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LIVING LIKE THE 3 PER CENT: WHY FINANCIAL SERVICES FIRMS NEED TO INVEST IN A SECURE USER EXPERIENCE ON FINANCIAL APPS

By Mike Kiser, Security Strategist and Evangelist at SailPoint

 

What would it take to put you in the 1% — to enable you to leave your job, jump on your private plane and eat lobster with caviar for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? The answer to that question varies depending on your location: from $81K per year in India, to $290K in the UK, and a massive $891K in the United Arab Emirates (pre-tax, for those of you doing the math at home).

While membership in this elite club is not achievable for most of us, it is still possible to become a top-tier member of a different group: the 3%. This select group is not measured by how many homes they have nor by their investment portfolio, but rather by how well they steward the resources of others that have been entrusted to them.

At a time when the cybersecurity challenges faced by banks have never been clearer, it can still be a challenge for security and IT teams to secure investment in their department. Business decision makers feel like they are being asked to justify a negative ROI, money spent to reduce the cost or likelihood of a data breach and now grow the business. Meanwhile, the proliferation of digital banking services (both in apps and online) has exponentially increased the attack surface available for cybercriminals to exploit – whether that’s via a consumer login to check a bank balance, or an internal user accessing central business systems to issue a new product.

A recent report published by Arxan Technologies examined 30 different financial services apps available on the Google Play store and found very few that provided adequate security for their users. Despite the fact that these were supplied by financial institutions, for whom trust is essential for their business, application security was found wanting.

The issues discovered were wide ranging – 43% of apps were vulnerable to attacks that can run code on the mobile device itself injected into the app as it ran — allowing adversaries to run their own code as the logged-in user. Alongside this, 80% of the apps used relatively weak encryption, creating an easy attack vector for malicious actors to pilfer sensitive data embedded in and used by these apps. Furthermore, 83% of the apps chose to store sensitive data in the device’s file system, in external storage or on the clipboard — which circumvents any access restrictions that the app might normally enforce. This allows any anonymous user (or other app) to access sensitive data that should have been protected.

But the most common issue was financial apps lacking binary protection which would prevent reverse engineering. This means that attackers could take the applications and decompile them to examine their source code; this allows for the discovery of other vulnerabilities to exploit, with any sensitive data hard-coded within the app being exposed too. This final issue automatically reduced the number of apps without issues to a grand total of 3%.

Only 3% of financial apps within this study delivered a secure experience for their users, demonstrating that these financial institutions could be trusted to handle their customers’ data and finances responsibly. This, of course, is the 3% that all financial institutions should aspire to belong to; with each passing headline, customers are realising the importance of choosing financial providers who have invested in proper security controls to protect their interests.

Studies such as this one call attention to the fact that with each passing day, it becomes more apparent that security cannot be an afterthought for today’s businesses. It must be a mindset that pervades all aspects of the organisation; from establishing an identity program to provide access and ensure compliance with regulation, to having access to sensitive resources enforced in depth. Moreover, organisations must ensure – as this report highlights – that application security is at the forefront of every software architect and developer so that the applications and software that represent a financial institution to the world communicates responsible handling of important customer assets and data.

Organisations that take security lightly put themselves at risk – not only jeopardising the relationship with customers unnecessarily but also finding themselves living below what one analyst called “the Security Poverty Line.” Financial services institutions who want to thrive in today’s business environment must invest a coherent security program and deliver a secure, trustworthy interaction for clients — which will elevate them into that rarefied air of the 3%.

 

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Finance

HOW TO MANAGE YOUR CASH FLOW IN UNCERTAIN TIMES

CASH FLOW

While the world is constantly changing, probably at a faster pace now than ever before, businesses need to manage cash flow and costs to drive success in uncertain times, says Matthew Thorpe, partner at Haines Watts Essex.

 

Managing people and expenses

There are certain costs that you just can’t avoid as a business – to keep your operation running seamlessly, but scrutinise the detail and cut down on any non-essential expenses. Check things like your SaaS subscriptions and look out for costs that auto-renew and if you do cancel, remember to also cancel your direct debits too.

You might want to put a freeze on hiring new people, but ensure that other roles and responsibilities are clearly and efficiently assigned across your team. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) has been introduced by the Government to help UK employers access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary to avoid redundancies. Affected employees are classed as “furloughed workers”.

Once furloughed, the employee cannot work or they will not qualify for the scheme. For businesses that perhaps need to go further, there may be some roles they don’t need any more, but businesses should work sensitively with people to manage this.

 

Cash is king

In uncertain times, owner managers will need to keep operations going to ensure financial stability. You should look to manage debt more efficiently by negotiating extended payment terms with creditors. You could also renegotiate loans for longer repayment terms to give yourself a lower monthly payment, helping the business to set some cash aside each month.

 

Daily forecasting

As a business owner, you need to create a cash flow projection and update this regularly if you are to improve things. You can do this using financial information to create a picture of how the business will look in the next 12 months. The forecast needs to show revenue sources and expenses, which will show the ups and downs of business income and can be used to make sure that enough finance is in place.

