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Innovating on a budget: how FSI organisations can remain agile in the face of adversity 

Source: Finance Derivative

By Charlie Thompson, Vice President EMEA, Appian

There’s little doubt that tough economic times will necessitate difficult business decisions. Gloomy forecasts from the World Bank predict just 1.7% growth this year, forcing businesses to reevaluate their operations as they navigate this flux – all whilst protecting the bottom line. Remaining agile is imperative for any business. The cost of doing nothing and simply adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach to ride the economic storm will lead to stagnant business growth.

But how can those in heavily regulated industries, such as financial services and insurance (FSI) companies, continue to innovate and grow in this economic environment? How can they remain agile in adversity whilst managing the increased risk from a downturn? Not only are they contending with protecting business performance in a turbulent economy, but they are also facing increased regulatory compliance when it comes to being held accountable for their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) practices. This is all come at a time when customer expectations are higher than ever. Staying ahead of the curve – especially given the number and success of many fintech disruptors – has to remain paramount. Thankfully, constraints offer ample opportunities for technological innovation.

When it comes to planning for the year ahead, there are three main areas that FSI business leaders should embrace to enable agility and remain competitive.

Charlie Thompson

Managing increased regulatory reporting

This year, there will be increased scrutiny of process controls and higher regulatory enforcement from governments and agencies. Transparency around the reliability of digital currencies and open banking will heighten as the industry looks to adopt an appropriate framework to manage and mitigate the risks around these new paradigms. The focus on ESG will also lead to the need for more comprehensive reporting, which will become even more critical this year with more emphasis on climate change and the requirement for companies to demonstrate their commitment to operating with purpose.

Recent news also confirms this, with the World Economic Forum citing that the failure of climate mitigation is the number one long-term global risk facing the planet today. As the public sector and investors require more accountability in this area, we can expect compliance around ESG reporting to increase substantially.

Whilst further regulatory measures are inevitable, the good news is that technology can help companies stay compliant and enable them to stay competitive, helping them not to lose ground as a result of increased regulatory controls. For example, organisations can deploy solutions to monitor and report ESG activities with a process automation platform and data fabric. This innovative technology helps companies manage their data easily in one place, regardless of where the data resides. A virtual data layer can help unify information across systems and quickly build enterprise applications. In doing so, integrated data will lead to better insights, enabling organisations to simplify and accelerate all their critical processes. Ultimately, this makes compliance monitoring and reporting easier and faster, thus allowing businesses to meet requirements whilst remaining agile.

However, despite the value that technology brings, there is a need for FSI organisations to strengthen their ability to adapt rapidly to change by using these digital tools to gain a competitive edge. In a recent survey, 81% of European IT leaders in financial services and 73% in the insurance sector said they are concerned the transition from the pandemic to an economic downturn will see businesses freeze IT budgets and headcounts. It is critically important that business leaders take the advice and use the digital solutions available to help them to innovate and remain competitive in a challenging environment.

Designing, orchestrating, and optimising processes

These challenges are inevitably creating a pressure cooker, where businesses are tasked with cutting costs, yet remaining agile in the meantime. This may mean that the ability to innovate could be short-lived. This is also supported by the research study that shows that eight in ten (81%) developers and software engineers across Europe in the FS industry say their organisation is already shifting focus away from innovation projects towards cost-cutting initiatives.

So, could this present a Catch-22 situation, where the troubled economy requires ambitious innovation, yet tight budgets prevent companies from carrying out that innovation?

This may not be the case. What remains important during uncertain times is that FS firms streamline their IT stack to focus on time-to-value, maximise return on investment, and stay competitive in an increasingly recessionary global economy. Process automation on a low-code platform is one solution organisations have used to design, orchestrate, and optimise critical processes. By leveraging the right technology, business leaders can increase productivity, and boost profits and savings, thus putting them in a stronger position to remain innovative even in the face of economic adversity.

Using technology to bridge the skills gap

Nevertheless, whilst FSI organisations must ‘do more with less’, we should not look exclusively at the impact of budget shortfalls in 2023; we also have to navigate the talent landscape. If organisations have not recruited the right technical skilled workers to keep up with increased business and regulatory requirements, then growth will ultimately be affected.

To address these issues, a multi-pronged approach is needed. Firstly, FSI organisations need to make better use of innovative solutions, without heavy lifting from coders who have exclusively and painstakingly written applications in the past. Low-code development is helpful here as it enables those with no coding background to support, building robust business applications efficiently and quickly.

