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Missing an opportunity?


John F Renz – Director, Executive Action

As a former HRD operating in a number of regulated environments, I was very interested recently to attend a conference which examined how private wealth and asset management firms were responding to changes in the regulatory landscape – and a little surprised that the focus of the event was almost entirely on how IT systems can help businesses manage the increasing regulatory “burden”.

While the application of technological solutions is obviously key to a whole host of processes that enable cost-effective ways of addressing compliance changes, I doubt very much it will safeguard against all the problems that businesses may encounter in this space.

One of the issues that firms often struggle with is ensuring universal adherence and understanding from people in the business on why professional ethics and integrity are key to excellent service, market reputation and, ultimately, business success. (One might even go further and suggest that if you have to teach people this, you’ve already lost the argument).

Fortunately, in my view, there are very few really “bad apples” – which is not to say that we don’t need systems and controls in place to ensure you manage the risk. Further, that processes need to be in place that have clients and their financial wellbeing at their core. This latter point can be shared and learnt, and also driven by human behaviour and how we manage people.

I’ll be entirely honest here: I got a bit fed up when a key element of people processes came under the spotlight because the regulator discovered – at last! – that human behaviour was critical in ensuring that businesses operate to the highest ethical and professional standards. As one of those who had shouted into the wind (or that’s often how it felt) about the importance of rigour in terms of basic people management, it seemed somehow inevitable that it was the threat of fines or other actions being taken against companies that suddenly meant these issues needed more than lip service.

All too often, the obligatory working group was set up and “experts” expensively employed who concluded what many of us had been saying for years: that the highest standards of client service and processing demand a rigour in respect of people processes, as well as a coherent learning and development strategy. (At this, unless your experience is very different – in which case, well done you and your business! – you too may have shared a wry smile).

But however we got here or however long it took, now is the time to use the new impetus to further the people agenda.

This means not necessarily delivering the new or cutting edge, but usually something more “mom and apple pie” in terms of the value added by a coherent and rigorous approach focused on raising levels of performance – rather than improved rigour in documenting failures.

A trap that some find themselves in is that corporate governance structures, IT infrastructure and other processes become entirely driven by the regulatory framework, rather than by a clear-sighted view on the optimal structure for the business, followed by consideration of the extent to which it meets regulatory demands. Changes can then be made, where necessary.

When implementing changes associated with new regulation there was also, in my experience, a tendency to ignore the nuances of people management, and a somewhat one dimensional or pedestrian view taken: i.e. as long as we could demonstrate that something had been done, the box was ticked and that was enough. This glosses over whether fundamental issues have been addressed (i.e. how performance is managed, or real, and whether stretching targets have been met) in favour of showing that we had written things down.

People-focused professionals nowadays understand the linkage between behaviours, people strategies and business success. A great deal of what we have to do is around convincing those not naturally inclined towards enlightened (actually proven and effective) methods of people management that they are worthwhile in order to achieve hard business objectives. These methods shouldn’t be driven solely by regulation, or be a “nice to do” when things were going well, because they are absolutely fundamental to business success.

A lot of the work we do at Executive Action is in helping senior people operating in this space to win the argument, and also in helping those charged with creating strategies to help people and groups to behave differently.

Above all, we help businesses strive towards not allowing legal and regulatory changes to become the primary concern, but instead to ensure that the central issue is lasting behavioural change and business success. The amount your company spends on IT may make it a little too confident that this will be enough, unless it’s coupled with an approach to management which explicitly recognises the role people have in being able to respond to change. Without this, a real opportunity may be missed.


We welcome your comments and look forward to hearing from you if there is anything that we can do to help you, your employees or clients. 

Get in touch on jrenz@executive-action.com


Posted: March 27th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Communication, Development | No Comments »