Skip to main content

bear market

How Ascent Helps Financial Firms Slash Compliance Costs

By Blog

Ascent helps financial services firms follow the laws, rules, and regulations more easily, both reducing overall compliance costs and helping you avoid monetary, reputational, and punitive penalties.

Lower compliance costs, fewer fines

The leaps and bounds that AI technologies have made in recent years make it possible to automate compliance processes such as regulatory mapping and regulatory change management — which have historically been highly manual, time-intensive, and prone to human error.

A pioneer in regulatory knowledge automation, Ascent rapidly and accurately identifies every obligation that applies to your specific firm. Then, as regulators publish new rule amendments or additions, your obligations are automatically updated to reflect these changes.

Ascent’s technology helps firms save money on compliance in two key ways:

— Reduces the cost to comply. By automatically generating a firm’s regulatory obligations and keeping them updated, Ascent helps in-house Compliance teams and regulatory advisors save significant time and resources. As importantly, Ascent empowers existing staff to take on more value-add activities such as proactively preparing for regulatory change and developing regulatory strategy, thereby strengthening the business overall and shifting compliance from a cost-center to a competitive advantage.

— Prevents compliance failures and associated fines and penalties. In a world where a new regulatory update is issued every seven minutes, financial institutions can no longer afford to miss a rule change. By automatically delivering the obligations and rule changes that apply specifically to a business, Ascent helps shore up the compliance program, minimize risk, and avoid fines.

A Global Top 50 Bank achieved 99% cost savings with Ascent.  Read their Story.


Contact us to request a demo or learn more about Ascent.

The Shortest Commute: How to Set Up a Fully Remote Workforce

By Blog, Culture

(6 min read)

As the global health pandemic has swept across the country (and the world), business after business has locked up its office space and moved employees to working remotely — often under government mandate. 

This transition happened much more quickly than most of us could have imagined. And while some companies might have been more prepared than others, virtually every company had to make some adjustments to accommodate this new reality. 

We recently spoke with three team members at Ascent who were critical in getting our fully remote workforce up and running — Carrie Pinkham (VP People), Sarah Samuels Taylor (Chief of Staff), and Chris Doyle (Chief Technology Officer) — to better understand what challenges this new environment poses and to share advice on overcoming them.

You can watch the full conversation here or read the highlights (edited and condensed for clarity) below.

LEARN MORE: Ascent’s Open House: Socially Distant, Virtually Connected


What are some of the biggest challenges facing a company when setting up a fully remote workforce?

Sarah: In general, I’d say two of the biggest challenges are maintaining seamless communication and preserving team culture. These areas are especially important given the current environment because they both help establish a sense of normalcy — something very much missing at the moment. We’ve made them specific areas of focus for that very reason.

Carrie: I’d add too that, to Sarah’s point, the actual challenges of working remotely are exacerbated by the fact that we’re doing all of this during a global health crisis. That brings a lot of new questions to any company. How do we support our customers in this new environment? How do we support our team? For those of us who are parents, how do we balance childcare with our professional responsibilities? How do we manage the stress and concerns that come with a crisis like this?

As a company, that’s been one of the biggest challenges we’ve tried to take on — how can we make sure we’re supporting our employees as people during this crisis.

How has our team tried to address those challenges?

Sarah: Thankfully, we already had a few key tools in place which helped make our transition much smoother. We already relied primarily on Slack for internal communications and had Google Meet in place as a video conferencing tool (much like other companies might use MS Teams and/or Zoom). Our task then was to figure out the best way to use those tools in the new environment. 

As the situation has evolved, our communication strategy did too. We started out with daily updates, and frequent opportunities for non-work connections, like virtual lunch-and-learns and happy hours. As it became clear that this crisis was going to be around for the near future, we adjusted that cadence. Right now, Brian Clark, our CEO and founder, provides company-wide updates three times a week. We’ve also created a handful of more long-term engagement opportunities, like Donut, an app that randomly pairs employees for get-to-know-you chats. 

The lunch-and-learns in particular have been a great way to showcase internal talent and maintain culture. We started with one hosted by teammates that were already exclusively remote, so they could share their best practices and answer questions. Brian also led a session on our company mission and values — something both helpful for our new hires and a good reminder for folks who have been with us for awhile. We’ve also had more social opportunities, including a magic show, a virtual Quiplash (a group game where players ask and answer fun questions) session, and a college spirit day. 

