What COVID-19 Means For Hedge Fund Cyber-Security

    OVID-19 was characterized as a pandemic by the World Health Organization in March. To manage the potential exposure, governments around the world are recommending or requiring their citizens to stay at home. For many alternative investment firms, such as hedge funds or private equity firms, dealing with extreme market volatility and economic uncertainty is exacerbated by the requirement to transition their workforce to remote work. 

    Fortunately, the burden of managing remote work infrastructure can be handled by IT and cybersecurity specialists, such as Agio. Agio has been working with its private equity and hedge fund cybersecurity clients to prepare for and ensure operational continuity in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    Business Continuity and Remote Work

    Agio recognizes that every fund runs differently, whether it stems from how they aggregate critical data, manage positions, or execute transactions. Fortunately, there are key steps that every single fund can take to minimize employee exposure to COVID-19 while maintaining business operations. 

    • Closing offices can greatly reduce COVIC-19 exposure among employees, especially if they are commuting in densely populated cities or a location where infection rates have skyrocketed. For offices that must remain open, enforcing a strict no visitor policy can help limit exposure. 
    • Prohibiting or limiting business travel can significantly reduce the risk employees face from COVID-19. A best-case scenario would be implementing a company-wide ban on business travel. At the bare minimum, a firm should limit travel to cities, countries, or regions where COVID-19 infections have spiked. 
    • Encouraging or requiring remote work is one of the best policies for a firm can take to reduce infection risk as close to zero as possible. However, many traditional office-bound firms may struggle to implement and benefit from an en masse transition to remote work. 

    Identifying and Solutioning Remote Work Concerns

    An immediate transition towards remote work will likely lead to problems and issues. Fortunately, Agio has identified a few common concerns that can be easily addressed with proper planning. 

    • Creating a remote work policy that sets minimum expectations and ground rules can help manage expectations. It’s essential for employees to understand their roles and responsibilities, especially since there may be cases where the entirety of their job may not be doable at home. It’s important to define as much as possible, even seemingly trivial things such as availability, dress code, webcam usage, and connectivity. 
    • Prepare critical business-owned hardware for remote work, such as laptops and smartphones for employees. It’s important to realize that as COVID-19 continues, technological goods such as laptops, smartphones, and tablets are becoming increasingly scarce due to supply constraints. While allowing employees to connect to internal company networks via their personal devices can be a quick band-aid solution, it opens up glaring security vulnerabilities. If possible, provide business-class devices to all remote employees, complete with robust security controls implemented on each device. 

    Working Through a Pandemic

    Ultimately, it’s uncertain how long COVID-19 will be around for. Fortunately, limiting social gatherings and maintaining shelter in place policies will go a long way towards shortening the spread of the virus. While no firm can immediately transition their entire workforce to be remote with no hiccups, the whole process can be smoothed out with the aid of industry experts.