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NEW RESEARCH SHOWS FS EMPLOYEES WORRIED ASKING FOR A RAISE COULD JEOPARDISE THEIR POSITIONS

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By Tara Ricks, Managing Director, Randstad Financial and Professional

Tara Ricks

Tara Ricks

The world of banking and financial services is renowned for having confident people who aren’t afraid to speak their minds — and who generally back themselves whatever they’re up against.

It’s a little surprising, then, that in a recent survey we commissioned of financial services and banking employees relating to pay rises, nearly half (49%) of the respondents said they are concerned that asking for a raise could jeopardise their position.

Equally eye-opening was the fact that 44% of the people surveyed said that the fear of being turned down stops them asking for a rise. People who are largely thought to be thick-skinned may be more sensitive than they make out, it seems.

Other findings were also a bit out of the blue. For example, 41% of respondents said they were concerned about what their employer’s reaction might be if they asked for a raise, while just over a third (34%) said they wouldn’t be comfortable with having to justify their raise.

Work/life balance?

In a sector renowned for working long hours, what’s less of a surprise, however, is the fact that nearly one in five respondents (18%) said they are put off from asking for a raise by the idea of having to work even longer hours post-promotion.

Maybe the importance of the work/life balance is finally starting to feed through into banking and financial services. Well it is 2016, after all!

All in all, for the reasons given above and doubtless many more, nearly three quarters (72%) of the respondents said that they haven’t asked for a pay rise at all in the past three years.

On a more positive note, however, the survey did reveal that 77% of people working in financial services and banking have had a pay rise in the past three years.

But if there was one last surprise from the survey, it’s that one in five respondents said their pay has stayed the same over the past three years. This was a slightly higher number than we had anticipated.

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Deserve it? Ask for it

All in all, the survey suggested that, for whatever reason, a lot of financial and banking employees aren’t proactively asking for the pay rise that many of them doubtless deserve.

Yes, the vast majority are getting a raise, however it’s at the discretion of the employer rather than due to the employee’s initiative. It’s important that if people feel like they deserve a raise, they ask for one.

Break-out box: How to ask for a pay rise

Whenever you ask for a pay rise, the key is to make a clear and methodical case for why you deserve a pay rise and to back it up with plenty of examples of how you are adding value and why you will achieve even more if your salary is increased.

You also need to have a solid understanding of the industry standards and general expectations for your role. Have a look at job vacancies within your field and take note of average salaries, typical expectations and responsibilities to strengthen your case. Do the same for roles that you would consider to be slightly more senior and try and build a well-researched case for a pay rise.

Finally, and most importantly of all, pick your moment. Choose a time when things are more relaxed and workloads aren’t causing chaos and general panic. If you’re smart, you’ll evaluate the state of your company before making your case for a raise – if personnel are being cut and business is slow, you might want to consider postponing your approach, no matter how deserving you think you are.

Finance

Asset-based lending is often called ‘working capital finance’ for a reason…

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Asset-based lending is often called ‘working capital finance’ for a reason… 1

By Alex Beardsley, director at ABL Business.

At the start of lockdown, many businesses went into panic mode, wondering whether they had enough cash in the bank to meet their obligations in the unpredictable future. Thankfully, the raft of government support helped to ease much of the immediate cashflow woes, however, this exercise alerted many CFOs to the need for a more robust way of managing their working capital — both now and in the future.

Prior to the beginning of 2019, I wonder how many businesses had “potential global pandemic” as an immediate threat to be prepared for and managed in the latest iteration of their business plan.

With poor working capital management being the number-one reason cited as cause of business failure around the globe, managing risk via robust working capital facilities should be high on the agenda of any business hoping to ride the current economic storm.

Thankfully, UK Finance may have found the answer to the question: “How do businesses bolster their working capital facilities post-pandemic?”

UK Finance conducted a study throughout the lockdown period that reviewed  the facilities of 20,000 businesses (accounting for 5% of the UK GDP) in the UK using Asset Based Lending (ABL) and Invoice Finance (IF) as a way to manage their working capital. In the context of the lockdown period, much of the focus was on the availability of vital funds, with the government were under pressure to provide quick access to finance to keep the economy afloat.

The results of the study were surprising, stating: “At the end of March, IFABL clients were using 70 per cent of their available funds to support their cashflow, three months later this had dropped to just 45 per cent. In real terms, this indicated the ‘average’ IF/ABL client had headroom of over £250k within existing facilities.”1

This shows that government grants, the Job Retention Scheme, and Government Backed Loans (CBILs and BBLs) provided the working capital breathing space that businesses needed. But more importantly, it shows that the businesses that had working capital facilities in place prior to the pandemic had more headroom in their facilities and were less likely to be in desperate need for cash.

