When Elon Musk announced Tesla employees would be required to spend at least 40 hours per week in the company office, the world’s richest man raised eyebrows for overlooking employee needs and preferences.

Musk, who’s drawn admiration and criticism in equal parts for his unconventional approach to business, appeared to be ignoring the appeal and effectiveness of remote work among highly skilled, highly educated workers. He also seemed to dismiss that, after two pandemic years, remote or hybrid work have become well established among the workforce, and the “return-to-work-or-else” approach could be a risky talent strategy that may push employees to leave.

Be that as it may, more offices, including those in wealth management and financial services, could be following the trend back to a more pre-pandemic normal. This doesn’t necessarily mean a complete return to the office environment of 2019, but maybe something close. Firms should be prepared for cybersecurity adjustments.

When people come back, chief technology officers and chief compliance officers need to figure out what to do about the new cybersecurity controls that were established during the pandemic. Should corporate protocol endorse a BYOD [Bring Your Own Device] policy? If a firm is testing the waters of a back-to-the-office mandate, will they be allowing employees to continue working from home part of the week or from a co-working space, even as they have access to an office?

Firms that have decided to embrace the Elon Musk moment need to put their cybersecurity house in order to account for the changes that have taken place during the pandemic. We’re talking about downsized offices: Long-term leases on traditional spaces with designated users have dramatically declined, which means businesses may need to continue to secure their corporate perimeter assuming a portion of the workforce will remain remote.

Key decision makers at wealth management firms would need to continue to enable multifactor authentication to make sure only approved users are accessing networks and applications. They must also continue to communicate with employees on the importance of cyber diligence, including spotting phishing scams.

Let Reality Be Your Guide
It’s worth keeping in mind that Covid has shattered old tech barriers that previously prevented remote work arrangements for financial professionals interacting with clients. This structural shift is irreversible, because the most successful financial advisors and their teams have adapted to this new world—they’ve learned how to build the same, highly effective relationships without having to be physically present on-site with the client. Put another way, we’ve witnessed a boom in remote interactions because it hasn’t compromised business success. This has increased efficiencies for advisors who can meet with clients from anywhere at any time. That should be encouraged.

Even as a return to the home and back offices may be imminent, during this transition cybersecurity policies at wealth management firms should incorporate productivity-enhancing flexibility for employees when thinking about user security. As long as firms have end-to-end cybersecurity solutions at their disposal that enables the monitoring of all remote devices, users, networks and vendors via a single-pane-of-glass platform—with vendor risk assessment an essential part of strategy—firms are in a better position to serve clients and support advisors as they build their book of business.

To be sure, a hybrid approach amid a return-to-the-office is theoretically riskier than working full time in the office or completely remotely from home. Co-working spaces and coffee shops where employees can login using their company laptops could easily expose them to hacking vulnerabilities—which is why firms maintaining an effective cybersecurity policy must list their office location and incorporate physical security.

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