Monday, 9 july 2018 | Redacción CEU
The concept of compliance landed on the business world with a firm and forceful mission: guaranteeing that companies comply with current legislacion. That is a clear goal, but not an easy one to achieve. Companies need the help of a new type of professionals. They are the so-called Compliance Officers. Of course, their simple presence is not enough. Companies must work to develop an ethical and responsible business culture that facilitates and promotes their work. They must also bear in mind that the environment where this culture is built is subject to constant change. How would it be poissible to define an ethical framework in a world in full transformation? Can we fight against uncertainty by means of regulations? What does compliance need to face the unstoppable digitization?
The digital world permeates all areas of our reality. Society has learned to live in harmony with the development of new technologies and to experience the changes which surround them in a natural way. However, the business environment does not manage to adapt to this new situation with the same spontaneity. It is not easy for companies to transform their traditional business model in a way that fits into this new ecosystem. Neither is getting its regulatory framework to adjust to all these changes.
This is one of the reasons why the figure of the Compliance Officer has entered the business sector with such momentum. Companies are increasingly aware of the importance of having a professional in their staff that is dedicated exclusively to law compliance in the business framework. However, their arrival also responds to an increasingly demanding regulatory control and to a greater demand on the part of society for a fair, responsible and sustainable business world. Although ethics has not reached the place that it deserves in many companies, it increasingly fills a bigger gap in them.
These professionals must face different challenges such as having an interdisciplinary knowledge that allows them to address compliance from a cross-cutting perspective, knowing how to react to possible irregularities that may occur or remaining firm to both internal and external pressures. On the other hand, they also have to deal with something difficult to fight: the uncertainty generated by an environment in continuous development.
Technological advances transform the working methods of professionals: they help them to be more efficient, give them speed and practicality and offer them alternative and effective solutions. This digital inertia creates new scenarios where different behaviors are likely to occur. Some of these conducts might be governed by malpractice. For this reason, Compliance Officers not only need to know the sector where the company is specialized and its standards, they also need to keep up-to-date with the new tools and technologies that are developing, both with those of their professional field as well as with the ones their company works on.
Companies also have to collaborate. They cannot expect that just by hiring a Compliance Officer their work is done. Compliance requires a joint and comprehensive effort. If the executives and middle managers of the companies do not work in the same direction that these professionals, the lack of cohesion, transparency and loyalty may affect the effective implementation of the actions related to compliance. The company's attitude is key when it comes to promoting compliance.
Without ethics there is no compliance, and vice versa. Whenever norms don't achieve what is desired, the values promoted by the corporate culture must take over. When these foundations and principles are not enough, the regulation is the only guarantee that the workers' behaviors comply with the legislation. It is very important to understand this correlation, about all due to the fact that the appearance of technological progress today might look different tomorrow.
It is also important to distinguish the nature of these two concepts. While compliance is marked by external facts and derives from the desire to avoid mistakes or bad practices, corporate ethics focuses on internal aspects. It strives for the common good but in a sense where punishment is not the main driving force. That is why, without a corporate culture which is based on solid principles and values, compliance might fall short and lose strength. Whether someone focuses on the past, present or future of a company, the corporate culture will always be the constant which will define who it is and how it behaves on a daily basis.
Companies have to be willing to go a step further in order for compliance to be able to face with composure and serenity all the coming changes. Not only should they look outside: being protected under the written rule and avoiding fines and penalties. It is also necessary for companies to reflect on themselves: What do they promote? What are their values? How do they behave with their employees? What responsibilities do they have towards what happens outside? Do their behaviors and actions contribute to the common good? What attitudes do they adopt when facing changes? How do they behave in the face of the unknown? Are they doing things right?
At The CEU IAM Business School we believe that in order to face a digital and international environment like the current one, it is important to work on two pillars: leadership and ethics. According to this premise, we have designed an educational program within which compliance plays an important role. If you wish to go in depth in this discipline or prepare the CESCOM® certificate -it certifies the necessary knowledge to effectively develop the compliance function in any organization-, you can consult our Advanced Program in Compliance.