The 2017 SCCE Compliance and Ethics Institute (CEI) is now in the books. Once again, the organization had record setting attendance with over 1,800 attendees from some 41 different countries. During the event, I had the chance to do an Everything Compliance podcast where we were lucky enough to have SCCE President Roy Snell join our group of top compliance commentators. Today I want to write about their observations on some of the highlights of the 2017 CEI.

For Roy Snell, myself and everyone who attended the Awards Banquet, the highlight was the acceptance speeches by Bojan Bajić and Višnja Marilović. Their story of how, in the still war-torn country of Bosnia, they worked to literally create a speak up whistleblower culture, legislation to protect whistleblowers, then moved forward to create an entire anti-corruption legislation for the country was one of the most inspirational moments I have experienced in my compliance career. In his acceptance speech Bajić showed himself to be naturally gregarious and hugely funny, even in his second language of English. The contrast with Marilović could not have been starker, as she recited all the trials and travails she went through as the whistleblower who helped bring down corruption. At the end of her acceptance speech there were SCCE members in the audience who were literally in tears from listening to her story. It was that powerful. Roy Snell has committed to finding a way to post the videos of their acceptance speeches to the SCCE website.

Jay Rosen thought the advanced discussions groups, of which he led a panel, were a highlight. He talked about the format which brings compliance professionals from many disparate industries and countries together to talk about best practices in a way that facilitates learning going forward. He contrasted the advanced discussion groups with more basic sessions for newbies or others who might have less experience in the compliance profession.

Rosen’s biggest insight was from the keynote speech by Marjorie Doyle. She told a great story on compliance and, apparently, he never realized that doing compliance is like taking care of cows on the ranch. Doyle even posted the ten lessons of compliance derived from ranching. Also, Doyle firmly believes in rewarding one’s self for a job well-done. She does so by purchasing jewelry for herself and while Rosen had thought it was all about shoes he indicated that he did note the overall pattern. He also found her keynote to have been “an incredibly passionate speech.”

Jonathan Armstrong brought an international perspective to his highlights. He noted that it is a huge advantage for a compliance practitioner from outside the US to be able to not only hear about cutting edge US best practices in compliance but also sitting down for in-depth dialogue with fellow compliance practitioners to foster more and greater learning. He also noted there was clearly a conscious effort to include the first-time participants or international attendees who might have felt uncomfortable in walking up to engage with another compliance practitioner. He provided an example from the Saturday volunteer event where first time attendees spent no longer than one minute alone as someone would come up to engage them. From an English perspective, he found the welcoming spirit quite a refreshing change and effective.

The thing that Armstrong identified as a key insight was what I might term the “360 degree” view of communications around compliance. It began with the insight that the language a compliance practitioner uses can often drive the perception of what compliance is in an organization. Put simply if the employees perceive you as the compliance police or Dr. No from the Land of No; they will treat you as such and not engage with you on anything close to a voluntary basis.

Matt Kelly has organized and participated in many conferences. He picked up on Armstrong’s theme that some of the best conversations he garnered the most learning through were informal discussions. He gave an example of a compliance practitioner he with whom he struck up a conversation during one of the break times in the vendor room. Kelly related that she is overhauling all the risk assessments her company does as they do a large number of them and they realized we were all asking the people the same things over and over. The company employees were becoming exasperated employees and she was looking at how to streamline it. He related this is a very typical problem for a lot of compliance officers and she could bounce some ideas off Kelly about how to simplify it. This was an example of what Kelly sees as one of the real strengths of the CEI, to bring compliance professionals together to share ideas in an informal setting. It drove home the power of the informal portion of the event and how it works with the formal agenda to facilitate growth for the compliance professional and the compliance profession.

Kelly bookended his thoughts with something that he gained more insight from in one of the formal sessions. It was around the issues of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and compliance. He noted that he has previously considered AI as simply “more of a tech thing”. However, in a session he garnered an appreciation of the US Sentencing Guidelines obligations that a compliance program is supposed to be designed so that people can be trained to learn from their mistakes and can improve the incentives for good conduct and provide punishment for bad conduct. If you simply have an algorithm which does not respond to either punishment or rewards you may need to rethink your approach.

For myself probably the biggest insight was from Donna Boehme, the Lion of Compliance. Even with her current travails Donna was present and participating in the conference. She told me she did so because she wants to support the next generation of up and coming compliance professionals. She views it as the responsibility of more senior compliance practitioners to participate and be present for the next generation who are learning the ropes. While I certainly know that lesson well, I found it good to be reminded of it by Donna.

I hope you will plan to join us at the SCCE 2018 CEI, which will be held once again at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas from October 14 to 19, 2018.

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© Thomas R. Fox, 2017