A Day in the Life of a Compliance Officer

Written by Morven Grierson on Wednesday May 22, 2013

Anyone who works in financial services compliance will support me when I say that no two days are the same. The role is diverse, interesting and challenging and should easily tap into your skill set quickly and increase your knowledge day by day. It is true to say that I really do learn something new every day and that’s not surprising with the landscape for financial services changing at its fastest pace for many years.

I work for a small company of financial planners as their Compliance Manager. It is my job to ensure all activities of the business are carried out within the regulatory framework. In discharging my role I also need to ensure that my advice to the business takes account of the business objectives and that I demonstrate business acumen. In that I mean I provide solutions that are business friendly. At best this means that I can advise on potential opportunities to be gained through regulatory change and at worst I can advise the business not to undertake certain activities if it means the business would be exposed to a level of risk that would be difficult to manage.

It is important that I understand the business so I get involved at all levels, including arranging and attending investment committee meetings and reporting to the Board on a regular basis. As we are a small company, I have regular dialogue with the firm’s Directors on compliance issues. My team know that they can come to me whenever they have a compliance issue and I will happily help, whether that is giving advice or reviewing their work.

I think it is important to note that I don’t know everything there is to know about compliance, after all views and opinions on what is good practice are evolving every day, but I do know where to find the information I need and I have external support that I can call on for a second opinion.

Much of my time is spent monitoring the controls I have put in place to mitigate compliance risk, so for example today I have been collating the firms MI for the quarter. I will use this information to identify any trends or new risks to the business and advise the Board on whether we need to take any remedial action. Remedial action can come in the form of amendments to policy and procedures and/or training and development of the firm’s employees. As well as this, I am running compliance projects to meet FCA requirements and preparing for an upcoming compliance audit that is undertaken by an external compliance consultant.

I must also ensure that I keep abreast of regulatory developments; after all, this moulds the way we do business. Keeping a track of what the regulator is saying is a good start, so I read speeches and corporate documents like the Retail Conduct Risk Outlook and the Business Plan so I can predict what actions we may need to take in future. Enforcement actions on other similar firms are also useful in showing how not to do things. Not only does this keep us compliant but hopefully future proof to changes, and most importantly sustainable.

I have been inmy current role for almost nine years but I haven’t always worked in compliance or in financial services for that matter, in fact my current role was my first of this nature. Prior to this I worked for Global IT firm NCR Ltd as a customer services officer and before that I was dispensing medicines for Boots the Chemist. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t equipped for the role, in fact some of the skills gained in previous roles have been fully utilised in this role: for example, attention to detail and compliance with dispensing laws and procedures was paramount in my role as a dispenser and my organisational, analytical and customer service skills from NCR ltd.

Learning the business and the financial products we deal with was important but also learning about the role of compliance and my responsibilities was too. I have developed this knowledge gradually over the years, but one course that really made a difference and has given me the confidence and gravitas I need to discharge my role effectively, is the ICA Diploma in Compliance. This course was interesting and highly interactive and provided me with the direction I needed to make improvements in my firm. It has helped me to make wider connections in the compliance community, both nationally and internationally, which is always important as we go global in financial services and to give me a wider understanding of what issues other compliance officers face. It has also opened up opportunities that I would never have gained through my day-to-day role.

One thing I have learned in my time working in compliance is that it is very easy to get bogged down in detail. Doing this course helped take me ‘out of the box’ and really understand the universe I worked in and what my core responsibilities were. I mean, nobody told me when I started that I was a risk manager although that’s what I had been doing. It also helped me to think more strategically and now I manage my time more effectively because I address the business strategy and objectives first and foremost.

Another key point I would make is that nothing stays the same for very long and being an effective manager of compliance risk and change will greatly assist you in pursuit of success in the role.

For more information on ICA compliance qualifications see


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