By Charlotte Longman, Senior Principal Consultant, ACA Compliance Group
This week marks three years since the Market Abuse Regulation (MAR) overhauled the civil market abuse regime across Europe, repealing and replacing the Market Abuse Directive (MAD) and the UK’s own domestic legislation.
Developed in parallel with the revised Markets in Financial Instruments legislative package (MiFID II), MAR significantly extended the reach of the European regulatory regime to capture a wider scope of markets, instruments and behaviours, and contained specific provisions to address the proliferation of technology-driven trading practices and platforms. Designed to tackle misconduct and restore market confidence, MAR aimed to increase both market integrity and investor protection.
Three years on, we examine the impact of the regulation and ask if market abuse is still a priority for the FCA. Here are eight outcomes resulting from the legislation:
A rise in STORs submissions indicate an increase in firms’ awareness of risk:
It‘s evident that MAR had a galvanising effect on the industry as seen from the substantial increase in the submission of Suspicious Transaction and Order Reports (STORs). There was a 70% increase in submissions in the six months post-implementation, and a further 30% increase between H2 2016 and H2 2018. Market participants are clearly more alive to the risks present within their organisations.
Understanding of obligations is good, but actions still fall short:
In 2018, the FCA issued its Market Abuse Questionnaire, which was announced at the Asset Management Conference in the summer. The survey was issued to over 400 firms, a statistically significant portion of firms supervised in the alternative and asset management portfolio and focussed on firm’s systems and controls. The findings were published in Market Watch 58. These generally indicate that many market participants have a good understanding of their obligations, however there are areas which present challenges, including surveillance of all orders and transactions. Quote surveillance technology was in its infancy when MAR came into force but, given the lapse of time since July 2016, the FCA now expect firms to be fully in compliance.
The FCA is turning a more focused lens on market abuse: We saw a flurry of market abuse related communications from the FCA late in 2018. This followed little new guidance or clarity from the FCA during the preceding period, aside from the consultation and subsequent enactment of the updates to the Financial Crime Guide, which also took effect in December. This rise in communication indicates that the FCA is increasing its focus on this topic in an attempt to improve standards and ensure that the UK has a clean, orderly and transparent market in which participants can trust.
Regular reinforcement from the regulator:
Published in April each year, the FCA’s business plan is the best indicator of the regulator’s priorities for the forthcoming year. Preventing and detecting market abuse features regularly in these publications. The plan released after MAR implementation focused on embedding the new regime but also pointed attention to MiFID II and the enhanced transaction reporting obligations under the accompanying Regulation. In its 2018/19 plan, the regulator explicitly highlighted that supervision on fixed income, commodity and non-standard derivative markets has historically received less focus than equities, noting “we will monitor, detect and investigate potential abuse in these markets and enforce against unlawful behaviour where appropriate.” The FCA’s most recent business plan for 2019/2020 highlights that the regulator will concentrate on “key areas in firms’ control frameworks, focusing on areas such as the control of inside information”. It states its “work will aim to ensure that firms respond appropriately to the 2018 update to the FCA’s Financial Crime Guide for Firms on the risks of insider dealing and market manipulation.”
In addition, earlier this year, the FCA issued a Dear CEO letter to wholesale broking market participants. The FCA feel that “the wholesale broking business model poses an inherently high risk of market abuse” as it can be used to facilitate abusive trades but also regularly hold confidential, or inside, information. The FCA warned that the dissemination of this style of informationmust be carefully managed as it can be easily abused, with the inference being that employees use it in their personal trading as low levels of trading were being reported in some firms. All firms can take this as a warning to ensure their Personal Account Dealing policies and procedures are sufficiently robust.
Complete and accurate transaction reporting is instrumental in supporting the prevention of market abuse: MiFID II significantly expanded the FCA’s ability to survey for market abuse by increasing the number of firms in scope of the reporting requirements, whilst simultaneously increasing the data within the reports to include, for examples, individual decision makers and where executions involved in algorithms. The importance of this change in regime was highlighted by the FCA in its 2017/18 business plan, where it noted that information in the expanded transaction reports “will significantly increase the effectiveness of our market abuse work”. Additionally, the message has recently been repeated in the context of enforcement action for transaction reporting failings. This highlights the reliance the FCA place on complete and accurate information in helping “the FCA identify potential instances of market abuse and combat financial crime”.
