By Lisa Charles

Like many others, I spent Halloween at the annual Compliance Conference 2017. This was the 5th compliance conference and was well attended with 1400 registered for the event and over a 1000 in attendance.

The event was chaired by Clive Colman, who made a good job of lightening the compliance mood.  Enid Rowlands, the SRA chair welcomed everyone to the event, and the key message from her was to:

  • Get involved
  • Stay in touch
  • Respond to consultations
  • Join the virtual reference group

She finished off her message with a few words in Welsh, which was a welcome treat for us welsh speakers.

Paul Phillip, SRA Chief Executive set out the SRA’s corporate strategy for the next three years, there are 5 strategic aims, namely:

  1. We will set and apply consistently high professional standards for the individuals and firms we regulate and make sure they appropriate to meet the challenges of today and the future
  2. We will make sure our regulatory requirements are proportionate, providing solicitors and firms with the flexibility to innovate and better meet the needs of members of the public and businesses, while maintaining appropriate levels of public protection.
  3. We will increase the availability of relevant and timely information to help people make informed choices in the legal services market
  4. We will make sure that our regulatory arrangements work as effectively as possible for the public, businesses, solicitors and firms in the context of constitutional developments within the UK and any new relationship with the EU.
  5. We will work better together and with others to improve our overall effectiveness, our responsiveness and the delivery of our regulatory functions.

Paul Phillip echoed Enid Rowlands’ message that the SRA wanted to hear from the profession and the pubic and encouraged delegates to attend the SRA stand at the event or talk to SRA members during the breaks.

In fairness, the message throughout the day was to feedback to the SRA on their initiatives and it was good to see that some comments from delegates following last year’s compliance conference had been taken on board (e.g. degree or equivalent experience a requirement before taking the SQE and the definition of client money was not changed to such a degree as originally proposed).

I admit I haven’t read the SRA’s corporate strategy from cover to cover (full marks to those of you who have!), so it was interesting to hear a summary of the SRA’s plans for the next three years.

The morning panel discussion was on the Solicitors Qualifying Exam, the new ‘super exam’! This obviously represents a massive change to a system that has been in place for a while. But is it really of direct relevance to compliance officers? My personal view is that seemed like the SRA was just pushing its own agenda.

It left me wondering, did the SRA consider what it wanted delegates to get out of the conference?

There were 4 workshops: GDPR, getting your firm ready; Cybercrime, managing risk; Better information, opportunities and choice; Looking to the future, Handbook reform. I had registered to attend the Looking to the future and Better Information workshops.

Both the Looking to the future: handbook reform and the better information: opportunities and choice workshops were interesting. There were a variety of speakers and interesting panel discussions. We had some really good questions from the audience, although some of the responses from the panel were disappointing, it seemed to be either ‘we have considered that but disregarded it’ or ‘thank you for that question, we will make a note of it and please remember to respond to the consultation’.

The final panel discussion was on Keeping you and your firm safe. This involved a discussion on Money laundering, led by Donald Toon, Director of Prosperity at the NCA and a discussion on financial sanctions in the UK, with Rena Lalgie, Head of OFSI on the panel.

Mr Toon made some interesting points about the number of SARs from law firms being particularly low, and law firms not making SARs where financial institutions have. It appears that us lawyers have a lot of work to do on money laundering.

Under EU law, we have an obligation to report information to the OFSI that facilitates compliance with financial sanctions and to report suspected breaches.  It was good to know that the OFSI also have a helpline for general advice (Helpline: 02072705454).

So that’s it, another year another compliance conference. No doubt I will be back again next year and perhaps I will see you there?

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