Blog Archive


Sometimes going unnoticed, local traders’ offerings are available all year round.

Building on research by American Express, who founded the initiative in the U.S. a few years ago, which illustrated there were benefits to a community and its sense of well-being when support of local businesses had been embraced.  There’s a simple message; Use It Or Lose It.

In the run up to Christmas this year, 6th December is the day for us all to show our support of the Indie by teaming up with them, doing some local shopping and then keeping up the mindset.

Image and Article credit: Copyright SUF © 2014

Carving a Story: Fact is Stranger than Fiction 

Bring It Down Warning: I once had the misfortune of speaking to a man about life insurance a week before he died, his death hadn’t been anticipated; he was the victim of an accident.  The family holiday was much more inviting and distracting than talking with me, besides, he knew enough to know that he knew enough, the gaps were filled, there was (it seemed) plenty of road ahead to deal with the gaps he’d missed, at a similar stage in life I empathised his thinking.

A cheerless example of not all things being known and, when something unknown becomes known, what we do with the information becomes part of our story.

I’m reminded of this incident because I was recently distressed to hear of the death of a friend, a man who talked with passion about trees, for he was a tree sculptor. The world being an ever a smaller place, I’m certain if I’d commissioned him at a time of the internet most of my questions could have been answered via the all knowing Google, but, it’s the knowledge he imparted that I didn’t know I needed to know that stays with me (as well as the trees he brought to my garden), amongst all the ways to receive information his has stayed with me (and the reason coppicing contributes to my story).

Amongst the wealth of motives for business ownership and entrepreneurial spirit there are all manner of stories, from short through long narrative via pantomime script, stories unfold of treasures and curses, sometimes switching between the two, and each reaches beyond the commonality of theme to a common association.

The glorious stories are stored in personal living libraries.Sheep


Methinks though, too often the delights of these stories are ignored and left unread for the instead preference which fixates on immersion in template information  (part of the ‘going forward’ corporate jargon movement) and some of the useful stuff  (another personal technical term) can be overlooked.

It’s the overlooked stuff that draws me to a proposal because, in my opinion, there’s nowhere else to be able to understand a business better than from its head and through its eyes. Leaving the story out is the equivalent of going into a black hole without a torch. The legacy to leaving out the unknown is that something’s existence might never be known, or its existence is learnt of too late.

What’s the most important factor businesses rely on?  Indeed, it is the financial structure, for without safe structures  ‘design’ is robbed of opportunity.  And it stands to reason that putting together a structure with products you want is way easier than putting together a structure with products you haven’t stumbled upon, those being the products you didn’t know you wanted. Finding financial products you think you want is easier when they’re crammed in (go to any mortgage or loan site, the obvious will be stated), it’s the equivalent of taking up darts as a sport because arrows were the first thing to hand when you swung by the sports shop to do some research.


No ‘spacing’ or recommendation and information is withheld, with the resulting unknown remaining so.

A business is a personal creation, in the hands, under the management and exposed to the experience and ambitions of whoever is running the show. I find that one of the best ways to learn about a business is to listen to its story.

People shape their own stories, the carving of the stories become part of our own stories.

Images and Article credit: Copyright SUF © 2014

The Bank of England stress test results on the British banking system are being issued December 16, alongside its half-yearly financial stability report. The tests focus on the housing market and the Bank’s ‘adverse scenario’ which has a correction factored in.

Tenancy checks for private landlords in the West Midlands are liable for a ‘Civil Penalty’ of up to £3,000 if a residential tenancy is given to a person ‘without the right to rent’, from 1 December.  Landlords may still be liable if premises are sub-let, despite the tenancy agreement being applicable to a person with the right-to-rent, however,  responsibility for the checks can be given to an agent to remove the liability from the landlord to the agent, but a written agreement (between the landlord and the agent) stating the agent has the obligation to make the applicable checks, must be in place.  If successful as a scheme it will be rolled out nationally during 2015.

Started in the US with the support of American Express, the second of what is an annual event now for the UK, is happening on 6 December. Intended to encourage and highlight the support of shopping locally, keeping trade local and the importance of small businesses, Small Business Saturday has marketing materials available to make the most of the event.

