By Nicky Tozer, VP EMEA, Oracle NetSuite
Once an organisation has experienced success at home, international expansion is often seen as the logical next step. It might be to simply expand the potential addressable market, gain market share quickly with a unique offering, or to support your customers’ operations in other countries.
But whatever it is, there is no denying that entering foreign markets can be an opportunity to diversify operations and tap into new talent, revenue and raw materials.
But international expansion comes with some very specific challenges, not least cultural differences, language barriers and competition from home-grown players. This can be particularly challenging for high-growth organisations that often find themselves expanding rapidly without established structures and processes, lack of experienced staff, stretched resources and a strategy that is also evolving as they grow.
For finance teams in particular, there will be unfamiliar legal and regulatory regimes to navigate, local tax obligations to observe and the effects of currency fluctuations to manage. A slip-up in any of these areas can have serious consequences.
There’s no two ways about it: going global can be a risky business, but the potential rewards are high.
Getting up and running in new markets
For many organisations that have successfully conquered new markets overseas, cloud technologies have provided a way to get up to speed rapidly, enabling them to focus their efforts on taking advantage of the fresh opportunities that fast-growing international economies offer.
From a financial point of view, running a business on a global, cloud-based platform is a good way to avoid the upfront costs and delays associated with implementing new software and servers in local data centres, since applications are accessed via a web browser on a pay-as-you-go basis. In other words, much of the IT investment needed to start a foreign subsidiary can be made in the form of operational expenditure and switched on, ramped up or scaled down as needed.
It also means that finance and operational teams in newly-established overseas outposts can quickly get access over the internet, to the same shared platform as their colleagues in the company’s home country. Information is handled in the same consistent shared format and finance leaders at company headquarters get the benefit of real-time insight across international operations.
Deploying a multinational business management system should also help eliminate ‘audit angst’. Around the world, tax requirements – particularly indirect tax requirements – are always changing. Keeping up with VAT changes, for example, can place a considerable burden on finance teams. A business management system will help when setting up in new markets by providing an audit trail of tax compliance, automated configuration of tax codes and enforcing standardised workflows to ensure requirements are met.
Simpler consolidation, global oversight
As a company expands internationally, there will always be a need for finance staff at HQ to consolidate and reconcile data from overseas operations in order to provide a complete and accurate picture of the state of the business across all markets.
Where companies have allowed local teams to implement their own local finance systems, this can be a real headache. By contrast, where they have extended use of the company’s global, cloud-based business management system to new outposts, it’s vastly simplified.
With simpler consolidation comes more oversight, in the form of global reporting and analysis. Finance leaders have better insight into the performance of individual regional subsidiaries and the ability to see how they are performing against other regions, based on enterprise-wide KPIs displayed in real-time on dashboards, for example.
Management teams and investors get better, more reliable and more timely information. In this way, it’s possible to judge how a global expansion strategy is working out, providing vital opportunities to reassess or rethink that strategy, if needed.
Plus, automation can take much of the strain when it comes to consolidation, intercompany accounting, auditing and bank reconciliations across multiple countries, when operations in those countries use the same system.
Standardisation, but with local customisation
While standardisation is the goal, that’s not to say that an expanding business should enforce a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach across international operations. Accommodating different business cultures is important across markets.
In fact, when it comes to choosing a business management solution, any business with global expansion ambitions should ensure that the system is able to handle multiple currencies, tax regimes and legal frameworks.
Local employees may expect to use applications in their own language and local workflows may be required to fit with ‘the way business is done’ in a particular jurisdiction.
In other words, a global system must be able to support local configurations within the shared system so that subsidiaries can comply with their own market needs and regulations, but also continue to meet the consolidation and roll-up requirements of the wider business to which they belong.
