Andrew Gehrlein, Chief Financial Officer, Park Place Technologies
We find ourselves in the midst of the fourth wave of combating Covid-19 and the new Omicron variant and for many countries with highly developed financial services sectors, hybrid working seems here to stay both by employee election and through governmental guidance. So how can financial services organisations’ maintain equal levels of security with a high proportion of staff working remotely?
Just how many staff who wish to continue with hybrid working practices came to light earlier this year when leading management consulting firm McKinsey, published its comprehensive report on the future of the physical workplace¹. Across the report’s twenty conclusions, one stood out in determining the future of the physical workplace – the majority of employees (52%) would prefer a continued hybrid model of working. McKinsey expanded the definition of hybrid workplaces to include the usage of flexible workspaces that are physically located outside of existing company office locations to include home office workspaces alongside communal spaceworks. In the world of Financial Services, which has been traditionally delivered from centralised, highly secured locations housed from geographical areas of expertise – how, in the current and post Covid world, do finance infrastructure leads accommodate this ongoing transfer of working conditions, especially with the increased security parameters that the world of trading demands?
Since the initial reactionary rush to accommodate working from home mandates in March 2020, these IT infrastructure leads have now had the benefit of time and experience to consider, mitigate and control the security impacts that continued hybrid working poses in finance. Today, these leads are proactively focused on developing a clear, structured and continued strategy for those organisations and employees who elect to work outside of company facilities. This is a monumental task in any sector, but compounded in financial services where speed, security and increased regulatory pressures are paramount considerations in any financial exchange. Hybrid staff continually need to access devices and exchange data above and beyond the usual elaborate security firewalls that these organisations typically embrace from within fixed corporate networks. This flexible requirement is a tall order when you consider that in practice, these IT leads now have to map and identify all possible ingress and egress points in their newly expanded dispersed network before holistically deploying enhanced next generation security and cyber services to give increased protection from hostile activities. This also includes systematic and ongoing understanding of endpoint usage, and endpoints themselves need to be capable of being restricted and isolated quickly, centrally and regardless of physical location in order to avoid further contamination should a security breach occur.
Mapping all devices is clearly an essential start-point. Within a hybrid working strategy, organisations also need to develop a clear understanding of usage of the cloud accounts that access corporate services. Of course, the nature of cloud service provision means that much of this is dynamic, on the fly and complex to track. Additionally, public network usage provides further challenges and need for increased vigilance and staff training in settings such as hub and communal spaces. As an example, data transfer to a wireless printer inside a secure corporate facility poses relatively little risk. Place the same wireless printer within a hub space and the possibilities for hostile activities increase manyfold. Equally in the home environment additional threats exist. These can include routers with exposed modem control interfaces; or staff using their own devices that may fall outside of patching windows; or the dramatic increase in domestic IoT exposure points, all of which need additional consideration within a permanent hybrid working strategy. Faced with the level of challenges, it becomes quickly apparent that finance IT leads essentially need a real-time, always-on, centrally managed discovery and monitoring system of devices and data.
How can this be achieved? Pre-Covid-19, IT Asset and inventory device management was limited largely to a manual discovery and tracking that assisted with security and auditory requirements. Faced with the complexity and threats outlined outside of corporate locations, today this discovery has to be conducted as an ongoing service, in real-time, expanded across multiple remote locations for immediate discovery, automating and simplifying asset disclosure without manual IT inventory collection. In short, discovery needs to provide complete visibility into financial services’ data centres and cloud environments, and should include servers (physical, virtual & cloud), desktops, peripherals, edge devices, alongside the infrastructure services they offer hybrid workers.
Discovery is the first step. Sound, ongoing, monitoring of everything on the network is the second. Here, proactive and predictive generic monitoring solutions are needed across estates that gives finance leads immediate and actionable insights to gain the greatest level of controls allowing identified new devices to be quickly added to the protection fold. Only then, when IT leads understand what hybrid workers are using at any given point in time, can the appropriate protection and cyber solutions be confidently layered, safe in the knowledge that there are no gaps.
5 tips to ensure CSR efforts come across as genuine
By Mick Clark, Managing Director, WePack Ltd
Corporate social responsibility – or CSR – is playing an increasingly pivotal role in the long-term success of modern-day companies.
The harsh reality is that only a paltry 46 percent of people trust the brands they buy from. And with more competition than ever in all walks of business, a positive brand reputation needs to be earned or customers will simply take their money elsewhere.
