Business Connections

Small Talk: Banks drag their feet over interest-rate swaps scandal

Britain’s banks insist they want to support small and medium-sized enterprises. So why have they been so slow to resolve the multi-billion pound interest-rate swaps mis-selling scandal?

Small Talk: Profits slump for TalkSport owner UTV after fall in advertising

Profits have slumped more than 40% at TalkSport owner UTV because of an advertising drought as there has been no big football tournament this summer.

Small Talk: It’s vital for start-ups that we nurture creative talent

Conflicting interpretations of the figures published by exam boards in recent weeks have prompted much debate over the current state of Britain’s education system.

Small Talk: Zero-hours contracts? Key for growth

Depending on whose figures you use, small and medium-sized enterprises account for between 60 and 70 per cent of jobs in the UK economy, and are behind as much as two-thirds of new job creation.

Small Talk: SME lending data throws up more questions than answers

Britain’s banks are convinced the key to repairing their relationships with customers is to be ever-more transparent about their activities. So it is that they have just published detailed statistics on lending to small and medium-sized enterprises in 120 postcodes around the country, including data on how much cash these SMEs have on deposit in the banks.

Small Talk: Slow progress in overcoming unpopular energy rollovers

One down, five to go. British Gas last week announced it would unilaterally abolish automatic rollover of energy contracts for small business customers in September. So will the rest of the Big Six gas and electricity providers follow its lead?

Small Talk: Eurozone is the best choice for taking first step in exports

It has become fashionable to urge British companies to look beyond the struggling eurozone

Small Talk: SMEs which can't get off the ground are the real headache

As former regulator Sir Andrew Large begins yet another inquiry into whether banks are starving small businesses of credit – in his case, specifically Royal Bank of Scotland – it is worth asking whether we are worrying most about the right people. The small and medium-sized enterprises that believe they have been unfairly turned down for lending may complain this is inhibiting their growth potential, but at least they were able to get off the ground in the first place. The next generation of SMEs may not be so fortunate.

Small Talk: Crowdfunding can flourish but it still needs a watchdog

Raise your glasses to BrewDog, the Scottish brewery company in the middle of a £4m growth capital campaign. It is raising the money from equity investors through a private share sale and looks likely to hit its target with no difficulties at all – £1m came in on the first day of the share issue.

Small Talk: It's time SMEs got a better deal on banks competition

The financial crisis may have sent economic growth into a tailspin, but it has been a major boon for one cottage industry: there is no end in sight to the inquiries and investigations into banking that the crisis has prompted. Still, the latest of these inquiries, an Office of Fair Trading investigation into competition in banking for small and medium-sized enterprises, represents an important opportunity.

Small Talk: Your data may be safer in the clouds, despite the latest security furore

While the furore over the US data surveillance programme Prism raged last week, Microsoft published a little-noticed research note that suggests too many small and medium-sized enterprises in the UK may be missing out because of their anxiety about data privacy and security.

Small Talk: It's a misconception that we're tying ourselves up in red tape

Having been embarrassed by yet another set of disappointing figures on bank lending to small businesses last week, Government ministers were understandably keen to get back on the front foot. So Business Minister Michael Fallon must have been delighted to be able to make a set-piece announcement about a crackdown on all the ghastly red tape preventing small and medium-sized enterprises getting on with the day job.

Small Talk: Rowing back on tax relief cuts for VCTs will lift SMEs

Small businesses' difficulty in accessing bank finance is routinely cited as one of the major obstacles holding back growing companies. No doubt that's true, but the focus on bank debt has overshadowed other funding pressures on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), notably the huge problems encountered by many small companies which are looking for growth capital.

Small Talk: Small firms find justice hard to come by in swaps scandal

Banking analysts often draw parallels between the payment protection insurance mis-selling scandal and the continuing controversy over interest rate swap contracts wrongly sold to small and medium-sized enterprises. There are certainly similarities – not least in the avaricious behaviour of banks' sales staff who peddled both products – but a crucial difference in the regulatory response means many SMEs may find it much harder to get redress than PPI victims.

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With such persuasive Establishment friends, little wonder Evraz is not overly concerned Westminster will turn against it, writes Jim Armitage
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Problems at RBS suggest that lack of focus persisted during Stephen Hester’s tenure
As a £14.5m fine for poor mortgage advice highlights organisational issues at the bank, James Moore wonders what other revelations may emerge
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As Warren Buffett is criticised for helping the fast food chain move to Canada, it’s clear the issue of good corporate governance in the US is not going away
Life and Style
In the game: EA's 'Fifa 14' is very popular with online scouts
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The MBA has a vital role to play in changing the face of company boardrooms
Getting a chief executive to leave with as little fuss as possible has long been a dilemma for corporate boardrooms, now data-centre operator Telecity has come up with an alternative
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Ian McCafferty, left, and Martin Weale, second left, are the ‘irrelevant minority’ of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee
Martin Weale voted for rate rises in 2011, but his predictions of rising inflation did not materialise, writes David Blanchflower
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If so, you are worryingly accurate, as the most important economic measure can only be guessed at, Ben Chu reports
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Shoppers are happy with lower prices but Tesco is mulling a dividend cut which could affect our pension funds
Supermarkets have cut prices so hard that we’re actually spending less. But what’s good for shoppers will be bad for shareholders, writes Simon Neville
Student
A report from the Association of Graduate Recruiters predicts a 17% rise in graduate job vacancies this year
Many of the students who graduated this summer are having great difficulty finding work and, as Amy Denman explains, it’s often down to not having the necessary work experience
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David Cameron is planning to revive the Communications Data Bill
His comments risk stoking the potent fear that immigrants are coming here and taking our jobs, says Ben Chu
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Howls of outrage would normally ensue, but the housebuilders have gotten away with it, says Russell Lynch
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Janet Yellen, chair of the Federal Reserve Board
The Federal Reserve has become a rogue hedge fund, taking massive, wildly speculative positions
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The Ummah Welfare Trust called on its supporters to boycott HSBC
Customer with Iranian links are being ditched by HSBC and others. They deny discrimination, but have hefty fines led to some banks being far too cautions? By Maria Tadeo
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'Political Ravishment - Or the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street in Danger!' from 1797 by James Gillray
Like Caesar’s wife, the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street is supposed to be above suspicion. But some members of Parliament have suspicious minds, writes Ben Chu
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Detroit’s once glorious and now decrepit Michigan Theater now operates as a car park
They forgot the motor city in the years of American urban renewal, but now JP Morgan is writing a $100m cheque to kickstart Detroit. Some doubt the bank’s motives
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Gerard Lopez took the wheel at the Lotus team five years ago with his business partner Eric Lux
He has investments ranging from real estate to Charlie Chaplin. But right now Gerard Lopez has Lotus on his mind
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Mark Carney lamented ‘remarkably weak’ pay growth at last week’s Inflation Report after claiming in May it could hit 2.5 per cent this year
The unprecedented collapse in real wages under the Coalition is even greater than in the period of the Great Recession from 2008 until the Coalition took office in May 2010, writes David Blanchflower
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Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?