Spreadsheet Risks in Banks

No other industry perhaps handles such large volumes of critical financial data more than the banking industry. For decades now, spreadsheets have become permanent fixtures in the front-line reporting tool sets of banks, providing organised information when and where needed.

But as banks enter into a period of heightened credit risks, elevated levels of fraud, and greater regulatory scrutiny, many are wondering if continued reliance on spreadsheets is a wise decision for banks today.

The downfall of Lehman Brothers which eventually led to its filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on September 15, 2008, served as a wake up call for many institutions across the globe to make a serious examination of their own risk management practices. But would these reforms include evaluating the security of user developed applications (UDAs), the most common of which are spreadsheets, and putting specific guidelines as to when they can – or cannot be – used?

Banks and Spreadsheet Use

Banks have been known to utilise spreadsheets systems for many critical functions because most personnel are well-acquainted with them, and the freedom of being able to develop customised reports without needing to consult with the IT department offers flexibility and convenience. In fact, more than having a way to do financial budgeting and analysing customer profitability, even loan officers and trade managers have become reliant on spreadsheets for risk management reporting and for making underwriting decisions.

But there are more than a few drawbacks to using spreadsheets for these tasks, and the sooner bank executives realise these, the sooner they can adopt better solutions.

General Limitations

Spreadsheets are far from being data base systems and yet more often than not, they are expected to act as such, with figures constantly added and formulas edited to produce the presumably right set of reports.

In addition, data integrity is always a cause for concern as most values in spreadsheets are entered as manual inputs. Even the mere misplacement of a comma or a negative sign, or an inadvertent ?edit? to a formula can also be a source of significant changes in the outcome.

Confidentiality risk is also another drawback of the use of spreadsheets in banks as these tools do not have adequate?access controls to limit access to only authorised individuals. Pertinent financial information that fall into the wrong hands can lead to a whole new set of problems including the possibility of fraud.

Risks in Trading

For trading transactions, spreadsheets can prove to be of immense use – but only for small market volumes. As trade volumes increase and the types vary, spreadsheets are no longer a viable solution and may likely become more of a hindrance, with calculations taking longer in the face of bigger transaction amounts and growing transaction data.

And in trading, there is always the need for rigorous computational functions. Computing for the Value at Risk (VaR) for large portfolios for instance, is simply way beyond the capabilities of spreadsheets. Banks that persist in using them are increasing the risk of loss on those portfolios. Or, they can be opening up?opportunities for fraud?as Allied Irish Bank (in the case of John Rusnak – $690 million) learned the hard way.

Risks in Underwriting

Bankers who use spreadsheets as their main source of information for underwriting procedures also face certain limitations. Loan transactions require that borrowers? financial data be centralised and easily accessible to risk officers and lending officers involved in making decisions. With spreadsheets, there is no simple and secure way of doing that. Information can be pulled from different sources – individual tax returns, corporate tax documents, partnership documents, audited financial statements – hence there is difficulty in verifying that these reports adhere to underwriting policies.

Spreadsheet control and monitoring

Financial institutions which are having difficulty weaning themselves from the convenience and simplicity that spreadsheets offer are looking for possible control solutions. Essentially, they want to find ways that allow them to continue using these UDAs and yet somehow eliminate the?spreadsheet risks?and limitations involved.

Still, the debate goes back and forth on whether adequate control measures can be implemented on spreadsheets so that that the risks are mitigated. Many services have come forward to herald innovative solutions for better spreadsheet management. But at the end of the day, there really is no guarantee that such solutions would suffice.

More Spreadsheet Blogs


Spreadsheet Risks in Banks


Top 10 Disadvantages of Spreadsheets


Disadvantages of Spreadsheets – obstacles to compliance in the Healthcare Industry


How Internal Auditors can win the War against Spreadsheet Fraud


Spreadsheet Reporting – No Room in your company in an age of Business Intelligence


Still looking for a Way to Consolidate Excel Spreadsheets?


Disadvantages of Spreadsheets


Spreadsheet woes – ill equipped for an Agile Business Environment


Spreadsheet Fraud


Spreadsheet Woes – Limited features for easy adoption of a control framework


Spreadsheet woes – Burden in SOX Compliance and other Regulations


Spreadsheet Risk Issues


Server Application Solutions – Don’t let Spreadsheets hold your Business back


Why Spreadsheets can send the pillars of Solvency II crashing down

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ecoVaro to tackle water stress

For many people within the UK, water is not really something to worry about. Surely enough of it falls out the sky throughout the year that it does feel highly unlikely that we?ll ever run out of it. There certainly does seem to be an abundance of Branded Water available in plastic bottles on our supermarket shelves.

