By Haydn Lightfoot, works for financial markets consultancy Crossbridge
February’s European Market Infrastructure Regulation (EMIR) trade reporting go-live highlighted the challenge of updating the derivatives market infrastructure to improve stability. Complex issues continue to arise, from client engagement to managing the web of inferred obligations behind the regulation. Attention is also turning to what comes next and whether it is time to re-evaluate traditional approaches to implementing regulatory change.
In this article, we explore five issues with EMIR that we believe require careful management by banks as implementation continues.
Exiting clients? Beware of back reporting
EMIR requires ‘back reporting’ of historical trades since August 2012, for both current and ‘exited’ clients, each with a Unique Trade Identifier (UTI) agreed with the trade counterparty. February’s reporting go-live demonstrated the challenge of implementing UTIs with current clients. Banks reviewing client relationships may want to consider the additional difficulty, and potential costs, of agreeing UTIs with exited clients.
Are segregated accounts worth the cost?
The EMIR requirement for banks acting as clearing members to offer individual client account segregation may too have cost implications. Currently a premium service for high value Prime Brokerage clients, opening it up is likely to attract increased costs, as banks consider major overhauls to settlement systems, and additional client specific accounts and Standard Settlement Instructions with custodians and depositories.
Firms are likely to seek to pass the costs of such a fundamental shift in market infrastructure and operations to clients, but will they be in a position to calculate the associated costs and fees at the right level?
Navigating the matrix of inferred obligations
Behind these issues lies the recurring theme of complexity. Today’s regulatory environment implies complex, ‘matrix’ style conclusions and a web of inferred obligations across market participants and jurisdictions. For EMIR, this interdependency creates challenges, from effective client engagement to achieving cross industry consistency.
Differing client interpretation of obligations
Client engagement is essential for banks to comply with EMIR, however the fragmented approach to client education has led to confusion and differing interpretations of requirements. In some cases, clients are unwilling to come on-board, particularly those outside Financial Conduct Authority supervision.
A lack of client understanding and engagement with the UTI and Legal Entity Identifier (LEI) reporting requirements is in part the cause of the high volumes of unmatched trades since February’s reporting go-live. Clearer guidance from supervisors has been called for, to avoid similar issues as other requirements come into force later this year.
Cross industry co-ordination challenge
As banks grapple with these complex implementation issues, cross industry working groups have proliferated. This in itself creates a challenge for banks to capture and share information from the various forums.
Timely resolution of the common issues identified by these groups is hampered by the backlog of questions sitting with the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA). ESMA issued its latest question and answers on trade reporting a few days before the go-live. Whilst the guidance was welcomed, earlier guidance may have avoided confusion in time to improve go-live outcomes.
Non-compliance timeline unclear
Further uncertainty is added by the lack of clarity around when regulators will start to penalise firms for non-compliance. The FCA appears to be giving firms some time to address issues with trade reporting before penalising them, however the hardening of regulatory guidance on timeliness of confirmations would counsel caution. Regulators moved from an initial position of timely sending of confirmations evidencing compliance, to client affirmations being required, as confirmation-match percentages were not considered sufficiently high.
Judging your course
Unpicking EMIR’s web of interdependencies and short timeframes may result in firms making unilateral judgements on where ‘good enough’ lies, particularly where they deem the impact of delays to implementation, or risk of penalties, too high. Clearly documenting the assumptions and rationale behind such unilateral decisions should help justify them, should they later come under scrutiny.
A challenge for regulators?
Such inconsistencies between firms could pose a challenge to achieving the market transparency and standardisation desired by regulators, without time-consuming and costly retrospective action. This is demonstrated by the volume of remediation work underway following February’s trade reporting go-live.
Greater central guidance and co-ordination would undoubtedly help, particularly given the short timescales for implementation. Whilst issues with trade reporting have added to clamours for guidance, given regulators themselves are facing resource and time pressures, it seems unlikely much more direction will be forthcoming.
MiFIR and beyond
Nor does the challenge end with EMIR. Other regulation on the horizon will significantly impact market infrastructure: the Markets in Financial Investments Regulation (MiFIR) introduces new reporting obligations that aim to ‘marry’ EMIR obligations with existing Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID) obligations; the ESMA common European transaction reporting requirements may lead to further changes in the way firms report to competent authorities, including interfacing to new reference data standards.
