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Yes you can (but should you?)

Regulatory Reporting…Whose Problem is it Anyway?

By Synthesis Steyn Basson

Over the course of the last year, we have all been forced to work from home a lot more than ever before. And if you are like me, you will have realised quite quickly that we weren’t quite set up for this new way of work. I am not referring to needing to become teachers overnight, and I am not referring to load shedding helping us “go green” through ad-hoc energy reduction programmes.

I’m referring to having a dedicated place to work.

What does that mean? A place that is protected from kids, pets, and the random hadada that seem intent on invading client meetings. Overnight kitchen tables and dining room tables became offices. Bookrack and picture frame sales went through the roof as people realised they make a perfect backdrop. Others realised a cheaper option was to use fake/blurred backgrounds, but they too have died along with everything else that lacks authenticity.

I for one was very much caught offsides. Whereas I managed to rig up a temporary solution that would work, it was clear that it had a limited lifespan as a dedicated workspace. Fortunately, we were planning on doing some minor renovations to our house anyway, and this presented the perfect opportunity to repurpose an existing area of the home into a dedicated office space.

Although it seemed we would have no choice but to get professional builders involved, my fear of spending money made me flirt with the idea of doing it myself.

It was at this point in time that my wife, who seems to have a better memory that I do, played dirty and reminded me of my recent past. Unkindly she dredged up the time that I accidentally fell through the ceiling when I was trying to fix the geyser. And the time I put a pickaxe through the swimming pool pump when trying to remove an old tree-stump. And finished with a recollection of my adventures in plumbing (also known as “how to build an ad-hoc indoor pool”).

I initially put up an impressive fight, but when I walked into the living room a few days later with pieces of plasterboard hanging from my clothes and old dried leaves and roof insulation in my hair, I knew my goose was cooked (I refer to this as the Britney part of the saga – as in “Whoops I did it again”).

It was therefore unanimously decided (by my wife) that we would be outsourcing the project. In hindsight, I do accept that although the cost in the short term was more than I would have liked, once I factor in the potential costs to fix some of the issues, I would most likely have introduced (ceiling boards are expensive), as well as the quality and reliability of my changes and added maintenance in the medium to long term, the costs were well worth it. Add onto that helping me past pitfalls such as not having the right legal documentation and permits in place, and it is clear that outsourcing reduced the overall project risks and potential costs quite significantly.

In addition, the outsourced process added benefits that I had not anticipated before – apart from general building quality and reliability (and a shorter time to completion), there were some very cool bells and whistles that was added during the building process that would not have been an option for me.

Which raises the question: Yes you can change the electrical wiring in your roof yourself, but should you?”

A similar scenario has come up a few years ago with a friend of mine when it came to submitting their own tax returns. They managed to save a lot of money in the short term by not making use of a tax consultant, but when they missed/misinterpreted an item when filing season rolled around (and their own tax situation had changed slightly), they found themselves on the hook for a fine that was a few orders of magnitude larger than the tax consulting costs would have been.

“Yes you can file your own taxes when things get complicated, but should you?”

The above reminds me of regulatory reporting. A lot of organisations have decided that the costs of doing an outsourced solution isn’t worth it when compared to the costs of implementing the solution internally. And certainly, there are often some (short-term) benefits to this approach, mainly lower initial costs.

This does ignore some of the potential pitfalls however: Issues such as key-man dependence, unneeded pressure when submission season rolls around, extremely late nights, the fear of regulatory fines, and the inability to modify software to comply to regulatory changes are just some of the challenges that come to mind.

Leveraging (non-competitive) solutions that have been tested across the entire industry also significantly reduces risk of non-compliance.

In addition, valuable side benefits are often lost when following and internal-only approach. e.g., the ability to make a significant difference to the quality of your data by applying industry-tested automated cleaning approaches, or the insight that a third-party tool can provide when it comes to aggregating your reports and providing information regarding the data.

The company I work for (Synthesis Software Technologies) provides a regulatory reporting solution, and I have commented to a colleague in the past that we generally tend to end up in front of new prospective clients for one of two reasons:

  • They are reviewing current processes and have come to the conclusion that either their current process is not working, or there is a more strategic approach that would work better.
  • They have just been hit with a massive fine by a regulator (or at a minimum the threat of a fine) and anything less than a redo won’t work.

I wish I could claim that we have more meetings due to the former than the latter, but unfortunately, that is not the case.

The above is partly the reason why this is a topic that I am quite passionate about, and that I will most likely write more on somewhere in the near future. Right after I have replaced the brakes on my car myself with the DIY kit I bought. I’ve never worked on a car in my life, but when it comes to changing my brakes, I am confident I can.

But should I?