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GDPR – A ‘GREAT DEAL OF PAIN FOR RETAILING’?

GDPR – A ‘Great Deal of Pain for Retailing’?

Andre Malinowski, head of international business at payment services provider Computop, shares his insight into how planned changes to EU data protection (the General Data Protection Regulation – GDPR) will affect those involved in the multichannel commerce chain…

The rules and regulations relating to how merchants and retailers capture, store, share and process customer and staff data are about to change.  It will apply to all EU member states without a need for local legislation.  At the start of this year the European Commission unveiled a draft of it’s European Data Protection Regulation which is planned to take the place of it’s previous Data Protection Directive.  The purpose of the change is to align and update data protection across the EU.  One continent, one law.  It impacts not only those businesses within the EU, but also businesses that targets goods or services at EU consumers too.

The regulation is expected to be implemented and enforceable by 2018 and when this happens, all businesses will have to be ready for key changes to how personal data is collected, stored and processed.  In addition there are changes to how data breaches are reported. The consequences of non-compliance will increase greatly too.  The current draft outlines that fines could be as significant as four per cent of global annual turnover. This in itself is enough of an incentive for merchants, retailers and their financial services partners to sit up and pay attention.

So, could GDPR also stand for a ‘Good Deal of Protection and Rights’ or will it be a ‘Great Deal of Pain for Retailing’?  The answer to this lies in where you fit in the multichannel commerce chain:

GDPR and the Consumer

Everyone has a right to the protection of their personal data. When businesses don’t protect their customer’s data then not only are the financial implications but trust is lost.

However, consumers from different countries across Europe currently experience widely varying standards over how well policed their personal data is.  Some countries like Germany and Spain already have tight data protection regulations, but others less so.  A recent survey quoted by the European Commission outlines that more than 90 per cent of Europeans say they want the same data protection rights right across the EU.  GDPR is nothing but good for anyone that shares their personal data with an organisation and is an essential step to strengthen the rights of citizens and consumers in the digital age.

Not only should consumers have the right to have their personal details kept safe, but they should also have the right to complain and obtain redress if their data is misused. GDPR will give consumers more control over their personal data.  It will make it far easier for them to access and manage it, delete it ‘the right to be forgotten’ and to know when their data has been hacked.  I don’t think you’ll find many people that would argue that GDPR isn’t good news all round for the consumer.

GDPR, Multichannel Retail and Payment Processing

Similarly, I think you’d struggle to find a retailer who would not welcome simplification of rules and regulations applying to their business.  For any business operating across EU country boarders, it will be far easier to comply with one set of rules instead of 28. However, this alignment comes at a cost to business.  Attitudes, processes and IT policies need to change. Data protection needs to be ingrained into a business by design and default.  That’s easier said than done retrospectively when dealing with legacy systems and data.

Systems and products must be built from the bottom up around privacy and the default position must only be to collect sufficient data for the precise processing involved.  Privacy Impact Assessments must be carried out and evidenced where new technologies are being deployed.  This all amounts to increased effort and costs for the industry.

Companies with over 250 employees are expected to have to appoint a data protection officer and start developing metrics to measure the status of privacy efforts.  They are required to create reports of compliance that will be required as part of the business’ annual report.

Payment service providers are already strongly regulated by PCI and other data protection measures, however, even then they will still need to evaluate whether they comply with the new laws. Many are already investigating introducing value added services to protect data accordingly and reduce the investment effort for merchants. In addition to the steps above, the payments industry can support customers by having joint obligations and liabilities for data controllers and data processors, preparing and implementing mandatory policies and procedures and testing data breach plans.

Key steps to help prepare for GDPR

The current bill is still in its draft stages. However, those are very late draft stages and the bill being passed and ultimately enforceable is not far away. There are some practical steps that merchants, retailers and payment partners can be preparing for now:

  • Put GDPR on the boardroom agenda – Make GDPR a board level task, give it the right attention
  • Investment – Don’t underestimate the investment needed to implement these new rules – build it into business plans now
  • Policy and procedure – Prepare privacy policies, procedures and documentation and keep them up to date. Data protection authorities will be able to ask for these during audits
  • Process – Implement a notification process to report possible breaches and review incident detection, management and response process and capabilities
  • Training – Implement regular training for all staff to generate awareness and understanding
  • Recruit or cross skill now – If your business employs over 250 employees, think now about who will fulfil the role of the data protection officer. Do you need to hire or cross skill staff?
  • Tackle ‘Rights’ head on – Develop a strategy and process to fulfil the consumer’s ‘right to be forgotten’, ‘right to erasure’ and ‘right to data portability’
  • Privacy by design – ensure that privacy by design requirements are included in all make and buy strategies going forward

Whilst GDPR is perhaps long overdue and much needed, there’s no doubt that it will pose a significant challenge to multichannel retailers and their partners.  Policies, procedures, technologies, training and staff will all need investment to achieve compliance.  Companies that delay assessing the impact of the regulation on their business now are at risk of investing in resources and services that will be obsolete in two years’ time.  Don’t let GDPR become a Great Deal of Pain for Retail. Take action now.

