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FINANCIAL SERVICES NEED TO INNOVATE, NOT PROCRASTINATE

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By Asheesh Mehra, Co-Founder and CEO, AntWorks

 

Financial services are on the cusp of evolving thanks to new automation technologies. Most financial services companies will need to use the most advanced automation that exists in order to efficiently ingest, process and organise the documents they work with most frequently. The reports, email and text files that are primarily used by Banking, Financial Services and Insurance (BFSI) businesses are considered ‘unstructured data.’ This refers to data where information is scrambled and not presented in a clear way, from videos, to images, audio files, text data and much more. Unstructured data is expected to make up 80 per cent of all the world’s business data by 2025, which means that BFSI companies will need automation solutions that can process unstructured data which will be clogging up the electronic pipelines in the next decade.

Robotic Processing Automation (RPA) isn’t going to cut it, as this type of automation can only process structured data, like inventory control, sales transactions, and ATM activity. RPA is also very task-based and can’t automate a business process from start to finish and requires human intervention. RPA isn’t AI.

So how can a BFSI enterprise prepare for the era of intelligent automation? To prepare accordingly, companies need to address which aspects of an entire business processes is most in need and can gain the most value from end-to-end automation, and then decide which technology solution will help them achieve their automation goals. It’s time for enterprises to move past RPA and implement intelligent Integrated Automation Platforms (IAPs) which provide a one-stop solution for data curation, and building, deploying, and managing AI-enabled digital workforces.

 

Innovate, don’t procrastinate

Despite 83 per cent of Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) supporting automation in finance, only 43 per cent of finance executives admit that they need to innovate more. Companies are often reticent to innovate simply because they are skeptical about the real financial benefits and ROI of being the first mover to adopt technological solutions.

Financial services is an industry that is constantly under pressure to innovate. Take online banking for instance where UK citizens using online banking as their primary way of tracking spending increased dramatically from 47 per cent in 2012 to 73 per cent in 2019. With this sharp increase in the uptake a more digital service in such little time, banking firms have had to innovate quickly for fear of being left behind. By the end of 2014 there were 51 million contactless cards in circulation in the UK, but by 2017, there were close to 120 million – almost the equivalent of 2 cards per person. This signifies that BFSI can and will innovate when there’s a clear need for it. All this innovation has meant greater revenue opportunities for banks and has given rise to a new wave of challenger online banks becoming popular, like Monzo and Revolut.

Intelligent automation is expected to add US$512 billion in global revenue to the financial sector, but this can only be achieved when finance executives take the initiative to automate their processes with IAP.

As enterprises begin to embark on their AI journey, it’s imperative that employees are fully integrated into the process with employers simultaneously ascertaining which business processes need automating, and which employees will need reskilling and retraining to meet changing demands. With concerns mounting around automation replacing people’s jobs, it is the business’ responsibility to quell these fears. In fact, if done right, people shouldn’t be afraid of robotics and AI in the workplace, they should embrace it. AI has the power to enrich the employee experience—by removing the mundane and allowing people to focus on tasks that are more complex, creative, and require higher levels of decision making. It is up to leadership to invest in not just the technology but also in their talent.

 

Where do you need to automate?

Financial services and banking are industries where a huge variety of datasets exist. Customers still fill out paper forms to set up bank accounts, but they also use online services too. Banks are also managing customer service requests over the phone and via email. This means that employees in the BFSI sectors work with a huge variety of different types of data throughout their working days, meaning that several different departments can benefit from being automated with IAP.

The first key thing for companies to consider would be to identify which areas of the business are most reliant on unstructured data, and where the productivity lapses are with regards to processing this data.

With this in mind, enterprises need to be prepared and identify which processes requires automation.  There are numerous departments in BFSI firms that deal primarily with unstructured data, including support teams, administration, fraud detection and among others. All of these departments can experience increase productivity in the digital workforce when adapting to IAP solutions.

Fraudsters are getting more sophisticated in gaining access to bank accounts and the banks need to always stay ahead of the latest technology in order manage customers’ expectations and safeguard assets. Automation which is built on fractal science can process both unstructured and structured data of all forms and help fraud detection teams ascertain whether a transaction is genuine or not by analysing all forms of a customer’s previous transactions that are recorded through unstructured and structured data. Giving customer assurances that their bank provide superior and automated fraud detection services, and providing further convenience for their employees will improve customer services by offering quicker and more efficient responses to enquiries or requests.

