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HOW OPEN DATA CAN HELP FIGHT CLIMATE CHANGE

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David Lais, Co-Founder and CPO at Ecolytiq – providing banks and financial institutions with the digital infrastructure for green finance.

 

“Data is the new oil” – a phrase that was reportedly coined by UK Mathematician and architect of Tesco’s Clubcard, Clive Humby.

Humby explained that just like oil, data is valuable but only once it has been refined. “It has to be changed into gas, plastic, chemicals, etc. to create a valuable entity that drives profitable activity.”

In effect, data needs to be broken down and analysed for it to reach its true potential.

The importance of data is clear. Just take a mere look at the ways that platforms such as Google and Facebook use personal data to build better advertising, to target demographics and customise user experiences. It has huge upselling value and is being collected from nearly everything we do on a day-to-day basis. Data’s increasing value, however, isn’t just reserved for improving advertising – it’s one of the most underused tools in the fight against climate change.

 

David Lais

Can the collection of data help fight climate change?

Sustainability is a topic at the forefront of our society and is especially important to the Millennials and Gen Z generations. These younger generations also make up the most important and influential customer base, and it is therefore no longer surprising that numerous companies are jumping on the “sustainability” bandwagon.

As it stands right now, consumers are wholly unaware of their individual impact on the environment.

 

Capturing data for sustainability

Capturing data for sustainability is like a huge and very complex jigsaw puzzle; it only makes sense when all the pieces have been put together. To ensure we can complete this puzzle, we need to share information and share data. Once we can see the big picture, we can turn data into an actionable platform for change. Awareness is knowledge and knowledge is power.

That’s why when it comes to sustainability, open data is crucial if we are to push not only society, but an overall urgency on climate change further. The fundamental idea behind open data is that we need more transparency. Of course, there are privacy matters to consider, and we don’t want to share personal information. Yet, when it comes to sustainability, the real value exists when we start sharing, putting the data puzzle pieces together to form a comprehensive picture that works for the greater good.

Every year, thousands of studies connected to climate change are published. However, what is missing from this research is the direct application to our daily lives and the appropriate data from companies to go with it.

If we want to know how sustainable a product really is, we must make supply chains more transparent. We need to encourage every stakeholder involved in the process of creating a product to disclose their product impact on the environment. This way, we achieve the necessary access to data and, ultimately, the individual price and consequences for the environment.

 

A great opportunity for the financial industry

The solution, therefore, lies in the collection of the information and in the data itself. In my opinion, financial institutions and banks are sitting on a treasure trove of data. The growing desire from society to be more sustainable is one of the greatest opportunities that has ever presented itself in the industry and is poised to create massive growth in the banking and finance sector. Yet, the industry still only talks about the climate crisis as a “challenge.”

So, what can the financial industry do to address this challenge?

By now it is obvious that we need greater transparency, and we need to see open data as both an opportunity and a solution. The financial world could revolutionize the use of existing data to create this transparency, but also define new standards and requirements to encourage companies to share their sustainability data.

There is already so much information available to help to drive change. Of special importance here are personal bank statements that reflect your consumption behaviour. When used correctly, they can help consumers as well as companies understand their individual impact on the environment and thus achieve more transparency, build awareness and really nail down individual influence on the environment.

 

A digital world

We have become a digital world and digitization inevitably creates transparency. Those who understand how to use it properly and are really serious about environmental protection will always emerge as winners. Moving forward, the financial industry will play a major role in fighting climate change as it starts to embrace the opportunities available to implement a digital infrastructure for green finance. In turn, financial institutions will be able to offer their customers environmental footprinting as well as personalised impact offsetting and ESG investments, further utilising the opportunity to build a sustainable business case. And this is just scratching the surface of exciting possibilities.

One thing is clear – the most influential consumers, younger generations, want an intact and liveable world. If the financial sector can offer solutions, which help to educate them on how their spending habits impact the planet and offer them insight into how they can change their consumer behaviour to make the world a better place, then it is clear that open data can really help towards fighting climate change.

Surely now is the optimum time to start collaborating to piece together this vast and complex puzzle. If not now, then when?

