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How 2022 is adding up for financial organisations

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By Mark Jenkins, Chief Finance Officer, MHR

 

The Covid-19 pandemic has left a lasting mark on the UK financial sector. While a gradual recovery has started to take place, the economy is now beset by political uncertainty and rising inflation. With this backdrop emerging, the widening skills gap, the tendency for hybrid working strategies and a post-pandemic focus on employee experiences need to be on the radar for organisations. Businesses from regionally based insurers right up to City investment banks need to bring together workforce and financial planning while becoming more data-driven. In this evolving sector, here are four related trends that are likely to continue shaping the financial industry this year.

Companies are looking internally to fill vacancies

Skills shortages have made a significant impact on the financial sector. Seasonally-adjusted Office for National Statistics figures show there were 45,000 vacancies in finance and insurance at the end of last year – a 127% year-on-year increase.

With challenges in recruiting specialists externally, more businesses are now pivoting towards realising the full value of employees already employed at the company. There’s a key focus on developing the skills of current employees through enhanced training and mapping talent more effectively across the organisation to improve internal recruitment.

In organisations that are planning ahead, HR is playing a key role in this process by leveraging technology to gauge the skills, experience and qualifications among the current crop of employees, with learning management programs and better-defined career pathways then being devised. Matching potential internal candidates for probable vacancies or new roles is becoming a necessity unless organisations wish to enter a downward spiral of salary competition that only delivers short-term fixes. As well as being quicker, recruiting from within is also much cheaper than using specialist recruiters.

Mark Jenkins

Looking at hybrid working through a different lens

Hybrid working remains a key trend. Opinions are divided, often strongly, about the value of working from home, but at one point last summer 80% of financial firms planned to put hybrid into practice. However, the continuation of hybrid working also poses managerial problems.

The onus is on HR to ensure that managers have the right training in place to enable remote workforces to be effectively managed. Managers must engage meaningfully with employees and foster a team culture using technology to share ideas that improve performance or productivity. Two-way communication should be genuine, ensuring employees and those leading them understand one another and employees know where their work fits into a business’s longer-term goals.

Supervision needs to be both transparent and firm in the financial sector due to the requirement to meet regulatory compliance, but not so that it veers into surveillance territory that may prove demoralising for employees. Firms using hybrid working may also need to revise their plans so as to meet FCA expectations.

A focus on developing employee experience and internal culture

The employee experience (EX) comprises the third trend in the sector. While trying to win the skills shortage battle, financial organisations are being put under pressure to prioritise employee experience not just to attract and retain talent, but to ensure operational continuity and maintain business identity. Post-pandemic workforces are more focused on work-life balance and wellbeing, and employers have to ensure they meet changed EX expectations as well as competing on salary.

With skills requirements constantly changing, it’s little surprise that many employees desire access to effective training and development programs. As well as meeting such requirements, established institutions also have to create less overtly hierarchical cultures and offer flexible working opportunities to compete for data and IT talent with fintechs and challenger banks. Employees need to feel they can influence internal culture for the better. In large or dispersed workforces, this is where HR technology platforms become necessary so all employees have a voice.

It’s crucial also that businesses have greater visibility when it comes to their people data. This, however, requires rapid adoption of data modelling and engagement tools to identify key patterns in employee behaviour and feedback. Organisations that fail to act on employee insights typically see productivity levels plummet and their organisational culture come under threat. However, those that embrace technology and intelligent workforce solutions can make better, more informed business decisions, improving the employee experience.

Strategic planning with the combined expertise of HR and the CFO

While the financial sector remains in recovery mode, HR will need to place talent management higher up on the priority list and look to create greater commercial awareness. The compartmentalised approach that was once the traditional strategy is being replaced thanks to technology, bringing HR and finance leaders together. This trend has not only allowed benefits from an internal networking perspective, but has also encouraged empathy for the other departments. Employees then quickly learn how to mould inter-departmental inputs and outputs to both shape shared goals and improve efficiency.

As change-agents, HR and finance now need to play a bigger collective role. HR leaders need to be able to get under the skin of finance and also leverage analytics to ensure that predictive information can be used in organisational plans. Finance chiefs themselves are incorporating workforce planning analytics outputs into wider strategic plans, with these analytics able to highlight strong or weak areas of the business, highlighting where support should be offered to teams or where current successes should be expanded on.

