Can you provide a bit of company history? When and why did CounterPath come about?
CounterPath was founded in 2002 in the midst of a nebulous, confused communications environment where any communications tool fell under the umbrella of UC (unified communications). The company has grown up and developed on the crest of the UC wave, and we’d like to think that we, and companies like us, have helped to bring more clarity, innovation and progress to the field.
Our focus is fixed mobile convergence, UC and over-the-top (OTT) solutions in the desktop and mobile VoIP software industry, for the operator, enterprise and channel markets.
The culture of CounterPath has always been about collaboration, flexibility, ease of use and security; only through working together do you get meaningful progress. This philosophy is manifest in our flagship product, Bria, which is unique in its integration with users’ existing systems. Instead of pushing against the current, we use our technology to enhance the capabilities and work in harmony with our partners’ systems, thereby ensuring a secure, cost-effective, user-friendly and innovative solution for our customers.
How would you define Unified Communications (UC)? What is its value?
Recently, the definition of UC, particularly to end users, has become more stringent and communications are finally becoming unified within a single experience.
For me, this has always been the real meaning of UC. Instead of having a Cisco WebX, an Avaya phone system and a DropBox repository for example, everything is, or is finally becoming, integrated into a common application that seamlessly achieves all of that across mobile, desktop, tablet… you name it. That’s the making of a good, true UC solution.
What are the key benefits of switching to a UC solution?
UC has a host of direct, tangible benefits to the core of business processes that are often overlooked, but the savvy among us are quickly realising that to do so would be perilous.
One clear benefit is project times. The introduction of a tool that will facilitate communication and collaboration between the workforce will, as a natural result, decrease the amount of time needed to complete projects, therefore increasing the overall productivity of the company.
Customer satisfaction is often another direct beneficiary of a UC platform. Being able to reach customers in a timelier fashion, thanks to having diverse points of contact and multi-device connectivity, will improve overall user experience for clients and customers.
Having a UC solution is also great for the pipeline. A more integrated sales process increases effectiveness and efficiency, allowing for a quicker close. Ultimately, this allows for more sales leads to be processed, vetted and followed up on.
Your new UC solution, Bria X, is now out. What should we expect?
Bria X is a feature-rich service collaboration suite that is accessible across desktop, tablet and smartphone devices; and it’s centrally managed from the cloud. Just like previous Bria solutions, Bria X overlays any hosted or on-site call server, enabling users to integrate high quality voice and video calling with the hosted services provided by CounterPath.
While Bria X may feel similar to previous offerings from CounterPath, there are significant differences that make it more robust and streamlined for SMBs and enterprises, such as improved web-based management tools, integrated desktop screen share, hosted team messaging and presence, simplified user experience and an affordable subscription pricing model.
What makes Bria X unique? Any particular points of difference?
Bria X is the only solution on the planet of its kind, providing a complete overlay to any call server, whether it be Cisco, Avaya, Broadsoft, or any other existing call service technology present in the office. It instantly adds the capabilities of HD Voice, Video, messaging, presence and screen sharing.
Whilst the likes of Broadsoft or Cisco may offer similar solutions, their offerings are vertically integrated. In line with the CounterPath culture, Bria X can overlay to any solution on the market, regardless of the vertical.
What’s the significance of CounterPath’s recent announcement that Bria X is now interoperable with Plantronics Hub, for the finance sector particularly?
This accreditation is further proof of CounterPath’s commitment to providing the best user experience across any device, any network and any platform by ensuring that the full UC experience – from software to headset – is optimized, and functions with little to no effort on the user’s part.
Integrating the Plantronics Hub APIs into Bria X enables desktop and mobile devices to leverage deeper functionality of over 25 headsets that will work out of the box with full feature support. For example, in the case of the Savi series from Plantronics, Bria X will set the presence status even when a call comes to the mobile native dialer. This level of attention to detail makes for the best user experience.
This is particularly pertinent to the finance sector because Bria X leverages standards based security protocols such as TLS for signaling and SRTP for media. This means every call can be delivered securely without risk of being compromised, while saving money in the process. Other solutions, including Skype, use proprietary protocols making them a risk for potential security vulnerabilities. Bria SDK technology, on the other hand, could be leveraged into an application from a bank on a mobile phone. All calls could be via IP and save millions of dollars in cost.
What products or features do CounterPath customers love?
SMBs and small teams adore Bria X for its simplicity, its quality, its cost-effectiveness and above all its intuitiveness; CounterPath also provides SDKs for Windows, MacOS, iOS and Android. This enables companies to leverage the world’s leading client technology and incorporate into any business flow that requires communications.