Going beyond domestic borders can be challenging and daunting. But these fears can be reduced by deploying a ‘support system’ capable of underpinning international growth. Smaller business finance applications generally struggle to scale at the speed demanded by a growing organisation – it hinders growth, information and doesn’t create actionable insights. The successful scale-ups I have worked with have shared an appreciation for how technology can help them thrive. Whether embedding it into products or using it to crack new markets, forward-thinking organisations see that business management software provides solid foundations for growth.
WHY 2020 IS THE RIGHT TIME FOR FS MODERNISATION
Chris McLaughlin is chief product and marketing officer at Nuxeo
Few would argue against the notion that the UK financial services (FS) industry is facing many challenges as both a new year and new decade begin. Uncertainty over Brexit, the potential threat from new competitors and Big Tech brands, and rising customer expectations are just some of the challenges facing the sector.
But for every challenge, there is also opportunity. Digital banking paves the way for greater service continuity, making it easier for banks to capture and analyse data (with consumers’ permission), reduced repetition of information collection, and delivering more of what customers want in terms of products and services.
By innovating with richer and more convenient online and mobile banking experiences, and by using technology to deliver smarter and more streamlined backend operations, traditional FS providers can roll out and execute services more cost-efficiently too.
But many FS firms have been restricted in their ability to innovate and realise such opportunities, due to the outdated and inefficient systems and applications to be found in many organisations. However, with many FS workers believing that the challenges the industry face could see their company lose customers in 2020, the time is ripe for FS firms to embrace modernisation.
The 2020 agenda according to UK FS workers
Nuxeo recently surveyed 501 UK FS workers that focused on the challenges, concerns, and opportunities facing the industry. The main 2020 FS industry challenges were Brexit uncertainty; cybersecurity threats and information or data breaches; physical branches closing down; the burden of increasing regulation; competition from Big Tech firms potentially moving into FS; and competition from new challenger banks.
Perhaps of most concern to the industry is the fact that 59% of FS workers in the study felt that these challenges left their organisation vulnerable to losing customers over the next 12 months. But there are signs that FS firms are adapting to the new market reality and embracing technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) that can help them modernise and address such challenges.
Almost two-thirds of respondents claimed their organisations are committed to innovation, and more than half (58 per cent) believe that firms which use AI in creative ways make for more attractive employers. 68% of respondents say their organisation is already using AI for content search or is in discussion to do so, and 67% say the same for automating backend processes, suggesting that FS firms are alive to the value that can be achieved.
Transforming customer service delivery is also a key focus for AI ambitions, with more than one-third (34 per cent) of respondents saying their organisation is already trying out AI in this context. Chatbots, often used to improve the customer experience, are being used by one-quarter. Meanwhile, 41 per cent are already using AI-based capabilities for some form of data analysis, suggesting that FS providers are attuned to the need to target their activities more strategically.
Smarter management of data, content and information
One of the major threats to productivity is the inability for FS firms to connect and organise all the data they have at their disposal and there is a real need for smarter management of data, content and information. Compared to newer industry market entrants, established banks and FS providers have far richer data going back decades or longer. If institutions could tap into this considerable resource, it could be used to distil invaluable intelligence and insights into consumer trends, product performance, and relative account profitability.
Although organisations have all the underlying information stored within their legacy systems, it is typically very difficult for teams to access, combine and cross-analyse this data. This is because, too often, systems are unconnected, use incompatible data formats and feature considerable data duplication between applications.
In the Nuxeo research, FS providers confirm that, on average, they store information and content across nine different systems. And these systems tend to operate in silos: almost three-quarters of respondents say their organisation’s systems are not fully connected with each other.
System users who need to access information as a regular part of their jobs can be spending up to an hour a day (52 minutes) searching for what they need because it is not readily discoverable. Given that this equates to four hours 20 minutes each week per employee spent looking for information, the total time wasted across an organisation over a year is quite significant.
Embarking on a managed journey of modernisation
13 per cent of respondents in Nuxeo’s study believe their organisation’s inability to adopt AI quickly enough is one of the main challenges facing UK FS in 2020, so it’s something that will need to be addressed sooner rather than later.
