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An unexpected silver lining of the Brexit turmoil; the opportunity to make consumers more aware of their payment options when abroad

An unexpected silver lining of the Brexit turmoil; the opportunity to make consumers more aware of their payment options when abroad

By Gino Ravaioli, Chairman of the DCC Forum

The years that have followed the Brexit referendum have brought significant volatility for the pound. Before the vote in June 2016, which is widely viewed as a contributing factor to the currency’s drop in value, £1 was the equivalent of $1.50, but the impact of the uncertainty and longevity of negotiations since has caused it to tumble to just above $1.20. With formal agreements still to be finalised, it looks likely that the volatility is set to continue for some time to come.

The impact of a volatile currency

Gino Ravaioli

Gino Ravaioli

For those in the UK who have been going abroad during this period, the weaker pound has been more apparent with trips suddenly becoming more expensive than originally planned. Whether it has been for work or pleasure, Brits travelling outside of the UK have borne the brunt of a volatile currency and the propensity to overspend as a result of confusion around exchange rates has increased.

This has meant a greater need for more careful planning and research into destinations, looking further afield to get better value for money, staying on home soil and a tightening of budgets on spending whilst away. Whilst this, combined with the broader uncertainty surrounding Brexit, has brought many challenges for those going abroad, there has been an unexpected upside; the opportunity to drive greater awareness of their payment options and choices when completing a transaction abroad.

Understanding the options

Even for those who might have previously ignored exchange rates or paid little attention to their spending when going abroad, the volatility of the pound has incentivised consumers understand more about the payment options to identify a route that may be more cost effective or enable them to budget more effectively. Fear of getting a bad rate when exchanging currency has meant people have been less inclined to exchange cash before trips more recently, driving the use of cards abroad. Despite this, consumer understanding of the choices available when using a card remains low.

The cardholder education

Cardholders will be presented with two options when completing a transaction – to pay in the local currency or their home currency. Opting to pay in home currency calculates the exchange rate at the point of purchase, including all fees which have to be clearly stated. It means that what the cardholder sees at point of purchase is what appears on their bank statement – all in a currency they are most familiar with. As a recent YouGov poll of UK consumers revealing, familiarity is important when completing a transaction. In fact, over three quarters (78%) of consumers said they like the familiarity and 79% like the convenience of paying in pounds. During periods of currency fluctuation, this option is particularly valuable in enabling budget tracking, clarity on spending and offering peace of mind that they aren’t going to face a nasty surprise if the pound suddenly drops further in value 24 hours after the transaction.

Alternatively, cardholders can opt to complete the transaction in the local currency. In doing so, additional fees applied by the card issuer and bank remain unknown at the point of payment, as is the exchange rate. This information will only be known when the transaction appears on the bank statement in the days that follow, which ultimately makes it more challenging to determine the cost of a purchase. Not only that, but with the current instability of the pound, it can also lead to significant overspending.

Whilst the discussions around Brexit continue, and no doubt lead to further ups and downs for the pound, the opportunity it has created in driving further education to consumers in how they complete their payments abroad is invaluable. Whatever the next 12 months brings, it is important that consumers seek to understanding their choices when it comes to payment, so that they feel confident and empowered to make the decision that is right for them.

Business

From furlough to returning to work – employees are feeling insecure in their future

From furlough to returning to work - employees are feeling insecure in their future 1

New data looking into 6,273 employees, commissioned by Perkbox, the employee experience platform, has revealed the considerable impacts of the furlough scheme and the prospect of returning to work to wellbeing.

The research revealed that despite being a job retention scheme, furlough has led to a huge 61% of workers on the scheme with concerns over their future job security, and a further 42% have concerns about the future of their company due to their employer’s participation in the scheme. This is despite almost half (45%) enjoying the time off and break from working that this time provided. 

Furthermore, it’s not just those a part of the scheme that are feeling the impacts. Almost 1 in 5 (19%) who weren’t furloughed by their employers (but their companies did utilise the scheme) felt more secure in their job by not being chosen to be a part of it. 

