Category: Banking

CX-Platforms
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Purpose-Built CX Platforms ensure banks are meeting the needs of vulnerable customers

CX-Platforms

Purpose-Built CX Platforms ensure banks are meeting the needs of vulnerable customers

 

FCA consultation shines spotlight on fair treatment, putting pressure on financial services to implement suitable solutions.

In July, the Financial Conduct Authority announced the launch of a consultation on proposed guidance for firms on the fair treatment of vulnerable customers. As a leading provider of Customer Experience Management (CEM) solutions, Clarabridge, Inc., is stressing the ability of dedicated technology to maintain compliance and ensure fair treatment of all customers. Without it, the firm says, banks and financial services companies are in danger of failing customers and breaching regulations.

The Clarabridge solution is widely used in the finance sector, and it is already helping companies to develop interactive dashboards to assist contact centre and customer service staff in monitoring the experiences of vulnerable customers.

“Any time customers make contact, it is not always easy for customer service agents to quickly understand their challenges,” said Jagrit Malhotra, Managing Director EMEA at Clarabridge. “Vulnerable customers may face a variety of difficulties and obstacles that affect their interactions. Our technology allows banks and financial institutions to analyse these interactions in great detail, thereby uncovering the sentiments that customers are expressing, the effort that they are making to access services, and how this can be improved to enhance the overall journey.”

The FCA has stated that whilst many firms have made significant progress in how they treat vulnerable customers, there needs to be more consistency. It says that in some cases, a failure to understand their needs is leading to harm.

In the last six months, Clarabridge has designed tailored dashboards for a prominent UK bank and a leading insurance company to help them analyse data from sources such as phone calls, web chats, email and social media posts. By identifying and addressing negative feedback, including that from vulnerable customers, financial organisations can prioritise improvements to help these customers while also addressing areas of compliance or regulatory risks.

“Financial services companies can ensure fair and consistent treatment of customers by proactively identifying the root causes of problems,” continued Malhotra. “The news features reports of banks discriminating against the disabled in overdraft charges, for example, or failing to indemnify vulnerable customers against fraud. We can use highly advanced analytics to help organisations quickly tackle issues, consistently meet FCA guidelines, and gain a deeper understanding of the very real needs of their customers.”

Clarabridge’s AI-powered solution also meets the banking industry’s need for fast-turnaround implementations. Its modules are customised to the unique workflow of the industry and include Complaints & Compliance Analysis, Digital Experience (Mobile App & Website), Branch & ATM Experience and Contact Centre Experience.

To learn more about this solution for retail banking and other industries, please visit: https://www.clarabridge.com/solutions/industry/banking/

card
BankingCash Management

Yordex introduces smart company card to spend management solution software, which cuts the cost and complexity of controlling business finances

card

Yordex introduces smart company card to spend management solution software - which cuts the cost and complexity of controlling business finances

 

UK fintech Yordex is making it simple for fast-growing companies to control business spend by adding company cards to its smart spend management solution, giving businesses complete visibility and authority over their current and future finances.

Expense management currently takes up a disproportionate amount of time and money within most organisations; on average, it costs in excess of $20 in people power to process every invoice or expense claim, while expenses only account for less than 6% of total company spend.* In addition, firms struggle to get a real-time picture of their financial health, as their existing software platform only provide a historical view of spend. It takes an average company up to 10 working days at month end to get an accurate account of what was spent the previous month.

Yordex is pioneering a new approach to managing business finances. Its smart solution provides 100% visibility over company spending – from cards and expenses to invoices and budgets – so businesses can control all current and future finances in one place, reducing the cost of spend management by 60-70%.

Adding company cards further enhances Yordex’s smart spend management solution, by empowering employees to make autonomous purchases within set spending limits. Receipts and invoices are automatically matched with expenses and the correct VAT rate is applied, significantly reducing the administrative and compliance burden placed on staff. Businesses can also manage online spending, such as subscriptions, through virtual cards, avoiding the need to unsecurely pass physical cards around the office.

By introducing smart company cards that are fully integrated with Yordex’s spend management platform, businesses will be able to make agile, insight driven decision-making enabling real-time spend visibility and accurate cash flow control through the use of Yordex’s financial reporting tools.

Erik De Kroon, co-founder and CEO of Yordex, comments: “As companies grow, their costs become harder to track. Businesses want to keep the fast decision-making capabilities of their early days, but there have been no financial tools available to help them achieve this – until now.”

“Yordex enables businesses to retain control over their spend as they scale up, so they can make rapid decisions based on real-time insights. Introducing smart company cards will make it even easier for fast-growing businesses to make intelligent choices.”

Companies already using the Yordex smart spend management solution will be offered complimentary cards as valued customers.

Erik concludes: “Every business is different, but they all have one thing in common: they’ve got better things to do than waste time on spend management. Our approach gives companies complete cash flow visibility without expensive, time-consuming software implementations, and adding smart company cards will enable business owners to focus on growing their business without compromising on financial insight and control.”

Ferrari
ArticlesCash ManagementInsurance

Purchasing your dream car – can it become a reality?

Ferrari

Purchasing your dream car – can it become a reality?

 

Buying a new car over one that is second-hand can bump up the price tag, but driving off the forecourt in your dream car is a feeling like no other. In fact, thousands of car buyers each year seek their dream car with a brand-new registration. So, without breaking the bank, how can you afford your dream car?

Buying a car by credit card

Paying through your credit card company can give you added protection on the full purchase cost (often as long as the value of the vehicle is over £100 and less than £30,000). Of course, you have to be able to meet your monthly payments too.

This method allows you to put down an even lower deposit than 10% and pay the rest of the vehicle off using a debit card. It’s best to consider all options here, as often the interest that you pay on a credit card could be significantly higher than that of a finance agreement.

If you want to buy a car by credit card however, it’s best to speak to your car dealer first as some dealerships don’t accept this method of payment.

Personal Contract Purchase agreement

PCP is an agreement where the end value of the car is agreed at the start of the contract, so you can plan your payments accordingly. Payments are often less than what you’d pay in a hire purchase agreement as you pay the full price of the car, plus interest but minus the guaranteed future value of the car. You must pass credit checks before you’re eligible for a PCP agreement.

When it comes to the end of your PCP agreement, you can either pay off the future value of the car to become the full owner, hand back the keys or trade the car in as a deposit for a new finance agreement.

To lower the monthly cost, you can place down a large initial deposit if you can afford it. Saving a lump sum for a large deposit is easier than saving up for a car, while reduced monthly payments can really help out too. Always evaluate your current monthly payments before you agree to a finance agreement, as being behind on your payments can lead to financial issues.

Be aware though, if you have exceeded the forecasted mileage on the car, there will be further charges to pay. This is because more miles decrease the value of the car. Also, any damage to the car will be charged to you, so you must be prepared to take good care of the vehicle.

Hire purchase agreement

This is relatively similar to a PCP agreement. It involves monthly payments with the option to purchase the car at the end of your agreement based on its new value.

A usual deposit for a car is 10% of the car’s value, but often you can pay more to reduce the follow-up monthly payments. The rest of the car is then payed off in instalments over a period of one to five years. The longer this period, the less you have to pay each month but due to interest charges, the total cost of the car becomes higher.

As we can see, there are a range of finance options available to you for purchasing new as oppose to used cars, allowing you to drive that dream car you’ve always wanted without forking out loads of cash. Save up what you can for a significant deposit and always make sure that you can cover the payments before signing any agreements.

santander
ArticlesBankingCash ManagementFinanceTransactional and Investment Banking

Santander Consumer Finance is expanding its online loan application platform across the UK

santander

Santander Consumer Finance is expanding its online loan application platform across the UK delivering an end-to-end digital solution

 

Santander Consumer Finance (SCF) is expanding its online loan application platform across the UK delivering an end-to-end digital solution for dealers further strengthening its commitment to growing the market.

The national launch of Apply Online which offers e-sign capability means customers can calculate the finance they need, receive immediate approvals and sign documentation at home or in showrooms ensuring that dealers remain in control.

Delivery of the end-to-end digital process has taken nine months since the launch of SCF’s online calculator in December and involved substantial financial and resource investments at SCF.

The calculator has proved popular – customers have generated more than 4.1 million quotes and 51 dealers have signed up for the calculator. Apply Online, which was successfully tested over the past month, is now available to all dealers using the calculator.

SCF’s digital solution is integrated into dealers’ websites and installation takes minutes for dealers who already have the calculator. SCF is providing additional support to help dealers make the most effective use of the digital proposition.

The system is designed to provide a simple, fair and personal experience for car buyers and builds on the success of SCF’s partnership with Volvo Car UK launched in April.

Stewart Grant, Santander Consumer Finance Commercial Director said: “We’ve worked hard to design a market leading end-to-end digital solution which ensures   dealers retain control of customer relationships while benefiting from our brand power.

“The financial investment and the time spent by our team in developing and delivering the digital transformation emphasises how committed we are to support our dealer network in maximising sales and profitability within the growing digital market.”

Dealers interested in using the calculator or wishing to register interest in the Online Application platform should contact their Business Development Manager or visit: www.santanderconsumer.co.uk/dealer

Capital on Tap Celebrates the Milestone of Lending Over One Billion Pounds to Small Businesses
FundsTransactional and Investment BankingWealth Management

Capital on Tap Celebrates the Milestone of Lending Over One Billion Pounds to Small Businesses

Capital on Tap Celebrates the Milestone of Lending Over One Billion Pounds to Small Businesses

Capital on Tap Celebrates the Milestone of Lending Over One Billion Pounds to Small Businesses

 

In seven years from creation, the fintech company Capital on Tap, celebrates a major milestone of lending over 1 billion pounds to more than 65,000 small and medium enterprise businesses across the UK. 

By 2018, Capital on Tap had lent £500m to small businesses, and in the short timeframe that followed to September 2019, has now doubled this number to hit the milestone of £1bn. The quick, two-minute online application has drawn-in customers from various industries who praise the lending service for its ease of use. 

The one billionth pound customer Elaine Speirs, founder of Speirs Consultancy Ltd in biopharmaceuticals, said: “It was very easy, very fast. I don’t remember having to have a conversation with anyone, and I got my credit card within a couple of days.”   

“The app is really easy to use on my phone, and there’s a website where I can track all payments; it’s just very simple, I don’t really have to think about it.” Elaine continued that “my own bank turned me down as I was a new business, and without even applying for a loan – that was after 25 years of banking history with them, which I was quite taken aback by.” 

The Capital on Tap ‘soft searching’ function is ideal for new business owners as it allows customers to find out if they’re eligible for a loan without impacting their credit score. This method challenges typical lenders and empowers customers, particularly benefiting those in rural parts of the UK who could suffer approval delays of up to three weeks. In addition, once the Capital on Tap fund is agreed; the money is available online in a matter of minutes, streamlining the lending function and supporting those who may struggle with traditional lending platforms. 

Support given by Capital on Tap has been commonly found to facilitate travel, allowing customers to work internationally without charging any extras. Sean Swart, founder of PICS Consultancy Ltd, highlights that “I am often required to move around as part of my job and the Capital on Tap card removes stress around cash flow created by expenses, mainly those from travel expenditure which is created as a by-product of my job.” 

David Luck, CEO at Capital on Tap, commented: “We started Capital on Tap in 2012, with a mission of making it faster and easier for small and medium enterprises to obtain working capital. Since lending money to our first customer back in 2013, I never thought we would have lent over £1bn to more than 65,000 small businesses in just seven years.” 

“We have worked to develop a lending platform that not only makes funding easier for small businesses, but also provides a service for traditional banks. Not only do we pride ourselves in supporting small businesses in the main cities, we provide a unique service for those in provincial areas, where traditional banks fall short.” 

For more information, visit the Capital on Tap website: https://capitalontap.com/

The importance of sports to the UK economy
ArticlesBankingFinanceFunds

The importance of sports to the UK economy

The importance of sports to the UK economy

The importance of sports to the UK economy

 

There’s no doubt that the summer of 2018 will be difficult to top! With an uncharacteristically hot summer making for the perfect backdrop to all the barbecues we ever dreamed of, alongside an unpredictably fantastic performance in the World Cup for the English football team that single-handedly boosted the nation’s spirits even further, it was by all accounts a cracking summer. 2020 is set to bring us another worldwide celebration of sport with the Olympics in Tokyo, so you’d be forgiven for thinking 2019 might end up being something of a lull for the sporting world to recharge.

Not so. In fact, some news correspondents are forecasting another great year for UK sports. In particular, cricket is set to be the focus of the year while men’s football takes a backseat, as both the Cricket World Cup and the Ashes series are to be held in England.

Even a ‘quiet’ year has so much going on in the sporting world then. With that in mind, just how integral is the sporting industry to the overall UK economy? In this article, we will cover how the sporting industry supports the UK both in a financial capacity and beyond.

Input to the economy

If you’re not into sports (and perhaps even if you are), the wages enjoyed by sporting professionals might seem ludicrous. In particular, the six-figure weekly wages of top-league football players is a point of contention for some. What are we, as a nation, getting in return for such a cost?

