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Security and compliance realities for remote financial services workers

Remote work challenges for financial service companies

This year, the pandemic required many workforces to stay and work at home. While the transition may have been hectic initially, many businesses and employees have since grown comfortable with remote working options.

However, many companies have industry-specific considerations that may make work-from-home arrangements difficult to pull off. The financial services sector is one such category of businesses with particular data security and regulatory concerns that can complicate remote working.

Yet not many good options exist to telework currently. Even physical trading floors have been shut down recently, as trading shifts increasingly online. Financial services companies must address the realities of remote work and prepare to ensure business continuity and compliance.

What remote work challenges do financial services face?

Businesses in financial services — like brokers, mutual funds, asset managers, retirement investment advisors, exchanges, and trading firms, among many others — have a number of regulatory and compliance obligations. As such, their telework arrangements have to be airtight.

Broadly, the challenges they face include considerations related to:

  • Cybersecurity: This is a chief concern for any business, but especially for financial services firms. The decentralization of technology presents particular risks. Employees without company-provided hardware must use personal devices to manage client accounts or access confidential information. This carries obvious risks, as personal devices and networks might not feature the same controls as on-premise solutions that were depended on before to securely store and access data.
  • Compliance: Financial activity is governed by a number of regulatory and oversight agencies. Many financial firms have entire departments dedicated to compliance, but COVID-19 likely threw many into disarray with the abrupt shift to telework. Even something as seemingly innocuous as taking a client call next to a spouse who’s also working from home can be problematic, as the conversation likely contains confidential information. Other compliance concerns relate to potential ethical lapses at home when oversight is more lax.
  • Real-time data: One other difficulty financial services firms may encounter is connectivity. Employees depend on real-time data, which they may have taken for granted in an office setting with an industrial connection. Working from home on the Wi-Fi could be troublesome if lag becomes persistent. For example, buying and selling stocks on price data that is outdated by even milliseconds can have a tangible, negative impact on strategy and trade execution.

What can businesses do to ensure compliance and continuity?

Despite the scale of these challenges, financial services don’t have many current alternatives to telework. Even as states reopen, the future of working will undoubtedly be influenced by remote arrangements.

In either case, there are some best practices business in the financial industry can take to safeguard their operations, employees and clients:

  1. Beef up security

This is the very first thing financial businesses should address. This responsibility encompasses not only assessing their security readiness for telework, but actively looking at ways to improve infrastructure and controls. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) issued comprehensive guidance for financial firms dealing with the COVID-19, including security tips like:

  • Ensuring virtual private networks (VPNs) and other remote access systems have proper security patches and updates.
  • Double-checking that system entitlements are current
  • Using multi-factor authentication for employees who access systems remotely.
  1. Implement necessary supervisory protocols

Even as more businesses adopted remote working policies, financial services firms weren’t as quick. This trend may be largely attributable to compliance obligations, including supervision of employees and associated persons. Doing so is much easier in a centralized office than it is with employees spread across disparate locations.

However, these compliance obligations have not been relaxed in light of the pandemic. Companies that may become lax in this area can face real risks and repercussions down the line.

FINRA also addressed this topic in its COVD-19 pandemic, saying it expects member firms “to establish and maintain a supervisory system that is reasonably designed to supervise the activities of each associated person while working from an alternative or remote location during the pandemic.”

The onus is on financial firms to ensure they implement the necessary supervisory protocols so that FINRA expectations are met.

  1. Train employees

It’s imperative that businesses in financial services provide adequate support and training to employees. Many may be unfamiliar with remote working, especially as it concerns compliance or security. Having a codified set of policies is not enough, your leaders need to investigate ways to engage employees on these points so they can carry out their jobs compliantly and effectively.

Using video conferencing software to host team meetings is one way to teach employees and ensure high retention of information. FINRA also recommended that firms undertake regular education and other exercises that “promote heightened vigilance.”

Young Asia businessman using laptop talk to colleagues about plan in video call while smart working from home at living room. Self-isolation, social distancing, quarantine for corona virus prevention.

