There’s a better way of doing compliance
Cathi Harrison, managing director of Para-Sols set up her new company Apricity to change the way compliance support is delivered for adviser firms, she tells Rob Kingsbury
Apricity was an idea conceived by Cathi Harrison while on maternity leave, when “quite frankly, I think I had too much time to think!” she jokes. The ethos of the firm is contained in its strapline: ‘Where compliance comes naturally’.
With over 110 financial adviser and planner clients of Para-Sols, Cathi says she was constantly hearing about their frustrations with compliance. “It got me thinking that there must be a better way of doing things. I believed there was, and I set about creating Apricity to respond to those frustrations.”
The starting point was to look at what Cathi and her team considered to be the problem from three viewpoints:
1. That of her clients: Advisers who were already frustrated with the compliance support they were receiving.
2. The viewpoint of the FCA: What guidance it had given, what good looks like, how the Regulator saw the profession progressing.
3. The viewpoint of existing compliance consultants: How the harsh realities of the day-to-day world of compliance might make some of the idealistic viewpoints difficult to implement.
“By doing this, we were able to draft a service that we thought was useful to advisers, good practice from the FCA point of view, and would also work on a practical basis,” Cathi says.
Why change is needed
Working at the coalface of financial services, Cathi is fully versed in the frustrations that many advisers experience day-to-day with their existing compliance providers.
Addressing those frustrations became the focus of Apricity, she explains: “We think compliance should mean support that takes away the burden of reviewing regulation, that turns it into plain English, and that helps adviser firms easily implement anything relevant to the business.
“It should be support that cuts through the noise and helps advisers to focus on the clients and doing the job they love to do.”
Also important, she believes, is for compliance to embrace technology. Compliance support, she felt, should give firms control and make it easy, with the click of a button, to know what risks, if any, are in the business.
How Apricity sees compliance
Cathi believes compliance shouldn’t just exist to point out when things have gone wrong, it should be about providing a positive approach for adviser firms and working together to achieve the best outcomes for the client.
“When we were doing our initial market research, we had a lot of feedback around the old school compliance visit – the one where a consultant drives the breadth of the country every six months to check past files and look at a firm’s client agreement – but never really seems to add any value because they looked at files in retrospect (when it’s usually too late to put something right!) and generally, was a visit that filled advisers with dread.
“Personally, I think compliance should be proactive rather than reactive, it should be about looking forwards, not backwards, and above all else, it should provide ideas on structure and processes that will make day-to-day jobs much simpler and ensure good advice outcomes for the client.”
What Cathi devised, is an online compliance service where advisers can manage all their firms requirements – whether they be a full company review, file checking or managing a team’s training and competency needs – from one central dashboard.
“It has been designed to give a framework which keeps firms on the right track, ensuring they remain compliant and meet all the regulatory needs in real time and not retrospectively, moving away from a dry ‘tick box’ mentality.
“We give guidance to firms to help them get set up in a way that takes away the worries of trying to stay abreast of the ever-changing regulatory landscape. That way, compliance comes naturally to them,” Cathi says.
“We believe compliance support should be just that – supportive – so our plan for Apricity is to change compliance support as the market knows it and how it is delivered.
“It’s a big vision, one that requires a complete mindset shift across the profession, but one we’re up for,” she says.
Visit the Apricity website