Business Communication Shift Results in Data and Risk Nightmares – CPO Magazine


Despite massive data, risk and compliance challenges, today’s work-from-home environment has accelerated our reliance on electronic communication apps like WhatsApp, Zoom, Microsoft Teams and more, ushering in a monumental shift in the way we communicate and conduct business. A significant change that is happening on the fly, in real time, privacy officers and their teams, especially in regulated industries like banking and finance, must adapt their policies and procedures to meet the communication expectations of both employees and valued customers, or otherwise continue to pay the price for it.

After announcing in October 2021 that it would be reviewing how staff at Wall Street banks were communicating and the steps banks were taking to securely archive those communication channels, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has already handed out more than $1 billion in fines to the world’s largest banks, including Goldman Sachs, Citibank and Morgan Stanley. An issue sweeping the industry, Bank of America is the latest major institution to announce that it is in settlement talks with the SEC and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) because its staff was using unapproved devices for communication.

Before the pandemic, when working from home was a perk for maybe once a month and Slack channels were used more for office lunch orders than anything else, misconduct fines already accounted for an astonishing 15% of total bank equity. This monstrous tally represents fines imposed pre-digital communication when we didn’t have to worry about archiving our Zoom videos and team meetings that have now become the daily norm. This suggests that the next few post-COVID years hold the potential to cripple banks that don’t accept how tectonic a shift we’re witnessing in the way we communicate and conduct business.

Navigating today’s communication channels

When it comes to modern day business communication, much of the problems arise when using encrypted messaging apps like WhatsApp, which protect data (conversations) from being monitored. While there’s no doubt some are using these services for nefarious behavior like money laundering, insider trading or data leaks, many are only using these apps because it’s what they’re clients prefer.

After firing a global equity capital markets syndicate head with 28-years’ experience for using unapproved communication channels with clients, Credit Susie now requires employees to communicate with clients using an application that can monitor text-based messages and record conversations for privacy officers and compliance teams, but can we really expect clients to transition into using these obscure messaging apps? With over two billion global users, WhatsApp’s accessibility makes it the most commonly used communication channel globally, so you can expect executives looking to cut deals are naturally quick to fire off a WhatsApp messaging to bankers, especially once there’s an established relationship.

Global regulators have made it clear that record keeping is crucial when it comes to communication channels, but in this time of great communication transition, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to apply a once siloed approach across all communication channels. Historically, legacy vendors were able to provide a service for email and web surveillance, and another service for phone surveillance, but now? The sheer number of electronic communications channels is driving a dire need for workplace intelligence and monitoring solutions that proactively surveils all communication channels and alert on all company conversations, reducing regulatory, reputational, and information risk.

More than messaging – video kills the written word

The in-person meeting evolved into the business phone call before leewaying into an email. As compliance and security processes developed along with business complexity, each form of communication presented challenges when it came to securing business information and remaining compliant. Today, however, the complexity pales in comparison when you might be texting a client, hosting a video Zoom meeting and Slacking a colleague, all at the same time during the workday.

Previous generations of bankers never would have considered the voice and text-based communication channels, but the pandemic forced our reliance, and now, we can’t expect the toothpaste to be put back in the tube. Nowhere is this more evident than our sudden reliance on video and voice conferencing applications.

In a mad dash to address business continuity, Zoom and other video apps exploded onto the scene, and regulators took note. Throughout Europe and the U.S., regulators have made it known that institutions must actively account for and archive all digital communication channels but analyzing video footage is a complex process that requires deep tech and storing all those audio files is a logistics nightmare that cannot not be achieved without exorbitant expense.

Harassment on the rise across digital channels

Electronic communication drove business through the pandemic, however, it’s extremely unfortunate that it seems as if the “online disinhibition effect” has seeped into our daily work environment. Working from home has only caused an increase in sexual harassment and racism, and confusion for privacy officers that now have to balance keeping employees safe with monitoring endless digital channels where harassment can take place.

According to a “State of Workplace Harassment” report, 38% of employees report being harassed virtually, while 24% believe harassment and bullying are worse online than in person. Every office, no matter the industry, strives for a safe and inclusive work environment, regardless of its in-person or digital, however, the rapid evolution of today’s workplace is creating new challenges for privacy officers, who need solutions that can smartly decipher the context of potential risk hiding in conversations.

New problems usher in new solutions

The proliferation of modern communication channels has created a data and operations nightmare for many privacy executives; however, new technologies are leading to solutions tailored for the evolving business landscape of today. Much like communication channels are adapting and evolving to meet the instant expectations of today’s business age, the solutions needed to maintain continuity and protect employee data are also developing and addressing the various amounts of business concerns that have come to fruition since the pandemic.

U.S. SEC has already handed out more than $1 billion in fines to the world’s largest banks for staff using unapproved devices for communication and not securely archiving those communication channels. #privacy #respectdataClick to Tweet

The key will be if executives are nimble enough to spot these new data and information vulnerabilities, understand the weight of this new business communication movement, and find the intelligence tools needed for today’s evolving workplace. To go along with the overwhelming amount of new communication channels today, the number of solutions can seem endless, so it’s imperative that privacy officers conduct a thorough audit of their business and how employees are communicating before finding a tailored solution.

 





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