By Peter Ballard, Founder and Exec Director of Foolproof – www.foolproof.co.uk
Budgeting, saving for a rainy day and investing for the future are up there with doing the housework and grocery shopping for most people. It’s often considered dull, time-consuming and we all know we have bad habits which prevent us from reaching our goals when it comes to money. Not only is it considered a chore but, according to a report by PWC, only 24% of millennials demonstrate basic financial knowledge. In fact, a 2016 report by the OECD ranked the UK number 15 in the world for teaching financial literacy, despite a move in 2014 to make it mandatory in schools.
Automated financial services delivered through Robo-advisers, Apps and Chatbots is a potential game changer for how consumers approach everyday savings and investments. It’s no secret that the banking industry has been slow to adapt to changing consumer behaviour and technological advances, but automation is an exciting development which could help consumers re-engage with their personal finances and give banks the opportunity to rekindle relationships with customers.
Robo-advice and wealth management
There is much hype surrounding Robo-advice. It has been in the news off and on since 2008 with companies like Wealthfront, Betterment and Nutmeg, and has been gathering momentum over the last two years with high street banks like Barclays, RBS, Lloyds and Santander revealing plans to launch Robo-advisers.
Robo-advice is not a robot but an algorithm which uses information that the customer has provided to determine the most suitable investment options for them. It is hoped that Robo-advice could be the key to providing low-cost financial advice to the millions of people who are unable or unwilling to pay high fees. . However, it has been slow to get off the ground and whilst consumers are open to advice delivered this way, providers need to not only convince regulators but also consumers.
In 2016 Accenture reported that 68 per cent of UK consumers were prepared to use Robo-advice for banking services. During our own experience design research, we also found customers to be open to the idea of advice provided through a non-human interface. After all, we expect managing our money to be as easy and as hassle-free an experience as buying a book from Amazon. So surely a service like Robo-advice, with its instant access and speed of delivery, should be an attractive option for customers?
But whilst people may be open to the idea of automated advice, they appear less willing to pay for it believing it to be expensive. This is in part due to a lack of understanding of the value of traditional face-to-face advice and how much it costs, which makes it more difficult to make a direct comparison with Robo-advice.
Cost perceptions aren’t all to blame though. In our experience customers have also become wary of putting their trust into institutions such as banks and financial advisers. They fear that the advice they are given may be biased or incorrect and believe that financial advice is not for them but for ‘rich people’. Many believe their bank does not do enough to help them stay out of financial difficulty and worry that banks put their own interests before customers, profiting from encouraging overdrafts and short term loans.
Providers of these services will therefore need to educate consumers and regain their trust before being able to provide financial guidance this way. According to Andrew Craig, author of ‘How to Own the World’ and founder of Plain English Finance, where providers are currently failing is in their communication with customers. “They’re not speaking their language and don’t understand their needs. They assume that their readership understands investment and why they should be doing it. It’s not about income it’s about knowledge.”
The key to the adoption of robo-advice will be through helping people to first take control of their everyday spending. As people become more accustomed to using app-based services that help them take control of their everyday spending, when they have disposable income and begin thinking about savings and investments, it won’t be such a huge leap for them to put their trust in AI-driven wealth management services.
AI and changing everyday spending habits
Mobile is quickly becoming the heart of the banking relationship, giving customers the 24/7 service they crave. Whilst Robo-advice is helping people to engage with investing for the long-term, where automation is coming into its own is in helping people to form healthy day-to-day savings habits. Importantly, it’s equipping people with the tools to manage their money how and when they want. Research tells us that people want different approaches to advice with some wanting to be nagged and others wanting to be nudged or coached. With a variety of start-ups entering the market, there’s something for everyone.
Digit for example is a US savings account launched in 2015. Digit monitors your income and spending and then puts money away when you are least likely to notice it. What’s interesting about Digit is that it automatically figures out when and how much to save based on your lifestyle. Similarly, Plum – an AI-powered Facebook chatbot – monitors your balance and spending habits and deposits small amounts into a virtual savings pot. Cleo on the other-hand positions itself as an intelligent assistant which automates the ‘boring stuff’ such as categorising transactions, and provides actionable ways to save in real-time.
What these services do very well is communicate with customers little and often and provide personalised advice based on that person’s spending habits. What we see often during our research is that customers recognise they have bad habits, but breaking these requires outside influence. It’s not something that they generally find easy to do themselves. These AI powered services encourage customers to put away a little and often and ‘micro-wins’ provide positive reinforcement and can potentially lead to longer-term positive behavioural change.
