By Simon Raymer, Chief Information Officer, Fraedom
While blockchain remains an emerging technology, it has huge potential to radically change the financial services sector, and transform the way transactions are carried out. Currently, blockchain is heralded as enabling new technology entrants to challenge established financial institutions and the services they offer.
It often thrives in a decentralised marketplace without the restrictions and barriers of usage or entry that would have been present if it was centrally-owned and managed by an established financial institution. So, from one perspective, established financial services businesses face a large line up of new start-ups taking aim at their customer base.
On the other hand, established businesses who embrace blockchain and/or cybercurrencies also have opportunities to drive innovation themselves in these areas and keep one step ahead of the ‘new kids on the block.’
Yet, taking advantage of the opportunities that present themselves here is not easy. Blockchain is highly complex. It is challenging for financial services organisations to source the skills they need just to understand it, let alone go beyond that and effectively harness it for their own advantage.
It requires an understanding of cybersecurity and cryptography for example. Core traditional development skills are constantly in demand – particularly in areas like object oriented programming. Sourcing these staff and then training them up in the new programming languages required to take advantage of blockchain can be a challenge in itself, but programmers with the basic foundation level of knowledge required are available and can be further trained up.
What businesses looking to take advantage of emerging technologies often do lack badly is what we call ‘the technology entrepreneur’. It is one thing understanding the technology itself, quite another appreciating how to make active use of it to drive business benefit.
This raises some interesting questions. In the case of blockchain what, for example are the technical solutions that this can enable? Moreover, how can blockchain be actively used to solve a real world commercial or business problem?
To do that, established financial services companies need technical expertise, of course. They need to be able to draw on the skills of expert programmers. But, critically, they also need the technology entrepreneur: the person who can dream up and engineer a commercial solution. And that’s where financial services organisations often struggle today. It’s all well and good being able to code and programme, but these businesses also need to be able to focus on a commercial outcome, a real-world problem that they need to solve.
There are very few people around who possess all this capability: that both understand blockchain and appreciate what it is for – and yet who also understand the commercial environment enough to use the tool to successfully solve a real-world problem.
This kind of technology entrepreneur is in short supply. The type of person who can educate the business about blockchain and lead a technical team to deploy a real-world pilot based on blockchain to solve a specific commercial problem is in short supply indeed.
Blockchain is a smart technical enabler but if you don’t have a smart solution that you are trying to achieve, you are not going to get a positive commercial outcome. In fact, for all the commercial promise that blockchain offers, if it used in the wrong scenario, it can also be an expensive mistake. So, businesses need those people who can come in that understand that technology; can talk intelligently about it, and identify the correct problems it can solve.
That’s key but that’s also where we see a role for third party technology providers with knowledge and understanding of how new technologies like blockchain can be best taken advantage of to challenge and disrupt the market in the right way.
Traditional financial services providers need to tap into the experience and expertise of their peer group, the key providers in the marketplace, and the industry who can help them to navigate these new technologies successfully and a lot quicker with less cost, than if they try to do it alone.
It’s important the financial services organisations keep up-to-date with the latest technological trends. They need to have the courage to experiment and embrace the entrepreneurial spirit but they also need to be open to tapping into the experience and expertise of others. That’s especially true when it comes to blockchain. This is an area that established players simply cannot afford to ignore but the technology entrepreneur remains in short supply and technology providers can be key in helping plug the gap.
The Derry Group launches new employee engagement and communications app
The Derry Group, a one stop shop for the distribution, storage and order picking of chilled and frozen products has today announced the launch of its new employee engagement app, Thrive.App.
Their flagship company Derry Refrigerated Transport is a leading service provider for chilled and frozen distribution throughout Ireland, the UK and Europe. Derry Refrigerated Transport is the first haulage company in Ireland to sign up to the newest self-service, rapid deployment Thrive.App which brings together the key features needed for businesses to power up their internal communications for their frontline teams.
With hundreds of employees working across multiple locations in Ireland, communication, organisational engagement and information sharing is essential for the growing business.
In order to meet the additional challenges presented by the current global pandemic and the fact that the company works out of various locations throughout the country The Derry Group recognises the need to look at new ways in which all employees can more effectively communicate and share information with each other.
Commenting on the deployment of the new Thrive.App, Patrick Derry, Managing Director, said,
“We have worked hard to build and transform our business to what it is today, and our employees are key to our success. It is important to us that we give them everything they need to carry out their roles successfully as well as feeling supported and recognised for what they do. With the Thrive.App our employees can now easily access the information they need to support them in their role, they see important updates as they occur, and they know what is happening across all areas of the business.
The launch of Thrive.App will bring everyone closer together, which is particularly important during the current challenges of Covid19 and the fact that we have teams in various parts of the country.
The Thrive team have provided the best support and guidance in helping us to launch the employee app and we are confident they will continue to support us to make it a success across our organisation.”
James Scott, CEO, Co-Founder of Thrive, adds; “We are delighted to help and welcome The Derry Group as a new client and look forward to working together to ensure their employee communications and engagement app is a success and loved by their teams within the Group structure whether based in Armagh, Dublin or Cork.
Our goal is to help organisations in shifting their communications from traditional methods such as printed newsletters, notice boards and team briefings to instant, modern apps and we have loved helping The Derry Group do this. We look forward to seeing the direct positive impact the app will have on their employee communications and engagement.”
