As the FCA’s Consumer Duty deadline approaches, IFA Magazine’s recent reader survey carried out in conjunction with specialist T&C and People Compliance platform, HRComply, examined how advice businesses are coping with the pressures of complying with today’s ever increasing regulatory structure.
The survey produced some interesting results. So, to discover his reaction to these results, IFA Magazine Editor, Sue Whitbread, recently caught up with HRComply’s CEO, Neil Herbert. We also wanted to talk to Neil to find out a bit more about the HRComply platform and how it works.
Neil is someone who not only understands the unique set of problems which advice businesses face but also the practical solutions which are available. This is a result of his long experience in helping advice businesses to streamline their processes to make them simpler and more efficient and accessible – utilising technology to optimum effect.
Firstly, Sue asked Neil to summarise exactly what HRComply does to help advisers, and how they do it. “Put simply”, Neil explained, “we’re here to help advisers and regulated finance businesses to operate more efficiently and in a more streamlined way. We help advisers to boost their overall productivity whilst allowing their senior management teams to sleep a little easier at night.
“We work with each individual advice firm, making sure we consider the diverse needs of each one. We can then help the firm to put in place robust processes to ensure that their ongoing requirements for regulation and compliance – which have become such a significant responsibility for advice firms – are met efficiently and effectively.
“By reducing risks in this way, we can be sure that the advice firm can focus its attention on the delivery of great client service and on doing more business, engaging staff more easily and effectively too. It also means much greater peace of mind for the principals – something not to be overlooked – particularly as the survey tells us that over 70% of Advice Professionals still worry about personal compliance and regulation.”
For IFA Magazine, the goal of conducting our recent survey in conjunction with HRComply was to better comprehend how financial advice professionals actually understand the detail of personal compliance and how this plays out within the advice business in practice.
“The survey was seeking to identify the attitudes and concerns of advice businesses as well as where their main challenges lie” explained Neil. “Whilst the survey results didn’t produce any great surprises for us, it was clear to see that there is an element of ‘compliance fatigue’ in place. Advice professionals are – understandably – worried not just about coping with the here and now but also what might be coming down the line next, by way of regulatory change.
“Advisers have many concerns about the increasing amount of work involved with box ticking, assessment and checking and having to adapt procedures in line with changing regulatory requirements. We come across that all the time with our own clients.
“One particular consequence here is that such work can take the focus of principals and their teams away from the key objective of doing business and looking after clients. This can often negatively impact their enjoyment of their role, of the business – its effectiveness and profitability. Successful regulatory frameworks should make the business more effective and deliver successful outcomes for everyone – clients, advisers and the markets. Using a RegTech automated platform solution, such as HRComply’s, can make a huge difference and really transforms business success.”
Keeping on the right side of compliance
With the FCA’s Consumer Duty Rules coming into force for advisers on 31st July, it’s more important than ever for advisers to have robust processes in place which can ensure that the advice business can be confident of meeting constantly evolving regulatory requirements.
But, how confident are advisers in practice? Do they worry about potential non-compliance and the implications of it? Whilst just less than a third (29%) of our survey respondents said they were ‘not worried’ about the risks presented by non-compliance, the vast majority, 71%, admitted they were at least ‘partly’ worried or ‘very’ worried about not keeping on the right side of compliance.
With busy schedules and a raft of administration to handle, it’s relatively easy to see why the requirements of keeping up to date can present a headache for so many advisers. The consequences of not doing so can be very severe, therefore ensuring there are effective systems in place to enable advisers to have peace of mind must be a priority.
“We were really interested to read some of the individual comments from IFA Magazine readers.” said Neil. He continued, “We could read many things into the survey results but, to me, what really stood out was that 71% of respondents are worried about compliance – being able to comply with the ongoing rules as individuals or – if they have supervisory responsibilities – for other individuals.
“For good governance to be achieved within a business, you have to have good data; that’s how you really deliver to meet your compliance goals and objectives. So, for 71% to tell us that they are worried, I think that’s a pretty high statistic.
“Yes, they’ll be worried for different reasons. Generally speaking, I suspect that they’ll primarily be worried that the FCA is putting more and more obstacles in their path and they worry about what happens if they fail to comply with them.
“That’s where we can help. Many RegTech providers’ solutions have been designed for big companies with big budgets. However, our system delivers on all aspects either on a bespoke basis or via an ‘out of the box’ solution for firms operating right across the size spectrum. Critically, HRComply’s platform helps advisers to identify where they have risks or shortfalls. This includes elements of people risk too, which can arise from those individuals operating within the business. It all happens in real time, allowing firms to mitigate those risks immediately through taking appropriate action. Overall, our focus is on making life easier for advisers, with reassurance from having robust systems in place as well as an audit trail to back it all up.”
