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THE RIGHT WAY TO END RISKY BUSINESS

Richard Mill from Business Systems (UK) on why Workforce Optimisation (WFO) could be a huge help in mitigating the risk of illegal staff conduct

The FCA’s conduct risk agenda is driven by a need to make financial markets and services work in the best interests of customers. But how many financial services firms are meeting all its recommendations?

The FCA places an expectation on companies to commit themselves to full compliance with the spirit of regulations, rather than simply adopting a tick-box approach. To help, it sets out five questions it expects businesses to be able to answer formally with evidence in order to demonstrate compliance with the agenda:

Richard Mill
  • What proactive steps are you taking to identify conduct risks?
  • How do you encourage people in front, middle, back office, control and support functions to feel responsible for managing conduct?
  • What support does your firm put in place to help your people improve their conduct?
  • How does the firm’s board and executive committee get oversight of conduct?
  • Has your organisation looked at any business activities it is engaged in that could be working to undermine your work in this area?

So what about City best practice? Is it in alignment? In 2016, Ernst & Young undertook a study of attitudes to conduct risk across the UK finance sector in order to gauge where organisations felt they needed to change and what they recognised as the main challenges. Two key areas were flagged up: monitoring of staff performance and changing culture, and product design and governance. On the first issue, for example, the study says real challenges for the financial services organisations it polled included the ability to articulate and evidence current behaviour so as to better align desired change activities so they were consistent and effective. In addition, its researchers found putting infrastructures in place that would allow senior leaders to effectively monitor activity throughout an organisation, and therefore be able to take full responsibility, was too weak in the workplaces it contacted.

On product design and governance, meanwhile, the report highlights how many providers do not have effective risk profiling protocols in place – plus, that there was widespread failure to monitor who bought which products and therefore trace performance ‘in the wild’. Finally, the Big Four firm’s experts tell us that compliance procedures were not supplying information that could be used to identify product failings, and that there was little or no disclosure about product performance.

Across all of these areas, it seems, a general theme of deficiencies in data, monitoring and reporting emerges. Organisations seem to struggle to take proactive steps to identify risks in behaviour or products. Why? Because there is no joined-up approach to monitoring quality assurance (QA) and service level metrics – nor are there protocols in place to channel relevant data up the chain of command. Essentially, product performance is not monitored after point of sale, customer feedback is not used effectively, and there is no real coordinated oversight across front and back office, control and support.

All in all, such findings – among others, worryingly – underline how having effective data and intelligence procedures in place represents a significant barrier to firms being able to answer any of the FCA’s five questions the way the regulator is demanding. And that is a serious issue.

How back office workforce optimisation can help

The good news is that a new tool is available that can genuinely address some of these issues – and help you get nearer to that all-important FCA finish line.

That’s in the shape of something called Workforce Optimisation (WFO) – software which takes a data-led approach to streamlining operations and achieving greater efficiency. Long used in front end operations like contact centres, WFO platforms link sophisticated real-time monitoring capabilities to functions like work allocation and robotic process automation (RPA). The result: agent availability increases and decreases with the ebb and flow of demand, the right people get the right tasks at the right time – and basic repetitive tasks become automated, freeing up human resources for more complicated, valuable work.

Workflow across the whole piece

So how precisely should we do this to help address our risk position? The ideal scenario is to extend WFO from the front to the back office, thus at a stroke allowing all operations to enjoy the benefits of greater efficiency and integration.

A modern modular, highly flexible WFO solution will do just that – controlling and monitoring workflows through all parts of an organisation. That means it will integrate valuable data streams from many disparate points, bringing critical information together into a single management dashboard – which makes it an ideal solution to help financial services organisations overcome those barriers to mitigating and tracking any conduct risk.

Overall, the tech provides clear, actionable intelligence on all areas related to service quality. Given the FCA’s demand to create a successful regulatory agenda that promotes positive outcomes for both customers and our vital financial markets through cultural compliance, a modern WFO platform could become a truly invaluable tool. The first task, after all, in bringing behaviour and performance into line with established standards – and then keeping them at those levels – is genuine, data-driven, insight into what is happening across your organisation.

Customers who’ve implemented WFO say the same. Workforce optimisation platforms that work across the back and front office drawing data from multiple touchpoints to provide a rich real-time illustration of behaviour and performance provide the only really solid foundations for true FCA compliance.

The author is Managing Director of Business Systems (UK) Ltd, a specialist in providing call recording and workforce optimisation solutions

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Business

THE EMOTIONAL AND FINANCIAL COST OF WORKING WITH OUTDATED TECHNOLOGY

technology

Slow Tech Could Waste 24 Hours of Worktime a Year

In this digital age, businesses are hugely reliant on technology to get work done. And this is especially the case for one-man-bands and small home-based businesses who may count on a single computer to keep things running smoothly from their home office space.

This said, if the technology at hand is slow or outdated, it could become more of a hinderance than a help. Investing in upgraded tech may seem like a steep expense, however, delays cost time and time is money. In fact, recent research looking at the impact of tech troubles in the workplace found that delays caused by slow technology could add up to a hefty 24 days’ worth of worktime a year per person.

