Interview with Jessica Tay the Information Security Executive Advisor at KPMG. We discusses whether a privacy charter should be created for the internet to protect our data from being misused or whether we should be embracing the opportunities sharing data brings
In what ways can internet data be misused?
Whilst companies operate within the boundaries of the law, the use of data remains a very grey area around what is perceived to be ethical behaviour rather than the legal infringement of personal privacy.
Misuse of internet data could include tracking browsing on other websites, collating and analysing user social media posts and preferences, cross referencing public and purchased information to build rich pictures of users.
This data can then be used to target consumers via personalised advertisements for a corporation’s and third party products, amended pricing and offerings, and even for analysis to be sold on as a separate product to another company.
On a personal level, when an update is shared on Facebook or Twitter about getting engaged, users wouldn’t expect online banking pages to automatically update to offer deals on joint mortgages. After all, without explicitly updating details with the bank, it isn’t normal for them to have that information.
Users will have different perspectives on this issue – some will feel it provides them value by having their world arranged around them to suit their personal tastes and needs, whilst others will feel uncomfortable with the feeling that their personal privacy has been invaded.
How would an internet charter protect users?
Often where users share data online about themselves, they do so to connect in a purposeful way – for example, LinkedIn for professional purposes, Facebook for sharing with friends and family, etc. The stark reality is that many users have no idea how the data they share online is used. This is beginning to change, but the reality is that even where one becomes aware of the implications of sharing their data, what has already been shared is extremely hard to erase.
With regard to an internet privacy charter, the focus would be to address the issue of companies seeking to use data outside what is directly provided to them by the user.
An internet charter would allow users to identify corporations who are willing to respect the boundaries of personal data privacy and commit to using only data which the user has provided directly.
Companies would need to actively make the decision not to use personal/private data in the public domain or purchase 3rd party data beyond general market trend information.
If an internet privacy charter is put in place, users will enjoy greater personal privacy, experience a reduction targeted marketing to entice them to increase their spend and greater protection should a data breach occur. They will also have freedom of choice to explore new products and items in a way they choose rather than these products being pre-selected for them based on an algorithm. It will encourage users to assess their choices and promote proactive research and questioning.
It draws an important line between the individual and the company – returning balance to the customer/company relationship as there currently is a large imbalance between the two entities. This imbalance exists as companies possess superior resources and information to know a great deal more about the customer (including their personal life) than vice versa.
To draw a parallel, it’s a bit like an employer knowing everything about an employee’s personal life by assessing data available in the public domain, i.e. “John, I noticed your night out with your friends was cancelled today on Facebook so I presume you have time to stay late to help out with this project”.
What are the main benefits to companies who choose to adopt a privacy charter?
Companies owe a duty of care to their shareholders to generate sales, growth, and profit and to provide value for their owners. The debate regarding a privacy charter therefore needs to be built upon not only ethical but monetary grounds to ascribe benefits to the business rather than just being perceived as additional cost and regulatory pressures on the business.
The main benefit to companies adopting such a charter will be reputational – being seen to be a daring forerunner in rebuilding the bridges of trust between companies and the individual.
Information available on users is now at unprecedented levels and is difficult for the individuals to truly restrict what a company chooses to do with this from a business context. There is fatigue around the lack of trust between the consumer and the corporation – questions around the integrity of business processes and the lack of concern for the individual and the unwavering focus on profits and sales with a high cost to the consumer.
Adopting a privacy charter would also be akin to going organic or making a stance to source goods ethically – a statement to the customer that the business respects the individual and the boundaries that exist between what is personal and what is truly public. The choices of how to use the information available now rest more with the corporation than with the individual due to the difficulty of control by the user.
As increasing data regulation is imposed on companies, it is perhaps wise for companies to consider if there is a first mover advantage in being seen to pro-actively and willingly adopt these changes as it creates positive PR for these companies and create a buzz amongst customers as a company who cares about its customers – which may prompt a flight to “quality” – i.e. the company which is enjoying a renaissance in its customer relations through respecting the customer.