The beginning of December (1st) sees Leeds Building Society changing its lending criteria  for borrowers subject to Section 106 (S106) Agreements. This is being applied across its whole range of mortgages including Shared Ownership.

The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill having being approved by Commons, has its second reading during December. Contained within the Bill is the appointment of 50 Small Business Champions, to handle appeals against decisions by the regulators; including publicans pay disputes, or tied tenants’ right to request a rent review (if they haven’t had one for five years), additionally it contains an amendment to allow pub landlords the right to buy beer on the open market. Will pub companies and brewers work together with their landlords?

Currently seeking a new Chairman and recently fined £56m from the FCA and the Bank of England, RBS continues to make the headlines. Likely facing more fines in the New Year connected to Forex, the most recent fine was connected to its 2012 IT ‘glitch’ which saw millions of its customers unable to make payments for up to three weeks.  Apparently, since the incident, some £500m has been spent on the system, although whether that means the system has been fixed, ‘patched’ or replaced, isn’t clear (the system being IT and not a reference to service and products). IT and software can be labour intensive, yet RBS have laid-off staff so there seems to be quite a lot that’s not clear in that quarter.

The European Commission has approved Britain’s new Business Bank, saying that it would address small firms’ access to finance without distorting completion. Its aim is to put all current Government schemes under one umbrella and use a funding boost to stimulate lending.

Autumn Statement (December 3rd), has whisperings of an announcement regarding financial support to cover the cost of SME business rates, as a way of encouraging business back onto the High Street, but, as a final statement before an election the press is mainly guesswork… with a lot of Scrooge or Santa headlines thrown in.

Image and Article credit: Copyright SUF © 2014

The final rounds of numbers for the year are out from the Bank of England’s Quarterly Inflation Report. To recap a recap, unemployment has seemingly been the guiding light of the indicators and, although falling, the rate of unemployment remains at 6%. So to wages, with the average weekly earnings growth showing slight (a word that carries much debate – you say tomato, I say tomAto) increase, the indicator beam might be turning towards a new focus.

To recap a recap, growth was predicted as 3.1% and has been now cut to 2.9% and rate rises, anticipated by some as happening now, being pushed by the same ‘some’ to next August or beyond…. Internal rumours abound that it could be early 2016.

To recap a recap, figures, blended with opaque measurements, leave another year of the economy in stagnation…. but compared to other countries the UK appears quite buoyant.

Images and Article credit: Copyright SUF © 2014



How Squeezing In Your Business Works

Market trends continue to be inconsistent with the consequential effects showing a lack of consistency. No, really!?  Who’d have guessed?
And then what happens with such elementary information during our times?  Yet more talk of the better business bastion: planning? Pleeeeze….Change the story!

Shifts happened. Measuring returns on investments can be a nightmare, marketing can look like a sink hole and the 80/20 rule… what’s happened to that? Profits continue to be challenged because margins are squeezed, margins are challenged because profit is squeezed – it’s obvious, isn’t it?  Talk with anyone, being squeezed is par for the course of business life, however, talk with someone whose own, and their employees livelihood, is dependent on a business which has gains that aren’t worth the resources they use up, any squeeze can easily feel like choking.

Entrepreneur or in general business practice, when it comes to making a move, if you can’t measure it, don’t buy it.

Be it marketing, making a purchase, recruiting staff or any other of the key ingredients to a business, the conditions a proposal enters under alters the angle of the route taken for that proposal: vertical barriers create steeper angles to reach a goal.  Without the right entry points and contacts, barriers make unfamiliar practices considerably more difficult, whereas with the knowledge that practice and experience brings, because the ‘solution’ is understood, the difficult steeper angle is prevented and the barriers are reduced.

Steep angles can’t hold much information, they’re the deal breakers.  InformationSuperhighway

There’s no shortage of businesses out there wanting to ‘help’ us become profitable (you might even be one of them). My perspective (in terms of finance for business owners) has lenders who measure (by differing methods) the cumulative impact of investment and risk, the saving of a few pennies is significant to them and the bottom line is, `can’t measure it, don’t buy it’.  In the main, my and your customers do the same (as a customer I do), we want our money’s worth; can’t measure it, don’t buy it.

