Category Archives: Fintech Opinions

5 Trends to Watch in Fintech Regulation

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Finance Magnates | Matthew Unger | Jun 20, 2020

regulatory tech fintech trends - 5 Trends to Watch in Fintech RegulationWhat will have the biggest impact?

During the last decade, financial technology has improved dramatically, moving from mainframe trading computers and COBOL to mobile banking and blockchains. Never before have we been at such a critical inflection point as money, contracts, and regulations are combined into almost infinitely scalable code. Remote operations and contactless procedures are becoming the new normal, those financial services providers who previously resisted digitization now find themselves in a race for survival.

As with any “gold rush”, this frenzy brings new opportunities for exploitation, fraud, theft, etc. One only has to review the Wild West scenarios that played out in the cryptocurrency sector to recognize the potential for fintech to be used to either create or extract value. While some made fortunes in the early crypto days, others lost a lot. Hotter than the cryptocurrency and ICO wave of 2015-2017, fintech platforms are growing faster than ever before.

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Within the realm of fintech exist neo-banks, challenger banks, incumbents, and disruptors, each with unique threats, opportunities, and unit economics. From a technology perspective, fintech today has the capacity to perform nearly all core operations – yet, few financial services providers have been able to fully digitalize the front office experience, much less mid and back office operations. For example, most institutions cannot open a new bank account for a new SPV of an existing client.

While incumbents, tech giants, and startups race towards 100% digital delivery of nearly all financial products and services. New technologies, such as blockchain powered digital assets, have received constant media coverage but still only account for less than 1% of the addressable market. Registered financial services providers need clear regulatory guidance in order to take advantage of the benefits of blockchain technology.

Beyond blockchain technology, we are at the forefront of major shifts in regulation on virtual assets, data governance, privacy, custody, exchange, payments, KYC, and AML. The “new normal” has captured the attention of regulators, law societies, and governments globally. Digital delivery is contactless delivery.

As new technology such as e-signatures, blockchain, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing are only now being accepted by regulators, law societies, and governments we are going to revolutionize what is possible for digital finance. On a global scale, regulations change constantly – however, these five trends are likely to have the biggest impact.

3. Virtual Assets Service Providers Join the FATF

Last year, the FATF published new guidance that included definitions of both virtual assets and virtual asset service providers (VASPs). Around the world, financial intelligence units (FIUs) – such as FinCEN in the USA – have local

updates of their interpretation of the FATF definitions with most coming into effect as of June 2020.

See:  FATF Travel Rule interview with iComply: Cryptocurrency is Meant to be Trustless, Not Anonymous

Combined with the “Travel Rule”, as well updates to payments and custodial regulations, VASPs that implement compliance by design into their platforms stand to earn billions. A recent analysis of Facebook’s Whatsapp payment service in Brazil estimated first year revenues of $8.7B, and $17B by year two.

No doubt, VASP regulation is a tool that Facebook will leverage to bring Libra to market. Currently operational VASPs, such as Binance now earn billions per quarter. With virtual asset regulation now in effect, more traditional financial service providers will be able to explore the use of virtual assets in their businesses.

2. Digital Reporting

Many new fintechs underestimate the cost of the regulatory burden in their business model. Whether it is filing securities registration or exemption forms, documenting and reporting suspicious activities, managing know your customer, or maintaining cybersecurity compliance – regulatory reporting has traditionally been an onerous and manual process.

Many regulators, such as FinTRAC in Canada, have recently rolled out enhanced digital reporting systems that support REST APIs and batch reporting. Government agencies and law societies are recognizing that physical documents and face to face meetings now present health risks, liability, and business continuity threats.

3. Increasing Pressure on Compliance in Communications

As regulators themselves upgrade their toolkits they are also better able to supervise their markets digitally. Regulators such as MAS in Singapore or BCSC in British Columbia are actively targeting businesses that offer their services digitally, without maintaining local licensing or reporting requirements.

