Top 5 Data Compliances for Financial Services – Key Standards You Need to Know

Financial services face strict regulations to ensure the security, privacy, and integrity of customer data. These measures protect against fraud, maintain trust, and comply with global standards. Companies in this sector must navigate a complex landscape of regulations to avoid penalties and safeguard their reputation. The following overview highlights five key data compliance standards critical for financial services.

1. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

The General Data Protection Regulation, known as GDPR, represents a significant shift in the landscape of data privacy. It applies to all organizations operating within the EU and those outside the EU that offer goods or services to, or monitor the behavior of, EU residents. It is designed to give individuals more control over their personal data and to simplify the regulatory environment for international business.

Effective Date May 25, 2018
Applies To Organizations within the EU and those outside the EU that offer goods or services to EU residents
Key Requirements Consent, Right to Access, Data Portability, Breach Notification, Right to Be Forgotten
Challenges Data Identification, Consent Management, Data Protection
Benefits Builds Customer Trust, Improved Data Management, Competitive Advantage


GDPR, enacted on May 25, 2018, sets a new standard for consumer rights regarding their data. It requires businesses to protect the personal data and privacy of EU citizens for transactions that occur within EU member states. Moreover, it regulates the exportation of personal data outside the EU.

Key Requirements

  • Consent: Organizations must obtain explicit consent from individuals before collecting, processing, or storing their personal data.
  • Right to Access: Individuals have the right to request access to their personal data and ask how their data is used by the company after it has been gathered.
  • Data Portability: Individuals have the right to transfer their data from one service provider to another.
  • Breach Notification: In the event of a data breach, organizations must notify all affected individuals and the supervising authority within 72 hours of becoming aware of the breach. Using advanced technology like cloud computing will make your systems more secure.
  • Right to Be Forgotten: Individuals can demand the deletion of their personal data when it is no longer necessary for the purpose it was collected for.

The similar rules are seen in the medical sector with HIPAA compliance.

Implementation Challenges

Organizations face several challenges in complying with GDPR, such as:

  • Data Identification and Classification: Identifying and classifying the vast amounts of personal data stored in different systems.
  • Consent Management: Implementing systems to manage consent in a way that complies with GDPR requirements.
  • Data Protection Measures: Ensuring data is protected adequately against breaches with appropriate security measures.

Benefits for Compliance

Compliance with GDPR not only avoids hefty fines but also benefits organizations by:

  • Building Customer Trust: Demonstrating compliance can enhance the trust relationship with customers.
  • Improved Data Management: Organizations can achieve better insight and control over the data they process.
  • Competitive Advantage: Compliance can be a differentiator in the marketplace.

2. Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS)

Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) - Data Compliances for Financial Services

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a globally recognized set of security standards designed to ensure that all companies that accept, process, store, or transmit credit card information maintain a secure environment. This standard is crucial for protecting payment card transactions against fraud and theft of cardholder data.

Purpose To secure payment card transactions and protect cardholder data
Applies To All entities that process, store, or transmit credit card information
Key Requirements Secure Network, Protect Data, Vulnerability Management, Access Control, Monitor and Test Networks, Security Policy
Challenges Complexity, Cost, Continuous Compliance
Benefits Reduced Risk of Breaches, Increased Customer Confidence, Avoidance of Fines


PCI DSS was developed to protect cardholder data from theft and to secure payment card transactions over various networks. Compliance is mandatory for all entities involved in payment card processing—including merchants, processors, acquirers, issuers, and service providers.

Key Requirements

  • Build and Maintain a Secure Network: Install and maintain a firewall configuration to protect cardholder data. Ensure that system passwords are not vendor-supplied defaults.
  • Protect Cardholder Data: Protect stored cardholder data and encrypt transmission of cardholder data across open, public networks.
  • Maintain a Vulnerability Management Program: Use and regularly update anti-virus software. Develop and maintain secure systems and applications.
  • Implement Strong Access Control Measures: Restrict access to cardholder data by business need-to-know. Assign a unique ID to each person with computer access. Restrict physical access to cardholder data.
  • Regularly Monitor and Test Networks: Track and monitor all access to network resources and cardholder data. Regularly test security systems and processes.
  • Maintain an Information Security Policy: Maintain a policy that addresses information security for employees and contractors.

