Fireside conversations – culture, compliance and the CEO
A Q&A with our CEO, David McNair Scott and Head of International, Dirk Young. With a complementary blend of practical and strategic expertise, David and Dirk reflect on the insights they’ve gained about compliance, building cultures, and the role of senior staff in fostering good conduct and mindsets.
What is the vision that sparked Trailight?
David – “I’ve been in the RegTech market a long time and have seen various global initiatives come in. I saw that, post financial crisis, individual accountability and taking responsibility for employee conduct and competence were going to be so important. It’s a great thing for consumers as well as the industry, and I wanted to be at the centre of this to enable financial services firms to handle this fundamental change in their practices.”
Dirk – “I’ve had many roles in banks consulting on financial regulation, and I’ve seen that firms often struggle to implement frameworks because they’re thinking of it in silos. There wasn’t a technology provider who could cater to what was needed around the individual; there was nothing joining up the dots.”
What have been some of your key milestones?
David – “The hardest thing for any business is getting that first customer. Getting them to believe in you and your partnership. Understanding our first customers and bringing them on the journey with us was key. They were instrumental in us producing and improving a solution that solved people’s problems.”
Dirk – “Translating things into corporate policy that is actually sustainable is a journey. It needs to actually make it easier for people to do the right thing – but often it’s the opposite. So, our focus for a long time has been to make tracking individual conduct easy, to put ongoing data in front of people.”
David – “Even this isn’t easy. We wanted to make sure we were representing data in dashboards and reporting features in a way that was truly useful to key stakeholders.”
Dirk – “But trying to find a solution that works for everyone, for every situation, isn’t going to be possible. So we’ve built Trailight with strong configurability to solve this challenge.”
What have you learned in your time as leaders?
David – “Data is everything. It’s needed to understand operational rhythms, mitigate risks, and take advantage of opportunities. You monitor, review, and act. So, there’s no point in producing data you won’t use. These are the same principles we are trying to bring to our customers.”
Dirk – “It’s a straightforward concept, but difficult to achieve. People are expected to track and measure conduct and risk, but all the data is siloed. I’ve learned to listen, listen, listen. Never assume you have all the answers, to an internal issue or regulator requirement.
As a compliance officer, it’s really important to combine tech delivery with industry knowledge. Picking up the phone and speaking to another compliance officer – sharing insights – that can make a huge difference. Talking helps to contextualise problems and understand where tech can help.”
How have you seen the compliance culture change?
Dirk – “Accountability and conduct are the biggest changes. The industry just wasn’t doing enough prior to 2008, and they certainly weren’t keeping records. Compliance has shifted from conversational to formal, which has huge impacts on organisational culture. How firms continue to keep up with regulation is important. They need to adapt in a joined-up way – to think through problems before jumping to a short-term resolution. This will be much more cost-effective in the long run.”
David – “The burden of accountability has really pushed change. Doing all that’s needed internally is an enormous undertaking, not to mention costly and risky. We’re bringing my strategic background together with Dirk’s experience as a compliance officer to make it easier to evolve in the right way.”
Dirk – “Another key change is that doing more for governance and responsibility isn’t detracting from a good client outcome. In fact, we’re seeing it become a competitive advantage – people are picking firms because of this.”
What can C-suite and senior managers do to embed compliance in culture?
David – “Take it from the top. You need to make sure there’s a team driving it, that there’s a budget, and that there’s support from the senior level. If the CEO doesn’t show the time of day to compliance requirements, direct reports won’t prioritise it either. If CEOs openly support and make organisational decisions for compliance, the culture of what’s important will quickly follow suit.
Disseminating the knowledge properly, and from the start, will help. For example, we make sure to provide our customers with the tools to get budgets approved or educate their teams on our platform.”
Dirk – “A common mistake is firms thinking they can adapt and build internally. The banking industry tried this, but they ultimately had to use an external vendor to get it done. Similarly, it’s essential to systemise, early. There are firms that haven’t systemised in the past – it’s all done on paper – and if one thing goes wrong, then everything breaks. There’s no view of the past, no comparison, no intelligence. It just isn’t sustainable.”
David – “Keeping up momentum is another factor in culture. There are many people who are invested during implementation but tend to consider the job done after this. The C-suite and managers who keep it on the agenda (and in the budget) are the ones doing it properly and well.
Ultimately, compliance is much harder in isolation. There continues to be information sharing throughout the industry, and this is very valuable. That’s why we try hard to create a transparent community with our clients.”
Dirk – “We recognise we’re all trying to translate regulatory guidance into policy, so getting together to compare notes, share best practice and build a solution together will be a much better defence.”
Visit our team page to learn more about David, Dirk and the rest of our amazing staff.