Staff Shortages Snarl Fraud Oversight

For some community banks, workforce attrition and hiring pressures could be adding an extra layer of difficulty to their ability to combat fraud. 

Concurrent with the Great Resignation, financial institutions have been fending off fraud of all kinds, from spear phishing attacks to account takeovers to check fraud, sometimes with a digital twist. In response, boards should understand where their organizations might be vulnerable and what kinds of proactive measures they might take. 

“That intersection of increasing fraud attacks with the strain on the workforce — I would say that is the biggest thing that we are seeing our clients struggle with,” says Vikas Agarwal, financial crimes unit leader at PwC. 

Specialized anti-fraud talent is in high demand, and prospective employees can command higher wages than they could before.

Seventy-eight percent of the senior executives and directors who responded to Bank Director’s 2022 Compensation Survey in March and April say that it’s been harder to attract and retain talent in the past year. Forty-one percent indicate that their bank increased risk and compliance staffing in 2021, and 29% expect to fill more of these positions in the year ahead. 

Attrition in the risk and compliance functions can eventually lead to a backlog of alerts to work through, experts say. 

“With turnover, you lose institutional knowledge and some efficiencies with how to run a risk and compliance department. As you have turnover, backlogs may build up,” says Kevin Toomey, a partner with the law firm Arnold & Porter. “Backlogs are a scary concept for banks, but also for the boards of banks. It could mean that not everything is running like a well-oiled machine.”  

Higher turnover could also make an institution more vulnerable to phishing and spear phishing attacks, says Ron Hulshizer, managing director at the accounting firm FORVIS. Those are both types of email impersonation attacks, used to install malware or gain access to information; spear phishing tends to be targeted to a specific individual. Noting that his firm has seen an increase in ransomware and extortion attacks against banks, Hulshizer says phishing attempts often give fraudsters a foot in the door.  

“It’s typically a phishing email that comes in, somebody falls for something, eventually, [and] the really bad malware gets installed,” he says. “Then it starts doing its thing and destroying files.”  

Scams, account takeovers and synthetic identity fraud are among the more common forms of fraud that community banks are dealing with right now. A LexisNexis Risk Solutions study published earlier this year identified synthetic ID as a big driver of fraud losses and also noted a rise in phishing scams during the pandemic. Scams have gotten particularly sophisticated, says Christina Williams, financial crimes consulting manager at the accounting and consulting technology firm Crowe. In some cases, she says, scammers have spoofed a financial institution’s 800-number to fool customers into giving up information that is then used to gain account access. 

But fraud seldom ever goes extinct, and some financial institutions have seen a resurgence in various types of check fraud since the pandemic began. Many businesses still rely on paper checks and physical mailboxes, both of which can be compromised, says Williams. Remote deposit capture tools can also be vulnerable to check fraud. Williams says that in some cases, fraudsters have been able to make a phony deposit using the image of a check on another device. Often, the scammer will stick to amounts under $1,000 or $5,000 to avoid triggering a review before the fraudster is able to withdraw the money. 

“A lot of the automated systems don’t necessarily pick up on it,” Williams says, emphasizing the importance of having adequate staff to carry out those reviews. “The fraudsters are aware of this; they still are trying to operate under dollar amounts where they believe there won’t be a secondary review.” 

Debit card fraud has also been a perennial pain point for community banks, Hulshizer says. 

Though the board doesn’t need to get involved in day-to-day fraud oversight, directors should know enough to ask the right questions of senior management. In the first place, that means understanding the organization’s baseline: how many and what type of fraud attempts does it experience in a given period, and how much of that fraud is stopped? 

“Do they understand, month to month, is it trending up or is it trending down?” says Agarwal. “Oftentimes, we find that people don’t have simple metrics that help them gauge if their risk to fraud is increasing as an institution or decreasing.” 

Agarwal adds that it’s worth asking whether the bank can contract a third-party firm in the event of a staffing shortage. 

Boards can ask whether management is looking into any new fraud-mitigating technologies, like biometric features meant to curb password fraud, says Hulshizer. 

