August 11, 2023

Fortifying Cybersecurity – A Strategic Guide for Managers

In today's digital age, the importance of robust cybersecurity measures cannot be overstated. As businesses increasingly rely on technology for their operations, the risks associated with cyber threats also escalate. This reality, combined with the rapid pace of technological advancements, the global shift to remote work due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the increasing sophistication of cyber-attacks, and evolving regulatory requirements, makes it crucial for businesses to stay vigilant and proactive in their cybersecurity efforts. This article will explore some of the major forces impacting cybersecurity today and provide a condensed list of the most vital strategies businesses can employ to bolster their cybersecurity stance. 

 
Globally, we see four major forces impacting the cybersecurity sector: 

  • Rapid Technological Advancements: The continuous evolution of technology, including the rise of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices, is expanding the potential attack surface for cybercriminals. Addressing these advancements requires constant updates to cybersecurity strategies and tools to ensure robust protection. 
  • Increase in Remote Work: The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift to remote work, which presents new cybersecurity challenges. With employees working from home and often using personal devices for work, there are more opportunities for cybercriminals to exploit vulnerabilities, especially if employees aren't following the best security practices. 
  • Sophistication of Cyber Attacks: Cyber-attacks are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Attackers are now employing advanced tactics, such as AI-driven attacks, deepfakes, and advanced persistent threats (APTs), making it more difficult for organizations to defend themselves. 
  • Regulatory Changes and Compliance: There's a growing focus globally on data privacy and security regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the Unites States. Businesses must stay abreast of these regulatory changes and ensure compliance to avoid substantial fines and reputational damage. 

Key Insights and Strategic Directions 

1. Assess Cybersecurity Risks 

Insight: Understanding the potential cybersecurity threats to your business is the first step in creating an effective security strategy.  

Strategic Direction 

  • Examine: Conduct regular risk assessments to identify potential vulnerabilities in your current security system. 
  • Test: Perform audits to ensure that cybersecurity measures are efficient and up to date. 

2. Increase Employee Education and Promote a Cybersecurity-focused culture 

Insight: Your employees are the first line of defense against cyber threats. Training them and promoting a culture that emphasizes the importance of cybersecurity will be essential for maintaining widespread security. 

Strategic Direction 

  • Train: Provide ongoing training for employees about recognizing cyber threats and maintaining online safety. 
  • Educate: Foster a culture of cybersecurity awareness within the company, outlining everyone's role in maintaining it. 

3. Establish Robust Security Measures 

Insight: Implementing strong security measures can help protect your company's data and systems from potential breaches. 

Strategic Direction 

  • Implement: Implement multi-factor authentication and strong, unique passwords for all accounts. 
  • Install: Install firewalls, antivirus software, and secure Wi-Fi networks to defend against 

4. Increase Software and Network Management 

Insight: Keeping your software and network systems updated is crucial for maintaining a strong security posture. Regular updates can protect against the latest threats, and network monitoring can alert you to potential attacks. 

Strategic Direction 

  • Update: Regularly update all software, including operating systems and applications. 
  • Monitor: Monitor network traffic for unusual activity that could indicate a cyber-attack. 

5. Plan for incident response 

Insight: Despite your best efforts, cyber-attacks can still occur. Having a response plan in place can help you quickly contain and recover from an attack, minimizing the potential damage. 

Strategic Direction 

  • Plan: Create a comprehensive plan for responding to cybersecurity incidents, including identification and containment, and recovery steps. 
  • Inform: Ensure that members of the company understand their role in mitigating the effects of cyber-attacks if they happen. 

6. Comply with current Regulation 

Insight: Compliance with relevant laws and regulations is crucial for avoiding legal issues and maintaining trust with customers. 

Strategic Direction 

  • Evaluate: Examine how your company policy holds up to current laws and regulations. 
  • Adjust: Use the guidelines issued through regulation to inform updates to your company’s policy 

Conclusion:  

In conclusion, the dynamic nature of cybersecurity requires businesses to stay updated, vigilant, and proactive. By understanding the major forces impacting cybersecurity today, organizations can better equip themselves to handle potential threats. Implementing key strategies like the ones outlined above will significantly enhance an organization's cybersecurity posture. As we continue to navigate an increasingly digital world, these measures can serve as crucial steps towards safeguarding your business data and systems against cyber threats. 

Interested in fortifying your cybersecurity? 

We're always ready to engage in insightful discussions! Join us for a cup of coffee at our offices, or contact us via phone or email.  

Our doors at Amaliegade 15, Copenhagen, are always open to welcome you. 

