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THE ENTREPRENEUR MINDSET + SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY = POSITIVE WELLBEING!

– Sezer Sherif, MCSI, CEO & Founder

 

Business winter blues

As the Christmas period fast approaches, many hardworking entrepreneurs and SMEs are preparing to celebrate the end of a turbulent 2019. For some the festivities will provide some respite from the commercial world, and for others, usually those involved in retail, it will be the most stressful but lucrative time of the year. Despite the rampant commercialisation of Christmas, it is still considered a time of peace and reflection. While this is fine in principle, for many entrepreneurs that cannot switch off from work, inactivity can be stressful.

Financial freedom and to be your own boss are two of the main reasons people start their own business. In the race to realise these goals, there is a danger that too much hard work, with no outlet to let off steam, can be detrimental to your social life and in turn, personal wellbeing. A recent Small Business Barometer undertaken by Enterprise Nation and supported by Experian and ICAEW, found 50% of entrepreneurs admitted to feeling lonely some of the time and another third (29%) said they felt lonely often. Just under half (49%) of those running a business full-time felt stressed often.

 

Good others, good for you.

Fortunately there is a solution that can boost your sense of wellbeing and give  your creative entrepreneurial mind some stimulus. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a voluntary action businesses take to benefit the world around them, whether that be social, economic or environmental. When it first became popular in the 1990s, CSR was typically seen as a tick box exercise for large corporates to justify their bottom lines and be perceived as trendy and “in-touch”. Nowadays CSR is widely accepted, managed and assessed like any other business function, and has been proven to have many bottom-line business benefits such as staff recruitment and retention and driving innovation and productivity.

Sezer Sherif

CSR benefits all businesses, but I would argue that that SME business owners have the most to gain from the practice in terms of their personal wellbeing. I have worked in financial markets from the age of 19 as a young derivatives broker before starting my first business in 2007. I have been exposed to all manner of stresses, disappointments and financial pains. As a driven, slightly egotistical young man I dealt with these situations by burying my head even further into my work, and counting on my resolve to see me through to the other side. Unfortunately, I found that cutting myself off from others to achieve success was detrimental to my long-term business performance and sense of self. Fortunately, a strong family support network helped me understand that the creative energies I used to be a successful entrepreneur could also be channelled to help others, and in the process, myself. My story is anecdotal but the advice I received based in fact. The NHS recommends that helping others through volunteering or mentoring has a positive impact on the giver as well as the receiver, and this has been supported by numerous charities and medical studies.

 

How can I help?

Time is a luxury that many entrepreneurs do not have but there are a number of ways you can harness your entrepreneurial drive and knowledge to help others. Whether mentoring young people into work, supporting a charity, or doing your best to make life better for your employees, a little thought and effort can be good for your mental health, your network and business.

In my case homelessness has been an issue close to my heart, having experienced it twice in my life as a young man growing up on a less than affluent London borough. Consequently, I have worked with charities such as Glass Door and Crisis to raise awareness of the issues around rough sleeping. Whether that be teaching boxing throughout the year to homeless men and women, or using my entrepreneurial skills to run a number of soup kitchens in London every Christmas.

On a personal level my life has been enriched having made a number of new friends from all walks of life. I have also learnt to be more emphatic, understanding of people’s problems and willing to challenge simplified explanations offered by mass media and friends for the causes of homelessness. In a business sense this translates as having expanded my network, gained a better ability to problem solve, developed a greater eye for details and have more confidence and assertiveness.

 

CSR isn’t just for Christmas…

The business world has woken up to the fact that being a good corporate citizen and paying attention to public perceptions and social consequences of their products or services makes sense. In December last year, multinational professional services company Accenture found that more than half of customers in the UK wanted companies to take a stand on issues they care about such as sustainability, transparency and fair employment practices. If they didn’t, 37 percent would walk away from the brand in frustration and a quarter would not return. Therefore, as an entrepreneur looking to grow your business it is important to build it upon strong ethical foundations. In doing so you profit financially but also reap the personal benefits that are necessary for your wellbeing, as do your employees. Christmas and New Year are perfect catalysts for change but in truth you can start being a social responsible entrepreneur immediately. Afterall the world needs a more sustainable form of capitalism if we’re going to build a more inclusive, prosperous society.

