ellipse, found that 32% acknowledged that their company lacks a sufficient system for managing employee absence, with almost a quarter (24%) admitting that they don't know how absence is recorded.

Another survey of 500 employees from UK SMEs found that nearly 40 per cent felt their employer doesn't manage absence well, with 24% saying their employer doesn't know of every sick day they have taken.

John Ritchie, CEO of Ellipse, said: "It is surprising to see such a large number of employers without processes for recording absence. Knowing where your people are and how they are is not only important to minimise long-term sick pay insurance costs, but reduces the legal risk that comes from not keeping records.

"Managing absence is one of the basic building blocks for any successful business, whether a small, micro business or large multinational."

New think tank launched for research on self-employment

A new think tank devoted to research on self-employment and freelancing has been launched - the Centre for Research on Self-Employment (CRSE) will collaborate with a network of academics from around the world and deliver robust and multidisciplinary research into this now significant sector.

In the UK alone, 4.5 million people work for themselves, equivalent to 14% of the working population. The CRSE’s work will provide the basis for international comparisons and, ultimately, create a more informed and innovative library of knowledge on this topic. Another key function of the CRSE is to inform debate over regulatory issues which affect the self-employed.

CRSE chairman and Dean of Trinity Business School, Dublin, Professor Andrew Burke, said: “The self-employed and freelancers are transforming business practices and career choice. Businesses are making greater use of freelancers to manage risk and drive growth through the adoption of more agile, flexible and innovative activities. We have come a long way from the situation in the last Century when freelancing was regarded as the domain of vulnerable workers. This new think tank brings together the world’s leading researchers in the field and engages them with industry in order to create a deeper knowledge of modern freelancing to better inform managers, entrepreneurs, public policy and those undertaking a freelance career.”