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CFOS OF CONSUMER BRANDS: THE FUTURE VALUE CHAMPION?

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By Paul Prendergast, managing director for the Consulting practice in the products industry at Accenture.

We have seen huge disruption across a range of industries, with no signs of slowing down. For the big consumer brands, the relentless pace of change is creating higher consumer expectations and upending traditional certainties on an epic scale.

Consumers are firmly in the driving seat and looking for more than just a “product”. They’re using digital platforms to buy directly from manufacturers, bypassing traditional retail. They want services that bring convenience to their lives and searching for experiences that embody the brand purpose they’ve bought into. The challenge for companies is to deliver something that’s “just right” for each consumer, meeting their individual needs at the precise moment.

And the smaller players are giving them exactly what they want but turning “business as usual” on its head and creating new models on agile operating structures that engage in a larger ecosystem and accelerate innovation to satisfy growing consumer demand for low cost, personalized products and services.

The traditional consumer goods operating models simply weren’t designed for this level of complexities. Successful companies will be those who can achieve an incredible amount of organizational agility – something that many just don’t have yet. It also calls for a rethink of the entire value chain, all the way from developing new concepts, through manufacturing, to the store shelf and beyond.

To find new growth, brands must solve these challenges, injecting agility across the business, leveraging a wider ecosystem of partners, and delivering relevance at scale for a marketplace of millions of individuals.

Enter the CFO

Chief Financial Officers are uniquely positioned to help drive this journey forward. They have a crucial role in driving the efficiencies in the core business. They have the necessary insights to build the business case for change, targeting operational improvements and the use of new digital technologies to unlock value and drive more profitable growth.

Accenture’s research shows that CFOs see their role is changing. They’re now just as likely to view themselves as “value champions” and “transformation drivers” as their more traditional business functions. For instance, 81 percent of surveyed CFOs say targeting areas of new value across the business is a major focus, while 78 percent say they lead efforts to drive business-wide operational transformations and efficiencies through digital technology.

CFOs understand the need for speed and agility today, with over half those surveyed (58 percent) saying they’re working towards real-time analysis of business performance. Interestingly, that’s expected to rise to a massive 89 percent in three years’ time.

New roles, new skillsets

Delivering relevance at scale means adapting the consumer goods supply chain for new levels of personalization and multiple sales channels. Given the challenges of doing this alone, most brands will need to leverage a much wider ecosystem of partners across the value chain. And here CFOs have a vital role to play. They can bring a data-driven approach to selecting partners, while ensuring this complex endeavor remains focused on the value-adding outcomes the business is targeting.

We are seeing more CFOs actively taking a lead on data governance. They understand the value of data and see it as a strategic business asset, with 84 percent of finance departments taking responsibility for their organization’s data governance (higher than in any other industry surveyed). In fact, “inconsistent, inaccurate and inaccessible data” is viewed as the greatest challenge facing today’s consumer goods CFOs according to Accenture Research.

These new requirements are changing the CFO skills profile. CFOs themselves say that anticipating and managing risk, long-term strategic thinking, and insight into new technologies are now their most important capabilities. And they know the broader finance function needs to change too, with the ability to innovate now the most sought-after capability for junior finance staff.

Five actions every CFO should be taking today

So what are the immediate priorities for consumer goods CFOs as they drive relevance at scale for their brands? There are five actions every CFO should be taking today:

#1 Start with digitizing finance – then the company. Finance is an ideal testing ground for digital technology, automation, and AI. CFOs should be using their experience and lessons learned to drive a digital transformation across the business.

#2 Plan holistically and harness data for insights. CFOs know the value of data visibility and should champion the use of real-time analytics and insights across the C-suite and beyond.

#3 Develop the future finance workforce. CFOs should be planning holistically for their future talent needs, including promoting the greater use of AI and other innovative digital technologies.

#4 Drive a deep transformation of operations. CFOs should be considering zero-based budgeting as a means of creating spend visibility, driving the efficiencies that can fund a pivot to new growth.

#5 Be the architect of value. CFOs should be influencing decisions about ecosystem partner organizations, ensuring every move is focused on delivering ultimate value for the business.

Above all, CFOs need to put themselves at the center of business decision making as their companies pivot to the operating models that deliver consumer relevance at scale and capture new growth opportunities in a highly complex and uncertain marketplace.

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Mitigating the insurance risks of climate change through geospatial data visualisation

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Richard Toomey, Senior Manager, Commercial Insurance at LexisNexis Risk Solutions UK and Ireland

 

In the lead up to the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26)[i] November 2021, A United in Science report[ii]  provided a stark warning of the impact and acceleration of climate change. The UK Environment Agency also warned of more extreme weather leading to increased flooding and drought[iii]. While some progress was made at the conference, understanding the changing risks created by extreme weather to price property insurance more effectively, and more importantly, to help mitigate the physical risks posed by climate change, has become imperative.

