Compliance Teams Stretched to their Limits, Says Thomson Reuters Survey

Growing volume of regulations, limited resources, constrained budgets taking toll on compliance efforts
03/13/2012

LONDON – Compliance professionals around the world report they are often struggling to keep up with the growing demands of global regulation, according to a new survey by Thomson Reuters Governance, Risk & Compliance. A combination of rapidly growing regulations and increasing responsibilities for compliance professionals, coupled with limited resources and constrained budgets, are raising concerns that compliance teams have reached saturation point in their ability to successfully manage compliance.

The survey covered more than 500 compliance professionals at financial services companies around the world, including banks, insurers and fund managers.

Key findings from the report include:

  • 84 percent of compliance professionals expect to handle more regulatory information in 2012
  • More than a third of respondents spend an entire working day each week staying up-to-date with regulatory changes
  • Only 11 percent of companies expect a significant increase in their budget for compliance this year

“Compliance officers at regulated firms are finding themselves under increasing pressure from all sides,” said Scott McCleskey, global head of financial services regulation, Thomson Reuters GRC. “Companies need to be diligent, organized and pro-active in their approach to today’s fast-changing regulatory environment. However, this survey indicates that rather than gaining the upper hand in managing compliance functions, many companies are increasingly struggling to keep up.”

Growing Regulations
Eighty-four percent of compliance professionals surveyed expect to handle more regulatory information from regulators and exchanges this year, with nearly half expecting the level to be significantly higher. Among the major changes being anticipated this year, according to the survey, are the splitting apart of the U.K. Financial Services Authority, an increase in the direct regulatory power of the European Supervisory Authorities, the expansion of several new and existing regulatory agencies in the U.S. as a result of the Dodd-Frank Act, and the increasingly global reach of regulations such as the UK Bribery Act and the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act.

Strained Compliance Resources
While regulatory requirements continue to grow, compliance teams are showing signs of resource constraints limiting their ability to perform vital compliance functions. More than a third of compliance professionals say they spend more than an entire working day each week in simply staying up to date with regulatory changes and assessing their impact on the business.

At the same time, compliance teams report difficulty finding time to coordinate with other parts of the company involved with managing regulatory risk. More than half of compliance professionals surveyed said they spend less than one hour a week working together with internal audit colleagues. One-third of respondents say they similarly spend less than one hour a week consulting with their legal and risk teams.

While keeping executive management informed of regulatory issues is a key part of the compliance role, more than a quarter of respondents say they spend less than one hour a week reporting to their boards. In the U.S., more than half of the companies surveyed spend less than one hour a week reporting to their boards. This raises concerns about whether executive management is being kept sufficiently informed on compliance issues.

Inability to Influence Policy Making
Two-thirds of respondents anticipate they will not have the capacity to influence regulatory policymaking this year – another indication that their compliance functions have reached the saturation point. One-third of compliance professionals say there will be a greater need to devote resources to influencing and lobbying regulators and policymakers in order to help shape the direction of future regulations.

Potential Budget Gaps
Compliance costs are rising, in part due to increasing demand for experienced compliance professionals. Fully 70 percent of respondents expect the cost of senior compliance staff to be higher this year. At the same time, only 11 percent of companies are expecting a significant increase in their budget for compliance. This raises serious concerns about whether budget levels will be sufficient to cover the expected increase in the scope and volume of regulatory change.

“This survey shows that compliance professionals expect the already rapid pace of regulatory activity to continue, if not accelerate,” said McCleskey. “We have been tracking a fairly steady 16 percent year over year increase in global regulatory activity, with nearly 60 new regulatory announcements every working day. As a result, compliance teams are reporting that they are increasingly strained in their ability to fulfil their myriad of responsibilities, which are critical not only to their own businesses, but also in maintaining the proper coordinated functioning of markets around the globe.”

A full copy of the report can be downloaded at: http://accelus.thomsonreuters.com/costofcompliance