August 11, 2023

Generative AI in Business – A Strategic Guide for Managers

Generative AI, a rapidly expanding branch of artificial intelligence, is dedicated to creating new content or data that mirrors a given input data set. Despite the transformative opportunities it presents, many organizations grapple with the challenges of establishing core practices that allow them to harness generative AI's potential at a large scale. These challenges often stem from a lack of a well-defined strategy, a shortage of skilled talent, the existence of functional silos, and insufficient commitment from leadership toward generative AI adoption.

In the business context, generative AI offers transformative opportunities, including:

  • Global Economy Impact: Generative AI could add between $2.6 trillion to $4.4 trillion annually across various use cases.
  • Application Areas: 75% of generative AI's value is across customer operations, marketing and sales, software engineering, and R&D.
  • Industry-Specific Impacts: Banking, high tech, and life sciences are among the industries to see the most significant impact.
  • Workforce Transformation: Generative AI could automate activities that consume 60 to 70% of employees' time, potentially leading to half of today's work activities being automated between 2030 and 2060.

The potential of Generative AI is immense, and a comprehensive understanding of its capabilities and applications is crucial to harness its benefits effectively. In the upcoming years, generative AI is poised to significantly influence productivity, industry dynamics, and workforce transformation.

Key Insights and Strategic Directions

1. Understand Generative AI's Potential

Insight: In the rapidly evolving landscape of AI, generative AI stands as a democratizing force, offering transformative opportunities across various content forms. The automation, augmentation, and acceleration of work processes are within reach.

Strategic Direction

  • Educate: Engage leadership and teams in understanding generative AI's capabilities and relevance to the industry.
  • Identify: Pinpoint areas where generative AI can enhance existing processes, driving efficiency and innovation.

2. Implement Proper Guardrails

Insight: The versatility of generative AI comes with challenges, including occasional inaccuracies. Proper implementation and risk management are vital.

Strategic Direction

  • Establish: Create clear protocols to ensure accuracy and mitigate potential risks.
  • Monitor: Implement ongoing oversight to ensure alignment with organizational goals and standards.

3. Explore Various Use Cases

Insight: Generative AI's applications are vast, ranging from ready-made solutions to tailored applications. Exploration aligned with organizational goals is key.

Strategic Direction

  • Analyze: Conduct a comprehensive analysis to identify suitable generative AI use cases.
  • Evaluate: Implement pilot testing to assess alignment and effectiveness.

4. Address Ethical and Social Concerns

Insight: Ethical considerations, including fairness, privacy, and security, are paramount in generative AI implementation.

Strategic Direction

  • Oversee: Form an ethics committee to guide and ensure responsible AI deployment.
  • Communicate: Develop clear policies to articulate the organization's ethical stance to all stakeholders.

5. Invest in Workforce Transformation

Insight: Generative AI's impact on the workforce necessitates thoughtful collaboration and reskilling strategies.

Strategic Direction

  • Reskill: Invest in programs to prepare employees for AI-enhanced roles.
  • Collaborate: Cultivate a culture of collaboration between AI and human workers.

6. Consider the Emerging Ecosystem

Insight: The supporting value chain for generative AI is burgeoning, including specialized hardware and cloud platforms.

Strategic Direction

  • Explore: Investigate partnerships and technologies within the emerging ecosystem.
  • Stay Informed: Keep abreast of trends and players in the generative AI value chain.

7. Anchor Generative AI Adoption in Top Management

Insight: The CEO's leadership is pivotal in the strategic adoption of generative AI, with potential for revenue growth and enhancement of offerings.

Strategic Direction

  • Plan: Define a clear and balanced roadmap for generative AI adoption.
  • Review: Conduct periodic assessments to ensure alignment with goals and market dynamics.

Conclusion

In short, realizing the potential of generative AI requires overcoming barriers such as a lack of clear strategy, talent shortage, functional silos, and insufficient leadership commitment. By following the strategies presented here, organizations can leverage generative AI to automate tasks, enhance productivity, and drive innovation while also addressing the associated challenges.

Interested in Integrating Generative AI into your business strategies?

We're always ready to engage in insightful discussions! Join us for a cup of coffee at our offices or contact us via phone or email.

Our doors at Amaliegade 15, Copenhagen, are always open to welcome you.

March 8, 2021

Sustainable Cost Efficiency in Nordic Financial Services

Most companies in the Nordics within Banking, Pensions or Insurance have significant ambitions to reduce cost, but lack behind international peers on impact – and are now experiencing increased pressure from the COVID pandemic. Ensuring that your cost reduction is both impactful and sustained requires a structured approach and a stringent focus on execution.

