5 Themes and 10 Sessions that Defined the 2020 RMA Annual Risk Management and Internal Audit Virtual Conferences

by Scott Rayburn, Product Marketing Manager

Colin Hautman, Digital Marketing Specialist

From November 9 – 13, 2020, the RMA Annual Risk Management Virtual Conference and RMA Annual Internal Audit Virtual Conference provided our members an unparalleled opportunity to sharpen their skills as they learned from and connected with leaders in the financial services industry.

Like many organizations, this year was the first we brought our Annual Conference to a virtual environment, and we even ran a second conference along with it to serve Internal Audit professionals, many of whom joined RMA this year when we added the Internal Auditors Society to our association. As such, all three lines of defense and both conferences converged on one virtual event site, resulting in the following metrics:

RMA Annual Conferences by the Numbers


Now that the conferences have passed, we are proud to report the whole week was a resounding success! And best of all, since it was a virtual conference, many of the timely and informative sessions are recorded and available on-demand anytime, anywhere. If you attended the conference, that means you already have access. If you missed out, sign up now to get access to the conference on-demand.

Want to learn more about what was covered at the conference? Keep reading to explore the five themes and 10 sessions that defined this year’s conferences!

Theme #1: #RMAStrongerTogether

This year, RMA’s Annual Risk Management Virtual Conference was built around the theme #RMAStrongerTogether. Many of the conference sessions focused on how the knowledge, goals, initiatives, and connections we share through our industry combine to make us stronger together. Interestingly, this theme was especially apparent in two sessions that either directly or indirectly focused on the power of equity and diversity:

Brian Brooks

“A Fireside Chat with Brian Brooks, Acting Comptroller of the OCC”

In a Q&A between Nancy Foster, President & CEO, RMA, and Brian Brooks, Acting Comptroller of the OCC, Brian discussed a variety of timely topics, including the give-and-take relationship between all-digital challenger banks or fintechs and big banks, the OCC’s Project REACh and its role moving forward to increase access to financial services and foster conditions that grow wealth for underserved communities, and how the OCC is working to strengthen and modernize the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA).


“Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) – A Business Imperative

In this session, Connie L. Lindsey, EVP and Head of Global CSR/DEI, Northern Trust, laid out the moral, economic, and market case for making DEI a priority at your institution. “The complexity and diversity of markets requires organizations to lead inclusively and build high-performance teams [that are] multi-dimensional,” she said, noting that workplace discrimination is estimated to cost businesses $64B annually according to the Center for American Progress. 

Theme #2: The Industry’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

As if it even needs to be said, this year’s conferences were pushed virtual – like so many others – by the COVID-19 pandemic. Unsurprisingly, many of the conference sessions dealt with the impact of COVID-19 on our industry, which is ultimately tied to all industries given financial services’ role in the global economy. While every session touched on the pandemic, two come to mind that were especially focused on our industry’s response:


“Recovering from Contagion”

Carl Tannenbaum, Chief Economist, Northern Trust, showcased his expertise and findings from his team at Northern Trust as he presented on epidemiology, elections, and economics in today’s environment. He ran through the four curves to keep in mind when analyzing our current environment: the pandemic, public health, business reopening, and consumer choice – and how all four curves will take time to restore to normal or a new sense of the word. According to Carl, we have come a long way, but we are still behind where we were in Q4 of 2019 (the last quarter before COVID-19 hit). 

AC Citizens Financial Group

“A Fireside Chat with Bruce Van Saun, Chairman and CEO of Citizens Financial Group, Inc. and Malcolm Griggs, Chief Risk Officer of Citizens Financial Group, Inc.”

Members of the Executive Management Team at Citizens Financial Group discussed how during the last recession, banks were part of the problem, whereas this time around, they are part of the solution and are using their strength to help clients make it to the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic. Bruce and Malcolm also touched on the shape of the recovery to come, the progress we’ve made so far, the need for additional stimulus from the government and the Fed, and the current status of so-called “industries of market concern” at Citizens Financial Group.

