by Andrew Millard, senior director marketing, EMEA, online services division at Citrix
The development of bring your own device (BYOD) policies has become more commonplace, as businesses across all sectors and of all sizes recognise the need to respond to growing pressure to enable staff to use personal devices in the workplace.
A recent Citrix-commissioned global survey of senior executives and managers highlighted that the greatest pressure is coming from employees within the business. More than one quarter (28%) of respondents in UK businesses for example cited this as a key driver, compared to 14% pointing to external commercial forces and only 8% to regulatory changes.
As elsewhere, much of the focus for banks and other organisations centres on making employees’ lives easier by using one device for both business and personal use. This is one of a number of key elements in enabling greater workforce mobility, which is proving to deliver tangible benefits in improved recruitment and retention. Similarly, previous fears of loss of output are proving unfounded, with almost two-thirds of businesses across all countries surveyed confirming measurable productivity benefits of up to 30% and more as a result of a ‘work anywhere, with anyone’ strategy.
Yet for the banking and finance sector in particular, significant concerns remain in moving to a more flexible, mobile workplace. Earlier worries over loss of management control may be disappearing, but security remains the number one barrier to enabling remote access to the corporate network and application and document downloads. From both a corporate and a public perspective, there can be no compromise when it comes to protecting customer information.
As a result, firms are exercising extreme caution in moving to a more cloud-based collaborative environment, considering only those web-conferencing solutions which guarantee the highest levels of confidentiality, integrity and data availability and security in dealing with their corporate and individual customers.
Data access – a best practice response
File sharing is a key area where technology has moved on significantly in addressing corporate concerns over security.
Secure mobile access to enterprise data is a critical component in enabling user productivity and organisations require an enterprise-class solution to deliver it. The answer is to mobilise user data from Microsoft SharePoint, network drives and virtual desktop environments, at the same time providing the IT team with comprehensive control to secure enterprise data everywhere.
Historically, IT departments throughout the finance sector have faced a major challenge in enabling secure access to this data from outside the corporate networks or from mobile devices. Established file sharing services have needed the secondary step of migrating or syncing SharePoint or network drives data in order to provide secure access to data behind the firewall.
However, best practice solutions have now taken this an important step further, with new connectors that create a direct and secure connection to data in its original location, so creating seamless integration with existing systems and applications.
In making the move to a virtual workspace, organisations need to implement processes and technologies to ensure a smooth transition. With collaboration recognised as one of the most important elements of a virtual working environment, tools such as video-conferencing and instant messaging are already established as key enablers. Secure file sharing solutions now make the transition easier for all key stakeholders.
Work is no longer a place you go but what you do. To enable this, IT is charged with the task of supporting a wider range of devices and platforms and so is likely to respond positively to technologies that already have the required security measures in place.
Securing the cloud
Cloud-based solutions can both save businesses time and money and make employees’ lives easier and more productive. However, they bring with them their own challenges around security, especially in an environment involving high levels of sensitive customer information. In the area of file storage and transfer, for example, cloud services can present a powerful alternative to insecure email or FTP, yet it is essential for banks to select tools designed to meet their specific needs if it is to keep up with rapidly-changing work trends.
In recent years, news stories around breaches by hackers, lost mobile devices and service interruptions impacting on productivity have continued to cause concern around the issue of allowing a cloud service to host data on behalf of the business. Yet in many cases it is possible to adopt a cloud solution that employs robust security measures beyond what are already in use – so improving control over stored information rather than putting it at risk.
A best practice file sharing solution is likely to incorporate a number of key elements. Together, the following functionalities will provide a secure online portal and transfer service which is both easy-to-use and employs the same high-level safeguards as online banking at all levels of the transfer and storage process.
It is possible to move to the cloud without surrendering privacy. Important documents can be shared with one client, at the same time keeping all internal data and other client files invisible. Multi-level access settings ensure the business maintains total control over files and folders. The business can also determine what information each user can see and which actions they can take – including whether they can upload, download or delete files – with flexible reporting providing a complete and transparent audit trail.
Data should be protected at all times, including when it is at rest or being transferred, by employing encryption for file storage and up to 256-bit SSL encryption for transfer. This resolves the problem of email security by replacing open email attachments with encrypted downloads and is as just as simple for the user to execute.
