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Consumer knowledge about digital currencies is limited and cash is still king. But many people still hold a positive view about the future of cryptocurrency and are curious about its possibilities.

The seventh ING International Survey on new technologies found that 79% of UK respondents knew at least a little about cryptocurrency (identifying at least one out of five true or false statements correctly). Among this group, opinions are divided as a third (32%) had high expectations for it, just ahead of the 28% with low expectations.

A fifth of this group (21%) agree that crypto is the future of online spending, behind the European average of a third (32%). An equal proportion (21%) say they are open to receiving new cryptocurrency offerings from brands and bodies they are familiar with, agreeing that banks should offer current accounts in crypto.

This outlook comes despite wide levels of confusion about how cryptocurrencies actually work. Although 69% of people understood that crypto is a form of digital currency, an equal number (68%) either incorrectly thought that it is controlled by a central body or said they did not know.

Jessica Exton, Behavioural Scientist, ING, said: “People aren’t clamouring to understand the details of how cryptocurrencies work, or even what they are. But whether we would pick it up if it proved useful remains open to debate. We see country some differences in how people are learning about cryptocurrencies and while smaller groups in the UK agree cryptocurrencies are the future of spending online, relatively few of us are actively sourcing information about them, such as through searching online. More knowledge doesn’t always lead to higher expectations of the future relevance of cryptocurrencies through, indicating many factors are at play. While small groups are enthusiastic about their future use of cryptocurrencies, every-day relevance and demonstrated benefits will be key to turning the crypto curiosity our research reveals, into a true money revolution.”

The survey’s findings, which show a curiosity about cryptocurrencies but also a tendency to trust the familiar, suggest that a digital currency hybrid - a mix of new forms of currency with the familiar elements of regulation, practices and providers we know – could be one way to broaden the everyday use of this type of currency.

Teunis Brosens, Lead Economist for Digital Finance and Regulation, ING, said: “If cryptocurrencies are to become mainstream, technical improvements are needed. But to gain trust and acceptance beyond a core group of enthusiasts, affiliation with existing well-known brands would help. In short, cryptocurrency would need to present itself to potential users from within the existing financial framework, instead of placing itself outside.”

Facebook Libra – the transitional tool?

This is illustrated through Facebook’s Libra. While its initial structure does not make it a cryptocurrency, plans to move towards decentralised governance in 2025 mean that it may act as a transitional mechanism.

Cash is still king

Despite a relatively favourable view of cryptocurrency among many consumers, our survey found that they are not yet ready to embrace it fully. Only a fifth (20%) of UK respondents would prefer it if cash no longer existed. One-in-five (19%) of those with some knowledge of cryptocurrency responded positively about both their anticipated use of it simultaneously with their use of cash.

This suggests that cash may continue to play a significant role if and when cryptocurrency is adopted on a wider scale. Diversification and choice will be key, depending on availability and preference.

ING's seventh International Survey on new technologies is based on approximately 15,000 respondents in 15 countries, including over 1000 from the UK.

*These results are based on a sample of respondents that correctly answered at least one of five true or false statements about cryptocurrency (79% of total sample).

Last week, the payments firm announced it would be retreating from the 28-strong alliance that had promised to back Facebook’s launch of the Libra, and its digital wallet, Calibra. PayPal has not explained why it had made the decision.

Perhaps its because regulators in Europe, specifically France and Germany have vowed to block the digital currency, perhaps it’s because it has little confidence in the efficacy of the Libra.

According to The Block, a PayPal spokesperson said PayPal “made the decision to forgo further participation," but remains supportive of Libra's goals and will continue to explore how the two firms can work together moving forward.

"We remain supportive of Libra’s aspirations and look forward to continued dialogue on ways to work together in the future…Facebook has been a longstanding and valued strategic partner to PayPal, and we will continue to partner with and support Facebook in various capacities…” reads the statement.

In response, spokespeople for the Libra Association, made up of 28 companies and non-profits, including Visa, Uber and Mercy Corps, said it understands the difficulties ahead and reconfiguring the financial system may be hard but that it is committed to achieving said goal.

However, as it stands, Visa, Mastercard, and Stripe have also been reported as hesitant to sign official commitments to the Libra.

