Tony Wales, director of legal affairs, BSI Professional Standards Service.

Senior in-house counsel the world over recognise the importance of a consistent approach to risk management and most know first hand what a uniquely daunting task rolling out a global compliance programme can be. Whether you are implementing a global programme in your own market as a regional head or choreographing the creation of a new programme worldwide as general counsel, getting it right has never been more important. But what is the right approach?

Most agree that the challenge of creating a world-class programme which is sufficiently robust to protect the company from the perils of the international regulatory landscape lies in establishing a culture in which the programme can thrive. However, there is considerable debate around how that can be achieved –  in particular, the level of flexibility that needs to be built into the programme to account for regional differences in attitude and enforcement. Some favour a one-size-fits-all approach, while others believe that the unique challenges presented by certain jurisdictions require amendments on a case-by-case basis.

Tony Wales, director of legal affairs and company secretary at BSI Group, would espouse the former view, suggesting the argument that a one-size-fits-all approach creates unnecessary exposure misses a crucial point. “All multinationals need a global programme, and in essence this means creating a common set of values on which to rely, underpinned by consistent policies and operational requirements, in order to reflect a recognisable corporate culture across the whole group. In my opinion, a matrix of regional compliance programmes would simply make it impossible to see the wood from the trees,” he explains.

“The primary focus of a compliance programme is to influence behaviour,” he continues. “A successful programme will be built on established values, senior leadership’s commitment to those values, a consistent framework of policy statements (the ‘what’), supplemented by practical codes of conduct (the ‘how’), backed by careful communication and training.”

Do you agree? We would love to hear your opinion.

Wales will be participating on the panel of a session entitled “Practical tips for adapting a global compliance programme for your local market” at the Corporate Counsel Congress in New York on June 11. He will be drawing on his extensive experience of ISO standards, management systems and compliance codes used at BSI Group, which operates from 58 offices and covers 147 jurisdictions, and on many years spent in-house and as a law firm partner, to provide those all-important practical tips. Can you afford to miss it?