A recently released nationwide survey provides numbers behind what should not be a surprise conclusion for most asset management professionals: Cybersecurity remains far and away the hottest topic among investment advisers, dwarfing other concerns like advertising, custody, privacy and fiduciary duty.
It is essential that accounting firms hired to perform audits - and their individual audit team members - have credibility, and that asset managers that hire such firms know they can rely on their work. Failure on the part of advisory firms and other financial institutions to ensure that those performing the audit are up to snuff may result in serious consequences.
The SECs recent share class initiative - in which the agency promises not to charge civil money penalties to advisers that voluntarily report that they placed clients in certain share classes when less expensive classes were available - has cast a spotlight on the question of whether self-reporting is a good idea.
Experienced chief compliance officers have a number of tools and practices at their disposal to ensure success at their jobs. One tool used by the savviest CCOs is a risk matrix: a continually updated, or living, chart that plots a changing list of compliance challenges against the risks they pose and actions taken to reduce those risks. If a CCO does not yet have a risk matrix in place, he or she would be wise to consider developing one.
Compliance is more than simply taking steps to satisfy regulators. If followed in spirit, with an eye toward ethics, compliance should be part of a culture where advisory firms do the right thing simply because it is right. In doing so, they will probably find that they are more likely to satisfy SEC requirements and thereby head off potential enforcement actions.
Advisers managing hedge funds, to a large extent, face many of the same issues that advisers managing other funds do. Requirements regarding fees and expenses, custody, books and records and more must be met. There are other compliance issues, however, where the SEC can be expected to pay particular attention to hedge funds - and managing advisers would be wise to make sure they are on top of them.
The past year saw a great deal of change and development in the asset management community, but three loom larger than others: A new SEC with Jay Clayton at the helm, bringing different priorities than his predecessor; exacerbating cybersecurity concerns, with the SEC itself one of the victims; and the Department of Labors Fiduciary Rule and its exemptions, delays in their taking effect, and the increasing likelihood of SEC involvement in the process.
Prognostication is always a bit of a guessing game. What may look like priorities in January may be replaced by other issues in the latter part of the year or may be driven by external and internal events, politics and the marketplace. Whatever may occur, 2018 is already marked as a year for change in the asset management industry.
The SECs Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations on November 7 issued a Risk Alert based on its observations from examinations of municipal advisers. The observations make clear that OCIE finds compliance lacking in at least three key areas: registration, recordkeeping and supervision.
Few chief compliance officers want to resign for any reason other than accepting a better offer at another firm. The reality, however, is that CCOs may find themselves in positions where, for compliance reasons and to protect their own career credibility, they have little choice but to consider resignation. The key is recognizing when those times arise and knowing how to extricate themselves from their errant firms safely.