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Regulation

Corporate compliance rules too bureaucratic, hard to understand for employees, survey finds

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 May, 2017, 5:19pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 May, 2017, 5:19pm

Companies have invested time and resources in boosting their compliance systems, but this has had little effect on employees’ understanding of fraud and corruption, according to professional services firm EY.

Of respondents to an EY survey, 85 per cent in Asia-Pacific said that they wanted their companies to simplify and localise compliance policies to make them more understandable.

Among Hong Kong respondents, 86 per cent also expressed a desire for simpler, localised compliance.

“This is a wake up call. More than ever before employees want to work for compliant organisations, but policies and procedures are not having the right impact. They lack clarity, they are full of legal jargon, and are not localised,” said EY Asia-Pacific leader for fraud investigations and dispute services Chris Fordham.

“It is not a case that employees don’t want to be compliant, but that they don’t understand what they need to do. This is even more of the case when it comes to millennials.”

The survey found that younger employees were more likely than their older counterparts to perceive potentially fraudulent behaviour as acceptable.

“This is not because millennials are more corrupt, but because their older colleagues have seen the consequences of employees getting involved in this kind of behaviour,” Fordham said.

“Management need to offer more education and training.”

Of millennials polled in Asia Pacific, 39 per cent said that they felt it was justified to offer cash payments to win or retain business, as opposed to 28 per cent from other age groups.

However, even though younger respondents were more accepting of corrupt practises than their older peers, four in five said that they would look for another job if their organisation was involved in a major fraud bribery or corruption case.

Companies around the world have been facing tighter scrutiny from regulators, and have responded by investing heavily in compliance staff and technology.

Financial services firms have been among the most affected, as they attempt to put their houses in order following a string of fines by regulators around the world, with anti-money laundering and know-your-customer regulations often cited as among the most troublesome.

In 2016, Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission initiated 55 per cent more enforcement actions against individual bankers or directors, as compared to 2015, according to law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

SFC enforcement actions jump 55 per cent in 2016

The impact of stricter regulation on financial services companies was generally found to be unfavourable in the EY report.

Of financial services respondents, 44 per cent said that regulation was having a negative impact on their business, driving up the costs and resources that are required for compliance.

“This number again reflects the need for better communication and training,” said Yu Manhim, a partner at EY specialising in financial crime compliance.

“Regulators, including the SFC and HKMA in Hong Kong have issued many new pieces of guidance, but the process of how these filter through to staff is having an impact on staff’s attitudes to regulation.”

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