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DESPERATE TIMES; DESPERATE MEASURES?

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DESPERATE TIMES; DESPERATE MEASURES?

Angus Ridgway, Co-Founder and CEO, Potentialife

Banks are seeking out new ways to attract and retain the best young talent – but are they looking in the right places?

Investment banks are engaging in a battle to retain young talent like never before. The last decade has seen bankers’ reputation and remuneration take huge hits, while greater regulation has meant additional, unexciting work to keep them at their desks until the early hours. It is no surprise, therefore, that the young, high-potential talent, that banks used to have their pick of, are leaving in droves. Over the last few years, banks appear to have woken up to this problem and have started taking serious action to counteract the trend. Competition for talent is now ‘phenomenal’, but are banks investing in the right initiatives?

Keeping up with the (Dow) Jones’s

Earlier this year, Credit Suisse confirmed its intention to overhaul its promotion cycle across Europe, Africa and the Middle East, to be in line with the US which already had significant changes in place by summer 2013. The changes to Credit Suisse’s promotion cycle offer big opportunities, particularly to analysts, who will be able to reach associate level within two years rather than the usual three. In turn, this means the company’s junior bankers will be able to reach Vice President Level within five and a half years instead of six and a half.

But it isn’t just Credit Suisse that is pulling out the stops to attract and retain the industry’s best young talent. In January, it was reported that Deutsche Bank is taking a new approach in the battle to retain junior talent, with some managing directors planning to make cuts to their own bonuses so they can pay their subordinates more. Keeping up with the (Dow) Jones’s, Citigroup recently announced that junior staff will be able to take a year out from their job to do charitable work, whilst still earning 60% of their salary. But the firm didn’t stop there, also confirming that junior bankers will be able to participate in a programme that will fast-track them to promotion, as well as offer greater mobility between company departments and cities.

But will these expensive investments really pay off? Is simply throwing money at the problem via bonuses or injecting a sense of meaning from tasks unrelated to the job, such as a year away, really solving the root causes of the dissatisfaction?

Possible solutions

Research indicates that the younger generation desires multiple things from work: development opportunities based on an individual’s strengths, work that absorbs them and, perhaps most importantly, work that gives them a strong sense of meaning. In other words, work that provides a solid answer to the question: ‘why am I doing this?’ at the end of each day. These requirements stand in stark contrast to the traditional way in which work was framed within the banking industry.

Banks have typically adopted a transactional view to people development, whether it is in the form of remuneration, promotions or time off. However, capturing the hearts and minds of the younger generation will require a different type of approach that is more organic, long-term and individualised, rather than quick, temporary fixes.

Younger workers need to be given the tools and support that enables them to develop professionally as leaders and personally as whole individuals. These are the key factors that banks must remain aware of in the battle to attract and retain the best young talent:

  • Character strengths

Most people believe that they will make better progress by fixing their weaknesses, but they are completely wrong. Various research studies indicate that the most successful people and companies focus their energy on playing to their strengths, essentially what they’re best at and enjoy doing most. Banks need to understand this – both in theory and practice. That means supporting young talent to better understand their true character strengths, and providing regular opportunities to practice them within their work context. Where this has been done elsewhere, it consistently drives positive morale, higher retention and superior performance.

  • Understanding energy and reframing stress

Stress has a bad reputation. Walk into any bookshop and you will find shelves full of books on how to eliminate stress from your life. But there are two problems with this idea. Firstly, stress is inevitable. Secondly, when you look at the data, stress actually improves levels of creativity, mindfulness and productivity. The problem, therefore, is not stress in itself, but rather how we frame it and how we manage energy so that we embrace it. Stress can help with absorption and productivity, provided it’s balanced with sufficient recovery time.

As an example, Professor Alia Crum ran a study at a financial firm over the course of the most recent recession where, unsurprisingly, anxiety levels were high. Professor Crum showed employees a video that enlightened them on the value that stress can add. The video explained that moderate levels of stress can help people to focus, boost levels of energy and help to overcome challenges. Those who Professor Crum showed the video to experienced higher levels of physical and mental health, with these employees reporting that they had more energy, fewer physical symptoms and were happier and more focused overall. Crucially, those who watched the video had a significantly improved performance.

Recovery enables people to embrace the inevitable stress that comes with life and increase performance in those moments. To ensure we have sufficient recovery time in our lives, it’s important to identify the activities that recharge our emotional and spiritual batteries, such as reading a good book or spending time with friends. In particular, exercise has been proven to have a significantly positive impact on energy and happiness. Research reveals that exercising three times a week for 30-40 minutes can be as powerful as psychiatric drugs usually prescribed to people dealing with depression, sadness or anxiety.

