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[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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Inside the complicated world of digital assets

By Blog, Compliance Over Coffee

[Feat. Val Dahiya, Partner, Perkins Coie] — As the former Branch Chief of the Division of Trading and Markets at the SEC, Val Dahiya knows a thing or two about risk exposure and the  impact of regulatory change. Now as a Partner at global law firm Perkins Coie, Val focuses on helping broker-dealer firms comply with regulation and navigate new transactional developments such as digital assets, NFTs, and blockchain technology.

In this episode of Compliance Over Coffee, Val draws from her time at FINRA and the SEC to show how these innovations are disrupting financial regulation. Here’s a clip of what she had to say:

“Innovation moves at the speed of light. And regulation, it’s responsive. It’s reactive. It oftentimes moves at the speed of a sloth.”

Watch as Ascent President and Founder Brian Clark and Val discuss how firms can reduce their risk exposure even in the face of unprecedented change. 

Also in this chat:

  • Gary Gensler and the new Administration
  • The role of social media in regulating markets
  • Environmental Social Governance (ESG) disclosures

Perkins Coie is a leading international law firm that is known for providing high value, strategic solutions and extraordinary client service on matters vital to our clients’ success. Visit Perkins Coie to learn about the firm’s full array of corporate, commercial litigation, intellectual property and regulatory legal services.

For the latest in the Compliance Over Coffee executive video series, subscribe to our email updates.


Compliance Mapping to a Risk Taxonomy in Ascent

By Solution Highlight

Regulatory compliance mapping is essential for financial firms to manage risks effectively. As regulations keep changing, firms need to stay abreast of updates and ensure that they remain compliant. Traditional methods of compliance can be time-consuming, expensive, and complex. However, with Ascent’s technology, organizations can easily identify their regulatory obligations and assign them to risk themes. This makes it simple for businesses to organize and access relevant information. In this blog post, we explore how Ascent’s AI and automation solution simplifies compliance mapping for organizations, enabling them to streamline their compliance efforts while reducing costs

But first, what is a risk taxonomy?

A risk taxonomy is a standard and comprehensive set of risk categories used within an organization to help define the types of risk that should be considered and measured.

Whether your firm uses its own set of classifications or ones set by the industry such as the ISO 3100, Ascent has the flexibility you need to classify and map your applicable regulatory obligations in the language that makes the most sense for your firm.

READ MORE: Regulatory mapping—are you doing it effectively?

As a starting point, Ascent provides a standard set of classifications or
themes, such as Credit Reporting, Investment, Know Your Customer, and Truth in Lending, to name only a few.

Ascent risk taxonomy

Ascent also enables customers to implement their firm’s unique taxonomy with a custom theme feature. 

custom risk taxonomy

No matter which type you choose, the themes that you set up in Ascent are more than just a glorified search feature or a way to organize regulatory content. They are a powerful way to understand what you need to do to stay in compliance, in a structured manner that allows you to make progress against your compliance goals. 

The power to understand exactly what you need to do.

Unlike tools that function primarily as searchable databases of regulatory documents, Ascent is an intelligent compliance platform that automatically surfaces the exact parts of the regulatory texts that apply to your business. Once your unique obligations have been identified, Ascent provides the depth and lineage you need to trace every obligation back to the rule it came from.

READ MORE: Traceability of obligations in Ascent


The ability to map to your controls, policies, and procedures.

The beauty of Ascent’s granularity is that it is made truly actionable through its custom and standard themes. After Ascent identifies your obligations, you can tag them using your chosen themes. The obligation pictured below, for example, fits into the scope of “Anti-Money Laundering.” However, it may also apply to other areas of a firm’s risk profile, and so it might require additional tagging to ensure that it sits properly within the firm’s taxonomy.

compliance mapping

Ultimately, risk themes in Ascent enable firms to:

  • Organize all applicable regulatory obligations into topics and map them to internal risk taxonomies
  • More easily perform impact assessments and map obligations to controls, policies and procedures. 
  • Easily divert obligations to the responsible people by themes in the organization

The flexibility to organize your world.

With Ascent, accuracy and actionability is possible. Learn how you can accurately identify your regulatory obligations and map them to your organization’s unique risk taxonomy for more streamlined compliance. 

Interested in learning more? Contact us to request a demo or talk to our Sales team.