And make sure that existing technology is regularly updated. “When technology gets old, over time, it ends up not being supported,” Hulshizer says. “When we do audits, we’ll find old operating systems that Microsoft no longer supports.”  

Not only should directors ask about trends in fraud and risk, but they should also be prepared to question senior management about trends in the bank’s staffing and resources, says Toomey. 

“What directors were asking a year ago may be different than what they’re asking 6 months from now,” says Toomey. “And to effectively exercise their oversight responsibilities, they need to start asking these questions now, to assure that their bank isn’t one of the ones that you read about in the papers.” 

5 Considerations When Vetting Fintech Partnerships

Fintech collaborations are an increasingly critical component of a bank’s strategy.

So much so that Bank Director launched FinXTech, committed to bridging the gap between financial institutions and financial technology companies. Identifying and establishing the right partner enables banks to remain competitive among peers and non-bank competitors by allowing them to access modern and scalable solutions. With over 10,000 fintechs operating in the U.S. alone, finding and vetting the right solution can seem like an arduous task for banks.

The most successful partnerships are prioritized at the board and executive level. Ideally, each partnership has an owner — one that is senior enough to make decisions that dictate the direction of the partnership. With prioritization and owners in place, banks can consider fintech companies at all stages of maturity as potential partners. While early-stage companies inherently carry more risk, the trade-off often comes in the form of enhanced customization or pricing discounts. These earlier-stage partnerships may require the bank to be more involved during the implementation, compliance or regulatory processes, compared to working with a more-mature company.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach, and it’s important for banks to evaluate potential partners based on their own strategic plan and risk tolerance. When conducting diligence on fintechs of any stage or category, banks should place emphasis on the following aspects of a potential partner:

1. Analyze Business Health. This starts with understanding the fintech’s ability to scale while remaining in viable financial conditions. Banks should evaluate financial statements, internal key performance indicator reports, and information on sources of funding, including major investors.

Banks should also research the company’s competitive environment, strength of its client base and potential expansion plans. This information can help determine the fintech’s capability to sustain operations and satisfy any financial commitments, allowing for a long-term, prosperous partnership. This analysis is even more important in the current economic environment, where fresh capital may be harder to come by.

2. Determine Legal and Compliance. Banks need to assess a fintech’s compliance policies to determine if their partner will be able to comply with the bank’s own legal and regulatory standards. Executives should include quarterly and annual reports, litigation or enforcement action records, and other relevant public materials, such as patents or licenses, in this evaluation.

Banks may also want to consider reviewing the fintech’s relationship with other financial institutions, as well as the firm’s risk management controls and regulatory compliance processes in areas relevant to the operations. This can give bank executives greater insight into the fintech’s familiarity with the regulatory environment and ability to comply with important laws and regulations.

3. Evaluate Data Security. Banks must understand a fintech’s information and security framework and procedures, including how the company plans to leverage customer or other potentially sensitive, proprietary information.

Executives should review the fintech’s policies and procedures, information security control assessments, incident management and response policies, and information security and privacy awareness training materials. In addition, external reports, such as SOC 2 audits, can be key documents to aid in the assessment. This due diligence can help banks understand the fintech’s approach to data security, while upholding the regulator’s expectations.

4. Ask for References. When considering a potential fintech partnership, executives should consult with multiple references. References can provide the bank with insight into the company’s history, conflict resolution, strengths and weakness, renewal plans and more, allowing for a deeper understanding of the fintech’s past and current relationships. If possible, choose the reference you speak with, rather than allowing the fintech to choose.

5. Ensure Cultural Alignment. The fintech’s culture plays an important role in a partnership, which is why on-site visits to see the operations and team in action can help executives with their assessment. Have conversations with the founders about their goals and speak with other members of the team to get a better idea of who you will be working with. Partners should be confident in the people and technology — both will create a mutually successful and meaningful relationship.

Despite the best intentions, not all partnerships are successful. Common mistakes include lack of ownership and strategy, project fatigue, risk aversion and unreasonable expectations. Too often, banks are looking for a silver bullet, but meaningful outcomes take time. Setting expectations and continuing to re-evaluate the success and performance of these partnerships frequently will ensure that both parties are achieving optimal results.

