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TRANSFORMATIONAL FEARS MUST BE OVERCOME IF TRADITIONAL FIRMS ARE TO ATTAIN CUTTING EDGE OF INNOVATION

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TRANSFORMATIONAL FEARS MUST BE OVERCOME IF TRADITIONAL FIRMS ARE TO ATTAIN CUTTING EDGE OF INNOVATION

Steven Boyle, CEO of Integrated Cloud Group, discusses

  • How adapting to new technology is driving the digital transformation of the financial services sector
  • Why banking’s biggest institutions have no reason to fear the digital disruptors if they are ready to evole
Steven Boyle

Steven Boyle

There’s a well-known saying in business – that you have to ‘speculate to accumulate’. I’d argue instead that it’s wiser to innovate to accumulate in the modern banking industry.

Unless the big banks start thinking out of the box like the small, agile disruptors who are turning the sector on its head, their dominance could evaporate.

There are two ways to deal with change – to see it as something to be feared, or to see it as an opportunity – and digital transformation must be embraced in the current climate of unprecedented technological ferment.

Unfortunately, it appears that too many British businesses are afraid of what could result from meaningful metamorphosis. A recent study from Microsoft suggested that 49 per cent of companies feared the change that comes with digital transformation, in spite of the wide benefits.

A further 61 per cent of workers admitted they felt anxious when new technology was brought into the workplace by bosses, while 59 per cent were worried about the impact that automation of tasks could have on their job[1].

By comparison, the small operators have proved themselves to be fearless. They know they can quickly adapt to the changing digital economy and the rapid evolution of technology as they are not encumbered by the legacy of their businesses. They are not held back by a “that’s just the way things are done here” mentality, or by the sheer size of their data architecture, as the larger institutions may be. Instead, they see an opportunity to evolve their business – and they grasp it with both hands.

Young challenger businesses are typically more tech-savvy and digitally-minded. From their very inception, they’ve been shaped by industry learnings on digital transformation, and are more willing, and perhaps more readily able, to adopt and adapt.

We know that bigger banks have been left fearing that they will be rendered obsolete by the pace of change. They see online ‘wellness platforms’ edging into their territory, helping people budget, bank, pay and crowdfund all in one place. This should not be seen as a threat, but as a warning – closer integration with the customer is not only possible, it’s essential.

But as the demand for their banks’ services online and using mobile apps grows – and branch closures like those at RBS and NatWest gather pace – most of the big players are not getting to the so-called ‘digital promised land’, as outlined in a recent report from Avoka.

It concluded that at least half of their personal banking services must be available digitally and in an easy-to-use format[2].

That same study showed that traditional banks are missing an even bigger trick among their business clients, after it found that only one in four business banking products was available digitally. In terms of cost savings and ease of use, a switch to digital is a no-brainer for both client and bank.

Blockchain – most closely associated with the Bitcoin boom – is also challenging our traditional financial institutions’ dominance of the processing of secure transactions.

Then there’s the rise of FinTech which holds a clear message – that the way we handle our finances will be revolutionised by smart connected technology.

Nevertheless, while traditional banks may be daunted by the reaction of their customer base to evolving products and digital transformation, they should remember that the client data they hold is a significant asset they can use to their advantage. It’s also never too late to start closing the gap.

Ultimately, however, we shouldn’t forget that humans are at the core of the digital transformation process – not just as clients, but as employees. Staff often fear the consequences of change but they must understand that the need to evolve the business will help it to thrive in aggressive conditions that less forward-thinking institutions might not survive, in turn helping to secure their own workplace futures.

Staff are no less than digital transformation agents, and must be considered the first weapon that businesses deploy when looking to improve operations. True change is much more than just introducing new technology – it’s about changing behaviours and structures in tandem with a fresh transformational outlook.

[1] ‘Creating the right company culture for digital transformation’ (From Microsoft, published October 2017) https://enterprise.microsoft.com/en-gb/articles/digital-transformation/creating-the-right-company-culture-for-digital-transformation/

 [2] ‘State of digital sales in banking’ (From Avoka, published March 2017) https://www.avoka.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/State-of-Digital-Sales-in-Banking-2017.pdf

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Australia says no further Facebook, Google amendments as final vote nears

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Australia says no further Facebook, Google amendments as final vote nears 1

By Colin Packham

CANBERRA (Reuters) – Australia will not alter legislation that would make Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s Google pay news outlets for content, a senior lawmaker said on Monday, as Canberra neared a final vote on whether to pass the bill into law.

Australia and the tech giants have been in a stand-off over the legislation widely seen as setting a global precedent.

Other countries including Canada and Britain have already expressed interest in taking some sort of similar action.

Facebook has protested the laws. Last week it blocked all news content and several state government and emergency department accounts, in a jolt to the global news industry, which has already seen its business model upended by the titans of the technological revolution.

Talks between Australia and Facebook over the weekend yielded no breakthrough.

As Australia’s senate began debating the legislation, the country’s most senior lawmaker in the upper house said there would be no further amendments.

“The bill as it stands … meets the right balance,” Simon Birmingham, Australia’s Minister for Finance, told Australian Broadcasting Corp Radio.