Why then do some business owners deny themselves such a simple tool when they’re readying for the right moment to strike out; are they sincerely unaware of the wider contexts of business? There might, for the entrepreneur whose waiting in the wings surveying opportunities, seemingly be advantage over the established business owner, whose misinterpreting reliance on formulaic for reliable. But does that make either of them any safer when they’re being measured, than those having the squeeze put on them?  Does being overlooked make a business less or more vulnerable in the greater context of business?
Taking my cue from a 3 year old  in a squeeze, trying to reason with his mum the necessity for a cupcake, Listen! Listen!  You’re not listening to me!  Developing control over his world, `You can trust everything at Grandma’s house’ is his assertion in defiance of his mum. He’s expresses his opinions, questions, shares his thinking and after pleading with his mum for several minutes, she gets the measure of him ‘I’m the parent…I’m done arguing with you!’ and he gets the measure of her, ‘I’m done arguing with you’.

Who bought it?


Image and Article credits: Copyright SUF © 2014

B of E has said that mortgage approvals for house purchase fell in September, from August, with the biggest drop since July 2013. A tougher leverage ratio is anticipated in specifying the minimum amount of core capital a bank must hold as a proportion of is total assets, regardless of how risky or safe a lending policy may be, as part of the Basel 111 reforms. The ratio is set at a provisional 3% but there is an expectation, for some, of between 4% and 5%. There is an argument from some Building Societies that their balance sheets, whilst large, are made of low risk home loans; a high leverage ratio is unfair.

Although no UK banks failed the EBA tests, the upcoming Bank of England tests (results due 16 December) may prove differently with their focus on the UK economy.

Change in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) being  the main indicator of economic growth showed an increase of 0.7% in Q3 2014 compared with growth of 0.9% in Q2 2014, with output increasing in all four main industrial groupings ; services, production, construction and agriculture. The next estimate is due 26 November.

Sweden has cut its interest rates to zero, stating that inflation is too low. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, one of the Bank of England’s policymakers has said interest rates should increase for the UK, in order that it’s kept ‘gradual and limited’.  MPC minutes show members voted 7-2 to hold interest rate at 0.5%

Quantitative Easing (QE) has left the room  of the US Federal Reserve; there will be no more purchasing of bonds, as happened after 2008. Closer to home, Europes’ bank stress tests  gave, in effect, ‘nil points’ to 25 of their banks. The ECB hasn’t fully implemented QE however, with persistently low inflation; there is some chatter amongst the chattering classes of action that encroaches into the area of QE.  Introduced in the UK in 2009, the B of E purchased £375bn Government bonds up to 2012.

The DCLG (Department for Communities and Local Government) has amended Planning Practice Guidance  for councils on identifying appropriate land to meet development needs.  A question put forward (not in isolation) is `Do housing and economic needs override constraints on the use of land, such as green belt’?  The changes from the Right to Build plan mean that, for those wanting to build their own home, the council should be able to help in identifying a suitable plot.

Image and Article credit: Copyright SUF © 2014

How to Match Science with Finance


Pure gold, my Sunday lay ahead with no pressing commitments…. and what better start than good coffee alongside pastries in sufficient size to alert the diabetes police. This is the time my brain gets to defrag, even occasionally managing its level of a Newton moment (akin to looking at the famed apple tree).


I read.  It was an article which reinforced the notion that nothing stays the same.


Kilogram measurement, the metric measure normalised as a physical object (called International Prototype Kilogram IPK), is kept in Sevres, France (a replica is in Britain’s National Physical Laboratory) and it is the last SI unit (Systems of Unit) that is defined by an artefact rather than physical constant. So far, so good?  Take the original IPK and six copy IPKs, then leave for 125 years. What do you get? A  reaction, not dissimilar to leaving me with a plate of Danish pastry. The caged kilogram is no longer the same; it, and its clones, increase in mass.



And, where there is change, there is disruption and where there is disruption, there is opportunity.

By redefining the IPK, theoretically, everyone in the world of science will have access to (if I understand correctly) uncertainty.

The article managed to explain how the change – to something which sounds like performance motor engine oil (Plancks’ universal quantam constant) – would benefit all the other SI units on the outside looking in;  they’ll be certain to join the party of scientists, calibration laboratories, pharmaceutical companies and electrical engineers who’ll have something to celebrate. It also managed, with a swift scientific phrase or two, to take me back to the workings of business: Two ‘methods’ need to agree… at a level to be confident in the results…the moment there is a single point of failure in the system…there isn’t another one. Additional ‘management speak’ endorsed my thinking: ‘define the Volt…elementary charge will have zero uncertainty’.



