Companies in the financial sector are already making great use of digital technology to run their operations and support their clients. But as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown in Wales in March, many businesses needed to switch from working in offices to working remotely in order to survive.

The finance sector showed considerable perseverance and resilience throughout Covid-19. But while KPMG suggests financial services companies have "got through it", they must now build the capacity to thrive in a post-Covid world. Employee well-being is clearly key going forward, but KPMG also highlights other key priorities that financial services companies should address. These include: reconnecting with customers; improve risk management; and accelerating their digital transformation.

Successive lockdowns have pushed digital transformation for companies that might otherwise have been slow to change. Those who have changed are arguably better, smarter and more flexible because of it. For those who haven't, Accelerate Wales for Business is on hand to smooth the path to digitisation, offering a free programme of support and practical advice, along with tailored one-to-one support.

A man using a laptop wearing headphones and writing notes.


The one-to-one support we provide has been invaluable to many financial businesses in Wales. Smart Money Cymru Credit Union, for example, provides affordable financial services to thousands of customers in Caerphilly, Blaenau Gwent and Newport.

When social restrictions began affecting local jobs in 2020, Smart Money Cymru began offering 'lockdown loans' to ease their customers' financial concerns. It also turned to an automated credit evaluation platform, which halved the time taken to assess loan applications, while also reducing paperwork.

Having started a digital overhaul of the business before the pandemic hit, Smart Money Cymru contacted Accelerate Wales for Business for a review of the steps they had taken. With remote working necessary, it invested in new laptops, allowing staff to hold meetings over video, and increasing productivity by 50%. This in turn has enabled the management team to focus on further improvements. The introduction of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) connected to the CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system enabled personal details to appear automatically during a call, benefiting staff and customers.

Company Vice Chair Geraint Jones explains: "It was a huge benefit to get unbiased advice from our Digital Business Advisor, Cath Padfield. Our one-to-one service highlighted new areas where we could improve processes, giving us the confidence to push forward the parts we had already identified for changes... Using digital to work differently has shown us a better way to manage our staff and the business."

"I found so much more about what we can do with technology from Pete Mackenzie, my Acceleration Wales consultant for Business" - Mark Williams, Choice Bookkeeping

Choice Bookkeeping had already switched from a paper-based business model to a fully digital one before Covid-19 hit and this shift in focus enabled the South Wales accountancy firm to continue when much of the country was in lockdown.

Initially, Company Director Mark Williams turned to Accelerate Wales for Business for social media advice, but ended up doing so much more. The introduction of CRM's bespoke accountancy management software, Office 365, along with Skype and VoIP system gave Mark a solid foundation to survive the pandemic. But perhaps his biggest success has been the launch of the Choice Bookkeeping app.

"The app has been very popular with businesses," he said, "especially the receipt bank and mileage tracker as they are so useful and easy to use. I wanted to expand quickly and digital has enabled me to do that. It helps me provide a much better service, and it means I have the ability to serve more clients."

A person sat in front of a laptop.


Working remotely during the pandemic has necessitated the adoption of cloud systems available wherever people are located, reducing business disruption. And there's no turning back. According to a BBC report: "Almost all of the UK's 50 largest employers... have said they do not intend to bring staff back into the office full time. Some 43 companies said they would welcome the combination of working from home and in the office, with staff encouraged to work from home two to three days a week."

In Wales, "Covid-19 has had a profound impact on all sectors of society and all businesses," said Giles Thorley, Chief Executive of the Development Bank of Wales. But there are many reasons for optimism. "What we've seen is that Welsh businesses and entrepreneurs are resilient," thorley said. "Many have found ways to work through the pandemic, others have completely changed their business or wept to start something completely fresh."

Going digital is key to this change and accessing a wide range of support from Accelerate Wales for Business can ease the transition. Start by registering your business and choosing a workshop – we have webinars on everything from social media and digital marketing to help with e-commerce and providing virtual services. Whatever your preference, a follow-up meeting with a Digital Business Advisor will allow you to discuss the specific needs and goals of your business.

There has never been such an important time to get help with digital transformation. Covid-19 has accelerated digital transformation in Wales, forcing companies to switch their businesses to operating online whether they were prepared to do so or not. That's why small and medium-sized companies like yours are rethinking how they do business and how they can be 'digital first' to operate with greater resilience should anything happen again.

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