See:  Singapore Poised to Allow Crypto Derivatives on Approved Venues

As more regulators enhance their capabilities beyond digital reporting, they are becoming more efficient and better able to focus their efforts. This not only reduces regulatory burden for financial services providers, it makes life a whole lot easier for their clients.

Technologies such as natural language processing, big data, machine learning, etc are able to go well beyond analyzing inbound data feeds and with greater digital adoption can monitor the market at scale. While it is still early for the “Suptech” sector, regulators are starting to be equipped with the tools that enable them to separate signals from the noise.

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NCFA Jan 2018 resize - 5 Trends to Watch in Fintech Regulation The National Crowdfunding & Fintech Association (NCFA Canada) is a financial innovation ecosystem that provides education, market intelligence, industry stewardship, networking and funding opportunities and services to thousands of community members and works closely with industry, government, partners and affiliates to create a vibrant and innovative fintech and funding industry in Canada. Decentralized and distributed, NCFA is engaged with global stakeholders and helps incubate projects and investment in fintech, alternative finance, crowdfunding, peer-to-peer finance, payments, digital assets and tokens, blockchain, cryptocurrency, regtech, and insurtech sectors. Join Canada's Fintech & Funding Community today FREE! Or become a contributing member and get perks. For more information, please visit: www.ncfacanada.org

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As the digital economy grows and the world increasingly moves online, the future of digital identity will deliver new frameworks and infrastructure to support digital commerce, online interactions and social identification in more secure and robust ways than ever thought before. This future is here today where individuals and businesses can establish digital representations of their identities to serve as the gateway to store and protect sensitive data, manage permissions and ultimately enable the future of Convergence Marketplaces.



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Is FinTech getting it wrong? Focus on needs and wants

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The Finanser | Chris Skinner | Jun 22, 2020

often people dont know what they want until you show them steve jobs - 5 Trends to Watch in Fintech Regulation

A friend of mine, Alessandro Hatami, wrote an interesting piece on Sifted that I shared in my news yesterday. He claims that neobanks like Monzo and Starling are not reinventing banking at all. They’re just modifying and improving it. Alessandro then goes on to cite the key things that banking should really focus upon:

See:  Fintech Fridays EP39: The Power of Digitization and How to Get Exponential

There are three things banking customers fundamentally need — and are worth disrupting. Let us try to imagine what ‘transformation’ in these areas could look like in ‘The Ideal Neobank’:

  1. A Payment Account: Imagine a bank that allows you to seamlessly pay anyone, anywhere: be it your babysitter, your favourite retailer or a holiday home abroad. The bank takes care of everything and you can always be sure you will always get the fastest, cheapest, most secure solution possible.
  2. A Credit Line: Instead of an overdraft, personal loan, credit card, car finance or a mortgage you get a credit line. The bank knows you and will advance cash (with guarantees if required) as you need it. You make one payment a month — like a subscription — to pay for it.
  3. A Savings/Protection Tool: You have some excess capital and the bank enables you to buy any product in the market that allows you to protect and grow it. This would not only include savings accounts and investments but also pensions and insurance. And your bank would sell you any such product in the market that meets your needs — whether or not it’s their product or a third party’s.

I agree and disagree with his view. I agree that neobanks are not really disrupting core banking.

For example, the average old bank only updates its mobile apps 14 times a year, if they even have an app, whilst challenger banks update 31 times a year.

See:  Is this the new face of Generation Z banking?

But do releases measure it? Do neobanks even do the right thing? Does Alessandro get it?

I’m not sure. I’ve written a huge amount of words about building a digital bank, but these musings made me go back to the whiteboard and start again. What would I do if I were launching a digital bank today?

For starters, I would ignore everything about banking yesterday. I would not start with payments, credit or savings in mind. I would go back to basics. What is banking for? Banking is for the exchange of value and getting the things you need or want.

Let’s start there.

There’s a difference between need and want. I need a home. I need food. I need to clean my teeth. I need to use the toilet. These are lifestyle things. For me, this is an important start point based upon user experience. People have lifestyle needs that involve money. I need to pay for my food, toothpaste and toilet cleaner. These are regular things that needs a regular bank, and this is what challenger banks seem to serve pretty well. But bear in mind that I’m not using the bank to pay for food, toothpaste and toilet cleaner. I’m doing this because I need to eat, wash and do that thing.

