Carillion collapse shines spotlight on late payments issue

The collapse of construction giant Carillion has focused media and government attention on the global issue of payment terms after it was discovered the group paid subcontractors with a 120-day delay. These delayed payments meant many suppliers had to resort to expensive bank finance to stay in business while others are now facing bankruptcy.

Recognising the importance of ending the culture of late payment, two FTSE 100 chairmen have joined the advisory board of Previse, a UK based company which uses artificial intelligence to solve slow payments for the entire supply chain.

Chairman of supermarket chain J Sainsbury, David Tyler and chairman of property group British Land, John Gildersleeve have joined the company as investors and advisers.

Previse’s AI technology is designed to enable large firms to pay suppliers on the day they receive an invoice. The London-based firm’s technology calculates a buyer’s likelihood of paying an invoice, before deciding which invoices will be paid, so small suppliers can be paid instantly.

David Tyler said: “The length of time it can take for suppliers to be paid hurts not only them, but the large companies buying their products and services as well.” He believes that Previse will bring benefits to the entire supply chain and that the company has a bright future ahead of it.

Mr Gildersleeve, who is also deputy chairman of telecoms company TalkTalk, told the Financial Times that Previse could tackle an issue that has, “infected British business forever.”

Lengthy payment terms and the prevalence of slow payments by large buyers, which affects three in five SME suppliers, cause 50,000 UK SMEs to close each year. Previse’s artificial intelligence technology allows even very small suppliers to receive payment the day they issue their invoice by instantly identifying if an invoice is correct and allowing a funder to pay the supplier immediately based on this information.

“I am proud to be able to welcome our new board members who represent incredible senior experience across such a wide range of industries with significant supply chains.” Said Paul Christensen, CEO of Previse. “I think this shows the deep understanding across industry that slow payments are a real problem, and confidence in our approach to tackling the problem.”

 

J.P. Morgan deploys Mosaic Smart Data for fixed income data analytics

As a recent piece in the FT pointed out, traders are searching for ever more inventive data streams to try to make better predictions about their market or get an edge over the competition. Whether that be advanced social media analytics, algorithms to read the news or even using drones and satellite images to look at factories, banks, and hedge funds are investing significant amounts in collecting and analysing data.

But, banks know that there is a vast wealth of data created and stored within the institution created simply through the normal course of the trading day. This is free, and it is completely proprietary.

The problem is, data within the bank is distributed across desks, systems and messaging languages. Bringing that all into one, aggregated and standardised form so that the algorithms can work their magic and deliver valuable insights is a herculean task.

But that is exactly what Mosaic Smart Data has announced it is doing J.P. Morgan.

By using sophisticated historical, real-time and predictive analytics algorithms, the Mosaic’s platform will provide, in the first instance, J.P. Morgan’s rates, sales and trading business with advanced tools to accurately provide tailored client service. This innovative technology enables users to better visualise and anticipate market and client activity and thereby offer better service. It can also reduce the cost and complexity of compliance.

“Having a more holistic view of trading data will improve our service delivery for clients.” Said Troy Rohrbaugh, Global Head of Macro at J.P. Morgan. “The Mosaic platform integrates securely with our existing technology infrastructure, and enables our teams to quickly make better-informed decisions.”

Once these fundamentals of a data analytics platform are in place. Mosaic can roll out advanced machine learning and predictive analytics which will help sales teams to predict their clients’ behaviour, allowing them to better facilitate client needs and improve their performance.

“Data analytics and artificial intelligence are changing the face of investment banking.” Says Matthew Hodgson, CEO, and founder of Mosaic Smart Data. “Banks understand that the insights locked away in their transaction and market data are potentially some of their biggest competitive advantages. They already have the raw materials, but MSX® gives them the tools to aggregate and standardise that data and put it to work intelligently.”

Mosaic shortlisted for fintech company of the year by City AM

Congratulations to the Mosaic Smart Data team which has been named in this year’s top five fintech companies in the City AM awards.

The awards celebrate the best of The City in an aim to identify ‘the most bold, successful, and principled companies and individuals’ of the year. The fintech category recognises some of the most innovative British fintech successes, and celebrates London’s role as one of the world’s centres of fintech excellence.