Well, beyond the enjoyment of watching sport, the industry supports a huge part of the UK economy. According to CareerBuilder, the sports industry tallies up a whopping £23.8 billion annually for the economy. Let’s put a little context on that figure with a look at other contributors to the economy. The tourism industry, which the sporting industry technically supports as well thanks to the number of sports fan tourists seeking out games to spectate, brings in £24.5 billion for the economy every year.

Meanwhile, the Royal Family brings in around £1.8 billion to the UK economy each year, depending on the number of royal weddings of course! But this is outstripped by even one single contributor of the sporting world, with cycling drawing in £3 billion each year on its own. It’s a clear contrast that shows just how important the sporting industry is to the nation’s economy, standing toe-to-toe with the tourism industry.

Input beyond finances

Naturally, the sporting sector brings in benefits for the UK beyond financial too. There’s the sense of community it fosters, such as the nationwide burst of pride we all felt, sports fans or not, when England performed so well in the World Cup! This sense of social value also extends to supporting skills outside of sports — for example, numeracy skills in underachieving young people were seen to increase by 29% when becoming a regular sports participant.

Then, there’s the employment side of things. The sporting industry supports over 400,000 full-time positions in England alone.

Plus, there’s the obvious health factor. Participating in sports, which is undoubtedly spurred and motivated in many ways by fans looking up to athletes they admire, brings a much-needed boost to the nation’s health.

Protecting the commodity

The pitches

With such a strong presence in the UK’s financial stability, what is being done to ensure our sports capabilities are world-class? Well, for one, we have to maintain the best venues for both the players and spectators! A poor pitch can have a huge impact on the game it is hosting. Take Euro 2016, for example: while that year’s unusually wet summer left the French pitches in a terrible state, the UK’s football pitches were kept in prime condition. Of course, wet weather is the very foundation of which groundkeepers are experienced in here in the UK! With hybrid turf technology, undersoil heating, and pop-up sprinklers, our fields are ready for any eventuality. Keeping the soil warm ensures the grass doesn’t fall into its dormant, brown hue and stays green all winter.

As well as keeping the grass warm to avoid it going dormant, adequate draining is also needed to keep the grass from succumbing to the usually damp and dreadful British weather. One such method utilised by football pitches is pipe and slit drained pitches, which consists of a layer of firmed topsoil, stone back-fill, subsoil, and a perforated plastic pipe, along with a slit drain and sand blinding layer to allow water to drain down and away.

Sports funding

Of course, it’s not just football being maintained to such a high level. Thanks to UK Sport investing in a range of sports with money from the National Lottery and Exchequer income, other sporting disciplines are also flourishing on UK soil.

Particularly with the run-up to the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, current funding is generous indeed. Example figures include £29,624,264 to cycling, £9,838,913 to taekwondo, and £16,457,953 to gymnastics.

The world of sport is hugely beneficial to the UK, in terms of economy and society. The sector sees a huge amount of funding and manpower, but for good reason, with the industry bringing in so much and putting the UK in the global eye as a key sporting participant.

Colin Price
BankingHigh Net-worth Individuals

Colin Price appointed Group Chief Operating Officer at KBL epb

Colin Price

Colin Price appointed Group Chief Operating Officer at KBL epb

 

KBL European Private Bankers (KBL epb), which operates in 50 cities across Europe, announced today the appointment of Colin Price as Group Chief Operating Officer and member of the Authorized Management Committee, subject to regulatory approval.

Price – who has a 35-year track record of successfully advising leading companies worldwide on how to unlock their full potential – will oversee a wide range of support functions, including IT, Operations, HR, Marketing and Real Estate. He will personally participate in the group’s long-term success through a significant co-investment.

A former Partner at PwC and McKinsey who set up his own boutique consultancy in 2014, Price earlier served as CEO of Heidrick Consulting, a division of Heidrick & Struggles. He has also served as a Visiting Professor at Imperial College London and an Associate Fellow at Saïd Oxford, the business school of Oxford University.

Price, a British national, holds degrees in economics, industrial relations and psychology, and organizational behavior. He is the co-author of a number of books, including most recently Accelerating Performance: How Companies Can Mobilize, Execute and Transform with Agility.

In his new role, he will work alongside Eric Mansuy, who assumed the Group COO role last fall and has been named Group Chief Information Technology & Operations Officer, reflecting his areas of core expertise and reporting to Price.

Mansuy, who joined KBL epb in 2014 as Group Chief Information Officer, previously served as Chief Information Officer at RBC Investor Services. A French national who studied at the University of Lorraine and IMD Business School, he earlier held a number of senior roles in the IT department at Banque Internationale à Luxembourg, rising to the position of Head of IT Services.

“I have known Colin for many years, benefiting from his strategic insight as a trusted advisor,” said Jürg Zeltner, Group CEO and member of the Board of Directors of KBL epb, where he has taken a significant ownership stake.“I am delighted that he has joined our group’s leadership team as a full partner in this journey.

“Together with Colin and Eric – who has demonstrated his ability to tackle the most complex technological and operational challenges – we will move forward rapidly and with purpose, cutting through complexity to deliver even greater value to every client we have the opportunity to serve.”

“After spending a lifetime studying why companies succeed and advising countless firms on how to perform better, I’m grateful for the opportunity to all put my insight and experience to work for KBL epb,” said Price. “At this transformative moment for the group, we’re focused on effecting rapid, positive change that will make this an even better bank for our clients and our people.”

“I’m very pleased to be able focus more sharply on shaping IT and Operations strategy, working closely with Colin and team leaders across our footprint,” concluded Mansuy, who has successfully overseen the group’s migration to an enhanced IT platform, among other major projects.

bitcoin
Due DiligenceFX and Payment

Leading UK tax and business advisers BKL to accept Bitcoin as fee payment

bitcoin

Leading UK tax and business advisers BKL to accept Bitcoin as fee payment

 

The London and Cambridge-based charted accountancy firm BKL, is believed to be the first UK mid-sized accountancy firm to accept a cryptocurrency to settle invoices. BKL specialises in helping entrepreneurs, high net worth individuals and owner managed businesses across a range of business sectors. These include technology, financial services, property and farms and estates.

“As a forward-looking business, we are always exploring new ways to develop our offering. We are pleased to now offer this option to clients,” said Jon Wedge, Financial Services partner at BKL.

“We support people and businesses that work with cryptocurrencies and blockchain, and this move has been driven by demand from our clients. It’s a convenient way for many of them, particularly those in the fintech and technology sectors, to buy our services.”

Using a leading automated payment processing system, BitPay, clients of BKL can now opt to receive invoices in Bitcoin. 

“BKL are one of the most respected specialist accountancy practises serving the blockchain industry and we are very happy that they are successfully using BitPay’s B2B service” said Sonny Singh, Chief Commercial Officer of BitPay.

“This is another superb example of forward thinking professional service businesses engaging with the ever-expanding crypto currency industry.  As blockchain ventures continue to proliferate there will be an increasing worldwide demand by vendors to pay invoices in bitcoin.”

BKL will invoice their clients with a traditional fiat value, and then the client pays in bitcoin or bitcoin cash with a conversion rate provided by BitPay that is issued and fixed for 15 minutes, using an average price from leading regulated exchanges. This ensures there is no exposure to any of the price volatility that characterises the digital currencies.

BKL receives its payment electronically through BitPay, but as fiat money.

Lasting Legacy IT Disruption Can Have In Consumer Banking - TSB Bank
BankingSecurities

The Lasting Legacy IT Disruption Can Have In Consumer Banking

Lasting Legacy IT Disruption Can Have In Consumer Banking - TSB Bank

The Lasting Legacy IT Disruption Can Have In Consumer Banking

Recent statistics show that TSB, whose catastrophic IT transfer meltdown last year is still having lasting repercussions for clients, has come last in a consumer poll on the effectiveness of its online banking solutions. Staff Writer Hannah Stevenson explores how this is the direct result of the bank’s meltdown last year.

Last year, TSB lost thousands of customers when its IT systems switchover caused widespread outages and led to consumers and businesses being unable to access their accounts.

At the time, Paul Pester, TSB Chief Executive Officer, commented on the issues by saying:

“We’re making progress in resolving the service problems customers experienced following our IT migration, and we will continue to work tirelessly until we have put things right.  I know how frustrated many customers have been by what’s happened.  It was not acceptable, and was not the level of service that we pride ourselves on – nor was it what our customers have come to expect from TSB.

“It has been a difficult time for customers and I am grateful to them for their patience. I would also like to say thank you to our Partners for their enormous efforts.  They have done everything in their power to continue serving our customers, and I am proud to see that the values on which the Bank has been built have shone through during this time.

“Our priority in the second half of the year continues to be putting things right for our customers.  Looking further ahead we are determined to get back to bringing more competition to UK banking and ultimately making banking better for consumers and small businesses.”

Shortly afterwards, Paul stepped down from his position, showing how detrimental the issues had been to his career. Commenting on the changes, Richard Meddings made it clear that the IT problems were a key driving force in this decision.

“Paul has made an enormous contribution to TSB. Thanks to his passion and commitment, TSB is today one of the UK’s strongest challenger banks, serving over 5 million customers across the UK. On behalf of the TSB Board, I want to thank Paul for everything he has achieved as CEO and pay tribute to the contribution he has made in bringing greater competition to the UK retail banking market.

“Although there is more to do to achieve full stability for customers, the bank’s IT systems and services are much improved since the IT migration. Paul and the Board have therefore agreed that this is the right time to appoint a new CEO for TSB. Our goal is therefore to allow a full search to commence, without any distractions, enabling TSB to build for the future.

“Meanwhile I have been asked by the Board to take on the role of Executive Chairman on an interim basis. Together with the Executive Committee, we have three immediate priorities: to complete the work of putting things right for customers; to enable the bank to achieve full functionality – including the availability of all product services and launch of a leading Business Banking offer; and appointing a CEO for the next chapter of TSB.”

Later, TSB had a further issue, with smaller problems causing the bank further problems throughout 2018.

Andy Cory, identity management services lead at KCOM commented shortly after TSB’s second issue with authentication, which saw clients locked out of their accounts.

“A broken authentication system has an instant impact on customer loyalty. If a business cannot provide easy access to its services without sacrificing security, it only has itself to blame when its users desert.

“The problem is balancing access with security. Too easy to get in and you risk leaving customers unguarded; too many security measures and it becomes offputting for users.

“Fortunately, there is a way to achieve the best of both worlds. Frictionless customer authentication – where users can access online services with zero input into the identification process – is becoming a reality.

“For example, geo-location and geo-velocity checking allow companies to trace a user’s physical location and how far they have travelled since their last login. Taken together, they verify if the user is who they claim to be and make any manual input from the customer unnecessary.”

The latest results from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) showcase the long-term detrimental effect that the IT issues have caused. In the personal banking space the firm was last for its online services, but within the business banking space TSB was last in almost every category including online banking services, highlighting how much more important IT stability is for businesses. 

There may also be other factors at play, including poor interest rates, lack of availability for certain financial products and poor customer service as a whole, but there is clearly a link between the lack of faith consumers and businesses now have in TSB’s IT infrastructure and its poor ratings in this latest poll.

Looking ahead, TSB needs to restore faith through new initiatives and by showing its clients that it has truly put its IT failings behind it. For more of the latest news, insight and banking knowledge, subscribe to Wealth & Finance International Magazine HERE.

bank
BankingCapital Markets (stocks and bonds)

How the finance industry has evolved

bank

How the finance industry has evolved

Industries are constantly trying to keep up with the fast-paced landscape in which they operate, be it technological changes, customer demands or simply just making things easier for their consumers.

But it is the speed at which the technological advancements have reached that has forced traditionally slow-moving financial institutions to heavily invest to remain relevant to their consumers and remain competitive in the marketplace.

Personal

Banking is one of the oldest businesses in the world, going back centuries ago, in fact, the oldest bank in operation today is the Monte dei Paschi di Siena, founded in 1472. The first instance of a non-cash transaction came in the 20th century, when charga-plates were first invented. Considered a predecessor to the credit card, department stores brought these out to select customers and each time a purchase was made, the plates would be pressed and inked onto a sales slip.

At the end of the sales cycle, customers were expected to pay what they were owed to the store, however due to their singular location use, it made them rather limiting, thus paving way for the credit card, where customers that had access to one could apply the same transactional process to multiple stores and stations, all in one place.

Contactless

The way in which we conduct our leisurely expenditure has changed that much that we can now pay for services on our watches, but it wasn’t always this easy. Just over a few decades ago, individuals were expected to physically travel to their nearest bank to pay their bills, and had no choice but to carry around loose change and cash on their person, a practice that is a dying art in today’s society, kept afloat by the reducing population born before technology.

Although the first instances of contactless cards came about in the mid-90’s, the very first contactless cards associated with banking were first brought into circulation by Barclaycard in 2008, with now more than £40 million being issued, despite there being an initial skepticism towards the unfamiliar use of this type of payment method.

Business

Due to the changes in the financial industry leaning heavily towards a more virtual experience, traditional brick and mortar banks where the older generation still go to, to sort out their finances. Banks are closing at a rate of 60 per month nationwide, with some villages, such as Llandysul closing all four of its banks along with a post office leaving it a ghost town.

