How to Become Successful in Compliance

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First, find the right environment. Many regulated companies are "reactive," meaning that they do not anticipate issues but wait for issues to arise and then act or "react." Many of these companies are short-sighted, looking at the near-term and not focused on long-term goals. "Proactive" organizations are forward looking, not only in anticipating issues that might arise, but in having clear directions and goals. The compliance staff has the best chance of being successful in a proactive organization, where the culture is open to change and forward-thinking. Success in a reactive organization, by contrast, is an uphill battle. These organizations are likely resistant to change, lacking or minimalizing proper training, and also likely have no real sense of management buy-in.

Second, get top-down management buy-in. The commitment of senior management and the effectiveness and tone of their communication to their staff is pivotal to the success of the compliance program. This commitment is shown when they change their vision and strategic goals and provide the compliance department with the authority to implement, communicate, and improve the compliance policies and procedures. The best policies and procedures will fail without the full support from the top. It is also crucial to have direct-line access to the CEO, as well as the organization's oversight committees. The CCO should be part of senior management, with sufficient resources and staff to oversee and manage the compliance structure. Forward-thinking companies view and treat their compliance department as an asset, not a cost, which is a key to buy-in from the top down.

Third, consistency. Treat everyone the same. Don't allow biases or alliances shape the way you implement or monitor the compliance program. Playing favorites or turning your back on certain practices erodes the respect within the organization. It's not an easy job, and there are many uphill battles. However, if you know and do your job consistently, with a proactive sense of purpose, and monitor and maintain the compliance culture, you will put yourself in the best position to be successful.

Braden Perry, partner in the Kansas City-based law firm of Kennyhertz Perry, LLC and former federal enforcement attorney and veteran in government compliance, has over 10 years of experience in the areas of compliance, internal investigations, enforcement matters, and regulatory issues in private practice, federal government, and in-house as a Chief Compliance Officer. He currently advises highly regulated firms on compliance matters and frequently speaks on compliance and regulatory topics. He was previously Chief Compliance Officer of a global financial firm and has first-hand experience on what it takes to be successful, seeing both successful and unsuccessful compliance departments. For more information, visit
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