By Nicholas Fitzroy, Risk Briefing Director, The Economist Intelligence Unit
All businesses face a range of potentially damaging political and economic risks but, due to the broad-based nature of risk analysis and the difficulty in defining its value, often devote insufficient resources to managing these risks. Yet political risk analysis is perhaps more important today than it has ever been. The combination of a series of major geopolitical disputes, like the US-China trade war, Brexit, or protests in Hong Kong, in an interconnected world, and the growing impact of reputational risk means that businesses find it harder now to avoid becoming collateral for political and economic risk events. Information is spread so quickly across social media by non-state actors that almost any event can become an issue for businesses if handled wrong.
The unrest currently afflicting Hong Kong perfectly encapsulates this. For firms operating in the territory there is clearly the risk of physical disruption, while an 8.6% drop in the Hang Seng Index in July-September also highlights the negative impact of the unrest on financial markets. Longer-term, should the protests intensify leading to greater violence, workers and businesses may look to shift to others Asian financial bus like Singapore or Tokyo.
However, another significant impact has come from how firms have responded to the protests on social media. The US’s National Basketball Association, for example, has taken significant losses following the Houston Rockets general manager, Daryl Morey, tweeting his support for protestors, which led to the withdrawal of Chinese sponsorship deals.
Apple and Google are among other companies to have been affected by the protests. In each case firms require an understanding of the geopolitical history of both China-Hong Kong ties and also China-US ties. With the trade war between China and the US ongoing, the value of clearly understanding geopolitical risks relating to the two countries could prove the difference between success and failure.
There is inevitably huge variation by country, industry, competition, or individual firms’ strategies as to which possible risk events matter more to which company. But there are four key areas that country-level risk analysis by The Economist Intelligence Unit can help.
First, it is vital to be able to identify risk events early and, to do this, experience and knowledge of a country, its market and geopolitical history is essential. A decent Hong Kong analyst would have known that there was a significant risk of major protests breaking out at some point, given long-standing tensions between the territory and Chinese authorities, and previous protests in 2014. But a step in aiding the process is for businesses to map financial exposure geographically (and that includes cyberspace). Which assets and operations are exposed in which countries? Is exposure bunched in particular countries?
Second, businesses need to evaluate each risk scenario. It is vital to understand what to look out for but inevitably resources need to be allocated and that means prioritizing some scenarios over others – a scale of some sort is required. We use an intensity scale made up of a probability and impact score. So currently the EIU rate the chances of the Hong Kong protests escalating into serious violence following involvement of China’s People’s Liberation Army as low probability (11%-20% likelihood of occurring in our view) but very high impact on businesses, if it did occur.
Third, those scenarios need to be monitored. The risk landscape is constantly evolving, and businesses need a system in place to stay on top of this. Regularly reassessing the probability and potential impact of scenarios is necessary. The risks at the top of the intensity scale should be changing over time. If they aren’t then it’s likely that the analysis is either not thorough enough or not regular enough. New scenarios should also be appearing on that intensity list.
In terms of the monitoring process, firms need to do two things well: obtain the right information and track the right triggers. There is a lot of noise out there and assessing too much information often leads to a clouding of the truth rather than illumination. Large swathes of news and data can give lots of signals telling us lots of opposing things. More effective is to monitor events with a few trusted but (importantly) varying sources—both external risk analysts and experts on the ground.
Then for each scenario, businesses should identify perhaps two or three triggers that could set a particular event in motion. The trigger for the Hong Kong protests was attempts by the local government to reform the territory’s extradition law but there are also some broad examples that reoccur with regularity. In more politically unstable countries, disputed elections and sharp food price spikes are examples of things that can lead to social unrest; currency devaluations often precede capital controls; major government infrastructure projects are always at risk of cancellation in countries that depend on a single commodity export for revenue during dips in commodity prices; and we’ve seen major geopolitical disputes and environmental protests increasingly act as useful triggers for successful cyber-attacks against government-linked entities. These are just top-level examples but would all act as a form of early warning system.
The last area that risk analysis can help firms, if it is done right, is in actually managing risk scenarios. Resources and strategies differ firm to firm, but understanding what will need to be managed is the same across industries. In other words, identifying precise areas of impact in each scenario allows businesses to make contingency plans. So, in the example of Hong Kong, for firms based in the territory, if things were to escalate, firms would need to consider relocating or at the very least form a new strategy around how they attract labour and investment. And, crucially, as the example of the NBA has shown, businesses would need to develop a clear strategy over how they communicate about any potential geopolitical event.
