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Ian Stone, MD UK and Ireland, Anaplan

Just “keeping the lights on” – running and maintaining legacy systems, upgrading them to the latest version of legacy systems and keeping their appearance acceptable to the business by bolting on new user interfaces – are said to consume 70% of corporate IT budgets, leaving just 30% for investing in innovations that will drive growth and boost the bottom line. In the current climate, most business leaders are anxious to grow operating margins and want to shift that balance towards a 50/50 split.

These findings come from the “IT Spending and Return: A Deeper Exploration” study conducted by CFO Research and AlixPartners, in which 150 senior finance executives across North America were surveyed. Half of these executives do not believe their companies are getting value from what, for many of them, have been considerable IT investments over recent years; in addition, they said they were frustrated at not getting the key insights from IT to enable them to improve their financial performance. So what needs to be done?

What Finance Says Needs to Be Done to Improve

Respondents report a number of key blockages holding back progress:

  • Poor visibility into how the IT budget is split between maintenance and innovation for growth. This is something that can only be fixed by implementing IT services costing to map line items in the IT budget to applications and end users, but let’s park that issue for now.
  • A lack of analytical skills in both Finance and IT teams to drive the business forward.  Personally I have difficulty reconciling this reported lack of talent that keeps being listed as a concern of CFOs and finance leaders with the fact that most companies seem to be awash with highly qualified people who are amassing professional development credits at every opportunity. In an attempt to reconcile this seeming contradiction, I have come to interpret such comments as meaning that they lack people with ‘commercial nous’ – streetwise folk who are aware of internal and external factors influencing their company and who can quickly get to the bottom of issues and come up with practical solutions to improve business performance.  If that’s the case, then CFOs need to expose their people to ever more challenging business issues and continually mentor them to help close the gap.
  • And finally, the personal politics that influence decision-making. Now while almost every line of business leader typically claims that their cherished applications are business critical and must receive the optimal level of support, IT leaders themselves have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo against threats such as outsourcing or cloud computing, which ultimately reduce the size of corporate IT departments.

IT Itself on the Cusp of Change

FINANCE AND ITS CHANGING ATTITUDE TOWARD THE CLOUD 3Now simply moving legacy systems into the cloud has the potential to reduce the proportion of IT budgets spent on ‘keeping the lights on’ at a stroke. However, many boardrooms are said to “nervous” at the idea. To me this is somewhat duplicitous as many companies already hold some of their most valuable data, about their customers and their staff, in the cloud and have happily processed payments and banking on-line for decades. So what’s behind their hang-up exactly? Well my guess is few board members do their own research and most are selectively spoon-fed the information that shapes their views by their very own corporate IT folk. (call me cynical, but as I pointed out to an ex-colleague last week, being naturally cynical means you have less disappointments to deal with).

But no one can hold out against the march of progress indefinitely and there are signs that CIOs themselves are increasingly embracing the cloud—leaping aboard the train as it accelerates out of the station. A recently published survey commissioned by UK-based Capital IT Services found that almost two-thirds (61%) believe increasing innovation and the business’ commercial agility is now one of their organization’s highest priorities and the majority were in the process of moving, into the cloud, citing simplification and flexibility as the main drivers. Naturally, you couldn’t expect them to change their colours overnight and most identify perceived pitfalls that they need to address before making big investments in the cloud. These include:

  • Convincing their nervous and resistant board that cloud adoption is the best move for the company. That’s easy; show them some of the case studies of successful customer migrations, give them facts that cloud providers have security standards that are way beyond those most companies have themselves and that hacking on-premise systems is probably much more common that anyone suspects as it is rarely reported to the outside world.  Click here to read more on the security, data encryption, authentication protocols and robust access control that underpin Anaplan.
  • Having to deal with the hidden costs of integrating other data sources that are not initially accounted for.  Well that just sounds like an admission of historically poor scoping! As long as these data sources are identified in the requirement, the pre-built connectors that Anaplan has for common cloud integration platforms, such as those provided by SnapLogic, means you can easily connect with external databases, on-premise applications and the major legacy ERP systems with all the costs identified upfront.

