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WITH SO MANY MANUAL PROCESSES, IT’S NO WONDER FINANCE IS STUCK IN THE DARK AGES

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Francois Lacas, Deputy COO at Yooz

 

A new survey of UK financial leaders has confirmed it. Problems are still being caused by the continued reliance on manual processes and not enough emphasis on technology.

One in five (20%) businesses are still using Excel spreadsheets and manual processes for accounts payable.

Just 18% have adopted full automation in the accounts payable process – from end-to-end invoice capture, to approval and payment.

The issue of manual finance processes has gotten so bad that it’s no longer restricted to the departments and businesses it’s related to.

Supplier and vendor relationships are being put under strain at a time of financial uncertainty, while small businesses are having to deal with late payments while constantly monitoring cash flow.

This is a backward step for those that have worked so hard to mitigate the risks associated with a global pandemic.

 

What issues do manual processes cause?

In the same survey, 35% of finance leaders said time-consuming processes were the biggest problem related to manual accounts payable tasks, with 28% claiming processes are too complex.

Issues such as manual validation of invoices, reliance on paper documents that need to be printed, and then shared across the business for authorization, result not only in delays but also a risk of errors, especially across multi-site organizations.

Accounts payable automation is all around us, enabling us to streamline any cumbersome process. So it’s strange to see so many still struggling with this – not just in their role but wider impacts on the business.

Late payments (29%) was also high on the list of issues with manual processes – a problem that can lead to fines, affect credit terms and impact cash flow up and down supply chains.

Late payments have long been recognised as potentially devastating to businesses, with hundreds of thousands of businesses at risk of insolvency every year because they lack the reserves of larger organizations to cover delays.

As incoming revenue can account for around 60% of turnover, and businesses large and small currently struggling with cash flow issues, taking too long to pay can again undermine supplier relations as well as their survival.

 

What are the benefits of financial automation?

Replacing manual processes with powerful digital tools allows finance and business leaders to run and optimise a tight ship – decreasing time and costs while improving collaboration and productivity.

With automation, companies can do much more with less. Previously time-consuming and painstaking tasks that may have once required several hours to complete on a daily basis are transformed into one seamless electronic process that takes a matter of seconds.

As accounting and finance documents hold vital insights into the day-to-day running of the business, it’s important businesses are provided with instant, proactive data analysis – something not provided by paper documents or Excel spreadsheets.

The scanning and uploading of documents is as easy as it is taking a selfie and uploading to social media. And, once done, finance departments can start to glean real-time data capabilities and extract valuable information that would have otherwise gone ignored.

In a highly-regulated industry like finance, businesses have to follow compliance to the letter of the law. Safeguarding customer, supplier and sensitive information is a must, and companies must now start digitising documents for secure storage and auditing purposes to protect themselves.

But from the ability to view what’s happening on local sites from home, to being able to immediately identify and rectify issues, the level of business intelligence provided with automation is having a profound effect on visibility and security.

By automating, businesses are also doing their bit for the environment. Rather than wasting paper and money on printing financial documents, real-time data provides everyone responsible to share, store, and electronically sign documents in a matter of seconds.

 

Finance departments need to step out of the Dark Ages

Although Covid-19 had sped up the rate of digital transformation, it seems the waves of innovation haven’t yet reached the finance department.

Technology investments for the past year have been focused on keeping businesses alive and enabling remote working conditions with project management, video conferencing and collaboration software.

But now we’ve gotten comfortable in our new environments, it’s time to focus on optimising and completely ridding ourselves of inefficient, manual processes.

Equipped with automated tools that help us work together wherever we are in the world, while staying compliant and saving on costs and time, companies will place themselves in a much stronger position to deal with the needs of tomorrow.

It’s time for finance departments to step out of the dark ages, and into the future.

 

Business

Financial Stability Board Gives Full Support to Wide LEI Use in Global Payments

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Clare Rowley, Head of Business Operations at the Global Legal Entity Identifier Foundation

The strongest recommendation yet by the Financial Stability Board (FSB) that the LEI should be used more widely in payments will catalyze increased global LEI adoption. The most immediate intention is in facilitating cross-border payments. GLEIF explains why this makes it the perfect time for financial institutions to become Validation Agents within the Global LEI System.

The Financial Stability Board (FSB) has put its full weight behind a landmark recommendation that the LEI should be widely adopted across the global payments ecosystem. In July 2022, the FSB published a report encouraging global standards-setting bodies and international organizations with authority in the financial, banking, and payments space to drive forward LEI references in their work. The report also recommends guidance and further outreach on the use of the LEI as a standardized identifier for sanctions lists and as the primary means of identification for legal entity customers or beneficiaries, with specific reference to customer due diligence and wire transfers.

A primary near-term goal of the FSB’s most recent report, published as part of the G20 Roadmap for Enhancing Cross-Border Payments, is to stimulate LEI to use initially in cross-border payment transactions. By helping to make these transactions faster, cheaper, more transparent, and more inclusive, while maintaining their safety and security, the LEI has been deemed by the FSB to support the goals of the G20 roadmap.