Mosaic was shortlisted as one of the top five categories by City AM’s editorial staff who, announcing the shortlist in the daily paper, described it as “one of the best financial services tech innovations of recent times”.

With financial institutions facing a challenging period in FICC markets, Mosaic allows banks to see how their entire FICC business is performing in real time and help traders identify much-needed liquidity in FICC markets.

As the volume of data linked to trading activity and interactions with clients increases, the challenge to harness and analyse that data in real time becomes ever more critical. Mosaic Smart Data understands that the true value of data comes not only from the intrinsic individual data streams themselves, but also from the correlations and inferences that can be drawn from the aggregated data from each client.

Its cutting-edge technology addresses the challenges facing institutions trading in today’s FICC markets, including change management, productivity, efficiency, restructuring and the growing automation of trading processes.

The final winners of the City AM awards will be chosen by a panel of prestigious judges from the world of business, including Virgin Money boss Jayne-Anne Gadhia, WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell and Sky News’ highly experienced City Editor Mark Kleinman.

We wish Mosaic the best of luck for the awards ceremony, which will be held on 9th November at Grange St Paul’s Hotel.

Financial services and the fintech opportunity

A new report from the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) claims that fintech can improve both financial stability and access to services, but requires significant changes in regulation in order to flourish.

This sector has exploded in recent years, with banks, regulators and VCs throwing their weight (and money) behind a huge range of start-ups. The BIS has waded into the debate with a well-researched paper assessing the potential impact of fintech on the financial services industry.

Despite financial services readily adopting technological innovations which have transformed other industries (such as the internet and automation technologies), the cost of managing assets has stayed almost unchanged in 130 years.

In a working paper entitled ‘The Fintech Opportunity’, the BIS explores why operating costs in finance remains so surprisingly high, and how regulation creates barriers to further innovation which could bring down costs.

The fintech opportunity

While there is substantial analysis about how regulation has impacted the financial services sector over the past decade, we think the most interesting section of this report relates to how a new breed of fintech companies can be nurtured.

Fintech startups seek to disrupt the status quo with innovative solutions to new and existing problems. The paper argues that regulators could take advantage of the fintech movement to achieve some of the goals that have so far remained elusive.

There are huge opportunities to be gained from this. The key advantage of startups is that they are not held back by existing systems and are willing to make risky choices. In banking, for instance, successive mergers have left many large banks with layers of legacy technologies that are, at best, partly integrated.

The provides the opportunity for fintechs to build the right systems from the start. Moreover, they share a culture of efficient operational design that many incumbents do not have.

There are, however, many challenges to overcome. This includes the ability to correctly forecast the evolution of the industry, encouragement or interest from potential customers that can result in viable, widespread adoption, preventing a new company being swallowed up by incumbents and making sure that the new system does not create new inefficiencies or suffer from the flaws of incumbents.

Four guiding principles

The onus is on regulators to provide the right environment and incentives if they want fintechs to flourish.

The paper suggests four guidelines for regulators to consider:

  • Encourage entry and beware of a narrow approach to level-playing-field
  • Promote low leverage from the beginning
  • Keep incumbents in check with high equity ratios and be mindful of acquisition
  • Perfect is the enemy of good

These guidelines are discussed at length by the author, and we encourage you to read about them here.

But what’s interesting is that the guidelines do not require regulators to forecast which technology will succeed or which services should be unbundled, nor require regulators to force top-down structural changes onto powerful incumbents.

The reality is that no one knows when the ‘Uber’ of wholesale financial services will emerge or what it will look like. What we do know, however, is that a combination of restrictive regulations and powerful incumbents can certainly prevent entry.

While there have been promising fintech companies emerging across a range of sectors, creating and maintaining an environment that fosters creativity and innovation, and balancing this with systemic risk controls, is crucial for both financial stability and access to services.

The rise and rise of artificial intelligence

Recent announcements from some of the largest banks show artificial intelligence (AI) working its way further into financial markets.

