Catherine Vaughan EY
Catherine Vaughan, EY. Image: EY

Global compliance leader: Find the time to be a little selfish

15 Dec 2016

Catherine Vaughan has a lot on her plate. Not only is she the global compliance leader at EY, but she also champions diversity and inclusion in the company. How does she split her time?

Catherine Vaughan has been global compliance leader at EY for almost three years. With her accountancy degree in hand, Vaughan started with EY in 2000 as a senior auditor.

Earlier this year, she was named Senior Leader of the Year at the LGBT Workplace Equality Awards.

Vaughan talked to about what it’s like working as a compliance leader while also spearheading diversity and inclusion at work.

What is your role within this company?

I have two roles. My main role is as global compliance leader where I sit on EY’s global risk management executive team. In this role, I work with our global service line, business unit and risk management leadership to design, implement and monitor a range of regulatory compliance programmes.

My second role is focused on diversity and inclusion. Based in Ireland, I have responsibility for supporting EY’s internal diversity and inclusion strategy, as well as advising clients on how they can develop their own diversity and inclusion strategy and performance.

If there is such a thing, can you describe a typical day in the job?

One thing I know about my typical day is it rarely ends the way I expected it to. Combining both roles, I usually split my time 75pc compliance and 25pc diversity and inclusion, though some days are dominated by one or the other. Flexibility is key!

On the compliance front, I will spend much of my day interacting with my team, which is split between India and Toronto, and a wider network of compliance professionals located throughout EY’s 150 country locations. I try to schedule these interactions in the morning and early afternoon, allowing myself time to work on projects, reports, reviews or other initiatives in between.

My diversity and inclusion responsibilities tend to mean more face-to-face meetings and presentations – with colleagues in our Dublin office, clients and other contacts.

And then of course, there are days and weeks when I’m not even at my desk – well, not my Dublin desk! With a global role, I am required to travel quite a bit and when in other EY locations, I can often spend full days in project or leadership meetings.

What types of project do you work on?

The projects I work on involve designing and implementing compliance programmes, which include drafting policy, designing risk control frameworks, training material and monitoring.

On the monitoring front, I am currently working with colleagues to design a data analytical approach to identify instances of potential non-compliance (red flags) for the compliance teams to follow up and investigate.

Data analytics is becoming increasingly important within compliance, and I thoroughly enjoy staying ahead of the curve and ensuring our teams are using the latest technologies and insights to ensure we’re operating at the highest standard.

On the diversity and inclusion side, I work on a range of projects which include our LGBT buddying and mentoring programme; developing our inclusive and authentic leadership courses; and working with HR to review and develop our diversity and inclusion strategy as a firm.

What skills do you use on a daily basis?

A large proportion of my communications with the compliance team are by phone, video conference, Skype or email. Strong written communication skills and good timekeeping are essential. When you don’t have the luxury of seeing your team every day, you learn quickly how to communicate effectively and efficiently.

What is the hardest part of your working day?

I would say the hardest part is juggling time zones and multiple responsibilities.

Do you have any productivity tips that help you through the working day?

Block-book your time and turn off your email.  It’s okay to take the time you need to complete the tasks you need to. Being responsive and available, especially when you’re a team leader, is crucial but you also need time to get your tasks completed as well. So find the time to be a little selfish and you’ll find you need half the time in the end.

When you first started this job, what were you most surprised to learn was important in the role?

For both my roles, I perceived technical skill and knowledge as most important. Whilst inevitably they are crucial, they are pretty much taken for granted. What surprised me most was the need to collaborate with a range of people and to balance different priorities and demands. Some of those demands are rooted in law, regulation or cultural differences; some are personal differences. The surprising skills I needed to learn were those of diplomat, challenger and referee in order to reach conclusions that balanced requirements and outcomes.

How has this role changed as this sector has grown and evolved?

Both roles have become much more visible and prominent in many organisations.

Compliance has always existed in a range of regulated industries and sectors but now, increasing legislation and market regulation has resulted in non-regulated companies focussing more on this topic.

Shareholders and other stakeholders are demanding even greater transparency and oversight by boards, and the response has been a greater focus on compliance. But compliance as a cost is not what’s called for, so the greatest change I’ve seen in this area is the increase in use of analytics and robotics to drive efficient compliance programmes.

On the diversity and inclusion front, this is where I have really seen things explode. We have built out our own diversity and inclusion strategy significantly in recent years, and continue to do so.

Employee engagement is critical to our success as a firm in an increasingly competitive marketplace, so diversity and inclusion is no longer a ‘nice thing to have’ but an absolute imperative for organisations. I look forward to seeing what the future brings and helping EY to be at the forefront of driving diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

What do you enjoy most about the job?

People – I love dealing with people and in both roles, I get to spend much of my time working closely with teams and individuals to drive projects and exceptional client service. Seeing colleagues learn, grow and develop their own ideas, initiatives and careers is the most rewarding part of my role.

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