Personal Finance. Money. Investing.

The amount of fraud cases has been rising and with digital banking becoming the new norm there are many ways someone can get access to your account. It is important to stay aware of scams so you can protect your accounts.

 The Guardian reported that fraud cases in the UK more than doubled in 2023 to £2.3bn.

Bank can help you prevent fraud as well as claim refunds if you are a victim to fraud. Some banks such as, Monzo have a high fraud rate as well as being rated poorly for reimbursing their customers which could be a factor to consider when choosing your bank account, especially if all your savings are there.

If you are a victim of fraud, you can report this and seek help from your bank.

The finance sector's shift from paper to digital isn't new but remains a critical transition that challenges institutions and professionals. Gone are the days of towering file cabinets and endless paperwork; digital documents now reign, promising streamlined workflows and enhanced security.

Yet, this transformation extends beyond mere convenience. It represents a fundamental change in how businesses operate, manage data, and interact with clients. The layers of this shift are manifold, with implications for process efficiency, data integrity, and regulatory compliance casting long shadows over an industry once rooted in pen and ink. Let's unpack these layers together.

The Paper Trail Ends Here: The Digital Takeover in Finance

Paper has been the stalwart medium of financial documentation and accounting since the inception of this practice—meticulously filled ledgers and signed forms were once the bedrock of trust in transactions. However, the relentless tide of digitalization has rendered this familiar method antiquated. Financial institutions are not just migrating to digital formats; they're fostering a revolution.

What kindled this seismic shift? Efficiency is paramount—in processing speed, retrieval ease, and reduced storage costs. Imagine contracts executed without physical barriers, or financial statements accessed with a click rather than a key. This digitization also feeds into eco-friendly agendas, significantly reducing paper use and waste.

Furthermore, data analytics applied to digital documents unlocks patterns and insights previously buried beneath piles of paperwork. It's as if the industry has been handed a new lens through which to scrutinize its operations—a lens that magnifies opportunities for optimization at every turn.

This initial phase of conversion from paper to pixel sets the foundation for what's next—smarter document management systems that blend security with accessibility to transform how we think about financial information.

Decoding Digital: The New Language of Financial Data

The transition to digital documentation did not merely alter the format; it revolutionized the lingua franca of financial communication. Where once rows of figures sprawled across ledger pages, now databases and spreadsheets offer a dynamic tableau—alive and interactive.

Central to this change is the concept of interoperability—the ability of diverse systems and organizations to seamlessly connect and exchange information. Imagine how a simple CSV file can traverse platforms, from accounting software to tax preparation tools, without losing its meaning or value. This fluidity is imperative in an industry where timing can be synonymous with opportunity—or with risk.

It's not just about data sharing but also data security. Encryption and blockchain technologies are infusing trust into this new lexicon, ensuring that sensitive information remains shielded from prying eyes while still accessible to authorized users. As these secure protocols become embedded in the fabric of financial systems, they foster greater confidence among stakeholders.

As we stride further into this digitized era, mastering this evolving language becomes critical—not only for staying competitive but for maintaining compliance in an environment with ever-shifting regulatory expectations.

Guardians of the Data: Security in a Digital World

In the digital realm, financial documents become more than static records—they're dynamic assets that require vigilant protection. The guardians of this new era are not simply strongboxes or vaults; they are sophisticated security protocols and systems designed to defend against cyber threats.

Modern enterprises face a dual mandate: ensuring data remains inviolate while making it readily available to authorized parties. Here, encryption emerges as the champion, transforming sensitive information into enigmatic puzzles only solvable with the right key. It's akin to an unbreakable code used by diplomats in times past, except now it shields transactions and client profiles.

Beyond encryption lies a network of other defences. Multi-factor authentication establishes checkpoints at critical junctures, while intrusion detection systems play watchdog, sniffing out any anomalies that could herald a breach.

These technologies collectively form the bulwark against data compromise—a state-of-the-art arsenal that is both a shield and sentinel for the digital treasures they safeguard. In this landscape, robust security doesn't just support integrity; it enables freedom—the freedom to navigate financial domains with confidence.

Efficiency Unlocked: The Rise of Secure Editing Platforms

Secure editing platforms are the unsung heroes in the digital documentation epoch, serving as the nexus where accessibility meets ironclad security. These platforms don't merely store information; they're active environments where professionals can make changes to PDF files, review financial agreements, and collaborate on budgets with a level of efficiency that paper could never match.

The ingenuity of these systems lies in their ability to maintain document integrity while allowing for controlled flexibility. Version control ensures that every edit is tracked and reversible—a digital paper trail without the paper. This feature is invaluable when multiple stakeholders need to contribute to a document without compromising its historical accuracy or regulatory compliance.

Moreover, such platforms integrate seamlessly with existing workflows. Whether it's granting auditors temporary access for review or enabling instant updates to financial models, secure editing software fortifies an organization's agility.

Collaboration in the Cloud: The Future Workspace

The digital transformation has catalyzed a new frontier for collaboration, where team members can work together symbiotically despite being oceans apart. Investing in the cloud is the future workspace, as it’s a realm where financial documents are not only stored but shared and refined collaboratively.

Cloud-based platforms have dismantled the traditional barriers of office walls and business hours. Documents now live online, accessible to those who wield the permissions—like keys to a shared treasure that grows in value with each contribution. Real-time updates mean that financial forecasts can adjust to market fluctuations with astounding alacrity, and year-end reports materialize through collective input without waiting for interoffice mail.

This collaborative ecosystem also extends to client interactions. Seamless sharing and approval processes demystify finance for clients, enabling them to view their data landscapes with clarity and participate actively in decision-making.

By anchoring finance professionals within this interconnected web, the cloud empowers teams to operate as cohesive units despite physical distances—ushering in an era where collective expertise drives success.