This article is part of my thought leadership series. It reflects my thoughts and ideas, but the articles themselves are created by many with love and are therefore a real team effort. A special thanks to the ecolytiq and Make More Noise communication teams for helping me to shape my thoughts into beautiful words.

 

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SET YOUR BUSINESS UP FOR SALES SUCCESS IN A POST-PANDEMIC WORLD

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SET YOUR BUSINESS UP FOR SALES SUCCESS IN A POST-PANDEMIC WORLD

Dean Fiveash, Head of FinTech Sales, IFX

Without doubt the Coronavirus pandemic impacted every aspect of our lives and fundamentally changed the way in which we all conduct business.

From the widespread adoption of working from home, to the amplified focus on employee wellbeing and work life balance, to simply acknowledging that people are more than their job titles and are often juggling childcare, pets and terrible wifi issues all whilst trying to do their job. The last 18 months have altered the way we work forever and in order to set our businesses up for success we have also needed to rethink how we operate.

Dean Fiveash

In a people facing sector like sales,  it’s  clear that the loss of face-to-face interaction is perhaps the biggest loss and an impending challenge as we slowly emerge from the confines of the pandemic. Gone are the days of instant downloads from ‘water cooler’ conversations with the team discussing deals or general matters. Instead, our inboxes and diaries are full of zoom catch ups. This isn’t to say that success has dwindled. Flexibility of working from home has helped many businesses to grow rapidly. In fact at IFX we have enjoyed our ten best months of company sales, but there is no denying the way in which we work within our teams has shifted. So how can you set up your sales teams to maximise its chances of success?

 

Adapting To The Times

For many businesses operating during these unprecedented times the shift towards the work from home culture has seen its benefits. Speed is key in the fintech industry and video calls on top of isolated working has greatly improved our time efficiency allowing us to do more for our clients in the long run. Equally, with the workforce being spread around the country and in some cases even globally, came the need for further rigorous checks and processes to ensure the high standards set in the office environment are still being met.

Despite this I would argue that this made us better sales people, and in turn a more successful and thriving sales team.

Post-pandemic success is grounded in not just the talent of your employees but also how you choose to structure your teams. For me, the old adage ‘People Buy People’ remains the most relevant factor for developing a slick sales team. At the end of the day, the technical stuff can be learnt over time but the proficient people skills needed in client facing roles is more innate.

When evaluating team skills, individuals who demonstrate determination and the ability to keep smiling through adversity are a vital asset, especially in the fast paced fintech industry.

Having worked in numerous team leader roles within the sales industry,  I know the difference that a collegiate and supportive team can make to successfully securing deals. The key is to have people at your disposal who are going to pitch in to help others, in turn making the team more robust. In the post-pandemic world, this will remain the key quality to look for and embed as a core value across the business.

 

Fostering A Successful Culture 

Whilst the team structure and core skills are an important part of the team set up, good management and personal development structure is crucial to success. At IFX, our sales leadership team all have client portfolios and are regularly signing and navigating deals. It’s through giving my team practical experience and regular client interaction that we can gain far better market insight than through managing team activity or KPIs alone.

More discipline is also required when working at home to retain the sales focus whilst navigating domestic distractions. As such, maintaining your employee motivation and focus is something each business should work on. A difficult feat without the physical presence of your team and one balanced on knowing your employees and their individual needs. But little things go a long way, so incentives and perks such as company socials, bonuses or simply a free breakfast can work wonders to motivate others. Another tip is to set  attainable goals and regular check-ins with your team to keep motivation on track to reach peak productivity.

 

Looking Forward

Team dynamics will continue to change to adapt to the ever-changing and rapidly evolving landscape, the secret to success will remain the same.

Something to look forward to in the next couple of years as a movement,  is the greater adoption of smarter contracts and embedded FinTech, which of course as businesses and as a team we will have to adapt to.

Ultimately, my biggest piece of advice to others is to get the basics right.  A leading-edge solution fails to achieve greatness if it isn’t backed with competent sales/relationship managers and attentive operational support. Traditional ingredients for success such as reputation and trustworthiness are built over time, often through word of mouth, but building a competent team who can make your clients happy is essential to that mix

 

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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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