Will regtech save us from regulations?

Will regtech save us from regulations?

According to the experts, soon 300,000 euros worth of software will be able to do the same amount of work as would currently take a large bank 100 FTEs and 100 million euros. And it’ll do the job better. This is the promise made by regtech, fintech’s younger sibling. Regtech will mean we’ll no longer have to try our hardest to comply with regulations, we’ll be able to achieve real-time compliance using algorithms.

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Rens Rozekrans

Rens Rozekrans

“Currently there’s no financial institution in the world which is fully compliant”

In the last ten years, the financial sector has been buried in regulations. The costs keep growing, while its complexity is starting to outpace human understanding. Is regtech capable of absorbing the next wave? Or are we just hoping for the impossible?

To answer that question: yes, regtech has the potential to absorb the next wave. And, in fact, it’s really the only viable card the sector can play. According to who? Well, to Rens Rozekrans and AnneMarie Smit. Rens is one of KPMG’s leading forensic specialists and for the past year has been responsible for KPMG’s regulatory advisory services. AnneMarie leads KPMG’s governance practice and until recently was head of the Assessment Expertise Centre of the Dutch Central Bank. Both know the expanding regulatory universe intimately. And they’re taking a huge interest in the role of technology in compliance.

IFRS 9, BASEL 4, MIFID 2, MAD 2. A lot of regulatory packages are scheduled. When will things start to quiet down? 
Smit: “Regulations are growing exponentially, I can see that just from my inbox. I get a feed with updates almost every day. After Basel 3 we heard: there won’t be a Basel 4. But every new regulatory package increases the complexity and also the need for clarity. And there will be more rules to explain the existing rules. Since MiFID 1, more than 10,000 pages of regulations have been published for MiFID 2. And I feel that the end is far from in sight.”

When will organisations reach the point that they can no longer cope? 
Rozekrans: “Basically we’re getting close. There’s no financial institution in the world which is fully compliant. Because too much is happening. And looking at the costs we can see the toll this is taking.”

There are hardly any regtech early adopters. What do you expect from a technology that has not yet proven itself? 
Rozekrans: “Regtech is already being used: track & tracing suspicious transactions; in know-your-customer processes. We started with the easy stuff and are now getting to the difficult things: cognitive systems that not only detect errors but provide true insight.”
Smit: “What do all the regulations say, what do I have to comply with and how do all these various rules inter-relate? Nowadays, staff are manually comparing thousands of pages of regulations. No one’s really arguing against the fact that technology can do a better job.”
Rozekrans: “We’re in the process of proving it ourselves. Currently we’re working on a service for customers which will connect KPMG’s expertise with that of IBM Watson. Our ambition is to market a cognitive system, within a year, that will map various legislation in detail for organisations. It’s a complex system that requires significant investment, but we can keep the costs down because basically we’ll be able to offer it to any organisation.”

Can we expect regtech to reduce compliance costs within a few years? 
Rozekrans: “No, I can only see that happening in the long term. Initially an investment will have to be made to learn how to use the technology. You can see that this is the crux of the matter for many organisations: they have to move through the cost barrier. Do I opt for certainty right now with approximately 100 FTEs or do I take a chance on the new working method at the same cost? Uncertainty without a direct cost advantage is generally not the option companies prefer.”

What should your motivation be?
Smit: “I believe that, at the moment, ‘control’ is a better motivation than ‘costs’. Right now many organisations are reactive: they wait for the new rules and comply with them subsequently. Regtech can free up cognitive capacity which can be used for forward-thinking. Enabling organisations to make comparisons and to reflect on scenarios at an early stage. This will make it easier to market new products which will provide a competitive advantage.” Rozekrans: “At that crossroads of knowledge and technology, we at KPMG have developed a relatively simple tool to help banks identify trends from their quarterly reports. Those enormous reports seem to be mainly developed for one-way traffic to the supervisor, but smart systems can obtain a strategic advantage from them.”

AnneMarie Smit

What the key players say:

“Banks have to automate compliance because they are running out of people who can do it”

PJ DI GIAMMARINO
CEO of regtech-thinktank JWG to Forbes

"Banks are switching to be really data-driven companies — that will be one of the biggest drivers for the industry in the next few years and regtech will be part of that,”

ÁLVARO MARTÍN
Chief economist for digital regulation at BBVA to the Financial Times

“Technology [in compliance and risk] is not only superior in a number of factors, it’s probably a lot cheaper and it’s certainly a lot faster than bank’s back offices”

BENEDICTE NOLENS
Head of risk & strategy of Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission to Reuters

Regtech in brief
Regtech is the marriage of regulations and technology. Its main objective is to organise large flows of data and to explain them. This will make regulatory compliance more cost-effective and improve its quality. The term regtech has only been around for a couple of years; although prior to this technology was already being used in compliance of course, just not at the same scale and potency as the current tools. And not with the same urgency: in order to keep up with agile competitors in fintech, traditional players in the financial sector will have to reduce their heavy compliance burden. The applications the sector is really looking forward to are mature gap analysis tools enabling organisations to see quickly whether their business units are compliant or not, and related applications such as regulatory reporting tools. These tools are expected to drastically reduce the number of FTEs required by financial institutions (and therefore the related costs). Moreover, it’s a two-way street: supervisors will also use regtech to make processes easier to use. The British Financial Conduct Authority is a frontrunner in this respect i.e. by organising ‘techsprints’ to resolve a number of issues.

Problems that regtech needs to resolve 

1.    Collecting and bundling large amounts of data
For example for stress tests. This is currently still difficult and time consuming. At present, financial institutions are having to use IT legacy systems that have difficulty collaborating.   

2.    Scenario analysis and forecasting
For example, for risk management. Currently, this requires significant man and computer power because of the huge range of risks, scenarios, variables and methodologies. 

3.    Monitoring real-time transactions
For example, to identify money laundering. This is currently still complicated because of the poor quality of the metadata produced by payment systems. This makes interpretation and identification difficult.  

4.    Identification of customers and legal bodies
For example, for KYC processes. This can be made a lot easier by using finger or iris scans and through blockchain identities.   

5.    Monitoring internal culture and conduct
For example, to ensure compliance with customer protection processes. This requires the analysis of qualitative data such as phone conversations and e-mails. Automation can increase the speed of these processes hugely.

6.    Trading on financial markets
For regulatory tasks such as calculating margins, or estimating the impact of a transaction. These tasks are currently performed manually by traders, but can be automated.   

7.    Recognising and interpreting new regulations
In order to ensure all business areas are compliant. Interpreting new requirements and implementing these throughout the organisation is currently highly complex and labour intensive.

DATA

45xmore
Compared to 2009 2014 showed exponential growth in the number of regulatory fines and settlements.
*Source:McKinsey

2.2 billion dollars
Is what the British bank HSBC spends annually on regulatory and compliance. 

43,000 compliance employees
Of the JPMorgan employee base of approximately 250,000, 43,000 work on compliance and regulatory. In 2011 this was 23,000.
Note that this example is not completely representative for the sector as a whole.

118.7 billion dollars
Is estimated to be the 2020 global spend on compliance, regulatory and governance software. 

1 day a week
Is the amount of time a third of compliance teams spend on following regulatory changes.
*Source: Thomson Reuters

From 50 to 200
The number of international publications, changes and announcements a day has quadrupled in four years.

KPMG's 'Ready for regtech?' event - key highlights and takeaways

KPMG's 'Ready for regtech?' event - key highlights and takeaways

On 19 January 2017, decision makers in finance and regtech entrepreneurs gathered to discuss the impact of regtech at @KPMG_NL in Amstelveen.

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