When technology is adopted to solve a problem, sometimes new problems arise.
That’s the dilemma facing Wall Street firms as they race to resolve regulators’ complaints about employees using unauthorized messaging apps, such as WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram, to do business.
The Securities and Exchange Commission requires banks to keep tabs of all business-related communications so that they can detect potential wrongdoing, such as insider trading. The agency has been cracking down on rule violators for years now — most recently in May when it asked banks from Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse to hand them over. More than 100 personal phones It is used by traders and deal makers.
Some heads turned in the aftermath, including a 30-year-old veteran of Credit Suisse who was not found to have shared any inappropriate information, according to the financial times.
Bankers have lost their jobs for using unauthorized messaging platforms before, but to no avail. One reason is that informal messaging platforms in the era of remote work have become a habit for bank customers as well as bankers and merchants. Deleting these apps may mean losing valuable relationships.
“My clients love WhatsApp, so it’s hard to be more careful with how we use it,” explained one banker who frequently works with clients outside the US. “This is abhorrent,” the banker said of the SEC’s recent securities campaign.
Enter Movius, one of several software tools that Wall Street banks are turning to in hopes of finding a simple solution to the conflicting interests of regulators and their WhatsApp-addicted clients. Last month, Deutsche Bank began requiring employees to install Movius on their personal phones, The financial times mentioned.
Atlanta, Georgia-based Movius, which also boasts UBS, Jefferies and JPMorgan as clients, has seen increased demand for its services in the wake of an SEC review of personal phones, according to the CEO.
“Something like this emerges and everyone starts reassessing where they’re going,” Seva said of the SEC’s messaging campaign. “I have to say that the demand has been flat, but it has accelerated more in the past few weeks,” he added.
Other apps that suggest tracking employee messages for companies include companies like VoxSmart and Symphony, which are backed by companies like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and BlackRock.
But employees have been annoyed by requests to download message monitoring apps to their personal devices before. As more financial firms take advantage of these solutions, employee questions are expected to increase.
As Insider previously reported, a former JPMorgan private banking executive recalled feeling uncomfortable when she was asked to download Movius to her personal device last year. She only agreed after making multiple requests from a manager and warning her about being added to the list of non-compliant employees.
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The user expressed it this way: “This is all on our personal phones. I’m very uncomfortable with this because it seems like a huge breach of privacy, but I don’t know enough about the service to understand if this is justified.”
In an effort to get to the bottom of these and other issues, Insider spoke with CEO Movius during an hour-long video interview in late June. He breaks down how the app works, what it tracks, what it doesn’t track, and the company’s growth prospects in light of the Wall Street messaging campaign.
What is Movius and how does it work?
In the past, employers would give their employees the tools they needed to get their jobs done in the office. This usually means a desk phone, a
and a work email address. If clients need to talk, they will call the business line or email the business address.
The spread of working from home has dramatically changed the way people communicate for work-related reasons. White-collar workers everywhere are starting to talk to customers and colleagues using the tools most convenient for them, including their personal cell phones, personal text messaging, and popular messaging apps like WhatsApp.
Seva says he understands the motive for using unauthorized messaging tools for work-related matters.
“If my clients are on Facebook, I want to be on Facebook. If my clients are on Instagram, this is where I want to meet them,” Siva said. “When customers open channels, there is a very strong temptation to meet them in that channel, which is good customer service, right?”
In an effort to solve all these problems, Movius seeks to download an application to the employee’s personal phone that comes with a separate work number. Employees looking to make a business call, send a work email, text, or even WhatsApp, go through the Movius app. Seva says that when it comes to WhatsApp, employers download a commercial version of the software that gives them access to messages.
By contrast, WhatsApp for consumers is encrypted so that only the sender and receiver can see the messages.
WhatsApp is “a well-known and commercially available service,” said Siva for Business. “And we linked that to the number the company issued to the employee, who belongs to the company. Now the work WhatsApp is the same character. You don’t have to remember another number in addition to that.”
Why should employees trust him?
In recent months, some in the industry have expressed concerns that apps like Movius have some panoramic view that could expand beyond the realm of work-related communications, and veer into personality.
Siva sought to refute those fears. Compare using Movius to open an Internet browser with two online tabs at the same time. One can access the company portal or work-related app, while the other can browse in search of something completely different. The data inside the two tabs remains separate.
“There is an ethical wall, and business personality and personality are completely separate, but they actually reside on the same device, which allows the employee not to carry two devices,” he said.
According to Siva, the app only tracks and collects connections used over the line issued by the company. Seva said Movius’ “multi-line” system allows companies to deploy company-owned mobile service on an employee’s phone, allowing them to have full work and personal dismissals.
This setting allows Movius to only capture communications—whether SMS, WhatsApp, Signal, or voice—that are sent using the number provided by your employer.
Siva said the messages exchanged on the number issued by the company are owned by the company. “Anything the company deems necessary in business can be kept by the company, and this is no different from your desk phone in your office,” he explained.
He added that the system will not pick up any communications sent using a personal phone number.
“So we can tell you unconditionally that the Movius app has nothing to do with the employees’ personal phone,” Seva said. “It is not intended to go and take advantage of the personal assets of employees.”
Will your company adopt it then?
Siva was reluctant to discuss his existing clients, but he told Insider that his company is seeing increased demand from financial firms as a result of the SEC campaign.
“Companies that were not well prepared suddenly found themselves in a very difficult place,” Siva said. “They had to act faster. The others were much more methodical.”
Siva declined to say how many end users are currently using Movius, saying that disclosing details about end user data, as a private company, could affect ratings.
“What I can say is that our user base is very large, and what we’re doing is continuing to build on that,” he added. “What I can say is that it’s not trivial.”
Stacia Garr, an expert in human capital data and analytics and founder of Woodside, California-based RedThread Research, told Insider that it’s a “real problem” when companies force employees to download data-collection tools to their personal devices. She said the best practice is for all employees to receive work-issued phones for their business communications.
But, Jarre acknowledged: “If organizations need to use these tools to demonstrate compliance with their legal needs or legal expectations, employees – by virtue of working for a company that must remain legally bound – I don’t think they have recourse.”
How do you feel about the ongoing regulatory investigation into incompatible communications on Wall Street? Does your company download apps like Movius or Symphony? Contact this reporter. Reed Alexander can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via SMS/Signal encrypted app at (561) 247-5758.
Dakin Campbell, Bianca Chan, and Aaron Weinman contributed to this report.