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MAKE YOUR CHINESE MIDDLEMEN SELLERS GO ELSEWHERE

Targeting Chinese shoppers_

By Gabriel Grisham, Head of Growth at NihaoPay (@gabrielgrisham, @nihaopay)

Adam Smith’s invisible hand is alive and well in China on one of the largest marketplaces for goods and service in the world, Taobao. However, for brands large and small, Taobao presents a double-edged sword. Having a presence, whether it’s a knock-off or the real thing simply being resold, means that there is a market for the brand. However, the brand has very limited visibility into who its customers actually are and runs the risk of losing control of its image in China.

The good news for brands large and small is that it’s getting easier. Alibaba recently announced a new counterfeiting reporting system to help international brands fight IP infringement. But while knock-offs are still a concern, the middleman reseller or ‘daigou’ shopper has come to represent a larger issue for many brands. With disposable incomes now at levels that allow China’s middle class to have real discretionary spending, they prefer to purchase the genuine article rather than a cheap imitation. However, for the majority of ecommerce shoppers in China, actually purchasing the genuine article on a brand’s flagship website remains a difficult task.

Gabriel Grisham

Gabriel Grisham

Precisely because of this difficulty, the ‘middleman shopper’ or ‘daigou’ has appeared. These middlemen are not rip-off artists, but rather enterprising individuals who have identified a friction point between brands and their Chinese consumers. These middlemen make products available that are otherwise difficult if not impossible for Chinese ecommerce consumers to purchase on their own. They make purchases abroad, bring them back to China, and list them on Taobao. These resellers charge a premium for their service and, while brands are not irreparably harmed by their efforts, brands are losing out on control of their image and revenue in China.

To put these middlemen out of business, or at least make them move on to another brand, two strategies are available: offense and defense. On the defensive side, a brand can file a report to the marketplace where its goods are available without the brand’s consent, or they can take the plunge into China’s court system to stop the reseller. The other option, an offensive one, is likely to have much better results: simply make your products directly available to Chinese consumers. For this to happen, integrating a payment solution preferred by Chinese consumers is absolutely necessary, and offering a logistics solution to deliver in China efficiently is very nice to have. Much has been made of Burberry’s listing on Tmall and the subsequent dive in middlemen activity for Burberry. While I’m sure Alibaba’s effort to curtail the resale of Burberry branded product had an effect, a more powerful force was also at work: capitalism.

When the same product is available at two price points, the one with the lower price point will be purchased. When Burberry products became available on Tmall at a price point close to what was available on Taobao, shoppers made the switch to Tmall because now they were 100 percent sure they were getting the genuine article – and it was easy to buy. Daigou shoppers could no longer command a markup on Burberry products, so they moved to other brands that are still difficult for Chinese shoppers to buy.

The good news for brands today is that you can make your middlemen shoppers move elsewhere without a large investment. If you make your products easily available for the average Chinese consumer to purchase, they will buy from you directly rather than paying a premium to a reseller on Taobao. This process starts with integrating a China-focused payment method, like UnionPay or AliPay, on your flagship website, UnionPay and/or AliPay. This one step will allow you to access Chinese consumers directly. This one step will allow you to access Chinese consumers directly. Millions of Chinese shoppers have solved the logistics part of the equation – they have friends and relatives abroad, they will be visiting the United States soon, or they have their own freight forwarder. With one simple payment integration, you can serve these millions of shoppers immediately; all you need to do is allow them to pay you. Once you allow for a direct transaction that lowers the consumer’s price, middlemen will look to other brands that still have not solved the payment friction point.

Connect with Gabriel Grisham and NihaoPay via twitter @gabrielgrisham, @nihaopay

Business

The ultimate tech guide to remote working for the casual worker  

The ultimate tech guide to remote working for the casual worker   1

By Paul Routledge D-Link Country Manager

Like many others, you may have grabbed your laptop in the middle of March and headed home, with the initial plan of three weeks working on the sofa, in the garden or in the upstairs office you never use. As always, the picture in your head doesn’t quite match the reality, and now after an extended period, it might be time to make a few upgrades and create a more workable home office environment. From the smaller problems, like a lack of USB ports to charge both your phone and plug in your wireless mouse, to the 10 year older router that powers your wireless network, if you are going to work from home for a long period, you should consider resolving these issues.

