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HOW HAS THE CORONAVIRUS LOCKDOWN IMPACTED THE MANUFACTURING SECTOR?

As thousands of people have headed back to work, the manufacturing industry will need to have safety guidelines set out for both customers and employees as the industry is particularly prone to close contact with others.

Here Alastair Wilson, a partner at leading accountancy firm, MHA Tait Walker has some advice for manufacturers in light of the COVID-19 outbreak which has caused major disruption across global markets, with restrictions on human movement disrupting the majority of sectors.

Manufacturers have taken a hit during lockdown. They have been faced with the problem of either a reduced workforce or suddenly been faced with totally absent teams. There has also been a pause to supply chains and an aggressive decline in customer demand.

Despite the Government’s advice for a return to work this week, there have been a number of concerns around both safety and cashflow implications. Both will no doubt remain significant for some time. Fixed costs have already drained cash reserves for many and the uncertainty of the lockdown period has made management decisions on safety very difficult.

 

What can manufacturers do now?

In terms of cash flow, hopefully by now business owners will have accessed the Government-backed initiatives in order to ascertain what can be used and what impact they may bring.

The deferral of tax balances bring an immediate cashflow saving and the use of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme can also yield savings. The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme can also be considered for those businesses with proven viability and an historic financial performance that demonstrates the ability to service new debt.

On the safety front, a Covid-19 risk assessment should be carried out in consultation with workers and trade unions. Employers will also need to redesign workspaces to maintain 2m distances between people by staggering start times, creating one-way walkthroughs, changing seating layouts and opening more entrances and exits.

 

What next?

Initial thoughts and decisions will be largely based on an assessment of what options business owners have at their disposal and the ultimate execution of those options.

Business owners should consider the working capital implications of exhausting reserves in the immediate term, with the problem looming as to how you can fund the recommencement of operations in the post-lockdown period.

You should therefore take care of your financial plan. Your eyes should be focused on the security you have pledged to external funders and that which may be sought during any CBILS application. Longer term assessment of overall indebtedness should also feature, with a lot of Government initiatives being debt based, which by their nature will require repayment. This will therefore pose directors some challenge as they balance their wider responsibility to all business stakeholders.

 

How can you manage the cashflow risks?

A thorough and robust financial plan will be central to your business planning in the coming months. Additionally, the use of your advisers will be key during any negotiations undertaken with your funders. Capital holidays and short-term facility extensions will provide temporary respite, but you should look beyond the initial period of uncertainty and retain some focus on what comes next.

The re-opening of markets will see the re-emergence of demand, but this may not be swift. A gradual build up could be in order for a lot of markets. The risk of customer and supplier failure should also be considered, with contingency plans drawn up.

The demands and pleas for prompt or upfront payment are likely and a natural drift in credit terms may also be imposed by your larger clients. You should therefore assess those impacts and build a cash buffer, with attention required on the covenant suite your funders will have in place. Keeping your books and records up to date will therefore be imperative and allow maximum flexibility as you continue to make strategic decisions.

 

What else should you consider?

Non-financial considerations will also be vital, as well as the re-introduction of your team in to the workplace. Workforce morale and overall productivity should be monitored closely. Repairs, maintenance and reconnection of idle plant and machinery will also need consideration.

The considerations for business owners are extensive and will move and change due to ongoing problems which may linger due to COVID-19. Cash management will also drive focus and risk monitoring will be an increased priority as we proceed through 2020.

 

Business

CAN TECHNICAL INNOVATION HELP FINANCIAL SERVICES FIGHT BACK AGAINST FINANCIAL CRIME?

By Charlie Roberts, Head of Business Development, UK, Ireland & EU at IDnow

 

It’s no secret that the financial services sector is a top target among cyber criminals. In fact, according to a report from IBM, it retained its top spot as the most targeted sector in 2019.

The consequences of falling victim to an attack can be severe too. It can lead to financial losses and reputational damage as well as loss of customer confidence and therefore sales. One UK financial services firm, for example, was hit by a total loss of $87.9 million.

So, if we consider that the coronavirus crisis continues to drive increased online consumer activity, should financial services be more concerned? Simply put, yes.

We are seeing a significant increase in organisations taking their business online to reach their customers. Banks, for example, in adapting to COVID-19, are offering customers a more convenient way of opening an account given branch visiting restrictions. But while these services offer more choice and ease for customers, it also means that new account fraud is opening up and is becoming a major challenge for organisations to overcome.

Charlie Roberts

Some cyber criminals are even trying to exploit the pandemic as an opportunity for financial crime by posing as trusted organisations like banks and even the World Health Organisation. According to Action Fraud, over £6.2 million has reportedly been lost by UK citizens to coronavirus-related scams. And this figure continues to rise week by week.

 

The role of innovation

The rise in financial crime shows just how much the financial services sector is in need of technological innovation. We’ve already seen great progress. About half of financial services and insurance firms globally already use Artificial Intelligence (AI), according to Forrester.

It has many use cases too. In a recent report published by The Alan Turing Institute, AI is largely being used for fraud detection and compliance. AI is beneficial because its algorithms can analyse millions of data points to detect fraudulent transactions which could otherwise go unnoticed by humans. What’s more, these AI-driven fraud detection systems can now actively learn and calibrate in response to new potential (or real) security threats.

The report also details some of the ways that financial services companies are exploring AI-based fraud prevention alternatives. It includes the use of AI to increase approvals for genuine transactions and the use of real-time and high volume data to help protect schemes, financial institutions and their customers from fraud and financial crime.

