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Mortgage & Consumer Lenders: How Inflation Could Impact Regulation

By Blog, Featured

Over the past two years, researchers have honed in on consumer spending habits, particularly in the mortgage and consumer lending sectors. This spring, firms like McKinsey began sharing insights on how the pandemic has shifted consumer buying behaviors, including the impact of rising inflation across the U.S. Their findings point to some interesting trends that alone may not be cause for concern, but when looked at together, they may predict where and how federal and state agencies could start to focus on what they deem risky consumer spending and in turn, influence tighter interpretations of rules and regulations. For mortgage lenders, this could have major ramifications for compliance teams, revenue streams, and (perhaps most importantly) organizational reputation.

While interest rates continue to rise, and consequently inflame mortgage rates from 3.1% to 5.25% in Q1 2022, home demand is expected to increase at a rapid pace. This should be great news for mortgage lenders, who continue to see a steady flow of buyers. This isn’t expected to wane anytime soon, given that mortgage rates are still lower than the Consumer Price Index; however, lenders already strapped for talent and budget will feel the burden of this continued pressure alongside what may be coming from regulators.

What really weighs on both lenders and federal agencies is a mounting concern that many consumers have potentially overextended themselves in the past two years. Some indication of this could be the rise in valuation of firms like Square’s own Cash App, and other neobank market activity that has introduced new dynamics like Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) into consumer spending, creating alternative access to funds. With innovation comes new challenges which inevitably inspires new interpretations and eventually, regulations.

 A March 2022 article in the American Banker indicates the CFPB could move swiftly to begin analyzing and introducing more regulation into the BNPL loans market. This reaffirms both consumer and mortgage lenders’ concerns that the industry could soon experience rising rates of default. Lending Tree reported in May that now over 40% of consumers have missed a BNPL payment, and only one in twelve consumers are actually using BNPL for the industry’s initial intention: creating direct access to essentials for lower-income consumers.

Given the size of the BNPL market, $47B in 2021, with an expected 49% increase to $67B by the end of 2022, and an anticipated 53M users by 2025, it’s clear as to why the CFPB would be alerted to ensuring this new loan class remains safe for consumers and their families.

In anticipation of tighter scrutiny and adjusting interpretations on existing regulations, consumer lenders are shoring up budgets and reviewing technology solutions now to avoid costly changes and mistakes down the line. Concern that consumers have created an environment ripe for complex lending and riskier investments may begin impacting organic growth for the first time in a decade.

Getting ahead of the wave means revisiting compliance solutions right now that can ease the burden on internal teams by quickly and accurately identifying, interpreting, and monitoring critical obligations. Additionally, arming compliance leaders with efficiency tools not only boosts morale but can mitigate concerns as to whether lenders will be ahead of the curve and pre-empt any unnecessary negative attention when stories of mounting consumer risk hits media headlines. If financial services and consumer lending have learned anything from its past, it’s that being intentional, transparent, and consumer-focused is the best way to fortify market reputation.

Ascent RegTech fuels growth for mortgage lenders by managing your compliance regulations across markets, geographies and offerings. Ascent swiftly and accurately gathers your relevant requirements in one place, saving your firm time, human capital and costly mistakes.

 Learn more.



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Is Your Regulatory Risk Management Strategy Missing Critical Obligations?

By Blog, Featured

Regulatory risk management has always been a minefield of potential costly missteps and omissions for mortgage lenders. Over the past few years, it’s become even more challenging–especially as demand for mortgages climbs and firms expand into new arenas.

For one thing, the COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses to utterly transform the way they operate. As they scrambled to adopt digital workflows and capabilities largely overnight, regulatory changes governing those new operations came in fast and furious—and changed just as quickly, as potential risks were brought to light in real time.

And even before the pandemic, the rise of e-commerce and digital delivery giants escalated issues of consumer privacy and data security.

These are just two of the recent struggles facing mortgage lenders, who have long dealt with a vast and complex regulatory landscape.

Depending on where they operate, mortgage lenders need to look at the regulation feeds from multiple states–sometimes all 50. And because states change their licensing requirements regularly, it can be nearly impossible to stay on top of the latest updates—in addition to trying to manage federal regulatory requirements and ever-evolving consumer protection rules.

Often, mortgage lenders turn to industry-familiar search tools to help them determine what they should be doing from a compliance perspective. 

But what these sources provide for mortgage lenders are entire legislative bills or full regulatory rule updates—tens or even hundreds of pages in length. To actually determine what they should be doing, mortgage lenders need to:

  • Read through the entire text
  • Subjectively decide which requirements are relevant to them
  • Record those requirements for implementation

The results: over-served information that requires time consuming manual analysis, causing feelings of overwhelm and often opens up more risk.

Within these lengthy legislative bills and regulatory updates, there are the regulatory requirements—the prescriptive “to-dos” which get to the heart of what mortgage lenders need to do to stay compliant.

But there’s also important supporting information in these texts—exemptions, clarification statements, and definitions that are further needed to interpret the requirement. 

Unfortunately for mortgage lenders, this supporting information is typically not found directly next to its corresponding requirement. Users have to dig through different sections of the document, which wastes more time and creates even more uncertainty around what they need to do.

Identifying compliance requirements for mortgage lenders doesn’t have to be tedious.

Ascent RegTech automatically defines—and identifies—obligations for mortgage lenders much faster and more accurately.

We create a to-do list specific to your firm by extracting precise compliance requirements from the broader rule book, including all laws, rules and regulations applicable to you. Once complete, you can be assured of continued compliance, because regulation changes are automatically captured and updated–even as your firm expands into new jurisdictions.

Ascent also packages each obligation alongside its relevant support information, creating what we call a “complete thought” explaining the specific task required of your firm, as well as all necessary context for completing it.

Using Ascent, you can:

  • Centralize and automate your obligations in a single place
  • Eliminate the manual tedium of sifting through large regulatory documents to determine what applies to you
  • Filter out what doesn’t matter and take action on specific to-dos 
  • Reduce cost associated with compliance management

Find out how Ascent can help you manage the evolving mortgage lender regulatory risk landscape. Contact us to request a demo or talk to our Sales team. 

The role of requirements in effective regulatory risk management

By Blog, Featured

To effectively manage your regulatory risk, you must first understand what is required of your firm.