The elderly residents of the small town were then forced into a 30-mile round trip in order to access her nearest banking services. With technology not for everyone, those that weren’t taught technology at a younger age or at all are feeling the effects most, almost feeling shut out, despite many banks offering day-to-day banking services through more than 11,000 post office branches, offering yet a lifeline for those struggling with the new business model of financial firms.

Future innovations

As the bracket of people who have grown up around technology widens, the demand for a contemporary banking service continues to encourage the banking industries to stay on their toes as far as the newest innovations go.

Pierre Vannineuse, CEO and Founder of Alternative Investment firm Alpha Blue Ocean, gives his comments about the future of banking services, saying: “Artificial intelligence is continuing to brew in the background and will no doubt feature prominently in the years to come. With many automated chatbots and virtual assistants already taking most of the customer service roles, we are bound to see a more prominent role of AI in how transactions are processed from all levels.”

Technology may have taken its time to get to where it is now, but the way in which it adapts and updates in the modern era has allowed it to quicken its own pace so that new processes spring up thick and fast. Technology has given us a sense of instant gratification, either in business or in leisure, we want things done now not in day or a week down the line.

Hyper short-term investments what are millennials investing in
FinanceTransactional and Investment Banking

Hyper-short-term investments: what are millennials investing in?

Hyper short-term investments what are millennials investing in

Hyper-short-term investments: what are millennials investing in?

Despite the stereotype of the younger generation being frivolous with their money, it seems they are actually one of the savviest generations when it comes to turning a profit on their own. While they are hesitant to invest in stocks, millennials and generation Z are tapping into the hyper-short-term investment of fashion and beauty. For example, there’s a huge market for buying and selling trainers at the moment, or in vintage fashion.

In particular, limited-edition trainers have a huge appeal across the world, with people willing to camp outside of stores to pick up a particularly lucrative pair.


Art flipping

According to Business Insider, rich millennials are snapping up art as financial assets rather than as part of a potential collection — 85 per cent of millennials purchasing artworks say they are aiming to sell in the next year. Buying art with the intention of selling it on quickly is known as art flipping, and it’s something of a controversial subject in the art world. There are some who consider the process of art flipping as a potentially devaluing practice that harms the artist and their work.

The process can also seem more logical than artistic too, as many such purchases are made purely on the work’s monetary value. However, the piece’s social media hype can also spur rich millennials to part with their cash in a hopes of a quick resale profit — Instagram has been highlighted by Adweek as a viable platform for creating social media adoration for artists.


Clothes

One of the reasons why the younger generations are turning more to side-hustles and reselling as forms of investment is that the turnover is incredibly fast thanks to apps like Depop. There are so many stories about how entrepreneurial millennials are sniffing out limited edition items from the most popular brands, such as Supreme, during their famous limited edition ‘drops’, then rapidly reselling them.

Of course, the initial purchase is an investment, with many resellers spending hundreds of pounds or more on such a venture, but the resale of these goods can certainly turn a profit. It also taps effectively into the Instagram world we’re living in too. Sellers often combine their shop platforms with their social media accounts to merge both modelling and selling the items.


Shoes

The most sought-after trainers tend to be either limited edition or classic trainers for that much-loved vintage style. People are willing to set up camp outside a store before a particularly hyped drop of limited-edition trainers, in order to grab them at retail price, then sell it on for much higher prices. Some might seek to resell the items quickly, but there’s certainly a case to be made for popping a brand new pair of limited edition trainers away for a few years before reselling in hopes that their much-hyped status will only increase that price tag as the years roll on.

Arguably the biggest market in reselling is that of sneakers and trainers. Much like clothing, the main draw here is in limited edition shoes — but the sneakerhead culture is not anything new. In fact, it began nearly 30 years ago, though it’s enjoyed a huge resurgence in the last few years.

 
Sources:

https://www.sofi.com/blog/millennial-investing-trends/

https://www.adweek.com/digital/influencing-the-art-market-millennial-collectors-social-media-and-ecommerce/

https://www.businessinsider.com/rich-millennials-investing-art-flipping-build-wealth-2019-4?r=US&IR=T

https://www.standard.co.uk/fashion/should-you-be-investing-in-sneakers-a4014486.html

https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2017/oct/23/teens-selling-online-depop-ebay

banking online
Banking

A machine learning balancing act: Payments, customer experience, fraud detection

By Manuel Rodriguez, Fraud Solutions Manager at SAS

The range of potential payment services has expanded rapidly over the last few years. Increasingly, we all want the flexibility of being able to pay with new payment methods, from contactless through to Apple Pay, mobile wallets and beyond. Digital natives, such as millennials, don’t just want this – they expect it. For banks, however, this demand for flexibility is a headache.

 

Banks and other financial institutions know that they have to adopt new payment methods to meet customer demand for convenience and flexibility. However, they also know that these new payment systems leave them open to new forms of fraud. The big question is how can they adapt to these new fraud types – to protect both themselves and customers – without creating poor customer experiences through large numbers of false positives?

 

Understanding payment fraud

There is no question that payment fraud has changed over the last few years. A few years ago, card fraud, from cloning cards, was a leading form of fraud. However, the use of card processing terminals that use Europay-Visa-Mastercard (EMV) technology has reduced this considerably. This technology – the gold standard for credit cards, using computer chips to authenticate and secure transactions – has been the norm in Europe for a while. Its use is now spreading to the US.

 

Card fraud has therefore migrated to “card not present” transactions, such as online purchases. Payment fraud is driven and supported by several risks, including data breaches at retailers, credit agencies and banks, and use of malware to obtain access to accounts. It is also, however, helped by moves towards faster payments, driven by both regulators and the industry. These are good for customers, but they also good for fraudsters. The faster it is to get funds or goods through fraudulent transactions, the less time banks have to detect the fraud.

 

Fraudsters always ahead

 

Fraudsters are faster and more adept than ever before. The issue for banks and other financial institutions is to recognise that fraudsters will always be ahead but to take action to address that. Fraud detection systems need to keep up, and there is little time for long-drawn-out checks. However, there is a catch. Fraud-prevention systems need to avoid too many false positives. Up to 10% of rejected orders are actually believed to be valid. In total, in one survey, 37% of merchants said that turning away good customers was a top concern.

 

New regulations are adding challenges. Instant Payments or Payments Services Directive 2 (PSD2) are enforcing new rules, needs and requirements. We need to fit into payment processes thresholds and other aspects to make payments faster, more available and smoother. On the other side, we need to apply proper security, customer authentication and risk-based approaches to monitor payments in a more complex environment involving banks and third-party providers.

 

Systems to catch fraud

 

There are many actions that banks can take to protect themselves and their customers from fraud. First, they must look at their systems, ensure they are connected and remove any silos. Disconnected systems are vulnerable to compromise.

 

Banks also have to move from rules-based to machine learning analytics systems for fraud detection. This approach gives them the chance to identify suspicious patterns and anomalies much faster, which is essential as more and more real-time payments systems come online. Real-time scoring and decision making should drive new systems, which should also take into account new forms of data, such as device fingerprints and information phone call routing.

 

Machine learning techniques include neural networks, regression techniques, decision trees, naïve Bayesian methods, clustering and network analysis. These approaches are particularly useful to detect rare payments fraud events hidden in big data sets. Machine learning tools can understand and learn from this type of data, and they can adapt to the changing behaviours associated with fraud through automated behavioural profiling and signatures.

 

They can automate models to find hidden insights without having to be programmed directly. This means that banks have some chance of keeping up with fraudsters. Machine learning techniques can also reduce the false positive rate by learning the behaviour of individual customers over time so that normal behaviour for an individual does not raise alerts.

 

With multiple analytics techniques available, banks can better detect fraud behaviours. But they can also monitor legitimate behaviour to provide enriched answers to business needs, different requirements and new regulations.

 

End-to-end and across channels

Ultimately, payment fraud detection systems have to be able to look at payment processes from end to end and also across channels. Gartner identifies five layers: entity link, cross-channel-centric, channel-centric, navigation-centric and end-point-centric. By looking across all five of these layers and drawing data from all points, machine learning systems can draw a complete picture of the transaction in the context of the customer.

 

This combination of rules-based and analytical techniques can monitor user behaviour with considerable accuracy and speed. It can, therefore, identify normal and unusual patterns very fast, even in real time. This makes it much harder for fraudsters to find gaps and loopholes, and easier to identify potential fraud accurately. It is essential for banks to move in this direction to protect themselves and their customers from payment fraud.

mobile bank fraud
BankingFinance

Mobile financial attacks rise by 107%

According to a recent report by Kaspersky, the number of mobile financial attacks it detected in the first half of the year rose by 107%, rising to 3,730,378. Analysts at the company said they discovered 3.7 million mobile financial attacks from January to June this year and found 438,709 unique users attacked by mobile Trojan bankers.

In the first half of 2019, attackers actively used the names of the largest financial services and banking organisations to attack mobile platform users. Researchers found 438,709 unique users attacked by mobile Trojan bankers. For comparison, in the first half of 2018, the number of attacked users was 569,057, a decrease of 23 per cent

Findings by Kaspersky showed the activity of a bank Trojan called Asacub banker, which attacked an average of 40,000 people per day, peaked rapidly in the second half of 2018 and reduced in half year 2019. The number of attacked users and detected attacks peaked rapidly in the second half of 2018; 1,333,410 users were attacked and there were 10,256,935 attacks.

The cybersecurity firm identified another malware, Anubis Trojan, which intercept data for access to services of large financial organisations and two-factor authentication data in order to extort money from users. The firm described the banking Trojan as one that spreads via instant e-messaging apps such as WhatsApp and sends a link to the victim’s contact list.

Lisa Baergen, director at NuData Security, a Mastercard company comments:

“Mobile banking fraud is easy to miss for consumers as Trojans are well hidden inside other legitimate-seeming applications or attachments. Once inside the customer’s phone, they can roam free to steal banking information or account assets.

With this increase on attacks through banking Trojans, it is hard for financial institutions to know if a legitimate user is making a transaction or someone else is hijacking the account. To avoid this growing type fraud many companies are including security layers that can see beyond credentials and passwords: passive biometrics.

Adding passive biometrics technology, banks are able to detect unusual behavior within an account, even if the right device is used. By having this visibility into the user’s behavior, banks can block or authenticate a user further when they detect unusual activity, thwarting account hijacking.

Building a holistic risk-based authentication infrastructure for user verification is proving effective in thwarting bad actors armed with stolen credentials or executing account hijacking. Many companies are now combining different layers of identification such as device, connection, and passive biometrics to power a dynamic and intelligent authentication system. This multi-layered security ensures a frictionless experience for customers while seamlessly eliminating fraudulent transactions.”

Bank tech
Banking

Over 50% of banks and telcos flying blind into cloud migration

CAST, a leader in Software Intelligence, today released its annual global cloud migration report. The report analyzes application modernization priorities in financial and telecommunications firms.

Findings show critical missteps mean cloud migrations are falling short of expectations in mature institutions, just 40% meeting targets for cost, resiliency and planned user benefits. Lack of pre-migration intelligence and fear of modernizing legacy mainframe applications are the main drivers for these shortcomings. Adoption of microservices as a modernization technique is also faltering from lack of financing.

While these legacy process institutions realise only third of their target benefits for cloud migration, cloud-native approaches are enabling FinTech firms to outperform traditional banks, achieving more than half their target benefits.

Fewer than 35% of technology leaders use freely-available analysis tools. There is a systematic failure to assess the underlying application readiness for cloud migration with Software Intelligence, a deep analysis of software architecture. IT leaders must ensure the right architectural model and compliance is in place to avoid increasing technical debt. Unchecked, this leads to more IT meltdowns such as TSB’s £330m re-platforming crisis in 2018, with customers paying the expensive price for these mistakes.

More than 50% of banks and telcos are effectively taking leaps of faith, not undertaking essential analysis-led evaluations to support and facilitate cloud migrations. Instead, half the CTOs surveyed use gut instinct and ad-hoc surveys with application owners as the primary basis of their decision to move applications to the cloud. IT leaders need to adopt an analysis-led approach over gut instinct to implement the right cloud migration strategy and realise all potential benefits of migrating to the cloud.

Greg Rivera, VP CAST Highlight at CAST, commented on the findings, “Pilots going into storms turn to their instruments. If you run headfirst into a cloud migration without objectively assessing your applications, you’re flying in the dark.

Even one small change to an application has a ‘butterfly effect’ on the rest of the code set, so a disruption as big as cloud migration has detrimental effects including IT outages and loss of business. Migration to the cloud is vital when digitally transforming a business. But, it needs to be done right if organizations want success instead of suffering.”

More than 40% of software leaders are yet to define a class based approach to application modernization. Heavily legacy process firms tend to rehost apps, while rehosting, or so-called ‘lift-and-shift’, benefits apps with up to three years before end of life. However, existing and continuously evolving apps should be re-platformed and restructured during cloud migration. To successfully complete migration first gather intelligence and actively assess applications objectively.

