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POST-COVID TRENDS IN DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION: HOW FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS CAN FACE THE CHALLENGES OF AN EVER-CHANGING CLIMATE.

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By Jennifer Geary, General Manager, EMEA at nCino

“The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger: the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger–but recognise the opportunity.” ― John F. Kennedy

Jennifer Geary

JFK observed that in Chinese the word “crisis” is made up of two brush strokes representing danger and opportunity; this has proven particularly pertinent for the financial industry through COVID-19. The COVID-19 pandemic has upended nearly every aspect of our personal and professional lives. It’s also no secret that there’s been a fundamental shift in how customers choose and purchase products and services. For years, traditional banks’ technology systems were a huge obstacle hindering digital transformation. Many still run parts of their technology on antiquated programming languages, and years of patching have created complex estates that consume huge portions of IT spend. Executives at these institutions are aware that this isn’t sustainable, and the pandemic has served as a catalyst for the acceleration of digital transformation across the industry.

While the pandemic continues to evolve, clear trends have emerged, showing the dangers that are in front of FIs who hesitate to transform and the opportunities that exist for those who are willing to embrace change.

 

A personalised view of the customer

The reduction of physical bank branches continues its momentum with just last month Virgin Money announcing the shuttering of 12 branches in Scotland. Combined with an ever more sophisticated range of digital banking services, consumer attitudes and expectations of what a bank should provide continue to evolve. Customers have come to expect the same experience of their financial services providers that they have elsewhere in their lives, and as result, financial institutions are increasingly looking for ways to improve customer service and deepen engagement. For many financial institutions (FIs), being able to offer a personalised digital experience for customers is a priority. Many FIs have struggled to implement personalisation due to siloed legacy systems. However, these organisations need to break down these silos and ensure that information is free flowing to gain a better understanding of their customers and serve them more proactively. Platforms built for the world we live in now harness the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning to give FIs the ability to create the much-sought-after ‘single view’ of each customer, and create micro-segments allowing them to make decisions based on real-time data and intelligence.

 

Transforming one change at a time

Large-scale digital transformation is a marathon, but you don’t have to do it all at once. FIs can meet their goals and create value through a series of shorter sprints. Micro-transformation is about taking those first steps. It’s understandable that in the current environment, overhauling your entire infrastructure at once may be a challenge. Even in times of economic uncertainty, implementing small but mighty micro-transformations is a strategy that allows FIs to drive optimisation, embrace continuous innovation and stay one step ahead of the competition. With large digital transformation projects, users can feel overwhelmed by all the changes. However, with micro-transformations, this can be minimised as users will be introduced to the changes gradually, allowing them time to adapt and form new habits. Another benefit is that staff are given the time and incentive to learn new processes and systems and benefit from direct and immediate value in terms of time savings, increased efficiency, a better user experience or improved customer engagement and satisfaction. It’s all about getting some “quick wins” under the belt, by implementing smaller, bite-size technology projects that can have a focused but measurable impact on the organisation.

 

Using technology to support ESG

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues are emerging as some of the most important considerations for the financial industry. In January 2021, Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, issued specific directives calling on firms to align with global efforts to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Details include “the need for better data to improve disclosures of emissions and set rigorous short, medium and long-term targets to reduce them”. As Fink addresses, data is critical to ESG efforts. In order for FIs to succeed they need to be able to digest this data effectively; however, legacy systems struggle to keep up with new demands.

Digital transformation is seen as the key to unlocking further potential in ESG initiatives, with 33% of executives in financial services stating that they are looking to increase spend on digital transformation to enhance their organisation’s ESG efforts. Meeting ESG reporting requirements is becoming increasingly important as customers, investors and other stakeholders are seeking to learn more about a company’s ESG track record. And companies themselves are looking to dig deeper on their own strengths and weaknesses in order to take meaningful action. Having the right technology to help is critical.

To be successful, FIs need to assess their whole portfolio with regard to ESG risks and facilitate collaboration between compliance and credit teams. It will be an increasing challenge to stay ahead of the regulatory curve, requiring organisations to bolster their data capabilities with intelligent tools. With newer technology, platforms can be configured to add covenants and fields to help collect, validate, and analyse ESG data and turn it into actionable insights.

FIs cannot afford to simply cannot operate as they have in the past. While the rise of digital has been mounting similar pressures for more than a decade, the pandemic has significantly exacerbated and accelerated its disruptive force.

 

 

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

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Opinion From 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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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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