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THE EVOLUTION OF CUSTOMER COMMUNICATION IN THE FINANCE INDUSTRY

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Eric Bilange

Eric Bilange, EVP Enterprise, Xura

Financial institutions are undergoing a process of evolution in the way they deal with their customers.

Juniper Research predicts that, by 2017, there will be one billion mobile banking customers. Forty per cent of these, while accessing their accounts via apps on their mobile phone, will still ring call centres or visit their bank’s high street branches for certain enquires. This statistic reflects a desire, from more than half of global banking customers, as identified by KPMG, for a combination of social, personalised and “human” aspects of customer service to be integrated into their banks’ online services and mobile app interactions.

Looking for a more personal and convenient means of interacting with their banks, today’s consumers want to replicate the experience they have become familiar with from using messaging services such as WhatsApp. However, with todays advanced communication technology, such as banks and financial services companies have an easy route to provide similar-type experiences.

Real-time, next generation customer interactions, including VoIP calling, video chat, instant messaging, encrypted file- and screen- sharing, presence and recording, can all be available at the touch of a button with WebRTC technology. This not only improves the functionality of the service but adds the human element with sophisticated security features, which provides multi-factor authentication, to allow customer to engage appropriate bank personnel immediately without the need to visit a physical branch.

Probably the single most important innovation – contextual communication

Moving spoken and video interaction into an app or web experience will not only lead to less interruption through the banking interaction, but it provides the the ability to push or capture data from the screen, and the creation of more seamless and personal experiences with the human dimension.

For example, with real-time communications user context is at the core of the offering. This means when a customer clicks to communicate with their bank or financial services provider, their chat, video or voice call can firstly be routed to personnel in the customer branch, who may know the customer’s circumstances or, if that staff member isn’t available diverted to a bank’s agent in a call centre. When a session comes through, the customer is already authenticated and the agent can access the customer’s transaction history or pull relevant contextual information from the user’s mobile app or web screen, meaning issues are resolved quickly and preventing users from repeating information.

By bringing together the most appropriate banking staff member with a customer and his and data, translates to a faster call resolution a personalised service as well as peace of mind; so in other words, substantial cost savings, a more enjoyable customer experience and increase loyalty.

While today there are other proprietary approaches for creating video-based applications exist, WebRTC is likely to be the dominant technology – in the medium term at the very least. Indeed, analysts have estimated that over six billion devices will be WebRTC-capable by 2019.

And, as it has become increasingly important across retail banking, insurance, capital markets and various emerging fintech applications, the technology has seen high-profile names including American Express, Coutts, and Wells Fargo have becoming early adopters

According to Dean Bubley, lead analyst at Disruptive Analysis, “banking, insurance and related sectors have been at the forefront of commercial WebRTC adoption already, and this trend looks to broaden and deepen further.

“While self-service and messaging/notification channels will continue to evolve, so too will voice and video – and WebRTC is probably the single most important innovation to allow that to occur.”

Optimise communications channels

There are a number of reasons why financial institutions are optimising their communications channels, including cost, customer preference, loyalty, and security. There may not be one clear “right answer” but taking this approach is based on an ever changing digital environment, a dynamic situation which is based on the particular customer, and a variety of other contextual va

Eric Bilange, EVP Enterprise, Xura

Financial institutions are undergoing a process of evolution in the way they deal with their customers.

Eric Bilange

Eric Bilange

Juniper Research predicts that, by 2017, there will be one billion mobile banking customers. Forty per cent of these, while accessing their accounts via apps on their mobile phone, will still ring call centres or visit their bank’s high street branches for certain enquires. This statistic reflects a desire, from more than half of global banking customers, as identified by KPMG, for a combination of social, personalised and “human” aspects of customer service to be integrated into their banks’ online services and mobile app interactions.

Looking for a more personal and convenient means of interacting with their banks, today’s consumers want to replicate the experience they have become familiar with from using messaging services such as WhatsApp. However, with todays advanced communication technology, such as banks and financial services companies have an easy route to provide similar-type experiences.

Real-time, next generation customer interactions, including VoIP calling, video chat, instant messaging, encrypted file- and screen- sharing, presence and recording, can all be available at the touch of a button with WebRTC technology. This not only improves the functionality of the service but adds the human element with sophisticated security features, which provides multi-factor authentication, to allow customer to engage appropriate bank personnel immediately without the need to visit a physical branch.

Probably the single most important innovation – contextual communication

Moving spoken and video interaction into an app or web experience will not only lead to less interruption through the banking interaction, but it provides the the ability to push or capture data from the screen, and the creation of more seamless and personal experiences with the human dimension.

