Eckoh welcomes the updated PCI SSC guidance to securing telephone payments

The publication by the PCI SSC of the updated version of the PCI DSS information supplement Protecting Telephone-Based Payment Card Data is very welcome – the last version was published seven years ago!

The guidance is the result of a collaboration between 50 companies, all specialists in this field. Eckoh has been very pleased to work alongside real industry experts like Worldpay and Verizon, as well as the other acquirers, industry bodies, call centre operators, consultants, telecommunications companies, legal and financial companies involved. Having been a founding member of the SIG, Eckoh was pleased to contribute our expertise to the new guidance.

The new document explores the potential risks and security challenges associated with telephone-based card payment environments and provides much needed clarity for the contact centre industry, globally.

What’s noticeable is that this version deals explicitly with current technologies and now includes DTMF payments which were not mentioned at all in the previous version. That’s important, because DTMF technology is the way in which most contact centres want to take payment today; it offers such good security and de-scoping benefits.

This update completely supports Eckoh’s view that contact centres should seek to reduce the scope of the PCI DSS audit for their contact centres wherever possible. What’s particularly helpful are the sections that show how companies, of many different models and sizes, can address PCI DSS in their environments. The clear and sensible diagrams will allow companies and QSAs to more easily define scope within even highly complex contact centres.

There are many often-misunderstood areas of technology and operation around today’s contact centres, such as VoIP, call recording, transfers, home or remote-workers, and outsourcing. So it’s welcoming to see the guidance cover these specifically. Also addressed are ‘digital payments’ – where a payment may start with a phone call and end with an online or mobile payment. This scenario occurs more frequently now with the growing number of engagement channels and a user’s tendency to channel shift.

Digital payments over the phone is an area in which Eckoh have led the world. We were the first to launch secure payment using Apple Pay, Google Pay and PayPal over the telephone, and the first to provide secure Web Chat payment. It clearly shows that our innovation and R&D strategy was, and remains, ahead of the curve.

In the past few years, the industry has seen fraud switch towards card-not-present channels like contact centres. Finally, the industry has a comprehensive document which will help it define and address the increasing threat. You only need to read it to see the immense challenges facing contact centres which wish to handle card data directly.

Eckoh continues to help companies reduce their PCI DSS audit scope; this document will ensure that clients and their QSAs have a clear, independent way to determine that their chosen approach is the right one for them.

We’re so pleased that the PCI Council has finally published this document. It’s the result of more than five years’ work from Eckoh and other industry leaders, to help further secure contact centres from payment fraud.


By Cam Ross, Director of Payment Strategy, Eckoh

European payments leader SIA appoints new CEO

The Board of Directors of SIA, meeting today under the chairmanship of Giuliano Asperti, has appointed Nicola Cordone to the position of Chief Executive Officer of the Company, after having co-opted him as Director.

Cordone (52) has a degree cum laude in Electronic Engineering from Genoa University and a master’s degree in Business Administration from Bocconi University Business School.

He has worked at SIA since 2000 with increasing responsibilities up to his appointment as Deputy CEO and Senior Vice President Global Business Solutions in 2016.

Previously he had worked at several companies, first as Senior Business Consultant (AT&T-Unisource, Siemens Telecomunicazioni, Italtel and Ansaldo) and was subsequently employed by Servizi Interbancari (now Nexi).

Within the SIA Group, Nicola Cordone is also Chief Executive Officer of the subsidiary P4cards.

“The appointment of Nicola Cordone as the new CEO of SIA recognizes his contribution in recent years to the growth of the company on the national and international markets. I applaud the choice made by the shareholders as it allows our internationalization strategy to continue and I believe that Cordone, together with all the people of SIA, will be able to carry forward this story of innovation which is the main characteristic of the company”, said SIA Chairman Giuliano Asperti.

“I wish to thank SIA’s Board of Directors and all the shareholders for confirming their trust by appointing me as CEO of the Company. My commitment is to continue the international development of SIA with the aim of creating the leading digital payments operator in Europe, through the development of innovative services for clients as well as extraordinary operations such as the recent ones concerning the card activities of Ubis – UniCredit Group – and of First Data in 7 central and south-eastern European countries. A path that I am proud to share with a highly professional team of managers and people specializing in fintech and capable of achieving significant results”, stated Nicola Cordone.

