Becoming an A+ compliance manager may not be the most intuitive prospect, but with careful attention to what the role entails and the right IT help, you’ll get there.
While most people assign compliance to the same snooze-worthy category as watching paint dry, it’s actually a very important topic – and to you, the compliance manager, probably a very interesting one. (Much more so than paint drying, which isn’t even a real career.)
Becoming a stellar compliance manager – or compliance officer, depending on organization terminology – isn’t as simple as getting the job and striking off boldly into the sunset, though. Helping an organization remain in compliance requires ongoing, conscientious efforts to understand the compliance requirements of finance, operations, human resources, data security and more. It’s no small task.
The road to becoming an A+ compliance manager is paved with potential pitfalls, starting with misunderstandings about what compliance is or what the role entails, as well as how to carry it out without making enemies and continue to build skills over time. Even seasoned compliance officers may stumble here, so it’s good to take a periodic inventory of what the role entails and whether you’re on track for success.
What Is Compliance?
Compliance is the act of following federal, state and local rules and regulations governing financial institutions, healthcare organizations, insurance firms, and businesses in other industries. Breaking the law, even without intent, can have very serious consequences for a business, including lawsuits, bankruptcy or catastrophic failure. It is a compliance manager’s role to ensure this doesn’t happen, by keeping careful tabs on what goes on across the organization, assessing risks and responding to them appropriately.
Sad to say, compliance officers may also face the unpleasant duty of responding to intentional breaches. Money laundering and tax evasion happen all too frequently at the highest levels of corporations and aren’t uncommon even in small businesses. Ditto insider trading, conflicts of interest and Just Plain Ol’ Shenanigans. While whistle-blower isn’t the most appealing role, it is a necessary one for the health of the organization as a whole.
Given the potential for fines, sanctions, PR nightmares and shuttered businesses, compliance is crucial – and therefore, so are compliance managers.
The Compliance Manager’s Role
A compliance officer’s role is to work with other managers and department heads to identify and manage the risk associated with laws and regulations – more specifically, associated with breaking them, whether by accident or design. The rules are often very specific, allowing for no loopholes or creative explanations (“I didn’t inhale” is very unlikely to fly here, people).
However, this isn’t the only aspect of the role. Compliance managers are also responsible for making sure everyone else in the organization understands the possible risks and can spot potential issues as they crop up – and before they become firestorms of epic proportion. Because around here, we only like firestorms of medium proportion.
Just kidding. All firestorms = very not good. And as a compliance officer, you have a huge role in preventing them entirely. Your role may comprise many different responsibilities, which will differ depending on the type of organization you work for, but as a general rule, you will be expected to:
- Identify risks and advise on courses to reduce or eliminate them
- Design and implement controls that will manage these risks
- Monitor the controls
- Draw up regular reports on how well those controls are working, and present them to the C-Suite, shareholders and other stakeholders
- Resolve compliance issues as they crop up
- Help perform internal audits and hire outside help in performing periodic audits
- Update your compliance and auditing procedures routinely
- Teach others
- Oversee the compliance department, which will vary in size in accordance with the size of your organization
Dual Levels of Responsibility
Before we go further, it’s crucial to understand the two levels compliance managers will have to address:
- Level 1: This is compliance with external rules, and may include auditing, paperwork, licensing and so on for the organization
- Level 2: This is a system of internal compliance systems that ensure the organization is always within compliance with external requirements
It’s possible that a compliance manager may only be responsible for one of these levels, but whether or not it is officially in the job description, an A+ compliance manager will always have a bead on both levels. That way, if any potential violations crop up anywhere in the organization, you can react immediately.
Transmitting Necessary Information … Without Making Enemies
Let’s call a spade a spade: Compliance managers aren’t likely to be voted Most Popular Employee anytime soon. That’s because they spend a lot of the day saying things such as “This isn’t safe enough,” “This violates XYZ and needs to be updated immediately” and “Oh, you know that system we just spent thousands on? It no longer works according to the new laws. Change it.”
Compliance officers are the messengers that everyone else wants to kill. Or at least, to deny donuts. And let’s be honest, that might be worse.
A good compliance officer’s role is to detect risks, then transmit the information about fixing them to the relevant departments, without causing a lot of friction. Unfortunately, oversight often does just that: cause friction. When you’re responsible for monitoring communication, checking that disclosures are present in all documentation, photocopying or scanning and retaining documentation for the future, reviewing transactions and other managerial tasks, it’s easy to ruffle feathers.
As compliance manager, it’s important you develop routines to automate these tasks so you aren’t always breathing down everyone’s neck. It’s also important to point out failures in compliance in a polite, respectful and gentle manner.
Building the Skills of an A+ Compliance Manager
As the above section should indicate, considerate communication is one of the most important skills in a compliance officer’s toolkit. Others include:
- The ability to decipher confusing laws and regulations, and communicate them cogently
- Maintaining high ethics
- Maintaining impartiality and distance; keeping communication impersonal
- The ability to learn constantly
- The ability to act without a lot of direction from above
Simplifying Compliance in the Short and Long Term
One of the most common slip-ups organizations make is to amass a large number of different services on a range of different platforms. Sure, it makes sense that over time you build up numerous relationships and that those different vendors use different infrastructures to provide their products and services.
The downside for you? That’s dozens of platforms to monitor, hoping no data leaks through the cracks. Dozens of platforms to ensure are in compliance at all times. Dozens of platforms on which something could go terribly wrong before you can stop it – and bring down the entire organization in a minute.
We’ve taken great pains to create a one-stop-shop infrastructure that meets all your IT needs without sacrificing security. Now you can do away with the vendor-du-jour model, and start taking compliance seriously by running all your products and services through a single platform. Say goodbye to compliance nightmares, and hello to A+ compliance manager-hood.
Sure, “Most Popular” might still elude you, but when you work with us, you’ll get the peace of mind that you’re fulfilling your role the best way you can. And that’s worth as much as any popularity contest.
… almost, anyway.