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Part VI: Fast tech review offer

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Freeman Clarke invests invaluable time with ambitious mid-market entrepreneurs to guide and support them. These sessions are also a great way to build connections with peers in your region.

 

To take advantage of this offer contact us here.


Financial Services Content Series:

Introduction: Succeeding in 2021 (and beyond)
Part I: Security and Compliance
Part II: Back Office Streamlining
Part III: Get Digital Inside and Out Video
Part IV: Disruption and New Digital Customer Experience
Part V: Audio Discussion
Part VI: Fast Tech Review Offer

 


To find out more about how we could add value to your business, Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

Freeman Clarke is the UK’s largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) IT leaders. We work exclusively with ambitious organisations and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition.

Part V: Audio discussion

Mid-market Financial Services: Top Priorities for 2021

What do ambitious midmarket financial services businesses need to focus on in the coming months? CEO Graeme Freeman talks cybersecurity, streamlining, and the customer experience with top Principals Bruce Pomeranz, Debra Fairlie, and Dave Martin.


Financial Services Content Series:

Introduction: Succeeding in 2021 (and beyond)
Part I: Security and Compliance
Part II: Back Office Streamlining
Part III: Get Digital Inside and Out Video
Part IV: Disruption and New Digital Customer Experience
Part V: Audio Discussion
Part VI: Fast Tech Review Offer

To find out more about how we could add value to your business, Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

Freeman Clarke is the UK’s largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it ‘fractional’) IT leaders. We work exclusively with ambitious organisations and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition.

Part IV: Disruption and new digital customer experience

Fintech, disruption and the digital customer experience

The Ant Group, a Chinese fintech company, was poised to become the largest IPO in world history. In fact, the flotation was pulled after, reportedly, it became embroiled in Chinese politics. Nevertheless, the gargantuan valuation clearly demonstrates that fintech’s moment has arrived.

The genius of the Ant Group is in its bundling of so many financial services in one place. It has Alipay, the world’s biggest payment platform. It has a lending platform. It has an enormous money-market fund and a third-party credit rating system. It offers a wealth management platform and health insurance.

Despite this setback to the Ant Group, its rise will impact Big Tech: you can bet Apple, Google, and Amazon are taking furious notes. And of course, it will impact individual consumers.

But what does all this mean to financial services in the mid-market space?

Before we get into the details, let’s remember that software and other tech has been supporting and enabling financial services for decades. And, similarly, many who call themselves ‘disruptors’ are simply finding innovative ways to present traditional financial institutions’ products and services. So, in part, this is a new name for a revolution long in the making.

When it comes down to it, much of the value in this disruption is simply about making customer’s lives easier.

How it works

A variety of technical and market changes are have come together to enable and accelerate this disruption. Amazingly, the pandemic increased the acceleration, shifting customer expectations dramatically.

And the changes are vast. B2B and B2C users expect to find, select, and buy financial services online. They expect an excellent digital experience, and they expect seamless provision with as much fulfilment, service, and support online as possible.

Use of disruptive tech has gradually crept through the generations, so the gap between the expectations of Gen Z and Gen X has reduced, with Baby Boomers not far behind. For example, most people now opt for chat instead of phone support; for online self-service instead of a request for change; and electronic signatures instead of pen and paper.

Increasingly, online options have become core necessities. Payment by cheque, face-to-face support, and posted documents will soon be rather like the fountain pen you got for your 21st birthday – quaint and irrelevant.

New tech, of course, is having deep effects on businesses as well, enabling companies to transform themselves internally. Many companies in financial services use multiple external systems; but before this new tech, mid-market businesses lacked the resources to integrate them effectively. Now disparate departments and systems can be integrated and streamlined, dramatically reducing waste and delays.

Moreover, new tech allows ambitious business to move into automation. Many manual tasks can be removed using semi-intelligent tools like software robots (Robotic Process Automation, or RPA) which can eliminate the time-stealing repetitive tasks that plague many mid-market companies. Effectively, each member of your staff can be supported by software robots, completing repetitive tasks for them. The tools for the ‘industrial revolution of white-collar work’ are finally coming of age.

Finally, new tech allows for vast but relatively inexpensive improvements to how information is presented and reported. This allows company officers to better delegate, freeing up their own time whilst empowering staff. In addition, once information is available then more sophisticated analysis and intelligent action becomes possible.