The Bottom Line

The shift from paper to digital is a transformation that has redefined the essence of financial documentation. As we embrace secure editing platforms and cloud collaboration, we equip ourselves for a future where efficiency, security, and teamwork are not just aspirations but realities shaping our daily commerce.

By Bruce Martin, CEO at Tax Systems


Yet, within this important movement, a key aspect of finance – tax – can often be neglected, with many organisations missing significant opportunities to boost effectiveness as a result.


In reality, this is not surprising. As a constituent part of the overall finance function, tax may not be viewed as a priority area when organisations come to implement digital transformation projects. Moreover, tax is ultimately driven by compliance, so the effects of any changes implemented here are felt much less widely than those in other key areas of finance – which are more likely to have a significant impact across the business. As a result, the percentage of the overall finance budget dedicated to digital tax projects typically pales in comparison to other finance functions.


Think of it this way: in getting Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) planning and implementation initiatives off the ground, for instance, businesses tend to do the bare minimum until regulations or other pressures force more urgent change. The same idea can be applied to allocating time and resources to tax transformation. What’s more, the unique needs of each business, its position in the finance and tax lifecycle and the proficiency of the finance team play important roles in the budget allocation relating to digital transformation projects.


In this context, and with many CFOs coming from an accountancy rather than a tax background, it’s simply more likely that they will focus on areas more aligned with their roles and experiences.


Untapped potential


And herein lies a growing problem and an important opportunity for positive change. By overlooking tax transformation, many businesses are missing out on valuable insights and efficiencies. Often seen as a compliance box-ticking exercise, businesses do what's needed to remain tax efficient and compliant. Yet, beyond these core objectives, tax transformation holds immense potential.


In practical terms, what does this mean? Implementing tax transformation is all about enabling tax professionals to focus on their areas of expertise: evaluating tax positions and maximising efficiency, while automation assumes the role of handling repetitive tasks. While this could be unsettling for some, the objective is to use advanced tech tools to boost efficiency and productivity. It’s certainly not – as some people fear – about using AI to replace jobs, and for those people at the sharp end, tax transformation frees them to do the jobs that fit their expertise, not the jobs that automation can replace.


In this situation, tax professionals are empowered to focus on more value-add tasks that can make a material impact on business performance.


These are crucial considerations given that the general direction of travel is clearly in favour of greater digitalisation of the tax function at all levels. This includes HMRC, which is gradually integrating technology more deeply into its capabilities and processes. As they work towards building a “trusted, modern tax administration system,” changes they bring forward will inevitably be reflected in the way organisations interact with them.


Ultimately, using technology to deliver tax transformation can undoubtedly contribute positively to a company's cash flow and overall financial strategy. Organisations can only reap these benefits, however, if they adopt a mindset which sees the tax function as being driven by more than just regulatory compliance.


By viewing it as an integral part of a wider digital transformation strategy, it becomes possible to leverage the capabilities of both tax professionals and emerging technologies for maximum impact. In the future, those organisations that give tax transformation the investment and strategic insight it requires will be ideally placed to deliver on the capabilities and efficiencies that have become synonymous with the digital age.














However, these institutions have long been dubbed laggards when it comes to technology, innovation, and the speed at which they can digitally transform. Much of this is due to the legacy infrastructure in place, the regulatory landscape in which they operate, and security and governance protocols they have been hamstrung by. This means that data is not driving the valuable innovation it can do to improve automation, decision-making and risk management.

In comes synthetic data. This is not ‘real’ data created naturally through real-world events. It is ‘artificial’ data that maintains the same statistical properties as ‘real’ data, generated using algorithms. Whether the aim is to make data available across an organisation or accessible to third-party partners it drives speed to innovation within financial services.

This is already happening as the first banks start to roll out synthetic data across various use cases, from testing to AI model training to cloud migration projects. But in 2023, I believe the sector will open its eyes to the notion of synthetic data and how it can fuel growth, support overcoming longstanding obstacles, and totally rejuvenate the way financial services institutions meet and exceed the ever-evolving requirements of customers and regulators.

Revolutionising data privacy 

According to Gartner, synthetic data will enable organisations to avoid 70% of privacy violation sanctions. Financial data, such as consumer transaction records, account payments, or trading data, is sensitive personal data subject to data protection obligations and is often commercially sensitive.

Structured synthetic data has the potential to revolutionise the way financial institutions use data securely. Because this data preserves the statistical properties of real-life data, the strict privacy and security protocols that have previously blocked innovation can now be navigated with synthetic data. So, because no real individuals can be identified from the synthetic data, data protection obligations, such as GDPR, do not apply. This will undoubtedly be top of mind in 2023 for business leaders, with the fifth anniversary of GDPR in May.

Since privacy compliance and information security regulations will no longer be an issue, the new artificially generated data can then be used to create new revenue streams. The banking sector can take their Open Data and data monetisation strategy even further in 2023 since synthetic data will enable them to package this data and sell it to third parties without the need for express consent.

Seamless cloud migration

There’s no doubt that the organisations that are succeeding in these trying times are those that can rapidly scale via the hybrid or public cloud. But well-regulated industries like banking and financial services have been reluctant to go all-in with the cloud. I get it. As soon as data leaves the company campus and servers, the control is lost. Synthetic data allows for a rapid, cross-organisational migration to the cloud without any of the added risks. Something that financial organisations can use to great effect in 2023.

Instead of pseudo-anonymised data (created by traditional processes such as masking and anonymisation) that can still lead to re-identification or redacted data that loses most of its utility, with synthetic data generation, the dataset is totally new and holds no ties to the original. If used, in 2023, financial services can train on their real datasets on-premise – even behind the walls of separate departmental silos. Then, the artificial data can be released into the cloud. And since there’s no personal information in it, the synthetic data can be shared across silos within the organisation — allowing for cross-organisational strategy, insights and analytics like never before.