The scheme hasn’t just led to insecurities, it’s also led to potential rifts between colleagues. 29% of those on furlough felt guilty about not working, while over 1 in 5 (21%) felt guilty for extra work that colleagues had to take on in their absence. Those who remained working over this period had to work harder (19%), experience more stress due to taking on extra responsibilities (18%), which ultimately impacted emotional wellbeing (16%). Resulting in 1 in 10 feeling resentful for their furloughed colleagues’ time off. 

As insecurity levels are high, employees expect company leaders to take personal action before considering redundancies. A huge 65% stated that they believe senior leadership should take a pay cut first, before considering options for staff – just 14% responded that they wouldn’t expect this from their leaders.

Moreover, as the furlough scheme changes, many are returning to work by encouragement of the Government. Despite this encouragement, less than half of employees (47%) feel safe in regard to returning to work (equal between office and non-office based workers), with almost a quarter (24%) feeling ‘unsafe’ about this transition.

Looking at what companies have done to prepare for a return to work, it comes as no surprise as to why employees may be apprehensive. Just 15% of businesses have set a fixed date for returning to work, a further 22% of employees have received no clear guidance on how to return to work. Furthermore, less than a third (31%) reported that their employer had implemented all of the necessary safety equipment to return to work, with just 30% establishing a clear back to work plan. 

Just 4% state that their company is planning to switch to completely working from home – begging the question of when companies are planning to communicate back to work plans. 

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Business

Return to work: Flexibility, preparation and communication are key

Return to work: Flexibility, preparation and communication are key 2

By Matt Weston, Managing Director, Robert Half UK

As lockdown restrictions ease for the foreseeable future, conversations across the business world are starting to turn to how employers can safely and seamlessly prepare for their workforce to return to the office.

Research from Robert Half has found that over half (54%) of employees are worried about working in close proximity to their colleagues, while a similar proportion are eager to return to the office due to loneliness working from home (45%) or concerns about missing out on career opportunities (30%).

Unsurprisingly, after everything companies and their employees have done to successfully adapt their operations and working practices to social distancing rules over the last few months, immediately returning to the old ways of working will likely neither be sensible or practical. With safety being the key priority for the ‘new normal’ of office life – communication, flexibility and preparation should be the main focus areas for employers.

With this in mind, what are the challenges and opportunities that employees anticipate as they prepare for the return to work, beyond government and industry supplied health and safety best practice? Furthermore, how can employers best support their staff during this period?

Keep people at the heart of change

It is important to recognise that your workforce has been working through an intense period of uncertainty and change for months, which can be incredibly unsettling. On top of this, working for weeks in isolation without the usual physical interactions with team members could be potentially detrimental to employee engagement and mental wellbeing.

Having adjusted to keep staff connected with one another from a distance with virtual team building exercises, video calls and daily check-ins, as teams begin working in hybrid models with some in the office and others remote, staff engagement will need to adapt again.

Managing people with greater sensitivity and maintaining positivity throughout will be crucial. To help instil a sense of normality and engagement, encourage maximum collaboration between individuals (in accordance with social distancing rules), and make sure teams feel part of company goals and opportunities through regular meetings and communication – no matter their location.

Continuing to invest in technology and offering flexibility will also be important to ensuring that people can continue to work remotely or on-site, either in accordance with their own wishes or as part of your staggered return-to-office plan.

Communicate, communicate, communicate (and listen)

Reassuring staff that they are able to safely return to the office will require continuous communication. From expectations of the physical office, to expectations of how to operate within hybrid teams, these new expectations and new workplace requirements should be communicated to all staff clearly to avoid confusion.

Regular email updates, updates on the company’s intranet and social media channels, as well as frequent town hall meetings (either online or in a smaller setting) could be key elements of an effective communications approach.

Also, consider a feedback channel to allow staff within the team to offer thoughts on their experience of returning to the office and any suggestions on improving the process. Whether on a company-wide basis or a team-by-team approach, schedule regular check-ins to engage with employees’ questions and concerns.

Maintaining open communication channels with your team will be essential for keeping up employee morale and ensuring clarity. For example, if some employees aren’t comfortable with coming to the office every day, then they should have plenty of opportunities to voice their concerns and have them dealt with promptly, respectfully and fairly.

Staggered return-to-office planning

Depending on the size of business and density of office space, maintaining home working arrangements across teams on an alternating basis could make it easier to implement safe social distancing. This involves select teams working remotely while others work on-site on any given day.

