The Business Case for Communications Intelligence

Smarsh Advance virtual event, 2021

October 19, 2021Robert Cruz

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From regulatory obligation to business transformation

More than any year preceding it, 2021 demonstrated how dependent financial services firms have become on digital communication applications and collaboration platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Slack and Zoom. These tools have become connective tissue for employees and customers, standing in for cubicles and corner offices.

As the era of hybrid work has emerged, and with some valuable hindsight, it’s clear this shift was not just a reaction to an emergency. It’s been a long-game transformation accelerated into overdrive by the pandemic. No matter how we got here — there’s no turning back.

The magnitude of this transformation — heavily increasing data volume and variety, distributed workforces, the multiplication of digital communications tools, etc. — cannot be supported by traditional information control systems. It is a change so universal, so critical to the bottom line, that it will require companies to redesign core processes governing how they communicate and accomplish key tasks.

Financial services firms, at the mercy of stringent yet somewhat opaque regulatory obligations, must overhaul their data strategies for collecting, preserving, monitoring and analyzing communications. Communications data strategy must be suitable for the speed and scale of every unique financial organization. It requires a new technological approach to identify and mitigate risks, recognize new business opportunities, and leverage information as the life blood of one’s business. In other words, “Communications Intelligence.”

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The 3 Key Principles of Communications Intelligence:

  1. Communications are a strategic asset
  2. Communications data is different than traditional data and requires a unique set of technologies to be managed and governed appropriately
  3. Only machine learning can manage the scale of communications data generated by financial businesses

Smarsh Advance: protect, collaborate, transform

Communications Intelligence is the next revolution in financial services. Smarsh is redefining the archiving marketplace to help firms gain more value and insight from their communications data — to propel their business, not just meet regulatory obligations.

We’ll be exploring this shift, from reactive to proactive compliance on November 9, at the Smarsh event of the year: Smarsh Advance, 2021.

  • When is the event? Tuesday, November 9, from 11:00am to 2:00pm EST
  • Where is it held? The Smarsh Advance conference is entirely virtual
  • Who are the presenters? Financial industry practitioners, market leaders in communications including Zoom, AWS, and Slack, Smarsh executives, subject matter experts, and customers
  • Who should attend? Compliance, legal, IT and risk management stakeholders in financial services, registered broker-dealers and investment advisors, wealth management and banking leadership
  • How are the sessions divided? Content will be structured into three tracks: protect, collaborate, and transform. More information on programming below

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Protect: identifying and mitigating information risks

Financial organizations are contending with new and evolving business challenges that heighten potential risk:

  • Technology is outpacing existing regulations, as acknowledged by the regulators themselves
  • The emergence of new communications tools has created more surface area for cybersecurity risks and increased complexity in spotting employee misbehavior
  • Today’s compliance and e-discovery tools were designed for the era of static documents and email — not ongoing chats, social media, file sharing, etc.

Protecting your business today requires a shift in mentality from defense to offense. Compliance and legal teams need to be equipped with tools that provide earlier visibility into information risks. Purpose-built solutions that capture, preserve and understand the conversational context of each content source are critical so that firms can better understand and respond to human behaviors.

For firms large and small, these demands to protect your business are dynamic, and the consequences of inaction have never been greater. Today, an average firm receives an employee request to support a new communications source every week (if not more).

Meanwhile, regulators have been increasingly vocal about the use of digital communications tools. They have issued regulatory notices and enforcement actions against the misuse of social media, the need for firms to devote additional focus on cybersecurity, and the requirement to monitor employee outside business activities (OBAs), which are often happening on prohibited communications networks.

Sessions in the Protect track will feature:

The Emerging Threats of Hybrid Work
Led by Entreda CEO Sid Yenamandra, along with a panel of security professionals, this session will explore emerging challenges and best practices to help infosec and risk management professionals identify and mitigate a new generation of potential exposures. This session is specifically tailored toward small and medium-sized firms.

Conduct Intelligence & The Future of Supervision
This panel will feature former UBS and HSBC executives as they explore how firms plan to embrace the latest machine-driven approaches to understanding employee conduct, while also meeting recordkeeping and supervisory obligations.

Discovery of Digital Communications
This session, with discussion led by e-discovery pioneer George Socha of Reveal and Anthony Diana of Reed Smith law firm, will focus on how e-discovery teams are keeping up with the pace of innovation in digital, interactive and collaborative communications.

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Collaborate: preparing for today's hybrid work reality

The flexibility to work from the office, remote, close by (WFCB) or anywhere (WFA) is a prized new commodity, highly valued by 73% of employees post-pandemic. Simply reconciling that with executives who strongly prefer the opposite will continue to consume company leadership well into 2022. How do you balance health and safety concerns, implications to company culture, as well as management processes and systems?