Theme #3: Auditing at the Speed of Business (Internal Audit)

More than just a theme, Internal Audit had its internal conference run concurrently with the RMA Annual Risk Management Virtual Conference. This track of the conference brought together internal audit, risk management, and compliance professionals from across the financial services industry to explore the issues impacting them and how to successfully collaborate during the COVID-19 pandemic. Two standout sessions were:

IA Modernizing IA - Live

“Modernizing Internal Audit”

From a conversation with internal audit leaders Gemma Cook, Sumitomo Mitsui, Joseph Conti, BNY Mellon, Michael Gandara, JPMorgan Chase, and Carl Hatfield, Protiviti, we learned how the processes and methodologies that drive internal audit are being digitized as much as possible as institutions engineer their own end-to-end auditing platforms with built-in quality assurance. While each institution is at a different stage of maturity, our panelists agreed that the shift to a fully digital, AI/ML-enabled internal audit process is well underway, giving the auditors more time to think about and solve the biggest challenges we face. 

Internal Audit Top Priorities

“Internal Audit Top Priorities and Risks for 2021”

Ian Beale, VP, Advisory at Gartner Audit Leadership Council, laid out 12 of Gartner’s Audit Plan 2021 Hotspots in his session. He described how these risks or hotspots are the top-of-mind issues for Boards, Audit Committees, and executives in organizations across industries, sizes, and geographic locations. His review should go a long way in helping to inform ongoing risk identification and assessment conversations at your institution. 

Theme #4: Credit & Lending

No RMA Annual Risk Management Conference would be complete without a full slate of Credit & Lending-focused sessions. This year our Credit & Lending track featured eight total sessions tailored specifically to address key trends and challenges facing roles in commercial lending, including these two interesting talks:


“FDIC Priorities for 2020”

Doreen Eberly, Director of Risk Management Supervision, FDIC, shared her perspective on the importance of planning, as well as priorities for 2021. On planning, Doreen commented on the fact that banks will never again question the need for having a robust pandemic plan. On priorities, Doreen highlighted a few areas of focus for the FDIC, such as modernizing exam technology and ensuring the soundness of credit, liquidity, and interest rates in the face of COVID-19.


“Risk Ratings – A Hosted Solution Simplifies Ratings and Reporting”

In this session sponsored by RMA Dual Risk Rating, we learned how a more sophisticated, dual risk rating system greatly increases the granularity and consistency of your risk rating process, helping you to better manage your portfolio in the current environment. And when this system is integrated with existing technology to make the risk rating process completely seamless, it becomes even more powerful and accessible throughout the organization.

Theme #5: Enterprise & Operational Risk

Similar to the Credit & Lending track, the conference track for CROs and Senior Risk professionals featured eight unique Enterprise & Operational Risk-focused sessions covering a range of disciplines, from third party risk to cybersecurity to model risk. 


“Creating the Foundation for Optimal Risk Decision-Making within a Complex Environment filled with Black Swans and Black Turkeys”

Stephany Head, PhD, President of OpRisk Associates, LLC., explained that studies show that companies who take a hit and deal with cybersecurity issues can become more resilient over time and, in turn, more antifragile. Head also discussed the Black Swan Environment and how the unknowable becomes the norm, pushing risk professionals to become solution designers as opposed to managers of risk. Lastly, she touched on Black Turkeys and how they are a series of small, short-sighted decisions that cumulatively result in a degradation of performance, missed goal, or increased risk.


“The Shape of Model Risk Management to Come”

Kevin Oden, Managing Director of RMA’s Model Validation Consortium, explained how quantitative analytics will help shape the industry moving forward in areas such as compliance, interest rate risk management, the LIBOR transition, and fraud detection. Oden discussed emerging best practices associated with artificial intelligence and machine learning. Additionally, he addressed the expanded role of modeling in digital banking by highlighting the best practices in AI/ML validation and the need to recognize AI/ML Models as Models.

Get These Sessions and Many More On-Demand

Are you interested in experiencing these interesting and insightful sessions and many more for yourself? All content is now accessible through our virtual site. Sign up now to secure access for you and your team to before it’s too late. 

Scott Rayburn

As Product Marketing Manager, Scott Rayburn is responsible for spreading awareness of RMA’s growing portfolio of products and solutions. Prior to RMA, Scott worked in similar positions at Proscia, a digital pathology software company, and EPAM Systems, a global engineering, design, and consulting firm. Scott holds a B.A. in English Literature from Temple University.

Colin Hautman

As the Digital Marketing Specialist, Colin Hautman oversees and crafts the email, social, and paid marketing strategy on behalf of the association. Prior to RMA, Colin worked as a marketing manager for a variety of nonprofit membership and trade associations spanning industries from physiatry to bond law to retail. Colin holds a B.S. in Public Relations from James Madison University.

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