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FOR FINANCIAL SERVICE PROVIDERS, MANAGING VENDOR AND THIRD-PARTY RISKS IS CRITICAL

By Rich Cooper, Director of Global Accounts, Fusion Risk Management

 

Regulators Will Hold Firms Responsible; Good News is Technology Is Here to Help

 

Everyone knows there are inherent risks in markets. Investors know and accept the risk that their investments may lose value. For the financial services companies that facilitate and stand behind the trades of ordinary investors, there are risks largely unseen by the public that must be reckoned with on a constant basis.

 

Financial Service (FS) providers (banks, brokers, asset managers, etc.) must work with a variety of vendors and third parties to be competitive in attracting investors as well as keeping their clients’ business. They range from back-office and IT outsourcing vendors to third-party trade-clearing, settlement and money-transfer providers. The economic services provided by the finance industry encompass a broad range of businesses that manage money, including credit unionsbankscredit-card companies, insurance companies, accountancy companies, consumer-finance companies, stock brokeragesinvestment funds, individual managers and some government-sponsored enterprises. Many of these relationships are intricate and multi-layered with risks imbedded in every layer. A vendor or third party providing direct services to you as an FS provider may also have several relationships with others that could put your direct relationship at risk.

 

Just this month (December 2019), the Bank of England (the Bank), Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) and Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) published proposed new expectations to strengthen operational resilience in the financial services sector. This is major next step in evaluating “operational resilience” in the Financial Sector (in the UK defined as UK banks, building societies and investment firms (banks); and the Society of Lloyd’s and its managing agents (insurers) collectively called “Firms” and  also Financial Market Infrastructure collectively called “FMI’s”). It likely will become policy in the UK in 2021, The European Union and Singapore by 2022 and possibly the U.S. soon as well.

 

The Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) in the US came out with new guidance as well this month. The guidance notes: “Business Continuity Management (BCM) is the process for management to oversee and implement resilience, continuity, and response capabilities to safeguard employees, customers, and products and services. Disruptions such as cyber events, natural disasters, or man-made events can interrupt an entity’s operations and can have a broader impact on the financial sector. Resilience incorporates proactive measures to mitigate disruptive events and evaluate an entity’s recovery capabilities. An entity’s BCM program should align with its strategic goals and objectives. Management should consider an entity’s role within and impact on the overall financial services sector when it develops a BCM program.”

 

Two areas that present the most significant risk management and compliance challenges to FS providers are:

  1. Financial Market Infrastructures (FMI). These are critically important institutions responsible for providing clearing, settlement and recording of monetary and other financial transactions. A payment system is a set of instruments, procedures and rules for the transfer of funds between or among participants. An example is the SWIFT network for global banking and payments. In the US, the Federal Reserve Board supervises most market infrastructures.

 

  1. Outsourced Technology Services. FS providers that rely on third parties to provide operational services need those vendors to have sufficient resources and recovery capabilities in the event of a disruption. The FFIEC, which has a handbookfor business continuity management (BCM) planning, warns that: “Financial institutions should recognize that using such providers does not relieve the financial institution of its responsibility to ensure that outsourced activities are conducted in a safe and sound manner.”

 

The primary concern of regulators is the “systemic risk” that individual vendors and third parties present to the overall health of the financial/economic eco-system. Recall the snowball effects that the failures of several large broker-dealers and investment banks had in precipitating the great financial crisis of 2008. Regulators are also concerned that the FMIs, if not properly managed, can result in significant violations of consumer laws and regulations and expose an institution to supervisory enforcement action, as well as financial, legal and reputational risks.

 

This is the most important point to remember – as an FS provider, you OWN THE RISKS.

 

So, what can you do to mitigate your risks?  As best practice, you should:

  • Mark all of your vendor and third-party relationships from end-to-end. As an example, in payments and settlements, you vitally need to understand who your third parties are, where they are and what risks they may present. You need to plan on how you can mitigate those risks to the greatest extent possible.
  • Make sure everyone in your organization who is responsible for these risks is informed – including C-suites and boards. The FFIEC handbook emphasizes that “the responsibility for properly overseeing outsourced relationships lies with the financial institution’s board of directors and senior management.”
  • FS providers should do a deep dive into their current systems, their limitations and their liabilities. Many firms still have legacy systems with risks assessments built into spreadsheets or printed documents. State-of-the-art BCM systems allow for information inputs from across the organization with advanced technologies employed in risk assessments.
  • Some firms keep their databases in silos (i.e.: equity trading department; mutual fund department) where one silo can be unaware of the risks of the other, putting the entire firm in jeopardy. A holistic system that covers the enterprise and allows prompt reporting to the board level is not a luxury. It is a must for today’s FS providers.
  • Your system must be stress-tested constantly and vigilantly. Game-playing scenarios are helpful in identifying “what if’s?” as well as planning work-arounds for potential disruptions.
  • Identifying “acceptable risks” is important as well. A one-hour outage may not be desirable, but it may be acceptable and not have any regulatory ramifications for your firm. But a 72-hour outage would be vastly different, as access to cash reserves and insurance may be limited or non-existent and your legal liabilities could be piling up.

