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Why building trust in the workplace should be an employer’s priority

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Emma Price, Head of Customer Success of ActiveOps discusses why managers should focus on workforce trust to negotiate the management of operations successfully

With recent figures from the Office for National Statistics revealing that a record number of people are in full-time employment while unemployment is at its lowest since 1974, organisations find an increasing need to do more with what they have and simultaneously ensure employee retention is high. This means creating environments that support employees, generate trust, and facilitate a productive workplace if they are to survive.

While we see a slow return to ‘normal,’ we say goodbye to the post-pandemic workplace. As a result, managers are seeking new ways of managing operations to maintain productivity levels, enhance growth and monitor employee retention and wellbeing.

Remote, hybrid, and flexible working has opened the door to a workforce seeking a better work-life balance. In 2021, Glassdoor.com named ‘hybrid’ as its word of the year, with UK users writing reviews mentioning the word 1,074% more times than in 2020.

Emma Price

Large organisations are already implementing hybrid and flexible models to suit their workforce better. The Bank of England encourages staff to spend at least 40% of their time in the office with 60% at home. The pandemic encouraged employees to speak up about what they wanted from their roles, with trust and support from their managers being high on the list of priorities, and it is together, that they are reshaping the working world.

Balancing business and employee need

Within the context of workforce intelligence and operations, the conversation around trust often focuses on an employer’s confidence in their employees. From timekeeping to using company equipment appropriately, many factors contribute to trust challenges.

Data from Slack’s annual Future Forum report 2022 has indicated a “large and growing disconnect” between flexibility for non-executive and executive staff. Employees are twice as likely than senior employees to be present in the office full time. For organisations where senior leadership has set mandatory days in the office, this has meant a return to lengthy and costly commutes, a fragmented working week, and reduced work/life balance.

To avoid these potential issues, workforces need to be encouraged by the visibility of their team leaders in the office to create a sense of unity and trust, creating an environment for better productivity which supports new ways of working.

Where evolving technology can support senior leadership

Managers often have the most accountability to the largest proportion of the workforce. They are responsible for delivering against cost, quality, service and managing customer outcomes.

Quick office check-ins with staff vanished overnight during the initial stages of the pandemic. Team leaders could no longer catch up with their workforce and measure the timely progression of productivity.

Today, virtual catchups have replaced these conversations which are essential in boosting morale and maintaining good relations. This has led to the implementation of tools designed to support productivity and team balance. These tools gather and analyse data on employees’ activities which can be used to improve performance and support employee wellbeing. Using these insights, managers can see how their team is performing to measure engagement and reduce burnout; both essential for staff retention.

Building trust with your team

Taking time to catch up with employees to discuss life outside of work, praising and recognising hard work and offering positive communication will foster a trusting work environment. Regular conversations with staff create touchpoints throughout their week allowing both parties to connect on a deeper level.

Alongside the change in the employer/employee relationship shift, it is still vital for managers to understand how they can set targets effectively, assess progress and map their future courses of action.

Using tools that take the guesswork out of running operations; managers can see who is working long hours without producing many outputs, which may indicate burnout and a need for more support and training, or those completing a lot of work quickly and deserve recognition and a new challenge. From this, action plans can be created and complemented by building meaningful workplace relationships with employees.

The future of employer/employee confidence

Today, the need to feel a sense of purpose in work and contribute to an organisation’s overall productivity has never been so critical. Trust in the workplace needs to be two-way; for this to thrive, there must be an environment that is fit for purpose with the right tech. Trust is crucial to ensuring that teams are happy, successful, and flourishing at work and can determine whether a business fails or succeeds during turbulent times.

Implementing flexible processes is the cornerstone to achieving operational harmony. For workplaces that are feeling a disconnect, workforce data can be an impactful way of determining employee performance and productivity to adjust the coaching and support a team member is given.

Taking a ‘coach and mentor’ approach instead of a ‘command and control’ can make a difference in this new world of work. The focus should be on trusting and empowering employees to be productive while ensuring their wellbeing is in check.

