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Neil Gaught

As Dorothy Parker said, “If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at who he gives it to.” Nowadays, in the city of London, he’s not giving too much away. The financial crisis of 2008 and its ensuing regulation put paid to all that. Nevertheless, like latter-day Dick Whittingtons seeking their fortunes, graduating MBA’s with few resources, debts to pay and high aspirations still seek positions in the financial service firms in high numbers. As a royal road to economic betterment it’s hard to beat. It still holds that the money available over time far outweighs anything one could earn in a so-called “normal job.” But here’s the rub. Lawmakers now have a vested interest in ensuring that worshippers at the Temple of Mammon are reined in. High risk / high reward is as outmoded at last year’s iPhone. Bonuses are now deferred, paid mainly in shares (folks, the value of securities can go up as well as down), and in any case before the big Euros kick in (what’s that?) you may well be 38 years old, your youth rapidly fading in the rear view mirror, hair sprouting where it’s unwanted and unneeded. So is it worth it?

As a veteran of an American investment bank, long since moved on to other pastures the answer lies in a grey zone. Working on the trading desks of big city firms is girls’ own fun, and boys too. The pace is fast, minds are sharp:it’s like having your Twitter feed in your face all day long, but with consequentiality. For the ambitious and the smart the products are sophisticated and creative. On the client side, there is no better place to cut your teeth in sales where the competition is vast, margins razor thin and your ability to differentiate relies on innovative collaboration. What lies behind all that coal face is pretty cool too. So your days will fly by in a blur and before you know it you will be in the thick of your mid-life crisis. And you may not be rich. If you are one of the lucky ones, your new-found wealth may force you to consider a different Act II. But for many, in this generation of joiners your ability to grasp the filthy lucre will probably outpace you into your forties. That’s a fair chunk of life to give up. In my work, I spend a lot of time dealing with unhappy people. Usually they are quite wealthy. Often their misery rests on something like the following: “I am wealthy, I missed my kids growing up, and my wife ran off with the tennis coach”. Or as John Lennon said, “ Life’s what happens when you are doing other things”.  So go after the money, because it’s still there, if you must. But make sure you check in with yourself at least once a year and look in the mirror to ask yourself: “Is this worth it?” Money can be found many places, but time only elapses. It’s later than you think!

Why bonus’s and the promise of them pump the blood through the banking system – Neil Gaught – Neil Gaught& Associates

Neil Gaught

Neil Gaught

It’s time for the annual consumer media condemnation of ‘Bankers’ Bonuses’.  The public loves to hate bankers, probably because banker bonuses were cast as one of the root causes of the 2008 global financial crisis. Painted as rewarding greed and excessive risk, the government and the regulators have all been drawn into the debate for and against bankers bonuses.  At the heart of the issue are the banks themselves.  Banks that suffer from negativity in terms of brand and reputation face a dilemma ‘Pay the bonuses and attract the professional expertise that will help you recover your reputation but face ongoing damage to your brand and reputation by paying the bonuses’.

So here’s the conundrum. What is the purpose of a bank? To ‘let people achieve their ambitions’?  To ‘deliver expert relationship banking’? To ‘work with clients as strategic partners’? Let’s be frank here – most people believe that the purpose of bank is to make money. And lets be honest – banks make money out of money. That’s the job. And how do you incentivize staff to do a great job in a bank – you give them money. You do what the organisation does – you reward money making with money. That is the traditional way things are done. For many, that is why they are in banking – to make money. The bonus culture sits at the heart of investment banks. Bonus’s and the promise of them pump the blood through the system.

Reputation, however, is judged on what you do rather than what you say you are going to do. It’s based on action and not words. Image is of course important. We are nearly all suckers for something that looks new, even if fundamentally it’s not – Apple be warned! Image and words play a role particularly in the early stages of any relationship – but over time it is who you really are, what you think, what you do and how you do it that really matters. Ultimately our Judgement of each other, of the products and services we use and the organisations who provide them is shaped by our experiences.

