One area that has bedeviled Chief Compliance Officers (CCOs) and compliance practitioners is how to determine the return on investment (ROI) for your compliance program regarding the management of third parties. While it is still clear that third parties are the greatest risk in Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) enforcement actions, senior management often wants to know what is the monetary benefit to the company for this type of risk management.
When you couple the request for ROI with the recent Department of Justice (DOJ) mandate for the operationalization of your compliance program, as articulated in the Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs, it may seem like a doubly daunting task. However the requirement for operationalization of your compliance program actually lends itself to formulating ROI around the risk management of third parties. This is because if you move the third-party compliance into the organization as a business process, with a technological solution, the ROI becomes not only clearer but easier to calculate going forward.
I recently read a study by Forrester Research Inc., commissioned by Prevalent, Inc., which suggests an approach for the anti-corruption compliance practitioner. The study is entitled “The Total Economic Impact of Prevalent’s 3rd Party Risk Management Solutions”. In this study, Forrester compared the experience of a user of Prevalent’s products both before and after the installation of the solution. This led to a finding of a positive ROI for the technology user around third-party risk management. I found the approach and methodology used persuasive and valuable for the compliance professional to consider in evaluating such a process in your organization.
Some of the key findings readily translate across for the anti-corruption compliance practitioner. The first area was in risk assessments of third parties. If you are able to provide a technological platform, you can enhance both the speed and efficiency of your risk assessments on an ongoing basis. The decrease in time it would take for each risk assessment, both in terms of length and compliance department man-hours will yield an immediate cost saving for your compliance function.
Consider just two of the steps required in the lifecycle management of third parties, the questionnaire and due diligence. Both steps can be not only be labor intensive to complete and analyze but the cycles of time spend sending out a questionnaire, receiving a completed form and then inputting the information into a spreadsheet for manual analysis can be quite time consuming. It usually involves the basic tools of spreadsheets, interviews, Internet searches and additional questionnaires. By tailoring your questionnaire to the specific risk areas and using logical question design you can reduce confusion and therefore decrease the cycle of response time. Additionally, in the final step of managing the relationship there is often not only a dearth of data but usually the data is in such a siloed format that (1) it cannot be utilized between corporate functions and (2) there can be no meaningful comparison across the third parties. Through standardized questions and responses, this data can be compared across the spectrum of third parties.
In addition to the increased efficiency in the compliance portion of this analysis, by operationalizing your third-party risk management in this manner, you increase business efficiency by bringing in more dollars more quickly for third parties on the sales side. For third parties on the Supply Chain (SC) side, the efficiencies turn on your use of their products or services more quickly in business critical elements of your company. Simply put, approving third parties and incorporating them into your business cycle will not only save your money more quickly and efficiently but also make you money more quickly and efficiently.
Using a tool that incorporates Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform would also allow a more comprehensive review of data and information for several reasons. Firstly the various types of data is not siloed but stored in a centralized platform. Second, having this type of data allows for not only an ongoing review of each third-party but also allows you to review historical trends. This enables you to move from detection to prevention and possibly even delivery of a prescriptive solution before an issue arises to a full-blown FCPA violation. You would also be able to garner a better understanding of relationships across industry sectors and countries with a bigger picture look.
Obviously you will need to set the parameters for the risks to be assessed but more clearly in the FCPA they deal with third parties who are or who have, as owners, Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs), the inability to account for discretionary funds such as marketing or other expenses was seen in the recent Mondelez FCPA enforcement action, or reaching back the Oracle FCPA enforcement action, payments to offshore locations or unusual commission or other payments tied 100% to sales. Not only would your company have more and greater visibility into such issues but the range of third parties you could monitor would increase, perhaps at an exponential rate. As with the cost savings of the initial risk assessment, there would be similar savings for ongoing monitoring in the area of greater efficiency and need for smaller headcount from the compliance function to perform such ongoing monitoring.
The speed and robustness of this database is a key element in operationalizing your compliance program in the area of third parties. The prevent component of any compliance regime is improved as you would have better visibility into potential non-compliant third parties which you may have to discharge. You would also have the ability to work with non-compliant third parties to remedy any issues before they become legal violations and then recommend extra monitoring as appropriate.
Using the above as a guide the ROI calculation would be something along the lines of the number total number of hours spent on each risk assessment x the total risk assessments performed x the hourly rate of the compliance professional performing the services. So if you spend 20 hours on 50 risk assessments and the hourly rate for your in-house compliance professional is $100, the ROI is $100,000. Now just think of what that number would be around third parties if the SC third parties runs into the thousands. Even with a round number of 1,000 for such third parties, your ROI increases to $2MM. Of course you have to subtract out the cost for any technological solution but with these types of efficiencies, your ROI will still be quite impressive.
There are a wide variety of other factors that could increase your ROI, as detailed in the Forrester report, which include renewal assessments, ongoing monitoring, increase in business efficiencies for both your organization and the third parties, which would all work to uplift your ROI. Most critically you would demonstrate the operationalization of your compliance program into the very fabric of your organization.
This area of ROI in your third-party management is one topic that I will be exploring at the upcoming Third-Party Risk Management & Oversight Summit. I will be joined for a panel on this topic by Jen Warner, Vice-President Compliance & Chief Development Officer of the Ashe Legal Group and Forrest Deegan, the Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer for Abercrombie & Fitch. The event will be held on March 20 & 21 at the Princeton Club in New York City. Readers of this blog will receive a 15% discount off of the regular event price. To take advantage of the offer enter the Code CMP 161. For more information on the event, check out the website by clicking here.
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© Thomas R. Fox, 2017