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  • Andy Browning V Fsa Article Preview 01
    Keeping the Conversation Going

    One of the benefits of the pandemic is that all of us have had to get more comfortable with change.  Almost overnight we shifted our work lives online – commuting to the kitchen table instead of the City and catching up over video rather than over a beer.  This changed the way we all shared ideas, but as an active participant in the capital markets arena, we made the effort to stay in conversation with the broader fixed income community to better understand the key challenges they face and develop solutions together. ​To keep this conversation going we created the Sell Side Fixed Income Network where we look to regularly review key topics for the industry. We recognised that all of us benefit from regular discussions exploring what others are thinking about, what is driving decisions, and what problems we are facing. We are providing a forum that allows market participants to understand and benchmark their views against their peer group. We kicked off this initiative at the end of 2021 and are seeing excellent growth in the network. Initially created to be online, we will further look to expand on how we engage the network through webinars and in-person events in 2022.From our latest report, we identified a number of key trends, and the community was very clear in highlighting the biggest barrier to growth in 2022 is internal technology limitations. Digging further into the detail, the three key technology issues raised were the inability to change quickly, legacysilo-based data, and total cost of ownership of vendor platforms.​valantic FSA partners with the community to address these three challenges.Strategic Agility – Getting results now. The first is strategic agility and the ability for clients to make changes quickly. Working to be both a change agent by directly helping our clients make changes quicker, but also as an enabler for change providing the tools and frameworks to help our clients build on their existing systems.We are addressing the problems that clients are facing now, and helping them to fix them now, as opposed to them waiting for a multi-year project to be completed. For example, today it is possible to create front ends that source data from both legacy and other 3rd party platforms. In this way, technology debt can be paid off incrementally, and firms can embark on a path of continuous innovation.The Wider View–Better insights. The second is moving from data silos to data centricity. Being able to pull together large data sets from multiple systems and data sources is not easy. Our tools allow firms to move away from a classic silo-based approach and put a layer across all data. This wider view leads to greater insights and the ability to deliver better customer service.Clarity on TCO The final piece is reducing the total cost of ownership by looking at all associated costs of running a platform as opposed to just focusing on the cost of software licensing.  Understanding the elements involved and being able to address all of them is key.In addition to automating our clients’ workflows for pricing, quoting, trading, and data aggregation in Fixed Income, we provide our solutions in a fully managed SaaS offering allowing clear cost reduction strategies to be implemented.As well as addressing these current needs, we have ambitious plans to enhance and develop new tools for the community in the coming year. Continuous platform development - We are continuing to work on our technology transformation capabilities by leveraging our low code development framework.  Using this framework, we assist clients by building around their current legacy systems that aren’t quite cutting it for them.  As new tools become available, they can be easily integrated into existing workflows and put into production with minimal effort or disruption.Growing Opportunities - Our mission is to digitise, augment and evolve the value streams within our clients. We will be expanding our geographical reach and broadening our product line of core software solutions as we grow internationally. This includes specific Capital Markets Solutions but also has application across financial services, building on our success to date.​At valantic FSAwe have successfully digitised the workflow for over 100 firms in the financial industry, building robust and highly innovative systems for trading, workflow management and downstream transaction automation. In the next edition of our Sell Side Fixed Income expert network, we will be digging deeper into the technology issues that are hampering growth – please reach out if you’d like to learn more about the network.​

