By Richard Whomes, director sales engineering, Rocket Software
What does the technology mean for global banks & their customers?
Blockchain is more than just a buzzword. Many banks and fintech organisations are already exploring the ways in which they can use the technology to improve consumer lending and retail payments, engaging it to share and update real-time transactional data across business divisions. Even the Bank of England has announced it will be adopting blockchain in an attempt to keep up with the fast-paced world of financial technology. And while other industries are getting in on the action – for example Spotify recently acquired Brooklyn-based blockchainstartupMediachain Labs to help build more secure, traceable transactional information about its music files – financial institutions are still very much at the front of the line when it comes to using blockchain.
The big players are making blockchain a priority
The 2016 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland was engulfed in talk of blockchain, eclipsing other pressing issues including financial crisis and regulatory reforms. Clearly, leaders from the world’s largest financial organisations were, and still are, strongly focused on the ability of the innovative technology to disrupt and change the banking landscape as we know it.
As a reflection of how seriously the industry is taking this, as of January 2017 there were 891 blockchain and bitcoin technology companies across 73 countries, which have collectively already received $1.9 billion in funding. What’s more, three of Ireland’s biggest banks have teamed up with Deloitte to develop a pilot blockchain programme in an attempt to improve the security and speed of payments made between domestic banks. IBM has also announced that it is investing heavily in the technology. With mainframes at the core of almost every global bank, the computing giant is launching its Blockchain Founder Accelerator programme for large enterprises, helping them tackle the technology, business and legal issues that come with establishing new blockchain networks.
Why banking is the bedrock of blockchain
To understand why blockchain has become one of the biggest talking points in the world of banking, we need to look at the mechanisms behind the technology. At its core, blockchain forms a distributed ledger of transactions, which can be updated in real time by a range of institutions. This does away with the need to rely on burdensome reconciliations between disparate systems to keep information up-to-date.
Banking is an industry that is inherently complex. Its processes are strongly regulated, and individual brands rely on multiple third parties and intermediaries to do business around the world. Banks also have risks that are not easily mitigated; they operate an enormous number of data entry points and are constantly battling to keep payment records secure, and out of the hands of cyber-criminals.
Blockchain represents a substantial opportunity for banks to respond to these challenges. This is especially important, as the emergence of challenger banks and fintech start-ups change the financial services game, introducing more agile, fast and cost-efficient ways of working. The technology also presents the perfect solution for combatting fraud. If a transaction within the ledger is tampered with, the chain is broken and the change becomes invalid. This means you can guarantee that any payment record is kept permanently secure and accurate each step of the way.
The significance of blockchain in the traditional banking sector is self-evident; Fortune predicts that by the end of 2017, 15% of banks will be using blockchain, with this figure growing to 66% in the next four years.
What are the drivers behind blockchain
According to Deloitte and EFMA, 37% of financial services firms in EMEA are exploring the applications of blockchain with the aim of developing new businesses and business models, or of launching start-ups in the sector. 20% are looking to the technology to streamline processes and cut costs, while 11% say they are dipping their toes into blockchain thanks to the pressure to remain competitive. Banks and other financial sector organisations are expecting blockchain technology to deliver real solutions for their business problems.
So, what does blockchain mean for consumers?
One of the main reasons why retail banks are beginning to pay attention to blockchain is that the technology holds the key to improving the customer experience. It can streamline and improve banking products, while also – on a broader scale – provide the basis for a complete restructure of how banks use data to offer customers new services. In practical terms this could mean anything from a new system to help identify bank users and fight fraud, to a cross-border payment platform that facilitates instant low-cost money transfers. With such significant opportunities on the horizon, now is the time for banking leaders to invest in blockchain to keep their business competitive.
