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NO-CODE: MAKING BLOCKCHAIN IMPLEMENTATION EASY

An interview with Chris Obdam, CEO Betty Blocks.

When Blockchain first appeared on the tech radar, it was heavily associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. We know now that this was just the tip of the iceberg for the new technology. Since Blockchain’s inception, the brightest and most disruptive minds from around the world have started to unlock its potential as a groundbreaking security solution. Not just for online currencies, but any data transmission and validation imaginable.

More than 10 years later, Blockchain is still something of a mystery to most non-IT professionals. So what exactly is the value of Blockchain for businesses? And what technologies are available to help companies adopt this groundbreaking, disruptive security solution?

To answer these questions, we caught up with CEO and co-founder of Betty Blocks, Chris Obdam. He explained Blockchain and how no-code application development platforms can help businesses implement it easily, without the expense of employing specialised software developers.

Chris Obdam

1. What is the value of Blockchain?

Blockchain is a distributed ledger system which has a clear and simple benefit. It allows people to work together, share information, create contracts, and make transactions securely. Everything created (such as transaction data) is done outside of privatized, central systems and stored in a distributed system, the Blockchain. Unlike most technologies, Blockchain requires multiple parties’ permission to create, edit or move information.

For people like you and me (or even businesses), information is a private and valuable asset. Knowing data is secure gives real peace-of-mind to individuals and is an essential factor for businesses to work together. Blockchain technology and the security it offers and can be an essential factor in winning collaboration.

As a side note: Until Blockchain technology became available, the market for centralised contract systems was owned by just a few players – a near monopoly. Blockchain technology disrupts that entirely. Taking advantage of it enables businesses to bypass the restrictive practices (and sometimes high prices) of powerful market players.

2. What are some of the challenges of incorporating Blockchain?

The real challenge right now is that people don’t fully understand what Blockchain is and how to apply it. People seem to have this idea that Blockchain is a complex series of algorithms and technology barriers which make it difficult to connect with existing processes. But it is in fact simply a new and better tool in your development team’s toolbox. Companies that fail to consider it are simply hanging on to the old way of doing things and risk falling behind the competition. Implementing Blockchain is where a no-code platform can come into play to simplify and speed the process.

3. What are no-code development platforms and how can they help?

No-code platforms enable anyone to contribute to software development without writing a single line of code. Instead of hand-coding, non-IT professionals create applications using a visual interface and pre-fabricated code segments (or modules). Ultimately, the goal of no-code is to remove the technology barrier of programming languages and allow anyone to contribute to innovation efforts.

When it comes to Blockchain, people need to understand that creating the software is the smallest piece of the project. Technical setup only has to be done once. Your user interface, back-end, and logical flows are the more time-consuming aspects.

The advantage of using a no-code platform is that the ‘technical’ setup will already be available to your developers. Meaning your focus can be entirely on delivering the best possible result for your end-users.

4. How can the banking industry benefit from no-code platforms?

We all know that the traditional banking sector is under constant pressure from new digital players. Both private and business customers expect better services on all fronts, including via digital platforms and they absolutely expect total security. Fail to meet these ever increasing expectations and your customers can easily switch to another provider.

Given their huge demand for new digital processes, Banks have had to radically change their approach to software development. They have had to become highly innovative and fast to market with new digital services. So when it comes to software, many have turned parts of their development strategy over to rapid innovation teams who build applications using no-code platforms instead of via traditional coding. Firms that are able to design, test and launch new services in weeks instead of the many months it took just a few years ago; are gaining customers from their slower rivals.

5. When can we expect the first no-code built applications to incorporate Blockchain?

Blockchain technology already exists in no-code platforms today. It’s a pre-built ‘drag and drop’ feature which a developer can add to an application’s workflow. So it isn’t exactly a matter of when, but where Blockchain will be used within a no-code application on a large scale. You could start building an application that incorporates Blockchain today.

Blockchain is here to stay and it’s important to get your head around it. You can easily incorporate it into your new applications if you take a no-code development approach. If you need any help, do reach out to us at Betty Blocks.

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Interviews

WHY MANAGING RISK PERFORMANCE WILL BE LENDERS’ BIGGEST CHALLENGE THIS YEAR

Michal Smida, Founder & CEO, Twisto

 

  1. What are the key trends you’re seeing in lending?

Q2 was characterised by a conservative approach and a very proactive reaction to managing credit risk. There was substantial tightening in approval rates for onboarding new clients – this in part is due to the uncertainty of the potential impact of unemployment, as well as the increased challenge of gaining access to capital markets. We saw as much as 50% reductions in approval rates across the industry.

There was also a bigger focus on collections and managing risk in the existing portfolio, this includes more proactive and frequent communication with clients. Q3 has seen an easing of the above measures as prime client portfolios in the EU have recorded positive non-performing loan (NPL) performance. In some cases, customer payment behaviour has improved vs. pre-COVID, with some lenders recording their best performance to date.

 

  1. The 2008 financial crisis was the catalyst for alternative lenders. Do you think the current pandemic will be a similar agent for innovation and change, and if so, what might it look like?

The shift to digital has been an ongoing theme since 2008, which gave rise to many great fintechs, but also pushed banks to digitalise rapidly. What the current crisis has brought is increased customer adoption of what has already been in the market for some time. So we don’t see the change in the product offerings of financial institutions, but rather a change in customer behaviour and their willingness to use digital channels, which are not only much more convenient, but also safer and quicker to use in comparison to traditional offline processes.

 

  1. What are the biggest challenges for lenders in the next 12 months?

Maintaining and further managing risk performance. Q4 will be critical in proving the resilience of the customer base. As governments have stepped in to support businesses and the wider economy, the possible impact on unemployment has been delayed.

