Asset Managers Tighten Controls on Personal Communication Amid ‘WhatsApp’ Crackdown on Banks
By Reuters | Updated: 18 August 2022
Asset managers are tightening controls on personal communication tools such as WhatsApp as they join banks in trying to ensure employees play by the rules when they do business with clients remotely.
Regulators had already begun to clamp down on the use of unauthorised messaging tools to discuss potentially market-moving matters, but the issue gathered urgency when the pandemic forced more finance staff to work from home in 2020.
Most of the companies caught in communications and record-keeping probes by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) have been banks – which have collectively been fined or have set aside more than $1 billion (roughly Rs. 8,000 crore) to cover regulatory penalties.
But fund firms with billions of dollars in assets are also increasing their scrutiny of how staff and clients interact.
“It is the hottest topic in the industry right now,” said one deals banker, who declined to be named in keeping with his employer’s rules on speaking to the media.
Reuters reported last year the SEC was looking into whether Wall Street banks had adequately documented employees’ work-related communications, and JPMorgan was fined $200 million in December for “widespread” failures.
German asset manager DWS said last month it had set aside EUR 12 million (roguhly Rs. 100 crore) to cover potential US fines linked to investigations into its employees’ use of unapproved devices and record-keeping requirements, joining a host of banks making similar provisions, including Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, and Credit Suisse.
Sources at several other investment firms – described in the financial community as the ‘buy-side’ – including Amundi, AXA Investment Management, BNP Paribas Asset Management, and JPMorgan Asset Management, told Reuters they have deployed tools to keep all communications between staff and clients compliant.
Spokespeople for the SEC and CFTC declined to comment on whether their investigations could extend beyond the banks, but industry sources expect authorities to cast their nets wider across the finance industry and even into government.
Last month Britain’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the country’s top data protection watchdog, called for a review of the use of WhatsApp, private emails and other messaging apps by government officials after an investigation found “inadequate data security” during the pandemic.
Good business for some
Regulations governing financial institutions have progressively been tightened since the global financial crisis of 2007-9 and companies have long recorded staff communications to and from office phones.
This practice is designed to deter and uncover infringements such as insider trading and “front-running,” or trading on information that is not yet public, as well as ensuring best practice in terms of treatment of customers.
But with thousands of finance workers and their clientele still working remotely after decamping from company offices at the start of the pandemic, some sensitive conversations that should be recorded remain at risk of being inadvertently held over informal or unauthorised channels.
Brad Levy, CEO of business messaging software firm Symphony, said concerns on managing that risk had driven a surge in interest for software upgrades that make conversations on popular messenging tools including Meta Platforms’ WhatsApp recordable.
“Most believe the breadth of these investigations will go wider as they go deeper,” Levy said.
“Many markets participants have retention and surveillance requirements so are likely to take a view, including being more proactive without being a direct target.”
He said Symphony’s user base has more than doubled since the pandemic to 600,000, spanning 1,000 financial institutions including JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs.
Symphony peer Movius also said its business lines specialising in making WhatsApp and other tools recordable have more than doubled in size in the space of a year, with sales to asset managers a growing component.
“Many on the buy-side have recognised that you can’t just rely on SMS and voice calls,” said Movius Chief Executive Ananth Siva, adding that the company was also seeking to work with other highly-regulated industries including healthcare.
Movius software integrates third-party communications tools such as email, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and WhatsApp into one system that can be recorded and archived as required, he said.
Amundi, AXA IM, BNPP AM and JPMorgan Asset Management all confirmed they had adopted Symphony software but declined to comment on the full breadth of services they used or when these had been rolled out.
Amundi and AXA IM both confirmed they used Symphony services for team communications, while AXA IM also said they used it for market information.
Amundi, BNPP AM, and JP Morgan AM declined to comment on whether they thought regulators would seek to investigate record keeping at asset managers after enforcement actions against the banks were completed.
A spokesperson for BNPP AM said it had banned the use of WhatsApp for client communications due to compliance, legal and risk considerations including General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
© Thomson Reuters 2022
Twitter Hires Former NBCUniversal Executive Joe Benarroch to Handle Business Operations
By Reuters | Updated: 5 June 2023
Former NBCUniversal executive Joe Benarroch will join Twitter on Monday, in a role focusing on business operations, he told Reuters.
Benarroch said in an email that he was looking forward to working with the company’s team to “build Twitter 2.0 together.”
“Welcome to the flock, @benarroch_joe! From one bird to the next,” tweeted incoming Twitter Chief Executive Linda Yaccarino, who was appointed in May. She did not mention the position Benarroch will be taking.
