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What you need to know about spending and saving money

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What you need to know about spending and saving money

One question which each person ponders upon, apart from what is the purpose of life, is How to make money? Spending money and making money are two major aspects of this life and somewhere equally important is saving money! Financial Literacy is an ongoing topic – similar to finding the purpose of life. The 2018 NFCC’s Consumer Financial Literacy Survey[i] found that 1 in 4 Americans do not pay their bill on time almost 1 in 10 have debt waiting to be collected. 43%[ii] of student loan borrowers are NOT paying on time! Now that’s alarming , especially after a college degree.

Money as a Source of Happiness

Can money make you happy? Yes, ofcourse it does upto a point. According to a 2018, study by Gallup World Poll,[iii] a survey of 1.7 million individuals found that “income satiation of an individual occurs an earnings of $95,000 for a life time and at $60,000 to $75,000 for basic emotional well-being”. It means that we all require a minimum level of income to make us feel secure and happy enough to be able to enjoy other aspects of life.

The common practice of previous generations was to work longer hours to earn more. But the norms of work cultures are changing and the new generation, especially the millennials are looking at consulting, freelancing as a means of a fruitful life which will provide a balance with personal life. A disciplined approach to money saving becomes all the more essential to fulfil the needs and desires of life then. Let us look at in detail how you can approach the practice of money management the philosophy to adopt.

Approach to Managing Money 

Most people falter in the basic approaches to the entire process of financial management. The default mindset is about saving and living with a sense of scarcity. A tough financial spot should not become the reason for an attitude of misery and also should not create a sense of desperation for material things. Striking a balance can be tough when you are deep neck.

The steps below if followed will cater to your goals and also enhance your lifestyle by creating the discipline in all aspects. How you save, how you earn, how you invest – all are interlinked to your approach to things in life.

  • Budgeting is a Saving Plan

Most people are not disciplined enough to maintain a regular log of expenses. It becomes a chore to fill up a sheet with daily expenses. However, a simple log maintained in an unbiased manner will provide a good snapshot at interval of few months of where you are over-spending and potential for saving.

Look at budgeting as the first step in creating a Saving Plan. You have to do it as part of prudent investments. There are various apps available on mobile as well as desktop to ease your effort of creating a customized tool to enter daily expenses.

  • Once you start using one, start comparing different expense heads and follow the logical approach of curbing expenses in that area.
  • While it is easier than done, a prior mindset and self-regulation has to be created. You have to agree with yourself that once you have chosen this path of “Conscious Spending” , you will follow all the rules of the game.
  • Hiring a financial coach or planner might also help for few months till the discipline sets in.
  • Discuss the areas to be curbed with your family and spouse and become a check for each other’s over-spending.
  • Credit Card can be your best friend and worst enemy. Use 2 credit cards to split expenses and get free credit for a month. However, indiscriminate use without a track of your numbers can give a false sense of available credit and time to repay.
  • Small but disciplined Investment is Good 

While keeping track of expenses is one part, making your money work for you is equally important. The propounder of this theory in “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”, Robert Kiyosaki changed the concept of financial independence when he stated the obvious in the simplest of ways. Increasing one’s Financial IQ is by investing in a disciplined manner is the way to building wealth, not just working in an office.

  • There are umpteen number of financial blogs and advisory available online for anyone willing to invest time.
  • In case you cannot spare time, be sure to hire a trusted financial planner through references.
  • Investing is the next step after Earning and Saving.
  • Even paying fees for a well-seasoned investment professional will only give geometric returns in the future.
  • Quick Return, Quick Losses

First understand how investments and returns work. There are no “get rich quick” schemes which are legal – you might have a lure of creating a YouTube channel to start earning – Legit enough, true. But is it sustainable. Stray clear from schemes which sounds like pay X amount to receive X raised to n number of times in a short duration. This is the easiest form of a Ponzi scheme where you get paid initially out of the money invested by other gullible investor. However, since there is no real further investment or work being with this money, eventually the incoming investors might dry out thus leading to a breakdown of this scheme.

  • No Risk, no Gain

When you are on a clear investment path, taking risks is essential to gain multiple returns. Investing in Equities is one of these choices. You can discuss such details with your financial planner to understand the risks involved in direct equity investing, how much can you really afford to lose and finally other options such as ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds) or Mutual Funds.

