Financial services needs to get over its reluctance and go mobile

Financial services needs to get over its reluctance and go mobile

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December 28, 2015
CIO Mobile

Any question about the future of financial services has technology at its heart. So it makes sense to wonder where technology will take the industry next – and one area clearly is the world of mobile.

The work cycle of business professionals, especially those in finance, has changed. The 21st century brought with it working days that are no longer in the confines of nine to five. It has also brought with it the need for on-the-go information that can be accessed at the click of a button. As such, the services individuals now want, use and need are very different than what they once were. One would think that with the financial industry’s need for real-time information and the many mobile devices now in our lives, workflow here would be increasingly streamlined and unshackled compared to, let’s say, 20 years ago. Ironically, though, financial services professionals still find themselves all too often chained to their desks. The financial services industry is playing catch up when it comes to linking up and utilizing different devices across desktop and mobile.

Why has financial services been so reluctant to go mobile? 

Outside of our industry, the benefits of mobile and tablet technology have long been recognized and accepted. These portable devices offer users the platform they need to do critical parts of their jobs, regardless of where they are situated. Many companies have embraced this new way of working, as it allows employees to stay on top of their work and access the information they need, when and where they need it – allowing innovation to happen outside of the confines of the office. However, in the financial services industry there has been a much slower and more hesitant uptake of mobile technology. This is surprising, given that the immediacy and availability of data is critical to a job well-done in this industry. It’s no secret that individuals who are able to keep abreast of events as they happen are the ones who have a distinct advantage over their competitors. So why has our industry been so hesitant to adopt mobile technologies?

It’s true that financial services present more challenges to a firm wanting to go mobile than perhaps any other industry – compliance being a particular concern.  Technology can surmount these problems though, and should mean the benefits far outweigh any perceived risks.  For a firm to think otherwise is, quite simply, to disregard the user experience. Any millennial joining the financial services industry, who expects a flawless user experience both at home and at work, is – I’m sure – surprised on their first day in the office when they get to their desk and are transported back in time by the technology they’re expected to use. Dated, desk-based systems don’t form a part of their worldview, and shouldn’t have to feature in their approach to business and communications.

Greater flexibility required

And this is the issue. If business professionals can only do their jobs at their desks, companies are not only complacent about their employees’ needs, but also missing out on huge opportunities. Technology should play the role of enabler, not inhibit business by restraining workflow. Recognizing that financial markets participants require greater flexibility in their working practices is the first step in providing them with the services they need to remain connected and productive.

Take the example of instant messaging. The ability to find and connect with other professionals on the move whilst maintaining the highest standards of compliance is essential to doing business properly. Compliance worries have been one of the main reasons mobile financial applications have been slow to take off. But the argument that mobile technology cannot be compliant for messaging is now obsolete:  compliance technology is transferable and its key controls can help ensure that unauthorised activity doesn’t take place – no matter the medium. Traditionally firms have been hesitant with employees using mobiles for business communication. However, modern compliance technology subjects them to the exact same controls and monitoring that they would have if a compliance officer were sitting next to them.

Increasing productivity through mobile collaboration

Bringing applications onto mobile so that they can work across devices is one of the key ways that firms can streamline workflow and increase overall efficiency across their organizations. With instant messaging, the value of the platform is derived not only from the messaging service it offers, but also from its reach, connectivity and compliance controls. Therefore a messaging application that is open and connected across all personal devices, whilst adhering to a firm’s compliance controls, would help deliver the long overdue flexibility that financial services professionals need. Doing so would allow for increased productivity through collaboration, and facilitate compliant communications whenever and wherever they’re needed.

Working practices across the industry are changing, and financial firms need to respond to their employee’s growing expectations that the connectivity they see in their personal lives is matched in the workplace. Mobile is completely engrained in our personal lives, but not yet a seamless experience in our professional ones. We already have the compliance controls, financial applications and mobile technology. It’s about time we combine them.

Yvette Jackson is the global head of collaboration services, Financial & Risk, Thomson Reuters.  Yvette leads a program to connect the financial community using instant messaging and group chat capabilities in an open, innovative and compliant way.  In this role Yvette manages an active messaging community of over 250,000 users across 170 countries.  Yvette joined the company in London in 1995 and has held a variety of roles in strategy, marketing, and product management.

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