Starting Your Career in Compliance

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Compliance jobs may not feature on the bucket lists of our teenage selves, however when you reach university or come to a professional crossroads at a point in your adult life, experience plays into a new perspective. You may still hanker for a life on the stage or in a sporting arena, but the reality may be that you need something more stable that better fits your abilities.

Senior compliance professional, Nathan Dearinger, has seen people move into the compliance space from all number of entryways and professional backgrounds. “There are different pathways into compliance roles,” he says, “you don’t need a specialised degree, or even to start in a compliance role.”

While this is true, graduates who have chosen to study financial services-related subjects like accounting and economics are likely headed for a risk or compliance role, that is just one example of entering into compliance. Those students tend to be well-rounded and well-versed in the art of risk and compliance and at this stage they will be looking at entry level roles such as advisor or analyst within the compliance space.

“Someone coming into that type of role is expected to do a bit of everything across the compliance spectrum,” says Dearinger. “You don’t know a person’s strengths when they first come into the team. Are they more suited to data or to report writing or someone you want to put in front of stakeholders?” This is why those younger compliance professionals will often get their grounding rotating around different parts of the business, being assigned to more experienced members of their team on a monthly or three-monthly rotation. These graduate programs are very common within the Big Four firms and enable candidates to get a holistic overview of the business and exposure to all the components in order to see where they best fit.

For those moving into compliance careers at a somewhat later stage in their professional journey, Dearinger asserts that in a lot of cases those people bring an untapped source of value. “Those working in compliance can sometimes lack operational knowledge,” explains Dearinger, “so the benefit of people moving into compliance jobs from other parts of the business means they can bridge that gap in marrying the application of compliance requirements with the operational aspects of the business.”

This then begs the questions, how important is a law degree and/or legal experience? Dearinger asserts that certainly legal expertise or experience can filter your CV onto the ‘consider pile’ but really what hiring managers are looking for is someone who has undertaken additional study and completed it. This is particularly true of the younger candidates who don’t have the breadth of skills and experience to fall back on.

As for the industry that will best serve as launchpad to a career in compliance, Dearinger is of the opinion that financial services is one that offers a reliable grounding. “I’d look for banking, it’s just far more settled,” he says. “It seems unsettled if you go by what you see in the media but realistically the legal obligations around banking are very settled, they’re very established and it’s an easy area to get into and learn.”

With compliance spanning a multitude of disciplines, one which may offer a dynamic and educational grounding is credit compliance. Receiving a lot of positive attention from the business, credit compliance is an area which boasts strong compliance teams with lots of bodies and opportunities for compliance professionals to have exposure to a wide variety of things that happen in the bank.

Dearinger advises those new to working in compliance that while it may seem an exciting prospect to get into an area teeming with new obligations, they should carefully consider the impact on their long-term career progression and goals. “I’d consider whether you really want to leap into an area that’s constantly changing or whether you’d be better off starting out in area where you can hone your skillset,” says Dearinger.


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