It’s the start of a new week and, as ever, there are plenty of stories today. 

Marketing and Practice Management Issues

Artificial intelligence is on the rise – and humans must adapt

robotFor the first time ever, a computer programme has managed to dupe experts into thinking that it was a 13-year old boy. This is a major milestone in the progress of artificial intelligence, and thus a hugely important development for labour markets, for the global economy and for all of us. The Russian computer programme – which goes by the name of Eugene Goostman – managed to convince 33 per cent of the judges at an event at the Royal Society last week – and thus became the first ever to pass a proper, pure version of the so-called Turing test.

But you have to go back 64 years to 1950, to discover that the test was conceptualised by Alan Turing, one of Britain’s great mathematical geniuses, in his paper Computing Machinery and Intelligence in Mind, a top artificial intelligence journal. The central question considered by Turing was how to determine whether a machine can think – he readily acknowledged that it’s hard to define both what “thinking” means and what passes for a “machine”.

Read more here.

Britain gripped by flotation fever

Sean Farrell wrote in The Guardian to report that Britain is on track for a record year for flotations as companies press ahead with initial public offerings (IPOs) despite signs of investor fatigue. So far this year, 40 companies have raised £5.7bn after the market for new shares went into overdrive following years in the doldrums, figures supplied by Thomson Reuters show. The total for 2014 so far easily outstrips the previous £4.9bn record for the same period in 2007 and the £2.9bn equivalent in 2006, which went on to be the all-time biggest year for flotations.

Are you seeing a major upswing in activity in your corporate finance department?

Entrepreneurs flock to London

successLondon dominates a new league table showing the hottest neighbourhoods for start-up companies, with all but three of the UK’s top 20 areas for business creation located within the capital. Topping the list, published by accountancy firm UHY Hacker Young, is the postcode EC1V – home to the so-called tech city cluster of digital companies, also known as Silicon Roundabout. An astonishing 15,620 startups were located in the area during the last financial year.  The next-highest ranked location in London was SE1, home to the Shard as well as Bankside and Southwark, where 5,850 firms were set up. In the area, there was a 13 per cent bump from the previous year.

Read more here.

Government launches cyber security standard

survival in the digital ageICAEW’s Economia reported last week that UK businesses will be able to gain accreditation for having cyber protection in place under a new government scheme. And the government has announced that from 1 October 2014, the accreditation will be mandatory for all suppliers bidding for certain government contracts covering sensitive and personal information handling.

Read more here.

How to become one of the successful online businesses

Francisco Perez blogged earlier this month on marketers.blognotions.com to say that Building an online business will take time and energy, especially if you would like a desirable outcome. There are several things that can lead to the success you want to have. Are you willing to put every last bit of effort you have into putting together your business? Are the products or services things that you would use yourself and feel passionate about offering to others? These are just a couple of the questions you should ask yourself before getting involved with an online business. You can make a lot of money, but you have to work for it too.

Read more here.

Intel: Away with cables. The future is Wireless PCs

Stephanie Mlotwriting in PCMag reports that Intel took the stage at the Computex trade show in Taiwan to talk up a cable-free future for PCs. The chipmaker aims to eliminate all cords from home computers, allowing wireless display, docking, and charging features to roam free as part of its next-generation Skylake platform.

Read more here.

How People Use Different Social Networks in Different Ways

social networksAyaz Nanjiwriting in MarketingProfs writes that people who join multiple social networks tend to engage with distinctly different groups of people and content topics on each platform, according to a recent report from 140 Proof and IPG Media Lab.  The findings were based on data from a survey of 500 online and mobile users in the United States age 18-59 who are active on two or more social platforms, as well as on a qualitative study of eight multi-platform users who kept social media diaries.

Read more here.

Crowdfunding gathers pace

Brian Donnelly in Mortgage Finance Gazette writes about crowdfunding. He says that the financial crisis was a hard time for many industries but one new market found the opportunity to flourish – the UK’s peer-to-peer industry is now considered by many to be the most developed in the world.

Peer-to-peer (P2P) lending is fairly simple: investors are matched directly with borrowers on platforms such as Assetz Capital or Funding Circle, without any involvement from a bank. CrowdOfPeopleInvestors can fit into several categories. As the market currently stands, investors are typically retail investors or high net worth individuals, investing anything from a few pounds to hundreds of thousands – or even millions – at a time.

Read more here.

