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Time is money: banking on automation



Tijl Vuyk
By Tijl Vuyk, CEO at Redwood Software
The financial services sector is driven by the need to be efficient, transparent and compliant. Second best won’t do in a world where customers are fickle, regulators are ever-vigilant and knowledge is power. The phrase “Time is money” has never been more accurate than in today’s competitive climate.
However, despite these key drivers, many processes within the financial services industry are undertaken manually. This means sometimes the success of process completion comes down to the physical pressing of a button!
This ‘manual madness’ has a knock-on effect that can threaten to kill enterprises from the inside out. For example, if credit card bills are miscalculated because of a human error, incoming calls to the service desk will increase, customer sentiment will fall and increasingly disloyal customers will switch suppliers.
Recognising this, banks are becoming more dependent on technology that will undertake their enterprise processes quickly, accurately and with minimal disruption to the business.

This is where automation comes into its own. Enterprise business process automation can revolutionise key functions such as financial close, reporting and business intelligence, delivering cost and time savings. However, implementing automation solutions is just the start of transforming tedious and risky financial processes into well-managed operations…

Disconnected pieces of the puzzle
Successful process automation only happens when individual tasks or jobs are connected together logically, end-to-end, into an entire, uninterrupted flow. Given the variety of departments, applications and systems involved in the banking industry – that’s a tall order. Think of a simple bank deposit – the process includes tens – maybe hundreds – of separate, supporting IT tasks. These tasks may run sequentially or in parallel, and they probably require substantial manual effort to expedite. In most businesses these steps occur in IT and business unit siloes all their own. Checking for fund availability; transferring funds; credit card processing – these are all separate tasks handled by different departments, different systems, different applications… it’s a fragmented picture.
When enterprises implement siloed automation solutions to fairly narrow process they sometimes lose the ability to easily cross platforms and applications. This means that, while they probably already have several automated processes in place, they’re not really addressing the whole process at all.
Are businesses just cherry-picking the ‘easy’ automation targets across a range of processes rather than tackling them from A-Z?
Business processes inevitably cross IT and business boundaries. So, process automation must use shareable business-oriented IT services to connect all the dots. These services are built on some combination of IT technologies—enterprise resource planning (ERP), business process management suites (BPMS), business intelligence (BI), social apps or any number of other industry-specific tools. If the technologies don’t connect these services, someone has to, manually. And when manual intervention is required, efficiency goes out of the window.
What enterprises need is a platform- and application-agnostic technology that can automate enterprise-level business processes. These solutions connect cross-application and cross-platform jobs into logical automation process chains based on business requirements.

These solutions deliver enterprise process automation – the ability to holistically automate processes across the enterprise using policies that are consistent throughout – removing the traditional constraints of siloed IT. Enterprise process automation gives enterprises the power to connect the dots and align IT processes with the real-time, real-world business – something of critical importance in the realm of banking and finance.

Measurable savings with automation
Lloyds TSB Commercial Finance Ltd. manages 4,600 factoring sales ledgers, 200,000 live debtor accounts and processes 4.2 million invoices and 2.4 million cash items annually. Working in the highly competitive financial market, it is essential that the company has instant access to up-to-date and accurate information 24×7. Staff require timely information to be able to provide clients with the on-going working capital they need. The cash summaries and invoice posting reports produced and distributed daily are therefore business critical.
Brian French, Business Systems Manager said: “The reports produced varied in length from 1 page to 80,000 pages and would often be distributed to up to 460 staff. We calculated that we were consuming somewhere in the region of 400,000 sheets of paper a month in our Head Office alone. Across the company this corresponded to a staggering 50 tonnes of paper every year which had to be bought in, stored, handled, printed and then distributed. It was obvious that we needed a more streamlined, cost-effective process.”
After deploying an automated web-based report distribution solution from Redwood, Lloyds TSB Commercial Finance Ltd saw a dramatic reduction in the complexity, time and costs involved in its report distribution process and made annual savings of £100,000 and 50 tonnes of paper.

Using standard browser software – familiar to all the company’s users – financial documentation is now automatically collected, catalogued and distributed through the automated reporting system. As a result, 460 users in the company’s eight Regional Offices now instantly access, and share up-to-date, accurate information easily, as and when they require it, eliminating the need to print some reports over 400 times.

