Learning at Work Week 2019

Written by International Compliance Association on Monday May 13, 2019

#LearningAtWorkWeek - Shaping the Future 





Are you a T-shaped compliance professional?

By Dave Robson


There are a lot of learning theories out there. This one caught my eye, and given that it’s Learning At Work Week, it seemed a good place for us to start as it contextualises a lot of what will follow over the course of the week. Let’s apply this theory to the modern compliance professional.

The compliance professional is often categorised into two areas. This is often a product of experience, career development and size of firm.

The specialist

If you are a specialist, you are likely to be described as ‘I’ shaped.  So – what does this mean in practice?

Essentially, it means you have a great depth of knowledge and experience, but in a focused area (great depth, limited breadth).

Maybe you are a sanctions subject matter expert. You know the topic inside out. You possibly undertake advisory or assurance within your firm and have input into the particular governance framework.

However – we know that financial crime tends not to occur in neat silos. Are you as confident in anti money laundering (AML), or bribery and corruption risk? Probably not. We can’t all be specialists in everything but when it comes to sanctions, you’re front and centre.


The generalist

The second type is the generalist. The generalist is the opposite of the specialist, the horizontal, whereas the specialist is the vertical.

Generalists have a good understanding of a variety of technical areas but are perhaps ‘experts’ in none. They are the breadth to the specialists depth. Generalists tend to get involved in a variety of projects, give a view to enable decisions and assist the business in thinking about risk and opportunity.

As effective compliance professionals, they should be high on the list of people who are asked to get involved: “You know, for this product development meeting – has anyone invited Simone from compliance? She always has good ideas…” 

What if we mix the two?

The answer is that we get the T-shaped compliance professional. This T-shaped theory came from the technology world originally (programming and suchlike). But it seems to me to apply really well to the compliance environment. It looks like this:


Essentially, this is a combination of the two approaches.

ICA are increasingly seeing this T shape being adopted in larger firms, and learning solutions are being developed to accommodate this.

The reason is agility. This adds value to the firm and to your own career. It broadens the scope of activities within which you can get involved and also enhances your professional reputation. You can become both of the personas identified above. It also breaks down silos. By embracing the T-shaped approach and gaining the resultant agility, sanctions SMEs, for example, can also look for money laundering indicators from a position of confidence. Ultimately, we move towards a more holistic compliance risk framework, and everyone wins.   


Don’t Forget Soft Skills

The skills of the compliance professional are something we talk about a lot at the International Compliance Association (ICA), particularly in terms of the evolution of the role. Technical knowledge, as outlined above, will always be crucial. But it’s recognised that technical knowledge on its own is often not enough to have a positive impact in a firm.

This was a topic that was debated in the panel session at our London Conference in April. As Paul Asare-Archer, Fellow of the ICA and Director of Compliance at O2 said; “Having strong emotional intelligence and being a great stakeholder manager is key to making sure compliance isn’t marginalised in the business”.


Hear more from Paul in the video below:


Influencing, communicating, relationship building – all these are key to the modern professional. Can these be slotted in to the learning model? Indeed, they can.

The Shape of the Future

If the role is evolving and the skills are evolving, then is the shape evolving?


It seems that it may be. Having asked at the outset of this piece whether you are a T-shaped compliance professional, maybe the shape for the future is now this:



Whatever the shape ultimately is, the key is that the role of the compliance professional continues to evolve. Not everyone is at the same stage, not everyone needs to be at the same stage. But your development is in your hands. Get more technical knowledge, enhance your soft skills.


Make the most of Learning At Work Week and keep learning.


Don’t forget - ICA members can access a variety of learning resources through the ICA CPD Centre.


Why curiosity is important for compliance professionals

By Simone Jones

Curiosity is not often seen as an attractive trait: as the saying goes ‘curiosity killed the cat’. But for compliance professionals, I would argue that it is a key skill we need to improve both personally and professionally, and in order to protect our firms from risk.


A curious person can be seen as a one who is ‘interested in exploring new ideas, activities and experiences, and [has] a strong desire to increase their own personal knowledge’.


Why is it important for a compliance professional to foster curiosity? Quite simply, we don’t know quite where the world is heading. Rapid developments in technology have made concepts that at one time seemed like science fiction now part of our every day reality.


Monitoring? Impossible!

Transaction monitoring in trade finance is a great example. It was historically thought of as all but impossible to implement meaningful transaction monitoring systems for trade finance transactions. The paper-based nature of the documents alongside the difficulties in determining what parameters should be deemed as unusual has meant that the bulk of the responsibility to identify suspicious activity rested with the individual processers. But developments in technology have started to change this, with a number of different technology suppliers marketing solutions that utilise big data, machine learning, or artificial intelligence to help combat trade-based money laundering.

Developments such as this cannot operate in a silo: it takes incredible amounts of hard work in a number of areas within an organisation to bring change to life. If compliance professionals stay in a fixed mindset, thinking ‘this is how something is currently done and anything else isn’t really possible’, innovation won’t happen.


Compliance and curiosity  

If you have worked in compliance long enough, you will no doubt remember the unfair reputation compliance had of being a ‘preventer of business’. The traditional perception of the compliance officer was the gatekeeper of regulatory rules, wherein the business would approach the compliance team with ideas for new business or products and the compliance team would explain the applicable rules and (mostly) outline how the latest idea wasn’t possible.


This archaic view of the compliance team is firmly in the past, and, as my colleague explored, an effective compliance professional today needs to be both a generalist and a specialist. Innovation is the future. Being curious can allow us to adapt to market conditions better, allowing us to explore alternatives and be open to new ideas. Curiosity can help us to shape the future.