Magazine Publishing Software

dog memeMequoda published an interesting article on digital magazine publishing software. Yes, it is important to use the best software – which option are you using?

Publishers have been trying digital magazine publishing software during the last few years in hopes of creating the best digital products for their audiences. And like everything else in digital magazine land, digital magazine software has evolved at light speed. This article provides the latest look at the magazine software landscape.

Every accountant or lawyer should read this.

Lawyers look out – the accountants are coming

Just when you thought you’d caught up with all the changes afoot in the legal sector, the Big Four accountants go and chuck a curveball.  The re-emergence of Ernst & Young, KPMG and PwC as players in UK legal services may not be a huge surprise in this ABS-obsessed world. But that they’re going at it with such gusto is – especially now that Deloitte appears keen to join the party.  Anyone old enough to recall the accountants’ first foray into the UK legal market may be hard pushed to care much about their second coming.

If the accountants start off on the acquisition trail you might just sit up and take a bit more notice. With enviable profits and huge office networks the Big Four have the wherewithal to cherry pick firms and cross-sell between their considerable business interests. Deloitte Legal is keeping its cards close to its chest for now, but with a new chief keen to exploit the UK legal market that could be exactly what he has planned.

Read more here.

UK rises to take top investment spot in Europe

arrowInvestors are increasingly turning to the UK instead of other European countries, with the number of large foreign direct investments jumping by 15 per cent as growth picked up during the last year. The UK is now ranked first in Europe among global investors, who were asked by audit giant EY which countries they believe will be attractive sources for capital in the next three years. Germany is now in second place.

London is also taking an increasingly dominant position for investors. Just fewer than half the 799 projects last year were centred on the capital, with 380 in total. The city’s share of investment is also growing at a faster pace than the country as a whole, up by a fifth during 2013.

Read more here.

The 8 Traits Creating the Firm of the Future Today

futureHitendra Patil in the US asks: A CPA firm in San Francisco hires programmers! Do you?

Several discussions across multiple thought leadership groups, industry experts and advisors have boiled down to the crux of the question for the future, i.e.: What is needed by CPA firms [and lawyers for that matter] to become sustainably successful? What are these traits “The Firm of The Future” must have? The author thinks there are eight.

It’s really worthwhile reading this article to find out about the 8 traits, here.

Technical Stuff

Obfuscation out: FRC wants clear and concise annual reports

Jill Treanor writes in the Guardian to say that top companies are being urged to produce clearer and more concise information to describe their strategy to investors in a move intended to reduce the amount of verbiage in annual reports.

The Financial Reporting Council (FRC), which oversees corporate governance codes and accounting standards, is publishing new guidance to help reduce the size of annual reports, which can run to hundreds of pages and contain sections on remuneration, financial statements and the directors’ report. The new section containing a strategic report has been introduced since October 2013 and Melanie McLaren, executive director codes and standards at the FRC, said it should be concise enough to be read over a “decent cup of coffee”. The strategic report is intended to cover the business model and the risks the company faces.

Read more here.

New audit reports go down a storm with investors

ICAEW’s Economia reported that audit committee and audit reports are fast becoming required reading, especially among the investment community, a new KPMG report discloses. The firm’s head of audit, Tony Cates, says that the challenges of the new reporting regime have been worth the effort. “Take audit reports,” he writes in the introduction to the survey. “For the first time in my career, they actually say something and are actually being read. The Financial Reporting Council should take the credit for its bold decision to set us off down that path.”

Read more here.

The FRC’s true and fair view

ICAEW’s Economia reported that the Financial Reporting Council has put an end to the recent spat with a group of investors over the legality under UK law of using certain international accounting standards. It has issued a statement which reconfirms that the presentation of a true and fair view remains a fundamental requirement of financial reporting.

In the vast majority of cases, the regulator says, a true and fair view will be achieved by compliance with accounting standards and by additional disclosure to explain an issue fully. “However, where compliance with an accounting standard would result in accounts being so misleading that they would conflict with the objectives of financial statements, the standard should be overridden.”

Read more here.

Think tank proposes government alternative to equity release

think tank[9 June 2014, New Model Adviser] By Alex Steger:  A think tank has proposed that the government should offer elderly people an alternative to equity release, according to reports. A paper to be published by the Cass Business School and think tank the International Longevity Centre will set out a scheme whereby older people would be able to sell part of their homes to the government in return for a guaranteed lifetime income.

