The Role of Compliance Officers in Effecting Change

According to the CEO of the Society of Corporate Compliance & Ethics Roy Snell, the role of a compliance officer is a new concept, and very few people are aware of it though its ranks are growing considerably. The role of a compliance officer is to develop a program that “prevents and fixes regulatory and ethical problems” using tools like investigations, risk assessments, audits and education. The compliance officer fixes all the problems and prevents future occurrences. I relate the increase of Federal and state regulations on businesses to increased demand for compliance officers from zero to tens of thousands. Cathy Mackenzie, general counsel and vice president for Island View Casino Resort in Gulfport, learned that compliance is the fastest growing career path and offers the best advancement opportunities.

This observation is most applicable in the banking, gaming and insurance industries that are heavily regulated. Mackenzie states that the casino’s compliance director handles duties related to the casinos layout and the employee’s work permits. The casino must play under the regulations of the Mississippi Gaming Commission and the Mississippi Gaming Control Act. They also have their playbook and internal controls that they follow. All these regulations increase the intensity of their day-to-day compliance.

The work of a compliance officer is to make sure everyone follows these rules. They also prevent employees from making mistakes whose results may lead to punitive actions by the regulators. Formal degrees in compliance are available in a couple of a couple of dozen universities. I associate this growth to increased need enforcement of regulations. The compliance profession has grown considerably in the United States and internationally. Snell’s organization has more than 1000 members from 75 other countries. Though compliance is a hard job, I think that people who want a challenging job with increasing responsibilities annually will enjoy it.

Helane L. Morrison epitomizes the growing importance of the compliance department. Like many compliance officers, Ms. Morrison began her career by practicing law. She was a law clerk in the Supreme Court and later started a private practice. From 1996 to 1999, Ms. Morrison was in charge enforcement in the Francisco Securities Exchange Commission. In 1999, she became the head of SEC, San Francisco in charge of securities enforcement in five states. She served in this position up to 2007 when Hall Capital Partners LLC hired her as the Chief Compliance Officer.

Learn more about Helane and connect with her on her LinkedIn profile.