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Pivoting growth strategy to rebuild consumer trust and confidence

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Pivoting growth strategy to rebuild consumer trust and confidence 1

By Richard Steggall, the CEO of Urban FT

Trust is essential to all relationships, whether personal or professional. And in an uncertain environment like we are experiencing amid the COVID-19 pandemic, trust becomes even more critical. We place our trust in healthcare providers to do their best in caring for us; we trust grocery stores to provide safe access to nourishing food; and we trust our fellow community members to practice care and vigilance. The stakes in trust have never been higher and with financial services ranking among the least trusted industries in consumer’s eyes, according to the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer, there is much work to be done in luring customers back in.

No one person or organization has all the answers for making the financial services industry more respected and trustworthy in the eyes of consumers. But every business leader is in a unique position to drive positive change in their own organizations and communities. Namely, leaders in financial services must rethink their growth strategy and embed it with measures of transparency, ownership and accountability.

Define your purpose

The fast-evolving pandemic has not only presented us with a health crisis unlike any we have seen in our lifetime, it is also driving significant social and economic pressures around the globe.

With increased consumer attention on corporate social responsibility, many brands are leveraging purpose-driven activities as a key differentiator in the competitive financial services industry. Purpose-driven business fosters a greater connection between a brand and its consumers, so long as the message at hand is sincere and meaningful to audiences. If implemented with due authenticity, it helps brands gain trust with consumers.

Defining your purpose may involve deploying volunteers into the community or making philanthropic donations. But those in financial services are on the front lines of the unfolding economic situation. Why not make modifications to core business activities that can be done to directly touch the consumer? Examples might include deferment of fees or personalized financial advisory to individual customers who have been financially impacted by coronavirus.

Protect consumer data like it is your own

A single data breach or ethical lapse can paralyze a brand instantly. Equifax discovered this the hard way when the personal information of 143 million consumers was leaked in 2017 and the organization was forced to pay a whopping $700 million in penalties, according to the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). Within 10 days of the news going public, Equifax’s YouGov ‘Buzz Score’ dropped from a neutral zero to -33. I would not have wanted to be in that board meeting.

Thanks to such notorious widespread security breaches, consumers are fast becoming more protective of their personally identifiable information (PII) and will only share data with brands they trust. Recent regulations like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) are also empowering consumers so they can decide for themselves who has access to their PII and who does not. These developments hold companies liable for the PII security of each consumer they engage with. After all, with great power comes great responsibility.

Amazon Prime has excelled in protecting and promoting PII within the e-commerce industry, conveying to consumers how PII can improve how they shop while still offering protection. Once viewed as a platform for free shipping, Prime customers are now investing in membership because of the personalization, customization and unmatched convenience. Amazon’s responsible handling of PII has cultivated consumer trust and increased organic word of mouth marketing. For some financial service organizations, repositioning how PII is used could become a key differentiator in the marketplace.

Make fees clear as day 

This will probably come as no surprise but, historically, financial institutions (FIs) have made much of their revenue on the dreaded “gotcha” fees that can become quite overwhelming for unknowing consumers: overdraft fees, external ATM fees, fees for not maintaining a certain minimum balance, etc.

I don’t mean to knock anyone down, but now might be the time for FIs to stop promoting the so-called ‘free’ checking account. By now, most consumers get skeptical when they see the word free, knowing there’s probably back-end fees or inflexible stipulations attached. And if a product or service is worth it to them, consumers will pay for it.

The lack of transparency around extra charges only damages the reputation of financial service, solidifying the industry’s unsavory reputation for making money by taking money. There is a simple solution however. Financial service organizations need to be as upfront as possible about the fees that a customer might incur. No exceptions. In the end, this transparency will pay off over and over again in the form of trust, retention and referrals.

Master all touch points with humanization

For today’s consumers, there’s no shortage of options in financial services. While the power of choice is a win for consumers, there are still a number of potential pain points and disconnects. Apart from the misuse of data, other obstacles to trust could be simple errors that temporarily freeze an account, lack of streamlining, failing customer support or absence of personalization.

