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Your Three Minutes In Fintech: U.S. Banking Regulators Ramp Up Scrutiny Of Third-Party Partnerships


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Your Three Minutes In Fintech: U.S. Banking Regulators Ramp Up Scrutiny Of Third-Party Partnerships

Banks that lack proper oversight to identify, measure, and control risks with third-party fintech vendors may face a greater risk of regulatory action from U.S. agencies (at a time when those agencies have been issuing more cease-and-desist orders overall).  S&P Global Ratings thinks this is especially true for smaller banks that are offering products through fintech partners because they may lack the more robust risk management frameworks that larger banks have.


What's Happening

U.S. regulators in the last year have announced cease-and-desist orders against multiple banks that partner with fintechs--primarily for insufficient third-party risk management.  Most of the orders that have been announced recently involve banks with under $10 billion in total assets. These banks will likely need to strengthen their risk management and compliance efforts to comply with these orders or reevaluate their fintech relationships.

Why It Matters

There has been an uptick in cease-and-desist orders related to third-party risk management since three key regulators updated their guidance on the issue in June 2023.  The interagency guidance from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., Federal Reserve, and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency focuses on how banks should manage risks from third-party relationships. For example, it states, "It is important for a banking organization to understand how the arrangement with a third party, including a fintech company, is structured so that the banking organization may assess the types and levels of risks posed and determine how to manage those third-party relationships accordingly."

We think U.S. banks are partnering with fintechs to gain customers and enhance revenue.  Small banks may lack the resources to build tech products in-house, and they may look to partner with fintechs to stay competitive with larger banks that have significant tech budgets. While partnerships can increase revenue for these banks, they also come with risks and costs, in our view:

  • Banks typically have higher regulatory and compliance standards than many lightly regulated fintechs.
  • Some smaller banks may lack the scale to ensure robust risk-management frameworks for managing third-party fintech relationships.
  • Banks partnering with fintechs may need to increase compliance costs to satisfy regulatory expectations.
  • If the costs of satisfying those expectations are too high, we think banks may be more selective about these partnerships or explore other strategies to remain competitive, such as increasing scale through mergers and acquisitions (M&A).

What Comes Next

Smaller U.S. banks may become more cautious about expanding fintech partnerships because of the scrutiny and costs involved.  We think this favors the largest banks with the largest technology and compliance budgets--they'll be able to further build their market positions in the U.S.

We think community banks and small regional banks will continue to pursue M&A to attain the necessary scale to meet higher regulatory compliance costs or develop more competitive products through continued investment in technology.

Outsourcing arrangements that entail third-party reliance and risks will get more scrutiny from global regulators.  Vulnerabilities in IT infrastructure, which includes outsourcing partners, can be entry points for cyber criminals.

In the EU, some of the increased scrutiny will come via the Digital Operational Resilience Act--a regulation that, among other things, outlines key principles for managing information and communication technology (ICT) third-party risk. It will apply to financial institutions operating in the EU and their critical ICT providers beginning in January 2025.

Related Research

This report does not constitute a rating action.

Primary Credit Analyst:Nicholas J Wetzel, CFA, Englewood + 303-721-4448;
Secondary Contacts:Brendan Browne, CFA, New York + 1 (212) 438 7399;
Stuart Plesser, New York + 1 (212) 438 6870;
Additional Contact:Fintech_Lab;

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