Puerto Rico: An Attractive Location for Startups & Established Tech Companies

Puerto Rico: An Attractive Location for Startups & Established Tech Companies

The below is a sponsored post by FinovateFall Digital exhibitor, Invest Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico is poised to become the global model for how to roll out cutting-edge tools that enable blockchain, AI, and the Internet of Things (IoT). All of these technologies are designed to transform nearly every sector, notably financial services, bioscience, and aerospace. Technology represents the changes imminent in the 4th industrial revolution. Proper implementation and growth of these tools has been a critical priority contributing to the island’s economic diversity, development, and competitiveness.

Network

Advances in these fields would not be possible without a supportive Information & Communications Technology (ICT) network. As an island, Puerto Rico depends on its ability to communicate with the world to do business. As such, companies benefit from extensive island-wide 5G, broadband access, established LoRa network capabilities, and broad satellite connections. Every element of this network ensures producers are connected to suppliers, customers, and business partners. Puerto Rico’s tech expertise and nationally unique international banking policies—along with the growing demand for effective financial solutions and resources—has led to a boom in innovative fintech and investing services that extend to every industry.

Fintech

Fintech is growing fast, at a rate of 25% per year through 2022. Puerto Rico’s close proximity to the world’s financial center – New York City – gives island-based fintech firms the opportunity to remain connected while taking advantages of key local benefits such as STEM talent, local financial literacy, and attractive tax incentives. Puerto Ricans are open to technology providing financial solutions where traditional banks do not. Here are a few facts you might have known about the island.

  • In 2017, Puerto Rican firm Evertec was the #1 provider of payment processing services in Latin America, exporting financial services to 25 countries around the world
  • After just four years, Evertec’s money transfer platform, ATH Movil, reached over 1 million users, 6,000 businesses, and 80% of banks and credit unions
  • Banco Popular’s digital platform also leads the industry in the implementation of fintech solutions
  • Abexus Analytics identifies commercial lending solutions to SMEs as one of the key areas of opportunities in Puerto Rico’s fintech landscape
  • Among others, Act 60 applies to financial activities and export services. IFEs are eligible for 6% income tax rate on distributions to resident shareholders or members and are 100% exempt on distributions to nonresident shareholders and members

Innovation

Puerto Rico also leads the region in fintech innovation, and this is evident in the wide use of digital banking tools, mobile financial applications, and globally recognized payment processing technology. Banking with digital assets is quickly becoming a reality and the blockchain community is pushing innovations for tax credit trading and how to sell utility tokens within tax incentive regulations. The island is leading the way in helping fintech, insurtech, and blockchain become more ubiquitous. The local financial services industry is perfect for global companies and start-ups looking for a cost-effective domicile or fertile ground to develop ideas, scale, and expand into neighboring markets.

The Only Place

Combine U.S. federal regulations and exemptions with local tax benefits and operating incentives, and you get the only place for international financial entities and insurers on U.S. soil: Puerto Rico. The island offers companies experienced banking and insurance markets, with a broad base of financial experts in U.S. and international laws and regulations. Puerto Rico stands to be an international leader in the finance and insurance industries by providing banks and insurers, companies, and individuals unparalleled access to the U.S. market with global regulations.

Puerto Rico is the nexus of opportunity. Contact a member of the Invest Puerto Rico Business Development team to learn how you can locate your startup or established business to the island.


Leading the way in strengthening the island as a world-class business destination is the newly formed Invest Puerto Rico (InvestPR), a non-profit investment promotion organization created by law, via Act 13 – 2017. InvestPR’s mission is clear: promote the island as a competitive investment jurisdiction that attracts new business and capital investment to the island. Our vision is to be a transformational and results-oriented accelerator of economic development in Puerto Rico.


Photo by Tatiana Rodriguez on Unsplash

Fintech Digital Transformation Challenges During COVID-19

Fintech Digital Transformation Challenges During COVID-19

The following is a sponsored post by Tracy Schlabach, Senior Manager, Product and Customer Marketing, Accusoft.

Digital transformation has been on the radar of most financial institutions for years. In a 2020 Digital Transformation Survey by BDO of financial services professionals, 68% of respondents in 2019 saw a growth in revenue directly related to digital investments. While many have made digital transformation a priority, some have faced roadblocks including risk-aversion and lack of corporate sponsorship.

With COVID-19 sweeping the globe, priorities are shifting, emphasizing the need for digital transformation.  As noted in a state of the industry report authored by the Institute of International Finance and Deloitte, “COVID-19 has generated leadership and organizational support by highlighting the need for digital transformation as a means to reach customers and maintain operational resilience.” Of those surveyed by BDO prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, 36% see industry disruption as the primary digital threat. In addition, a recent survey by IDG Research states that 59% of respondents are seeing an acceleration of digital transformation in their companies driven by the pandemic.

Now that implementing the digital strategy has taken center stage on the fintech roadmap, developers are looking to meet the needs of leadership as well as customers and employees in a timely and budget efficient manner.

What Is Digital Transformation?

The name digital transformation embodies a wide assortment of initiatives, from the customer engagement experience to transforming legacy systems. In an article by The Financial Brand, financial executives were asked to select their top digital transformation priorities for 2021. Out of the long list of initiatives, four of the highest priorities are:

  • Improve Customer Experience
  • Improve Use of Data, Analytics, and AI
  • Enhance Innovation Agility
  • Improve Back Office Efficiency

Financial institutions are prioritizing several diverse initiatives to remain relevant during the global pandemic. Project managers need to shorten development time, meet executive mandates, and launch products that significantly improve the employee and customer experience.

