The standard view of corporate compliance departments gives short shrift to one of the backbone functions of business. Compliance professionals have specialized knowledge critical to avoiding risk and enabling business around the world. Far from being a necessary evil, compliance streamlines operations and reduces the likelihood of fines and reputation damage. Here’s how these pros can leverage their innate understanding of the business to elevate their profession and department.
Why compliance officers are important
As organizations increasingly expand their operations globally and face a multitude of regulations, demand for compliance officers is rising. Compliance is more art than pure analysis. It requires both intuitive craft and good business sense. People may think of compliance as the least “sexy” job, but in reality, a lot rides on it, and the role of compliance professional can be as meaningful to the individual as it is to the organization. Though often behind the scenes, compliance plays a vital part in today’s business.
Compliance pros have the expertise to look at the flow of business with a trained eye and see where safeguards need to be in place. These are like stop signs for others involved in the process, telling them to consider what’s at stake before they make an important decision. They can do this without strategically interrupting the business or slowing it down, while still making it safe.
Compliance really is crime prevention–helping the organization prevent white-collar crime. In addition, compliance professionals are the guardians of ethical and compliant business culture who keep operations on the straight and narrow.
Helping the rest of the business understand the importance of compliance
In exchange for working hard in semi-obscurity to minimize business risk, compliance pros are often treated like hall monitors. Even lawyers seem to garner more respect, but often, top-notch compliance people are smarter business people than lawyers. Lawyers tend to be very focused on their specific lane, whereas a talented compliance professional is more of a natural business thinker.
Compliance professionals must not only worry about legal ramifications of business operations, but they must also focus on financial and reputational damages as well. Together, lawyers and compliance officers make for a very effective partnership as strong compliance today helps prevent legal department headaches tomorrow.
Compliance officers also provide regular reports on the efficacy of their efforts to assess risks and create a contingency plan to handle potential issues. They can serve as trusted advisors to help guide business actions that comply with regulations from the get-go.
But wait; there’s more. These pros can actually help prevent potential white-collar crime and other similar violations. When we think of all of the headlines we are constantly bombarded with regarding company’s violations–such as the Volkswagen emissions scandal or Wells Fargo’s fraudulent accounts debacle–it becomes easier to understand the value that compliance can bring. This is certainly not a case where a company should gamble with an “act first, ask for forgiveness later” approach.
Helping the business be more competitive
Compliance pros streamline operations and enable entry into new markets by setting in place safeguards at strategic places in the global flow of business where the organization might be exposed to risk.
In an era of social media activism, one wrong move can spell disaster for your business. This is where being able to show off your compliance can be a competitive differentiator. Particularly as a third-party vendor, being able to show a potential partner that you are compliant can be integral to landing a deal.
Additionally, compliance requires a strategic approach to information management. Improving information management and data governance can have positive effects throughout the entire organization, from ensuring good record keeping to unifying and standardizing procedures. And improving data governance and management can ultimately turn up new insights for better decision making all around.
Elevating the compliance profession and department
A holistic approach is necessary to address the wide array of regulatory requirements on the national and global scale–an approach that compliance professionals are uniquely positioned to assist with. The time has come to shake off the negative connotations of the compliance department and its staff and instead recognize the vital role they play. These professionals lend value to the organization by mitigating business risk, enabling entry into new markets and building a solid reputation that helps drive company goals.
Valerie Charles serves as GAN Integrity’s chief strategy officer. With diverse industry experience, she helps define and drive GAN’s strategic position in the compliance community, focused on thought leadership and growth strategy. Charles also leads GAN’s legal function with a focus on compliance, commercial and strategic transactions, employment, litigation and regulatory issues. She has served as outside counsel, conducted internal investigations and represented clients in connection with matters involving anti-bribery restrictions worldwide. She has also served as associate general counsel and global compliance lead for an international technology company.