By Jussi Karjalainen at Valtatech
A global pandemic, wild bush fires, a stock market crash, a presidential impeachment, and presidential elections – 2020 has been a year like no other and the impact on some businesses has been devastating. 2020 has highlighted how vulnerable many businesses are, and what they need to improve to survive and thrive – a topic that I recently wrote about. The key focus for businesses moving into 2020 will be on how they recoup their losses from 2020 and set themselves up for success. With that I mind, here are my 5 predictions on what 2021 will bring for businesses and what they need to be thinking about as we head into a New Year.
Continued Business Disruption – There are some serious global headwinds that businesses are set to face next year. Many countries are likely to go in and out of lockdowns, which will impact on local and global supply chains, consumer, and business spending, as well as overall business confidence. There is also the unknown of how the results of the US Presidential election and final transition of the UK out of the EU will impact global trade relations. Recent talk of a vaccine to stem the COVID-19 pandemic may provide some reprieve, but we predict continued business disruption heading into 2021.
So, how can your business prepare for disruption? Business resiliency is key. Namely your business ability to rapidly adapt and respond to business disruptions. 2020 taught us that finance and procurement operations are key to driving business resiliency. Getting a view and a grip on where your business is spending its money? What can be consolidated and what can be reduced? Having full control and visibility over your finance and procurement operations are key.
Cost Efficiency Should be at the Top of Everyone’s Agenda – If 2020 has shown us anything, it is that we need to have greater control over our cost base. Not least because sales are, largely, harder to come by than ever before. Every organisation should be looking at the return that they are getting for every dollar invested – a simple equation of your total spend divided by your total revenue will give you a high-level overview. The focus for businesses will be on how to improve this ratio. For example, for every dollar spent enables $1.60 in revenue – increasing that number can have a huge impact on your overall profitability.
You can take a few approaches to getting this right: There is the 1% improvement approach – how can you make each process 1% more efficient and reap the benefits of the cumulative impact of those 1% gains. The alternative is to assess a specific process in more detail. Take your procure to pay process as an example. Map out your current process, identify the pain points that take the most time, and build out a business case to drive greater efficiencies in that process. It is a process we have undertaken with several businesses to deliver real bottom line value.
Konica Minolta Business Solutions Asia recently outlined the results of their procure to pay digital transformation project which “helped us to reduce costs, identify risks and improve value delivery across the business; while providing the visibility and insights my team and I require improving risk mitigation, due diligence processes and governance.”
Public Sector Spending Spree – Most national and state governments have announced large economic stimulus packages to get their economies going again. This will likely continue heading into 2021, with many tenders and grants being made available. Businesses wanting to take advantage of this spending spree need to be mindful of the likely compliance requirements for public sector contracts and grants. To qualify for many public sector contracts or grants, businesses may need to prove they comply with regulations around supply chain sustainability, modern slavery, buy local and national initiatives, diversity, and inclusion, for example.
In order to prove you qualify it helps to have systems and processes in place that can make supply chain mapping and transparency much easier giving you clear visibility over your entire supply chain. This enables you to know exactly where your goods are coming from in your supply chain, from who whilst being able to capture important information relating to compliance around sustainability, modern slavery etc.
Data, Data and even more data – As businesses seek to ensure their business resiliency, the demand and need for more accurate and timely data across business processes will greatly increase. Businesses that can track efficiency at a process level are going to become more cost efficient and future-proof their business. Equally, as business disruption continues, the demand for business agility can only be fulfilled through executives having access to accurate and timely data, which will put more pressure on teams to supply that data.
An effective combination of people, processes and technology can provide hugely valuable and actionable data insights. Considering the source to pay process, having access to data insights, such as invoice processing times, percentage of purchase orders and invoices sent and received electronically, and percentage of managed spend (e.g. spend going through contracts, preferred agreements etc) can reveal some real opportunities to drive efficiencies in your process.
Technology being the answer, rather than the enabler – It is only when the right processes and people are combined together with technology that real transformation can occur. Too often businesses look to technology as an answer to a problem, rather than an enabler to help solve the problem. Picking the technology before truly understanding the process that they are trying to transform has led to many failed and ineffective technology projects over the last 20 years. As businesses find themselves under more and more pressure heading into 2021, businesses will likely continue to make pressured transformation decisions based on fancy, shiny technology, rather than a clear understanding of the outcomes that they are hoping to achieve. Creating unnecessary and avoidable risk into their transformation activities.
Instead, why not conduct an in-depth analysis of your current business requirements through key stakeholder interviews and current process reviews? This can help to deliver valuable insights and resources such as:
- Key insights into the current processes
- Identification of key pain points
- Identification of key levers to drive user adoption
- Identification of key areas and drivers for financial return on investment
- Identification of quick wins and longer-term development areas
- Current state technology landscape map across your processes
Seven lessons from 2020
Rebeca Ehrnrooth, Equilibrium Capital and CEMS Alumni Association President
Attending a New Year’s luncheon on 31 December 2019, we played a game that involved predicting the world in 2020. Some of the questions included: would Uber become profitable? Would the three-decade bond rally finally come to an end? Would the US hit a recession?
