David Holden-White, co-founder and managing director, techspert.io
The world is awash with information. Analyst house IDC estimated that more than 59 zettabytes of data would be created, captured, copied and consumed in 2020, and that the amount of data created over the next three years will be more than what was created in the past 30. The boom in consumer technology and the rapid improvement in mobile connectivity has meant that the 48% of the globe that owns a smartphone has near instant access to all the digitised, publicly available information in the world in their pocket.
A world overloaded by information
It’s no surprise that people talk of information overload, or how much it impacts productivity. It’s not new either. A 2012 study from McKinsey & Co highlighted that nearly a fifth of professionals’ time was spent searching for and gathering information, half of the time they spent undertaking role-specific tasks. This is only likely to have increased as we’ve become more dependent on digital tools and services.
On top of that is the realisation that, thanks to social media, we’re living in a time when anyone can be an influencer or thought leader if they shout loud enough. It doesn’t matter whether you’re pushing trainers or cloud computing, whether your audience is a broad spectrum of consumers or a niche group of B2B buyers; the tools and resources are pretty much freely available to build a profile and push your message out there.
The result is that it’s becoming increasingly hard to find the value amongst vast and accelerating volumes of online data and noise, and to use that data to make accurate, effective decisions.
This is something we need to be able to do. We’re all expected to work faster, to make better decisions more quickly. The pandemic showed that certain changes don’t need five committees, two working groups and a proof of concept to take place before decisions can be rubber stamped. At the same time, no matter what industry you work in, there will be competitors who are more agile, more flexible, and seem to be much better at making decisions and capitalising on opportunities.
Yet those decisions still need to be backed by evidence, by irrefutable knowledge. What’s more, there’s only so much data can give us. We need the insights stored in the minds of true experts, with lived experiences of the particular problems, markets and technologies in question. In accessing this, we can develop a decision-making edge in businesses that competitors don’t have, that can be used to drive entrance into new markets, or for winning investment decisions.
Limiting risk in investment decisions
As we all know, investments are inherently risk-related, so, anyone making such a decision will do all they can to minimise their risk exposure, especially in volatile post-covid markets.
To do that requires being able to identify, consume and process information quickly. Investment opportunities, particularly in industries with significant growth capacity, come around quickly and get snapped up fast.
Those decisions will incorporate analysing and drawing insights from raw data, using publicly available and analyst-produced information. But there is also an opportunity to draw on human insights, from leading experts in relevant fields, to get a sense of the story that 0s and 1s can’t properly tell yet. Tapping into the right minds is essential to informing investment decision-making in 2021.
In an ever-growing haystack of information, the challenge is finding them quickly. Plus, once they are found, there’s a tendency to keep using them, or to use them as a gateway to others in their network. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with this approach, it leaves investors exposed to a lack of diversity in thought that makes getting to an unbiased view of the world impossible. At the same time, casting their net wide and finding lots of experts is resource and time-intensive, at a point when time is one commodity in short supply.
So, what’s the solution? Ironically, given that the challenge is bringing the right human insight into the process, the answer could lie in technology, specifically artificial intelligence (AI). AI-powered platforms can take a request for expertise and run searches through all available published and credible material to recommend the most appropriate experts for the project in question.
It’s true that there are already services that recommend experts, but they are heavily manual and therefore slow and imprecise. It’s also true, there are also both negative and positive connotations being attached to AI. No technology is without its flaws, and if investors were relying on the AI platform itself to provide expertise then there would be cause for concern. Services that provide access to the experts themselves, however, are providing a fast way through the noise and data – it’s a car to the destination, not the destination itself. Once investors and experts are connected, the former has access to the relevant insight the latter holds in their heads. What AI has done is rapidly scan through millions of people of talent to highlight the relevant knowledge holders with pin-point accuracy.
Using technology to highlight the best human knowledge
Using an AI technology platform to find the most relevant human is a way of taking a resource-consuming process and finding what’s needed in a thousandth of the time. In that way, investors can get fast access to the human insight they need to make the best decisions, allowing them to capitalise on opportunities and not miss the next big growth opportunity.
THE EFFECTS OF JOB HOPPING ON YOUR RETIREMENT OUTCOME
By Neli Mbara, Certified Financial Planner at Alexander Forbes
Job hopping – defined as spending less than two years in one position – is a very controversial subject. It can be an easy path to a higher salary but can also be a red flag to prospective employers, not to mention your future financial goals if you are cashing in your retirement fund every time you make a move.
When changing jobs, whether it be once a year or once every decade, one has to make decisions regarding career growth and retirement plans which affect one’s long term financial plans. One of these decisions is ‘what to do with my retirement fund?’
For many people, the first thing that comes to mind is using their pension money to pay off their debt. Alexander Forbes Member Watch statistics show that 91% of members do not preserve their retirement savings when changing jobs. As we are living in times where most household income is used to finance debt, most people use job hopping to gain access to their retirement funds, and use this money to pay off debt. However, a quick fix and instant gratification comes at a price, which in this case could be a delay in your retirement plan.
Your retirement savings are simply for that, your retirement, to pay you an income once you stop working.
Early access of your retirement fund can result in:
- Not having enough money at retirement – this is simply because most of us are already not saving enough for retirement
- Robbing yourself off the compound interest you could have potentially earned from the investment.
- Never making make up for the lost benefit
- Creating a bad habit that will delay you from achieving your retirement plan and desired income at retirement
It is easy to cash in your money from a retirement fund at resignation but it is much harder to make up for the lost benefit (capital cashed in plus interest). Calculations show that for you to make up the lost benefit depending on your retirement age and investment time horizon, you will likely need to invest more than double your contributions towards a retirement fund.
