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Finance brands need a new approach in the Privacy-first era



By Richard Wheaton, UK MD of global data company fifty-five


Trust is a brand value that pertains to every industry, but for banks, insurers and advisors trust is the core of their brand. Indeed respect for the customer’s privacy is at the heart of all financial companies’ principles. And it is imperative that laws are followed to the letter to avoid falling foul of regulators or losing the trust and business of their customers.

It is therefore concerning that many financial firms are falling short of some of the basic requirements for the handling of personal data in their digital communications. We recently commissioned YouGov to carry out a study of compliance with current privacy legislation, and were shocked at the lack of action or planning for the increasing privacy-first future. Almost 1 in 2 respondents to our survey from Finance and Banking companies surveyed admitted to not currently having a Consent Management Platform correctly implemented. Meanwhile a shocking 66% admitted they were not doing anything to prepare for the end of the Cookie – a mainstay of digital measurement over the past few years.  This could represent a huge risk to the reputations of these companies, and their future growth.

Richard Wheaton

The dropping of cookies onto internet users’ computers has for many been the only game in town for many digital marketers over the past few years. It has helped them target customer offers and measure effectiveness. When it comes to a complex area like finance, customers want information tailored and simplified and digital targeting can be very helpful to achieve this and win new customers. But financial institutions need to be up to speed with changing legislation and rules, or risk significant penalties.


The end of third party cookies

The biggest changes in 20 years for the digital landscape are now taking place, with the move towards a more privacy-first internet. The big tech platforms are now limiting the use of third-party data collection, and instead providing their own ‘walled garden’ solutions based on more anonymised solutions.

Apple with its market dominance were first to impose limitations on the use of third-party tracking on its devices, driven by a strict interpretation of the legal requirements. These changes were a huge factor in Facebook’s plummeting share price – with its heavy reliance on access to data via Apple’s IOS.

Next Google followed Apple moves toward restricting access to data with its landmark announcement last year that it was moving to a ‘privacy-first web’. Although Google has given a stay of execution for the end of the third-party cookie to 2023, the clock is ticking.

To navigate this new unfamiliar terrain and still be able to effectively reach customers, finance brands should be developing a more strategic approach. However, that work is clearly not yet happening.


YouGov study highlights failure to plan for the cookieless future

Fifty-five recently commissioned a YouGov study to compare different UK business sectors to see how they were preparing for the new privacy-first internet.

This survey, in which marketing personnel across more than 500 UK businesses of various sizes from small to large enterprises were interviewed, revealed that only 34% of finance brands were currently developing alternative plans for targeting potential customers when the dropping of third-party cookies is phased out.

Although this is higher than the overall average across all industries of 24% it still means that two-thirds of the companies surveyed are doing nothing to prepare for a situation that will dramatically impact their ability to reach customers in the future. This is worrying.


Failure to prepare apparent across business sectors

The research also showed a significant gap between the intentions and the actions of businesses.  Worryingly, 78% of finance marketers claimed to be aware of UK laws for privacy and compliance with the data laws.  Yet when asked whether their customers are able to opt in or out of communications using a consent management tool (CMP), just 53% of finance companies surveyed gave a positive response.

UK law now requires all websites to provide customers with these options. With the huge sensitivities people have over their financial information, this represents a significant challenge for finance marketers.

Lack of skills inhouse biggest concern for senior marketers

The rapidly changing and complex digital landscape requires relevant expertise. This is obviously something keeping financial marketers awake at night. The survey revealed senior marketers’ biggest concerns in developing their digital marketing strategies in the future. The top two concerns were whether my team has the skills in house to implement a robust digital strategy (25% of companies surveyed), tied with facing a fine from the ICO (25%). This compared to an average of 12% for other industries, highlighting the heightened  risks for finance brands.

Other big worries were not being able to accurately target customers in the future (20%), whether my team’s skills are up to date and relevant for the AI driven future (20%), and not having joined-up first party data (20%).

It is clear the majority of senior finance marketers are unprepared for the new privacy-first internet and the ability to target customers based on previous browsing behaviour. The new rules around digital marketing and consent are complex, varied and in flux – and are layered onto additional rules finance brands face. It is no wonder they are having some sleepless nights. However, the best way to tackle the challenge is to put a plan in place and the good news is there is still time but the work needs to begin today.


A new strategic approach required

The new world requires a more strategic approach utilising a variety of different measurement frameworks and a greater use of permission-granted first party data. The good news for finance brands is that they often have great sources of under-utilised data that can be used for measuring and targeting their audiences.