Rate your compliance-readiness in just 5 minutes

Rate your compliance-readiness in just 5 minutes


Brexit Impact: A Look at the Next Normal

By Blog

Back in 2016 when the concept of the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union (“EU”) seemed like a fantastical proposition, the prospect of the referendum’s success let alone its implications seemed like a mystery. The question for financial institutions now becomes how to implement and maintain a newly-domesticated compliance framework in the face of regulatory uncertainty. 

The Story on Domestic Data

The larger focus for financial services will be on sustainability of domestic and international compliance frameworks for areas such as data, sanctions, and overall governance. 

The UK has implemented a host of regulatory expectations in the past few years, from MiFID to the Senior Managers’ Regime. While those regulations will continue, financial services must continue to enmesh international laws with touch and concern to the UK in their programs.

Despite the UK’s exit from the EU, the parameters of the General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) will continue to be enforceable. In fact, GDPR has been a primary area of international enforcement, with two UK-centric breaches in 2020 totaling in USD $56 million in penalties alone. 

CASE STUDY: How a Global Top 50 Bank Pinpointed Its GDPR Obligations Using Ascent


Similarly, despite infrequent enforcement actions for sanctions violations from the UK in the past few years (OFSI issued its first ever sanctions penalty in 2020 since its establishment four years prior), the UK Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2018 will continue to pose challenges for UK banks wishing to keep a foot in the international space.

In late December, the Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”) issued the final Temporary Transitional Power (TTP) directions. Firms should be well-versed in the TTP directions, as they outline which regulations are expected to be maintained throughout the transaction and which have exemptions until the end of the transition period in March 2022. While these provisions apply to existing entities, the FCA was careful to note that the TTP does not apply to new European Economic Area entities seeking to onshore. 

Business as Usual for AML

As part of the EU, the UK would have historically been adhering to the framework of the EU’s Anti-Money Laundering Directives (“AMLD”). This would have been leveraged to set the framework for an anti-money laundering compliance program, from the “pillars” approach derived from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) standards, to threshold for transaction monitoring. 

From a practitioner’s perspective, the EU AMLD set basic criteria that were then enhanced or supplemented, as needed, at the country level. In the absence of those directives, the UK will now rely entirely on the Proceeds of Crime Act (“POCA”) and its interpretation by regulators to determine firms’ adherence to AML standards. The FCA has not had a particularly robust enforcement year in terms of AML enforcement, with only two notable penalties issued for compliance-related failures. In fact, the absence of such enforcement actions has been cited in the press as a relative laxity by the regulator. 

Perhaps due to Brexit or exacerbated by it, the FCA has not made clear that AML compliance will be a priority over conduct-related enforcement in the coming year. Given the EU’s spate of Baltic-related fines and penalties, the first AML fine of 2021 may in fact be related to the same.  

The Way Forward

There is, as was expected when Brexit was first announced, a bit of trailblazing to be expected in the next few years. The shifting regulatory expectations around conduct over AML and sanctions enforcements is suggestive, but not dispositive. While the FCA has recently provided a rulebook with post-Brexit expectations, unlike their peers in the US, wavers have been embedded with those expectations, some as far out as 2022.  Perhaps drawing from their peers (subsidiaries and affiliates too) in the US, UK-based banks will need to leverage a far more conservative risk-based approach until the updated regulatory expectations become more certain.  

In the meantime, new technology such as regulatory knowledge automation can help financial firms keep tabs on enforcements, updates, and rule changes as they are issued. Today, many firms continue to try to manage and synthesize this influx of information in the same ways that it always has — by increasing personnel to do the work manually. 

INFOGRAPHIC: Regulatory Knowledge Automation, Explained


But missing even the finest detail within a body of regulation or rule amendment can be disastrous for a firm. Like the proverbial needle in the haystack, any obligation missed among the thousands of lines of regulatory information could have severe consequences come audit time. 

Regulatory knowledge automation uses machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP) to complete this work in mere minutes, at a fraction of the cost, and with greater accuracy than manual efforts.

READ MORE: How to set a foundation for your regulatory compliance framework


For more information about RegTech, regulatory knowledge automation, and articles like these,  subscribe to our monthly Cliff Notes newsletter.



