Get the whole company to buy in to Compliance

A strong structure of compliance, from the board down to the rest of the company, needs to be in place – not only to comply with regulation, but to improve the business

By Willem Wellinghoff, Legal Counsel, Cabot Credit Management

When it comes to compliance, I believe that there is one over-riding key that should always guide your behaviour: engagement. That goes from the top down and impacts upon everyone in the company.

But, today, compliance has become such a big issue that mere good intentions are not enough, a company needs structure and a plan to turn compliance policies into operational realities. Regulatory compliance is so complex that it could be easy to become bogged down in the sheer quantity of material. No collections business can afford for that to happen, so compliance cannot be done on an ad hoc basis, it requires strong structures.

Every part of our companies are busy and working hard, so they need a structure that fully engrains regulatory compliance within the business. It is all about putting the customer at the heart of what you do.

Of course to achieve this you need a compliance team with the right attitude. A team of people who will take the issue of compliance and sell it into the business, because when people are busy, then selling is what will be needed. There is a very positive message of how the best compliance practice can help the business to be more efficient and effective, how it can provide opportunities for the business to compete on the best of terms, so the compliance team needs to promote that message.

Naturally, there is also the other side whereby they need to also be able to explain the potential negative consequences if best practice is not followed. But there is a way to do this – it is very much a case of ‘selling’ not ‘telling’.

We also need to make everyone in the company accountable for their actions in terms of what rewards we are offering.
Ultimately, it all flows down from the board. As long as the board sees compliance as a key issue, then that will spread around the rest of the company.

Looking forward, the future is to continue the work we are doing in terms of proactive compliance management. So we can use compliance analytics tools, such as speech analytics, to build projects to continually improve the compliance work we do. For example, the technology will pick up any complaints that are mentioned within collections calls and react to those in real time to feed back to the collector on the phone.

It also allows us to develop new systems, so for example, we will occasionally have regulatory requests, such as a subject-access request made to us. The system will pick up that a request has been made, log it, and arrange for a printed letter to be posted out to the customer, confirming details of what they have to do to properly make the request.

Again this is a case where we are carrying out – or even going beyond – our regulatory responsibility, but where this can be turned into a positive piece of customer service.

As an industry, we have taken tremendous strides in regards to compliance and, I feel, we should be very proud of what has been achieved at the level of the Credit Services Association (CSA), with the Collector Accreditation Initiative (CAI), which has been designed to ensure that every collector understands the importance of compliance in the work they do.

The CAI sets a very strong standard for any future regulation that the industry might be subject to, when responsibility passes on from the Office of fair Trading to the new Financial Conduct Authority. The CSA has been very courageous in pushing forward with this initiative and the industry is the better for it.

May 2012


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