 

Good house-keeping

While banks and other finance providers recognise that the cashflow of a business may be disrupted by the impact of Covid-19, they are still going to want to see that you are viable and continue to trade in these uncertain times. Make sure your business is organised and don’t let disorganisation cause unnecessary issues. You can evidence this by having detailed forecasts; current order books and projections (as best as possible).

Having instantly accessible, accurate financial information allows you to plan effectively, spot issues before they become problems and manage your money in the most efficient and rewarding way.

 

Embrace technology

Software is now incredibly user-friendly and accessible from anywhere. For a business owner embracing the technology, this means:

  • Invoicing can be done instantly when a job is complete, emailed to the customer with an easy to use link to a payment platform.
  • Comparison websites can automatically monitor and help maintain lowest cost for things such as light & heat, insurance etc.
  • Technology can be used in place of face-to-face meetings. It can also enable them to adapt production lines to different demands.

All of these things and more, used properly, can make managing your business finances quicker, easier and often cheaper.  You will also be able to bring clarity to where your business stands and prepare for the next steps.

 

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Finance

HOW FINANCIAL SERVICES CAN GET TO GRIPS WITH RISING SUPPLY CHAIN RISK

FINANCIAL SERVICES

By Alex Saric, smart procurement expert, Ivalua

 

UK businesses have never been more dependent on their suppliers to help them deliver goods and services to their customers. Be it retail, manufacturing or financial services, suppliers have a vital role to play when it comes to innovation and meeting customer expectations. However, as supply chains become increasingly global, businesses are potentially exposing themselves to more risk than ever before.

This is especially true in financial services. Whether it’s the impact of geopolitical events like Brexit or global tariff wars, supply shortages, security or the businesses impact on the environment, an organisation’s failure to identify and mitigate risk could see millions wiped off its share price, and its corporate reputation left in tatters. Risk can present itself anywhere and at any time, so financial services firms must be ready to address it. However, many simply don’t have the ability to evaluate suppliers for risk factors, leaving them wide open to business operations being hindered, or being slapped with financial penalties.

 

More suppliers, increasing risk

One reason why financial services firms aren’t able to evaluate suppliers is the breadth and scale of today’s supply chains. For example, French oil company Total said in in a recent human rights briefing paper that they work with over 150,000 direct suppliers worldwide. This is just one example of how large and varied the roster of partners has become. Research from Ivalua has found that financial services businesses on average are working with around 3,600 suppliers annually, which is evenly split between UK-based and international partners. That number is expected to rise, with 60% expecting the number of suppliers they work with to rise.

The expanding nature of suppliers is only going to expose financial services firms to more potential risk than ever before, yet 78% say they face challenges gaining complete visibility into suppliers and their activities.

A lack of supplier visibility leaves businesses unable to identify and mitigate against supply chain risk. In fact, almost three-quarters (73%) of financial services firms have experienced some type of risk during the last 12 months. These include; supplier failure (43%), environmental impact, such as pollution or waste (35%) and supply shortages (45%). Supply shortages can be among the most damaging to a business, as seen by both the KFC chicken shortage which closed stores, and the summer 2018 CO2 shortage which caused companies such as Heineken and Coca-Cola to pause production, impacting supply across Europe during the World Cup.

 

Businesses unprepared for the worst

One way financial services firms can better prepare for risk is to ensure they know what to plan for to reduce the impact. However, whilst some say they have a contingency plan in place to deal with risk, many of them are unprepared. Financial services firms admitted to not having comprehensive and deployed contingency plans in place to prepare the supply chain for risk such as; natural disasters (68%), supply shortages (67%), geopolitical changes (65%), environmental impact (63%), supplier failure (62%) and modern slavery (50%).

In order to effectively prepare for these types of risks, it’s vital that financial services businesses fully understand their suppliers, their business environment, global variations in regulations, geopolitics, and a host of other factors. But for many, there are multiple challenges when it comes to gaining this understanding. A prevailing factor is an inability to gain visibility into all suppliers and activity because supplier management data is stored in multiple locations and formats, making insights difficult to access. This leaves teams unable to review supplier activity and assess compliance.

 

Making supplier management smarter

It’s imperative that financial services businesses are able to respond or prepare for supply chain risk. Clearly, much more needs to be done to ensure they have complete visibility of suppliers, especially in an era where regulators can levy heavy fines for GDPR breaches and scandals spread in minutes over social media. These types of risks can be reduced in the future if procurement teams have a 360-degree view of suppliers which will help with contingency planning and risk management.

For example, in the instance of supply shortages, plans could be put in place that identify alternative suppliers to ensure any shortages do not impact end users. This type of supplier collaboration is paramount when it comes to managing and mitigating against supplier shortages. When it comes to regulations, financial services firms can’t allow a lack of visibility to limit their ability to ensure all suppliers are compliant.

To do this, teams must take a smarter approach to procurement that gives complete visibility into suppliers throughout the supply chain. This will allow financial services firms to identify and plan for risk, reducing the potential damage, and ensuring they are working with and awarding business to low-risk suppliers. Supply chain risk is rapidly becoming an overarching concern for financial services firms, but by providing the ability to assess suppliers, they will have all the insights they need to mitigate the impact on business operations.

 

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