The commercial impact of generative AI

Generative AI underwent a huge step change in the latter half of 2022. Teams from OpenAI through to StabilityAI have been creating models that can conjure hyper-realistic text and images from seemingly thin air with very minimal verbal prompts. The realism of the responses you can get from these models is in some cases quite creepy and like nothing we’ve seen prior to this year.

So how will this development impact business and society? The jury is still out, but what we do know is that these teams are making these models available for anyone to play with for free right now creating the perfect test ecosystem for developers, hackers and anyone who’s curious to test their ideas.

I am certain that in 2023 we will start to see businesses forming around these tools. For example, there are already examples of text or formula auto-completion tools being embedded into Microsoft Office software that could greatly improve productivity and speed up learning curves of users. These types of efficiency-improving tools have the potential to impact businesses much further afield than just financial services.

There are certainly some concerns and legal challenges that still need to be overcome before this technology can be commercialised. Who owns the output of one of a code auto-completion model if it was trained on data under different licences? Who owns the copyright to images generated from a model?

Despite these challenges, there is huge potential in this technology, and I believe we will all be hearing much more about it in 2023.

Personalised nature of financial services has suffered

For years, the financial services market has become much more transactional. In a race to the bottom on price, consumers have been more concerned with who doesn’t charge maintenance fees and who has the best interest rate for their cards or rewards system for their policies than who has the most convenient high-street locations or who provides the best service. This has placed an over-emphasis on digital, particularly as generations have grown up so that now, the thought of going to a branch office is seen as an alien concept to younger customers. There is no question that the banking landscape has dramatically changed from one generation to the next. The relentless march to digital continues to see swathes of branch closures and has ushered in the death of ‘speaking to your local bank manager’. According to recent figures from the European Central Bank, the bank branch network is getting thinner by the day with a decline in 25 out of 27 EU Member States. According to a report from last year, at least one bank branch closes every day in Belgium.

It has created a dichotomy whereby large swathes of society are now totally reliant on digital financial services - a figure that is only going to increase as digital identity verification becomes more widespread. But at the same time, the narrative to consumers is to ‘protect their data’. As a result, it is creating an environment of mistrust, concern and paranoia, rather than an excitement for what safely sharing data can enable.

Humans: The missing link in financial services

Our Digital Frontiers research identified that two-thirds (67%) of European consumers don’t know who has access to their personal data and how it’s used – just 12% do with any certainty, while the majority (59%) of the public are increasingly concerned about the security of their online digital footprints and how purchasing data is used, interpreted and shared. Indeed, 41% now feel paranoid that organisations are tracking and recording what they do on devices.

At the same time, the near extinction of humans in the financial services sector is creating a void that consumers are not yet prepared to take the leap of faith to cross. Yes, our research uncovered an acceptance that technology can play a vital role in managing our finances - 31% of consumers would trust an app to manage all of their finances if it meant it generated greater returns each month, 39% expect their financial services provider to use technology like artificial intelligence and machine learning to help protect their funds and personal details.  However, it also highlighted that a fully-digital banking network is a long way away. Only a third (30%) of consumers would choose a different bank or financial service provider if their existing one expected them to visit a branch in person. Indeed, only 37% agree that in-person interaction in financial services is almost dead. According to our research, almost two-thirds (64%) of consumers expect the financial services industry to support traditional and in-person services that they do not rely on but know other people may.

In a race to the bottom on price, consumers have been more concerned with who doesn’t charge maintenance fees and who has the best interest rate for their cards or rewards system for their policies than who has the most convenient high-street locations or who provides the best service.

Whether it is the desire for trust, the ability to solve our problems - especially in light of high-profile scams and cybercrime, or to simply deliver a personalised experience, it’s clear that for digital in financial services to reach its potential, people still need people; not necessarily in the high street, but at the end of a message, phone or video.

Digital-first, not digital-only

What consumers are looking for is for financial services institutions to build their offerings with a digital-first mindset and not digital-only, which is good news for traditional establishments - less so for fintechs and NeoBanks. And who can blame them when it’s something they see daily in other sectors. Retail is starting to blend in-store expertise and service with digital innovations around delivery choices yet in financial services, consumers are being offered chatbots to fix problems and are being turned off as a result. This isn’t a digital versus physical discussion but more about creating a blend where the choice of engagement is down to the consumer: from efficient app-based banking to speaking with a real-life person via chat, phone, video or in-person, when required. Data lies at the very heart of this.

Away from devices and evolving customer expectations, there is another driver of change for financial services at a macro level. Governmental and regulatory expectations have translated into a need for banks to play a fuller role in meeting society’s financial needs. Our digital economies depend on organisations and companies being able to unlock the value of data - using it to improve products and services and improve society as a whole. For example, banks are increasingly expected to improve financial inclusion. According to a recent report, seven million adults in the UK are at risk of financial exclusion, meaning that they do not have sufficient access to mainstream financial services and products - something exacerbated by the ongoing branch closures.

Financial Services getting it right

The beauty of this situation is that all the tools and technologies to realise this future are here, today. There are already businesses demonstrating how it can be done to great effect. One example is Achmea, which has a leading position in the Dutch insurance market, with 10 million customers. The insurer makes use of technology and data in a clever way that allows it to quickly add new services or make changes based on customer feedback. Innovations to speed up its claim processes include an app for policyholders to help them find local tradesmen for repairs through to the use of drones to survey weather damage to properties.

Totally secure, friction-free financial interaction

Consumers want totally secure, friction-free financial interaction with absolute trust in how their data is captured, stored and used. But, for a sector that’s designed on digits, people don’t want to be just another number. And in this day and age, these two objectives don't need to be mutually exclusive.

The financial services sector has an opportunity to lead the way globally, demonstrating digital excellence with data to excite consumers, bank the unbanked, connect communities and shape society for the better.