Unlike any of our predictions based on a traditional approach to business and predicting, we now know that 2020 became the year where business, professional and personal plans were turned upside down, reshaped and put-on hold. The proverbial black swan had arrived.
As revealed in a new CEMS Guide to Leadership in a Post-COVID-19 World, to which I contributed, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed deficiencies in the 20th Century vision of leadership, giving a rare opportunity to question the status quo.
So, what are the main lessons from 2020?
- Humans are enormously adaptive. This is not an extinction scenario. The world is getting used to dealing with global human disaster which may become a recurring event. Life continues guided by new parameters.
- No sector or country is immune to rapid change. Just as the leveraged finance and equity markets ground to a halt during the Global Financial Crisis, we have seen a disruption in the financial markets (including M&A) in 2020, including a significant redistribution of wealth between sectors; think tech vs airlines and the hospitality industry. When a market is disrupted it has secondary and tertiary effects such as less work for accountants, lawyers, financiers etc.
- Location is not as important anymore. The belief that finance staff need to be based in one of the financial capitals to be effective has been forever altered. Pursuing a career in finance from anywhere is becoming possible. However, it’s likely that over time, financial controls and human interaction will move the work model back towards the traditional office approach, as work is a critical sanctuary for people. While working from home may allow more time for family, chores and sports, it is mainly effective for people who already have their internal and external networks. For junior employees it presents a notable challenge as they may be forced to spend their formative years without a chance to really build their networks.
- Change is likely to be lasting. The opportunity for alternative finance and tech focused providers is enormous and 2020 will accelerate this shift. For example, many retail banks are providing rather poor customer service, blaming the pandemic. Even the most loyal customers will be heading elsewhere. For recent graduates and current students this is a major shift; future winners and key employers may not be names we are used to seeing in the headlines.
- There will be a spotlight on leaders with visionary strategy and understanding of the operations. 2020 showed many politicians and business leaders behaving like they were playing a game of snakes and ladders, rather than executing a thought-out strategy. The next wave of thoughtful leadership is urgently required.
- Collaboration leads to success. The definition of a pandemic is an infectious disease prevalent worldwide. A global problem requires a collaborative solution rather than each country and industry on their own. Quoting Steven Riley, professor of infectious disease dynamics at Imperial College London: “Once you have the knowledge and you share the knowledge, then you are able to take measures to push transmission much lower”. This principle is transferable to management education. In a world more complex than ever, investing in a degree is hard currency. Combined with the full global alumni network, corporate partners and schools, CEMS is capital that doesn’t depreciate.
- Resilience has become a watch word. Saint-Exupéry’s quote resonates with me: “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” We are in a new paradigm – so prepare for the next change. For COVID-19, while we hope that the vaccine will soon upon us, the broader long-term positive challenge remains.
Data after Brexit: How does the end of the transition affect GDPR?
By John Flynn, Principal Security Consultant at Conosco
The UK has officially left the European Union now that the transition period has ended on January 1st 2021. But this could raise issues with one of the biggest bugbears for many companies – the international transfer of personal data.
Businesses can relax, somewhat – GDPR, which took businesses months to get their heads around, is not being replaced. It will continue as the UK GDPR 2018, and will still be based on the criteria of the Data Protection Act of 2018. However, the UK will retain the right to change the UK GDPR as it sees fit in the future.
The main changes apply to those who receive data coming into the UK from Europe. Transfers from the UK to other countries can continue under existing arrangements.
We know it can be difficult to cut through the legal jargon, so we have simplified what you need to know to protect yourself and your data:
1 – Update your privacy notice
Most businesses do not have the correct clauses in place ahead of January 1st, potentially exposing their liability, should something happen to their data. All company privacy notices online will need to be updated to specifically state ‘UK GDPR’, as opposed to ‘EU GDPR’. You will also need standard contractual clauses in place, which cover both parties – those transferring and those receiving the data.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has a list of what needs to be included in the standard contractual clause here. The ICO will remain the UK regulator for data protection, regularly liaising with each EU member state.
This also applies to Multi Corporate Groups who operate in multiple countries, who need to update their documentation and privacy notice to expressly cover the data transfers. The UK has applied for an adequacy assessment, which would negate the need for contractual clauses, however this has not yet been approved by the EU.
2 – Data privacy assessments
Any company which runs applications and software should always perform a Data Privacy Impact Assessment. This was also in the guidelines before, but these assessments are now more important for those who outsource their IT operations internationally.