 While some are interested in obtaining a bit of extra liquidity for personal use, others are motivated due to the fact that such funds can be used to become partnered with a trusted B2B ecommerce platform.

The main question involves whether or not virtual trading represents a sound fiscal strategy or an unnecessary risk. Let us take a look at this subject from a decidedly objective point of view in order to better appreciate the big picture.

Valid Promises or Smoke and Mirrors?

Countless virtual trading platforms claim that financial freedom is only moments away when using their utilities and tools. However, the fine print tells another story. It stresses the fact that online trading involves a fair share of risk and such a strategy should only be undertaken by those who are capable of absorbing substantial losses within a short period of time. The main question therefore involves whether or not both of these claims are justified.

The first main takeaway point is that each trader will have to define his or her own levels of acceptable risk. As opposed to trading for fun or as a side project, those who are looking to obtain extra liquidity for a business venture need to be very careful in regards to what strategies are adopted. In other words, is the ultimate risk worth the expected reward?

It should be mentioned that any online investment portal is only as useful and lucrative as the experience of the trader in question. This is why some individuals will enjoy substantial returns while others will inevitably falter. So, what approaches should be taken in order to mitigate the chances of incurring a fiscal loss?

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Safe Investment Strategies to Adopt

Anyone who is contemplating an investment for business purposes should adopt a conservative approach. High-risk assets such as Forex pairs and initial public offerings (IPOs) are best to avoid, as losses can occur within a very short period of time. It is better to focus upon areas such as:

The main point to stress here is that longitudinal returns tend to be much more predictable when compared to short-term "punts". This is also the very same reason why some of the most successful online investors are always looking towards the horizon as opposed to remaining focused on any single trade.

Is online investing the right option for you? This is a very subjective question. The answer will normally involve how much liquidity you wish to obtain as well as the level of risk you are willing to accept at any given time. If performed correctly, such a strategy can offer up amazing results. However, always remember that the inherent dangers associated with any type of investment will need to be balanced with the potential rewards

This is why banks are lining up to convince business owners they are the right bank for them – however, according to Steve Morgan, Senior Director of Financial Services at Pega, there are several key factors to consider when choosing a bank for your business accounts.

In a recent Pega survey of 340 UK businesses who use credit and lending services, traditional banks continue to lead the way in terms of who organisations would choose if they were to switch providers. This is despite the rise of challenger banks like Tide, who have just recently announced that they have signed up 100,000 customers for its app-based business accounts.

However, there are businesses who are keen to switch, and the emergence of technology is making it easier. Two thirds of large organisations considered changing providers and nearly a quarter (22%) have changed their main bank in the last year. Over half of medium sized organisations are similarly placed for switching. The main reason why businesses find themselves changing providers is because of high charges, plus a requirement for better online banking facilities and improved service.

When asked about what technology innovations they would like to see from a bank, businesses said they would like to see greater use of AI for more personalised, tailored and timely offers. According to a report by Business Insider Intelligence, AI is being used by banks to improve customer identification and authentication, as well as providing personalised recommendations and insights, but there is clearly a way to go.

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Another concern that British businesses voiced when it came to choosing a bank was the idea of transparency; the extent to which a corporation’s actions are visible to the customer. During the onboarding processes businesses said they would prioritise transparency, consistency and automation when choosing a new banking partner. They also want to see improved speed of service, confirmation texts/e-mails, and a greater understanding of customer needs to deliver the right products and services.

The traditional larger banks might feel comfortable when hearing that they are still leading the way in terms of customer preference, but that would be a mistake. The Pegasystems study suggests business customers like the idea of improved use of technology and AI in their banking service. This is going to be a critical competitive comparison point for the future of business banking. Switching looks to be increasing in business banking and both the technology and options for clients are improving.

Clients expect AI to be used to help identify needs better, so that more personalised products and services can be offered, and so banks can predict the client needs when they switch or take out a new product. This is the time to make a great impression.

The banking provider that a business chooses will depend on the organisational structure of the business itself. An organisation is likely to form a partnership with a bank if that bank can demonstrate their exceptional capabilities and understanding of the business’ strategic goals. Customers tend to be loyal if they believe that their needs are being met by their financial services provider. Therefore, it is important for banks to make sure that their customers are satisfied by their services. This ultimately comes down to the banking provider being well informed about the business, as well as providing outstanding service through their channels.