This will likely become a critical skill in the future, helping reduce the sole reliance on IT. Not only can we take advantage of low-code to develop applications faster, which is vital in the battle to be agile in the financial services industry, but we can also train more people to create these solutions. For example, business analysts without years of technology experience would be able to create a simple app with mobile forms and automation features; then collaborate with more technical engineers to ensure enterprise readiness with security, compliance, and data integrity.

Upskilling and reskilling existing talent will be particularly important for organisations during the downturn when budgets do not allow for new hires. Low-code platforms powered by process automation lead in this approach, empowering a broader set of users to participate in digital innovation.

In times of economic adversity, businesses must continue to build and innovate. An increasingly complex compliance landscape lies ahead, and this is why the FSI industry must embrace digital solutions to enable them to grow and not stagnate. Demand for automation and low-code development – which makes it much faster to build, modify, and execute enterprise applications – continues to surge as organisations seek new solutions to help them remain agile. The ability to stay ahead of the curve lies at its core in technology, and those that embrace it will ultimately have the competitive edge in uncertain times ahead.

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Business

Leveraging Technology for Sustainable Logistics and ESG Compliance

by Will Lovatt, General Manager and Vice President, Deposco Europe

A growing number of consumers are demanding packaging that is sustainable and environmentally friendly.. Consultancy, McKinsey, recently launched a survey to explore people’s attitudes to the topic across 11 countries worldwide. In all surveyed countries and across end-use areas, the majority of respondents claim to be willing to pay more for sustainable packaging,

Of course, features and functions remain important, but the sustainability and ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) aspects of the logistics process are becoming increasingly significant in consumers’ purchasing decisions.  The entire supply chain, including the sourcing of raw materials, manufacturing processes, packaging, delivery methods, return policies, labour practices, and initiatives for regeneration, is under scrutiny. Today’s informed consumers are making deliberate choices, favouring brands and delivery services that align with their values on these fronts. Therefore, it’s essential for brands to not only maintain high standards of service but also to provide a variety of delivery options. This range should cater to immediate needs as well as offer solutions like batched deliveries at convenient pick-up points, catering to the growing demand for flexibility and sustainability in the shopping experience.

Regulation and risk management

Consumers are undoubtedly a driving force in ESG-focused logistics transformation, but businesses must also meet a growing number of regulations that are driving the need for ESG considerations in the logistics sector. For example, the European Union’s Sustainable Products Action Plan includes several requirements for businesses to provide information about the environmental impact of their products. Now, we expect regulators to be closely monitoring final mile delivery and whether zero emissions vehicles are being utilised, at least within urban areas.

From a risk management standpoint, ESG considerations are critical. Neglecting ESG risks exposes businesses to reputational harm, financial penalties, and legal repercussions. Today’s consumer sentiment is such that unsustainable logistics practices can prompt consumer boycotts or lead to regulatory fines, underlining the importance of ESG compliance in modern logistics operations.

The role of technology in greening logistics

So what can businesses do to mitigate ESG challenges? To address ESG challenges, businesses must transition from traditional paper-based systems to advanced technology solutions. These solutions enhance visibility across the entire supply chain, from production to delivery. Distributed order management systems, for instance, offer real-time insight across extended fulfilment networks, enabling the optimised allocation of consumer orders to the most suitable stock sources, balancing cost and speed. In today’s era of stringent ESG and sustainability standards, it’s crucial for organisations to have comprehensive oversight over the movement of goods and the various stakeholders involved, beyond mere timing. This technological shift is essential for meeting the evolving demands of ESG compliance and sustainable logistics.

Actively tracking the credentials and integrity of every checkpoint in the supply chain is now everyone’s problem. Consumers care deeply about the ethical sourcing of raw materials and the labour practices of third-party logistics firms involved in product sourcing. Technology can allow organisations to map the complete movement of a specific customer order, from acquisition to  final shipment, and then notify that customer directly.

Organisations then need to implement sustainable practices in the warehouse, leveraging technology to optimise operations. This includes using technology to determine the most efficient customer packaging sizes, reducing waste, and guiding staff on consolidating orders to minimise shipments and cut carbon emissions. Additionally, offering consumers options like click-and-collect can align with their existing plans, promoting sustainability rather than just delivery speed. Providing flexible delivery options is increasingly seen as crucial, as the fastest route is typically not the most eco-friendly.

