The financial services industry is highly regulated, with local and international laws and regulations invariably shaping business activities within the UK and across borders.
Legal, compliance and risk management roles help to ensure that businesses and their staff remain compliant with the substantial amount of rules and regulations, as well as any contractual issues and internal business strategy.
Compliance and legal specialists operate in-house or on an outsourced basis. Legal experts may be employed on corporate finance projects, or on internal legal issues affecting the business in some way. It is the job of the compliance officer to ensure that the organisation operates within the parameters set by the regulator.
While small firms may have only a modest compliance presence, larger institutions have different compliance departments overseeing separate business activities.
It is the compliance department that has to make sure that everyone within their company knows the rules and regulations and abides by them. This means a lot of liaison with the HR department to ensure that all necessary training is carried out and that staff documentation is kept up-to-date.
Compliance staff must also investigate any suspected breaches of the regulations and provide any information to the regulator that is demanded. The compliance officer also has to liaise with the marketing department to ensure that all advertisements and literature produced by the firm follow the stringent regulations.
A Head of Compliance has the authority to represent the firm’s interests when dealing with regulators, and to work with other senior staff to reduce and resolve systemic problems.
Hours of work are much more regular than other roles, but you need to be available to deal with any emergencies.
The compliance officer’s job requires particular sensitivity, because they have to question their colleagues’ methods and enforce change when necessary.
Compliance officers must be approachable but also be able to maintain a distance between themselves and those they watch, in order to avoid any potential conflicts of interest.
Desirable attributes include cool objectivity, excellent business and regulatory knowledge, and strong communication and advocacy skills.
Compliance is one of the fastest-growing areas within the industry. Every financial services firm must have a compliance officer, who often has a whole department reporting to them.
Smaller firms will have one or two compliance officers who look after all these functions. In larger firms, there will be compliance officers in charge of specific business areas.
Graduate compliance officers usually come from a legal, accounting, or economics background, but this is by no means compulsory.
Hear about people working in compliance: