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Opening Opportunity Through Automating Statement Reconciliation

Source: Finance Derivative

by Nick Peplow, Financial Services Director at Liberata

For companies dealing with high volumes of suppliers, goods, and services on a regular basis, busy accounts payable departments have a never-ending treadmill of tasks to complete. This is particularly the case when key details of purchase orders and ledgers are spread across multiple sites and disparate systems. As individual orders build up into vast numbers of transactions every month, supplier statement reconciliations rarely make it to the top of a company’s to-do list, which can cause a cascading set of problems to the business ultimately hitting the bottom line. Teams freed up from mundane manual tasks can also begin to contribute to the organisation’s goals in a much more valuable manner. The most interesting part is that automation doesn’t have to be a complex process, and there are solutions to fit every scale and budget.

Reconsidering reconciliation

Reconciliation is a fundamental accounting process that ensures the actual money spent or earned accurately matches the money leaving or entering an account at the end of a fiscal period. When applied to suppliers, it means that the services or goods provided for are billed and paid for accurately and on time. Reconciliation is a critical part of the finance department’s operations as it is an opportunity to check for fraudulent activity and to prevent financial statement errors. Usually, reconciliation is performed at set intervals, monthly or quarterly, and is key to managing cash flow, and ensuring regulatory compliance. However, due to its somewhat mundane nature, it’s one of the first scheduled tasks to fall down the list of priorities during busy times.

Manual reconciliation is a process prone to error

Reconciliation of supplier statements is not a complicated process, but when undertaken manually it tends to be time-consuming and prone to error. This is particularly true for companies that have a high-volume of suppliers, goods and services, which often leaves finance teams in a never-ending reconciliation loop. Complications are amplified when details of purchase orders are split across sites or even on different systems and platforms. In the worst case, invoices are physically printed out from one system and typed into an adjacent system before they can be matched. As well as being slow, resource intensive and wasteful, tasks undertaken in this manner are generally unpleasant to undertake. For these reasons, manual reconciliations are often put off until complaints arise that make their swift completion critical. Teams that are compelled to rush through mountains of paperwork tend to accumulate errors which then require even more time to reconcile. As reconciliation is pushed back to a perpetual last-minute panic, suppliers are often late to receive payments which can impact on delivery schedules.

It can also be the case that during the reconciliation process issues arise that require input from external suppliers. Invoices can be missing, justifications for payments may need to be sought from within the business, in fact there are any number of problems that can arise from a late reconciliation report.  Discrepancies unearthed in this way impact and disrupt not only internal workflows, but also impact on supplier workflows, especially if undertaken in an ad hoc and unstructured manner. In the long term this can affect pricing strategies or preferential terms, potentially leading to an increase in coverall costs to the business.

Reconciliation is also a lengthy and tedious task. Often it may even be performed by temporary staff unfamiliar with the systems, services and suppliers who they are administering – yet another reason why mistakes creep in. Staff are only human, after all, and even 99% efficiency means that 1 in 100 reconciliations will have an error of some order of magnitude.

The solution is automation, and it’s not rocket science

While reconciliation is not a complex process, failure to undertake it in a systematic process often leads to complex and undesirable outcomes. The key to solving these issues is through automation.,. When automation is applied to the problem, not only are results achieved on time, more economically and with greater accuracy, automation provides an array of analytics that can deliver real insights into how suppliers are performing. These insights can be shared across the organisation and assist with cohesive planning initiatives and help to deliver better business outcomes.  As cloud technology evolves and more streamlined processes become available in the workplace, increasing numbers of businesses are taking advantage of automated reconciliation services, and discovering the benefits of adopting this approach.

Reimagining finance within the organisation

Part of the problem of automating tasks is envisioning what staff will do with the time saved from undertaking them. Automation implies that repetitive and mundane tasks are removed from the job stack, meaning that managers are forced to reinterpret the roles of their team members. Most finance departments are overworked and there are plenty of other tasks that require attention. However, for progressive managers and organisations, automating away the mundane can lead to a step change in how their department integrates with the wider organisation. With more time to focus on the bigger picture, finance heads can use the technology and data analysis they possess to provide better information and insights to other departments. As well as contributing to strategic and operational decisions, finance can play a greater role in ensuring that all departments are working together towards the organisation’s shared goals. For example, team members, free from mundane data entry, could be spending more time benchmarking suppliers and providing next-best alternative solutions, assisting the commercial teams to enforce best practice in purchasing and proactively helping to navigate the pitfalls of the supplier selection process.

Accounts payable team members possess valuable skills. Removing them from a time-consuming process, where errors are almost guaranteed, and allowing them to work on more complex tasks, such as improving supplier relationships, analysing delivery schedules, working cross functionally with other departments is ultimately a much more valuable undertaking to the business, and automation plays a key role in achieving this.

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Business

The modern pay experience and the role of financial education

Attributed to Judith Lamb, CHRO at CloudPay

Despite news that salaries are on the rise, and turbulent economic conditions are still being experienced globally,  few businesses can afford to keep pace with the increase in wage rise demands that much of the workforce is seeking. But with skills shortages being felt across sectors, employers are finding they need an alternative solution to help their staff, without breaking the bank. This is why we believe offering financial education and wellness as an employee benefit can play a significant role.

Better financial benefits

There is a glaring gap in education curriculums for financial education, in the UK at least. This lack of focus in syllabuses means that providing a base level of understanding around financial management is often left to the individual or their employers. While businesses may be committed to supporting the wider skills development of their workforce, providing this guidance on what is often considered a life skill is rarely taken into account.

With the uncertain economic climate that staff continue to face, though, providing this support will be valuable to both the workforce and organisation as it will serve as a crucial attraction and retention tool. Household budgets are being stretched and over-inflated salaries won’t be a sustainable option for anyone. Any ability to make money go further will be welcomed by workers struggling to manage their finances.

It also can’t be overlooked that by improving general money management skills amongst workforces, firms can then gain from the knock-on benefit of enabling staff to make more informed decisions on a professional level as well.

A modern pay experience for modern needs

While financial education will certainly act as an advantage for the workforce, it more broadly follows the trend of providing a modern pay experience as a benefit that is growing in popularity. How and when people are paid, how they access their financial information and what control staff have over their payroll has changed significantly in the last year, and will only continue to do so.

Nowadays, people expect a consumer-like experience in more than just their shopping habits. Online banking has put greater control into the hands of individuals to manage their finances at the touch of a screen. This has translated into payroll as well, and flexibility is a key driver of this change.

While flexible working isn’t always an option or a desire for everyone, these type of benefits are. Permanent employees are questioning why they should wait for a rigid monthly pay day for work they’ve already delivered. This sentiment was certainly more widely felt in the peaks of the Cost-of-Living crisis, but is a challenge to the norm that has been picking up pace for some time.

Flexible solutions

That’s why we’ve seen solutions such as Earned Wage Access (EWA) becoming increasingly popular, largely driven by the demands of the workforce than employers themselves. Streamlining processes for firms and individuals has also become a priority in the modern world of work. Time is hugely valuable to everyone and for that reason, no one wants to wait around for the payroll or accounts teams to give them data relating to their own salaries, taxes or other documentation that they need at any given time.

Everyone is becoming more aware of how their information and data is stored and used, and no one wants to wait around to access their own personal documents when applying for a mortgage, for example. They want instant access and full control.

This demand for a modern pay experience that is underpinned by financial education or support from their employer is only going to increase in popularity. For payroll and finance teams, this really is a prime opportunity to showcase the role they can play in changing the employee experience for the better and improve recruitment and staff retention levels. But it takes a commitment to and investment in the right technology to achieve.

Judith Lamb is CHRO at CloudPay, the expert in global pay solutions

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Business

How will regulations effect the open banking sector?

Source: Finance Derivative

Martin Hartley – Group CCO of emagine Consulting 

Comments on the future of the open banking sector and how it will affect the UK market. 

“The UK Open Banking Sector is still primarily driven by regulation. In my view, two of the major current regulations will remain at the forefront moving forward, namely the CMA (Competition and Markets Authority), which mandated the major banks to provide open banking access to authorised third-party providers, and PSD2 (Second Payment Services Directive), which set the standards for secure data sharing. Cybersecurity regulations will only increase in importance, as will Brexit-related changes as any divergence between UK and EU standards could impact open banking.

“Over the upcoming months, increased data sharing through open banking will add crucial pressures to cybersecurity, likely creating a surge in the sector once again.

“I expect ongoing scrutiny and efforts to enhance data protection measures, potentially leading to more stringent cybersecurity regulations being adopted by businesses. I expect to see more partnerships between traditional banks and FinTechs or consultancy firms as they collaborate to enhance cybersecurity or offer innovative services to plug the gap. Conversely, there could be consolidation within the FinTech industry as companies merge to gain market share.

“When it comes to the size of the business and how it is affected, history has shown us that there are certainly positives and negatives of being an SMB when responding to new regulations. On the positive side, they can leverage their agility and they will have a more personal relationship with their customers, potentially leading to a higher level of trust. However, SMBs may face challenges due to their limited budgets and resources. The larger firms will have much larger budgets, allowing them to have more advanced IT systems and IT security, making it easier for them to integrate APIs and develop the necessary infrastructure.

“The benefits of open banking are endless, and the UK Government is showing their forward-thinking mentality in exploring the idea of implementing the technology to streamline wider services. But, much like anything, there are always pros and cons.

“Open banking would simplify payments for public services, making transactions quicker and more convenient for everyone. As it relies on APIs and authentication protocols, open banking would make payments more secure for the public and it would allow access to digital payments for members of the public who have smartphones but possibly no bank accounts. For any digital implementation, it goes without saying that we need to be aware of the risk of cyber attacks and data breaches. These, combined with the exclusion of non-tech savvy individuals, could mean that certain members of the public may not embrace the change, which poses a risk. There is also the additional cost of providing the infrastructure and this will have to be managed carefully to avoid burdening the taxpayer.

“We have already seen digital transformations in areas such as the GOV.UK Pay System and  there are two main indicators of the success of any digital implementation; adoption rates and incidents. There haven’t been any high profile incidents that have hit the headlines in recent times so that to me is a huge positive and provides a level of confidence. It would be interesting to see how many government departments and agencies have adopted GOV.UK Pay for their payment processing needs to understand the system’s usefulness and acceptance within the government. The government must be committed to continuous improvement and to ensure that the system continues to comply with regulations and consciously drives the adoption rate to hit at least 90% of government departments and agencies.

“A favourable regulatory environment will encourage more banks and third-party providers to participate in open banking initiatives, leading to growth in the UK market and positioning the nation as industry leaders.”

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Business

Advancing green mobility for a sustainable future

Accelerating decarbonisation, the transition to SDVs and reshaping urban ecosystems, are helping revolutionise the global automotive industry

By Amit Chadha, CEO & Managing Director, L&T Technology Services

The world is changing. There is an urgent need for a transition toward sustainable practices to combat the threat of climate change. As global temperatures rise and weather patterns evolve, achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 could still help prevent irreversible damage to our planet.

With global carbon emission levels continuing to rise at an accelerated rate, there is a growing momentum toward addressing the scenario on war footing. As the most visible source of emissions, the automotive industry, and, consequently, the future of mobility, is in focus. By helping accelerate decarbonisation, reshape evolving urban ecosystems, and redefine the global automotive industry – we can help reverse the trend and preserve our shared future.

Green mobility has emerged as a major enabler in this direction. Leading stakeholders are becoming increasingly invested in developing a deeper understanding of the multifaceted realm of green mobility and its potential to shape a sustainable future.

Accelerating decarbonisation: A global mandate

Decarbonising the transportation sector is crucial to mitigate the harmful effects of climate change. Fossil fuel-based vehicles are responsible for a substantial portion of carbon dioxide emissions, exacerbating the greenhouse effect. To accelerate decarbonisation, governments and businesses today need to prioritise the adoption of clean, renewable energy sources, such as electricity and hydrogen, for powering vehicles and other modes of public transportation.

Automakers, recovering from the impact of the pandemic and global supply chain disruptions, are therefore exploring new avenues to meet the rising demand for electric mobility. Electric vehicles (EVs), by eliminating the need for fossil fuel-powered engines, play a vital role in improving overall air quality and have emerged as a promising solution for reducing carbon emission levels. They are capable of meeting the diverse needs of all kinds of drivers and offer affordable mobility and maintenance options. Recent advancements in battery technology, including the growing availability of charging infrastructure and incentives for adoption, have led to a significant rise in the EVs popularity.

However, to achieve widespread adoption of electric vehicles, there is a need to address key issues such as battery disposal, supply chain sustainability, and equitable access to EV technology.

Reshaping urban ecosystems: Driving the frontiers of change

Urban areas are central to the momentum around green mobility transformation. As growing global populations gravitate towards cities – congestion, pollution, and limited availability of green spaces have emerged as major challenges. As a result, cities must increasingly reinvent themselves to promote sustainable mobility and improve the quality of life for their residents.

