How Banks Can Reimagine their Business Processes to Deliver Real-Time Personalized Banking Experience

Global Financial Services

The global financial services sector is on the cusps of significant disruption, with fantasy technologies like AI and blockchain fast changing the way banks operate and deliver services to clients. More so, the emergence of financial technology (fintech) and regulatory technology (regtech) firms who continue to muscle into financial services has created a digital race of some sort in the industry.

Along with robo-investors, digital banks have been launched to help individuals transact as fast as can be imagined, and they are making a difference. The disruptive momentum of fintech vendors is helped by a growing population of tech-savvy consumers who expect personalized services.

The customer-focused nature of these new breeds of tech startups has made traditional financial institutions realize that they are at risk of falling behind in the innovation race unless they acquire transformative technologies that will enable them to keep up with advancements in an ever-evolving business environment.

Reshaping the Customer Experience by Leveraging New Digital Tools

To deliver real-time, personalized banking experience to clients, businesses need to address significant customer pain points as well as identify new ways to satisfy them in differentiated ways. Today, we live in a generation where people are never far away from a smartphone.

To put this in perspective, 87% of millennials never separate from their mobile devices, according to a report. Another report says customers use mobile banking apps 7,610 times a minute. Also, 70 percent of consumers who own a smartphone prefect transacting from their phones. These make mobile one of the most clear-cut ways to differentiate.

To meet client needs in this digital age, banks must do their due diligence to appropriately integrate digital tools such as live chat, self-service, mobile, and Omni channel support and emerging technologies like artificial intelligence into their processes.

Ways to Optimize the Customer Journey Experience

Information gathering is key to improving the customer journey. To deliver banking services in real time, banks first have to have enough data to make informed decisions. This requires gathering deep customer insights so that institutions can get a better sense of their needs, which can be achieved by investing in systems that recognize every customer irrespective of the platform used.

That said, here are the ways banks can improve banking experiences for consumers:

  1. Improve the account opening process and make the onboarding experience efficient

An exceptional account opening experience can help banks earn customer loyalty and remain competitive. To this end, institutions are advised to make the account opening process faster and provide robust mobile account opening services to make it easier for today’s connected customers to open accounts on a mobile phone. The more straightforward the process, the better the customer experience.

  1. Consider a user-friendly authentication solution

A complex authentication system can get customers frustrated. Institutions are advised to consider authentication solutions such as those based on one-time passwords, as they offer robust security and are user-friendly.

In addition, less intrusive technologies like Facial Recognition, Touch ID, and Iris Scanning are other effective solutions institutions might want to consider.

  1. Embrace the disruptive potential of AI-powered chatbots

Chatbots are some of the fascinating stories in fintech. It wasn’t so long ago that they were nothing more than automated answering agents. Today, they help address customer complaints, thanks to their ability to engage consumers with their intelligence.

Implementing this innovation will help financial institutions lower cost while improving the customer experience by providing personalized, always-on service. This is the future of Banking.

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INTERNATIONAL COMPANIES CUTTING COSTS – Wall Street

Cost Cutting Drive to Continue in Most International Businesses

Over the next few years, a large majority of international businesses are expected to experience a cost cutting drive in order to adjust to lower prices, increasing competition and an unpredictable economy. There are many reasons as to why international businesses are deciding to embark on huge cost cutting drives, with one of the most significant being as a method to significantly transform the company and work towards development and growth. So, how are international businesses choosing to cut costs? Here are just some of the most common cost-cutting methods that those working for international companies can expect to see.

Performance Tracking

Many companies are taking on the lean method of business as a way of cutting costs over time. This involves ongoing performance tracking, something which is laid out as one of the key components of six sigma certification (see 6 Sigma for more information). This type of ongoing performance tracking will help international companies to better determine which costs are necessary, and which are not. Ongoing tracking and evaluation of performance gives businesses a better chance to discover which product lines and/or services are not profitable enough, so that they can cut the cost of these as soon as possible.

Employee Training

Smart employee training is going to see a surge as the cost cutting drive continues for many international businesses. As more and more businesses realize that employee training on a regular and ongoing basis is a smart investment to make, there will be less costs as employees are better equipped to deal with their tasks or any problems which might arise that are not a standard part of their day to day tasks. Although this method of cost cutting may seem more like an extra expense, smart business owners internationally are realizing that in order to cut costs, it is often necessary to make some investments.