According to Gartner, there will be more than 20 billion IoT devices by 2020 and as many as 75 billion connected IoT devices by 2025. Unfortunately, the safety and integrity of these devices are still widely ignored, and there are more and more cases of them of being hacked and used as part of a botnet.

“Things that were once the plot for a science fiction movie, such as household appliances being hacked and turned against humanity, now became a reality. IoT hacking can be extremely effective, producing DDoS attacks that can cripple our infrastructure, systems, and way of life,“ says Daniel Markuson, the digital privacy expert at NordVPN. “If you have multiple devices connected to the same network in your home or office, and a hacker gets access to one device, they could break into all of them.”

According to NordVPN’s digital privacy expert, even though it’s hard to believe that a baby monitor or a seemingly simple toy can do significant harm, it’s no longer only computers or smartphones that are at risk of cyberattacks. Take a look at these crazy examples of IoT hacking and vulnerabilities recorded in history:

A thermometer in a lobby aquarium

It always seems that casinos are some of the most secure organizations in the world, but they can be hacked as well. A few years ago, a group of hackers used a rather unconventional method to break into a casino. They managed to access its network via an internet-connected thermometer in an aquarium and extract its high-roller database with all sensitive details.

Parents nightmare: hacked baby monitor

Baby monitors started as simple one-way radio transmitters and evolved into sophisticated Wi-Fi-enabled smart devices with cameras, infrared vision, and other features. However, as everything IoT, those devices can be hacked as well. Late last year, a family from the US experienced a real nightmare. A hacker got into the wireless camera system used to keep an eye on the baby and threatened to kidnap him. This case is not an exception. There are several reported incidents of strangers' voices being heard over baby monitors.

Hackable sex toys

Last year, researchers from a tech firm SEC Consult announced that the private sex life of at least 50,000 users had been exposed by a sex toy ‘Vibratissimo Panty Buster.’ Multiple vulnerabilities put at risk not only the privacy and data but also the physical safety of the owners. All customers’ data was accessible via the internet in such a way that explicit images, chat logs, sexual orientation, email addresses, and passwords were visible in clear text. But it’s not the worst part. The ‘Panty Buster’ toys could be hacked to remotely inflict sexual pleasure on victims without their consent.

A spy in your own home

Earlier this year, CNN managed to access a variety of camera feeds using a search engine for IoT devices Shodan. One of the feeds showed a family in Australia and its daily routine, while other cameras captured a man in Moscow preparing his bed and a woman in Japan feeding her cat. All of them seemed unaware of the fact they could be watched through a camera in their own room. According to CNN, none of the cameras had had security checks and were open to anyone who knew the right address.

Insecure home thermostats

In 2016, hackers left the residents of two apartment buildings in Lappeenranta, Finland in freezing cold for nearly a week by launching a DDoS attack on their environmental control systems via thermostats. Because both the central heating and hot water systems were attacked, the environmental systems were rebooted in their attempt to fight off the attack and got stuck in an endless loop.

Hackable medical devices

In 2017, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confirmed that St. Jude Medical’s implantable cardiac devices could be easily hacked. Such devices are usually used to monitor patients’ heart functions and control heart attacks. However, due to transmitter vulnerabilities, hackers could control shocks, administer incorrect pacing, and deplete the battery. And it’s not the only time when the FDA issued similar warnings. Earlier this year a new alert was issued on the security of Medtronic insulin pumps,  which hackers could remotely access and control.

The spying doll Cayla

In 2017, Germany banned an interactive doll ‘My Friend Cayla’ because it contains a “concealed surveillance device.” According to the researchers, hackers can use an insecure Bluetooth device installed in the toy to listen and talk while a child is playing with it. This interactive doll opens ways for hackers to use its cameras and microphones to see and hear whatever Cayla does. The Cayla companion app also encourages children to share their parents’ names, what schools they go to, and where they live.

Backseat driver of your jeep

Back in 2015, a team of researchers was able to take total control of a Jeep SUV.  By exploiting a firmware update vulnerability, they hijacked the vehicle and made it speed up, slow down, and veer off the road - almost a scene from Fast and Furious. Luckily, this time, it was a team of researchers and not a real hacker. Four years later, we are still dreaming about autonomous cars and but many of the previous vulnerabilities still haven’t been addressed.

