Ensuring that NFU Mutual meets all its regulatory obligations, continues to deliver good outcomes for customers and remains a top UK insurer is a vital task. Our Conduct Regulation Assurance team is at the heart of this. We sat down with some of the team to find out how they achieve this and what they enjoy most about their work.

Firstly, can you start by giving us an idea of what your work involves?
“Essentially, we provide assurance to the board that the group is meeting its regulatory conduct obligations and we’re doing right by the customer,” says Raluca Boroianu-Omura, Head of Conduct Regulation Assurance. “NFU Mutual is in the market to make sure customers get the right products, have the best-in-class customer experience and the best possible customer care. So, a lot of our work is to make sure that continues, by making sure that we’re always hitting the right mark for our customers.”

Kate Brain, a Compliance Analyst in the team, explains how this works in practice. “We conduct a variety of reviews across the business. We have a team that looks at risk-based reviews, who cover regulatory conduct risks and the control environment, including testing the controls in operation. And then we have a team that focuses on identified regulatory conduct and customer outcomes.” She goes on to explain that they also conduct reviews around particular themes, known as Thematic reviews. “These could be led by a change in regulations, or the introduction of new systems, or following a project. We need to make sure we give that oversight and comfort to the board and the senior management.”

As an example of one of these thematic reviews, Christian Stewart, a Compliance Team Leader, mentions an on-going review into the end-to-end customer journey. “That’s quite interesting, because it’s a specific theme but it’s also quite broad,” he explains. “So, we’re not just focusing on one business area; we’re working across a range of areas and really getting into the detail of what their approaches mean to the customer.”

It sounds like what you’re doing has a huge impact on the overall business.
“Oh, it does,” agrees Kamlesh Parbat, a Conduct Regulation Assurance Specialist. “Putting the customer at the heart of what we do is crucial to us, so it’s important that our assurance process helps us to support our colleagues across the business in meeting FCA regulatory requirements and delivering good customer outcomes.

Raluca points out that the focus in all the team’s reviews is to help the business improve. “At the end of reviews, we’ll make recommendations on how things can be improved further”, she says. The emphasis is always around how we can help NFU Mutual continue its success by making sure we consistently give customers good outcomes and the best possible experience.”

How does that work on a day-to-day basis?
Paul Richards, a Conduct Regulation Assurance Specialist in the team, explains that under NFU Mutual's devolved compliance model, each business area is responsible for complying with the regulations and making sure they’re delivering good customer outcomes. “They’re supported by Compliance Consultants, who act like business partners, understanding the team’s compliance requirements and advising team members,” he says. “Then we come in as a more independent function to test whether they’re hitting the mark, checking their controls are working and they’re actually achieving what we want them to achieve.”

So, when it comes to the team’s reviews, there are various stages, as Christian explains: “In the planning and research stage, we work with the Compliance Consultants to understand the particular part of the business in a bit more detail,” he says. “And we’ll also liaise with the relevant business areas directly, to help formulate the scope of the review.”

He adds that this interaction allows the team to let the business area know their ideas in terms of adding value and achieving good customer outcomes. “Then we’ll work with the business area to define the scope,” he continues. “It may be our review, but we want to get their buy-in, expertise and involvement. We work closely with them throughout the on-site and testing phase, visiting them to understand their systems and controls, and potentially conducting interviews. And before the reporting phase, we’ll have a meeting to discuss the findings.”

Paul says that, for him, this part of the process – getting under the skin of a business area – is what he enjoys most. “I’ve got a naturally enquiring mind and love finding out how things work and joining the dots,” he says. “The scope document sets out the required outcome for the customer or the regulator. You then need to sit with people, ask open questions, get them to talk you through how they do things and show you the evidence that outcomes have been achieved.”

So, do you need to develop strong working relationships?
The team all agree that this is a key skill and Kamlesh adds that, for him, it’s one of the most important parts of his role. “As you can tell, our review process has so many different touchpoints with the business area we’re reviewing,” he says. “So, we need to be able to engage positively with colleagues across the business, building relationships quite quickly with business areas who may not know us.”

Raluca emphasises that their work requires a combination of technical expertise and people skills, and she outlines the kind of people who thrive in the team. “It’s the people who can build networks and work collaboratively with everyone,” she explains. “They want to get a consensus and develop those wide networks. It’s about being able to persuade, negotiate, and sell an idea of what’s in it for the business area. That’s all important.”

She adds that one of the features of the team is that everyone approaches this differently. “We don’t have a prescribed way of building a network or a relationship,” she points out. “It’s about being able to adapt to the partners you’re engaging with. So, each team member will have their own approach to managing the stakeholders, and that’s wonderful, because we can mix and match them to what the business needs.” She says this is one of the aspects of working at NFU Mutual that she enjoys most: “I get to interact with a complete mix of people, both in our team and outside it. That kind of variety is really stimulating.”

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