A sustainable future

As data and computer security threats evolve, we’re now transitioning to increased controls around how our products are made, procured, packaged and shipped to the public. For a variety of reasons, from ethical to legal and public sentiment, ESG considerations and controls are becoming increasingly important in logistics and fulfilment.

Alongside this, the trajectory is for more sales to be made via Direct-to-Consumer channels, the desire for more convenient services and customer willingness to hop brands means that businesses  must prioritise sustainable practices. Consumers now expect the ability to customise delivery parameters and choose from transparently-priced options, or they will take their business elsewhere. Brands must manage their order and delivery options effectively to stay competitive.

The key to improving supply chain management lies in adopting sustainable order management and fulfilment technologies. Companies should invest in the latest platforms that support best practices in ESG strategy. These advanced solutions enable compliant processes, cost-efficient operations, increased sales, efficient DTC fulfilment and positive customer experiences.

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Business

How AI is turning IoT data into actionable insights in the public sector

By Mark Gannon, Director of Client Solutions at Netcall

The use of IoT devices within the public sector is growing rapidly, presenting opportunities for greater efficiency, cost savings, and vast service improvements among a plethora of other benefits. From transportation, infrastructure and even waste management, the ability to monitor and capture data in a range of critical areas has the power to transform organisations across the sector.

Health and Social Care is one setting where IoT devices can drive real impact by significantly improving the day-to-day lives of vulnerable people. In fact, late last year, it was announced that the Glasgow City Region would receive over £3 million to deliver a Health and Social Care-focused project driven by IoT technologies, as part of wider 5G connectivity funding to make public services better. Remote sensors can be used within social housing to detect and control factors such as damp and mould whilst motion sensors can alert emergency services if a vulnerable resident has fallen – not only helping to provide better care, but enabling care to be delivered more efficiently and rapidly to those that need it.

With public sector spending under constant scrutiny, and wider budget cuts increasingly forcing those operating in the sector to achieve more with less, technology that can easily connect and exchange data from device to system, removing a number of manual workflows and processes, is proving invaluable. Taking that one step further, being able to leverage that data and turn it into actionable insights in the future is fast becoming an exciting reality.

So, what’s holding the public sector back from leveraging IoT devices in this way?

The short answer: Data.

Mark Gannon

Managing IoT-associated data adds a layer of complexity to those responsible for it. With IoT devices typically uploading data multiple times a day,  analysing, and actioning the torrents of data can soon become a mammoth task.

IoT and AI: a winning combination

The application of AI alongside IoT is rapidly being recognised as a key solution to this rising data deluge. Not only can it ease the administrative burden by ensuring the IoT devices and any associated workflows are working effectively, but it can also be used to spot any trends and patterns within the device data. Insights such as these can inform longer-term solutions and decisions whilst also acting as predictive analytics to anticipate the likelihood of certain events occurring in the future. 

In the case of Health and Social Care, this could mean predicting the probability of a vulnerable resident having a fall based on previous data gathered and putting preventative measures in place to reduce this. IoT wearables are another rising trend in the healthcare setting and can be used to track vital signs and detect anomalies that may need urgent attention. Meanwhile for social housing, using smart solutions including intelligent automation and IoT can help housing providers significantly reduce their risk management burden. For example, the data gained from IoT sensors in tenant homes can be used to proactively identify damp and mold risks and automate alerts.

Looking at the public sector more broadly, we could also see the combination of AI and IoT optimised services such as traffic management, waste management right through to public safety and even managing air quality. By using AI to analyse and draw insights from IoT devices, the concept of the smart city is much closer than we think. AI can use IoT sensor data alongside cameras already in position to adjust traffic signals, optimise routes and even detect incidents and alert public services. It is also expected to play a key role in managing and reducing public service energy consumption, by monitoring and controlling street lighting and other public infrastructures.

Turning insight into action

Whilst AI can take care of the initial analysis, to truly extract the value from IoT data, public sector organisations must ensure these insights are fed into the right systems and married up with the correct workflows to turn them into action.

Fortunately, with the use of application development tools such as low-code application platforms, organisations can rapidly create processes that utilise IoT and AI-driven data, connecting it to internal as well as third-party systems. These solutions move away from traditional development, which can be costly and time-consuming, and can empower broader teams to rapidly build and develop their own applications using a visual drag-and-drop interface. By doing so, organisations can quickly integrate systems and technologies to access actionable data.

