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End of Cash

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Payments transfer is a hot subject amongst investors in high-tech.  The trail-blazers in Money Transfer at Xendpay have to stay abreast of any new payments technologies world-wide that might improve the experience of people sending money overseas.  Jake Holloway, Head of e-Commerce writes about the realities of an “End of Cash”.

Barclays’ recent launch of Ping-it, a mobile App that allows person-to-person transfers, re-energises the talk of an “end of cash”.  However is this really possible and do any of the new payments technologies, mobile apps and high-tech start-ups look like they are leading the way in the future of paymentsjake

The idea of making a payment using by tapping your phone on a reader, or perhaps even by simply looking at a camera in a shop might sound like a cool way to pay for a sandwich in Pret or at a vending machine, but could you imagine using these methods when buying a bunch of flowers in a street market, or handing out pocket-money?

Cash doesn’t need batteries or a signal.  It doesn’t cost anything to use it or accept it.  It’s very portable, not easy to forge and it’s accepted everywhere – so it’s a hard act to follow!  However, financial institutions, mobile phone manufacturers and network operators, software suppliers and a host of interesting start-ups everywhere are working hard right now to replace the cash in your pocket with something else.
Before we start, it is worth examining the anatomy of a payment.  A simple enough concept, but when you remove the use of cash it becomes surprisingly complicated. A payment without cash is a promise to transfer money, made with the assistance of at least one third party – but normally several.

We are all familiar with chip & pin credit card payments, where the payer authorizes a payment by typing their pin number into a point of sale (POS) terminal.  In the chip & pin payment model the credit card issuer warrants that the identity of the user is correct, and that they have sufficient funds or credit to make the purchase.  So there is an identity verification and live balance check at the moment of payment, followed by a settlement (the vendor gets paid by bank transfer – less any credit card and payment services fees).

Mobile payments
Using a chip in your phone instead of a chip in your card is a small leap in technology – as is the replacement of the card reader with the use of NFC (near field communications) devices that work when touched to an NFC reader in the store.  Some additional intermediaries may need to be involved – for example the mobile phone manufacturer, network operator, payment services providers and the supplier of any software “apps” that interfaces with the phone.

Google Wallet http://www.google.com/wallet/ is a good example of this kind of payment method – Google Wallet is an app based service that operates on their Nexus S 4G NFC-enabled mobile phone (made by Samsung) and running on the Sprint network in the USA only.  It stores your credit card numbers and you can pay for goods purchased at any Mastercard Paypass checkout – of which there are about 140,000 in the USA.

Services like Ping-it from Barclays and Paypal mobile work on a different basis.  Behind the ‘future of payments’ hype, the mobile app is simply used to securely communicate with your account once authorized by you – without using clever chips or NFC.  So it’s simple and there is an existing customer base signed up to the service.  Sending a payment instruction to another person is done by SMS or email – so it works well as a peer-to-peer payment method.

Pay-by-face
There is a lot of innovation going on in the area of identity authentication.  For example, the Payments tech start-ups Square – who are primarily focused on enabling any phone as a payment terminal that accepts cards – and Facecash are proponents of facial recognition as the means of proving who you are.  Your face is your signature!  The possibility of just walking up to a vending machine and saying ‘I’m Jake Holloway, can I have a can of lemonade’ is completely realistic. So it’s very likely that we will be offered more and more ways in which to ‘authenticate’ – all linked to a service that debits our bank accounts or cards.

It also raises the question whether the new innovative methods of payments, be it via Banks, credit card issuers, Mobile phone companies, Payment service provider start-ups, etc… are really bringing us closer to having a new way to pay for our potatoes?  In my opinion there are four problems that have to be addressed before we totally abandon cash;

Problem 1: Do I trust Google, Samsung and some Silicon Valley whizzkids with my money?

First of all, amongst all this tech-led frenzy how about something mundane and very human – trust.  Recent reports suggest that the public by-and-large isn’t ready to accept new players in the payments market just yet – with only 19.6% of respondents expressing trust for Google, versus 39.6% for Visa.  http://adage.com/article/digital/consumers-trust-google-apple-mobile-payments/229163/ This is not surprising considering that it took two generations before the wider public were comfortable with credit cards – and many still will not use them online for fear of fraud.
Widescale acceptance of new payment methods takes time, but not as long as it takes for old payment methods to wither and die – as you can see by the delays in the end of cheques – first used in 1659 and forecast to end around 360 years later in 2018 at the earliest! http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2011/jun/18/cheques-future-treasury-minister

Problem 2: Universality

With all the different methods available, paying for a skinny soya-milk latte in Silicon Valley is now probably the most confusing checkout process in the world! If your coffee shop is signed up with Facecash, can you use your Google wallet?  Is your NFC phone the right type?  Can Square take Diners Club?  Or should you just pull out those trusted dollar bills from your pocket?  Even Google Wallet is restricted to people with a specific phone on a specific network paying in certain shops only.  These new methods and the businesses behind them are not necessarily interoperable – so pulling together a payments infrastructure with the universal acceptance of cash is probably unrealistic.
Lower tech schemes maybe have an edge.  Look at M-pesa in Kenya with over 14 Million customers and 2 Million transactions a day – all on the back of basic mobile phones and, importantly, delivered through trusted community-based agents across the country.

