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WHAT CAN FINANCE TEAMS EXPECT IN 2022?

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Annabel Sim, Director at Compleat Software, the P2P Software Creator

 

As we’ve noticed over the past couple of years, change doesn’t always mean for the better. But it is inevitable, and those that stand still risk being left behind.

The global pandemic has pushed the UK economy to the edge, reiterating the importance of many of the practices that underpin the finance function. And while agile, innovative businesses have adapted to this change and adopted new technologies, traditional companies are yet to set the wheels in motion.

It’s almost 2022 and many companies are still using spreadsheets, while others are putting unnecessary pressure on accounts payable staff by not providing the right tools to get the job done.

Indeed, many of the spend and procurement practices we’ve taken for granted for so long are now completely unsustainable. The acceleration of digital automation has taken their place, bringing with it a whole host of changes to the way finance teams operate.

As we enter 2022, there are four key areas businesses can expect to have a significant impact on the way they operate:

 

  1. Remote working and spend management

This initial shift towards remote work left businesses doing away with on-premise technology such as desktop PCs and servers, and scrambling for cloud and SaaS technology that could allow teams to efficiently operate.

And while apps such as Zoom and Slack have made collaboration that little bit easier for remote teams, it certainly hasn’t helped in areas such as spend management and invoice processing.

Financial processes are typically some of the last to be updated – which is fine when it’s working, but what happens when staff need to book a flight or pay for their software subscription? With employees no longer always around in the flesh, do businesses still have insight into what, where, and when employees are making purchases?

Employees need the freedom to spend where and when they like, which is why automation in the purchase-to-pay cycle will continue to be a popular trend in the new year.

Able to provide better visibility and control over company spending and expenses, automated systems take the hassle out of managing decentralised teams. Just because purchases are made out of sight, doesn’t mean they should be out of mind.

 

  1. B2C purchasing is coming to B2B

As we’ve just mentioned, employees want to spend like they do in their personal lives. E-commerce has quickly become the go-to channel for consumers, and this is also becoming true for B2B spend.

Staff want to be able to spend at the stores they know and trust, because why pay for a laptop from a historic provider when another offers a better price or faster delivery?

Businesses also can’t afford situations where their employees are waiting for approval on a new laptop they’ve ordered, especially if working remotely. This also means ditching the company credit cards and providing staff with payment systems that work around them, not the other way around.

Deploying a purchase to pay portal means staff can shop at the stores they want, when they need to. It also does away with the dreaded end-of-month receipt gathering, replacing it with an instant payment system that updates in real-time – important for financial reporting and cash flow management.

 

  1. Fraud will continue to evolve

Something as simple as an email has seen businesses losing hundreds of thousands of pounds – a trend that has only worsened while staff continue to work from home. But as employees are reluctant to return to the office any time soon, businesses need to find another solution.

Automation in the purchase to pay process is helping not just streamline time spent managing and approving purchases, it’s also reducing the amount of fraudulent activity in the finance function.

Instead of manually having to sift through filing cabinets for paper documents or the 50,000th line on a spreadsheet, the digitising of invoices mixed with automation provides visibility on if invoices have come from the correct supplier as well as making sure all of the important information is correct.

So not only are companies better protected against fraud internally and externally, staff can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that they can rely on a system that matches all of the right information almost instantly.

 

  1. Cash flow will remain a top priority

Furloughing schemes have ended in the UK at a time of continued financial insecurity, while 60% of small businesses said cash flow had been a problem for them in 2021. Which raises the question – how much insight do businesses have into their cash flow issues?

To safeguard cash flow in 2022, businesses need to focus on advancing operational efficiencies in the finance function. Businesses can’t afford to have surprises sprung on them, and prioritising factors such as live reporting, digital invoicing, and automation can help bring finance up to speed with real-time spend.

Being able to gain visibility into company spend at the time of purchasing is a vital part of efficiently managing finances – almost impossible to do when staff are working remotely and if businesses rely on end-of-month expense reports.

Plus, by gaining real-time insight into day-to-day spend, businesses no longer have to have large amounts of cash reserves. Analysis into historical spending in areas such as technology, software, or office supplies can also provide a cyclical view of purchases, with the potential for money to be saved through subscription services rather than upfront costs.

 

What to expect in 2022

For businesses looking to stay on top of whatever change comes their way, upgrading the finance department’s current tech stack has to be a priority near the top of the wish list.

Automation is at the top of most finance leader’s wish lists for good reason. Rather than see robots replace staff, the technology is replacing the old school, tedious processes that need to be made a thing of the past for staff.

And while we all feel like we’ve lost visibility of our remote staff, it doesn’t mean we should lose grip over our finances. Cash flow and spend management will continue to be vital areas of focus, and teams need to be armed with the right tools to provide real-time visibility and control.

2022 is set to be a big year, but businesses still need to make sure they’re one step ahead of the game.

 

Finance

Crypto’s tipping point

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Chris George, Senior VP of Product at Somo argues that Crypto needs to improve its scalability to be taken seriously

Cryptocurrencies are no longer the exclusive domain of high risk financiers or tech Bitcoin jockeys, willing to ride a niche and volatile asset for good or ill. Today, neobank and mainstream banking apps alike offer crypto banking, helping them trade in Bitcoin or Ethereum from as little as one dollar(https://www.revolut.com/crypto/).

Indeed, in September 2022, Finbold reported that British citizens had invested nearly £32bn in cryptocurrencies, and additional research from HMRC would have it that one in 10 UK adults has bought crypto, double the number from the previous year. 

