On Certification

4 Feb

Alexandra Wrage has a way with words:

“There is a handful of widely recognized experts and then there are 600 newcomers all clamoring for FCPA business.  Some of these people…discover they can spell FCPA and it’s suddenly on their resume.”

I promise that I wrote my line below (“just because you were on an FCPA production once doesn’t make you an FCPA lawyer”) before I saw Alexandra’s.  But I like her line better.

I saw the announcement that TRACE was starting a compliance officer certification program.

Now, compliance officer certification isn’t new.  The Society for Corporate Compliance and Ethics has offered one for a while.  SCCE has different flavors of certification.  I’ve always been of two minds about it.  On the one hand, certification provides a level of comfort around the knowledge of the person certified.  Your trust in the certification, however, is only as good as your trust in the certifying authority.  I would rather go to a doctor who went to Harvard and did residency at Johns Hopkins or Mass General than one who went to school in Barbados and did residency at a community hospital in Podunk.  The pieces of paper on the wall give context, and comfort.  It’s the reason McDonald’s is so popular.  Not because the food is great, but because no matter where you go, if you see the golden arches, you know what you’re going to get.

I’m sure Alexandra prefers the Harvard/Johns Hopkins analogy to the McDonald’s one, but still.

I never asked permission to sign up to get certified by SCCE.  I didn’t feel the need.  I don’t think getting a certification in a really broad topic like “compliance” is useful.  I think there are areas within Compliance where certification is useful.  Healthcare (where SCCE has four different types of certification) is a good example. Anti-money laundering is another.  ACAMS might not be great, but it’s ACAMS.

Anti-corruption is another.   I think a certification from TRACE would mean something, because I know TRACE, and like them.  I know the quality of the training is going to be high.  For someone just starting out in compliance, or just starting at a firm, it’s a great way to distinguish yourself.  If I were the top person in anti-corruption in a company, I would definitely be more likely to hire someone with the certification.  I would also, however, expect to see some real-world experience too, ’cause “this here’s the fleet.”  But this is a certification that, to me, would mean something.  I think TRACE’s TASA program has the potential to become anti-corruption’s ACAMS: widely recognized, widely accepted.

It’s a niche that someone needs to fill, and I’m glad Alexandra stepped up.


One Response to “On Certification”


  1. Tweets that mention On Certification « Open Air Blog -- Topsy.com - February 6, 2011

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Thomas Fox, Howard Sklar. Howard Sklar said: Getting an anti-corruption certification from TRACE. Yes or no? http://bit.ly/eEiydP. Hint: I say yes. […]

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