Reconciling high touch with high tech in the family office

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9 December 2015
William Trout
I spoke in New York this week on cybersecurity to an audience largely still wedded to 20th century technology. That audience is the family office. It hardly stretches the truth to say that the technology most at risk of disruption in the family office business is Excel. The hesitancy to embrace digital tech rests in the notion that the use of online communications mechanisms can expose family and firm to grave risk. Of course, the costs of such reticence (in terms of inefficiency) are severe. That’s why, in addition to highlighting defensive measures useful in warding off hackers, phishers and scam artists of various stripes, I turned my talk at this year’s Family Office Risk Summit to offense. In particular, I made a plea for the expanded use of the cloud. From Defense to Offense Reconciling high tech with high touch presumes both the savvy use of mobile devices and the mastery of ubiquitous data. Here, the use of data extends beyond analytics and monitoring of trades to fraud detection. Threats can come from all sides: phishing, spam and other kinds of software violations; network intrusions, including denial of service campaigns aimed at shutting down all online communications, and the physical theft of data, often by an employee or contractor. I use the concept of FAME (Firewall, Anti-Malware and Encryption) to capture key elements of comprehensive approach to cybersecurity. The cloud embodies more of an offensive technology. Shorthand for the storage of data remotely, the cloud offers capacity and scalability advantages. It aligns cost to utilization by shifting expense from CapEx to OpEx. Most critically, it enables the “anytime, anywhere” servicing capabilities that today’s high net worth clients expect.

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