 

Remaining agile and competitive for the future

All industries have challenges ahead in terms of remaining competitive in their respective markets, especially in the UK where issues such as Brexit pose a threat to economic stability. More than a third of financial services firms have seen a 2 – 5 per cent increase in revenue from automation, and as more and more businesses realise the potential of intelligent automation, this figure will continue to rise.

Don’t procrastinate when it comes to innovation, but also be mindful about which type of solutions to adopt and how. As we move into the 2020s, companies need to seriously consider how automation will impact their businesses and make smart decisions about where to automate with IAP.

 

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Finance

HOW FINANCIAL SERVICES BRANDS CAN TRANSFORM THE MUNDANE INTO MAGIC

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Ben Williams, Global Chief Experience Officer at R/GA London

 

We are living through an era of generational change. The last twelve months have been defined by uncertainty, and as we stepped into uncharted territory we witnessed society shift and consumer behaviour change occur at breakneck speed.

For businesses, the speed and scale of this change has felt at times daunting. There are questions at every corner. How do we navigate working from home? When will we return to normal? How are the lives of our customers changing? How are the lives of our employees changing?  What are the rules of the new normal? How does this affect our proposition? Are we changing fast enough?

But just as uncertainty creates anxiety, change creates opportunity.

To help financial brands and the commodities industry navigate this uncertainty and focus on opportunity, we at R/GA have highlighted five key areas of focus. These pillars allow financial services and commodities brands to transform the mundane into magic, adapting to surpass consumer expectations and rise above the competition.

 

View your brand as an operating system

The core DNA of a brand shouldn’t just be a poster in the cafeteria, or slapped onto a brand’s website and as a message to the world. The brand’s active purpose should truly inform all the different ways a brand shows up, across physical and digital and inform things like service offerings, business decisions, as well as marketing messages. Those words in a mission statement should mean something, and be proven in how a business operates and engages with people. With consumer expectations at an all-time high, people expect it. The world expects it.

 

Understand the power of experience and use it to differentiate 

Don’t underestimate the power of an elevated experience – regardless of industry. By focusing on the needs of your people, customers and employees, challenges quickly open up and become areas of opportunity.

Creating a category defining experience often means looking outside of your own category – just as consumers will do. When a service or experience is elevated in any category, it has a huge impact on expectations of people. This experience sets the bar, and consumers will then expect similar levels of service, innovation and thoughtfulness to be applied to all aspects of their life from any brand they interact with. When people see something better, they want everything to be better. This is the concept we call ‘Service Transference’ – and it is defining how brands are experienced in the modern world.

Commodity based industries have a huge opportunity to differentiate themselves from their competitors through an elevated and differentiated experience when engaging with the brand, product or service.

For years, computers were a commodity, some were a little faster, some had better/minor features, but for the most part the differences were minimal. Apple changed the game by focusing on the experience. It differentiated itself beyond the speed of chips and processors. Insurance and other commodity-based industries should look to do the same. Insurance companies, as an example, could look to understand people dynamically through technology, and respond with services and experiences that can tailor solutions to serve their individual needs.

 

Innovate at all scales and for all people 

Innovation has become a term thrown around as a catch-all for teams or people thinking about what is next. Too often however, teams fall in love with the idea of being credited and becoming famous for the next idea that changes the world.

Instead, brands should focus on elevating some of the smaller things. This means taking a deep-dive into the fundamentals, giving time to the less sexy things, because these are often the factors which have the most impact on people’s experiences with brands and their lives.

Beyond the emotional value, there is a functional value insurance companies can, and should be delivering. The experience of engaging with an insurance brand should go well beyond filling out a form. It should know me, who I am, my goals, my personal or family situation, and adapt accordingly over time. It should respond to the world around me, and to my life as it happens. Enabling your service offering to be tailored and customized will provide real functional value that what they are paying for is exactly what they need and want. Responding to real human needs and events as they happen is the clearest way to show you care.

 

Recognise that life has changed.

Brands that can adapt and be there for people will ultimately win. Insurance is an industry founded on the principles of being there for people when life happens. And life is happening right now.

Insurance brands have to deliver emotional value by supporting customers. To do this, brands need to strike the right balance between being active and present in a customer’s life, and knowing when to get out of the way. Beyond the annual insurance payment reminder, ask yourself, “When are the other moments throughout a year, or in someone’s life that they should feel supported?”

