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HARNESSING DATA TO ENHANCE THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

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Harnessing data to enhance the customer experience

Andrew Edison,Senior Vice President Sales, EMEA at Level 3 discusses how banks, in the face of consumer demand, need to ensure their data is efficiently controlled, utilised and secured to ensure a sustainable business in the longterm

According to Accenture, 80% of the UK banking population is now using some form of online banking service.This puts pressure on banks to ensure their online offering can keep up with the demand.

In parallel, comparison websites are continuing to increase market transparency and the Payment Systems Regulator – the new economic regulator for UK payment systems – is striving to simplify the bank account switching process with a scheme that would allow customers to change whilst keeping their account number.

In this environment, banks need to go the extra mile in terms of the customer experience they provide online.They need to excel by offering points of differentiation that encourage customer loyalty and retention.

Personalising the online experience

The retail industry provides a shining example of how to meet consumer expectations through online services. The technology, processes and systems integrated into the back-end of major retail chains are aligned to ensure that every channel provides a seamless customer experience. Furthermore, once logged in to a retail website, customers are provided with relevant product recommendations based on their purchasing history. This not only adds value to the customer, but also allows retailers to maximise up-sell and cross-sell opportunities through offering different products.

Banks have an opportunity to follow this successful retail model and maximise online customer experience and interactions.According to the British Banking Association(BBA), internet banking typically received 7 million log-ins and more than 15,000 mobile banking apps were downloaded each day in 2014.Data from these interactions can be used to gain insight into customer preferences and create a personalised online experience for online visitors. Transaction history, browsing activity, preferences and behavioursvisible from online banking can all be harnessed to tailor offers and services and design the most competitive renewals, all of which will deter existing customers from switching banks. This approach will present customers with a bespoke experience which speaks directly to them.

Harnessing the data

Utilising and managing customer data to effectively shape business strategies requires banks to consider four key points:

  • Volume: The amount of customer data that is available is increasing due to multi-platform use of banking services. As such, banks need to pinpoint what data sets (and relevant timeframes) are most important to track activity and identify where improvements to service are required.
  • Variety: As the volume of data increases, so does the different type of information available. The selection of quantitative data grows as customers spend more time online, but beyond that qualitative content, such as comments on social media,add further variety as posts and tweets can be considered the most honest reflection of in-the-moment customer experience.
  • Velocity: With more data to digest, speed of processing is key for banks to make the right decision for their customers at the right time. After all, if a customer shows interest in a particular product, personalisation of their online portal to reflect this would need to be almost instantaneous to maximise the chances of purchase.
  • Veracity:According to a survey by Experian, almost a third of UK businesses (29%) claimed poor data led to a loss of potential customers. That puts banks under pressure to ensure that the quality of the data they collect and use is high; in other words, ensure its accuracy. If that isn’t the case, using the data to make decisions becomes useless.

Newer entrants in the banking market are already successfully harnessing data in this way to offer customers a more personalised online engagement and stand out from the more traditional banks.These ‘challenger banks’use private cloud data centres to store customers’ transactional data and financial history. This approach provides banking teams with quick and easy access to the data,enabling them to offer every customer a personalised and transparent online service. If the traditional banks can’t adapt their existing infrastructure to achieve the same outcome, they will struggle to compete.

Planning for the future

Any new offering has to be sustainable and that rule of thumb extends to the improvement and expansion of online services. A big part of delivering that comes down to the back-end technology and underlying network infrastructure.

Speed of delivery is a particularly important consideration for any online offering,and to address this banks need to invest in a Content Delivery Network (CDN), a network of distributed servers that deliver webpages and content based on the geographic location of the end-users. A CDN not only allows the fast, uninterrupted and secure delivery of information to customers across multiple platforms – even during peak traffic times – but also improves web page upload speeds. A CDN can provide a 70% improvement in content delivery speed, according to Level 3.It can also seamlessly support the use of rich media content, which enables banks to better engage with their customers using interactive content.

To support the structure of a CDN, banks must also consider the location of their data centres and how content is stored and where. Ensuring critical data which is likely to be used frequently is stored close to its destination,such as a bank’s HQ or customer services hub, will reduce the distance data must travel, ensuring faster access and improved efficiency for those who use it. Following this approach, sensitive or localised services and content can be broken out locally while non-critical application and data can all be hosted in one location.

Combining their data centre and CDN infrastructures under a single umbrella can also enable banks to reduce the total cost of ownership of services and the amount of third-party technology they use, decreasing the risk of external faults. This allows banks to navigate budgetary and regulatory pressures while remaining a competitive edge.

Efficiency online

The banking world is always moving forward. To keep customers happy and reduce churn, there is an increasing demand for efficient online services with all the bells and whistles offered by retailers. If that isn’t delivered, banks can be at the customer’s mercy should those customers choose to switch.Banks need to act now in order to ensure that their infrastructures support their online offerings. Those infrastructures need to be fast and able to cope with the levels of data processing needed to deliver a great customer experience.

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Earnings lifts European shares, German DAX outperforms

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Earnings lifts European shares, German DAX outperforms 1

By Sruthi Shankar

(Reuters) – European stocks rose on Tuesday as strong earnings from wealth manager UBS and auto parts maker Autoliv added to a string of upbeat corporate updates, while the International Monetary Fund raised its forecast for global growth in 2021.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index closed up 0.6%, with a rally in automakers, industrial companies and SAP and helping the German DAX outperform.

UBS rose 2.4% as high levels of client activity helped the world’s largest wealth manager record a 137% rise in net profit.

The broader financial services index gained 1.8%, with Swedish buyout group EQT jumping 14.6% after it signed a deal to buy global real estate investment manager Exeter Property Group for $1.87 billion.