Change is on the horizon and it is up to companies to willingly embrace this and seek to optimise the value of these changes ahead of the competition.
What are the main risks to businesses choosing to adopt a privacy charter?
Whilst the privacy charter remains optional, it could be seen as paying lip service to this charter, a lack of management engagement throughout the company or where certain staff act in contravention with company policy due to their incentives.
A company must be truly committed throughout the organisation and ensure that there is commonality of purpose in pulling towards the goal to be seen as an ethical company that customers should trust in and be loyal to in the long term.
The reduction in data usage, collation and analysis will also generate less data assets for a company to control and a reduced IT estate will be required. With increasing legislation on a company’s responsibilities for information protection, the need to protect key information assets, a more manageable information estate will translate to less potential fines and potential reputational damage should a breach occur.
A risk that some might voice is the fear of being left behind the competition who will continue to engage in heavy information analytics. A review of the amount of additional value truly derived by the firm from their current approach should be honestly reviewed and an understanding of the premium required for a different approach calculated alongside the changes in operational cost as well as projected additional sales and customer loyalty dividends.
How can companies incorporate policies in order to protect their customers better?
Companies can ensure that their staff are fully trained and aware of what their data privacy policies are in all areas of the business, paying special attention to how it relates to the specific tasks the areas are engaging in.
What can individuals do to protect themselves?
Individuals should seek to understand what their personal stance on data privacy is and define what they deem acceptable or desirable given their individual circumstances. Being aware of any tracking cookies that are installed, what information they disclose on social media sites and understanding what the policies are of each retailer before deciding to shop with them are essential for individuals to protect themselves.
Additionally, users should ensure that where they are provided with suggested choices, especially for high value items, that they should not assume that the suggestions provide the best value for money or a necessity and conduct their own market research to determine the best choice for their circumstances.
Q&A with Clare George-Hilley, co-founder, Centropy PR
Clare George-Hilley is the co-founder of Centropy PR
Global Banking and Finance Magazine recently caught up with Clare George-Hilley, co-founder of fintech and financial services specialist PR agency Centropy, as the company toasts to three years of trading. We asked Clare about what life is like running an agency in the city, the trends she is seeing in the financial services space and what the future holds following the Covid-19 outbreak.
Why did you decide to set up Centropy PR?
I was looking for an opportunity to launch my own agency, both my husband and I had been in the public affairs and public relations industry for over a decade and we thought the time was right to go out on our own.
We could see that the financial services industry was surging, with challenger brands and new technology transforming traditional banks and setting new standards of customer service. There was a huge market opportunity to create and launch a PR agency that could provider first class comms support, alongside a deep understanding of complex regulations such as AML, KYC, and the GDPR. Likewise, many traditional technology firms are diversifying their offerings, to tap into the growing market opportunity posed by the fintech boom.
So, we worked on a business plan, designed a strategy for winning clients and officially launched in September 2017. Within a few months we had a growing portfolio of clients and a thriving business, since that point, we have never looked back!
How is Centropy doing now and what are you plans for growth?
The last three years have flown by and our client portfolio has grown and diversified quickly. We now manage PR campaigns for clients on everything from cryptocurrency, wealth management to payments and trading software.
We’ve also hosted parliamentary debates with key industry figures, including Members of Parliament (MPs) on topics such as the future of the financial services industry and the impact of challenger banks on traditional providers. The team is expanding quickly and we’re investing heavily in the latest training and support to ensure our team members are equipped to reach their full potential.
How do you see the next 12 months?
The Covid-19 outbreak has crippled the economy, forcing millions of people to work from home due to the very serious health risks. The knock-on effect of this crisis will lead to companies cutting costs where possible to save jobs, so tech will play a vital role in ensuring many businesses stay afloat.