If you work from home infrequently, or your network requirements amount to just checking emails, file downloads/uploads and the occasional video conference meeting, then a basic set up is all you require. Let’s run through the requirements for a basic home office set up.

First things first – establish a plan! What is the end goal? More connectivity, faster speeds, data security and better capacity are all possible, but there are a few things to consider before we dive in

  • Your environment  – Mansion, house, flat or garden, where you plan to work will have an impact on what equipment you need
  • How often will you be working at home Are you at home every day or just 1 day a week
  • Bandwidth requirements –  Are you hungry for bandwidth? video conference calls or upload/downloading images and videos
  • Wired or Wireless –  Can you cable up devices or is it mostly going to be wireless connectivity
  • Level of security –  If you work with personal data or financial details for instance, you will need to consider a higher level of security

USB hub/docking station

Let’s run through the requirements for a basic home office set up. As the streamlining of most modern laptops continues, the added portability often has a negative impact on connectivity, sacrificing Ethernet, HDMI and USB ports. As most offices will have docking stations, this only becomes an issue at home. A USB hub acts like a docking station and enables you to connect all of your devices, charge your phone, and connect multiple monitors.

What is a Hub? A Hub will add extra ports to your laptop, desktop, games console or other devices with a USB port, usually they will be USB-A or USB-C. Hubs can also draw power via the USB connection and their lightweight portability allows them to fit into your pocket. USB hubs are plug and play meaning they can just be plugged into your device and they are ready to go.

The router is the king

When its comes to internet, the router is the king – the gateway to all the rest of your networking solution. So if you are still using the router your ISP provided, you could be limiting your network wireless speeds, security and reliability.

Wireless Speed – Wi-Fi 5 or Wireless AC, is the current standard technology in the market but a router advertised as AC1200 doesn’t mean you’re getting a top speed of 1,200Mbps. This number is a combination of band speeds (2.4 and 5 GHz) For example, an AC1200 router is going to have a 2.4GHz band with a top speed of 300Mbps and a 5GHz band with a top speed of 867Mbps.

Coverage Area –  If you have a larger area to cover, a router with more external antenna’s will provide more flexibility, because they can be adjusted to focus broadcast in different directions.

Mu-Mimo (multi user, multi input, multi output)  – MU-MIMO allows the router to broadcast to many devices on the network at the same time, as opposed to one at a time, increasing efficiency.

QoS (Quality of Service)  – QoS lets you tell your router which devices you would like it to prioritise, so that you can choose which devices have priority such as your work laptop or VoIP handset.

App-Based Management  – Apps simplify the task of setting up and making adjustments to your Wi-Fi network, monitoring when devices are connected and helps to easily manage router updates.

Wi-Fi 6

Why do you need Wi-Fi 6? Because your smart home is reaching the limits of its potential. Prevailing Wi-Fi standards simply aren’t built to support “noisy” Wi-Fi environments with countless personal devices and smart home gadgets running simultaneously 24/7. Wi-Fi 6 brings next-generation Wi-Fi technology into your home, giving you the quantum leap in capacity, speed, and range you need to handle all your Wi-Fi demands. Perfect for high-performance, highly device-dense smart homes. Its saves on battery life, With Wi-Fi 6, you get up to 4X more device capacity than you do with Wi-Fi 5 AND includes wireless encryption.

Switching  – Wired Networks

What considerations do you need to make for a wired network? If its possible within your home, a wired network solution can provide better stability and performance than a wireless one, as wired connections are less prone to radio interference and lose fewer packets of data that need to be retransmitted.

