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DISRUPT TO SURVIVE IN FINANCIAL SERVICES, BUT BEWARE: YOUR TEAM MUST BE IN SHAPE FIRST

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Michael Chalmers, MD EMEA at Contino

 

COVID is forcing extraordinary change in the financial services industry. It’s happening fast, already uprooting insurance, transforming payments and changing the way we interact with our customers across the industry.

But for the 4000 UK financial services providers who are at critical risk due to COVID-19, these tales of success should come with a warning. Disruption in the industry certainly won’t come overnight.

Only the most interconnected web of people, technology and culture can produce effective disruption at this critical time. Discover below the key trends we’re seeing in financial services, and how to upskill, empower and equip teams in order to create the organisational impetus for this transformation and disruption, in an industry known for its monolithic ways of working.

 

Top Technology Trends in Financial Services for 2021

As we enter another year of uncertainty, financial services organisations–and their customers–are looking for technology solutions that promise above all, flexibility.

Partnerships between retailers and payments companies that can deliver greater flexibility for consumers as well as increased reliability for retailers will boom in 2021. Even before the pandemic, we saw the flourishing of partnerships between retailers and Klarna, the ‘buy-now-pay-later’ online payment processing firm. With the impact of the downturn likely to continue well into 2021, add-on services that offer more options to support merchant resilience will be essential.

Many companies have embraced ‘fluid’ payment ecosystems capable of handling multiple digital payment solutions but only those capable of capturing data insights to drive their product innovation and sales strategies will reap the full benefits. Real-time user profiles, fraud anomaly detection and personalisation, are all enabling marginal gains for payment providers that will differentiate them from competitors in 2021.

 

But don’t run before you can walk

Before businesses can jump on new technology trends however, it’s critical to ensure they have an innovative culture in place. This will form the foundation for effective disruption. Here are my four tips for building a solid foundation.

1)    Focus on data, with the customer at the centre

Customer experience is the central element to all disruption in the financial services today. Respond in real-time to customer queries. Better still, anticipate the customers’ next need before they’re even aware of it. All of this is made possible through a connected view of data.

Businesses should continue to embrace technologies such as AI and ML to harness customer insights and respond to customer needs–whether that’s approving a loan or recommend a new offer.

From answering customer queries and personalising banking experiences to revenue accounting and trade settlement dashboards, advanced data capabilities will continue to be critical.

 

2)    Be realistic about what your team can achieve–and up-skill if need be

In my own work, I’ve seen that digital transformation is most effective when it factors in the abilities of the existing team–but that doesn’t mean leaving them on their own.

First, collaboration is key. IT and data teams must form internal partnerships in order to get plugged into the business side of things. Critically, they must be present in the boardroom. For many years, those with technical skills have been left out of planning meetings. But their knowledge is absolutely critical, especially when it comes to choosing the right tech stack to enable innovation.

If it becomes apparent that the team is lacking in the necessary tech capabilities, outsourcing is extremely valuable. But beware: it is essential to focus on building up internal capability in order to create long-lasting change–and scrimping on the upskilling for cost reasons will only result in greater expense. Bring in fully trained teams to both implement tech and upskill to foster stronger teams internally.

 

3)    Enable innovation in a worry-free environment

In order to remain competitive in the modern marketplace, and to ensure long-term survivability, financial services organisations must transform their business models to focus on digital innovation and customer expectations.

It’s no secret that the cloud enables organisations to innovate at speed and scale. However, before teams can get stuck in, it’s crucial to ensure they have safe cloud environments in which to explore and innovate.

Developers must be given the freedom to evaluate new technologies and to make any necessary changes to enable rapid creation of business value. Having this flexibility and foresight when implementing and rolling out your public cloud solutions means that ideas can truly come from anywhere in the organisation.

 

4)    Don’t just get the cloud, get the cloud right

The adoption of cloud is now widespread, but those who can optimise it will be reaping the rewards in speed, efficiency and, ultimately, customer satisfaction. Cloud shouldn’t just be a platform to build in–it should help to inform decisions and facilitate new ways of working, ultimately producing something greater than the sum of its parts. Building out cloud-native engineering, culture and operating models will future proof the capability of financial services organisations.

Finally, cloud capabilities should be rolled out right across the organisation. Contino research shows that, while 77% of organisations have adopted the public cloud, only a tiny proportion have actually scaled this out across the organisation. To do so means you’re able to share data across every department, to every person, creating a data-driven culture which will hugely benefit all decision-making going forward.

