How Covid-19 has changed the need for businesses to remain compliant whilst having a remote workforce

With more companies using collaborations tools like Zoom to keep productivity up during the pandemic, they have to face the challenge of ensuring they remain compliant.

The coronavirus pandemic has seen staff abandon offices, turning them into proverbial ghost towns, and embraced working from home. As more and more people try to flatten the curve by working remotely, workers have become accustomed to using collaboration tools such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype and a smattering of other services.

However, these tools also open financial services firms up to failing to comply with laws regulating communication reporting. With everyone and their boss now working from home, ensuring compliance whilst talking with colleagues and customers online has never been harder. So how do you get it right?

That was the topic of a recent webinar hosted by FinTech Global and Smarsh, the compliance experts specialising in collaboration tools.

The discussion was held between Shaun Hurst, technical director for international markets at Smarsh, and Liudas Gulbinas, head of collaboration technologies at Danske Bank.

Neither of them were surprised to hear that a lot of companies are using collaboration tools these days. Tools like WebEx, Microsoft Teams and Business by Facebook have become ubiquitous since the pandemic hit, especially given that many businesses have a younger workforce that look to their jobs for social interactions.

“A lot of organisations are looking to be not only [more] productive when using the top three tools but also more connected in respect of social relationship when they [are] forced to be more distant from each other,” said Gulbinas.

Hurst agreed, “I think it’s a way for companies to allow their Gen Z or the younger generations to use tools that they’re familiar with, right? They grew up using Facebook and having a tool like that versus a tool like, maybe, SharePoint.” He predicted that more companies would be using tools like the ones developed by Facebook in the years to come.

“It’s not just a generational thing any more,” Hurst said. “People are realising the benefits of communications by these methods. And the immediacy [these] forms of communication [bring is] very attractive. But it’s also clear that the benefits of collaboration tools and video conferencing are being realised, in particular, in the current unprecedented times we find ourselves in.”

Gulbinas had certainly noticed the rising demand during the crisis. “The demand on my department skyrocketed, especially [for] providing better collaboration tools [and] providing more capabilities for people to be connected when they [are working remotely],” he said. “Of course, that led to a lot of changes in my area to provide those capabilities [so] that people can [remain] connected and that people can be productive, that people are in contact and [that] they still feel [like] a team, even though they cannot see each other for weeks and maybe months.”

And he added that the social impact of using these tools is palpable. Gulbinas noted that virtual meetings at Danske Bank used to be quite passive events, but now workers are using them to catch up with their colleagues.

“That’s shifted a lot,” he said. “When we went into the pandemic [we used to record a] million minutes per week of virtual meetings and we [have moved] to four or five [million]. So that [has] had a huge impact.”

Gulbinas added, “It is a big shift, not only for my department providing directly the tools, but [it’s] also a big shift for the network teams for the security teams when we look out adopters.”

“And that’s not even to mention the compliance teams,” Hurst interjected.

He said that those risks have to be weighed up against the risks imposed of not having these tools in place. “It could be on the security side, it could be better privacy,” he said. “It could even be on the litigation side of things and [it] most definitely is a risk on the regulatory side of things.

“The value in my mind is clear. It’s about productivity. So where we’re talking about risk and value, [like that you] can live anywhere, [of] using all these tools, it helps you keep connected with your staff. It’s obvious, right? We need to keep our workforce productive [or] we’re going to be losing money.”

Gulbinas agreed, saying that if you keep telling employees that different tools are banned to be used and if they feel that their productivity will suffer as a result, then “they will go against those rules and use those unauthorised tools.”

“The only way to avoid escalation is actually to give people the tools that they need to be productive,” he advised.

Gulbinas added that Danske Bank had already begun some of that work before the coronavirus health crisis began. “So when the pandemic hit us, we had to expedite some of the things to be in better shape, but just to give those tools which are compliant and which [are] either risk-free or risk-mitigated to the minimum because restricting is not an answer any more,” Gulbinas said.

Hurst noted that there has never been a bigger treasure trove of collaboration tools than what’s out there now. However, with this multiplicity, the risks have grown too. “With all these methods of communication literally at our fingertips, channel hopping becomes a consideration as well,” he said. “It’s not just about having a communication back and forth on email, like maybe traditionally, it was five years ago or ten years ago.

“But you can start a conversation with an email, send a few messages and Microsoft Teams and then follow up with mobile phone call. And that can really provide some headaches for compliance teams. So again, it’s about looking at solutions, not just for how to actually solve for what collaboration tools to use, but also what sort of compliance tools you put on top of it to make sure you’re doing the best you can for your compliance teams.”

If you want to watch the full discussion and learn more about how to handle compliance when using collaboration tools in the days of Covid-19, you can find it here.

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