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Cohen is a protege of former Google CEO Eric Schmidt. In 2010, Cohen went on to establish technology incubator Jigsaw. His recruitment is the most recent step taken by Goldman Sachs to inject a technology focus into the bank. 

Cohen is set to lead the group, known as the Office of Applied Innovation, alongside co-chief information officer George Lee. 

“Working closely with leaders across Goldman Sachs, George and Jared will specifically identify and advance commercial opportunities for the firm that are at the intersection of a changing global marketplace, shifts in the geopolitical landscape and rapidly evolving technology,” Solomon said. 

Cohen will be joining New York-based Goldman Sachs at its senior-most rank, serving as a partner, management committee member and also as president of global affairs.

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Hybridisation hits the workplace

It’s also happening in the workplace. Tasks that were previously done by hand are now being handled in part, or their entirety, by computers. Expenses, for example, no longer involve stacks of receipts, a pen and a spreadsheet. Finance teams can collate, track, manage, and authorise reimbursements using computer software, courtesy of companies like Moss. Someone still has ultimate responsibility for clicking a button to authorise a claim, but the software handles a large portion of the process. Out-of-pocket purchases from employees are handled so simply in this streamlined process and there's hardly room for human error. It's clear, therefore, that the symbiosis between humans and machines can be highly effective in the modern workplace.

Continuing the digitisation of modern working practices is the rise of online meetings. With people around the world forced to host events online over the last few years, it’s become par for the course. Yes, there is a desire to get out into the real world and interact, but we’re now conditioned to having work meetings online and even watching concerts via our computers.

In line with this movement towards digitisation of events are technological improvements. Products such as Zoom and Skype have streamlined their video calling services. Simultaneously, companies that host and manage online events, such as Virtual Venue and Eventcube, have grown in popularity. All of this has given rise to a new wave of hybrid events. Combining the physical with the digital and hosting hybrid events is more than a passing trend. Why? Aside from online events now being seen as a normal part of life, there is scope to reach more people.

Opening up events to the world via technology

Combining the physical with the digital means people can attend in person or watch via the internet. It’s also possible to introduce novel innovations. For example, breakout rooms have become popular at hybrid events. These are virtual meeting spaces where people at an event can have side discussions with people online. This innovation was used at B2B Summit North America 2022 where organisers combined breakout rooms with one-to-one virtual meeting spaces.

Another hybrid event that’s using the combination of the physical and the digital to facilitate networking is Gainsight Pulse Everywhere 2022. There are breakout rooms that attendees (live and online) can use to mimic the spur-of-the-moment encounters that often happen at conferences. Finally, there’s the ability to access on-demand content. Because hybrid events are streamed in real-time and recorded, people can replay the action whenever they want. That’s something the organisers of #FinCon22 embraced. Although the event was aimed at in-person attendees, anyone with a ticket could access recordings of talks via an on-demand service.

Hybrid events are gaining in popularity. That’s creating new opportunities for organisers, businesses and those that attend. However, the rise of these events is also an example of our move towards a hybrid way of living. Indeed, it aligns with the push towards metaverse technology, as well as many other aspects of our lives that combine the physical and the digital. Therefore, as we move into the future, it’s clear that hybrid events will slowly become the norm.

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With the biometrics market expected to be worth $18.6 billion by 2026, the potential for this technology is huge. 

However, opponents point out that while the convenience of waving a hand or smiling at a camera has potential, there are still big risks if the technology goes wrong – foremost among them are concerns over privacy, security and cost.

Face not recognised, please unlock with pin

While facial recognition has improved over the last few years, there are still errors. For instance, we are all familiar with those frustrating moments when our phones do not recognise our faces for some reason, requiring a PIN to open instead. While this is a minor inconvenience to get access to a text message, when it comes to paying a bill, it could cause huge problems. 

Error rates are now less than 0.1%, an impressively low number, but when partnered with the millions of transactions that happen every day that is still hundreds, if not thousands, of moments where biometric authentication could fail.

To reduce the chance of failure, companies will need to have access to several different forms of authentication, such as fingerprints, vein patterns, iris scanning, facial recognition and more. While reducing the risk of errors and fraud, each system has its own accuracy rates and problems that firms need to be aware of. For example, facial recognition can sometimes be thrown off by glare from glasses, and vein pattern relies on high-quality photos in the first instance and ensuring that subsequent scans are not affected by different light conditions.

You can’t change who you are

The trade-off in ensuring success for biometric payments is that companies will have to store more personal data of their customers. This is fundamental to how the technology operates and will reduce the chances of errors, but it also raises the stakes for the company holding the data.

For instance, while a data breach today may result in passwords and usernames being leaked, this information can be changed and updated relatively quickly and easily. Biometric data is much harder to change, and although the processes of using that data may be harder, the rewards are greater – where people might have different passwords for various systems, biometric data would in theory give access to any account where this information is used as a means of entry. Securing these databases is essential.

As well as security concerns, consumers may be reluctant to share such sensitive information with large companies, with ongoing questions around privacy and rights on how those companies use the data of their users. For example, in countries with less protection for individual rights, such as China, a facial database could be used to identify and target certain groups of people by the state authorities, as has already been seen with the Uighur people. If the public becomes distrustful and refuses to share information with payment firms, any biometric technology beyond just unlocking a smartphone will struggle to get off the ground in a meaningful way.

If this is to be overcome, it will be essential for firms and governments to work together to improve regulations and processes. This will help build trust in the new technology, and create conformity across countries on how data should be handled and secured. Firms in turn will benefit from being able to focus on one set of rules, in the knowledge that the rights of people in different locations are being protected.

Who is paying for this all?

Any deployment of new technology comes with a cost. In this case, it will require new devices that can read biometric information to be installed in every shop, restaurant and hospitality location, potentially costing billions. 

