back icon Back Insights 10/17/2023

Charting the Course: Best Practices for Navigating Regulatory Compliance in the Financial Industry

Regulatory compliance is vital for preserving trust and market integrity in every industry; however, few verticals contend with a level of regulatory burden quite like financial institutions. With its compliance complexities and wealth of sensitive information, the financial landscape demands diligence and precision from banks, credit unions, and financial service providers.

At a time when financial institutions are a prime target for fraudulent practices and fictitious partners, assuring regulatory compliance is more than just ensuring fair operations—it’s about upholding consumer trust and safeguarding company interests against penalties. Now a central focus for global regulators, it’s imperative for institutions to navigate compliance effectively.

In this comprehensive guide for stakeholders, we’ll explore the key regulatory bodies, primary challenges, and best practices surrounding regulatory compliance for financial institutions, along with how to implement a Compliance Management System (CMS).

Understanding Regulatory Compliance in the Financial Industry

Let’s start with the basics: What is the regulation of banks and financial institutions? At its core, regulatory compliance for financial institutions centers around adherence to the laws, regulations, and guidelines set by regional, national, and international bodies. These standards were designed to ensure that institutions operate transparently, ethically, and within the bounds of the law.

Modern iterations of regulatory compliance for financial institutions can be traced more than 160 years into American history, when the passing of the National Banking Act of 1863 marked the start of federal regulations. Fast-forward to 1999, and the passing of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) began a new era of consumer information-sharing practices to safeguard sensitive data.

Today, compliance mechanisms are integral to protecting consumers from fraudulent practices, ensuring that investments, interests, and personal information are safeguarded. With massive amounts of money moved daily, compliance promotes market security. Compliant operations are transparent, fostering a climate of trust and predictability that’s critical for economic stability.

While ensuring ethical operations, compliance also saves institutions from financial ramifications, which can be substantial in the case of deviations. When disregarding compliance standards, banks, credit unions, insurance providers, and other financial institutions are 300 times more likely to be the victims of a data breach, which can incur a global average cost of $4.45 million.

Key Regulatory Bodies and Frameworks

Several regulatory bodies govern financial institutions in the United States, ensuring compliance among organizations that offer financial products or services, including commercial banking, investment, and insurance services. Frameworks have emerged over the past century to streamline regulatory compliance for financial institutions, with five regulatory bodies at the helm:

  1. The Federal Reserve (Fed) is the central banking system of the United States. It was created after the enactment of the 1913 Federal Reserve Act to formulate monetary policy as well as monitor and regulate banks to ensure they operate within set parameters. 
  2. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the only federal agency with consumer protection and competition jurisdiction in the American economy. Formed in 1914, the FTC passes financial information protection law, including the Consumer Protection Act and GLBA.
  3. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is an independent federal agency formed after the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. As the watchdog against fraudulent practices in securities markets, it oversees securities transactions, ensuring transparency and fairness.
  4. Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS) is a 45-member group formed in 1974 comprising central banks from 28 jurisdictions. It creates international standards focusing on liquidity risk, leverage, and capital adequacy for banks and financial institutions. 
  5. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) is a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Treasury forged in 1990. It monitors financial transaction data to combat domestic and international money laundering, terrorist financing, and similar financial crimes. 

The Challenges of Achieving Regulatory Compliance in the Financial Industry

So, what is the most common compliance issue facing the financial institution industry? By and large, the answer seems to be the complexities of the regulatory landscape. As compliance regulations evolve, especially with the integration of new financial technologies, institutions must remain agile. However, overlapping guidelines from multiple bodies are oftentimes confusing.

Moreover, while regulatory compliance is a necessity, financial institutions often grapple with aligning these requirements with their overarching business objectives. It’s vital to find synergy between the two or risk the financial and reputational implications of non-compliance. That leads us to another burning question: what are regulatory compliance risks for banks?

As per a recent IBM report, organizations with high levels of noncompliance incur costs of over $5 million, which exceeds the average cost of a data breach by $560,000 (12.6%). Not to mention, institutions involved in data and privacy scandals can lose up to 56% of their market cap relative to their peers, and fall behind the comparable industry index by up to 74% in just two years. 

Apart from financial implications, institutions also face the threat of irreparable reputational damage. Nearly a quarter of consumers say the frequent misuse of personal information, despite data protection regulations, has made them less willing to share data with financial providers. Likewise, 43% of Americans report less trust in financial institutions due to noncompliance. 

Best Practices for Navigating Regulatory Compliance in the Financial Industry

The average customer attrition rate in the financial services industry has climbed to 15%, meaning institutions must abide by compliance requirements or face the consequences. To better navigate regulatory compliance, consider engaging with industry networks. An open dialogue with peers provides insight into best practices and offers a heads-up on potential regulatory changes.

The first thing fellow institutions or regulatory bodies will suggest is establishing a compliance management system (CMS). A CMS integrates various compliance processes across the institution to allow for consistency, easier monitoring, and assurance that the compliance approach is holistic. Beyond just a one-time setup, the compliance landscape will demand regular check-ups.

Employ risk assessment tools and periodic audits to ensure that any potential compliance risks are swiftly identified and addressed. Similarly, deploy continual training sessions to guarantee that all employees are up-to-date with the latest in customer information and compliance norms. Focusing on staff education reduces the risk of inadvertent violations and repercussions.  

Most importantly, remember that clarity is essential. By establishing clear, actionable policies and procedures, institutions can ensure that every stakeholder—from the top executive to the newest recruit—understands and adheres to regulatory compliance norms. In addition to routine training, establish an internal feedback mechanism for employees to voice any compliance concerns. 

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Regulatory compliance for financial institutions is far from simple, but it is crucial. From avoiding costly noncompliance penalties to supporting a positive brand reputation, regulatory compliance is how financial institutions secure long-term consumer loyalty in today’s competitive landscape. In an era in which customer retention is paramount, how can financial institutions stand out? 

The answer is within a bonafide travel rewards program. Long deployed by organizations in the financial sector, white label travel rewards work to enhance brand loyalty and increase wallet share. The arrivia white label travel portal provides financial institutions with a means to remain compliant with sensitive data all while forging consumer loyalty in an aggressive market. 

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