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How the finance sector can embrace the circular economy

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Rachel Houghton, Managing Director at Business Moves Group

 

Everyone knows the maxim ‘Reduce, reuse, recycle’. However, as sustainability issues impel business leaders to confront their environmental impact, we all need to go further than this three-step maxim.

This means, working towards the circular economy which can be achieved though the ten R’s. they are:

  1. Refuse

    Rachel Houghton

  2. Rethink
  3. Reduce
  4. Reuse
  5. Repair
  6. Refurbish
  7. Remanufacture
  8. Repurpose
  9. Recycle
  10. Recover

This list gives a great overview of how to cut down on waste and can be used on a personal level as well as for businesses. The key is to go beyond thinking of sending waste to landfill as a last resort – it should not even be a consideration. Your last resort should be recycling, but there is plenty that can be done before you might reach this point to cut down on waste.

 

Office space for the circular economy

Businesses in the finance sector often have large office spaces in London and across the country. As we move towards making better business decisions for the circular economy, discussions should involve your real estate too.

After the wake of the pandemic, we saw the first, large scale trial of working from home operate worldwide, it was clear to many that it wasn’t as difficult as everyone anticipated. Now, 38 per cent of working adults of in the UK have reported to having worked from home at some point in the week. Businesses can potentially save money by having remote or hybrid workers, and the future of the office is now being questioned. Bloomberg reported that large banks such as HSBC expects to shrink its property footprint by 40 per cent due to the pandemic changing the role of the office.

If finance businesses do decide to cut down their real estate, the next question is how to do this in line with circular economy principles. Repurposing a building is one of the simplest routes, rather than for it to be torn down and have something new rebuilt in its place. Whilst the aesthetics of the building may change, the general infrastructure and frame could, and should, remain for it to become a circular choice.

 

Sustainable furniture management

The Mace Workplace Survey Report 2021 found that around three quarters of respondents intend to make upgrades to their workplaces in the next two years.

If your business decides to leave an office building, you have more items to deal with including desks and chairs. Communal tables and sofas, filing cabinets and lockers will all be part of the process. So, those who are leading the project will need to address the ten R’s and identify how they can reduce their environmental impact.

One of the best ways to approach your furniture when making changes to your office or leaving it is to do a furniture audit. That way, you can catalogue every item and it will be easier to identify what you decide to keep or part with.

For any furniture you decide you don’t need anymore, these items can be reused in other offices, repurposed for uses outside of office work, donated or sold. Recycling should be your last resort.

We supported a major food brand with an office relocation in London and sold enough excess furniture that the overall cost of the project was reduced by 50 per cent. Across all our work in 2021, we sold 10,000 items on behalf of our clients

Furthermore, existing furniture has already expended its embodied carbon. This includes the emissions created in sourcing materials, making the item, and transporting it. The average office chair has an estimated carbon footprint of 72 (kgCO2e) and a six-person bench desk 228 (kgCO2e). So, repurposing, refurbishing, or reusing is a great way to reduce carbon emissions.

An alternative to selling is donating. We partner with Business2Schools and donate unwanted office furniture to schools throughout the UK on behalf of our clients.

 

Recycle and recover

When an item has reached the end of its life cycle, we need to look at recycling as a final option. Even at this stage it’s important to make a conscious decision by choosing a recycling firm that will recover all the resources from an item and report back on where those resources have gone. By recycling effectively, it has the potential to save your business money, as you are less likely to come into contact with disposal fines, and valuable parts of the chair such as metals and textiles, can be sold to recyclers.

In 2021, we managed 1,252 tonnes of waste and diverted an average of 98.6 per cent from landfill. That means that in many projects, we diverted 100 per cent, and in 2022 we’re aiming to get our average even higher.

The circular economy is critical to future sustainability, which does require a change in mindset across every business. For any company that has large quantities of real estate, which is common for the finance sector, sustainable furniture management has a part to play. And not only will this help achieve CSR goals, but it is often a cost-effective choice too.

Business

How FS organisations can utilise data to boost customer experience

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Charles Southwood, Regional VP and GM – Northern Europe and Africa at Denodo

We’ve all heard the age-old adage “the customer is always right”. It insinuates that, in any sector, the needs and desires of those buying a brand’s product or services should be paramount. However, today’s customer has new standards and it is becoming harder than ever for businesses to meet and exceed them.

