New financial and risk management solution to provide actionable insight for SMEs to thrive
Experian has partnered with Open Banking Reporting (OBR), a data-driven risk management fintech, to enable UK lenders to provide crucial business support as they look to bounce back from the impact of COVID-19.
OBR’s solution OpenRep uses advanced analytics and robotic automation, connecting the SME’s accounting software and banking transactions with commercial credit and macro-economic data to deliver real time monitoring, proactive alerts, and actionable insights to both the lender and the SME.
OpenRep allows lenders to provide a highly personalised approach to risk assessments through the monitoring of financial trends within a business’ performance; identifying opportunities to support the SME and the insight to act when access to finance is needed most.
The OpenRep solution is powered by Experian’s full range of business information and macro-economic datasets, which provides a far deeper understanding of a business’ financial circumstances.
Eddie Curran, CEO of Open Banking Reporting, said: “We are very proud of our flagship product OpenRep and the positive impact it has for both SMEs and lenders.
“By linking real time financial data with advanced analytics and robotic automation we have developed an early-warning system that can help SME owners and lenders identify risks and opportunities. As we continue in a period of economic uncertainty, it is even more important that SMEs and lenders access not just the most up-to-date data, but the tools and technology that turn it into actionable insight.
“OpenRep helps business owners achieve their strategic goals and allows lenders to provide a more proactive and personalised service.”
James McGarva, Managing Director of Business Information Services at Experian, said: “Although lockdown has come to an end, it still remains a critical time for small UK businesses, so having access to the right support to help them on their road to recovery is essential. This is why our partnership with OBR is an important one.
“By providing a far more comprehensive view of an SME’s circumstances, it allows lenders to understand how they can better support their customers and help them thrive and survive in this challenging business environment. We’re excited to be playing a key role in this process.”
Experian will also act as a reseller of OpenRep, which further enhances its open data solution Acumen – a set of capabilities enabling lenders to make more accurate and faster lending decisions.
Why Zero Trust and securing the supply chain is key to post-pandemic recovery
Jim Hietala, Vice President, Business Development and Security at The Open Group
Banking and finance have grown to provide a vast range of services to people, touching every part of our lives from splitting dinner bills with friends to buying your first home. At heart, though, the value they provide might be boiled down to a very simple statement: they offer security and interoperability.
Which is to say that, when we use money, whether that is to pay for the bus or establish a pension, we need to be certain that it will reach the right destination, regardless of which systems it passes through, without being intercepted along the way. Interoperability ensures that desired actions happen; security ensures that undesired actions do not happen. Between them, these two key capabilities give us vital freedom in how we financially interact with people and businesses.
Roads and walls
That simple statement, however, is not simple to implement. The industry has long relied on open standards in order to achieve interoperability: from basic identification needs performed through standards like the International Bank Account Number system, to complex interactions like those managed through the Open Banking Standard which is currently transforming the British banking experience, fairly managed rules which everyone understands are essential to modern finance.
These standards, of course, are not static, and need to keep evolving in order to meet new needs. The same can be said of security – banks might still be associated with huge metal safes and vault doors in the popular imagination, but we all know that that’s not what keeps our money safe today. The question of security is now a digital one. From multi-factor authentication, to Transport Layer Security encryption, to automatically blocking access from unfamiliar devices and locations, the industry has been an early adopter of a wide range of technologies which manage or control access.
The need to develop and improve security approaches is still present, though. As is always the case with cybersecurity, risks need to be continually reassessed as the operating context changes – and, indeed, innovations in how people interact with banks always need to be made with security implications in mind. At the same time, new methods and strategies for cyberattacks are always developing, and there are good reasons to believe that now is the time for a fundamental shift in how we think about the topic.
The new weak link
Banking and finance, it is needless to say, are among the highest-value targets for attackers, and that means that if one route to compromising the industry becomes too difficult, they will look elsewhere for their opportunity. This is precisely what we’ve witnessed happening in some of the highest-profile breaches of recent times as organisations in other industries have dealt with the realities of supply-chain attacks.
In late 2020, for example, the security consultancy FireEye discovered that it had, alongside many other organizations, fallen victim to a sophisticated intrusion which took an obscure and convoluted path to its target. The victims were users of software offered by the company SolarWinds, which was successfully infected with a trojan. As the SolarWinds tool was an approved piece of software, FireEye and others happily brought that malicious code inside the gates (so to speak) of their own networks. This gave the attackers a route to manipulate FireEye’s own software and ultimately give them access to sensitive and otherwise highly secure environments.
