What Makes a Good Compliance Officer

April 10, 2023

A compliance officer is the life force behind the ethics and compliance of just about any organization. The work of a compliance officer demands a powerful gift of communication, long-term relationship-building abilities, organizational skills, motivation to learn and evolve, empathy, mastery of the laws and regulations surrounding an industry, and a lot more. 

The right compliance officer becomes a revenue protector for an organization, defending it from heavy losses in fines, lawsuits, or reputational damages. This article deep dives into the elements that make a good compliance officer. 

The Ability to Relate to People from Different Walks of Life

A compliance officer may be equipped with the toolbox of every law and regulation under the sun. They may even offer the most valuable guidance for operating within these laws and regulations. Unfortunately, however, none of these things may prove effective if your top leaders fail to heed the advice. 

Therefore, although the role of a compliance officer might seem purely technical, relationships are a critical ingredient for achieving the right results. They must know how to build meaningful relationships with their team, get to know everyone on an individual level, and remain open to any advice or suggestions they might have in terms of training and other compliance-related activities. 

Instead of thinking, “I’m here to teach the staff how to be compliant,” a good compliance officer must understand the needs of both the individual employees and the organization as a whole. This set the wheels of the working partnership in motion – an element that is critical to building a solid foundation of compliance.

Great Communication Skills 

As with every aspect of business, communication is key when it comes to compliance-related matters. What’s important to note here is that “speaking”, “instructing”, or “talking” are not synonymous with “communicating.” A good compliance officer doesn’t simply instruct employees on matters related to compliance. They don’t simply tell people which rules they must follow. Instead, they get the message across (loud and clear) by communicating the whys and hows of it.

Has the Ability to Show Empathy

No company is immune to situations where a decision might seem right from the business vantage point but is fully undesirable from the compliance vantage point. 

But what happens when the time comes to break this news? Chances are, the senior management will meet it with disappointment. When it comes to handling a sensitive issue like this, how can a compliance officer ease into it in a positive manner?

 The answer largely lies in how empathetic they are. A good compliance officer will go the extra mile to explain the “whys” behind the action the company has decided to take. They will explain why such a course of action cannot be taken and the repercussions that might follow with such a decision. 

When there is a lack of empathy, there are higher chances of compliance matters being alienated from the rest of the business decisions. This, in turn, causes the officer to lose their credibility and in some cases even become an obstacle. 

Must be a Gifted Problem-Solver

A compliance officer must have the right talent-blend of analytical and creative thinking to be an efficient problem-solver. On any given day, a compliance officer may face blurry or vague regulatory policies, the possibility of irreversible business failure issues, budget issues, and more. 

In the world of business and compliance, things change all the time. Whether it is an internal change (for example, a change in the key leadership) or an external change (for example, an upcoming economic crisis) – a good compliance officer must have the acumen, creativity, and insight to analyze and resolve issues in a quick and efficient manner. 

Has a Knack for Crafting Lasting Relationships

Let’s face it: most of an organization’s staff see compliance only as an obligation. Compliance doesn’t seem like the most important matter for several departments (marketing, operations, strategy, and so on). Naturally, an employee would be reluctant to participate in a compliance training session when they have their job to take care of. 

A good compliance officer knows exactly how to handle such a situation. Instead of drumming down the training into employees, they go the extra mile to connect with them on a human level first. They show interest in employees as people instead of simply concerning themselves with targets. The approach for building relationships could be anything – from bonding over a drink at an office event to simply saying hello in the office corridor. 

Must be Curious and Motivated to Learn 

The compliance and ethics of the entire business lie on the shoulders of a compliance officer. From keeping the course material engaging and up to date to stay fully updated with any new GRC issues – delivering against countless responsibilities is possible only when a compliance officer is proactive about every area of their job. Here, letting even a single thing slip can prove disastrous for an organization. For instance, not updating a training course as per the latest regulations can expose a company to accidental non-compliance and other forms of risk. 

Does Everything in a Highly Organized Manner

On a regular day at day, a compliance officer juggles multiple tasks within tightly defined timelines. Such a job demands extreme attention to detail and top-notch organizational skills. From breaking down processes into smaller tasks to laying out elaborate game plans for investigations – a good compliance officer knows exactly what needs to be done, when, and how

A Final Word

A great compliance officer knows how their role fits within the organization’s broader goals. They are equipped with both technical and people skills to strengthen the ethical fortress of their company. Whether it’s about helping companies stay compliant with current regulatory and compliance laws, running smooth investigations, or offering high-quality training that sticks with employees – the knowledge that a compliance officer brings to an organization’s table can pave the path for its long-term success.