To get you ready for a month of blogs on everything control room—including a game-changing Compliance Control Room update—we offer this primer on what to look for when shopping for control room software
Before the end of 2020, StarCompliance will release its latest version of Compliance Control Room—the automated control room software solution that’s changing the way financial firms clear deals and manage risk. Over the next five weeks in this space, we’ll be covering the new product launch, talking to control room experts from Star and beyond, and offering a sneak preview of our upcoming e-book—The Compliance Control Room Handbook. Today, just to refresh your memory on the control room function, we’re going to start you off with this control room primer—the five features any control room software worth its salt should have. Enjoy.
1. EASE OF USEThis should go without saying, but for as long as software in all its forms has been around, regrettably it cannot. There's still plenty of enterprise-level software out there that isn't designed first and foremost with end users in mind. Your end users in this case are going to be control room officers and deal team members, and they’re going to put your control room software through its paces every single day.
A graphical interface that users can intuitively navigate—the first thing users see—should also be the first thing you look for in control room software. Consumer software companies figured this out a long time ago, and business software companies finally are, too. End users should be able to easily create new deals with processes like step-by-step wizards, which gather all deal-related information needed by compliance for review, clearance, and even audit purposes. End users should also be able to maintain and update active deals across multiple jurisdictions, view key information, and initiate workflow requests from a single, centralized platform.
Control room officers and deal-team bankers are the elite of their professions, and have a lot of high-level focus placed on their performance. Control room software that's intuitive and easy for these frontline people to use will mean deals get cleared more quickly with less risk to the firm.
2. EASE OF INTEGRATIONEase of integration is the kind of business software feature that is all too easily, and all too often, overlooked. For your control room software to really do its job—to operate at its utmost capacity so teams can crosscheck and analyze deal-critical data and surface potential conflicts from across the firm—it must be connected to other firm systems. These can include deal management, human resources, research, and also your employee conflicts monitoring system. When your new control room software is being implemented, one of the priorities of the vendor team will be integrating it with these existing systems.
Software built with ease of integration in mind will make your implementation go more smoothly and more quickly. It will also help keep data flowing dependably when your new control room platform is up and running and really being counted on day-to-day. And in an age when firms depend on external apps to conduct their core business activities as much as they do internal apps, easy integrations can make all the difference when it comes to control room software. Modern control room software is an aggregator. An information centralizer. Putting as much deal data as possible into one place. All of this adds up to simplified scanning of key information, which translates into faster decision making, safer decision making, and clearer insights for control room officers.
3. THE BROADEST POSSIBLE VIEW OF MNPIThere's a lot of deal-critical information zipping around a financial firm at any given time. Material non-public information. MNPI. And this MNPI is in no way guaranteed to only originate from a firm's deal side. It can just as easily originate from the public side. But you can't manage what you don't know, and no matter where it comes from, unaccounted-for MNPI can endanger deals and reputations.
Keeping track of all this information is one of a control room's most important tasks. Thus, software that provides your team with the broadest possible view of MNPI is mission critical. Look for a platform that provides a window into a firm's public side and its deal side, with a firm-wide reporting capability that allows people anywhere in the company to quickly and easily report receipt of MNPI—ensuring the activity in question makes its way to the control room and the appropriate action is taken.
4. ASSURED DATA INTEGRITY AND DATA VISIBILITYA compliance software vendor needs to have its act together when it comes to securing client data. Look for a vendor that goes out of its way to reassure clients and prospects that any data it's tasked with handling is kept in a secure environment. This can include physical measures—like putting its servers in locked cages in a guarded facility—to network and application measures—like defense-in-depth technology and single sign-on. This kind of information should be readily available to those interested in finding out, including on the company’s website.
Data integrity and data visibility also gets at the idea that a financial firm's control room needs to be the place all deal-related data flows into to be organized, analyzed, and recorded. And control room officers as well as compliance leadership need to have utter confidence that everything that passes through this information nexus is there not just for immediate analysis and deal-clearing purposes, but also for later examination. Proper recordkeeping and order trails, then, are as vital a feature as any when it comes to choosing control room software. Good software should be able to maintain a detailed audit trail for every change, creation, or deletion event. It should also be able to generate meaningful management information on every key aspect of deal activity, including conflicts, breaches, and resolutions. All this for any deal the firm has in motion at any point in the deal lifecycle.
5. A FOCUS ON CENTRALIZING AND STREAMLININGTruly, from this capability everything else listed above flows. Control rooms are firm nerve centers and beyond busy. Software should be built from the ground up to centralize, streamline, and do everything possible to simplify control room operations. For financial firms that operate both nationally and internationally, this means giving all stakeholders—deal-team members, control-room teams, and compliance leadership—a single, globally connected platform from which they can make deal updates, initiate workflow requests, and view key deal information and data. Managing watch lists and restricted lists is another activity at the top of a control room's to-do list. Look for software that has comprehensive list-management capabilities, ideally with the capacity to associate entries down to the project level and type of required restriction, as well as publish watch lists or restricted lists to downstream systems. Having a crush of deals in motion is a great thing for your enterprise financial firm, so long as your control room team can stay on top of it all.
Steve Brown, a control room veteran who’s collaborating with Star on the upcoming e-book mentioned earlier, had this to say about how much the job has changed since he started, nearly 30 years ago, and the difference technology and automation have made in the life of a control room officer: “It's about tracking relationships and behavior from a supervisory and control perspective, regardless of how big or sophisticated the firm. You're always looking for patterns. That’s where software and automation really help: spotting relationships and patterns. The more you know, the easier you can monitor multiple sources, and the better off your firm will be."