Coronavirus - Supervision in a broader context in a locked down world
Photo by Mati Flo on Unsplash
So how do you go about this supervision thing when you’re all isolated?
There’s much that’s written elsewhere on the Teal Compliance website about the ways in which you can effectively implement a robust supervision system when we’re all working in different locations.
But there are wider implications just in the general good governance sphere of running a business in a thoroughly business-like way. Supervision isn’t just the lynchpin of SRA Principle-Centric, well-delivered legal advice. Other regulatory standards, particularly AML, Lexcel and GDPR/DPA, set it at the heart of effective compliance delivery. And looking at it from a purely common-sense point of view, why wouldn’t you have very clear definitions of roles and their ceilings and reporting and escalation lines right through to COLP, COFA, and DPO level?
It’s something of a truism, but actually having the right people in the right roles is crucial to being able to demonstrate effective Governance. It’s not just a question of seniority or experience – although these are obviously factors to consider.
We will also need to bring into the mix: -
how potential supervisors manage their own workloads; and
whether they have the capacity to take on additional responsibilities;
what their style is like – are they empathetic and constructive with their supervisees?;
their capability to act as a catalyst to encourage more junior colleagues to identify, address and sort their own problems;
whether they are they good teachers;
how they are able to interact with their own supervisors.
These are complex areas to identify but they are all crucial in getting the right person in the right role.
The best forum for identifying them is in the firm’s Personal Development Review system.
Does your firm’s system cover these areas effectively and is it fit for purpose?
Really important meetings in this context are very difficult to deal with remotely as it is easy to miss the nuances that can come through (for example in body language) in a real world one to one.
However, as we get used to dealing with matters in a virtual world then it may be an aspect that will become more commonplace. Preparation work in the completion and consideration of questionnaires and answers certainly can be carried out. Interim follow up/catch up/ periodic or weekly one to ones could also be developed to operate virtually.
All the above is likely to beg the question of relevance when we’re all in crisis-handling mode and trying to ensure financial survival. But surely we owe it to our firms to broaden the scope of what survival means as soon as we possibly can?
Things aren’t likely to return to the status quo ante and we need to plan to what changes we are likely to have to adapt and how we can deliver effectively. A well-structured and organised firm is far more likely to survive viably to enable it to move forward when things eventually return to normality. We need to look behind the bare text of what the Regulations say and look at what it seeks to achieve and harness this so that it forms a useful and integral part of our firms’ core strategies. Compliance doesn’t have to be an enemy!
Given that in the immediate future we are likely to have more time on our hands due to the drop in new matters coming on stream, where could we start? Try breaking down the task into manageable chunks; involve your team in the thinking process; review how effectively the supervision structures and procedures are working in your firm.
Some of the tasks will be:
Defining the scope of the roles;
Defining the person qualities;
Identifying potential candidates;
Defining the firm’s structure graphically and developing it into an organogram.
Effective structures are pointers to a well-organised entity that has a strong belief in good governance principles. They’re usually aware of how they work best – and it’s a short step from there to a well-maintained bottom line with the capability to grow when some semblance of normality returns.
There’s a real opportunity here – but we’ll be either broke or too busy fee-earning to seize it when we’re the other side of the COVID-19 crisis – so grab hold of it now!