The last decade or so has seen a significant increase in the scale and responsibility of the compliance function. Major financial institutions have made substantial investments in the sector, resulting in a huge array of opportunities for those looking to work in compliance.
The International Compliance Association (ICA) is a professional membership and awarding body. ICA is the leading global provider of professional, certificated qualifications in anti-money laundering; governance, risk, and compliance; and financial crime prevention. ICA members are recognized globally for their commitment to best compliance practice and an enhanced professional reputation. To find out more, visit the ICA website.
Although this increase in interest has been led by financial services, other industries have upped their focus in the area as well. The added attention has helped raise the status of compliance, which is now recognized as providing a rewarding career.
Historically, compliance was never a No. 1 career choice. This has now changed. So, what is the best way to get a start in compliance?
If you’re passionate, make it count
Compliance is a purpose-led profession and includes some high-profile, meaningful objectives, such as fighting financial crime, combating money laundering, and putting a stop to human and wildlife trafficking.
Financial services is at the forefront of these challenges. Criminals must use the financial system to commit their crimes, so these organizations, such as banks, are effectively the vanguard force in preventing misconduct from taking place.
These are issues that engender passion and commitment, and following a career that helps tackle these challenges will give you real purpose and drive in your working life. If these issues matter to you, then that’s a great start.
Know the best starter roles
A great route for people with little or no expertise is to look at opportunities in anti-money laundering (AML), know your customer (KYC), and customer due diligence (CDD). These are the roles that offer broad, foundation-level experience in widely recognized key compliance functions. Where possible, build relationships with the people already working within these functions. Don’t be afraid to ask them how they got started—this a great way to get answers and also flags you as someone interested in making the move across.
It will also help you build a network of colleagues working in the same or similar fields. Establishing yourself in this network is a useful way of kickstarting your career in compliance; and the more people you know, the more opportunities you will be able to consider. Using these resources to find out about potential openings in areas you have a particular interest in is the first step on your journey to where you want to be.
Make sure you include specialist compliance recruitment firms, too. They can provide invaluable insight into the compliance market and will be able to identify suitable opportunities, whatever your level of experience.
Market your existing skills and qualifications
You can also look at your existing experience and see whether it maps across to any available roles. If you already work at a bank in a customer-facing position, for example, you may be familiar with some of the internal policies and procedures that enable the organization to manage financial crime and money laundering activities. Use this experience and understanding when putting yourself forward for compliance positions.
Even if you’re coming from outside the financial services industry, there are plenty of skills that would transfer well into a compliance role, including organization, problem-solving, communication, critical thinking, and integrity. If you can wed some of these skills with an interest in industry developments, you’ll be able to demonstrate your suitability through examples when discussing potential opportunities.
Further, getting qualified is a good way of signaling your intention to work in compliance. Despite the fact there are no formal requirements for compliance officers to hold a qualification to carry out their duties, many employers recognize the significant difference a professional qualification can make. It not only signals your commitment to personal development in this area, but also provides reassurance that you have obtained knowledge and understanding to a certain level in a particular discipline. This sort of recognition is highly sought after by employers across the industry.
The International Compliance Association’s program of qualifications range from introductory level—for those with no prior experience—to expert level.
The International Compliance Association is a sister company to Compliance Week. Both organizations are under the umbrella of Wilmington plc.