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ESCAPING THE SILOED BUSINESS STRUCTURE – FINDING OPPORTUNITY IN FINANCIAL DISRUPTION

Ian Stone, CEO, Vuealta

The financial services industry is facing a challenging climate made up of multiple disruptive forces. It’s not the first time that the industry has had to tackle testing times. But a decade ago, Brexit, regulation and cyber security would not have topped a list of industry challenges. However, according to our most recent research, The Future of Financial Services:Planning for Every Eventuality, they are the biggest concerns for decision makers in the sector over the next five years.

With Brexit D-day now pushed back to October, uncertainty surrounding Britain’s departure from the EU is only continuing to rise. The disruption certainly won’t be resolved by the time trick or treaters come knocking on our doors. Our recent research supports this, revealing that over half of UK decision makers in the financial services industry expect political uncertainty to be their biggest challenge in the next five year­s. On top of this, nearly a year on from the implementation of GDPR, the legislation is still proving to be a major disruptor for the financial services industry with organisations working to adapt business processes to adhere to the new regulations.

But that’s not it. There are several other disruptive forces at work in financial services. Whether that’s upstarts transforming the pace of the industry or advancements in technology expanding the cyber threat landscape, it’s no exaggeration to say that our age is one characterised by significant change. But the impact of this disruption doesn’t have to be negative. Businesses that face this uncertainty with flexible and fluid plans, that cover any eventuality, will be able to adapt to the disruption quickly and with ease.

Navigating disruptive times

Everyone is being forced to face the challenges that come with leaving the EU. But, with the consequences of Brexit remaining unknown, even to those in-charge, the ripple effect will touch everyone, from small start-ups to large enterprises, and from the sales department to the supply chain. Concern is so heightened that businesses are increasingly moving their resources out of the UK’s London hub with Barclays recently announcing that it’s moving £166bn of assets due to Brexit fear.

Navigating these turbulent times requires financial organisations to remain calm and tread carefully – stakeholders and customers are relying on them to make considered and sensible decisions, so it’s crucial that key decision makers strive to achieve and maintain a ‘business-as-usual’ approach. This doesn’t mean appealing to naivety or denial, but simply employing an approach that ensures they are prepared for all the potential ‘what-ifs’. By knowing what may lie ahead and having an effective response plan for all eventualities, they can remain one step ahead of all their rivals – whether they be incumbent leaders or new entrants to the market.

Tackling disruption from all angles

Google was recently fined £44m by a French regulator for a breach of the EU’s data protection rules, demonstrating that new additions to EU regulations have been hard hitting even for the behemoths of the tech world. And these regulatory frameworks have continued to take their toll on the finance industry, as 45% of UK respondents expect compliance and regulation to be their greatest potential disruptor over the next five years.

Despite technology presenting significant challenges itself, greater transparency and data protection is exactly where financial services organisations have the power to tackle compliance complexity by enabling instant access to precise information at the click of a button. By implementing the right technology solutions, businesses could quickly connect and verify any of their extensive data sources to break down siloed departments and have a clearer, collective view of what lies ahead.

But advanced technology can also present challenges when it comes to cybersecurity. It’s no surprise that UK business leaders feel this threat to be their second greatest challenge (44%) and potential disruptor (44%) over the next few years. Whether its artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data or digital payment solutions, emerging technologies in financial services organisations can enlarge a company’s attack surface that is vulnerable to hackers. To avoid this, organisations need to implement the right technology that gives them crucial visibility across the business and ensure it remains secure and connected.

Anticipating the next step

Lower barriers to entry have seen a huge rise in challenger banks and upstarts industry wide, ranging from entirely new high street banks like Monzo, to tech-giants like Apple trying their hand at the world of Fintech with the birth of theApple Card. With everyone vying for the same market, it’s hardly surprising that traditional industry players are feeling the pressure.

With the battle so fierce, it is vital that, in this new realm of Fintech, companies do not become complacent. Traditional financial services businesses need to take an integrated approach to planning to ensure all eventualities are considered – consistently questioning how they can maximise the potential of their data and planning effectively to be prepared for future unknowns. If successful, they will present a much greater threat to competitors – whether they be established players or new entrants to the market. Having that clearer sight of the challenges and disruptions that are shaping the industry creates undeniable advantage.

In an unpredictable ecosystem, it’s essential to remain alert to any fluctuations in the market and know how and when to access crucial data. This will quash uncertainties and allow for reliable, robust and clear planning for both the expected, and unexpected, ‘what ifs’.

