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Four Key Takeaways from Compliance Week Europe

As this year’s Compliance Week Europe Conference quickly disappears behind us (time flies!), I wanted to share some key takeaways from the roundtable discussion I participated in at the show. The official topic was “Digital Transformation – Issues in Risk & Compliance” and the discussion was lively and productive. Here are some key takeaways and important points to consider as risk and compliance leaders plan for the year ahead.

1) Technology and humans must work hand-in-hand

It may seem obvious, but sometimes people and organizations get carried away with technology and forget about the importance of the people implementing that technology or doing the work. But the fact is, no matter what technology solutions are involved in an organization’s transformation journey, it is ultimately people who will use, validate and share information. In that regard, the importance of well-designed and mandatory compliance training cannot be underestimated. It’s crucial for compliance officers and all leaders from the top down to nurture a culture of corporate ethics and compliance among all employees.

Since the human element is not going away (we think that’s a good thing, in most cases!), the technology we employ to ensure compliance must be able to expertly intake and classify things like human error and internal disputes and use them to its advantage. By using technology to analyze these patterns and core metrics, organizations will be in a better position to predict what’s next and prevent more errors and risk moving forward.

2) Our greatest compliance challenges are universal
Although our roundtable consisted of a group of compliance professionals from all over the globe and many different industries, it struck me that we all kept coming back to the same challenges. Things like navigating different languages, dealing with cross-border issues, dealing with remote locations where online access is inconsistent or impossible, and ensuring that all compliance technology stay in lockstep with regulatory changes.

Thomson Reuters, it its 2018 Cost of Compliance Report, identified more than 56,000 regulatory changes in 2017 alone and concluded that regulatory experts see managing and coping with increasing regulatory complexity as their greatest challenge. And, as services and products become increasingly digital, there are many compliance implications that will likely continue to grow.

There is no silver bullet to solving the challenges we identified, but one theme that continued to emerge was the importance of constant communication with key stakeholders and eliminating organizational silos that get in the way of our success. Easier said than done, but important food for thought as compliance organizations continue to evolve.

3) Open platforms are a key to digital transformation success
When choosing or developing compliance-enabling technologies, it is important to take advantage of open platforms that include the capability to push and pull information from different sources of data throughout the company. They must support use of APIs in order to most effectively leverage existing systems already in the enterprise.

Plain and simple — the right (and best) compliance technologies should help organizations meet regulatory demands while at the same time streamlining operations.

4) The best compliance officers are business champions too
A point of discussion we kept coming back to is that compliance officers should be seen as champions of the business — and not strictly as police officers that restrict the company from doing things. Compliance leaders should focus on the business needs of the company they support, enabling and constantly encouraging all stakeholders to do business in a compliant and ethical manner.

There is no doubt that compliance leaders sometimes have to be the “showstoppers” when it comes to business decision-making. For example, letting a deal go through that provides short-term financial gain but imposes the risk of future punitive fines is always unacceptable. But by working as an invested partner to the business and truly understanding the goals and motivations of other leaders, compliance officers can further cement their value to the organization — both from a compliance and financial perspective and also as trusted advisors and leaders. A win-win all around.