By: Chris Murphy, Vice President of Product Marketing at Smart Communications
In today’s digital world, regulatory oversight is on the rise, and it’s not necessarily a negative thing. From consumer protections to privacy safeguards to accessibility guidelines, constantly evolving regulations affect nearly every industry—particularly those that handle sensitive information, such as insurance, financial services and healthcare. This fact is great when we consider that much of the regulatory oversight was put in place to help protect consumers in marginalized or vulnerable groups. While compliance has traditionally been viewed as a business necessity that creates more work, in today’s enterprise landscape it actually presents an opportunity for organizations to show their customers that they care, earning trust and safeguarding the business’s reputation. Though it may be seen as a business challenge, it allows companies to be responsible in their actions and held accountable by developing a strong process for enterprise risk management and compliance.
To stay aligned with ever-changing requirements, enterprises need an agile and scalable technology stack that makes it easy to keep up. Cloud-based solutions provide many of these benefits. For example, cloud-based solutions offer open APIs that make it easier to connect to core systems and use known data to deliver more transparent and personalized client experience. Modern Customer Communications Management (CCM) solutions can provide instant visibility into the content and language being used across the entire library of forms and communications so businesses can easily find and update even the smallest details.
Shifting Regulations Present New Opportunities for Risk Management and Compliance
In recent years, digitization has led to increased data privacy and consumer protection regulations. To stay compliant with regular updates, enterprises need to take a closer look at how they interact with customers. Cloud-native solutions offer the agility and speed that’s required to meet these regulatory requirements while also offering an opportunity to better serve customers. This is especially true for the industries that are subject to the most scrutiny. Some examples:
- Insurance: Evolving requirements
The global pandemic accelerated digitization in the insurance industry, impacting compliance requirements and other key areas such as data security and consumer privacy. In the US, 21 states have adopted the NAIC Insurance Data Security Model Law. On a global level, Insurance Capital Standard (ICS) development continues, with ICS 2.0, in a five-year monitoring period that began in 2020, while also being reviewed for compatibility in the US. As digitization grows, insurers will need to balance an increasingly long list of regulatory issues, making visibility into organization-wide documents and communications a top priority.
- Financial Services: Under the microscope
The rise of open banking, growth of digital-first fintechs, and rising defaults and customer vulnerability coming out of the COVID pandemic have all sparked a new wave of regulations and penalties in financial services. Regulators like the FCA in the UK; the European Commission; and the CFPB, SEC and FINRA in the US are focusing on transparency and data usage. Keeping up with changing demands is difficult for even the most well-resourced compliance teams. Lending businesses are focusing especially on refining their default and collections business processes, while wealth and asset management firms are focusing on suitability and client reporting, all with an eye on making sure customers know more about costs and risks. Sophisticated, cloud-based systems are critical to staying one step ahead of both regulations and threats—which is critical to protecting the reputation of any financial services organization. Having a full audit trail that shows who, when and how changes were made to forms or document templates is an absolute must.
- Healthcare: Privacy law updates
The healthcare sector in the U.S. has long been subject to strict consumer privacy laws including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Some states are implementing even more stringent regulations. The California Consumer Privacy Act (CSPA) along with new laws in Colorado, Connecticut, Utah and Virginia, collectively known as “2023 Privacy Laws,” will affect the extent to which entities maintain patient information and lay out complex exemption standards that vary by state and law. Healthcare organizations in affected states need to prepare to update data management processes and also to present relevant privacy policies to consumers. Legacy systems simply aren’t up to the task.
WCAG Driving Change Across Enterprises
Until recently, accessibility was considered a “nice to have” element in terms of digital presence and communications for most enterprises. But with European Union Directive and the Department of Justice’s recent assertion that websites (or outbound communications and other digital experiences) fall under “public places of accommodation” in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Title III, certain accessibility standards are now required. While specific requirements vary by country, the most recent Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which are the international standard for accessibility, focus on four principles: perceivability, operability, understandability and robustness. WCAG also lays out three levels of conformity with most organizations striving for the middle, Level AA. Failure to meet WCAG standards can lead to costly litigation – not to mention loss of reputation.
Making websites and communications accessible helps enterprises reach a wider audience and also builds trust, because consumers today care about doing business with ethical companies. Digital forms and other customer communications should also meet accessibility standards. Some accessibility requirements are fairly straightforward — for example, including alt text on all images and transcribing audio files. But incorporating accessibility into the entire digital ecosystem at the enterprise level is complex. Updating things like font size and color, background color contrast, and screen reader accessibility require a sophisticated approach. Relying on outdated systems or manual updates runs the risk of error, costly fines and litigation. Modern solutions allow enterprises greater visibility into and control over digital assets at scale.
Reducing Risk for Highly Regulated Industries
For the most closely regulated industries and the public sector, the risks of failure to comply are costly. Healthcare organizations can face minimum penalties ranging from $100 to $50,000 per HIPAA violation, with a maximum of $1.8M for top tier violations. Failure to meet Service Organization Control (SOC) 1 and 2 requirements relating to data confidentiality can result in total lack of public trust. For businesses operating in the cloud, SOC 2 compliance has become table stakes. Similarly, the international standard for managing information security, ISO/IEC 27001, brings hefty fines for failure to comply. In the U.S., the SEC has leveled huge fines on asset managers who failed to deliver Customer Relationship Summary forms to clients, part of the Reg BI standards that call for brokers to act in their clients’ best interest. For this reason, prioritizing compliance has become a strategic imperative across the healthcare, insurance and banking industries.
Protecting customer data and reducing errors are also critical to safeguarding a company’s reputation and should be at the core of any enterprise’s risk management and compliance efforts. Failing to show good faith in securing data or making content accessible can reduce an enterprise’s competitive edge and likely lead to revenue loss as well. Moving to the cloud gives organizations the visibility and agility that’s needed to maintain compliance and minimize risk, without driving up costs. Rather than manually searching forms and communications one-by-one to find what needs to be updated, modern-architected solutions compartmentalize the building blocks of communications into component parts. This creates a seamless process for searching entire communications libraries for language fragments that are used across communications and make instant updates across the board. Even things like font size and color can be updated centrally, making it easy to keep up with changing regulatory requirements.
Choose the Right Solution Partner to Enhance Compliance and Regulatory Risk Management Capabilities
Choosing the right cloud solution provider can help enterprises greatly reduce oversight-related risks by simplifying, and in some cases automating, compliance. Choosing a vendor-hosted SaaS solution with an established data security framework and built-in safeguards can help enterprises meet privacy requirements, prevent breaches and automate reporting. A cloud-based solution also provides deep visibility into nuanced vertical requirements and the agility to quickly update language, formatting and other content when regulations change—which they always do.