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CAN AUTOMATION HELP BUSINESSES GET PAID ON TIME?

By Magali Michel, Director at Yooz

 

Procurement process costs account for an average of 60% of turnover for most companies.

On one hand, it highlights the considerable extent of savings that can be derived by optimising the procurement function.

On the other hand, it underlines the overriding influence of suppliers on business performance, largely setting the conditions for companies’ ability to face exacerbated levels of competition and restrictive standards, while continuing to meet the ever-growing demands of their own clients.

So, can businesses improve their supplier and partner relationships by optimising their accounts payable processes?

 

Supplier relationship management: a critical issue for companies

Many companies tend to focus on the first point without always measuring the full impact of their financial policy on managing relationships with suppliers. One trend is for companies to extend supplier payment periods to better cover their working capital requirements.

Of course, it is essential to have an appropriate level of cash and, in some respects, it seems logical to favour inflows over disbursements. But when that reflex is generalised and actually becomes a management method, imbalance or even abuse may not be far behind.

In the UK, small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) across the UK are chasing a combined £50bn in late payments. In total, almost 900,000 hours a day are currently being wasted by companies trying to get paid.

While the UK government having tried a number of times to address the issue, late payments have been hindering SMBs from growing for a long time now. The length of time SMBs and the self-employed are wasting in order to try and get paid is unacceptable. Cash flow is crucial for any business, especially for SMBs, and just a few late payments can tip them into a dangerous financial position.

 

Charter for responsible supplier relations: what are the stakes?

The first risk in poor supplier relations is financial.

Over the past decade, UK businesses have pressured lawmakers to increase mechanisms and encourage companies to respect their commitments in terms of payment periods and deadlines.

In January 2020, Labour peer Lord Mendelsohn introduced a Private Members Bill to aimed at addressing late payments and strengthening the powers of the Small Business Commissioner. The bill aimed to enforce a 30-day limit for all invoice payments and impose large fines on repeat offenders.

Nearly a quarter (23%) of insolvencies in the UK are caused by late payments, and a 2016 FSB report estimated that if all payments were made on time, there would be a £2.5bn boost to the British economy.

An additional risk for bad payers comes is damage to reputation. This risk is far from harmless, particularly in this day and age of social media where information travels far and wide. A brand’s image is an asset that is both precious and fragile.

Another risk related to late payments is quite simply the risk of destabilising suppliers and making relations more complicated. It is important to remember that suppliers are also confronted with their own needs for liquidity. If they have trouble collecting on invoices, they may find themselves in a very difficult situation.

For client companies, paying suppliers poorly is like sawing off the branch they are sitting on. In many cases, the client itself would have much to lose if one or more of its suppliers were to disappear, potentially even putting the client in a position where it must think more about basic survival than properly carrying out its activity.

 

Supplier relationships: who is responsible?

In order to mitigate these risks, it is critical to set up close collaboration between Procurement and Finance departments.

The procurement function, a cornerstone in supplier relations, is now positioned as a major lever for efficiency and productivity. In its study “Futurebuy: The Future of Procurement – 25 in 25,″ KPMG points out the importance for Procurement departments to develop their financial expertise.

That would help improve relations with the procurement departments alter-ego, the finance department, in matters relating to managing supplier relations.

Indeed, while the procurement department is often seen as the gateway for outside innovation, namely as provided by suppliers, it must also be able to leverage key indicators that will enable it to speed up and simplify the production of analyses and dashboards that help with decision-making.

 

How to improve supplier relationships

In this context, document digitalisation and automation technologies represent an excellent solution for optimising the supplier relationship and turning it into its own lever for supporting company performance.

Beyond immediate time savings, supplier process automation drastically reduces data entry errors and duplicates, with the goal of reducing costs and ensuring better management and increased value for people reassigned to more strategic tasks.

A digitalised Purchase-to-Pay process, from orders to invoice payment, archive and storage, enables all involved stakeholders – both suppliers and business teams – to increase the visibility, quality, and efficiency of their P2P process, gain strategic vision on business spend and reduce the processing time and costs by up to 80%.

 

More opportunities than risks

Managing the supplier relationship is an important issue in controlling risks for the company, but it also represents an opportunity.

Smoothing out potential disputes and financial tensions as much as possible by eliminating payment delays is one way for a company to create healthier relations and contracts, while reinforcing and creating new points for collaboration with suppliers.

