Financial Condition of Service Providers

Institutions should have on-going monitoring of the financial condition of their provider(s). To fulfill its fiduciary responsibility, an institution involved in an outsourcing arrangement should determine the financial viability of its provider(s) on an annual basis. However, if the financial condition of the provider is declining or unstable, more frequent financial reviews are warranted. Once the financial review is complete, management should report the results to the board of directors or to a designated committee. At a minimum, management's review should contain a careful analysis of the provider's annual financial statement. Institution management may also use other forms of information to determine a provider's condition, such as independent auditor reports. These reports may contain information that can be vital in determining a provider's financial condition. Managers also can use information provided by public media (trade magazines, newspapers, television, etc.).

If the institution becomes aware that the provider's financial condition is unstable or deteriorating, the institution should implement its contingency plan. Even if the provider remains in operation, its financial problems may jeopardize the quality of its service and possibly the integrity of the data in its possession. Institutions should consider a provider's failure to provide adequate financial data as a potential red flag that there may be serious financial stability issues.

Termination of services due to the bankruptcy of the service provider can have a devastating effect on a serviced institution's operations. There may not be sufficient advance notice of termination, an effective contingency plan, or adequate access to provider personnel. In such a situation, the serviced institution is put into the position of having to find an alternate processing site with little advance notice.

At this point, a serviced institution has several alternatives including:

  • Paying off the servicer's creditor(s) and hiring outside specialists to operate the center;
  • Obtaining required equipment and software for in-house processing; and
  • Transferring data files to another provider.

Most options are costly and may cause harmful operating delays.

In some instances, the provider owns the programs and documentation required to process the institution's files. Unless the contract contains an escrow agreement for source code, the program and documentation are unavailable to the institution. These programs are often the TSPs only significant assets. Therefore, a creditor of a bankrupt TSP, in an attempt to recover outstanding debts, might seek to attach those assets and further limit their availability to institutions. The bankruptcy court may provide remedies to the institution, but only after adjudicating substantive matters.


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