Impacting change prioritisation
The mandatory nature of these, and other, regulatory changes will continue to exert significant influence on project prioritisation. Change resources are diverted from other strategic projects that either promote efficiency or facilitate revenue generation.
Furthermore, the tight, and parallel, deadlines of many regulatory changes may force some organisations to implement tactical technology solutions to achieve timely compliance. These solutions, in turn, increase architectural complexity, requiring greater resource and leadership commitment to implement longer term strategic solutions.
MiFIR, and EMIR are only two of the many complex and shifting regulatory changes impacting banks today. The age of being able to take a draft regulation and quickly construct ‘business requirements’ in the traditional waterfall framework no longer fits the demands of wholesale regulatory change. Banks now have to be ‘agile and risk-based’. Moving forward from Basel II, MiFID, Dodd Frank and now EMIR, the regulatory environment will only become more complex and tightly controlled. Is the time right to learn from our experiences and change our approaches for MiFIR and beyond?
How can modern and emerging technology revolutionise Wealth management and Banking going forward?
By Azamat Sultanov & Firdavs, Co-CEOs of Fortu Wealth
Over the last few years, we have seen much innovation in the financial sector. Challenger banks such as Monzo and Starling have seen rapid growth, with customers being attracted to their open and intuitive systems.
However, we’re yet to see corresponding innovation in the private banking and wealth management sectors. Many firms and asset managers rely on legacy tech that is incapable of providing the modern customer with the sleek, streamlined and hassle-free offering that they seek from their financial services.
Digitisation is key to meeting the needs of the modern consumer, and below you’ll find areas that will benefit most from such a change..
Payments, Transfers & Exchange
Historically, the process of transferring money was slow, complicated and expensive. However, thanks to the likes of TransferWise and other such FinTech unicorns, this is no longer the case..
In-app software now allows for the real time checking of exchange prices, ensuring customers can get the most accurate and cost-efficient rates in the palm of their hand.
Gone are the days of endless form signing as well with Touch ID, DocuSign and voice-authentication greatly increasing the speed in which customers can safely and securely transfer money between accounts, Payees and countries or make payments.
Part of this success comes from the collaborative approach now used by most banks. This has enabled firms to partner with smaller, more agile fintechs, implementing a number of white-label services, and advancing their own offering to appeal to the new modern consumer.
This collaborative-formula will be the key to success and innovation within the financial sector for years to come.
Trading and Investment
Digital brokerships, such as eToro, Trading212 and RobinHood have led to a swathe of new retail investors entering the marketplace, and with that banks and firms should be looking to engage with this exciting new customer base.
If GameStop taught us anything, it’s that modern investors want the capability and the security to quickly access the trading floor and invest without the labour-intensive ways of years gone by with brokers, trade forms and endless bureaucracy.
This instant-access to the trade floor does pose risks to retail investors’ capital however and so it’s pivotal that financial service providers make a proactive effort to educate their customers on investing. This also offers a great opportunity for banks to open up positive channels of communication with their clients.
Banks shouldn’t be afraid to become more conversational and friendly with their customers to help solidify engagement. Perhaps by providing a monthly newsletter, banks and firms can cover off a number of key actions, helping to educate the consumer on interesting stocks and share options. By doing this, they can help their retail investors avoid costly investing mistakes.
Through these actions established banks and finance professionals are fulfilling their educational role and utilizing their investing experience to ensure the DIY-Investor is safe and well-informed.
The debate over modernising financial service companies compliance models is polarising. On the one hand, established banks and firms will say that what is not broken does not need fixing, however given that the FCA imposed nearly £200m worth of fines to firms in 2020 alone, it would appear that there is definite room for improvement.
Innovative technology offers the ability for financial service companies to automate the process of collating and protecting customer data, and also bypass the risk of human error which can often be a costly and easily-avoided outcome when it comes to compliance.
Automated data processes also offer a multitude of benefits by optimising a bank’s operational efficiency, ensuring regulatory requirements are met, and creating a satisfying customer experience.
In previous decades the financial services industry has been slow to adapt and often it’s been for understandable reasons, the stakes are high and mistakes can result in customers lost and sizable fines.
That said, the benefits of greater digitisation pose too great an opportunity for banks, firms and wealth management companies to upgrade to a more efficient work process and retain & grow more customers.
By utilising the latest technology available to the sector and becoming more open-minded to collaboration with third-party vendors, firms can provide benefit to their customers.
