By Marcus Treacher, SVP Customer Success at Ripple
Globalisation has transformed the world’s economy. While the first stage of economic change was driven primarily by large corporations who had the resources and supply chains to expand internationally, the next wave of economic growth will be shaped by the growing role of SMEs in global trade. Today SME cross-border payments represent a significant portion of the global B2B payments market, amounting to over $10-15 trillion annually. In fact, B2B payments are growing faster than C2C and B2C markets at 5-10% year.
Once the backbone of the domestic economy, SMEs now have more opportunities than ever to expand into new markets thanks to the recent innovations in payments and the rapid growth of international ecommerce. For instance, ecommerce platform operators such as Amazon and eBay have made it easier for SMEs to sell products abroad. Moreover, the rise of the digital economy has placed a stronger focus on agility and disrupted many industries — including retail, financial services, logistics and transportation, and manufacturing among others. This has provided a level playing field for start-ups and SMEs to compete with large enterprises.
Another big change has been the shift of global money flows. As emerging markets such as those in Southeast Asia and Latin America are increasingly important for global trade, cross-border payments are becoming a key driver of economic growth. In fact, the global payments market is expected to reach $2.9 trillion by 2022 according to data from McKinsey, and more than half of this growth ($1.6 trillion) is expected to come from Asia-Pacific. This a great opportunity for financial institutions operating in these markets and for the local economies, given that SMEs account for 60% of employment and 40% of national income in emerging markets.
Breaking the barriers for SMEs
But sending money around the world is still reliant on a fragmented payments infrastructure that hasn’t been refreshed since the 1970s and was designed to serve big corporates with bulk payments — not today’s digitally minded, fast-moving businesses. For SMEs, this often results in costly delays and high foreign transfer fees, which negatively impact cashflow and makes it harder for them to compete with large enterprises. In fact, recent research revealed that 69% of UK SMEs pay unnecessary cross-border payment fees that make international trade more costly.
With SMEs’ role in international trade expected to increase, access to affordable cross-border payment solutions will be key for ensuring they can compete successfully in the global marketplace.
Blockchain technology can resolve the inefficiencies for cross-border payments and provide a faster, cheaper and more secure alternative to the current system. Using blockchain, financial institutions can send and settle payments in seconds and for a fraction of the cost of traditional bank transfers, allowing SMEs to move money around the world as easy as they are sharing information over the Internet. We call this The Internet of Value.
For example, Ripple partnered with Cambridge Global Payments — a subsidiary of Fleetcor Technologies and a leading global provider of commercial payment solutions — last year to help them achieve just that. By using XRP to facilitate cross-border payments, the company was able to cut down the costs for international B2B payments and bing down transaction speed to just a few seconds.
How the Internet of Value can help boost international trade
The Internet of Value can fundamentally create a new financial services ecosystem that is much more transparent and efficient, allowing SMEs to compete with larger players by bringing down the cost of managing imports and exports. While the traditional cross-border banking model was created for large-value, large-volume payments, this new approach is tailored to the needs of SMEs and provides a faster, more cost effective way to process small-value payments.
Just like routers on the Internet, blockchain can help route money across independent payment networks — including banks, digital wallets, clearing houses, stock exchanges, enterprises and more.
This approach to cross-border payments can also help SMEs improve liquidity by enabling them to move money easily and cost-effectively 24×7 depending on where funds are needed. Recent research revealed that 67% of SMEs believe that poor liquidity is one of the biggest obstacles to business growth because it locks valuable working capital that could otherwise be used for investing in tech innovation, hiring and expanding into new markets.
The Internet of Value can help unlock such capital held in foreign nostro and vostro bank accounts, but doing this would require the addition of a digital asset.
How digital assets can improve liquidity for SMEs
An independent digital asset can improve liquidity by allowing different market players to exchange monetary value easily and without having to hold cash in accounts with foreign banks. In this scenario the digital asset acts as a bridge between the sender and recipient of the payment, enabling almost real-time currency exchange.