Banks are typically stressful environments. If the industry genuinely wants to support high energy, stress-embracing staff, it needs to move away from a world where energy restoration activities such as sleep, exercise or breaks are confused with slacking and to a world where every employee takes active responsibility for maintaining high energy levels. As the famous quote from author and CEO of The Energy Project, Tony Schwartz, goes “manage your energy, not your time”.

  • Mindful engagement

The working world in 2016 differs greatly from that of 20, or even 10, years ago. New technologies have bred working cultures where we’re ‘always on’, with many of us accessing emails around the clock and at our clients and colleagues beck and call. Employees should commit to being less distracted throughout the day by practicing mindful engagement. Whether or not we engage with an activity or situation mindfully is solely our own decision. The choice is to take inward control and recognise that optimum performances, and peak life experience, result from consistently focusing on doing one thing well at any given time.

Ray Dalio, founder of the world’s biggest hedge fund firm, Bridgewater Associates, claims he owes his success to meditation, “meditation more than anything in my life was the biggest ingredient of whatever success I’ve had”. According to Dalio, its benefits have included centeredness, calmness and creativity. Others in the banking industry should take note of this and, as Bridgewater Associates has done, aim to embed the practice of mindfulness into the heart of an organisation’s culture.

  • Positive interactions

The command and control era is behind us. These days, we operate in networks with multiple stakeholders and rapid change. People have more choice over what job they want and, as banks have recently found out, the top talent is naturally the most discerning.

For young talent to stay put, they need to be driven by the best leaders. And research shows that there are two main factors that distinguish the best leaders from the rest: the positive energy they project and their personal authenticity. Highly positive and authentic environments lead to what are called psychologically safe teams.

Psychological safety, in a work capacity, is all about creating environments in which employees feel accepted and respected. There are ways to identify if the workplace is psychologically safe or unsafe. For example, in an unsafe environment it is likely that mistakes will be permanently held against you. Similarly, if employees do not speak their mind in meetings for fear of being judged, the environment is not psychology safe.

Senior employees in the banking sector need to take steps to build psychologically safe environments if they are to retain young talent. This can be done through being accessible, for example by shortening lines of communication or instituting an open door policy. Also, psychological safety can be advocated by leaders acknowledging fallibility, being open and disclosing their own mistakes and failures, and the insights they have learned from them.

  • Purpose

There is a common misconception that success leads to fulfilment, but it is important to understand that it is actually the other way around; it is fulfilment that leads to success.

Don’t wait for exceptional standout moments such as a promotion or the end of a successful project to answer the ‘why am I doing this?’ question, instead, do it at the end of each day. This will help find meaning in your day-to-day activities and make it possible to live life fully in the present.

Organisations within the banking sector should ensure they regularly instill the ‘bigger picture’ into their teams, highlighting the role that individuals play in driving projects forward. Essentially banks should remind individuals of the purpose of their role and the value it adds.

Clearly, there is a land grab for young talent in the banking sector, so financial services institutions need to carefully consider their approach to attracting and retaining the best that the industry has to offer. Short-term, transactional fixes will only do so much; My advice for banks? Focus time and energy on considered, and more meaningful, initiatives that will help to retain and develop the best talent.

Business

Voice Quality Matters: Quarter of Employees Working From Home Still Experiencing Regular Connectivity Issues

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Voice Quality Matters: Quarter of Employees Working From Home Still Experiencing Regular Connectivity Issues 1

-Survey of 1007 SMEs in the UK by Spitfire Network Services Ltd reveals pain points for employees working from home-

-27% experience frequent or occasional connectivity disruptions despite working remotely since March-

-Only 4% of employees working from home have a dedicated Internet connection for work-related purposes-

Spitfire Network Services Ltd, a provider of telecoms and IP engineering solutions to UK businesses, today revealed data that showed more than a quarter of employees experience regular issues with connectivity whilst working from home. The ‘Voice Quality Matters’ survey found that 27% of employees faced connectivity challenges such as drop-outs or lags during the course of their working day, causing frequent disruption and impacting on productivity. With the majority of voice (video) communications hosted via the Internet, the importance of ensuring your voice can be heard has never mattered more.

The survey revealed that only 4% of employees working from home had their own dedicated internet connection for work purposes. Instead, employees are relying on their home broadband for connectivity. When asked, 57% of employees revealed that they had between 3-10 devices connected to their home broadband at any one time.

Employees were also asked about the time of the day that most of the issues occurred, 4pm-6pm was revealed to be the problem hours. With kids returning from school and using personal devices, the strain on the network resulted in connectivity problems arising.