Correcting some of the above misinformation is vitally important because robust technologies are emerging that were built for the cloud and offer companies the opportunity solve the all-too-common problem of providing business users with better insight into their financial and non-financial performance. Currently the analyst group IDC estimate that currently only 5% of enterprise performance management (EPM) is done in the cloud compared with 40% of Sales Force Automation and approaching 10% of ERP. That leaves Finance as something of a laggard with their colleagues in Sales, HR and Marketing leading the way. A contributing factor may be the fact that many “cloud” EPM solutions are older technologies that have merely made the move to cloud delivery without much progress in terms of core innovation. Regardless, it seems to me that we are at a tipping point where CIOs, CFOs, and their boards—all traditionally more risk averse – have begun to embrace the cloud. It’s these shifts in attitude, that are emerging in the research mentioned above, that no doubt led IDC to forecast that 17% of EPM will be in the cloud by 2017. And once that train gains momentum, there will be no stopping it.


Five things shaping Britain’s financial rulebooks after Brexit



Five things shaping Britain's financial rulebooks after Brexit 4

By Huw Jones

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain is conducting a review of its financial rulebooks and policies to see how it can keep its 130 billion pound ($184 billion) finance sector competitive after Brexit left it largely cut off from the European Union.

The government is due to issue papers in the coming days outlining its approach to financial technology (fintech) and capital markets, while further down the line it’s expected to propose changes to the funds and insurance sectors.

Here are five things set to shape the City of London financial hub following its loss of access to the EU:


Britain’s finance ministry is reviewing financial regulation and insurance capital rules, with minister Rishi Sunak raising the prospect of a “Big Bang 2.0” to maintain the City’s competitiveness, a reference to liberalisation of trading in the 1980s.

But it’s unclear how far any deregulation could go given that Britain says it won’t undermine global standards.

UK Finance, a banking body, wants a formal remit for regulators to ditch rules that put them at a competitive disadvantage globally. Insurers want cuts in capital requirements to free up cash for green and long term investments.

But the Bank of England says the City must not become an “anything goes” financial centre, and that insurers hold the right amount of capital.

Cross-border firms want to avoid Britain diverging from international norms as this would add to compliance costs.

City veterans say Britain should focus on allowing firms to hire globally, and ensuring that regulators respond nimbly and proportionately to crypto-assets, sustainable finance, long-term investing and restructurings after COVID-19.


London has fallen behind New York in attracting company flotations and a government-backed review of listing rules is likely to recommend allowing “dual class” shares and a lower “free float”, perhaps for a limited period.

Dual class shares are stocks in the same company with different voting rights, while “free float” refers to the proportion of a company’s shares that are publicly available.

The potential changes could attract more tech and fintech companies whose founders typically want to retain a large degree of control.

It could also recommend making it easier for special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) – businesses that raise money on stock markets to buy other companies – an area in which New York has also dominated, with Amsterdam catching up fast.

UK asset managers warn that strong corporate governance standards could be diluted by tinkering with listing rules.


Britain is home to one of the world’s biggest innovative fintech sectors, its “sandboxes” – which allow fintech firms to test new products on real consumers under regulatory supervision – copied across the world. But Brexit means Britain has to work harder to attract and retain fintechs as they will no longer have direct access to the world’s biggest trading area.

A government-backed review to buttress the sector is due to report back on Friday with recommendations that could include cutting red tape for fintechs that want to recruit staff from across the world, and make listing in Britain more attractive.

Other ideas could include helping fledgling fintech navigate government departments and regulators more easily, along with ways of boosting funding for start-ups.


Britain is reviewing how to make itself a more competitive place for listing investment funds, a core tool for bringing fresh capital into markets.

UK-based asset managers run many funds listed in the EU, but this global system of cross-border management known as delegation could be tightened up by the bloc.

