After an undeniable annus horribilis on a global scale, what lies ahead in 2021 for businesses? It is expected that health and social-distancing challenges, under- and overemployment, remote working and escalating rates of innovative cybercrimes will continue into the first quarter of 2021 as the global recovery begins. These challenges have implications on workloads, IT systems, security, and travel for compliance departments in every organisation.
In light of the above, here are the top five trends forecast for a (hopefully) post-COVID-19 year ahead for compliance professionals.
1. AI chatbot use to increase by 100% within the next five years
In its Hype Cycle for Artificial Intelligence 2020 report, research advisory company Gartner predicted that the adoption rate of AI chatbots is expected to increase by 100% within the next five years, to become the leading use of AI in organisations. IBM’s Watson blog stated wryly that AI voice assistants don’t need coffee breaks or lunch hours, nor do they take sick leave or holidays. In fact, they demonstrate a 99% improvement in response times, reduce service costs by 30%, and increase user satisfaction rates due to their continuous machine learning while on the job. They are multilingual and available to respond 24/7/365. More than ever, AI chatbots (such as those used in whistleblowing hotlines) belong in the compliance officer’s toolbox.
2. Remote learning and conferencing to continue with improved experiences and security
Corporate learning and video conferencing usage are expected to continue to rise in popularity and, according to RingCentral researchers, video-conferencing quality and privacy will continue to improve. Video-conferencing platforms are expected to be enhanced with additions and integrations with productivity tools such as Trello, Slack and Google Chrome, as well as newer innovations.
From scheduled compliance learning to daily video conferencing with colleagues and clients, compliance departments will be expected to take advantage of these advances in technology.
A 2020 Thales Group study that surveyed 1,723 executives with IT and data responsibilities found that nearly 98% of all organisations had some data in the cloud, of which an estimated 48% was deemed to be sensitive. Investment in cyber security is expected to continue its rise, whether the technologies and processes are designed to protect data, computers, networks, or programs. Data-encryption enhancements across all forms of communication are expected to increase as businesses face sophisticated hackers, increasing legislation and users’ expectations that their personal data will be afforded the highest protections.
4. Virtual/remote compliance audits to continue
Audits will be at the forefront of compliance minds as misdeeds and malfeasance have clearly been on the rise during COVID-19. Due to health and safety concerns and travel restrictions, virtual and remote audits are expected to continue, with testing, inspection, and certification processes to be refined with more efficient and secure enhancements made.
5. SEC whistleblowing programme changes to impact whistleblowing globally
In September 2020, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission amended its whistleblowing programme for the first time since its inception ten years ago. The programme, which aims to uncover possible securities violations by rewarding whistleblowers with financial rewards as high as 30% of sanctions, has been a huge success. Over USD2.5 billion in financial remedies has been collected since the start of the programme, with over USD523 million being rewarded to whistleblowers. A payment awarded to an individual in June 2020 was a whopping almost USD50 million.
The amendments include streamlining and accelerating the evaluation of claims as well as aligning the definition of 'whistleblower' across all sections of the SEC’s award programme. It is clear that whistleblowing across all industries will receive heightened attention (both within the United States and globally) as a result of these legislative changes, which clearly demonstrate the effectiveness of whistleblowing hotlines.