We are already working with contactless payments specialists and other fintech companies that offer solutions to help companies survive and thrive despite the inevitable challenges ahead.
We aim to continue building our portfolio of expertise, testing ourselves with new challenges and delivering the best possible service to clients
This is a Sponsored Feature.
Lessons from past recessions and advice for business owners during the coronavirus pandemic
By Neil Davis, managing director and co-founder of Sterling Networks
What is Sterling Networks?
“Sterling Networks is a professional organisation founded in 2014 which facilitates networking events for businesses across the Midlands, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire and the South West. Over 300 members attend our fortnightly breakfast and lunchtime meetings.”
What is your background prior to establishing Sterling Networks?
“During the 1990s, I worked in the corporate team for Halifax. My wife, Tracey, and I went onto own a manufacturing business, which was also called Sterling, and produced a range of gifts, merchandise and promotional items.
“We soon realised tradeshows were a great way to meet distributors and clients. From there, the business grew exponentially, and we managed to build a network of around 500 distributors. Eventually, we became ground down by the manufacturing business – in part because the local manufacturing sector was being devastated by competition from China – and took the decision to sell the business and relocate to Spain.
“After spending several years living abroad, we moved back to the UK to set up Sterling Integrity (EXPO’S) & Sterling Networks (Networking) We were inspired by a desire to help businesses make meaningful connections with one another, and we haven’t looked back since.”
The UK has recently entered a recession, brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. What have you learned from past recessions and how are these experiences helping you to navigate the current crisis?
“I’ve lived through a number of recessions and have seen the pain that insolvency causes companies on a large scale. It’s taught me that there are those who win and sadly those who lose, and that businesses must adapt to a rise in demand for certain products or services at a time of financial crisis.
“Given the nature of what Sterling Networks offers [an opportunity for business owners to connect and grow together] I decided we could build upon the brand due to the demand for new business during the pandemic. We therefore moved our networking events from face-to-face to virtual via tools like Zoom and have gained a steady stream of new members in recent months, reaching an overall total of well over 300.
“On top of that, we’ve taken new staff on during the crisis and have launched a number of new regional groups across the country. I was determined that Sterling should come out of the pandemic with a head start, so my attitude to the recession has been much more positive than those who are forecasting nothing but doom and gloom.
“We can’t pretend high street retail wasn’t suffering long before the pandemic came along, and thousands of new businesses are sure to start up to meet the demand for the products and services that people require at a time such as this. In order to develop and grow businesses need to focus on where changes need to be made to meet this demand.”
Sterling Networks has been providing emotional support to its members throughout the pandemic. What advice have you been giving to members that could be useful to other business owners?
“I try not to be too opinionated and respect other people’s views when giving advice to members, as there are always two sides to every circumstance. I’ve been careful not to say to people that they should be doing one thing or another, as I don’t know their business and its needs quite like they do. The only thing that I have been telling members is the importance of setting up one-to-ones with one another. By doing so, they can listen to the needs and concerns of other, like-minded business owners and work out ways that they might be able to help one another.
“The pandemic has meant we all have a bit more time on our hands, so the advice I would give to people is to use this extra time wisely. Not having to travel physically from one meeting to another means there is a greater opportunity to connect with more people. It’s important to remember that individuals outside of your business can be just as valuable as those within it.”
What makes you hopeful for the future and are there any words of encouragement you can give to budding entrepreneurs?
“The key events that have happened to this country during my lifetime – whether wars, recessions, or the pandemic – have enabled me to take stock of things. While these experiences are certainly challenging, we all become stronger for living through them, and it gives me great confidence that the world will ultimately improve as a result of the pandemic.
“The whole world is effectively rebooting right now, as is the business community. I like to think entrepreneurs will recognise this opportunity to take better care of their peers, and this translates to greater collaboration between organisations. Speak to as many people as you can, ask all the questions that you need to and do your homework. This might well be a difficult time for us all but planning for the future must start now if it is to become as prosperous as I know it can be.”
