Flexible working and part-time working is now firmly on the agenda in the UK.
More and more firms are embracing ‘agile working’ offering their employees the opportunity to vary their hours or work from home when required. The stigma once attached to flexible working has, in the majority of cases, gone. Firms are truly seeing the benefit of empowering and therefore motivating their staff by offering them a better work/life balance.
At Austin Andrew, we have a seen a rise in both part-time vacancies and firms offering flexible working arrangements. In the compliance marketplace, we have partnered with a number of firms looking for part-time Compliance Officers; smaller firms can hire an experienced ‘head of’ level compliance professional at a fraction of the cost of a full-time hire whilst still maintaining the oversight offered by an experienced regulatory professional.
We took some time out to interview John Griffiths, John left Duff & Phelps earlier this year where he was a Managing Director. John took some time off before engaging with Austin Andrew to help him find part-time opportunities.
Tell us about your portfolio of clients and what you are doing for them
I work for a private equity advisory firm on Tuesdays, a firm that provides a regulatory umbrella to a number of investment managers and others on Wednesdays and a real estate advisory firm on Thursdays. All very different from one another and each have their own internal and external legal and compliance support to varying degrees, but all need a Compliance Officer to head up the function. My work is varied, including applying for authorisation for a new group company, regulatory perimeter issues regarding client take-on, overseeing compliance monitoring performed and generally answering the difficult questions that come up. Primarily, my focus is to provide each of the firms with practical responses to issues they are facing which are both compliant and business-sensitive.
What attracted you to working for a portfolio of firms on a part-time basis?
Following a long career in audit and then compliance, I decided that I wanted to take a career break and so I took the spring/summer of 2017 off. My original intention was to return to work in the autumn on a part-time basis in order to allow me to pursue a number of other interests, which include being a trustee and treasurer of two charitable organisations. To my surprise, my desire for a “portfolio lifestyle” turned into even more of a portfolio than I thought as I am now employed by three companies rather than merely being part-time at one! This lifestyle suits me because working for a day a week at each firm continues to provide me with the variety that I have always had throughout my career. It also means that I have capacity to accommodate periodic increases in workload (provided it doesn’t happen all at the same time!) so there’s a fair bit of flexibility involved. If I’m not needed on Monday or Friday, then I can get on with my trustee duties or go for a bike ride!
Do you think firms should do more to accommodate part-time or flexible working?
We seem to be living in an “always on” culture these days and I think society generally needs to think about what we are doing to ourselves. We all need to balance numerous demands whether that’s work, family or the need for downtime, which is also very important. So I would start by saying that we all need to look after ourselves and be conscious of what we are asking of others. Over the course of my career I have seen many talented people who could not commit to working full time and I am pleased to have worked in environments where this was recognised and accommodated, with the firm benefitting too. Each situation will be different and I’m realistic about the challenges that this may pose, but firms lose out if they cannot be flexible so they should not lose sight of this as an opportunity.
What did you do during your time out of the market?
I’ve maybe given a clue above! From March to June I spent a lot of time on my bike, averaging 1,000 miles per month and climbing many, many hills. This was because I had got myself a place on the Tour de Force (now renamed Le Loop) and in June/July I rode the entire route of the 2017 Tour de France, one week ahead of the professionals. This was a fund raiser for the William Wates Memorial Trust, a grants giving charity that seeks to give disadvantaged young people the opportunity to fulfil their potential by supporting a range of activities. I wrote a daily blog which I have now converted into a book entitled “Rollercoaster: The highs and lows of the Tour de France”. It’s available as an Ebook at www.blookup.com and the blog is at www.johnstourdeforce.com.
Which other career paths did you consider when you were younger?
From the age of 14 I knew I wanted to be an accountant and worked towards that throughout the rest of my school life and at university, where I read economics. You can make up your own mind what you think about that! Compliance never existed as a career path when I was at school. It was my involvement in forensic accounting that got me into the world of compliance via the regulator’s enforcement team.
Who was the biggest influence on your career?
Tricky one to answer. Was it the person I wanted to prove wrong when told that a top accounting firm would never be interested in me? Or was it the manager who criticised me for supposedly leaving the more difficult aspect of an audit until last when in fact my hands had been tied due to delay on the part of the client? Regardless, these events instilled in me a desire to succeed and to make sure I don’t procrastinate when there are big issues to deal with. It’s easy to faff around being busy by dealing with a long list of less important stuff and I’m probably still guilty of that too from time to time, but the fact that I have not forgotten those comments from 30 or more years ago must mean that they have influenced my general approach to my career.
Which piece of advice would you give to someone looking to forge a career as a compliance professional within financial services?
There is a massive amount of regulation out there and no-one can hope to have a handle on everything. I have found that adopting a collegiate, collaborative approach is the key to learning no matter how junior or senior you are. If you come across an area that no-one in your team knows much about – make yourself the expert because it’s not only good for your personal development but it helps to raise your profile too and thus your career. And whatever you do, do it wholeheartedly and you will eventually reap the benefits even though I know we are often looking for quick results these days.
Austin Andrew is a leading compliance recruiter with a small team of specialists led by James Willacy who has nine years experience working with Asset Managers, Hedge Funds, Private Equity houses and Fund Services firms. Austin Andrew helped John find two of his three part-time roles.
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Contact James Willacy for further information – firstname.lastname@example.org