Before a company identifies the criteria they will use to evaluate a potential Chief Compliance Officer, I tell them to start by looking at how the most progressive companies are viewing the role of compliance today.
As an executive recruiter of compliance officers, I’m seeing a consistent desire that the compliance function be a business partner that can educate and instill an ethical and compliant culture without impairing business growth. There’s acknowledgment today that an ethical and compliant culture is of value to the bottom line: existing and future employees wish to align with you, as do third-party vendors, suppliers, etc. The results typically correlate in healthy stock prices and favorable reputational branding.
That said, here are the top eight criteria in evaluating a CCO candidate:
A Business Partner
Today’s CCO doesn’t just spout regulatory obstacles – he or she offers solutions that are keenly aligned with the company’s business objectives. So instead of just saying, “You can’t do it like that,” today’s CCO offers counsel that sounds more like this: “I am advising you that how you are looking to implement your business strategy would put us at odds with the regulatory authorities, but let’s review your objective and develop alternate solutions that can steer us clear of the regulators.”
A Great Communicator
Since the CCO is in an executive leadership position, they must have the ability to shape opinion and influence people. I’m not talking about being silver-tongued and charismatic – I’m talking about being trustworthy and having integrity, because you can’t influence people unless there’s trust in the relationship. On another note, they need to be disciplined communicators as well and should heed that old adage, “God gave you two ears and one mouth; use them proportionally.”
The CCO must be proactive in developing relationships with key stakeholders and the board of directors. A question frequently posed in interview situations is, “Provide me a specific example of how you go about developing relationships so you can shape and influence positive outcomes.” Being a strong manager in the recruitment, training, mentoring and motivating of one’s compliance department is also imperative. You’re only as good as your team.
A Savvy Businessperson
The CCO must understand how the business works and what the business owners are looking to accomplish. In fact, at Conselium Executive Search, we are seeing more profile requests these days for candidates with business operational experience, so clearly this is important today. Without it, the CCO will find it a hard to build credibility.
A Project Manager
Developing, implementing, monitoring and continuous updating of a compliance program is heavily process-oriented and requires strong process management skills. And a compliance program should be constantly evolving to reflect ongoing business risk and regulatory changes. Today’s evolved CCO can nail this. Bonus: Six-Sigma-type training and experience is looked on with great favor.
A Technology Nerd (sort of)
The CCO must be familiar with technological tools and how they bring value to capturing and evaluating data that can be used in “real-time” decision-making. This is especially critical for large financial institutions that face increased risk of money laundering and financial crimes. Today’s CCO must be comfortable in this area and able to interact with the IT department to design programs relating to predictive data analysis.
A Student of Risk
In addition to evaluating and mitigating compliance risk, some CCOs are charged with ERM (enterprise risk management). That requires a firm grasp of business risk (the risk in selling the goods and/or services of the company), geographic risk (i.e., doing business in highly corrupt countries) and economic risk (i.e., changes in interest rates).
Today’s CCO has to stay abreast of new business developments and regulatory issues. One way to facilitate continuous learning is to be a regular attendee and/or speaker at professional congresses. These can be an ideal forum for sharing ideas, staying current on issues and developing a network of professional peers.
Maurice Gilbert is Managing Partner of Conselium Executive Search, which specializes in placing Compliance Officers and Legal Counsel for clients in the U.S., Europe, Latin America and Asia Pacific. Maurice is also CEO of Corporate Compliance Insights, a worldwide publication devoted to governance, risk and compliance issues. Maurice can be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.