At Ascent, we believe that how your firm identifies its regulatory requirements (also known as “obligations”) can make or break your regulatory risk management and compliance program.

Here are five reasons why regulatory focus is so critical in identifying requirements and gaining a complete view of your unique risk exposure:

1) Requirements are foundational to managing regulatory risk

Identifying regulatory requirements is the first step in building a regulatory risk management and compliance program. Requirements dictate what regulatory risk drivers your firm monitors, and what policies, controls, and procedures it puts in place to manage them. For this reason, it’s critical to accurately pinpoint your firm’s exact requirements, as they impact your downstream compliance processes and ability to comply with the law. 

2) Missed requirements = regulatory risk blindspots

Unfortunately, the process of identifying requirements is difficult. Every day, compliance and legal teams navigate through oceans of regulatory texts to determine what is required of their business. Just the sheer volume of texts often leaves teams feeling like they’re drowning. This opens firms up to error as there is too much information to process and can result in teams overlooking requirements, especially as new regulation is introduced and existing texts are amended. To help your team rise above the tide, we believe that regulatory focus is key—help them focus only on what matters to the firm with the right tech solution.

3) Wrong requirements = inaccurate risk view

However, the rising regulatory tide isn’t the only hurdle that teams face. They also have to contend with regulatory depth. So while compliance and legal experts have the expertise to properly read regulation, their ability to scrutinize every important detail is hindered by the fact that they have to read through hundreds to thousands of pages of dense and complex texts. Without regulatory focus, your team could run the risk of overlooking a requirement, but—more importantly—of misidentifying a requirement as well.

4) Lack of regulatory focus clouds your risk view

While there are technology solutions that can help compliance and legal teams contend with regulatory volume, it’s important to understand how each vendor interprets and defines a “requirement” because not all create regulatory focus. In fact, most vendors consider requirements to be dense paragraphs of regulatory text or PDFs, which only clouds a firm’s regulatory focus as they require further analysis. This weighs heavy on compliance and legal teams who still need to comb through the text manually to determine what’s relevant to their business. At Ascent, we define regulatory requirements (or obligations) as the exact lines of regulation that apply to your business to help you better identify and manage your regulatory risk. 

5) Regulatory focus + clear risk view = better compliance

When regulatory requirements are identified properly, firms have a better understanding of their regulatory risk and can build stronger compliance and risk management programs. Once you know what your firm’s exact requirements are, you can create new or audit existing policies, controls, and procedures to ensure they address all areas of regulatory risk.

Manage Your Regulatory Risk 24/7 with Ascent

Ascent created Regulatory Knowledge Automation to dig deep into mountains of regulatory text and surface only the requirements / obligations relevant to your business. 

Developed, trained, and validated by our in-house team of data scientists and legal experts, our Regulatory Knowledge algorithms ingest, parse, and analyze millions of lines of regulatory text to pinpoint the exact lines of regulation that apply to your business.

Learn how Ascent’s regulatory focus enables an always-on view of your firm’s regulatory risk.

[Updated 2021] The Ultimate List of Compliance Conferences and Events

By Blog, Featured

Updated September 2021: As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the information on this page may change as organizations adapt their in-person plans for safety reasons. We will continue to update this page as event updates are released.

At Ascent, our team stays on top of the latest developments in regulatory risk and compliance by attending and participating in important industry conferences throughout the year, where we both exhibit and help to shape thought leadership and content. Below is our ultimate list of compliance conferences.

Know of a great event that’s missing? Drop us a line at and we’ll add it to the list!

Compliance and Risk Management

Society for Corporate Compliance & Ethics (SCCE) Annual Compliance & Ethics Institute (Las Vegas, September 19-22, 2021) | 1,400+ compliance and ethics professionals gather for this cross-industry education and networking event. Attendees explore real-world compliance issues, practical applications, emerging trends, and state-of-the-art techniques for managing corporate compliance and ethics programs.

ACA Compliance Group’s Fall Conference (Virtual, September 21-22, 2021) | 300+ senior compliance, technology, finance, and operations professionals from financial services firms attend. Topics covered include regulatory compliance, cybersecurity, performance, technology, anti-money laundering programs, and more.

The IIA 2021 Financial Services Exchange (Hybrid—Washington D.C. and Virtual, September 27-28, 2021) | The Financial Services Exchange is the event for internal auditors to learn and share leading practices to navigate through the associated risks. 

COMPLY Summit Roadshow (Dallas, October 6, 2021) | regulators, compliance and risk professionals, sales and marketing leaders, innovators, investors, and legal experts attend to share ideas at the intersection of compliance and technology. Billed as a combination of “information, entertainment, and fun.”

2021 RMA Annual Risk Management Virtual Conference (Virtual, October 25-28, 2021) | This year’s event theme this year is ADVANCE. All sessions will help risk professionals in the banking industry get an advanced view of emerging risks and actionable content to help them advance their understanding of today’s challenges.

National Society of Compliance Professionals (NSCP) National Conference (National Harbor, November 8-10, 2021) | 800+ compliance professionals attend, featuring regulatory panels with speakers from SEC, FINRA, MSRB, NFA, and NASAA, continuing education courses, and more than 60 break-out sessions for specialized discussion and networking. *Ascent’s Jilaine Bauer will participate in a panel called “Innovation or Disruption?  The Impact of FinTech and RegTech on Compliance Programs” on Nov. 8.

Forrester Security & Risk Summit (Hybrid—Washington D.C. and Virtual, November 9-10) | The Forrester Security & Risk Summit helps security and risk professionals stay on the forefront of what’s next both in technology and the role of trust in business and public perception. 

Gartner Security & Risk Management Summit (Virtual, November 16-18, 2021) | This two-day event provides valuable insights and a comprehensive update on cybersecurity threats and solutions, vulnerability management, ransomware and best practices for cloud security and more.

FIRMA 2022 National Training Conference (Nashville, May 1-5, 2022) | Audit, risk and compliance, and regulatory professionals gather to learn about the issues facing the industry and to discuss cross-functional risk management.

Compliance Week 2021 (TBD) | 500+ compliance leaders from across various industries (not just finance) attend. Features interactive sessions discussing strategies and best practices for running a dynamic and effective ethics and compliance program.


