William Cash's letter from issue 45 - Spear's Magazine

William Cash’s letter from issue 45

William Cash champions bringing more veterans into the City and HNWs being savvy and safe when it comes to securing their communications

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Following the success of the Veterans on Wall Street annual dinner in New York, which began life as a Wall Street recruiting conference for ex-military types sponsored by the top banks, London is now following suit. The inaugural City Veterans Dinner will take place on Thursday 5 November at the Imperial War Museum and I am delighted that Spear’s will be a media partner for the event.

The dinner will be hosted by such major banks as Citi and Goldman Sachs, and looks to fill the void created by the absence of Arki Busson’s annual ARK dinner. The banks and wealth management community will be hosting tables for 350 UHNW clients with an auction, key speakers — hopefully to include royalty — and various top brass. The dinner will raise money for three charities — Blesma, Combat Stress and SkillForce — as well as raising awareness that the financial services industries are very much ‘open for CVs’ from former military personnel of all ranks.

The success of the VOWS dinner has become a ‘central recruiting tool for investment banks’, according to New York media, who note that such ‘veteran outreach’ is a useful way of improving the banking sector’s own public-service record. After the first VOWS dinner was held at the Cipriani Ballroom in New York, up to 200 veterans were offered jobs from the hundred-plus companies that attended.

The driving force behind the dinner is Citi Private Bank’s Francis Roseman, an ex-army officer of nine years (with three tours in Iraq and two in Afghanistan) who works closely with David Poole. He has helped to form the ‘cross-City committee’ putting the event together. I have been asked to assist with any ‘money can’t buy’ experiences or auction prizes for this excellent cause, so if Spear’s readers have under-occupied yachts, Caribbean villas or winter chalets (with availability in the actual skiing season) that they wish to be included in the auction, please email me.

About three years ago, I had a call from the top privacy lawyer Keith Schilling asking me for a meeting at his offices in Bedford Square. At the meeting, he told me that high net worths — following City firms, banks and multinational corporations — were the next group under ‘cyber-attack’ and that cyber-security needed to become as important a part of their protection as bodyguards, kidnap and ransom insurance, infrared burglar alarms, security vaults and ‘safe rooms’.

Schilling has been proved right. We are in the middle of an HNW privacy revolution. Cyber-security — including the hacking of all mobile devices — is now one of the most serious areas of concern for HNWs and their families today. HNW families and private-client firms are now adopting military-grade cyber-encryption for mobile phones and messaging devices.

In this fast-growing market sits Seecrypt, which Ian Fleming would surely have invented for Bond had mobile phones been operational in the 1960s. It works under licence and allows, say, a law firm handling a media-sensitive criminal case or high-profile divorce to communicate directly with the client within their own private network, whether by voice, instant message or secure email.

Seecrypt is a groundbreaking multi-platform application that is easy to download and is being used on a daily basis by a confidential list of HNW clients, celebrities, politicians, security firms and even ‘some European royalty’, according to Rupa Mikkilineni, a well-connected former CNN correspondent and producer for NBC who is now working for the South Africa-based company.

It is not especially difficult to hack into a standard mobile phone; techniques include using cameras to monitor somebody putting their personal code into their phone or ‘magic dust’ on a keyboard to trace a personal password. On a phone that uses Seecrypt, however, all the messages are coded and encrypted (‘wrapped’).

The world of cyber-security is changing as fast as the web and technology itself. The software technology arms race is as every bit as clandestine and important as the heavy military aspect of the traditional arms race. As with Formula One motor-racing technology, what is tested at great expense on the racetrack often ends up having a domestic application.

This is certainly the case with encryption technology, as was apparent in the first public speech made by the current head of the British SIS (MI6), Alex Younger, who took up the post last November. The speech was given in March in the great library of the old National Liberal Club (now the Royal Horseguards Hotel in Whitehall Court) as part of the unveiling of the blue plaque to commemorate the first head of MI6, Sir Mansfield Cumming.

‘The fundamentals of how we conduct our work have not changed, in essence, since Cumming’s time,’ said Younger. What would surprise Cumming today is the way in which technology has developed to ‘sharpen some very human characteristics’ of our work. ‘The internet and big data can combine to our advantage, allowing us to know more about the people we meet and the places we meet them. Using data appropriately and proportionately offers us a priceless opportunity.’

Without secure communications, whether you are an HNW businessman travelling in Russia or an SIS undercover officer serving in some of the most dangerous and forbidding places on the planet, you cannot hope to succeed without this ‘peace of mind’.