SEC Priorities: Cryptocurrency Regulation and a Changing of the Guard

By Blog

Despite the pandemic, Reuters reports that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has had a banner year, with more than 700 cases and enforcement actions. As of November, that number represented over USD $4.7 billion in penalties, fines, and disgorgements assessed. The ratio of fines to penalties is a bit askew, considering that one fine alone represented a USD $1.2 billion settlement.

Still, the agency has been particularly busy with disclosure and regulatory-related penalties, in contrast to a mere seven enforcement actions by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). Of course there is an issue of the remit of the respective agencies that would need to be taken into consideration, but one priority of the SEC has seemed to remain squarely in the initial coin offering (ICO) / cryptocurrency-related space. Here’s a look back at SEC cryptocurrency regulation from this year and what’s to come from SEC leadership in 2021.

ICOs Strictly Subjected to Howey Test

The SEC announces its enforcement priorities annually, and 2020 was no different, if only in that respect.  At the start of the year, the Office of Compliance Inspections and Examination (OCIE) released its 2020 Examination Priorities, and in it the agency noted that “digital assets” would be a priority. Many of the enforcement actions that occurred throughout the year were related to either ICOs, either as fraudulent schemes or due to poor regulatory disclosures.

The SEC has treated ICOs fairly strictly over the past few years, perhaps punctuated by the Report of Investigation Pursuant to Section 21(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934: The DAO (the “DAO”), released in mid-2017. This report galvanized the agency’s approach to tokenization and ICOs, noting that strict adherence to the Howey test (i.e., an investment of money and expectation of profit as the result of a common enterprise, with the profits coming from the efforts of a third party) would apply to ICOs.

To that end, ICOs who tested the SEC’s resolve found that the failure to register or seek an exemption to the Howey criteria would result in multi-million dollar penalties.  In one enforcement action in particular, the SEC noted that the ICO in question—though it knew or had reason to know that it was a security based on the DAO report and prongs of the Howey Test—continued to sell its offering without making appropriate disclosures to its investors.  

READ MORE: The Most Telling Guidance of 2020: Corporate Compliance Programs, AML & More


Changing of the SEC Guard

The current chairman of the SEC, Jay Clayton, has publicly stated that he intends to step down from the position, leaving the incoming administration to make a nomination. Clayton’s tenure was remarkable, and has seen lauding from both sides of the aisle.  The two current names being floated to replace him are Gary Gensler, former chairman of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), and former prosecutor Preet Bharara. Already named to President Elect Biden’s transition team, Gensler has no shortage of experience dealing with both regulators and the private sector.

During his time at the CFTC, Gensler pushed for sweeping regulation of swap trades and has been viewed as someone who—as a former partner at Goldman Sachs—could potentially deliver diplomatic regulatory outcomes. Bharara, on the other hand, poses a far more significant shift in regulatory tone. Bharara is known, and well-respected, for his work on major insider trading and white collar cases.

Despite the significant number of actions under Clayton’s tenure (over 3,000 examinations in 2020 alone), Bharara’s appointment would signal a no-nonsense approach to both civil and regulatory engagements.

Preparing for What (and Who) is Next

Other names circulated are Dodd-Frank contributor Michael Barr, as well as Allison Lee (a former securities law practitioner and currently an SEC commissioner) and Kara Stein (a former SEC commissioner) who would both bring senior-level, hands-on experience to the position. There are innumerable variables still at play after the outcome of the November 2020 election. Needless to say, the SEC and other high-profile regulatory positions will keep Wall Street waiting with baited breath, and those of us in the bleachers a lot to consider. 

READ MORE: What are “granular” obligations in RegTech, and how do they reduce your risk?


No matter who takes the helm at the SEC (and at other U.S. regulators), it’s important for financial institutions to keep tabs on regulation at both the national and state level. It’s within these agencies that incremental changes occur and often catch organizations off guard. Be sure that your firm is ready for what’s next. Shore up your compliance and risk strategy by identifying all of your key risk factors, including any potential gaps in your firm’s regulatory obligations / requirements.

READ MORE: Regulatory Change Management: A Tech-Based Approach


Ascent helps banks and other financial firms stay above the rising tide of regulation, from the SEC and other regulators. Learn more about our regulatory coverage here.

