Overcoming current challenges in financial services
In the wake of COVID-19, every industry sector now faces an uphill battle against the structural and financial impact of a global pandemic.
Financial Services (FS) makes no exception to this, with many firms being challenged to quickly adapt to an ever-changing set of realities.
No enterprise ever wants an unplanned interruption of productivity or services, and many of the big FS players have done a great deal of preparation to support business resilience in crisis situations, but 2020 has brought unique challenges to the table for all.
One of the most immediate and significant challenges was the need to adapt business, IT systems and teams to support a fully remote workforce and ensure operational resiliency. For example, almost overnight, banks of all sizes rapidly switched thousands of their employees to working from home for the very first time, to ensure productivity and vital tasks continued to function.
Supporting all your teams today
Working from home is not a new concept for most firms. However, the concept of enabling and supporting over 90% of the company to work remotely at the same time represents a path few have previously taken in the financial services sector. This puts a huge pressure on IT systems to support not only the normal ‘central functions’ teams, such as HR, Finance and IT, but also more customer facing teams such as traders and call centre agents.
We’ve seen different successful approaches over the past few months, with many accelerating plans to move to cloud based collaboration and productivity solutions such as Microsoft Office 365 or Google G-Suite, and adoption of conferencing solutions such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. This acceleration, which has most likely been on the IT team’s agenda for years, has now happened in months – driven by a pressing need to reduce the burden on remote access connectivity, enable virtual collaboration and exploit the elasticity these SaaS solutions offer.
Another approach focuses on rapidly building out remote computing and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) that is fit for every worker’s own bespoke demands – the sector, the organisation and its end users. Yet, many of those firms who speedily deployed tactical solutions to allow employees to work remotely are now re-evaluating how they can deliver this capability more strategically and over a longer period of time. Crucially, the focus is now on evaluating the resiliency of remote working services, while also ensuring that the infrastructure is fit for purpose to support business productivity in time when the whole organisation depends on it to function.
These are two simple solutions organisations are adopting to help business continue and address its most urgent issues when moving forward. In challenging times, partnering with a reliable technology vendor and service provider is key to ensuring your IT team can rely on infrastructure and a team that will assist with any design, deployment or management of remote working initiatives to help the organisation emerge from the crisis stronger than ever.
Planning for what’s next
While a lot of the focus on how financial services firms are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic is centred around how they can adapt during the pandemic, it is important that organisations now take the time to build a longer-term remote working IT strategy that will suit business continuity and employee productivity when the pandemic is over, and many “new normals” emerge and are in place.
While we are all in clearly unchartered waters, it is key that organisations forward think and adopt solutions that are technically and financially flexible to help them tackle any obstacles that arise as their business models change.
With the pandemic reducing the need for physical branches and the consequent growth in the ubiquity of digital banking, financial organisations may start to assess how they can use physical spaces differently. One example could be to enable employees, who might not be able to work from home, to join a smaller group of colleagues away from central office locations.
With more roles being undertaken remotely, no one can be certain what the new norm would look like. Will existing real estate footprints be re-factored to consider a change in the dynamic of how people want to work? How will firms plan for the recovery rebound?
Regardless of how the world looks after the pandemic, operational resiliency will continue to be a key regulatory demand for all firms. The role IT solutions and platforms play in coping with any change in demand or transition will be key.
While it was a necessity that led this recent transformation, the decisions that financial services firms make today will be the key driver for enabling the flexibility and unique remote capability that they will need tomorrow. It is a crucial piece of the puzzle that will help organisations drive forward through fast-paced innovation and continue to attract the top talent that is imperative to the industry.
This piece was contributed by Chris Ibbitson, Chief Technologist - Financial Services industry at Hewlett Packard Enterprise
Amber Group Valued at US$1bn in $100m Funding Round
Amber Group, a cryptocurrency financial services firm, has raised US$100m in a Series B funding round at a pre-money valuation of $1bn.
The funding round was led by Chinese investment firm China Renaissance, and other participants in the Series B include Tiger Brokers, Tiger Global Management, Arena Holdings, Tru Arrow Partners, Sky9 Capital, DCM Ventures and Gobi Partners. Existing investors Pantera Capital, Coinbase Ventures and Blockchain.com also joined in.
Michael Wu, co-founder and CEO of Amber Group said in a statement that the funding would be used to “expand global operations to meet client demand and develop market solutions for the world’s leading crypto investors and companies.”
“We’ve had record months over the past quarter across both client flow and on-exchange market-making volumes,” Wu said in a press release. “Our cumulative trading volumes have doubled from $250 billion since the beginning of the year to over $500 billion.”
Cryptocurrencies are becoming increasingly popular, with many people investing, although not everyone seems to know what they are investing in. Using survey data collected from 750 investors earlier this year, Cardify found that only 16.9% of investors who have bought crypto “fully understand” the value and potential of cryptocurrency, while 33.5% of buyers have either zero knowledge about the space or would call their level of understanding “emerging.”
Who is Amber Group?
Amber Group is a global crypto finance service provider with a presence in Hong Kong, Taipei, Seoul, and Vancouver. Founded in 2017, Amber Group services over 500 institutional clients and has cumulatively traded over $330 billion across 100+ electronic exchanges, with over $1 billion in assets under management. The company said that its assets under management, or AUM, reached $530 million in 2020, representing a 275% increase from the previous year.
Instead of being a cryptocurrency exchange that allows users to trade individual digital coins, Amber Group CEO Michael Wu said the company is bringing a “private banking experience to the everyday customer.”
Their goal is to optimise investment flexibility, maximise investment returns and deliver long-lasting value for their clients. In 2019, Amber Group raised $28 million in Series A funding led by global crypto heavyweights Paradigm and Pantera Capital, with participation from Polychain Capital, Dragonfly Capital, Blockchain.com, Fenbushi Capital, and Coinbase Ventures.