Depending on your Income level, Age, liabilities, dependents , and above all your willingness to take a chance, your risk appetite is determined. You can look at equity and derivatives as an investment option with proper guidance, provided the money you are investing is not out of your savings or emergency funds.

  • Save and Spend per Your Life Stage

While the above rule applies, so does this one in equal measure. Even if you are willing to take risks, be sure to provide for your dependents and medical emergencies before you invest beyond your means. If you are a young turk with 20 + years to go for your active career life, you can bear some losses more easily than a person who is nearing retirement or needs to plan for children’s education. The latter should be looking at fixed interest bearing instruments along with a small portion of equity. 

  • Retail Therapy Can cause More Heartburn

This demands a special mention as retail therapy is the bane of prudent financial decision making. A good sale can makes the wisest of them go weak in their knees. Retail analytics show that weekends  and festive seasons are the biggest push points for easy and convenient retail therapy. Even “festivals” like Valentine’s day have opportunities for marketing for couples and singles in equal measure. However, a burst of emotional shopping can cripple your financial plan like nothing else.

Shopping sprees are encountered across countries in different formats –American spend an average of US$900[iv] on Christmas gifts with an average monthly net salary of US$4,158. Singaporeans are near to it with an average spend of US$800 from a salary of US$3,973. In UK itself, RSI or Retail Sales Index is an important measure of economic activity and is tracked closely each month by the Office for National Statistics. [v] 

How to Save Money – Methods and Tips

You have created a Budget. Great! Now let us look at ways to save money so you can stick to it. One question most family households have is how to save money fast?

  • Create a Family Budget

            The money managers of the house know how much the essential and utilities cost.    Many financial experts advise on a 50/30/20[vi] approach. Here 50% of the income is dedicated for necessities, 30% for wants and desires and 20% to savings. Investing  this 20% smartly to finance your future goals is the key.

In the family, one spouse can take the role of “Cost Controller” to keep a tab on good deals available on essentials like groceries and miscellaneous things in the house. Ensuring a control on unnecessary expenses can be fruitful in the long run and create a discipline in kids as well.

To instil a sense of correct spending, give your kids only hard cash as pocket money and take a percentage from them to put in a savings account. Parting with real cash is always hard and will teach them from early on that saving a portion before spending is essential.

  • Savings plan

Finding cool discounts, reward programs, even loyalty programs can save up to the tune of 20 – 30% of your actual expenses. Credit cards come with various facilities such as discount on billings on specific locations, airport lounge access, freebies, movie ticket discounts and various other things. The idea is to subscribe to a card which provides certain benefits which you can avail. All these small savings sum up to a large amount.

How to Make Money

There are multiple ways to make money. You can augment your primary income in many ways.

  • Secondary assignments such as freelance work and on-demand consulting.
  • One can look at monetizing certain hobbies and find segments of people and communities where you can share your creative products and also earn money. This way you can start building a name for your art and a brand in future.
  • Most importantly you need to find suitable investment options per your risk and financial goals for future

There are multiple investment options you can look at –

  • Equities –these are the most common choice of investor due to ease of investing and associated hope for quick riches. However, stock selection should be done only after careful study of the economic environment of these stocks, competitors, management operations and share price movements. A suitable level needs to be looked at for investing.
  • Debt – You can invest in T-bills, government bonds, short -term debt papers issued by the government. However, one needs to know the basic eligibility criteria a minimum certain amount is required for retail investors. Also, first understanding the process of applying and redemption.
  • Mutual Funds – These are the easiest instrument of investment for retail investors where they can only buy the units of a well-performing fund with either equity/debt or balanced orientation. Investing and redemption is easily done through basic accounts and one can track the performance via regular statements. You also have the flexibility to create a portfolio of various mutual funds to create a cushion of debt oriented investments and the high risk-high reward benefits of equity investment.
  • ETFs – Exchange Traded Funds are a similar collective investment vehicle but for tracking a particular index. This way you can also purchase “units” of the index and gain atleast equal to the index performance of your country.
  • Banks and other deposit accounts – these are considered the safest accounts as they are guaranteed by the government through their entities. Also the time deposits are a good option in a high interest rate time period
  • Futures & Options – These are instruments for real risk-takers and experienced investors. One needs to understand the risks involved as these trades work on high borrowing called as leverage. However the gains can be multi-folds if the call goes correct.