Richard Steggall

Richard Steggall

In other words, consumers are looking for a “digital concierge” to help them along their financial journeys—one they can trust and knows their preferences, needs and behaviors. As traditional outliers, such as price and location, diminish in importance, companies that humanize their digital user experiences (UX) will be more likely to drive long-term business growth, according to the Digital Bank Report’s “Humanizing the Digital Experience in Banking.”

Strive for digital agility

Thanks to the implementation of new digital technology, there are opportunities for financial service organizations to move beyond pushing products and to instead provide the digital personalized assistance that today’s consumers are looking for. This is the key to building sustainable relationships in today’s marketplace.

But the financial services industry must first bridge the gap between what technology can offer and what consumers are looking for. Only through digital agility will financial services organizations be able to adapt in a rapidly changing business environment and maintain strong relationships with consumers. Part of this agility will depend on adopting FinTech into services and products. For example, banks and credit unions may look to implement a FinTech Core, which works alongside an FIs banking core or transaction processing system to enable endless digital expansion without having to contract with each FinTech service piecemeal. Having this in place can help ensure that FIs adopt tomorrow’s technologies today, protect their digital ecosystems, personalize UXs and win back the trust of consumers.

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Young adults lean towards ‘on-the-job’ learning as 6 in 10 say pandemic has impacted educational plans  

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Young adults lean towards ‘on-the-job’ learning as 6 in 10 say pandemic has impacted educational plans   2
  • Six in 10 (61%) of 16-25s agree learning ‘on-the-job’ is the best way to get on the jobs ladder in the current environment
  • 59% would rather study a degree subject connected to a profession than one they are good at
  • 59% believe tech sector offers strong career opportunities and is voted most futureproof sector by 16-25s following the pandemic
  • QuickBooks launches free online programming course with Amigoscode to help young people kickstart their tech career

Nearly two thirds (63%) of 16-25s have seen their future educational plans impacted by the pandemic, new research from Intuit QuickBooks1 – the financial software provider – reveals, with the uncertainty caused by COVID-19 driving young people to look for faster and more secure ways to get jobs.

And with more than half a million young people now unemployed – a rise of 35,000 from the previous quarter2 – six in ten (61%) 16-25s agree that learning ‘on-the-job’ is the best way of getting on the careers ladder in the current environment.

With COVID-19 highlighting the importance of more ‘futureproof’ career options, the technology sector has been identified by 16-25s as offering particularly strong career opportunities (59%).

To help young people kickstart their tech career, QuickBooks – home to top UK tech talent – has launched a free online programming course with Amigoscode.

Careers-focused learning takes priority 

If they were to attend university or study for a degree, 59% of 16-25s would rather study a subject connected to a profession than one they’re good at, while nearly a third (31%) would only consider studying for a degree that would help them get a job in a sector that is likely to grow in future.

However, almost half (45%) of 16-25s are now reconsidering attending university at all. A quarter (26%) believe it is now more important to get on the job ladder than get a degree, while 19% don’t want to go to university because they are worried about their safety.

As remote learning becomes the new norm, more than a quarter (28%) of 16-25s now plan to carry out an online university degree (such as those offered by the Open University) instead of physically going to university.

Technology sector is voted most futureproof 

The research reveals 16-25s believe the technology sector is the most futureproof (40%), ranking significantly higher above the second most popular option (construction – 27%).

Almost a fifth (19%) of the 16-25s surveyed already have a career in the technology sector, while 34% are considering it – rising to 38% of those aged 16-19.

Of those who are interested in the sector but are not currently considering it, the biggest barrier is simply not knowing how to get a job in this area (32%), closely followed by having never received any information about the sector from careers advisors etc. (30%). A quarter (25%) don’t think they could afford to undertake the necessary training or qualifications to get a job in the sector.

Ben Brown, Head of Engineering at Intuit QuickBooks, comments: 

“With COVID-19 causing economic uncertainty and driving unemployment levels, young people are increasingly looking for ways to fast-track onto the careers ladder. And getting straight into the tech sector, which has proven to be resilient in the face of the pandemic, is particularly appealing. Technology, after all, is the fuel that has allowed many other sectors to continue operating.