Armed with battle scars software leaders at banks and insurance firms are revisiting their initial ‘lift-and-shift’ approach to cloud migration plans. While FinTech firms outperform mature institutions on cloud-native apps, banks lead the way on cloud-ready applications with just fewer than 50% rewriting applications. A European Chief Digital Architect said, “Cloud migration is only really a problem if you’re moving workloads without changing the way they are shaped.”

Santander
Banking

SANTANDER CONSUMER FINANCE LAUNCHES ONLINE APPLICATIONS

  • Online loan application launch expands digital support for dealers

Santander Consumer Finance (SCF) is set to launch its online loan application platform with e-sign capability in a significant expansion of its support for dealers.

 

Selected dealers have started testing the system which will be rolled out across the country within the next month for partners already using Santander Consumer Finance’s free online finance calculator.

 

The new system is integrated into the dealer’s website and customers will be able to source a finance quote on the calculator before applying in Santander Consumer Finance’s secure online platform. Installation takes minutes for dealers who already have the calculator and Santander Consumer Finance will support dealers to help them make the most effective use of the digital proposition.

 

Customers receive a real-time decision on their selected product and accepted customers can then choose to sign their documentation at home or at the dealership. The system is designed to provide a simple, fair and personal experience for car buyers.

 

It builds on the success of Santander Consumer Finance’s partnership with Volvo Car UK launched in April enabling customers to configure and order their car and sign a finance agreement online.

 

Stewart Grant, Santander Consumer Finance Commercial Director said: “This is a significant step in our digital marketing strategy and underlines our commitment to supporting our dealer network in maximising sales and profitability within the growing digital market.

 

“It is a huge achievement for the teams involved at Santander Consumer Finance to be able to launch two Online Application systems in less than four months and within a year since the project was first planned.”

 

Dealers interested in using the calculator or wishing to register interest in the Online Application platform should contact their Business Development Manager or visit www.santanderconsumer.co.uk/dealer

 

Santander Consumer Finance, headquartered in Redhill, Surrey, employs 600 staff and is the UK’s leading independent finance company with over 500,000 live customer agreements in place.

accountancy hack
BankingFinanceFunds

Hackers set their sights on accountancy firms – 7 steps to minimize risk

Accountancy practices are facing an increase in cyber risks as criminals switch their focus to ‘softer target’ smaller firms. Joe Collinwood, CEO at CySure explains why accountancy firms are targets for hackers and what steps they can take to minimize their exposure.

When it comes to cyber crime, small accountancy practices are not exempt from the disruption that affects large organizations. If anything, their size makes them more vulnerable as they are perceived as a softer target. In the USA for example there has been an explosion in fraudulent W-2 filings and in the UK with more filings now on-line risk is increasing. So why are accountants being targeted?

• They hold large amounts of private data
• They have the information cyber criminals want – corporate financial data, social security numbers, Tax IDs, bank accounts, payroll data, identification data for validation and reporting purposes
• Accounting firms use similar software so if a criminal finds a vulnerability that can be exploited they have lots of potential victims
• Typically there is inadequate technical protection, policies and procedures that leave firms wide open to a cyber attack
• A lack of incident response and business continuity procedures means accountants are more likely to pay a cyber criminal money because they fear they may not be able to recover from an attack and the firm’s reputation will be tarnished.

Many accountancy firms are making it easier for hackers by underestimating the threat they face from cyber attacks. There were 438 (i) separate data security incidents reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in Q2 2018/2019 alone in the finance, insurance and credit sector. The cost to launch cyber attacks is negligible and the most likely method of breach is phishing i.e. human error. It’s time to think again.

Gateway to Information
Self-employed accountants and accountancy practices are on the radar of cyber criminals because of the amount of valuable data they hold. Firms collect and store highly desirable data and information on clients. This information enables hackers to pull off complex frauds at a later date. The more information they have, the better a picture they can build of the small business or person whose bank account they intend to target.
Cyber criminals view accountancy firms as a “gateway” to client information and are perceived as a soft target with few security barriers, limited cyber security tools and little or no in-house expertise. Additionally, as many firms use the same software systems, hackers are motivated to seek vulnerabilities in the software knowing there will be a substantial pay day by exploiting the weakness to attack multiple businesses.

Small but not safe
According to the Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2018 (ii), 42% of small businesses identified at least one breach or attack in the last 12 months. Depending on the severity of the attack, SMEs can suffer more disruption than their larger counterparts as they lack the processes and cyber expertise to deal with the ramifications of an attack. The impact to business operations and the inability for staff to carry out their day to day work can have longer term consequences, not only for an accountancy practice itself but also for its clients.

Minimize Risk – 7 simple steps to cyber resilience
No business is too small to be attacked, however with the right approach to security, no business is too small to protect itself. Accountancy firms can pave the way to cyber resilience by following these top cyber-security tips:
• Invest in effective firewalls, anti-virus and anti-malware solutions and ensure any updates and patches are applied regularly, ensuring that criminals cannot exploit old faults or systems
• Ensure business critical data, such as customer data and financial information, on all company assets is securely backed up and can be restored at speed
• Have simple, clear policies in place to create a cyber-conscious culture in the workplace and ensure it is communicated to all personnel so they are familiar with it
• Have regular awareness training so that employees are constantly reminded of potential scams or tactics that can be used to trick them
• Review contracts and policies with suppliers to ensure they have an accredited standard for cyber-security for themselves and their partners to protect the supply chain
• Have an up-to-date incident response plan that is practiced regularly so that employees know what to do when they suspect there is an attempted breach or if an actual incident occurs
• Consider investing in cyber insurance to cover the exposure of data privacy and security. Accountancy firms should research insurance policies carefully to understand the level of coverage offered and their responsibilities to stay within the conditions of the policy.

Where to start and what to do now
Cyber security need not be complex or prohibitively expensive, in the UK Cyber Essentials (CE) is a government and industry backed scheme specifically designed to help organisations protect themselves against common cyber-attacks. In collaboration with Information Assurance for Small and Medium Enterprises (IAMSE) they have set out basic technical controls for organisations to use which is annually assessed. In the US the National Institute Standards and Technology (NIST) framework guides organizations through complex, emerging safety producers and protocols.

By utilising an online information security management system (ISMS) that incorporates Cyber Essentials and NIST, accountancy firms can undertake a certification route guided by a virtual online security officer (VOSO) as part of their wider cyber security measures. This will help the organization to coordinate all security practices in one place, consistently and cost-effectively. Additionally, firms can take advantage of the expertise of online cyber security consultants at a fraction of the cost of a full-time in-house security specialist.

Demonstrating confidence to the client base
Cyber security certification has many benefits; it ensures standardization and is a good differentiator for accountancy firms as it shows a diligence to information security. By giving cyber security the same priority as other business goals, accountancy firms can proudly display their security credentials and demonstrate trust and confidence to their client base.

Joe Collinwood is CEO of CySure

Banking

Capital on Tap Announces New Partnership With Marqeta, Pairing Industry-Leading Business Credit Card With Best-In-Class Card Issuing Platform

Capital on Tap will turn to Marqeta’s modern card issuing platform to power its card offering, used by UK small businesses to better access capital.

Capital on Tap, one of the UK’s fastest growing companies, announced today that it is partnering with Marqeta, the leading global modern card issuing platform, to power payment processing for its small business credit card, relied on by over 60,000 UK enterprises.

As part of this new agreement, all of Capital on Tap’s users will be provided with a new, Marqeta-powered card. Since its launch in 2012, Capital on Tap has competed with the offering of major banks, by offering small businesses a faster and more transparent way to fund their business. Capital on Tap has already provided close to £1 billion in funding to more than 60,000 small businesses across the UK.

“Capital on Tap have shown themselves to be true innovators in the UK fintech space, taking an underserved market like credit for small businesses and building a product that can make a real difference for their customers,” said Ian Johnson, Head of European Growth at Marqeta. “They’re the very example of a European fintech innovator that the Marqeta platform was designed to empower, providing an agile and scalable platform that allows them to focus on what they do best, creating a top shelf product with a memorable user experience.”  

Founded in Oakland, California in 2010, the Marqeta platform is used by the world’s leading innovators to drive new modes of commerce through modern card issuing. Marqeta’s European Digital Banking solution supports instantly issued virtual cards and offers advanced spend controls to engage users and grow card use. Marqeta’s platform and its feature-rich APIs are highly configurable and scalable, and allow Marqeta partners to access actionable, real-time transaction data to drive program improvements.

“We’re excited to partner with Marqeta. We loved the transparency and simplicity of their technology and how future focused and innovative their open-API platform is,” said David Luck, co-founder and CEO of Capital on Tap. “We felt a really close DNA fit with them and how they’re looking to constantly evolve and build on their tech. They showed an intuitive understanding in how they could support our mission to help small businesses thrive through better access to working capital.”

Banking

A Paragon in Commercial Banking in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

Azizi Bank has swiftly become one of Afghanistan’s largest commercial banks with a presence across 31 of the country’s 34 provinces. From the outset, the bank has sought to become a stalwart on the global financial market, driving technological innovation in the sphere. On the back of this approach, Azizi Bank was named the ‘Best Commercial Bank’ in Wealth & Finance International’s 2019 Global Business Excellence programme. Following this deserved success, Dr. (Prof) Mohammad Salem Omaid, CEO of Azizi Bank, was interviewed to find out more about the bank’s mission, vision and how it aligned itself with the highest international standards of corporate governance, social responsibility and customer relations.

The global financial landscape is changing dramatically, evolving on the back of technological development, and expansive regulation. On a similar front, working in tandem with this churning paradigm shift, is the effect that changing consumer behaviours are having on an industry that was- for the most part at least – in charge of its own course. As banking turns to more digital fronts, it is having to adapt to the needs of the people that utilise its services. Many long-standing establishments have become defined, as a result, by resistance, as they cling to the practices of yesteryear.

This has led to a rise in so-called ‘Challenger Banks’ who have adopted an innovative outlook to capitalise on the market’s new customer-centric ethos. But what happens when a more traditional brick and mortar bank follows this path? And, more appropriately, how has Azizi Bank in particular become a paragon on the field, reaping the rewards where their peers and competitors have floundered? Dr Omaid explains more. 

“This institution is the outcome of the professional and entrepreneurial commitment of its founder, Mr. Merwais Azizi, and its top management team to establish a high-quality, customer-centric, servicedriven, private Afghan Bank catering entirely to the future businesses of the country. Having formed in 2006, the bank today has more than eighty branches and more than 100 ATMs and, along with its 100% subsidiary bank The Islamic Bank of Afghanistan, has the highest network of branches and ATMs in the country.

“The vision of the bank is to evolve into a professionally managed technologically advanced bank with world-class cost-effective products and services, following the best international practices and contributing to the national economy and adding value to its stakeholders. Its mission is to provide excellent professional services with the usage of the latest technology with an eye on a sustained corporate social responsibility and maintain its commitment towards all its customers, staff, shareholders and stakeholders.”

Ultimately, Azizi Bank has thrived through a dedication to its five founding values: Operational Excellence, Customer Focus, Product Leadership, People and Sustainability. More impressively, the bank has secured sustained growth year on year despite substantial challenges in the country, acting as testament to the strength of their offerings and ethos. “Azizi Bank’s key clients includes retail and corporate bodies, trade finance and remittance businesses. Afghanistan is an import-driven economy with more than 90% of the goods imported into the country. It is also an USD driven economy. Afghanistan is also a challenging economy, with its own political challenges over the last two decades and beyond. 

The country was under the FATF sanctions until June 2017 where it was barred from having any USD inter-bank cooperation with banks around the world. This issue of USD Nostro is still a big challenge in the country with most of the banks.” Dr Omaid continues, moving on to discuss the importance of client service to the bank’s ongoing development and operations. “Azizi Bank ensures prima facie importance on customer service. It believes this important aspect as the most important factor of its sustained growth. The bank ensures regular training of its employees to guarantee exceptional customer service. Classes and training programs on the various aspects of customer service are held regularly in the training room of the bank. Employees are also sent to attend international training programs on customer relations and effective service. Regular monitoring of the same is done by the head office official and specially incorporated customer service cell in the bank.”

To make sure that the bank remains in-line with the needs of their customers, Azizi Bank regularly conducts market research, as Dr Omaid sheds more light on their efforts. “Azizi Bank is dedicated to conducting comprehensive market research to understand customer requirements. Afghanistan is a niche country in terms of new banking indicatives as only 10-11% of the people are banking, as per the Central Bank’s report, and Afghanistan is an Islamic nation. This opens up the opportunity to create products as per the requirement. This is the reason why Azizi Bank converted its 100% subsidiary bank into a full-fledged Islamic bank. Additionally, more than 70% of the population in the country are mobile savvy, and this is the reason why Azizi Bank have developed mobilebased technologies to bring more and more customers into the banking fray.” 

The conversation soon turns to things of a more corporate nature: namely, governance policies and the crucial role that they play in outlining the bank’s goals and future. “Azizi Bank ensures responsible and value-driven management practices are adhered to throughout its system of corporate governance, which is built on key elements of discipline, transparency, independence and fairness. As it strengthens its presence, Azizi Bank continues to review compliance, risk management skills, systems & processes and – where appropriate- it aims to enhance these further. The commitment applies to Azizi Bank’s relationship with its shareholders, customers, employees, suppliers, regulators and the community in which it operates.”