As a result, banks and financial institutions will now be compelled to move quickly to incorporate the LEI as an integral component of their cross-border payments infrastructure, since there are huge benefits in doing so. In addition to supporting lower costs and enhanced transaction speed and transparency, the LEI can also facilitate straight-through processing (STP) and sanctions screening, while easing compliance with Know-Your-Customer (KYC) due diligence.

Additionally, the report recommends that standards bodies (e.g., BCBS, CPMI, IOSCO, FATF) and international organizations (IMF, OECD, World Bank) should consider how the LEI may be used as a standardized identifier for sanctions lists or as the primary means of identification of legal entity customers or beneficiaries. This demonstrates the broader ecosystem needed to support cross-border payments evolution – an ecosystem based on a single global identifier for legal entities that can be used to facilitate compliance checks across various resources.

With this in mind, banks and financial institutions who may soon need to ensure their legal entity clients possess an LEI to engage in certain payment transactions, cross-border or other, should feel motivated to leverage the benefits of becoming a Validation Agent within the Global LEI System. The advantages are two-fold: enhanced customer service, through a simpler, faster, and more convenient LEI issuance process for customers; and huge efficiencies in client onboarding and lifecycle management for the bank or financial institution. It really is a win-win scenario.

 

The wider impact of LEI adoption in cross-border payments

While the FSB’s report is intended to promote LEI use in cross-border transactions, both the strength and far-reaching scope of its recommendations are likely to be a catalyst for the LEI to be more broadly implemented across many other payment scenarios too. After all, if banks and financial institutions need to equip customers with an LEI to participate in cross-border transactions, then it’s a logical next step for participants in the payments ecosystem to leverage and optimize those LEIs to drive efficiencies across their other payment operations, and to bring enhanced transparency and trust benefits for customers.

There is already a healthy pipeline of active consultations and commitments by financial regulators aimed at recommending or mandating LEI use more broadly within the global payments space.

  • Last year, the European Commission (EC) officially recognized the value of the LEI as a unique mechanism capable of supporting transparency in AML and countering the financing of terrorism (CFT) efforts. It issued two legislative proposals that call for the LEI to be used in certain customer identification and verification scenarios where available.
  • The EC also launched a separate initiative last year to identify obstacles to the creation of efficient pan-European instant payments solutions. As part of its consultation strategy, the EC issued a survey for the purpose of exploring the potential for the LEI to support the screening of instant payment transactions against sanction and watch lists.
  • The Bank of England (BoE) affirmed its position to support wider uptake of the LEI and will introduce the LEI into ISO 20022 standard for CHAPS payment messages on an ‘optional to send’ basis in February 2023. While the BoE encourages all CHAPS Direct Participants to start using LEIs as early as possible, it will not become mandatory until spring 2024, at which time the BoE will begin mandating LEIs to be used in certain circumstances, with a vision to widen out the requirement to all participants over time. In particular, the BoE will mandate the use of the LEI where the payment involves a transfer of funds between financial institutions. The BoE will also monitor the use of the LEI for all transactions, with a view to assessing whether the mandatory requirement to include LEI data should be extended to all CHAPS payments.
  • In order to further the use of LEI in cross-border transactions and facilitate cross-border trade and investment, the Chinese Cross-border Interbank Payment System (CIPS) designed an innovative product “CIPS Connector”, which provides an integrated “one-step” service for a variety of cross-border RMB transactions between banks and enterprises. Every CIPS Connector user is assigned with an LEI, which is used for activating the tool as well as a mandatory business element in their business transaction.
  • In January 2021, and in a move that was the first of its kind, the Reserve Bank of India issued a mandate for the LEI in all payment transactions totaling ₹ 50 crore and more undertaken by entities for Real-Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) and National Electronic Funds Transfer (NEFT).

 

Why the LEI in payments?

The LEI is considered an important tool in payments as it is designed for identifying unique parties to each transaction. It meets a fundamental requirement in payment processing – precise identification of the payer and payee. No other current identifier in payments offers this. International Bank Account Numbers (IBANs) for example are used for uniquely identifying payer/payee accounts, while Business Identifier Codes (BICs) are used for routing the payments to the relevant divisions/sub-divisions of financial institutions.

Today’s highly digitized payment networks require faster, cheaper, and more secure transactions. When the LEI is added as a data attribute in the payment messages, any originator or beneficiary legal entity can be instantly and automatically identified.

 

Become a Validation Agent

When viewed collectively, these developments show that LEI advocacy has never been stronger in the payments space. This signals that the LEI could be the widely implemented trust tool of choice for payments in the near future. With that in mind, GLEIF urges banks, and financial institutions to consider taking a proactive approach to supporting voluntary customer adoption of the LEI and getting ahead of recommendations or mandates in the payments space.