Generally, Nordic financial services are performing well by international standards with cost-to-income ratios (CIR) between 50 and 70 %[1]. However, competition is increasing and global incumbents such as Barclays and Deutsche Bank have taken significant steps to eliminate cost from their business models, reducing their CIR with 20-30 percentage points. Combined with increasing regulatory expectations putting pressure on profitability and disruption from digital challengers, a proper competitive response requires a full-fledged transformation of the cost base.

Nordic financial services are behind international competitors for a number of reasons. They have seen a significant increase in regulatory expectations in the wake of the financial crisis – and even more in recent years as a result of Nordic Financial Supervisory Authorities moving from a trust-based governance model to a more stringent and instructive model as a result of a number of money laundering scandals. In addition to financial service companies ramping up to deliver against regulatory requirements (where we have seen some grow their AML compliance-related FTEs to a staggering ~20-25% of total staff), they are also significantly behind on the digitalization agenda, where many services are run on legacy applications, manual processes and done by either inefficient teams or unnecessarily serviced through high-cost locations. Some efforts have been underway, but generally the CIR has stagnated or increased for the majority of banks, insurers and pension providers. 

In spite of these cost reduction efforts by most financial service companies, their operating costs have on average remained mostly flat, primarily due to a lack of structured application of transformational levers. In order to reap significant gains in profitability that will sustain over time, the bank’s need to improve their underlying productivity. We generally approach cost efficiency discussions from a number of angles, pending on the reduction ambition and time-horizon. However, as many Nordic companies today are significantly challenged on their profitability, but are not at the brink of collapse - such as was the case of Deutsche Bank - our recommendation is to build an Efficiency Transformation Programme.

Exhibit 1 - The type of cost reduction depends on the ambition and time horizon

Types-of-efficiency-approach

5 steps to Build an Efficiency Transformation Programme

In order to reap significant gains in profitability that will sustain over time, the bank’s need to improve their underlying productivity. Generally, the following steps to build a structured efficiency transformation programme is necessary:

  1. Get transparency on your cost structure by building a front-to-back diagnostic cost-matrix, breaking down total costs by activities, processes and services - and benchmarking cost levels top-down internally and externally. Banks, Insurers and Pension providers will often find that a few number of processes and activities account for a significant amount of the overall cost base, with a tail of more fragmented activities
  1. Reverse engineer your cost-base to identify a set of initiatives by taking a bottom-up view of cost-drivers and workload analysis across the cost-matrix. Point of departure should be taken in a holistic view on reduction initiatives applicable across multiple types of services:

Exhibit 2 – Initiatives with cost impact generically applicable across activities

Efficiency-levers
Exhibit 2 – Initiatives with cost impact generically applicable across activities
  1. Rethink your processes and services by conducting a bottom-up review of the processes from a customer perspective to redesign them without constraints, unnecessary features and a legacy setup. On a high-level, areas such as the below should be considered to select initiatives and deep-dive on these:
    • Service degradation levers asking questions like “Do we need this activity?”, “What is the right service level?”
    • Efficiency levers asking questions like “Who should do this?”, “Can it be simplified?” and “Can it be automated?”
    • Resource levers asking questions like “Are we using the right resources?”, “Are resources over / under-qualified?” etc.
    • And more..
  1. Set the ambition for the transformation by considering current costs and ability to apply the levers defined above in a sustainable way across the redesigned products, services and processes. To ensure a sustainable cost transformation, it is necessary to take a reverse-engineering approach to the cost-base, building up the minimum cost base ‘to keep the lights on’, then adding the costs to deliver on strategic must wins and thus identifying the savings potential. Completing this step also involves a double-sign-off between the budget owner and the CFO to ensure that commitment is achieved
  1. Design execution plan and approach by first prioritizing where to start. Most Banks, Pension providers and insurance companies, also in the Nordics, will find that more than 50 % of their transformation potential will stem from the top 20 end-to-end processes. Designing an execution plan to attack these requires a precise cost target, measurement and financial impact of initiatives, defined outcome deliverables for business, IT etc., clear responsibilities for targets and outcomes and a transparent time-frame with well-defined milestones for effects combined with estimates of resources and investments.

Beyond has been helped financial service companies in the Nordics, such as banks and pension providers, to reduce their cost base by up to 30 % over a two-year period, while retaining customer satisfaction and deliveries. If you want to get started, let us know and we can introduce you to how we have helped others and can help you!

Reach out to Henrik Priebe Hold, Partner at Beyond on +45 30 62 18 94 or henrik@beyond-advisors.com 


[1] Source: Beyond Analysis of Nordic Banks compared with S&P Market Intelligence for global banks