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Keeping your options open and flexible: How to manage cloud migration for Financial Services Organisations

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By Rachel Mcelroy, Marketing Director at Cloud Gateway

 

Financial Services Organisations, such as banks, insurance firms, and accounting firms, are not new to cloud infrastructure and services. In fact, adoption of cloud is increasing within the industry, much due to the pace at which technology advances, and all sorts of as-a-service products, tools and technologies– meaning businesses will generally rely on at least one cloud service provider to guide their transformation goals.

However, the ongoing nature of digital has meant that, like other industries, the finance sector has been active in developing new digital initiatives that successfully fulfil increasing demand, whether that be from clients or compliance with FCA policies. There is never truly a moment to pause or reach the end of a project. For digital transformation, the process remains ‘on’ and in a state of optimising to ensure it is up-to-date and as effective as possible.

Cloud migration is not without its risks and worries, yet there are ways to ease or even prevent these with the likes of a multi-cloud approach and a solid digital foundation.

 

Securing your ecosystem

When establishing new projects to progress digital transformation journeys, placing data in the cloud is a common first move. Even in those instances which don’t seem highly technical on the surface, such as mobile banking or working from home. Nonetheless, the aim is always to meet industry standards, improve the resilience of operations, and develop financial services so that they effectively meet customer needs – all of which a robust cloud infrastructure helps ensure.

As a frequent target of cyberattacks, financial services are understandably hesitant about moving their data from on premise to the cloud. However, cloud infrastructures have been designed with extra touch points through external internet connections and private clouds, which multiply when approached from a hybrid way.

The security boundaries implemented between the cloud service and the organisation’s network can vary between service providers, so it is important to understand the conditions for each one. Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) solutions can provide an answer to this, by allowing organisations to get a holistic view of their ecosystem, and securely connect to a variety of cloud providers with workloads that are easy to move between.

 

Easing the process for time and money savings

A key driver for organisations moving over to the cloud is, of course, to save money. Additional fees for add-ons can pop up, serving as a nasty surprise when looking at the bill, whilst being committed in a big contract with the more traditional service providers can feel hard to escape. In many instances, trying to adapt your infrastructure can be met with more expenses and interruptions to operations, so remaining flexible by adopting a hybrid cloud approach can ensure that your organisation retains control over transformation.

Yet, we acknowledge there is a stressful element to managing multiple vendors; a solution underlying all of this can increase the visibility of your ecosystem and even reduce the number of vendors managed. SASE, for example, provides a digital foundation for which to begin your cloud migration, allowing you to start small and scale up – the pace is up to you. By having more control over your transformation strategies, you can clearly get a picture of what works best and have that flexibility to change in order to remain cost-effective and relevant to your targets.

Smoothing the migration is also essential for many organisations, especially as they involve shifting workloads to meet their increased digital goals. But when these often-large workloads are put into a single cloud provider environment, it risks being overfilled. This can  potentially lead to compromising on the speed, scale and most importantly, security, of the environment. Organisations need the flexibility and power to decide what data goes where – whether it stays on-premise or in the cloud. SASE solutions can allow for this multi-cloud, hybrid approach, swiftly deploying these in an agnostic fashion and bringing an extra layer of protection in any future vendor issues.

 

Migration complete – where next?

Once the task of migration is complete, there is the looming pressure of maintaining performance and availability standards – or, even, exceeding them. There is a risk of downtime during or after transferring workloads, so organisations must be aware of how this may impact customer experience, as well as their own company’s reputation. Hybrid cloud models reduce this risk by letting an organisation choose a risk profile that best suits them, made up of a variety of combinations from one vendor to a mix of on-premises and private cloud.

A SASE solution can further ensure security and agility by making sure organisations remain aware of all components in the migration, reducing complexity and risk, as well as extending performance. Furthermore, it can help financial organisations to be reactive as possible as the landscape of working becomes more remote, by offering secure remote access to hybrid workforces.

It is clear that for financial organisations, successful cloud migration involves the ability to monitor and visualise the full process to identify potential risks and address them. Hybrid and multi cloud strategies can be facilitated in a way that acknowledges and executes security policies, quickly deploying and managing connections no matter how many cloud providers are involved, all whilst reducing cost and scaling cloud environments.

Business

Accounting Automation in the Future

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Accounting automation is the process of streamlining repetitive tasks in financial processes. For example, some processes like invoicing are time-consuming and repetitive. Automation can reduce manual labor and save businesses both time and money. Also, it helps improve accuracy, reduces errors, and provides more accurate financial reporting.