Monzo for example uses data to help customers make better decisions about their money and to modify their spending habits over time. There’s nothing ground-breaking about their pre-paid product, but the experience they’ve created is frictionless and delivers relevant, valuable and practical information to customers. By making the information digestible, Monzo are helping consumers make smarter decisions about their spending. Other start-ups that we’ve worked with are exploring the detail of customer’s spending habits such as how much they spend on coffee or eating out. They can then provide appropriate decision-making prompts around whether they are going to go over budget or save money based on their spending.
What’s interesting is that these services appeal to a wide range of customers from those who have none or very little understanding of their spending through to those who like to take control of it. For customers who out of control this functionality helps them to spend less, but for people who have control they feel rewarded and even more in control.
In the past, invading customer consciousness to encourage them to make savings has been prohibitive for banks due to cost and logistics. AI gives banks the opportunity to deliver advice to customers in a timely and tailored manner. The challenge for banks however will be in convincing customers to use their services over start-ups and this will require rebuilding trust and loyalty. With the coming age of fragmentation – where bits of apps will appear within other services such as Facebook or WhatsApp – banks have the opportunity to employ AI agents to re-engage with customers by helping them form more constructive long-term habits around their money.
Dealing with the loneliness crisis with assistive technology
By Karen Dolva, CEO and Co-Founder of NoIsolation
Humans are social beings, and for most children, school will be their most important social arena. Unfortunately, however, many children and adolescents with long-term illnesses are unable to attend school for extended periods, due to treatment plans, ill health or more recently due to the risk of infection. Research has shown that long-stints of school absence for children and adolescents with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME) and cancer can range from months to years.
These prolonged periods of absence, which often lead to limited interactions with other children and adolescents, can result in children completely losing their social network, leaving them feeling cut off, lonely and isolated, all as a result of something that is completely out of their control. What kind of consequences can this type of social isolation have for children and young adults?
In a recent in-depth investigation into the impact of COVID-19 on the emotional and educational development of British school-aged children, No Isolation partnered with independent researcher, Henry Peck, to look into the impact of COVID-19 on school aged children, to shed further light on the consequences of school closures, not only across the UK, but the long term effects that this can have on children and adolescents everywhere throughout the pandemic.
As a company working to abolish loneliness and isolation amongst those suffering with chronic illness, we were already aware of the effect that social isolation can have on a child’s educational development and mental health. For the investigation we collected responses from 1,005 parents and carers of 1,477 children spanning primary and secondary school.
Results of the study found that a concerning 76% of parents and carers reported that, since lockdown, they have become worried that their children are suffering from loneliness. Results also showed that parents and carers of 5-10-year-olds worry that their children are lonely often or all of the time, whilst parents and carers of 11-16-year-olds are concerned that their children are lonely at least some of the time. This is likely due to the fact that older children have greater access to social technologies, while younger children often rely on non-verbal forms of communication such as facial expression, physical contact, and through play, all of which is difficult to recreate whilst away from the school setting.
At No Isolation we are committed to creating solutions that will help children stay connected to their friends and their education, regardless of circumstance. We’ve seen first-hand the devastating impact that loneliness can have on a child, and know that children that can’t attend school don’t just miss out on learning, they miss out on friendships too. Losing this contact during the early years developmental stages can be devastating, leading to anxiousness and an increase in feelings of isolation. This report sheds light on the hundreds of thousands of young people that may not be able to rejoin their friends in school, and it is vital that they don’t fall through the cracks. We plan to continue researching the impact of this unprecedented pandemic and driving the conversation around how we, as a nation, can ensure the mental wellbeing and educational development of those most affected.
Loneliness has been found to have serious implications for both physical and mental health. People suffering from loneliness are 32% more likely to have a stroke and are 26% more at risk of early mortality. From No Isolation’s own research into the impact of school absence due to long-term illness, we have found that children are particularly vulnerable to loneliness if they cannot attend school.
Researchers, Perlman and Peplau, define loneliness as a negative feeling, stating that a lonely person is experiencing a discrepancy between desired and actual social contact. Being socially isolated is not synonymous with being lonely, but there will often be a correlation between social isolation and loneliness. Though much empirical research on adults and adolescents shows a link between loneliness and depression, many studies have found that friendship-related loneliness is more explanatory for depressive symptoms among adolescents than parent-related loneliness. One possible explanation is that friends are the preferred source of social support during adolescence.