But a managed modernisation journey, incorporating wider use of AI, which can help address many of the issues that are so concerning to those that work in FS, is already underway for many. Such modernisation can deliver quick wins, without incurring new risk or detracting from other critical work that needs to be done in 2020 and should be embraced wholeheartedly as the FS industry embarks on the new decade.
WHY MAKING MONEY ON YOUR MOBILE IS EASIER THAN YOU MIGHT THINK
Aaron Brooks, Co-Founder of Vamp
For Millennials and Generation Z, becoming a social media influencer is an increasingly desired career. According to a recent study, 86% of millennials want to use their social platforms to post sponsored content. It comes as no surprise. Getting paid to produce content about the products you love, why wouldn’t you?
It’s more than just a pipe dream too. While marketing used to revolve around big brands, employing big agencies to create ads, technological advancements have created a user generated content boom. Thanks to smartphones, most of us now have a 12 megapixel camera in our pockets. Brands have capitalised on this, launching campaigns that harvest user generated content, asking their customers to share their brand experiences through pictures, videos and reviews.
Social networks have normalised the sharing of content, which has helped propel this movement further. ASOS’ UGC hashtag #AsSeenOnMe has over a million entries on Instagram. Then of course there’s Apple’s incredible ‘Shot on an iPhone’ billboards, which use their user’s images to promote their phones.
Influencer marketing takes this a step further. These social creators produce high-end content and have engaged followings – both a valuable commodities for brands. 93% of marketers now using influencer marketing. So if you’re looking to make your mark as a content creator, there are plenty of opportunities. Don’t be put off if your Instagram following isn’t in the high thousands either. Micro influencers, with their small but highly engaged audiences, have become popular among marketers and this trend will continue to grow in 2020.
Of course, brands want high-quality content to represent their brand, but if you’re keen to kick start your creator career and start making money, a smart phone and a creative eye is a good place to start. If you want to take it further, then follow these three tips for success.
Hone your personal brand
Rather than trying to be fashion, art, foodie and travel all in one neat package, find a niche and create a consistent message. The same goes for photography styles. If you want to be the flatlay expert, I’d recommend sticking to that at least 80% of the time.
Finding your niche and making it your hallmark will let people know what they can expect from you. It’ll make you more likely to maintain follower loyalty and help you to stand out from the crowd. Make sure it’s of genuine interest to you. You’ll need enough enthusiasm to post consistently in order to build your authority in that area.
Cultivate an engaged following
While a high follower count was once the most prized possession of the influencer community, times have changed. These days if you want the attention of big name brands, not only do you need a beautiful feed, but a highly engaged following. That means people who follow you, spend time with your content and engage with it.
Actively engaging with your existing audience and contributing to the larger Instagram community will help you build relationships on Instagram. This means replying with genuine
comments and pro-actively engaging by offering your own comments on other accounts.
While it might be tempting to take shortcuts by buying fake engagement or followers, it will only sabotage your efforts. Software has become increasingly effective at spotting fakes so chances are, you’ll be found out and blacklisted.
Maximise influencer marketing platforms
Once you’ve honed your personal brand and cultivated an engaged following, you can begin making money on your mobile. Rather than waiting for these opportunities to find you, you can take a proactive approach and join an influencer marketing platform.
These technology services connect brands with content creators. Depending on the platform, it may have a database of thousands of pre-vetted influencers who have opted-in to receive content collaboration briefs from brands. You’ll get opportunities delivered direct to your mobile and will be able to choose whether you opt in or not. This gives you the freedom and flexibility to work with brands that truly resonate with you and balance the work around other commitments.
With brands constantly searching for people who boast content creation skills, there are plenty of career opportunities in the influencer space. For those looking to make money in this space, all you will need is a smart phone, passion and creativity to begin carving a career as an influencer.
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