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Insight

Why curiosity is important for compliance professionals

Written by Simone Jones on Monday May 17, 2021


Curiosity is not often seen as an attractive trait: as the saying goes ‘curiosity killed the cat’. But for compliance professionals, I would argue that it is a key skill we need to improve both personally and professionally, and in order to protect our firms from risk.

 

A curious person can be seen as a one who is ‘interested in exploring new ideas, activities and experiences, and [has] a strong desire to increase their own personal knowledge’.

 

Why is it important for a compliance professional to foster curiosity? Quite simply, we don’t know quite where the world is heading. Rapid developments in technology have made concepts that at one time seemed like science fiction now part of our every day reality.

 

Monitoring? Impossible!

Transaction monitoring in trade finance is a great example. It was historically thought of as all but impossible to implement meaningful transaction monitoring systems for trade finance transactions. The paper-based nature of the documents alongside the difficulties in determining what parameters should be deemed as unusual has meant that the bulk of the responsibility to identify suspicious activity rested with the individual processers. But developments in technology have started to change this, with a number of different technology suppliers marketing solutions that utilise big data, machine learning, or artificial intelligence to help combat trade-based money laundering.

Developments such as this cannot operate in a silo: it takes incredible amounts of hard work in a number of areas within an organisation to bring change to life. If compliance professionals stay in a fixed mindset, thinking ‘this is how something is currently done and anything else isn’t really possible’, innovation won’t happen.

 

Compliance and curiosity  

If you have worked in compliance long enough, you will no doubt remember the unfair reputation compliance had of being a ‘preventer of business’. The traditional perception of the compliance officer was the gatekeeper of regulatory rules, wherein the business would approach the compliance team with ideas for new business or products and the compliance team would explain the applicable rules and (mostly) outline how the latest idea wasn’t possible.

 

This archaic view of the compliance team is firmly in the past, and, as my colleague explored, an effective compliance professional today needs to be both a generalist and a specialist. Innovation is the future. Being curious can allow us to adapt to market conditions better, allowing us to explore alternatives and be open to new ideas. Curiosity can help us to shape the future.

 

However, knowing where to start in order to expand your knowledge can be difficult; a simple way to begin is to simply follow your curiosity:

  • Ask more questions

  • Encourage people in your team to ask why, to challenge the current way of thinking

  • Be interested in what other people in your business are doing and working on

  • Attend a workshop or read a book on a topic that you are curious about

  • Explore new concepts that are outside of the compliance world, and consider how they can be linked to your daily role

 

Albert Einstein is often attributed as saying, ‘I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.’ Let’s use Learning At Work week to follow our curiosity – who knows where it could take us?


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