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Author Archive: Step-Up Finance (Business)

Step-Up Finance Slang: Short-Termist :
Someone who chooses the path of least resistance instead of unscrambling the jigsaw for a clearer picture.


The Long and Short of it.

Shopping around IS time consuming and when you want to access accurate advice or information before you buy, but don’t know who stocks what or aren’t sure where the shops are, there’s not a great value to shopping around.


When seeking a mortgage, loan or financial solution – distinguish between absolute value and perceived value.tn_HappyGrumpy

Perspective is formulated by using a ready-mix that includes contextual factors and subjective judgement. In other words, compared to our view of the landscape, the business owner’s view (affected by unconscious factors) is often slanted.

The price tag is the primer of perceived ‘better things’ and it effects judgement: something in a better location or environment, and having better packaging is usually expensive or carries the biggest price tag, but experience also effects judgement. I can state with certainty that ironically the most expensive finance, mortgage or loan (or that which is packaged for marketing) isn’t necessarily the best value (with the same applying to the least expensive).

It’s unfathomable to us why (especially with a culture of progressive IT) an Independent business owner is usually bounded by the rational of The Bank being their first port of call. A local branch manages to supersede any of the rational aspects of the parent (The Bank) whose systems, structures or attitude is the priority to limitation.  This leaves in the shadows, for Business Finance considerations and property purchases (Commercial, BTL or Personal), the alternative lenders and solutions.

We all like to think we’re rational when it counts but when the heat is on, pressure is building up or time is running out, applying those decision making processes often appear too lengthy, too time consuming, and (sometimes) agonising in the way it can sap and distract from what we’d rather be doing. The`To Do’ list is getting longer, there’s subjective pressure coming from a business/family /friend relationship (talk to ____ , she’s an accountant for M&S ) or second guessing from checks on comparison sites (that display offerings of naive reassurance) all contribute to the shoring up distraction from the task in hand…. and misleading information.



The blinkers stay on and prevent the appreciation of investigating, examining, probing and questioning.

That which directs our decisions, when it’s associated with something that can’t be quantified, is too often misinterpreted as an understatement: Value.



FINANCE TIP 2  Direct Absolute Value instead of Perceived Value.

Immediate perceived value is achieved through headline grabbing rates and an incorrect assumption that an employee (bank manager or packager) is working for you, not their employer (the lender).

Effective value is in choice; achieved by direct control to remove artificial constraints.

And is achievable without the angst and time consumption of shopping around blindly, working out the likely courses of action, evaluating, finding explanations or filling out reports and forms.

Images and Articles credit: Copyright SUF © 2014


For a bank which had the resources to be ethical and promoted itself as ‘ethical’  – it’s fallen short.  Acquiring a load of toxic debt along with Britannia Building Society and thus far avoiding being wound up, it’s been a painful year for the mutually owned Co-Op Group.

And it’s CEO has now been cited as stating it’s “Ungovernable”  (possibly whilst he slid his resignation across the boardroom table).

Can ethics be re-invented or is there little to Smile about?

Image and Article credit: Copyright SUF © 2014

When things went wrong….

Coming about in relation to an outsourced service not meeting standards, the matter escalated when Customer Services proved ever more disjointed. I’d contemplated the situation with an initial conclusion, the situation was as clear as mud.

It wasn’t until (eventually) meeting an appropriate manager who could efficiently illustrate that combining knowledge with authority (in this case the right person for the job) wasting resources could be avoided: the ‘gatekeeper’ element can avoid being a `business beware’ element.

With a value proposition which, for me, isn’t easily understood (nor tripped lightly off the tongue), John Lewis’s proposition of being ‘never knowingly undersold’  had a lot of ground for discussion – they offer to match or beat price (high street outlets only) with, if I’m correct, the interesting bit for me, comparable service offerings (although I’m still not clear about how a service offering is measured).

Until I’d had this recent ‘debate’, revising management systems for queues (of any type) might have fleetingly got my attention but I’d never had any inclination to ever ponder management systems, subjecting management effectiveness, subjecting gatekeepers’ authority, subjecting a business value proposition to vulnerability…. I’d met it before (in big Corps) but hadn’t realised how this ‘system’ could, transferred to smaller businesses,  have a bigger impact.

