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Challenge:  Simplifying Obtaining Answers to New Legal Questions

Solution:  Architect a Digital Knowledge Base

On top of the already formidable legal requests coming in regularly, UBS, a leading global wealth manager, was facing new, comprehensive regulations in its home country, Switzerland, and they wanted to streamline absorption of all new laws.

They wanted a tool that would allow questions to be asked via an electronic platform and would steer users into new menus as the reasons for the questions were dissected and for all the information to be stored in a searchable knowledge base,” says Jens Hofstetter, regulatory strategy and transformation lawyer, who was head legal regulator change during the project initiation. This, they reasoned, would save lawyers chunks of time both in not needing to be contacted for routine matters and in not having to research past tidbits and files of information stored for projects not currently on their radar.

And, as part of the project, they determined that they wanted to provide a higher level of guidance so they scrutinized the new regulations and provided specifications and advice on what they assumed might arise as the new law took hold.

“If you look at the new Swiss Financial Services Act, which is very comprehensive, and the questions coming from the implementation project, you see that not everything is covered, “So we changed the approach from reactive to proactive to try and understand what questions would come in, to be faster and more diligent ..”

“And in the past, there was a knowledge train lost when a project ended — we wanted to capture it for when it’s needed again,” Hofstetter says.

“The vision was to build a digital competence center that operates as a curated, intelligently structured legal and regulatory know-how center gathered during the last years, including an educational section, which can be accessed 24/7 giving lawyers time to focus on more and most complex questions, thus making their daily work more fulfilling,” says Hofstetter. Another priority was making it easy to onboard new staff in this area.

The Automated Platform: RegChange Digital Center of Competence (DCC)

The IT department’s ticketing system served as the ideal starting point — especially because they did not have a budget for an additional tool — though they’ve shifted to a new legal-specific platform.

A team of about 6 – 10 lawyers, from UBS’ legal regulatory change department, drove the initiative with support from its legal operations. The RegChange Digital Center of Competence (DCC) platform started by tracking all past data, essentially their Legal Advice Log, and then entering a Legal FAQ from emails, topic papers, memos, and drafted opinions, already compiled from a monthly dissemination.

The IT help desk ticket platform enabled a structuring of content of “several levels with an accordion structure suited for Q&As and a modern layout,” Hofstetter notes.

They built a step-by-step menu in their platform of:

  • Easily readable Q&As of curated legal know-how — about 700 at this point;
  • Access to highly technical and abstract legal documents tailored to the needs of the daily business;
  • Easy to glean enhancement with decisions trees, tables, and other graphics;
  • Various ways of getting to the required legal advice via standard search function (in which the person knows exactly what they are looking for) and an artificially intelligent- structured browse function (allowing the user to find information without knowing the subject matter in detail) linking articles of the laws and the respective Q&A sections;
  • A mouse-over glossary;
  • An education section with recordings and slides on the major topics of the new regulation as well as a curated publication library (with summary and evaluation of its content);
  • English language, figuring that was the standard to encompass employees worldwide; and
  • Results of the legal advice applied to specific UBS scenarios explaining how the regulation was implemented.

“Instead of legal memos, opinions, and advice in long emails that might be 20 printed pages that people lose in their email box, it’s relatively short and easy to get through,” says Hofstetter.

And the system was assigned as part of the practice group framework to ensure that the knowledge is maintained and kept up to date.

Acceptance and Getting Up to Speed

“In the beginning, people needed some convincing,” Hofstetter says, “but we conducted a lot of education sessions and made videos not only on the content, but also on the process and platform. It took some time on the handling and searching of the content but, after that, it went quite well.,

“That’s normal when you do something new,” he says. “I had to refer people to the platform a lot when it started when they called or emailed. Now people don't contact me about it anymore, which is great, as I will not be the financial services act lawyer for the next 10 years.”

The whole process took a year. But, he says, “It was worth it. Now, people rely on it.”

The Wins

“We’ve estimated that a single Q&A saves at least 15 minutes of lawyer’s time,” Hofstetter says. The time saved enables the lawyers to reduce use of external consultants and law firms and has cut back the need for meetings and calls needed before to discuss questions the system can answer.

And altogether:

  • They’ve saved, since May 2022, 890 hours within 17 months or 50 hours per month.
  • They’ve seen 150 unique users since May 2022 which is more than the 120 lawyers working in the FinSA (Swiss Financial Service Act) department.
  • The platform is usable by other divisions, such as audit, compliance, project, and business.
  • On average, the site has seen 200 hits per month since May 2022.
  • Being available 24/7 is enabling flexibility.
  • Onboarding is relatively easy.
  • Most substantively, the legal and regulatory knowledge generated during a multi-year project is systematically recorded and accessible in an intelligently designed way needed to run the bank most efficiently.

“To our knowledge no other bank has all this information available in a similar way, but it is also a first for us,” says Hofstetter.

What’s Coming

More use of technology to access knowledge as much as possible is next on Hofstetter’s  list. They are also planning to move more content into the tool.

“We've had this mindset and culture in the department that grows our competitive advantage,” he says.

Who Else Helped

“Looking at ACC content and how people collaborate within ACC was inspiring toward trying out new things. And we were motivated by all the journeys people underwent for similar projects,” he says. “Even failing — which was a big possibility for us — was important to learn about to know what to do.

And in the midst of the project what also helps “was a lot of team spirit, resilience, and humor.” Ivo Buric, Erika Siegle-Hartwig, Shirley Mendelowitsch, Tadas Zukas, Niloo Verma, and Miriam Hoenig deserve a “big thank you,” Hofstetter notes.

“You just have to stick to it and go to the finish line. “

At the End of the Day

“It was a lot of work both implementing the new law and the platform, but I take breaks,” says Hofstetter about life-work balance. “Dinner is with family — I stop at 6 — I get a lot of strength from being with them. And I love cooking with friends. In the evening, we watch some series on TV. In the past, I also did a lot of sports, I don't have time now. I hope that will change in the future (he has a newborn and toddler).”      

And during the project, what really helped was “there was a lot of team spirit, resilience, and humor.”