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Ambeon Holdings PLC: Driving Innovation across its businesses

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Ambeon Holdings PLC: Driving Innovation across its businesses

Adjudged as Most Innovative Company by Global Banking and Finance Review for the year 2019

Ambeon Holdings PLC, a medium sized diversified conglomerate was recently adjudged as the Most Innovative Company in Sri Lanka for the year 2019 by Global Banking and Finance Review – the leading financial and banking magazine in the UK. The Group was recognized and conferred this prestigious award for being future centric, embracing technology, inculcating innovation into its DNA and cascading it across the various businesses. The dynamic Group, which commenced 2019 by repositioning and transforming its business vision to take on the dynamic, technocentric business world of tomorrow continued transforming latent opportunities into lucrative ventures that delivers sustained value to its various stakeholders.

Receiving the award, Mr Murali Prakash – Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Ambeon Holdings PLC and Ambeon Capital PLC stated, “It is with pride that we acknowledge this award”. He further commented, “At Ambeon Group, Innovation is at the strategic level with the Corporate office having a separate vertical to drive it across the various business entities. We believe that this, along with focus driven corporate values, would build a sustainable future-centric organization in today’s dynamic business environment”.

Mr. Murali Prakash, Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Ambeon Capital PLC and Ambeon Holdings PLC

Mr. Murali Prakash, Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Ambeon Capital PLC and Ambeon Holdings PLC

The Ambeon group is reputed for its market dominance in the areas of financial services, manufacturing of porcelain and textile products, real estate, technology and strategic investments. The Group prides itself as being future ready, as it continues to be astute, driven, nimble and visionary –with an expanded range of products, strong globalized local brands, premier technology and innovation platforms, extending its footprint across new businesses, markets and regions.

“The acquisition of Sri Lanka’s leading Systems Integrator and Information Systems Provider Millennium IT ESP has steered the Group positively with greater penetration through the tech and innovation business. Whether it is embracing modern technologies within its businesses, introducing new age technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) or meet emerging needs and driving sustainable and profitable business outcomes,  the Group is now well geared to enable and facilitate innovative solutions for its existing customers or provide future-based transformation solutions for organizations within the country or the region” elaborated Mr Prakash.

Millennium IT ESP, one of Sri Lanka’s leading Systems Integrator and Technology Solutions Provider together with its global partners, has produced robust technology architecture and infrastructure, reliable and scalable enterprise solutions for many industries and leading conglomerates; including banking and finance, telecommunications and apparel manufacturing. For the Telecommunications sector, the Company provides enterprise grade critical servers and implementation of Enterprise Consolidated Backup Solution based on Veritas Netbackup for enterprise data centers. The fast-changing dynamics of the branded Apparel Sector demands the fail-proof orchestration of a complex supply chain. Upholding system integrity is crucial for delivering high-standard performance in designing, manufacturing and logistics at high speed. Millennium IT ESP has the experience and expertise in implementing a robust security solution for its compute and endpoint which is a security infrastructure to enhance capacity to confront the whole threat lifecycle, protect critical technology infrastructure and ensure information security and safety.

Millennium IT ESP is also at the forefront of building cognitive solutions to free talent from low value-adding tasks. “AI BoT” applications designed by Millennium IT ESP have significantly lessened the human interface in people operations at leading apparel groups and customer service at leading Banks and Telecommunications companies. The application of cognitive computing has accrued many benefits to Millennium IT ESPs’ customers: increased access to employee services, lower cost, speed and accuracy of responses and freeing talent from low value and uninspiring work. In addition to this, management of Sri Lanka’s very first outsourced Security Infrastructure with an ultra-modern Security Operating Centre (SOC) and Network Operating Centre (NOC), while protecting networks, websites, databases, servers, data centers and other technologies, ensures the continuity of clients’ businesses with uninterrupted network service.

The Porcelain sector which consists of Dankotuwa Porcelain PLC and Royal Fernwood Porcelain Limited, have embraced the latest technologies into the business. The e-commerce-based website which will be launched during the course of this year has incorporated 3D technology and AR, making it the first company in Sri Lanka and first in the porcelain sector within the region to embrace such technologies into digital sites. In addition to this, innovation is being used for new product development and technology-based process improvements within the factory floors to minimize costs and enhance efficiencies across the value chain. The financial services company consisting of Taprobane Capital Plus (Pvt) Ltd has commenced exploring the opportunities posed by Fintech, embracing the latest technologies available within this sphere. The textile cluster which includes South Asia Textiles Limited is on a positive trajectory to infuse future based innovative technologies and processes to enhance speed, efficiencies and offerings to its customers and partners. The Group is therefore in the process of experimenting for enhanced efficiencies across manufacturing with IOTs and other related new age technologies.