Where we’re seeing it

Across mid-market financial services companies, we see digital disruption and transformation in the following areas:

Mobile, mobile, mobile. Smartphone usage is now ubiquitous in almost every market and demographic. Many people no longer see mobile as just an option, they now expect it. Of course, this applies to consumers checking their pension position. But the same person may be the CFO who expects to be able to review KPIs of an outsource provider on the phone whilst in the back of a taxi. Ultimately, many customers will favour a financial service available on their mobile and reject one that isn’t.

Online Communication. Attitudes to communication are changing. Many forms of online communication, like video conferencing, were at first technically unviable. Then they were viable, but nobody liked them. Gradually it has become entirely normal! The new normal for both B2B and B2C now includes:

None of these technologies are complicated. But each require careful configuration and integration to ensure they are seamless and secure, and to ensure that the customer experience is simple and positive.

Integration and automation. Much of financial services involves complicated back office functions, multiple external parties, and demanding regulatory requirements. Traditionally, for many companies in financial services, the ‘swivel chair’ users of these systems were key staff tasked with ensuring that the peculiarities of each system were satisfied.

But new tech allows for integration and automation of these manual activities. This can remove huge costs and do away with tasks that wasted time. It reduces errors and frees up experts to become genuinely value-adding. It allows you to set a new, dramatically lower price point, or to increase your margins.

Perhaps most importantly, for many customers, the distinction between services is often simply the wait time – if you can reduce this from days to hours (or less!) then you’re gaining a real competitive advantage.

Self-service. In both B2B and B2C, customers’ expectations have changed. Whereas a few years ago customers wanted financial service providers to act as trusted experts, they now want to reconfigure services themselves, investigate options and costs, and to make changes without jumping through hoops.

Whether this is amending investments, changing insurance options, or upgrading a service level, the concept is the same. Of course, people want expert advice sometimes. But for both B2B and B2C, they expect to be able to access your products and services and to ‘go shopping.’

The digital experience. In many cases, there is little differentiation between financial services products – often the online experience is the difference. The quality of the UX thus defines the brand in the mind of the customer.

Consider where there are frustrating steps in the cycle for your clients. For example, the need to post paperwork can be the hurdle that results in an abandoned purchase. Or a support service that closed at 6pm, or an error when uploading a document. Personally, if I hear, ‘Press one for existing customers, press two for new customers,’ I’ll likely just hang up.

Outsourcing. A business run on integrated systems can be easily, seamlessly connected to external service providers. This is especially true as many more staff are now working remotely, so it becomes less of a stretch to imagine the work being outsourced to an external organization. This enables a new disruptive era of outsourcing.

Put simply, many CEOs can own the value without operating all the processes. Secure document sharing and collaboration software, integrated workflow systems and simple API integration – it all allows you to lower costs, free up staff, and simplify your business.

Conversely, many mid-market businesses can offer outsourcing services – if they are able to integrate their systems and processes with those of their customers. If you do it right, you open up new ways to monetize your business and create value.

AI and Machine Learning. Mid-market businesses are increasingly able to make use of these technologies, leading to stronger margins, reduced risk, and improved customer service. Frequently AI and machine learning can be employed for one or all of the following:

Blockchain. Blockchain is a hugely hyped tech. And it might just revolutionise how we store, share and trust data. It diminishes the power of large organisations who have traditionally owned large databases and mediated our access. Instead it allows individuals and companies to transact with each other in an indisputable and secure way that doesn’t rely on a trusted intermediary. (An ‘indisputable’ record means it’s not possible to argue what happened and when.)

Blockchain often seems like a solution looking for a problem, and there are a number of technical issues that remain unresolved. But the potential importance of this tech still means it can add a zero to your valuation! It’s in your best interest to at least consider where you might reasonably employ the technology.

Redefined or rebundled services. The combination of mobile access, Internet of Things connectivity, seamless integration and self-service offers new opportunities to rebundle or redefine your services. For example, many insurance products are being redefined on the basis of usage; new banking products are based on very short-term deposits; outsourcers are offering click-pricing for services.

Streamlining your internal systems and providing easy web plug-in can allow you to pivot to new disruptive services without completely transforming your business.