Problem 3: Is there a demand for the end of cash?

There is no doubt that more and more people go out shopping without cash – but the queues at the ATMs don’t seem to be getting any shorter.  Most of these new methods merely wrap a little high-tech magic around two existing methods; bank transfers and card payments.  Will they deliver enough extra benefits over plastic to push cash out the picture?  Or will they provide additional alternatives that extend the number of methods by which we can pay for things, transport and peer-to-peer money transfers?

Furthermore, what is in it for the retailer?  If your smartphone tells you that the product you are just buying is cheaper next door, how many will want their customers to be quite that well informed right at the point of purchase!

Problem 4: Bad people will have a field day

Since the days of Archimedes working out how to stop people passing off base metals as gold and silver, nothing brings out the bad guys like new payments technology.  While some of the new methods may indeed offer better levels of protection than cash or straight cards, the sheer volume and frenzy of scams, phishing, hacking and theft stories could throw up an almost insurmountable barrier of fear.
Losing your phone is already a nightmare.  How much worse will it feel if it contains payment methods that could clean you out in milli-seconds?

Conclusion: cashless is the new paperless

Personally I am as convinced by the 21st century promise of a completely cashless society as I was by the 20th’s assurance that a paperless society one was imminent.  It was never realistically going to happen, but we sure communicate a lot differently nowadays!

That new payment technologies will change how we transfer trillions of pounds worth of payments is certain. But it would take a superhuman effort of joined up thinking, systems integration, innovation and human behavioral and cultural change to remove cash entirely.

And, even if we could, do we really need to?

Jake Holloway is Head of e-Commerce at Xendpay.com.

Technology

The FIVE ways to ensure cyber security this 2021

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The FIVE ways to ensure cyber security this 2021 1

Web hosting experts Fasthosts give their top five tips for keeping customers secure in 2021

The pandemic has allowed the UK’s e-commerce sector to hit a record number of online sales in 13 years1. So, with more online shoppers than ever before, how can we promise customers online security for a better 2021?

Web hosting experts Fasthosts.co.uk have comprised a list of top tips which will optimise user experience, ensure online security, and protect websites from unauthorised access as we enter the new year.

Fasthosts has pulled together the top five tips for ensuring cyber security and how you can implement them in 2021.

Limit User Access and Restrict Admin Privileges

Ensure cyber security by simply limiting those who can access sensitive information. The more users with the capacity to enter off-limits areas, the greater the likely hood of a cyber-criminal breaching your system.

Through limiting user access, you’re immediately reducing the risk of an online assault on your web space. A hierarchal structure means only those who necessitate access to personal, password, and payment data have the permissions to go ahead and do so.

The framework for a restricted admin website can be as intricate as necessary depending on your needs, but it can also be as simple as creating two different site formats which split up administrators and standard users.

Abide by Best Practice Security Standards

When protecting customer data it’s crucial that you adhere to universal security standards and attain all up-to-date certifications.

Encrypting data transferred between servers is one of the first steps in creating a secure online environment. Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is a protocol that codes information through 256-bit encryption, making it all but impossible to translate should it be intercepted by a malignant third party. SSL certification also presents your website as legitimacy by proving its safety with a padlock in the address bar and the letters ‘https://’ at the beginning rather than ‘http://’.

If you’re processing payments, you should be following the standards laid out by the Payment Card Industry (PCI). The PCI offers advice on the areas that require particular care, including sensitive authentication data (CAV2, CVC2, CVV2, CID, PINs, PIN blocks, and magnetic stripe data) and a user’s financial information (card number, cardholder name, expiration data, and service code).

You’ll need to complete a self-assessment exam to double-check what level of compliance you’re currently working at and how you can further improve online security.

Constantly Monitor User Activity

Establishing a system that allows you to keep tabs on activity and rapidly respond to suspicious on-site movements is one of the most effective ways of preserving cyber security. By enforcing a framework like this- often referred to as cyber monitoring – it becomes easier to uncover security weak spots, identify common user practices which don’t raise concern, and identify the behaviours of malicious intent.

It’s important to perform regular testing across all of your protective systems. This makes sure your site isn’t open to a to silent attack and puts your security methods into practice.

Encouraging a Strong Password is Crucial

It doesn’t matter how flashy or intricate your security software is, if a user is using a feeble password, your system is left open for opportunist hackers to invade. Passwords that are most easily guessed often include predictable patterns or personal information such as names, birthdays, childhood pets, or popular sports teams.

