Overcoming the data privacy problems posed by a digital-first approach (Tunio Zafer)

Cloud services have played an invaluable role in keeping financial services, banks, and e-commerce firms live and running during the Covid-19 pandemic. From remote working to a hybrid future, many firms will never operate in the same way again, and as things around the world slowly begin to recover, I can only see a future where digital remains king.

Customers have enjoyed the convenience of digital during the pandemic, and getting that experience right has been absolutely vital for banks and other organisations. Now, the tide is turning back to tackling issues around data privacy, and how secure data really is. The pandemic saw a rise in data-theft through scams, and customers are now ever-more vigilant and aware that who they choose to manage their finances must have a responsible approach to data. What that means is that the technology beyond that operation must have security at its core. 

We recently we commissioned a study of European business owners to try to understand where they see things going in the future, and the large majority (67%) said that they trust cloud services more than ever before. We have witnessed commercial banks transform their digital operations almost overnight in response to the pandemic, and this statistic shows that trend is unlikely to waiver.

The reoccuring problem that everyone has is data privacy and security. Both in terms of keeping customer data secure, including transactions, personal details and bank accounts, but also internal information. So for us to move forward, the leadership within organisations must make a conscious decision over where there data is stored, which is why having options is a priority. It makes little sense to have your data stored in a different region entirely from where your customers are, and you need to ensure you meet compliance and regulatory demands.

Interestingly, research shows that almost three-quarters of financial services professionals had considered collaboration tools that they use, and one of their key considerations was the security of the data or files that they utilised when making a decision. This is a challenge for all of us, if files can’t be accessed by staff or customers at any time and from any location, then you’ll suffer customer and employee experience complaints. Equally, the managers within these organisations that I speak to are stuck between a rock and a hard place because the risk to data loss, and privacy concerns means they often find themselves unable to digitally transform with complete trust that nothing will be left compromised.

Beyond even the far reaching implications of the pandemic over the last 12 months has been an acceleration in the European Union’s plans to limit the powers of US tech giants, who they feel are over-stepping the mark, not least through the commercialisation of customer data in banking and financial services, in particular. All of which are at prime risk of criminals and scammers who would seek to mis-use your personal information and that which lies within a business.

I would go back to an earlier point, in that you may feel stuck in a difficult position, which is natural. But if you contrast and compare your options between the major players, the challengers and the middle-pack, you’ll find a happy medium where your cloud services are no longer at risk, and you can trust those in charge. But it needs to be a careful decision, as the old adage goes – nobody gets fired for hiring IBM. But in 2021 and beyond, you need to look beyond the giants because as you’ll see in the news, they are often more culpable and at risk than anyone else.

Lastly, I believe that FS professionals want to take the step to a digital-first approach, and in the commerical banks case, a mix between physical and digital. To get this mix right, both for your teams and for your customers is of paramount importance. The threats remain, and will remain to data, but ensuring your business keeps the light on and prioritising at-risk and vulnerable targets, you’ll be able to retain the trust of your most important stakeholders.