How to stay safe?

Internet-connected devices make our lives easier. However, most of them lack the security features that are standard in computers, tablets, and even smartphones. That’s why, according to the digital privacy expert Daniel Markuson, before acquiring a new IoT device and bringing it home, you should always consider whether it really benefits you.

“Of course, it doesn't mean that, if something can be hacked, it will be. Many of these cases are still theoretical, but staying cautious can do harm. If you have a smart device at home or work, read more about it and use network security technologies. Strong passwords and authentication methods reduce the risks as well,” says Daniel Markuson, digital privacy expert at NordVPN.

Below Finance Monthly hears from Adam Rice, VP Product Development, Centage Corporation, who touches on the need to expand budgets and care3fully account for said upgrades.

For many businesses, the third quarter is budget season. It’s a busy time for the finance team, as they meet with department heads and general managers to predict what the coming 18 months will look like for the business. As preoccupied as they are, I think they would be wise to take the time to upgrade to a cloud-based planning platform sooner rather than later. Why? Because in the end they will save themselves time, work more efficiently and achieve better results. Specifically, a cloud-based platform will enable the organization to move to a solid financial plan with a rolling forecast, updated on a monthly basis. And when you think about it, a rolling forecast is far more accurate than a budget created in July 2019 that attempts to paint a picture of what December 2020 will look like.

If changing horses in the middle of the race sounds daunting to you, consider all of the circumstances small to midsize companies face in today’s business environment.

SMBs Need to Step-Up to Global Challenges

SMBs have long been the backbone of the American economy and we count on them for job growth. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses employ 58.9 million people, accounting for 47.5% of the country’s total employee workforce.

Technology has fostered competition from all over the globe. Manufacturers are competing with countries where labor costs are low, as are retailers that are now competing head-to-head with ecommerce sites that offer international delivery. For example, the Alibaba Group, which owns AliExpress, earned over $30 billion in sales in a single day in 2018.

This kind of competition means that SMB leadership teams need to make better decisions faster. What is the impact of opening a new sales office in the Northeast, or applying for a loan to expand manufacturing capabilities on the P&L? What happens if we assume 20% sales growth but we only realize 17.5%? Business managers need to see the cause and effects of their decisions on the company’s financial statements - a feat that’s nearly impossible using a spreadsheet.

On the other hand, a cloud-based system allows financial teams to do what-if scenario planning quickly and easily. As with all things cloud-based that include intelligent APIs, it’s simple to connect multiple data sources together and then overlay analytics and data visualization to make smarter decisions.

Streamlined Implementation and Upgrades

SMBs have limited IT resources and they need to be extremely selective as to which platforms to purchase as a result. Investing in a project that ultimately fails can have devastating consequences, potentially threatening a company’s viability.

Cloud-based solutions tackle these challenges in multiple ways. For instance, many offer out-of-the-box workflows for financial reporting, forecasting, scenario validation and so on, which means implementation is streamlined. Upgrades happen automatically, which means IT resources are spared and end users get to automatically take advantage of new features and functionality. This is a critical consideration as many platforms are beginning to add artificial intelligence and machine learning to key tasks, such as compliance.

Scaling is also much easier, as native cloud-based platforms can scale up and down as a business grows or as seasonality affects demand.

Inherent Agility

Cloud-based systems often act like data warehouses, centralizing multiple data sources and tracking a wide variety of KPIs and metrics. This is critical functionality for business managers seeking to connect the dots and assess the cause and effect of their business decisions. And if the data is always on, meaning it’s pushed to the platform automatically, managers have up-to-the-minute insight into the health of the business.

Many platforms come with data visualization tools or dashboards that allow users to slice and dice information in myriad ways. The benefit here is that it allows all managers to view the data in ways that are meaningful to them. For example, the head of sales can monitor the key metrics that they care about with a higher degree of accuracy, and most importantly, drill down into the data to uncover the source of anomalies.

In fact, the data visualization tools allow the financial team to provide data-driven answers to the tough questions that CEOs, boards and leadership teams ask daily.