Increased Efficiency

International businesses worldwide are attempting to increase efficiency significantly in order to be in with the best chance of effective cost-cutting. Increased efficiency using methods such as replacing manual labour with machines, is likely to speed up hundreds of different business processes, reduce wages, and allow more to be completed in a shorter amount of time. Because of this, investing in methods to create more efficiency in a business is expected to increase among many international companies as the cost-cutting drive continues.

Why Cut Costs?

For a business which is experiencing a positive cash flow, it’s often still necessary to cut costs. This could depend on a number of different reasons, for example the business’ future predictions, their current sales trends, and whether or not there are simply any costs in existence which are unnecessary to the running of the business and can be gone without. This allows businesses to cut as many costs as is possible in order to keep profitability at the maximum.

Is your business planning a cost-cutting drive? Why, and how do you plan to cut costs? Join the discussion in the comments below.

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Is the Effect of Political Risk Becoming Overrated on Wall Street

Traditionally, political uncertainty is one of the biggest market movers with effects on the equities, Forex, and commodities market. Political commentators and Wall Street analysts have drawn up interesting inferences on the effects of political uncertainty on the markets after significant political events such as elections and referendums. For instance, the prevailing thesis on the effects of political uncertainty on the market is that Americans tend to vote for the same candidate or party if the economy is robust and they tend to vote for the opposition if the economy is weak.

Sam Stovall, managing director at S&P Capital IQ observes that the results of presidential elections shows that voters tend to give the state of the economy a high weighting in choosing the next president. In his words, “In 82 percent of the times that markets have climbed during August and October, the incumbent party has won. In 86 percent of the times the market has been down, the replacement party has won.”

It is already cliché that the markets hate uncertainty and you can trust Wall Street to have a bullish performance in years when the election results are predictable than in years when the election can swing either way. The market doesn’t usually record much volatility ahead of election in which the incumbent is contesting reelection because the incumbent will most likely win and there won’t be much of a change in economic policies.

However, in the last U.S. presidential election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the risks of change in economic and foreign policy was high because both candidates had widely different plans. Trump was easily the wild card because his proposed economic and foreign policy plans were ‘unconventional’ and Wall Street analysts were quick to opine that a Trump presidency will bring in a unprecedented level of uncertainty to the markets.

The effect of unexpected political events is muted on the markets

However, the chart above shows how U.S. equities and the volatility index have fared since Trump won the election. You’ll observe that U.S. stocks have booked gains since Trump won the election on Nov. 8 2016. The S&P 500 is up 10.70%, the NASDAQ Composite is up 12.33%, the Dow Jones Industrials is up 14.14%, and the Russell 2000 (small caps) is up an incredible 15.04%. Conversely, the fear gauge in the market has recorded a massive drop with the VIX index declining by 38.9% in the same period.

Steve Williamson, an analyst at Lionexo binary options observes that “the performance stocks in relation to the volatility index shows that U.S. equities have not been plagued by the expected volatility that should have resulted in a change in government.” In essence, it appears that political risk is starting to have a lesser effect on the markets.

Interestingly, 2016 showed many signs indicating that political uncertainty has lesser influence on the markets. For instance, the markets recovered from the shocking Brexit vote in four days despite the fears that the Britain’s exits from the EU might trigger chaos in the Eurozone. The whiplash in U.S. stocks after Trump’s surprise victory didn’t last more than four hours. Italians rejected proposed constitutional changes from Matteo Renzi’s pro-EU government and the effect of the referendum was lost on the Italian market in about four minutes.

Pro-EU market watchers have started drawing inferences on how the results of the upcoming French elections could affect forex markets in the EU, U.S., and the rest of the world. One of the top candidates in the French presidential election, Marine Le Pen has indicated that she’ll drop the use Euro in France – a move that might be the prequel to France’s exit from the EU.

It still a little too early to know if the results of the French elections will have a drastic effect on the market or not. However, based on the recent performance of the markets, we can safely bet that the markets will see a swift correction that will erase any volatility irrespective of how the French vote in the next election.