Innovative process management
The UK call centre at Virgin Money is the hub for all customer related inquiries. Large volumes of calls and web traffic have to be handled as quickly and easily as possible on a 24/7 basis.
All services have to be online and working at all times. When daily transactions and business growth began to explode, management at Virgin Money knew that it needed a unified, automated solution to manage its daily enterprise processing needs. It also needed a solution that would work with its unique Customer Management System (CMS).
David Carney, Enterprise Infrastructure Analyst at Virgin Money explained: “On a typical day as many as 6,000 customers use our website or ring the call centre to check their account status, make transfers and execute other banking functions. This activity generates over 7 million Oracle transactions daily that need to be processed by our CMS.”
Overnight batch processing of this data was taking over 11 hours to complete, leading call centre staff to complain of slow response times when using the online systems. When Virgin implemented an automation solution to manage its overnight processing, it immediately saw this process decrease, along with the user complaints.

Another pioneering use for the automation solution is in the synchronisation of the production system, located in Leeds, with the test system. “This task used to take four days, but with automation, we’ve now cut the job down to three hours,” added Carney. “We are now able to synchronise as and when required, as opposed to every few months!”

Banking on success with automationTijl Vuyk
In banking, as with all sectors, the most critical, profitable processes are what matter most. These processes support an enterprise, enable growth and keep competitors running scared.
With enterprise process management businesses can fully, consistently and reliably support and optimise all their business processes – wherever they need it. They’re no longer bound to manual patches and ad hoc fixes to force semi-repeatable processes to work correctly. With automation, businesses can experience the most efficient, fully integrated and optimised processes possible and truly benefit from the ‘Time is money’ mantra.


Five things shaping Britain’s financial rulebooks after Brexit



Five things shaping Britain's financial rulebooks after Brexit 1

By Huw Jones

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain is conducting a review of its financial rulebooks and policies to see how it can keep its 130 billion pound ($184 billion) finance sector competitive after Brexit left it largely cut off from the European Union.

The government is due to issue papers in the coming days outlining its approach to financial technology (fintech) and capital markets, while further down the line it’s expected to propose changes to the funds and insurance sectors.

Here are five things set to shape the City of London financial hub following its loss of access to the EU:


Britain’s finance ministry is reviewing financial regulation and insurance capital rules, with minister Rishi Sunak raising the prospect of a “Big Bang 2.0” to maintain the City’s competitiveness, a reference to liberalisation of trading in the 1980s.

But it’s unclear how far any deregulation could go given that Britain says it won’t undermine global standards.

UK Finance, a banking body, wants a formal remit for regulators to ditch rules that put them at a competitive disadvantage globally. Insurers want cuts in capital requirements to free up cash for green and long term investments.

But the Bank of England says the City must not become an “anything goes” financial centre, and that insurers hold the right amount of capital.

Cross-border firms want to avoid Britain diverging from international norms as this would add to compliance costs.

City veterans say Britain should focus on allowing firms to hire globally, and ensuring that regulators respond nimbly and proportionately to crypto-assets, sustainable finance, long-term investing and restructurings after COVID-19.


London has fallen behind New York in attracting company flotations and a government-backed review of listing rules is likely to recommend allowing “dual class” shares and a lower “free float”, perhaps for a limited period.

Dual class shares are stocks in the same company with different voting rights, while “free float” refers to the proportion of a company’s shares that are publicly available.

The potential changes could attract more tech and fintech companies whose founders typically want to retain a large degree of control.

It could also recommend making it easier for special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) – businesses that raise money on stock markets to buy other companies – an area in which New York has also dominated, with Amsterdam catching up fast.

UK asset managers warn that strong corporate governance standards could be diluted by tinkering with listing rules.


Britain is home to one of the world’s biggest innovative fintech sectors, its “sandboxes” – which allow fintech firms to test new products on real consumers under regulatory supervision – copied across the world. But Brexit means Britain has to work harder to attract and retain fintechs as they will no longer have direct access to the world’s biggest trading area.