GRC/IRM User Conferences

Archer Summit (Hybrid—Orlando and Virtual, September 13-15, 2021) | A two-day program that focuses on learning, connecting and being inspired by Archer visionaries, customers and partners. This conference aims to help attendees discover where the risk management industry is going and how Archer products and services can help them deliver managed digital risk and transformation. 

Riskonnect’s Konnect Conference (Hybrid—Atlanta and Virtual, September 20-22, 2021) | A two-day program that focuses on the latest risk management industry innovations, strategies, real-world challenges, and solutions. Attended by risk management leaders who are energized to transform the world to reduce risk, increase efficiency, and improve organizational performance through positive change.

Onspring Connect  (In person, Orlando, September 20-22, 2021) (Virtual, September 28-30, 2021) | A two-day program that highlights Onspring’s latest innovations, as well as tips and advice from super users. The event provides “challenge” practicums and actionable intel from industry leaders that can apply to attendees’ businesses. 

LogicGate Agility (Virtual, September 23-34, 2021) | Over the course of a day and a half, attendees will learn how to manage existing risks, stay ahead of new risks, and future-proof their organization’s approach to risk. This event includes keynote speakers, panel sessions, and breakout groups to help attendees reimagine risk. 

ServiceNow Knowledge 2022 (May 1-5, 2022) | An event that helps attendees explore the endless possibilities of workflows and discover how to transform their businesses.

MetricStream’s GRC Summit (TBD) | Attended by +2,000 attendees from across governance, risk, compliance, audit, and IT. The event features keynotes from prominent global leaders along with panel discussions, case studies, and deep-dive workshops from domain experts, practitioners, and independent analysts. 

SAI360 Customer Summit (TBD) | A three-day event that focuses on the future-state of SAI360’s Risk and Compliance solutions, features SAI360 executives and industry experts, and provides an opportunity for industry networking.


FinTech and Financial Innovation

Finovate (Various locations, year-round—NYC, September 13-15, 2021) | A series of global conferences highlighting the future of FinTech solutions through short-form demos of new products and discussions with industry thought-leaders.

Boston FinTech Week (Hybrid—Boston and Virtual, September 28-October 1, 2021) | Explore new technologies and new ways of doing business, with an eye on sustainable finance, inclusivity, environmental, social, and corporate governance, decentralized finance, and — of course — the post-COVID future. Topics of note: DeFi, sustainable finance, insurtech, embedded finance, regtech, ESG, financial health and much, much more.

Financial Data Innovation Conference (Virtual, October 5, 2021) | This three-day event is geared toward data management executives—from the biggest buy and sell-side firms, to retail banks and small asset managers, helping to connect them with their peers and to generate new ideas to improve data quality, innovate with data, and deliver value to the business.

Empire FinTech Conference (NYC, October 19, 2021) | Join over 600 attendees for the highlight of New York FinTech Week, the Empire FinTech Conference. A packed day of demos, keynotes, live podcasts, and networking showcasing the latest in FinTech. 

Money 20/20 (October 24-27, 2021) | Money20/20 is where the Payments, Banking, Fintech and Financial Services community unites to create new and disruptive ways to move, manage, spend and borrow money. Programming features C-level executives, renowned speakers, innovators and disruptors from across the world that drive change in the future of money.

FinTech & RegTech Global Supervisory Summit (Virtual, October 26-28, 2021) | Billed as “a unique platform where the global community of the senior official sector representatives with an active interest in FinTech, RegTech and SupTech can come together and share views and experiences in a confidential environment.” Programs focus on the gamut of regulatory issues being tackled by the RegTech/FinTech/SupTech ecosystem.

Bank Transformation Forum 2021 (Virtual, November 9-10, 2021) | Banking Transformation Forum is an event dedicated to banking technology and innovation, providing a common framework for driving progress within the banking industry.

Fearless in FinTech (Virtual, December 7-8, 2021) | An event that provides attendes with an opportunity to learn from the most creative leaders at both Emerging FinTech Companies and Established Financial Services Firms in order to ready their organizations for the increasingly diffuse and interactive way customers engage with their money.

Re-Work AI in Finance (NYC, April 13-14, 2022) | Re-Work focuses on advances in AI and machine learning tools, as well as techniques from the world’s leading innovators across industry, research and the financial sector.

FEI 2022 Financial Leadership Summit (Cleveland, May 15-17, 2022) | 500+ attendees come together to learn, collaborate, and build ideas for a better future in finance. 

LendIt FinTech USA (NYC, May 25-26, 2022) | 5,000+ attendees gather to discuss the advances in FinTech across the range of applications, from AI to blockchain to digital banking and more.

Global Financial Leadership Conference (TBD) | Global financial, economic, and geopolitical leaders gather for three days of discussion and innovation. Past keynote speakers include former Presidents George W. Bush and William J. Clinton, former U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, Citadel Founder and CEO Kenneth C. Griffin, and former Fed Chair Janet Yellen, among other highly-distinguished guests and speakers.

TechNova: AI in Financial Services (TBD) | 200+ attendees, ranging from CEOs and COOs to directors of innovation and data scientists, gather to discuss the current and future impact of artificial intelligence on financial services. 



Mortgage Bankers Association’s Regulatory Compliance Conference (Washington D.C., September 12-14, 2021) | A two-day program that features first-hand guidance from the regulators and policy makers that make the rules, as well as get practical advice to meet today’s compliance challenges. Attendees will have an opportunity to be with peers and confront shared challenges together toward a better outcome.

American Bankers Association (ABA) Annual Conference (Hybrid—Tampa and Virtual, October 17-19, 2021) | ABA Annual Convention is all about looking ahead. And after a year of connecting through screens, it’s time to unite and collaborate face to face. After all, banking is a human experience built around meaningful interactions. Attendees will get best practices and perspectives on banking. 

Bank Director Audit & Risk (Chicago, November 9-11, 2021) | 300+ bank executives and heads of innovation attend to discuss the governance, risk, compliance and accounting issues challenging financial institutions today.

2021 CRA & Fair Lending Colloquium (Virtual, November 16-17) | The CRA & Fair Lending Colloquium focuses on compliance professionals focused on CRA, HMDA and fair lending.

American Banker Digital Banking Conference (Virtual, November 16-18, 2021) | The Digital Banking Conference focuses on driving digital banking strategies, with access to thought leadership from the editors of American Banker and senior industry leaders. The event will go beyond mobile and online banking — it will dive deep into the latest thinking in AI, automation, security, adoptable best practices and customer experiences, along with other trends and technologies enabling companies to be both efficient and customer-centric.

American Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference (TBD)  | 2,000+ participants, including compliance officers and executives, legal counsel, auditors, regulatory officials, and bank senior managers attend. Sessions drill down on constructing bank compliance programs that can “evolve and adapt to current and future regulatory expectations.”


Asset and Wealth Management 

Global WealthTech Summit (St. Pauls, November 3, 2021) | 600+ wealth management and innovation leaders gather to discuss the future of wealth management and private banking with a focus on overcoming regulatory challenges with innovative technologies and approaches.

Investment Advisor Association (IAA) Compliance Conference (TBD) | A comprehensive two-day program providing investment advisors with information about the changing regulatory landscape. Participants hear from a distinguished roster of speakers, including SEC staff, on a wide range of topics, including data privacy, cybersecurity, technology, and more.

Regulatory Compliance Watch: 360 View (TBD) | Regulatory Compliance Watch gives practical guidance to increase engagement in regulatory and compliance practices. The event examines the strategies and procedures that registered investment advisors can employ to best prepare for and meet SEC exam priorities and risk alerts.



FIA L&C-V Conference (Virtual, October 7-9, 2021) | 900+ attendees, including legal, risk, and compliance professionals, meet to discuss and debate regulation of future, derivatives, and OTC products.

FIA Boca-V 2021 – Annual International Futures Industry Conference (TBD)  | 1,100+ senior-level executives from brokerage firms, asset management firms, international exchanges and regulatory bodies gather to discuss how macroeconomic, political, and social trends are affecting the cleared derivatives industry.



SFVegas 2020 – Structured Finance Association (Las Vegas, October 3-6, 2021) | 7,000+ attendees gather for the “largest capital markets conference in the world,” which draws thought leaders and market participants from across the broad spectrum of the structured finance industry.

American Bar Association Tech Show (Chicago, March 2-5, 2022) | ABA TECHSHOW is where lawyers, legal professionals, and technology all come together. For three days, attendees learn about the most useful and practical technologies available.

SIFMA C&L Annual Seminar (TBD) | 2,000+ senior in-house and law firm attorneys who attend make up the “who’s who” of securities compliance. Billed as “the premier event for compliance and legal professionals working in the financial services industry.” 

FINRA Annual Conference (TBD) | 1,400+ compliance professionals, attorneys and other leaders in the securities industry attend FINRA’s flagship annual event. Participants meet, network, and discuss today’s most timely compliance and regulatory topics, including current trends in technology, cybersecurity, and risk management.


Association of Corporate Counsel Annual Meeting (Virtual, Takes place throughout October 2021) | The 2021 Annual Meeting will focus on substantive content for in-house counsel, including remote work, LIBOR, and topics that matter to the board.

LegalWeek (NYC, January 31-February 3, 2022) | LegalWeek is an event where thousands of legal professionals gather to network with their peers, dive deeper into their professional development, explore topics and strategies tailored specifically to their role, and gain the tools to get legal business done.

CLOC Global Institute (Las Vegas, May 8-12, 2022) | 1,600+ legal ecosystem professionals—across all experience levels and industries—come together for four days of new connections, ideas, and strategies to bring back to their legal departments.



SIFMA Ops (Miami, October 4-7, 2021) | SIFMA’s 48th annual Operations Conference & Exhibition returns to Miami this fall to provide attendees with four days of live expert-led content – focused on the next wave of innovation and operational resiliency. Reflect on lessons learned from the global pandemic and review the industry’s response and coordination before diving into what’s next with the leading voices of financial services operations.

Gartner CFO & Finance Executive Conference (Phoenix, June 1-2, 2022) | The CFO & Finance Executive Conference outlines what the future of finance will be, and helps CFOs and finance executives define the ‘new normal’ for their teams, creating a digital finance footprint that enables a more nimble structure, set of proceesses and people.

OPEX Financial Services (TBD) | An event for leaders in operational excellence, change management, and business transformation, who are looking to stay ahead of the curve in the continuously changing financial services industry.


Anti-Money Laundering / Financial Crime

ACES Compliance Summit (TBD) | 500+ senior compliance executives attend to discuss anti-bribery/anti-corruption and export controls/sanctions. Sessions aim to give attendees practical strategies and cutting-edge insight on building a domestic or international compliance program within their enterprise.

ACAMS 18th Annual AML & Financial Crime Conference (TBD) | 1,500+ anti-financial crime professionals, regulators, law enforcement investigators and government officials attend, with a principal focus on discussing new developments in financial crime, payment methods and money laundering schemes, and the ways to prevent them.


RegTech & FinTech

Global RegTech Summit (St. Paul’s, October 14, 2021) | 1,000+ delegates from the world of financial compliance meet to discuss tech solutions addressing global financial regulations. Topics covered include AML and anti-corruption compliance, cybersecurity, and finding the right RegTech partner to help firms meet the demands of constant regulatory change. Leading RegTech intelligence platform RegTech Analyst also has a major presence at this event.

Sibos (Virtual, October 11-14, 2021) | 8,000+ top-level decision makers and key topic experts from financial institutions, market infrastructures, multinational corporations, software vendors and FinTech partners gather to explore the impact of new technologies on infrastructures, value propositions, and business models and identify the culture, skills, and working practices that organizations need to maximize the potential of both human and machine capabilities.

RegTECHTalents (London, October 15-16, 2021) | 200+ attendees gather at this global forum focused on creating a meaningful dialogue to improve the implementation of regulatory technologies. Founders, buyers, industry experts, innovators, and students discuss how to bring new regulatory technologies to life.

FinTech & RegTech Global Supervisory Summit (Virtual,October 26-28, 2021) | Billed as “a unique platform where the global community of the senior official sector representatives with an active interest in FinTech, RegTech and SupTech can come together and share views and experiences in a confidential environment.” Programs focus on the gamut of regulatory issues being tackled by the RegTech/FinTech/SupTech ecosystem.

RegTech Summit (Virtual, November 9-10, 2021) | This meeting “explores how the financial services industry can leverage technology to drive innovation, cut costs and support regulatory change,” bringing together vendors, compliance professionals, and regulators to discuss approaches to building a better regulatory environment.