Are there benefits to a remote workforce?

Carrie: Again, it’s important to distinguish here between the benefits in a normal environment and our current one.

In a normal situation, there are a number of potential benefits for both individual employees and for the company. Employees can eliminate their commute and add hours back to their day. For some, depending on your home environment, working remotely can have fewer distractions than an office environment and be more conducive to deep work. And, of course, there’s also the general flexibility working from home can provide.

For companies, a remote workforce allows them to pick from a broader talent pool, rather than being limited to local candidates or those willing to relocate. Additionally, by having employees in different parts of the world, it can give your company coverage over more hours of the day.

Obviously, though, in our current climate some of those benefits are undercut. If you have small children at home, finding time for deep work is far from easy. But I do think one interesting benefit to come out is a renewed sense of community internally. We opened one of our virtual happy hours with asking people to tell us the worst job they’ve ever had and we had some really interesting, engaging conversations that probably wouldn’t have taken place otherwise.

What role does technology play in keeping a remote workforce connected?

Chris: Quite simply, you can’t have a remote workforce without tech. Here at Ascent, we rely on a handful of tools, including Google Meet, Slack, Miro (an online whiteboarding and collaboration tool), and Google Docs.

Another thing I think this crisis has really brought to the forefront is the importance of a stable internet connection. Being digitally connected is the fundamental aspect of collaboration right now. If you don’t have a stable connection, it cuts you out of the loop — whether that means you can’t access your work at all or you can’t fully interact with coworkers through tools like video chat.

But having the right tools is just a part of the equation. Just as important is how you use those tools. I think one of our strongest assets going into this was having a well established operating cadence. Having pre-existing status meetings, standups, and 1-on-1s helped prevent duplicating work and improved communication. Because that cadence was already set up — and because it was relying on digital tools, like Google Docs or Google Sheets and video conferencing like Google Meet — it helped create continued momentum as we shifted into a fully remote workforce.

Ascent’s technology is completely cloud based. What is that important — both for our customers and our employees?

Chris: Two of the biggest advantages are the flexibility and scalability it gives us. Leveraging cloud servers like AWS lets us serve companies around the world and frees us up to grow more quickly. Quite simply it allows us to keep our focus on what we are the best in the world at — building AI for regulatory compliance — without getting bogged down in logistical considerations that a cloud vendor is better equipped to manage.

Also, we’re seeing more and more of our customers moving to the cloud. Some are there already, some are still early in that journey, but cloud computing is so well established now that even many global banks are starting to make that transition. So creating cloud-based solutions helps us serve our customers better — either as they make those transitions now or for when they likely will in the future.

READ ARTICLE: “But Does RegTech Actually Work?” 3 Ways Financial Firms and RegTechs Can Bridge the Trust Gap

Modern challenges require modern tools. Interested in seeing how Ascent can help you identify your obligations and automatically keep them updated as rules change?

Contact Us

[pardot-form id=”227″ title=”Talk to Sales Form”]

All Tech is Not Created Equal: The Difference Between “Top-Down” and “Bottom-Up” Automation

By Blog

An automation solution that’s not adequately aligned with your business needs or not properly developed can, sometimes, do more harm than good.

Technology is often touted as a panacea for our overloaded work lives. And while we at Ascent believe strongly in technology’s ability to help save firms time and money, we also know that not all technology is created equal.

An automation solution not adequately aligned with your business needs or not properly developed can do more harm than good. “Top-down” automation in particular can have significant consequences.

Below we break down the difference between “top-down” and “bottom-up” automation, define the risks that can come with top-down providers, and explain how to evaluate your options.

READ MORE: What are ‘granular’ obligations in RegTech?

Top-Down Vs. Bottom-Up: What’s the Difference?

Imagine you are given a document about cybersecurity and tasked with analyzing how that document relates to your company’s cybersecurity policy. 

What do you do? Do you scan through the document looking for any mention of the term “cybersecurity”? Or do you read through the document thoroughly — sentence by sentence, word by word — in order to understand it as completely as possible?

These two methods can be seen as metaphors for how top-down and bottom-up automation approach the work of regulatory compliance. 

