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FINDING FINANCIAL EFFICIENCY WITH MANAGED SERVICES

By Mark Vivian, CEO, Claremont

 

The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic hardship has left some businesses and their CFOs in dire need of streamlining their internal processes whilst also cutting costs. Finance departments in particular have not only been challenged to make their own processes more efficient, but also more agile.

Take the HMRC’s furlough scheme for example; finance departments were faced with the need to ensure that their organisation’s employees were paid correctly and on time, while also having to make sure they adhered to the Government’s specific regulatory requirements. At the same time, cash needs to be collected, invoices still need to be paid and the day-to-day needs to be kept up.

To add to the finance department’s woes, research from Gartner has found that finance processes are on average a business’s third slowest operating function, leading 73% of finance workers to claim they are under pressure to deliver faster results from their superiors when it comes to processes such as reporting and tax returns.

So, what can finance departments do about it? The answer may lie in IT. By choosing the right finance system and optimising it with a managed service provider, organisations can go a long way toward increasing both their finance department’s agility and efficiency.

 

Choosing the right finance system

When choosing the right finance system, there are number of important considerations businesses should take into account when it comes to boosting agility and efficiency, which will be largely centred around functionality.

For instance, when it comes to efficiency, businesses should consider whether there is a finance system available that provides them with a wide ranging set of integrated business applications, such as HR, Payroll, and CRM. Oracle’s E-Business Suite is a great example of this.

As part of their functionality consideration, businesses will also need to consider their specific use cases. For example, is the requirement to have a finance system capable of supporting global organisations working in multiple territories, with multi-currencies and multi-languages, and also local country legislation?

In terms of boosting agility, businesses will also need to consider whether they are happy to adopt largely standard “best practice” business processes, which usually necessitates business change, or whether to use customisation to the standard product so that it reflects the way your business works. In order to find the finance system that best suits their specific needs, businesses should look to consult a managed service provider (MSP).

 

Partnering with a Managed Service Provider

Partnering with an MSP will help enable organisations to get the most out of their IT environment, including their finance system. Software deployments are complex and will require a team of engineers, each with specific skill sets, to optimise. Finance directors have enough on their plate without having to worry about their finance systems under performing.

 

Managed service providers will work closely with both your finance and IT teams in four main areas:

  1. Incident Management: MSPs will provide “fix on fail” support when issues with financial applications occur, which will typically be against a Service Level Agreement for both responding to and resolving the Incidents.
  2. Problem Management: Here MSPs will get to the root of the problem that caused the Incident and resolve it so that the same Incidents don’t reoccur.
  3. Change Management: MSPs will also make sure that your finance applications are up to date and will make any necessary modifications that businesses may require as their needs change overtime, or new legislation is introduced.
  4. Optimisation: A good MSP will be proactive and make recommendations on how businesses can optimise their financial applications, highlighting were efficiencies can be made and costs reduced.

At Claremont, we were able to help the National Trust respond to the unprecedented changes that have taken place since March 2020 and develop a fully functional furlough solution within their Oracle financial applications. The National Trust naturally wanted to take advantage of the government furlough initiative to support their staff and protect their organisations as their sites began to close.

The solution was deployed rapidly and automatically calculated the rebate amount for each employee, gave each employee a professional standard of notification, and required minimal payroll intervention. The first payroll runs of the month began on the 16th April and by the 25th April the National Trust had successfully processed over 14,000 employees through their payrolls.

 

Obtaining peace of mind

The COVID-19 pandemic has put increased pressure on finance departments to boost operational efficiencies, cut costs and adhere to new legislative requirements. The last thing they need to be worrying about is insufficient IT systems. By partnering with a managed service provider, organisations, their finance departments and their IT departments can gain peace of mind that their finance systems will be optimised to suit their needs – leaving them to focus on their day jobs.

 

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Business

NAVIGATING SUDDEN DIGITAL ACCELERATION – HOW MERCHANTS CAN KEEP UP IN A NEW AGE OF PAYMENT INNOVATION

James Booth, VP Head of Partnerships, EMEA at PPRO

 

Recent months have brought momentous change for businesses across the globe. Needless to say, the pandemic has had a colossal impact on the retail sector in particular. For certain industries, the crisis has catapulted society further into the digital world; technology that was predicted to be adopted  over the coming years is now on track to be embraced in mere months.

However, local lockdowns for example in the UK continue to force shoppers away from brick-and-mortar stores and onto online platforms to purchase a range of goods. As a result, we are seeing new user groups embracing e-commerce and digital payment methods at a much faster rate than anyone ever thought possible. These new consumer habits are taking root and are likely to become preferences that persist long after the pandemic.

