Insurers Among Laggards in Vendor Risk Management, Study Finds

Among the industries that manage highly sensitive data, insurers continue to lag behind financial institutions in fortifying their vendor risk management capabilities, according to the 2015 Vendor Risk Management Benchmark Study.

Image credit: Dollar Photo Club.

(Image credit: Dollar Photo Club.)

Outsourcing and increasing cloud application delivery offerings make for attractive supply chain management, but many companies are underperforming when it comes to managing related risks, including cyber-attacks and data security threats. When it comes to companies that manage especially sensitive data, insurers are among organizations that must make improvements to their risk management programs in order to keep pace with the latest risks, according to the 2015 Vendor Risk Management Benchmark Study, released yesterday by the Shared Assessments Program (Santa Fe, N.M.) and Protiviti, a Menlo, Calif.-based global consulting firm.

Rocco Grillo, Managing Director, Protiviti.

Rocco Grillo, Managing Director, Protiviti.

The Vendor Risk Management Benchmark Study, now in its second year, examined information from more than 450 C-suite executives, risk management and audit professionals, who rated their organizations using the Vendor Risk Management Maturity Model (VRMMM), a benchmarking tool from the Shared Assessments Program that measures the quality and maturity of existing vendor risk management programs, according to a joint statement from the Shared Assessments Program and Protivity.

Survey respondents were presented with eight categories of vendor risk management. For each component within the eight categories, respondents were asked to rate its maturity level as it applies to their organization on a maturity scale of 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest):

Category 2015 Index 2014 Index YOY Change
Program Governance 2.8 2.9 -0.1
Policies, Standards, Procedures 2.9 2.9 0.0
Contracts 2.9 3.0 -0.1
Vendor Risk Identification and Analysis 2.7 2.7 0.0
Skills and Expertise 2.3 2.3 0.0
Communication and Information Sharing 2.5 2.6 -0.1
Tools, Measurement and Analysis 2.4 2.4 0.0
Monitoring and Review 2.8 2.9 -0.1

Initially, vendor risk management capabilities in organizations appear to be stagnating, according to the researchers. Scores in half of the categories did not change from year to year, and the slight declines (-0.1) in the four other categories are not significant variations.

However, these flat results do not necessarily mean that no progress has been made with regard to third-party vendor risk management, the researchers stress. During the one-year period in between the 2014 and 2015 surveys, there was an epidemic of cybersecurity breaches, the February 2014 release of the NIST Cybersecurity Framework, and more oversight of IT security risk programs in general by both boards of directors and regulators. This increased regulatory focus on third-party risks means that organizations are now more aware of their own program’s strengths and weaknesses, particularly at the C-suite and board level, the researchers say. With greater clarity about what is required to minimize and mitigate cybersecurity risks, many respondents likely rated their capabilities lower even in the face of process improvements in their firms, and may also be setting a higher bar for what they deem to be mature levels of vendor risk management, according to the study’s findings.

“The increasing frequency and magnitude of cybersecurity breaches, along with recent and forthcoming regulatory actions, make it imperative that vendor risk management programs make a significant leap forward,” comments Rocco Grillo, managing director, Protiviti, and the firm’s global leader for incident response and forensic investigations. “This change requires fundamental alterations to strategies, processes and organizational culture.”

“The good news is that there is greater demand for building more robust vendor risk management programs,” Grillo continues. “This issue is more frequently a part of the agenda for boards of directors, who are regularly seeking assurance from management that the appropriate steps are being taken to combat vendor risk.”

Insurers Lag Financial Services Organizations

The researchers shared the following additional key findings from the survey:

  • Vendor risk management programs require more substantive advances. The overall maturity rating for program governance in this year’s survey (2.7 on a 5-point scale – below the “fully defined and established” maturity level) should serve as a wake-up call that deeper changes are needed that reach into organizational culture and individual behavior, especially for financial institutions that are striving to satisfy the U.S. “Getting to Strong” regulatory mantra.
  • Vendor risk management programs within financial services organizations are relatively more mature compared to companies in insurance, healthcare and other industries. The 2015 survey results indicate that financial services firms continue to rank ahead of other industries with regard to their vendor risk management programs ‑ most notably in Program Governance, Vendor Risk Identification and Analysis, and Communication and Information Sharing. Financial Services organizations score on average more than a point higher in these categories. Perhaps most notable is the finding that the insurance and healthcare industries continue to lag behind financial institutions in fortifying their vendor risk management capabilities, considering the sensitivity of their data.
  • Policies, standards and procedures and contract management and criteria represent the most advanced components of current vendor risk management programs. These areas are ranked highest in terms of overall maturity among the eight program areas assessed in the survey. These two program characteristics are fundamental building blocks that can lay the groundwork for a more mature vendor risk management capability.

    Gary S. Roboff, Senior Advisor, Shared Assessments.

    Gary S. Roboff, Senior Advisor, Shared Assessments.

“The study clearly indicates, across industries and leadership roles, that much work needs to be done,” comments Gary S. Roboff, senior advisor, Shared Assessments. “Organizations are asking for more resources and effective, efficient strategies to manage third party risks, and this research tells us that the C-suite is aware of the need for continued vendor risk management improvement.”

Protiviti will host a complimentary webinar on July 28, 2015 at 11:00 a.m. PDT, led by Grillo and Roboff and joined by a Fortune 500 financial services company guest speaker, to discuss the results of the survey and offer insights into what organizations can do to raise their vendor risk management maturity levels. The researchers have also produced a podcast featuring Grillo and Roboff that addresses the findings and their implications for businesses.



Anthony R. O’Donnell // Anthony O'Donnell is Executive Editor of Insurance Innovation Reporter. For over a decade he has been an observer and commentator on the use of information technology in the insurance industry, following industry trends and writing about the use of IT across all sectors of the insurance industry. He can be reached at or (503) 936-2803.

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