Compliance is a growing and increasingly popular career choice in Financial Services. You even have Front Office employees desperately trying to make the move due to the stability and expanding pay packets that are on offer in Compliance jobs. Compliance is now a crucial part of any successful financial services but, not everybody makes it to the top. You need to carefully consider how you want to construct your career and there are a few common things to consider if you have big aspirations in this field:

1) Gain Varied Experience

Chief Compliance Officers (CCOs) or Heads of Compliance typically have wide and varied experience. They won’t be restricted in terms of product knowledge and they will have worked in various specialties across firms. They will have an in-depth knowledge of how individual Compliance teams are made up and how the skillsets available in these teams differ from one another. If you want to be a CCO, consider where you might lack some experience and knowledge and how you might be able to rectify that.

2) Education and Qualifications

The simple reality is that if you want to become better you have to learn more. Most CCOs out there will have Masters degrees and advanced Compliance qualifications. Some will say “what I can learn in a classroom that I can't learn on the job?”. This isn’t really the point. As mentioned previously, as a CCO you need to develop a wide and varied skillset to make your way to the top and advanced qualifications will certainly display this effectively on your CV. A lot of CCOs will have numerous legal qualifications or business degrees and Compliance-specific qualifications in abundance.

3) Step Outside your Comfort Zone

It isn’t just a thorough knowledge of Compliance that will get you to the top. You need to know the business inside out. Why? You’ll be interacting at the most senior levels throughout your firm and you have to demonstrate your ability to interact with these people effectively. If you can’t prove yourself to senior figures within Financial Services then you will struggle to make it to the top.

4) Networking

It isn’t just senior people that you need to communicate with effectively. You need to be a sensitive communicator and have the ability to network across all levels of your firm. If your peers and juniors don’t find you to be approachable and would rather avoid you then the likelihood is you’ll be overlooked for more senior management positions on the career ladder. Equally, a Compliance professional's interaction with other areas of the business and in particular the Front Office, needs to be considered and effective. You need to command the respect of people whilst also being a trusted and reliable partner within the business.

5) Risk vs. Reward

There is absolutely no doubt that a career in Compliance can now be hugely lucrative and those at the top of the ladder do, of course, receive the largest of these rewards. The reality is that CCOs can achieve salaries north of £200k in London with large bonuses on top of that. Does the reward compensate for the risk though in today’s heavily regulated Financial Services? With the introduction of the Senior Managers Regime the risk is far higher. If things go wrong, CCOs are likely to be held to account. Your career could be over and there is even the potential for imprisonment. It’s safe to say that CCOs deserve their high salaries. Make sure you're ready for that level of responsibility and that it is really something you want in your career. It isn't for everyone!

Are you striving to make it to the top of the Compliance Career Ladder? Are you already there? Let me know what you think it takes in the comments section below.

Are you looking for your next move on the career ladder? Check out James Boxall’s latest opportunities HERE.

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