You may have spotted that this week we hosted our monthly TALK event, and this month we were joined by Gillian Hepburn, Benchmark, and Olivia Geldenhuys, Schroders, to talk about the findings of the Schroders UK Financial Adviser Survey.

This survey, at the tail end of October 2023, was conducted by 254 advisers and asked questions about sector sentiment, views on sustainability, Consumer Duty and AI. All things we all feel day in and day out.

This was the 9th year of the survey and let’s all guess what the consistent number one answer is to the following question…

“Which factors are advisers most concerned about relating to their business?”

Drum roll… REGULATION!

I was a co-host on Wednesday’s TALK session and tried so very hard to contain my eye roll at the answer. I say that in jest, clearly, we can all see the impact regulation has had, and continues to have, on the financial services industry. It feels like we are getting daily notifications of yet another survey from the FCA, or a new RegData return. I completely get it. But today I wanted to tie back to Jo’s post from a few weeks ago. Jo wrote to us all about some of her hints, tips, and tricks for being a dab-handed Chief Operations Officer. So what about being stellar in compliance?!

A lot of what Jo said about the survival of a COO also applies to that of individuals working in compliance. Those who thrive will naturally be operationally minded. These tips come from both my personal experience as a compliance manager within a regulated firm, but also in my work here at Verve and seeing how firms truly thrive.

  1. Pragmatism. This is more of a skill than a tip. Taking a pragmatic approach to compliance is key. What is the regulator trying to achieve and how does the guidance need to be scaled to work within your firm? Consumer Duty is a great example. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, so truly understand the desired outcomes, and apply it to the firm. No one needs or wants documents for the sake of it. You don’t need an insistent client policy if you don’t work with insistent clients! You don’t need to do testing on non-UK UCITS if you don’t advise on them.
  1. Rapport with advisers. I have heard some pretty wild names thrown around about compliance, and I’m sure you all have heard (or maybe even said) some of these in your time. If we lean on the good ole Business Prevention Unit one to save this email from getting flagged by your spam filters, it clearly shows the connotations of compliance within firms. Compliance is your risk mitigation function, it shouldn’t be anything more than that. So, how do you get your team to understand you are here to help, avoid harm and not to stop good business? You listen and you understand the pains and the pinch points that advice staff have with compliance and you, where you can, adapt. Are policies and procedures still fit for purpose? We have gone through so many regulatory changes of late, that, does it all still work? To open that dialogue between advice and compliance, create an environment where that rapport is encouraged. Previously we had a monthly meeting, advisers and compliance, and we took it off-site. An environment away from the phone calls, the printer whirring in the background, the questions, where we could all focus on any regulatory updates, any struggles, or anything that simply just needed hashing out.
  1. Data. A tangent away from the softer side of compliance, data is your best friend but ensuring that data is correct is paramount. Coming to do your PI renewal and dreading it? Be it PI, or a data request from the FCA either direct or within the industry, you need to ensure your current data captures this.
  2. Supporting evidence. Being pragmatic, great! Liaising with advisers, fantastic! Robust data, fabulous!

Like a child when they first learn to speak don’t be surprised if you receive a ‘why?’ after every comment you make. That’s fine, armour yourself with it. Your role is to interpret the regulator and apply that to your firm in a tangible way for all to understand. If someone wants a COBs reference, tell them to fill their boots. ‘Fun’ fact time. It costs £479 for a printed version of COBs.

Maddie Delboy, Compliance Manager

The Verve Group