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FSA mobile taping regulation turns the tables on CIOs

In a technology-driven industry like financial services, it’s easy to feel sorry for regulators. As CIOs and their suppliers find ever more sophisticated ways to drive efficiency—like dark pools for example—the regulator must, all too often, play catch up.

Just occasionally the tables are turned. Later this year, the Financial Services Authority (FSA) will remove a longstanding exemption on the taping of mobile phones. This means that IT departments must get to grips with a technology—mobile communications—that, until now, has been largely a routine exercise in asset management and procurement.

On Monday 14th November 2011, the date the FSA introduces new mobile recording regulations, business continuity will take on new meaning. With their star bankers and traders freed to trade whenever and wherever they are, IT will have to ensure that all transaction-related calls are recorded reliably and without impinging on their most demanding internal customers' mobile experience.

Of course, vendors don’t make it easy for the hapless IT director. There’s nothing like a regulation to get suppliers salivating, and the trickle of “fully-compliant” mobile recording solutions has turned into a summer torrent. Marketing departments are in overdrive. When one vendor recently claimed to have a solution that worked in ”265 countries”— which is 70 more in the world than when I last checked—well, ‘buyer beware’.

Yet, banks have been recording fixed-line calls for decades. Surely recording mobiles shouldn’t be that difficult?

The fact is that mobile telephony is a complex area, reliant on a patchwork quilt of networks built at different times, using different technologies and—most importantly—operating to disparate protocols. So the more dependent your mobile application is on network-specific intelligence the less likely it is to work in the places you need it. You may be able to roam onto all sorts of networks; but don’t assume that the call-control processes which underpin your business-critical applications will also work.

The answer for CIOs is, of course: don't believe the hype and do your homework. Like the regulators peering into the murky waters of computer algorithms, make sure you look beneath the surface of mobile telephony’s own dark pools.

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