Fintech lender adds strong consumer finance leadership
Santillan has spent over a decade in consumer finance leadership roles, including senior positions at GE Capital Bank in Spain.
Santillan joins from Ferratum, where he was country manager of its Spanish business.
His background spans sales, risk management, finance, and pricing and portfolio strategy.
Prior to his work in Spain, Santillan held a series of roles with Ambev in Argentina. He holds an MBA from IEDE and a Public Accountancy degree from Buenos Aires University.
4finance Group CEO Mark Ruddock said: “Gustavo’s broad experience in consumer finance from products through to business leadership, make him a great addition to our team, in one of our core markets.”
Santillan said: “4finance is taking a leadership position in responsible digital lending in Spain. Consumer demand, developing technology and regulatory change are creating new opportunities that 4finance is well placed to act on.”
4finance is best known in Spain through its consumer brand Vivus. Vivus.es has a strong focus on customer satisfaction, achieving 4.6 out of a possible 5 in consumer feedback scores on eKomi.com.
What to expect in 2021: Top trends shaping the future of transportation
By Lee Jones, Director of Sales – Grocery, QSR and Selected Accounts for Northern Europe at Ingenico, a Worldline brand
The pandemic has reinforced the need for businesses to undergo digital transformation, which is pivotal in the digital economy. In 2020, we saw the shift to online and cashless payments accelerated as a result of increased social distancing and nationwide restrictions.
The biggest challenge on all businesses into 2021 will be how they continue to adapt and react to the ever changing new normal we are all experiencing. In this context, what should we expect this year and beyond, in terms of developments across key sectors, including transport, parking and electric vehicle (EV) charging?
Mobility as a service (MaaS) and the future of transportation
Social distancing and lockdown measures have brought about a real change in public habits when it comes to transportation. In the last three months alone, we have seen commuter journeys across the globe reduce by at least 70%, while longer-distance travel has fallen by up to 90%. With it, cash withdrawals for payment has drastically reduced by 60%.
Technological advancements, alongside open payments, have unlocked new possibilities across multiple industries and will continue to have a strong impact. Furthermore, travellers are expecting more as part of their basic service. Tap and pay is one of the biggest evolutions in consumer payments. Bringing ease and simplicity to everyday tasks, consumers have welcomed this development to the transport journey. In-app payments are also on the rise, offering customers the ability to plan ahead and remain assured that they have everything they need, in one place, for every leg of their journey. Many local transport networks now have their own apps with integrated timetables, payments, and ticket download capabilities. These capabilities are being enabled by smaller more portable terminals for transport staff, and self-scanning ticketing devices are streamlining the process even further.
Ultimately, the end goal for many transport providers is MaaS – providing an easy and frictionless all-encompassing transport system that guides consumers through the whole journey, no matter what mode of travel they choose. Additionally, payment will remain the key orchestrator that will drive further developments in the transportation and MaaS ecosystems in 2021. What remains critical is balancing the need for a fast and convenient payment with safety and data privacy in order to deliver superior customer experiences.
The EV charging market and the accelerating pace of change
The EV charging market is moving quickly and represents a large opportunity for payments in the future. EVs are gradually becoming more popular, with registrations for EVs overtaking those of their diesel counterparts for the first time in European history this year. What’s more, forecasts indicate that by 2030, there will be almost 42 million public charging points deployed worldwide, as compared with 520,000 registered in 2019.
Our experience and expertise in this industry have enabled us to better understand but also address the challenges and complexities of fuel and EV payments. The current alternating current (AC) based chargers are set to be replaced by their direct charging (DC) counterparts, but merchants must still be able to guarantee payment for the charging provider. Power always needs to be converted from AC to DC when charging an electric vehicle, the technical difference between AC charging and DC charging is whether the power gets converted outside or inside the vehicle.
By offering innovative payment solutions to this market segment, we enable service operators to incorporate payments smoothly into their omnichannel customer experience that also allows businesses to easily develop acceptance and provide a unique omnichannel strategy for EV charging payments. From proximity to online payments, it will support businesses by offering a unique hardware solution optimized for PSD2 and SCA. It will manage both near field communication (NFC) cards and payments from cards/smartphones, as well as a single interface to manage all payments, after sales support and receipt with both ePortal and eReceipts.
Cashless options for parking payments
The ‘new normal’ is now partly defined by a shift in consumer preference for cashless, contactless and mobile or embedded payments. These are now the preferred payment choices when it comes to completing the check-in and check-out process. They are a time-saver and a more seamless way to pay.