What makes digital assets unique is that they’re universal currencies, meaning anyone can use them as units of value anywhere in the world.
For instance, Euro Exim Bank is a UK SME bank which specialises in international export and import payments. The bank uses blockchain, combined with XRP, to provide clients with on-demand liquidity for international transactions. So instead of needing multiple pre-funded currency accounts around the world, the bank can move money where and when they are needed by its clients.
In addition to this, Euro Exim Bank has started embedding complex trades within blockchain messages, allowing it to automate international trades and even further reduce the speed and costs of payments for international exports and imports.
A recent report from Juniper Research revealed that B2B cross-border transactions will increase 7% by 2023 thanks to the rise of blockchain-based payment networks. Blockchain and digital currencies are a great alternative to traditional cross-border payments as they offer a significantly faster, cheaper and more transparent way to move money around the world.
Only by bringing down the cost of cross-border payments and resolving the inefficiencies of the existing payments system can we empower SMEs to take advantage of the growth opportunities that the global commerce market offers.
Young adults lean towards ‘on-the-job’ learning as 6 in 10 say pandemic has impacted educational plans
- Six in 10 (61%) of 16-25s agree learning ‘on-the-job’ is the best way to get on the jobs ladder in the current environment
- 59% would rather study a degree subject connected to a profession than one they are good at
- 59% believe tech sector offers strong career opportunities and is voted most futureproof sector by 16-25s following the pandemic
- QuickBooks launches free online programming course with Amigoscode to help young people kickstart their tech career
Nearly two thirds (63%) of 16-25s have seen their future educational plans impacted by the pandemic, new research from Intuit QuickBooks1 – the financial software provider – reveals, with the uncertainty caused by COVID-19 driving young people to look for faster and more secure ways to get jobs.
And with more than half a million young people now unemployed – a rise of 35,000 from the previous quarter2 – six in ten (61%) 16-25s agree that learning ‘on-the-job’ is the best way of getting on the careers ladder in the current environment.
With COVID-19 highlighting the importance of more ‘futureproof’ career options, the technology sector has been identified by 16-25s as offering particularly strong career opportunities (59%).
To help young people kickstart their tech career, QuickBooks – home to top UK tech talent – has launched a free online programming course with Amigoscode.
Careers-focused learning takes priority
If they were to attend university or study for a degree, 59% of 16-25s would rather study a subject connected to a profession than one they’re good at, while nearly a third (31%) would only consider studying for a degree that would help them get a job in a sector that is likely to grow in future.
However, almost half (45%) of 16-25s are now reconsidering attending university at all. A quarter (26%) believe it is now more important to get on the job ladder than get a degree, while 19% don’t want to go to university because they are worried about their safety.
As remote learning becomes the new norm, more than a quarter (28%) of 16-25s now plan to carry out an online university degree (such as those offered by the Open University) instead of physically going to university.
Technology sector is voted most futureproof
The research reveals 16-25s believe the technology sector is the most futureproof (40%), ranking significantly higher above the second most popular option (construction – 27%).
Almost a fifth (19%) of the 16-25s surveyed already have a career in the technology sector, while 34% are considering it – rising to 38% of those aged 16-19.
Of those who are interested in the sector but are not currently considering it, the biggest barrier is simply not knowing how to get a job in this area (32%), closely followed by having never received any information about the sector from careers advisors etc. (30%). A quarter (25%) don’t think they could afford to undertake the necessary training or qualifications to get a job in the sector.
Ben Brown, Head of Engineering at Intuit QuickBooks, comments:
“With COVID-19 causing economic uncertainty and driving unemployment levels, young people are increasingly looking for ways to fast-track onto the careers ladder. And getting straight into the tech sector, which has proven to be resilient in the face of the pandemic, is particularly appealing. Technology, after all, is the fuel that has allowed many other sectors to continue operating.
