SM&CR professionals pivot for COVID-19, but how confident are they now?

Julie Pardy

Julie Pardy

With more than 30 years service in the Financial Services industry Julie has spent many years at the coal face undertaking a wide variety of roles in banking from Compliance to Sales, Operations to Training.

On Thursday 28th May 2020, Philip Allen (Innovate Learn), Adrian Harvey (CEO, Elephants don’t forget) and Julie Pardy (Worksmart) hosted an interactive webinar; Covid-19 proves to be the SM&CR litmus test. Over 100 delegates joined us and listened intently to the discussions which centred around six key SM&CR related issues that are currently affecting regulated firms:

SM&CR related issues that are currently affecting regulated firms including decision making, reasonable steps, delegation, competency, conduct and technology

To ensure that the topics covered are educational and relevant we often ask attendees to complete polling questions during the webinar. On this occasion we asked the delegates three key questions and wanted to share with you our findings.

1) Has Covid-19 meant that landing Conduct Rules compliance by December 2020 is a secondary priority

It was interesting to note that ¾ of those polled felt their firm was on track to achieve the relevant COCON training by year end.  No doubt the FCA would be pleased to hear that as they have raised it with the industry that they are concerned that in the banking sector, this element of the new regime was not covered as well as they had hoped.  Whilst it would appear from these results that many believe that Covid-19 will not stop their programme, the new challenge is that the methodology needs to change. Before the pandemic, this training might have been done on a face to face basis by managers, or in small learning and development teams. Now, in order to deliver this,technology will likely be required, and technology will need to be used to aid the delivery.

Overall, we are not surprised by this result as firms have known about this requirement for some time, so plans should be well advanced, despite the operational challenges caused by Covid-19.

2) On a scale of 1 – 5 (1 = not confident 5 = very confident) how confident are you that your people processes and governance arrangements remain fit for purpose in the ‘new norm?’

Again, we are seeing a split view here which we believe links to a number of things.  Depending on the size and maturity of the organisation and their focus prior to Covid-19 will likely dictate if and what any changes are needed to these areas.  Many firms spent a lot of time and effort developing their focus around people and governance in time for the 1st SM&CR deadline back in December 2019, so hopefully that hard work will stand firms in good stead.

In the run up to SM&CR, a firm might have been focused on developing processes around L&D, culture and/or people processes. Now that Covid-19 is with us, the focus has changed to things like employee well-being, health, engagement and staff retention. It’s this change in focus (and resource) that is likely to be a challenge for some firms.

It’s not surprising that a good number of those polled have answer only slightly or somewhat confident, because as yet, it is probably difficult to see whether existing processes are robust enough to withstand the current disruption.  There is definitely a greater demand for firms to make employees feel included. When a team is dispersed remotely when previously it worked together in one location, and the proper infrastructure isn’t in place to help people stay connected, e.g. through the likes of Zoom or Microsoft Teams, it can be especially hard. Firms who have not invested in technology will find managing oversight and governance arrangements currently to be even more difficult.

3) Since Covid-19 emerged and home working soared, has your employer provided employees with specific training to help adjust to working from home, communicating differently and adapting to new types of risk presented by different working conditions?

We are not surprised by these figures. Financial services firms had to pivot quickly, and the most important thing was to continue to serve customers. Unsuspecting firms were forced to prioritise regulatory requirements and staff training was put on the back burner.  With little training, employees were faced with a whole set of new concerns such as untested security in the home, being remote from other team members, having to learn to communicate differently and raise issues maybe in different ways.

Those in management positions have faced even more challenges. Supporting others who are struggling, managing their own stresses whilst maintaining effective communication is tough. It would appear most firms hadn’t prepared their managers with these specific skill sets.

Given the current pressures, the need for a simple and intuitive systems is more critical than ever.  Our customers are telling us that using Accord, our award-winning SM&CR software, has enabled their firms to thrive, not just survive, with the current crisis.

If you would like to find out more about Accord and how it can help your senior managers stay compliant, visit our website.

Email us at or call our friendly team on: 01908 613613

If you would like more information about the webinar discussion or to download the slides, please visit the links below. Alternatively, sign up to our list to be the first to know about our free upcoming webinars.

Listen to the full webinar here.

Download the webinar slides here.

Sign up to be notified of the next webinar here.


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