Action needed for small businesses to stop ‘domino effect’ of late payments

The Money Advice Trust, the charity that runs Business Debtline, has called for further action to support small business owners and self-employed people affected by late payments, where businesses are uncertain when the money they have earned will be paid.

In its response to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s call for evidence on tackling late payments, the charity recommends that the Small Business Commissioner be given the power to fine firms that are persistent late payers, together with a broader remit covering public sector organisations.

Research from Business Debtline published earlier this month reveals the scale of the issue of late payments and its impact on small business owners and people who are self-employed. In its report, Taking care of business nearly half (45 percent) of callers to Business Debtline surveyed said they experienced problems with late payments. While late payments were not generally the main reason for getting into financial difficulty, it did create cash flow issues and exacerbate debt problems by making it more difficult to pay bills on time.

Findings also showed that using personal credit to cover essential business costs was common. Six in ten (61 percent) of Business Debtline clients surveyed had used personal credit to pay for business costs, including stock, energy bills and travel, in the last two years.

The charity believes that an improved payment culture could reduce the cashflow issues that many of the callers to Business Debtline experience and reduce the need to resort to personal credit to pay for business costs.

Self-employment now stands at 15 percent of total UK employment and small businesses continue to help power the UK economy. The report – Taking Care of Business – highlighted eight key challenges, including late payments, facing the people behind these businesses and the steps needed to support them.

Joanna Elson OBE, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, the charity that runs Business Debtline, said: “With small business ownership and self-employment continuing to grow and help drive the economy, it is only right that the people behind these enterprises are given the best opportunity to flourish.

“However, the recurring issue of late payments remains a barrier to many businesses succeeding. Our advisers hear first-hand the financial impact of late payments on businesses’ abilities to pay essential business costs such as business rates, energy bills and suppliers. This can create a domino effect where late-payment related problems cascade through the supply chain.

“The government’s focus in this area is welcome. It is now crucial that further steps are taken to improve payments culture, including giving the Small Business Commissioner the power to fine persistent late payers. We look forward to working with all those involved in this area to take forward these recommendations.”

StepChange comments on latest Bank of England Money & Credit data

New Bank of England data released today shows there was a net rise in consumer credit of £0.9 billion in October, with net credit card borrowing accounting for £0.4 billion of this.

Commenting on the latest data, StepChange Debt Charity Head of Policy Peter Tutton said: “Although the flow of credit card borrowing may be slowing down, it’s important to recognise that the amount still owed on credit cards remains extremely high. Some £72 billion of credit card debt remained outstanding in October – up from around £69 billion just a year ago.

“While it may be true that some people are making greater use of cards for transaction rather than for borrowing, there is still a massive backlog of rolling card debt, with some three million people potentially subject to the Financial Conduct Authority’s new interventions to address persistent credit card debt.

“The high cost of credit may not be immediately obvious within some kinds of products, which are often held by people experiencing problem debt. Credit cards and overdrafts can be examples of this, and we urge the FCA to remain focused in addressing them.”

Serrala Continues Global Expansion by Opening New Office in Middle East Region

Serrala, the international provider of solutions for inbound and outbound payments and related finance processes, has opened a new office in Dubai on October 15. The Dubai location marks the company’s 17th office worldwide and an opportunity to better serve the Middle East Region and support continued international growth for the company. The office is located in Dubai’s Internet City, a strategic base for companies targeting regional emerging markets.

“We believe in the prospects of the region and anticipate continued growth in the area for innovative payment solutions” added Bart Parren, Senior Vice President EMEA, Serrala. “We have been working with a number of customers in Dubai, Qatar and Kuwait for many years and our physical presence in the area will go a long way to better meet our customer’s needs.”

One customer located in Kuwait City, Alghanim Industries, recently won Best in Class Treasury Solution in the Middle East by Treasury Today’s Adam Smith Awards for their achievements in managing corporate finance and funding, risk management, governance, and cash management.