Implementation Challenges

Implementing PCI DSS compliance involves several challenges:

  • Complexity of Compliance: The detailed and technical nature of the standards can be overwhelming for businesses without dedicated IT security teams.
  • Cost of Implementation: Upgrading systems, software, and processes to meet PCI DSS requirements can be costly.
  • Continuous Compliance: Maintaining compliance requires continuous effort, regular updates, and periodic audits.

Benefits for Compliance

Adhering to PCI DSS standards provides significant benefits:

  • Reduced Risk of Data Breaches: Compliance significantly lowers the risk of a security breach and the resulting financial and reputational damage.
  • Increased Customer Confidence: Demonstrating compliance can enhance customers’ trust in a company’s ability to protect their data.
  • Avoidance of Fines: Non-compliance can result in substantial fines and penalties from payment card brands and acquirers.

3. Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX)

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act, often abbreviated as SOX, was enacted in response to a series of high-profile financial scandals to protect shareholders and the general public from accounting errors and fraudulent practices in enterprises. It mandates strict reforms to improve financial disclosures from corporations and prevent accounting fraud.

Enactment Date July 30, 2002
Applies To Public companies in the U.S. and international companies registered with the SEC
Key Requirements Corporate Responsibility, Financial Disclosures, Auditor Independence, Internal Control
Challenges Cost, Complexity, Operational Impact
Benefits Increased Transparency, Fraud Prevention, Improved Financial Practices


SOX establishes a comprehensive framework for corporate governance, financial reporting, and audit practices. It applies to all public companies in the U.S. and international companies that have registered equity or debt securities with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the accounting firms that provide auditing services to them.

Key Requirements

  • Corporate Responsibility: Senior executives must personally certify the accuracy of financial information. Penalties for fraudulent financial activity are severe.
  • Enhanced Financial Disclosures: Companies must disclose all material aspects of the company’s financial health, including off-balance-sheet financing.
  • Auditor Independence: Auditors must be independent of the corporations they audit. Audit committees are required to oversee the relationship between the company and its auditor.
  • Internal Control: Firms are required to report on the adequacy of their internal controls over financial reporting.

Implementation Challenges

Compliance with SOX involves several challenges:

  • Cost of Compliance: Implementing and maintaining SOX compliance can be expensive, especially for small to medium-sized enterprises.
  • Complexity of Regulations: Understanding and implementing the detailed requirements of SOX can be complex and time-consuming.
  • Operational Impact: Establishing the necessary controls and processes can impact the day-to-day operations of a business.

Benefits for Compliance

Despite the challenges, compliance with SOX offers significant benefits:

  • Increased Transparency: SOX compliance ensures greater transparency in financial reporting, which can build investor confidence.
  • Prevention of Fraud: The act’s stringent requirements help in identifying and preventing fraudulent activities before they can affect the market or the economy.
  • Improved Financial Practices: Compliance promotes better corporate governance and financial practices, leading to more stable and robust financial markets.

4. Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA)

Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) - Data Compliances for Financial Services

The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA), also known as the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999, mandates that financial institutions – companies that offer consumers financial products or services like loans, financial or investment advice, or insurance – must explain their information-sharing practices to their customers and safeguard sensitive data.

Enactment Date November 12, 1999
Applies To Financial institutions offering financial products or services to individuals
Key Requirements Privacy Notices, Opt-Out Rights, Safeguarding Personal Information
Challenges Comprehensive Compliance Program, Customer Notification and Consent, Regular Updates and Audits
Benefits Enhanced Consumer Trust, Legal and Financial Security, Improved Risk Management


GLBA was enacted to control the ways that financial institutions deal with the private information of individuals. It requires financial institutions to give customers written privacy notices that explain their information-sharing practices. Furthermore, it obliges institutions to implement security measures to protect the confidentiality and integrity of personal consumer information.

Key Requirements

  • Privacy Notices: Financial institutions must provide customers with privacy notices that explain what kind of information the institution collects, where this information is shared, and how it is used.
  • Opt-Out Rights: Customers must have the right to opt out of having their personal information shared with non-affiliated third parties.
  • Safeguarding Personal Information: Financial institutions are required to develop, implement, and maintain a comprehensive security program to protect consumers’ personal information.

