By Sue Trombley, Managing Director of Thought Leadership at Iron Mountain and ARMA Fellow, and Dr Joseph DiVanna, Managing Director of Maris Strategies Ltd and a Fellow of Churchill College, University of Cambridge.
In PwC’s Retail Banking 2020[i] report, they identified the top priorities for banks as they head into the next decade. Fourth on the list – after customer centricity, distribution optimisation and business model simplification – is ‘information advantage’. The collection, use, analysis and protection of customer and transactional data for competitive benefit is a challenging goal in itself and is complicated by the powerful forces currently reshaping the financial services landscape. These changes include new technological capabilities, evolving customer expectations, ever-stricter regulatory requirements and the disruptive impact of new competition in the form of software-based financial technology firms. To navigate the change and meet expectations, companies need fundamental information management policies and processes that are strong yet flexible enough to accommodate the very latest business needs.
The challenge of disruptive competition
There’s no getting around the fact that new market entrants are encroaching on the traditional industry with worrying speed and agility. They are offering financial services, in innovative and connected ways, at a lower cost and with fewer restrictions. Google and Amazon have launched new lending products, whilst PayPal, Square and Intuit are offering payroll deposit accounts, business checking, ACH wire deposit and merchant services. In this disruptive landscape, traditional banks need to fight back, and their legacy information can prove to be a vital weapon.
The value of information
Every established bank is immensely rich in data, collecting information about transactions, customer interactions, rate changes, risk assessment of portfolio investments and other events all generate data over the years. Most have implemented a solid yet scalable and responsive framework to store, organise and access the information. This should now be accompanied by clear methods for prioritising incoming data based on business goals. With the high volumes involved, banks should capture what they want to analyse, archive what they are required to store and delete the rest when no longer required.
If managed well, information can reveal patterns in customer behaviour, allowing for the prediction and anticipation of future needs or the generation of new, value-added products and services. If not managed carefully, it can present a potential risk or compliance challenge.
Balancing fear and freedom
The intense focus on turning vast volumes of data into intelligence, coupled with the need to rebuild public trust through spotless regulatory compliance and risk mitigation is playing havoc with essential, yet rigid, risk averse information policy frameworks. At the heart of this is a potential conflict between the need to share data for insight and the demand to keep data secure.
A robust, future-proof information management policy addresses this tension by enabling the flow of information around the business for analysis and access, with clear tracking, user accountability, understanding of cross-border restrictions, and anonymization of private information as required. The policy should have measures in place to identify which information is most valuable and where it is most vulnerable, allowing for the organisation to set restrictions accordingly.
Another major trend in banking is customer-centricity: putting customers – whether they are consumers or other businesses – at the heart of everything the organisation does. In terms of information management, this requires the integration of many different customer touch points including paper, into a single profile that is centrally managed and updated that can be deleted on request.
Once the new European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force in 2018, organisations will need measures in place to comply effectively with requests to remove personal data wherever it resides in any format. Many banks would struggle to comply with such a request today. Building this capability into information governance policy and practice now and tracking effectiveness can prevent a reactive response later.
Risk and regulation
The regulatory environment for banking and other financial services, whether in the UK, Europe or internationally is already strict and complex and likely to become more so.
The GDPR will usher in stricter rules, including a commitment to report all data breaches. For financial institutions doing business in the US, the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act is also strengthening business conduct standards on Wall Street and instituting new reporting and recordkeeping requirements.
The penalties for failure to meet regulatory requirements have never been so severe, and the consequences are unlikely to be purely financial. The potential reputational damage on a business in an industry where customer trust has already been severely eroded could prove devastating.
To reduce risk and strengthen regulatory compliance, information management policies need to embrace the basics. This means implementing best practice for handling records throughout their lifecycle, from creation through to defensible disposition, to ensure they comply with existing and incoming legislation. As for the business goal of customer-centricity, it involves having and enforcing a rigorous and secure chain of custody and audit trail to maximise accountability and visibility of information at all stages.
Banks are on a journey shaped by technology, demographic change and regulatory complexity. Implementing the right information management policies and processes is an important step on this journey. To innovate and survive banks need to future-proof their data practices, implement them effectively and measure them frequently.
Sunak to give UK Infrastructure Bank £12 billion of capital in budget
LONDON (Reuters) – British finance minister Rishi Sunak is expected to announce an initial 12 billion pounds of capital and 10 billion pounds of guarantees for the new UK Infrastructure Bank in his budget statement next week, the government said on Saturday.
It said this will help the bank, which will launch in the spring and operate UK-wide, unlock billions in private finance to support 40 billion pounds of infrastructure investment.
The bank will offer a range of products, including equity, loans and guarantees, which can be tailored to support the needs of private sector infrastructure projects, in sectors such as renewable energy, carbon capture and storage and transportation, the government said.
It will also offer infrastructure loans to mayors and local authorities at low rates to help fund projects.
“We are backing this bank with the finance it needs to deliver modern infrastructure fit for the 21st century and create jobs,” said Sunak.
The government said he is also expected to commit a further 375 million pounds to co-invest alongside the private sector in high-growth, innovative UK firms.
While Sunak’s March 3 budget will include a new round of spending to prop up the economy during what he hopes will be the last phase of lockdown, he will also probably signal tax rises ahead to plug the huge hole in the public finances.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Sunak said he would use the budget to level with the public over the “enormous strains” in the country’s finances, warning that a bill will have to be paid after further coronavirus support.
($1 = 0.7178 pounds)
(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Toby Chopra)
SoftBank reaches settlement with former WeWork CEO Neumann
(Reuters) – SoftBank Group Corp said on Friday it has reached a settlement with WeWork’s special committee and the company’s co-founder and former chief executive, Adam Neumann, putting to rest a legal battle dating back to 2019.
