Companies in the financial sector already make great use of digital technology to run their operations and support their clients. But when Covid-19 locked down Wales in March 2020, many businesses needed to make the switch from office-based working to remote working in order to survive.
The finance sector showed grit and resilience throughout Covid-19. But while KPMG suggests that financial services firms have "weathered the storm", they must now build the capabilities to thrive in a post-Covid world. Employee wellbeing is obviously key going forward, but KPMG also highlights other key priorities financial services firms should tackle. These include: reconnecting with customers; improving risk management; and accelerating their digital transformation.
Successive lockdowns have pushed digital transformation onto companies that might have otherwise been slow to change. Those that have changed are arguably better, smarter and more agile for doing so. For those that haven’t, Superfast Business Wales is on hand to smooth the path to digitalisation, offering a programme of free help and actionable advice, plus tailored one-to-one support.
The one-to-one help we provide has proved invaluable for many financial businesses in Wales. The Smart Money Cymru Credit Union, for example, provides affordable financial services to thousands of customers in Caerphilly, Blaenau Gwent and Newport.
When social restrictions began impacting local jobs in 2020, Smart Money Cymru started offering ‘lockdown loans’ to ease their customers’ money worries. It also turned to an automated credit evaluation platform, which halved the time it took to assess loan applications, while also reducing paperwork.
Having started a digital overhaul of the business before the pandemic struck, Smart Money Cymru contacted Superfast Business Wales for a review of the steps it had taken. With remote working a necessity, it invested in new laptops, enabling staff to host meetings over video, increasing productivity by 50%. This in turn has allowed the management team to focus on further improvements. The introduction of VOIP (Voice Over IP) linked to the CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system enabled personal details to automatically appear during a call, benefiting both staff and customers.
As the company’s Vice Chair Geraint Jones explains: “It was a huge advantage to get impartial advice from our Digital Business Adviser, Cath Padfield. Our one-to-one highlighted new areas where we could improve processes, plus it gave us the confidence to press on with the bits we’d already marked for changes… Using digital to work differently has shown us a better way of managing our staff and the business.”
“I found out so much more about what I could do with technology from Pete Mackenzie, my Superfast Business Wales adviser” - Mark Williams, Choice Bookkeeping
Choice Bookkeeping had already switched from a paper-based business model to an entirely digital one before Covid-19 struck and this shift in focus enabled the South Wales accountancy firm to continue when much of the country was locked down.
Company Director Mark Williams initially turned to Superfast Business Wales for social media advice, but ended up doing so much more. The introduction of bespoke accountancy CRM management software, Office 365, plus Skype and VoIP calling gave Mark a firm footing to survive the pandemic. But perhaps his biggest success has been launching the Choice Bookkeeping app.
“The app has proved really popular with businesses,” he says, “especially the receipt bank and mileage tracker as they’re so useful and easy to use. I wanted to expand fast and digital has allowed me to do that. It helps me provide a much better service, and means I have the capacity to service more clients.”
Remote working during the pandemic has necessitated the adoption of cloud-based systems that are available wherever people are located, minimising business disruption. And there’s no going back. According to a report by the BBC: “Almost all of 50 of the UK's biggest employers… have said they do not plan to bring staff back to the office full-time. Some 43 of the firms said they would embrace a mix of home and office working, with staff encouraged to work from home two to three days a week.”
In Wales, "Covid-19 has had a deep impact on all sectors of society and all businesses,” says Giles Thorley, Chief Executive of the Development Bank of Wales. But there are many reasons for optimism. “What we have seen is that Welsh businesses and entrepreneurs are resilient,” Thorley says. “Many finding ways to work through the pandemic, others totally changing their business or starting something entirely fresh."
Going digital is key to this change and accessing the wide range of support from Superfast Business Wales can smooth the transition. Start by registering your business and choose a workshop - we have webinars on everything from social media and digital marketing to help with e-commerce and the delivery of virtual services. Whatever you choose, a follow-up meeting with a Digital Business Adviser will allow you to discuss the specific needs and goals for your business.
Getting help with digital transformation has never been so important. Covid-19 has accelerated digital transformation in Wales, forcing companies to switch their businesses to operate online whether they were ready to or not. It’s why small and medium-sized companies like yours are rethinking how they do business and how they can be 'digital first' to operate with more resilience should anything happen again.