At the moment some high-end biometric systems can cost up to $10,000, a significant cost if you run a small business. After all, it is not the kind of investment that can justify itself through additional business – payments can still be made by other means. It needs consumer behaviour and expectation to reach a point of critical mass where biometric payment becomes expected rather than a novelty. But until the technology reaches an affordable price where it is feasible for businesses to make this investment, there is no way for it to enjoy widespread adoption. It's a ‘chicken and egg’ situation – one of widespread availability and mainstream adoption will drive the other but if neither comes first, biometric payments will continue to struggle.

There is no doubt that schemes like Mastercard’s are going to start happening more frequently, and likely do offer a snapshot of what the future of payments will look like. It is also not as much of a leap in technology as some people believe. For instance, platforms such as Apple Pay already use facial recognition to authorise payments. Bringing in other forms of Biometric payments will remove friction from the authentication process, and no doubt when the technology is ready, customers will love it if it is user friendly enough. 

However, we are still a distance away from this becoming a mainstream form of transaction. A lot of work needs to be done to reduce the cost of the technology itself so that everyday businesses can afford it, while serious conversations need to take place to ensure regulations are in place to protect individuals’ data and rights. Otherwise, it will struggle ever to be a viable option.

About the author: Ashish Bhatnagar is Client Partner at Cognizant.

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As merchant bankers focused on Financial Services and impact investing, Middlemarch Partners believes that ESG-focused FinTechs have a unique ability to achieve rapid growth, deliver ESG-focused innovation, and attract investment capital to support their efforts to improve the environment and society while generating substantial returns.

We believe that major financial institutions in their effort to adopt these ESG tenants will be compelled either to partner with these sustainable FinTech firms or to invest/acquire them to gain an upper hand with their industry peers.

VC interest in ESG-related FinTechs has surged in the last twenty-four months. MasterCard issued a report which stated that venture funds deployed approximately 2.5 times more equity into ESG-related FinTechs in 2020 relative to what they invested in 2019 (from ~$0.7B to ~$1.8B). Middlemarch believes this trend will continue as earlier stage ESG FinTechs mature (and need growth equity) and more innovative FinTechs enter the market to address unmet ESG needs in the financial services industry. 

Rise of Climate FinTechs

Climate action – addressing the damage done to the environment by human activities-- is perhaps the most talked about and researched topic among all the Sustainable Development Goals promoted by the United Nations and embraced by ESG investors and thought leaders. There is no surprise then, that Climate Tech was one of the fastest sub-sectors to emerge within FinTech. While there are many interesting segments in this space, we focus on banking and lending as well as payments, investing, trading and risk analysis. For each segment, we present unique companies that are building innovative products to tackle climate change through financial innovation.

Banking

Over the last few years, some of the largest and most influential banks globally have committed to reducing emissions attributable to their operations. They have also pledged to reshape their lending and investment portfolios to produce a net-zero carbon footprint by 2050. Although it remains to be seen how much this ‘Net Zero Banking Alliance’ can actually achieve among the largest banks, Middlemarch believes next-generation FinTechs are winning the battle for ESG-focused consumers who choose their banking providers based on the strength of their ESG-related banking products and their ability to address climate-related objectives.

One traditional financial institution that is taking action to advance ESG goals in a material way is Amalgamated Bank, a US-based regional bank. It is a great example of a traditional bank focused on sustainability. A net-zero bank powered by 100% renewable energy, Amalgamated Bank believes in supporting sustainable organisations, progressive causes, and social justice. It does not lend to fossil fuel companies, and 24% of its loan portfolio is dedicated to climate protection loans and PACE financing (e.g., financing for energy efficiency upgrades, water conservation upgrades). Amalgamated Bank has made tangible progress in aligning its long-term business to achieving Paris Climate Agreement targets. Amalgamated Bank offers a strong business case for how a bank can deliver against socially responsible investment objectives.

A compelling example of a FinTech using ESG to market as well as to address environmental issues is Aspiration Bank, a US-based, online-only FinTech that offers a ‘Spend & Save’ cash management account (CMA) where the deposits are not used to fund any oil and gas projects. It also offers a zero-carbon footprint credit card which claims to plant a tree every time a purchase is made from the card. The bank is set to go public in a $2.3B SPAC transaction later this year. With celebrity investors like Leonardo DiCaprio, Orlando Bloom, Robert Downey Jr. and Drake, a multi-million sponsorship deal with Los Angeles Clippers and a multi-billion SPAC in process, Aspiration Bank sets the tone for high-profile, ESG-linked FinTechs to disrupt the banking industry by attracting a younger and more environmentally oriented consumer demographic.

Similarly, Ando, a US-based, online banking platform, invests customers’ deposits exclusively in green initiatives like renewable energy and responsible agriculture. By allocating more than $12M of its customers’ money to green loans since launch, Ando has empowered its users to make a meaningful impact with their savings. Launched in Jan 2021, the company announced a $6M seed round in October 2021, with over 30,000 customers.

Lending

The financial services sector that has most embraced ESG-related efforts is Debt Financing. There have been many green bonds and sustainability-linked loans issued. In addition to these bonds and loans that are promoted by large financial institutions, specialised FinTech lending companies are emerging that focus on sustainability and have developed dedicated lending platforms and products to address the ESG objectives of their consumer clients.

Both Goodleap and Mosaic Inc. are excellent examples of lending platforms focused on financing sustainable home improvements. Goodleap, America’s top point-of-sale platform for sustainable home solutions, offers home upgrades with flexible payment options. With more than $9B in loans deployed through its platform, the company is valued at $12B post its recent $800M capital raise. Mosaic is a leading financing platform for US residential solar and energy-efficient home improvement projects. The company surpassed $5B in loans through its platform in July 2021 as well as closed its 10th solar securitisation — more than any other solar loan issuer in this space. Both these platforms offer simple financing solutions for their customers and are poised to capture a critical component of the sustainable lending market in the years to come.