By making it compulsory to sign up with a more encrypted password, ideally containing at least one random number, capital letter and special character, you’re doing all you can as a responsible website owner to ensure the safety of both your users and customers. Similarly, encouraging users to often update their password helps reduce the potential of hackers accessing sensitive information.

If users are opposed by having to remember a complex password, offer a password manager that keeps track of any changes.

Implement a 2 Factor Authentication

Implement a two-factor authentication. Even if an unwelcome user somehow guesses a user’s password, the intrusion is made very difficult with the additional protective layer.

Two-factor authentication is really simple to use, you send a user a randomised code as an SMS or notification after they’ve entered their correct password. Only after entering the code when prompted will they then be permitted to access the site. Enabling two-factor authentication requires very little effort on a user’s part, but it’s a double-barrelled security measure that makes ensuring the safety of personal and payment data a lot more efficient.

Cyber security is crucial in delivering a reliable website, whether for your customers or administrators. For the full article please visit https://www.fasthosts.co.uk/blog/five-ways-to-ensure-cyber-security-in-2021/

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Holding Cloud To Account, How Cloud Adds Up In Financial Services

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Trends influencing the 2020 data storage landscape includeAI, mass adoption of hybrid cloud, object storage at the edge, and cybersecurity

By Dom Poloniecki, General Manager, Western Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa at Nutanix

Cloud computing and the deployment of increasingly cloud-native technologies is happening across every industry vertical. Even in industries where a degree of previous inertia existed such as legal and finance, the drive to cloud flexibility and scalability has become a primary driver for the technology fabric that firms in these markets run on.

As traditionalist operations in the legal trade start to undergo increasing levels of digital transformation, the weighty behemoth systems running financial institutions are also now being carefully and strategically replaced by more efficient, more flexible and more cost effective cloud installations. Now a proud owner of its sub-sector label and hashtag, FinTech is the new financial IT… and FinTech was born on the cloud.

As part of the Third Annual Enterprise Cloud Index report by Nutanix, a specific analysis of the 3,400 IT decision-makers questioned is now dedicated to examining how financial services organisations are using cloud technologies. Looking at the key data points related to Financial Services, we can start to understand the implementation, workload separation and (in most cases still, as of 2020) the migration issues that these firms are experiencing.

In the world of Financial Services cloud computing, the importance of an integrated and intelligently managed hybrid framework can not be overstated. Financial operations can of course draw upon the resource backbone of public cloud for their foundational operational technology requirements. However, they often still need to run a carefully deployed private cloud footprint commensurate with the privacy and security needs of any organisation operating in the financial sector.

The central importance of hybrid

Hybrid cloud and the use of Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) is therefore a key cornerstone for Financial Services hybrid cloud development. This is the route to a cohesively managed hybrid cloud environment, where workloads are optimised according to the security, performance and compliance needs arising from the use case of the data and applications at hand.

The Nutanix Enterprise Cloud Index findings back this reality up and show that the majority (86%) of financial services respondents identify hybrid private/public cloud as the ideal IT operating model for their organisation. So much momentum is there now in this space that financial services companies are running more applications in private clouds than most other industries polled. Their reported usage of private cloud (39%) outpaces all other industries except for IT, tech and telecoms (40%).

As a further validating and driving factor here, HCI is the lower substrate technology behind the big public cloud offerings from Amazon, Google and Microsoft. So HCI and the wider hybrid approach is no longer perceived as ‘just’ a route to cost savings, which perhaps it was as recently as half a decade ago; it now represents an important enabling and facilitating technology to reduce complexity and increase scalability. In the hybrid cloud world where cost is no longer the main driver for cloud implementation, we can say that we have moved on to a point where we identify the ability to ‘achieve business outcomes’ as the primary driver.

HCI for modernised financial challengers

Given the growth of so-called ‘challenger banks’ shaking up financial services with new online services, extended customer loyalty offers driven through dedicated mobile banking applications and other fast-moving business models, traditional financial institutions have realised that they need to become altogether more agile.

Adopting hybrid cloud in Financial Services allows even older and more established firms to build scalable and easily managed private clouds as part of a hybrid cloud model. This scalability can be engineered for rapid growth when and where it happens, but it is also scalability that enables financial organisations to rein in compute resources serving banking products that have proved to be end-of-life and ultimately laid dormant or retired.

It’s important to remember that, as powerful as it is, cloud can still be a complex consideration, especially when aggressively deployed in an essentially hybrid mix of public and private cloud instances. The Enterprise Cloud Index found that for every aggressive hybrid design being deployed, there is an equally aggressive drive to deploy Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI).