By showing teams that they trust them to decide where they work, whether at home or in the office, managers can create an environment of trust that flows to and from individuals. During volatile times, taking care of what is within your scope to protect and enhance is the best way to guarantee a bright future.

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Ransomware chokes COBRA: How AI-powered data analysis can support financial services’ plight

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By Toby Butler, Financial Crime Solutions Manager at Ripjar

 

Ransomware attacks are on the increase in the United Kingdom. Most of the British Government’s COBRA meetings have been convened in response to ransomware attacks, showing how cybersecurity breaches are as pressing as national emergencies and crises. The National Cyber Security Centre’s (NCSC) annual review found this year that the country was hit by 17 ransomware incidents that were so impactful they “require a nationally coordinated response”. That extends to the financial services sector, which saw an increase of ransomware attacks with 55% of organisations hit in 2021.

Where does this leave the sector and how can artificial intelligence and machine learning be instrumental in understanding the risks companies face against future ransomware attacks?

Toby Butler

Company information is being stolen and sold to different threat groups, who prey on the individuals in that organisation who are more likely to pay them. The UK is one of the most cyber-attacked countries in the world and the Government has been criticised for being “ill-equipped” to deal with this exponential rise of fraud cases.

 

Ransomware-as-a-Service

Ransomware is one of the most common forms of cybercrime. Fighting it has become one of the biggest problems that organisations today face during their everyday operations. For instance, Malware (malicious software) encrypts the files of a single computer, then works its way through an entire network to reach the server and inflict maximum damage. Company information is being stolen and sold to different threat groups, who prey on the individuals in that organisation who are more likely to pay them.

When these attacks occur the victims, more often businesses, are left with minimal options. If they have substantial backup solutions already in place, they can attempt to restore the encrypted data to their servers. But if that data isn’t already secured elsewhere, they may need to pay a ransom to the criminals behind the attack. Thereby allowing the business to function once again and restoring their reputation. The cost of paying the ransom will feel considerably smaller compared to starting a business again from scratch. Sophos’ State of Ransomware in Financial Services 2022 report found that 52% of financial services organisations paid the ransom to restore their data, the average remediation cost in financial services was US$1.59M.

Cybersecurity Ventures estimates that ransomware is set to cost global businesses more than $256 billion by the end of 2031. By that token, organisations need to be extremely mindful of the potential threats they may face. Businesses need to understand the methodologies these hackers use, to address the weaknesses within their domain and take measures to isolate and prevent further ransomware attacks from happening again.

 

The rise of WAMs

According to a recent report by security firm CyberSixgill, 19% of the 3,612 cyberattacks that took place in 2021 were traced back to Wholesale Access Markets – or WAMs for short. WAMs are, in essence, underground internet flea markets. These markets are where aspiring attackers come to purchase network access from threat actors – the individual or entity involved in carrying out the cyber-attack. Types of threat actors include insiders, cybercriminals, rival organisations, or even nation states stealing data.

WAMs sell access to multiple compromised endpoints (or pathways) for around 10-20 dollars. Researchers found that WAMs listed access to approximately 4.3 million compromised endpoints in 2021, which include access to both provider and enterprise software (for example, an organisation’s Slack channel) up to 180 days before the attack itself took place. This shows how long these compromised endpoints remain undetected without proper internal analysis.

 

How can Financial Services stay ahead of the curve?

The use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning is undisputed across modern businesses and sectors, and continues to revolutionise processes across the board. AI is a significant player in the financial services industry, building the ‘cyber-wall’ against nefarious users. It gives organisations optimal insights into reducing the likelihood of a ransomware attack in the future.

Namely, AI and machine learning collects and analyses vast amounts of messy (structured and unstructured) data from disparate sources. The challenge for the sector is to understand the volume and variety of the raw data collected from any source to build better protection in the future.

