Ali Higgs, the Director of Regulatory and Legal Affairs for the State of Washington Financial Institutions, spoke at a recent Seattle University webinar. Ali Higgs is an adjunct professor in Seattle U’s Master of Legal Studies (MLS) program, teaching financial Privacy and Cybersecurity. Our Director of Graduate Studies, Kelli Rodriguez Currie, met with Professor Ali to discuss financial compliance.
As an attorney for the agency, Professor Higgs’s primary focus is regulatory compliance. She views her role as focused on audit, compliance, and risk management. Professor Higgs noted that all three concepts are covered in the Online Master of Legal Studies in Compliance and Risk Management program.
These three concepts overlap within any government organization or company. Wherever you work, risk management, audit, compliance, and legal elements will always be interconnected. Notably, financial compliance is a combination of those elements.
To learn more from Ali Higgs, watch the recorded webinar.
What is Financial Compliance?
Financial compliance is the enforcement of laws and regulations that govern financial institutions. Companies have their own policies and procedures that require compliance and may be written by a compliance professional. Financial compliance, therefore, encompasses employee training on maintaining compliance with both a company’s rules and the law governing financial activities.
There are several focus areas within financial compliance that depend on particular financial activities. Cybersecurity, data privacy, consumer laws, and corporate governance at financial institutions are all aspects of financial compliance.
Several entities regulate financial compliance. The Federal Reserve regulates the United States’ monetary policy. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) oversees the United States’ securities market, investment advisors, and mutual funds. The SEC also monitors security exchanges and enforces securities law. It aims to establish transparency throughout the securities market.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) helps uphold the public’s confidence in the United States’ financial system by covering at least $250,000 in insurance on deposits for banks’ accounts. Finally, the state regulators supervise banks and chartered institutions.
When discussing banks, markets, and consumers, you will no doubt discuss a certain set of activities. Regulations in the United States and a majority of the world are focused on the practices within such activities. Some examples of regulated activities are:
- Deceiving behavior that distorts the transaction value of securities
- Attempts to mislead the appearance of public trading of securities
- Attempts to manipulate markets or market prices
- Inaccurately disclosing the risk of security to a client
- Aggressively pressuring a client to buy and sell securities
Why is Financial Compliance Important?
Financial compliance is important because it provides consumer protection and enhances public trust in financial institutions. It puts the government in a position to protect consumers when they cannot protect themselves or are unaware of risks. Financial compliance helps to assure people that their money is safe, that they’re not being taken advantage of, and that they can trust the markets.
The protection that financial compliance provides is essential because everyone uses financial products in some capacity. Banks, mortgages, check cashing services, and cash apps like Venmo all need to be financially compliant.
Generally, entities adhere to financial compliance in several ways. One prevalent way is to use a checklist of requirements, where you check off the boxes when they are met. Although making sure the requirements are met is important, compliance does not end there. There are many other components that factor into a well-rounded and successful financial compliance schema. For instance, Seattle University’s online Master of Legal Studies in Financial Compliance program focuses on the meaning behind the laws and statutes. The program also teaches how to develop and foster a compliance culture in your company, team, and work, adding strength to an organization’s financial compliance.
Advantages of Earning an MLS in Financial Compliance
In the webinar, Professor Higgs provides some details about the MLS in Financial Compliance program. The program’s content primarily focuses on the domestic markets and the domestic business space. However, coursework also contemplates international regulations that affect business, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Additionally, students examine global policies and procedures to compare and contrast them with United States policies.
The program’s core courses make sure students have the skills necessary to research and interpret regulations in the future. Ten or 20 years in the future, regulations may change, but our graduates’ ability to interpret those changes will be invaluable.
The courses in the online MLS program will teach you how to think like a lawyer without becoming a lawyer or practicing law. Along with critical thinking skills in interpreting the law, a student’s writing skills and research skills will improve. The MLS program teaches you where to look to find the answers when the laws are not always clear or easily understood.
Online Master of Legal Studies in Compliance and Risk Management
Depending on professional goals and interests, students in the fully online program have the option to focus on a specialty, including financial compliance concentration, healthcare compliance, corporate compliance, or data & cybersecurity compliance.
The MLS program provides opportunities to solve problems through a legal lens and gain foundational knowledge of the law but without a Juris Doctor degree. It prepares graduates to lead compliance efforts in any organization, regardless of industry. Students graduate with a commanding knowledge of the law, legal analysis, and the frameworks used to identify, assess, and respond to risk. The program’s values-based approach moves beyond a narrow sense of compliance and helps establish a sense of equity, justice, and inclusion.
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