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Cybersecurity, the cloud and Covid-19: Facing the challenges head-on

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By George Ralph (pictured), Managing Director, RFA – The coronavirus pandemic has brought considerable challenges to the way hedge funds and asset management firms do business, with far-reaching consequences for cybersecurity, data safety and business communications. The need for fully flexible working around the pandemic continues to change. Collaboration tools have been key to successful working environments as staff need to work in the same way and securely, regardless of location. 

In the early stages of the pandemic, the major tech challenges centred around endpoint security. Individuals may have been using personal devices for professional purposes, and the prevalent model was of decentralised security and centralised data. We no longer look to secure a network or server in the same way. Endpoint security is now key, and every device needs security protection. With so many entry points to firms’ applications and data, managing the security at the end point has been at the forefront since early 2020 across the sector.

These challenges have generally been overcome across the market, and RFA has been ahead of the curve with our MDR and AI tools. Most of our clients were already using an iteration of the cloud to harness their data, but some have advanced their programmes to embrace what the cloud can offer in terms of data management. RFA have always been supporters of a public or hybrid cloud offering, and by having our own Security Operations Centre (SOC) we offer an end-to-end secure cloud-based solution to our clients which has helped them – and us – during the upheaval of the past 12 months.

The hedge fund community faced the challenges of 2020 head-on, and I have every confidence that it will do the same through 2021. In my view, none of the technology changes that firms have deployed over the past year have been negative. Looking ahead, I expect them all to remain – whatever the future shape of the workplace. Some of our clients no longer have office space but many are hoping for a 100 per cent back-to-work model in the long term. As a result, the advances in collaboration tools, data and security support all of these.

I would reiterate that collaboration is key – from the basics of file-sharing and communication tools to the development of bespoke solutions for better data management and processing tools for a longer-term flexible workflow architecture. There has been some debate as to whether this increased tech and cybersecurity spend among hedge funds will throw up further barriers to growth among smaller, emerging and start-up managers.

Outsourcing has been talked about a lot in 2020 by firms and regulators alike, and I think the idea of partnering with outside expertise is now seen as an important part of our industry. This is particularly relevant to start-ups and smaller firms who have a lean number of permanent staff. Against a backdrop of increased migration to the cloud, I believe the fully cloud-based model offers not only flexibility to start-up hedge fund managers but also uninhibited growth as a cloud solution is 100 per cent scalable. 

RFA recently moved to bigger offices in Berkeley Square and we now offer a permanent or fully flexible home to start-up funds – whether it’s a fully functioning desk or simply an attractive meeting space to host clients and investors. We continue our trajectory of worldwide growth and are supporting our clients with their technology, even during this period in which long-term business planning is proving challenging.

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