Building a climate based on trust encourages suppliers’ commitments and enables the company to fully benefit from their expertise and innovation capacity.

This voluntary approach invites companies to recognise that their destiny is now inseparable from that of their suppliers – even if only on the increasing number of topics for which their joint responsibility is engaged.

By optimising management of that relationship beyond a uniquely financial dimension, the supplier ecosystem becomes an essential and undeniable lever that supports the company’s competitiveness.

 

Finance

AI: CUSTOMER FACING EMPLOYEES’ BEST FRIEND IN THE FINANCIAL SERVICES INDUSTRY

By Ryan Lester, Senior Director, Customer Experience Technologies at LogMeIn

 

We’ve all heard the old saying “money talks.” Well when it comes to customer loyalty and retention, good customer experience talks much louder, with 30% of customers leaving a brand and never returning due to a bad experience.

The truth is, there are a lot of companies with similar products and services, but that doesn’t mean that differentiation is impossible. So, what’s the solution? For financial services, large and small, customer experience is becoming the key competitive differentiator and the best way to deliver an impactful experience is to empower customer-facing employees to do their best work. Artificial intelligence (AI) is enabling these employees to create remarkably better customer experiences, resulting in customer loyalty, advocacy, and overall growth.

For financial institutions that have been considering new strategies for improving the quality and efficiency of their customer experience, here are a few ways AI can enable them to deliver the “human factor” that good customer experience demands whilst ensuring customer facing employees can provide a more positive experience for customers.

 

Increase employee productivity

How much of employees’ time is spent searching for answers to questions? Do they ever have to put customers on hold or even step away to get additional help? AI helps provide front-line employees real-time guidance so they can spend less time looking for information and more time solving problems. An AI-powered chatbot, for example, can be listening in the background of a conversation helping point employees to the right data, solutions, and processes to resolve customer issues faster than ever before.

 

Deliver a consistent customer experience

When banking customers engage with their financial institutions, they measure the speed and accuracy of the service through two criteria. First, how quickly can the system access their account and deliver the correct information? Is it faster than a human could type it in and share it? And second, if they eventually do need to be connected to a live customer support agent, is their information captured and passed along accurately? AI technology takes those general queries off the customer support team’s plate, providing a quick, accurate, and effective response. If a query needs a more in-depth response, AI can hand it off to support staff to address.

Not only this but leveraging a centralised, AI-powered knowledge solution ensures every employee has access to the same, updated information, so no matter who the customer speaks to, they can be assured that employee responses are both consistent and accurate across the board.

 

Accelerating employee training and onboarding

Like any industry, employee turnover is inevitable and can be costly. But, not training new employees correctly or in a timely manner could be much more costly. When it comes to financial services there is a lot to learn, whether it is something simple like the process for checking an account balance to all the nuances associated with mortgage loans. AI can support on-the-job training by helping new employees answer questions confidently, correctly, and much quicker than they could before.

 

Improving employee satisfaction

Today’s banking customer has all kinds of new ideas about their banking experience. “The Amazon Effect” has successfully raised consumer expectations to the extent that a consistent, personal, and relevant experience is the new normal. As a customer, how many times have you been told “I’m sorry, I don’t know the answer?” Customers want solutions to their problems and employees want to be able to deliver those solutions as efficiently and effectively as possible. AI assisting in the background helps minimise those negative moments – making employees job easier, less stressful, and overall more enjoyable.

 

Identify knowledge gaps

Do you know all the questions employees are getting asked? Do you know what’s easily answered and what’s not? Real-time insights allow knowledge managers to keep up to date on frequently asked questions and gaps in current resources. This allows them to strategically improve or add content where needed.

 

Augmenting customer service

Whether talking with an AI chatbot or a personable customer service team member, the modern banking customer has high expectations for convenience, speed, and security. Which means that the technology you choose to deploy and how you deploy it is now just as important as who you hire and how you train them.

Today’s AI solutions won’t replace customer service agents or get in the way of the human factors that drive the customer experience. On the contrary, they augment it, allowing the business to do more without adding human resources. The higher the quality of a AI chatbot solution, the better it will be at taking the routine requests off the plate of customer service agents—giving them more time to provide a personalized and positive experience for customers.

