By David Goulden, Product Director, Clarizen
It is already clear that it’s likely that more and more teams will be dispersed across numerous time-zones and locations as Brexit is implemented, with more employees expected to be working remotely. Connecting a relocated and dispersed workforce is a process that needs to be managed with extreme care. Otherwise, it can cause serious disruption to day-to-day activities. As a result, businesses need to embrace technology to less the blow of Brexit.
Banking and financial service organisations need to remain business to agile, stay ahead of their competitors, make decisions faster and drive efficiency across the business. To achieve this, they need to have the right tools in place to ensure scattered teams can communicate effectively and implement a standardised and coordinated way of working so that employees do not have to shift between numerous applications to complete tasks, collaborate on projects, monitor progress, manage resourcing and track deadlines. Fortunately, disruption can be minimised by using tools that nurture collaborative working environments that are not impacted by geographical differences and offer structure that ensures employees at different locations are able to act as a unified team, working together in real time.
Overcoming the hurdles of working from disparate locations
Remote working is a highly flexibly and popular way of working. Yet, many businesses are still trying to overcome the barriers it presents to communication and collaboration. Before the banking and finance industry begins relocating teams, it needs to ensure some key issues related to remote working are resolved ahead of the implementation of Brexit. Otherwise, the serious and negative impact they have on effective collaboration, productivity and business agility will only be aggravated.
Research conducted by Clarizen shows that some of the most prevalent issues workers struggle with when working remotely include:
- Difficulties with being able to communicate with colleagues;
- Struggling to remain efficient;
- An inability to access to up-to-date documents;
- Not knowing which tasks to prioritise
These issues clearly hamper productivity and business agility, and companies need to have strategies and solutions in place to resolve them before Brexit occurs – or the challenges will only get tougher. Many organisations are already behind the curve and are playing catch-up as Brexit becomes closet, which has led to rash decision making that misaligns with corporate strategy.
Providing employees with the means to succeed
The banking and finance industry needs to ensure employees are equipped with tools that help promote coordination between scattered teams while ensuring efficiency remains high.
Recent research from Clarizen found that almost three quarters of respondents said that what they need to boost communication and collaboration among employees is technology, structure and support that enables them to transcend geographical barriers and bridge the gap between time zones to maximise productivity, ensure management oversight and encourage flexibility.
This can be achieved with a cloud-based platform that enables real-time collaboration across locations and empowers teams to coordinate workflow, track progress, align goals, allocate budget and meet deadlines from any device and location.
Dealing with the scourge of communication overload
Businesses need to ensure that they pick the right tool to tie workplace interactions to business objectives. Social media apps, such as WhatsApp and Facebook, are popular with businesses because they facilitate easy and frequent employee discussion. However, while these apps are viewed as a way to streamline communications between workers and reduce long email chains that cause frustration and confusion. The reality is that they encourage non-work chat and oversharing of irrelevant information that doesn’t bring employees any closer to achieving business goals.
In a bid to become more focused in their approach, businesses have been turning to business-focused communication apps. A global Clarizen survey showed that, in the past year, companies deployed one or more of the following apps to improve productivity: Skype (39%), Microsoft Teams (14%), Google Hangouts (8%) and Slack (7%). Yet, even these efforts to boost productivity often have proven futile, as they merely became a place for meaningless chit-chat and overloaded people with an endless stream of notifications and interruptions, which hamper productivity.
It’s a modern workplace epidemic that has been dubbed ‘communication overload’, which is symptomized by workers struggling to stay on top of a relentless barrage of unfocused messages, meeting requests and unnecessary interruptions. Clarizen research indicates that, in the end, apps that fail to directly link communication to business activities, aims and status updates are actually detrimental to collaboration, effectiveness and efficiency. The survey showed that 81% of respondents believe that, despite taking steps to improve communication among employees, they still don’t have a way to keep projects on track and provide management oversight – and only 16% of the companies surveyed said productivity levels were ‘excellent’ – while nearly a quarter said they we ‘just OK’ or ‘we need help’.
