Financial Institutions

Assessing Third Party Risk

Companies must assess the risks of vendors that provide critical operations or have access to customer information.
By: | October 21, 2014

The financial services industry is in “high gear” to reassess third-party risk management practices in response to regulatory guidance.

Institutions are investing in technology to improve reporting and analytics, so that third-party risks are appropriately assessed and that controls are effective, according to the Third Party/Vendor Risk Management Survey, recently released by the Risk Management Association and sponsored by MetricStream.

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It’s not just about assessing the risks from vendors and their subcontractors, but also affiliates, debt buyers, agents, channel partners, and correspondent banks, to name just a few third parties that banks and credit unions work with, said Edward DeMarco, RMA’s general counsel and director of operational risk/regulatory relations/communications.

Best practices are in “an evolutionary state,” DeMarco said.

“Prudent third-party risk management requires that the third party be risk-assessed in connection with the enterprise and not simply any one individual business line.” — Edward DeMarco, general counsel, Risk Management Association

“Multiple business lines and functional units within an institution might have their own special relationship with the same third party,” he said. “Prudent third-party risk management requires that the third party be risk-assessed in connection with the enterprise and not simply any one individual business line.”

Institutions are also increasingly putting pressure on to make sure third parties assess the risks of their own contractors, DeMarco said.

“For example, a bank might hire XYZ appraisal company, and that company might sub out to appraisal companies 1, 2, 3 and 4,” he said. “While the bank won’t require a report because they are not in control of those relationships, the banking company does expect its third party to assess their risks.”

Other survey findings include:

• Nearly 50 percent of the respondents said their institution’s risk management functions were responsible for oversight of vendor risk.

• More than 50 percent said their institutions send questionnaires to vendors for risk management purposes.

• Roughly one-third said they have more than 25 “enterprise critical” suppliers that have the potential to affect their entire organization in the event of a failure.

• More than 75 percent have in place a supplier code of conduct that suppliers must acknowledge.

Negotiations with third parties and vendors can be time consuming — and cyber insurance coverage is “an integral part” of those conversations. –Michael O’Connell, managing director and financial Institutions practice leader, Aon Risk Solutions.

Peter Foster, executive vice president and one of the leaders of the cyber risk group at Willis, said that many of his financial institution clients require their vendors to complete a Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements (SSAE) No. 16, which is a guidance from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

“But this is the minimal of what a vendor should be doing to demonstrate how they are protecting their systems,” Foster said.

“That report really doesn’t get deep into the weeds whether or not the security around the data or around operational applications is really secure.

“Financial institutions should take a step further with a set of questions or a physical audit of a vendor, particularly if the application is more critical to operations or contains customers’ personally identifiable information.”

Institutions should also require third parties to have a technology errors and omissions policy with cyber insurance built into the one policy, he said.

An institution should require third parties to name it as an “additional insured” and provide it with certificates of insurance to cover any disruptions, including liability to cover unauthorized access or unauthorized use of data.

An institution should also have coverage for vicarious liability and direct liability under its own cyber policy, which would cover a data breach resulting from outsourcing, Foster said. That way, the institution will be covered if its third party doesn’t have a policy or its policy doesn’t provide such coverage.

Such is often the case with cloud computing firms, he said.

“We recommend [third parties provide coverage] because it should be the first line of dense — the vendor who causes the breach should be paying for the breach,” Foster said. “But we’re also cognizant of the fact that many vendors will not provide that coverage and that the bank needs to use that vendor.”

Negotiations with third parties and vendors can be time consuming — and cyber insurance coverage is “an integral part” of those conversations, said Michael O’Connell, managing director and financial Institutions practice leader at Aon Risk Solutions.

“Also, a critical part of these discussions centers around who is liable for what part and how much of the loss, especially when there is a breach of confidential data,” he said.

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From a risk management perspective, he recommended that vendor risk assessments include answers to these questions:

• Does the insurance fully cover the liability of the insured due to an incident caused by third-party providers?

• Are regulatory investigations, fines and penalties addressed?

• Are first-party business interruption and crisis management included within the cyber policies and are there full limits or sublimits?

“Additionally, the contingent business interruption component must include increased attention to the number and complexity of third-party relationships,” O’Connell said.

Firms must have a complete plan for loss mitigation, restitution, and a response to the potential reputational damage that may be caused, he said.

Katie Kuehner-Hebert is a freelance writer based in California. She has more than two decades of journalism experience and expertise in financial writing. She can be reached at [email protected]

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