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

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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.

 

 

Business

Hidden channel costs: how to find and tackle them

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By Mark Wass, Strategic Sales Director, UK and North EMEA at CloudBlue 

 

Growth for businesses will always be a key objective. However, in this digital age, if it occurs too rapidly, it can often unearth cracks that harbor hidden costs and pre-existing efficiencies.

 When it comes to channel distribution, for the majority of partners, hidden costs are widespread. A lot of partners work with multiple channels and systems, and this can become complicated. It can also affect their ability to track information.  On average, 30%-40% of IT spending  in large enterprises is accountable to inefficiencies caused by shadow IT.

 There is no single root cause of hidden costs. An array of issues such as wasted resources, labour, time constraints, poor implementation oversights and maintenance issues are all contributors, and the cuts only get deeper as partners scale. Here are the ways service providers can eliminate hidden costs.

 

Where to look for hidden costs 

 In general, unaccounted, or unattributed costs originate from four areas, with the first being shadow IT.

 Shadow IT is the use of systems, devices, software, applications, or services without explicit IT department approval. The phenomenon has grown in recent years due to the adoption of cloud-based applications and services, with the average company using 30% more unique SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) apps than they were in 2018. Thanks to the ease of adding new software, departments are going it alone and buying platforms that can be niche, or duplicate processes, and even in some cases using multiple versions of chat apps to communicate internally. 

Mark Wass

The next hidden cost stems from implementation and integration. Channel partners need to work within different systems, and almost always underestimate the budget needed to work with new software solutions. A consistent blind spot across the industry is the inconsistency of implementation and integration at budget.   

In terms of maintenance, it is especially difficult when partners create homegrown software to handle provisioning, relationship management, or data management. While such proprietary software might perform well for initial purposes, maintenance and upgrades can be a nightmare. Likewise, internal knowledge transfer in this situation is crucial.  

And finally, the scalability of expanding from one market to the next is not linear and neither is the cost. Partners that have already launched in one part of the world often think that it will cost around the same to expand into another region, like between the US and Europe. However, this thinking does not consider the additional effort to contend with the new currency, language, audience, and regulation, as well as local operations within the region.  

 

Tackling hidden costs  

The good news is that there are multiple remedies to hidden costs. Integrations, for example, successfully bring together disparate systems and improve efficiency. Partners that have manual processes and pull information from one system before typing it into another are wasting time and resources by dedicating an entire person to this process. Clearly, this should be automated to cut down on human errors and save in the long run. 

Along with integrations, partners should purchase software with scalability and unification at heart. There is no magic platform that does everything entirely so companies should opt for the best of breed, even if the initial investment is a bit more. This will help to offset the concerns of scalability, maintenance, lack of expertise, and potential unforeseen overheads. Moreover, best-in-class platforms help to paint a consistent long-term picture of the health of channel operations. 

For channel health, it is also integral to integrate outside experts to perform an overall business diagnostic. These can be consultants, solution architects, and those alike that know channel software and best industry practices to help architect a scalable and efficient platform. Working in conjunction with the team, these objective outsiders work to find the gaps and tighten any software screws. 

 

Helping the channel by combating inefficiencies

Hidden costs can become widespread, and this can lead to channel partners paying up to twice the price for half the output.

 More than the financial downside, though, hidden costs should be thought of as hidden inefficiencies. Especially in today’s accelerated digital transformation, inefficiencies can make or break fast-growing channel operations. Therefore, weeding out hidden costs with improved efficiencies can work wonders by saving budget and running a tighter ship. 

 Integrated software and platforms can then be used for change. By unifying and standardising existing systems, managers receive a single view of contracts, reporting, sales, marketing, and day-to-day operations. This  provides them with the right tools to achieve sustainable growth. Rather than overwhelming teams with several types of platforms and software, this single operational view allows for the much-needed oversight that is necessary to set a business up for success. 

 It is essential for channel partners to seize the moment and eliminate the perils of hidden costs, especially given the rapid growth of businesses in the digital and cloud spaces.

 

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Automation nation: Liberating workers from desks, data entry and the doldrums

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By

Gert-Jan Wijman, VP of EMEA at Celigo.

 

Just when businesses thought the tough times were over, even more challenges ensued. While still recovering from the financial effects of the pandemic, companies were hit with an economic downturn that’s now resulted in a recession in the UK.