“We are constantly challenging ourselves to look beyond boundaries, catalyzing future opportunities through readiness. As such, the Group now better understands tomorrow’s changes and is transforming to be pre-emptive and thus demystifying the unknown. This simply means understanding the direction that the techno-centric consumers of each industry are heading towards, embracing innovation-based strategy and mapping out the future strategy with the aid of the right technology enabling and facilitating this shift across all businesses. It’s certainly heartening to see Ambeon having been recognized for innovation. It proves that our intuition to inculcate innovation across our businesses is correct, contributing positively towards our widely diversified portfolio. We will continue to be a leader in innovation, encompassing a more technological footing backed by strong financial services with a view towards sustainability and future-proof” concluded Mr. Prakash

The subsidiaries of Ambeon Holdings PLC include Taprobane Capital Plus (Pvt) Ltd (a leading financial services provider with a wealth of experience in capital markets in Sri Lanka), South Asia Textiles Limited, (leading manufacturer of exceptional quality weft knitted fabric. The company also specializes in Knitting, Dyeing, Finishing, Printing, Brushing, Sueding and Preshrunk fabric for leading global brands such as Victoria Secret, Next, Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Calvin Klein, Decathlon and Adidas), Dankotuwa Porcelain PLC and Royal Fernwood Porcelain Ltd., (manufacturers of porcelain tableware and gift items for global giants such as Oneida, Macy’s, Country Road, Lenox, John Lewis, Crate & Barrel, Megros, Jashanmal, Ralph Lauren, the Walt Disney Company and Dilmah), Millennium IT ESP  (Sri Lanka’s leading information systems solutions providerdelivering IT solutions for many industries; including banks and finance, telecommunications, apparel and leading conglomerates) and Colombo City Holdings PLC (real estate). The dynamic Group, which was repositioned and transformed recently to represent the Group’s business vision and to take on the dynamic, technocentric business world of tomorrow, continues to take the leap and transform latent opportunities into lucrative ventures that delivers sustained value to its various stakeholders.

Global Banking & Finance Review® is a leading financial portal and Print Magazine offering News, Analysis, Opinion, Reviews, Interviews & Videos from the world of Banking, Finance, Business, Trading, Technology, Investing, Brokerage, Foreign Exchange, Tax & Legal, Islamic Finance, Asset & Wealth Management. With over 3.6 million unique visitors per year we are one of the world’s leading online financial publications that specializes in financial awards as ranked by Alexa (Top 10,000). Alexa provides traffic data, global rankings and other information on 30 million websites

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ECB launches small climate-change unit to lead Lagarde’s green push

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ECB launches small climate-change unit to lead Lagarde's green push 1

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – The European Central Bank is setting up a small team dedicated to climate change to spearhead its efforts to help the transition to a greener economy in the euro zone, ECB President Christine Lagarde said on Monday.

Lagarde has made the environment a priority since taking the helm at the ECB, taking a number of steps to include climate considerations in the central bank’s work as the euro zone’s banking watchdog and main financial institution.

She is now creating a team of around 10 ECB employees, reporting directly to her, to set the central bank’s agenda on climate-related topics.

“The climate change centre provides the structure we need to tackle the issue with the urgency and determination that it deserves,” Lagarde said in a speech.

She said that climate change belonged in the ECB’s remit as it could affect inflation and obstruct the flow of credit to the economy.

The ECB said earlier on Monday it would invest some of its own funds, which total 20.8 billion euros ($25.3 billion) and include capital paid in by euro zone countries, reserves and provisions, in a green bond fund run by the Bank for International Settlement.

More significantly, ECB policymakers are also debating what role climate considerations should play in the institution’s multi-trillion euro bond-buying programme.

So far the ECB has bought corporate bonds based on their outstanding amounts but Lagarde has said the bank might have to consider a more active approach to correct the market’s failure to price in climate risk.

“Our strategy review enables us to consider more deeply how we can continue to protect our mandate in the face of (climate) risks and, at the same time, strengthen the resilience of monetary policy and our balance sheet,” Lagarde said.

(Reporting by Balazs Koranyi; Editing by Francesco Canepa and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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What to expect in 2021: Top trends shaping the future of transportation

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What to expect in 2021: Top trends shaping the future of transportation 2

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.

Lee Jones

Lee Jones

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.

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Opportunities and challenges facing financial services firms in 2021

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Opportunities and challenges facing financial services firms in 2021 3

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.

Challenges outlook

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.

International resilience

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.

Conclusion

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.

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