Accounting automation in the future will be increasingly important for businesses to stay competitive. But every new change comes with both advantages and challenges. Let’s dive in to get ready for this future trend.

 

Potential Future Benefits of Accounting Automation

Increased Efficiency and Cost Savings

Accounting automation is a great way to increase efficiency and cost savings. For example, AI bookkeeping uses advanced algorithms to automate many accounting tasks. So, companies can track expenses, prepare financial reports, and more using AI.

It reduces the time needed for manual entry. So, businesses can spend fewer labor hours on tedious processes. They can increase efficiency by freeing up resources for more strategic work. It also helps reduce errors and inconsistencies associated with manual processes. So, the cost of compliance is lower because of greater accuracy.

 

Improved Accuracy and Reliability

Accounting automation can improve accuracy and reliability in accounting processes. For example, Automating bank reconciliation is less prone to errors from human mistakes or miscalculations. You can automate the process to identify discrepancies between the bank statement and accounting records. It helps to ensure that financial reports remain accurate and reliable. So businesses can take corrective action faster than processing data manually.

 

Streamlined Business Processes

Streamlined business processes involve eliminating unnecessary steps, reducing paperwork, and automating repetitive tasks. This allows businesses to focus on higher-value activities, such as developing new products, improving customer service, and developing strategic plans for the future.

 

Making a Better Decision

Accounting automation can enhance decision-making in 3 ways.

1. It enables businesses to access real-time information from multiple systems. So they can identify trends for better decision-making.
2. Automated accounting also helps with forecasting, budgeting, and auditing tasks. It enables businesses to be more proactive in their decision-making processes.
3. Also, automated accounting tools can integrate with enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. They can manage data across the enterprise and make concise decisions that are favorable to the company as a whole.

 

Increase Customer Satisfaction

Accounting automation can help businesses increase customer satisfaction by streamlining their processes and providing a more efficient customer experience. For example:
4. Automated accounting systems can automate tedious manual tasks such as invoicing, data entry, and payroll processing. This allows businesses to focus on other aspects of their operations that are more important for customer service.
5. Automated accounting systems can also provide customers with more accurate and timely financial information. The information can help them make better decisions about their finances.
6. Also, accounting automation enables businesses to respond quickly to customer inquiries. It helps reduce wait times and improve the overall customer experience. So, you can build better relationships with their customers.

 

Improved Accessibility

Accounting automation takes place online or comes with cloud-based solutions. So, you can access your information and do your job from anywhere instead of being confined to one spot.

 

Challenges to Implementing Accounting Automation in the Future

Cost of Technology Infrastructure Upgrades

Automating an accounting system often requires businesses to invest in new hardware and software, such as servers and other associated equipment. These upgrades come with a hefty price tag that may be difficult for small businesses to afford.

There are also extra costs, such as installation fees, setup charges, software licensing fees, cloud storage costs, and maintenance fees.

 

Training Requirements for Staff Members

Accounting automation involves using advanced technology to automate certain processes. So, it creates a need for trained staff members who can handle the new technology. Training requirements vary depending on the type of software used.

Some common training includes record-keeping procedures, software applications, and troubleshooting skills.

 

Regulatory Compliance Issues

Accounting automation can be a time-saver, but it also requires firms to be aware of the applicable rules and regulations. Companies must ensure that their automated systems are compliant with relevant laws and regulations such as Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), and other applicable accounting standards.

Besides, they must also comply with legal requirements related to taxes, financial statements, and other reporting obligations.

So, businesses must consider the complexities of regulatory compliance when automating accounting.

 

Security and Data Protection Concerns

As businesses move their accounting processes to the cloud, they are exposed to a wide range of potential security risks. Data breaches can cause significant damage to the business’s financial and reputational integrity. Besides, the complexity of automated accounting systems can make it difficult to identify and detect suspicious activities or errors in the system.

To ensure data is kept secure, businesses must have strong measures in place to protect against unauthorized access, encryption, and regular backups of data.

Furthermore, companies must train their staff on the proper use of the system. It helps staff to know how to protect confidential information from being accessed or misused by unauthorized personnel.

Businesses may also need an experienced IT team to monitor and maintain the system to keep up with any changes or updates for optimal performance.

 

Final thoughts

Accounting automation has come a long way in the past few decades. It is likely to continue to advance in the future. As technology continues to evolve, more businesses will likely begin taking advantage of automation in their accounting processes. So, businesses should be aware of the potential challenges and prepare to stay competitive.

