Abbott, founded in 1986, provides private equity portfolio construction and management for institutional investors. Abbott manages over $10 billion in private equity assets for institutions and their beneficiaries around the world.
Can you tell us a bit about Abbott?
Monique: Abbott was founded in 1986. It’s independently owned by all of its managing directors and one retired co-founder. One of the things that drew me to the firm is that, on average, the managing directors have worked together for more than 18 years. I was looking for a forever home and that consistency was important to me.
We have offices in New York and London and over 50 employees.
Abbott manages both separately managed accounts and commingled fund vehicles, and we make primary, secondary, and co-investments across buyout, growth equity and venture capital strategies. To date, Abbott has invested more than $22 billion across more than 550 private equity opportunities.
Can you talk about the journey that led you to Abbott?
Monique: My career trajectory has been unconventional to say the least.
I started on the business side at Bear Stearns and I really loved my role and the culture. Unfortunately, when Bear Stearns went under and the economy collapsed in 2008, I couldn’t find any opportunities in finance. I was approached with the opportunity to become a fashion buyer/planner and did that for a couple years. Although I was grateful for the opportunity, I always knew I would return to the finance industry.
In 2013, I found my way to a healthcare private equity fund as a data administrator. It was here where I realized that I really enjoyed the compliance space.
I went on to ACA Compliance Group and then Invesco Ltd.
Finally, in 2019, I arrived at Abbott as a Deputy CCO and was named CCO in 2020.
What kind of advice would you give to people in Compliance?
Monique: There are a host of soft skills you should develop if you want to work in compliance. You need to be flexible yet firm and enjoy learning as compliance is an ever-evolving discipline.
“Technology is really helpful. It is important that I am able to have information synthesized and presented to me in a way that is easily reviewable. This prevents me from spending a lot of time seeking out or digesting info in an unpalatable way.”
Perhaps more importantly, you need to be able to speak to rules and regulations plainly and practically. This comes with experience and a deep understanding of rules and regulations.
You also must be creative when it comes to finding solutions. Many times, there are a million ways to solve a problem and you have to be creative to find the best solution for your firm.
Have you found that a big part of your job is about building and maintaining a compliance culture?
Monique: Yes, one hundred percent. I find that it’s a continuous process. To maintain a robust compliance culture, I focus on senior management and buy-in from the top. It’s important that all of senior management serve as an additional mouthpiece to reinforce compliance culture across the firm. A CCO cannot be at all places at all times and compliance is a shared responsibility.
As CCO, I’m typically the messenger, but it’s also great when other leaders reinforce compliance or reinforce compliance culture.
Most people are happy to be compliant, they just need to be educated and trained.
Lastly, being visible and involved is important. Remote working has changed the way we demonstrate visibility. Video conferencing and checking in via email are essential.
The pandemic has changed the operating roles for all of us. In particular, it has heavily impacted compliance officers who have to worry about what’s around the corner. What are you watching out for?
Additionally, information security continues to evolve. I have to anticipate what that space might look like in the future. What will we be responsible for? Do we have the tools in place to catch bad actors? These questions are constantly on my mind and the mind of the members of our Information Security Committee.
Regarding the SEC’s new marketing rule, how do you think this might impact your firm and do the rules open new possibilities for you?
Monique: We’re using this as an opportunity to look at everything we’re doing in that space. We’re thinking about how we can improve our overall processes. This is the perfect opportunity to take a step back and review the materials and the corresponding process.
“For me, it’s important to find good technology solutions that work for everyone and make everyone’s jobs easier.”
The role of the CCO keeps expanding. How can you stayed focused on your responsibilities while still having a strategic voice and presence across the company?
Monique: It’s a constant battle. Sometimes you find yourself getting really buried in the administration of the day-to-day program.
I have to be extremely strategic about how I approach the compliance program every single day. I make sure I organize my time in a way that is risk-based.
Last year, we onboarded a third-party compliance consultant to assist with the day-to-day administration of the program which allows me to focus on more complex issues.
How do you keep up with the industry overall?
Monique: I keep up via webinars, industry groups, our third-party compliance consultancy firm, and a great group of people I can now call “friends” that I’ve met throughout the years at Cornell University, prior firms, conferences, etc….
Internally, the General Counsel and I work very closely on compliance matters and update each other on regulatory changes. Additionally, our CAO, CISO, and I work very closely on information security matters and try to keep each other abreast of changes in that space.
“Automation is exciting and beneficial. I want to be able to bring in as much technology as possible to automate administrative tasks. This will enable me to focus on more strategic matters.”
What changes are you excited about in the industry?
Monique: I’m really excited about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (“DEI”) initiatives across the industry. As a Black woman, I’m really excited to see a focus on DEI and hope it sustains. We recently created a Diversity and Inclusion Committee at Abbott, which I co-lead along with Thembi D. Dube.
I’m excited to benchmark our initiatives. It’s important that we not only set goals but ensure we find ways to measure our progress. It’s definitely marked a change in the industry and I’m very happy to see it.
What professional achievements are you most proud of in your career?
Monique: I’ve mentored compliance analysts along the way that are now senior compliance professionals and nothing makes me prouder than to see them flourish.
Do you think you need a superpower to be a CCO? And if so, which superpower would you want?
Monique: Just to be clear, If I had the choice of any superpower it would be reserved to flourish as a back-up dancer for Beyoncé!
As for a superpower aligned with being a CCO, I would have the power to make each and every employee knowledgeable and compliant with all rules and regulations with little to no effort.
“As CCO, you have to be able to work with a lot of different personality types. You need to know how to work with people who have varied interests. You have to meet people where they are.”
Being a CCO is a tough job. What helps you escape at the end of the day?
Monique: This may be a common one, but my husband and I really love to travel. We have a goal of visiting 100 countries. For us, learning about culture through food is amazing.
We especially love exploring Southeast Asia, North Africa and South Africa. In 2019, we visited 10 countries, and during the pandemic, we realized how much we’ve missed travelling.
However, we have a newborn at home now, so we’ll see how that impacts our plans to visit 100 countries in the future! To demonstrate how much we love travelling, we named her after one of our favorite cities.
Editorial Note: At ComplySci, we understand the tremendous value compliance professionals can gain from networking and learning directly from their peers. For the CCO Spotlight blog series, we are sitting down for candid conversations with Chief Compliance Officers from some of the firms we work with. This blog series will share those CCOs’ thoughts, ideas, and best practices for compliance programs with our readers. The views expressed in this blog post are the CCO’s own views and do not necessarily reflect the views of their firms.