Speaker interview: Sarah Clark

Mitek Systems

Sarah Clark, General Manager, Mitek Systems.

A year or so after ‘RegTech’ became a buzz word in financial services, what are the key enablers and barriers to its adoption?

  The biggest barrier we normally run into is the fact that many of the regulations are not prescriptive in terms of the solutions that are considered adequate. This lack of definition oftentimes results into a generalized hesitancy to do something new until it’s known more broadly to be accepted by regulators. But it is imperative for FIs to be on the leading edge if they want to reap the benefit of topline growth. The key takeaway is that initial tests from top banks have happened, they have succeeded, and as a business, they are expanding and using our solutions for that expansion. Willing to take risks and go with more efficient, superior solutions, more quickly, is a huge differentiator for financial institutions, especially when it comes to adding value by optimizing customer acquisition and onboarding.   Additionally, financial services providers normally perceive budget as one of the main barriers to RegTech adoption. The reality is that, if you look at the astronomical investment that financial institutions need to make to be in compliance, utilizing RegTech solutions should result into net efficiencies instead of added costs. In other words, despite being perceived as a barrier, investing in RegTech solutions actually generates a positive outcome.  

How should RegTech providers, FIs and regulators be working together to create holistic solutions? How can collaboration programs work, in practice?

  At Mitek we firmly believe that collaboration is the cornerstone of success. RegTech should ultimately be leveraged to reduce compliance costs for financial firms while allowing regulators to better ensure compliance and successfully achieve their policy goals. The rapid pace at which regulation change and extend their scope presents an important source of struggles for regulatory bodies, as it keeps getting more difficult for them to keep up with their mandates. Fostering collaboration will not only be beneficial for both RegTech providers and financial institutions, but also for regulators, as open communication and collaboration should be utilized to assess and improve current little contextualized and articulated regulations, which come with huge effort and cost and that hardly help achieve the desired outcomes.   We are also starting to see a willingness to consume more cloud services in order to accelerate innovation through smarter data sharing. There is a growing number of our customers willing to share more data with us so we can help them better achieve their goals. Collaboration is paramount to accelerate innovation and service consumers more efficiently. Take Mitek as an example; we’re specialists in handling PII and identity documents and our customers know that, trusting us with this piece of the puzzle so they can focus on their key business and strategic priorities. We are starting to notice a change of trend towards a greater trust between FIs and RegTech providers; a shift of paradigm from customers-vendors to partners.  Creating this type of relationship accelerates innovation and boosts FIs’ ability to serve their customers more efficiently.  

Which regulations are stopping innovative products and services from being brought to market? How can RegTech help firms to overcome this?

  I see regulations as catalysts rather than deterrents for innovation. Regulations encourage institutions and their RegTech providers to find ways to ensure compliance is met, but also to deliver better user experiences, more automation, and more accurate and better outcomes for consumers. Regulations present both challenges and opportunities. Take the latest European Anti-Money Laundering Directive (AMLD4) for example, which increases the required frequency and scope of essential Know Your Customer (KYC) checks performed by banks and other financial institutions, resulting in further inflated operational costs.   On the other hand, the amended AMLD4 suggests using government-backed eID schemes, such as GOV.UK Verify, to improve KYC processes. Nevertheless, as most eID schemes are not expected to be ready for some time, this same piece of regulation recommends advanced mobile technology to bridge the gap. And there is where RegTech can move the needle for financial institutions. Financial services providers that partner with RegTech firms to replace inefficient, manual, prone-to-error status quo KYC checks, with cost-efficient, advanced automated solutions such as digital identity verification, can save about £47 million a year while meeting today consumer’s demands for speed, security and convenience.  

Which key regulatory compliance challenges would you most like to see being tackled by RegTech providers?

  We have reached a tipping point where it’s no longer feasible for banks to keep up with this increasing volume of regulations through manual, very inefficient, and very expensive processes which don’t meet expectations for seamless user journeys. The rise of RegTech is definitely related to the rapid growth of new regulations. The flipping side is that regulatory technology such as ID document verification has really become mature. At Mitek we specialize in leveraging the latest biometrics, deep learning, and AI to solve for identity verification in the digital channel, satisfying that increasing demand to comply with ever-stringent regulations at scale through user friendly, secure cloud platforms and APIs.   Good news is that some important steps have been already taken. In Europe, the upcoming PSD2 will drive more opportunities for collaboration, as its laser-focused at improving the quality of service provided by payments companies and financial institutions by means of more, closer, and more extensive collaboration among regulators, traditional institutions, industry disruptors and technology providers.  

What are the most important characteristics you look for in a new RegTech solution?

  Based on our experience with top global financial organizations, it is important to engage with a RegTech provider that is proven and has already been successful. For example, we’re live with one of the top 3 banks in the UK, as well as with the leading banks in The Netherlands. In our experience, banks and other financial services providers tend to start by applying RegTech solutions such as Mitek’s to a given product or account type, normally through one of their subsidiaries. Once they are live, have tested the new technology and seen the first results, then they would extend that technology to other product ranges. Financial institutions need partners they can trust; they need RegTech vendors that are willing to keep a steady stream of engagement with their team, that offers a robust Customer Success program.  

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

  The financial services industry is going through a very interesting period of time, defined by  exciting technology innovations and new regulatory trends. At a time where RegTech is reaching a tipping point, the agenda of RegTech Summit US goes deep into some of the most compelling trends such as the need of further collaboration between financial institutions and RegTech vendors or the growing demand for more defined regulations that provide prescriptive guidance about adequate and sufficient regulatory technology solutions. solutions regulation solutions vendors. Personally, I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to discuss current challenges and opportunities with peers and to spend time with some of our top customers, learning how we can continue to expand our product offerings to further meet their needs.”