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YOU’RE UP ON YOUR NUMBERS, BUT ARE YOU AHEAD OF THE GAME?

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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 contribute 
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 & services relevant 
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 management team 
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 accountability 
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/

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Business

Four ways traders can manage risk

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By Dáire Ferguson, CEO at AvaTrade

 

Understanding the markets in which you are trading is incredibly important to optimising profit, as well as manging risk and loss. While trading can be incredibly lucrative, it can often be difficult to judge which way the market will move – especially when executing shorter-term traders, where unknown factors can cause unexpected movements. Being aware of the risks is vital to avoid unnecessary losses and to optimise the trading experience.

Dáire Ferguson

There are several techniques that can be employed to make sure the risks associated with trading are controlled, rendering the trading experience smoother and more enjoyable. From beginners to experts, having these tactics in your arsenal will enable traders to be savvier, and more confident.

 

Understanding the risks

To really be able to manage risk, it is imperative to understand the two types of trading risks.

 

Leverage

Leverage is where traders stake only a percentage of the value of the underlying asset they wish to trade on but accept exposure to the full value of the profit and loss that comes with the asset’s price changes. This enables traders to take sizeable positions for comparatively less trading capital, thus providing an opening for big wins and substantial rewards.

However, with this comes the risk of similarly significant losses. As an example, if a trader opens a £100 trade on an asset worth £1,000, using leverage of 10:1, this means that if the assets value increase by 10 per cent, the trader’s money will be doubled. But if it drops by just 10 per cent, the trader will lose all their stake. This balance of high risk and high reward necessitates careful management. Leveraging typically applies to purchasing and trading contracts for difference (CFDs).

Volatility

Volatility is characterised by unexpected fluctuations in the prices of assets and is defined as the rate at which pricing rises or falls given a particular set of returns. Volatility applies to all assets, but the regularity and size of price changes differs hugely across different asset groups. In fact, in some markets, volatility is actually predictable. The cryptocurrency market is well known for its fluctuations, characterised by frequent and, often, significant changes in price.

There are scenarios in which volatility can be desirable for some traders as it fosters greater profit margins. However, it also sharply increases the potential for large losses. Nevertheless, there are a number of ways to spot incoming market fluctuations. These include economic volatility, geopolitical tensions, and changing policies.

 

Managing the risks

 

Choose the right broker

So, what can traders to do manage these risks? The first step is to choose the right broker. Having the right broker can go a long way to limiting the risks that come with trading, including managing counterparty risk. For example, when you purchase CFDs, you are purchasing a contract with a broker – not the asset itself. Therefore, traders must be 100 per cent certain in the knowledge that the broker they’ve chosen to operate with is capable of making good on the value of that contract.

Traders who are just starting out on their trading journey should look to open a trading account with an established name that is well regulated in a variety of jurisdictions. Higher-quality brokers will generally have a wider range of risk management tools and offer better features, which will allow traders to manage the buying and selling of assets in a better, more sophisticated manner.

 

Take out protection on riskier trades

For new traders, or those who are looking for extra support, it is worth considering taking out protection against losses for a set period of time. Certain brokers offer risk management tools that provide thorough protection against such losses. These tools generally require just a small fee, not unlike the premium on an insurance policy. These risk management tools allow users to stay in the trade, riding out any short-term drops in value and benefitting from a positive overall momentum of the position. Therefore, if the market moves in a different direction to what was originally expected, users only lose the cost of purchasing the protection and can recover their losses.

 

Set-up stop-loss orders

Another form of protection against losses is through a stop-loss order. This is an instruction that is executed automatically when certain conditions are met. Therefore, stopping losses from falling below a certain point, and setting a limit on how much an investor can lose on a trade. In the case of a stop-loss order, the position is sold at a predetermined rate – below the current market price for a long position, or above the current market price for a short position.

Stop-loss orders remove the user from the trade at a set price drop. In comparison, risk management tools allow the user to ride out any short-term drops in value, with the potential to benefit from a positive overall momentum of the position.

 

Manage the capital-to-trade ratio

One simple way traders can reduce the risk of accumulating excessive losses is to keep their capital-to-trade ratio under control. This is the amount of capital left exposed to losses in trades compared to the total amount of capital traders have available to themselves.

A sensible rule for traders to follow is to not exceed a capital-to-trade ratio of 10 per cent, and not to risk more than two per cent of the overall capital on a single trade. This doesn’t mean always taking very small positions – it means traders should hedge their risks on whatever positions they choose to take.