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5 Efficient Ways To Save Up Money To Travel

Travel Fund

People often find themselves questioning how best to quickly save up money to get out and travel the world and we don’t blame them! Saving money is hard enough, but add in a desperate want to explore the hidden gems of the world and a lack of money to get there and it can be frustrating! Luckily, saving up to travel doesn’t have to be difficult, nor does it need to be a long process. With the right frame of might, you can save up all the money you need and jet off in as little as couple of months – well, once you have completed your E111 renewal application, of course! From having a dedicated travel fund, to resisting buying those clothes you want, but really don’t need, we’re here to explain efficient ways you can save up money to travel in more detail below.

Have A Dedicated Travel Fund

When you have a dedicated travel fund, you will save up money to travel much quicker than if you put the odd couple of pounds aside in your purse, and if you really want to travel, you won’t dip into your saved funds! It doesn’t matter whether you decide to open a savings account or simply start a money jar to get you started, when its staring at you, you’re far more likely to put the cash you need aside in order to travel.

Spend Less On Lunch

A great way to save up money to travel is by spending less on your lunch. These days, it’s far too easy to pick up a meal deal on your way into work, and whilst a £3.00 meal deal seems like a good deal for a sandwich with your favourite filling, packet of Walkers crisps and can of coke, the cost can add up quicker than you can eat it! Think of it this way, if you buy a £3.00 meal deal for every working day of the week, you are spending approximately £60.00 a month on your lunch alone, which could cover the cost of your flight depending on where you plan to travel to! The moral of the story? Make your own packed lunch!

 

Two businesswomen having lunch

Stop Buying

Saving up money to travel can be as simple as to stop buying. Whilst you will (obviously) need to buy groceries, you can save a tonne of money by restraining yourself buying the latest gadgets or clothes. The next time you want to buy something, ask yourself: do you really need it? More often than not, the answer will be no. It takes a whole load of courage to put something you really want – but don’t need – down, but when you step on board that plane, you’ll be more than happy that you did!

Cancel Subscriptions & Memberships

It’s a given. Almost all of us are subscribed to websites, such as Netflix, and have gym memberships we try our utmost to avoid no matter what we promise ourselves in the New Year. In order to save up money to travel, get rid of any subscriptions you no longer need and any memberships you can simply do without, because, let’s face it, if you haven’t already used your gym membership card, it is highly unlikely that you will in the next few months!

Write A Shopping List, And Stick To It!

The next best way to save up money to travel is to write a list when you go shopping, and stick to it! It is far too easy to walk into your local supermarket and pick up the latest offers, snacks that tickle your fancy and food you simply don’t need to buy. In order to avoid impulse purchases, a grocery list is the perfect way to save money that you can put towards travel and it save time because you will know exactly what you will be having for dinner before you step through the sliding doors.

There a countless ways you can efficiently save money to travel, these are just some of them. From cancelling unwanted subscriptions and costly memberships to spending less on lunch by quitting the meal deal fad and making your own packed lunch, saving up money to travel really isn’t as difficult as you may think.

 

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Prices Likely to Spike for Common Goods as Geo-Political Tensions Rise

 

Today’s Global Economy The Food Crisis

In today’s global economy, what happens in one part of the world – sometimes in one specific country – can set off a chain reaction likely to have far-reaching effects for consumers everywhere. When Panama Disease hit and peaked in Central America in the 1950s, for example, it wiped out thousands of acres of banana plantations that caused a worldwide shortage of the fruit, even forcing growers to abandon their favored cultivar and go in search of new types. Today, most of the world eats an entirely different kind of banana – the Cavendish – because of this.

Like bananas, global products of all kinds are not immune to the effects of global markets. Recent announcements and economic policies have U.S. markets and consumers poised for a price hike for common steel and aluminum products. From soda cans to new cars, hundreds of industries are likely to see costs go up. Yet these products are far from the only ones being impacted by global geo-political tensions and sharp changes in demand and consumer preferences.

Food

Global food prices are hitting new highs as demand for meat, dairy, and wheat from countries with expanding populations continues to surge. U.N. food agency data shows global food prices are up 7 percent from a year ago and ahead 17 percent from a low set in early 2016. According to analysts, there has been a growing global demand for meat, particularly for beef. So strong is this demand that global meat has outpaced most other major food commodity groups, according to U.N. data.

