What is a 'Compliance Officer'

A compliance officer is an employee whose responsibilities include ensuring the company complies with its outside regulatory requirements and internal policies. A compliance officer may review and set standards for outside communications by requiring disclaimers in emails or may examine facilities to ensure they are accessible and safe. Compliance officers may also design or update internal policies to mitigate the risk of the company breaking laws and regulations, and lead internal audits of procedures.

BREAKING DOWN 'Compliance Officer'

A compliance officer must have a thorough knowledge of the company and an awareness where possible regulatory breaches may occur. It is essential the compliance officer effectively communicates the company’s key ethics principles and compliance regulations. Compliance officers must organize regular training sessions for employees to communicate key regulatory changes and updates; this is particularly important in a heightened regulatory environment where change is consistent. The compliance officer must work with business units and management to ensure appropriate contingency plans are in place that set guidelines on how to respond to a possible compliance breach.

In the event of a regulatory breach occurring, it is important for the compliance officer to have appropriate disciplinary measures in place to avoid a future recurrence. It is the compliance officer’s duty to ensure compliance procedures are continually monitored and reviewed to help identify possible areas where improvements could be made. Compliance officers are expected to provide an objective view of company policies. Influence by other employees, including management and executives, to overlook infractions may result in significant fines or sanctions and reputational damage that may lead to financial loss or even business closure. Larger companies typically have a chief compliance officer (CCO) to direct compliance-related activities.

Skills of a Compliance Officer

A compliance officer requires a unique skill set to ensure a company’s operations fully comply with regulations and procedures. It is critical that a compliance officer possesses high ethical standards and honesty as he is responsible for ensuring a company adheres to required regulations. Compliance officers are continually reviewing the work of others; therefore, it is essential they have polished people skills and work well with colleagues; appeasing colleagues must not take precedence over a company’s regulations being met. Compliance officers need to be reliable, showing commitment and unity in relation to a company’s regulations and procedures; it is crucial they demonstrate this to colleagues, leading by example. Compliance officers must have strong attention to detail; they need the ability to notice actions that may result in a liability.

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