An alternating approach to remote working might also reduce the risk of staff feeling pressured or overwhelmed by an immediate return to the office five-days-a-week. After all, some families might be juggling temporary disruptions to childcare arrangements and public transport systems will likely become crowded again. So, a transitionary period will help everyone adjust to post-lockdown office working.

Finally, if you have developed your technology infrastructure to facilitate remote working, you would do well to continue to leverage these new capabilities as in all probability, a mixture of remote and at-office work will be needed for some time.

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Business

Contis enters RBS Capability and Innovation Fund bid seeking £35 million for disruptive SME growth strategy  

Contis enters RBS Capability and Innovation Fund bid seeking £35 million for disruptive SME growth strategy   3

Leading payments provider, Contis, has applied for two grants from the RBS & BCR Alternative Remedies Package, totalling £35 million.  

Unlike most applicants who will deploy funds through a single brand, Contis is taking a completely different approach. The funding will be used to drive fintech innovation in the UK by developing an off the shelf, B2B electronic and card payment technology platform for SMEs. With Contis’ powerful tech stack and regulated status, this will empower hundreds of fintechs to support the SME market with groundbreaking technologies, payments and lending capabilities. Contis today services over 800,000 consumer accounts, 14,500 business accounts and processes £4bn in transactions per year, demonstrating a proven track record.   

UK businesses are facing a challenging economic environment with the impacts of Covid-19 and Brexit. As large corporations and entire sectors are affected, SMEs will play a vital role in the recovery. Contis’ approach is completely disruptive, offering three channels to maximise support for SMEs and sole traders, through three unique brands, all powered by APIs from Contis’ modular and configurable engine. 

1.       Canvas for Business 

Contis is a super-vendor in the world of fintech, offering payments through proven banking rails and card scheme capabilities including issuing pre-paid, debit and virtual cards. They’re linked to digital delivery like Apple Pay and Google Pay, and a trusted tech stack that boasts 99.99% uptime.  

With funding from the Capability and Innovation Fund (CIF), Contis’ technology and regulated services will be made available to the whole fintech community, enabling them to provide dedicated SME accounts with the latest leading-edge capabilities delivered via Contis’ wholly owned, secure, cloud-based technology and apps. Contis’ solution has a firm eye on the need for SMEs to compete internationally, particularly after Brexit, and offers FX integration as standard.  

Canvas for Business will increase competition by providing fintechs serving the SME market with technology that outstrips the big banks. Contis will also provide credit referencing capabilities and empower fintechs to lend to their SME client base through Contis’ own credit licence. Without the constraints of legacy systems, it will enable simple connectivity to accounting and payments solutions, as well as to unlimited future innovations.  

2.       Engage for Business 

Over 150 Credit Unions currently use Contis’ Engage service and technology, and hold an estimated £400 million in undeployed cash reserves. Developed with CIF funding, Engage for Business will enable Credit Unions to launch business accounts and payments products for the first time, and allow excess funds to be redeployed in the SME sector through business support loans. This will revolutionise access to funding for sole traders and small businesses. 

3.       Freedom for Business 

With CIF funding, Contis will also offer large scale SMEs a direct-to-market solution where Contis holds the relationship and provides a bespoke offer to meet the business’ exact needs. 

Contis’ application to the Capability and Innovation Fund is focused on creating the widest possible impact for UK SMEs by fulfilling their accounts & payments needs and driving innovation in SME financial services. 

Through the grant, Contis will empower over 200 fintechs and Credit Unions to provide credit, simplify payments integration into everyday business needs, offer digital credit referencing, provide budgeting tools to SMEs, enable automated payments, give predictive insight on cash flow, provide rewards to SMEs on spending, and much more. 

Peter Cox, Founder and Executive Chairman of Contis said: “Our mission is to democratise payments and financial services for all SMEs, so they’re spoilt for choice with innovative and affordable solutions that meet their exact needs. Our approach, based upon proven technologies, will broaden and disrupt the services available to SMEs far beyond the capabilities of existing providers such as the big banks.  

“By driving competition and innovation, while improving the availability of funding, our approach will increase the services on offer to SMEs and make them more affordable, therefore becoming easier for every entrepreneurial person with vision to run their own businesses.” 

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