By Steve Duckworth
Steve Duckworth

Compliance Teams Under Pressure

2017 has already proven to be a challenging year for compliance officers. The ever-evolving regulatory landscape, the recent FATCA deadlines and of course the big-picture uncertainties over global policies mean those on the front line of regulatory change are under more pressure than ever.

At a time when financial service firms need excellent compliance staff, many are leaving their roles because their work isn’t valued, stress levels are high and, in some instances, their very presence is viewed by their colleagues in a negative light.

However, regulations are not going away, in fact, the role of the compliance officer is only going to become more valuable. If businesses are not compliant they will not be able to operate effectively, and if you can’t keep your compliance staff the company's bottom line will be affected.

Compliance Teams Under Pressure

The compliance officer and MLRO roles carry tremendous responsibility and liability. The compliance role has become incredibly broad as regulations continue to increase at an almost unmanageable pace.

There are huge amounts of international level initiatives and legislation - such as AIFMD and MIFID II - that is not strictly compliance but which is often placed at the compliance officer’s door, simply because no one else wants to take responsibility for it. With the new data protection rules coming into force, this must be balanced with the need to gather information and is yet another burden that many compliance officers must also carry.

The compliance landscape has also become more fractured, with subsets of compliance such as anti-money laundering, countering terrorist financing, sanctions, corporate governance, bribery and corruption and so on. All of these have become specialised in their own right, and so a compliance officer needs to be able to keep pace with each subset and advise the business - often at board level - accordingly.

Of course, the international basis of many Guernsey businesses only makes the job harder. Compliance officers need to be able to understand not just Guernsey legislation and regulations but potentially many other jurisdictions as well.

It’s no wonder that compliance personnel are feeling the strain. The natural stress of the role, coupled with a poor company compliance culture where their role is at best not valued and at worst seen as a hindrance, will drive valuable employees out of the job.

Compliance Culture or Compliance Vulture?

Think about your corporate culture and the board view of compliance. The way that compliance is perceived is how the compliance officer will be viewed, and that is often in a negative way.

The board ultimately sets the tone throughout an organisation and if they send out the message that compliance is “just something that we have to do” then staff throughout the organisation will follow this mentality and the compliance officers will be facing an uphill battle.

At Source Recruitment, we have heard of situations where the compliance officer is seen as working against the team, not as part of it. Or even that other staff think they work for the regulators themselves. Imagine how that must feel for the individual! Couple that sentiment with the natural pressure of the role and you are just a resignation letter away from losing a key member of staff.

We have found that it’s not about great perks or a generous employment package, compliance officers need to feel valued, just like every other employee, and that value is driven by company culture.

Hold on Tight

Retaining and growing your team of skilled and experienced compliance officers will become ever more important. The simple fact is that a company-wide culture of compliance is fundamental to doing business in today’s world.

Long-standing employees, the ones who truly understand the business, will help you navigate the complexities and shifting sands of international regulations. Hold on to them like your business depends on them - because in many instances it does.

How to Keep ‘em Happy

Misuse your compliance officer and you will lose them when you need them most. And skilled people will leave the industry, making it harder than ever to fill these important roles. Instead, take a look at the atmosphere and culture within which they operate:

+ Send the message down from the boardroom that compliance is a business imperative

+ Support compliance officers and give them the opportunity to give feedback on the challenges they face

+ Watch out for stress levels, especially around reporting deadlines and audit periods

Source Recruitment has an unprecedented number of both compliance vacancies and good candidates and we understand the complexities of this role. Whatever the vacancy or job level, our aim is to ensure the right people fill the right roles to ensure long-term staff stability and wellbeing.

What makes a great compliance officer?

It’s not just a question of following a rule book, compliance officers need to be able to strike a good balance between commerciality and compliance. Source Recruitment defines some of the attributes and skills that will make a great addition to your compliance team:

+ Having a logical mind and good judgement is essential - many compliance considerations do not come down to black and white answers

+ Being confident in your abilities is crucial – a good compliance officer will constantly need to make judgement calls and be prepared to back-up their assessment

+ A good compliance officer will need a thick skin because they won’t be everybody’s best friend

+ A modern compliance officer is pragmatic, has strength of character and is able to push back against decision makers

+ Problem-solving skills are also essential in order to be able to provide solutions to complex challenges – compliance is no longer just a ‘policing role

+ They must have strong communication skills to be able to manage relationships across the business as well as with the regulator and also to deliver training across the business

+ Requires expert knowledge of the particular product range as well as the ever-changing applicable laws and regulations

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