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THE IMPORTANCE OF THOUGHT LEADERSHIP CONTENT IN THE FINANCIAL SERVICES SECTOR

The collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008 marked a turning point in the financial services industry. Not only did the collapse have disastrous financial and regulatory consequences, but it also caused reputational damage on a mass scale, leaving the entire industry to rebuild trust. Indeed, as little as two years ago, AXA Group CEO, Thomas Buberl, commented that while trust may have returned to the financial markets, “it has still not found its way to society and citizens yet.”

Perhaps hauntingly, Mr Buberl also warns of the need to “better understand new risks to avert the next crisis”, which he says “could well have a non-financial cause.”

If the issue of trust remained fragile two years ago, then the challenges that COVID-19 has added only compound matters. KPMG recently reported that out of six principal matters financial services organisations face as a consequence of the pandemic, communications and transparency is right up there. For Executive teams and CMOs, in particular, this highlights the need to communicate effectively, not just with customers but with employees, suppliers and third-party dependents too.

But what does effective communication entail? As Yogesh Shah, CEO, iResearch, argues, now more than ever there is a huge opportunity for financial services organisations to leverage the benefits of thought leadership content within their communications strategies to re-build brand authority and trust at a time when it’s needed most.

 

Banking on industry expertise

Within every financial services organisation, a CMO will be able to find spokespeople with a wealth of expertise and experience in a range of industry matters. From data security to financial liquidity, business stability and risk mitigation, it is these experts that must form the backbone of an effective communication strategy. Effective communication, after all, relies on the ability of the reader to relate to their content; this in turn, relies on the ability of the author to convey their thought leadership position.

Thinking back to rebuilding trust post-Lehmans and beyond, there are many related and relevant topics to be addressed. What impact will particular regulations have on not just demonstrating compliance, but on providing customer insight as well as safeguarding customers and investors in the event of economic uncertainty? How will these regulations enable the market to continue to grow, whilst protecting data and removing unethical sales and promotions from the industry? Furthermore, how can customers be reassured about the use of automation, AI and data security in the midst of seemingly consistent reports of cyber security breaches? Every CMO should have a solid content strategy built around addressing these topical issues – and planning for other eventualities.

There are numerous examples of financial services companies that have used thought leadership effectively within their content strategies. In addition to the excellent example from Mr. Buberl, in response to the discussions around topics such as Brexit and the coronavirus, J.P. Morgan regularly produces thought leadership articles, reports and insights on the consequences of new developments and practical advice for not just its customers, but for the industry as a whole.

 

Demonstrating data depth

Using data within thought leadership content is also extremely important. Backing up key arguments with industry research or surveys to show why the issue or challenge is so pertinent, and how the rest of the industry might be responding to these issues, will also see engagement soar, especially if the research is relevant, timely and issues-driven. BlackRock Investment Institute has used data intelligently within its thought leadership strategy by creating focused investment information that aims to improve the way its portfolio managers control their funds and, importantly, helps its clients to maximise their own investment results.

 

Community and continued communication

Thought leadership content should be used to create a community; after all, every CMO will be aware that the financial services sector has been through the same challenges together for years. Capital Dynamics has been a prime example of this, regularly producing a 200-page guide of professional advice, guides, statistics and case studies in order to encourage other institutional investors to invest in its clean energy strategy. It is by creating this community that financial services companies can truly establish trust and authority with their target audience, and in turn, that the industry’s reputation can continue to be rebuilt. HSBC is demonstrating both data depth and continued community communication effectively in this space through their annual sustainable financing and investing survey.

 

Opportunities to engage in uncertain times 

KPMG highlighted how important both communication and transparency are for financial services organisations, and with so much change and turbulence currently across many sectors, customers in both the B2B and B2C worlds need to be assured that they can have confidence in financial services organisations once again; that they are one step ahead of industry issues and that their investment, in any capacity, is safe. And, with no doubt that more disruption and uncertainty is on the horizon, CMOs need to plan how they can use thought leadership content to support future contingency plans and be prepared with comments on possible scenarios.

By discussing issues directly relating to the sector and subtly showing the reader a solution to their challenge, thought leadership content will demonstrate invaluable industry expertise. Every CMO knows that content is king, but data-driven, issues-led thought leadership content is a proven way to appeal to target audiences and show how they can trust financial services industry once more.

