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Thousands of hours wasted by UK businesses thanks to outdated systems 

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KAL Makes Atms Futureproof WithNexo Standards Protocols Introduction KAL is a world-leading ATM software company that specializes in solutions for bank ATMs, self-service kiosks and bank branch networks. Its multivendor Kalignite Software Suite enables ATM hardware, software and services sourced from multiple vendors to work together perfectly so banks regain control of their ATM networks, reducing costs, increasing functionality and improving customer service. KAL software is the preferred ATM software and ATM management solution for many of the world’s leading banks, including Citibank, UniCredit, ING, China Construction Bank and Českáspořitelna (Česká), a member of the Erste Group. It is installed and supported in more than 80 countries around the world and is certified in over 30 languages. KAL ATM Software supports 40 ATM manufacturers and over 250 different ATM model types, including NCR, Diebold, and Wincor Nixdorf. There are over 300,000 ATMs running KAL ATM Software today. KAL began providing its ATM software to Česká in 2016. Česká is the biggest bank in the Czech Republic, with almost five million customers and assets of over $45 billion.Česká provides its customers with the broadest range of banking services in the Czech Republic via a branch network of over 550 and more than 1,600 ATMs. This case study explores how KAL software answered Česká’s requirement to improve the management of the largest ATM network in the Czech Republic – while continuing to innovate and launch new products and services quickly into the market. The case study also addresses how KAL software and nexo standards helped Česká to fulfil its strategy to create a single environment and support for its clients via ATMs, and an online platform that provides consultancy and other services beyond standard internet banking. The challenge In recent years, Česká decided it had to increase the transaction capability of its ATMs to deliver more efficient services to its customers and reduce operating costs. Its ATMs, however, were supported by the bank’s outdated host computer system, which offered limited functionality and little flexibility. Česká chose to decommission the host system gradually, transferring functionality to a new terminal handler system. At the same time, Česká wanted to switch to a new, open payments acceptance standard that was forward-looking and future-proofed. Using an open standard would also significantly increase Česká’s options to deliver new innovative services to the ATM, while ensuring interoperability with all other stakeholders within the payments ecosystem. The solution The answer for Česká was twofold. Firstly, it opted for the KAL ATM Software Suite including the Kalignite Terminal Handler (KTH). KTH gives banks a new option within the datacentre when replacing legacy host systems or extending current host capabilities. KTH is used as a front-end to a bank’s host system on the ATM channel. This meant that it could be deployed by Česká to offload a significant amount of work that the old ATM host system was doing. KTH is also highly customizable, allowing Česká to deploy new, innovative features to the market much faster than was previously possible. What’s more, KTH can connect the ATMs to many bank back office systems using multiple messaging protocols at the same time. This is where the second part of the solution came in – nexo standards. nexo standards is a global association that develops messaging protocols and specifications which adhere to ISO 20022 standards and enable fast, interoperable and borderless payment acceptance by standardizing the exchange of payment acceptance data between merchants, acquirers, payment service providers and other payment stakeholders. KAL, along with a number of other key ATM nexo standards members, jointly developed the nexo standards ATM Messaging Protocol. The protocol is an extension of the ISO 20022 global standard for host-to-host communication and is the first universal standardization initiative related to the ATM transaction and management domain. The ATM Messaging Protocol from nexo standards works by ensuring that the ATM message set focuses on the communication between an ATM and host systems. Under the nexo standards protocol, the ATM’s messages cover extensive transaction processing, security, ATM inventory, state of health and terminal management. The fact that the nexo standards protocol is derived from ISO 20022 made it even more valuable for Česká because it allows for future developments in the transaction value chain worldwide. The nexo ATM Messaging Protocol was integrated into the KAL ATM Software to standardize the communication between the ATM and KTH. The role of KTH is to convert the nexo message it receives from the ATM into the messaging format required by the other host / central systems at Česká that support the ATMs. The benefits Using the nexo standard ATM Messaging Protocol provides Česká with many benefits, including: New services • The nexo standards protocol significantly increases the bank’s ability to deliver new and innovative services to its ATMs. For example, nexo standards’ ATM Protocol gives Česká the option to support contactless card transactions and pre-staged transactions. Lower implementation costs • Česká has reduced its costs by using a single, common standard protocol, rather than one of the hundreds of bank-specific, vendor-specific and country-specific protocols currently in use around the world. Unlike these legacy standards, nexo standards provides open messaging protocols that allow better interoperability between ATMs and Česká’s host computers. Easy implementation • The nexo standard protocol uses XML over HTTPS which is simpler and quicker to implement than today’s non-secure binary protocols. This resulted in shorter implementation timescales for Česká when updating its ATMs. The ability to offer the implementation of nexo standards to its customers also generates a variety of benefits for KAL: • In a very competitive marketplace for ATM software, nexo standards enables KAL to add significant value to its customers, beyond what is readily achievable via other messaging protocols such as vendor-specific and proprietary formats used by many banks. • The reduced implementation timescales realized with nexo standards enables KAL to complete deployments on both local and global scale projects significantly faster and more efficiently than before. • With nexo standards, KAL now has a universally consistent messaging foundation that can be applied around the world, regardless of the domestic specificities of each future project.

