Business Connections

Small Talk: Small firms are missing out on the advantages of switching banks

Complaints by small businesses about their banks have tended to focused on credit – or the lack of it – in recent times, but what do these customers think about the rest of the service they receive? Are they happy with the way their business current account is run, and are they getting a fair rate of interest on the often sizeable amounts of cash they hold?

Small Talk: What about trying someone a little older, Lord Sugar?

So here we go again. Television’s annual tribute to the great entrepreneurial spirit of Britain arrives on our screens this week. And it is no wonder that the country’s small business start-up rates are running at an all-time high, given the quality, determination and, above all, passion of the candidates making their bid for glory on The Apprentice. We can expect every single one of them to give, at the very least, 110 per cent.

Small Talk: Many employers face penalties over pensions auto-enrolment

Britain’s small businesses are sleepwalking towards a pensions disaster. Thousands are missing the legally binding deadlines by which they must introduce occupational pensions for staff – and many will face expensive fines and penalties as a result.

Market Report: Shouts on the streets of Hong Kong are being heard in Paternoster Square

The shouts on the streets of Hong Kong are being heard in Paternoster Square. As protesters took to the streets of the former colony’s business district to call for democracy, traders in London were hitting “sell” on companies that do business in Hong Kong. HSBC was the worst hit, with its shares falling 15.2p to 635p. The emerging markets specialist Standard Chartered ended 19p lower at 1,155.5p as both banks were forced to close their offices in Hong Kong.

Small Talk: The banks are still not following their own guidelines for lending – starving creditworthy businesses of cash

Banks are still making thousands of poor decisions about whether to lend money to small businesses, according to the banking industry’s own adjudicator.

Small Talk: A seat at the top table for small entrepreneurs would help to stop muddle and inconsistency in Whitehall

With barely a breath taken following Scotland’s independence referendum, policymakers have rushed headlong into party conference season, pursued smartly by every pressure group imaginable. The Federation of Small Business (FSB) is no exception – today it publishes its manifesto for the small business sector – and deserves a fair hearing if this government and its successors are serious about putting entrepreneurialism at the centre of economic recovery and growth.

Small Talk: Small-company fat cats paying themselves almost as generously as big counterparts

Britain’s listed smaller companies are catching up with their larger counterparts in one worrying regard: they’re just as likely these days to be handing out whacking pay increases to fat-cat directors, irrespective of whether they’ve added sufficient shareholder value to merit such awards.

The pros and cons for small businesses are finely balanced

Small Talk: After two years of debate the effect on small businesses of a Yes vote in Scotland remains a guessing game

With less than two weeks to go until Scotland’s referendum, small business leaders appear to be sanguine. In March, 90 per cent of them told the entrepreneur network Ingenious Britain that they knew how they would vote, with 48 per cent concerned that independence would hurt their business. But by the summer, two-thirds of small and medium-sized business reckoned independence would make no difference to them, according to a survey by the networking group Vistage.

Small Talk: Take that leap, says the India-born Cobra entrepreneur and critic of the Coalition’s immigration policy Lord Bilimoria

When I came to England from India as a student three decades ago, being an entrepreneur was frowned upon – it meant being a bellboy or carpet salesman,” says Lord Bilimoria, the man behind Cobra beer.

Small Talk: Many young people are entering the jobs market without the right skills

Over the past couple of weeks thousands of young people received their exam results and I’d like to congratulate them all. Many of these school leavers will go on to work for a small firm or even start their own business.

Small Talk: Slow progress on curbing the power of energy giants – but small businesses can do more to help themselves

Another week, another inch forward in the grindingly slow battle against vested interests and uncompetitive markets that do so much damage to consumers and small businesses alike. Six days after announcing the referral of the banking sector for a full-scale competition inquiry, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced the next step in its investigation into the energy market, which has already been referred for the same process.

Market Report: Investors disappointed after hoping for juicy takeover bid for Salamander Energy

Investors hoping for a windfall from a juicy takeover bid for Salamander Energy have been disappointed.

