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Gone are the days of traditional financial services products. These days, customers are looking for a lifestyle-focused offering, but that requires systems and data that are accessible, timely, accurate and reliable. Dervla McCormack explains how financial institutions need to handle their data before they can compete with the new market disruptors.  Traditionally, financial services firms sold products and services. However, the trend now is towards providing a holistic lifestyle-focused financial services offering. Luckily for customers, this means that financial services providers are seeking to address all of their combined services requirements in one place. Combining services such as savings, loans, pensions, money transfers, hassle-free payments, access to on-demand financial information, and financial advice in one area requires systems and data that are accessible, timely, accurate and reliable. New entrants to the financial services market are adept at managing their systems and data and, consequently, have been able to offer customers quick account set-up, easy-access, and novel new services that customers haven’t seen before. If existing financial services firms are to compete in a new digital era where customers are accustomed to accessing tailored services, data and information on-demand, then they need to ensure their systems and data are robust  enough to give them the information they need. There are three things to get right in addressing data issues in many Irish financial institutions: Access to data Financial institutions tend to have more data than they might ever need. However, it is often spread across a number of systems and stored in a variety of formats. Much of the data may still be sitting in paper files. To ensure data can be accessed in a timely manner, it’s important to think about the format it’s captured in and where it’s stored so that individual requests for data, either by the business or customers, can be responded to quickly. Accuracy of data We all know the saying “garbage in, garbage out” and this is critical when it comes to data. As individuals’ financial standing and business decisions require reliable and accurate data, financial institutions need to be able to stand over the accuracy of the data they are holding. Where data isn’t at the level of accuracy required (it could be inaccurate, duplicated or conflicting), it’s imperative that priority be given to cleansing data. This could involve consolidating some data and deleting others. Governance With more and more demands on data, not only by individuals in relation to their own data (as facilitated under GDPR), but also by other financial institutions under an open banking regime, controls over access and governance need to be stronger than ever. Given the potential penalties and reputational damage, financial institutions want to avoid data breaches. The current new entrants and disruptors in the market do not have any legacy data issues and have created “fit-for-purpose” data governance, access and availability from the start which gives them a significant advantage over traditional players. This, coupled with Open API banking under PSD2, further creates challenges for the traditional banks. It is important that financial services institutions address their data issues rapidly, efficiently and effectively. If they can do that, the significant advantage they have over the new entrants in the market will mean that they can continue to remain relevant as an holistic lifestyle-focused financial services offering. Those who don’t will find developing new services cumbersome and risky. New distribution channels, alliances and innovative offerings run the risk of being left behind if data issues aren't addressed properly. Dervla McCormack is the Financial Services Consulting Partner in PwC Ireland.

Jun 07, 2019
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Sign the ‘goodbye’ card, contribute to the leaving present, and even make a meaningful farewell speech, but don’t forget one of the more essential tasks – get contact details of employees who are leaving your company, explains Robert Gibson. One of the smartest things you can do when someone is leaving your organisation is to get their contact details. Networking is one of the most useful ways in which a company can spread its reach to bring in more business, and the pool of former employees is one of the more accessible networks. Reciprocal benefits A healthy corporate alumni network is a valuable resource for bringing in new business opportunities and referrals. It also demonstrates a sound company ethos; people want to work with others who value relationships and what can display that more than a company which keeps in touch with former staff long after they have left their employ?These former employees may be able to promote future talent towards the company and can market the former employer's brand just by being part of its alumni network. Who better to endorse your company than a former employee who still feels closely connected to the business? The alumni, on the other hand, gain the reciprocal benefit of advice, business knowledge, and even job and promotion leads. ‘Boomerang’ workers may return with the benefit of new experience, enhanced skills and an increased pool of business connections. Research shows that it costs half as much to re-hire an ex-employee as it does to recruit a new one. Organisations that are clear about leaving the door open to employees on their way out are more likely to benefit from those who may return in the future, armed with new experience and contacts. Most of us have a few colleagues that we have worked with in various capacities in the past, and often those are solid relationships with a shared history. Alumni social network An active social media platform is a must for an alumni network, as well as attractive and well-organised events to maintain contacts. Communication is essential for business intelligence on new practices, emerging industry trends and competitive information. Grassroots business gossip emerges from both social media and face-to-face contact. When planning your external communications, don’t forget to include alumni as a key stakeholder group. Alumni events tend to be amongst the most engaging, fun and interactive in your annual calendar of events. Helping everyone’s future So, at the end of someone’s time in your organisation, a good-natured and generous-spirited leaving ‘do’ can help everyone’s prospects. Make sure to wish them good luck, grab their email address and number and enjoy some time together before you’re no longer colleagues and become network connections. Robert Gibson is a Director of Audit and Assurance in Grant Thornton Northern Ireland.