Risk analysis does not have all the answers, but it does certainly prove useful in the process of identifying, evaluating and monitoring the risks out there. And in the current climate, businesses cannot avoid country-level risks, so more than ever they need a system that helps manage them.
Tech talent visa sees 48% increase in applications over one year as global founders look to the UK
- Demand for Global Talent Visa applications has increased over two consecutive years since 2018 – up 45% and 48% respectively
- Demand is expected to increase from 2021as, from January, the Tech Nation Visa will be opening up applications to exceptional tech talent from the EU hoping to work in the UK
- 52% of those endorsed for the Tech Nation Global Talent Visa are employees, while 28% of those endorsed are tech founders
- App & software development, AI & machine learning,and fintech are the most common sectors for visa holders. Most endorsed applications come from India, the US and Nigeria
- 41% of Global Talent Visa applicantschose to reside outside of London to work in the UK’s strong regional tech hubs
Today, Tech Nation, the growth platform for tech companies and leaders, launches a new report, which reveals changes in the international talent landscape and growing interest in the Global Talent Visa.
The Tech Nation Global Talent Visa
As the race for global tech talent heats up, many countries have been making their pitch to attract the best and brightest tech talent to grow their tech industries and create jobs. The Global Talent Visa, for which Tech Nation is the official endorsing body for Digital Technology, plays a key role in enabling international tech talent to contribute to the UK economy and to the growth of high priority sectors such as AI and Cyber.
The visa has seen applications increase significantly over the past two years, with 45% and 48% increases respectively. Since November 2018, the Tech Nation Global Talent Visa has received 1,975 applications and endorsed 920 visas from over 50 countries worldwide. Demand is expected to increase in 2021 with the EU coming into the route.
52% of those endorsed for the Tech Nation Global Talent Visa since 2014 are employees at some of the UK’s leading tech firms, helping to fill existing talent gaps, while 28% are tech founders bringing ideas, talent and capital into the UK’s fast growing tech sector. In 2020, the visa enabled 421 founders to set up business in the UK, up from 400 in 2019.
This global talent is distributed right across the UK. 41% of endorsed applicants for the visa are based outside of London, working in the UK’s strong regional tech hubs. App & software development, AI & machine learning, and fintech are the most popular sector destinations for visa holders, reflecting growth in those tech sub-sectors. India, the US, and Nigeria are the top three countries from which exceptional talent has come into the UK with the Tech Nation visa.
A surge in demand and interest
Labour markets around the world and in the UK have undergone profound shifts in 2020. The data released today shows that there has been a 200% increase in the volume of users in the UK searching online for terms explicitly related to ‘UK tech visas’ between April and September 20201. This surge in interest to work in the UK’s digital tech sector is reflected globally too, with a 100% increase in users internationally searching for these terms in countries like the US and India.
Digital tech roles remain in high demand in the UK. Cyber skills are becoming increasingly important within the UK, particularly in regions such as Wales and the East and West Midlands where there has been a huge increase in demand between 2017 and 2019 (351%, 140%, and 86% respectively). Demand for AI skills has increased by 111% from 2017 to 2019, with Northern Ireland and Wales seeing the greatest increases in demand – 418% and 200% respectively.
Minister for Digital and Culture Caroline Dinenage said: “It’s no surprise the UK’s world-beating technology sector appeals to international talent. Our dynamic companies reflect the UK’s long-standing reputation for innovation and are renowned on the global stage. We are open to the brightest and the best talent, and this visa scheme makes it easier for companies across the country to recruit the talent they need to grow.”
Stephen Kelly, Chair of Tech Nation, comments: “The UK is a global talent magnet for Tech founders. The UK provides rich opportunities for entrepreneurs to set up, flourish and scale a business. The Global Talent Visa is crucial to making this process easy and accessible. Tech Nation’s Visa Report shows that, despite the pandemic, international interest to work in the UK tech sector has never been higher. Attracting tomorrow’s tech leaders to the UK is crucial to the continued growth of the sector, the UK’s place in the world, and driving the nation through recovery to growth in the digital age.”
Trecilla Lobo, SVP, People at BenevolentAI and Tech Nation Board Director, said: “The UK tech ecosystem continues to contribute to the creation of jobs and to innovative products and services. The Tech Nation Visa enables the UK tech sector to maintain its competitive advantage by attracting the best talent in specialist skills in tech, research and AI and a more globally diverse perspective to help us innovate and create amazing products and services. As an immigrant to the UK in my late teens, the UK visa scheme has enabled me to bring my experience, expertise and contribute to the people agenda for tech scale-ups in the UK, and helped me build a successful career in tech. I am really excited that the Tech Nation Visa will open opportunities and streamline the visa process for future global tech talent.”