 

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Banking

THE FUTURE OF CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE IN DIGITAL BANKING

DIGITAL BANKING

By Richard Billington, Chief Technology Officer, Netcall

Over the past five years, the digital banking revolution has had a seismic impact on the relationship between customers and the institutions that handle their money.  Since digital banking established itself as the new norm for consumers, there is now a growing expectation for enhanced levels of convenience and security. Recent proof of the evolution has come from Lloyds Banking Group, which recently announced the closure of 56 branches, as an increasing number of customers ditched branch-based banking in favour of online platforms.

Banks are trying to adapt to rapidly changing behaviours by integrating their services seamlessly into their customers’ daily lives. However, whilst offering new opportunities for banks to reach and respond to customer needs, the digital realm also presents an increasingly competitive playing field, with challenger banks constantly entering the market. We are continually hearing of new banking brands offering cash incentives to encourage customers to switch banks. This tug of war is putting increased pressure on banks to outdo one another, in order to retain customers and foster long-term loyalty.

Short-term cash incentives, however, will be spent in vain if a company’s long-term digital experience is not up to scratch. Lost customers mean lost revenue, a negative impact on brand reputation, and market share attrition. In order to gain and maintain a competitive edge, banks must understand what consumers expect online, and then meet those expectations.

 

Getting ready to compete with the Amazon Effect

Whilst it is clear that ‘digital’ is the direction in which the industry is heading, traditional bank brands have a long way to go to satisfy consumers who want to manage their money on their phones and tablets. Today, the so-called ‘Amazon Effect’ is impacting more and more areas of our lives, and digital banking is no exception. Modern customers require instant gratification. They want to see where their package is at any stage of their delivery and, in the same vein, become frustrated if they can’t see how things are progressing with their finances in real-time.

Customers want to stay up to date with changes on their bank accounts. They want to apply for an ISA, mortgage or credit card without hassle. They want to be able to understand where they are in the process. And, most importantly, they want an experience that is unique, personalised, and available at a time convenient to them. Today the onus is on banks to deliver these experiences – ensuring interactions and processes are quick, convenient and streamlined. Those who don’t live up to these expectations risk failure in a highly competitive marketplace.

 

Failing to connect the dots                                                                                                               

Despite the changing customer needs and demands when banking online, all too often customers are faced with a series of disjointed communications, leaving them dissatisfied, confused and frustrated. To solve this, many banks invest in customer-facing departments – marketing, sales and service – but the reality is their customer experience doesn’t just depend on the people dealing with customers every day. It is heavily influenced by processes and technology, the people behind the scenes – the IT team.

For many banks, there’s a huge gap between customer facing departments and IT – what we refer to as the ‘customer experience disconnect’. This means that when someone in the contact centre flags a broken process that only technology can fix, their request often gets ignored. That’s not because IT doesn’t care; it’s because they have a thousand and one other things to do. Realistically, they can’t drop everything to solve one small problem.

But when it comes to customer experience, small problems add up. If a customer can’t apply for a mortgage because an app is broken, that’s annoying. When they can’t get through to customer services because the lines are busy, that’s infuriating. And when they don’t receive a response via email, that’s… well, that may very well be the end of the relationship.

 

Enhancing customer engagement online

Digital transformation in financial services goes beyond just providing an online or mobile account-opening solution. Banks should build a process that connects with the customer before an account is even opened and continues throughout the entire online journey. This includes enabling tailored communication at optimal times on preferred device(s). Every customer touch point should collect insights that the bank can leverage for future communications, to foster brand loyalty and make it harder for businesses to be undermined by competitors.

Done well, digital engagement should not just represent a great communications process, but also reflect changes in the back office that simplify all stages of engagement. Most importantly, these stages should connect seamlessly across communication channels, eliminating the need to visit a branch and enabling consumers to switch between channels, such as telephone, email, social media and in-branch banking, when desired.

As the UK continues to move further towards a cashless society, which is now expected by 2030, getting digital banking right is only going to become more important in order for banks to remain competitive. And to ease the transition to digital banking while maintaining customer loyalty in the digital realm, banks must overcome customer experience disconnects and enhance digital engagement.

 

Creating an effective digital banking experience 

At the moment, departments within banks are operating in silos. This needs to stop if businesses want to create a successful digital banking experience. In order to build trust, long-term relationships and help solve any digital experience problems, it’s important that banks start by bringing customer-facing and IT teams together.