Here Dr Omaid takes a moment to discuss each of Azizi Bank’s core characteristics in more detail. “In relation to discipline, we ensure that all employees and senior management members are committed to adhering to procedures, processes and hierarchies established by the bank. These are recognised and deemed to be correct and proper. Transparency remains critically important and mentioned in almost every policy. All actions implemented and the procedures that led to them are always available for inspection by authorised entities and stakeholders. 

“Similarly, mechanisms and regulations have been put in place to minimise or entirely avoid potential conflicts of interests such as undue dominance by the Chairman, Chief Executive or other shareholders. This mechanism ranges from the composition of the board to committee appointments and involve external parties such as auditors. Azizi Bank remains committed to independence. Moreover, Azizi Bank believes that responsible management would, whenever necessary, take appropriate actions to set and keep the bank on the right path. Whilst the board is accountable to the bank, it must act responsively to and with the responsibility towards all stakeholders. The individuals and committees who make decisions and take actions are truly help accountable for those decision and actions. Lastly, Azizi Bank believes in ‘fairness’, and each of the bank’s systems are balanced and take into account all those who have an interest in the bank and its future. The rights of the various groups involved have to be acknowledge and respected.” 

Dr. Omaid also spoke about their strategic plan, which details the banks goals through 2022. He reiterated that strategic planning is the process of determining the organization’s long term objectives and establishing the goals necessary to achieve them. The process involves in-depth analysis of current and anticipated conditions that may affect the organization’s ability to achieve the mission. 

Finally, it would be remiss to not mention Azizi Bank’s considerable efforts in the area of corporate social responsibility over the last few years. In his closing comments, Dr Omaid details some of the bank’s more recent and significant ventures. “Azizi Bank has taken a strong lead in Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives by providing aid and financial assistance to local educational institutions which include schools, colleges, universities and NGOs. The bank has also engaged itself with relevant ministries in supporting female empowerment, cultural enhancement and environmental sustainability initiatives. Recently the bank involved itself with the municipality to see a Greener Afghanistan and planted trees across the country. 


“Azizi Bank planted more than 10,000 trees in Kabul and other provincial locations as part of this campaign. We provided financial assistance to the Ministry of Women Affairs for the treatment of breast cancer on International Women’s Day. Furthermore, the bank is working in association with the Ministry to sponsor the event, “Empowering Afghan Through Access to Financial Services, alongside financing for the creation of job opportunities for women. In coordination with the National Blood Bank, Kabul organised blood donation campaigns at the head office. More than 100,000 ccs of blood were collected during the campaign. Lastly, Azizi Bank is promoting child education in the country, and encouraging initiatives to stop food wastes and other environmental sustainability initiatives like Save Water, Clean Air, Avoid Pollution etc.”

 

“Azizi Bank continues to review compliance, risk management skills, systems & processes and – where appropriate- it aims to enhance these further. The commitment applies to Azizi Bank’s relationship with its shareholders, customers, employees, suppliers, regulators and the community in which it operates.”
azizi bank design-01
“Empowering Afghan Through Access to Financial Services, alongside financing for the creation of job opportunities for women. In coordination with the National Blood Bank, Kabul organised blood donation campaigns at the head office.”

Company: Azizi Bank

Name: Dr. (Prof) Mohammad Salem Omaid

Designation: President and Chief Executive Officer

Addl. Titles:

(a) Chairman – The Afghanistan Banking Association

(b) Chairman – The International Chamber of Commerce, Banking Commission, Afghanistan

(c) Member- Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce, United Kingdom, Europe Business Assembly

(d) Member – The World Confederation of Businesses (World COB), United States of America

(e) Honorary Professor of the Academic Union, Oxford, United Kingdom

Banking

Belize : The ‘Next Big Thing’ in Offshore Banking

When it comes to offshore banking solutions, would-be clients can certainly feel overwhelmed with the plethora of choices available. Yet, over the last couple of years, Belize has become a go-to for many investors looking for security, stability and new investment opportunities. Here, Luigi Wewege, Senior Vice President of Caye International Bank, writes on the unique benefits that Belize has to offer, and how it has become the region of choice for savvy investors from all over the world. Caye International Bank was recently recognised by Wealth & Finance INTL as the ‘Best Offshore Private Bank in Latin America’ in the 2019 Banking Excellence Awards.

Offshore banking has long been a popular option for those that want to secure their financial future, whether that be for the dream retirement or, more simply, to ensure that their liquid savings are safe and secure in the hands of expert financial establishments. 

When you bring up the idea of offshore banking, it’s not unusual to get a dozen different opinions about where the best tax haven is or where banks are most eager to get foreign investors. Look beyond all the noise and you’ll find that Belize is consistently chosen by savvy investors for offshore banking. Clearly, Belize has a lot to offer those interested in the financial side of the equation. 

Ease of Banking in Belize 

Something that can’t be ignored is the ease of managing an offshore bank account in Belize. Some people are worried about offshore banking because they don’t know what to expect, or they are worried about it being difficult or inconvenient. In reality, that misconception couldn’t be further from the truth. 

To start, the official language of Belize is English. Although you might hear Spanish or even Creole spoken on the beach, financial professionals all have a complete and fluent command of English. Whether you’re signing a contract or reading the terms of a new account, it will be in English. You won’t need a translator, nor will you have to pay to have English documents translated. In short, there is no need to be concerned about a language barrier at any point.
Another reason that banking in Belize is so convenient is the time zone. Belize is located in the Central Standard Time Zone (CST). That means it is the same time on Ambergris Caye, Belize, as it is in Chicago. Some people are concerned that offshore banking means getting on the phone in the middle of the night with banking staff, but that’s not the case in Belize. Banks operate during normal office hours, which just so happen to coincide perfectly with most North American hours of business. 

Of course, you may not want to communicate over the phone about your offshore banking needs at all. Fortunately, the convenience of banking in Belize also extends to online banking services. As long as you have access to an internet connection and a smartphone, tablet, or computer, you can transfer money or check your account balances with the click of a button.

CIB staff in from of bank headquarters - San Pedro, Belize (2)

Diversification is Key

People delve into offshore banking for varied reasons. However, one of the most common is to diversify financial holdings. A basic tenet of Economics 101 is that in order to reduce risk, you need to diversify. Many people diversify but continue to maintain their holdings within a single country’s jurisdiction. Ultimately, true diversification also includes geographic diversification. Although Belize offers a chance to invest in a new geographic location, it also offers all the things you expect in a secure financial environment. This allows for diversification without the stress of learning a new banking system or even a new legal system. Belize operates according to common-law systems similar to those you find in Britain, the United States, or Canada. 

Unparalleled Asset Protection and Privacy In decades past, certain nations held a monopoly on banking privacy and anonymity. As those destinations received more and more publicity, however, banking clients actually received more scrutiny, not less. In Belize, banks still operate in a way that grants account holders and businesses financial privacy as well as asset protection. This doesn’t mean that you can open a bank account anonymously or avoid taxation in your home country. What it does mean is that once your assets are placed in a bank account in Belize, those assets are far more secure than they would be elsewhere. If you face lawsuits or the freezing of your assets in the future, your accounts in Belize will remain secure. Plus, those who operate businesses within Belize can protect the identities of board members or shareholders if desired. 

Reputable Banking Systems 

If you choose to bank offshore in Belize, then it makes sense to bank with an institution that is established, financially solvent, and is recognized for its banking excellence. When selecting a bank, ensure it is compliant with necessary regulations and is licensed to provide international banking services to both corporations and individuals. Caye International Bank certainly fits this criteria. 

Discover Banking in Belize 

Clearly, plenty of investors around the world appreciate what Belize has to offer and choose this location to assist in asset diversification. When looking for the best locations for offshore banking and investing, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any more favourable than Belize.

Company: Caye International Bank 

Address: San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye, Belize, Central America 

Website: www.cayebank.bz 

Telephone: +501-226-2388 or +501-226-3083

WeSwap
Cash ManagementFunds

WORLD’S FIRST P2P CURRENCY EXCHANGE PLATFORM WESWAP HITS 500,000 USERS, LAUNCHES £2.3M FUNDRAISE

This morning, WeSwap, the award-winning peer-to-peer currency exchange platform, announces that in tandem with the launch of a £2.3 million funding round on leading investment platform Seedrs, it has hit 500,000 users. This raise will support the Series B investment round led by IW Capital, WeSwap’s lead investor, who has invested an additional £3.7 million in the travel money start-up, including £1.7 million of equity in this round.
 
Today’s news follows the company hitting a staggering £250 million in global currency traded on the platform since its launch in 2015, making the company the first peer-to-peer travel money fintech in the UK to do so. With award wins including Best Travel Money Provider at the 2018 and 2019 British Bank Awards, the fintech front runner has firmly cemented its role as one of the UK’s leading case studies for scale-up growth, fortifying a loyal and ever-expanding user base whilst maintaining the edge on product innovation and user experience.
 
WeSwap continues to hit remarkable milestones since its launch – presently, the currency exchange platform has over 30 travel industry partnerships, as well as booking flow integrations with online travel partners and numerous innovative travel-money products including:
 

  • A WeSwap pre-paid travel card
  • Card payments and withdrawals in over 195 countries and territories
  • Rate tracker
  • Smart Swap (where a user can pre-select an exchange rate at which they would like to execute a currency exchange)
  • Next day Travel Cash delivery
  • Buyback service

 
This is WeSwap’s third raise on Seedrs, having previously attracted over £3.5m from 3,868 investors.
 
Jared Jesner, CEO and Founder of WeSwap commented: “We have an incredibly loyal and engaged user base, something we’re truly proud of and will continue to honour with a great service. We are delighted to open up this latest round of funding, supplementing a series of debt, equity and private investment routes that have aided us in achieving some great milestones that we’re really proud of. This latest round will allow us to launch a range of new WeSwap product innovations and expand into Asia.”
 
For more information, please visit: www.seedrs.com/weswap3

Banking

Fast-tracking the evolution of banking with AI

By Tiffany Carpenter, Head of Customer Intelligence Solutions at SAS UK & Ireland

How intelligent decisioning solutions can help you stay relevant in the era of digital banking

Fierce competition, advances in technology, and consumer expectations for hyperpersonalised services are forcing the financial services sector to evolve. To adapt to rapid market developments, many banks and insurers are launching ambitious digital transformation projects. But do they actually deliver results?

The short answer: not often. In a recent study, McKinsey & Company found that fewer than one-third of organisational transformations succeed at improving a company’s performance, and a staggering 70% of large-scale change programmes don’t reach their stated goals. That’s a lot of effort and upheaval for very little reward. So what can we learn from this unsettling trend?

Common pitfalls

Every business and digital transformation strategy is unique, but there are four avoidable mistakes that financial services companies repeatedly make when approaching digital transformation:

  1. Misunderstanding the challenge

Whilst almost every financial institution has some kind of digital transformation strategy in play, many are focused on the technical aspects of digitisation and adapting to new channels and tools.

For example, many business leaders believe that digital transformation is mainly about replacing manual processes with automated workflows. That’s why there has been a rush to invest in robotic process automation (RPA) across the big banks and insurance players.

However, while automation can play an important role at the implementation stage, digital transformation is much more about reimagining traditional business models to succeed in new, fast-changing digital economies. In a banking context, that means redefining products and services to reflect the realities of a market where the customer is king.

  1. Pursuing disjointed initiatives

When rolling out digital transformation projects, banks often focus on innovation in individual functions or departments without considering how changes on one side of their business will affect other areas.

That’s a problem because banks have traditionally been structured along vertical product lines such as current accounts, savings, mortgages and credit cards, and horizontal business functions such as marketing, technology and finance. As a result, change programmes inevitably get stuck in the interdepartmental crossfire.

Instead, digital transformation initiatives must seek to disrupt the complex legacy operating model of the traditional bank and replace it with a more holistic, customer-focused approach.

  1. Making data unreachable

The letter “d” in digital transformation should stand for data. Without the ability to collect, store and access data, and the tools to refine it into actionable insights, banks won’t be able to leap ahead of their competitors.

For example, in an effort to serve business units with fast access to key information, many banks have established centralised data lakes. While this approach succeeds in eliminating individual data silos, it often ends up replacing them with a single large silo that is equally inaccessible.

Placing all data under the stringent governance of the IT department can make it very difficult for other business units to access and analyse time-sensitive data quickly. This can limit the value of insights and diminish the return on investment for large-scale change initiatives.

  1. Enabling cultures of resistance

The most challenging aspect of transforming any business is inspiring its employees to become advocates for change. Inertia, doubt and cynicism from people within the bank can stop transformation initiatives dead in their tracks.

That’s why setting a clear vision for change and encouraging employees to experiment with new ways of working is essential for banks to achieve a smooth adoption of new technologies and processes.

Shopping for success

In designing successful transformation initiatives, banks and other financial institutions can learn a lot from companies in other sectors that have harnessed analytics to avoid falling foul of these common pitfalls.

