It has been said that ‘Trust takes years to build, seconds to break and forever to repair’…
Trust is hugely important in the relationship between a financial planner and their client. While often overlooked or misunderstood, the Compliance department of a financial advice firm lays the foundations for this trust.
They make sure everything is, as you may expect, ‘compliant’ and performing at its best. They play a crucial role in delivering positive client outcomes by embedding good systems and controls, identifying issues and risks and developing efficiencies without compromising quality or client protection.
At Progeny, the Compliance team embrace the role of educating people, instil good leadership and, through the translation of regulation and the FCA rules and principles, they make sure the client experience is at the forefront of everything they do.
We spoke to Compliance Coordinator Zoë Aveyard who helped us demystify the role of the Compliance department.
What makes a good Compliance team?
As a member of the Compliance team at Progeny I believe that regulation and following the rules are obviously essential, but what I think most people overlook is, well, the people themselves. It is the people enforcing that regulation and the way they do it that creates a successful operation, better relationships within the business and then ultimately provides the best support for our clients.
How does the relationship work between financial planners and the Compliance department?
If the relationship between the Compliance department and the team is a positive, two-way street of understanding then it will thrive, like any relationship would.
We promote queries and communication and we want our colleagues to ask questions and talk to us if they believe a different approach is genuinely better for the client. We can try to make things work.
Progeny has a Regulatory Policy Committee, headed up by compliance, which examines all our policies and processes and any barriers these may present to Progeny and our clients. The Committee is made up of members from across the business, with representation from administration, paraplanning, HR, the planner community and operations, as well as colleagues from the legal, tax and investment management teams. Everyone on the committee has an equal voice and we are genuinely committed to improving what we do and how we do it.
The world is changing and so the world of Compliance needs to change with it. So long as we do not lose sight of the core principles, then we can adapt successfully too.
How has lockdown affected how you work?
Over the past few months, we have amended some of our processes and made adjustments so that Planners are not hindered by the barriers of lockdown life – and so the clients are still getting an efficient service and positive outcomes.
In turn, now that we have been thrust into a more digital world of remote working, we must prepare for digital risks. Protecting our clients’ assets and data is paramount and they can rest assured that our Planners and supporting teams have been highly trained on all aspects of data protection, data security and the prevention of cyber crime. Our Planners know what to look out for and our frequent, open and easy-to-read publications and channels of communication strengthen this knowledge further.
‘Protecting Consumers’ is a regulatory principle we adhere to and ‘Agility’ is a Progeny value we proudly represent. By combining the two we demonstrate the right level of support and awareness for our Planners and make the digital world a safer place for all of our clients.
What would you say to those who think that a Compliance department can be inflexible?
Our Compliance team are (not to blow my own trumpet or anything) fresh, forward thinking, flexible and dare I say it, not afraid of thinking outside the box. Yes, there are some rules that are more stringent than others. We’re not reckless, we are qualified professionals who have a trusted role to play.
However, there is also scope for flexibility. If something really isn’t working, there are possibly numerous ways of looking at a situation without adding risk. It is up to us to interpret the rules and so long as we make sure we are protecting the end client at all costs and creating good client outcomes, we can move beyond a one-size-fits-all approach.
As a direct result of Planner feedback we have created a number of simplified processes for certain non-complex transactions that have allowed us to remove a number of steps and deliver a sleeker, slimmed-down version. Of course, we have had to ensure that our systems and controls remain sufficiently robust to protect our clients. However, we have reduced our service delivery times as a direct result with virtually no additional risk to our clients, meaning tasks are completed in good time and to a consistently high standard.
Being approachable like this means we are more likely to come to an understanding and develop process accordingly. Again, it’s about the people. Everybody is different so it would be short-sighted to apply such a rigid structure to an industry built on an ever-changing variety of people in different circumstances and at completely different stages of their lives.
So, it’s as much about people and relationships as it is about policies and rules?
It’s about common sense as much as it is about being a regulatory guru. By being open in the way we operate as a Compliance department within Progeny we generate trust, respect and care. This is what Progeny can then take forward to clients, which is so important in building long-lasting relationships.
We could not do all of this without building a rapport, and sometimes this can all start with a little smile. You must engage with your colleagues first to break down those stereotypes of the past. It may sound silly, but if Compliance is seen as an immovable rock, a team of unimaginative, old-fashioned busy-bodies who love to say ‘no’, then things aren’t going to move forward at all!
Yes, we believe we create a framework that works, but developing teamwork that works is just as valuable. We can build better lines of defence, if the lines actually like each other and are happy to work together!