How Red Oak Compliance is delivering innovative compliance technology solutions


Red Oak Compliance is uniquely positioned to understand the needs of compliance departments and the challenges they face. In an era of fast-paced regulatory requirements, the Great Resignation, and a squeeze on resources, this is invaluable.

Red Oak was founded in 2010 by a team of compliance and technology experts, Stephen Pope, Cathy Vasilev, and Rick Grashel.

Pope and Vasilev had experience building an internal advertising review solution when they worked together at a large hybrid BD/RIA/Insurance Distributor, with Vasilev as the head of supervisory systems and controls, and Pope as the director of application engineering.

In the course of their work, they recognised that the financial services industry was faced with a growing need for intelligent software solutions that could help compliance teams streamline their processes and mitigate risk. They partnered with Rick Grashel, the director of Hadoop/big data solutions for Dell and brought him on to lead Red Oak’s technology and development efforts.

Rising costs and demand

According to Stephen Pope, co-founder and CEO of Red Oak, compliance officers at financial institutions are faced with a myriad of challenges.

Arguably the most notable of which is the sheer pace at which regulatory requirements proliferate. Pope said this can be daunting for compliance officers and risk teams. “This past year, they’ve had a full slate of new priorities to focus on, implement, monitor, and track – including section 1071 implementation, third-party relationship guidance, modernised marketing rule updates, and mobile device disclosures.”

What’s more, the ‘Great Resignation’ has impacted industries on a global scale, compliance teams are no exception. “They’ve faced staff turnover and rising personnel costs and retaining staff members with the appropriate level of knowledge and expertise has become challenging,” Pope explained.

As both costs and demand increase, compliance leaders must decide where to allocate their finite resources. This squeeze, Pope continued, has led to a rising demand for innovative solutions. This includes tools that can help to streamline or automate processes wherever possible, so that compliance officers can focus their efforts and energy on higher-priority projects.

“Compliance professionals have increasingly sought technology that can help control costs through automation and use AI effectively to streamline workflows and create efficiencies,” he said.

Elevate compliance professionals

As the speed of business increases and processes become increasingly complex, Pope said that compliance professionals are needed throughout the decision-making process now more than ever. Companies have recognised this need to bring compliance experts into discussions earlier to mitigate risk and create competitive advantages for their organisations instead of enlisting them to sign off at the end of the due diligence process.

To make this shift, Pope said that compliance teams will need to elevate the roles of their staff. “Compliance teams need their team members available to focus on higher priority projects and to keep pace with the growth of regulatory oversight, demand and changes, rather than dedicating their time to managing and overseeing manual or tedious review processes.

The right technology

Beyond the role of compliance professionals, what is also critical for financial institutions, is selecting the right technology and RegTech vendor.

“Regulations and requirements are constantly evolving, and the financial industry as a whole needs an efficient and cost-effective way to manage their impact…The financial industry needs agile software solutions to keep pace and evolve with them,” Pope said.

With the rapid evolution of technologies and products, it may be difficult for financial institutions to identify the most effective. To keep their compliance efforts up to par, Pope said that financial institutions need software solutions to help them keep up with the ever-changing regulatory landscape, create operational efficiencies and solutions, as well as contain costs.

Pope outlined a few key elements that financial compliance leaders should be looking for. Firstly, they should look for an intuitive and agile software solution from a company committed to consistently investing in enhancements. The tool should also be able to grow and adjust with the needs of the compliance team and allow the team to automate processes for better efficiency and effectiveness. The ideal software solution will also provide resources that equip leaders to elevate their team and focus on higher priority work, which can lead to both a more efficient workforce and a higher level of success around retaining top talent for their institution.

“The most effective technology solutions are agile and can be built around a compliance team’s existing processes instead of requiring them or the organisation to change its processes to fit the software’s constraints,” Pope added.

Meeting this criteria, Red Oak works very closely with clients to ensure it understands how even the most minor changes impact them. According to Pope, this feedback loop with clients is critical to mutual success. “

As they share the processes and regulatory updates that most affect them, we can continue to create the tools and services they need to continue doing their work efficiently and safeguarding their organisation,” he said.

In addition to ongoing agile enhancements to its software, Red Oak has also developed several focused modules designed to streamline and support clients’ regulatory review and compliance processes.

This includes its Smart Review module, which solves for the management and intelligent application of disclosures, helping firms reduce risk, decreases review times and increases the speed of distribution of marketing materials. Other recently updated additions include Smart Registration which automates the licensing and registration management process, and Smart Complains, which provides the ability to track, maintain, resolve and report critical complaint information.

Built by compliance professionals

Red Oak recognises the needs of compliance departments and the challenges they face. To help firms manage their compliance needs, the company offers intelligent, agile compliance software solutions that are 100% books and records compliant and enable marketing teams to deliver compliant content to market faster.

Pope explained that Red Oak’s flagship advertising review software allows financial firms to minimise risk, reduce costs, and increase efficiencies in their compliance review process by helping them improve their advertising review approval and regulatory reporting processes.

Moreover, the software offers the ability to submit, review and approve materials more effectively and efficiently; manage risk instead of the submission process; gain full transparency by tracking the progress and history of submissions from start to finish in a 100% books and records compliant system, allowing teams to eliminate manual processes.

“Our clients often report a 35% faster time-to-approval and 70% fewer touches in the review process, with many experiencing even better results,” Pope said.

Further still, the company’s proprietary software was built by compliance professionals for compliance professionals, hence it is committed to understanding what teams need. The company works closely with its clients, with a feedback loop that continuously helps to drive ongoing enhancements and future development of the software.

The importance of compliance and risk teams

Looking to the future, Pope said that it is a given that regulatory requirements will continue to expand alongside the demand on compliance teams.

However, Red Oak hopes the future of compliance will see more investment into compliance and risk teams. “While many organisations acknowledge the need for a highly skilled compliance team, they can often place a greater priority on the needs of revenue-generating activities.

“We want to see leadership invest in innovative solutions for compliance and risk teams, so they can better mitigate risk and safeguard their organisations. The critical nature of their roles requires them to secure the resources and bandwidth to rise above manual processes and offer the organisation their strategic analysis and compliance expertise as a competitive advantage.”

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