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EIGHTY-EIGHT PERCENT OF FINANCE INDUSTRY DECISION MAKERS BELIEVE BUSINESS GROWTH HINGES ON DIGITAL PERFORMANCE

  • 81% of IT and business decision makers working in the finance sector believe business innovation is dependent on visibility into network and application performance 
  • Almost 400 technology executives within the finance industry, across six countries, share their attitudes to innovation, productivity, human behaviour and IT capabilities in Riverbed’s latest research report

 

Riverbed® revealed today that 90% of IT decision makers (ITDMs), and 86% of business decision makers (BDMs) in the financial sector see digital performance as vital to business growth. Furthermore, almost half (44%) of finance BDMs state that slow running and outdated technology is currently impacting their businesses’ ability to commercially develop. These are two of the findings from Riverbed’s latest report – ‘Rethink Possible: Visibility and Network Performance – The Pillars of Business Success’– which reveals a definite link between strong IT infrastructure and financial institutions’ success.

The survey also found that 81% of IT and BDMs in the finance sector see visibility into network and application performance as key to both staff retention and business innovation. This is higher than the 73% of C-Suite executives that agree industry-wide; demonstrating the heightened importance of effective technology to business success in the financial sector.

Commenting on the report findings, Colette Kitterhing, Senior Director UK&I at Riverbed Technology at Riverbed Technology, said: “During these unprecedented times where maintaining business continuity is essential, it is more important than ever for financial organisations to have the strong IT infrastructure they need for effective business operations. In particular, the shift to a more distributed workforce as a result of COVID-19, has emphasised the importance of visibility across network and application performance to ensure that employees can remain productive whilst working from anywhere. Given the links between IT performance, staff productivity and competitive advantage, it is encouraging to see financial decision makers recognise the importance of visibility in optimising network infrastructure.”

 

Poor visibility into system performance blocks technological investment

Despite the importance of strong IT infrastructure in finance, full and consistent visibility into its performance is lacking. In particular, there is a disconnect between the visibility IT staff in financial institutions have and the visibility their business counterparts believe they have. In fact, 81% of BDMs believe IT has a comprehensive overview of applications, networks and end-users; yet one in three ITDMs report they do not have this. Given this, it is unsurprising that three-quarters of all finance groups surveyed (73% of ITDMs and 75% of BDMs) report frustrations with the performance of their networks. The inability to identify poor performance underplays the need to invest in new technology. This ultimately stands in the way of financial companies improving their productivity and boosting innovation to get ahead of the curve.

 

Evolving business needs call for updated IT infrastructure

The technology financial companies depend on must evolve in line with the constantly changing requirements of the sector. It is positive to see that financial ITDMs and BDMs recognise this necessity – 83% of BDMs and 77% of ITDMs argue that investing in next-generation technology is vital. With a further 78% of ITDMs recognising their IT infrastructure will need to actively evolve in the next five years to support new ways of doing business. Additionally, 97% of all respondents stated innovation and breaking boundaries is crucial to the success of financial businesses.

Kitterhing continued: “In any situation, but especially during times of disruption, poor network performance has a serious impact on productivity. This has a significant knock-on effect on the efficiency of business operations, potentially resulting in client loss and an inability to attain new contracts. But it can easily be prevented, if finance businesses are willing to rethink what’s possible through technology.

“We, at Riverbed, want to help financial ITDMs and BDMs appreciate the importance of coming together to discuss where the visibility challenges in their businesses lie and assist them in identifying which solutions will help tackle these challenges. This will ensure employees can enjoy seamless digital experiences and lay the foundation for productivity and innovation. These benefits will ultimately be passed on to the customer, helping the finance sector thrive.”

 

Rethink Possible: Evolving the Digital Experience

More than 80% of all finance leaders (83% BDMs and 84% of ITDMs) agree that businesses must rethink what’s possible to thrive in today’s challenging business climate. Technology is the enabler in this process. Riverbed’s portfolio of next-generation solutions is giving customers across the globe the visibility, acceleration, optimization and connectivity that maximizes performance and visibility for networks and applications.

 

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ACCELERATION OF DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION PUSHING ORGANISATIONS TOWARDS A MORE DATA-DRIVEN APPROACH

  • 84% of businesses have seen more demand for data due to Covid-19, but nearly a third say data quality remains a fundamental barrier

 

New research from Experian reveals how the acceleration of digital transformation, through the Covid-19 pandemic, has led to greater demand for data insights to inform decision making and strategy.

