Beyond Risk: Secure, Effective Capture Sets the Stage for Innovation

April 23, 2021by Smarsh

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More than half of global businesses now offer the option for remote work in some capacity. Part of this shift was of course due to the pandemic, but early digital adopters saw the generational writing on the wall.

Proactive organizations are responding to the demands and preferences of Millennial and Gen Z clients and employees. These digital natives have brought their own set of tools to work; tools that are web-enabled and mobile-friendly, informal and interactive in a way that spurs greater responsiveness, faster decision making, and greater productivity.

Regulated organizations on the proactive train have seized this as an opportunity to change their relationship with their communications data. They’ve gone from centralized control over a limited set of tools for risk mitigation to a common goal of leveraging information as the lifeblood of the business. In short, information has been harnessed to drive innovation.

For companies still navigating this digital transformation, establishing a reliable means to capture conversational context from each content source is the first step in their trajectory.

Compliance begins with communications capture

A strong electronic communications compliance program is foundational for a variety of crucial business use cases, from recordkeeping and supervision to e-discovery and internal investigations. The secure, effective capture of electronic communications is a prerequisite for enabling these critical business functions. However, a clear understanding of the benefits and risks of communications capture, and available capture technologies, is often conspicuously missing from an organization's overall compliance strategy.

Under pressure to manage the ever-increasing volume and diversity of communications data, staying one step ahead of new channels is a distinct challenge. Evaluating options to streamline and automate the capture process is vital to establishing a scalable, sustainable compliance program that can evolve alongside the changing communications landscape.

Regulatory expectations are evolving

As the number of supported communications tools expands, so does regulatory complexity. Regulators including FINRA, the SEC, FCA and IIROC consistently state that any communications tool used to conduct business must be captured by financial firms to meet their books and records and supervisory obligations.

As a result, regulated organizations must be:

  1. Proactive in working to determine if the risks of a new tool can be mitigated prior to its approval for use
  2. Active in their inspection of communications used by regulated users to ensure that unauthorized tools are not in use

From a supervisory perspective, firms must also ensure that the capture technologies they leverage are suited for this purpose. They must be capable of capturing all conversational activity that happens on each communications platform. Ultimately, regulators are focused on inspecting the firm’s ability to enforce its written supervisory procedures and identify areas of risk — not only the review of messages.

Using a capture technology that enables a firm to easily understand conversational context makes it easier to spot behaviors that could be indicators of financial risks. Regulators themselves have been aggressively embracing AI/ML approaches in conducting exams. Nearly all have stated explicitly that they expect firms to embrace advances in communications technology.

Every communications tool in use today is unique. Corresponding methods of content capture vary widely. Sources like email are mature, and there are well-established ways to capture this content, such as journaling. However, collaboration and conferencing tools, social media platforms and mobile platforms each allow a distinct set of capture options and provide differing levels of access to their content (e.g., what level of access to the content they make publicly accessible via APIs). Some of these options are better suited than others for firms facing regulatory obligations.

At the same time, rudimentary methods such as capturing screenshots or user downloads of historical content are losing favor with compliance executives. They do not provide sufficient confidence that all content, context and metadata is being collected to withstand regulatory scrutiny. Many compliance executives have taken the stance that users cannot use communications tools that the firm cannot reliably capture.

Communications data drives innovation

The value of capturing electronic communications goes far beyond regulatory compliance. More firms are now acting on the realization that risk and business value can live anywhere. The deployment of new communications tools means that information governance controls need to be extended to these new locations.

Communications generated using these new tools are business records. They require protection to ensure they do not create opportunities for data leaks or loss of intellectual property. Additionally, definitions of communications risks must expand to include potential violations of corporate codes of conduct, such as “Slack bullying” and “textual harassment.”

Captured communications data also serves as a business asset, feeding enterprise applications and helping business stakeholders understand customer preferences and improve service delivery.

Key use cases for captured communications:

  • Supervisory pre-review and policy inspection prior to content archiving
  • Data retention to satisfy books and records regulatory obligations
  • Supervision and surveillance to achieve compliance and manage risk
  • Readily available native content for e-discovery and investigations
  • Extractions of data insights using AI and ML to drive business decisions

Communications intelligence

Given how quickly the communications landscape is changing, compliance teams must have a capture technology solution that prepares them for the future. When a new communication channel gains traction with employees, or when an existing channel changes, compliance teams can stay one step ahead of these developments.

Identifying and mitigating information risk has been and will continue to be an ongoing challenge. But firms reimagining how they can architect an information foundation with this ever-multiplying data variety can unleash new sources of value — not only to mitigate risk but to surface new workforce insights and mine customer communication trends that drive engagement and satisfaction. We call it: communications intelligence.

Communications intelligence is comprised of the strategies and technologies used for the collection and analysis of human communications data. It helps organizations quickly identify risks, recognize new business opportunities and improve operational systems. This shift has the potential to unite organizations around communications to completely reform how they do business.

The next step in the journey toward communications intelligence: the deployment of a content-agnostic platform that can index, normalize and play back captured data at scale.

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