Compliance officers: you can land your job safely BY TOBIAS ETTLIN, PARTNER, ONE REGULATORY

29 February 2020

FLYING INTO LUXEMBOURG AIRPORT on a recent morning in typical foggy conditions, I couldn’t help but marvel at ground up fly-by-wire technology (whereby flight controls are converted into electronic signals) which allowed our A320 from London Heathrow to land in virtually zero visibility.

Technology makes commercial air travel safer by allowing pilots to supervise their instruments and focus their attention on unexpected situations and potential emergencies. Similar to air travel, regulatory compliance work was a distinctly human affair until the recent past. Compliance professionals would convert applicable rules and regulations into written policies and manual procedures, and design a (typically Excel-based) monitoring program with (sometimes spotty) record-keeping. Ad-hoc requests from independent directors or regulatory visits would set off alarm bells in the cockpit and sometimes a crash could only be narrowly avoided. Add the trends of increased regulatory pressures and the acute scarcity of compliance resources and it quickly becomes obvious that the procedures of the past have become wholly inadequate.

But there are other pressures on Compliance: recent financial regulation mandates that every regulated entity appoint an AML/CTF Compliance Officer. At the same time, many financial services firms (especially when PEowned) experience an increased focus on cost and a pronounced squeeze on margins. This begs the question: in tough economic environments, where will all these compliance resources come from? Where will we find the experts to take the flight controls? And who will manage all this risk exposure? I think it is fair to say that there are not enough qualified MLROs in Europe, let alone in Luxembourg, to meet the demand. It won’t be possible to create state-of the-art compliance programs without the aid of technology.

So what are the problems industry players come to us to solve?

  • Small AIFMs and ManCos can’t afford a full-time Compliance Officer – even though the law requires one – and need to find a proportional solution that will satisfy the regulator.
  • Recently established fund managers and service providers struggle to find and retain competent compliance resources, or worse yet, are chasing after the same talent.
  • PE-owned administrators outsource cost and end up with multiple systems and are challenged by the integration of different programs, and by redundancy and non-standardisation.
  • In-house ManCos use the global governance systems of the mother ship and struggle with a lack of customisation and applicability to local regulatory requirements.
  • Asset management firms are exposed to conflicts of interest by service providers offering bundled solutions for depositary, central administration, and other services.

Don’t panic. There are solutions out there: compliance solutions providers acting as an extension of your daily operations and relieving you of resource challenges; scalable expertise for your compliance and governance processes reflecting the current state of financial regulation; technology offering a secure data repository retaining a full audit trail and corporate memory, equipped with non-Excel task management tools.

Tailor-made NextGen solutions from independent industry experts offer technology-based applications for governance and oversight, and allow compliance officers to be in control of all their centralised and automated processes. Make every landing a safe one.

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