News

FinTech startup Viola Black is using the combative slogan ‘Move over, Monzo’ to promote its pre-paid debit card app.

Viola Black is targeting the hype around challenger bank Monzo in an advertising campaign posted on billboards and buses in London, which declares: “Move over, Monzo. Download Viola Black: the new modern money management tool.”
 
The FinTech is also running a series of adverts on radio stations using the same content.
 
The campaign has drawn an amused response from Monzo employees, who have posted various messages on the bank’s community forums highlighting the fact that it offers Monzo’s brand name increased visibility.
 
Community manage Simonb said: “Hi Viola Black. Thanks for the shoutout!” A later post describes an image of the campaign on the side of a bus as “bizarre”.
 
However, a blog update posted to Viola Black’s website was keen to celebrate the success of the campaign in building up a buzz around the launch of its new app-based card and budgeting service.
 
“It’s only been live in the English capital for a couple of days, but it’s already getting people talking – and that’s exactly what we wanted!”, the post read.
 
“After all, when it comes to advertising to an audience of over 8 million people in one of the world’s most iconic cities, you only get one shot at making a first impression – which is why we chose the ‘Move Over, Monzo’ line,” it explained.
 
The company was still keen to underline that they “completely admire Monzo and everything they have achieved as a brand” adding that “competition is any industry is healthy”.
 
While the campaign has certainly generated a buzz, the company, which is not a bank, has drawn criticism from commentators on forums around the fees attached to its pre-paid card and account services, which include a £4 monthly subscription to use the account.
 
Viola Black acknowledged the pushback voiced by some users on Monzo’s forum, but responded: “Certain people might not see the point of a prepaid card in 2019 but, at the time of writing, the 137,820 powered by Viola (and signing up to Viola Black every day), clearly do.”
 
“Because, as Monzo have become a bank - offering overdrafts and other traditional banking facilities - there are going to be people that still want a prepaid debit card and account that is used solely for day-to-day budgeting and spending.”
 
The company also said its fees were necessary because it doesn’t want to “be the kind of company that loses money”, adding that it has not relied on crowdfunding as part of its business plan.

Hankook Tyre UK has announced the appointment of Brett Emerson as its British managing director.
 
"We are convinced with [Brett] Emerson we have made the best choice for this position," said Hankook Tyre Europe VP Marketing & Sales, Tony Lee.
 
"With 30 years of working experience in the UK tyre industry and his already existing attachment to Hankook, we found someone whose knowledge we trust and whose experience we will undoubtedly benefit from."
 
For his part, Emerson added: "We have developed a really strong and committed team at Hankook UK, and this, linked with having a portfolio of industry products, growing brand awareness, a deceptively large share of European OE fitments and some great business relations and partnerships with our customers gives us an amazing opportunity in the coming years."
 
Since joining the company more than four years ago, Emerson has implemented growth plans, which will be continued to expand Hankook's presence in the UK market.
 

He succeeds Jong Jin Park, who has relocated to the company's American headquarters to assume a new role.

Private equity investment platform Seedrs has announced a record-breaking year with the highest levels of investment on the platform to date. 
 
The Woodford-backed platform saw nearly a 60% increase in investment activity from last year, recording £195 million invested into pitches on the platform in 2018.
 
2018 saw 186 successful pitches from businesses who raised on Seedrs from 12 different countries, 28 of which were fundraises of over £1 million. Highlights included fast-growing international money transfer platform Transfergo, which raised €11.3 million from 1,047 investors, German portfolio company Sono Motors, one of Seedrs’ biggest European success stories, returned to raise €6.1 million, and wellness platform Urban Massage raised £3.5 million.
 
The Seedrs Secondary Market, which launched in June 2017, saw tremendous growth over the past twelve months. Now having delivered over 5,800 exits to investors, the desire for liquidity from both sides of the market in the early-stage asset class has now been clearly demonstrated. Investors have been generating highly profitable returns on the Seedrs Secondary Market, with the largest being a 23.3x return in portfolio company DeskLodge; many of these returns have been magnified further by generous UK EIS and SEIS tax reliefs.
 
In July 2018, the launch of Seedrs AutoInvest marked the sector’s first expansion into investment automation. The innovative product allows investors to build a diverse portfolio of early-stage businesses they don’t want to miss out on, in a more efficient way than ever before.
 
The Seedrs Anchor Investor Service, which supports businesses in finding institutional capital, had an impressive first year of operation. The exclusive service which no other equity crowdfunding platform offers, secured over £17 million in investment offers for 15 businesses in 2018. Whilst the service was initially designed to support Seedrs’ portfolio companies in their later stage rounds, it has quickly expanded to support new businesses raising on the platform. JaJa received £1.5 million through the Seedrs Anchor Service, taking its total raise on Seedrs to £5 million.
 
Finally, in September of this year, Seedrs released the latest report in its industry leading Portfolio Update series, which aims to bring transparency and data to what has historically been an opaque asset class. The report showed a 12.02% platform-wide IRR when looking at all 577 deals funded on the platform between July 2012 and the end of 2017, and when SEIS and EIS tax-reliefs were taken into account, it jumps to 26.42%.
 
