Soft Skills to Advance Your Compliance Career

Soft Skills to Advance your Compliance Career


Expectations of compliance professionals grow and expand as they move up in seniority. Meeting these requires developing a wider range of more nuanced soft skills.

In the early part of your career you may have found that the soft skills you required were very similar to those needed by colleagues in non-compliance roles: good communication skills, the ability to work effectively in a team, strong critical thinking, and good organisational competency for multi-tasking and managing deadlines.

As your responsibilities grow, you’ll be expected to carry out thorough risk assessments on a much wider range of business activities and develop and enforce structured compliance programmes. In our experience, more senior compliance personnel need to develop three new soft skills to successfully take on these new responsibilities:

1. Be maniacal about detail and be a big picture thinker

You will have become adept at understanding regulatory detail. As the scope of your involvement grows, you’re going to need to get to grips with the details of how controls, processes and people operate across broad swathes of business activities. 

“Get to grips with”, but not “get lost in”. Your business partners will expect you to take things up several levels to explain what compliance means for business operations and change and even what it might mean for business model and strategy. A real challenge many must overcome is not to transfer the legalese of regulatory material to their own style of verbal and written communication. And not to “teeth-suck” when proposed initiatives seem to carry high compliance risk, but to actively contribute to developing practical solutions.

2. Develop good business judgement and intuition

Regulators in many sectors are moving away from comprehensive, prescriptive regulation to more principles-based approaches. Senior compliance professionals need to be able to spot compliance risks in otherwise seemingly innocuous business decisions – and they need the intuition and judgement to be able to develop a perspective on how material these are in the absence of explicit regulatory guidance. 

You are frequently going to have to determine whether or not an initiative is the right thing to do from a compliance perspective regardless of the “letter of the law”. In many industries this is becoming even more important right now as consumers struggle with the cost of living and the risk of mistreatment becomes ever more real.

3. Build effective multi-stakeholder working relationships

The most effective senior compliance professionals build extremely effective working relationships right across the business, and at the most senior levels. By doing this they can: 

  • Get compliance involved early in new business initiatives, rather than as an afterthought
  • Promote compliant behaviours and drive culture change rather than relying on controls alone
  • Successfully manage the often conflicting objectives of different stakeholders (regulators, executive management, the Risk and Compliance Committee, Internal Audit, front line operations, etc.)

For many, these three soft skills will not be easy to master. Nonetheless, being aware of their importance is a valuable first step.


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