That’s why I share my insights on the importance of CSR in modern business and introduce an effective plan to avoid coming off as disingenuous to your employees and customer base.
The value of CSR
The needs of modern employees and consumers are changing. There is a higher emphasis placed on the ethics and morals of companies and their handling of hot button topics like the environment or social issues.
59 percent of UK workers believe their business should be investing in charitable initiatives. 67 percent of people aged 18-19 feel this way, showing a generational shift in favour of companies that support ethical, social, or environmental causes.
At WePack, we recognise the importance of this and make sure to regularly donate to a variety of charities including RRT (Rapid Relief Team), and donated £6,000 to the charity’s social causes last year.
An example of good CSR can be found in search engine giant, Google. It has had notable success with its CSR initiatives. Its flagship CSR campaign, Google Green, is a companywide commitment to using clean sources of energy, cutting down on its use of fossil fuels and drastically increasing energy efficiency as a direct response to the climate crisis.
It has been so successful that its data centres now require 50 percent less power to run than the average data centre and it’s poured over $1 billion into jumpstarting renewable energy projects.
Customer attitudes are fundamentally changing, and people are far more concerned about the values that their money could be indirectly supporting. In fact, 71 percent of customers prefer buying from businesses that align directly with their values.
In the modern-day, demonstrating high levels of CSR boosts brand perception. Businesses that make it a priority are more attractive – from an investment standpoint – to both customers and potential stakeholders.
For example, more than a third of consumers are also willing to pay more for a product or service if the business prioritises sustainability specifically – so it pays to be responsible.
Businesses with purpose-driven and ethical goals and proven commitments to CSR help retain employees. Millennials will make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025, and it’s that cohort that is increasingly demanding socially responsible employers.
Those that fail to meet the needs will ultimately see their customers take their purchasing power elsewhere.
Addressing the challenges
As obvious as it may sound for a business to take on as much CSR as possible, many organisations face limitations.
Pressure from investors can disrupt the growth of CSR initiatives. Sometimes, the direction that stakeholders want to take the company doesn’t fully align with plans to target social or environmental issues.
Companies face becoming fixated on linking profitability with CSR programmes. It can be tough to present a genuine CSR programme without it coming across as a marketing ploy – presenting an extra hurdle for businesses to overcome.
Despite the challenges businesses face that are out of their control, many firms unwittingly make their own mistakes that cost them dearly.
For example, businesses can struggle to bolster their CSR programmes if they don’t consult their customers and staff first. A simple survey helps companies decide what issues to put as a priority and target to satisfy their customer base and employees.
Any attempt to create an effective CSR programme needs top-down support. Many businesses wrongly treat CSR as a separate entity, rather than fostering a companywide culture. This can lead any attempt to push back on global issues to appear disingenuous to those looking in.
Shifting the CSR approach
Because of the global shift in public needs and opinions in recent years, businesses need to better demonstrate their efforts to avoid having their campaigns labelled as a box-ticking exercise.
It’s no secret that consumers are doing more research and are becoming more switched on to spotting lacklustre approaches to CSR. Also, everyone can have their say online – it’s much easier to get exposed if your CSR campaign is nothing but an empty publicity stunt.
For example, Volkswagen’s reputation was left in tatters after its ‘greenwashing’ scandal promoted a newer, cleaner diesel vehicle that wasn’t any better for the environment than previous models. The company took it further by fitting a device that helped it cheat emissions tests – resulting in a $125 million fine.
For this reason, CSR campaigns need tangible results to be credible and trustworthy.
Sharing top tips
When it comes to structuring a strong CSR campaign, it’s critical to demonstrate several things to prove your strategy is effective in helping the chosen cause.
Firstly, evidence the fact that your efforts are helping wider communities. Whether it’s through statistics or showing proof of investment in social causes, tangible evidence goes a long way when legitimising your CSR campaign.
Secondly, balance your rhetoric. Effective communications are vital to the success of a campaign. However, it can damage a company’s image when done poorly. Businesses should speak about their chosen issues in their dialogue rather than spending too much time talking about the solutions the company has implemented. This stops them from becoming too self-promotional or sounding braggy.
To further avoid this, make sure you can directly tie your CSR campaign to corporate values and beliefs. As well as helping to strengthen your comms, it will also guarantee that company values are more than just surface-level – helping to facilitate tangible, long-term change.