Take Shop Direct, which is not only the parent company of retail brands such as Very and Littlewoods, but also one of the UK’s largest nonbank lenders. While the company had thrived for many years on its traditional catalogue-based sales model, it realised that the future was not in paper. To pivot the business and remain relevant, it had to establish an online presence – and fast.

Shop Direct knew that moving its retail and financial services businesses over to an online-focused operating model would not be easy, but it had a secret weapon: vast amounts of data on customer buying habits, sales information and inventory records.

Within 12 months, Shop Direct built a solution based on intelligent decisioning software from SAS that was capable of mining useful insights from more than two years of data of customer interactions. By combining historical data with real-time context such as browsing behaviour, the company can now make instant decisions to tailor the user experience for each customer: personalised sort orders, personalised recommendations and real-time credit risk decisions.

Intelligent decisioning in banking

Similarities between the challenge faced by Shop Direct and the current ambitions of traditional banks are striking. Banks face an urgent need to reinvent their traditional business models for the digital world. Moreover, banks also possess huge volumes of customer data that they can analyse to find valuable insights about how to enhance existing services and develop new products.

AI and machine learning technologies have the potential to help traditional banks transform – but analytics on its own is not enough. Banks need to harness the insights generated by analytics to automate decisions at scale.

This means basing analysis not just on departmental data sets, but on all the information the bank possesses. It needs to include both historical transactional records and live data streams that provide immediate context on customers’ behaviour and actions. Furthermore, the analytics needs to take place in real time and drive automated actions to respond to immediate customer needs in order to truly affect the customer journey.

Banking the Unbanked - Wealth & Finance Interational
BankingCash Management

Banking the Unbanked

Banking the Unbanked

  • About 75% of adults earning less than $2 a day don’t have a bank account
  • More than 2.5 billion people around the world don’t have a bank account
  • The poor face bureaucratic, travel distance and cost barriers

Millions of people around the globe lack power, credit and internet which result in them being unbanked. Being unbanked means not having access to the services of a bank or similar financial organization.The challenges are manifold; from not being able to receive deposits from an employer, to no credit history and being excluded from lending, to lacking the ability to safely save money or transfer money.

In 2014 there were 2 billion unbanked people. Account ownership is almost universal in high-income economies, hence, all unbanked adults live in developing economies. China and India, despite having relatively high account ownership, claim large shares of the global unbanked population because of their size. 225 million adults living there are without an account. China has the world’s largest unbanked population, followed by India (190 million), Pakistan (100 million), and Indonesia (95 million).

 

What are the challenges in banking the poor?

Three quarters of the world’s population, living in poverty, are unbanked. This is not just because of poverty, but also due to the cost, travel distance and amount of paperwork involved in opening an account. Our bank account number is almost as intrinsic to our identity as name and date of birth. Getting a job, renting a house and having an internet connection at home would be nearly impossible without some sort of financial inclusion.

Yet today the unbanked population stands at a staggering 1.7 billion globally, according to data released by the World Bank.

“Providing financial services to the 2.5 billion people who are ‘unbanked’ could boost economic growth and opportunity for the world’s poor,” said World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick. “Harnessing the power of financial services can really help people to pay for schooling, save for a home, or start a small business that can provide jobs for others. This new report on the world’s ‘unbanked’ makes the case: the more poor people are banking today, the more they are banking on their future.”

 

What further challenges stop people using a bank?

FairPlanet researched further, and even with access to a bank, evidence suggests people will still not trust the bank, the service is unreliable, and withdrawal fees are prohibitively expensive. People are not inclined to borrow because they do not want to risk losing collateral. While expanding access to various banking services (for instance, by lowering account opening fees) will benefit a minority, broader success may not be obtainable unless the actual service quality is vastly improved. Moreover, there are challenges on the demand side. Increased work needs to be done to understand what savings and credit products are best suited for the majority of the unbanked living in poverty.

 

Problem solving?

Blockchain payments allow for cheaper money transfers and lower account fees while upholding security and transparency. Open banking allows for new players to enter the field and begin assisting the underbanked in ways that have never before been allowed, and blockchain technology is poised as a key component in the entire process. With are a few companies emerging in this field and companies, such as FairPlanet, that host these payment methods, we can see a push for financial inclusivity. Serving adults who live on less than $5 a day is not only possible at scale—to a large degree, it is already happening.

Banking

allpay.cards Instrumental in Launch of New Amaiz Business Banking Service for Solopreneurs

Leading UK card manufacturer and bureau, allpay.cards has announced it is the card provider for the new Amaiz mobile business banking service for solopreneurs. Amaiz aims to help people free-up time by supplying an app to give sole traders and small business owners access to fast, mobile banking services backed up with accounting and back office smart tools.

The account is quick to set up, enables fast UK bank transfers, plus Direct Debit management and a contactless business card with 3-D Secure protection, in-app card freeze and instant PIN reminders. As part of the service, an expert accountancy team are also available to help sole traders with general bookkeeping and accounting questions.

Steve Taklalsingh, managing director & CFO, Amaiz explains: “Featuring bespoke tools to support agile, ‘always-on’ small businesses, the Amaiz banking service makes life easier for solopreneurs by removing the headache of admin and accounting. Filing tax returns is more straightforward and invoices can be prepared from the app. Categorised transactions quickly assess where a business owner may be overspending and help to prepare for tax self-assessment in advance with all the details in one place releasing solopreneurs’ time to focus on the day job!

“We worked with allpay.cards for the design, manufacture and supply the bank cards for our new service,” confirms Taklalsingh. “allpay.cards provides services to a number of challenger banks and having been impressed with positive feedback from their customers we made our choice. In addition, the allpay.cards team are committed and proved supportive, quick and responsive to work with. For example, once we’d agreed the card design, they were able to manufacture a full run in just 10 working days (other manufactures can typically take around 6-12 weeks).

“allpay.cards also manages the secure personalisation of the cards at its state-of-the-art PCI compliant UK manufacturing facility which includes encoding the chip, adding the name and expiry and security code onto the cards. The bespoke fulfilment team then follow a secure process to hand match and attach the cards before they are shipped to the new card holder. If a card is ordered at 6am on a Monday it is dispatched by 5pm on the same day and this rapid turnaround is just one way the account can make life easier for small business owners.”

Emily Lovelock, head of sales at allpay.cards explains: “We provide the full end-to-end physical card service for Amaiz. From the guidance of the technical setup and creation of the card designs right through to manufacture and dispatch. We have full quality control and flexibility of the process at our UK accredited site, which we can be a more flexible provider than some of our competitors who manufacture their cards overseas.”

For more information please visit: https://allpay.cards/ or www.amaiz.com

Transactional and Investment BankingWealth Management

Promising Regional Start-up Gets Funding from Hungarian Companies

  • Enter Tomorrow Europe, a venture capital fund operated by Lead Ventures has gained share in Czech start-up Neuron Soundware, utilizing investments from MOL and Eximbank.
  • The Czech start-up analyses sounds and vibrations to detect when industrial machines need maintenance.
  • Apart from the Hungarian companies, the EUR 5,7 million investment is also supported by two Czech capital funds, Inven Capital and J&T Ventures.

Lead Ventures continues to expand its portfolio with the help of MOL, Eximbank, together with Czech capital funds. Together, the business partners invested EUR 5,75 million in Czech company Neuron Soundware. The start-up is one of the first companies in the region to implement sound-based diagnostics of industrial machinery, which greatly helps factories using such equipment.

Enter Tomorrow Europe, a capital fund operated by Lead Ventures, supported by MOL and Eximbank used funds from Hungary for its latest /5000 venture capital investment. Together with Inven Capital, a member of ČEZ Group, Lead Ventures gained share in the Czech Neuron Soundware company.

Neuron Soundware was founded as a start-up in Prague in February, 2016. Currently, they employ 20 experts and last year, they had revenue of almost half a million Euros. The company provides AI-based solutions for several industries, including the energy industry. Their software analyses the sounds made by industrial machines, and can detect even the smallest of changes or unusual noises, indicating that the equipment is faulty or in need of maintenance. Their technology is already used by several global corporations, including Daimler, BMW, Innogy, E.ON, Airbus and LG.

“We know exactly how pumps, gearboxes, cylinders, electromotors, or compressors should sound. The sounds of all regular components of a machine are stored in a database. But that is not enough, our artificial intelligence software is able to distinguish problem noises from regular process hum and surrounding sounds, giving the customer the certainty that the machine will not pull off any unpleasant surprises,” says Pavel Konečný, founder and CEO of Neuron soundware.

“Predictive maintenance is a part of Industry 4.0. Neuron’s exciting technology has the potential to create a real break-through in this area. We trust that, with our newest regional investment, this innovative solution can improve the efficiency of several industries,” added Ábel Galácz, CEO of Lead Ventures.

“Start-ups from Central Europe, which have already been tested, have great potential to break through in global markets. As part of our strategy, we are looking for innovative solutions that can increase effectivity of technical processes in industrial services. Like our recent entry into Slovak GA Drilling, our entry into Czech Neuron Soundware is an example of a successful connection of small start-ups with a strong international company for further growth,” said Oszkár Világi, MOL Group Chief Innovation Officer.

The full value of the investment is EUR 5.75. Almost half of that sum is provided by Lead Ventures ETE, using funds from MOL and Eximbank. The rest of the price is covert by Inven Capital and Neuron’s previous investor, J&T Ventures.

Managing over EUR 100 million, Lead Ventures aims to support start-ups with innovative ideas all over the CEE region, assisting them to take their products or services to the global market. MOL has been supportive of the goals of the investment fund before. In March, for example, Lead Ventures signed a EUR 4,2 financing deal with the Slovakian GA Drilling company. GA Drilling focuses on developing a revolutionary electronic plasma technology, creating plasma drills capable of penetrating deeper layers of the ground at a reduced energy cost, making geothermic energy more accessible. As part of the deal, experimental drill heads are now being tested at MOL’s own hydrocarbon facilities.

Transactional and Investment Banking

Mike Bagguley, Former Barclays International COO & Financial Trading Industry Leader, Backs Inforalgo with Investment & Board Role

Inforalgo, the Capital Markets data automation specialist, has announced that Mike Bagguley, formerly COO at Barclays International and a respected financial investment industry leader, has invested in the firm and joins as a board advisor.

Mike, who brings a wealth of experience gained in senior trading and leadership positions across Barclays Investment Bank, approached Inforalgo during a search for firms that offer the opportunity to significantly reduce risk and costs in the market’s businesses.

“Inforalgo’s approach is enormously appealing, because it rationalises the technology and operating platform that firms need to manage,” he said. “Its portfolio of powerful data integration solutions allow transactions to be recorded, processed and reported in a single action, reflected end to end, electronically aided by smart automation. These independent, smart data automation solutions remove considerable pain for financial institutions and broker-dealers, allowing them to get on with doing optimal deals without worrying about how everything will be input, processed and reported.

“In this volatile market where new opportunities come and go quickly, and international regulators are continuously updating and adding to transparency and reporting requirements, Inforalgo has identified a sweet spot with a series of high-impact solutions that are unmatched,” he added.

“Inforalgo has an unrivalled track record as platform-independent data connectivity and compliance automation specialists, and its expansion into automated cross-jurisdictional regulatory reporting is further confirmation that it is ahead of the industry curve.”

Commenting on Mike’s appointment and his injection of funds to support the company’s next growth phase, Jordan Ambrose, Inforalgo’s CEO, said, “We are delighted and honoured to have Mike’s involvement and investment, and excited to be building out our senior management team at this pivotal point in our company’s development and expansion. Mike brings with him a wealth of industry experience and insight, and we look forward to his invaluable input.”

Mike Bagguley
Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsTransactional and Investment Banking

Nevion and Sony establish a strategic partnership to provide enhanced IP broadcast production solutions

Nevion, award-winning provider of virtualized media production solutions, today announced that it has agreed with Sony Imaging Products & Solutions Inc. (“Sony”) to establish a strategic partnership in the area of IP-based solutions for broadcasters and other industries. To reinforce this partnership, Sony will also become a leading investor in Nevion by acquiring a minority stake in the company through a share purchase agreement.

In recent years, Nevion has established itself as a leading provider of IP media network solutions for the real-time transport, processing, monitoring and management of the video, audio and data signals that are used in production. This partnership with Sony will allow customers to benefit from more advanced, fully integrated and standards-based media production solutions that combine outstanding media network technology with world-leading equipment such as cameras and switchers. These solutions will make it easier for customers to move to IP in their facilities and in remote production, as well as improve their ability to create content – for example through better sharing of resources.

“This is an exciting alliance for Nevion, its customers and its partners,” said Geir Bryn-Jensen, Nevion CEO. “It is based on very complementary solutions, products and know-how, and will allow us to offer a lot more to our customers, both existing and potential, than we have been able to until now. It will also give us a much greater scalability and reach.”

“Through this strategic partnership, we will be able to expand our end-to-end IP solution offerings that allow customers to produce live content connecting multiple locations”, said Mikio Kita, Senior General Manager, Media Solution Business Division, Professional Products & Solutions Group, Sony Imaging Products & Solutions Inc. “Working together with Nevion, we will deliver an integrated and optimal experience for our customers.”