Paul Routledge

Paul Routledge

In reality however, it may not be convenient to run cables to every device, so we recommend to use a wired connection when you can, then a wireless connection when you can’t. How many ports do you need? This is where the planning aspect of the network comes in, a normal router will have 4 Lan ports, so an idea of how many extra ports you will need is necessary, just think of all the work or home devices you’ll want to plug in, desktop PC, smart TV, VoIP phone, games console and the switch itself. Switches are most common in 5 or 8 ports versions although many have up to 52 ports!

Network Speed

A switch will either be labelled with Fast Ethernet (10/100mbs) or Gigabit (10/100/1000mbs).

Fast Ethernet

Fast Ethernet can handle speeds up to 100 Mbps, which is probably enough for some people, but those with superfast internet services, will lose the benefits.

Gigabit

10x faster than FE, Gigabit Ethernet can handle the fastest home broadband connections and has the bandwidth to handle high local network demands.

PoE support

Power over Ethernet (PoE) enables network switches to transmit both power and data through an Ethernet cable at the same time, so your PoE enabled switch can connect to an Access Point, Camera or VoIP phone, when there is no power outlet available

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Business

Safeguarding international logistics arrangements during the coronavirus crisis

Safeguarding international logistics arrangements during the coronavirus crisis 2

By Adam Ewart, CEO and Founder of Send My Bag

It has certainly been a whirlwind couple of months. The coronavirus – which at the start of the year seemed like a distant, incomprehensible issue – has impacted virtually every aspect of everyday life. There are live outbreaks in every continent – bar Antarctica – forcing a significant proportion of the global population under some form of lockdown. This has, of course, had a significant impact on the day-to-day operations for industries across the global economy, including international logistics.

Pain points of international logistics sector under changing conditions

The international logistics industry was among the first to feel the pinch from coronavirus. Seven of the top nine container ports in the world are based in China, and the other two ports are in Singapore and South Korea. All three of these countries were hit early by the pandemic and shut down their borders to prevent the spread of the virus. But this has resulted in ships being unable to get into Chinese ports or not being able to load or discharge goods when they dock.

But it’s important to note that not all businesses in the vast international logistics sector have experienced exclusively negative impacts as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. For instance, Send My Bag saw a 1320% year-on-year increase in demand in March, as people started relocating to their home countries. Similarly, orders from Germany, Spain, and Netherlands also rose by 700%, 800% and 600% respectively as travel bans were introduced.

As a result, the business faced a slightly different challenge to other businesses in the international logistics sector – how to respond to a sudden increase in orders. Although our customer base is globally spread and customers use our service for a range of reasons, we do still find the summer months to be our busiest. As such we’ve become accustomed to dealing with seasonality and our customer service runs on flexible systems that can be scaled up or down. Therefore, when we experienced a large spike in orders in March, we shifted to our summer plan and implemented a wide range of measures to respond to the surge in demand, including changes to shifts and rolling out an overtime schedule. We also asked staff if they would like paid work as an option during their annual leave.

The importance of strong leadership and HR functions in crisis

Most importantly during this hectic period were the HR measures we implemented supported by a clear and transparent line of communication with staff. As talks of unemployment filled the news, before the government announced its job retention scheme, we told our entire team that no one would be laid off regardless of any decline in orders anticipated over the next 12 weeks.

There is so much anxiety amongst employees across a range of sectors which could adversely impact their ability to do their job and in turn, impact business performance at a crucial time. It is therefore vital that business leaders are up-front and honest with their employees and imbue them with the confidence needed to do their job to the best of their ability.

We’ve seen businesses both succeed and fail at this essential task during the crisis. For instance, Amazon has been in the news for all the wrong reasons, stretching from failing to provide adequate protection for its warehouse workers to its multi-billionaire owner asking the public to pay for Amazon drivers’ sick pay. Whereas, on the other side of the spectrum you have Jack Ma, co-founder of the Alibaba Group, who donated 1 million masks and 500,000 test kits to America and – via his foundation – sent supplies to over 60 countries, including several in Europe and every African nation.