Structured information could be best understood as the clear data we see in a table. For example, the following attendees made a business meeting: first name – Joan, surname – Smith, age – 46. But unstructured information is information presented in a complex manner. For example, ‘there were five people who attended the business meeting, one of whom was forty-six and called Joan Smith’. Naturally, due to the complex nature of the prose, it would be more difficult for a machine to process that data into a digestible format for further risk analysis. This is where AI continues to prove invaluable.

AI uses natural language processing to understand the information provided on the web. As the software continues to evolve, natural language processing reads the information in a way a human would to extract the key information from the text. By incorporating AI and machine learning within an organisation’s IT infrastructure, companies operating within financial services can be better equipped to handle cybercrime.

These tools are flexible and adaptable, they can be configured to analyse different types of data from different sources to curate key insights. This collated information provides a better analysis of the organisation’s exposure, allowing them the opportunity to get upstream in preventing future attacks. This kind of approach is essential to processing listings on WAMs.

The power to analyse data to identify weakness is vital in the battle against cybercrime. It gives organisations a better understanding into what they could expect to see in the future. Hosting the correct data, and with the analytical skills, financial organisations can gain a better understanding of the methodologies and weaknesses in-house that attackers use and exploit to hold them to ransom. Organisations can then use this as a reference to pinpoint compromised endpoints, giving them a chance to reduce access before this route can be exploited and ruin their business.

With cybercrime and ransomware continuing to remain prevalent, it’s vital that financial services companies understand how they can get ahead of the curve and build a robust security platform within their IT infrastructure that can withstand an attack. In 2022, a ransomware attack occurred every 40 seconds. The mindset for the sector needs to be one of when, not if.

Organisations need to be thinking about an attack now – before it’s happened. Pre-planning and preparing for the worst possible outcome from future threats and adversaries. The introduction of AI and machine learning in the fight against cybercrime is a must, and the sooner the industry gets behind in implementing AI, the safer it will be through the next decade.

 

 

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SVEA BANK ACQUIRES AREX’S FINTECH OPERATION IN FINLAND

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AREX Markets, the data-driven FinTech company that drives financing costs down for SMEs and enables them to get paid quicker, has announced the sale of its Finland operations to Swedish payment and financing institution Svea Bank.

With the deal, Svea will further strengthen its position as a corporate financier, as AREX’s c.1200 Finnish customers and partnerships in the areas of financial management and financial management software will be transferred to the bank’s portfolio. The Finnish operation of AREX has financed over EUR 500M worth of invoices.

AREX’s Spanish and UK operations remain unaffected and remain focused on building embeddable financing products for third party platforms. Customers in Finland have been informed of their transition, and their contracts and service details will port across to Svea.

Svea is reshaping the playing field of corporate finance in Finland, and taking on the operations of AREX in the region is a natural step to strengthen their own business and at the same time offer AREX’s partners and customers an easy path to a wider range of services than before.

“Over the years, Svea has grown a lot also through business transactions, therefore acquiring AREX’s business operations in Finland was a good and natural solution for us. In addition, the deal is pleasant for us at Svea because the focus of our activities is to help partners and customers succeed – offering AREX’s partners and customers a wider range of services is exactly that,” says Pasi Väre, country manager of Svea in Finland.

The deal also brings new opportunities for AREX to focus on the UK and Europe in its roll out of embeddable financing products, which can be white-labelled by neobanks, ERPs and accounting software alike. The business is seeking to bridge the liquidity gap faced by most small businesses in the face of a recessive economic climate.

UK SME’s can continue to access AREX’s core invoice financing product through the Xero marketplace.

“For us at AREX, this is a great step: we are developing a stronger presence in the field of embedded finance, which is underpinned by our sophisticated marketplace software, our strongest point,” says AREX’s CEO, Airto Vienola.

“For the AREX team it was extremely important that we find the best possible corporate financier to take care of the business’ customers and partnerships in Finland. Svea convinced us with their customer and partner-centric approach”, adds AREX’s co-founder Perttu Jalkanen.

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