What’s important to understand about this attack is that no amount of network-focused security would have prevented it: rather than trying to pass as an authorised user, the attackers worked a situation where the actual point of infiltration was carried out by genuinely authorised users.
It’s a scary situation, and a tactic that becomes more viable for attackers as our digital infrastructure becomes more complex. As businesses in the sector offer their customers richer online experiences – often in ways which, as with Open Banking, seek to enhance interoperability – they also become more dependent on a whole stack of platforms and tools. Rather than build a new back-end system from scratch, for instance, a bank might bring in a fintech platform from a vendor, who will themselves use development and operational tools from other vendors, who themselves will have further dependencies on other vendors.
This supply chain, in other words, is starting to look like a vast new attack surface which requires a new approach to secure.
The end of trust
If securing networks is no longer enough, we need to look to models which secure the data and assets which those networks are there to carry. This is what the Zero Trust model offers: rather than assuming that any device on a network must have passed a security checkpoint and is therefore trustworthy, Zero Trust assumes that every action is potentially malicious, and performs security on an ongoing, case-by-case basis.
While the principles of Zero Trust are not new, the need to put them into action has never been greater. Few industries have gone untouched by the societal changes which the pandemic triggered, never mind the economic impact, and successfully bouncing back from those economic consequences will require innovating towards a position which reflects the expectations of modern consumers. For banking and finance, that means digital tools which work from anywhere, securely and intuitively.
Which brings us back, of course, to the other half of the value which this industry offers: just as new systems for interoperability need to be designed with regards to maintaining security, new security models cannot jeopardise interoperability if they are going to successfully preserve the freedom with which people expect to deal with their finances.
That’s why the industry’s adoption of Zero Trust has to happen from a position of open standards. Just as shared understanding powers institutions’ abilities to accurately communicate their customers’ intentions to one another, it is needed to enable mutual understanding about what needs to be kept secure and how. In a challenging and rapidly evolving environment, that’s a priority for all of us.
NutreeLife triples production with finance from Siemens Financial Services
Plant-based snack manufacturer NutreeLife has massively increased its production capacity with the help of a hire purchase solution from Siemens Financial Services (SFS).
Founded in 2017, NutreeLife is a rapidly growing company which produces vegan protein bars, snacks and other healthy vegan products. Following a significant increase in demand, the manufacturer wanted to invest in a new production line.
As Patrick Mroczak, MD and CEO at NutreeLife Ltd explains, “We were ready to invest in the next stage of business development. We needed new equipment to meet demand but we also wanted to preserve our cash flow to deal with the volatility of the pandemic.”
To protect the business’ working capital, SFS suggested a hire purchase arrangement. Under the agreement, NutreeLife could acquire the equipment immediately and with no upfront costs. Instead, SFS tailored the arrangement so that the company could spread the cost over 5 years in regular payments and at the end of the arrangement NutreeLife will automatically own the equipment outright.
Under the hire purchase solution, the manufacturer also met the conditions for the UK government’s super-deduction tax initiative, whereby a company investing in qualifying new plant and machinery assets is able to claim 130% of the equipment’s value in year one.
“As a relatively new business, it’s not always easy to gain access to the right finance at a good price but SFS were incredibly accommodating. They really understood the benefit of the technology for our business and helped us unlock the investment,” adds Mroczak.
With the new equipment and technology installed, NutreeLife has been able to triple its production and turnover, and expand operations in tow.
“Despite the ups and downs of the pandemic, the new production line has helped us to keep things moving. As demand rises we’ve been able to take on much more staff and use our working capital towards stockpiling raw materials when needed.”
And the business’ success has not gone unnoticed. NutreeLife was awarded Small Business of the Year at the 2021 Lancashire’s Be Inspired Business Awards (BIBAs).
“Working with SFS has truly opened up news avenues of business for us. The team is so fast and responsive and clearly dedicated to finding the best solution for our machinery needs,” comments Mroczak.
Kirsty Talmage-Rostron, Business Development Manager – UK South at Siemens Financial Services comments, “It’s always exciting to work with an innovative award-winning manufacturer like NutreeLife. Despite the challenges of COVID-19, we’ve been able to help the business rapidly develop and look forward to continuing to support this growth strategy as the business expands into new markets.”
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