SMS for banks: Enabling better (and compliant) customer communication

SMS for banks: Enabling better (and compliant) customer communication

In an era where instant messaging has become integral to both personal and professional communication, financial institutions have found themselves in a bind. Major banks like JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, and many others have faced substantial legal issues due to their employees’ use of WhatsApp and other messaging applications to communicate with customers, highlighting significant challenges in regulatory compliance and record-keeping.

The regulatory landscape

Financial institutions operate under stringent regulations aimed at ensuring transparency, accountability, and investor protection. Key regulatory bodies, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), mandate that all business-related communications must be preserved. These rules are in place to safeguard against misconduct and ensure that all financial dealings can be audited.

WhatsApp: Convenient, but insufficient for enterprise-level communication

The appeal of WhatsApp and similar messaging services is undeniable. Even though their ease of use, instantaneous messaging, and end-to-end encryption are enticing, the lack of particular enterprise-grade features and capabilities make them inadequate for banks and companies in highly regulated industries to communicate with their customers in a legally compliant way.

  • Inadequate record-keeping: Unlike traditional communication methods such as emails, SMS sent using WhatsApp and similar applications could not be systematically captured and stored by the enterprise. This lack of automatic record-keeping meant that important business communications could be lost, putting banks in violation of regulations that require comprehensive archiving.
  • Surveillance circumvention: Regulators are particularly concerned that the use of personal messaging apps like WhatsApp could be a way for employees to bypass official oversight mechanisms. This potential for evading surveillance raises the risk of undetected misconduct, which is precisely what the regulations aim to prevent.
  • Encryption and compliance challenges: WhatsApp’s strong encryption, while beneficial for personal privacy, complicates the monitoring and retrieval of business communications. Ensuring these encrypted messages are captured and stored in a manner compliant with regulatory standards is a significant challenge for financial institutions.

The consequences

The repercussions for non-compliance were severe. In December 2021, JP Morgan was fined a staggering $200 million by the SEC and CFTC. The fines were imposed because the bank failed to adequately monitor and preserve its employees’ communications conducted through WhatsApp and other personal devices. This failure represented a significant breach of regulatory requirements and underscored the importance of maintaining proper records of all business communications. Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Barclays, and many others faced similar penalties as well.

The enterprise-level, compliant solution: Mail2SMS

The above scenario highlights a critical intersection between modern communication technologies and regulatory compliance. While instant messaging apps like WhatsApp offer convenience, they also pose significant challenges that cannot be overlooked. Ensuring compliance with record-keeping requirements is essential for maintaining transparency and accountability in finance, banking, and other highly regulated industries.

Retarus Mail2SMS is the enterprise-grade SMS solution that enables companies to send text messages from any email client and for connecting applications via SMTP. Get all the convenience and simplicity of text messaging directly from the employee’s desktop. Because Mail2SMS is hosted on the same network/client as their email, all company data retention policies are automatically inherited.

In other words, sending text messages via Mail2SMS ensures that employee communication adheres to the company’s data retention policy as well as industry-specific regulations. This makes company-wide SMS usage more streamlined, straightforward, and compliant. With the dynamic routing feature, one number can be shared across multiples users so that each employee does not need to have an individual long code assigned to them. Mail2SMS has native address book synchronization for Active Directory, LDAP, Notes, and many more. It even seamlessly integrates with Microsoft Exchange, so employees can send SMS directly from their familiar environment.


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