The Hottest Perk of the Pandemic? Financial Wellness Tools

In the midst of the Great Resignation, with employers scrambling for ways to hang on to experienced staff, financial wellness programs might be an attractive addition to the benefits bag.

That was a key finding from PwC’s annual Employee Financial Wellness Survey, which was conducted in January 2021 and released in April. Among those polled, 72 percent of workers who reported facing increased financial setbacks during the pandemic said they would be more attracted to another company that cared more about financial well-being than their current employer. About 57 percent of workers who hadn’t yet faced increased financial stress said the same thing.

Financial stress doesn’t just affect worker retention; it also has an impact on productivity. PwC’s survey showed that 45 percent of workers experiencing financial setbacks have been distracted at work by their money problems. The menu of financial wellness tools employers might elect include educational tools for personal finances, one-on-one financial coaching, and even access to rainy day funds.

It’s a growing business sector, too. HoneyBee, a B2B financial wellness startup, recently closed a round of funding with $5.7 million in equity, TechCrunch reported. The financial technology company grew 225 percent during the pandemic and saw a 175 percent increase in usage for its on-demand financial therapy tools. Origin also recently announced that it raised $56 million in its Series B funding round, which it will use for customer expansion, as it saw increased demand for financial planning services during the pandemic, Business Wire notes.

Although one in five workers waits until they experience a financial setback to seek guidance, when they are offered continual support, employees are more likely to be proactive with their finances. According to the PwC survey, 88 percent of workers who are provided financial wellness services by their employers take advantage of them.

By Rebecca Deczynski, Staff reporter, Inc.@rebecca_decz

Source: The Hottest Perk of the Pandemic? Financial Wellness Tools | Inc.com

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Critics:

Making money is definitely the cornerstone of financial wellness and increasing your income can help you obtain your goals. You do not need to be a millionaire, but it’s important to obtain some level of income stability. Being financially well starts with having a reliable income and knowing at a consistent time, you will expect to be paid a certain amount. Steady and reliable income is one of the cornerstones of financial wellness.

Even if you don’t like budgeting or planning, it’s good to set goals for yourself. You are more likely to stick with it when you have goals to reach and can see progress. By creating a plan, you are visualizing the what, why, and how you will get there. If you don’t already have a household budget, grab your most recent bank statement and look at the total amount of money you have coming into your household each month. Then, factor in fixed, required expenses – things like rent or mortgage payments, utilities, insurance, and more.

f you do not have an emergency fund, now is the time to start building it. The goal of an emergency fund is to have available funds for when you are dealing with unemployment or you have an unforeseen cost. You won’t stress about the money because you have a nice cash reserve that you can access quickly. Finance experts often say that you should have at least three to six months’ worth of expenses in your emergency fund. If you have nothing in savings, putting away just $25, $50, or $100 a month is an amazing start. Ultimately, it’s what you feel comfortable with. You can also consider putting it in a high savings investment such as CIT Bank’s Savings Builder, which helps put your savings to work with very little risk.

Once you get a handle on your finances, you can start to map out life events and large purchases, so you can begin saving! Planning ahead is always helpful, and once you get a handle on your current financial plan, set some goals for what comes next. By building a plan, you have a road map to help guide you through the rest of your story. Putting even a small amount into savings on a consistent basis is one of the best ways to get your savings to grow so you can meet your goals, small or large. Set your own personal savings rule to live by and make a plan on how to achieve it. Prepare for life events and large purchases by planning ahead.

Your credit score is another critical part of your financial health. Things like late payments, too much debt or high balances negatively affect your credit score. Keep watch over your credit report and credit score with a free credit report from places like Credit Karma. A higher credit score tells banks and lenders that you’re a reliable and less risky borrower. 

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How To Think Though Hard Financial Choices And Make Better Money Decisions

https://i0.wp.com/onlinemarketingscoops.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/shutterstock_710867164-648x364-c-default.jpg?resize=840%2C472&ssl=1

When you first learn to manage your money, you will likely feel like you are drowning in a sea of strict rules to follow: Pay off your debt, create a budget, live within your means, save more, start investing… the list goes on.

The nice thing about being in this stage, however, is that it’s pretty easy to find objectively correct answers to the questions you likely have at this point.

There’s one specific answer if you ask “what is a Roth IRA and what are the income limits if I want to contribute.” There’s a systematic way to figure out the answers to questions like, “how can I save up X amount of dollars in Y amount of time?”

