Connect with us

Top Stories

British SME importers and exporters remain wary despite rising confidence

Published

on

gbaf1news
  • The global economy, loss of competitiveness and FX volatility dominate UK small business leaders’ concerns
  • Increase in SMEs that see improving domestic conditions offers reason for optimism

The Western Union Company (NYSE: WU), a leader in global payment services, today announced the latest findings from the Western Union Business Solutions International Trade Monitor (ITM), the quarterly survey of over 660 UK small and medium-sized businesses engaged in international trade.

In the period April to June 2013, 56 per cent of SME business leaders expressed confidence in the current UK economic climate, a marginal increase from 54 per cent in the first quarter. 20 per cent of SMEs, however, believed that the UK economy has improved in the last six months, up from 9 per cent the previous quarter. Of these, the vast majority of businesses (83%) believe that this improvement is sustainable, despite citing macro-economic concerns.
Furthermore, 86 per cent of SMEs believe that the general business environment in the UK will either improve or at least stay the same in the near future, which is indicative of the optimism that has been felt by larger businesses in recent weeks.
Whilst domestic conditions may be improving for British SMEs, the research found that the global economy remains a top concern for 76 per cent of businesses that trade with overseas buyers and suppliers.
The International Trade Monitor also revealed that British importers and exporters are concerned by cheaper competitors (63%) and currency volatility (59%). In the first half of 2013, sterling has fluctuated against the dollar and euro by over 9 per cent and 7 per cent respectively.[1]

Jonathan Rees, UK regional divisional director, Western Union Business Solutions, said:
 “Today’s research shows that SMEs, whilst welcoming improving economic conditions, are proving slower in embracing the large-scale optimism expressed by bigger businesses in recent weeks.

“It is clear that we are still a long way from a full recovery; small business owners understand that more time is needed after six spluttering years of economic turmoil.

“Whilst good weather and sporting success have had an impact on consumer confidence, businesses are by no means out of the woods yet. SMEs will be wise to do what they can to mitigate against the increased volatility in the currency markets.

“The UK’s economic recovery is still fragile. Businesses cannot afford to get too complacent.”
Despite 75 per cent of SMEs saying that the majority of their export market lies in Europe, the research found that Eurozone instability is an ongoing concern for the UK’s SME importers and exporters, with only 13 per cent believing that conditions in the Eurozone will improve by the end of the year.

Moreover, one in three (31%) said that the Eurozone crisis will have an adverse impact on their business in the future. The impact of Europe’s continuing economic challenges is reinforced by the fact that British SMEs are importing more from North American suppliers – 30 per cent of businesses said that the majority of their overseas suppliers came from the region, up from 23 per cent the previous quarter.

Rees continued:
 “UK SMEs are reacting to the continuing market conditions plaguing the Continent and are seeing more opportunities from North American buyers. This is not surprising, particularly with the uncertainty in the Eurozone economy and unprecedented unemployment rates of over 26 per cent in Spain and Greece[2].

“Recent market fluctuations are also affecting both importers and exporters with sterling moving nearly 5 per cent against the US dollar in the second quarter. This volatility looks set to continue and it is crucial that British SMEs take steps now to protect their cash flow in what looks to be a turbulent second half of the year.”

[1] Source: Bloomberg. H1 2013 GBP/USD = 9.07%; GBP/EUR = 7.37%.
[2] Source: Eurostat – http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/cache/ITY_PUBLIC/3-01072013-BP/EN/3-01072013-BP-EN.PDF

 

 

 

Top Stories

Will covid-19 end the dominance of the big four?

Published

on

Will covid-19 end the dominance of the big four? 1

By Campbell Shaw, Head of Bank Partnerships, Cardlytics

Across the country, we are readjusting to refreshed restrictions on our daily lives, as we continue to navigate the seemingly unnavigable waters of the coronavirus pandemic.

For all of us, the pandemic has made life anything but ‘normal’, and with social distancing here to stay, it will remain so for a long time yet. These paradigm shifts have impacted every aspect of life, including how we bank.

Focus is already turning to the role the big banks are playing through the pandemic, with experts fearing the economic downturn will only cement the position of the ‘big four’ traditional players.

But has the pandemic shaken the dominance of the big banks? Or has it simply confirmed their position?

Turning to tech

There’s no doubt that the pandemic has caused the big players to be challenged like never before on tech.

Classically slower to adapt to developments in the market, increased demand for online services and contactless payment systems have turbocharged the big banks’ need to act like a challenger.

