The hottest commodity on the job market is the compliance officer. It is about time. No longer are compliance officers considered second-rate professionals, relegated to back office positions and authority.
Two trends are responsible for this professional transformation – aggressive enforcement programs and corporate governance focus on risk management. It is important to recognize that these trends are not transitory in nature, they are defining moments for changes in corporate governance.
Corporate headhunters are out in the market paying top dollar for experienced compliance professionals. Energy, financial, banks, drug, medical device and healthcare companies are driving the demand for compliance officers. The demand for compliance professionals is increasing as mid-size and small companies implement compliance programs.
Some companies continue to cling to the old school of responding to these influences. They will inevitably suffer from an enforcement action or poor management and financial performance.
The old school of thinking is rapidly being replaced by a new school of proactive compliance and risk management. More companies are recognizing the bottom line importance of ethics and compliance.
Compliance professionals are sought after by companies seeking to respond to these new trends. It is an important moment in corporate governance history because compliance professionals will finally gain the independence and influence they deserve.
People who are attracted to the compliance profession are extraordinary in their ability to focus on compliance and ethics while also coordinating with important business strategies. The profession is being redefined in many ways – the stature of a compliance professional is rising, and so is participation in business operations and decision-making.
If allowed to enter the C-Suite, a compliance professional can be a transformative influence by educating the C-Suite that compliance and profits are not at odds but can be mutually reinforcing.
As the demand for lawyers dwindles, we should see an increase in education and training for compliance professionals. Lawyers can be excellent compliance officers so long as they are willing to think outside the box. If lawyers apply the Dr. No model of legal analysis, they will have a limited impact on corporate ethics and compliance.
Compliance requires creative thinking. It is important to understand legal risks but there is so much more to the profession.
The next five years will be critical for compliance professionals. More professionals will become compliance officers. Education and training programs for compliance will increase. And the experience of compliance professionals will become more diverse. With the increasing influence of compliance professionals, corporations will have more managers and employees who have both perspectives – compliance and business knowledge. That will be a welcome development in corporate governance and business management.