SDK and API Integrations Streamline Fintech Development

Development teams can effectively meet those timelines by partnering with software manufacturers who build and maintain software development kits (SDKs) and application programming interfaces (APIs). Developers can integrate these SDKs and APIs into their product offerings to add unique document processing capabilities. By partnering with a high-tech software solution, your team can save development time, shorten sprints, and reduce maintenance cost. While these are significant benefits, partnering and integrating third-party software manufacturers come with many advantages, including the ability to:

  • Remove the burden of building and maintaining extensive document processing libraries
  • Access the manufacturer’s support and engineering team who can assist with implementation and resolve issues
  • Significantly reduce time to market of your product

Let’s take a deeper look at each of these advantages.

Integrate vs. Build & Maintain Document Processing Libraries – Consider how many different file formats are available in the market for submitting data to financial institutions.  Fintech users receive everything from Word documents to PDFs to images taken with cell phones. All of those file formats need to be taken into consideration when building a fintech application that streamlines the process of capturing data from those files. Building out libraries of code that can address every possible option is extremely cumbersome and time-consuming.  However, developers can leverage an SDK or API that has been developed specifically for document processing and open up time to focus on their core competencies.

Access to Support and Engineering Experts – When financial institutions embed third-party document and image processing solutions, they are also gaining access to a team of experts. At Accusoft, each customer has access to technical support and product developers that have helped hundreds of companies with implementing and utilizing these document processing SDKs and APIs. Digital transformation is a pressing concern for financial organizations. You can help them meet their needs with our SDKs and APIs. Get this new functionality up and running quickly in your application so your developers can focus on more mission-critical tasks.

Reduce Time to Market – As noted in the report by BDO, “Most financial services companies anticipate high returns on revenue and profitability from digital transformation.” Project managers that prioritize research and implement third-party software solutions can significantly reduce the time to market. This, in turn, will allow their company to realize profits faster than their competition.

With the recent changes in the world, the need for digital transformation is not slowing down.   Financial institutions that prioritize those initiatives and research ways to develop and implement their new offerings quickly will be ahead in realizing revenues and returning profits to shareholders.


Accusoft is a software development company specializing in content processing, conversion, and automation solutions. From out-of-the-box and configurable applications to APIs built for developers, we help organizations solve their most complex content workflow challenges. Our patented solutions enable users to gain insight from content in any format, on any device with greater efficiency, flexibility, and security. Visit us at www.accusoft.com

Don’t Rip and Replace in Order to Hyper-Personalize

Don’t Rip and Replace in Order to Hyper-Personalize

The following is a sponsored post from InterSystems, Gold Sponsors of FinovateWest Digital, November 23 through 25, 2020.


In an increasingly digital world filled with chatbots, tap-and-go payments, and “buy now, pay later” credit lines, hyper-personalization is the new frontier on top of a new frontier in financial services.

What is hyper-personalization?

Hyper-personalization enables financial services organizations to leverage the huge volumes of customer data they have in their systems efficiently and effectively to make more specific and more relevant product recommendations, such as an increase of a credit limit at the point of sale, or a list of previous interactions pushed to the chatbot, allowing it to pick up where it last left off. It does so by analyzing the data available to it through the power of analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning.

It offers immense growth opportunities for all financial services providers if they can cater to small and specific groups. Hyper-personalization can foster loyalty in an era in which loyalty has declined, and it pushes the next generation of consumers and investors towards those financial services which can be agile in what they offer.

Traditional firms and hyper-personalization

Traditional firms are often encumbered by processes built up over decades. These processes are ingrained and necessary for them to have operated the way they have successfully and for so long.

To these firms, those same processes hinder the uptake of advances such as AI, data analytics and machine learning.

Yet these and other new technologies do not require traditional firms to re-imagine how processes work, nor does implementing have to be as obtrusive and disruptive as a full digital transformation initiative, for example. Rather, technology can be implemented in the background and effectively manage itself, be installed quickly and efficiently in existing systems without disrupting the rest of the business. Some can even run adjacently to everything else the business does.

Traditional firms have decades or more worth of data. Analytics tools, AI, and machine learning work together to make sense of it all, wherever it might be and in whatever language it might be in, and surface actionable insights from all of it. Importantly, these technologies work in the background, without disrupting any mission-critical processes.

How can traditional firms hyper-personalize?

  1. Traditional firms can deploy a smart data fabric, which is effectively a layer which sits above all of the firm’s available endpoints and distributed services — whether it be in the cloud, on-premise or both — and ensures those endpoints and their capabilities speak the same language.
  2. Next, the data needs to be put through proper governance procedures to ensure it is clean, relevant and has the necessary integrity to be used with confidence for the right reasons by the organization — it needs to be accurate, reliable, complete, appropriate, and credible. For this to occur, it goes through something of a digital centrifuge which analyses its health and cleans it before having it ready for primetime.
  3. Once this is done, the rich streams of data inherent across the company can be mined, analyzed, and surfaced using the power of AI and machine learning.