Having more funds listed in Britain would also mean that the shares they hold would be traded in London. Billions of euros in trading euro shares have left the UK for Amsterdam since Brexit due to the bloc’s restrictions on where funds can trade shares.


As the City will get only limited access at best to the EU, industry officials say it makes more sense to focus on getting better access to other markets like Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan and the United States, while at the same time keeping the UK financial market open to the world, including the EU.

Negotiations between Britain and Switzerland for a “mutual recognition” deal in financial rules is the way to go, industry officials say. Better global access would also keep the City ahead of EU centres like Amsterdam, Paris and Frankfurt.

($1 = 0.7056 pounds)

(Reporting by Huw Jones. Editing by Mark Potter)

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How the Brexit Agreement Failed the Financial Services Sector



How the Brexit Agreement Failed the Financial Services Sector 5

By Steve Taklalsingh, MD UK Business, Amaiz

Over the Valentine’s weekend, it was announced that during January, the first month that the new Brexit-related changes came into force, Amsterdam overtook London as the largest financial trading centre in Europe. Approximately €9.2bn (£8.1bn) worth of shares were traded on Amsterdam’s exchanges each day in January, against €8.6bn in London. How did that happen and why is Brexit to blame?

The Brexit deal for the Financial Sector

The Christmas Eve Brexit agreement delivered an unfair market for UK companies in the Financial Services Sector. The deal meant we were left in a situation where EU-based banks wanting to buy European shares cannot trade via London. EU shares that were previously traded in the UK have moved to the EU on advice of the European regulator. In addition, EU FinTech companies can operate in the UK but, as ‘equivalence’ (agreeing to recognise each other’s regulations) has not been agreed, our FinTech companies cannot now operate in the EU. You can already see evidence of EU companies, particularly those based in Amsterdam and Germany, eyeing up the UK market.

As a sector we’ve never been shy of boasting about our 12% contribution to the UK’s GDP. FinTech, in particular, has been a UK success story. This vibrant scene is looked on with some envy and I’m very proud to be part of it.  Internationally, having a foothold in this market, and a London address, was the aspiration of financial services companies who wanted to be taken seriously, but not anymore.

Action to solve the market distortion

The Bank of England chief Andrew Bailey has warned that there are signs that the EU plans to cut off the UK from its financial markets and has urged them not to do so. The indications are that the Government is aware of the ‘problem’ but doesn’t appear to see the clear urgency in resolving it. It has been reported that there are ongoing talks to harmonise rules over financial regulations (equivalence) and that they’re working towards a March deadline.

Number 10 has said they are open to discussions on the equivalence issue and claims that the Government has ‘supplied the necessary paperwork’ and boasts of the UK’s strong regulatory system. It lays the fault of delay firmly at the doorstep of the EU: “Fragmentation of share trading across financial centres is in no one’s interest.” I’m disappointed that they’re not, in public, recognising the seriousness of the situation.

Research on the impact of Brexit

At Amaiz we have worked hard to understand the implications of Brexit. At the beginning of December we carried out research which focussed on the impact on financial services. The report, Brexit Brink: Are British SMEs about to fall off the edge of Europe – or building new bridges? is based on a survey of SMEs across the UK and you can download it free from www.  Our findings gave us valuable insight into the deal that was needed for Financial Services.

Most companies had been preparing for Brexit for some years.  Whilst there were some that hoped and campaigned for the referendum result to be overturned, that seemed unlikely.  The results of our research in December showed that people were as ready as they could be:

  • Nearly half (49.2%) of company decision makers had reviewed new regulations set to take force on 1 January 2021 (if there was a no deal Brexit) and made changes to ensure their companies would meet them.
  • Only 17% of companies said they had failed to prepare.

The changes that company leaders believed would have the most impact were those to regulations (37.4% of respondents said this was a concern), increased costs of doing business (37.2%), and reduced access to suppliers (35.5%).  Overall, 57% of companies believed that Brexit would have a negative impact on their business, and some (6.6%) believed it would destroy their business.

