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Compliance Officer: your independence

The independence of the Compliance Officer

In the business world and in the organizational field there are many unwritten rules or mere trends, habits or customs of relative application.

At the beginning of any professional career, it is normal not to hold positions of responsibility, or rather, of great responsibility. And it is that responsibility in the workplace has all the people who carry out our tasks within the company in which each one carries out their activity, even in the case of being “our own bosses” for having our own signature. Responsibility as such is something inherent in the development of a job, whatever it may be, the difference is found in the status or level in which we find ourselves and, therefore, that is where the graduation of such responsibility would correspond. I believe that this clarification is sufficient to focus on what is intended to be explained in the following lines in reference to the title of this article.

Rules present in the article

One of those unwritten rules or customs of application in certain areas may well be the well-known expression of the boss's loneliness, which means that the higher up he is, the more distance there is between him and his collaborators, who see him as the person who “directs”.

Well, if we bring this up from the title of this article, lto independence of the Compliance Officer, The previous reflection could be misinterpreted.

Being a Compliance Officer and being the Head or Director of a Department or Area may have some similarity in terms of rank or importance, although far from considering that the independence of the Compliance Officer implies or entails “the loneliness of the boss.” Nothing could be further from reality as it would imply an inapplicable syllogism. “The one has nothing to do with it.”loneliness" with the other one "independence”.

Loneliness of the boss: in the case of Compliance Officer

As I explained at the beginning, in my opinion, about what I consider to be “loneliness of the boss”, in the case of the Compliance Officer we should not consider this, but rather his true independence, not loneliness or isolation, from any other "responsible" for the Organization except for Senior Management or Government body (if any). That, and no other, is the authentic independence that this function needs and requires to correctly carry out its functions, without interference, obstacles or interested impediments with a desire to cover up or conceal unwanted conduct. Being independent does not mean being alone, hence a Compliance Officer, by the mere fact of having independence to perform his or her function, is not equivalent to saying that “he or she is alone in the Organization.” The independence does not mean isolation, unlike loneliness. Acting independently is not the same as considering that you have no one or that you are alone, in short.

It is worth highlighting that the profile of a Compliance Officer must have, among other qualities, balance, since throughout his performance he will have the occasional "shadow" moment in which his confidentiality and prudence must guide him along a path that he will have to travel alone, without the company of those he considers friends or colleagues. Which leads us to think about what we have to handle when we are asked whether the function is carried out alone or independently. And if the balance is not enough, we will have the temperance, another quality inherent to the position of Compliance Officer, and a very good competence to self-govern that independence of the function.

Only in this way can we truly talk about the independence of the Compliance Officer. That boss loneliness should not apply for this function, since, if we stick to the functions that a good professional must possess to perform such a position, such as training, advising, answering and attending to queries, informing, raising awareness, conveying the culture of the Organization both both internally and externally, proposing improvements, etc., it would be completely impossible to undertake them while isolated or levitating in a higher space, distanced from the rest of the Organization.

Compliance and DPO

What do the Compliance Officers themselves think?

As more/less scientific data on the independence of the Compliance Officer, the majority of professionals who occupy this position in large companies (approximately 60% according to a study carried out by the firm EY) considered that they did not enjoy independence as such, to carry out their functions, only one 40% considered that they had sufficient independence as Compliance Officer. Seeing this data, I wonder if this lack of independence is synonymous with loneliness or “intrusion” into the function. Well thought out, I believe that both can occur as on the one hand, a committed Compliance Officer who does not have independence may find himself “alone” performing the function due to lack of commitment from the corresponding Senior Management or Governing Body while, on the other hand, On the other hand, your work may be being “monitored” or intervened so that you do not have the independence necessary to supervise and control the work. Compliance Program.

If we analyze this data and place it in the business context in which it must be considered, let's imagine what a Compliance Officer of an SME or microsme regarding the exercise of their functions independently. The most likely thing is that there will be greater interference in said independence, as it is a smaller company segment and, therefore, more supervisory in terms of the proximity of the managers to the business and, by extension, Compliance. In these cases, it is most likely that said figure coincides with a member of Senior Management or Governing Body.

Ultimately, the independence of the role, in my modest opinion, is closely related to the degree of maturity of the Organizations…or of the Compliance Officers.

Therefore, independence, always. Loneliness is not the way...

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