Hearsay Systems added biometric and PIN-based security features to its Hearsay Relate communications app for the financial services industry, the San Francisco technology firm said Thursday.

Biometric and PIN-based security make it easy for advisors to protect client data and communications, and also make Relate the “industry’s first solution to offer this high level of privacy and security across both iOS and Android devices for advisor texting and cellular calling capabilities,” the company said. The advisor workflow app had already been providing compliant voice and text messaging capabilities, it noted.

The new features provide “another layer of protection” to Android and iOS mobile devices running the app, which launched in October 2018, while also “advancing” the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s cybersecurity recommendations, according to Alex Falls, vice president of product at Hearsay Systems.

“Security has definitely been a big theme from our customers,” he told ThinkAdvisor, noting improved security was something they were looking for. After all, the “advisor-client relationship is certainly a fairly intimate one … so, protecting the content of that conversation” that they have is “key to both parties,” he said.

At the same time, “there’s been a push away from using corporate devices for communication” in favor of “BYOD – Bring Your Own Device” at many companies, he noted. Because employees’ own devices are outside corporate control in many cases, that “demands a heightened level of security within the app” because there’s been an increase in the number of hacking attacks on mobile devices, he said.

Which biometric method is selected will depend on which device the user has, Falls told ThinkAdvisor, noting many older devices don’t support facial recognition. And many older devices don’t have fingerprint security, either, so those users will have the “fallback option” of using a PIN, which he noted will be independent of the PIN users already selected for their devices, he said.

More secure two-factor authentication combining two of the three security methods is an option down the road when more devices become compatible. “Our stance is we’re going to be paying attention to what the market demands,” Falls said, adding: “Two-factor authentication is certainly on our list as something that we’re consistently watching to decide whether and when it becomes an investment that our customers are going to value. At the moment, we haven’t seen a big push for it. But, I think, the way that the direction of the world is going, we can anticipate that at some point, that’s going to become more of an interest.”

The new security features, meanwhile, “don’t just safeguard” mobile devices from hackers, the company noted. If an agent’s or advisor’s child finds his or her parent’s phone, for example, the kid can’t just start texting their clients, it pointed out.

By using Relate, financial services organizations “can be sure that every agent and advisor follow mobile application security guidance provided in FINRA’s 2018 Report on Selected Cybersecurity Practices and be confident that potential end-user vulnerabilities are being mitigated,” Hearsay said.

More than 170,000 advisors and agents at the world’s largest financial services and insurance firms are now leveraging Hearsay’s platform to engage with customers and build stronger relationships to grow their business, according to the company. About one-third of those users are advisors including RIAs and broker-dealers, while the other two-thirds are insurance agents, Falls told ThinkAdvisor.

A growing number of those advisors and agents have started using Relate on mobile devices and desktop computers, Falls said. But specific usage data wasn’t provided.

There was a “surge” in users of Relate after its launch and the app was “received very well” by advisors and agents, Falls said, adding: “More importantly, we’ve seen very active engagement from our customers, with them being very interested in working with us to do joint strategic planning” for it. Hearsay added one-on-one messaging to small target groups, spam detection and in-app customer support after users suggested those features, he noted.

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