Placed at points of convergence, a business gatekeeper is as easily able to undermine a business, or lose an opportunity to capitalise, as it is (when well managed) to be a value proposition and add value to a business.

Driven through a business environment, and checked by maintained commitment, commercial success  is the objective:  for the majority in business. Therefore, it stands to reason that any business support mechanisms ‘placed’ on the frontline need to be effective. The bigger the business the lesser the impact – hence, my vague contemplations on ‘gatekeeper’ not being a buzzword but, from sole trader through to large corporate, a business tool with challenges.

My current thinking remains that business:  small, medium or large, with vertical or lateral management and sole trader (including  co-ownership (John Lewis) cultures), ‘gatekeepers’   can leave businesses susceptible when ‘behaviours’ aren’t managed.  And, as we’re ALL gatekeepers to our customers, whatever forms the gatekeeper takes; performance is relevant if the business is to benefit.

Typically this returns to managing business to avoid having one that could have let, like a Trojan Horse,  a lot of unnoticed additional problems in.


Image credits: Joshin Yamada      Jackie Curry  Article credit: Copyright SUF 2014 ©

The latest Bank of England Inflation Report  has altered Bank of England Governor Mark Carney’s Interest Rate Policy since the first Report (August 2013).

Now, reflecting the falling unemployment and economic recovery, policy will be determined by a wider range of indicators other than the previous indicator of unemployment falling to 7% or below. The report says the ‘Bank Rate may need to remain at low levels for some time to come’ and considers ‘economic slack’ being ‘substantially reduced’, in taking a gradual approach to rate increases.  ‘When Bank Rate does begin to rise, the appropriate path so as to eliminate slack over the next two to three years and keep inflation close to the target is expected to be gradual’.  Sterling rose to an almost 3 year high  following the central banks forward guidance.

Although, with the ONS (Office of National Statistics) using some B of E Data, it will be interesting to see how they interpret the effects of the recent floods in their measurements: moving from Cornwall into the Thames Valley, M4 and M3 corridor. Mark Carney has said  although the floods would influence the short-term outlook, there was unlikely to be any effect on overall growth – currently forecast at 3.4 per cent this year.

Will the UK still be seen as being in a bad but improving place?

Image and Article credit: SUF Copyright 2014 ©

The Gatekeepers of Your Business (Part One)

Any sized business can make a big promise happen by delivering the value proposition, specific to that business, when its committed to and supported by the right gatekeepers – from an answerphone holding the fort, to a line of line managers sitting in waiting.

With stiff competition for products (and services) big promises consequently bring big asks from customers. More than ever before, consumers have control over what they’re willing to spend. Additionally, loss aversion has them buying accordingly which means that providing a value proposition needs to be about more than price.Lego

Giant corporations are big on value proposition rhetoric: L’Oreal changed ‘Because I’m worth it’  to  ‘you’re worth it’, and currently its ‘we’re worth it’;  their team of marketers (probably sat at Lego-laden tables dotted with bowls of jelly beans) worked until inspiration struck, they recognised the brand’s value was as important to the customer as valuing their customers. Providing they’ve followed through with appropriate gatekeepers – they’ve cracked it.

On more familiar territory:  Lloyds Banking Group’s ‘You First’ changed to ‘For the Journey’. Presumably etiquette illustrated the customer being placed first, although with no clear objectives, identifying ‘first’, ‘for’ and ‘the journey’ made it hazy so, serving the people and businesses of Britain they’ve re-branded and re-focused their value proposition to ‘For the Moments that Matter’ – (a big claim considering their recent IT system failure).

