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Financial organisations will need data leadership to navigate the next year’s uncertainty

Financial organisations will need data leadership to navigate the next year’s uncertainty 1

By Wayne Parslow, Executive Vice President at Validity International

As the economic travails of the current pandemic continue to impact businesses globally, many marketers at the forefront of revenue generation are pushing harder than ever to convince consumers to part with their cash. If you have noticed your inbox being flooded with messages from businesses you may not have engaged with in months or years, then you’re not alone. It’s a predictable symptom of the uncertainty businesses are now enduring. For financial organisations in particular, where uncertainty is changing their customers’ behaviours in unpredictable ways, increasing communications with customers and prospects digitally is the only channel of contact.

The success of this tactic will of course differ from business to business, but as marketers settle into the changing landscape, they’ll better weather these uncertain times by focusing not just on reengaging with long-lost customers, but on improving customer retention. The best way to do that is by taking a closer look at their CRM data. With proper management and organisation, CRM data can provide the insight needed to inform and shape successful marketing campaigns in future. The kind of campaigns that not only serve to engage your core customer base, but also bring new customers into the fold.

A key part of this will be personalisation of offers. A recent Yes Marketing report highlights that 52% of consumers ranked relevance as the most important factor when considering marketing approaches from financial services organisations. If communications with customers aren’t about the services they are interested in they’ll be lost before you can engage them. Only through clean data can those connections be made.

Added to this is the increased regulatory pressure for financial services to disclose more diverse data and more granular data to central banks and regulators. Regulations such as Basel III, FRTB, MiFID II, AML/KYC, FATCA and more all carry heavy fines associated with non-compliance. This forces banks and other financial services organisations to collect more data in a controlled way, so that the necessary reporting can be generated automatically, but also that all data is available and up to date for ad-hoc inquiries of the regulators.

Where many financial companies fall down on this is by failing to ensure that CRM data is accurate, up to date and properly managed. A recent survey from Demand Metric and Validity identified the scale of this problem: one-third of marketers don’t yet have an effective process for managing CRM data. Only when businesses have accurate, clean data in their CRM can they achieve the trusted client relationships, seamless customer experiences and effective marketing campaigns needed to succeed in these harsh economic times.

Achieving quality CRM data

Why then are a full third of companies not managing their CRM data appropriately? Ostensibly it’s not a difficult process, but it requires diligence and, most importantly, leadership infrastructure.

The issue many financial organisations face with CRM data management is with achieving buy-in from the highest levels of the organisation. The same Demand Metric and Validity survey mentioned above shows a clear correlation between leadership engagement with CRM data and the quality of said data. The more leadership involvement, the better the data.

Some businesses will go the extra yard and implement an executive-level steering committee or even a CDO (Chief Data Officer). The CDO’s ultimate responsibility is the state of all company-wide data and data initiatives. The steering committee on the other hand is tasked with data policy, whilst a governance team focuses on understanding the business’ data needs: what data is needed, why it’s needed, and where it should be captured.

We have, however, skipped a step. How do marketers ensure that the executives are indeed making data a business priority especially within financial organisations where often, legacy systems and processes are favoured? You have to communicate its importance in the kind of language they’ll understand, by aligning CRM data with the company’s bottom line to underscore its importance.

For example, consider the fact that 95 per cent of marketers using CRM data for sales forecasting and reporting believe when CRM data quality is high, their forecasts improve substantially. When you deliver the data importance message in these kinds of terms, it’s far easier for executives to understand its importance and commit to driving a business-wide effort that prioritises proper data management.

Building a company-wide data team

Leadership buy-in may be the spark that starts the fire, but those embers will need tending. Data quality needs to be a company-wide initiative, and each department needs to elect a person to be part of the data team and act as their liaison. Ensuring each department is engaged and responsible for their data will increase its accuracy and the efficiency of the whole process. Ensuring that data quality is part and parcel of each department’s day-to-day functions underscores the importance of the mission throughout the company and ensures it’s not seen solely as the remit of a data team somewhere else in the business.

Once you have executive endorsement, a company-wide data governance structure and the right team in place, the next step is to gain a better understanding of the current state of your data. Getting a read on the gaps that currently exist will provide a better understanding of the road ahead, and what tools the business might need to invest in to improve the CRM data quality and clean and augment the management process.

More often than not a company will need to go through a process of deduplication, standardisation, and, at minimum, email verification. The mismanagement of these key actions impacts the teams most crucial to customer retention and acquisition, namely sales, marketing, and customer services.

This isn’t a one and done process though. If the initial data cleanup is successful, it means more customers, more transactions and, ultimately, more data enters the business. A successful business’ data is not static, it should be a constantly shifting and changing mass as defunct data is removed and newer, more accurate and relevant data comes in. Data needs to be managed daily, just like any other department in a business. Without an ongoing, cross-company effort, the quality of your CRM data will be compromised.

