By Guy Tweedale, regional VP at Rocket Software
Companies need to be mindful that mergers and acquisitions (M&A) can evoke a certain feeling of uneasiness amongst customers. There are concerns about job-losses, changes beyond recognition of a beloved company, and of course, the fear that the standard of service or products will decrease.
Over the years, we have gained a lot of experience through the process of acquiring other companies. Rocket’s core values begin and end with putting our customers and partners first, so it was always essential to demonstrate to them their continued trust in us is justified. In our case, developing and delivering even more solutions, was at the forefront of any deal, as was handling the process with care to ensure that the outcomes for customers lived up to the promise. Below are some of the points that we’ve learned along the way, both from our own experience and from those of other organisations.
Companies are their own “worlds” and have their own set of cultural norms, values and traditions. As we all know from visiting other countries, trying to impose our own culture on the locals is rarely well-received. When a company is acquiring or merging with another, it is important to be aware that the microcosmos that is a company cannot and should not be forcefully changed. Company culture has often been honed and tended for many years, and when done well, brings a plethora of positive effects on employees, including a strong sense of belonging which in return increases health and well-being.
Furthermore, discussions around merging two different cultures need to happen. This is not supposed to be an invasion. Instead, throughout negotiations, both parties need to agree on which core elements to keep. Once decided, the culture needs to be committed to and effectively managed. If merger or acquisition is successful, a company will emerge looking strong and unified, which is reassuring to the customers. Any failure to understand the other business can result in a marketing mess, like Quaker Oats’ acquisition of soft drinks firm Snapple, where a failure on Quaker Oats’ part to fully understand the values of the company it was acquiring had disastrous financial consequences.
What the customer wants
Mergers and acquisitions need to make sense to customers. Not understanding customer needs, or the market of the other party, is a sure-fire way of losing business. While there is the potential to transform two businesses for the better, it’s essential to hang on to that one thing customers were drawn to in the first place. If you lose that, you’ll lose the customers too. This was the case when Google acquired popular phone and tablet maker Motorola in 2011 to develop top-tier mobile devices. The merger resulted in Motorola nose-diving and releasing a series of underwhelming phones, as well as a broken promise to upgrade older phones to the latest Android OS, landing this M&A on worst merger lists ever since. Knowing your client base and the problems they need solving is what truly matters.
Merging acquired IT systems
The integration of technology is another factor that needs to be taken into consideration. In most cases, each of the organisations involved will have a whole range of IT systems, many of which may be bespoke solutions developed in-house. Joining the dots not only between the various applications but between a variety of different customer databases can take years. If you’re trying to persuade customers that your merger or acquisition will streamline processes for them, you don’t want them receiving disconnected communications from you simply because you have records for them in three different databases which have no idea that they are the same person. IT integration needs to go very high on the list of priorities – you should be thinking about it already in the due diligence stage of the process before you take the plunge.
A new direction
Deloitte’s 2019 M&A report which surveyed 1,000 executives at corporations and private equity firms about deal activity, indicates that acquiring a larger customer base is increasingly a key motivator for corporations considering mergers or acquisitions, as much as expanding and diversifying products and services. This makes the challenge of integrating new customer databases even more urgent, but it appears that on the whole, we are doing a good job in the tech industry. 70% of customers see tech M&As as a positive development according to a study by PwC. A further 58% agree that capabilities improved after an M&A – industry consolidation (e.g. a single interface) and having to deal with fewer vendors are just two of many factors that speak in favour of companies ‘getting together’.
Meshing for success
Nobody ever said that mergers and acquisitions are a walk in the park. But when companies are performing due diligence to make the IT infrastructure work, and are being mindful of their customers, two can become one, successfully. Of course, the occasional acquisition of an industry rival does happen to eliminate the competition, but the benefits reach a lot further than that. Aiming for growth and pooling capabilities and talent together can ultimately provide customers with a better product and service.