Jeff Kelisky, CEO at Seedrs, says: "The past twelve months have been sensational for Seedrs; we’ve seen record levels of investment on the platform, while increasing our momentum in delivering real product and service innovation to the market. We launched another industry first in 2018 with AutoInvest, which alongside the ongoing success of our Secondary Market, delivered two entirely new financial products in this asset class, both of which demonstrated strong adoption from launch. These efforts continue to solidify our leadership in early-stage private equity at a pan-European level. We have big plans for 2019, starting with the launch of the Seedrs EIS100 Fund in the first quarter, with more to come as the year unfolds.”
 
Tim Levene, CEO at Augmentum Fintech plc, a significant shareholder in Seedrs, adds: “In 2018 Seedrs once again proved itself to be the market leader in this exciting and growing industry. From record-breaking numbers to sector-changing initiatives, we are delighted with their performance over the past twelve months, and looking forward to further growth and innovation throughout 2019.”
Games developer Sumo Digital has announced the appointment of former Telltale senior director of marketing Richard Iggo as its director of marketing.
 
Iggo (pictured) worked with Telltale Games for over seven years on titles such as Game of Thrones, Batman, Minecraft: Story Mode, and Tales from the Borderlands.
 
Prior to his work with Telltale, he worked as VP of marketing for SouthPeak Interactive, VP of marketing for Gamecock Media Group, and senior marketing manager at NCsoft.
 
At Sumo, Iggo will oversee the company's marketing strategy across its UK and India studios.
 
"I'm thrilled to return to the UK games industry and to Sheffield to help lead Sumo's ambitious plans," Iggo said. "I look forward to building on the foundations of the creativity, innovation and versatility that Sumo is known for throughout the industry."
A senior figure at independent travel agency Advantage fears plans by easyJet and online travel agency On the Beach to ramp up holiday sales threaten a return to “the days of price wars”.
 
Advantage’s Group Commercial and Membership Director Paula Lacey warned: “There are going to be two, big new players.
 
“On the Beach has made clear it’s coming in with very aggressive targets and easyJet Holidays is coming into the market in 2020.”
 
Lacey told a Travel Weekly Business Breakfast in December: “Both have said they’re going to work with the trade.
 
“That is good from an independent point of view because we’ll have more choice. My fear is what it does to price.
 
“Those who have been around a long time will remember the days of price wars. We don’t need that. The market-share game can be very short [but] you pay a high price for it.”
 
EasyJet aims to relaunch easyJet Holidays late in 2019 with former Tui product director Garry Wilson at its head.
 
Wilson said in December: “We’re not going to be a niche player. We have 20 million customers who buy a leisure flight and go elsewhere for accommodation. That will be our primary target.”
 
On the Beach has Atol consumer financial protection for 1.3 million holidays in the 12 months to March.
 
But the online agent declared its intention to “access the five million short-haul beach holidays booked offline”, after buying luxury tour operator Classic Collection Holidays in August.
 
It has promise to launch a Classic Online portal for travel agents to extend the operator’s product to “mainstream beach holidays”.
 
Lacey said: “Their numbers are big to start with. If it impacts on price, that is a problem for everybody. We will all pay the price.”
 
She added: “Will the multiples [Tui and Thomas Cook] decide to sell those tour operators or will they be reliant on the independent sector?”
 
EasyJet planned to increase capacity by 10% across Europe in the 12 months to September, ahead of relaunching easyJet Holidays in multiple markets late in the year.
 
The UK’s number-two operator Jet2Holidays has also increased its Atol licence to 3.8 million for the 12 months to September – up from 2.9 million the previous year.
Fishing tackle and equipment retailer Angling Direct has reported quarterly increases in online and in-store sales, buoyed by a record Black Friday performance.
 
In a trading update for the period between 1 August and 30 November 2018, group sales grew by 31.5% to £14.6m.
 
In-store like for like sales increased by 7.2% to £4.9m while e-commerce sales climbed from £5.4m to £6.7m.
 
The business reported record e-commerce Black Friday week performance, with sales up 55.8% to £1.3m.
 
Angling Direct said its international sales were also growing well, both via anglingdirect.com and the dedicated German site.
 
The company is on track to launch its dedicated websites for the French and Benelux markets by the end of the year. 
 
"The company has taken great encouragement from the recent performance against the backdrop of a difficult retail trading environment," said chief executive Darren Bailey.
 
"As the business launches its new international websites and continues to invest in its stores and overall customer experience, we believe that Angling Direct remains well placed to build on its market leading position."
Toolbank has announced that it has been appointed as the exclusive distributor for ToughBuilt products in the UK and Ireland.
 
The ToughBuilt deal offers Toolbank’s customers a great range of Saw Horses and Jobsite Tables, Mitre Saw Stands, Toolbelts and Pouches, Toolbags and Totes and Knee Pads – all backed by Toolbank’s proven service and support.
 
Joe Manners, Brand Manager at Toolbank said: “The introduction of this new range of high quality, professional tools and accessories to help save time, hassle and money on-site marks an exciting development for both Toolbank and ToughBuilt in this demanding sector where performance is everything. The partnership between Toolbank and ToughBuilt offers customers a real point of difference in this innovative and fast developing market.”
 
