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Financial sector turns to hackers as cybersecurity fears loom large

Pressure to innovate collides with anxiety over IT's brave new world.

By Jimmy Nicholls

The Financial Services Industry (FSI) is turning to former hackers amid heightening cybersecurity fears and pressure to innovate.

One third of FSI firms questioned told consultancy Accenture they had recruited former hackers over the last two years. 48% said they were recruiting cyber risk experts and 36% employing fraud experts.

Steve Culp, senior MD finance and risk services, Accenture, said: ""Financial services firms are struggling to keep pace with the demand for people with highly specialised skills, such as cyber risk experts, business analysts, security specialists and fraud experts. To fill these gaps, most firms will have to look outside of their organisations — and the competition for the right people is increasingly intense."

As well as hiring more people, almost nine in ten financial firms said they will boost their investment in risk management to combat the greater risk from cyber and fraud.

One quarter of those quizzed saying they would increase investment in risk tools by more than 20%, whilst just under a third said they would make the same investment in cloud software or analytics.

The findings follow more than a year of brutal headlines for the cybersecurity industry, JP Morgan’s US operations had 86 million customer records stolen with FSI continuing to be a key target.

For sectors such as finance the pressure to invest in innovation is also exposing them to greater risk, with one third of companies questioned by Accenture saying their risk appetite for digital initiatives was increasing.

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"The willingness to accept greater business risks will also expose financial services firms to emerging risks – including cyber, data privacy, reputational, social media and new conduct risks – requiring risk professionals to play an enhanced role," said Culp.

One third of respondants to the Accenture survey believed that understanding cyber-risk will be the top priority in their overall risk function.

Eight in ten of those questioned claimed that emerging risks, including cyber and social media, were taking up more of the chief risk officer’s (CRO) time than before, whilst two-thirds said cyber risk would have an increased impact on their business.

"CROs can help their institutions become digital leaders by capitalising on the insights generated from the wealth of data they hold," Culp said.

"While many have said the increase in data has posed a challenge, risk teams can free up time by automating data collection and analysis in order to focus on more strategic management activities.

"Better data is required by regulation, but it will also help CROs advise their stakeholders on meeting key goals around risk-adjusted profitability and performance."

470 senior risk managers in finance were interviewed by Accenture for the survey from Europe, North America and Asia Pacific, with 50 more senior leaders providing additional insights.

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