Thomas Davies, CEO at Temporall
Crises strengthens the need for finance leaders to make fast, high-quality decisions – and the pandemic has reinforced the importance of having a clear and compelling strategy. But perhaps more than any other factor, the COVID-19 crisis has underlined the importance of a resilient business culture.
For many, resilience will be synonymous with business continuity planning. And to some degree this is true. But there are foundational values that each and every organisation must have in place if they are to successfully manage any period of disruption. Critically this is not simply about responding to today’s challenges, but about ensuring your business can seamlessly tackle change in whatever form it takes.
This culture of resilience can’t be built overnight, but key steps towards achieving it can be taken immediately.
The foundations of your business culture
This human component of organisational resilience is essential to both immediate response to, and acceleration beyond, the pandemic. Sadly the implications of COVID-19 have shown that for many financial services organisations, historically their investment in the human side of resilience has been limited. Leadership teams often have no real visibility of how their people are performing under pressure – or indeed how they themselves are positively or negatively influence the organisational response.
The process of developing resilience has clear stages, with the most effective investment in your culture starting with an honest appraisal of your current situation. Every organisation has its inbuilt preconceptions, assumed strengths and weaknesses and defaults to which people turn. Some of the simplest issues organisations face in addressing resilience are those such as a lack of understanding of the business’ core values, its mission or the vision that leadership teams have laid down. This commitment to a shared agenda creates a galvanising effect under pressure. In contrast any gaps within your organisational alignment immediately begin to undermine your continuity.
There are other elements of your culture that also need to be appraised – such as the effectiveness of management structures, line management processes and communications channels from executives. These compliment the more traditional continuity strategies around tool sets, variable working structures and emergency procedures.
Without this kind assessment, it’s very difficult to lead positive changes in culture.
Alignment is everything
Clarity is essential to an aligned and motivated workforce. The most effective resilience strategies need individuals and teams to interact seamlessly; in a crisis there’s no time for miscommunication or second guessing.
Trust is also important. Leadership teams must nurture a culture in which delegation is possible, and transparency is always there. If people cannot be open about challenges faced or concerns felt, problems get buried under the surface. In the fast moving, high stakes environment of the typical financial services organisation, this nuanced approach to culture can often be overlooked.
The problem is that many businesses state they operate in this way, but don’t. They use ‘trust’ as a corporate value – but fall short of making employees part of the objective setting process, or giving them freedom to use frontline experience to make meaningful decisions. This lack of alignment within the core of the corporate culture means that strict process setting is the only way to direct outcomes. Yet experience shows that crises undermine and force changes in procedures – something that’s incredibly hard to manage with every disruption you face. You don’t know how your team will react to such changes.
Remember, truly resilient businesses don’t have hidden surprises waiting for them.
No strategy is evergreen
Crises are hard to manage because of their unpredictability. Uncertainty has a tendency to demoralise and distract a workforce, and employees are quick to identify if the strategy coming from the leadership team is misaligned with the reality on the ground. So when you know you’ll always have to deal with unknowns, you need to be ready to adapt with them.
Each time a decision is made during a crisis, the situation should ideally improve. But if you’re not looking at current data it’s easy to rely on assumptions (or worse still, luck). As part of a drive towards resilience, businesses should increase the cadence of insights and their use within strategic planning. Understanding how the parameters you covered in the initial audit can be continually analysed is key to this phase. In turn decision making and risk management is significantly improved, whereas if you’re without real time information, your resilience can quickly become compromised.
Share success and don’t hide from failure
In high performance industries such as finance it’s not natural to share failure. But in the short term, hidden pitfalls prevent continuity strategies from coming to fruition, and in the longer term learnings are overlooked. Organisations that are truly resilient must be open about the mindset, behaviours and actions that deliver strong organisational resilience.
The challenges inherent in weathering a crisis are more evenly distributed across the business when behaviours associated with resilience become part of your performance analysis. When upfront metrics are shared, and access to insight democratised, delegation becomes more effective. This in turn breeds resilience and hence success. Teams are more motivated as they share in the rewards of resilience. And should a strategy not work out, with transparency, everyone can learn together and improve.
