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2023, the year for policymakers to deliver

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By David Cook, Partner at Penta, International Financial Services

 

2022 has, by any measure, been a difficult year in Europe. War on the continent, runaway inflation, energy security and even a corruption scandal in the European Parliament. These problems are not going away and will continue to dominate the political arena. However, 2023 will be an important year for the financial services sector and its policymakers. The start of the year is always a good moment to consider the key themes set to drive policy in the UK and EU over the next twelve months.

2023 will be an interesting year as it precedes 2024. Although that sounds obvious, 2024 will see a new European Parliament and Commission and, in all likelihood, a general election in the UK (not to mention a Presidential election in the US). In Brussels, there will be a focus on getting the programme of the current Commission finalised as far as possible and, in the UK, the current Government will be pushing to demonstrate it should be given an extended mandate.

Pressure will be building on policymakers to act, and this will need close attention. Companies should be ready to act to influence the process, whether directly or indirectly (for example through the media).

Here I set out a few drivers for those of us watching closely where the EU and UK are going.

  • Competitiveness

Despite some thawing in relations in 2022, the shadow of Brexit continues to loom over both the UK and EU and competitiveness between jurisdictions has become a key concern. In the UK, the Financial Services and Markets Bill will provide regulators with a secondary objective to consider the UK’s competitiveness. The UK government has also set out its strategy for regulation in the form of the Edinburgh reforms. These focus mainly on reform to parts of the UK system that have proven unpopular and have been badged as using Brexit freedoms. Ironically, some of the highest profile reforms are in areas, like ringfencing and the senior managers’ regime, that were not actually related to EU law.

In the EU regulation aims to provide the single market with ‘open strategic autonomy’. This nebulous label intends to boost the efficiency of the single market and the competitiveness of EU firms while not relying on ‘third countries’ such as the UK.  The EU is looking to make tangible progress on its Capital Markets Union agenda, and tech and data will be important features in the regulatory work of the EU in 2023.

A regulatory focus on competitiveness might sound attractive, but memories remain of the financial crisis, before which competitiveness was a regulatory objective, so there may be reluctance to embrace it. Also, regulators do not have a great record of promoting innovation and data driven change in Europe, so a close eye will need to be kept on this.

  • Crypto

2022 has been dubbed the crypto winter with huge falls in the value of crypto currencies and some high-profile failures in the sector, including FTX and Terra. This has led to a dilemma for policymakers in Europe. The focus on competitiveness means some want to welcome this innovative technology that many people continue to believe has an exciting future. However, the risk to investors, financial stability and even the ability to police and control the supply of money is causing sleepless nights in some institutions.

The EU is, as usual, ahead of the international game when it comes to producing regulation. Its flagship regulation, MICA, is agreed and ready to pass into law (although it will be some time before it needs to be adhered to). The EU has also advanced its work on digital currencies and the ECB is currently pulling together a group on rulebook development.

Similarly, the UK is preparing consultations on crypto asset regulation and digital currency. Except for new powers around financial promotions, new regulation is not expected in 2023. However, the direction will be set in 2023.

Whether the UK and EU adopt similar approaches remains to be seen. A competitive environment could emerge where each jurisdiction seeks to be at the forefront around, for example, blockchain adoption or central bank digital currency. This might introduce risks around intended consequences, where regulatory approaches are not properly analysed in a rush to move forward. Equally, there could be excessive caution that limits the development of the sector in Europe. It will also be interesting to see how the UK and EU overcome the dichotomy of regulators, who will be very concerned about the risks, versus those who want an environment focussed on innovation.

  • Sustainability and productive finance

In an environment where public finances are suffering from severe stress, governments have been focussed on how private sector finance can be used for public policy purposes and how investors can be sure their money is used for such purposes. This is most apparently seen in the regulation around climate change where the EU’s impressive array of rules, including the Taxonomy and disclosure requirements, are becoming a huge compliance challenge for many firms operating in the EU. The UK is pursuing its own agenda and there’s an ambitious approach being developed where the divergence from EU rules is creating its own challenge.

There are also plans to consider how changes in regulation can increase sustainable investment and, in the UK, other policy objectives such as levelling up and promoting innovation. Last year saw the candidates to become UK Prime Minister talking in public debates about how changes to regulation such as Solvency II could be used to promote more of this type of investment in the UK.

Changing regulation in the EU and UK will create risks, burdens and opportunities for the firms that fall into scope. New disclosure requirements are likely to be hard to meet but changing investment rules could play to particular businesses’ strengths. Firms should ensure policymakers understand what’s practical and effective.

  • Energy

The events of 2022 mean that energy security and cost are a top priority in Europe and politicians have been quick to act to support markets and consumers. When it comes to financial services, there are three main concerns. First, can investment be increased to help reduce the reliance on fossil fuels generally, and Russian gas specifically. Second, have markets delivered efficiently for European consumers. Third, could energy market turbulence lead to turbulence on financial markets, as seen in markets such as the London Metal Exchange.