Whether that is streamlining compliance, saving costs and time on payments & transfers or expanding to allow consumers the ability to invest and trade directly from within an ‘all-in-one’ app. The customer now wants efficiency without the sacrifice of security and that is exactly what we should be looking to provide.
Dealing with Disruption: Turning to the cloud for tech-enabled compliance, agility, and resiliency
By Jeff Axelrad, Worldwide Financial Services Compliance Lead at Amazon Web Services
COVID-19 has disrupted the normal course of business for financial consumers and institutions, each of whom bears a unique set of concerns and requirements they need to address. Financial consumers are focused on access to capital, where time is critical in determining the viability of businesses and continuing their ability to meet financial commitments. Financial institutions, including consumer and challenger banks, are focused on safety, security, resiliency, scalability, and the continued health of their operations. Financial regulators are focused on economic recovery, making capital accessible to those who need it, and ensuring the stability of national and global financial systems.
These heightened concerns and requirements translate into increased burdens on the financial system from a technology perspective. The pandemic is challenging legacy applications and infrastructure in their ability to support both the immediate shift to primarily digital engagement with consumers and the extraordinary volumes and volatility that are challenging global markets.
While using the cloud to innovate is one thing, is it feasible in a highly regulated industry such as financial services, and in the midst of a pandemic? The short and definitive answer is yes.
Confidence in the cloud
Financial institutions are working to enable secure and agile operations during a time of extensive operational challenges such as bank branch closures, spikes in call-center volume, extreme trading volatility, and shifts to large-scale remote-work environments.
AWS is working with financial institutions and government and regulatory agencies around the world to help tackle the challenges to the global economy that COVID-19 presents. From enabling remote work, maintaining the operational resilience of mission-critical applications, scaling global market systems to process exceptional volumes, we’re supporting our customers such as to keep the people and systems that run the global economy working.
For example, Barclays a 329-year-old bank, answering to five regulators worldwide, must constantly evolve to keep its customers satisfied while also keeping the bar high for the services it provides consumers. When COVID-19 began, Barclays rapidly and securely modernized its contact centers by moving its 25,000 agents to a work-at-home model in just six weeks using the cloud. Barclays is also looking to the cloud to help simplify its multi-channel customer engagement to serve 80% of inbound voice interactions by 2022 while also saving nearly 50% over time.
At AWS, we take security and privacy extremely seriously, and our customers always own their data, and maintain the ability to encrypt it, move it and delete it. We constantly monitor a fluid regulatory environment, working with regulators globally to monitor for upcoming rules and changes to guidelines that have the potential to impact our customers.
We also enable customers to meet their specific vertical security and compliance needs, and constantly look into other certifications that will define the future. AWS regularly achieves third-party validation for thousands of global compliance requirements that we continually monitor to our customers meet security and compliance standards.
Solarisbank AG, Europe’s leading Banking-as-a-Service platform, was the first bank in Germany to fully migrate to the cloud and included all of its core banking systems, digital products, and databases. The migration from the on-premise datacenter to the cloud took one year and was completed in November 2020. The move to the cloud enabled the company to lift technological and regulatory barriers for its business partners by offering financial services to third parties through its German banking licence and application programming interface (API) services. This in turn enabled them to remain compliant while enabling their partners to offer financial services products to consumers quickly and seamlessly. The cloud migration was a key part of Solarisbank’s strategy of building a product and tech platform that ensures the best possible conditions for scale and automation, in order to accommodate the growing customer bases of its partners.
Additionally, newer technologies such as continuous monitoring help institutions to appropriately manage the operational risks within their cloud environment and ensure they have sufficient processes and security measures in place to support encryption, authentication and reporting.
We expect to see more automation in security with infrastructure and application checks that can help enforce security and compliance controls continuously while reducing human configuration errors. These processes allow financial institutions to maintain the confidentiality and integrity that their customers demand, while maintaining timely and accurate reporting required by industry regulators.
Architecting for resilience
We encourage all financial institutions to create a toolkit that monitors their cloud environment from end to end, enabling them to identify and analyse risk events such as unencrypted data or an unsecured third-party service. With global regulations related to data privacy on the horizon, financial institutions must carefully consider how to manage data and security to ensure they are well positioned to remain compliant, while minimising risk and keeping an eye toward innovation.
