Becoming The Next Compliance Superhero

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Last year, we saw the inaugural National Compliance Officer Day, an effort spearheaded by SAI Global, but with the intent for it to become a much bigger and broader thing than something affiliated with any one company. I was glad to write about the effort last year, as I strongly support the cause here: to celebrate the unique burden carried by compliance officers, as well as the indispensable value that compliance officers deliver to their organizations by driving legal, ethical, honest, and sustainable business practices. Really, this is something that I think everybody can and should get behind.

The theme of the day last year was how compliance officers are the unsung superheroes of the organizations they serve. Give my lifelong love of comic books, this metaphor certainly worked for me, and it’s something that comes to mind once again as we look to the second National Compliance Officer day. Superheroes, after all, come from all kinds of origins. Some are really aliens or demigods from elsewhere come to live among mortals as their champions. Others are mutants born with innate superhuman abilities they must use for good. Still others are born ordinary but are exposed to something that transforms them and bestows the power to fight evil. And these are all great. But it comes as no surprise that the last category of superhero is perhaps also one of the most popular: the regular human whose only superhuman ability is their willpower, as they develop the skills they need to contend with whatever challenges face those whom they protect. These are the avengers of the night, the super soldiers of yesteryear, the world’s greatest detectives, the people who become superheroes not because they were born that way or made one by accident, but because they became one by choice. Even among the ranks of heroes, few are more noble than those who choose to walk the path rather than learn to live with being unable to leave it. And all along the way, their skills are what serve and distinguish them.

So with that theme of skill set in mind, I reached out to SAI Global’s new CEO, Peter Granat, on the eve of Compliance Officer Day 2017. Granat joined SAI Global recently, and before that was the CEO of Cision, a provider of content service platforms for the public relations industry (including PR Newswire, a service near and dear to my heart as both a journalist and as a former corporate communications officer). Granat joined SAI Global, he told me, because he is excited about the role that technology has to play as risk gets ever more complex (especially cyber-risk) and as compliance officers have an increasingly important role to play in managing that risk. SAI Global is all about providing integrated risk management and ethics training platforms, so as we discussed National Compliance Officer Day, I asked him what he thinks the skillset of the future should look like for compliance officers.

He had an interesting answer: predictably, he talked about how compliance officers will need to know how to make better use of the technological tools at their disposal. Whether it’s an integrated dashboard for managing compliance tasks, or integrating AI into a decision tree, the tech that empowers next-generation compliance will require some know-how to use.

Then Granat noted that compliance officers will really need to hone their business skills so they can better understand the full scope of activities at the organizations they serve and, in so doing, be able to speak to their board and chief executives in a language that they understand. If compliance officers are to explain the ROI for compliance, they can’t do it by talking about compliance; they have to do it by talking about business. That’s another skill to master.

But, in light of current fiascos at Wells Fargo, Uber and, most recently, Equifax, Granat said that perhaps the most important skill for compliance officers to master—the one they would really need to secure their superhero status within an organization—is communication. All companies inevitably have compliance failures of some kind. The thing is, how do you respond when they happen, especially if you are part of a large, publicly visible organization? Since trust is so easily destroyed, it’s crucial for compliance to build strong relationships with human resources and corporate communications, and to assist in developing a game plan to put into place the moment a compliance crisis unfolds. Saying the wrong thing is bad, but saying nothing at all is even worse, and compliance can play a central role in building an organization’s ability to address crises proactively and in a manner that directs the company’s energies toward resolution and improvement, rather than finger-pointing and damage control.

Source: CW

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