The organisations that most effectively persevere during the pandemic will not be those that simply ‘survive the best.’ The real winners will be those who have built a resilient culture, and can operate far more effectively in the landscape that follows lockdown.
TOUCH-FREE AUTHENTICATION FOR ALL: WHY WE NEED A SAFER PAYMENT METHOD IN THE ‘NEW NORMAL’
David Orme, SVP, Sales & Marketing, IDEX Biometrics ASA
Ever since March, when the World Health Organization encouraged people to not use cash, coronavirus has made touch-free shopping a necessity for all consumers. However, as economies across the world begin to reopen, we are seeing in-person shopping and payment via touch-pads return. So, with payments beginning to return to ‘normal’, the global payments industry must now consider an important question: how can we protect consumers from the pandemic and potential future health crisis’ during the transaction process?
During the pandemic, touch-free payments began to gain international traction across the world, changing behaviour during the payment process. While previously, consumers were happy to key in a PIN, or even provide a signature for a purchase, they are now familiar with more convenient and safer touch-free methods, and they’re not likely to let them go.
In Europe, high street chains have rapidly shifted to contactless payments, often refusing to accept cash. Meanwhile in the USA, levels of contactless payments have rocketed since the pandemic, after a slow initial adoption of the service – US banks only adopted contactless cards in 2019 compared to 2007 in the UK. According to Visa, overall contactless usage in the USA has grown 150% year-on-year as of May 2020.
Even mega-retailer, Walmart, has recently introduced contactless options for in-store shopping and delivery to protect its customers during the pandemic – showing there is growing demand for a touch-free and convenient way to pay across the world. This has raised awareness of touch-free payments among consumers looking to reduce contact-based interactions and time spent at the checkout during the pandemic.
Mobile payments are growing
Mobile payments are growing, again showing the desire for touch-free authentication among consumers. According to Forbes, the US mobile payment market – currently only sixth in the world – has increased 41% and is worth more than $98 billion.
To respond to the growth of touch-free payments among small vendors, PayPal has launched a new QR code-based payment app that allows market stall holders or businesses without a PoS machine to accept payment through a code. This means even the smallest of merchants, from small stores and farmer’s markets to craft sales, can now go cash-free and use touch-free payments for everything.
Meanwhile, China has long been using QR code-based apps, such as WeChat Pay from tech giant TenCent and AliPay from Alibaba. The apps are so widely used that street vendors display QR codes for payments and together the two fintech giants control about 90% of China’s digital payments market.
But card is still king
At the same time, payment cards are still consumers preferred way to pay. Of course, we only need to look to Apple and Google, who recently have launched physical payment cards despite running mobile payment apps for further proof that payment cards are far from dead.
So why aren’t cards on their way out, given the growth of mobile payments?
We know that consumers still look to payment cards for security and a sense of familiarity while shopping. According to IDEX Biometrics’ research carried out in the UK, only 3% of consumers choose to use mobile payments, while nearly two-thirds (65%) state that carrying their debit card provides a sense of security. And when it comes to touch-free payments, only biometric payment cards can provide the most secure level of validation with an easy digital experience for shoppers.
Despite the popularity of WeChat as a payment app, China’s biggest card provider China UnionPay has recognised that its customers aren’t ready to give up on physical payment cards either. China UnionPay has recently certified the first biometric fingerprint card technology in the country as they look to the use of biometric technology in cards to provide an extra layer of security, with added convenience and hygiene during a payment transaction.
Secure touch-free card payments
Biometric fingerprint payment cards provide end-to-end encryption – securing the user’s card and data. A fingerprint biometric card allows the user to authenticate their ID by touching their finger to the card’s sensor while holding it over the contactless card machine. Therefore the shopper only has to hold their own card over the PoS system and the entire transaction process is free of public PIN pads or checkout counters – making it no different to how consumers currently use contactless payments cards. This touch-free payment technology provides the consumer with the convenience of contactless or a mobile payment but with far greater security, as the card is personally tied to the owner.
Biometric identification is already firmly incorporated into our everyday lives. Thanks to unlocking our phones and authenticating payment apps, we are increasingly using our fingerprint to verify our identity. Now that consumers are familiar with the technology, biometric identification in payment cards will become essential to help consumers navigate the shopping and transaction process safely, speedily and securely.