We’ve also been getting really great feedback from another of our propositions, Private Cloud. It’s been adopted by a number of household names and has proved a huge success. It provides customers with the opportunity to tailor our services to their own tastes and specifications; it looks and feels like the customer’s own personal API. And this service is extremely powerful. It’s scalable to hundreds of thousands of individual users worldwide, but still delivers on the remarkable diversity of apps, security features and user-friendly experience that CounterPath customers have come to expect.
As objective VoIP experts, what is the one piece of advice you’d give businesses yet to make the switch to VoIP?
Negotiating the complex and seemingly ever-changing market of times gone by, it’s easy to see why SMBs and even SMEs may have felt cautious – or even averse – to choosing VoIP; identifying high quality technology that was reliable, secure, agile and on-budget was a potential minefield.
But there has never been a better time to adopt this technology. The improvement in web infrastructure, coverage and speed has helped VoIP-based applications to become both a viable and a desirable option for organizations of all sizes to cover all their telephony needs. Not only do VoIP platforms offer more features that help organizations improve their productivity and enable more effective decision making; they also provide tangible financial benefits that strengthen their business case.
The unprecedented growth forecast for unified communications (UC) combined with advancements in technology make VoIP packages an easy buy-in for any business decision maker. There is a comprehensive range of options – all with clearly labelled and flexible price plans – so it’s easy to find the right fit for you.
VoIP allows enterprises to conduct business in different geographical locations in a more streamlined and potentially more cost-effective way. VoIP applications reduce the amount of hardware needed and with cloud solutions on the rise, the cost of other physical infrastructure continue to decline dramatically, resulting in reduced infrastructure costs.
SMBs, who might previously have struggled with expensive, or free but limited packages, now also have the opportunity to join the full-service VoIP movement, beginning with products like Bria X.
Whatever package you choose, there’s a huge amount of flexibility associated with UC and VoIP today. Due to the web nature of VoIP, scalability to grow or downsize is considerably easier to achieve and is literally just a few clicks away.
Top voice space predictions for 2017?
- Better integrated UC, regardless of size
This year, expect to see a UC solutions market that fits across all elements of the architecture, for all sized enterprises, really take shape for the first time.
Microsoft and Cisco tailor to larger enterprises, but there has been a real void in alternative offerings for SMBs. They want the same solutions but they’re struggling to get there due to the diversity of architecture choices available to them, mostly driven by cost. I think this will be resolved this year with the introduction of overlay solution sets that enable UC in those markets, to match what’s being deployed in the larger enterprises.
- Off-site security
A lot of UC solutions being deployed are being done so on the back of security architectures that were originally designed for on-premise use and as a result are all but useless as soon as a piece of kit leaves the confines of the enterprise or physical building.
Overcoming that and allowing a security solution that tailors to off-site, multi-device use is pretty challenging and until now required a multi company architecture that wasn’t inherently available. This problem is being met head on with overlaid technology that works with on-site servers to provide the same solution with minimal cost implications.
- Threaded communication
Anyone with an iPhone will now be familiar with threaded messaging, wherein users can pick up the conversation where they left off, seamlessly, across all their devices. Microsoft and BroadSoft both released products that allow for this phenomenon.
2017 will be the year this becomes widely available across all segments of the enterprise, granting the capability to have a threaded communications experience beyond simple screen sharing and video calling.
Each year, WebRTC promises to take over the world; each year our industry believes that it will. Until now, WebRTC failed to deliver.
2017 will be different! We’ll see software development kits and voice communications being added to solutions that were originally intended for the promise WebRTC couldn’t quite make good on.
- Telephony integration technologies
Until recently, everything has been siloed, with enterprises using different tools for different purposes. Client and server-based technologies, however, can unite the disparate nature of those user journeys, integrating with the telephony architecture in order to extend voice, video, messaging and collaboration to users, whether they’re inside or outside the enterprise. This telephony integration will start to see real traction in 2017 and beyond.
- Software Development Kit (SDK) technology
SDK is going to seriously disrupt the enterprise. These days, organisations want to integrate communications into their business processes flow. SDK can be incorporated into business applications already in use today in order to incorporate voice, messaging and video, just like that.
An example could be a mobile application on an enterprise device that provides a way to look at sales records, like a CRM tool, but then takes SDK technology and implements it within this tool to allow users to make calls directly in their infrastructure, right within their application.
Q&A with Clare George-Hilley, co-founder, Centropy PR
Clare George-Hilley is the co-founder of Centropy PR
Global Banking and Finance Magazine recently caught up with Clare George-Hilley, co-founder of fintech and financial services specialist PR agency Centropy, as the company toasts to three years of trading. We asked Clare about what life is like running an agency in the city, the trends she is seeing in the financial services space and what the future holds following the Covid-19 outbreak.