The research found that larger companies were more prepared for Brexit than smaller ones. That’s likely to due to their ability to devote resources to solving the challenges Brexit presents. Those employing between 1 and 10 people were most concerned about increased costs (45.7%) and those with between 11 and 50 employees about taxes and VAT (41.3%).

Larger companies in Financial Services prepared for Brexit by registering companies and offices within the EU so that they could continue trading there. This acted as a fail-safe solution that avoided issues, whether a deal was struck or not, and whatever the nature of that deal.  Smaller companies don’t have the resources to do this; they could not open another office on the off chance that they would need it, so Brexit put them in a more vulnerable position.

Impact on the economy

Of course, Brexit came at a time when we were all trying to manage the devastating impact of the pandemic. The FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) and FSB (Federation of Small Business) both published figures in January that show the terrible impact of the pandemic on SMEs in the UK. The FCA found that 59% of smaller financial firms expected that their profits would take a hit this year[1]. The FSB found that nearly 5% of smaller companies expect to be forced to close within 12 months, the largest proportion in the history of the Small Business Index and would mean that 295,000 companies will close this year[2].

A plea to the Government

The Government has worked hard to find ways to help small businesses survive the pandemic in order to save jobs. The economy is experiencing an unprecedented recession, with all hopes laid on a swift bounce back as soon as lock down ends. Until then we are in ‘war’ mode. However, helping businesses survive is not just about handing out cash. What the Financial Services Sector urgently needs is a fair regulatory framework and marketplace in which UK business can operate. Instead, the Government has allowed distortions that continue to damage one of the country’s key sectors – one that can drive us out of recession – and appear laid back about resolving the situation!



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Bitcoin tumbles 17% as doubts grow over valuations



Bitcoin tumbles 17% as doubts grow over valuations 6

By Tom Wilson and Tom Westbrook

LONDON/SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Bitcoin tumbled 17% on Tuesday, sparking a sell-off across cryptocurrency markets as investors grew nervous at sky-high valuations and leveraged players took profit.

The world’s biggest cryptocurrency suffered its biggest daily drop in a month, falling as low $45,000. Bitcoin was last down 11.3% at 0939 GMT.

The drop extended a slump of nearly a fifth from a record high of $58,354 hit on Sunday – though bitcoin remains up around 60% for the year.

“The kinds of rallies we’ve been seeing aren’t sustainable and just invite pullbacks like this,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at OANDA.

Ether, the world’s second largest cryptocurrency by market capitalisation that often moves in tandem with bitcoin, also dropped more than 17% and last bought $1,461, down almost 30% from last week’s record peak.

Cryptocurrency markets have been running hot this year as big money managers and companies begin to take the emerging asset class seriously, piling money into the sector and driving confidence among small-time speculators.

A $1.5 billion investment in the crytocurrency by electric carmaker Tesla this month has helped vault bitcoin above $50,000 but may now lead to pressure on the company’s stock price as it has become sensitive to movements in bitcoin.

Rising government bond yields over recent days have hit riskier assets, spilling over into leveraged bitcoin markets, said Richard Galvin of crypto fund Digital Asset Capital Management.

“Markets were quite hit from a leverage perspective so that didn’t help,” he added.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who has flagged the need to regulate cryptocurrencies more closely, also said on Monday that bitcoin is extremely inefficient at conducting transactions and is a highly speculative asset.

Critics say the cryptocurrency’s high volatility is among reasons that it has so far failed to gain widespread traction as a means of payment.

Analysts said key price levels have played a large part in determining the direction of crypto markets.

“Because we’re so lacking in fundamentals, it’s the big figures that have proved to be support and resistance points,” said Michael McCarthy, chief strategist at brokerage CMC Markets in Sydney.

“$50,000, $40,000 and $30,000 are the key chart levels at the moment. If we see it heading through $50,000, selling could accelerate.”

(Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Nick Macfie)

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