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PRIVACY AND SECURITY AT THE HEART OF THE VIDEO CONFERENCING BOOM

By Amit Walia, EVP Managing Partner at Compodium

 

With employees now used to working at home, video conferencing platforms have seen a surge in demand.  As Covid-19 forced organisations to quickly adapt to remote working, one application reported a 30-fold surge in users, whilst another clocked up more than 4.1bn meeting minutes in just one day in April, up from a daily average of 900m in early March.

More people are using a form of video conferencing than ever before, but this huge increase has also brought increased security concerns. Incidents of Zoom-bombing have been widely reported in recent weeks. Zoom-bombing is when strangers intrude on others’ meetings on Zoom. Sometimes, these intruders listen in without anyone knowing they’re there. Other times, they totally disrupt the meetings sometimes in ways that threaten the business in its entirety, integrity as well as confidential information.

A recent study by IBM found that remote work appears to be growing on people, as more than 75 percent indicated they would like to continue to work remotely at least occasionally, while more than half – 54 percent – would like this to be their primary way of working.

However, when it comes to financial services, there is a rightful expectation that all organisations provide an expert level of security around sensitive data. After all these companies possess a wealth of personally identifiable information (PII) and payment card industry (PCI) data, such as national insurance numbers, credit card numbers, birthdates, addresses, phone numbers, credit scores, and much more.

Over the years, some of the biggest data breaches have involved financial service providers, from banks and payment processing companies to loan providers and credit reporting bureaus. In fact, the most recent financial services data breach at Equifax affected over 100 million people.

Amit Walia

But before companies rush to embrace further video conferencing as the new norm, they need to understand where potential risks might lie.  Companies need to understand that it’s not as simple as clicking a link and joining a video. There needs to be careful consideration to ensure privacy and security for all users, and their data.  There are good reasons that laws and regulations like GDPR, CCPA and HIPAA exist.

 

Here are some key considerations:

Use of your customers’ data should be front and centre

  • You must understand how your chosen video conferencing provider manages your data so make sure that you familiarise yourself with their policies in this area.
  • Know what kinds of user data are being collected. This will probably include basic information submitted by users such as a username and email address to establish a video account. But there is also the data that’s collected in the background – most likely without the user even knowing about it. This will be things like IP addresses, device types, platform operating system and called/calling party video addresses. The collection of these types of data is all pretty routine, but this leads nicely on to my next point…
  • You need to be aware of what’s being done with this information. There are certain things that are permissible. Using the data to enable the call itself is permissible, as is providing usage history to enable billing for example. However, it is not permissible to share the data with any unauthorised outside parties. Users of any video conferencing service should be confident that their not only data is private and secure, but should they wish to know they can ask the provider to tell them how they are using the data, where it is stored, how long it is stored for, and under what regulatory standards it handles such user data.
  • How is your data being handled? In addition to considering where it is stored, organisations must have a handle on who has access to the data. Even if the data is encrypted and not human-readable, there may be requirements that the data reside within a certain geography.

 

Security is paramount

  • First, understand what level of security you need?  Catching up with your friends and family via HouseParty is a completely different ball-game to sensitive business negotiations.  Most organisations are going to need a secure communications channel – but how secure should it be, and to what standard?  For meetings where you cannot compromise on security ensure industry security protocols such as AES-128, AES-256, SSL and TLS are adhered to.
  • In addition to encryption, consider other security tools such as waiting rooms that ensure only those invited can attend the call, which participants share content and the ability to eject unwanted participants.

 

Privacy and security built in

For many businesses, the first half of 2020 will be remembered as unusual, challenging but also transformational. Digital transformation has been a ‘must get on with’ process for CIOs the world over and indeed, many organisations are a significant way along this journey. The enforced work from home that we’ve just experienced has accelerated businesses’ need to equip teams with the tools to work effectively, efficiently, and securely. Today’s more-mobile workforce now requires greater, and more convenient, access to workplace collaboration tools than ever before – but privacy and security cannot be an afterthought – it must be built in.

 

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Business

GOING GLOBAL: 7 TIPS TO GET STARTED

The idea of selling your products or services to new markets across the globe is an attractive prospect for any business, large or small. But while reaching new customers and unlocking the potential for further growth can seem exciting initially, adapting your business to foreign markets is no small feat. Factors such as cost, communication and cultural differences can all affect your business’ success when going global. This guide will explore some of the key considerations to make when you’re thinking of expanding your business overseas.