  1. Use secure communication software

Financial services firms have an obligation to monitor and preserve communications. When these conversations occur outside traditional channels, they must have a secure solution to meet their needs. The problem is many popular consumer-grade options don’t feature the controls these businesses require.

Businesses need to be sure they have communication and video conferencing tools that not only feature robust functionality, but also security such encryption and other measures.

Looking for a video conferencing solution that offers high performance and security? Consider using Cisco Webex for your financial services firm to preserve business continuity and maintain compliance.

Contact us today for more information, or start with a free offer.

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Adjusting to a new normal: The shift to remote work

Cisco Webex Research Blog Series

The Design Group at Cisco is a global team of Red Dot Award winning creatives who explore peoples’ needs through research and empathy to make the world a better place to work. This series explores their research and some best practices to make everyday interactions more effective. 

Read all the blogs in the series

Results of research on the transition to remote work and the effect on the future of work

In the past six months, there has been an unprecedented shift to remote working.. With little warning or preparation, workers around the world have had to learn how to navigate and adjust to a new normal- working from home.

The UX Research team at Cisco Webex wanted to learn more about this transition and how it will affect the future of work. In July 2020, we conducted a large-scale survey with 860 knowledge workers around the world who had earlier this year shifted from primarily working in the office to primarily working from home. Here are some of our key findings:

Only 5% of respondents want to return to the office full-time

In the future, the vast majority of respondents (78%) would like to work remotely anywhere from every day to a few days a week. This suggests a hybrid working model may be here to stay.

5% of respondents want to return to the office full-term

No commute, greater flexibility, reduced costs, and better work/life balance topped the list of advantages of remote working

The top advantages seen here suggest that a major advantage of working from home may be improved time management, whether it’s tied to a lack of commute or simply greater flexibility in people’s workday.

Distractions, connectivity issues, and missing colleagues were the most common challenges of remote working

No challenge was selected by more than 30% of respondents, suggesting that different people face different problems working from home, most likely influenced by factors such as working environment, job role, household, and seniority.

Since COVID-19, the usage of meeting tools increased by 123%, and the usage of messaging tools increased by 58%

The percentage of people who use messaging or meeting tools two or more times a week dramatically increased, signaling a large change in how workers communicate and collaborate with each other.

graph of messaging tools and meeting tools

Conclusion

At Cisco Webex, we’re working hard to address the challenges that users face in the new workplace. As a follow up research project, we’re also studying how office environments and behaviors are changing as people around the world begin to return to in-person working. We’ll also dig deeper into what unique challenges and advantages accompany a hybrid working model. Stay tuned!

We would love to hear from you. If you are a worker who has recently gone remote and would like to share about your experience, please email us at mailto:webexresearch@cisco.com

Connect with all of our blogs in the series here

About the Authors

Nishchala Singhal, UX Researcher
Nishchala is a UX Researcher at Cisco Webex. With degrees in Human Computer Interaction and Cognitive Science, she is passionate about using research to bring the user’s voice to the product design process. Her goal is to help create intuitive products that improve people’s everyday lives.

Kathryn Parkes, Senior UX Researcher
Kathryn is an experienced user researcher based in Dublin, Ireland reporting into San Jose. As a member of the UX Research team, she leads research projects across the Webex Suite working with various Cisco Collab teams in Ireland, US and across Europe. The team use a broad variety of research methods, including user interviews, usability testing and benchmarking studies, to get a deep understanding of Webex user needs.

Mani Pande, UX Research Manager
Mani leads the user research team in San Jose. Her team is responsible for understanding the needs of Webex users to inform product strategy and direction, and ensure that the software we ship is not only simple and easy to use, but also delightful. You can find her and her team members huddling with Webex users understanding how they use our software and mapping opportunities of improvement. In another life, Mani worked as a reporter for the Times of India, India’s largest selling newspaper, covering media and crime. Outside of work, Mani loves to travel, cycle, run and cook. She posts photos of food that she cooks and places she visits on Instagram.

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