Speaker interview: Imtiaz Hussain

Imtiaz Hussain, Head of Audit UK, Ireland, BNY Mellon.

How is the work to improve conduct and culture impacting financial services firms?

Doing what’s right has always been the expectation for financial institutions. The recent financial crisis reminded us that not all of us were doing right by our customers and other stakeholders, and poor conduct in financial services was blamed. The renewed focus on culture and conduct now means firms have to embed conduct risk in their existing risk management framework. Firms that seek to extract value out of conduct risk management are defining conduct risk strategy, establishing conduct risk appetite and developing appropriate metrics to ensure that conduct agenda is considered throughout the customer lifecycle. Equally, the board and senior management are becoming more vocal on the conduct topic and setting the tone for right conduct, culture and behaviour. In the UK, the Senior Managers Regime further heightened the urgency to ensure conduct risk management permeates throughout financial services institutions.

What are the best ways to encourage staff to engage with the conduct agenda in their day-to-day activities?

Setting the tone from the top is key, as employees can look up to set of values and behaviours expected from top management. Also, a safe environment for people to speak up and voice concerns, and even rewarding such behaviours, encourage proactive management of conduct risk. All employees should be encouraged to embrace and demonstrate the concept of good customer outcome. One way to make this concept go viral in an organisation is story telling. It is through story telling that employees can contextualise what good and bad look like.

What are the keys to delivering high quality products and services, and a great user experience, while maintaining a robust conduct agenda?

Delivering better client experience and conduct risk management complement each other. As I mentioned previously, the key to delighting customers and giving them better experiences is to put the customer at the centre of what firms do. From product development to marketing and selling, and then servicing clients, employees should be able to identify conduct risk in the value chain and mitigate any risks associated with conduct.

How is the ever-increasing level of digitisation impacting conduct risk management?

Digitisation is driving change in the financial services business model, but it is also changing customer behavior and transforming customer experience. Digitisation certainly has an impact on a firm’s conduct risk profile and it is vital for organisations to manage the risks associated with this impact. This is precisely the reason why a firm should strive to establish a robust and resilient conduct risk management framework that is understood and bought in by staff at all levels.

What are the most powerful ways that firms can improve their conduct agendas?

For me, the two most powerful catalysts for improving the conduct risk agenda are first story telling (so people at all levels understand and live and breathe the conduct agenda), and second empowering them with tools and methods for better management of conduct risk. These include training staff regularly on conduct, establishing a robust conduct risk management framework, and encouraging conduct risk dialogue by incorporating the conduct agenda into existing policies and procedures, etc. It is important to recognise that, whilst setting tone at the top is vital, tone in the middle and tone at the bottom is absolutely critical for bringing the conduct agenda to life. Embedding conduct risk management will require everybody in the firm.