Shoddy knowledge-sharing practices and poorly policed cybersecurity are an unfortunate reality in modern finance, and the consequences can be devastating for a business.
Cautionary tales are always fresh in the headlines. In late May, First American Financial — one of the largest insurers in the U.S. — was sued by a customer who discovered his personal information was easily accessible by anyone with a web browser. Nearly 885 million files, including social security numbers and tax documents, were exposed. The lawsuit and subsequent wave of negative publicity may be too much for the company to recover from — if its plunging stock is any indication.
Stories like these are an important reminder that effective knowledge sharing and proper cybersecurity planning are critical in business, but particularly in banking and finance. Tax documents, social security numbers, and other financial information regularly accessed by finance departments needs to be handled with the utmost care, and recent data shows that just isn’t the case.
Data Shows Finance Departments Have Opportunities to Improve
Finance professionals are regularly handling high volumes of financial information from individuals and businesses. But when communication among them is not secure or efficient, breaches inevitably occur.
One significant area of risk is knowledge sharing. Data from Igloo’s State of the Digital Workplace study show seventy-one percent of finance professionals reported their top method of sharing sensitive or private information is via email, and 32% admitted to using instant messaging to share such data. This may seem innocuous on its face, but consider the last time someone in your office sent the wrong attachment, or accidentally “replied all” to a company-wide email. The result of a misplaced attachment in the finance world could mean sharing sensitive information with the wrong people.
Finance and accounting departments must be given the tools that allow for more security and control over what’s being shared, starting with improved workplace communication and collaboration software. These platforms allow only authorized parties to view sensitive documents, and often contain granular controls over access, sharing, and versioning. The result: It’s safer to view and share documents compared to email or other methods.
But the risk of information leaks isn’t the only thing slowing finance professionals down or causing day-to-day roadblocks. The same survey found that 60% of finance professionals work from home at least once per week, and 74% said they face challenges and issues not known to their office-bound coworkers. Sixty-two percent said they have been left out of a meeting, and 60% said they have missed out on information shared among coworkers in-person.
While the broader survey showed similar challenges for remote work across industries, these issues can carry greater risk due to the nature of work in accounting and finance departments. Scrambling to catch up stakeholders who missed a meeting or sloppily sharing meeting minutes could expose sensitive information beyond the core meeting stakeholders.
Finally, the data illustrates further concern about the ability of finance professionals to properly collaborate with other departments. Sixty-four percent of those surveyed said they work with three or more departments on a given project. This indicates these professionals are inevitably running into information silos when trying to gather crucial information. But it also shows the importance of reliable and secure methods for sharing sensitive data and project details. If three or more departments are passing this material back and forth, it’s critical they have tools that allow them to do so securely, like an access-restricted project room inside the digital workplace.
Massive breaches and bad press shouldn’t be the only concern for companies when considering how to support their finance teams. Many of these struggles — challenges with remote work or bad information collaboration practices — also lead to inefficiencies and frustrations among employees. When this happens, the department that ultimately tracks the bottom line ends up negatively impacting it — a cycle businesses need to commit to breaking.