Each year when we return from the American Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference, the temptation is to quickly itemize, recap and synthesize everything that we learned and experienced. This year, rather than do that immediate processing, I chose to wait a week. As the conference “high” abated, I was able to more thoughtfully reflect and see what continued to resonate with the passage of time, after the thrill ride of sessions, speakers and socializing came to an end. What was different in this year’s sessions than years past? Which themes were being echoed in our client environments? What could the industry shifts - both subtle and significant - mean to our strategic direction at Continuity? As the first Compliance Management System in our space, having been at this for ten years now, how did we view the innovations that our newer competitors were exploring and introducing to the marketplace? And how are the roles, mindsets and skill sets of compliance and risk professionals shifting in response to the ways compliance management can be delivered?
One of our perpetual strengths at Continuity has been staying ahead of the curve, and being relied upon by our clients and partners (as well as the industry) to deliver practical, pragmatic foresight on emerging issues. In that spirit, here are the high points of the 2019 conference takeaways.
- Compliance is no longer an “after-thought.”
Compliance is considered as business processes are designed, developed and executed. It is increasingly embedded into the culture of the organization as well. In larger banks, compliance has been elevated to the C-suite once and for all; smaller banks continue to move in this direction, albeit more slowly. The most innovative and progressive institutions are viewing compliance as a competitive advantage: doing it better than the competition means more resources go into revenue generation versus risk mitigation.
- The need for speed in decision-making and execution is accelerating. Thanks to a strong economy and increasing competition for customers, banks are facing a dynamic business environment that calls for bold and fast moves over measured and methodical approaches that have been the hallmark of the banking community. Compliance and risk professionals must be able to adapt to these faster-moving cycles, and provide insight without slowing things down or blocking progress. Although those of us in tech have been familiar with “Agile” management models for over a decade, it took banks a bit longer to embrace the idea that you can design, prototype, test and evaluate without all variables being known up front.
- CMS technology is quickly becoming a “must-have” versus a “nice-to-have.” Thanks to revised examination guidelines and elevated expectations for board and management oversight, the supervisory impetus for using technology solutions is now more than a friendly suggestion. Even without the regulatory pressure, the intense focus on operational efficiencies and economies of scale are driving institutions of all sizes to evaluate how technology can aid their programs by reducing risk and improving performance at lower cost. A broader range of competitors introducing versions of compliance management systems to the market can signal only one thing: that the market is ready to embrace technology approach to CMS oversight and that sufficient resources exist to support a broader competitive landscape. This is great news for those of us who pioneered the space, as it means the market has matured. It’s also great news for bankers, who benefit from increased competition that helps separate the excellent from the average from the not-so-great choices.
- The compliance professional is expected to have a wide range of skills. In addition to being well-versed in regulatory requirements, the compliance leader of today must also have technology proficiency and data literacy, and master a wide range of managerial and “soft” skills, in order to be successful. It is also clear that a renaissance of the “generalist” leader is underway: the top executive is expected to know a little of everything versus a lot of one thing. Smaller organizations have always had to structure themselves this way, but in larger banks, the CRO or CCO are now managing highly diverse teams ranging from centralized complaint management units to CRA/HMDA collection and reporting groups and many other functions in the second line of defense.
Preparing yourself as a professional for these shifts in how compliance is viewed, how you get your work done, and how you demonstrate that your individual and organizational efforts have been effective, is the FUN part of being in the risk and compliance space. Riding the rapids of regulatory change management, controls oversight, risk management for your teams AND third parties, and monitoring your performance keeps us all alert, is truly for the thrill-seekers among us. Who says compliance is boring?!
With all of the changes we witnessed, one thing hasn’t changed: our desire to provide actionable insights and relevant product offerings to our friends and colleagues in banks of every size and every location. As life gets back to its daily rhythms here in Continuity’s Regulatory Operations CenterTM and we resume helping the tens of thousands of bankers who rely on our solutions every day, we are already dreaming of the 2020 event in National Harbor. We hope to see you there!