Meet an ICA member: Sheila Patel

Written by #MeetAnICAMember on Monday December 10, 2018


I am a senior compliance professional with extensive skills, knowledge and expertise of the regulatory landscape and systems and controls, gained through nearly 20 years’ experience within the financial services industry.

I have worked in a variety of compliance roles with a range of responsibilities across different business models, helping me gain broad compliance knowledge and experience. I have worked in numerous compliance roles at General Electric (GE) Capital (for some 13 years), first at GE Money Home Lending then GE Capital Corporate, Wonga and United Trust Bank.

I have designed and implemented compliance systems and controls including robust compliance risk assessments and monitoring frameworks, and implemented pragmatic compliance solutions. I have also introduced regulatory compliance policies, procedures, training, overseen complaint handling, conduct risk and culture, provided business support and been part of business transformation and regulatory authorisation. I am also passionate about ensuring fair customer outcomes.

Prior to moving into compliance I worked at State Bank of India and then managed a family retail pharmacy business, including completing accounts and audits.

I have a BA in Commerce, an ICA Diploma in Compliance and a Diploma in Public Relations and Media Communications. I have been an ICA member since 2016.


How long have you worked in compliance for? What has changed since you first started to now?

I have worked in compliance in the financial services industry for 17 years. The approach to compliance has changed due to the shift in regulatory approach from being prescriptive to outcome- focused, and the emphasis on good governance, conduct and culture. Now, it is (or should be) less tick box and more about doing the right thing. Whilst the tick box approach will continue to ensure adherence to regulatory/legislative requirements, the necessity to think outside the box and consider the outcomes of processes, procedures and actions taken is the big change. These days there is a greater awareness and focus in firms on conduct and culture.


How did you land your first role: was it chance or a calling?

It was an internal move at GE Money. Due to family commitments I initially worked on a part-time basis performing quality assurance and then post-completion reviews on mortgage underwriting. This role sat within the compliance department, so I had a lot of exposure to work with the compliance managers and regulatory requirements/focus areas and found it very interesting. I also believed I had the right skills and knowledge to perform a full compliance role, so when the compliance job opening came up I applied for it and was successful in obtaining the role.


What do you find enjoyable about your role? What are the challenges?

I enjoy seeing the difference my compliance advice, support and monitoring has made. I also enjoy the implementation or enhancements to systems and controls, improving processes and procedures, and staff competencies and awareness due to compliance training, and changing the mindset to thinking about customer outcomes whilst doing the right thing at all levels of the business.

I also relish the challenges faced by in a compliance role including the intellectual challenges of strategic thinking, keeping up to speed with regulatory requirements, analysis and finding creative and balanced solutions.

I am a people person and love working with people across different departments – at all levels of an organisation – and different cultures and personalities. I also very much enjoy developing, coaching and mentoring. It gives me a lot of pleasure seeing people develop.

Currently the biggest challenge is keeping up with the speed and extent of regulatory developments. Sometimes it is also challenging to influence stakeholders to think about the impact and outcome of their actions and obtain agreement for suggestions made.


What attributes do you think are important for a career in compliance?

I believe the key attributes required for a career in compliance regardless of the industry are: integrity, accountability, relationship building (influencing), good communication skills (both oral and written), patience, flexibility, an open mind, common sense, analytical thinking, teamwork and attention to detail. A compliance professional should have a passion for doing the right thing.


What advice do you have for fledgling compliance professionals?

Keeping in mind the current demands on compliance professionals, I feel it is advisable to be flexible, open minded and pragmatic when recommending solutions whilst ensuring the right approach is used to do the right thing, achieve the right outcome and be compliant with regulatory requirements. It is not an easy job to do and takes years to develop the skills, knowledge and expertise required of a compliance professional. My advice is to be patient – the development will come with work experience. Due to the high level of accountability and responsibility a compliance role carries, it is important to be thorough, well prepared, inclusive and have an attitude of working with the business as part of one team to come up with pragmatic solutions. As compliance professionals we are educating the business, and have to lead by example. Remember to give and show respect at all levels of an organisation and be fair.


Tell us your best piece of life advice!

Always act with integrity, be resilient and work hard.


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