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner ? Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Despite this, Once-unthinkable water crises are becoming commonplace.  If you consider that In England and Wales, we use 16 billion litres of clean drinking water every day ? that’s equivalent to 6,400 Olympic sized swimming pools.

Currently, water companies can provide slightly more than we need ? 2 billion litres are available above and beyond what we’re using.  In some areas, though, such as south east England, there is no surplus and, as such, these regions are more likely to face supply restrictions in a dry year.

If we take little moment to reflect on some of the most notable water related stories over the past few years, we’ll start to get a picture of just how real the potential and the threat of water shortages can be.

Reservoirs in Chennai, India?s sixth-largest city, are nearly dry right now. Last year, residents of Cape Town, South Africa narrowly avoided their own Day Zero water shut-off.

It was only year before that, Rome rationed water to conserve scarce resources.

Climate change is likely to mean higher temperatures which may drive up the demand for water (alongside population growth) and increase evaporation from reservoirs and water courses during spring and summer.

The impact of climate change on total rainfall is uncertain, but the rain that does fall is likely to arrive in heavier bursts in winter and summer. Heavier rain tends to flow off land more quickly into rivers and out to sea, rather than recharging groundwater aquifers.

A greater chance of prolonged dry periods is also conceivable.  This combined with the harsh reality that no human population can sustain itself without sufficient access to fresh water.

If present conditions continue, 2 out of 3 people on Earth will live within a water-stressed zone by 2025

What is water stress?

Water stress is a term used to describe situation when demand for water is greater than the amount of water available at a certain period in time, and also when water is of poor quality and this restricts its usage. Water stress means deterioration in both the quantity of available water and the quality of available water due to factors affecting available water.

Water stress refers to the ability, or lack thereof, to meet human and ecological demand for water. Compared to scarcity, water stress is a more inclusive and broader concept.

Water Stress considers several physical aspects related to water resources, including water scarcity, but also water quality, environmental flows, and the accessibility of water.

Supply and Demand

Major factors involved when water scarcity strikes is when a growing populations demand for water exceeds the areas ability to service that need.

Increased food production and development programs also lead to increased demand for water, which ultimately leads to water stress.

Increased need for agricultural irrigation in order to produce more crops or sustain livestock are major contributors to localised water stress.

Overconsumption

The demand for water in a given population is fairly unpredictable.  Primarily, based on the fact that you can never accurately predict human behaviour and changes in climate.

If too many people are consuming more water than they need because they mistakenly believe that water is freely available and plentiful, then water stress could eventually occur.

This is also linked to perceived economic prosperity of a give region.  Manufacturing demand for water can have huge impact regardless whether water is actively used within the manufacturing process or not.

Water Quality

Water quality in any given area is never static.  Water stress could happen as a result of rising pollution levels having a direct impact on water quality.

Water contamination happens when new industries either knowingly or unknowingly contaminate water with their industrial practices.

Largely, this can happen and frequently does so because these industries do not take effective control of monitoring and managing their impact on communal water supplies.  Incorrectly assuming this is the responsibility of an additional third party like the regional water company.

The truth is, water quality and careful monitoring of it is all of our responsibility.

Water Scarcity

Simple increases in demand for water can in itself contribute to water scarcity. However,  these are often preceded by other factors like poverty or just the natural scarcity of water in the area.

In many instances, the initial locations of towns or cities were not influenced by the close proximity of natural resources like water, but rather in pursuit of the extraction of other resources like Gold, Coal or Diamonds.

For Instance, Johannesburg,  South Africa is the largest City in South Africa and is one of the 50 largest urban areas in the world. It is also located in the mineral rich Witwatersrand range of hills and is the centre of large-scale gold and diamond trade.

Johannesburg is also one of the only major cities of the world that was not built on a river or harbour.   However, it does have streams that contribute to two of Southern Africas mightiest rivers – Limpopo and the Orange rivers.  However, most of the springs from which many of these streams emanate are now covered in concrete!

Water Stress and Agriculture

Peter Buss, co-founder of Sentek Technology calls ground moisture a water bank and manufactures ground sensors to interrogate it. His hometown of Adelaide is in one of the driest states in Australia. This makes monitoring soil water even more critical, if agriculture is to continue. Sentek has been helping farmers deliver optimum amounts of water since 1992.

The analogy of a water bank is interesting. Agriculturists must ?bank? water for less-than-rainy days instead of squeezing the last drop. They need a stream of real-time data and utilize cloud-based storage and processing power to curate it.