As our economy gradually reopens, financial services providers must protect consumers during the transaction process. In stores, on transport systems – even in stadiums – a fingerprint biometric payment card will provide touch-free payment authentication for all.
THE BASICS OF BUSINESS FINANCE
When you’re starting your business, you’ve got a lot to be thinking about. You need to find affordable suppliers, market your business effectively, bring in paying customers, and perhaps even hire staff to get your fabulous idea off the ground.
Although they’re not the most exciting of these topics to think about, your business finances and how to best manage them should be at the top of your list. Get them right from day one and you can worry less about those smaller details and focus on making your business a success. Get them wrong, and you could be creating unnecessary stress and worry that could potentially harm your business.
With this in mind, here’s a useful introductory guide to business finance that can help you navigate the basics.
Find the right business bank account
Choosing a business bank account is a key decision that could either save or cost your business money. It will help you keep your personal and business finances separate, budget effectively, manage your accounts and complete your tax returns more easily, even if you’re just a sole trader. You may also be able to access financial support that has been specially tailored to your business needs.
However, business banks offer different services and charge different fees compared to your personal bank account. That’s why it’s worth finding out which account would be best for your business needs.
According to leading small business advisors Informi, “The high street banks (Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, NatWest) have all upped their game in order to keep up with the digital-only offering of the so-called challenger banks (Monzo, Starling, Tide Business).”
Keep track of everything
Whenever your business spends money or earns money, you should make sure you’re making a note of it and keeping the information somewhere safe.
Getting organised early will simplify your bookkeeping and accounting process, form great business habits and help you stay financially in the black. Depending on your business structure, this may also be a legal requirement.
This should include, but not be limited to:
- Incoming and outgoings
- Invoices sent (including invoice dates, numbers and full client information)
- Inventory details including dates purchased, stock numbers, purchase prices, dates sold, and sale prices.
Understand your tax obligations
Starting a brand-new business is an exciting time and the last thing you want to think about is taxes. However, you also don’t want to be hit with a large, unexpected tax bill at the end of the year. That’s why you should always be clear what your obligations will be and budget for it accordingly.
What you need to pay depends on whether you’ve registered as a sole trader or as a limited business:
Sole traders (self-employed): You’re liable to pay tax on all your income after your personal allowance is deducted. You’ll also need to pay your own national insurance contributions.
Limited companies: You’ll need to pay corporation tax and make employers’ national insurance contributions. Any employees must pay tax and national insurance on their income via a PAYE scheme. If you’re hiring freelancers, they may need to take care of their own tax.
This needn’t be confusing if you’ve kept financial records from the beginning and you’re clear on what you need to pay. For more information on UK government business taxes, visit their website.
Consider whether you need finance
Paying for your new equipment, premises, advertising, wages and other overheads can soon add up when you’re in the initial stages of starting your business.
If you don’t already have enough funding, you could get extra support from the government or bank. This may be in the form of a loan or grant such as the UK government StartUp loan.
However, be careful about taking on too much debt, especially during these unpredictable times of the coronavirus. Consider how much you can repay and make your decision accordingly.
Take care of your business finance basics and it will be much easier to start and sustain your new business during these challenging times.
Make sure that you choose the best bank for your needs, keep detailed records, understand your tax obligations and consider whether you need extra finance to help get your business off the ground.
But most of all, have fun! This is the start of an exciting new era in your life.
‘Choosing the best business bank account’ – https://informi.co.uk/business-administration/choosing-best-business-bank-account
‘6 Small Business Finance Basics You Must Understand’ – https://smallbiztrends.com/ – https://smallbiztrends.com/2016/01/small-business-finance-basics.html
‘Business finance and support’ – https://www.gov.uk/ – https://www.gov.uk/browse/business/finance-support·
‘Apply for a Start Up Loan for your business’ – https://www.gov.uk/ – https://www.gov.uk/apply-start-up-loan
‘Business tax’ – https://www.gov.uk/ – https://www.gov.uk/browse/business/business-tax
‘Finance Your Startup Business’ – https://www.startupdonut.co.uk/ –https://www.startupdonut.co.uk/financing-a-business/start-up-funding/finance-your-start-up-business
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