When I first started talking about immigration compliance, I was told that there was little or no commercial interest in the field. I heard from people I respect greatly that it was hard to do business in compliance and there wasn’t much chance I would find a market of willing buyers. Fundamentally, I understood that there aren’t many people who wake up every morning excited to make their sure their business is following the law. But let’s face it, I said to myself, there have to be enough people who understand that if you don’t, you’re in for big trouble.
So as immigration lawyers, when the global pandemic hit, we looked at one another and asked what we were going to do. There were still 2.1 million temporary visa holders in the country and most of them were desperate to stay, or even better, achieve their dream of permanent residency and citizenship.
We also knew, having worked in this sector for a decade or more, that very few organisations were fully complying with the law or even knew they had to comply. The answer seemed simple: build a software platform that would help organisations follow and understand immigration law.
What is RegTech
Building a computer system that would assist employers to comply with all the different aspects of immigration law seemed like a no-brainer. But what did that look like?
When we started to look at other products it became obvious that we were heading into a field that many others were thinking about as well. In particular, an emerging area of technology called RegTech had been in existence for the last 5-10 years though with a particularly strong focus on financial compliance. In their most widely known form, RegTech products were assisting regulated entities (ie, banks, lenders and other financial institutions) to comply with complex and particularly high volume regulatory obligations.
However, RegTech products extended beyond the financial sector, though these appear to less known than their financial counterparts. The RegTech sector extends beyond regulated entities to include regulators, regulated entities, and service providers. But much of this RegTech environment is being constructed and being built.
So what would an immigration compliance platform look like? Well you’d need a central part (let’s call it a ‘module’) to store all your visa holder details. You would also need access to all the relevant stuff about immigration law, as most organisations still rely on the Department’s website (facepalm) because let’s face it – there’s no other option. Finally, we’d need something to deliver all the training to staff members, visa holders and everyone else.
So, three ‘modules’:
- One for workforce management
- One for knowledge
- One for training.
Problem solved, right?
I mentioned above that not many people understood my dream of building a immigration compliance super computer with all the bells and whistles. Discussing the platform and how it could help, one HR Director told me that compliance software isn’t sexy. That discussion shocked me because I had been so deep in the weeds on the whys and hows of compliance I hadn’t realised that people might not catch on to why it is essential.
So if compliance isn’t sexy and if people told me it wouldn’t attract much commercial interest, why bother?
Well, here is my breakdown:
- It’s not sexy, it’s essential. The consequences of not complying include civil and criminal penalties, reputational damage, and loss of access to sponsored visa holders.
- It’s about your reputation and who you are as a business. If you want to operate a business in Australia in 2021 you need to follow the rules. I think the best and most successful businesses actually do a lot more than the bare minimum. We all know consumers and customers don’t like business who flaunt the law – something especially true in immigration.
- Its about me and us, as much as its about you. You don’t go through law school, funny ceremonies with the Chief Justice, wigs, and all, without coming out the other side with some sense that the law is important to how businesses, society, the economy and so forth operate. I need to follow the law as a lawyer, a business person, or just someone driving down the road, and so do you. So let’s make it easy.
- Finally, if you believe in your organisation, you want to be as good as possible.
This is where it all comes together: its about the law, about operating your organisation in society, and about making sure the ship you are steering is doing everything as efficiently and effectively as possible.
So that’s probably quite a lot to put down in one go, but we’ll break it down a bit as we go.
When we started Complize we did so with a very conscious choice to make it a ‘values driven organisation’. This is a popular concept at the moment and our choices are a result of following that discussion in the zeitgeist. So, what does it mean? Well, its about making a purposeful organisation that doesn’t just seek to meet a profit driven goal. It’s about identifying what the organisation is about, what it wants to achieve, and how we as employees and members of that organisation want to achieve those goals.
