Compliance qualifications explained
The first thing to know when preparing to work in compliance in the UK is that it’s not necessary to have a particular qualification.
Furthermore, as we’ve said before, though people assume compliance is synonymous with having a law degree that is not in fact a necessity. Due to its increasingly quantitative nature on account of developments in machine learning and data analytics; compliance roles would best suit candidates coming from an academic background in mathematics, economics or business.
Onwards from your BSc, BA or undergrad degree there are a series of advanced qualifications for working in financial services compliance. Of course the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) tops the popularity stakes along with the CPA (certified public accountant) and MA or MS in finance. However there are other options.
The Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment (CISI) offers a diploma in Investment Compliance. Through this qualification you will gain a deeper knowledge of the financial service regulatory landscape not only in the UK but globally. Expect to pay out around £1.7k to encompass tuition fees and the three exams you will need to pass across the two years approx. it takes to complete the diploma. Be advised that while the CISI qualification is widely recognised by UK employers and may help you get an initial foot in the door, it is certainly not a prerequisite for securing a job in compliance.
A shorter and mildly less expensive option (at around £1.5k + VAT) comes by way of The International Compliance Association (ICA). They run the Advanced Certificate of Compliance over a period of six months, which you can complete remotely with the exception of two interactive workshops. Candidates applying to junior or entry level compliance roles would find this cert a good option in getting to grips with the basics of compliance, particularly for individuals hoping to work in AML and financial crime.
To reiterate, a certification is absolutely not mandatory to get a job in compliance. Rather, on the job practical work experience will attract the attention of recruiters and hiring managers and make you stand out from the competition.
For back office compliance officers possibly looking at a move into a middle office role, The International Capital Markets Association (ICMA) offers a cert specialising in fixed income and derivatives. Now known as The Fixed Income Certificate, this will suit a compliance professional already working in banking who is looking to expand their product knowledge and understanding of trading, investment and risk management. The cost is approx. £3.3k for ICMA members, £4.3k for non-members.
Further compliance qualifications are available at the London Business School, namely an MA in Finance as a cheaper alternative to the coveted MBA. Having said that, candidates hoping to move into the investment banking sector should stick with the MBA, which is particularly useful in angling your leadership insights when it comes to the latter stage of your career. No less than two years’ work experience within financial services is required to apply to the course, which can cost around £43k. You’ll also be expected to complete an internship in addition to your studies. Not for everybody, employers certainly do not expect every candidate to sit an MBA. Meanwhile talented maths bods can look into the CQF (cert in quantitative finance), approx. £13k.
The main thing is to focus your area of study with the subject matter that interests you within the compliance space, whether that’s privacy, AML or industry.