See:  Challenger banks’ app downloads slump by 23.38% amid pandemic

There are then the things I want. I want to have a holiday; I want a car; I want to buy a house; I want some art on the wall; I want to be better off. These are all things that are perfunctory. They are important to me, but not necessary for me. And they are mainly big-ticket items, where I need a loan or some form of credit. It’s a longer-term thing.

In other words, needs are now and wants are tomorrow. They are very different things and can be served in very different ways.

Then add to this the other communities. We talk too much about retail and consumer activities, but what about commercial and investment banking? Well, the same applies imho.

In corporations they have needs and wants – short- and long-term things. In institutional investors, they have needs and wants – short- and long-term things.

The key here is that design should start with what the customer needs and wants. The customer does not need or want payments, savings and investments. The customer needs and wants health, wealth and happiness. The customer needs and wants understanding, support and service. The customer needs and wants focus, advice and confidence.

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NCFA Jan 2018 resize - 5 Trends to Watch in Fintech Regulation The National Crowdfunding & Fintech Association (NCFA Canada) is a financial innovation ecosystem that provides education, market intelligence, industry stewardship, networking and funding opportunities and services to thousands of community members and works closely with industry, government, partners and affiliates to create a vibrant and innovative fintech and funding industry in Canada. Decentralized and distributed, NCFA is engaged with global stakeholders and helps incubate projects and investment in fintech, alternative finance, crowdfunding, peer-to-peer finance, payments, digital assets and tokens, blockchain, cryptocurrency, regtech, and insurtech sectors. Join Canada's Fintech & Funding Community today FREE! Or become a contributing member and get perks. For more information, please visit: www.ncfacanada.org

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As the digital economy grows and the world increasingly moves online, the future of digital identity will deliver new frameworks and infrastructure to support digital commerce, online interactions and social identification in more secure and robust ways than ever thought before. This future is here today where individuals and businesses can establish digital representations of their identities to serve as the gateway to store and protect sensitive data, manage permissions and ultimately enable the future of Convergence Marketplaces.



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Advisory experts back P2P lending sector to become mainstream investment class

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Peer2peer Finance News |

Advisors back Peer to peer lending - 5 Trends to Watch in Fintech RegulationAdvisory experts have backed the peer-to-peer lending sector to become a mainstream investment class after Covid-19.

Mark Turner, managing director, regulatory consulting at Duff & Phelps, said the pandemic presents an opportunity for the sector to prove itself.

“I think there is the opportunity for P2P lending to be seen as a mature, mainstream asset class and especially if it can prove itself through this crisis as a sector that can manage risks effectively and generate good returns for investors, then I think the sector could really come of age,” he said.

Similarly, Frank Wessely, partner at Quantuma, said that the P2P lending sector will be able to demonstrate it is a much more robust and secure asset class once it emerges from this pandemic, as long as there no further platform failures.

See:  European fintech lending industry to hit USD 9.6 billion in 2020

“I think Covid-19 will be doing the industry a favour in terms of allowing it to show it can survive a pandemic of this nature and still provide market beating returns to investors,” he said.

I think because it’s so extreme and unique, the opportunity is there for the sector to show it’s here to stay.

“Market cycles are generally caused by market factors, but Covid-19 is more extreme. It just happens to be a pandemic on this occasion and shows how vulnerable markets are to non-financial threats.

