A recent news story will have set alarm bells ringing for agencies up and down the country, when it was revealed that a former employee of a high-profile London agency had been accused of stealing the firm’s client database and handing it to a competitor agency in the local area.
There have also been other stories about employees stealing cash from an agency and forcing it to close. Mercifully, such incidents are very rare, but they do happen.
These incidents highlight the need for agents to have strong security measures and protocols in place, to reduce the chances of databases or money being stolen.
This is important for both large corporate agencies and local one-branch agencies alike – who handle large volumes of money and data on an annual basis.
How can agents keep themselves safe?
Automation really comes into its own when it comes to security. Whether it’s your bank sending you an instant text message when they believe there has been suspicious activity on your account, or your smart doorbell sending you a message to inform you that someone is acting suspiciously outside of your home, automation can help to bring peace of mind.
And it’s the same for agents. It’s entirely possible to have in place a system that notifies owners/directors whenever certain actions are performed on the CRM. These automatic messages would flag to the owner/director any odd, suspicious or abnormal activity.
In theory, this would allow agencies to act before finding out they have lost their entire database to a rival or had money taken out of their business while no-one was looking. Imagine having a watchdog on your database, watching exactly what you tell it to.
So much of the security in our lives is automated and under the radar, from the security that keeps our money safe in the banks to the security that we use to keep our homes protected. So it makes sense that the same should be the case for agencies and their businesses, given the sums and data at play.
GDPR and Client Money Protection
Steps have been taken in recent years to improve data security across the internet, as well as improving the way money is handled in the world of lettings.
We know that agents – both in estate and lettings – deal with huge amounts of data and quite often large amounts of money, and these need to be adequately protected.
The General Data Protection Regulation was introduced in May 2018 and aims to give people more control over their personal data. It’s particularly relevant to those businesses – such as estate and lettings agents – who handle large volumes of client information.
Meanwhile, letting or property management agents in the private rented sector in England must now be part of a client money protection scheme, which ensures that landlords and tenants are compensated if the agent can’t repay their money, perhaps as a result of going into administration.
There are a number of approved schemes, including Client Money Protect, Money Shield, Propertymark, RICS, Safeagent and UKALA Client Money Protection.
However, while agents will be signed up to schemes and legislation to ensure compliance with data and money protection, they may not have considered the ways in which they need to keep their business secure from within and the potential for a rogue employee acting dishonestly.
As mentioned above, incidents where databases or money are stolen are thankfully very, very rare, but it’s always wise to prepare for the worst-case scenario. Automation can make the process of keeping tabs on a business fast, efficient, transparent and affordable.
As an agent, data is your gold, the thing that can help you to grow your business by generating more leads and talking to more prospective landlords and sellers, so it’s only right that you protect it as you would a precious heirloom or a priceless artefact.
Automation can be your best friend here, by working away in the background to keep your business as safe as possible.
*Peter Grant is Chairman and Chief Executive of Openview – Powered by VTUK