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UK to boost funding for AI and robotics research

The UK government is set to announce funding for artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics research as part of the government’s strategy to help UK businesses maximize investment and trade opportunities.

Culture Secretary Karen Bradley is expected to make the funding announcement on Wednesday as part of the British government’s digital strategy.

The research, which will be carried out by top British universities, will have a fund of £17.3 million. The grant will come from UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

The funding support came after recent research revealed the potential long-term impact the AI and robotics field could have on UK’s economy. Accenture, last year, published a report projecting that AI could contribute up to £654 billion to the British economy by 2035.

BenevolentAI CEO Jerome Pesenti, who previously served as chief data scientist at IBM and Computer Scientist Dame Wendy Hall, who is currently a professor at University of Southampton, have been commissioned to review the status of UK’s artificial intelligence sector. The review aims to pinpoint areas of opportunity for UK’s growing AI research industry.

In a statement, Professor Dame Wendy said she was looking forward to exploring collaboration opportunities for the government and the AI sector. She notes that British scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs have been at the forefront of AI research and development.

Demand for British expertise in the artificial intelligence field has skyrocketed in recent years.

In 2014, search giant Google acquired DeepMind, a London start-up that invented a neural network that is capable of that mimicking the short-term memory of the human brain, for $400 million. In 2015, Apple paid $250 million to acquire UK-based start-up, VocalIQ, which specializes in machine learning that enables computers to understand natural human language. Microsoft likewise shelled out $250 million to buy SwiftKey, the London-based developer of a software keyboard with advanced predictive abilities.

A spokesperson for the UK’s Department for International Trade said the government is looking to help UK businesses make the most of trade and investment opportunities through targeted support and business matching.

If you’re looking for additional funding for your project why not speak to a part time financial advisor today

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UK On Track To Borrow Less Than Projected

UK on track to borrow less than projected

The UK government is on track to borrow less than was earlier projected for this financial year, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) said following the publication of the joint statistical bulletin on public finances by the Treasury and Office for National Statistics.

According to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the British government borrowed a total of £49.3 billion between April 2016 and January 2017, the lowest since 2008.

The financial year-to-date borrowing is 22 percent lower compared to figures from the same period in 2015-2016.

The OBR noted that if the government continues to keep borrowing low, the total loaned amount for the year ending March 2017 would be £56 billion, which is £12 billion less than the OBR projected in November. The OBR projected the government’s borrowing to reach £68.2 billion.

The OBR’s mandate is to examine and report on the sustainability of UK’s public finances. As such, it regularly issues analyses on data published by the ONS.

Meanwhile, UK’s finances recorded a £9.4 billion surplus in January, £300 million more than the same period last year.

The month of January typically results in surplus for public finances because it is the time of the year when a large portion of outstanding income taxes are paid. January tax collections have likewise been boosted by corporation tax receipts, but the ONS recently made changes to account for corporation tax payments made throughout the year. This month’s numbers are the first to reflect this change.

For its part, a spokesperson for the Treasury said that it remains committed to returning the public finances to balance, adding that the Treasury is building on their progress over the last six years in bringing down the deficit from 10 percent to 4 percent of the GDP.

Lower government borrowing this year is good news to UK finance minister Philip Hammond as it gives the chancellor some extra wiggle room in the budget, particularly for government priorities like the National Health Service and social care. Hammond is slated to present the budget on March 8th.

If you require the services of an experienced interim finance director then get in touch today.

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UK Inflation Hits 30-Month High

Consumer prices in the United Kingdom (UK) rose 1.8 percent last month hitting its highest level since June 2014, according to the latest figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Annual inflation as measured by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) nudged 0.2 percent higher in January from December’s 1.6 percent. It is the fourth straight month that the CPI has gone up and pushes inflation to its highest point in two and a half years.

The ONS cited rising fuel costs and higher food prices as the two main drivers for the jump.

