By Adam Bangle, Vice President EMEA at BlackBerry
More than 90 percent of financial services’ IT managers are not fully confident in the ability of their employees, consultants and partners to adequately safeguard data. This was revealed in a survey conducted by BlackBerry of 500 financial services IT professionals across six countries in North America and Europe.
The survey revealed that one of the reasons for this low level of confidence is the widespread use of unsanctioned cloud-based file-sharing services, to store or share files. The survey also revealed that the majority of financial services institutions reported they had experienced a breach due to gaps in securing and sharing business files, and almost one-third of respondents indicated that sensitive data had been exposed to competitors due to the use of cloud-based file sharing services.
Regulatory and Reputational Risks
This common workaround has become a thorn in the side of many IT departments because once a file leaves the organisation’s control, it is untraceable and at risk of exposure. This issue is particularly concerning in regard to compliance with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) mandates, as untracked files shared outside of organisational control can lead to regulated information being compromised.
There can be serious consequences from these types of security breaches, especially within the financial sector. Once information ends up outside of an organisation, there is no chance to remediate the risks posed. When customer files fall into the wrong hands, a company may not only be in violation of GDPR, but is also at risk of suffering considerable damage to its reputation and the subsequent loss of business.
Productivity is Key Driver
At the heart of the issue is how to prevent employees from feeling they need to use unsanctioned software or services in order to get their work done. Through the use of shadow IT software, employees feel that they are more productive. In fact, 75 percent of those surveyed in financial services indicated that productivity was lost due to the constraints posed by company sanctioned software and services.
The problem is mainly caused by outdated systems at organisations and governments combined with security controls that don’t take user workflows into account. Larger companies are typically slower at adopting new tools with which employees can do their job. This issue is compounded by the fact that most employees are accustomed to the newer, more user-friendly tools they encounter in their daily lives as a consumer.
Yet, at work they are forced to use older software and are thwarted by security controls that create barriers to productivity. Because employees want to work in the most efficient manner, they are often forced to look for alternatives outside of the organisation’s toolsets. The answer: meet the needs of the users in a logical way that supports modern workflows, because users will find workarounds if these needs are not being met.
Zero Trust Solutions
This is where IT teams at organisations run into a wall, because many intuitively believe that a choice has to be made between productivity and security. This is not the case, and the key lies in the needs of the user. Organisations should leverage Zero Trust security architecture collaboration tools that ensure workers can securely access company systems, data, and productivity suites with the minimum of disruption to their workflows. Zero Trust strategies ensure that effective security controls govern every user, device, and application interacting with an organisation’s network.
Zero Trust security principles are the most secure means to allowing remote workers access to files and productivity software when working remotely. They can provide secure access from anywhere to any application, desktop tool or file on a corporate network while allowing employees to use corporate-managed or their personal devices to access behind-the-firewall content without sacrificing the productivity they are accustomed to when working in a traditional office environment.
Such a solution can also provide secure browser functionality to run common web and legacy applications, and also provide access to intranet resources users have access to when working in the office. A browser-based solution also allows users to connect seamlessly to email, calendar, and contacts without the need for IT to manage individual devices or performance-killing VPNs that cannot offer the same level of performance.
Zero Trust solutions that employ machine learning and predictive AI can also block attacks and dynamically adapt security policy enforcement based on criteria like location, device handling, and other behavioural and contextual factors that can also protect against human error and well-intentioned security workarounds. Such tools can improve the user experience by minimising disruptions and the need to reauthenticate across multiple devices and applications unless warranted, providing the user with a zero touch experience.
Zero Trust strategies and the right collaboration tools are essential to assuring effective security controls are in place to manage users, device, and applications both inside and outside of an organisation’s IT environment. They also work to securely maintain seamless workflows for remote workers to support collaboration, productivity and continuity for critical business operations. This is essential for all industry verticals, and particularly important for the financial industry given its highly regulated nature and the sensitivity of the data involved.
FIVE PITFALLS PROFESSIONAL SERVICES MUST OVERCOME DURING THE PANDEMIC
By Andy Campbell, global solution evangelist at FinancialForce
The pandemic’s impact on the global economy has, and is continuing to be, one of the most severe in modern history. To put this into context, economists have already asserted that it has been three times more severe than the financial crisis of 2008, and we’re not out of the woods yet.
