It is for these reasons that, in our experience, businesses are increasingly putting compliance at the front of the queue when it comes to dividing up their software spend. Some dedicated line-of-business tools with a compliance focus often represent the best return on investment for a firm when it comes to considering time and effort that could be saved for skilled personnel or, in a market with an increasing regulatory burden from authorities such as the FCA, when it comes to considering the possible penalties that can occur when failing to comply.Despite this, every business has its own unique structure and set of processes that any software tool needs to align with, and the regulator—at least in the U.K.—is decidedly non-proscriptive when it comes to specifying exactly how compliance should be achieved. How can you make the right decisions about the software tools that are best for your firm?
At SSA, much of our time over the last five years has been spent working in the compliance space. We’ve seen businesses struggling with the wrong tools for the job, and we’re doing what we can to provide the right ones. Based on our experience, here are five features that you should look for in a provider when it comes to delivering compliance software:
Do they understand the business?
It’s not just enough to be able to record requirements. If you’re building a compliance tool, you need to understand the challenges facing the customer and the reasons why these challenges are important. Always look for a provider who’s got experience of compliance within the financial services sector and can engage with you about why something has to be a certain way. Without this, you run a serious risk of ending up with something that’s not quite fit for purpose.
Do they obsess over the details?
Compliance isn’t an area where things can be approximately correct. You face significant fallout if figures aren’t right, or if rules aren’t properly followed. A software provider should be asking for in depth clarifications, calculations, and step-by-step walkthroughs of your processes before recommending a complete solution for you.
Do they want to talk to the real users?
It’s at the individual user level that your compliance tools are most relevant and most necessary. For that reason, they’ve got to make sense to the people who will be spending most time with them on a day-to-day basis. It’s easy to design a solution that works in theory; but unless you quiz the users and get some hands-on feedback, you may be putting something in place that’s missing some key elements.
Do they appreciate the value of good presentation?
This is often the real differentiator when it comes to FS software, and it’s an easy one to overlook. It’s tempting to judge something by whether it works at all, not on how nice it is to use. For an industry that is still, in many places, struggling with legacy software systems (or even manual processes—we’ve seen our share of post-it-notes!) it’s common to fall into the trap of considering a tool that is functional to be the same thing as a tool that’s complete.
But the benefits of a well-presented, nicely-designed layout and a clear, thoughtful user experience cannot be underestimated. Your users will be more engaged with a piece of software that is a pleasure to use, and their accuracy and speed to complete a task will be improved. Always find a tool that does the job but, even if that job isn’t the most exciting, don’t be convinced that compliance software shouldn’t be allowed to look exciting.
Do they want to keep in touch?
Businesses, people, and regulation change. A tool that’s right for you this year probably won’t be quite right next year, and certainly won’t be right five years from now. This is how firms end up with outdated legacy systems that need more and more workarounds to be effective, IT upgrade projects into six figures, and an increasing risk of non-compliance.
Any software provider working in this area should be committed to regular, iterative change. They should also demonstrate a desire to talk to you about this in order to find out how your own needs are changing over time. Don’t be satisfied with someone who wants to make a sale and walk away.