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The treasure chest of data at the end of the real time payments rainbow

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Steve Wilcockson, Data Science expert at KX

 

The digital payments landscape is in constant flux, as it’s shaped by a multitude of payment companies racing to meet growing payment demands. The growth is such that analysts struggle to pin down the total size of the global digital payments landscape. All anyone can agree on is that the number is massive. A Deloitte & Capital IQ survey suggests the value of transactions should reach 11.3Trillion by 2026 while, according to PwC, the number of cashless payments will double by 2030.

The introduction of new FinTechs, regulations and technologies have caused the payments landscape to evolve, leaving some of its incumbent payment players behind. Suddenly, keeping customers is the name of the game and it’s a difficult game to play. Payments companies are being kept on their toes to have a competitive edge in a market that expects fast, safe, simple, and affordable services. Whilst, regulators expect fair payment transactions to ensure ethical market practices and shareholders push for growth.

How can payment firms try to balance these sometimes-opposing priorities? The straightforward answer is data. Every transaction provides a significant amount of in-flight data on when, where, how often and how much, which – if analyzed in real-time and coupled with historical data – opens a treasure chest of data for payment companies to use. The data is there, but the challenge for payment firms today is in accessing, analyzing and making decisions on it fast enough for it to be useful.

Steve Wilcockson

Becoming real-time ready

Payments organizations are able to detect fraud by processing and analyzing the movement of transactions using decision management platforms. If potential fraud is detected, instant actions can be taken to cancel the transaction or alert the customer to the possibility of fraud and advise on appropriate decisions. This sounds simple in principle, but certain challenges need to be overcome before payment firms can truly extract value from real-time data analytics.

For example, speed is crucial when every microsecond counts, transaction analysis needs to happen as close to real-time as possible. This can be difficult if firms are stuck with clunky data architecture and slow databases and pipelines. Payment organizations need to make sure they also have scalable infrastructure that can handle processing the sheer volume of transactions, tens of thousands every single second, every day, 365 days a year. If they don’t, they risk missing out on insights that are most valuable at the moment they are analyzed. Finally, the expense of analyzing and processing terabytes of data, by monitoring transactions and complex machine learning – real-time or historical – has to be taken into account in the company’s bottom line.

Once these challenges are thought through, payment firms will be able to more effectively tackle fraud.  As the needed insights are being analyzed and fed into the right decision-making platforms at the right time to flag any potentially fraudulent activity.

The opportunities

Most payment companies can ’see’ the astronomical amount of data that flows through their platforms on a daily basis. But, analyzing and transforming this data into value is not so easily accomplished.

As companies grow, both organically and through M&As, a certain level of technical debt inevitably comes with it. Legacy systems can outgrow their usefulness and are no longer fit for purpose and others become siloed over time. The lack of interconnectedness and interoperability mean systems are unable to handle efficient processing in real time. It is essential for payment organizations to re-evaluate their operations and identify these issues and potential risks. The more a company is set up to utilize the insights extracted from data in real-time the more value-add services it can provide to its customers and remain competitive.

To leverage the most out of the data available, payment companies need the right technologies and protocols to make their analytics applications more scalable, connected and easy to deploy. A new approach to databases is needed, with advanced data analytics that boasts efficient Python integration and SQL querying of data. Allowing firms to deploy effective decision making in real time by detecting anomalies and processing the insights gathered to reach the coveted treasure trove of data.

Payments organizations have been using databases and data warehouses for years. However, outdated legacy systems and slow data infrastructures are holding some payment firms back whilst they try to stay ahead in an increasingly competitive market. Now is the time for these companies to relook at their systems and turn challenges, such as cost, scalability and speed, into opportunities. To deliver continuous streams of insights, both in real-time and combined with historical data, to reach the treasure chest of data at the end of the real time payments rainbow.

Finance

The Importance of Experienced Customer Service Advisors in Finance

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If there is one thing which can be said about the finance sector, it would be that as a customer-facing industry, the most important skills within any job position would be customer service skills. However, what would those job skills in customer service be? And what is the experience required for customer services positions? Let’s look at that in terms of the finance sector so that you can see just how important it is that customer services responsibilities are monitored closely.

What Does a Customer Service Advisor Do?

There are actually two kinds of broad categories of customer service jobs. The first, and probably most well-known, is a customer service representative who takes incoming calls or chats from a chat box. In other words, a customer service rep takes queries and handles incoming communications. A customer service advisor is more likely to initiate communications to:

  • Advise on any changes to financial terms, such as due dates and amounts
  • Follow up on late or missed payments
  • Keep the lines of communications open to maintain a positive CX, Customer Experience

While not exactly sales reps, customer service advisors can often upsell on these courtesy calls. It is one thing that basic, entry level customer services reps aren’t really trained to handle. Sometimes, they can pass calls up the hierarchical customer service ladder to be handled within the tasks of a customer services advisor who can add services or upsell financial products. However, basic level customer service reps cannot handle those kinds of services.

General Customer Services Job Description

So, what then are some job description examples for customer services? As noted above, customer service duties are mostly limited to incoming queries and contact points. Customer services skills include, but are not limited to:

  • Exceptional communication skills
  • Ability to be an active listener
  • Knowledgeable about financial products and services
  • Ability to read into a customer’s intentions
  • A calm and quiet presence
  • Ability to think on their feet for unforeseen situations

And those are just some of the skills and responsibilities in customer services. It should be said that although a job applicant has had experience in customer services, most jobs will provide training based on their company’s best practices and policies. Therefore, customer services qualifications may require entry level experience for customer service jobs, but the onboarding process will prepare them for work at that company and within the job for which they are being hired to do. During that onboarding process, they will also be made aware of very specific responsibilities of a customer service rep.

