Risk Management Principles for Electronic Banking - consultative document

May 2001

Note: This consultative document has been superseded by the final version of Risk Management Principles for Electronic Banking in July 2003.

Executive Summary

Continuing technological innovation and competition among existing banking organisations and new entrants have allowed for a much wider array of banking products and services to become accessible and delivered to retail and wholesale customers through an electronic distribution channel collectively referred to as e-banking. However, the rapid development of e-banking capabilities carries risks as well as benefits.

The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision expects such risks to be recognised, addressed and managed by banking institutions in a prudent manner according to the fundamental characteristics and challenges of e-banking services. These characteristics include the unprecedented speed of change related to technological and customer service innovation, the ubiquitous and global nature of open electronic networks, the integration of e-banking applications with legacy computer systems and the increasing dependence of banks on third parties that provide the necessary information technology. While not creating inherently new risks, the Committee noted that these characteristics increased and modified some of the traditional risks associated with banking activities, in particular strategic, operational, legal and reputational risks, thereby influencing the overall risk profile of banking.

Based on these conclusions, the Committee considers that while existing risk management principles remain applicable to e-banking activities, such principles must be tailored, adapted and, in some cases, expanded to address the specific risk management challenges created by the characteristics of e-banking activities. To this end, the Committee believes that it is incumbent upon the Boards of Directors and banks' senior management to take steps to ensure that their institutions have reviewed and modified where necessary their existing risk management policies and processes to cover their current or planned e-banking activities. The Committee also believes that the integration of e-banking applications with legacy systems implies an integrated risk management approach for all banking activities of a banking institution.

To facilitate these developments, the Committee has identified fourteen Risk Management Principles for Electronic Banking to help banking institutions expand their existing risk oversight policies and processes to cover their e-banking activities.

These Risk Management Principles are not put forth as absolute requirements or even "best practice." The Committee believes that setting detailed risk management requirements in the area of e-banking might be counter-productive, if only because these would be likely to become rapidly outdated because of the speed of change related to technological and customer service innovation. The Committee has therefore preferred to express supervisory expectations and guidance in the form of Risk Management Principles in order to promote safety and soundness for e-banking activities, while preserving the necessary flexibility in implementation that derives in part from the speed of change in this area. Further, the Committee recognises that each bank's risk profile is different and requires a tailored risk mitigation approach appropriate for the scale of the e-banking operations, the materiality of the risks present, and the willingness and ability of the institution to manage these risks. This implies that a "one size fits all" approach to e-banking risk management issues may not be appropriate.

For a similar reason, the Risk Management Principles issued by the Committee do not attempt to set specific technical solutions or standards relating to e-banking. Technical solutions are to be addressed by institutions and standard setting bodies as technology evolves. However, this Report contains appendices that list some examples current and widespread risk mitigation practices in the e-banking area that are supportive of the Risk Management Principles.

Consequently, the Risk Management Principles and sound practices identified in this Report are expected to be used as tools by national supervisors and implemented with adaptations to reflect specific national requirements and individual risk profiles where necessary. In some areas, the Principles have been expressed by the Committee or by national supervisors in previous bank supervisory guidance. However, some issues, such as the management of outsourcing relationships, security controls and legal and reputational risk management, warrant more detailed principles than those expressed to date due to the unique characteristics and implications of the Internet distribution channel.

The Risk Management Principles fall into three broad, and often overlapping, categories of issues that are grouped to provide clarity: Board and Management Oversight; Security Controls; and Legal and Reputational Risk Management.