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Learning from Travelex

Due to a cyberattack, Travelex, the world’s largest foreign exchange bureau, has been at a standstill for more than a fortnight. The reputational and financial impact on the company and its senior leaders will be severe. New laws and regulations, like GDPR and NY Shield, mean that such breaches can no longer be swept under the carpet, and the commercial damage will be compounded by huge fines.

Travelex is a wake-up call to all businesses. In today’s cyber-risk environment, maintenance of your basic IT infrastructure and services is critical to remaining profitable and even staying alive. You may be concerned that if a giant like Travelex gets hacked, how can a mid-market company protect itself? It’s less complicated than you might think.

When we engage with clients, we talk about ‘getting the basics right’. A fundamental part of that is making sure the IT infrastructure and services are fit-for-purpose and up to date. If the basics aren’t right, then there’s no hope of looking at ways to use technology to grow the business and get ahead of the competition.

To provide you with a head-start, here are your first nine priorities:

  1. Prioritise systems maintenance. All systems and services, particularly those that are connected to the outside world, must be kept up to date with the latest software patches. The IT team or your Service Provider must review and update systems in a regular, controlled manner.
  2. Review your backups. Many malware infections encrypt your data and hold it to ransom. Frequent backups mitigate the chance of you losing everything. A regular complete backup of data stored somewhere with no connection to your systems – what’s called an air-gap – will greatly limit the damage of an attack.
  3. Get a penetration test. Get a reputable security company to undertake an external penetration test of your systems and services. Resolve all the concerns raised in the results. Find your vulnerabilities and patch them before hackers find them for you!
  4. Earn a certification. Spend some money, usually less than £10k on earning the Cyber Essentials Plus certification. The process involves making your technology secure, and we’ve seen clients win new business after being certified.
  5. Lock down your data. Each individual in your business should only have access to the data they need to do their job. This minimises the risk of data loss should they leave with it or accidentally click a malware link. Allowing employees wide-ranging access to data is asking for trouble.
  6. Invest in protection. Keep the bad guys out with well-configured firewalls, anti-spam email systems, malware detection software, and pro-active Day-0 protection systems.
  7. Get some insurance. Cyber insurance covers the losses resulting from a cyberattack. It can also aid with the management of the incident itself, particularly reputational damage and regulatory enforcement. Crime insurance covers the loss of money due to theft, fraud or dishonesty and includes theft of money by hackers. Add these two insurances to your portfolio as separate policies, not just add-ons to existing business insurance.
  8. Train your staff. Your employees are the most vulnerable security point in your business. The more they know what to look for and what to do, the better your chances of avoiding an attack. Training is essential for all new starters, and it needs regular refreshing for the whole business – including you!
  9. Plan for the worst. Even with all the above nailed down, you still need to be ready for the worst. Sit down with your top team and discuss potential disasters and plan your way out of them. Who would be in charge? Who is authorised to make major decisions on the spot?

Will Travelex survive this attack? Who knows – the reputational and commercial damage may be terminal. But by following these nine steps, you can avoid that fate for your own company.

For more information see our Knowledge Centre about Cybersecurity.

Freeman Clarke is the UK’s largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) IT leaders. We work exclusively with ambitious organisations and we frequently help our clients use technology to beat their competition. Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

Team Development & Leadership

Your IT team and tech suppliers should be part of your growth strategy, helping to drive improvements in efficiency, customer service and innovation.

Freeman Clarke are systems and digital leaders with a team of technical experts who are widely experienced in leading and managing IT teams and suppliers. With careful leadership and guidance Freeman Clarke can help your business to succeed.

For more information on this topic, click here to visit our Technology Roadmap for Growth Knowledge Centre.

Freeman Clarke is the UK’s largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) IT leaders. We work exclusively with ambitious organisations and we frequently help our clients use technology to beat their competition. Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

6 Steps to Business Clarity

At Freeman Clarke, we use the term ‘vision’ quite often. But we don’t only mean imagining what’s down the road for your business. We also mean asking yourself if your reports and management information allow you to see your company clearly right now.

You can grow in the short term by reacting to opportunities as they arise. But to grow a business sustainably you need to clearly see your activities and the outcomes, your customers and the wider market.

Clear vision of this information requires a platform of systems and processes that are not easy to implement. The good news is that we’ve done it many times. Based on our experience, we have created this simple list of the six steps for CEOs to achieve clarity.

  1. Clarify who’s in charge. Create a strategy and architecture for where master information is held and how it is shared between systems and people. Which system is the master? Which teams are responsible for creating and maintaining the data?

    Automate links between systems where possible to avoid manual effort which is expensive and (inevitably)  prone to errors.
  1. Set the rules. Set standards for data management and maintenance. Decide who is responsible for ensuring data is correct and for training and policing those standards. Monitor how often these rules are broken and whether specific teams or people are repeat offenders.
  2. Be efficient about reports. Finalising reports for specific individuals can be endlessly time-consuming. Instead focus on the broad areas of information that managers or directors need. Ensure you have flexible tools and reporting skills so you can build and change reports easily.

    Review your reports regularly and ask yourself which reports are valuable and which are not. Stop producing those that are no longer useful. Or change formats where ‘report fatigue’ has set in and useful information is being missed.


    Again, automate wherever possible. Manually generated reports are a great waste of time and money.
  1. Take a hard look at what you’re reporting. Often reporting is focussed on old-fashioned financial indicators. Identify the more relevant indicators, especially the non-financial ones, which will allow you to strategise and manage events as they unfold.

    For example, as well as monitoring sales last month, monitor web activity or numbers of enquiries, which may be indicators of future opportunities. Monitor unusual changes in stock levels or supplier lead times, especially of critical items, to avoid future issues with fulfilment.
  1. Analyse profitability by product, client, and service line. Ask yourself, What are the real drivers of cost? Where do you have influence over cost?

    Use this information to drive cost-reduction projects to provide an extra few points on your profitability for the coming year. Using it to inform the sales and marketing strategy can be transformational to the overall success of the business.
  1. Free your Board from operational distractions. Where in your business is ‘expert judgement’ important? How can you generate data that would allow you to use machine learning? Perhaps to improve decision-making, or to reduce manual effort, or to allow you to scale your business and to free up directors to spend their time elsewhere?

Freeman Clarke is the UK’s largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) IT leaders. We work exclusively with ambitious organisations and we frequently help our clients use technology to beat their competition. Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation. 

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Graeme Freeman
Co-Founder and Director

Subscribe to our Business Insights

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You’ll now receive regular expert business insights.

Call us on 0203 020 1864 with any questions.