So our values are:
- Go beyond compliance
- Share our knowledge
- Do it our own way
These values weren’t the product of hazard, they were part of a long period of reflection about what we wanted to achieve and what we thing compliance means in 2021. I will go into these more in later blog posts but by way of brief reflection:
Go beyond compliance
This expression comes from the idea that compliance isn’t an end point. It’s just the beginning of the journey we are talking about to be a purposeful organisation. Meeting the minimum requirements of the law isn’t something you should get a pat on the back about – it’s a minimum.
Share our knowledge
It may be just my impression, but I feel that a lot of professional service firms (and the people who work in them) like to keep the good stuff to themselves. There is sometimes a feeling that if you share too much then clients will do it themselves. Good! I believe that sharing knowledge can only be a positive. That’s why societies have libraries and schools. More knowledge = more good to share (Yes, this is a simplification, I know).
Do it our own way
The law world is pretty conservative (see above, ‘wigs’). The IT world is often (but not always) disruptive. One of the reasons that we chose this value was to bring some of that disruptive spirit into the law. That said, we aren’t IT professionals by training either, so there are a number of ways in which we are ‘doing it our own way’. We expect to discover more about what ‘our way’ is as we go further along this journey.
You have to do it
Not to put too fine a point on it, compliance isn’t a matter of choice. We can have all sorts of discussions about the value, necessity and scope of contemporary regulations and the regulatory state but, fundamentally, as organisations operating in society we need to follow the law.
Regulations are complex and the enforcement of them is driven by current policy. While organisations may get away with non-compliance for a period, it is important to understand that ‘getting away with it’ depends on regulatory approach. That can change rapidly and with serious consequences. By way of example, everyone thought that the widespread non-compliance with wage standards in the hospitality industry (i.e., wage theft) would continue. But then the regulatory approach changed and the consequences of that were enormous for employers of all scales. I often say that your organisations’ conduct today will be with you for the next 7 years.
This is a multi-faceted issue and can be framed in a number of ways. Let’s start with the cynical take. If you mess up in immigration law it will leave a stink for years to come. Not always but we know from some of the major scandals that wrongdoing in immigration law can stain your brand reputation for years. Some brands (Hi 7-Eleven!) have become bywords for non-compliance, rorting and abuse. Who knows what quantum of damage that caused the business.
From a good faith perspective, reputation is about your social capital. It is the value that consumers, investors, and heck even regulators, see when your organisation’s brand comes into focus. Reputation in 2021 goes hand in hand with social capital and concepts such as social license, corporate social responsibility and good governance. These concepts are tied up together and investing in getting immigration compliance right is an investment in these other ‘social goods’. So why wouldn’t you get on the front foot?
Being as good as possible
Chances are that if you are reading this (and have read this far!) you work in an organisation. You don’t want to just squeak by; you want the organisation to be brilliant. You want it to reflect the passion, skills, and experience of you and your colleagues. This is what Complize is about. That may seem a bit intense for a Saas software platform that assists organisations to manage their visa holder obligations but hear me out.
If you want to be as good as you can possibly be, if you believe that organisations must to do more than just ‘comply’, that organisations have a moral imperative to be good social actors, that even if you ‘have to’ do something you should do it damn well – then you are the type of person that we want to work with. And the sort of person that Complize was built for.
When we first started looking at building an immigration compliance platform we recognised that it was an essential service for the many Australian organisations which employ temporary visa holders. We also understood that immigration compliance is about the working conditions and quality of life of the 2.1 million temporary visa holders in Australia.
But we have learnt much more. We’ve learnt that the key to the Complize platform is education – educating stakeholders about the need for immigration compliance, sharing our understanding of the risks and rewards of immigration compliance, sharing our knowledge of the system. We’ve learnt that there is a community of thought leaders out there who do care, passionately, about doing more than the minimum, more than ticking a box. And we’re learning more each day about how to engage with them and improve the Complize platform. We’re learning to make things better for their organisations and, hopefully, for their employees on temporary visas.
Author: Jackson Taylor