Written by #MeetAnICAMember on Monday December 3, 2018
I’m Paul Byrne, MICA and Compliance Manager at RA International in Dubai. I’m also an ICA alumni having studied the ICA International Diploma in Compliance and graduating with a Merit. I’ve been a member of the ICA since 15 September 2015.
How long have you worked in compliance for? What has changed since you first started to now?
I have worked in compliance since February 2013, when I was offered the position of Performance Risk & Compliance Manager with a company in Dubai.
So much has changed since I first started. Since I commenced upon my chosen career path, I have found that legislation is always changing and that in order for me to be continually effective in what I do, I am compelled to learn every single day so that the advice I impart is always the best I can give.
How did you land your first role; was it chance or a calling?
How I landed my first role is quite a strange story. I was leaving a job after a two-year fixed term contract in Dubai and was in the process of selling off various items of furniture that I had amassed over that period, as I planned to return to the UK. One person who bought a few lamps from me asked what my plans were – going home, looking for a job in Dubai, etc. – and I said it depends on the role. His company were looking for someone to fill a compliance role and asked for a copy of my CV. Long story short, I interviewed for the position of Performance Risk & Compliance Manager and was successful. This was my first real compliance position and it presented a very steep learning curve for me, but one I grasped with both hands. It was completely fortuitous and due, I suppose, to being in the right place at the right time.
What do you find enjoyable about your role? What are the challenges?
Every day is a challenge. I learn new things all the time and get involved in various projects and contribute valuable information. I suppose the most fulfilling aspect of the job is that when you are involved in projects or asked for advice by people at different levels of the organisation, the information and guidance you give is actually taken on board and enacted in projects or becomes a prime component of company strategy.
I would say the biggest challenge I have faced to date is trying to slowly turn around the mindset of colleagues within a company who have been there for 20–30 years who have entrenched ideas and positions. It’s not an easy task but can be extremely fulfilling when you have persuaded them to act and think differently from those long-held views and thereby have an impact on the company culture, to the point where they ask questions before acting in haste.
What attributes do you think are important for a career in compliance?
That is a very good question! I would have to say that first, you will need an eye for detail no matter what your compliance discipline is. There will always be rules and regulations of one sort or another to adhere to. You will also need to develop your personal skills as a large part of the job will entail speaking with people, either on a one-to-one basis or in a forum setting, and being able to make your pitch at the correct level (the language you use is vital). Being able to play devil’s advocate goes a long way in influencing how people think, along with the ability to persuade them that what you’re telling them is the best way forward. I always give them options, rather than a dictatorial spiel, and lay before them the choices, the possible scenarios, the benefits and the negatives, the legal/regulatory requirements and the possible ramifications of their decision.
What advice do you have for fledgling compliance professionals?
Have a long hard think about what it is you want to do in life and question your commitment to your chosen career path. If you are lucky enough to find a job doing what you enjoy, you will find it all the more fulfilling and interesting. I fell into compliance and haven’t looked back since. I would further advise that if compliance is your chosen career, then back it up with relevant qualifications and ideally with membership of a professional body, such as the ICA. Having both will undoubtedly open doors to you that were previously closed, provide you with a solid knowledge base from which to springboard your career in compliance, and add gravitas to the advice you give to people – people will listen to you. Finally, every day is a school day so never find yourself in a position where you think you know everything there is to know. The compliance environment is an ever-changing and evolving beast and you need to be aware of the changes when they happen.
Tell us your best piece of life advice!
Given that we spend a reported one-third of our lives in the workplace, life will be more bearable and interesting if you can find a job that you love doing and feel passionate about. It took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to (I was in my forties), and was good at, and so when the opportunity presented itself I grasped with both hands. Sometimes luck plays a part, sometimes it’s by trial and error, however, the earlier in life you decide what it is you want to do in your career that will make you happy, the better and more rewarding it will be for you. I’m making up for lost time in finding the career path that makes me happy but I’ve found it, and I’m contented knowing that every day is a challenge – being able to make a difference in the workplace provides me with great satisfaction.
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