It’s perhaps no wonder that, outside of the technology sector, the financial services industry is the biggest spender on AI services according to The Bank of the Future report from Citi. But there is still some way to go in using technology to combat financial crime.

 

The identity verification era

Arguably, identity verification is one of the most important processes that technology can help transform – especially as the current crisis continues to drive increased online customer behaviour. In fact, AI and video based identity verification software can provide financial services organisations with a fast, seamless and secure onboarding process that increases conversion rates and customer satisfaction while providing the highest level of security.

Demand for this software in the UK’s financial services sector has already more than doubled since the start of the year, as growth in scams linked to COVID-19 continue to rise.

It’s this technology that will become critical in validating a person’s identity quickly and confidently while limiting the increased risk of fraud for both businesses and consumers.

IDnow’s AutoIdent is one software solution that has this year been experiencing high demand from the financial services industry. Its AI technology can use the camera on a customer’s smartphone to recognise the country and type of ID document without the need for user input. The technology then captures the machine-readable part of the ID document as well as non-machine-readable areas, such as address fields, before automatically checking the optical security features of the ID documents, such as holograms.

With the subsequent biometric video check of the person and “liveness detection”, the identification process is completed for the customer within just a few steps. The system can then decide if the identification is valid, with a reliability that meets compliance requirements.

 

Fighting back

The threat of financial crime is not going away any time soon and so there is no better way than to fight back with innovation. With the right technology investment, such as in AI identity products, the sector will be in a stronger position to support businesses who have a duty of care to protect their customers from risk of fraud while ensuring they remain resilient during this pandemic.

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Business

TOP 5 LINKEDIN PROFILE OPTIMIZATION HACKS FOR ASPIRING BANKERS

According to Firmex, finance professionals cannot afford to be not on LinkedIn. A significant number of organizations acquire talent in the financial industry through LinkedIn.

Especially for aspiring professionals, your internet presence matters a lot as recruiters are most likely to search your name on the internet before making a decision about your application.

As an aspiring banker on a professional platform, you should consider changing the outlook of your profile, to garner the recruiter’s attention. Your profile is unlikely to get noticed if it is out-of-date and inaccurate.

Here’s how you can optimize your LinkedIn profile:

 

Headline

Here’s an example of a good headline for a banker:

“Aspiring Banker majored in finance specializing in forecasting and risk management best practices”.

Scrolling through most professional profiles for bankers on LinkedIn, these individuals pay little attention to the headline.

A well-optimized headline gives the recruiters reasons to click on a profile. Though you just have 120 characters to make it great and charm the recruiter.

You can include pointers on what you are trying to achieve as a banker, or include your major as a way of connecting the skills-gap. If you are an MBA degree holder, then you can reflect this on your headline along with the major.

Though here are a few things you should know about creating a headline:

  • Be professional and avoid writing words like “superstar worker”, “top performer”, etc.
  • Be discreet with your job search, don’t directly mention “looking for a job”, “unemployed”, etc.
  • Research on other professional’s headlines with a network presence.
  • Include the usage of strong adjectives/action verbs.

 

Connections

On LinkedIn, develop meaningful connections with professionals and recruiters. With little effort, you can significantly increase your number of connections.

However, having 5000+ connections is not valuable if they are irrelevant to your interests. Hence, keep your connections limited to professionals in the finance industry.

  • Connect with individuals that are relevant in the finance industry and send a personalized message along with the connection request.
  • You are most likely to get ignored if you mindlessly send out requests. Though LinkedIn advocates being active, you should derive an invitation strategy for effective network expansion.
  • Message recruiters that are hiring professionals in the finance industry and ask them for advice on how you can further optimize your profile.

 

Professional Experience

Your LinkedIn profile works as a digital resume. It should give an idea of a constructive career progression. Hence, LinkedIn profile optimization becomes quite important.

  • Write points in a bullet form, don’t include long paragraphs.
  • Mentioning your roles and responsibilities isn’t ideal. Construct the points in a way that showcase all your accomplishments & contributions.
  • Add your projects separately; do not add them in the career highlights section.

 

Keywords

As with any other search engine, recruiters are dependent on the algorithm to show them the best profile as per their searches. Based on a certain set of relevant keywords in your industry, recruiters will try to search for candidates on LinkedIn.

Here’s how you can use keywords to optimize your profile:

  • Research: Thoroughly research the keywords that are of prime importance in the finance industry. Check the profiles of other professionals on LinkedIn and refer job postings to gain an understanding of how to sprinkle these keywords in your profile.
  • Section: Utilize each section efficiently of your LinkedIn profile to showcase your contributions and achievements. Don’t just stuff your profile with contextual keywords. In the end, your profile should foremost be easily readable.
  • Industry and Skills: Update the industry in your profile and include all the skills you are familiar with. Further, you can even include skills that you are not familiar with. Let’s say you need to include “Budget Forecasting” in your profile and you have not had any real-life experience with it. You may write it as “Interested in gaining experience in budget forecasting”.

 

Skills & Recommendations

Recruiters look for professionals who can deliver, hence your profile should include the skills that are highly relevant to your targeted profile. Though in the banking industry recruiters search for general skills as well. So, make sure your profile is a match for both.

Further, just listing your expertise is not going to be enough. Get your mentors, employers, etc. to write you a stellar recommendation. If you provide credibility for your skills then it can do wonders for you.

 

Final Word

  • Just as the headline of your profile, your picture is equally important. Make sure you use a professional-looking photograph.
  • Continue to engage with your connections through comments and professional messaging.

As you are a banking professional, your profile is probably going to end up looking like all about your core competencies, However, it is important to include a few pointers about your hobbies that describe your personality as well.

 

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