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Case study: Supporting the demands of a business going global

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Case study: Supporting the demands of a business going global

Maria Parpou, Barclaycard Director of Product and Commercial Strategy, discusses how corporate card programmes can help business to thrive in today’s ever-changing economy.

Corporate credit cards have been helping businesses make payments and keep track of employee expenses for decades, and in that time the global workforce has evolved considerably. Peters & May, our client of 23 years, perfectly captures the need of today’s modern corporates to have access to hassle-free and flexible payments in fast-changing environments.

Peters & May provides transport logistics, moving everything from pallets and cars to helicopters, boats and superyachts. Established in 1973, the company has grown from a UK-based freight forwarder, to a team of more than 100, with offices across the world and a turnover of £50 million. The company’s expansion has been rapid, with headcount increasing by 35 per cent since January 2016, so we sat down with Paul Tate, Group Finance Director at Peters & May, to discuss the impact this growth has had on the company’s payment and expense needs.

Going from a local to global company

According to Paul, corporate cards have played an important role in Peters & May’s rapid expansion. With a growing team and global traction, purchasing and expense management needs have increased significantly, and corporate cards have been a vital part of managing that transition.

In an industry that requires travelling the world and adapting to constantly changing timetables and conditions, flexibility is crucial. On a single day, for example, one member of the team might need to entertain a client in Genoa, while another employee needs to purchase additional supplies for a boat show in Cannes, and yet a third needs to buy materials to help load a yacht in Singapore. These are just some of the diverse requirements Paul and his team might encounter on a daily basis, and in each of these circumstances a corporate card is essential in helping employees to carry out their job with minimum stress and hassle.

Having such a flexible means of payment at the ready has enabled Peters & May’s workforce to be much more productive and efficient, responding to developments or scaling as needed. This flexibility is one of the reasons why the business has managed to achieve 60 per cent revenue growth over the last four years.

Having a corporate card programme has also made expense management – both for travel and other ad-hoc business costs – much simpler for both Peters & May employees and its finance team. Without it, Paul says that the business would be inundated with expense claim requests. Instead, Paul and his team simply download transactional information directly from the Barclaycard system to populate individual expense claim forms, freeing up vital resource to be deployed on more valuable tasks.

The past 50 years have witnessed huge behavioural and technological change, and as the needs of individual business have continued to evolve across different sectors, it has never been more important for us to offer services that will tailor to different needs. From the UK’s first corporate credit card to the latest in virtual card payments, Barclaycard will continue to push the boundaries by developing payment solutions that take advantage of the latest trends, helping our customers become more successful.

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Transport ticketing: Lessons from the current troubles in telecoms

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Transport ticketing: Lessons from the current troubles in telecoms 1

By Philippe Vappereau, Chairman, Calypso Networks Association

As children, we are told: “Don’t put all your eggs in the same basket.” A simple warning, but sensible advice. If you risk everything on a single option, you face a highly unfortunate position if that option fails.

Yet “putting all eggs in one basket” is a strategy we see all too often in the business world. The associated promise of a strong return on investment or of simplifying technical complexities is tempting. However, this is ultimately a risky strategy and the consequences can be devastating.

Managing unexpected events  

Recent high-profile events in the telecoms world are a case in point.

In May 2020, Bloomberg reported that the U.S. Department of Commerce had moved “to prevent chipmakers using U.S. technology from supplying Huawei.” The Taiwanese chip manufacturer, TSMC, which uses some American components in its chips, subsequently halted new orders from Huawei and ceased all shipments to the company in September 2020.

Huawei reportedly depended on TSMC for a large majority of its semiconductors. In a period of less than three months, an essential part of its supply chain had been completely disrupted. And while the challenges may have arisen virtually overnight, solving them is unlikely to be a quick fix.

It is a clear reminder of the potential for unexpected events, whether political, economic, or otherwise, to directly affect supply chains. Of course, where a supply chain is single-source, or near-enough single-source, it is even more vulnerable to the damage of such eventualities. Simply put, if a supplier becomes unviable, there is nowhere else to go.

Equal access challenges

Philippe Vappereau

Philippe Vappereau

A single-source supply chain is also disproportionately vulnerable to competition-related challenges, as demonstrated by another recent story from the telecoms industry: American graphics chip specialist NVIDIA’s recently announced acquisition of British semiconductor and software company, ARM.