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    White Men and DE&I

    I feel like a fraud writing about DE&I, fearing groans of “what could he know”? Perhaps that’s why we don’t hear enough from people ‘like me’ on the topic. And let’s face it, any groaners would be right. I’ve never myself experienced deficits of respect, safety or equity just because of who I am, how I look, or who I love. As I write this, I realise I’ve likely benefited, directly or not, by others being held back; leaving the field on which I play, a little less crowded maybe? It’s not a nice thought. Aware, but not aware enough, I hadn’t approached DE&I consciously enough until certain events this last decade brought endemic discrimination to life for me. Of course, these events weren’t new, they just added up for me for the first time. By simply asking questions I hadn’t before, I was soon confronted by the experiences of loved ones and those in my charge. Cat-called, followed, marginalised, belittled, passed over. Stories shared were confronting enough, but what really surprised me was the casual nature with which such behaviour was dismissed as normal. Worse still, I found myself questioning… “Really? Surely not, could you have misread that”? And so the problem compounds. You don’t need to be among the marginalised to appreciate that barriers to equal access and treatment are wrong. If you’ve ever felt that subtle relief that this doesn’t affect you, you’ve answered the question of whether you should care already. Those of us in positions of leadership have an obligation to do right by our people and by our business. Speaking and acting on DE&I is key to both. Beyond the moral obligation, diversity in team and leadership has been shown over and over to improve results. I work in tech sales; a largely male-dominated space, although it really shouldn’t be. Despite any ‘machismo’ reputation to the contrary, sales requires curiosity, listening, empathy, solving problems and having great attention to detail. I happen to have observed that the women I have worked with often best their male counterparts in these areas and despite a male majority, women have led the pack in individual sales performance and leadership. Bigger brains and datasets agree; in 2019, a BCG study found that “Sales organisations that don’t actively promote women into positions of leadership run the risk of underperforming.” If, like me, you’re male, pale and tasked with growing the top line, removing barriers for others is key to your success. In recent years, my action toward gender equity in particular has been more conscious. Balanced representation has been hard to achieve, but committing to tip the scale away from a male-dominated norm has never backfired. The sales leaders I work alongside today are 50% female. We experience less groupthink and a broader range of ideas, skills and collaboration. Given the hyper-growth our business is experiencing - and this may sound familiar to Fintech readers, this ratio may be hard to maintain in the short term as we race for talent in a field that is largely male, but commitment to diversity will remain. This formula works. Action is more important than words in so many regards, but in this connected world, words can travel a lot further. White men are too quiet on this topic. For all the groups, forums and movements on DE&I, the voices are almost entirely of those who are under-represented and fighting for a seat at the table. Women advocating for women, LGBTQ communities, black and Asian forums demanding access. These efforts will drive real change and are a major learning resource for people like me opening their mind to what others are experiencing. Throughout history, the oppressed have had to challenge the established to affect change. It’s been slow and bloody, but it’s happened. Wouldn’t it be better for the established to advocate change, to welcome it, to heed the data, to improve their businesses and to contribute to the betterment of society today, rather than clinging on to a status quo that will see naysayers displaced over time? I haven’t known where to add my voice, or whether it would always be appreciated, but it’s obvious that overcoming my own discomfort is essential if I want to contribute. The more I engage, the more I learn, the more I realise the fear of getting it wrong is insignificant compared to the value of participating and being an ally. Having asked my female peers to proof my words, a theme emerged. “So what’s the call to action here?” Gulp. Ask more questions and learn what others have experienced. What comes back may surprise and motivate you.Don’t dismiss something as untrue just because you don’t experience it yourself.Engage in forums where white men aren’t present enough. Company diversity councils, Women’s groups on LinkedIn. Ironically, these groups which advocate for diversity and representation often do so without the presence and support of enough white men. Change needs to happen together.Build networks of future colleagues ahead of positions needing to be filled. When we hire reactively and need to fill roles fast, picking from a candidate pool that represents the status quo leaves little room to affect change. And speak up. I can’t profess to have gotten this right yet. But if we wait until we’ve ‘got it right’ to speak up on DE&I, we’ll leave those who deserve our support without it for too long.​Article from The Financial Technologist, Issue 1 2022 'The Most Influential FinTech Firms of 2022'. Read the full magazine here.​

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    ​DEKO EXPANDS MULTI-LENDER RETAIL FINANCE ECOSYSTEM WITH NEWPAYPowered by leading UK credit provider NewDay, Newpay is the latest product to join Deko’s multi-lender and multi-product platform Newpay seamlessly integrates into the merchant checkout experience, offering access to a range of finance options.Leading retail finance platform Deko has today announced the expansion of its lender panel with the addition of Newpay, a new-to-market digital credit account. This innovative product is designed to help consumers responsibly spread the cost of larger purchases with an easy, simple and flexible way to pay. Shoppers can check their eligibility for Newpay before they apply without impacting their credit rating. Once approved, merchants can offer a range of repayment options at checkout, including monthly instalment plans, flexible credit and interest-free finance. Newpay is specifically designed for larger baskets, and has the ability to manage multiple purchases. Once approved, customers are not required to  reapply in order to make further purchases.  Newpay is accessed exclusively through the Deko platform, which is integrated across a growing retailer network. The addition of Newpay is the latest expansion of the Deko multi-lender ecosystem, which features interest-free deferred payment options or an instalment credit product – all integrated into a merchant’s checkout. New partner announcements are expected throughout 2021.Deko is now the only retail finance platform that can cater to its clients with a range of different financing products. Not only does this offer more flexibility to merchants and their customers, but it also promotes financing opportunities across a broader range of basket sizes. Coupled with its multi-lender approach, Deko’s financial ecosystem provides the benefits of more frequent and quicker approvals. Deko has worked with thousands of merchants across the UK, and since its inception has processed over £3bn worth of credit applications. The introduction of Newpay is part of Deko's commitment to enhancing a merchant’s ability to grow its customer base and unlock customer loyalty.Mike Dawson, CEO of Deko, commented: “It is perhaps one of the most critical times in recent memory for merchants in the UK. After the turbulence and uncertainty of the past 18 months customers are finding their feet again. Today it is all about speed and ease for customers. By adding Newpay to our lender panel, we are helping merchants deliver flexible finance options to their customers, all within a matter of seconds.“Responsible retail finance is an increasing priority for merchants up and down the UK, and the addition of Newpay to our platform will support our merchant partners and their customers.”Ian Corfield, Chief Commercial Officer of NewDay, commented: “We are excited to launch our Newpay product through the Deko platform. We know that merchants are looking for seamless ways to make the shopping experience effortless while driving sustainable growth. Newpay is designed to help consumers responsibly spread the cost of bigger baskets at check-out, a need largely underserved in the existing retail finance space. Through Deko’s impressive technology, we can offer more responsible finance options to merchants, supporting businesses of all sizes navigate an ever-changing digital landscape.”               

