Q&A with Joanne Smith – Founder and CEO of The Consulting Consortium

Joanne Smith is Founder and CEO of award-winning compliance firm The Consulting Consortium (TCC) and RecordSure, a pioneering technology which uses Artificial Intelligence to record and analyse conversations between a company’s sales force and its customers to prevent mis-selling.


What’s your elevator pitch?

I’m an entrepreneur and innovator with a passion for delivering better consumer outcomes through financial compliance.


What led you to set up your businesses?

In 2000 I was working at KPMG and completing my MBA when I suddenly realised I had no clear goals – so I gave myself a deadline of six weeks to choose one.

A day before the deadline I decided to start a business, and then everything moved very quickly. Three weeks later I’d quit my job, moved to London and secured my first three clients for TCC. Today we’re the UK’s largest independent compliance consultancy.

I founded my second business in 2012 when I realised that Artificial Intelligence could help solve some of the compliance issues facing financial institutions.

With 30 years’ experience compliance, I was well placed to see that technology could provide the protection and reassurance that firms and customers needed. So I committed substantial finances and recruited an amazing team to lead research and development.

In 2013 we launched RecordSure, a system which can record and analyse conversations between customers and staff (even if they’re face-to-face). By allowing firms to instantly provide a recording of all their conversations with customers, we’re helping to rebuild levels of trust and transparency.

It also solves the major headache of record keeping. Why write and store notes from customer conversations, when you can simply record them? Other benefits include improving the efficiency of compliance reviews and delivering comprehensive MI to provide real insight into customer behavior.


What issues and trends do you expect to see develop in compliance over the next year? 

Innovation and technology remains an area of focus for the FCA – it’s been included in its Risk Outlook/Business Plan priorities for the past three years.

From the regulator’s perspective, the development of ‘Robo’ services aren’t happening at the pace anticipated. Part of this issue could be over-use of the word to mean aspects of the services which are technology-enabled, such as factfinding, rather than a truly end-to-end ‘robo’ service.

There are also concerns about the way firms are utilising technology. For example, when technology is used to encourage ‘non-advised’ asset flows onto platforms at no initial cost, solely in order to secure a residual service/management fee. This is clearly not in the client’s best interest.

Finally, there is some unease about operational resilience – with the post-crisis regulatory regime putting some firms’ legacy IT systems under pressure. Adding new technologies onto older systems, or failing to maintain existing ones leads to the risk of service outages.


What challenges are the FinTech and RegTech industries facing?

It’s a fascinating time. On one hand digital technology is transforming companies and has the ability to positively impact on all parts of the value chain. On the other there remains the risk that emerging or unproven technologies may cause harm to individual firms, consumers or the reputation of the industry.

There is a general lack of in-depth technical/systems knowledge at board level, which is surprising given the critical role it plays. Research by Accenture shows that only 6% of board members have professional backgrounds in technology, with 43% of banks having no professional technology expertise on the board. Having expertise at this level is critical to identifying emerging risks, remaining competitive and satisfying regulatory expectations.


What opportunities are there?

Big Data is ‘Big Opportunity’. As an industry we have rapidly expanding access to huge volumes of data that can be used to inform all aspects of a firm’s operation, from fraud prevention and the customer experience to performance management and operational resilience.

But if firms don’t leverage this insight, then the ability to identify areas where innovation could be beneficial will be lost.

Without the right metrics and a thorough understanding of the expected and unexpected data outputs, negative contra-indicators may go unnoticed. For example, where low engagement levels on a platform indicates that clients are paying for features which are not being utilised.

Firms should be exploring technologies that enable them to improve their spans of control, while delivering value by improving the customer experience or controlling the cost of compliance.


What are you most proud of so far this year?

I’ve been delighted to win awards at the First Women, WCIT Enterprise and National Women in Business Awards this year, and we’ve just been announced as a finalist in the National Business Awards – so I’m keeping my fingers firmly crossed for that too.


What are your plans for the next 12 months, and beyond?

We’re looking to take RecordSure system not only outside of the UK (it’s already fully-equipped for international use), but into other industries too. The healthcare and utilities sectors in particular also interact with customers in a way that also requires high levels of compliance.

The system can be used in other ways too. By monitoring and analysing conversations we can also ensure customers are receiving excellence service, glean insight to inform business decisions, or identify opportunities and areas of improvement. So really it’s a valuable tool for any business having regular conversations with its customers.