Data experts today said businesses would have wasted thousands of hours this week planning new workflow scenarios and financial forecasts in the aftermath of the Government’s latest lockdown.

Data software company Azquo said panicked business owners and financial planners would be tearing up forecasts and budgets after this week’s announcement.

Azquo believes its revolutionary software can remodel 10 times faster than Excel and has already scooped clients around the UK. 

“2021 is going to be a tough year for businesses,” said Ed Lennox, operations director at Azquo. 

“With the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, another UK lockdown as well as Brexit to deal with, if your data systems aren’t up to scratch, it will make your job even trickier.”

And with almost half of workers admitting they worry about the accuracy of company data and processes while homeworking, there’s even more for businesses to consider. 

Described as a ‘game-changer’ in the world of data, Midlands-based Azquo is a data system which stores, manages, processes and integrates data differently – making data available in a far more transparent and transformatively-fast way.

“It not only makes reporting a lot easier, faster and more effective for businesses but most importantly, more accurate – meaning no firm should ever find a mistake in any management information,” Ed added.  

“The beauty of the system is that it can integrate with all existing software, meaning no stressful data change-overs or disruptions to service.”

The warning comes after numerous companies have fallen victim to their own poor data handling in recent years.

The most recent high-profile data crisis was the UK Government’s Test & Trace system, which was blamed on Public Health England’s use of an outdated Excel spreadsheet that was only able to record 65,000 lines of data.

The team at Azquo tried to offer advice to the Government with its Covid modelling practices at the start of the pandemic, believing they could help, but “too many layers of bureaucracy got in the way.”

Ed said if Azquo had been used to record the results, it would have been impossible for the error, which led to almost 16,000 positive tests being left off the official figures, to occur.

“We weren’t surprised in the slightest when we heard the news,” he said. We’ve heard similar scenarios a hundred times.

“Azquo would have prevented all of the issues from occurring.”

He says the same is true for Bargain Booze and Wine Rack owner Conviviality, which went bust in 2018 after a financial forecast spreadsheet error led to it missing a £30m tax bill, and clothing brand Joules, which found itself in a sticky situation when a stock accounting spreadsheet error led to too much stock being sent to stores last Christmas, and not enough being available online, leading to a £6m sales shortfall.

The most famous – and costly – Excel spreadsheet error of all time happened when JP Morgan seriously underestimated the downside of its synthetic credit portfolio, which ultimately led to the bank to declare $6 billion in losses and could lead to another $600 million in fines.

“Again, we believe that Azquo would have picked the JP Morgan error up, because of the way it can so easily highlight data that has changed – or not – within a selectable timeframe,” said Ed. 

“People shouldn’t be asking whether or not they can afford to have Azquo in their business, given the high-profile data errors that have happened over the past few years, they should really be asking themselves if they can afford not to have it.”

Business

How fintech companies can facilitate continued growth

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Fintech M&A: the terrible teens?

