April 23, 2012

Bob Barris
Bob Barris, Dell

You can't blame bankers for keeping regulators top of mind — it's built into their wiring. But now that personal mobile devices are working their way into regulated industries, banks must address the challenges they pose in ways that also take advantage of the opportunity they offer to serve customers on an entirely new level.

Inside banks, employees are using their favorite mobile devices — with or without their employers' approval. Dell research on the evolving workforce, co-sponsored by Intel and conducted by TNS Global Market Research, shows that the more that businesses crack down on the use of employee-owned devices, the more likely workers are to use them anyway.

Email, instant messaging and mobile data all can expose a bank to risk. Online attacks continue to grow in sophistication, with viruses, spam, inappropriate content, spyware and phishing becoming more common. Given the compliance burden on banks, practical mobile device policies and effective data security measures are critical.

Meanwhile, consumers expect to use their mobile devices to connect with banks just as they do with any other business, paying their bills and managing accounts as easily as they tweet. Banks must connect with customers across multiple platforms and an array of devices. Again, data security is paramount, and efficiency is key to preserving the IT budget and keeping the lights on.

Many companies in regulated industries are hunkering down in response to the daunting task of protecting data in a heterogeneous device environment, but that's neither a competitive nor effective approach. A better one is to embrace customer-centricity by setting the goal of becoming a "connected bank." There are four approaches for breaking through organizational and infrastructure complexity that will enable banks to create an integrated organization focused on the customer:

1. Reduce Complexity

Companies are struggling with disparate IT systems, silos, redundant platforms and sprawling data centers. That kind of tangle makes it difficult to communicate and share data across an organization, let alone with a global customer base trying to connect on devices of every shape, size and maker. It's also the biggest reason companies don't have the budget to innovate: They have to spend every dime on running the business.

2. Understand and Engage the Customer

Banking customers are becoming less loyal, but the means to increase their loyalty is close at hand. Consumers want to buy through multiple channels with ease and share their experiences through social media. Now is the moment for banks to develop intimate relationships with their customers, based on trust and the fulfillment of their needs and expectations.

3. Manage Risk

Economic conditions and regulations are shifting quickly. Banks need to marshal technology to prepare for any outcome so they can respond quickly and effectively throughout all circumstances. By going beyond the minimum requirements and focusing on a broader security program, banks not only can respond to and mitigate potential data breaches and attacks, but also serve customers more efficiently and improve the bottom line.

4. Make Good Sense of Data

For all the discussion of the effect of mobile devices on business, it's not about the devices — it's about the data. The device is just the means to input and view information. While they're addressing the security and regulatory problems mobile devices create, banks need to make certain that the data they're securing is working hard for their customers and their business models. That's where the true value lies in a customer-centric business, and technology is the only way to achieve it.

Bob Barris is VP of sales for Dell's Global 500 banking and securities business and global practice lead for the banking and securities vertical.

[Wells Fargo's Secil Tabli Watson looks to improve the corporate banking experience, as the new head of the bank's Commercial Electronic Office (CEO) portal.]