 

Finance

OPTIMISING YOUR FINANCE THROUGH TECHNOLOGY

Covid-19 restrictions and ongoing uncertainty have prompted a fundamental switch in mindset across a multitude of different sectors. Many organisations have begun to recognise that outsourcing their finance can make them more agile and give them the competitive edge they need to compete and scale effectively in today’s market.

Mark Pullen, CEO at Xledger  explains to what extent outsourcing can boost resilience for a lockdown recovery.

 

Solving the pain points

Inefficient processes are prone to causing delays and errors which can have a huge impact on the bottom line when viewed at scale. They can also negatively impact the client experience, causing frustration with missed deadlines and mounting uncompleted tasks.

New finance technology is automating many of the daily, monotonous back office functions such as bank reconciliation and invoice entry, meaning that the nature of the work that a finance professional provides will change. This presents a huge opportunity as it gives these employees the opportunity to be involved in higher-level work. Technology can also provide a resource that gives real time insight, allowing for better strategic decision making, which is so key in the current climate.

 

Optimising your finance function

Outsourcing high-value services within the finance function can improve workflow by implementing a defined and transparent process which streamlines operations. For a finance department, this can speed up areas that require internal controls such as expense reporting and cash release, but it can also speed up the full lifecycle of a project; from time tracking and resource to accounting and billing.

There is also a cost efficiency benefit when outsourcing, as management bandwidth is effectively increased by eliminating the need to be involved in many of the day to day processes. Instead this time can be focused on other business priorities and planning for future growth.

Outsourcing accounting functions to bespoke and standardised technologies means using data led processes that can be measured, optimised and benchmarked against in-house requirements. These processes can also be undertaken remotely, boosting the resilience of your business in these uncertain times.

 

Case study box-out: RPC Tyche

RPC Tyche is a global insurance software supplier with offices in London, Paris, and the USA. Initially a division of award-winning law firm RPC, but now a stand-alone entity, RPC Tyche’s main software offerings support capital modelling, and pricing commercial insurance and reinsurance.

 

The challenge

As part of a restructuring process following the de-coupling with the law firm RPC, RPC Tyche had to separate its back-office processes. They remained under the umbrella of the law firm while the changes were taking place, so initially had some flexibility with the shared finance system, but time was running out to separate the two entities cleanly. As a stand-alone company, RPC Tyche now needed its own financial system; one that could align with its new business processes and that could be implemented quickly to deliver the organisation’s business objectives. Furthermore, they needed a new finance solution that could help them grow exponentially, facilitate a globally diverse group structure, and still maintain efficiency when operating as a small team.

Gavin Dilley, Chief Finance Officer for RPC Tyche commented, “Following an initial discussion with a third-party advisor regarding Xero and Quickbooks, we were recommended Xledger because we required a swift and scalable solution. After contacting Xledger, their tried and tested implementation methodology ultimately assured us that we would achieve the fast-paced implementation needed for our go-live objective. We also really liked that Xledger was a multi-tenanted, true cloud solution with its scalability setting it apart from the competitors.”

 

Implementation and training

Following conversations with Xledger, RPC Tyche created a project management team to keep everything on track on their side, an arrangement that Gavin emphasised “worked really well.” He said that “as a small project team, the flexibility to undergo substantial configuration during the training sessions with the Xledger consultants brought focus and enabled us to dedicate sufficient time to the system without distractions.”

Although the implementation was expected to take three months, RPC Tyche experienced hold-ups owing to the separating of back-office processes, so they were pleased when it was mutually agreed to facilitate a one-month delay.

 

Post-implementation results

“The implementation process was highly effective, and we’re very happy with the results,” said Gavin. “Since implementing the Xledger solution, we’ve been so pleased we haven’t had to dip back into the old system as the transfer of historic data has been particularly successful.” RPC Tyche had a large volume of historic data and transactions, including timesheets and work in progress reports that were all successfully migrated to Xledger during implementation. “We’re particularly happy with how easy it has been to onboard our new Finance Controller, due to flexible training and the system being so intuitive.”