Of these three, the first concern has increased the urgency around creating a regulatory framework to increase investment in non-fossil fuels (as described above). For the second point, appetite for direct intervention by authorities in markets has been rising, particularly in the EU. This is very uncomfortable for those firms active in energy markets where price caps and public sector produced financial instruments (like price benchmarks) are likely to distort markets and could undermine confidence if not properly calibrated. Policymakers, lacking specific expertise, are going to need a great deal of assistance.

Finally, the third point about risk moving from energy markets to financial markets is likely to be challenging, particularly for those firms who prefer to avoid operating under the burden of financial regulation. Without proper calibration, new measures are likely to raise the costs of operating on energy markets and lead, ironically, to higher energy costs.

  • Financial Crime

Finally, a focus for regulators will be around how to reduce the levels of financial crime and keep investors safe. The losses to investors caused by the collapse of crypto-currency prices have been part of the story, but there have been a number of misselling scandals that have embarrassed regulators and shaken confidence in investing. In the UK we can expect to see the FCA act to strengthen the approach it is taking to protect consumers. We should also see regulation that helps reduce scams by increasing the requirements on banks and social media providers.

In the EU there is a package of measures around anti-money laundering under development to ensure a more harmonised approach across the single marker and also create a new EU-wide regulator to enhance supervision. This is likely to mean increased compliance and due diligence costs for those brought into scope.

Business

Accounting Automation in the Future

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Accounting automation is the process of streamlining repetitive tasks in financial processes. For example, some processes like invoicing are time-consuming and repetitive. Automation can reduce manual labor and save businesses both time and money. Also, it helps improve accuracy, reduces errors, and provides more accurate financial reporting.

Accounting automation in the future will be increasingly important for businesses to stay competitive. But every new change comes with both advantages and challenges. Let’s dive in to get ready for this future trend.

 

Potential Future Benefits of Accounting Automation

Increased Efficiency and Cost Savings

Accounting automation is a great way to increase efficiency and cost savings. For example, AI bookkeeping uses advanced algorithms to automate many accounting tasks. So, companies can track expenses, prepare financial reports, and more using AI.

It reduces the time needed for manual entry. So, businesses can spend fewer labor hours on tedious processes. They can increase efficiency by freeing up resources for more strategic work. It also helps reduce errors and inconsistencies associated with manual processes. So, the cost of compliance is lower because of greater accuracy.

 

Improved Accuracy and Reliability

Accounting automation can improve accuracy and reliability in accounting processes. For example, Automating bank reconciliation is less prone to errors from human mistakes or miscalculations. You can automate the process to identify discrepancies between the bank statement and accounting records. It helps to ensure that financial reports remain accurate and reliable. So businesses can take corrective action faster than processing data manually.

 

Streamlined Business Processes

Streamlined business processes involve eliminating unnecessary steps, reducing paperwork, and automating repetitive tasks. This allows businesses to focus on higher-value activities, such as developing new products, improving customer service, and developing strategic plans for the future.

 

Making a Better Decision

Accounting automation can enhance decision-making in 3 ways.

1. It enables businesses to access real-time information from multiple systems. So they can identify trends for better decision-making.
2. Automated accounting also helps with forecasting, budgeting, and auditing tasks. It enables businesses to be more proactive in their decision-making processes.
3. Also, automated accounting tools can integrate with enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. They can manage data across the enterprise and make concise decisions that are favorable to the company as a whole.

 

Increase Customer Satisfaction

Accounting automation can help businesses increase customer satisfaction by streamlining their processes and providing a more efficient customer experience. For example:
4. Automated accounting systems can automate tedious manual tasks such as invoicing, data entry, and payroll processing. This allows businesses to focus on other aspects of their operations that are more important for customer service.
5. Automated accounting systems can also provide customers with more accurate and timely financial information. The information can help them make better decisions about their finances.
6. Also, accounting automation enables businesses to respond quickly to customer inquiries. It helps reduce wait times and improve the overall customer experience. So, you can build better relationships with their customers.

 

Improved Accessibility

Accounting automation takes place online or comes with cloud-based solutions. So, you can access your information and do your job from anywhere instead of being confined to one spot.

 

Challenges to Implementing Accounting Automation in the Future

Cost of Technology Infrastructure Upgrades

Automating an accounting system often requires businesses to invest in new hardware and software, such as servers and other associated equipment. These upgrades come with a hefty price tag that may be difficult for small businesses to afford.

There are also extra costs, such as installation fees, setup charges, software licensing fees, cloud storage costs, and maintenance fees.

 

Training Requirements for Staff Members

Accounting automation involves using advanced technology to automate certain processes. So, it creates a need for trained staff members who can handle the new technology. Training requirements vary depending on the type of software used.

Some common training includes record-keeping procedures, software applications, and troubleshooting skills.

 

Regulatory Compliance Issues

Accounting automation can be a time-saver, but it also requires firms to be aware of the applicable rules and regulations. Companies must ensure that their automated systems are compliant with relevant laws and regulations such as Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), and other applicable accounting standards.

