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THE PAPERLESS OFFICE: 9 WAYS TO END PAPER WASTE FOR GOOD!

paperless office

Okay, hands up — how many of you still use fax machines, paper statements and paper documents? If so, why?!

For many businesses, particularly accountants and lawyers, going paperless sounds pretty daunting. Both law and finance are traditionally paper-heavy industries with filing cabinets filled to the brim with signed paperwork and other bits of important information.

But at a time when almost every employee has access to a computer or mobile device, it makes sense to take active steps to help reduce the amount of paper we use in the work environment.

As such, hundreds of businesses are shaking up traditional business processes and shifting to a new, paperless office strategy. Yes, even lawyers and accountants are starting to go paper-free!

Save your money AND the environment

Going paperless can have many advantages for your business. Let’s take a look at two of the key incentives for reducing paper waste: cost savings and saving the environment.

Paper might be cheap and easy to distribute. But once you start paying for printers, toner, cabling, connectivity, maintenance, servicing and user support, it soon starts to add up. And that’s not including what you pay to file and store it all! Eliminating paper waste will save you money on printing, filing, postage and all other associated costs.

Aside from the cost savings, it’s no secret that the paperless approach is better for the environment. Less printing means fewer trees are cut down for pulp, and less energy is used to make and transport paper. And that can only be a good thing given the current focus on reducing emissions to hit the net-zero by 2050 target.

This is a big reason why so many businesses have started to reduce their use of paper. After all, we’ve cut down on our use of plastic bags in shops — why not cut down on our use of paper in the office?

 

Make the switch to paperless

Thanks to technology, it’s now possible to get rid of paper entirely, in almost all areas of business. So, what steps can you take to curb your business’ paper use?

Adopting the right tools and document management systems will go a long way to supporting your paperless office.

 

  1. Electronic sharing of documents

One of the simplest ways to eliminate the excessive use of paper is to use cloud-based applications such as Office 365. These let you share files with clients or internally — without a trip to the printer.

Digital documents are much more versatile than paper. They’re simpler for multiple people to amend, more searchable and easier to store and send. Office 365 is great for collaboration, as it lets you work on a document or spreadsheet simultaneously with colleagues and then continuously saves, so you’ll never lose the file you’re working on. And you can share them very securely! For example you can lock documents to prevent them being printed by just anyone.

 

  1. Online notebooks

Don’t you hate it when you start a new notepad and make a mistake on the first page? Not an issue with electronic notebooks like OneNote and Evernote.

These digital tools allow you to create, organise and share meeting notes, to-do lists and projects with anyone. You can even add annotations to your notes and easily search for them across all your devices.

While on the subject of to-do lists, applications such as Microsoft To-Do do a brilliant job of managing these for you.

 

  1. Smartboards

Be honest – how many times have you scribbled away on a flip chart during a meeting, only to throw it away five minutes after it’s finished? Old-school whiteboards are a great solution to this. Just take a picture on your smartphone if you need to save the notes for later — there are even apps, such as Microsoft’s Office Lens, which have a specialist smartboard scanning mode. Or even better, invest in an interactive smartboard!

 

  1. Dual-monitor setup

If you frequently find yourself printing out documents to cross-reference them with another one, it’s time to consider a dual or multi-monitor setup. Having two (or three) screens will allow you to compare documents side by side — without wasting any paper!

 

  1. Paperless statements

Electronic invoicing and paperless bank statements are the way forward to cut down on unnecessary paper usage. The more online billing and banking you do, the less you’ll spend on envelopes, postage and employee time. So, get in touch with your bank, suppliers and clients to arrange to use online banking and electronic invoicing.

 

  1. Expense apps and company cards

Expenses aren’t quite the mountain of paperwork they used to be — at least not with apps like Receipt Bank or software-integrated credit cards like Pleo. Receipt Bank allows you to capture receipts and receive your client’s paperwork via email or the app, while a range of other functions automates the entire process. Pleo’s company card also helps to simplify bookkeeping through its integrated accounting tools.