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NCFA Jan 2018 resize - 5 Trends to Watch in Fintech Regulation The National Crowdfunding & Fintech Association (NCFA Canada) is a financial innovation ecosystem that provides education, market intelligence, industry stewardship, networking and funding opportunities and services to thousands of community members and works closely with industry, government, partners and affiliates to create a vibrant and innovative fintech and funding industry in Canada. Decentralized and distributed, NCFA is engaged with global stakeholders and helps incubate projects and investment in fintech, alternative finance, crowdfunding, peer-to-peer finance, payments, digital assets and tokens, blockchain, cryptocurrency, regtech, and insurtech sectors. Join Canada's Fintech & Funding Community today FREE! Or become a contributing member and get perks. For more information, please visit: www.ncfacanada.org

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As the digital economy grows and the world increasingly moves online, the future of digital identity will deliver new frameworks and infrastructure to support digital commerce, online interactions and social identification in more secure and robust ways than ever thought before. This future is here today where individuals and businesses can establish digital representations of their identities to serve as the gateway to store and protect sensitive data, manage permissions and ultimately enable the future of Convergence Marketplaces.



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Open banking would help the recovery

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Financial Post | Adam Felesky | Jun 5, 2020

lonely bay street - 5 Trends to Watch in Fintech RegulationOpinion: Open banking infrastructure and data are helping governments around the world better respond to the crisis

Times of crisis confront societies with challenges — in the current crisis, increased unemployment, strained public finances and severe social hardship. But they can also generate opportunities for improvement through policy innovation.

Many of us who are engaged in the discussions around the future of Canadian banking believe such an opportunity is being missed. The planned second phase of consultations by the federal government’s Advisory Committee on Open Banking, which was to look into the merits of open banking and the related data security risks, has now been postponed.

Before COVID-19, these reforms had yet to catch the imagination of Canadian political leaders in the same way they had in the U.K. and Australia, where regulatory regimes now give consumers much more control over their personal financial data. Canada was already late to the open banking party. Now we are even further behind — though the reasons to act quickly have only become more compelling since the onset of the pandemic.

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In case anyone had still been in doubt, we are now clearly living in a fully digital economy. In just two months, we have seen almost every sector of our economy become more digitized. Canadians were active users of digital banking channels before the pandemic struck but now lockdown and self-isolation are forcing anyone and everyone online. Payments Canada recently reported that 62 per cent of Canadians are using less cash now than they did pre-COVID, while PayPal says its fastest-growing user base is the 50+ demographic.

At the same time, the challenge facing small businesses looking for financing is only worsening. Before the pandemic, banks were only doing a so-so job lending to small businesses. According to the C.D. Howe Institute, Canada lags far behind its OECD peers when it comes to small business loans. We are at or near the back of the pack in both share of total business lending going to small business and small business lending as a percentage of GDP.

Although the federal government and our banks deserve praise for getting critical funding to companies during the pandemic, many small businesses have been left out of relief programs — either because they don’t meet the requirements or because banks are refusing them based on standard pre-pandemic criteria. Part of the reason companies like Amazon and Shopify have gone into small business lending is that they have key data from businesses (such as cash flow and accounts receivables) that allow them to do it really well. Open banking would unlock this data for small business and let them show it to other potential lenders. We can’t wait for the next pandemic to help out the largest group of employers in Canada.

See:  Shopify Balance Brings Banking and Cash Flow to Merchants

Another reason to act now is the pandemic itself. Open banking infrastructure and data are helping governments around the world better respond to the crisis. Apart from the many ways fintechs are helping consumers, small business and charities battle the effects of the pandemic, we are seeing promising signs of governments starting to use open banking data to help inform their pandemic responses. The Global Open Finance Centre of Excellence (GOFCoE) recently launched a program that uses open banking data from fintechs and other organizations to provide the U.K. government with accurate, regularized, near-real-time insights into how the pandemic is affecting the economy. This data will help the government adjust its policies within days instead of weeks.

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NCFA Jan 2018 resize - 5 Trends to Watch in Fintech Regulation The National Crowdfunding & Fintech Association (NCFA Canada) is a financial innovation ecosystem that provides education, market intelligence, industry stewardship, networking and funding opportunities and services to thousands of community members and works closely with industry, government, partners and affiliates to create a vibrant and innovative fintech and funding industry in Canada. Decentralized and distributed, NCFA is engaged with global stakeholders and helps incubate projects and investment in fintech, alternative finance, crowdfunding, peer-to-peer finance, payments, digital assets and tokens, blockchain, cryptocurrency, regtech, and insurtech sectors. Join Canada's Fintech & Funding Community today FREE! Or become a contributing member and get perks. For more information, please visit: www.ncfacanada.org

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As the digital economy grows and the world increasingly moves online, the future of digital identity will deliver new frameworks and infrastructure to support digital commerce, online interactions and social identification in more secure and robust ways than ever thought before. This future is here today where individuals and businesses can establish digital representations of their identities to serve as the gateway to store and protect sensitive data, manage permissions and ultimately enable the future of Convergence Marketplaces.



