In accountancy, as with any business, the skill level of your team is not always reflected in their productivity. You may have the brightest accountants and bookkeepers, but they’ll still be rushing at year end, pulling their hair out with frustration over your clients – why do some of your clients routinely ignore all of your requests for information? Or perhaps they make silly mistakes because of the time pressure which can be costly for your clients and catastrophic for your reputation.
So how can you help this? How can you harness the power of your team and become a well oiled accounting machine?
Does your team know what’s expected of them?
Your people systems and the way you manage your team is just as important as your ability to complete a set of accounts. We’ve worked with excellent accountants, helping them to improve their productivity and systemise their business. The problems are rarely around the skill set of their team, but around the culture of the business, the way the team are managed both by the Business Owner and the Managers within the firm, and the consistency with which they operate.
Do you have targets set within your business and are these enforced? As an example, do you have targets in place for the completion of X amount of tax returns each month, so that December and January aren’t the absolute worst months? How do you measure this?
How motivated are your team? Do you have regular performance reviews with them and listen to their thoughts and ideas for improvement?
Do your clients know what you expect when working with them? (Yes, it is ok to tell them!)
When you take on new clients, and meet with your current clients do you make it crystal clear when you need their information by? Do you explain to them in plain words how important to is and how much more organised and less stressful it will be to operate in advance? Do you have reminder emails, automations to run this?
Perhaps you could build into your teams’ targets – follow up on X amount of clients a week. You can create email templates that are ready to go which serve as reminders, and you can impose rewards for the clients who submit their information to you ahead of the deadline.
Imagine if you received all the information you needed 9, 10, 11 months ahead of the submission date, and that each of your team had a target of X amount of returns each month, with a view to finishing a month, or two months before the crazy hits?
Do you have plans in place for achieving your deadlines and goals?
Say you wanted to increase your client base by 50% in 5 years. Ask yourself what would need to be in position in three years for this to be on track. Then in 12 months. And finally in 90 days. We call this 3-1-90 planning and it really works to drive and motivate towards achieving your goals.
So let’s get planning, here’s why:
1. Helps you to spot opportunities
A consistent planning system, and planning calendar, forces you to step off the hamster wheel once in a while and get your head up. It gets you to review your progress to date – what’s worked well, what hasn’t, what lessons can be learned. It provides space and time to think – about what you want to happen, what might get in the way, how you can get round any obstacles. It opens you up to opportunities, that you might otherwise miss.
2. Brings individuals and
teams together and breaks down silos
All too often, specialist teams, or individuals within a business can get lost in their own little world, and not be able to see the value that others bring to the business, or the challenges others face to get things done. Regular planning creates the opportunity to bring people together from different areas of the business to review the way work is done from the customer’s perspective and make plans based on what is best for the whole business.
3. Creates a safe environment
for new and creative ideas
Meet ‘that’s not the way we do things round here’ – first cousin to, ‘we tried that before, and it didn’t work’ It’s this type of statement that will prevent the flow of ideas in your business, and even your best people will not put their creative heads above the parapet if they know they’ll be shot down in flames. Your planning system offers a structured way to talk openly about the challenges facing your business, and ask for new and creative solutions to overcome them.
4. Gives everyone the chance to
How motivating and exciting to be part of something that is growing and achieving success, thanks in part, to your contribution. Involve your team in your planning, and you involve them in your Vision for the future – you give them the opportunity to create it. How much more engaged do you think they will be? How much more ownership do you think they will take?
5. Exposes your blind spots
We all have them. We can all be blind to our own strengths and weaknesses, to our innate prejudices, to other people’s talents and the value they add; and often we need others to shine a light on our blind spots. It’s the same in business – we all see things from our own view point, and benefit enormously from understanding how others see things. Planning gives us a framework for this.
6. Puts the customer first
Life planning puts you first. Business planning puts the customer first, and ensures that the focus is on what’s best for the customer, building trust and ensuring that everyone is focused on what really matters.
7. Keeps your products &
It’s your customers who decide whether your products are relevant to them or not, and it’s your planning system that will ensure that you check in with them – that you look for more innovative and effective ways to meet their needs and satisfy their wants.
8. Builds a stronger
Regular planning, focused on the business as a whole, brings the management team closer, and helps them to see the value – skills, experience and expertise – that they each bring. It’s also a great way of developing them, teaching them to focus on the end goal, and the strategies and tactics that will get you there.
9. Determines priorities
Your planning system is a key element in your continuous improvement cycle: plan – implement – review – plan. You start the exercise looking at what’s possible, and by the end it’s all about results. You understand your long term goal and you’ve plotted your course to get there. Together you’ve agreed your priorities, you’ve decided on your 90 day goals, you have your action plan, you know your first step. It’s simple and it’s logical, and it’s all about getting the right things done.
