We explain why financial brands and businesses will benefit from having cloud solutions

Some of the financial brands and businesses we use today have been with us for more than a century, while others are brand new fintechs and mobile first providers. Regardless of heritage, all of them depend on trust from their customers, because they’re dealing with people’s money.

Trust in business can come from many sources, and can accumulate in layers. The bank your parents have used since before you were born is starting from a strong place, but a startup attracting meaningful investment and positive reviews can also be a brand you are happy to have manage and advise you on your most precious assets.

When it comes to finance, trust is also underpinned by regulation in most markets, because there’s a recognition that this is an area of expert and esoteric knowledge. We pay people to advise us professionally in areas we don’t know well enough ourselves, and advice can be good or bad. We know that financial services are being sold to us, in a competitive marketplace, but most of us as everyday consumers lack the background to identify a good investment from a poor one or to decide on the best insurance to meet our needs, and so on.

That’s why in Europe we have bodies like the European Banking Authority (EBA), the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA), the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) and so on - and similar bodies in exist in other markets, like the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the US or the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)

All of these organisations exist to make sure that customers are being advised accurately and fairly, about complex products which will likely have a significant impact on their future financial wellbeing, and which are often being sold by commission-driven agents to boot.

Financial advice: It’s good to talk

As with a lot of industries dependent on trust for their sales success, these agents invest considerably in talking to their customers.

Whether they’re acting as representatives for a particular fund or range of products, or advising independently, they have to have in-depth conversations with their customers - both businesses and consumers - in order to fully understand their needs and expectations, as well as less tangible things like their personal appetite for and understanding of risk factors and time preferences. Are they seeking maximum growth from their assets, or a dependable return? Do they have ethical concerns which would influence investment strategies? Have they read - and fully understood - the small print? Past performance is not indicative of future returns, and investments can go down as well as up…

In the past a lot of these meetings happened face to face, and the consultant would take detailed notes - this was not only to enable continuity for their customer service, but also to satisfy regulation. If at any point a customer considered they’d been badly advised, or incorrectly served, those notes were the primary source of evidence the agent could fall back on a dated statement that the risks had been explained, etc.

In recent years of course a lot of this consulting moved to phone calls, and the best protection in that case was recording. This ensured that any dispute could be quickly resolved by listening back to the full conversation, and seeing exactly what was said in what context.

Pre-pandemic: centralised calls

This is one reason that a lot of financial firms never formerly embraced the remote work lifestyle, because recording those voice calls meant centralisation.

Not only did customers need to be advised that calls were being recorded, they had to be appropriately stored and indexed. A centralised on-premise PBX was often the most robust and secure solution, and meant that the agent didn’t have to do anything to activate the recording and remain compliant - it was all just set up to happen on every consultation taking place out of their office.

Of course some of them had migrated to digital tools for project management and documentation, such as deploying Microsoft Teams as part of Office 365. This meant that agents could collaborate on assets which may have been highly confidential, such as those relating to clients’ finances, while enjoying the encrypted cloud security of the MS Office suite, and also internal and external messaging and sharing. However, for many in such regulated and traditional industries, the final step to cloud based business calling was never made.

The reasons for this are many, and regulatory compliance is a big part of it.

When your good standing with a regulator in your jurisdiction requires the recording of 100% of calls, it’s very difficult to plan a large-scale migration of your workforce to Microsoft Direct Routing or Operator Connect, because you have to factor in business continuity concerns as well as supervision continuity.

And this is one reason that a lot of financial firms, while they may have been significantly digitally enabled before the Covid implosion of Spring 2020, did not have an effective voice solution in place.

Risks of non-compliance

This put many firms in a tricky situation, when the lockdown kicked in:

This was relatively straightforward for their internal communications, document sharing, and so on, if they were already cloud-based and digitally enabled. But what about those phones, plugged in to the office PBX, hardwired landlines, now gathering dust on desks many would not see again for months..?

We know that some firms diverted calls to agents’ personal mobile numbers. But this was a high risk strategy - those calls were then completely unsupervised and outside the purview of any company monitoring.

Customers may not have noticed they did not receive the statutory warning that ‘this call may be recorded, for training and supervisory reasons’, but what happened if they had a dispute or complaint? The firm in question had nothing to fall back on, with no one even in the habit of maintaining handwritten client notes any longer.

