A chief compliance officer (CCO) is part of the leadership hierarchy. They maintain legal and moral integrity within a company. They pay attention to detail and standards drive you to want to enhance the business/public relationship. If you have a passion to act as a steward of business practices, then becoming a chief compliance officer (CCO) may be the right career for you.
Why Become A Chief Compliance Officer
CCOs are a part of the leadership hierarchy within a company. The role of the CCO is to ensure compliance—internal and external. A CCO is concerned about following the rules and regulations set forth by local, state, and federal governing bodies. A CCO is also concerned about employee and employer compliance, ensuring that moral, legal, and other regulatory policies are practiced. They need to have excellent foresight into the ramifications of any violation.
The overall effects of a competent CCO can make a difference regarding legal issues, public trust, employee satisfaction, and even a company’s demise. Not only does the CCO ensure that business practices are legally sound, but they also act as a steward of the company’s Standards of Conduct. Quality and ethics are important to any business model, and it’s up to the CCO to oversee operations to achieve those standards.
CCOs work closely with employees of the company, mediating any disputes and ensuring that each is meeting the policies and standards put forth by the company’s board of directors. Because of this, CCOs need to be personable and professional, acting on behalf of the company for the good of employees and the public. The CCO of any company must find a balance of maintaining colleague relationships and acting to ensure all are following the rules.
Able to fine tune and customize
Able to discern between positive and negative risks
Knowledgeable of laws and regulations
Chief Compliance Officer Work Environment
Because the role of a CCO is to investigate and evaluate whether company practice and action is within regulatory compliance, his or her skills are needed in a variety of settings. Any enterprise that is held to licensure/permit, safety, inspection, and other regulatory standards must have a CCO. This means that a CCO can work for private businesses or the public sector. The following are industries that most likely to hire CCOs:
The government (local, state, and federal)
Corporations and enterprises
Financial lending agencies
Securities and commodities exchanges
Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing
Lessors of nonfinancial tangible assets
Pesticide, fertilizer, and agricultural chemical manufacturers
Natural gas distribution
CCOs typically have a private office but travel throughout the company’s property. This movement helps them to maintain company and employee integrity. International and national travel may be required, depending on employment.
CCOs can expect to work regular business hours. In the case of an emergency, they may work evenings, weekends, and even holidays.
Chief Compliance Officer Salary
While the salary of compliance officers can vary, depending on experience and employer, typically the chief compliance officer of a company will make an annual salary between $121,750 and $220,500. Firm size will most likely dictate a CCOs salary.
The top-paying industries are:
Oil and gas extraction
Financial investment activities
Specialized design services
Natural gas distributor
Note: Compliance officers, who are entry-level or working toward a leadership role, will earn a median annual salary of $63,760.
Chief Compliance Officer Career Outlook
Due to the recent economic collapse and increased regulatory environment, banks and large corporations are hiring thousands of compliance officers. More than ever, banks and corporations are paying billions of dollars in non-compliance lawsuits, and they need strong leadership to ensure their practices comply with all regulations. Both salaries and openings will increase for individuals looking for a career as a compliance officer.
Chief Compliance Officer Degree
To become a compliance officer, many firms will require at least a bachelor’s degree. However, to become a CCO, most companies require a master’s degree. Concentrations vary depending on the relevant industry, but a concentration in leadership, operations, and even criminal justice will provide the general training necessary to be a CCO.
Step 1: Complete an undergraduate program. Obtaining a bachelor’s degree in a business-related program is the first step. Depending on the industry, individuals will want to complete a program that will offer as specific training as possible. For example, a career in finance will require a degree in finance, economics, accounting, or business. Other industries may include healthcare, criminal justice, and government operations. For a compliance officer, a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Business with a Business Management concentration is an excellent, general option.
Note: Individuals can gain work experience as an entry-level compliance officer, while going to school for a master’s degree. Gaining experience through work or an internship is a valuable step toward becoming a compliance officer. It is not possible to become a CCO straight from college—most CCOs have at least 5 years’ experience as a compliance officer. It is important for an individual to make educational choices based on available internships, and individuals should also try to participate in internships that are relevant to the industry of their choice.
Step 2: Complete a graduate program. Most company’s want their CCOs to have master’s degrees in business or a related field. A graduate-level education will provide the training needed to operate in a leadership role. The following master’s degrees are intended to provide individuals with general operational and management training for a CCO career:
Master of Science (M.S.) in Management/Operations Management
Master of Science in Management/Sustainability
Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.)
Note: Many degrees exist that are more specific to the needs of each industry. Individuals should choose a concentration that is relevant to their goals. Concentrations, such as negotiation management, e-commerce, criminal justice, environmental management, human resources, operations, and more can help provide the specific credentials you seek.
Step 3: Become certified. While it is not a requirement, obtaining specialized certification while working as a compliance officer can elevate one’s expertise and employment prospects. Many industry certifications exist and can be obtained through a number of agencies. The most common certifications for a compliance officer are Certified Professional Compliance Officer (CPCO) and Certified Regulatory Compliance Manager (CRCM).