Kudos to Actiance for coming up with a product like Socialite that grasps the nuances of social media usage and allows companies, even in highly regulated industries, to enjoy the benefits offered by social media and stay on the right side of the law at
the same time.
Although it’s not a bank, I hope Socialite’s implementation in such a marquee financial services player like NetSpend will serve as a lighthouse for banks and financial institutions to figure out the right way of deploying social media within their companies,
instead of sitting on the fence, or, worse, throwing the baby out with the bathwater by banning its use altogether.
I remember a time 5-6 years ago when, as the head of retail payments and application security line of business in a leading IT solutions provider to the financial services industry, my team members and I needed to stay abreast of new technologies and products
in this space. When I read about BillMeLater, I wanted to try it out. However, my attempts to see it in action on Amazon or eBay were thwarted by the company’s IT security policy that blocked access to all shopping and auction websites. A few years later,
in another role in business development, we found LinkedIn to be a vital tool but it was out of bounds since all forms of social media were banned. A lot of literature we needed was published on Scribd. According to IT, document sharing over the Internet could
lead to leakage of sensitive company information, so Scribd wasn’t permitted.
I tried explaining our special needs to the small team in IT that was responsible for formulating the IT security policy. However, they were often be busy preparing for some InfoSec audit or the other and didn’t have the time or inclination to figure out
online shopping, Web 2.0, social media and other emerging technologies of the time. I’d no choice but to pull rank to get the required access activated for me and the others in my LOB. However, there were many others in the company who lacked the stamina or
the wherewithal to push their views through. As a result, they couldn’t get what they needed and the company was deprived of a rich – and often free - treasure trove of knowledge and expertise.
If this could happen in a knowledge industry like IT, you can imagine the situation in manufacturing, retail and other traditional sectors, not to mention regulated ones like BFSI and Utilities. We’d a chance to experience their plight closely when my company
was working with a leading network access control solutions provider last year. This company’s product could be configured to monitor, enable or block access to social media websites at a highly granular level depending upon the job nature of different groups
of employees at customer sites. Maybe the product was ahead of its time or whatever, but most banks and financial institutions would fob us off with the staid “we don’t allow social media in our company” response.
To be clear, I'm not professing a big bang rollout of all types of social media to all categories of employees in every industry. We’ve observed that unbridled use of social media can sap an organization's productivity and risk loss of its intellectual property
besides probably flouting a few regulations around disclosure and insider trading.
What we’re saying is that, when done right, social media offers too many benefits to pass up. Therefore, it’s important for every company to work out its social media roadmap with clear norms around what roles require what level of access to what types of
social media (e.g., Marketing and Recruiting need access to LinkedIn, HR to Facebook, and so on). While they're at it, they should eschew the low-hanging fruit approach of regulating social media access entirely by hierarchy (e.g., “Vice Presidents and above
can access everything, managers and below can’t access anything”) because the benefits of social media don't discriminate employees on the basis of where they're located on the corporate totem pole.
With Socialite and NetSpend, banks now have the enabling tool and a success story within the financial services industry. So, hopefully, the era of excuses will come to an end!