Sunday this week (26 September) marks the National Compliance Officer Day in the United States – a day we believe should be celebrated all over the world. Compliance Officers play a critical role within financial services organisations. 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 recognise the distinctive contribution that compliance teams make to their organisations, and we think it should be an internationally recognised 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 programmes 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.
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 defence 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.
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.
Often, Compliance Officers are tasked with advising the business when there are tensions between business goals and compliance requirements. They have to make judgement calls on rules and guidance as these are often not “black and white” but in various shades of grey. 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.
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.
Compliance Officers oversee the regulations, policies, and risks of an organisation 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 analyse 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 their organisations.
The 2021 Compliance Officer Day is a particularly special one due to the significant challenges that Compliance Officers have faced over the 18-months on the back of Covid-19. The pandemic caused widespread national lockdowns, with employees sent home or to recovery centres 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.
Compliance Officer Day – founded in 2016 in the US – was introduced to recognise and honour compliance professionals and the important work they do. This National day in the US 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 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 recognise the essential contribution that their Compliance team makes to their financial services firms. Compliance Officers both protect organisations from coming to harm and enable them to thrive in today’s challenging environment. So, celebrate this special day with your firm’s compliance team!
CALLING ALL COMPLIANCE AND RISK PROFESSIONALS
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