How do I land my first compliance or AML role?

Written by Phil Perchard on Wednesday August 15, 2012

I have been hearing this question quite a lot in recent times, partly I think because the media is suggesting this is one of the few areas in the finance industry that is still hiring and also because those outside the finance industry see it as a way in.
It is also a question that is appearing frequently on various blogs and social media forums with the responses tending to focus on the need to obtain an appropriate qualification, which is and will remain a key element to set one candidate apart from another.
I have been thinking more and more about how to answer this question and how best to assist someone trying to land their first job in compliance or anti money laundring. 
Firstly such roles are no longer limited to the finance industry, most industries have rules and regulations they need to comply with and as a result of the United States Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the United Kingdom Bribery Act, as an example, more and more international firms from all industry sectors are seeking to implement anti bribery and corruption frameworks. What this means is that there is even more opportunities for the budding compliance officer and money laundering reporting officer.
One of the benefits of obtaining a relevant professional qualification from the ICA is that it will help you stand out from the crowd (see ICA's previous blog on this) and across the world many regulators make it a mandatory requirement for senior positions. However qualifications in isolation will not get you an interview let alone the job!

As with all job applications, it starts with submitting your C.V. and hoping that you get past the initial H.R. screening process. In a lot of larger firms where I have worked, the H.R. department will undertake an initial review of prospective applications and disregard those they believe do not meet the job criteria, including key experience, skills and attribute requirements. A lot of people can get dis-heartened at this point with the whole "how do I get experience if I can't get a job?" conundrum.

This brings me to my second point. Whilst on-the-job experience is preferable, it should not be mandatory, provided a potential candidate can demonstrate they have gained relevant experience and have the right skills and attributes as a result of their previous work experience. For example it is not uncommon to see former police officers looking for a role in risk or anti money laundering and if these individuals have been working in a financial crimes unit or used to investigating financial crime they can be an invaluable addition to any AML team. Just think about their ability to gather information, link seemingly unconnected incidents and bring it together in a clear concise manner so that a case can be successfully prosecuted. Who wouldn't want someone with those skills in their team?
So should we concentrate on just looking for former police officers? No of course not, people pick up relevant skills and attributes from all sorts of roles, it is just a question of identifying them and highlighting their relevance to a potential employer. What should we be looking for in any potential employee? Attention to detail; ability to work as a team and independently; good time management; able to prioritise key tasks and the ability to know which deadlines must be met and those which are flexible; and excellent communication skills. 
My third point is the value of networking, try and find-out about industry seminars and lunch time workshop. ICTA (ICA's approved training provider in Singapore) provides a monthly compliance get together for example and it's an excellent opportunity to meet the actual people who might be making the hiring decisions. It is also a great opportunity to meet lots of other people, network and show off your communication skills and possibly gain the inside track on possible vacancies that have not yet been advertised.
This brings me to my final point. I think it is up to industry to recognise that there are lots of talented people who currently work outside of our field, whether it be in the finance industry generally or some other industry. These people may have the right skills and personality to fit into our teams just not necessarily much hands-on experience. I think it is up to employers to be more specific in job descriptions about the key attributes and experience required and help bring new people with fresh ideas and possibly a different approach in to our industry.
As the HSBC Senate report showed, resource continues to be an issue and the complexity of issues we now have to deal with are far more broad than they used to be, so the more staff I have and the more diverse there background the better, subject to budgets of course!

If you're interested in an ICA qualification in governance, risk and compliance and/or anti money laundering more information can be found on our ICA certificates and diplomas page. Alternatively, please call +44(0)121 362 7506 and we’ll happily talk you through your study options


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