FOCUS: TECHNOLOGY

HOW TO MAKE DIGITAL DELIVER FOR BANKING IN 2017

2017 is the year that retail banking needs to deliver on its digital promises to customers

Over the past few years, retail banking has worked hard to rebuild its relationship with customers, fostering the highest levels of trust seen since the financial crisis. And growing digital services have played a significant part in bringing retail banking and its customers closer together.

To capitalise on the progress made, in 2017 banks need to push on from the ‘foundation blocks’ of online bill payments and balance checking to deliver more sophisticated digital services like video conferencing. That’s if they want to match the expectations they’ve built up among their customers.

In fact, customers like what they’ve seen so far. People appreciate how banks have reconnected with them since the financial crisis. Our Youbiquity Finance report shows that 33% think banks put customers at the heart of their business, up from 19% in 2012. In the UK, 35% say they have a strong relationship with their bank – in Germany and Spain it’s nearly 60%. They’re embracing digital services, too: demand for web chat has doubled since 2012. And people now use more than six channels, on average, to keep in touch with their bank, from walking into their branch to having a web chat on their tablet. That compares to just over four in 2012. But what about South Africa and Africa?

According to KPMG’s Africa Banking Survey, while branches continue to be the most preferred channel for Africa’s banking customers the data also suggests that use of alternative delivery channels is on the rise in most African markets. In fact, 64% say that satisfaction with their banks had increased over the past year – however, 89% say that the timeliness of transaction processing is important to their satisfaction but only 33% are currently satisfied with this measure.

As a result, it’s evident that digital banking sometimes falls short. People want to do more complex things online than check their balance and pay their bills. And that’s sometimes hard. Many have problems buying financial products online and managing investments and filing complaints are ‘not easy’. And it can take five attempts at contacting the bank to make an appointment with an advisor online. Could this be why 85% want help on the phone alongside digital services?

Customers still expect a lot of digital banking and they’re ready for more tech-enabled services. In fact, according to our research, over five out of ten think video conferencing would help them understand financial advice and 63% want iPads in branches to help them choose products and services.

So, with customers apparently eager for more digital service and with competition fierce, what can we expect in 2017?

  • One-stop cloud: Banks will want to keep things simple as more digital services pile extra demand on their networks. Cloud services can help keep costs low and flexibility high but they’ll need to manage them from one place, on one network.
  • More targeted, more personal service: Banks will also start exploiting the Internet of Things to target services more precisely. Using the Internet of Things could, for instance, speed up services like mortgage applications by tapping into live data on the property and analysing lending risk in real time.
  • Blockchain gets closer to reality: Retail banks will start catching up with investment banks when it comes to blockchain. Blockchain could be more mainstream in around two years, especially if it helps speed up and secure the systems behind banks’ maturing digital services.

2017 will be an intriguing year as the current state of play regarding customer expectations of retail banking continues to change, but there is no reason why digital can’t deliver for the industry.

Author: Matt McKay, Head of Sales, BT in Africa

FROM TECH TO TECH START-UP

Five steps should be followed to turn South African technologies into world-class technology companies

World-famous financier JP Morgan threw caution and his father’s risk avoidance advice to the wind when he made his first notable venture investment into start-up inventor Thomas Edison’s Edison Electric. The rest, as they say, is history. Their partnership of science and finance is the reason why our houses and cities are lit today.

South Africa is host to a multitude of technology transfer offices (TTOs) based at universities, research houses, and other learning institutions. These TTOs facilitate the development and early-stage commercialisation of all technologies developed at the institution. As a nation we have historically proven ourselves to be exceptional innovators and inventors, with world-class patents and technologies having their origin in South Africa. The process to unlock value from these technologies lies in the process of commercialisation. Tech needs to be successfully converted into tech start-ups – young companies that have the ability to take these new products to market, to sustain and scale operations, and to compete globally.

Outsourced CFO will be working closely with CPUT and other TTOs in the process of taking their technologies to market to create scalable, fundable tech companies that can create jobs, raise funds, and compete on a global stage. Might the next Edison be found at one of these TTOs? Time will tell. Let’s have a look at what it will take to bridge the gap between tech and tech start-up.

FUNDING FOR TTOS

Technology transfer offices are traditionally funded by a combination of government and university money. Pressure on the national budget as well as the university cash drain caused by #Feesmustfall have left these taps closed tighter than ever. If we are to keep producing world-class technology, TTOs will need to find new and innovative ways to stay adequately funded. Engaging with and attracting finance from the international community as well as successful previous beneficiaries of TTO facilities is a great place to start.

