Internal control is a continuous process implemented by the management and other personnel with the aim of providing reasonable assurance of the achievement of targets related to functions, reporting and compliance. It consists of continuous advance guidance and retrospective assurance tasks and functions, which seek to ensure high-quality operations and compliance with guidelines and regulations. These actions apply to all operations, including outsourced services.
At OP Financial Group, OP Cooperative’s Board of Directors confirms the Group-level principles of internal control that are observed by all OP Financial Group entities, including OP Corporate Bank.
At OP Financial Group, internal control involves all of the internal guidance exercised to ensure that operations are directed towards targets. It includes all of the operating methods intended to ensure high-quality leadership, risk prevention and management, operational development, the assessment of profitability, accurate reporting and regulatory compliance in operations. Internal control seeks to ensure that the management lays the foundations for high-quality operations.
The roles and responsibilities related to internal control and risk management are arranged into three lines of defence. The first line of defence, the business and centralised functions, are the risk owners. Therefore, they are responsible for compliance with the principles of the confirmed risk management framework – the risk limits and moderate risk appetite – as well as the principles of internal control.
The second line of defence, the functions independent of the business, is responsible for maintaining the internal control framework and for monitoring the implementation of the related policies and procedures. The central cooperative’s Risk Management is responsible for OP Financial Group’s risk management framework, assessment, monitoring and reporting. The central cooperative’s Compliance is responsible for monitoring and ensuring compliance with internal and external rules throughout the organisation, as well as the process for managing compliance risks.
The third line of defence, the central cooperative’s Internal Audit, which is independent of the business and the second line of defence, performs independent internal audit activities directed at governance, risk management and control processes and reports to the Group entities’ boards of directors and other management. Furthermore, external auditors ensure the effectiveness of internal control.
Every line of defence is responsible for the organisation, adequacy and implementation of the internal control of its own activities. In the central cooperative’s governance, the Audit Committee of the Board of Directors, in particular, has a major role in ensuring that internal control performs effectively and in compliance with regulation. Internal control observations, recommendations given to the business line/division concerned and the progress of the implementation of such recommendations are reported to the Committee on a regular basis.
OP Corporate Bank’s Board of Directors is tasked with ensuring that internal control is duly organised, taking account of the Group-wide internal control principles and the supplementary central cooperative guidelines. The company’s EVP and CEO and senior management are responsible for ensuring internal control in practice and that duties are duly segregated.
Internal control is complemented by the opportunity of anyone employed by an OP Financial Group entity to report through an independent channel if they suspect that rules or regulations have been violated (whistleblowing).
Managing compliance risks forms part of internal control and good corporate governance and, as such, forms an integral part of business management and corporate culture. Almost all activities involve compliance risk, and responsibility for managing those risks lies with the business lines/divisions. OP Corporate Bank has a designated senior compliance officer who belongs to the compliance organisation of OP Financial Group. The senior compliance officer reports to the company’s Board of Directors. The senior compliance officer is supported by designated compliance officers who together with the central cooperative’s compliance officers assist executive management and senior management and the business lines/divisions in the management of risks associated with regulatory noncompliance, supervise regulatory compliance and, for their part, develop internal control.
Compliance ensures that regulations are complied with and implemented mainly by performing compliance supervision, by drawing up compliance risk assessments and by participating in the risk assessment of operating models related to new products and services. Compliance activities, compliance observations and the related recommendations issued to the business lines/divisions are subject to regular reporting to OP Corporate Bank plc’s Board of Directors and OP Financial Group’s Compliance organisation. Compliance activities must also be reported to OP Cooperative’s Executive Management Team and to the Risk Committee of the Board of Directors as part of OP Financial Group level reporting.
One of the strategic priorities of OP Financial Group is to strengthen the risk management and compliance culture. In 2022, Compliance updated OP Corporate Bank’s compliance risk assessment and AML and sanctions risk assessments, which are key tools in the risk-based targeting of compliance supervision and compliance support provided to business divisions. Furthermore, Compliance continued to develop its tools and use data analytics as part of its compliance supervision. Compliance increased its human resources during the year.
The Compliance organisation annually draws up a compliance action plan which is discussed and confirmed by OP Corporate Bank’s Board of Directors with respect to the company. The Board of Directors also deals with the principles and instructions governing compliance. OP Financial Group’s Compliance organisation also controls OP Corporate Bank’s compliance activities.
