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Economy

BankToTheFuture: sustainable banking led by the crowd

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BankToTheFuture.com is a new initiative that lets people invest as little as £10 in private companies, and have more say over what happens to their savings and investments.

Founder Simon Dixon describes it as being like an “online Dragons’ Den”. Its equity crowdfunding model allows anybody to be a dragon and invest in companies that they like.

Blue & Green Tomorrow caught up with Dixon to find out more.

Where did your vision come from?

I originally started as a tea boy for stockbrokers TD WaterHouse. Eventually, I got my way onto the trading floor as a market maker for investment bank KBC, before my final corporate role in corporate finance.

After meeting successful business owners taking their companies public, I decided I was on the wrong side of the desk and set up my first business in 2006, qualifying students to work in investment banking. This was angel funded by billionaire Peter Hargreaves and gave me a first introduction to what it is like to secure angel funding.

We had a tough run in the financial crisis so I began to channel my efforts into alternative finance and sustainable banking. I wrote the book Bank To The Future on the future of finance and got more involved in not-for-profits focused on submissions for the independent commission on banking.

I then decided to put a team together and build BankToTheFuture.com with our co-founder Bliss Dixon to build our crowd investment bank. We raised all our seed funding from the crowd on our own platform and have recently launched a new record bid to raise £2m from the crowd in exchange for shares in BankToTheFuture.

What problem do you uniquely solve and how do you solve it?

We have two missions and problems to solve. One is to democratise investing so that anybody can be an investor in a responsible way and offer more financial inclusion to an asset class that was previously only available to the rich, allowing people to build investment portfolios.

Secondly we want to get more money into the productive side of the economy and help businesses get investment ready so they can secure funding from those that are really interested in what they do. It has traditionally been very hard to secure funding for a private company, especially those looking to raise less than £1m, and most businesses don’t know how to get their businesses ready for investors. We solve these big problems.

What is the attraction of crowdfunding?

Having been through most of the ways of financing a business through either my corporate career or for my own businesses, equity crowdfunding has been a real pleasure for us. We get the right type of shareholders that share the vision, we get lots of marketing, and we get a team of loyal self-interested advocates to drive the business forward with us.

Rather than having hundreds of meetings and hounding investors during a fundraise, we benefit from having inbound investor enquiries and answering due diligence questions in a forum where everybody can benefit from the answers.

Having a portal to communicate with all investors with a few clicks saves a lot of time from meeting traditional investors to update them all the time. There are lots of benefits for us.

Why are you aiming for hundreds or thousands of smaller backers rather than a small collection of very wealthy ones?

I think it is a big risk taking on one or two investors. Experience tells me that some investors say they are going to do a lot, but often never do.

Not all the time, but I like to put the odds in my favour and have hundreds of skill sets that can help rather than the luck of you getting on with one big investor.

When a big investor’s vision is different from that of the business owners, there is going to be trouble, and on many occasions kill the business. I have seen it many times. I will take the crowd every time now. Lots of smaller investors prevents not all, but a lot of these problems.

Who will benefit from BankToTheFuture.com?

Those that want to build their empire and portfolio, starting small or large. As a business you get to diversify away from the huge risk of only having one investment – your business.

Of course it is bringing a lot of new cash to businesses that never had it before that are creating jobs to benefit society too. But the big change we wish to see is a shift from institutions deciding who gets the money, to people deciding why gets the money. Then this is a gamechanger.

High net-worth individuals were described by Cath Tillotson at Scorpio as a “positive force in society“. Do you agree?

Too much of a generalisation. It is not how much money you have; it is your intention and what you do with your money that makes you a force for good. This applies to all, whether you have £10 or £10m.

I know poor and rich that are forces for good and poor and rich that are destructive with their money. One thing is for sure, because there is no transparency in banking, rich and poor have no idea what they are doing with their money when the bank spends it on their behalf. This needs to change.

What is wrong with conventional banking?

The major problem with banking today is the lack of transparency. No matter how many regulations are implemented, it does not change the fact that depositors, investors and shareholders have no idea what happens with the money.

A retail banking licence effectively means that banks own depositors money, can spend that money as they wish and have the ability to create money through the issuance of credit.

Bank loans tend to go to either the least risky or most profitable. It is why approximately 80% of the major UK banks’ loan books go to either property loans (as they are backed by assets) or financial speculations (as it is the most profitable). Last in line is a business, but businesses create most of the UK’s jobs and contribute to the non-inflationary productive part of our economy.

What’s the ambition for BankToTheFuture.com?

We have a great team that was involved in peer-to-peer lending and the building of MetroBank, but to be honest, our destiny is in the hands of the crowd. We think that people want transparency and that in the future what gets funded will reflect the true values of society rather than a few people at a bank or venture capital firm.

I am also a director of the UK Crowdfunding Association and we are heavily engaged with the Financial Conduct Authority to make sure we get the best regulatory framework to allow this new transparent and inclusive asset class grow. We need the crowd to participate to make this happen though.

You can get involved in the BankToTheFuture bid and see how it is getting on here: http://bit.ly/121sJCW 

Further reading:

Sustainable and values-based banks outperform world’s biggest institutions

It’s time to believe in banking again

An analyst’s view on changing banking culture from within

‘Shocking and widespread malpractice’ should land bankers in jail, says commission

The Guide to Sustainable Banking 2013

Economy

New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035

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renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart / https://www.shutterstock.com/g/adrian825

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.

Sources: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-06/green-dream-risks-energy-security-as-kiwis-aim-for-zero-carbon

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-hydrocarbons/france-plans-to-end-oil-and-gas-production-by-2040-idUSKCN1BH1AQ

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Economy

How Going Green Can Save A Company Money

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going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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