Hao Zheng, Co-founder & CEO at RoboK, based in Cambridge and Newcastle, said: “I decided to work in UK tech because of the well-established ecosystem, world-class research and innovation and the high-level of experience that is extremely valuable for startup technology companies.”
Congcong Wang, Head of Operations at TusPark, based in Cambridge, said: “The UK is a world leading innovation hub, particularly in the fields of AI and Healthcare. Its environment fosters young talent, breeds disruptive innovation and creates amazing companies. Also, the culture of the UK is nurturing and tolerant for innovation, as it is considered a “safe place” for those inspired to take on the more risky route of entrepreneurship.”
Sumit Janmejai, Data-Driven Cybersecurity Professional at Capgemini, based in London said: “Having studied in the UK and worked with UK professionals, I could appreciate the fact that the UK is fast becoming the center of innovation, research and development in the Tech Industry. Besides that, the country offers an excellent life, welcoming culture, and a safe environment. It was an easy choice.”
Are bots eating your Facebook budget?
By Mike Townend, founding CMO of Beaconsoft Ltd
In an increasingly digitised world, social media has arguably become the most powerful and influential tool at the disposal of businesses, both large and small.
With more than 3.6 billion active social media users worldwide today, it is no surprise that many companies view it as an unparalleled means of marketing their products and services to new and otherwise unreachable audiences, as well as an opportunity to better understand consumer demand and habits.
Facebook is often regarded as one of the very best social media platforms for marketers – not least because of its targeted digital advertising service – but many firms using it may not realise just how much of their budget could be being wasted due to ad fraud.
Numerous studies suggest digital ad fraud affects between 10% and 60% of all types of digital advertising, with businesses of every size falling prey to so-called ‘bots’ – automated programs used by scammers to undercut deals, divert visitors or steal clicks.
But how do bots work, how might they be affecting businesses’ Facebook budgets, data and analytics, and what can be done to combat them?
How do bots work?
A report published by security firm Imperva found that bots – both good and bad – are responsible for 52% of all web traffic, while a separate study by White Ops concluded that as much as 20% of websites that serve ads are visited exclusively by fraudulent click bots.
In simple terms, a click bot is specially designed to carry out click fraud – in other words, the bot poses as a legitimate visitor to a webpage and automatically clicks on pay-per-click [PPC] ads, buttons or other types of hyperlinks.
Their purpose is to trick a platform or service – in this case, Facebook – into believing that real users are interacting with the webpage, app or ad in question.
Usually, bots will not just click a link once; they will click it over and over again to give the impression that the webpage is receiving a high level of traffic.
Why is this a problem?
The presence of click bots on Facebook is particularly problematic because they can effectively drain a business’ online marketing budget without many of its targeted ads reaching real users who might have a genuine interest.
There are a number of reasons why click fraud could be used – for example, competitors may employ a ‘click farm’ – a group of low-paid workers or bots hired to click on paid advertising links – or organised criminals may have found a way to profit from clicking on a business’ links.
In other cases, apps and software are created to collect the payout for a company’s ads, often with the help of bots.
Considering the average cost per click in the UK is £0.78, according to Hubspot, with some ad campaigns for popular key phrases running at £10 per click, or even more, it is clear to see how easily this could mount up if a firm’s budget were to be hijacked by scammers.
How might bots affect data and analytics?
Negative click bots have the potential to produce skewed analytics from Facebook advertising campaigns.
Because many businesses are unable to distinguish between fake clicks and legitimate ones, the data that they collect can lead to false conclusions and decisions that could have a detrimental impact on the business. For example, firms may choose to overspend or under-invest on a campaign based on findings that are substantially erroneous.
Businesses must be confident that they are making sound decisions that are informed by reliable data and analytics – and fortunately, there is a way that they can do this.
Taking the fight to the bots
There are a number of methods that firms can use to identify bot clicks, some more straightforward than others.
Frequently checking Facebook analytics for irregularities in traffic that could be attributable to bots can make this task considerably easier.
Specific things to monitor include the average number of page views, the average session time, and the source of referrer traffic – if there are any glaring anomalies in the data, bots could be the source.
Big spikes in page views caused by a higher number of visits than usual can also be indicative of bot activity and are especially dangerous given their propensity to slow down the page for genuine visitors.