Insurance brands have a huge opportunity to shift what they are famous for and how they show up in the world. Given the changes we have seen in consumer expectations, the industry itself and the technology landscape, insurance brands that want to win should be focusing on delivering peace of mind and offering customers agency over their own solution.

 

Always dream big and act small

For commodities businesses, the opportunity for blue sky thinking is massive. But don’t forget that often the most meaningful change comes from innovating some of the smaller, more foundational pieces of your business and experience. The impact you can have on someone’s life, especially at times when they most need support, should never be underestimated – or mismanaged from an experience perspective. Listen to people, their needs and what they want. Your customers, and the world will thank you.

 

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Finance

TECH TRENDS: THE FUTURE OF FINANCE IS DIGITAL

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By

Simon Bull, Sales Operations & Business Development Manager, Aqilla

 

Everywhere you look across the modern working environment, there is pressure to ‘digitally transform’ by using technology in areas where manual work and processes have previously been the preferred option. Despite growing momentum in general, progress across the finance function has been somewhat slower than other core areas of business, not least because it is highly regulated and teams must exercise caution to ensure introducing change does not also introduce risk.

One familiar scenario is the approach finance departments take to storing data, particularly any sensitive information, on their own premises and their own hardware. While keeping valuable assets such as this close to hand offers a strong sense of security and control, it illustrates the limitations finance teams face in changing traditional approaches and, as a result, the relatively slow pace of technology-focused innovation overall.

However, the case to embrace tech-led change is becoming irresistible, with businesses everywhere highlighting a huge range of digital transformation benefits, from cost savings and technology performance to IT security and compliance. In the current environment, many finance teams have also experienced first hand the impact of digital transformation, with remote working bringing new technologies and digital services into focus.

Simon Bull

But, where are we heading? As digital transformation gains momentum across the finance function, where should teams be looking for opportunities to update manual processes or to replace outdated technologies? And where might the trends at the heart of this movement – such as cloud computing – have the biggest impact on the day-to-day experience of finance professionals?

The role of cloud computing raises a key point. For finance teams, digital transformation also requires a change of mindset, perhaps best illustrated by a willingness to move away from outdated in-house technology infrastructure and software products to flexible and more financially efficient cloud-based services. In doing so, it becomes possible to focus on opportunities and priorities:

 

Cost savings

One of the most important is the cost of technology. The cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) approach that can offer users the convenience of a monthly pay-as-you-go payment model for a range of key technologies, such as accounting software. This is in contrast to traditional IT procurement models where businesses have to invest significant sums in one-off software purchases. What’s more, because SaaS users typically only need access to a laptop and internet connectivity to use cloud-based applications, it also saves money on the server hardware that has previously sat in the corner of the office, and in fact, it may no longer be needed at all. In selecting cloud-based finance software services, organisations should always compare pricing from several providers to make sure they are getting the most competitive deal.

 

Technology Performance

Today’s cloud-based finance software solutions are available with a growing range of options, starting with simple, entry-level functionality to the opposite end of the scale to products offering powerful performance designed to fit the needs of even the biggest and most complex finance departments. Important features and functions to look out for should include: extensive analysis, proper periodic management and business calendars, multi-currency, multilingual and multi-company operation, full VAT handling International coding, tax and language flexibility, automatic reconciliation / bank integration, built-in key performance measurement, advanced search, selection and drill-down, document and image scanning.

 

Stronger security

Many cloud providers now have security at the top of their list of capabilities, but checking their accreditations, policies and security track record should always form part of any selection process. This should include areas such as data protection, backup services and their ability to deal with common security issues, such as ransomware.

 

Service standards

When looking at cloud service providers, finance teams should also focus on the quality of service on offer. At its best, cloud-based customer support and service can deliver an outstanding experience where the provider really feels like an extension of the in-house IT Team. The best way to check on the service capabilities of any cloud provider is to ask for references from existing customers, check online reviews and evaluate their Service Level Agreement (SLA) to understand the small print of any terms and their impact on service levels.

 

Compliance

Compliance is front of mind across the finance function and is an area where the specialisation offered by many cloud software solutions can be of huge benefit. Even for the most niche requirements, there is often a software provider out there who has a solution designed to meet very specific needs, and in embracing these technologies, the efficiency and accuracy benefits can be truly transformational.

The challenges seen across the economy over the past 12 months have significantly accelerated the pace of technology-led change, finance teams included. But, cloud-based finance software services can help teams to widen their approach to innovation, embrace the flexibility offered by remote working on a permanent basis and deliver a range of operational and customer-focused benefits for the long term.

 

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