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HOW CAN BUSINESSES BREAK INTO MARKETS BEYOND THE EU?

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HOW CAN BUSINESSES BREAK INTO MARKETS BEYOND THE EU?

Atul Bhakta, CEO of One World Express

 

The build-up and aftermath of Brexit impeded the long-term plans of businesses both in the UK, and of EU businesses trading to the UK. The heavily protracted negotiations induced a culture of uncertainty in business, with few able to adequately prepare for all the future trading landscapes left on the table.

Once a deal was struck, with just one week before the Brexit deadline of 31st January 2020, organisations were then left scrambling to improvise new processes to translate their operations to the new systems and avoid spiralling costs, shipping delays, and various other disruptions.

As a result, businesses both here and in the EU saw a substantial trading slowdown in the months following Brexit, with new rules on customs checks, lengthy tailbacks at ports, denser and knottier administrative rules and new limitations on visas for the workforce all contributing to a tense trading relationship.

Indeed, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures revealed a precipitous drop in trading immediately after Brexit, with UK exports to the continent plummeting 40.7% year on year to January 2021.

This is a striking decline, given the historically close economic and cultural ties between the UK and EU. Inevitably, this caused a lull in long-term confidence amongst UK businesses. Indeed, a previous study conducted by One World Express in January 2021 found that 25% of UK companies doubted that they would last until the end of the year.

Atul Bhakta

Of course, Brexit is even now not a finalised issue – it will shift and evolve in significance and relevance as time passes and economies reshape; but the loss of confidence for businesses in UK-EU trade has been a tangible impact within the first year.

Accordingly, some organisations have begun exploring the scope for expansion into territories beyond the EU.

 

New opportunities attracting attention

As noted, the UK’s trade with the EU saw a sharp decline immediately following the formalisation of Brexit. While this decline has recovered steadily over the year, there has been an equally impressive parallel forming, as non-EU trade has remained mostly stable throughout.

Of course, UK imports from global markets have always remained at high levels, and when considering business growth and the economy as a whole, outward trade holds a heightened significance. On the export side of matters, ONS figures suggest that UK exports outside of the EU increased by 1.7% year-on-year to January 2021.

While a very modest increase, such figures indicate that international expansion could carry promise for business leaders, and hint at potentially lucrative opportunities within non-EU markets.

As 2021 progressed, it became evident that UK businesses’ appetite to explore opportunities further afield had grown. To take in the views of decision-makers, One World Express commissioned an independent survey of 752 business leaders in the UK, finding that 61% were either already operating abroad in some capacity, or had plans to expand into new territories over the coming year. More than six in ten (62%) reported Brexit as a key motivator in their decision to diversify beyond trading with the EU.

There was also some evidence that these plans were not solely in pursuit of the gains of modest uplifts in trade with non-EU countries. The survey found that more than two thirds (68%) of exporters had observed increased overseas demand for their products in the previous year, while 63% felt that markets outside of the EU were more willing to pay a premium for British-made goods.

The role of ‘Brand UK’ is significant here. For many years, products made in the UK have benefitted from the country’s reputation for high quality production and excellent service, which has driven a consistent rise in demand as emerging markets with high levels of consumer spending, such as India or China. In turn, UK businesses have found it easier than most to gain a foothold in new markets. Indeed, the majority (67%) of exporters reported their British brand had enhanced the reputation and demand for their goods and services when targeting international consumers.

Despite this innate – and highly welcome – competitive advantage, there are a number of factors UK firms must consider before diving in to unfamiliar markets.

 

The importance of planning

Many would be surprised to learn that a large number of businesses look to enter new markets with minimal planning in place. Notably, almost one third (32%) of exporters do not have such a strategy in place, which is likely to hamper the growth of British businesses abroad if left unaddressed. A crucial starting point for any international expansion plan lies in the research and relationship building.

Ascertaining the consumer preferences and audience behaviours in target markets, and forging appropriate connections with distributors, vendors, and ecommerce platforms, will allow firms to access consumers more easily, and in greater numbers, than marketing from scratch in unfamiliar territory. Encouragingly, according to One World Express’ research, 72% of exporters already include this in their plans.

UK organisations must also recognise the value of a robust and flexible logistics strategy. When products are being shipped to the furthest corners of the globe, there is a degree of risk if the finer details are not handled correctly. Delayed, missing, or damaged deliveries will erode consumer trust, and diminish the prospects of companies before they get off the ground. Accordingly, companies should ensure they have a transparent tracking system and efficient and user-friendly returns process. Investment in adopting the right software solutions to manage the shipping will create a streamlined and cost-effective process, affording firms the best chance at success.