Crucially these experiences – positive or negative – can be shared within nano seconds with millions of people. The information technology that powers banks also connects us all also allows us to judge together and to take action together. We can switch from one provider to another in most sectors pretty rapidly. Of course it’s a pain and those that stand in the way of the general direction of travel can delay and disrupt our freedom to choose, but inevitably this will change. One of the greatest benefits of technology is the empowerment of individuals to make choices but to thrive transparency and trust need to reign. The corporations that get this, that understand the consequences of standing in the way are now scrambling to show how transparent they can be. They are busy setting up ethics committees, defining new values and engaging agencies to bring to life supporting stories that demonstrate through every media channel available that it’s not all about profit after all – its about purpose. It’s not about shareholder value its about making customers happy.

So in a world that is increasingly saying what matters now are values and ethics the greatest challenge banks face is how they balance a bonus culture with an ethics culture. Can you have both? I believe that it is possible but it will take major systemic reform and it will take time, effort, determination and above all leadership. It is often touted that recognition is more important than reward. Within the banking sector I think that what is recognised (and what is not) is one part of a puzzle that will take some time to solve.


Graham Ward is a consultant at Kets de Vries Institute (

Graham Ward

Graham Ward

An Adjunct Professor of Leadership at INSEAD Business School in France, his expertise is in leadership, high performance teams, group dynamics, team dysfunction and change. His doctoral dissertation, published in 2013 is a theory of small group executive coaching using a psychodynamic approach. Teaching modules include the psychology of leadership, the application of fair process in teams, sustainable relationship building and developing high performance teams and culture in organizational life.

He teaches regularly at INSEAD on a number of executive programs and
is the INSEAD Global Leadership Centre Coaching Practice Director for the Transition to General Management (TGM) and LFR (Leading for Results). Graham has also worked in the same role on many company specific programs including KPMG, Microsoft, Pfizer, Daimler Chrysler, TNK/BP, HSBC, Ernst and Young and SAP. Moreover he has also worked as visiting faculty on the Advance Management Program at Stockholm School of Economics in Sweden, Moscow Higher School of Economics and ESMT in Berlin.

Outside of INSEAD, he specializes in coaching C-suite executives and consulting around team dysfunctions Graham spent 22 years in finance, 16 of which working for Goldman Sachs, where for seven years he co-led the European Equity business. In 2000, Graham spearheaded an initiative to introduce a Global Leadership Development office that he led for three years. At GS he was head of diversity for the Division and led the Women’s Committee from inception, also instigating other minority networks.

Graham was speaker at the 2007 EMCC annual conference on the subject of Group Leadership Coaching and in 2001 on the subject of Mentoring for Change. In 2013 he spoke at The School of Management Science, India on Spiritual Leadership. He is an affiliate member of the APA (American Psychological Association), and a member of the ISPSO (International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations).

Graham received his Ph.D. from the Vrije University in Amsterdam in 2014. He holds an M.Sc. and Diploma from HEC/INSEAD (2002) in Clinical Organizational Psychology. In 1994 he received a Diploma of Investment Management from London Business School.

He is licensed to use the MBTI, The Leadership Circle, GELI, LAQ, Personality Audit and Cultural Audit. Graham was contributing author to the books Coach and Couch, the Psychology of Making Better Leaders published in 2007 and the Coaching Kaleidoscope published in 2010. He authored the academic paper Towards Executive Change (2008) and The Use of Transitional Space (2009).

He is currently a board member of Hampstead Capital Global Hedge Fund, listed on the Irish Stock Exchange and Senrigan Capital based in Hong Kong.

Privately he has worked with senior executives at McKinsey, Siemens, Bristol Myers Squibb, Axa, Aviva, HSBC, Tesco, AstraZeneca, Deutsche Bank, E.On, UBS, Shell and BP among others. McKinsey &Co retains him in their European leadership coaching pool.

Graham, 50, lives on the Stockholm Archipelago with his wife and four children He travels extensively, recently visiting North Korea and Syria amongst other places.

Neil Gaught is founder and CEO of Neil Gaught& Associates (

Over the past 20 years, Neil has worked on strategic brand reputation and positioning projects for Standard Chartered Bank, Merrill Lynch, De Beers, OECD, the World Bank, CRS, CARE, Alliance for Financial Inclusion and Global Communities. With a career as both an independent consultant and also at a senior level, his strategy has been implemented globally at WPP’s Brand Union and Interbrand.

His expertise spans corporations, NGOs, government institutions and start-up enterprises. CEOs and senior leadership teams engage him for brand reputation management, positioning, culture change, operational decisions, staff engagement and communications.