 

Prepare the ground and seeds will grow

Disruption is achievable for every financial service organisation in the UK market today – yes, even legacy brands. But the saving grace for those that are struggling at the moment needn’t be the debut of an exciting new product or pipping a competitor to the post with a partnership. It will be the construction of a collaborative and creative culture from which innovative ideas can grow – without being choked by unavailable data, the fear of upsetting day-to-day operations, or restrictive team structures. Innovation is what will pick today’s struggling financial services providers up and get them out of danger.

 

Business

HOW WILL DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION EFFECT JOBS SKILLED IN TECH

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Maria Paola Resta, HR Manager at Auriga

 

The world of technology is constantly evolving, and digital skills are also rapidly changing over the years. The interaction with the end customer is becoming more and more digital since the pandemic, therefore tech jobs, particularly in the banking industry, may need professionals to “humanise” the interfaces used by customers.

 

Tech jobs on the rise

Tech talent is growing, particularly in the Artificial Intelligence (predictive, customer profiling, etc.) sector, and technical skills regarding augmented reality, the user experience, and interface design are also on the rise. The outbreak of the pandemic has led to an unprecedented acceleration in the digitisation of processes, therefore jobs that specifically require knowledge of digital skills has increased in order to meet the needs of customers. Tech jobs remain focused on specialised areas of tech, however as the technology industry is in constant flux, some areas might be in more of a demand in comparison to others.

 

How remote working will affect the tech talent pool

The increase of remote working has already impacted the tech skills business, as the day-to-day working environment now exists in the digital realm. Tech skills are needed now more than ever, and employers have a huge role to play in helping people to continue their personal development while continuing home working. They need to focus on their personal development in order to build the workforce they need for tomorrow’s world.

 

Skills beneficial to the banking industry

There has been a massive shortage of skilled candidates in digital and technology disciplines. IT and financial companies need to upskill existing staff to fill these exciting new roles. In an age of high-frequency change, learning is truly for a lifetime.

In the debate about tomorrow’s skills in the banking sector, the rising value of each employee has often been overlooked. People are a valuable asset as machines take on the more robotic processes, and uniquely human skills come to the fore. How we develop these skills becomes a critical question for employers and workers alike. It will be many years before schools and universities nurture students well versed in these skills.

 

More tech talent required for business digital transformation

The process of digital transformation has already started with some businesses as a modernization process. This has undoubtedly accelerated strongly following the COVID-19 pandemic which forced everyone to overcome situations of technological immaturity and to radically review flows, work processes and models of consolidated business. Digitisation has entered even more pervasively into working life, becoming an essential and permanent condition, and making it necessary to acquire skills that are best suited to the new digital paradigms.

It’s inevitable that companies looking for ways to counteract the effects of the pandemic on their operations will ask their technology function to bear part of the burden. However, they must be strategic about any shifts made to the tech workforce. To ensure that vital digital services remain up and running, organizations must do everything possible to protect mission-critical talent. By showing their support now, companies can create goodwill that will carry over to when better times return.

Another of the direct consequences of remotisation is the emergence of new demands for soft skills suitable for managing collaborations and partnerships as well as specific technological talents that are increasingly specialized to support the new needs of businesses.

 

Tech skills that companies can use for their benefit

The movement towards technological areas are becoming increasingly crucial. Companies must necessarily equip themselves with professionals experienced in cybersecurity and train their people on the adoption of new operating models to protect all internal workflows from possible cyberattacks. In parallel, the need to acquire skills in the cloud, artificial intelligence, automation and user experience fields is growing exponentially in order to adequately support the changes in progress and allow work processes to be increasingly safe, intelligent and functional as well as suitable for supporting the new business models developed by companies following the pandemic.

 

How tech skills will support remote working

Soft skills are essential as they allow remote management and collaboration in virtual environments, but the importance of digital skills is growing. All HR departments are engaged in planning and finalizing training and learning projects whose main topic is information and communication technologies. The high complexity and technological vastness necessarily imply a high level of know-how and specialization in order to guarantee an optimal performance in the production and line areas, unlike the managerial or corporate areas where a disciplinary transversality of skills is generally privileged to allow a global overview.

Businesses have to work in order to build the right talent into the organization as a long-term plan during and after the pandemic, and this might be possible by applying AI, automation, and other exponential technologies to make workflows more intelligent. All of this affords a new opportunity to build better businesses and a better world. It starts with enabling a diverse workforce to perform optimally, and building trust and confidence among employees will be critical. How they are treated now will have an outsize impact on perceptions and value in the future.