This refers to a banking practice that gives third-party financial service providers open access to consumer banking, transactions and other financial information via application programming interfaces (APIs). The sharing of financial information has enabled customers to access user-friendly interfaces and make faster, easier and more secure payments.

It’s a modern, straightforward and highly effective approach, so it’s no surprise that open banking is so popular, particularly in light of COVID-19 which forced the industry to digitise even faster than originally expected. In the UK, for example, there are currently three million open banking users — three times more than in 2020.

One area of the finance sector that looks set to reap significant benefits from open banking is cross-border payments. Due to the various time zones, intermediaries and legal requirements involved in a transaction, sending money internationally has always been somewhat challenging. However, open banking can go some way in solving the problems financial institutions, businesses and consumers have all traditionally faced, ensuring that cross-border payment services are cheaper, faster and better for all parties involved. Stan Cole, Head of Financial Institutions at Inpay, delves into the topic.

APIs and cross-border payments

Open banking enables third-party financial services providers to access data from banks and other financial institutions, with APIs offering access to account information services (AIS) and payment initiation services (PIS), allowing apps to directly interact with bank accounts. Although APIs take a great deal of effort to design and implement, they are time-saving and cost-effective in the long term. This is because with these solutions, financial institutions don’t need to create custom solutions for every FinTech they intend to integrate with. APIs also allow new financial services to be developed more quickly around these interfaces.

So, what does this have to do with cross-border payments? Well, in our globalised world, sending money abroad is commonplace, whether that’s due to trade and e-commerce, international investments, global supply chains, or the sending of money via international remittances. And according to the Bank of England, cross-border flows are expected to grow significantly in the coming years, from $150 trillion in 2017 to an estimated $250 billion by 2027. As a result, banks, financial institutions and other global businesses must be able to facilitate these transactions with ease and efficiency if they want to attract and retain their customers. Partnering with FinTechs using APIs can play a significant role in achieving this.

The benefits of open banking for cross-border payments

Cost & speed

Open banking enables senders and recipients to bypass the intermediaries that would otherwise be involved in facilitating cross-border transactions. For instance, direct access to customers’ bank accounts means that a business or financial institution could verify their identity and creditworthiness without the help of a third party. This results in reduced fees and quicker services. Time and money can also be saved because FinTechs using open banking will provide an efficient alternative to the slow, expensive legacy systems currently in use.


Open banking can make it considerably easier to make cross-border payments. APIs can be designed to provide a streamlined, responsive user interface and thereby provide an excellent customer experience. In addition, open banking makes know-your-customer (eKYC) processes much simpler as they can be entirely digitised, gaining the required information in seconds rather than days.


As well as improving KYC processes, open banking allows banks, financial institutions and businesses to reduce the risks associated with cross-border payments. They can immediately check that customers are able to afford the transaction, for example, and set precise limits. FinTechs using APIs are also likely to have stronger cybersecurity measures in place compared to dated legacy systems.


Open banking means financial institutions and businesses can stay flexible and meet evolving customer demands, with APIs allowing them to offer exceptional customer experiences. As a result, there is increased competition, encouraging innovation and giving customers more choice over the companies and services they use.

Open banking and cross-border payments today

Open banking is already making waves in the cross-border payments sphere, with many companies already responding to the clear benefits APIs can bring. Some exciting services to have emerged include API-driven live FX pricing and API-based currency hedging automation, while many big names in the financial services sector (including Visa, Mastercard and Western Union) have teamed up with forward-thinking FinTechs in order to use open banking to improve their cross-border payment services.

The most exciting part of this is that open banking is still in its relative infancy and is continuing to evolve. With new tools regularly launching to accommodate various markets and purposes, financial institutions and businesses can take advantage of this phenomenon to provide the best possible customer experiences to anybody that needs to make a cross-border transaction. However, to do so, they must find the right FinTechs to support them as they strive to bring their financial services into the present day.

These are just three innovative examples of accessible designing that led to wider adoption, beyond the intended user subgroup. This very theme underpinned the keynote speech during this year’s Diversity Project’s Accessibility webinar on Global Accessibility Day and comes up, recurringly, in research, about improved experiences for diverse groups when we get the design process right for people with a disability.

Change and Transformation

Digital transformation in the investment and savings sector is recognised as being behind; attributed to a culture of traditionalism and inertia, due to a lack of industry diversity.  However, asset and wealth management firms have historically serviced very traditional investor and adviser communities – with their own inertia and habitual behaviours. Technology and regulation also play their part; legacy operating systems lack interoperability and agility, while mandatory post-MIFID changes have hindered more creative-led initiatives. Looking ahead, is change on the horizon as we navigate through a global pandemic and uncertain future?

In 2020, two significant changes brought with them new ways of thinking; mounting pressure on firms to commit to ESG policies and an acceleration of online investors. According to a US study, companies committing to accessible inclusion under their ESG frameworks achieved a 28% higher return, while investment platforms reported significant growth, particularly from home-based working millennials, during the pandemic and periods of market price swing – bringing down the average investor age. Either side of this demographic is a next-generation cohort entering the workforce under auto-enrolment pension schemes, within an ageing population. By 2037, 1 in 4 of us, in the UK, are expected to be aged 65 and over.

Intergenerational needs

This intergenerational spread is transforming and reshaping our population. Future digital engagement requires a coexistent, yet differentiated, model. With more conditions, including Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Dyslexia, being correctly identified, and diagnosed, demand for accessibility in younger generations is increasing.  Nearly 1 in 5 people live with a disability, with a household spending and saving power of £274 billion.

As our population’s median age shifts towards later years, inclusive design practice must address the contextual and everchanging needs of vulnerable savers and those experiencing ageing functional limitations. As older investors live longer and move through their later-life stages, many will be affected by undiagnosed conditions: visual and hearing impairment, deterioration of fine motor skills and cognitive decline. By 2050, visual impairment in the UK is estimated to affect 4.1 million people, currently 2.1 million. Those aged 55 to 64-years old today, will move into the older age category over the next ten years; many already digitally connected and engaged across social media platforms.  This will shift much of our future focus towards digital experience and retention of older investors.

