According to the FDIC, a common theme in IT examination downgrades is poor vendor management by banks.
Last year, in 46% of the FDIC IT examinations in which bank ratings were downgraded, inadequate vendor management was cited as a causal factor, says Donald Saxinger, senior examination specialist in FDIC's Technology Supervision Branch.
"I'm not saying it was the primal causal factor, but, in 46% of the downgrades, vendor management was cited," Saxinger says. He spoke during the recent ABA Telephone Briefing "Vendor management: Unlocking the value beyond regulatory compliance."
Although the most common “error” that FDIC examiners discovered was the failure by banks to ask their vendors for copies of regulatory examinations, that wasn’t the only nugget contained in the linked article from the ABA Banking Journal. Among the others:
• Vendor management needs to consider all service providers that hold sensitive customer information, not just IT vendors. These include loan workout consulting, appraisal review companies, outside attorneys, and others.
• Make sure to get the proper exam reports about individual vendors. Some banks just obtain reports for the host data center, but not for the specific application that the banks were using.• Even the proper reports don't cover everything that a bank must consider in its security risk management efforts. For example, one service provider with an otherwise clean report did not have an internal audit program and its business continuity planning was poorly documented.
This is all sound advice, of course, but knowing what you need to ask for is only half the battle. You also need to make certain that the agreement with your vendor gives the bank the right to ask for, and the vendor the obligation to deliver to the bank, copies of the necessary reports. Relying on the goodwill of the vendor in coughing up examination and audit reports, especially when they may contain results that are less than flattering to the vendor, is "unwise."
Here's one more tip: if the report reveals problems, the agreement with the vendor should require the vendor to notify the bank of what action the vendor intends to take to remedy the defects, and should also require the vendor to give the bank periodic progress reports on its progress in correcting those problems.
I'll be doing a webinar on March 6, 2013 on the topic "Technology Service Agreements: Meeting Regulator’s Expectations." It covers regulatory guidance applicable to credit unions, banks, and thrifts, although the same essential principles apply to each. The goal is to discuss the provisions of a technology service agreement that regulators expect (and that sound business judgment requires) be included, and to give financial institutions guidance on how to approach the issues covered by each of those provisions so that the institution meets its regulator's expectations while also meeting the institution's business needs.