OCC Warns Banks Against Complacency

By Mary Crotty, Freelance Writer for Banks and Third-Party Service Providers

Twice a year the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) releases a summary of current and emerging risk trends for the banking system. The OCC’s latest “Semiannual Risk Perspective for Fall 2017” (Perspective) was published last Friday, January 18, and is based on financial data compiled and analyzed through June 30, 2017.

While noting a strong economy and continued improvement in overall bank performance, the Perspective does sound some warning bells. “The current operating environment presents strategic risk for many banks in increasingly diverse ways. Thus, this report emphasizes the need for vigilance by bank management at this point in the economic cycle.”

OCC-Noted Risk Areas

  • Credit Policy and Practices: The OCC warns that banks are slowly loosening their commercial credit underwriting practices due to increased competition. It also noted an increased concentration in Commercial Real Estate (CRE), a trend it noted could hurt the entire financial system if not monitored and checked.
  • Cybersecurity Programs: Cyber criminals continue to evolve their methods and tools faster than bank cybersecurity programs can keep up.
  • Vendor Management Programs: Banks’ increasing reliance on third-party service providers, especially for critical functions, continues to concern the OCC.
  • Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) Compliance: Just like cybercrime, money laundering continues to evolve into an ever more complex crime that creates significant problems for banks. The OCC warns that banks are struggling to comply with the BSA, even before the related Customer Due Diligence (CDD) Final Rule goes into effect on May 11, 2018.
  • Consumer Protection Compliance: According to the Perspective, consumer compliance risk management continues to be an issue for banks “due to the increasing complexity in consumer compliance regulations.”
  • Current Expected Credit Loss (CECL) Model: The OCC also warns that the “current expected credit losses standard for which implementation begins in 2020 may pose operational and strategic risk to some banks when measuring and assessing the collectability of financial assets.”

Avoid Complacency

The Perspective reads like a road map for determining what areas will receive the most attention during upcoming regulatory examinations. There are two things your bank can do right now to improve its performance on such examinations:

  1. Review the following policies and make sure processes and procedures reflect any updates: Credit Policy, Cybersecurity Policy, Vendor Management Policy, Bank Secrecy Act Policy, UDAAP Policy and other consumer protection policies.
  2. Reiterate your bank’s policy stances by communicating them with your employees.

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