By Sarah Maber, Managing Consultant at World Wide Technology (WWT)
Due to the huge impact on working practices brought about to combat the coronavirus, financial businesses have had to realign on an unprecedented scale to keep the lights on. But until now their focus has understandably been solely on the short-term tactical hurdles e.g. ‘how do we operate with a home-based workforce?’ However, there is now an opportunity for these institutions to examine their longer-term strategy: what should my organisation implement going forward?
It is highly likely that forward-thinking businesses will seek to build their plans around adaptability, looking to become adept at reacting to and anticipating the needs of their workforce and the marketplace.
Keeping the lights on
Before looking to embrace flexibility long-term, it is important to first recognise the extraordinary steps that banks have already taken, in a very compressed period of time, to continue to operate and serve their customers. Steps that would have been unthinkable a mere 12 months ago are now widespread and commonplace. Banks have embraced working from home in a manner few would have thought they could. The capacity of banks to react to this crisis has been surprisingly positive.
Secure the perimeter
The workforces of financial companies are more distributed than ever before due to the scale of people working from home. This has increased their security risks due to the expanded perimeter. Indeed, 69% of organisations say they have serious concerns over security risks introduced by workers; with employee awareness (59%), insecure home WiFi networks (56%) and use of unsecured personal devices (43%) the biggest contributors.
Cybersecurity has always been important, but now it is absolutely business-critical. The reaction from businesses to the pandemic has significantly increased their reliance on technology, where it became a lifeline for many organisations whilst countries were under lockdown. This issue was exacerbated by the rapid deployment and adaptation of new technologies to meet employee and customer needs during the crisis. This technology reliance makes cybersecurity even more important, so the organisation remains well-protected from both intentional and unintentional harm. It must not be overlooked nor treated as an afterthought.
Organisations are now looking towards a distributed workforce model. Thoughts, and investments, are being directed to a wide array of digital initiatives to support workforce collaboration and improve customer applications. However, despite this significant investment of financial and human capital, only 46% of financial institutions are likely to invest more in cyber security post-pandemic; the question must be asked ‘what are the other 56% doing?’. Investing in new technology without considering cybersecurity from the outset is like building a new bank vault with an open space where the door should be.
Alongside security, a pressing issue for financial services is User Experience (UX). This is how people directly interact with companies. This crisis has undoubtedly changed how employees engage with their employer, and it has also changed how customers interact with their banks and financial institutions. The relationship has evolved, and banks should look to be flexible by ensuring a seamless user experience for both groups. For many financial institutions this is already important, with 53% of respondents to a recent survey identifying rethinking and digitising interactions as a top priority.
One key way to do this is to examine their product roadmaps, with a critical and dispassionate eye. Is this the right product for this marketplace? Are we best serving our customers with this slate of applications? In an example of adaptability, the United States’ financial agent MetaBank has made taxpayer’s stimulus packages available on pre-paid Visa debit cards. Investment in AI and machine learning will also increase to best meet the consumer desire for more reliable communication and accessibility.
But UX cannot be developed in isolation. It must be coupled with cybersecurity to ensure overall success. Furthermore, there must also be some consideration of balance: go overboard with security and you risk impacting the user experience; too many authentication screens, for example, can ruin flow. Create seamless but unsecure products and you open yourself up to unacceptable risk. Achieving the correct balance between the two is important to the success of any new technology.
To survive and thrive, financial services will have to be flexible. Every business is now a technology business – doubling down on technology will enable greater agility, flexibility and innovation. Enabling an entire workforce to operate remotely was unthinkable just a few months ago, but now the effects have been positive, and the impact will continue to be felt.
Financial services institutions must turn to a strategy for customers and employees that embraces both UX and cybersecurity hand-in-hand. Digital is no longer optional, serving customers critically depends on it.