The increasing penetration of mobile devices in the global financial sphere heralds an interesting future. While the advent and visible impact of technology on businesses has been noticed and documented in the international media the co-option mobile devices by the finance and banking world remains muted.
In today’s world smartphones, android devices, mobile applications etc. enter our lives at a very early stage. For the present day young gaming generation these devices would have been tossed in their palms in the primary school while for the professionals the mobile devices are a commonplace. The advent of mobile money to access bank accounts, make payments, deposit funds, pay for online shopping etc. is a significant feature in the developed and the emerging markets. According to a Google report, one of the biggest banks in America has more than 12 million users transacting USD$6.5 billion monthly on their mobile devices.
So what the changes induced by the mobile devices? To start off with mobile payments (PayPal) are starting to become more visible for the customers by interfacing with credit cards. Plus information related to personal finance and investment options are available on mobile devices. Moving on information related to stocks and shares could be viewed on mobile phones. Interestingly the footprints of making payments for public utilities by mobile devices are slowly emerging. For example you can view and pay water bills in Houston city by mobile phone while the National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) in Uganda leads the way with 23,000 customers transferring US$300,000 worth of revenue via mobile phone each month (Mobile water payments in urban Africa: Adoption, implications and opportunities-www.globalwaterforum.org). The Aadhaar identity program launched in India also has future plans to act as such a platform for mobile payments. Sai Heng Pei mentions in a blog (http://blog.tradehero.mobi) about StockTwits, where users can follow users and markets that interest them. Sai further cites about brokers such as FOREX.com, Saxo Bank, and IG Group who have announced in 2012 that mobile trading is becoming a considerable part of their overall volume with many firms reporting over 20% of their customers using mobile apps. Moreover Google incorporates bankcards into its Google Wallet, facilitating one-click purchasing on mobile devices.
There is a wide range of mobile applications catering to the expanding demand of banks and service providers. I have referenced a few applications from ‘The Best Android Finance and Accounting Mobile Apps’ (www.getapp.com/blog/best-android-finance-apps/) by Stephanie Miles in this context. Xero for Android enables to track your finances and easily manage your cash flow: check bank balances, invoice customers, upload receipts and submit expense claims while Zoho Invoice and Time Tracker for Androidpocket friendly app to invoice, remind and accept payments from your clients. You can also send quotes, track time for projects, monitor expenses, invoice for projects, accept credit card payments and send thank you letters to clients with Zoho. With Mint.com Personal Finance for Androidanage your money anywhere, see all your personal finance accounts (checking, savings, and credit cards), automatically categorize transactions, track your cash spending, view finances offline, and get email or text alerts that notify you of upcoming bills, fees, low balances, unusual activity.Yendo Accounting for Androidis a full-featured accounting app, not just invoicing and can be used to manage all the financial aspects of your business. Yendo is trusted by over 30,000 businesses worldwide to manage their accounts.
How does the landscape appear for F&A with regards to the mobile applications? To begin with Concur which has 30% market share (The Accounts Payable Network Benchmarking Report 2013) in Travel and Entertainment process has enabled a mobile application (Andriod) for all of your receipts and expense charges including an expense report. Kofax a leading provider of smart process applications has builtThe Kofax Mobile Capture™ Platform which helps organizations to integrate powerful, interactive capture and process management capabilities into their mobile apps. As per Kofax this significantly improves an organization’s ability to deliver a wide spectrum of powerful, interactive mobile capture apps—with better data and at lower costs. SAP (www.sap.com) the leading ERP system has introduced mobile device management tool – SAP Afaria that offers flexible, centralized & secure frontline management solutions for the enterprise. Esker’s (http://www.apondemand.com/) mobile AP automation application supports iOS7 and is available for both Esker on Demand and Esker DeliveryWare customers who need to review and approve supplier invoices on the road. invoiceASAP (http://www.invoiceasap.com/ ) facilitates easy mobile invoicing and simple CRM on mobile devices which lead to faster payments. In Asian and African markets M-Pesa, Alipay and WeChat, are contributing to the growth of mobile money, e-payments and e-commerce.
Are there any benefits of finance switching over to mobile devices? The first advantage is that they expand the access to customers and in turn facilitate the movement of money irrespective of the location. Then the customers will need fewer clicks to access their invoices or banking accounts. Mobile finance acts as an alternative to traditional banking and financial services and will decrease the count of unbanked customers. Another benefit is that they will enable the growth of mobile money and mobile financial products leading to growth of national and global economy. Plus they will provide greater visibility and enhance the strength of Big Data as a large number of mobile transactions will piggy back on social media networks. For emerging markets and the least developed nations the rise of mobile finance will enable the less privileged to access money and financial information through a simple handset. Furthermore it will act as a springboard to rural growth by increasing penetration of rural finance. For banks and finance set-up’s it may lower operating costs by reducing the dependency on building ATMs and braches in the remote areas. Moreover the growth of mobile finance will increase customer satisfaction as financial information will be accessible on a real-time basis.
While the prospects for mobile finance are bright it is important to evaluate as to how shared service centers need to gear up for this transformation. Firstly the shared service centers need to overhaul their legacy ERP platforms to align to mobile finance. Secondly the established ERP platforms like SAP, Oracle have started to scale up their interfaces to meet the aspirations of expanding pool of mobile customers. For shared service centers the immediate need is to invest and collaborate with vendors who demonstrate the ability to cater to the needs of mobile finance. In this context the shared service centers will require a newer crop of expertise and skills that are handy in designing intelligent workflows to integrate process, ERP and mobile platforms and ushering the next generation of process standardization. The talent mix will demand a pool of data scientists, social media analysts, financial analysts, virtual domain experts and transformational change agents to sift through the huge volume of mobile transactions and feed smarter intelligence into Big Data. Shared service centers will be forced to invest in newer training modules to equip the workforce to needs of mobile finance.
There could be evidence of newer and multiple automations to make processes adaptable to mobile finance. The increase in complexity of databases to mine real-time financial information between customers and financial entities may demand robust data storage mechanisms. Plus the growth of mobile finance may trigger changes in intercompany accounting, cash applications and assimilation of data feeds to execute reconciliations and balance sheets. Citibank (www.citibank.com) has implemented mobile collection tool – Citi’s Mobile Collect to streamline back office and reconciliation processes, and aid business growth by accelerating collections and optimizing liquidity. A big change will be to devise and implement new control and risks frameworks to safeguard digital identities and portable workspaces along with the headquarters. For example the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) (https://www.pcisecuritystandards.org/documents/PCI%20SSC%20Quick%20Reference%20Guide.pdf) has a reference to installation of personal firewall software on any mobile and/or employee-owned computers with direct connectivity to the Internet that are used to access the organization’s network.
A Deloitte Study (http://www.deloitte.com/assets) conducted in Feb 2013 on Shared Service Centers reveals that only 25% of shared service centers are currently catering to providing support on mobile devices. Interestingly there are no plans of any future investment in technologies or platforms for mobile devices shared service centers as per the study. This appears to be a paradox as a majority of shared service centers are hungry to grow their respective basket of business services which they provide to their clients. It may signal that shared service centers are yet to devise a clear road map on how to operate in a financial world which is increasingly manifested by a younger population and hooked on mobility. With increasing evidence of financial landscape and customer behaviour getting influenced by technology the gap in terms of a cohesive approach on mobile finance from shared service centers is a stark reality. Herein lies an opportunity to scale upwards and usher in the next generation of smart and technology enabled shared service centers.
By: Amarpreet Bhamra
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