This may sound like a lot of steps and go against the grain of what we’ve been discussing in this article. But rest assured, all of these technologies can be implemented with little to no disruption to operations, and they work in the background while delivering key insights for the data almost in real-time. It’s through using these technologies that traditional firms can, at last, unlock those rich and extensive streams of historical data dating back decades, which in turn provides a clear method to fostering loyalty. Research shows that customers want a hyper-personalized experience. According to Accenture, 91 percent of consumers are more likely to shop with brands who recognize them, remember them, and provide them with relevant offers and recommendations.

Conclusion

Traditional firms have a hyper-personalization advantage thanks to possessing a trove of legacy data and brand recognition. They just need to embrace what is available to help leverage their data and analytics to get them to their intelligent future — and trust that it can and will co-exist with existing processes.

If they allow technology to do the heavy lifting for them alongside their existing processes, traditional firms will be able to leverage decades of data to their advantage and engage in new ways with customers, without having to re-invent the wheel.

The People’s Champion: How Wealth Management Firms Can Win Client Trust

The People’s Champion: How Wealth Management Firms Can Win Client Trust

Ahead of FinovateFall Digital next week, we hear from Chad Hamblin, Global Industry Director of Financial Services at Microsoft, one of Finovate’s Gold Sponsors. Hamblin explores why success will come down to understanding and empathizing with your client. Dig a little deeper into this topic with Microsoft’s eBook on the topic: Reimagine the client experience in wealth management.

COVID-19 has put a strain on everyone. We’ve all navigated social isolation, uncertain investment projections, and remote work environments. Regardless of the experience, this time away has left a haze over individuals and organizations alike. We’re not just unsure what comes next, we’re questioning the very processes we’ve accepted to this point.

Investors are feeling a new tension that makes small pain points all the more obvious. Voice automation, fixed fees, commissions — what clients once accepted as the cost of doing business are suddenly under intense scrutiny. Clients aren’t obligated to trust a major firm with their financial future, and now they’re acting on the opportunity to move their money elsewhere.

So how can wealth management firms adapt their strategies (and identities) to regain that trust? It all starts with understanding the client.

A holistic experience

Over the years, many wealth firms operated under a one-size-fits-most model — if the client fell into a specific demographic, then the firm provided a specific portfolio. Empowered by the Digital Age and amplified by this pandemic, a growing number of modern clients are looking for a wealth management partner—someone willing to listen to their ambitions, dreams, and goals and recommend actions catered to their unique circumstances. These clients want to feel identified, seen, and valued; they want to feel like more than an account number. Organizations can deliver on that expectation by creating a holistic client experience — a strategic client approach that uses technology and relationship-building to create a more inclusive perspective on the client’s needs, interests, and ambitions.

Delivering a holistic client experience comes to life in three ways: portfolios, services, and communications.

  1. Holistic portfolios understand the client’s dreams, goals, and life events and work to build the right mix of investments to meet that individual’s financial plan, risk preference, and goals. By moving away from cookie-cutter portfolios and embracing a consultative approach, advisors create a partnership built on trust.
  2. Holistic services encourage firms to expand their capabilities to adapt to a changing world. In the last decade, clients have become jaded by fixed-fee models. At the same time, online resources have made wealth management more accessible. By shifting to a holistic client model, organizations expand their services beyond portfolio management and provide added-value services like financial advice and planning, risk mitigation, goal tracking, wealth building strategies, and even bring in experts for specialized areas like real estate, education planning, tax mitigation, and estate planning. By expanding into capabilities that they may not have focused on before, wealth management firms further align with the individual goals of their clients and can offer one-stop solutions.
  3. Likewise, holistic communication leverages the client’s communication preference. Every company has multiple engagement channels—voice, text, email, chat, video, social media, etc.—but most organizations assume that every client wants to be contacted via every channel. Yet, modern tools can equip firms to democratize their client data to share information and insights. By consolidating data and communication streams into a single hub of truth and by providing that information via client-friendly channels, wealth management firms can ensure that clients are engaged in the mediums they prefer.

Adapting in real time

It won’t be enough to lag behind your clients, real time adaptations and analysis will count.

While holistic client experiences serve as the star of wealth management’s future, next-generation technologies will be the foundation of these efforts. Trending tools like AI, life event and goal tracking, market risk analysis, smart portfolio allocation, and project automation equip organizations with the tools they need to build more responsive, reliable offerings for clients.

Imagine how predictive analytic tools will help determine the stability of future investments or the time employees could save on data entry through automation. Today’s technologies grant employees the tools they need to deliver a holistic customer experience by making their day-to-day tasks more efficient and effective.

Investing in trust

By creating a holistic client experience, wealth management firms become a reliable asset during hardship and a celebrated ally in victories. Right now, clients around the world are reassessing their investments for fear of a future crisis. In many cases, COVID-19 has fundamentally upset the way many clients view wealth management and building. It’s up to firms to empathize with those concerns and shape their efforts to bring peace of mind.

With a multitude of wealth firms fighting for their dollars, today’s clients are increasingly taking their funds to firms that demonstrate a conscious effort to understand their ambitions beyond executing trades. Wealth management firms that position themselves as true advisors and champion the hopes and dreams of their clients can foster trusting and long-lasting relationships.

The alternative is a slow descent into transactional business, commoditization, and ultimately irrelevance. The holistic wealth management firm is prepared to advocate for the best interests of their clients.