Carbon Zero, a US-based credit card issuer, offers a simple way for customers to offset their carbon impact. The credit card fee collected by the company is invested in industry-leading forestry and carbon capture projects instead of environmentally harmful ones. Users can automatically neutralize their carbon footprint and achieve a Carbon Zero lifestyle. Incumbent credit card provider Visa recently announced a similar card program called FutureCard which offers 5% cashback on green spending to reward consumers who demonstrate ESG-supportive purchase behaviour.

Payments

Climate FinTechs in the payments segment focus on influencing the spending and shopping behaviour of consumers to help influence them towards embracing brands, companies, and practices that both are more sustainable and help reduce their consumer carbon footprints. And while all these offerings advance ESG objectives, they also help Climate FinTechs attract a key demographic segment and sustain their transaction revenue by aligning financial transactions with ESG goals.

Ecountabl is a US-based, purpose-driven tech company that helps consumers shop and spend on brands and companies that align with their social and environmental goals. Ecountabl seeks to make consumers more aware of their spending tendencies. Users can connect their credit card or bank account to Ecountabl so that it can monitor the ESG impact of their purchases. Ecountabl achieves this by maintaining one of the largest databases in the world monitoring the level of ESG adoption for brands and employers. The company is venture-backed with funding from CRCM Ventures.

Meniga, a UK-based company, focuses on addressing the issue of carbon emissions produced by consumer spending patterns.  It offers a carbon insight platform that banks can use to inform their customers about their carbon footprint based on their spending. The platform also helps offset this emission by inviting customers to take challenges, adopting green products, participating in the bank’s CSR initiatives, or finding other ways to offset their carbon footprint. Meniga drives insights from the Meniga Carbon Index to provide accurate estimations using transaction data.

Alipay, the mobile payment app by Ant Group of China, launched an initiative called Ant Forest which encourages users to make decisions that lower their carbon footprint through the spending behaviour using the Alipay app. The resulting reduction in carbon emissions are recorded, and users are rewarded with “green energy” points which can be used to plant actual trees that users can monitors using satellite imagery. Ant Forest has helped over 600 million users plant more than 326 million trees since it launched in 2016.

All three of the examples above focus on influencing the customer to make better energy consumption choices, rather than help them offset their emission by investing in environmentally friendly projects. By putting the customer in charge of their emission behaviour, these companies help consumers focus on their own contributions to advancing ESG goals.  It appears that these firms are intent on changing behaviour and are leaving the carbon trading investment opportunity for more institutional investors who are likely to be more effective participants in that market.

Investing

Asset Management and Wealth Management are key focus areas for ESG-focused FinTechs. These companies help individual investors generate a more ESG-compliant portfolio by either offering a specialised marketplace to access ESG-friendly investments or by managing consumers’ portfolios with a focus on composing an aggregate portfolio that achieves measurable ESG goals.

Raise Green is one of the first green crowd investing portals in the US that offers investors a marketplace for local impact investing. The portal helps investors get fractional ownership in clean energy and climate solution projects. The firm is focused on appealing to the younger demographic segment which favours impact investing. The firm completed an angel round of equity financing in April 2021.

There are numerous FinTech portfolio management providers like Arnie Impact and Carbon Collective that offer personalised or pre-built portfolios which focus on sustainable investments and are aligned to the personal values and financial goals of the ESG-focused individual investor. Arnie recently completed its early-stage venture round in September 2021 while Carbon Collective completed one in January 2021. Both companies offer a new option for retail investors to build a long-term sustainable portfolio. 

Trading

Trading is a sector where FinTechs can leverage blockchain technology to lower costs, reduce intermediary involvement and at the same time establish exchanges and marketplaces that enable the trading of carbon credits to advance environmental goals while monetising that effort.

Aircarbon, a Singapore-based, global carbon exchange platform built on blockchain technology, bundles carbon credits from different projects into a single instrument that can be traded on its digital platform. Unlike the current system of carbon credits trading, where companies purchase credits linked to individual projects, Aircarbon aims to create and offer standardised carbon credits instruments via bundling of projects. This approach could enable a more standardised carbon credit economy which could catalyse large-scale, institutional commodity trading.

Climate Impact X is another Singapore-based global carbon exchange and marketplace for carbon credits jointly established by DBS Bank, Singapore Exchange Limited (SGX), Standard Chartered Bank, and Temasek. It supports trading of carbon credits created from projects involved in the protection and restoration of natural ecosystems. The company recently completed an auction of a portfolio of 170,000 carbon credits connected to eight recognised forest conservation and restoration projects located in Africa, Asia, and Central- and South America. The company aims to have such auctions on a regular basis starting in 2022. The development of an expanded carbon credit supply via auctions could help the carbon offset market reach $100B in tradable carbon by 2030.

Risk Analysis

Risk analysis is a Climate FinTech category that has seen the highest rate of exits and mergers & acquisitions based on a report issued by New Energy Nexus. Risk analysis companies focus on measuring two kinds of climate risk data: 1) transition risk, which relates to the process of transitioning to a lower-carbon economy and 2) physical climate risk, which focuses on the physical impact of climate change. Both of these risks are important to investors, and investors rely on these analytical solutions to guide their investment decisions.

Carbon Delta, a Swiss company, provides insights that evaluate climate change risk in public companies for investment professionals. A key example of a company that measures this transition risk - Carbon Delta calculates ‘Climate-value-at-Risk” which provides forward-looking and return-based valuation assessments for an investment portfolio. By offering a calculation of the value of the future costs related to climate change, the company can help influence how investors and operators can direct capital to less environmentally harmful projects. This company was acquired by MSCI in 2019.

