I am Vicky Simpson, owner and Director of Apply Compliance Today. I have worked in the legal sector for 28 years and commenced my career as a legal secretary which gave me a foundation to where I would find myself all these years later. I have worked for some amazing firms, both high street and magic circle and I have worked for other firms who face numerous challenges!

Through the years I have undertaken various roles and the last 10 years in Practice and Risk Management.  Compliance became a full time role, when I was asked to assist a firm who were facing some difficulties. It was evident that there were supervision and compliance issues within that firm and my love for compliance began – did I say love compliance!  It may seem strange but ask any compliance professionals and the majority of them will say the same thing. You have a depth of problem solving and strive to do the right thing for the firm, the staff and the clients.  You are often stuck between a rock and a hard place but find a way.

I really enjoy working with firms to bring the best possible outcome and increase revenue by getting compliance work. I can assure you, it not only saves a firm money but it has numerous benefits. Whether it is dealing with that tricky complaint or potential negligence claim, to undertaking independent file reviews and giving feedback.  For example, when I undertake file reviews, I tend to give face to face feedback to explain where there may be corrective action. I find this engages with individuals and it gives that opportunity for the human element. Whilst firms quite often find the task a burden, I consider it to be an essential aspect of risk management, client care and personal development for employees. You pick up on things, that you may not have ordinarily have picked up on and you have a hunch sometimes (also based on my criteria) of picking up that file that the employee did not want you to!

Think about how you are supervising, are you having daily/weekly calls, do you have a buddy system for both furloughed and non-furloughed staff?

Covid-19 has undoubtedly affected the firms I work with. It is a very interesting situation, I have had a firm who are running around like headless chickens, looking to save any amount of money they can, focussing on the detail and not the bigger picture. I have another firm who have increased the SEO for their website, who are actively marketing, putting videos out on LinkedIn daily. The firms that were strong coming into this and who are permanently assessing pipelines, staff welfare, cashflow are the ones who we will see the other side of this. If a firm has been mismanaged over the years, then sadly that is not going to change now. All it will do is create an excuse for those owners to say that they did not survive Covid-19.

We must remember that business owners owe a duty of care to their staff. I absolutely praise the firms who are getting it right, not perfect as we are all far from that, but they are trying to do the right thing and that is what matters. Again, those will be the firms who have looked after their staff and clients, who will have their staff returning and clients who recommend other people.  Reputation is what will help you in this journey.

Another challenge I am seeing some firms face is how to stay on top of their AML obligations during this time.  We are seeing a lot of zoom calls with fee earners/support identifying their clients that way.  Whilst we have to adjust for not being able to see clients face to face, I would say be careful. We have a lot of fraudsters who were straight out with their next scam and it is easier for them to do this. Consider what your processes are, consider a third party verification solution. There are some fantastic products on the market which are very cost effective. I would be happy to share my recommendations with anyone who would like them.

Consider what work you are taking on and maximise the opportunities. I understand that these are horrific times, however you are a business and you need to make it through post Covid-19.  If you are a full service firm, specifically look at Private Wealth, Family and Employment. Therefore, have a look at the services you are offering, see if there are any “products” you can put together from that.  Keep up or increase your SEO on your website and marketing. This is critical spend, it will bring you in work.

My tips for getting through these current times are:

  1. It will get easier – restrictions will be eased up and work will start coming in
  2. Keep it simple, whether that is reviewing your policies in line with remote working or how you undertake the work.
  3. Look after your staff. Consider HR undertaking Welfare calls on a regular basis to both furloughed and non-furloughed staff.  Your staff will be experiencing a series of emotions that will present themselves in different ways. Be sure to offer support.
  4. Supervision: If anything, increase supervision, schedule in department meetings 1 to 1’s via zoom. Do not let file reviews fall behind, more now than ever you need to keep on top of these. The regulators expect all firms to continue to supervise.
  5. Offer training to those staff who are furloughed. A perfect opportunity to upskill members of your firm, train and retain. It will be another thing to show you care.
  6. Review your business planning and strategy as frequently as you need to, and I would say at least weekly. Things are changing daily, and you need to consider different scenarios and how your business will cope.

I am offering a free 30 minutes consultation via zoom and reduced fees for the next 3 months. If you would like a discussion do book in.

Embrace compliance, engage with your employees and embed into your culture.
For further information please contact:  victoria.simpson@applycompliancetoday.co.uk

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