For thousands of people in Hong Kong and Mainland China, going back to work after the celebrations for the Chinese New Year hasn’t been as simple as usual this year. It has been widely reported that – due to the coronavirus outbreak – businesses in the region had to implement special safety procedures, including arrangements to enable employees to work from home. As a result, remote working has quickly turned from a “nice to have” to a necessity in a matter of weeks.
Advocacy for remote working is a phenomenon that has been around for the last few years, but the current international situation has provided additional momentum for it. Apart from limiting direct contacts in cases of emergency, the traditional benefits of remote working include stress reduction (82% of remote workers report reduced stress levels), reduced gas emissions (it is estimated that remote workers could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 54 million tons every year by working from home half of the week), and increased productivity (partially working from home can result in a 12+% increase in productivity).
Undoubtedly, these were some of the reasons that drove me and my co-founders to set up our tech company Know Your Customer as a remote organisation from day one. But for us remote working also means access to a much larger pool of talent and the ability to provide coordinated support in key jurisdictions to our international customer base, maximising our business growth.
In just a few years, this approach empowered us to build a business with staff hailing from 16 countries and 4 continents, serving a client base spread across 18 countries around the globe.
The advantage of having a solid remote team with good working and personal relationships is also that it minimises the risk of staff feeling detached from the organisation. This then applies to all situations, whether it’s the case of a colleague travelling back from China and having to work from home for the WHO-recommended 2 weeks or our Hong Kong office staff looking to avoid public transport and minimise the risk of contagion.
Interestingly, the remote working mentality is so ingrained in our company culture that is also seamlessly reflected by the products designed by our distributed team. As ambitious as it might sound, our objective is to provide compliance software that revolutionises how we think about compliance work altogether.
As a cloud-based SaaS solution, we empower our clients to change their approach to anti-money laundering compliance and to the kind of work it entails. More specifically, through a digital-first yet fully secure approach, compliance teams at financial institutions and regulated companies can reap the productivity and flexibility benefits generated by remote working.
Compliance can thus evolve from a primarily office and paper based activity to a digital-first function that can be performed in multiple parts of the world simultaneously, powered by cloud-computing and protected by a robust security infrastructure.
More specifically, regulatory technology removes the need for in-person checks not only during the crucial phase of client onboarding, but also throughout the whole lifecycle of the client relationship.
RegTech solutions – when properly implemented – empower compliance teams to securely collect documents from their remote clients via multiple digital tools and instantly extract and verify the information provided through Optical Character Recognition and Artificial Intelligence. Compliance officers can then access and review all the collected information within one centralised online platform, automatically perform on-going AML monitoring and instantly receive alerts of any changes in the client’s situation or associated risk, irrespective of the location of both the client and the compliance officer.
In essence, the set-up of our organisation as well as the architecture of our own product have enabled us to keep supporting all our clients – including the ones in areas most affected by the coronavirus outbreak – for the last number of weeks, without any disruption in the providing of our services and products.
As the world becomes ever more complex and interconnected, it is almost impossible to predict where the next challenge to the traditional way of working will originate. For this reason, businesses set up in a way that allows for remote working for all their departments and functions – including compliance – will likely be in a better position to reduce the negative impact of unexpected emergencies in the years to come.