For example, with real-time communications user context is at the core of the offering. This means when a customer clicks to communicate with their bank or financial services provider, their chat, video or voice call can firstly be routed to personnel in the customer branch, who may know the customer’s circumstances or, if that staff member isn’t available diverted to a bank’s agent in a call centre. When a session comes through, the customer is already authenticated and the agent can access the customer’s transaction history or pull relevant contextual information from the user’s mobile app or web screen, meaning issues are resolved quickly and preventing users from repeating information.

By bringing together the most appropriate banking staff member with a customer and his and data, translates to a faster call resolution a personalised service as well as peace of mind; so in other words, substantial cost savings, a more enjoyable customer experience and increase loyalty.

While today there are other proprietary approaches for creating video-based applications exist, WebRTC is likely to be the dominant technology – in the medium term at the very least. Indeed, analysts have estimated that over six billion devices will be WebRTC-capable by 2019.

And, as it has become increasingly important across retail banking, insurance, capital markets and various emerging fintech applications, the technology has seen high-profile names including American Express, Coutts, and Wells Fargo have becoming early adopters

According to Dean Bubley, lead analyst at Disruptive Analysis, “banking, insurance and related sectors have been at the forefront of commercial WebRTC adoption already, and this trend looks to broaden and deepen further.

“While self-service and messaging/notification channels will continue to evolve, so too will voice and video – and WebRTC is probably the single most important innovation to allow that to occur.”

Optimise communications channels

There are a number of reasons why financial institutions are optimising their communications channels, including cost, customer preference, loyalty, and security. There may not be one clear “right answer” but taking this approach is based on an ever changing digital environment, a dynamic situation which is based on the particular customer, and a variety of other contextual variables, which can ultimately differentiate a corporate brand.

With more apps, services and devices available for connecting and communicating with customers than ever before, it’s crucial that banks and financial institutions embrace the current digital revolution in which increased convenience and a more personal experience will build longer-lasting loyalty and customer retention. This has been reflected in a high level of investment in mobile and digital applications and communication technology across the industry as products and processes change to adapt to this growing demand for more personal interactions.

So, the integration of WebRTC rich communication technology will enable intelligent, secure and personalised two-way dialogue across any device, supporting banks and financial businesses in their drive to create an omni-channel experience, improving the way they interact with their customers, while saving both time and money at the same time.

riables, which can ultimately differentiate a corporate brand.

With more apps, services and devices available for connecting and communicating with customers than ever before, it’s crucial that banks and financial institutions embrace the current digital revolution in which increased convenience and a more personal experience will build longer-lasting loyalty and customer retention. This has been reflected in a high level of investment in mobile and digital applications and communication technology across the industry as products and processes change to adapt to this growing demand for more personal interactions.

So, the integration of WebRTC rich communication technology will enable intelligent, secure and personalised two-way dialogue across any device, supporting banks and financial businesses in their drive to create an omni-channel experience, improving the way they interact with their customers, while saving both time and money at the same time.

Business

Battling Covid collateral damage, Renault says 2021 will be volatile

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Battling Covid collateral damage, Renault says 2021 will be volatile 1

By Gilles Guillaume

PARIS (Reuters) – Renault said on Friday it is still fighting the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including a shortage of semiconductor chips, that could make for another rough year for the French carmaker.

Renault reported an 8 billion euro ($9.7 billion) loss for 2020 which, combined with gloomy take on the market, sent its shares down more than 5% in late morning trading.

“We are in the midst of a battle to try to manage a difficult year in terms of supply chains, of components,” Chief Executive Luca de Meo told reporters. “This is all the collateral damage of the Covid pandemic… we will have a fairly volatile year.”

De Meo, who took over last July, is looking at ways to boost profitability and sales at Renault while pushing ahead with cost cuts. There were early signs of improving momentum as margins inched up in the second half of 2020.

The group gave no financial guidance for this year, although it said it might reach a target of achieving 2 billion euros in costs cuts by 2023 ahead of time, possibly by December.

Executives said they were confident the carmaker could be profitable in the second half of 2021, but that they lacked sufficient market visibility to provide a forecast.

Renault struck a cautious note, saying it was focused on its recovery but warned orders had faltered in early 2021 as pandemic restrictions continued in some countries.

The group is facing new challenges as the European Union tightens emissions regulations and after rivals PSA and Fiat Chrysler joined forces to create Stellantis, the world’s fourth-biggest automaker.

The auto industry endured a tough 2020 but a swift rebound in premium car sales in China helped companies such as Volkswagen and Daimler to weather the storm.

Auto companies globally have since been hit by a shortage of semiconductors that has forced production cuts worldwide.

