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Digital security in banking and finance

The attack on Pearl Harbor is an important lesson in how fragile security can be. While there has been much debate among armchair military enthusiasts and historians about what the American armed forces could or should have done on that day, one thing's for certain. Everyone, at the time, was pretty much operating by the book. They were following policy and doing their jobs as best they could.
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When it comes to digital security, financial institutions are generally following reasonable policies and not being lazy. Unfortunately, that isn't always enough. The problem is that no matter how you try, nothing is one hundred percent secure.

Financial institutions are at the forefront of the digital age and it is they who will feel the greatest security burden. The key is to stay ahead of the game. This cannot be done by just adding layers or enforcing policies. The more complex security arrangements become, the more complex the attacks on that security will be. Eventually, it will no longer be possible to treat security in a formulaic way.

The best security is that which safeguards information while being relatively invisible to the consumer. There may come a time when governments or central banks issue no currency at all, not even electronically. The future may be something like Bitcoin, where the amount of electronic currency in circulation equals the amount of goods and services in the economy. The digital revolution may bring about the end of inflation.

However, this will require a much more personal relationship between financial institutions and their customers. The problem is that familiarity can sometimes breed contempt, as the normal shifting of internal procedures, changes that customers were once barely aware of, become more and more noticeable through increased interaction. There is now so much interaction that the financial institution has almost become a member of the family. And such institutions, in their quest for security, must be careful not to become the annoying and unwanted brother in law.

Future security will demand an intelligent and agile approach that can provide both the aegis necessary while simultaneously satisfying customer demand. The compliance centred approach of the past must give way to quasi-independent teams whose job it is to monitor unobtrusively and yet pounce when necessary. This won’t be easy. It means abandoning the standard top down pattern to a great extent and giving front line units the flexibility to act on their own initiative.

As far as digital security is concerned, the days of only issuing directives, following policy and just doing the job, are fading away. Management must learn to trust the increasingly specialised guardians of the financial gates.

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