Stay flexible with your people. Risk-rank your projects. Document your processes. Go in-depth on five ways to ensure your control room team members stay in control no matter where they're working from
Last month in this space, we wrote about how the hybrid work model—a combination of onsite and offsite work—seems likely to become the dominant one for many knowledge workers moving forward, including those in finance. We further posited that the processes which got compliance through the last year—ad hoc and rough as they initially were, but by now well-practiced and smooth running—would need to be adjusted. We wrote about this from a general compliance perspective, and offered strategies compliance can employ to help keep risk at a minimum in this brave new world of hybrid work. Today we address this topic from a control room perspective: offering strategies for keeping this critical compliance function running smoothly, no matter where your team is working from.
1. RISK-RANK YOUR PROJECTS
Short on staff? The pandemic saw lots of people leave fields they’d been in forever, including finance: uncertain their old jobs would ever return, or perhaps just taking the opportunity afforded by furloughing to make a career switch. If something of the sort has left you short on control room staff, one way around it is to risk-rank your projects. Until staffing levels in the control room normalize, prioritize the people you have available for the deals that mean the most to the firm and that carry the most risk. Consider gaining or retaining outsourced help to cover gaps. And if you haven’t yet automated your control room processes, now might be the perfect time. This might also be a good time to rotate job duties and cross-train the control room team—never a bad thing.
2. CONTINUE TO SUPERVISE CLOSELY
When the pandemic struck, and you had the entire control room crew working remotely, you may have overdid things in your drive to maintain, well, control. It may be tempting to take your foot off the gas now, but with the hybrid-work model yet to be fully thought out and worked through from a compliance control room perspective, it’s probably not time to slow down just yet. Keep up the daily recaps and enhanced escalation protocols you put in place. Continue the daily touchpoints and stand-ups with control room colleagues to review major events and develop contingency plans as needed.
3. WHEN IN DOUBT, OVERCOMMUNICATE
Overcommunicate with trading, sales, research, and banking business clients, as well as control room and compliance compadres. Everyone has spent the last year or more trying to figure out how to respond to various new and rapidly changing situations and will continue to do so. Leverage and build on their knowledge as they leverage and build on yours. Continue to reach out and connect via Zoom and Teams, regardless of the video-conferencing fatigue we likely all feel; it works. And if your banking business clients are conducting weekly meetings or conference calls, don’t be shy; ask to participate in order to stay informed and stay on top of deals the firm has in motion as well as the related risk.
4. DOCUMENT THOUGHT PROCESSES AND DECISIONS
A firm’s control room can be something of a madhouse in the best of times, but these are, at the very least, trying times. So as you and your control room colleagues continue trying everything you can think of to keep deal teams conflict free, to keep communications properly channeled, and to keep MNPI locked down, document your thought processes and decisions as rigorously as you can. You may think you’re going to remember everything that’s working or not working for you, but in a fast-evolving firm operating environment there will only be so much your brain can take in, retain, and call up again when needed. Even at a high-level, a quick note that captures considerations may be helpful for future reference. The right control room automation software can be a big help in the documentation effort: giving you a single place to catalogue and record new policies and processes, and a single place from which everyone on the team can access them and put them to work.
5. STAY FLEXIBLE WITH YOUR PEOPLE
You were flexible with your control room staff over the past year, as the pandemic went through its ups and downs and society did its best to keep up. Stay flexible. You may have control room team members who are still juggling the responsibilities of work and family. Spouses may have evolving return-to-work plans, and schooling at this point can be fully onsite, fully offsite, or somewhere in between. And in the current competition for workers in many fields, something as simple as work flexibility could be the deciding factor in keeping good people around versus not, or attracting the people the firm really needs.