Common Household Goods

Yes, even toilet paper is not immune to drastic price hikes and consumer panic. Just this week, a spike in the price to produce toilet paper in Taiwan cause panic to a point where lines formed outside of local grocery stores as people snapped up toilet paper and paper towels in bulk. The mess began on February 23rd when, according to The Economist, Taiwanese retailers, including several supermarket chains, said that toilet-paper producers would increase prices by as much as 30 percent in March because the cost of raw pulp had gone up.

Pearls

Political uncertainty in the South China sea has forced the price of pearls upward, much to the dismay of traditional brick-and-mortar and online retailers throughout the U.S. Leon Rbibo, who runs two of the top pearl websites in the U.S., The Pearl Source and Laguna Pearl, says military escalations in this part of the world can drive costs up “literally overnight,” since a large portion of the world’s favorite gemstone is imported from this area. Add to that the implications of Brexit, which is destabilizing world currencies, and you have a recipe for higher costs.

Gas and Other Fuel Types

There was a brief respite from the pump for many U.S. consumers over the last year, but don’t bank on that trend continuing, analysts say. According to AAA and the transportation industry, more than half of the country is likely to see a significant spike in the average cost for a gallon of unleaded gasoline. According to AAA, there are numerous reasons for the hike:This year “has seen fluctuating crude oil prices, strong gasoline demand and new U.S. oil production records creating a volatile gas price market from month to month for consumers,” Jeanette Casselano, AAA spokeswoman, said. “Typically, March brings more expensive pricing as days get longer, weather gets warmer and refinery’s gear up to switchover to pricier summer blends.”

Bourbon (and Other U.S.-Produced Spirits)

New U.S. tariffs have other countries considering raising duties of their own. The European Union could choose to retaliate by going after peanut butter, orange juice, cranberries, and yes, even that world-famous Kentucky bourbon.

The European Union is the first trade partner to offer specific steps and products if the U.S. is to proceed with certain proposed tariffs, including on steel. Canada has also promised countermeasures. And Mexico, China and Brazil are said to be weighing options.

 

 

 

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How Will Exiting Iran Deal Affect the US Dollar and Business

Iran Deal Under Review By President Trump

Since Donald trump came to power in 2016, there have been tensions between the US and various other countries which have caused economic and political shockwaves around the world. At the start of the year, tensions between the US and North Korea seemed to be escalating rapidly, and relations with China were stretched with talks of a trade war occurring.

Most recently, Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran deal drew widespread condemnation from global leaders, suggesting it was a controversial and potentially consequential move. Here are some of the ways this may affect the dollar.

Volatility

The tensions between the US and Iran may well cause volatility in the dollar, given that it is a controversial move which will greatly restrict economic relations between the two countries. Some even believe that other countries may benefit from this, as they try to bypass US sanctions and pay for Iran’s major export, oil, in their own currencies rather than the dollar.

This could end the era of the petrodollar, which has benefitted the US for many years. As such, the dollar’s value may well sink as other countries race to take advantage of this.

Sanctions

By withdrawing from the Nuclear Deal and putting sanctions on Iran once again, the US may well find that some businesses suffer as a result. Those which were previously dealing with Iranian companies will now find it much harder to do business with them, which could, ultimately, lose them profit.

This may well lead to a dip in their profits, potentially affecting the value of some company shares. Some groups may even need to use the services of investment advisors like Wellington Management Funds before choosing stocks to invest in, so that they can navigate some of the stocks which may lose value as a result of recent events.

Oil

The price of oil has already shot up to over $80 a barrel since the US placed sanctions on Iran once again, meaning that the sanctions themselves may well have had the opposite intended effect (given that the oil industry is a major part of Iran’s economy).

This could be bad news for US consumers, as it may well make a number of commodities (such as petrol) more expensive, and potentially drive down consumer spending, once again harming the dollar’s value overall.

The US withdrawal from the Iran Deal has caused a great deal of tension globally, and the full effects are yet to be realised. There will no doubt be further developments to come, many of which may have a bearing on the dollar’s value and fortunes, at least in the short term.

 

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The Impact of Cyber Attacks on the Banking Industry

 

There have been increasing numbers of cyber attacks reported in recent years across all industries and it is costing the United States an absolute fortune in cyber security. Obama announced that $19 billion was to be dedicated to the ongoing fight against cyber criminals, highlighting the gravity of the threat it now poses to businesses and even households.