Re-Work AI in RegTech (NYC, April 13-14, 2022) | Re-Work AI in RegTech focuses on how AI and machine learning are impacting regulatory processes from leading innovations across industry, research and regulatory bodies

ACCELERATERegTech (TBD) | Hosted by The RegTech Association, this event gathers 1000+ RegTech industry stakeholders, including solutions providers, regulators, investors, and regulated entities to examine emerging regulatory challenges. This year brings a 24/7 virtual expo and focused sessions on 4 key themes: The Big Picture, Regulation Innovation, New Economy, and Innovation.

US RegTech Forum (TBD) | 300+ of the most senior-level leaders in RegTech come together in New York to discuss the regulatory issues affecting financial institutions. Part of New York FinTech Week 2020, leading RegTech intelligence platform RegTech Analyst also has a major presence at this event.

RegTech Expo (TBD) | Professionals within the industry gather to engage, do business, and learn from technology companies involved in: regulatory reporting, risk management, identity management and control, compliance, transaction monitoring, AML, KYC, GDPR, and Data Governance.

AI in Finance Summit (TBD) | 600+ attendees gather to discuss the latest technology advancements in AI and show practical examples of how they can be applied to financial services. The events “unique mix of academia and industry” connects up AI pioneers with real-world business needs.


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The Automation and Productization of Knowledge Work

By Blog, Featured

As digital services proliferate, we’re entering a new age of commercial opportunity: one where the digital world increasingly reflects changes similar to the physical world of the past 100 years. The efficiency gains between the two (an exponential decrease in the marginal cost of the offered product) is now taking hold in digital services as they become productized.

We are quickly shifting from a variable cost economy to a fixed cost production economy where such investment is prioritized, resulting in higher and more permanent returns to capital. This transformation has led to multiple new types of business models, ranging from SaaS to Knowledge-as-a-Service.

Here, we look at how services have become “productized” over time, and how the automation and productization of human knowledge is revolutionizing today’s economy.

Legacy Businesses: Services and Products

There are two types of legacy businesses: those that render services and those that sell specific products. Product companies evolved from service businesses as a result of mass production. Prior to the ability to scale production of a service, everything was unique, niche, and one-off. Product companies generally represent physical goods, though as we’ll see in a moment—this understanding is shifting today.

SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) — 1990s

SaaS, at its core, is a delivery vehicle: it is a container that holds some form of data, insights, or knowledge, often generated by the consumer. The popularity of SaaS businesses is due to its recurring billing model that extracts additional rents from consumers. SaaS is still limited: it is often a set of intelligently organized containers, intended to hold and distribute some set of data, produced by the customers, to the customers. At its core, SaaS is the productization of distribution: using the internet to repeatedly deliver a software “product” that was previously sold on shelves via a shrink-wrap license. Today, there is a growing emphasis on the quality of what SaaS companies can do (e.g., data, insights, or knowledge) to provide value to customers.

DaaS (Data-as-a-Service) — 2000s

As the SaaS market matured, customers began to seek opportunities. Enter data companies. Data-as-a-Service models may be sold via a containerized set of data (stand-alone), or input into a piece of software (often via API or direct embedding). The primary difference between a DaaS business and a SaaS business: in a SaaS business makes money from distributing that content, rather than generating content. Take for example Salesforce and ZoomInfo. Salesforce is the container that can be used to hold known industry contacts, while a DaaS vendor like ZoomInfo might be used to enrich that contact data with better address or phone details. DaaS’s value is in the data produced, not the container it sits in.

IntaaS (Insights-as-a-Service) — 2010s

Data can be sliced, diced, analyzed, and cut into many different views, revealing profound insights. These insights are now packaged and sold to consumers through the Insights-as-a-Service model. An example of businesses that productize data into insights include companies like Nielsen, who have built a business around a straightforward set of metrics. IntaaS firms attempt to provide customers with insights from proprietary sets of data, thus reinforcing their competitive moats. These businesses represent a step toward the productization of knowledge, and their ability to provide insights on proprietary data is the differentiated product.

KaaS (Knowledge-as-a-Service) — 2020s

Much like a factory in the early 1900s, KaaS relies on an assembly line of knowledge that has a set of repeatable steps to create knowledge as a product. AI will often be the tool of choice in these businesses; they are the machines in the digital factory. In these businesses, both distributing a product (SaaS), and building a product (KaaS) are one-time fixed costs. This means more up-front capital required, but higher-back end margins.

As an example, Stitchfix, a modern personal styling service, invested a fixed amount of capital into building algorithms that create knowledge about each user to target a better fit for consumers and reduce the volume of misfits and returns. Stitchfix has thus turned a variable cost (rate of return per customer) into an up-front fixed cost which builds knowledge about its customer, and thus massively reduces variable cost. The “knowledge” product that Stitchfix sells is “optimal fit.”

Ascent as a KaaS provider | Ascent is a KaaS company that creates regulatory knowledge to help financial firms manage their regulatory risk more effectively than traditional methods. Traditionally, firms have used a mix of in-house compliance staff and outsourced resources like consultants or lawyers to analyze this text and determine which regulatory obligations are actually applicable to the business. Ascent has created an assembly line of engineers, data scientists, and compliance officers to build, train, and optimize intelligent algorithms that identify a firm’s exact obligations at a fraction of the time and cost. Only about 35 percent of any body of regulatory text contains an actual obligation (the rest consists of definitions, clarifications, and other ancillary information) and an even smaller percentage of those obligations apply to any particular business. Our algorithms are trained to spot the difference, and immediately get to work parsing out the text into obligations and non-obligations. To learn more about the granular information produced by Ascent, contact us.


What This Means for The Economy

Society is just beginning the shift towards the KaaS business. Up-front investments that yield productive first-to-market traction will mean more long-term revenue. The stickiness of KaaS businesses should be far superior to SaaS businesses when fully integrated. As algorithms become smarter, knowledge will be easier to generate, and the price of knowledge and expertise will decrease. As a result:

1. Expertise will become ubiquitous. The unlocking of human capital will be astounding: people will be able to create, accelerate, and design, while machines will calculate, advise, and build. For the first time in history we will be able to give people all over the world access to knowledge for free.