Jupiter Intel, on the other hand, measures the physical risk of climate change at the asset level by using satellite data, artificial intelligence, machine learning and Internet-of-Things connectivity. The Climate Score provided by its platform enables users to project the effect of climate change on a portfolio of assets. Banks, asset management firms, and other financial services companies can leverage this data to manage risk and allocate capital to assets that maximise positive climate impact. The company raised $54M in Series C venture funding in a deal led by MPower Partners Fund and Clearvision Ventures in September 2021.

Middlemarch is Poised to Support ESG-focused FinTechs

Middlemarch Partners believe that FinTechs as well as traditional financial services players can use ESG to attract customers who care about changing how we interact with our environment and each other. Not only is Middlemarch Partners focused on helping capitalise on next-gen financial services companies that want to focus on environmental objectives, but we also want to help established traditional financial services companies find ways to reorient themselves towards ESG efforts.

Middlemarch Partners is also cultivating investors who want to help lead the charge in ESG-oriented financial services companies.  We know those investors are looking for those businesses that can deliver strong returns and, at the same time, advance ESG objectives. That is the winning strategy that will allow us all to do well by doing good.

Virtual credit cards 101

Virtual credit cards are temporary 16-digit numbers that are associated with a physical or main card. They allow users to shop in-store and online or authorise others to do so. These numbers are generated on the client’s request for a certain transaction or as a way to facilitate one.

Their temporary nature makes them safer than providing the number of the actual card as the data will only remain useful for a certain period.

Virtual credit cards are issued by the financial institution that issues the main card or they can also be provided by a third party. Nowadays, there are many companies that offer virtual credit cards. The application process for one of these is quite simple and can usually be completed online.

For a business, virtual credit cards are a great solution to shield the company’s main cards from being misused. Companies can issue virtual cards on an as-needed basis for a certain department or person. It is easier to track the expenses made by these different actors by using separate cards rather than trying to sort all of the expenses made with a single instrument.

How to set up a virtual credit card?

Virtual credit cards can either be issued by a financial institution or by a private financial services firm that uses an existing physical card as the main card to then create virtual extensions.

The first step to setting up a virtual credit card is to decide which provider you go with. Even though some banks issue virtual cards directly or offer a platform through which virtual extensions can be created, other financial institutions are not yet offering these products. 

If you are going with a third-party provider, make sure it is a reputed company located in a well-regulated country. Once you have selected the provider, you will have to provide sensitive personal and financial information - including the data from the main credit card. Make sure the website through which you provide this data is secure, you can check this by clicking on the padlock icon located on the address box of your web browser. By clicking on this icon, you can confirm that your connection is secure.

Then, follow the instructions provided by the company to create your virtual cards. All billings will appear on your main card’s statement as if they were made with that card alone but your provider’s interface should allow you to check the individual transactions made with each virtual card you have created.

Benefits of virtual credit cards

Using a virtual credit card can carry significant advantages for a business that wants to manage its expenditures better.

The following is a list of some of the most prominent benefits:

Finally, if you are wondering which of the virtual cards out there will be the right fit, here’s a great resource to learn how you can choose the best virtual credit card for your business.

Over the last two years, there is no doubt that technology stepped up — with businesses now having some of the best tools at their disposal, allowing employees to instantly switch between the office and their homes. But technology is only the enabler, not the solution to running a successful business. Instead, the modern, post-pandemic business needs two things: one, a careful balancing of the roles played by technology and by people – both equally important yet interdependent; and two, a reinforcing of the importance of leadership to striking this balance.

The pandemic created a seismic shift in the way we work, and technology offered us a ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ card, of sorts. For decades, we’ve learnt by observing but with the advent of remote working at such a large scale, the way we learn and interact with our colleagues has undergone tremendous change. Whilst working apart from each other, we’ve managed to create a secondary culture, with catch-ups, regular wellbeing check-ins, and huddles, all trying to recreate the human interaction – those water-cooler moments – we’re used to in the office. Although working from home was initially greeted with excitement, this was soon dampened by the pressure of being constantly “online” and a feeling of being overwhelmed by incessant alerts and interruptions. That was probably the first wake-up call for business leaders, who realised that technology alone, whilst a valuable tool, wasn’t enough to succeed through the pandemic.

As we set foot into another year of uncertainty, we can be clear about one thing: people are the lifeblood of an organisation. And how we lead those people is what makes a business successful, not the number of tools available to us. The most effective leaders see technology as an enabler, a means of expressing themselves, drawing the best out of their teams and empowering individuals to communicate in ways that makes them feel most confident and productive. If used well, digital channels provide us with a level playing field and a platform from which to give praise, work through problems, review and provide feedback, and even bond and have fun!

The most effective leaders see technology as an enabler, a means of expressing themselves, drawing the best out of their teams and empowering individuals to communicate in ways that makes them feel most confident and productive.

However, technology alone can only go so far as to replicating the human working experience. For many, working from home prompted a feeling of limbo, it was hard to learn, be heard, be creative, or progress at the same pace. There is no doubt that consistent remote working and overcommunicating (however well-intentioned) has prompted a sense of digital fatigue, and in some scenarios, greater anxiety and isolation.

Ultimately, as our reliance on technology swells, a balance that works for the people using it must be found and maintained. This rests on the shoulders of leaders. Intentional leaders.

For instance, with so many channels to monitor, work can become overwhelming. But an intentional leader will agree with their team on how best to communicate with each other – inclusive of all work styles – without crossing boundaries. Technology isn’t the answer to hybrid working but creating a space for everyone, especially for those that aren’t always the first to speak up, is what business leaders should be focusing on as they embrace the new normal.