The application programming interface-driven infrastructure of the cloud enables organisations to automate the development and operation of their application infrastructure. At AWS, we also take active measures to minimise the impact of potential events and maintain our security and resiliency through a variety of ways. For example, we build our cloud infrastructure in diverse geographic regions with multiple availability zones per region. This diffuses the potential for systemic risk in any industry or location.
The Road Ahead
While we work with our customers including Global Payments, HSBC, JP Morgan Chase, Itaú Unibanco, and Standard Chartered to focus on the tasks at hand, we also recognize that the lessons we learn from this extraordinary moment in history will shape the future of our industry. What lies ahead is an agile, powerful, and secure opportunity to use technology to invent and reinvent the way organisations are able to act, preempt disruption, and think about the future of the financial services industry.
AI-powered visibility key to mitigating IT systems risk in financial services
By Penelope Feros, Vice President, APAC, Cherwell Software
The world of finance changes by the minute. Financial businesses — from banks to insurance agencies and brokerages — are facing a myriad of macro challenges that come along with modernisation.
The rise of fintech and challenger banks make the landscape more competitive than ever, putting pressure on the ingenuity of offers, fees, and net interest margins (NIMs). Today’s mostly online banking means an increased need for cybersecurity and protection against data breaches and costly outages.
Automation is no longer a futuristic option for the workplace, but now, a reality that also impacts the customer experience. Disruptive technologies like AI to address the exponential rise in data and complexity in finserv organisations is primed to grow in significance across IT teams in the region.
According to IDC, financial services spending on AI in Asia Pacific will reach US$4.29 billion in 2024, with Australia making significant traction and advancements in AI spending, alongside key financial hub markets Singapore and Hong Kong.
Rising system vulnerabilities within complex IT environments
Digital transformation has resulted in IT infrastructure complexity growing at an astronomical rate. The resultant increases in infrastructure data and alarms at the service desk far exceed the capacity of any human to meaningfully read, analyse and respond to them. The infrastructure itself is also constantly morphing and changing, yet finance service desks are still expected to resolve requests, incidents, and performance issues in seconds – an impossible task, given the volume of data.
Financial brands are expected to maintain a pristine reputation while making sure all business-critical applications perform optimally, in order to stay competitive and deliver a better service experience.
Every application is supported by a complex fabric of servers, network devices and services – both physical and virtual – local and in the cloud. The impact of an outage or vulnerability for any one of those components can be extreme. IT teams need to monitor not just every device, but also the dependencies between them. Understanding all of the pieces that make an application available is about more than knowing the up or down status.
With security vulnerabilities putting customer data at risk, having awareness of the priority systems that need to be secured is also vital. As the architectures behind applications become even more complicated with the cloud, virtualisation and shared services, manual documentation of dependencies is no longer a feasible option.
AIOps implementation begins with discovery and analysis
The good news is that the solutions available to automatically discover the organisation’s systems and map dependencies are much more sophisticated today.
Discovery and dependency mapping (DDM) tools enable organisations to see how physical, virtual, and logical compute, network, and storage entities are connected. They can handle the complexity of distributed hybrid environments, giving finserv IT teams the opportunity to visualise and manage the components of their online retail, supply chain, ERP and other critical applications.
The discovery phase involves uncovering all of the compute, network and storage entities across the IT environment and ensuring the organisation’s configuration management database (CMDB) is always kept up to date.
DDM tools depict the interdependencies in a graphical format, so IT teams can readily see the connections between assets, and which services they support – critical to troubleshooting incidents or preventing impact of change.
Once the CMDB is kept up to date with automated discovery and dependency mapping, finserv organisations need to make sense of the data in order to make informed decisions. By applying machine learning algorithms to analyse this data, AIOps can identify patterns, spot anomalies and predict (and prevent) future outages. The resulting insights can trigger intelligent automations to effectively prevent outages, improve performance, and ease the burden of managing increasingly complex infrastructure. By automatically triggering actions based on insights, AIOps can quickly fix issues or prevent them from happening, whether it’s a network link that’s gone down, an over-utilised disk or a service that simply requires a restart.
With automatic discovery and dependency mapping, AIOps allow financial services organisations to, gain visibility over IT environments, rapidly evaluate changing needs, and the means to quickly meet them. Adoption of the right solutions leveraging AI can help IT operations in financial services organisations make sense of the growing volumes of data and get on top of increasing risks of outages.
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