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    Titanbay appoints Alex Bozoglou as Head of Investments

    ​Titanbay appoints Alex Bozoglou as Head of Investments  Titanbay, the leading private markets investment platform for sophisticated investors, private banks and asset managers announces the appointment of Alex Bozoglou as Head of Investments as the business continues to bolster its senior team. Alex will lead on fund selection and portfolio construction, identifying and determining best in class funds for Titanbay’s clients, as well as further deepening relationships with GPs. Each year, Titanbay aims to curate 8-12 market-leading funds for its platform, across a diverse range of private markets strategies. He joins from Adams Street Partners, a global private markets investment manager, where he worked across all aspects of the investment decision-making process in the Primary Investment Team, from due diligence to industry review, negotiation and portfolio management. Alex will lead Titanbay’s highly experienced Investment Advisory Board, made up of Thomas Schleicher (KIRKBI A/S, ex-EQT Partners), Benjamin Gargui (EJF Investment Management, ex-Goldman Sachs Private Wealth Management), Oliver Burgel (Barings, ex-Babson Capital Europe), and Przemek Obloj (Blue Horizon, ex-PSP Investments). Since launching in 2019, Titanbay has made significant investments in growing its team, increasing headcount by 30% in each successive quarter. Recent hires include Head of People & Talent Natalie Thornicroft (ex-BCG Digital Ventures, 11:FS), and Managing Directors Jason Funk (ex-Metlife, Société Générale), and Paul Bentley (Liongate, Schroders, Allianz Global Investors). Thomas Eskebaek, CEO of Titanbay commented: “Bringing Alex on board as our Head of Investments builds on our current momentum as we continue to bolster our team to best serve investor demand. We look forward to working with Alex to ensure that we are bringing only the very best funds in the market to our clients, providing unparalleled access for small- to mid-sized institutional investors, private banks and wealth managers.” Alex Bozoglou, Head of Investmentsat Titanbayadded: “At a time when demand for private markets investments is growing, Titanbay’s mission is particularly exciting, and I am delighted to be joining such an exceptional team. I am looking forward to leveraging my experience to further deepen our partnerships with the most exciting managers in the industry.”

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    BP splashes the cash on shareholder returns despite looming low carbon challenges

    ​​BP splashes the cash on shareholder returns despite looming low carbon challengesSusannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst, Hargreaves Lansdown‘’BP isn’t quite throwing caution to the wind, but the company’s steady as she goes approach has been infused with optimism as higher oil prices make immediate prospects look brighter.With profits for the quarter coming in at $3.1 billion, the company is splashing surplus cash piled up through an annual increase in the dividend by 4% through to 2025 and $1.4 billion in share buy backs. It expects oil prices to linger higher for longer as supply constraints put it in a more bullish mood and reverse previous write downs of assets to the tune of $3 billion. The group reckons it can offer share buy backs of $1 billion per quarter with Brent crude around $60 a barrel.That would still leave a 40% chunk of surplus cash to bolster the balance sheet, and although the increase in the dividend pales into comparison with Shell’s 50% dividend rise year-on-year, there are still likely to be concerns that BP isn’t making enough hay while the sun shines. Net debt has fallen to $32.7 billion, but the company could slim down faster given that it needs to be in fighting form to make the right investments when the roaring twenties of higher oil prices comes to an end as the world accelerates towards a low carbon future. There is some progress towards its renewable strategy. It has purchased a 9GW solar development pipeline in the US and bidding is planned for offshore wind leases in Scotland and Norway via strategic partnerships. Plans for rapid EV charging networks in cities across Europe are being advanced with London the first to take delivery of a rapid hub. But it’s still unclear what level of returns BP will be able to make from its growing portfolio of green energy investments. Right now on the tight rope of change, BP is still highly reliant on its fossil fuel portfolio, but there are likely to be wobbles ahead, as green targets loom and BP tries to cross the chasm to reach a low carbon future.’’  