Once banks establish partnerships, they must also nurture the relationship. Again, this is best accomplished by having a dedicated partner owner who is responsible for meeting objectives. As someone who analyzes hundreds of fintechs to determine quality, viability and partner value, I am encouraged by the vast number of technology solutions available to financial institutions today. Keeping a focused, analytical approach to partnering with fintechs will put your bank well on its way to implementing innovative new technology for all stakeholders.

10 Fraud Prevention Tips to Help Protect Your Institution

According to a recent study, organizations lose 5% of revenue to fraud each year — a staggering statistic. In an effort to help institutions decrease this percentage, here are 10 fraud prevention tips.

1. Confidential Hotline
This is the single most cost-effective anti-fraud action an institution can take. Tips via hotlines are the No. 1 way that frauds are detected, according to the ACFE 2020 Report to the Nations; most tips come from employees. We encourage banks to set up a confidential hotline operated by a third party and advertise it internally to all of their employees.

2. Fraud Awareness Training
Awareness training for employees can result in shorter duration for prospective fraudulent activities and lower losses. Institution-wide awareness is critical: Turn your employees and managers into fraud detectors and take advantage of all those eyes and ears.

3. Vendor Controls
Vendor fraud is very common because of the large number of payments going out to different companies and entities. Every company has vendors/suppliers, so it’s an easy place to perpetrate fraud. Some items to consider:

    • New vendor selection:
      1. Who can select?
      2. How are they selected?
    • Due diligence on new vendors:
      1. Is the vendor real?
      2. Is their pricing reasonable?
      3. Is the vendor related to an employee?
    • Periodically reassess vendor relationships.
    • Reduce or eliminate conflicts of interest.

4. Implement Good HR Practices
Conducting checks on candidates before they walk in the door can go a long way in preventing fraud. Additionally, having exit interviews can be a very useful tool in finding out about fraud, waste and abuse in your institution. Without the interview, exiting employees may not bother to tell you what they know.

5. Implement Mandatory Vacations
You know those employees who never take a vacation day, and if they do, they check in the whole time? It may not be because they are super dedicated. Many problems are identified during perpetrator vacations, because someone must fill in for them and perform their duties. Implementing mandatory vacations or job rotations can help identify fraudulent activities.

6. Credit Card, Expense Reimbursement Policies
Purchase and credit cards are a very common and convenient tool for committing fraud. Closely monitoring with strong controls in place is essential to reducing the risk of this type of fraud. Start with a clearly defined policy on what is and is not acceptable. Card use for “business purposes” is not good enough.

    • What types for expenses do you really want to be paying?
    • What types of expenses are not acceptable?
    • What documentation is required?

7. Fraud Risk Assessment
Similar to going to the doctor for a checkup, banks should conduct a fraud risk assessment annually or biannually. The bank changes, and with those changes come different risks. A periodic fraud risk assessment can help adapt to those changes, allow executives to understand their institution’s fraud risks and focus their efforts. This assessment should be performed by someone who looks at fraud issues on a regular basis.

8. Segregation of Duties
This can be difficult for small or growing institutions that have controls that have not kept pace with their growth. Segregating duties is not a new concept, but it’s just as critical today as any time in the past.

A few places to focus on:

      • A/P access to signed checks.
      • A/P clerks who can set up vendors.
      • Payroll clerks who can set up new employees.

9. Code of Conduct
These can seem like “soft” controls, but it is critical that an institution has these in place so employees cannot claim “ignorance” that what they were doing was wrong. Policies to consider implementing include:

    • Anti-fraud policy.
    • Conflict of interest policy.
    • Policy related to gifts and gratuities.

10. Create the Right Culture
Culture is a critical component to fraud prevention. If leadership demands and displays integrity and transparency, it typically permeates through an institution.

    • Tone is set at the top: Management must “walk the walk.”
    • Create a positive workplace environment.
    • Establish a culture of honesty and high ethics.
    • Put an emphasis on doing the right thing.

