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The VoIP Report

VoIP Helps Financial Services Comply with Regulations
April 26th, 2017

VoIP Helps Financial Services Comply with Regulations

Ian Linton

Financial services need a communications system that allows them to comply with regulations. Enter VoIP which helps do that and much more.

Financial services represent one of the most highly regulated business sectors. So it comes as no surprise that firms look for a communications solution that helps them comply. But, they also want to control costs, deliver quality customer service, and support networks of agents, brokers, and partners that market their products.

Firms with large networks of local branches aim to provide consistent service at each site while minimizing costs. And they need a solution that helps them deliver personalized service to their most important customers.

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) is an advanced communication solution that meets these needs. It can lower on-site infrastructure costs by delivering voice, messaging and collaboration services from the cloud to any location, on any device. It reduces long-distance call costs by routing calls over the Internet, with free calls between connected sites.

VoIP can also improve productivity, mobility, collaboration and customer service with a range of features that help employees work more efficiently. With high levels of security and automatic call recording, VoIP provides firms with the confidence and the tools to meet compliance requirements.

Choice of cloud or on-premises solutions

VoIP is available as a service running on internal infrastructure, or as a service owned, operated and managed in the cloud by a service provider.

Firms that operate their own system invest in infrastructure equipment and incur ongoing costs of management, maintenance, upgrading, and repairs. They must also hire support staff with the technical skills to operate the system.

An on-site system offers higher levels of security than a cloud solution, which may be important to meet compliance requirements. All call records and client data reside on the firm’s premises.

Cloud-based systems require no infrastructure on-site and no upfront costs for equipment. The infrastructure is based in a secure data center and is hosted by a service provider. A monthly fee covers the service together with the costs of system management, maintenance, and upgrading.

However, cloud solutions may not meet compliance requirements because call data is held in a service provider’s data center that operates with different security standards. And because calls travel on the Internet between the firm’s premises and the service provider’s data center, there is a risk of data breaches.

To overcome potential security risks and maintain compliance, some firms operate a hybrid system with secure storage of client information and call data on their premises and encryption of all communications between the service provider and the firm.

Improving branch communications

A VoIP solution hosted in the cloud can provide a firm’s branches with the same consistent services throughout the network. Each site links its phones to the service provider via a high-speed Internet connection or SIP trunking.

The firm does not have to deploy duplicate infrastructure or maintain support staff at each site, thus reducing overall operating costs. Internal calls between sites are free, cutting costs further. And employees can access the full range of VoIP services to improve their own communications, giving additional benefits in productivity and efficiency.

Branches can use the same VoIP network to transmit data, such as daily sales reports, to the head office. That avoids the cost of operating separate voice and data networks. And they can hold regular business or project management meetings over VoIP’s conferencing facilities to improve collaboration throughout the branch network.

If a firm maintains a single call center at the head office, it can continue to provide local service to all branch customers through VoIP’s sophisticated call routing features.

Call center supervisors can use calling line identity to route incoming calls automatically to the appropriate branch. Alternatively, agents can handle the calls centrally, responding with a local branch greeting. The agents can also access local client data through a customer relationship management (CRM) system.

Supporting independent agents and advisers

Where firms market their products and services through agents, brokers or independent financial advisors, VoIP provides features that simplify communications and support.

By providing their partners with access to VoIP services, firms can make it easy to exchange sales and business information securely. Firms can keep their partners up-to-date with new product information, or changes in policies, charges or regulations, as well as market opportunities using VoIP’s many notification features.

Marketing teams can use emails, instant messages, texts or recordings of video conferences to deliver information to individuals or all partners. Automated notifications cut the time needed to distribute information and ensure all partners are aware of changes. They can also set up broadcast conferences for important product launches or training sessions, reducing the time their partners have to spend traveling to meetings.

Communicating with clients

Firms can use the same VoIP tools to update their clients on new product developments or other changes. They can also use VoIP’s personalization features to build closer relationships with clients, particularly high net-worth individuals.

Customer relationship management (CRM) systems provide customer service agents and client advisors with clients’ contact information, details of their transactions with the firm, and other personal financial data. That information helps agents and advisors customize offers and advice to individual clients.