Prevention is better than cure:
Julia Hoggett was appointed Director of the Market Oversight Division of the FCA in April 2017. Hoggett has since made two important speeches on Market Abuse, the first approximately six months after her appointment in November 2017. The initial speech discussed compliance with MAR being a ‘state of mind’ and involves critical thinking and enhancing trust, plus evolution. The second speech in 2019 built on the evolution point asking the industry to do more to improve its capacity and ability to conduct surveillance in the non-equity space, with a focus on prevention rather than detection of market abuse. Evolution was also considered in the context of the changes to the market environment – for example the increase in the use of algorithmic trading, and the need to ensure that market participants keep pace.
Enforcement is real:
The FCA continues to pursue enforcement action where it has identified breaches of rules, both in criminal and civil proceedings. We’ve seen a number of high profile sanctions on both individuals and investment firms for a variety of crimes ranging from insider dealing and engaging in market abuse, to inadequate systems and controls preventing the firm from identifying and reporting suspicious activity.
Effective trade surveillance for all Financial Crimes is imperative:
Most recently, the FCA published the findings of its thematic review into money laundering risks and vulnerabilities in capital markets, which highlighted that many firms’ “main focus was detecting market abuse”. It also identified “a potential disconnect between some participants’ trade surveillance for market abuse and AML transaction monitoring functions, with the result that participants were not always recognising the potential for correlation between market abuse and money laundering.” The FCA also confirmed its expectation that firms must have regard to both their obligations under the Proceeds of Crime Act for submitting a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR), and the Market Abuse Regulation, for submitting STORs.
Protecting and enhancing the integrity of the UK financial system is, and continues to be, a key operational objective for the FCA. Over the next few years, we expect the detection and prevention of market abuse will remain an absolute priority area for the FCA.
To take the nation’s financial pulse, we must go digital
By Pete Bulley, Director of Product, Aire
The last six months have brought the precarious financial situation of many millions across the world into sharper focus than ever before. But while the figures may be unprecedented, the underlying problem is not a new one – and it requires serious attention as well as action from lenders to solve it.
Research commissioned by Aire in February found that eight out of ten adults in the UK would be unable to cover essential monthly spending should their income drop by 20%. Since then, Covid-19 has increased the number without employment by 730,000 people between July and March, and saw 9.6 million furloughed as part of the job retention scheme.
The figures change daily but here are a few of the most significant: one in six mortgage holders had opted to take a payment holiday by June. Lenders had granted almost a million credit card payment deferrals, provided 686,500 payment holidays on personal loans, and offered 27 million interest-free overdrafts.
The pressure is growing for lenders and with no clear return to normal in sight, we are unfortunately likely to see levels of financial distress increase exponentially as we head into winter. Recent changes to the job retention scheme are signalling the start of the withdrawal of government support.
The challenge for lenders
Lenders have been embracing digital channels for years. However, we see it usually prioritised at acquisition, with customer management neglected in favour of getting new customers through the door. Once inside, even the most established of lenders are likely to fall back on manual processes when it comes to managing existing customers.
It’s different for fintechs. Unburdened by legacy systems, they’ve been able to begin with digital to offer a new generation of consumers better, more intuitive service. Most often this is digitised, mobile and seamless, and it’s spreading across sectors. While established banks and service providers are catching up — offering mobile payments and on-the-go access to accounts — this part of their service is still lagging. Nowhere is this felt harder than in customer management.
Time for a digital solution in customer management
With digital moving higher up the agenda for lenders as a result of the pandemic, many still haven’t got their customer support properly in place to meet demand. Manual outreach is still relied upon which is both heavy on resource and on time.