SoftBank, the new owner of the office-sharing firm, did not disclose terms of the settlement. Media reports earlier this week indicated the deal includes a nearly $500 million cut in Neumann’s payout from SoftBank.
The legal tussle between SoftBank and Neumann started in 2019, when SoftBank agreed to buy around $3 billion in WeWork stock belonging to Neumann as well as current and former WeWork employees. SoftBank later contested its obligation to purchase the shares.
Under the new settlement, SoftBank will purchase around half the shares it had originally agreed to buy, a source familiar with the talks had told Reuters on Monday.
The settlement is also expected to clear the decks for WeWork as it reportedly pursues a public listing by merging with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC).
“This agreement is the result of all parties coming to the table for the sake of doing what is best for the future of WeWork,” said Marcelo Claure, executive chairman of WeWork and CEO of SoftBank Group International.
SoftBank, which poured more than $13.5 billion into WeWork, was pulled into the legal dispute with directors at WeWork after backing out of the $3 billion tender offer agreed when it bailed out the office-sharing firm following a flopped IPO attempt.
(Reporting by Shariq Khan in Bengaluru; Editing by Richard Pullin)
Banks weigh up home working – the new normal or an aberration?
By Lawrence White, Iain Withers and Muvija M
LONDON (Reuters) – As the finance industry prepares for life post-pandemic, commercial banks are moving quickly to harness working from home to cut costs, while investment banks are keen to get traders and advisers back to the office.
HSBC and Lloyds are getting rid of as much as 40% of their office space as an easy way to make savings when bank profits have been crunched by the pandemic.
But there are concerns that remote working does not benefit everyone. Junior staff miss out on socialising and learning opportunities and there are also risks home working can entrench gender inequality.
At investment banks, where long hours in the office were the norm pre-pandemic, bosses say they want most people back where they can see them.
HSBC plans to almost halve office space globally, as it aims to squeeze more use out of the remaining space and increase the number of staff per desk from just over one to closer to two.
Britain’s biggest domestic lender Lloyds plans to shrink its office space by a fifth within three years. Standard Chartered will cut a third of its space within four years, while Metro Bank said it would cut some 40% and make more use of branches.
“We’ve had a period where flexible working has been tested in full, with about three quarters of people not based in offices as we used to call them, and the business has performed remarkably well,” Andy Halford, Standard Chartered CFO, said.
But major investment banks take a different view, with Goldman Sachs Chief Executive David Solomon pouring cold water on the potential of remote working.
“It’s not a new normal. It’s an aberration that we’re going to correct as soon as possible,” he told a Credit Suisse conference on Wednesday.
Barclays CEO Jes Staley, who last year said he thought the days of 7,000 employees trudging into its Canary Wharf headquarters were numbered, is also unwilling to commit for now to large office closures.
The Barclays boss has said the bank had “no plan” to make a major real estate move as Britain’s prolonged third lockdown had shown the strains of working from home.
Nick Fahy, CEO of online lender Cynergy Bank, said working over screens often could not compete. “You might have a disagreement on this, that or the other but actually over the coffee machine or over a glass of wine or a bit of lunch, issues can be resolved.”
Some banks have acted quickly because they are used to flexing workforces in line with economic cycles, particularly in investment banks, Oliver Wyman principal Jessica Marlborough said.
But some are waiting on analysis of staff productivity changes before making final decisions, while others were mindful junior staff may still prefer going into offices, she said.
Banks are also concerned women may lose out from the shift to remote working.
“We thought the pandemic would be a big leveller for women. But actually what we’re starting to see is it’s extremely challenging to get women to move jobs in a pandemic,” Marlborough said.
“Banks were making progress in hiring a more balanced workforce in terms of gender and other metrics, but they’re actually struggling now (as banks are finding) they (women) are less likely to seek out a new job.”
Union leaders said part of the reason was that some women are juggling more childcare responsibilities during the pandemic.
Dominic Hook, national officer for UK union Unite, said banks must ensure working from home is voluntary, use of surveillance tools is limited, and employers respect staff hours so work does not spill into evenings and weekends.
“Our concern is that it won’t actually be a choice and that banks will pressure staff to work from home,” Hook said.
There are also concerns hybrid working will favour employees who visit the office more regularly, as they can spend more time in person with colleagues and managers, said Richard Benson, managing director at Accenture Interactive.
The staff most likely to go back to the office are traders, bank executives said, while back-office functions such as finance, risk management and IT will spend more time working remotely.
In Germany, Deutsche Bank said it had been challenging to adapt home office spaces for traders and expected many will want to return, but not all.
“We will pay more attention to the personal circumstances at home. Dealers also have children or parents in need of care. We have become more sensitive,” said Kristian Snellman, Deutsche Bank’s head of investment banking transformation for Germany and EMEA.
The trend to shed offices predated the pandemic as many banks made cuts after the 2007-09 financial crisis. Some have already made moves as a result of the pandemic, such as NatWest, which shut its tech hub in north London last summer.
Retained offices are being remodelled, with desks removed to make way for collaboration and break space such as coffee areas, gardens and libraries, property consultancy Arcadis said.
“It’s not just about adding a ping pong table and table football and hoping it will work, it’s about making sure people get downtime,” said Sarah-Jane Osborne, head of workscape at Arcadis.
David Duffy, CEO of Virgin Money, said the bank is among those planning to strip out office cubicles.
“The world of large-scale populations returning to a tall skyscraper building to come in and do their e-mail in the office doesn’t make any sense,” he said.
(Reporting By Lawrence White and Iain Withers in London and Muvija M in Bengaluru, Additional reporting by Patricia Uhlig in Frankfurt. Editing by Rachel Armstrong and Jane Merriman)
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