Practical approaches

Despite legislation and guidelines designed to support protected characteristics, many users remain affected by accessibility challenges. Digital inclusion goes beyond a checklist and disclosure statement. Primarily, it’s about user interaction. Four core experiences that firms should empathetically build into their designs are:

Accessible designing involves hours of work and effort to adapt formats and channels, across language jurisdictions. Integrating universal design principles from the beginning of a project is less costly and complicated than attempting to adapt post-live products, with a blend of human and artificial intelligence, optimising the investor experience. Prototypes across all media – chatbots, websites, apps, video, print and email – should contain inclusive functionality; while wider test groups will help to capture real-life user experiences, without biased or pre-determined outcomes.

Design concepts should be as much about connecting customer journeys, as they are about making individual touchpoints accessible. A single Customer Communication Management (CCM) platform, integrating multiple data sources, offers greater personalised experiences and, therefore, a higher opportunity for inclusion - from incoming-to-outgoing messages, for both digital and traditional media. While documents should be adaptable to the screen size of any device, the FCA’s newly proposed Consumer Duty principles question how digestible lengthy T&Cs are via digital devices.

The most effective design solutions can still fail to address non-physical barriers. Online mistrust and investment complexity can lead to financial exclusion. Of 3.8 million cases of UK fraud, 15% were committed via digital channels, as opposed to 1%  through postal correspondence.  Developing secure and easy-to-use authentication, email encryption and signposting safety techniques can improve security for retail investors. Language remediation and localised translation can powerfully enhance an investor’s understanding and increase the digestion of information through a simplified or converted format.  This includes the use of plain language, avoiding jargon and reducing heavily formatted content - across interactive, visual and auditory channels for communications including, Key Investor Documents (KIDs) and bereavement instructions.


Inclusive marketing and communications are about creating the right interactions at the optimal time, under an investor-centric approach. Overcoming industry barriers built around institutional practices and regulatory restrictions can lead to adaptive cultural change and harness innovation, as wider technology evolves and improves accessible functionality. Ultimately, this combination will create stronger outcomes across the diverse needs of everyday savers.

John Dovey, Paragon Customer Communications

John Dovey is Client Relationship Director – Asset Wealth & Pensions at Paragon Customer Communications, a leading provider of end-to-end omnichannel services for regulatory and transactional communication solutions for some of the world’s foremost financial services companies.

He has worked closely in the financial services industry for almost two decades, driving customer engagement and outcomes in communication and digital strategy. During that time he has worked with, and supported, various organisations and stakeholders across the industry to deliver outstanding experiences.

With a range of experience and an extensive knowledge in both client and vendor roles within financial services, John is equipped with a deep understanding of industry challenges and regulatory requirements, including changing consumer trends in the market.


Michael Worledge, Head of Financial Services Research at Harris Interactive explains what brands should know about digital transformation in financial services.

Faced with layoffs, job uncertainty, and an economy in flux, consumers worldwide have become far more conscious. They report thinking more about saving and budgeting than they have in the past, and many have prioritized sound investments with well-known providers. At the same time, their once-low confidence around spending is seeing a slow and steady increase.

Recent data shows that consumers are at a point where they’re ready to spend—and save—more. But what about how they’re doing it, and the role that digital financial management plays?  

Let’s look at where consumers are with this digital transformation right now, according to real-time data from our UK Financial Services Sentiment Indicator tracker and our wider Global Barometer. This is especially important for brands because the more understanding and data you can put behind the answer, the better informed your decisions become—and the lower the risk attached to it.

Financial management is forever changed with a rise in “digital first.”

The financial landscape is changing in terms of consumer engagement with internet banking, online payments, digital wallets, and other elements surrounding the transition from traditional to digital financial management.

Digital options play a much more prominent role in normal life than they ever have before. Between the pandemic limiting the ability to visit branches in-person and the resulting pressure on call centres, many have decided that the most remote option is safest. 

As a result:

Nearly half of consumers have been influenced by the digital transformation so much in the past year that their behaviour has changed significantly—and, most likely, permanently.

Different age groups show different comfort levels with managing finances digitally

The pandemic forced the adoption of digital alternatives to in-person banking across the board. But just because digital financial management has become far more common doesn’t mean that it has been as easily adopted for every demographic. 

While more than half of consumers ages 55+ say they’re comfortable using self-serve, online-only channels to manage their finances, they show more hesitation over other aspects of online money management, including:

Still, 40% of respondents from each of the three age groups studied here all agree on the importance of having physical bank branches—an area where the 55+ demographic is right on par with those ages 18-54.

Digital wallets are becoming more popular

It’s important to remember that consumers can use digital in their daily lives without having to log into providers’ apps and websites. This is evident at checkout, where more consumers are reaching to pay with their phones instead of their wallets. That’s because digital brands are connecting with customers through the digital wallet, as with Google Pay, Apple Pay, and more. 

In fact, the data shows that digital wallets are becoming a way of life:

The digital wallet has become a key part of life as smart technology becomes the new normal in activities, financial management, and even in communication via apps like WhatsApp.

Regardless of digital options, consumers support brands that align with their values

Values are of core importance to today’s buyers; they want to know what the companies they’re supporting stand for. This is so crucial, in fact, that:

Regardless of providing digital options that offer convenience, security, and peace of mind, it’s more important than ever for brands to stand for something and to clearly and continually communicate this to customers. Only a quarter of consumers say they’ll keep supporting brands whose priorities don’t align with their own.

As the data shows, digital is here to stay—and its importance continues to gather momentum across countries and profiles. Brands must stay on top of these ever-evolving trends to make lasting, meaningful connections with their target audience.