 

  1. Virtual business cards 

Have you ever gone to hand over your business card at the end of a meeting, only to realise you left it in the office? With digital business cards, you can consolidate and share all of your contact details and accounts instantly in one single view.

Apps such as Haystack and Inigo allow you to create consistent, digital cards for your whole team and then share them with contacts. Just think how much money you’ll save by not having to print hundreds of business cards for each employee!

 

  1. Electronic forms

To discard fax from your business process, it’s also worth replacing paper forms with fillable PDF ones. If you don’t want to fork out for paid applications like Acrobat, free online tools such as PDFescape also let you create and fill out PDF forms and then submit them via email or a web browser.

 

  1. Electronic signatures

Are you fed up with having to print, sign and scan documents before sending them back? Many people are still reluctant to use electronic documents or signatures, questioning their legal validity. But most countries now have laws that make electronically signed contracts just as valid as those signed with pen on paper! Free online tools such as Eversign allow you to create legally binding electronic signatures — ideal for finance and legal departments.

Soon, unnecessary paper waste and piles of office paperwork will be a thing of the past. The future is digital — but if you absolutely HAVE to print something, at least print it double-sided!

 

Business

STOP THE CONFUSION: HOW TO KNOW IF YOUR BUSINESS MAY BE INSURED AGAINST COVID-19

By Alex Balcombe, Partner at Harris Balcombe

 

The last few weeks has seen businesses in hospitality, tourism, retail, leisure and more forced to close their doors following the Government’s orders that they should close to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

While this is expected to flatten the curve and reduce the number of coronavirus cases, it will of course have an impact on businesses and employees alike.  For small businesses especially, there are many concerns about how they can claim on their insurance to weigh the fall of this impact.

 

Mixed Messaging

In response to calls to help struggling businesses, the Government has informed the public that companies who are facing turmoil will be able to claim on their business interruption insurance during this difficult time. For most, this is wrong.

Alex Balcombe

The insurance industry has also been extremely vocal that there is no cover for any coronavirus-hit businesses during this tough financial period. This isn’t strictly true either.

How can businesses see through the mixed messaging and best secure their future and their livelihoods and reduce money worries? It’s an extremely stressful time for many companies, and confusion over whether or not they can be covered can only cause more unnecessary stress.

Since it’s a new disease, most businesses will not be covered for business interruption due to COVID-19. In fact, the vast majority of policies do not cover anything related to COVID-19.

That said –  don’t rule out the idea that you may be covered. There is a chance that you will be covered against COVID-19, but not know it. This is a very small chance, but your current cover may already protect your business against the consequences of coronavirus, and the nationwide response to it –  though those with this cover are unlikely to realise it.

 

How Could I Be Covered?

Not everyone has business interruption insurance, as it’s not a legal requirement. It is entirely up to the policy holder to weigh up the benefits of having it, and their ability to trade should a disaster happen.

To be considered for cover for COVID-19, there are two types of policy extensions to your business interruption cover that can potentially cover you for this situation:

Infectious Disease Extension 

Many policies expressly state which diseases fall within the realm of being an infectious or notifiable disease. If this is the case, your policy will not provide cover. As it is a new disease, these policies will not have included COVID-19.

Other infectious disease extension policies will define the disease with reference to the actions of the government. Since the UK Government has named COVID-19 as a notifiable disease throughout the UK, it is possible that your business may fall into this definition, thus meaning you may be able to make a claim.

However, again, it’s not always that simple. Many policies require the disease to have been on your premises, while others specify a radius from your premises in order to qualify.

 

Denial of Access Extension (non-damage)

Denial of Access Extension (non-damage) policies may cover you if you’re prevented from accessing your property. This could be due to an event, or by the actions of a competent authority, which could cause your business interruption cover to engage.

If covered by this clause, there are often very subtle differences in wording in your policy. This could depend on the insurer or policy. You may well be covered, but it will depend on your particular circumstances, and the specific policy wording.

 

What now?

