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Technology, security and innovation drive risk management for Wells Fargo

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Increased security risks can prevent companies from investing in new technologies, but continuing to use older systems can put their business at even greater risk.

Managing this balance relies on the big picture of risk management, including IT leadership in conversation.

Historically, risk management has been local to Wells Fargo, according to Mandy Norton, Senior Vice President and Chief Risk Officer of Wells Fargo. As technology became more integrated with business decision making, the company found that only a comprehensive approach kept its business safe.

“We are essentially a large technology company that provides financial services,” Norton said at the Lesbians Who Tech & Allies Debug 2020 Summit on Wednesday. “It’s very important to think about risk management as a whole, because it’s unthinkable to manage credit risk, fraud risk, and market risk without incorporating technology.”

Even with the best operational risk framework in place, security relies on technical expertise for interoperability between technology and business priorities. According to Norton, IT leadership translates the language and risk of technology into a larger audience of leadership, creating the integrated view needed to protect the business.

When Apple Pay went on sale, Norton said the financial services sector was suffering from a lack of overall control. Despite the security benefits of Apple Pay, Norton could reveal your credit card information to a malicious attacker when a user transfers your credit card information to Apple Wallet. Lack of end-to-end management and communication of the process created risks.

This is part of why cybersecurity management keeps Norton staying up late. Comprehensive risk management at Wells Fargo does not mean that all partners can be secured. Actors may target financial management apps where Wells Fargo customers have given up their login information, ultimately providing a path to attack.

“There may be gaps, and that’s why you absolutely have to think about your end-to-end process,” Norton said. “Let’s go back to that overall risk management. Think about every step in the process.”

However, according to Norton, this vigilance does not prevent Wells Fargo’s innovation, as the team recognizes the benefits that outweigh many risks.

“We have a great firewall, but the’bad guys’ continue to develop their technology, so you’re always trying to catch up with all the ways scammers can catch us. “Norton said.

Innovation to mitigate risk

A spark for innovation that ignited during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Norton, customers flocked to digital services when banks became unavailable directly, and Wells Fargo continued to rely on innovative technology investments to provide assistance.

Moreover, innovation is becoming inevitable. According to Norton, cloud computing underlies the way businesses do business today, but there are few regulatory guidelines on how to protect businesses and customers from threats in the cloud. It will put Wells Fargo behind the curve to take no risk.

Wells Fargo learned a similar lesson about the importance of modernization and innovation during a company-wide outage last year. In February 2019, smoke detection caused an automatic power outage, requiring the company to rely on data center backups for business continuity. Customers have no access to their online bank accounts, increasing the urgency to invest in the latest business solutions.

But beyond these services, Wells Fargo sees innovation as a necessary way to protect corporate and customer data.

“Without innovation, you can’t protect yourself and fight the threats and risks that lie,” Norton said.

New technologies also have the power to improve cyber posture by monitoring the status of threats. According to Norton, AI and machine learning algorithms can look for cheating for early detection and mitigation.

According to Norton, if all businesses in the universe were updated to the latest technology, but Wells Fargo did not, it would be the weakest link in the chain and the target of attacks. “It really is about who has the most powerful strategy, and if you don’t innovate and continually improve … you’ll be hit hardest,” Norton said.

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