Speaker interview: Nikhil Aggarwal

Nikhil Aggarwal is Data & Analytics Executive, FinTech Entrepreneur in Residence at iValley Innovation Center

Given all the hype, where has RegTech fallen short over the past year, and where has it exceeded expectations?

Increasingly complex regulations coupled with heightened scrutiny from regulators has resulted in more banks and financial institutions building out broad spectrum RegTech programs. This has resulted in financial institutions applying RegTech solutions to use cases including i) enhanced regulatory reporting, ii) robust biometric and digital identity management, and iii) streamlining of KYC, CDD and anti-money laundering efforts. As a result, banks and financial institutions will be better placed to address a range of national and international regulations, including PSD2, AMLD4, DFS 504 and MiFID II.
Adoption and implementation efforts have not always been consistent due to evolving compliance requirements. In addition, RegTech efforts continue to focus on hygiene factors, such as building out data lakes and reporting routines, but we have yet to apply advanced analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques beyond initial experimentation.

Which areas of regulatory compliance will we see revolutionized by RegTech in the near-term, and which areas still pose the biggest challenges for RegTech?

RegTech is radically changing the mitigation of money laundering and other financial crime risks. Banks have leveraged RegTech data management solutions to significantly improve their KYC and KYT processes. As a result, client due diligence efforts during on-boarding and periodic risk reviews are more comprehensive. Banks are now making proactive decisions to deepen existing client relationships and de-risk and exit identified clients. Robotic Process Automation is also being applied to mechanical ETL data processes so investigators can focus on higher value-add sub-processes.
The core challenge in RegTech (from the solutions providers’ perspective) is to bridge the gap between risk management/business leadership and technologists. Often times, the value proposition and sales cycle focus on a predefined technology product which may not capture a broader set of evolving risk nuances. As a result, a proposed solution may check the technology boxes, but will not address all the underlying regulatory, compliance and operational risks.

To what extent is RegTech benefitting both financial services firms and consumers (through lower costs, improved products and services, etc.), and what is the scope for this to develop?

RegTech solutions are increasingly focusing on both the operational and risk identification dimensions. Increased efficiency has resulted in reduced noise in the form of “lower false positives,” and sharpened risk identification and coverage in form of “higher true positives.” This allows financial institutions to optimally allocate their resources for an improved PNL, and to pass savings on to clients with a better customer experience.
From a development perspective, there is an opportunity to build both governance and change management modules and embed these into RegTech solutions. Audit trails, traceability, sign-offs/attestations, and governance are core thematic areas during a regulatory examination.

How can large firms most effectively respond to, and engage with, the growing band of RegTech providers?

Collaboration between large firms, RegTech providers and regulators will result in significant mutual benefits. Large firms must share contextual knowledge (i.e., their risk footprint, customer segments, product set) and their interpretation of regulations with RegTech providers. Similarly, providers must explain their solutions and answer the fundamental questions on how core risk issues are being addressed. This dialogue needs to reach a granular level where data elements and the technology stack are reviewed and thoroughly understood. There is a need to enhance flexibility in solution design to allow new regulations to be factored in during rollout of subsequent release cycles.

What do RegTech providers need to do to improve their offerings in the coming year?

RegTech providers must ensure that their offerings are holistic, and must specify which risk typologies and taxonomies are being addressed, ensure that data flow and metrics and reporting modules are robust, and utilize more sophisticated analytics approaches to address underlying risk and operational issues. Hiring domain experts to complement their strong technologist benches will also enable RegTech providers to develop meaningful and relevant solutions.
Incremental innovation and experimental developments in emerging areas such as Blockchain and Natural Language Programming will also further develop providers’ minimum viable product and value proposition. Effective scalable solutions must be rolled out at the same time as well.

Why will you be speaking at Finance Edge’s RegTech Summit US, and what do you hope to get out of the event?

I look forward to engaging with like-minded industry peers, and discussing how we can collaborateand work together to move the industry forward.
The Finance Edge Team has designed a comprehensive Summit agenda, and assembled a speaker panel comprising leading industry practitioners and RegTech vendors. This will definitely lead to meaningful conversations for all participants!