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After 12 Years, Moving on From Compliance Week

Matt Kelly | October 13, 2015

I have been in the news business in one form or another since I was 11, so in the interest of starting with a strong lead: I am stepping down as editor & publisher of Compliance Week at the end of the year.

This decision wasn’t easy, but it is something I had been considering for several months now. The end of 2015 will mark 10 years of me working at Compliance Week as editor, plus two years prior to that as a contributing writer. The staff here has done incredible things in that time, and I take great pride in the business we’ve built. I’ve been honored by their support, and their willingness to follow the path I thought we should take. So I want to leave on a high note, and take the memory of all those accomplishments with me.

I’ve always felt that I had incredible luck to arrive at Compliance Week and work here when I did. My first steady assignment for the magazine, at the end of 2003, was simply to conduct Q&A interviews with corporate compliance officers to hear what they did in the course of their jobs; that was it. For more than a year I interviewed compliance officers at dozens of businesses (Tyco, Pfizer, Microsoft, Fidelity, Qwest, Home Depot, Iron Mountain) just to ask them how they defined their roles and duties.

I was lucky because in those early years, I had very little understanding of what corporate compliance was about—but then again, nobody else did either. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act was still new. The governance measures we take for granted today (say-on-pay votes, compliance officers reporting to the audit committee, enterprise-wide compliance training) were still untested ideas then. Control frameworks, deferred-prosecution agreements, sustainability reports, and the like were all in their infancy.

Professionally, I had the opportunity to “grow up” with compliance at the same time all of Corporate America did. Connections I made then—and I have connected with truly brilliant people over the last 12 years—still serve as advisers to me today, and as good friends as well. Forgive me but I cannot name and thank everyone here now, because if I did, we would be reading off names all day. There are too many to count. The chance to be part of that community as it defined itself, and to help in defining it, was one of the great privileges of my life.

What will I do next? First I will spend more time playing with my son. Beyond that, the truth is that I don’t know. I may still contribute to Compliance Week in a lesser capacity. I have a few other ideas that are quite different from Compliance Week. Spending several months on a beach somewhere is also a front-runner. Right now, beyond that, I’m not going to give it much thought. (I’m still here for another 11 weeks, after all.)

People sometimes ask me what is the biggest change in the field I’ve seen at Compliance Week. I have one answer: the “professionalization” of compliance, if I can get away with phrasing it that way. Ten years ago, describing what compliance officers do to someone I met at a cocktail party was brutal. (“We write about how companies can get into trouble, for executives who are supposed to keep them out of trouble.” I was so glad the day I gave that answer.)

I had the opportunity to “grow up” with compliance at the same time all of Corporate America did. The chance to be part of that community as it defined itself, and to help in defining it, was one of the great privileges of my life.

Today I can just say, “We write about corporate compliance” and most people know what that means. Compliance has seeped into so much of modern business, and the mechanics of it are so well understood (even if individual companies still have a long way to go before mastering it) that I can get on to the more serious work of talking with the executive at said cocktail party.

People sometimes ask me what I’m most proud of at Compliance Week. I have two answers. First, the extremely low turnover in our staff; without them deciding to stay and work here year after year, we never would have had the foundation upon which to achieve some truly remarkable things and serve the compliance community the way it deserves. I am proud of every newsletter and magazine we’ve published, every podcast and webcast hosted, every event held. We strived to deliver the best content we could to compliance, audit, and risk executives, and I think we did.

Second, that we never laid off anyone for lack of work—not even in 2009, when work was scarce. Yes we’ve fired people, and yes we parted ways with others as our plans and needs shifted, and yes we put people on furlough in the worst of the recession. But things were never so bad that we had to throw someone over the side of the lifeboat. That’s what I consider my biggest achievement.

I am sure that under new leadership (and a search is underway for a successor, who will be announced in due course), Compliance Week will reach even more new frontiers. I wish you all well, and it has been an honor to participate in the conversation this far. I regret not a single day of it. 

Matt Kelly has been editor of Compliance Week for 10 years. You can find him on LinkedIn at www.LinkedIn.com/in/mkelly1971 or on GoogleTalk at MattCompliance@gmail.com