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Tuesday
Mar212017

Women in compliance: A key to organizational diversity

In the prior post, I looked at the presence of women in compliance roles in the United States and abroad. In this post, I'm looking at how women in compliance can be a catalyst for more diversity in organizations.

Risk and compliance managers are hopefully a part of the upper management of a business and have at least yearly access to the board of directors, if not an actual position on a board committee.

The board is not the only part of the business that should be tasked with creating a more diverse leadership team at the firm, though.

"It is the responsibility of all areas of the business to support and ensure this happens -- from the HR team to Compliance to the chair of the board -- to make sure the widest talent pool is being tapped.

That thought process should be a part of how the business retains the women managers it has and plans for broader recruitment," said Violet Ho, Senior Managing Director, and leader of Kroll's general investigations practice for the Greater China region.

"Compliance personnel can and should help with this initiative, as the company commits to meeting certain targets, even if HR leads it. And their department should embody it, with its own numbers of women and commitment to retaining them," she said.

The emphasis on retention is important here.

When the HM Treasury/Virgin Money survey asked mid-tier women in financial services why they have stayed with their employers for over five years, the authors found that they reported a supportive manager, technology enabling a flexible work arrangement, and an ethical business culture as reasons.

The survey found that 67 percent of women and a full 84 percent of men believe greater gender diversity depends on a commitment to it by the very top leaders and a culture such leaders noticeably foster.

An impediment to such a culture, 65 percent of them said, is a culture in which a person feels that he or she has to work long hours in the office to progress up the corporate ladder.

Financial services firms that still emphasize face time help make those who have more flexible work arrangements look less committed, which can have little basis in reality.

 Barclays has created an innovative "Stay in Touch" App that helps anyone out of the office on maternity leave (or paternity leave, as the UK recognizes it), so the business parson can feel connected -- not to business tasks -- but to the firm's child childcare vouchers and return-to-work policies.

Women and risk management. Obviously, the right person for the compliance role has a certain blend of personality traits, skills, and understanding of compliance regulations and concepts.

Are women uniquely poised to excel at the role?

"I don't think women are so different from men that they are better or worse for the job in terms of traits or skill sets," said Nicole Lamb-Hale, managing director of Kroll's Investigations and Disputes Practice in Washington, D.C.

"I think you have to look at people individually and see what he or she brings to the table in terms of assets."

"I agree," said Betsy Blumenthal, Senior Managing Director at Kroll and the head of its San Francisco office for Investigations and Disputes. "But if they possess any trait that might uniquely aid them in this job, I'd say it was skepticism."

This skepticism can help them dig a little deeper into something that appears even slightly "off" and is trait that risk and compliance professionals must have to detect red flags and bad actors.

Since the financial crisis over eight years ago, regulatory imperatives have extended the work of compliance and risk managers. They must attend to many different types of risks, such as operational, conduct, and reputational risk, and make critical business decisions regarding the financial technology tools the firm uses.

They also must be able to communicate and explain complicated concepts to other department heads and personnel and hold them to account -- without looking like an anti-business, non-team player.

*     *     *

In the next post, I'll look at some of the big changes we've seen in the compliance role in recent years.

____

Julie DiMauro is a regulatory intelligence expert in the Enterprise Risk division of Thomson Reuters Regulatory Intelligence (TRRI). Follow Julie on Twitter @Julie_DiMauro and email her at julie.dimauro@thomsonreuters.com.

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