Danos Group
20 Jun

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) have published a thematic review on ‘Understanding the Money Laundering Risks in the Capital Markets’ this month. It found that generally firms were “at the early stages of their thinking” on the matter and yet it is key to “protecting and enhancing the integrity of the UK financial system”.

Here we summarise the key areas that need attention and show how contractors can hold the answer to addressing them.

Areas for consideration

Carry out effective customer risk assessment and customer due diligence (CDD) ensuring it is kept up to date.

Employ enhanced due diligence (EDD) for high-risk customers e.g High Net Worth Individuals (HNWIs).

Implement effective surveillance systems for transactions.

Ensure rationale for taking the route of simplified due diligence (SDD) is documented.

Ensure accurate transaction reporting.

Complete a comprehensive review of opportunities to money launder. The FCA found that the primary risk is the customer and that it exists across various asset classes and scenarios.

Grow the synergy of focus on money-laundering as well as market abuse. Market abuse could be indicative of money-laundering.

Provide clarity on meeting obligations to submit Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) and Suspicious Transaction and Order Reports (STORs).

Define accountability of money-laundering risk (ensuring more first line ownership).

Review platforms and how they can be enhanced to provide defence against risk.

Ensure comprehensive and tailored training is in place (completing online modules isn’t enough).

Identify and manage drivers of firms’ behaviour and suggest any necessary changes.

The typologies and red flag indicators in the FCAs Thematic Review (TR19/4) can help give more detail on the risk assessments, transaction monitoring and training that can be put in place.

Relevant regulation expertise required

2.10 of the Recognised Investment Exchanges handbook.
Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds Regulations 2017.
FCA Financial Crime Guide.
Joint Money Laundering Steering Group.
FATF’s risk-based guidance for the securities sector.
Part 7 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
Terrorism Act 2000.
Market Abuse Regulation.
NCA – Submitting a Suspicious Activity Report within the Regulated Sector. NCA – Guidance on submitting better-quality Suspicious Activity Reports. Proceeds of Crime Act.
Senior Managers and Certification Regime (SMCR)

What Consultants bring to the table

Consultants move from company to company and this will give them more exposure to examples of how money laundering can occur and allow for more informed transaction monitoring recommendations and training. The FCA actively encourages the industry to work together and share information wherever possible.

Many of the areas require specialist expertise and experience that the team might not already have.

Some of the issues here lend themselves more to a project as opposed to an ongoing specialist level requirement.

Consultants can be brought in within 48 hours to start working on this as quickly as possible, showing the regulators that you are diligent and responsive.

We have a bench of over 600 talented consultants with the specialist skills and experience to protect your company from Anti-Money Laundering. Please get in touch if you would like to discuss bringing this expertise into your team.

12 Jun

Interim hiring is perfect for bringing in additional support or specialist skills and expertise without the commitment or headcount that comes with permanent hires. When a firm takes the decision to bring in interim or consultancy support, they should take the following factors into consideration:

Quality of network

We have a bench of over 600 candidates that have been built up over eight years. With such a large talent pool and stringent vetting, we have a vast range of high quality skills and expertise at our disposal.

Managing expertise

Our consultancy practice is headed up by Katherine Lord who has over 18 years of experience in the interim market in this sector, and so has a great understanding of the current requirements and trends. She also works closely with our permanent legal hiring team, broadening the potential pool of talent and specialist skills we have available further still.

Multinational lawyers

Our reach is global, with offices in the States, Hong Kong and Singapore as well as having a heavy presence in Europe. Lawyers with qualifications from other jurisdictions have proven very popular in the commercial contracts market across the board but are obviously extremely valuable for international mergers, acquisitions, expansion or relocation. This has been particularly prevalent with work around Brexit.

Reactive

We work in a very fast paced and demanding market and we are adept and managing this. The extent of our bench and our relationships mean that talented professionals can usually be with our clients within 48 hours. This delivers highly skilled support at the time they need it most.

Costs

Our business model allows us to offer highly competitive rates with great transparency.

If you would like to discuss interim solutions for your legal requirements further please do get in touch.

11 Jun

Many of our contractors have raised concerns over the IR35 legislative changes next year so we’ve worked in partnership with a subject matter expert to clearly and concisely answer all of your questions.

