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DEVELOPING SOFT SKILLS IN THE FINANCE INDUSTRY

Paul Russell is the managing director of luxury training company Luxury Academy.

 

Who are Luxury Academy?

Luxury Academy provide soft skills training to the luxury market, we are the only specialist training provider for the luxury market and actually it was this lack of specific training that inspired us to set up the company in 2012.  As a workplace psychologist, I worked with many luxury brands and was continually frustrated by the lack of luxury training available. Luxury Academy help companies to deliver outstanding customer experience, by ensuring their staff have the requisite skills such as understanding HNW individuals, leadership, communication or customer service.

 

How is the luxury market performing currently and how have you adapted to market conditions?

The luxury market in the UK is in the maturity stage but luxury is a global $200 billion industry. From an initial UK base which we still maintain, we opened new offices in India to enable us to expand our international training provision. In India, luxury is still very much in its growth stages, similar to Russia and the Middle East, I probably spend about half of my time training outside of the UK now. Luxury has adapted very well to modern market conditions, and it is still in luxury that many trends originate.

 

What is your involvement with the finance industry?

We work with private banks and their portfolio managers, investment bankers and private client bankers on aspects such as personal branding, presentation skills, sales skills, international business etiquette, client entertaining and communication. Within any luxury business, there are staff members who liaise directly with clients and they have to be able to relate to the client at their level. So with communication for example, we would train staff in voice, pace and tone training. For the client the staff member is, to all intents and purposes, the service. They are the link from client to brand, and that they are able to deliver a service that is luxurious from every angle is paramount to positive customer experience.

 

How is the concept of customer experience changing?

Customer experience is concerned with every touchpoint from a customer perspective, the initial perusal of a website, a call, the first meeting, the follow up and the relationship thereafter. AI is transforming customer experience to a large extent, because now it is often about speed. But there are certain categories of customer and certain services where AI will never supersede human interaction. Certainly a client would be happy to automate minor elements of their banking for example, but at the higher end, they will always require personalised attention. In any case, it is down to the company to offer the client that choice- of how they interact with their service provider. And when they select the personal route, it needs to be of five star quality.

 

Why would a finance professional require training in personal branding?

Customers and clients make quick decisions, snap assessments. We all do this to some extent. You are introduced to your new portfolio manager and you form a first impression. Rightly or wrongly, subconsciously or consciously you take in what they are wearing, their manner and deportment, their style and grooming, and you decide whether you trust them to look after your fund. What we teach with personal branding is enabling the staff member to understand just how valuable developing a favourable impression is, and how personal branding is at the heart of this. Companies pour billions into branding and creating that unique brand that resonates in the marketplace. It makes inherent sense for the same attention to be paid to those that are delivering the service, particularly at the top end of the market.

 

How can communication skills assist finance professionals?

No matter how good you imagine your communication skills are, they can always be refined and improved. For senior finance professionals, it may be that they have to communicate decisions to stakeholders. Client facing staff have to communicate complex information clearly and concisely, and they have to instil confidence through what they say from the very first contact. Many people are astonished by how you can instil confidence and trust through not only what is said, but how it is said, varying tone of voice, pace and tone.

 

What is business etiquette and how is it relevant in today’s marketplace?

Etiquette is the accepted ways of behaving based on cultural norms, translate this to the business environment and there are even more aspects of etiquette to consider. Much of etiquette will be country specific, but there are also aspects of etiquette that are specific to particular companies, industries and even services. Business etiquette training is a guide to reading situations, interpreting them and knowing how to behave, particularly in an international setting. Consider senior level executives meeting with international clients as an example, what are appropriate greetings, what is the correct etiquette for dining, gift giving, precedence and many other issues. Etiquette is culturally driven, so to expect the customs and norms of one country to apply in a completely separate country would be a mistake. With globalisation, business etiquette has never been more relevant and important to individual and group success.

 

Luxury Academy

Paul Russell is co-founder and director of Luxury Academy London, www.luxuryacademy.co.uk, a multi-national private training company with offices in London, Delhi, Mumbai and Visakhapatnam. Luxury Academy London specialise in leadership, communication and business etiquette training for companies and private clients across a wide range of sectors. Prior to founding Luxury Academy London, Paul worked in senior leadership roles across Europe, United States, Middle East and Asia. A dynamic trainer and seminar leader, Paul has designed and taught courses, workshops and seminars worldwide on a wide variety of soft skills.

 

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Interviews

A PROPTECH FOUNDER’S BEGINNING, THE START OF KLEVIO AND HOW ACCESS-TECH IMPROVES FACILITIES MANAGEMENT

KLEVIO

An interview with Klevio’s CEO and Co-Founder, Aleš Špetič 

 

What is Klevio? 

Klevio is a smart intercom that allows individuals to enter a building using a mobile app, providing digital access and removing the need to use a key. Teams or individuals can manage access rights from our dashboard or the app, understanding the usage of their buildings better, whilst cutting costs and improving efficiencies. As well as Facilities Management (FM) professionals, Klevio’s technology has been implemented across numerous sectors including short-stay lets and longer-term property management, a recording studio that manages room bookings and a London pub which allows temporary access to delivery professionals via its solution. Klevio is also popular with private homeowners.

