Compliance Confidence Q&A: David Gamble
What makes compliance professionals confident in their work? We asked David Gamble, former director of SOX compliance at a public power utility with over $11 billion in annual sales, in this installment of our blog series.
In his decades of audit and compliance leadership experience, David Gamble has learned a thing or two about being confident. Right from the get-go—way back in college—the concept of total, unwavering confidence in the work he presented was established as a fundamental aspect of the field.
"The first thing they teach you as an auditor is this: 'What's your level of confidence?'" said David. Being able to relay that level of certainty to teams and stakeholders above you is table stakes. If you're not confident in your compliance, neither is your boss. And, your credibility is on the line.
Even the word "confidence" is going to change context
As automation technologies are further introduced into the day-to-day workflow of audit and compliance professionals, the very definition of confidence continues to change. Earlier in David's career, his compliance team was expected to test but test only a small amount of audit information going in and out of their department—time wouldn't allow more. They took a core sample, tested it, and then drew inferences from there.
Today, technology changes the scope of work and the quality of reporting. Now, teams can evaluate all the way up to 100 percent of a transaction population—innately changing what confidence means, as being confident in a small percentage of the total work is vastly different from 100 percent of it.
"Through technology, even the word 'confidence' is going to change context," he said. Programs that can compile and test this data on a larger scale change the meaning of the word because it's not just about being confident. It's about knowing your data and evidence is accurate.
Trust and confidence
In addition to the data, part of confidence comes down to trust among teams, said David. There's a commonality between confidence, credibility, and integrity that can't be overlooked.
More than that, David said, it comes down to belief.
"If people don't believe in their leaders, and leaders don't have confidence in their people, that's when people start fudging numbers and padding forecasts. It's a butterfly effect of confidence," he said. "If CEOs and CFOs believe you have a leaking ship in terms of your internal controls processes, it absolutely ends up impacting the company and the investors overall."
Technology: The foundation of your house
Furthering the idea of having assuredness in internal controls processes, David describes confidence in compliance work as akin to home repair.
"My wife doesn't really like the paint color in the bonus room in our house, and she thinks we should repaint it. I don't disagree with that, but it's not something I worry much about," he said.
What does he worry about? The insulation that fell down in the crawl space beneath that room, and the moisture in the foundation. “But she's still worried about wall color,” he says.
While the behind-the-scenes workings of compliance are less eye-catching to executives than the results themselves, there's an argument to be made for the foundational aspects of risk and compliance—namely, the tools teams use.
"There are a lot of CFOs and CEOs that simply don't want to know their business is consolidated using out-of-date, ill-fitting tools like Microsoft Excel®," he said. And, when executives fail to really dig into what goes on behind the scenes, things crumble.
"They were the best-run companies in the world, with names that everyone recognized," said David. "Then, you had these unreported liabilities, write-downs, and failed acquisitions. Once investors decided they had no confidence in what management was telling them, their stock collapsed. That's the price of a lack of confidence."
By having tools that allow for up-to-the-minute dashboards on vital risk information, automated communication, and streamlined testing, compliance professionals can provide more value than ever.
"It's up to compliance teams to make the foundation solid," he said, “and it starts from the ground up.”
Choosing the right tool for risk and compliance can massively improve the confidence in your team's work. See what Workiva can do for you—request a demo today.
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