Fundamentally, businesses need to understand that the future will revolve around how they work and not where they work, or the tools they use. Indeed, the most technologically dependent era of working we’ve ever experienced has actually taught us more about ourselves as employees, managers and leaders than ever before.

Leaders need to collect the lessons their teams have taught them; actively engage with their employees to understand what they want from their working environments and use these conversations to solidify working practices that are relevant today and can evolve in the future. Such strategies do not need to be prescriptive. Based on the feedback given, they should empower their staff to choose what is right for them, whilst meeting the expectations of the business.

As with all workplace changes, there is no one right solution. Technology has enabled us to work wherever we are in the world, but it isn’t the answer to hybrid working. People are. The onus will be on managers and leaders to define what works and what doesn’t work for their teams and the business as a whole. What makes us more productive, more efficient, more inspired, more results orientated, more fulfilled? These are the questions to ask yourselves when trailing new technology. Such an approach ensures that whatever the future may hold for businesses, and however advanced ways of working become, people remain the priority, and that is always the key to success.

Financial services enterprises are under greater pressure to digitally transform. According to new Telehouse research, more than four out of ten (42%) financial service enterprises need to transform their IT infrastructure or risk becoming less competitive – a figure significantly higher than the 34% average across other sectors.

Pressure is being driven by a combination of factors, including customer demands for more connected, relevant and personalised experiences (46%), the need to simplify business and operating models to increase efficiency (46%), cyber security (44%) and the necessity to deliver new applications and services to customers (44%). The emergence of nimbler challenger banks and ambitious FinTechs has set the challenge for businesses across the sector to step up a gear and reshape their operations.

For many, a shift from a traditional on-premise infrastructure, to a more modern mix of colocation, cloud and ultimately, edge computing is the answer.

Scoping the challenge

Today, financial services firms need to react quickly to regulatory demands and take advantage of market opportunities. However, they often don’t have the right systems in place to manage, or effectively use data to respond as quickly as their ‘digitally native’ peers.

The problem is many are still reliant on inflexible, legacy, on-premise infrastructure. The research revealed that financial services organisations outsource the lowest proportion of IT infrastructure to colocation and the cloud of the enterprise sectors polled. So, it’s not surprising the sector also has the lowest confidence in IT maturity, with just 30% of IT decision-makers describing their organisation’s IT maturity as ‘very advanced’.

Transformation is clearly needed but it is not always an easy task. Historically, financial services firms have struggled to adopt new technologies and meet increasingly high customer expectations quickly, often limited by strict compliance and regulatory requirements, which ratcheted up after the global financial crisis of 2008. Even with the appetite to change, many have struggled to make meaningful progress, held back by legacy IT systems. But with time of the essence and providing personalised, connected and reliable experiences now business-critical, organisations can simply no longer afford to stand still.

Why connectivity is key

As customer demand and internet consumption grows, financial services organisations need to find ways to increase connectivity between offices and countries and improve the user interface on customer-focused technology like apps and websites.

5G will offer many benefits for financial services including reduced latency, which in turn will help decrease transaction and settlement times. It will also facilitate the adoption of AI to enable greater personalisation and improvements to customer experience.

However, as with any new wireless communications technology, the volume of data used will rise significantly, putting more stress on backbone networks. A fifth of financial service enterprises surveyed in the research already say that data volumes have become a serious problem. To succeed, organisations need the ability to quickly ingest and process data and this will be dependent on having a connected, secure, reliable, scalable, flexible, resilient and low latency IT infrastructure.

Ultimately, more connections mean more risks. So, the challenge is how to take advantage of increased connectivity without compromising security or compliance.

Despite lagging behind other sectors in most areas, financial services are leading the way when it comes to edge computing.

The role of colocation

 Many are turning to colocation as the answer; providing the extra capacity and bandwidth required, while also enabling fast, secure and direct connections to cloud service providers. According to the Telehouse research, financial services organisations are already outsourcing 38% of IT infrastructure in colocation with adoption set to increase further as the use of big data; 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT) rises.

By hosting their IT infrastructure in a colocation data centre, organisations can control the migration process, keep on top of regulatory demands and keep a lid on costs. The research found that the top drivers of investment in colocation are sustainability, faster data access and improved connectivity, likely driven by the need to improve customer experience and connect disparate hybrid IT structures.

More importantly, by deploying a combination of cloud and colocation strategies, organisations can create a resilient and secure foundation for growth. This will enable them to flex and scale operations when building new services and innovations to meet future demand, while also ensuring they provide their customers with a responsive and high-performing service. And by choosing a colocation facility in close proximity to financial markets and exchanges, organisations can benefit from reduced latency and faster data processing to enable real-time big data analysis.

Moving to the edge

Despite lagging behind other sectors in most areas, financial services are leading the way when it comes to edge computing. 72% of respondents have already implemented a strategy for edge computing, driven by a need to optimise data volumes (36%), digitally transform (34%) and match competitor capabilities (34%). However, over a third say they are challenged by a lack of understanding of edge networks and their purpose as well as uncertainty over which locations to gather and manage data in.

Given that it’s now more important than ever for financial services firms to store, access and analyse and access exponential levels of data at record speeds, it is not surprising that interest in edge computing is soaring. Gartner predicts that by 2025, 85% of infrastructure strategies will integrate on-premises, colocation, cloud and edge delivery options, compared with 20% in 2020.

Demand for edge is also likely to be driven by its convergence with other technologies such as cloud and colocation and is evidenced by the fact that many firms opt for a mix of technologies. Ultimately, the key for success for organisations will be building the right infrastructure foundations and connectivity, and the right data centre partner is critical to achieving this.

Embracing the connected future

Financial service providers have a huge opportunity to provide the seamless, secure and personalised services that today’s consumers crave. But doing so requires digital transformation.

