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Six Question with an Ethics and Compliance Officer Seth Rice

Welcome to Six Questions with an Ethics & Compliance Officer, a new interview series from SAI Global created in conjunction with Compliance Officer Day. Each post will shine the spotlight on a different member of the E&C community, from established CCOs and CECOs with years of experience to rising stars with a passion for ethical behavior. To be featured in your own Six Questions interview, email [email protected] to get started.

Q1: How long have you been working in ethics and compliance?

In one way or another, I’ve been working in ethics and compliance for almost 13 years. Since late 2013, I’ve been privileged to serve as the Global Director of Kennametal’s Office of Ethics and Compliance.

Q2: What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Great question! Unlike most lawyers I know (or perhaps even some compliance practitioners), I didn’t grow up wanting to practice law or run a corporate compliance program. My initial plan was to be either an engineer or a chemist. I’m a bit of a science and technology geek at heart. My plans changed when I was exposed to the legal and compliance world during a summer internship between my junior and senior years of undergraduate college. I fell in love with compliance that summer. From there, I went off to law school and into a career working on ethics and compliance issues for global companies. The rest is history!

Q3: What are some of the most rewarding and challenging parts of your job?

By far the most rewarding part of my job is helping people to see that ethics and compliance is not just the right thing to do, but that it also directly supports the sustainable near and long-term growth of the organization. People and customers want to work for and buy from companies with integrity and purpose. I get recharged each time I have the privilege of watching this transformation in a colleague.

The most challenging part of my job is to continuously adjust ethics and compliance programs to respond to the ever-changing legal and enforcement landscape, and evolving business strategies and markets, and to ensure that we effectively prepare our team members for the challenges they will face. I learned long ago that the ethics and compliance field requires you to be nimble because the pace of change is not slowing down.

Q4: What are three important traits a Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer should possess

  1. Unwavering integrity – Without integrity, a CCO has no credibility and cannot lead
  2. Stellar communication skills – At least 50% of what I do each day depends on my ability to effectively communicate an idea, concept, or program.  Whether I’m talking to our shop-floor employees, executive team, or briefing my Board of Directors, communication is everything (a very close second behind integrity).
  3. Resourcefulness – A CCO must be adept at leveraging the talents, processes, and commitment of other functions within their organization to drive an effective ethics and compliance program. I firmly believe ethics and compliance is a team sport and the majority of the ‘team’ I rely upon is outside of my chain of command. This is particularly true in my work at Kennametal, which has a far-flung global footprint that necessitates me partnering with colleagues in other functions and geographies to ensure we have effective programs in all corners of the company.

Q5: If someone wanted to get more involved in promoting ethical behavior in their organization today, what could they do?

I have a number of thoughts on this question, but at the most basic level, I believe every team member, regardless of their role or level within the organization, has not only the capability but also the responsibility to drive an ethical culture within their organization. It’s about committing yourself to doing things the right way, counseling your peers and team members to do the same, and having the self-awareness to speak up when you need help.

Beyond this, I would encourage you to seek out the leaders and advocates for the ethics and compliance programs at your organization to see how you can get more formally involved, such as through an ombudsman or ethics advocate role.

Q6: What advice would you give to recent college graduates and other professionals who may want to pursue a career in ethics and compliance?

Ethics and compliance is an exciting and growing field and one where you can make a tangible difference. There are boundless opportunities, but be prepared to be a life-long learner and embrace change at every turn.

Bonus Q: How do you cut through all the communication ‘noise’ to effectively train your employees on ethics and compliance topics?

I spend a lot of time thinking about this topic. The amount and pace of communications inside and outside the workplace has changed dramatically in the last 5 to 10 years. A huge part of an effective ethics and compliance program is the ability to train people on the key information they need to navigate the ethical and legal minefields they encounter in their daily work. My experience is that regardless of how long someone has been in the workplace, the expectation of concise, impactful, and actionable training must be part of any CCO’s thought process.

Today’s workforce is inundated with communication from all sides. An effective CCO needs to cut through that crowded communications space to grab their audience’s attention and deliver an impactful and practical message. I only see this becoming more important over time.

About Seth Rice
Seth Rice, CCEP, is Assistant General Counsel and Global Director, Ethics and Compliance at Kennametal in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Kennametal is a global manufacturer of wear-resistant solutions, trading on the NYSE under the stock ticker KMT.  In his capacity as Global Director, Mr. Rice is responsible for leading Kennametal’s Office of Ethics and Compliance, which encompasses global ethics and compliance programs, trade compliance, training, and internal investigations under Kennametal’s Code of Conduct. The Office of Ethics and Compliance is comprised of a global team of ethics and compliance professionals, working across the globe. Mr. Rice has substantial international experience in the development and implementation of anti-bribery and anti-corruption programs and regularly reports to Kennametal’s board of directors on this and other ethics and compliance topics.

In his capacity as Assistant General Counsel, Mr. Rice advises the corporation and management team on anti-corruption and anti-bribery laws, international trade laws, and environmental, health and safety regulations. Mr. Rice is a member of Kennametal’s data breach response team and was instrumental in developing the company’s current strategy. Prior to joining Kennametal, Mr. Rice served as regulatory counsel for a multi-national chemical company and before that advised companies in multiple sectors on compliance matters as a private practice attorney. Mr. Rice earned his undergraduate Bachelor of Science degree from Westminster College and his law degree from the University Of Tulsa College Of Law. He is a Certified Compliance and Ethics Professional.