A government-backed review to buttress the sector is due to report back on Friday with recommendations that could include cutting red tape for fintechs that want to recruit staff from across the world, and make listing in Britain more attractive.

Other ideas could include helping fledgling fintech navigate government departments and regulators more easily, along with ways of boosting funding for start-ups.


Britain is reviewing how to make itself a more competitive place for listing investment funds, a core tool for bringing fresh capital into markets.

UK-based asset managers run many funds listed in the EU, but this global system of cross-border management known as delegation could be tightened up by the bloc.

Having more funds listed in Britain would also mean that the shares they hold would be traded in London. Billions of euros in trading euro shares have left the UK for Amsterdam since Brexit due to the bloc’s restrictions on where funds can trade shares.


As the City will get only limited access at best to the EU, industry officials say it makes more sense to focus on getting better access to other markets like Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan and the United States, while at the same time keeping the UK financial market open to the world, including the EU.

Negotiations between Britain and Switzerland for a “mutual recognition” deal in financial rules is the way to go, industry officials say. Better global access would also keep the City ahead of EU centres like Amsterdam, Paris and Frankfurt.

($1 = 0.7056 pounds)

(Reporting by Huw Jones. Editing by Mark Potter)

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How the Brexit Agreement Failed the Financial Services Sector



How the Brexit Agreement Failed the Financial Services Sector 2

By Steve Taklalsingh, MD UK Business, Amaiz

Over the Valentine’s weekend, it was announced that during January, the first month that the new Brexit-related changes came into force, Amsterdam overtook London as the largest financial trading centre in Europe. Approximately €9.2bn (£8.1bn) worth of shares were traded on Amsterdam’s exchanges each day in January, against €8.6bn in London. How did that happen and why is Brexit to blame?

The Brexit deal for the Financial Sector

The Christmas Eve Brexit agreement delivered an unfair market for UK companies in the Financial Services Sector. The deal meant we were left in a situation where EU-based banks wanting to buy European shares cannot trade via London. EU shares that were previously traded in the UK have moved to the EU on advice of the European regulator. In addition, EU FinTech companies can operate in the UK but, as ‘equivalence’ (agreeing to recognise each other’s regulations) has not been agreed, our FinTech companies cannot now operate in the EU. You can already see evidence of EU companies, particularly those based in Amsterdam and Germany, eyeing up the UK market.

As a sector we’ve never been shy of boasting about our 12% contribution to the UK’s GDP. FinTech, in particular, has been a UK success story. This vibrant scene is looked on with some envy and I’m very proud to be part of it.  Internationally, having a foothold in this market, and a London address, was the aspiration of financial services companies who wanted to be taken seriously, but not anymore.

Action to solve the market distortion

The Bank of England chief Andrew Bailey has warned that there are signs that the EU plans to cut off the UK from its financial markets and has urged them not to do so. The indications are that the Government is aware of the ‘problem’ but doesn’t appear to see the clear urgency in resolving it. It has been reported that there are ongoing talks to harmonise rules over financial regulations (equivalence) and that they’re working towards a March deadline.

Number 10 has said they are open to discussions on the equivalence issue and claims that the Government has ‘supplied the necessary paperwork’ and boasts of the UK’s strong regulatory system. It lays the fault of delay firmly at the doorstep of the EU: “Fragmentation of share trading across financial centres is in no one’s interest.” I’m disappointed that they’re not, in public, recognising the seriousness of the situation.

Research on the impact of Brexit

At Amaiz we have worked hard to understand the implications of Brexit. At the beginning of December we carried out research which focussed on the impact on financial services. The report, Brexit Brink: Are British SMEs about to fall off the edge of Europe – or building new bridges? is based on a survey of SMEs across the UK and you can download it free from www.  Our findings gave us valuable insight into the deal that was needed for Financial Services.

Most companies had been preparing for Brexit for some years.  Whilst there were some that hoped and campaigned for the referendum result to be overturned, that seemed unlikely.  The results of our research in December showed that people were as ready as they could be:

  • Nearly half (49.2%) of company decision makers had reviewed new regulations set to take force on 1 January 2021 (if there was a no deal Brexit) and made changes to ensure their companies would meet them.
  • Only 17% of companies said they had failed to prepare.