For more insights into how today’s firms can steel themselves for tomorrow’s challenges, read Microsoft’s latest eBook.

How Capital Markets Firms Can Mitigate Risk in Periods of Uncertainty

How Capital Markets Firms Can Mitigate Risk in Periods of Uncertainty

The following is a sponsored post from Michael Hom, Head of Financial Solutions at InterSystems, Gold Sponsors of FinovateFall Digital 2020, September 14 through 18, 2020.


Currently, external factors like the COVID-19 pandemic mean that the global economy has become increasingly volatile and capital markets firms are having to work harder than ever to make sure users, both retail and institutional, can continue to trade without interruption.

As these financial organizations look to mitigate risk in this period of uncertainty, gaining operational resilience, implementing risk mitigation strategies, and having the right technology in place will be crucial to continue to deliver value to customers, comply with regulations, get ahead of the competition – and, most importantly, maintain trust.

Given this, the pressure for incumbents to upgrade infrastructure is only increasing, but challenges remain in doing so. While the pandemic may have been the linchpin for organizations to start embracing new technologies there are still barriers to overcome and best practices to be put into play to not only mitigate risk, but also prepare capital markets for what’s to come in the future:

Replacing legacy technology

Critical to mitigating risk is ensuring data is available quickly and easily accessible. For many capital markets firms this is an area where they struggle due to a significant amount of legacy technology in their infrastructure and, consequently, data siloes.

Connecting these disparate systems will be vital to not only help them with performance issues they have today, adapting to situations such as mass remote working, for example, but also so they are capable of growing with them into the future.

This requires them to adopt solutions that can seamlessly run, scale, and expand into the cloud. By replacing legacy infrastructure, they will have the benefit of providing new technologies and innovations access to their wealth of valuable data.

These solutions should also be location agnostic to allow capital markets firms to be agile and take advantage of new technology and services and bring that into their existing infrastructure.

Investment in the future

As these institutions look to replace their legacy technology, they should focus their investments on two key areas.

First, they should invest in platform scalability as being able to scale up as the market spikes is crucial and can be a major differentiator. This scalability can even give firms a competitive edge with some firms having recently gained market share solely due their ability to scale up.

The second area of investment should be in analytics and automation that can support and, in some cases, reduce the manual-intensive workload. We’ve already seen increases in algorithmic trading and customer chatbot technologies, while many organizations within the financial services industry use AI to automate processes, such as fraud checks and compliance.

With less time spent on time-intensive manual tasks, capital markets firms will be able to direct their attention to more value-adding services for their clients. The use of AI will help to spot patterns and anomalies in those patterns much faster for fraud prevention, while also reducing the risk of human error.

Gaining access to real-time data

Is your data strategy keeping up in real-time?

Within capital markets firms, there is a growing requirement to be able to access real-time data so these organizations can simplify their stack and get access to transactions that are happening in the moment. This will allow them to produce more time-sensitive reporting so they can make appropriate business decisions and better comply with regulatory requirements.

Data fabric

Data fabrics are fast becoming a key trend within data management across the board, helping to reduce friction. Improving the accuracy, availability and accessibility of data and should also be a consideration as capital markets weather this period of uncertainty and beyond.

A data fabric that uses the latest technology will help organizations to better grasp data governance, ensure that their data is clean and accurate, to harmonize that data where appropriate, and make it more accessible. All of these will help them derive more value and better insights from their data to help drive their enterprises and those of their customers forward.

How can capital markets firms not only survive, but also thrive?

As capital markets firms look beyond this period of volatility to thriving long term, it’s vital they embrace agility by implementing modern technology with a focus on analytics and automation. This will allow them to quickly adapt to changing and new business needs by helping them to make use of their data, analyze it, monetize it, and turn it into actionable intelligence.

In an increasingly competitive landscape, where new market entrants aren’t weighed down by legacy technology and architectures, this will be a key differentiator and enable capital markets firms to take advantage of new opportunities within the market faster.


If you want to hear more about this subject, listen to this webinar in which InterSystems takes a deep dive into the challenges facing capital markets firms and how they can mitigate risk, alongside a panel of other industry experts from Northern Trust, Westwood Group, and SIX Securities & Exchanges. Or read InterSystems latest blog posts on Data Excellence.

Lending in the New Normal: The Digitalization Challenge

Lending in the New Normal: The Digitalization Challenge

The following is a sponsored blog post by Chris Papathanassi, Global Solution Lead, Lending with Finastra. Papathanassi discusses the two challenges facing lenders: data quality and ensuring a true “golden source” and leveraging real value through data connections. Find out more in the full report >>

Today, digital is the only way to do business. But even though everything they do can be expressed in ones and zeros, most financial service organizations simply aren’t set up to be truly digital. In the context of the current disrupted, volatile and remote-working global economy, doing digital brilliantly is now a matter of survival and urgency for many financial firms – no longer simply a ‘nice to have’. 

Digital transformation is difficult for even the simplest business models, and in lending in particular, there is a real challenge. When it can take up to three months to get cash out of the door, it’s hard to see how any bank can keep up with the digital shift. There is a continued dependency in lending on paper documentation and face-to-face contact.