But eventually, you will find an inflection point. It lies just beyond basic financial stability; it’s everything that comes after you develop sufficient financial resources.

At this point, you’ll face a new challenge: feeling confident about your decisions when you have multiple choices you could make with your money, and none of them are objectively better than another.

The Challenges Of Managing Your Money (Once You Have More To Manage)

Before you reach a certain level of income, you don’t really have a lot of agency over how you use your money; it has to go to bills, expenses, basic needs and savings. You don’t have a lot of options.

But at some point, your personal finances can no longer be managed on a spreadsheet alone. You’ll begin to have more freedom and flexibility, and therefore more choice.

When there are multiple avenues you can afford to take, determining which of your multiple choices starts getting hard to do.

One way to make a hard decision is to evaluate the objective facts around the options. This is where numbers do matter and can sometimes point us to very clear answers (like if you’re wondering if you should pay off debt faster or invest more; the answer could be easy to determine just by looking at the interest rate of your debt versus your expected investment return).

Financial choices can start feeling hard — or even impossible — once there is no objective measure of which option is better or worse. If the numbers tell you that either option can work for you, you can’t rely solely on that objective measurement to determine the best course of action.

It’s at this point where the conversation has to shift to subjective values.

The Role Of Your Values, Priorities, And Preferences In Financial Planning

In her TED Talk, Philosopher Ruth Chang says this is what truly makes a hard decision: when we have two options, we seek ways to compare them and make a judgement about which is better.

Comparing options is easy to do when you can quantify the options with real numbers, because you have clear outcomes: one option will be greater than, lesser than, or equal to the other.

But not all choices — even when they are financial choices or decisions about what to do with your money — can be quantified.

As Chang says, “the world of value is different from the world of science. The stuff of the one world can be quantified by real numbers. The stuff of the other world can’t.”

It might seem strange to say there are aspects of your finances that can’t be quantified by real numbers — but that’s exactly what happens when you get to a point where your income sufficiently covers your needs, many of your wants, and you still have money left over each month.

You then get to choose what to do with the money you have available.

Chang again explains that this is exactly what makes a decision hard: you have a number of alternatives that are not greater than, lesser than, or equal to each other.

There’s no set answer for the things you “should” do, or “ought” to do. That’s open-ended. The only real answer is what you decide is important to you, and of the highest value.

How You Can Improve The Quality Of Your Financial Decisions

In her TED Talk, Chang provides some advice for making better decisions when we face two options that, objectively, are pretty equal to each other and therefore there is no clear-cut “best” choice:

“When we face hard choices, we shouldn’t beat our head against a wall trying to figure out which alternative is better. There is no best alternative. Instead of looking for reasons out there, we should be looking for reasons in here: Who am I to be?”

Put another way, you can find the right answer to a hard choice if you consider which option best aligns with the person you want to be, or the values you want to live by.

That, at least, is the very philosophical answer to dealing with hard choices, which might not feel practice enough (especially when this is your money we’re talking about).

Using our values and ideal life vision to make financial decisions does not mean we should just completely throw all the numbers out the window and stop caring about financial facts.

We still need to consider your balance sheet, investment strategy, net worth, and a million other technical aspects that go into making a sound financial plan.

We need to look at the convergence of what we can quantify, like the numbers, and what we can’t, like your values and vision for your life.

This is how you can start making much higher-quality financial decisions: when you build a strategy that accounts for your financial reality and reasonable future assumptions and then factor your values, goals, and priorities into that framework.

That allows you to stay grounded in what the numbers are telling you… but it also points to the secret to making final decisions that bring you the most happiness and fulfillment.

Once you understand the objective landscape of your financial life and identify the choices you have available to you, the “best” course of action for you is the one that most closely reflects the person you want to be.

Eric Roberge is a CFP® and the founder of Beyond Your Hammock, a fee-only financial planning firm based in Boston. His goal is to help motivated professionals in their

Source: How To Think Though Hard Financial Choices And Make Better Money Decisions

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References

“The Future of Jobs Report 2018” (PDF).

How to Diversify Your Portfolio: Strategies and Benefits

There’s a reason manufacturers make different product lines, and stores carry a range of goods: It protects their profits. If one item suffers a seasonal decrease in demand or is an outright flop, they may still be ok if the majority of the other items do well.

