Why compliance professionals need more than just legal knowledge

As the Financial Services Royal Commission continues, it’s more important than ever that organisations implement compliance policies that go beyond ‘ticking boxes’ in order to comply with the law. Instilling in employees everyday work practices habits that aren’t just legally compliant but also ethically sound starts from the ground up.

Nowadays compliance teams are drawing on experiences from the fields of technology, governance and HR. To make these changes effective in the long term, compliance professionals are finding it useful to have interdisciplinary skills that extend outside the scope of a lawyer or accountant.

Compliance professionals stand to benefit from having a tech background that will help communicate their message to the company at large. Michelle East from Certainty Compliance states that “people that have really strong change management skills and information management skills” are particularly useful. Compliance staff don’t need to be IT experts, but a working knowledge of regtech – the intersection between regulation and technology – and how it improves the transparency of operations between different sections of the business will mean they can mitigate risks where they see them.

‘Soft skills’ such as emotional intelligence which directly influence organisational culture and the willingness of employees to adopt compliance programs are just as important. James Beck from Effective Governance writes that hiring compliance staff who can adopt “HR, organisational psychology, and governance” skills are better able to discern the ‘grey areas’ between legal and ethical compliance. For example, the need to make complex decisions can often arise during business transactions that challenge the balance between profits, stakeholders and community expectations. When this happens, a technical knowledge of the law combined with a thoughtful approach to ensuring employees know how to act will provide the most holistic response.

New regulations are being introduced and the burden of compliance requirements will continue to expand. As Commissioner Hayne puts it, “Culture and governance are affected by rules, systems and practices but in the end they depend upon people applying the right standards and doing their jobs properly.”

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Source: Sydney Morning Herald