Taking place at RAI Amsterdam on September 27 and 28, #RISK Amsterdam examines the trends and best practices organisations are employing to navigate today’s rapidly evolving risk landscape.
Baiba Zvejniece is a Compliance Officer at Société Générale S.A. wholesale banking branch in Amsterdam. Previously she was an external advisor for an AML and Financial Crime investigations division at the largest bank in Malta.
Baiba will be at #RISK Amsterdam to discuss how organisations can go beyond the checklist mentality to formulate truly effective compliance strategies.
Skeletons in the Closet? Going Beyond the Checklist & Rethinking Compliance - Wednesday 27th September, 10:00 - 11:00pm (CEST) - GRC & Financial Risk Theatre
We spoke with Baiba about her professional journey and for an introduction into the themes on the table at her #RISK Amsterdam session.
Could you outline your career pathway so far?
My career journey began during my time at law school in 2012, where I delved into the legal field to explore various roles and discover my true interests. In 2017, I ventured into compliance, initially while working for a multinational electronics retailer. However, my full dedication to compliance began in 2020.
My compliance experience includes serving as an advisor in a Maltese bank, focusing on financial crime. This role was a highly dynamic and intense learning experience. Subsequently, I transitioned to Net Alliance, where I continue to work in compliance, primarily dealing with anti-money laundering and financial crime. In this capacity, I operate as the second line of defence for Société Générale, based in our Amsterdam office.
Beyond the formal aspects of my career, I place a strong emphasis on personal development. I invest considerable effort into studying human behaviour, leadership, team management, and topics related to corporate social responsibility (CSR) and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) principles. This aligns with the core values of the bank where I currently work, and I’m fortunate to have a supportive environment that encourages further exploration in these areas.
In summary, my career path has evolved from a legal foundation to a dedicated focus on compliance, with a parallel commitment to personal growth and a deepening understanding of essential topics like leadership and CSR. This holistic approach enables me to contribute effectively to my organisation’s mission and values.
What does a more “proactive” approach to compliance mean?
Working within the banking sector, my daily responsibilities revolve primarily around critical areas like sanctions, anti-money laundering, and combating corruption and bribery. These fields demand a corrective approach to ensure that the institution operates in compliance with the highest ethical standards and relevant regulations.
In my view, one of the most pivotal aspects of my role is fostering a culture within the organisation. This involves setting the “tone from the top,” where senior leadership sets the example for ethical behaviour and regulatory compliance. Moreover, it requires a mutual understanding among all stakeholders regarding how business is conducted. This encompasses comprehending the applicable regulations, the necessary procedures, the interests at play, the company’s goals, and its risk tolerance.
These elements collectively shape the culture of the company, not just in terms of compliance but also in how business is conducted more broadly. This extends to how the organisation communicates with clients, external stakeholders, suppliers, and the general public, influencing the company’s image and reputation.
Central to this culture are the core values. When these values are structured to promote a sustainable approach, it signifies that the company aspires to thrive for decades while adhering to these principles. Compliance plays a crucial role in achieving this goal.
Among primary objectives of compliance are ensuring that the company provides its services and products in a sustainable manner, benefiting customers while maintaining its longevity by generating profits and revenue.
A proactive approach to compliance encompasses several key elements. It necessitates a comprehensive understanding of responsibilities and access to the right resources when uncertainties arise. Governance structures should be in place, delineating roles and responsibilities, and guiding employees on the appropriate course of action.
Effective communication is a cornerstone of a proactive approach. It encourages open discussions within the organisation, allowing employees to voice their concerns, share successes, and seek advice when needed. An environment that fosters such open communication contributes significantly to the organisation’s proactive stance.
Beyond regulatory compliance, what are the benefits of taking the proactive approach?
The cost of non-compliance is steep, with potential fines and even criminal liability for individuals and companies. Consequently, there is a strong incentive for companies to strive for compliance. However, navigating the complex landscape of regulations, directives, laws, and guidance can be overwhelming. The abundance of information, including clarifications from regulators and associations, can pose a challenge.
In this context, compliance serves not only as a safeguard against penalties but also as a means to maintain a confident and credible role in the business world. As technology, including artificial intelligence and machine learning, continues to advance, compliance plays a pivotal role in innovation.
Adhering to regulatory expectations and legislation from the outset can lead to cost-effective and sustainable innovation processes that align with both regulatory requirements and overall business objectives. Thus, compliance serves as a valuable enabler of innovation in an ever-evolving technological landscape.
What primary hurdles do organisations face as they bid to improve compliance culture and processes?
Navigating compliance challenges can be a daunting task for both small and large companies. In smaller companies, the pressure to address numerous compliance requirements before entering the market can be overwhelming; the sheer volume of tasks and the need to ensure full compliance can be daunting.
On the other hand, large corporations face their own set of complexities; they often operate in silos spread across various global locations, each with its unique regulatory regimes, teams, time zones, and cultures. The challenge lies in fostering cooperation among these dispersed silos and aligning them toward a common direction.
Furthermore, large corporations deal with multiple concurrent streams of objectives. These include enhancing efficiency, introducing new products, expanding their market presence, implementing employee wellness programs, and striving for sustainability and profitability.