2. The Expansion of Human Potential: These knowledge machines will enable us to dramatically expand our abilities in areas like medicine, law, finance, and other knowledge disciplines. As the cost of knowledge drives to zero, people will be able to freely consume it. This will result in enormous consumer surplus, and benefit to society.

3. Returns to Labor will Remain Under Pressure: Shifting from variable costs like human labor to fixed cost like technology (built via capital investment) will create challenges as the economy transitions. Job dislocations will occur, but will be temporary. Similar forms of automation happened to blue-collar manufacturing work in the 50s and 60s. It is likely we will see similar automation and disruption to knowledge work in the 2020s, and more prolifically in the 2030s.

This shift is already underway. As knowledge is commoditized via algorithms, these business models will continue to evolve in a way that creates benefits for consumers and businesses alike. While temporary disruption will occur, the ultimate promise of knowledge products will usher in an era of productivity and growth, the likes of which we see once in a generation.

About the Author | Brian Clark is the President and Founder of Ascent. He has a wide breadth of regulatory compliance experience including derivatives exchanges, market investigations, clearinghouse compliance, and registered brokerage businesses. He is a former Chief Compliance Officer and General Counsel, and is passionate about entrepreneurship and technology. Connect on LinkedIn.


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A ‘Token’ for Their Thoughts: Digital Finance from a Regulatory Perspective

By Blog, Featured

In Part 1 (DiFi or Die Trying: A Quick and Dirty Overview of Digital Finance), we discussed the digital financial ecosystem that grew from the ashes of the financial wildfire that spread across the world in 2008. 

Here in Part 2, we discuss how regulators are grappling with the task of keeping weeds out of the digital garden. Since their approaches and speed by which they tackle this task differ and are evolving, it is as important to stay focused on the regulators, as it is to stay focused on the innovators. Regulatory Knowledge Automation from Ascent can rapidly bring both into your clear line of sight. Keep reading for a better understanding of the regulatory landscape around DiFi.

INFOGRAPHIC: Regulatory Knowledge Automation, Explained


Regulation in the United States

Although ‘digital assets’ is a broad term applied across economic sectors, this discussion focuses on the financial services sector and, within that sector, crypto assets. This is because crypto assets (and specifically cryptocurrencies) have been given the most attention by regulators to date. Here’s a rundown of major events in recent weeks:

» May 17th — The FDIC issued a Request for Information and Comment on Digital Assets to learn how depository institutions interact with the cryptocurrency sector, how they might interact with the sector in the future and what, if anything, the FDIC should be doing about it. Questions the FDIC posed included ones relating to digital asset custody, coin issuance, trading, settlement and payment and regulatory supervision of digital finance activities.

» May 19th — In testimony before the U.S. House Financial Services Committee, OCC Acting Comptroller of the Currency listed adapting to digitalization as the third of four challenges requiring the OCC’s immediate attention. She emphasized that disintermediation is occurring in bank payments processing by FinTechs and technology platforms utilizing application programming interfaces, machine learning and distributed ledgers. Proof positive is OCC approval of two national trust charters for crypto platforms (Protego and Anchorage) within the past six months, and applications pending for at least two more (BitPay and Paxos).

» May 20th — Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell discussed the Fed’s response to technological advances driving rapid change in the global worlds of payments, banking and finance (including allowing FinTechs access to the Fed’s payment system under proposed guidelines).

On the other side of the house of federal regulators in the United States, the chairs have been rearranged, but who has jurisdiction over digital assets remains a persistent question. Breakdancer (pause while you check out the YouTube video)  and former CFTC Gary Gensler is now chairing the SEC, while Rostin Behnam is acting chair of the CFTC.  

While it is clear that the SEC regulates Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), whether a digital asset in a specific use case should be treated as a security, a currency, a commodity or something else is more murky, despite recent SEC guidance on how to apply the long standing “Howey” test for defining a security.

Read More: Crypto Regulation and Changing of the SEC Guard


SIFMA’s May 20th reaction to SEC guidance on applying broker-dealer custody rules to digital assets addresses work in other critical areas of securities regulation that remains to be done i. Meanwhile, the CFTC launched its LabCFTC in 2017, both to encourage fintech innovation and inform CFTC thinking about its regulation. To date, LabCFTC has made the agency’s guidance more accessible, but it has been no substitute for consensus among regulators and a coordinated approach. 

Despite deliberate efforts by federal regulators to modify their rulesets for a digital world, important questions remain, including whether, how and who should regulate digital asset platforms, exchanges, traders, managers and advisers, asset repositories and transmitters, pooled products, derivatives and associated sales and marketing activities (especially those directed at retail consumers).

Further, at least some activities involving digital financial assets are regulated at the state level, where answers are distinct and could differ materially from answers at the federal level. As this March 2020 article explains, state money transmitter rules are an especially acute pain point for digital marketplace participants.

Read More: A Look at Money Transmission Laws + How To Know Your MTL Obligations


Regulation Outside of the United States

In 2014, the United States Law Library of Congress published a report on the regulation of cryptocurrency across forty countries and the European Union. In 2018, the report was expanded to cover 130 countries. The report seeks to determine how various countries are responding to the fast-growing cryptocurrency market, discern regulatory trends and organize data for region-specific comparisons. 

In 2019, a separate, more focused, report was published discussing regulatory approaches in the context of financial market and investor protection laws in 46 jurisdictions, as well as providing updated information on relevant tax and AML/CFT laws. These reports reveal a number of countries are applying existing rulesets to crypto assets, while at least a dozen countries have enacted new laws specifically governing crypto assets

In April 2020, China became the first major economy to pilot a central bank digital currency (CBDC) with the number of pilots in other countries surging to 19 as of May 2021. 


Stay ahead of the curve with Ascent

Meanwhile, the digital asset industry is not standing still while regulators work to catch up.  Instead, they are shifting from ‘pushing back’ to advocating for ‘smart’ regulation that can be operationalized cost-effectively and aligned with developing industry best practices and principles.  

Both innovation and regulation within the digital ecosystem are likely to occur at a rapid pace for the foreseeable future, making Ascent an essential tool for those seeking to discern and understand complex and challenging compliance obligations. 

Ascent’s AI-driven technology rapidly and accurately maps obligations to your specific business and automatically keeps them updated as rules change. By automating the tedious process of regulatory research, analysis, and change management, Ascent gets you 90% of the way there in knowing what you need to do in order to stay compliant. That means your team can focus on the most critical, most human, 10% — reviewing and interpreting the output and strategic decision-making.