Open Banking. Open banking breaks down the barriers put up by traditional banks and creates new opportunities for both existing and new service providers. This is a revolution that reverses many decades of dominance by the big banks and puts the needs of customer back at the centre. (In the EU it is driven by regulations; in the US it is an industry-owned initiative.)

Payments. Every time you pay for an Uber with your phone, you are already using fintech. However, in the B2B space, quite often payment systems are stuck in the 20th century. Is it easy for your clients to pay you, or do you make them jump through unnecessary hoops? Are your payments processing systems digitized?

Our advice to you…

‘Disruption’ is a strong word. It suggests a complete upending, a zero-sum game with only winners and losers. But from a customer’s perspective, there is no disruption – they are simply switching to an easier or less expensive way of doing things.

So don’t let yourself be intimidated (or at least concerned) by talk of disruption. And while you should certainly keep yourself apprised of what the big players are up to in financial services, remember how they got so big in the first place: by focusing on the needs of their customers.

Try and look at your own service from the user’s perspective. See what you can offer them and how you might do it better. In the end, all these technologies, from cryptocurrencies to mobile apps, are just tools; figure out which ones will make a difference to your customers!


Financial Services Content Series:

Introduction: Succeeding in 2021 (and beyond)
Part I: Security and Compliance
Part II: Back Office Streamlining
Part III: Get Digital Inside and Out Video
Part IV: Disruption and New Digital Customer Experience
Part V: Audio Discussion
Part VI: Fast Tech Review Offer

To find out more about how we could add value to your business, Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

Freeman Clarke is the UK’s largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it ‘fractional’) IT leaders. We work exclusively with ambitious organisations and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition.

Part III: Get digital inside and out video

Get Digital Inside and Out

We have been doing a lot of thinking about success in mid-market financial services. If there is one simple key to winning, I think we found it. This brief video explains the simple steps involved, and how to get your company started on them.


Financial Services Content Series:

Introduction: Succeeding in 2021 (and beyond)
Part I: Security and Compliance
Part II: Back Office Streamlining
Part III: Get Digital Inside and Out Video
Part IV: Disruption and New Digital Customer Experience
Part V: Audio Discussion
Part VI: Fast Tech Review Offer

To find out more about how we could add value to your business, Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

Freeman Clarke is the UK’s largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) IT leaders. We work exclusively with ambitious organisations and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition.

Part II: Back office streamlining

Why you should streamline, and why you should start now

Mid-market financial service businesses are hampered by unnecessary complexity. One of our Principals refers to it as the ‘spaghetti underneath the website’ multiple systems that can’t talk to each other, often requiring tedious and demoralising labour from staff.

Just as often the complexity is driven by external factors. Brokers, for instance, may deal with a wide range of providers, each with their own systems, complexities and idiosyncrasies.

We won’t pretend that sorting it all out is easy. But it is more than achievable if you take a systematic approach. And, frankly, you can’t afford not to. While we are bullish about financial services in the near future and beyond, the sector will see undeniable pressures in terms of regulation, competition and disruption.

But these pressures offer opportunities for the best to forge ahead. When you streamline your systems and processes – that is, improve integration with customers, suppliers, and service providers – you create a clear advantage over competitors.

The basic goals of streamlining are:

Of course, then there is the question of how to go about it. In our experience, the key is to focus on three areas: reinforcing leadership, knowing what you’ve got, and creating a timeline.

First: Reinforce leadership

Priority number one is to appoint someone with Board-level authority to have ownership of the streamlining project. Most members of the Board are unlikely to have the time (or the inclination!) to run this particular show, but the project will never get off the ground without a real leader in charge.

And expect this leader to be deeply involved. Important decisions about processes, staff, systems and vendors will be needed, including renegotiating contracts and hiring. These decisions will cut across departmental boundaries; the leader will need the time, authority, confidence, and competence to pull people together and to make changes happen.

It may be unrealistic to expect a CFO to do this, as they are too busy. Your IT head may have the knowledge but not the authority and people skills. The HR Director may not have the detailed systems knowledge. Even if there is no one perfect person at your company, there must be a clear leader regardless.

And set deadlines for delivery of specific improvements. You may decide on a stream of smaller improvements, or a large, transformational project, or both. Either way, unless you have clear deadlines, you can expect the project to be overtaken by other priorities.