The acquisition immediately prompted concerns about a potential conflict of interest, “since ARM’s clients would become dependent on a business with which many also compete for sales.” The BBC’s technology correspondent summarised the problem: how would ARM’s “hundreds of other customers now have faith that they will have equal access to its technology?”

Together, these examples from the world of telecoms illustrate the importance of companies ensuring that they do not depend on just a single supplier. It is a lesson which multiple industries would do well to learn, including transport ticketing, where the supply of critical components is essential at all levels. This includes even the “smallest” foundational level: the card chip.

Multi-source in transport ticketing 

A reliable public transport system and, in turn, a reliable public transport ticketing system, is essential. Even amid the most stringent lockdowns of 2020, skeleton services remained operational in most cities and towns across the world. This raises the stakes for a robust supply chain as in the case of a shortage of critical components, services could not just stop. In the past, operators in such a situation have been forced to open access to their systems for free, a damaging move with revenue-hitting consequences.

At the same time, it’s also worth remembering that the sheer size of the industrial players in the chip industry almost makes the transport card market negligible. This fact alone poses a considerable risk if semiconductor producers ever decided to prioritise chip supply. More generally, the best interests of the transport ticketing industry simply do not have to be a priority for these suppliers.

Public Transport Operators (PTOs) and Public Transport Authorities (PTAs) who choose to work with just a single supplier are also subject to the more routine, though no less significant, issues associated with single-source chains. For one thing, PTOs and PTAs would be inadvisably vulnerable to any difficulties affecting their single supplier, whether regulatory, financial, or otherwise. They may also risk being locked into a service which becomes increasingly expensive over time, stuck with a contract which delivers a diminishing ROI.

In some respects, it’s hard to see why a business would countenance this level of risk. This brings us to another key problem: many PTOs and PTAs are unaware that they are part of a single-source supply chain. When they tender for cards, it may appear that they have many options from many different suppliers. But they may not know that behind the card is ultimately the chip, which is often from a single supplier.

The benefits of open standards in transport ticketing

Open technology offers an alternative that is free from any manufacturing monopoly and is more cost-effective and adaptable to future developments. Open standards specifically foster equal access and fair competition, enabling players to have confidence that multiple sources of supply exist, and that the failure of one source will have a minimal impact on their operations. This confidence is empowering, giving the industry the space to drive innovation and service optimisation.

Industry-wide collaboration with the goal of simplifying ticketing for all players through open standards must now be a priority. The transport ticketing market has needed to evolve rapidly in the wake of the pandemic, with the dominance of proprietary systems only intensifying. As we move into 2021, it’s time for public transportation to reduce market fragmentation and equip itself with a robust ticketing and payments system, ready for the future challenges and opportunities of the post-pandemic landscape.

About Philippe Vappereau:

Philippe Vappereau is the Chairman of CNA. He has over 30 years of knowledge and experience in the transport and mobility sector, and leads the association in its efforts to advance open systems that support seamless, consumer ticketing needs. Prior to joining CNA in 2008, Philippe held senior leadership positions at RATP and Ixxi. He holds a diploma in Engineering from École Supérieure D’électricité (Supélec).

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Should you reward high performance and if so how?

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Should you reward high performance and if so how? 2

By Matthew Emerson, Founder and Managing Director, Blackmore Four 

In our last article – “what do high-performing teams mean?” we identified four enabling conditions – a compelling direction, high accountability, clear expectations and trusting relationships to be the basic platform for high performing teams.  But work teams do not operate in an organisational vacuum. Organisational performance is the key interest for managers and executives; however, organizations only perform efficiently if individuals feel satisfied and committed as well as cooperate with colleagues.

Features of the organisational context, such as the reward system, specific incentives and career development opportunities as well as the coaching and feedback behaviours of team leaders, can have.

a seismic impact on the outcome of the team.  In today’s team-centric workplace, how do you recognise employees’ contributions to team success in the most effective way?

Individual vs. team reward

The problem is that group tasks are usually a mix of group and individual interests, a mixture of cooperative and competitive incentives.  Therefore, is team recognition better? Or is it best to reward individual contributors?

When you reward individuals for their hard work and for achieving results, you incentivise them to keep up the good work.  This recognition can, in turn, influence others to improve their performance.  However, rewarding individuals may create a more competitive environment, potentially undermining any efforts to establish or maintain a collaborative culture within the organisation.

