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NOW IS THE TIME FOR FINANCE LEADERS TO TAKE ON A MORE STRATEGIC AND VALUABLE ROLE

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By Gavin Fallon, General Manager at Board

 

If finance leaders were focused last year on reducing the cost of operations, to ensure their enterprises survived the biggest business challenge in a generation posed by a global pandemic, what’s changed today, is finance decision-makers are being challenged now more than ever, to prioritise revenue growth through new technology and business models.

This return to an emphasis on transformation, as well as managing and restoring enterprise financial health, creates a whole new set of challenges, and pressures on finance leaders which have wide-ranging implications across the complete office of finance function.

The C-suite demands acceleration of the digital enterprise, growth, and new genuinely transformative business models as a number one strategic priority. They expect their finance leaders to play a crucial role in making this all happen. The Resurgent Finance Leader research amongst 600 finance leaders worldwide, explores the transformation of the office of finance, provides a view from the top and evidence into how well global finance leaders are making progress on these strategic priorities and expectations today.

Gavin Fallon

If the C-suite expect digital technology to transform their industries and are racing to accelerate these plans, then it’s clear the office of finance will have to rise to the challenge too and transform fast, in parallel with the acceleration of the digital enterprise. These research findings show how finance leaders know they have the backing of management to do so, and how business leaders are ready to embrace the finance team, as a key player to support business goals.

The vast majority (94%) of global finance decision-makers surveyed believe their organization’s executive leadership are willing to completely rethink traditional finance roles and responsibilities. Further reassurance is taken from the fact that the same proportion (94%) believe their executive leaders are willing to support the office of finance, to become more strategic and accelerate the digital enterprise by enabling the function to become the hub of the of the most important strategic asset to the business: Data.

The research findings reveal now is the time for finance leaders to back their own transformational capabilities and take on a more strategic and valuable role in the business. These finance decision-makers know the office of finance could be potentially automated out of existence unless it makes the leap from background support function to strategic hub for vital data. Perhaps then, it’s no surprise that most finance leaders agree, it’s time to accelerate the change from being a scorekeeper to performance driver, and finance should be the natural home for all data.

The Resurgent Finance Leader report also shows however, that whilst finance leaders worldwide know now is the time for the office of finance to make the transformational leap to become the strategic hub for driving more value from their data, not all of them are completely convinced their office of finance is entirely ready to drive business decisions, profitability, and performance.

Just under half (47%) of all global Finance Leaders surveyed are totally confident in their office of finance’s capability to capture valuable insights which drive business decisions and profitability. The report identifies 62% of finance leaders who don’t believe current finance reporting enables them to totally accurately project performance and adapt forecasts in real-time to reflect changing market conditions. Perhaps more concerning, is the report’s evidence highlighting most finance Leaders (81%) believe how their office of finance uses technology to influence business decision-making and drive strategy needs a complete overhaul OR a lot of improvement.

Our research evidence shows how progressive finance leaders know a change is needed, with more sophisticated insights and planning capabilities to be able to change and keep on changing, plan for the unexpected, and generate new meaningful insights, beyond traditional budgeting processes, to always plan and be ready for new opportunities when they arrive. The research also shows that despite receiving the validation of their organizations’ leaders, who are ready to embrace the finance team as key player to support business goals, finance decision-makers believe transformation of finance needs to be reflected in wider finance team skills & culture.

Just under half (44%) of all finance leaders surveyed are totally confident their organization has the right technical skills and talent within the business to ensure technology is driving better business decisions, and a huge majority (92%) of senior finance decision-makers worldwide believe that company culture should encourage the finance team to be creative, curious, and rebellious, allowing them to think quickly and constantly challenge the status quo.

The Resurgent Finance Leader shows there’s a huge opportunity for finance decision-makers who can enable the winning combination of transformative skills, culture and technology across the office of finance to unlock the value of vital data insights, and play a strategic role in shaping the digital enterprise. At the same time, it shows there are still gaps to fill when it comes to pulling all these vital elements together.

Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be this way. The opportunity exists right now for finance leaders to fill these gaps, starting with democratising access to intelligence, analytics and planning delivered via the cloud, to provide a genuine empowering and transformative experience across finance teams, utilising a winning combination of technology, skills, and culture, to transform the office of finance today and lead the digital finance function of the future.

 

Business

OUTSOURCING YOUR IT SOLUTIONS CAN SAVE YOU FROM COSTLY DOWNTIME

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Amir Hashmi, CEO and Founder of leading IT and Cloud services provider Zsah, discusses why you need full-time professionals if you want to avoid the money pits of IT downtime

 

A lot of wealthy business owners will uphold the following infamous statement – time is money. Many CEOs believe that it should be at the heart of your business strategy. They aren’t wrong, and it is no different when it comes to IT. Therefore, it is high-time that businesses consider the real risks and costs associated with IT downtime, and do all they can to avoid it

In the midst of a post-pandemic technological revolution, it’s now more important than ever to carefully consider who manages your technology. It is essentially the motor that drives productivity, efficiency and growth, and if therefore, if there isn’t a thorough and dedicated system in place, businesses risk system failure, which can risk everything.

Something so essential to a company deserves to be taken more seriously than just to deploy the services of an IT help desk when there’s a significant issue. The answer isn’t necessarily to consider ways in which you can fix a problem once it arises, but instead to ponder upon ways of preventing an issue from occurring in the first place. This is what leads us to managed IT support services: your personal, dedicated team of IT experts that not only fix issues when they occur, but that also constantly improve the software and hardware so there is less chance they ever take place.

 

The real cost of downtime

Whenever your IT isn’t functioning at its full capability, you are losing money. Even the shortest of gaps in service can severely impact the customers’ experience, your reputation, and the output and efficiency of your entire staff.

In 2017, ITIC sent out an independent survey to measure downtime costs. It found that 98% of organisations say that a single hour of downtime costs over USD $100,000, with 81% putting the figure at over $300,000. For 33% of businesses, 60 minutes of downtime would cost their firms between $1 million and £5 million.

Figures from Statista.com reveal 24% of organisations worldwide reporting average hourly downtime costs amounting to between USD 301,000 and USD 400,000, with 14% reporting greater than USD 5 million in costs.

Elsewhere, IHS Markit surveyed 400 companies and found downtime was costing them a collective USD 700 billion per year – 78% of which was from lost employee productivity during outages.

 

Managed IT solutions are the key

Though we may never know the full cost of downtime, it is evident that it costs individuals and businesses a large amount of money. Don’t wait until your next emergency to remedy a problem; get the professionals in now to prepare for the future, rather than just fix problems in the present.

When you work with a managed technology services provider, your network and infrastructure are supervised 24 hours a day, all year round. As with any IT service, this means that issues will be fixed – however the real advantage is more long-term. As technology service providers perform regular proactive upkeep, there will be a reduced chance of suffering from issues in the first instance, and when (or if) they do occur, it will be far simpler to recover data thanks to full cloud integration.

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Banking

HOW TRADITIONAL INSURERS CAN USE TECHNOLOGY TO IMPROVE THEIR RELATIONSHIP WITH CUSTOMERS

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The customer experience with insurance is anomalous, in that one is only required to engage with their insurer if things are going wrong for them. To add value to the relationship, new technology and methods should be adopted, in turn driving loyalty and business growth, writes Oliver Werneyer, CEO and Co-founder of Imburse

Oliver Werneyer

Insurance is one of the oldest industries in the world and it is still, to this day, considered a grudge purchase. Looking back, insurance has a history of having a challenging relationship with its customers. According to an IBM study, in 2008, only 39% of consumers trusted the insurance industry. This percentage has stayed largely similar over the years, having reached only 42% in 2020. For any business with growth ambitions, good customer relationships are crucial.

I believe that now more than ever, the insurance industry not only needs to continue investing in improving relationships with customers, but to really think about new ways of doing so. At a basic level, the moment of truth for an insurance customer is when either they need to pay or are getting paid. Insurers can have the best policy wording, quick claims processes, apps and advisors, but if the experience to pay premiums or to receive a claim is bad, the customer immediately loses trust.