Even before the pandemic, businesses were navigating a wholly different landscape. The shift to a services economy, alongside the increased expectation for higher quality customer service and experience, were already piling on the pressure. Throw the pandemic, and subsequent shift to remote working into the mix, and the need to make changes – and fast – becomes even more explicit.
Much like the natural world, adaptation is key to businesses’ survival during periods of turmoil. Many services companies aimed to improve certain business functions and processes by beginning to adopt cloud-based systems, with a particular focus on the front-office. Although this is a positive development towards process optimisation, inefficiencies will remain until enterprises unite around one overarching cloud strategy.
Creating that strategy and employing it, particularly at pace, is not the simplest process, and there are common pitfalls that many businesses, especially global ones, are likely to encounter.
Outdated and error-prone processes
Operating at a global scale comes with its own unique challenges. Regional teams on the ground with their own local capabilities and knowledge are a benefit for multinationals, but a side-effect is that they often develop their own tactical, highly localised solutions. These run alongside those systems operating at a global level and cause friction.
This friction is most commonly seen between the delivery level, where quick fixes take place, and the global level, where greater consistency is needed. A disjointed approach to applications development leads to inefficient business processes, as well as centralised solutions that are rigid and difficult to maintain.
The business world turns at a rapid rate, and out of sync processes slow down a firm’s ability to respond to quick-fire changes. A fragmented systems architecture, for instance, impacts data quality, as well as its timeliness. Outdated and potentially incorrect data leads to delays and misinformed decision-making. Instead, a unified strategy is required to oversee the entire opportunity-through-delivery process and ensure decisions are based on accurate and timely data.
Front and back office – forever separate
Disparate systems, data sets and processes also lead to conflicts between the front and back office. Both offices are all too often siloed, preventing optimal visibility across the organisation throughout the sales-to-delivery process. As each is working with different datasets, in terms of both accuracy and detail, it can counteract the contributions made to business growth, and act as a barrier to the development of fresh new services.
By creating opportunities for an exchange of information between the front and back office, businesses can ensure that there is collaboration when comparing data between the two, enabling more opportunity for development and seamlessly tying the front and back office together.
Shortcomings in customer experience
Customer experience is further cementing itself as a key competitive differentiator in businesses across sectors. However, elevating customer experience calls for more than just using spreadsheets and custom software to manage the delivery process. These methods restrict the company’s flexibility when confronted with changes to the market or customers’ needs.
Maintaining agility in customer interactions is a crucial step towards success to ensure that they remain informed at any given time. By deploying a single system to oversee the whole opportunity-through-delivery process, an organisation is able to deliver cohesion and unity throughout the customer service.
Disorganisation in ongoing projects
The trifecta of remote working, complex projects and project managers with unique methods of monitoring progress, has resulted in a decrease in visibility into project status for many businesses. Subsequently, employees often end up using ‘side systems’ to complete tasks, which brings difficulties as these systems are not completely integrated into the global process.
The problems initially formed from a lack of clarity into projects soon manifest themselves into most areas of the organisation. For example, being unclear of when projects will be completed or what resources will be needed and when will eventually hinder the success of future projects. Misunderstandings surrounding available capacity can cause sales teams to over- or under- sell the sales quota, bringing additional problems for the delivery team.
The negative impact this can cause both for resource utilisation and the effectiveness of project delivery are considerable. In order to optimise the delivery of both internal and external service projects, businesses should look to deploy robust platforms for management and automation that can organise workflows and create greater visibility.
Revenue leakage is often referred to as ‘the silent killer’ of businesses as, unless you’re looking for it, it can remain unnoticed until it’s too late. Disregarding the importance of looking for revenue leakage is a common error that needs to be rectified as it can occur at any time throughout the customer lifecycle and cause substantial damage.
Gaps may commonly appear between sold revenue and earned revenue that, at first, may not appear to be a major cause for concern, but can eventually result in significant revenue loss.
Causes of revenue leakage include problems with data entry and detached systems, to name just two. Organisations which lack a single system to oversee business functions such as planning, producing, and selling, are in danger of seeing revenue leakage.