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Organisations have had to rethink their entire business models, new players have sprung up seemingly from nowhere, and consumer behaviour has completely changed. Of course, more transactions are now taking place online and the use of cash is dwindling.  

But while digital payments are dominating the ecosystem in regions such as the Nordics and the UK, there are some key markets in Europe where there is still a way to go. Both Spain and Germany, for instance, still have fairly low rates of card usage and digital payment adoption with cash still used in around 40% of in-person transactions in Spain, rising to 44% in Germany, according to figures from PCM. 

However, while these statistics suggest that digital payments still have a long way to go in these markets, it could also indicate that a boom is set to happen. Indeed, the growth seen in the Spanish e-commerce sector, for example, and Germany’s creation of a common standard for open Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) through the Berlin Group suggest that further revolutionary changes could be just around the corner. Kriya Patel, CEO of Transact Payments, explores the massive untapped potential of the Spanish and German markets, highlighting the opportunities for innovative incumbents and agile new players. 

Spain: Modernisation will drive a boom in digital payments

Spain, flag, payments

Spain has a developed payments market, with 86.3 million credit, debit and charge cards used by a population of 47 million for 5.58 billion payments with a value of €210.56 billion via 1.7 million point of sale (POS) terminals and more than 115,000 online merchants. But as mentioned above, cash use remains relatively high suggesting there are still opportunities for cards to replace cash.

The foundations for huge growth in digital payments already exist. Spain’s three major payment systems merged into a single provider, SistemaPay in 2018. As well as rationalising the previously complex infrastructure, Spain’s banks and regulators have upgraded and modernised the technologies that power their payments system. This has led to the enablement of instant payments and other services, while regulatory sandboxes have provided a catalyst for trials of new payment methods between FinTechs and banks.

While all European markets saw a rise in e-commerce during COVID-19, Spain enjoyed the fastest growth in this sector among all Southern European nations at 15%, with e-commerce accounting for double the proportion of national GDP compared to the UK, at 4.5% compared to 2.25% of total GDP.

As well as e-commerce, contactless transactions for in-person payments grew during the pandemic. Spain’s smaller merchants are continuing to open up to electronic payment both in-store and online.

Having previously been something of a desert in terms of opportunities for payments players — largely because of its bureaucratic systems and standard debit-led card portfolios — the outlook is now much brighter. The modernisation of its payment systems and speed of digitisation means issuers could be set for a boom in business over the next three to five years.

Germany: Embracing PSD2 to drive massive growth

Germany, flag, payments

Meanwhile in Germany, the growth potential is even more obvious. While the country is unarguably Europe’s economic powerhouse and a global leader in banking, there is still relatively high use of cash, while card use is not as high as some other regions, with 153 million cards held by a population of 84 million people — just under two cards per person. These cards were used for 6.29 billion payments with a total value of €350 billion via 1.15 million POS terminals and online in 2019.

Like Spain, there are solid foundations for digital payments players to build on. Digital transactions are expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of around 11% in the next few years. While debit cards are most commonly used to pay online, low digital wallet use at just 7% suggests an openness to new solutions other than wallets.

Germany has not sat on its hands when it comes to embracing the EU’s PSD2 regulations. The Berlin Group has created a common standard for open APIs, opening the way for innovative players to muscle into the payments market. With a high number of permissioned intermediaries now able to deliver payments services thanks to the new regulations, smaller companies in Germany now have better options for accepting payments, reducing their reliance on more expensive third-party players.

There are also plans to bring together Germany’s various instant peer-to-peer (P2P) and person-to-business payments schemes. Instant payments are experiencing very rapid growth in Germany, though with only 20% of banks offering this function the room for growth is obvious. Look out for “PayX” — a merger between schemes like Geldkart, Paydirekt and Kwitt — in the coming months and years.

Overall, there look to be plenty of opportunities for players in the payments space to take advantage of in these two key European markets. While restrictive infrastructure has previously made these two nations something of a challenge for payments innovators, recent regulatory and systemic changes coupled with public appetite for new services make Spain and Germany an exciting place to be right now. 

The benefits of this change are many including time-saving. If your business is a little behind on typing and printing the records or filling out forms manually then it could take a lot of time whereas, by going digital, you can easily save this time. Along with this, there are several economic benefits of going paperless and as more businesses would make the transition towards digital solutions, they would be getting the benefits of cost savings while becoming cleaner and greener. Let’s have a look at the financial benefits of going paperless for your business.

1. Customers Want Everything To Be Digital

Any business would want to make their customers happy and in the 21st century, you would rarely find any customer that would be interested in slow paper-based transactions. Customers find paper-based transactions to be slow, unreliable, and inconvenient in this digital age. No one wants to wait for a long time just to make transactions. Customers expect a quick and seamless experience in all aspects, whether it is interacting with your business, transactions, or any other business aspect. If you want your business to flourish, have a satisfied customer base, and more referrals from your customers then you gotta deliver on what your customers want and nowadays customers want everything to be digital because being able to access everything from their mobile phone or tablet or PC makes this an ideal and convenient choice. If you are not delivering on what your customers want and expect from you then you are basically putting your brand and business at risk.

2. Reduced Stationery Costs

It was a no-brainer for executives who realised that if they made this transition and went paperless then they could save a lot of money over time which would help increase their revenues. For a big business, there are a lot of expenses involved with the documents, including the cost of paper, buying a printer, cost of printer ink, and other factors, however, by going paperless, you are virtually saving all of this money. Plus, when you are going digital then you need to buy any paid tool to make changes or edit the documents as there are tons of free tools available for free in every digital document format out there. For instance, the most popular document format in the world, PDF has a lot of different tools available including PDF Editor, PDF Compressor, Excel to PDF Converter, JPG to PDF Converter, Word to PDF Converter, etc. A company that has a lot of clients can save a lot of money just by making invoices. It has been reported that an apartment management firm, Bell Partners, is able to save up to $100,000 every year after choosing e-invoices over traditional paper invoices. 