Lenders are also grappling with regulation. While many recognise the moral responsibility they have for their customers, they are still blind to the new tools available to help them act effectively and at scale.
In 2015, the FCA released its Fair Treatment of Customers regulations requiring that ‘consumers are provided with clear information and are kept appropriately informed before, during and after the point of sale’.
But when the individual financial situation of customers is changing daily, never has this sentiment been more important (or more difficult) for lenders to adhere to. The problem is simple: the traditional credit scoring methods relied upon by lenders are no longer dynamic enough to spot sudden financial change.
The answer lies in better, and more scalable, personalised support. But to do this, lenders need rich, real-time insight so that lenders can act effectively, as the regulator demands. It needs to be done at scale and it needs to be done with the consumer experience in mind, with convenience and trust high on the agenda.
Placing the consumer at the heart of the response
To better understand a customer, inviting them into a branch or arranging a phone call may seem the most obvious solution. However, health concerns mean few people want to see their providers face-to-face, and fewer staff are in branches, not to mention the cost and time outlay by lenders this would require.
Call centres are not the answer either. Lack of trained capacity, cost and the perceived intrusiveness of calls are all barriers. We know from our own consumer research at Aire that customers are less likely to engage directly with their lenders on the phone when they feel payment demands will be made of them.
If lenders want reliable, actionable insight that serves both their needs (and their customers) they need to look to digital.
Asking the person who knows best – the borrower
So if the opportunity lies in gathering information directly from the consumer – the solution rests with first-party data. The reasons we pioneer this approach at Aire are clear: firstly, it provides a truly holistic view of each customer to the lender, a richer picture that covers areas that traditional credit scoring often misses, including employment status and savings levels. Secondly, it offers consumers the opportunity to engage directly in the process, finally shifting the balance in credit scoring into the hands of the individual.
With the right product behind it, this can be achieved seamlessly and at scale by lenders. Pulse from Aire provides a link delivered by SMS or email to customers, encouraging them to engage with Aire’s Interactive Virtual Interview (IVI). The information gathered from the consumer is then validated by Aire to provide the genuinely holistic view of a consumer that lenders require, delivering insights that include risk of financial difficulty, validated disposable income and a measure of engagement.
No lengthy or intrusive phone calls. No manual outreach or large call centre requirements. And best of all, lenders can get started in just days and they save up to £60 a customer.
Too good to be true?
This still leaves questions. How can you trust data provided directly from consumers? What about AI bias – are the results fair? And can lenders and customers alike trust it?
To look at first-party misbehaviour or ‘gaming’, sophisticated machine-learning algorithms are used to validate responses for accuracy. Essentially, they measure responses against existing contextual data and check its plausibility.
Aire also looks at how the IVI process is completed. By looking at how people complete the interview, not just what they say, we can spot with a high degree of accuracy if people are trying to game the system.
AI bias – the system creating unfair outcomes – is tackled through governance and culture. In working towards our vision of a world where finance is truly free from bias or prejudice, we invest heavily in constructing the best model governance systems we can at Aire to ensure our models are analysed systematically before being put into use.
This process has undergone rigorous improvements to ensure our outputs are compliant by regulatory standards and also align with our own company principles on data and ethics.
That leaves the issue of encouraging consumers to be confident when speaking to financial institutions online. Part of the solution is developing a better customer experience. If the purpose of this digital engagement is to gather more information on a particular borrower, the route the borrower takes should be personal and reactive to the information they submit. The outcome and potential gain should be clear.
The right technology at the right time?
What is clear is that in Covid-19, and the resulting financial shockwaves, lenders face an unprecedented challenge in customer management. In innovative new data in the form of first-party data, harnessed ethically, they may just have an unprecedented solution.
The Future of Software Supply Chain Security: A focus on open source management
By Emile Monette, Director of Value Chain Security at Synopsys
Software Supply Chain Security: change is needed
Attacks on the Software Supply Chain (SSC) have increased exponentially, fueled at least in part by the widespread adoption of open source software, as well as organisations’ insufficient knowledge of their software content and resultant limited ability to conduct robust risk management. As a result, the SSC remains an inviting target for would-be attackers. It has become clear that changes in how we collectively secure our supply chains are required to raise the cost, and lower the impact, of attacks on the SSC.
