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Tips for Running a Successful Compliance Operations Function

Large scale operating teams are the hub of most businesses, set up to manage a broad spectrum of regulatory and customer queries to ensure that they remain customer-centric and adhere to UK and global regulatory requirements. These teams, which can be either onshore or offshore, manage millions of queries and back office transactions each day.

Regulatory bodies have become increasingly demanding of organisations to protect the interests of their investors and consumers, especially in the years following the 2008 financial crisis.

As the regularity with which this type of legislation comes into force increases and the complexity of said laws intensifies, organisations find themselves in a race to proactively remain compliant and reactively remediate where they have fallen out. Organisations face both the risk of heavy fines and reputational damage for non-compliance. Already in 2020, the Financial Conduct Authority has meted out almost £105 million worth of fines between four organisations for breaching regulations.

This race to remain compliant puts enormous strain on internal resources and processes. In order to remain agile and efficient, organisations will engage a third party which has the capability to hire the expert skill set at speed. These consultancies will help their clients handle the backlog of enquiries which will often build up during periods where new legislation is brought in or the organisation undergoes a new technology implementation project.

Managing these huge compliance operations teams can be extremely challenging. In order to be able to respond to peaks in enquiries, these teams have to be ramped up quickly with a specific set of skills required to handle the work as it becomes more complex and the regulations become stricter. Often, existing operations teams do not have the right controls and governance in place, teams are not engaged, and organisations struggle to manage and implement change.

To manage a high-performance compliance operations team, three key areas need to be addressed:

1. Lay the right foundations (hire the right people) — Ensure that the people hired to do the work have the right skillset and are given the right tools to do their job. Training, systems and an effective communications model (which provides regular updates on individual and programme performance) will lay the foundations for a successful compliance operations function.

2. Put controls and governance in place — Measure how effective your processes are, the progress you are making against goals and if you are adhering to targets — both regulatory and customer-centric. Having clear oversight of what the risks are to the project and what might be preventing goals from being attained with an effective dashboard will inform you daily of progress being made and where improvements are required.

3. Have a continuous improvement framework — Most importantly, having a continuous improvement framework in place will help the operations function to drive more value for the business and the customer. Putting one together should be an inclusive process, where each person on the team can participate. It will encourage operations teams to identify disruptive and incremental change — aiming higher will always drive more change and help to achieve more value.

Operations teams often struggle with communication. Keeping your team engaged during challenging times helps them to take ownership and identify solutions that can drive improvement. Once you have won the hearts and minds of your team, they will work with you to become champions for your customers and clients.

Managing a successful compliance operations function is about driving excellence for people who work with you, the regulators and the customers who buy into the business. Operational teams need to be agile, with the ability to flex and change as circumstances require. Having right foundations, controls and improvement framework in place will guide and inform on the performance of the function.

Sharon Brown oversees all programme delivery outside of London and works with a number of market-leading financial services organisations where her team is responsible for the successful delivery of their goals using Aston Carter’s exclusive consulting methodology and approach.