Compliance is aimed at preventing the materialisation of compliance risks. For this purpose, the Compliance organisation shall, for example,
- prepare and maintain guidelines on key matters related to practices
- advise employees on, and train them in, matters related to practices
- support the business lines/divisions in the planning of development measures promoting internal control and the management of compliance risks
- keep executive and senior management and the business informed of upcoming regulatory changes and monitor the business’s preparation for regulatory changes
- supervise compliance within OP Corporate Bank Group with the current regulatory framework, ethical practices and internal guidelines related to practices and
- regularly report to executive and senior management on recommendations given to the business, the results of control and other observations related to compliance risk exposure.
OP Corporate Bank’s independent Risk Management function forms part of OP Financial Group’s centralised Risk Management in organisational terms. At OP Financial Group, OP Cooperative’s Board of Directors is the most important decision-making body for duties related to risk management. OP Cooperative’s Supervisory Council confirms the decisions by the Board of Directors that apply to OP Financial Group’s risk appetite. The Risk Committee of the Board of Directors assists the Board of Directors in performing duties related to risk-taking and risk management. Based on the decision by the President and Group Chief Executive Officer, the Executive Management Team has set up a Risk Management Committee, Steering and Compliance Committee and Banking ALM Committee that approve instructions and policy descriptions specifying the Risk Appetite Statement and the Risk Appetite Framework. Entities’ risk management-related tasks are described in more detail in the entities’ charters.
The bases for the arrangement of OP Financial Group’s risk management prepared by OP Cooperative’s senior management and set by the Board of Directors are as follows:
- Senior management prepares business divisions’ strategic choices that, in terms of risk-taking, are based on OP Financial Group’s Risk Appetite Statement (RAS) document, confirmed by OP Cooperative’s Supervisory Council. The Risk Appetite Statement outlines and gives grounds for what risks each business unit is ready to take and to what extent. Businesses are obliged to operate within the limits of these restrictions.
- Senior management decides on the division of responsibilities as regards risktaking. The Group defines what risks different earnings logics (product and service packages) can take and any potential elaborations on what risks legal entities and various functions can take within the earnings logics.
- Senior management must ensure the maintenance and development of sufficient resourcing and expertise in internal control functions, including the first, second and third line of defence.
- The governance structure provides the basis for the fact that the key principles guiding operations and the related policies and operating instructions have been prepared and resolved appropriately and that each activity is assessed and supervised in an appropriate manner in view of quality, extent and complexity by expert parties that are independent of business, in addition to monitoring performed by the business concerned.
- OP Financial Group’s remuneration schemes are built in line with the Group’s mission, values and targets, while ensuring regulatory compliance. Remuneration must not incentivise unnecessary risk-taking or the taking of actions against the customer’s interests. The Compliance and Risk Management functions are involved in the preparation of the remuneration principles, remuneration policy and remuneration schemes, and in the determination of supervisory practices related to remuneration processes.
- In addition, the principles of internal control, good corporate governance, good business practices and corporate security set preconditions for practices.
In 2022, the key areas of development included: 1) Revising the limitation system in order to improve predictability. 2) Analysing climate and environmental change factors and 11 OP Corporate Bank plc’s Corporate Governance Statement 2022 integrating them into the risk management process. 3) Increasing the role of scenario and stress testing in risk management analyses. 4) Building capabilities related to resolution procedures as required by regulation.
Internal Audit of OP Cooperative (OP Corporate Bank’s parent entity), or OP Financial Group’s Internal Audit, is responsible for internal audit. Internal audit constitutes independent and objective assessment, verification and consulting activities with a view to generating added value to OP Financial Group and improving its operations. Internal Audit is headed by the Chief Audit Executive who is appointed by OP Cooperative’s Board of Directors.
The Audit Committee of OP Cooperative’s Board of Directors confirms the Internal Audit action plan, and OP Corporate Bank’s Board of Directors confirms the part of the action plan related to the company. Internal Audit reports its observations and recommendations as well as the implementation of the recommendations to OP Corporate Bank’s Board of Directors, the management of the auditable entity, OP Cooperative’s Executive Management Team and the Audit Committee of the Board of Directors.
In its operations, Internal Audit complies with the Internal Audit Charter confirmed by the Board of Directors and the International Standards for the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing confirmed by the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA). Internal audit performance is subject to external quality assessment every five years.
In 2022, Internal Audit implemented a new version of the Audit management system with improved usability features. It also continued to develop the methodology of risk-based long-term planning.
OP Corporate Bank’s Board of Directors confirmed the internal audit action plan for 2022. In addition to audits directly targeted at the company, internal audit has been performed indirectly as part of audit applying to the centralised functions of OP Financial Group. The audits were prioritised and targeted on a risk basis by taking account of OP Financial Group’s strategic targets, regulatory requirements and Internal Audit priorities. In assessing the processes subjected to auditing, particular emphasis was placed on their efficiency and on the adequacy and functionality of controls and other internal supervision.