Naturally, the EU will always be one of the UK’s most critical trading partners. However, as the dust settles on Brexit and the pandemic recedes into memory, the next few years present an interesting crossroads for the international prospects of UK businesses. With a tranche of new free trade agreements arriving in the near future, and international demand for Brand UK going from strength to strength, the scope for expansion into unfamiliar markets is growing apace. Provided business leaders get the finer details right, the rewards for bold investment in expansion could help charge a boom in the UK exports sector.

 

Business

How Big Data is Transforming Bilateral Trading

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By Stuart Smith, Co-Head Business Development – Data & Risk

 

Since its inception, Big Data has been an important part of how firms have identified and constructed quantitative trading strategies with hedge funds depending more on quant strategies which rely heavily on big data driven analytics.

As big data technology continues to move from being a specialised technical capability to being a commoditised capability available on a range of easily consumed technology platforms, its use within the financial derivatives will continue to increase beyond the initial quantitative driven capabilities.

At the same time, the number and range of available data sources is increasing rapidly. Whether it’s the increase in alternative data sets or new technology enabling firms to simply keep more of the data they have been creating, the volume of data available is increasing dramatically.

 

Big Data in Risk Management

Risk Management has always had requirements which have driven a close collaboration between business and technology to make available risk analytics useful for the business to make better decisions. As technology becomes more advanced, the metrics available continue to improve as well. This is typically because many risk metrics require high numbers of scenarios and valuations to correctly identify risks in multiple scenarios. To maintain flexibility, this has led to an explosion of data to manage. Firms are increasingly keeping all this data available which can run into many Terabytes (TBs), much of which needs to be ‘In Memory’ to make it accessible to analysts.

Stuart Smith

To achieve this big-data, technology is critical to allow firms to move large volumes of data quickly and easily from affordable long-term storage into high performance in-memory analytics. Big Data technology is ideal for this type of problem to enable large volumes of data to be recalled from across multiple stores and appropriately aggregated or filtered based on the analysis which users are requesting. Whereas in the past, analysts would have to accept that data outside of the last 3-5 days is only available in a summarised format, they can now expect that the data can be re-hydrated quickly and easily from cloud data stores and available to them in an easy-to-consume web interface.

This can enable much more dynamic types of analysis, for example where a new risk is identified, through analysis of a recent data set it’s now possible to find a long history of that risk, whereas previously it would have been lost through summarisation and fixed reporting processes.

 

Collaborative Data Sets

More big data stores are being created as the industry becomes more collaborative and uses increasing numbers of fintech solutions and platforms. With this change come new ways to analyse data and provide new insights.

For instance, through the automation of collateral exchange, an historical store of margin calls, payments and disputes has been created. This history provides a resource for banks to understand their performance in accurately issuing and making margin calls based on derivatives and compare their performance to that of the industry as a whole. The example below shows how a firm can be benchmarked while holding other institutions data private.

These types of analysis are new and could not be delivered without the centralised collaborative data model. It can prove to be instrumental in improving firms’ overall operational efficiency and client service.

It also provides an opportunity for Machine Learning techniques, based on big data sets, to analyse and predict payments requests which are likely to be disputed and potentially identify causes before an actual dispute is even raised. This type of ‘self-healing’ process can only be enabled by a large history of data through which algorithms can be trained.

In the case of Initial Margin (IM) calculated by ISDA SIMM* a new set of challenges have been introduced through having a two-sided risk calculation as part of the process of deriving payment information. This adds another level of complexity to the resolving of disputes; however, the potential offered by having large volumes of data opens up new options on how this challenge could be solved. The long history of Common Risk Interchange Format (CRIF)** data provides a long-term view of the sensitivities for most OTC derivatives, which can enable firms to identify basic issues like stale market data day over day. However, as with most detailed analysis differences in models, they can also be identified through looking at differences over long periods of time. Identification of these types of model discrepancies can help firms to be more proactive about reviewing their modelling deficiencies to ensure that differences don’t lead to disputes.

 

Looking ahead

The sheer volume of data can be an industry-wide challenge with firms having to manage disparate, needlessly duplicated and ultimately overwhelming information. Creation of an industry standard for reporting and analytics is, therefore, crucial to enable firms get clarity and valuable insights from the masses of data and centralise the information as a single data layer. Acadia has designed Data Exploration (DX) suite to be one-of-its-kind big data analytics platform to help sell-side, buy-side and fund administrators see its market positioning, trends and analysis of industrywide metrics.

