How to maintain Risk and Legal ways of working while remote

 Victoria Martin photo
Victoria Martin Risk Lead
5min read

Risk and compliance activities are essential at the best of times. So how can companies keep up that best practices during a global pandemic?

It would be a massive understatement to say the coronavirus pandemic has impacted all business’ ways of working. As financial institutions continue to operate under remote conditions, professionals have had to find new ways to maintain existing business processes.

This poses a unique problem to both Risk and Compliance teams. The pandemic has caused a significant switch into the types of risk firms are experiencing, particularly around information security applications, and organisations still can’t afford to tolerate lapses or give up on preventative measures. That’s why effective ways of working are more important than ever.

So what can companies do to adjust their processes and ensure they’re upholding their usual standards?

Here at 11:FS, we’ve seen firsthand how remote working can complicate risk and compliance efforts. But through careful observation and clear planning, we’ve found work-arounds that have kept our operations running smoothly. Here are just a few of the lessons we’ve learned along the way…

Maintain clear communication

Keeping everyone on the same page is important at the best of times, but it’s absolutely essential when no one can actually meet in person.

In fact, the office environment is surprisingly important for our risk and legal activities. When we were able to maintain face-to-face communication with colleagues, we could often overhear potential issues or concerns and stop them before they happened. Remote working removes that option.

To help overcome that our team has facilitated more detailed conversations about risk and compliance activities across the entire organisation. Usually, this involves communicating in a way that suits the intended recipient. If you’re contacting stakeholders who spend a lot of time teleconferencing, for example, you may want to ping them on Slack or by email instead of adding another call to their calendar. We have also found reducing call times to a 15 minute catch up gives back some well needed respite time during the day.

Be detailed about what you need, check in often and try to meet colleagues on their terms.

Obviously, ways of working will change under these circumstances. Some of us have started joining different team meetings to stay abreast of what’s going on, while others are putting follow-up reminders in their calendars so conversations can keep flowing freely. No matter how individual processes change, risk and legal teams need to be proactive and direct in their communications. Be detailed about what you need, check in often and try to meet colleagues on their terms.

Find the right tools

As teleconferencing becomes the new normal for many businesses, apps like Zoom are exploding in popularity. But even though these products have been widely adopted, they aren’t necessarily safe for use in enterprises. Zoom and Google Hangouts in particular have suffered plenty of privacy problems, but many of its competitors also raise security concerns.

It all goes to show that while the pandemic is forcing many companies to adjust their ways of working, it’s also exposing the limitations of tools we’d previously relied upon.

Now as ever, prioritising risk and compliance activities remains crucial. Rely on tools that protect their users’ data and security, and use the right ones for conducting day-to-day tasks. Communicating by email when you need to establish a clear audit trail is always important, but it’s especially pressing during the pandemic.

But don’t get too comfortable with these new tools. While remote working may have forced businesses to rely on them temporarily, these limitations may lead to a reset once a sense of normalcy returns.

See this as an opportunity to develop new ways of working...

The pandemic may have forced many companies to shift their daily routines, but it also presents an opportunity to change things for the better. Firms that may never have considered video calls or other innovations are suddenly putting them into practice after years of inaction. If they can make the jump, so can a host of other companies.

Things may not be the same after the lockdown ends, but at least companies can be better prepared in the future

And it’s not just software that’s getting an update. The coronavirus outbreak could also lead companies to reassess how they negotiate and write contracts. By including additional protections in documents going forward, businesses may be able to better protect themselves in the event of another crisis.

The lessons here also apply to business continuity plans. Few would have planned for a pandemic-scale interruption before, but operations teams can now incorporate lessons from the pandemic to create more robust plans. Things may not be the same after the lockdown ends, but at least companies can be better prepared in the future.

…But be patient with stakeholders that are still catching up

Many stakeholders may be adapting quickly to remote working, but progress isn’t always a speedy process. Risk and legal teams at many financial institutions may be pulled in many directions and not be able to respond immediately.

In these cases, patience is a virtue. Set reasonable expectations and offer reasonable accommodations. That said, be firm: if a stakeholder promises to have documents reviewed by a certain date, follow up with them to ensure deadlines keep getting met.

As companies strive to make their way through the pandemic, risk and compliance activities will remain as crucial as ever. By making these changes now, businesses can continue to protect themselves, both during the coronavirus outbreak and afterward.