How to Spend Wisely

Most of us are clueless about if we are spending our money carefully or not. This doubt leaves either a fear of spending money or the indecisiveness on how to spend our money.

The wisest way to look at an spending decision by

  • Cost- Benefit analysis

When comparing 2 or more options – which grocery brands to buy , which holiday package to choose – list down the costs breakup of each along with the associated benefits. Then rank the benefits for each option and cost. If the one with maximum benefits suits your cost budget – go for that. This will work only if both or more options mean the same to you. Herein the emotional bias of preference will always creep in and may make you change your mind finally. If you can afford it without considerably damaging your bank savings, go for it. 

  • Opportunity Cost

This is the most used economic concept in daily life. It is the cost you incur for choosing one option over the other. If you eat apples over oranges – both cost different. However, the satisfaction in one might be greater than the other. Hence this is not only a numerical measure but also a sum total of the intangible benefits one might receive – Ease of purchase of apples, flavour of the apple which you favour. However you let go of the cheaper oranges and maybe some extra Vitamin C! This way opportunity cost will be different for different people. 

Professional Management of Money

Finally, for making all of the points work for you and getting you in the habit – professional services can help in a big way.

Money Management though financial planners is one option. A financial coach will understand your spending and earning habits and guide you on a day to day basis. Credit Counselling will be useful for advising on how to fulfil your various debt and in what manner can you do so in the best way possible. Debt Consolidation Companies come into the picture if you need to service a larger mound of credit card bills or home mortgage but are unable to. They also help in setting your credit score right by advising you to control your spending and keeping a minimum balance in your bank accounts. Finally, you can always self-help and utilise the various freely available Money Management Apps which can give you alerts and reminders along with tips to invest and save.

[i]2018 FINANCIAL LITERACY SURVEY https://www.nfcc.org/clientimpact/2018-financial-literacy-survey/

[ii]4 Stats That Reveal How Badly America Is Failing At Financial Literacy https://www.forbes.com/sites/danipascarella/2018/04/03/4-stats-that-reveal-how-badly-america-is-failing-at-financial-literacy/#6ec640af2bb7

[iii]Happiness, income satiation and turning points around the world.  – https://www.nature.com/articles/s41562-017-0277-0

[iv] Commentary: Retail therapy won’t repair your damaged sense of self-worth

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/commentary/festive-shopping-retail-therapy-repair-damaged-self-esteem-worth-11063028

[v]Retail sales, Great Britain: January 2019 https://www.ons.gov.uk/businessindustryandtrade/retailindustry/bulletins/retailsales/january2019

[vi]https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/how-to-save-money/

Finance

Tech-enabled cash management strategies have come to the fore during the Covid-19 pandemic – and will be key to firms’ recovery from it

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Tech-enabled cash management strategies have come to the fore during the Covid-19 pandemic – and will be key to firms’ recovery from it 1

By Ed Thurman, managing director and head of Global Transaction Banking at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, outlines how technology-enabled solutions are helping businesses strengthen their working capital position amid challenging trading conditions.

The past few months have brought significant headwinds for businesses, including supply chain disruption, government-mandated closures and tumbling customer demand.

UK companies are facing serious cashflow challenges as a result. According to the Office for National Statistics, half (49%) of firms currently trading are either unsure of how long their cash will last, or believe their reserves will last less than three months.

However, for many, the conditions created by Covid-19 have been a catalyst for change and innovation.

Cash management is one of the areas where technology has been deployed with most impact. Below are some examples of the areas where businesses have been using tech solutions to manage liquidity levels during the pandemic.

Payments

Cash withdrawals fell by as much as 50% at the height of the crisis as more people took extra precautions around contact. Even pin pad payment has become far less frequent over the past six months, too.

While a move to enable contactless payments has been the first obvious step for many consumer-facing businesses – especially in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors – some will have a higher average transaction value than £45, so alternative solutions are required.

We’ve seen more businesses adopting payment methods that allow customers to pay online when purchasing in-store or at-venue. For example, restaurants and bars can use digital platforms to enable customers to settle their bills on leaving.

