Business Connections

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.

Small Talk: Have we got the right target if Aim shares can go into an Isa?

The big issue is whether investors should go into a market that is often illiquid and volatile

Small Talk: It will take years to solve the zombie problem – if it exists

There are two contradictory ways to look at the latest statistics on corporate insolvencies for England and Wales, which fell sharply during the first three months of the year for the fifth successive quarter. They either make a nonsense of the idea that an army of zombie companies threatens to undermine the economy's recovery, or confirm our worst fears.

Small Talk: Tackling late payers is a question of culture, not law

Which industry is worse than any other at paying its suppliers on time? The answer will not come as a surprise to readers who have followed recent efforts of companies such as Selfridges and John Lewis to squeeze more margin out of their supply chains. Retailers, it turns out, are the only companies who are paying more tardily today than a year ago.

Small Talk: Time for suppliers to stand up to bully boys

Next time you buy something in Selfridges, feel free to tell its staff you're happy to pay the price marked on the goods but that if they want the money there and then, you expect a 5 per cent discount. After all, that's effectively what the department store chain has just told its suppliers.

Small Talk: Firms that have cash are finding it tough as well

In a nation obsessed with home ownership, savers have long been let down by policymakers' one-eyed focus on mortgage interest rates – never more so than today in this era of unprecedented monetary stimulus when millions of savers are earning negative real rates of return on their money. But while personal savers are beginning to build up a head of steam as they protest at the raw deal they're getting, who is looking out for the interests of small businesses who hold money on deposit?

Small Talk: George Osborne's Aim lifelines may not be a help to UK small firms

Aim's decline has damaged the once-buoyant broking sector in the City

Small Talk: Here's how Osborne can make a big difference to the SMEs

Almost exactly a year ago today, George Osborne arrived at the Federation of Small Businesses annual dinner with an inspiring message. "I know that with the energy, creativity, innovation and courage of Britain's small businesses we can take on the forces of stagnation and win," the Chancellor of the Exchequer told his audience, inviting small and medium-sized enterprises to take the lead in driving economic recovery.

Small Talk: It's vital firms take steps to defuse the stress time bomb

David Prosser feels it's time to thaw your business relationships

Small Talk: Entrepreneurship as a force for social good

One doesn't hear so much talk of the "big society" these days, but that is not to say it isn't out there. The rise of social entrepreneurship has largely gone unnoticed by the mainstream business community – or policymakers for that matter – but thanks to the support of some organisations that might surprise you, this is a movement which is definitely in the ascendancy.

Small Talk: Save the schemes that find finance for our small firms

Treasury minister David Gauke was in congratulatory mood at the EIS Association's annual dinner at the House of Lords last week. The enterprise investment scheme, through which investors get tax breaks for putting money into smaller companies, is "the most successful and widely respected venture capital relief scheme in Europe", Mr Gauke told his fellow diners.

Small Talk: Scandals can become a silver lining for the smaller retailer

If you're a butcher who can explain the provenance of every piece of meat, shout about it

News
A general view shows the skyline of a central business district in Beijing on November 27, 2013. Foreign investment into China rose 5.77 percent on year in the first 10 months of 2013, the government said on November 19.
Central to China’s agenda of driving growth through economic reform is a shift from debt-driven investment to consumption
News
Horses are given an early morning workout at Churchill Downs race track in Louisville ahead of tomorrow’s Kentucky Derby
Despite a decline in American horse racing, tomorrow’s meeting might be the most lucrative sporting event on Earth, writes Andrew Dewson
News
Six banks were fined, including Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), for trying to manipulate foreign-currency prices are a stark reminder of the need for sweeping changes
James Moore wonders if anyone noticed there were some good bits in Royal Bank of Scotland’s results
News
The weak dollar has led to speculation that Janet Yellen will not press ahead with a first rate hike since 2006
Fed chair, Janet Yellen, is expected to announce a rise in rates in the final quarter of 2015. Hamish McRae with Economic View
News
Stansted gets connected with Dundee from 30 March
Spare a thought for Anthony Brooke, one of the two men forced on to Alliance Trust’s board by Elliott Advisors, says Jamie Dunkley
News
Shoppers wait for Woolworths in Ashford, Kent, to open so they can hunt for bargains at the chain's closing down sale
Many commentators think businesses will breath a sigh of relief following the ruling
News
Parliamentary Business: The Lib Dems' centre of gravity on the EU has shifted. Mark Leftly finds the eurozone crisis has sharpened opinions
News
Women and the young are finding it more difficult than men to match with jobs that offer them the hours they desire
More hours mean lower benefit bills, higher tax takes and rising wages. David Blanchflower explains how falling jobless figures conceal a problem at the heart of the economy
News
Katherine Garrett-Cox opposes appointments at Elliott Advisors mooted by a hedge fund
Elliott has won the day and Alliance will need to work quickly to address that issue, says James Moore
News
Plans put forward by Ed Miliband have been met with derision by leading property figures (Getty)
Pledges to build millions of new dwellings, fiddling with stamp duty for first-time buyers – politicians are promising whatever they think the electorate wants to hear. Russell Lynch takes an unbiased look at the main parties’ election manifestos
News
Xavier Rolet says the economy will be pivotal in deciding how we vote
News
Protestors demonstrate outside a testy HSBC annual general meeting in London
HSBC’s shares were jumping like a grasshopper in spring in the wake of reports that it is considering spinning off the bank that brought it over to London in the first place, says James Moore
News
File photo
Employers should have an anti-harassment and bullying policy, which is properly communicated to the whole workforce, says Matt Gingell
News
The founders of Brew Dog, James Watt and Martin Dickie, with bottles of Tokyo*
This is an industry that has posted, on aggregate, compound annual growth of more than 100 per cent over the past three years, writes David Prosser
News
A Grimsby trawler: outside the South-east the economy is weak
There is widespread evidence that under-employment has risen even more sharply than the unemployment rate, says David Blanchflower
News
A court sketch shows Navinder Singh Sarao opposing his
extradition to the US at Westminster magistrates’ court
The Independent spoke to workers in the City on their lunch break
News
Protests against Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff
After a clear-out of executives and with dozens of politicians being investigated, the company's new chief has announced a clean start. Tom Bawden and Jamie Dunkley report
News
Bob Diamond’s bonuses ran into the hundreds of millions of pounds at Barclays
The disgraceful, shameful actions of Deutsche’s traders and of their colleagues who attempted to frustrate regulatory investigations are beginning to elicit merely a weary shrug of the shoulders, says James Moore
News
Protest rally in June 2011 in front of the parliament in Athens expresses opposition to a new austerity package
Hamish McRae can’t find a single developed country that has accumulated a national debt of 175 per cent of GDP in peacetime and not defaulted
News
Barclays is set to face its shareholders during what is likely to be another hostile AGM season after the demonstrations last year
Boardroom heads rolled when investors rose up and staged a series of pay revolts in the 2012 AGM season. Jamie Dunkley examines whether the events that rocked the City of London were game-changing or have been consigned to history
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UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
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The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

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Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
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Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk