Up your compliance game in 2020
1. Invest in Self-Development
Are you planning on implementing an internal audit program, converting a local site into an LRD or putting into effect a company-wide change to transfer pricing policies? Project management courses introduce you to structured tools and methodologies to better manage all aspects of projects. They also include useful modules on concepts related to:
- Building a business case. Do your compliance projects need to jostle with other cost savings projects for budget allocation? If so, how are you going to create a convincing business case to secure budget for your plans?
- Managing communication with stakeholders. Do you need to keep a key decision maker or project sponsor who is not familiar with compliance concepts updated on project progress? Can this person kill your project with an angry email? How will you strategically use communication drum-beat and platforms to keep key stakeholders positively engaged?
- Managing change. Changing brokers? Transitioning to automated tools? Changing the format of a Customs invoice? All changes need change management to maximize the chance of success and minimize failure due to ground level push-back.
Learn about related fields of study:
We bet you are already an expert at the so-called “bread and butter” concepts of trade compliance like HS Classification and valuation but what about the other related topics that come up every now and then in your line of work, such as:
- International tax
- Accrual accounting
- Legal studies
- Transfer pricing
As an added bonus, you can complete certification examinations to earn internationally recognized credentials that may come in handy for career advancements in future.
If you manage a team, you should also invest in training your reports to increase the capability and competency of your team members.
2. Constantly improve trade compliance fundamentals in your organization
- When was the last time you did a comprehensive tariff validation exercise for your company?
- When was the last time you did a thorough review of global trade owned work instructions and standard operating procedures? Are there any new job aids that need to be written?
- When was the last time you did an FTA network study? Are you leaving any money on the table because you never asked a new supplier to provide preferential certificates of origin?
- When was the last time you conducted trade compliance training to the rest of the organization? 2020 may be a good time to conduct training sessions to improve corporate awareness about Incoterms 2020, changes to the GSP and trade wars.
- Are trade compliance business continuity plans drawn up and in place?
3. Build a strong professional network
Work on improving both informal and formal relationships with external consultants, customs brokers, freight forwarders, trading houses and warehouse operators. These relationships often prove to be especially useful since they create channels where you can seek informal advice on the latest development in the Customs compliance arena.
In matrix organizations, a lot gets done through informal networks. As trade compliance people we don’t often get the chance to work closely with important teams like sales, marketing and accounts. Yet, building on these relationships will help when you need information quickly or when you want to tap into their knowledge of the wider organization to identify process owners and decision makers in specific areas.
Trade compliance professionals should always remain plugged in to the social activities going on in an organization and not remain aloof and mysterious. If the organization feels reluctant to come to you with a compliance concern, you are at the losing end.
4. Better understand the products your company deals with.
The Global Trade function must know the company’s products thoroughly. Product information can come in handy in many instances, for example when fighting a HS Classification battle with Customs or other government authorities.
- Understand the manufacturing process.
- Understand the raw materials that go into the products
- Know the source of raw materials
- Understand all the function of the products
- Know the standard shelf life of the product
- Know all the functions of a product
- Who are the competitors?
- What additional features do the optional accessories provide?
It is never acceptable for a compliance professional to not understand (at least at a high level) how their products work because “they are too technical” or “this is too complicated”. Offering such excuses during discussions only makes the function look incompetent.
Integrate Trade Compliance deep into the organization
Global trade professionals often have many touch points with other functions that are involved in areas that impact trade compliance like tax, logistics and procurement. Over time. trade compliance managers should integrate the compliance function well into the processes that impact Customs compliance to increase positive influencing power over these functions such as:
- Transfer pricing decisions
- Vendor selection
- Vendor management
- Service level agreement alignments
You can start by engaging these functions in discussions and explaining the role trade compliance ought to play in these processes.
While process owners may not be too keen on having a pair of “compliance eyes” looking at their activities, if you can position yourself well as a consultant by sharing good practices and insights – over time the resistance will decrease.
A final word to all compliance professionals
The role of the trade compliance manager is continuously changing and professionals in this industry have to constantly improve their knowledge and skill sets in order better serve the organizations they belong to. Moreover, the way Customs does business is also evolving and a full scale implementation of National Single Window systems, blockchain and automation may change the definition of work that a global trade professional needs to do. Trade compliance professionals should also actively maintain their knowledge of trends in the supply chain or shipping market. A good (and relatively easy way) to do it would be to simply bookmark a whole bunch of supply chain related blogs or news sites and browse them for at least 30 minutes everyday. To make things easier, you can start with this curated list of top 75 supply chain blogs then pick and choose the sites that you find suitable to follow.