President's Blog - Is My Account Safe?


They say somebody in Russia attempted to influence our elections through the use of information hacked out of the computer systems of American political organizations.

Apparently, every government official must worry about whether some personal history will be released to the media detailing decisions they made and people they talked to in their past.

American retail companies still face concerns over computer hacks that can reach into the credit accounts of every customer and find out information that could cost those customers significant portions of their assets. There does not seem to be any precaution that can prevent such hacks.

Today, everything we have and almost everything we are is recorded somewhere on the internet. There are no secrets any longer. Anyone who wants to bad enough can find out any detail if they know how to use the internet accordingly.

And there are people in the United States who are scared that their lives will be affected by a computer hack.

In Spectrem’s new quarterly study Financial Behaviors and the Investor’s Mindset, concern over cyber-attacks has jumped ahead of government gridlock, the political environment and terrorism as the greatest concern of Millionaire investors with a net worth between $1 million and $5 million.

If a consumer can lose money because they shop at a national retailer, how are they supposed to feel safe turning money over to a financial provider, who handles millions or billions of dollars daily and would be considered a prime target for hacking?

When investors and advisors meet, they discuss investment options: stocks, bonds, mutual funds, retirement accounts, income streams, plans for wealth transfer. But do they ever talk about electronic safety.

Most financial transactions today can be handled electronically. While those transactions do require written agreement between a client and a professional performing the transaction, the actual transfer of funds is done with the click of a computer key. It has been that way for years.

But electronic safety is now on the minds of Americans as much as any outside factor that could cause investments to go up or down. And no firm can promise, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that their accounts will not be hacked.

How do you approach this topic with your clients? Do you wait for them to ask, or do you broach the topic with them at the first opportunity?

Assuming you and your firm are taking every possible precaution to keep accounts safe, it would behoove advisors to tell clients the measures being taken to prevent or minimize the effect of a computer attack. This could set an investor’s mind at ease, at least a bit, and promote greater investment.

Investors do not invest all of their investable assets. They maintain personal control of assets or place them in federally defended accounts that protect investments from illegal maneuvers.

Your firm is in a battle with hackers over control and protection of the funds in the accounts of your clients. It is a war. You obviously must do whatever it takes to solidify the garrisons you have in place to protect those funds.

Be aware that your investors are worried about cyber-attacks. Once they place their trust in you, they no longer have control over the safety of their portfolio, and that bothers them. You must do what you can to reduce that concern, not only by installing all the necessary protections, but by informing your client of the protections you have in place and the attention you pay to such matters.