The annual Global Data Management report, which surveyed 700 data practitioners and data-driven business leaders globally, found that changing customer behaviour has intensified businesses’ need for high-quality data. Eighty-four percent have seen more demand for data insights in their organisations due to Covid-19. In fact, 72% say that the rapid push to digital transformation is making their businesses more reliant on data.

Beyond underscoring its business value, the pandemic has also exposed data’s potential to be used for societal good – and business leaders are keen to explore this further. Seventy-eight percent see COVID-19 as a defining moment for organisations to set-up and use data for societal good where they can, while 86% would like to be able to use their data in some way to benefit society.

Increasing collaboration with other organisations to better support those in need, sharing talent and resources to develop and deliver products, or allowing their data practitioners to spend time on voluntary project were all highlighted as a potential approach to achieving this.

However, they will struggle to use data for either business or social good unless they can overcome endemic weaknesses in legacy data management practices. Experian’s report outlines key barriers that organisations must address:

  • Data quality and maturity: On average, organisations believe a third of their data (32%) is inaccurate in some way. It’s unsurprising then that 55% of business leaders lack trust in data assets, and 51% say improving data quality is a ‘significant priority’.
  • Data skills: Embracing the power of data is being stunted by a skills gap – 62% say a lack of basic data literacy skills impacts the value they get from their investment in data and technology, while 55% believe they lack skills/resources to leverage data assets fully.
  • Agility: Sixty-two percent admit a lack of agility in data processes has hurt their response to changing business needs in the wake of COVID-19.

 

Andrew Abraham, Global Managing Director, Data Quality, at Experian, comments on the findings: “The pandemic has been a catalyst for long-awaited digital transformation. Businesses need to move fast to serve customers’ changing needs, and leaders know that data-based decision-making is key to evolving the right way.

“It’s also heartening to see organisations looking beyond the business applications of data, to how they can use it for societal good. However, if businesses are to succeed in either area, they must overcome fundamental barriers to effective data management.”

The paper also provides insight into businesses’ data priorities, as well as expert advice on how organisations can meet digital transformation objectives by making improvements in the following areas:

  • People: With a data literate workforce, a business is armed with talent that can make timely, data-driven decisions. Reassuringly the report reveals that 85% of organisations are hiring data roles in the next six months.
  • Technology: Technology has a critical role to play when it comes to modernising data management practices. Eighty-five percent of business leaders say sourcing more technology for staff is a priority.
  • New ways of working: DataOps: DataOps aims to shorten development cycles, increase deployment frequency, and create more dependable releases of data pipelines, in close alignment with business objectives. This practice helps organisations adapt more quickly to changing conditions.

Getting back to basics: Before new initiatives complicate the issue, go back to basics – people, processes, and tools. To build resilience against future risk, invest in the right areas to recognise return on investment on data management more quickly.

 

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SUSTAINABLE DERIVATIVES: THE “GIVING TREE”

Jennifer Kafcas, Lauren Blaber, Alvino Van Schalkwyk and Harry Polan

 

Momentum continues to gather pace towards building a sustainable economy, especially since the start of the pandemic. As a result, financial markets have seen a considerable increase in the focus on, and deal volume with respect to, sustainability-linked loans and bonds.  It has been a logical progression that the sustainability tree sprouts a new leaf with the development of environmental, social and governance (ESG) linked derivatives.  These products enable, among other things, firms and companies to hedge risks associated with sustainable investments including project risk, interest rate and currency risks.  This will be all the more important given the need to hedge risks from any underlying loan and its related sustainability criteria.

While ISDA has outlined the broad range of derivatives in sustainable finance, furthering the development of this product type (including, among others, sustainability-linked derivatives, ESG-related credit default swaps, exchange-traded derivatives on listed ESG-related equity indices, emissions trading derivatives, renewable energy and renewable fuels derivatives, and catastrophe and weather derivatives), this article focuses on more conventional derivatives transactions, such as interest rate swaps (IRS) and Foreign Exchange (FX) transactions used by market participants to hedge the risk arising from green bonds and loans. Though these transactions are no different conceptually from a product standpoint than any other IRS or FX transaction, it is important to understand the inherent structural and deal term differences.