While we are in an era of increased digital privacy, with the right lens and expertise finance brands can still use anonymised data to prove the effectiveness of their marketing activity, and make informed optimisation and budgeting decisions. The new approach will be based on a ‘modelled approach’ to help account for the missing signals that cookies used to provide. This is something many of the tech platforms are introducing including Google’s Consent Mode and Facebook’s version, CAPI.


A bridge connecting the walled gardens

It is imperative for finance brands to develop their own bespoke measurement solution. The requirement going forward is developing a cohesive strategy, developing a truly comprehensive, cross-channel view, if you like a bridge over these walled gardens.

Google’s delay in fully eliminating the use of third party cookies provides a limited window of time where brands can test new models against real world data. It is possible, for example, to achieve very similar levels of accuracy in terms of targeting while still respecting the privacy of users.

Finance marketers face a real headache with the end of third party cookies layered onto the additional rules they must follow. Many are failing to take action now to address the issues. A new strategic approach is required to still be able to effectively target customers while respecting their privacy. There is still time to develop a new approach but the work needs to begin today.




How can businesses boost employee experience for finance professionals?




By Martin Schirmer, President, Enterprise Service Management, IFS

Over the course of the last year, The Great Resignation has seriously impacted organisations across the globe. Staff are quitting in huge numbers, leaving companies unprepared and struggling to fulfil their workloads. In fact, mass departures are happening at all levels of the labour market, as employees attempt to adapt to the hybrid working model and growing socio-economic uncertainty.

In light of this, optimising the employee experience (EX) to attract and retain talent has become a top priority for employers. Organisations have come to understand the necessity of taking immediate steps to drive employee engagement and reshape workplace culture.

The financial services (FS) industry is no exception to this trend. From increasing employee burnout to growing career dissatisfaction, the pandemic has exacerbated the need for transformation across finance teams. This is exemplified by recent data from Spendesk, which found that approximately 40% of finance professionals are willing to leave their roles or already have concrete plans to do so.

Organisations looking to get ahead of the competition must put in extra efforts to retain their existing workforce. The fact is that employee expectations and requirements have irreversibly changed, with more workforces becoming increasingly distributed. Today’s hyper-connected workforce values flexibility and simplicity, and it is organisations which offer these experiences that will succeed in the long term.

As part of this process, finance companies must look towards the power of technology to create seamless user experiences across devices. From automating workflows to improving overall efficiencies, Enterprise Service Management (ESM) can help organisations to boost user satisfaction and go that extra mile for their employees.

How poor EXs are driving finance teams to quit

With over 40% of employees spending a significant proportion of their time carrying out mundane, manual tasks, it is not surprising that poor EXs are having a detrimental impact on job satisfaction. Finance teams in particular have been slower to digitise core processes, leading to a heavy reliance on manual tasks. This not only increases the amount of time spent on each task, but also impacts the engagement levels of finance professionals who cannot focus on more strategic aspects of their roles.

As a result of the pandemic, flexibility has also moved to the forefront of finance teams’ desires. Given the fast-paced nature of this industry, the conversation surrounding work-life balance has increased rapidly. Failure to offer flexible working policies, coupled with a lack of technology to facilitate this flexibility, has led to poor EXs across the board.

Most notably, the overarching move to omnichannel, digital-first approaches has dramatically reset both customer and employee needs. Finance is the third-slowest running corporate function behind legal and IT. Operating in a competitive environment, 73% of finance operations are facing pressures to speed up, improve efficiency, and prioritise automation.

Mitigating the problem using technology

ESM, an offshoot of IT Service management (ITSM), is the cornerstone of smart digital transformation for organisations. It can help finance teams to streamline and automate routine processes, such as monitoring the status of service requests, approving expenses, sending invoices, and tracking payments. In turn, this will free up employees’ time, reducing the burden of manual tasks and enabling them to focus on the more strategic tasks.

Another advantage ESM can offer finance teams is the ability to adapt to each department’s minimum requirements for data privacy. Accounting, for example, needs additional layers of compliance built into the system.

ESM can also facilitate cross-departmental collaboration, helping finance professionals to communicate with the wider business and perform tasks more effectively.  Organisations can use ESM to incorporate all internal services into a single platform, offering employees a well-rounded view of the business and promoting a sense of community across all levels of an organisation. This will boost productivity, whilst enhancing visibility and control.