Are you ready for consumer duty
Do IFA Magazine readers believe that they are ready for the new Consumer Duty just a few short weeks away? On this, we were encouraged to see that the vast majority of survey respondents told us they stay up to date with all the latest Consumer Duty detail to some degree.
Approximately 45% of readers surveyed claimed their knowledge on this subject is ‘always up-to-date’, while an equal amount answered that they refresh their knowledge of consumer duty changes on a ‘semi-regular basis’. Just 9% don’t follow the latest on Consumer Duty – but admit that they ‘need to carry out further research’.
Immediate action has to be an urgent priority for those 9%, this is not a time for confusion and inactivity. Time is short and must be used very effectively in order to ensure that all systems are compliant and fit for purpose.
One way to do that, and one which is growing rapidly in popularity, is to use a RegTech platform such as that provided by HRComply. They provide one platform to help advice firms to manage their T&C, performance, conduct & certification needs -and associated risks too. If a firm is already complying with and managing RDR processes effectively then delivering on Consumer Duty requirements should be a piece of cake. The problem is that many firms already struggle. HRComply can offer different options with both ‘out of the box’ solutions as well as highly bespoke compliance and HR regulatory solutions. It’s all driven by a clever software platform and is supported by expert consulting services.
Setting standards and benchmarks – whether for quality and suitability of advice, competence, conduct or Consumer outcomes – then ensuring they are assessed and met – is the basic role of such a platform. Maintaining complete and full records – audit trails – is the added benefit.
With so many respondents clearly worried about the implications of not keeping up to date, we asked IFA Magazine readers whether this might lead people to actually vote with their feet, and consider leaving their career in financial advice. We were surprised to see that more than a third of respondents (38%) told us that the
increasing tightening of regulatory compliance makes them ‘more likely’ to leave the industry. Only 7% think the changes have made them ‘less likely’ to leave whilst more than half (55%) do not foresee there being an impact and were ‘neither more or less likely’ to leave their chosen career.
Of course, it was encouraging to see that the tsunami of regulatory changes has not affected the career plans of the majority of respondents. However, with the ongoing need to close the advice gap, the fact that so many respondents told us they are more likely to leave the profession has to be of concern.
Time to streamline
Our survey results have reinforced some of the reasons why advice firms need to take action. ‘Compliance fatigue’ may well be having an adverse effect on many businesses and advice professionals across the UK. As well as this, Management functions with responsibility for Compliance and People/Operational risk need to recognise and address these issues. The constantly increasing compliance burden is taking its toll on individuals involved with the advice profession such that it may lead them to even consider leaving the industry. Action is needed if businesses are to survive let alone thrive. The risks of fines, reputational damage and the loss of staff and customers are very real.
Advisers work incredibly hard to deliver service excellence for clients which they value and are happy to pay for on an ongoing basis. On top of that are the multitude of requirements which need to be met to ensure that the business is profitable and can also stand the test of time
However, the fact remains that doing all this whilst ensuring that all regulatory requirements are complied with and accounted for with clarity and transparency, is a significant challenge.
This is where an automated system, such as the HRComply platform, which is not only easy for advisers to access and use but also very easy to be on top of, with clear audit trails and records, can really deliver results. And cost effectively too.
The added benefit of the increased peace of mind for all those involved, which comes from knowing that robust systems are in place, is considerable. That’s especially important with the big step up of Consumer Duty taking effect this summer.
Being able to sleep at night knowing that your compliance systems are not only robust and under control enough for the here and now but for whatever else comes down the line, will be nirvana for advisers. In the meantime, it seems from our survey data that there is further work to do if advisers really are going to be able to achieve this in practice.
For advice businesses, considering the use of an automated platform which not only backs up the client proposition but also provides an audit trail and reduces risk overall, clearly has merit.
HRComply was founded in 2009, capitalising on many years spent assisting financial institutions in delivering T&C, Conduct and Performance solutions to meet FCA requirements. As new regulatory regimes have been introduced, HRComply has worked with its clients to develop the software to its current four-solution structure.
Our focus is delivering products, content, processes and support that are individually tailored to our customers’ needs. All of our development work has been conducted in collaboration with our clients, designed to meet their business requirements and address their regulatory risks.
HRComply has a strong and dynamic Senior Management and delivery team. Between them they have many decades of City-based HR, Compliance and T&C experience delivering software system solutions to meet regulatory and client needs.
For more information about how your advice business can streamline People Compliance, Certification, Performance and T&C whilst reducing the worry and burden of keeping up to date, contact HRComply at email@example.com, call Neil on 020 3176 7859, or visit their website: www.hrcomply.co.uk
About Neil Herbert
Neil is CEO of HRComply. A graduate of Business and Economics, he has held various senior HR roles within investment banks and broking firms. His consulting career spans the last 15 years and he has delivered HR and T&C Regulatory solutions to a wide range of clients inboth the wholesale and retail banking sectors and to wealth and asset management firms.