And they have, agilely adapting to this new normal by updating systems and services to ensure customers’ safety and financial security come first.

Scale is staying power

In these new times, the power and influence of the big players has also been proven.

The big four have provided the lion’s share of the government-backed loans designed to help small and medium-sized businesses through the pandemic. It has also been the big four offering the majority of payment holidays for customers on their mortgages, debt and credit cards.

However, it’s important to note that their power to retain customers goes much deeper than their market share.

Our switching study, which looked at the reasons behind customer switching, found that even before the pandemic, despite nearly half (48%) of UK adults admitting they know they aren’t getting the best deal with their current bank, half have never switched their current account.

That’s often because of the value they can provide to their customers, through personalized service, offers and rewards that keeps customers engaged and invested in them. As brands increasingly look to

Focus on finances

As the world becomes a more financially insecure place, due to COVID-19, there’s been a marked shift towards more attention on finances, which has affected not only the business functions of banks but has impacted banking relationships with customers at their core.

From deals to savings, customers now more than ever are re-evaluating how they bank, and how they manage their money.

The impact on the big four is more pressure than ever to keep up with the best interest rates and deals. That can be difficult for a big, and often slower moving, organisation and could be a stumbling block for them in the months to come.

However, on the plus side, the big four can lean into their sophisticated loyalty schemes, using offers and deals from partner brands to demonstrate value to customers and build up their loyalty.

Engaging with purpose

The pandemic has seen many banks acting with a renewed sense of purpose. Banking has had to be more adaptable than ever before – fitting the needs of those who may be feeling financial stress or dealing with unprecedented challenges.

And showing a little heart can go a long way when it comes to increasing customer loyalty and boosting a bank’s reputation.

Over the last months, traditional banks have been quick to adapt their products and services, in response to the demands and challenges their customers have been face.

No doubt, continuing to build more meaningful, supportive and engaging customer relationships, whether it is online or on the newly reopened high-street, will be critical to banks’ dominance as we look to the future.

Bring on the challengers

However, with their meteoric rise ahead of lockdown, we must keep an eye on the challengers, who still have the potential to knock traditional players off their pedestal.

We found that more than three million people in the UK opened a current account with a new bank last year. Our research found that traditional banks made up well over half (69%) of the accounts UK adults switched from, while newer digital challenger banks such as Monzo, Starling Bank and Revolut made up 25% of current accounts switched to. And these fast moving, fast growing challengers may see further growth if traditional banks are stifled by the declining high-street.

What’s more, the high street could yet prove to be the Achilles heel of the bigger players, as shifting budgets and increasing overheads in the context of a more online banking experience could see more big players struggle with their physical presence, making way for the digital challengers to thrive.

So, while the dominant players may have the lead, they should still keep an eye on the challengers as we look ahead to the next, uncertain, six months.

Continue Reading

Top Stories

To take the nation’s financial pulse, we must go digital

Published

on

To take the nation’s financial pulse, we must go digital 2

By Pete Bulley, Director of Product, Aire

The last six months have brought the precarious financial situation of many millions across the world into sharper focus than ever before. But while the figures may be unprecedented, the underlying problem is not a new one – and it requires serious attention as well as  action from lenders to solve it.

Research commissioned by Aire in February found that eight out of ten adults in the UK would be unable to cover essential monthly spending should their income drop by 20%. Since then, Covid-19 has increased the number without employment by 730,000 people between July and March, and saw 9.6 million furloughed as part of the job retention scheme.

The figures change daily but here are a few of the most significant: one in six mortgage holders had opted to take a payment holiday by June. Lenders had granted almost a million credit card payment deferrals, provided 686,500 payment holidays on personal loans, and offered 27 million interest-free overdrafts.

The pressure is growing for lenders and with no clear return to normal in sight, we are unfortunately likely to see levels of financial distress increase exponentially as we head into winter. Recent changes to the job retention scheme are signalling the start of the withdrawal of government support.

The challenge for lenders

Lenders have been embracing digital channels for years. However, we see it usually prioritised at acquisition, with customer management neglected in favour of getting new customers through the door. Once inside, even the most established of lenders are likely to fall back on manual processes when it comes to managing existing customers.

It’s different for fintechs. Unburdened by legacy systems, they’ve been able to begin with digital to offer a new generation of consumers better, more intuitive service. Most often this is digitised, mobile and seamless, and it’s spreading across sectors. While established banks and service providers are catching up — offering mobile payments and on-the-go access to accounts — this part of their service is still lagging. Nowhere is this felt harder than in customer management.