It’s clear that the Government needs to do more in ensuring there is clear messaging for businesses, and to help the insurance market look after policy holders. This is an unprecedented situation, and with many people looking to claim on their insurance, we’re already seeing major delays which could have a domino impact.

People throughout the world are understandably facing all kinds of worries because of the current pandemic. Our ways of living have changed, and many business owners will not have experienced a situation like this in their life times. If you own a business and are unsure about whether you can claim for business interruption, or are confused about ambiguous wording, get in touch with a loss assessor.

These claims are not simple, but loss assessors will be experts in business interruption insurance, and will specialise in large and complex claims. They will be able to help and guide you along the way, check your wording and work on your behalf to make sure you get everything you are entitled to.

 

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Business

HARNESSING ANALYTICS IN THE FIGHT AGAINST FRAUD

ANALYTICS

By Anna Lykourina, EMEA Fraud Analytics Expert at SAS

 

In the past, the fight against fraud has been a bit hit-and-miss. It has relied on auditors to identify patterns of behaviour that just didn’t quite fit. They often only detected problems months after the event. And then organisations had to claw back stolen funds through legal processes.

In a world where transactions happen in under a second, however, this is no longer acceptable. We need to be able to detect fraud immediately, if not before it happens. Customers want safe and protected data that is not vulnerable to identity theft through company systems. But they still want to be able to pay online and in seconds. The stakes are high, but fortunately new tools and techniques in fraud analytics are enabling companies to stay ahead of fraud.

 

Trusting machines to do the work

Machines are much better than humans at processing large data sets. They are able to examine large numbers of transactions and recognise thousands of fraud patterns instead of the few captured by creating rules. On the other hand, fraudsters have become adept at finding loopholes. Whatever rules you set, it is likely that they will be able to get ahead of them. But what if your system was able to think for itself, at least to a certain extent?

New approaches to fraud prevention combine rules-based systems with machine learning and artificial intelligence-based fraud detection systems. These hybrid systems are able to detect and recognise thousands of fraud patterns and learn from the data. Automated analytical-based fraud detection systems can reveal novel fraud patterns and identify organised crime more consistently, efficiently and quickly. This makes them a good investment for businesses across a wide range of sectors, including public sector, insurance, banking, and even healthcare or telecommunications.

How, though, can you harness analytics as a tool in your fight against fraud?

 

Identifying needs and solutions

The first step is to identify which options you need. Probably the best way to do this is through a series of company-wide workshops with the fraud analytics experts to determine what analytics you need, which data to include and techniques to use, and what results to report. They can also identify the ideal combination of rules-based and AI/ML approaches to detect fraud as early as possible.

Companies looking towards advanced analytics for fraud detection will need to make a number of decisions. They will need to optimise existing scenario threshold tuning, explore big data, develop and interpret machine learning models for fraud, discover relevant information in text data, and prioritise and auto-route alerts. There may be industry-specific decisions to make, too, such as automating damage analysis through image recognition in the insurance sector. By automating these areas, companies can both significantly reduce human effort – reducing costs – and improve their fraud detection and prevention.

 

Benefits of an analytical approach to fraud detection and prevention

Companies that are already using an analytical approach for fraud prevention have reported several important benefits. First, the quality of referrals for further investigation is better. Investigators also have a much clearer idea of why the referral has been made, which improves the efficiency of investigation. Analytics also improves investigation efficiency by reducing the number of both false positives (that is, alerts that turn out not to be fraud) and false negatives (failure to spot actual frauds). This improves customer experience and reduces risk to the company.

Analytics makes it possible to uncover complex or organised fraud that rules-based systems would miss. Companies can group together customers and accounts with similar behaviors, and then set risk-based thresholds appropriate for each scenario.

There are several sector-specific benefits too. For example, insurance firms can identify fraudulent claims faster to prevent improper payments from going out. Claims investigation is likely to be more consistent because claims are scored through technology, algorithms and analytics, rather than by people. Finally, it becomes possible to shorten the claims process through automated damage analysis. It is no wonder that organizations across a wide range of sectors are placing analytics at the heart of their anti-fraud strategy.

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