Suzanne Spradley – NFP
- Written by: Kate Gardner
- Produced by: Zachary Brann & Matt Schwach
- Est. reading time: 4 mins
Taking shortcuts and fudging the numbers will only get you so far.
For a business to have stable and secure growth, it needs to be ethical from the start, Suzanne Spradley says. As chief compliance officer at NFP, she knows ethical leadership is good for business.
And if someone has a concern about unethical behavior, she wants to hear about and fix it. In addition to stewarding the company’s compliance department, she’s pushed for improved communication and transparency company wide.
The goal, she explains, is for people to understand NFP’s ethics and be unafraid to speak up if they see something that doesn’t align with company values.
“Corporate policies and standards need to be ethical,” she says. “I see it as imperative in how we serve clients and retain top talent, which are crucial for NFP to grow the right way. Leadership isn’t interested in checking boxes or cutting corners. We operate with a framework that gives us a clear path forward.”
Benchmarks of excellence
With U.S. headquarters in New York City, NFP is a global insurance broker and consultant that provides specialized property and casualty, corporate benefits and individual solutions.
When Spradley was hired in 2007, one of her first initiatives was building and leading the benefits compliance and insurance licensing teams before developing the corporate compliance program.
“I really wanted to find what the benchmarks of excellence were for corporate compliance and be sure we were meeting them,” she says.
While she’s still involved with the benefits compliance team, a colleague manages the day to day. Spradley now focuses on corporate and regulatory compliance as well as legislative affairs, where she lobbies on behalf of NFP in Washington, D.C.
Internally, Spradley follows standards set by the Ethisphere Institute, which defines and measures corporate ethical standards and recognizes the world’s most ethical companies annually. Her goal is for NFP to one day earn this designation.
To prepare for the rigorous certification process, she’s focusing on ethics training and culture. She distributed surveys to gauge employee understanding of compliance and ethics policies and to identify any reluctance to report ethical concerns. She’s also working to improve overall compliance communication.
Spradley says it’s important to be transparent with ethical issues so employees are aware of what’s happening in the company. This also gives them insight into how matters are handled so they gain confidence that the company takes hotline reports seriously. She’s also involved in NFP’s “Speak Up” campaign, a communications effort that encourages employees to report actions they view as unethical.
“While our efforts are internal, they show our clients that ethics are a priority for NFP,” Spradley adds. “It’s a statement of where we stand and what we expect of ourselves and those we work with, including clients, partners and vendors.”
As NFP grows and acquires more companies, part of the challenge is articulating the company’s ethical culture while integrating new employees.
She says NFP is flexible, though, and open to hearing how other companies have operated. As she puts it, “NFP leaders encourage thoughtful dialogue versus just making people fall in line with the NFP way.”
She’s currently involved in the adoption of an internal digital platform where employees can access the company’s policies and easily search for and refer to them.
She also hosts a podcast at NFP where she “delves into the history of compliance issues and their impacts.” The podcast, part of NFP’s Insights from the Experts, breaks down complex topics, such as benefits compliance and compliance legislation.
“It allows for more richness when discussing these issues,” she says.
Prior to working at NFP, Spradley was an insurance regulatory attorney in the Austin, Texas, office of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP. However, she began her career in medical sales before she finally pursued law, which is what she’d always wanted to do.
“It’d been in the back of my mind for years and was shaped by seeing my dad as a litigator and how respected he was,” she says.
To Spradley, respect and ethics go together because being ethical is all about doing what’s best for people. She says she’s grateful NFP executives share her values and care about doing the right thing.
NFP has several employee resources groups, including ones for women, Black professionals and working parents and caregivers. As the mother of quadruplets, Spradley says she appreciates the support NFP dedicates to families.
“Working at NFP, the culture is one of the most important things here,” she says. “It’s what draws people here and what keeps them here. There’s a lot of support for people to share their ideas and run with them.”
View this feature in the Vanguard Summer IV 2021 Edition here.
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