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Business

FROM MANUAL TO MACHINE LEARNING: HOW TO APPROACH THE RECONCILIATION ‘PROBLEM’

By Christian Nentwich, CEO at Duco

 

At the start of 2020, before the global coronavirus pandemic changed the world, financial industry experts recognised that this would become the ‘decade of data’, with firms inundated with trillions of lines of data from a multitude of sources.

One of the many effects the current crisis has had is to amplify the need for resilient, connected systems and more robust processes. With business continuity front of mind, many organisations are looking for more efficient ways to manage huge swathes of data from multiple, disparate sources quickly and accurately. Data integrity is a key concern, and many are asking how they can automate their most critical processes.

However, despite the rush to digitalise many manual systems, automating reconciliations is still one of the toughest areas to crack.  Even pre-pandemic, automating this essential control function in financial services – which can help eliminate operational risk that can lead to fraud, fines, or in the worst case, the failure of a firm – was proving elusive for many organisations. Why?

Many organisations are facing a situation where there are a multitude of systems, different processes, technology types and computing.  Within that, there are three key reasons that make automation difficult:

  • A lack of standardisation – In many cases in financial services there are no strict data standards. For example, different counterparties provide trade and position data in different formats. Each one requires a bespoke reconciliation process or expensive data normalisation.
  • Increased complexity – Cash or stock assets can be matched on a few basic fields, but for more complex products you need to take far more information into account. Most current systems are unable to deal with every asset type that crops up in a timely manner. And, that’s before we get to the range of data needed for regulatory reporting, and the associated reconciliations required.
  • Poor data quality – The enemy of automation. Missing fields, inconsistent coding schemes and unavailability of common keys make automation difficult when using current solutions due to hardcoded assumptions within those systems.

However, in a world where the quantity and complexity of data that firms need to handle is set to increase exponentially, relying on manual systems and processes is no longer feasible. So, how do firms deal with this influx of data in the most intelligent way?

We recently launched ‘The Reconciliation Maturity Model’, a new roadmap that will help financial firms improve the automation, efficiency and integrity of data across all reconciliation and data matching tasks.  The model guides reconciliation practitioners through five key stages of reconciliation maturity, from ‘manual’ through to ‘automated’ and eventually ‘self-optimising’ – where machine-learning technology automates nearly the entire process, and where intersystem reconciliations are all but eliminated

Importantly, a more progressive approach to reconciliation automation will not only result in greater operational efficiency, it will also dramatically boost operational resilience, and put forward-thinking financial institutions in a better position to benefit from new technology and the added insight that intelligent systems bring.

The five stages of reconciliation maturity are:

  1. Manual – By this we mean using Excel or some other form of spreadsheet, macros, home-grown applications or – in some instances we’ve come across – printing out sheets of paper and marking inconsistencies with a highlighter pen! However, as the organisation grows, and the data becomes more complex, the risk of error skyrockets. There’s no audit trail, no governance and it becomes increasingly expensive to scale. If in the 2020s you’re throwing an increasing number of bodies at a data matching exercise, you know something’s wrong.
  2.  Hybrid – For the majority of organisations, this takes the form of a point solution, usually deployed to automate high volume, low complexity reconciliations such as cash or custody. These point solutions – by their very nature – tend to specialise in a certain type of reconciliation. Firms trading a wide range of assets, or those dealing with complex data, may need to use multiple point solutions to handle different reconciliation types. However, there will be many reconciliations that these point solutions are not able to handle elegantly. In these cases, firms tend to fall back on manual processes. The result is a patchwork quilt of different reconciliation approaches stitched together by manual work. The whole process is costly, difficult to keep track of, and difficult to scale.
  3.  Automated – All reconciliations are consolidated onto automated systems, and small teams build and onboard reconciliations, and oversee exception investigation.The key to getting to this stage is using the right technology. To reach Stage 3, firms need to be able to onboard reconciliations in hours or days, not weeks or months. They need to be able to rely on agile, flexible technology that can deal with complexity without multi-week data transformation projects. Once this technology is in place, complexity and risk can be vastly reduced, while increasing efficiency and transparency across processes.
  4. Improving – This enables greater efficiency and oversight of the reconciliation function as a whole. It also enables firms to normalise their data across the business and implement additional data quality checks across systems, highlighting areas of incomplete or incorrect data.  Organisations are then able to start consolidating systems and removing duplicate reconciliations which have already been handled upstream.  Processes become leaner, more efficient and more transparent.
  5. Self-optimising – Full automation is deployed across the entire lifecycle of reconciliation, from onboarding to exception resolution. There is very little involvement from staff and continuous improvement is possible via a machine-learning enhanced system. Internal reconciliations are removed, leading to major reduction in cost and complexity.

