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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

HOW WILL DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION EFFECT JOBS SKILLED IN TECH

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Maria Paola Resta, HR Manager at Auriga

 

The world of technology is constantly evolving, and digital skills are also rapidly changing over the years. The interaction with the end customer is becoming more and more digital since the pandemic, therefore tech jobs, particularly in the banking industry, may need professionals to “humanise” the interfaces used by customers.

 

Tech jobs on the rise

Tech talent is growing, particularly in the Artificial Intelligence (predictive, customer profiling, etc.) sector, and technical skills regarding augmented reality, the user experience, and interface design are also on the rise. The outbreak of the pandemic has led to an unprecedented acceleration in the digitisation of processes, therefore jobs that specifically require knowledge of digital skills has increased in order to meet the needs of customers. Tech jobs remain focused on specialised areas of tech, however as the technology industry is in constant flux, some areas might be in more of a demand in comparison to others.

 

How remote working will affect the tech talent pool

The increase of remote working has already impacted the tech skills business, as the day-to-day working environment now exists in the digital realm. Tech skills are needed now more than ever, and employers have a huge role to play in helping people to continue their personal development while continuing home working. They need to focus on their personal development in order to build the workforce they need for tomorrow’s world.

 

Skills beneficial to the banking industry

There has been a massive shortage of skilled candidates in digital and technology disciplines. IT and financial companies need to upskill existing staff to fill these exciting new roles. In an age of high-frequency change, learning is truly for a lifetime.

In the debate about tomorrow’s skills in the banking sector, the rising value of each employee has often been overlooked. People are a valuable asset as machines take on the more robotic processes, and uniquely human skills come to the fore. How we develop these skills becomes a critical question for employers and workers alike. It will be many years before schools and universities nurture students well versed in these skills.

 

More tech talent required for business digital transformation

The process of digital transformation has already started with some businesses as a modernization process. This has undoubtedly accelerated strongly following the COVID-19 pandemic which forced everyone to overcome situations of technological immaturity and to radically review flows, work processes and models of consolidated business. Digitisation has entered even more pervasively into working life, becoming an essential and permanent condition, and making it necessary to acquire skills that are best suited to the new digital paradigms.

It’s inevitable that companies looking for ways to counteract the effects of the pandemic on their operations will ask their technology function to bear part of the burden. However, they must be strategic about any shifts made to the tech workforce. To ensure that vital digital services remain up and running, organizations must do everything possible to protect mission-critical talent. By showing their support now, companies can create goodwill that will carry over to when better times return.

Another of the direct consequences of remotisation is the emergence of new demands for soft skills suitable for managing collaborations and partnerships as well as specific technological talents that are increasingly specialized to support the new needs of businesses.

 

Tech skills that companies can use for their benefit

The movement towards technological areas are becoming increasingly crucial. Companies must necessarily equip themselves with professionals experienced in cybersecurity and train their people on the adoption of new operating models to protect all internal workflows from possible cyberattacks. In parallel, the need to acquire skills in the cloud, artificial intelligence, automation and user experience fields is growing exponentially in order to adequately support the changes in progress and allow work processes to be increasingly safe, intelligent and functional as well as suitable for supporting the new business models developed by companies following the pandemic.

 

How tech skills will support remote working

Soft skills are essential as they allow remote management and collaboration in virtual environments, but the importance of digital skills is growing. All HR departments are engaged in planning and finalizing training and learning projects whose main topic is information and communication technologies. The high complexity and technological vastness necessarily imply a high level of know-how and specialization in order to guarantee an optimal performance in the production and line areas, unlike the managerial or corporate areas where a disciplinary transversality of skills is generally privileged to allow a global overview.

Businesses have to work in order to build the right talent into the organization as a long-term plan during and after the pandemic, and this might be possible by applying AI, automation, and other exponential technologies to make workflows more intelligent. All of this affords a new opportunity to build better businesses and a better world. It starts with enabling a diverse workforce to perform optimally, and building trust and confidence among employees will be critical. How they are treated now will have an outsize impact on perceptions and value in the future.

 

Maria Paola Resta, HR Manager at Auriga

Maria Paola Resta has been a HR Manager at Auriga since 2018. Her role includes the coordination and overseeing of the group’s HR initiatives. She has a background in occupational and organizational psychology, and has been working in the human resources profession for 15 years. Her role focusses on talent acquisition, people development, training and employee relations. In the last 10 years she has worked in the HR departments of important companies that specialise in Information Technology, and her roles have increased in responsibility as she has progressed throughout her career.