Serrala supports over 2,500 companies worldwide with advanced technology and personalized consulting to optimize all processes that form part of the universe of payments: from order-to-cash, procure-to-pay and treasury to data and document management. Represented on three continents with 17 offices in Europe, North America, Asia and the Middle East, Serrala has over 600 employees who are dedicated to serve companies of all industry sectors – from medium-sized companies to global players.


New report unveils the hidden opportunity of customer correspondence for banks and lenders

New research has shed fresh light onto the way customers prefer to receive correspondence from their banks and lenders, confirming the value of functional communications to businesses in building customer relationships and revealing changing consumer expectations as technology evolves. The survey of 2000 consumers was conducted by OnePoll on behalf of outsourced communications provider Opus Trust Marketing. The report uniquely focuses on account-related communication, revealing that:

Age has no bearing on consumer preferences, but the type of correspondence does;
Banks rated top service provider at communicating with customers, with evidence that both banking and lender customers are far more likely to embrace omnichannel than other sectors;
Within five years, a third of consumers across all age groups expect online chat functions to be their preferred method to communicate with service providers, equal to those expecting to use email;
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to customer communications, but suppliers need to provide customers with choice and easily editable preferences to meet all their expectations.

The research has confirmed that customer choices cannot easily be predicted by age or demographic and the main point of divergence was the type of communication itself, meaning utilities providers must assess their suite of correspondence to ensure each piece achieves cut through and elicits a response. Consumers were more likely to opt for post for critical information and documents that need to be acted upon or stored, whereas email was more often the preferred way to receive transactional or regular communications, followed by online portals.

Across all age groups, consumers were happy to switch to exclusively digital communications from at least one service provider, with 46% happy to receive electronic bills and statements from financial service providers. Customers of banks, credit card companies, mortgage companies and loan providers were also far more likely to embrace digital channels than other sectors: around a fifth were keen to view loan and credit card statements via online portals, rising to over a quarter for current account customers.

Around 30% of banking customers and over a third of lender customers wish to receive statements and correspondence through the post, however, 75% of customers want to receive direct communications (via post or email) to notify them of changes on their account or action that needs to be taken.

Wider trends revealed a willingness across all age groups to take a more independent approach towards managing their account: 42% of all consumers want to manage their accounts online without the need to contact their provider, including 45% of over-55s. Apps were the only area that revealed a generational divide: over 20% of under-34s use apps to pay bills, compared to just 4% of over-55s, and they were consistently the least preferred tool for this age group (for example, four times as many under-34s use apps to view their current account statements compared to over-55s).

However, the preference for digital and ‘self-serve’ account management for some sectors doesn’t mean a hands-off approach for businesses: consumers still want the ability to contact suppliers and many expect email or SMS notifications for changes on their accounts or to notify them of any action required.

There is also a shift in how customers want to contact their suppliers. Currently 42% of consumers expect to be able to discuss their account over the phone with suppliers (including 46% of 18-24year olds, defying the ‘Generation Mute’ label) and 31% currently use the phone for general enquiries.

However, only 16% expect to pick up the phone to their supplier in five years’ time and 33% expect to be using online chat bots or live chat functions, up 123% from today’s usage and slightly higher than the 31% expecting to communicate by email by 2023.

Account-related correspondence is also less disposable than direct mail: 80% of consumers file away at least one type of communication, with hard copies preferred by 62% of those who do. Two thirds of banking and lender customers store ad-hoc correspondence, rising to over three quarters filing away monthly and annual statements.

However, 60% of consumers also expect their provider to keep copies of documents online for them to access, reiterating the importance of including intelligent document management and retrieval in a company’s customer experience strategy.

Rob Alonso, Chief Executive of Opus Trust Marketing, said: “Regular communications speak volumes about a company but are overlooked as tool to help build customer relationships. The research unveils a hidden opportunity to turn conventional, more functional communications into engaging, relevant and informative customer experiences.

“The message from this report is clear: consumers value customer correspondence and they are embracing new technology and channels, but there is no one-size-fits-all communications strategy. Regardless of sector, consumers each have individual preferences and organisations must ensure they offer customers a choice of channels to enable them to customise their communications. The message being conveyed often has the biggest impact on preferred channel, making an omnichannel strategy even more important.