Looking at our own history, Rocket Software has significantly grown through acquisition putting us in a position from which we are able to continuously improve our products and services. As the industry moves forward at speed, so can we, thanks to meshing our competencies with those of other strong players. It’s a very simple equation – (even) better together.
WHAT DOES 2020 LOOK LIKE FOR P2P LENDING?
By Roberts Lasovskis, Investment Platform Lead, TWINO
It’s a new year; time for resolutions and forward planning, positivity and drive. But the peer-to-peer industry would do well to engage in a bit of introspection as well; a look back to the year gone by, which serves as a more than useful reminder of what can happen in less propitious times, even for the well-intentioned.
2019 saw two major failures in the European peer-to-peer market, with both Lendy’s collapse in May and FundingSecure in October putting investor capital at risk. Between the two, a combined £240m of savers’ money was put at risk, leading to the inevitable questions of regulators. On top of the two lenders failing, the well-established Funding Circle came into difficulties with its new withdrawal processes raising investor concern. But in all three stories from last year is a sign of how peer-to-peer can succeed in 2020, providing last year’s lessons are learnt.
There is one aspect of the two peer-to-peer collapses last year that stood out for much of the criticism from both media and investors. Both Lendy and FundingSecure came advertised as ‘approved by the FCA’, yet in collapse, both displayed structural faults and warning signs that should perhaps have been noticed earlier. Managing credit risk is an expensive learning process, but should be taken very seriously, and using as many data sources and as much testing as possible. Inevitably, these high-profile failures will cause a tightening of regulation across the industry, which should be welcomed.
The industry should embrace the ongoing development of its regulation – it is not something to just be tolerated and survived. Higher levels of scrutiny from administrators lead to better industry structures and more robust business models that generate greater trust from consumers. This is an inevitable step for a maturing industry, and now is the time for peer-to-peer to ensure its regulations are fit for purpose, and that investor money is not put at unnecessary risk.
But regulation is about more than just stopping the high-profile failures and helping to build consumer trust in the sector. When implemented properly, regulation encourages the development of better products; companies are forced to innovate and adapt to meet the new challenges, eliminating the number of shortcuts or ‘easy options’ that are taken when developing a product for consumers. Ultimately, this creates safer and more sustainable returns for investors.
Transparency is key
One of the major lessons the past year has taught us is the importance of transparency, particularly when communicating with investors. But whether it’s investors, borrowers or other industry partners, transparency and clear communication are key to rebuilding trust in the P2P sector, and even as specifically as in individual products or companies. Take Funding Circle as an example. It is undoubtedly one of the most successful businesses in the sector, and yet has been suffering a recent crisis in trust, which has been largely caused by customers not fully understanding what procedural changes are going to mean for their money.
The changes in question are not necessarily the full problem. The model is no less safe, and the business is no less high-profile. Nor do investors automatically object to the idea of a delay before they can access their money (look at fixed-term savings accounts for example). As with all peer to peer lending platforms, it is simply a question of understanding risk – customers misinterpreted the changes as a sign that their money was under threat and understandably rushed to protect it.
The customer is king
Fintech exploded as a sector in the wake of the 2008 financial crash, as a reaction to bad practices in the financial services industry. The industry was created with a promise of ‘customer-first’ products; solutions to fix the shortcomings in finance and financial services, and to pivot them back to a consumer-focus. From product development to marketing and communications, peer-to-peer must remember where it came from and ensure that the customer always comes first.
This is particularly important should another economic downturn materialise, as many are predicting within the next couple of years. Fintech businesses emerged as the success stories from the last downturn by creating solutions that focused on their customers. They should do so again.
For all the perceived problems in the P2P sector, the fundamental market for the products have not changed; investors who want to generate good returns still need to be connected with those seeking convenient loans. By remembering where it came from, and the problems it set out to solve, the sector can still thrive in 2020, even if the predicted economic downturn does transpire. To avoid the pitfalls other providers have fallen into, peer-to-peer must embrace regulation, communicate with transparency and focus on leveraging their expertise to provide trustworthy customer-centric solutions.