Becoming a Validation Agent in the Global LEI System is now the obvious choice. In addition to easing the process of LEI implementation further down the line by making LEI issuance more convenient and accessible for customers, becoming a Validation Agent can deliver some significant advantages for financial institutions themselves. By utilizing ‘business-as-usual’ onboarding processes to obtain LEIs for clients, financial institutions can improve customer experience, facilitate digital transformation, and reduce client lifecycle management costs.

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On-demand pay: why payroll needs a modern approach

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Byline:  Paul Bartlett, CEO, CloudPay

 

While the world of work has evolved drastically over the last decade, payroll has arguably fallen behind the curve. In fact, how businesses view employee pay today is outdated and fails to meet the expectations of the modern workforce which, with the UK’s critical skills short labour market, could prove detrimental. People now expect on-demand services in their personal lives, from their shopping experience to their access to entertainment, and this need for a ‘consumerised’ experience has filtered into many business practices. But payroll has yet to catch up.

Financial technology is certainly gaining prominence across the globe as it gradually replaces traditional financial services such as banking, payments and electronic commerce. In fact, a recent fintech market report shows that the global financial technology remit is expected to reach a market value of approximately $324 billion by 2026, growing at an annual rate of around 25.18% over the 2022-2027 forecast period. So, soon enough, payroll will be expected to keep pace with the rest of the fintech field.

Paul Bartlett

A shift in mindset

Ultimately, most employees are consumers and our digitalised world means that consumers are able to instantly access almost anything through an app. Getting to your next destination and accessing a range of takeaways has never been easier with Uber and same day deliveries through Amazon have meant that shopping online has grown in popularity. In an era where instant results are the norm, it should come as little surprise that individuals are now asking why they should wait to access wages they’ve already earnt. With technology making it so easy to consume, why should they wait for payday to get paid for the work they’ve done?

It’s also important to consider how the world of work itself has changed. The pandemic has led to a general consensus that it’s ok to question norms in society, and workers are now expecting more from their employers, including how and where they work. As we all know, mass remote working wasn’t commonplace before the pandemic, but now the benefits that businesses and employees have experienced have resulted in new ways of working, with some countries even making the work from home option a legal right. Eventually, the same could be said for how people get paid as greater flexibility and a better work-life balance rises in demand.

Pay on-demand

In line with the progression of the working world, employees are increasingly beginning to question how and when they get paid. For staff in the UK, the cost-of-living crisis has increased the desire for more flexibility around access to pay. Businesses themselves are also questioning how age-old processes can be improved and we’re seeing more firms seeking to update legacy systems and processes, which has led to demand for digital payment capabilities for employee pay.

However, there’s a fundamental question about paying employees in arrears – why should employees effectively loan money to their employer until payday? It’s now possible to allow employees to effectively choose their own payday (or paydays) with on-demand access to earned wages via a mobile app. Progressive employers, such as Nando’s, are offering this pay on-demand facility as a low-cost, high-value benefit to employees, giving them control and flexibility over how and when they receive their salary.

Nando’s Singapore

In the case of Nando’s Singapore, a brand that revolves around its people, the firm recognised that its payroll system needed to be updated. The main business challenges centred around a highly competitive jobs market, with many more vacancies than people available to work in the country, making it tough to recruit front-line staff. This, coupled with the difficulties of retaining talent when competing with the gig economy, a segment of the workforce known for paying workers frequently, was presenting a significant challenge for the firm. Furthermore, monthly pay cycles were necessitated by Singapore’s requirement for employees to have a monthly payslip to qualify for access to government benefits and the 80% government-owned housing market.

The combination of these challenges and the delicate balance of the need for monthly pay vs. pay flexibility led Nando’s Singapore to look for a more flexible solution. The solution? Pay on demand options for staff. So, what does this change and what does it mean for the firm and its workers?

When a pay on demand solution is in place, Nando’s employees will receive their monthly payslips as usual. There are also no adjustments to existing payroll processes and finance reporting, which means no extra administrative burden on the payroll team. What will change, though, is that Nando’s staff will no longer have to wait until the end-of-month payday to receive wages they’ve already worked for. Pay on demand and pay to card gives employees more control of managing their own cashflow, allowing them to instantly access their earned wages when they need them, via a mobile app rather than requesting pay advances from their employer.

Overall, the decision to seek an earned wage access solution will mean that staff will have flexible pay, supporting Nando’s recruitment and retention efforts while also delivering an enhanced employee value proposition. As Moji Neshat, General Manager at Nando’s Singapore explained, “We know unexpected bills and short-term cashflow challenges can create a lot of stress for our teams. With CloudPay NOW all our team members will be able to access their wages the very next day after working, removing that stressful wait until payday.”

Moving forwards

Sophisticated technology is playing a role in making tedious or labour-intensive processes quicker and easier in our everyday lives, and it can – and should – have the same impact for payroll. The likes of pay on demand may appear on the surface to be complex to manage, but can in fact streamline processes.

When we think back to when online payments were first introduced, there were understandable concerns around the change – but very few of us today could imagine life without mobile banking, and the ease and speed it brings to making and receiving payments. Why shouldn’t payroll follow the same path?

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