Can compliance directors successfully reposition themselves as business leaders?
Compliance directors are on the cusp of a change of status. “We can be leaders,” Travelport global compliance and ethics officer Rose Chapman told a room full of experienced compliance and risk officers. “People think of us more as support but we can take on a leadership mantle,” Chapman continued.
“To achieve that though we need to promote the contribution we can make to commercial growth as much as the avoidance of censure by regulators.”
The point was not lost on those Chapman was talking to. All felt the significance of the challenge in a wider discussion exploring whether digitisation is critical for compliance.
Attendees present at the exclusive Canary Wharf event hosted by ClauseMatch, saw participants from some of the largest financial institutions in the world.
“It doesn’t matter how senior you are as a compliance person,” one global bank executive agreed, “if you’re blocked or trumped by a commercial decision, there’s nothing you can do.”
The commercial impact that a modern technology-enabled compliance function can have on an organisation was spelled out in the room. More than merely cost-savings and efficiencies across the compliance department, those around the table attested to swifter regulatory approvals and being quicker to go into new markets as benefits witnessed of a more streamlined, digital compliance department.
Even when considering the basic compliance objective of avoiding risk – just like in any commercial conversation – quantifiable numbers have to be visible for anyone to feel motivated to support a project, according to the ClauseMatch audience.
“If you don’t quantify risk there’s no appetite to think about the actions needed to avoid it,” said one. “To get the sales and finance teams thinking about being more compliant as an organisation, you have to talk about compliance in the same way you would other parts of the business. Talk of policies and regulations has limited impact.”
In the ever-expanding and increasingly complex compliance landscape, the role of banking compliance is in mid-evolution.
Digitalisation and automation is a crucial part of that evolution but so too, is understanding the nature of being a leader in the organisation. Managers own processes, operations and technologies. Leaders are such because they inspire and motivate people which in turn enables them to influence an organisation and how it is run.
The exploration that took place during ClauseMatch’s event of how to engage others and get them thinking about the benefits of a fully modernised compliance function is a crucial analysis for all compliance departments to undertake.
For as much as anything else, a successful repositioning or change of status for compliance departments relies on their internal reputations.Any compliance department still relying heavily on spreadsheets, word documents and other outdated tools to create audit trails and so on, risks running foul of the complexity of modern regulations. Perhaps worse, a team like that is failing to send the correct messages about the role of compliance to other more progressive and tech-enabled departments.
Compliance directors can continue to do things the old way and perpetuate the idea that compliance is a bit of a nuisance function that occasionally puts a spanner in the works in the name of avoiding a fine. Or they can take the first important step towards being genuine leaders and look like they have the progressive outlook and approach needed to guide businesses through the next decade of change.
By Evgeny Likhded, CEO and founder at ClauseMatch.