Monday, June 25, 2012

Banking Innovation: What's the Same, What's Different, In the Developed and Developing World

If there wasn't enough focus on it already, the financial crisis has taken innovation to the top of most banks' agendas. In mature as well as emerging markets, banking institutions are differentiating their value proposition from that of their competitors by innovating upon their offerings, benefiting both customers and the organization in the process.

The pursuit of globalization and global standardization by banks has meant that innovations that originate in a particular region make their way quickly across the world, so that banking customers everywhere enjoy a similar, if not the same, usage experience.

That being said, there are many differences in the way that banks from the developed and developing worlds innovate, arising from other fundamental differences in their respective markets. The nature of these factors and their causative impact on innovation differentiation is discussed below:

Market Maturity

A research report presented by The Asian Banker and Finacle from Infosys on the innovation trends and practices in Asia made an interesting observation about how banks go through successive stages of innovation - from Product to Sales to Market Share to Customer Service Innovation - depending on market maturity. Therefore, while banks in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and rural China and India, which have large unbanked segments focus on introducing basic products, their counterparts in the competitive Australian, Singapore and Hong Kong Markets are more intent on defending their market share by providing accessibility, convenience and cheaper distribution.

Customer Universe

Given the high penetration of banking services amongst developed nations, a bank operating in those markets can only grow its market share at the cost of another. On the other hand, developing countries house the majority of the 2 billion-strong global unbanked population and hence have more room for growth and relatively less aggressive competition. Here, banks can grow along with the market by bringing those without financial access into the net of basic banking services.

Although financial inclusion is a much larger priority - and opportunity for innovation - in emerging economies, it does not mean that it has no place in mature markets. In fact, the U.S. alone was estimated to have over 70 million unbanked/underbanked people in 2009. However, the nature of the problem is quite different there. Financial exclusion in the developing world is essentially on account of poor branch penetration in rural or remote areas, whereas in developed countries it is quite often, a voluntary decision or the result of inability to meet KYC norms - the Hispanic immigrants living in the United States are a classic example of this phenomenon, choosing to rely on informal networks or carriers rather than on a bank to send money home.

High Net Worth Segment

In every banking market around the world, High Net Worth Individuals (HNWI) are top-drawer. Because the financial elite come in small stable numbers, (even in 2020, the U.S., which has the most HNWI, will have less than 21 million millionaire households) acquiring such customers in both developing and developed markets is usually a matter of poaching them from rival banks. Also, since the ultra-rich are the same everywhere, having similar needs, wealth managers and private bankers in both the developed and developing world follow a largely similar approach while serving these customers. A key difference however, is that the HNWI segment is growing faster in emerging markets thanks to their rising prosperity as a result of which their mass affluent are turning rich and the already rich are turning richer quicker than their mature market counterparts. This is creating more opportunities for innovation in emerging nations.

Telecom and Payments Infrastructure

The well-established telecommunications and payments infrastructure of the developed world facilitates banking transactions over multiple channels, such as the phone, ATM, POS terminal, Internet and mobile, and payments through several additional modes including cards, giros and third party payment gateways like PayPal. Unfortunately, such facilities are either missing or very poorly developed in developing countries - infrastructure for financial transactions is still in its infancy and only a limited number of payment options exist.

However, with mobile networks penetrating remote corners of the developing world that still lack basic channels of banking and communication, the mobile phone is emerging as a viable mode of payment and financial transaction. Banking innovation in many emerging economies is focusing on mobile phone-based services, albeit of a basic variety. On the other hand, in the sophisticated mobile markets of the developed world, it's the Smartphones and tablets that are taking banking innovation towards augmented reality, location-based services, contactless payments etc.

The most interesting contrast though, is that while the infrastructure of developed countries has enabled high-end innovation, it has mostly brought incremental change, whereas in the developing world, the absence of infrastructure has forced industry players to look for breakthrough, at times disruptive, solutions. The development and success of M-PESA, a mobile phone-based money transfer service in Kenya is a perfect example of the latter.

Customer Need

In many emerging economies, a sizeable majority of people are first or second generation banking customers and therefore, relatively new to such services. Therefore, the product and service expectations of these customers are quite different - and dare we say, less evolved - than those of mature market customers, which has a strong bearing on innovation.