Second: Know what you want and what you’ve got

This step involves first understanding what you want to achieve. Then you figure out what you actually have, and how well or badly things are working.

Your goals may include:

After you are clear on your goals, you next establish what you have. List every software product your people are using – and we mean every product – so you have a clear picture of how your business operates.

This is usually an enlightening exercise for our clients. It’s when they learn what they are actually using, and where they are spending money for no reason. They will usually also see immediate, no-brainer steps toward greater efficiency and security.

Freeman Clarke have created a simple way of visualising the technology that a business typically uses. We call it the Four-Layer System Model. Think of your tech as having four layers, one atop another:

  1. Customer applications
  2. Business applications
  3. Basic services
  4. Communication and connectivity

There will undoubtedly be ‘systems’ within your business that are informal; for example vital information could be in a spreadsheet or an Access database.

And some systems will not be delivered via technology. For instance, it is possible that your company still uses paper for stock control or manages and stores contracts in filing cabinets! These systems need to be identified as well -because part of streamlining will be making them more efficient with technology.

And look into what staff are using beyond what the company owns – for instance, if they use personal email accounts for business or vice-versa. (They made need a bit of reassurance that this is not a punitive expedition; it’s information-gathering to look for gaps in connectivity and security.)

Finally, how can you build on what is working. Perhaps you have third-party systems already helping your company, and their role can be expanded. Or a department whose processes are working smoothly, and it could serve as an example for other departments.


In the meantime, see our ERP and Integration Issues Knowledge Centre


Third: Make a timeline to streamline

At this point, your streamlining leader has a clear picture of what the company is currently using and where many of the snags originate. Now the CEO must empower the leader and team: give them the resources and the confidence to create a simple framework of twelve days, twelve weeks, and twelve months.

12 Days

There may be simple problems that staff know all about (maybe for years), but no-one got round to fixing. Perhaps some persistent people issues need to be addressed by training or redeployment? Perhaps some old laptops need to be replaced, or you need a shared calendar, so it is clear who is on holiday? Perhaps there is an ongoing ‘cold war’ between two departments that can be sorted out by a daily stand-up meeting?

Now is the time to identify the quick-fix problems and, well, fix them.

12 Weeks

Many important problems can be fixed in this middle stage. Focus your efforts on making them happen. This may involve bringing together suppliers, or some simple custom software, or use of a low-code integration tool.

Whatever the issues, you may need managers and staff to put aside their normal priorities. And the focus must remain on the problems; no blaming should be tolerated. A ‘management lock-in’ may be necessary, when no-one leaves the room until they sort it out!

Within reason, be prepared to spend money to deliver these projects. But don’t overdo the scrutiny process – perhaps set aside a budget and then allow the team to spend as they see fit.

12 Months

What can’t be fixed in twelve weeks will likely require a more substantial project. Perhaps you need a number of system improvements, perhaps a big-bang replacement. Either way, your streamlining leader must define specific outcomes and cost-justify each and every project.

Similarly, if external vendors are involved, then a tendering process will be necessary for significant spends. External projects are especially inclined to go pear-shaped, so these too need to be planned, owned, and managed, with specific timetables and deliverables.

Each of these deadlines will help to keep everyone focused and energized. Whichever project is at hand, ensure that everyone remembers that your customers decide what matters – and if you don’t get it right, a competitor will!

One last thing: Create a culture of efficiency

Having a senior person with authority over the streamlining project ensures that it remains a priority. It also helps to shift the culture of a company.

More efficient systems will lower costs and increase customer satisfaction. At the same time you are reducing stress and frustration for your people. And if you want to retain these benefits moving forward, you’ve got to set an example for staff. If they see the Board allowing poor practice, they too will be lax. If they see you working toward efficiency, they will be conscious of it as well.

Much of the cultural challenge may be for managers to listen to people internally, and for these people to feel safe to express their frustrations, especially when they involve their own jobs. You will know it is working when staff feel empowered to ask questions and make suggestions, so that down the line you don’t have another mess of spaghetti to clean up!

 


Financial Services Content Series:

Introduction: Succeeding in 2021 (and beyond)
Part I: Security and Compliance
Part II: Back Office Streamlining
Part III: Get Digital Inside and Out Video
Part IV: Disruption and New Digital Customer Experience
Part V: Audio Discussion
Part VI: Fast Tech Review Offer

To find out more about how we could add value to your business, Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

Freeman Clarke is the UK’s largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) IT leaders. We work exclusively with ambitious organisations and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition.