 

Evaluate Your Finances

One of the main questions to ask when looking to go global is whether or not your business can afford to do so. Crossing borders can be a complicated and expensive process which can take away time and resources from other opportunities at home. Growth for businesses abroad is often a slow process; establishing products and services in other countries takes time, so you will need to factor this into your planning. Thorough analysis of domestic and international markets should always be undertaken before making the decision to expand your business overseas.

 

Location, Location, Location

Choosing the right location is crucial to the success of your business expansion. International business network Going Global Live says that taking your business to the right countries initially can save you money on excessive marketing and advertising, putting you face-to-face with your target market from the outset. You should weigh up the pros and cons of potential locations, such as the likelihood of being able to fill your new HQ with prime, homegrown talent, as well as access to desired markets aided by foreign investment bodies. It is also important to consider the relevant laws and regulations laid out by national and regional governments.

 

Ensure You Have the Right Infrastructure

Making sure your business has the right infrastructure to handle expansion abroad will put you in a good place going forward. Implementing a clear management strategy, both locally and centrally, will set your business up for a smooth and successful launch overseas. Having up-to-date IT and communications systems at the centre of your business will allow you to share information and data securely. When it comes to shipping, choosing the best – and most efficient – transport and storage providers will give you the peace of mind that your products are safe in transit. Companies such as S Jones are ideal for businesses looking for more information on storage solutions for shipping overseas.

 

Build a Strong Team

Appointing a strong team to oversee your expansion is crucial to your company’s success in new markets. Hiring people with a good knowledge of your target market, as well as a focus on your business’ interests, is key when establishing your overseas HQ. Working with local partners can help you to communicate your business’ unique selling point in a meaningful way. Having an experienced partner or mentor that you can trust to oversee the expansion will allow you to stay focused on the bigger picture and ensure that your attention isn’t taken away from your core customer base.

 

Have Faith

Once you’ve made the move to globalise your business, be sure to have faith in your ideas and don’t be deterred by slow progress. Dr Shai Vyakarnam of the Cranfield School of Management says that while there is a fine balance between faith and stubbornness, you’ll need “incredible levels of self-belief and faith in your idea” to succeed, and that you “only need to be able to turn a few key people in your favour and the others will follow”. Making well-informed decisions quickly will allow you to stay on track and will nullify the threat of any lingering self-doubt. While progress may be slow at first, be sure to remain patient and be prepared to build personal relationships to gain the trust of your new partners and customer base.

 

Consider the Impact of New Ideas

When implementing new ideas for your business as whole, consider how they will be received by your new international customers, as well as by your existing customer base at home. What might be seen as a positive idea in your home country could be perceived as offensive or alienating by your customers abroad. Factors such as differing time zones, languages and cultural appropriateness should always be taken into consideration when making key decisions to eliminate the risk of alienating foreign customers and damaging your reputation overseas.

 

Be Adaptable

While it is important to have faith in your business and be patient initially, you should also be willing to make changes as things develop. Acting on the advice of experts is key to navigating new markets successfully. It may be that your products and services require innovation to meet demand, or that cultural differences lead you to make changes to your marketing strategy. Being adaptable will give you the best chance of meeting consumer demand on a global scale.

When trying to expand your business to an entirely new customer base, try to bear in mind some of the above points. As long as you remain patient and open-minded, then you should have little difficulty in marketing your business globally.

 

Sources

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WHY HIGH NET WORTHS SHOULD BE LOOKING AT ANGEL INVESTING IN A NEGATIVE INTEREST RATE ENVIRONMENT

By Oliver Woolley, Envestors

 

As England gets through its second lockdown, Bank of England policymakers report the UK we may be headed for negative interest rates. This would be the for the first time this has happened in the bank’s 326-year history.

With interest rates already at 0.1%, central bank officials announced an additional £150bn stimulus package, in an attempt to boost consumer spending during the second wave of the pandemic.

Despite news of a vaccine, the BoE has taken the total stimulus to £895bn, as double-dip recession forecasts emerge.

In the event of negative interest rates becoming a reality, banks would have the incentive to lend more by making loans cheaper, but account holders would likely be asked to pay to hold money in a savings account.

While plans for negative interest rates are pending, government bonds are already selling at a negative yield of -0.003%, with investors hoping for the safe haven of government issued bonds paying out to get their money back in three years.

