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Time to ‘rebrand’ your Compliance Function

Thursday 7 December 2017

By Eli Singer 

This article was originally published in the December Edition of the GRC Professional 
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As compliance professionals, our main responsibilities involve ensuring our organisation’s compliance with applicable legislative and regulatory obligations. This is done through the development of policies and procedures, by keeping up with ongoing training and with regulatory change, and with the monitoring and testing of key compliance controls. Pretty much a text-book definition of compliance management, right? But while all these things are important, is this really the sum of our value-add to our organisations?  

In discussions with my compliance peers, it seems to me the compliance function is overdue for a rebranding. Why? Many of our co-workers in Product, Marketing and Distribution, PMO and customer experience still see us as ‘enforcement officers’ who exist to set up barriers and road blocks for the organisation when they want to roll out a new campaign or strategic initiative. In many organisations, compliance is often one of the last business units to be engaged when rolling out a new marketing campaign, new product or other sales-related initiatives. 

The cause of these long-standing and misconstrued views about the compliance function is complicated. It varies from organisation to organisation and thus is beyond the scope of this article. Suffice to say, these views regarding the limited capabilities of compliance are often exacerbated due to problematic cultural-related issues within the organisation itself.

The modern-day compliance professional has more to offer than simple obligation and incident management. We are trusted business partners who are approachable and flexible. We are also strong collaborators who, along with our risk colleagues, possess a unique perspective in balancing risk versus return. We act as ‘enablers’ for the business to make sound commercial decisions, based on our strong knowledge and ongoing engagement with industry. In addition to the above, the role of the compliance function is to actively promote the benefits to the organisation of operating within a culture conducive to compliant and ethical conduct and behaviours. This is where tone-from-the-top is vital to a fully developed compliance role.

Changing how organisations view the compliance function will take time and require buy-in from the CEO and the leadership team. However, compliance functions can start the rebranding process now, by changing the way they approach compliance sign-offs and other requests for compliance reviews and approvals. Avoid solely focusing on the negatives—that is, why the business can’t do something—and instead, take the opportunity to really transform the compliance function into one that is solutions- and ideas-focused, that assists the business in identifying commercially-viable solutions and alternatives that address any residual compliance-related matters or concerns. By implementing a more collaborative, optimistic, ‘can do’ approach in dealing with compliance matters in your organisation, your compliance function will overcome the ‘us versus them mentality’ and move from being seen as a ‘second line of defence’ function to being recognised as a genuine business partner—key to any successful rebranding attempt.

About the author
Eli Singer is an experienced Compliance, Risk and Governance professional, with a strong compliance and risk management background across banking, superannuation, life insurance and financial advice. Eli has a genuine passion for driving a culture of compliance and ethics within organisations.

David Golding

Monday 11 December 2017
Thanks Eli. A great reminder about the contribution compliance makes to business. Compliance drives better business decisions, better results and being more productive.