Exclusive Interview with Ugo Loser, CEO of ARCA Fondi SGR
Arca Fondi SGR is a mid-sized Italian active asset management company. Founded in 1983 by a consortium made up of 12 regional banks, the company has grown in time, expanding its network of distributors and its client base. Nowadays Arca manages Mutual Funds, Pension Funds and Institutional Accounts with total AUM exceeding 30 € bln, reaching more than 100 banks and financial institutions and serving more than 800,000 final clients.
What are the key contributors to ARCA Fondi SGR’s success over the past 35 years?
Arca has always put clients and distributors first. That is to say we have always privileged fair pricing for funds and developing high quality products and services for our customers. This requires constant innovation as an objective and looking for people’s talent to be free to produce its effect
Why are people the founding element of ARCA Fondi SGR and how have you sustained this vision over the years?
We work in small teams, people are young and motivated and can perform duties with a high level of autonomy and responsibility. Innovation is asked to everyone, everyday
What makes Arca Fondi SGR different from other asset management firms in Italy?
Arca is a company focused on doing what it can do very well, that is to say mutual and pension funds, services for clients and banks. We never follow short term trends but always look for long lasting impact on the industry, like we’ve done may times in the past
What products/services has ARCA Fondi SGR pioneered?
Arca has been the inventor of “Arca Cedola”, fixed-horizon, coupon paying funds, which have been with no doubt the greatest product innovation of the past 12 years on the Italian market. This type of funds, at first strictly based on bonds and later as a balanced product, has encountered an enormous success both with clients and distributors due to its simple and effective value proposition. Arca is a market leader also in the “PIR” segment of funds, a range of product focused on mid and small sized companies, that have been the best performers in the Italian stock market for the last few years. In services, Arca is a leader in technology applied to asset management. Our website, app and digital services for clients and banks are award winning, state of the art combination of data, technology and channels, and the best is yet to come on this side.
What strategies do you have in place to sustain your market position and withstand professional competition in the country?
As I mentioned, we do not waste resources on projects with dubious results, instead we constantly invest on people, products and services. The high level of profitability that Arca has been able to maintain even in difficult years for the markets of the banking sector is a further testimony that this strategy works very well
How do you use technology to create meaningful experiences for your customers?
First of all, we have created a whole new division, Arca InnovAction Lab, dedicated to technology, data and processes. This ensures projects are delivered quickly and they are free to leave bad past practices behind. Arcaonline.it, Arca’s website, provides distributors with detailed information on clients’ portfolios, asset under management and subscription/redemption requests. It monitors aggregate selling data offering to our partners a suite functions and analytics to track commercial campaigns. And if the banks branches need assistance, they may ask Sara, our digital chatbot. A broad and timely multimedia production, covering exclusive reports, comments, presentations, videos, webinars and newsletters is also available on the website.
Customers, subscribing Arca’s funds through its distributors’ network, may access Arcaclick, a dedicated area on Arcaonline.it. With Arcaclick the client can easily browse through her portfolio of funds, analyze its characteristics, view transactions and historical funds’ performance in customizable views. Arcaclick is also a powerful source of information on Arca product range: Prospectus, KIIDs and other literature is easily accessible along with news, comments and reports. Arcaclick may also be accessed via Arca Fondi App, a free application for mobiles and tables, running on both iOS and Android. Available 24/7 and in mobility, Arcaclick gives clients the opportunity access information, news and details of their personal portfolio anytime and anywhere.
What key trends will drive pension growth in 2020 and beyond?
The Italian market for pension funds is still very small and therefore there is a great opportunity to grow. Arca Fondi manages the biggest open ended Italian pension fund and it’s been constantly at the top of its rankings. As people and workers are looking for yield and to weather short term volatility, the pension fund is very well poised to profit from this trend.
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