September 26th is National Compliance Officer Day. For the next few weeks, ECI will be highlighting a number of our members in celebration of their contribution to our industry. Our goal is to share some insight on two of the groups that comprise ECI’s membership – established CECOs, new CECOs and those who desire to be a CECO.
A conversation with Ben Bard and David Childers, Senior Vice President, ECI.
David Childers (DC) – Please meet Ben Bard. Ben is Vice President, Global Chief Compliance Officer for Archer Daniels Midland Company. In that role, he leads ADM’s Office of Compliance and oversees the company’s global compliance policies and programs, including the code of conduct, ethics helpline, anti-corruption, trade compliance, antitrust/competition law, data privacy/protection and conflict of interest programs.
Ben, you are and have been the CECO of some very large and successful companies. How did you get into E&C?
Ben Bard (BB) - Like many in the field, it wasn’t by design. I went to law school and knew that my professional ambitions involved working in-house for a company in a legal or risk management focused role. I was not aware of the ethics and compliance field back in college or law school, and so I never knew to seek out a career in ethics and compliance. But, when I look back, I have been doing some type of compliance related work for most of my career.
Following law school, my first two in-house positions had me doing risk management and regulatory compliance for banking-based financial institutions. I found the work challenging and rewarding. On a daily basis, I was providing regulatory advice, solving compliance issues and helping the business lines assess and mitigate their risks. It was fast paced and required attention to detail. But the work also had its limitations – given how highly regulated the industry was, I found there was not much room for creative thought or problem solving. After a handful of years handling matters that were largely black and white, I wanted a position that allowed me to navigate the gray.
That’s when my career shifted into the ethics and compliance space. I was fortunate to assume an E&C position at The Coca-Cola Company where I had the opportunity to handle a wide variety of E&C matters. Working for a large, multinational consumer products and marketing company like Coke, provided plenty of ‘gray’ to attend to, which was great. It also prepared me well for my current position as Global Chief Compliance Officer at ADM, a 115-year-old Fortune 50 agricultural processor and food ingredients provider.
I am fortunate that my career developed in a way that brought me into, and has kept me in, E&C.
After a handful of years handling matters that were largely black and white, I wanted a position that allowed me to navigate the gray.
- Ben Bard
DC – Let me follow-up on that, what has kept you in E&C?
BB – Professionally it’s an easy answer. I love the variety. What other field offers the opportunity to dabble in regulatory advice, risk assessments, issue/problem solving, training, policy/process engineering, and daily engagement with all levels of employees? On top of it all, I have found a career in E&C to be extremely rewarding. Not only do we add value to our organizations by supporting strategy and helping protect the bottom line, but I’m a believer that our work also has a real impact on individuals’ lives, on how industries and markets operate, and how communities are served.
More personally, my ongoing commitment to E&C is rooted in wanting to give back. Not only to colleagues on my team to ensure they have rich experiences and rewarding careers, but also to the E&C industry overall. This practice area has given me a lot and I want to pay it forward by giving others access to the same opportunities that have been given to me. I have spoken to Chicago area law school students about careers in E&C to make them aware of an exciting alternative career path. By in large, law schools are still not offering courses on corporate compliance even though it is a burgeoning field and rewarding practice area. Unfortunately, I think it’s still uncommon for E&C to be mentioned as a career track by law school career counseling centers.
DC – Ben, you run a great program for ADM -- a very diverse and successful company, what keeps driving you?
BB – A successful compliance officer is always learning. You can never know enough about the business you support, and the better you know your business the more effective your compliance efforts can be. Given the pace of regulatory changes, ever-changing global and local risks, and strategic corporate initiatives that need support, the only thing I can foretell with some degree of confidence is that this journey will take me somewhere “gray” I can’t yet predict! And for someone who makes a living in the gray space, I love it.