General Data Protection Regulation, or the GDPR, is the most important regulation on the protection of personal data that has been created during the last couple of decades. It applies to all companies in the European Union collecting personal data, financial institutions included. There are no clear guidelines, however, on how to exactly implement GDPR, or how companies should protect personal data. Each institution must therefore independently analyze what data is it in possession of, associated risk, and how it can ensure data security. From heightened client data privacy to meticulous consent management, GDPR in banking has transformed the landscape of data security and compliance.
- Banks must adhere to GDPR principles such as lawfulness, fairness, transparency, and data minimization, as well as uphold customers’ rights, including access to, rectification, and erasure of personal data.
- A comprehensive data protection strategy is required for GDPR compliance, which necessitates appointing a Data Protection Officer (DPO), managing third-party service provider relationships, and responding effectively to data breaches.
- Banks should leverage technology for GDPR compliance, ensure customer consent management, adapt business processes to meet GDPR regulations, and navigate cross-border data transfers with adequate safeguards.
GDPR implementation in financial institutions
The implementation of GDPR not only imposes additional obligations on companies, but gives numerous privileges to customers as well. Every one of them has the right to ask a company to provide them with all their personal data in possession, or to transfer it to another company. Transferring data between banks is a good example of this. The GDPR implementation plan also assumes that the customers may request their data to be removed from the company register, as long as it is not currently in use.
Is there any way for companies to bypass or abuse these regulations? The implementation of GDPR does not leave much room for maneuver. Companies that do not comply with EU requirements can face large fines, up to 4% of their annual revenue or €20 million, depending on which is the higher sum. The exact penalty depends on the type of data that was insufficiently secured, and the scale of the damage. The GDPR implementation process also assumes that when data is even unknowingly shared, or when a hacker attack occurs, the institution is obliged to inform customers about it within 72 hours.
Data processing in insurance
When talking about insurers, the GDPR implementation process is similar to that of banks and other institutions processing personal data. Insurance companies must develop the GDPR implementation process that would allow them to protect customer personal data in best possible way, and process it in accordance with the regulation guidelines. However, GDPR in insurance companies often requires taking even more decisive steps. Because agents often collect extremely sensitive data, which is defined in the GDPR as "special category data" (e.g. about lifestyle, health or addictions), those require special protection, and it’s leakage or unlawful transfer may result in serious consequences. Another important issue regulated by GDPR in insurance companies is insurance of minors. Currently, it requires parental consent to process data of minors.
Data processing by third parties
Another important issue is the cooperation of insurance companies with third parties, such as brokers. In this case, the GDPR implementation process requires signing an appropriate form of contract that specifies whether the broker is the person processing the data, or also its administrator.
Processing of personal data in financial institutions
The regulation had a heavy impact on financial institutions because they are constantly handling heavy amounts of personal data. Each GDPR implementation process in financial institutions should start with analyzing the resources. Every financial institution now needs to know whether it has archived any data that is inappropriate or has become forgotten. To ensure that customer personal data is always under control and that the GDPR implementation process in banks is efficient, a personal data administrator should be appointed.
Institutions must now also carefully analyze on an ongoing basis who has access to customer data, when and how it is processed and protected. The GDPR implementation plan should therefore include the use of state-of-the-art technological solutions to ensure the best possible data protection. One of the obligations made by institutions in accordance with the GDPR in banks and financial institutions is to implement a register of personal data processing activities. According to the new regulation, the bank is also obliged to provide information on data processing, and must have documented consent to their processing.
Customers may withdraw consent to the use of their data at any time, and this must also be carefully recorded by banks. They should also have easy access to the mechanism that will allow them to do this. An important change brought about by the GDPR implementation process in the work of financial institutions, mainly banks, is the clarification of consents that can now be granted for specific activities and to specific persons. This means that currently the customer can consent to a specific form of communication, for example by email only. In such situation, the bank cannot make phone calls to customers with marketing offers.
