By Paul Liesching, Global Head of Financial Markets at Truphone
Covid-19 is forcing companies across the UK and the rest of the world to review their remote working capabilities. For many, remote working is all in a day’s work, but for the financial sector, it’s not as easy as bringing your laptop home and ensuring your work phone is charged.
In the last two weeks, both HSBC and Barclays have confirmed cases of the Covid-19 virus within their employment, with HSBC evacuating an entire floor of its Canary Wharf offices. The evacuation did not affect the bank’s trading floor—but that scenario isn’t out of the realms of possibility as the government warns of much wider scale afflictions.
So, what can these financial giants do to prepare for, what people are calling: “A nationwide work-from-home experiment”?
No days off for compliance
As we know the financial sector has become heavily regulated. One such measure is the requirement to record all communications—including mobile phone calls and instant messaging relating toa transaction, irrespective of whether the transaction concludes. This is easy enough to control from your state-of-the-art HQ in Canary Wharf, New Jersey or Manhattan—but how do you keep compliant from the couch?
The FCA released a statement concerning Covid-19 which states: “We expect firms to take all reasonable steps to meet their regulatory obligations. For example, we would expect firms to be able to enter orders and transactions promptly into the relevant systems, use recorded lines when trading and give staff access to the compliance support they need. If firms are able to meet these standards and undertake these activities from backup sites or with staff working from home, we have no objection to this.”
Even in a crisis, compliance still stands, and is arguably even more important, as the extreme market volatility we are experiencing potentially encourages “sharper” trading practices.
But compliance isn’t the only issue, it’s also about business continuity—functioning at the same level that you would from a work desk.
The financial sector is one of the most complex and highly regulated industries and, as such, the highly complex data, support and regulatory systems mean we can be slower than our counterparts to adapt to digital alternatives—so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to hear that, even now, many traders can still only work from their desk.
Any deviation from the norm on a widespread or elongated scale can hit businesses hard. Not to mention the implications of any misconduct, whether intentional or not, during that time.
Few predicted our current global, economic and social situation—but it might just be the kick we need to transform our organisations to be digital first.
Evolving with the times
So, what can we do to best enable a successful stint of remote working?
Some of the biggest banks are already implementing a divisional split whereby trading teams are split into three and separated across multiple offices or remote/home locations. This will help reduce the likelihood of blanket infection, but how do we ensure those working remotely can adequately get the job done?
Mobile recording for compliance is actually a relatively simple one to take care of, providing you have the right systems in place. At Truphone, we have created a solution that easily records mobile voice and SMS communication. This works on a global scale and is already used and trusted by 10 of the world’s 12 largest banks, so you can close through to transaction in your kitchen, no problem.
Slightly trickier, though by no means impossible to solve, is the absence of trading turrets which give traders access to multiple lines and near-instant connection. Luckily, as with most tech, a virtual trading turret from companies such as Cloud 9 and BT’s acquisition of IP Trade is readily available for traders to use remotely.
And of course, leveraging the use of digital conference tools such as Skype and Web exis paramount to keeping in touch with colleagues and ensuring the best possible remote working outcomes. It should be noted that unified communication platforms such as these can be used for one-to-one communication and can be recorded—but they’re not as seamless as mobile communications, and their recording capability can lack the rigour demanded by the regulators. Additionally, their reliance on good data connectivity means call quality is not as reliable as good old-fashioned GSM calls.
The corona effect
Covid-19 has pushed us all into unchartered waters. At the moment, it’s hard to see through the uncertainty, but there will come a time when normal routine ensues, and we return to that seemingly surreal ‘business as usual’. We may even ponder whether being chained to our desks is how we want to live and work in the 21st century.
But when we return to those desks, what will we learn from this unprecedented time of upheaval? Perhaps that – no matter how giant our enterprise is or how established our legacy –it may no longer be appropriate to be defined by our monolithic offices.Could we instead be defined by our people, wherever they choose to call “work”?