Tech Trends to Expect in 2017 – Part 3 of 3

January 19, 2017 / in Blog, General / by Zafar Khan, RPost CEO

We hope you are enjoying the “Tech Trends to Expect in 2017″ series. Last week, we made the second of three weekly predictions on technology trends we think will manifest in 2017. Here’s our third and final prediction of the series:

Prediction 3: Cybersecurity will be a primary purchase driver for consumers shopping for professional services

Consumers are becoming more sophisticated about cybersecurity. They are attuned to news about data breaches, hacking and malware. But this information has yet to take on a pivotal role in their purchasing decisions. In 2017, we predict that consumers shopping for professional services will consider each provider’s cybersecurity practices as a make-or-break factor before signing on the dotted line.

Specifically, consumers will begin using security ranking databases to select attorneys, insurance agents, title agents, real estate brokers and registered investment advisors. Security could be a category that pops up on Healthgrades for physicians, commercial insurance directories or websites like realtor.com. Has the business been hacked? Are they using the best technologies to protect their client data? Are they sending encrypted email messages to customers and clients? This will be true for small and large businesses alike and especially true for professional services providers that retain personally identifiable information (PII).

Security ranking models have already been developed for evaluating large corporations. BitSight, founded in 2011, offers a security ranking platform that ranks businesses based upon their security performance. Companies use BitSight to evaluate their vendors’ security performance against that of their competitors. Clients include financial services firms, universities, TransUnion and Fannie Mae.

Key Industries Impacted

Data security is crucial for attorneys. Litigation clients might be in the midst of a divorce or custody suit. Their attorneys are sending messages about legal strategy for an upcoming arbitration; clients are sharing information about their assets, spending and other personal habits. If this data is hacked, it will no longer be privileged, and opposing counsel is free to use the information. Consider the “Panama Papers” debacle from 2016, in which more than 5 million emails and documents were stolen from the IT systems of a prestigious law firm that handles (or in some cases, used to handle) the affairs of world leaders and prominent US businesspeople.

High net worth individuals are especially sensitive to the security practices of their registered investment advisors (RIAs). They are relying on their advisors to protect their financial interests, and that expectation extends to data protection. Clients increasingly expect to receive their quarterly and year end statements via secure email. They may also be exchanging critical trust documents and business contracts that need to be protected whether in transit electronically or at rest on a computer server.

Title companies rely on real estate listing agents to bring in new settlement business. Those listing agents are staking their reputation on a safe and secure purchase process which can happen quickly, with many required transactions taking place according to a precise schedule. Meanwhile, criminals are eagerly searching for wire fraud opportunities, jeopardizing the entire transaction.

Finally, insurance agents are in some ways the closest to the concerns around cybersecurity. After all, insurance agents are the ones selling cyber insurance; about $2.5 billion of cyber insurance was written in 2016, according to Allianz. Additionally, insurance agents are exchanging all types of sensitive information with service providers such as building inspectors, medical examination providers and credit agencies. Those agencies that deal with protected health information (PHI) as business associates of healthcare providers are subject to HIPAA and its data privacy mandates, for example.

Looking Ahead

Businesses should be proactive about presenting their cybersecurity practices as one component of their marketing message, as these will begin to be critical drivers in consumers’ purchasing decisions. If businesses do not make this information readily available, consumers will rely on the public record (often news coverage of data breaches and hacks) or simply move on to the next provider in their consideration set.