This in turn can lead to credit deterioration once the support stops. Venture capital and debt markets effectively shut down in Q2, with reopening noted in Q3. As many lenders require additional capital to sustain growth momentum, the key challenge will be attracting capital from investors who became even more selective and cautious.

 

  1. What do lenders need to prioritise to deliver a better customer experience?

It’s mostly about finding a sweet spot between a smooth customer journey and all the requirements coming from different stakeholders around areas such as risk factors.

Many financial institutions are not so brave in terms of challenging the status quo of the current financial conditions. We are doing our best to make bold decisions that might make a difference at the end of the day.

 

  1. You have already started to make the transition to lending 3.0. Why did you want to build a card programme?

Creating a payment card was the logical next step in fulfilling our vision of simplifying daily payments for customers. We started with simple deferred payments “Buy now. Pay later” for e-commerce, but in an age when the overwhelming majority of payments still occur offline, it was necessary to also enter that market and provide an omni-channel solution. The key was to have a better app and overall experience than traditional card issuers.

This was demonstrated in our recent launch of the Twisto app and card offering in Poland, which has been well received by customers, with over 70,000 sign ups and over 20,000 cards ordered in the first 30 days from launch. We are very pleased with the speed of execution through this launch, and strategic partners like Mastercard and Marqeta have been fundamental to enabling the success of the technology. We look forward to exploring expansion opportunities across the EU on the back of this solution.

 

  1. What’s your vision for your card programme and how it will help you solve your challenges and deliver a better customer experience?

At Twisto we believe that having a plastic card in your wallet is already outdated. Because of this, we’ve committed to our goal to stop issuing plastic cards by 2025. We believe that the future is paying with mobile phones. Thanks to Marqeta and our Digital First certification from Mastercard, we’re one of the first companies in Europe, or even the world, who doesn’t have to issue physical cards.

 

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Interviews

MAXIMISING THE SPEED OF RECOVERY: ALLOCATING CAPITAL EFFECTIVELY

Simon Bittlestone, CEO of Metapraxis

 

How has COVID-19 impacted businesses’ financial plans?

The uncertainty thrown up by the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that many businesses have been feeling the strain and extra pressure on their cashflow. While measures such as the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) were put in place, for some businesses, these have been ineffective in providing much needed liquidity. This has affected smaller businesses significantly, as they are much more likely to default on loans than their larger counterparts, and therefore less likely to have a loan approved.

In April this year, a survey showed a pessimistic outlook for SMEs predicting that many would run out of cash in as little as 12 weeks. Taking into account various other factors at the time, Metapraxis predicted this time frame could be shorter still, giving certain businesses just 6 – 8 weeks.

 

What do you think the next few months hold?

While the outlook of businesses may have changed continuously since the beginning of the pandemic, it would be naïve to think we are out of the woods. The worst of the economic recession is still to come, so good allocation of capital and effective management of cashflow is now more  important than ever.

 

What factors do businesses need to consider in order to effectively optimise their strategy?

Financial results depend on how businesses split their capital across different strategies, projects, products or services, as well as various regions. Clearly it would be beneficial to back the most profitable service lines in a time of financial uncertainty, but in order to get this right, businesses need to consider three main points: multiplicity of inputs, complexity of comparison and multiplicity of output.

Multiplicity of inputs looks at the number of assets that can be supported. The more assets there are, the more complex the challenge of coordinating capital allocation appropriately. Tied in with that, a business also needs to be able to realistically compare one asset’s return with another’s. This is the complexity of comparison; it is hard for the board to choose which assets to support if they are not directly comparable with each other. Finally, and perhaps most obviously, all of this needs to fit into the overall goal of the business, and what areas it is trying to maximise.

To add to this already difficult process, multiplicity of output is going to change dramatically over the coming years, as companies begin to consider other factors such as climate impact, employee wellness and social responsibility as outputs.

 

What should businesses be focusing on in the short-term?

Businesses must focus their efforts on financial return. Doing so is a key part of any businesses’ recovery from financial hardship, even if they are caused by unpredictable ‘black swan events’ such as coronavirus.

Many things remain fixed in a short-term model. During recovery from such events there is not generally time to create a whole new product line, or explore a different service, although some more agile businesses have of course been able to achieve this. Building a top down model of the business is therefore key in order to streamline processes and manage cashflow, providing the necessary liquidity to survive.

 

What longer-term changes should businesses be aiming at implementing?

With multiple inputs and outputs to consider, the long-term equation is extremely complex. Businesses often underestimate the importance of building a model that allows directors to see the impact of different factors on profitability and cash flow. The ability to reach long-term goals very much depends on identifying future risks and changes in the market, and being able to react quickly.

This can only be done by analysing historical return on investment by business unit, region and product or service, and applying these ratios to test future assumptions. This allows management to run different scenarios quickly and then test these with operational deliverability. If the management team can analyse how various future scenarios might pan out and what the impact might be on the business, it can use this information to make better decisions.

Any company that doesn’t have a model like this will find themselves at a massive disadvantage as we approach the next two years of economic recovery andit is the finance team who must take responsibility for rectifying that.

 

What is the key takeaway for businesses who are looking to learn from COVID-19?

Capital allocation has always and will always be at the heart of any business’s operations. This is even more prevalent in times of economic recession when managing cashflow becomes even more vital for survival. When a business has a clear historical overview of its portfolio, how well products or services are performing, and how previous scenarios have affected profitability, it can make more informed decisions when it comes to assessing the impact of an unexpected event.

The ability to adapt to fluctuations is hugely important to the board, particularly the CFO, when it comes to successful cashflow management. Agility in financial planning, good scenario modelling and prudent assumptions will allow a business to better weather most storms.

 

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