The Long Road to BCBS 239 – Are We There Yet?

Richard BennettBasel, BCBS239, FRC WorkbenchLeave a Comment

The long road to BCBS 239

When the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision unveiled the BCBS 239 principles for risk data aggregation and risk reporting (RDARR) back in January 2013, its ambitious nature sparked controversy within the financial industry. The stringent requirements and significant changes it demanded, particularly for institutions with complex and fragmented data systems, raised concerns about practical implementation.

On top of this, the original timeline for compliance and the potential costs associated with system upgrades led to notable objections and a subsequent glacial pace of adoption. The global pandemic and recent stress events have not only likely extended the timeline for progress, but they have also served as a clear reminder of the critical importance of banks’ capacity to handle risk-related data for making sound decisions. Central banks around the world are pushing for progress, but firms still face significant challenges in tackling the practical pitfalls surrounding RDARR.

The blog delves into the challenges of BCBS 239 implementation, examining the ongoing efforts of central banks and financial institutions to progress along this arduous road. Additionally, it introduces three strategic steps proposed to streamline BCBS 239 compliance and enhance risk data aggregation and reporting practices.

ECB’s Latest Guide: Easier Read Than Done?

On May 3, 2024, the European Central Bank (ECB) issued its ‘Guide on effective risk data aggregation and risk reporting,’ urging significant banks, banking groups, and other financial institutions under its Eurozone supervision to enhance their data aggregation capabilities and internal risk reporting practices.

Emphasising compliance with minimum supervisory expectations mandated by current laws, the guide addresses deficiencies identified through supervisory activities, with a focus on project management and the role of the management body. It offers industry best practices to strengthen RDARR capabilities, reiterating the ECB’s expectations for tangible results.

While the guide acts as a roadmap for institutions aiming to assist their RDARR capabilities, it may overlook the specific hurdles encountered during implementation. Much like a roadmap provides a general route without highlighting road conditions, the guide offers an overarching framework without addressing the practical challenges firms face along the way.

Our hands-on experience has given us a clear understanding of RDARR implementation which enables us to identify and discuss the main hurdles firms face in achieving compliance. Next, we will explore these challenges, and end on how firms can overcome them.

Common RDARR Roadblocks

We have found that the primary challenge lies in the complexity of overhauling IT systems and data management practices to meet the rigorous standards set by BCBS 239. Banks often struggle with integrating and standardising data across disparate systems and business units, which is essential for accurate and comprehensive risk reporting.

Resource constraints also significantly hamper progress. The extensive investment required in terms of time, money, and skilled personnel to redesign data architecture and reporting mechanisms has been a considerable barrier. Many institutions have had to balance these demands with other regulatory requirements and business priorities, further delaying full compliance.

Another practical problem that institutions often encounter when implementing RDARR compliance is the issue of data quality assurance. Despite efforts to overhaul IT systems and integrate data across various platforms, ensuring the accuracy, completeness, and reliability of the aggregated data remains a persistent challenge. Firms often struggle with identifying and rectifying data inconsistencies, errors, and gaps, which can undermine the effectiveness of risk reporting and decision-making processes.

Compounding this issue is maintaining data quality over time, which requires ongoing monitoring, validation, and remediation efforts, adding to the complexity and resource burden of compliance initiatives.

While navigating the multifaceted landscape of RDARR, institutions encounter a myriad of practical challenges. However, overcoming these obstacles is essential for achieving regulatory compliance and ensuring robust risk management practices.

Three Key Steps to Strategic Implementation

Navigating the intricacies of RDARR implementation often feels like a daunting journey, demanding significant investments in both time and resources. Yet, achieving compliance does not always require extensive modifications to existing systems.

Instead, it calls for a strategic approach that unfolds through three key steps, each serving as a foundation for simplifying the compliance process and ensuring precision and effectiveness in risk data aggregation and reporting.

  1. Firstly, leveraging existing systems taps into the wealth of data already present within the organisation’s risk and finance infrastructure. These systems provide a solid foundation, housing invaluable information that can be repurposed for compliance objectives.
  2. Next, applying intelligent aggregation techniques maximises the utility of existing data. This method retains granularity where essential, addressing specific user needs or analytical requirements, while applying broader aggregation to the remaining portfolio/balance sheet. Through this process, concentration factors and weighted-average values are meticulously computed, ensuring subsequent analyses produce meaningful and precise outcomes.
  3. Finally, aligning aggregated model results with source system data is a pivotal step. This calibration process ensures the consistency of analyses, effectively bridging the gap between aggregated data and its original sources. The outcome is a precisely balanced approach that seamlessly integrates speed and granularity, facilitating interactive multi-year projections, stress testing, and rapid what-if analyses. It also expedites detailed optimisations of the full balance sheet or credit portfolio, thereby enhancing the efficiency of the compliance process.

These three key steps form the cornerstone of how we approach strategic RDARR implementation, offering organisations a route to navigate the compliance journey with precision and efficiency.

The Time is Now

In a recent blog, Elizabeth McCaul, Member of the Supervisory Board of the ECB, emphasises the importance of banks investing in their RDARR capabilities and why now is the best time to act. She notes, ‘Many banks are benefiting from better profitability in the current higher interest rate environment.’ This underscores the strategic opportunity for institutions to enhance their risk data aggregation and reporting capabilities.

By adopting strategic RDARR implementation, banks can ensure compliance while unlocking valuable insights and efficiencies driving business growth and resilience. Armed with clear guidance and a commitment to overcoming practical challenges, institutions can confidently navigate the road to BCBS 239 compliance.

Richard Bennett

CEO at Razor Risk
Richard has extensive experience of working with financial institutions worldwide, assisting firms in managing enterprise risk efficiently while meeting local regulatory guidelines and standards.

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