In the black

The Channel has long delivered powerful technologies to customers within the financial sector. Comms Business investigates the solutions that are in demand in the fast-paced world of finance.

Financial services organisations are often juggling regulatory requirements, customer expectations and strategic ambitions, so it is no surprise that the sector is open to using technology to find new solutions to old challenges. The Channel has a long history in supporting customers in this sector to do just that. Here we will examine the opportunities, challenges and market movements that are impacting partners selling into finance and banking customers.

Many processes and activities were moving online way before the pandemic, but there is no doubt that the various lockdowns over the past two years have accelerated things. Chip Mahan, VP, global payments and banking at Sage, a provider of accounting, HR and payroll software, explained that Sage sees a strong connection between digital accounting and fintech. As such, when asked what resellers and MSPs need to bear in mind when working with customers in the finance and banking sector, he said, “You probably wouldn’t expect professional services to be a driver of growth for fintech, but fintech providers are discovering new vertical market opportunities in the digital accounting space.

“Fintech and digital accounting complement each other very well, allowing businesses to incorporate payments and banking services into their accounting software to facilitate online payments, reconcile transactions and invoices, or even connect with banks to manage loans and investments.

“This vertical integration has created a vibrant ecosystem of fintech partners driving service innovation. What’s more, those services can be scaled globally through partnerships, to provide customers with automated processes that combine payments and banking with accounting, finance and payroll.”

Jeff May, UK sales director, Konftel, pointed to the need for flexible and robust conferencing solutions. He explained, “Finance and banking has always been the biggest sector of all in terms of collaboration and conferencing, so even the smallest market changes can have a big impact. Many organisations work on a global basis with huge volumes of conference calls. Quality counts and they invest heavily in this type of technology. It is traditionally the biggest and heaviest user. Reseller opportunities can be lucrative and varied.

“Resellers need to consider the scalability of opportunities and solutions for each and every customer, from remote workers to the biggest boardrooms and all in between. Top quality solutions are paramount given the nature of critically important information that will be discussed and presented and ease of use is another top priority for busy executives to be able to start and conduct meetings on time, without need of specialist help, and the likely waiting time to get it.”

Roger Hurst, lead solutions architect, Connex One, explained that personalised customer experiences are increasingly important for customers within the financial sector. Resellers and MSPs can win business through ensuring they develop an offering that addresses this need. He said, “Today, financial services providers are faced with the growing challenge of keeping up with new marketing and customer communication trends. At the heart of this challenge is finding the required customer experience technology to provide customers with what they want most- a more personalised service.

“With 90 per cent of customers more likely to buy from a trusted brand that provides a personalised experience, it is no longer a suggestion but a necessity for banking and financial services firms to meet this demand.”

Hurst discussed the competitive benefits of customer experience, or CX, personalisation through the example of credit cards. He said, “If we take the simple example of credit cards, almost every bank and major retailer offers customers the opportunity to apply for a credit card. So how do financial institutions remain competitive in attracting and retaining customers, without increasing making risky investments or compromising profit margins?

“The answer is of course personalisation [as] personalised experiences will drive loyalty, affinity and become a greater differentiator with brands. Financial services companies are competing purely based on the quality of customer experience which is now centred on personalisation. By connecting with customers in a personalised manner that always remains relevant to their needs, banks and FSP’s can focus on bringing brand value to the forefront.”

Pinpointing demand

When asked what technologies financial services and banking institutions are procuring right now, Konftel’s May said, “Even before the pandemic, conferencing and collaboration was a huge asset for many organisations. Now remote working has greatly accelerated and this needs high quality conferencing to ensure the same levels of interaction and consistency. Some large organisations permanently moving out of their head offices and encouraging more remote working.

“For others, they are looking at making their office spaces more collaboration friendly and ready for the future. We envisage lots more conference calls taking place across more locations to interconnect dispersed workforces.”

May explained that it is often vital that resellers and MSPs can blend their customers’ new technologies with existing systems. He added, “Some larger corporations in the sector have previously invested in high end, technically complex solutions for their bigger rooms and the requirement now is to interwork with these systems in far smaller, huddle rooms, so smaller but still high quality deployments are in demand.

“Together with the trend to online meetings and associate meeting apps, these new solutions need to bridge conferencing with the older installed solutions but allowing the breakout to app-based conferencing with all.”