Time for a digital solution in customer management

With digital moving higher up the agenda for lenders as a result of the pandemic, many still haven’t got their customer support properly in place to meet demand. Manual outreach is still relied upon which is both heavy on resource and on time.

Lenders are also grappling with regulation. While many recognise the moral responsibility they have for their customers, they are still blind to the new tools available to help them act effectively and at scale.

In 2015, the FCA released its Fair Treatment of Customers regulations requiring that ‘consumers are provided with clear information and are kept appropriately informed before, during and after the point of sale’.

But when the individual financial situation of customers is changing daily, never has this sentiment been more important (or more difficult) for lenders to adhere to. The problem is simple: the traditional credit scoring methods relied upon by lenders are no longer dynamic enough to spot sudden financial change.

The answer lies in better, and more scalable, personalised support. But to do this, lenders need rich, real-time insight so that lenders can act effectively, as the regulator demands. It needs to be done at scale and it needs to be done with the consumer experience in mind, with convenience and trust high on the agenda.

Placing the consumer at the heart of the response

To better understand a customer, inviting them into a branch or arranging a phone call may seem the most obvious solution. However, health concerns mean few people want to see their providers face-to-face, and fewer staff are in branches, not to mention the cost and time outlay by lenders this would require.

Call centres are not the answer either. Lack of trained capacity, cost and the perceived intrusiveness of calls are all barriers. We know from our own consumer research at Aire that customers are less likely to engage directly with their lenders on the phone when they feel payment demands will be made of them.

If lenders want reliable, actionable insight that serves both their needs (and their customers) they need to look to digital.

Asking the person who knows best – the borrower

So if the opportunity lies in gathering information directly from the consumer – the solution rests with first-party data. The reasons we pioneer this approach at Aire are clear: firstly, it provides a truly holistic view of each customer to the lender, a richer picture that covers areas that traditional credit scoring often misses, including employment status and savings levels. Secondly, it offers consumers the opportunity to engage directly in the process, finally shifting the balance in credit scoring into the hands of the individual.

With the right product behind it, this can be achieved seamlessly and at scale by lenders. Pulse from Aire provides a link delivered by SMS or email to customers, encouraging them to engage with Aire’s Interactive Virtual Interview (IVI). The information gathered from the consumer is then validated by Aire to provide the genuinely holistic view of a consumer that lenders require, delivering insights that include risk of financial difficulty, validated disposable income and a measure of engagement.

No lengthy or intrusive phone calls. No manual outreach or large call centre requirements. And best of all, lenders can get started in just days and they save up to £60 a customer.

Too good to be true?

This still leaves questions. How can you trust data provided directly from consumers? What about AI bias – are the results fair? And can lenders and customers alike trust it?

To look at first-party misbehaviour or ‘gaming’, sophisticated machine-learning algorithms are used to validate responses for accuracy. Essentially, they measure responses against existing contextual data and check its plausibility.

Aire also looks at how the IVI process is completed. By looking at how people complete the interview, not just what they say, we can spot with a high degree of accuracy if people are trying to game the system.

AI bias – the system creating unfair outcomes – is tackled through governance and culture. In working towards our vision of a world where finance is truly free from bias or prejudice, we invest heavily in constructing the best model governance systems we can at Aire to ensure our models are analysed systematically before being put into use.

This process has undergone rigorous improvements to ensure our outputs are compliant by regulatory standards and also align with our own company principles on data and ethics.

That leaves the issue of encouraging consumers to be confident when speaking to financial institutions online. Part of the solution is developing a better customer experience. If the purpose of this digital engagement is to gather more information on a particular borrower, the route the borrower takes should be personal and reactive to the information they submit. The outcome and potential gain should be clear.

The right technology at the right time?

What is clear is that in Covid-19, and the resulting financial shockwaves, lenders face an unprecedented challenge in customer management. In innovative new data in the form of first-party data, harnessed ethically, they may just have an unprecedented solution.

Continue Reading

Top Stories

The Future of Software Supply Chain Security: A focus on open source management

Published

on

The Future of Software Supply Chain Security: A focus on open source management 3

By Emile Monette, Director of Value Chain Security at Synopsys

Software Supply Chain Security: change is needed

Attacks on the Software Supply Chain (SSC) have increased exponentially, fueled at least in part by the widespread adoption of open source software, as well as organisations’ insufficient knowledge of their software content and resultant limited ability to conduct robust risk management. As a result, the SSC remains an inviting target for would-be attackers. It has become clear that changes in how we collectively secure our supply chains are required to raise the cost, and lower the impact, of attacks on the SSC.

