PreView: Checking the Rearview Mirror and Looking Ahead

In risk management, like driving, the safest way forward is to keep your eyes on the road ahead. Every now and again, however, it’s a good idea to check your mirrors. That’s the premise behind the latest issue of PreView, Protiviti’s ongoing series on emerging risks. In our first ever “look-back” edition, we revisit some of the risks we’ve highlighted since we initiated the series in early 2014. We often advise our clients to do a look back on their risk assessments, so it is appropriate for us to take our own medicine. Risks evolve, and checking to see whether we were on track with our predictions is worth the time and effort.

A little background: PreView is a “big picture” publication that focuses on macro-level emerging risks, classified according to the World Economic Forum’s five global risk categories – economic, technological, environmental, societal and geopolitical. Protiviti’s Risk and Compliance Solutions team scans the risk landscape and selects risks they believe have the potential to fundamentally change the profile portrayed in those risk categories.

The risks we revisited in the latest issue include municipal financial instability, Big Data, mobile banking and social media lending. Here, in short, is how these risks have evolved:

Municipal Financial Instability – In December 2014, we warned of municipal instability stemming from a decline in investor appetite for municipal bonds following a wave of defaults. We also warned of a pending debt crisis in Puerto Rico.

Update: Puerto Rico has defaulted on its debt in a case that is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court. At issue: The unprecedented possibility of a state-level debt restructuring – previous restructurings in the United States have all been at the municipal level. What to watch for: If the Supreme Court allows Puerto Rico to restructure its state debt, the bond market will turn a wary eye on the State of Illinois, which is experiencing its own financial crisis.

Big Data – In 2014, “big data” and machine-to-machine communication via the Internet of Things were all the buzz, and we cautioned against over-investing in data analytics without a clear quantification of benefits. We also called for strong data governance, security and management.

Update: Big Data and data analytics have moved from the fringe and into the mainstream due in part to the rapid expansion and dropping costs of data storage, cloud infrastructure and high-speed Internet bandwidth. Using this readily available data strategically promises to fundamentally change everything, from pizza delivery to health care. Big Data also has become the backbone of modern cybersecurity. And 79 percent of business leaders agree that companies that do not adopt Big Data will lose their competitive position and may face the possibility of extinction.

Mobile banking – In our first two issues of PreView, we noted the increasing popularity of mobile banking and suggested that successful financial institutions in the future would be those that found a way to integrate mobile banking and other banking options with traditional brick-and-mortar branch operations to allow customers to choose from multiple ways to conduct their banking.

Update: Trends have continued to show that consumers are interested in an “omni-channel” experience, where they can choose among different banking options, depending on their needs. In addition, nontraditional competitors such as PayPal, Amazon Payments and others continue to disrupt the market and threaten the relationship between the consumer and his or her bank. Cybersecurity and regulatory compliance remain key risks.

Social media lending – In January 2014, we predicted that an individual’s reputation on social media platforms, rather than their traditional credit score, could become a growing basis for lending. In addition, we anticipated that social media lending would create unique and complex fair-lending compliance issues and increase reputation risk with consumers. Lastly, we stated that social media disclosures and behavior might provide lenders with a source for validating information and a predictive profile of creditworthiness in the underwriting process.

Update: We hit two out of three right, as social media lenders in the United States entered and left the market, failing to pass the fair-lending standard. Target customers for this service today seem to be young entrepreneurs outside the United States who are shut out of traditional lending by a lack of a comprehensive credit history.

I know that this short overview doesn’t come close to doing these topics justice. For a more in-depth analysis and bibliographic links, download our Volume 3, Issue 1. In our next edition, we’ll continue to look forward: Technology enabled disruption in financial services, natural resources sustainability and competition, political shifts and climate change effects on the economy are among the topics on our radar. We hope you stay engaged with us to navigate these risks.

Jim

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