Interested in learning how Ascent can help you eliminate risk with a single source of regulatory truth? Contact us for a custom demo.


About the Author | Jilaine Bauer is Senior Compliance Consultant at Ascent. Previously, Jilaine worked as a Compliance Officer responsible for regulatory change management at one of the world’s largest providers of financial market data and infrastructure, as an independent regulatory consultant within the financial services industry sector and as general counsel and compliance officer to multi-faceted financial services firms.  She holds a law degree from Loyola University (Chicago) and a degree in psychology from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.  She also has corporate, advisory and nonprofit board experience. Connect on LinkedIn.


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DiFi or Die Trying: A Quick and Dirty Overview of Digital Finance

By Blog, Featured

Emerging from the ashes of the financial wildfire that spread across the world in 2008, the seeds of a new digital financial ecosystem germinated from an email sent by Satoshi Nakamoto to a group of techies that November:

“I’ve been working on a new electronic cash system that’s fully peer-to-peer, with no trusted third party. The paper is available at”

Two months later, Satoshi created 50 Bitcoins with the very first transaction on a blockchain on January 3, 2009. Today, there are some 4,000 cryptocurrencies in the digital ecosystem with a  total market cap reaching $2.2 trillion last month. As of June 2020, at least 45 central banks were reported to be researching payments technology and applications, known as Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDC), and in October 2020 the Bank for International Settlements as well as seven central banks (including the Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank and the Bank of England) published a report laying out key requirements for CBDC

Fast following on the heels of cryptocurrency innovation, other forms of digital tokens were created, and the use of blockchain and “blockchain – like”  technology was expanded in the public and private domains. This facilitated the transfer of a broader range of units of value, digitized other types of tangible and intangible assets and enabled the satisfaction of counterparty obligations under smart contracts wholly unrelated to assets.  

In part one of our two-part series, we discuss what “digital assets” are, the blockchain infrastructure that supports them and the emerging products, applications, processes and organizations that use them,  known as digital finance (DiFi). 

PART TWO: A Digital ‘Token’ for Their Thoughts — Digital Finance from a Regulatory Perspective

Digital Financial Assets

In the broadest sense, the term “digital asset” refers to anything that exists in a digital format, including photos, documents, audio, electronic records, websites, data related to individuals or accounts and cryptocurrencies. Physical assets can be converted to digital assets when they are scanned and uploaded to a computer. Digital assets are stored (carried) on digital appliances/storage devices that function like a filing cabinet (eg, computers, telecommunication devices and other modalities).

“Digital tokens” are financial digital assets that refer to a unit of value, which can be owned, assigned (traded) or redeemed later. Because tokens serve different purposes, they can be treated differently under the law and the law governing tokens and blockchains is not uniform across jurisdictions. For a more technical discussion, see this article published in Digital Asset Management (DAM) News.

Cryptocurrencies (digital coins) are the most common form of digital token and are used as a means of payment for goods or services and are “native” to a specific blockchain with a related name (e.g., Bitcoin/Bitcoin BC; Ether/Ethereum BC; NEO/NEO BC). Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) refers to a digital representation of fiat money issued by a Central Bank. Stablecoins are privately issued cryptocurrency with a mechanism to minimize price fluctuation to “stabilize” its value, such as linkage to a reserve of stable real assets such as currencies or commodities. For a discussion on CBDC and stablecoins, see this white paper published by law firm Clifford Chance.

They may be stored in “digital wallets” earning interest and may increase in value for later use.  Sometimes, they earn dividends (e.g., NEO pays dividends called “GAS”). In some cases digital coin owners also have a say in the design and function of the associated blockchain (e.g., DASH). Also, the sponsor of a blockchain platform (e.g., Ether and NE) may allow other tokens to be transferred on its platform subject to payment of a user fee. For a  “crypto” glossary and a list of cryptocurrencies, including their individual and aggregate market cap, see

Other tokens serve different purposes, but typically they all function as part of a platform that sits on top of an existing blockchain. The benefit to the token issuer is the savings in time and money required to launch and operate their own blockchain. Anyone can create a token paying the blockchain sponsor to create and validate (“mine”) transactions in his/her/their token.  Tokens may be created to activate features in another application (“utility” tokens) called a decentralized application (dApp) or may represent an underlying security (stock, bond, ETF) commodity, loan or other asset (“asset-backed” tokens). In 2020, the commercial real estate firm, Red Swan, partnered with the blockchain sponsor, Polymath, to tokenize real estate. There also are “hybrid” tokens. 

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) represent ownership of something unique (identification code and metadata) for a particular user that can be bought and sold but, unlike cryptocurrency, they are non-interchangeable and do not have any inherent value. They can be used to represent people’s identities, property rights, and artwork. Many are built on the Etherium blockchain (e.g., cryptokitties).

WATCH NOW: [Compliance Over Coffee ft. Val Dahiya, Partner at Perkins Coie] Inside the Complicated World of Digital Assets


Smart Contracts are misnomers as they are neither “smart,” nor are they necessarily “contracts”! Rather, they are “business rules” translated into computer code (software algorithms) that “run the blockchain” (trigger actions) when predetermined conditions are met.  They serve as the basis for transference of a token, but they can also trigger actions that do not involve token transfers, including actions required under a legal contract. 

Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLT). A Distributed Ledger is a database that exists across a network of computers at multiple locations or among multiple participants eliminating the need for a central authority or intermediary to process, validate or authenticate transactions or other types of data exchanges. The design eliminates the “single source of failure” present with a centralized or intermediated system, and is quicker, more efficient and cost-effective. The DLT transaction only comes to rest on the ledger when consensus is reached  among the parties that it is real and valid. Transaction files are then timestamped and protected with a unique cryptographic signature providing a verifiable and auditable history. DLTs can be public or permissioned (invitation-only) and they can operate solely by smart contracts or governed by an entity.

Blockchains are a type of DLT distinguished by the fact that units of data are displayed in a sequence (blocks on a chain) with each unit dependent upon a logical relationship to all prior units. Public blockchains are used to process peer-to-peer (non-intermediated) anonymous transactions in digital assets (e.g., cryptocurrency) which, when verified, become immutable and cannot be changed.  Some blockchains, like Ethereum, will support token applications running on top of the blockchain, in addition to the cryptocurrency (payment token) that is embedded within it. 