10. Builds ownership and
Any effective plan assigns the who as well as the what, where, how and when. It gives everyone ownership for their own little piece of the business – their role, their goal, their action plan. Ownership and accountability are the key differentiators between a regular team, and a high performing team. Your plan will drive this.
Take time out to look in in your business and you’ll be amazed at what you’ll discover.
Marianne Page, For more information, please visit https://www.mariannepage.co.uk/
Dissecting the expansion of online checkouts
Daniel Kornitzer, Chief Business Development Officer
Card payments have long existed as the preferred payment method for online consumers. But in recent years we have begun to see a rise in the use of alternative payment methods. Although card payments continue to serve the majority, it is becoming increasingly clear that consumer preference is diverging rather than reaching a consensus. Across the globe local preferences have developed as eCommerce has grown, and across the global digital payments landscape card payments are being passed over for new ways to pay.
Alternative payment methods are on the rise as they address several of the hurdles which have prevented cards from achieving total rule over consumer preference for online payments. Here are four key reasons for this:
- Alternative methods offer a superior consumer experience, particularly when it comes to mCommerce. With the rise of new regulations such as Strong Customer Authentication and developments in Open Banking, alternative payment methods can be faster and easier to use for consumers.
- New payments methods such as crypto are growing in popularity thanks to a more attractive offering to consumers such as lower cross border payment fees.
- With the digitalisation of services forcing many customers to pay online for the first time and many experienced online shoppers looking for more secure ways to pay, the security of financial data is a major concern. Alternative payment methods can protect customer details by removing the need to share bank details at the checkout.
- Not all consumers have bank accounts or a debit card. By offering alternative payment methods businesses are enabling these customers to join the digital economy.
Businesses have been watching these trends closely and are constantly looking to improve their checkout experience for consumers accordingly.
The impact of COVID-19 on online payments
The need for businesses to expand their online checkout to meet changing consumer expectations is not a new trend. However, it has certainly been accelerated by COVID-19. The majority of businesses agree the pandemic has shifted consumer payment preferences, with alternative payment methods gaining in popularity.
Research shows businesses have seen more alternative methods chosen at their online checkouts with a greater percentage of consumers choosing digital wallets (57%), mobile wallets (39%) and eCash (28%). This has caused businesses to reconsider the way they understand payments, looking beyond traditionally methods to newer consumer friendly alternatives. With this is mind, reports suggest more than 60% of businesses are now making improving their checkout a top priority to fulfil the new high standard of consumer expectations.
Businesses are actively expanding their online checkouts
If we compare data from 2020 to 2021 on the payment methods offered or planned to be offered by businesses in the next one to two years, the trend is clear.
The number of businesses not offering or not intending to offer alternative payment methods is falling, as more and more start to recognise the importance of offering choice at the checkout. In the last year alone the increase in the adoption of alternative payment methods has risen dramatically, particularly crypto and eCash. As businesses begin to understand the urgency of upgrading the checkout experience, it is clear that alternative payment methods will play a key role in making this a reality.
Establishing crypto as a key player
One of the most interesting areas of payments which businesses should be watching is crypto. Research shows businesses are already backing this trend with almost half considering adding crypto as an alternative payment method as an immediate priority, believing it will help them reach new markets, and more than 50% already have confidence in crypto as the future of payments.
Diversifying the checkout as a form of defence
As well as offering a better customer experience and reaching new markets, businesses are expanding their checkouts with alternative payment methods to combat other familiar problems.
Most businesses see their current levels of cart abandonment as an issue, with research showing almost half have experienced an increase in levels of abandonment at the checkout in 2021. Businesses consider two of the most significant causes of this to be card declines and absence of the customers’ preferred payment method. Offering alternative payment methods is an effective way of tackling these problems at the checkout.
The rise of fraudulent transactions is also becoming a more pressing concern for businesses, with the number of fraudulent transactions increasing since the start of the pandemic. Diversifying the checkout with alternative payment methods can be used as a valuable strategy to lower fraudulent transactions.
Looking to the year ahead
2022 looks set to be another year where we will see businesses continue to adopt new payment methods at their online checkout in a bid to keep up with consumer expectations.
By working with a leading payments partner, businesses can benefit from access to a range of payment methods through a single API integration, allowing ambitious plans to become a reality in the year ahead.
All data from this article is taken from our recent research report Lost in Transaction: Finding competitive advantage at the checkout.
How bug bounty programs can help financial institutions be more secure
Rodolphe Harand, Managing Director at YesWeHack
Financial services have been one of the most heavily targeted industries by cybercriminals for several years. One alarming stat from the Boston Consulting Group found these firms to be 300x as likely as other companies to be targeted by cyberattacks.