The pandemic has exposed this tenuous relationship between insurers and its customers. The need to move everything online and provide personalised services has exposed significant shortcomings in the service insurers provide. The industry has been too slow to adopt newer technologies and move engagements closer to the customer (self-service and empowered). This is largely due to the legacy systems and processes that insurers failed to modernise over previous years.

This means that the better-positioned incumbents have stronger customer relationships and benefit disproportionately from the pandemic, as they are able to win more new customers and convert customers from other insurers. They also benefit from significantly lower customer acquisition costs and much better growth, as illustrated in this McKinsey report. Even new entrants or InsurTechs are benefitting massively by focusing on improved customer experience and customer relationships.

However, it is never too late for insurers to build better relationships with customers. The main way to build a good relationship with a client is to make life easier, live up to promises and add value through the relationship with them. By working on these key elements, insurers can start building strong relationships with their customers, and, through the right partners, deliver this in a timely and non-disruptive manner.

 

Embedded Services

Insurance products often get a bad reputation because they cost money, but the benefits might only come much later, or never. Customers don’t get to experience a positive relationship with insurance products, either because they never claim and feel like they lost out, or they claim and they’re in a bad situation. By either embedding other services into the insurance experience to deliver a more transactional engagement, or embedding insurance products into general customer experiences such as online shopping or rewards, insurers can enrich customer relationships to generate value.

This way, insurers become a value-adding part of the customers’ everyday activities and not just a product that they have to pay for and may never get anything back from. One example is to embed micro-savings capabilities, often found in banking, into pension savings and insurance products. This can allow customers to save more for pension, attract younger customers and build a portfolio of fiscally disciplined customers.

 

Tailored journeys and personalisation

Customers have come to expect personalised journeys and engagements from product providers. Streaming services, social media, e-commerce or mobility services have shaped the customer expectations. Now, customers are also expecting personalisation for insurers.

Insurers need to invest very heavily in delivering personalisation and customisation to customers as they engage with their products. Failure to deliver this puts renewed strain on the value perceived by the customer and their relationship with the insurer. This applies not only to customer interfaces, but to aspects such as payments. Insurers should make it easy and pleasant for customers to pay and get paid. As the main moment of truth, payment experiences need to work optimally.

 

Perceived customer value metrics and delivery

The value customers derive from insurance products is, generally, monetary. Therefore, insurers must invest in product enhancement to increase its perceived value. Perceived value is not tied to a monetary value. By being able to choose between multiple payment options, such as a $300 pay-out to a bank account or a $320 Amazon voucher, the customer has a higher perceived value of the payment. This can be achieved by leveraging non-insurance products that can be purchased at a discounted price, exclusive access that the customer would otherwise not have or conversion into a form that is more useful to the customer.

Payments, for collection and pay-out, are at the core of delivering this value. An excellent payment experience immediately influences the customer to be positively inclined toward a product (PwC report). In order to offer this, insurers need to leverage multiple technologies and providers, offer any speed of transaction in any market, and deliver faster automation and better risk control. The key is to transform insurance products into transactional value-adds to customers’ lives and use this opportunity to continuously build on relationships with customers.

The main roadblock for insurers is still the operational implications of these activities and the costs that arise. In looking to build a better customer relationship, insurers need to look at partners that are operational enablers to deliver this. Partners that can solve the integration and speed-to-market problem so that insurers are enabled to deliver new capabilities, not bombard them with new ideas and no path to delivery.

Imburse, for instance, enables insurers to access all the global payment providers and technologies available in any market. Through a single connection, insurers can deploy any payment capability into any channel, for collection and pay-outs, without ever again needing to build a direct operational integration to the providers. This gives them full freedom to leverage payments as a key value driver and customer experience enhancer.

Building a better relationship with insurance customers is key for the insurance industry to close the protection gap. Incumbents are in the prime position to look at Insurtech and Fintech partners to rapidly and significantly modernise, digitalise and transform their own capabilities to deliver major enhanced value to their customers.

Imburse is an advanced universal payment connector that enables businesses to gain cost-effective access to complete global payments technology, regardless of the service provider. To learn more, please visit www.imbursepayments.com.

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