As data volumes and connectivity increase, new developments such as predictive modelling to prepare for ‘what if’ scenarios, automation of front-end sales and customer-facing environments and the enhancement of customer care by self-service functionality will become commonplace. However, success depends on having the right IT infrastructure to enable fast, secure and seamless connections. It will be those that can build a connected, secure, reliable, scalable, flexible, resilient and low latency IT infrastructure that will be winners in the race to the connected future.

Why ICT operations must be at the forefront of climate change improvement

Compared to fast fashion, fishing with nets, or drilling for oil, the use of ICT and its relationship to carbon emissions is not a well-trodden narrative. However, ICT is expected to soak up 21% of electrical consumption by 2030, with the sector demanding between 5-9% of electrical use worldwide, equating to 3.5% of emissions globally. With internet use increasing by as much as 78% in the last year, mainly due to the pandemic, and a global trend of technological reliance, the environmental effect needs to be understood and efforts should be made to reduce the impact. 

Because ICT has driven innovation that has such a positive impact on personal, social and business operations globally, its utility has often overshadowed the detriment it may have on the environment. However, just like other sectors battling to improve their carbon footprint, there are methods, practices and, indeed, technological changes that can greatly offset ICT’s carbon emissions. 

Storage use and the need to migrate

Legacy systems for businesses such as banks have long relied on domestically owned, stored and operated hardware to facilitate their business operations. Naturally, with these systems in place, their implementation follows a long-standing and often out-of-date methodology that is ill-equipped to adopt new, environmentally friendlier technologies as they arise. Similarly, these systems fall short of optimisation and scaling opportunities when compared to newer advancements, since the legacy hardware operates at a maximum capacity. This means that the energy requirements of the legacy hardware cannot be reduced in line with business needs or market fluctuations, and the opportunity to save energy is lost.

To counter the environmental impact of these legacy systems (and see increases in operational efficiency, effectiveness, scaling and faster time-to-market), those still using physical, on-site hardware need to explore the possibilities provided by cloud storage technologies.

In recent research we conducted on cloud technology and banking institutions, we found that 81% of respondents had adopted cloud technologies to save costs, while 95% cited the increased time-to-market of cloud and 86% said the key benefit was the virtually unlimited scaling opportunity. This trend is complemented across businesses more generally, with 50% of businesses using the cloud to store company data in 2021, an increase of 20% when compared to 2015. 

Migrating from physical storage to a flexible cloud infrastructure also reduces the need to add additional systems as time goes by, thereby promoting a strategy for the long-term improvement of sustainability practices. Google is a great example of a cloud provider that has invested huge sums into making its operations sustainable and has used carbon offsetting to compensate for all of the carbon it has ever created. By 2030 their goal is to run all its servers using 100% carbon-free energy, meaning their customers can tap into Google’s green credentials to support their own sustainability journey. 

Appropriate technical architecture

Excess code is an underestimated but invasive principle of business technology. Often, the technical make-up of websites, machinery or ICT software has unnecessary code that lengthens the processing time and data transmission of an operation. With longer processing times comes more power usage, hindering business efficiency and cost-saving opportunities. 

With an increased focus on inefficient coding and its effect on ICT’s environmental impact, the concept of ‘green coding’ is gaining increased traction. Green coding concentrates on coding efficiency and aims to provide systems and guidelines to ensure a business’ ICT architecture is as efficient as possible, with the ambition being to lower power usage, processing time, and therefore overall energy consumption. The outlook for ICT needs to change – processes should be updated to use the absolute minimum energy required to fulfil their function, before shutting down until required again.

Every small gain that can be achieved in reducing processing energy, will ultimately support a large reduction in carbon footprint.

Energy proportionality

Most IT systems within banks and many other organisations have historically lacked the ability to efficiently manage their energy consumption, or have the ability to react to market fluctuations. The energy used by core ICT systems is therefore often ‘fixed’ and not proportionate to the utilisation of those systems. The concept is known as ‘energy proportionality’, whereby utilisation levels can be measured as a percentage of utilised computing power. While high utilisation is the objective, low utilisation is still the norm and is usually a result of an overestimation of how much software and therefore server capacity is required or will be used. Energy proportionality can also be exacerbated when there are multiple software and ICT operations taking place, or where replicated data centres or resiliency is felt to be required.

 Adopting a combination of cloud technology and green coding can reduce the disparity of projected and actual utilisation. While green coding ensures that the delivery of software applications is as efficient as possible, cloud technology is capable of providing real-time changes to storage and processing capabilities as markets, traffic or software usage changes. This approach has huge benefits for cost-cutting, as migrating to cloud systems usually means you can also adopt a ‘pay-as-you-go’ cost structure for your data processing and storage requirements. Having automated power output based on actual energy expenditure is capable of eradicating overestimations for energy use, thereby saving energy consumption and promoting high utilisation as a result.

Streamlining operations for the future

Advancements in storage technology utilising the cloud, allows many businesses to tap into the efficient, low-energy consuming infrastructure, streamlining their operations and achieving maximum efficiency. Not only will this help firms lower their carbon emissions output by reducing unnecessary power usage, but can also allow them to improve the effectiveness of their systems and processes to save time and costs whilst supporting scaling opportunities and reducing time-to-market. 

Combined with the growing knowledge of green coding principles, the cloud can be used in conjunction with precise technical architecture to provide firms with improved efficiency for their business in both an operational and environmental sense.

All of those within the ICT sector have a responsibility to streamline their emissions output and using these technologies and disciplines is a clear-cut method to fulfil this ambition. 

About the author: Dean Clark is Chief Technology Officer at GFT.