Alex Beardsley

Alex Beardsley

If this isn’t enough of an incentive for every CFO to review the current facilities — and consider the benefits of — Asset Based Lending (ABL), here are some other reasons why it should be considered as a working capital management tool:

  • With ABL, you get a higher availability of cash compared to traditional lending facilities
  • ABL provides revolving working capital on a constant basis, meaning the availability of working capital will increase inline with the growth of your business
  • Usually, ABL facilities carry a lower cost of capital from lenders due to the high amount of security they have over the business assets, and therefore can be a more cost-effective way of borrowing
  • The facility provides more than just an injection of cash at a specific point in time that is then to be repaid out of working capital, further hitting access to cash.

A better way of managing working capital lies in both knowledge of what is available in the market for businesses, and also the particular attitudes towards using finance within a business.

A study in 2014 by Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking highlighted that there was £770bn of untapped assets  nationally — which at the time equated to 48% of GDP. Could it be that working capital management is suffering because UK businesses are unaware of the options available to them when it comes to structured finance, or is it that they are reluctant to use finance at all?

Many businesses refer to the bank for support when it comes to providing working capital facilities — or any finance at all — but in the last few years the alternative finance market has proliferated. There are now a range of specific ABL providers that are more commercial and open to risk than the high street banks, meaning that there is now more choice available to businesses seeking support for working capital management facilities.

Following the pandemic there is going to be an increased amount of debt on the balance sheets of UK businesses and a reluctance from the banking and financial institutions to lend without significant security.

No one can deny that the risks to lenders have increased. Before Covid-19, the likelihood of a ‘pandemic’ was not on anyone’s radar — now it will be the first thing lenders and businesses think of going forward when it comes to making decisions.

Now more than ever, it is imperative that businesses and CFOs assess all of the options available to them when it comes to using finance within the busines to help with working capital management.

Having the right finance facilities in place before the business runs into working capital issues is a sure fire way to ensure that a business always has the cash on hand to meet their financial obligations — minimising the risk of insolvency by being able to meet current liabilities.

1 Source: https://www.ukfinance.org.uk/data-and-research/data/business-finance/invoice-finance-and-asset-based-lending

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Finance

Futureproofing Your Credit Management Now

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Futureproofing Your Credit Management Now 2

By Marieke Saeij, CEO, Onguard

The pandemic has forced a shift in day-to-day operations for the majority of businesses. In particular, finance teams have found themselves attempting to balance long-term growth with the need for resumption of payments from current customers.

Growth depends largely on answering the funding requirements of customers who need finance, while payments rely on customers emerging from payment freezes, often requiring ongoing help. The first half of the year saw digital transformation accelerate under the economic pressures of the pandemic as organisations sough to achieve rapid efficiency gains and underpin business continuity. With so many potential unknowns continuing to affect customers, finance teams must now focus on one critical area – future-proofing their credit management.

This is a critical initiative. Finance and specifically, credit management, concerns the entire organisation and in tough times, will be crucial to survival.

A three-pronged approach is required to ensure growth by transforming credit management for the future. It consists firstly of the implementation of a data-driven strategy, secondly on increasing automation and deployment of artificial intelligence (AI), and thirdly, on retaining the personal touch.

Future-proofing with your data

The advantages of being a data-driven organisation are increasingly appreciated. It is why more than three-quarters (68 per cent) of finance professionals in the Onguard 2020 FinTech Barometer, said their organisation is already undergoing digital transformation.

Credit management founded on data insights can help to reduce the days sales outstanding (DSO) and allow credit managers to create a better understanding of risk profiles. Identifying payment patterns from the data produces better risk analyses and the ability to anticipate trends. The finance team is more rapidly alerted to the first signs that a customer will not pay, for example. Staff can then step in to resolve the situation, approaching the customer to discuss invoice payment. Data analysis will also predict a prospective customer’s expected growth, chance of bankruptcy or payment behaviour. This is not a capability many organisations currently have without laborious use of manual methods.

Once they have these insights, finance departments can better advise management at the strategic level, elevating their role within organisations. But finance professionals’ insights may also help other colleagues. One such example is sharing risk information with account managers, which will allow them to better calculate whether or not to approach a customer for upselling or new business.

Yet despite all the discussion of digital transformation, most organisations still only use a portion of their available business data. This is as true in credit management as any other area. According to the Barometer, only seven per cent of executives think their own organisation is already data-driven. It means the focus in credit management, as in other departments, must be on exploiting an organisation’s existing data riches because this is the most efficient and cost-effective route to becoming data-driven.

