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June 15, 2022

Women in Compliance Part 3: Livia Benisty shares tips on how to successfully scale up a compliance team

by
Carol Lemos
EMEA Marketing Director

I have recently posted about our conversations with two panelists from ourWomen in Compliance webinar, Stephanie Feldt, Chief Compliance Officer & General Counsel at Trading.com and Shelley Schachter-Cahm, Chief Compliance Officer at CEX.io. Today, I’ll tell you more about our chat with Livia Benisty, Global Head of Business AML at Banking Circle.

Livia has a wealth of experience in the Financial Services industry, having worked for all sorts of organisations, from Tier 1 banks, to FinTech startups and, more recently, RegTech companies. She spent the last two years scaling up a financial crime prevention team to support a high-growth business. This was the topic of our discussion.

The main challenges organisations face as they look to scale up

When faced with the task of successfully growing her team, in addition to changing the mindset from acting as an AML advisory specialist, focused on regulations and risk management, Livia asked herself the following questions: How do I do this? What do I tackle, and in what order? What’s the bigger picture?

According to Livia, you can build a team that works from an AML perspective, based on people’s experiences and skills, but actually, this team sits within the wider context of an organisation. So you have to ask yourself what you’re trying to achieve, who your main stakeholders are and how the AML team fits into that specific context. 

“Figuring all of this out was the main challenge. What I learned throughout doing it, and didn’t always get right the first time, was that you should start with people, then go to processes and then go to tech”, she said. 

Starting with people 

As much as there are RegTech solutions available to deal with most business problems and automate most processes, Livia believes you need to start with people. Hiring people on a timely basis is perhaps the most important thing you can do to successfully scale your business. “People are the absolute core of what you’re doing”, adds Livia. They can bring in their experience, help develop great processes and policies. These will, in turn, make an impact on your business. Then, you can automate and add the technology layer on top of a good underlying procedure foundation.

The (not so) new skill sets for compliance professionals

While hard skills will always be key, the right soft skills are becoming increasingly important when hiring compliance AML professionals. You will need regulatory specialists, operational experts and all other skills that the job requires, but the breadth of stakeholders that a compliance or AML officer needs to engage with these days is a lot broader than ever before. This has impacted the level of expertise and the nature of the language they have to use in conversations, so being commercially aware and communicating well are extremely important traits. 

A key aspect that has changed a lot, especially when it comes to FinTech companies, is that the compliance person needs to interact more frequently with technology. Tech skills became fundamental, for at least a proportion of Livia’s team. 

“I have just hired someone who has SQL and Python skills because it was absolutely essential. I needed someone that could help me assess business requirement docs, do testing, go and run queries. I needed that specific skill set in an AML team. But also the ability to talk to engineers, to win them over, to be their friend, it is often a very different skill set, a very different personality type. Knowing how to handle that is absolutely essential, and that's probably what's driven the team forward the most in the last couple of years”, she concludes.

Finding the right talent

In today’s candidate-driven market, attracting top talent has never been harder. When asked about how to balance the process of finding the right candidate and making sure you’re able to move quickly to get them hired, Livia agreed that it is very hard to hire people at the moment. She advised splitting the team’s needs. When you need to scale up quickly, you do need to get bodies in the door, but you also need specialists. You should try and understand where you need one profile vs. the other. Don’t panic-hire, recognise where you need alphas or superstars. You need people who want to develop quickly and take on everything in your team but you don’t want a whole team that wants to be CEO in six months. You also need people who are really happy doing their job, who really enjoy it, do it well and are content to stay there for the foreseeable future.

The role of technology 

On how technology supports a compliance programme, Livia said that, just like pretty much everything at the moment, compliance is about data. It’s about gathering it, entering it where it needs to be and analysing it. 

According to her, compliance technology can be used to automate low-value, time-consuming tasks, such as gathering and entering data. This allows the rockstars in your team to focus on what they like to do and be motivated in their jobs. Technology can also help with the analysis of the data. “You definitely need humans to be able to conduct that analysis, and that’s what makes the jobs more interesting. But a lot of that analysis, with the huge amount of data, can’t be done by humans”, she adds.

Are you considering investing in compliance technology? You might want to read this report on Why RegTech is heating up across high-growth companies and this eBook that provides 8 reasons to invest in a policy management platform today.

For my next post, I’ll bring you a summary of our conversation with Jessica Sanderson, Partner at The Volkov Law Group, on dealing with policy violation and internal control failure. 

Here you can view our conversation with Livia.