3. Saves Time & Increases Productivity

In today’s age, time is everything and while dealing with paper documents, your employees and team members spend a lot of time printing, scanning, faxing, and posting documents. Not to mention the documents that they have to look for here and there and chasing documents that have not yet arrived in the post. All of this can lead to huge amounts of hours wasted every year because of document management.  However, if you were to go paperless then all of this time would be saved as everything would be done digitally. It will allow you to save time and in this age of timelessness, time is money. Plus, it would also enable you to improve the productivity in your office because your team members would be able to focus on more meaningful tasks instead of getting involved in printing documents, scanning documents, posting documents, etc.

4. You Won't Lose Out To Your Competitors

Since most of the companies and businesses around the world have made this transition, if you are making this change then you won’t be losing out to your competitors. Your customers would be expecting a paperless and digital approach from you, whether it is for a sales agreement, invoicing, service contract, or any other thing that the customers require. When you will be providing everything digitally to the customers then you won’t have the risk of losing your customers to your competitors since you are providing your customers with everything that they asked for.

5. Customer Data Is Safe Digitally

By going digital, you are also storing the crucial customer data digitally in the cloud that is actually safer than on a paper document. You can save the document in a safe and secure cloud database where it cannot be accessed by anyone and in this way, the all-important customer data remains secure which affirms the customers that they can count on you.

At the same time, UK firms borrowed more than £100bn last year. While this was predominantly driven by government-guaranteed lending, demand for borrowing is likely to remain strong as SMEs recover and government schemes are withdrawn. Many will return to non-borrowing ways but there is also a case for businesses who may have had their first taste of borrowing and will seek finance to thrive rather than survive - particularly as the cost of borrowing remains relatively low.

Other forms of lending will come to the fore to supplement mainstream solutions such as overdrafts and term loans - asset-based lending is one such model set to play a significant role in offering support to businesses. To meet the rising levels of demand, lenders should be prepared to leverage their digital capabilities to streamline customer journeys, improve risk mitigation and enhance transparency between lender and borrower.

Operational excellence: customer experience and business value

The demand for lenders to create frictionless digital journeys for their customers was growing well before COVID-19, but there is no doubt that the need to streamline communication and digital interaction between lenders and borrowers has become increasingly important and is often the preferred channel for many businesses. With the advent of cloud computing and the drive to greater transparency, led by the Open Banking initiative, the business community is more minded to share data with trusted partners.

But leveraging digital capabilities to improve customer journeys goes beyond just enhancing the customer experience and while borrowers benefit from faster access to working capital, lenders themselves are better able to reduce risk and make informed judgements about the businesses they lend to. For lenders, the access to enhanced data provides superior insight into how they can support customers now and, in the future, and ultimately improve margins.

By utilising online solutions that allow clients to self-serve their funding needs, lenders can achieve excellent operational efficiencies and high levels of customisation, also delivering reliable and secure solutions that offer customers a better overall experience and financial support at the click of a button.

Greater visibility driven by open accounting

In an increasingly data-driven world, lenders are looking towards “open accounting” to provide greater visibility on the financial performance of the businesses to which they are lending. Lending decisions can be made much more quickly by an asset-based lender if they have the trading history of the borrower, with full transparency of sales, purchase ledgers and cash movements at their fingertips.

Open accounting can provide information vital for the lender to manage risk and optimise the funding available. Checks and assessments are completed in a fraction of the time, and with much less friction than with manual processes. Lenders who have access to their clients’ accounting data are in a far stronger position to streamline operations and deliver customer satisfaction.

A modern solution 

Taking advantage of such digital capabilities offers clear appeal to asset-based lenders, but they must ensure they deliver holistic solutions to meet their needs and customer demands, rather than delivering quick fixes which overlook the overall experience and entire digital infrastructure.

By utilising online solutions that allow clients to self-serve their funding needs, lenders can achieve excellent operational efficiencies and high levels of customisation, also delivering reliable and secure solutions that offer customers a better overall experience and financial support at the click of a button.

Overall, digitalisation has been both a natural solution to reducing friction and increasing efficiency for lenders and clients alike and a key tool in dealing with the intense demands placed on lenders during a challenging economic cycle.

In an increasingly competitive environment lenders need to continue providing advanced digitalisation offerings, such as ever-evolving streamlined journeys which build trust, speak to customer needs, and accelerate outcomes, and look to leverage open accounting to enhance insight into business performance and inform lending decisions. This evolving digital landscape is a benefit to lenders and borrowers alike as they tackle the challenges of a post-pandemic future.

In July, the European Central Bank (ECB) announced its plans to launch a digital currency. In response to a rise in online payments and the potential threat that could come from others issuing a digital means of payment, the ECB has decided to press ahead with its own digital currency. This aims to help protect its monetary sovereignty by attempting to limit the use of rival means of payment.

This will not be a quick process. The next two years will be spent on design and tests, followed by a launch three years later. However, the announcement highlights that traditional fiat currency won’t be the sole payments method in years to come. Of course, this move does not mean the same will happen for the UK, but with Rishi Sunak and the Bank of England making warm noises about digital currencies, it’s unlikely the UK won’t follow suit.

Will Digital Currencies Work as Cash Replacements?

Of course, there are many questions swirling around digital currencies – namely if they’ll be a digital version of cash, if they will eventually replace cash or just simplify cross-border payments – but the fact of the matter is cash appears to be becoming digital, meaning banks need to get ready, even if the day-to-day reality could be years away.