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Banking Must Take A Stand On Tough Social Issues

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The Financial Brand | Jim Marous | Jun 8, 2020

mike jarvis basketball coach - 5 Trends to Watch in Fintech Regulation

The COVID-19 crisis, combined with the recent incidents involving racial injustice, result in a dual pandemic for minority neighborhoods across the country. Financial institutions must increase their resolve to support racial and gender equality, diversity and inclusion within their organizations and in their communities.

While many financial firms have taken a rather passive position in the past around crises, the COVID-19 pandemic forced banks and credit unions to think more broadly about how they could positively impact the community and their employees. From allocating funds for small businesses, to changing loan terms for consumers, to helping employees cope in a remote working environment, many financial institutions moved to the forefront to reassess their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs.

See:  Women In Fintech Will Play A Crucial Part In The Covid-19 Recovery Plan

Beyond banking-related initiatives, some firms also made donations to health facilities and local governments, while others purchased products such as gowns, masks, sanitizers and ventilators to fight the virus. While there were exceptions, the banking community has done well responding to COVID-19.

Then a second crisis hit.

With the financial community beginning to look at “back to work” scenarios in a post-COVID-19 world, a “social pandemic” took over the public consciousness prompted by the death of George Floyd. Banks and credit unions across the U.S. and beyond were confronted with how to respond to the racial injustice faced by the Black community and whether to align with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Without any rule book or standards to follow, financial institutions were called on again to respond in a way that would support the community outside traditional profit-making norms. For an industry wary of conflict, and with a rather spotty record regarding employee and management diversity, a well-crafted press release or a modest donation was not enough.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Takes Center Stage

There is no debate that banks and credit unions have an important role in the community. Beyond being a place to safely store funds or to get access to credit, financial institutions have a corporate social responsibility to voluntarily contribute to a better society as a whole. This responsibility goes beyond regulated ethics to include moral obligations.

In the past, most organizations positioned their corporate social responsibility in the form of donations to organizations considered beneficial to the communities served. More recently, CSR has also taken the form of internal policies that impact employees and the workplace.

See:  Tech has an ageism problem: 3 things to do if you’re over 40 and want to stay relevant

It is during times of crisis that financial institutions are required to not only join the discussion, but be part of the solution. The importance of financial institutions during these times cannot be overstated. Unfortunately, when it comes to sensitive social issues, many banks and credit unions have often relied on rhetoric or fancy press releases instead of concrete commitment or investment.

In an exclusive interview for the Banking Transformed podcast, Mike Jarvis, legendary college basketball coach stated,

“Institutions should set the tone as it relates to opportunities for minorities and people of color and especially women. In the black community, and in most lower socioeconomic communities, the women are the key because they hold the families together.”

Banking Can’t Remain Silent on Social Issues

Over the past couple weeks, people across the globe have taken to the streets once again to protest against racial injustice after the murder of George Floyd. This has occurred against the backdrop of a global health pandemic that is impacting minority neighborhoods more than other areas.

The question becomes, can the banking industry continue to avoid taking a public stance on sensitive issues like Black Lives Matter despite the potential of polarizing key stakeholders? More importantly, is it time for financial institutions to invest in initiatives that can bring about change?

See:

Now may be the best time to rethink previous CSR strategies. For one thing, consumer values are changing. According to Resonate, two major consumer values are shifting … rapidly:

  • Tolerance (acceptance of those who are different): Increase of 12.7%  in the U.S. adult population in the past year.
  • Equality (the belief that everyone should be treated equally): Increase of 10.1% in the past year.