This is because HCI helps accelerate cloud adoption by sharply reducing the time it takes to build the software-defined infrastructure necessary to support private cloud. It also supports the rapid capacity expansion that enables the scalability benefits of cloud technology. Nearly 50% of the financial sector respondents said they’ve either fully deployed HCI or are in the process of doing so. Another 38% said they will be deploying HCI within the next 12 to 24 months.

It is difficult not to mention the impact and legacy of 2020 and the global pandemic on the financial services technology market space. More than three quarters (78%) of financial services respondents said Covid-19 has caused IT to be viewed more strategically in their organisations. In addition, 50% of financial services respondents said they increased their investment in hybrid cloud as a direct result of the pandemic.

Choice: from the bank teller to the backbone

The key point we keep coming back to here is choice. As financial institutions will be working to offer corporate and individual customers the widest choice of products and services, so too will they need to gain choice of operational compute fabric in the shape of the cloud deployments that they do actually make. More specifically, it’s about these Financial Services businesses having the flexibility to concentrate on the delivery of strategic business outcomes quickly, easily and – crucially – without the need to keep within the limitations of a particular supporting IT model.

As previous Nutanix surveys have shown, companies consistently express a desire for the ability to run workloads in the infrastructure best suited to them, based on a variety of criteria. Be that wanting to enhance security; rapidly on-board new apps during takeovers and acquisitions; reach new markets with different compliance needs and so on.

Over the next five years, financial services organisations expect a significant drop of 13 percentage points in their use of non-cloud-enabled datacentre technology, taking them down to less than 1% penetration. As in almost all aspects of life, some products, tools and processes that we took as standard parts of the way the world works are eventually superseded.

Nobody uses a ‘flatbed slider’ paper-slip credit card reader anymore to take a payment – and nobody will use non-cloud financial services IT functions in the very near future. There may be a few archaic legacy hangers-on, but they’ll be nothing more than the exception that proves the rule. Hybrid cloud for our Financial Services’ future? That’ll do nicely.

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First of a kind Virtual Coffee Machine app with social meeting moments to support workforce wellbeing in a remote workplace

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First of a kind Virtual Coffee Machine app with social meeting moments to support workforce wellbeing in a remote workplace 2

Powell Software’s first in a series of wellbeing technology innovations help remote employees socially connect with colleagues and keep the workplace culture alive

As the third UK lockdown continues and many countries worldwide face severe restrictions, Powell Software, a global organisation creating digital solutions and tools for the digital workplace, has launched the first of its kind Virtual Coffee Machine, an application within Microsoft Teams to ensure employees stay better connected, positively engaged and take regular breaks while working from home.

With employee wellbeing at the top of the global workforce agenda for 2021, Powell’s Virtual Coffee Machine app positively connects employees through virtual chats to maintain a culture of togetherness, even when apart.

Replacing the absence of the in-person coffee catch up, HR can swiftly set up a Virtual Coffee Machine break within any Teams channel, encouraging employees to take regular short breaks while inspiring networking and socialising between colleagues.

Matthieu Silbermann, Chief Product Officer at Powell Software said: “The effects of the Pandemic have reshaped the Digital Workplace and research has found that three quarters of employers intend to shift some employees to remote work permanently. However, with one in five remote employees naming loneliness as their top complaint regarding work from home, reinforcing togetherness needs to be a top priority.”

Take a virtual coffee

HR can set up a Virtual Coffee Machine meeting within any Teams channel defining time, frequency and date, and number of people. The app then uses an algorithm that collects data from employees registered in Powell Teams, automatically comparing outlook calendars and generating meeting invites based on the criteria of the meeting. For example, if the Virtual Coffee Machine meeting criteria was set at a maximum of five people and ten people are available to join then two meeting invitations would be sent.

Virtual Coffee Machine consciously avoids one to one or full team meetings, focusing on creating intimate, short social breaks where employees can take time out to engage with colleagues in a positive digital space.  Colleagues can also ‘travel’ to differently located virtual offices across their organisation to meet colleagues for a coffee break in different virtual buildings.

Employees are unaware of who else will join the group until the event, to encourage different team members to meet, chat and get to know each other. The app automatically books an agenda and also suggests ice breakers like ‘what was the last film you saw or book’?

If a team member does not want to or cannot join a Virtual Coffee Meeting, they simply decline the meeting invitation.

Silbermann continues: “Powell Software is passionate about connecting employees to their organisation and to each other, ensuring that they have a positive and stimulating experience at work, every day. Remote workers need to be connected, they need to feel part of the company, the culture and feel able to socialise in the hybrid or remote workplace.

“Powell’s new Virtual Coffee Machine app is all about the employee. We all miss the little social moments at the office, whether they be at the coffee machine or the cold water fountain. Coffee Machine allows us to progressively see our workplaces positively come to life again in a virtual way, promoting connectivity, collaboration and employee wellbeing. It’s part of a bigger goal and series of initiatives to bring the virtual building to life.”

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