A new study by Accenture (www.accenture.com), a global professional services company, finds that, while large financial institutions have made progress applying smart technologies like cloud, biometrics, and big data analytics to their risk management functions, two-thirds (66%) of executives say skills deficiencies are impeding the effectiveness of the function as these technologies evolve.

The study, which is based on a survey of 475 risk management executives in the banking, insurance and capital markets sectors globally, also found that three-quarters of executives (73%) cite an increase in the “velocity, variety and volume” of data as impeding the effectiveness of their risk management functions.

According to the study, firms are struggling to develop the skills necessary to make use of the larger information flows and take advantage of related opportunities.
“As the nature of risk becomes more and more diverse and the amount and quality of data explodes, the need for the skills to bridge core risk management and new technologies is more urgent than ever,” said Steven Culp, senior managing director of Accenture’s Finance & Risk practice for Financial Services. “Since the 2008 financial crisis, the world has changed dramatically. Previously, financial institutions responded to regulatory and control issues by adding talent. Now they must pivot to increase the skills of their talent to keep pace with new realities of data and technology. While technology cannot replace experience and good risk management discipline, the risk teams that will be most effective at integrating technologies like big data to recognize patterns and test hypotheses will be the ones that are best positioned to outperform their peers.”

According to the survey, 69% of executives believe that a shortage of skills in new and emerging technologies is hurting the risk function’s effectiveness. Only 10% said their risk teams have the internal resources needed to carry out the functions they are asked to perform.

Skills shortages in risk management have been a persistent issue for financial institutions since the 2008 financial crisis. One-third (32%) of risk executives cited resources and talent as a significant challenge in 2009 when Accenture first began conducting the Risk Management Study. Two years later a majority (53%) of executives were still reporting plans to increase headcount. In 2015 only 41 percent of executives felt their organizations had the digital technology skills needed for risk management.

According to the 2017 study, risk functions are still in early stages of adopting smart technologies. A minority of respondents said they are “highly proficient” at incorporating these technologies into the risk management function.

Looking outside the existing workforce to extend or enhance the team is an increasingly common strategy for dealing with talent shortages. About half of this year’s study respondents said they expect to increase their use of outsourcing in areas such as technology implementation, risk reporting and risk measure calculation.

The Accenture study also suggests that the integration of risk across the organization is still somewhat limited. Less than one-quarter (24%) of respondents said their risk management activities are coordinated across risk types; 19% said the activities are coordinated across lines of business. Only 23% of respondents said there is strong integration between the integration of risk and finance.

“The risk management function has made great progress since we conducted our first global study in 2009,” Culp said. “Smart technologies such as robotic process automation and artificial intelligence are gradually taking hold, and more respondents are reporting the integration of risk analytics within planning and decision-making. That said, staying ahead of the next wave of risks — whether operational, financial or technological — requires a continuous evolution of the risk function, and only companies that put in place the right risk capabilities will be best positioned for growth.”