Low-code software solutions can prove invaluable in this instance, helping to accelerate digital customer experiences whilst also enhancing efficiencies within the business. Due to their simplistic nature, these offerings can be integrated across departments and be used by non-experts and developers alike. Well-established banks with bigger IT teams can also benefit, as low-code software solutions work alongside existing systems, significantly helping to improve customer experience quickly and without the need to replace existing infrastructure at a high cost.

In our rapidly expanding digital world, businesses face more pressure than ever to pivot in response to market changes and customer expectations. Therefore, having access to tools that are easy to use whilst enabling innovation will be key to building a better digital customer experience. In addition, analytics tools can also help track performance and offer insights for process improvements and adaptations. Implementing these tools will help empower businesses to remain competitive in today’s rapidly changing banking industry.

 

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BRAVE NEW WORLD: A FUTURISTIC VISION OF PAYMENTS

PAYMENTS

James Booth, VP, Head of Partnerships in EMEA for PPRO

 

Over the last ten years, the retail e-commerce ecosystem has undergone a wide-ranging transformation. As recently as 2010, the e-commerce and payments value chain were relatively straightforward: Any eCommerce merchant could integrate a payment processor’s front-end HPP into their checkout or perform a deeper API integration for a customised checkout experience. The customer then enters their card details or other bank details, which were passed on to payment platforms and schemes for processing.

In 2020, we are now well into the era of open banking, and things look very different. The volume of payments has exploded. By 2018, global digital payments were worth US$3,417.39 billion, and are expected to increase to US$7,640 billion by 2024. Using integrated real-time payments systems — which incorporate everything from authentication through settlement to confirmation — consumers send and spend money in the blink of an eye. And the speed and volume of transactions are made possible by the increased use of technology and artificial intelligence to do everything from risk assessment to anti-fraud measures.

But this very visible — and much written about — transformation is not the only way in which the payments and e-commerce landscape has been changing beyond recognition. Because while e-commerce over the last ten years has gone increasingly global, the way people pay online is more than ever local. In some markets, low rates of financial inclusion make cash-voucher schemes the best option. In others, bank-transfer apps are the most popular.

Our research has shown that between 2017 and 2019, the number of UK online transactions paid for using a bank transfer increased by 36%. Driving the use of bank transfer payment methods by UK consumers to now account for  8% of all British online transactions, with cards and e-wallets, including PayPal, leading the race. In fact, card payments account for 56% of transactions, followed by e-wallets (25%), bank transfers (8% ) and lastly cash (7%).

Some markets prefer e-wallets or primarily use locally issued credit cards. In the Nordics, deferred payment methods are becoming the norm. And in countries such as Germany, most online shoppers prefer via direct debit.

The result is a global online and digital payments market that is now incredibly diverse. And even more complicated. Even markets right next door to each other may have very different payment preferences. In Latvia, for instance, 49% of online transactions are paid for using a credit card [2]. In neighbouring Lithuania, it’s just 24%.

Globally, by 2021, only 15% of all transactions will be paid for using the brands of credit cards familiar to most Western merchants. That number is only set to decrease. Today, local payment methods account for 77% of e-commerce spend; by 2024, it is forecast that this share will increase to 82%. There are an estimated 450+ significant local payment methods worldwide, so considering the UK mostly rely on PayPal and card payments, there is a big world of alternative payment methods the British public are yet to realise. To truly go global, merchants don’t just need break down language barriers, but also payment barriers.

Already, Klarna, one of Europe’s most popular bank-transfer and pay later app, processes €53.4 billion in online payments every year. Merchants operating in or entering Europe which doesn’t support Klarna are effectively saying that they’re not interested in any part of that €53.4 billion. And this situation is not unique; it applies to markets throughout the world.

 

Local payment methods, as they drive financial inclusion, will only proliferate.

When we look forward to the state of e-commerce in 2030, a personalised shopping experience is not a nice-to-have. It is an absolute requirement. Consumer preferences must be noted; if they aren’t, retailers will miss out on sales. Almost half (47%) of UK consumers will end a transaction if their preferred payment method is not available, according to PPRO research, so customising payment options for cross-border shoppers is vital. This is highly important to attract international customer bases beyond a retailer’s local remit. It’s no longer adequate to offer customers one single way of paying – in-store or online. Payments aren’t a one size fits all approach.

The best brands do this already. Those who don’t will struggle to make it to 2030.

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