Only those files that are required are retained, with all versions of each file saved so that progress can be tracked and access to older data if needed. Earlier copies can simply be deleted if no longer required. Once permanently deleted, files are permanently purged from servers and backups. Supporting this, a physical backup service can also provide a complete copy of data by DVD, flash or hard drive.
The cloud is an enabler of a ‘work from anywhere’ strategy, but lost or stolen smartphones and tablets can compromise data security when users work across devices. Mobile apps are available which have a remote wipe facility which removes access to files and account information instantly, offering protection against unauthorised access on a missing device. A built-in mobile content editor can also support standard SharePoint functions like check-out, edit and check-in form mobile devices.
Data protection also extends beyond the application to the server where the data is stored. Not only is data held on servers that meet stringent SSAE 16 audit reporting standards and are ISO27001 certified, but the security application itself is also hosted on these secure servers and undergoes third-party vulnerability testing, on a daily basis if necessary.
To provide maximum protection against a catastrophic event, data is mirrored to alternative servers within a dedicated backup centre, ensuring that files can be brought back online with minimum delay. This means that minimum 99.9% uptime is maintained, including scheduled maintenance.
The availability of best practice solutions with these security features has led to growing adoption by firms in financial industries in particular to protect secure client information with encryption which meets the most rigorous national and regional privacy laws.
They offer a password-protected space where business file can be exchanged easily and securely with clients. This includes the ability to send large files by email, conduct a secure file transfer and provide a collaboration space where project related files can be posted.
As a result, by tackling these very real security concerns the final barrier to effective remote mobile working for all businesses across the finance sector has now been decisively overcome.
An unprecedented Black Friday: How can retailers prepare?
Retailers must invest heavily in their online presence and fight hard to remain competitive as a second lockdown stirs greater uncertainty
With an unprecedented Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend on the horizon (27th – 30th November), eCommerce hosting and consultancy expert, Sonassi, advises retailers to strengthen their online presence and make the necessary preparations for a fatigue in consumer spending.
James Allen-Lewis, Development Director at Sonassi, explains: “This year’s golden quarter has squeezed together three of the biggest sales periods like never before, meaning retailers will have to fight harder than usual to remain competitive this Black Friday. With greater discounts over a longer period of time, alongside the fact that a second lockdown has moved everyone and everything online, retailers will be battling it out for a share of decreasing consumer spending.
“However, this sense of uncertainty should not deter merchants from implementing their sales strategies this Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend. Instead, they must go further than simply providing online discounts and tackle challenges head on by re-focusing their efforts on creating a highly competitive user experience. Successful merchants will make the necessary preparations for a change in consumer demand and invest more heavily in their eCommerce infrastructure.
“One way in which retailers can do this is by using last year’s Black Friday as a case study to inspire their future response. For example, retailers should take note of the key consumer behaviours that transpired throughout last year’s mega peak in discounting and plan accordingly for the upcoming Black Friday and Cyber-Monday weekend.
“Tactics such as providing the ultimate online delivery service and secure payment methods will also be pivotal for retailers looking to survive a fatigue in online spending. Consumers will look to retailers who do not overpromise on items like next-day delivery and ensure their checkout process is safe and frictionless for all. It is the retailers who embrace this fact and meet the needs of the conscious consumer that will win their share of consumers wallets.
Allen-Lewis concludes: “With Black Friday and the build-up to Christmas just around the corner, retailers must adapt to changing consumer demand, invest more heavily in their eCommerce infrastructure and focus their efforts on creating the ultimate online experience. The only way to plan ahead amid challenging times is to listen to the needs of the customer.”
Optimistic outlook for 2021 public M&A
Optimism is returning and the outlook is positive for the Australian M&A market in 2021 after a COVID-induced crash in deal activity in 2020, according to Corrs Chambers Westgarth’s tenth M&A 2021 Outlook report.
The special report reveals that an environment of historically low interest rates positions M&A as a significant means of achieving growth and generating returns, including for private equity firms looking to deploy capital and strategic buyers focused on complementary acquisitions.
With the unprecedented challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, global political instability and arguably the greatest economic challenge since the Great Depression, M&A 2021 Outlook details somewhat surprising trends emerging for the next 12 months and analyses a number of common COVID-19 myths and their influence on future M&A deal making.
Corrs’ detailed examination of the Australian M&A market draws on data taken from the firm’s proprietary database of transactions combined with in-depth research for the 12-month period ending 30 September 2020.