Which Side of Customer Services Would You Like to Work Within?

It often takes a certain kind of personality able to initiate calls and contacts with customers. With so many unsolicited sales calls being received daily, many consumers are put off before the conversation can even begin. It can be frustrating, to say the least. Since they are already customers/clients of your financial products, they don’t realise that customer service advisors are simply making courtesy, follow-up calls. Are you patient in nature? If so, this might be the exact job for you!

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Business

Financial Services Makes Gains In Employee Engagement

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By Phil Chambers, GM Workday Peakon Employee Voice 

 

A new report shows that the financial services industry improved in almost all elements of employee engagement last year. Can such momentum be sustained?

After more than two years of change, one thing is certain: keeping workers engaged has become more challenging – and more urgent. Record numbers of workers have left their jobs in the UK. And, as turnover has increased, employee engagement – people’s mental and emotional investment in their work and workplace – has been tested. In today’s climate, engagement isn’t a nice-to-have; it’s a business imperative – especially as companies with engaged employees are known to reap benefits including higher productivity, customer satisfaction, and profitability.

The financial services industry hasn’t been immune from the so-called Great Reshuffle. But, according to Workday’s latest State of Engagement Report, it did make measurable gains in employee engagement during 2021. Of the 17 industries analysed, financial services’ engagement ranking jumped from ninth to fifth place.

The report analysed nearly 9 million employee responses from almost 2.5 million employees throughout 2021. It compared the engagement scores given by employees working in different industries over the 12-month period, as well as scores for the 14 drivers of engagement – including autonomy, goal setting, meaningful work, reward, and recognition.

Organisations in the financial services industry have been considered less   quick to evolve than others. PwC recently characterised insurance companies, for instance, as “traditionally risk-averse and slow to change”. But, as the report shows, financial services clearly made some improvements. It is noteworthy given the enduring pandemic-related economic turbulence of 2021 – and the fact that during that time global engagement scores overall slightly declined.

 

Where The Financial Services Industry Improved in Employee Engagement

Remarkably, the financial services industry saw increased rankings and scores in all but one of the 14 engagement drivers that the State of Engagement report measures.

Of all 17 industries analysed, financial services took top place for goal setting by the end of 2021 (up from sixth at the start of the year) and landed among the top three sectors for strategy and recognition too. These strong results indicate the industry provided clear direction to its people at both individual and organisational levels, and appropriately recognised employees when they met their goals.

The improvement in the industry’s overall engagement, however, was driven largely by a sizable increase in its environment driver score in 2021, suggesting that a significant number of employees responded positively to having more freedom around where they worked during the pandemic. Before the pandemic, it was unusual for financial services firms to offer flexible options at all. But, in 2021, more than ever before, many firms’ employees were working remotely or enjoying a hybrid of both remote and in-office work – as and when offices started to re-open. This unprecedented choice in where, how, and when they worked was appreciated, as the report indicates, by many workers in the sector.

 

Where There’s Room For Improvement

As the report found, many employees feel the amount of work they have is increasingly unmanageable. Workload continues to be a pain point across all industries globally, with workload satisfaction scores dipping slightly in 2021. At the end of the year, financial services received its lowest engagement-driver score for workload and ranked 11th among the 17 industries analysed.

This indicates employees in the financial services industry found their workload less manageable as the year progressed, which is perhaps unsurprising when considering the pandemic’s ongoing toll in many parts of the world, and the fact that remote working can lead to ‘always-on’ work lives.

To help mitigate burnout risk and diminished engagement going forward, financial services leaders and managers will need to stay close to their employees in the months ahead to find out how they can best support them, whether that’s with additional resources, greater work flexibility, or updated benefits. By regularly staying abreast of people’s needs and taking the necessary action, organisations can spot potential problems before they lead to resignations.

 

What The Industry Should Avoid Going Forward

In recent months, we’ve seen some financial institutions try to take a “return to normal” approach, requesting their people go back to working onsite five days a week. But, as the report shows, this approach may not be the best one for everyone, particularly as the past two years have revealed that many employees appreciate and benefit from a greater degree of flexibility.

Of course, not all organisations will be able to provide hybrid or remote arrangements for all their people. But greater flexibility doesn’t necessarily have to mean working remotely. It could mean more flexible scheduling options, or a shift in working hours to enable a greater work-life balance.

Either way, to retain the engagement gains achieved in 2021, the financial services industry should resist the temptation to look back, and must instead take learnings from the past two years. Amid so much economic and societal change, and with employees continuing to shift jobs in record numbers, companies cannot simply go back to before, but need to continue moving forward, listening to the needs of their people, and leading with empathy.

Specifically, leaders and managers in financial services will need to stay closer than ever to employee feedback, going beyond listening and working fast to implement change accordingly.

For the industry to continue making positive gains in employee engagement, it will need to: consider how to retain a degree of flexibility – updating models to reflect evolving employee needs; continue to provide clear individual and organisational direction to those working remotely and on site; create and maintain more manageable workloads through prioritisation and automating repetitive tasks; and continue to reward and recognise employees for their hard work and achievements.

While great strides were made last year, it’s more important now than ever that leaders in the financial services industry determine and understand how employees are feeling so that organisations can explore and shape a future of work that works for everyone.

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