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WAYS TO KEEP YOUR HYBRID WORKPLACE SECURE FROM THE IRREVERSIBLE DAMAGE OF A CYBER ATTACK

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By Alex Bransome, CISO at Doherty Associates, specialists in managing and securing cloud services in the finance sector.

 

recent in-depth study into 3000 UK firms and 2000 employees commissioned by our team at Doherty Associates found that 42% of the financial and legal firms questioned including those in private equity, investment and asset management, said their firm was inadequately protected against the cyber risks of hybrid working.

At the same time, one in five of the firms admitted that a major cyber attack could significantly cost their business at least £10 million or more in irreversible damage such as through loss of sensitive information, corporate and confidential data, due to a GDPR breach or fine, and long-term reputational damage to the firm.

Yet hybrid working is here to stay for over half of the firms we spoke to, despite being more vulnerable than ever to a cyber breach. A recent BBC poll on 50 of the biggest employers in Britain, including investment firms JP Morgan, Rathbones and investment bank VSA Capital, said they had no immediate plans to bring staff back to the office full-time.

And you can see why flexible working is the preferred choice for both firm and employee, as over a third of the finance and legal professionals we spoke to said that they found it easier to win new business and close deals when working from home.

However, a more flexible, hybrid scenario is creating increasingly complex cyber security challenges as employees move between different set-ups, in different places, using different devices.

 

More than one front door

With employees working outside of the office, using a blend of personal and company devices, finance firms no longer have a single ‘front door’ to protect but a multitude of entry points to secure against cyber criminals.

While it remains the case that most information leaks out by accident, the chances of this happening increases with more employees working from home, as the ‘attack surface area’ extends out to every device being used, no matter who owns it. At the same time, cyber criminals are finding ever more sophisticated ways to target remote employees, with finance an increasingly attractive target due to the high value of transactions.  What’s more, it seems a high number of employees working remotely are experiencing cyber or data breaches unknown to the firm.

 

It’s the unknown you need to worry about

52% of the finance and legal firms we interviewed said their organisation has yet to experience a cyber attack or data breach since transitioning to remote working since the first UK Covid-19 lockdown back in March 2020. Yet, a quarter of employees said they had been the victim of a data breach or caused one themselves since working remotely, one in seven had experienced a phishing attack or similar, and 42% admitted to emailing confidential client information or unencrypted attachments.

The difference between how many firms are detecting breaches compared to the reality of them occurring suggests that employees are not reporting all of the mistakes they make. It also shows that firms are still in need of a well-rounded cyber security programme that incorporates protective, detective and responsive solutions, if they are to keep their information, people and workforce safe.

It’s not the tip of the iceberg you need to worry about. It’s the bit you can’t see underneath. Underestimating the risks and vulnerabilities that come with home and hybrid working could prove costly.

 

Reinforce your moats to protect your castles

Many firms appreciate that a single ‘castle and moat’ perimeter defence approach – where employees are protected within the boundaries of the office firewall – is no longer fit for purpose in a hybrid workplace. However, some are struggling to keep up with the fast-moving challenges that blended working brings, but there are steps your firm can put in place to safeguard a firm’s ‘borderless’ network.

  • Improve your cyber hygiene and widen your security perimeter to protect those working outside the office

Cloud-based technologies such as Data Loss Prevention and Information Protection can help protect against data leakage. Ensure that all internet facing systems have multi-factor authentication, so employees keep their identity secure while working remotely, and restrict the use of personal devices.

Use software that ringfences and encrypts all the corporate data on a mobile or ‘bring your own’ devices as this means the corporate data can be wiped if the device is lost or stolen without this affecting any personal data – such as family photos – if the device is then found or recovered.  Also using disk encryption to protect all data on company devices such as laptops, will mitigate the risk of it being lost or compromised if the device is stolen.

Ensuring though that no company information is shared via personal cloud storage platforms where documents can easily be forgotten, and just as easily hacked, is also advised.

  • Conduct a cyber risk assessment at least every six months to improve your security posture

This will identify and address any critical vulnerabilities, gaps or compliance issues. An assessment should involve identifying your most important/critical assets; identifying any weakness/vulnerabilities in those assets, or in how they are used or accessed, assessing the likelihood of a risk materialising; and finally identifying controls to help address the identified risks, to reduce risk to an acceptable level.

