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Hiring an Export Compliance Manager: What You Need to Know

On: June 14, 2023    |    By: David Noah David Noah    |    6 min. read

Hiring an Export Compliance Manager: What You Need to Know | Shipping SolutionsIn most industries and countries, importers and exporters are experiencing an increase in both export control regulations and sanctions. Not only are regulations and sanctions increasing in number, but they’re also increasing in complexity with the rise of economic power in countries like China and Russia. While U.S. exporters are likely familiar with rules regarding countries like North Korea and Cuba, compliance with countries like China and Russia, for example, is not nearly as simple as saying “Don’t do business with them.”

For some exporters, the gray area leaves them questioning their ability to manage new export compliance regulations and sanctions. If you’re unsure you have the right resources in place within your company to manage export compliance successfully—or you don’t have a point person on staff who can educate your C-suite about the risks involved in continuing to do business with Chinese companies—this article is for you.

We spoke with Matthew Silverman, Global Trade Director and Senior Counsel at VIAVI Solutions, about the role an export compliance manager plays in international trade businesses of all sizes.

There are strict regulations regarding export compliance. Download this free  whitepaper to make sure you know what's required of you.

Do you need an export compliance manager?

Your company’s need for this role depends on the following:

  • The types of products you export. Do they fall under the jurisdiction of the Commerce Department or State Department? Do they have an Export Commodity Control Number (ECCN) or are they EAR99?
  • Where you do business in the world. There are fewer restrictions on exporting to Canada than to China. Certain regions of the world are more prone to illegally diverting goods to sanctioned countries.
  • If your industry is subject to export controls and sanctions, which have only increased for both ITAR-regulated and commercially regulated industries. (See above.)
  • If your company has management personnel with expertise in regulations, export license application and due diligence screenings.

One important note: If you’re relying on a logistics and/or supply chain professional to manage compliance, you’re doing your company a disservice (and could face huge penalties and consequences because of it). While there is overlap between compliance managers and logistics and supply chain roles, they are fundamentally different.

Hiring an Export Compliance Manager: Responsibilities and Candidate Qualifications

If you decide you do need an export compliance manager (also called a trade compliance manager), below are some of the basics surrounding the role to help you find qualified, knowledgeable candidates.


  • The person in this role is responsible for and must be competent in applying directly for licenses from the departments of State and Commerce. In some cases, this task can be delegated, but the export compliance manager is still the responsible party.
  • The person in this role will create and update internal policies and procedures, including the following:
    • Internal policies identifying the responsibilities of the trade compliance team and their processes, including product development and product classification.
    • A technology control plan identifying how your company will control technology from getting into the wrong hands, internally or externally.
    • Visitor management policies governing site visits and restricted areas.
    • End-use checks and end-use statements and which customers they are required of.
  • This person will update the director, business owner or C-suite about what’s happening in the industry from a regulatory standpoint, proactively identifying changes that may occur and how the business should react to those impending changes/challenges, for example, having to source from a different location or hire differently.
  • The person in this role must understand technology controls and when it’s necessary to collaborate with HR and IT to ensure safeguards and firewalls are in place. This can be difficult because it’s hard to control every single piece of information shared amongst an entire company.

Candidate Qualifications

  • Depending on your industry, look for the specific skill sets needed by your trade compliance manager. 
  • While a legal background and academic experience are helpful, they are not necessary to be an export compliance manager. More important is real-world experience and knowledge of export controls, regulations and related information.
  • Look for someone who can confidently work with all divisions of the organization to understand the company’s products, services and technologies. Trade compliance managers are not siloed and know successful compliance is a collaborative process; being able to work with sales, engineering and research and design teams is crucial.
  • Look for someone who is able to work with and lead internal stakeholders through their export compliance needs—both via formal training and informal conversations. A good export compliance manager should ensure the company has documented policies, procedures and training in the form of an Export Compliance Program (ECP).
  • Look for someone capable of working directly with the applicable government authorities, including the Commerce and State Departments, through phone calls and emails.
  • Look for someone who will be diligent about staying up-to-date with regulations and geopolitical news.

When is it time to hire an export compliance manager?

There are typically three scenarios that might indicate it’s time to begin the hiring process:

1. Your industry is facing increased restrictions, regulations and sanctions.

Depending on the industry you’re in and what’s happening geopolitically, new restrictions and sanctions make it necessary for someone at a manager level to handle export compliance. For example, if your company does a lot of business in China in artificial intelligence (AI) and semiconductors, proceeding without an export compliance manager is a disaster waiting to happen. You can tell by what’s going on in the news and through governmental administration activities that you may need to hire for this role.

2. Your team tells you they need assistance.

If members of the compliance department or the supply and logistics team tell you they’re dealing with situations and compliance issues that are beyond their understanding, you need to pay attention and do something. Regulations are incredibly complex, and you need an internal specialist or outside counsel you can rely on to help mitigate risk and avoid potential penalties, fines and even jail time.

3. Your business is in danger of receiving a compliance violation or warning.

This is the worst-case scenario for hiring an export compliance manager: Something bad has happened and your company is facing a potential export violation. When this happens, your team should consider not only hiring an export compliance manager, but also making time to evaluate your process:

  • What gaps exist in the current process?
  • What training is needed or missing?
  • Are you relying on logistics to take care of compliance issues?

A Final Take

Finally, keep in mind that being a “small” company or having a small number of employees has nothing to do with whether or not you need an in-house trade compliance expert. Your reason to hire should be based on the risk involved—where you are selling products, what types of products you are selling, and whether or not what you’re selling is highly regulated. If you’re concerned you can’t afford a full-time, in-house role, you can very often manage these things externally through consultants and law firms.

Thank you to Matthew Silverman, Global Trade Director & Senior Counsel at VIAVI Solutions in Scottsdale, Arizona, for his expertise in this article.

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David Noah

About the Author: David Noah

David Noah is the founder and president of Shipping Solutions, a software company that develops and sells export documentation and compliance software targeted at U.S. companies that export. David is a frequent speaker on export documentation and compliance issues and has published several articles on the topic.

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