To avoid these five faults, financial services organisations can benefit from using the right cloud solution to encourage collaboration between the front and back office, enabling them to balance real-time resource demand against resource capacity, forecast capacity long into the future, and more easily convert won opportunities into billable projects.
The past year has made it clear that increased flexibility and agility should be a priority for organisations to keep up with any unforeseen developments, no matter how unlikely they may seem.
HOW FINANCE TEAMS CAN UTILISE MODERN TECHNOLOGIES TO PREDICT AND MITIGATE RISK
Carol Lee, CFO of Wrike
There is no denying that the finance function plays an important role in every aspect of ‘doing business’. Although much of ensuring strong financial health, tracking revenue, and managing budgets will take place behind the scenes, all are key ingredients which, ultimately, determine whether a business is successful. This is even more relevant in today’s climate.
Thanks to the ongoing pandemic and resulting economic flux, each and every business has faced financial challenges in recent months. As revenues continue to falter, budgets are tighter than ever and profitability is essential.
Amid the economic uncertainty, CFOs and finance teams are set to play an important role in recovery efforts moving forward. Ensuring financial wealth and a solid revenue stream has never been more important. For many, it has also never been more difficult to achieve.
The modern finance team needs to be about far more than month-end and retrospective quarterly reporting. The pandemic has highlighted how important this statement is, with sudden shifts in consumer demand for certain products and services driving drastic changes in revenue for many businesses. For example, at the beginning of the pandemic, many supermarkets will have seen their revenues increase, whilst restaurants and gyms witnessed significant dips following necessary closures.
In order to survive this time of turmoil, finance teams need to be able to quickly and efficiently adapt to these changes in customer behaviour. Planning projects that are expected to yield profit is no longer enough. Finance teams need to ensure that these projects maintain profitability throughout their lifecycle, controlling financials from the planning phase through client delivery. As such, tracking budget spend in real-time in order to keep margins positive and meet customer expectations is key.
Visibility needs to be front of mind, especially in our new remote working landscape, where face-to-face communications has had to take a backseat. The right performance metrics, delivered on time, can enable finance teams to track and obtain a deeper understanding of how projects and finance strategies are progressing and delivering against set objectives. They can help to determine stress points in the business and articulate events and triggers for certain financial actions to be taken.
When utilised alongside the right modern technologies, they can even help to save projects that aren’t delivering, flagging potential problems and recommending where adjustments should be made.
Predicting and mitigating risk
Whether it’s unforeseen additional costs, tight margins, or budget burn, these are the factors that can make or break the success of a project and, ultimately, a business. By using real-time insights, finance teams can play a pivotal role in keeping the entire organisation on track. In order to take this one step further and mitigate any potential risks before they wreak havoc, finance teams need to be able to predict and plan for a series of different outcomes. This is where modern technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) can help.
Tools with these technologies can help finance teams to get one step ahead and tackle at-risk projects before they cause any issues. By identifying signals and patterns based on hundreds of factors – including past campaign results, work progress, organisation history and work complexity – they provide extremely timely diagnosis and help to minimise risk throughout the entire organisation. For each project, an automated risk assessment prediction will be issued. For both medium and high risk levels, the machine learning model will also provide a list of factors that could contribute to potential delays. The insights that these reports provide can help to save entire projects.
Once a finance team knows what the potential risk might be, they can turn their attention towards what is truly important – managing and mitigating it. This can be done by assessing a project’s ‘risk tolerance’. Put simply, how much risk can you allow before you need to act. This is an essential part of any project management process, helping finance professionals to decide on the most effective response and ensuring that resources are being used in the most effective way.
As organisations across every sector fight to get back on their feet post-pandemic, ensuring long-term profitability will be a key focus. Many businesses will turn to their finance teams to lead the charge and provide the solutions and recommendations which will ensure future economic survival. As such, having a plan in place to make sure that all projects stay on track and that any potential risks to the business are mitigated before they cause a problem needs to be a priority. By investing in modern technologies – such as AI and ML – today, finance teams are setting themselves up for success tomorrow, no matter what is around the corner.
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