Leading By Example

Michael Matossian '78

As the Global Head of Group Regulatory Compliance for Arab Bank in Amman, Jordan, Michael Matossian ’78 works to ensure that banks in 30 countries adhere to ethical, legal and regulatory standards.

Enhancing compliance awareness for doing the right thing requires a strong sense of integrity. “Business focus should not be success at all cost, but success only without ethical compromise,” says Matossian, who adds that his studies in philosophy and organizational behavior at Montclair State have served him well in business.

“Business leaders need to set the right tone at the top to help foster a culture of ethics or compliance,” he says. And, as compliance professionals, “we need to act as the voice of conscience and be comfortable to swim not just with the tide but to swim against the tide to do the right thing and that means, at times, to say ‘no’—not an easy task when under pressure from businesses to grow revenue.”

In the last several years, the faltering global economy has made the job even more challenging and kept him busy. “The recent financial crisis and a number of fraud and corruption cases reflected, in some cases, complete disregard and contempt of law,” he says. “This culture of indifference perhaps started small but grew as companies made more money and became more accepting of unethical conduct.”

To help change that culture, he works to educate management about ethics and the consequences of ethical misconduct, often making presentations at anti-corruption, banking security and financial crime conferences all over the world. “I’ve been fortunate to travel to most of the countries in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as Europe, Singapore and Australia,” he says.

When Matossian entered Montclair State College, he knew what he wanted to do. Growing up, he’d always been good with numbers and took an accounting class during his senior year of high school. Success in that class inspired him to pursue accounting. He landed an internship at the end of his sophomore year with the U.S. Treasury Department, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency in New York City. The internship was set up to allow him to work full time for part of the semester and then attend school full time for the remainder, but Matossian didn’t want to delay his graduation by taking time off from his studies. While he worked full time, he also attended classes at night, sometimes commuting up to two hours to get there.

After graduating in ’78, Matossian worked as an auditor with Arthur Andersen & Co., one of the Big Eight accounting firms at the time. Encouraged by his audit professor, Matossian earned both a Certified Public Accountant and a Certified Management Accountant certificate. Later, Matossian also attained certifications as a fraud examiner, risk professional and an anti-money laundering specialist.

“It has been quite the journey to build a leading compliance program taking into consideration the different cultures, legal regimes and corporate governance standards,” he says.

– Lindsay Kramer ’12