Sentek?s technology can be found in remote places like Peru?s Atacamba desert and the mountains of Mongolia, where it supports sustainable floriculture, forestry, horticulture, pastures, row crops and viticulture through precise delivery of scarce water.

This relies on precision measurement using a variety of drill and drop probes with sensors fixed at 4? / 10cm increments along multiples of 12? / 30cm up to 4 times. These probe soil moisture, soil temperature and soil salinity, and are readily repositioned to other locations as crops rotate.

Peter Buss is convinced that measurement is a means to an end and only the beginning. ?Too often, growers start watering when plants don’t really need it, wasting water, energy, and labour. By accurately monitoring water can be saved until when the plant really needs it.

Peter also emphasises that crop is the ultimate sensor, and that ?we should ask the plant what it needs?.

This takes the debate a stage further. Water wise farmers should plant water-wise crops, not try to close the stable door after the horse has bolted and dry years return.

The South Australia government thinks the answer also lies in correct farm dam management. It wants farmers to build ones that allow sufficient water to bypass in order to sustain the natural environment too.

There is more to water management than squeezing the last drop. Soil moisture goes beyond measuring for profit. It is about farming sustainably using data from sensors to guide us.

Ecovaro is ahead of the curve as we explore imaginative ways to exploit the data these provide for the common good of all.

A Quarter of the World?s Population, Face High Water Stress

Data from WRI?s Aqueduct tools reveal that 17 countries ? home to one-quarter of the world?s population?face ?extremely high? levels of baseline water stress, where irrigated agriculture, industries and municipalities withdraw more than 80% of their available supply on average every year. 

Water stress poses serious threats to human lives, livelihoods and business stability. It’s poised to worsen unless countries act: Population growth, socioeconomic development and urbanization are increasing water demands, while climate change can make precipitation and demand more variable.  

How to manage water stress

Water stress is just one dimension of water security. However, like any challenge, its outlook depends on adequate monitoring and management of environmental data.

Even countries with relatively high water stress have effectively secured their water supplies through proper management by leveraging the knowledge they have garnered by learning from the data they gathered.

3 ways to help reduce water stress

In any geography, water stress can be reduced by measures ranging from common sense to innovative technology solutions.

There are countless solutions, but here are three of the most straightforward:

1. Increase agricultural efficiency: The world needs to make every drop of water go further in its food systems. Farmers can use seeds that require less water and improve their irrigation techniques by using precision watering rather than flooding their fields.

Businesses need to increase investments to improve water productivity, while engineers develop technologies that improve efficiency in agriculture.

Consumers can reduce food loss and waste, which uses one-quarter of all agricultural water.

2. Invest in grey and green infrastructure:  D Data produced by Aqueduct Alliance  –  shows that water stress can vary tremendously over the year.  WRI and the World Bank?s research shows that built infrastructure (like pipes and treatment plants) and green infrastructure (like wetlands and healthy watersheds) can work in tandem to tackle issues of both water supply and water quality.

3. Treat, reuse and recycle:  We need to stop thinking of wastewater as waste.

Treating and reusing it creates a ?new? water source.

There are also useful resources in wastewater that can be harvested to help lower water treatment costs. For example, plants in Xiangyang, China and Washington, D.C. reuse or sell the energy- and nutrient-rich byproducts captured during wastewater treatment.

Summary

The data is undeniably clear, there are very worrying trends in water.

Businesses and other other organisations need to start taking action now and investing in better monitoring and management, we can solve water issues for the good of people, economies and the planet. We collectively cannot kick this can down the road any further, or assume that this problem will be solved by others.

It is time, for a collective sense of responsibility and for everyone to invest in future prosperity of our Planet as a collective whole.  Ecological preservation should be at the forefront of all business plans because at the end of the day profit is meaningless without an environment to enjoy it in!

How FieldElite helps Plumbers

While most people think that running a plumbing business is a very easy job, things are a bit different on the ground. The job goes beyond the dropping by a client’s home and fixing a few pipes. In addition to the actual plumbing work, a plumbing business also involves managing quotes, invoicing customers, dispatching field service workers, and accounting, among others. Undertaking all these operations manually is extremely demanding. Besides the tedious work that it is, you’re likely to end up with a ton of errors. 

However, you can overcome these challenges by employing technology. The use of field service management software allows you to automate tasks. Consequently, you no longer have to deal with paperwork, delayed responses to customer requests, or double assignment of tasks.

If you’re wondering which field service management software to use, FieldElite is your best bet. FieldElite is feature-rich, and it gives you way more than the simple automation of the daily operations of your plumbing business.  