In 2016 there were widely reported attacks on PayPal, Twitter and Spotify to name a just a few of the big companies that have been targeted. The number of cyber attacks across the world is increasing and businesses are spending more and more money in deterring the crime.

Banking Sector Most at Risk

Of course, the banking sector is one of the industries that are most at risk, given the nature of the data that they hold. This means that banks have had to dedicate significant funds on developing their digital infrastructure to strengthen their cyber security. The banking world has long been seen as a very profitable industry and for many banks that still remains to be true. Investment banking experts like Fahad Al Rajaan demonstrate that the banking sector can still be a very effective way of making money. It is therefore vital that banks are protected from cyber-attacks.

Preventing Cyber Attacks

As well as spending more on software to reduce the chances of an attack, companies now spend more on resources dedicated to preventing cyber-attacks. This means that extra IT personnel are required, extra training for all staff and more resources allocated to analyzing their cyber security and performing risk assessments.It also means that more robust policies and processes must be introduced. This can vary from developing and delivering online training for staff to raise awareness about the risks of cyber security, to employing a whole team of experts to audit the processes. It is certainly becoming a very costly affair.

Cyber attacks not only cost businesses from the initial financial sting, they are also impacted by the reputational damage that the attacks can cause for years to come. If somebody feels that their money isn’t safe with a bank, then they are likely to close their account and go to another one that they feel will protect their money better. The more publicity that a cyber attack attracts, the higher the reputational damage will be.As mentioned before, the government is committed to driving down and eventually eradicating the threat of cyber attacks. Greater cyber security laws are being ratified and harder punishments will be a deterrent for many would-be cyber criminals.

 

Finding a Solution

It is unfortunate that such huge amounts of money are being spent on cyber crime, both by the government and by businesses. Until a solution is found, it looks like this trend will continue and the threat of cyber attacks will dominate how businesses setup their IT structures and policies.

 

 

 

 

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Is Bitcoin’s Slow Dominance of the Internet a Good Thing?

Back in 2008 when Bitcoin was first conceived and began making its entry into the world of currency, there was a great deal of speculation as to whether or not this digital currency could (or would!) take the power of finances away from central banks around the world that have always held the keys to wealth. Over the past 8 years Bitcoins have surged in value from their humble beginnings at a value of $0.01 per coin to over $1200 per coin in 2013 and then back down again to just about half that value where they are currently valued at. Even though this currency is highly speculative, there are those who question whether their slow dominance of the Internet is a good thing – or not. Here are some thoughts on the issue.

Difficult to Use without Being Valued against other Bitcoins

As a peer to peer currency that is really valued by supply and demand, it should also be realized that there are only so many Bitcoins that will ever be made. The supply is finite, which to some, gives them value because of the old ‘supply and demand’ rule of finance. When it comes to wagering on online games such as poker, it becomes difficult to use them as a currency because it is difficult to break them down into smaller units that can be used as a wager and also, hard for ultimate values to be assessed as the value is even more volatile than many of the leading currencies on the market. It is far easier to use a major currency against another major currency than it is a digital currency against a major currency. In short, they are not yet fully understood by the masses and computations are highly complex. Too complex for the average financial transaction online.

The #1 Concern – Digital Anything Is Open to Hackers

Then there is the concern that since Bitcoins are a digital currency, hackers can literally take over a person’s supply with no one being the wiser as they can also create bogus Bitcoins that may be passed as authentic. The current level of online security appears to be inadequate to keep up with the type of security needed for digital currency so the slow dominance of the internet in this regard is actually a good thing. The longer it takes for this particular currency to gain in popularity and use, the longer cyber security teams will have to find ways to secure sites that accept Bitcoin payment.

In the end, the faster anything at all gains dominance over a market, the quicker it can come tumbling down. When people like online gamers are wagering bets, the money they are playing with needs to have real value. There is nothing ‘tangible’ about an online game as there would be such things as ordering articles from an online merchant and with the hopes of winning, that money being wagered becomes all the more important. It’s just that – a wager, a bet. With nothing to say that other digital currencies won’t hit the market, lowering its value and no sure way to protect against hackers at this time, slow dominance is indeed a very good thing.

 

 

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Robots That Teach Each Other

 

There is new breakthrough technology that is reshaping the robotic world in terms of robots that teach each other to grasp everyday objects and learn different environments.

