By Mike Smith, Executive Director, Virgin Media Business (Direct)
Is there anything more frustrating than finding out your bank account is unavailable due to a technical issue? Or being an IT manager at a bank and, through no fault of your own, feeling powerless when your IT system goes down?
IT failures at major banks are high on the news agenda right now. A recent Treasury Committee report found that the frequency of crashes and associated customer disruption was “unacceptable”, leaving customers cashless and cut off. Recent outages have happened as a result of various factors, such as upgrades going wrong and – in some unfortunate cases – crippling cyber-attacks.
Given the costs of disruption to both customers and to banks, outages are simply not an option. To cope, banks must ensure their systems, processes, and underlying infrastructure are resilient – but doing so requires significant investment. How then, do they select the right partners who will help them not only survive, but thrive, in the long term?
Swiping right on an IT partner
With a vast range of technological partners out there, the first step for banks is knowing how to select the business best equipped to help them build resilient and effective IT systems.
But it’s not just about experience. Crucially, an effective IT partner will adopt a certain approach to contingency planning. It will not only think about today, restricted to existing infrastructure, ways of working, services and threats. Instead, it will focus on tomorrow, asking how will innovation impact on systems; what new threats lie over the horizon; how will increasing automation impact on networks?
Selecting an IT partner with foresight, infrastructure and technical knowledge to challenge a bank to think about the future, is critical. It is the only way to ensure systems can deal with the now while proving adaptable as their business, and customer expectations, evolve.
Resilience is king
If services go down – nothing else will matter. That’s why putting in place rock-solid connectivity with the stand-in systems and backup infrastructure for emergency situations is so important.
Whether that’s selecting a connectivity provider with 99.99% reliability or investing in high capacity backups to cover the 0.01% of times, banks need to plan for failure. Investing in resiliency is not a nice to have – it’s an essential part of keeping services running.
Evolutionary, rather than radical change
Financial service companies should look for a partner’s ability to implement incremental change. The best partners won’t be looking to rip out a client’s infrastructure and start again. Not only would that be incredibly expensive, but it would likely cause major disruption to employees and customers.
One bank that has realised this with great success is Danske Bank. Choosing Virgin Media Business to guide it through an overarching transformation agenda, it listened to advice on the potential of incremental change to deliver a new vision for customers, employees, stakeholders and society – with enormous success.
Boosting the bottom line
Banks should also consider whether their potential IT partner has experience making the connection between IT systems and customer acquisition. Perceptions of IT departments as back-end and functional parts of a business are misguided. In fact, small changes to IT infrastructure can hold the key to boosting profitability and bringing in new revenue.
Metro Bank has transformed its IT architecture in a way that supports business goals. By using application programming interfaces (APIs) and a loosely coupled IT platform – as well as putting the IT team at the centre of its digitalisation strategy – the business has implemented a rapid and streamlined process for customers opening new accounts.
Clearly, getting the infrastructure right can have a major business impact. An effective strategic partner can play a crucial role in guiding a financial services institution towards incremental success that drives revenue.
To prevent IT outages and move towards systems capable of supporting growth and a first-class customer experience, it’s vital banks choose a long-term strategic partner. This isn’t just to boost resilience in the face of cyber-threats, but to work out how infrastructure can feed into commercial growth and customer retention and acquisition.
As competition heats up in the sector and challenger banks continue to shake things up, infrastructure will take on a new importance – supporting business growth, creating compelling customer journeys and implementing effective cybersecurity strategies. Having round-the-clock counsel from a trusted and experienced partner is vital to achieving this.
WHY 2020 IS THE RIGHT TIME FOR FS MODERNISATION
Chris McLaughlin is chief product and marketing officer at Nuxeo
Few would argue against the notion that the UK financial services (FS) industry is facing many challenges as both a new year and new decade begin. Uncertainty over Brexit, the potential threat from new competitors and Big Tech brands, and rising customer expectations are just some of the challenges facing the sector.
But for every challenge, there is also opportunity. Digital banking paves the way for greater service continuity, making it easier for banks to capture and analyse data (with consumers’ permission), reduced repetition of information collection, and delivering more of what customers want in terms of products and services.
By innovating with richer and more convenient online and mobile banking experiences, and by using technology to deliver smarter and more streamlined backend operations, traditional FS providers can roll out and execute services more cost-efficiently too.
But many FS firms have been restricted in their ability to innovate and realise such opportunities, due to the outdated and inefficient systems and applications to be found in many organisations. However, with many FS workers believing that the challenges the industry face could see their company lose customers in 2020, the time is ripe for FS firms to embrace modernisation.
The 2020 agenda according to UK FS workers
Nuxeo recently surveyed 501 UK FS workers that focused on the challenges, concerns, and opportunities facing the industry. The main 2020 FS industry challenges were Brexit uncertainty; cybersecurity threats and information or data breaches; physical branches closing down; the burden of increasing regulation; competition from Big Tech firms potentially moving into FS; and competition from new challenger banks.
Perhaps of most concern to the industry is the fact that 59% of FS workers in the study felt that these challenges left their organisation vulnerable to losing customers over the next 12 months. But there are signs that FS firms are adapting to the new market reality and embracing technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) that can help them modernise and address such challenges.
Almost two-thirds of respondents claimed their organisations are committed to innovation, and more than half (58 per cent) believe that firms which use AI in creative ways make for more attractive employers. 68% of respondents say their organisation is already using AI for content search or is in discussion to do so, and 67% say the same for automating backend processes, suggesting that FS firms are alive to the value that can be achieved.