However, knowing where to start in order to expand your knowledge can be difficult; a simple way to begin is to simply follow your curiosity:


  • Ask more questions

  • Encourage people in your team to ask why, to challenge the current way of thinking

  • Be interested in what other people in your business are doing and working on

  • Attend a workshop or read a book on a topic that you are curious about

  • Explore new concepts that are outside of the compliance world, and consider how they can be linked to your daily role


Albert Einstein is often attributed as saying, ‘I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.’ Let’s use Learning At Work week to follow our curiosity – who knows where it could take us?

 How our learning experiences helped prepare us for the future 

Tell us about your learning experience and how it helped prepare you for the future in the comment section below. 

7 ways to deal with change

By Jake Plenderleith 


How should we cope with change? By its nature unfamiliar, change is often intimidating; it is also probably the defining characteristic of our age. The flux and uncertainty inherent to change has been exacerbated by political upheaval and unprecedented technological growth.

These twin strands have, over the last ten years, become tangled and knotted together (think Wikileaks, Trump’s tweets, fake news, Cambridge Analytica, Huawei) and the effect is a lingering feeling of anxiety for the future. What has been let out of Pandora’s box cannot be put back in, and so it is that we must come to learn to live with the pace of change that has spread into every area of our lives (private, professional, public).

There’s absolutely no doubt that technological evolution in particular is not going to slow down or plateau, so we must learn to be wise, to be logical and to understand. With further change on the way, it is through learning that we may well find that we can not only cope with the change to come, but also to exploit it to everybody’s advantage.

Learning at Work Week’s theme this year is ‘shaping the future’, and the future is change writ large. Below are seven tips for how we might consider change; it does not claim to be advice, merely ways of thinking about change.


  1. What is to be gained by accepting change?

You might learn. Learning is change after all: you approach a topic ignorant (usually ignorant of what you are even ignorant of) and leave with more than you turned up with. In other words, you start at point A and arrive at point B, and a change has taken place.

Fear and insecurity arrives during the journey between these two points, where you can feel ludicrously foolish (particularly if you felt that you were reasonably well informed) . It’s important to carry on at this point (the stage where many people stop) because that feeling of ignorance is part of what it is to learn in the first place.


  1. Is all change positive?

Online sages are always keen to tell us that all change is something to be warmly embraced, to be harnessed or confronted. But this is absurd: change can be destructive; if it can bring benefits, it can cause harm.

Sometimes, our existing structures work well enough and need only tweaking. Gratuitous change is just as absurd as clinging to the past. The reason for change will always be couched in utopian terms, so look to discern the real motive behind any changes being introduced.


  1. If change is inevitable, how do we make sure it will benefit us?

There are many examples of significant change that have brought about welcome and unwelcome developments (e.g. the Internet).

How to make sure we get more of the good than the bad? The truth is that we can’t: risk is a big part of change, and it isn’t always clear whether change will be helpful or a hindrance.


  1. What role does experience play?

‘Learning is a process of active engagement with experience’. This wonderful line is from the Campaign for Learning. Our own life experiences are what we bring to learning. Combined, they produce knowledge.

Looking to the past, we can step back and see how change has affected us in the past, and how we coped (or failed to cope) in the past, and what we can learn from our successes and mistakes.


  1. AI does not mean relinquishing control and responsibility

If artificial intelligence is going to ape human decision-making, then we better make sure that we are equipped with the knowledge to make wise decisions.

AI should not be considered as a chance for us to have a day-off from our responsibilities. Acquiring knowledge is fundamental to making sure we are careful with it.


  1. There’s a lot of information

One of the biggest changes that came with the advent of the Internet was the availability of data. Today, information has never been so accessible, but ironically never has there been less time to process any of it – sometimes it can feel like having a water hose fired at you from point blank range.

Unplugging completely is not a practical option, particularly when we rely on being up to date in our jobs. How to make sure that we’re kept informed without being overwhelmed? Some would point to meditation, exercise and mindfulness as means of cooling our overstimulated minds, and whilst these can be useful, choosing trusted sources to deliver information that will tell you what you need to know without bombarding you is the only way of gaining useful, applicable information.


  1. The power of technology means we’ll have to be smarter

Technology is now so powerful that we need to operate with caution and care when we employ it. The tech is not going to stand still, so we should be looking a couple of steps ahead to anticipate the challenges that will greet us further down the road.


A line from the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus goes that ‘You never step into the same river twice’. This cryptic utterance contains a relatively simple idea: after having stepped into a river once, you are not the same person (literally, in time) when you step into the river for a second time; importantly, the river is no longer the same, too (for the original water you touched has moved on).

Put simply, everything changes and nothing remains the same. Continual learning is the best and most responsible way we can deal with ongoing change in the twenty-first century.


The skills of the future compliance professional – is your job description changing?

Speakers at the 11th ICA Annual Conference panel discussion address current and future challenges shaping the modern compliance profession


  • Paul Asare-Archer, FICA, Director of Compliance, O2
  • Alison Donnelly, Director, FSCom Limited, and Ambassador, Ireland at European Women Payments Network (EWPN)
  • Nicholas Joseph, FICA, Director and Global Head of Intelligence Unit, Deutsche Bank
  • Vivek Padmanabhan, FICA, Head, Compliance, Transaction Banking, Africa & Middle East, Standard Chartered
  • Marios Skandalis, Director, Group Compliance Division, Bank of Cyprus


  • Simon Donlevy, FICA, Head of Conduct, Compliance and Operational Risk, Lloyds Banking Group 

Developing skills for the future and addressing key challenges


 The importance of stakeholder management in the modern compliance profession


This article forms part of the #BigCompConvo - Join us as we explore and debate the latest challenges and issues facing you and regulatory and financial crime compliance professionals all over the world. If you’d like to contribute an article as part of the Big Compliance Conversation get in touch with us at


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