Compliance Career Q&As

Audit Agony Aunt 240x160Carol McLachlan, theaccountantscoach, is a qualified accountant, NLP Practitioner and professionally qualified coach. Her 18 year career at Ernst and Young as a chartered accountant and a Director of Resources has equipped her with a real understanding of the professional and personal issues that accountants face. Here Carol answers your career questions as our very own Risk Careers Advisor.

If you have any careers, skills development or promotion questions, please send them to Carol, who will endeavour to answer them.

There may be the odd occasion that Carol cannot answer due high demand for her time, but you can post your question on the CareersinAudit Group Facebook Page or in our LinkedIn Group where you can discuss current issues with other Risk professionals and Risk jobseekers from across the world.

Your Compliance Career Questions Answered:

I’m very interested in which compliance courses to take to make a move into Compliance. Could you advise me on the best area to focus on and which training courses, based on my background?

I have held top management jobs in Telecoms/Technical internationally; in the US, France and the UK. My degrees are in Marketing and Communications and an MBA in international business and entrepreneurship, which included accounting, economics, and finance and international finance courses.

You already have a very strong career base which you can leverage as a door opener, and this will provide you with a powerful set of transferable skills, highly relevant to a compliance career.  I’m thinking - commercial thinking, financial understanding, knowledge of business systems and processes, not to mention communication and relationship building, project management and problem solving skills. You’ll also need to demonstrate, or have the potential to develop, analytical expertise, attention to detail, precision thinking, risk management and high numeracy as well as an ability to navigate and continually adapt to using evolving software. 

However, as you don’t have any directly relevant experience I think you would have to be looking at an entry level position. 

If it is sheer regulatory compliance that is your main interest then you would need to look for a compliance specialist role. Before you take the deep dive into a completely new career you could start by doing an introductory course with, for example, the International Compliance Association.  This would provide you with an understanding of the regulatory profession and give you a networking opportunity to explore more specifically where you interests may lie. If you already know which specific sectors or industries you’d like to work in you could look on the websites of their professional bodies for courses and study opportunities. You could also use these websites to research the regulatory environment so that you have a working knowledge to have an informed discussion at interview.  Examples would be: the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA).

Taking compliance beyond the specialist regulatory environment, you might like to consider a career with the Big Four, providing audit and assurance to external clients.  Certainly when I was recruiting at EY we were very interested in more mature, career movers, especially with a commercial background.  Again, you would be starting at the bottom but you would be well placed to secure a three year graduate training contract in audit and assurance which would offer extensive hands-on auditing experience at external clients while working towards a professional qualification (usually the ICAEW, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales).  Incidentally, ICAEW is my own professional body (in the interests of full disclosure!) and they do also offer some highly recommended short, accredited courses, such as the online ISA (International Standards for Auditing).  While this sort of learning won’t ‘qualify’ you for a compliance role per se, it is valuable in providing detail and context for your research in preparation for job search and interview.

I cite Big 4 audit here, but there are, of course,  audit training opportunities in many of the mid tier and smaller firms also, as well as the public sector and wider communities.

The final area that you might like to consider is internal audit.  Again, your background and experience would provide a strong foundation for this career option and your transferable skills would prove highly valuable.  The internal auditor does exactly what is suggested in the role title by providing audit and assurance to their own organisation or group, but there are highly diverse roles within the discipline.  These can range from evaluating risk, upholding governance, ensuring internal control processes are operating effectively, validating quality and analysing operations.  The Chartered Institute of Internal Auditors offers professional qualifications but also shorter courses and seminars which would give you a flavour of the profession.  They also provide detailed resources and fact sheets which would help you in making an informed decision. 

The compliance industry offers some terrific opportunities for career change and the growth in employment in the sector in the ten years since the banking crisis, continues to bode well for the future. Clearly, this is a major life decision for you, so do take your time, do your research and make your choice from an informed position as possible.

"I am an audit professional with 9 years of experience in internal auditing. Currently, I am working with a multinational bank in their Internal Audit department for the past six years. I have received an offer from another Multinational bank for the role of Operations and risk control - SOX Compliance.  While all the aspects of the offer are good, I am apprehensive about the prospects of the role:


1.  Is it a right move considering that my current role within Internal Audit has more expanded scope as it gives me exposure to all the operations of the organization compared to the prospective SOX role which will be restricted to SOX Compliance related activities?


2.  What is the future of Sarbanes-Oxley considering that there has been criticism and discussion around the success/failure of the law?

Thus, should I accept the offer of SOX role? What would you do? Looking forward to your advice. "

If I was you, I would go right back to the drawing board. You can't make this decision unless you are clear about what you want from your career, both now and in the future.  In some respects the future of Sarbanes-Oxley is a red herring, as it can only seriously impact your career if you paint yourself into a corner with specialist labelling.

So, you have two roles to consider.  Where did the SOX offer come from? Were you head-hunted? If so you need to understand what it is about your professional profile that the recruiter thought was a good fit.  And what do you think about their evaluation? Have they properly identified your strengths and anticipated your interests and aspirations? Or did you go out seeking the SOX role of your own accord? What was in your mind with regard to making a career move right now? What were you looking for in terms of role content and future prospects? The answers to these questions will help you focus on getting to the nub of what you really want and need.

You are already aware of the obvious difference between the two roles, the SOX position being more specialised than the broader base of general internal audit.  But the comparison doesn't stop there.  What else is on offer in the SOX role?  Is it essentially a promotion?  Does it bring more management and leadership responsibilities compared to your current role?  If it does then, despite its perceived specialist nature, it might bring you wider, more advanced transferable skills and development opportunities. 

Also consider your attitude to risk.  It may be perceived 'safer' to stay where you are, but how do you feel about safety and stability?  Can you see yourself doing the role you are doing in five years time?  If not, what would you like to be doing and how would the SOX position align with these future aspirations.  And look again closely at the details of the SOX role.  What is attractive about it: prospects, content, reward?  You could consider how your current employer might replicate these benefits, either in your present department or with a role transition.  You can do a fair bit of due diligence yourself but ultimately you will have to take some risk by having an open conversation with regard to your career aspirations.

There's quite a bit to think about in making your decision, so don't be pressurised into moving quickly.  Take your time, do your research and some personal reflection and ultimately go with your heart as well as your mind!



Have your career questions answered by emailing Carol here.

To look for a new Compliance job, visit CareersinCompliance, the leading job site for Compliance vacancies.


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