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July 23, 2014

AML vs FATCA: Implementation synergies

This blog is co-authored by Jay Chandrakant Joshi (JayChandrakant_J@infosys.com)

 

Regulatory compliance has become a buzzword these days, with an increasing number of banks finding it difficult to keep pace with the constantly-evolving nature of the regulatory world (A survey by NICE Actimize, published in June 2014, indicates that only 48% of financial institutions have a strong "Culture of Compliance" 1). Keeping in mind that regulatory spending, strictly speaking, is a non-discretionary expense for financial institutions and does not contribute to revenue generation, the focus should be on developing a common (generic) framework that can cater to similar regulatory requirements, thereby ensuring efficient utilization of regulatory budgets.

The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), a US regulation applicable to financial institutions across the globe, has certain similarities to anti-money laundering (AML) requirements and makes a good case for developing a common framework. Both regulations require banks to develop a strong Know Your Customer (KYC) culture - while AML-KYC focuses mainly on determining the customers' identity (occupation, country of origin, etc.), FATCA-KYC focuses on separating potential US customers from non-US customers with the aim of preventing offshore tax evasion.

 

Broad-level similarities between the two can be highlighted as below:

  1. Ongoing due diligence, which means that customers need to be continually monitored even after the onboarding KYC checks are completed.
  2. Enhanced due diligence for a specific set of customers (albeit different sets).
  3. Screening and classifying customer profiles with the help of specific business rules.
  4. Both regulations involve similar actors like a central data warehouse, a team of investigators, relationship managers and a customer communications team.

There are, however, some differences between the two as well:

  1. AML is a classification based on a risk-based approach while KYC is a classification based on US indicia.
  2. AML regulations are not standard (although they are broadly similar, they tend to differ from region to region) across the globe since AML laws differ from country to country. FATCA regulation is standardized (IGA 1, IGA 2 or Full FATCA), thereby ensuring that the KYC requirements for FATCA are also standardized.
  3. AML is transaction-based while FATCA is profile-based.
  4. Reporting for AML (filing SAR) is to be done on a case-by-case basis, while that for FATCA is done on an annual basis. Further, AML reporting is done to the local regulator while FATCA reporting is to be done to IRS (exception model 1 IGA).

Despite these differences, at a broad level, the data requirements for the two regulations indicate a good amount of overlap.

 

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This commonality makes a very strong case for devising a generic framework that can help a financial institution reap the rewards of synergies. The advantages that a common framework may provide are:

  1. Simplified on-boarding procedure: Collect the FATCA data along that required for AML, thereby reducing the burden on customers by doing away with multiple forms during on boarding.
  2. Centralized data storage: Streamline the KYC framework and store all the KYC data in one location. This will help in extending the same data to any future regulations that are similar.
  3. Reduction in hardware costs: This is achieved by consolidating both data sets and running the business rules on the same server. Since the FATCA checks can be carried out at any point during the day, it can be scheduled as a part of daily end-of-day (EOD) processes to avoid any overlap, thereby optimizing performance.
  4. Lower personnel costs: Investigators can be trained on both FATCA as well as AML. Since, after the initial screening, the volume of customers for investigations is unlikely to be very high, the same set of investigators can be used for both regulations.
  5. The looming possibility of similar regulations in multiple countries/regions: For example, countries like UK and China planning regulations similar to FATCA, makes a strong case for developing a flexible framework that can be extended to any number of countries.
  6. The ability to leverage existing processes for FATCA rather than develop new processes from scratch will also result in considerable cost reductions. Most financial institutions already use third-party tools for AML screening, and most IT vendors have developed a FATCA engine. It may also be worthwhile to check the feasibility of an existing tool being extended to cover FATCA requirements as well.

 

As we can see, the nature of the similarities between AML & FATCA enables synergies in implementation that offers a significant scope for cost savings. However, the decision on whether to implement a common framework for AML and FATCA should be taken only after due deliberation and impact assessment. If the impact of either of these regulations on a financial institution is limited, it may be wiser to keep the frameworks decoupled and implement independent small-scale (in-house) solutions.