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Shining a spotlight on operational resilience and cyber-risk in financial services
By Miles Tappin, VP of EMEA for ThreatConnect, explores why the financial services industry must build a cyber security strategy in 2020
The new digital landscape has welcomed financial institutions with open arms. Emerging technology such as Artificial intelligence (AI), crypto-currencies and big data have shown widespread benefits throughout the years, particularly how they have driven innovation and change. When it comes to retail banking, fintech providers have quickly taken the chance to offer personalised services to ensure they remain relevant to their target market and stand out among their competitors.
This has been particularly evident with Klarna, now Europe’s most valued fintech firm. Providing payment solutions for online storefronts, consumers are now able to shop and pay later with top retailers including the likes of H&M, Ikea and Zara. This is just one example of how easy it has become to successfully and strategically disrupt the payments sector.
With several new players entering the banking scene, traditional financial institutions are making sure that they stay one step ahead and are developing robust digital ecosystems that deliver omnichannel service models. However, this comes at a price. As technological change becomes part and parcel to remaining relevant in the sector, the industry needs to be aware of the cyber security challenges that may present themselves and how to overcome them.
2020: The year for cybercriminals targeting financial services
2020 has become a definitive year for cybersecurity in the financial services industry. Financial institutions are a lucrative target – they hold highly sensitive information and have a mandate to protect the personal information of their customers. It started with an unprecedented attack against Travelex where hackers successfully took some of the currency providers offline for nearly a month. Then came Coronavirus which sparked a new wave of malware and phishing threats. Research from VMware Carbon Black Cloud revealed that threats against financial institutions have surged by 238% since the start of the pandemic.
The renewed interest from cyber criminals comes at a time when regulators are paying close attention to the resilience of the sector. After a string of IT failures and breaches, financial organisations in the UK have been given a mandate from regulators to improve operational resilience. This means ensuring business models can withstand disruptive events from hackers or adversaries and quickly recover to protect the stability of financial systems.
In December 2019, the UK’s financial regulators published a series of consultation papers outlining their proposed approach to achieving greater operational resilience. The proposals suggested that financial institutions will be required to map out the systems and processes that support business services in order to identify any potential vulnerabilities that would pose a risk to the stability of the UK financial system or the firm’s standing.
Working together in tandem
Where cybersecurity used to be a classic back-office concern, it’s now a central part of digital strategies and a key pillar of both reputation and customer retention – financial legislation leaves no room for failure. All financial institutions need to ensure they have full visibility of their systems and can detect any potential threats.
The challenge for financial institutions is making the security tools they have purchased separately work together in tandem. Security teams buy a firewall, an email filter, threat intelligence feeds, antivirus software or enhanced endpoint protection, and whatever else they need individually. Each of them does a good job but they don’t talk to each other and valuable time is lost tending to individual systems that become a burden to run. At the same time, running multiple security systems is expensive. The more systems you have, the more highly skilled staff you need to manage them, and they’re few and far between.
The importance of sharing across communities
To reduce complexity and simplify decision making, financial organisations need to unify processes and technology to harness the security intelligence that comes from across their own security programmes and external sources to drive down risk. However, no financial institution can tackle the problem alone. Experienced threat actors using advanced techniques are constantly targeting the financial sector. The industry needs to come together as a whole to foster a sense of collaboration and data sharing.
In the same way that financial institutions have introduced open banking to deliver a fairer service to customers, the same needs to apply to security – all parts of the financial ecosystem need to unite and share information to learn from one another and succeed in the fight against adversaries that operate across borders.
By sharing alerts on cyber hazards and risk across financial institutions and with law enforcement, government agencies and other relevant authorities, it’s possible to build industry specific insights into cyber security threats and quickly pivot to gain more information on those specific threats and threat actors. By working together, a picture can be painted on threats coming from all manner of malicious activity, from malware to ransomware, to phishing and software vulnerabilities.
Creating a single source of intelligence
Having the right intelligence is not enough to ensure that intelligence is turned into action. Breaking down information and process silos across security teams allows financial organisation to analyse and act on the most pertinent information. Everyone has access to the risk and threats that matter most, and orchestration and automation of response helps overwhelmed security teams prioritise response plans and improve efficiencies in their security programme.
Integrating internal security tools and technologies, while also connecting to external sources of intelligence, creates a single source of intelligence that feeds operations and enables organisations to direct action against the threats that matter most. The outcomes of those actions further feed intelligence, providing the ability to further refine the efficacy of the entire security lifecycle.
This approach provides a continuous feedback loop for the people, processes and technologies that make up the security programme. It allows financial institutions to keep up with threat actors that have consistently adapted their methods to profit at the expense of the financial industry. Something that won’t stop anytime soon.
While financial services institutions tend to operate with security front of mind, there is still an opportunity to collaborate more within the industry and increase intelligence sharing, so CSOs and CTOs can understand as much as they can about the threats they are facing. For example, what types or variants of malware have been used to steal, delete, or ransom personal identifiable information or IP specific to financial services? What ransomware has been used in attacks against other organisations within the industry? How does this ransomware work and how does it ransom the targeted data? Ultimately, the more you know, the better and quicker you’ll be able to respond to a new threat and remain protected.
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