“On-the-job learning is common in the tech sector, but to be a successful candidate, applicants need to demonstrate genuine interest and enthusiasm by having carried out their own independent learning. Employers can enable this by creating opportunities for young people to take part in free training courses and taster sessions, which helps them to gain valuable skills and decide if the sector is for them.
“QuickBooks engineers frequently host and coach participants through Code First Girls sessions – which are aimed at women looking to learn more about programming – and we are thrilled to be partnering with Amigoscode to offer a free programming course.”
Nelson Djalo, Founder of free coding resource Amigoscode and Software Engineer, comments:
“The perception of not having enough knowledge is the main barrier to young people getting into the technology sector. Skills can be built over time – passion, drive and a willingness to learn are the most important qualities to have. People from lots of different backgrounds and interests can get into the sector, and there are a whole host of roles aside from programming and software engineering.
“I offer programming courses and coding tutorials because I believe the sector should be accessible to anyone. I’m pleased to be partnering with QuickBooks to offer a tailormade course for anyone who is interested in getting into the industry and wants to learn more about programming.”
The Amigoscode x QuickBooks course is available here as a video, and here as a playlist. The 2.5 hour course and video playlist covers the basics of programming; the basics of Python and a project task (building a CV). Participants will also build a portfolio which could be the starting point of their tech journey/career.
Watch Nelson’s other tutorials on the Amigoscode YouTube channel here.
Case studies of young QuickBooks software engineers are available on request.
Five things to consider when organising a remote work Christmas party
By Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director at Peninsula
Christmas is usually a time of cheer and celebration, and the perfect way for employers to incorporate this in the workplace is by organising a Christmas party for their staff. However, things will have to be a little different this year due to the ongoing disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic. While the easiest, and cheapest, option for employers is to not go ahead with their annual festive plans, in the spirit of keeping Christmas alive some may choose to organise a remote party.
There are, however, some important things that employers should be aware of.
- The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the need for employers to keep their employees’ wellbeing in mind, much more than ever before. This is why, even with something that can be considered a ‘treat’ for employees, people who are working carers, have been struggling with work-related stresses, may not want to partake in a Christmas party this year, however well-intentioned it may be on the employer’s part. It is therefore advisable that remote parties should be optional and not constrained to a certain timeframe in which staff must be in attendance.
- Employers should ensure that those in attendance do not feel excluded from any activities during the party. For example, if an employee does not drink alcohol and a virtual wine tasting activity makes up the bulk of the event, such a person would not be able to contribute to the fun and may therefore feel left out. Consequently, it may be better for employers to ensure that there is a wide range of activities available that cater to the individuals who are attending.
- When attendees and potential attendees, have been established and the activities have been finalised, it is in the best interest of the company to send out emails to them. It should detail what is expected of them at the event and highlight that the same conduct is expected of them at a remote party as it would be at an in-person event. It should also outline that the same disciplinary procedures would apply in a situation where an employee commits a form of misconduct during the event.
- Similarly, employees should be made aware that the same grievance produce applies – to ensure that if company rules are broken by an employee or a grievance with the company itself, the affected employee will be able to raise this with the company.
- Finally, while employees can use their social media accounts in their own personal time, including at work social gatherings, employers must ensure that the use of social media should be done in a manner that does not adversely affect the company’s reputation.
To conclude, remote parties are the perfect way to ensure that social distancing rules are adhered to and that employees are rewarded for their efforts, there should be a mutual sense of responsibility on the part of the company and its employees.
Reasons to remote manage in a socially distanced world
By Paul Routledge Country Manager D-Link UK and Ireland
As the world continues to adapt in varying degrees to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses and enterprises will find themselves adjusting to more permanent, new ways of working, problem-solving and service delivery. Governments and global leaders have already introduced new measures to support these adjustments, and as a result we have already seen many companies re-evaluate how they work as well as how teams are organized and provided for. As the pandemic remains a fixture of this year of which the impact will continue to be felt in the year ahead, it’s becoming clear that the role of technology and the innovation therein will be key to ensuring businesses can weather ongoing the crisis.