Part I: Security and compliance

Let’s start on a positive note: when it comes to the UK mid-market financial services sector, we are bullish.

It is an indispensable industry, and Britain boasts institutional experience, high-quality companies offering innovative services, and a sophisticated, forward-thinking market. Whatever is in store for the UK economy as a whole, British financial services will remain a world player, and domestically it will remain critical to our institutions, businesses, and personal lives.

In our own recent experience, we are seeing real buzz in mid-market companies in a broad range of financial services areas, including:

Now for the difficult bit. We can’t have a clear-eyed discussion of financial services without acknowledging the twin upheavals of Brexit and COVID-19.

As for Brexit, we do feel confident that London will continue to be a global financial centre. But we may see an impact on financial services centres within Britain, such as Manchester, Leeds, and Edinburgh. Also, it is an absolute certainty that compliance and regulatory obligations will be more complicated.

As for COVID-19, whilst Britain is thankfully opening up again, the lockdown exposed the security weaknesses and process issues of so many companies. We weren’t surprised when Deloitte reported a spike in ‘phishing attacks, Malspams and ransomware attacks’ by criminals looking to take advantage of the confusion.

Another difficult bit: security and compliance issues are especially difficult in the mid-market space. It is subject to many of the same complicated regulations and cyberthreats as the giant multinationals, and yet mid-market firms don’t have the same resources to deal with these problems.

What follows is an overview on how mid-market financial services firms can handle security and compliance issues without punishing expense and at the same time increase efficiency, improve customer satisfaction, and fatten margins.

Data security is the cost of doing business

Data security is a growing problem, and it’s only going to get worse.

Verizon, the American telecom, analysed more than 150,000 incidents worldwide and confirmed nearly 4,000 data breaches in 2020. This is only what one company analysed, and the year isn’t over yet! To make matters worse, around twenty-five percent of these attacks were in the financial services sector.

Why the explosion of cyberattacks in financial services? As the famous American criminal Willie Sutton said when asked why he robbed banks, ‘because that’s where the money is’.

More specifically, the rush to homeworking has exposed the security weaknesses of many companies. Ten years of behavioural change were compressed into ten weeks; staff and IT teams weren’t prepared for it.

When we speak of security, however, we are not only speaking about what happens online. In our digital age, too many businesses aren’t careful enough about the connections between data security and what happens offline. Thieves no longer pilfer the post for the cheques, but to aid in identity theft. They steal mobiles not to sell the device for quick cash, but to use as source of inside data to help them find the soft way in for ransomware.

Remember: All the firewalls in the world won’t help if a thief gets access to the CFO’s email account! A lot of stolen cash is transferred willingly by authorized finance staff who cheerfully think they are following instructions from the real CFO—but in reality, it’s a clever scam.

Another frequent lapse is how often businesses remain unprepared for disruptions, whether due to natural disasters or human error. Due to the 2014 floods, the average small business lost £82,000 and fifty working days. And then it happened again in 2019.

It isn’t just flooding. Experts predict that extreme weather events will become almost commonplace in Britain. Thus it is in your best interest to prepare your business for them. Just as you should prepare for other mishaps. A few examples of what we’ve seen with our clients:

In each instance, we helped our clients keep their doors open and recover. But it would have been easier—and less expensive!—had they brought us in earlier. Because we already knew that disaster preparedness is just part of running the IT function.


In the meantime, see our Technology Roadmap for Growth Knowledge Centre


Find the risks before they find you

The first step for a CEO looking to mitigate security concerns is to create a risk-and-issue log. This is simply a list of the risks and issues your company faces so that you can have a plan for when something happens.

For the log to be effective, it needs to:

Nothing should be off the table, even scenarios that seem extremely unlikely. In 2019, most Western businesses thought a global pandemic was completely ridiculous! But companies with experience of SARS knew it was very possible.

Once you’ve created the log, it needs to be maintained and managed. (There are few things more useless than an out-of-date risk-and-issue log.) Thus you absolutely must appoint a high-level executive as responsible for (a) maintaining the log and (b) mitigating the risks it has revealed. Without clear ownership and responsibility, the log will fade into the background. And then during the next emergency – because there will be one – the recovery will be longer and harder. That is, if your company survives.