Nevion’s CEO, Geir Bryn-Jensen concluded: “This strategic partnership with Sony is a real vote of confidence in Nevion, its vision, its strategy, its people and its IP-based media network solutions. We look forward to working closely with Sony to maximize the benefits for our customers.”

For more information about Nevion and its solutions, please visit the Nevion website.

Stock MarketsTransactional and Investment Banking

Duncan Kreeger launches prop tech business TAB APP

West One loans founder and CEO of TAB Duncan Kreeger has launched a fractional ownership proposition, TAB APP. Investors, once the app is fully launched, will be able to invest in commercial and residential property in three clicks.

Duncan has created a simple explainer video to make the complicated world of fractional ownership, rental yields and investing simple for potential users. Visit app.tabldn.com for more information

Watch the video below

Duncan Kreeger said: “Having worked within the property and financial services industry all my life I’ve long thought about how I can make a serious change to make people’s lives easier and allow the general public to have access to rental returns without the heavy investment of a BTL purchase. That’s why I bring you TAB APP, we’ll give users long term sustainable returns on commercial and residential property from investing from £1,000. I’m delighted with what we’re creating with my app developers Elemental Concept.”

The TAB APP is not yet ready for users to download and invest, this will be coming within the next month as the APP is currently going through the first batch of user testing. Users can register to test the app by emailing [email protected]

Capital Markets (stocks and bonds)Transactional and Investment Banking

London Tech Week: Blockchain for Business Summit launches today

Blockchain for Business Summit starts today as part of TechXLR8, London Tech Week’s flagship event. Now in its third year, the summit leaves hype, speculation and cryptocurrencies behind to focus on real-world use cases from industries and business leaders who are reaping the rewards of blockchain right now.

Daniele Mensi, CMO of NextHash, spoke at the Global Blockchain Congress in Dubai and gave the following commentary: 

Digital securities, Security tokens, tokenised securities or investment tokens are Financial securities that are compliant with SEC regulations and can provide investors with equity, dividends, revenue or profit share rights. With Digital Security offerings, the lack of complexity ensures that fundraising can be consolidated and the reduced need for middlemen means that investors experience a shorter lockup period. Often, these digital securities represent a right to an underlying asset such as proof of real-estate, cashflow or holdings in another fund. These benefits are all written into a smart contract and the digital securities are traded on a blockchain-powered exchange.

Because the blockchain market is decentralised and active 24/7 by nature, it is in a state of virtual liquidity when compared with the traditional financial markets. That is, one can trade 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and the market is never closed.

Ana Bencic, President of NextHash, has provided commentary on the potential of blockchain technology.

“Cryptocurrency trading spearheaded the rise of blockchain and these now provide a conduit between investors and businesses, utilising the technology to provide secure transactions for companies and institutions. As blockchain technology grows ever more popular with investors and traders everywhere, countries and companies that have adopted the technology at an early stage will be the front runners of this new technology. Others would be wise to use London Tech Week as an opportunity to see the true benefits of blockchain in financing businesses and get involved in tomorrow’s unicorns now.”

Transactional and Investment Banking

Ashfords LLP advises shareholders in Ocado’s £17 million investment into vertical farming

Earlier today, Ocado announced a £17 million investment into the vertical farming industry, including an investment into Jones Food, Europe’s largest vertical farm. The investment into Jones Food, represents one of the largest investments into a UK agritech company so far this year. Law firm, Ashfords LLP, advised Guinness Asset Management, the majority shareholder of Jones Food, in the transaction.

Vertical farming is an emerging industry in which crops are grown indoors in controlled environments, reducing waste, water and pesticides. Ocado has stated that it will use its know-how in automation and distribution to make Jones Food more efficient and potentially integrate it with other Ocado services to be able to deliver fresh products to customers within an hour.

Giles Hawkins, Corporate Technology Partner at Ashfords commented: “We’re delighted to have worked with Guinness Asset Management on this transaction. Vertical farming as in industry has attracted a lot of venture capital investment over the years, but is only now beginning to deliver as energy costs decline and the technology and know-how have developed. We are looking forward to seeing what the company will do with Ocado’s backing.”

The Ashfords team was led by Giles Hawkins and included Jonathan Groves and Nicola Manclark.

BankingCash Management

Cardiff Business Secures £2.5m Second Charge Bridging Loan Within Just 3 Working Days

Pure Commercial Finance Secures £2.5m Second Charge Bridging Loan Within Just 3 Working Days

Commercial brokerage breaks records with speedy funding when previous lender pulls out of multi-million-pound deal last minute.

Pure Commercial Finance, the Cardiff-based brokerage, recently saved a multimillion-pound development by sourcing £2.5m of funding in just three days.

The client, an experienced property developer who wishes to remain anonymous, had a large site with planning permission for multiple homes. An existing lender had taken a charge out on the land to fund the project up to that point, but further finance was needed to complete the job to the developer’s high-quality standards.

This finance was secured, but even though loan documents had already been issued, the lender pulled out at the last minute.

The developer was blindsided and needed £2.5m of funding in days to prevent the development collapsing. Ben Lloyd of Pure Commercial Finance was approached by the developer to save the project, despite its very short turnaround time and a valuation which only covered the first charge amount.

Pure needed a new lender that would take a second charge behind the existing debt and would look at the overall merit of the land value and the final project, rather than the previous valuation. With these complications there are very few lenders that Pure could turn to and rely upon to deliver, so they approached Bushell Investment Group (BIG) who had shown the Pure team a proven track record of delivery in these types of situations.

The average industry turnaround time is around three weeks for second charge loans, but Pure completed the deal within three working days.

Ben Lloyd, Managing Director of Pure Commercial Finance said:

“Bushell Investment Group is an absolutely outstanding lender for complex jobs, especially in a time sensitive situation. I can tell that the BIG team worked as fast as humanly possible and that they wanted to prove that they could get this deal done.

“I worked very closely on this deal with Lee Bushell, the founder and principal of BIG, to make the deal happen.

“Even though there wasn’t a second valuation, which would turn off many lenders, BIG were comfortable with their own research that the asset was worth significantly more and decided to progress with the loan without the need for a new valuation.”

Transactional and Investment Banking

Symphony Communications Doubles Down on Automation and Global Community Growth at Annual Innovate Asia Conference

Launches Symphony Market Solutions to Address Growing Industry Need for Automation

Appoints Mrs. Queenie Chan as New Head of APAC

Symphony Communication Services, LLC, the leading secure team collaboration platform, is doubling down on investment in workflow automation and global growth. Ahead of its annual Innovate Asia Conference, and alongside the concurrent announcement of its latest Series E fundraise of $165 million, the company today revealed:

  • The launch of Symphony Market Solutions to address the growing need in financial services for system integration, digital transformation and workflow automation
  • Reaching a milestone 1,000 unique bots created and running on the Symphony platform
  • Appointing Mrs. Queenie Chan as the new Head of APAC to lead growth in the region

“Symphony, trusted by over 405 companies and 450,000 users, has already proven that its unique security and compliance model is indispensable to companies who care about data security and sovereignty. With the foundation of our business solidly anchored we are now focusing on how we can deliver the deepest benefits of our platform to our global community, who rely on the Symphony to perform mission critical work every day,” said David Gurle, founder and CEO at Symphony. “Deep value, for us, means providing users better and faster ways to work. Doubling down on workflow automation with Market Solutions is the first step in achieving this vision.”

Further information and demonstrations regarding today’s news will be shared live at Symphony’s annual Innovate Asia Conference, held in Singapore on June 13, 2019. 

 

Symphony Solves Complicated Workflows With Launch of New Market Solutions

Symphony today launched Symphony Market Solutions to address the growing need for workflow automation in financial services and other sectors.

Symphony Market Solutions is a suite of standardized, licensable software solutions purpose-built to simplify and automate complex and time-consuming workflows. Market Solutions will include: financial services workflow tools purpose-built for automation of trade life-cycle, enhancing client services across banking and wealth management and more; and enterprise integrations and workflows for IT, operations, sales, HR, developers and more. Symphony customers are already using these Solutions to achieve business outcomes including improved client experiences and employee productivity.

Specific Market Solutions available for customers today include a new workflow tool called SPARC, which lets Buy-side and Sell-side traders seamlessly shift from real-time conversation to RFQ negotiation, all in the same chat room; and other solutions such as integrations for Salesforce, ServiceNow, Confluence, Jira and GitLab. 

Since introducing its Software Developer Kit (SDK) in 2018, Symphony clients have developed more than 1,000 unique bots operating on the platform today. This number indicates the growing interest within the financial services community to leverage Symphony for key workflow automation initiatives. With Market Solutions, Symphony is now taking this to the next level by offering customers packaged and licensable solutions for the most requested workflows and automations.

“When we looked at the sheer number of bots that customers were developing, and we began to see patterns emerge when customers talked about the use cases they were looking to solve with them. This led us to identify the need for a standardized set of workflow automations that could be deployed across the Symphony community – as opposed to bespoke development of proprietary bots,” said Goutam Nadella, EVP of  Symphony Market Solutions. “Our Market Solutions can help alleviate the pain of the most complex, time consuming activities for our customers, while also helping them enhance the services they provide to their own end customers. Symphony customers will be able to install turnkey workflows to automate the completion of RFQs or even resolve a trade break, so that our users can better focus on what they do best: making the strategic decisions that their client depends on.”

All Market Solutions are built, licensed and supported by Symphony. Additionally, as part of the Market Solutions offering, Symphony also provides a wide range of licensable third party applications to enhance and facilitate customer’s digital transformation and workflow automation initiatives.

Symphony Names Mrs. Queenie Chan as Head of APAC to Lead Regional Growth and Development

In her new role as Head of APAC, Queenie Chan, formerly Head of North Asia, will lead Symphony’s expansion in this key region. Symphony is already well-established in the region: it hosts offices in Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo and 32% of its users are located across eight key APAC countries including China, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Australia, India and Hong Kong. 

“After having spent 15 years in Capital Markets in Asia with banks including CSLA, Barclays and Goldman Sachs, I wanted to join a high growth technology firm. Symphony was definitely the right choice as it has offered me an incredible opportunity to grow myself and the business,” said Chan. “I am very proud and grateful to the global Symphony team, and of our accomplishments to date in Asia.  I can’t wait to embrace wholeheartedly the next opportunities as we introduce Symphony Market Solutions to the market.”

Banking

Those living ‘unbanked’ and what that means for financial inequality

Those living ‘unbanked’ and what that means for financial inequality

Inequality is a major issue around the world. However, it is even worse amongst those who have no access to banking. The World Bank estimates that about three-quarters of the world’s poorest are unbanked. If the world is to solve the problem of financial inequality on a global scale, there is a need to ensure that there is basic access to banking services.

 

What does it mean to be unbanked?

 

An unbanked person is one who does not hold an account at a formal financial institution. As a result, such a person cannot access basic global financial services such as a savings account, credit, money transfers, and much more. To access these services they use informal means.

 

Who are those that live unbanked?

 

FairPlanet’s researched further. The unbanked are mainly:

  • Those in households with unstable or low incomes
  • Those in less – educated households
  • Younger households
  • More female than male
  • Disabled households of working age

Some of the reasons why these groups are unbanked are:

  • There is not enough money to open or maintain an account
  • Avoiding financial institutions gives them more privacy
  • They do not trust banks
  • Accounts fees are unpredictable or too high
  • Problems with credit, ID, or former accounts
  • Banks do not meet them at their point of need
  • Inconvenient hours and locations

 

What does this mean for financial inequality?

 

There is a high correlation between global statistics on the unbanked and poverty. For one, 75% of all unbanked people are poor. Besides that, they are unable to access basic social support services. In the developing world, it means things are much worse for women. There is a majority of ubanked women – 55% women compared to 46% of men.

 

For the unbanked, access to any financial services comes at an extra cost. For instance, they have to account for the cost of travel when they need financial services. This takes away crucial hours that could be used to earn. Besides that, they are left at the mercy of loan sharks who charge exorbitant prices for loans; this only serves to drive them further into poverty.

 

The technology advances that might help

While the unbanked don’t have bank accounts, credit cards or loans – they do have smartphones. Globally, six billion people around the world have access to a mobile phone – which includes at least half of the world’s unbanked population. The mobile money market is making great headway in developing countries.

The hyper connected digital world of today’s commercial environment is one where participants are required to have a bank account to send and receive payments both at home and abroad. Services like Venmo, Paypal, and Payoneer aren’t compatible with the unbanked population, and services that are, such as Western Union and Ria, are exploitatively expensive.

With the advent of blockchain technology, the unbanked will have access to digital payments and remittances. One promising technology that could help to provide banking services to those with no or limited access to the banking industry is the blockchain. Blockchain technology is a decentralized, distributed and public digital ledger that is used to record transactions across many computers so that any involved record cannot be altered retroactively, without the alteration of all subsequent blocks.

