Maintaining Customer Trust Through IT Security—and the Right Partner


Once trust is broken, it often can never be repaired. Those are the stakes when you’re in the finance industry.

The company I currently work for is a bank holding company based in the Midwest, and we’re highly ingrained in the philosophy of true community banking. We’re not like the big corporate banks, where you’re nothing more than a number in their system, and going into one of their branches is a very sterile, generic experience. Our company started out about as small as you can get over 25 years ago, and we’ve never forgotten those humble roots. Our founder truly believes in connecting with and giving back to the communities we serve. 

At our community branches, the tellers will actually know your name, and the employees know and care about the local businesses because they shop there themselves. And that mindset prevails throughout the whole company, including the IT department and the transformation to digital solutions, which I’m involved in.

A Relationship Built on Trust

Because our focus is community banking—with branches in many small- to medium-sized communities—our relationship with our customers is very important to us. It’s the foundation of our business. And it has to be a relationship based on trust, because, after all, we handle people’s hard-earned money. 

In community banking, the foundation of your business is trust. Without that you have no business.

We can’t afford to allow anything to happen that would cause our customers to lose trust in us. A big part of that is having secure data systems, so our customers know their sensitive personal information is safe. Most people just assume that a reputable bank will protect their information. But as we’ve seen in recent years even the most secure systems can sometimes be compromised. We work hard to ensure our systems and networks are as impenetrable as possible. 

One of the corporate partners that has been instrumental in helping us maintain that trust is Cisco. We have a great working relationship with them. 

The Right Solution at the Right Time

At a previous job, we had a legacy guest wireless network that everyone could use. We didn’t think anyone could cause any harm on it, but we were wrong. We eventually found out there were a lot of people doing peer-to-peer communications and downloading movies on the guest network. 

We learned all this when we started to receive cease and desist letters from lawyers, and some legal actions had even been started. So we consulted with Cisco, and they suggested we try Cisco Umbrella, which was at that time OpenDNS—though it has since evolved into much more. Some of our people were already familiar with the product, so we didn’t hesitate to test it on a trial basis. 

It turned out to be the perfect solution for us. We had it go live throughout the entire company of 50,000 employees, and immediately the peer-to-peer traffic and the entire guest network was locked down. It was amazing that Cisco could handle that much data instantaneously. Everyone was happy, and it was a pretty big feather in our team’s cap.

In my current role, I was certain Cisco could help us with our digital transformation, so we brought them on board. We’ve had especially good results using Meraki, which is an entirely cloud-based network management and security system. Being in community banking, we naturally have a lot of different branches, and some of those branches are in locations that don’t have standard internet connections available. 

Micro segmentation can help minimize potential damage in the event of a data breach.

If someone walks into a branch to make a withdrawal and they’re told they can’t because the computer system is down, then we’ve probably lost that customer. It’s vital those systems always work, and Cisco has definitely helped us achieve a reliable infrastructure.

Next, we’ll be working with Cisco to implement micro segmentation, which will greatly enhance the security of our network by limiting the potential for damage if we ever do experience a data breach. It’s a very important project for us, and Cisco is a major part of that. After that, we’ll work with Cisco to develop a data center, and eventually a hybrid cloud solution.

A Partnership That Delivers What’s Needed the Most

Throughout my career, Cisco has been a tremendous partner. It’s the reason I come back to them time and time again. Cisco has a big competitor that we also looked at for security, and we spent about five months completely analyzing Cisco’s security kit and their competition’s security kit. We compared every product offered. They both had excellent products, but in the end, our decision was based on the quality of system support and administration, and Cisco was the clear winner in that area.

When various vendors have similar offerings, make support the deciding factor.

Cisco provides us with the products, services, and the technical expertise that we need to provide our customers with great service all the time. But the most valuable thing Cisco gives us is the trust of our customers. As I mentioned earlier, it doesn’t take much to shake or even lose that trust. Just one data breach can do it. Interruption of services at our branches can do it. A loss of trust could be catastrophic for our company. As a banking institution, it’s the foundation of everything we do. Cisco enables us to protect and preserve that trust, and that’s the most important thing that a partner could do for us.