By James Hall, Commercial Director at Doxim
The events of the past year or so have seen an unprecedented acceleration of digital transformation within organisations. In fact, research from cloud communication platform Twilio, shows COVID-19 accelerated companies’ digital communications strategy by a global average of 6 years, with 5.3 years the UK average. Additionally, 96% of UK enterprise decision-makers believe the pandemic sped up their company’s digital transformation, and of these 66% said it did so ‘a great deal’. This change has impacted the way companies operate internally, especially as staff were forced to rapidly adapt to remote work, and change the way they communicate with customers.
The insurance space is no exception. Even as insurers were paying out billions of pounds in claims as a result of COVID-19, they were having to grapple with a drastically altered working environment and find new ways of engaging with customers. As vaccines continue to roll out and life becomes increasingly normal, however, they need to be aware that there’s no going back. According to a recently released report from Accenture, digital insurance and distribution in the UK will put a £8.3-billion dent in the revenues of insurers that cannot keep up with the pace of technological change by 2025.
It’s therefore critical that insurers embrace digital transformation. And while it is an ongoing and evolving process which impacts the entire organisation, the best place to start is with customer communication.
CX and digital transformation
That’s because customer communication is critical to creating a great customer experience (CX) which, ultimately, should be at the heart of any digital transformation initiative. So much of CX is about the relationship between a company and its customers and it’s impossible to build a relationship in silence. That’s especially true in a world where 73% of customers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations. It should hardly be surprising then that 95% of customers are looking for some degree of proactive communication from the companies with which they do business.
And yet, most insurers traditionally fail to speak to their customers in any meaningful way.
Stats show that more than 90% of insurers worldwide do not communicate with their customers even once a year and that 20 to 40% of their customer base will not receive a single communication all year. There’s no reason this should be the case.
The power of CCM
Insurers have much larger amounts of data on their customers than most other industries.
Combined with a powerful customer communication management (CCM) platform, insurers can use this data to create a massively improved experience for their customers. Using a CCM platform, insurers can send messages that are tailored according to customers’ needs and preferred platforms (web, email, SMS, print) and devices (mobile, laptop, tablet, PC).
CCM platforms also mean that messages received by a customer provide not only the needed information but take into account the entire context of the interaction which includes customer profile (e.g. lifestyle and life-stage needs), history of online activity, and personal preferences. That’s particularly important for insurers, where keeping up with a customer’s changing needs is critical to giving them the best product and experience possible. CCM platforms also allow insurers to more efficiently deal with customer queries, as well as reduce the cost of sending, storing, and managing customer documents.
A CCM platform is pivotal for managing the transition from print to digital in customer communication. Whether a result of legacy decisions or chasing the lowest price, many insurers expend unnecessary time and energy managing multiple vendors for print and digital communication. Consolidating all customer communication onto a single platform from one vendor can save significant time and money and allow valuable resources to focus on growing the core business. While print communications won’t go away completely, it’s important to acknowledge that consumers are choosing digital, so organisations can only benefit from providing digital and doing it well.
Perhaps most importantly, however, a CCM solution can help insurers achieve a great digital experience by creating, sending, and storing customised messages and providing consistency across all the channels that customers interact through. In addition, it enables the organisation to leverage the data on hand to generate highly personalised offers that are relevant to each customer’s needs and lifecycle stage. A good one will also cater to each of the insurance customers’ accessibility needs. All of these factors have been brought to bear in the Doxim CCM solution, which is currently being launched in the UK.
Forget fear, embrace opportunity
While some insurers might find digital transformation scary (“this is the way we’ve always done things” is an easy mindset to get stuck in), it’s clear that they need to move beyond that fear if they’re to remain competitive going forward. But they also need to be clear about the fact that digital transformation isn’t just about adopting new technologies. Rather, it’s about using digital tools to create the best possible experience for customers. Starting with customer communication is the best way to do so and a CCM platform is one of the most powerful enablers of this customer-centric approach to digital transformation.
The future of retail trading
Joe Jowett, CEO of StrikeX
The 2020s look set to be the decade of the retail trader. As the pandemic forced large parts of the globe to turn their bedrooms into offices, a new generation of mostly young traders and investors piled onto online trading platforms hoping to combat the doom and gloom of financial insecurity that hung over many at the time. This trend looks likely to outlast the pandemic itself and the considerable power of retail traders, at times making up over 20% of total worldwide trading volume, continues to disrupt the market.
As new trading platforms vie for users in an increasingly competitive environment, 2022 will pose a number of challenges concerning safety and accountability, while a consolidation of crypto and traditional asset trading looks likely. Tools like StrikeX’s own upcoming platform TradeStrike, due to be released later in the year, will ensure that trading and investing can achieve further democratisation and transparency, while enabling wider market access for both new and experienced investors.