Start with your own and move to third-party data when you need to

Businesses should start by using data from their own consumer base, such as their customers’ payment behaviour. This is not only more cost-effective, but risk profiles based on an organisation’s own customers can reveal more about future customers than data from other companies. The risk profile scores based on internal data will therefore have greater predictive value.

External data can be expensive, as pointed out last month (July) by McKinsey, but its use can strengthen an organisation’s own data resources, bringing a wider understanding of the market that makes for better decision-making. An organisation can combine internal and external sources as it evolves to best suits its needs.

The gains from this hybrid approach are tangible and come as enhanced sales, improved products, better finances and more targeted marketing, supplying a better service that boosts satisfaction levels and leads to improved relationships.

Automation and AI

No discussion of future-proofing can take place without consideration of robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI). RPA automates the hugely repetitive manual tasks in credit management that involve collection and collation of masses of data and divert skilled employees from more valuable work.

AI, however, is the group of technologies with more far-reaching potential, making smart use of all available data. It links everything from CRM and ERP system data, to all the cogs in the order-to-cash process. This includes linking accounts receivables management with data about customer acceptance and e-invoicing. AI integrates these processes, transforming efficiency and delivering new insights through its analytical power. For finance departments it will also link with recognised parties that provide credit information, as well as payment service-providers and an automatic payment processing solution.

This, however, is only the starting point. AI’s predictive capabilities help minimise non-payment risk, support the forecasting of cashflow and advise on follow-up actions. This includes, for example, whether individual customers will respond better to phone calls, or when there is no alternative to commencement of collection proceedings.

Marieke Saeij

Marieke Saeij

Using individual insights based on consumer history, AI can even help identify the best time to contact specific customers. This will this dramatically improve operational efficiency and if customers are approached in the right way, at the right time, will enhance relationships and bolster retention.

The personal touch

Although the future of credit management will hinge on effective implementation of the right technology, the importance of personal relationships must not be neglected. A future in which all contact with customers is automated will soon become unprofitable in credit management, where personal relationships are all-important.

It must be recognised that no two customers are the same and each needs to be taken on their own terms. Although data provides insight into overall payment patterns, it does not reflect the totality of the relationship with the customer. A credit manager, for example, might know that a single call is all it takes to trigger payment from a certain customer. Yet as much as AI will achieve, it still lacks the emotional intelligence to pick up on these kinds of nuances and subtle differences in character that make a difference.

This matters because customers will soon switch providers when service-levels drop or if they start to feel they are just being treated as a number.

One of the ironies, however, is that if an organisation has the right credit management solution, it will understand more about the customer and have a firmer basis for effective person-to-person interaction. If you know more about a customer, saying the right things to obtain the outcome you want is easier. This means finance professionals need to adopt a hybrid approach that combines the best data-driven tools with a heavy degree of personal involvement. This is the most reliable way of ensuring optimal performance, profitability and customer satisfaction.

Conclusion

There is nothing more fundamental to business than getting paid, but times are changing and data-driven credit management is undoubtedly the future. There can hardly be any argument about it. Basing decisions on data insights generates far better outcomes, delivers a substantial edge on competitors and injects agility into a team.

If another global wave of virus-outbreaks or other sudden disruptions strike the world economy, organisations need to be as agile as possible, ready to meet the challenges with credit management that is already future-proof. That requires becoming data-driven and the adoption of proven automation and AI. Yet reliance on technology alone will not guarantee success. Organisations must continue to recognise the importance of human interaction with customers, who may want to see a face or hear a voice when times are tough.

Alongside the implementation of solutions that deliver results quickly and cost-effectively, organisations need a hybrid approach, that uses the best of the conventional world and adapts it to the data-driven future.

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Risk Mitigation vs. Risk Avoidance: Why FIs Need to Maintain Risk Appetite and Not Place All Bets on De-Risking

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Risk Mitigation vs. Risk Avoidance: Why FIs Need to Maintain Risk Appetite and Not Place All Bets on De-Risking 3

De-risking aims to protect financial institutions from the increasing pressures placed by regulators and threats, associated with clients operating in high-risk GEOs and market segments. Agnė Selemonaitė, board member of ConnectPay, states that FIs should not focus entirely on de-risking to mitigate all potentially dangerous prospects, rather strive to continuously improve their tools for risk control and consider dividing the market among banks and EMIs for more strategic risk management across the entire sector

October 22, 2020. The payments sector has always been under the microscope in terms of regulatory compliance. Now, with a number of scandals and compliance discrepancies, financial institutions have responded in a growing trend of terminating accounts deemed high-risk—a process also known as de-risking. While in the risk management space the term describes hedging against precarious exposures, within the payments sector it has become synonymous with avoiding risks.

