Legal Chatter: Tim Dolan

Published On January 27, 2019

With questions lingering over London’s position as the financial capital of Europe following result of Brexit, the importance of sound legal and regulatory advice has never been more critical for firms hoping to navigate the increasingly complex framework.

Radar sits down with one of London’s top legal problem solvers, Tim Dolan, financial services partner at Reed Smith, to find out what makes him tick, and where he sees the sector moving in the coming years.

How long have you been doing this?

I’ve been practicing law for 18 years; I began working for the New Zealand regulator, then moved to the UK and worked at what was then the Financial Services Authority as a lawyer, and then into private practice 12 years ago. I have been lucky enough to always focus on financial services regulation and I spend most of my time helping firms to comply with the Financial Conduct Authority and Prudential Regulation Authority rules.

What excites you most about the job?

Solving problems. Helping clients solve problems and working through difficult areas of law to make them simple for clients.

And what’s the worst part?

Helping clients when they are facing unreasonable pressure from the Financial Conduct Authority.

Best bits of advice you were given in your career

When a firm is dealing with a problem it is so important that they keep the day business running. If a firm is subject to an investigation or there is a potential breach, the whole compliance or legal team can be swept up dealing with that. The important bit for FCA firms is to carry on with the day job, as neglecting daily responsibilities to deal with emergencies often leads to subsequent problems.

Are you digitally switched on 24/7?

You have to be in this line of work, it’s the only way to be available, and people need help all the time. I am lucky that I enjoy what I do!

Are you working on anything that may shock people with a more stereotypical view of lawyers?

People may be surprised at just how little time I spend in the office, and how much time we spend out with clients, or with regulators, helping, advising and talking. That has been a big change, during the last few years, I spend much more time out of the office helping with problems and issues which is more interesting and what I like to do.

Are there any basic mistakes you always see clients repeat?

Every firm has to realise nobody is 100% compliant, and some firms are almost shut off to the idea they could have a breach or a problem. It is a frame of mind chiefs of compliance, and chief executives, have to have, which is: “We are going to have problems, there are already some problems, we need to be open and honest with ourselves about what they are and what we are going to do”, rather than having a frame of mind that the business is 100% compliant, as it won’t be.

What are the big challenges in the coming years?

Brexit implementation and to the extent the UK firms are dealing with European customers, finding a way forward. There is also a massive focus at the moment on antimoney laundering systems and controls, MiFID II implementation, and getting transaction reporting right.

How much time is being taken up by Brexit?

About a third of my time.

Do City firms understand how important the European Securities and Markets Authority’s role is?

Not at the moment. City firms need a better appreciation, notwithstanding that we are moving towards Brexit, of ESMA’s role. ESMA is a regulatory body of critical importance, they will be giving more guidance and making more statements that impact businesses.

Have you witnessed regulators change their attitudes to technology?

Yes. They want to embrace it, they want clients to embrace it. The rulebook doesn’t always allow that. Every regulator we talk to, especially the FCA, is prepared to permit solutions by using tech provided basic safeguards are met.

Where do you sit on the issue of cloud compliance?

The use of cloud is very sensible. It works well, it enables massive functionality and flexibility within firms, employees, even for regulators. I am very supportive. Increasingly firms are using cloud to hold increasingly important data, and I’m all for it provided that the right safeguards from hacking are in place.

In what areas will regtech have the biggest impact? It is having a huge impact right now. Firms like Behavox are doing fantastically well but all regulated firms need to understand what is available. Regtech will have the biggest impact in assisting firms with transaction reporting and in analysing trading patterns.

Are we reaching the point where the regulator has more advanced enforcement tech than firms in the sector?

Yes and firms do need to wake up to this. The FCA and other regulators are deploying very sophisticated techniques and algorithms to monitor trades and markets.

Will tech providers eventually be overseen by regulators?

In the future they will, as the firms using the tech will become so reliant on them. I don’t see this as a bad thing, but rather the regulator trying to understand more about what critical functions are being performed by tech providers.

What’s your favourite sports team?

All Blacks. I’m Kiwi.

What’s your favourite restaurant in London?

It’s a pub, the Anchor and Hope at Waterloo.

Thank you, Tim.

My pleasure