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PRIVATE & COMMERCIAL FINANCE GROUP SAVE WITH SOPRA BANKING SOFTWARE

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SOPRA BANKING SOFTWARE

Sopra Banking Software Saves Private & Commercial Finance Group £500,000+ a Year in Collections Costs & Contributes to a Five-Fold Increase in Revenues from Existing Customers. Thanks to automated processes and clear performance visibility, the London-based car and equipment finance business is able to make smarter decisions and service a growing business with eight fewer collections agents

SOPRA BANKING SOFTWARE

SOPRA BANKING SOFTWARE

London-based Private & Commercial Finance Group plc (PCF) provides finance for vehicles, plant and equipment. It operates through two divisions – Consumer Finance which finances cars for consumers, and Business Finance which finances vehicles, plant and equipment for businesses.

Over the last 20 years PCF has grown both organically and through a series of acquisitions. Today it has a finance portfolio of over £100 million and almost 14,000 customers, and employs over 40 staff at its offices near London Bridge.
PCF’s performance is impressive given the difficult environment it is operating in, which has seen other finance organisations exit the market. The group has achieved this by continually refining its strategy and harnessing the latest technology to help it closely monitor and focus its operations.

Knowledge is power
In 2009 PCF implemented Sopra Banking Software’s Sopra Banking Suite for Asset Finance solution, to give the organisation greater visibility and control over its credit control activities. Although the group already had an asset finance management system, this was now as old as its business. “We were using an old DOS-based system which had limited functionality for collections and was very weak on reporting,” explains Andrew Barber, information systems manager at PCF. “Getting bespoke management information out of the system was very difficult.”

As the UK continued to dip in and out of recession PCF wanted to be able to concentrate its resources more productively, both within its credit control operations and in other areas of the business. “We had limited automation in our collection processes and were keen to improve on this when choosing a new contract administration package,” Andrew says. “We wanted to establish more of a workflow-based environment, to gain a greater level of control of the performance of our portfolio at any stage in the month. This would allow us to react accordingly, and focus on the important agreements.”

Targeted marketing
PCF also wanted to provide management information from collections to the business development team. Although traditionally the vast majority of the group’s business originates through brokers, PCF has an opportunity to sell further finance to existing customers as their contracts come up for renewal. As the business approached its twentieth anniversary, it set itself a goal to maximise this repeat revenue stream and recently appointed a sales and marketing director to help grow the direct sales business.

This strategy also demanded stronger management information. “With a large portfolio of customers we weren’t in a position to remarket our databases effectively if we couldn’t determine who the good customers are,” Andrew notes.
Flexible control
In a new credit and collections solution PCF wanted a workflow-driven system that would provide a high level of process automation – yet with the flexibility to enable internal teams to amend parameters, and incorporate new products into the system, without having to go back to the software vendor. Ad-hoc, custom reporting capabilities were critical too, so that teams would be able to monitor accounts and quickly identify potential payment problems – and, at the other extreme, repeat business opportunities.

PCF approached eight software vendors, reducing these to a shortlist of four companies. After a rigorous proof-of-concept exercise it found Sopra Banking Softwares solution was the closest match to its needs. The group had a choice of buying the software and managing it internally, or procuring the functionality as a remotely hosted service, managed by Sopra Banking Software. It chose the former option.

“The Sopra Banking Software platform is very easy to use, and extremely configurable,” Andrew comments. “We had some excellent training and were involved in the initial set-up of the system, so the knowledge transfer was very good. We can set up new products on the system and amend system configuration easily. If there is a more significant change we want, we can submit a change request online through a dedicated customer portal.”

Doing more with less
Since using the software, PCF has been able to handle its credit collections activities with almost 50% less staff. Before the solution was deployed the credit control team was 20-strong; within two years the group had been able to reduce this number by eight. Agent effort is now better targeted; the quality of the portfolio has improved, reducing the level of chasing that is required; and routine processes such as account alerts and follow-up actions are managed automatically.
“We can set the system so that if an account goes into arrears a letter is sent out after two days and, if the situation persists, a stronger letter is issued a few days later,” Andrew explains. “Previously, a lot of this was done manually. Now it is all automated but we have full control over the parameters and can adapt them any time.”