Payment methods can include payment by URL, WhatsApp, SMS or QR code, which take the customer to a webpage where they can securely make the payment through their smartphone, with their preferred payment method.

These methods are enabling firms to quickly and securely receive payments from their customers, ensuring they can continue to operate effectively, and preventing disruption to cashflow.

Forecasting

Forecasting customer demand is obviously extremely difficult given the uncertain environment businesses are currently trading in.

However, it remains a critical task – helping to determine whether there is sufficient liquidity to cover planned operations and investment during a given period, say, the next quarter.

Many businesses continue to use Excel as their primary tool for cashflow forecasts, but we are starting to see firms

Ed Thurman

Ed Thurman

move towards some of the more efficient digital tools available. For example, cloud-based software can provide a unified set of data that is accessible to all business functions. This can help to accurately forecast incomings and outgoings over different periods, making it easier to evaluate how much working capital firms have available.

Our own Cash Management & Payments Platform uses cloud-based computing to help firms manage their working capital position, with true omnichannel connectivity, market-leading data analytics and self-serve capabilities.

Supply chain

The events of the past few months have highlighted the significant impact supply chain disruption can have on efficiency. For manufacturers in particular, it can be tempting to stockpile to help trade through supply interruptions and minimise damage to output, but this can have significant working capital implications by tying up cash in inventory.

While the potential for local or global supply chain disruption looks set to remain for some time, technological development can help mitigate some of this risk. Digital tools that leverage artificial intelligence can be introduced to help reduce some of the friction, automating certain processes and crunching large amounts of data to assist with decision-making.

This digitisation of the supply chain is picking up pace, meaning that business can be more agile in reacting to fluctuating demand and supply. Devices that harness the Internet of Things are increasingly being used to track and authenticate shipments, while solutions underpinned by Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) look set to speed up trade finance – shortening cashflow cycles and improving working capital efficiency in a volatile economic environment.

Here to help

It’s been said that, for many businesses, Covid-19 has been a crisis of working capital. The past few months have shone a light on the importance of digital technologies as part of effective cash management strategies.

At Lloyds Bank, we will continue to explore the potential of emerging technologies and have committed to investing £3 billion between 2018 and 2021 to transform not just our own business, but the products and services we offer customers.

Managing cashflow will be more important than ever in the coming months. We’re here to help businesses identify the digital tools that can help them strengthen their working capital position as they prepare to face the challenges ahead.

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Finance

Asset-based lending is often called ‘working capital finance’ for a reason…

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Asset-based lending is often called ‘working capital finance’ for a reason… 2

By Alex Beardsley, director at ABL Business.

At the start of lockdown, many businesses went into panic mode, wondering whether they had enough cash in the bank to meet their obligations in the unpredictable future. Thankfully, the raft of government support helped to ease much of the immediate cashflow woes, however, this exercise alerted many CFOs to the need for a more robust way of managing their working capital — both now and in the future.

Prior to the beginning of 2019, I wonder how many businesses had “potential global pandemic” as an immediate threat to be prepared for and managed in the latest iteration of their business plan.

With poor working capital management being the number-one reason cited as cause of business failure around the globe, managing risk via robust working capital facilities should be high on the agenda of any business hoping to ride the current economic storm.

Thankfully, UK Finance may have found the answer to the question: “How do businesses bolster their working capital facilities post-pandemic?”

UK Finance conducted a study throughout the lockdown period that reviewed  the facilities of 20,000 businesses (accounting for 5% of the UK GDP) in the UK using Asset Based Lending (ABL) and Invoice Finance (IF) as a way to manage their working capital. In the context of the lockdown period, much of the focus was on the availability of vital funds, with the government were under pressure to provide quick access to finance to keep the economy afloat.

The results of the study were surprising, stating: “At the end of March, IFABL clients were using 70 per cent of their available funds to support their cashflow, three months later this had dropped to just 45 per cent. In real terms, this indicated the ‘average’ IF/ABL client had headroom of over £250k within existing facilities.”1

This shows that government grants, the Job Retention Scheme, and Government Backed Loans (CBILs and BBLs) provided the working capital breathing space that businesses needed. But more importantly, it shows that the businesses that had working capital facilities in place prior to the pandemic had more headroom in their facilities and were less likely to be in desperate need for cash.