Despite this, the challenges of digitalization are more than balanced out by the potential benefits. You’re likely aware of a few of these already: 

  • Increased efficiency – removing repetitive, non-value-added work and moving towards real-time processing 
  • Personalization – delivering relevant customer service even in a socially-distanced context 
  • Improved credit management – providing integrated, rules-based systems for greater decision speed and transparency 
  • Proactive risk management – using APIs and platforms to “join up” the risk and sales processes
  • Self-service for corporates – providing a digital channel that empowers corporate customers 
  • Unlocking the value of data – bringing data together from disparate sources so its true value as a commodity can be leveraged

So, what needs to happen for lending to get there? 

One of the key issues is data quality and the “golden source”.  The bespoke nature of lending makes it hard to maintain data quality and consistency. Lenders have their own individual nuances and conventions. And corporate borrowers that have lending relationships with many different organizations will download and manipulate data so it’s in a format they can work with.

Can you trust the data?

As one major bank asked us: “How can we ensure what the source of truth is across different applications?”

What’s more, as data moves through different systems in a digitalized and connected world, it changes too.  

This points to the second challenge, which is that digitalized lending data is only valuable when it can be connected to the other pieces of the puzzle, to provide the big picture lenders and borrowers need. Right now, firms are still downloading data into Excel, manipulating it, and re-sending it.

Digitalization plus API capabilities, however, makes it possible for stakeholders to see the same pieces of data in the same state. It’s this connectivity that is key to realizing the full benefits of digitalization and addressing the “source of truth” issue. 

Digitalization also opens data to new technologies such as AI, machine learning, and robotic process automation, which can create new efficiencies and value for banks and customers. And for processes such as syndicated lending that have multiple players, it can be combined with cloud technology to enable more collaboration and better access to a single source of truth.

APIs in the cloud can make innovation more accessible to banks, overcoming the challenges of integrating in-house and external products. In essence, on platforms, banks have access to pre-integrated, interoperable solutions and better access to the broader financial services ecosystem, where they can explore innovations and consume them at speed. 

This potentially changes the shape of the lending industry, opening up interesting questions. What do banks want to be? Leaders in the lending business or providers of specialist products? With digitalization both options are possible, creating an opportunity for lenders to add value and build their lending businesses – or to disintermediate healthily. 

Interested in learning more? Download Finastra’s new report, Lending in the New Normal >>

The Capital Needs of Small Businesses are Changing: Here’s How Lenders Should Respond

The Capital Needs of Small Businesses are Changing: Here’s How Lenders Should Respond

The following is sponsored content from LendingFront.

With Covid-19 on the minds of businesses and lenders alike, conversations about the capital needs of small businesses have revolved—with obvious justification—around the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and other forms of relief provided under the CARES Act.

Yet the capital needs of many small businesses don’t begin and end with the PPP.

Let’s start with a few facts

According to the U.S. Federal Reserve’s 2019 Small Business Credit Survey:

  • 43% of small businesses sought external funding for their businesses in 2018
  • And more than half experienced a funding shortfall.

These funds—when small businesses can obtain them—are often used to purchase inventory, replace equipment, finance expansion, and hire new workers.

These needs will persist long after PPP lending has come to an end, yet even in a strong economy, up to 80% of bank-originated small business loan applications are rejected.

In the post Covid-19 environment, we can expect that percentage to be even higher

That’s because the conventional underwriting criteria for small business loans will no longer work. Traditionally, both bank- and non-bank lenders have relied on four criteria for underwriting small business loans:

  1. Tax/Financial Statements
  2. Credit Scores
  3. Collateral
  4. Owner Wealth

In a normal economy, these criteria are fine, but they’ll do little to show the true state of a business in the post Covid-19 environment. 2019’s tax/financial statements will be all but irrelevant. Credit scores will be damaged as a result of the inability to make payments during a forced closure. Collateral will have questionable value if bankruptcies spike. And owner wealth will have been tapped in an effort to keep many businesses afloat.

Are we headed towards a capital drought?

With traditional underwriting criteria no longer useful, are we headed toward a capital drought? We certainly don’t need to, but the answer largely hinges upon lenders doing two things:

  1. Adopting new criteria that are more appropriate for the post Covid-19 environment
  2. Adopting new product structures that enable the lender to manage risk

New credit criteria include information such as:

  • Real-time Cash Flow
    Cash flow helps you gauge how quickly the business is recovering from Covid-19. Is it in irreversible decline? Is it struggling but stable? Has it gotten back to normal? Insight into real-time cash flow helps lenders make better decisions about who to lend to along with the terms of any offers.
  • Consumer Sentiment
    Customers who vote with their reviews also vote with their wallets. Examine reviews from Google, Yelp, and other sources to answer, Is this a business that customers love? Businesses that are well-regarded by customers stand a much better chance of recovering than those that had problems before the pandemic shut them down.

New product structures also enable lenders to deliver capital efficiently while managing risk

Here’s how:

  • Shorter Terms
    First, lenders should emphasize shorter payback periods in the range of 6-12 months. Shorter terms get the lender paid back faster while enabling the business owner to show that he/she is creditworthy before seeking a larger amount of capital.
  • Daily ACH Payments
    Second, lenders should collect payments from the borrower on a daily—rather than monthly—basis. Monthly payments introduce unnecessary operational risk. Daily payments are smaller, consistent, and more predictable from the standpoint of the business’ cash flow.
  • Tie Payments to Performance
    Lastly, lenders should tie payment terms to current cash flow performance—and with visibility into cash flow, this is very easy to do.