Neil’s strategy has been developed over many years and his first-hand global experience and cultural awareness has helped him refine and apply his proven approaches for clients in over 40 countries.

During a period in New Zealand he advised many top corporations and public-sector bodies on brand strategy and reputation management including AMI, Contact Energy, Kordia, Air New Zealand plus various start-up enterprises and local/national Government institutions.


Black Friday payment data reveals rapid growth of ‘pay later’ methods like Klarna



Black Friday payment data reveals rapid growth of ‘pay later’ methods like Klarna 1

Payment processor Mollie reveals the most popular payment methods for Black Friday

Mollie, one of the fastest-growing payment service providers, has revealed insights into the most popular payment methods used this Black Friday. The data, which provides a year-on-year comparison of 2019, shows that payment methods allowing customers to pay flexibly – like ‘pay later’ service Klarna – has more than doubled in 2020. The study spans 101,000 merchants across Europe, primarily from Germany, U.K., France, the Netherlands and Belgium.

Black Friday trends: 

  • In 2019, Mollie saw a 36% increase in the overall number of transactions on Black Friday versus the previous year. In 2020, this shot up to a growth of 56% on the 2019 numbers, representing a difference of 20%.
  • And this year, even in the four days leading up to Black Friday, there was a 58% YoY growth in transactions.
  • Use of ‘buy now, pay later’ services on Black Friday (such as Klarna or ClearPay) has more than doubled from 1% of all payments in 2019 to almost 2.5% in 2020.
  • Use of mobile payment methods on Black Friday is consistent on the previous year – 0.20% in 2019 to 0.25% in 2020.

“There is a lot of pressure on consumers’ wallets at the moment, which is making people look to payment methods that offer them financial security,” said Ken Serdons, Chief Commercial Officer at Mollie. “It makes sense that fintechs like Klarna, who have performed phenomenally well this year, have been so popular this Black Friday. The increase is in-line with this growing trend towards more flexibility in how consumers pay for goods.”

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Beyond Transactions: The Payment Revolution



Beyond Transactions: The Payment Revolution 2

By Marwan Forzley, CEO of Veem 

The uninterrupted disruption brought on by the pandemic accelerated the need for robust, digital-first tools created to support remote teams and accelerate online commerce.

As offices across the US moved to work from home for indefinite periods, specialized back office departments handling sensitive information have had to go a layer deeper to find tailored solutions that support the transition of their in-person workflow. For finance teams, payment approvals, issuance, and general management became a challenge overnight. Particularly for those who — even in 2020 — continued to send and receive paper checks through the mail.

For years and even to this day, millions of small business owners around the world have relied on slow and confusing bank processes to manage their business finances. Every day, they spend valuable time using old, complex and expensive platforms to transact with domestic and international vendors — never knowing where their payment is or even when it arrives at its destination.

With ongoing economic and logistical uncertainty looming as we move into 2021, this old norm should not be expected for much longer. This year has seen small business owners wear more hats than ever before, and has influenced a mass adoption of online financial applications that offer heightened security, save more time, and provide more value as budgets tightened.

A study conducted by Mastercard earlier this year saw online business-to-business payments skyrocket in popularity with more than half (57%) of small business owners across North America turning to digital services since the start of the pandemic to improve cash flow and modernize their payment processes.

If this study is of any indication, the days of making an appointment with a banker or sending a wire transfer through an outdated web portal have passed. And the time for the payment revolution is here.

Putting the user in the driver’s seat

Major world events have always acted as a catalyst for innovation and change. As of a result of the growing pains we experienced this year, in 2021 businesses can finally say goodbye to huge transaction fees and bank-imposed gatekeeping when it comes to managing their financial processes.

The financial technology firms, in partnership card and local bank networks and sometimes even each other, have been building and iterating on products over the past decade that were created to work flawlessly from a desktop or smartphone.

For the first time, small businesses have access to needed, user-friendly financial tools packaged to make their lives easier. No longer reserved for major enterprises, those previously underserved by traditional banks can sign up for applications that consolidate billing, payments, working capital and more to one central dashboard.

With the owner in the driver’s seat, they can better communicate with vendors and customers and reallocate their time previously spent manually sending, receiving and reconciling payments toward growing their business — without ever stepping foot out of their home.