 

Maria Paola Resta, HR Manager at Auriga

Maria Paola Resta has been a HR Manager at Auriga since 2018. Her role includes the coordination and overseeing of the group’s HR initiatives. She has a background in occupational and organizational psychology, and has been working in the human resources profession for 15 years. Her role focusses on talent acquisition, people development, training and employee relations. In the last 10 years she has worked in the HR departments of important companies that specialise in Information Technology, and her roles have increased in responsibility as she has progressed throughout her career.

 

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Banking

TO ENABLE BETTER LENDING FOR PEOPLE AND BUSINESSES, WE HAVE TO LOOK TO OPEN BANKING

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By Iain McDougall, CCO of Yapily

 

A recent FCA study found over 14 million people were grappling with financial issues at the end of 2020, representing more than a quarter of the UK adult population. The picture is similarly tough for SMEs, too, which have been impacted hugely by lockdowns, loss of earnings and more; it’s estimated the pandemic will cost SMEs an extra £173,000 in debt per year.

This is resulting in a lack of lending options for both consumers and businesses, as well as expensive or high interest loans, or worse, rejection from lenders all together. This in turn is driving unaffordable lending, and penning consumers and businesses in an ongoing and irresolvable debt cycle – at a time when they need the most support.

One of the biggest causes of this lies in lenders relying on credit scores and credit bureau data to inform their decisions, which simply aren’t accurate enough to truly get the full picture of a borrower’s financial situation.

The case for using Open Banking data in lending decisions has never been stronger.

Data accessed through Open Banking permits lenders to retrieve accurate information about the borrower’s financial history. This can provide more accurate assessments, and therefore enable fairer lending decisions.

 

Credit scores aren’t helping consumers

Take NHS workers as an example. Despite working tirelessly throughout the pandemic, NHS workers make up a sizable portion of the UK adult population currently struggling with debt.

Iain McDougall

An independent report from the University of Edinburgh Business School, in partnership with Salad Projects, found NHS workers are heavily reliant on long-term overdrafts and high-cost credit, where APR is as high as 1,333%. Almost all (93%) respondents said they use one or more types of credit or loan, compared with 75% in the wider UK population (according to the Financial Lives Survey). More than half (58%) use up to three loan providers and 68% use up to four loan providers.

This situation is the result of relying solely on credit scores. While these are the near-universally accepted method of determining credit terms, each credit reference agency has a different method for calculating a credit score. They rely solely on financial history, whether they’ve previously defaulted, or failed to get credit, and not a consumer’s actual financial position, whether they’ve recently got a pay rise or new income, to see how likely it is they will pay back any money borrowed. This can mean, no matter if a consumer’s financial position has changed, they can’t get a better loan because of a previous discrepancy.

 

The challenges facing SMEs

These issues are not just limited to consumers. SMEs, particularly those in the hardest hit industries like hospitality and travel, have struggled to access credit throughout the pandemic.

While many may have been thriving pre-pandemic, their lack of ability to turn a profit during lockdowns, meant they needed extra support. In an effort to keep these industries alive, we saw numerous government backed loan schemes launched, such as the Bounce Back Loan Scheme, to help struggling businesses survive. In total, these schemes have provided almost £180 billion worth of lending to date, supporting over a quarter of businesses in the UK.

However, the soaring demand from businesses in need of these vital funds meant lenders were unable to keep up and many businesses did not receive support quickly enough. What’s more, providers may register these types of loans with credit reference agencies, which means companies that previously had strong credit ratings may see their credit scores negatively affected by any delayed or missed repayments.

This is why it’s vital for lenders to get lending limits right the first time round, so SMEs can avoid potentially adding to their already growing list of debt and thrive in a post-pandemic world.

 

Enhancing lending with Open Banking 

Using Open Banking can add a much-needed layer of trust and loan personalisation for businesses and individuals. By basing credit decisioning on real-time financial data, lenders will be able to create a more accurate picture of their financial situation; and so make fairer credit offers.

Through adopting Open Banking principles, lenders will be able to onboard new customers and grant loans more efficiently, providing businesses with the cashflow required to maintain their workforce and support the economy.

With the borrowers’ consent, it will also give lenders oversight into how the economy is recovering, and enable them to monitor the rate at which the individual or business can expect the loan to be repaid. Meaning they can step in and provide extra support if and when required.

Open Banking provides what credit scores alone simply cannot – real-time insight into an individual’s or a businesses financial position right now, not three to six months ago. By leveraging the data that is readily available to them, lenders could achieve far better and more responsible outcomes. This will reduce the risk of loan default – for both businesses and individuals – and lead to more responsible lending decisions that can help people and businesses bounce back after what has been a difficult year.

 

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