Walking the Tightrope: For Advisors, User Experience and Security...

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Walking the Tightrope: For Advisors, User Experience and Security Need Not be Mutually Exclusive

Scott Hennon, CISO and Head of Security Services, Cetera Financial Group And Mike Ragunas, CIO, Cetera Financial Group

Scott Hennon, CISO and Head of Security Services, Cetera Financial Group

Financial advisors are no exception to the host of operational challenges brought about by rapid technological change. Cybersecurity is one of the greatest such challenges—especially in the financial industry, where sensitive customer data and account information must be shared and exchanged continuously and with instantaneous speed. One false step risks derailing the most diligent efforts.

In the wake of high-profile data breaches and ensuing public and regulatory scrutiny, the industry has taken a much more aggressive and proactive approach to security, implementing sophisticated techniques for, among other activities, authenticating customers, handling data, flagging unusual activity, and protecting against growing and changing threats.

While such techniques have undoubtedly improved the level of security, they have tended to come at the expense of user experience—requiring heavy-handed policing and unwieldy authentication procedures at precisely the time when financial institutions are trying to enact a more seamless, frictionless, end-to-end digital journey for their customers.

"Great security and a great user experience can peacefully coexistGreat security and a great user experience can peacefully coexist"

This brings up a question that the industry has been grappling with for years: must cyber-preparedness come at the expense of user experience? Fortunately, with the latest technological advances in cybersecurity technology, the answer is no. Cutting-edge solutions and methods are increasingly becoming available and being considered and adopted by advisors, and the financial industry more broadly.

Authenticating in the Background

Consumers have become accustomed to increasingly sophisticated user experiences that allow them to access information without breaking their flow while moving through life. For instance, biometric identification can unlock a smartphone at first touch. More and more, investment advisor firms are moving their clients through to their account information by quickly and quietly verifying their information and bypassing the extra steps required in multifactor authentication.

Mike Ragunas, CIO, Cetera Financial Group

In the past, better security seemed to mean more layers for users to pass through. Security was highly visible, whereas today it has become much more transparent and operates largely in the background. It rarely encroaches on a user’s experience of a platform, virtually eliminating the hassle of constantly creating new passwords, summoning up answers to security questions and even entering codes for MFA.

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Some of the most advanced security used to protect against cyberattacks seeks out anomalies in a user’s established patterns, such as in their device used, their location or the time they login to an account. When done well, this security approach continuously runs authentication in the background, considering and analyzing an array of risk factors. It infringes upon a user’s experience only when it discovers something significantly out of the ordinary, prompting additional verification steps.

Stronger User Protections

Not only are financial services firms fighting cyber attacks and fraud with systems that are minimally disruptive to customers, they are also benefitting from an enhanced level of protection. Systems include multiple layers of protection that are configured to detect malicious attempts to bypass them, enabling firms to take defensive measures to prevent a breach and maintain the integrity of their and their clients’ data.

The landscape of cybersecurity threats is ever-evolving, and the cost of a breach can be high, from the exposure of client data and associated loss of confidence and loyalty to stiff repercussions by regulators.

In an “advice-centric” approach, advisors must work to introduce innovative platforms that offer access, information, and tools to augment their clients’ experience; the latest advances in cybersecurity mean that neither innovation nor security must be sacrificed for the benefit of the other. Great security and a great user experience can peacefully coexist.

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