SME news in brief: stress, education, cyber, asset finance

News in brief
News in brief

High stress makes employees less productive

High stress and lack of physical activity are causing industries to lose up to 27 days of productive time per employee each year.

Research from Britain’s Healthiest Workplace (BHW) revealed that, while poor diet, alcohol and cigarettes have a severe effect on long-term health, it is stress and physical activity which have biggest impact on day to day productivity.

The study, which was conducted by VitalityHealth, Mercer, the University of Cambridge and RAND Europe, found that productivity varies enormously between industries, with some industries losing almost 27 days of productive time per employee per year, compared to a national average of 23.5 days. Healthcare and financial services lose 26.6 and 24.9 days per employee a year respectively, while high-tech loses just 18.9 days per employee per year.

Entrepreneurs often have less top-level education than their staff

The world’s wealthiest self-made entrepreneurs often have less top-level education than the people running their companies. This shows that, despite the doors that top-level education can open to aspiring entrepreneurs, there is no substitute for high-quality business skills when forging a path into leadership. This is according to global non-profit organisation the Association of Business Executives (ABE).

The study, carried out by UK-based internet marketing agency Verve Search, showed that around a quarter of the world’s wealthiest entrepreneurs dropped out of university or high school. In addition, while around half of the entrepreneurs covered completed a bachelor’s degree, only 20% gained a masters and around 5% a doctorate.

Consumer spending on the rise despite wet weather

Despite wet weather, consumer growth has maintained growth at the end of Q1.

This is according to Visa’s Consumer Spending Index for March, compiled by Markit. The Index reflects overall consumer spending, not just that on cards.

Key findings:

  • Consumer spending rises by +2.3% year-on-year
  • Strong increases in expenditure seen in Recreation & Culture (+5.6%) and Hotels, Restaurants & Bars (+5.3%), but spending at Clothing & Footwear retailers declines (-1.8%)
  • Growth led by higher e-commerce spending (+4.2%), as face-to-face expenditure falls slightly (-0.9%).

Visa Europe UK & Ireland MD Kevin Jenkins said: “March saw a solid increase in consumer spending, with the leisure and hospitality sectors big winners, perhaps influenced by Mother’s Day and the Easter holiday falling in the same month. Britons made the most of their free time to enjoy family fun, days out and trips away.”

SMEs warned to look out for social engineering

With UK firms losing £18 billion in revenue from cyberattacks in 2015 alone, IT experts are warning companies that social engineering presents a bigger threat to businesses than hacking, spamming or DDOS attacks.

Social engineering, a series of con techniques designed to extract key information from unwitting individuals, is becoming increasingly sophisticated, and consequently more damaging, than other forms of online fraud.

According to PAV I.t. Services MD Jason Fry, “Fraudsters are simply on the lookout for information. It’s not about obtaining banking or credit card details, but gathering the right information to dupe their targets in a more intricate way.

“The most vulnerable area for companies is inadequate email protection when collating customer information. If scammers are able to gather this information they can then use it for monetary gain.”

More businesses turn to asset finance

Asset finance new business (primarily leasing and hire purchase) grew by 9% in February, compared with the same month last year.

New figures released by the Finance & Leasing Association (FLA) also show that commercial vehicle finance increased in February by 17% compared with the same month in 2015. Business equipment finance and plant and machinery finance each grew by 12% over the same period.

FLA head of research and chief economist Geraldine Killkelly said: “The asset finance market saw stronger new business growth in February following a relatively quiet start to 2016. The improvement was broad-based with most of the main asset sectors reporting higher levels of new business. These figures suggest that business confidence remains relatively robust despite uncertainty about the global economic outlook and the EU membership referendum.”