Top-down automation acts like a search, skimming through the document for a specified search term. The technology involved isn’t meaningfully different from that powering any website search bar. 

Bottom-up automation, however, uses natural language processing and machine learning models to analyze a document at a word-by-word level. Because of this, it’s able to extract a significantly greater amount of information from each document and to employ that information in many more ways.

RegTech providers often shy away from trying to develop bottom-up solutions because they can take years to initially ramp up and can require much more complex technology. But those that spend the time and are able to develop the AI end up with a far more powerful solution.

Bottom-up automation is akin to having a cybersecurity expert analyze that document for your company, while top-down is more like running a quick word search of it. One can provide a deep understanding of the material. The other can carry some hidden risks.

3 Big Risks with Top-Down Automation

Risk #1: Top-down automation creates more work, not less

The promise of any kind of automation is that it will reduce your workload.

In regulatory compliance, one of the most challenging aspects of compliance is analyzing the massive troves of regulatory documents constantly being released in order to determine which obligations apply specifically to your business. This process, if automated properly, can reduce a team’s workload by hundreds or even thousands of hours while simultaneously reducing risk and improving accuracy.

But, if automated improperly, tech providers can create the opposite result.

Rather than a select, curated list of obligations being automatically created for you, top-down automation tools can inundate you with a massive dump of results that may have only a tangential connection to your business. This happens because top-down tools return every result where a search term is mentioned — regardless of whether that mention is meaningful.

Ultimately, this adds yet more to the ever-increasing workload of Risk and Compliance teams, and further widens the trust gap many companies already have regarding AI’s capabilities. 

Risk #2: Top-down automation adds risk instead of reducing it

When teams are inundated with a massive list of “potential” obligations, it doesn’t just create more work for them. It can also create more risk. 

Let’s say a top-down automation tool provides you with a long list of search-based results. Combing through it, you realize the tool hasn’t actually streamlined your process because it hasn’t narrowed down your results at all. You decide to revert mainly to your historical, manual process, occasionally referencing the search results as needed.

But, if in your manual process you happen to miss an obligation, your top-down automation tool might have opened you up to additional risk.

Regulators, combing over the audit trail, might see that the missed obligation was buried in the massive list returned by the automation tool. Seeing this, and that the obligation wasn’t implemented, the regulator could conclude that your team disregarded it. 

This situation is far from hypothetical. Regulators are already going on record asking firms what they’re doing to leverage regulatory technology. As they examine firms’ use of tech, they likely won’t be considering whether firms chose helpful solutions or harmful ones — just whether firms effectively employed them.

Risk #3: Top-down automation undermines faith in the power of technology

Digital disruption is here to stay

Before the current crisis, implementing emerging technologies was a way to leverage a team’s time more efficiently and gain an edge on competition. Now, in our new tumultuous environment with its bear market budget constraints, it’s a cost-saving necessity.

But garnering executive buy-in for a new tech solution, uniting a team around it, and working through a successful implementation is no easy task. It’s made exponentially harder if the stakeholders involved have a fresh memory of a solution that didn’t live up to its promise and ended up wasting precious funds.

In pursuit of end-to-end compliance, teams will likely need to build a RegTech stack of multiple solutions — not just to stay ahead of the competitive curve, but simply to keep up with the pace of regulatory change. That won’t be possible if an institution has lost its faith in the power of technology because of a bad experience with a problematic vendor.

How to Avoid the Pitfalls of High-Risk Automation

To make sure your tech solutions actually act like a solution, we suggest the following:

Take time to vet providers. Learn about the technology behind the tools — whether its machine learning, natural language processing, or something else. The more you understand about how the technologies work, the more you’ll be able to evaluate whether they align with your goals.

Consider using a piecemeal implementation approach. It can feel like a real leap of faith to take on the cost and implementation of a new solution. But by beginning with the starter tier of a platform, you can see firsthand how the solution integrates with existing procedures, build faith in and support for the solution across the company, and see the cost-saving benefits in real time. 

Find a tool that can grow with your company. Part of finding the right tech solution is avoiding one that is too limited in scope. If you can instead leverage a robust tool offering a platform of solutions, you won’t have to rip out a more limited point solution a year or two down the road when the needs of your company have outgrown it. 

