May 04 2020

How Banks Can Prepare Networks for Long-Term Remote Work

What networking management and monitoring tools do banks and credit unions need to succeed in the ‘new normal’ of remote work?

Six months ago, remote work for banks remained an outlier — an evolving opportunity fraught with potential problems. Almost overnight, however, the future of finance changed: Work-from-home arrangements are now critical for both customer satisfaction and corporate survival. 

For financial services CIOs tasked with managing customer service, monitoring employee use and mitigating risk remotely, what does this transition look like? What challenges are on the horizon, and what networking must-haves form the basis of banking networks in the “new normal”? 

Facing the Realities of Remote Work

The remote work transition has been incredibly rapid — and nearly total. At JPMorgan Chase, for example, 180,000 of its 200,000 staff members are now working from home. This puts incredible pressure on complex IT infrastructure — some owned by banks and some beyond their control — and creates significant, ongoing challenges, including:

  • Connection crashes: As noted by CNET, many banks have experienced intermittent access issues stemming from increased network pressure and access requests. As consumers stuck at home make the shift online — both now and as the situation evolves — banking networks must keep pace.
  • Collaboration issues: According to American Banker, another area of network pressure comes from telecommunication and collaboration tools. With staff using their own wired and Wi-Fi networks to underpin Zoom calls or Microsoft Teams meetings, last-mile infrastructure becomes an essential aspect of the work experience.
  • Cybersecurity attacks: Malicious actors are always looking for new opportunities. Confusion and complexity caused by the current shift presents the perfect opening: Between February and March 2020, cyberattacks on financial institutions rose by 38 percent, according to Carbon Black. As the shock of remote work becomes the consistent expectation, however, banks need a way to account for — and effectively address — these attacks at scale. 
  • Critical data compliance: Regulations including the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) define specific safeguards for banks handling customer financial data. And while the law’s Safeguards Rule specifies the creation of telecommuting policies around data access, storage and transmission by remote workers, many organizations lack effective network policies and procedures to meet these evolving expectations.

MORE FROM BIZTECH: How video banking can bolster financial institutions.

Get Networking that Works for In-Office and Remote Employees

Even with the transition to remote work becoming potentially permanent for some employees, banks must balance the books on network spending. Building out an entirely arms-length arrangement won’t pay dividends over time as some staffers head back to the office and work culture inevitably changes again.

For CIOs, this means deploying key network solutions across existing infrastructure to deliver positive outcomes in three key investment areas:

  • Customer service management: Half of U.S. customers engage with digital banking “infrequently or not at all,” according to research firm McKinsey. As a result, financial firms must offer both increased support for new users and enhanced experiences that focus on “easing financial distress.” This requires a rethinking of public-facing applications. Are they robust enough? Are services clearly communicated and easily accessed? Do customers — both tech-savvy and tech-starter — have the knowledge they need to make the best use of new financial tools?
  • Employee monitoring: Staffers working from home need access to critical customer data and robust telecommunication tools to deliver on C-suite expectations. This introduces risk: What happens if employee accounts are compromised? Here, it’s worth investing in two key infrastructure assets: two-factor authentication tools and VPNs. Secure two-factor authentication solutions help ensure employees are who they say they are — and meet GLBA Safeguards Rule expectations — while VPNs naturally obfuscate critical collaboration and frustrate hacker efforts.
  • Risk mitigation: With financial cyberattacks on the rise, CIOs must deploy new tools capable of detecting, controlling and remediating threats on demand. This is especially critical as information assets shift away from locally controlled server stacks into hybrid and multicloud environments. Agile and adaptable cloud security services are now critical to satisfy regulatory demand and streamline long-term, long-distance access.

The new normal is anything but. Banks are suddenly tasked with shifting customer, employee and security infrastructure from onsite to on-demand if they’re going to survive in a segmented IT environment.

And while plans are in development to repatriate some remote workers, firms must confront a new reality: Work-from-home arrangements are here to stay, and these socially distant demands require both robust and reliable network solutions.

This article is part of BizTech's EquITy blog series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #FinanceTech hashtag.

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