Besides, they must also comply with legal requirements related to taxes, financial statements, and other reporting obligations.

So, businesses must consider the complexities of regulatory compliance when automating accounting.

 

Security and Data Protection Concerns

As businesses move their accounting processes to the cloud, they are exposed to a wide range of potential security risks. Data breaches can cause significant damage to the business’s financial and reputational integrity. Besides, the complexity of automated accounting systems can make it difficult to identify and detect suspicious activities or errors in the system.

To ensure data is kept secure, businesses must have strong measures in place to protect against unauthorized access, encryption, and regular backups of data.

Furthermore, companies must train their staff on the proper use of the system. It helps staff to know how to protect confidential information from being accessed or misused by unauthorized personnel.

Businesses may also need an experienced IT team to monitor and maintain the system to keep up with any changes or updates for optimal performance.

 

Final thoughts

Accounting automation has come a long way in the past few decades. It is likely to continue to advance in the future. As technology continues to evolve, more businesses will likely begin taking advantage of automation in their accounting processes. So, businesses should be aware of the potential challenges and prepare to stay competitive.

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Weathering the economic storm in 2023

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By

Nikki Dawson, Head of EMEA Marketing at Highspot

 

New year, new business challenges. When it comes to creating and converting leads into sales for a business, both the marketing and sales teams are critical. Both functions think differently but are equally important in driving growth and revenue. Now more than ever in the current economic climate alignment between the two to achieve business goals is vital to survival.

Entering 2023 it’s important we look back and pinpoint where there’s room for improvement within our business and between our teams. With this, I predict the majority of businesses will realise it’s now critical to get their teams to communicate, collaborate and align more effectively.

What we learned in 2022

Findings from a recent survey of sales and marketing professionals found that over half (52%) of sales and marketing leaders in the UK agree they don’t understand which marketing assets are driving results with potential prospects. For marketers, this lack of visibility over assets limited the amount of valuable oversight which would allow them to improve content and increase adoption.

As a result, we’re now left with over a quarter (29%) of marketers not feeling confident in their ability to demonstrate the ROI achieved by marketing initiatives. Due to this, 30% of those surveyed this year feel a lack of confidence in creating marketing assets that have demonstrable success at meeting specific business objectives and driving sales growth.

Equipping teams with the right tools and technology they need to achieve business objectives seems obvious, but the latest research reveals that over a third (34%) of marketers aren’t confident they have the tools they need to manage and maximise digital marketing initiatives. Furthermore, 30% of UK marketers believe that a lack of efficient technology and tools and inconsistent use of CRM (31%) are barriers to their company’s sales and marketing collaboration.

These are all crucial learnings for what marketers have identified as key barriers in their role, it’s now down to business leaders to listen and take action.

How was revenue impacted?

The lack of alignment between marketing and sales, and the limited visibility over how digital marketing initiatives performed in 2022 had a negative impact on businesses’ ROI. This, as well as not having a single source of truth for marketers and salespeople led to content chaos and became a pain point for both parties wanting to do their jobs effectively.

For business leaders, during a time when demonstrating and justifying marketing and sales spending is needed now more than ever, the gap between marketing content, salespeople and ROI is of great concern.

The year ahead

Misalignment between sales and marketing means, at best, energy and resources are being wasted. At worst, it leads to strategies directly contradicting each other and not being delivered, while team members get frustrated and potentially leave.

Sales enablement has proven that it can dramatically resolve these pain points and be the foundation for alignment. With 72% of both teams equally agreeing that implementing sales enablement to support sales and marketing is something they believe their company should consider in the near future. It’s safe to say that in 2023 may well be the year we see it come into the mainstream.

By design, sales enablement software bridges the gap to provide a platform for alignment, offering one source of truth for linking sales and marketing activity to revenue. This year, the research found that the vast majority, (71%) of sales and marketing professionals agree that a lack of alignment between their teams has had a negative impact on revenue, and 52% of sales and marketing leaders in the UK agree they don’t understand which assets are driving results with potential prospects.

It’s clear that the need for aligned business functions has never been greater and soon, marketers and salespeople will call for AI-powered sales enablement as an essential tool to do their job effectively.

Now is the time…

If businesses want to optimise their work and maximise profits in the turbulent economic climate, they need to focus on driving change from the front by aligning their sales and marketing teams. Smart investment decisions that adapt processes based on buyer engagement with marketing content, and seller activities will be crucial in the coming months.

Having a sales enablement process in place can provide the necessary framework to begin coherently organising, finding, sharing, customising, and analysing content. Sales enablement platforms can be a one-stop shop for sales processes and marketing insights and it’s no longer something that can be overlooked by businesses.

Final thoughts

The need for optimisation has never been greater. In order to maximise profits sales and marketing functions need to work together seamlessly. This year we can expect to see more businesses utilising sales enablement technology to achieve key milestones. With this, marketers and salespeople alike will recognise sales enablement as a crucial day to day tool that is just as essential as the CRM they’re using today.

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