Compliance Leaders Should Set the Pace, Not Keep the Pace

Key takeaways and themes from the 2016 SCCE conference

This was a week for the books. Let’s quickly review:

  • The 2016 Presidential nominees took stage at Hofstra University in New York and had the first debate for the Oval Office. The result in November could mean a significant shift in regulation across the board.
  • We exhibited at the 16th Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics Conference in Chicago – my first as Convercent’s EVP and Chief Compliance Officer (more on that later).
  • Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf is forfeiting some $41 million and will not be getting paid during the investigation under order of the firm’s board. The first time that a major US financial firm has forced executive leadership to give back previously earned money, the Wall Street Journal reports. This claw back is a major result of the Dodd-Frank legislation, which is finally coming to play after skepticism from the big banks that it would never actually materialize.
    • ICYMI: Stumpf testified at a Senate Committee Hearing last week where Democrat Senator Elizabeth Warren sternly told him he is a criminal who should be prosecuted, urged him to resign as CEO and give back the money he “stole” when he had Wells tellers create illegal customer accounts as part of an aggressive cross-sell/upsell campaign. The scam got him some $200 million in gains. The firm itself was fined $185 million over these account openings.  [Read: Uphill Battle for Wells Fargo is Just Beginning]
Convercent Booth at SCCE 2016
Convercent’s booth at the 16th SCCE Conference held in Chicago, Sept. 25-27, 2016.

All of this made for interesting conversation on the floor of SCCE, to say the least. Attending SCCE this year was a bit different for me as I have spent a good portion of my career on the practitioner side. As Convercent’s first chief compliance officer, the looking glass was slightly different and provided me an incredible insight into where the industry is headed now that I am more aware of what it is like to live and breathe on both sides, so to speak.

Attending this year on the heels of Convercent’s biggest product announcement to date as a company, Convercent 4.0 and its first annual global user conference Converge ’16, added another dimension to the themes that shaped every conversation we had at our booth, in sessions as well as in networking events. The experience, at the very least, served as total validation for the direction Convercent’s products and how they will couple, align and enable where the industry is headed.

A Look Inside My Notebook: Major SCCE Themes 

Modern Slavery – With the Yates Memo and the California legislature requiring compliance officers to sign off that their supply chain involves no modern slavery or human trafficking, it made compliance officers sit up and think.

  • Traditionally, especially in large organizations, there can be thousands of third parties. As a result, sometimes risk assessments are focused on tier 1 and 2 third parties. With the new requirement, compliance officers are forced to re-examine how they are vetting and evaluating their third parties – deep into the supply chain. The real threat of modern slavery and human trafficking typically is bred deep in the supply chain – the subcontractors of subcontractors.
  • slaveryfootprint.org is a website that takes you through a series of questions and shows you how many slaves work for you due to your lifestyle – worth the 10 minutes.

Anticorruption and strengthening culture

  • Likely a direct consequence of the crisis unfolding at Wells Fargo, these topics were not only timely but presented in a new way emphasizing that these aspects of a modern compliance program need to be stronger than ever before. Why? Workplaces are growing more complex. Globalization is reshaping the way we do business and manage risk. Employees are expecting more from their employer, with the emerging workforce ranking culture higher than salary when evaluating a job offer.

Compliance has become a true career path

  • For the first time at an industry-wide conference, there was an emphasis on career growth and soft skill development. This is echoed in recent job postings. The sheer number of c-level compliance officers needed in the market has substantially increased since the beginning of this year alone.

What does this all mean for a compliance officer’s every day? What does this mean for the way companies operate?
Our jobs are only getting more complex, more challenging and more diverse. No longer are the days that compliance can get by with good enough or manual processes or disparate management systems when companies can no longer afford to be bordering corruption or workplace safety or culture failure in the name of saving a budget line or two. The way and pace compliance is moving is nearly identical to that of an emerging company like Convercent.

My key takeaway from this year’s SCCE conference:
If you are not combining your seasoned understanding of compliance and ethics with the pace and innovation of a Silicon Valley startup, you are going to fall behind (you may already be). You must constantly think about how to improve and what you can do better. 

Rather than keep pace, we as compliance leaders must set the pace for the company as the enabler, protector and safeguard that helps drive the bottom-line and improve the overall health of your company.