At a time when the regulatory environment is growing more complex and companies keep making headlines for corporate governance failures, knowing how to spot risk and avoid ethical and compliance lapses to protect assets and reputation are skills that have become more important than ever.
Today, many finance, audit, risk, and compliance executives are increasingly turning to executive education programs to hone their skills, learn specific topics in-depth, and all while getting to network with, and learn from, like-minded peers.
But an executive education program can be costly and takes a certain level of personal commitment. Thus, it’s important that prospective applicants first answer several key questions before investing time and dollars into any executive education program. What do you hope to get out of the program? How relevant is the program to the business goals of the company? Does the program appropriately fit the job role and development goals of the executive who will be taking it?
This article is intended to give companies, directors, and finance, audit, risk, ethics, and compliance executives an idea as to the sort of executive education programs being provided today to help make an informed decision. It is not meant to endorse any one program.
One consideration, for example, is whether to invest in a general open-enrollment program or a custom program, tailored by the business school for an individual company. Custom programs give the company greater influence over the material covered, which may be especially cost-effective in cases where several employees need to acquire knowledge about a specific topic or function, for example.
In contrast, a general open-enrollment program offers the opportunity to gain new insights from outside the company by bringing together executives from different companies and from a wide range of industries. Many executive-education, open-enrollment programs today provide learning focused on a specific function, including in the growing area of risk management, ethics, and compliance.
The New England College of Business, for example, offers working professionals the opportunity to earn an online Master’s Degree in Business Ethics and Compliance (MBEC program). Students enrolled in the MBEC program can choose from three concentrations: business compliance, forensic accounting, and corporate social responsibility.
The business compliance concentration is designed to prepare graduates for effective and proactive compliance management, while exercising ethical judgment in the governance of their company. Students are generally either currently engaged in, or have a career objective to be involved in, compliance. We provide students with the subject area knowledge required to be an effective leader within their organization and to coach others in compliance,” says Deborah Sementa, professor and interim chair of the MBEC program.
This article is intended to give companies, directors and finance, audit, risk, and ethics and compliance executives an idea as to the sort of executive education programs being provided today to help make an informed decision. It is not meant to endorse any one program.
“The most unique aspect about the program is the capstone,” Sementa says. The capstone is an 11-week course, in which students work with a corporate sponsor—many through their own employer—to apply their newly gained knowledge in the compliance space. One student, for example, designed a code of conduct for a company, she says.
“When we started the program in 2009, we were the first college to offer a degree in compliance and ethics,” Sementa says. Since that time, competition in the executive education field of ethics and compliance has exploded.
The University of St. Thomas School of Law is another example of an institution that offers programs in organizational ethics and compliance, which was designed with input from its 24 corporate advisoryboard members. “Required courses provide practical detail relating to the nuts and bolts of creating and maintaining an ethics and compliance program, as well as ways to create and enhance sound ethical cultures and how to remediate weak ones,” the university states on its Website. The program includes an elective Compliance Externship course, providing students with the opportunity to work side-by-side with corporate ethics and compliance professionals to increase working knowledge of the field.
For companies and executives looking to develop skills in risk management, Harvard Business School offers a “Risk Management for Corporate Leaders” program. “Sometimes people who are newly assigned to the role who don’t have a previous background in risk management find that it’s a wonderful place to start off that new role,” says Robert Kaplan, senior fellow and Marvin Bower professor of leadership development, Emeritus at the Harvard Business School.
While the program touches upon some technical aspects of risk management—such as addressing regulations like the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the Dodd-Frank Act, and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act—much of the program focuses on the importance of embedding the risk management function in the way the company formulates and implements strategy.
There’s a danger in companies treating risk merely as a compliance and regulatory issue, rather than a strategic one. For example, some of the topics introduced into the program in recent years don’t derive from regulatory issues at all—cyber-threats and political risk, for example.
The curriculum focuses on five key areas:
Recognizing and avoiding risks from unexpected and undesirable employee behavior;
Linking risk management to strategy formulation and execution;
Managing risks from uncontrollable external events;
Responding to reputational and brand risks;
Organizing, managing, and governing the risk management function; and
Maintaining the creative tension between innovation and risk management.
“The goal is not to avoid risk, but rather embrace risk, because without risk you don’t get return,” Kaplan says.
Industry-focused programs. Several institutions offer industry-focused courses, as well. If you’re seeking executive education in the field of financial services, for example, Seton Hall University School of Law provides an online “MSJ in Financial Services Compliance” program. The MSJ in Financial Services Compliance Program explores the laws and regulations governing the financial services industry, how to respond to and analyze financial compliance issues, and how to work effectively with counsel and business leaders to problem-solve and craft effective compliance policies and procedures.
GRC Education Programs
Below is a small sample of executive education programs offered in the field of risk management, ethics and compliance.
HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL
Audit Committees in a New Era of Governance
Description: You will learn how to develop tools for ensuring effective risk management, including overseeing cybersecurity risk, improving financial reporting transparency and investor communication, encouraging the right risk culture and tone-at-the top of the company, and managing the latest developments in financial reporting.
HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL
Risk Management for Corporate Leaders
Description: This intensive enterprise risk management program provides the frameworks you need to reassess and strengthen your company's approach to risk management. You'll learn how to develop winning strategies that balance innovation and risk, prepare for the consequences that result from "novel risks," and sustain a long-term competitive advantage.
NEW ENGLAND COLLEGE OF BUSINESS
Online Business Compliance Master's Degree
Description: This online Business Compliance Master's Degree is designed to prepare graduates for effective and proactive compliance management while exercising ethical judgment in the governance of their company.
UNIVERSITY OF ST. THOMAS SCHOOL OF LAW
Organizational Ethics and Compliance Program
Description: The Organizational Ethics and Compliance Program curriculum was designed with the practical, real-life needs of the ethics and compliance professional in mind. Required courses provide practical detail relating to the nuts and bolts of creating and maintaining an ethics and compliance program, as well as ways to create and enhance sound ethical cultures and how to remediate weak ones.
SETON HALL UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW
MSJ - Financial Services Compliance
Description: Seton Hall Law School has paired its compliance knowledge with its internationally known corporate law faculty to meet the needs of the financial services industry. The online master's degree in Financial Services Compliance teaches about the relevant laws surrounding industries and how to apply that knowledge to real-world situations.
FINRA Institute at Wharton
Description: The FINRA Institute at Wharton Certified Regulatory and Compliance Professional (CRCP) program provides compliance, legal and regulatory professionals with an in-depth understanding of the foundation, theory and practical application of securities laws and regulation. The CRCP program is delivered through the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and comprises two non-consecutive week-long residential courses, in addition to extensive pre-course readings and casework.
Source: Compliance Week
As another option, Wharton offers a program in collaboration with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), which provides compliance, legal, and regulatory professionals with an in-depth understanding of the foundation, theory and practical application of securities laws and regulation.
“Participants will gain a broader understanding of capital market regulation and the developments in compliance and risk identification practices necessary to meet today’s challenges,” says Jill Fisch, Perry Golkin professor of law and co-faculty director of the Wharton/FINRA program. Those who complete the program within a two-year period will be designated as a Certified Regulatory and Compliance Professional.
Executive-education programs in the complex field of healthcare compliance also offer many opportunities for professional and personal growth. Legislation like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act have created an even stronger need for credentials in this increasingly complex field.
To this end, several executive education programs now offer a graduate certificate in healthcare corporate compliance, including The George Washington University’s College of Professional Studies. Offered by the College of Professional Studies and the Milken Institute School of Public Health in partnership with a leading healthcare law firm, the program offers education in healthcare laws and regulations, as well as tools and strategies for creating effective corporate compliance programs.
Both the Mitchell Hamline School of Law and the University of Pittsburgh School of Law similarly offer an online healthcare compliance certificate program. At Mitchell Hamline, participants can complete the 11-credit program in 11 months. The program is accredited by the Compliance Certification Board.
Board-focused programs. There are also a variety of executive education options for directors looking to sharpen their knowledge. For example, Stanford Law School’s Directors’ College, now in its 24th year, addresses a broad range of problems that confront modern boards—such as the board’s role in setting business strategy, CEO succession, challenges posed by activist investors, crisis management, and modern issues like emerging cyber-security threats and disruption.
For audit committee chairs, board members, and chief financial officers, Harvard Business School offers a program called “Audit Committees in a New Era of Governance,” designed to help audit committees “learn how to develop tools for ensuring effective risk management, including overseeing cyber-security risk, improving financial reporting transparency and investor communication, encouraging the right risk culture and tone-at-the-top of the company, and managing the latest developments in financial reporting,” its Website states.
With so many executive-education programs available, and most offering a wide variety of courses in the risk management and compliance field, it’s essential for companies, executives, and directors to narrow their list of relevant options. That said, further homework may be warranted: What is the professional and educational background of the professors teaching the course? How large are the classroom sizes?
Another important consideration: How is the program structured? Some programs rely heavily on lectures, whereas others use case studies or provide a group-based learning environment, or a blend of all these teaching styles. Some are provided strictly online or face-to-face, or a hybrid of the two. Decide which program structure best fits your preferred learning style.
Consideration must also be given to location. With so many reputable programs to choose from, several may be located locally, but don’t necessarily offer the training the company desires. Studying abroad, on the other hand, could be beneficial for receiving training on a geographic region’s domestic business issues or culture. In such instances, the added expense of travel may be worth the investment.
The benefits that executive education programs offer can continue long after the program ends. The opportunity to foster connections with other professionals and faculty provide an opportunity to receive ongoing advice and mentoring, and both executives and companies can use the knowledge and skills gained to further their own profession or the business goals of the company for many years to come.