With that in mind, we should be both sad and alarmed by the high numbers of young people unable to attend school, and more so by the fact that we do not really know who they are or exactly why they cannot go to school. Research has shown that social isolation and loneliness often correlate with mental disorders, including depressive disorders, there are, however, options available for children and adolescents in the form of assistive technologies, enabling them to stay connected with education and their peers.
The provision of dedicated school staff, inspirational hospital schools, the use of avatars like AV1 that enable children to attend school remotely, are just a few of the ways that assistive technology and exemplary attitudes are helping children with long-term illnesses from becoming disconnected from essential social networks. There are also examples of individuals who are pushing to keep children from falling between the cracks and becoming invisible, such as Amy Dixon, who is running a petition that will do exactly that, bringing these issues to the attention of those who can make a real change. It is, and will be, thanks to these exemplary changes that more support is being offered to children that are virtually invisible across the UK at present.
However, not all children have the option to receive these kinds of provision. There are pockets of excellent practice driven on an individual and local level, but there needs to be systemic change at a policy level, to ensure everyone is supported.
Educational provision for children out of school due to illness appears to be something of a postcode lottery, with some families having to fight for 3 hours of home tuition a week, whilst others are offered 15 hours by default. This is thought to be, in part, due to the open statutory guidance which allows for flexible interpretation of government guidelines, as well as financial limitations schools and city councils face. To improve the lives and outcomes of this group of children, is to create a more accurate view and analysis. This can be done by joining up existing datasets, by asking better questions, and by building a model that predicts future numbers of children from falling outside of the system. This, in turn, will push the issue up the political agenda and drive much needed changes to statutory guidance. Most importantly, it would lead to more support for children that are seemingly invisible across the UK.
Regulatory overlaps cause conflicts, confusion and complexity: is collaboration the answer?
By Rob Fulcher, Head of Business – Americas, CUBE Global
Regulatory overlaps are an ongoing, perplexing and often time-consuming anomaly. They occur where multiple market regulators act disjointedly in their attempt to address a market failure, thereby imposing different regulatory requirements with contradictory or overlapping obligations. For financial institutions, this can be problematic: which regulation should take precedence? Will they face punitive action for neglecting one obligation in favour of another?
Following the global financial crisis of 2008, a swathe of new policies and acts came into force with a view to protecting the system and essentially preventing another market crash. Inevitably, this led to a host of new regulations, some of which created overlaps and inconsistencies. In turn, this leads to inefficiencies and misunderstandings as businesses endeavour to comply with all and every regulation, often finding themselves at a stand-off.
Financial institutions – especially the compliance team – are desperate for regulatory clarity. However, in many cases, it is not forthcoming. Regulatory clarity is not, it seems, high on the regulator’s agenda. A recent report by CUBE, RegTech for Regulatory Change, in association with Burnmark, explored the evolving landscape of regulatory overlaps. We now delve deeper into this topic to ask, ‘what is the solution?’
GDPR, PSD2 and MiFID II – to collect or protect data?
One notorious regulatory overlap that causes consistent headaches for financial institutions is that between GDPR and PSD2.
While GDPR gives individuals greater control over their data and restricts the freedoms of organisations to share it, PSD2 imposes data sharing requirements on ﬁnancial service providers. It is up to the banks to ensure that correct policies and procedures are in place so as to comply with both pieces of legislation. This is not often an easy task considering their almost diametrically opposite aims.
The same can be said for the regulatory rules that surround both MiFID II and GDPR – two pieces of legislation filled with inherent contradictions. While the former focuses on consumer protection through transparency and retaining more information about the investor community; the latter is concerned with data protection and limiting the access to investor data if so desired by the owner of the data and giving investors the right to be forgotten.
Data privacy and AML – data sharing can only go so far
Data is a commodity – compared often to crude oil. For financial institutions, data is not only part of ongoing business functions, but it also holds potential for manipulation, misinformation or illicit activity. Surprisingly, the value of data has only truly been realised in recent years. In turn, we have seen a swathe of money laundering and data protection activity – leading to new and amended regulations to bolster data protections and simultaneously impose supervisory requirements to avoid money laundering. Global banks are ﬁnding it challenging to comply with one without compromising on the other.
