It was great to spend three days in surprisingly unsunny San Diego last month at the SIFMA Compliance & Legal Annual Seminar. It was inspiring to be among the 1,700 financial services compliance and legal professionals in attendance. There are a lot of challenges that we’ll need to face together, so it was vital to take some focused time to deep dive into some important topics.
Of course, I couldn’t attend every session; who could? But the biggest theme I heard was change. Of course, change is always a constant, yes; but the pace and breadth of change is what is notable and unprecedented.
As always, change can be an opportunity as well as a challenge. Part of seizing the opportunity is identifying which changes can make a positive impact, which of those you can realistically harness, and how you can use those changes to forward your goals.
There were a lot of change areas that were discussed but these three challenges caught my attention:
People. People are arguably the most important part of your business. COVID-19 accelerated change in the workforce. But what are the post-COVID ramifications on work life two or five years from now? With hybrid work, how do you retain a cohesive culture of client first and do the right thing? How do you attract the right talent, keep them engaged, and continually upskill them to use the firehose of technology coming at them?
Distribution channels. There are increasing distribution channels. Although the days of paper are not quite over yet, what about computers and laptops—are they on their way out too? Do the youngest clients want everything on their phones? Are social media platforms the way to telegraph your message? (See, old and new can work together—at least in that sentence.) What about finfluencers? How do you blend the best mix of distribution channels? And how do you supervise all the communications going out via email, text, video, and new channels to check that they are compliant?
Regulatory. The pace of regulatory changes, regulatory duplication, and enforcement acceleration are challenging. Not only do you have to determine which regulations influence your business, but also continuously train your organization and modify procedures and processes to remain in compliance.
Maybe I’m the optimist, but I see technology as one of the answers to these changes—AI specifically. There are new AI-based tools, and there will be newer and better ones, that can help with all three of the points above. Tools that can make jobs easier and more interesting to help attract and retain your best people. Tools to help manage any new regulations that help ensure investor protection. And tools to help make all the new distribution channels safe for investors and help build trust with your brands.
Would love to hear your thoughts on these points.
For a look into what panelists highlighted as the compliance industry’s top priorities, check out SIFMA’s C&L Annual Seminar Debrief, 2023.