Starling … an Example of Challenger Bank Boosted During Pandemic

A statement to investors from Anne Boden, CEO of Starling, gives an example of how and why starter banks and Fintech have seen a rise in popularity over the period of the pandemic.

Starling

Starling is a London-based, digital, mobile-only challenger bank that was designed and formed in 2014 by Anne Boden, a banker with an IT background.  The idea behind Starling is what Starling describes as “a fairer, smarter and more human alternative to the banks of the past”.  This involves using IT to provide maximum convenience to its customers.  Starling says it now has more than 1.5 million customer accounts with over £3 billion in deposits and that it offers personal, business, joint and euro accounts as well as payment services proposition for businesses.

A Year of Growth

In the recent statement, Anne Boden highlights a year of growth for the bank across the board, a new account being opened every 35 seconds and the fact that Starling is the fastest-growing SME bank in Europe with more than a 3 per cent share of the UK’s SME banking market.

The rapid 9-month growth is illustrated by its £1 billion on deposit in November 2019 to £3 billion on deposit in July.

Pandemic

In the statement, Boden highlights the following three ways in which Starling was able to boost its growth during the pandemic:

1. Being able to offer small business owners emergency help in the form of more than £1 billion of lending under the government-backed Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme and the Bounce Back Loan Scheme to support them.

2. The ‘Connected Card’ which enabled those individuals who were sheltering to have a secure way of paying while relying on friends and neighbours to get their shopping for them.

3. Starling having its own in-house engineering (technology) teams and its own core banking software running in the public cloud infrastructure rather than having to rely upon outsourced expertise (like other banks do), legacy systems or many different vendor packages and their own data-centres.

Fintech

Fintech has proved to be a growing market and many big-tech companies have moved into this market with the help of partnerships.  For example, Google partnering with Citigroup to offer ‘smart checking’ accounts (bank current accounts) as part of its ‘Cache’ project, Apple introducing its own credit card, the ‘Apple Card’ in the US in partnership with Goldman Sachs and with processing by Mastercard, and Amazon offering credit card and business loans, with a view to boosting its own e-commerce business.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The pandemic restrictions on physical movement instantly changed the rules for businesses, particularly for the high street/bricks and mortar businesses and the hospitality industry. In finance and banking, businesses struggled to find finance to stay afloat and challenger banks like Starling provided an opportunity and a lifeline through their loan schemes.  Also, with remote working necessary and with a greater reliance than ever on mobile devices, Starling’s in-house expertise, cloud-based systems, and focus on convenient technology gave it the agility and accessibility that it needed to apparently buck the challenges that many of the big, incumbent banks faced. Moving forwards in a society that has been given another big push towards ‘cashless’, fintech and challenger banks appear likely to see more growth.

No More Laptops From Toshiba

Tokyo-based Toshiba Corporation has announced that it has now transferred the remaining 19.9 per cent of its outstanding shares in its PC business (re-branded as Dynabook Inc.) to Sharp Corporation.

Helped By Foxconn

Back in June 2018, Japan’s Sharp Corp announced that it was buying Toshiba Corp’s personal computer business for $36 million.  The purchase made using the considerable resources of its parent company Foxconn (the world’s biggest contract manufacturer), meant that Sharp could re-enter the PC business that it had left eight years earlier.  The deal also meant that Sharp took an 80.1 per cent stake in Toshiba’s PC unit with a view to buying the remaining 19.1 per cent of shares this June.  Toshiba’s latest statement confirms that Toshiba has now completed the deal and is now out of the laptop manufacturing market.

Toshiba

After making the first PC laptop in 1985 and ranking highly among the laptop manufacturers of the 1990s and early 2000s, Toshiba then faced strong competition in an ever-more-crowded market where it struggled to differentiate its products.

Toshiba had also faced problems and bad publicity over news that its CEO had known about a profit inflation scheme for some years before 2015 when it was discovered that Toshiba had been overstating its profits by an estimated £780 million. Resignations in the boardroom followed.

Consumers moving more towards phones than PCs and falling sales in recent years meant that Toshiba decided to sell most of its PC business to Sharp. Sharp renamed the PC division ‘Dynabook’ in January 2019.

Selling and closing parts of the business have been a feature of Toshiba in recent years with the sale of parts of its chip unit, the sale of its TV business to Hisense and white good business to Midea Group (in China), and the closing of its NuGen nuclear business in the UK.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

It is sad to hear that one of the pioneers of the laptop business and a well-known and trusted brand here in the UK has finally left the PC business. This story highlights the relatively fast swing towards using smartphones and other differentiated, smaller (e.g. notepad) mobile devices in recent years, and how strong players such as Dell, Apple, Acer and others have come to dominate a busy laptop market. Toshiba also appears to have suffered from trouble at the top over the actions of its former CEO and some of its executives and this illustrates how bad publicity and loss of trust can also adversely affect a business.