A report by Atlantic Council found that “115 instances, going back a decade, of publicly reported attacks on the SSC or disclosure of high-impact vulnerabilities likely to be exploited” in cyber-attacks were implemented by affecting aspects of the SSC. The report highlights a number of alarming trends in the security of the SSC, including a rise in the hijacking of software updates, attacks by state actors, and open source compromises.

This article explores the use of open source software – a primary foundation of almost all modern software – due to its growing prominence, and more importantly, its associated security risks. Poorly managed open source software exposes the user to a number of security risks as it provides affordable vectors to potential attackers allowing them to launch attacks on a variety of entities—including governments, multinational corporations, and even the small to medium-sized companies that comprise the global technology supply chain, individual consumers, and every other user of technology.

The risks of open source software for supply chain security

The 2020 Open Source Security and Risk Analysis (OSSRA) report states that “If your organisation builds or simply uses software, you can assume that software will contain open source. Whether you are a member of an IT, development, operations, or security team, if you don’t have policies in place for identifying and patching known issues with the open source components you’re using, you’re not doing your job.”

Open source code now creates the basic infrastructure of most commercial software which supports enterprise systems and networks, thus providing the foundation of almost every software application used across all industries worldwide. Therefore, the need to identify, track and manage open source code components and libraries has risen tremendously.

License identification, patching vulnerabilities and introducing policies addressing outdated open source packages are now all crucial for responsible open source use. However, the use of open source software itself is not the issue. Because many software engineers ‘reuse’ code components when they are creating software (this is in fact a widely acknowledged best practice for software engineering), the risk of those components becoming out of date has grown. It is the use of unpatched and otherwise poorly managed open source software that is really what is putting organizations at risk.

Emile Monette

Emile Monette

The 2020 OSSRA report also reveals a variety of worrying statistics regarding SSC security. For example, according to the report, it takes organisations an unacceptably long time to mitigate known vulnerabilities, with 2020 being the first year that the  Heartbleed vulnerability was not found in any commercial software analyzed for the OSSRA report. This is six years after the first public disclosure of Heartbleed – plenty of time for even the least sophisticated attackers to take advantage of the known and publicly reported vulnerability.

The report also found that 91% of the investigated codebases contained components that were over four years out of date or had no developments made in the last two years, putting these components at a higher risk of vulnerabilities. Additionally, vulnerabilities found in the audited codebases had an average age of almost 4 ½ years, with 19% of vulnerabilities being over 10 years old, and the oldest vulnerability being a whopping 22 years old. Therefore, it is clear that open source users are not adequately defending themselves against open source enabled cyberattacks. This is especially concerning as 99% of the codebases analyzed in the OSSRA report contained open source software, with 75% of these containing at least one vulnerability, and 49% containing high-risk vulnerabilities.

Mitigating open source security risks

In order to mitigate security risks when using open source components, one must know what software you’re using, and which exploits impact its vulnerabilities. One way to do this is to obtain a comprehensive bill of materials from your suppliers (also known as a “build list” or a “software bill of materials” or “SBOM”). Ideally, the SBOM should contain all the open source components, as well as the versions used, the download locations for all projects and dependencies, the libraries which the code calls to, and the libraries that those dependencies link to.

Creating and communicating policies

Modern applications contain an abundance of open source components with possible security, code quality and licensing issues. Over time, even the best of these open source components will age (and newly discovered vulnerabilities will be identified in the codebase), which will result in them at best losing intended functionality, and at worst exposing the user to cyber exploitation.

Organizations should ensure their policies address updating, licensing, vulnerability management and other risks that the use of open source can create. Clear policies outlining introduction and documentation of new open source components can improve the control of what enters the codebase and that it complies with the policies.

Prioritizing open source security efforts

Organisations should prioritise open source vulnerability mitigation efforts in relation to CVSS (Common Vulnerability Scoring System) scores and CWE (Common Weakness Enumeration) information, along with information about the availability of exploits, paying careful attention to the full life cycle of the open source component, instead of only focusing on what happens on “day zero.” Patch priorities should also be in-line with the business importance of the asset patched, the risk of exploitation and the criticality of the asset. Similarly, organizations must consider using sources outside of the CVSS and CWE information, many of which provide early notification of vulnerabilities, and in particular, choosing one that delivers technical details, upgrade and patch guidance, as well as security insights. Lastly, it is important for organisations to monitor for new threats for the entire time their applications remain in service.

