Want to raise your profile, meet new people in the industry, benchmark your program against what other companies are doing, and potentially, find a new job?  One of the best ways to do this is to join a compliance-related organization.  But how do you find one that best suits you your needs and personality?  Let’s look at three types of organizations – large international non-profits, small local organizations, and those run by for-profit companies.  Which one is right or you? 

Large International Non-Profits

Groups the like Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics (SCCE) and the Ethics and Compliance Initiative (ECI, formerly ECOA) are large international organizations created entirely to promote the compliance and ethics profession. 

Large international non-profits have the benefit of scale.  Everything they do can be done on at a substantial size, with a potentially global audience.  For instance, the annual SCCE conference in the fall typically has around 2,000 attendees.  There are ten different tracks of sessions for different professional needs.

The downside to the large size of the SCCE, ECI and others is that it is easy to feel lost in the crowd.  Unless you proactively work to make friends, or to be involved, it’s easy not to feel a part of the organization, and to lose interest in it.

Smaller or Local Not-for-Profit Groups

Smaller not-for-profit groups can be a great way to meet other compliance people in your area.  Some, like the Bay Area Ethics and Compliance Association, are local groups.  While others, like the Women in Compliance, focus on a specific niche in the compliance realm.  In London, where I live, there is a group dedicated to Women in Regulatory Law that includes lawyers in private practice as well as those working in-house in regulatory compliance roles. 

These groups can be fantastic places to network and to meet people who may become both colleagues and friends.  The downside to these groups is that they sometimes become exclusive or cliquey, which may dissuade others from fully participating if they don’t feel welcome.

For-Profit Industry Groups

Many companies within the compliance community host events and get-togethers for members of the compliance profession.  Technology companies like NAVEX host in-person events in major cities, as well as the online Compliance Next community.  Compliance Week hosts conferences and events in the United States and Europe, and technology and training companies from Convercent to SAI Global host round-tables and sharing sessions.

When I was a Chief Compliance Officer I attended a quarterly get together of other CCOs that was hosted by PWC in London.  These get-togethers proved invaluable for me, as I was able to learn from CCOs with more experience than I had, and to share what I was learning in my company. 

The benefit of for-profit industry groups and events is that they tend to be hosted in nice places with high-level colleagues.  The downside to these groups is that the events tend to come with a big dose of sales pitch, and you may feel implicit pressure to use the product.  Worse, there may be explicit pressure – you may only be invited if you use the product, and may be chucked off the invite list if you stop using their offering.

The Benefits of Joining In

Compliance officers are perpetually busy people, but in my opinion, you don’t have time not to be involved with at least one organization.  When you join in, you’ll:

·       Have a group of people with whom to benchmark your program

·       Have a group of people who can give you feedback on your initiatives and ideas

·       Have a place to vent your frustrations

·       Have a place to learn about new laws

·       Have a place to learn about new legal cases and regulator expectations

·       Have a place to discuss best practices

·       Know people to recommend for new jobs

·       Know people to bring into your organization when a new job is open

·       Know people to help you to get your next job

·       Have people with whom to co-write an article

·       Have people with whom to co-present a presentation or to invite onto your panel

And that’s worth it, every time.

[Full disclosure: I’m on the Board of Directors of the SCCE, and I’d highly recommend the organization to anyone interested in compliance and ethics as a career.]