The Compliance officer as an internal advisor

The Compliance officer as an internal advisor

The formal influence of the compliance officer is often limited. Although he may write the Code of Conduct or approve gifts, he often does not have any major decision-making powers beyond that. What then is its function? Is it primarily for publicity? As a fig leaf? Or does he play a completely different role?

External and self-perception of the compliance officer

A compliance officer or a compliance department may only have a rather vague task such as “Prevent corruption from within the company!” or “Protect the reputation of the company!”. The job description is usually not much more meaningful and often – if at all – only describes imprecisely the spheres of influence or decision-making powers of a compliance officer and his function.

This becomes a problem when the expectations placed on compliance officers by companies and their managers, and their self-assessments are far apart.

If you ask executives – as the professional association of compliance managers once did – about the function of the compliance officer, they mostly answer: A compliance officer is an advisor to the top management level such as the board of directors or management. This naming is followed by the functional description of the compliance officer as a clarifier and translator about legal and organizational requirements.

The function of being a mediator between managers and employees or an internal investigator is seen as far less relevant. Interestingly, the focus differs a little when asking the compliance officers themselves about their understanding of their role. Then the three most common mentions are still the same. But their order changes.

For the compliance officers themselves, the advisory function is no longer the priority, but rather the more technical aspect of clarifying or translating legal requirements. The difference may be small, but it suggests a slight discrepancy between self-perception and the perception of others.

Compliance Officer as an internal consultant

Managers and, of course, employees in companies primarily expect advice from the compliance officer for their day-to-day work. For example, you want to know which customers can and cannot be invited to a certain event. But you also want to know how you can decline such an invitation face-saving or which wording, and information must be included on an invitation so that the invited customer receives approval from his compliance department.

These questions are not easy to answer and managers and employees need advice and someone who can contribute the necessary experience, tact, and technical expertise.

Of course, this advice includes primarily the application and implementation of legal and organizational requirements, but the focus is on advice.

It is important for compliance officers to understand that this advice is expected of them. In this way, they can position themselves accordingly and fulfill their mission. They do not achieve this by controlling processes or making decisions themselves, but by improving the decisions of managers through their professional and competent advice and thus protecting the reputation of the company and protecting its employees from breaking the rules.

This content is meant for information only and should not be considered as an advice or legal opinion, or otherwise. AKGVG & Associates does not intend to advertise its services through this.

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