Compliance management is a never-ending job. As soon as one regulation is implemented or training or testing is completed, another one immediately takes its place.
It can be overwhelming, but there are ways to lighten your compliance management workload while still staying compliant and on task. Here are four tips.
1. Identify the mental loads you carry and find a way to put them down.
We all have projects that feel as though they are constantly hanging over our heads. It’s an invisible weight adding stress to our work lives.
Psychologists call this work of constantly having to coordinate and remember activities as “mental load.” Mental load isn’t the weight of any single chore—it’s the collective burden of having to track so many pieces. (It’s a phenomenon often linked to parents, especially moms.)
Take some time to make a list of tasks, activities, and projects that feel like a constant source of worry. Maybe it’s repeatedly reminding employees to complete compliance training, meeting a deadline for reporting data, or worrying if the institution is up-to-date in remediating all outstanding findings. Maybe it’s all of them at once.
Then go through each one and think about why it’s such a mental burden. You may find that it’s not the individual task that’s the problem—it’s having to manage so many of them.
2. Create blueprints or workflows for repetitive activities.
There’s a good chance that much of your mental load comprises repetitive compliance activities such as:
- Identifying applicable regulatory changes
- Drafting or updating policies and procedures in response to regulatory change
- Sharing policy and procedure updates with appropriate staff Confirming employee compliance training
- Tracking consumer complaints
- Testing regulatory compliance to ensure your compliance management system (CMS) is working
- Reporting to the board and management
Do you have workflows for accomplishing these tasks or do you approach them like a blank slate each time? If it’s the latter, creating a blueprint or workflow can lighten your mental load.
Each of these tasks has repeatable steps. Think about implementing regulatory change. Each time a change needs to be implemented, it impacts a different department or business line and different staff, but the underlying process is the same, including identifying the rule, determining its impact to the institution, writing policies and procedures, etc. If you have a workflow for implementing regulatory change, you won’t have to spend as much energy planning how you’ll do it or remember what you did last time.
3. Some tasks are burdensome—but do they have to be?
Not every project can be made simpler with a workflow. Some are just heavy lifts no matter how you look at it. The question is: Should you be the one doing the lifting?
Compliance professionals are highly trained and have the expertise that no one else in the institution shares. They can provide insights into strategic planning, offering advice on how to avoid compliance pitfalls when considering new products, services, and initiatives. They can conduct compliance testing to ensure policies and procedures are being followed and that controls to mitigate compliance risk are effective. You can think creatively to implement new regulations in a way that works best for your institution’s size, complexity, and product mix.
That can be hard to do if you’re overwhelmed with day-to-day compliance tasks that don’t require your specialized institutional knowledge. Think about tasks that require compliance expertise, but not your in-depth knowledge of your institution. For example, many compliance professionals spend hours reading and interpreting pages of new regulations. In periods of significant regulatory change, reading regulations is basically a full-time job, but it doesn’t need to be.
Tracking regulatory change is the type of task that can be cost-effectively outsourced to knowledgeable regulatory counsel. Even better, there is CMS software overseen by regulatory counsel that automatically identifies and alerts you to applicable regulatory changes and provides an action plan for implementation. It’s a huge time saver.
4. Improve collaboration.
Compliance is a single department, but your work touches every department, so it’s important to be able to easily communicate and collaborate. Tracking policy changes and approvals is exhausting when it involves hunting down the latest version of the policy and documenting that it was approved by individual board members or management. It’s not a good use of your time.
Instead of trying to find ways to politely hound board members and management to review your documents, consider introducing an automated compliance management system that comes with a central repository for compliance documentation, allowing you to track policy updates and approvals. An employee intranet also makes it easy for everyone at your institution to find policies when they need them, allowing staff to self-serve instead of taking up your time.
While a compliance officer’s work is never done, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Take the time to consider your mental load and how you can reduce it. It may be easier than you think.
Want more career advice? Here are 11 Can’t-Miss Compliance Management Tips From Top Compliance Officers.
Michael Berman is the founder and CEO of Ncontracts, a leading provider of risk management solutions. His extensive background in legal and regulatory matters has afforded him unique insights into solving operational risk management challenges and drives Ncontracts’ mission to efficiently and effectively manage operational risk. During his legal career, Mr. Berman was involved in numerous regulatory, compliance, and contract management challenges and assisted in the development of information systems to better manage these efforts. Prior to founding Ncontracts, he was General Counsel for Goldleaf Financial Solutions, Tecniflex, Inc. and Imagic Corporation. Mr. Berman is a wellregarded speaker at financial institution conferences on risk management. He received his undergraduate degree from Cornell University and holds a J.D. degree from the University of Tennessee.