What Good Design Means for Compliance

Joe Robinson

CEO & Co-Founder

By nature, compliance is a slow-moving industry. The need for caution, slow-moving financial regulation, the fear of untested systems – all of these contribute to the presence of outdated legacy systems and inertia in compliance departments. Thoughtful design, however, can transform the investigation process. Product design changes can open the door to major improvements in efficiency and accuracy. Design can help compliance teams get more from their data and analytics, provide contextual direction via intelligent assistance, and make efficiency improvements with automated processes.


Many people would agree that good design could matter to almost any industry. When you find one underserved by design, you know you have an opportunity. 

Many financial compliance professionals know there’s something that needs to change with the burdensome processes. They might not realize how much difference thoughtful design can make.

All too often risk and compliance interfaces confuse, frustrate, obscure, or overload the people using them. Within the field of financial crime, this can take the form of compliance professionals struggling to complete their underappreciated, heroic work.

High utility User Experience (UX) design is an important consideration for anyone using digital tools. For financial crime investigators, thoughtful UX can help show the patterns in volumes of data, assist in research, and automate away time-consuming manual processes.

Design encompasses much more than aesthetics: it’s about how we interact. It may not seem an obvious focus for compliance work, but it has transformative power.

Data Needs Design

More data is always better, right? So heaping data in relatively raw formats on the user must be the right way to fight financial crime, right? If that feels like too much of a logical leap, you’re not alone. We need to help compliance teams work with the data they have available.  

Gaining useful knowledge relies on how we are able to perceive the information. The sensory process matters. In other industries good design could be tactile or auditory, but for RegTech it's typically a visual experience.

Fragmented information has typically overwhelmed anti-money laundering compliance professionals. Yet so much of the language around suspicious activity reports involves visual verbs! Does that transaction look suspicious? Do we see a pattern of possibly criminal activity? 

Data visualization is a powerful tool for seeing financial crime. Situating transaction flows on an interactive timeline makes spotting abnormal behavior much faster. Mapping out the locations involved in an investigation can reveal hidden patterns or buildings that don’t seem to match the stated use. Drawing connections between the case subjects through shared payments, IP addresses, accounts, or other data points can make it quick to spot collusion.

A clear view of complex interactions across time and geography has reshaped AML, and is just one example of the power of design within the fields of compliance and regtech. 

Design Provides Direction

RegTech has made important strides forward, but just as BioTech still needs doctors, technology systems and compliance professionals will need to interact. A well designed interface determines how effective that interaction can be. 

Compliance systems can serve the role of intelligent assistant with encyclopedic knowledge at the ready. They can process through a broad scope of potential diagnoses and provide suggestions. Intelligent assistants can also track complex procedures and navigate the flow of work that requires human expertise. In essence, they can help us focus.

What these technological supports eliminate can be as useful as what they show us. The ability of RegTech tools to reduce errors makes better use of human attention—we can tackle more substantive issues without the worry and distraction of dumb mistakes. By guiding the workflow, compliance departments can also drastically reduce the time needed to train new talent—often a significant concern and cost. Validation checks with compliance laws can provide visual confirmations that build confidence in the overall system of computer/human collaboration.

Automation Frees Activity

Design can be about what an application does for the user, not just what it looks like. 

A study by PWC found that 90% of the time on an average AML investigation was spent moving data between systems and documents. Compliance professionals are drowning in tedious process and paperwork. Imagine how much more effective our anti-financial crime efforts could be if we enabled these heroes to focus on actual investigation work, rather than procedural compliance.

When it comes to automation, design can contribute to what Golden Krishna calls a "back pocket app" – an application doing work for you in the background. Some design work is inherently happening behind the scenes – think about the conversational design and utility of assistants like Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri, or Google Assistant. Compliance professionals need an intelligent assistant for their work!


Financial regulation compliance may not sound particularly glamorous, but with a multitude of outdated systems and ever increasing number of regulations and agency guidance, the need for design runs deep. RegTech systems that elevate the compliance experience can define new standards—and possibly even inspire those working in an area of profound importance to society.

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