EXPERTISE IN BUSINESS MODELLING AND FEASIBILITY STUDIES

In the pursuit of creating a new technology product, innovators need to make sure that they are creating something that is viable in the market. Consideration should be given to the business model that can be built around the product. What problem does it solve? What is the size of that problem? Is the problem painful enough that people will pay for it? At what cost can the product be produced and sold? Who are the major competitors in the market? Answering these and other business modelling questions early on in the creation process will ensure that viable products are created that the market will validate.

COMPANY STRUCTURING AND IP PROTECTION

There are a million things to focus on when creating and launching a new technology product. One of the critical things to make sure of is that the invention’s IP is properly protected and that the IP is owned by a well-structured company. Waiting too long to formalise either of these two processes can lead to devastating consequences. Don’t allow your IP to fall into the wrong hands and make sure that the ownership and agreements that govern your company that will own that IP is set up early and correctly.

FUNDING FOR TTO SPIN-OFFS

Assuming that our TTOs can keep attracting the needed funding and that our researchers and scientists stay on their game, one of the biggest constraints to moving a new technology into the market is access to seed funding. Fledgling technology companies start out with little or no traction in the market, making it hard to attract finance from traditional sources. Our angel and seed capital market is still in its infancy stages, but recent years show some exciting new developments in this arena. Government funding for early-stage technology companies is on the rise, the local angel investment community is growing and becoming less risk averse, and the private sector might also come to the table soon. If tech start-ups are able to present their case well to the right funders, more deals can be closed to supply the runway needed to take bootstrapped tech stat-ups to the next level.

EXPERTISE IN ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND BUSINESS ACCELERATION

Last but not least, expertise in entrepreneurship, finance and business acceleration needs to be match to early stage tech companies to enable them to scale. The person who is good at developing the technology is rarely the right CEO, CFO and COO of a growing company. Mentors, advisors and executives need to be brought on board to help fill the founders’ blind spots. Adding the right team that can bring the financial skills, market access, brand positioning, further capital raising efforts and other business expertise to the table will ensure that tech start-ups scale successfully.

If South Africa as a country with its many TTOs can find ways of jumping these five hoops, we will see a flood of successfully commercialised technologies coming into the market to help create the growth and jobs that we so desperately need.

Author: Louw Barnardt CA(SA) is the co-founder of and MD at Outsourced CFO, a financial management company that specialises in unlocking value for early stage technology companies

HOW RUNNING TO STANDSTILL WON’T GET YOU AHEAD OF THE PACK

Ask anyone how they are nowadays, and the answer is likely to be ‘crazy busy’ or something along those lines. Today’s world, designed around convenience and speed, seems to have had the exact opposite effect. We’re trying to cram more and more into the same 24 hours and wearing our ‘busy-ness’ like a badge of honour

Part self-imposed, part a reality of modern life, we’re a bit like the Red Queen in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass — we’ve got to do all the running we can just to stay in one place.

This delivers businesses a massive catch-22. Although we are running as fast as we can, keeping up is no longer good enough. We need to be fundamentally and exponentially change the way we work in order to succeed in the digital economy. For instance: transitioning to cloud computing is critical to enable the services, features, and capabilities demanded by the market today and tomorrow. Things like collaboration, mobility, self-service, real-time data analytics, omni-channel retail and so on. Not to mention the long-term cost savings and efficiencies cloud economics can bring.

But, how are companies supposed to find the time to take a step back and re-engineer their infrastructure and processes to make the shift to the cloud?

The same applies to wider innovation: fundamentally changing how you do things, from small, incremental enhancements to new business models and existential shifts in your organisation. Innovation is a product of a few things: time, money, and being open to failing fast and often. Organisations don’t innovate though, people do, and to do so they need time to think, research, experiment and develop their ideas.

Google’s 20% time is probably the most well-known initiative where companies try to carve out time for employees to innovate away from their day-to-day tasks. The search giant gives staff around a day a week to work on side projects, and the outcomes have included commercial successes such as AdSense and Gmail.

This is not some harebrained internet start-up window dressing, though – like beanbags, hammocks and foosball tables. 3M, the inventor of Scotch Tape and Post-it notes, and the holder of almost 23 000 patents, has offered its employees 15% time to work on passion projects since 1948.

Indeed, the invention of Post-it notes is an illustration of just how long innovation can take: an employee invented the adhesive in 1968 but it was only in 1974 that another 3M employee joined the dots and realised it could be used to create a reusable sticky note.

