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Compliance gains ground: the importance of integrity
Executive Education / 24 August 2021
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Marlène is Director Governance, Risk & Compliance at RSM Netherlands Consultancy B.V. in the Netherlands. She is a senior expert in the area of controlled and ethical business management, culture and behavior, and has been active as senior compliance professional for over 20 years for banks, insurance companies and an external banking supervisor. She is an experienced lecturer at Frankfurt School and is active at Erasmus University in Rotterdam.

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When we talk about compliance – what exactly is it we’re talking about? Compliance is perhaps best described as “doing the right thing even when nobody’s looking”. Essentially, compliance is all about enhancing an organisation’s integrity, because an organisation that acts with integrity is perceived as being reliable and trustworthy. In turn, this perception enhances the organisation’s standing in the business world. The bottom line is trust, and this is how compliance helps to create long-term value. The title of Compliance Officer implies all the above: boosting the organisation’s integrity by providing advice and training, as well as ensuring that everybody adheres to the appropriate standards.

Which brings us to the next question: what do we mean by integrity? The term integrity comes from the Latin integritas, meaning “preserving whole”. American businessman and religious leader Joseph B. Wirthlin defined integrity as “always doing what is right and good, regardless of the immediate consequences.”

Integrity in business

In business – just as in government, or in other positions of power or status – it is essential to be able to rely on relationships. This means both being reliable and also working with reliable business partners. There should be no room for fraud, corruption or unethical business practices – anywhere in the world. Corruption in particular is a breeding ground for crime, fuelling public mistrust and discontent. It causes anger and unrest in society, and disturbs the natural balance of peace and justice. Similarly, trust in institutions swiftly declines.

Cross-border collaboration based on integrity is an admirable objective, given that it results not only in enormous business growth, but also in fair dealings between all those involved. But we can only achieve integrity if individuals, institutions and organisations all uphold it together. And yet circumstances at international level are highly complex and hugely varied.

In view of all the above, educating people in the principles of compliance is a vital step towards fostering integrity.

Compliance as a promising career option

Fostering integrity is not restricted to personal development – the complex of issues surrounding compliance offers exciting career opportunities at both national and international level. Ionela Emmett, Vice President AML Monitoring & Investigations, Group Compliance at Commerzbank AG, recently attended Frankfurt School’s European Certified Compliance Professional (ECCP) certification course and shared her impressions with us. “In recent years, all European countries have been facing a growing number of compliance issues. Not only do they have to contend with framework legislation adopted at EU level, but each member state must also comply with its own legislation and regulatory requirements.”

The different approaches and law-making cultures involved are far from transparent, and researching it all in detail is very time-consuming. But anyone who wants to understand the different approaches characterising international compliance culture must invest this kind of time. Ms Emmett describes the ECCP course as extremely practical and effective: “The course gave me an opportunity to find out more about key elements of compliance, as well as different views of and approaches to compliance. It’s a combination of best practice plus pragmatic, real-world takeaways. One of the real benefits of attending the ECCP course is immediately being able to put what you learn into practice. I found myself in a safe learning environment with expert support and direct, reciprocal feedback.”

You’ll find more details about Compliance, Forensics & Internal Auditing and our ECCP course on our website.

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