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BANKING ON SNOW AUTOMATION PLATFORM FOR SUCCESS

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BANKING ON SNOW AUTOMATION PLATFORM FOR SUCCESS

COMPANY BACKGROUND

As a leading bank in its home markets of Sweden, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, Swedbank has more than seven million retail and 600,000 corporate customers with 275 branches in Sweden and 144 branches in the Baltic countries.

CHALLENGE

With 20,000 users across the business demanding software and services, Swedbank needed a solution that could scale and provide an efficient experience to all users.

SNOW’S CONTRIBUTION

Using Snow Automation Platform, the bank was able to successfully create and manage a self-service portal where it could implement, streamline and automate the processes for software.

BUSINESS BENEFITS

  • Users can search, make requests & get fast access to 1300 applications and services
  • Automatic fulfilment of more than 1000 requests per week
  • High user adoption – 7500 unique users in just three months
  • Pool of VMware Virtual Machines (VMs) provisioned to users for limited time periods, providing strong ROI and cost avoidance
  • Control and management – service and software owners can configure which applications are to be made available in the self-service portal

With users spread across hundreds of locations in Sweden, the Baltics and beyond, Swedbank had a strong business case for a mechanism by which its users could be empowered to download and use software quickly without having to resort time and again to the helpdesk. It chose to deploy Snow Automation Platform to create a self-service portal with approval processes built in to alleviate pressures on the helpdesk, improving the speed that users can access software and services while maintaining control of the approval and fulfilment processes.

“Our principle is that you are not allowed to install an application manually,” says Berto Machado from Workplace & Common Infrastructure team at Swedbank. “Therefore if you are an application owner or the service owner of applications, you need to create a package for the application. We work together with our partner Atea which has a portal that’s called Application Manager, and that’s where the journey starts.”

In this portal application owners can upload the source files and test how the application runs first before creating the package. Once ready, all the source files are sent to an automation factory in Riga where they are packaged and uploaded to Swedbank’s self-service portal powered by Snow Automation Platform; at this point the application owner is notified so they can manage the service or software.

Here the application owner decides whether the application should be made available to all users or not, and who the owner is as well as their substitute (for request approvals) and how many levels of approval are necessary.

Therefore when a user comes to order software, the approval workflow kicks in along with all the relevant information associated with that user (such as the computer name and AD group) so that Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) can identify to which computer it will distribute the software. Once the application request has passed all the approvals, the application is then distributed to the user’s computer automatically. The whole process from ordering to being installed can take as little as a half an hour.

APPROVAL WORKFLOWS

Snow Automation Platform supports different levels of approval which is great for the bank as depending on the application there can be none (generally for free software), one or two approvals that have to be made before the software reaches the end user.  The solution also supports the ability to list software with a price tag. This price isn’t necessarily the actual cost of the software but an internal cost, says Berto. “We hope that users give a little more consideration to what they are selecting if they are aware of how much it’s costing the organization.”

SERVICES, SOFTWARE AND HARDWARE

The portal allows users not only to order software, they can order Virtual Machines (VMs) too. Berto explains, “Today we have a pool of VMs and want to ensure good lifecycle management and cost optimization. Our developers use these VMs to test applications and only need a VM temporarily. With Snow Automation Platform we enable them to order the VM in the self-service portal, all they have to do is select the number of days they need it for (from five to 30) from a drop-down list.” This way the bank reduces its virtual sprawl and keeps a tight grip on the number of VMs that are operational at any point in time.

Users can also use Snow Automation Platform to order phones. Today, the bank receives product and price files from Telia every day, and there is a daily import job that updates all the Telia products on the systems – phones, chargers, earpieces etc., and the right price and the right description is added into the self-service portal. Berto says, “Users follow a similar process to ordering software, except in this case the hardware is delivered directly to them.”

ENSURING CONTINUITY

“With around 1300 applications and about a thousand requests per week it would be hopeless trying to manage that volume manually,” comments Berto. “Within just a few months of launching, over a third of our total workforce – more than 7500 unique users – had accessed the portal to request software or services.”

Another element to cost optimization is that users may uninstall applications that they no longer need. This saves the bank having to continually buy new licenses and instead pool them and re-issue software to those that need it. If a user has uninstalled an application but needs it again, it’s a simple process to go back to the portal, request and reinstall it.

“Snow Automation Platform has helped the bank reduce the time it takes to deal with requests, users are more satisfied with IT and can quickly access the software and services they need to be productive. Importantly there’s been significant cost savings as we have been able to reduce the size of the service desk.” Berto concludes, “Now we have the self-service portal up and running that supports the whole bank without having to add the need for additional IT support functions, users find it very intuitive to use, and we are delivering software and services much more efficiently at the point of need while ensuring that the right approvals are made along the way.”

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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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