Mahan, from Sage, said that the software provider has adapted its core services to develop new routes to market via strategic partnerships with banks and fintech providers looking to differentiate their offerings. He added, “Sage is integrating new fintech products into its service fabric to deliver all-in-one solutions that allow customers to plug into everything from eCommerce to digital banking.”

Hurst, from Connex One, returned to the need for personalisation. He said, “To offer a personalised customer experience requires building CX tech products, services, and interactions. [That information can be] obtained from customer data points such as purchase history, and location, that match individual expectations and preferences. For many growing or established financial services businesses, this could appear to be a very daunting technological task with lots of risk.

“Thankfully, these companies do not need to develop their own solutions to facilitate personalisation and instead can simply focus on finding which technology provider can best transform their CX processes for them.

“There is now a range of capable CX solutions available for companies in the financial sector, with many providers now able to provide transaction features as part of their CX software – as well as the necessary data security required for these customer engagements. Financial companies can also rely on CX software providers to handle the aforementioned data and technology needs to facilitate personalisation, with 73 per cent of CX providers now increasing their efforts in delivering personalised experiences for customers.”

The Channel, Hurst explained, has a huge opportunity to help companies in the financial sector transform their customer processes effectively to achieve better personalisation. That can be done through incorporating CX software that automates data processes to greatly improve the personalisation experience.

MSP expertise

Dunedin IT has over 10 years of experience in the technology and connectivity space. The MSP works with clients across a range of sectors, including financial services companies, and has worked with Capital Credit Union for eight years on several security-focused projects, including upgrading its entire hardware infrastructure and assets, moving the organisation to the cloud, and acting as the conduit between Capital Credit Union and CityFibre to install new fibre.

Capital Credit Union is a member-owned, community-based financial organisation with almost 23,000 members. In late 2020, Dunedin IT implemented a VoIP telephone system to replace a traditional Private Branch Exchange (PBX) system with all hardware based on site. It took less than three weeks from this decision being made to have the new system up and running. The system was installed in parallel with the existing lines to ensure there was no impact on business operations during installation. Once the new VoIP system was running, the old PBX system was decommissioned.

As part of switching Capital Credit Union to the new VoIP system, Dunedin IT also moved the business to a new, call recording system that met the institution’s security needs while employees worked remotely, The Apresa Call Recording System. This system integrated smoothly into 3CX and provides a secure and payment card industry (PCI) compliant method to record calls.

Kevin Cairns, IT systems manager, Capital Credit Union, explained, “Despite this happening during the holiday season, the Dunedin IT team immediately jumped in and made sure we had access to a new cloud-based system, with the level of security we needed, within a few weeks. As a result we now have a new telephony system that will serve us well, for both working in the office and remotely.”

The future

Looking ahead, May from Konftel discussed the technologies he expects will continue to grow in usage in the coming years. He said, “Home working will continue to grow, and this requires dedicated conferencing solutions that are compact, portable, and high performance. Audio is just as important as video as participants need to be clearly heard as well as seen. Many companies are investing in webcams and speakerphones rather than relying on the built-in components of laptops where quality varies greatly.

He pointed to the features resellers and MSPs should bring into their own portfolios. “Cameras that frame the participants, track movement and can be pre-set to specific positions are all available today but will be refined further. Wireless devices for more flexible and distant deployment will advance quickly together with options to share content by any means.”

Valuable partnerships

Vendors and distributors can support their partners when working with customers in the financial services space in various ways. Mahan, from Sage, discussed the importance of tailoring solutions specifically for the needs of particular providers. He said, “Sage is building communities of resellers, ISVs, IP builders, developers and app providers, to help scale and diversify our offering, and support our SMB customers.

“By opening up our platform to our fintech partners, we have been able to fully integrate new apps and services to offer customers products with intrinsic value, as opposed to a bolt-on that just creates more steps and processes, instead of reducing them.

“This model works on a number of levels. It’s beneficial for customers and end users, but it’s also a hub of innovation that allows fintech providers to work on new ideas and develop products that can be tailored to suit vertical use cases. On the commercial front, it’s also created a new market for fintech providers, enabling them to extend their reach, create new business models and tap into new revenue streams.”

This feature appeared in our April 2022 print issue. You can read the magazine in full here.

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Charlotte Hathway

Charlotte is the editor of Comms Business and writes about the latest technology innovations and business developments across the Channel. Got a story? Get in touch – charlotte.hathway@markallengroup.com.

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