Branch banking is a classic example of this difference. Bank branches located in emerging markets are mainly concerned with processing a large number of small-ticket transactions as efficiently as possible. They are interested in innovations that cut cost, improve productivity or ramp up scale at the branch. In contrast, branch banking is on the decline in mature markets, where customers use electronic channels to conduct routine transactions. In these markets, branches are focused on delivering financial advice and high-end services; therefore, their innovation priorities revolve around improving customer experience within the branch.

Legacy Burden

In a 2010 survey of banks in Europe, Middle East and Africa presented jointly by the European Financial Marketing Association and Finacle from Infosys, nearly two out of three respondents from the mature markets of West Europe said that inflexible legacy systems posed a barrier to innovation. Indeed, this is symptomatic of the banking industries of most developed nations, which are struggling to implement new ideas, hindered by their burden of legacy. For instance, in the U.S., the legacy infrastructure supporting card transactions is so widespread that replacing it in order to switch to new robust EMV card technology is both prohibitively expensive and extremely difficult to implement. On the other hand, adopting new technology is much simpler in the developing world, which is unhindered by legacy issues. Not only that, freedom from legacy has also allowed banks in developing countries to come up with unique products that were unheard of in the rest of the world.

Cost of Innovation

It is found that the cost of implementing a completely new system in the developing world is lower than that in the developed one. Often, the developed world has heavy investments in an existing technology and an inventory of infrastructure on which the return is yet to be fully realised. The developing world has no such legacy investment in infrastructure to worry about, and hence innovations are comparatively cost effective.

The tables are turned in the case of incremental innovation, which typically works around existing infrastructure or investments - available in the developed world, but not in the developing. Therefore, in order to adopt or innovate upon something that isn't totally new, the developing world may first need to make sizeable investment in basic infrastructure.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Finding The Best Business Insurance

Just like any other property, businesses need to be insured. This ensures that you will get compensated in case of any unprecedented loss that might occur. The cost for that varies from one company to the next. That is why it is important to know how to get the best business insurance at the most affordable price possible.

To do this you need to first know the features of ideal business coverage. It should comprise of general liability, property and workers compensation insurance. Those are just the basics. There are other covers, but the ones mentioned above are the most important.

General liability cover usually handles any legitimate or fraudulent claims made against your company for things such as bodily injury to non-employees, malicious prosecution performed by the company, personal injury through false imprisonment, damage of property and advertising injury. It not only covers the damages against you but also the legal fees involved.

Property coverage caters for loss of physical possessions due to accidents, theft or fire. It enables you to replace office equipment and furniture, inventory, supplies and in some cases the building itself. This is done by replacing the value of items that have been lost or their value of depreciation in cash form. It is up to you to decide, depending on the capital you have.

When you take the depreciated cash value insurance, you will be able to save money by paying lower premiums. However, in the event of a great loss you will be on the losing end. This is because some of the items that have been lost might not be available at the depreciated cost, and you might have to use your money to cover the deficit, in order to replace them. So, it is better to go for the replacement cost coverage.

The workers compensation cover, gives cash rewards to employees who get disabled or injured due to work related activities. This coverage is usually required for every company. In some cases it is even required by the law that every business acquires it.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Who Can't Get a Payday Loan?

Though payday loans are generally considered the easiest way to get a loan and the fastest for that matter, not all people who apply for a payday loan gets approved. The following are some of the basic reasons that people get denied when applying for these types of loans:

Most of the people who get disapproved when applying are those that don't meet or earn the minimum income required, or ones that don't have a regular job. Even the most considerate and flexible payday lenders can't afford to loan money to someone who grosses less than the minimum wage.

Getting a payday loan is more difficult to get for someone who's self employed. Most lenders don't usually accept self employed applicants for security purposes. Lenders who do usually require bank statements of previous months to verify stability of income.

Most payday lenders universally require applicants to have a bank account. Payday loans typically are due to be repaid on or the next payday. And usually, money will be deducted from your bank account as agreed. Having no bank account makes it harder for lenders to accept payment though.

As suggested with the term "payday loan", you must have an income or payday to qualify. Even a healthy savings account will not get you approved if you have no income. But come to think of it, why would you get a loan if you have a good amount of savings right?

