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Compliance during the Covid crisis: study highlights weaknesses and opportunities
Executive Education / 11 May 2021
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Michelle Neumann is Marketing & Sales Coordinator Professional & Executive Education at Frankfurt School.

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For many people, the COVID-19 outbreak has meant swapping life in the office for life in the home office (WFH). This is having a huge impact on the compliance function – right now, but also in the future. The first indications appeared in a recent study by Deloitte, The Future of Compliance 2020, part of an annual survey on compliance. This year’s study focused in particular on compliance trends during the pandemic.

An exceptional situation – worldwide

What has your experience been like? How have you coped with the challenges of this truly exceptional situation? The survey, involving a total of 346 compliance officers, was carried out between 5 May and 12 June 2020. Most of the participants were German companies of various sizes in multiple industries; 81 percent of the organisations were in the private sector, significantly fewer (just 14 percent) in the public sector. The survey was organised as follows:

  1. Compliance prior to and at the start of the crisis: inclusiveness, risk exposure, processes
  2. Compliance at remote: challenges and opportunities during the crisis
  3. Compliance in the aftermath of the crisis: looking to the future

This year’s study focused very deliberately on the whole process of uncoupling the workplace. As employees withdrew to mobile or home offices, internal controls faced a major challenge. Depending on the level of digital maturity involved, this migration sometimes worked well, and sometimes less well. Rules were established, best practices passed on – yet even so, ensuring that everyone complied with rules and best practices was still difficult. Now, more than a year later, companies are reviewing their remote-working processes in much greater detail – especially where compliance is concerned. Were data repositories and trade secrets secure at all times? Is compliance capable of coping with exceptional situations?

Challenges and opportunities

The Deloitte analysis confirms that yes, it is. Indeed, to some extent, compliance played a pioneering role in showing how to cope with the situation. The compliance officers who responded to the survey identified clear opportunities, but also acknowledged the risks.

Just four percent of respondents said that the pandemic had caught them completely off-guard, whereas 46 percent of them felt they were well prepared for the situation – and 22 percent even claimed to be very well prepared for the new challenges. What’s more, 44 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that the compliance function made an important contribution during the crisis. Nevertheless, around 38 percent of respondents believed that their organisation’s risk exposure had risen during the pandemic.

More than 50 percent of respondents feared that the biggest increase in non-compliances would be seen in the realms of data security, personal data protection, working hours, and the protection of trade and company secrets. That the crisis occasionally tempted people to bypass established business processes and internal controls in favour of quick decision-making was regarded as likely to very likely by 41 percent of respondents. Even so, 84 percent of respondents were sure that these procedures would be adjusted in the future.

 Looking to the future

Respondents also had strong views on digitisation. More than half agreed that the need for digitisation had been underscored in their organisation. They believed digitisation is essential for performing compliance-related tasks, and that this area is still trailing behind. A high proportion of respondents, 71 percent, felt that their compliance culture would not change significantly as a result of Covid. Even so, respondents also identified potential risks: budget reductions (37 percent), staff reductions (27 percent) and a general weakening of the compliance function (22 percent). This contrasted, however, with expectations of positive outcomes: further development of digital compliance processes (80 percent), more efficient working practices (51 percent) and a stronger compliance function (31 percent).

Exactly how the compliance function will evolve remains to be seen. For those in search of new career opportunities in compliance management, we offer our Certified Compliance Professional certification programme and its international counterpart, the European Certified Compliance Professional programme.

 

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