 

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Banking

TO ENABLE BETTER LENDING FOR PEOPLE AND BUSINESSES, WE HAVE TO LOOK TO OPEN BANKING

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By Iain McDougall, CCO of Yapily

 

A recent FCA study found over 14 million people were grappling with financial issues at the end of 2020, representing more than a quarter of the UK adult population. The picture is similarly tough for SMEs, too, which have been impacted hugely by lockdowns, loss of earnings and more; it’s estimated the pandemic will cost SMEs an extra £173,000 in debt per year.

This is resulting in a lack of lending options for both consumers and businesses, as well as expensive or high interest loans, or worse, rejection from lenders all together. This in turn is driving unaffordable lending, and penning consumers and businesses in an ongoing and irresolvable debt cycle – at a time when they need the most support.

One of the biggest causes of this lies in lenders relying on credit scores and credit bureau data to inform their decisions, which simply aren’t accurate enough to truly get the full picture of a borrower’s financial situation.

The case for using Open Banking data in lending decisions has never been stronger.

Data accessed through Open Banking permits lenders to retrieve accurate information about the borrower’s financial history. This can provide more accurate assessments, and therefore enable fairer lending decisions.

 

Credit scores aren’t helping consumers

Take NHS workers as an example. Despite working tirelessly throughout the pandemic, NHS workers make up a sizable portion of the UK adult population currently struggling with debt.

Iain McDougall

An independent report from the University of Edinburgh Business School, in partnership with Salad Projects, found NHS workers are heavily reliant on long-term overdrafts and high-cost credit, where APR is as high as 1,333%. Almost all (93%) respondents said they use one or more types of credit or loan, compared with 75% in the wider UK population (according to the Financial Lives Survey). More than half (58%) use up to three loan providers and 68% use up to four loan providers.

This situation is the result of relying solely on credit scores. While these are the near-universally accepted method of determining credit terms, each credit reference agency has a different method for calculating a credit score. They rely solely on financial history, whether they’ve previously defaulted, or failed to get credit, and not a consumer’s actual financial position, whether they’ve recently got a pay rise or new income, to see how likely it is they will pay back any money borrowed. This can mean, no matter if a consumer’s financial position has changed, they can’t get a better loan because of a previous discrepancy.

 

The challenges facing SMEs

These issues are not just limited to consumers. SMEs, particularly those in the hardest hit industries like hospitality and travel, have struggled to access credit throughout the pandemic.

While many may have been thriving pre-pandemic, their lack of ability to turn a profit during lockdowns, meant they needed extra support. In an effort to keep these industries alive, we saw numerous government backed loan schemes launched, such as the Bounce Back Loan Scheme, to help struggling businesses survive. In total, these schemes have provided almost £180 billion worth of lending to date, supporting over a quarter of businesses in the UK.

However, the soaring demand from businesses in need of these vital funds meant lenders were unable to keep up and many businesses did not receive support quickly enough. What’s more, providers may register these types of loans with credit reference agencies, which means companies that previously had strong credit ratings may see their credit scores negatively affected by any delayed or missed repayments.

This is why it’s vital for lenders to get lending limits right the first time round, so SMEs can avoid potentially adding to their already growing list of debt and thrive in a post-pandemic world.

 

Enhancing lending with Open Banking 

Using Open Banking can add a much-needed layer of trust and loan personalisation for businesses and individuals. By basing credit decisioning on real-time financial data, lenders will be able to create a more accurate picture of their financial situation; and so make fairer credit offers.

Through adopting Open Banking principles, lenders will be able to onboard new customers and grant loans more efficiently, providing businesses with the cashflow required to maintain their workforce and support the economy.

With the borrowers’ consent, it will also give lenders oversight into how the economy is recovering, and enable them to monitor the rate at which the individual or business can expect the loan to be repaid. Meaning they can step in and provide extra support if and when required.

Open Banking provides what credit scores alone simply cannot – real-time insight into an individual’s or a businesses financial position right now, not three to six months ago. By leveraging the data that is readily available to them, lenders could achieve far better and more responsible outcomes. This will reduce the risk of loan default – for both businesses and individuals – and lead to more responsible lending decisions that can help people and businesses bounce back after what has been a difficult year.

 

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