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Challenging disruption: why collaboration with ‘regulated fintechs’ is what the finance industry really needs

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Challenging disruption: why collaboration with ‘regulated fintechs’ is what the finance industry really needs 1

By Ivo Gueorguiev, Co-founder and Executive Chairman, Paynetics

It’s not hard to come up with a long list of companies who have disrupted the financial services industry over the last few decades. Mastercard and Visa changed how we interacted with physical cash. Monzo and Starling have changed how we view bank accounts. Klarna, now Europe’s largest fintech, has changed how we pay for our online shopping.

Whilst it’s true that this disruption has brought us new products and services that we never could have previously imagined, it’s also true that disruption is a painful process. Countering the status quo doesn’t come without its own stresses for both the challenger and the challenged. And after all, in many ways we are living through the greatest disruption to our lives that most of us have ever experienced. Perhaps the impact of COVID-19 has borne an environment that is less welcoming of the idea of disruption at all.

To take this further, I’m questioning whether the language of disruption is really how we want to frame how all fintech companies move into the financial services market. Many fintechs are actually able to collaborate with those organisations that have an established presence in the market, to drive even more innovation and development and therefore benefit both industry and end-user.

In collaborating, there’s still room for change

I’m definitely not implying that we rest on our laurels and allow the industry to fall into stasis. We must acknowledge that many established players in the financial services sector have issues within their businesses which should be looked at, interrogated and improved. Technical debt, legacy technology, outdated compliance systems, infrastructures that are vulnerable to a cyberattack; all of these are examples of things that should be optimised and changed in order to progress.

But these older, more traditional organisations also have a host of strengths that should not be overlooked. Years of investment have created established brands, they have vast pools of resources that can be used to solve problems and, as a result of both of these things, they have trust.

At the other end of the scale, challengers have played a significant role in elevating the need for change, and have taken different paths to attack and disrupt the incumbents and underline this point. In my view, it seems that this is coming to an end and that the most successful approach for driving true change across the sector is not one of challenging, but of collaborating.

And whilst there are pain points to address – a recent study from CapGemini and Efma revealed that only 21% of banks say their systems are agile enough for collaboration and over 70% of fintechs say they are frustrated with the incumbent’s process barriers – the potential benefits are huge. Fintechs can match the experience, authority and gravitas that existing players have with their energy, agility and innovation in order to drive the industry forward.

Advances in both technology and regulation can definitely help to support this evolution, and remove the common barriers. The increasing use of APIs and developments in Open Banking and Open Finance will help create a shared set of protocols and processes to aid collaboration, and from this will come innovative new products and services. The global partnership between HSBC and Bud is a great example of how a bank and fintech startup are working closely together to the benefit of their customers, as is Lloyds Bank’s collaboration with fintech Xelix.

Regulation, regulation, regulation

To avoid regulation and compliance becoming stumbling blocks for successful collaboration between fintechs and larger corporates, I know from my own experience that fintechs need to actively seek to comply so that what is offered is “institution-class”. By definition, fintechs are often unregulated and so when it comes to cooperating with financial institutions there can be a lack of understanding of what is a very complicated regulatory framework.

But a new breed of “regulated fintechs” can remove this headache for corporates that want to build out their partnership network. These companies can bridge the gap between innovation and regulation, and as they can offer the best of both worlds, they can significantly shorten the time to market.

I’ve also been watching how the entrance of BigTech into the financial services market has proven to be a catalyst for closer collaboration between regulated fintechs and established players. Google will launch its digital banking solution next year, WhatsApp has moved (although somewhat unsuccessfully) into the payments industry, and with the millions of users and gargantuan budgets companies like this have at their fingertips, no one can compete against their offerings alone.

I have no doubt that BigTech will either dominate or be important players in the ‘bread and butter’ financial services space, if allowed by the regulators of course. But I do not believe that they can be competitive in the more sophisticated and intricate products, which is where the finance industry can lean on the specialisms of fintechs who have that deep domain knowledge. In the same vein, BigTech companies have become very large ships that are difficult to manoeuvre, and for which payments will only ever be a side business. Again, fintechs can offer that agility and complete focus on bringing cutting-edge solutions to market in a much more efficient manner, and in line with rapidly changing customers behaviour and demands.