While stage five is the ‘holy grail’ that all financial organisations should be aspiring to, many firms are at the ‘hybrid’ stage, and making the leap to ‘automated’ is the most challenging step.  However, once at stage three, firms are more able to move up the process to ‘self-optimising’.  At this point, with enough training data, machine learning can spot errors, outliers and poor data quality at source, reducing the number of reconciliations required.

So, while we know that moving from manual to machine learning is not an overnight process, The Reconciliation Maturity Model provides a blueprint to getting there.

The Reconciliation Maturity Model is available for download here https://content.du.co/reconciliation-maturity-model-whitepaper

 

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Business

THE BEST PATHS TO SECURE AUTO FINANCING IN 2020

The previously flourishing economy has taken some dramatic turns in the last few months due to the health and economic fallout from the global Covid-19 virus. Many industries, including auto lending and financing, have seen a shift in demand. Due to economic uncertainty, many individuals are putting off the risk of making major expenses in the wake of this pandemic.

Consumer confidence is relatively low compared to the last 3-5 years . The current strain of the pandemic on the economy has seen many would-be car buyers postpone on making the purchases.

J.D Power recently revised its prediction that car sales could see up to a 3 million unit decline this fiscal year. Although the slow down in car sales is inevitable, carmakers and sellers have come up with new servicing tools to cushion and attract more car buyers amidst this Covid-19 pandemic. Below is a compilation of the best paths car buyers can use to secure auto financing in 2020.

 

Coronavirus Car Payment Programs and Plans

To the relief of consumers looking to buy a vehicle amidst this pandemic, most of the major car manufacturers have rolled out favorable car payment plans. These plans have been devised to cushion individuals whose income has been terminated or is threatened by the ongoing health crisis.

On the other hand, car manufactures are keen to avoid the double-whammy of increasing car repossessions and plunging new car sales. Despite the history of car sales recovering in time, car makers cannot wait for tides to turn because of the current high economic uncertainty. Below are some of the most comprehensive and aggressive car payment plans that major carmakers have devised in favor of new car buyers.

  • GM is currently offering certain models with 0 percent financing for 84 months. The deal gets even better as car buyers can defer payments for as much as 120 days. All GM customers are eligible for a 3GB in-car Wi-Fi package.
  • Ford is also offering to cover the first three months of payments in a six-month payment relief plan. Payments can be deferred for 90 days and the purchase of new cars is available online.
  • For ‘well-qualified customers’ making their payments through special APR, Nissan is offering a 90-day payment deferral plan to new customers. The carmaker is offering a 0 percent financing deal on select models.
  • Hyundai said it will cover a total of six-month payment for car buyers who lose their jobs or income due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The offer is available for customers leasing or buying new cars.
  • Lexus and Toyota will allow its customers to defer payments for 90 days although the interests will continue to accrue during the deferral period.
  • Customers looking to buy Honda cars will get as much as $1000 off while Acura buyers can expect $500 off.
  • Subaru customers have no payment deferral option but can expect a 0 percent financing plan with qualifying credit.

 

Coronavirus to Cause Delayed Deliveries

The global supply chain has suffered great disruption caused by the pandemic. New car buyers should expect a delay in the delivery of their purchased cars. Supplier factory closures in countries like China could see even the yet to close manufacturers experience delays in operations.

 

Are Car Dealers Currently Open?

Even in localities with strictest policies, car dealerships are not being asked to close. But some car dealers may opt to voluntarily close shop due to the risk of employee infection. Vehicle leasing and rentals, as well as car service and parts businesses, were included in the list of essential services exempted from closure orders. Car sales can still be operated under strict health precautions.

 

Does Buying A New Or Used Car Put the Buyer at Risk of Infection?

No. There have been no specific reports linking significant risk of infection or exposure arising from the purchase of new cars. However, consumers should take precautions such as using face masks, hand sanitizer, and social distancing protocols. Generally speaking, in this climate it is wise to be considerate of others who may be at a higher risk than you.

With many dealerships adapting to the coronavirus situation by offering contactless car buying and favorable financing options, now would be a great time to purchase a new vehicle. Not that you won’t face some hurdles along the way, but the current storm has created great opportunities and offers such as home delivery and competitive car loans.

 

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