As I understand it, ‘marketers’ general advice about value propositions is to stay away from money propositions (biggest savings, cut prices etc.), however, although RBS make no mention of money with their customer value proposition:  ‘Here for You’, imagining it next to the Restructuring and Recovery Division doors this is a value proposition with sufficient menacing tone it doesn’t need a gatekeeper, just re-name the department: Mission Impossible?  And with Barclays’ ‘Fluent in Finance – It’s our Business to Know Your Business’ – Scary… in a KGB way?  Santander: ‘Bank for Your Ideas’ – hazy or just vague?  Maybe re-thinking the money thing and firming up some ideas isn’t such a bad idea?

A value proposition is usually only put to the test when something goes wrong and when it goes wrong, if the gatekeepers’ aren’t managed…. who’s really bothered?

Re-arranging doesn’t change the formula – eleven plus two: when you rearrange the numbers is twelve plus one.

Next time: Part Two – The Gamekeepers of Your Business : When things went wrong…..

Image credit: Joshin Yamada, Phil Whitehouse  Article credit: Copyright SUF 2014 ©

New Rules
Home Mortgages
April sees the MMR  (Mortgage Market Review) come into force including waves of change around affordability rules. Those lenders who haven’t already implemented increased affordability checks will do so, as part of applicant stress testing and scrutiny.
Commercial Transactions
Claims made for tax relief on plant and fixtures within property using capital gains, will alter after 1 April 2014 where allowances have been included in a Fixed Value Requirement or Disposal Value Statement.
Finance Bill 2014
From draft legislation there will be changes to the taxation of partnerships and pension tax relief additionally, (not yet published) capital gains tax on the disposal of certain properties by non-residents.
Building Standards
NHBC Standards are changing rules relating to ventilation and heat recovery, fireplaces and chimneys, with design life of timber retaining walls being part of clarifying technical requirements.
LFB (London Fire Brigade) is to charge businesses £290 for call-outs if they attend more than 10 false alarms in a 12 month period in response to a vast amount of wasted time spent attending triggered automatic fire alarm systems.
(No connection to business or finance whatsoever) Simply Interesting for some
F1  will see V6 Turbo engines instead of the 2.4 litre V8s – engine recovery is going to the rear wheels where there will be harder compound tyres of lower nosed, heavier, single exhaust cars .

Image and Article credit: Copyright SUF 2014 ©

The Bank with a tagline: The Moments That Matter  experienced a technology ‘glitch’ (a description adopted for anything that has a wire attached, but doesn’t work) when a part of Lloyds Banking Group’s technology managed to disable some of their hundreds of thousands of customers from using debit cards and cash points over the weekend.

Apparently, two out of seven servers went down for TSB, Lloyds and Halifax customers who had cards declined in shops, and cash declined by the hole-in-the-wall.  The impact from underpinning technology problems goes beyond the Bank’s customers being let down (I’ve been there and it IS very disconcerting).

The effects ripple out into business,  with losses of sales and necessity of negotiating payment of ‘consumed’ products (i.e. petrol/meal out, etc) … out into the realms of confidence in the Bank … out, for some, even into the realms of  (for moments that matter) Customer Relationship Management .

Image and Article credit: Copyright SUF 2014 ©

With inflation falling to the Bank of England’s 2% target for the first time in four years and numbers from Bank of England Credit Conditions Survey (2013 Q4)  continuing an upward trend, the notion of  ‘positive’ outlook has (for some) been reinforced.

Could it be that Default Rates on lending to small businesses  being reported as ‘fallen significantly in Q4’,  with  medium-sized companies unchanged and large PNFC’s falling over the quarter,  was due to re-structuring of existing facilities being part of the reclassification for 2012?  Alongside a statement which shows spreads on corporate lending falling in Q4, with  ‘significant reductions’ for medium-sized companies and large PNFCs, and a slight reduction for small businesses’ it’s worthy to  question an attribution to re-structures into the figures behind the numbers.

Depending on the questions asked and the answers given some results are ‘not directly comparable’ therefore perhaps some statements are too narrow?  Maybe an insightful survey is one that focuses on the survey participants’ business attitude, their plans and strategy in achieving that objective. Would that offer a stronger perspective and wider field of vision into the UK economy or would it  tell us what’s happening in business rather than what’s happened?

Image credit: Pilot Theatre  Article credit: Copyright SUF 2014 ©

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