Ensuring CRM data is clean and accurate provides a host of benefits that are crucial to the running of a successful financial services business, regardless of the economic situation. Right now, however, it’s more important than ever. There are a variety of technologies on the market that can help a business keep its data accurate, but that’s just one element that needs to be considered. Maintaining clean, up-to-date data needs to be seen as a continuous process and a company priority, and although that starts at the top of the business, it requires data governance and leadership at points across the business to remain a priority. These efforts will be rewarded with the ability to better engage customers, more accurately forecast sales, and boost retention and opportunities to upsell, whatever the economic storm to come.

Technology

EaseUS Free Data Recovery Software Recover Lost And Erased Documents

EaseUS Free Data Recovery Software Recover Lost And Erased Documents 2

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EaseUS Free Data Recovery Software Recover Lost And Erased Documents 3

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Technology

Shining a spotlight on operational resilience and cyber-risk in financial services

Shining a spotlight on operational resilience and cyber-risk in financial services 4

By Miles Tappin, VP of EMEA for ThreatConnect, explores why the financial services industry must build a cyber security strategy in 2020

The new digital landscape has welcomed financial institutions with open arms. Emerging technology such as Artificial intelligence (AI), crypto-currencies and big data have shown widespread benefits throughout the years, particularly how they have driven innovation and change. When it comes to retail banking, fintech providers have quickly taken the chance to offer personalised services to ensure they remain relevant to their target market and stand out among their competitors.

This has been particularly evident with Klarna, now Europe’s most valued fintech firm. Providing payment solutions for online storefronts, consumers are now able to shop and pay later with top retailers including the likes of H&M, Ikea and Zara. This is just one example of how easy it has become to successfully and strategically disrupt the payments sector.

With several new players entering the banking scene, traditional financial institutions are making sure that they stay one step ahead and are developing robust digital ecosystems that deliver omnichannel service models. However, this comes at a price. As technological change becomes part and parcel to remaining relevant in the sector, the industry needs to be aware of the cyber security challenges that may present themselves and how to overcome them.

2020: The year for cybercriminals targeting financial services

2020 has become a definitive year for cybersecurity in the financial services industry. Financial institutions are a lucrative target – they hold highly sensitive information and have a mandate to protect the personal information of their customers. It started with an unprecedented attack against Travelex where hackers successfully took some of the currency providers offline for nearly a month. Then came Coronavirus which sparked a new wave of malware and phishing threats. Research from VMware Carbon Black Cloud revealed that threats against financial institutions have surged by 238% since the start of the pandemic.

The renewed interest from cyber criminals comes at a time when regulators are paying close attention to the resilience of the sector. After a string of IT failures and breaches, financial organisations in the UK have been given a mandate from regulators to improve operational resilience. This means ensuring business models can withstand disruptive events from hackers or adversaries and quickly recover to protect the stability of financial systems.

In December 2019, the UK’s financial regulators published a series of consultation papers outlining their proposed approach to achieving greater operational resilience. The proposals suggested that financial institutions will be required to map out the systems and processes that support business services in order to identify any potential vulnerabilities that would pose a risk to the stability of the UK financial system or the firm’s standing.

Working together in tandem

Where cybersecurity used to be a classic back-office concern, it’s now a central part of digital strategies and a key pillar of both reputation and customer retention – financial legislation leaves no room for failure. All financial institutions need to ensure they have full visibility of their systems and can detect any potential threats.

The challenge for financial institutions is making the security tools they have purchased separately work together in tandem. Security teams buy a firewall, an email filter, threat intelligence feeds, antivirus software or enhanced endpoint protection, and whatever else they need individually. Each of them does a good job but they don’t talk to each other and valuable time is lost tending to individual systems that become a burden to run. At the same time, running multiple security systems is expensive. The more systems you have, the more highly skilled staff you need to manage them, and they’re few and far between.

The importance of sharing across communities

To reduce complexity and simplify decision making, financial organisations need to unify processes and technology to harness the security intelligence that comes from across their own security programmes and external sources to drive down risk. However, no financial institution can tackle the problem alone. Experienced threat actors using advanced techniques are constantly targeting the financial sector. The industry needs to come together as a whole to foster a sense of collaboration and data sharing.

Miles Tappin

Miles Tappin

In the same way that financial institutions have introduced open banking to deliver a fairer service to customers, the same needs to apply to security – all parts of the financial ecosystem need to unite and share information to learn from one another and succeed in the fight against adversaries that operate across borders.

By sharing alerts on cyber hazards and risk across financial institutions and with law enforcement, government agencies and other relevant authorities, it’s possible to build industry specific insights into cyber security threats and quickly pivot to gain more information on those specific threats and threat actors. By working together, a picture can be painted on threats coming from all manner of malicious activity, from malware to ransomware, to phishing and software vulnerabilities.