Since the financial crisis of ’08, FIs have been hit with approximately $36 billion of non-compliance fines. The significant growth corresponds with the ever-tightening AML/CTF rules, as well as the general tendency of policies becoming more and more strict. With a continuously toughening regulatory environment, financial institutions are less inclined to take on dubious clients and would rather eliminate any viable threats than risk getting fined by the regulatory authorities. Agnė Selemonaitė, board member of ConnectPay, emphasizes that while de-risking is necessary, it should not become the basis of the entire approach to how financial institutions tackle risks.

Although de-risking has been gaining traction in the payments sector, it is important to disclose the shortcomings associated with the practice. The case of Malta, a EU country bordering the Mediterranean sea, is a good example of how strict de-risking policies can impact the payments landscape and alter a country’s image on a global scale.

Maltese FIs have been under mounting pressure from the European Central Bank, as well as local regulatory authorities due to a significant number of ambiguous industries thriving in the country. For instance, the gaming sector accounts for 13.2 % of Malta’s overall economic activity. Called out to re-evaluate their risk profiles and strengthen AML and CFT strategies, FIs chose to not risk sky-high fines, rather terminate riskier customer bases. This has pushed many businesses to direct their payments to out-of-country vendors, while Maltese institutions lost trust due to unbalanced de-risking.

“Now, businesses operating in higher-risk markets are hesitant to rely on a single regulatory jurisdiction to mitigate risk exposure in terms of payments security. Yet provider diversification leads to missing out on a number of benefits, for example, potential discounts, offered due to high payment volume associated with a client,” explained Agnė Selemonaitė. “We’ve noticed this tendency amongst our own clients too. Many are being overly cautious and choose to carry out only a small fraction of payments, fearing for things to take a similar turn, as it did in Malta, and become the ones deemed high-risk.”

“However, higher turnover helps to better mitigate client-specific risks. For instance, the more vendors from any given corporate group are onboarded, the more we can learn about the payment behaviors in their industry, and, consequently, introduce better risk controls to prevent ML, TF and other threats to clients’ funds.”

Ms. Selemonaitė notes that hasty de-risking could contribute to other issues as well, like the growth of the shadow market. “The higher number of such accounts are rejected, the more inclined they become to look for alternatives to continue their business,“ she adds. “In a way, de-risking might increase the very thing it aims to mitigate for a more transparent market.”

That is why it is crucial for governments to establish a clear position on where the entire country stands in terms of risk tolerance. “Regulators implement changes that are passed down to them by the government. If the latter clearly communicates their stance beforehand – there is less room for distrust and ambiguity from the business’s perspective too.”

Agnė Selemonaitė, Board member of ConnectPay

Agnė Selemonaitė, Board member of ConnectPay

Selemonaitė argues that FIs should retain a healthy risk appetite and pool more resources into controlling dubious activities, rather than rely solely on de-risking as the basis for risk mitigation. “De-risking is a necessity – we have leveraged the practice ourselves. However, we are more focused on enhancing our overall risk control capabilities.”

She also raises the idea that sharing the market between banks and EMIs may be even more reasonable in terms of keeping risks at bay. “EMIs are more agile and prone to technology innovation, this allows them to have laser-focus on a single sector and become experts on its common threats. Thus deliberate market division creates the conditions for more strategic risk management across the sector.”

According to her, encouraging a dialogue between the regulators, fincrime watchdogs, market players and other institutions is equally important, as they determine the ins and outs of de-risking. Selemonaitė notes Lithuania’s State Tax Inspectorate (in Lithuanian – VMI) initiative as one of the examples of encouraging back-to-back communication: instead of handing out fines for possible compliance violations, they reported them back to the companies and gave a timeframe to address the issues. “In 6 years, this helped cut down on the auditing almost twice, as well as increased general trust in VMI, which rose from 25 to 75 percent, showing just how important it is to maintain a direct line of communication between regulators and regulatees.”

The TMNL initiative in the Netherlands is also a good example of how consistent dialogue can pave the way for more efficient and transparent process control. Following the initiative, banks are working closely with government parties, such as the Ministries of Finance and Justice and Security, to combat threats related to AML/CTF compliance via real-time transaction monitoring network.

“A joint approach on detecting suspicious patterns enables to take a firmer stand towards mitigating risks, emphasizing the point that, essentially, this is a two-way street: further growth and security in the sector depends on both sides’ efforts to keep communication open and transparent.”

Overall, refusing to work with certain customers or markets focuses only on avoiding risks. As she summarized, “the main goal should be not to shy away, but to increase the capacity to control risks on your own terms.”

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