October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month
And it’s not too late to put it to work

phishing-3390518_960_720I am the first to admit that when it comes names of commemorative months, National Cyber Security Awareness Month isn’t the sexiest. Reducing it to the initialism NCSAM makes it easier to write, but not easier to pronounce—En-see-sam? Nik-sam? Ink-sam?—and it it doesn’t help in the sexiness department, either. 

Perhaps that’s why, even though NCSAM has been around since President Obama signed it into being 14 years ago, it doesn’t generate much press beyond sundry institutional posts. 

Missed opportunity

And that’s a curious thing, considering security concerns are keeping a good deal of people from opting into and using digital banking. Letting October pass without taking advantage of NCSAM is a missed marketing—and service—opportunity for financial institutions. 

Some may hesitate to raise the topic of cyber fraud et al to avoid instilling fears where none existed. But the reality is that the fears already exist and are in fact pervasive. A Fiserv blog post earlier this summer entitled “Why It Pays to Address Consumers’ Concerns About Bill Pay Security” reported (disclosure: Fiserv is my employer):

Among consumers who haven’t used mobile banking in the past 30 days, 57 percent cite security as a concern … At 81 percent, personal data and identity theft is the most common security concern with bills, among all those who are at least somewhat concerned about security and billing. Data breaches (65 percent) [and] Internet security (39 percent) … are other top concerns.

It has become something of a given that reticence when it comes to embracing new technology skews older. Were that the problem with digital banking enrollment and use, a plausible solution (and I beg your forgiveness for saying it with such directness) might be to wait until Millennials have replaced Boomers as the older generation. But this time it turns out that Boomers aren’t necessarily the holdup. For Millennials, technology that connects a game to a TV is one thing, whereas technology that connects a handheld device to their money is quite another. To wit, the Fiserv study also found that …

… early Millennials involved in managing bills are the most likely to have security concerns. When thinking about payment security, 64 percent of those ages 18 to 26 are worried about the safety of paying bills and 49 percent say they’re worried about receiving them.

October is nearly upon us, but it’s not too late to capitalize on NCSAM. After all, like other months, it’s a whole month long. And, happily, there’s a way to put NCSAM to work for you that is a win-win, that is, benefitting clients and financial institutions, yet won’t require much investment in the way of esearch, production, and person-hours.

NCSAM as a marketing—and service—opportunity

Having individual control goes a long way toward alleviating fear. And while great respect for the dangers of online fraud is well advised, there is a good deal that clients can do to increase their control over their online security. Furnishing that information is a great service to clients, and for banks it can mean fewer future cases to resolve. It’s also a great way to make clients view a bank in a favorable light for its thoughtfulness in having provided the information.

While it may be too late to launch a full-blown campaign, other, quick-turnaround PR opportunities are within reach. It should be an easy matter to write up easy-to-implement security tips and distribute them via press releases, newsletter or e-letter articles, and email to clients.

Nor is there any need to scurry about digging up content. Many organizations have already done that for you. Cisco, for instance, offers a wealth of blogs on the subject. The National Cyber Security Alliance maintains the website StaySafeOnline.org and makes its content available for anyone’s use. Of particular help are pages such as:

You might also check with your state university. The University of California has created an online National Cyber Security Awareness Month Toolkit. In my home state, the University of Utah is doing likewise. So is the University of Richmond.

While you’re at it

Besides providing safety tips, be sure to highlight the technology and programs your financial institution has in place for protecting clients. Familiarity may have rendered them banal to you, but to clients they are new, fascinating—and reassuring.

Of course you’ll need to run all material by Compliance and Legal. Just don’t let them rewrite or even edit. To do so would be to ensure impenetrable copy no client will read and that, therefore, will do no good. Ask them to explain what needs to change, and why, and then pay a real writer to do the revising. (If your Compliance officers and attorneys fancy themselves writers, as many do, steel your resolve and stick to your guns.)

The number of financial institutions that miss the chance to capitalize on NCSAM surprises me, but their lapse has its positive side. The few financial institutions that jump on this opportunity will be the ones that stand out.

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