Executive coach and former Chief Compliance Officer Amii Barnard-Bahn responds to your anonymous questions on some of the grayer areas compliance officers face, such as culture, hiring, training, and ethics. Click here to submit your own for inclusion in our next edition.
Q: In your opinion, in which industry will compliance be most important five years from now? I am of the opinion that automation is going to change EVERYTHING (self-driving cars, delivery drones, etc.) and that the compliance function in the industries where automation is most predominant is going to be more important perhaps than the innovation that drives this change. Do you agree? And do you think Big Business will see it the same way? – Anonymous
Amii: Advances in automation, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the use of blockchain will certainly impact the entire economy, including manufacturing, healthcare, transportation, retail, and education. Compliance systems will need to keep pace with the volume and velocity of data and the complexity of automation. In parallel, we can expect automation to change compliance.
Will advances in technology help us do our jobs better? Will these new tools help us in our mission to scale, do more with less, and reduce risk in our organizations?
I’m hopeful. Automation holds promise by providing compliance with comprehensive data and early warning signs of potential issues. For example, one cutting-edge training company is using AI in its sexual harassment training to anonymously collect “orange flag” behaviors before they escalate, enabling organizations to reduce hot spots with skill-building, increased awareness, and behavior change. In a recent survey by Dun & Bradstreet, the top areas to benefit from AI were enhancing fraud and risk detection, data gathering and validation, risk screening, and account reconciliation. A substantial number of compliance professionals believe, however, they do not have the talent in place to use AI in the next year.
Regarding Big Business: As powerful as technology is in shaping our environment, it won’t change human nature. Businesses will still be scattered across today’s risk appetite continuum, many appreciating the alignment of compliance as a strategic asset critical to the achievement of profit goals. Then again, many will stand in blind or willful denial in the absence of an active crisis that compels them to act.
Q: I am moving to Eastern Europe from the States early next year to head up a compliance team for my company. I’m admittedly a bit nervous about it, mostly because of the cultural differences and how that might translate in the workplace. Am I supposed to instill the culture we created here, or am I supposed to adapt more to their culture? Or is there perhaps a happy medium? Are there any ‘best practices’ for this type of move? – Tom
Amii: Congratulations on the fabulous adventure that will unfold! The short answer is that it is important to learn and be sensitive to the cultural differences in your new adoptive country. Your role will be to bridge and translate between the two countries, so that you have an effective compliance program in Eastern Europe that is also aligned with your corporate program.
Based on my experience here is my advice and some best practices for this change. Be aware that your arrival could be viewed with some skepticism. To some, the most terrifying phrase is: “We’re from corporate, and we’re here to help.” To avoid your arrival being anticipated as a foreign invasion, you will need to build trust and key relationships in order to do your job effectively—and enjoy it.
1. Understand your mandate. Have a candid conversation with your boss to set expectations upfront. What does success look like one year from now? Three years? Find out how flexible they are with regard to country customs and how those may deviate from company policy norms (e.g. gifts and entertainment).
2. Educate yourself on country culture before you arrive. There are some great tools and resources available to understand how different cultures work, like the site Commisceo Global, which offers free culture guides to over 80 countries. Use those to assist you in improving cross-cultural understanding.
3. Pay attention to your local company culture. Seek answers to the following:
- How are key decisions made (e.g. initiatives, budget, and headcount)?
- For what behaviors do people get promoted or fired?
- Who has the power to make decisions (both formally and informally)?
- How is power formally and informally exercised?
- How comfortable are employees in openly expressing their opinions and feelings?
4. Start building alliances now, before you need them. Create a stakeholder map of key relationships that will be key to getting your job done. Introduce yourself to these folks in a culturally appropriate way before you move, and when you arrive schedule lots of informal meetups to build rapport. Seek out colleagues in your company who have worked with your Eastern Europe office and get their advice.
5. Once you are on the ground, seek out allies who are politically savvy and can serve as your personal board of advisors. You’re going to need people besides your boss to advise you and help you avoid blind spots.
Here are some questions to ask:
- What advice would you give someone in my role?
- How is compliance currently viewed?
- How is corporate headquarters viewed?
- What are the traits of successful people here?
- Tell me about a big project here that failed. What was the cause?
- Which company department is happiest, and why? (and which is least satisfied and why?)
6. Listen actively and earnestly. Aim to talk 20 percent in each conversation. Remember that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. People cannot be influenced by you if they don’t trust you, and they won’t trust you if they don’t feel comfortable around you and believe that you are open to their concerns.
This experience is going to equip you with knowledge and personal growth that cannot be gained elsewhere. Best of luck, and let us know how it goes!