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MOBILITY AND THE FINANCIAL SERVICES WORKFORCE

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By Achi Lewis, EMEA Director, NetMotion

 

Financial services are not so different from other industries in that an increasing number of employees require around-the-clock access to corporate IT services via mobile devices. As the always-connected, always-on smartphone generation continues to enter the workforce, financial services organisations find themselves needing to offer more flexible work environments to stay competitive. Many millennials in the industry have reported frustration and a general dissatisfaction with the devices and applications available to them, remarking that they want more freedom to use mobile devices. But this industry leads lags behind others in the adoption of mobile technologies for its workforce. The regulatory environment doesn’t help with IT leaders facing risk management, compliance pressures amongst others. And it’s not just compliance – financial services face numerous security and data protection concerns; data breaches are very costly in this industry, not only directly but also due to the loss of goodwill and new customers. Also, legacy platforms and applications mean that fewer companies here have integrated mobile applications with legacy back-office systems.

 

Whilst that level of convenience may be appealing to employees, the introduction of mobile devices as tools in the workplace can put financial information at greater risk of theft by cyber criminals. Despite the risks, the benefits of mobility are too great to ignore. Beyond the human-resources implications, IT leaders in the financial services sector recognise that mobility creates a more flexible work environment, boosts operational efficiency and user productivity, and improves user experience whilst contributing to satisfaction among clients and customers alike.

 

Financial services organisations need to support multiple branch locations, ATMs and advisors working to visit homes and businesses in the community. A successful mobile initiative caters to the changing needs of its customer base by incorporating a network solution that optimises, secures and delivers visibility across all enterprise and cloud applications and services. The solution has to work seamlessly in tandem with native OS security features, containerisation solutions and the locked-down security enabled through established tools such as the Apple Device Enrollment program to deliver a secure, end-to-end mobile experience. It reaches wherever they need to serve customers, and offers the flexibility to use smartphones, tablets and laptops running Windows, Android, MacOS or iOS.

 

Insurance companies

In the insurance space, agents and claims adjusters have long used mobile devices in the field to process claims. These allow representatives to capture statements about the accident, document geo-location information, take pictures of the scene, license plates, insurance ID cards and driver’s licenses, and contact towing services. In the case of insurance sales, tablets can be used to automate every step of the process, from client discovery to policy submissions. By eliminating the typical back-and-forth between agent and underwriter, companies can reduce the number of meetings and significantly shorten the sales cycle. On the back end of the sales process, agents are able to easily generate quotes, ask underwriting questions, submit applications, and execute e-signatures and payments electronically, enabling them to issue new policies within minutes rather than days.

 

Retail banks 

With mobile banking becoming so popular, the traditional brick-and-mortar bank branch may seem obsolete. Indeed, between 2007-2017 the U.S. lost 10 percent of its physical bank branches. The rate of closures is even higher – approaching 50 percent – in countries such as Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands. However, even though branch visits have fallen overall, bank branches still play a vital role — even among millennials. Bank customers still prefer to visit a branch when opening new accounts, dealing with problems and making large transactions. Branches remain crucial for acquiring new customers and upselling and cross-selling to existing ones. Bank executives generally see the role of the branch changing, with employees using their face-to-face contact with customers to educate them on the use of their mobile devices and assist with financial decisions. Some of the leading banks are even stationing digital ambassadors at branches, equipped with smartphones and tablets, to demonstrate services such as remote check deposit. Others are experimenting with replacing tellers in favour of roving employees who use tablets to help customers apply for loans or open accounts. Outside the branch, this mobile capability is seen as key to reaching unbanked or underbanked customers, especially in emerging markets.

 

Investment management organisations

Millennials are poised to inherit trillions of dollars over the coming years. For financial organisations this poses unique challenges. This generation tends to be averse to sit-down meetings in an office with an investment advisor, partly because they have grown up with easy access to financial information and comparisons just a click or tap away. As a result, financial advisors are adapting by using videoconferencing and other tools that offer convenience whilst maintaining the value of a face-to-face interaction. It’s no surprise, then, that more than half of investment management account holders say that they value the option of having immediate access to a video call with an advisor. Also worth considering is that the average age of a financial advisor is now 50, with 42 percent being over the age of 55. Therefore, in order to attract a new generation of advisors, investment management firms need tools that enable secure mobile working environments, including mobile apps that connect seamlessly to review portfolios, confirm balance transfers, monitor alerts, place trades and follow market movements.