Mapped geospatial data intelligence including live data on flood warnings and river flows, viewed alongside data held by insurance providers on the properties in their portfolio, can be a key ally in helping to protect customers and reduce claims losses created by extreme weather events.

With the air temperature rising and heavy rain becoming more and more frequent due to climate change insurance providers are looking to identify properties that are more at risk than others. For example, properties with basements carry more of a substantial risk of surface water claims than others and especially in London where space is tight and water runoff is low. In the autumn of 2021, the industry saw a number of high value claims due to basement flooding. There are some really large high net worth (HNW) households with big basements which carry a significant insurance risk.  The problem is that in many cases insurance providers don’t know if they have a property ‘on cover’ that actually has a basement.

The huge and growing volume of data now available to the insurance market to assess property risk to the level the industry needs, could easily overwhelm and prove a barrier to the swift decisions needed in weather-related surge events. However, the evolution of desktop based geospatial data visualisation tools such as LexisNexis® Map View means insurance providers can make quick, informed decisions based on a picture or map of risk, looking at a specific geographical region, a postcode, an address or a single property outline.

They can look at environmental risks including flood, fire and subsidence and live flood data updated every 15 minutes direct from the Environment Agency, as well as highly predictive flood risk data from respected flood modelling organisations. Insurance providers can also bring in data on the characteristics of a property to understand more about its construction, including the type of roof it has, how many floors there are, the square footage, as well as further data on the location and the individuals behind a business to gain a more holistic understanding of risk for pricing.

Mapping of historical flood data brings a further dimension to the understanding of risk, revealing the maximum extent of all individually recorded flood outlines from rivers, the sea and groundwater springs in England and Wales. This takes into account the presence of defences, structures, and other infrastructure where they existed at the time of flooding and includes floods where overtopping, such as at seawalls, river breaches or blockages may have occurred.

But the real step-change for the market has been recent ability to view live flood and other environmental data in tandem with customer and policy data held within an insurance providers’ own databases.

Crucially, this means insurance providers can pinpoint down to individual properties, the policyholders most at risk as weather events unfold, should a river burst its banks, or a flood barrier fail and those properties that may actually be vacant at the time of the event.

Through data visualisation tools, insurance providers can gauge where flood water may go so that policyholders can be warned to take measures to protect themselves, their possessions and to move any vehicles to higher ground. They can even see where roads may have been closed due to fallen trees. All this intelligence helps with planning on the ground resources, working with local authorities and claims adjusters. Then, in the immediate aftermath, rather than wait for a deluge of claims, insurance providers are in a position to reach out to customers known to be in areas affected to support them through the claims process.

The inherent flexibility of today’s geospatial data visualisation tools for the insurance market means risk can be assessed as needed or as constant monitor for a whole commercial property portfolio. Fundamentally these tools are designed to streamline the assessment of property risk.

In the future, commercial and residential property claims data gathered from the whole of the market may allow insurance providers to look at a whole portfolio alongside past claims, but for now they can bring in their own claims data to build a more granular picture of risk, to price more accurately and understand how they could help mitigate future claims and potential losses caused by weather events.

A picture can say a thousand words and data visualisation tools can certainly make highly complex risk data easy to understand and act upon. Being able to instantly visualise an environmental risk to policyholders – day or night – using highly granular data on past and present flood events puts insurance providers in a more powerful position to reduce the misery and costs caused by extreme weather.

[i] https://ukcop26. org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/COP26-Explained. pdf

[ii] https://public. wmo. int/en/media/press-release/climate-change-and-impacts-accelerate

[iii] https://www. gov. uk/government/news/adapt-or-die-says-environment-agency – The Environment Agency’s third adaptation report October 2021

 

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From compliance to the metaverse: Investment trends to look out for during the year ahead

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By Rami Cassis, Founder and CEO of Parabellum Investments

 

In the investment world, the old saying, knowledge is power, has never been more pertinent. As any investor will testify, it is essential to retain an in-depth, and up to date, understanding of news, predictions and trends that specifically relates to his or her specific area of interest.

This is particularly true for investors in the financial sector.

We all know just how quickly the sector can change beyond recognition. The demands of consumers are forever changing, new technology is always waiting in the wings to re-write the financial status quo and the next big digital company is constantly looking to increase its market share. There is always a new trend to look out for.

As we move into a brand-new year and prepare to face the opportunities – and challenges – that doubtless lie ahead, these are some of the trends that are likely to develop during the next 12 months.

 

Personal banking conversations

In its Tech Trends 2021: A financial services perspective Deloitte states that today’s pioneering companies are using advanced digital technologies, virtualized data, and cobots to transform supply chain cost centres into customer-focused, value-driving networks, based around a personal experience.