“The beginning of the year has shown some signs of weakness,” De Meo told analysts, but added the chip shortage should be resolved by the second half of 2021. “We have taken the necessary measures to anticipate and overcome challenges.”

Renault estimated the chip shortage could reduce its production by about 100,000 vehicles this year.

SHARP HIT

The group was already loss-making in 2019, but took a sharp hit in 2020 during lockdowns to fight the pandemic, which also hurt its Japanese partner Nissan.

Analysts polled by Refinitiv had expected a 7.4 billion euro loss for 2020. The group posted negative free cash flow for 2020.

The 2018 arrest of Carlos Ghosn, who formerly lead the alliance between Renault and Nissan, plunged the automakers into turmoil.

In a further sign that the companies have been working to repair the alliance, De Meo told journalists that Renault and Nissan will announce new joint products together in the coming weeks or months.

Renault has begun to raise prices on some car models, and group operating profit, which was negative for 2020 as a whole, improved in the last six months of the year, reaching 866 million euros or 3.5% of revenue.

Analysts at Jefferies said the operating performance was better than expected. Sales were still falling in the second half, but less sharply.

Renault is slashing jobs and trimming its range of cars, allowing it to slice spending in areas like research and development as it focuses on redressing its finances. It is also pivoting more towards electric cars as part of its revamp.

It was already struggling more than some rivals with sliding sales before the pandemic, after years of a vast expansion drive it is now trying to rein in, focusing on profitable markets.

De Meo told journalists on Friday that the French carmaker will make three new higher-margin models at its Palencia plant in Spain, where manufacturing costs are lower, between 2022 and 2024.

($1 = 0.8269 euros)

(Reporting by Gilles Guillaume and Sarah White in Paris, Nick Carey in London; Editing by Christopher Cushing, David Evans and Jan Harvey)

 

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UK delays review of business rates tax until autumn

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UK delays review of business rates tax until autumn 2

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s finance ministry said it would delay publication of its review of business rates – a tax paid by companies based on the value of the property they occupy – until the autumn when the economic outlook should be clearer.

Many companies are demanding reductions in their business rates to help them compete with online retailers.

“Due to the ongoing and wide-ranging impacts of the pandemic and economic uncertainty, the government said the review’s final report would be released later in the year when there is more clarity on the long-term state of the economy and the public finances,” the ministry said.

Finance minister Rishi Sunak has granted a temporary business rates exemption to companies in the retail, hospitality, and leisure sectors, costing over 10 billion pounds ($14 billion). Sunak is due to announce his next round of support measures for the economy on March 3.

($1 = 0.7152 pounds)

(Writing by William Schomberg, editing by David Milliken)

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Discounter Pepco has all of Europe in its sights

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Discounter Pepco has all of Europe in its sights 3

By James Davey

LONDON (Reuters) – Pepco Group, which owns British discount retailer Poundland, has targeted 400 store openings across Europe in its 2020-21 financial year as it expands its PEPCO brand beyond central and eastern Europe, its boss said on Friday.

The group opened a net 327 new stores in its 2019-20 year, taking the total to 3,021 in 15 countries. The PEPCO brand entered western Europe for the first time with openings in Italy and it plans its first foray into Spain in April or May.

Chief Executive Andy Bond said its five stores in Italy have traded “super well” so far.

“That’s given us a lot of confidence that we can now start building PEPCO into western Europe and that expands our market opportunity from roughly 100 million people (in central and eastern Europe) to roughly 500 million people,” he told Reuters.

To further illustrate the brand’s potential he noted that the group has more than 1,000 PEPCO shops in Poland, which has a significantly smaller population and gross domestic product than Italy or Spain.

The company, which also owns the Dealz brand in Europe but does not trade online, has already opened more than 100 of the targeted 400 new stores this financial year.

Pepco Group is part of South African conglomerate Steinhoff, which is still battling the fallout of a 2017 accounting scandal.

Since 2019 Steinhoff and its creditors have been evaluating a range of strategic options for Pepco Group, including a potential public listing, private equity sale or trade sale.

That process was delayed by the pandemic, but Steinhoff said last month that it had resumed.

“The business will be up for sale at the right time. It’s a case of when, rather than if,” said Bond, a former boss of British supermarket chain Asda.

Pepco Group on Friday reported a 31% drop in full-year core earnings, citing temporary coronavirus-related store closures.

Underlying earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) were 229 million euros ($277 million) for the year to Sept. 30, against 331 million euros the previous year.

Sales rose 3% to 3.5 billion euros, reflecting new store openings.

($1 = 0.8279 euros)

(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by David Goodman)

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