Remaining successful in a post-Brexit world
It’s undeniable that Brexit presents the banking and finance industry with a number of challenges that could derail successful collaboration and put revenue and profits at risk. However, by employing tools and methods that nurture a truly collaborative environment – where communication is in a business context and reporting occurs in real time – firms operating in the finance sector can enhance productivity and business agility to thrive in a post-Brexit world. Even though it’s still unclear what form Brexit will take, if businesses provide their employees with tools that minimise disruption, then there’s no reason they cannot successfully overcome its challenges.
UK might need negative rates if recovery disappoints – BoE’s Vlieghe
By David Milliken and William Schomberg
LONDON (Reuters) – The Bank of England might need to cut interest rates below zero later this year or in 2022 if a recovery in the economy disappoints, especially if there is persistent unemployment, policymaker Gertjan Vlieghe said on Friday.
Vlieghe said he thought the likeliest scenario was that the economy would recover strongly as forecast by the central bank earlier this month, meaning a further loosening of monetary policy would not be needed.
Data published on Friday suggested the economy had stabilised after a new COVID-19 lockdown hit retailers last month, while businesses and consumers are hopeful a fast vaccination campaign will spur a recovery.
Vlieghe said in a speech published by the BoE that there was a risk of lasting job market weakness hurting wages and prices.
“In such a scenario, I judge more monetary stimulus would be appropriate, and I would favour a negative Bank Rate as the tool to implement the stimulus,” he said.
“The time to implement it would be whenever the data, or the balance of risks around it, suggest that the recovery is falling short of fully eliminating economic slack, which might be later this year or into next year,” he added.
Vlieghe’s comments are similar to those of fellow policymaker Michael Saunders, who said on Thursday negative rates could be the BoE’s best tool in future.
Earlier this month the BoE gave British financial institutions six months to get ready for the possible introduction of negative interest rates, though it stressed that no decision had been taken on whether to implement them.
Investors saw the move as reducing the likelihood of the BoE following other central banks and adopting negative rates.
Some senior BoE policymakers, such as Deputy Governor Dave Ramsden, believe that adding to the central bank’s 875 billion pounds ($1.22 trillion) of government bond purchases remains the best way of boosting the economy if needed.
Vlieghe underscored the scale of the hit to Britain’s economy and said it was clear the country was not experiencing a V-shaped recovery, adding it was more like “something between a swoosh-shaped recovery and a W-shaped recovery.”
“I want to emphasise how far we still have to travel in this recovery,” he said, adding that it was “highly uncertain” how much of the pent-up savings amassed by households during the lockdowns would be spent.
By contrast, last week the BoE’s chief economist, Andy Haldane, likened the economy to a “coiled spring.”
Vlieghe also warned against raising interest rates if the economy appeared to be outperforming expectations.
“It is perfectly possible that we have a short period of pent up demand, after which demand eases back again,” he said.
Higher interest rates were unlikely to be appropriate until 2023 or 2024, he said.
($1 = 0.7146 pounds)
(Reporting by David Milliken; Editing by William Schomberg)
UK economy shows signs of stabilisation after new lockdown hit
By William Schomberg and David Milliken
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s economy has stabilised after a new COVID-19 lockdown last month hit retailers, and business and consumers are hopeful the vaccination campaign will spur a recovery, data showed on Friday.
The IHS Markit/CIPS flash composite Purchasing Managers’ Index, a survey of businesses, suggested the economy was barely shrinking in the first half of February as companies adjusted to the latest restrictions.
A separate survey of households showed consumers at their most confident since the pandemic began.
Britain’s economy had its biggest slump in 300 years in 2020, when it contracted by 10%, and will shrink by 4% in the first three months of 2021, the Bank of England predicts.
The central bank expects a strong subsequent recovery because of the COVID-19 vaccination programme – though policymaker Gertjan Vlieghe said in a speech on Friday that the BoE could need to cut interest rates below zero later this year if unemployment stayed high.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due on Monday to announce the next steps in England’s lockdown but has said any easing of restrictions will be gradual.
Official data for January underscored the impact of the latest lockdown on retailers.
Retail sales volumes slumped by 8.2% from December, a much bigger fall than the 2.5% decrease forecast in a Reuters poll of economists, and the second largest on record.
“The only good thing about the current lockdown is that it’s no way near as bad for the economy as the first one,” Paul Dales, an economist at Capital Economics, said.