Business

Return to work: Flexibility, preparation and communication are key

Return to work: Flexibility, preparation and communication are key 1

By Matt Weston, Managing Director, Robert Half UK

As lockdown restrictions ease for the foreseeable future, conversations across the business world are starting to turn to how employers can safely and seamlessly prepare for their workforce to return to the office.

Research from Robert Half has found that over half (54%) of employees are worried about working in close proximity to their colleagues, while a similar proportion are eager to return to the office due to loneliness working from home (45%) or concerns about missing out on career opportunities (30%).

Unsurprisingly, after everything companies and their employees have done to successfully adapt their operations and working practices to social distancing rules over the last few months, immediately returning to the old ways of working will likely neither be sensible or practical. With safety being the key priority for the ‘new normal’ of office life – communication, flexibility and preparation should be the main focus areas for employers.

With this in mind, what are the challenges and opportunities that employees anticipate as they prepare for the return to work, beyond government and industry supplied health and safety best practice? Furthermore, how can employers best support their staff during this period?

Keep people at the heart of change

It is important to recognise that your workforce has been working through an intense period of uncertainty and change for months, which can be incredibly unsettling. On top of this, working for weeks in isolation without the usual physical interactions with team members could be potentially detrimental to employee engagement and mental wellbeing.

Having adjusted to keep staff connected with one another from a distance with virtual team building exercises, video calls and daily check-ins, as teams begin working in hybrid models with some in the office and others remote, staff engagement will need to adapt again.

Managing people with greater sensitivity and maintaining positivity throughout will be crucial. To help instil a sense of normality and engagement, encourage maximum collaboration between individuals (in accordance with social distancing rules), and make sure teams feel part of company goals and opportunities through regular meetings and communication – no matter their location.

Continuing to invest in technology and offering flexibility will also be important to ensuring that people can continue to work remotely or on-site, either in accordance with their own wishes or as part of your staggered return-to-office plan.

Communicate, communicate, communicate (and listen)

Reassuring staff that they are able to safely return to the office will require continuous communication. From expectations of the physical office, to expectations of how to operate within hybrid teams, these new expectations and new workplace requirements should be communicated to all staff clearly to avoid confusion.

Regular email updates, updates on the company’s intranet and social media channels, as well as frequent town hall meetings (either online or in a smaller setting) could be key elements of an effective communications approach.

Also, consider a feedback channel to allow staff within the team to offer thoughts on their experience of returning to the office and any suggestions on improving the process. Whether on a company-wide basis or a team-by-team approach, schedule regular check-ins to engage with employees’ questions and concerns.

Maintaining open communication channels with your team will be essential for keeping up employee morale and ensuring clarity. For example, if some employees aren’t comfortable with coming to the office every day, then they should have plenty of opportunities to voice their concerns and have them dealt with promptly, respectfully and fairly.

Staggered return-to-office planning

Depending on the size of business and density of office space, maintaining home working arrangements across teams on an alternating basis could make it easier to implement safe social distancing. This involves select teams working remotely while others work on-site on any given day.

An alternating approach to remote working might also reduce the risk of staff feeling pressured or overwhelmed by an immediate return to the office five-days-a-week. After all, some families might be juggling temporary disruptions to childcare arrangements and public transport systems will likely become crowded again. So, a transitionary period will help everyone adjust to post-lockdown office working.

Finally, if you have developed your technology infrastructure to facilitate remote working, you would do well to continue to leverage these new capabilities as in all probability, a mixture of remote and at-office work will be needed for some time.

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Business

Contis enters RBS Capability and Innovation Fund bid seeking £35 million for disruptive SME growth strategy  

Contis enters RBS Capability and Innovation Fund bid seeking £35 million for disruptive SME growth strategy   2

Leading payments provider, Contis, has applied for two grants from the RBS & BCR Alternative Remedies Package, totalling £35 million.  

Unlike most applicants who will deploy funds through a single brand, Contis is taking a completely different approach. The funding will be used to drive fintech innovation in the UK by developing an off the shelf, B2B electronic and card payment technology platform for SMEs. With Contis’ powerful tech stack and regulated status, this will empower hundreds of fintechs to support the SME market with groundbreaking technologies, payments and lending capabilities. Contis today services over 800,000 consumer accounts, 14,500 business accounts and processes £4bn in transactions per year, demonstrating a proven track record.   

