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SAFEGUARDING CUSTOMER FINANCIAL DATA IN CONTACT CENTRE

No business is immune from the risk of data theft – whether external or internal, threats are ever-present. But somewhat worrying is the amount of fraud committed by companies’ own staff. The latest CIFAS Employee FraudScape report shows that 381 cases of fraud were committed internally in the UK in the last year – an alarming number. There isn’t a lack of examples, either. In 2018, healthcare leader Bupa was the victim of an employee breach after a member of staff attempted to sell 500 million client records on the dark web. It has since been issued with significant fines by UK regulators for ‘systematic data protection failures’. Another example is a major broadband company which had to suspend a member of its customer service team following allegations of fraudulent activities on customer cards. The case is currently undergoing police investigation.

Incidents such as these serve to remind companies that just reacting to a data breach is not enough. The priority must be on anticipating them by putting in place security plans that protect the personal and financial information of their customers. And while security is the priority, businesses must remember that it shouldn’t come at the expense of providing customers with a seamless and hassle-free experience.

Many online platforms have mastered the art of connecting security and customer experience, and other communication channels must follow suit. The phone remains a preferred method of communication for many people – so ensuring a robust payment security strategy, while maintaining a high-quality customer experience should be a key consideration for organisations.

Neil Hammerton

The majority of phone calls to and from companies are facilitated by contact centres. They are one of the first ports of call for customers when they have an issue, and they play a crucial role in shaping customers’ perception of a brand. Contact centres, therefore, must be at the forefront of personal and financial security strategies and implement vital measures that will safeguard customers’ financial data.

 

Do not underestimate the risk posed by your own employees

In the aforementioned examples of internal fraud, employees had access to customers financial data, and they attempted to use it to commit fraudulent activity. Although this type of data breach is quite worrying in itself, it often leads to scarier possibilities, such as “what if these actions weren’t noticed as quickly?”, “what if the transactions were for larger sums of money?” or potentially “what if that employee sells on the customer data that they stole?”

Insider theft threats can seriously endanger a business’ reputation and credibility – especially with mandatory GDPR compliance and the threat of significant fines should a company not comply and fail to handle customer data securely.

 

Implementing strong financial security strategies

Businesses must ensure that their customers’ personal data is protected from both internal and external sources. A critical first step is to remove agent access to payment card information. In today’s digital age, technologies have been created to ensure the contact centre agent is removed from the process of a phone payment. This is especially important when considering the robust PCI DSS and GDPR frameworks that are now in place in Europe to protect financial and personal data, and the penalties organisations face when breaches occur.

To offer the greatest possible level of compliance and to protect both their customers and themselves, businesses are now legally required to equip their contact centres with payment systems that are GDPR-friendly and allow customers to connect directly and seamlessly to the card payment network to make secure payments while on calls. Payment systems can enable the customer to type in their credit card details directly through the phone keypad and share that information with the financial service provider straightaway, removing the contact agent from the equation altogether. At the same time, it is crucial that while a customer makes a payment, they remain connected to the agent should any issues arise.

Customer trust is becoming the most important asset for brands to gain and retain. As a result, companies can no longer afford to take risks with customer data, especially at a time when the threat of data breaches is omnipresent. When companies implement secure phone payment strategies, they enable a positive customer experience that rests on trust and transparency, not to mention ensuring PCI DSS compliance. This is the kind of security strategy that ensures a customer relationship that rests on trust, and keeps customers coming back.

 

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Finance

HOW TO MANAGE YOUR CASH FLOW IN UNCERTAIN TIMES

CASH FLOW

While the world is constantly changing, probably at a faster pace now than ever before, businesses need to manage cash flow and costs to drive success in uncertain times, says Matthew Thorpe, partner at Haines Watts Essex.

 

Managing people and expenses

There are certain costs that you just can’t avoid as a business – to keep your operation running seamlessly, but scrutinise the detail and cut down on any non-essential expenses. Check things like your SaaS subscriptions and look out for costs that auto-renew and if you do cancel, remember to also cancel your direct debits too.

You might want to put a freeze on hiring new people, but ensure that other roles and responsibilities are clearly and efficiently assigned across your team. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) has been introduced by the Government to help UK employers access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary to avoid redundancies. Affected employees are classed as “furloughed workers”.

Once furloughed, the employee cannot work or they will not qualify for the scheme. For businesses that perhaps need to go further, there may be some roles they don’t need any more, but businesses should work sensitively with people to manage this.

 

Cash is king

In uncertain times, owner managers will need to keep operations going to ensure financial stability. You should look to manage debt more efficiently by negotiating extended payment terms with creditors. You could also renegotiate loans for longer repayment terms to give yourself a lower monthly payment, helping the business to set some cash aside each month.

 

Daily forecasting

As a business owner, you need to create a cash flow projection and update this regularly if you are to improve things. You can do this using financial information to create a picture of how the business will look in the next 12 months. The forecast needs to show revenue sources and expenses, which will show the ups and downs of business income and can be used to make sure that enough finance is in place.

