Maintaining Trust Currency in Financial Services Institutions

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By Renee Tarun, Deputy CISO, Fortinet

In a recent Ernst & Young report, only 17% of respondents say they trust the activities of financial institutions in times of crisis. At the same time, the average customer churn rate among retail banks per year hovers around 15%, and about half of customers who drop out do not exceed the first 90 days after opening their accounts. On top of that, there is more competition than ever for banks thanks to the rise of new fintech companies and technologies.

Winning and retaining new customers relies on trust. Not only do banks manage customers’ savings and investments, but also their critical assets, such as their personally identifiable information (PII). It is therefore understandable that security plays a central role in maintaining trust by protecting banks’ customer-first strategies. Read on to learn how financial services institutions can stay secure in a rapidly changing threat landscape and how they can maintain customer trust.

The role of technology in building trust

In banking, customer trust is hard to gain and easy to lose, making it difficult for financial institutions to acquire and retain customers. Churn remains an issue. To establish and maintain trust with their customers, banks must use all available resources: their culture, their processes and their technology. Banks must be transparent, have good governance and use ethical business practices. Trust is also built by investing in the most efficient technologies and processes. Banks can build trust by demonstrating resilience in these areas.

Trust is a key part of technology because if it doesn’t work or isn’t innovative enough, customers have a negative experience. They can lose trust if a bank’s website goes down or the business is hacked by hackers. Technology that you don’t notice is good technology because it does its job.

Threat landscape analysis

Security is an essential part of this good technology that you don’t notice because it works. Your customers will certainly notice that you should, for example, send them an email informing them that their account has been potentially compromised or that your online banking services are down due to a ransomware attack.

Banks and the financial services sector certainly have their work cut out for them. Given all the personal information they hold, they remain a major target for cybercriminals, whose methodologies are becoming increasingly aggressive and sophisticated.

FortiGuard Labs Recent Research found that cybercriminals are developing attacks faster than ever. They continue to exploit the expanded attack surface and use advanced cybercrime strategies that are more destructive and less predictable than those of the past. And they use a variety of new and previously seen ransomware strains.

Strengthen your security structure

A solid foundation is key to building trust and a customer-centric banking strategy. A security-by-design approach can be a strategic investment in today’s market. It will bring the best value for money and help banks stay competitive. This means that security must be built into the beginning of any business initiative.

Banks will benefit the most from working with a security provider that aligns with their core strategies and values. This means choosing a partner that has a holistic approach to security that includes the three aforementioned areas of people, technology, and process. Banks should pre-screen vendors with a cybersecurity mesh platform that provides consistent security across their entire ecosystem. This includes key features such as automation and integration. It also has AI-based threat intelligence at its core. Banks can do the following with such a security partner:

  • Make sure their employees are aware of cyber health and safety.
  • Increase resilience by implementing processes that ensure customer information and critical assets are protected. In the event of a problem, the bank can ensure that critical services and systems continue to function.
  • Communicate security risks to customers and provide information on how to protect themselves.

Security builds trust

It was once said that business is done at the speed of trust. Nowadays, trust is a currency that allows business to happen. The financial industry has the difficult task of staying ever vigilant against reputational, customer service and security incidents that could break trust with customers. The last category bears the greatest responsibility, because not only the financial lives of customers are at risk, but also their personal information; once lost, it can never be truly secure again.

Financial services institutions remain a prime target for attackers, and the threat landscape continues to show new and innovative attack methods like the latest The FortiGuard Labs Threat Report Illustrates. That’s why they also need to think innovatively about their security fabric, implementing a meshed approach that provides the visibility and threat intelligence they need to protect their assets and maintain customer trust.

About the Author:

Renee Tarun is an Associate CISO at Fortinet. She focuses on enterprise security, compliance and governance, and product security. She also contributed to the book, The digital Big Bang. Previously, she served more than 20 years in the US government, including more than 12 years as a cybersecurity officer for the National Security Agency (NSA). Renee holds a master’s degree in administration and management of information and computer technology from the Undergraduate College of the University of Maryland. She is also a board member of George Mason University Volgenau School of Engineering. She is married and has two children.

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