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The diverse approach to compliance

Posted by: Laurence Simons 08/05/15

How well are we recovering from the financial crisis? Speaking last week at a “Finance and Society” conference comprised solely of female participants in Washington D.C., Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen expressed her concern that banks still need to do more to connect with the rest of society.

International Monetary Fund boss Christine Lagarde, also present, agreed, suggesting that one such way of doing this would be to further open the highest ranks of the financial sector to women, as she suggests that they are less inclined towards risk-taking than their counterparts.  She posed the question: “What would have happened if the Lehman Brothers had been Lehman Sisters?”

But is there a concrete way of connecting with the public? And can confidence be restored, or will the big financial hubs of the world continue to be viewed in a mysterious light by those in other areas of society?

Some would suggest that compliance has taken the first steps towards answering these questions. Widely regarded as a progressive discipline, it is attracting sharp candidates from all areas of the sector, and operates under an umbrella of morality – by keeping the world of finance in line. But how far does the existence of compliance go in showing people that the industry has changed for the better? This is debatable – could this discipline itself face mistrust from society?

Yellen and Lagarde could be onto something – perhaps the inclusion of more women, on what a lot of academic research has identified as their collegiate approach, should be playing a bigger part in not just the overall financial services sector, but specifically in compliance. Because if their inclination away from risk-taking levels the playing field by guarding against patterns of economic highs and lows, public trust would assumingly increase at a directly proportional rate. 

So, we are definitely on the road to recovery. And perhaps, with greater diversity in compliance, the financial services sector could move down this road even faster.