Decades of experience have taught us that even if a bank implements all the tips above, it could still become a fraud victim. Fraudsters are infinitely creative with their schemes; detecting or preventing those schemes is a never-ending task. But when taken together, these top 10 tips can still go a long way in helping your institution mitigate its fraud risk.

This article is for general information purposes only and is not to be considered as legal advice. This information was written by qualified, experienced BKD professionals, but applying this information to your particular situation requires careful consideration of your specific facts and circumstances. Consult your BKD advisor or legal counsel before acting on any matter covered in this update.

Rethinking the Core with Nimble Digital Banking Technology

When it comes to the core, banks spend years evaluating their systems and making sure they align with the current and future needs of customers.

From personal financial management tools to card controls, customers select banks that offer the highest tech and robust options. This can be a challenge for banks, especially on the smaller side or those with a limited budget. But when a bank’s core can no longer keep up with the demands of digital banking trends, the cost, expense and risk of a total core conversion is often too high for institutions to justify making a wholesale change.

Instead, banks are bolting on a variety of tools that attempt to provide the functionality they need to meet customer demands and run efficiently behind the scenes. This can be a challenge for many banks, especially those that are light on staff and are assigned to manage multiple vendors. Vendor management is can be a meticulous and time-consuming task, as there are many separate and segmented parts that need coordination in order to run smoothly with close monitoring. This may require additional staff or additional tasks for executives that already wear many hats.

The future in core banking
As they look ahead at the future of digital banking, bankers are seeking ways to work around the core and still have comprehensive banking capabilities. These systems must be robust and fully run through the cloud while maintaining security. This explains the rise of challenger and neo banks that focus more on technology and security, rather than the brick and mortar. What also sets these companies apart is the way they utilize their core — it goes beyond the legacy systems that require many additional outside services for simple banking needs.

The modern core needs to evolve into a hub that serves as the foundation for digital banking, embedded banking and other customer-focused capabilities, working seamlessly across channels while also giving consumers individualized services.

How customers prefer to utilize banking
Bank customers are continuing to seek options that are tailored to their needs. Hyper-personalized services have continued gaining momentum as customers seek services that match their differentiated and unique situations.

Different customer segments have different needs and requirements; a small business owner’s needs will look different compared to a college student. The small business owner may look for options that can better track purchases or need loans for his or her business. The college student may be looking at more options like P2P payments and card controls to monitor their financial behaviors. Hyper-personalization means cores need to be more flexible and adaptable, with streamlined processes that make updates to technology and features seamless.

The pandemic has challenged and complicated some customers’ ability to work with their banks, given that branches have undergone significant changes to operations to ensure the safety of staff and customers. In response, customers have had to rely more on customer service options in a digital environment — which can be a turn off for many. Many customers avoid using a chat function or calling a helpline at all costs, as they believe it will be a time suck or it will not resolve the issue. So in addition to building in hyper-personalized services, banks must also take these preferences into consideration as they assist customers by offering methods that best suit their preferences.

Nimble and robust from the bottom to the top
As banks continue working toward their goals for 2021, it is important they examine their current offerings against their roadmap for the future. By working with technology partners that create a one-stop shop for services, they can eliminate the need for multiple vendors and moving parts while tightening their security measures through nimble cloud-based solutions. Now is the time for banks to make the switch and evaluate how they can provide the highest level of banking for their customers.

Five Questions to Ask When Weighing Banking Software

A contract for banking software should be the start of a working relationship.

When your bank purchases a new banking system, you should get more than a piece of software. From training to ongoing support, there’s a tremendous difference between a vendor who sells a system and a true partner who will work to enhance your banking operations.

But how do you know which is which? Here are some questions that could help you determine if a vendor is just a vendor — or if they could become a more-meaningful resource for your bank.

Do they have real banking expertise?
A software vendor that lacks real-world banking experience will never have the institutional knowledge necessary to serve as a true partner. The company may have been founded by a banker and their salespeople may have some cursory knowledge of how their solution works in a banking environment. However, that is not enough. You need a vendor that can offer expert insights based on experience. Ask salespeople or other contacts about their banking background and what they can do to help improve your bank.