It’s a business strategy called diversification. And just as diversification is important in industry, it’s important for your investment portfolio as well.

The primary goal of diversification isn’t to maximize returns; it’s to limit risk. When you diversify your portfolio, you reduce your risk of experiencing massive losses when a few of your investments underperform. Read on to learn more about the benefits of diversification and for a step-by-step guide to diversifying your own portfolio.

Understanding risk

At its most basic level, risk refers to the chances that a particular investment or portfolio could suffer financial loss. Beyond this definition, risk can be broken into multiple categories:

  • Company risk: What is the financial strength of the company or government entity that you’re looking to invest in (often through stocks) or loan money to (often through bonds)? Does it have a low, moderate, or high chance of bankruptcy?
  • Volatility risk: On average, how often does the particular asset that you’re looking to invest in have losing years? For example, large-company stocks lose money once every three years on average.
  • Liquidity risk: How easy would it be to get your cash back out of the investment if you needed the money to cover an emergency expense?
  • Interest rate risk: How would your investment be impacted by a rise or fall in interest rates? Bond values, for example, tend to go down as interest rates go up.
  • Inflation risk: Is your portfolio’s rate of return at risk of being outpaced by inflation? This could be a legitimate possibility for portfolios that are invested solely in cash equivalents.

All investments involve some level of risk.

If safety is your ultimate goal, however, look to bank or credit union deposit accounts (savings accounts, CDs, money market accounts, etc.). Since these accounts are insured up to $250,000 by the federal government, they offer the closest thing to an investment “guarantee.”

How diversification benefits you

Diversification involves owning a mix of investments to reduce risk and volatility. Here a few common ways to diversify:

  • Company diversification: Owning shares of multiple companies so that your portfolio won’t be significantly harmed if one stock declines or goes bankrupt.
  • Industry diversification: Owning stocks from a variety of industries (technology, healthcare, energy, consumer staples).
  • Size diversification: Investing in companies of different sizes, or market caps, such as small-cap, mid-cap, and large-cap companies.
  • Global diversification: Investing in a mix of domestic and international stocks
  • Asset class diversification: Moving beyond stocks and bonds, the traditional financial assets, to invest in additional types: real estate, commodities, private equity, and cash.

The more diversified your portfolio becomes, the less of a chance you’ll have of experiencing a huge loss in any given year.

Downside to diversification

Unfortunately, with investments, the chance of big losses usually goes hand-in-hand with the possibility of big wins. Diversification’s benefits often come at a cost: diminished returns.

To illustrate: a recent study, using historical data from 1970-2016, which compared the performance of three hypothetical portfolios:

  • Conservative: 30% stocks, 50% bonds, 20% cash
  • Moderate: 60% stocks, 30% bonds, 10% cash
  • Aggressive: 80% stocks, 15% bonds, 5% cash

If avoiding declines was your only goal, the conservative portfolio would be the clear winner. The maximum one-year loss it suffered was 14%, vs. 32.3% for the moderate, and a whopping 44.4% for the aggressive.

But when it came to annualized returns for each portfolio, the conservative gained 8.1%, the moderate, 9.4%, and the aggressive,10%.

Those slight differences may not seem like a big deal. But over a 40-plus year investment horizon, they add up. For example, if each portfolio had begun with $10,000, their final account tallies would have been:

  • Conservative: $389,519
  • Moderate: $676,126
  • Aggressive: $892,028

Riskier investments tend to offer higher potential returns. So, smoothing out the risks, as diversifying does, means no sickening drops — but no exhilarating lifts, either. Most investors are willing to accept the tradeoff.

How to diversify your investment portfolio

Ready to start building a diversified portfolio? Here are four diversification tips to guide you along the way.

1. Determine your risk tolerance

Your risk tolerance is how much money you are willing to lose in the short-term in exchange for the potential for higher long-term growth. There are various factors that can affect your risk level. These include your:

  • Time horizon: How soon will you need to take your money out of your investments? Someone who won’t be retiring for another 30-40 years may be willing to take on more risk than someone with a retirement window of 5-10 years from now.
  • Income needs: If you’re still working, you may decide to invest in higher-risk, growth-oriented investments. But if you’ve already reached retirement, you may prefer to focus on lower-risk investments that can provide a stable income, such as bonds, dividend stocks, and CDs.
  • Portfolio size: As your portfolio grows, you may choose to raise your risk tolerance since you’ll have more capital available to sustain short-term losses.