The impact of big data will only grow and the industry is left with no choice than to evolve the use of technology, whether that is to drive quant strategies for hedge funds, more dynamic forms of risk management or larger shared industry data sets. All of these applications rely on underlying big data technology platforms to provide distributed analysis capabilities. As these capabilities continue to develop so will the types of analysis which are available to firms.

*The ISDA Standard Initial Margin Model (ISDA SIMM™) is a common methodology for calculating initial margin for non-centrally cleared derivatives, developed as part of ISDA’s Working Group on Margin Requirements (WGMR) to help market participants meet the BCBS-IOSCO margin framework for non-cleared derivatives.

** The CRIF file (Common Risk Interchange Format) is the industry template used to hold and exchange sensitivity data. ISDA’s calculation specifications are used to produce Delta, Vega and Curvature sensitivity numbers at Risk Factor-level

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Banking

Three tips to help banks profit from the rise of managed services

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By Chris Mills, Global Head of Managed Services Sales, Finastra

Research from IDC finds that only 29% of banks claim to have a long-term, strategic digital transformation plan in place, despite results showing firms that had invested in transformation saw improvements of 27% in reducing risk, 27% in innovation and 26% in improved customer satisfaction. The days when banks’ IT teams operated in isolation of business goals should be very old news. Effective CEOs build digital transformation into their strategies from the start, and the most successful CTOs understand how to apply technology to achieve business success.

In many ways, CTOs have become more like orchestrators or conductors than individual instrumentalists. They need everybody on their team to work in concert to deliver value according to desired business outcomes. It’s less about building IT from scratch and more about assembling components and making sure that they operate smoothly and cost-effectively.

Chris Mills

One of the most striking findings is that 40% of financial institutions said that the pandemic meant they had to accelerate and increase all of their digital-first initiatives. They had to innovate to remain viable and competitive. It’s also clear that there is no longer just one, singular path of IT delivery. Instead, CTOs are facing multi-threaded challenges. It means CTOs must consider many different deliverables and leverage all the resources at their disposal, including internal and external partners.

Changing customer expectations

The financial services sector was facing a range of external challenges even before the pandemic arrived. For example, from a consumer’s perspective, the exponential advancement of a smartphone’s technological capabilities in recent years has increased their expectations for new updates and improvements. This behavioural change has impacted customer decision-making and they now expect a high level of service and responsiveness, whether they are customers of a retail or a corporate bank.

The banking industry also faces regulatory, compliance, resilience, and sustainability issues. As ESG agendas become an increasingly important priority for financial institutions, pushed by the rise of net-zero targets, CTOs must respond to these demands, and that’s why they see innovation as such a key focus.

But how can financial institutions that are late to the digital transformation party use technology to capture competitiveness and improve responsiveness for their clients?

One approach that has proved successful is managed services, which is a term used to capture the blending of services, product, and functional capabilities. When CTOs consider this option, they need to start by thinking about the business outcomes with the associated technical and functional expertise they need.

This includes the business uptime that is required, scalability and deployment speed. Does the bank need to roll out capabilities across the globe, and does it need to serve only the main financial markets, or emerging markets too?

Another question CTOs must consider is choosing what service partner to work with. Large system integrators have been providing these services for a long time, but a software partner like Finastra has advantages in terms of product proximity.

Service providers must offer tailored products focusing on the needs of its clients. Offering quality software allows banks to achieve their long-term strategic outcomes.

It’s important to look at all areas of a banks’ business, For example, what does the payments team need?

What does the head of lending need? What does the head of treasury need in order to grow their business over the next five years?

With that in mind, I offer three tips to banks when considering managed services.

1. Be very clear about what your business outcomes need to be. Really drill down into KPIs and metrics that we can look at to ensure we provide the service your bank demands. This can range from resiliency, compliance, regulation or even functionality and capabilities – such as how often you require upgrades.

2. Measure and assess your own resources, skills and capabilities. Understand where you want to draw the line between the responsibilities you would want a service partner to take on and what you want to retain. There shouldn’t be any grey areas. You want a clearly-defined line where responsibilities lie, so that everyone is very clear about who’s doing what and how KPIs and service levels will be met.

3. Be prepared to develop a long-term strategic partnership, over five or 10 years. We expect hard questions, and you should be expecting them back – ultimately that’s how good relationships and partnerships work.

As IDC writes in its report ‘New service models to accelerate innovation in banking’ these holistic and software-led models require banks to master a set of new skills, including governance and partner management. Service partners should be industry-savvy, should supply end-to-end expertise, and should be aligned to support the financial institution’s business goals, not just technical KPIs.

Digital transformation infrastructure management requires CTOs to act as a conductor, rather than a solo performer.

 

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