Getting Started With Third-Party Risk Management: Two Key Questions

December 22nd, 2015

risk-manangement-12-22-15.pngBanks often outsource technology services to third-party vendors. In light of increased regulatory attention and third-party involvement in day-to-day business operations, many bank boards and senior management teams are considering their approach to developing a third-party risk management program. A thoughtful approach based on an initial assessment of the bank’s current state can result in better risk management and compliance that aren’t overly burdensome. Addressing two important questions will help begin the process of successfully launching an effective third-party risk management program.

Does our bank have a full inventory of its contracts and agreements?
While most banks have some type of contract management system, many typically use low-tech storage facilities—like databases of scanned copies or even hard copies in file cabinets—from which data can’t be extracted. Such storage facilities rarely contain complete records of all executed contracts, and even simple data like contract renewal notification and expiration dates are not tagged or automated. In such environments, contract terms and conditions don’t keep pace with changes to regulations and the business environment, and financial reporting and accounting concepts, such as unrecorded liabilities, contingencies, and financial commitments, exist but may not be understood or monitored.

To address such drawbacks, banks should do a complete inventory of critical relationships to ensure that they have a complete inventory of current contracts. The contracts should meet current regulatory and business requirements, and data within the contracts should be metatagged, meaning tagged with coding in a web page so it can found with a search engine. Banks should consider establishing standard, required contract terms and using technology to track compliance. Increasingly, contracts are being moved into third-party risk management systems for a “single-book-of-record” view and improved risk management beyond basic compliance.

How do we identify all relevant third parties and manage the overall effort?
The potential universe of third parties in an organization can seem endless—from global companies to intercompany affiliates to mom-and-pop providers. On top of that, the potential universe of third parties is never constant. Companies regularly are onboarding and terminating third parties and expanding or reducing third-party services. While it is important to build data and artifacts (certificates of insurance, documentation of financial viability, or Service Organization Control reports, for example) that support a risk assessment at the third-party relationship level, it is easy to lose sight of the entire population of third-party relationships. Depending on how a bank defines third parties, that population could include franchisees, external salespeople and debt holders, among others. This is one area of risk management where completeness counts.

To make such a project manageable, banks should create a strategy and roadmap to systematically identify third parties using an inclusive definition. Banks should invest in the initial data-gathering phase and make it an enterprise-wide endeavor. Effective sources of relevant information include surveys conducted by the various lines of business, contract facilities and databases, accounts-payable systems, and legal counsel. The process needs to be sustainable or the population soon will become invalid. Banks should conduct an initial review of third-party relationships by identifying categories and potential risk factors to assist with prioritizing the evaluation. The project strategy and roadmap should start with the third parties that pose a higher risk. The project roadmap should include necessary activities and the timing and resource needs related to existing and future third-party due diligence and assessments.

Moving Forward
As financial institutions work to effectively comply with the regulatory guidance and manage the risks associated with third-party relationships, creating a strategy and roadmap will help achieve compliance and avoid an overly burdensome process.

msullivan

Michele Sullivan, partner in risk consulting services with Crowe Horwath LLP, addresses governance, risk and compliance issues affecting financial institutions. You can reach Michele at 574.235.6824 or email at michele.sullivan@crowehorwath.com.