Since only 6% of the South African population are reported to have accumulated enough to retire comfortably, without having to sacrifice their standard of living, you will most likely have to invest much more towards your retirement fund to make up for the lost savings.
Therefore, leaving your retirement fund invested and preserved in a preservation fund is the recommended option when changing jobs, as this keeps you committed to your retirement plan.
Changing jobs is a life-changing event, and it is therefore important that you seek advice from a professional financial adviser who will guide you in your retirement planning ensuring that your retirement needs are taken care of, by providing solutions that help you to ensure your financial wellbeing.
DISRUPT TO SURVIVE IN FINANCIAL SERVICES, BUT BEWARE: YOUR TEAM MUST BE IN SHAPE FIRST
Michael Chalmers, MD EMEA at Contino
COVID is forcing extraordinary change in the financial services industry. It’s happening fast, already uprooting insurance, transforming payments and changing the way we interact with our customers across the industry.
But for the 4000 UK financial services providers who are at critical risk due to COVID-19, these tales of success should come with a warning. Disruption in the industry certainly won’t come overnight.
Only the most interconnected web of people, technology and culture can produce effective disruption at this critical time. Discover below the key trends we’re seeing in financial services, and how to upskill, empower and equip teams in order to create the organisational impetus for this transformation and disruption, in an industry known for its monolithic ways of working.
Top Technology Trends in Financial Services for 2021
As we enter another year of uncertainty, financial services organisations–and their customers–are looking for technology solutions that promise above all, flexibility.
Partnerships between retailers and payments companies that can deliver greater flexibility for consumers as well as increased reliability for retailers will boom in 2021. Even before the pandemic, we saw the flourishing of partnerships between retailers and Klarna, the ‘buy-now-pay-later’ online payment processing firm. With the impact of the downturn likely to continue well into 2021, add-on services that offer more options to support merchant resilience will be essential.
Many companies have embraced ‘fluid’ payment ecosystems capable of handling multiple digital payment solutions but only those capable of capturing data insights to drive their product innovation and sales strategies will reap the full benefits. Real-time user profiles, fraud anomaly detection and personalisation, are all enabling marginal gains for payment providers that will differentiate them from competitors in 2021.
But don’t run before you can walk
Before businesses can jump on new technology trends however, it’s critical to ensure they have an innovative culture in place. This will form the foundation for effective disruption. Here are my four tips for building a solid foundation.
1) Focus on data, with the customer at the centre
Customer experience is the central element to all disruption in the financial services today. Respond in real-time to customer queries. Better still, anticipate the customers’ next need before they’re even aware of it. All of this is made possible through a connected view of data.
Businesses should continue to embrace technologies such as AI and ML to harness customer insights and respond to customer needs–whether that’s approving a loan or recommend a new offer.
From answering customer queries and personalising banking experiences to revenue accounting and trade settlement dashboards, advanced data capabilities will continue to be critical.
2) Be realistic about what your team can achieve–and up-skill if need be
In my own work, I’ve seen that digital transformation is most effective when it factors in the abilities of the existing team–but that doesn’t mean leaving them on their own.
First, collaboration is key. IT and data teams must form internal partnerships in order to get plugged into the business side of things. Critically, they must be present in the boardroom. For many years, those with technical skills have been left out of planning meetings. But their knowledge is absolutely critical, especially when it comes to choosing the right tech stack to enable innovation.
If it becomes apparent that the team is lacking in the necessary tech capabilities, outsourcing is extremely valuable. But beware: it is essential to focus on building up internal capability in order to create long-lasting change–and scrimping on the upskilling for cost reasons will only result in greater expense. Bring in fully trained teams to both implement tech and upskill to foster stronger teams internally.
3) Enable innovation in a worry-free environment
In order to remain competitive in the modern marketplace, and to ensure long-term survivability, financial services organisations must transform their business models to focus on digital innovation and customer expectations.
It’s no secret that the cloud enables organisations to innovate at speed and scale. However, before teams can get stuck in, it’s crucial to ensure they have safe cloud environments in which to explore and innovate.
Developers must be given the freedom to evaluate new technologies and to make any necessary changes to enable rapid creation of business value. Having this flexibility and foresight when implementing and rolling out your public cloud solutions means that ideas can truly come from anywhere in the organisation.
4) Don’t just get the cloud, get the cloud right
The adoption of cloud is now widespread, but those who can optimise it will be reaping the rewards in speed, efficiency and, ultimately, customer satisfaction. Cloud shouldn’t just be a platform to build in–it should help to inform decisions and facilitate new ways of working, ultimately producing something greater than the sum of its parts. Building out cloud-native engineering, culture and operating models will future proof the capability of financial services organisations.
Finally, cloud capabilities should be rolled out right across the organisation. Contino research shows that, while 77% of organisations have adopted the public cloud, only a tiny proportion have actually scaled this out across the organisation. To do so means you’re able to share data across every department, to every person, creating a data-driven culture which will hugely benefit all decision-making going forward.
Prepare the ground and seeds will grow
Disruption is achievable for every financial service organisation in the UK market today – yes, even legacy brands. But the saving grace for those that are struggling at the moment needn’t be the debut of an exciting new product or pipping a competitor to the post with a partnership. It will be the construction of a collaborative and creative culture from which innovative ideas can grow – without being choked by unavailable data, the fear of upsetting day-to-day operations, or restrictive team structures. Innovation is what will pick today’s struggling financial services providers up and get them out of danger.
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