Using payments to streamline everyday transport
By Venceslas Cartier, Global Head of Transportation & Smart Mobility at Ingenico Enterprise Retail
Once upon a time the only way to get from A to B on public transport was with cash – and likely a pre-paid ticket bought from a physical office. Nowadays, thanks to technological developments, options range from contactless and mobile payments, to in-app tickets and more. As payment methods advance, consumers and merchants are naturally moving towards Mobility as a Service (MaaS) systems, integrating various forms of transport services into a single mobility service, accessible on demand.
This move towards MaaS does not only streamline the consumer experience, it has other positive impacts too. Incentivising public transport use reduces environmental pollution, improves mental wellbeing by reducing travel-related stress, and aids productivity by freeing up time otherwise spent driving. With this in mind, let’s take a look at the current trends affecting the transport sector, as well as how payments can optimise transportation for both operators and consumers alike.
Optimising transport with payments
The payment process is integral to any service. A payment service provider (PSP) can provide a range of key benefits to operators by proving a gateway to the transportation open payment ecosystem, and ensuring they meet objectives in 3 key areas.
- Environmentally, by reducing the use of personal cars and alleviating pollution and congestion.
- Societally, making urban mobility more inclusive in terms of improving access to all areas and for all socioeconomic classes.
- Economically, by optimising investment in eco-structure and fostering financial transactions, therefore improving the wealth of the city.
Payments professionals’ expertise and technological solutions can make payments easy again for transport operators. They can provide a range of options so that the customer can choose which one is right for them, leveraging the capabilities of the mobility services’ infrastructure (contactless, mobile wallets, P2P, closed-loop, QR code, and blockchain).
Furthermore, they can help promote inclusion and sustainable urban development. For example, methods such as prepaid virtual cards, or mobility accounts linked to a prepaid account can reduce the risks of excluding the unbanked. The environmental impact per kilometre can also be reduced, along with the use of vehicles with lower emissions per person per kilometre.
Finally, PSPs can put merchants’ minds at ease, providing payment liability, allowing aggregation of all due amounts from all mobility service providers, and collecting payments in one single transaction from users while dispatching revenue between mobility service providers.
COVID-19’s disruption to the travel industry cannot be overlooked. In fact, research suggests that public transit ridership is down 70% across the globe since the onset of the virus, longer distance travel has seen reductions of up to 90%, and payment by cash has seen a 60% drop.
Being realistic, these behavioural shifts are unlikely to revert anytime soon, so it’s important for merchants to keep this in mind when thinking about payment methods. More than 70% of consumers and travellers say they are likely to avoid the use of cash over the next six months. As a result, more than 40 countries have already raised their contactless payment threshold, further helping consumers to avoid contact with frequently touched pin pads.
However, the pandemic has only accelerated the way things were heading already and highlighted the benefits. Within the context of the pandemic, transportation needs to reinvent itself and adapt its processes to suit the shift in commuter habits that we’ve already seen and will continue to see in the future.
Other trends to keep an eye on
Contactless has been steadily growing on the transport scene, as have mobile payments and in-app purchases. In fact, the recent move to mobile and online ticketing is the most promising method so far, having seen significant growth in the last few years and having been accelerated by COVID-19 as discussed above. Once consumers move to these easy, convenient, and seamless methods, it’s rare that they revert – so it’s a good idea for operators to think how they can cater to these preferences.
Speed and convenience are a must for busy travellers – but not at the expense of data security. Finding the right payments partner is therefore crucial so operators can safeguard their customers’ personal data, while also keeping on top of other security regulations/features such as P2P encryption, PCI certification, and tokenisation.
Next steps for operators
Public transport is essential for many peoples’ everyday lives – COVID-19 or no COVID-19. As such, mobility service providers can make a great difference to their service and operations by implementing the right solutions.
Grey skies ahead – Malta prepares for a gloomy 2021 if they can’t tackle financial crime
By Dhanum Nursigadoo, ComplyAdvantage
With the summer drawing to a close, many countries who rely significantly on warm weather tourism will be assessing the impact of Covid-19. Being a small island in the middle of the Mediterranean you would expect Malta to be taking a significant economical hit – just like we are seeing in other popular European holiday destinations – but this doesn’t take into account the strength of the Maltese economy.