Transforming customer service delivery is also a key focus for AI ambitions, with more than one-third (34 per cent) of respondents saying their organisation is already trying out AI in this context. Chatbots, often used to improve the customer experience, are being used by one-quarter. Meanwhile, 41 per cent are already using AI-based capabilities for some form of data analysis, suggesting that FS providers are attuned to the need to target their activities more strategically.
Smarter management of data, content and information
One of the major threats to productivity is the inability for FS firms to connect and organise all the data they have at their disposal and there is a real need for smarter management of data, content and information. Compared to newer industry market entrants, established banks and FS providers have far richer data going back decades or longer. If institutions could tap into this considerable resource, it could be used to distil invaluable intelligence and insights into consumer trends, product performance, and relative account profitability.
Although organisations have all the underlying information stored within their legacy systems, it is typically very difficult for teams to access, combine and cross-analyse this data. This is because, too often, systems are unconnected, use incompatible data formats and feature considerable data duplication between applications.
In the Nuxeo research, FS providers confirm that, on average, they store information and content across nine different systems. And these systems tend to operate in silos: almost three-quarters of respondents say their organisation’s systems are not fully connected with each other.
System users who need to access information as a regular part of their jobs can be spending up to an hour a day (52 minutes) searching for what they need because it is not readily discoverable. Given that this equates to four hours 20 minutes each week per employee spent looking for information, the total time wasted across an organisation over a year is quite significant.
Embarking on a managed journey of modernisation
13 per cent of respondents in Nuxeo’s study believe their organisation’s inability to adopt AI quickly enough is one of the main challenges facing UK FS in 2020, so it’s something that will need to be addressed sooner rather than later.
But a managed modernisation journey, incorporating wider use of AI, which can help address many of the issues that are so concerning to those that work in FS, is already underway for many. Such modernisation can deliver quick wins, without incurring new risk or detracting from other critical work that needs to be done in 2020 and should be embraced wholeheartedly as the FS industry embarks on the new decade.
WHY MAKING MONEY ON YOUR MOBILE IS EASIER THAN YOU MIGHT THINK
Aaron Brooks, Co-Founder of Vamp
For Millennials and Generation Z, becoming a social media influencer is an increasingly desired career. According to a recent study, 86% of millennials want to use their social platforms to post sponsored content. It comes as no surprise. Getting paid to produce content about the products you love, why wouldn’t you?
It’s more than just a pipe dream too. While marketing used to revolve around big brands, employing big agencies to create ads, technological advancements have created a user generated content boom. Thanks to smartphones, most of us now have a 12 megapixel camera in our pockets. Brands have capitalised on this, launching campaigns that harvest user generated content, asking their customers to share their brand experiences through pictures, videos and reviews.
Social networks have normalised the sharing of content, which has helped propel this movement further. ASOS’ UGC hashtag #AsSeenOnMe has over a million entries on Instagram. Then of course there’s Apple’s incredible ‘Shot on an iPhone’ billboards, which use their user’s images to promote their phones.
Influencer marketing takes this a step further. These social creators produce high-end content and have engaged followings – both a valuable commodities for brands. 93% of marketers now using influencer marketing. So if you’re looking to make your mark as a content creator, there are plenty of opportunities. Don’t be put off if your Instagram following isn’t in the high thousands either. Micro influencers, with their small but highly engaged audiences, have become popular among marketers and this trend will continue to grow in 2020.
Of course, brands want high-quality content to represent their brand, but if you’re keen to kick start your creator career and start making money, a smart phone and a creative eye is a good place to start. If you want to take it further, then follow these three tips for success.
Hone your personal brand
Rather than trying to be fashion, art, foodie and travel all in one neat package, find a niche and create a consistent message. The same goes for photography styles. If you want to be the flatlay expert, I’d recommend sticking to that at least 80% of the time.
Finding your niche and making it your hallmark will let people know what they can expect from you. It’ll make you more likely to maintain follower loyalty and help you to stand out from the crowd. Make sure it’s of genuine interest to you. You’ll need enough enthusiasm to post consistently in order to build your authority in that area.
Cultivate an engaged following
While a high follower count was once the most prized possession of the influencer community, times have changed. These days if you want the attention of big name brands, not only do you need a beautiful feed, but a highly engaged following. That means people who follow you, spend time with your content and engage with it.
Actively engaging with your existing audience and contributing to the larger Instagram community will help you build relationships on Instagram. This means replying with genuine
comments and pro-actively engaging by offering your own comments on other accounts.
While it might be tempting to take shortcuts by buying fake engagement or followers, it will only sabotage your efforts. Software has become increasingly effective at spotting fakes so chances are, you’ll be found out and blacklisted.
Maximise influencer marketing platforms
Once you’ve honed your personal brand and cultivated an engaged following, you can begin making money on your mobile. Rather than waiting for these opportunities to find you, you can take a proactive approach and join an influencer marketing platform.
These technology services connect brands with content creators. Depending on the platform, it may have a database of thousands of pre-vetted influencers who have opted-in to receive content collaboration briefs from brands. You’ll get opportunities delivered direct to your mobile and will be able to choose whether you opt in or not. This gives you the freedom and flexibility to work with brands that truly resonate with you and balance the work around other commitments.
With brands constantly searching for people who boast content creation skills, there are plenty of career opportunities in the influencer space. For those looking to make money in this space, all you will need is a smart phone, passion and creativity to begin carving a career as an influencer.
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