Credit Suisse has announced it is to deploy 150 new ‘robots’ over the course of the year, with an overall aim of cutting CHF 4.8 billion (GBP 3.7 billion).

UBS has unveiled a new AI system which uses machine learning to develop strategies for trading volatility on behalf of clients. The bank claims that this is the first ‘adaptive strategy’ product offered by an investment bank.

J.P. Morgan is developing a machine learning technology called LOXM which aims to improve execution quality in the bank’s European equities business. As the buy-side increasingly focuses on execution quality, this is driving ever greater adoption of algorithmic trading across asset classes. LOXM is programmed to learn from historical trading patterns and tweak its algorithmic strategies accordingly, using a technique J.P. Morgan calls ‘deep reinforcement learning’.

The ability to adapt and learn without human intervention allows LOXM to optimising the execution gains of algo trading.

Mosaic Smart Data is looking at how AI can improve trading across asset classes, taking on the challenge of providing machine learning capabilities to the FICC markets, which have far less standardised data and a greater portion of voice trading.

Mosaic provides both real time and predictive analytics insights for sell-side FICC traders, giving them a view of their market in a way that takes in far more data than a human being is able to comprehend. This augments the human trader’s capabilities and could lead to significant performance gains for sell-side FICC departments.

While initial uses of AI focused on process improvements, it is significant that the technology has reached a level where its insights are now helping to influence trading itself.

Although we are still some way from a fully automated robo-trader, this represents a significant increase in confidence in AI technology.

Cobalt closes investment from former Deutsche Bank COO Henry Ritchotte who also joins as Strategic Advisor

Cobalt, the FX post-trade processing network based on shared ledger technology, has closed an investment from Henry Ritchotte, the former Deutsche Bank COO who will also become a member of Cobalt’s strategic advisory board.

Henry Ritchotte spent over two decades at Deutsche Bank where he was a member of the Management Board and Group Executive Committee acting as Chief Operating Officer and Chief Digital Officer. Since leaving the bank at the end of 2016 Henry established RitMir Ventures, a principal investment firm focused on investing in products and services transforming finance through disruptive regulatory and technology driven business models.

Cobalt delivers a private peer-to-peer network that significantly reduces post-trade costs and risk for institutions operating in today’s FX markets. The platform is designed to create a single, shared view of a transaction on shared infrastructure and allows clients to reduce reconciliation and operational costs by up to 80%. With its production beta now live, Cobalt is ramping up to launch its live platform later this year.

Adrian Patten, Co-Founder of Cobalt, comments: “Henry’s investment reflects the increased interest our platform is receiving from the wider financial industry. With our innovative technology and his experience and knowledge, we are strongly positioned to redesign post-trade.”

Henry Ritchotte, Founder of RitMir Ventures, comments: “There has been comparatively little investment in post-trade over the past few decades. Cobalt’s network is an elegant solution that provides significant benefits for users and will reshape the industry as we know it. I look forward to working with the leadership team on their fresh approach to the post-trade challenges shared by all FX participants.”

Bank of England to boost fintech by opening up RTGS

The Bank of England (BoE) announced a framework to open up its interbank payment system to fintech firms.

The UK interbank payments landscape is currently dominated by CHAPS, a same-day sterling settlement service used to transfer large amounts between businesses, as well as for property purchases.

CHAPS’s central position in the market, processing 92% of interbank payments, however, represents a degree of risk to financial stability. In 2014, the system was suspended for several hours due to technical problems. This resulted in payments being held up and caused delays for house buyers as payments were not processed on time.

Newer fintech companies and challenger banks are also concerned that they will be at a disadvantage when working with the company, as it is owned by the UK’s four biggest banks.

In response to these concerns, the Bank of England last year announced a plan to widen access to its real time gross settlement (RTGS) payment service, the system which enables large sterling transfers on a real-time basis. This will allow non-banks to bypass systems like CHAPS and access a range of payment services directly from the BoE.

This week, the Bank took the next step with the release of a detailed technical framework for how the new system will operate.

Under the plans, a payment service provider (PSP) will be given access to the RTGS system) if it can demonstrate appropriate anti-money laundering checks and can keep customers money safe.

