4 compliance career paths – and why they make a difference

Written by David Povey on Wednesday February 19, 2020

Staying in one job throughout a whole working life is less common than it used to be. Changes to the economy, technology and family life have permanently altered the way we approach work, and today we tend to have more than one ‘career’.

The world has opened up for us, and there is a hunger to try new things, whether it’s food, travel or work. This provides options and a degree of freedom, but it also gives birth to a new set of concerns: you’re likely to puzzle over which career is right for you, and might be unsure about what path to follow.

For those considering a career in the world of compliance, or those at an early stage of their compliance career, this blog will explore some of the options open to you, and address any questions you haven’t found the answer to – as well ask questions you haven’t yet considered.

Before we dive in it’s worth remembering an important point– everyone’s career is different, and everyone will experience things differently. But whether you are going to spend the next 50 years working in compliance or you’re just passing through, it is a rewarding, exciting, satisfying and varied experience.

Entry-level roles

Entry-level roles open to you include working in process teams that screen customer names to make sure banks aren’t accepting criminals as customers; checking payments that are sent both domestically or globally to ensure that money isn’t getting into the wrong hands and funding terrorism; monitoring transactions for suspicious activity to identify if a customer is using their account fraudulently; or fulfilling requests from law enforcement agencies for information that is important for ongoing criminal investigations.

Now, to someone new to compliance, the prospect of carrying out these important tasks might seem intimidating (or exciting). However, one thing you can be assured of when working in compliance is the level of training and support you’ll be given.

Businesses will have a clear induction programme that ensures you are competent in whatever role you are working in before you begin to work independently. And remember, it’s more than acceptable (and indeed encouraged) to ask questions.

Firms live by the rule that being and remaining compliant is so crucial that it’s better to ask than guess and get it wrong. There is always constructive support available to you.

High-level roles

Managing processing teams is one of the higher-level positions for those with more experience. It involves capacity planning, managing staff performance and development, and ensuring the smooth running of the team.

Other responsibilities might include carrying out audit functions, writing policies and procedures based on regulations/legislation, and liaising with stakeholders to ensure that these rules are being followed.

A major role at this level is the money laundering reporting officer, or MLRO. It’s the MLRO’s job to act as the focal point within the firm for the oversight of all activity relating to anti money laundering (AML); and then there are roles working at director or board level with ultimate responsibility and accountability for those individuals and activities within a firm.

At all levels there is support and training available to ensure all employees are fully prepared and competent to guarantee compliance across the firm.

Mixed role

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to enjoying a career in compliance. In a smaller business you might undertake a couple of roles at one time. You could carry out both customer and payment screening, or be responsible for managing people and also writing policies.

In a large financial institution – where different roles and responsibilities are split out across different business units – your work might be very specific. Your personality, experience and temperament will help you decide the role to which you’re best suited.

Compliance is multifarious enough to allow work in new areas and across different industries – everyone needs compliance and those that help maintain it are important in every firm. Moving between roles and progressing through your career can mean doing more training, job shadowing or branching out to a new industry.

Taking a professional qualification will give you the chance to move up or between these different roles, and try something new; this can be either in the form of a specific subject if you know what you want to do, or it can be a broad understanding of the wider area.

They can provide you with expert knowledge, help develop you as an individual and further your career prospects.

Ethical compliance

These are the methods and means by which a compliance career can be started. Though they might be appealing, you might be unsure of the real-world value of compliance. What does it do for society? Will I be making a difference? The honest answer to that is that compliance makes a big difference to society and remaining compliant can save lives.

That isn’t a flippant, throwaway comment – good compliance equals less money laundered and less opportunities for criminals to carry out their nefarious activities (ranging from human trafficking to stolen cultural artefacts). Compliance puts you on the frontline of stopping this activity.

In the 21 st century, you can help make society a better place from behind a computer screen. The world is constantly changing and developing, and compliance is at the forefront of that change, dealing with the threats posed by new technologies, and making the most of the opportunities.

A new challenge can be daunting, even scary. But compliance is a challenge worth the reward.

Learn more about our qualifications and the study options available to you

This article forms part of the #BigCompConvo - Join us as we explore and debate the latest challenges and issues facing you and regulatory and financial crime compliance professionals all over the world. If you’d like to contribute an article as part of the Big Compliance Conversation get in touch with us at [email protected]

Big Compliance Conversation


Please leave a comment

You can leave the name empty should you wish to remain Anonymous.

You are replying to post:



Email *

Comment *

Search posts

View posts by Author