Technology and the Next Generation of Financial Services

The American College of Financial Services
January 6, 2020

By Ann Yeung, Vice President of Engineering, Career Distribution & Investment Product Services–Northwestern Mutual and NextGen Advisory Task Force Member  


Technology has always played a critical role in day-to-day life, from the invention of the wheel to the dawn of smart phones. Moreover, with every new technological advancement, the global landscape is forever changed. We are leaps and bounds from where we were only a few decades ago and now live in a digital age where we rely on instant access to an explosion of data and information.  

Today, rapidly evolving technology drives or supports nearly every customer experience in nearly every industry. And with society’s primal desire for instantaneous data in a world with evolving tech unknowns, companies across all disciplines are working to store this info somewhere and use the insights to better serve customers.    

Because of this, cybersecurity is one of the biggest issues affecting the financial services industry. Fraud is a top customer and executive concern for banking, financial planning and other online activities. Adding this to customers’ digital-first preferences and the real threat of fraud makes cybersecurity critical in no small part because data breaches cause customers to run and trust to crumble.  

When I first started my career as a software engineer over eighteen years ago, cybersecurity wasn’t as top of mind. Today, our devices and apps are dependent on the cloud to keep information flowing freely. This has caused a revolution in cloud technology to keep up with mobile applications. Our clients expect tech to be ready and able when they want it.  

The financial services industry is more conservative when it comes to cloud technology because we are working with people’s money and private information. This makes a robust cybersecurity program crucial for financial services companies and professionals.  

At Northwestern Mutual, we’re focused on creating a more digitally-enabled experience for our advisors and clients. It’s exciting to be on the forefront of this work, but we know that in order to be successful, we need to integrate risk awareness, security and compliance into everything we do.

It’s critical for all companies in the industry to have teams, policies and procedures in place because data breaches are becoming more and more of a reality. They need to adopt the mindset of, ”it’s not a matter of if there will be a breach, but when.” When companies are proactive and have a plan in place, they are able to mitigate risk as much as possible. One of the most important defenses when combating cybersecurity is the human factor. It starts with the people, and training employees who handle or interact with client information, like security authentication (e.g. strong passwords and passphrases), is a key first step. 

So, what can an advisor do to prepare and keep their clients safe in this changing tech landscape? Tap into your company’s cybersecurity program. If you are not aware of the best practices and guidelines, make yourself aware. Most companies today have cybersecurity programs in place that you can lean into to ensure your clients’ information is safe. 


Learn more about Ann Yeung, The American College of Financial Services NextGen Advisory Task Force and topics like this on the NextGen in Ten podcast launching in February.

Ann Yeung


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