Do they want to understand your issues?
A vendor won’t be able to help solve your problems if they aren’t interested in learning what they are. You should be able to get a sense of this early in the process, especially if you go through a software demonstration. Does the salesperson spend more time talking about features and system capabilities, or do they ask you about your needs first and foremost? A vendor looking to make a sale will focus on their program, while a true partner will take time to find out what your challenges are and what you really want to know. Look for a vendor who puts your needs above their own and you’ll likely find one who is truly invested in your success.

How quickly do they respond?
Vendors will show you how much they care by their turnaround speed when you have a question or need to troubleshoot a problem with your banking system. Any delay could prove costly, and a good partner acts on that immediate need and moves quickly because they care about your business. It can take some companies weeks to fully resolve customer issues, while others respond and actively work to solve the problem in only a few hours. Go with the software provider who is there for you when you need them most.

Do they go above and beyond?
Sometimes the only way to address an issue is to go beyond the immediate problem to the underlying causes. For example, you might think you have a process problem when onboarding treasury management customers, but it could actually be an issue that requires system automation to fully resolve.

A vendor that can identify those issues and give you insights on how to fix them, instead of bandaging the problem with a quick workaround, is one worth keeping around. This may mean your vendor proposes a solution that isn’t the easiest or the cheapest one, but this is a good thing. A vendor that is willing to tell you something you may not want to hear is one that truly wants what’s best for your organization.

Do they continue to be there for you?
Some software companies consider the engagement over once they’ve made the sale. Their helpline will be open if you have a problem, but your contact person there will have moved on to new targets as you struggle with implementation and the best way to utilize the software.

Find a vendor that plans to stick with your institution long after agreements have been signed. They should not only provide training to help facilitate a smooth transition to the new system, but they should remain accessible down the road. When a new software update becomes available or they release a new version of the system, they should proactively reach out and educate you on the new features — not try to sell you the latest development. Although you won’t know how those interactions will go until after you’ve made your purchase, it pays to evaluate the service you’re getting from your vendors at every stage of your engagement.

Finding a software vendor that you trust enough to consider a partner isn’t always easy. But by looking for some of the characteristics discussed above, you can identify the most trustworthy vendors. From there, you can start building a relationship that will pay dividends now and into the future.

Technology Adoption Starts at the Contract

Financial institutions are increasingly looking outside their core provider for the technology solutions that are right for their bank and their customers. In this video, Aaron Silva of Paladin fs explains the challenges community banks face in working with new providers and how to overcome these issues. He also shares three key areas to watch before signing on the dotted line.

  • Why Banks Should Look Outside the Core
  • Challenges in Working With New Providers
  • Avoiding Contract Mistakes

 

Outsourcing the Service, Not the Oversight


oversight-7-2-19.pngEvery bank director has heard it: You can outsource a service, but you cannot outsource the responsibility.

That sounds clear enough, but how does a board know what its role should be when an opportunity to partner with a financial technology firm, or fintech, arises? The board’s role is oversight and guidance, not day-to-day management. But oversight is not passive. So what does board oversight look like in the evolving world of bank and fintech relationships?

Consider a bank that is reviewing a proposal from a fintech. Management believes that this is a great opportunity for the institution, and presents it to the board for approval. What is the board’s role here? The board’s involvement must be flexible enough that it can react to these situations, but it should also consider some essential inquiries, such as:

Does the proposal match up with the bank’s strategic plan? The board is responsible for the strategic direction of the bank. Directors should consider if the proposal is an appropriate project for the size, resources and initiatives of the bank. They must also think about whether the proposal aligns with the bank’s strategic plan. If the proposal does not match up with the strategic plan, they may also want to consider if it is material enough that the strategic plan should be amended.

What are the risks? The board is responsible for ensuring that an effective risk management program is in place at the bank, which includes the ability to fully assess risks and establish controls and oversight to mitigate those risks. It should assess the fintech proposal through its risk management process

Management should provide the board with a comprehensive risk assessment of the proposed relationship that thoroughly outlines how each identified risk will be mitigated. The board should look at that assessment critically. Was it prepared by competent and experienced personnel? Does it appear to be thorough? Does it focus on IT risks or other narrow issues, or take into account all of the compliance issues? Does it include state laws, which is especially important if the bank is state-chartered? How does the assessment address concerns about privacy and cybersecurity? What does it say about reputation risk?