Dominic Norton, Sales Director, Spitfire Network Services Ltd, commented on the findings: “We were unsurprised to discover that more than one in four employees are facing connectivity challenges whilst they work from home. When you consider that remote working can no longer be classed as the supposed ‘new normal’ with this shift happening over 9-months ago, it shows that businesses have been slow to act. Connectivity is critical for employees to mirror the experience of the office from home – critical for delivering a service to customers and ensuring their workforce is as productive as possible. My message to businesses would be to act now and really consider the damage that may be being caused to both productivity and reputation.”

In total, 1007 respondents were surveyed throughout November 2020 as part of the Voice Quality Matters survey conducted by Spitfire Network Services Ltd.

For more information about Spitfire Network Services Ltd, visit www.spitfire.co.uk.

To find out how we can support your customers to ensure they stay connected, please contact [email protected].

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How can we benefit from mandated e-invoicing?

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How can we benefit from mandated e-invoicing? 2

By Mark Stephens, the CEO of Blackstar Capital

Electronic invoicing is at a tipping point. On the one hand, only a small minority of invoices that are sent globally are e-invoices. It is estimated that 75% of the world invoices are still transacted on paper, and those that rely on email instead experience similar inefficiencies. On the other, a recent trend of B2G mandates from governments around the world could potentially serve as a catalyst for a new wave of public and private sector e-invoicing adoption.

In India, for example, the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs has regulated that e-invoicing will be mandatorily adopted by all companies with a turnover exceeding INR 500 crore. The decision follows many countries in Latin America, most notably Brazil and Mexico, where electronic invoices have been mandated as the only acceptable standard for all significant public and private commercial transactions.

In Latin America, these systems are largely being used as a tool to improve the government’s fiscal control and recapture lost tax revenue from economies with high rates of cash transactions. Brazil, Chile and Mexico have all adopted a ‘clearance model,’ where before invoices are sent, they are cleared by a government portal. Documents are therefore tax-compliant in real-time, reducing delays and fines, while significantly reducing tax leakage. India’s model is broadly similar to this, and the EU is also looking towards adopting something similar to the clearance model.

In 2019, all VAT-registered businesses in Italy started issuing invoices electronically using the country’s online exchange system. The decision in Italy, like many others, was again driven by tax efficiency. While these mandated government decisions can help achieve this, experts say the benefits of e-invoicing actually go well beyond this and it is time the arguments for mandating e-invoicing include the benefits for small, medium and global businesses too. The EU has been clear: mandated e-invoicing has the potential to not only save government processing costs, but also provide the stimulus for private sector adoption that can drive the environmental, cost, and efficiency benefits.

For businesses, the potential benefits are huge. Companies on average able to save between 50-70% of processing costs and 65% of invoice processing time. E-invoicing reduces errors, fraud and human intervention. A Wax Digital study found about 25% of time handling paper invoices is spent on resolving problems related to data entry and processing. As there are roughly 16 billion B2B invoices processed each year in Europe alone, Deutsche Bank projected that full adoption could lead to an annual saving of at least €260 billion. Organisations already using e-invoicing have been motivated to do so because of this huge cost efficiency aspect.

Mark Stephens

Mark Stephens

In the most recent Spring Statement, the Chancellor of the Exchequer described late payments as a ‘scourge’ and according to Siemens Financial Services, SMEs in the UK are missing out on over £250bn of working capital cash flow due to late payments. Xero found that businesses which use online tools get paid 33% faster than those which use paper invoices. Faster approval cycles result in better cash flow, which can be passed down the supply chain in cost and time savings. Finally, a mandated move from paper to paperless could have a huge impact on the global carbon footprint.

In addition to the impact that the reduction of late payments can have on the working capital of businesses globally, e-invoicing can provide a more efficient avenue for the funding of invoices.  Invoice financing is not new, but the level of transparency and depth of data accessible via modern e-invoicing platforms enable direct access for financiers to provide faster, efficient, de-risked, and innovative funding solutions in relation to the financing of such invoices. There is a growing belief that this will have a fundamental, evolutionary impact on the invoice financing space.

Public sector mandated e-invoicing therefore can be expected to drive private sector e-invoicing adoption and provide the gateway for the digitisation of many business processes. The blueprint for adoption was Denmark’s pioneering 2005 legislation that allowed vendors to submit invoices online, free of charge, using a SaaS service. The Danish were focused on the economic benefits of e-invoicing and decided the best way to influence behaviour would be to keep the barriers to entry as low as possible. By offering a free and open service, Denmark was able to voluntarily achieve the long-term commercial adoption of B2B e-invoicing in the private sector after mandating public sector B2G e-invoicing.

Now with the challenges of Covid-19, global governments will be more focused than ever on cost efficiencies and the need to guarantee tax revenues. Mandating e-invoicing, however, can also have huge knock-on benefits for the wider B2B business market. With a higher adoption rate across the private sector, mandating e-invoicing will provide huge cost and efficiency savings for businesses at a time when public and private finances are under significant pressure.

