By Rory McCorkle, Senior Vice President, PSI Certification and Education Services
The global banking and finance sector often presents a strange contradiction when it comes to technology. On one hand, the sector is leading the way in blockchain technology, big data and Artificial Intelligence. On the other hand, many large financial institutions are falling behind in their digital transformation efforts, with internal processes as well as the moving the customer experience online. Particularly when compared to fintech and new challenger banks.
A report last year by Accenture found that just 12% of large traditional banks surveyed have fully committed to digital transformation and 50% of banks made little progress. The remaining 38% are in the midst of their transformations, but their digital strategies lack coherence.[i]
One area of digital transformation that has been particularly slow is access to qualifications and certifications. Many exams in the banking and finance sector continue to use Paper Based Testing (PBT). However, COVID-19 has accelerated the transition from PBT to Computer Based Testing (CBT), proving irrevocably that change is possible – regardless of the size of your organisation, number of candidates or security requirements.
In a heavily regulated environment that is undergoing increased scrutiny, a high level of certification and compliance is a necessity for many working in the industry. And credentials that hold such significance need to be securely and fairly assessed. This is where CBT offers numerous benefits. For organisations there is security, integrity, flexible capacity, increased reach and a streamlined exam administration process. And for candidates, CBT provides flexibility, convenience, accessibility and increased choice.
Despite these benefits, some organisations still have reservations and have been slower to make the move to CBT. In more traditional professions, such as finance, there can be a greater reticence. This is likely to be based on the historic prestige of PBT, as well as a desire to stick to more traditional methods. However, with more learning completed online, and educational resources shifting to digital from primary education to CPD, expectations around assessments are changing.
Up-and-coming candidates in all professions, particularly those who are digital natives, are starting to question outdated methods. Organizations will need to adapt to stay current and relevant with their market. What’s more, technological advances have now combined with the coronavirus pandemic to increase the demand for remote business services. Meaning that a growing number of organisations in the banking and finance sector are moving to CBT.
Technology offers burgeoning options to increase test security with CBT. Linear-on-the-fly testing (LOFT) for example allows you to easily change items for each candidate, while maintaining the fairness of the exam – rather than the fixed forms used in PBT.
With LOFT, every candidate is given a unique set of items, making cheating a lot more difficult. And with no need to ship test papers around the country, there’s significantly less risk of physical security breaches with CBT than with PBT.
With the movement away from paper and pencil testing, advances in online proctoring have also dramatically increased the ability to deliver secure online assessments. Using a webcam and microphone, online proctoring provides test security for exams, while offering candidates additional flexibility and convenient scheduling.
Even before COVID-19, online proctoring was becoming far more commonplace. In 2018, there was a 10% increase in organisations using online proctoring with video/sound recording and identity authentication as part of the exam process compared to 2017.[ii] And COVID-19 has reinforced the fact that it is possible to effectively move to CBT side by side with online proctoring – and move quickly.
Testing has changed a lot during its history but the reasons for adopting CBT have remained the same for decades – fair and reliable testing delivered at scale. Nearly all tests that are completed with a paper and pencil can be adapted for CBT.
For organisations in the banking and finance sector, recent technological advances have provided many more options to reach candidates. At the same time, technology has significantly increased the security for important online assessments that will not only affect a candidate’s future, but might also impact the future and reputation of their profession.
As with any change, the move from PBT to CBT must be managed carefully and communicated clearly. And with best practice in place, it is possible for any organization, regardless of size and number of candidates, to make the move to CBT.
Bank of England told to stop buying ‘high carbon’ bonds
By David Milliken
LONDON (Reuters) – A group of British members of parliament said on Monday that the Bank of England should stop buying bonds from businesses whose activities accelerate global warming.
Britain’s central bank doubled its holdings of corporate bonds to 20 billion pounds ($27 billion) last year as part of efforts to support the economy through the coronavirus pandemic.
The House of Commons’ Environmental Audit Committee – which looks at public bodies’ impact on global warming – said buying bonds from firms such as energy companies with high carbon emissions contravened government goals to reduce global warming.
“The Bank must begin a process of aligning its corporate bond purchasing programme with Paris Agreement goals as a matter of urgency,” the committee’s chairman, Philip Dunne, wrote in a letter to BoE Governor Andrew Bailey.
The parliament committee has no formal power over the BoE, which is operationally independent, but finance minister Rishi Sunak could potentially change the BoE’s remit to require a greater focus on environmental issues.
Britain will host the global COP26 climate summit in September and Dunne said the BoE should set a good example.
