24 April 2024

A&M Supply Chain Viewpoint: Future-Proofing Third-Party Risk Management

In an evolving regulatory landscape, financial institutions face a critical challenge: ensuring their third-party risk management programs not only comply with the new final joint guidance...
United States Strategy
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The Imperative of Today's Actions for Tomorrow's Security

In an evolving regulatory landscape, financial institutions face a critical challenge: ensuring their third-party risk management programs not only comply with the new final joint guidance issued by the FRB, FDIC and OCC but also set a standard for proactive risk management. With historical approaches varying in prescriptiveness, the necessity to "level up" has never been more urgent. The fundamental question is whether current programs meet these rigorous standards and, if not, how institutions can rapidly adapt.

Previously, regulatory bodies provided diverse frameworks for managing third-party risks by creating a patchwork of compliance strategies among financial institutions. This varied prescriptiveness led to inconsistencies in risk management approaches.

The ratification of the final joint guidance introduces a unified, yet more demanding, set of expectations for third-party risk management across all financial institutions. This presents a significant challenge for those previously aligned with less stringent guidelines.

Given these circumstances, the pivotal question emerges: Does your financial institution's third-party risk management program satisfy the stringent requirements of the final joint guidance?

To address this critical challenge, financial institutions must undertake a strategic, five-step approach to not only comply with the new guidance but also enhance their overall risk management posture:

  1. Comprehensive Risk Assessment: Evaluate current third-party risk management practices against the new standards.
  2. Policy Enhancement and Framework Development: Align internal policies with the principles outlined in the guidance, ensuring a robust, risk-based management framework.
  3. Due Diligence and Risk Mitigation Strategies: Implement rigorous due diligence processes that reflect the complexity and risk level of each third-party relationship.
  4. Continuous Monitoring and Adaptation: Develop systems for ongoing risk monitoring and adapt strategies in real time to emerging risks.
  5. Reporting, Communication and Regulatory Compliance: Strengthen reporting mechanisms to demonstrate compliance and effective risk management to stakeholders and regulators.

Step 1: Comprehensive Risk Assessment

In the shadowy world of third-party relationships, what you do not know can, and will, hurt you. This step is not only about ticking boxes; it is about shining a light on hidden dangers that could undermine your institution from within.

If your financial institution is ready to confront the unseen, conduct a thorough inventory of all third-party relationships and evaluate the risks associated with each relationship, considering financial, operational compliance, strategic and cyber, and environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors.

Step 2: Policy Enhancement and Framework Development

Your third-party risk management policy — and affiliated policies, i.e., business continuity, spend management, etc. — are not mere paperwork; they are your battle plans in the relentless fight against third-party risk. Updating them is not bureaucratic busywork; it is rearming your defenses in an era where risks evolve faster than regulations.

Focus on revising your third-party risk management policy to incorporate updated regulatory requirements and risk insights. Further, create a scalable framework that categorizes third parties based on risk levels and outlines appropriate management strategies.

Step 3: Due Diligence and Risk Mitigation Strategies

Enhanced due diligence is your radar in the fog of war to detect threats before they materialize. Without it, you are navigating blind in a minefield. This step is about more than just avoiding disasters. It is about strategically steering clear of risks that others will stumble into.

Do you want to outmaneuver looming threats of third-party risks? Introduce rigorous due diligence processes that are not ad hoc and go beyond financial stability to include cybersecurity, operational resilience and compliance practices. Develop specific mitigation strategies for identified risks, including contingency plans and termination plans.

Step 4: Continuous Monitoring and Adaptation

In a world where risks never sleep, continuous monitoring is your ever vigilant sentinel. But vigilance alone is not enough; adaptability is your countermeasure to the unpredictable. This is not just about keeping watch; it is about being ready to move at a moment's notice.

Are you poised to pivot, or will you be caught off guard? Utilize technology and data analytics to monitor third-party performance and risk indicators in real time. Regularly review and adjust risk management strategies based on performance data and changing risk landscapes.

Step 5: Reporting, Communication and Regulatory Compliance

Effective reporting does not only satisfy the audit committee, board of directors or even regulators; it asserts your command over third-party risks. It is your loudspeaker in a noisy battlefield, ensuring that your strategic victories — and compliance prowess — are recognized.

For your message to resonate and not get lost in the chaos, develop comprehensive reporting tools that provide clear insights into third-party risks and management effectiveness. Ensure regular communication with internal and external stakeholders, including the board of directors and regulatory bodies, about third-party risk management activities and compliance status.

The evolution of regulatory expectations mandates a proactive and strategic response. By adopting this structured approach, financial institutions can ensure their third-party risk management programs not only comply with current guidelines but are also poised to adapt to future regulatory changes. Today's efforts in enhancing risk management practices are crucial investments in tomorrow's security and compliance.

Originally Published 16 April 2024

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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