Multinational banks often ﬁnd themselves walking a tight rope between trying to meet data privacy requirements and simultaneously meeting those surrounding anti-money laundering (AML). For example, banks in the US are forbidden from sharing Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) with foreign branch counterparts due to disclosure restrictions, thereby making it diﬃcult to implement a group-wide compliance program.
Regulatory overlap in the US
The US has a long-established, complicated and often fragmented regulatory structure. Signiﬁcant and costly overlaps exist across the board, especially between the Oﬃce of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the Federal Reserve System’s data collection activities, along with its supervision and examination activities. Consumer protection is conducted by six US regulators, which naturally results in overlaps, duplication and confusion.
Similarly, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and state securities regulators oversee securities and derivatives markets, leading to similar concerns of overlaps and fragmentation. Swaps and security-based swap products face the supervision of SEC and CFTC and market participants have made it known that this leads to signiﬁcant market and operational challenges.
Regulatory overlap is not new – nor is there a clear solution. We have occasionally heard tales of compliance team members writing to regulators to request clarification, often to no avail. In the meantime, financial institutions must take steps to implement all relevant regulations where they can and mitigate risks where they are not able.
Regulatory technology (RegTech), especially automated change management platforms such as CUBE, highlight overlaps and alert compliance teams where issues or inconsistencies arise. For now, this is the most effective means of managing unclear regulations.
Ultimately, the answer lies with financial regulators themselves. While uncertainty exists, regulators must issue guidance and expectations in order to standardise approaches across the industry. The ideal outcome is undoubtedly founded in collaboration: regulators across sectors, industry and jurisdictions should collaborate to ensure that legislative changes are consistent and do not tread on the toes of the other. With the emergence of new technology – and related new regulation – many regulators are calling for a joined-up approach and looking to work together in their supervisory goals. Perhaps collaborative, unambiguous financial regulators aren’t so far away after all.
Rob has 20 years’ experience in financial services sales and management. Following his early sales career at Euler Hermes, a global credit insurance business, Rob went on to establish a 15-year career in GRC. Initially working in London at Complinet, a compliance and risk business, Rob subsequently relocated to New York. In 2010, Complinet was acquired by Thomson Reuters and Rob played a pivotal role in growing GRC revenues, especially relating to regulatory change management. As Head of Sales Americas for CUBE Global, Rob re-built the sales team and consistently out-performed all other regions.
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Christmas isn’t cancelled; Santa now does click & collect
Despite fears that Christmas will be cancelled this year, new data from ACI Worldwide (NASDAQ: ACIW) finds that, with local lockdowns and social distancing measures in place across the UK, the Festive shopping season is starting earlier this year.
Based on analysis on hundreds of millions of eCommerce transactions around the globe, ACI’s latest eCommerce tracker predicts we will see a 27% increase in online shopping transactions. Along with a whopping 40% increase in click and collect purchases as consumers remain socially distant and local lockdowns continue.
Indeed, consumers acting as Santa’s little helpers have begun purchasing presents online even earlier than before to keep the Christmas dream alive. Concerns around limited product availability and delivery delays have seen online transactions increase by 21% in the last four weeks, when compared to the same period last year.
Amanda Mickleburgh, Director of Merchant Fraud Product at ACI Worldwide commented, “While Black Friday has typically been the starting line for the festive period, this year Prime Day sounds the klaxon. There are myriad reasons for this. With everyone encouraged to social distance and many areas of the UK now under even tighter local lockdowns, there’s more time than ever to browse online for presents. Added to this, many remember the severe delays in receiving purchases at the start of lockdown, and will be looking to avoid missing presents under the Christmas tree.
“Merchants should look to expand their same day shipping capabilities and provide free returns or extend T&Cs, to capitalise on this trend. Far from seeing physical stores as a lost cause, they should take advantage of the increase in demand for click and collect. And turn their stores into valuable real estate by expanding their click and collect capabilities.
However, there is a dark side to the holiday season kicking off earlier – fraud continues to increase as criminals take advantage of click and collect options and consumers start to buy higher-value items like the latest electronics. ACI’s analysis found that the value of attempted fraud increased from $7 to $9 per consumer this September compared to 2019.
Amanda Mickleburgh continued, “While click and collect is a major draw for consumers, merchants need to increase their fraud protection measures for this channel. As more merchants continue to offer this option to customers, there are greater opportunities for fraudsters to create a nightmare before Christmas.”
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