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A MACHINE LEARNING BALANCING ACT: PAYMENTS, CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE, FRAUD DETECTION

By Manuel Rodriguez, Fraud Solutions Manager at SAS

 

The range of potential payment services has expanded rapidly over the last few years. Increasingly, we all want the flexibility of being able to pay with new payment methods, from contactless through to Apple Pay, mobile wallets and beyond. Digital natives, such as millennials, don’t just want this – they expect it. For banks, however, this demand for flexibility is a headache.

 

Banks and other financial institutions know that they have to adopt new payment methods to meet customer demand for convenience and flexibility. However, they also know that these new payment systems leave them open to new forms of fraud. The big question is how can they adapt to these new fraud types – to protect both themselves and customers – without creating poor customer experiences through large numbers of false positives?

 

Understanding payment fraud

There is no question that payment fraud has changed over the last few years. A few years ago, card fraud, from cloning cards, was a leading form of fraud. However, the use of card processing terminals that use Europay-Visa-Mastercard (EMV) technology has reduced this considerably. This technology – the gold standard for credit cards, using computer chips to authenticate and secure transactions – has been the norm in Europe for a while. Its use is now spreading to the US.

 

Card fraud has therefore migrated to “card not present” transactions, such as online purchases. Payment fraud is driven and supported by several risks, including data breaches at retailers, credit agencies and banks, and use of malware to obtain access to accounts. It is also, however, helped by moves towards faster payments, driven by both regulators and the industry. These are good for customers, but they also good for fraudsters. The faster it is to get funds or goods through fraudulent transactions, the less time banks have to detect the fraud.

 

Fraudsters always ahead

Fraudsters are faster and more adept than ever before. The issue for banks and other financial institutions is to recognise that fraudsters will always be ahead but to take action to address that. Fraud detection systems need to keep up, and there is little time for long-drawn-out checks. However, there is a catch. Fraud-prevention systems need to avoid too many false positives. Up to 10% of rejected orders are actually believed to be valid. In total, in one survey, 37% of merchants said that turning away good customers was a top concern.

 

New regulations are adding challenges. Instant Payments or Payments Services Directive 2 (PSD2) are enforcing new rules, needs and requirements. We need to fit into payment processes thresholds and other aspects to make payments faster, more available and smoother. On the other side, we need to apply proper security, customer authentication and risk-based approaches to monitor payments in a more complex environment involving banks and third-party providers.

 

Systems to catch fraud

There are many actions that banks can take to protect themselves and their customers from fraud. First, they must look at their systems, ensure they are connected and remove any silos. Disconnected systems are vulnerable to compromise.

 

Banks also have to move from rules-based to machine learning analytics systems for fraud detection. This approach gives them the chance to identify suspicious patterns and anomalies much faster, which is essential as more and more real-time payments systems come online. Real-time scoring and decision making should drive new systems, which should also take into account new forms of data, such as device fingerprints and information phone call routing.

 

Machine learning techniques include neural networks, regression techniques, decision trees, naïve Bayesian methods, clustering and network analysis. These approaches are particularly useful to detect rare payments fraud events hidden in big data sets. Machine learning tools can understand and learn from this type of data, and they can adapt to the changing behaviours associated with fraud through automated behavioural profiling and signatures.

 

They can automate models to find hidden insights without having to be programmed directly. This means that banks have some chance of keeping up with fraudsters. Machine learning techniques can also reduce the false positive rate by learning the behaviour of individual customers over time so that normal behaviour for an individual does not raise alerts.

 

With multiple analytics techniques available, banks can better detect fraud behaviours. But they can also monitor legitimate behaviour to provide enriched answers to business needs, different requirements and new regulations.

 

End-to-end and across channels

Ultimately, payment fraud detection systems have to be able to look at payment processes from end to end and also across channels. Gartner identifies five layers: entity link, cross-channel-centric, channel-centric, navigation-centric and end-point-centric. By looking across all five of these layers and drawing data from all points, machine learning systems can draw a complete picture of the transaction in the context of the customer.

 

This combination of rules-based and analytical techniques can monitor user behaviour with considerable accuracy and speed. It can, therefore, identify normal and unusual patterns very fast, even in real time. This makes it much harder for fraudsters to find gaps and loopholes, and easier to identify potential fraud accurately. It is essential for banks to move in this direction to protect themselves and their customers from payment fraud.

 

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Finance

HOW TO MANAGE YOUR CASH FLOW IN UNCERTAIN TIMES

CASH FLOW

While the world is constantly changing, probably at a faster pace now than ever before, businesses need to manage cash flow and costs to drive success in uncertain times, says Matthew Thorpe, partner at Haines Watts Essex.

 

Managing people and expenses

There are certain costs that you just can’t avoid as a business – to keep your operation running seamlessly, but scrutinise the detail and cut down on any non-essential expenses. Check things like your SaaS subscriptions and look out for costs that auto-renew and if you do cancel, remember to also cancel your direct debits too.

You might want to put a freeze on hiring new people, but ensure that other roles and responsibilities are clearly and efficiently assigned across your team. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) has been introduced by the Government to help UK employers access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary to avoid redundancies. Affected employees are classed as “furloughed workers”.

Once furloughed, the employee cannot work or they will not qualify for the scheme. For businesses that perhaps need to go further, there may be some roles they don’t need any more, but businesses should work sensitively with people to manage this.

 

Cash is king

In uncertain times, owner managers will need to keep operations going to ensure financial stability. You should look to manage debt more efficiently by negotiating extended payment terms with creditors. You could also renegotiate loans for longer repayment terms to give yourself a lower monthly payment, helping the business to set some cash aside each month.

