National Occupational Standards

In 2006 we partnered with The Financial Skills Partnership (then known as the Financial Services Skills Council), which is now an organisation within Universal Skills (formed from Skills for Justice, Skills for Health and the Financial Skills Partnership) to develop the first ever National Occupational Standards for those working in compliance, anti money laundering and financial crime prevention in the UK.

The standards, which were produced following on from a period of consultation with industry, have since been updated and will be reviewed as part of an ongoing project.

What are National Occupational Standards?

National Occupational Standards (NOS) are statements of the standards of performance individuals must achieve when carrying out functions in the workplace, together with specifications of the underpinning knowledge and understanding.

  • NOS are National because they can be used in every part of the UK where the functions are carried out.
  • NOS are Occupational because they describe the performance required of an individual when carrying out functions in the workplace, i.e. in their occupation (as a plumber, police officer, production engineer etc).
  • NOS are Standards because they are statements of effective performance which have been agreed by a representative sample of employers and other key stakeholders and approved by the UK NOS Panel.
  • NOS are best practice documents that:
    • describe best practice in particular areas of work
    • bring together the skills, knowledge and values necessary to do the work as statements of competence
    • provide managers with a tool for a wide variety of workforce management, quality control and specification tasks
    • are the basis of qualifications and training.
  • NOS are used in human resource management.

Who uses National Occupational Standards?

Delivering high quality services requires strategic leadership and clear operational management. Managers using National Occupational Standards have found that the standards help to reinforce the link from strategy to operational management and to service standards. There are a variety of uses for the standards, all benefiting from their comprehensive coverage and user focus.

So, how do standards contribute to a firm’s strategy? NOS support the following seven business areas:

1. Business planning – managers use NOS to describe the skills they need, gauge the skills and competency levels of staff, and set out training and recruitment plans.

2. Workforce management – NOS offer a means to achieve a common vocabulary to promote positive relationships between staff and management.

2.1 Selection and recruitment NOS are used to identify the skills, knowledge and understanding required for a post.

2.2 Employee development NOS contain descriptions of best practice. Standards can be used as the basis for objectives in performance appraisal and as an aid in setting milestones in personal development.

2.3 Developing and evaluating training NOS helps with the development of training plans, courses for development in support of a training needs analysis.

2.4 Working effectively with staff, and with education and training providers NOS can be used by employers to set out the learning outcomes they expect from training.

3. Benchmarking – NOS enable firms to benchmark themselves and their staff in particular ways that can satisfy regulators and other key stakeholders about the competency and professionalism of individuals and the operations they conduct.

4. Change management – NOS can be used to support change management. They help to communicate to staff the gap between current working practices and what ‘good’ looks like. They will also help to guide staff in ways to attain the goal of ‘good’ practice.

5. Contract specification – NOS can help firms to provide a common language for contracts, tenders, and service level agreements.

6. Marketing – firms can use NOS as a basis for informing and promoting their work to customers, suppliers, employees and the public. NOS provide clarity about the performance that can be expected from a firm and by practitioners within that firm.

7. Risk management – NOS have embedded within them actions and activities that are based on safeguarding the interests of the firm by complying with regulation. So training and management of staff can be carried out with reference to achieving those standards. Therefore, NOS forms the basis for a risk management control, which enables the firm to mitigate ‘people risk’.


Download April 2012 National Occupational Standards in Anti-Money Laundering here

Download June 2011 National Occupational Standards in Compliance here

Download June 2009 National Occupational Standards in Financial Crime Prevention here