The changes that company leaders believed would have the most impact were those to regulations (37.4% of respondents said this was a concern), increased costs of doing business (37.2%), and reduced access to suppliers (35.5%).  Overall, 57% of companies believed that Brexit would have a negative impact on their business, and some (6.6%) believed it would destroy their business.

The research found that larger companies were more prepared for Brexit than smaller ones. That’s likely to due to their ability to devote resources to solving the challenges Brexit presents. Those employing between 1 and 10 people were most concerned about increased costs (45.7%) and those with between 11 and 50 employees about taxes and VAT (41.3%).

Larger companies in Financial Services prepared for Brexit by registering companies and offices within the EU so that they could continue trading there. This acted as a fail-safe solution that avoided issues, whether a deal was struck or not, and whatever the nature of that deal.  Smaller companies don’t have the resources to do this; they could not open another office on the off chance that they would need it, so Brexit put them in a more vulnerable position.

Impact on the economy

Of course, Brexit came at a time when we were all trying to manage the devastating impact of the pandemic. The FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) and FSB (Federation of Small Business) both published figures in January that show the terrible impact of the pandemic on SMEs in the UK. The FCA found that 59% of smaller financial firms expected that their profits would take a hit this year[1]. The FSB found that nearly 5% of smaller companies expect to be forced to close within 12 months, the largest proportion in the history of the Small Business Index and would mean that 295,000 companies will close this year[2].

A plea to the Government

The Government has worked hard to find ways to help small businesses survive the pandemic in order to save jobs. The economy is experiencing an unprecedented recession, with all hopes laid on a swift bounce back as soon as lock down ends. Until then we are in ‘war’ mode. However, helping businesses survive is not just about handing out cash. What the Financial Services Sector urgently needs is a fair regulatory framework and marketplace in which UK business can operate. Instead, the Government has allowed distortions that continue to damage one of the country’s key sectors – one that can drive us out of recession – and appear laid back about resolving the situation!



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Bitcoin tumbles 17% as doubts grow over valuations



Bitcoin tumbles 17% as doubts grow over valuations 3

By Tom Wilson and Tom Westbrook

LONDON/SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Bitcoin tumbled 17% on Tuesday, sparking a sell-off across cryptocurrency markets as investors grew nervous at sky-high valuations and leveraged players took profit.

The world’s biggest cryptocurrency suffered its biggest daily drop in a month, falling as low $45,000. Bitcoin was last down 11.3% at 0939 GMT.

The drop extended a slump of nearly a fifth from a record high of $58,354 hit on Sunday – though bitcoin remains up around 60% for the year.

“The kinds of rallies we’ve been seeing aren’t sustainable and just invite pullbacks like this,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at OANDA.

Ether, the world’s second largest cryptocurrency by market capitalisation that often moves in tandem with bitcoin, also dropped more than 17% and last bought $1,461, down almost 30% from last week’s record peak.

Cryptocurrency markets have been running hot this year as big money managers and companies begin to take the emerging asset class seriously, piling money into the sector and driving confidence among small-time speculators.

A $1.5 billion investment in the crytocurrency by electric carmaker Tesla this month has helped vault bitcoin above $50,000 but may now lead to pressure on the company’s stock price as it has become sensitive to movements in bitcoin.

Rising government bond yields over recent days have hit riskier assets, spilling over into leveraged bitcoin markets, said Richard Galvin of crypto fund Digital Asset Capital Management.

“Markets were quite hit from a leverage perspective so that didn’t help,” he added.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who has flagged the need to regulate cryptocurrencies more closely, also said on Monday that bitcoin is extremely inefficient at conducting transactions and is a highly speculative asset.

Critics say the cryptocurrency’s high volatility is among reasons that it has so far failed to gain widespread traction as a means of payment.

Analysts said key price levels have played a large part in determining the direction of crypto markets.

“Because we’re so lacking in fundamentals, it’s the big figures that have proved to be support and resistance points,” said Michael McCarthy, chief strategist at brokerage CMC Markets in Sydney.

“$50,000, $40,000 and $30,000 are the key chart levels at the moment. If we see it heading through $50,000, selling could accelerate.”

(Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Nick Macfie)

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