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3 ways tech will change banking in 2017

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This year will see three financial areas change due to technology. Customer relationship management, the processes of banking and the regulatory environment which these financial institutions operate, writes MARK WALKER of IDC.

From a broader economic outlook perspective, we will see heightened political influence as the country gears up for another round of elections. The uncertainty in the political environment potentially translates into economic movements that may impact interest rates, the exchange rate, and other factors. The country’s politics have a proven history of impacting the macro economy and this, in turn, will impact the micro economy and may result in lower consumer spend and a decrease in business confidence.

The South African housing market is already seeing very low growth in the mid and high sections, which means consumers are already more cautious when it comes to investment. Inflation is relatively stable now but could go up, which will result in higher interest rates.

From a regulatory perspective, the banking sector is under increased pressure. There are many more international compliance requirements, as well as from the Reserve Bank and SARS, which increases administrative pressures at a time when they don’t want to spend more money on non-revenue generating activities.

Access to financial services will be key in 2017 as financial institutions attempt to further remove obstacles between the bank and the customer, not only from a compliance point of view but also in terms of services offered. Banks want to make it easier for the individual to access the bank, hence the continued focus on online and mobile banking, as well as making services available to the previously unbanked through these platforms and social media channels.

The second focus area is understanding and exploiting customer data, so big data analytics and use of artificial intelligence and algorithms are coming to the fore. The objective is to use the data about their clients to understand their credit worthiness, propensity to earn and spend, and then to pre-empt their requirements to provide the right products to that specific customer at the right time in their lives. Multichannel delivery will also be a focus area, but that is more about using all social, mobile and online channels to make it easier to reach the client. We will also see an increase in the use of integrated applications to make payment mechanisms simpler and more accessible.

The financial services environment is very harsh and banks are finding it difficult to maintain profits. They will continue to evaluate automating more processes to increase the use of self-service banking. In some countries, entire processes, such as loan generation, have already been automated from a customer, product and regulatory point of view and we foresee the South African institutions following suit.

Security is another big focus area. With the Internet of Things or IoT, more devices are being connected to the internet, creating more vulnerabilities. As more devices are connected and being used for banking purposes, security becomes a major concern. December 2016 was already a bumper month in ransomware activity and as more devices are connected this is set to increase.

We do foresee 2017 deliver a couple of innovations in FinTech, with innovative companies applying technology to create ways to do banking in a virtual environment. Financial institutions are also waking up the opportunity that this brings as it is a way for them to retain customers and profitability, while at the same time cutting costs.

Telecommunications companies could plausibly use FinTech to get into the banking sector. The biggest challenges they face are in obtaining banking licenses, existing competition and monopolies, and being able to comply with the regulations associated with having a banking license. That said, these company will make forays into the banking environment on a partnership or shared risk type model. They will partner with the smaller, already licensed financial institutions, and will then introduce FinTech using technology. Both the banks and telecommunications companies are under pressure from a growth and performance perspective and they both have access to customer data that they can utilise to offer new and innovative products and services. Already we know that the telecommunications providers are looking for ways to increase their market share and profitability, and this approach creates an opportunity for them to do so. That said, it’s very much a ‘wait and see” scenario at this stage. We will also continue to see emerging currencies such as blockchain and bitcoin, but suspect that the regulator environment must catch up before it becomes mainstream.

We will also start seeing far more use of social media platforms to help complete or compliment banking transactions. These platforms will be used both for internal communications as well as to communicate more effectively with their customers. We will also see an increase in automated CRM to solve customer queries. Here the only challenge will be the need to record all communications as part of their compliance requirements.

So, to recap, while virtual reality and augmented reality are starting to come into play, it will still be a while before they become mainstream in the financial services environment. Cognitive computing will also increase to some degree. The big bets, however, for financial services will be next generation security and IoT, with mobile also remaining a key priority in the South African market.

* Mark Walker, Associate Vice President for Sub-Saharan Africa at International Data Corporation

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IoT at starting gate

South Africa is already past the Internet of Things (IoT) hype cycle and well into the mainstream, writes MARK WALKER, associate vice president of Sub-Saharan Africa at International Data Corporation (IDC).

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Projects and pilots are already becoming a commercial reality, tying neatly into the 2017 IDC prediction that 2018 would be the year when the local market took IoT mainstream. Over the next 12-18 months, it is anticipated that IoT implementations will continue to rise in both scope and popularity. Already 23% are in full deployment with 39% in the pilot phase. The value of IoT has been systematically proven and yet its reputation remains tenuous – more than 5% of companies are reluctant to put their money where the trend is – thanks to the shifting sands of IoT perception and success rate.

There are several reasons behind why IoT implementations are failing. The biggest is that organisations don’t know where to start. They know that IoT is something they can harness today and that it can be used to shift outdated modalities and operations. They are aware of the benefits and the case studies. What they don’t know is how to apply this knowledge to their own journey so their IoT story isn’t one of overbearing complexity and rising costs.