Bailey said in July that the central bank would review its corporate bond holdings once the coronavirus pandemic was over, but said the BoE was right to provide financial support to a wide range of businesses in an economic emergency.
The BoE holds sterling corporate bonds roughly in proportion to the amount issued on markets.
This means 19% of bonds it holds were issued by electricity companies, 6% by gas companies and 3% by other energy companies, while 11% were issued by industrial and transport businesses that are often energy-intensive too.
Bailey has said financial institutions such as insurers need to pay greater attention to environmental risks and said a green ‘stress test’ of their business models to take place in June.
(Reporting by David Milliken, editing by Andy Bruce)
Crown Agents Bank names Bhairav Trivedi as CEO Designate
UK-regulated bank appoints fintech-leader to complete its digital transformation
London: Crown Agents Bank is pleased to announce the appointment of Bhairav Trivedi as CEO Designate. His appointment is subject to the usual regulatory confirmations in due course. Bhairav and current Group CEO Albert Maasland will jointly oversee the transition.
Bhairav joins Crown Agents Bank as it completes its comprehensive modernisation and transformation programme, becoming a digitally-enabled, globally-focused payments and FX specialist for frontier and emerging markets. He brings over 30 years’ experience in financial services, with a core focus on digital payments, cross-border remittances and fintech development. His previous roles include that of Group CEO of Network International Payment Solutions, a UAE-based payments provider for the Middle East and Africa. He has been President and Chief Operating Officer of Sigue Global Services Ltd., a global moneytransfer company, and was Managing Director, Global Head of Remittance Services at Citi’s
Global Transaction Services from 2008 to 2010. He also founded PayQuik (later acquired by Citi) and has worked at McKinsey and Company, Fair Isaac and Providian Bancorp. He joins us after a nine-month stint as Group CEO of Finablr, having been appointed to oversee the sale of this LSE-listed payments provider, which was successfully completed in December (with Finablr sold to Prism Advance Solutions).
“I am delighted to be joining Crown Agents Bank at such an important moment in its development,” said Bhairav. “Albert Maasland has done a fantastic job to lead the bank towards its stated objective of becoming a leading provider of digitally-enabled FX and payments for emerging and frontier markets. Our goal moving forward, as an institution, is to continue to expand the business in the markets we serve while providing our customers with fully compliant, state of the art products to meet their needs. I am honoured to now play my part in this journey.”
Albert was appointed a non-executive director of the bank when the London-based private equity fund Helios purchased the bank in 2016. In February 2017 he took on the role of Group CEO, overseeing the bank’s transformation.
The bank has become a digitally-enabled and multi-award-winning leader in frontier and emerging market FX, payments and financial services for its unique wholesale client base. Since 2016 the bank has experienced a four-fold increase in revenues, is profitable, with bolstered governance, robust compliance, a stable credit rating and a programme for sustainability and diversity. Thanks in no small part to the 2019 Segovia acquisition the bank now provides a much wider range of digital payment and FX capabilities across a muchexpanded geographical reach: all while maintaining and deepening the bank’s core wholesale client base and focus on frontier and emerging markets.
“I feel now is a good moment to hand over,” said Albert, “especially as – in Bhairav – we have found a new CEO for the Bank with the experience and capabilities to complete the bank’s transition, all in line with Helios’s strong future-vision for transforming what was a traditional bank with deep roots in developing markets into a global, digitally-enabled specialist provider of FX and payment services to some of the fastest growing but often under-served markets around the globe.”
“The appointment of Bhairav points to both continuity – of the transformational process begun by Albert in 2017 – and towards the bank’s final destination as a UK regulated, globally oriented, fully-digital provider of payments, FX and ancillary financial services to some of the most exciting growth markets in the world,” said Jeremy Parrish, Chairman of Crown Agents Bank. “In his ability to take the business to the next level, Bhairav has my personal and full confidence.”
ECB stays put but warns about surge in infections
By Balazs Koranyi and Francesco Canepa
FRANKFURT (Reuters) – The European Central Bank warned on Thursday that a new surge in COVID-19 infections poses risks to the euro zone’s recovery and reaffirmed its pledge to keep borrowing costs low to help the economy through the pandemic.
Having extended stimulus well into next year with a massive support package in December, ECB policymakers kept policy unchanged on Thursday, keen to let governments take over the task of keeping the euro zone economy afloat until normal business activity can resume.
But they warned about a new rise in infections and the ensuing restrictions to economic activity, saying they were prepared to provide even more support to the economy if needed.
“The renewed surge in coronavirus (COVID-19) infections and the restrictive and prolonged containment measures imposed in many euro area countries are disrupting economic activity,” ECB President Christine Lagarde said in her opening statement.