Here’s why keeping hold of outdated tech when its past its best could cost your business in the long run.

 

The biggest tech hold-ups

Delving deeper into the research, it’s evident that the most time can be lost on some of the smallest of tasks. Simply waiting for your computer to boot up, for example, can add up to 8.8 days of lost time over the space of a year (17 minutes a day), while 8.5 days can be lost to opening emails (16.5 minutes a day).  Slow software has the most to answer for, however, contributing 10.4 days’ worth of wasted worktime (20 minutes a day). When you think about your own day rate or that of an employee’s, this lost time all adds up to some serious money, right? Probably more than it would cost to upgrade your tech.

Productivity can suffer too

Glitchy tech may not only cost your business time and money; productivity can take a serious hit too. According to the study, a third of workers admit losing motivation when they have to wait on tech to respond. And this comes as no surprise. When faced with freezing programmes and buffering browsers every day, frustration can build up. And when someone’s suffering frustration, productivity and motivation can drop. As a result, it may turn out it’s not just the tech that is slowing down tasks, but a reduction in employee efficiency too.

Tech expert and anti-futurist, Theo Priestley, argues that the issues caused by outdated tech at work can even have a negative effect on someone’s work-life balance and wellbeing. He explains, “not being able to complete work or feel productive or have a sense of accomplishment in a task can be a stressful experience. And depending on the nature of the work, more often than not, employees will need to work additional hours to compensate for the wasted time, which has a knock-on impact on personal and family life.”

 

Outdated tech can put your business at risk

Beyond the costs to your business, outdated tech can also put it at increased risk of cybercrime. The older the technology, the easier it is for hackers to exploit it. What’s more, if you don’t update your security software regularly, it won’t be equipped to address the latest security threats.

Priestley explains “outdated technology and software means easy exploitation from inside and outside the organisation. If you’re not using the latest versions of operating systems, or software that you’ve invested in, then there’s greater chance for someone to exploit known weaknesses in that system and expose or steal data or valuable company information from them.”

 

What is the solution?

Regularly assess what condition your hardware and software are in and where delays are occurring. If you find yourself waiting on the same problem day in day out, it’s probably time to do something about it. But how often should you be upgrading your IT equipment?

In general, a computer being used for business could do with being upgraded every two to three years for optimal performance. Alternatively, sometimes simply upgrading the memory or hard drive can help applications run more quickly. Any other equipment such as printers, keyboards, etc. only really need to be replaced when they break.

As for software, upgrade it regularly. While it can be a temptation to stick with older versions that you’ve grown accustomed to, the newer versions will offer improved capabilities, efficiency and security.

While computers slowing down over time seems inevitable and something that we’ve accepted will happen, it’s important for businesses to recognise the problem can have a bigger knock-on effect than you may think. By investing in updated, efficient technology, the savings experienced via productivity are likely to vastly outweigh the price of the tech itself. So, next time your computer freezes, perhaps consider whether it’s time for an upgrade.

 

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Business

OFFSHORE COMPANY FORMATION TACTICS FOR SMEs

Company

James Turner, Director at company formation specialists, Turner Little

 

Starting a business brings with it its own set of challenges, as well as opportunities. But when setting up a business, the where is often as important as the how, and knowing what to expect in terms of company formation regulations and requirements is key, so you can start your entrepreneurial journey on the right foot.

 

James Turner, Director at company formation specialists, Turner Little, takes us through what we need to consider when it comes to offshore company formation, and the benefits it can offer start-ups and SMEs.

 

“Despite what the media will have you believe, there are numerous legitimate reasons to use an offshore company. Offshore companies can often provide SMEs with access to better infrastructure and legal frameworks. Regulations in different parts of the world could prove to be restrictive for businesses by preventing foreign entities from launching factories, buying property or investing in local companies. In this instance, setting up an offshore company can help in completing transactions and provide you with the ability to hold any local assets necessary,” says James.

 

“However, one of the fundamental reasons for setting up an offshore company is often privacy. Moving assets or setting up a business is often done in a country that offers more tightly protected data security, has a robust legal framework and a network of service providers that streamline the setting up process. Switzerland is often the country of choice when it comes to privacy, as it’s synonymous with security and data privacy. Another reason SMEs should consider setting up an offshore company is tax efficiency. Tax advantages are offered by different jurisdictions. For example, Singapore has one of the lowest corporate tax rates, while the Cayman Islands might be more ideal for freelancers who are looking to minimise the effective tax rate on their businesses,” adds James.

 

“Offshore companies provide SMEs with the ability to mitigate risks that arise from political instability or currency volatility. We have already seen businesses starting to register European entities in order to limit their exposure to the fallout that may result from Brexit. Whatever the reason, spreading your operations across jurisdictions may be the best long-term business strategy SMEs can adopt to secure future growth,” adds James.

 

Turner Little specialises in creating bespoke solutions for individuals and businesses of all sizes. The knowledge and expertise of their specialists will be able to assist with any enquires, no matter how complex.

 

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