The full range of ToughBuilt product will be available to buy from 1st February and will be showcased at Toolbank’s Spring Tradeshows in March and April.
 
Toolbank is a privately owned, family-run business and has been distributing tools, accessories and consumables throughout the UK and Ireland since 1972. We now offer over 30,000 products, working with more than 250 high profile national, international and specialist brands – each of which has chosen to distribute their product ranges through our extensive network.
New car sales fell by nearly 7% last year in the biggest annual drop since 2008, according to industry figures.
 
A slump in demand for diesel, stricter emissions rules, and falling consumer confidence ahead of Brexit were blamed for the decline.
 
Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showed 2.37 million new cars were sold in 2018, down more than 174,000 on the previous year.
 
The 6.8% fall was the second year in a row of decline and the largest drop since demand fell by 11.3% during the financial crisis a decade ago.
 
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes described the challenges facing the industry as a "perfect storm". The trade body is forecasting a further 2% decline in 2019.
 
Mr Hawes said: "A second year of substantial decline is a major concern, as falling consumer confidence, confusing fiscal and policy messages and shortages due to regulatory changes have combined to create a highly turbulent market.
 
"The industry is facing ever tougher environmental targets against a backdrop of political and economic uncertainty that is weakening demand so these figures should act as a wake-up call for policy makers."
 
The key factor in the decline for last year was a 29.6% drop in diesel sales - with the SMMT blaming a "lingering sense of uncertainty" over how diesel cars will be taxed and treated after the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal in 2015.
 
Petrol car sales were up by 8.7% while alternatively-fuelled vehicles such as plug-in hybrids or electric cars were up 20.9%.
 
Another factor affecting car sales was the implementation of a new EU emissions testing procedure which came into force in September and was blamed for a supply shortage in the autumn.
 
Mr Hawes said it would be unfair to attribute too much significance to concerns over Brexit when explaining the fall in new car sales.
 
But he said that falling consumer confidence had reduced consumers' appetite for a "big ticket purchase".
Carluccio’s is to pay for all of its non-British EU employees to apply for settled-status in the UK after Brexit.
 
The restaurant group, which last year entered a Company Voluntary Agreement and closed 30 loss-making sites, said that it would offer to cover the £65 cost of applications for all of its 1,550 staff affected.
 
Carluccio’s chief executive Mark Jones said: “There would be no Carluccio’s without one man making the journey from Europe to London. Today we employ over 2,300 people from over 80 countries.
 
“A large number, just like Antonio, decided to travel from mainland Europe and make their home in the UK. We are passionate about the value that they bring to our business and it is something which we are keen to protect. It’s what Antonio would have wanted.”
 
EU citizens who have lived in the UK for over five years must apply under the new scheme to obtain their new UK immigration status.
 
Those applying have to complete three steps: proving their identity, showing that they live in the UK and declaring that they have no serious criminal convictions.
 
For those that have not yet lived in the UK for five years are granted pre-settled status and are able to apply for the full status once they reach the five year point.
Update 08.01.19
 
Moneysavingexperts reports that Economy Energy has ceased trading.

Energy supplier Economy Energy has been banned from taking on new customers until it improves its customer service.
 
The energy regulator, Ofgem, said the ban would remain in place for three months to allow the firm to improve its customer contact procedures.
 
It must also address billing and payment failures, and issue customer refunds in a timely manner.
 
Ofgem said if the company - which has 244,000 customers - failed to improve it could have its licence revoked.
 
In addition to the ban on new customers, Economy Energy has also been prevented from requesting one-off payments and increasing direct debits.
 
Anthony Pygram, Ofgem's director of conduct and enforcement, said: "Ofgem is taking action to protect customers from suffering more harm from the unacceptable level of customer service provided by Economy Energy.
 
"We expect the supplier to take immediate action to rectify its failings or face having its ban extended.
 
"All suppliers are required to treat their customers fairly. Where they do not, Ofgem will take the necessary steps to ensure suppliers change their behaviour and to prevent further harm to customers."
 
If Economy Energy fails to make improvements within three months, Ofgem can extend the ban and, ultimately, cancel the company's licence.
 
Matthew Vickers, chief executive at the Energy Ombudsman, which referees disputes between companies and consumers, said: "In November alone we opened investigations into 399 complaints about the company, compared to just 112 last January.
 
"Common issues include disputed account balances, failure to issue refunds and concerns over billing delays."
 
Gillian Guy, chief executive of consumers' association Citizens Advice, said: "Today's action by Ofgem is a welcome and necessary step towards fixing the consistently poor service experienced by Economy Energy customers.
 
"We've raised a number of concerns in recent months about Economy Energy to the regulator. These include failing to refund customer credit balances and not properly billing people switching to a different supplier.
 
"But there's a wider problem behind this news. Ofgem's upcoming licensing review offers a major opportunity to stop underprepared firms entering the market. Further action is needed now to address the ongoing issues caused by poorly performing companies already operating."

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