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Building trust in the new world of financial services

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Abi Acland, Business Consultant, Strategy & Analytics at Acxiom

Over the past decade, there has been widespread change when it comes to how people access financial services and how these services are delivered. In most cases, today’s banking experience does not take place at a physical branch but at the fingertips of customers on their mobile devices. This is all against a backdrop of evolving customer needs, due to the rate that technology is changing, and the way businesses operate. Customers expect their journeys, both online and offline, to be seamless, and this is where financial services providers must think about how they can build trust at every touchpoint and interaction.

In fact, according to a survey this year by PwC, sentiment in the financial services sector fell by the fastest rate since September 2019 (42%). At the same time, UK households are facing increasing financial pressures due to the cost-of-living crisis. This means the stakes are higher when it comes to customers deciding where they are going to spend their money, and financial services providers have an opportunity to make sure they are building trust and brand loyalty during these challenging times.

What good customer experiences meant in the ‘old’ pre-Internet world, and what has changed

Good customer experience is about building relationships with customers, and while physical interactions have decreased, data now offers the opportunity to build lasting relationships in a different way.

The market leaders in every sector are those that have got sophisticated in how they’re using data. It’s integrated into their product development and management, customer service, and retention. Overall, there’s not only the culture, but the tools in place to make decisions based on data. It’s how they’re able to speed up their time to market, get closer to their customers, improve efficiencies in their marketing, and build loyalty.

When it comes to the financial services sector, organisations know they need to be gathering data, but it can be unclear what kind. It’s not possible to collect personal data ‘just in case’, because it might one day come in useful. There must be a clearly defined use case, otherwise it needs to be deleted to stay compliant with data protection regulation. Not to mention the fact that personal data has a defined shelf life, and must be regularly updated if it’s to be valuable in any way.

Building a successful data strategy involves a degree of scenario planning – assessing what the data needs of the business are in the immediate, medium and long term – and from there, putting the right structures and processes in place to collect and manage the data they’ll need. This is not something that can happen overnight, and trying to do all this while operating the usual business functions adds to the complexity. But for those that can get it right, there are huge gains to be made.

How brands can build trust in a multi-channel digital world

But successful data strategies aren’t possible without consent and buy-in from consumers. In the ‘new’ digital age of financial services, providers need to build loyalty with customers by becoming their ‘trusted custodians’ of data – and this means having a clear understanding of the roles identity and security play in offering a good customer experience.

Providers need to be transparent with customers around their preferences for data collection and use. While regulations such as GDPR make this necessary from a legal standpoint, organisations should regularly be communicating with customers about their data, irrespective of this, and purely through a lens of building loyalty and trust. For example, they can open up conversations about what the cookie changes mean for them, the differences between first and third-party data, and how their information is stored.

In a similar vein, organisations need to continue making cybersecurity a priority, so customers understand that their data is being kept safe. By creating an open dialogue with customers, businesses can continue to build on the trust piece and make sure customers feel valued and engaged in a conversation about data protection.

Personalisation will always be key

Personalisation is key to building trust with customers in a digital world. The goal has moved from personalising face-to face-interactions, to tailoring every digital transaction – and at scale. Whilst most financial services providers will have personalisation as their goal and have been on this path for years, there are barriers to executing fully personalised strategies due to data siloes, an explosion of new digital data sources, or perhaps a lack of confidence in the quality or depth of data. Ironically, customers expect their banks to know them better than almost any brand – and yet banks often hardly acknowledge the relationship, let alone speak to their customers as if they understand the full scope of their relationship.

The sector needs to consider how they are engaging with customers across generations and establishing loyalty with them now. While the industry has generally tended to target those aged 30+, they need to do more to interact with young people. The next generation of spenders are coming up the ranks and they have little awareness of how they will deal with their finances, especially against uncertainties such as inflation and the cost-of-living crisis. The sector needs to think about how they personalise the journey for newer customers, to ensure they are future-proofing operations for upcoming generations.

The end goal: understanding customers better

So how can financial services organisations truly get to know their customers, and build trust using the right marketing technologies? Most commonly the tools used to execute decisioning are a combination of real-time data stores housing extensive databases, and customer data platforms (CDPs).

CDPs are a key way for providers to improve interactions with customers and to understand their financial needs better. They can be used to combine data streams from multiple sources, which target customers based on their behaviours and use predictive analytics to model future behaviours. This means customers can be reached in the right way at the moments that matter to them – all working towards building lasting loyalty, symbiotic dependence, and most importantly, trust.

Ultimately, choosing the right message for the individual and activating that message is crucial in the new age of financial services. Customers want to use products and services that are tailored to their individual needs. Financial services providers should consciously think about how they can understand the data they obtain from customer interactions and how that shapes the end delivery of their products and services.

With the use of the right technologies, building trust in the new world of FS will become easier and more successful for organisations, where data is the common thread that builds trust with customers.

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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Finance

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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