 

Financial organisations find themselves facing big challenges in the years ahead, given the rapid acceptance of mobile devices in our daily lives. They will need to overcome a number of security risks while embracing mobile technologies. If not, there is a real risk of losing employees and customers to more-nimble, mobile-native FinTech startups. Tackling this problem requires a comprehensive mobile-network solution that enables a single, seamless and secure network.

 

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Finance

Why Financial Services must ‘Change its Change’ to deliver results

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By Hervé Mazenod, Managing Director, Financial Services Sector at Webhelp 

You can almost hear the collective sigh of relief from financial service providers following their business operations being pushed to the limits during the pandemic. But as the industry creates its new roadmap for the future, we must take care not to lose sight of the massive gains we realised, albeit inadvertently, as a result of COVID. While pain and challenge grabbed the headlines, this was also a time of unparalleled development – where financial service brands rapidly adopted a renewed sense of purpose and delivered urgent, game-changing business transformations.  

Since then, we’ve seen a slowdown in momentum – despite there being more pressure to optimise operational resilience, cost and service. In parallel, members of the public still rank financial services 15th out of 16 industries in terms of public trust, according to the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer. That’s despite a slight increase of 3% from last year. 

It’s no secret that the financial services industry is grappling with a ‘perfect storm’ of political, environmental, social, technological, legal, and economic (PESTLE) challenges. All that, alongside managing pressure from shareholders to reduce the costs of service, improve revenue and delivery, and protect people and organizations from risks. 

But there is another, harder reality – it’s time for some brands to face a few home truths regarding their response. The global financial services sector makes up around 20-25% of the global economy – we have the people, brains, passion, and power to proactively steer and redesign the global industry around challenges. So, by definition, we must accept some level of responsibility for the business pains we are now facing.  

Creating great customer experiences, digitisation, responding to stricter regulation – these themes are nothing new. Over decades, scores of banks and insurers have responded to PESTLE challenges by implementing ambitious change programmes. And while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with aiming high, the problem comes when brands are unwilling to consider better ways of working than delivering big batch, inflexible, four-year plans. It can take months just to scope out the work, design a change, or run some trials. By the time brands implement these plans, everything has changed – they’ve got a new political situation, interest rates have gone up and they’re already behind the curve.  

That way of working isn’t right for customers either. A key way for financial service firms to build trust with customers is to solve their problems when things go wrong. But research shows that 25% of customers couldn’t get their problem solved completely on the first contact – be it poor customer journeys, poorly-designed apps/tech, or failing automation.  

These glitches could be viewed as being at odds with requirements of the FCA’s new Consumer Duty. It requires financial service companies to “deliver good outcomes for retail customers” and to compete “vigorously in the interests of customers, in line with its mission to better protect customers.

The financial services industry is working hard to deliver customer experiences – bringing in new products and services, available easily through apps, and supported with ever-increasing due diligence requirements. And so change itself is not a problem – it’s the methodology that is. We cannot solve this by either tinkering around the edges or preparing wholly unwieldy plans. We must ‘change the change’, stop ‘analysis paralysis’, and take a more agile view in order to be more responsive – especially amid the looming recession – when financial services are grappling for talent in an employees’ market. 

Retail and fintech: beacons for future innovation?  

It’s widely acknowledged that fintech is leading the way in enabling rapid change and delivering milestones at pace. In parallel, we take lessons learned from the ‘best in class’ innovation emerging from retail, which has optimised customer journeys to a different level. 

Take The Very Group for example – the company created a Customer Closeness Center (CCC) – an environment they can use to identify and test improvements to CX, customer journeys, and user experiences in a real customer environment, in real time. This involved gathering insights which inform key business changes and rolling out digital technologies such as chatbots. The Very Group also improved voice and email services on the front line, upgraded complaints management, and are delivering significant transformation of back office. 

This transformation led to a 33% year-on-year reduction in average contacts, reduced cost by over £5 million in contact reductions alone, and achieved a 73% First Contact Resolution rate. It also achieved a 35% score on Net Promoter, based on customers who made contact using the telephone, which is more than 20% better than the industry average. It was effort, not luck, that saw them win several CX and innovation awards – particularly the way in which the group implemented change; linked up technology, data, process, and people; and tested and continuously improved the solution daily and weekly.  