As AI and IoT technology continue to advance, we can expect to see more innovative and impactful use cases in the future. Unlocking the benefits, however, will hinge on having the systems and processes in place to trigger next steps. By leveraging the tools that enable this, public sector organisations can use the data from connected devices to create powerful, proactive and dynamic services that fulfil the growing needs of its customers.

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Business

Enhancing sustainable commitments in retail banking

Source: Finance Derivative

Mikko Kähkönen, Head of Payment Cards Portfolio at Giesecke+Devrient

Today, more consumers are keeping environmental pledges from banks at the forefront of their financial decisions, and those banks that fall behind their competitors on sustainable action are risking the loss of customers, particularly among the younger generation. This shift highlights a growing expectation from consumers for their banks to make and uphold sustainable commitments, signalling a change in consumer priorities where environmental responsibility is increasingly seen as essential, not just an optional extra. Giesecke+Devrient research shows that as many as 64% of Gen Z consumers would be happy to switch banks if their current provider didn’t meet their expectations.

However, sustainable commitments must be authentic to avoid any accusations of greenwashing. Unfortunately for the banking sector, consumer trust is being strained as greenwashing incidents have risen by 70% around the world. Banks can’t simply make claims that can’t be backed up; pledges must be supported by evidence. There’s a number of practical steps they can take to prove their credentials.

Banking on the evolution of cards

The bank card has increasingly become a physical symbol of the relationship between consumer and bank. As such, banks have taken steps to ensure that it is designed with sustainability in mind. Many are now created with recycled PVC material, commonly up to 100%, with a lower carbon footprint.

Some banks are elevating their sustainable credentials by utilising cards that are made from plastic collected in oceans and coastal regions, helping to clear up the world’s beaches. Alongside this, others are issuing cards made of polylactic acid sourced from (inedible) corn starch. This is a fully renewable biomass that could be industrially composted.

Sustainable cards can then encourage further sustainable initiatives. We’re more often seeing issuers now actively taking part in local conservation, community development and educational projects around the world to help benefit the planet. Communicating these efforts to customers can help reinforce sustainable credentials and leave tangible evidence that proactive action is taking place.

Contributing to the circular economy

Powering the sustainable credentials of issued cards is one aspect, but it’s also vital that banks encourage their customers to do the right thing with them once they expire and they need to be discarded of. We’re already seeing prominent banks making progress in this area. UK retail bank, Santander, has launched a pilot scheme in branches and ATMs that encourages customers to return their outdated credit and debit cards for recycling, for example.

The collected cards are then turned into plastic pellets to be used elsewhere, for instance to make outdoor furniture, sponsored by Santander, for local communities. As more banks opt for card recycling, consumers will be empowered to dispose of their old or expired cards in a green way and help to reduce ecological footprint.

Into the digital world

Outside of card innovations, retail banks can add to their credible green claims with digital solutions. As an example, the card issuance process has typically involved paper letters, with additional PIN letter, that are posted out to customers to activate their payment cards. Instead, an ePIN service can enable customers to instantly access their PIN via their choice of a mobile app or SMS message, reducing paper waste and waiting times.

There are also innovations taking place in terms of QR codes and augmented reality (AR) solutions to enable digital marketing offerings. This means that printed collateral doesn’t need to physically sent out in the post. The more that these types of communications are sent out digitally, the more that consumers see a tangible commitment to sustainable practices.

Banks can even take an additional step by deploying third-party partners to track the CO2 footprint involved with every purchase or payment. By opting for organisations that have a solid track record in green practices, such as supporting product certifications and information on eco-products and their claims, they can make steps to compensate for each transaction carbon footprint.

Contributing to the green story

To ensure they don’t come under any criticism regarding their environmental claims, banks and financial institutions have the opportunity to adopt sustainable practices that align with their customers’ expectations for eco-friendly commitments in both their physical and digital services. They can introduce banking cards made from recycled or entirely compostable materials, eliminating plastic waste.

Digitally, banks can minimise unnecessary paper use by employing online applications to simplify the process of delivering PINs. By innovating in these domains, they can fulfil their environmental responsibilities and establish that essential trust with consumers, contributing positively to the planet’s wellbeing.

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