The Bank hopes this new approach will relieve some of the financial stability pressures from CHAPS, while giving smaller PSPs more confidence in their payment service relationships.

The move is a further boost to the growing retail fintech sector. Combined with the European Union’s second payment services directive (PSD II) next year, it will help to put these companies on a more even footing with their bigger competitors and open up competition in retail banking services.

With greater access to customer data through PSD II, and the ability to transfer large payments in real time, fintechs will now be able to compete far more effectively with their larger rivals.

The effect could be to push greater innovation from both banks and fintech companies. This can only be a good thing for end users.

Previse secures backing to end late B2B payments with the help of AI

Small businesses are the backbone of the UK economy, generating some 50% of private sector turnover and employing three out of five private sector workers.

However, these businesses are held back by late payments from their large corporate clients. With 60% of SMEs paid late by corporates, businesses are left strapped for cash to meet their own payment obligations, such as wages, stock and rent. This cash flow crisis forces 50,000 UK companies a year to go to the wall. 

Banks play a role in easing the problem, offering larger suppliers short-term financing or buying the invoices directly from suppliers for a substantial discount, a practice known as factoring. Both these solutions are expensive for the supplier, however, which pushes up prices for the whole payments chain. In addition, given the fragmented and high-risk nature of the SME credit market, only the largest suppliers are able to secure credit.

This means that, according to the world bank, there is $2.4 trillion in unmet demand for financing from SMEs globally.

Enter Previse. The company, which this week announced the successful completion of a £2 million seed round, is harnessing the power of artificial intelligence (AI) technology to allow banks to meet the financing needs of SME suppliers in a scalable and low-risk way.

Previse uses advanced AI and hundreds of millions of data points to score the likelihood that a corporate buyer will be able to pay a supplier’s invoice. This score is then provided to banks and other funders who use that information to instantly pay the SME on behalf of the large corporate. The supplier receives their money the day they issue their invoice, giving them complete cash flow confidence.

The effect is that “instant, frictionless and efficient payments become the new standard for B2B payments,” according to Paul Christensen, co-founder and CEO of Previse.

The rest of the payments chain benefits as well. By offering such a service, buyers can negotiate a discount on their purchasing costs and banks can reach much deeper into the SME credit market without blowing their risk exposure. The net effect could be a several billion-pound boost to the UK economy every year.

To find out more about Previse seed funding please click here

Chatsworth is proud to support London Tech Week and Sadiq Khan’s vision for ‘the world’s leading smart city’

Chatsworth is proud to support London Tech Week and the vision to create the world’s leading smart city.

With Brexit and an uncertain outcome in the UK election this month, a cloud has continued to loom large over the UK economy. Frankly, we’re a little over all the doom and gloom so we’re happy to report that one industry that continues to thrive in the midst of uncertainty is the UK’s financial technology (fintech) sector.

London remains Europe’s leading city for foreign direct investment into the technology sector, attracting significantly more investment projects than any other European city, in each year during the last decade.

The Chatsworth team knows “a bit” about FinTech. We’ve specialised in it for over a decade and it remains our pinpoint focus.

We set up in London before expanding across the pond and we’re delighted that international investors rank London as a leading global tech hub, with London featuring in the three highest ranked cities with the potential to produce the next global tech giant.[1]

This week, the sector received a further boost of confidence from Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, who launched London Tech Week, a week-long celebration promoting London’s role at the epicenter of innovation and technology.

This year’s festival is expected to be bigger than ever before and attract more than 50,000 visitors to hundreds of events across London. Artificial Intelligence (AI), connected vehicles, and regtech are just some of the events on the agenda, alongside a range of networking opportunities. The full program of events for the week is available here.

Speaking at the annual event, the Mayor outlined his vision for London to maintain its influence and expertise, and become “the world’s leading smart city”.

He also reassured the global tech community that London remains open to talent and investment from all over the world, pledging to do everything in his power to safeguard London’s global competitiveness and status as a leader in innovation…

Since its launch in 2014 London Tech Week has included more than 700 events and has welcomed delegations from around the world. Congrats once more to all involved.