Digital asset management systems (DAMs) incorporate software, hardware and services that together are designed to manage, store, ingest, organize and retrieve digital assets. 

READ MORE: A Quick Look at Money Transmission Laws (+ How to Know Your MTL Obligations)


Ascent is your partner in digitally transforming compliance

Wherever you are in your digital transformation journey today, the pace of that journey will accelerate in the months to come thanks to new possibilities enabled by rapid developments in technology, infrastructure and regulation. Using Ascent’s AI-driven technology to identify and evaluate the impact of existing and emerging regulations across jurisdictions and business activities, you can bring strategy into focus, improve business process velocity, and optimize your business.

Contact us for a custom demo to see how Ascent helps you comply with changing regulation more efficiently and accurately than ever before. 


About the Author | Jilaine Bauer is Senior Compliance Consultant at Ascent. Previously, Jilaine worked as a Compliance Officer responsible for regulatory change management at one of the world’s largest providers of financial market data and infrastructure, as an independent regulatory consultant within the financial services industry sector and as general counsel and compliance officer to multi-faceted financial services firms.  She holds a law degree from Loyola University (Chicago) and a degree in psychology from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.  She also has corporate, advisory and nonprofit board experience. Connect on LinkedIn.


A Quick Look at Money Transmission Laws (+ How to Know Your MTL Obligations)

By Blog, Featured

The rise of digital currency (aka cryptocurrency) has caused regulators to grapple with how to fit it under existing money transmission laws.

Today, FinTechs and issuers of digital currency  also find money transmission laws to be confusing and disjointed across state and federal jurisdictions. This lack of clarity makes it difficult for financial firms to manage the risk around their digital asset product and service offerings

In this article, we answer key questions about money transmission laws and share how business leaders can get a better view of their risk exposure as regulation changes.


What is money transmission and how is it changing?

Money transmission is the act of receiving currency (or its equivalent)  from one party, only to transfer it to another party. In the exact words of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), money transmission is:

“The acceptance of currency, funds, or other value that substitutes for currency from one person and the transmission of currency, funds, or other value that substitutes for currency to another location or person by any means.”

Over time, the application of this definition has evolved to account for the new reality of digital transfers of value FinCEN added the section about “other value” in an effort to bring the exchange of newly adopted “currencies” such as Bitcoin into its purview.


What firms need to comply with FinCEN requirements?

Today, firms that conduct money transmission activities are considered to be money services businesses (MSBs) under the Federal Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). FinTechs that are money transmitters must obtain state licenses, and are subject both to regulation by the states issuing the licenses and to anti-money laundering (AML) rules administered by FinCEN. For FinTechs that provide cryptocurrency transmission services, this means that they may need to provide transparency into their activity required by state money transmission and AML rules, even if the activity is otherwise “untraceable”. 


How is it regarded under federal law vs. state law?

Aside from where FinTechs and digital currencies  fit into the picture, money transmission laws are notoriously disjointed across federal and state jurisdictions. Here’s an overview of each.

Federal regulation around money transmission primarily focuses on preventing money laundering activity. FinCEN enforces the BSA, a federal act which requires institutions to establish and administer effective controls to prevent money laundering. Firms that transmit  cryptocurrency t must comply with the BSA requirements, even when state-level money transmission laws don’t apply. 

The other federal regulator that focuses on money transmission activities, including cryptocurrency transactions, is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), part of the U.S. Department of Treasury. For the CFPB, money transmission is largely a consumer protection matter. The agency determined that institutions sending money transmission on behalf of consumers come within its rules, and outlined requirements for disclosures and error resolution procedures. 

State regulations governing money transmission activities require Fintechs and other non-bank money transmitters to be licensed by the state.Today, 49 states have unique regulatory frameworks for money transmitters. Given the regulatory variation state by state, some lawmakers have attempted to harmonize their frameworks with those from other states. This harmonization is known as the Uniform Money Services Act (USMA). As of today, the USMA has been adopted by 12 states and territories.  More recently, at least 23 states have joined together to streamline multi-state money transmitter licensing and supervision under what is known as the Vision 2020 initiative. 


How do these laws impact firms’ risk exposure today? 

Since money transmission regulation differs state by state and between the state and federal level, it presents a confusing environment for financial organizations to navigate. Many lawmakers and regulatory agencies are debating whether the current regulatory framework for money transmission laws is needlessly burdensome and whether it’s possible for firms to effectively safeguard against risk given the divergence in requirements. 

This debate has become even more complicated in recent months as FinTech lenders and payment processors have become more popular with consumers. Regulators perceive these services as a potential breeding ground for financial misconduct as the vendor space has become increasingly crowded, and because of the challenges of differentiating between an illegitimate vendor and a legitimate one. To avoid any regulatory scrutiny (real or perceived), some financial institutions have limited their services and offerings, which has ultimately hampered revenue streams and constrained consumers’ options.


Identify your unique money transmission obligations

No matter what happens next, you need to know what your regulatory requirements are and how they apply throughout your business. With Ascent, you can quickly and accurately determine which money transmission requirements uniquely apply to your business.

Map your obligations

When you get set up on Ascent, you provide some information about your business, including what type of financial firm you are, what products or services you offer, and what activities you engage in. If you engage in money transmission activities, Ascent captures that information upfront, then automatically identifies which money transmission obligations apply to your business. The result is a targeted obligations register that ensures you know exactly which rules you need to comply with. Your obligations then update automatically whenever relevant rules change, providing automatic impact analysis.

READ MORE: What are granular obligations and how do they reduce your risk?

Here is an obligations register for an example U.S. payment processor that has to comply with a number of state regulators:


While these targeted, dynamic obligations are at the core of what makes Ascent unique, we also understand that most Risk and Compliance teams need the ability to dig into the regulatory texts in certain situations.

That’s why Ascent provides a breadcrumb trail with every obligation, enabling you to easily trace back to the regulatory rule or section the obligation came from. Full regulatory texts are housed on Ascent, allowing you to search regulations and conduct research all in one platform.  

LEARN MORE: Traceability of Obligations in Ascent


Want to see how Ascent can help you gain a holistic view of your regulatory risk exposure? Contact us to request a demo or talk to our Sales team

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