 

Footnote

1 Source: http://www.complianceweek.com/survey-firms-still-struggle-greatly-with-aml-culture-of-compliance/article/356354/

July 22, 2014

Digital Transformation in the Mortgage Industry

As the mortgage industry increasingly embraces technology and digitalization in every sphere of its business, it is witnessing a radical change in the way business is carried out. While this move is partially driven by competition, the transformation is also a proactive initiative on the part of lenders to delight digitally-savvy customers, who expect the ecosystem surrounding them to respond to digitalization, just as they do. When technology enables customers to use online channels to buy anything and everything, customers naturally expect their preferred lender to offer the ability to buy mortgage online as well. When technology enables customers to use their portable mobile devices as an alternative to a scanner, customers expect their preferred lender to offer the ability to use mobile devices to scan loan related documents and transmit them in seconds, rather than waiting for a day to visit the branch.

Digital options are growing slowly but steadily in the mortgage industry. During the initial days, customers were able to use electronic means to just make their mortgage payments using the "bill payment" feature available with their banking facility. Due to the rapid strides in the industry, there has been a prolific change in the mortgage technology landscape in recent years. Technology supports each and every step of the mortgage life cycle, meeting the needs of lenders as well as customers.

Some of the trends gaining traction include:

1. Document verification
Loan processing always includes verification of documents, including paystubs, W2 statements, and tax returns. This is one of the crucial factors that determine mortgage turnaround time, a key metric of an efficient mortgage origination process. Lenders can have world-class technology to capture the loan application but it would mean nothing if the document verification process is lengthy and time-consuming. The InstantSOURC platform, a product launched recently by PointServ, addresses this need specifically. Using this platform, lenders can electronically request and retrieve borrowers' documents including W2's, bank statements and pay-stubs. InstantSOURC sources documents from around 19,000 partnered financial institutions and uses industry-leading secure practices. In addition to helping avoid delays, it also eliminates fraudulent document submissions.

2. Paperless mortgage
Mortgage is synonymous with paper, from disclosures to closing. In the mortgage world, it is not uncommon for mortgage documents to have dozens of signatures and hundreds of initials. However, banks have started realizing the benefits they can reap from paperless mortgage. It's not just the volume of paper that they stand to save but also the ability to strengthen the relationship with customer, who is likely to be delighted to view the closing or disclosure package online and imprint their signature using an e-signature technology. Customer acceptance used to be a roadblock a few years ago despite the availability of technology but times are changing, with statistics pointing out that, in the next four years, more than half of all mortgage loans are likely to originate online. However, the key to success is to establish online collaboration between internal and external stakeholders in the mortgage loan process.

3. Mobility
Mobile devices have had a far bigger influence than any other comparable technology in the recent past, with every industry vying to integrate mobility into their business model. Mobile apps around mortgage have increased as well. While there are mobile apps that can help customers track mortgage interest rates, there are dedicated apps that can streamline the mortgage origination process. Quicken Loans offers a mobile app that can enable the customer to apply for a mortgage, scan/fax their mortgage documents and schedule a loan closing.

4. Interfaces with third-party applications
Traditional loan origination systems (LOSs) typically interface with very few third-party applications, such as credit reporting and automated underwriting systems. As such, the ability of such systems to assess credit risk or provide accurate decisioning was minimal. A loan application with a good credit score and positive automated underwriting system (AUS) results alone cannot guarantee negligible credit risk. Imagine a scenario were the LOS interfaces with a market-leading analytics tool, exchanges loan data digitally, and receives the applicant's risk score. Or where the LOS communicates with a tool that enables monitoring of undisclosed debts that are not registered or reported in the credit reports. Such options provide lenders with the ability to better assess credit risk and adds sophistication and convenience to the loan decisioning process.

 

Digitalization is impacting the mortgage process and it is imperative for lenders to stay tuned to these changes and adopt them proactively. Technology is no more a roadblock and today's customers are very receptive to digitalization efforts. It is therefore crucial for the lender to expend time, money and efforts to identify digitization opportunities and translate them to services that delight customers.