Deservedly famed for his observations on weight, motion, gravity, the cosmos (and being a fantasy dinner party guest), Newton was distinctly aware of change and applied opportunity arising from it to his working life.  At a time when the weight of minted money had fallen to half the legal standard, fakes were a-plenty, silver from coins was worth more in Europe than the coins, so those coins were being melted down and their metal shipped abroad, with the proceeds used to buy more coins.

England’s silver currency was in crisis. The economy was in crisis.  ‘Who ya gonna call ?’   The man with a mind that could redefine the way we think about our solar system – that’s who. Newton became Warden of the Royal Mint and turned detective on the massive counterfeiting operations to thousands of pounds, England’s silver was to have re-coinage.

One particular successful counterfeiter had a plan, which, activated, would be sufficient to bring down the currency. He was in a powerful position, so a pamphlet was prepared and, inferring Newton as incompetent, he declared to Parliament that the mint had within it ‘villains’ (you can almost hear the boo! hissing!). The counterfeiter should be permitted to demonstrate his claim, to provide a new counter-proof method of making money (for if anyone knew the workings, he surely did). What he hadn’t expected was that he’d be working with the Warden, who was a meticulous record keeper, keeper of accurate accounts and had methodically started at the bottom of a pile of suspects and worked his way through the gangs (his criminal detection expenses 1696 – 1699 reach over £626 – somewhere in the region of four times the national average  annual salary for the time).  Newton, possibly the greatest mind ever, had, similar to the seasoned entrepreneur, experience of having his ideas quashed. He understood what he was up against and probably, (being a superb scientist) made a mean cup of coffee to add some adrenalin to his genius.

The two ‘methods’ needed to agree. Certain he was confident in the results, because if there was a single point of failure in the system, he wouldn’t have another opportunity. Finance was to meet science.  He acted upon the opportunity that change (no pun intended) had given him.  The counterfeiter was taken to the gallows. Newton secured the lucrative position of Master of the Mint.


If I didn’t know I only manage to confuse myself,  I’d try to finish by noting  history repeats itself hence the only constant is change. The problem is that the devil is on one shoulder and angel on the other, both are slugging out the argument that shaming and blaming is counterproductive…. all while I’m reading financial news and eating pastries (plural!).


Credit: Newton and the Counterfeiter (Levinson)

Image credits: DonkeyHotey, Joe Goldberg, SUF.

Article credit: Copyright SUF © 2014

It’s anticipated that sometime during October the Government-run British Business Bank will unveil its first deal with a lender.  The scheme offers to share the risk of certain losses on a portfolio of new loans made to small and medium-size businesses. In effect the smaller banks (i.e. challenger banks) could be enabled to lend more ‘easily’.  Over to you, lenders.

If you’ve seen anyone hawking tax disc holders cheaply it’s because the paper tax disc is no more. As from October 1 cameras will be relied upon to detect number plates and DVLA will rely on digital records.  Unless people turn to displaying their nearest and dearest on their windscreens, the space can be officially cleared   as part of the DVLA’s promise to be more efficient for the motor trade and  ‘a better digital platform enabling more self-service’.  Over to you Motor Traders.

The Financial Policy Committee will be publishing it’s response to the Chancellor’s request of advice, on any new Direction powers to guard against risk in the housing market, and it’s annual review of the Help to Buy Mortgage Scheme. Over to you BoE.

New rules for Lettings Agents, who from this month, must be a member of one of three government approved re-dress schemes, similar to the Ombudsman. Members can be expelled for misconduct and compensation awards made to victims as part of the consumer protection measures. Over to you Landlords.

Changes to stamp duty and land tax relating to valid Local Authority codes mean that paper returns with a non-valid code will be rejected. Over to you Solicitors.

Sobriety is being encouraged with a sobering October of no hangovers. Go Sober for October the charity initiative given to this month, along with Stoptober (no smoking). Over to you willpower.

Image and Article credit: Copyright SUF © 2014

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