How to become a compliance professional
Compliance has always been a staple of the business landscape; part of the furniture in its typically middle-back office function. However, with the regulatory climate changing in the aftermath of the economic crisis and further to accommodate advancing technology, compliance has become something of a household name on the financial stage.
New and updated rules and guidelines rolled out across the financial services, healthcare, telecommunication and other industries have elevated the importance of compliance. So risk, compliance and regulatory candidates with equal parts ethical compass and relevant skillset are in high demand.
If you’re planning on a career in compliance the first thing is to dispel your assumptions that compliance specialists are simply legal bods. Many compliance professionals will come with a legal undergraduate degree or training, it’s true, however this is absolutely not mandatory. Undoubtedly regulations, policies, procedures and paperwork factor into the compliance equation, but with the changing times so too the framework around compliance roles has shifted.
Jobs in compliance are more quantitative and complex than they were previously, this on account of the greater emphasis being placed on machine learning and data analytics. Certainly there is a greater demand for candidates proficient in handling data. To that end, rather than a law degree you could opt for a BSc in maths, economics or general business management. Certainly, when it comes to the selection of compliance personnel those decisions are typically made regardless of academic subject read.
If you’re hoping to start working in compliance in a bank, the minimum requirement is an undergrad degree to get in at entry level. Back office support roles, operations, IT, controls or HR also offer great routes into compliance.
Compliance officers are expected to not only understand existing and forthcoming regulations and ethical standards but more importantly, be able to apply them to the business operations of their organisations. This comes with having a questioning and analytical mind-set; a key skill for someone working in compliance.
As well as being highly analytical and adept at interpreting information, the key skills that every aspiring compliance officer needs in their arsenal include good communication, attention to detail and resilience. A good compliance professional needs to be able to talk to people across all levels of the business outside of compliance, from management and stakeholders to employees and executives. This means knowing how to make their improvements, procedures and programs relatable in layman’s terms, particularly with key stakeholders who want to understand how their interests are being protected.