IBM has acquired Promontory Financial Group, the consultancy founded by former Comptroller of the Currency Eugene Ludwig.
Terms were not disclosed, but sources suggest IBM may have paid upwards of $300 million for the company.
IBM said Promontory, which specializes in regulatory compliance consulting for financial institutions and employs 600 professionals, would form the basis of a new “Watson Financial Services portfolio,” according to IBM. Watson is IBM’s machine learning technology brand. Promontory will operate as a subsidiary of IBM. This is the first effort from the newly launched IBM Industry Platforms business.
The goal, apparently, is to create “cognitive solutions” for risk management. IBM said, “Upon close, Promontory’s professionals will train Watson, which will learn by continuously ingesting regulatory information as it is created and through interaction in real-world applications.”
In a statement, Ludwig, who remains the company’s CEO, explained the rationale for the deal:
We believe the future of business and regulation will be driven by the need for advanced technology alongside deep subject-matter expertise. Combining Promontory’s expertise with IBM’s extraordinary technological capabilities such as Watson will permit us to directly address our clients’ greatest challenges in innovative and powerful ways. It will enhance our mutual commitment to risk management and regulatory compliance excellence, and our results will benefit customers and the overall financial system.”
The fintech community has taken notice:
Can’t emphasis enough how big of a move this acquisition is from IBM. Promontory is a marquee name. https://t.co/2Qm7IaEQtu
— pascalbouvier AOC (@pascalbouvier) September 29, 2016
The deal announcement carefully excluded any mention of Promontory’s recent hot water. The consultancy paid New York State $15 million to avoid going to trial over Promontory’s alleged misconduct. New York had been pressing Promontory for work it performed for the British bank Standard Chartered, which was suspected of processing billions of dollars on behalf of Iran. The bank hired Promontory to review its transactions with Iranian entities, as well as other sanctioned countries, and report the findings to regulators. New York State alleged that Promontory helped obscure some of the misconduct it was supposed to unearth.
The IBM deal is expected to close by yearend.
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