To view our short film on IR35 click here

We answer:

  • Can IR35 be avoided as a contractor?
  • What will change in 2020 from current practice?
  • How can a contractor make sure the client decides they are outside IR35?
  • How informed are our financial services clients on the reforms and what are they putting in place to handle the legislative changes?
  • Do you think financial services clients will continue to hire contract support?
  • Can having a substitution clause help a contractor be outside IR35?
  • Will roles be individually assessed for IR35 status (unlike blanket decisions in the public sector)?
  • Will contractors need to use CEST?
  • If a contractor is inside IR35, do they need to switch to being paid through an umbrella firm?
  • What will be the financial impact of IR35 to a contractor being paid through a Ltd business, umbrella company or PAYE?
  • How often does a contractor’s IR35 status have to be assessed?
  • How can a contractor help themselves prepare for the IR35 changes?
  • Is there any specific legal or accountancy advice they should obtain?



05 Jun

The buy-side remains active which marries nicely with the increase in candidates wanting to move into this area, seeking more open mandates and often a less corporate environment. Fintech is still a particularly popular sector but there is increasing competition for the best candidates.

The sell-side tells a different story. With tougher internal controls on budget, reflective of performance conditions there are many more constraints on hiring.

LIBOR transition to SONIA

An area of hiring demand on the sell-side that cannot be pushed back however are preparations for LIBOR transitioning to Sterling Overnight Index Average (SONIA) in 2022.

The transition follows the 2012 LIBOR scandal where traders and rate-setters were found to be manipulating rates to benefit the trader’s position. This undermined the world’s trust in LIBOR and London’s place as a financial centre and resulted in UK and US regulators issuing billions of pounds worth of fines.

In 2017 the central banking working group voted for LIBOR to be replaced by SONIA with the Bank of England stating that it is ‘based on robust transaction volumes’ and is ‘considered close to risk-free’. Whilst being a positive and progressive step, this poses a major challenge for our financial services. LIBOR is a fundamental part of the system and is entrenched in almost every model with more than $240 trillion in global financial products using it as a reference rate.

Some suggest that the cost of going into every product, process and system to make the swap could cost in excess of $200 million for some banks. It’s a cost that simply can’t be avoided but will weigh heavily on the sector that is already under pressure.

The scale of this transition is widespread so the 2022 transition deadline leaves little comfort. Firms are wise to start making moves towards this, starting with an inventory of the skills and experience they have to tackle it. The people they had to implement LIBOR may well have moved on since.

Consultants can offer a happy solution here; bringing specialist knowledge without the permanent overhead cost. We have a strong bench of LIBOR specialists. We advise firms to act fast to get ahead of the curve before the talent pool starts to deplete.

Nearshoring

Aside from this, nearshoring of risk functions continues to grow notably in credit risk, quantitative risk and model validation. Again, this coincides well with a steady increase in the willingness of people based in the UK to move. We have also been able to access local domestic candidate pools for our clients and can support you in this way too should you look to relocate departments.

05 Jun

Some of the major banks in the world have come under scrutiny during the last decade due to proven allegations of FX manipulation. Malpractices have led to banks making millions by cheating their customers through manipulating FX rates.

The European Commission have highlighted that 5 major banks have been hit with large fines after carrying out forex collusions. Further investigations continue in FX options, Sovereign Bonds and SSAs.

If you feel your first and second lines of defence are exposed, you may need contract support to carry out internal investigations. We have regulatory experts focusing on market abuse, fully vetted and available to start interim work this week. For a confidential discussion, please get in touch.

04 Jun

Diversity in the workplace is encountering a significant shift from being a moral nicety to a serious threat to profitability and competitive advantage. Whilst very much on the radar, progress has been slow, but with commercial success now at stake, firms really need to start making important changes.

The situation

Various reports have highlighted the lack of diversity in our law firms. In a report last year, Women Count found that there had been no progress in gender diversity in the last three years; the percentage of women on executive committees of FTSE 350 companies had remained at 16% and the percentage of female executives on boards had faired even worse remaining at a meagre 7%. To add to this discouraging picture, the 2018 Gender Pay Gap revealed that some law firms had a median pay gap of over 57%. This figure includes partners whose inclusion in the study was initially absent before being pushed for by many of the firms’ clients.

For those trying to achieve a 30/70 split by 2020, a report by McKinsey has shown that for the top 37 firms in the UK, they would need to hire 323 female partners. Their research has shown that while the male to female ratio is approximately 50/50 at associate level, the decline in female representation starts at 7 PQE. This puts most women in their early thirties and while we recognise other factors may be at play, this is also the age where many people choose to start families.

Time to change

This state of affairs is in stark contrast to the diversity demands from clients. More and more clients want to see women on their teams. Clients expect to see women at pitches and often check that they will be working on their cases too. 