WHAT ARE THE PAYMENTS TRENDS FOR 2020?
By Sunil Dixit, VP of Product, Adyen
There are some big changes in store in 2020, some obvious, some less so. In the payments landscape, it’s all about user convenience and customer experience, whether that’s through increased security for card users, or new ways to pay. Fragmented payments systems and services, from online to in-store, will move towards a unified centralised payment stack. We think there are a few trends to watch in 2020.
Ecommerce is continuing to expand and it’s supporting the rise of the subscription economy and innovative platform business models. With more sensitive card data than ever being shared to complete payment at the checkout, protective steps must be taken to secure this information by all parties. To combat the rise in fraud, tokenisation will become an increasingly common way to protect payment details. In the first half of the year 140,344 fraud attacks were recorded by RSA’s Fraud and Risk Intelligence (FRI) team. That represents 32 attacks every hour and is an increase from 86,344 in the last six months of 2018. So, what is tokenisation, and how can it help?
Tokenisation is used to safeguard a card’s payment card number (PAN) by replacing it with a worthless, unique string of numbers – a token. Payment tokens are generated per card, per merchant. This means that the customer’s sensitive PAN is substituted by a token and not transmitted during the transaction, making the payment more secure. The beauty of network tokenisation is that it helps protect businesses and customers from the financial hits of data theft. Even if hackers manage to steal tokenised data, they cannot use the stolen tokens to pay online since they are unable to link the token to payment information stored securely by the payment partner. Furthermore, network tokens are always up-to-date. If your payment card changes after a loss or theft, the token can still be used to pay, ensuring you can continue to enjoy streaming services without disruption.
Strong Customer Authentication (SCA)
The implementation of the second Payment Services Directive (PSD2) will continue to roll out across Europe in the new year, with certain transactions requiring authentication for purchase. 3DS 2.0 uses the full capabilities of mobile devices to create a more secure way to identify the customer, without adding friction to their checkout experience.
Some banks are expected to launch SCA in a gradual fashion over the course of 2020, with others not going live until the end of this year. This is due to the European Banking Authority announcing a delay in the deadline of PSD2 enforcement to 31st Dec 2020. There is still a lot of ambiguity for merchants looking to ensure they are able to support the new directive. With the possibility of EU regulators enforcing PSD2 at different times, businesses will need technology that can dynamically apply SCA to ensure payments aren’t declined due to SCA not being active.
Biometrics take centre stage
2019 saw the first biometric fingerprint credit card issued by a UK bank – expect 2020 to see more of this kind of payment innovation. With smartphones unlocking themselves through facial recognition and fingerprint scanning, biometric security is already ingrained into most of our lives. As payment providers look to increase security, both in response to PSD2 regulations and the increasing sophistication of fraud tactics, biometrics data is going to become an incredibly important tool for purchases. Beyond the UK and Europe, Australian and Brazilian banks are getting on board with 3DS 2.0, ahead of the decommissioning of 3DS 1.0 over the coming years.
Transactions through 3D Secure 2 already incorporate biometric authentication such as fingerprint and voice recognition or facial scans into the process. Even better, 3DS 2.0 can use data collected in checkout to authenticate a transaction without intervention from the customer. This creates an improved customer experience for mobile transactions that require strong authentication.
Expect to see your personal features becoming a more secure way to pay as banks and merchants look to step up their fight against fraudsters.
The payments landscape moves fast to support on-the-go customers carrying smart mobile devices. Self-service kiosks in quick service restaurants, endless aisle inventory in retail, apps that can be a hotel key card as well as a mode of booking and paying for an overnight stay. All these experiences offer exciting possibilities for improving customers’ lives and provide unprecedented levels of data and insights for businesses. Make sure your payments stack is ready for 2020 to deliver the experiences your customers deserve.
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