In the digital era, CFOs are increasingly using a combination of spreadsheets and financial planning analytics with automated data collection to build scenarios with near real-time information. The fallout of the pandemic is continuing to shape the strategy of the CFO, with analytics able to improve decision-making and foster greater agility and profitability.

With the effects of the pandemic lingering and other global issues impacting 2022, it was always going to be a disruptive year for organisations. However, by taking these four themes into account, businesses will be in a much stronger position in future.

Banking

Wealth Managers and the Future of Trust: Insights from CFA Institute’s 2022 Investor Trust Study

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Author: Rhodri Preece, CFA, Senior Head of Research, CFA Institute

 

Corporate responsibility is more important than ever. Today, many investors expect more than just profit from their financial decisions; they want easy access to financial products and to be able to express personal values through their investments. Crucial to meeting these new investor expectations is trust in the financial services providers that enable investors to build wealth and realise personal goals. Trust is the bedrock of client relationships and investor confidence.

The 2022 CFA Institute Investor Trust Study – the fifth in a biennial series – found that trust levels in financial services among retail and institutional investors have reached an all-time high. Reflecting the views of 3,588 retail investors and 976 institutional investors across 15 markets globally, the report is a barometer of sentiment and an encouraging indicator of the trust gains in financial services.

Wealth managers may want to know how this trust can be cultivated, and how they can enhance it within their own organisations. I outline three key trends that will shape the future of client trust.

 

THE RISE OF ESG

ESG metrics have risen to prominence in recent years, as investors increasingly look at environmental, social and governance factors when assessing risks and opportunities. These metrics have an impact on investor confidence and their propensity to invest; we find that among retail investors, 31% expect ESG investing to result in higher risk-adjusted returns, while 44% are primarily motivated to invest in ESG strategies because they want to express personal values or invest in companies that have a positive impact on society or the environment.

The Trust Study shows us that ESG is stimulating confidence more broadly. Of those surveyed, 78% of institutional investors said the growth of ESG strategies had improved their trust in financial services. 100% of this group expressed an interest in ESG investing strategies, as did 77% of retail investors.

There are also different priorities within ESG strategies, and our study found a clear divide between which issues were top of mind for retail investors compared to institutional investors. Retail investors were more focused on investments that tackled climate change and clean energy use, while institutional investors placed a greater focus on data protection and privacy, and sustainable supply chain management.

What is clear is that the rise of ESG investing is building trust and creating opportunities for new products.

TECHNOLOGY MULTIPLIES TRUST

Technology has the power to democratise finance. In financial services, technological developments have lowered costs and increased access to markets, thereby levelling the playing field. Allowing easy monitoring of investments, digital platforms and apps are empowering more people than ever to engage in investing. For wealth managers, these digital advancements mean an opportunity for improved connection and communication with investors, a strategy that also enhances trust.

The study shows us that the benefits of technology are being felt, with 50% of retail investors and 87% of institutional investors expressing that increased use of technology increases trust in their financial advisers and asset managers, respectively. Technology is also leading to enhanced transparency, with the majority of retail and institutional investors believing that their adviser or investment firms are very transparent.

It’s worth acknowledging here that a taste for technology-based investing varies across age groups. More than 70% of millennials expressed a preference for technology tools to help navigate their investment strategy over a human advisor. Of the over-65s surveyed, however, just 30% expressed the same choice.

 

THE PULL OF PERSONALISATION

How does an investor’s personal connection to their investments manifest? There are two primary ways. The first is to have an adviser who understands you personally, the second is to have investments that achieve your personal objectives and resonate with what you value.

Among retail investors surveyed for the study, 78% expressed a desire for personalised products or services to help them meet their investing needs. Of these, 68% said they’d pay higher fees for this service.

So, what does personalisation actually look like? The study identifies the top three products of interest among retail investors. They are: direct indexing (investment indexes that are tailored to specific needs); impact funds (those that allow investors to pursue strategies designed to achieve specific real-world outcomes); and personalised research (customised for each investor).

When it comes to this last product, it’s worth noting that choosing advisors with shared values is also becoming more significant. Three-quarters of respondents to the survey said having an adviser that shares one’s values is at least somewhat important to them. Another way a personal connection with clients can be established is through a strong brand, and the proportion of retail investors favouring a brand they can trust over individuals they can count on continues to grow; it reached 55% in the 2022 survey, up from 51% in 2020 and 33% in 2016.