End-to-end efficiency gains
Another advantage of the Sopra Banking Software platform is the extensive range of interfaces it provides to other systems, allowing end-to-end workflow and automation across related business processes. This further amplifies the efficiency and productivity gains. One of these options is an SMS facility, allowing the credit control team to issue automated text prompts to customers in arrears. “There are regulations about what you can say in an SMS message, so being able to control this automatically is very useful,” Andrew notes.

Other interfaces let staff process credit or debit card payments from within the system. Again this speeds up the process because the team don’t have to go into a separate system to complete transactions. The same applies to address verification, and validating bank details, Andrew adds. “The result is a very slick end-to-end process.”

Write-offs reduced by £500,000 a year
PCF has calculated that it is now achieving £500,000 savings annually from reduced write-offs, because the new system is so efficient in recouping missed payments at an early stage. This also means the group can run the credit control function with eight fewer staff.

Even simple processes such as setting and managing fees associated with reminder letters or bounced direct debit payments can be managed more successfully now, contributing to collections and providing greater visibility of this activity to the wider business. Processing of asset disposal is also much more efficient.

“Sopra Banking Software’s platform is a very stable system which helps with a whole range of day-to-day activities,” Andrew says. “Payment plans are another area where it is very powerful. If a customer is £300 in arrears and we agree to a payback rate of £50 a week, previously we had no easy way of ensuring that they stuck to this plan. Now we have automatic alerts and reports, prompting action.”

Eliminating spreadsheets and the manual processes associated with data input, meanwhile, has generated a further £4,000 a year in savings for PCF, he estimates.

Repeat business grows five-fold
Repeat business has soared too. In the month of May 2010, before using the Sopra Banking Software solution for account analysis, PCF financed just £74,000 in repeat business. In February 2013, a short month, the equivalent business generated was £370,000 – a five-fold increase. “Without this software, we wouldn’t be capturing the information about which customers to target and canvas,” Andrew says. Now, however, PCF can target responsible customers with promotions and offer incentives for friends and family.
The group’s latest enhancement to the platform, which Sopra Banking Software has implemented at PCF’s request, is a facility to intelligently handle penalty interest payments. “This had been a very manual process for our legal department, often taking months to process,” Andrew explains. “The system can calculate the penalty interest on a monthly basis as required, improving speed and accuracy. We have done a lot of work in this area, and on bad debt provisioning and capital allowances.”

Compliance control
Among the value-added services provided by Sopra Banking Software in support of the solution, PCF particularly appreciates the help it receives in the area of compliance. “This is very important to us given all of the consumer credit regulations,” Andrew notes. “Sopra Banking Software has its own compliance department which provides us with quarterly updates on the latest requirements, so it isn’t left to us to be on top of everything. This gives us a lot of confidence. We find the company very professional, and very easy to deal with.”
Tighter controls and improved accuracy, helped by on-demand report generation, have helped PCF strengthen its underwriting and attract new funding, most recently from Barclays which has committed to supporting the group’s activities for the next three years.
Commenting on the developments, PCF’s Managing Director Robert Murray says, “The quality of our portfolio is the best it’s ever been, and this is reflected in our performance. The last two months have been our strongest yet for new business and we’re going from strength to strength in a difficult market. The visibility and control Sopra Banking Software’s platform has given us have had a large part to play in helping us achieve this.”

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Covid-19 can reboot belt and road initiative towards a sustainable future

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Covid-19 can reboot belt and road initiative towards a sustainable future 1
  • A new CMS report reveals that Covid-19 has boosted Chinese enthusiasm for adopting the principles of BRI 2.0, leading to an increased focus on sustainable and environmentally friendly projects such as smart cities and renewables & hydro
  • The appetite for an improved ‘Health Silk Road’ has significantly increased among the majority of both international and Chinese senior executives involved in BRI
  • Meanwhile, the research uncovers a clear mismatch in sentiment between Chinese and non-Chinese towards BRI and the success of projects

As global economies strive to build back better and greener from the global pandemic, global law firm CMS’s 2020 Belt and Road Initiative report reveals that the pandemic has boosted Chinese enthusiasm for adopting the principles of BRI 2.0, which will pivot it towards an environmentally friendly future.

BRI 2.0 is a new phase of BRI intended to encourage international involvement, which was announced in April 2019 by President Xi Jinping at the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing.