 

How did the idea come about? 

The founding of the team and the products we worked on came from several influences along our journey. I was still working on CubeSensors, a company I founded that created miniature sensors for both the home and offices, feeding back data on temperatures, noise, light, humidity and the likes, something of a Fitbit for the room.

Aleš Špetič

My co-founder and now Chairman, Demetrios Zoppos, was involved in the creation of Sherlock, the digital entry system that went on to be the underpinning technology for Klevio. When Demetrios exited his previous company, onefinestay, he held onto the intellectual property (IP) of Sherlock, knowing that there was a future for this technology elsewhere.

We quickly came to the conclusion that my IoT experience and history with physical products for consumers and offices, and the IP he had kept for Sherlock, meant that it would be criminal not to pool our experiences and so Klevio was founded.

 

How do you compete with the other access solutions on the market? 

We have merged the new and the old. Keys have been around for thousands of years in some way or another, so have been ripe for a digital upgrade. With our competitors, although there is some amazing technology, most add confusion or annoyance to the process. There are smart-lock providers whose technology normally requires the changing of locks or at least the installation of an ugly and not always user-friendly pin-pad at the door.

Other options require magnetic cards and in many larger establishments receptionists are paid to ensure that someone enters their email for data capture, further adding to huge setup costs. With Klevio you do not need an extra key, token, or card. Everything is on your phone, similar to Apple Pay.Klevio is installed inside the building and is connected to the existing lock.

For office spaces, co-working and other large blocks, key cards are just one more item that can be shared and lost. With Klevio there’s no need to provide a keycard to anyone and it can be connected to an existing system. Many access systems do not have this benefit, and for offices this means you can change the access to your own unit without affecting the rest of a building.

 

What are the main challenges for your business? 

Changing a mindset. People have used and trusted keys their whole lives. Getting them to accept a simpler alternative isn’t an easy thing to do.

The other difficulty is hardware, especially when it comes to security and people’s offices and homes. With software, if you make a mistake or something doesn’t quite work, you can patch it and update things. If a hardware product has a fault, a product recall is going to be a huge undertaking, and no startup will have the budget to ride the storm like a Samsung or a VW Group. We invested a huge amount of time to make sure that Klevio performs well.

Customers need to build confidence and trust in your offering, rushing to deliver and make a splash can backfire in a huge way.

 

What trends in tech do you see shaping the future of offices and homes in the next five years? 

In the IoT space things are moving fast with the world’s largest companies like Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook all vying to be the centre of the interconnected home and office. There are hundreds of startups carving out their own little corners too, so the next big shift will be consolidation. The industry leaders are already making moves to buy or partner with interesting startups to get ahead on IP and reach.

On a consumer level, people want smart solutions but are increasingly aware of their rights and privacy. Products that offer that on-demand feel, making lives easier and smoother, without taking too much data, will provide that personal touch consumers want and slowly start to manage the offices and homes of the future.

 

What is the one piece of advice you would give an organisation when looking to digitise its processes? 

Do your research – don’t rush to find a solution. There are companies out there that will be able to make your place of work run more smoothly. You just need to find the one that suits your systems, colleagues and budget.

 

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Interviews

OPPORTUNITIES IN FINTECH: LEVERAGING CROSS-BORDER PAYMENT SYSTEMS

As the world becomes increasingly global, the necessity for cross-border payments grows.

An interview with Aron Schwarzkopf, CEO and Co-founder of Kushki, a payment platform tailor-made for Latin America. 

What are some of the biggest challenges in the fintech sector, specifically related to POS payments?

There is a lack of standardization in the way that payments are handled in different countries, and this presents the most significant challenge because it complicates the process of connecting them all across borders. We’re working to address that by adding some standardized connecting processes and using artificial intelligence to help mitigate these complications and make smooth cross-border payments a given.

Why are cross-border payments becoming more of a necessity?

As the world becomes increasingly global, the necessity for cross-border payments grows. People and businesses are expanding their scope and reach and therefore need to be able to operate in different countries. Part of being functional is the ability to make those cross-border payments, and so the demand for better options for those payments will continue to grow.

What are the key opportunities for cross-border payments?

There are four main opportunities that I see for cross-border payments. The first is facilitating fast and direct payments, cutting down on the extra steps required, but still maintaining the security of the transactions. From this, follows the need (and opportunity) to centralize recurring payments. Smart links are also an area of opportunity, letting people make mobile payments through different platforms using personal payment links. Lastly, expanding the opportunity to store payment information, like card numbers, and using tokenization to facilitate recurring payments.

With several fintech startups launching recently, how can you tell which are valid?

One common mistake is to assume that just because a startup has built something innovative that it is going to be useful. Instead, the most important thing to evaluate is whether the company is offering a solution to a significant pain point or just offering a minor improvement. I recommend comparing the startup to the most established version of its product. Which is less expensive? Which is easier? Which is resolving a larger challenge? If the startup is doing well on both counts, they’re probably on to something.

 

What are the security concerns surrounding POS payments?

The authentication process for credit card transactions is different in different regions due to different technological infrastructure. This inconsistency can generate confusion and concern about the security of various transactions and makes it hard to verify and understand the different fraud management and security processes in place.

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