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Banking

How banks can help customers during the cost of living crisis

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 Lavanya Kaul Head of BFSI, UK & Ireland, LTI Mindtree

 

Surging energy and food prices are significantly driving up household expenditure, which means living standards in the UK will fall to 2.2% this year, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility. This is the biggest drop in any single financial year since the records began in 1956-57.

It’s a tough situation for many consumers who are still struggling with financial hardship following redundancies and pay freezes from the pandemic. According to TSB’s Money Confidence Barometer, 82% of people have experienced an increase in the day-to-day cost of living. This resulted in almost a quarter of them using their savings, while one in five changed their usual spending habits and behaviours.

As the financial situation worsens, consumers are increasingly relying on their banks for help and support. But, while banks can’t control inflation, energy or food prices, they can play a more supportive role by adapting their services to offer stronger customer service, better tools for financial management and be more flexible with loan repayments.

 

Strengthen customer service with intuitive AI solutions

Since the pandemic, consumers have changed the way they bank, using more mobile apps for primary banking rather than going into physical branches. This provided an opportunity for banks to accelerate their investment in digital services including automation and offer customers more support during the cost of living crisis.

Lavanya Kaul

Effective tools include AI-powered chatbots which respond intelligently to customer enquiries to quickly help troubleshoot problems and provide useful advice. But to be successful, you need to ensure you strike the right balance between an efficient and convenient process and creating a personalised experience. Customers need to feel like you understand and care about their problems and are here to help, rather than just fobbing them off with a monosyllabic bot. To avoid this, banks need to embrace intuitive AI solutions to ensure that empathy comes across in all automated interactions with customers. While doing that, messaging is key. In times of stress, we don’t function as well and financial struggles are a huge stressor. The clearer the message and the simpler the instructions, the better.

Financial education, when combined with technology solutions such as open banking, can offer more long-term solutions for people to navigate their finances. This can help put more information into the hands of the consumer to help them grasp their financial situation better. Some banks have cracked this with innovative solutions like HSBC’s Financial fitness score tool that can analyse your money habits and signpost you towards ways to improve your financial health. This may include joining one of the financial education webinars run by the bank or having a ‘financial health check’ with a member of staff.

 

Launch money management features & apps

Introducing money management features and apps to increase the visibility of a customer’s financial situation, empowers them with the information they need to make smarter choices.

TSB offers Spend & Save and Spend & Save Plus current accounts which include a savings pot that enables customers to put extra money aside when they can and an auto-balancer feature that automatically transfers money from the savings pot into their current account if their balance falls below a certain level. This allows them to start building up savings and protects them from unnecessary overdraft charges.

Personal financial management (PFM) apps also help customers get a better understanding of their finances. These connect with a customer’s bank account and enable them to keep a close eye on their spending habits and track upcoming bill payments. An example is Prism, a PFM app which allows customers to manage bill payments by sending them reminders about due dates. It also provides a summary of their income, account balance and monthly expenses at a glance, therefore consolidating all their financial information in one place and saving time on bill payments.

Lloyd’s Banking Group and HSBC launched a subscription management tool for all customers on mobile, allowing them to see and cancel recurring card payments for things like TV subscription services. HSBC says that during the first quarter of the year, it led to customers dumping around 200,000 subscriptions.

 

Introduce payment holidays

While improved customer service and financial management tools are important support tactics, they might not be enough for more vulnerable customers. For example, those who are about to default on mortgage payments or loans due to redundancy or periods of ill health need banks to do more, like offering payment holidays. Banks relaxed the rules for payment holidays during the pandemic, so they should consider doing it again to help more vulnerable customers through the crisis. Customers need to understand that they are not alone when experiencing financial difficulties and that help is available

 

Ride out the crisis together

As inflation reaches a 30-year high, customers are now more reliant than ever on banks for guidance and support. But to provide the right level of service, they need to move away from their traditional ways and behave more like technology companies by embracing automated solutions to create the right products and services for customers. Then layer on top of that the need for more personalised and empathetic customer interactions, as well as consider additional support for more vulnerable customers.

While we don’t know how long the cost of living crisis will last, what we do know is that the pressure on household finances is likely to get worse before it gets better. Therefore, banks need to step up, be the supportive partner and do whatever they can to help customers. After all, the only way we can ride out the crisis is by supporting each other and working together.

 

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