arnold-palmerThe golfing world and the world of beverages lost one of their giants earlier this week. I, of course, refer to golfing and beverage legend Arnold Palmer. The legend around the beverage is that at dinner one evening Palmer ordered his favorite concoction, which was one-half iced tea and one lemonade. His dinner companion then said he would have what Palmer was having or simply ‘The Palmer’. The name stuck and history was made. And, of course, who else has their own Army named after them?

Yet Palmer did more than inspire a new form of refresh, as he was one of the first major sports entrepreneurs. He truly revolutionized sports marketing. He developed a business empire which was a far and wide as the sports management agency IMG to the original Golf Channel to real estate development. In his piece in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), entitled “How Arnold Palmer Revolutionized the Business of Sports, Matthew Futterman wrote, “Palmer provided the blueprint for generations of athletes, many of whom now make exponentially more through their business ventures away from the field than they do for their sporting accomplishments.”

Coming home from the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics (SCCE) 2016 Compliance and Ethics Institute, I thought about Palmer and what he meant for not only the beverage world and golf but the greater sports business world. I have been thinking quite a bit about compliance and how it fits into the greater business world. I have been intrigued since the first time I attended the dinner announcing Ethisphere’s World’s Most Ethical Corporation Awards and learned about the superior financial returns posted by companies which were honored with the designation.

Palmer, the Compliance and Ethics Institute and Ethisphere all intersect to help explain why I am so passionate about compliance. I am passionate about the compliance profession, which is the greatest profession, because it is the only corporate discipline that impacts every corporate function. As Diana Urelius, Assistant Secretary and Senior Compliance Manager at Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift America Inc., said at a recent Greater Houston Business and Ethics Roundtable (GHBER) event that “The compliance profession is where the magic happens in a corporation.” Whether it be specific tasks of making sales, vetting relationships or the spade work of creating policies and procedures, it is compliance that drives the discussion of how we should do business. The corporate compliance profession fulfills the business obligation in doing things the right way for, at the end, it will be the compliance profession which implements the requirements of compliance whether those requirements are anti-corruption laws such as the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), the UK Bribery Act, Anti-Money Laundering (AML), export control, anti-trust regulations, or any other regulation that you can name.

The compliance profession is revolutionizing how corporations do business by teaching corporations how to measure, evaluate and manage risks. It is the compliance profession that is leading that discussion in the corporate world. It is the compliance profession that is the most innovative in not only protecting corporations, but actually helping corporations do business, do business more efficiently, and do business more profitably. When you can put all those in one profession, that is something which will move the ball forward with a business solution.

A great example of this was one of the keynote speeches at SCCE given by Kristy Grant-Hart, the author of How to be a Wildly Effective Compliance Officer, who brought not only her passion for compliance to the role of a Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) but also discussed specific steps which a CCO can take, from a wide variety of disciplines, to help make businesses run better. Her talk encapsulated for me the evolution of the compliance profession, from someone inside a legal department or simply with legal training to using a much wider skill set, to help a company be run in a superior manner. While lawyers certainly can help to protect a company one thing we do not do is make businesses run better.

These changes will also require academia to change the manner in which it trains compliance practitioners. If your role is to work with an organization to measure, evaluate and manage risk; you will need to know far more than simply the law. You will need a basic understanding of a wide variety of corporate disciplines which requires a multi-disciplinary approach to education. Nor will simply one business ethics course be sufficient. Moving beyond simply doing the right thing business wise to making a company’s internal controls more efficient to prevent, find and fix problems will require an understanding of business processes and how controls fit into this structure. Simply hoping internal audit will pick up something is too far back a retrospective application of a discipline which must be more forward looking; moving from preventative to prescriptive.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) have consistently led this discussion by articulating that compliance programs must evolve. Certainly the static paper program based compliance defense has long gone by the wayside in favor of well-thought out programs, specifically tailored to fit the risks of the individual companies.

Just as Arnold Palmer revolutionized how sports figures can market themselves; the SCCE is leading the revolution in the growth and widening of the compliance profession through a variety of ongoing education, certification and support. This year’s Compliance and Ethics Institute was a great example of how far the profession has evolved and in many ways presaged where it is going. I am thrilled to a part of this journey and look forward to seeing what might be explored at the 2017 Compliance and Ethics Institute in Las Vegas. I hope you will plan to join me there.


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© Thomas R. Fox, 2016