Below are some of the top benefits you’ll reap by using FieldElite to run your plumbing venture.  

Convenient Scheduling

Scheduling is an important aspect of the plumbing industry. Just like other field techs, plumbers would require tasks to be dispatched on time, which is only made possible by proper scheduling. With FieldElite, managers can easily schedule single and recurring tasks for the right plumber in a matter of seconds. 

On the other hand, plumbers can also view the available jobs and job information in the FieldElite easy to use App that’s available for Android, and confirm scheduled jobs. They can also accept these jobs using their smartphones and respond to service requests instantly.

Apart from getting the scheduled tasks, the FieldElite scheduling and dispatch feature is integrated with GPS functionality so that plumbers can get information on where to go next, and the optimal route to take from their mobile phones. 

The scheduling and dispatch feature also gives plumbers the information on the specific tools required for the job to allow them to get the tools in between appointments and schedules. 

Central Data Storage

Just like other field service industries, plumbing also involves big data. Handling data manually would mean more errors for your plumbing business, which will only impact negatively on your business. To eliminate such errors, go paperless with FieldElite. 

You can view everything from one place with FieldElite?s dashboard feature, including information about your plumbers and the scheduled tasks. On the other hand, your plumbers can access job details and the pending tasks from a central place. 

Plumbers can also get service requests from customers on the FieldElite mobile app from wherever they are. All the requests are stored in a central place, making the response to customer requests easier. The end result is satisfied customers, opening doors for return orders. 

In case of an update, all plumbers receive notifications at the same time and, where necessary, respond promptly to the requests. They can update the office instantly with job status changes from a central place. 

Convenient Reporting

Reporting is part of the tasks that plumbers have to do after completing the assigned job. As a manager, you expect your plumbers to keep you updated on the status of each assignment. Reporting on paper is time-consuming, and that’s why you need the services of FieldElite. 

With FieldElite reporting feature, sending over completed job reports is only a few clicks away. Plumbers can generate reports on the mobile app and keep the office staff updated on the status of the job. Using FieldElite, you can capture customer signatures and add attachments to the job status and send them instantly using the mobile app available on Android. 

Since they can do instant reporting via the mobile app, the plumbers can proceed to attend to new service requests as soon as they’re done without having to first come back to the office to submit their reports. 

Effective Communication

Timely communication is very essential if you’re working with field technicians. Since you’ll not always be with them in the field, it’s always important to establish a proper communication channel to ensure information reaches your plumbers in time. Here, you can get much more with FieldElite, including communication automation to remind customers of appointments.

With FieldElite field service management software, plumbers receive notifications through the mobile app. The notifications can be for anything from new task requests, requests for alterations, emergencies, and more. On the other hand, office-based staff gets to access the reports once the plumber completes their given task. 

That means the plumbers in the field and the office-based team gets communication instantly, enabling them to see and manage their workloads. For this reason, plumbers can complete multiple tasks within a short time, thus improving their overall productivity.

Scalability

The biggest question for most entrepreneurs when they want to buy management software is scalability. Businesses grow and incorporate new activities that would also require to be managed from a centralised system. Where that’s not possible, the business would have to move all their information from one system to a more robust one. 

With FieldElite, however, you’re safe. It works perfectly well for startups as well as large-sized plumbing businesses. It allows you to focus on the areas that your organisation covers now, but also lets you add new areas as you introduce them into your business. Moreover, FieldElite is also receiving regular updates to that bring it up-to-speed with new technologies and new ways of doing things, meaning that your business will be in a position to take advantage of the latest and more productive features. 

From the benefits mentioned above, it’s quite clear that your plumbing industry greatly needs the services of a field service management software. Your plumbers too need easier time working on their assigned tasks, adding to the reasons why you need to integrate FieldElite in your plumbing business.

Fine-tuning your Operations and keeping our staff Happy with FieldElite

They are the engine that drives your operations, but are you really giving you value for your money? How much time is spent by your personnel on lengthy paperwork and record-keeping, as opposed to actually providing the service to your customers? Manual tasks create bottlenecks and slow your operations, which in turn affects service delivery and customer satisfaction. You want to reach more clients and boost your brand image, growing your market share and generating more revenue. Field Service Management (FSM) software comes in optimise the operations of your mobile workforce, cut down resource wastage, and enhance your productivity as a firm, by actually enabling your field staff to get more done, thus achieving their individual goals. In fact, according to a report published by Fortune Business Insights?, the global FSM market- which stood at $2.29 billion as recently as 2018, will have expanded to $7.27 billion by 2026. What does this mean for your employees, and how do they benefit from FieldElite?

