Event Summary: WRLaw: How to get regulation and compliance to the top of the business agenda | London

Written on 10 Feb 2017

The Women in Regulatory Law (#WRLaw) group reconvened on 8 February 2017 for a well-attended, vibrant event.

A panel comprising Samina Khan (Principal Legal Adviser at the Civil Aviation Authority specialising in competition law), Belinda Bagge (Senior Competition Lawyer at BT), Laura Butler (Business Manager, Real Estate Europe, Deutsche Alternative Asset Management (UK) Limited), Katie Vickery (Partner, Osborne Clarke, regulatory specialist) and Ann Pope (Senior Director (Antitrust) of the CMA) discussed how to bring compliance and regulation to the top of the business agenda and develop a compliant culture in companies.

There was much discussed during an interesting and practical panel lead discussion, and whilst it is not possible to summarise all of the brilliant advice that we heard, here are our top five ‘take away points’ for those seeking to secure senior buy-in for regulatory and compliance strategy, initiatives and projects:

1. Do your homework and prepare

Sounding out individual board members and senior managers before approaching the full board reaps rewards. For example:

  • Check whether any of the board have a particular interest in the topic (perhaps a background in compliance) and might act as your champion at board level.
  • Reach out to the board’s secretariat to discover where the topic fits within the board’s agenda.
  • Build a united front with commercial areas of the business in order to bring a compelling and joined-up message to the board.
  • Consider using less formal ways of raising the topic before launching into formal presentations and communications – sound people out, get an idea of how the matter might be received so you can fine tune it.

2. Present a positive message

You can grab the board’s attention by stressing the personal risks (fines, prison etc.) of regulatory breaches but labouring the point risks board members becoming defensive. Emphasise the benefits of compliance too – avoiding trouble is better than fixing it retrospectively! There can also be quantifiable financial benefits for the business. For example regulators might consider significant discounts to their fines where they see firms approaching regulation positively and proactively.

3. Think about the problem AND a solution

Be able to explain your proposed solution to the problem (or at least a good idea of how you plan to tackle the problem) in addition to explaining the problem itself. It is more attractive and easier to say ‘yes’ to dealing with a regulatory or compliance issue when you can see a positive way forward.

4.Don’t just focus on the board

Instilling a culture of corporate compliance at all levels is key. Junior staff and middle-management are not just the board members of the future, they operate the business day to day; they can also be your eyes and ears on the ground, discouraging non-compliant practices before they take hold. By offering regular training, an ‘open door’ policy and checking that rewards and targets are compatible with compliance, it is possible to create an active culture of compliance throughout a business and not just pay it lip service at the top.

5. Pick your battles carefully

It is not possible to escalate every issue to the board for resolution. Consider whether the problem is one that can be fixed at another level instead. Regulators are aware that not everything can or will be decided by the board and are looking for a sense of shared responsibility for compliance within a business.

If you would like to speak further on any of the matters discussed at the event or would like to get into contact with any of the speakers please contact Claire Temple.