Fresh lockdowns, a slow start to vaccinations across the 19 countries that use the euro, and the currency’s strength will increase headwinds for exporters, challenging the ECB’s forecasts of a robust recovery starting in the second quarter.
Lagarde saluted the start of vaccinations as “an important milestone” despite “some difficulty” and said the latest data was still in line with the ECB’s forecasts.
She conceded that the strong euro, which hit a 2-1/2 year high against the dollar earlier this month, was putting a dampener on inflation and reaffirmed that the ECB would continue to monitor the exchange rate.
The euro has dropped 1% on a trade-weighted basis since the start of the year, but is up nearly 7% over the last 12 months. Against the U.S. dollar, that number rises to over 10%.
Opening the door for more stimulus if needed, Lagarde confirmed the ECB would continue buying bonds until “it judges that the coronavirus crisis phase is over”.
Lagarde also kept a closely watched reference to “downside” risks facing the euro zone economy, which has been a reliable indicator that the ECB saw policy easing as more likely than tightening.
But she signalled those risks were less acute, in part thanks to the recent Brexit deal.
“The news about the prospects for the global economy, the agreement on future EU-UK relations and the start of vaccination campaigns is encouraging,” Lagarde said. “But the ongoing pandemic and its implications for economic and financial conditions continue to be sources of downside risk.”
Lagarde conceded that the immediate future was challenging but argued that should not impact the longer term.
“Once the impact of the pandemic fades, a recovery in demand, supported by accommodative fiscal and monetary policies, will put upward pressure on inflation over the medium term,” Lagarde said.
Benign market indicators support Lagarde’s argument. Stocks are rising, interest rates are steady and government borrowing costs are trending lower, despite some political drama in Italy.
There is also around 1 trillion euros of untapped funds in the Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme (PEPP) to back up her pledge to keep borrowing costs at record lows.
The ECB has indicated it may not even need it to use it all.
“If favourable financing conditions can be maintained with asset purchase flows that do not exhaust the envelope over the net purchase horizon of the PEPP, the envelope need not be used in full,” Lagarde said.
Recent economic history also favours the ECB. When most of the economy reopened last summer, activity rebounded more quickly than expected, indicating that firms were more resilient than had been feared.
Uncomfortably low inflation is set to remain a thorn in the ECB’s side for years to come, however, even if surging oil demand helps put upward pressure on prices in 2021.
With Thursday’s decision, the ECB’s benchmark deposit rate remained at minus 0.5% while the overall quota for bond purchases under PEPP was maintained at 1.85 trillion euros.
(Editing by Catherine Evans)
Transport ticketing: Lessons from the current troubles in telecoms
By Philippe Vappereau, Chairman, Calypso Networks Association As children, we are told: “Don’t put all your eggs in the same...
Should you reward high performance and if so how?
By Matthew Emerson, Founder and Managing Director, Blackmore Four In our last article – “what do high-performing teams mean?” we...
Britain’s Boohoo buys Debenhams brand for 55 million sterling
LONDON (Reuters) – British online fashion retailer Boohoo said on Monday it had purchased the brand of collapsed department store...
Asian shares near record highs as U.S. stimulus plans offset virus woes
By Swati Pandey SYDNEY (Reuters) – Asian shares climbed to near all-time highs on Monday as concerns over rising COVID-19...
Philips fourth-quarter core profit up 7% on continued strong COVID-19 demand
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Dutch health technology company Philips on Monday reported a 7% increase in fourth-quarter core earnings as the...
Global life insurers impose restrictions, worried about long-term pandemic risks
By Suzanne Barlyn, Carolyn Cohn and Noor Zainab Hussain (Reuters) – Global life insurers are taking steps to curb payouts...
Dollar pauses its decline on fresh virus worries
By Hideyuki Sano TOKYO (Reuters) – The U.S. dollar stabilised on Monday after a recent decline as fresh worries about...
European lenders exit Amazon oil trade after scrutiny by campaigners
By Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi, Matthew Green and Simon Jessop ZURICH/LONDON (Reuters) – Credit Suisse, Dutch lender ING and France’s BNP...
Asian shares rise as U.S. stimulus plans offset virus woes
By Swati Pandey SYDNEY (Reuters) – Asian shares rose on Monday as concerns over rising COVID-19 cases and delays in...
Oil prices edge lower as COVID-19 lockdown concerns overshadow demand prospects
By Florence Tan SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Oil prices slipped for a second straight session on Monday as renewed COVID-19 lockdowns...