Analysis Featured

The Age of Regulation Technology : 2002-Present

As recently as fifteen years ago banks and other financial companies had very little reason to designate a manager, let alone a whole department to regulatory compliance.

To prepare for our event on August 25th in San Francisco we are exploring the Regulation Technology space and history.

According HR consulting firm, Robert Half International, the average Chief Compliance Officer earns somewhere between $122,250 – $251,500, depending on the size of the company. This may not seem too unusual as CCO is a commonly found and highly prized position in most financial institutions today.

In 2015, JPMorgan reported that they had hired 8,000 compliance and control staff in recent years and had completed 800,000 hours of compliance training in one year alone. Recently, the Wall Street Journal named Compliance Officer the “hottest job in America.” Before we examine the future of compliance in the fintech industry, it is important to understand what caused the recent rise of federal regulation and stressed importance of corporate responsibility.

Many analysts date the proliferation of the CCO and to US’s crackdown on money laundering in response to the 911 terrorist attacks in 2001. In 2002, SEC Commissioner Cynthia Glassman made a speech in DC about the Idea of “Good” Governance, calling for the need of a “corporate responsibility officer” in America’s public companies. Glassman’s speech came shortly after the collapse of Enron and the enactment of Sarbanes-Oxley Act, but preceded the arguably more troublesome global financial crisis of 2007-08. Since the crisis, the US has seen nothing but an increase in regulatory developments in order to combat issues of fraud and corruption.

How to Prevent “Too Big to Fail” From Failing: An Average of 155 Regulatory Changes a DAY

The task of compliance does not come easily or inexpensively, several high-profile corporations have paid as much as $36billion in settlements and penalties, as well as spent up to $4billion in order to hire and train thousands of compliance staff to prevent wrong-doing in the future. Billions of dollars and thousands of hours are being spent on compliance and here’s why: the federal government is doing just about everything in its power to prevent another financial crisis, meaning regulating risk-taking, protecting against fraud, and ensuring due diligence.

The reason companies are paying good money for Compliance Officers? It is an almost impossible job. According to a Thomas Reuters report, financial regulators issued 40,603 regulatory updates in the 2014 calendar year. Fortunately, companies are finding ways to meet state and federal compliance regulations though automation.  Several technology-based compliance companies, such as IdentityMind, Microbilt/ComplyTraq have created automated systems to help companies and banks prevent fraud and access risk. While the government is doing what it can to limit risk and prevent large corporations that are “too big to fail” from failing, smaller financial institutions and credit companies are using technology and compliance trained employees to maintain an equilibrium between responsibility and profitability.

The Object of the Game is to Reduce Operating Costs

Most business owners would agree that the main problem with regulatory compliance is that generates absolutely no profit, but costs a great deal of money, time and effort. As mentioned in a previous Lending-Times.com article on rules-based compliance software engines, there are anywhere between 10,000-100,000 state and federal regulations applied to the average mortgage. The manpower it takes to sort though and comply to that high number of regulations is costly. To apply a cliché sports metaphor, the best offense is a good defense; in this case, in order for a credit or financial company to earn a high profit, it needs to be able to cut back on costs.

The IdentityMind platform uses a digital system to verify customers/business’ identities in order to prevent fraud and identity theft. Borrower identity verification is the first step in risk evaluation, and through IdentityMind’s automated system, businesses are able to not only cut back on the staff but also the time needed to complete a manual review of customer information. Their IGNITE program is advertised as “the most sophisticated AML Compliance platform available” for Bitcoin start-ups, saving time and money while complying with US and Worldwide regulations.

Rules-Based Software Needs Rules

The truth of the matter is that however, seamless an automated system appears to operate it does still need an operator. Compliance jobs are still on the rise because someone still needs to create the rules for a rules-based software engine. Microbilt Corporation created ComplyTraq, a joint venture with well-known industry veteran and attorney Oscar Marquis. ComplyTraq is a marriage of automated KYC, AML, and ACH software and extensive compliance employee training. They offer services such as credentialing, training, and auditing.

While identity verification and risk assessment can be automated quite easily, interpreting laws and regulations still requires a highly trained compliance staff. It is a pretty well-accepted fact that automation replacing most “routine-job” employees, and while compliance seems like a lot of paper-pushing, it actually had serious implications in the financial industry.  There are many factors in a regulatory compliance position that can be sped along with technology, but the human aspect of compliance cannot be replaced by well-designed platforms altogether.  Automation can save money, time, and resources, but it is not absolute in its ability to comply with complex regulations and restrictions. Hence, the number of compliance officers in the US (and their salaries) have continued to rise, and will most likely continue to do so for some time.

Looking Forward: Could Complytech be the New Fintech?

As noted in a recent Bloomberg article, “compliance, not banking, has been the real growth business since 2008.” While a majority of these regulations have been put in place to protect America’s interests, the burden of compliance is a costly reality. Yes, regulations tend to limit the amount of risk-taking, but several companies have begun honing in on the appropriate amount of risk to take in order to balance compliance with profitability. The reign of the CCO may be just beginning, but the future looks bright with companies like IdentityMind and ComplyTraq already rising to the challenge of corporate and financial responsibility.

Author:

Lauren Twardy
Lauren Twardy

About the author

George Popescu

Serial entrepreneur.

George sold and exited his most successful company, Boston Technologies (BT) group, in 2014. BT was a technology, market maker, high-frequency trading and inter-broker broker-dealer in the FX Spot, precious metals and CFDs space company. George was the Founder and CEO and he boot-strapped from $0 to a $20+ million in revenue without any equity investment. BT has been #1 fastest growing company in Boston in 2011 according to the Boston Business Journal and the only company being in top 10 fastest in 2012-13 as it was #5 in 2012. BT has been on the Inc. 500/5000 list of fastest growing companies in the US for 4 years in a row ( #143, #373, #897 and #1270). After the company sale in July 2014 until February 2015 George was Head-of-Strategy for Currency Mountain ( www.currencymountain.com ), a USD 100 million+ holding company focused on retail and medium institutional currencies, precious metals, stocks, fixed income and commodities businesses.

• Over the last 10 years, George founded 10 companies in online lending, craft beer brewery, exotic sports car rental space, hedge funds, peer-reviewed scientific journal ( Journal of Cellular and Molecular medicine…) and more. George advised 30+ early stage start-ups in different fields. George was also a mentor at MIT’s Venture Mentoring Services and Techstar Fintech in NY.

• Previously George obtained 3 Master's Degrees: a Master's of Science from MIT working on 3D printing, a Master’s in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from Supelec, France and a Master's in Nanosciences from Paris XI University. Previously he worked as a visiting scientist at MIT in Bio-engineering for 2 years. George had 3 undergrad majors: Maths, Physics and Chemistry. His scientific career led to about 10 publications and patents.

• On the business side, Boston Business Journal has named me in the top 40 under 40 in 2012 in recognition of his business achievements.

• George is originally from Romania and grew up in Paris, France.

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