Between negative returns on savings accounts, lower yield on bond holdings, a volatile stock market and a projected dip in property prices, investors don’t have many options to diversify their portfolio in a negative rate interest environment.

However, for investors who are comfortable with risk, early-stage investing may be the answer. Angel investors support early-stage companies through financial backing, typically in exchange for equity in the company. An additional benefit for angel investors is the generous tax reliefs offered under the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) and the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS).

 

Oliver Woolley

What is angel investing and why is it attractive?

An angel investor (also known as a private investor, seed investor or angel funder) supports early-stage enterprises by providing funding and getting actively involved in the business. Typically, the amount invested is between £5,000 and £50,000 per investment.

Early-stage investments are high risk as the number of early-stage businesses that grow through to an exit is low. Previous research suggested that 56% of investments in early-stage companies went bust. This is why experienced angels aim to build a diverse portfolio of 20+ investments.

While angels usually have to wait a number of years before recovering their initial investment, returns can be considerable. Due to the high risk nature of angel investing, high net worth individuals are usually looking for a 2.5x Return of Investment (RoI).

When first starting out, an investor should look for a well put together business plan with a defined exit strategy. Many angels choose to join an angel network when starting out, where investors can pool investment capital and invest alongside like-minded, experienced investors.

 

Tax relief through EIS and SEIS

In order to encourage investment in start-up companies which play a vital role in the economy, the UK government has launched several tax relief programmes, including the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS). This scheme, which makes investing in early stage enterprises tax-efficient, has encouraged £22bn in investment in 31,365 companies.

By investing in an EIS eligible company, angels receive income tax relief of 30% of the amount subscribed for eligible shares. Investors can put in up to £1m per tax year in EIS qualifying companies for the tax relief; this cap rises to £2m if investing in knowledge-intensive EIS companies.

In order to qualify, companies have to be trading for less than seven years and can raise a maximum of £12m.

Through EIS, angels receive a Capital Gains Tax (CGT) exemption, carry back and loss relief which can be offset against CGT or Income Tax.

Looking at a practical example:

If an angel invested £10,000 and the company failed, their actual loss would only be £7,000, due to the 30% income tax relief. However, a top rate income taxpayer paying tax at 45% will be able to claim loss relief on their tax liability at the 45% level. In this example, they’re eligible for further relief of £3,150, making their actual loss £3,850.

The success of EIS led to the introduction of the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS), promoting investments in riskier, earlier stage companies. About 80% of UK angel investors seek relief through EIS or its sister scheme, SEIS.

SEIS allows HNWIs to invest up to £100,000 and receive 50% tax relief on their investment. In order for companies to be eligible for SEIS, they have to have been trading for less than two years and cannot have more than £150,000 in previous investment.

 

Hot investment sectors

Reports from the British Business Bank and the UK Business Angels Association reveal that many investors are still seeing positive returns during the pandemic.

While angels are battling economic uncertainty, around three quarters are optimistic about the market bouncing back within the next 12 months.

Healthcare, Digital Health and MedTech, BioTech, Life Sciences and Pharmaceuticals are the leading sectors in terms of investor engagement during the COVID-19 crisis.

Software as a Service and FinTech have fared well throughout the pandemic and are still attracting a large number of investors.

Getting started with angel investing is now easier than ever, with an array of angel networks that can provide advice and support. Industry-association, the UKBAA, offers an Angel Investment Accelerator which is designed for those new to early-stage investing.

In order to choose the right angel network, HNWIs should look for the most active networks; Research body Beauhurst recently published a list of the most active networks in the UK.

Active networks will present a greater array of screened opportunities as well as connecting new investors to more experienced ones.

The best networks cover a variety of regions, sectors and investment sizes, and they’re forthcoming with examples of previous investments, so first-time angels can make the right choice on how to grow their portfolio.

So, while looming negative interest rates may require a rethink of current investment strategies for many – it might also open up a new and exciting investment class that offers much more than just financial gains.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Oliver Woolley is CEO and co-founder of Envestors. Envestors’ digital investment platform brings together entrepreneurs and investors across geographies, communities and sectors – creating the single marketplace for early stage investment in the UK.

Envestors partners with accelerators, incubators and angel networks to provide a white-label platform empowering them to promote deals, engage investors and connect to other networks.

Founded in 2004, Envestors has helped more than 200 high growth businesses raise more than £100m through its own private investment club.

Envestors is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

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