Trump Terminates TikTok

The Trump administration’s next high-profile target in its Chinese trade-war is the hugely popular video-sharing mobile app TikTok, which has been slapped with a 45-day ban in the U.S. from 20 September 2020.

Executive Orders

Chinese apps TikTok (from parent ByteDance) and WeChat (from parent Tencent) have received Executive Orders forbidding “any transaction by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States”. The “person” in this order applies to any individual or entity e.g. government, corporation, organisation, or group. This appears to illustrate how the Trump administration would like to see American companies banning the use of TikTok on their devices.

The ban follows the Trump administration’s ban on the use of Huawei’s equipment in communications infrastructure on the grounds that Huawei was viewed to be too close to the Chinese state and, therefore, the use of its equipment could be deemed to pose a national security risk.

TikTok

The White House website states that “TikTok automatically captures vast swaths of information from its users” and that “this data collection threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information”.  The Whitehouse website also says that “TikTok also reportedly censors content that the Chinese Communist Party deems politically sensitive, such as content concerning protests in Hong Kong and China’s treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities”.

For these reasons, and that “steps must be taken to deal with the national emergency with respect to the information and communications technology and services supply chain”, the Trump administration has issued the TikTok ban.

WeChat

Similarly, the White house order against the Chinese messaging, social media, and electronic payment app ‘WeChat’ and how it also allegedly captures “vast swaths of information from its users” which could then be accessed by the Chinese Communist Party.  In the case of WeChat, the White House website highlights a report of the discovery of a Chinese database that contains billions of WeChat messages sent from users in China, the United States, Taiwan, South Korea, and Australia.  The website also suggests that WeChat is a mechanism for Chinese Communist Party to keep tabs on Chinese nationals visiting the United States and “enjoying the benefits of a free society for the first time in their lives”.

TikTok and the UK

The ban in the U.S. prompted reports that the UK government was close to allowing TikTok to launch its headquarters in London, which is something that has not gone down well with Trump administration in the U.S.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The U.S. represents a big market for app makers and on a commercial level, the ban could be damaging to ByteDance and Tencent, owners of WeChat. Unfortunately, although the U.S. states “real” security concerns and a “national emergency” in the ITC services and supply chain as the reasons for the ban, many see this as politically motivated and as another step in the Trump Administration’s trade-war with the Chinese, which has been further stoked by accusations over the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. Only recently, the UK’s decision not to use Huawei equipment in the 5G infrastructure was viewed by many as the UK bowing to U.S. pressure.  The future for businesses that have traditionally operated between the U.S. and China looks to be difficult and business opportunities in Chinese markets look less likely as the trade-war and the war of words escalates.

Remote Working and Office 365

Remote working during the pandemic has made businesses look more closely at what IT tools are best for the job.  Here is a look at what Microsoft’s Office 365 has to offer.

Remote Working

ONS figures show that 53 per cent of those in the information and communication industries (for an example ) had the opportunity to work from home using IT and the Business Impact of Coronavirus Survey (BICS) showed that between 23 March to 5 April, 48 per cent of the workforce was working remotely from their normal place.

Platforms and Remote Working Solutions

There have been many reports in recent months about how video conferencing and collaborative working platforms such as Zoom enjoyed a boom in user numbers, particularly at the beginning of the pandemic in Europe.  For example, at the beginning of April, Zoom’s daily user numbers were reported to have jumped from 10 million to 200 million.

Microsoft Teams, which is part of Microsoft 365, also emerged as an extremely popular option and, at the end of April, reports indicated that daily user numbers had jumped 70 per cent to 75 million.

Office 365

Office 365 is a subscription SaaS from Microsoft that gives users access to the latest Office apps, can be installed on PCs, Macs, tablets, and phones, and offers 1 TB of OneDrive cloud storage as well as a variety of feature updates and upgrades.

Remote Working and Office 365

Some of the features and benefits that have made Office 365 a good option for remote working include:

– Teams.  As mentioned, Teams has been a popular aspect of Office 365 during the last few months. It offers users features like chatting within the document, video calling and instant messaging, sharing screens, and a Microsoft Whiteboard app.  Users can therefore chat, meet, call, and collaborate from anywhere, anytime. Meetings can be 1:1, or video chat chats can be with up to 250 people at once.  Teams also allows users to present live to up to 10,000 people.

– Real-time document co-authoring (e.g. through SharePoint).  This feature allows workers to contribute to a document and always be working on the most up-to-date version. For example, when one user shares a Word document with another, they receive a link that opens the document in the recipient’s web browser.  Here, the user can see if anyone else is working on the document, and what changes they are making.

– Microsoft To Do.  This is a cloud-based task management app that is combined with Teams.  The app allows users to manage their tasks via their smartphone, tablet, and computer, thereby offering a convenient and fast way to stay organised while working remotely.