SMBs are on growth paths; increasing the size of their market share is always a top priority. As the business grows, and as planning becomes more complex, well designed cloud-based platforms can handle the complexity. These platforms let financial teams see into the future, test the impact of multiple scenarios and ultimately make faster decisions with confidence. They’re also far more likely to adapt to evolving business needs and goals. So while it may take a bit of work to transition this budget season, it will be time well spent.

The analysis from the CEO of the deVere Group comes as investors piled into the Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies this week amid growing trade tensions between the US and China. 

The Chinese renminbi fell to under 7 to the US dollar on Monday – the lowest in more than a decade – igniting drops in stocks and emerging market currencies and driving a rally in government bonds.

Nigel Green, chief executive and founder of deVere Group, notes: “The world’s largest cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, jumped 10% as global stocks were rocked by the devaluation of China’s yuan as the trade war with the US intensifies.

“This is not a coincidence. It reveals that consensus is growing that Bitcoin is becoming a flight-to-safety asset during times of market uncertainty. 

“Bitcoin is currently realising its reputation as a form of digital gold. Up to now, gold has been known as the ultimate safe-haven asset, but Bitcoin  - which shares its key characteristics of being a store of value and scarcity – could potentially dethrone gold in the future as the world becomes increasingly digitalised.”

He continues: “With the Trump administration now officially labelling China a currency manipulator, escalating the tensions between the world’s two largest currencies economies, investors are set to continue to pile in to decentralized, non-sovereign, secure currencies, such as Bitcoin to protect them from the turmoil taking place in traditional markets.

“The legitimate risks posed by the continuing trade dispute, China’s currency devaluation and other geopolitical issues, such as Brexit and its far-reaching associated challenges, will lead an increasing number of institutional and retail investors to diversify their portfolios and hedge against those risks by investing in crypto assets.

“This will drive the price of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies higher.  Under the current circumstances, I believe the Bitcoin price could hit $15,000 within weeks.”

The deVere CEO concludes: “Cryptocurrencies are now almost universally regarded as the future of money – but what has become clear this week is that they are increasingly regarded a safe haven in the present.”

One needs to understand the industry before jumping into its business. Many things that look easy on the outside will surprise you when you get to their implementation. You should have a few resources beforehand if you are to start a property development business.

Make Sure You Know the Industry

People say you need money to start a business. Most successful entrepreneurs disagree. They say you need to have skills like no other to start a business, and the investment will come to you. Make sure you are worthy of running a successful business before you worry about finances. Learn everything there is to know about the industry you plan to target. For that, you may have to do a job, work as an assistant, or join a study course. When it comes to property development, you need to understand every corner of it. Start the business only after you are certain that you have explored the entire industry.

Arrange Investment

Once you are confident that you can run the property development business, it’s time to prove it. Your skills will be tested and there will be money on the line. You either have to invest your own finances or get a loan. It’s best if you have your own investment because that way you don’t have to answer to anyone. On the other hand, it won’t be a problem even if you don’t have the finances. As I said, the

investment will come to you if you are skilled. Anyone would agree to invest with you when they know you are not going down. You can get development finance from Property Finance Partners for your business. It is a property finance company that provides real estate raising finance solutions in the UK.

Keep Contact with Suppliers

A professional network is your net worth. You need to have contact with every supplier related to your work. You should also understand every service and product that you will use and their current value in the market. As a property developer, you may need services of builders, electricians, painters, architect, carpenter, plumbers, decorators, and interior designers. Having a reliable relation with these professionals will give you confidence and allow you to meet deadlines with quality work.

Understand Your Target Market

You should have a full understanding of your target audience before investing in a business. You should know who will need your services, how they will approach you, and if there is any space for you in the market. It can be difficult to survive in a market with fierce competition. Likewise, you should also know the right time to penetrate the market and when to take a break. Having an audience persona in your mind will help you better target your potential customers.

Use Digital Marketing

Marketing is important to make an entrance in the industry. While many property developers may underestimate it, digital marketing has helped many new entrepreneurs build their business. Use every marketing tool to get an edge over your competitors. Once you understand your market, targeting potential customer becomes easier.