By Jackson Lee, VP Corporate Development from Colt Data Centre Services

The fintech industry is rapidly growing and, in the first half of 2020, fintechs have secured more than $25 billion in investment globally, despite the huge uncertainty caused by COVID-19. As fintechs and their customer base expand, it is important to recognise that the success of these companies is predicated on the ability to use data effectively in providing a personalised experience to their customers.

To ensure these companies do not become victim of their own success, they must ensure they have the ability to scale up their operations and data storage as quickly and cost-efficiently as possible, especially in these challenging times.

So what must fintech companies do if they are to facilitate this growth without bursting at the seams?

Big fish in a small pond

Fintech companies are growing exponentially, and for many, even the current uncertainty around the pandemic has not decelerated the pace of their growth. However, having started small – with only having access to limited tools at the beginning of their journey, many fintech companies can’t keep up with their own rapid growth. When it comes to data infrastructures, they are facing a real risk of becoming a big fish in a small pond.

In order to achieve widespread innovation, and to keep their advantage over traditional financial institutions, fintech companies need the necessary playground space to experiment in.

When the pandemic and its consequent disruptions started to take hold, most businesses weren’t prepared for the types of challenges that they would have to face. Although the suggestion of investing in data infrastructure might seem counter intuitive at the moment, a lifeline for fintech companies going forward will be flexibility and the ability to scale.

Risky business? 

As the uncertainty around the pandemic continues, fintech companies, like other industries are finding it difficult to commit to long-term business plans. Despite their continued growth, fintech companies continue to be cautious to invest in expanding their operations during an unpredictable economic climate, especially when they are doing well enough as it is.

Even before the pandemic, fintech companies exhibited slower rates of the adoption of digitalisation and advanced IT infrastructures than other industries. It’s clear the future is digital and for fintechs to effectively compete in today’s volatile market, they need to be proactive and invest in the value of data and digital transformation.

One area that fintech companies must be proactive in is their IT infrastructure, especially their data storage and connectivity, in order to allow them to act faster than big, established competitors.

Limitless scalability

Due to the continuous growth of fintech companies, with no sign for it to slow down, these companies will have to continually scale their operations up to manage increased demand. Ordinarily, this would have very high costs as they would have to continually alter their IT infrastructure and solutions.

When it comes to flexibility, data is a crucial aspect for fintechs. In today’s world, companies store masses of data, and its amount is growing fast. This makes the storing of the data a juggling act, and the costs keep growing with it. In periods of economic uncertainty, such as the one we are experiencing now, this constant increase in data can quickly turn into a challenge. Therefore, fintechs must ensure that scalability is at the heart of everything they do. When it comes to scalability, however, the key factor is not just growth or the ability to scale up. A vital, but often overlooked opportunity in scalability lies in scaling down, when needed. For fintechs aiming at this level of scalability, hyperscale is the only way forward.

The answer is hyperscale

Hyperscale data centres provide businesses with a one-stop shop for all their data and capacity requirements. These centres, which are built in a campus-style design, allow companies to build out further data centres quickly within the same location, or if needed, downsize. In an environment of ever-fluctuating demand, hyperscale enables scalability of data and storage swiftly. This presents many benefits. The sheer size of these facilities allows for large-scale cloud adoption, which is more streamlined, flexible and cost-effective than ever before. This will help fintechs to get a better handle on their data and reduce costs as much as possible.

With this level of scalability, companies can operate like an elastic band, expanding or retracting when necessary and at a moment’s notice. For example, imagine this year’s Christmas. With the uncertainty of the pandemic and constantly changing restrictions, people’s online activity will be even higher than in previous years. Fintechs will have to scale up their operations to cope with the high demand of online services. Meanwhile, when demand goes down in January, it might be beneficial to scale down and reduce costs until demand increases again.

Hyperscale will also help fintech companies to future-proof their operations, which has become a key consideration as the economy looks to recover from the pandemic. By having the level of flexibility that hyperscale provides, businesses will always have the ability to lean or expand. Being able to adjust quickly within the hyperscale environment, with no added costs, makes fintechs more resilient and flexible to disruptions.

