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Managing risk: The challenge for challenger banks

Think of an athlete attempting to beat a ‘personal best’, or someone scaling a mountain. Both are individual challenges. In the business world, we’re now used to hearing about another type of challenge, or more accurately, ‘challengers’. Namely, disruptive start-ups who are turning traditional business models on their heads and taking on industry incumbents.

Challenges may be exciting, but they come with risks. For an athlete pushing the limits, there’s always a danger of injury. And if your ambition is to conquer Everest, the hazards are even greater. For a challenger bank, the stakes are not quite so high, but every enterprise carries a risk – especially if it’s breaking new ground.

That’s why challenger banks must protect themselves with the right insurance. Regulations and compliance, corporate responsibility, media scrutiny, and cybersecurity are just some of the things to consider and manage.  

Top 5 challenger bank insurable risks

Understanding how insurance can support a challenger bank is as important as identifying the risks facing the business.

1. Regulatory investigation costs

Accountability is higher than ever for challenger banks, and regulators the world over continue to raise the bar for disruptors. Challenger bank insurers know it’s essential to provide immediate support in the event of a regulatory investigation so that any issues can be suitably escalated and addressed. Insurers will typically pay the costs of a specialist regulatory legal expert, to help with any responses to regulators, and will advise on how best to handle a regulatory investigation.

2. Liability from financial crime

Financial crime is one of the key risks for a challenger bank. Controls may not be strong enough when the bank’s attention and energy are focused on developing the business. Criminals will be quick to exploit weaknesses for money laundering and other illicit activities. As the business grows and transaction volumes increase, the criminals can identify vulnerabilities in transaction monitoring which could result in significant liabilities for the bank as a whole, as well as for its directors and officers.  Professional Indemnity (PI) and Directors and Officers Insurance will cover the legal defence costs in defending financial claims along with damages or settlements that may be awarded.

3. System glitch

Software development is inherently difficult to predict and plan. By nature, software is intangible and often involves a large number of stakeholders. This can create many risks that can lead to downtime and lost revenues. Insurers will cover increased work costs along with any loss of revenues or net profits during the time of the interruption.

4. Data breach

Acting as controller or processor of (sensitive) personal data exposes a business to a variety of risks which need to be carefully managed. The accidental or malicious breach of customer data will require some form of action to meet regulatory obligations. Insurers will cover the event management costs and resulting liability, including PCI and data protection fines, where insurable by law.

5. Theft of customer funds

When customer funds are compromised in a bank’s environment, for example through authorised push payments (APPs) or social engineering fraud, it can lead to investigation costs along with possible financial loss if the compromised funds are deemed to be the bank’s responsibility. Insurers can cover different loss scenarios including loss in the customer environment. Crime losses often involve significant sums and should be insured for balance sheet protection.

Mapping risks to insurance

We recommend that firms should map key risks to available insurance policies at least once every year.  Because circumstances often change for fast-growing businesses, you should monitor work arrangements and styles, new product offerings, new fund raising, and operations in new territories.


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Simon Gilbert
Blog group founder

Simon Gilbert



Member since

05 Jul 2018



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This post is from a series of posts in the group:


This is a group to disucss all elements of insurance for fintechs, their customers and their ecosystems. Insurance is the main way for Fintechs to reduce the financial impact of a risk materialising. Running a business involves a certain amount of risk. Whether it’s the loss of equipment, risk of liability to a 3rd party or the risk of cyber-crime, all these incidents (and many more) will have a financial impact on a business if they occur. The insurance industry exists to help business manage risk and pay for losses.

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