As we continue to hurtle into a new digital era, there’s an unprecedented urgency for merchants to be proactive – offering a range of new payment offerings. As digital payments increase, offering  preferred payment methods can unlock a whole new world of opportunities. The retailers seeing exponential growth are the ones who have tailored and localised their payments offering to a global audience.

 

The pandemic has propelled demand for Local Payment Methods

Today, consumers have an even greater desire and need for frictionless shopping experiences. Social distancing is facilitating the surge in e-commerce, increasing demand for digital payment methods over traditional cash and card payments.

Before the pandemic, the world was already on route to becoming a digital-first society. Some regions were ahead of others; for instance, from the PPRO Payment Almanac, 56% of online transactions in China were already conducted via e-wallets, compared to 25% in the UK. However, now we are seeing increased demand for these types of payments across the globe.

 

Catering for a new online customer

Whilst typically the global digital payment revolution had been led by Gen Z and Millennials, elderly consumers are set to drive the e-commerce market post-crisis. In fact, a recent study by Mintel revealed that 43% of those aged 65 and older have shopped more online since the start of the crisis. This is a stark contrast from back in May 2019 when just 16% of the same age group shopped online at least once a week.

Ongoing consumer needs for increased convenience and safety during the pandemic, have sparked a shift towards online shopping and away from brick-and-mortar. For example, groceries have seen a meteoric rise in online ordering; according to PPRO’s cross-border engine, online purchases of food and beverages are up 285% since the start of the pandemic.

With new curbside and buy online pick-up in store (BOPIS) programs, the typical cash and card payment methods will be harder to maintain. Now, merchants must offer e-commerce, and implement digital payment options at checkout. Recent data shows up to 80% of shoppers across Europe’s three largest markets (UK, Germany and France) will now make at least half of their purchases online.

We are also seeing the rise and popularity of pay-later apps like Klarna and Afterpay (Branded ClearPay in the UK) to help offer relief from the economic impacts of the virus. Just last month, Klarna was crowned one of Europe’s biggest private owned financial technology providers – with nine million consumers in Britain having used the service, and 90 million users worldwide.

Shoppers need flexible payment options. For merchants, extending many different payment options that cater to different consumer groups can provide diversification and enable growth.

 

Get ahead, or get left behind

This sudden digital acceleration puts merchants at a crucial crossroads. Embracing new innovations in payment methods has the power to open brands up to a wealth of new customers, whilst satisfying the changing needs of their existing customer pool. On the other hand, failure to offer a variety of digital payment methods can severely limit brands – therefore impacting future growth and success.

As businesses continue to navigate the ongoing ramifications of the pandemic, merchants will eventually face a digital arms race to create the best possible online experience. Those who understand this and make the checkout experience a top priority will succeed, and those who stick to their guns will be left behind. The failure to meet customer preferences during the payment process means many customers will abandon baskets at the very last hurdle. In fact, a study by PPRO 44% of UK shoppers abandon a purchase if their favorite payment method isn’t available.

While recent events have put huge strain on both global economies and consumers, it has also birthed a new age of payment innovation. New offerings such as the rise of Facebook owned, WhatsApp payment features or PayPal and Venmo enabled QR code checkout are showcasing the acceleration of this trend. Financial technology is helping to keep humans connected and provide access to the goods and services they need. Digital adoption will only proliferate, so merchants must act now to get ahead of the curve.

 

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Finance

SUBSCRIPTIONS: THE NEXT BIG PAYMENT TREND

By Nick Raper, Head of UK at Nuapay

 

Ask the next person you speak to whether they’ve ever had a subscription to a business (the most common being a gym membership) that they forgot about, or just didn’t use, losing money as a result. Guaranteed, nine out of ten times, the answer you receive will be a ‘yes’.  This is often followed by a disgruntled anecdote about how the individual kept forgetting to cancel the direct debit, using the service for much longer than he or she intended to.  It proves just how sticky customers are when they are signed up to subscriptions – a trend that is rapidly increasing in the current environment.

Today, consumers are increasingly demanding ‘always on’ services that are fast, easy and can be personalised. With the COVID19 pandemic restricting consumers’ access to physical shops and driving almost all of them online, this expectation is growing the world over. Subscriptions provide a method of receiving services or products at a specified regularity and according to predefined preferences.

Subscriptions also allow businesses transitioning into the digital space to better monetise their services. Newspapers are a great example of this;  it isn’t practical to sell newspapers on a “one-off” basis online, so many publishers have transitioned to digital subscriber models. With many other businesses from fitness classes to online events providers, forced to find a viable virtual business model, subscriptions have become an attractive option. Indeed, research from Zuora has shown that throughout the first lockdown nearly 90% of subscription businesses maintained or grew memberships. And this trend shows no sign of slowing down.