To successfully manage these diverse goals, prioritisation is key. Organisations must identify their most critical tasks for the current period, whether it’s the next quarter, year, or decade. This clarity helps in focusing efforts and resources effectively, ensuring that goals are not merely about ticking boxes but achieving meaningful outcomes that align with the company’s overarching objectives.
In essence, whether a small start-up or a multinational corporation, the ability to streamline compliance efforts, prioritise tasks, and maintain a clear sense of direction is pivotal in navigating the complexities of today’s business landscape and achieving sustainable success.
Has compliance culture changed a great deal as we’ve gone through the pandemic?
The shift to remote work has brought about significant changes, not just in how we work but also in how we perceive compliance within organisations. One of the key transformations has been the cultivation of trust. Remote work arrangements necessitate trust in employees to manage their time effectively and to be accountable for their work, even in diverse environments. Moreover, it prompts individuals to reflect on their own reliability and accountability.
Security has emerged as another major consideration. Ensuring the security of devices, connections, and overall activities when working from remote locations is paramount. Organisations must uphold stringent security standards to mitigate risks associated with remote work.
In recent years, there has been a perceptible shift in the compliance landscape. Compliance is no longer viewed solely as an impediment to business operations or a regulatory “bogeyman” that restricts progress. Instead, it has evolved into a collaborative effort involving various stakeholders, including compliance teams. This shift from a restrictive to a cooperative approach reflects the recognition that compliance is integral to achieving business objectives effectively and ethically.
The pandemic and the growing focus on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors have heightened our awareness of the world’s fragility and the need for adaptability. These developments have underscored our vulnerability to global changes and emphasised the importance of incorporating these shifts into our operations.
Not only do individuals and organisations need to adapt to these changes, but they must also communicate effectively with clients who are navigating similar challenges. This broader perspective on the role of compliance within companies highlights its critical function in ensuring business resilience and alignment with evolving societal and environmental dynamics. Compliance, in essence, plays a pivotal role in helping organisations navigate a changing world while upholding trust, security, and ethical practices.
Is compliance becoming a more manageable topic for employees in general?
Certainly, it’s essential for employees to work collectively towards shared goals. Ideally, it’s not just about individual departments like business, compliance, legal, and finance but about the entire company working together harmoniously.
In my current role, I strive to ensure that the company’s activities align with compliance standards, fostering a collaborative approach rather than segregation.
How does your experience in health and wellbeing leader inform your approach to compliance?
My background has helped me to navigate compliance with more understanding and patience. These qualities prove especially crucial when faced with uncertainty, which is a frequent companion in the compliance landscape. Decisions often come with an element of doubt, making it essential to exercise patience and get to grips with the intricacies involved.
On a personal level, this mindset helps me navigate ambiguity and encourages me to be more considerate when I’m unsure of the best course of action. The compliance journey often presents moments of self-doubt.
Moreover, compliance work extends beyond individual efforts; it necessitates building relationships and fostering cooperation. In an era of technology and remote work, maintaining human connections and empathy is pivotal. We’re all part of a larger society, and learning to adapt, empathise, and collaborate toward common goals remains essential.
In the context of a company, compliance should not be the exclusive concern of the compliance department. It’s a collective responsibility that spans every employee, stakeholder, and client. The law applies universally, and each of us bears a share in upholding it.
While compliance professionals may possess expertise in certain areas, they may also lack knowledge in others. Embracing understanding and inclusivity aligns with broader Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) principles. Companies and regulators alike are shifting towards a risk-based approach, emphasizing self-assessment over mere checkbox compliance.
This transformation encourages businesses to delve deeper into identifying their primary risks and focal areas, resulting in a more comprehensive and meaningful approach. The same principle applies to Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) and CSR initiatives, where it’s not just about calculating emissions but also understanding energy usage and broader sustainability objectives.
Hear Baiba Zvejniece debating these issues in depth in the #RISK Amsterdam panel: “Skeletons in the Closet? Going Beyond the Checklist & Rethinking Compliance”.
The experts discuss their experiences, insights, and strategies for moving beyond checklist mentalities and implementing effective compliance strategies tailored to an organisation’s needs.
Attendees will learn about the benefits of a more proactive approach to compliance, as well as practical steps they can take to improve their own compliance culture and processes.
Also on the panel:
- Magdalena Rzaca, GDPR & IPR Legal Advisor, GÉANT
- Victoria Van Roosmalen, CISO & DPO, Coosto
- Martin Delange, VP Business Development Europe, Pathlock
- Sudha Madhusudhan, Information Security Senior Consultant, FedEx
#RISK Amsterdam unites thought leaders and subject matter experts for a deep-dive into organisational approaches to handling risk. Content is delivered through keynotes, presentations and panel discussions.
- Session: Day 1, Skeletons in the Closet? Going Beyond the Checklist & Rethinking Compliance
- Theatre: GRC & Financial Risk Theatre
- Time: 10:00 – 11:00pm (CEST)
- Date: Wednesday 27 September 2023
#RISK Amsterdam is also available on-demand for global viewing.