The experiences gained over the past 18 months with the use of Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Teams, and other collaborative tools have turned traditional business processes upside down. The efficiency, productivity gains, responsiveness results are compelling. People have learned valuable lessons about confronting Zoom fatigue, meeting overload, and maintaining a healthy home-work-life balance. The digital genie is out of the bottle, and it’s not going back.

What now confronts regulated organizations is moving from a mindset of protecting or securing a physical location, device, tool, etc. to securing the individual. Compliance and security controls now need to be equally effective whether an individual is in an office, at home, or on a favorite Maui beach. Zoom, collaborative platforms and mobile-first apps will play a large part in addressing that requirement, requiring a deeper analysis of the benefits and risks brought to the firm by each supported platform.

Sessions in the Collaborate track will explore this topic with the following sessions:

Slack, Teams, and Collaborative Platforms in Today’s Hybrid Work Reality
This session will feature a guest panelist from Slack and explore how firms are now viewing collaborative platforms as a vital component of a firm’s communications infrastructure and building the business case to confront the realities of a hybrid work future.

Zoom and Voice: The BD and RIA Perspective
We will be joined by an executive from Zoom to discuss how broker-dealers and registered investment advisors have adjusted to a world without in-person meetings. We will explore how firms are successfully leveraging video conferencing and voice-enabled tools to stay connected to their market.

Staying in Front of Today’s Mobile Applications
This session will feature CellTrust CEO Sean Moshir, as we explore how firms are embracing mobile apps while also ensuring they are up to date with new tools that digital natives are introducing to the workforce.

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Transform: greater information leverage & efficiency for the future of work

At the very minimum, current market conditions, the pace of technology innovation and explosive growth of new, heterogeneous data sources have led to the Captain Obvious conclusion: legacy archiving, discovery, and supervisory systems are no longer suited for purpose.

And this is the aspect of Communications Intelligence that is most transformative.

Communications data no longer needs to be passive, locked in a dark data archive that may require an entire week just to process a single data export. Nor does it require two years and super-human effort to deploy a new archiving instance of a vendor-hosted data center, only to be held hostage by the vendor due to impossibly slow export performance and exorbitant services extraction fees…

As former FINRA CTO Marty Colburn so eloquently stated in a recent webinar, “Friends don’t let friends build data centers.”

Communications Intelligence is the answer to these problems, supported by public cloud infrastructure that allows firms to drive their business at enterprise scale. The capabilities and benefits enabled by leveraging public cloud infrastructure include the ability to deploy multiple content locations in a matter of hours leveraging existing tools and dev-ops processes. It means the ability to leverage the global footprint of providers including AWS and Azure, that can deploy in unique geographic regions with a triple-active model to optimize uptime while minimizing data sprawl.

The other transformative aspect of Communications Intelligence is the ability to harness today’s advances in artificial intelligence and natural language processing. The realities of the past 18 months have led many firms to conclude that the explosion of content volume and variety are stretching the limits of human, manually intensive content inspection and review past their usefulness.

However, getting past small-scale trials and experiments in the use of AI/NLP is often hampered by a critical factor — the quality of the underlying dataset. Capturing and preserving the content, metadata and context of collaborative tools, mobile apps, voice recordings, and other non-textual information – on scalable public cloud infrastructure — builds the basis for unleashing the power of AI/NLP-powered applications.

Sessions in the Transform track include:

Cloud, Driving Your Business at Enterprise Scale
We will be joined by AWS to discuss how today’s public cloud innovations are enabling firms to achieve an unsurpassed time-to-value by offering always-on availability, hyper-fast deployment of new features, and scaling capability to drive the largest workloads.

Capturing the Retail Investor
This discussion will feature ComplySci CEO Amy Kadomatsu and Elinphant CEO Elin Cherry. These compliance experts will talk about how firms are tapping into the opportunity to pursue retail investors while working through new levels of complexity with new financial products and preferences for an entirely new set of communications tools.

AI/NLP: Enterprise-Grade AI to Extract Greater Insights from Your Data
This session will feature Alex de Lucena of MacQuarie and Uday Kamath, Chief Analytics Officers at Smarsh as they discuss how firms are accelerating AI investments while addressing concerns over robustness, explainability, model governance and validation.

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See you at Smarsh Advance!

Today’s market leaders are leveraging Communications Intelligence, not only to protect their organizations more effectively, but to begin adopting AI across their enterprises — to uncover new opportunities, better understand their customers, and feed other business-critical applications.

Join us on November 9 when we unleash the power of Communications Intelligence to the world, and be able to say, “I was there.”

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Robert Cruz
Smarsh Blog

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