Creating a single source of intelligence

Having the right intelligence is not enough to ensure that intelligence is turned into action. Breaking down information and process silos across security teams allows financial organisation to analyse and act on the most pertinent information. Everyone has access to the risk and threats that matter most, and orchestration and automation of response helps overwhelmed security teams prioritise response plans and improve efficiencies in their security programme.

Integrating internal security tools and technologies, while also connecting to external sources of intelligence, creates a single source of intelligence that feeds operations and enables organisations to direct action against the threats that matter most. The outcomes of those actions further feed intelligence, providing the ability to further refine the efficacy of the entire security lifecycle.

This approach provides a continuous feedback loop for the people, processes and technologies that make up the security programme. It allows financial institutions to keep up with threat actors that have consistently adapted their methods to profit at the expense of the financial industry. Something that won’t stop anytime soon.

While financial services institutions tend to operate with security front of mind, there is still an opportunity to collaborate more within the industry and increase intelligence sharing, so CSOs and CTOs can understand as much as they can about the threats they are facing. For example, what types or variants of malware have been used to steal, delete, or ransom personal identifiable information or IP specific to financial services? What ransomware has been used in attacks against other organisations within the industry? How does this ransomware work and how does it ransom the targeted data? Ultimately, the more you know, the better and quicker you’ll be able to respond to a new threat and remain protected.

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Technology

Blackline reveals CEO succession plan

Blackline reveals CEO succession plan 5

By President & COO Marc Huffman appointed CEO as of Jan. 1st, 2021;
Founder Therese Tucker to serve as executive chair

Accounting automation software leader BlackLine, Inc. (Nasdaq: BL) today announced that the board of directors has elected Marc Huffman as chief executive officer, effective January 1st, 2021.  Mr. Huffman currently serves as president and chief operating officer.  Therese Tucker, who has served as CEO since founding BlackLine in 2001, will continue to serve on the company’s board as executive chair.

A seasoned SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) executive with more than 25 years of experience driving growth at successful software companies, Huffman joined BlackLine in early 2018 as chief operating officer.  He was named president in February 2020, leading the company’s worldwide sales, marketing, technology and all customer-facing organizations.  Since Huffman joined, BlackLine has scaled its sales and customer success teams, strategically repositioned its go-to-market plan, completed a global reseller agreement with SAP, established a subsidiary in Japan, and entered into a number of strategic alliances with the world’s leading consulting and advisory firms.

Prior to BlackLine, Huffman served as president of worldwide sales and distribution at NetSuite.  During his 14-year tenure, NetSuite grew from $3 million to $1 billion in annual revenue and became recognized as a global SaaS powerhouse.

“I’ve been so pleased with the leadership Marc has demonstrated over the past two and a half years, most recently driving our response to the COVID-19 pandemic – mitigating disruption to the business and our customers.  Because of Marc’s leadership, skill set, cultural alignment and stellar performance, BlackLine is in a better position to grow and scale than ever before,” said Ms. Tucker.  “I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved at BlackLine and believe Marc is the kind of leader I can trust to take our customer-centric values, vision and growth to the next level.  I am also thrilled that in addition to providing strategic oversight as executive chair, I will now have more time to focus on the areas I love most – product innovation and customer success.”

The announced transition is part of a multi-year succession plan that has involved seeking potential successors, bringing the right person on board, seeing that person excel, and Tucker and Huffman working methodically together over several years to build out the leadership team and strategic growth plan and ensure values were aligned.

“I am ready and excited for this next step.  BlackLine is a special place with a strong culture and I am looking forward to leading the company through its next phase of growth,” said Huffman.  “We’ve got the team, the plan, and now we are focused on execution as we continue to scale the business and make BlackLine an indispensable platform for Finance & Accounting organizations globally.”

Commenting on the CEO and executive chair changes, John Brennan, BlackLine’s chairman of the board, said, “We are excited to announce Marc’s appointment as CEO.  His experience successfully expanding and scaling NetSuite into new strategic and geographical markets is invaluable as BlackLine continues to penetrate what we believe is still an untapped market.  Coupled with his proven track record at BlackLine we are confident that, under Marc’s leadership, the company’s momentum, growth and success will only accelerate.”

Mr. Brennan added, “Therese has been a strong and inspirational leader since she founded BlackLine just over 19 years ago.  Her unwavering determination and commitment to both customers and employees has been the driving force behind the company’s incredible journey from start-up to global market leader.  We look forward to having her serve as executive chair, a position in which she will continue to shape the future of the company she has built from the ground up.”

Upon Tucker’s assumption of the executive chair role, Brennan will serve as the board’s lead outside director.

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