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How fintech companies can facilitate continued growth

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Fintech M&A: the terrible teens?

By Jackson Lee, VP Corporate Development from Colt Data Centre Services

The fintech industry is rapidly growing and, in the first half of 2020, fintechs have secured more than $25 billion in investment globally, despite the huge uncertainty caused by COVID-19. As fintechs and their customer base expand, it is important to recognise that the success of these companies is predicated on the ability to use data effectively in providing a personalised experience to their customers.

To ensure these companies do not become victim of their own success, they must ensure they have the ability to scale up their operations and data storage as quickly and cost-efficiently as possible, especially in these challenging times.

So what must fintech companies do if they are to facilitate this growth without bursting at the seams?

Big fish in a small pond

Fintech companies are growing exponentially, and for many, even the current uncertainty around the pandemic has not decelerated the pace of their growth. However, having started small – with only having access to limited tools at the beginning of their journey, many fintech companies can’t keep up with their own rapid growth. When it comes to data infrastructures, they are facing a real risk of becoming a big fish in a small pond.

In order to achieve widespread innovation, and to keep their advantage over traditional financial institutions, fintech companies need the necessary playground space to experiment in.

When the pandemic and its consequent disruptions started to take hold, most businesses weren’t prepared for the types of challenges that they would have to face. Although the suggestion of investing in data infrastructure might seem counter intuitive at the moment, a lifeline for fintech companies going forward will be flexibility and the ability to scale.

Risky business? 

As the uncertainty around the pandemic continues, fintech companies, like other industries are finding it difficult to commit to long-term business plans. Despite their continued growth, fintech companies continue to be cautious to invest in expanding their operations during an unpredictable economic climate, especially when they are doing well enough as it is.

Even before the pandemic, fintech companies exhibited slower rates of the adoption of digitalisation and advanced IT infrastructures than other industries. It’s clear the future is digital and for fintechs to effectively compete in today’s volatile market, they need to be proactive and invest in the value of data and digital transformation.

One area that fintech companies must be proactive in is their IT infrastructure, especially their data storage and connectivity, in order to allow them to act faster than big, established competitors.

Limitless scalability

Due to the continuous growth of fintech companies, with no sign for it to slow down, these companies will have to continually scale their operations up to manage increased demand. Ordinarily, this would have very high costs as they would have to continually alter their IT infrastructure and solutions.

When it comes to flexibility, data is a crucial aspect for fintechs. In today’s world, companies store masses of data, and its amount is growing fast. This makes the storing of the data a juggling act, and the costs keep growing with it. In periods of economic uncertainty, such as the one we are experiencing now, this constant increase in data can quickly turn into a challenge. Therefore, fintechs must ensure that scalability is at the heart of everything they do. When it comes to scalability, however, the key factor is not just growth or the ability to scale up. A vital, but often overlooked opportunity in scalability lies in scaling down, when needed. For fintechs aiming at this level of scalability, hyperscale is the only way forward.

The answer is hyperscale

Hyperscale data centres provide businesses with a one-stop shop for all their data and capacity requirements. These centres, which are built in a campus-style design, allow companies to build out further data centres quickly within the same location, or if needed, downsize. In an environment of ever-fluctuating demand, hyperscale enables scalability of data and storage swiftly. This presents many benefits. The sheer size of these facilities allows for large-scale cloud adoption, which is more streamlined, flexible and cost-effective than ever before. This will help fintechs to get a better handle on their data and reduce costs as much as possible.

With this level of scalability, companies can operate like an elastic band, expanding or retracting when necessary and at a moment’s notice. For example, imagine this year’s Christmas. With the uncertainty of the pandemic and constantly changing restrictions, people’s online activity will be even higher than in previous years. Fintechs will have to scale up their operations to cope with the high demand of online services. Meanwhile, when demand goes down in January, it might be beneficial to scale down and reduce costs until demand increases again.

Hyperscale will also help fintech companies to future-proof their operations, which has become a key consideration as the economy looks to recover from the pandemic. By having the level of flexibility that hyperscale provides, businesses will always have the ability to lean or expand. Being able to adjust quickly within the hyperscale environment, with no added costs, makes fintechs more resilient and flexible to disruptions.

While cutting costs will continue to be a priority in today’s business environment, it is important that fintech companies look beyond this and focus on innovation and technology. The issues that the pandemic unearthed already existed and needed to be addressed by businesses. Therefore, they need to take the current situation as an opportunity to reconsider and improve their business models. Flexibility, scalability and cost efficiency must be top priorities in this new era. Hyperscale can provide this trinity of success.

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