The smaller fall in retail sales than last April’s 18% plunge reflected growth in online shopping.
BORROWING SURGE SLOWED IN JANUARY
There was some better news for finance minister Rishi Sunak as he prepares to announce Britain’s next annual budget on March 3.
Though public sector borrowing of 8.8 billion pounds ($12.3 billion) was the first January deficit in a decade, it was much less than the 24.5 billion pounds forecast in a Reuters poll.
That took borrowing since the start of the financial year in April to 270.6 billion pounds, reflecting a surge in spending and tax cuts ordered by Sunak.
The figure does not count losses on government-backed loans which could add 30 billion pounds to the shortfall this year, but the deficit is likely to be smaller than official forecasts, the Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank said.
Sunak is expected to extend a costly wage subsidy programme, at least for the hardest-hit sectors, but he said the time for a reckoning would come.
“It’s right that once our economy begins to recover, we should look to return the public finances to a more sustainable footing and I’ll always be honest with the British people about how we will do this,” he said.
Some economists expect higher taxes sooner rather than later.
“Big tax rises eventually will have to be announced, with 2022 likely to be the worst year, so that they will be far from voters’ minds by the time of the next general election in May 2024,” Samuel Tombs, at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said.
Public debt rose to 2.115 trillion pounds, or 97.9% of gross domestic product – a percentage not seen since the early 1960s.
The PMI survey and a separate measure of manufacturing from the Confederation of British Industry, showing factory orders suffering the smallest hit in a year, gave Sunak some cause for optimism.
IHS Markit’s chief business economist, Chris Williamson, said the improvement in business expectations suggested the economy was “poised for recovery.”
However the PMI survey showed factory output in February grew at its slowest rate in nine months. Many firms reported extra costs and disruption to supply chains from new post-Brexit barriers to trade with the European Union since Jan. 1.
Vlieghe warned against over-interpreting any early signs of growth. “It is perfectly possible that we have a short period of pent up demand, after which demand eases back again,” he said.
“We are experiencing something between a swoosh-shaped recovery and a W-shaped recovery. We are clearly not experiencing a V-shaped recovery.”
($1 = 0.7160 pounds)
(Editing by Angus MacSwan and Timothy Heritage)
Oil extends losses as Texas prepares to ramp up output
By Devika Krishna Kumar
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Oil prices fell for a second day on Friday, retreating further from recent highs as Texas energy companies began preparations to restart oil and gas fields shuttered by freezing weather.
Brent crude futures were down 33 cents, or 0.5%, at $63.60 a barrel by 11:06 a.m. (1606 GMT) U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures fell 60 cents, or 1%, to $59.92.
This week, both benchmarks had climbed to the highest in more than a year.
“Price pullback thus far appears corrective and is slight within the context of this month’s major upside price acceleration,” said Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch and Associates.
Unusually cold weather in Texas and the Plains states curtailed up to 4 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude production and 21 billion cubic feet of natural gas, analysts estimated.
Texas refiners halted about a fifth of the nation’s oil processing amid power outages and severe cold.
Companies were expected to prepare for production restarts on Friday as electric power and water services slowly resume, sources said.
“While much of the selling relates to a gradual resumption of power in the Gulf coast region ahead of a significant temperature warmup, the magnitude of this week’s loss of supply may require further discounting given much uncertainty regarding the extent and possible duration of lost output,” Ritterbusch said.
Oil fell despite a surprise drop in U.S. crude stockpiles in the week to Feb. 12, before the big freeze. Inventories fell by 7.3 million barrels to 461.8 million barrels, their lowest since March, the Energy Information Administration reported on Thursday. [EIA/S]
The United States on Thursday said it was ready to talk to Iran about returning to a 2015 agreement that aimed to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Still, analysts did not expect near-term reversal of sanctions on Iran that were imposed by the previous U.S. administration.
“This breakthrough increases the probability that we may see Iran returning to the oil market soon, although there is much to be discussed and a new deal will not be a carbon-copy of the 2015 nuclear deal,” said StoneX analyst Kevin Solomon.
(Additional reporting by Ahmad Ghaddar in London and Roslan Khasawneh in Singapore and Sonali Paul in Melbourne; Editing by Jason Neely, David Goodman and David Gregorio)
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