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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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Samsung unleashes the beast

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Most new smartphone releases of the past few years have been like cat-and-mouse games with consumers and each other. It has been as if morsels of cheese are thrown into the box to make it more interesting: a little extra camera here, a little more battery there, and incremental changes to size, speed (more) and weight (less). Each change moves the needle of innovation ever-so-slightly. Until we find ourselves, a few years later, with a handset that is revolutionary compared to six years ago, but an anti-climax relative to six months before.

And then came Samsung. Probably stung by the “incremental improvement” phrase that has become almost a cliché about new Galaxy devices, the Korean giant chose to unleash a beast last week.

The new Galaxy Note 9 is not only the biggest smartphone Samsung has ever released, but one of the biggest flagship handsets that can still be called a phone. With a 6.4” display, it suddenly competes with mini-tablets and gaming consoles, among other devices that had previously faced little contest from handsets.

It offers almost ever cutting edge introduced to the Galaxy S9 and S9+ smartphones earlier this year, including the market-leading f1.5 aperture lens, and an f2.4. telephoto lens, each weighing in at 12 Megapixels. The front lens is equally impressive, with an f1.7 aperture – first introduced on the Note 8 as the widest yet on a selfie camera.

So far, so S9. However, the Note range has always been set apart by its S Pen stylus, and each edition has added new features. Born as a mere pen that writes on screens, it evolved through the likes of pressure sensitivity, allowing for artistic expression, and cut-and-paste text with translation-on-the-fly.

(Click here or below to read more about the Samsung Galaxy S Pen stylus) Samsung Galaxy S9 Features)

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SA ride permit system ‘broken’

Despite the amendments to the National Land Transport Act, ALON LITS, General Manager, Uber in Sub Saharan Africa, believes that many premature given that the necessary, well-functioning systems and processes are not yet in place to make these regulatory changes viable.

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The spirit and intention of the amendments to the National Land Transport Act No 5  (NLTA), 2009 put forward by the Ministry of Transport are to be commended. It is especially pleasing that these amendments include ridesharing and e-hailing operators and drivers as legitimate participants in the country’s public transport system, which point to government’s willingness to embrace the changes and innovation taking place in the country’s transport industry.

However, there are aspects of the proposed amendments that are, at best, premature given that the necessary, well-functioning systems and processes are not yet in place to make these regulatory changes viable.

Of particular concern are the significant financial penalties that will need to be paid by ridesharing and e-hailing companies whose independent operators are found to be transporting passengers without a legal permit issued by the relevant local authority. These fines can be as high as R100 000 per driver operating without a permit. Apart from being an excessive penalty it is grossly unfair given that a large number of local authorities don’t yet have functioning permit issuing systems and processes in place.

The truth is that the operating permit issuance system in South Africa is effectively broken. The application and issuance processes for operating licenses are fundamentally flawed and subject to extensive delays, sometimes over a year in length.  This situation is exacerbated by the fact that it is very difficult for applicants whose permit applications haven’t yet been approved to get reasons for the extensive delays on the issuing of those permits.

Uber has had extensive first-hand experience with the frustratingly slow process of applying for these permits, with drivers often having to wait months and, in some cases more than a year, for their permits.

Sadly, there appears to be no sense of urgency amongst local authorities to prioritise fixing the flawed permit issuing systems and processes or address the large, and growing, backlogs of permit applications. As such, in order for the proposed stringent permit enforcement rules to be effective and fair to all role players, the long-standing issues around permit issuance first need to be addressed. At the very least, before the proposed legislation amendments are implemented, the National Transport Ministry needs to address the following issues:

  1. Efficient processes and systems must be put in place in all local authorities to allow drivers to easily apply for the operating permits they require
  2. Service level agreements need to be put in place with local authorities whereby they are required to assess applications and issue permits within the prescribed 60-day period.
  3. Local authorities need to be given deadlines by which their current permit application backlogs must be addressed to allow for faster processing of new applications once the amendments are promulgated.

If the Transport Ministry implements the proposed legislation amendments before ensuring that these permit issuance challenges are addressed, many drivers will be faced with the difficult choice of either having to operate illegally whilst awaiting their approved permits and risking significant fines and/or arrest, or stopping operations until they receive their permits, thereby losing what is, for many of them, their only source of income.

As such, if the Ministry of Transport is not able to address these particular challenges, it is only reasonable to ask it to reconsider this amendment and delay its implementation until the necessary infrastructure is in place to ensure it does not impact negatively on the country’s transport industry. The legislators must have been aware of the challenges of passing such a significant law, as the Amendment Bill allows for the Minister to use his discretion to delay implementation of provisions for up to 5 years.

Fair trade and healthy competition are the cornerstones of any effective and growing economy. However, these clauses (Section 66 (7) and Section 66A) of the NLTA amendment, as well as the proposal that regulators be given authority to define the geographic locations or zones in which vehicles may operate, are contrary to the spirit of both. As a good corporate citizen, Uber is committed to supplementing and enhancing South Africa’s national transport system and contributing positively to the industry. If passed into law without the revisions suggested above, these new amendments will limit our business and many others from playing the supportive roles we all can, and should, in growing the SA transport and tourism industries as well as many other key economic sectors.

What’s more, if passed as they currently stand, the amendments will effectively limit South African consumers from having full access to the range of convenient transport options they deserve; which has the potential to harm the reputation and credibility of the entire transport industry.

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