Banking risk management is changing—but some challenges remain the same

As the cliché goes, if you’ve grown tired of the current and climate, give it a few minutes. It’s bound to change.

By the 2020s, Accenture predicts current banking business models to be swept away by a tide of ever-evolving and other rapidly occurring changes. The risk function is sure to be pressed to evolve in parallel and it is, according to our 2017 Global Risk Management Study.

In this blog series on banking risk management, I will offer Accenture’s perspective of the changes that have already happened, and those yet to come. I will start with an overview of nearly a decade of risk facing , and then take a deeper look at the fresh challenges facing banking risk leaders today.

We’ve been studying risk management across financial services—as well as in banking—since our first study debuted in 2009. Then, banking risk managers were reacting to the global crisis, grappled with siloed organizations, with technology not fit for purpose and a shortage in risk resources.

Since then, banking risk leaders have made significant, admirable gains. Moving past the global economic crisis, by 2013 risk leaders began having a direct line to the CEO, even taking a “seat at the table” by 2015.

Meanwhile, pressure mounts with rapidly increasing data volumes and requirements, and organizational analytic capabilities require constant upgrading. Likewise, digital data management and data analysis skills are more in demand than ever, adding to the ongoing talent squeeze.

Our 2017 Global Risk Management Study findings illustrate the rapid pace of change across banking and the risk function, both driven by digital change, digital capabilities and digital competitors. Alongside this change, challenges similar to those from 2009 (see Figure 1). Banks face increasing business pressure to integrate risk and finance functions. They still struggle with talent shortages. From a technology standpoint, change is ongoing, but banks are stretching to use new technology (such as automation and cognitive computing) to full potential.

Additionally, risk managers continue to face conduct risk, reputational risk and strategic risk challenges. Other new risks are still emerging, such as model risk, cyber risk and contagion risk. Complicating matters, the 2017 study finds banking risk leaders facing the expectations as their bank peers in terms of driving efficiency and wisely selecting the right people, technology and partnerships to get work done.

In the midst of—and to address—these challenges, banks are in varying stages of experimentation and adoption with cloud, analytics, automation and artificial intelligence. These technologies offer promise, both in terms of innovative, sleek solutions and substantial cost and efficiency gains.  Can these technologies deliver beyond their promise?

Our study finds the time for modest change or incremental fixes has passed. True, we might have predicted the steady growth of technologies such as cloud, artificial intelligence and analytics, but the competitive shifts are less expected, and new non-financial risks are a bit of a surprise. But the biggest surprise is the pace of change: more rapid than we might have expected.

What can help banking risk leaders keep pace with constant and rapid change, and fend off new traditional and non-bank competitors?  It’s time to innovate. Banking risk leaders may want to carve out a core, proactive strategy that can build risk capabilities overall—now and in an ever-changing future.

Figure 1: Evolution of Risk Management. For more details, view our interactive timeline.

Evolution of risk management since 2009, across areas of integration, technology and talent
Click to view larger

Please join me in my blogs as I share my thoughts on how risk teams can become key organizational leaders by adopting smart technologies, playing the role of integrators of risk within the wider business, and layering existing risk talent to be multi-disciplinarian players and drivers of business value.


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