Marwan Forzley

Marwan Forzley

Genuinely seamless and automatic integrations with complimentary functions aligned to core financial activities mark a fundamental change in how businesses will choose to operate moving forward. Not only should experiences be integrated, but the entire lifecycle of the transaction should be digital.

Consider a freelance contractor that uses a time tracking and invoicing software to invoice a client. Through an integration between the time tracking tool and Veem (a complete online business payment tool) the client receives and captures the invoice within their Veem payment dashboard. Because Veem and Quickbooks are integrated partners, as soon as the invoice is received, a bill is automatically created, marked as paid, and reconciled on the client’s accounting software as soon as the funds are issued.

In this flow, the contractor only needs to send an invoice, and the client only has to approve the payment for everything else to move. Thoughtful integrations like these empower businesses to log-in to one application, but benefit from several, ultimately eliminating inefficiencies.

Relentless transparency

Understanding that old habits die hard, it’s expected that businesses of any size have questions when it comes to moving payments from a bank to an online provider.

Answering these questions with unprecedented product value and relentless transparency is the best way forward to bring more businesses onboard in 2021.

This means providing up front pricing, tracking, choice and flexibility to users. Before, during and after the pandemic, cash flow management remains the most critical part of running a small business. Digital payment providers enable the entrepreneur to have unparalleled insight, visibility, and control over their cash flow.

Through non-bank payment options, businesses can secure their information over a secure data network, watch their money move from origin to destination, and choose the speed at which they would like funds to move. By these tools working in harmony, the user can remove friction and spend more time focused on their business.

Separating the signal from the noise

2020 is a year that changed everything for the global small business community. In a report by Veem issued at the start of the pandemic, an overwhelming 80% of businesses shared that they anticipated COVID-19 to impact their business over the next 12-16 months. Problems surfaced that many didn’t even realize they had. And in finding those problems, businesses turned to technology to support them.

As enabling technology, it’s our job to listen and bring clarity and solutions to those contributing to and growing our local and global economies despite the hurdles and challenges they’ve faced.

Right now, small businesses deserve more. More access, more choice and more credit. In the road ahead we expect online payments and bundled user friendly financial services to play a pivotal role in the recovery of small businesses. The payment revolution will see the continuation of important and meaningful products that value the users time and enable businesses to launch, grow, and scale regardless of what’s to come in 2021.

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The UK’s hidden payments crisis: why businesses should rethink their payments strategy



The UK’s hidden payments crisis: why businesses should rethink their payments strategy 3

By Edwin Abl, Chief Marketing Officer at Modulr.

As the economic conditions imposed by the Coronavirus endure, businesses are facing a dilemma about how to reduce operational costs while meeting customer needs in as economical a way as possible. And all without compromising on their quality of service.

A recent survey of 200 payments decision makers across the UK, revealed there are hidden costs of payment processing which will have an exponentially greater impact on wider businesses if left untreated. It found, UK businesses are spending an average of £1.5m a year in costs attached to payments – money they simply cannot afford to lose to inefficient processes in these uncertain times.

Businesses need to plug any holes in their boat to avoid sinking. And for many this includes the examination and recalibration of their payments strategy.

The research reveals that the payments process now represents a huge 12% of a business’s total operational expenditure. With two-thirds (64%) of all businesses expecting the cost of payment processing to increase over the next two years.

Two thirds (67%) of payments decision makers surveyed believe the way they process, and service payments has had a direct impact on their customer experience. In fact, 62% of respondents believe the hidden costs of poor payments outweigh the hard costs. This indicates that a poor payments strategy is no longer something business leaders can ignore, as it now has a far greater and unseen impact on wider business mechanics.

The top three hidden costs attached to inefficient payment processes were ‘impact on customer experience/satisfaction’ (38%), ‘influence on relationships with other teams and departments (35%) and ‘impact on competitor differentiation’ (31%).

These findings suggest there is widespread consensus that getting payment operations right, directly creates performance boosts elsewhere in the business. When asked to estimate, as a percentage, the business performance boost received if hidden payment inefficiencies were resolved, the average margin for improvement was +14%, with traditional banking the sector most likely (31%) to predict a performance gain greater than +15%.