How to Build Your Credit Up Safely
by Taylor McKnight, Author for Compare Credit
What Is Credit?
Credit is money owed by a person that allows them to pay off debts at a lower interest rate. Most banks use your credit score to determine how much they should lend you. Any business loan or mortgage requires that you have a good credit history. However, if someone has poor credit(www.comparecredit.com/credit-cards/credit-range/poor/), they may struggle to pay back these loans, resulting in higher interest payments, making it more difficult than ever to repay the debt. Lenders are aware of this issue and keep a close eye on your credit rating to ensure that no negative information gets reported. This could prevent you from getting another loan in the future. It is important to note that having a bad credit score does not mean you have had a bankruptcy or other kinds of defaults. Many people often face this problem because of unpaid bills or late payment fees. However, this does not mean that you cannot repair your credit – it simply means that all parties involved must work together to solve the problem.
How to build your credit safely
Building your credit score is a major concern for most people, especially if they plan to purchase something as big as a home or car. A good credit score will help one get better rates in the future and make it easier to finance their next venture. Here are some things you should know to improve your credit to be used for the best possible purposes.
1. Keep paying down your balances every month: One of the biggest mistakes that could hurt your credit score is not paying your balance down each month. People who don’t pay their credit card down within the agreed-upon time typically have high-interest rates and expensive monthly costs.
2. Pay your bills on time: The same goes for making payments on a bill. Not paying it within the specified timeframe will result in negative information being added to your report, further lowering your credit score. Ensure that your bank statements are accurate and that all accounts are up to date.
3. Become an authorized user: Some companies will allow customers to become authorized users after meeting certain requirements. Take a look at the terms and conditions before applying for this option. These programs usually give access to one particular service, such as checking or ATM transactions, but are helpful when you need additional coverage.
4. Set up automatic credit card payments: There are several ways to set up auto payment options on your credit cards, including sending them directly to your checking account via email or the phone. In addition, you may want to consider enrolling in online banking services that automatically make payments from your checking account into your credit card accounts.
Other tips when it comes to credit
1. Learn how to manage debt responsibly. This is true for both personal and business debts. Many people tend to spend more than they earn, especially during rapid growth and expansion. If you find yourself facing difficult circumstances, you can seek assistance by talking to friends and family members, getting professional advice, or using online budgeting tools.
2. Don’t skip any repayments. This rule applies specifically to late payments. You need to continue making regular payments, even if you’re behind by a few days or weeks. Once you miss a payment, you’ll start accumulating late payments that negatively impact your score.
3. Try consolidating your loans. Consolidation involves combining multiple small loans from various sources into one large loan, thereby lowering the total interest cost of the loan and reducing the risk associated with it.
4. Be wise with your credit report. One huge mistake most people make is neglecting to pay their bills on time or paying only the minimum due balance each month. As a result, bad information remains on their reports, impacting their scores. All outstanding balances must be paid off completely. Otherwise, negative items that remain on your report can keep you from achieving the best borrowing potential.
5. Get your questions answered. If you have any questions regarding your credit, ask for answers now rather than waiting until you’re experiencing trouble. With a little research, you should be able to learn enough to begin repairing your damaged credit report.
What to look out for that can harm your credit
1. Not checking your credit report: Most people use their credit cards frequently but fail to check their credit reports periodically. Checking at least every 12 months can give you valuable insight into whether or not there are errors on your credit.
2. Paying your bills late: Late payments can lead to hard inquiries affecting your score, which means it appears that you’ve applied for more credit elsewhere. Make sure you never miss a bill.
3 You Close Old or Inactive Credit Cards: If your close old cards, they may show up on your credit report for some time. Closing accounts can impact your score by causing “hard inquiries” that appear on your credit report. Before closing them, look for inactive or closed card accounts on your credit report.
4. You Have Negative Records: Many people think they’re protected because they haven’t had past credit problems. However, many factors may cause a “bad” rating to linger. A single application for a credit product with a low limit may count towards a negative review.
5. There Are Errors on Your Report: Mistakes such as missing debt or inflated balances can damage your credit report. Find out how much money you owe and what types of products you purchased, then try to dispute those entries on your credit report. Ensure you correct any information that needs to be corrected. Failing to do so could hurt your chances of getting approved for future credit.
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