UK businesses are facing a challenging economic environment with the impacts of Covid-19 and Brexit. As large corporations and entire sectors are affected, SMEs will play a vital role in the recovery. Contis’ approach is completely disruptive, offering three channels to maximise support for SMEs and sole traders, through three unique brands, all powered by APIs from Contis’ modular and configurable engine. 

1.       Canvas for Business 

Contis is a super-vendor in the world of fintech, offering payments through proven banking rails and card scheme capabilities including issuing pre-paid, debit and virtual cards. They’re linked to digital delivery like Apple Pay and Google Pay, and a trusted tech stack that boasts 99.99% uptime.  

With funding from the Capability and Innovation Fund (CIF), Contis’ technology and regulated services will be made available to the whole fintech community, enabling them to provide dedicated SME accounts with the latest leading-edge capabilities delivered via Contis’ wholly owned, secure, cloud-based technology and apps. Contis’ solution has a firm eye on the need for SMEs to compete internationally, particularly after Brexit, and offers FX integration as standard.  

Canvas for Business will increase competition by providing fintechs serving the SME market with technology that outstrips the big banks. Contis will also provide credit referencing capabilities and empower fintechs to lend to their SME client base through Contis’ own credit licence. Without the constraints of legacy systems, it will enable simple connectivity to accounting and payments solutions, as well as to unlimited future innovations.  

2.       Engage for Business 

Over 150 Credit Unions currently use Contis’ Engage service and technology, and hold an estimated £400 million in undeployed cash reserves. Developed with CIF funding, Engage for Business will enable Credit Unions to launch business accounts and payments products for the first time, and allow excess funds to be redeployed in the SME sector through business support loans. This will revolutionise access to funding for sole traders and small businesses. 

3.       Freedom for Business 

With CIF funding, Contis will also offer large scale SMEs a direct-to-market solution where Contis holds the relationship and provides a bespoke offer to meet the business’ exact needs. 

Contis’ application to the Capability and Innovation Fund is focused on creating the widest possible impact for UK SMEs by fulfilling their accounts & payments needs and driving innovation in SME financial services. 

Through the grant, Contis will empower over 200 fintechs and Credit Unions to provide credit, simplify payments integration into everyday business needs, offer digital credit referencing, provide budgeting tools to SMEs, enable automated payments, give predictive insight on cash flow, provide rewards to SMEs on spending, and much more. 

Peter Cox, Founder and Executive Chairman of Contis said: “Our mission is to democratise payments and financial services for all SMEs, so they’re spoilt for choice with innovative and affordable solutions that meet their exact needs. Our approach, based upon proven technologies, will broaden and disrupt the services available to SMEs far beyond the capabilities of existing providers such as the big banks.  

“By driving competition and innovation, while improving the availability of funding, our approach will increase the services on offer to SMEs and make them more affordable, therefore becoming easier for every entrepreneurial person with vision to run their own businesses.” 

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Business

Four years of digital transformation in four weeks: UK lockdown puts pressure on brands to digitally deliver

Four years of digital transformation in four weeks: UK lockdown puts pressure on brands to digitally deliver 3

Nearly a third (32%) of consumers would switch providers if a brand’s website is unavailable for more than 24 hours

A study released today reveals the scale of omni-channel pressure brands now faced as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, as consumers flock to apps and websites to as the priority destination to transact with brands.

The UK has experienced a huge leap in use of online services thanks to lockdown, with the public appearing to have less concern for the availability of a brand’s physical location. Research by Sungard Availability Services (Sungard AS) uncovers a “window of availability” that UK businesses now have before consumer loyalty changes:

  • If a brand’s website is down for 24 hours – 32 percent of consumers would switch provider
  • If a brand’s app is down for 24 hours – 28 percent of consumers would switch provider
  • If a physical store is closed for 24 hours – 20 percent of consumers would switch provider

The results by industry paint an interesting picture of the availability timeframes brands are expected to adhere to:

  • For online retailers, excluding grocery retailers – 23 percent of consumers would switch provider if they could not access online services for 12 hours, rising to over a third (34 percent) after 24 hours
  • For financial services and entertainment streaming platforms – 21 percent of consumers would switch provider after 12 hours, rising to 33 percent after 24 hours
  • In the case of online grocery shopping – 20 percent would switch provider after 12 hours, rising to one third 33 percent after 24 hours

The findings also highlight that as digital reliance increases, so will consumer expectations towards availability in the future. Over the coming two years, a third (33 percent) of consumers expect online financial services to always be available, rising to 35 percent for streaming services.

“UK consumers have become reliant on the constant availability of online services, and lockdown has only served to heighten this,” comments Chris Huggett, SVP, EMEA at Sungard AS. “What used to be a choice between physical and digital has now firmly accelerated into digital environments across various industries. As online worlds continue to outpace bricks and mortar as the face of businesses, ensuring constant availability and clear communications on downtime will be key for brands to build trust and loyalty.

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