When discussing fragmented technology, our reporting has tended to focus on how having a multitude of operating systems such as Windows, Mac, Android and iOS, have made it difficult for developers to produce cross-platform products to fit the needs of all clients. Perhaps experiencing even greater fragmentation is the communication and messaging industry. While for years communication was voice driven and then evolved to email, it is now flooded with VOIP offerings such as Skype, enterprise chat solutions like Hipchat and Slack, as well as SMS and other mobile apps.
Within the financial industry the fragmentation represents a dual difficulty; compliance and security. In terms of compliance, firms are required to store records of physical, digital and in some jurisdictions, voice conversations with clients and within the company for up to seven years. This poses an added security issue during the multi-year data storage time for financial institutions to secure sensitive inside information and customer details. In addition, the advent of multiple devices being used to communicate with customers, colleagues and counterparties creates numerous points of vulnerability where confidential data can be hacked and stolen. Even firms with adequate security have no confirmation that stolen data wasn’t sent to outside parties.
Providing a solution to the financial industry has been the emergence of several startups providing secure messaging services that are adaptable to the current fragmented technology we all use in our day to day communications. Among them is Wickr.
Beginning as a secure messaging mobile app targeted towards the consumer market, Wickr is a lot like Snapchat, WhatsApp and WeChat in that it provides person to person and group mobile messaging. In comparison to Snapchat, Wickr users can also send messages and images to each other which are erased from one’s phone after a short period of time. However, unlike Snapchat, where the erasing data is its core feature as mobile users don’t have to waste space storing images, with Wickr, it is part of its focus on data privacy and security. As such, app users are provided with additional control on how long messages will exist as well as other encryption features.
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Launched as a consumer app, Wickr is in essence a technology play around its secure messaging platform. The product includes features such as end to end encryption where messages can only be accessed by devices owned by the sender and receiver, the abovementioned duration customization, group chats, as well as geolocation privacy. Therefore, the consumer app can be viewed as proof of a concept that shows the abilities of the messaging platform which can be adapted for the enterprise sector.
The creation of a financial services offering was solidified after Wickr raised $30Mln in series B funding in June. Among its investors was the CME Group which came on board as a strategic partner, with Wickr being the first investment from the firm’s new Strategic Investment Group unit which is tasked with making minority stake investments in early stage technology companies.
Speaking to Andy Caspersen, Wickr’s new Head of its Financial Services Division, he explained to Forex Magnates that Wickr is in the midst of creating a customized product of its messaging platform to meet the needs of the financial industry. Examples include features where communication can be stored and automatically erased once regulatory requirements of data storage expire, as well as compliance monitoring.
According to Caspersen, one of the problems of the industry is that technology being used to communicate revolves around antiquated protocols which lead to security vulnerabilities. With their messaging platform, Wickr is aiming to provide the financial industry with a messaging platform that can be used across platforms and with other firms to communicate in a method that meets the needs of compliance, security and ease of use requirements.
In terms of the CME Group, Caspersen related that they have been an accommodating strategic partner. Caspersen was unavailable to provide much in terms of details of how the CME would potentially use their product or specifics of their assistance as a strategic partner, but a possible use case would be the integration of Wickr’s messaging within the CME’s platforms for communication between members. In this regard, Wickr could be utilized as cross network messaging solution between brokers, banks and customers similar to that of Bloomberg’s messaging services, as well as an inter-company communication tool to replace old protocols such as email.
Andy Caspersen will be participating in our upcoming Fintech Panel at the Forex Magnates London Summit