I’m hopeful that there will be an adequate regulatory and supervisory reaction to their ambitions, and in the meantime any successful competitive responses will require collaboration from all areas of the financial services industry.

If fintechs recognise that the true value that they can bring to the table in their partnerships is both their agility but also a deep understanding of the regulatory landscape that they are bound to, we’ll continue to drive meaningful change as an industry. In our uncertain times, we shouldn’t look to needlessly reinvent the wheel and disrupt everything we know to be true. Instead, real change will come from considered collaboration.

Finance

Staying connected: keeping the numbers moving in the finance industry

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Staying connected: keeping the numbers moving in the finance industry 2

By Robert Gibson-Bolton, Enterprise Manager, NetMotion

2020 will certainly be hard to forget. Amongst the many changes we have come to live with, for many of us it has been adapting to a new style of working. Whatever your take on it is, remote working, working from home or even agile working, one thing remains clear – for many of us, this could be the new-normal for the foreseeable future. The professional services sector is no different. For example, many finance practices around the world are now allowing staff to work from home part of the time. In addition, a recent KPMG report found that half of the UK’s financial services workforce want to work from home after COVID-19.

Will this therefore become the de facto working practice for the finance industry too? We can’t say for sure, but this agile approach to working has certainly caused a major rethink for many firms. And as they evolve and adapt to meet the demands of a different way of working, firms need to ensure that their workforce can seamlessly interact with each other and their clients – this is key if they want to continue to deliver exceptional client service. Whilst financial services organisations everywhere are busy adopting innovative new technologies to better reflect the ‘work from anywhere environment’, they need to ensure secure access to resources and strive towards enhancing the end user experience. Success will be replicating the office working experience at home or wherever else they may be.

It’s all well and good for a firm to boast about the ability of their staff to work successfully from home, but how do they also establish that their people are just as productive as they were before? Whilst the IT department will have to grapple with security and compliance issues that arise from agile and remote working, they must also ensure that their people can connect securely, without eschewing user experience. And it needs to be completely seamless, without compromising the service level provided to clients.

Why all the fuss?

Which brings us nicely to persistent connectivity. Persistent connectivity effectively allows you to do more. How frustrating for the user when connectivity drops, or when the device that they are working on can’t find a network to connect to (or if the device switches between different networks). When connectivity drops, and re-connection is required then there is that small period where the user is not connected at all. And the user might have to re-authenticate or log into their VPN again (most VPNs are rubbish when they lose connectivity). All of these different scenarios ultimately disrupt the user experience – persistent connectivity provides the flexibility to overcome these challenges. When you enjoy consistent connectivity, you are making sure that the technology works as it was designed to work, allowing staff to rely on optimum user experience, anytime, anywhere – in effect, supplying them with that office-like experience, wherever they are. Just think about how many hours might be spent on a train, in a hotel or even on a client site. Consistent connectivity is key here – consistent in any of these locations.

Connectivity will be a fundamental component for successful remote working as firms try to meet the demands of an increasingly mobile workforce. Ultimately, they need encrypted and reliable connections that enable them to quickly and easily reach business applications and services. Working in a disconnected environment can lead to frustrated workers, hardly fitting given all the new remote working policies in place.

Getting the user experience spot-on

When you fine-tune connection performance so that essential business applications run reliably across networks, you are essentially talking about traffic optimization. Mobile traffic optimization ensures that applications, resources and connections are tuned for weak and intermittent network coverage and can roam between wireless networks as conditions and availability change. When connections aren’t performing well, applications that are crucial for job performance can experience packet loss, jitter or latency that can make working on the hoof extremely tricky. Compared to wired networks, wireless networks operate under highly variable conditions, including such factors as terrain or congested mobile towers. When you optimise the flow of traffic, you are helping to manage packet loss. Effectively, packet losses are data loss, which happens very regularly when you’re on the move or transitioning between different networks. Applications that require a lot of data tend to become fairly unusable when you hit even minor packet loss, which can be a common occurrence for many on residential broadband or on local Wi-Fi. conversely, NetMotion can enable critical applications to work and prevent disruptions at over 50% packet loss – in this way, employees can rely on technology performing well in situations and locations where it simply could not before. That is incredibly powerful for firms.

