The pandemic has increased the need for companies to go digital in order to remain competitive and survive. Business instant messaging platforms have played a transformative role in corporate communications but they can also prove problematic from a risk management perspective because a company lacks any access to or control of the messaging data.
Financial companies are obligated to closely monitor business communications, but the rise of mobile messaging apps and employees working from home during the Covid pandemic led to a lack of supervision.
In 2022, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) fined big-name banks and brokerages a collective $1.8billion over workers’ use of private texting apps. The fines include $1.1billion assessed by the SEC and a $710million fine from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).
Shane Long, president and COO of digital transformation company 7T, has spent his career leading digital transformations for companies around the globe. With decades of experience in mobile and web app development and SaaS markets, Long specialises in enterprise software development and business process automation projects, most of which include custom communication modules.
Since building an instant messaging app as part of a digital transformation for Bell Helicopter in 2016, Long has developed more than 20 custom communication modules. Through these experiences, he has gained insights into the intricacies of enterprise-grade electronic communications, allowing him to recognise the compliance and human resource issues created by instant messaging apps using end-to-end encryption for user privacy.
We met up with Long to learn more about 7T’s secure and private messaging app platform SayHey Messenger and how it can help companies in regulated industries including banking, finance and insurance.
Tell us more about your company and its offering
7T (also known as SevenTablets) is a Dallas digital transformation company that focuses on business process automation (BPM). We’ve been in this business for over 10 years, and we focus on big complex business process automation tasks.
One thing we started to recognise during all our digital transformation projects was that everyone had a corporate communications platform, but the way people communicate has evolved. It used to be email, then came text messaging and now it’s instant messaging. Instant messaging is how we work today, especially with millennials and Gen X where 80 per cent prefer it to emails.
So, the biggest issue we saw with instant messaging is that if a company didn’t have an instant messaging strategy, the employees picked it for them. And it could be a variety of platforms such as WhatsApp, iMessage or WeChat. But of course, there was no data ownership, no workflow, no integrations.
Instant messaging apps have created a hole in the chief information officer’s (CIO) protection of data. We are encrypting emails, using cloud security tools and two factor authentication but at the same time we are letting our employees use instant messaging apps, and security is all out of the window!
We could see the clear need for an instant messaging platform for corporations, which is why we developed SayHey Messenger.
What problem was SayHey Messenger set up to solve?
It’s really simple; we designed an instant messaging module/platform for any digital transformation project so that any client could own and access their data and also have private communications that were secure.
The biggest thing we had to address was compliance and data auditing. In the last couple of years, there have been huge fines across the financial industry because banks’ employees were using all kinds of messaging platforms, such as WhatsApp, for business communications. The problem with combining personal communication tools versus corporate tools is that things can get mixed up and the next minute you’re sending your aunt plans to the company! Keeping messages separate is very important for everyone.
For 7T, it was certainly a case of the ‘right time, right place’ for us. We’ve had a huge demand from the financial industry for their own secure messaging platforms.
One of the interesting aspects of what we do is that our messaging module can be put inside any software platform. With some of our bigger clients, they’re taking SayHey Messenger Enterprise, where they put the module inside their mobile app and inside their enterprise resource planning (ERP) software and their whole company is using it.
As an example, a big financial services company called the PHP Group has 27,000 field agents and we’ve put the technology inside all their corporate mobile apps and back-end processes. They have instant communications and it’s trackable and auditable, which is a huge asset for that company.
The platform can also be deployed discreetly. Let’s say you are not a huge bank, but a smaller financial company without your own software system. At that point, we offer SayHey Messaging Business. This is a standalone mobile and web app that can be customized with a company’s branding.
What are your biggest achievements or ‘proudest moment’ so far?
We are particularly proud of our success story with PHP, one of the fastest-growing financial marketing organizations in the US. Almost 30,000 agents are now able to communicate with one another securely and instantly, and it has changed their culture. They have this great system of instant communication, where the CEO is able to connect and send their message out too. The reality is that none of us open our emails, but we can’t ignore an instant message!
We’re also really proud of the fact that we are starting to onboard banks that were concerned with the FTC and CFTC fines. These mid-sized banks(around 500-people) are using our discreet standalone mobile app to send instant messages but with the important security factor. Employees like it as they have their own system.
What has been the biggest challenge or most ‘tricky moment’ to overcome?
The biggest challenge was ‘how do we build an auditable messaging system that doesn’t make the employee feel like their privacy has been invaded?’ It was crucial to create something that banks could use with conversations recorded so they could be traceable and audited while ensuring happy employees have that peace of mind over what’s happening.
There are other options out there, of course, but some of these are very expensive, some are very heavy and inflexible, while others have very low adoption rates. We have managed to create a platform that has the right interface for everyone with a consumer front end that everyone loves but with a back end where a complete corporate enterprise system exists with data security, privacy and data ownership. We’ve used machine learning to offer an instant messaging platform that can be used as part of any discovery process and monitoring, which is huge for the financial industry without having users feel like big brother is watching every message.
How would you describe the culture of your company?
7T has zero developers but 100+ software engineers and we have built a culture of curiosity and innovation that has really helped us accelerate the business. Our motto is, “Business First, Technology Follows”. That is what led us to the SayHey Messenger development. We saw a significant business issue, and created technology to solve for that issue.
We’re headquartered in Dallas, Texas, but we are global but with a big team in Chennai, India, as well as a team on the West Coast as well. It’s really a diverse group and a truly global team; I’m proud of that.
What’s in store for the future?
We are becoming an omni-channel for communications. People often have multiple platforms going and we are helping to aggregate all these messages in one interface for productivity, accountability, data ownership, data sovereignty.
With our platform you will be able to send a text message from SayHey, or any other messaging platforms, but it still saves the recorded conversations in your auditable data ownership and your cloud system.
We’re also looking to ramp up the collaboration tools, like adding a whiteboard for SayHey, similar to Apple’s Freeform that came out recently.
Because of the security issues associated with many instant messaging platforms, we expect to see both large financial institutions and smaller, regional banks looking for a secure, auditable messaging platform. But, with all the collaboration tools we’re adding, and Gen Z entering the workforce, we see huge growth potential on the horizon.