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Do businesses understand the true cost of compliance?

The compliance functionality in any enterprise is as integral as any cyber security team.

Yet, whilst compliance teams battle with an ever-changing array of regulatory compliance to combat increasing risk, their budgets over the last few years have been tightening which has created an exasperating situation, including having an inherent skills and technology shortage that cannot fill the gaps.

2022 saw an exponential rise in evolving threats and this warning from the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) – Russian invasion of Ukraine: operational and cyber resilience, March 2022

“You should consider your ability, and that of your third-party providers, to withstand a cyber-attack. You should take all appropriate steps to shore up your controls, including raising staff awareness: that may, for example, include re-running staff ethical phishing campaigns. Consider if your staffing levels are appropriate to deal with an elevated cyber risk.”

Research conducted by Thomson Reuters indicated that assessing cyber resilience remains a concern among compliance practitioners. However, the research showed that this has seen a reduction in 2022, more than half (55%) expect more compliance involvement in assessing cyber resilience however this was at 62% in 2021 and 56% in 2020.

Businesses are aware of the risks and challenges, but are they aware of the costs?

“Firms are well aware of the risks; to prepare for same, effective cybersecurity and IT governance and risk management is essential. Boards of firms should have an excellent picture of the risks their organisations are facing and how they are actively working to mitigate them.” “The role of financial regulation in building resilience, anticipating risk, and protecting citizens – in steady times and through shocks” – speech by Derville Rowland, Director General of Financial Conduct at the Central Bank of Ireland, March 2022

However, research conducted by QO with enterprise businesses recently indicated that enterprises in the UK do not have total visibility on the costs of compliance. Only 20% of enterprises asked could strongly agree that they had accurate costs.

This number is even more shocking when you review the figures per industry with particular concern in the finance sector, with only 30% of those asked strongly agreeing that they were aware of compliance expenditure.

Another highly regulated industry – manufacturing – also revealed shocking statistics where only 20% of those questioned could strongly agree with that statement too.

Take a look at some of our research results

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Are businesses preparing for the compliance demands though?

Our survey indicates that they are not!

In the same survey we conducted with enterprises, we asked them whether they prepared their compliance activities periodically in accordance with regulatory demands – only a meagre 16% answered that they did.

And yet, with all these pressures which we explored recently in our blog reviewing how automation can support these challenges, it was inconceivable to us that only 16% were actually preparing their compliance in line with current demands.

However, that too can be challenging as, with so much regulatory reform happening, we understand that to be able to prepare for regulatory change, when so much has such a lack of clarity, is almost inconceivable. So it was of no surprise to us that only 14% of enterprises that participated always maintained compliance readiness, but more staggering was the fact that that number was 0% in the financial sector.

Why are enterprises not aware of the costs?

We were interested in exploring why UK enterprises are not aware of the costs.

So much has been focused on tightening budgets and increasing demands on compliance teams, but when we investigated with enterprises per industry sector, what expenditure they actually tracked to obtain total visibility on compliance costs, the results were mixed with some tracking elements of costs but not tracking the whole picture.

Business and professional services and manufacturing fared fairly when asked if they tracked financial investment in any technology necessary for the compliance team to acquire data from other departments, with 67% and 58% respectively answering they did.

Financial services came in at 48% answering yes, they tracked this level of investment. Overall combined figures indicated that 47% of all enterprises tracked financial investment in any compliance tech.

Encouraging, yes?

However, tracking technology does not present the total picture and when questioned about the time spent processing or formatting data from other departments to make it usable by the compliance team revealed challenging results.

Poor performers included finance where only 43% actually tracked the time spent and, worse of all, the Business and professional services sector with only 17% reviewing these associated costs.

This is particularly revelatory when you review that combined only 42% participants actually did track this, however, even more concerning is the 30% of enterprises asked actually tracked the cost on the time spent by other departments in getting the necessary data together for compliance projects.

So how do we know the true costs then?

We don’t.

There’s one thing to track the financial investment into tech, but that does not provide a truly holistic view of the cost of compliance.

The enterprises we spoke to were not even able to review the cost of the time spent checking the veracity of internal data before submitting to external auditors. Financial services and retail distribution faired the worse with only 26% tracking these costs, with business and professional services the worst with only 17% tracking the associated costs.


So, do enterprises think they know the cost of compliance or are they only seeing part of the picture?

The QO view, is that it is misconception that cost only lies in the tech we implement; we must start measuring the time spent by our teams and understand the associated costs in terms of not only tech, but people power in order to have the breadth of understanding needed to understand where savings can be made, or investments made better. Sometimes it’s not always about the £ but about the cost in terms of the teams being over stretched, focusing on heavily manual tasks, rather than supporting operational resilience by focusing on more integral tasks.

