Compliance is a word that weighs heavily on those running small and medium sized businesses. They don’t have the resources bigger companies can draw on to meet the myriad regulations and so it becomes one more thing to be added to the already long “to do” list.
AnneMarie Whelan is a former criminal law barrister who moved into regulatory compliance in 2014. In August last year, she launched RegSol to take the pain out of the compliance process for small companies.
"It was clear that small and medium-sized firms in Ireland were underserved in terms of regulatory compliance service providers. Our aim with RegSol was to bring such a service within easy reach of SMEs (small and medium enterprises)," she says. "Until now, when these firms went looking for help they were often discouraged by the price or had difficulty because of their location. Our competitors typically provide services in Dublin only and are not keen to engage on smaller or out of town projects.
“Smaller firms have to comply with the same regulations as larger companies and are often faced with a choice of paying exorbitant fees to consultants, hiring compliance officers, or making a stab at it themselves. We felt there was an opportunity to offer scaled solutions to this market at an attractive price point.”
RegSol offers a number of services, including independent compliance reviews, drafting and reviewing of policies and procedures and managing Central Bank authorisation applications.
The second string to its bow is training in regulatory compliance specifically tailored to the Irish market, with an emphasis on financial services. This includes training around anti-money laundering, data protection (GDPR), consumer protection and insurance distribution regulations. It also covers Central Bank codes and regulations.
Whelan got the idea for RegSol when she stepped away from the courts after nine years and began working as a data protection officer. She floated the idea to her brother, Derek, and tapped into his considerable IT skills to put the tech piece together. This includes designing the online training portal.
“We are priced to be very accessible and we offer our services throughout Ireland,” Whelan says. “We bring CPD (continuous professional development) training events to areas where they aren’t readily available and we provide consultancy and training services that are industry and market specific through multiple delivery channels.
“Our expertise and experience means we can easily navigate the complexities of compliance and develop in-house solutions for each individual business. For example, some businesses would struggle to get to grips with how the Central Bank works whereas it’s familiar territory for us.”
While RegSol’s client base will come predominantly from indigenous SMEs, it is also catering for foreign direct investment companies regulated by the Central Bank, financial brokers/intermediaries, solicitors, estate agents and schools.
Whelan’s set-up costs were modest, at under €10,000 in hard cash, but Whelan says it would be impossible to put a price on the time it took her brother to build the technical infrastructure that underpins the business. The company is now employing seven people and Whelan says that, like any start-up today, it needs people with different skills, including social media.
“Ours is a specialist area so we have to recruit specifically for that. But we have a mix of people, including someone who can manage social media networks as this is now an important part of getting one’s message out there.”
RegSol, which is based in the Trinity Technology & Enterprise Campus in Dublin city, was revenue generating from the get-go and will make its money in three main ways: consultancy fees, a retainer for providing compliance as a service and training.
“There is definitely potential to develop out the training by adding different delivery methods, such as webinars and new modules. Of course, rules are changing all the time so training has to be ongoing as people will always need to keep up to date,” Whelan says.