Generation investor is here to stay
The skyrocketing growth of online trading platforms offering commission-free trading has fundamentally altered the demographics of the stock market. Research shows that the median age of new investors since 2020 is around 35, a significant reduction from pre-pandemic traders, whose median age was 48. Similarly, the average age of Robinhood’s 22 million users is 31, highlighting the fact that most online platforms are predominantly catering to millennials and Gen Z traders.
This dramatic shift in demographic, fuelled by easy access to online platforms with mobile apps and extensive social media networks on Twitter and Reddit, means that this new generation of traders and investors has a substantial influence on the market. This was seen at its most extreme in early 2021, when the subreddit WallStreetBets conspired to “short-squeeze” institutional investors who had bet against the ailing GameStop stock, causing headlines around the world.
While making money remains a priority for young traders, the sentiment behind the GameStop saga was one driven by a boisterous confidence that the traditional gatekeepers of the stock market could be swept aside, and a world previously shrouded in secrecy could be democratised and made accessible to the amateur investor. This same sentiment is shared by large swathes of crypto traders and investors, who believe in the transformative potential of decentralisation inherent in blockchain technology.
While online trading platforms like Robinhood enabled the GameStop rally, the decision to momentarily suspend trading of a number of so-called “meme stocks” caused millions of traders to lose their money and cast aspersions on the platform’s credentials of democratising the trading world. Hundreds of lawsuits concerning the episode are still pending and many users took to crypto and NFTs instead, where the blockchain-enabled peer-to-peer trading mechanics eliminate the need for intermediaries.
The GameStop saga has highlighted that trading platforms must prioritise accountability and transparency as part of their mission to benefit the retail investor. A trading platform with the unilateral right to restrict the trading of its users without prior warning will find it hard to win over a generation of investors and traders which values transparency and access above all else.
Further factors can play a part in providing broader access to new investors, including a clear breakdown of costs, such as withdrawal and order fees. As many online platforms have cluttered and complex user interfaces, these aspects are easily missed by beginners and can inhibit the accessibility to new users more generally.
Tokenisation is the future
One way to significantly democratise retail trading is the tokenisation of assets. Blockchain technology is seeing a wave of adoption across multiple sectors, from digital art and the metaverse to asset finance and real estate. As is demonstrated by the world of NFTs, any asset can be tokenised to establish an immutable and transparent record of ownership on a blockchain. Tokenising shares in stocks, bonds or commodities can completely transform the way we trade and offers the transparency and security lacking in many existing platforms.
One of the benefits of tokenisation is the possibility to trade 24/7, regardless of stock exchange cycles. As transactions can be recorded on the blockchain even when markets are closed, users can trade irrespective of their time zone, opening the market up to a wider base of traders and investors across borders. Further, blockchain automation allows for maximised transaction speeds with minimal transaction fees, while any information stored on the blockchain is accessible and verifiable by all, taking data ownership out of centralised control.
One of the most transformative benefits of tokenisation is the possibility to trade all assets, from stocks and commodities to crypto and NFTs, on one single platform. Juggling multiple portfolios on various exchanges is a significant entry barrier, as traders can lose sight of their investments. Tokenisation removes this barrier and opens the market to new users wishing to invest in both crypto and traditional shares. Finally, tokenisation allows for fractionalised shares, making diversification possible at lower costs.
A future-proof platform
At StrikeX, we are developing a solution which delivers on the benefits of tokenisation, while offering a transparent and user-friendly product to its users. Our flagship platform TradeStrike, due to launch later in 2022, is developed by retail investors for retail investors and offers tokenised assets, including stocks, NFTs and real estate, as well as cryptocurrencies, all in one unified interface.
TradeStrike will enable users to access the widest possible range of assets and 24/7 trading across borders will open up the market to a whole range of new traders who had previously been restricted from investing. Complete with a clean and intuitive interface and a range of educational tools, TradeStrike is designed to empower retail traders to make the best decisions based on clear and transparent information.
Online trading platforms have seen a monumental growth in recent years and have enabled a new wave of investors to access a previously safeguarded market. The year ahead will show whether these platforms are equipped to deal with challenges such as transparency and accessibility. One thing is clear: Generation Investor has changed trading for years to come.
Five predictions set impact the finance teams in 2022
By Rob Israch, GM Europe at Tipalti
The CFO now has a very different set of responsibilities in comparison to a few years ago; 2021 saw sustainability move up the C-suite agenda, Brexit was officially pushed through meaning new rules and regulations for industries, and pandemic uncertainty caused further disruption for businesses. Understandably then, 97% of UK CFOs believe their role has become more complex over the last two years, according to latest research by Tipalti. Finance leaders, who were already rushed off their feet, are now having to wear even more hats.