Do you need help simplifying your compliance procedures?   

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Mark works with SMEs and charities to develop strategies to help them grow and access development capital. He is a NED, charity trustee and mentor to a wide range of people. His plural career started in 2017 after 16 years at pwc as a Deals partner working with large corporates and PE houses; at pwc he also ran the Retail and Consumer practice and was Chairman of the pwc UK Supervisory Board. Prior to pwc he was an executive director at Welcome Break and Iceland Group, and a partner at Bain and Company. He trained as an engineer at Imperial College and has an MBA from INSEAD. 

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Eamon Flavin

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Eamon is a highly regarded and massively respected technology career professional as well as serial entrepreneur. He has started, grown and successfully taken to market three technology business.

Genuinely expert in technology, Eamon has enjoyed long-term working relationships with many of the world’s top companies and organisations in finance, banking, government, manufacturing, engineering, technology and the charities sector.

He draws on unparalleled contacts and experience and provides advice, solutions and recommendations, as well as helping respond to emergencies. Eamon has grown in-house and client teams and has a gift for hiring great people.

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Peter has the ability to do what many fail to and that is to consistently bring together highly professional teams and build a business environment that is supportive, agile, professional and where everyone enjoys coming into the office.

Bringing a unique blend of business acumen and technical knowledge to the role of non-exec director, Peter has already demonstrated his ability to bring an exceptional flair for dealing with complex situations with a clear, considered approach.

Personally, Peter brings humility and a strong moral compass to the team. His disarming and self-deprecating approach wins everyone over.

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Anwen has worked in B2B and B2C marketing for over 20 years. From transforming end-to-end customer journeys in retail with strategic customer-centric plans to target driven focused strategies for B2B sales. With extensive experience in digital marketing including SEO, as well as Brand development, she loves to develop a cohesive approach to brand image and communications to drive and develop the business proposition and perception.

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Alice has worked in the IT industry for 20 years. Starting in Procurement, she moved into Software Asset Management before transitioning into Customer Success Management. Working across a variety of roles for different industries as both a customer and a service provider has given her a great understanding of what makes a great service. She has always been passionate about building and maintaining great customer relationships and helping her customers achieve their goals.

Owain Rowley

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Owain has spent nearly a decade building software solutions and products within the cyber security sphere for the likes of government entities, large telecommunication companies, banks and card transaction companies.

This level of experience allows him to swiftly identify business and security processes that can be streamlined with automation, increase the efficiency of existing processes, as well as generate insightful data visualisations and models for members of an organisation at each different level.

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Ami is a finance sector career professional, with many years’ experience working in financial services, both in London and throughout the UK. In addition to financial control, she looks after HR and legal for the company.

Being a mother of two also equips her with the basic skills required to manage a senior team of management and technology consultants.

Ami’s sense of balance and perspective is an essential ingredient of the Quod Orbis culture.

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Alastair has spent the last 20 years working in Cyber Security and Risk Management. He is a passionate believer that security solutions should enable a business to take advantage of all the benefits of the digital world, while not putting the organisation’s data or productivity at risk.

Alastair has developed high-performing teams in some of the industry’s most competitive markets and launched new innovative technologies to market.

Being a rugby coach, and also having four sons at home, means he has lots of experience in keeping a passionate team in order but always has time for some fun!

Gary Penolver


Gary has 15 years’ experience in senior technology roles, and has already been closely involved in starting and taking two technology companies to market.

Totally comfortable with a fast-moving, state-of-the-art technical landscape, he helps his clients maintain and improve security and compliance.

He has a reputation for delivering pragmatic and easy to maintain solutions – business owners and managers enjoy knowing that the security and compliance is well managed and automated, properly instrumented and reported at a competitive cost point.

Honest, open, unflappable and very social, Gary is trusted by many household-name organisations to protect their, and their client’s data.

Martin Greenfield


Martin is an experienced technology and organisational transformation specialist and an excellent, proven leader and communicator in mission-critical operations, particularly in security technology.

Over the past 20 years, multi-billion pound commercial organisations, including global banks, utilities and major investment funds have trusted Martin to transform their operations to meet financial, operational and compliance targets.

Martin optimises operations, managing and transforming operational teams of between 50 and 500 people, to deliver the highest levels of audit compliance, risk management and financial efficiency.

Often working with other major consultancies and suppliers for new global corporate owners or management teams, Martin will help integrate and streamline operations on a global basis.

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