Steve Sanak was raised in the “analog, physical brick and mortar” age of banking:
Buying goods with cash, or writing checks with carbon copies. Manually depositing
and cashing checks in branches. No computers. No cell phones.
“Now we’re going to the digital world,” said Sanak, Executive Vice President of Global
Wealth at BBVA Compass in Birmingham. “My kids’ generation is one that’s moved over
to digital. They are not going into the branches -- the analog world – they are using
their mobile devices, and they are banking online.”
We pay bills online. We deposit checks via mobile devices. We check our balance over
our cell phones. Mobile and online banking are part of everyday life for millions
of Americans. But just as consumers have changed with the times, industry must continue
to adapt and meet their needs, Sanak said.
“Businesses have to innovate,” said Sanak, who visited Harbert College of Business
classes on Tuesday and shared lessons with students about investing in themselves
for the future. “Businesses have to understand who their clients are and how clients
want to be touched. If those clients want to be touched digitally, then guess what?
Those businesses have to change their approach, and their marketing, in order to capture
and retain customers.”
But just as banking has become mobile, so have banking crimes. Former U.S. Defense
Intelligence Agency Director Ret. Lt. Gen. Ron Burgess told executives at last February’s
Auburn University Bank Director’s College that he expected 2013 U.S. cybercrime dollars
to top $14 billion.
“We’re transitioning from actual bank robbers now to the ones that are sitting behind
some type of screen somewhere in the world,” said Sanak, a 1982 Michigan State graduate
with a degree in finance. “Our IT security is getting a lot of attention these days.
I think what’s happening too is that there’s a lot more cooperation among financial
institutions and law enforcement agencies. Once something is discovered it’s very
fast now. But you don’t hear about it in the newspapers until probably a couple of
months later -- and that information has already been shared with a lot of security
departments at banks. That’s why a lot of banks now are developing their own protocols
and systems where we build more firewalls. You’ve got to authenticate things more,
whether it’s your thumb prints, or if you go online they are probably asking for some
security picture or code or some type of phrase.”
Everyday consumers are vulnerable to cyber-attacks and Sanak said educating the public
how to protect themselves from these threats is paramount.
“Use common sense,” he said. “Don’t open emails and attachments from people you don’t
know who the faintest it’s from. It’s amazing how many consumers … their personal
emails are getting hacked and the crooks are using their emails to try and come through
their portal to us.”