– OneNote. Microsoft’s OneNote is a cloud-based collaborative storage and sharing app where team members can share their documents and where anything written or edited offline will update when a connection is next used, thereby keeping everything current within OneNote.

– Security Features: Mobile Device Manager, Advanced Threat Protection and Multi-factor Authentication.  Remote working has meant the need for an even greater focus on security as cybercriminals have tried to take advantage of the workforce being physically divided.  The Mobile Device Manager in 365 enables the IT team to wipe data from a device if it’s been lost/stolen or infected with malware while Advanced Threat Protection provides a powerful cloud-based email filtering, and Multi-Factor Authentication provides extra layers of security to make it much more difficult for cybercriminals (e.g. fingerprint scanning and biometric data).

– Outlook + Calendar.  The Outlook Calendar allows users to click any time slot and create appointments and events, organize meetings, view group schedules, and much more. Outlook also lets users see everyone’s calendar so they can check a person’s availability before organising anything, thereby saving time and trouble.  Outlook’s widely used email management system has many great features for remote working anyway including attachments, alerts, @Mentions and more.

– Office Lens.  This is a really convenient, time-saving pdf scanner app that allows the user to scan and share documents quickly into OneNote and OneDrive.

– Planner.  This offers remote workers a way to organise teamwork and tasks and as well as being a file-sharing point, it’s also a hub for team members to create plans, organise and assign tasks to users and check updates on progress through helpful dashboards.

– Yammer. This Enterprise Social Network (ESN) that comes as part of Office 365 is a social networking tool that can connect and engage across an organisation, so users can discuss ideas, share updates, and network with others workers in the organisation globally.

Looking Forward

One key aspect of why these many tools work well is because they all integrate and are very compatible with the entire 365 environment.

The pandemic has taught many businesses that they can still work and function effectively through remote working in a way that they may not have imagined was possible before.  Microsoft’s 365 and especially Teams has proven to be very valuable to many businesses that will, no doubt, consider how they can keep using it to leverage its features to create value and a cohesive approach as we move forward into less certain future, where lockdowns could come again at any time.

Tech Tip – Translate Text On The Fly

If you are using Word in Windows 10 and you would like a really fast and easy way to translate text into another language and include it in your document, here’s how.

– Highlight the text in your Word document that you would like to translate.

– Right-mouse click and select ‘Translate’.

– Select the language to translate the text into from the right-hand panel.

– Click ‘Insert’ and this will place the translated text into your document.

New Windows File Recovery Tool Resurrects Deleted Files

Microsoft’s own Windows File Recovery tool allows users to use a command line app to bring back a variety of file-types that may have been mistakenly deleted, formatted, or have become corrupt.

File Recovery

Microsoft’s File Recovery app, which is free from the Microsoft store and requires Windows 10 build 19041 or later, is able to recover lost files that have been deleted from a  local storage device (including internal drives, external drives and USB devices) and can’t be restored from the Recycle Bin.

Situations

The File Recovery app is useful in a variety of situations in addition to accidental deletion of a file, including if a user has wiped clean their hard drive or needs to recover corrupted data files.

Where recovery of valuable personal files/personal data is concerned, for example, the app can help recover photos, documents, videos and more. This could include recovering files from a camera or SD card using the app’s ‘Signature’ mode or recovering files from a USB drive.

File Systems

The Windows file storage ‘New Technology File System’ (NTFS) is, of course, the default that the tool is designed for i.e. Computers’ (HDD, SSD) external hard drives, flash, or USB drives (> 4GB).  The tool also supports ReFS for Windows Server and Windows Pro for Workstations, and FAT and exFAT (SD cards, Flash or USB drives of < 4GB).

File Types

The types of files that the tool can be used to recover includes ASF (wma, wmv, asf), JPEG (jpg, jpeg, jpe, jif, jfif, jf), MP3, MPEG (peg, mp4, mpg, m4a, m4v, m4b, m4r, mov,  3gp, qt, PDF, PNG and ZIP.

When All Else Fails

The File Recovery app, therefore, provides something to turn to when a simple trip to the recycling bin is not possible and when the situation is more challenging.

Previous Versions

It should be noted that Microsoft’s ‘Previous Versions’ feature in Windows 10 also allows for the recovery documents that have been deleted, but this feature has to be enabled first in the File History feature that is disabled by default.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Business and personal data files are valuable and should be protected and securely backed-up anyway as part of security and privacy procedures. However, there may well be situations where accidental deletions or corruption of important files occur and this app provides a reassuring way to ensure that these valuable files are not lost forever. The fact that the app supports a wide variety of popular file types used by businesses, and that it’s free could make this a handy little lifesaver.

Each week we bring you the latest tech news and tips that may relate to your business, re-written in an techy free style.