Why did you decide to set up Centropy PR?
I was looking for an opportunity to launch my own agency, both my husband and I had been in the public affairs and public relations industry for over a decade and we thought the time was right to go out on our own.
We could see that the financial services industry was surging, with challenger brands and new technology transforming traditional banks and setting new standards of customer service. There was a huge market opportunity to create and launch a PR agency that could provider first class comms support, alongside a deep understanding of complex regulations such as AML, KYC, and the GDPR. Likewise, many traditional technology firms are diversifying their offerings, to tap into the growing market opportunity posed by the fintech boom.
So, we worked on a business plan, designed a strategy for winning clients and officially launched in September 2017. Within a few months we had a growing portfolio of clients and a thriving business, since that point, we have never looked back!
How is Centropy doing now and what are you plans for growth?
The last three years have flown by and our client portfolio has grown and diversified quickly. We now manage PR campaigns for clients on everything from cryptocurrency, wealth management to payments and trading software.
We’ve also hosted parliamentary debates with key industry figures, including Members of Parliament (MPs) on topics such as the future of the financial services industry and the impact of challenger banks on traditional providers. The team is expanding quickly and we’re investing heavily in the latest training and support to ensure our team members are equipped to reach their full potential.
How do you see the next 12 months?
The Covid-19 outbreak has crippled the economy, forcing millions of people to work from home due to the very serious health risks. The knock-on effect of this crisis will lead to companies cutting costs where possible to save jobs, so tech will play a vital role in ensuring many businesses stay afloat.
We are already working with contactless payments specialists and other fintech companies that offer solutions to help companies survive and thrive despite the inevitable challenges ahead.
We aim to continue building our portfolio of expertise, testing ourselves with new challenges and delivering the best possible service to clients
This is a Sponsored Feature.
Lessons from past recessions and advice for business owners during the coronavirus pandemic
By Neil Davis, managing director and co-founder of Sterling Networks
What is Sterling Networks?
“Sterling Networks is a professional organisation founded in 2014 which facilitates networking events for businesses across the Midlands, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire and the South West. Over 300 members attend our fortnightly breakfast and lunchtime meetings.”
What is your background prior to establishing Sterling Networks?
“During the 1990s, I worked in the corporate team for Halifax. My wife, Tracey, and I went onto own a manufacturing business, which was also called Sterling, and produced a range of gifts, merchandise and promotional items.
“We soon realised tradeshows were a great way to meet distributors and clients. From there, the business grew exponentially, and we managed to build a network of around 500 distributors. Eventually, we became ground down by the manufacturing business – in part because the local manufacturing sector was being devastated by competition from China – and took the decision to sell the business and relocate to Spain.
“After spending several years living abroad, we moved back to the UK to set up Sterling Integrity (EXPO’S) & Sterling Networks (Networking) We were inspired by a desire to help businesses make meaningful connections with one another, and we haven’t looked back since.”
The UK has recently entered a recession, brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. What have you learned from past recessions and how are these experiences helping you to navigate the current crisis?
“I’ve lived through a number of recessions and have seen the pain that insolvency causes companies on a large scale. It’s taught me that there are those who win and sadly those who lose, and that businesses must adapt to a rise in demand for certain products or services at a time of financial crisis.
“Given the nature of what Sterling Networks offers [an opportunity for business owners to connect and grow together] I decided we could build upon the brand due to the demand for new business during the pandemic. We therefore moved our networking events from face-to-face to virtual via tools like Zoom and have gained a steady stream of new members in recent months, reaching an overall total of well over 300.
“On top of that, we’ve taken new staff on during the crisis and have launched a number of new regional groups across the country. I was determined that Sterling should come out of the pandemic with a head start, so my attitude to the recession has been much more positive than those who are forecasting nothing but doom and gloom.
“We can’t pretend high street retail wasn’t suffering long before the pandemic came along, and thousands of new businesses are sure to start up to meet the demand for the products and services that people require at a time such as this. In order to develop and grow businesses need to focus on where changes need to be made to meet this demand.”
Sterling Networks has been providing emotional support to its members throughout the pandemic. What advice have you been giving to members that could be useful to other business owners?
“I try not to be too opinionated and respect other people’s views when giving advice to members, as there are always two sides to every circumstance. I’ve been careful not to say to people that they should be doing one thing or another, as I don’t know their business and its needs quite like they do. The only thing that I have been telling members is the importance of setting up one-to-ones with one another. By doing so, they can listen to the needs and concerns of other, like-minded business owners and work out ways that they might be able to help one another.