This is certainly the case in the financial services (FS) sector where getting customer experience right used to be relatively simple. The human touch was traditionally delivered as a bi-product of in-store, transactional interactions. Perhaps, as a result of this, few people ever considered changing their provider and the traditional, established banks ruled the space.

However, with the dawn of online banking and the introduction of new, exciting challenger banks as well as the UK’s unique Current Account Switching Service, the balance of power between the consumer and the bank is changing. Consumers no longer feel locked in. If their needs aren’t being met, they aren’t afraid to look elsewhere and switch their allegiance to other companies. In other words, loyalty is far from guaranteed and customer acquisition is only half the battle.

Retention relies upon delivering strong, unique customer experiences that beat down the competition. In order to achieve this, FS organisations will need to be able to leverage data. Its insights could be the differentiator that enables them to stand out. The positive news is that, in our online world, there is a constant stream of data being produced. However, having access to all this data doesn’t necessarily mean that a brand knows how to effectively analyse and utilise it.

Ensuring data provides insight

The rapid growth in digital technologies and services across the sector has left many FS organisations juggling an unimaginable amount of data. This data is both complex and much of it is lacking in quality. Structured, semi-structured and unstructured, it is stored in many different places – whether that’s in data lakes, on premise or in multi-cloud environments. Before FS organisations can even think about using it to inform customer experience strategies, they need to be able to find it and understand it.

This is where modern technologies – such as data virtualization – can help. Through a single, logical view data virtualization boosts visibility and real-time availability of all data across an organisation.  Unlike traditional extract, transform and load (ETL) solutions, it does not move and copy data. Instead it leaves it in the source systems. In other words, instead of just replicating data, data virtualization reveals an integrated view to those trying to find it.

For FS organisations this provides several important benefits. For example, it helps when data sovereignty issues arise and the movement and replication of data outside certain countries is illegal. Data virtualization solutions can also assist in terms of financial reporting by fetching data in real time from underlying source systems – applying the necessary security and obfuscation whilst delivering the performance, the agility and the accuracy needed through the seamless connection of data.

FS organisations that adopt data virtualization, are likely to see an improvement in the overall performance and efficiencies of their business operations. Overheads will be reduced, as will the length of project times. Above all, data virtualization will rapidly strengthen the customer experience by supporting business leaders to think strategically and make decisions based on real-time insights. But don’t just take my word for it.

The proof is in the pudding: How Landsbankinn is delivering on the CX promise

Landsbankinn is just one of the many financial services institutions that has already successfully embraced data virtualization and its benefits. Despite being the largest financial institution in Iceland – with around 40% of the retail and 33% of the corporate banking market share – Landsbankinn used to face several issues when it came to data sharing and analytics.

Over 45 siloed data sources – including Oracle databases, data warehouses and APIs from internal and external sources – made finding and accessing the right data at the right time extremely difficult. Without real-time data to fuel informed decision making, customer experience and operational efficiency were suffering. As a result, Landsbankinn was in need of a data overhaul to streamline and integrate its infrastructure.

To bring together its complex data landscape and collect data in real-time, Landsbankinn implemented the Denodo Platform – a data integration and data management solution built on data virtualization – to build a logical data warehouse. As a result, the team can now aggregate data from multiple data sources, transform that data based on the applied business rules, and then make it available to consuming applications. Ultimately, this means that, throughout the organisation, the data can be utilised by a wealth of employees, even those who are not particularly IT savvy. It also means that the business leaders can use data insights to make well-versed decisions and provide a plethora of services to Landsbankinn customers both quickly and efficiently.

In recent years, customer retention has become the key to successfully growing a business. This cannot happen without an effective customer experience strategy. The ability to convert data into insight is priceless in an economic landscape where the line between a business thriving, surviving and failing is so thin. Those operating in financial services must harness modern technologies – like data virtualization – to stay at the top of their game and ahead of the competition.

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Banking

The Importance of Digital Trust in Banking and Finance

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By Maeson Maherry, COO at Ascertia

 

With the rising adoption of eSignatures and the acceleration of digital transformation, trust in digital systems is more important than ever before. As a recession looms, the ability to trust digital systems is critical to the stability and security of the banking and finance industry.