While cutting costs will continue to be a priority in today’s business environment, it is important that fintech companies look beyond this and focus on innovation and technology. The issues that the pandemic unearthed already existed and needed to be addressed by businesses. Therefore, they need to take the current situation as an opportunity to reconsider and improve their business models. Flexibility, scalability and cost efficiency must be top priorities in this new era. Hyperscale can provide this trinity of success.

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2021 Predictions: Operational Resilience Takes Center Stage

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Managing Operational Resilience And Safeguarding Data Are Core To Sustainable Digital Financial Services

Breaking down barriers between Risk and Business Continuity

By Brian Molk, Fusion Risk Management

What a year! Simply put, the global shocks of 2020 were unmatched by any time in recent history. Not only did the COVID-19 pandemic reach a scale and longevity that rippled through the way organizations operate, communicate, and safeguard against future disruptions, we simultaneously experienced civil unrest, wildfires, hurricanes and more. This unprecedented time exposed weaknesses in organizations and demonstrated that historically siloed approaches to resiliency put organizations in grave danger. No one had a plan robust enough for 2020. Those that emerged from this year stronger were those that took an agile, collaborative, and, above all, data-led approach to resilience.

Driven by these changes, the industry will see several trends in 2021:  operational resilience that blurs the lines between multiple disciplines, real-time decision-making based on data instead of plans,  industry collaboration and product suites,  a new executive buyer, often in the C-suite, and  regulators taking greater interest in resilience across critical industries.

Operational Resilience Goes Multi-Disciplinary

2020 prompted volatile and unpredictable market conditions. The pandemic not only demonstrated the interdependence of multiple areas of risk, but showed organizations that they must be hyper vigilant about all disciplines simultaneously and holistically. Organizations recognized they had resources and processes siloed, and that communication and coordination cross-organization is necessary to prove resilience to leadership, regulators and stakeholders. This demonstrated that solution areas (business continuity, risk management, disaster recovery, and more) with their specific expertise and training each have a role to play – and a strength to bring – in an operational resilience strategy.

As organizations recognize the importance of multiple-discipline focus, the barriers between these practices will break down and come together under operational resilience. Operational resilience will become the overarching school of thought in the industry. As a result, products and services will evolve to serve this need.

Data Instead of Plans

If 2020 demonstrated one thing, it’s that organizations simply cannot plan for everything – and instead must be ready to resolve problems as they arise. However, those that emerged most successful from disruption were those with good data at their fingertips, ensuring that leaders can make informed decisions quickly.

Gone are the days in which meticulous planning and tabletop exercises were the best approaches to resilience. In 2021, organizations will recognize the value of identifying their data and dependencies, maintaining them in software and leaning on the technology to simulate the multitude of outcomes possible. When unplanned events do arise, organizations will depend on technology to play out the plans, understand where they will fail and propose the right changes proactively.

Brian Molk

Brian Molk

Industry Collaboration and Product Suites

Industry collaboration is already underway and will continue into next year. As resilience continues to become a highly visible and critical business operation, the industry will realize the benefit of products that span disciplines to better deliver on organizations’ needs. As organizations break down silos between business continuity, incident and crisis management, disaster recovery and various risk disciplines to become one broader resilience practice, industry players will consolidate their respective offerings and increasingly integrate product suites for greater collaboration – and ultimately, greater resilience.

C-Suite Involvement in Risk and Resilience

In 2021, we will see resilience become a priority at every level of an organization – especially with executive leadership. Prior to this year, many companies viewed resilience as an esoteric activity focused on placating leadership and regulators. They relied on a few employees to own all resilience programs, not intimately involving themselves or their operating executives with the details. 2020 took resilience out of the back room and placed it firmly into the boardroom.

The C-suite will be increasingly committed to knowing whether their organization is ready to tackle and recover from disruptions. This means a resilience program needs to span all the appropriate departments and disciplines, speak the language of business instead of practitioners and answer the highest-level questions of readiness in a single executive experience.

Operational Resilience in Every Critical Industry

Undoubtedly, operational resilience will begin to take center stage in all critical industries. Over the past several years, the Bank of England, the Fed, and the European Central Bank among others have begun a push for regulation not only in financial resilience but in the resilience of operations for financial services. These bodies recognized the critical impact that their industry has on the wellbeing of individuals, businesses, and the economy as a whole – and are taking seriously their role in making a more resilient economy.

