Challenges in the In-House Environment

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We speak with the General Counsel and Director of Risk & Compliance at Hymans Robertson LLP: Natalie Wallace. She discusses how the legal, regulatory, political and technology landscapes in which the firm and its clients operate continue to change. But rather than see this as a challenge, Natalie sees this in a positive light – as a way of ensuring that she and her team keep focusing on driving operational efficiencies, positively influencing market change and introducing innovative new ways of helping their clients. She speaks more about her role, the challenges that come along with it and how her team are pushing to achieve the best for their clients.

 

Could you tell us a bit about your role and your day-to-day responsibilities?

I head up the Legal, Risk and Compliance (LRC) team within Hymans Robertson. The LRC team protects the firm and helps its consultants and other front line teams to do the best job that they can for clients. We focus on finding solutions that are cost effective, efficient and commercial. I spend a lot of time talking to people across the firm and to third parties such as our external specialists and basically “joining the dots” to help maximise opportunities and minimise risks. Every day is different, but the LRC team helps to shape and support strategic change and diversification initiatives such as collaborations and new products and services (Hymans is very innovative!). We aim to proactively add value, not to simply provide back office “firefighting” support.

 

What are some of the most common challenges that you face? How do you overcome them?

Supporting innovation while “keeping the lights on” in relation to “business as usual” LRC activities, is always a challenge, especially given we have limited resource and a finite budget. The political, regulatory, legal and technology landscape continues to evolve for us and our clients, adding further complexity. For example, Brexit, fintech and data protection developments alone will require significant LRC input in the foreseeable future.

I don’t have a magic cure to deal with these challenges, but I do have a great team (Karen Gilchrist heads up the Legal side and Roy McKean heads up the Compliance & Risk side) with different strengths and specialist skills. We all work really well together. That means that we’re generally able to work through most challenges with our client-facing and other business support colleagues, especially with support (when needed) from our external panels of legal and compliance specialists.

My experience is that having the legal, risk and compliance teams working independently, but closely together, helps to identify and quickly plug any gaps as well as to spot and maximise any potential opportunities that might otherwise have fallen between the cracks.

I aim to achieve a balance between the work that LRC does around innovation and diversification and the day to day LRC work. To ensure that we still have time to support critical day to day work, we focus on driving automation, self-service initiatives, operational efficiencies and training of front line staff. Of course, to support this balance, it’s imperative that we have the right culture and behaviours within the team, as well as across the firm. Culture and behaviours are critical underpins for all that we do and are therefore always at the front of our minds. We then also need to ensure that senior management is receiving good quality management information to enable informed decisions to be made.

 

How would you evaluate your role and its impact over the last year or so?

I think the LRC team plays a critical role within the firm. Not only have we supported exciting innovations such as Guided Outcomes and Club Vita for our clients, sectors and markets, we have also been pioneers in relation to, for example, flexible working, wellbeing, automation and diversity.

 

What further goals are you currently working towards with the company?

LRC’s goals are always focused on supporting the firm to achieve its strategic objectives in a commercial, compliant and effective way. Our ultimate goal is to help our clients achieve better financial futures. We know that taking risks is part of doing business, so we manage those risks while always looking at the flip side opportunities. The team will continue to focus on that and on doing so in an efficient and cost effective way. Helping the board and senior managers to continue to embed not only the right policies, procedures and processes, but also the right behaviours across the firm, will also always be a key goal for the team.

 

 

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