The investments you select should be guided by your risk tolerance. Those with a high tolerance for risk may invest a large percentage of their portfolios in equities. Conversely, the percentage of bond and cash holdings will typically be higher for investors with lower risk tolerance levels.

How can you determine your risk tolerance? Many investing brokers and robo-advisor websites offer free risk- level questionnaires. Some will even offer asset allocation recommendations based on your answers. You can also work with a financial advisor or money manager to build a portfolio that’s customized to your individual risk level.

2. Take advantage of mutual funds and ETFs

Once you’ve determined your risk tolerance, it’s time to begin buying the investments that will comprise your portfolio. And it’s at this stage of the game that baskets of securities such as mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) can really come in handy.

Let’s say, for sake of illustration, that you want an asset allocation of 70% stocks, 25% bonds, and 5% cash. To truly build a diversified portfolio with that asset allocation, you’d need to buy dozens (at the very least) of stocks and bonds. And for the stock portion of your portfolio, you’d also want to make sure that you were investing in companies of different sizes, industries, and geography.

Even if you had enough capital at your disposal to invest in such a diverse set of stocks of bonds, how would you go about choosing your individual investments? Most non-professional investors simply don’t have the time that this kind of market research would require.

But by investing in mutual funds and ETFs, you can eliminate these problems. Funds make it easy to invest in hundreds or thousands of stocks, bonds, or alternative investments at once, even with limited capital (getting the variety of assets diversification requires can be expensive). And some mutual funds even offer a predetermined mix of stocks and bonds to serve as a “one-stop-shop” for all your asset allocation needs.

3. Consider moving beyond stocks and bonds

When financial professionals talk about asset allocation, they’re often referring to your ratio of stocks to bonds. But it’s worth noting that with both of these assets, your money is heavily invested in companies.

To increase your diversification, you may want to consider investing a portion of your portfolio in additional asset classes as well. For example, you may want to consider investing in raw materials by buying shares of a commodity mutual fund.

If you want to gain more exposure to real estate, you could invest in a real estate investment trust (REIT). Other alternative asset classes worth considering include private equity, collectibles (like stamps, art, or antiques), cryptocurrency, and hedge funds.

4. Regularly reevaluate your asset allocation

How do you know when you’re properly diversified? The reality is that diversification is an ever-evolving process that will change as your time horizon shrinks.

To estimate your ideal asset allocation for your age, some experts recommend subtracting your age from 110 to 120. The result is the percentage of your portfolio that should be in stocks.

Using this rule of thumb, a 30-year-old would look to invest 80% to 90% of his or her portfolio in stocks, with the rest invested in bonds and/or cash equivalents. But an 80-year old would reduce his or her stock holdings to 50% to 60%.

The estimates above are just that…estimates. To determine your own ideal ratio, you’ll need to take your specific financial situation and investment needs into consideration.

Even if your portfolio’s asset allocation is perfectly matched to your age and needs, it can become out of alignment as certain assets outperform others. That’s why it’s important to monitor your portfolio and rebalance your original asset mix when necessary.

The financial takeaway

Investing is a game of risk and returns. Take on too much risk and you could lose big, especially in the short-term. Take on too little risk (like, say, by only investing in cash equivalents) and you could really hurt your long-term returns.

Diversification is the best way for investors to find their own personal balance of risk and reward. To build a diversified portfolio that works for you, consider your risk tolerance, time horizon, and investing goals.

Related Coverage in Investing:

What is an index fund? A low-cost, low-risk way to invest in the stock market

ETFs and mutual funds can instantly diversify your portfolio, but they differ in how they’re traded, managed, and taxed. Here’s what you should know.