Are we being too dramatic? Perhaps. The good news is that, as Freeman Clarke Principal Bruce Pomerantz points out, ‘It shouldn’t be burdensome to produce this.’ It will of course take time and attention. But producing and maintaining the log is not an especially complicated process, and your business will be stronger for it.

Even the process of bringing the senior team together to identify and discuss the risks creates a common understanding, flushes out issues, and builds preparedness.

Compliance comes with the territory

Compliance, as you already know, means following the regulations of external authorities. An equally important part of compliance is proving compliance.

Before we get into more detail, let us remember that in financial services, legal requirements are nothing new or surprising. Just like data security, it is part of doing business in this sector. And when considered as part of a larger effort to streamline your systems and processes, it needn’t be prohibitively expensive or oppressive.

Compliance can even be part of your business strategy: for mid-market businesses looking for points of difference, there are opportunities for companies who can demonstrate their commitment to compliance, as well as for companies offering compliance consulting and services.

Regardless, also like data security issues, compliance is not going away, and it won’t get any easier. Whatever your thoughts on Brexit, there is slim chance it will make compliance less complicated. Meanwhile, British companies in the financial services space are already dealing with multiple regulatory authorities ranging from GDPR, to PCI DSS and FCA regulations. The ICO are becoming less forgiving, and the FCA levied fines of almost £400M in 2019!

Beginning questions

A mid-market financial services business looking to shore up compliance needs to first consider its weaknesses. Given the wide range of services that fall under the umbrella of financial services, the particulars will be individual to your own company. That said, here are areas in which we see and help mid-market companies streamline compliance:

Document management. Are you aware of the requirements for document management particular to the services you provide? For example, do you know how long you need to keep emails or any kind of correspondence? Do you have an automated system for backing up correspondence? Do your processes and systems automate retention and deletion compliance? How are you documenting employee participation in training programs?

Centralized vs separate teams. Is your data siloed or is it easily accessible between departments? Manual sharing can be labour-intensive, expensive and error-prone; clumsily managed data creates compliance problems and opens the door for fraud and malware attacks. And it is likely you will miss opportunities for cross-selling and upselling!

Overcompliance. Are you following rules that have been rendered moot by more recent regulation? Have you been sold overly complicated software tech that is too difficult to use and doesn’t deliver value?

We don’t provide these questions to add to your general stress level. We do suggest you ask yourself if you may be lax or behind in these areas, so that you have a place to focus your efforts. Compliance has to be done with an eye towards both appropriateness and the bottom line. The above questions may provide a good place to start.

Three steps to better compliance

Of course, compliance is more than simply complying; you’ve got to produce regular, repeatable evidence of compliance, or face even more scrutiny and potentially huge fines. Here is how to get started:

  1. Appoint someone at the executive level responsible for compliance. Mid-market businesses may not have the resources to appoint one person as a compliance officer. Nor does a CEO have time to take complete ownership of compliance. But someone at the very top level has to have the authority to get it done.
  2. Create a simple view of how the regulations apply to your business. Clear and streamlined businesses do compliance easily. And they provide better service and fatter margins. Keep simplicity and efficiency at the forefront of your approach to compliance.
  3. Take a sensible and commercial approach to compliance. The overall goal is evidencing that is efficient, repeatable, and automated. Compliance experts tend to create very, very long lists of actions; so whoever you appoint internally to oversee the project must have a balanced, sensible, and commercial viewpoint.

At the end of the day…

So much of financial services is about personal relationships. In the end, security and compliance lapses put your reputation on the line.

The vast majority of cybercrime can be thwarted with basic security techniques and training. It is extremely unlikely that the authorities will come knocking if your evidencing is on point. And most physical disasters can be overcome with the right planning.

But something will go wrong. And when a crisis hits, would you rather be known as a company prepared for troubled waters, or a company that foundered?

One final note: It may seem overwhelming to have to consider compliance at the same time as data security! However, when you consider both as part of a larger effort toward streamlining your systems—resulting in increased efficiency, improved customer satisfaction, and fatter margins—it may seem less daunting.

Either way, if you have any questions about security and compliance, or how IT can drive growth for your financial services company, feel free to get in touch.