Ditto the development of Gmail. The Google engineer who invented this worked on it for two and a half years before convincing management that it should be launched.

All very well, as are innovation competitions, hackathons and other tactics companies use to foster new ideas. But reality bites. And the reality is that if we are running to standstill, we can’t currently carve 15–20% out of our business day, no matter how vital strategic innovation is.

It reminds me of that cartoon doing the rounds: two cavemen are energetically but not very effectively pushing and pulling a barrow with square wheels. Their friend offers them a set of round wheels. ‘No thanks,’ they say with a wave, ‘we are too busy’.

Something’s got to give. Somehow tired, ineffective and antiquated processes need to be sped up and automated, freeing people to be more strategic and perhaps to come up with the enhancements your company needs to survive.

Take the typical CPM (corporate performance management) processes, for example. In today’s real-time world, it can’t and shouldn’t take more than four weeks to complete a budget, or hours to complete month-end reviews. Bloated timeframes are compounded by manual processes resulting in errors and unnecessary admin. Plus, lack of transparency and collaboration between departments causes confusion and reduced accountability.

Fixing this single process can have a series of positive knock-ons. First, it can save you time. The vital time you need to spend innovating and thinking strategically about your business.

But it will also improve the timeliness of your data – giving you and your senior management the real-time financial data to base decisions on. And if, as part of the fix, you have effectively included those at the coalface in the process, your data will be more accurate and relevant. Inclusive management also increases transparency and accountability, resulting in an aligned organisation that manages itself better.

So the flipside to the catch-22 mentioned above – that to keep up effectively, organisations need to slow down to change gear – is that once you have done this, the outcome is not only winning the time you need to innovate, but also gaining the data and other capabilities you need to succeed in a digital world.

Author: Kevin Phillips  CA(SA) is CEO of IDU

CYBER- SECURITY SAVES FINANCIAL ORGANISATIONS

What happens when corporate IT infrastructure gets compromised by a cyber attack? In an age in which the cybersecurity landscape is evolving with sophisticated malware and almost every employee is connected to the organisation’s server and the Internet – reputation damage is a real risk

If you combine this with new technology developments and the shift in business needs, many financial organisations have now been forced to enhance the effectiveness of their business processes – by implementing e-flow systems to interact with suppliers and clients to save time and costs. But what happens when a cybercriminal floods the whole accounting department with phishing emails from the ‘supplier’?

REALITY IS …

Many companies have admitted that the information security incidents they have experienced have had a negative impact on their reputation and bottom line. According to recent research, banking phishing schemes are the absolute leaders among all types of financial phishing. In fact, every fourth (25,76%) attack, globally, used fake online banking information, or other content related to banks. Furthermore, the share of phishing related to payment systems and e-shops accounted for 11,55% and 10,14% respectively.

The challenge is that the traditional viewpoint that cybersecurity only entails a firewall, an anti-virus solution, and some Internet filters will always propel such figures. Businesses need to understand that these alone cannot, and will not, protect any company’s server.

CHANGE THE REALITY

In our experience, businesses tend to spend 80% of their security budgets on trying to prevent security breaches and only 20% on predicting, detecting and responding to attacks. Often, we get asked if it is even possible to solve every corporate security challenge with new technology. Our answer is, security is best understood as a process, and many companies must deal with these in three distinct phases as it will assist with mitigating the chances of a security breach.

  • Prevention is the best understood phase, as it mostly covers technology already in an organisation. Here, the products essentially just block generic threats that are emerging, which our research shows is at a rate of 310 000 a day.
  • Detection means detecting sophisticated and targeted attacks. This requires advanced tools and expertise, as well as the time to identify the indicators of attack, spot an incident, investigate it and mitigate the threat. The latter is covered by threat response, where the unique skills of forensic experts are needed the most.
  • Prediction examines possible future attacks and understanding the attack to define the long-term strategic defence capabilities of a company. This is done through running penetration testing and security assessments.

Unfortunately, if a cyber-attack makes it through the organisation’s perimeter and compromises its corporate network, then cybercriminals can spend months siphoning off sensitive corporate data without ever being noticed – and the impact can be massive, to you and your clients.

Therefore budgets must be redirected towards services and solutions that go beyond preventive technologies – in fact, the spilt should be a 60/40 approach. Only then are companies able to develop a security strategy that can manage the realities of modern-day cyber warfare.

Author: Riaan Badenhorst is Managing Director at Kaspersky Lab Africa

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