  • Carry out regular cyber awareness training

Over a third of the financial professionals in our poll say they’ve had no cyber training since working from home from the start of the pandemic despite the fact that they are now using different software and platforms to collaborate as well as a mix of personal and work devices.

Building in regular comprehensive cyber security awareness training for every employee is critical to safeguarding against any vulnerabilities, weak spots or compliance breaches.

It should most importantly clearly convey your organisation’s approved methods of working, communicating and sharing data. Beyond this, user awareness should cover the end user security best practices and how to spot common attacks such as phishing, plus phishing assessments to actively test and measure awareness levels across the organisation.

Empowering employees with the knowledge to identify threats in real-time can become a firm’s greatest security asset so making cyber security training a ‘must’ and not just a nice-to-have is critical in this new era of hybrid working.

Your firm is only as safe as your weakest link but cyber savvy employees, robust cyber security measures, and a strong cyber defence system will keep both firm and workforce safe and secure no matter where they are.

 

Business

IS SCARCITY OF TALENT THREATENING THE UK’S FINTECH CROWN?

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To be attributed to Rafa Plantier, Head of UK and Ireland at Tink

 

From the Square Mile to Canary Wharf, London has been the historic centre of global finance, with long-established trading exchanges and trusted financial institutions. In the digital era, it has also ensured that it’s moved with the times to become a thriving hub for fintech.

But the UK financial services sector is now at an inflection point. In the past year, London’s position as a global fintech leader has been under threat. Earlier this year, Amsterdam overtook The City as the largest European share trading hub. The European Banking Authority moved from London to Paris. And Dublin, Paris and Frankfurt are all competing to win a greater share of the European financial marketplace.

The culprits of the shift are the twin challenges of the pandemic and Brexit, combined with the speed of technological transformation in financial services – disrupting the traditional flow of people, capital and ideas. So the pressing question for the industry is: how do we maintain and, more importantly, accelerate momentum to retain London’s fintech crown?

The answer revolves around one key thing — people.

 

Diverse talent drives innovation

Attracting the best talent is crucial if the UK financial services sector is going to continue to thrive and retain its global position as the preeminent financial centre.

In February 2021, the Kalifa Review laid out a strategy and delivery model for the UK to lead the fintech revolution, covering five key areas. These included skills and talent, investment and international attractiveness and competitiveness. But what became clear was that access to the right level of highly skilled talent was one of the biggest challenges for UK fintech, with barriers spanning both domestic skills shortages and the need to access foreign talent seamlessly.

As a native Brazilian in the UK, working for a Swedish-owned fintech, I understand these challenges as well as anyone. I love London, but we must recognise that fintech firms need unique talent and skills, and such a talent base can’t be met by a single city – not even one as resourceful as London. Not only do fintechs require technology and data specialists, but also experienced managers with good knowledge of high-growth companies and financial services.

As someone lucky enough to have worked with startup and scale-up fintechs across the world,  I understand the unique grounding that comes from being a part of a high-growth global company. That’s why I believe it’s vital that we attract people from across the world with commercial experience at ambitious, rapid-growth businesses — so they can bring this experience to bear on the UK financial services sector.

At the same time, many companies face renewed pressure to create new services and products to meet expectations for growth. That is why it’s critical that the UK has access to people with the right technical skills in areas such as software engineering, DevOps, Cybersecurity and data science.

Put simply, having the smartest minds delivering the best products is good for everyone. It drives efficiency, productivity,  growth and, ultimately, prosperity.

 

The UK is open for fintech

The UK should be proud of being a fintech pioneer and the driving force behind legislation that helped usher in the era of open banking. There is now an exciting opportunity to take this even further. Having access to a diverse pool of talent and skills will empower the financial services industry to create innovative products to tackle complex social challenges, such as better B2B payments, financial inclusion and climate change.

The good news is that the UK government clearly recognises the role the industry has to play in driving growth and innovation. The 2021 Autumn Budget reaffirmed commitments to reskill the nation. With £3.8bn budgeted for skills and a formal criteria for the long-awaited Scale Up Visa, the Chancellor announced a set of proposals that will support the breadth of our sector — from startups right through to unicorns and incumbent banks. This will be essential for fintechs like ours to continue to trailblaze and for the UK to differentiate itself on the global stage.

