Alliance between Regulation and Technology to enhance customer protection and financial system integrity

In the last decade regulatory compliance has played an even more relevant role for financial institutions, with an increase of complexity in terms of requirements and their impact on banks’ strategic decisions.

As a reaction to a trend that had accelerated since the financial crisis in 2008, one Regulator of the United Kingdom FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) coined the term “Regtec” to untap the opportunity of Technology (tech) becoming a facilitator to comply with Regulatory issues (reg).

Last September, the enter into force of the European Directive PSD2, triggered a new race where companies look to position within the new open Systems financial ecosystem.

Digitalization has introduced a dicotomy: (1) Banks have more opportunities to interact with customers, (2) while customers have more alternatives to cover their financial needs. Given that customers prefer to chose rathen than feeling tied up to a single provider, Banks should un-learn and learn to learn again to transform in open Banks with the ability to provide their customers the possiibility to choose and live experiences.

There is no doubt that the financial sector has evolved and the change from Traditional Banking to what is today conceived as The Bank of the Future can result disrupive. What has changed?
Traditionally the main levers for customers’ decision making were security and trust. Banks’ offering was based on credit and debit products and services, and channels were mainly branches and ATMs at limited timetables.
Today banks can offer customized products and customers can make transactions anywhere anytime (24×7) as digital channels (Web, Mobile) are progressively gaining pace as a mean of interaction between customers and financial institutions. Additionally it is important to mention the irruption of new entrants that offer alternative payment solutions and Financial business models based on new customer habits and market behaviors. (Fintech).
And Tomorrow? Keeping with the xx-aaS trend that in practice is observed in different forms (PaaS = Platform as a Service, IaaS = Infrastructure as a Service, SaaS = Software as a Service), why not BaaS = Banking as a Service? This would imply that Banks would jump in the Service-provider side of the value chain. Moreover, within a context in which market leaders are open platforms (eg. Airbnb largest room booking company who owns not a single hotel, Amazon leader in retail distribution without any physical shop), everything points to the need for an Open Banking. And what is more important: the main lever for customers’ decision making will be the ability to chose and to live experiences.

Reality is complex but untaps a
large potential of new opportunities to be explored. As customers become more demanding, Regulation needs to set the basis for consistent governance and risk control. Progress in IT developments and particularly Digital Transformation have increased operational, systems, tools, budget, risks and organizational complexity to unprecedented levels.

Despite companies understand the importance of putting the customer at the center, and they have indeed become more diligent and sophisticated, there is still a perception of regulatory fatigue, and going one step behind in terms of transparency, vulnerabilities towards risks, customer protection and the financial system sustainability. According to a recent study from DUFF and PHELPS on the Regulatory Outlook 2019 it does not seem that one of the main problems is lack of IT investment (in the last years Bank’s investment in Digital Transformation has exceeded $1 trillion). Manpower dedication and absence of working groups committed to financial stability, fraud detection and financial crime, etc. are also not a root cause. However this is a call to increase coordination and more alliances between execution resources, people, regulators and IT to achieve common objectives. Alliances must be pragmatic and efficient, based on realistic models that leverage on KPIs to measure, manage and help companies enter into a dynamics of continuous improvement without this meaning additional workload.

Compliance by default; duality qualitative & quantitative; human – machine complementarity, so that people learn how to take advantage of AI’s and robotic’s capabilities to automate tasks while they focus on adding value through defining open models, data monetization, optimize talent mix introducing diversity in teams, …  These are just some hints to focus on. Much has been already discussed about the use of Technology to design new products and services But don’t forget that customers need something else which is inherent to compliance, how to handle risks, financial integrity and customer data protection.  Such applicability of IT to facilitate compliance can at the same time increase control over systemic risks and improve customer’s identity management strengthening trust.

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