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Know your consultancy: EY’s FinCrime practice and the future of compliance

Be the frictionless provider of FinCrime services

Ron Giammarco, leader of EY Global FinCrime Managed Services, described EY’s foundational principles for the financial crime practice in both technology and business model terms, noting that the firm has been committed to making every new offering cloud-native, but still deployable on premises. EY’s FinCrime practice, which was established 20 years ago, generates $1 billion in annual revenue, and there are over 30 clients on the firm’s FinCrime technology platform. To further its business, EY is determined to own the technology ecosystem, including all the intellectual property within the practice and every aspect of the relationship with clients.

In Giammarco’s view, EY should provide “frictionless” experiences for clients using its different platforms and solutions, with EY smoothing out any underlying technology or partnering issues. To offer those platforms, Giammarco noted, the firm has decided to acquire and partner as much as possible, building assets internally only when needed. In TBR’s view, these foundational principles reflect a shift in EY’s approach to technology and the firm’s overall ecosystem.

Embracing the business model shift and the substantial financial investment needed to be a technology company — at least to the degree EY is now — requires reorienting around the current competitive and partnership landscape, not the more siloed and opaque environment of several years ago, when digital transformation emerged as a challenge to the traditional consulting business model. Among the significant changes, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) and SAS now list EY’s offerings within their own services catalogs, and EY expects those partners to not only provide technology support but also engage in sales efforts and the onboarding of new clients.

EY’s differentiation: Expertise, discipline and global standards

Within this changed competitive and partnering environment, EY has been challenged to differentiate from peers, an effort TBR has tracked across Strategy and Transactions, Blockchain and other EY practices. For Nic Bastable, leader of EY Global Financial Crime Managed Services Delivery, the firm’s uniqueness has coalesced around three main characteristics. First, EY has developed deep domain expertise, which continues to evolve. Bastable explained that every FinCrime interaction, even through a managed services arrangement, has eventually led to an analyst helping a bank make a financial crime risk decision, which has involved more than just following simple procedures.

EY has invested in its professionals, building career tracks for FinCrime analysts and providing ongoing training, which led the firm to have, in Bastable’s opinion, differentiated expertise. Second, within the complex environment of helping banks make decisions about risk, EY has exhibited tight operational controls — essential at the global scale of EY’s services and to meet clients’ needs. Third, over years of providing FinCrime services, EY has created a global standard operating model, distilling best practices from dozens of engagements, by thousands of professionals, across more than a million events. Underlying all this, according to Bastable, EY brought automation and efficiency to the firm’s operations and delivery, further differentiating the value of EY’s services.

In TBR’s view, while each of the core elements of EY’s FinCrime practice does not separate the firm from specialists or niche services providers, the combination, particularly with global reach and substantial scale, gives the firm a compelling story. Overall, EY’s FinCrime practice does not depend on setting itself apart from peers, especially as professional services firms rarely differentiate from one another; instead, EY succeeds through solidifying trust by offering domain depth and delivering.

Laundering money and funding terrorism cannot withstand analytics and AI

Despite banks’ substantial investments in technology, people and processes to meet regulations, they currently lack effective and efficient systems for tackling financial crimes such as money laundering and terrorist financing. Regulators cannot keep pace with change, and the time and investment to overhaul banks’ legacy systems are too great given the complexity of global organizations and inevitable disruption to operations. But the three elements — technology, people and process — match EY’s strengths in technology consulting, especially when paired with deep financial services industry and risk and compliance expertise. EY continues to invest and evolve its financial crime (FinCrime) practice as it listens to financial institutions’ demands for services that embed regulatory compliance expertise and technology innovation, offered at scale on an outcomes-based pricing model. EY’s FinCrime practice collaborates across the firm to combine legacy capabilities and emerging technologies to differentiate from competitors’ portfolios in the market and provide, in TBR’s current analysis, industry-leading offerings.

EY’s connected approach to disrupting financial crime: Technology disruption, industry collaboration and process innovation

Over the course of EY’s two-day Financial Crime Analyst Summit, the firm’s leaders and banking sector clients spoke with TBR about the challenges financial institutions face, including high operating costs, stifled revenue growth, and demands to undergo business transformation while maintaining compliance with evolving regulations. Many industries contend with the first two challenges, but this last one — transforming while complying — fits well with EY’s strengths: industry expertise, emerging tech capabilities, and a deep understanding of the regulators in the U.S. and globally. In applying those strengths, EY’s financial crime practice relies on three pillars — technology disruption, industry collaboration and process innovation — in other words, meet demand for services and solutions that are backed by regulation credibility, infused with technology innovation and offered with tiered pricing to successfully disrupt FinCrime.

Before getting to the specific ways that EY addresses FinCrime, one key aspect of the financial services market as a whole deserves extra attention: trust. In the consulting and technology spaces, trust has come to mean delivering on promises and securing data. In the banking space, with the additional weight of money and regulators, trust becomes the single most important factor in determining the extent of a provider-client relationship. With a heritage as a trusted auditor, a reputation for delivering consulting services, and a position between clients and regulators, EY has built up enough trust capital to take on industrywide challenges.