For example, when using a service such as a cloud-based system, the company must be sure that its service provider adheres to UK GDPR and stores the data within the European Economic Area (EEA), or has a binding corporate agreement with the company, where data is stored outside of the EEA. You should also, as mentioned above, make sure that a contractual clause is in place.
3 – Review local legislation
Contracts should now have contractual clauses that specify the responsibilities of the data controller and the data processor. If you are receiving personal data from a country territory or sector covered by a European Commission adequacy decision, the sender of the data will need to consider how to comply with its local laws on international transfers. You should check local legislation and guidance in this case.
4 – Cyber Security health check
The ICO is increasing its capacity and efforts to crack down on data breaches, post-Brexit. Now is a great time for all companies to have a health check to understand their Information Security posture and GDPR compliance. Nobody wants to be caught handling data improperly and fined when it could have been prevented with education and training.
A gap analysis performed by an expert is money well-spent. It’s also a fact that companies that have cybersecurity and Information Security controls are not only able to better defend against attacks but are also far better placed to recover from an attack.
It’s important that all businesses – large and small – are properly preparing their data storage and transferring for the 1st January. ICO has been busy setting examples by fining large, high-profile companies for failing to keep millions of customers’ personal data safe.
It will continue to come down hard on the data breaches of personal identifiable information and special categories of data. The saying ‘prevention is better than a cure’ rings truer than ever this year, and you will thank yourself if you make the efforts to properly store your data now, and not when it’s too late.
2020 reflections and 2021 outlook
By John Hunter, Head of Banking and Fiduciaries, Finance Isle of Man
Reflections on the most surreal year
The Covid-19 pandemic has completely changed the world as we knew it, resulting in catastrophic loss of life and fears of a downturn hang over global economies like a sword of Damocles. In the UK, the new strain has further exacerbated the situation. As I am sure many have already said we are living in what could be called the most surreal times. People have been trying to cope with this “new normal”, by changing their lifestyles and evolving behaviours.
The Isle of Man responded swiftly to the pandemic by closing its borders and enforcing social restrictions which everyone respected and adhered to. Socially and culturally the Island demonstrated all the good things that come from living on a relatively small Island where community still means so much.
The Isle of Man’s financial services sector adapted quickly, seamlessly transitioning to working from home. The banks too adopted flexible remote working practices and continued to support clients around the world helping them navigate the challenging situation and making the most of any opportunities that arose.
Although there is no substitute for face-to-face interactions, we all embraced web-conferencing platforms like Microsoft Teams and Zoom to stay connected with contacts around the world and build and nurture business relationships, whether it was with financial services firms or high net worth individuals looking to relocate to the Island.
Furthermore, a priority for the Isle of Man has been to reinvigorate the business and cultural ties with South Africa. In a normal world, we would have travelled to the country, held in-person meetings with businesses and industry representatives and talked about building on our wonderful historic ties. However, because of the scale and breadth of disruption we had to change all our plans! We hosted a virtual roadshow which comprised a series of webinars exploring why it has never been more important for South African businesses and individuals to choose the right jurisdiction for long term financial planning.
Looking ahead to the future
We are all hoping that the global rollout of vaccines will provide the pathway to some form of return to normality and all the things people are missing will be back. Like amidst all periods of immense turmoil, interesting, new possibilities have emerged such as the revolution in work culture and a renewed importance of being close to nature and green spaces is. And these possibilities can help reshape society for the better.
The global economic recovery and rebuild might seem further away in the current environment especially amidst the new lockdowns. But we are confident in the resilience of economies and are hopeful that different industrial sectors and governments working together would result in green shoots.
The financial services industry has an important role to play in getting the world economy back on its feet. It is a core component of the solution to continue facilitating the financing of corporates, as well as to develop sustainable finance and nurture digital technologies which have proven to be vital during the pandemic. The sector should continue its cooperation and collaboration with governments and regulators to ensure efficient capital flows and financial stability for businesses and individuals.
Banks too have a crucial role to play as they are instrumental to the effective transmission of monetary policies and stimulus packages. As mentioned in a report by EY: “Financial insecurity in the wake of COVID-19 will require banks to boost consumer confidence and help build a more resilient working world.”
We expect the Isle of Man’s financial services sector and banks to continue navigating the situation with resilience as they have been doing thus far and contributing to the global recovery process. Also, we truly hope this will be our busiest year ever (subject to our ability to travel), with an extensive global schedule of planned activity to promote the Island as an international financial centre of excellence and innovation. Personally, I had planned to be in South Africa for the British & Irish Lions tour, but regrettably, it might not take place and as such we will look forward to catching up with friends there as and when we can.
No doubt, there are significant challenges for the world ahead but as Albert Einstein said: “in the midst of every crisis lies great opportunity”. And it is this opportunity that we all need to work together to identify and make the most of. We are confident that in 2021 the Isle of Man will continue to support financial services businesses help their clients, employees, and the wider society through these surreal times. We are all in this together.
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