GDPR in banking also affects the process of providing offers to customers. Banks are required to obtain explicit consent for data processing and marketing activities, ensuring that consent is freely given, specific, informed, and unambiguous. Lack of customer consent to receiving marketing offers may make it difficult for the bank to provide personalized offers. Therefore, financial institutions should have a GDPR implementation plan containing appropriate mechanisms of action in such cases.
Challenges and benefits of GDPR implementation in banking
With the dynamic development of technology and digitization of financial services, personal data protection has become a priority for banking institutions. The introduction of the GDPR in the banking sector is not only an obligation legally imposed by the European Union, but also an opportunity for raising the standards of customer privacy protection and building customer trust in financial institutions.
Bank’s challenges in the protection of personal data
Banks collect enormous amounts of data, including both customer personal information and transaction data. Complying with GDPR rules in the context of this complex data structure requires a thorough understanding, identification and classification of different types of information.
In order to comply with GDPR, banks must appoint a Data Protection Officer (DPO) and formulate a comprehensive data protection strategy. This includes assessing and monitoring third-party service providers to ensure they adhere to GDPR requirements and maintain data security. Notably, under GDPR regulations, a bank could be held accountable for a data breach at a third-party service provider.
The implementation of GDPR is not limited only to technical aspects. Banks must transform their organizational culture, promoting awareness of the protection of personal data processing at all levels of the hierarchy. Employee training and an integrated approach to privacy are becoming essential.
Data protection in banking requires continuous improvement of security systems. The implementation of GDPR necessitates investing in modern security solutions, monitoring, and quick response to possible security incidents.
Benefits of GDPR implementation in banking
Customer trust: Implementing GDPR translates into building customer trust. Knowing that banks protect their personal data adequately has a positive impact on the reputation of the financial institution.
Unification of Security Standards: GDPR introduces uniform data protection standards throughout the European Union. For banks, this means unification of procedures and ensuring consistency of activities in the area of privacy protection.
Minimized Legal Risk: Banks that effectively implement GDPR reduce legal risk related to violations of personal data protection regulations. Avoiding financial penalties and sanctions is becoming one of the key advantages of regulatory compliance.
Adapting Business Processes to Meet GDPR Requirements
A vital move towards compliance is adapting business processes to align with GDPR requirements. This involves implementing organizational measures, such as policies and procedures, and technical measures, such as security systems and data processing methods.
Banks should conduct data mapping and classification before implementing data protection measures like anonymization and pseudonymization, defining the purpose and scope of these measures. Coordinating compliance efforts across different organizational units ensures that all changes are synchronized and contribute to the collective objective of GDPR compliance.
Leveraging Technology for GDPR Compliance
Effective utilization of technology can greatly facilitate achieving GDPR compliance. Some examples of technology that can help streamline the alignment of regulatory mandates with the bank’s data, and provide a streamlined approach for DPOs to oversee compliance include:
- Privacy software
- Data management tools
- Encryption software
- Data mapping and classification tools
By leveraging these technologies, banks can ensure that they are meeting the requirements of GDPR and protecting the privacy of customer data.
Moreover, electronic discovery tools and advanced threat monitoring can aid in establishing a data inventory and managing data subject requests, such as data deletion, enhancing security at the same time.
In conclusion, implementing data protection requirements in banking, insurance and financial institutions is becoming a crucial step in today's world of finance and technology. This is not only a necessity to comply with the law, but also an opportunity to build customer trust by effectively protecting the privacy of their personal data.
The implementation of GDPR in these sectors poses numerous challenges for institutions, such as comprehensive analysis and classification of data, change in organizational culture, and the development of advanced security systems. However, overcoming these barriers brings numerous benefits, such as increased customer trust, unification of security standards at the European level, and mitigation of legal and financial risks related to violations of data protection regulations.
The introduction of GDPR puts banks, insurance companies and financial institutions on the path to integrated data protection, which in turn translates into increased competitiveness on the market. The added value resulting from these activities not only meets regulatory requirements, but also shapes the institution's reputation as a reliable partner, ready to responsibly manage customer personal data in the era of digital transformation.