Implementation Challenges

Adhering to GLBA standards presents several challenges:

  • Comprehensive Compliance Program: Developing a program that effectively protects customer information and complies with GLBA requirements can be complex.
  • Customer Notification and Consent Processes: Institutions must manage and track customer consents and notifications, which can be administratively burdensome.
  • Regular Updates and Audits: Financial institutions need to regularly review and update their information security programs to address new threats.

Benefits for Compliance

Compliance with GLBA brings numerous benefits:

  • Enhanced Consumer Trust: By protecting personal information and being transparent about its use, financial institutions can build and maintain trust with their customers.
  • Legal and Financial Security: Compliance helps avoid fines, penalties, and legal actions associated with data breaches and non-compliance.
  • Improved Risk Management: A comprehensive information security program helps identify and mitigate risks associated with information handling and storage.

5. Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) Standards

The Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) standards encompass a range of guidelines and expectations for banks and financial institutions to ensure the safety and soundness of the financial system, particularly in the areas of cybersecurity, risk management, and compliance. Established to promote uniformity and consistency in the supervision of financial institutions, the FFIEC sets forth principles that these institutions must follow to mitigate risks and protect consumers.

Purpose To ensure the safety and soundness of the financial system through uniform standards and practices
Applies To Banks and financial institutions in the U.S.
Key Requirements Risk Management, Cybersecurity, Governance, Consumer Protection
Challenges Evolving Threats, Resource Allocation, Integration of Compliance Practices
Benefits Enhanced Security, Regulatory Compliance, Confidence and Trust


The FFIEC provides a framework for overseeing and examining financial institutions, offering a set of standards and best practices designed to bolster the security and resilience of the U.S. financial system. These standards cover various aspects of financial operations, including information technology, payment systems, and the overall management of risks.

Key Requirements

  • Risk Management: Financial institutions must implement comprehensive risk management practices that identify, measure, monitor, and control risks.
  • Cybersecurity: Institutions are required to develop robust cybersecurity measures to protect against and respond to cyber threats and vulnerabilities.
  • Governance: Establish strong governance practices, including the development of policies and procedures to ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations.
  • Consumer Protection: Ensure practices are in place to protect the rights of consumers and to provide transparency in financial transactions and services.

Implementation Challenges

Implementing FFIEC standards can pose several challenges:

  • Adapting to Evolving Threats: Financial institutions must continuously update their cybersecurity and risk management practices to address new and evolving threats.
  • Resource Allocation: Adequately allocating resources to ensure comprehensive compliance can be difficult, especially for smaller institutions.
  • Integration of Compliance Practices: Effectively integrating compliance practices into the institution’s overall operational framework requires careful planning and execution.

Benefits for Compliance

Adherence to FFIEC standards offers significant benefits:

  • Enhanced Security and Risk Management: By following FFIEC guidelines, institutions can strengthen their defenses against cyber threats and better manage financial risks.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Compliance helps avoid penalties and fines associated with regulatory violations.
  • Confidence and Trust: Demonstrating compliance with FFIEC standards can enhance the confidence of customers, investors, and regulators in the institution’s stability and integrity.


What are the three types of financial data?

Financial data encompasses transactional data, which records financial transactions, analytical data, which provides insights through analysis, and fundamental data, which includes the essential financial information of businesses.

What are the 5 C’s of compliance?

The 5 C’s of compliance are compliance, clarity, consistency, commitment, and communication, serving as guiding principles for effective regulatory adherence.

What is big data in financial services?

Big data in financial services refers to the vast volumes of structured and unstructured data that financial institutions use to make informed decisions, improve services, and enhance customer experiences.

What data is GDPR data?

GDPR data includes any information related to an identifiable person that can be directly or indirectly identified, covering a wide range of personal data types from names to digital footprints.

How do you structure a compliance department?

A compliance department is structured around clearly defined roles and responsibilities, with a compliance officer at the helm, supported by teams focused on monitoring, reporting, and educating on compliance matters.


Compliance with data standards is crucial for financial services, ensuring security, privacy, and integrity of customer data. Adherence to these regulations protects institutions from financial and reputational damage and builds trust with customers. By understanding and implementing critical standards, financial services navigate the complexities of the regulatory environment effectively, securing a safer financial ecosystem for all stakeholders.


Table of Contents

Related posts