Taking a step back from this new development, it’s fair to say financial services was already in flux, with the pandemic turbo-charging many of these shifts. Previously, banks, building societies, pension providers and wealth management had defined roles within the market, and whilst there was some interaction between the providers, people had their pots of money and tended not to move them around. In short, loyalty mattered. But this, like many other aspects of financial services has now changed. New entrants are flooding the market and offering platforms that bring vendors together thanks to Open Banking enablement. Therefore, consumers are flooded with choice. It’s now simple to amalgamate pensions or to transfer ISAs to get a better rate. Plus, with digitalisation, self-service is now positively encouraged. One clear example being online brokerages disrupting the investment space and allowing consumers to own snippets of companies, instead of requiring payment for full shares. Consumers are used to a digital financial life – so why not extend this to currency?

The world is moving towards a more digitised way of life – and banking, payments, savings and investments are certainly part of this shift.

No matter where a company sits within financial services, it’s clear that if digital currencies become reality, firms will need to accept them, which throws up multiple issues. Integration with fiat currency is perhaps the most pressing.  However, the growth of cryptocurrencies over the last five to ten years and their recent acceptance by large institutions, shows there’s a clear trend. Financial portfolios should no longer be cash, bonds or equities – a small exposure can be digital. For me, this coupled with the concept of digital Pounds, Euros, Dollars or Yen, signals it’s time for banks to start thinking at the very least what measures should be put in place to lay the foundations for adoption. Surely commercial entities could benefit from showing customers they’re ready to take action, and providing an alternative to investment platforms as a source and store of these assets?

But what’s required? Here are five key aspects which can help determine a starter strategy.

  1. System resilience

Like any fiat system, digital currencies would need to be considered critical national infrastructure – meaning uptime and defence are impenetrable 24/7, 365 days per year. Aside from this requirement, the new system would need to be protected from cyberattacks, whilst also handling high volumes of transactions. Systems should be able to process transactions immediately (or as instantaneously as possible) along with having strong privacy protections.

For banks looking to support and facilitate a lot of this traffic, leveraging blockchain seems the most logical choice, as the roles they will play in these transactions will be different to a normal transfer. Whilst money may well flow from one account to another, banks will also likely be responsible for updating the record of who owns which Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) balance. Of course, technicalities are still to be worked out as to how money will move around, but it’s likely the CBDC itself would be a cash-like claim on the central bank. This way, the central bank avoids the operational tasks of opening accounts and administering payments. Banks can continue to perform retail payment services, meaning there are no balance sheet concerns with private sector intermediaries. This in turn helps boost operational resilience, as this architecture allows the central bank to operate backup systems in case the private sector runs into technical outages.

  1. IT infrastructure

The potential introduction of digital currencies will be a testing experience for many – especially while we don’t know if it will come to fruition, or how it will work. Inevitably that will lead to a lot of speculation. One thing is for sure though, it may well require an overhaul of technology to integrate it, which will have repercussions for the IT stack. Unfortunately, technology to support such initiatives are likely to be considered ‘new’ to the majority of existing financial service organisations.

It’s well known that many banks struggle with legacy technology. They are not alone in that and big names across other industries have the same problem. The problem the banks have is that they’ll be the ones facilitating most of the transactions, whereas other players (retailers, for example) will mostly be receiving them. Whilst I don’t believe integration won’t be a problem for newer neobanks, they are in a far stronger position than their older rivals. Now is the time to get on the front foot and start thinking about what transformation will be required to help set the traditional banks on the right path. This includes safeguards which have been a criticism of cryptocurrencies – how to implement anti-money laundering protections, so the same due diligence a traditional banking service provides is applicable to its digital twin.

  1. Centralised vs decentralised finance

The whole concept of digital currency is an interesting one, based on the fact they add an element of decentralised finance to the country’s monetary policy. Of course, they will need to comply with current protocols, but they’ll also challenge how these protocols work.

To enable peer-to-peer transactions, digital currencies will need to make use of centralised governance frameworks that are authoritarian in nature — i.e., controlled by a single body. However, centralised blockchains are slower. Decentralised solutions like distributed ledger technology could make transactions quicker and more streamlined. To achieve widespread adoption, transaction speeds need to be efficient (much like an online bank transfer) otherwise consumers will not want to switch.

Decentralisation would also enable individuals to own their own wallets (akin to cryptocurrencies) and have their own private keys to help bolster security. This can help avoid data breaches and reduces risk. If a hack were to occur, it would stop one, single large fund being stolen – just a single person’s funds. Whilst this is a terrible scenario, it would be catastrophic if one pot were accessed. It would undermine any faith in the system.

  1. Payments

Simplifying cross border payments could provide benefits in terms of e-commerce, travel and the labour market. However, it will have significant requirements, such as aligning regulatory, supervisory and oversight frameworks, AML/CFT consistency, PvP adoption and payment system access. The eventual international adoption of digital currencies is also likely to proceed at different speeds in different jurisdictions, calling for interoperability with legacy payment arrangements. Whilst this sort of information will likely come from G20 discussions, banks need to start addressing how to facilitate this and how this can be achieved within the current stack.

  1. Consumer adoption

Whilst not a technical point, banks will likely share responsibility with the Bank of England in communicating the launch of any digital currency and how it will work. Provision and service is a key differentiation. We also need to acknowledge that the recent volatility in cryptocurrencies may make consumers wary of adopting digital currencies, which impacts their adoption. Being able to clearly communicate how digital currencies will integrate with current offerings and the benefits of this early, will help with customer uptake and acquisition.

Although the adoption is still conceptual, thinking about potential customer provision and how it might be integrated into current platformification/product offerings can help with service design and ultimately, user experience.


The world is moving towards a more digitised way of life – and banking, payments, savings and investments are certainly part of this shift. Financial institutions have had to manage this evolution already, so in some ways, a digital currency is a logical next step. For it to survive, however, the necessary infrastructure must be present for it to thrive, which banks can provide if they put the necessary building blocks in place now. The change will not happen overnight, or potentially in the next five years, but to win the hearts and minds of customers, provision will need to be seamless – placing customers at the heart.

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