The 3 key competences for compliance officers

Which specific skills should compliance officers have?

Given the growing importance of ESG in business, we notice an increasing demand for compliance profiles, either for permanent positions or on an interim basis, not only with a legal background but also beyond. Our compliance staffing team has been supporting the recruitment efforts of clients in multiple sectors from finance, industry, transport, utilities, IT to even law firms.

Although compliance is considered to overlap with, or at least be adjacent to the legal profession, we identified three specific competencies which are more prevalent with compliance profiles:

  1. Combining a sense of detail with keeping the broader perspective: Similar to the legal profession, attention to detail is a key success factor for a compliance officer. The role of compliance should however not be viewed as merely bureaucratic box ticking. Eliminating risk always comes at a cost. Although risks cannot be eliminated totally, they should be assessed in function of the circumstances: what are the objectives of the regulation, how can it be matched with the company objectives, what is the cost of eliminating it, what is the risk profile set forward by the senior management of the company. The compliance officer has to advise in such trade-offs and act accordingly.

  2. Influencing skills: An effective compliance officer is much more than an expert function with understanding of rules and regulations. This regulation will have to be embedded in the activities and processes of the business. Without having a hierarchic position over the business, the compliance officer will coach the business towards compliance. A good understanding of the business is therefore crucial: their objectives, the operational processes, the supporting IT systems and the bottlenecks experienced within the business.

  3. Problem solving skills: A compliance risk, or worse, a compliance breach is a highly delicate issue, with potentially far-reaching impact not only in terms of company exposure, financially or reputationally, but also for the individuals involved. The compliance officer should not only be equipped to flag the issue to senior management but also advise on how to handle it.

The profile description of a new compliance officer therefore usually includes not only technical skills regarding the prevailing regulation but also strong people skills and a genuine interest to understand the business.

Authored by Ilse Tack - 18 Nov 2022

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