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Financial advisor working remotely from home on his computer.

4 Things Financial Firms can do to Succeed Remotely

Financial firms are in the best position to succeed in a remote environment. Engaging with clients is easier than meeting in person and much of the work can be done regardless of location.

Americans are slowly adjusting to working from home. As states begin to ease the quarantine restrictions some companies are declaring permanent remote work environments. Companies like Facebook and Twitter are offering their employees the opportunity to work from home indefinitely.

Many firms have already moved to a fully remote operation and many more will do so in the future. However, moving to remote work can be difficult if handled incorrectly. Creating a successful remote operation is a new challenge CPA’s and financial firms will have to overcome.

When the lock-down started business owners looked to getting operations up as quickly as possible. Those who hadn’t migrated to a cloud based system did so. Others only migrated partly. While others still, struggled to adapt to a fully remote workplace. Video conferencing tools like Zoom and Microsoft teams grew in use and popularity.

Daily downloads of the videoconferencing app Zoom increased by 300 million participants since March. Businesses and employees spent time researching the different videoconferencing application and IT services companies that best fit their standards. But that’s only the beginning.

If you as a financial firm want to succeed in a remote environment you have to navigate cooperation, time management, data security and keeping your business functioning even while everyone may be so distant.

Here are a few ways to achieve success for your firm while working apart.

1) Take Advantage of Your Remote Environment

Maybe you’ve already noticed, but it’s difficult to distract each other with office gossip when there isn’t an office to gossip about. 85 percent of employees are either not engaged or disengaged at work. As a result, there is a 7 trillion dollar loss in productivity. Many offices have an open office layout which create a 32 percent drop in productivity.

However, this is harder to replicate when you’re forced to work remotely. Instead, the productive thing to do is to set virtual office hours or schedule meetings for a specific hour the day. Employees and staff can reserve a meeting however you choose. This might appear obvious to some but even in a remote environment it’s easy to get side tracked. You get one call from one colleague and then anther call 20 minutes later from an employee.  By the time you finish, you might not remember what you were doing in the first place.

Designate a period of time in your weekly and daily schedule for all meetings. The routine will also keep you focused and organized. Keeping a routine can lead to positive mental health. A routine can help manage stress levels and less overall anxiety, according to one study by Northwestern Medicine. College professors and councilors are very familiar with this system. It would be like having virtual office hours where team members can choose a slot and book a meeting.

2) Adapt to Technology

If you stop and think, if something like the Lockdown of 2020 had happened ten years earlier, remote work would not be possible. The emergence of cloud technology and communication apps like Microsoft Teams, Skype, Facetime, and Zoom together is what allows for a successful remote work environment.

Moving forward, many experts expect these changes to persist, bringing in a new era of remote activity. For financial firms, advising, asset valuation, and consulting will be done remotely. Firms should be looking to build on this change and integrate a remote reality to their existing operation.

What can your firm do to remain competitive, updated, and secure. Invest in a cloud service provider. IT services are going to be pivotal in the coming decades. Managed service providers will be in a position to make or break your firm. Look up the different cloud models and their features. Are they FINRA or SOX compliant? Where are their servers located? Are they stored somewhere outside the U.S.?

Nerds Support specializes in working with financial firms. However, there are many options available when hiring a managed IT service provider. Some are better than others, depending on the industry. You have to factor in security, location, knowledge of your industry, and even availability.

The Workplace platform provides a comprehensive solution that combines cyber security, compliance, & remote work needs.

The Workplace platform provides a comprehensive solution that combines cyber security, compliance, & remote work needs.

Is there someone you can talk to when something goes wrong? Do you have a point of contact? Sometimes a support team consists of strangers and other times it’s the CEO.

4) Build a Better Team Remotely

Human beings are social animals.  Although remote work is beneficial to productivity, it might be harmful to be socially isolated from your team. But there is a solution.

Team building is an important tool for social bonding and improving motivation. Setting aside an hour at the end of the week to celebrate that week’s accomplishments is a good example of team-building. There are a ton of other games and exercises you can try over video chat. Many have done virtual hangouts. Virtual happy hours are also popular. Even virtual competitions with certain free online games have brought offices together.   

5) Make Sure to Reconnect with Reality

The biggest issue in a remote work environment is that everything does seem to blend together. When you can’t distinguish your bedroom from your workplace it’s easy to get lost in a work-all-the-time mentality. Having an office has the psychological benefit of creating a barrier between your personal and work life.

A Stanford study showed that after 50 hours a week productivity sharply drops. Even worse, after 55 hours productivity gets so low that working becomes counterproductive.