 

Daily forecasting

As a business owner, you need to create a cash flow projection and update this regularly if you are to improve things. You can do this using financial information to create a picture of how the business will look in the next 12 months. The forecast needs to show revenue sources and expenses, which will show the ups and downs of business income and can be used to make sure that enough finance is in place.

 

Good house-keeping

While banks and other finance providers recognise that the cashflow of a business may be disrupted by the impact of Covid-19, they are still going to want to see that you are viable and continue to trade in these uncertain times. Make sure your business is organised and don’t let disorganisation cause unnecessary issues. You can evidence this by having detailed forecasts; current order books and projections (as best as possible).

Having instantly accessible, accurate financial information allows you to plan effectively, spot issues before they become problems and manage your money in the most efficient and rewarding way.

 

Embrace technology

Software is now incredibly user-friendly and accessible from anywhere. For a business owner embracing the technology, this means:

  • Invoicing can be done instantly when a job is complete, emailed to the customer with an easy to use link to a payment platform.
  • Comparison websites can automatically monitor and help maintain lowest cost for things such as light & heat, insurance etc.
  • Technology can be used in place of face-to-face meetings. It can also enable them to adapt production lines to different demands.

All of these things and more, used properly, can make managing your business finances quicker, easier and often cheaper.  You will also be able to bring clarity to where your business stands and prepare for the next steps.

 

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Finance

HOW FINANCIAL SERVICES CAN GET TO GRIPS WITH RISING SUPPLY CHAIN RISK

FINANCIAL SERVICES

By Alex Saric, smart procurement expert, Ivalua

 

UK businesses have never been more dependent on their suppliers to help them deliver goods and services to their customers. Be it retail, manufacturing or financial services, suppliers have a vital role to play when it comes to innovation and meeting customer expectations. However, as supply chains become increasingly global, businesses are potentially exposing themselves to more risk than ever before.

This is especially true in financial services. Whether it’s the impact of geopolitical events like Brexit or global tariff wars, supply shortages, security or the businesses impact on the environment, an organisation’s failure to identify and mitigate risk could see millions wiped off its share price, and its corporate reputation left in tatters. Risk can present itself anywhere and at any time, so financial services firms must be ready to address it. However, many simply don’t have the ability to evaluate suppliers for risk factors, leaving them wide open to business operations being hindered, or being slapped with financial penalties.

 

More suppliers, increasing risk

One reason why financial services firms aren’t able to evaluate suppliers is the breadth and scale of today’s supply chains. For example, French oil company Total said in in a recent human rights briefing paper that they work with over 150,000 direct suppliers worldwide. This is just one example of how large and varied the roster of partners has become. Research from Ivalua has found that financial services businesses on average are working with around 3,600 suppliers annually, which is evenly split between UK-based and international partners. That number is expected to rise, with 60% expecting the number of suppliers they work with to rise.

The expanding nature of suppliers is only going to expose financial services firms to more potential risk than ever before, yet 78% say they face challenges gaining complete visibility into suppliers and their activities.

A lack of supplier visibility leaves businesses unable to identify and mitigate against supply chain risk. In fact, almost three-quarters (73%) of financial services firms have experienced some type of risk during the last 12 months. These include; supplier failure (43%), environmental impact, such as pollution or waste (35%) and supply shortages (45%). Supply shortages can be among the most damaging to a business, as seen by both the KFC chicken shortage which closed stores, and the summer 2018 CO2 shortage which caused companies such as Heineken and Coca-Cola to pause production, impacting supply across Europe during the World Cup.

 

Businesses unprepared for the worst

One way financial services firms can better prepare for risk is to ensure they know what to plan for to reduce the impact. However, whilst some say they have a contingency plan in place to deal with risk, many of them are unprepared. Financial services firms admitted to not having comprehensive and deployed contingency plans in place to prepare the supply chain for risk such as; natural disasters (68%), supply shortages (67%), geopolitical changes (65%), environmental impact (63%), supplier failure (62%) and modern slavery (50%).

In order to effectively prepare for these types of risks, it’s vital that financial services businesses fully understand their suppliers, their business environment, global variations in regulations, geopolitics, and a host of other factors. But for many, there are multiple challenges when it comes to gaining this understanding. A prevailing factor is an inability to gain visibility into all suppliers and activity because supplier management data is stored in multiple locations and formats, making insights difficult to access. This leaves teams unable to review supplier activity and assess compliance.

 

Making supplier management smarter

It’s imperative that financial services businesses are able to respond or prepare for supply chain risk. Clearly, much more needs to be done to ensure they have complete visibility of suppliers, especially in an era where regulators can levy heavy fines for GDPR breaches and scandals spread in minutes over social media. These types of risks can be reduced in the future if procurement teams have a 360-degree view of suppliers which will help with contingency planning and risk management.

For example, in the instance of supply shortages, plans could be put in place that identify alternative suppliers to ensure any shortages do not impact end users. This type of supplier collaboration is paramount when it comes to managing and mitigating against supplier shortages. When it comes to regulations, financial services firms can’t allow a lack of visibility to limit their ability to ensure all suppliers are compliant.

To do this, teams must take a smarter approach to procurement that gives complete visibility into suppliers throughout the supply chain. This will allow financial services firms to identify and plan for risk, reducing the potential damage, and ensuring they are working with and awarding business to low-risk suppliers. Supply chain risk is rapidly becoming an overarching concern for financial services firms, but by providing the ability to assess suppliers, they will have all the insights they need to mitigate the impact on business operations.

 

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