In this economic context, teams are being forced to do more with less. This means onboarding with reduced manpower, delivering ground-breaking marketing campaigns with less budget and mitigating outlay in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis. Being nimble and streamlining operations has never been more imperative.

That’s where automation comes in. While automating before the recession would’ve been the ideal scenario, it’s never too late to get ahead of competitors. It’s only a matter of when – not if – automation becomes standardised, as businesses insistent on using legacy tech and manual processes will be outpaced by those savvy enough to embrace smarter alternatives. In fact, it’s predicted that in just two short years, 70% of large global enterprises will have over 70 hyperautomation initiatives.

For finance teams and the tech-strapped CFO in particular, automation can be a saving grace. Tech stacks are more complex than ever due to the proliferation of specialised finance SaaS applications for quote to cash, Accounts Receivable & Accounts Payable (AR / AP), cash management, tax, accounting close and corporate performance management. Having the tools to automate these processes enables modern CFOs to adapt to changing tech needs, scale quickly and future-proof their organisations.

Automating today to prepare for tomorrow

Too often, automation is viewed as a job killer. We’ve all heard the apocalyptic narratives about ‘robots taking over,’ but that’s an outdated notion. Instead, automation is a job enhancer. Not only does it minimise errors, speed up processes and help businesses cut down on admin, it liberates employees to dedicate their time to be more creative or perform complex tasks.

Take a company like WeTransfer, for example. Bogged down by manual processes, the team struggled with closing financial books and completing billing cycles on time. After integrating its tech stack, quote-to-cash automation worked immediately and the time to close reduced dramatically, significantly reducing the hours dedicated to manual data entry.

Its revenue accountant was then able to work on core tasks in the finance department and alongside sales operations on the process improvements, no longer worrying about completeness issues associated with the sales and financial systems integrations.

Not only that, it liberated employees physically and unlocked access to more valuable talents. Beneath all the technical and monetary benefits, these are the core principles behind why automation will soon become impossible for firms to ignore.

Physical Liberation

Hybrid work has been one of the biggest positive developments driven by the pandemic. However, while employees surely won’t miss long commute times or the constraints of office life, a disparate workforce comes with challenges. It’s vital that organisations can trust their data and business processes in order for effective collaboration to be possible.

Automation can enable this, as it allows cloud-based systems to share data across a business through integration, ensuring all workers have access to the resources they need to work together effectively wherever they are.

This makes businesses nimble, able to operate across multiple locations when needed and well equipped to decouple entirely from headquarters if needed. Workers can then be as effective from home as from the office, ensuring they can maintain a better work-life balance without compromising productivity.

It’s no wonder then that 78% of organisations worldwide think remote working will increase the proportion of their workforce using automation, while over two-thirds (71%) that have already implemented automation are beginning to feel the benefits.

Liberating Talent

Automation also ensures talent is no longer wasted on manual tasks. 3 in 5 (60%) occupations could technically automate more than 30% of their tasks, highlighting the bevy of possibilities and offering a glimpse at the future of work.

When workers spend their time crunching numbers and organising spreadsheets, it’s easy for them to feel like a cog in a machine. With automation, however, they have more room to share their ideas and feel connected to the operations of the business.

With menial tasks taken out of their hands, employees are freed up to perform more complicated and creative jobs, the sorts of work that could never be automated. And by filling workers’ days with more of these engaging responsibilities, they’re able to feel like they have a real stake in the company’s success.

There is also research to suggest that workers can get as many as 100 hours a year back as a result of their manual tasks being automated, meaning everyone could get an extra two weeks of paid leave without productivity taking a hit.

Automating into the future

Already, over 80% of organisations self-report increased or continued investment into hyperautomation initiatives. So the appetite is there, now comes making it a reality.

Automation at scale is the dream, but the transition won’t happen overnight. In a perfect world, organisations will be able to assign all manual and tedious tasks to the machines, with employees only needing to provide oversight when necessary, but there’s a journey to get there.

That’s why it’s critical that CFOs collaborate closely with their CIOs. Only then can we realise a scenario where manual processes are eliminated entirely, and data across systems can be accessed and updated in real-time. But this will require leaders to understand each other’s needs and challenges so they can align their visions.

As organisations become more disparate, this partnership will only grow in importance. CIOs can empower the CFO and their teams to implement the automation initiatives best for them, with IT maintaining oversight to ensure compliance.

With the right structure and mindset, CFOs and the entire C-Suite can be encouraged to pursue digital transformation in a way that’s most effective for them and the entire organization.

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