Other critical industries, including energy, power, agriculture and others (possibly based on the 16 critical industries defined by the department of homeland security) are similarly positioned. We expect to see regulators taking a greater interest in the organizations in these spaces, to ensure our national and global systems are resilient enough to recover from future events.

2020 was a challenging year, and many people are likely relieved it’s over. But don’t rest on your laurels. Whether it’s climate change, political unrest or even pandemics, the world is more interdependent and more exposed than ever. Ensure your organization has learned the lessons of 2020 and is first to take advantage of these trends in 2021, before it’s too late.

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Five Workplace Culture Trends of 2021

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Five Workplace Culture Trends of 2021 1

5 January 2021 – 2020 – a year like no other – is responsible for driving organisational change, especially workplace culture, which has witnessed considerable upheaval over the past 10 months. Workplace culture expert, O.C. Tanner Europe, foresees that the pandemic and its fallout will accelerate further changes on a scale never before witnessed. Here are its top five workplace culture trends of 2021:

  1. 2021 will see a big focus on organisational culture – COVID has altered priorities. Perhaps for the first time, the importance of a thriving workplace culture has been driven home, with leaders realising that culture isn’t just about the physical perks such as the table tennis table and massage chair, but is about connecting people to purpose, accomplishment and each other.  After months of remote working, furlough and general workplace flux which has caused mass anxiety and financial strain, many organisational cultures need healing and fixing. Leaders will need to find ways to bring people back together, even if it means doing this remotely , and some leaders may even need to strip everything back and re-build a more positive, connected and purpose-driven culture from the ground-up.
  2. How we work has changed for good – Research by the O.C. Tanner Institute found 77 per cent of employees say their workplace culture will never return to pre-Covid-19 normal. Remote working will continue well into 2021 and as employees have proven that remote working can be as efficient and productive as being in the office, many organisations will allow employees to work remotely permanently. On top of this,  with many organisations having had to adapt to virtual working, many normal work processes have changed for good. Companies have already adopted new recruiting and hiring processes, including virtual interviews and even the benefits that appeal to employees right now are shifting. Rather than unlimited holidays, paid parental leave has become important. There’s also a renewed focus on mental and emotional wellbeing.
  3. A greater emphasis on diversity and inclusion (D&I) – Organisations can no longer remain silent on social issues. Employees expect their companies to be vocal on issues of injustice and inequity and this includes a greater emphasis on D&I. And instead of focusing on how to avoid exclusion which is an approach initially driven by legal experts to avoid litigation, the key is to concentrate on inclusivity. This means companies should look past categories such as race, gender, or sexual orientation and nurture each person as an individual. With just 44 per cent of employees saying their company’s diversity and inclusion approach feels sincere, there is a huge opportunity for organisations to improve their efforts.
  4. Generation Z needs to be connected to purpose – Employees in this generation are entering the workplace and more than any previous generation, they are highly connected to social issues and want to make a difference in their jobs. This generation isn’t about climbing the corporate ladder but want to feel that they belong and that their company has an inspiring and relatable purpose. In order to attract and engage Gen Z employees, companies must connect their work to purpose, practice modern leadership and focus on wellbeing.
  5. Real digital transformation is happening – Covid-19 has forced true digital transformation that companies may have had on their ‘to do’ lists for years. Technology has been used to connect us together and keep us working during times of social distancing and remote working, and technological innovation is not stopping any time soon. Mobile tools are more important than ever, as well as strong data security and robust internet capabilities. We will continue to see more technological developments this year, with a focus on bringing people together despite many employees still working apart.

Robert Ordever, Managing Director of O.C. Tanner Europe says, “Leaders and HR professionals need to be prepared for the challenges ahead as they tackle the fallout from the pandemic. There must be a concerted effort to heal broken and damaged workplace cultures while building on the positive developments as a result of COVID-19. Inclusive, connected and purpose-driven workplaces must be prioritised and it’s time to drive technological advancements to bring people together. 2021 needs to be a year of deliberate and positive transformation.”

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