A report by Atlantic Council found that “115 instances, going back a decade, of publicly reported attacks on the SSC or disclosure of high-impact vulnerabilities likely to be exploited” in cyber-attacks were implemented by affecting aspects of the SSC. The report highlights a number of alarming trends in the security of the SSC, including a rise in the hijacking of software updates, attacks by state actors, and open source compromises.
This article explores the use of open source software – a primary foundation of almost all modern software – due to its growing prominence, and more importantly, its associated security risks. Poorly managed open source software exposes the user to a number of security risks as it provides affordable vectors to potential attackers allowing them to launch attacks on a variety of entities—including governments, multinational corporations, and even the small to medium-sized companies that comprise the global technology supply chain, individual consumers, and every other user of technology.
The risks of open source software for supply chain security
The 2020 Open Source Security and Risk Analysis (OSSRA) report states that “If your organisation builds or simply uses software, you can assume that software will contain open source. Whether you are a member of an IT, development, operations, or security team, if you don’t have policies in place for identifying and patching known issues with the open source components you’re using, you’re not doing your job.”
Open source code now creates the basic infrastructure of most commercial software which supports enterprise systems and networks, thus providing the foundation of almost every software application used across all industries worldwide. Therefore, the need to identify, track and manage open source code components and libraries has risen tremendously.
License identification, patching vulnerabilities and introducing policies addressing outdated open source packages are now all crucial for responsible open source use. However, the use of open source software itself is not the issue. Because many software engineers ‘reuse’ code components when they are creating software (this is in fact a widely acknowledged best practice for software engineering), the risk of those components becoming out of date has grown. It is the use of unpatched and otherwise poorly managed open source software that is really what is putting organizations at risk.
The 2020 OSSRA report also reveals a variety of worrying statistics regarding SSC security. For example, according to the report, it takes organisations an unacceptably long time to mitigate known vulnerabilities, with 2020 being the first year that the Heartbleed vulnerability was not found in any commercial software analyzed for the OSSRA report. This is six years after the first public disclosure of Heartbleed – plenty of time for even the least sophisticated attackers to take advantage of the known and publicly reported vulnerability.
The report also found that 91% of the investigated codebases contained components that were over four years out of date or had no developments made in the last two years, putting these components at a higher risk of vulnerabilities. Additionally, vulnerabilities found in the audited codebases had an average age of almost 4 ½ years, with 19% of vulnerabilities being over 10 years old, and the oldest vulnerability being a whopping 22 years old. Therefore, it is clear that open source users are not adequately defending themselves against open source enabled cyberattacks. This is especially concerning as 99% of the codebases analyzed in the OSSRA report contained open source software, with 75% of these containing at least one vulnerability, and 49% containing high-risk vulnerabilities.
Mitigating open source security risks
In order to mitigate security risks when using open source components, one must know what software you’re using, and which exploits impact its vulnerabilities. One way to do this is to obtain a comprehensive bill of materials from your suppliers (also known as a “build list” or a “software bill of materials” or “SBOM”). Ideally, the SBOM should contain all the open source components, as well as the versions used, the download locations for all projects and dependencies, the libraries which the code calls to, and the libraries that those dependencies link to.
Creating and communicating policies
Modern applications contain an abundance of open source components with possible security, code quality and licensing issues. Over time, even the best of these open source components will age (and newly discovered vulnerabilities will be identified in the codebase), which will result in them at best losing intended functionality, and at worst exposing the user to cyber exploitation.
Organizations should ensure their policies address updating, licensing, vulnerability management and other risks that the use of open source can create. Clear policies outlining introduction and documentation of new open source components can improve the control of what enters the codebase and that it complies with the policies.