Through a meta-analysis of 30 studies involving more than 7,000 teams, Garbers and Konradt (2014) found that team-based rewards yield moderate positive effects on team performance.  Recognising an entire team encourages greater camaraderie and when people are motivated to work harder for the good of the team, it often results in higher performance.  Moreover, it demonstrates to the team that others in their organisation (specifically, those who designed the reward system and administer it) care enough about a team’s performance that they are willing to expend organisational resources to recognise what it accomplishes.  Effective team rewards should elicit and reinforce collaboration among members as they work together to achieve compelling team purposes.  Recognition for good team performance encourages members to think of “us” rather than “me” and goes a long way in helping to sustain collective motivation.

Both individual and team-based recognition have their pros and cons.  So, what would be a compromise solution? A third option is offering a hybrid recognition program.

By simultaneously rewarding group and individual achievement, you can motivate everyone to work hard toward achieving the team’s goals.  At the same time, you also recognise individual team members who go the extra mile.  These are the people who make outstanding contributions to the team’s overall performance. The work they do is worthy of special recognition and should be rewarded appropriately.  When a team receives something that members collectively value, it becomes more likely that members will do again whatever it is that they did before.

The consequences of excellent team performance, therefore, must be something that team members themselves view as favourable.  Even if leaders think that putting a team’s name on the company intranet is kudos for high performance, that listing will have no effect if team members view it as silly, embarrassing or meaningless.

One kind of recognition that almost everyone cares about is money.  At least in Western societies, people have learned well to “follow the money” if they want to understand what is going on or what is most valued by those in charge.  Although compliments and nonmonetary rewards can go a long way in reinforcing team excellence, they cannot go all the way.  At some point, people want to see some cash—or at least feel they have a piece of the financial action.  What factors do you need to consider when designing your rewards strategy?

Equitable v’s equal

The evidence suggests that equitably distributed rewards are more effective than equally distributed rewards in

Matthew Emerson

Matthew Emerson

affecting team performance.  So, for example, the practice of distributing the same bonus to all team members at the end of the financial year, while it might be easier to do, may yield weaker effects on future performance.  Because fairness violations are processed more emotionally than rationally, even nominal rewards for team performance have implications for fairness perception and must be managed.

Communicate effectively

Communicate how you will distribute rewards: if you want to value individual contributions, you will need to define and say what the indicators of performance are (e.g., the amount of responsibility, hours worked, individual outcomes).  In other words, use equitable pay and be meritocratic.  Giving employees “voice” is an important first step of rewards fairness.  Objectives and performance should be measured among individuals, so that you can show what each team member has done and what they each receive as a reward.

Consistency is key

Finally, we encourage team leaders to make sure they use fair decision-making criteria when they are deciding on who should receive recognition.  Team members need to trust that you are recognising team members who make valuable contributions.  Distributing formal recognition based on arbitrary factors, or simply rewarding “teacher’s pets,” may compromise the positive (and exacerbate the negative) changes found in our research.  Many employees report feeling undervalued at the end of a project.  These less favoured members are usually separated from the favourable team members due to hierarchy or departmental lines.

Conclusion

Team-based rewards have both potential benefits and drawbacks for an organization, especially in the context of team trust. While they can be successful in highly interdependent team environments when reward measurements are fair and clear, they can also result in motivational loss, competitive behaviour and feelings of discomfort by team members who are reluctant to determine each other’s pay when such preconditions are not in place.  It is important for managers to take these dynamics into account when designing a team-based rewards program and remember that there is not a one size fits all approach.

About Author:

Matthew Emerson is the Founder and Managing Director of Blackmore Four, an Essex based management consultancy working with leaders of ambitious businesses to achieve outstanding performance through periods of growth or significant change.

Starting his career at Ford Motor Company, Matthew has developed his expertise in Organisational Effectiveness in key senior HR, Organisational Development and Talent roles, predominantly in Financial Services (Credit Suisse, Barclays and DBS) and most recently as the Group Head of Talent and Performance at UBS AG.

Having worked in and across Asia for six years as well as having ‘global’ responsibility in a number of his roles, Matthew has an appreciation of international and multi-cultural working environments.  He also has a multi-sector perspective, having worked with organisations in Manufacturing, Healthcare, Education and Technology.

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Britain’s Boohoo buys Debenhams brand for 55 million sterling

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Britain's Boohoo buys Debenhams brand for 55 million sterling 3

LONDON (Reuters) – British online fashion retailer Boohoo said on Monday it had purchased the brand of collapsed department store group Debenhams for 55 million pounds ($75.4 million).

Debenhams’ administrators said last month it was starting a liquidation process, putting 12,000 jobs at risk.

(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Kate Holton)

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