Analysts were projecting a 1.9 percent rise, but upward inflation pressures were tempered by falling clothing and footwear prices, which declined lower than they did the year before.

January’s inflation figures nudges the rate closer to the Bank of England’s 2 percent target. Forecasters are expecting UK Inflation to rise significantly in 2017 as the pound continues to shed its value against the dollar and the euro, making goods from abroad more expensive to import.

Earlier this month, UK’s central bank said it expects the inflation rate to rise 2.8 percent in the beginning of 2018.

In a separate report, ONS figures showed that prices paid by British manufacturers for fuel and materials ballooned at an annual rate of 20.5 percent in January, marking its sharpest surge since September 2008. This resulted in a 3.5 percent increase in the prices of goods leaving UK factories.Commenting on the rising cost of living in the UK, a Treasury spokesperson said that the government understands the concerns of British families, adding that it is cutting taxes for workers and has frozen duties levied on fuel to help everyday costs low.

Commenting on the rising cost of living in the UK, a Treasury spokesperson said that the government understands the concerns of British families, adding that it is cutting taxes for workers and has frozen duties levied on fuel to help everyday costs low. The move will save the average British driver approximately £130 a year, the spokesman added.

Meanwhile, consumer inflation as measured by the Retail Prices Index (RPI), which factors housing costs, climbed to 2.6% last month from 2.5% in December.

Contact Assured FD Services for expert business financial advice.

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The Part Time FD

The position of Finance Director (FD) is key for many organisations, as their ability can have a tremendous impact on the stability and future of the business. Financial objectives are often set by the  Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and FD at the beginning of the year, so they have great influence over the strategic direction of their firm. It is even common for an FD to eventually become a CEO due to their ability to provide financial security to the business, so it is clear to see the positive impact an FD might have on an Small to Medium Enterprise (SME).

However, a full time Director comes at a significant cost, so SME’s often attempt to get by without an FD. This can have severe consequences if leadership lack financial expertise. Fortunately, it is possible to employ a part time FD.

As Stuart Smith of Watersmiths Business Services suggests, a part time FD will grant you the opportunity to have someone with a wealth of experience objectively review your organisation. This enables them to review strategic objectives such as cash flow, and make impartial recommendations that meet the needs of the business and are not influenced by existing relationships or loyalties within the organisation.

Employing an FD part time also grants the organisation the flexibility to scale up or down the role depending on growth. If you start to feel the need to create an FD position but the expense is too great to provide a full time role, then creating a part time position is a perfect compromise. If you are able to continue to meet your targets and grow the business, then maybe you might wish to increase your FD’s hours to meet your needs. Similarly, you might feel you find great value in having a superior source of experience within your business and an extra set of eyes and ears to depend on when making strategic decisions. It also gives you the luxury of trialling the candidate to see if they’re a cultural fit for your organisation!

Ultimately, you have a commitment to your stakeholders to ensure that your organisation is as financially secure as possible. If you cannot afford a full time FD or you feel there is no need, then having access to a part time Finance Director is a great solution if you require specialist expertise.

Contact Assured FD Services to find out more.

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Financial Services Sector Is UK’s Top Tax Payer

The United Kingdom’s (UK) financial services sector paid £71.4 billion in tax last year, accounting for 11.5% of the UK’s total tax collection. This year’s contribution was the highest since 2007, accounting firm PwC noted in its annual report.

Banking institutions and insurance companies were the top contributing sub-sectors, paying an additional £8.4 billion and £3.4 billion respectively, thanks to reforms in corporate tax and the bank levy.

The report, which was commissioned by the City of London, underscores the potential adverse impact to public finances if Brexit limits UK’s access to the European Union’s (EU) single market.

Financial services firms in the UK have expressed concerns about the Brexit’s negative effect on their businesses. Main concerns include losing access to a skilled EU workforce and potential restriction on their ability to trade with the single market, among others.