Emerging from the eurozone crisis with one of the most dynamic economies strategically positioned between three continents, Malta has had one of the lowest unemployment rates in the EU and has recently seen its GDP growth expand year-on-year. But perhaps the most important aspect of the Maltese economy has been its attraction for foreign businesses with only a 5% tax on profits. It is no secret that Malta is a tax haven, probably one of the most effective tax havens in the world.
But you can’t pick and choose who takes shelter, and it’s no secret that money launderers have been taking advantage of the regulatory landscape in this archipelago.
The conditions of a tax haven suit criminal enterprises, who can take advantage of the opaque environment and blend their illegal activities with the same operations enjoyed by high net worth individuals and corporations who are looking to reduce their tax bill. And last year Malta’s keenness for secrecy and avoidance resulted in a damning report by Moneyval – the Council of Europe’s Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) body – which found that while the nation had made some efforts to curb money laundering there was still much to be desired in order to bring the tax haven up to standard. Overall, they were of the opinion that Malta viewed combating money laundering as a non-priority and this resulted in branding Malta with low to partial ratings for 30 out of the 40 Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommendations.
The findings of the report were stated to have the potential to “create within the wider public the perception that there may exist a culture of inactivity or impunity”. This follows on from a series of international high-profile stories regarding Malta and financial crime. Most shocking was the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia – who investigated corruption and money laundering in her native country – and was killed by a car-bomb three years ago leading to international outrage and condemnation.
Now Malta is in a race against time to turn their reputation around or they will suffer genuine consequences. The FATF have threatened to place Malta on a “greylist” of high-risk jurisdictions unless they have shown a genuine commitment to combatting financial crime and implemented the recommendations of the Moneyval report. If they fail, this would make Malta the first EU country to make the list and join others such as Panama, Syria and Zimbabwe.
The pandemic has actually given Malta more time to meet these obligations, and it has been widely reported that an initial summer deadline has now been moved to October due to the widespread disruption.
As we head into the autumn, there are signs that Malta has begun to take action. The Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) has created and established an empowered AML now headed up by Anthony Eddington, formerly of the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority and who has previous experience of tackling anti-financial crime at Deutsche Bank. This team has already begun working closely with international experts, specifically partners in the US through the US embassy in Malta and the United States Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). In May this collaboration led to 25 new cases focused on money laundering in particular, and with plans to increase standard inspections and on-site investigations into businesses in Malta, it appears there is a change to the country’s priorities.
Importantly, the report highlighted a problem for countries that choose to become tax havens. In some cases it was not that the Maltese authorities deliberately turned a blind-eye, but simply that they did not have the necessary knowledge to effectively tackle financial crime in the first place. Law enforcement appeared unable to even recognise when crime was occurring.
But this blurring of financial compliance will not help businesses if Malta does indeed become “greylisted” this year. While not as devastating as being blacklisted (the two occupants of this list are Iran and North Korea) there are significant detrimental effects to being put on the FATF greylist. Although this signals that the country is committed to developing AML/CFT plans (unlike the blacklist) it still sends out a warning signal to the world that this is a high-risk area, with the country in question subject to increased monitoring and potential sanctions from the IMF and the World Bank. Make no mistake, being put on the greylist will be catastrophic for Malta’s economy.
It remains to be seen how the work to avoid such a calamity will affect Malta’s tax haven status. Perhaps with an increased fight against financial crime there will be less ability to defend one of Europe’s most competitive tax regimes. But if Malta does not show they are genuinely committed to tackling this problem, then the pandemic disruption to the island’s tourism may be minor in comparison to the grey clouds that now approach their shores.
How will the UK prepare a supply chain for the distribution of the Covid-19 vaccines?
By Don Marshall, Marketing role at Exporta.
The challenge of mobilising a supply chain for the introduction of a global and nationwide vaccine will be enormously complex. The process will be costly, and it’s likely the figures will stretch to the hundreds of millions for both the production of the vaccine itself and its distribution across the UK. We must prepare and plan a supply chain strategy to ensure it reaches those most in need in a timely and safe manner.
