Credit unions are information management experts – the number of files and types of information being transmitted, received, processed and recorded is remarkable.
When you’re dealing with the amount of data a credit union handles on any given day, and the sensitivity of that information, you want to make sure it’s easy to share the information with relevant parties and it’s absolutely secure.
When money is on the line, every cent counts. So, how do credit unions deal with sharing financial information easily and securely?
There are a number of ways information is shared in credit unions today – from postal or overnight mail to email, from FTP servers to SWIFT and electronic data interchange (EDI) solutions. Depending on the nature of the information – credit card information, personnel information, Social Security numbers, and many other types of data – sometimes more security is required.
A relatively new method of sharing information is through file synchronization. While this is not an entirely novel concept, the advent of smartphones and tablets has brought on a new wave of interest as the increase in personal mobility and upsurge in working remotely has sharpened demand for access to information anywhere and anytime.
Today, file synchronization, popularized by Dropbox, is becoming a prevalent way to increase accessibility to files by pushing them out to all the devices and computers that a user owns, including desktops, laptops, smart phones, and tablets.
Dropbox is extremely popular among consumers, but its history of security hiccups may give IT teams pause. Most enterprises and other businesses, especially those with particularly sensitive information, are not sanctioning Dropbox in their organizations.
However, enterprise file synchronization and sharing (EFSS) is a growing category of services and applications that provide Dropbox-style functionality, while also addressing the security and manageability needs that go along with handling personally identifiable information (PII).
I believe we’ll see major adoption of these solutions because they not only offer convenience over many of the file-sharing solutions used today in credit unions, they will also provide the control over access, authorization and auditability that IT departments will appreciate. But this adoption will be contingent on vendors successfully convincing customers of the security model.
Ease-of-use will be one of the primary drivers for adopting EFSS solutions in financial services. In its most basic form, EFSS technology simply lets users define a set of folders which are synchronized, on a PC for example. Users install a small piece of client software on the different devices they wish to synchronize, and files dropped into a folder are instantly distributed to all of the synced devices. This process is quite simple, and because the synchronization is automatic, there is no complicated delivery process. While sharing parameters do need to be set up initially, that configuration can be used for all future uses.
Compared to other collaboration and sharing methods, automatic synchronization will save an end user many mouse clicks, which in some circles can add up over the day. In a financial services setting, EFSS solutions are far easier to use and understand – something I’m sure will be well received by overworked staff.
Most EFSS technology also supports some type of collaboration so files can be shared with others by simply dropping them into a folder. For example, loan applications that go through multiple steps, with multiple parties providing various pieces of information could benefit from an EFSS solution.
As information is collected and goes through the various stages of approval, a set of shared and synchronized folders could facilitate the sharing of information, serving as a nexus for all pertinent data to be stored, or as part of a workflow process where folders serve as steps in the entire loan processing procedure.
One major benefit is the ability to access those files in a synchronized folder while at your desk or while on the road. Information that comes from the field, for example from an appraiser that is onsite, could be entered into a tablet and then immediately shared with the people back in headquarters.
It’s still early, and many enterprise synchronization vendors are jockeying for an overall leadership position or for market domination within a particular niche or vertical. However, the wide range of requirements means you will have to look at each offering and determine which feature set, security level, and integration capabilities fit your needs best.
More complex collaboration tools may still be needed in some situations, but many people are finding that simple, secure file sharing is sufficient for their needs. With a few collaboration-specific features, such as permissioning, versioning, and notification, EFSS can help connect multiple parties quickly and easily, streamlining workflows and meeting your members’ needs.