Knowledge Center: Publication

Legal, Risk, Compliance & Government Affairs

Leaders in Compliance The Next Generation

9/8/2014 Victoria S. Reese and Paul Gibson
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Sharply rising demand for compliance talent, the absence of a clear career path in the discipline, and greater need for compliance executives with leadership and influencing skills are creating difficult challenges for organizations seeking to identify and retain talent in a world of increasing regulation.

Where will the next generation of compliance leaders come from, what competencies will they need, and how will aspiring leaders acquire those skills? To further explore these topics we convened top representatives from leading global banks, financial services companies,  insurance organizations, business schools and law schools to discuss careers in compliance and the factors essential for success.

Since the financial crisis of five years ago, increased regulation around the world has been driving demand for compliance professionals. In the wake of the Dodd-Frank Act and other regulation, many organizations have had to comply with complex new rules governing banking, the derivatives market, foreign tax accounting, and more. And with many regulations still under construction, and others scheduled to go into effect soon, more implementation challenges lie ahead – and thus more demand for compliance talent.

Meanwhile, serious and widely publicized compliance breaches, followed by massive fines and pledges to improve performance, have forced many institutions to take a hard look at operationalizing compliance and deciding who in their organizations will lead the charge. This suggests, too, that in order to achieve compliance while advancing their business goals, they will seek additional professionals, in a variety of disciplines, who can make compliance a central concern at all levels of their organizations.

Some formidable obstacles stand in the way of meeting this demand. Because there has been no traditional career path for working in compliance, few guidelines exist for what to look for in a candidate, how to pursue a career in the function, and what competencies augur success. In addition, most graduate business schools and law schools have not offered classes specifically focused on the subject, and students pondering their careers have regarded the field as a back-office function.

To discuss perceptions of the role and the state of the compliance leader today, Heidrick & Struggles convened a roundtable discussion that included Chief Compliance Officers (CCOs) and other senior compliance executives from leading financial institutions and representatives from leading business schools and law schools. Prior to attending the event, “Leaders in Compliance: The Next Generation,” participating CCOs and General Counsels completed a survey about the sourcing of compliance talent in their organizations and the competencies required for success. Taken together, the results of the survey and the candid discussion at the event paint a mixed picture of both challenge and opportunity:

  • Compliance roles are in a pronounced state of flux.
  • Softer skills like leadership, influencing, and relationship building are emerging as key competencies for success in those roles.
  • Law schools and business schools have an opportunity to better prepare their students for careers in compliance.
  • Identifying candidates for top compliance roles requires skill in assessing their experience and leadership competencies.

Victoria S. Reese Managing Partner +1 212 867 9876
Paul Gibson Partner +1 212 867 9876

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