 

This way, they will have the information needed for them to set up bank accounts and go on with their lives using this technology. The digital and verifiable profile, which is secured by the blockchain, will allow former refugees to access loans and build business wherever they go. In the process, it will be a step towards helping to solve the issue of global poverty. While most poor people do not have access to financial services, they do have smartphones and these can be used to capture their details digitally.

 

FairPlanet, a non profit platform concerned with human rights issues, is launching SatoshiPay on their site, an innovative micropayment solution. With a free $10 to donate, they are a perfect example of a company taking the right steps to a financially inclusive world.

Cash Management

What can cryptocurrencies offer during political upheaval?

Commentary by Ana Bencic, founder & CEO of Nexthash

The political and economic climate within the UK has been uncertain in recent months. The value of the pound has been turbulent and it has been rising and falling in response to political events, such as the Brexit vote and the recent departure of the prime minister. Investors who have been taking notice of the unpredictable nature of fiat currency’s’ value in relation to political events, as well as the near-constant rise in the value of several cryptocurrencies, will be looking at what makes cryptocurrency a viable alternative to traditional currency.

 

After experiencing a 4-month slump due to Brexit insecurity, the pound rose back up to $1.2710 shortly after the Theresa May’s announcement of resignation. Unfortunately, the recovery was short-lived and the pound almost immediately lost 3% of its value in the following days. Now, traders are showing concern that the next prime minister may seek a tough Brexit deal, which may hurt the value of the pound more than before. With more uncertainty than ever in the market, including the inability to hold above 1.27, the pound, it is clear that the value of pound sterling is predicated on political factors.


In stark contrast, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin appear to be unaffected by political upheaval. The value of Bitcoin recently exceeded $8000, after a period of sustained growth over several months. Investors who are wary of traditional currencies will be attracted to the fact Bitcoin does not rely on any financial institutions or third-party entities. Bitcoin is a decentralized currency that uses peer-to-peer technology, which enables all functions such as currency issuance, transaction processing and verification to be carried out collectively by the network. While this decentralization renders Bitcoin free from government manipulation or interference, the flipside is that there is no central authority to ensure that things run smoothly or to back the value of a Bitcoin. Bitcoins are created digitally through a “mining” process that requires powerful computers to solve complex algorithms and crunch numbers. They are currently created at the rate of 25 Bitcoins every 10 minutes and will be capped at 21 million, a level that is expected to be reached in 2140.

Additionally, Bitcoin effectively increases efficiencies, adds security to transactions and eliminates traditional methods of fraud. Some economic analysts predict a big change in crypto is forthcoming as institutional money enters the market. Moreover, there is the possibility that crypto will be floated on the Nasdaq, which would further add credibility to blockchain and its uses as an alternative to conventional currencies. Some predict that all that crypto needs is a verified exchange traded fund (ETF). An ETF would definitely make it easier for people to invest in Bitcoin, but there still needs to be the demand to want to invest in crypto, which some say may not automatically be generated with a fund.

 


Cryptocurrencies are increasing in popularity with each passing day, as traditional investors & traders start to use it more often and several major first-world nations pass legislation in support of cryptocurrency trade and investment. At this point in time, there are 14 million Bitcoins in circulation. Countries with underdeveloped infrastructure and nations experiencing devaluation of their national currency can seize the advantages of cryptocurrencies- for the simple reason they are able to move money across their country’s borders with far greater ease than traditional currency. Cryptocurrencies exist outside of the control of central banks, where traditional accounts can be garnished or frozen. In fact, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin exist outside the regulations and laws that allow this to happen, it’s very rare to be unable to access your coins.





 

 

Cash ManagementFinanceSecuritiesTransactional and Investment Banking

What is next for cryptocurrency?

The rise of cryptocurrency is to be seen as a democratising force within the global economy. For example, secured token offering, has emerged as a true competitor to the traditional Initial Public Offering (IPO) for growing businesses. Judging from the growing acceptance of cryptocurrency by countries and companies, it is predicted that institutional investors will move towards secure cryptocurrency investments over the next decade, if not earlier. Ana Bencic, President and Founder of NextHash explores this phenomenon in more detail.

 

Uber Technologies Inc.’s large initial public offering launched in May and the ride-hailing app has run into some trouble. Uber proposed to go public with a $120 billion valuation, to be pitched by financiers at Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs ahead of its IPO. Nonetheless, the company eventually listed with a $75.5 billion market cap. The New York Times elucidated that institutional investors, many who privately owned Uber stock, would not purchase additional shares at a higher price. Uber had received in excesses of $10 billion from institutional investors and private equity firms, among other investors, according to the report and many bought their Uber shares at valuations below $61 billion.

 

The ride-hailing giant priced its IPO on Thursday 9th May at $45 a share, raising a minimum of $8.1 billion and putting Uber’s IPO well behind some of the other, large offerings on the U.S. market in recent years. Facebook Inc raised $16 billion its offering in 2012, while Visa Inc. raised close to $18 billion in 2008 and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. brought in around $25 billion in 2014.

 

Initial Public Offerings can offer companies the prospect to raise new equity capital; to monetise the investments of private shareholders such as corporation founders or private equity investors and to enable simple trading of existing holdings or future capital raising by becoming publicly traded enterprises. 

 

Nevertheless, for companies looking to list, there are potential drawbacks. Foremost, there is the risk that the required funding will not be raised. Additionally, the cost for accounting, marketing and legal professionals to get to the point of an IPO can be sizeable. It might also necessitate a significant amount of time and effort from the management team, potentially disrupting them from their primary task of running the business. Furthermore, as in Uber’s case, there is a. While no promises can be made in these circumstances, many may be looking at the recent state of these tech unicorns (privately held start-up enterprises valued at over $1 billion) such as Uber and even Facebook may have people pondering if the next big thing will follow the same path. 

 

Aside from financial sacrifice, the time and effort to get to the IPO stage and the administration required once a company has gone public or floated, is considerable. For companies at the front-line of technological advancements, time is of the essence. According to Street Directory, an IPO typically takes between six and nine months. In some cases, this procedure can take up to 18 months. For high-growth businesses, this kind of interval may well bump potential unicorns off their path to a £1 billion valuation and present their rivals with a huge advantage. So what other prospects do highly scalable businesses have? 

 

The cryptocurrency market provides distinctive opportunities for businesses in need of access to vital growth finance and for investors desiring access to potential unicorn businesses at an early stage. This is made likely by cryptocurrency platforms’ capacity to operate across borders, an advantage that isn’t possessed by conventional markets.

 

In April, the French parliament permitted a ground-breaking financial sector bill which aims to encourage both cryptocurrency traders and issuers to set up in France. Organisations looking to issue or trade both existing and novel cryptocurrencies will soon have the option to apply for official accreditation.  The scheduled certification process exhibits a degree of official acknowledgement of the cryptocurrency marketplace. Bills like this enable French investors to trade and invest cryptocurrencies, as well as facilitating businesses to be traded as a Secured Token Offering which would give investors, traders, and entrepreneurs a way to trade and exchange tokens for cryptocurrencies, bringing the ecosystem into the cryptocurrency world. In exchange for charging tax, France is laying the foundations for the Europe-wide adoption of cryptocurrency trading.

France is pushing for the European Union to adopt a regulatory framework on cryptocurrencies.

 

There has been a largely positive attitude towards cryptocurrency by several countries. Malta, Slovenia and France are strong examples of those who are encouraging the implementation and use of cryptocurrency for trading and investment. The ability to invest or trade freely and across borders is an attractive prospect for businesses, who are able to receive financial investment from foreign parties.

 

New technologies are allowing businesses that are not in a jurisdiction that has cryptocurrency regulation in place yet to be included in the new, second generation of scaling business investment. 

 

With Brexit on the horizon for the UK, economists are making their forecasts about how the worth of the pound will be affected. Due to the interdependence of the pound and euro, some have claimed that in either of the potential outcomes- there will likely be some loss in value to these traditional forms of currency.  Cryptocurrencies offer an alternative to traditional, fiat currencies for both consumers and companies, due to their unique advantages of being decentralised, transparent and wholly unaffected by the Brexit situation

 

With incongruent regulation and legal frameworks throughout the globe, platforms that empower a corporation or investor in one jurisdiction to trade or exchange tokens or currency with another trader in another country with a different statute could open the doors to potential unicorn companies to thousands of family offices, hedge funds and institutional investors in a matter of years. In the medium term, platforms that give businesses access to global growth finance could help developing countries and the wider global economy grow at a truly competitive rate to their Western counterparts. 

 

CONCLUSION

 

Cryptocurrencies have spent the last few years in a stage of growth and maturation. The emergent importance of blockchain-based cryptocurrencies is easy to grasp today. From the snowballing rate of adoption of Ethereum and Bitcoin by conventional institutions, the instituting of digital-assets trading platforms and the implementation of cryptocurrency-specific legislation by numerous countries both inside and outside of the EU- cryptocurrency is seeing far greater adoption by both institutional and private traders/investors. With the ability to invest in a corporation from anyplace in the world, quicker than by traditional means and with a far greater potential for a swift return on investment, cryptocurrency offers manifold unique and substantial advantages that have fortified it a lasting place in society.

 

 

Banking

Open banking: Threat or opportunity?

By Tiffany Carpenter, Head of Customer Intelligence at SAS UK & Ireland

Redefining banking in a financial services market where your biggest competitor may be Amazon or Google, not a traditional bank.

 

Open banking may not have made much of an impression on consumers yet. But it’s a topic that the industry cannot afford to ignore. Tier one UK banks are already bound to grant licensed startups access to transaction-level data, and smaller banks are likely to have to follow suit in the near future. The potential impact on the banking landscape is profound.

 

Today, the standard business model for retail banks is to build strong relationships with their customers by offering free current accounts and other incentives. These services are a net cost to the business, but they help the banks win trust and provide a channel for marketing more profitable products, such as mortgages, loans and wealth management services.

 

Open banking threatens to sweep this business model away like an avalanche. Agile fintech companies are already developing apps that aggregate all the financial services that a customer receives from any provider, creating a single point of control.

 

This will certainly improve the banking experience for most consumers. But it will also add a new layer between banks and their customers. All communication with the customer will happen via the app – and the app provider will control that communication channel, not the banks.

 

According to market analysts, this poses a real threat. If a bank can’t upsell high-value services to its customers, it may be left with a thin share of the market. Banks could be drowning in current accounts while app providers skim the cream of profitable loans and investment services off the top. Bain & Company point out that similar disruptions in industries, such as music and travel, have seen incumbents’ profits fall by 10% to 20%, often within fewer than five years.

 

Threat or opportunity?

 

While the stakes are high, the odds are still in the banks’ favour – at least for now. For decades, they have collected data on millions of customers and billions of transactions, across the whole spectrum of financial services. This data is a priceless source of insight that banks can use to create customer experiences that their data-poor fintech competitors simply can’t match.

 

For example, instead of just helping customers make payments or check their balance, a new generation of banking apps could provide users with much more relevant, personalised advice. By comparing individual spending patterns with the behaviour of a wider population of users, they could pinpoint topics that users really care about –reducing utility bills, for example, or paying off a mortgage – and suggest helpful strategies for meeting their financial goals.

 

Serious competition

 

Banks aren’t just worried about competition from fintech startups. There’s also a risk that other data-rich companies could make a beeline for the financial services market. Amazon, Apple, Google and other tech giants already have enormous quantities of information about consumer spending habits, as well as some of the world’s most talented data scientists, UI and UX developers. If they want to build the world’s best banking app, they seem to have all the right tools already. What’s to stop them from seeing financial services as their next market to dominate?

 

Again, the answer is that banks still have the advantage, at least in the short term. There is more to a user’s personal finances than just online shopping habits. And banks have a much more complete picture of how people borrow, spend and invest their money across mortgages, loans, credit cards, savings accounts, stocks and funds.

 

More importantly, customers trust their bank to manage both their information and their money. As a heavily regulated industry, banks simply cannot afford to play fast and loose with their customers. Meanwhile, barely a week goes by without another scandal about an internet company selling, losing or misusing customer data.

 

So while you probably trust online retailers to deliver your shopping, you might still have a few qualms about letting them manage your pension.

 

That said, customers’ trust and loyalty are finite commodities. If banks don’t act on their advantage now, they will lose it little by little. An outstanding user experience can easily seduce customers. And if you can’t provide one, your competitors certainly will.

 

On your marks

 

In short, the race to build the killer banking app is on – and banks, fintechs and other players are all in the running. Whoever gets there first will win it all, leaving the others scrambling to redefine their role in a banking industry that bears little relation to today’s world.

 

The difference between winning and losing, as we’ve already hinted, will be in the data. If banks can mobilise the treasure trove of data they already possess and harness artificial intelligence and machine learning to bring insights closer to the point of customer interaction, then they will be in a powerful position to lead the next stage in the evolution of financial services.

 

And that’s not just wishful thinking. Take a look at our case study with ICA Banken. SAS solutions are helping ICA Banken analyse customer behaviour online and combine it with historical banking data to create a fully personalised and customised user experience. While customers browse the ICA Banken site, intelligent algorithms automatically assess their needs and display helpful information and relevant offers in real time, resulting in a tenfold increase in conversion rates for the bank’s campaigns.