Modernizing the three lines of defense model has been saved
• Early-stage adoption – In early stages of the 3LOD framework, management does not have a strong awareness or ownership of risk and controls. There may be a risk function in place, but often its role is to facilitate the maintenance of the risk register, without insight or challenge by IA. Depending on the industry and sector, regulatory compliance risks are absorbed into both risk and IA functions, with specialist teams existing in pockets or one-off "silos" not seen as assurance functions (for example, health and safety in construction firms or clinical governance in the health care industry) nor well integrated within a broader risk management program. In smaller firms, given the similar risk and control skill sets, the IA and risk functions are seen crossing the boundaries between the second and third lines, causing inefficiencies and duplication.
• Established lines of defense – As the 3LOD framework becomes established, the focus on stakeholder management, developing internal capabilities, and delivering the assurance activities in the second-line functions often creates a silo mentality, leading to a lack of coordination, duplication of risk areas, gaps, and misaligned or conflicting assurance opinions. Where these positions become entrenched, the third line is typically perceived as combative, reactionary, and retrospective in its approach. This combination has led to an ineffective 3LOD model, where the board are receiving conflicting and disjointed points of view of its key risks. This challenge was highlighted in Deloitte’s 2018 CAE Global survey, where respondents cited improvements in coordination within the 3LOD as an important business imperative.
• Maturing lines of defense – In the face of increasing regulatory pressure, as well as the opportunity to become more efficient and effective, we are seeing the strengthening of all three lines of defense, being driven from the board focus on emerging risks and core control disciplines. An example of this is in the United Kingdom, where financial services regulators are increasing the personal accountability of senior managers (including executive and nonexecutive directors) over the control environment. The result has been felt across all three lines of defense:
– The first line taking an active role in the management of risk for its area; some are starting to embed first-line monitoring of controls (in larger institutions, this has led to first-line assurance teams–"Line 1b").
– Risk functions are increasingly forward-looking in their assessments of emerging risks, using key risk indicators to highlight potential control failures and working with management to improve the design of controls.
– In addition to advising management on new regulatory risks and designing corresponding policies, compliance functions are undertaking increased regulatory monitoring reviews, which include regulatory controls testing. This is aligned with Deloitte's point of view, where the first and second lines take on greater ownership of their responsibilities as part of "assurance by design" and "automated core assurance."
– This has left IA functions undertaking risk-based assurance reviews over the same risk areas as the second line, increasingly with a very similar assurance skill set, leading to a duplication of assurance activities between the three lines of defense.
While these actionable and strategic steps are oriented towards an evolution in the three lines of defense model, there have been several negative side effects for more mature 3LOD models. The first line can have audit fatigue due to duplicative testing from both second and third lines, resulting in less time to focus on the business at hand. There are also cases where the over fitting or over strengthening of the second line has resulted in issues because the first line stops performing activities, believing they have responsibility of the second line. In times of crisis, many organizations fall into the trap of overreaction, whereby additional activities are added to the portfolio for the second and third lines. In such situations, the third line is best positioned to help their organizations avoid knee-jerk reactions and help draft a measured response that is risk-focused, pragmatic, and practical.