As of June 2, 52.3% of the U.S. population says that tolerance is an important value in their lives and 53.7% believe that equality is an important value. While females were more likely to favor both equality and tolerance by a slight margin, there was virtually no difference across age categories.

In other words, consumers want change and they prefer organizations that support equality, diversity and inclusion. But remember, people are sensitive to tone-deaf or empty statements, and there’s no shortage of blunt criticisms online.

Bank of America was early to commit significant funds for communities most impacted by COVID-19 and racial inequality. They announced a commitment of $1 billion over the next four years to assist in the areas of healthcare, job training, small business growth and housing.

“Organizations need to build relationships with the people within the community and not wait for a crisis to occur. Ask, ‘What can we do?’, ‘Where can we invest?’, ‘How can leverage our people?’ before crazy things happen,” stated Mike Jarvis.

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NCFA Jan 2018 resize - 5 Trends to Watch in Fintech Regulation The National Crowdfunding & Fintech Association (NCFA Canada) is a financial innovation ecosystem that provides education, market intelligence, industry stewardship, networking and funding opportunities and services to thousands of community members and works closely with industry, government, partners and affiliates to create a vibrant and innovative fintech and funding industry in Canada. Decentralized and distributed, NCFA is engaged with global stakeholders and helps incubate projects and investment in fintech, alternative finance, crowdfunding, peer-to-peer finance, payments, digital assets and tokens, blockchain, cryptocurrency, regtech, and insurtech sectors. Join Canada's Fintech & Funding Community today FREE! Or become a contributing member and get perks. For more information, please visit: www.ncfacanada.org

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As the digital economy grows and the world increasingly moves online, the future of digital identity will deliver new frameworks and infrastructure to support digital commerce, online interactions and social identification in more secure and robust ways than ever thought before. This future is here today where individuals and businesses can establish digital representations of their identities to serve as the gateway to store and protect sensitive data, manage permissions and ultimately enable the future of Convergence Marketplaces.



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How to Improve Your Hiring Process

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Guest Post | Jun 5, 2020

hiring the right person 1 - 5 Trends to Watch in Fintech Regulation

If you are the owner of a company, hiring staff is an inevitable task you will have to go through no matter what. This process, however, is much more than just going through some resumes and carrying out interviews. It is the starting point for the workforce on whom the future of your company will depend. The workforce of an organization can make or break it and this all depends on the owner for hiring that workforce. If you are finding it difficult it is a good idea to visit a hiring website such as Lensa and refer to their tips for employers.

There are a few steps you can take that will ensure you encourage the right kind of applicants to submit their resumes:

Build a Strong Brand

This refers to building a name for your company by way of brand recognition, replying to reviews, keeping the company’s profile up to date, and being an overall active and involved employer. Building a strong employer brand reduces employee turnover by about 30 percent and encourages individuals to apply in your company and want to stay part of your task force.

Move Quickly and Efficiently

Good job candidates don’t stay available for long as they apply efficiently to a number of companies that are willing to hire them for competitive salary packages. A good employer has to be able to identify these employees and work quickly to hire them before they get snatched by another organization. It is a good idea to keep in touch with them during the hiring process even if you are still debating about hiring them to ensure you stay in their vision and stay available to them as an option during the time you make a decision about them.

List Jobs Accompanied With Good Job Descriptions

Companies often list job descriptions with a list of job responsibilities the applicants will have to carry out once they are hired. However, studies have shown this method deters many candidates from applying for the position.

See:  Helping your Employees Manage their Most Sacred Commodity: Time

Companies are advised to use one of two methods for listing a job one which mentions the benefits the company can provide its employees and the other highlighting the expectations of the company from its employees. These methods encourage the candidates to submit their applications and apply to the job posting.

Find the Right Person for The Job

Most employers while conducting interviews focus on the skill set an individual possesses rather than the personality of the individual and the traits they will be bringing to your company. However, they fail to realize, a skill can be learned but personalities cannot be changed. If the most skilled worker has a personality that can set back your company’s morale they are not a good employee for your company.

