Where do we go from here?

With all the craziness going on in the world this year, from COVID, food supply chain stress, climate change and forest fires, the turmoil in Afghanistan only seemed to add to the general sense of anxiety many of us have been feeling.

By comparison, the familiar world of Credit, Collections and Receivables management, while not exactly cuddly, has felt safe and predictable at least. In many ways, we have been fortunate.

Managing change

This being said even here, we have seen some dramatic changes over the last year, enabling remote working, creating digital portals, new forbearance processes and strategies. Indeed many people stepped up, and the work has been hard (or people have worked hard to find work), but in the end hopefully rewarding.

Now it is feeling like much of the upheaval is stabilising, even the industry news seems quieter now. So, has the rate of new change slowed? are we in an island of stability?.. it is certainly starting to feel more like BAU.

Taking a break

Maybe all of this is just because it is the summer. Frankly, many of us needed a holiday and a change of scene… and, judging by just how busy the beach was in North Yorkshire last week, many of us did (it was lovely by the way!).

Whilst change can sometimes be stressful, it can also on the other hand be exciting and exhilarating. By suddenly taking this away, by comparison, what is left can feel dull and malaise can set in. It is a danger we need to guard against.

Reinvigorate, reinvent

Back at the office most of us really do not want to live in a permanent crisis mode day after day. However, a little bit of positive change does also keep things interesting.

Obviously, things still need to be done, the day-to-day business still needs to be run, but here are a few ideas to make the most of the lull… before the next storm!

  • Get some rest, use your vacation allowance. It is hard to pick up speed if you are still tired.
  • Operationalise those projects. All the hastilly implemented projects from the last year, now need stablising and converting to BAU. Use the time to tidy processes, to be ready for any future change
  • Implement those system changes. Work with your vendors to dovetail functionality with existing systems, learn the product and how to use all the new functionality available to you now
  • Spend time with your team(s). People time is important time, new insights, new ideas and fresh perspectives. Work on their development (and your own), so skills are strong in the future
  • Plan and scan. Think about whats ahead. How can processes be made better? What is a good customer journey? Are we resilient for future change? What are the latest developments on the horizon? What capabilities do we need now?
  • Make some decisions. Lastly, there may be time to make considered decisions on issues, lining up a few complex questions, that may have been put off for a while could be beneficial.

The world has not changed… that much

Despite how it may or may not feel, the world has not changed that much. Thought processes, how to prioritize and get things done are all still the same, just some parameters changed.

So, on coming back from vacation, now could be a good time to take a step back. A step back in order to be able to move forward with a new sense of momentum for the rest of the year.

Have a good weekend everyone…

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Navigating data chaos

Being Friday, once again everyone seems to be on the road. It’s traffic chaos.

“Is it worse as a result of us all working remotely?”, I wonder. “Can we now all getaway earlier for the weekend?”, “Are we all driving due to reduced overseas holidays?”

It is interesting how (at the time) seemingly unrelated things cascade through to unexpected impacts elsewhere…. of course, much of this is true at work too.

A return to reporting

This week I have been back in the mix on KPIs and reporting.

The level and detail of data we have available these days is just amazing. Slice and dice, mix and match, it seems you can find what you need and (with a good process) drill down to a granular level. Increasingly data is becoming less of the problem.

However, with this explosion of data has come other challenges.

With so much data, and now so many more places to find answers, time is at a premium. (unfortunately, our time available in the day has not changed!)

And, with our distracted nature these days, with computer and social media notifications, finding answers quickly does not seem any easier.

Back to basics

Of course, we don’t always have to re-invent the wheel, often taking a step back and focusing on the basics can help.

  • What are the 5-10 key measures that I need to focus on to run my business?
  • How many of these are measurable, and if not can I get something close?
  • Trend and look for movements. It removes systematic errors and helps you gain insight on linkages.
  • Be consistent and measure regularly overtime… stay focused

Don’t get lost

All of this is not to say that there is not huge value from data warehouses, data lakes, BI systems, and statistical models, there absolutely is.

However, rushing to dive into all this sophistication without knowing where you are going (or having a guide I suppose) is a recipe to easily get lost…

Workwise, we seem to be in somewhat of a lull still. I have no doubt the economy, and arrears levels will change at some point.

This is of course when the value of KPIs and data becomes critical. Be lost is somewhere where none of us will want to be.

However with time and focus now, we can all get the clarity we need to be ready! A journey starts with a single step and even taking a step back first can help too.

Have a good weekend everyone.

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Short term – Long term balance

Two companies, somehow, seemed intrinsically linked this last week for some reason. Tesco Bank and Monzo.

Tesco Bank was in the headlines, announcing they would be closing all current accounts, news quickly following on the heels of the sale of its mortgage book last year. Without overdrafts, it would seem that current accounts struggle to make money and they are no doubt focused on greater returns elsewhere.

Monzo bank was also in the news. Initially, this was with the announcement of an FCA investigation into compliance with money laundering rules, but quickly followed by a financial announcement of nearly £115m pre-tax loss for the year. All of this whilst picking up subscribers (no doubt from the likes of Tesco above too).

And, then strangely there was a story where Tesco seemed to be double charging some Monzo cardholders twice in store. Just a bizarre coincidence.

Business Returns – Business Strategy

All of this talk of ever-changing business strategy got me thinking about where we should draw the line between short-term income vs longer-term returns.

In this case, Tesco Bank has seems to have taken the financial view, that each product must make a return in income, any that don’t are exited so funds can search for higher returns elsewhere.

Monzo, up until now, has taken a different view. The current account is a central customer touch point, the key to an embedded customer relationship. It can also be lead into other products with higher returns (which Revolut and increasingly Starling Bank have demonstrated).

This balance between short term vs long term is never easy and applies in other areas too.

  • Do I invest in future technology and systems capability now, or wait for a positive business case and proven savings to be locked in?
  • Do I invest in employees’ future capability, training them on what they may need, but are interested in, or limit this to courses where there is a proven business need and return?

Different hats

The finance accountant in me says the latter, “be conservative make sure there is a return”.
The business developer in me says, “go ahead build the capability you need, if you don’t have the capability when you need it you will be late to the party and miss out”

However, the risk manager in me probably has it right…”to get higher returns, you need to take some risk. Take a risk, just make sure it is a calculated one”

In this world we are now, sitting back and being conservative unless you have too, is probably not the right approach. We are in times of significant change, and taking calculated risks to invest is going to be even more important to be able to move quickly and generate the returns you need… just make sure you have some expertise on hand to help 🙂

Have a good weekend everyone.

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