The task of immunising a whole population is something that has never been planned or likely imagined by anyone within a standard supply chain. A supply chain that goes directly from the manufacturer to the end consumer, or user/ patient in this case, is complex and goes beyond the scope of any single logistics company. It would have to be conceived and delivered via a large joint effort and collaboration between multiple organisations. Effectively distributing the vaccine will depend on the source of manufacture, its storage requirements, and protection of the vaccines from manufacture through to patient administration.
The majority of vaccines require storage within a specific temperature range and need to be handled safely and in hygienic conditions. Depending on where the vaccines are manufactured, the transport legs will vary; if they are coming from overseas, air freight will increase cost and complexity. In addition to supplying the vaccine, syringes, needles and containers also need to be taken into account when preparing the supply chain.
Securing the specific types of boxes or containers i.e. the lidded containers normally used for transporting pharmaceutical products will mean acquiring them from all available stockists and manufacturers. Delivery vehicles would then need to be considered, with temperature-control factored in. The medical supply chain can inform their approach to distribution by assessing data from previous supply chains, and how large quantities of vaccines have been sent out in the past. Collating successful vaccine delivery examples from other parts of the world would be advantageous here, the more we can do to prepare for a logistical challenge of this magnitude, the better.
The distribution of this COVID vaccine will be unique in its scale and for that reason, additional supply chains will need to be mobilised. Apart from medical supply chains, those best suited for this type of transportation are the fresh/frozen food industries and supermarkets. I would mobilise these businesses to assist with the vaccine’s distribution wherever possible and use their car parks and facilities for the temporary medical centres needed to administer the vaccine to the public.
Using the food industry and supermarket networks would leave the current pharmaceutical supply chains intact for health services, pharmacies and the NHS. It would protect those vital services and continue to serve communities across the UK. Inevitably, it would place a short term strain on food supply chains, but these are supply chains that are well-equipped and versed in coping with excess demand i.e. the spike endured from the brief spell of public panic buying at the start of the crisis. With adequate resourcing and planning, I believe the UK supply chain can and will handle this challenge.
Using payments to streamline everyday transport
By Venceslas Cartier, Global Head of Transportation & Smart Mobility at Ingenico Enterprise Retail Once upon a time the only...
WeWALK joins Microsoft’s AI for Accessibility Programme Using artificial intelligence to change the lives of the visually impaired
WeWALK, the smart cane designed for people who are blind or with low vision which is now in use across...
Adoption of tech in private markets lags behind industry trends
Nine out of ten financial institutions have accelerated their digitisation strategy as a result of Covid-19. Yet just 26% of...
Covid-19 disruption drives five new retail supply chain trends
The business disruption caused by COVID-19 has resulted in four out of five (82%) retailers changing their approach to stock...
Remote leadership anxieties
It’s a difficult time to be navigating the complex world of business. Whilst adapting to new ways of working remotely,...
Online jobs soar by 14% in third quarter 2020, Freelancer.com’s Fast 50 reports
Freelancer.com (ASX: FLN), the world’s largest freelancing and crowdsourcing marketplace by number of users and jobs posted, today released the...
One third of money management tools face closure by the end of the year if they do not embrace open banking
New research from Yolt Technology Services shows 35% of Personal Finance Managers aren’t using any open banking technology Imminent screen...
Pivoting growth strategy to rebuild consumer trust and confidence
By Richard Steggall, the CEO of Urban FT Trust is essential to all relationships, whether personal or professional. And in...
Everything you need to know about APIs for business
By Omar Javaid, president, Vonage API Platform, Vonage If your work brings you into close proximity with technology, chances are...
Accountants have become critical to the survival of businesses and their reputations during Covid-19
The opportunity for fraudulent activity to flourish as finance departments operate remotely with less oversight in these extraordinary Covid-19 times...