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HOW FS ORGANISATIONS CAN USE API-DRIVEN DATA AUTOMATION TO JOIN THE OPEN BANKING REVOLUTION

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By Steve Barrett, Senior Vice President, International Operations at Delphix 

 

Technology is rapidly transforming all industries across the world. However, for the financial services (FS) sector, recent years have been particularly disruptive. Consumer expectations have evolved and convenience, flexibility and choice in banking is no longer seen as a ‘nice to have’ but a necessity. Alongside this, pressure from market forces to encourage innovation and drive competition across the sector has accelerated investment in open banking initiatives. These initiatives are designed to enable FS organisations to leverage customer data, in order to offer new and innovative products and services. It should be the ultimate system to deliver the next generation in customer experience. However, it’s not all smooth sailing.

In fact, research carried out earlier this year by Delphix found that the majority of FS organisations are failing to comply with government mandates such as the EU PSD2-SCA. To make matters worse, at the time of the study, only 3% of firms were confident they could meet the requirements for the next major open banking deadline – a date which has already been delayed by two years.

The open banking revolution could open up a whole new world of opportunity for FS firms. However, data privacy challenges and legacy technology stacks are impeding the transformation that is required. In order to fully unlock the potential of this new era in banking, FS organisations need to find a way to overcome these hurdles.

 

What’s the hold up?

The potential benefits of open banking are undeniable, whether you’re coming at it from the perspective of the business or the customer. For FS firms, the ability to share customer data between banks, fintechs and other technical organisations allows for more innovation and competition within the sector and will ultimately lead to a better product offering. In turn, for customers, open banking will offer better experiences, as well as more options for spending, borrowing and investing.

However, harnessing this innovation is not always easy. Given that data is often siloed throughout different departments within an organisation, it can be difficult to get the correct access. This creates challenges when it comes to effectively delivering data sets to those that need them to innovate and build new applications for customers.  The issue isn’t helped by an overreliance on legacy infrastructure and systems.

Effectively accessing and utilising data for innovation becomes even more challenging when you add privacy and compliance concerns into the mix.  Delphix’s research found that protecting sensitive data across multiple systems and APIs was the biggest data privacy and compliance concern for FS organisations, with 62% of respondents agreeing. By not adhering to compliancy rules, FS organisations are at serious risk of being hit by large regulatory fines. To add to that, without the steady stream of fresh, compliant data for the development and testing of APIs, FS organisations risk falling behind in the race for transformation in the industry.

With so many factors at play, it’s no surprise that FS organisations are currently struggling to find the balance between complying with privacy regulations and not limiting themselves in terms of innovation. In fact, 92% of FS organisations reported that they’re expecting to see a disruption to their operations as they roll out open banking APIs. However, there are measures that can be put in place to ensure success.

 

Harnessing the power of APIs

When it comes to integration testing whilst maintaining compliance, traditional testing tools for data management are actually making life harder for enterprise teams due to the manual requirements resulting in significant labour intensity. FS firms should instead consider implementing DevOps practices in order to deliver compliant data at speed via an API-driven data for DevOps platform. DevOps practices and tools increase an organisation’s ability to deliver applications and services at high velocity.

One of the benefits of using these platforms is that they allow the user to combine data delivery with compliance. This means that businesses can automate, scale and optimise testing across multi-generational systems, without having to worry about compliance risks. It helps to reduce the latency arising from an inability to find and protect sensitive data and deliver and refresh environments—for dev-testers working on new banking products—while boosting productivity and time to market.

A great example of API-driven data platforms successfully being used is with BNP Paribas (BNPP), one of the world’s largest banks. The business wanted to use data to maximise productivity and performance. The integration of an API-driven data platform allowed BNPP to accelerate application delivery across the globe, which led to development teams accelerating cloud adoption and seeing a three-fold increase in the AI production activity. Overall, the benefits of the project were undeniable. The quality of software being produced was improved with minimal downtime, all the while, adhering to the appropriate regulations.