Ascent — AI Built from the Bottom Up

At Ascent, we’ve built a truly innovative, bottom-up, regulatory technology solution — RegulationAI™. This “digital brain,” trained on tens of thousands of lines of regulatory text and with hundreds of hours of human expert review, powers the entire Ascent platform.

Our machine learning models decompose regulatory texts down to their most basic units — line by line, word by word. This provides us with not just the “raw data” of a regulatory document but the connections between that data as well. Because of this, we’re able to map a company’s regulatory obligations with significantly more detail and accuracy than a simple search-based approach. We provide our customers not with a massive list of potential obligations but with a select list of requirements specific to their business needs.

READ MORE: RegulationAI™ – Why It’s Different


Modern challenges require modern tools. Interested in seeing how Ascent can help you identify your obligations and automatically keep them updated as rules change?

Contact Us

How to Win (and Fail) When Evaluating RegTech Solutions

By Blog

Compliance workers, financial advisors, risk managers, lawyers, regulatory consultants, and others who deal regularly with compliance all share a similar predicament: They bring a lot to the table in terms of expertise and experience, but are endlessly bogged down by administrative tasks such as scouring regulator websites and newsfeed to keep up with rule changes, or reading dense regulatory text to advise the business on what is required of them to stay in compliance.

The global pandemic has upended businesses across the world, and compliance leaders are now being asked to do more with the same — or reduced — headcount. As RegTech grows in both necessity and ubiquity, finding the right balance of in-house staff, contractors, and technology is more crucial than ever.

But the processes of evaluating technology providers and implementing new solutions are not easy ones. Some organizations work through them with great success — and others with great frustration. 

At a time when wins and failures have greater impact than ever, here are few examples of each to help you better plan your next technology implementation.

Win: When Automation Empowers and Equips People

Risk and Compliance teams possess unique and significant expertise, so the point of bringing on new technology should not be to eliminate humans from the equation. Instead, it should be about determining how you can better leverage existing skills to drive better results. Where does technology fit, and where do humans fit? 

With the right balance, technology can transform once highly manual processes into ones of efficiency.

Fail: When New Tech Does Not Align with Business Objectives

Sometimes tech solutions are tasked with pie-in-the-sky objectives — which would require a significant investment and years of work to achieve (while in the meantime, most likely, new tech would appear that would offer a better fit). Other times it’s the opposite. Companies will sometimes onboard point solutions that hit only a very narrow need and that do not offer the ability to expand in functionality over time. This approach can be successful if the business does not expect this specific to evolve, but often the lack of apparent value weakens the case made for implementing it in the first place. The tool must then be ripped out and replaced down the road as business objectives expand beyond it.

This is why it the capabilities of any new tech should be as aligned as possible with organizational goals. Will the technology meaningfully automate an existing process where resources can then be redirected in service of a business objective? Do the right resources — both financially and personnel-wise — exist to make the implementation a success so the full value of the solution can be realized? Is the timing right for the business? 

Where implementations happen most successfully is when these questions have answers.

Win: Getting Buy-In from Senior Leadership

The opportunity to leverage new technologies can appear at any tier of a business — from a supervisor recognizing a way to streamline efficiencies as a team, to an analyst recognizing a routine task that can be automated. But for the application of technology to be successful, there needs to be buy-in from the top down. 

Leadership needs to not only recognize and believe in the value of a new solution, they also need to understand their role in helping to drive usage. When this happens, doors are opened for a successful implementation, and — even more importantly — culture is aligned around the importance and proper use of technology. 

READ MORE: How to Instill a Vigorous Culture of Compliance

Fail: An All or Nothing Approach

Too often, companies look at taking on a new technology as something that must be done completely or not at all. There are a few issues with this approach.

Even after thoroughly auditing a new solution, it can sometimes be difficult to know if it is a right fit for your processes until you actually adopt it and implement it. Making this a piecemeal approach, where you might implement one tier of a solution before taking on the complete version, can help make the process much smoother. You have an opportunity to gradually introduce automation into your workflow, increasing your understanding of its functionality and your trust in its capabilities.

Additionally, a piecemeal approach can make the price point less painful. Decision makers are likely more willing to sign off if this is the case, and you can begin to see the cost-saving power of the solution in real time.

Win: Thoroughly Vetting Tech Providers

The more you know about the solutions you are considering, the more you can accurately evaluate them — and trust that they work as advertised.

