The Evolution of Security and Risk Management: Inside SightSpan’s Remote, Global Approach

There’s a common thread between any successful financial services or fintech company: a solid security and risk management foundation equipped to adapt to regulatory and compliance changes.

Knowing how to proactively approach regulatory and compliance issues as they evolve is at the heart of why SightSpan exists, and why it’s seen such ample growth on a global scale. As financial services and fintech continue to converge, knowing how to approach risk management and security protocols is table stakes.

SightSpan has been serving this market for 14 years by helping clients manage and apply risk mitigation strategies that involve identifying, measuring, and analyzing risk probability. From short term, on-demand or ongoing compliance and security expertise, SightSpan serves as a strategic advisor as an extension of a company’s team — including large banks and prominent payment firms, public sector organizations and new and emerging fintechs and crypto firms.

“What happens, particularly for mid-sized firms, is regulatory and compliance issues become a secondary job. But it’s not a secondary job,” said John Walsh, CEO and president of SightSpan.  “That’s what we do. We’re able to mobilize quickly become an extension of their team, allows for the experience and expertise needed to mitigate risk and grow the firm.”

“There are lots of new regulations and changes in the marketplace. It’s taking a lot more time for these firms to look at rule changes, but as an expert, we’ve already been doing that. This isn’t a sideline job for us. It’s our profession,” he added.

A Changing Mindset: Driving New Efficiencies During the Pandemic

Andrea Corbine, SightSpan’s EVP of payments, said their firm has helped a lot of companies navigate the increased regulatory scrutiny during the pandemic, in addition to other times of economic uncertainty. Advising organizations on how to stay ahead of regulations is where SightSpan continues to deliver increased value for its clients as well as sitting at the table with their client’s regulators to navigate issues and tough discussions.

“When the economy is struggling, we see increased consumer frustration which translates into heavier Regulatory oversight. We’ve become deeper partners as an extension of AML compliance departments to help our clients become more effective and efficient,” Corbine said. “Fintechs have, wisely, been utilizing the last 12 months evaluating existing business processes in an effort to identify where opportunities for improvement and cost savings may exist.”

What’s changed most in this profession, particularly because of the pandemic, is the mindset on how companies can successfully manage compliance and security issues remotely. As organizations rushed to adapt when the pandemic hit, SightSpan was already ahead of the curve.

“We’re able to mobilize quickly because we have a global, professional workforce. We’re able to tap into our team and help people very quickly in many areas,” Walsh said. “While many in the industry used to say this work couldn’t be done remotely, we’ve proven that it can. It’s much more accelerated now. Compliance Risk Management has grown significantly over the past 10 years and has matured as functional area in the financial services arena”

SightSpan’s team also has direct relationships across the financial ecosystem, including key players at big banks and across governments and organizations like FINTRAC, that provide their clients the ability to understand what’s coming down the regulatory and compliance pipeline. Because SightSpan works across the private and public sectors worldwide, this bridges organizational gaps and reduces a company’s burden of tackling complex risk management alone.

From compliance, AML and CTF sanctions and data/cyber security, to background checks and due diligence, SightSpan provides the risk management, business support and security services needed to help companies of all sizes. Their team provides them with the framework to ensure their evolving products and services that align with critical compliance and AML regulations. This also includes program management, training and technology services related to security and risk management.

“One thing we do a lot is regulatory audits for fintechs and banks. We also act as a remote workforce for organizations that want to expand — particularly in the fintech and banking space — but lack the resources. That message has really resonated in the pandemic,” Walsh said. “We have always done this work remotely, but now we’ve been able to reach out to smaller fintechs that need this support worldwide, too. We’re able to help them grow and scale much faster.”

Moving Beyond the Card: Regulatory Discussions Around Prepaid and Crypto

As companies evolve, how they approach payment services has also changed. Prepaid, for example, has gained much more credibility from a regulatory standpoint, demonstrating how it can provide a low-risk digital banking service to businesses and consumers. What’s changed most about prepaid in recent years is the association to more than just a physical card.

“The reference to prepaid as a product is sunsetting. It’s now just the ancillary for receiving and distributing funds. The payments industry is really pushing for digital wallets and payments which is imperative for a global solution. They are doing away with strictly plastic programs,” Corbine said.

Like prepaid, there’s also been significant changes in the financial services and fintech world about how organizations are talking about and launching crypto products. It wasn’t long ago that crypto was the outsider looking into the traditional financial service ecosystem, but now crypto has cemented itself as mainstream. Still, many firms understand that the appetite for crypto is different in each region of the world. SightSpan’s team helps navigate these regulatory waters.

“Today, everyone wants to talk about crypto and the narrative is significantly different than that of 8 years ago,” Corbine said. “Established Crypto firms with strong leadership now seem to have an approach of respect towards AML and CTF. There is an understanding that they need to build a solid foundation if they are going to have credibility across local jurisdictions and governments. They know they must have compliance and regulatory issues solved. This has been a very rapidly growing area of our firm.”

For any financial services or fintech company, addressing security and risk management isn’t a single job; it requires constant monitoring and adaptation. These issues will continue to get more complex and evolve, which is where SightSpan believes it can continue to live up to its mission of helping organizations of all sizes mitigate compliance risk and uncover financial crime around the globe.

Learn more about SightSpan’s mission here.

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