Digital marketing doesn’t need you to have an office, you only need a website and a few social media profiles. You will reach out to potential customers through these channels. It’s also a great way to enter the market because it lets everyone know that you exist and now offering your services. Portray your skills and unique selling point on the internet. See what your audience is expecting from your industry and provide them an easy solution for that.

Build a Reliable Team

Every businessperson needs a team that he can rely on. The team builds the foundation of a business. If your foundation is strong, you are likely to survive in the market. Property development business doesn’t necessarily need a team if the leader is skilled enough. You will need the expertise of an accounting professional with the knowledge of all legal matters to understand and control all expenses. A project manager can divide your responsibilities and ensure that all development on site is in order. Moreover, you may need someone who understands the field to be on the lookout for opportunities.

Deciding Your Property Sector

A property business developer should know every sector of his industry. He should further understand the requirements of each sector where he wishes to operate. Whichever sector you choose, you will need to follow its every news and update. By specializing in just one sector, you are more likely to dominate it. You will know what, when, and where to buy, sell or rent a property. You will be able to make more sales by telling customers exactly what they want to hear if you focus on just one type of audience.

 

By now, cryptocurrencies acquired an army of investors and true believers. It is worthy of note that regardless of the market conditions, the top 3 cryptocurrencies remain the unchangeable leaders. What makes Bitcoin, Ethereum, and XRP so valuable?

Bitcoin

Created in 2009, Bitcoin is the first peer-to-peer digital currency, which the world has ever seen. Being a father of cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin has the first-mover advantage, it can’t lose. Regardless of 2,000 altcoins available on the market, investors do not stop to purchase Bitcoin, keeping it at the top of the list.

Why Bitcoin is so much-in-demand?

Ethereum

Ethereum’s road was rough throughout 2018 having lost 85% of its value. Despite this fact and despite the competition from other smart-contract based altcoins like NEO and EOS, Ethereum remains the second-largest cryptocurrency.

XRP

XRP rounds out the top 3 largest cryptocurrencies by market capitalization. XRP is one of the cheapest and fastest coins available today. Despite accusations from cryptocurrency enthusiast concerning its centralized character, XRP entrenches oneself in the top and has never claimed to be decentralized one.

Why is XRP at the forefront?

1,500 transactions per second is an impressive result, especially in comparison with the scalability of other cryptocurrencies or even with common money transfer systems, used by the banks. Upon that the cost of the instant transaction regardless of destination point is over 50% cut down. Initially, Ripple was focused on financial institutions and banks with prospects to become the major payment system. Therefore, not cryptocurrencies, but dominated transfer systems like SWIFT and VISA are its main rivals. Working on the improving transaction speed, the XRP development team reached the unparalleled scalability of 50,000 transactions per second outperforming VISA capacity twofold.

Multiple banks and credit card companies are already collaborating with Ripple, hundreds of other bank institutions are looking for a partnership with it. Backed by the financial sector and constant increase of the user number, XRP will strengthen the position in the crypto market.

This week Finance Monthly hears from Simon Rodway, a solutions architect at Entersekt, on the potential and realistic impacts of Libra on the traditional banking system.

The social media giant Facebook announced in June that it has developed a cryptocurrency dubbed Libra and plans to launch it early next year. While some may dismiss it as just more hype, the sheer dominance of Facebook in people’s social lives gives it huge potential to disrupt banking and payments as we know it today.

The company claims that Libra will improve the way we send money online, making it faster and cheaper, as well as improving access to financial services – even for those without bank accounts or limited access to traditional banking. It will be based on a blockchain platform called the Libra Network and Facebook says that it will run faster than other cryptocurrencies, making it ideal for purchasing and sending money quickly. Importantly, Libra will not be managed by Facebook itself; rather, by the Libra Association – a not-for-profit organisation comprised of 28 companies (so far) from around the world such as Paypal, Lyft and Coinbase. It aims to sign up 100 companies by the time the cryptocurrency is launched.

One thing’s for sure: it’s going to be an interesting development to watch, especially in the wake of Facebook’s cryptocurrency wallet company Calibra’s David Marcus presenting his testimony to the United States Congress banking committee. The result was that Facebook would “take time to get this right” and there would be no launch until all concerns could be fully addressed.