This includes educating yourself about how the technology works so that it does not seem like a black box. This also includes educating other stakeholders, so they can appreciate the total value offered.

Ask the vendor for references. Ask to speak to customers where the solution worked well — and where it didn’t. Ask for case studies and results that bear out the true cost-benefit. Ask to speak to the vendor’s product and operations teams. 

These questions are key to understanding at a hands-on level how the solution would fold into your team’s day-to-day activities.

READ CUSTOMER STORY: Global Top 50 Bank Achieves 99% Cost Reduction in GDPR Compliance


Stay Ahead of the Curve — And Your Competitors

The world will almost certainly be somewhat different after this crisis is over, but some things will undoubtedly still be the same. Organizational pressures will still exist. Competition will still be there. Companies will still see a need to be as efficient as possible. 

The right technology solution can help drive better response time to customers, optimize costs, open up new revenue streams, and create better processes to reduce risk. Consider taking the time to determine which solution is best for your business and your needs so you can stay ahead of the curve.


Enjoy this article? Subscribe to receive helpful content designed to help you win at compliance.


{Infographic} How to Prepare for a Bear Market

By Blog

Infographic on How to Prepare for a Bear Market

Step 1: Identify Your Essentials

Separate your Must-Haves from your Nice-to-Haves so that, when forced to make cuts, you don’t undermine the fundamental and functional parts of your business.

Step 2: Focus on Efficiencies

Where can you reduce managerial red-tape? How can you leverage the strength of team members to streamline existing processes?

Step 3: Leverage Technology

Talk with teams about which parts of their jobs are heavy on mundane, manual labor and could potentially use automated support.

Step 4: Prioritize Employee Well Being

A bear market places significant stress on employees. Creating an environment that puts them and their health first will also create a happier, more focused, and more productive workforce.

Step 5: Be Ready for Opportunities

Financial firms are known for reminding clients during downturns that it’s here the real money can be made — if one can bear the pain. The same is true for businesses.

Most Importantly: Listen to Risk & Compliance Teams

A bear market doesn’t mean the regulatory wheels stop turning. On the contrary, Risk & Compliance professionals often serve as a business’s crisis response team, making their work more vital than ever. Make sure they’re equipped with the tools they need during these uncertain times.

READ ARTICLE: 5 Ways To Prepare Your Business for a Bear Market

technology solutions bear market
market downturn
stock market
past performance

Enjoy this article? Subscribe to receive helpful content designed to help you win at compliance.


Virtual Chat | The Evolution of Regulation

By Blog

As part of our Virtual Open House, Maria Phillips, Implementation, discusses “The Evolution of Regulation” across market cycles — including our recent long bull market as well as the looming bear one.

Check out the full talk above and be sure to visit our Open House page for more great conversations!

LEARN MORE: Ascent’s Open House: Socially Distant, Virtually Connected


Enjoy this webinar? Subscribe to receive helpful content designed to help you win at compliance.


Virtual Chat | Thinking Machines: Why Ethical AI Matters in Tumultuous Times

By Blog

To kick off our Open House, we had Ascent Founder & CEO Brian Clark discuss “Thinking Machines: Why Ethical AI Matters in Tumultuous Times.” Check out the full talk above and be sure to visit our Open House page for more great conversations!

LEARN MORE: Ascent’s Open House: Socially Distant, Virtually Connected


Enjoy this webinar? Subscribe to receive helpful content designed to help you win at compliance.


5 Ways To Prepare Your Business for a Bear Market

By Blog

In the midst of these unprecedented times, one thing seems certain: one of the longest bull markets on record is now over.

We are in the midst of unprecedented times, filled with uncertainty. Markets are whipsawing daily, the health of the economy — both short- and long-term — is in serious question, and it is unclear what the next week will hold, let alone the next quarter.

We at Ascent won’t attempt to answer these unanswerable questions. Instead, we want to acknowledge a reality that daily seems to be more and more certain: One of the longest bull markets on record has now come to an end. 

It will take time for governments to untangle the global uncertainties that grow more daunting by the day. In the meantime, businesses don’t have to feel paralyzed by inaction. Here are five ways to prepare for the new market environment.

READ ARTICLE: Creating Confidence in an Uncertain World


#1: Separate the Must-Haves from the Nice-to-Haves

The most immediate reaction to a tighter environment is to prioritize essential expenses and cut non-essential ones. This vital step sets the stage for the processes and procedures that follow.