Keep Up To Date With Your Reviews

Last but definitely not the least important of steps is to keep an out for employee reviews and employee satisfaction. New employees looking to get hired will often want to get inside information about the treatment they will be receiving once employed by you. therefore, make sure you are taking good care of your current employees so they spread positive reviews instead of negative ones which will deter many possible candidates from applying to your company.

 


NCFA Jan 2018 resize - 5 Trends to Watch in Fintech Regulation The National Crowdfunding & Fintech Association (NCFA Canada) is a financial innovation ecosystem that provides education, market intelligence, industry stewardship, networking and funding opportunities and services to thousands of community members and works closely with industry, government, partners and affiliates to create a vibrant and innovative fintech and funding industry in Canada. Decentralized and distributed, NCFA is engaged with global stakeholders and helps incubate projects and investment in fintech, alternative finance, crowdfunding, peer-to-peer finance, payments, digital assets and tokens, blockchain, cryptocurrency, regtech, and insurtech sectors. Join Canada's Fintech & Funding Community today FREE! Or become a contributing member and get perks. For more information, please visit: www.ncfacanada.org

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As the digital economy grows and the world increasingly moves online, the future of digital identity will deliver new frameworks and infrastructure to support digital commerce, online interactions and social identification in more secure and robust ways than ever thought before. This future is here today where individuals and businesses can establish digital representations of their identities to serve as the gateway to store and protect sensitive data, manage permissions and ultimately enable the future of Convergence Marketplaces.



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BankThink Don’t underestimate the power of branches post-pandemic

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American Banker | Dave Martin | Jun 4, 2020

bank branches - 5 Trends to Watch in Fintech RegulationI often find myself on the opposing side when I hear “this changes everything” after any technology advances or new digital banking functions are rolled out.

Of course, change is occurring in the banking industry. It has been evolving for decades and continues to do so today. The pace may even be picking up.

The recent implementation of coronavirus pandemic protocols and a seismic economic disturbance has yet again generated predictions of sweeping shifts in bank operations. However, the sea change some frequently forecast almost never happens as quickly as predicted.

Many have forecasted for decades that the end of the bank branch is nigh. This chatter has increased as banks temporarily closed branches amid the coronavirus pandemic. That’s understandable.

If so many banks have been able to function and serve their customers with such restricted branch access, many wonder if this truly is the new normal.

Maybe this time will finally be the tipping point.

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However, I would not consider the customer patterns or behavior these past three months as a signal that they are abandoning branches.

There is a difference between what someone is forced to do when options are taken away, and what a person chooses to do while other options remain.

A former banking executive, now consultant, recently suggested to me that many bank drive-up windows were packed with cars because customers are afraid of human contact inside the lobby.

I politely suggested that the lobbies of those branches had very restricted access at that time, and some were closed altogether.

Perhaps, for every person queued in a car, there was likely another who would have preferred to walk into the branch, if given that option. Some observers are predicting that the human desire for personal, face-to-face interaction will change. I would bet otherwise.

This week, I spoke with a community banker from an area that has already lifted most stay-at-home orders. During their lockdown, digital and phone banking usage skyrocketed, to no surprise.

Their branches have now resumed normal hours with full staff. While social distancing is encouraged and hand sanitizer is provided at branches, no customer or employee is being required to wear a mask. It’s optional.

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The bank’s lobby traffic returned to around 75% of normal volume within a week and that number is expected to rise in subsequent weeks. Customers are thanking branch bankers and telling them how much they appreciate seeing them again.

Will this be the normal with banks as states gradually reopen? We’ll soon find out. It’s possible this will be the normal in more areas than some pundits are predicting.

Still, this unprecedented disruption will have long-term impact.

Irrespective of the speed or level to which customers return to pre-pandemic banking behaviors, bankers are realizing they can go on the offense in many markets with the facilities and staff they have now. They can expand their outreach without adding to their branch footprint.

As many banks were forced to fully engage in providing and promoting remote banking services, they have awakened to the fact that the viable service area of their existing branches is greater than it has ever been.

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