The study was conducted in partnership with global research firm Acuris and TianTong Law Firm and included a major survey of 500 senior executives from both Chinese and international participants in BRI projects. Their views were sought on a range of issues around BRI, including likely future involvement and obstacles they have encountered to date.

Increased enthusiasm for sustainable projects

The research found that nearly two-thirds of both Chinese (63%) and international (62%) executives agree that it is important that their BRI projects should be sustainable and environmentally friendly. Furthermore, the majority (84%) of Chinese respondents believe that sustainability and environmental considerations will be given greater importance when planning and completing BRI 2.0 projects.

Enthusiasm remains for traditional sectors like logistics, roads and rail, and now, particularly among Chinese executives, there is growing interest in relatively new sectors like energy networks and power grids, smart cities and renewables & hydro. For international respondents, the emphasis on sustainable projects is also increasing, with only a handful (13%) previously involved in renewables and hydro but nearly three times as many (34%) planning to target the sector for future opportunities.

Importantly, CMS’s research reveals that Covid-19 has given a boost to the ‘Health Silk Road’, which aims to increase medical infrastructure and public health in BRI countries. Nearly all the international executives (93%) and 85% of Chinese respondents see Covid-19 as a major catalyst for it.

Munir Hassan, Head of CMS Energy Group, said: “It’s clear that interest in more ‘modern’ and sustainable sectors, such as smart cities, healthcare and renewables has increased in significance. Renewables projects typically require less capital commitment, are quicker to complete and are likely to be judged at lower risk, which will be attractive to international and Chinese participants. As efforts to limit climate change intensify, there will be a major role for BRI investments to play.”Covid-19 can reboot belt and road initiative towards a sustainable future 2

Mismatch between Chinese and non-Chinese views

The research reveals that general sentiment towards BRI has declined in the last 12 months and one reason for this is geopolitical uncertainty, particularly among international participants. The survey has also uncovered a clear mismatch between views of Chinese and international executives that are involved in BRI projects.

Over two-thirds (69%) of international respondents said they found the process of participating in BRI related projects more challenging than they had expected, compared to just 40% of Chinese respondents. Likewise, only 37% of international participants said they were satisfied with the process and outcome of their involvement, compared to the majority (75%) of Chinese equivalents.

International participants have experienced difficulty with transparency, information flow and equality in partnerships and for many, this had impacted their view of BRI. But there are signs that more projects are now being structured to accommodate these concerns providing attractive opportunities for those international participants still keen on BRI involvement.

Regarding future partnerships / JVs, Chinese respondents are more enthusiastic than non-Chinese, with 77% likely to consider them, compared to just under half of non-Chinese (48%).

Munir Hassan added: “A key area of growth is likely to lie in projects that meet the trends of the future. Affordable projects, embracing modern technologies and methods, as well as the “open, green and clean” approach of BRI 2.0, will be those that stand the greatest chance of success.”

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Two-thirds of finance professionals are now more efficient due to the Covid-19 crisis

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Two-thirds of finance professionals are now more efficient due to the Covid-19 crisis 3

The Covid-19 crisis is making a big impact on the efficiency of the UK’s finance departments, with 66% of financial professionals reporting that they are working more efficiently since the onset of the pandemic in March of this year. The results from a recent survey into the impact of the pandemic on the sector by fintech company Onguard revealed that this increased efficiency is primarily due to the obligation to work from home and rapid digitisation during this period.

Changing attitudes to digital transformation

71% of financial professionals agree that their department was able to rapidly adjust to home working within just a few days, with 21% reporting that their organisation has invested in specialist software in order to do so. This has resulted in just under three quarters of those surveyed believing that they are able to perform their work well from home, with only 35% still in need of specialist software to collaborative effectively.

Alongside the implementation of new technology, changing attitudes to digital transformation have played a role in the successful move to remote working. Research conducted earlier this year prior to the Covid-19 outbreak in the UK highlighted employees’ resistance to digital transformation as a major challenge, however now only 11% of organisations view employee attitudes as a barrier to change.

Working from home is the new norm

Looking ahead, 61% of financial professionals would like the flexibility to keep working from home permanently, thanks to the benefits provided by new technology.