 

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Technology

BEFORE THE INK IS DRY: CORRECTING BIOMETRIC SPOOFING MYTHS

Eric Setterberg, System Design Engineer at Fingerprints

Biometric authentication is highly robust, and the latest solutions offer considerably greater security than their authentication predecessors: PINs and passwords.

But as biometrics moves into new areas such as payments and access control, privacy and security concerns are rising. Biometrics has long been subject to scrutiny, with many elaborate examples of people working to trick biometric sensors to crack devices in the media and online.

To ensure the continued adoption of biometrics, it is important to shine a light on the reality of biometric spoofing.

 

The Evolution of Biometric Solutions…

The first use of fingerprints as forensic evidence was in an Argentinean court case in the late 1800s. With the technology still in its infancy, this was done manually and by eye, comparing latent residual prints lifted from crime scenes to charts of inked fingerprints obtained from the suspects at arrest.

A few decades later, the FBI began collecting fingerprints of criminals and civilians. They also introduced the automated comparison of fingerprints by computers in the 1970s. These “traditional representations” have now been standardized by ISO and ANSI.

… and their Spoofs

The earliest and simplest of these matching devices were easy to spoof. Really, all you needed was a photocopy or a good image of a fingerprint to make a successful spoof.

But as biometrics moved to more advanced technology, the game for biometric ‘spoofers’ has changed and the task of crafting fake fingerprints is considerably more difficult.

The biggest boost for biometric security, however, came with its introduction into mobile phones.

 

How Mobile Changed the Game

Before the widespread integration of fingerprint sensors in smartphones, the technology underwent significant evolution. No operator wanted to use large biometric sensors in modern phone designs. Sensors had to become much smaller to reach the perfect price and design point for the mobile world, but this meant needing to capture data from a smaller surface area of the finger.

To maintain the security of these smaller sensors, algorithms evolved significantly in order to utilize a greater amount of data per unit area. These mobile-driven hardware and software changes resulted in the optimized image capture of modern touch sensors.

As a result, tricking these systems now requires a considerably higher level of detail to be reproduced correctly for a match to be successful, far beyond rudimentary gummi bear spoofs and photocopies

 

Setting the Perfect Spoofing Scenario

Compromising fingerprint authentication via spoofing can still be done, even with all the technological advancements. However, it now requires considerable care, skill, money, and time. And to start, a good latent print…

To retrieve a latent print that’s high quality enough to work, you either need a willing volunteer to lend you their finger, or the commitment to stalk a victim until a viable fingerprint can be retrieved. Even with a decent latent print, modern spoofs then require advanced photoshop skills and/or a lab to successfully convert latent prints into effective moulds.

So – what about those articles boasting how easily they have hacked the latest smartphone device’s fingerprint sensor?

In fact, there are only two instances of fingerprint spoofing seen in the media nowadays: proof of concept and cooperative spoofs. Lay enthusiasts and media go through the effort of setting up a lab to create spoofs with latent fingerprints either from themselves or cooperative volunteers. Even the most successful of these take months of work, a highly skilled team, and the perfect scenario of circumstances.

Put simply, the effort required for spoofing modern fingerprint sensors cannot be applied at any scale. Each biometric spoof needs to go through the same laborious process and clinical conditions. So, if you can bring together a willing group of spoofing enthusiasts, tricking a biometric device could earn you fifteen minutes of fame on the internet, but it is likely to be conducive to a successful criminal business plan…

 

A “How” Without a “Why”

Spoofing biometrics remains technically possible, and there will always be those up to the challenge of trying to hack the latest technology. But the reality is that modern biometric solutions require more time, skill, and frankly, luck, to successfully spoof than ever before. Not to mention that tireless R&D work is continuously strengthening spoofing resistance. And, as use cases start to combine multiple biometric authenticators, such as combining fingerprints with face or iris to perform an authentication, spoofing will only become more complex.

By comparison, hacking PINs and passwords is considerably simpler and more scalable, making it far more lucrative. And, criminals generally take the path of least resistance.

For the average consumer, greater use of biometric authentication is not only a means of simplifying authentication, but dramatically improving the security of their devices, applications, and personal data. With PINs and passwords still the most common authentication method outside of mobile, it is imperative that the true security and advanced nature of modern biometric authentication solutions are understood.

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