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Employee Conflicts of Interest Ethics & Culture

Three Ways Rugby Is Like Modern Compliance

Who knew so many lessons could be drawn from the Rugby World Cup? The importance of data, communications, and team play in both realms are all themes worth considering in compliance

The last time England won the Rugby World Cup was 2003. Not coincidentally, that was the year data-driven management and coaching came to the sport, with England coach Clive Woodward employing a combination of cameras and specialized software to start tracking players in detail. Woodward tracked a wide range of metrics—meters run, position on the pitch, tackles made, etc.—and was thus able to analyze every facet of a player’s game in real time. He collected the same stats on opposition teams—treating the toughest opponents as data patterns—and as a result identified critical weak spots and drilled his team to exploit them.

Compliance is also becoming more data driven, and can similarly be employed to identify weak spots and reduce risk. The STAR Platform collects more data than ever, including pre-clearance requests, broker accounts, positions, outside business activities, gifts and entertainment, and certifications. It also collates essential employee data such as job title, physical location, and time at the firm from the HR system. This data can improve efficiency, detect problems that have already occurred, and potentially predict issues that are about to occur.

In rugby, there’s a metric to record how quickly players return to their feet after being tackled. When this time slows over the course of a match, it indicates a player might be tiring and is thus more likely to make a crucial mistake later on. It’s a data point that might drive a substitution—a critical, real time decision. Being able to identify and leverage equivalent data points in a firm could help compliance officers make the same kind of game-changing—and game-winning—decisions rugby coaches have been making for years.

Nigel Owens was the referee in the opening game of this year’s Rugby World Cup, and is widely considered the best referee in the game. What makes him so good? Well, he certainly knows the rules. In rugby, there are a lot of them, and they’re constantly changing. Owens was also a player, and so can easily relate to the players on the pitch. But the real secret to his success is the quality of his communication skills. Refs are constantly talking to the players. Warning them of possible infringements. Allowing them time to rectify mistakes before enforcing a penalty. All the time keeping in good spirits, establishing rapport, and keeping the respect of the players.

Good communications skills in compliance are likewise important, and only becoming more so. Compliance officers were once seen as the cops of finance: there primarily to say “no.” But compliance officers are increasingly expected to get up from their desks and talk to people. To be more approachable. To be business partners and process facilitators. But this more interactive approach can be more time intensive. Technology can help streamline this part of the job and make the compliance department far more efficient and productive. Platforms like the STAR Platform automate a wide range of tasks that once had to be done manually. Certification workflows can be set up far in advance. Critical reminders and notifications can be pushed through dashboards or email on whatever schedule is called for. Reports can be designed to deliver the precise data and information management needs when they need it.

Like modern rugby refs, then, modern compliance officers are more than just whistle blowers.

Rugby may be the ultimate team sport. There’s an important position and a critical role for every person, no matter their size or speed. A rugby team is only as good as its weakest link, and every member of the team needs to fully contribute to get the win. On average, a team will concede at least 13 points if a single player is required to leave the field, even for a short period of time. Unlike soccer, where a star player like Ronaldo or Messi can dominate a game, rugby requires that everyone—including the bench and backroom staff—be fully engaged.

These days, compliance is also a team sport. We already discussed how compliance officers are increasingly expected to be business facilitators, not just local law enforcement. Compliance should be seen, and should act, as part of the profit-making team, not as the department to be feared or avoided. The compliance first lineresponsible for engaging with the general employee populationhas to efficiently and effectively get the compliance message out and measure its impact. More than ever, it takes a team of internal and external players to do this.

Compliance officers need to form alliances with peers in the industry to benchmark their operations, share common challenges and ideas, and to help create a level playing field. By guarding the reputations of their own firms, compliance officers simultaneously guard the reputation of the financial industry. And building meaningful, mutually beneficial relationships with vendors like StarCompliance can expand the size and capability of the home team—acting as guides in the acquisition of the kind of technologies that will automate repetitive tasks and free up time for the higher-value, higher-cognition activities humans excel at and ultimately thrive on. In the end, you’re partnering not just with the vendor but also with the technology. Whether peer or algorithm, on the pitch or on the trading floor, we’re all in this together.