 

If you think this is complex, you are right. Operational disruptions to the products and services that firms and FMIs provide have the potential to cause harm to consumers and market participants, threaten the viability of firms and FMIs and cause instability in the financial system.  There are new regulations on the way to mitigate this risk to the economy and managing 3rd (and fourth) parties is a key area of discussion.

 

The infrastructure of financial institutions and FS providers is much like a tapestry whose resilience depends on the strength of the weave. But don’t be deterred by the complexity. The good news: there are technology-empowered platforms that can help you manage your vendor and third-party risks.

 

An effective outsourced business continuity management program will provide the framework to successfully manage your vendor and third-party risks now. It will employ up-to-date technology; will break down silos, and will identify, measure, monitor and mitigate the risks that otherwise may keep you up at night.

 

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BATTLEFACE RECEIVES INVESTMENT FROM FINTECH VENTURES FUND

battleface Inc., a rapidly growing tech-enabled insurance startup focused on providing travel insurance products for unconventional travellers worldwide, announced today that it successfully closed its seed financing round with backing from leading strategic and venture capital investors.

 

Atlanta, Georgia-based Fintech Ventures Fund has invested in the company, joining existing investors Greenlight Re and Tangiers Group. This investment will be used to expand software development, hire sales and business development personnel, and further the company’s global reach.

 

Sasha Gainullin

battleface is led by a team of travel insurance experts. CEO Sasha Gainullin previously developed global operations for AIG Travel Guard and has worked with battleface since its inception. Managing Director Paul Simmonds brings experience as a Lloyd’s of London underwriter with previous leadership roles at Berkley Syndicate, CNA Hardy, Brit, and Goshawk.

 

“We got our start because many travellers couldn’t find the right insurance products with coverage for their unique travel destinations and real needs,” said Gainullin. “With the latest investment from Fintech Ventures Fund, we’ll continue to expand our B2B partnerships custom-building travel insurance solutions for groups, including business and NGO travellers, associations and membership-based organisations.”

 

battleface combines innovative technology and underwriting to create, distribute and service specialty travel insurance products for people in both retail and wholesale. Products are supported by a network of 24/7 assistance coordinators, medical providers and on-the-ground field agents who provide emergency claims, medical and travel assistance services on a global basis.

 

Fintech Ventures Partner Lucas Timberlake said: “A core area of our fund’s investment thesis is that technology can be leveraged to more efficiently provide insurance products to markets that have been underserved by current offerings. We believe that battleface’s seasoned management team will create an industry leader in the travel insurance space. It is for these reasons that we are excited support the company’s future growth.”

 

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VANQUIS BANK PARTNERS WITH HOOYUTO DIGITALISE KYC PROCESSES

HooYu KYC digital journey deployed during the customer lifecycle on a risk-based approach

 

Leading customer onboarding and KYC technology firm, HooYu, has announced a partnership to digitalise Vanquis Bank’s KYC processes.  The HooYu KYC journey has been selected to provide additional identity proofing during the customer lifecycle when customers perform a potentially high-risk action on their accounts.

 

Vanquis Bank is part of the Provident Financial Group, a UK and Ireland business with over 140 years’ experience in lending to consumers who are not well served by mainstream lenders. With millions of customers, Vanquis needed to find a way to help balance fraud prevention and KYC with a great customer experience.

 

Existing customers calling in to the change the details on their account were in some cases having to wait weeks before the change could be approved.   The team at Vanquis Bank is continually looking to improve how their products work for their customers and that they are easy to apply for and manage.  Vanquis Bank decided to implement an ID document validation solution that would speed up customer lifecycle management and improve the customer experience.

 

Sue Singleton, Process Change Assurance Manager at Vanquis Bank said, “By adding HooYu to our KYC tools, we can improve some of our higher risk customer processes and can now facilitate customer requests without asking the customer to post in copies of documentation. Our agents deal with thousands of customers a day and now what could have been a delay of weeks for our customers, can be achieved in a matter of minutes with HooYu”.

 

David Pope, Marketing Director at HooYu said, “It’s been great to see the results of Vanquis implementing the HooYu digital journey and how the HooYu UI and UX tools are helping their customers though the KYC process.”  

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