Is there a negotiated contract that addresses all of the risks? The board is responsible for ensuring that all third-party relationships are documented in negotiated contracts that protect the interests of the bank. The board needs to ensure that appropriate legal counsel is engaged to negotiate the arrangement, depending on the riskiness of a proposed fintech relationship. Counsel should have a thorough understanding of the legal issues involved in the proposed program and the applicable regulatory guidelines for third-party contracts.

The actual contract negotiation should be done by management. However, the board could consider requiring a summary of the important contract provisions or a presentation by management or legal counsel about the terms, depending on the level of risk involved and materiality to the bank.

How will the board know if the program is performing? The board should receive ongoing reports relating to monitoring of the program and the fintech. These reports should be sufficient for the board to establish that the program is compliant with law, operates in accordance with the contract and meets the strategic objectives of the bank. If the program is not performing, the board should know whether appropriate action is underway to either facilitate performance or terminate the program.

A bank’s board cannot outsource its responsibility for outsourced services, even if a fintech partner seems to have a fantastic product. The board must ask enough questions to be certain that management has engaged in appropriate due diligence, identified the risks and determined how to mitigate those risks through the contract and oversight. The implementation of all of those steps is up to management. But one role in particular rests with the board: ensuring that the relationship with the fintech partner furthers the strategic goals of the bank.

How to Save Millions in Vendor Costs Without Changing a Thing


vendor-6-21-19.pngA mutual bank with $1.72 billion in assets managed to save more than $4.4 million in expenses—without changing a single IT supplier or disrupting online customers. Other banks can do it too.

In 2014, BayCoast Bank, in Swansea, Massachusetts, found itself with three suppliers that had three different termination dates. Its core account processing supplier was in the early days of an eight-year agreement but its online retail banking and commercial online services agreements both had about 24 months remaining. The bank, led by President and CEO Nicholas Christ and aided by Chief Information Officer Daniel DeCosta, decided to negotiate against their core IT suppliers and technology vendors in order to save costs. Ultimately, they found a way to save the bank millions and continue servicing customers by leveraging market intelligence and pricing data, with the help of outside expertise.

BayCoast made the same mistake many banks do: signing agreements that are too long and not coterminous with each other. Bank should never lock themselves into contracts that are longer than 60 to 84 months.

To prepare, BayCoast leveraged a business analysis to come up with a new approach to managing these relationships. BayCoast needed to renew its retail and commercial online banking agreements, but market analysis indicated these agreements were over-priced by at least $1.2 million over five years. The contracts had deficiencies, and lacked balancing commercial terms and meaningful service level agreements.

The bank took advantage of a recent acquisition by its core supplier to create a competitive bidding process for these two contracts. The core supplier offered nearly $1 million more in incentives to take over the retail and commercial banking agreements, but the incumbent beat that by offering $2 million to keep the relationship.

The reduction of $2 million from the bank’s cost structure improved BayCoast’s efficiency rate and allowed it to redirect the funds toward other fintech projects and initiatives.

After several years had passed, Baycoast gave itself a 24-month margin before its vendor agreements expired to renegotiate those contracts. This margin allowed executives enough time to get a deal they wanted, or find another supplier.

This time, BayCoast wanted a total change for its commercial online vendor. Their incumbent core and retail online banking suppliers both had competitive offerings, but were under performance probation periods. DeCosta used a third party to interface and negotiate with the suppliers for the core and retail online banking renewals.

The result? Savings of at least another $2.4 million in cost reduction. The bank is putting the finishing touches on its commercial online contract, which could add another $500,000 and push straight-line savings to more than $5 million. This is the equivalent of $151 million in new loans, assuming a net interest margin of 3.3 percent.

By adopting a new approach to negotiating critical vendor relationships and using an outside expert, BayCoast freed up funds that are better deployed. The vendors now have a happy client who is confident they have a market-conforming deal. It’s a win-win for both parties.