Drivers are more self-reliant and empowered than ever before, having adopted technologies that work to make their life increasingly efficient. COVID-19 has given rise to both ePayment and omnichannel solutions gaining in popularity. This has been due to ticketless access control based on license plate recognition or the tap-in/tap-out experience, as well as embedded payments or mobile solutions for street parking.
These smart solutions help consider parking services more broadly as a part of overall mobility or shopping experience. Therefore, operators must rapidly adapt and scale new operational practices; accept electronic payment, update new contactless limits, introduce additional payments means, refund the user or even to reflect changing customer expectations to keep pace.
2021: the journey ahead
This year, we expect to see an even greater shift towards a cashless society across these key sectors, making the buying experience quicker and more convenient overall.
As a result, merchants and operators must make the consumer experience their top priority as trends shift towards simplicity and convenience, ensuring online and mobile payments processes are as secure as possible.
Opportunities and challenges facing financial services firms in 2021
By Paul McCreadie, Partner at ECI Partners, the leading growth-focused mid-market private equity firm
Despite 2020 being an enormously disruptive year for businesses, our latest Growth Index research reveals that almost three quarters (74%) of mid-market financial services companies remained resilient throughout the pandemic.
This is positive news, especially when taking into account the economic disruption that financial services firms have had to go through since the crisis began. No doubt 2021 will also hold its own challenges – as well as opportunities – for firms in this sector.
Unsurprisingly, the biggest short-term concern for financial firms for the year ahead involved changing pandemic guidance, with 42% citing this as a top concern. With the UK currently experiencing a third lockdown many financial services businesses will have already had to adapt to rapidly changing guidance, even since being surveyed.
Businesses will also be considering the need to invest in working from home operations, and there may be uncertainty over re-opening offices on a permanent basis. According to the research 30% of financial services firms are planning to adopt remote working on a permanent basis, so decisions need to be made now about whether they invest more in enabling staff to do this, or in their current office premises.
Due to Brexit, UK financial services firms are no longer able to passport their services into Europe, which may cause problems, particularly in the next 12 months as the Brexit deal is ironed out and the agreement is put into practice. Despite this, Brexit was only cited by 24% of financial firms as a short-term concern. While it’s comforting to see that UK financial firms aren’t hugely concerned about Brexit at this juncture, it is going to be vital for the ongoing success of the industry that the UK is able to get straightforward access to Europe and operate there without issue, otherwise we may see these concern levels rise.
Looking ahead to longer-term concerns for financial services businesses, the top concern was global economic downturn, of which 40% of firms cited this as a worry when looking beyond 2021.
Investing and adopting tech
Traditionally, the financial services sector has been slow to adopt digital transformation. Issues with legacy systems, coupled with often large amounts of data and a reluctance to undertake potentially risky change processes, have meant many firms are behind the curve when it comes to technology adoption. It’s therefore promising to see that so much has changed over the last year, with 45% of financial services firms having invested in AI and machine learning technology – making it the top sector to have invested in this space over the last 12 months.
One business that exemplifies the benefits of investing in machine learning is Avantia, the technology-enabled insurance provider behind HomeProtect. The business has undergone a large tech transformation in the last few years, investing in an underlying machine learning platform and an in-house data science team, which provides them with capabilities to return a quote to over 98% of applicants in under one second. This tech investment has allowed them to become more scalable, provide a more stable platform, improve customer service and consequently, grow significantly.
This demonstrates how this kind of tech can help businesses to leverage tech in order to offer a better customer experience, and retain and grow market share through winning new customers. This resilience should combat some of the concerns that firms will face in the next year.
Additionally, half (51%) of financial services firms have invested in cybersecurity tech over the last year, which allows them to protect the platforms on which they operate and ensure ongoing provision of solutions to their customers.
Clearly, there is a benefit of international revenues and profits on business resilience. In practice, this meant that businesses that weren’t internationally diversified in 2020 struggled more during the pandemic. In fact, the businesses considered to be the least resilient through the 2020 crisis were three times more likely to only operate domestically.
Perhaps an attribute towards financial services firms’ resilience in 2020, therefore, was the fact that 53% already had a presence in Europe throughout 2020 and 38% had a presence in North America. This internationalisation gave them an advantage that allowed them to weather the many storms of 2020.