The bill in its present form ensures “Australian-generated news content by Australian-generated news organisations can and should be paid for and done so in a fair and legitimate way”.

The laws would give the government the right to appoint an arbitrator to set content licencing fees if private negotiations fail.

While both Google and Facebook have campaigned against the laws, Google last week inked deals with top Australian outlets, including a global deal with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

“There’s no reason Facebook can’t do and achieve what Google already has,” Birmingham added.

A Facebook representative declined to comment on Monday on the legislation, which passed the lower house last week and has majority support in the Senate.

A final vote after the so-called third reading of the bill is expected on Tuesday.

Lobby group DIGI, which represents Facebook, Google and other online platforms like Twitter Inc, meanwhile said on Monday that its members had agreed to adopt an industry-wide code of practice to reduce the spread of misinformation online.

Under the voluntary code, they commit to identifying and stopping unidentified accounts, or “bots”, disseminating content; informing users of the origins of content; and publishing an annual transparency report, among other measures.

(Reporting by Byron Kaye and Colin Packham; Editing by Sam Holmes and Hugh Lawson)

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GSK and Sanofi start with new COVID-19 vaccine study after setback

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GSK and Sanofi start with new COVID-19 vaccine study after setback 2

By Pushkala Aripaka and Matthias Blamont

(Reuters) – GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi on Monday said they had started a new clinical trial of their protein-based COVID-19 vaccine candidate, reviving their efforts against the pandemic after a setback in December delayed the shot’s launch.

The British and French drugmakers aim to reach final testing in the second quarter, and if the results are conclusive, hope to see the vaccine approved by the fourth quarter after having initially targeted the first half of this year.

In December, the two groups stunned investors when they said their vaccine would be delayed towards the end of 2021 after clinical trials showed an insufficient immune response in older people.

Disappointing results were probably caused by an inadequate concentration of the antigen used in the vaccine, Sanofi and GSK said, adding that Sanofi has also started work against new coronavirus variants to help plan their next steps.

Global coronavirus infections have exceeded 110 million as highly transmissible variants of the virus are prompting vaccine developers and governments to tweak their testing and immunisation strategies.

GSK and Sanofi’s vaccine candidate uses the same recombinant protein-based technology as one of Sanofi’s seasonal influenza vaccines. It will be coupled with an adjuvant, a substance that acts as a booster to the shot, made by GSK.

“Over the past few weeks, our teams have worked to refine the antigen formulation of our recombinant-protein vaccine,” Thomas Triomphe, executive vice president and head of Sanofi Pasteur, said in a statement.

The new mid-stage trial will evaluate the safety, tolerability and immune response of the vaccine in 720 healthy adults across the United States, Honduras and Panama and test two injections given 21 days apart.

Sanofi and GSK have secured deals to supply their vaccine to the European Union, Britain, Canada and the United States. It also plans to provide shots to the World Health Organization’s COVAX programme.

To appease critics after the delay, Sanofi said earlier this year it had agreed to fill and pack millions of doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine from July.

Sanofi is also working with Translate Bio on another COVID-19 vaccine candidate based on mRNA technology.

(Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru and Matthias Blamont in Paris; editing by Jason Neely and Barbara Lewis)

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Don’t ignore “lockdown fatigue”, UK watchdog tells finance bosses

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Don't ignore "lockdown fatigue", UK watchdog tells finance bosses 3

By Huw Jones

LONDON (Reuters) – Staff at financial firms in Britain are suffering from “lockdown fatigue” and their bosses are not always making sure all employees can speak up freely about their problems, the Financial Conduct Authority said on Monday.

Many staff at financial companies have been working from home since Britain went into its first lockdown in March last year to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

One year on, the challenges have evolved from adapting to working remotely to dealing with mental health issues, said David Blunt, the FCA’s head of conduct specialists.

“During this third lockdown, there has been a greater impact on mental well-being, with many people struggling with job security, caring responsibilities, home schooling, bereavements and lockdown fatigue.”

Bosses should continually revisit how they lead remote teams, he said.

“The impact of COVID-19 is creating a huge workload for those considered to be high performers, while the remote environment potentially makes it much more challenging for those who were previously considered low performers to change that perception,” Blunt told a City & Financial online event.

Companies should consider “psychological safety” or ensuring that all employees feel confident about speaking out and challenging opinions.

“We’ve heard varying reports of how successful this has been,” Blunt said.

Pressures in the financial sector were highlighted this month when accountants KPMG said its UK chairman Bill Michael had stepped aside during a probe into comments he made to staff.

The Financial Times said Michael, who later apologised for his comments, had told staff to “stop moaning” about the impact of the pandemic on their work lives.

Blunt was speaking as the FCA next month completes the full rollout of rules that force senior managers at financial firms to be personally accountable for their decisions to improve conduct standards.

There have only been a “modest” number of breaches reported to regulators so far as firms worry about being “tainted” but more cases will become public as sanctions are revealed, Blunt said.

“Regulators won’t be impressed by lowballing the figures.”

(Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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