  • Skipping the paperwork with end-to-end automation

Filing reports, keeping track of equipment used, working on the Excel sheets for multiple jobs on a daily basis, all through to the routing and billing- it can be a logistical nightmare. It’s not just about the hours spent poring through documents and typing away at calculators. Manual work exposes you to the risks of human error. Missing records, inaccurate assessments of the situation on the ground due to the overwhelming data streaming in, putting the head office staff under strain- it all hampers the productivity of the company. 

Take scheduling for instance. You have different employees, and various jobs that need their attention, at different locations. It can be a plumbing company whose clients have water filters that need to be repaired, gas boilers inspected, leaking pipes fixed, and others who need new installations to be set up. Assigning your personnel to the different situations will need to take into account the type of job, and the amount of time that it will require, aspects such as the location and the crew that is closest to it. At the head office you will want to keep tabs on the jobs that are in progress, pending, complete, those on hold, and even those that have been cancelled. Running all these through traditional manual processes is enough to drive you to the edge. What’s more, tasks that slip through your fingers amidst the confusion will result in negative feedback from your customers- which you don’t want hitting your brand.

With a field service job management software like FieldELite, you get to handle it all from one dashboard. Optimise your service delivery using the accurate scheduler, that allows you to account for the location of your employees, the status of the job- from the urgent ones like emergency tasks, to the normal duties such as routine maintenance, and low-priority tasks. The field service scheduling software comes with a real-time location feature that allows you to determine the employees closest to the client’s premises who will be appropriate for the job, map out the service areas and give you a birds-eye view of all the operations on the ground, while being updated with the progress of each specific task. Less time is spent travelling to- and from the central office, and more on actually tending to your client’s needs. You can even have situations where you can assign end-of-day tasks to employees who will be passing on that route on their way home.

  • Enhanced resource utilisation that promotes personal and professional development

Skill is key across the industries- from electrical services, solar panel installation, landscaping, home remodelling, pest control, plumbing, HVAC system maintenance, to construction and property management. For the job to be done appropriately and make your clients happy, you want to assign the task to an employee who is particularly proficient at it. This tends to be glimpsed over during manual scheduling since the personnel at the head office will be swamped with so many files, and will pick the first one that comes close to fitting the job description, leading to overlapping of roles. Sure, they may get it done, having seen their colleagues do it and even helping them out when they worked together before on similar projects- but will it be up to the required standard? On the other hand, the FSM allows you to ensure that you get the right technician for the task- who will be more motivated, boosting their performance.

What about accidents? Your employees want to feel safe as they go about their mandate. Many of the field service jobs are hazardous- such as electrical repair jobs, window cleaning tasks at high rise buildings, to elevator repair jobs where a slight glitch can lead to severe ramifications. Field service management software also comes in handy here, where the head office can be notified of any emergency the moment it occurs, and arrange for the necessary action to be taken immediately. That way, your employees will not feel neglected while they are out in the field, showing them that their safety is a priority to your business- which in turn increases their morale. 

  • Readily available knowledgebase and feedback system

When the employees have been assigned a specific job, they will require certain information about it. This includes the scope of the task, history of previous repairs or maintenance that was carried out, accompanying images if needed, risk assessment, any hazards or contaminants that they will need to prepare for, to notes left by technicians who had handled it. Having to keep checking their email, or picking up documents at the office for the day’s job and walking around with them all day as they tend to one customer after another, will slow things down, and not to mention frustrate them. However, the FSM system is directly accessible by the employees via app on their phones. The information needed for each specific task will thus be at their fingertips, speeding up the process and ensuring that they will be ready for each project being handled. 

While carrying out the job itself, the employees will use the very same app to update the system on how it is progressing, chat with the staff at the head office, update the inventory and even place orders for extra parts if necessary. Since mobile service management software apps like FieldElite also work in offline mode, the photos, reports and other entries that are made are collected by the app and saved on the device. Once a network connection is established, they are then updated to the central database- thus ensuring that the job can proceed regardless of the location. 

Once the job is completed, the customer input is also taken, registered in the system through their e-signature. A signoff comment included gives the customer the opportunity to indicate their experience with the job, and the feedback that they would like to provide. In case the job has not been completed, then the scheduling software kicks in, putting it in queue for another appointment to take care of the task, or resolve the issue that had caused it not to be completed the first time. The completed tasks head right to invoicing, which is also handled within the field service management platform, making it a seamless task for the head office staff.

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