What Skills do you Need to Work in Compliance?



It is a truth universally acknowledged that most jobs require candidates to possess a balance of technical expertise and “soft” skills. Compliance jobs are no different. The function within a business that is designed to protect the company’s ethical integrity from becoming tainted by financial disrepute or similar; what are the skills a compliance professional needs to do that effectively?

Mirroring the very purpose of compliance, candidates must work with integrity. Fundamentally someone working in compliance must be guided by a strong moral compass not only to be a ‘watcher on the wall’ to fraudulent, misguided or otherwise wrong activity but to have the strength of character to speak out proactively against it. Believe in what you stand for and have the confidence to see it through.

Of course, picking out the wrong from right is only possible with a big picture view of the industry within which you’re working. Stay abreast of relevant regulatory requirements but equally important is to be in the know about what’s trending in critical areas like financial crime and money laundering. Really pay attention as regulatory requirements seemingly evolve with the speed of light and it’s your job to make sense of them down to the very last detail and be able to apply them to real world scenarios.

This is where the ability to make business decisions based on how they’ll affect the organisation’s appetite for risk is key. Risk assessment is a fundamental component of compliance. You have to be able to take into consideration the risk impact of your work in a wider commercial context, whether that’s from a legal perspective, financial, business or reputational.

Compliance Officers will be confronted with obscure regulatory policies and so on and it’s their responsibility to identify the risk associated with that specific policy in order to devise a solution. Thinking both creatively and analytically, working in compliance demands individuals with a natural curiosity, who can utilise both sides of their brain to solve problems effectively. That logic and common-sense approach can also help navigate any conflicts that may arise, as it is likely that the business may occasionally push back on advice from their compliance team. Being able to explain and defend your insights in a reasonable and affirmative way will take you far.

Communication, both written and verbal is high on the skill requirements list for people looking for jobs in compliance. You hold crucial insights and information that help the business, but if you can’t convey that information to those who need to hear it, it’s useless. You need to know how to translate your compliance expertise into information that is accessible across all levels of the business.

It’s important to remember too that business is interconnected, what happens on one continent can directly affect another and for that reason to be an effective compliance person it makes sense to assess a situation within a global context. So, it pays to grow your network. Your relationships with people are just as critical as your data analysis skills. From your own senior management to the regulators and your colleagues, you must be able to balance the necessary assertiveness of an effective compliance professional with an emotional accessibility. Show you mean business but position yourself as the person people feel comfortable coming to for help or advice on important issues.


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