 

Good house-keeping

While banks and other finance providers recognise that the cashflow of a business may be disrupted by the impact of Covid-19, they are still going to want to see that you are viable and continue to trade in these uncertain times. Make sure your business is organised and don’t let disorganisation cause unnecessary issues. You can evidence this by having detailed forecasts; current order books and projections (as best as possible).

Having instantly accessible, accurate financial information allows you to plan effectively, spot issues before they become problems and manage your money in the most efficient and rewarding way.

 

Embrace technology

Software is now incredibly user-friendly and accessible from anywhere. For a business owner embracing the technology, this means:

  • Invoicing can be done instantly when a job is complete, emailed to the customer with an easy to use link to a payment platform.
  • Comparison websites can automatically monitor and help maintain lowest cost for things such as light & heat, insurance etc.
  • Technology can be used in place of face-to-face meetings. It can also enable them to adapt production lines to different demands.

All of these things and more, used properly, can make managing your business finances quicker, easier and often cheaper.  You will also be able to bring clarity to where your business stands and prepare for the next steps.

 

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Finance

HOW FINANCIAL SERVICES CAN GET TO GRIPS WITH RISING SUPPLY CHAIN RISK

FINANCIAL SERVICES

By Alex Saric, smart procurement expert, Ivalua

 

UK businesses have never been more dependent on their suppliers to help them deliver goods and services to their customers. Be it retail, manufacturing or financial services, suppliers have a vital role to play when it comes to innovation and meeting customer expectations. However, as supply chains become increasingly global, businesses are potentially exposing themselves to more risk than ever before.

This is especially true in financial services. Whether it’s the impact of geopolitical events like Brexit or global tariff wars, supply shortages, security or the businesses impact on the environment, an organisation’s failure to identify and mitigate risk could see millions wiped off its share price, and its corporate reputation left in tatters. Risk can present itself anywhere and at any time, so financial services firms must be ready to address it. However, many simply don’t have the ability to evaluate suppliers for risk factors, leaving them wide open to business operations being hindered, or being slapped with financial penalties.

 

More suppliers, increasing risk

One reason why financial services firms aren’t able to evaluate suppliers is the breadth and scale of today’s supply chains. For example, French oil company Total said in in a recent human rights briefing paper that they work with over 150,000 direct suppliers worldwide. This is just one example of how large and varied the roster of partners has become. Research from Ivalua has found that financial services businesses on average are working with around 3,600 suppliers annually, which is evenly split between UK-based and international partners. That number is expected to rise, with 60% expecting the number of suppliers they work with to rise.

The expanding nature of suppliers is only going to expose financial services firms to more potential risk than ever before, yet 78% say they face challenges gaining complete visibility into suppliers and their activities.

A lack of supplier visibility leaves businesses unable to identify and mitigate against supply chain risk. In fact, almost three-quarters (73%) of financial services firms have experienced some type of risk during the last 12 months. These include; supplier failure (43%), environmental impact, such as pollution or waste (35%) and supply shortages (45%). Supply shortages can be among the most damaging to a business, as seen by both the KFC chicken shortage which closed stores, and the summer 2018 CO2 shortage which caused companies such as Heineken and Coca-Cola to pause production, impacting supply across Europe during the World Cup.

 

Businesses unprepared for the worst

One way financial services firms can better prepare for risk is to ensure they know what to plan for to reduce the impact. However, whilst some say they have a contingency plan in place to deal with risk, many of them are unprepared. Financial services firms admitted to not having comprehensive and deployed contingency plans in place to prepare the supply chain for risk such as; natural disasters (68%), supply shortages (67%), geopolitical changes (65%), environmental impact (63%), supplier failure (62%) and modern slavery (50%).

In order to effectively prepare for these types of risks, it’s vital that financial services businesses fully understand their suppliers, their business environment, global variations in regulations, geopolitics, and a host of other factors. But for many, there are multiple challenges when it comes to gaining this understanding. A prevailing factor is an inability to gain visibility into all suppliers and activity because supplier management data is stored in multiple locations and formats, making insights difficult to access. This leaves teams unable to review supplier activity and assess compliance.

 

Making supplier management smarter

It’s imperative that financial services businesses are able to respond or prepare for supply chain risk. Clearly, much more needs to be done to ensure they have complete visibility of suppliers, especially in an era where regulators can levy heavy fines for GDPR breaches and scandals spread in minutes over social media. These types of risks can be reduced in the future if procurement teams have a 360-degree view of suppliers which will help with contingency planning and risk management.

For example, in the instance of supply shortages, plans could be put in place that identify alternative suppliers to ensure any shortages do not impact end users. This type of supplier collaboration is paramount when it comes to managing and mitigating against supplier shortages. When it comes to regulations, financial services firms can’t allow a lack of visibility to limit their ability to ensure all suppliers are compliant.

To do this, teams must take a smarter approach to procurement that gives complete visibility into suppliers throughout the supply chain. This will allow financial services firms to identify and plan for risk, reducing the potential damage, and ensuring they are working with and awarding business to low-risk suppliers. Supply chain risk is rapidly becoming an overarching concern for financial services firms, but by providing the ability to assess suppliers, they will have all the insights they need to mitigate the impact on business operations.

 

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