Users of personal mobile phones are no doubt familiar with the notoriously high roaming costs associated with accessing the internet outside their home countries. These charges can be just as much of a burden to corporate users travelling or working abroad.
With the atmosphere of the global economy as turbulent as ever – and the recent spate of mergers and acquisitions, lending uncertainty to an already unpredictable market – institutions in the financial services industry have been tightening their belts and looking for ways of streamlining their operations to weather the storm.
Evolutions in service delivery and changing customer expectations require organisations to have a more global presence. On one level, this can mean having branch offices in far flung locations, while on another, breaking into new markets or establishing an international branding identity may necessitate in-person travel to spread the word about the products and services an institution has to offer.
Telecommunication has a role to play in this, with banks and finance houses facing the challenge of providing for and managing remote and mobile workforces, while simultaneously keeping costs down. Roaming costs can be a major contributor to this financial burden, so in this article we’ll be considering what measures organisations in the financial services industry can implement to alleviate this problem.
Different Charges, Wherever You Roam
Though member states of the European Union have imposed a capped and sliding scale of charges for mobile roaming within the region – with a pledge to abolish roaming costs entirely, within the current calendar year – transitional charges still apply.
Outside the EU, charges may be imposed on an ad hoc, local, or regional basis – and data roaming costs in many parts of the world can be notoriously high, or unpredictable.
Finance institutions operating in high-cost areas need to be especially vigilant as to how their expatriate users access the internet and web-based services.
Roaming Costs, Hidden in the Background
Mobile applications that update themselves automatically or call upon location or other cloud services in the background can be an unbudgeted drain on mobile accounts, as users may not even be aware that these apps are using data access.
Mobile Device Management (MDM) policies need to take these factors into account, and administrators should draw up lists of those apps known to require background data access – and put in place procedures for disabling these apps for international users who might otherwise incur huge roaming costs.
No Free Lunch, with Wi-Fi
Free public Wi-Fi is a viable option for private phone users looking to cut costs by avoiding international roaming charges. But conventional security wisdom advises against using hotspots for any online activity involving user logins or sensitive transactions.
So for workers in the financial services industry who have to deal on a daily basis with corporate and customer data and credentials, free Wi-Fi services should be considered off-limits for business purposes.
Data Bundles, Or Add-Ons
“Add-ons” or data bundles wrap a limited data allowance in a fixed-price package – typically with provisions for international roaming. Deals for enterprise users can be very economical, so organisations in the financial services industry should consider bundles as a serious option for reducing their roaming costs.
Accessing voicemail services while roaming is one of the major factors driving up costs, as premium rates typically apply. Consultations should be made with mobile network providers and IT administrators to give users the information they need to disable voicemail while roaming.
Apps with Offline Capabilities
Having users download apps with offline capabilities before they travel is another way of limiting their reliance on potentially budget-draining international data services. Mapping, navigation, and even currency conversion apps are available with offline functionality, and lists of approved software may be drawn up and made available to workers within the organisation.
Region-Specific Phone Numbers
Having a phone number that’s local to the region of your operations avoids international roaming costs by attracting local network rates.
Purchasing local SIM cards is one option. Using a virtual SIM or virtual phone service provider is another. For example, Swytch provides its subscribers with UK-registered business mobile phone numbers, which may be assigned to personal smartphones and individual or corporate accounts.
Outsourcing Region-Specific Personnel
An alternative to hiring expatriate staff in offshore locations is the recruitment of locally based talent within specific regions. As well as their knowledge of cultural and procedural norms for the area, such workers will also have local phone numbers and accounts, eliminating the need for international roaming costs to be incurred.
Steering Customers to Centralised or Lower Cost Channels
While there may be circumstances where it’s necessary to have a temporary or longer-term physical presence in an offshore location, the predominance of online commerce makes it possible to reduce actual physical interactions between customers and financial services outlets by centralising resources and diverting consumers to lower-cost channels such as eCommerce portals, and online banking services.
Moves to these channels reflect a larger trend in cost-cutting within the financial services industry that has also seen the closure and consolidation of physical branch offices.
Cloud-Based Alternatives to Travel
Online resources can also eliminate the physical need for travelling. Virtual phone service providers like Swytch are powered by Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telecommunications networks, which augment telephony with collaboration services, data and document handling via web-based applications and portals, and offer audio and video conferencing and web meeting facilities as an alternative to in-person gatherings.
With mobile workers (including the staff of financial services institutions) now constituting almost 40% of the global working population, and with cost-cutting at the forefront of so much of enterprise planning and priorities, savings on international data roaming costs are an element of the balance sheet equation that shouldn’t be ignored, or treated lightly.
If you’d like to learn more about how a virtual phone service provider can help your financial services company save on roaming costs, get in touch with the telecoms experts at Swytch today.