Get Smart About Core Contracts



Bank leaders focus on a number of issues when M&A is on their radar—but they shouldn’t overlook the bank’s core contract. Proactively negotiating with the core provider to account for a potential sale or acquisition can make or break a future deal. In this video, Aaron Silva of Paladin fs shares his advice for negotiating these vital contracts so they align with the bank’s strategy.

  • How Core Contracts Derail Deals
  • How to Mitigate Their Impact
  • Why and How to Conduct a Merger Readiness Assessment

Competition for Credit Analysts Creating New Challenge for Banks


analyst-5-3-18.pngSuccessfully recruiting a qualified credit analyst is proving to be quite a challenge in today’s banking environment. There are a number of contributing factors, including compensation compared to other industries, the evaporation of commercial credit training, and a lack of college graduates in certain areas.

With this shortage, credit analysts are highly sought after, and analysts are demanding higher wages than what the banking industry is accustomed to paying.

In the past, it has been common practice for banks to outsource loan review, compliance testing, and internal audit functions — so why not the credit analyst role?

Thin talent pools flow two ways
Historically, banks have hired recent college graduates as credit analysts with the expectation of developing them into commercial lenders and potentially future management. In theory, this practice makes sense. But in today’s market, the success rate of banks converting a credit analyst into a long-term employee seems to be the exception rather than the norm, causing many banks to abandon their commercial training programs.

Over the past decade, many banks have begun hiring seasoned credit analysts who aren’t looking to move to a customer-facing role, making it more difficult to find affordable, permanent analysts.

In recent years, outsourced providers have started meeting the demand for credit analysts. With the increase in compensation for this role, outsourcing may now be the cost-effective option. This is especially true when you factor in the time and effort spent recruiting and training, while accounting for increased efficiency or production from an experienced analyst/outsourced provider.

Banks Still Have Underwriting Control
It is clear many bankers do not want an outside vendor impacting their underwriting decisions. Banks want to make loans to familiar borrowers, and they don’t want the potential for an overly critical or negative analysis from a third party to hinder their ability to do so.

It’s important to understand that your bank will always own and control the underwriting process. The primary focus for outsourced credit analyst services is to provide all the relevant credit information in a consistent format, which will allow the bank to make a well-informed decision. Outsourcing credit analysis should not impact the bank’s underwriting practices.

Banks take pride in their ability to provide quick responses to their borrowers. Outsourcing analyst work doesn’t mean longer turnaround times. If you are considering an outsourced solution, make sure that you establish clear deadlines with your vendor.

You could also consider segmenting the credit analyst work flow between new credit requests and ongoing portfolio monitoring. It may make sense for a bank to analyze new money requests in-house, and then to outsource the less time-sensitive renewal requests and annual reviews.

Training, Retaining Analysts Can Cost You
Even if you are successful in hiring a qualified analyst candidate, the time and resources needed to properly train a new hire with little or no previous credit experience can be quite extensive. Typically, when a bank is large enough to have a pool of credit analysts, there is usually a full-time employee who helps train and develop their skill set. But if you work at a smaller community bank, you might only have one or two analysts on staff.

It is common for a senior analyst, credit officer, or a manager from the credit administration area to oversee a new analyst. But these employees usually maintain a full workload in addition, which may result in inadequate training, or an overstressed manager.

The challenge doesn’t end once you hire and train a new credit analyst. One of the biggest challenges still remains — keeping the analyst in the role. Most banks are lucky if they can keep an analyst in the role for two or three years before the individual leaves for higher pay or a more satisfying analyst role somewhere else. And then it’s time to start the recruiting and training process all over again.

At the end of the day, banks want a viable option to end the what seems like a revolving door of credit analysts. By outsourcing this role, banks have new opportunities to provide cost savings and improve quality for their customers.

The information contained herein is general in nature and is not intended, and should not be construed, as legal, accounting, investment, or tax advice or opinion provided by CliftonLarsonAllen LLP (CliftonLarsonAllen) to the reader. For more information, visit CLAconnect.com.