So, what should businesses prioritise in an increasingly online world? Information security, data integrity, and digital trust are crucial for ensuring regulatory compliance and customer satisfaction.

Digital trust is empowering banking and finance institutions to effectively tackle issues of identity theft and fraud.

What is digital trust?

On the surface, digital trust refers to a digital system or platform that is secure and can be relied upon to protect and properly handle sensitive information.

Building the confidence that people have in digital systems, platforms, and technologies to handle their sensitive information, protect them from fraud, and function as intended is paramount for decision-makers going forward.

Trust online encompasses various aspects, such as data security, privacy, authenticity and reliability. Digital trust also involves assessing the trustworthiness of digital entities such as websites, apps, and online services, as well as the trust in the integrity and reliability of digital communications and transactions.

Maeson Maherry

Digital trust is a key element of digital transformation, the additional step to ensuring the digital systems in place are secure. This can include the following:

  • Online banking platform for customers
  • Digital document approvals and workflows
  • Secure digital signature solutions
  • Know your customer (KYC) checks
  • Electronic anti-money laundering procedures

Why is digital trust important for banks?

One of the main reasons why digital trust is so important in banking and finance is that it helps to tackle issues of identity theft and fraud. Customers and regulators require reassurance that personal and financial data won’t fall into the wrong hands. This includes customer statements, investment authorisations, legal records and customer personal data.

Online banking is now well established but the technology continues to evolve and so do the potential threats to data security. With phishing and other identity theft a daily concern, establishing digital trust in the industry is key.

Digital trust provides a means to trust in the identity of a person or document online, to the same degree as meeting or signing in person. This requires additional checks and layers of security to verify identities and the security of documents.

The role of eSignatures in banking

Digital trust is vital in the secure implementation of eSignatures.

In the banking and finance industry, eSignatures are becoming increasingly popular as they allow for transactions to be conducted quickly and securely. However, for eSignatures to be effective and to provide digital trust, all parties involved must trust in the transaction. This is done by ensuring eSignatures are valid and that the person signing the document is who they claim to be.

There are global standards to ensure the authenticity of eSignatures for digital signing. This means there is a way to validate the digital trustworthiness of eSignatures if implemented and used in a manner that meets certain criteria for security and authenticity.

For instance, digital signatures that are compliant with internationally recognised standards, such as eIDAS (Electronic Identification and Trust Services) in Europe, can be considered digitally trustworthy. It’s important to understand not all eSignatures provide the same level of security and to ensure the correct eSignature is used for the purpose and security required.

eSignatures that use advanced digital signature technologies such as Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) or biometrics, can be considered more digitally trustworthy as they provide a higher level of security and authentication.

These technologies use cryptographic methods to ensure that the signature is unique to the signer and cannot be replicated or forged. These standards establish a legal framework for the use of electronic signatures and ensure that they are legally binding, enforceable and offer the same level of trust as traditional signatures.

How does digital trust prevent fraud?

If the public loses trust in digital systems, it could lead to a loss of confidence in the financial system. Fraud, in particular, is at the forefront of public concerns.

Digital signatures are well positioned to offset the risk of financial fraud, largely due to three critical factors when assessing the digital trust of an eSignature:

  • Authentication: To verify the identity of the signer, eSignatures employ sophisticated technologies such as PKI. This confirms that the person signing the document is who they say they are and aids in preventing fraud through impersonation.
  • Tamper-evident: Tamper-evident features are often included in high-trust eSignatures, which identify if a document has been changed after it has been signed. This helps to prevent fraud by identifying manipulated papers and giving an audit trail of the signature.
  • Compliance: International standards such as eIDAS ensure that eSignatures are legally binding, enforceable, and provide the same level of trust as traditional signatures.

The banking industry specifically will benefit greatly from investing in digital trust ecosystems that include eSignatures, biometrics and encryption software to provide verification and assurance for customers.

In the future, financial institutions will adopt Know Your Transaction (KYT) as a means of implementing cybersecurity measures at the transaction level in their banking protocols.

By utilizing digital signatures at the transaction level and verifying them upon receipt, the financial industry can achieve KYT, ensuring that the source of information is under the control of the endpoint and that transaction information has not been tampered with.

This level of security will be a crucial aspect of achieving digital trust in the financial industry moving forward.

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