It is important that before traders even begin to trade, they make sure that they understand the risks they face. Once they have taken the time to do that, they can begin to contemplate these four ways to manage those risks and then start trading. This is an exciting time to be entering the world of trading, and these considerations should ensure that the trading experience is as enjoyable and profitable as possible.

 

 

 

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Business

Out of office, home and away, moving up, moving on; when security goes AWOL

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By

Steve Bradford, Senior Vice President EMEA, SailPoint 

 

The financial services industry has one of the highest rates of insider data breaches, costing on average $21.25 million in the past year alone. Whether it’s an employee acting with malicious intent, or through accidental data mishandling, staff have access to sensitive information and systems that make them a constant vulnerability. And this threat only escalates when staff go on the move.

With the summer holiday season upon us, thoughts will be turning to well-deserved time off, travel and downtime. However, for many, especially in the financial industry, the notion of waiting until the summer months to sample a new life was not feasible. In the period following Covid, the industry has suffered at the hands of the Great Resignation as burnt-out employees left for new roles. As a result, research from PwC suggests that financial services leaders have had to prioritise employee retention amid the swathes of staff exiting.

This exodus is not just a threat to the workforce itself. It also results in greater threats to resilience, security and compliance. Ensuring that the doors to the organisation’s data are appropriately locked behind them is vital whenever employees are on the move. When a staff member leaves a bank or financial institution, security leaders must ensure they have not inadvertently handed over the keys to the safe as a leaving present. Revoking any and all access and privileges to company data must be a priority.

 

Don’t leave the door ajar 

Disorganised, ill-managed and manually-processed access requirements and identity management protocols are an open invite for security breaches.

However, it is not just those leaving for good that pose a threat. Recently promoted your long-serving payroll manager to a longed-for role in financial oversight? That positive move could result in entitlement creep, where the permissions to data, apps, information and systems she enjoyed in payroll follow her to her new home.

Permission creepers are those staff who collect permissions and access rights as they go through their career, picking up credentials to systems and data as they go. Of course, to restrict the opportunities for hacking, insider threat or illegal or incompliant activity, permissions should only be granted when relevant and required for an individual’s job. However, too many companies allow permissions to creep by not taking a proactive approach to access. This can result in toxic permissions combinations, where employees are granted inappropriate access to the systems, making fraud and error far more likely.

Even a simple summer holiday can provide an open-door opportunity. We are all conscious about signaling to would-be home burglars that we are going away on holiday, and we will take steps to protect our property in our absence. The same principle applies to businesses with staff out of the office on vacation – potentially logging in from insecure locations or signaling to cybercriminals that their attention is elsewhere.

The results of leaving the door ajar are costly. According to the IBM Cost of a Data Breach Report 2021, the average cost of a data breach in the financial sector is $5.72 million.

Permissions creep, unrevoked access and unmanaged identity provide the perfect conditions for the insider threat to propagate. As Gaurav Deep Singh Johar, of the Information Systems Audit and Control Association explained, “While these challenges are present in any institution, insider threats pose a greater risk for banks. There is a big reputational impact, thanks in part to increasing regulatory oversight.”

 

Don’t let permissions security set sail into the sunset

Financial organisations are complex landscapes, with labyrinthine corporate structures and siloes that cast a dark shadow over access and identity visibility. However, identity security technology is moving fast. Now, automated systems powered by AI and machine learning mean that permissions can be automated and access granted on a need-to-know basis, based on individuals’ employment status, roles, and responsibilities.

An automated system will quickly track down and disable ex-employees’ accounts and automatically halt permissions creep as employees move about the organisation.

The same technology can now also be even more diligent than that, monitoring access requirements based on any change in the workforce, like people being out of the office.

The evolving variety and fluctuating workforce mean that the insider threat can only be met with automated, streamlined identity security that moves as quickly as employees themselves. Without intelligent, streamlined identity governance, banks cannot ensure they are in a state of compliance, nor ensure cybersecurity in real-time. They also miss out on opportunities to improve operational efficiency and reduce the risk of fraud and error. Automation also ensures the accuracy and completeness of data sets so critical for keeping on top of compliance and delivering critical services.

As financial workforces are on the move, home and away and to pastures new, now is the time for banks to give identity security its time in the sun. Do not let shifting sands collapse the walls around you. Wherever your employees are coming from and going to, robust security and sustained compliance start with automated identity management.

 

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