I am a long-time comic book reader, especially of Marvel Comics—the folks whose creations have ultimately yielded movies such as Captain America, Iron Man, the Avengers, and more. Back in the mid-1970s, Marvel published a series of anthologies that collected some of their most influential comics to date, and one of these volumes really captured my attention. It was called “Bring on the Bad Guys,” and it collected the first appearances of some of the greatest villains in the Marvel universe. At a time when it was hard for a young kid to get his hands on back issues, anthologies like this were treasure.
However, I always wondered, why wasn’t there a “Bring on the Good Guys.” How come the villains were getting all of the attention? The truth was, there always were anthologies that spotlighted heroes, but I just hadn’t seen them. The heroes were there, but to me, they had somehow become strangely invisible, which was quite frustrating.
I think of today’s compliance officer, and how that same frustration might apply. Tasked with helping to shepherd an organization through any number of ethical, compliance, risk, and governance challenges, the compliance officer often still is relegated to the shadows. The good work CCOs do is still sometimes only grudgingly noted by colleagues who still see compliance as some kind of throttle to innovation and performance. And should something result in a regulatory action or other kind of compliance setback, the compliance officer is quickly identified and shown the light of day. The Amazing Spider-Man, often blamed for things he didn’t do, and villainized even when he saves the day, could surely relate.
I bring up all of this superhero stuff because if you swing by the SAI Global booth at the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics 15th Annual Compliance and Ethics Institute, you’ll see these cool little foam superhero figures on display. They’re part of a larger effort SAI Global is spearheading (and which I am sure will also be picked up by many other organizations next year and onward) called National Compliance Officer Day. It’s a day to recognize the hard work that compliance officers do and the huge value they deliver to their workplaces and to the world at large by helping to build better, stronger, and more honest and ethical organizations.
We don’t normally call out specific initiatives by specific companies, but in this case, we’re making an exception. Even though National Compliance Officer Day is the brainchild of SAI Global, it speaks to something that is much larger than SAI Global itself, or any other organization in the compliance community, frankly. And the official launch language of this day speaks for itself:
Compliance Officers require the ability to understand complex issues and promote ethical behavior in a continually changing environment, often involving a high amount of risk, stress, and a fast-paced schedule. They are responsible for protecting and watching over thousands of employees. They may not have superpowers, but they are all superheroes.
It’s the risk of violations, and the financial and reputational damage that accompanies them, that makes their position so important. Their analysis and ability to identify those risk factors and help prevent them are priceless in organizations where ethical and regulatory violations are a concern.
I wholeheartedly agree. Not all superheroes have super powers. And we are most reminded that on days like National Compliance Officer Day. Bring on the good guys!