Smart technologies and vertical green systems can contribute to a reduction in the energy demands of buildings by providing shade and insulation, mitigating urban heat islands, and cooling down public spaces. They also enable carbon sequestration, a reduction in pollution levels, and improvements in biodiversity.

Implementing efficient transportation systems, such as buses and trains powered by clean energy, can further reduce individual vehicle usage, traffic congestion, and emissions. Pedestrian-friendly infrastructures, cycling lanes, and micro-mobility solutions like e-scooters and bike-sharing programs can further help promote eco-friendly transportation choices. At a macro-infra level, smart city technologies and data-driven urban planning practices are helping optimise traffic flow, reduce idling times, and minimise fuel consumption.

Integrating green mobility into urban ecosystems is therefore a win-win proposition – fostering cleaner air, enhanced mobility options, and healthier communities.

From a public health perspective, improved air quality can drive a decline in respiratory and cardiovascular diseases linked to air pollution. Healthier citizens translate to a more productive workforce and reduced healthcare costs, further strengthening the growing impetus for vehicle electrification. The shift towards vehicle electrification offers significant economic benefits, including greater job creation, enhanced research and development, and greater investments in sustainable innovations. A consequent reduction in the demand for fossil fuels, scarce in terms of availability and mostly imported, in turn, helps enhance energy security and stabilise fuel prices.

Software Defined Vehicles: Pioneering the change

The global automotive industry is at the core of driving the emerging frontiers of green mobility. Traditional automakers and new entrants are racing to produce eco-friendly vehicles, and this competitive spirit, in turn, is transforming the industry landscape.

Automakers worldwide need to embrace sustainable practices by reducing their carbon footprint during the production process and implementing circular economy principles. Moreover, investing in research and development of alternative materials and manufacturing processes can lead to lighter, more energy-efficient vehicles. The rise of autonomous vehicles presents an opportunity to optimise transportation networks, enhance traffic flow, and reduce accidents. Leveraging this technology, in combination with electric and shared mobility solutions, can lead to a more sustainable and efficient future for transportation.

Software would play a key role in this direction, delivering a streamlined passenger and driver experience paradigm while ensuring conformity with the evolving regulatory standards. With Software Defined Vehicles (SDVs) increasingly constituting a focus area for major automakers worldwide, the future would witness a greater demand for digital engineering services to unlock new value streams.

The importance of ecosystem partnerships

Automotive industry stakeholders are already working with ER&D partners who can deliver across the value chain and understand each of the key parameters in the EV/SDV ecosystem. However, approaching separate vendors for product conceptualisation, design and development, testing, maintenance, manufacturing and after-sales support can increase costs and complexities.

An ER&D partner, equipped with multi-industry expertise, digital engineering capabilities, and a co-innovation commitment, can help drive transformation initiatives for transportation enterprises, overcoming technology constraints with cross-vertical learnings. Leveraging global delivery capabilities, the partner can also provide computing models that consume less energy, boost performance, and optimise data-led algorithms. In addition, they can enable scalable software stacks that leverage sensors and physical components to provide the safety and performance that electric vehicles need.

ER&D companies are also increasingly being called upon to help redefine focus areas with software, ensuring third-party integration, driving feature deployment, enabling CloudOps and fast over-the-air updates. The rising complexities within the connected car landscape further call for adopting software-defined designs that can overcome multi-layered challenges – ranging from development to subsequent deployment, maintenance, and updates.

A multi-stakeholder approach

Achieving the goal of green mobility demands collaboration among various stakeholders. Governments play a crucial role in enacting policies and regulations that incentivise the adoption of sustainable practices and technologies. Subsidies for EVs, emission standards, and urban planning regulations are some of the ways governments can drive the transition towards greener mobility.

Private sector involvement is equally critical. Corporate sustainability initiatives, investment in research and development, and partnerships for innovative mobility solutions can accelerate the transformation. Additionally, consumer awareness and support for eco-friendly practices are essential in shaping market demands and influencing business decisions.

Advancing green mobility is a pivotal step towards a sustainable future. By accelerating decarbonisation, embracing the transition to SDvs, reshaping urban ecosystems, and revolutionsing the automotive industry, this can combat climate change on a significant battleground. The collective efforts of governments, industries, and individuals are crucial in driving this transformation.

Embracing green mobility is therefore not just about reducing emissions, but rather, about fostering a healthier, cleaner, and more resilient world. It is about our common future –striving together toward a prosperous, inclusive, and sustainable tomorrow.

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