The STOXX 600 tumbled to a two-week low on Monday after data painted a gloomy picture of Europe’s economy in January as many countries tighten curbs to combat new variants of the coronavirus.

“The numbers that are coming out show economic activity in Europe is falling back and underperforming other parts of the world,” said David Miller, investment director at Quilter Cheviot.

“So far, investors are prepared to look through the current difficulties on the basis that second half will be better.”

Supporting the sentiment, the International Monetary Fund raised its forecast for global economic growth in 2021 and said the coronavirus-triggered downturn in 2020 would be nearly a full percentage point less severe than expected.

Italy’s FTSE MIB rose 1.2% after Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte handed in his resignation to the head of state, hoping he would be given an opportunity to put together a new coalition and rebuild his parliamentary majority.

Conte lost his absolute majority in the upper house Senate last week when a junior partner, the Italia Viva party quit in a row over the various issues.

Boosting Milan’s bourse, UniCredit jumped 4.5% after reports it set to appoint Andrea Orcel, one of Europe’s best known investment bankers, as its new chief executive.

Sweden’s Autoliv gained 5.3% after it reported higher than expected quarterly earnings, boosted by a recovery in car production.

Industrial gas producer Linde rose 3.5% after announcing an increase to its quarterly dividend and a $5-billion share buyback programme.

Spanish pharmaceutical company PharmaMar surged 21.1% after peer review journal Science published a paper that confirmed its drug plitidepsin has a “potent preclinical efficacy” against the COVID-19.

(Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Lisa Shumaker)

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London stocks climb as AstraZeneca, Indivior jumps

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London stocks climb as AstraZeneca, Indivior jumps 2

By Shashank Nayar and Amal S

(Reuters) – British stocks ended higher on Tuesday after drugmaker AstraZeneca denied reports that its COVID-19 vaccine was less effective in the elderly population, while Indivior surged after its former parent withdrew a $1.4 billion legal claim.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 index climbed 0.2%, with automakers and healthcare stocks leading the gains, while the mid-cap index rose 0.5%.

However, weakness in general retailers limited gains after British retail sales suffered their biggest annual drop since May this month, suggesting the latest lockdown is taking a heavy toll on many shops.

The mood was also dampened by a jump in Britain’s unemployment rate to 5.0%, its highest in nearly five years, in the three months to November.

“Even though the unemployment rate is at 5%, it was meant to go to 5.1%. So, there were positive angles to pick among the negative news and I think that seems to have benefited sentiment alongside the pound falling,” said Connor Campbell, a financial analyst at SpreadEx.

Drugmaker AstraZeneca gained 0.7% and gave the second biggest boost to the blue-chip index after it denied reports its COVID-19 vaccine was not very effective for people over 65.

The FTSE 100 has recorded consistent monthly gains since November on expectations of a vaccine-led recovery, but it has lost steam as extended lockdowns hit business activity.

The International Monetary Fund cut Britain’s growth outlook for 2021 because of a resurgence in novel coronavirus cases, and forecast it would take until next year for the economy to regain its pre-pandemic strength.

Britain’s Rolls-Royce dropped 1.8% after it downgraded expectations for how much its engines would fly this year.

Indivior leapt 13.1% to the top of the FTSE 250 index after it said late on Monday that former parent Reckitt Benckiser would withdraw a $1.4 billion claim against the company.

(Reporting by Shashank Nayar in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V and Subhranshu Sahu and Barbara Lewis)

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Dollar retreats as riskier currencies rebound

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Dollar retreats as riskier currencies rebound 3

By Saqib Iqbal Ahmed

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The U.S. dollar fell across the board as riskier currencies found a firmer footing on Tuesday, a day after worries over vaccine rollouts and the outlook for U.S. fiscal stimulus boosted demand for safe havens.

Mounting coronavirus cases and caution ahead of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s policy meeting this week has dulled appetite for risk, lending support to the dollar against a basket of currencies in recent sessions, but investors were once again nibbling at riskier currencies on Tuesday.

The U.S. Dollar Currency Index was 0.19% lower at 90.173. The index rose as high as 90.614, its strongest since Jan. 20, earlier in the session.

The dollar appeared to be taking its cue from overall risk sentiment in the market, said Michael Brown, senior analyst at payments firm Caxton, in London.

Data on Tuesday showed U.S. consumer confidence rose moderately in January amid lingering concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There is also probably a lack of appetite to be buying the dollar before what’s likely to be another dovish Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting tomorrow,” Brown said.

Few if any changes are expected to the Fed’s policy statement on Wednesday after its two-day meeting and no new economic forecasts are scheduled to be released.

Despite the dollar’s recent rebound from multi-year lows, speculators in the currency market remain extremely bearish on the U.S. currency.

(GRAPHIC: Down on the dollar – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/rlgpdgadzvo/Pasted%20image%201611673686398.png)

Traders are also keenly watching progress on the U.S. stimulus front after U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Democrats may try to pass much of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion spending package with a majority vote, but it is not clear if they have the numbers to override Republican objections.

The euro was higher on the day, but gains were muted amid early signals that the economy may not rebound as strongly this year as predicted. Germany’s Ifo business climate indicator undershot expectations on Monday and an economic surprise index in Europe is near six-week lows.

On Tuesday, the Australian dollar – seen as a liquid proxy for risk – was 0.48% higher against the dollar; the New Zealand dollar was up 0.65%.

Elsewhere, emerging-market currencies saw an easing of recent selling pressure with the Brazilian real rising more than 1%.

Sterling pulled away from a one-week low against the dollar and also gained ground against the euro as rebounding risk appetite in broader asset markets weakened the U.S. currency.

(Reporting by Saqib Iqbal Ahmed; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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