Businesses looking to offer their customers the best service would do well to consider consumer subscriptions, enabled by recurring payments technology. Subscriptions can be used across a growing range of sectors, from traditional subscription users like gyms, and online entertainment and media services, to food and beverage retailers, health providers in dental and eyecare sectors, and even online matchmaking and dating services. Going forward, subscription payments are expected to grow further as Gartner predicts that by 2023, 75% of organisations selling direct to consumers will offer subscription services.

 

What’s the business benefit?

By employing recurring payments, businesses can attract more customers that are price driven. A £25 per month cost in return for something new each month, is often much easier to accept than a £300 lump sum for one product.

Another benefit of subscription models is the ability to drive increases in customer revenue through reduced attrition and the ability to upsell or cross-sell products and services.  One-off purchases with little or no product feedback, make it difficult to develop an understanding of consumer behaviours and preferences. By building an ongoing relationship with customers businesses can gain deeper insights which can be used to inform product alterations or even bring entirely new products to market.

Data from Nuapay shows the benefit of having members signed up on subscription services from the over 700 gyms serviced by Nuapay.  Of gyms that were forced to close their doors and stop collecting membership fees in April as a result of Covid, many saw a relatively quick return in their revenue over the summer.  By August, on average 83% of customers were back and paying their gym memberships again, despite continued restrictions in many European countries. Additionally, these gyms only saw a +0.9% increase in cancelled payments in August, compared to pre-Covid levels, suggesting no lasting impact on their attrition rate.

The additional beauty of subscription based business models is that, Covid aside, the stability of the customer base makes it easier to predict business revenues, enabling improved decision-making as strategic planning can be informed by revenue from ongoing recurring payments.

 

Partnering for success

Historically, implementing a subscription based business model has been difficult for organisations given the limits of collecting via recurring payments – this is particularly so for businesses at the small to medium end of the spectrum.

Today, improved digital payment infrastructure and new providers in the Account-2-Account payments space makes it possible to set up and process recurring payments quickly and easily. Payment providers are increasingly being integrated into a range of business software and payment solutions – large and small – to ensure they deliver the speed and exemplary experience demanded by consumers.

CyberSource, Visa’s global payment management platform, recently announced a partnership with Nuapay to take advantage of Nuapay’s Account-2-Account capabilities, and deliver additional payment solutions to its merchants client base. At the other end of the spectrum, specialist software platforms, such as gym management software Deciplus, can also integrate Account-2-Account solutions into its platform, providing an effortless Direct Debit experience for payers and merchants.

New payment innovations are now starting to transform historic Account-2-Account recurring solutions, which have been Direct Debit based till now. As an example, a merchant can now use Open Banking payments to improve the Direct Debit sign up process for payers, while also helping merchants reduce their failed payments, indemnity claims, and lost payments. Additionally, new recurring payment options known as Variable Recurring Payments (VRP) is said to be the next generation of Open Banking. Currently being tested in the FCA’s sandbox, this technology enables businesses to collect payments from a consumer up to an agreed maximum amount, subject to monthly limits. As it is based on Open Banking technology, VRP will be SCA compliant, providing a secure and convenient alternative to online card payments.

With an increasing number of subscription options now available, a good payment service provider will be able to provide businesses with access to and advice on the best options for them and their situation, whether that is Direct Debits, Standing Orders, or new integrated Open Banking solutions.

 

Subscribing to subscriptions

Subscriptions will only continue to grow in demand as consumers increasingly flock to online environments. Subscriptions were already growing in popularity even before the pandemic came along. 71% of adults internationally used at least one subscription service during 2019, and in Europe alone spent an average of €130 per month on subscriptions over the same period.

Covid has only accelerated this trend in some areas.  It is no surprise that video streaming services saw a massive increase in subscribers, with some providers seeing a 25% jump in subscriptions in March 2020 according to Nuapay data.

Players in other sectors also seem to be transitioning their business model during this time.  Food and nutrition suppliers who have been actively pushing subscriptions for regular deliveries have seen their subscriber base grow as much as 3 times higher than the start of the year in everything from seafood to coffee to vitamin deliveries.  Some home office suppliers who introduced subscriber models for items like printer ink, have seen growth in subscribers as high as 40% since January.  Even some travel businesses have managed to pivot their business to increase recurring sales by taking a more locally focused approach.

With the range of insight-led advantages for organisations evident, it would be an oversight for business leaders not to consider sharing their products and services via a subscription based model.

 

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