Originally published September 24, 2021, updated September 16, 2022.
Recognizing the unique skills and knowledge that keep financial firms safe
Next Monday (September 26) marks Compliance Officer Day – a day that originated in the United States but is now being celebrated globally. Compliance Officers play a critical role within financial services organizations. Although front-office teams have traditionally viewed them as the “fun police” or “business prevention” unit, they have always been and remain invaluable assets that enable financial firms to successfully navigate the challenging operating environment.
Compliance Officer Day exists to recognize the distinctive contribution that compliance teams make to their organizations, and we are excited that it has evolved into an internationally recognized day. Here is why:
Compliance Officers hold an incredible amount of knowledge about laws and regulations and need to be able to apply this to their business at any time. They also need to be culturally sensitive and regionally specific, as they often deliver compliance programs across the globe. This requires a deep understanding of local realities, values, and dynamics. But it doesn’t end there. Regulations and laws are constantly changing, which means that Compliance Officers always need to stay up to date and understand all regulatory updates. Very few professions require this deep and extensive sector expertise.
2.Compliance Officers are business continuity champions
Compliance Officers ensure that their firms can continue to trade and operate by ensuring applicable obligations are being met and adhered to. This requires them to work with different teams across all three lines of defense, which can be challenging – making a Compliance Officer's job multi-faceted and complex. In fact, compliance teams are often not praised enough for their agility in the face of significant challenges. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, compliance teams supported employees who had to suddenly work remotely or from a backup site – making sure that data was protected and that compliance obligations continued to be met in these novel circumstances.
3.Compliance Officers help firms establish and maintain ethical cultures
Compliance has always been important, but today, customers and the markets, in general, are increasingly demanding that firms operate ethically and implement fair practices. While compliance teams help develop the risk and compliance elements of a firm’s culture, their impact is much wider, and they are vital in ensuring that firms carry out business in an ethical manner. Through their role, they help to support the overall ethical culture of a firm in a much more holistic sense, by making boundaries clear and reinforcing how employees should treat colleagues, customers, and others. As such, they also play a key role in attracting and retaining customers.
4. Compliance Officers are pragmatic problem solvers
Often, Compliance Officers are tasked with advising the business when there are tensions between business goals and compliance requirements. They must make judgment calls on rules and guidance, as these are often not “black and white,” but in various shades of gray. With a multitude of stakeholders, Compliance Officers are great at bringing multiple perspectives together on thorny issues, so that the business can come to a pragmatic solution that meets regulatory obligations and pleases internal teams.
5. Compliance Officers have a diverse range of responsibilities and carry personal risk
Not only do Compliance Officers carry a huge amount of responsibility, but they also have personal liability for company conduct today. Being a Compliance Officer, therefore, comes with significant risk, with various regulations making senior managers personally responsible for the culture and conduct of the firm.
What does a Compliance Officer do?
Compliance Officers oversee the regulations, policies, and risks of an organization and ensure that their firm achieves compliance in line with the rules laid out by governments, regulators, standards bodies, and industry associations. Compliance Officers also:
formulate compliance strategies
help their firms navigate ethical, compliance, risk, and governance challenges
track and analyze regulatory developments
report to the board
define ethical culture and educate staff
amend policies and procedures
Ultimately, Compliance Officers safeguard the stability of the firms they work for. In other words, they are essential to continue operations in their organizations.
Making Compliance Officer Day International
The 2022 Compliance Officer Day is a particularly special one due to the significant challenges that Compliance Officers have faced over the past two years on the back of COVID-19. The pandemic caused widespread national lockdowns, with employees sent home or to recovery centers on very short notice. This required many Compliance Officers to develop new policies, introduce new processes, and adopt new technology solutions to support the new environment.
What is Compliance Officer day?
Compliance Officer Day – founded in 2016 in the US – was introduced to recognize and honor compliance professionals and the important work they do. This day celebrates the people who have devoted their careers to nurturing ethical cultures within their firms and supporting employees to do the right thing.
We want to continue to make this day integrational and celebrate Compliance Officers across the globe for the important work they do. Therefore, in the lead-up to Compliance Officer Day, we encourage firms around the globe to recognize the essential contribution that their compliance team makes to their financial services firms. Compliance Officers both protect organizations from harm and enable them to thrive in today’s challenging environment. So, celebrate this special day with your firm’s compliance team!
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