The COVID-19 pandemic has abruptly and dramatically altered the lives of individuals and the activity of companies worldwide. To say it has been a stressful and overwhelming transition is an understatement, especially for financial professionals who have been hit hard. In fact, AvidXchange found that among 500 surveyed U.S. senior financial executives, two-thirds reported having higher stress levels due to the pandemic.
To help reduce the stress felt by financial professionals and help their businesses come out stronger in the newly forming business environment, AvidXchange released a compilation of articles. The articles focus on how financial experts can reduce payment fraud, adapt to unusual business conditions, serve customers, and execute successful business continuity plans during these unprecedented times now coalescing into many great opportunities for growth. Here’s what you need to know.
COVID-19 has thrust companies and their employees into a new way of working
The pandemic thrust the world into a period of uncertainty and confusion, forcing companies to suddenly shut down offices and shift their entire workforce remote with little time to prepare.
“Dealing with the stress of the unknown and adapting to life in space was not unlike what we are facing today as the pandemic catapults us into a new normal and forces us to adjust on the fly,” wrote Scott Kelly, NASA Astronaut and Veteran of NASA’s Year in Space mission and author of one of the articles. “Many of us are working without the people and tools we’ve grown accustomed to in our work environment, and searching for new ways to adopt and carry on.”
While there is the perk of no longer having to commute to work, many financial executives are actually working longer hours than before the pandemic; 66% of surveyed professionals reported working longer hours, losing sleep due to stress, or having sleep interrupted by work calls or emails.
Additionally, companies are hampered by insufficient technology systems that aren’t viable to sustain highly productive remote work. The study found that less than half of businesses leverage fully integrated systems to manage their financials, contributing to inefficiencies and increased stress levels.
Despite the lingering challenges associated with the pandemic, there are some ways companies can rise to the challenge and best adapt to ongoing changes:
- Focus on what can be controlled.
- Have a plan and stick to it.
- Create a schedule and a pace for following it.
- Turn the negatives into positives.
Fraud has soared during the pandemic
But companies also need to confront a growing problem: fraudulent threats. Employees working from home tend to use less secure computers and networks than those at the office. They are also more emotionally vulnerable to phishing scams—and fraudsters have been quick to take advantage of that. As a result, payment fraud and credit card fraud have both increased substantially since the pandemic began.
From sending out insidious emails to scam employees, to stealing their stimulus checks, fraudsters have, and will, stoop to any level to trick people out of their money. But there are a few ways organizations can close the security gap, such as:
- Creating awareness and educating employees on security threats.
- Securing systems and processes through best practices and policies.
- Leveraging technology such as security software.
“Companies need to act now to better protect remote workers and environments and ensure the privacy of their customers’ data by maintaining strong corporate controls and procedures,” wrote Christina Quaine, CISO at AvidXchange.
Staying customer-centric remains crucial for businesses looking to grow and prosper
During trying times, customers need support more than ever. Helping customers adapt to change, maintaining a consistent and transparent dialogue, and working with them to overcome obstacles in their lives demonstrates a company’s commitment to its customers and sets the company apart from other organizations.
That said, customers should be included as key players in business continuity plans. How customers can contact customer service representatives, how their requests will be processed, and how overall operations will function from home are just some of the factors that need to be considered. Additionally, organizations without the flexibility to approve invoices and facilitate secure payments within the remote work environment will need to catch up by automating their accounts payable (AP) payments and processes. This will accelerate payments, reduce fraud, mistakes, and duplicate payments, and improve customer, vendor and supplier relationships.
Taking steps to enhance an existing business continuity plan can help companies be successful amid COVID-19 and beyond. Here are five best practices that can be used to do this:
- Enable the entire workforce to work remotely if your business can operate effectively by doing so.
- Optimize critical processes such as automating AP payments and processes.
- Create clear and consistent communication channels.
- Invest in technology such as software that automates AP payments and processes.
- Don’t overlook vendor relationships.
Ultimately, AvidXchange’s compilation of articles, From Crisis to Prosperity: Experts Predict Financial Industry’s Path Forward, goes into significantly more detail about each of these topics and digs deeper into the best practices that enables companies to bolster security, remain customer-centric, and strengthen their business continuity plan.
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