There are some test cases we know about, and others which are yet to emerge. Opportunistic bad actors targeted financial services organisations with malware and cyberattacks too, as their agents adjusted to work on unsecured home wifi networks, and at the same time their customers were subject to escalating levels of phishing attacks and similar - criminals will always take advantage of chaos and distraction, to advance their own gains.

Other enterprises lost business, because they simply weren’t agile enough to respond to the changed circumstances fast enough. Perhaps it was prudent to disable phone-based interactions until they figured out how to secure them adequately, certainly from an information security and compliance point of view it was the only option - but the cost of lost customer confidence will take time to quantify.

But some teams acted fast, and got a compliant cloud-based phone solution in place fast.

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Business cloud phone systems for financial services

Those who already had, or rapidly deployed, a phone system like Ringover, were streets ahead of the competition when lockdown happened - and remain remote-resilient, whatever the future holds.

The Ringover app offers the best of both worlds, in supporting the ‘bring your own device’ enablement which ensured business continuity, while also maintaining complete separation between the business calling plan and the user’s personal apps and contracts. (Not only did this avoid calls being taken outside of the regulatory supervision, incidentally, it also avoided some massive expenses claims, when user’s personal plans got pressed into use for business calling in the early part of the pandemic.)

This versatility also includes hand-off from one device to another, so that a call could be started on a mobile but then transferred to the desktop, for example if an agent was in a different part of the house when the call came in but then they realised they would need access to documents on their PC, or a quieter home office environment to ensure a confidential conversation.

As the world unlocks and people return to work in offices, third spaces, and on the move, this versatility becomes even more important - so your agent can choose exactly when and how to handle each interaction, independently of factors like traffic or even climate/weather conditions.

Ringover’s call recording ensures you can remain compliant, whether using video or audio calls, wherever your agents are working. It’s easy to record, play back, download and store your inbound and outbound business calls, and this can be configured in moments via the administration dashboard.

It’s a highly granular setup, meaning you may decide for example not to record internal conversations, while ensuring that every potential client interaction is securely archived. There is also a toggle switch under the agents’ direct control - for example, if a piece of information needs to be shared which must NOT be added to the archive (payment details, or a one-time password), they can actively suppress that recording in the moment.

Also your customers know and understand that they are being recorded - with clear audible warnings on each call. Not only is this a compliance issue, it enhances your brand credibility and reassurance.

Of course, even when actively managed in this way, all those recordings themselves create a potential security vulnerability for organisations - which is the reason that previously, they rarely left the server room of the centralised HQ. Detailed conversations about clients’ private affairs represent highly sensitive data, which must be handled with due diligence and risk management.

The risk assessment suggests that the totality of the data archive represents a greater ‘honey pot’ of attraction to hackers when it is coupled within the organisations’ central record keeping - easily paired with customer files and account information, for example. Which is one more reason to consider separating and outsourcing the call archiving to a specialist cloud phone company.

Ringover maintains compliant certification to ensure your data is secure and encrypted as appropriate by jurisdiction, going beyond minimum regulatory compliance to up-to-date best practice. This means you don’t have to worry about being compliant with GDPR & Privacy Shield, and other standards in the rapidly changing world of information security and data privacy. You choose, as part of your contract, exactly where your data will be securely stored: our dedicated infrastructure is based on 12 data centres located in Paris, London, Madrid, Sydney, Singapore, Atlanta, Miami, Dallas, Chicago and New York.

Quality assurance and consistency

One further thing which managers worry about in distributed working, is ensuring consistent professional standards across a workforce.

The flexibility of the recordings in Ringover means that they can be securely accessed, reviewed, and shared, in a proactive way - for quality control, and training/onboarding too.

You don’t have to wait for a complaint before you decide to check what really happened in a conversation. You can do so at any time, with administration access, such as you might need to form part of a quality standard or supervision plan.

Or you might need to focus on the performance of a specific agent, for some reason - you’re considering them for a promotion, curious to highlight their success with a particular product line, or you’re concerned about their use of particular scripts and disclaimers…

It’s easy to sort and review the archive, by date, participants, or team.

The future of financial services and normalityanywhere

So in 2021, as we enter the ‘new normality’, it’s difficult to overstate the benefits of cloud-based business calling for financial services.

Flexibility and security, coupled with robust and effective compliance, will keep each agent productive and safe, wherever they’re working - and will give customers the protection and service standards they depend on, in an uncertain world.

Want to have access to the flexibility and security Ringover provides?

Contact our experts at 020 3808 5555 or send an email to sales@ringover.co.uk and we will be happy to help you!