“Banks and lenders should also act now to prepare for the future and maintain their leading position: consumers increasingly expect to use online chat functions, portals and apps to communicate with providers, and businesses must be ready to meet their changing expectations.”

The research also explored individual sectors in more detail, providing a more granular view of how consumers prefer to receive the different types of document and communications issued by different service providers. This can be used as a benchmarking exercise for marketing and customer experience professionals in financial services to see how customer preferences differ by sector.

CSA appoints new Senior Learning & Development Consultant

The Credit Services Association (CSA), the voice of the UK debt collection and purchase industry, has appointed Zoe Dellow as its new Senior Learning & Development Consultant to further drive the CSA apprenticeship programme.

She will be working with members and the wider industry on the Association’s L&D initiatives to ensure a structured and relevant career development journey for apprentices and other employees undergoing training. She will report to the CSA Head of Learning and Development, Fiona Macaskill.

Zoe has more than 25 years’ experience as a trainer in the financial services sector, including several years at Santander and its associated companies where she was responsible for designing and delivering quality training programmes, as well as remotely managing and coaching new graduate employees. She acquired the TAP Training Accreditation while working at Orange UK.

Zoe says she was attracted to the role by the CSA’s desire to drive positive change in the industry:
“This new role provides an exciting opportunity to use my training experience to help drive continuous improvement within the collection sector, supporting compliance as well as best practice.”

The CSA was recently awarded a contract to deliver its new Level 4 Regulatory Compliance Officer Apprenticeship programme to the government’s Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS).

Stonebridge Group announce growth in year-to-date figures

Stonebridge Group, the mortgage and insurance network, has today (26th November 2018) announced a strong set of year-to-date figures showing growth in both applications and completions across its three core product areas – mortgages, life and general insurance.

Figures for the first three quarters of 2018 compared to the same period in 2017 showed that:
Mortgage completions were valued at £4.8 billion, up 20% on the first nine months of 2017, while mortgage applications placed through the business were valued at £6.29 billion, up 12% on the previous period.
Total life business volumes from both appointed representative (AR) firms also increased, with £13.43 million of life application commissions (up 5%) and £10.98m of life completion commissions (up 4%).
Finally, £768k of general insurance business was completed during the three quarter, up 17% on 2017.

The Group also announced a strong quarter-on-quarter growth in completions, with mortgages in quarter three up 7% on quarter two at £1.74 billion, life completions up 3% at £4 billion, and GI business up 19% at £290k.

Also in October, the first month of quarter four, Stonebridge’s monthly mortgage applications were the second highest of the year and mortgage completions recorded their best ever total. Life application figures for October 2018 were its best of 2018. Its life completions for the month were also the third highest since the start of the year.

Stonebridge also revealed it had added 17 advisers to the Group during the quarter – its biggest quarterly growth of 2018 – and it had already recruited a further 10 advisers during October which it says bodes well for further growth during quarter four and into 2019.

The network now has 584 active advisers, spread across 279 AR partner firms.

Stonebridge will announce its full results and plans for 2019 at its annual conference, which will be held at the East Midlands Conference Centre on the 28th January.

The annual conference will also reveal the Stonebridge Achiever Awards for its member firms with its top Business Partners and advisers recognised for their achievements throughout 2018.

Jo Carrasco, Business Partnerships Director at Stonebridge Group, commented: “The first three quarters of 2018 have proved a particularly strong nine-month period for the entire group, especially in our core mortgage, life and GI product sectors. It is very satisfying to see significant growth from all our adviser members and this has also been carried forward into October and November which bodes well for a quarter four improvement which will round off a highly positive year for the Group in 2018.

“Recent growth in mortgage completions, compared to life completions, is higher as we saw more remortgage and product transfer business being written where life had already been sold. We anticipate this will continue while our GI completions are significantly higher because of the renewal of the back-book policies and our advisers’ retention strategies.

“2019 brings with it a number of major challenges to overcome, not least the low level of purchase activity in many areas of the country, but also the UK leaving the EU, the deal that will be secured, and how these momentous events will land on the UK economy in general and the housing and mortgage market specifically. From a Stonebridge perspective, we are preparing with our members for all eventualities and we will be seeking to promote the opportunities we have for them, and to introduce new ones which should help them improve activity and volume.