Furthermore, the pandemic has led to a significant increase in the number of cyberattacks targeting financial institutions (FIs), with around 74% experiencing a spike in threats linked to COVID-19.
With FIs holding some of the largest collections of sensitive and private data, it’s clear they will remain an attractive target for malicious actors, especially as any data stolen can be used for fraudulent activities. This leads to the reputational damage of the financial entity that was compromised and has a knock-on effect in terms of monetary and reputational damage to affected customers.
For CISOs at FIs, the conundrum faced is how do you protect intellectual and customer data, and ensure accountability and transparency for clients and stakeholders, at a time when the pandemic has created budget constraints. Research from BAE Systems found that last year alone, IT security, cybercrime as well as fraud and risk departments had their budgets cut by a third.
Below we look at how bug bounty programs can help to address these pressing issues.
Protecting valuable data
Protecting customer and intellectual data has always been a top priority for FIs. However, as opportunistic cybercriminals have a lot to gain by stealing this valuable data, there is a constant evolution of threats, which means FIs must stay on their toes. By deploying a bug bounty program, FIs can work with ethical hackers that have a wealth of experience and unique skills when it comes to identifying security weaknesses within a FI’s defence, thus helping to implement effective security measures to help prevent data breaches.
Building trust among various stakeholders such as customers, suppliers and investors is critical for achieving business goals. By deploying a bug bounty program, FIs send out a message that they care about protecting the security of the data of those they work with – which in turn can have a cascading effect resulting in better business performance.
For FIs to win customers and keep them happy, amidst the growing threat of neo banks and customer-centric fintech organisations, speed of innovation is crucial. As such, many FIs have adopted an agile approach to build, test, and release software faster to bring online and mobile banking solutions to market quicker. However, this can create frictions between development and security teams. Security mandates are deemed to be unnecessarily intrusive and a cause of delayed application development and deployment.
Yet, with DevOps teams needing to build and deploy applications faster than ever before, an epidemic of insecure applications has emerged. According to Osterman Research, 81% of developers admit to knowingly releasing vulnerable applications, while research from WhiteSource found 73% of developers are forced to cut corners and sacrifice security over speed.
With developers often not having the time, tools, skills, or motivation to write impeccably secure code, there is an evident need to provide developers with more support when it comes to building applications securely Fortunately, bug bounty programs can provide a “fact-based” financial implication of inherent security flaws within the process. This makes it possible to hold development teams and service providers accountable for creating or delivering insecure products, thus addressing inherent security gaps within the business units and helping to drive continuous improvement.
Moreover, security awareness and education of developments teams can be improved significantly for those developers that are directly involved with the management of vulnerability reports for their bug bounty programs. This is because, the mere fact of exchanging information with ethical hackers, or assimilating the thinking of a potential hacker and having proof of concepts of vulnerability exploitation on their application components, naturally accelerates consideration of security early in the development stage and provides ongoing learning.
Get more return on your investment
According to Gartner, 30% of CISOs effectiveness will be directly measured on their ability to create value for the business. When security budgets are challenged, CISOs need to demonstrate business value through initiatives designed to enhance efficiency whilst stretching the dollar.
This is where bug bounties can help tremendously. Compared to conventional penetration testing, bug bounty offers a fast, complete, and measurable return on your security investment, with businesses only paying out for successful discovery of vulnerabilities. Equally, businesses get access to hundreds of ethical hackers that can test their programs, each with their own unique skillsets as opposed to only one skilled researcher testing the network. This results-driven model ensures you pay for the vulnerabilities that pose a threat to your organisation and not for the time or effort it took to find them.
Bug bounty programs also deliver rapid vulnerability discovery across multiple attack surfaces. With this approach, organisations receive prioritised vulnerabilities and real-time remediation advice throughout the process to accelerate the discovery of, and solution to vulnerabilities.
Another appeal of bug bounties is that due to the continuous nature of testing, more vulnerabilities are found over time as opposed to pen-testing. This is key to financial institutions that require agility to keep up with the continuous roll-out and updates of applications.
The cornerstone to a successful security programme
The risk posed to financial institutions by cyber threats will only continue, as evidenced by the number of data breaches seen in recent times. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated these risks, especially with almost all FIs having needed to shift to a remote working environment – which has only widened the attack landscape.
For FIs, a bug bounty program should be considered a fundamental cornerstone of any security strategy, with it being a modern-day cybersecurity solution that is well-equipped to tackle the immediate security challenges they face. In doing so, FIs will not only prove to customers and stakeholders their commitment to data protection and security but this will also be help them to avoid the monetary damages that could be imposed by regulators if a breach was to take place.
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