Ultimately, the current job landscape has brought with it a new set of challenges. Organisations in the FS industry looking to navigate the storm and retain top talent must refocus their efforts on bolstering the EX. Embracing a new era of technological innovation that empowers employees and boosts engagement is a critical step in this process.


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CBDCs: the key to transform cross-border payments




Dr. Ruth Wandhöfer, Board Director at


If you work in finance, you’ll have been hearing a lot about central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) and the moves different markets are making towards using, regulating and evaluating the viability of moving to an economy based on digital currency.

We are already seeing progress in the research, piloting and introduction of CBDCs into the financial system. The Banque de France for example, recently launched its second phase of CBDC experiments in line with the “triple digital revolution” unfolding in the financial sector. The infrastructures of financial markets and fintechs, however, are not prepared to accommodate their security, stability, and viability.

This could be an issue in the not too distant future. Each year, global corporates move nearly $23.5 trillion between countries, equivalent to about 25% of global GDP. This requires them to use wholesale cross-border payment processes, which remain suboptimal from a cost, speed, and transparency perspective. In fact, the G20 cross-border payments programme considers improving access to domestic payment systems that settle in central bank money, as one of the key components in facilitating increased speed and reducing the costs of cross-border payments.

The current state of cross-border payments

International transactions based on fiat are currently slow, expensive, and highly risky due to today’s disconnected financial infrastructure, messaging, and liquidity. Wholesale cross-border payment settlement can take 48 hours or longer, which is not practical in today’s digital world. Even if not every market moves to CBDCs, in an increasingly digital era, cross-border settlements between central banks will unavoidably involve dealing with CBDCs. So, not only will we have different currencies, we’ll have different technical forms of currency being exchanged – digital and fiat – as markets adopt CBDCs at different rates, adding another layer of complexity to cross-border settlements.

While there is much anticipation about the opportunities CBDCs can bring, the adoption of this technology will only be widespread if payment and settlement capabilities are overhauled to allow for new innovations in currencies.  This need for transformation represents an opportunity to redesign existing infrastructure to support cross-border CBDC transactions.

The current cross-border payments system involves correspondent banks in different jurisdictions using commercial bank money. Uncommitted credit lines used in cross-border transactions are a potential risk for any bank that relies on credit provided by a foreign correspondent bank. Interestingly, there is no single global payment and settlement system, only a complicated network of interbank relationships operating on mutual trust. While trust has allowed financial systems to function smoothly, when it begins to fail, as it did during the 2008 financial crisis, the result can be catastrophic.

Following the crisis, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) implemented the Basel III agreement, which required banks to maintain additional capital against correspondent banking account exposures. These risk-weighted assets impose a costly capital charge on positions held by banks at other banks under correspondent arrangements. While this framework helps combat risk, it neglects to address the inherent problems in traditional correspondent banking that contribute to these risks.

Making the case for CBDCs

CBDCs can offer an improvement in settlement risks and are certainly thought to have potential benefits by the BIS. If implemented correctly, wholesale CBDCs can indeed accelerate interbank transactions while eliminating settlement risk. They can also encourage a more efficient and straightforward method of executing cross-border payments by reducing the number of intermediaries.

It is likely the evolution towards CBDCs will initially see the financial market supplement rather than replace existing payment instruments with new types of digital currency. CBDCs will coexist with current forms of money in a wholesale context, and their payment rails will also work alongside the existing payment systems. In simple terms, CBDCs will need to be linked to the broader capital markets ecosystem and applications such as securities settlement, funding, and liquidity.

If built with an innovation-first mindset, the future of banking infrastructure should provide full interoperability and convertibility between fiat, CBDCs, and any other type of digital money used in wholesale payments.

The future of CBDCs

To unlock the full potential of CBDCs, a ‘corridor network’ will need to be formed. This involves combining multiple wholesale CDBCs into a single, interoperable network under common governance agreed upon by all central banks involved. The legal framework of this platform would then allow for payment versus payment (PvP) or, where applicable, delivery versus payment settlement.

Practical wholesale CBDCs appear to be on the horizon, either as a supplement to existing financial systems or as part of a transition to a digital, cashless world. Looking ahead, central banks would benefit from collaborating with fintechs that provide innovative cloud native technology to enable seamless wholesale cross-border payments without interfering with the flow of funds. If wholesale CBDCs are to become a reality, fintechs must be prepared to accommodate them.


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