Lorna Fitzsimons, Co-founder of The Pipeline (a programme helping companies achieve their gender diversity goals) said, “This is an issue of competitive advantage and profitability which is echoed throughout the FTSE 350. Companies who have at least 25% of women on their executive committees have the potential to benefit from 5% greater profit than companies that have no women. This adds up to a £13bn gender dividend for all of Corporate UK performing at the same level on gender diversity”.

What can be done?

The situation is complex and answers are difficult to find. How can an industry where performance and success go hand in hand with long and often unsociable hours be conducive to family life? Some firms have set quotas for female recruitment, but this can often lead to forcing the wrong person into the role or leaving deserving women worrying that they are only there to meet statistics.

There is currently much discussion and good intention, but could demand for diversity directly from law firms’ clients be a powerful enough catalyst for actionable change?

Hours

We speak with female lawyers in the hiring market every day and the main resounding point of concern is the pressure around business development and entertaining clients during unsociable hours. For many, this would be time outside of their normal working day and when they would want to be at home with their families. The focus on hours extends to expectations of being contactable 24/7, and hours worked being a key performance indicator in reviews.

An industry wide re-think on hours spent in the office or entertaining clients could help address this not only for women but for men. Commitments to what constitutes as an urgent need for out of hours contact, the encouragement of business development during working hours with lunches, set parameters for out of hours entertaining, and focus on performance and efficiency as opposed to hours worked, could support a better work life balance. This would also prevent the burn out and other mental health issues that are becoming more prevalent across both sexes.

Taking time out

When women go on maternity leave, a common concern can be the erosion of relationships with their clients. Could firms address this by giving women more of an opportunity to stay in touch while they are on maternity leave? Sarah Chilton, a partner at CM Murray suggests, “invite them to lunches and events…writing articles is something easy to offer women on maternity leave…it keeps their name in the market”.

This approach may also aid in soothing the concerns of those who choose not to have children, who can feel a certain injustice when their peers are out on maternity leave and they remain working full-time.

Paths for progression

In many firms the philosophy regarding progression is ‘up or out’, and firms are losing talented employees because the current requirements leave them feeling like there is no other option than ‘out’. An idea could be to tackle this early on by setting out clear paths for different types of progression, available to both men and women.

The “Of Counsel” role was introduced as a potential solution as it can offer a senior position without the pressure of business development targets. However, there have been questions around the long-term viability of this role from a cost perspective. Perhaps there could be two separate targets for making partner; with one more focused on the client development side and the other on the management/strategic side, potentially helping to encourage people into the right roles; after all, great billers don’t always make great managers.

In addition to this, a number of firms have led the way in creating mentoring schemes which aim to help develop individuals’ personal brands both externally by encouraging them to be bold with regards to client development and internally by giving them the confidence to put themselves forward for partnership.

Firms have a duty to show women that there are ways to be successful lawyers without having to sacrifice family life, fall into an unfulfilling support role, move to a more flexible in-house position or leave the profession altogether. The knock-on effect of this will be more women in management roles making it work and providing inspiration and empathetic solutions.

We have seen successful examples of partnerships where one side focuses on delivering the work and maintaining existing client relationships while the other courts new clients. We are also seeing much more flexible working, working from home and even examples of part-time partners. One law firm provided the example of one particular partner who “leads from the front” by working one day a week from home even though he has no need to and encourages all of his team to do the same.

Fine-tuning is required but with a combination of addressing hours, maternity leave and paths for progression, with a commitment to making it work, these could prove to be viable solutions.

Law firms could be fearful of the impact these changes would have on their clients, but we know that diversity is becoming increasingly important to them. With the proposed industry wide standards, careful management, cultural acceptance and an understanding of the benefits this change brings, more women will progress in the profession and ultimately provide the diversity demanded.

To conclude

There are no easy answers but with a greater spotlight on diversity than ever before, to the extent that it is becoming a contributing factor to winning or losing business, now is the time to really shake things up, look at the very composition of the industry and make progressive changes. This will benefit men, women, clients and the next generation of lawyers.

Innovative thinking must give way to old school rigidity in “this is the way we’ve always done it”. These are exciting times; more can be done. The most successful firms will be the ones at the forefront of this movement; attracting talent, retaining talent and giving them competitive advantage and the better quality of work diversity is proven to give.

Diversity is a subject that we as a company are very passionate about. We speak about it regularly, work with our clients to deliver for their firms and instil it in our own culture. If you would like our support, advice or access to our excellent network of lawyers, please do get in touch.