Digital transformation for businesses includes introducing new technology and software, as well as adapting organisational structures and mindsets to the modern digital culture. What are the potential benefits that make digital transformation so valuable, and are there any downsides?

The Need For Digital Transformation

The ever-evolving digitisation of our society is no new phenomenon. Our hobbies, social lives, education, and jobs are shifting more and more into virtual spaces. While many of us still remember life before the internet as it is today, the new generation of digital natives grew up with the internet and all its perks and pitfalls. They are navigating modern technology with ease akin to breathing.

Naturally, young people are a huge target market and the newest or next additions to the workforce. When trying to appeal to them or fully make use of their potential, any business – whether it is part of the IT sector or not – is forced to adapt and use modern tools such as management software and apps. And yet many small- to mid-sized companies still struggle with the implementation of digital strategies and digital transformation is one of the biggest risk factors in the eyes of directors, CEOs and senior executives.

The Upside Of Digital Transformation

Many traditionalists are still wary of digital solutions to long-established methods. They are getting in the way of their own company’s potential to work more effectively and cut costs. Digital staff management tools, such as online staff rota management, allow employees easy and intuitive ways to take part in their schedule planning.

Even a simple tool like this can have unexpected impacts:

The Risk Factors Of Digital Transformation

If so many executives consider digital transformation a risk factor, that means there must be a potential for negative consequences when introducing digital strategies to a business. Business owners who still refuse to commit to digitalisation fear the fallout of their digital transformation efforts failing. What exactly are the negative effects they worry about?

Conclusion: Maximised Efficiency, Minimised Risks

Digital transformation is no longer an option but a necessity. Modern software and the accompanying technology are important for companies to remain competitive and gain attractiveness in the eyes of the next generation. When used correctly, digital assets optimise a businesses’ efficiency. Automated processes, intelligent software and connected workflows can minimise the time wasted on menial tasks. Happier employees, efficient planning and reduced mistakes maximise a company’s potential.

Potential risks can be avoided with a bit of careful consideration. An employee’s willingness to learn and use new tech can be increased. There needs to be enough time set aside for appropriate amounts of schooling. Additionally, the acceptance of the new tool will rise when it’s made clear how it can positively affect both the company and the employees themselves.

Expert advice and software reviews will help to find the right solution for the specific company. Most governments offer financial aid for small businesses' digitisation efforts. These are often combined with educational support. This kind of coaching can help to choose the right tech and implement it smoothly.

Implementing technological solutions to your business is one of the best and smartest ways for you to save money. The world is filled with companies trying to sell you the latest and most innovative methods for you to use their technology within your operations, so it is difficult to decide what is best for your business. The following are five ways technology can save your business money.

Fleet Safety Programme

If you are running a logistics operation, the safety of your fleet and keeping down costs will be some of your largest concerns. Building a video-based fleet safety programme is a way to reduce costly accidents, avoid false claims and save money. Real-time footage can be used to provide drivers with effective training and address any bad habits they may have. Potential legal costs are also a worry for any fleet, and with this system, you will mitigate all risks as you have easily accessible evidence should any legal problems arise. You can review a guide online that will answer all your questions and show you how to implement a video-based fleet safety programme.

AI

The use of artificial intelligence is one of the smartest ways to reduce your business costs. Machines are now able to do many of the menial, repetitive tasks that were often given to low skilled workers. Using AI will save you on the costs of employing workers whose tasks can easily be done by computers. You can use that money to invest elsewhere in your business and employ people who are highly skilled and bring value to your company.

Marketing

If you want the best marketing solutions, you are going to have to invest in technology. Beware of some of the biggest marketing mistakes you can make if you do not research properly. Despite this initial investment, in the long term, your business will reap the rewards of having a more effective marketing strategy. There is software available that can help you with the analytical side of marketing. This is especially useful for social media marketing where analytics are a crucial aspect. You will be saving money on employees while also increasing your profits by having more effective marketing campaigns. 

Remote Working

Remote working has come to the forefront of working practices. In the current, pandemic influenced world, businesses have had to find ways to allow their employees to work effectively from home. Remote working has been the solution and it has the added benefit of reducing overall costs. Office space can be reduced as it may no longer be needed and workers are more productive when working from home. Assess whether you really need certain employees in your physical office, if not, remote working is the answer.

Training

Technology provides an abundance of training opportunities. Video conferencing allows you to connect to anywhere in the world which reduces the costs of having to pay to bring an expert to your business. There are vast amounts of resources available, too. Some training videos are available for free, and learning resources are easily available for certain skills such as new languages. Using these training resources will save you money and reduce your operating costs so use them to their full potential.

For financial institutions, leveraging data to gain insights and inform decision-making has become more important than ever before as digital transformation agendas become more focused on enterprise-wide initiatives that deliver elevated customer experiences. However, these efforts are currently being hindered due to overly complex data infrastructures that rely on a disjointed set of technologies for data management, semantic layers, data pipeline, data integration, and analytics. This is leaving firms unable to obtain data fast enough, and in a way that is easy to interpret and share to drive their organisation forward. 

Consequently, to solve these issues, many are looking for a new approach to data management. This has led some of the world’s leading financial institutions such as Bank of America, Citi, and Goldman Sachs, to implement data fabrics. But it’s not just larger firms that stand to benefit from data fabrics. Slated as the “future of data management”, this new architectural approach to data management can help firms of all sizes to achieve smarter data enablement, 'information fluidity', and a simplified and futureproofed data architecture to maximise the value of their data. 

The future of data management

The growing popularity of data fabrics is down to their ability to speed and simplify access to data assets across the entire business. A data fabric accesses, transforms, and harmonises data from multiple sources, on-demand, to make it usable and actionable for a wide variety of business applications without creating additional data silos. This is a far cry from the overly complex architecture most firms are currently used to. 