“The pandemic has meant we all have a bit more time on our hands, so the advice I would give to people is to use this extra time wisely. Not having to travel physically from one meeting to another means there is a greater opportunity to connect with more people. It’s important to remember that individuals outside of your business can be just as valuable as those within it.”
What makes you hopeful for the future and are there any words of encouragement you can give to budding entrepreneurs?
“The key events that have happened to this country during my lifetime – whether wars, recessions, or the pandemic – have enabled me to take stock of things. While these experiences are certainly challenging, we all become stronger for living through them, and it gives me great confidence that the world will ultimately improve as a result of the pandemic.
“The whole world is effectively rebooting right now, as is the business community. I like to think entrepreneurs will recognise this opportunity to take better care of their peers, and this translates to greater collaboration between organisations. Speak to as many people as you can, ask all the questions that you need to and do your homework. This might well be a difficult time for us all but planning for the future must start now if it is to become as prosperous as I know it can be.”
Exclusive Interview with Ugo Loser, CEO of ARCA Fondi SGR
Arca Fondi SGR is a mid-sized Italian active asset management company. Founded in 1983 by a consortium made up of 12 regional banks, the company has grown in time, expanding its network of distributors and its client base. Nowadays Arca manages Mutual Funds, Pension Funds and Institutional Accounts with total AUM exceeding 30 € bln, reaching more than 100 banks and financial institutions and serving more than 800,000 final clients.
What are the key contributors to ARCA Fondi SGR’s success over the past 35 years?
Arca has always put clients and distributors first. That is to say we have always privileged fair pricing for funds and developing high quality products and services for our customers. This requires constant innovation as an objective and looking for people’s talent to be free to produce its effect
Why are people the founding element of ARCA Fondi SGR and how have you sustained this vision over the years?
We work in small teams, people are young and motivated and can perform duties with a high level of autonomy and responsibility. Innovation is asked to everyone, everyday
What makes Arca Fondi SGR different from other asset management firms in Italy?
Arca is a company focused on doing what it can do very well, that is to say mutual and pension funds, services for clients and banks. We never follow short term trends but always look for long lasting impact on the industry, like we’ve done may times in the past
What products/services has ARCA Fondi SGR pioneered?
Arca has been the inventor of “Arca Cedola”, fixed-horizon, coupon paying funds, which have been with no doubt the greatest product innovation of the past 12 years on the Italian market. This type of funds, at first strictly based on bonds and later as a balanced product, has encountered an enormous success both with clients and distributors due to its simple and effective value proposition. Arca is a market leader also in the “PIR” segment of funds, a range of product focused on mid and small sized companies, that have been the best performers in the Italian stock market for the last few years. In services, Arca is a leader in technology applied to asset management. Our website, app and digital services for clients and banks are award winning, state of the art combination of data, technology and channels, and the best is yet to come on this side.
What strategies do you have in place to sustain your market position and withstand professional competition in the country?
As I mentioned, we do not waste resources on projects with dubious results, instead we constantly invest on people, products and services. The high level of profitability that Arca has been able to maintain even in difficult years for the markets of the banking sector is a further testimony that this strategy works very well
How do you use technology to create meaningful experiences for your customers?
First of all, we have created a whole new division, Arca InnovAction Lab, dedicated to technology, data and processes. This ensures projects are delivered quickly and they are free to leave bad past practices behind. Arcaonline.it, Arca’s website, provides distributors with detailed information on clients’ portfolios, asset under management and subscription/redemption requests. It monitors aggregate selling data offering to our partners a suite functions and analytics to track commercial campaigns. And if the banks branches need assistance, they may ask Sara, our digital chatbot. A broad and timely multimedia production, covering exclusive reports, comments, presentations, videos, webinars and newsletters is also available on the website.
Customers, subscribing Arca’s funds through its distributors’ network, may access Arcaclick, a dedicated area on Arcaonline.it. With Arcaclick the client can easily browse through her portfolio of funds, analyze its characteristics, view transactions and historical funds’ performance in customizable views. Arcaclick is also a powerful source of information on Arca product range: Prospectus, KIIDs and other literature is easily accessible along with news, comments and reports. Arcaclick may also be accessed via Arca Fondi App, a free application for mobiles and tables, running on both iOS and Android. Available 24/7 and in mobility, Arcaclick gives clients the opportunity access information, news and details of their personal portfolio anytime and anywhere.
What key trends will drive pension growth in 2020 and beyond?
The Italian market for pension funds is still very small and therefore there is a great opportunity to grow. Arca Fondi manages the biggest open ended Italian pension fund and it’s been constantly at the top of its rankings. As people and workers are looking for yield and to weather short term volatility, the pension fund is very well poised to profit from this trend.
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