For many businesses, until recent years, the vast bulk of network management was conducted and carried out on location at the client site. However, the value of remote network management has fast become an asset to businesses in the 21st century – giving IT service providers more capacity to manage a larger number of customer sites at any given time.
In addition, remote network management solutions play an important role in increasing transparency across sites by providing a complete view of the status of different networks via comprehensive interactive dashboards and informative management systems. For example, Nuclias by D-Link offers an easy to set up network management solution that provides flexibility to make onboarding, studying, troubleshooting, and reporting network activity quick and easy.
For IT service providers, establishing new ways of working is particularly important. As they seek alternative methods of supporting customers in different locations, many will be looking to the advantages that remote network management has to offer.
Before the pandemic, D-Link Europe explored the state of play of network management and challenges its partners were facing in this space. The study found that, 75% of IT service providers in Europe were already using remote access tools to support or manage network infrastructure on customer sites, yet a quarter (25%) were still relying on in-person visits to resolve network issues for customers.
Interestingly, the findings show that the larger the number of clients a provider has, the less likely they are to use remote management tools. Only 22% of European IT service providers surveyed provide more than 50 customers with remote management services. Complete adoption of remote network management methods will be a gradual process, yet the pandemic and the government restrictions in place across much of Europe have a part to play in creating the circumstances where in-person visits occur much less often if at all.
As a result, it is likely we will see a more permanent adoption of remote networking management systems – as businesses work hard to adapt to a ‘new normal’ and an unpredicatable year ahead. The point of this will not only to provide network management services in a more efficient and less time-consuming way but also to uphold the safety measures now expected of most workplaces.
This is particularly pertinent in an environement where businesses are limiting contact in the workplace and adhering to safetymechanisms also seen more widely in society – including technologies such as group temperature screening cameras as well as track and trace systems. There is a clear opportunity for IT service providers to make the most of remote networking management tools’ benefits to uphold the safety and health of their own employees, as well as personnel at client sites by reducing unnecessary human contact.
An additional benefit to be reaped from remote network management is how IT service providers can economise on time spent travelling to and from client sites, in addition to time spent resolving issues on-site. D-Link research found that 60% of European IT service providers spend between four to six hours per week installing and configuring new wireless or wired networks at client sites. This additional time spent travelling to and from client sites puts employees at particular risk, especially as they often travel long distances to get there.
What’s more, in terms of the time technicians usually spend at client sites, when it comes to configuring a replacement wireless access point, only 31% of providers feel they can keep this service under one hour. Remote network management allows technicians to use this time more effectively. Nuclias by D-Link, for example, will enable administrators to stay on top of any management tasks like creating guest networks, adding Wi-Fi to additional locations, updating devices and upholding network security.
Furthermore, IT service providers will be able to offer their clients more benefits, by providing centralised management and more visibility of their network, allowing them to act on network disruptions and problems before they become pervasive issues. Nuclias Cloud is designed for smaller businesses who lack in-house IT skills, such as hospitality and retail chains. These companies can benefit from easy network expansion and implementation of updates without the need for additional training.
Remote management solutions, like Nuclias, are also well-placed to support the growth of IT service providers as they look to offer more managed services. Not only do they enable teams to provide deployments but also increased administration services and supervision of client networks; resulting in improved reactivity to issues and better quality of service. The added advantage of unlimited scalability, thanks to the use of cloud-enabled devices, means providers can also keep resources and costs low – generating a more significant return on investment.
Right now, it still feels like there is some way to go before normal life resumes – however, as the long-term impacts of COVID-19 become more apparent, companies worldwide will need to continue to relying on innovative technology to tackle workplace concerns. With solutions such as remote network management playing an important role in supporting service providers and their clients as they do.
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