Post the financial crisis, banks in the US have faced increased regulatory scrutiny that has resulted in broader and tougher regulations. Bankers are fully aware of the investments and efforts they have to put in to comply with these regulations. Consequently, compliance function in banks is evolving towards a broader risk canvas that is now seeking tighter coordination between the first and second lines of defense. This poses new challenges to banks – from being compliant to getting the optimal returns from their investments. The million dollar question on everybody’s minds is - How are banks rising up to this challenge?
Recent studies have highlighted the enormity of the challenge this has created for banks. For example one study by Accenture shows that 92% of banks will be compelled to increase their compliance spend in 2014. In another report by Continuity Control, the new regulations have imposed an additional financial burden for just the last quarter (Q4) of 2014 is $241 million.
Enhanced regulatory scrutiny may be a necessary evil to watch over the much-maligned banking sector, but has spawned its own unintended consequences. The huge anxiety of banks to be compliant and avoid penalties and the resulting hike in compliance spend has and will continue to impact ROE and profitability of US banks for years to come.
How are banks responding? A whole ecosystem of changes is taking place in this area. Banks are deploying analytics to help them meet the challenge and enable them to make the right data driven decisions. Three important changes are on their way.
First, bulk of the new spend has gone towards upgrading technology platforms. Banks are integrating extant analytical and compliance platforms so they can deploy data mining and analytics to get the right insights. For example, analytical models are being deployed to proactively identify and monitor UDAAP compliance in customer engagements / acquisition.
Second, Banks are bringing new structural alignment between first and second lines of defense. Compliance is now a broad based enterprise activity that will report to the Board or CEO and will include operational and business risk professionals. This is a significant change because in my view, it facilitates wider & deeper use of analytics to help banks stay compliant and out of regulatory trouble.
Third, data silos – the usual suspects - are posing roadblocks for banks in their new quest to be compliant. Incorporating structured and unstructured data for analytics is also an urgent initiative at banks. Banks are aware of these challenges - these are known devils anyway for some time now; but a renewed urgency backed by fat budget approvals is evident.
Banks need to keep a watchful eye on the expanding compliance management function. Technology upgrade and structural changes, while necessary, are only part of the solution and not a panacea by themselves. Banks need to look at compliance as an enterprise wide culture that every associate lives by 24/7. In an era where changes are swift, where disruptive innovations are continuous and almost a way of life, the best insurance for the banks is an open mind to change and adapt to win the customers’ heart. In a way, it is the same old wine, but in a new fancy carboy.