Key trends identified in the report include a rapid escalation in M&A levels and an increase in creativity in pricing and speed in closing deals, while also highlighting the critical need for support from target shareholders. Conditions also appear to be set for a continued rise in equity prices as a result of the ongoing influx of capital into Australian equity markets, making it imperative that bidders employ strategies to move quickly on M&A transactions.
Discussing the M&A 2021 Outlook, Corrs Head of Corporate, Sandy Mak, said “Despite a challenging year, our research indicates that 2021 could well see the volume and value of deals continue to grow. We are already witnessing this uptick in activity and while some industries and sectors are seeing a faster rebound than others, early indications are that the wider public M&A market will continue to strengthen over the coming months.”
Based on its detailed research, the M&A 2021 Outlook report discusses further key findings including:
- Deal volume and value is the lowest since 2016, however volumes have shown significant recovery since June 2020.
- More than 50% of deals in 2020 were ‘hostile’ and not recommended at the outset.
- 71% of deals over A$500 million were structured by way of a takeover – a significant increase from prior years – largely as a result of increased competition for assets through rival bids.
- Despite border closures and the tightening of foreign investment regimes, the percentage of deals with foreign bidders has increased materially since April 2020.
5 steps for SMEs to budget properly for the coming year
By Fabio Comminot, Head of Dealing, Switzerland at Ebury, one of Europe’s largest Fintechs, has provided a five-step guide to make sure budgeting is done on time.
During the challenging times of COVID-19, it is difficult to forecast orders and costs. This is especially true for SMEs that operate internationally and therefore are exposed to currency fluctuations and market movements. So budgeting is immensely important.
Autumn is budget season for most companies. Upcoming project costs, sales and fixed costs must be defined or forecasted. Budget planning should be as accurate as possible right from the start of the process to avoid unexpected consequences at the end of the year..
With the effects of the COVID pandemic it has become difficult for all companies, no matter their size or history, to plan and make sales forecasts. Early planning and hedging are especially important for companies that work internationally and are therefore particularly exposed to currency risk.
These five steps will help SMEs take the right measures for the coming financial year, in time for budget season:
Step 1: Estimate your costs or sales in foreign currencies
As difficult as it may seem, every company must estimate its expected fixed and variable costs for the coming year. Most companies can forecast their revenues based on experience or existing orders.
However, start-ups or young companies should also be able to at least estimate their costs including rents, insurance, wages and production costs. Special attention should be paid to costs or revenues that are spent or received in a foreign currency.
Step 2: Profit or cost assurance – define the strategy
As soon as an approximate plan for the coming year is in place, the company should consider the importance of currency management. Regular earnings or expenditures in foreign currencies are exposed to movements in exchange rates. If costs in a foreign currency are to be forecasted until the end of the year, the company needs to minimise volatility. This means that the exchange rate should be fixed so that there are no unexpected negative consequences at the end of the year.
Another option would be to protect the operating profit. Fluctuating exchange rates can rapidly ruin intended profit margins. In this case the company could aim to define the forecasted sales in the foreign currency and fix the margin based on this.
Step 3: Fix your budget rates
The budget is set, the currency management goals are defined, the major part is done. Now it is a matter of defining the budgeted rates for the various currencies based on the current exchange rate. A buffer of about 5% can be useful when doing this – for example. instead of fixing the exchange rate from US dollar to Swiss franc at the current 91 cent, a rate of 95 cent could be budgeted. In this way, the minimum budget rate is defined and any negative exchange rate movement can be at least partially compensated for.
Step 4: Define the hedging strategy
With the targets and the budget course set, the next questions are: What currency developments can be expected? What is the industry outlook? Is the order situation relatively secure? Or is there practically no empirical data?
This step is where Ebury can support the company. Our experts in FX markets help answer these questions and begin to define the individual hedging strategy.
Step 5: Ensure a flexible fit
It’s done: the measures have been defined, now it’s time for implementation.
Ebury will implement the previous steps and , so that the company focuses on its core business. In contrast to traditional financial services providers such as banks, Ebury constantly monitors international trade and political events in order to assist clients with strategy adjustments. The Ebury team is supported by state-of-the-art technology and international currency analysts. It makes no difference whether the changes are driven by the currency market or whether the company’s order situation itself is changing. This allows the SME to focus on its operational business, which is worth a lot in uncertain times like these.
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