Data suggests that many organisations like BNPP are starting to realise the potential of Open Banking initiatives for sparking innovation and staying competitive in the market. For example, in the first six months of 2020, the number of users of open banking-enabled apps or products in the UK doubled, and by February 2021, it had grown to over three million. To avoid being left behind, FS organisations should consider integrating an API-driven data platform into their systems. This will enable them to maximise the use of their data and step into the future of banking.

 

Business

IS SCARCITY OF TALENT THREATENING THE UK’S FINTECH CROWN?

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To be attributed to Rafa Plantier, Head of UK and Ireland at Tink

 

From the Square Mile to Canary Wharf, London has been the historic centre of global finance, with long-established trading exchanges and trusted financial institutions. In the digital era, it has also ensured that it’s moved with the times to become a thriving hub for fintech.

But the UK financial services sector is now at an inflection point. In the past year, London’s position as a global fintech leader has been under threat. Earlier this year, Amsterdam overtook The City as the largest European share trading hub. The European Banking Authority moved from London to Paris. And Dublin, Paris and Frankfurt are all competing to win a greater share of the European financial marketplace.

The culprits of the shift are the twin challenges of the pandemic and Brexit, combined with the speed of technological transformation in financial services – disrupting the traditional flow of people, capital and ideas. So the pressing question for the industry is: how do we maintain and, more importantly, accelerate momentum to retain London’s fintech crown?

The answer revolves around one key thing — people.

 

Diverse talent drives innovation

Attracting the best talent is crucial if the UK financial services sector is going to continue to thrive and retain its global position as the preeminent financial centre.

In February 2021, the Kalifa Review laid out a strategy and delivery model for the UK to lead the fintech revolution, covering five key areas. These included skills and talent, investment and international attractiveness and competitiveness. But what became clear was that access to the right level of highly skilled talent was one of the biggest challenges for UK fintech, with barriers spanning both domestic skills shortages and the need to access foreign talent seamlessly.

As a native Brazilian in the UK, working for a Swedish-owned fintech, I understand these challenges as well as anyone. I love London, but we must recognise that fintech firms need unique talent and skills, and such a talent base can’t be met by a single city – not even one as resourceful as London. Not only do fintechs require technology and data specialists, but also experienced managers with good knowledge of high-growth companies and financial services.

As someone lucky enough to have worked with startup and scale-up fintechs across the world,  I understand the unique grounding that comes from being a part of a high-growth global company. That’s why I believe it’s vital that we attract people from across the world with commercial experience at ambitious, rapid-growth businesses — so they can bring this experience to bear on the UK financial services sector.

At the same time, many companies face renewed pressure to create new services and products to meet expectations for growth. That is why it’s critical that the UK has access to people with the right technical skills in areas such as software engineering, DevOps, Cybersecurity and data science.

Put simply, having the smartest minds delivering the best products is good for everyone. It drives efficiency, productivity,  growth and, ultimately, prosperity.

 

The UK is open for fintech

The UK should be proud of being a fintech pioneer and the driving force behind legislation that helped usher in the era of open banking. There is now an exciting opportunity to take this even further. Having access to a diverse pool of talent and skills will empower the financial services industry to create innovative products to tackle complex social challenges, such as better B2B payments, financial inclusion and climate change.

The good news is that the UK government clearly recognises the role the industry has to play in driving growth and innovation. The 2021 Autumn Budget reaffirmed commitments to reskill the nation. With £3.8bn budgeted for skills and a formal criteria for the long-awaited Scale Up Visa, the Chancellor announced a set of proposals that will support the breadth of our sector — from startups right through to unicorns and incumbent banks. This will be essential for fintechs like ours to continue to trailblaze and for the UK to differentiate itself on the global stage.

In an increasingly competitive global landscape, and to sustain momentum, we must keep talent avenues open to attract the best of the best in the industry. As one of the fastest-growing areas of the UK economy, the benefits of nurturing UK fintech to drive productivity, growth and lead the UK’s post-pandemic recovery, cannot be overstated. 2021 has seen a surge of activity in the industry and I am eager to see what London’s fintech sector can achieve in 2022.