Another stumbling block is perception. Yes, there is the futuristic potential with the talking fridge and intelligent desk, but this is not where the real value lies. Organisations are overlooking the challenges that can be solved by realistic IoT, the banal and the boring solutions that leverage systems to deliver on business priorities. IoT’s potential sits within its ability to get the best out of assets and production efficiencies, solving problems in automation, security, and environment.

In addition to this, there is a lack of clarity around return on investment, uncertainty around the benefits, a lack of executive leadership, and concerns around security and the complexities of regulation.  Because IoT is an emerging technology there remains a limited awareness of the true extent of its value proposition and yet 66% of organisations are confident that this value exists.

This percentage poses both a problem and opportunity. On one hand, it showcases the local shift in thinking towards IoT as a technology worth investing into. On the other hand, many companies are seeing the competition invest and leaping blindly in the wrong direction. Stop. IoT is not the same for every business.

It is essential that every company makes its own case for IoT based on its needs and outcomes. Does agriculture have the same challenges as mining? Does one mining company have the same challenges as another? The answer is no. Organisations that want their IoT investment to succeed must reject the idea that they can pick up where another has left off. IoT must be relevant to the business outcome that it needs to achieve. While some use cases may apply to most industries based on specific circumstances, there are different realities and priorities that will demand a different approach and starting point.

Ask – what is the business problem right now and how can technology be leveraged to resolve it?

In the agriculture space, there is a need to improve crop yields and livestock management, improve farm productivity and implement environmental monitoring. In the construction and mining industry, safety and emergency response are a priority alongside workforce and production management. Education shifts the lens towards improving delivery and quality of education, access to advanced learning methods and reducing the costs of learning.  Smart cities want to improve traffic and efficiently deliver public services and healthcare is focusing on wellness, reducing hospital admissions and the security of assets and inventory management.

The technology and solutions selected must speak to these specific challenges.

If there are no insights used to create an IoT solution, it’s the equivalent of having the fastest Ferrari on Rivonia Road in peak traffic. It makes a fantastic noise, but it isn’t going to move any faster than the broken-down sedan in the next lane. Everyone will be impressed with the Ferrari, but the amount of power and the size of the investment mean nothing. It’s in the wrong place.

What differentiates the IoT successes is how a company leverages data to deliver meaningful value-added predictions and actions for personalised efficiencies, convenience, and improved industry processes. To move forward the organisation needs to focus on the business outcomes and not just the technology. They need to localise and adapt by applying context to the problem that’s being solved and explore innovation through partnerships and experimentation.

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ERP underpins food tracking

The food traceability market is expected to reach almost $20 billion by 2022 as increased consumer awareness, strict governance requirements, and advances in technology are resulting in growing standardisation of the segment, says STUART SCANLON, managing director of epic ERP

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Just like any data-driven environment, one of the biggest enablers of this is integrated enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions.

As the name suggests, traceability is the ability to track something through all stages of production, processing, and distribution. When it comes to the food industry, traceability must also enable stakeholders to identify the source of all food inputs that can include anything from raw materials, additives, ingredients, and packaging.

Considering the wealth of data that all these facets generate, it is hardly surprising that systems and processes need to be put in place to manage, analyse, and provide actionable insights. With traceability enabling corrective measures to be taken (think product recalls), having an efficient system is often the difference between life or death when it comes to public health risks.

Expansive solutions

Sceptics argue that traceability simply requires an extensive data warehouse to be done correctly, the reality is quite different. Yes, there are standard data records to be managed, but the real value lies in how all these components are tied together.

ERP provides the digital glue to enable this. With each stakeholder audience requiring different aspects of traceability (and compliance), it is essential for the producer, distributor, and every other organisation in the supply chain, to manage this effectively in a standardised manner.

With so many different companies involved in the food cycle, many using their own, proprietary systems, just consider the complexity of trying to manage traceability. Organisations must not only contend with local challenges, but global ones as well as the import and export of food are big business drivers.

So, even though traceability is vital to keep track of everything in this complex cycle, it is also imperative to monitor the ingredients and factories where items are produced. Having expansive solutions that must track the entire process from ‘cradle to grave’ is an imperative. Not only is this vital from a safety perspective, but from cost and reputational management aspects as well. Just think of the recent listeriosis issue in South Africa and the impact it has had on all parties in that supply chain.

Efficiency improvements

Thanks to the increasing digital transformation efforts by companies in the food industry, traceability becomes a more effective process. It is no longer a case of using on-premise solutions that can be compromised but having hosted ones that provide more effective fail-safes.

In a market segment that requires strict compliance and regulatory requirements to be met, cloud-based solutions can provide everyone in the supply chain with a more secure (and tamper-resistant) solution than many of the legacy approaches of old.

This is not to say ERP requires the one or the other. Instead, there needs to be a transition provided between the two scenarios that empowers those in the food supply chain to maximise the insights (and benefits) derived from traceability.

Now, more than ever, traceability is a business priority. Having the correct foundation through effective ERP is essential if a business can manage its growth and meet legislative requirements into the future.

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