The Sunday Times reported that under the proposals, on death the property would be sold to repay the debt to the state with the remainder going to the person’s estate.

SRA whittles down diversity data non-compliers to hardcore 100

arguementNick Hilborne in Legal Futures reports that the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has cut the number of law firms failing to hand over data on the diversity of their staff from 1,106 to 108. The regulator said it had made it “very clear” to the remaining firms that they would face enforcement action. The SRA published a survey based on the data earlier this month.

This year was the first time firms were asked to provide diversity data, rather than individuals. By mid-January fewer than half had provided the information, though the exercise began the previous July.

Read more here.

Division of claims complaints costs unfair, says First4Lawyers

statueNick Hilborne in Legal Futures reports that the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) proposals on how the Legal Ombudsman’s costs for handling complaints against claims management companies (CMCs) are recovered disproportionally penalises those working in personal injury, a leading marketing collective has argued.

First4Lawyers said the MoJ has missed an opportunity to tackle some of the dubious practices that give CMCs a bad name by proposing a fees regime based on turnover, rather than wrong doing. The government has put forward a sliding scale based on turnover to cover the cost of LeO, up to a maximum of £40,000 for the largest CMCs.

Read more here.

New hourly rates to hit firms using paralegals

Eduardo Reyes in Law Society Gazette writes that firms that use a high proportion of paralegals to handle civil litigation will be the losers under new guideline hourly rates, costs lawyers have told the Gazette. A decision on the new rates, which have been frozen since 2010, is imminent, the Gazette understands.

Read more here.

New laws to stop claims firms giving away tablet PCs

BBC News report that lawyers and claims firms are to be banned from offering incentives such as free tablet computers to encourage people to make insurance claims Courts will also be given powers to refuse compensation for claimants who have been dishonest.

The measures, announced by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), are among several aimed at reducing insurance fraud. Justice secretary Chris Grayling has warned insurance companies he expects the reforms to lead to lower premiums.

Read more here.

Employment claimants go forum shopping

Kathleen Hall writes in the Law Society Gazette that claimants in employment cases are turning to county courts rather than pay higher fees for employment tribunals, a former tribunals’ chief said last week, casting doubt on figures showing a dramatic fall in claims.

David Latham, former president of Employment Tribunals (England and Wales), said it is ‘unclear’ whether the claims total has plummeted by the official figure of 80%.  ‘A lot of cases are going through the county courts as the fees are much cheaper, so we don’t know what the figure is,’ he told the Gazette at a Law Society event.

Read more here.

‘Equal merit’ policy can aid BME selection, says Bhatia

The founder of a new diversity pressure group has suggested the time has come for an ‘equal merit’ provision to help talented black and minority ethnic (BME) lawyers join larger firms, writes Catherine Baksi in the Law Society Gazette.

Sundeep Bhatia co-founded Asian Lawyers GB, supported by the Society of Black Lawyers, after the report published in March by Professor Gus John showed that BME solicitors continue to be disproportionately represented in the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s activities. The SRA last week accepted Professor John’s findings and said it had already begun implementing reforms to address factors that contribute to the problem.

Read more here.

Litigation funder set to take on lower value cases

lawyersA new litigation fund set up by an Irish property entrepreneur is promising to back cases with a lower value than most competitors are prepared to take on, writes John Hyde in the Law Society Gazette. Trusted Litigation Capital (TLC) will come to the market in September and fund cases worth as little as £200,000, its founder has told the Gazette.

Gearoid O Ceallaigh, who has a background in hotels and property, has already secured enough ‘seed investment’ to reach the £2m threshold for becoming a member of the Association of Litigation Funders, but he expects to raise ‘substantially’ more investment.

Read more here.

Martin Pollins

Martin Pollins

Managing Director at Bizezia
Martin Pollins is a Chartered Accountant with wide experience in corporate finance and business management. He holds a number of directorships and has served on the boards of several companies, including those listed on the London Stock Exchange, AIM and OFEX.

He was a Council member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales from 1988 to 1996.

Martin Pollins ran his own firm based in Sussex and was the first Accountancy firm in the UK to advertise on television and Martin went on to create and launch the CharterGroup Partnership (the UK's first Accountancy network) and then LawGroup UK (one of the largest networks of lawyers in the country).

Martin started work on the Bizezia concept in 1996, developing the broad range of information resources and products over the past 18 years.
Martin Pollins
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