Written by Rick Kawamura, Vice President of Marketing at Kapow,
‘Big Data’, a term used to describe the explosive growth of data used by organizations of all sizes to differentiate and strategically grow their business, is becoming a big cross-industry headliner. Thanks to on-going technological innovations, such as the proliferation of cloud applications, social media and user-generated content, ubiquitous use of mobile devices, and the availability of various sensor devices – the overall volume of digital content is set to increase by 48 percent this year from 2011. Additionally, more than 90 percent of this information will be unstructured , sitting outside of normal reporting models. In fact, according to IBM research 90 percent of all data was created in the last two years with 2.5 quintillion bytes of data being created every day. While the numbers are staggering, this data deluge is currently presenting both a challenge and an opportunity. Businesses are quickly recognising the huge value of Big Data but at the same time finding it difficult to discover, collect, manage and exploit this unstructured information coming from many disparate sources, so it becomes workable and delivers useful insights.
There are numerous examples of where Big Data, when utilised and analysed effectively, can inform decision making and make a significant impact. One of the more known ones is the movie “Moneyball”. Based on the true fascinating story, the film shows how the low-budget Oakland A’s major league baseball team leveraged data analytics to extract intelligence and competitive advantage from years of historical data, to build a championship team. It is exactly this type of approach that companies need to adopt to make use of the internal and external data they have within their reach – a business strategy especially relevant for the financial services industry where Big Data can be turned into better and more profitable insight into customers, channels and risks.
Big Opportunity in Financial Services and Banking
Organizations within the financial services and banking industries have amassed a wealth of information, capturing billions of financial transactions, customer interactions, demographic information, social media sentiment data and data relating to financial and purchasing behaviours. Left unstructured, this data can appear unworkable and overwhelming, however if leveraged in the right way it has the power to change businesses. This could be by increasing profitability through process optimisation, or by growing sales with predictive analytics based on buying behaviours or alternatively, saving costs by foreseeing changes in market conditions. This type of strategic gain is significant enough to separate winners from losers in most industries and financial services companies are achieving business advantage by mining and analysing data to stay ahead of the competition.
Finance experts already understand that data has value. It’s the lifeblood of their industry, but Big Data has led to a tidal wave of information coming from sources that were never available before including social, web and cloud-based applications. This influx of information can very well shape investment strategies, transform customer acquisition and retention, reduce risk and even create new lines of businesses. However, banks now need to figure out how to effectively store, mine and integrate this unstructured data, as this kind of data will soon be a primary way to glean an accurate profile of customers or identify unique actionable predictors for trading ahead of their competition.
Most banks now realise the importance of managing Big Data. Despite the loss of the personal interaction via branch banking,effective analytics means banks can utilise data from multiple sources (transactions, product usage, online banking behaviour, social media, forums, etc.), to gain a deep 360-degree customer intelligence – gaining knowledge of their channel preferences, likes, dislikes and propensities for products and services.Obtaining such a detailed view of a customer is especially crucial in today’s business climate, in which customers expect a personalised experience with targeted communications and relevant offers. By using high-performance analytics, banks can achieve better operational efficiency, deliver higher value to customers, improve risk management and ultimately differentiate and innovate to stand out in the marketplace.
At the recent American Banker Best Practices in Retail Financial Services Symposium,mining Big Data was identified as a strategic and innovative way to improve interactions with customers, moving away from what customers view as “offer overload” to achieving a level of customer experience excellence that can only be obtained when customers see the perfect offer or communication at exactly the time when they want and need it.
Not just big data
In reality, despite all this big promise, many companies are taking a wait-and-see approach because of the enormity and complexity surrounding Big Data. According to Gartner Predicts 2012 research, more than 85 percent of Fortune 500 organisations will be unable to effectively exploit Big Data by 2015. What often gets lost in the Big Data discussion is that, in order to obtain substantial value, companies really need to access relevant data without getting overwhelmed with the need to collect and store every piece of data. The size can be daunting, but it’s often the integration of data from multiple sources and formats (variety) and the rapid real-time capture of the data (velocity) that contributes the most substantial value.
Big Data is only valuable if it leads to meaningful actions. Irrespective of how big your data sets are, the goal is to extract intelligence from the data and then be able to take action based on the insights it provides. Therefore, being able to access relevant data, regardless of its source, is critical for any data mining effort. The key is not to get caught up in the volumes. In fact, taking incremental, easily manageable steps when embarking on a Big Data project is perfectly acceptable,as long as you are closely aligned with the company’s business objectives. Start by clearly outlining the goals of your Big Data initiative. What hypothesis are you trying to validate or what type of insights are you looking for and for what purpose. Think about what data is needed and why, who will use it and what are the most relevant data sources that will get you what you really need – just focus on the data that provides the most value, in-house or outside your firewall.
Put Your Big Data into Action
There is an unlimited and ever growing number of data sources that house valuable insights about your business, products, customers, competitors, market trends and financial predictors. These include the long trail of social media, review sites and news sources, your cloud applications, as well as government web-based applications (Federal regulations, public data on housing, marriages, foreclosures etc.), channels, suppliers and competitor’s sites. A majority of these data sources are difficult to access and the data they contain is constantly changing. You will need the ability to access a wide variety of data, and to access it in real-time. With a real-time integration platform you can flexibly define and update your desired data sources and access any data you can see on a website. You can just as easily transform that data, enrich and add structure, perform an operation on it, and automate a resulting action.
Imagine a scenario where you could identify customers’ preferences for products, campaigns, channel contact to better market to them and provide an optimal experience that promotes engagement and loyalty. Or turn blogs, forums and social media commentary as predictors for stock performance. Or perhaps determine exposure, portfolio value at risk and liquidity coverage to determine product mix, markets to exit and fine-tune responses to changes in interest rates.
If you had the opportunity to automatically access any applications or web-based data source, how many strategic Big Data initiatives could you think of that will make you a market leader?
For the organizations that will strategically embrace Big Data, the possibilities for innovation, business agility and increased profitability are endless. At the heart of this is,understanding customers, competitors and behaviour, to extract meaningful insights that you can act on, setting you apart from your competition.Don’t be intimidated by the volumes; start your Big Data initiatives by focusing on the data that matters regardless of the data source, type or format in order to immediately start generating meaningful intelligence and taking action.
Beyond Transactions: The Payment Revolution
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.
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.
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.
The UK’s hidden payments crisis: why businesses should rethink their payments strategy
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.
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.
Gain financial regulation qualification online
Gain financial regulation qualification online
Warwick Business School in partnership with the Bank of England are delighted to offer two online specialist Postgraduate Awards, which are perfect for anyone working in financial regulation to evidence their professional development.
- Financial Conduct, Leadership & Ethics – Starting in February 2021
You will debate and cover questions such as how do financiers judge ethical questions in financial markets? What are the implications for regulators and for clients?
- Financial Regulation & Supervision – Starting in June 2021
You will develop a comprehensive understanding around financial regulation by looking at topics such as its tools, benefit and practical application.
Studied online over a period seventeen weeks, you will gain a detailed knowledge of the subject, learn industry best practice and gain a qualification to evidence your understanding.
The wider Global Central Banking & Financial Regulation qualification offers three start dates and four qualification levels.
Invest in your career
Find out more about these Awards and the qualification levels offered by Warwick Business School in partnership with the Bank of England, by downloading the brochure here.
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