So, even though it’s still early days, Libra has given us a lot to think about. Ill-informed speculation and click bait aside, there are legitimate concerns around fraud – with reports already of over one hundred fake domains being set up relating to Libra. There are also the money laundering and financial risk concerns.

In terms of the impact and financial risk, most of what we’re hearing is coming from within the more established financial sectors. They’re either dismissing Libra as noise or decrying it as a vehicle for potential terrorist activities – something, they say, that regulators won’t allow to happen, despite Calibra openly reporting its intention to work with said regulators and policymakers to ensure the platform is secure, auditable and resilient.

At the same time, of course, they’re defending the current system, claiming that it works well, is safe and secure, and doesn’t support terrorism. But, if we’re honest, Anti-Money Laundering (AML) systems have, to date, been largely unable to stop the vast amounts of laundered funds from moving around. In addition, our Know Your Customer (KYC) and Know Your Business (KYB) processes use data from the likes of Companies House, which has been heavily criticised for their own lack of data validation and governance.

All that aside, what’s become quite clear is that the existing system presents too many blockers for the poorer, under-banked members of our society. Those working in the UK, for example, and legitimately wanting to transfer their wages to their families in other countries, end up paying exorbitant banking fees, only to wait days for their funds to clear.

This is where Libra, with its vision for financial inclusion, could make a difference. And if Libra doesn’t make it happen this time around, the technology and conceptual design are essentially open source, so someone else will. The wheels are in motion, and financial institutions that ignore the trend do so at their peril.

Making Tax Digital (MTD) is the Government's ambitious plan to transform the way taxpayers interact with HMRC. With only a few exemptions, VAT-registered businesses trading over the VAT threshold of £85,000 are required to keep records in a digital format, ensure that the transfer or exchange of VAT information is digitally linked and submit their VAT return information to HMRC using MTD compatible software.

HMRC estimates that 1.2 million businesses are subject to the MTD rules, which became law for VAT periods starting on or after 1 April 2019 (or 1 October 2019 for organisations which are deemed to be more complex). Depending on their VAT return stagger, a significant number of these will be required to submit their first quarterly VAT return to HMRC using software by the 7 August this year.

Yet figures just released by HMRC show that the financial sector has been one of the slowest to sign up, with 75% of firms yet to register.

Commenting on the new figures, John Forth, the head of RSM's financial services indirect tax practice said: “While it's not clear why financial firms have been so slow to sign up, these figures are pretty shocking.

“It is possible that HMRC have overestimated the size of the problem due to the complexity of the VAT regime. Alternatively, they may have failed to recognise that many financial services organisations will be regarded as complex and will therefore be subject to the 1 October deadline. As a result, we may see this figure come down rapidly over the next few months.

“While HMRC have stated that they won't issue filing or record keeping penalties during the first year, financial firms should not see this as a reason not to register. MTD represents a major change to the way businesses report and pay their VAT, and businesses need to make sure they are ready.

“Currently, HMRC are dealing with 10,000 registrations every day. Clearly there are tens of thousands of VAT-registered financial businesses that need to get their skates on and register at the earliest opportunity.”

(Source: RSM)

It is no secret that cybercrime continues to rise, due to a large extent from data breaches that have exposed our digital identity information, says Monica Pal, CEO of 4iQ.

Last year, 4iQ discovered 14.9 billion raw identity records that were stolen from companies and circulated across the web. The rate of identity breaches alarmingly increased by 424% since 2017, totalling 12,499 breaches. It’s no surprise that the likes of Google and Facebook made all the headlines—these tech giants have millions of consumers who were affected. However, one narrative that does not get enough attention, yet is vitally important, is that the businesses employing these consumers also suffer huge consequences due to the massive expansions in their risk profiles. Certain stakeholders (employees, customers, etc.) with poor cyber hygiene, or who have had their data exfiltrated in the past, are just as, if not more, threatening to an organisation than a cybercriminal with harmful intentions. The financial services industry arguably faces the most danger.

More than 25% of all malware attacks target the financial services industry - this is more than any other field, and to make matters worse, attacks are continuing to rise. The number of compromised credit cards increased by 212% in 2019 compared with the prior year, while credential leaks rose by 129% and instances of malicious apps increased by 102%.