Adapting to change

Adam Ewart

Adam Ewart

Aside from implementing an effective line of communication with staff, the best way business leaders can safeguard their international logistics arrangements in the current climate is by being flexible. In these extraordinary times, businesses mustn’t stick to what they know. You’ve got to be adaptable, flexible and willing to look at alternative ways to deploy your business.

Take Cainiao Smart Logistics Network, the logistics arm of Alibaba, as an example. The network teamed up with a dozen logistical partners to launch a ‘Green Channel’ initiative to expedite the fast and safe delivery of medical supplies throughout China. Not to be outdone by its close competitor, JD Logistics, another China-based logistics business, adapted its supply network and deployed autonomous ground robots for last-mile delivery of crucial supplies in the worst affected hospitals in Wuhan.

At Send My Bag, we had to navigate increased costs and transport restrictions imposed by nations in response to the coronavirus crisis. This included our partners needing to re-route orders when borders were closed – which was particularly prevalent in mainland Europe – and scheduling additional dedicated aircraft to complete our orders when there was a lack of commercial cargo space. Also, certain nations, such as South Africa, are currently only permitting international logistics networks to handle essential goods. To overcome these logistical issues, we had to be flexible and keep customers informed throughout.

Now, as the large spikes we experienced in March have plateaued to some extent, we have reverted back to our off-peak operation plan and are looking at different ways to use our capabilities. This included supporting an initiative to transport testing and PPE kits to frontline medics.

These are difficult and uncertain times for the international logistics industry. The supply lines that we rely on are being disrupted and some sectors are facing a drop in demand, whilst others are experiencing a spike. During these turbulent times, business leaders must be adaptable, show leadership and support their employees.

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Business

A holistic view of organisational security

A holistic view of organisational security 3

By James Ward, Senior Cyber Consultant at MASS

The finance sector is typically more developed than others when it comes to implementing security measures. This is partly due to it being targeted by a diverse range of threat actors who are some of the most advanced, and also because the threat is so great –  even the smallest breach has the potential for significant impact monetarily, or on market reputation, perception or confidence.

Ideally, an organisation’s critical assets should be surrounded by layer upon layer of security measures, all working together so that if one layer is removed or breached, the business’ most valuable assets are not compromised. Too often however, organisations take a siloed approach to security – viewing physical, cyber and personnel security as separate entities, where in fact they are more inter-related than many imagine.

It’s therefore vitally important that security measures are considered holistically and are led and understood by senior management, otherwise gaps for exploitation can be found by intelligent and experienced actors, supported by an ever-growing arsenal of exploitation technology.

Based on the approach MASS takes with public sector and defence organisations, we’ll now consider the security measures which should combine as part of a holistic approach.

Physical security

It might seem obvious, but the first and fundamental consideration should be physical access to a site. For all organisations, this step remains vital – even in the finance industry where physical security principles have long been established.

You should consider the basic question of how an intruder could gain access, starting by reviewing the ‘perimeter’ controls. Indeed, organisations should even question what their perimeter is. With the potential for distributed site facilities, linked remote assets, and supply chain dependencies, this simple question must be answered.

To define where a ‘perimeter’ really lies, the use of scenario-based analysis, threat actor personas, motivations and objectives can be useful. It’s also an invaluable methodology for exposing how an organisation could be exploited.

The physical security stage should also involve a review of physical controls such as fencing, access technology, CCTV coverage etc., including their role in the deterrence and detection of hostile reconnaissance activities. Disrupting the planning cycle of attacks is often overlooked relative to direct prevention of unauthorised access.

That being said, security measures can only be as effective as the people applying them, so an understanding of human behaviours is essential. It’s important to consider how people’s actions affect overall site security and to question why these actions occur.

Simple mistakes like staff wearing security badges in the street could lead to unforeseen issues while poor motivation or effectiveness of roving security staff or those monitoring CCTV may also cause warning signs to be missed, demonstrating that innocent human mistakes could form the seed of future security breaches.