Continue Reading
Editorial & Advertiser disclosureOur website provides you with information, news, press releases, Opinion and advertorials on various financial products and services. This is not to be considered as financial advice and should be considered only for information purposes. We cannot guarantee the accuracy or applicability of any information provided with respect to your individual or personal circumstances. Please seek Professional advice from a qualified professional before making any financial decisions. We link to various third party websites, affiliate sales networks, and may link to our advertising partners websites. Though we are tied up with various advertising and affiliate networks, this does not affect our analysis or opinion. When you view or click on certain links available on our articles, our partners may compensate us for displaying the content to you, or make a purchase or fill a form. This will not incur any additional charges to you. To make things simpler for you to identity or distinguish sponsored articles or links, you may consider all articles or links hosted on our site as a partner endorsed link.

Call For Entries

Global Banking and Finance Review Awards Nominations 2020
2020 Global Banking & Finance Awards now open. Click Here

Latest Articles

Entersekt provides clarity on Secure Remote Commerce authentication techniques for financial institutions 4 Entersekt provides clarity on Secure Remote Commerce authentication techniques for financial institutions 5
Technology15 hours ago

Entersekt provides clarity on Secure Remote Commerce authentication techniques for financial institutions

New whitepaper from Mercator available: Revisiting Authentication in the Age of SRC and EMV 3-D Secure Is it time for...

Thinking Long-Term When Your Shareholders Won’t Let You 7 Thinking Long-Term When Your Shareholders Won’t Let You 8
Business16 hours ago

Thinking Long-Term When Your Shareholders Won’t Let You

By MaryLee Sachs, US CEO, Brandpie In a recent study of nearly 700 CEOs across the US and Europe, my...

Are clients truly getting value from their BR solution? 9 Are clients truly getting value from their BR solution? 10
Investing16 hours ago

Are clients truly getting value from their BR solution?

By Matt Dickens, Senior Business Development Director at Ingenious Financial planners and wealth managers strive to deliver on the needs...

New TransUnion Study Finds Smooth Digital Transactions “Essential to Business Survival” During and After Pandemic 13 New TransUnion Study Finds Smooth Digital Transactions “Essential to Business Survival” During and After Pandemic 14
Business20 hours ago

New TransUnion Study Finds Smooth Digital Transactions “Essential to Business Survival” During and After Pandemic

Economist Intelligence Unit report for TransUnion highlights the crucial role emerging technologies will play in balancing fraud prevention and customer...

How technology has made us communicate better in crisis 15 How technology has made us communicate better in crisis 16
Business22 hours ago

How technology has made us communicate better in crisis

By Pete Hanlon, CTO of Moneypenny COVID-19 has taught us a lot. We have embraced technology, some might say, survived...

Futureproofing Your Credit Management Now 17 Futureproofing Your Credit Management Now 18
Finance23 hours ago

Futureproofing Your Credit Management Now

By Marieke Saeij, CEO, Onguard The pandemic has forced a shift in day-to-day operations for the majority of businesses. In...

Will covid-19 end the dominance of the big four? 19 Will covid-19 end the dominance of the big four? 20
Top Stories1 day ago

Will covid-19 end the dominance of the big four?

By Campbell Shaw, Head of Bank Partnerships, Cardlytics Across the country, we are readjusting to refreshed restrictions on our daily...

Why cybercriminals have ‘Gone Vishing’ during the COVID-19 Pandemic 21 Why cybercriminals have ‘Gone Vishing’ during the COVID-19 Pandemic 22
Business2 days ago

Why cybercriminals have ‘Gone Vishing’ during the COVID-19 Pandemic

More than 215,000 vishing attempts in the last year alone As new coronavirus restrictions look set to confine much of...

Risk Mitigation vs. Risk Avoidance: Why FIs Need to Maintain Risk Appetite and Not Place All Bets on De-Risking 23 Risk Mitigation vs. Risk Avoidance: Why FIs Need to Maintain Risk Appetite and Not Place All Bets on De-Risking 24
Finance2 days ago

Risk Mitigation vs. Risk Avoidance: Why FIs Need to Maintain Risk Appetite and Not Place All Bets on De-Risking

De-risking aims to protect financial institutions from the increasing pressures placed by regulators and threats, associated with clients operating in...

Using AI to identify public sector fraud 25 Using AI to identify public sector fraud 26
Technology2 days ago

Using AI to identify public sector fraud

When it comes to audits in the public sector, both accountability and transparency are essential. Not only is the public...

Newsletters with Secrets & Analysis. Subscribe Now