Trojans are being used to attack financial services companies. ATM malware is being used to steal credit and debit card information. This issue isn’t exclusive to the United States, as we just saw a ransomware attack wreak havoc on Mexico’s major financial institutions. In February, a UK-based bank became the first public victim of SMS verification code interception. What’s more, cybercriminals can still leverage older methods such as DDoS attacks and phishing against the least prepared companies.

More than 25% of all malware attacks target the financial services industry - this is more than any other field, and to make matters worse, attacks are continuing to rise.

The increasing digitisation of financial services, via cashless payments with cards and mobile apps, has led to greater overall digital capital flow, and as more capital circulates in the digital marketplace, companies increasingly become more vulnerable to cyberattacks. Simultaneously, automation of cybercrime is more common. Crawlers can continuously and automatically sift through large amounts of data and search for vulnerabilities and exposed networks, sometimes even without user input, helping malicious actors acquire their targets more rapidly. And as these processes become more automated,  the ease with which it is done lowers the threshold of expertise required for operation, widening the opportunities to include bad actors with less technical expertise.

Aside from a reputational impact, data breaches incur high financial costs as well. Equifax’s infamous breach cost the company more than $600 million. JP Morgan Chase said it would spend $250 million annually to improve its digital security following its 2014 data breach. Estimates are that cybersecurity costs companies within the financial services industry, on average, about $2,300 per employee, while some firms pay up to $3,000. These numbers have tripled within the last three to four years – showing that companies are spending more on cyber and digital protection than ever before.

Yet, despite companies investing more to secure infrastructures, protect critical business data and assure customer privacy, cybercriminals remain undeterred and have responded to more sophisticated protections by rapidly evolving their method of attacks. What few companies consider, however, is the cumulative effects of other companies’ breaches which have already happened. An employee’s or partner’s personal information exfiltrated in one breach is often used subsequently to gain unauthorised access to another infrastructure, whether through password re-use or social engineering attacks. This is akin to locking the front door, turning on the alarm, yet leaving the garage open, and can be devastating to enterprise-level targets which stand to lose a trove of company IP, inside information about mergers and acquisitions, and more.

What few companies consider, however, is the cumulative effects of other companies’ breaches which have already happened.

Cybercriminals, clearly, possess a myriad of ways to outsmart and outpace normal security measures, so there needs to be an overhaul in this industry, placing more of an emphasis on thinking proactively and aggressively, unmasking bad actors’ identities and anticipating how our data could be at risk. Today, most leading companies understand the importance of executing traditional financial and criminal background checks for their employees. Too few leaders understand how to do this for the hygiene of employees’ digital footprints.

More and more, financial services companies are incorporating identity intelligence into their digital security. This involves tools and practices that are focused on scouring the Deep Dark Web for known exfiltration of identity-related data, from usernames and passwords to social security numbers and addresses. Identity intelligence helps large banks, credit card issuers and insurers understand and reduce what we call the “employee attack surface”, which is created by prior breaches.

These tools and practices can help companies avoid problems caused by:
Password Reuse: Criminals use credentials from prior breaches to access accounts on otherwise secure banking and credit card sites. A July study commissioned by 4iQ showed that nearly half of the consumers surveyed admitted to reusing passwords across multiple websites. Many financial services websites force regular resets – but some don’t, which is a glaring problem with a simple solution.

Weakest Link in the Chain: As we’ve seen in the news recently, third-party vendors play a key role in a company’s security. All players in the supply chain must be doing their very best to mitigate their risk profiles, and scarily enough, your company’s efforts can be all for nought if a “trusted” partner is not doing its part.

Employee Training (or lack thereof): Whether it’s a lack of training, willful negligence, or a bit of both, a company can invest millions of dollars on improving security measures only for an employee, no matter how high or low-level they may be, to make a costly mistake.

As cybercriminals have more tools at their disposal than ever before, technical threat intelligence about a company’s IT infrastructure is simply not enough. Organisations must adopt a more proactive, agile and strategic approach, beyond just playing “whack-a-mole” in response to an attack. Identity intelligence equips incident response and forensic professionals with the information they need to accurately anticipate attacks and catch warning signs even earlier, thereby avoiding a devastating attack for their company.

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