A new economy needs new rules for lending

If the Great Recession taught us anything, it’s that opportunities exist for lenders to increase their assets, gain market share and, of course, to meet the capital needs of their borrowers. In the post Covid-19 environment, lending is only as risky as the information used to make decisions. With better underwriting criteria and more appropriate product structures, the most forward-thinking lenders will position themselves for success and reap the rewards.


Photo by David Emrich on Unsplash

A Strategy to Accelerate Adaptability Through Infrastructure Automation

A Strategy to Accelerate Adaptability Through Infrastructure Automation

Today we feature a sponsored post on best practices in automation from leading open source solution provider Red Hat.

While many things have changed over the past six months, the need remains for financial services companies to increase speed and efficiency, and deliver a differentiated customer experience, all whilst complying with complex regulations and requirements.

To overcome current and future challenges, IT organizations are working to increase the flexibility of their infrastructure and operations. With security at the forefront, regulatory and compliance controls adherence requirements, digital products, and services must be efficiently developed, deployed, and managed. Often this means that infrastructure and processes require updates to support digital offerings and protect against costly security breaches and cybercrime-related risks. 

An automation framework can help organizations achieve this transformation, improving agility, flexibility, and speed to adapt to changing requirements. Optimization of resources and increased efficiency to control costs allows not only innovation but also the delivery of digital customer experiences with less risk. Organizations seeking to automate infrastructure to should consider the following best practices.

Deliver Results with People, Tools, and Processes

An effective approach to automation includes people, processes, and tools.

Start with your people

All initiatives, including automation, start with people. Begin with the following actions:

  • Build consensus to gain cultural buy-in. Ensure a successful start to your project by building consensus among all stakeholders. Failure to do so can result in well-intentioned, but isolated activities, or the continuation of time-consuming manual activities which would reduce the benefits possible with a standardized automation approach. 
  • Define the scope. Determine the extent of your automation and explain the strategy, IT benefits, and business benefits at both the organizational and individual job levels. 
  • Encourage participation. Solicit technical advice from staff who will implement, administer, and use the automation technology from the start. People will avoid using a solution if they believe it to be inadequate, regardless of its actual capabilities. 
  • Inspire collaboration. Create a culture of automation by unifying teams and technical domains for tooling that can be used by the entire organization.

Select appropriate processes

Not all processes are candidates for automation. When planning automation projects:

  • Be instinctive. Prioritize automation use cases that involve repeatable, time-intensive processes with predictable outcomes. If automating a process requires significant customization or is a single delivery to an external team, automation may not be at the top of this list, or even appropriate. 
  • Focus on benefits. Automate processes that provide benefits that scale as your adoption and scope increases. 
  • Plan for maintenance. Plan for quick and efficient ongoing maintenance of your automation activity to keep up with the business, process, and technical changes.

Choose the right tools

The right – or wrong – tools can greatly impact the success of your automation project. Look for the following capabilities:

  • Adaptability. Needs and services will not remain static. Choose tools that can adapt to change and prepare you for the future. 
  • Flexibility. Use tools that can automate infrastructure and IT processes without complex configuration or customization. Find tools that easily integrate and operate with other automation and management solutions. 
  • Simplicity. Look for tools that are easy to install, configure, manage, and maintain at scale. Analyzing and understanding the results of an automated process should be simple and straightforward. 
  • Usability. Select tools that are easy to learn. Hard-to-use tools will not be adopted by most of your team and can result in a small, segmented group of subject matter experts. 
  • Accessibility. Adopt tools that feature simple, human-readable syntax and graphical user interfaces (GUIs) to help users without advanced coding skills contribute to automation projects.

Automate for success with Red Hat

Red Hat helps financial services organizations move forward with higher performance and advanced automation. In a recent study*, Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform was shown to increase the efficiency of application environment management teams by 41%, and IT security teams by 21%.

  • Gain business and IT agility and speed through cross-organizational automation and collaboration. 
  • Boost efficiency and focus on new initiatives by eliminating manual, repetitive tasks. 
  • Innovate and deliver digital customer experiences with less risk and at a lower cost by using modern platforms that meet today’s needs and easily adapt to tomorrow’s requirements.

* Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform Improves IT Agility and Time to Market – An IDC White Paper, Sponsored by Red Hat, June 2019.

How Accusoft’s FormSuite for Invoices Puts Machine Learning and RPA to Work

How Accusoft’s FormSuite for Invoices Puts Machine Learning and RPA to Work

This is a sponsored post by Accusoft. For more information on sponsored contributions please email sponsor@finovate.com.

Machine Learning continues to dominate conversations across the fintech ecosystem, but one aspect that rarely gets into the limelight is where the data to train the algorithms actually comes from.

Finovate sat down with Tracy Schlabach, Senior Manager, Product and Customer Marketing at Accusoft to discuss the company’s latest technology, the data challenges they overcame, and why having a symbiotic relationship with their clients drives their strategy.

Finovate: Give us an overview of what FormSuite for Invoices does.

Tracy Schlabach: FormSuite for Invoices is a toolkit for developers that are building invoice processing software solutions. FormSuite for Invoices does the heavy lifting of invoice processing, solving the hard part of finding and extracting data, such as invoice number, purchase order number, total due, line item quantity, line item description, and other data. It is configurable by the developer to extract the data specific to their needs.