Small Talk: Forget the regulator, it’s down to the customers to force better competition in business banking

Small businesses pleased that the Competition and Markets Authority’ has decided to refer the banking sector for a full competition inquiry should not get too excited. The truth is that if small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which the CMA agrees suffer at the hands of a lack of competition in the banking sector, really do want a better deal, they are going to have to fight for it.

Six in 10 small businesses are owed late payments and the average small business is currently owed £38,186 in overdue bills, Bacs says

Small Talk: Small businesses struggle to get paid – and too often the culprits are big businesses and councils

One in four companies is spending more than 10 hours a week chasing overdue payments

Small Talk: The Alternative Investment Market has recovered after five miserable years but is still fragile

Britain has a remarkable propensity for building things up only in order to knock them down again. The sad story of the online fashion retailer Asos is a case in point. Having lauded the company for years, driving its stock to higher and higher valuations, investors have run for cover at the first sign of trouble; two profits warnings have seen the share price halve this year.

News
Chancellor George Osborne (C) wears a high visibility jacket as he makes a visit to the Prysmian Group factory and speaks to factory manager Steve Price
We’re still waiting for the ‘march of the makers’ promised by George Osborne, writes Ben Chu
News
Video: The Independent's Alex Lawson provides a run-down of the day's major news from the City
News
Carrefour is now just 5 per cent more expensive on brands than Lidl in France
Eyes will be on the firm this Thursday as it unveils half-yearly results. It should look to France, where grocers can show UK retailers how to beat the discounters, says Alex Lawson
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Video: The Independent's Jamie Dunkley provides a run-down of the day's major news from the City
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As Philip Morris sues Uruguay over its health warnings, the tiny country has found itself a test case for big business lawsuits that could hit the EU, writes Jim Armitage
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Many of America’s economic competitors find it difficult to embrace change, writes Satyajit Das
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The ‘Oasis of the Seas’, the largest cruise ship in the world
Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week. Simon Usborne measures up some giants of the sea
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Video: The Independent's Jim Armitage provides a run-down of the day's major news from the City
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Places like Clacton have been left behind by economic growth
Stopping immigration won’t create jobs. Unaffordable tax cuts targeted at the better-off won’t help the poor. The real answers are a lot harder than that, writes Jonathan Portes
News
Jimmy Choo, whose shoes are designed by Sandra Choi (left), only raised £545m from its London listing
As Virgin Money shelves plans to list on the stock market and designer Jimmy Choo endures a cut-price debut, James Moore considers the outlook for firms wanting to raise funds
Life and Style
‘People take personally what Marks does,’ says Belinda Earl
Maggie Pagano recently said Marks & Spencer's clothes for middle-aged women were frumpy and boring. Last week, she met its style director
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Video: The Independent's Alex Lawson provides a run-down of the day's major news from the City
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We should either stay out altogether, or put boots on the ground,’ says Simon Murray as he oversees operations in northern Iraq. ‘Haven’t we got the balls to do that?’
Simon Murray is famed for his views on women executives. Now he’s firmly in a man’s world: finding oil in a warzone
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Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
Video: The Independent's Simon Neville provides a run-down of the day's major news from the City
News
Time to postpone the balanced budget: there’s no alternative to a boost in German domestic public spending and investment, writes Rupert Cornwell
News
FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA | AFP | Getty Images

Video: The Independent's Jamie Dunkley provides a run-down of the day's major news from the City

News
The BBC’s studios at Media City in Salford, whose mayor typifies the kind of civic leader the regions need
After a decade of wage decline and falling tax receipts, it’s no surprise the deficit is proving hard to clear. Here’s a solution, says Nigel Wilson
News
Video: The Independent's Alex Lawson provides a run-down of the day's major news from the City
News
Eurostar’s sale is expected to attract £300m with French state-controlled firm Keolis tipped to bid
A stake in Eurostar is up for grabs and will herald a privatisation jamboree to tackle the nation’s debts and fix the economy. But not everyone is keen, writes Jim Armitage
News
American dominance of key industries makes it an indispensable monopolists, says Satyajit Das
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The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
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Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

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Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
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A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
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Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
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Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker