My work experience prior to going to university was two weeks working for the Hong Kong and Shanghai Corporation in Hong Kong. The experience didn’t really teach me anything as few people in the branch spoke English, but this didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for a career in banking! When making my choice of university, I wanted to pick a subject that would help me in later life, so Accounting and Law it was, a choice that now turns out to have been a very good one.
Laying the career foundations
After university I ended up with one of the ‘Big Four’ banks – Lloyds Bank. Starting in its graduate scheme, I initially worked in branch banking and moving onto the bank’s inspection department.
After a period of managing sales teams, I was given a portfolio of high value clients to manage and I took the opportunity to become a regulated adviser. This opened my eyes to the broader financial services world and the challenges of working within the strictures of regulation. While this convinced me that sales was no longer for me, it also showed me an attractive world to move into.
Time to move on?
Having made the decision that I needed to move on from retail banking, I identified two things. Firstly, how much I enjoyed my time working in the bank’s inspection department and secondly, how interesting the regulatory side of financial services sounded.
I started to wonder if there was something I could do that combined the two. At the same time, a compliance role came up within the bank and my career in financial services compliance began.
Unfortunately, within a couple of months I was informed that this area was being closed. I took this as an opportunity to broaden my horizons and moved away from Lloyds TSB. I had limited experience in my newly chosen field, but had seen enough to convince me that it was what I wanted to do. It was suggested that working for the regulator would help broaden my knowledge, so I joined the Financial Services Authority (FSA).
It was never my intention to become a career regulator and I knew I would return to work for a regulated firm eventually. I therefore made the most of my time at the FSA and expanded my compliance knowledge.
I decided that I needed to update my qualifications, so I completed a Diploma with the Securities Institute, now the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment (CISI). This not only improved my knowledge of fund management but also the technicalities of regulatory compliance. I also set myself goals, the main one being to be a Head of Compliance within five years of leaving the FSA.
Back on the other side of the fence
It took me a year longer than planned to move on from the FSA, and next stop was Credit Suisse Private Banking, where I ran its compliance monitoring programme for two years. This involved assessing the compliance risk within the business and creating a risk based monitoring plan to check the firm was operating in a compliant fashion.
Becoming Head of Compliance
Three years ahead of schedule I moved into my current role as Head of Compliance at Arbuthnot Latham, a private bank in the City of London.
Arbuthnot Latham has three main business lines, banking (deposits and credit facilities), discretionary investment management and independent financial planning. This means that the firm covers a wide range of regulatory disciplines.
The role – compliance monitoring
A compliance monitoring programme is the key part of the work that the compliance team undertakes. Reviews cover the whole firm and issues are raised where we find that activities are not being carried out in a compliant fashion. These are escalated to senior management and remediation plans are agreed.
Staying up to date with regulatory change
One of the biggest challenges for this job is keeping up with the volume of papers issued by the FSA and HM Treasury, to name but two. These have to be read and analysed to see what impact they have on the compliance environment within the firm. Changes to rules have to be reported to senior management and the operational areas so that we can prepare for the changes that are going to be made.
This task is made easier due to the CISI professional interest forum for compliance with which I am involved.
Keeping pace with strategic change
A fundamental part of the role is to ensure you are plugged in to the changes that are taking place within the firm, such as a new service, product line or moving into a new market. As a regulated firm we have regulatory permissions that dictate what we can and cannot do. Any change that is made to our strategy could mean that we move outside these permissions, so it is vital that I am involved at an early stage of all management discussions and projects.
The job is continually challenging, due to the ever changing regulatory landscape and therefore never dull.
Each day is very different and you rarely know what the next issue is going to be. Added to this, working in a small private bank means I have direct access to the senior management and am able to influence the compliance culture within the firm.