“On-the-job learning is common in the tech sector, but to be a successful candidate, applicants need to demonstrate genuine interest and enthusiasm by having carried out their own independent learning. Employers can enable this by creating opportunities for young people to take part in free training courses and taster sessions, which helps them to gain valuable skills and decide if the sector is for them.

“QuickBooks engineers frequently host and coach participants through Code First Girls sessions – which are aimed at women looking to learn more about programming – and we are thrilled to be partnering with Amigoscode to offer a free programming course.”

Nelson Djalo, Founder of free coding resource Amigoscode and Software Engineer, comments:

“The perception of not having enough knowledge is the main barrier to young people getting into the technology sector. Skills can be built over time – passion, drive and a willingness to learn are the most important qualities to have. People from lots of different backgrounds and interests can get into the sector, and there are a whole host of roles aside from programming and software engineering.

“I offer programming courses and coding tutorials because I believe the sector should be accessible to anyone. I’m pleased to be partnering with QuickBooks to offer a tailormade course for anyone who is interested in getting into the industry and wants to learn more about programming.”

The Amigoscode x QuickBooks course is available here as a video, and here as a playlist. The 2.5 hour course and video playlist covers the basics of programming; the basics of Python and a project task (building a CV). Participants will also build a portfolio which could be the starting point of their tech journey/career.

Watch Nelson’s other tutorials on the Amigoscode YouTube channel here.

Case studies of young QuickBooks software engineers are available on request. 

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Business

Five things to consider when organising a remote work Christmas party

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Five things to consider when organising a remote work Christmas party 3

By Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director at Peninsula

Christmas is usually a time of cheer and celebration, and the perfect way for employers to incorporate this in the workplace is by organising a Christmas party for their staff. However, things will have to be a little different this year due to the ongoing disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic. While the easiest, and cheapest, option for employers is to not go ahead with their annual festive plans, in the spirit of keeping Christmas alive some may choose to organise a remote party.

There are, however, some important things that employers should be aware of.

  1. The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the need for employers to keep their employees’ wellbeing in mind, much more than ever before. This is why, even with something that can be considered a ‘treat’ for employees, people who are working carers, have been struggling with work-related stresses, may not want to partake in a Christmas party this year, however well-intentioned it may be on the employer’s part. It is therefore advisable that remote parties should be optional and not constrained to a certain timeframe in which staff must be in attendance.
  2. Employers should ensure that those in attendance do not feel excluded from any activities during the party. For example, if an employee does not drink alcohol and a virtual wine tasting activity makes up the bulk of the event, such a person would not be able to contribute to the fun and may therefore feel left out. Consequently, it may be better for employers to ensure that there is a wide range of activities available that cater to the individuals who are attending.
  3. When attendees and potential attendees, have been established and the activities have been finalised, it is in the best interest of the company to send out emails to them. It should detail what is expected of them at the event and highlight that the same conduct is expected of them at a remote party as it would be at an in-person event. It should also outline that the same disciplinary procedures would apply in a situation where an employee commits a form of misconduct during the event.
  4. Similarly, employees should be made aware that the same grievance produce applies – to ensure that if company rules are broken by an employee or a grievance with the company itself, the affected employee will be able to raise this with the company.
  5. Finally, while employees can use their social media accounts in their own personal time, including at work social gatherings, employers must ensure that the use of social media should be done in a manner that does not adversely affect the company’s reputation.

To conclude, remote parties are the perfect way to ensure that social distancing rules are adhered to and that employees are rewarded for their efforts, there should be a mutual sense of responsibility on the part of the company and its employees.