The Most Telling Guidance of 2020: Corporate Compliance Programs, AML & More

By Blog

There has been no shortage of media chatter in the very unusual 2020 calendar year.  For those concerned with organizational compliance, the release and re-release of regulatory guidance and legislation — particularly around BSA/AML and corporate compliance programs — has been nearly unparalleled.  As we will show, these developments have significant implications, if not direct calls to action, for banks.   

The BSA/AML Manual Hits Hard

At the risk of hyperbole, the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council’s (“FFIEC”) Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Laundering (“BSA/AML”) Examination Manual (the “Manual”) is perhaps the most sacrosanct of all regulatory frameworks. Intended to serve as a field guide for examiners, instead its outlines and parameters are utilized by banks’ BSA/AML compliance departments as the foundation for their compliance programs and by auditors as a basis for testing protocols. Updated in April, the Manual was not radically updated but the updates that were made were significant.  First and foremost, the Manual makes reference to “other illicit activity” as a nod to the nebulous nexuses between crimes like healthcare fraud, corruption, and money laundering.  The Manual further updates provisions in regards to risk assessments (while not flat out requiring them) and board-level oversight, broadly, requiring that banks ensure that their compliance programs are tailored to their unique risk profiles.  

Perhaps the most significant updates include expansions to the expectations around training.  Where only a paragraph existed previously, the updated Manual expands its expectations to have role-based technical and subject-matter training, along with much more precise guidance on the expectations for board of directors training.

READ MORE: Regulatory mapping is key to compliance. Are you doing it effectively?


A Major Emphasis on Corporate Compliance Programs

As many compliance practitioners were settling into remote working, the U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ) re-issued its Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs (the “Guidance”).  In examining whether to consider and the depth of criminal penalties, prosecutors too (harkening back to the Manual) should look at whether the organization at issue maintains and leverages a risk assessment to inform decisions about compliance and mitigate the risk of misconduct.  The Guidance goes on to note that perhaps one of the most important factors is, based on the risk assessment, how were allocations for staffing, technology, and resources such as training allocated.  Were cost centers given hiring priority over compliance staff?  Is the annual compliance training program a leaflet?  Are the sales staff on top-of-the-line computers while the compliance and audit teams are using ineffective tech? 

All seem like fair questions. 

The Guidance directly states that compliance should be built into the compensation scheme, and that it should be a considerable factor in the allocation of (or withholding of) bonuses.  Lastly, the Guidance reiterates the need for ongoing monitoring, testing, and escalation of the state of misconduct-related controls and their investigations.  

READ MORE: How an Integrated Risk Management (IRM) approach can transform your organization


On the AML Horizon

There are two fairly significant developments  pending approval, and we cannot emphasize “pending” enough – a shell company transparency provision and the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020.  They are both embedded within a defense spending bill that the White House has threatened to veto for unrelated reasons. The shell company provision would mandate the registration of beneficial owners with the Treasury department, effectively ending anonymous shell company use within the U.S.  

Secondarily, if passed, the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020 would mandate that the Secretary of the Treasury take steps to “streamline” BSA/AML compliance requirements.  In its September Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“ANPRM”), FinCEN sought input from the banking community on how to make more “effective” use of BSA/AML systems and processed, skewing more in favor of law enforcement’s needs than compliance.  The proposed AML Act seems to end-run the feedback solicited by the ANPRM, and place the obligation with the Treasury to ease, reduce, or otherwise better facilitate the production and utilization of BSA/AML-related information.  

While the approval of the AML Act and its governing bill are in a tentative state, the ongoing developments in this space speak to big changes for the BSA/AML compliance space going forward.  

Keeping Pace with Change: A Tech-Based Approach

While these regulatory developments are broad reaching, their impact is different at each financial institution. This leaves Compliance teams with the tall order of reading through and analyzing the regulatory text to determine which parts of the Manual or the Guidance applies to their organizations — which can be like looking for a needle in a haystack.

According to an Ascent internal analysis, 65 percent of the regulatory text (the haystack) is made up of definitions and clarifications. The remaining 35 percent, which actually consists of obligations, is what compliance teams need to be reviewing in order to determine what regulatory requirements and obligations specifically apply to their firm (the needle).

READ MORE: Regulatory Change Management: A Tech-Based Approach

Ascent can help banks and other financial firms stay above the rising tide of regulatory change. Read this article to learn how our RegTech platform can help your firm quickly produce “granular obligations” and keep them current as new regulatory developments arise.

If you’d like to contact a team member directly, you can do so here

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