“At the start of next year we’ll be hosting our Annual Conference for members, lender and provider partners, and we’ll outline both our full 2018 results and our plans for the year ahead. This remains an exciting time for the Group and our member firms have already delivered excellent results and activity levels throughout 2018 – we are here to support them in all manner of ways and looking forward to developing the Stonebridge proposition to help both existing and new member firms attracted to our offering.”

Public sector contracts should encourage large suppliers to pay supply chain quicker

Public sector contracts should include clauses to ensure that larger businesses pay their suppliers more quickly, according to AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians). The organisation has released a new white paper which offers guidance on how businesses can be more responsible, and which also suggests that organisations need to avoid a ‘race to the bottom’ in procurement.

The white paper makes a suggestion that organisations in the public sector should specify in contracts that any business which wins a contract from them must commit to paying their supply chain quickly. This would be a way to help smaller businesses which often struggle with being paid late by their suppliers, which is a big problem for the UK’s small businesses (AAT has also previously recommended that the Prompt Payment Code should be made compulsory for all organisations with more than 250 staff, and its payment terms halved to 30 days, to help end the problem of late payments).

Another suggestion is that while there are now more attempts in the public sector to try and create social value, more consistency needs to be applied because it varies too much between government bodies, local authorities, and different regions.

The white paper also cautions that organisations should avoid a ‘race to the bottom’ by always choosing the cheapest bid for procurement, and that a goal should instead be to look at which bids offer the most value socially and as a whole, rather than just financially.

AAT’s white paper was created following a roundtable event where representatives from organisations including the Federation for Small Businesses, Organisation for Responsible Business, and Work for Good put forward their thoughts on how more of a responsible culture can be brought into business. This was in the wake of suggestions that confidence in UK business has fallen by 9% in the past year.

Adam Williamson, AAT Head of Professional Standards says: “AAT has committed to being a more responsible business, and through our actions such as gaining accreditation from the Living Wage Foundation, signing up to the Women in Finance Charter and the Prompt Payment Code, and becoming a member of Accounting for Sustainability we hope to lead by example. We aim to inspire others to do the same, and this white paper suggests some ways that this could be done.”

Other recommendations outlined in the white paper are that:

there needs to be an agreed measurement of social value in business, so that organisations can understand how projects can contribute to a wider good, rather than just financially.
there needs to be stronger protections for whistle-blowers, so that employees who see their organisations acting irresponsibly are not afraid to come forward.
there needs to be a recognition that tax in the system is good, and that it helps wider society.
there needs to be investment in people whose job it is to find social value in businesses.

Target Group signs up to the Women in Finance Charter

Target Group, the business process outsourcing and operational transformation provider, has signed up to the Women in Finance Charter, an initiative from HM Treasury to build a more balanced and fair financial services industry.

The charter sets out three principles to improve gender balance across all levels of financial services – committing firms to support the progress of women into senior roles, recognise each firm should set its own targets and implement the right strategy for the organisation, and publicly report on progress to support the transparency and accountability needed to drive change.

As a signatory of the Charter, Target has pledged to promote gender diversity by:

· Appointing Rhiannon Williams, Group HR Director, as the member of the senior executive team responsible and accountable for gender diversity and inclusion
· Setting internal targets for gender diversity in senior management
· Publishing progress annually against these targets in reports on the Target website
· Having an intention to ensure the pay of the senior executive team is linked to delivery against these internal targets on gender diversity

Target has been an active supporter of the Chwarae Teg programmes to help ensure women in Wales can enter the workplace, develop their skills and build rewarding careers.

Since the Charter launched, 162 financial services firms have signed up, with Target becoming one of 26 new signatories. Target will publish its targets and data on its website by February 2019.

Commenting on the news, Ian Larkin, CEO at Target Group, said: “It is vital that we promote and encourage a diverse environment here at Target as that is ultimately what will allow us to progress and make better business decisions. There are multiple studies out there that extol the benefits of diverse workforces, and we, as an industry, need to do more to encourage this.

“We have been very active in programmes that promote women in the workplace, and have seen the positive impact these create. As such, the Women in Finance Charter feels like a natural step for us and is a great opportunity to help champion the positive difference diversity makes.”