Welcome to the flock, @benarroch_joe! From one bird to the next.
Let’s get to work @Twitter! #timetofly
— Linda Yaccarino (@lindayacc) June 4, 2023
At Comcast’s NBCUniversal, Benarroch oversaw communication strategy for its Advertising and Partnerships division, reporting to Yaccarino, who was advertising chief there before joining Twitter.
Benarroch is being appointed following the departure of a number of executives, adding to Yaccarino’s challenges.
Twitter’s head of trust and safety, Ella Irwin, said on Thursday that she has resigned from the social media company.
On Friday, Reuters reported that the head of brand safety and ad quality, A.J. Brown, has decided to leave.
The Wall Street Journal first reported Benarroch’s appointment on Sunday.
© Thomson Reuters 2023
E-Commerce Platform Meesho Crosses 500 Million App Downloads on Google Play, App Store
By Press Trust of India | Updated: 2 June 2023
E-commerce platform Meesho has become the world’s “fastest shopping app” to cross 500 million cumulative downloads across Google Play and iOS App Store, mobile data analytics provider has said.
The company has achieved the 500 million download milestone in six years, data.ai, formerly known as App Annie, said in a statement.
According to data.ai, over half of Meesho app downloads (274 million) came in 2022.
“Indian e-commerce platform Meesho has emerged as the world’s fastest shopping app to cross 500 million cumulative downloads across Google Play and iOS App Store combined, reaching this milestone in six years,” data.ai said.
According to data.ai, with just 13.6 MB size, Meesho’s android app is the lightest e-commerce app in India on Play Store, which makes it compatible with low-end smartphones.
“We are delighted to partner with them and provide them with the insights they need to continue to grow their business,” data.ai, Head of Insights, Lexi Sydow said.
Meesho, CXO for user growth, Megha Agarwal said India has 750-800 million people with smartphones and internet access, and it presents a huge opportunity for the company to spark the next wave of e-commerce adoption in India.
“This milestone is a great validation of our User-First mantra, which helps us continuously spot and address customer pain points to deliver an immaculate online shopping experience,” Agarwal said.
Earlier, Meesho announced that it recorded 140 million annual transacting users on its platform in 2022.
WhatsApp Launches New Global Security Centre Page With 10 Indian Languages
By ANI | Updated: 1 June 2023
Instant messaging application WhatsApp has launched a new global ‘Security Center’ page which will act as a one-stop window for users to learn more about how to protect themselves against spammers and any unwanted contacts.
WhatsApp on Thursday said it has created this page to build awareness about the various safety measures and in-built product features that empower users to take control of their safety.
The ‘Security Center’ will be available in English and 10 Indian languages — Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Bengali, Marathi, Urdu, and Gujarati.
“Protecting personal messages with end-to-end encryption is one of the best lines of defence against scammers and fraudsters and in addition to that WhatsApp is consistently working on new and innovative ways to enhance people’s safety and privacy,” it said.
The new feature will inform users about the layers of privacy that WhatsApp provides and lists some top tips to give users more control over their accounts, including two-step verification, scams, and identifying fake accounts, among others.
Last month, WhatsApp launched an integrated safety campaign ‘Stay Safe with WhatsApp’ in India highlighting product features that empower users to take control of their online safety and ensure a safer messaging experience.
The campaign focused on educating users about WhatsApp’s safety features and tools like two-step Verification, block and report and privacy controls that equip people with the necessary safeguards to help protect them from online scams, frauds and account-compromising threats.
Google Removes ‘Slavery Simulator’ Game From Play Store After Racism Outcry in Brazil
By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 27 May 2023
Google has withdrawn a gaming app that allowed players to buy, sell and torture Black virtual “slaves” after a racism outcry in Brazil.
Dubbed “Slavery Simulator,” the Portuguese-language game saw players trade in slaves and strategise to prevent the abolition of slavery in order to amass virtual riches.
The prosecutor’s office said it had opened an investigation for “hate speech” related to the game downloaded by hundreds of people.
The app itself had come with a disclaimer condemning “all types of slavery” and insisting the game was “solely for entertainment purposes.”
After withdrawing the app from its Play Store, Google said in a statement that “applications that promote violence or hated against groups of people or individuals because of their skin colour or ethnic origin” would not be allowed on its platform.
The company invited users to report offensive content.
Brazil’s ministry of racial equality said it had asked Google to put in place measures “to filter out content containing hate speech, intolerance and racism” and “to prevent it from spreading so easily, without moderation.”