Financial Services Content Series:

Introduction: Succeeding in 2021 (and beyond)
Part I: Security and Compliance
Part II: Back Office Streamlining
Part III: Get Digital Inside and Out Video
Part IV: Disruption and New Digital Customer Experience
Part V: Audio Discussion
Part VI: Fast Tech Review Offer

To find out more about how we could add value to your business, Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

Freeman Clarke is the UK’s largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) IT leaders. We work exclusively with ambitious organisations and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition.

Financial services: Succeeding in 2021 (and beyond)

The financial services sector is a core element of every modern economy. Every institution you can think of is dependent on financial services, from corporations to governments. It’s at the heart of how we plan our own futures, from the growth of our businesses to how we best enjoy the rewards of our hard work, right now and in retirement.

The crucial nature of financial services is one reason we are optimistic about growth in 2021 and beyond. The second reason is technology. While many CEOs see tech as a complicating factor, or perhaps a necessary evil, the wisest leaders are using it to drive growth and simplify their customers’ lives.

Of course we can’t downplay the enormity of the current challenges. In a few short weeks, the pandemic changed nearly everything about doing business, from where and how we work to supply chains and global markets. As individuals, we’ve gone from office-bound to home-bound quite literally overnight, with all the joys and stresses that implies. Globally, of course, markets are volatile, supply chains have been interrupted, and the very order is realigning.

These challenges are shared by mid-market firms and the biggest international banks. But in the mid-market, obviously, resources are scarcer. They don’t enjoy the same deep pockets or economies of scale. Nor can they afford to invest the same in expertise. Fidelity Investments reportedly spends $2.5B per year on technology and employs some 12,000 ‘technologists’.

Such numbers may seem daunting to mid-market CEOs. And while we understand their apprehension, we see a way forward. The fact is that many longstanding challenges in the financial services sector have an upside—and they are often easier to address in mid-market companies.

Integration. Financial service businesses are often hampered by unnecessary complexity, such as multiple systems that can’t talk to each other, requiring tedious and demoralizing labour from staff. The mid-market companies that streamline their systems and processes—improve integration with outsourcers, increase the accuracy and availability of information, and automate decisioning—will gain a clear advantage over competitors.

Compliance. There is nothing new about legal requirements. Although they have become more complicated, that just means even more opportunities for companies who do compliance well, and for companies offering compliance consulting and services.

Digital channels. COVID has only accelerated what was already happening, from contactless payments to securing a business loan online. Some used to scoff at the idea of selling pension plans or insurance policies via Zoom; now it seems perfectly sensible to vendors and clients. Ten years of behavioural change have been compressed into ten weeks.

Disruption. In this maelstrom, retail banks with long and proud histories may be swept aside by new entrants like Atom Bank or Monzo. If and when Amazon, Google and Apple get into financial services, the old corporate giants may topple. However, we still see room for nimbler mid-market companies that can compete on price or combine a range of services with a personal touch.


In the meantime, see our Cyber Security and Compliance Knowledge Centre


The ultimate question for mid-market financial services businesses is quite simple: Given all the uncertainty, how do we maximise the opportunities?

 

In the coming weeks, we’ll be addressing this question with a series especially written for the CEOs of mid-market financial services companies. The topics include:

The series will help you identify the threats and opportunities in the coming year, and how to get started on minimising the former and maximising the latter. Above all, we aim to demonstrate that while there are serious challenges in the mid-market space, with the right technological strategies, they are more than manageable, and that there is room for mid-market players to grow in 2021 and beyond.


Financial Services Content Series:

Introduction: Succeeding in 2021 (and beyond)
Part I: Security and Compliance
Part II: Back Office Streamlining
Part III: Get Digital Inside and Out Video
Part IV: Disruption and New Digital Customer Experience
Part V: Audio Discussion
Part VI: Fast Tech Review Offer

 

To find out more about how we could add value to your business, Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

Freeman Clarke is the UK’s largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) IT leaders. We work exclusively with ambitious organisations and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition.

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Graeme Freeman
Co-Founder and Director

Subscribe to our Business Insights

Plain English board-level briefings focused on technology strategies to deliver competitive advantage and business success.

* Please enter an email address
newnewsletterrecipient

You can unsubscribe at any time.

Thank you.

You’ll now receive regular expert business insights.

Call us on 0203 020 1864 with any questions.