Finovate: What are the technical differences between FormSuite for Structured Forms and FormSuite for Invoices?

Schlabach: FormSuite for Structured Forms deals with fixed forms, where the location of the information doesn’t move, such as a tax form, while FormSuite for Invoices deals with what we call semi-structured forms since the locations of certain values might move around the page based on the data.

For example, the “Total Due” field would move down in an invoice that has more line items. While FormSuite for Structured Forms does use AI to identify which form was passed in and to extract the data, the AI is more limited than what is required to process more dynamic content such as invoices.

FormSuite for Invoices uses some of the latest machine learning (ML) to be able to extract data from the line item tables found in invoices. This type of ML is what you hear about most often these days; deep learning with supervised and unsupervised training of a custom ResNet convolutional neural network. This technology “learns” from the changes that users make to the output results. For example, if the Total Due information on ABC Company’s invoice is located in a different quadrant on the document, the user will correct the output information. The ML technology in FormSuite for Invoices learns from these corrections, ultimately increasing confidence values.

A lot of our customers are dealing with both types of forms, structured and semi-structured, so we see people using these toolkits in combination to solve their overall forms processing challenges.

Finovate: What role does Robotic Processing Automation (RPA) play in FormSuite for Invoices?

Schlabach: Both FormSuite for Invoices and FormSuite for Structured forms have been used to serve as a data input source for RPA. When companies are using RPA to automate data entry on legacy systems, that data has to come from somewhere. Before RPA, a data entry person might key data from a piece of paper or from a computer screen into another screen that has the legacy application running on it. RPA performs the typing in place of that person, but now that data has to come from somewhere. If the data isn’t digital, for example, it is on a piece of paper, that paper can be scanned and the data extracted with one of our FormSuite products allowing the RPA robot to type that data into the legacy application.

Document capture and RPA make great partners in this way, automating what was previously a tedious and time-consuming job. Having that data available in systems quicker allows people to have quicker access to the data and make decisions faster. And the people doing the data entry are freed up to do more valuable work.

Finovate: What was the biggest challenge your team had to overcome in launching FormSuite for Invoices?

Schlabach: Line item tables are particularly challenging on multiple fronts. Their format varies a lot. Some have graphic lines surrounding each cell, but some are what we call white space tables which just use spacing to align the rows and columns. All the variation makes it really hard.

In addition, in order to use any ML, you have to have a lot of data to train with. We tried to solve the table detection and recognition using data from the leading research papers in this space, those that were winners of various ML competitions. But, we found they always fell short in some subset of our test data. 

Eventually, after working with various algorithms, one of our Principle Engineers identified a way to make a significant improvement in the ML algorithm, and the results are quite impressive. To solve the data challenge, we used a number of unique ideas to source the invoice images and used raw manpower (internal crowdsourcing) to create the “ground truth,” the correct values that are used in training and testing the machine learning.

It was an impressive effort that had the entire Accusoft organization contributing to our training data. We even had our CEO helping with the data creation at one point.

Finovate: Aside from the obvious benefit of saving time on data entry, what other benefits does FormSuite for Invoices bring to an organization?

Schlabach: There are several benefits. With Accusoft specializing in solutions for content processing, conversion, and automation solutions since 1991, developers can focus on their core strengths and let Accusoft handle the heavy lifting of content capture. As a toolkit, FormSuite for Invoices helps developers solve the most challenging aspect of the invoice process: data extraction. By embedding FormSuite for Invoices, developers significantly shorten their product’s time to market.

On the end-user side, automating invoice processing has been shown to contribute many benefits. The data entry, as mentioned, is the obvious benefit. However, companies also see dollar savings by paying invoices sooner and recognizing early payment discounts. In addition, with the speed of business today, having visibility to data is important. Invoice processing automation helps companies see a more accurate picture of their cash flow much quicker.

Finovate: So, what do you see as the next evolution of this technology?

Schlabach: As customers provide feedback, sometimes in the form of challenging images, we make improvements to the technology. That is the symbiotic value we have seen in many of our partnerships for document capture products. When partners report challenging images, we incorporate improvements into our products to better handle those images. We see this in our forms processing solutions, our barcode recognition product, our OCR and PDF products, and our viewer. We continually evolve our products, and as the exposure to documents in the wild increases, our products improve. 

We also see this technology expanding into other semi-structured forms use cases. Credit card statement processing, bills of lading, and purchase orders are just a few of the documents that could be processed using this technology. There are some different challenges in those types of documents, but there are also a lot of similarities to invoices that we can take advantage of.

Improving Payable Processes: An Implementation Primer

Improving Payable Processes: An Implementation Primer

This is a sponsored post by Accusoft. For more information on sponsored contributions please email sponsor@finovate.com.

Accounts payable (AP) processes remain a sticking point for many organizations. Caught between the efficiency issues of paper-based solutions and the potential complexity of adopting technology-driven services, stagnation often results. Accusoft explores its top five tips to smooth out your system and reap the rewards.

Businesses now recognize the necessity of change, but many aren’t sure where to start. When it comes to new permutations of payable processes, a roadmap is invaluable. Here’s a look at five key forms completion and invoice processing improvements to help companies account for evolving AP expectations.

