Important reasons why financial institutions need Identity & Access Management

The financial sector is undergoing a radical change. Transactions are no longer carried out over the counter in branches; both customers and advisors want to have access to information and applications from anywhere and at any time. To ensure that user administration still fulfils the highest security requirements, banks need modern Identity & Access Management solutions that can also flexibly implement regulatory requirements.  Well-designed solutions for Identity & Access Management significantly increase the level of security in all financial operations. IAM also offers other advantages that financial institutions should not do without.

1) SoD – improves the security situation

The functional separation of demarcated activities in IT systems (Segragation of Duties – SoD) is one of many components of a well-designed IAM system to prevent such enormous damage. In addition to such prominent individual cases, cybercrime has posed an enormous threat to companies since the start of the coronavirus pandemic due to people working from home. Three out of four companies are victims of data theft or sabotage. In most cases, the perpetrators are (intentionally or unintentionally) current or former employees, meaning that a company’s own employees pose the greatest cyber risk.

Company-wide guidelines and processes for user and authorization management contribute significantly to (internal) error prevention at this point. A well-structured IAM system ensures that only those employees have access to IT systems who are authorized to do so at the relevant time by the manager and the respective functional or technical managers of the IT systems.

In addition to access control for normal user authorizations, particularly powerful authorizations (e.g. emergency access or so-called super users) should be controlled separately. With such authorizations, users can, for example, change parameter settings or bypass predefined release workflows. Such authorizations should therefore only be granted in emergency situations. This is where Privileged Access Management (PAM), which should be linked to the central IAM system in the company, provides the right tool.

2) Improves the end-user experience

Complex, manual application processes for access rights in companies lead to long waiting times, employees need long start-up times to be able to work. For each system you have different user IDs and in the best case a password that is not easy to guess and therefore difficult to remember. This is precisely why many people associate IAM with annoying, time-consuming activities. A standardized and consistent IAM system ensures short application paths, automatic assignment and fast work in the target systems. Thanks to integrated and intelligent authentication using single sign-on (SSO), users can log into the target systems easily and securely.

The advantages of such authentication services are obvious: they make it much easier to establish new customer relationships, as you only have to authenticate yourself once with the identity service. Integrated two-factor authentication also ensures a high standard of security. Identity management gives companies the opportunity to improve their digital customer relationships and gain trust in terms of data security.

3) Ensures compliance

Banks and financial institutions are subject to various regulatory requirements, guidelines and standards such as BAIT, VAIT, ISO 27001 and GDPR. The attention paid to IT security by auditing bodies (banking supervisory authorities and auditors) has increased significantly in recent years and the rules have become dramatically stricter.

The processes adhered to in the IAM system cover central governance requirements, such as the need-to-know principle or compliance with approval and control processes. Compliance can also be monitored with the help of logging and evaluation options. In addition to formal adherence to compliance, there are also beneficial „side effects“: system managers automatically start to think more about access rights and structures as a result of IAM processes. Internal IT compliance audits lead to significantly fewer findings and the work of internal and external auditors is made much easier. IAM thus makes a valuable contribution to the fulfillment of the compliance function in companies and should therefore not be neglected by those responsible in compliance departments (not only in banks and insurance companies).

4) Drives Efficiency

In modern IAM systems, the associated processes are automated and run in real time. Manual control loops and human monitoring are therefore a thing of the past. Particularly in large and rapidly growing organisations, the IT landscape quickly becomes confusing and manual process steps become a cost trap. IAM automates the steps that were previously carried out manually and provides a framework that channels the authorisation management activities to be carried out.

The massive reduction in manual activities not only relieves the burden on employees, but also saves considerable costs in the long term. IAM is also a key driver for the digitalisation of business processes in companies and therefore forms the basis for the digital transformation already underway in so many companies. An intelligent IAM system that is designed with the end user in mind can also reduce the workload for IT help desks by providing self-service options for users.

5) Boosts agility

The profoundly advancing digitalisation in the financial sector requires the consistent application of agile methods and the expansion of digital capabilities, particularly in IT departments. Modern IAM solutions fit very well into existing IT processes and enable an agile approach. The ongoing transformation of IT applications into the cloud is optimally supported by an IAM. With a hybrid IAM model, any IT systems, whether in the cloud or on-premise, can be connected quickly and in a highly automated manner. Modern software developments, apps and enterprise web applications can also be connected to the company’s central IAM in an agile setting, ensuring consistent and secure access to all systems in the company.

The introduction of IAM solutions realises many benefits for companies. With IAM, enormous fraud and damage incidents are reduced. Appropriate controls for access management are provided and all (regulatory) standard workflows are highly automated. IAM gives companies full transparency of user access to their systems at all times, significantly reducing manual process steps and waiting times in the provision of user access.

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