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Reasons to remote manage in a socially distanced world

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Reasons to remote manage in a socially distanced world 4

By Paul Routledge Country Manager D-Link UK and Ireland

As the world continues to adapt in varying degrees to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses and enterprises will find themselves adjusting to more permanent, new ways of working, problem-solving and service delivery. Governments and global leaders have already introduced new measures to support these adjustments, and as a result we have already seen many companies re-evaluate how they work as well as how teams are organized and provided for. As the pandemic remains a fixture of this year of which the impact will continue to be felt in the year ahead, it’s becoming clear that the role of technology and the innovation therein will be key to ensuring businesses can weather ongoing the crisis.

For many businesses, until recent years, the vast bulk of network management was conducted and carried out on location at the client site. However, the value of remote network management has fast become an asset to businesses in the 21st century – giving IT service providers more capacity to manage a larger number of customer sites at any given time.

In addition, remote network management solutions play an important role in increasing transparency across sites by providing a complete view of the status of different networks via comprehensive interactive dashboards and informative management systems. For example, Nuclias by D-Link offers an easy to set up network management solution that provides flexibility to make onboarding, studying, troubleshooting, and reporting network activity quick and easy.

For IT service providers, establishing new ways of working is particularly important. As they seek alternative methods of supporting customers in different locations, many will be looking to the advantages that remote network management has to offer.

Before the pandemic, D-Link Europe explored the state of play of network management and challenges its partners were facing in this space. The study found that, 75% of IT service providers in Europe were already using remote access tools to support or manage network infrastructure on customer sites, yet a quarter (25%) were still relying on in-person visits to resolve network issues for customers.

Interestingly, the findings show that the larger the number of clients a provider has, the less likely they are to use remote management tools. Only 22% of European IT service providers surveyed provide more than 50 customers with remote management services. Complete adoption of remote network management methods will be a gradual process, yet the pandemic and the government restrictions in place across much of Europe have a part to play in creating the circumstances where in-person visits occur much less often if at all.

As a result, it is likely we will see a more permanent adoption of remote networking management systems – as businesses work hard to adapt to a ‘new normal’ and an unpredicatable year ahead. The point of this will not only to provide network management services in a more efficient and less time-consuming way but also to uphold the safety measures now expected of most workplaces.

This is particularly pertinent in an environement where businesses are limiting contact in the workplace and adhering to safetymechanisms also seen more widely in society – including technologies such as group temperature screening cameras as well as track and trace systems. There is a clear opportunity for IT service providers to make the most of remote networking management tools’ benefits to uphold the safety and health of their own employees, as well as personnel at client sites by reducing unnecessary human contact.

An additional benefit to be reaped from remote network management is how IT service providers can economise on time spent travelling to and from client sites, in addition to time spent resolving issues on-site. D-Link research found that 60% of European IT service providers spend between four to six hours per week installing and configuring new wireless or wired networks at client sites. This additional time spent travelling to and from client sites puts employees at particular risk, especially as they often travel long distances to get there.

What’s more, in terms of the time technicians usually spend at client sites, when it comes to configuring a replacement wireless access point, only 31% of providers feel they can keep this service under one hour. Remote network management allows technicians to use this time more effectively. Nuclias by D-Link, for example, will enable administrators to stay on top of any management tasks like creating guest networks, adding Wi-Fi to additional locations, updating devices and upholding network security.

Furthermore, IT service providers will be able to offer their clients more benefits, by providing centralised management and more visibility of their network, allowing them to act on network disruptions and problems before they become pervasive issues. Nuclias Cloud is designed for smaller businesses who lack in-house IT skills, such as hospitality and retail chains. These companies can benefit from easy network expansion and implementation of updates without the need for additional training.

Remote management solutions, like Nuclias, are also well-placed to support the growth of IT service providers as they look to offer more managed services. Not only do they enable teams to provide deployments but also increased administration services and supervision of client networks; resulting in improved reactivity to issues and better quality of service. The added advantage of unlimited scalability, thanks to the use of cloud-enabled devices, means providers can also keep resources and costs low – generating a more significant return on investment.

Right now, it still feels like there is some way to go before normal life resumes – however, as the long-term impacts of COVID-19 become more apparent, companies worldwide will need to continue to relying on innovative technology to tackle workplace concerns. With solutions such as remote network management playing an important role in supporting service providers and their clients as they do.

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