Cultivating a Compliance Culture

Indrani Franchini’s path to the C-suite at a Fortune 100 company has hinged on language skills, cultural sensibility, and good mentors

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Indrani Franchini, vice president and chief compliance officer at Hess Corporation

Indrani Franchini spent almost two years doing research in Japan on a Fulbright scholarship after finishing her undergraduate degree in Asian studies and political science at Princeton University. Her experiences abroad sparked her interest in international law, and she went on to study at the University of Michigan Law School. She is fluent in English, Spanish, and Japanese. Along with a passion for languages, she developed an interest in managing competing interests and balancing risks and benefits. Combining her interests led her to spend five years with the law firm Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP in its New York and Tokyo offices doing multinational deals.

Franchini joined Pfizer in 2001, at a time when companies were first starting to build compliance organizations. She held various roles throughout her 10-year career with the pharmaceutical giant and learned the ropes of managing a compliance function that spanned multiple global regions. In her last few years, she worked with the company’s global pharmaceutical business as chief compliance counsel, vice president and assistant general counsel, supporting five major business units while supervising the development of the company’s pharmaceutical assets.

Franchini was ready for a new challenge after nearly a decade with Pfizer. She was ready and able to build acomprehensive compliance program in a new industry. Hess, a major oil and gas exploration and production company, eagerly brought her on to enhance its compliance efforts as its f irst chief compliance officer (CCO). Now she leads the global oil company as vice president and CCO, having had a hand in growing Hess to the successful Fortune 100 corporation with nearly $40 billion in annual sales it is today. “Compliance is an exciting and challenging industry that has an increasingly global footprint,” Franchini says. As she expands the compliance program at Hess, Franchini is focused on making the program as strong as it is sustainable. Franchini oversees a compliance function that supports the business across multiple continents. Her team prioritizes risk management, policy development, training, and internal investigations. They’re also focused on establishing a culture that prioritizes listening and support.

As a woman of color, Franchini faced challenges early in her career, especially in her international work. She remembers meetings in Japan where the opposing counsel would speak to the male paralegal at her side rather than directly to her. In the mostly male-dominated oil industry, Franchini explains, “while I’m an anomaly, I am still the chief compliance officer.” Today she uses her position to be a positive mentor to her team and to other women of color entering the field of compliance. For the past six years, Franchini has been mentoring women through the Corporate Counsel Women of Color, an organization that supports networking and career advancement for minority women. She also meets quarterly with other women in her field. “With so many decisions to make,” she says, “it’s always helpful to seek the advice and support of those who have faced similar challenges.”

When Franchini started to build her family, a colleague advised her to hold the course as her personal life sped up. She finds balance by prioritizing her values, making it a goal to leave the office to be home in time for dinner with her two children.

Franchini has served for more than six years on the board of Latino Justice (formerly known as the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund), a nonprofit with legal resources supporting Latinos to overcome civil rights obstacles and pursue a legal education. For the past two years, Franchini has served as the chairwoman of the board, helping to promote the organization’s work in her community. “As a lawyer,” Franchini explains, “I feel I have a unique skill set that allows me to help my community.” She uses her knowledge to help develop strategies for Latino Justice’s legal defense, education, and immigration programs. She also mentors students in or considering law school. Because of the organization’s work, more young students are able to take law school admission test prep courses and prepare for the steps necessary to pursue a career in law.

Franchini is right on track at Hess. Her hope in the next few years is to create a sustainable, long-lasting compliance program that fits seamlessly within the company’s culture. She’s also creating a culture of mentorship and support, both inside and outside of Hess. Franchini shares, “I want people with diverse backgrounds to know that they can do this too.”