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Source: How to Diversify Your Portfolio: Strategies and Benefits

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We’ll cover the concept of what is portfolio diversification and should you diversify your investment. First, I want to explain to you what is the concept. Secondly, I want to show you what the smartest approach is. #tradingportfolio #diversification #investmentdiversification #portfoliotrading #investing Posted at: https://tradersfly.com/blog/portfolio… 🔥 GET MY FREEBIES https://tradersfly.com/go/freebies/ 🎤 SUBMIT A VOICE QUESTION https://tradersfly.com/go/ask 👀 START HERE: FOR NEW TRADERS https://tradersfly.com/go/start/ 🎉 START HERE: OPTION TRADERS https://tradersfly.com/go/start-options/ 📈 MY CHARTING TOOLS + BROKERS https://tradersfly.com/go/tools/ 💻 MY COMPUTER EQUIPMENT https://backstageincome.com/go/comput… 💌 GET THE NEWSLETTER https://tradersfly.com/go/tube/ 🔒 SEE OUR MEMBERSHIP PLANS https://tradersfly.com/go/members/ 📺 STOCK TRADING COURSES https://tradersfly.com/go/courses/ 📚 STOCK TRADING BOOKS: https://tradersfly.com/go/books/ ⚽ GET PRIVATE COACHING https://tradersfly.com/go/coaching/ 🌐 WEBSITES: https://tradersfly.com https://rise2learn.com https://backstageincome.com https://mylittlenestegg.com https://sashaevdakov.com 💌 SOCIAL MEDIA: https://tradersfly.com/go/twitter/ https://tradersfly.com/go/facebook/ ⚡ SUBSCRIBE TO OUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL https://tradersfly.com/go/sub/ 💖 MY YOUTUBE CHANNELS: TradersFly: https://backstageincome.com/go/youtub… BackstageIncome: https://backstageincome.com/go/youtub… 📑 ABOUT TRADERSFLY TradersFly is a place where I enjoy sharing my knowledge and experience about the stock market, trading, and investing. Stock trading can be a brutal industry, especially if you are new. Watch my free educational training videos to avoid making big mistakes and just to continue to get better. Stock trading and investing is a long journey – it doesn’t happen overnight. If you are interested to share some insight or contribute to the community we’d love to have you subscribe and join us!

Dysfunctional Financial Markets Are Making Inequality Worse All The Time

Toy man looking up at another toy man standing on big pile on coins

The global market in government bonds has been bleeding red lately. “Bond market screams for help but no one answers”, says Bloomberg. It is “the worst start to a year in bonds since 2015”, according to the Financial Times.

Though bonds have been declining since last summer, the sell-off became a lot more violent in February. This meant that the yield on ten-year US Treasury bonds, which is inversely related to the price, rose by around 60% to peak at over 1.6% a couple of days ago, before falling back to 1.5% at the time of writing.

The US ten-year strongly influences the price of everything from mortgages to business loans in the US, and by extension around the world, so such a sharp rise has the potential to reduce borrowing and weaken the economic recovery from COVID –especially when there is so much debt in the global system. The world’s rampant stock markets responded by going into reverse in February as they factored in higher interest rates, as well as higher production costs because of surging commodity prices.

Bond prices can fall for several reasons. It can mean that the market thinks that economic growth is going to pick up (meaning investors shift their money into riskier investments). But it can also reflect fears that inflation is on the way without much accompanying economic growth, meaning that interest rates need to go higher so that lending is still profitable.

In the present case, it is a bit of both: the rollout of the vaccination programmes has made many observers more optimistic about the prospects of a recovery. But the rise in the price of commodities like oil, copper and coffee is more about pandemic-related supply issues than because this optimism has prompted a step-change in demand.

When Fed Reserve Chairman Jay Powell failed to announce any immediate intervention to put a floor under the sell-off in bonds during a public appearance in early March, it appeared to trigger more selling – a sign that falling bond prices have been more a reflection of fears than optimism.

Interestingly, in the hours since the new US$1.9 trillion (£1.4 trillion) US stimulus package has been agreed by Congress, the bond market and stock market have both been rising. Though there have been fears that sending US$1,400 stimulus cheques to most Americans will cause a further surge in inflation, the extra consumer demand will also prop up the economy. On balance, then, this appears to have been received as a net positive by the markets.

QE and perverse consequences

Any attempt to explain what is happening in the markets needs to be in the context of quantitative easing (QE). Shortly after the first wave of lockdowns in early 2020, central banks stepped in to help their national economies. They announced huge new QE plans in which they would create new money with which to buy government bonds and other financial assets. This drove up bond prices and hence kept yields (and interest rates) at very low levels to encourage as much borrowing from consumers and businesses as possible.

Most central banks originally began QE programmes after the 2007-09 financial crisis (besides the Bank of Japan, which began a few years earlier). This was primarily to help companies get access to capital to boost their business, in the hope that they would then hire staff, which would help to reduce unemployment rates that had been sent soaring after the crisis.