Operating in a new climate, with new challenges and circumstances, finance teams must be ready to innovate to find new solutions to changing business needs. From becoming more attuned to ESG ratings to fighting against the burden of manual processes and tasks, below we explore what finance teams can expect to experience in 2022.
- A tightening of CEO-CFO relationship
As opposed to solely managing financial operations and ensuring compliance, the CFOs relationship with the CEO will intensify in 2022. This shift will see the CFO become increasingly involved in looking at the strategic ways the business can grow and diversify.
Nearly two-fifths (39%) of CFOs have noted a larger demand to collaborate with the c-suite now than two years ago. However, organisations are still slowed down by old ways of working, as nearly a third (29%) of CFOs state they are having to deal with more manual finance operations. As a result, CFOs aren’t afforded time to support the business leader in the way that their job requires.
By innovating financial processes through automation, finance teams can free up time for the strategic tasks that matter most to the business. In fact, UK CEOs believe that the ability to prioritise innovation (25%) and the ability to improve financial and business reporting accuracy and timeliness are the most important qualities for a successful CFO today.
- Invoice payments fraud will be harder to fight
Every year, defending against fraud gets increasingly challenging. As accounts payable complexities rise, finance teams will experience payments fraud at an alarming rate.
Finance teams today are tasked with managing more diverse payment methods, increasing cross-border transactions and dynamic tax compliance and financial reporting. Yet, teams struggle to cope when operations are processed manually. The most common perpetrator of payment fraud is manual processes. They are neither efficient nor airtight enough to ensure optimum financial control. Busy finance teams, escalating complexities in AP and error prone manual processing sets the perfect scene for fraudsters to take advantage.
To mitigate such risk, companies need to leverage people, processes and technology. This means investing in robust technologies such as automation to standardise procedures. Data entry will be minimised, end-to-end payments processing visibility will be optimised and policy compliance becomes automated. Not only does AP automation relieve workflows by minimising manual intervention, but the technology acts as a hub for enforcing strong financial controls as the number of people and systems involved in payment processing is reduced substantially.
In addition, 2022 will see more multi-entity businesses emerge as organisations recognise the value of the ‘work from anywhere’ model. It can be challenging to manage finance functions across these multiple entities, and that is often why different business units in geographical locations run their finances in isolation, with varying processes and approvals being managed in different ways. However, with no central control or oversight, you run the risk of internal fraud.
- Finance leaders will need to focus on ESG initiatives
Following COP26, business leaders are under pressure to set and meet green targets, and many are turning to their CFOs for solutions. In fact, CFOs ranked incorporating environmental, social and governance (ESG) and sustainability into the business and its operations as the greatest driver of complexity in their role (27%), above even the global pandemic (22%).
A key reason for this is that ESG ratings have become an important tool for asset managers and investors to evaluate and compare future investment prospects. Currently more than a quarter (28%) of UK business leaders rank international growth as a top priority for the year ahead, so a less than favourable ESG rating is not an option. So far, the challenge for CFOs has been finding the time to work on sustainable initiatives.
- Uncertainty will continue to loom over the UK post-Brexit
It has been over five years since the UK voted for Brexit – but it will most certainly be on the agenda in 2022 as new regulations emerge. There are a number of challenges that Brexit brings, and much uncertainty still remains in place.
In navigating the uncharted waters of Brexit, businesses will encounter new hurdles when looking to fill roles, as the Global Talent Visa makes competition for skilled employees more formidable than ever before. With the visa application deadline passed, some employees may have chosen to move back home contributing to headcount issues for finance teams.
Moreover, the UK is still yet to agree many key trade agreements. Businesses will need to stay vigilant – watching out for any changes at relatively short notice and be ready to adapt.
- Employee wellbeing will need to be prioritised
Along with many other departments, the Great Resignation period has meant finance is experiencing Churn. Whilst the wellbeing of all employees will be a key focus for the c-suite this year, CFOs will need to ensure the work of the finance team is engaging and talent is not wasted on tedious and time-consuming operations. Introducing automation to take care of those manual tasks will free up time to upskill employees, while making them feel valued in their role.
The future office of finance
2022 will see finance teams adapting the way they operate to combat new challenges. With agreements signed following COP26, implementing sustainable initiatives is no longer a choice, and in the wake of Brexit uncertainty, businesses will have to face new rules and regulations head on. On top of this, the CFO will need to pivot away from solely financial operations in order to drive strategy, fight against fraud threats while prioritising the wellbeing of their team.
It’s a complex set of responsibilities and will only be achieved if finance teams are able to move away from manual administrative work and towards new technologies and automation capability. A CFOs time is precious and needs to be reserved for the tasks that matter.
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