But even given the legitimacy lent to crypto by the fact that now 50% of UK banks allow customers to interact with these currencies as well as other digital assets, how can the asset management industry turn it into a significant – and mainstream – asset, particularly in today’s turbulent economic climate? With the collapse of FTX, this must be taken into serious consideration. FTX was sold as being a safe and stable way to trade digital currency, alas this has not been the case. It turns out Sam Bankman-Fried seriously over-promised and dramatically under-delivered, gambling away customer assets and ultimately prioritising fraud and malpractice.

First, we need to acknowledge that not all crypto is created equal. Some, such as Bitcoin or Ethereum, do function as a currency, are limited in volume and therefore can increase and (as 2022 amply showed) decrease in value. But other blockchain-based crypto doesn’t behave like what most people commonly accept as currency at all. 

For there to be significant uptake in crypto as an asset, there is going to have to be a far broader and deeper understanding of what it is and what it can do. As Christophe Diserens, chief compliance officer at SwissBorg has suggested: “Value and useability are going to be key. Metcalfe’s Law has been used to value tech and internet stocks so why not crypto?”. That value took a bit of a beating during the recent sell-off and crypto’s perceived volatility will need to be addressed if it is to achieve scale. Because that’s what it’s going to need if it’s ever going to be considered as a legitimate global payment alternative in the future.

 

The role of The Merge

Not the latest B-movie, sci-fi flick, The Merge in September 2022 saw the world’s second-biggest cryptocurrency, Ethereum, move from a ‘proof of work’ to a ‘proof of stake’ protocol. This was nothing short of seismic. 

Proof of work is how the vast majority of crypto has been mined to date. People solving complex equations to validate transactions (the ‘work’) uses masses of computer processing energy, accounting for a significant slice of the world’s electricity consumption. In today’s climate (in both senses of the word), that’s just not on. 

Proof of stake, on the other hand, relies on far fewer ‘miners’, fewer computers and less energy as a result. This so-called ‘Merge’ is not only expected to reduce worldwide energy consumption by 0.2%, but also boost the crypto economy as a whole, creating more opportunities for investors and allow developers to build more products and applications on Ethereum. Ultimately, it could be what drives the decentralised internet of blockchain, crypto and NFT – Web3 – mainstream. 

What does this mean in the ‘real’ world? This could present a real opportunity for the financial services sector as a whole. It will change the way it operates, speeding up transactions, creating new business models and generally just making the whole thing a more efficient way of working. Fully cashless payments for business would be a real boon, given the costs and potential losses involved in transacting in cash. Digitisation also makes transacting an altogether more intuitive experience. 

One thing crypto and its associated technologies and solutions needs to be wary of is becoming a solution in search of a problem. For a truly mainstream breakthrough, the industry needs to make sure it’s bringing the consumer along on the journey. For end users to be truly confident in crypto, it has to benefit from the same levels of governance and regulation that cover the rest of the financial services industry, building and maintaining consumer confidence will be extremely important as trust levels have been shaken by the recent lack of solid administration and “irresponsible lending practices” leading to the FTX implosion . It has to be simple to transact, but with all the protections that investors have come to expect. It can’t afford to take them on another rollercoaster ride like 2022’s. 

While 50% of the UK’s banks may be getting on board with crypto to some degree, there is still a wide open ocean of opportunity for asset management players to realise value for themselves and their clients. It will involve some reshaping and more investment in digitisation to manage the assets of the future, whatever they may be. 

Somo, part of the CI&T family, will be publishing a report titled ‘Assessing the Crypto Conundrum: Will cryptocurrency ever be a significant trading asset and how can digitalisation shape its future?’ in 2023. 

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Skedadle to change the game for advertising with Currencycloud partnership

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Currencycloud, the experts simplifying business in a multi-currency world, has partnered with Scottish start-up app Skedadle to provide its users an easy, secure and seamless way to transfer money earned in-app while playing games on public transport.

Skedadle rewards travellers for the time they spend playing on-the-go. They can earn £2 per day simply for playing games on the move. That’s an extra £60 in their pocket each month. This can be done thanks to a disruption in the advertising market, by using algorithms to verify and track the users’ engagement with ads, proven to be higher while playing than in traditional online advertising, which increases product and brand recall for advertisers. Thanks to the partnership with Currencycloud, Skedadle users can use the app on public transport and be reassured that all financial transactions and financial data comply with the highest standards of security and validations.

By connecting to Currencycloud’s API technology, Skedadle has been able to integrate in their app a state-of-the-art payments ecosystem that seamlessly bulk settles the money earned from advertisers into a secure account and then processes withdrawals from users fast. At the same time, Currencycloud also sets the infrastructure that will enable them to grow both geographically in the UK and globally, by providing access to 38 currencies and low cost, fast FX rates.

Says Nick Macandrew, CEO and Founder at Skedadle: “Trust and security are crucial, especially when it comes to people’s money. As we rapidly grow our platform, we need a solution that can keep up with our pace and Currencycloud do just that. Our cutting-edge technology requires a secure, stable, and simple way of managing payments, whilst guaranteeing the best user experience possible.”

Nick Cheetham, Chief Revenue Officer at Currencycloud commented: “Backing bold start-ups from day one has always been part of our DNA. Skedadle’s creation of new revenue streams for travellers and advertisers alike is an exciting business endeavour. We are eager to see how the  platform can grow and disrupt the market by integrating our seamless payment capabilities.”

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