  1. Identifying errors

Staff remain the biggest source of AP errors. There’s no malice here; humans simply aren’t the ideal candidates for repetitive data entry. In this case, effective implementation of new processes depends on customizable software tools capable of accurately capturing forms data and learning over time to better identify and avoid common errors. The benefit? Staff are free to work on time-sensitive AP approval and reviews rather than double-checking basic forms data.

2. Improving invoice routes

Invoice routing is time-consuming and often confusing for AP staff. To avoid potential oversights, most companies use two to three approvers per invoice, creating multiple approval workflows. While the process reduces total error rates, it also introduces new complexity. What happens if invoice versions don’t match or approvers don’t agree on their figures? In the best-case scenario, your company needs extra time to process every invoice. Worst case? Double payment of AP invoices or payments result in missed critical deadlines. Here, a single-application approach to invoice processing helps improve invoice routes and reduce redundant approval steps.

3. Integrating data location

Where is your accounts payable data located? For many companies, there’s no easy answer; some invoices are paper, others are digitally stored on secure servers, and there are still more trapped in emails and messages across your organization. Instead of chasing down AP data, implement an invoice rehoming process. Solutions like Accusoft’s FormSuite for Invoices support thousands of invoice formats and keep them all in the same place.

4. Innovating at speed and scale

Complexity holds back many accounts payable programs. If new technologies complicate existing processes, employee error rates will go up and there’s a chance they’ll avoid digital deployments altogether in favor of familiar paper alternatives. In this case, automation is the key to implementation; speedy solutions capable of scanning paper forms, identifying key data, and then digitally converting this information at scale. 

5. Increasing visibility

You can’t fix what you can’t see. Paper-based invoice processing naturally frustrates visibility by making it difficult to find key documents and assess total financial liabilities. Integrated APIs that work with your existing accounts payable applications can help improve inherent visibility by creating a single source of AP data under the secure umbrella of your corporate IT infrastructure.

Want to learn more about the potential pathways available for companies to improve their AP processes and reduce total complexity? Check out Volume 1 of our Accounts Payable eGuide series, No Pain, No Gain?

Webinar: Move Banking from Product-Centric to Customer-Centric

Webinar: Move Banking from Product-Centric to Customer-Centric

Featuring:

Is your bank keeping pace with escalating customer expectations shaped by their mobile experiences? How are you addressing the perception that all banks are the same? 

It’s tough when you have a product focus and outdated technology is holding you back. You know you need to modernize to win and retain demanding, empowered, and fickle customers. Customer loyalty and company revenue are at risk if you don’t.

In this webinar, featuring OutSystems and guest speaker Alyson Clarke, Principal Analyst at Forrester, you’ll learn how leading firms like Amazon, Nordstrom, USAA, and Zappos have made the shift to customer-centricity and are delivering world-class customer experiences.

These insights will help your bank follow suit.

Mission-Critical, Concurrent Transactional, and Analytic Processing at Scale

Mission-Critical, Concurrent Transactional, and Analytic Processing at Scale

This is a sponsored blog post by InterSystems, a financial data technology company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Successful financial services organizations today must be able to simultaneously process transactional and analytic workloads at high scale – accommodating billions of transactions per day while supporting thousands of analytic queries per second from hundreds of applications – without incident. The consequences of dropped trades, or worse – a system
failure – can be severe, incurring financial losses and reputational damage of the firm.

InterSystems’ IRIS Data Platform is a hybrid transactional/ analytic processing (HTAP) database platform that delivers the performance of an in-memory database with the reliability and built-in durability of a traditional operational database.

InterSystems IRIS is optimized to concurrently accommodate both very high transactional workloads and a high volume of analytical queries on the transactional data. It does so without compromise, incident, or performance degradation, even during periods of extreme volatility and requires fewer DBAs than other databases. In fact, many installations do not need a dedicated DBA at all.

An open environment for defining business logic and building mobile and/or web-based user interfaces enables rapid development and agile business innovation.

For one leading global investment bank, InterSystems data platform is processing billions of daily transactions, resulting in a 3x to 5x increase in throughput, a 10x increase in performance, and a 75% reduction in operating costs. The application has operated without incident since its inception.

Traditionally, online transaction processing (OLTP) and online analytical processing (OLAP) workloads have been handled independently, by separate databases. However, operating separate databases creates complexity and latency because data must be moved from the OLTP environment to the OLAP environment for analysis. This has led to the development of a new kind of database. In 2014, Gartner coined the term hybrid transaction/analytical processing1, or HTAP, for this new kind of database, which can process both OLTP and OLAP workloads in a single
environment without having to copy the transactional data for analysis.

At the core of InterSystems IRIS is the industry’s only comprehensive, multi-model database that delivers fast transactional and analytic performance without sacrificing scalability, reliability, or security. It supports relational, object-oriented, document, key value, and hierarchical data types, all in a common persistent storage tier.

InterSystems IRIS offers a unique set of features that make it attractive for mission-critical, high-performance transaction management and analytics applications, including:

  • High performance for transactional workloads with built-in guaranteed durability
  • High performance for analytic workloads
  • Lower total cost of ownership

InterSystems IRIS is enabling financial services organizations to process high transactional and analytic workloads concurrently, without compromising either type – using a single platform – with the highest levels
of performance and reliability, even when transaction volumes spike.

Founded in 1978, InterSystems is a privately held company headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts (USA), with offices worldwide, and its software products are used daily by millions of people in more than 80 countries. For more information, visit: Financial.InterSystems.com