An answer to this question lies in understanding what regulatory compliance is. In layman terms, regulatory compliance means adhering to or satisfying “the laws of the land”. These can consist of statutes or laws enacted by the legislature or the rules and regulations created by various departments, governmental and quasi-governmental bodies which fall under the executive branch of government. To hark back to an elementary Civics 101 lesson, the legislative branch of a government creates the law, the executive branch implements the law and the judiciary interprets the law. Regulatory compliance, therefore, falls mainly under the purview of the executive branch of the government, which functions through the various entities mentioned above.
Contrary to popular opinion, regulatory compliance is not limited to the world of money and finance alone, though we certainly often hear more about this type of compliance. Each and every industry, whether pharmaceutical, healthcare, environmental, manufacturing, etc has its own list of laws, rules and regulations which must be followed by all participants engaged in that industry. Regulatory compliance is a dynamic field, which means that there is a constant process of amendment or new norms being added almost every day as new issues or problems are identified! So, what exactly is required to become a compliance officer? Here’s the inside scoop…
- Qualifications: A degree is a must, not necessarily an MBA or Master’s degree, but either of those would just speed up your career growth. Managing regulatory compliance is a skill which you pick up over the years as you work in different capacities in a company or other organization. However, in large conglomerates there can be a separate department for handling compliance, usually clubbed with risk management and/or quality assurance. In such cases, you can expect to start as an entry-level executive and work your way upwards to the top role as a Chief Compliance Officer or other such designation. Additional qualifications by way of diplomas or certification programs in risk management, health&safety, operational risk, law, audit&QA, etc, add more meat to the role.
- Continuous knowledge gathering and learning: As mentioned above, ensuring compliance is a dynamic activity and the job of the compliance officer involves staying constantly updated or even ahead of anticipated changes in rules and regulations and interacting constantly with the regulatory authorities, by providing timely information and data as required by the latter. It is the compliance officer’s job to ensure that the company is not in breach or violation of any regulatory requirements, and as such, the role involves knowing all parts of the business inside out – sales, marketing, production, operations, legal, customer service, etc.
- Personal skills and attributes: A logical thought process while retaining an ability to “think outside the box”; excellent people management skills, a pleasant and calm demeanor, ability to multi-task and a constant interest in learning are a few of the skills and attributes a compliance officer must have. Of these, people management is probably the most important; in addition to dealing with regulatory authorities, the compliance officer needs to also deal with his/her own colleagues. Most managers view compliance as a barrier to running a profitable business on account of the documentation procedure, recording of deviations and reasons for the same and the time spent preparing explanations and answering questions raised by the compliance officer.
As a compliance officer, your role is basically that of a watchdog; you have to be constantly alert and on top of issues as and when they arise. While the amount and level of detail involved is huge, most compliance officers will tell you that this is a job they enjoy and can sink their teeth into (no pun intended)! If this is something which interests you, the above information will definitely put you on the right path.