Cyber security

The finance sector’s cyber resilience has advanced considerably, as it’s adapted to threats over the years. But the evolution of the finance industry itself poses new challenges; businesses range considerably in size and new forms of financial transactions provide new opportunities for cyber exploitation. Exploitation toolsets and associated managed services are now more readily available at a lower cost, reducing the financial and technical barriers to advanced cyber-attacks.

The levels of cyber security in the financial sector must be retained, taken to a new level, and existing assumptions continually challenged.

For example, penetration testing regimes are a vital tool in mitigating network cyber risk (including ‘CBEST’ which has been widely rolled out across the finance sector) but have limitations given they are just a snapshot in time. They offer us a valuable depth of analysis within a network but can be constrained in breadth of scope and potentially leave vulnerability blind spots. Very frequent, lighter-touch cyber assessments can fill this gap as they offer a more dynamic view of ongoing vulnerabilities over a wider proportion of the estate, which could represent ‘low hanging fruit’ for the cyber actor. Assessments can be enhanced by applying modern threat intelligence techniques to rapidly identify existing compromises and potential weaknesses (including personnel and corporate digital footprint). This establishes a picture of cyber posture and vulnerabilities before any testing taking place.

End-user device security is also often viewed in terms of its encryption strength, keys etc. Modern methods of fault injection attack (a device’s response to artificially applied ‘fault conditions’ used to derive security credentials), though are able to bypass these assumed security measures, whereas it would take decades to ‘crack’ using more traditional computer power. This means it becomes important to test a device’s vulnerability to fault injection, rather than falling back on the old assumptions for protection.

To take a holistic view, it’s also important to examine the wider supply chain. The finance sector relies heavily on a network of suppliers of digital telecommunications and energy services, and when a network this complex is interconnected, it’s challenging to pinpoint cyber resilience risks. However, identifying ‘hot-spot’ concentrations of dependencies that represent single-point failures within the complexity of the overall business can allow you to filter the complex information and establish risk effectively.

The insider threat

Those who might misuse legitimate access to an organisation’s assets for unauthorised purposes are known as insiders and their threat is often overlooked when considering the overall cyber risk.

For those in the financial sector, personal financial gain could be a particular incentive to potential insiders, while security controls are now so effective that one of the only ways to circumvent them is for hostile actors to exploit those with legitimate access. It can help to think of insider threat as the ‘grand master skeleton key’ of security, as the right insider, or team of insiders can overcome almost all security measures. Security compromises involving insiders also tend to have a disproportionately high business impact.

Yet many organisations overlook insider risk, assuming that pre-employment screening is enough to deter employees and failing to recognise the wide range of risks from genuine human error, through to orchestrated insider activity by paid professionals. Insider cases are typically individuals who have been with an organisation for some years and could have had a personal vulnerability exploited or exposed, or simply become disgruntled with their employer.

It’s a broad area to address and can be more challenging to enforce than other security measures. Internal governance, security culture, employee wellbeing, employment measures, corporate digital footprint, and perceived employee sentiment are some of the aspects that should be considered. Once these internal factors have been addressed, organisations should then make the same assessment of their supply chains.

If the business is sufficiently committed to its security, structured analytical methods can quantify their maturity and assess where the key vulnerabilities and risks could lie. This extra level of understanding can enable improvement, and when it comes to security even small changes can make a big difference.

Consider your dependencies

It’s clear that security is a vast network comprising many different aspects and as such, if not considered collectively, some areas can fall through the cracks.

All businesses have particular dependencies which shouldn’t be overlooked. Your own environment may be protected, but if data is shared with suppliers or partners, is it still secure? If a supplier or partner has a security breach, does that affect your operation?

When assessing security measures, it’s essential to go an extra layer deeper and consider how a range of factors could impact your organisation and its readiness to respond to an incident.

At MASS, our security experts consist of professionals with extensive experience in preventing security breaches and performing assessments in accordance with Ministry of Defence processes, so that we can ensure our security analysis meets and exceeds industry best practice.

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