However, some companies took advantage of these low interest rates in another way: they borrowed cheaply and invested it in the stock market. With investors doing likewise, this has helped to drive the relentless rise in global stock markets over the past decade. It also helps to explain why these markets have been mainly climbing ever since the COVID panic sell-off of March 2020.

In the coming months, economies are going to reopen, but interest rates are to stay low. Fed Reserve Chairman Jay Powell may have declined to announce any new interventions to date, but it is fairly clear that he will only let yields rise so far.

This gives investors a great opportunity to continue taking advantage of the situation. So long as the gain from your investment in stocks is greater than the interest rate you have to pay on your borrowings, you are a winner. Better still, buy stocks in a company such as Apple whose bonds central banks have been buying as part of their QE activities. Apple is still trading at over double the lows of March 2020, even after the February correction.

But if you are not in a position to take advantage of this one-way bet, you are a loser. The central banks have already created a situation where major institutions like the biggest hedge funds and investment banks are achieving record earnings while many families are sinking into poverty on the back of the pandemic.

The endless stimulus is in danger of creating an ever more divided society. While it is true that the latest US package (and the support measures announced in the UK budget) will temporarily help those struggling during the pandemic, the shot in the arm is also another way of propping up markets that seem too overvalued to fail.

And if they can no longer survive without central bank life-support to keep bond yields low, the question is how to prop up the markets without exacerbating inequality. It’s not clear that anyone has the answer. It might be that a shift to a much more redistributive politics to offset the widening gap between rich and poor is about the best that we can hope for.

 

By: Lecturer in Finance, University of Bath

Source: Dysfunctional financial markets are making inequality worse all the time – here’s what to do about it

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6 Trends That Will Shape The Financial Services Industry In 2021

Financial services industry trends contactless payments data AI BeyondCorp

Financial services in 2020 was defined by a sudden acceleration in digitization and digital engagement—pushed by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Exchanges shut down their trading floors and moved to remote trading, mobile banking transactions spiked, personal trading apps saw record transaction volumes, and call center personnel kept customer support going by working from their living rooms.

While the financial services industry was able to weather the digital tsunami and continue its operations, it has become clear that the winds of change are not transient. Financial institutions are now thinking strategically about their technical setup and questioning whether the tools that they have previously relied on are the right ones to use going forward. Here are a few major themes we’ve identified as being likely to dominate financial industry conversations and technology roadmaps in 2021:

1. Modernizing dated core systems will be imperative

2020 was a year that put the financial infrastructure to the test and challenged existing architecture planning assumptions. Many of the core systems had not been architected to address the volume and pace of change that was suddenly required, and dated core systems struggled under the added weight.

Relief programs such as the Payment Protection Program (PPP) in the U.S. saw tremendous demand, but loan document processing, manual reviews, and approvals became bottlenecks. As the credit needs of small and medium businesses surged, lenders faced challenges updating their legacy underwriting and risk management systems to meet the demands. Batch-based, fragmented, and slow-moving information and data pipelines hindered the ability to gain real-time insights and rapid response to customer needs.

As financial services rallied to overcome what economists were calling “The Great Shutdown” or “The Coronavirus Recession,” the need for modern, agile, scalable, secure, resilient technology infrastructures became abundantly clear—and the new imperative in 2021.

Related: Lending DocAI fast tracks the home loan process

2. Banking goes beyond cash with digital engagement

The role of cash in society was in flux before 2020, with contactless payments already a way of life across Europe and Asia. Even in America, which has been resistant to move away from cash, 27% of U.S. businesses reported an increase in contactless payments by customers as a result of the pandemic, according to an April 2020 survey. That trend will continue in 2021, with 74% of global consumers saying they will use contactless payment methods even after the pandemic. Globally, the contactless payment market size is expected to grow from $10.3 billion in 2020 to $18 billion by 2025, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.7% during the forecast period.

This trend toward contactless finances extends to banking. In 2020, 44% of retail banking customers relied on mobile apps to conduct business. Both traditional players and financial tech firms introduced new finance apps or upgraded existing ones to offer new services and programs to match consumer needs, such as benefit tracking for government-sponsored food allowances or access to early wages. As downloads of mobile apps soared, transaction volumes skyrocketed.

In 2021, as a direct response to consumers’ growing reliance on mobile payment and banking solutions, the financial services industry will likely continue to invest in modern data and analytics tools, artificial intelligence capabilities, and digital platforms.

