As we progress through the second year of this decade, we can already see signs the 2020s will be vastly different from the 2010s.


The International Compliance Association (ICA) is a professional membership and awarding body. ICA is the leading global provider of professional, certificated qualifications in anti-money laundering; governance, risk, and compliance; and financial crime prevention. ICA members are recognized globally for their commitment to best compliance practice and an enhanced professional reputation. To find out more, visit the ICA website.

The challenges for compliance moving forward will become more insidious in nature. The meteoric rise of cryptocurrency is highly disruptive and a game changer. Use of nanobots in patients’ bloodstreams and other innovations in medical technology provide examples of ethics and data privacy obstacles.

In 2021, there was a U.K. court case about employee rights involving a key player in the gig economy and allegations of a major social media platform attempting to hold at least one country “to ransom” by threatening to curtail access.

In such a radically different paradigm, we can reimagine what compliance looks like. As an integrated approach to risk management to add value, the profession requires fresh thinking and different perspectives. The agility of thought needs to be complemented by creativity, curiosity, and care so that everyone within the business is brought along on the journey. The historical notion of “enforcer” now gives way to “educator” and “enabler.”

It’s important there is collaboration between pioneers and innovators to design in the ability to learn how to learn. This requires cognitive diversity, which means the compliance profession (like others) needs to embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion.

A recent LinkedIn post referenced how GCHQ, a branch of the U.K. intelligence services, actively recruits employees with dyslexia because of their unique abilities. How can compliance create opportunities for the neurodiverse community, and with “work from anywhere” growing, how is access for people with disabilities facilitated?

Many fundamental socioeconomic and technological trends will accelerate, and other changes yet to be conceived will disrupt the world further beyond recognition. Now is the time to reimagine what skills the profession needs to develop, in tandem with others. Analytical thinking and regulatory acuity will remain. However, such administrative functions within businesses inherently need to be ahead of the curve to be cost-effective and enable competitiveness.

Learning how to learn—as individuals, as a profession, and as a business—will be critical to building agility, adaptability, and resilience. Compliance cannot merely report on end-of-product testing with 2020 hindsight; instead, it needs to integrate into risk management and business continuity, testing the robustness of security and the viability of supply chains.

Whether in private business, charity, public organization, or consultancy, compliance-based roles will become more attractive as a first career. Making a difference and supporting a bigger purpose will become a stronger motivation, particularly as sustainability grows into a more mainstream competitive feature.

As the global community grows and the world feels smaller, ideas will become a stronger currency, including how different disciplines of compliance can learn from one another (e.g., organized crime in food safety or human trafficking and cyber-crime). Compliance professionals need to think and act holistically with a whole-organization perspective.

For all the advances in innovation and technology, business is increasingly recognized as being about people. Creativity, curiosity, and care are becoming the prerequisites where reliance on tried-and-tested solutions must give way to different lines of inquiry. At the same time, care needs to come to the fore where there is an environment of trust and respect and corporate values are lived.

This is an exciting time to open compliance to everyone and help make the world a better place. Let’s do everything we can to remove any barriers.

The International Compliance Association is a sister company to Compliance Week. Both organizations are under the umbrella of Wilmington plc.

Jonathan Dempsey, MBA, is the director of Red Laces, a management consultancy unraveling the mystery and requirements of risk, safety, and compliance to empower business leaders toward success. Jonathan is a member of the ICA Panel, a body of leading industry thought leaders and subject matter experts who work in partnership with the ICA to support the compliance community.