Complacency is rife within the financial services industry as most companies are failing to prepare adequately to ensure compliance with the new FSA regulation ahead of the 2004 deadline.

By now most companies have made a positive first step by appointing a compliance officer but this doesn't go nearly far enough. Compliance officers face a mammoth task in reviewing and amending existing business processes and procedures, overhauling systems, educating employees - and remaining compliant from then onwards.

However, not many compliance officers have been given the right budgets or tools to work with, as companies look at compliance as a necessary evil and try to keep costs down to a minimum.

In the majority of companies, the role of the compliance officer is unclear and they are often still expected to continue their existing job function within the organisation, when implementing a compliance strategy is clearly a full-time position in itself.

Instead, companies should be looking to foster a culture of departmental responsibility for compliance. Departmental business managers are best positioned to review staff roles, competencies and business processes on a departmental basis, compiling this information and then reporting back to a compliance officer who is responsible for proving adherence at a corporate level.

If driven from the top, with responsibility shared by all, companies would be able to raise awareness of compliance as an important corporate issue, which affects every employee of any organisation operating in this sector.

Those companies that continue to bury their heads in the sand and hope that the compliance problem disappears will soon discover that they are putting the very future of the business and its employees at serious risk.

Shabbir Osman
Professional services director
Eclipse Computing