How long have you worked in compliance for?
I’ve worked for over a decade in financial services, most of that time working in a range of compliance roles for incumbent banks – beginning with traditional retail, business & corporate banking perspectives, and later with a conduct, consumer digital & transformation lens.
What has changed since you first started as a compliance officer to now?
In my experience, since starting in an industry then reeling from the immediate fallout of the 2008 global financial crisis, some changes to how compliance applied itself included:
Conversely, I have also seen some reversal in more recent years – almost coming back full-circle:
How did you land your first role; was it chance or a calling?
I never had aspirations of becoming a compliance officer. I first graduated from business school, then law school; practised as a lawyer, a prosecutor, as in-house counsel; a management consult; and in dispute resolution.
Chance all the way. By chance, a friend suggested I join her at an international bank, which at the time was specifically looking to develop its compliance population with officers who had any combination of experience from law, commerce and financial services – by chance, I happened to have all three and, by chance, I had a decent interviewer who presumably thought I had a glimmer of potential.
What do you find enjoyable about your role? What are the challenges?
I enjoy the variety and pace of my current role. In the context of a flourishing agile firm, growing fast in every aspect, this means my problem-space is wide and anything will come my way, day-to-day.
Everything that makes the role enjoyable is also the challenge! There are so many demands of compliance, be it from other lines-of-defence, key stakeholders / senior management, or juxtaposing requirements in different jurisdictions – the challenge is in balancing all these and ensuring compliance attention is value-adding.
Meeting that challenge means deciding where to make the most effective impact for the good of the whole firm. Keeping the conversation going is vital to good conducive relationships, and stakeholders / senior management or the business won’t feel alienated when the compliance function has to focus its energies on certain priorities.
With this amount of variety and challenge, at pace, boredom has no time to settle.
What attributes do you think are important for a career in compliance?
Too many to list, but a couple of related attributes might include:
What advice do you have for fledgling compliance professionals?
I am not ashamed to plug the ICA again here; there are other professional associations too, nonetheless make full use of continuing membership by attending events and expanding your network. Beyond the plug, there is a point here; as a fledgling compliance professional, there will be times when you just want to talk to like-minded peers.
Compliance is often a thankless role, where you may be: protecting the business, detecting control deficiencies, handling a breach, assuring authorities of an incident’s resolution, countering negative reputational damage or adverse impact to financial performance – but you do so unobtrusively in the background, in order that the business operates smoothly… while attention will invariably be on the gloss and glamour of the latest advertising campaign, hard-won contract, or new prestigious deal.
In a large corporation you’ll find colleagues who will champion the cause with you, but if you find yourself in a small firm with a smaller compliance function – you may have the need to reach out to a support network (e.g. the ICA community) for help understanding what the latest developments may mean in governance, risk and compliance (obvious ‘conflict of interest’ caveat applies when you have conversations outside your firm!).
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