The finance industry is facing many of the same challenges presented to other industries. It is a question of balancing the requirement for more sophisticated ways to ensure secure access to resources with the need to enhance the end user experience (key team members in particular). For finance firms everywhere, adopting the right technologies will ensure that their people can enjoy a ‘work-from-anywhere’ environment.

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Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific warns of capacity cuts, higher cash burn

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Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific warns of capacity cuts, higher cash burn 3

(Reuters) – Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd on Monday warned passenger capacity could be cut by about 60% and monthly cash burn may rise if Hong Kong installs new measures that require flight crew to quarantine for two weeks.

Hong Kong’s flagship carrier said the expected move will increase cash burn by about HK$300 million ($38.70 million) to HK$400 million per month, on top of current HK$1 billion to HK$1.5 billion levels.

Hong Kong is set to require flight crew entering the Asian financial hub for more than two hours to quarantine in a hotel for two weeks, the South China Morning Post reported last week, citing sources.

“The new measure will have a significant impact on our ability to service our passenger and cargo markets,” Cathay said in a statement, adding that expected curbs will also reduce its cargo capacity by 25%.

The airline, in an internal memo seen by Reuters, requested for volunteers among its crew who could fly for three weeks, followed by two weeks of quarantine and 14 days free of duty, adding it will be a temporary measure and not all its flight will require such an operation.

“We continue to engage with key stakeholders in the Hong Kong Government,” the memo said.

The government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Separately, a company spokeswoman said the airline could not detail the impact on vaccine transport specifically in terms of cargo shipments.

The aviation industry has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic as many countries imposed travel restrictions to contain its spread.

In December, Cathay’s passenger numbers fell by 98.7% compared to a year earlier, though cargo carriage was down by a smaller 32.3%.

($1 = 7.7512 Hong Kong dollars)

(Reporting by Shriya Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Jamie Freed in Sydney and Twinnie Siu in Hong Kong; Editing by Bernard Orr and Arun Koyyur)

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Travel stocks pull FTSE 100 lower as virus risks weigh

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Travel stocks pull FTSE 100 lower as virus risks weigh 4

By Shashank Nayar

(Reuters) – London’s FTSE 100 fell on Monday, with travel stocks leading the declines, as rising coronavirus infections and extended lockdowns raised worries about the pace of economic growth, while fashion retailers Boohoo and ASOS gained on merger deals.

The British government quietly extended lockdown laws to give councils the power to close pubs, restaurants, shops and public spaces until July 17, the Telegraph reported on Saturday.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 index dipped 0.1%, with travel and energy stocks falling the most, while the mid-cap index rose 0.1%.

“Stock markets are crawling between optimism around the rollout of vaccines and worries that a jump in virus infections and fresh local lockdowns could further affect recovery prospects,” said David Madden, an analyst at CMC Markets.

Britain has detected 77 cases of the South African variant of COVID-19, the health minister said on Sunday while urging people to strictly follow lockdown rules as the best precaution against the country’s own potentially more deadly variant.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had earlier warned that the government could not consider easing lockdown restrictions with infection rates at their current high levels and until it is confident that the vaccination programme is working.

The FTSE 100 shed 14.3% in value last year, its worst performance since a 31% plunge in 2008 and underperforming its European peers by a wide margin, as pandemic-driven lockdowns battered the economy.

Online fashion retailers Boohoo and ASOS surged 4.8% and 5.9%, each. Boohoo bought the Debenhams brand, while ASOS was in talks to buy the key brands of Philip Green’s collapsed Arcadia group.

Recruiter SThree Plc gained 0.9% after its profit, which nearly halved, still managed to beat market expectations and the company said it had resumed dividends.

(Reporting by Shashank Nayar in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V)

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