Smart data fabrics extend these capabilities even further by embedding analytics capabilities directly within the fabric, such as data exploration, business intelligence, natural language processing, and machine learning. This makes it faster and easier for organisations to gain new insights and power intelligent predictive and prescriptive services and applications. 

Another major benefit of a smart data fabric is that it allows data to remain at source while adding new functionality and levels of flexibility. This means existing legacy applications and data can remain in place so firms can maximise the value from their previous technology investments, including data lakes and data warehouses, which is particularly beneficial for smaller firms with tighter budgets. Additionally, this approach ensures firms don’t have to worry about moving data to a centralised store and all the challenges that can entail, such as latency and duplication of data. After all, it’s these issues that can call into question whether the data can be trusted and if decisions based on it are truly informed. 

Elevating the customer experience

Once implemented, smart data fabrics give financial services institutions the ability to more fully leverage their data, customer and otherwise, and open up a world of possibilities. By weaving together different data sets and providing easy and uniform access to data, a smart data fabric can help generate insights to better understand customers, predict behaviours, and provide customised experiences in real-time. These capabilities promise to help firms to elevate the customer experience and enhance business results. This has the effect of helping organisations to expand customer opportunities, retain existing customers, and gain a competitive advantage in an increasingly competitive landscape.

The use of a smart data fabric also caters to business users’ demand for more direct and simplified ways to derive insight from the firm’s data assets, while also helping firms keep up with regulatory imperatives that require support for advanced data quality, lineage, security, and governance capabilities. 

Smart data fabrics for all

With their ability to unify data from both internal and external sources on-demand, without creating additional silos, and provide accurate and seamless access to that data, smart data fabrics present the opportunity for financial services firms to do more with their data. This will put the power to accelerate business innovation and obtain or maintain a competitive advantage firmly within the grasp of organisations of all sizes. In what can be a challenging and volatile environment, this can make a significant difference to how firms respond to changes within the landscape and position them to use their data to inform their next move.  

As firms turn their attention to implementation, working with experienced technology providers and partners will offer the best path forward and ensure they are able to make the best use of the various data management, integration, and analytics technologies that make up a smart data fabric. 

By taking this step forward by implementing and embracing this next-generation data management approach, financial firms will set themselves up to succeed both in today’s landscape and well into the future, giving them the capabilities they need to deliver an elevated, customised, and differentiated customer experience every time.

Even small businesses can achieve massive feats when people go the extra mile with their productivity. But you cannot expect it to happen by itself as employees tend to go slack when not supervised or motivated. The decline may be deliberate or unintentional, but low productivity always hurts the employer in more than one way.

As a business owner, you will need to invest in your team and drive them to achieve more with less. It may take some effort, but there is no other way to boost people and get your business ahead. A positive mindset and motivational approach give you a good start, but they are not enough to boost your workforce. You need to realise that technology is the driving force that makes a real difference, and investing in it is non-negotiable. Let us explain how you can leverage technology to build a productive workforce for your business.

Empowering with flexibility

Flexibility makes people productive, and it is all the more crucial in the remote work era. The right technology solutions empower your team to work from anywhere and anytime. You cannot expect to survive and thrive without implementing these solutions. They enable workers to connect and collaborate with each other and the clients, no matter the constraints of location and time. A flexible workforce aces on all fronts, including productivity. They also feel motivated because a flexible approach breeds trust. Let them work their own way, and they will give extra effort to do their best. Moreover, it is no longer a choice for businesses in pandemic times. Learn to live with flexibility, and productivity will grow organically.

Automating time-tracking

Employees often lose track at work because they get distracted or take extended breaks, sometimes unintentionally. The problem seems like a small one, but the implications of lost time are far-reaching. Thankfully, you can rely on apps to automate time-tracking to keep an eye on people. They are significant right now as people work from home and there are more chances of wasting time when away from physical supervision. Once you have these solutions in place, employees become more conscious, and you can save hundreds of work hours every month. They can even help employees to keep a check on their performance and do their bit for the employer. Time-tracking apps are a small investment that takes your business a long way.

Simplifying small tasks

When it comes to making your workforce more productive, you must start at the most basic level. Consider investing in technologies that simplify the smallest of the daily tasks at work. You can provide relevant tools to handle these tasks. Just imagine the problems employees can face when they have too many temporary files on their work devices. It sounds like a small issue, but the extra files can slow down the system and hamper the workflow significantly. Eventually, it will affect their productivity too. A simple cleanup tool can resolve the concern in minutes and get devices back to work seamlessly. Choose simple tools people can use without help.

Bolstering employee engagement

A happy workforce is bound to be more productive and efficient. So employee engagement is a worthy investment for any business. You can invest in engagement apps and gain in the form of a positive impact on work output. Several organisations are already leveraging gamification solutions to engage teams and foster healthy competition among people. As employees invest extra efforts to gain points, their productivity gets a boost. Similarly, feedback solutions go a long way in enhancing the engagement of the workforce. They let people know where they stand and how they can improve their performance with the adoption of the right measures.

Ramping up training initiatives

If productivity is your top priority, you need to have effective training initiatives for your team. The idea is to enhance their skills over time so that they deliver more and better. Once again, workplace technology can play a significant role in employee training. You can leverage high-end learning management systems to train through simulative technologies. Many businesses are also using simulative apps that leverage Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality to deliver lifelike learning experiences to the employees. Remote training is another area where technology emerges as a saviour right now.

Building a productive team should be a priority for every business, even if it takes effort and investment. It becomes all the more crucial at this point when organisations need to optimise resources and cut down costs. Technology takes you a step ahead with the initiative, so you must pick the right solutions to empower your workforce at the earliest. You will soon realise that technology pays for itself, so the investment is worthwhile. 

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