What's always a red flag for payday lenders is having an outstanding loan with other lenders. Someone with several outstanding loans is viewed as a serious risk for returned checks and defaults. Most lenders use verification services to identify applicants having multiple outstanding cash advances, and to confirm the banking information provided. If you ever have a bad record with previous payday lenders, this information will decrease your chances of getting your loans approved.

Bankruptcy (especially in the last year or two) will also make it more difficult for an applicant to get a payday loan. Though the provided information given to the lender is not a credit report, a recent bankruptcy will be revealed. Until you fix your name along with the bankruptcy reflected on your record, you will be considered financially unstable and thus ineligible to get a payday loan from lenders.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Money Saving Ideas For Everyday Budgets

Planning ahead to save money is the best beginning to a more secure financial future. How that looks in reality can be pretty confusing. Take the time to think about where you can cut costs and where would be the best place for that extra money. You would be surprised at how easy a few dollars here and there can add up to major savings.

Do you make your own lunches and bring them to work? Do you have a travel coffee mug that you fill each day from home? Making small changes like these will save a bundle each day. Lunch and a coffee even a few times a week can add up. Even if you only spent about $2o each week, and that is only a few stops during the work week, you could save $1040 each year. If you think about how fast it is to spend $20 each week on things you really didn't need to purchase.

When you go to the grocery store, do you bring a list of items you need for the week? Have you somewhat planned out the meals around the busy day to day schedules for you and your family? Did you eat before you hit the grocery store? It is pretty much guaranteed that if you go to the grocery store without a list and/or on an empty stomach, you will be buying things that do not fit into your budget. Using coupons and working the competitive sales between grocery chains will also get you to save more. Spending extra adds up quickly, especially when most families make more than one run to the grocery store each week. Once again, if you saved $20 each week, you would be saving another $1040 each year.

Just with these two changes, there is all ready at least $2000 that you could save. If you look closely at how much you actually overspend on just food items alone, that money could serve a more useful purpose in a savings account, paying down debt, or investing in a retirement fund.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Personal Financial Improvements

Tips For Getting Your Personal Finances In Order

Learning that you have a lot of unpaid debt can be a frightening situation for anyone, especially if it seems like you have no way to pay it back. Read this article for some tips on how to manage your personal finances so you can avoid these problems in the future.

In order to improve your personal finances, it is helpful to keep track of your spending. One way that you can do this is to only make purchases using a debit or bank card. If you use cash, it is more difficult to track using budgeting software, whereas purchases made with bank cards can be tracked easily and help you to identify trends in your spending.

Save as much money as you can every month. Having a solid amount of savings on hand is very useful in case of any emergencies. It will enable you to avoid taking out loans or suffering great losses, like your car, simply because you could not afford what you needed at that time.

If you are plagued with credit accounts that have been turned over to collection agencies, you can save money by negotiating a smaller settlement to pay them off. Many collection agencies would rather get something for the account, than paying the high cost of attorneys and court fees trying to collect their money.

Set aside a small amount of money from each paycheck to use however you would like. For example, you might decide to go bowling with friends or treat your child to a frozen yogurt. Do not spend more than the predetermined amount; this method allows you to have a little freedom while still keeping your spending under control.

If you get a pretty sizable tax return, do not think of it as "extra" money. You should look at it as money that can be used for investing. Since it is money that you would not have had otherwise, you can use it to take a few financial risks.

Work on saving money on clothing by, going minimalist. Buy pieces in solid colors. Make sure that each piece is interchangeable, with others in your wardrobe. Use patterned scarves, interesting belts, and decorative jewelry, to add spice to your outfits. Stay with basics, and only buy a few trendy pieces each season, to keep your wardrobe updated.

A great personal finance tip is to be conscious of how much water you're using each month. A lot of folks take water for granted on a daily basis and often forget how much running that water will cost at the end of the month. Keeping water intake down can save a lot of money.

Avoid buying junk food. These foods can be expensive, and even if they're not, the cost of them can really add up. If you cut out buying a lot of junk food, not only will you save money, but it'll be healthier for you. It's a win-win situation for you, and your family.