Looking at how to capitalise on this throughout the rest of 2021, half (51%) of are planning overseas growth in Europe over the next 12 months, and 43% in North America. Further plans to expand internationally is not only a good sign for growth, but should further increase resilience within the sector.
While there are many concerns, the fact that financial services businesses are investing in technology like AI and machine learning, as well as still planning to grow internationally, means that they are providing themselves with the best chances of dealing with any upcoming challenges effectively.
In order to maintain their growth and resilience throughout the next 12 months, it’s imperative that they continue to put their customers first, invest in technology and remain on the front foot of digital change.
How the evolution of customer behaviour is reshaping the insurance sector
By Rachael Laurie, Tempcover CCO
The insurance industry has an unenviable reputation of providing complicated policies that are obtained through a cumbersome and time-consuming process. For many customers this means a confusing and frustrating experience.
And in an increasingly digital world, consumer loyalty is no longer a guarantee. Modern day consumers will move their custom to businesses that offer a simple and convenient user experience at best value. This trend has only been accelerated with the onset of COVID.
For the insurance sector, it is essential for companies to not only get up-to-speed with the latest digital consumer trends but stay one step ahead to offer the most fit-for-purpose product or service that is complemented by a positive customer experience.
It starts with customer insights
Rapid market movements and changes in customer behaviour are driving a step change in the collection and assimilation of customer insight that is subsequently converted into action. A prime example is the seismic shift from public transport to private vehicle when lockdown was introduced.
Data from the Department for Transport  revealed that public transport usage drop by as much as 90% early in lockdown and is still currently down more than 70% compared to pre-COVID levels. This meant that the luxury of pre-planned market studies with linear decision making flowing out of the insight had to be replaced by the need for rapid ‘in-the-moment’ assessment of changing customer demands.
This was achieved through greater utilisation of light-touch agile methods, coupled with the ability to make robust intuitive marketing decisions from imperfect data in a time where speed is king. It’s not about perfection but achieving positive outcomes at pace in a rapidly-evolving consumer landscape.
Ongoing and proactive customer engagement is key
Customer engagement as a means of understanding, as well as fulfilling changing customer demands is crucial. Dialling up customer engagement capability of an organisation is more important than ever in enabling businesses to stay close to customers and differentiate responses and action accordingly.
Whether that be from a geographical perspective reflecting differing restrictions, adapting distribution like the motor industry’s move to remote selling of vehicles or sharing the profit burden by offering preferential promotions to encourage customers to part with a share of their reducing wallet.
Playing back compelling solutions that more closely meet the diversity of need will cut through the ‘standard’ COVID response noise. It’s about being more relevant to the customer – on their terms, and by their side. When the customer wins, the business wins too.
A well-run customer engagement programme can lead to improved conversion rates. For example, converting previously non-purchasing enquirers into paying customers, or converting one-time buyers into multi-buyers. Another business benefit of an effective customer engagement programme is encouraging repeat customers to come direct via owned channels – reducing exposure to paid search.
The best products and services are co-created with direct customer input
It goes without saying that even the best customer engagement programme will be ineffective if customers are not satisfied with the product or service they are receiving. At Tempcover, we’ve introduced a fully-enhanced digital user experience that was co-created with customers – with multiple-stage research and testing resulting in a fit-for-purpose user experience based on customer demands and expectations.
The end result is a simplified user journey that enables our full customer base to gain easy online access to our service offering and to interact with us seamlessly. Our super-agile digital offering also brings fully-comprehensive temporary car insurance straight to customers’ fingertips, through a quick and simple user experience that involves a simple policy confirmation process that enables customers to be on cover and driving within 90 seconds. Our customer advocacy is clearly evident in our TrustPilot scores – where 81% of over 18,000 reviews receive an ‘Excellent’ 5/5 rating.
Looking to marketers to navigate the future
It has never been more important for players in the insurance industry to truly know and understand their market. Adding valuable insight and direction to a business facing significant change means the role of the marketer is particularly pivotal in navigating how best to serve changing customer needs and serving those needs differently.
Those who lead through change will undoubtedly build valuable experience, demonstrating breadth and depth of capability – standing them in good stead for onward opportunities. The legacy will shine a light on the key role of marketing to lead, shape and set the direction of an organisation and how to win in challenging circumstances. The legacy will also challenge long-standing ways of working and reveal a new world order where speed, agility and pragmatism trump formulaic inflexible methods.
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