The concept of personal banking provides a perfect example of how the financial services sector has evolved to deliver digital personal banking.

Before the digital banking revolution, personal banking involved a visit to a high street branch to sit down with a personal banker in the flesh. This personal banker would be the customer-facing, end point of a complex supply-chain, involving training centres, degree courses, carbon-emitting journeys into work – the list goes on.

Compare this to the current version of personal banking. Digital financial services firms such as Monzo have revolutionised banking thanks to sophisticated analytics and a personalised interface. The big banks are now catching up, offering their own versions of ‘modern’ banking insights for the everyday user, and furnishing them with the latest online, smartphone-powered gadgets to enable them to manage their money 24/7, wherever they might be in the world.

However, even this is now becoming somewhat stale, with many financial services providers still seeing personalization simply in terms of personalized messages. Instead, the next chapter will involve smart banks understanding that good personalization requires personalized conversations, not just messages.

Enterprise software is one of the specific investment interests of Parabellum Investments. One of our portfolio companies is ieDigital, a specialist UK financial technology provider. The team from ieDigital and Parabellum Investments analyses the latest developments in business technology regularly.

We understand the importance of pushing digital boundaries. Indeed, one eye should constantly be scanning the horizon to identify the digital tools that the customers of tomorrow will expect. The interpretation of digital transformation is specific to each organisation and translating technology into practical business outcomes requires the focused specialism the combined IE Digital & Parabellum Investments team is qualified to deliver.

We understand – and see daily – the pressure that banks are coming under to deliver an ever more personal service, and see the ability to deliver these personal conversations is one of the trends to watch during the next 12 months.

 

The metaverse

The word ‘metaverse’, is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as a “virtual-reality space in which users can interact with a computer-generated environment and other users”.

When Facebook changed its name to Meta in 2021 it may have come as a surprise to many of the platform’s users, but it was a major moment in the company’s history. It signalled Mark Zuckerberg’s ambitions for his business; to be the leader in the development of the metaverse.

Indeed, the future of the metaverse is looking sophisticated and bright. With giants like Facebook and Microsoft introducing metaverse elements into the fabric of their business models, it’s a concept that cannot be ignored, and one which is likely to expand rapidly throughout the next 12 months.

Returning to the financial services sector as an example, in a blog post titled Metaverse, the end of banking digital transformation?, CoinYuppie speculates that the metaverse will change banking in a number of ways including:

  • Identify verification. In the metaverse, identity verification will be performed via VR glasses and Metaverse sensor devices which contain a security chip.
  • Real-time creation of financial products. In the meta universe, virtual product managers use gestures to drag and drop the entire process of digital product manufacturing.
  • Games and attractions become a source of bank traffic. You can open branches on Mount Everest, in the Tarim Basin, on the Kunlun Mountains, or in Jiuzhaigou. The bank will combine these magnificent landmarks to fully personalize its branches and display its products.

This is just the financial services sector. Just imagine the opportunities for other industries – and the tools that will be needed to deliver them.

People are likely to need virtual-reality headsets, for example, together with related components such as sensors, as virtual-reality technology becomes intrinsically linked with the metaverse world.

 

Compliance

Another key trend to look out for as we move into 2022 and beyond is how companies deal with their compliance issues.

In the wake of the global Covid pandemic, we are seeing a much-increased hybrid working model, with a large proportion of the workforce now based at home. This creates a logistical headache for compliance teams, who must now ensure that sensitive data and company secrets remain just that, despite a workforce now using multiple digital platforms, messaging systems, mobile phones and landlines.

Cloud-based archive systems that can capture multi modal communications are likely to become essential for companies to remain compliant.

 

Alternative currencies

Cryptocurrencies are likely to retain their position as one of the most talked about developments in the world of alternative currencies.

As an example, Bitcoin has risen nearly 70% since the start of 2021, driving the entire crypto market to a combined $2 trillion in value. However, heightened regulatory scrutiny and intense price fluctuations have somewhat dampened bitcoin’s prospects in recent months.

Despite this, we are likely to see banks increasingly looking at offering mainstream crypto services. We have already seen the start of this, with the first major crypto company going public with the debut of Coinbase in April, increased participation from Wall Street banks like Goldman Sachs, and the approval of the first U.S. exchange-traded fund linked to bitcoin.

 

Conclusion

We all know how quickly the financial sector changes. If you happen to be reading this just a few months after it was written, several of my points might now be in the mainstream – or they might be completely obsolete.

The fact is that unless an investor possesses superhuman powers, it is impossible to identify, with 100 per cent accuracy, what the next big investment trend is. All we can do is use our experience, insights, and up-to-date sector knowledge to predict what the next big trends are likely to be.

 

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