Many banks are claiming victory over the promise of regulatory reform from bill S.2155, often called the Crapo Bill. However, the celebration and dreams of returning to the way it once was before the Dodd-Frank Act are premature.
There is still a long road for deregulation, with many obstacles. The bill’s limited scope and applicability, coupled with the uncertainty of the regulatory landscape, call into question the breadth and longevity of this so-called regulatory relief. Bankers must realize that any change, whether adding or reducing regulations, translates to extra work.
There’s nothing wrong with being cautiously optimistic about the potential for regulatory relief, but bankers should gain a deeper understanding of the details before declaring victory. Banks that work to comprehend the scope of the bill’s effects, the potential for political shifts, and what deregulation means for management will be better equipped to navigate the unpredictable regulatory landscape.
The nitty gritty: a not-so-sweeping reform
Many in the industry view the bill as enacting regulatory relief – and that’s where their understanding ends. Those who have properly digested the bill— whether bankers themselves or their regtech partners—have realized it isn’t the sweeping reform some claim. In reality, the bill is only a limited set of reforms, with restricted applicability and several distinctions based on asset size and product mix.
There is also confusion around timing and deadlines. Sections of the new law contain various effective dates, ranging from May 28, 2018, to three years from the enactment date. However, it is important to understand that regulatory relief differs from traditional rulemaking when it comes to effective dates. Typically, an effective date represents a deadline by which all implementation must be accomplished. For regulatory relief, the date represents the deadline by which a burden should be lifted or reduced.
Because of this discrepancy, questions remain around when the reduction of regulation is required versus when it is optional. This ambiguity is problematic, as some bankers will make changes right away, while others will wait until forced to do so. Complicating matters, software and technology updates won’t be readily available, causing friction in processes.
Furthermore, where provisions of the bill conflict with existing regulations, there is uncertainty about how the regulations will address these conflicts. How examinations will be conducted while there are inconsistencies between law and regulation are unclear at the time of this writing.
The unpredictable political landscape raises questions
Washington’s tendency to deregulate banking is not a surprise. The current leadership has created a “pro-business” sentiment that favors limiting regulations. But political whims can change quickly. With midterm elections in November, there is potential for a regulatory shift in the other direction. Some reforms and regulatory relief promised in the Crapo Bill may never come to fruition, depending on what happens this fall.
Instead of trying to predict political outcomes, bankers should remain diligent about complying with regulations already solidified. For example, CECL will have many ramifications for how banks handle themselves fiscally, and bankers shouldn’t let chatter around regulatory relief distract them from that upcoming deadline. Until we have a more definite sense of the political climate for the next two years, bankers will benefit from focusing on the regulations in front of them now, rather than what may or may not be coming from S.2155.
Deregulation means more work
Even if the trend continues, rolling back regulations isn’t as simple as it sounds. It will take just as long to undo portions of Dodd-Frank as it took to implement the rules. With technology challenges and limited flexibility at even the most progressive institutions, deregulation forces short-term pain without necessarily guaranteeing long-term gain.
With any change, institutions are forced through a complex management cycle. This includes retraining staff, upgrading technology, reevaluating risk and tweaking operational procedures. Significant adjustments follow any deviation from the norm, even with toning down or eliminating rules. Therefore, bankers will have to closely monitor the efforts of their vendors and work closely with regtech partners to interpret and respond to regulatory changes.
Technology can help navigate the pendulum swing of regulation by automating compliance processes, interpreting regulations and centralizing efforts. It has become too much to manage compliance with manual processes and the regulatory landscape is too complex and changes too quickly. An advanced compliance management system can help banks remain agile and ease the pain points associated with reconfiguring processes and procedures.
No matter the path of proposed deregulation, banks must quickly interpret and adapt to remain compliant. Banks that recognize the uncertainty of the current political arena and are realistic about the managing the work associated with the change – while closely collaborating with their regtech partners – will be better positioned to navigate the unpredictable days ahead.