Gavin added, “Since implementing Xledger, we have far greater reporting flexibility, better distribution of skills within the finance team and are naturally more self-sufficient because we can make amendments to the system without relying on the software provider.

The system is easy to use, and the purchase order functionalities, integrated workflows and automation of processes have enabled us to be highly efficient, even as a small finance team. Not to mention that the Xledger support team are incredibly responsive, so we can continually maintain productivity.”

 

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Finance

THE FUTURE OF FINANCE LIES IN THE CLOUD

Author: Chris Tredwell, Enterprise Business Development Manager,Aqilla

 

At the beginning of 2020, 87% of public sector organisations surveyed by UKCloud expressed a desire to move traditional IT environments into the cloud. But, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the rate of cloud adoption in the UK has grown significantly, as many companies not already in the cloud were compelled to make the switch due to enforced remote work.

This is certainly indicative of many other industries, finance included. Pre-lockdown, the majority of finance and accounting teams still relied on on-premises software, but the move to remote-working meant many organisations had to quickly reconsider their technology needs and move some or all of their IT requirements to cloud-based platforms.

But, in a recent survey by GrowCFO – an independent portal for finance leaders to network, learn and collaborate – it was found that there is confusion around what actually equates to a true cloud finance platform. This was apparent given some respondents replied with ‘cloud’ to known on-premises solutions, suggesting the difference between cloud-based and ‘on-premises with remote access’ is not fully understood.

This is an important point because it has the potential to influence the technology choices made by organisations across the sector. In short, traditional on-premises financial software resides on IT systems owned by the user organisation, typically on hardware hosted within their building. After purchasing and installing the software, they maintain, secure, and manage it themselves (or with the help of a specialist third party IT support business). Many of these systems also offer the option of connecting remotely, with users accessing software and data via a connection to their office-based network.

Conversely, cloud software is almost entirely outsourced and delivered via a web browser or app as a service to each user, hence the description ‘Software-as-a-Service’ (SaaS). The software resides with the service provider who is also responsible for reliability, performance, the availability of enhancements and updates, as well as the security of their service or application. The location of the user is largely irrelevant – as long as they have a good, secure internet connection, a suitable laptop or tablet and a browser, they can access the service in exactly the same way as if they were in the office.

Chris Tredwell

One of the most immediate changes organisations notice when moving from on-premises technology to the cloud is it removes the need for in-house IT personnel or external specialists to manage and maintain the technology. For many smaller organisations, it liberates the individual who has been given the task of ‘looking after’ the on-premises tech, even though it usually isn’t their specialism or even in their job description.

But that’s just the start. The massive success of the cloud-based, ‘-as-a-Service’ technology industry is predicated on a range of key developments over traditional on-premises, or ‘legacy’ software.

 

A Formula for Finance

Often of particular interest to finance and accounting professionals are pricing and payment terms that accompany today’s cloud SaaS options. Cloud-based software typically offers the convenience of a monthly pay-as-you-go model, instead of investing significant up front sums in one-off software purchases. This also saves money on the server hardware that has previously sat in the office, which may no longer be needed at all. Also included in cloud pricing arrangements should be details which clearly set out the type of service and support included in the cost. Done well, cloud-based customer support and service can deliver an exceptional experience where the provider effectively works as an extension of their in-house team.

The best cloud software providers place huge emphasis on security, focusing on data protection, backup services and their ability to deal with common security issues, such as ransomware. This also extends to compliance, and in the finance context, specialised compliance capabilities offered by many cloud software providers can be of particular benefit. Even for the most niche requirements, there is often a software provider out there whose technology has been written to meet compliance rules, often saving users considerable time and effort.

And then there’s the key issue of functionality and performance. Today’s cloud-based finance software market offers a wide range of options from simple entry-level tools to powerful applications designed to meet the needs of even the biggest and most complex finance departments. For organisations considering cloud, it’s important to assess the options available and choose a provider that most closely matches their individual needs.

For many finance and accounting organisations and their teams, the requirements of lockdown and transition to home working were made possible by cloud-based software solutions. In doing so, they have gained valuable insight into the range of services available, their potential benefits and how technology can become much more than just a labour-saving tool, but also a means to enhance their all round business capabilities.

 

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