Jun 07, 2019
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Rapid advances in technology have transformed our approach to learning. How can companies retain key staff amid technological advances in the education arena? The learning landscape is evolving. Over the last ten years, the field of learning and development in business has attracted a great deal of attention. Most companies focus on learning as they compete to recruit and retain talent, while employees are continuously trying to upskill and develop, but rapid advances in technology have transformed our approach. The traditional format of a classroom has been replaced by tools such as e-Learning, webinars, video blogs, podcasts and mobile learning. So, how can companies remain relevant amid technological changes? Let’s take a look at some of the latest learning approaches and trends: Flexibility One of the biggest challenges faced by HR departments is getting employees to make time for learning. Our work schedules are littered with meetings, emails, phone calls and a never-ending list of tasks. All too often, education falls by the wayside. We are all guilty. However, a 2019 LinkedIn report suggests that being ‘too busy’ may not be the issue; that, instead, employees want to be in control of their development and carve a learning path that will help them achieve their goals. It’s up to employers to give them that flexibility and space to make their own plan for upskilling and supporting them while they do it. Personalisation Having a personalised training programme tailored to achieving your goals is crucial when it comes to fast-tracking results in the gym. So why is the workplace different? As with anything, one size does not fit all. New technologies provide firms with an opportunity to work with employees to create a customised learning programme for individuals. It enables each employee to focus on the areas they need to improve to fulfil their potential instead of the typical approach where several employees go to the same training session, but no one benefits 100% from the course. Personalisation is better value for the employee and the organisation. Accessibility Mobile phones, laptops and social media are second nature to today’s millennial employee. Digital-enabled content allows them to jump in and out of information as they need it, learning at their own pace and at a time that suits – this is far more appealing than a fixed classroom timetable. Organisations that want to improve an employee’s learning experience need to ensure mobile forms part of the solution. Online content can be grouped into smaller components, so employees can learn where and when it suits them. Mentoring Learning and development is not a neatly parcelled activity separate from the rest of the business. Empowering managers to help employees develop their skills is an essential component. Encourage your managers to become mentors to recruits. There is plenty of research that shows how employees, in turn, feel empowered to drive their careers when coached by a supportive manager. Dearbhla Gallagher is the People Development & HR Manager at Baker Tilly.

Jun 07, 2019
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The European Commission has issued new rules supporting the digitalisation of corporate reporting and to achieve greater transparency of the annual information disclosed by companies listed on the EU capital markets. This European Single Electronic Format (ESEF) will make companies' financial records more readable and accessible. Under the new rules, for accounting periods beginning on or after 1 January 2020 all listed companies will need to finalise their annual financial reports using up-to-date digitalised business reporting systems (XHTML and iXBRL) which improve accessibility, and make the information more user-friendly. In support of these new rules, the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) has prepared an ESEF Reporting Manual and ESEF taxonomy files to help companies in their preparation. The new provisions build on financial transparency rules already agreed by European Parliament and member states. They will be updated annually to reflect possible updates to the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) taxonomy, which aims to improve communication between preparers and users of financial statements. The European Commission has also published a Q&A on the regulatory technical standard on ESEF. Source: IAASA. Published: 29 May 2019.

Jun 06, 2019
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The international community has agreed on a roadmap for resolving the tax challenges arising from the digitalisation of the economy, and committed to continue working toward a consensus-based long-term solution by the end of 2020, the OECD has announced. The 129 members of the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) adopted a Programme of Work laying out a process for reaching a new global agreement for taxing multinational enterprises. The document, which calls for intensifying international discussions around two main pillars, was approved during the May 28-29 plenary meeting of the Inclusive Framework, which brought together 289 delegates from 99 member countries and jurisdictions and 10 observer organisations. It was presented by OECD Secretary-General, Angel Gurría, to G20 Finance Ministers for endorsement during their 8-9 June ministerial meeting in Fukuoka, Japan. Drawing on analysis from a January 2019 Policy Note and informed by a public consultation held in March 2019, the Programme of Work will explore the technical issues to be resolved through the two main pillars. The first pillar will explore potential solutions for determining where tax should be paid and on what basis ("nexus"), as well as what portion of profits could or should be taxed in the jurisdictions where clients or users are located ("profit allocation").   The second pillar will explore the design of a system to ensure that multinational enterprises – in the digital economy and beyond – pay a minimum level of tax. This pillar would provide countries with a new tool to protect their tax base from profit shifting to low/no-tax jurisdictions, and is intended to address remaining issues identified by the OECD/G20 BEPS initiative.   In 2015 the OECD estimated revenue losses from BEPS of up to $240 billion, equivalent to 10% of global corporate tax revenues, and created the Inclusive Forum to coordinate international measures to fight BEPS and improve the international tax rules.   "Important progress has been made through the adoption of this new Programme of Work, but there is still a tremendous amount of work to do as we seek to reach, by the end of 2020, a unified long-term solution to the tax challenges posed by digitalisation of the economy," Mr Gurría said. "Today's broad agreement on the technical roadmap must be followed by strong political support toward a solution that maintains, reinforces and improves the international tax system. The health of all our economies depends on it."   The Inclusive Framework agreed that the technical work must be complemented by an impact assessment of how the proposals will affect government revenue, growth and investment. While countries have organised a series of working groups to address the technical issues, they also recognise that political agreement on a comprehensive and unified solution should be reached as soon as possible, ideally before year-end, to ensure adequate time for completion of the work during 2020.   Source: OECD. Published: 31 May 2019.

Jun 06, 2019
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The International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (IAASB) recently published a Discussion Paper, Audits of Less Complex Entities: Exploring Possible Options to Address the Challenges in Applying the International Standards on Auditing (ISAs). The IAASB seeks to further understand the challenges of using ISAs in audits of less complex entities and views about possible actions to address these challenges. The IAASB recognises the global call for action to address issues of complexity, length, understandability, scalability, and proportionality related to using the ISAs. Continuing the debate on these strategic issues, the Discussion Paper explores how the IAASB, and others, could further support auditors working in increasingly evolving environments. The IAASB welcomes input from all interested stakeholders as we chart an appropriate way forward. The consultation will remain open until 12 September 2019. Published: 29 April 2019. Source: The International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board.

Jun 05, 2019