When I left school, I was not sure exactly what career path to take, so I decided to enrol on the BTEC National Diploma in Business Studies to cover a wide base. After completing the course, I was still undecided on a career direction and chose to get some work experience before going to university. I liked the idea of financial services and started off by working as an unsecured lending clerk for Lloyds Bowmaker.
From the very beginning I knew I was more suited to working than continuing my studies and I never went back to full-time education. I worked hard and progressed to mortgage underwriter for secured loans and went on to become one of the team leaders. At that time my husband was offered a job outside of Paris, so we made a new start abroad. I tried to get a job in financial services, but it was not to be. In Paris, I worked as a PA and gained all my organising and prioritising skills, as well as a second language.
On returning to the UK in 2000, I hoped to return to financial services; the stock markets were riding high and a US stockbroker was recruiting staff in my area, so I took my chance to apply. I remember on the day that I went for my interview and tests there were hundreds of candidates and a group of them thought I already worked there. This was a good sign and I joined Charles Schwab Europe as operations team manager. I had to quickly obtain my US Series 7, 9 and 10 licences to take on the role. This was a great challenge because I had to get used to the new job, train the new team and study for my US qualifications all at the same time.
I was promoted to senior manager in 2001, but the time for expansion in the UK was over for Schwab. It was a time for redundancies and in 2002 my team’s work was migrated back to the US. I had become very interested in regulation, in particular anti-money laundering rules while creating the account opening procedures, so I applied for a vacancy as compliance manager and in that role I learnt about compliance. Once again, I was made redundant at the end of 2003 as Schwab’s UK sterling business was moved across to Barclays Stockbrokers. I was asked if I would like to join Schwab again and successfully applied for the role of compliance officer of the Schwab UK entity.
What does my role look like now?
I have been compliance officer for Charles Schwab UK since 2004 with responsibility for all aspects of compliance. Since 2011, I have managed a small team. We provide compliance support to the international business, which is focused on providing non-US resident clients with access to various investments available on US markets.
The role divides into several key areas. I advise the international business on compliance matters by answering queries, attending key business strategy meetings as a subject matter expert and by arranging or conducting staff training. I prepare and implement new regulations by maintaining current policies and procedures and providing staff training. I approve all financial promotions. I conduct ongoing anti-money laundering tasks and data privacy duties. I submit regulatory returns and monitor the firm’s capital and liquidity. I conduct regular testing of the effectiveness of systems and controls and provide governance reporting to the board.
It is challenging to prioritise and work through all the different tasks that come along at the same time. I have to deal with a large number of everyday tasks and fit unplanned items into the schedule, but I really enjoy the wide variety. The industry has been changing, with regulatory updates coming thick and fast since 2007, so there is always something that needs to be updated or improved.
Although I hold several professional qualifications and have maintained my continuing education, in 2009 I decided that I had reached a level where it would be difficult to go any further without a degree. It was time to finish off my studies, so I chose to embark on a Bachelor of Law degree on a part-time basis with the Open University.
It has been hard work because it takes at least 20 hours of study per week on top of a full-time working week. I have completed four years of studying in the evenings and at weekends and I am currently working on year five of six. The subjects I am grappling with this year are land law and trust law. It is difficult, but I am determined to finish and prove that you can continue with your education later and it is never too late to build on the successes you have already achieved.