“It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future” – Yogi Berra
The future is uncertain. Well, of course, that’s always been the case. But with the political surprises of the last year, what lies ahead can seem less clear than ever before. This uncertainty is being felt throughout the business world and is impacting virtually every function in UK organisations. However it’s clear that, for compliance professionals in particular, an uncertain future throws up a range of challenges.
As part of our Conquering Compliance study, we surveyed compliance professionals across the UK financial sector, and they told us that they anticipate a more complex and uncertain future, which will increase the risk of serious regulatory breaches and cause difficulties in the customer journey. Almost half (49%) admit that it will become harder to comply with regulation over the next year.
Some people might be tempted to dismiss this as a ‘niche’ concern, impacting only one business function and a small number of employees. However, just as a healthy compliance function can have significant benefits for the organisation, issues with onboarding customers are a much wider problem.
Three quarters (75%) of the compliance professionals we spoke to believe that CDD (Customer Due Diligence)-related delays have a negative effect on the customer experience. Some even foresee a future where regulatory complexity means they will be forced to onboard less business (17%).
This picture of the future gives clear cause for concern. However, it’s perhaps more alarming that many teams find monitoring the compliance status of customers a challenge even now. Over a quarter (28%) say that it would take between 3 and 4 working days to identify and compile a report on a client that posed a regulatory risk. This in itself could create tension between sales and compliance teams, put existing revenues in jeopardy, or even have legal implications.
Many organisations are failing to equip their compliance team with the resources they need to support them both now and in the future. Worryingly our study suggests that few organisations are taking advantage of the most powerful compliance tools of the digital age: namely, automation and data.
Compliance professionals do believe that using technology is the way to respond to the changing regulatory landscape, with 50% saying they will need to invest in the next five years. However, at present few organisations have made progress in this: only 7% have taken steps to centralise and automate their compliance procedures, despite fully realising the potential advantages. The majority of organisations aren’t making full use of external data, stating it forms only a “small part of the process.”
This in part reflects misconceptions about the compliance function. Businesses must recognise that compliance is not only a tick box – it can be a crucial strategic asset. Through a data-led, risk-based approach, teams can speed up the approval of low-risk transactions, instead focusing human insight on higher risk cases.
This in turn can allow the front-line business to on-board new customers as quickly as possible, making the company a more attractive business partner while increasing its capacity for new business. Compliance teams can even share their data insights with other parts of the business, providing actionable insights about the financial status of partners, adopting an even more positive, strategic position within the organisation.
Compliance is only set to grow in complexity, with the regulatory landscape becoming more challenging and evasion techniques growing in sophistication. In this context, businesses should look to arm their compliance teams with the best tools available – to allow them to not only support the business but help it to grow. It’s hard to see what the years ahead will hold. But those who prepare will be the ones to thrive.
Read the full Conquering Compliance study here.