BNP Paribas U.S. compliance chief wants all staff "data comfortable" -- not "rocket scientists"

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Regulatory Intelligence) - Compliance professionals must be “data comfortable” but they don’t need to be rocket scientists to stay relevant in the digital transformation of finance underway, said the Americas compliance chief for BNP Paribas. The BNP Paribas executive and other industry professionals gave their views on a Harvard Business Review article in LinkedIn postings.

The Paris headquarters of the BNP Paribas bank is seen near a Paris Metro sign, January 28, 2012.

“My 2020 objective is to have all my teams be data-comfortable so they can meaningfully analyze trends and issues, and help us grow for tomorrow,” said Eric T. Young, chief compliance officer at BNP Paribas Americas, in a comment on the article in which he agreed with the Harvard Business Review author on the need for robust systems that enhance data through sharing.

“It still takes people, not machines, with good human judgment to make the right, proactive smart decisions when it comes to peoples’ behaviors. Making our teams more ‘data comfortable’ enables them to navigate unstructured data to arm them with greater judgment to make these decisions,” Young told Thomson Reuters Regulatory Intelligence.

In addition to his role at BNP Paribas, Young serves as compliance committee chairman for the Institute of International Bankers.


Recruitment professionals say hundreds of financial compliance jobs are going unfilled as hiring managers look for computer engineers or candidates with technical certification to fill new positions. But firms might rethink their standards as data becomes "democratized," wrote Jonathan Cornelissen, co-founder and CEO of online learning platform DataCamp in the Harvard Business Review article, "The Democratizion of Data Science"(here).

With information technology taking over an increasing share of compliance burden, some traditional control professionals worry that they will be replaced by algorithmic monitors and data analytics that require highly trained technologists to operate. But Cornelissen argues that there is a counter trend — the need to share data with less-technical staff who can intelligently use the data and enrich it. Users engaging with information systems do not need to be experts in artificial intelligence or computer engineering. The system only works if it is made usable for cross-functional teams and not technical staff.

“Many organizations continue to relegate data-science knowledge to a small number of employees,” Cornelissen wrote. “That’s a mistake — and in the long run, it’s unsustainable.”

Simply putting data in silos to be analyzed by high-tech specialists means lost opportunities for an organization. The data firms generate can only become meaningful when it is put into the hands of teams in problem solving or innovating processes.

Creating access and sharing in such a system is especially important in trade surveillance and monitoring analysis, said Jayesh Solanki, team lead, financial crime compliance (trade surveillance) at Bank of America. “You need to make sure the correct data feed is there into the system.”

Firms need to create robust systems for warehousing data and creating middleware that makes it accessible “to meaningfully analyze, investigate, escalate, report and act upon,” Young said. For the system’s surveillance tools, robotics and artificial intelligence to enrich the data, firms must place “the right people/skill sets on an end to end basis.”


The “right people” might not in all situations be the most highly trained computer engineers — although technical skills are needed at a high level. Creating a workplace made up purely of tech experts is “non sustainable,” said Cornelissen. The experts agreed that the workable solution is for everyone in a modern organization, including compliance and control teams, to be capable of providing the input needed to enhance the data before it reaches its hypothetical destination.

That leaves room in the industry for non-technical, but tech-friendly, compliance professionals to play a critical role in assessing data based on their own experiences and contributing to the information food chain.

Young said he expects team members to be comfortable with data science, but adds, “One doesn’t have to be a rocket- or data- scientist to embrace data.”

“Mining meta-data into meaningful, intelligent analytics can be an attractive field for millennials to be on the compliance front lines to prevent, detect and ultimately combat money laundering, terrorist financing, fraud and misconduct,” Young told Regulatory Intelligence. “That’s exciting and meaningful.”

(Richard Satran is a financial journalist covering daily and emerging issues for Thomson Reuters Regulatory Intelligence.)