Manouk Fles has been involved with Blanco almost since the start. She first worked as Head Legal & Compliance at Blanco and has been Chief Legal & Compliance Officer since January 2020. We spoke to her via Zoom to find out more about her role within Blanco and the challenges she faces.
How did you get involved with Blanco?
At the end of 2015 Joost Walgemoed (CEO of Blanco) asked me to become part of the initial Blanco team. In the past I worked as a lawyer at BinckBank, where I met Joost. After Joost left BinckBank to start Blanco, I continued working there for a while, after which I started at Kempen & Co. But already after a few months, Joost approached me with the idea for Blanco. The idea appealed to me enormously and it fitted in exactly with my experience and interests. In addition, I always wanted to be involved in a start-up, and this seemed like the perfect moment.
What exactly is your role as Chief Legal & Compliance?
Blanco is a company itself, so that involves the necessary corporate and contract law. Governance and our ISAE3402 certification and everything related to that is also an important area of attention for me. In addition, advising the business and product developers on all kinds of financial laws and regulations, such as KYC and CDD obligations, is an important part of my job. We try to incorporate these legislations and regulations in our products and technology, but we also want to give our customers a lot of freedom of choice. Many laws and regulations in the financial sector are ‘principle-based’, so the implementation often depends on circumstances, such as the services offered by a financial company and the customers it serves. So with our products, we actually give financial enterprises the tools they need to be compliant.
Has your role changed a lot now that you’re on the board?
As Head of Legal & Compliance, I also got all the ins and outs of the company. As Chief Legal & Compliance Officer a lot of responsibilities have been added, partly due to the acquisition of AIRS. Blanco now provides services to more than 100 licensed companies. In addition, dealing with the COVID-19 crisis is, of course, a challenge at the moment.
Especially in these times, business continuity is very important, not only for ourselves, but also for our licensed clients. So it is very important for us to take a good look at how we deal with this. Fortunately, we develop our products in the cloud, which means that we are not ‘impacted’ by a traditional fixed workplace or our own data centre. This makes us very flexible and makes it easier for us to guarantee the continuity of our services, even in difficult times like these.
How do we see Blanco’s vision on compliance reflected in the KYC Suite and Investment Suite?
The trend of the past years is expected to continue; laws and regulations are constantly being added and changing. This, of course, puts a lot of pressure on financial companies; there are more and higher demands on our customers, such as the depth of the CDD processes. This is reflected in the roadmap of our modules, which we continue to enrich with new functionalities. In the coming months, for example, we will further expand the screening functionality by adding adverse media. In the coming period, we also want to expand functionalities related to the risk classification of clients; this is another important step in the CDD process for which we want to offer financial companies the necessary tools.