By Nick Offin, Head of Sales, Marketing & Operations at Dynabook Northern Europe
We are currently experiencing a once-in-100-year event which is having an era-defining impact on our lives. The coronavirus pandemic has overturned how financial services organisations and their employees both operate and, importantly, collaborate. Traditionally a sector which has arguably been slow to roll out remote working initiatives, it has seen an unprecedented shift to almost entirely remote workforces in response to the pandemic.
As lockdowns are loosened and economies are kick-started once more, FS business leaders are starting to consider the lessons learnt from these testing times and how they can be used to remodel the future world of finance.
Before the outbreak of the virus, Europe had been experiencing a lost decade of productivity, highlighting a need for transformation within many FS organisations. While it’s important to consider that the issue is not fixable using one solution alone, workplace collaboration is fundamental to not only boosting productivity but also enabling faster problem-solving and reduced risks, something which is even more important in today’s climate. Therefore, it’s surprising that collaboration has often remained one of the most under-valued and under-engaged workplace methods.
The right tools
In recent months, though, the tide has turned. Collaboration has become fundamental to business continuity all over the world as FS firms have made the rapid shift to remote working. While parts of the wider industry – particularly the digital-first fintech sector – are already fairly well positioned for mass remote working, some segments of more traditional financial services like insurance have undergone intense re-structuring as some employee homes have become trading floors.
The pandemic has compelled many FS businesses into a new reality where teamwork no longer means having to be in the same office, with technology a major driver for this seismic transition. Video conferencing has been heralded as the technology of lockdown, having seen extraordinary growth in usage over this period. According to a recent study, conferencing applications saw a record-breaking 62 million downloads in March of this year alone. Fintechs are well accustomed to using collaboration tools such as video conferencing and have integrated these solutions into their daily workflows and business operations. However, even traditional institutions who have little to no experience of remote working have turned to tools such as Google Meet, Microsoft Teams and Zoom to ensure remote employees and customers stay connected.
As a result of increased usage of video conferencing and other cloud-based collaboration tools, there has been a rise in demand for laptop and notebook devices amongst FS businesses as they look to provide employees with the right tools to enable successful home working. For the first quarter of this year, IDC found an increase of almost one-third in year-on-year demand for notebook computers and laptops across Europe.
FS organisations investing in new laptop devices need to consider a number of factors to ensure they are equipping their employees with a device that can enable successful collaboration. Factors like internal storage capacity, core processor speed and power, RAM memory, operating system updates, and more, all impact a remote employee’s ability to collaborate with colleagues and customers.
Another major consideration is connectivity. Without it, FS businesses can face costly downtime which can not only impact a business’s bottom-line but also its reputation. Avoiding this requires providing employees with a device which is fit for the job, armed with the latest WiFi network support, Bluetooth capabilities, and peripheral connections such as HDMI and USB ports. In addition, a reliable camera, quality audio and low fan noise have never been more important, with video calls such a prominent part of everyday business operations during the current climate.
Overcoming challenges to collaboration
With FS organisations operating in a highly regulated environment, fostering high-functioning and collaborative teams takes much more than just connectivity. Naturally, there are a number of security challenges which need to be addressed within a large-scale remote working model. The value of the data held by the financial services industry has long meant it has been a popular target for cybercriminals. According to recent research, during the pandemic cybercriminals have been increasingly targeting the FS sector, with attacks on banks and other FS firms such as phishing, fake apps, trojans and ransomware spiking by 38 per cent between February and March.
To give employees the peace of mind needed to safely collaborate with colleagues and customers, FS firms must in the first instance ensure devices are equipped with the right tools and security features to reduce the risk of cyber-attacks. Devices with facial or fingerprint recognition and hardware-based credential storage capabilities provide a secure first defence against cybercriminals, reducing the risk of unsolicited login to the device.
As more devices access potentially sensitive corporate or financial data away from the office or trading floors, this opens up more ways for cybercriminals to compromise networks. Other defences such as zero client solutions go that little bit further to ensure devices themselves do not retain sensitive information when not in use. Instead, information is stored on a central, cloud-based system so if a device is lost or stolen, this information remains secure.
According to a recent Gartner poll, 48 per cent of employees will likely continue to work remotely at least to some extent after COVID-19, versus 30 per cent before the pandemic. The shift in working practices has been a test but also a success, with many FS businesses overcoming a multitude of unconventional challenges to sustain team collaboration. While the “new norm” is perhaps a little uncertain, it has led to many firms rethinking their long-term business strategies to ensure this collaboration is front and centre.