VoIP integrates with CRM systems so that agents and advisors can access the information before making or taking calls. In call centers, agents can use CRM data to plan and run targeted telesales campaigns as part of a product launch or promotion, improving the precision and success of the campaigns.

Firms can use VoIP’s notification services to arrange or confirm appointments or advise clients of important events, such as final dates for filing taxes. They can send the notifications by email, instant message or text, depending on clients’ channel preferences.

Differentiating service

VoIP offers a range of tools that give firms the opportunity to differentiate the service they offer different clients.

For high-net-worth clients, for example, firms can provide consultancy and other advisory services via video conferencing facilities. Advisors and clients can share spreadsheets, charts, reports and other relevant content on-screen to create more informative meetings.

To provide general advice and information to clients, firms can offer self-service facilities via an IVR (interactive voice response) system. The system routes callers to websites where clients can download documents, view videos or review frequently asked questions.

This provides a convenient service to clients and reduces demands on advisors. If clients need to discuss issues in more detail, they can use a chat feature to contact an advisor.

Maintaining compliance

Financial services firms that hold clients’ personal and financial data face heavy penalties from regulators and loss of client confidence if they suffer a data breach.

Calls with clients must comply with industry regulations, and firms must provide an audit trail of calls and messages. VoIP supports compliance by automatically recording all calls and messages for review and archiving. Call center supervisors can use VoIP’s management tools to monitor live calls or recordings for quality and compliance, so that they can intervene if necessary.

Where call security is critical, firms may find an on-premises solution more suitable. But, if they use a hosted solution, they must be confident that service providers can meet the level of security required. They must ask service providers for details of security and storage policies, and ensure that communications between providers, the firm and clients are encrypted.

Service providers can improve the security of call data in transit by setting up private connections, rather than trusting the public Internet. An alternative is to use SIP trunking protected by Transport Layer Security (TLS), and Secure Real-Time Transport Protocol (SRTP). This ensures high levels of security and privacy while minimizing the risk of threats such as eavesdropping or tampering with messages.

Supporting mobile staff

Client advisors and other employees working away from the office can access VoIP services and features on their smartphones or other mobile devices by using a softphone app. If they are visiting clients, for example, they can access data on a CRM system or share content during meetings. They can also set up conferences, bringing in colleagues to virtual meetings to provide expert advice.

Mobile VoIP provides them with all the phone, messaging and collaboration tools they need to handle communications from any location on any device. It also ensures that key staff can remain in contact when they are away from the office. VoIP has a Follow Me feature that rings a series of work, mobile, home and other designated numbers simultaneously.

Simplifying teamwork and collaboration

VoIP’s collaboration tools can help employees in different departments or locations work together to provide a broader range of services to clients, or develop new products.

For example, employees from investment, taxation and retirement planning departments may work together to provide an integrated service to specific clients. They may also collaborate to develop new services that bring together a firm’s expertise in each of those areas.

Firms with an international network and business clients that operate multi-nationally can bring together teams from different regions to provide clients with expert local knowledge.

Financial services firms may also work together with other firms such as accountants, mortgage or pension providers, and investment advisors to obtain advice or develop joint services for their clients.

Team members can use audio, web or video conferencing services on desk or mobile devices, joining meetings from any location with no need to book dedicated meeting rooms. With web or video conferencing tools, they can share spreadsheets, plans, presentations, and other documents to improve decision-making.

Improving business processes

VoIP integrates with a growing number of business applications, helping firms improve workflow and productivity. Because VoIP runs on the same network as data services, integration is simple and cost-effective.

Firms can integrate applications such as accounting systems to record costs, CRM systems to improve customer service and productivity tools like Microsoft Office 365. Office 365 integration lets employees make calls or launch conferences from within applications while they are working on documents, reports or presentations, without changing devices.

VoIP also incorporates other productivity features such as unified messaging that let employees access all voicemails, emails, texts and instant messages in a single inbox, rather than having to check separate devices. And Presence makes it easier for employees to find out if colleagues are available to take calls by checking their statuses, rather than playing “telephone tag.”

Protecting investment

VoIP is a communications solution that can grow with a business. Firms can add new capacity on-demand to cover expansion, new sites, or seasonal peak workloads. Expansion requires no additional upfront investment and supports predictable budgeting. With new features and services coming on-stream and increasing opportunities for integration, VoIP is a solution that protects investment in networks and communications.

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