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6 key compliance learnings from the ECEC 2020

Insights from more than 30 experts at the first Europe-wide industry summit for the compliance community

EQS Editorial Team EQS Editorial Team

    On 6th October 2020 the virtual premiere of the European Compliance & Ethics Conference (ECEC) took place in Munich, the first Europe-wide industry summit for the compliance community. EQS Group was joined by more than 30 compliance and ethics experts from all over Europe to present and discuss the most important compliance and ethics issues, with 2,700 compliance professionals across the globe taking part on the day. Here we summarise six key learnings from this landmark event.

    1. More regulation doesn’t necessarily lead to better compliance

    In his keynote address, Professor Christian Strenger argued that, rather than assisting the compliance process, greater regulation actually leads to more opaqueness and resistance. Take Brexit for example: one of the reasons was that people were tired of overregulation from Brussels. Strenger also pointed to the new German “Corporate Punishment Law” (Verbandssanktionengesetz) as an example of new regulation going in the wrong direction; it punishes anonymous entities rather than the individuals who are the real culprits. In his opinion, to motivate and achieve change, governments need to make people rather than companies the target of sanctions.

    2. Being compliant is not good enough

    Companies don’t build their reputations by simply being compliant, this is an expectation. As Dr Klaus Moosmayer, Chief Ethics Risk and Compliance Officer at Novartis, emphasised: companies need to embed ethics firmly into their compliance and third party risk management programmes. Frameworks like the Code of Conduct demonstrate the visible drivers of ethics while other invisible aspects like unconscious bias and people’s values also need to be addressed. Human rights should form part of any ethics and compliance programme in the future.

    3. The individual should be at the centre

    Too often in compliance we rely on commands when training staff on compliance measures, explained Christian Hunt from Human Risk. However, this approach is often ineffective. We need to get away from simply telling people what the organisation wants to say and think more about our target audience and how they make decisions. Training needs to consider what people need help with and speak to the realities they face.

    4. Key to effective whistleblowing arrangements is an open speak-up culture

    Former Wirecard interim CEO James H. Freis Jr. put it most succinctly: “The culture of an organisation should be to encourage people to speak up and challenge.” Many companies have good intentions, but companies who really succeed in developing an open speak-up culture are the ones that really empower their staff; and as Wendy Addison from SpeakOut SpeakUp pointed out, not only empowering them to report wrongdoing but also to raise innovative ideas. Empowerment means training people to speak up and encouraging the leadership to demonstrate humility and vulnerability. “Everyone talks about tone from the top, but actually it’s all about feedback from the bottom” highlighted Gilles Delarue, Group Compliance Officer at Rhenus Logistics.

    5. Responsibility for Compliance starts at the top

    The CEO of the organisation needs to take ownership of compliance. Rather than using compliance “like a shield”, as FT reporter Dan McCrum noted was the case at Wirecard, or a culture of “the CEO says watch my back and let me know if there is a problem” (James H. Freis Jr.), the CEO needs to own compliance and view the compliance officer as a partner in helping them to achieve the best compliance result and business objectives. For the compliance officer to play this role, they must have an in-depth knowledge of the business to contribute to strategic discussions.

    6. Technology is useful but human touch is essential

    Technology, dashboards and monitoring solutions based on AI can certainly help compliance professionals to carry out their role effectively but speakers including Professor Christian Strenger were unanimous: robots won’t be taking over the compliance role any time soon. Compliance is not black or white and decision making is still a very human process. The human input and a personal approach remain imperative for the long-term sustainability of companies.

    More on the ECEC 2020

    If you would like to re-watch the sessions from ECEC 2020 we have good news: all of the recordings are available to watch online for free. You can also already pre-register for the ECEC 2021 and benefit from a special ticket offer before public registration opens.

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    EQS Editorial Team
    EQS Editorial Team

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