About 1.1 million people are employed by the financial services sector in the UK, comprising 3.4% of the country’s total workforce.

Many are waiting to see whether the UK can retain “passporting” rights, which enable lenders to continue transact without restrictions across the EU.

Addressing reporters in Brussels on Tuesday, Chancellor Philip Hammond said the government would study the “costs and benefits” of continuing to pay for access to the EU single market after UK formally exits the union, echoing previous pronouncements made by Brexit Secretary David Davis.

Last week, Brexit Secretary David Davis said paying for continued access was a possibility.

Speaking at a tax event on Tuesday, Financial Secretary to the Treasury Jane Ellison acknowledged the concerns of the financial sector, and assured that the government would be negotiating for an deal that will help UK’s financial services sector to be “every bit as successful after our withdrawal as before.”

She adds that Brexit could also mean “new opportunities” for this economically-vital sector.

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How CFOs Are Changing The Landscape Of Small-to-Medium Sized Businesses and Their Financial Success

Small to medium sized companies operate within a rapidly changing environment. And, due to this rapid changing nature, many are ill-prepared to handle the continuous movement and adaptability, usually the result of a lack of relevant management expertise.

In order for a company to survive and thrive, there must be changes made. A lack of adaptability can almost, inevitably, spell doom for a company.

What Factor Lead To Change Within An Organisation?

A company’s finances are the one factor that leads to a real insight into what is happening within a company. It’s the one factor that can lead to significant changes, both in terms of productivity and strategy.

By knowing what a company’s finances are like, steps can be taken to ensure crises are minimised or avoided altogether, and opportunities are capitalised on.  The company can also focus on management control systems, cash flow forecasts and more, including using this information to effectively communicate its strategies and operation.

The Importance Of CFOs In Work Environments

No company can afford to ignore and work without some type of financial structure, as it is necessary to boost employee and consumer confidence. Both economic climate and operative finance are a complicated but necessary issue for companies. Specialised support and expertise are required to manage challenges most effectively. These specialised professionals are referred to as Chief Financial Officers (CFO).

These specialised professionals provide a non-invasive, flexible and on-site intervention, working for however long they are needed, on a full time, part time or interim basis, to ensure that a company’s financial operations are working efficiently and in compliance with the law. It doesn’t matter how complex the issue is; a CFO utilises their knowledge and expertise to advise management of the best course of action.

A Chief Financial Officer will carefully and strategically review the company’s financials and all of its resources. Many small to medium sized businesses still have family finance and personal assets tied into the business. Therefore, the entire process is multi-faceted, and a strategy will be developed over time to strengthen the business’s position.

Mary Ellen Biery, has offered a summary of a CFOs responsibilities here:

4 Key Functions of a Chief Financial Officer

Book

The primary role of a CFO, of course, is to make sure financial records of the company are in order. “They’ve got to make sure the books are right,” says Brian Hamilton, chairman of Sageworks. “Most CFOs have that covered.”

Share

CFOs should make sure that management has critical decision-making data. In order to provide that forward-looking data, CFOs must develop good forecasts and utilise reliable benchmarking data.

Comply

Every company has compliance issues to address, and the CFO oversees many of them. Filing and paying taxes is one example. CFOs oversee duties related to shareholders, such as issuing dividends, preventing fraud and disclosing financial information.

Assist

The final CFO function that is vital to companies is assisting internal customers – the people in the company, such as operating managers, who need data to determine things like decisions on pricing or the lifetime value of a customer.

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Adopting the recommendations offered by a full-time or interim CFO can provide solutions to most complex financial problems… even for the most innovative companies.

For the immediate future, CFOs provide a new service that companies can benefit from when it comes to their finances and financial services. The market recognises the value and stability a CFO can bring, increasing business confidence right away.

If you are interested in discovering how you can utilise Assured FD Services, as your interim CFO, to ensure your business’s future stability and growth, call us on 07817 676371, or email us at info@assuredfd.co.uk.