They are using the cloud to upload data that the robots are learning so other robots can gain the same information. Researchers are calling it the “Robo-Internet” and they feel it will reshape the robotic world as we know it today.

Most robots are programmed to be able to do one job and allowing them the ability to learn from other robots will bring to them other skill sets to be able to perform in unstructured environments such as homes and health care facilities. The robots scan and rescan everyday objects such as hairbrushes and water bottles and learn how to pick up the objects and maneuver them around. They also learn the layouts and designs of new environments that help them maneuver through without hitting objects and people.

RoboEarth

The Robo-internet is a collective database of web apps that is used for robotic knowledge base where other robots in different locations can enter to gain knowledge from other robots. RoboEarth is one example of a cloud-based platform in which robots learn about different environments from other robots.

These scientists have created a cloud-based database where robots teach each other how to learn new skills and be able to perform new jobs without ever having done it before. One robot moves around a new environment scanning the entirety of the space and uploads it to RoboEarth where another robot can ping it at any time to learn what the first robot shared.

“Million Object Challenge”

The Million Object Challenge is based on Stefanie Tellex’s research out of Brown University where she is using her robot named Baxter to learn how to pick up everyday objects and teach other robots how to be useful in everyday life. For robots to learn it takes extreme repetition so pushing their learned behavior throughout other labs that have robots learning the same concepts saves time and money.

Tellex states that there are over three hundred different “Baxter’s” around the world in different labs and they are collectively learning together to be more useful in everyday life. They share coded information online through researcher driven mathematical data that is created using the robots infrared sensors on their bodies and cameras on their arms that scan different objects to learn how to grasp them and pick them up.

Robotics today is growing by leaps and bounds because of the ability that is gained through the use of the internet and the sharing of information that is gained through its use. Robots teach each other via uploaded information to the cloud where other robots can gain the same learned data without ever doing the actual task before. This gives a great boost to researchers who can share with each other what they have learned and collectively propel their robotic knowledge into the future.

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INTERNATIONAL COMPANIES CUTTING COSTS – Wall Street

Over the next few years, a large majority of international businesses are expected to experience a cost cutting drive in order to adjust to lower prices, increasing competition and an unpredictable economy. There are many reasons as to why international businesses are deciding to embark on huge cost cutting drives, with one of the most significant being as a method to significantly transform the company and work towards development and growth. So, how are international businesses choosing to cut costs? Here are just some of the most common cost-cutting methods that those working for international companies can expect to see.

Performance Tracking

Many companies are taking on the lean method of business as a way of cutting costs over time. This involves ongoing performance tracking, something which is laid out as one of the key components of six sigma certification (see 6 Sigma for more information). This type of ongoing performance tracking will help international companies to better determine which costs are necessary, and which are not. Ongoing tracking and evaluation of performance gives businesses a better chance to discover which product lines and/or services are not profitable enough, so that they can cut the cost of these as soon as possible.

Employee Training

Smart employee training is going to see a surge as the cost cutting drive continues for many international businesses. As more and more businesses realize that employee training on a regular and ongoing basis is a smart investment to make, there will be less costs as employees are better equipped to deal with their tasks or any problems which might arise that are not a standard part of their day to day tasks. Although this method of cost cutting may seem more like an extra expense, smart business owners internationally are realizing that in order to cut costs, it is often necessary to make some investments.

Increased Efficiency

International businesses worldwide are attempting to increase efficiency significantly in order to be in with the best chance of effective cost-cutting. Increased efficiency using methods such as replacing manual labour with machines, is likely to speed up hundreds of different business processes, reduce wages, and allow more to be completed in a shorter amount of time. Because of this, investing in methods to create more efficiency in a business is expected to increase among many international companies as the cost-cutting drive continues.

Why Cut Costs?

For a business which is experiencing a positive cash flow, it’s often still necessary to cut costs. This could depend on a number of different reasons, for example the business’ future predictions, their current sales trends, and whether or not there are simply any costs in existence which are unnecessary to the running of the business and can be gone without. This allows businesses to cut as many costs as is possible in order to keep profitability at the maximum.

Is your business planning a cost-cutting drive? Why, and how do you plan to cut costs? Join the discussion in the comments below.

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