I bring up the Stanford study because the comforts of working from home can often trick you into working more. Working an extra hour won’t kill you but the added stress of feeling like you’re at work at all hours is a serious problem. Establish clear boundaries for yourself and your team. When it’s time to log off, you log off. Communicate with your team your unavailability after a set time. Go for a walk, listen to music, but most importantly stay away from your computer.

 

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How the Cloud Keeps Data Safe for Financial Firms

A 2019 Global Wealth Study by Boston Consulting group reported financial services firms are hit by cyberattacks 300 times more than other companies. Financial institutions have a lot of sensitive data cybercriminals can monetize if accessed. That is why the financial services industry is so heavily regulated.

The US has experienced huge breaches of consumer data the last few years, especially last year during the emergence of evolving remote work solutions. The most famous example in recent memory is the Financial Technology, or FinTech, company Equifax. They experienced a data breach in 2017. The breach compromised the personal financial information and social security numbers of more than 146 million people.

FinTech gives consumers access to mobile banking, personal financial data and other services. However, since FinTech is so recent, it doesn’t have a regulatory framework yet. In the US, for example, in the mobile payment industry there are eight federal agencies with minor oversight over finance. Moreover, all 50 states have their own rules. It’s a very different story for Financial organizations and as we’ve seen above, for good reason.

As we’ve seen, lacking a regulatory framework impacts more than just a financial firm. It puts consumers at risk. In the financial industry, achieving regulatory compliance should be the focus for financial institutions big and small.

Cloud Security and Compliance

For a financial firm, credibility is everything. No organization wants to be fined, shamed or, worst of all, left behind by clients. Therefore, firms need to understand the challenges ahead to achieve compliance. Compliance is one of the biggest reasons financial firms are skeptical about engaging in a cloud strategy. However, once you understand how compliance is achieved in the cloud, the transition won’t seem so daunting.

Cyber Threats

As mentioned above, cyber security threats are sophisticated and aimed at getting your firm’s information. Hackers use a variety of methods to compromise your infrastructure for financial gain.  You can’t discuss cloud compliance without mentioning cloud security. As the workforce becomes increasingly mobile it gets easier to attack organizations operating on insecure networks. As a result ransomware is the most common attacks and is now a $2 billion- per-year industry.

One important thing to keep in mind

One of the main concerns that come up when considering financial cloud compliance is that customers don’t manage their own IT infrastructure.

That’s why it’s important to stress the fact that cloud compliance is a two way street. Managed IT service providers have a contractual obligation to their clients but clients must rely on best practices and regulations to look out for their interests as well.  In other words, a specific provider, be SaaS or HaaS will offer certain compliance and security features, but it’s up to the client to responsibly implement those features. With that said, we move on to the features themselves.

FinTech Compliance Cloud Computing Statistics

What’s Covered by a Financial Cloud provider?

It depends. Since the every cloud provider differs in their services and the way they present information, CPA’s and financial companies should review each cloud option carefully. That means choosing the appropriate cloud provider. Like shoes, cloud providers are not a one-size-fits-all.

Things to look out for when choosing a cloud provider:

1) What data will be stored in the cloud and what will remain in house. Why?

2) Where the data will be stored. Some providers don’t give you this information.

3) Service Level Agreement (SLA). Due to the compliance and regulations standards in the financial services industry, your firm might have to carefully review the types of services the provider offers and which align with your needs.

4) Encrypting Data. Keeping with compliance standards means encrypting sensitive data to protect it.

5) Systems & access controls. Data security is a big compliance mandate. You should know who at your firm has access to what data and what your cloud provider has access to as well.

Regulations and Guidelines

The important thing is that a firm become aware of the regulatory policies and procedures it’s expected to comply with. The Financial Cloud provider should have documentary records of how they plan to meet compliance in the cloud.

The GLBA ( Gramm- Leach- Bliley Act) and the SOX (Sarbanes- Oxley) Act are two main pieces of legislation that deal with the storage and maintenance of information within a financial institution. Therefore, to help with compliance a cloud provider should share information and supply your firm with access to necessary documentation.

You can learn more in Nerds Support’s white paper on compliance which details the importance of maintaining data compliance.

Conclusion

Whether your firm chooses a private cloud or public cloud, compliance guidelines must be met to ensure optimal security. Cloud service providers and financial organizations should continue to improve their processes. Otherwise, your organization will be penalized or even breached. The data migrated from a firm to the cloud is valuable and entrusted to you by your clients. And when you mishandle that data, you run the risk of losing everything.

If you’d like to read more about how your financial or wealth management company can use the cloud to innovate, check out our page on IT Support for Financial Firms.

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