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THE EVOLVING TECHNOLOGY NEEDS OF THE FINANCE DEPARTMENT

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THE EVOLVING TECHNOLOGY NEEDS OF THE FINANCE DEPARTMENT

Jennifer Sims, Senior Consultant at Xledger

 

The world of finance software is evolving quickly, but with many new software contenders entering the market it can be a mindfield for organisations. Many finance teams are already using multiple accounting apps and software packages for bookkeeping, payroll and invoicing to service individual needs. Whilst it may work fine for now, this segregated approach isn’t sustainable for long-term growth. The world is swiftly moving to agile, automated ways of working. As a result, there is a growing need to choose suppliers that can fulfil multiple functionalities within the one platform.

Financial software is evolving at such a pace that it can be difficult to keep up. Changing up a finance solution is a big step and ease of migration can be a substantial factor in determining which solution provider to go with. But how do you choose a solution that will grow with your business and still offer something innovative in five or ten years down the line? The fear is always that non-techie organisations will end up falling behind, but in such a highly concentrated industry, how do you decide which solution would work best for you?

 

Cloud-first: the term that makes all the difference 

You could find a ‘cloud-based’ service with an application that comes with automated audit trails to make it easier to meet compliance and record-keeping obligations, for example. But for a solution to offer all of the many future benefits promised by the cloud, it needs to have been built specifically for a cloud environemt from the outset – ie. not an on-premise built system that has been later adapted. Cloud-first services (true cloud) were always intended to leverage economies of scale, cope with live updates, be accessible from anywhere with an internet connection, and to scale rapidly, to name just a few of the many benefits.

When we talk about innovation in financial technology, we’re not just talking about software that makes it easier for the financial controller to create reports. If eliminating reliance on Excel spreadsheets is the only tangible benefit you have to really shout about, you are missing out on the real deal. With ‘true’ cloud finance software the sky is the limit.

Finance and accounting technology needs to directly meet the needs of the finance function and support the wider business needs.  When looking at accounting software platforms you’d be hard pressed to find one that doesn’t now promise ‘cloud-based’ enterprise resource planning (ERP) capabilities. The cloud is nothing new, but it’s the way that a solution harnesses this environment that makes a real difference. And here is where there is a need to read between the lines.

 

Automate more with true cloud 

Historically, repetitive and manual tasks are typical of the finance role – from invoice postings to expense claims handling – these can overwhelm the finance team. Research by Xledger[1] has found that an enormous 91% of CFOs and finance decision makers are carrying out at least one of these repetitive tasks as part of their job. What’s more, senior finance leads are averaging a whopping 25 hours per week carrying out repetitive and manual tasks, compared with 15 hours for other finance decision makers.

A modern, true cloud finance system can enable your business to automate repetitive tasks and provide one source of truth so that teams can make informed business decisions that will help to scale a business. Bank reconciliation, dashboard creation and reporting are just some of the tasks that can be handled automatically.These capabilities are aiding overtasked finance teams and saving hundreds or thousands of hours a year.

Whilst different companies are at different stages in their digital transformation what is clear is keeping up with the latest technology is fundamental to the future success of an organisation.

Xledger is a true cloud finance solution. The basics include invoicing, robust general ledger accounting, detailed slice and dice reporting, purchase orders, billing, VAT reporting, and cash and bank payments. It also adds process and structure to the enterprise with procurement and inventory, budgeting and forecasting, and project accounting. Users are always on the latest version of the software and with regulation more stringent than ever today, Xledger is ISO 27001 accredited.

Choosing the right provider for your financial ERP solution comes down to whether it has the fundamentals right. When hosting all of your vital data in the providers’ own servers, it should evidence a highly tested security process that comes with backup services as standard.

As our demand for technology capabilities grows and as ERP models progress, innovation will become the structure for growth – and there is no end to the possibilities.

 

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