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    Fintechs are underestimating cybersecurity; here’s how to make things better, says STX Next

    ​Fintechs are underestimating cybersecurity; here’s how to make things better, says STX NextSoftware development house - in partnership with cyber expert Aleksander Czarnowski of AVETINS - offers advice to ensure cyber considerations aren’t neglected  Successful fintechs are rightly lauded for their innovative approaches, and their willingness to do things differently. However, the emphasis on relentless growth – a core characteristic of many startups in the financial sector – does mean that cybersecurity is sometimes put on the backburner. To tackle this problem, software development house STX Next, alongside partner and cybersecurity expert Aleksander Czarnowski of AVETINS, offer some advice to aspiring fintechs below.Maciej Dziergwa, CEO of STX Next, said: “Running a fintech startup usually means growing the business with scant resources, especially in the early days. Sacrifices inevitably have to be made, and cybersecurity often suffers at this stage. “It’s important that cyber doesn’t get neglected early on.  You only have to look at the recent deluge of ransomware attacks to see that cybercriminals are honing their craft at great speed, and will target any company if they think they can make a quick buck.” Fortunately, there are steps that fintechs can take in the here and now to improve their cyber hygiene and get themselves on the front foot. Aleksander Czarnowski, Founder and CEO at AVETINS, added: “In the early days of a startup, cyber is often considered a bit of a cost centre, so capacity to focus on security often isn’t added in. There’s also a feeling in some fintechs that sufficient cyber skills can be learned from short online courses.  “Step one is to recognise the scale of work that needs to be done to make the business watertight. Cyber isn’t something that can be sorted overnight: it needs to be seen as an iterative, long-term consideration that gets adequate attention. “Step two is to think proactively. Any threat being talked about in the news right now is already outdated. Whether it’s a new ransomware attack, phishing campaign or APT, once it’s in the public eye, criminals will be looking to evolve their methods further to escape new mitigation measures. Fintechs, therefore, need to prepare for unknown threats.“Step three is to make the necessary preparations to guard against these unknown threats. This is the most crucial step of all, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be the most difficult one. Fintechs often operate with minimal resourcing, so automating and outsourcing cyber capabilities where possible is an effective way forward. Any good business leader will know that you don’t have to try and do absolutely everything internally: being the best often means accepting your weaknesses and trusting the expertise of others.“Finally, there are basic measures fintechs should implement while the more complex cybersecurity matters are dealt with in the background. These include encryption of sensitive data, strong access control technology, multifactor authentication, static and dynamic testing of code for security flaws, and the banning of insecure cryptography.” Dziergwa concluded: “The financial services sector is much better off because of fintechs. Their success means success for a multitude of other businesses, so tightening things up from a security perspective makes sense. Focus on cyber, and fintech’s reputation for forward thinking will be assured for many years to come.” 

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    Infinity Maritime announces partnership with Lloyd’s Register to boost maritime sustainability

    ​Infinity Maritime announces partnership with Lloyd’s Register to boost maritime sustainabilityFollowing on from the announcement of collaboration with leading international ship brokers, Infinity Maritime reflects the maritime ecosystem by announcing its partnership with world leading Classification Society Lloyd’s Register to verify the sustainability of its fleet and enhance their environmental and operational performance.Infinity Maritime, the first platform to provide alternative maritime finance through digitisation enabling fractional ownership of commercial ships, including tankers, bulkers and boxships, has a focus on building the most sustainable commercial fleet possible.Infinity Maritime is creating asset-backed MetaUnits for the ships it purchases and operates that will be tradeable, resulting in a secondary market for investors. The platform focuses on creating a sustainable fleet via the purchase and upgrade of modern vessels, in line with the Poseidon Principles and the Sea Cargo Charter for sustainability.LR will advise on sustainability in vessel selection, performance monitoring of operators and vessel emissions, benchmarking versus the market and future proofing for the developing regulations, so that the platform can lead the way with adhering to changing rating requirements, and the costs associated with them.  Andrew McKeran, Lloyds Register Business Director, Maritime Performance Services said: “we’re delighted to be partnering with Infinity Maritime to help bring this great new platform to market with a vision to deliver environmental benefits to the entire maritime ecosystem. We bring to the table our leading I4Insight platform and LR’s Maritime Decarbonisation Hub”Andrew Graham, Chairman, Infinity Maritime said: “Infinity’s ambition is to reinvigorate the Maritime ecosystem - not disrupt it, while leading the way with the adoption of the Poseidon Principles and showing how sustainable shipping can also be the most commercially attractive. We’re proud to be working with these world leading Class Societies to make this happen.”Infinity Maritime is the London based alternative finance digital platform for the issuance and trading of asset-backed MetaUnits in the maritime sector. Through the fractionalisation and digitisation of maritime assets, Infinity allows broader access to real asset investment opportunities and more exit opportunities for investors within the global maritime industry with a core objective of promoting sustainability. Purchasers/acquirers of MetaUnits include a wide range of maritime and finance industry participants, such as family offices, hedge funds, HNW/UHNW and other yield investors.