Spend on tech, save on compliance costs

Audit giant Deloitte, which just announced its new risk analytics centre in Singapore, aims to encourage clients to use technology to save money in regulatory compliance.

The centre, which is within the Deloitte Singapore office, will showcase the technology Deloitte has on offer. The firm announced the establishment of the Deloitte Risk Analytics Delivery Centre on Tuesday at a seminar, with the aim to "accelerate the rollout of innovative risk analytics solutions to clients in Asia-Pacific".

It will develop strategies promoting the use of analytics in risk management - to measure and predict risk - and regulatory compliance in the Asia-Pacific.

Mr Philip Chong, who leads the governance, regulation and risk practice for Asia-Pacific, said the initial investment in the centre is about $500,000, with plans to invest in the centre every year.

Adopting new technology is necessary, said global risk analytics leader Tom Scampion, who explained: "Technology makes us more efficient about understanding the gaps we need to address. Then it becomes much more effective at helping us do things like automate the way in which we deliver some of the regulatory compliance."

Mr Scampion says that using the right technology can cut compliance costs by some 30 per cent.

For example, there is a partnership where Deloitte's regulatory intelligence, with IBM's risk analytics and Watson cognitive computing, lets firms use a cognitive-based solution that automates the assessment of regulation or create a regulatory repository that helps to compare a firm's control framework with industry standards.

Mr Scampion noted that regulatory compliance is usually about understanding a client, which requires massive amounts of information. "We can automate that, and stop having people do what are pretty manual tasks, like going through databases and depositories, for a client's connections and exposures."

He said some 30 per cent of compliance costs could be saved just by employing the right technology, such as what Deloitte calls robotic process automation.

Financial services firms like banks spend hundreds of millions of dollars on compliance and risk programmes.

Deloitte's senior executives at the seminar pointed out that regulatory technology is a growing trend in Europe and the United States, particularly for financial institutions, as they have to deal with regulations across several jurisdictions and huge amounts of data.

Mr Scampion noted the way technology is helping with manual tasks. "Potentially, a third of the jobs that are there today in the financial service industry will be done through automation or robots in 20 years' time," he said.

Such work includes the repetitive gathering of data, and parts of verifying the customer's identity or conducting due diligence. Mr Scampion said: "It may not be an individual but it may be a bit of their job. People will spend more time doing much more value-added type of risk management, making proper decisions. The more we automate, the more people can focus on doing things that make a difference."

Mr Chong said it would help Singapore face manpower shortages in areas such as clerical work.

"Economically, the fear is that a lot of the work gets moved out of Singapore as it's a high-cost location. But with technology, we can retain our businesses here as our people do higher value-added work, and will help our national competitiveness."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 25, 2016, with the headline 'Spend on tech, save on compliance costs'. Print Edition | Subscribe