Marieke Saeij, CEO of Onguard: “It is certainly admirable how English businesses have adapted during the Covid-19 pandemic. Pre-pandemic, digital transformation initiatives within many organisations was a multi-year plan, but the events of this year meant that businesses could not wait to implement further strategies. Almost exclusively, colleagues now update each other digitally. Because of this, its crucial that organisations have the right software in place to keep everything running effectively.

Due to the challenge of finance professionals communicating via digital tools, it is important that data is kept up-to-date and contains real-time insights so professionals can make the correct remote decisions in an efficient and collaborative way. With the help of the right software, the finance professional can be sure they always have the correct data to do their job and assist both the organisation and customer moving forward.”

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Two thirds of people believe their work travel patterns have changed permanently

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Two thirds of people believe their work travel patterns have changed permanently 4

Alphabet research shows accelerating demand for mobility and EVs after lockdown

  • Only 35% of people expect to return to normal travel habits
  • A quarter of consumers said their next vehicle would be electric
  • 55% of consumers think all delivery vans should be electric, and one in three would pay extra to guarantee it

Farnborough, UK – 29 September 2020: Alphabet (GB) today published a new report examining how the pandemic has accelerated changes to travel and transport, altering consumer and business travel habits in UK cities.

Changing travel patterns

With mass migration to working from home, in March, road traffic travel dropped to levels not seen since 1955[1] and journeys on the London Underground fell by 95%[2]. Today, only 6% of those travelling to work by train feel comfortable, dropping to just 4% for tube users.

Use of more active modes of transport like cycling and walking have more than doubled to 20% and 10% respectively. A quarter of 18-44-year olds expect to retain the new modes of travel they used during lockdown, and only one in three expects a return to normal travel patterns.

Private vehicle preference

As such, the company car may also see a surge in popularity. Alphabet’s research showed 37% of consumers would now consider using a company car following the pandemic, to enable them to travel safely, whereas prior to lockdown many employees favoured a cash benefit. These changes are likely to remain for some time due to ongoing safety concerns and fleet managers will need to have a flexible fleet offering to handle these changing preferences when building their future mobility plans.

Electric Drive

The improvements in city air quality during lockdown appear to have had an impact on public perception and sales of electric vehicles (EV). Adoption of EVs continued to accelerate during the pandemic, taking a record market share of new vehicle registrations in August. Nearly a quarter (24%) of consumers said an EV or plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) would be their next choice and 40% would strongly consider one. This is a substantial increase from the 19% of people considering EVs at the end of 2019[3].

People also want to see businesses supporting the shift to EVs and are prepared to pay for it. Over half (55%) of respondents felt delivery vans should be electric, while one in three said they would be happy to pay extra for an electric delivery vehicle. Fleets that make the shift early have the opportunity to benefit significantly in terms of brand perception and preference.

Simon Swan, Director Future Mobility, Arcadis said: “Due to the impact of COVID-19, all sales of vehicles took a major hit; however, electric vehicles were affected less than other vehicle types. As the UK emerges from lockdown, electric vehicle registrations continue to rise in absolute numbers with August new car registrations figures showing a record market share for pure electric cars. Analysts were expecting EV sales to hit 10% of new car registrations in 2022, not 2020. Hitting 9.7% in August is a big deal for the UK market.”

Alan McCleave, UK General Manager, NewMotion said: “As adoption spreads and we embrace electric vehicles – especially in the commercial sector – we need a much more robust smart charging infrastructure. Fleet managers need to feel confident that powering their plug-in vehicles will be as simple and reliable as it is for traditional vehicles. Introducing interoperability, so a single payment solution works across all charging networks, is a large and necessary change. With a focus on electrification, and the infrastructure to support it, fleets will be a central part of the national recovery from COVID-19 and our path to a greener economy.”

Nick Brownrigg, Chief Executive Officer, Alphabet (GB) said: “The pandemic has had a huge impact on people and businesses, fundamentally changing how we move around and use our cities. While we can’t be sure of the long-term impact, it’s clear a lot of these changes are here to stay, and for fleet managers flexibility becomes ever more important. At Alphabet, we are working closely with all our customers to help them navigate the new world. People are adopting new habits and behaviours so it’s key that digitalisation and sustainability are central to any fleet strategy. Now is the time for all of us to invest and meet the changing needs of employees and customers, so we can ensure everyone feels safe and confident when travelling to work.”

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