 

Finance-linked sustainable derivatives (OTC)

A number of sustainability-linked derivatives have been issued in recent years, which add an ESG pricing component to conventional IRS and FX hedging instruments. The table below provides examples of recently issued sustainability-linked derivatives. As this is a developing market, the transaction volume has been very low, but uptake is expected to increase over coming years.

 

PartiesDeal Information
BNP Paribas & Siemens Gamesa€174 million FX forward, under which Siemens Gamesa will pay a premium on their forward if they do not meet certain ESG targets. If paid, that premium shall be used to finance local reforestation projects in Spain. The premium shall be calculated using a metric assigned by a third-party sustainable finance specialist.
Société Générale & EnelCross currency swap, by which Enel hedged their euro-dollar exchange rate and interest rate risk under a $1.5 billion sustainability-linked bond. If Enel does not meet certain renewable energy targets, the swap will be re-priced to their detriment.
New World Development (NWD) & DBS Hong KongInterest rate swap linked to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, hedging interest rate risk under NWD’s HK$1 billion sustainability-linked loan. If NWD generates at least eight business-to-business opportunities that contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals, DBS will sponsor certain NWD social innovation projects.

 

As evidenced above, ESG-linked derivatives can take on a number of characteristics and structures, including:

  • Derivative pricing. One counterparty having a number of prescribed ESG targets which, if met, will lead to a downwards ratchet in the pricing of the derivative (with such pricing often increasing if the targets are not met).
  • Fixed payments. If ESG targets are not met by the corporate, a fixed payment can be required to the issuing bank, which will be put towards a green project.
  • Triggers linked to a company’s ESG rating. If the ESG rating of the corporate increases, a benefit can be awarded to them (e.g. interest rate discount).
  • Both parties having ESG targets papered into their derivatives contracts. Corporates can receive a discount on the interest rate under the derivative if they meet their ESG targets, with that discount increasing if the issuing bank fails to meet its own ESG targets.
  • Charitable giving requirements. A failure by the corporate to comply with its ESG targets can lead to it being required to make contributions to non-profit organisations, with the bank having to make such contributions if the corporate’s ESG targets are met.

As sustainability-linked products gain traction, a degree of care will be required to ensure ESG targets are finely balanced and verifiable. Verification is essential for market transparency, for ESG products to be considered credible and for lenders and corporates alike to avoid reputational risks. Furthermore, the ability of a corporate to verify reliable compliance with ESG targets could provide a significantly smoother path through their lender’s credit approval process and in turn the lender’s ability to verify will enable it to better monitor the performance matrix set by the underlying loan or bond.

 

Renewable Energy and Renewable Fuels

In addition to the above OTCs, renewable energy hedging transactions (including power hedge transactions) are important for market participants to hedge the risk associated with fluctuations in renewable energy production, and in doing so, encourage more capital to be contributed to renewable energy projects.

Typical documentation with respect to the above type of trades are Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) which document the purchase of power and associated renewable energy certificates between a renewable energy generator (the seller) and a purchaser of renewable electricity (the buyer). PPAs do not require companies to contribute directly to enhanced ESG standards, however they can help catalyse a shift to clean energy sources as they reduce market price volatility for buyers, and reassure sellers that a buyer will purchase power generated from renewable energy assets, thus encouraging the financing of such projects.  In an ESG-linked transaction, these types of arrangements can be replicated by covering the credit risk element in the intercreditor terms.  As an alternative the market may develop such that in lieu of these structures the underlying risk with respect to market price volatility is documented under an ISDA and secured under the financing and intercreditor documentation. This structure is fast approaching.

 

Expected developments in 2021

Climate change and, therefore, a sustainable economy remain front and centre for governments and regulators worldwide.  In 2020,countries like Japan, China, South Korea, Hong Kong and the UK set net carbon neutrality objectives and most recently the USA, following the inauguration of President Biden, announced plans to spend $2 trillion over four years to aid in the fight against climate change, all following the commitment already set by the EU.

Whilst the need for banks and corporates to develop and consider bespoke products to promote true progress in ESG compliance may hinder any radical uplift in ESG-linked derivatives volumes over the course of 2021, we anticipate that as banks and corporates continue to familiarise themselves with the requirements of such products, integrating ESG elements into derivatives trades will begin to be common practice.

In view of this, derivatives market participants will be eager to continue to drive ESG-linked derivatives volumes and to develop new and innovative ESG products facilitating the mobilisation of capital towards sustainable investments to ensure that they continue to significantly improve ESG standards, and to strengthen their contribution to the green finance drive.

 

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