Prioritizing open source security efforts
Organisations should prioritise open source vulnerability mitigation efforts in relation to CVSS (Common Vulnerability Scoring System) scores and CWE (Common Weakness Enumeration) information, along with information about the availability of exploits, paying careful attention to the full life cycle of the open source component, instead of only focusing on what happens on “day zero.” Patch priorities should also be in-line with the business importance of the asset patched, the risk of exploitation and the criticality of the asset. Similarly, organizations must consider using sources outside of the CVSS and CWE information, many of which provide early notification of vulnerabilities, and in particular, choosing one that delivers technical details, upgrade and patch guidance, as well as security insights. Lastly, it is important for organisations to monitor for new threats for the entire time their applications remain in service.
On the Frontlines of Fraud: Tactics for Merchants to Protect Their Businesses
By Nicole Jass, Senior Vice President of Small Business and Fraud Products at FIS
Fraud isn’t new, but the new realities brought by COVID-19 for merchants, and the rising tide of attacks have changed the way we need to approach the fight. Even before the pandemic broke out earlier this year, the transition to digital payments was well underway, which means fighting fraud needs a multilayered, multi-channel approach. Not only do you want to increase approval rates, you want to protect your revenue and stop fraud before it happens.
A great place to start is working with your payment partners to refresh your company’s fraud strategies with emerging top three best practices:
- AI-based machine learning fraud solutions helps your business stay ahead of fraud trends. Leveraging data profiles to model both “good” and “bad” behavior helps find and reduce fraud. AI-based machine learning will be increasingly essential to stay ahead of the explosive and sophisticated eCommerce fraud.
- Increasing capabilities around device fingerprinting and behavioral data are essential to detect fraud before it happens. While much of the user-input values can be easily manipulated to look more authentic, device fingerprinting and behavioral data are captured in the background to derive unique details from the user’s device and behavior. Bringing in more unique elements into decisioning, can help authenticate the users and determine the validity of the transactions.
- Prioritize user authentication. User authentication is a vital linchpin in any fraud defense and should receive even greater priority today. Setting strong password requirements and implementing multi-factor authentication helps curb fraud attacks from account takeover.
As well as working with your payment partners it’s more critical than ever to protect online transactions while not jeopardizing legitimate purchases. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do right now to address these concerns:
- Monitor warning signs
Payment verification is an important part of protecting your business. There are a variety of strategies to employ including implementing technology utilizing artificial intelligence and machine learning to help catch certain patterns. In addition to technology, here are a few other tips that may serve as warning signs. These are not a guarantee fraud is occurring, but they are flags to investigate.
o The shipping address and billing address differ
o Multiple orders of the same item
o Unusually large orders
o Multiple orders to the same address with different cards
o Unexpected international orders
- Require identity verification
Finding a balance between protection and ease of purchase will ultimately help you protect your customers and your business. The following tactics can make it more difficult for fraudsters to be successful:
o For customers that have a login, require a minimum of eight characters as well as the use of special characters in your customers’ passwords
o Set up Two-Factor Authentication that requires a One-time Passcode (OTP) via SMS or email
o Use biometric authentication for mobile purchases or logins
- Monitor chargebacks
Keeping good records is essential for eCommerce. If a customer initiates a dispute, your only available recourse is to provide proof that the order was fulfilled. Be prepared to provide all the supporting information about a disputed transaction. Worldpay’s Disputes solutions can connect to your CRM and provide you dual-layer protection against friendly fraud, first deflecting them before they arise and then fully managing chargeback defenses on your behalf.
- Monitor declines
Credit card issuers mitigate fraud by automatically declining payments that look suspicious, based on unusual card activity such as drastic changes in spending patterns or uncommon geolocations of spending. You can check your own declined payment history to help spot a potential problem. When volumes increase, the help of a payments fraud management partner is beneficial.
- Protect your own wallet
While you take the steps to protect your business, it’s also important to be mindful of your own protection—it’s incumbent on all responsible consumers to be vigilant about their data. Whether it’s simple awareness of how the fraudsters are operating today, sticking to trusted brands when shopping online, and thinking twice about what data you share and who you share it with, you’ll soon see how often you are sharing personal information about yourself.
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