The curse of regulation mania is a blessing for the consultant

Read the original Dutch version here.


Huge waves of new and amended laws and regulations plague the financial sector. It is starting to become a real burden for banks, insurers, pension funds and investment institutions to implement and comply with all the rules. But consultants specialising in compliance like Charco & Dique do not complain too loudly about this.

In short

  • Rules for financial institutions are becoming increasingly extensive and complex.
  • This burdens the industry, but is a gap in the market for consultants specialising in compliance.
  • Charco&Dique is one of the largest firms in the Netherlands in that field and was recently acquired by a European consultancy.


Rules for financial institutions are becoming increasingly extensive and complex. This burdens the industry, but is a gap in the market for consultants who specialise in compliance.

Charco&Dique is one of the largest firms in the Netherlands in that field and was recently acquired by the European consultancy, ProjectiveGroup. In preparation for the interview, consultant firm Charco&Dique sends an overview of (upcoming) changes in laws and regulations in the financial sector: a presentation of 74 densely written slides.

Sustainability reporting, new European standards for investment funds, pension legislation, tightening anti-money laundering rules, new resolution regimes, crypto-regulation, the list is endless. No financial institution escapes the tsunami of regulations. That makes external help almost indispensable. 'The big banks and insurers in particular naturally have hefty compliance departments that make sure their business stays compliant,' explains Ronald van Dijk. He is one of the founders of Charco&Dique. 'But for medium-sized and small financial institutions, it quickly becomes too much and too complex.'

From this perspective, Van Dijk and his partner Alex Poel were timely when they started as independent consultants in 2010. Both worked for some time at regulator Authority Financial Markets (AFM) and predecessor STE, before becoming their own bosses with an intermediate step. Poel worked at securities bank Stroeve for a long time and then switched to DSB Bank. Van Dijk supervised financial institutions at AFM until 2006 and then worked for consultancy firm Protiviti.

Fire

Now the men actually do just three things. They help companies implement new rules and offer training in that area, including a digital encyclopaedia of all, often European, rules for financial institutions.

But like the fire brigade, it does not stop at prevention. If a fire breaks out, Charco&Dique (Spanish for Poel and Van Dijk), steps out just as willingly.

And there are often fires; hassles with AFM or De Nederlandsche Bank. It helps then that a large number of the consultancy's staff come from that background. Knowing how regulators think and act is golden for a company that unexpectedly lands on the radar of one of them. DeGiro, for instance, called in Charco&Dique when the online broker came under fire from the AFM three years ago.

Van Dijk is very cautious about naming client names, smiling only when the name DeGiro comes up. 'But it is true that we are often flown in at such times'. By then, his clients are often in situations that would be better left behind the scenes.

Since 2010, the firm has grown from three people to almost 60 employees, who together achieve a turnover of almost €8m a year. That growth caught the attention of ProjectiveGroup, an originally Belgian consultancy with offices in Brussels, Paris, Zurich and London. The company employs some 600 people and achieves €80m in revenue. ProjectiveGroup already bought Dutch pension consultancy Mastermind in 2021. It also absorbed Charco & Dique at the end of October.

Belgians

Founder Stefan Dierckx ProjectiveGroup foresees further growth in regulatory advice. 'We are already quite big on data and specific automation, such as Swift's new standard for international payments,' he explains. 'For pensions, we are also well equipped. Charco&Dique now complements our knowledge of compliance very well.'

Many regulations come from Brussels and basically apply to all European member states. That automatically makes the market for ProjectiveGroup's services very large. Dierckx has had a wealthy shareholder on board with Flemish investor GIMV for more growth since eighteen months. Dierckx also bought payment-specialised Enigma in 2022. He does not expect acquisitions in the Netherlands. 'That will now rather be in Germany, where we already have a small foothold but want to expand.’

Day job

That there is a proliferation of laws and regulations does not necessarily make Van Dijk happy. In fact, the complexity is also increasing. There are more and more court rulings in new areas. Supervisors also often apply fairly general rules to very specific situations, building a kind of case law.

'It is a day's work to keep track of all those dozens of sources of new information, even if we do it almost fully automated,' says Van Dijk.
However, the problem of the regulation drive for the financial sector is even bigger. 'We see that the desire to properly comply with all those rules decreases as more are added. This is not good, of course, because ultimately there is a good purpose behind it. But companies know they have no other choice, because the fines from regulators and the associated reputational damage can be huge.'

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