Alex Beardsley

Alex Beardsley

If this isn’t enough of an incentive for every CFO to review the current facilities — and consider the benefits of — Asset Based Lending (ABL), here are some other reasons why it should be considered as a working capital management tool:

  • With ABL, you get a higher availability of cash compared to traditional lending facilities
  • ABL provides revolving working capital on a constant basis, meaning the availability of working capital will increase inline with the growth of your business
  • Usually, ABL facilities carry a lower cost of capital from lenders due to the high amount of security they have over the business assets, and therefore can be a more cost-effective way of borrowing
  • The facility provides more than just an injection of cash at a specific point in time that is then to be repaid out of working capital, further hitting access to cash.

A better way of managing working capital lies in both knowledge of what is available in the market for businesses, and also the particular attitudes towards using finance within a business.

A study in 2014 by Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking highlighted that there was £770bn of untapped assets  nationally — which at the time equated to 48% of GDP. Could it be that working capital management is suffering because UK businesses are unaware of the options available to them when it comes to structured finance, or is it that they are reluctant to use finance at all?

Many businesses refer to the bank for support when it comes to providing working capital facilities — or any finance at all — but in the last few years the alternative finance market has proliferated. There are now a range of specific ABL providers that are more commercial and open to risk than the high street banks, meaning that there is now more choice available to businesses seeking support for working capital management facilities.

Following the pandemic there is going to be an increased amount of debt on the balance sheets of UK businesses and a reluctance from the banking and financial institutions to lend without significant security.

No one can deny that the risks to lenders have increased. Before Covid-19, the likelihood of a ‘pandemic’ was not on anyone’s radar — now it will be the first thing lenders and businesses think of going forward when it comes to making decisions.

Now more than ever, it is imperative that businesses and CFOs assess all of the options available to them when it comes to using finance within the busines to help with working capital management.

Having the right finance facilities in place before the business runs into working capital issues is a sure fire way to ensure that a business always has the cash on hand to meet their financial obligations — minimising the risk of insolvency by being able to meet current liabilities.

1 Source: https://www.ukfinance.org.uk/data-and-research/data/business-finance/invoice-finance-and-asset-based-lending

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Finance

Futureproofing Your Credit Management Now

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Futureproofing Your Credit Management Now 3

By Marieke Saeij, CEO, Onguard

The pandemic has forced a shift in day-to-day operations for the majority of businesses. In particular, finance teams have found themselves attempting to balance long-term growth with the need for resumption of payments from current customers.

Growth depends largely on answering the funding requirements of customers who need finance, while payments rely on customers emerging from payment freezes, often requiring ongoing help. The first half of the year saw digital transformation accelerate under the economic pressures of the pandemic as organisations sough to achieve rapid efficiency gains and underpin business continuity. With so many potential unknowns continuing to affect customers, finance teams must now focus on one critical area – future-proofing their credit management.

This is a critical initiative. Finance and specifically, credit management, concerns the entire organisation and in tough times, will be crucial to survival.

A three-pronged approach is required to ensure growth by transforming credit management for the future. It consists firstly of the implementation of a data-driven strategy, secondly on increasing automation and deployment of artificial intelligence (AI), and thirdly, on retaining the personal touch.

Future-proofing with your data

The advantages of being a data-driven organisation are increasingly appreciated. It is why more than three-quarters (68 per cent) of finance professionals in the Onguard 2020 FinTech Barometer, said their organisation is already undergoing digital transformation.

Credit management founded on data insights can help to reduce the days sales outstanding (DSO) and allow credit managers to create a better understanding of risk profiles. Identifying payment patterns from the data produces better risk analyses and the ability to anticipate trends. The finance team is more rapidly alerted to the first signs that a customer will not pay, for example. Staff can then step in to resolve the situation, approaching the customer to discuss invoice payment. Data analysis will also predict a prospective customer’s expected growth, chance of bankruptcy or payment behaviour. This is not a capability many organisations currently have without laborious use of manual methods.

Once they have these insights, finance departments can better advise management at the strategic level, elevating their role within organisations. But finance professionals’ insights may also help other colleagues. One such example is sharing risk information with account managers, which will allow them to better calculate whether or not to approach a customer for upselling or new business.

