1. Where did you grow up and what were your interests as a youngster?
I grew up in Detroit, Michigan, and my interests as a youth centered on playing competitive tennis. My dream was to make it on the Pro tour. My other interest was listening to Motown music: Marvin Gay, Supremes, Temptations, etc.
2. Where did you go to college and what experiences there led to your current profession?
I went to Eastern Michigan University; I studied sociology and general business. I also played on the tennis team. On summer breaks I taught tennis at camps and tennis clubs. What eventually lead me to the executive search business were primarily two things: first, my knowledge of business, having spent 20 years in corporate America with the likes of GE, and second, my desire to coach and mentor professionals with their career. I remembered how gratifying it was teaching tennis and helping with a person’s development. In short, I took my passion for coaching and applied it in the business setting I became familiar with.
3. Can you explain the philosophy of Conselium and what do you believe makes it stand out from similar firms?
When our clients engage us they usually are already experiencing exposure to risk by not having the appropriate hire on board. That means there’s a level of urgency about filling a position. For us, exceptional customer service means putting our client first and responding to that urgency. We work weekends, holidays — whatever it takes to meet or exceed expectations.
Another unique factor that contributes to our success is that we have developed our brand by specializing in a very narrow niche: our focus is placing Compliance Officers and Legal Counsel in highly regulated environments. The narrower your focus, the more you set yourself up as subject matter experts. We have even developed our brand on a global footprint due to our specialization. I recommend anyone interested in the subject of branding read “The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding” by Al Ries.
The third thing I think that makes our search firm unique is the development of Corporate Compliance Insights. Having this online publication has afforded us an opportunity to expand the network of the search business while developing relationships with Compliance and Legal professionals throughout the world. CCI gives compliance experts a place to come together every day to share ideas and opinions. It keeps all of us on top of the issues that are important in this niche, and it gives Conselium access to the best and the brightest.
4. What led you to start Corporate Compliance Insights and what do you hope to bring to the compliance community through this resource?
We decided to develop the publication because we met several GRC professionals like you with a wealth of information who needed a platform to share ideas and showcase their knowledge. CCI has really exceeded our expectations, which for us reinforces that there was a void in this space. As we look to the future, we see CCI as a leader in providing rich content for useful/practical solutions to fellow GRC practitioners, an aggregator of GRC events and an aggregator of GRC jobs. We also have a vision of building a CCI community that facilitates greater interaction among our readers, because we sense there’s a desire in the compliance community to have regular, meaningful dialogue about issues and best practices.
5. With your dual roles at Conselium and CCI, where do you see the compliance field going in 2013 and beyond?
The compliance field is still in the “toddler” stage, and there is still much to be done. I am a real proponent of education; specifically the Compliance Officers have to educate management about the benefits of having a robust ethical & compliant (E & C) environment. There is information available that having a robust E & C actually contributes to the bottom line. Think about it: a solid program attracts employees, vendors, investors, customers, etc. It’s just good for business. We must do a better job at educating so that more compliance officers have a seat at the “C” suite. Having a Compliance Officer report to the General Counsel or other management executive and not directly to the Board has the potential for significant conflicts of interest.
So what I am saying is there is significant opportunity to grow our profession provided we are vigilant in educating those around us. Speaking of education, there are some universities that provide some undergrad courses on ethics/compliance. We at CCI have developed a relationship with the HAAS School at UC Berkeley in helping their visibility with an Executive Ethics & Compliance Program. It is the hope of the HAAS program to get sufficient interest to create a graduate program in Ethics & Compliance. We do need a feeder system from our universities much the way we have law schools and other graduate programs that provide young professionals with the basics before entering the workforce.
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© Thomas R. Fox, 2013