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Security Challenges and Opportunities in Retail Banking

Retail banking includes traditional players such as brick-and-mortar banks that operate at community, national, or even international levels. It also includes many new players, such as challenger banks that only operate online, financial technology companies (FinTechs), and nonfinancial companies seeking to disrupt the status quo and compete for market share, such as Amazon, Apple, and Facebook. Unlike traditional banks, these new players are often digital natives that bring some strategic “big-tech” advantages to serving customers in an increasingly online world.

  • Published: 02-05-2022

  • Related Category: Security Operations

  • Type of Content: Articles

  • Owner: Fortinet


Prior to 2020, the financial services industry had already seen drastic technology- led changes over the past few years. Thanks to their experiences in other industries adopting digital innovation, customers now expect better digital service options, seamless experiences regardless of channel, and more value for their money. The global COVID-19 pandemic has sharply accelerated these trends, as more people choose digital-only transactions not only out of convenience but also safety. Mobile banking use has surged by 50% over the first half of 2020.1 Over half (57%) of consumers now say they prefer internet banking (up from 49% pre-COVID-19), and 55% now prefer banking mobile apps (compared with 47% previously).2

Many traditional banks are now facing intense and immediate pressure to accelerate their digital innovation processes in order to meet customer needs during this period of extended crisis and even beyond. In a recent global survey, only 40% of respondents said they expect to return to physical bank branches post-COVID-19— indicating that the shift to online is likely to stay.3

Rapid Changes Intensify Risks and Expose Vulnerabilities

While COVID-19 drives revolutionary demand for online banking services, cybercriminals will continue to look for any and every opportunity to take advantage. The financial sector remains a favorite target for attacks seeking financial gain, trade secrets, or service disruptions that bring publicity to social or political causes, as many recent, headline-grabbing breaches in the sector have demonstrated. Depending on the severity of the attack and the specific bank in question, a single successful breach can lead to serious damage to the brand. As digitization becomes an even greater necessity across the banking industry and security risks increase, executive teams, need to ensure the resiliency of their business operations, their compliance with government and industry regulations, and the effectiveness of their cybersecurity infrastructure to protect an expanding attack surface.

Digital or Bust? Common Challenges for Retail Banks

Even before the compounding effects of COVID-19, banks had several significant pain points that were delaying, impacting, or obstructing their digitization efforts. In a recent global report, a majority of bank executives cited cybersecurity and privacy concerns (80%), outdated data management (68%), and identifying the right partners (73%) as primary barriers to moving to an online banking platform.6

Slow Cultural Adaptation

Banks have long been siloed organizations; different departments with their own goals using disparate systems. This inevitably leads to stunted growth, limited scalability, and decreased customer satisfaction. Information silos can also pose risks to security and compliance, due to a fundamental lack of cooperation and consistency in corporate policymaking.

Although cultural adaptation should be a first step in adopting digital innovation, many banks simply lack the agility needed to make far-reaching changes in their culture or their operations. Being agile not only means adopting a new method but also adopting the right mindset.

April 2020 saw a 200% jump in new mobile banking registrations worldwide, while mobile banking traffic rose 85%.4

Over the next five years, banks stand to lose $347 billion in revenue because of cybercrime.5

The COVID-19 pandemic has driven a massive 72% rise in the use of financial apps across Europe—as well as strong FinTech usage upticks in Asia and the Middle East.7

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