The Future of Compliance

Last week I attended my first in-person conference in two years.

The conference was the ‘Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics’ (SCCE) in Las Vegas, and the theme was “the future of compliance.”

That promise was delivered!

Here’s what the future of compliance looks like…

Last week I attended my first in-person conference in two years. The conference was the ‘Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics’ (SCCE) in Las Vegas, and the theme was “the future of compliance.”

That promise was delivered!


What does the future of compliance look like then?

After a fantastic few days attending several panels and sessions and listening to some great speakers, the future of compliance looks very exciting with…

  • more responsibilities

  • the use of digital assistants and assistance

  • compliance officers on publicly traded boards

  • stronger relationships to build good rapport

  • a bright future!

Let’s take a deeper dive into the crystal ball…

More Alphabet Soup – and More Responsibilities

The inaugural keynote/panel on “Canceling the Compliance Culture” included a large discussion ESG (environmental, social, and governance). That kicked off session after session throughout the conference with ESG squarely in focus.

At times it felt like the letters “ESG” were spoken more than the word “compliance.”

More than one panelist noted that ESG has a different context in the corporate world than it does in financial services. This is a crucial point, as it is easy to confuse what an in-house company is expected to do compared to private equity firms and banks’ ESG strategies for their portfolio companies’ performance/investment strategy looking for green companies.

One panelist noted that “ESG” in the corporate world is really just a re-jigger of “CSR” – corporate social responsibility – through a slightly different lens.

There was also a great focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion issues (“DE&I”) at the conference, including several sessions on this topic. 

Suffice to say, the alphabet soup and expansion of relevant topics has begun. Expect that in the future, you’ll likely be adding ESG, CSR, DE&I, to your ABAC (anti-bribery/anti-corruption) and 3PDD (third-party due diligence) program.

Digital Assistants and Assistance


One of my favorite sessions was given by Mia Reini from the Home Depot and Monica Lopez Reinmiller of T-Mobile.

Home Depot has a bot that was built in-house to help the compliance team deal with the tsunami of reports common at a global retailer. The bot has been trained to flag reports with keywords indicative of large compliance issues. Words like “bribe,” “kickback,” and “fraud” are flagged when they come in.

These reports are immediately routed to Compliance for review. This enables them to focus on reports more likely to be problematic.

The session on the future of artificial intelligence and machine learning in compliance was interesting as well.

The entrepreneurs on the panel explained that the creation of bias in the programs was both natural and part and parcel of the programming. The machine is being taught to bias information deemed important by the people programming the machine.

Compliance’s likely role will be to create guardrails and frameworks to ensure these biases aren’t misused, especially when it comes to race/gender issues.

Compliance on Boards

There was a great session featuring former compliance officers that have obtained positions on publicly traded boards. According to moderator David Greenberg, ten years ago there were only two former compliance officers on publicly traded boards. In the past two years, it’s up to nine. Now that’s not a huge number, but it is a large percentage increase.

The panelists all described the reasons compliance officers are a natural fit for boards and gave tips on networking and career development if board service is to be in your future.

The future of boards includes compliance officers.

Relationships are Critical

Jenny O’Brien and Samantha Kelen held a great session about delivering the value proposition of compliance to the business and building alliances.

Jenny explained that she’d had eight CEOs in her eleven years at United Healthcare. She advised that when a new leader comes in, find a person who knows their working style to learn how to give them work the way they want it.

For instance, some leaders want charts and diagrams, others prefer words. Some prefer in-person briefings where they can talk questions out, where others prefer pondering over email. This is great advice that should be implemented immediately to build rapport with leaders.

The Future is Bright


I came away from the conference knowing the future of the compliance profession is bright.

It is expanding to encompass new topics, and compliance officers will be well served to embrace the new technology coming its way.

With all of that said, seeing my friends and colleagues in person was the greatest part of the experience. Those relationships, new and old, will be the future of compliance because the profession is made of people.

If that’s the future, I’m all in!

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Kristy Grant-Hart

Kristy Grant-Hart is the founder and CEO of Spark Compliance.
She's a renowned expert at transforming compliance departments into in-demand business assets.