What do trade compliance managers do?

Over the past decade, Trade compliance professional jobs have undoubtedly increased all over the world. In each country and in company, these roles have been designed to address immediate needs and important perceived risks and hence trade compliance jobs can have very different scopes of work in different companies.

For example, a compliance professional working in an aerospace company will need to be focused on export controls while a company that manufactures and exports low to medium complexity home cleaning products may be focused on Free Trade Agreements. Some topics however are important to any compliance function, for example – Transfer pricing, HS classification, ECCNs, Customs valuation and Incoterms.

Areas of focus aside, there are different types of trade compliance managers in terms of how they carry our their functions and fit into the organization.

The Trade Compliance Manager as a consultant

When companies run on lean frameworks, the trade compliance manager typically acts as an in-house consultant. In this capacity, the individual is expected to advise businesses on policies and procedures relating to areas of concern. By training other employees on trade compliance concepts the individual is able to manage operational tasks. Such a structure works effectively in a matrix type organization and can be difficult to implement in a traditional hierarchy type organization.

The Trade Compliance Manager as a project manager

Big companies often run years long projects to address existing problems or enhance existing capabilities. These projects could include system upgrades, data clean ups, implementation of audit routines, development of training modules and even the establishment of a compliance team. Trade compliance is in a unique position to manage supply chain and logistics projects due to have a vested interest in smooth execution of shipments from port of export to port of import. Experienced compliance professionals also build strong supply chain knowledge over the years.

The operational Trade Compliance

The operational trade compliance outfit may include a small team of analysts over whom the manager has direct supervision. This team usually exists in companies that require fast compliance support due to high volumes of import and export activity. The business case to maintain an operational compliance team is often lacking in smaller companies that can survive with a trade compliance manager acting as an advisor.

The directive Trade Compliance

Opposed to trade compliance managers proving in-house consulting services to an organization, a directive Trade compliance professional will enforce and set hard standards for business units to adhere to. This set-up is often seen in companies that have a focus on export controls. A directive trade compliance function usually reports into the legal or financial function in an organization.

A final note

Trade compliance roles are typically perceived to be transferable even across different industries However, individuals in this line have to actively improve their knowledge and understanding of changing trends especially in areas of Customs enforcement. Finally, in order to be truly cross deployable across industries, every trade compliance professional has to invest in self improvement courses regularly.

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