In an increasingly competitive global landscape, and to sustain momentum, we must keep talent avenues open to attract the best of the best in the industry. As one of the fastest-growing areas of the UK economy, the benefits of nurturing UK fintech to drive productivity, growth and lead the UK’s post-pandemic recovery, cannot be overstated. 2021 has seen a surge of activity in the industry and I am eager to see what London’s fintech sector can achieve in 2022.

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SET YOUR BUSINESS UP FOR SALES SUCCESS IN A POST-PANDEMIC WORLD

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SET YOUR BUSINESS UP FOR SALES SUCCESS IN A POST-PANDEMIC WORLD

Dean Fiveash, Head of FinTech Sales, IFX

Without doubt the Coronavirus pandemic impacted every aspect of our lives and fundamentally changed the way in which we all conduct business.

From the widespread adoption of working from home, to the amplified focus on employee wellbeing and work life balance, to simply acknowledging that people are more than their job titles and are often juggling childcare, pets and terrible wifi issues all whilst trying to do their job. The last 18 months have altered the way we work forever and in order to set our businesses up for success we have also needed to rethink how we operate.

Dean Fiveash

In a people facing sector like sales,  it’s  clear that the loss of face-to-face interaction is perhaps the biggest loss and an impending challenge as we slowly emerge from the confines of the pandemic. Gone are the days of instant downloads from ‘water cooler’ conversations with the team discussing deals or general matters. Instead, our inboxes and diaries are full of zoom catch ups. This isn’t to say that success has dwindled. Flexibility of working from home has helped many businesses to grow rapidly. In fact at IFX we have enjoyed our ten best months of company sales, but there is no denying the way in which we work within our teams has shifted. So how can you set up your sales teams to maximise its chances of success?

 

Adapting To The Times

For many businesses operating during these unprecedented times the shift towards the work from home culture has seen its benefits. Speed is key in the fintech industry and video calls on top of isolated working has greatly improved our time efficiency allowing us to do more for our clients in the long run. Equally, with the workforce being spread around the country and in some cases even globally, came the need for further rigorous checks and processes to ensure the high standards set in the office environment are still being met.

Despite this I would argue that this made us better sales people, and in turn a more successful and thriving sales team.

Post-pandemic success is grounded in not just the talent of your employees but also how you choose to structure your teams. For me, the old adage ‘People Buy People’ remains the most relevant factor for developing a slick sales team. At the end of the day, the technical stuff can be learnt over time but the proficient people skills needed in client facing roles is more innate.

When evaluating team skills, individuals who demonstrate determination and the ability to keep smiling through adversity are a vital asset, especially in the fast paced fintech industry.

Having worked in numerous team leader roles within the sales industry,  I know the difference that a collegiate and supportive team can make to successfully securing deals. The key is to have people at your disposal who are going to pitch in to help others, in turn making the team more robust. In the post-pandemic world, this will remain the key quality to look for and embed as a core value across the business.

 

Fostering A Successful Culture 

Whilst the team structure and core skills are an important part of the team set up, good management and personal development structure is crucial to success. At IFX, our sales leadership team all have client portfolios and are regularly signing and navigating deals. It’s through giving my team practical experience and regular client interaction that we can gain far better market insight than through managing team activity or KPIs alone.

More discipline is also required when working at home to retain the sales focus whilst navigating domestic distractions. As such, maintaining your employee motivation and focus is something each business should work on. A difficult feat without the physical presence of your team and one balanced on knowing your employees and their individual needs. But little things go a long way, so incentives and perks such as company socials, bonuses or simply a free breakfast can work wonders to motivate others. Another tip is to set  attainable goals and regular check-ins with your team to keep motivation on track to reach peak productivity.

 

Looking Forward

Team dynamics will continue to change to adapt to the ever-changing and rapidly evolving landscape, the secret to success will remain the same.

Something to look forward to in the next couple of years as a movement,  is the greater adoption of smarter contracts and embedded FinTech, which of course as businesses and as a team we will have to adapt to.

Ultimately, my biggest piece of advice to others is to get the basics right.  A leading-edge solution fails to achieve greatness if it isn’t backed with competent sales/relationship managers and attentive operational support. Traditional ingredients for success such as reputation and trustworthiness are built over time, often through word of mouth, but building a competent team who can make your clients happy is essential to that mix

 

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