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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

WHY 2020 IS THE RIGHT TIME FOR FS MODERNISATION

Chris McLaughlin is chief product and marketing officer at Nuxeo

 

Few would argue against the notion that the UK financial services (FS) industry is facing many challenges as both a new year and new decade begin. Uncertainty over Brexit, the potential threat from new competitors and Big Tech brands, and rising customer expectations are just some of the challenges facing the sector.

But for every challenge, there is also opportunity. Digital banking paves the way for greater service continuity, making it easier for banks to capture and analyse data (with consumers’ permission), reduced repetition of information collection, and delivering more of what customers want in terms of products and services.

By innovating with richer and more convenient online and mobile banking experiences, and by using technology to deliver smarter and more streamlined backend operations, traditional FS providers can roll out and execute services more cost-efficiently too.

But many FS firms have been restricted in their ability to innovate and realise such opportunities, due to the outdated and inefficient systems and applications to be found in many organisations. However, with many FS workers believing that the challenges the industry face could see their company lose customers in 2020, the time is ripe for FS firms to embrace modernisation.

 

Chris McLaughlin

The 2020 agenda according to UK FS workers

Nuxeo recently surveyed 501 UK FS workers that focused on the challenges, concerns, and opportunities facing the industry. The main 2020 FS industry challenges were Brexit uncertainty; cybersecurity threats and information or data breaches; physical branches closing down; the burden of increasing regulation; competition from Big Tech firms potentially moving into FS; and competition from new challenger banks.

Perhaps of most concern to the industry is the fact that 59% of FS workers in the study felt that these challenges left their organisation vulnerable to losing customers over the next 12 months. But there are signs that FS firms are adapting to the new market reality and embracing technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) that can help them modernise and address such challenges.

Almost two-thirds of respondents claimed their organisations are committed to innovation, and more than half (58 per cent) believe that firms which use AI in creative ways make for more attractive employers. 68% of respondents say their organisation is already using AI for content search or is in discussion to do so, and 67% say the same for automating backend processes, suggesting that FS firms are alive to the value that can be achieved.

Transforming customer service delivery is also a key focus for AI ambitions, with more than one-third (34 per cent) of respondents saying their organisation is already trying out AI in this context. Chatbots, often used to improve the customer experience, are being used by one-quarter. Meanwhile, 41 per cent are already using AI-based capabilities for some form of data analysis, suggesting that FS providers are attuned to the need to target their activities more strategically.

 

Smarter management of data, content and information

One of the major threats to productivity is the inability for FS firms to connect and organise all the data they have at their disposal and there is a real need for smarter management of data, content and information. Compared to newer industry market entrants, established banks and FS providers have far richer data going back decades or longer. If institutions could tap into this considerable resource, it could be used to distil invaluable intelligence and insights into consumer trends, product performance, and relative account profitability.

Although organisations have all the underlying information stored within their legacy systems, it is typically very difficult for teams to access, combine and cross-analyse this data. This is because, too often, systems are unconnected, use incompatible data formats and feature considerable data duplication between applications.

In the Nuxeo research, FS providers confirm that, on average, they store information and content across nine different systems. And these systems tend to operate in silos: almost three-quarters of respondents say their organisation’s systems are not fully connected with each other.

System users who need to access information as a regular part of their jobs can be spending up to an hour a day (52 minutes) searching for what they need because it is not readily discoverable. Given that this equates to four hours 20 minutes each week per employee spent looking for information, the total time wasted across an organisation over a year is quite significant.

 

Embarking on a managed journey of modernisation

13 per cent of respondents in Nuxeo’s study believe their organisation’s inability to adopt AI quickly enough is one of the main challenges facing UK FS in 2020, so it’s something that will need to be addressed sooner rather than later.

But a managed modernisation journey, incorporating wider use of AI, which can help address many of the issues that are so concerning to those that work in FS, is already underway for many. Such modernisation can deliver quick wins, without incurring new risk or detracting from other critical work that needs to be done in 2020 and should be embraced wholeheartedly as the FS industry embarks on the new decade.

 

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Business

WHY MAKING MONEY ON YOUR MOBILE IS EASIER THAN YOU MIGHT THINK

Aaron Brooks, Co-Founder of  Vamp

 

For Millennials and Generation Z, becoming a social media influencer is an increasingly desired career. According to a recent study, 86% of millennials want to use their social platforms to post sponsored content. It comes as no surprise. Getting paid to produce content about the products you love, why wouldn’t you?

It’s more than just a pipe dream too. While marketing used to revolve around big brands, employing big agencies to create ads, technological advancements have created a user generated content boom. Thanks to smartphones, most of us now have a 12 megapixel camera in our pockets. Brands have capitalised on this, launching campaigns that harvest user generated content, asking their customers to share their brand experiences through pictures, videos and reviews.

Social networks have normalised the sharing of content, which has helped propel this movement further. ASOS’ UGC hashtag #AsSeenOnMe has over a million entries on Instagram. Then of course there’s Apple’s incredible ‘Shot on an iPhone’ billboards, which use their user’s images to promote their phones.

Aaron Brooks

Influencer marketing takes this a step further. These social creators produce high-end content and have engaged followings – both a valuable commodities for brands. 93% of marketers now using influencer marketing. So if you’re looking to make your mark as a content creator, there are plenty of opportunities. Don’t be put off if your Instagram following isn’t in the high thousands either. Micro influencers, with their small but highly engaged audiences, have become popular among marketers and this trend will continue to grow in 2020.

Of course, brands want high-quality content to represent their brand, but if you’re keen to kick start your creator career and start making money, a smart phone and a creative eye is a good place to start. If you want to take it further, then follow these three tips for success.

 

Hone your personal brand

Rather than trying to be fashion, art, foodie and travel all in one neat package, find a niche and create a consistent message. The same goes for photography styles. If you want to be the flatlay expert, I’d recommend sticking to that at least 80% of the time.

Finding your niche and making it your hallmark will let people know what they can expect from you. It’ll make you more likely to maintain follower loyalty and help you to stand out from the crowd. Make sure it’s of genuine interest to you. You’ll need enough enthusiasm to post consistently in order to build your authority in that area.

 

Cultivate an engaged following

While a high follower count was once the most prized possession of the influencer community, times have changed. These days if you want the attention of big name brands, not only do you need a beautiful feed, but a highly engaged following. That means people who follow you, spend time with your content and engage with it.

Actively engaging with your existing audience and contributing to the larger Instagram community will help you build relationships on Instagram. This means replying with genuine

comments and pro-actively engaging by offering your own comments on other accounts.

While it might be tempting to take shortcuts by buying fake engagement or followers, it will only sabotage your efforts. Software has become increasingly effective at spotting fakes so chances are, you’ll be found out and blacklisted.

 

Maximise influencer marketing platforms

Once you’ve honed your personal brand and cultivated an engaged following, you can begin making money on your mobile. Rather than waiting for these opportunities to find you, you can take a proactive approach and join an influencer marketing platform.

These technology services connect brands with content creators. Depending on the platform, it may have a database of thousands of pre-vetted influencers who have opted-in to receive content collaboration briefs from brands. You’ll get opportunities delivered direct to your mobile and will be able to choose whether you opt in or not. This gives you the freedom and flexibility to work with brands that truly resonate with you and balance the work around other commitments.

With brands constantly searching for people who boast content creation skills, there are plenty of career opportunities in the influencer space. For those looking to make money in this space, all you will need is a smart phone, passion and creativity to begin carving a career as an influencer.

 

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