The 5 key steps UK businesses can take to drive payment efficiencies

There are five key areas payments decision makers and tech leaders should be looking to change, so that they can drive end-to-end payment process efficiencies:

1 – Locate hidden payment process inefficiencies

Visibility is a key issue. Respondents across large (46%) and small businesses (47%) say they have very clear metrics directly related to payment process costs. Only 8% say that they don’t understand the costs involved. Yet, businesses know they could do better with improved visibility of costs. Both large and smaller companies cite ‘lack of visibility for operational costs’ as the top challenge when it comes to achieving strategic goals around payment process and money services provision.

Digital banking companies, including lenders and FinTechs, identified ‘lack of visibility for operational cost’ as a challenge when it comes to increasing payment services revenue (37%). This is in comparison with all respondents mentioning other issues such as lack of skills (25%) and constrained resources (25%) as secondary and tertiary challenges respectively.

For many businesses, developing a cost model for current and projected payment process costs, both hard and hidden, is a top priority.

2 – Make payments key to stakeholder experience management

Customer, departmental and even supply chain partner experiences are increasingly intertwined. There is no doubt that customer experience is a top priority for payment services strategy. But enhancing the broader stakeholder experience is a close second, and certainly complements the former.

Employee experience affects customer experience. So, payment services innovation must extend beyond customer touchpoints. Happy employees who feel they are working with effective and efficient payments systems will be best placed to enhance the customer experience. And, employees in commercial roles who have bought into the benefits of efficient payments will naturally want to extoll those benefits to customers.

Edwin Abl

Edwin Abl

Companies with a sophisticated and integrated supply chain are likely to be the frontrunners in implementing the integrated payment services that benefit all stakeholders, due to their historic experience. As customer experience management evolves into a broader discipline of stakeholder experience management, including employees and supply chain partners, it will become more crucial than ever to include payment services experience

3 – Integrate and automate to support payment innovation

Payment innovation is driving a culture change, connecting previously siloed functions such as IT and finance. There is increasing integration of systems from customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP), into accounts and payments. The research tells us that payment processes are impacting nearly every department, affecting areas including customer experience, brand, leadership, business agility and ultimately, revenue. Integration enables new business models for paying suppliers and customers.

Automation is key to driving efficiency, replacing manual error-prone and time-consuming processes with real-time and responsive, digital ones. This is particularly the case when it comes to operational and payment processes.

Indeed, 52% of large companies say that team hours spent on payment processes was their biggest hard cost attached to payments, compared with 26% of smaller companies who share that view. This suggests that automation could contribute more to cutting the cost of payment processes in large companies.

A host of payments-as-a-service providers (including Modulr) are supporting customers to do just this by enabling them to stream a whole unified product ecosystem of payments functionality directly into their own software.

4 – Bring business leaders together

Payments innovation is driving systems integration and creating a more collaborative stakeholder ecosystem. As all the C-level roles become increasingly focused on the customer experience, the finance remit now includes overall business operations and its associated risks and opportunities. The role is evolving beyond just accounting, tax liability and funding. Therefore, closer collaboration between senior leaders is key to driving efficiencies and enhancing customer experience.

5 – Innovate by adding finance and payments to vertical services

Companies with a vertical focus are well placed to innovate by offering new payment services. In many vertical sectors, especially employment services, software vendors are increasingly embedding financial services facilities, such as payments, into their technology platforms. Employment services SaaS providers, across payroll, accounting, bookkeeping and more are offering financial services to existing and new customers within their specific ecosystem.

This means they can develop hyper relevant, convenient and delightful financial products and services for their end users through highly flexible, ‘plumbed in’ payments. This creates an ecosystem of stickier products while boosting the lifetime value of each end user.

Moving forward – engaging technology to drive efficiencies

If the onset of the Coronavirus crisis has taught us anything, it is that there are many advantages to investing in technology and having a digital infrastructure as responsive as your customer-facing experience.

However, whilst digital technologies enable companies to provide customer service in new ways during lockdown. These same businesses are failing to transform their digital strategies, with the biggest priority still being cost reduction (41%).

By not shedding legacy technology and shoring up operational efficiency, UK businesses are following an increasingly risky strategy. And one which will have an exponentially greater impact on the wider business if left untreated. Particularly when this widespread failure to act concerns the customer experiences that sit at the very heart of a proposition – the payments.

To find out how you can drive payment efficiencies into 2021 and beyond, download the full report here for all the insight you need.

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