How Do You Become a Compliance Officer?
In the early days of financial compliance, it used to be whoever put their hand up at the back of the room that became the compliance officer. Things have changed, due to a massive increase in regulatory oversight and enforcement: compliance has now become a profession.
Technically, anyone can be a compliance officer. In practice, compliance officers traditionally come from legal or finance backgrounds with associated degrees. It is increasingly competitive to get into this sector as it is seen as an attractive career, but they can still hail from diverse backgrounds and regulatory departments are increasingly seeking complimentary technology and data skills.
In the United States, compliance officers are usually lawyers, whereas the culture in the UK is more of a broad church.
Some of the best junior candidates in the UK are now coming from graduate compliance programs at large institutions, where they can undertake rotations in different departments, similar to trainee solicitor schemes. If a compliance officer wishes to hold a Senior Managers Certification Regime (SMCR) role at a financial firm, then more rigorous tests are applied to judge their capabilities.
Below is a graph made by the ICA as a result of a survey of Chief Compliance Officers in 2019, asking how they came to be a Compliance Officer:
Other methods of reskilling into the role are by undertaking courses by recognized specialist compliance education providers, like the International Compliance Association (ICA), Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment (CISI) or the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists (ACAMS).
The courses offered by these organisations are quite accessible and affordable. It helps to have background knowledge of law or finance, but it is not necessary.
Being a compliance officer can be a demanding job and it can be tough to keep on top of regulatory/legal change. The ability to stay on top of things and to manage people well are hallmarks of a good compliance officer. They need to be there for the front office staff, but also for the C-suite, especially when operating as a Chief Compliance Officer, General Counsel or Chief Operating Officer.
Broader Business Acumen (Product & Technology Knowledge)
Interpersonal Skills & Communication
Attention to Detail
Niche Candidates & Subject Matter Experts
High Ethical Standards & Integrity
A Strong Constitution (Backbone)
Below is a graph of what skills come in most handy on a daily basis for Chief Compliance Officers:
As time moves on, skill sets will change; but the general emotional requirement to have a strong ‘backbone’ to challenge peers and figures of authority seems likely to stay.
If you are thinking about moving into the Compliance sector and need help with finding your next career move, Rutherford will gladly support you in your journey. From our Free CV Format for Legal and Compliance specialists to our Consultants’ extensive knowledge of the recruitment industry within the space, we are here to assist you no matter what your needs are.