Changing the change brings happier customers, better employee engagement, and improved resilience and overall profitability. And there’s nothing stopping the rest of the financial services industry from becoming the next globally-leading industry for transforming operations and delivering integrated customer experience.  

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Finance

Mini-Budget 2022:

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Tax giveaway is a boost for business, but will it drive growth or fuel inflation?

 

Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng has announced a comprehensive wave of tax cuts and other incentives for individuals and businesses, as well as confirming some of the announcements made earlier this week.  The measures are part of a new Growth Plan, which is aiming to boost economic growth. However, only time will tell if they will curb inflation and temper recession concerns.

Richard Godmon, tax partner at accountancy firm, Menzies LLP, said:

“With another fiscal statement to follow, this mini-Budget is a defining moment for the new Government and tax cuts are firmly back on the agenda.

“The biggest surprise was the decision to simplify Income Tax by moving to a single higher rate of tax for high earners of 40%, with effect from April next year. This will encourage a spirit of entrepreneurialism by incentivising work and putting money back into the economy. The flip side is that the Government might also be hoping that the move increases the tax take, as it could help to draw people back to the UK who may have previously chosen to live and work elsewhere, while encouraging others to stay put.

“The reduction in dividend tax rates and the abolition of the additional rate of tax from April 2023 means that business owners will need to consider carefully the timing of dividend payments over the next few months.”

Up to 40 new Investment Zones

The Chancellor also outlined plans to create up to 40 new ‘investment zones’ in England, with the potential for more in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Businesses in these zones will benefit from wide-ranging tax breaks including 100% tax relief on investments in plant and machinery, and no National Insurance Contributions will be payable on the first £50,000 earned by new employees.

Richard Godmon, tax partner at Menzies LLP, said: “The new Investment Zones are reminiscent of the former Enterprise Zones, but they will provide a much more favourable tax environment for businesses and they promise to become a magnet for inward investment. There are currently 38 areas in England on the list for consideration and we look forward to finding out which ones will be selected.”

Incentivising business investment and Corporation Tax rise ‘cancelled’

The limit of the Annual Investment Allowance (AIA) will not revert to £200,000 as planned in April next year, it will now permanently stay at £1 million.

Richard Godmon, tax partner at Menzies LLP, said:

“Capital allowances are highly valued by businesses and they will be pleased that this one in particularly is going to stick at £1 million and that this is no longer being described as a temporary measure, but is to be made permanent.

“The decision to cancel the planned increase in Corporation Tax (due to tax effect next April) will be a relief to many small and medium-sized businesses who have been concerned that this increase would erode profits further and make it even more challenging to remain viable.”

Incentivising entrepreneurial investment

The Chancellor highlighted plans to increase the cap on investments that can be made under the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) from £150,000 to £250,000. Individuals making investments in start-ups up have had the limit doubled to £200,000, with the 50% income tax relief remining the same. The Government also gave its commitment to continuing to back the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS).

“These announcements send a signal to entrepreneurial investors that tax should not be a barrier and the Chancellor wants to expand incentives in this area,” added Richard Godmon, tax partner at Menzies LLP.

Stamp Duty Land Tax

The threshold at which Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) becomes payable on residential property purchases in the UK has been raised to £250,000, double its previous level in a bid to boost the property market. In addition, first-time buyers will not have to pay SDLT on property purchases up to a value of £425,000 (up from £300,000). Both measures will take effect from today.

Richard Godmon, tax partner at Menzies LLP, said:

“The decision to raise the SDLT threshold is designed to build consumer confidence and boost the housing market generally. For property developers it will fuel activity by creating demand, particularly from first-time buyers, and help to free up finance to front-end development projects.”

IR35 Changes

Richard Godmon, tax partner at Menzies LLP, said:

“The repealing of the 2017 and 2021 IR35 changes will be hugely welcomed as it will remove an administrative burden, risk and cost, enabling businesses to devote resources to furthering their growth strategies.

“It is important to recognise that IR35 has not been abolished and the result of the changes is that the risk and compliance costs are being returned to the individuals and their personal service companies.  HMRC will no doubt redirect their focus towards the contractors, which will bring challenges and make enforcement more difficult.”

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