Racism is still a problem in Brazil, the last country in the Americas to abolish slavery, in 1888. More than 56 percent of the population is Afro-Brazilian.
“Brazil is one of the countries with the most consumers on Google’s platforms, and there one finds this app that recalls the era of slavery, with bonuses for those who torture the most,” said Renata Souza, a leftist regional lawmaker in Rio de Janeiro.
“This is not only racism, but also fascism,” she told AFP. “Here in Brazil, we have a neo-fascist movement that is not afraid to show itself… because of the lack of regulation on social networks.”
Google has spoken out against a bill seeking to stem online disinformation in Brazil, saying it “seriously threatens free speech.”
Supporters call the bill a badly-needed defense against disinformation and online extremism, but detractors say it amounts to censorship.
A Supreme Court judge ordered an investigation of Google and Telegram over what he called their “abusive campaign” against the bill.
Racism has been on the minds of Brazilians since “monkey” insults were hurled Sunday against their own Vinicius Junior, playing for Real Madrid in Spain.
The lights on the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro were turned off for an hour in solidarity with the player.
Netflix Expands Crackdown on Password Sharing; Alerts Users in Over 100 Countries
By Reuters | Updated: 24 May 2023
Netflix on Tuesday expanded its crackdown on password sharing to the United States and more than 100 other countries, alerting users that their accounts cannot be shared for free outside of their households.
The streaming video pioneer has been looking for new ways to make money as it faces signs of market saturation, with efforts including limits on password borrowing and a new ad-supported option.
Netflix on Tuesday said it was sending emails about account sharing to customers in 103 countries and territories, including the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Australia, Singapore, Mexico and Brazil.
The emails state that a Netflix account should only be used in one household. Paying customers can add a member outside of their homes for an additional fee. In the United States, the fee is $8 (roughly Rs. 700) per month.
Members can also transfer a person’s profile so the user can keep their viewing history and recommendations.
Netflix last year said it was going to limit account sharing and was testing various approaches in some markets.
The company had estimated that more than 100 million households had supplied their log-in credentials to friends and family outside their homes. As of the end of March, Netflix’s paying customers totalled 232.5 million globally.
Under the new policies, people within the same household can continue sharing a Netflix account and can use it on various devices when travelling, the company said.
© Thomson Reuters 2023
Google Pay Rolls Out UPI Payments Support for RuPay Card Holders of These Banks: Details
By ANI | Updated: 23 May 2023
Tapping into the growing popularity of Unified Payments Interface (UPI), Google Pay in conjunction with the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) on Tuesday announced the capability for users to make UPI payments with RuPay credit cards.
With this development, users can link their RuPay credit cards with Google Pay to seamlessly pay at all online and offline merchants where RuPay credit cards are accepted.
This feature is now available to RuPay credit card holders of Axis Bank, Bank of Baroda, Canara Bank, HDFC bank, Indian Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank, Punjab National Bank and Union Bank of India. More banks will follow suit shortly.
To activate, users need to add the RuPay credit card to Google Pay. Users can tap on the “RuPay credit card on UPI” option in their profile and select the bank which issued their RuPay credit card.
Thereafter, users will need to set a unique UPI PIN by entering the last six digits of the card number and expiry, and then entering the OTP from their bank. The statement from Google said users are ready to pay merchants on UPI with their RuPay credit card. “They will enter the set UPI PIN, the same way they do for other UPI transactions,” it added.
Sharath Bulusu, Director of Product Management from Google, said, “Google Pay is a partner to India’s financial ecosystem — enabling millions of users to safely and conveniently make digital payments every day… This feature will give Google Pay users more flexibility and choice in making payments, and will drive greater adoption of digital payments in the country.”
Nalin Bansal, Chief Relationship Management and Key Initiatives, Corporate Business from NPCI, said, “The integration of RuPay Credit Card on UPI delivers a remarkable user experience seamlessly combining the convenience of UPI with the benefits of RuPay Credit Card.”
Bansal said, “We believe this service will mature to provide access to digital credit on demand and consumers will be able to make payments by taking benefit of the inherent security and availability of UPI network across both offline and online platforms.”
In recent years, India has witnessed a huge rise in the number of transactions made through UPI. NPCI reported a massive jump in monthly transaction count as the UPI transactions touched 8.7 billion in March 2023. To further bolster growth of digital payments in the country, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) allowed linking of RuPay credit cards to the UPI platform in June 2022.
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