3. Insurance becomes personal

In 2020, faced with a major health crisis, economic distress, and an uncertain future, insurance companies redefined how they did business almost overnight to provide stability, comfort, and peace of mind for their customers. For example, auto insurance providers offered discounts or refunds given decreased levels of driving. Health insurance companies adjusted their premiums to reflect reductions in non-essential surgeries.

It has become clearer than ever that the most useful products are tailored to the specific needs of the customer, and that hyper-personalization will continue to define the customer journey in 2021. Auto insurance products are more valuable when they are based on miles driven. Home insurance products are more effective when they are integrated with connected homes, so that they can prevent or minimize damage from water leaks or fires.

Building this level of personalization for customers requires a technology infrastructure that enables real-time insights from vast amounts of streaming data from a variety of data sources. Data and analytics, powered by AI, will enable personalized, contextualized interactions across the entire insurance life cycle, from sales and underwriting, to claims management and support.

4. Institutional and wholesale trading moves off trading floors

Suddenly, trading was no longer confined to corporate trading floors. While a small handful of firms positioned their traders as “essential workers” and required them to work on site, the majority of firms allowed traders work from the safety of their homes. As trading floors and exchanges worldwide emptied, the prior assumptions that all trading will happen from physical offices—over corporate networks and enterprise-operated data centers—were suddenly rendered obsolete. Operational resilience plans that counted on falling back to a secondary disaster recovery site became useless when all corporate sites shut down.

In the new world, financial architectures will decouple financial activities from physical facilities through the use of technologies like zero-trust networks that enable location-independent secure access. Operational resilience plans will be updated to include globally and regionally resilient infrastructures like cloud.

Related: The adoption of zero trust is an imperative for security modernization. Learn more about BeyondCorp Enterprise, Google’s comprehensive zero trust product offering.

5. Work-from-home must work across financial services

Throughout 2020, widespread stay-at-home restrictions challenged businesses everywhere to keep employees engaged, productive, and connected. With the pandemic, as corporate offices became unavailable overnight, the entire financial services workforce—from traders to bankers to support personnel—relied on their at-home internet connections along with existing VPN and virtual desktop infrastructure solutions to do their work. While it got the job done, internet connectivity issues, bandwidth limitations, security concerns, interoperability problems, and limitations in collaboration capabilities plagued the day-to-day experience.

It will take a reimagined work environment—one that combines immersive digital and mobile experiences with flexible hardware—to support in-person and remote workers.

Work-from-anywhere solutions need to take a comprehensive look at seamlessly enabling a heterogeneous, globally distributed workforce, including traders who need high-speed connectivity, quantitative analysts who need vast amounts of compute capacity, retail branch workers who need responsive insights platforms to serve customers, and more.

It will take a reimagined work environment—one that combines immersive digital and mobile experiences with flexible hardware—to support in-person and remote workers. New ways of hybrid working and connecting with customers will also lean heavily on helpful, integrated tools centered on the cloud to level traditional boundaries in 2021.

6. Embedded innovation is the new status quo

While 2020 was bleak from many perspectives, one of the rare positives is that it helped prove that agility and innovation, done right, is a game changer. The speed at which the financial services industry transformed to help their customers through the pandemic is the speed at which they want to continue operating. And that requires a culture of innovation that is embedded into the corporate culture of an institution.

From financial services institutions to vendors, regulators, and supervisors, 2021 is likely to be a year of deliberate cultural transformation to find new ways of working together to create safer, cheaper, more inclusive, and more equitable financial markets.

This year at Google Cloud, we will continue working with our customers across financial services to help them prepare for the future, through our technology, tools and innovation partnerships.

Keep learning: Discover the steps any organization can take to quickly adapt and achieve positive results with tighter resources. Get Google’s Guide to Innovation.

Ulku Rowe

At the forefront of Google’s cloud and machine learning capabilities, Ulku enables the financial services industry to take advantage of Google’s technology to fuel their digital transformation. Before joining Google, Ulku was a Managing Director of Technology at J.P. Morgan Chase and Bank of America. Ulku holds an MS degree in Computer Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a BS degree in Computer Engineering. She also serves on the Federal Reserve Bank of New York Fintech Advisory Group.

Source: 6 Trends That Will Shape The Financial Services Industry In 2021

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