Once malicious traffic has been identified, steps can then be taken in blocking it at source, although this is not a simple process and requires technical knowledge and know-how.
After removing negative click bots, companies can take comfort in knowing they are optimising their campaigns by gaining accurate insights that help to increase efficiency, lower the cost per visit, and improve return on investment.
Defeating the bots that are impairing a business’ performance on Facebook is by no means easy, and it requires time and effort to keep malicious traffic under constant surveillance.
Having experts on your side who are well versed in identifying and removing instances of click fraud can help to turn the tide in the battle against bots and ultimately allow a company to make big savings on its advertising spend.
Firms not only owe it to themselves, but to their customers also, to knock these harmful and disruptive programs offline for good.
Advanced Acquiring: How can omnichannel merchants optimise all payment needs through one provider?
By Marc Docherty, Head of UK Acquiring / Large – Strategic Business, Ingenico, a Worldline brand
Today’s consumers are constantly moving, buying across multiple touchpoints, devices and channels, thus driving significantly greater transactional volume. Against this backdrop, in order to capture and harness the market potential, omnichannel remains an essential strategy for merchants while conducting business operations.
Driven by consumer demands regarding a richer, more personalised and seamless buying journey, ease of use and frictionless transactions have always defined the terms for omnichannel success. However unsurprisingly, payments processing is not always at the forefront of merchants’ minds, hence, more often than not, businesses find it difficult to capture the fundamental importance of a seamless experience.
As a result, they risk not only alienating and losing customers and leaving revenue on the table, but also inefficient management of their costs by missing important savings on acquiring fees. It is therefore prudent for businesses to consider how best they can provide a frictionless experience if they want to remain competitive and ensure conversions in this increasingly fast-paced world.
Understanding how payments processing works
Innovation and efficiency in payment processing is often focused on the transaction itself, helping merchants conduct sales and process payments faster and through more convenient platforms, such as online and mobile. All these transactions, irrespective of the channel used or their value, might take only seconds to complete, however behind the scenes there are many different industry players (including an acquirer, an issuer, the payment gateway, the card network and the merchant), working together towards the same goal: making sure the payment process is flawless, secure and fast.
In theory, the payment should pass from each party without the customer ever noticing, however with a multitude of different providers at each stage, this process can be prone to errors or extra time added to the transaction, leaving shoppers with a disappointing payments experience hence less likely to return for another sale.
Much the same as their consumer counterparts, merchants also appreciate seamless experiences, frictionless integration and having everything in one place. They want to focus on their core business without any restrictions or having to worry about declines, chargebacks or interchange fees. As such, consolidating all this information in a single, comprehensive view will be a key asset for merchants, providing them with full visibility over their processes.
Offering the most relevant payment methods at the checkout is key
Local and alternative payment methods have enormous potential to drive greater value to merchants not only by expanding reach but also by strengthening the merchant – customer relationship. According to findings from a recent Capgemini report, online retail growth, coupled with the rapid adoption of transparent payment experiences and alternative payment methods will continue to drive non-cash transaction momentum, which is expected to reach 1.1 trillion by 2023.
Yet, while accepting a wide but relevant range of payment options at checkout will drive shopping enthusiasm and maintain consumer loyalty, this can add different complexity levels to the checkout process, depending on several factors, including performance, security, design, the merchant’s business size and geographical reach. Add targeted marketing programmes, product development and delivery strategies, return policies, risk and fraud management to the priorities list for merchants and surviving the long road ahead might easily become daunting.
That’s why, instead of trying to do it all by themselves, merchants should make it a top priority to partner with a competitive acquiring provider who can do this for them, ensuring the balancing act between security, flexibility, frictionless payments and speed.
By working with a partner that is acquirer agnostic and understands both business requirements and the importance of providing operational excellence, merchants can benefit from cost savings for each transaction with the different payment methods they offer. Furthermore, by working with a single acquirer better reconciliation for merchants will be achieved, thus ensuring faster payouts.
A full-service solution to rule them all
With coverage and expertise in over 120 countries, we are perfectly placed to assist businesses in delivering their expansion strategy in their home market or across borders. Our Advanced Acquiring full-service solution is a modular offering that addresses merchants’ needs for a more unified experience, including acceptance, payment gateway and acquiring.
What better way to expand geographical reach and boost revenues than by offering the most relevant payment methods for your target markets, while at the same time improving cash management with some of the fastest payouts on the market and keeping track of transactions and settlements into one unified omnichannel reporting solution which covers all your payments needs?
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