 

TRUST IN THE FUTURE

As the pressure on corporations to demonstrate their trustworthiness increases, investors will also look to financial services to bolster trust. Wealth managers that embrace ESG issues and preferences, enhanced technology tools, and personalisation, can demonstrate their value and build durable client relationships over market cycles.

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Business

How to Build Your Credit Up Safely

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by Taylor McKnight, Author for Compare Credit

 

What Is Credit?
Credit is money owed by a person that allows them to pay off debts at a lower interest rate. Most banks use your credit score to determine how much they should lend you. Any business loan or mortgage requires that you have a good credit history. However, if someone has poor credit(www.comparecredit.com/credit-cards/credit-range/poor/), they may struggle to pay back these loans, resulting in higher interest payments, making it more difficult than ever to repay the debt. Lenders are aware of this issue and keep a close eye on your credit rating to ensure that no negative information gets reported. This could prevent you from getting another loan in the future. It is important to note that having a bad credit score does not mean you have had a bankruptcy or other kinds of defaults. Many people often face this problem because of unpaid bills or late payment fees. However, this does not mean that you cannot repair your credit – it simply means that all parties involved must work together to solve the problem.

How to build your credit safely
Building your credit score is a major concern for most people, especially if they plan to purchase something as big as a home or car. A good credit score will help one get better rates in the future and make it easier to finance their next venture. Here are some things you should know to improve your credit to be used for the best possible purposes.

1. Keep paying down your balances every month: One of the biggest mistakes that could hurt your credit score is not paying your balance down each month. People who don’t pay their credit card down within the agreed-upon time typically have high-interest rates and expensive monthly costs.

2. Pay your bills on time: The same goes for making payments on a bill. Not paying it within the specified timeframe will result in negative information being added to your report, further lowering your credit score. Ensure that your bank statements are accurate and that all accounts are up to date.

3. Become an authorized user: Some companies will allow customers to become authorized users after meeting certain requirements. Take a look at the terms and conditions before applying for this option. These programs usually give access to one particular service, such as checking or ATM transactions, but are helpful when you need additional coverage.

4. Set up automatic credit card payments: There are several ways to set up auto payment options on your credit cards, including sending them directly to your checking account via email or the phone. In addition, you may want to consider enrolling in online banking services that automatically make payments from your checking account into your credit card accounts.

Other tips when it comes to credit
1. Learn how to manage debt responsibly. This is true for both personal and business debts. Many people tend to spend more than they earn, especially during rapid growth and expansion. If you find yourself facing difficult circumstances, you can seek assistance by talking to friends and family members, getting professional advice, or using online budgeting tools.

2. Don’t skip any repayments. This rule applies specifically to late payments. You need to continue making regular payments, even if you’re behind by a few days or weeks. Once you miss a payment, you’ll start accumulating late payments that negatively impact your score.

3. Try consolidating your loans. Consolidation involves combining multiple small loans from various sources into one large loan, thereby lowering the total interest cost of the loan and reducing the risk associated with it.

4. Be wise with your credit report. One huge mistake most people make is neglecting to pay their bills on time or paying only the minimum due balance each month. As a result, bad information remains on their reports, impacting their scores. All outstanding balances must be paid off completely. Otherwise, negative items that remain on your report can keep you from achieving the best borrowing potential.

5. Get your questions answered. If you have any questions regarding your credit, ask for answers now rather than waiting until you’re experiencing trouble. With a little research, you should be able to learn enough to begin repairing your damaged credit report.

What to look out for that can harm your credit
1. Not checking your credit report: Most people use their credit cards frequently but fail to check their credit reports periodically. Checking at least every 12 months can give you valuable insight into whether or not there are errors on your credit.

2. Paying your bills late: Late payments can lead to hard inquiries affecting your score, which means it appears that you’ve applied for more credit elsewhere. Make sure you never miss a bill.

3 You Close Old or Inactive Credit Cards: If your close old cards, they may show up on your credit report for some time. Closing accounts can impact your score by causing “hard inquiries” that appear on your credit report. Before closing them, look for inactive or closed card accounts on your credit report.

4. You Have Negative Records: Many people think they’re protected because they haven’t had past credit problems. However, many factors may cause a “bad” rating to linger. A single application for a credit product with a low limit may count towards a negative review.

5. There Are Errors on Your Report: Mistakes such as missing debt or inflated balances can damage your credit report. Find out how much money you owe and what types of products you purchased, then try to dispute those entries on your credit report. Ensure you correct any information that needs to be corrected. Failing to do so could hurt your chances of getting approved for future credit.

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