Yet despite all the discussion of digital transformation, most organisations still only use a portion of their available business data. This is as true in credit management as any other area. According to the Barometer, only seven per cent of executives think their own organisation is already data-driven. It means the focus in credit management, as in other departments, must be on exploiting an organisation’s existing data riches because this is the most efficient and cost-effective route to becoming data-driven.

Start with your own and move to third-party data when you need to

Businesses should start by using data from their own consumer base, such as their customers’ payment behaviour. This is not only more cost-effective, but risk profiles based on an organisation’s own customers can reveal more about future customers than data from other companies. The risk profile scores based on internal data will therefore have greater predictive value.

External data can be expensive, as pointed out last month (July) by McKinsey, but its use can strengthen an organisation’s own data resources, bringing a wider understanding of the market that makes for better decision-making. An organisation can combine internal and external sources as it evolves to best suits its needs.

The gains from this hybrid approach are tangible and come as enhanced sales, improved products, better finances and more targeted marketing, supplying a better service that boosts satisfaction levels and leads to improved relationships.

Automation and AI

No discussion of future-proofing can take place without consideration of robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI). RPA automates the hugely repetitive manual tasks in credit management that involve collection and collation of masses of data and divert skilled employees from more valuable work.

AI, however, is the group of technologies with more far-reaching potential, making smart use of all available data. It links everything from CRM and ERP system data, to all the cogs in the order-to-cash process. This includes linking accounts receivables management with data about customer acceptance and e-invoicing. AI integrates these processes, transforming efficiency and delivering new insights through its analytical power. For finance departments it will also link with recognised parties that provide credit information, as well as payment service-providers and an automatic payment processing solution.

This, however, is only the starting point. AI’s predictive capabilities help minimise non-payment risk, support the forecasting of cashflow and advise on follow-up actions. This includes, for example, whether individual customers will respond better to phone calls, or when there is no alternative to commencement of collection proceedings.

Marieke Saeij

Marieke Saeij

Using individual insights based on consumer history, AI can even help identify the best time to contact specific customers. This will this dramatically improve operational efficiency and if customers are approached in the right way, at the right time, will enhance relationships and bolster retention.

The personal touch

Although the future of credit management will hinge on effective implementation of the right technology, the importance of personal relationships must not be neglected. A future in which all contact with customers is automated will soon become unprofitable in credit management, where personal relationships are all-important.

It must be recognised that no two customers are the same and each needs to be taken on their own terms. Although data provides insight into overall payment patterns, it does not reflect the totality of the relationship with the customer. A credit manager, for example, might know that a single call is all it takes to trigger payment from a certain customer. Yet as much as AI will achieve, it still lacks the emotional intelligence to pick up on these kinds of nuances and subtle differences in character that make a difference.

This matters because customers will soon switch providers when service-levels drop or if they start to feel they are just being treated as a number.

One of the ironies, however, is that if an organisation has the right credit management solution, it will understand more about the customer and have a firmer basis for effective person-to-person interaction. If you know more about a customer, saying the right things to obtain the outcome you want is easier. This means finance professionals need to adopt a hybrid approach that combines the best data-driven tools with a heavy degree of personal involvement. This is the most reliable way of ensuring optimal performance, profitability and customer satisfaction.

Conclusion

There is nothing more fundamental to business than getting paid, but times are changing and data-driven credit management is undoubtedly the future. There can hardly be any argument about it. Basing decisions on data insights generates far better outcomes, delivers a substantial edge on competitors and injects agility into a team.

If another global wave of virus-outbreaks or other sudden disruptions strike the world economy, organisations need to be as agile as possible, ready to meet the challenges with credit management that is already future-proof. That requires becoming data-driven and the adoption of proven automation and AI. Yet reliance on technology alone will not guarantee success. Organisations must continue to recognise the importance of human interaction with customers, who may want to see a face or hear a voice when times are tough.

Alongside the implementation of solutions that deliver results quickly and cost-effectively, organisations need a hybrid approach, that uses the best of the conventional world and adapts it to the data-driven future.

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By Debbie Clifford, Head of People and Talent at Olive During this pandemic, organisations across all sectors have witnessed a dramatic...

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