You’ll likely be looking across your business for ways to reduce costs, but as you do so, it’s imperative you don’t undermine the fundamental and functional aspects of your business. This of course means protecting revenue-generating areas of your business, but it also means protecting the teams that protect your business.

Maintaining a stellar client-service reputation won’t matter if your business is overrun by cybercriminals — or if a lapse in compliance leads to a debilitating regulatory fine.

As you manage costs on a slimmer budget, insulate the areas of your business that make it functional so that they can help support the parts that make it successful.

#2: Focus on Efficiencies

Even after eliminating “non-essential” items, your list of expenses may still seem too long. Rather than cutting into the essentials, though, look for ways to improve efficiencies across your business.

Where is managerial oversight slowing down processes and creating unnecessary costs? How might you leverage hidden expertise within one department to help that of another? Perhaps buried in your IT department is a project-manager-certificate holder who can help organize the roll-out of your latest asset management strategy. Or maybe a junior associate has discovered how to streamline a burdensome administrative task but hasn’t had the opportunity to share it with other teams.

Now is the time to draw on the deep strengths of your teams so that they can empower your business to do more with less.

#3: Leverage Technology

Doing more with less is, as with many things, easier said than done. While it might be possible to ask some team members to wear another hat or share skills, departments likely won’t have the time and resources right now to wholly reimagine processes. 

Instead, look for ways technology can help.

Talk with teams about which parts of their jobs are heavy on mundane, manual labor and could potentially use automated support. The recent explosion in machine learning capabilities has revolutionized how automation can support different job functions.

We at Ascent are of course strong believers in automation. By automating regulatory knowledge creation, we’ve seen firsthand how technology can reduce errors, drastically improve efficiencies, and free up internal experts to focus on more critical functions. Other automation tools can be similarly transformative for different departments.

#4: Prioritize Employee Well-Being

Employees are the pillars that hold a business up, and a bear market puts significant stress on those pillars. In their professional lives, they’ll likely be asked to take on more in a bear market, even if they already have full plates. And, at the same time, they’ll be bombarded with worrisome headlines adding stress to other areas of their life too.

So the mental and physical health of employees should be a top priority. Employees with a clear mind will undoubtedly be happier, less distracted, and — as a result — more productive. 

Often, as firms look to buckle down on costs and increase efficiencies, the focus is too much on the number of hours worked and the output gained. What should also be considered is the potential expense of that work to employee well being.

Creating an environment that prioritizes employees and their health and empowers them with stimulating work will create a supportive atmosphere during a challenging time — and, ultimately, boost productivity in the process.

#5: Take advantage of the opportunity

Here’s a quote from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War that’s as cliche as it is true: “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.”

Financial firms are known for reminding clients during downturns that it’s here the real money can be made — if one can bear the pain.

The same is true for businesses. Some of the most successful companies were started during a recession. By trimming excesses, improving internal procedures, empowering staff, and leveraging automation, you can position your business to take advantage of the potent opportunities emerging rather than being stuck in a paralyzed state of inaction.

READ ARTICLE: How Ascent Simplifies Regulatory Change Management with Automation


Most importantly, listen to your Risk and Compliance Teams.

Risk and Compliance professionals often serve as your crisis response team. They help companies implement new practices, create business continuity plans, and adapt to new environments. 

In the midst of a bear market, their work becomes more vital than ever. A recession or global crisis doesn’t mean that the regulatory wheels stop turning. On the contrary, regulators will still be publishing rule updates to keep up with the changing environment. And internal departments will likely be moving quickly to take advantage of opportunities in the marketplace. The last thing a business needs during uncertain times is increased risk.

As the critical functions of Compliance and Risk teams ramp up, automation can help reduce their workloads as much as possible.

At Ascent, we leverage emerging technology to automate the routine aspects of regulatory compliance to reduce risks and costs. Tools like these help reduce time-consuming tasks like regulatory monitoring and channel those efforts into more vital parts of compliance.

At a time when it’s essential to eliminate as many roadblocks as possible, our solutions can help a firm feel empowered rather than constricted by the rule of law.

Enjoy this article? Subscribe to receive helpful content designed to help you win at compliance.