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"No one wants to work in compliance once they realize what it's like. But we are stuck"

I work in compliance, and I have been keenly following the debate about compliance jobs here and here in recent weeks. 

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I think they understate how bad compliance jobs have become. The reality is that very few people want to become compliance officers and when they realize that the job is high stress and long hours for comparatively little pay, even fewer people want to keep doing it. But we in compliance are stuck. Our skills do not allow us to transition into other jobs - except at the regulator, where things can be even worse. 

The trouble is that most banks see compliance as a cost center, much like other back office functions. They say they care about culture, but few invest in compliance because they see it as an expense. Most firms hire compliance officers, but don't give them the tools to do the job properly. Compliance infrastructure is poor, so compliance time is wasted on manual tasks. 

At the same time, compliance pay is poor and opportunities for promotion are limited. Firms have a tendency to appoint lawyers as heads of department, which can limit promotion opportunities for anyone without a legal background.

It means that compliance can be a career dead end. To avoid this, either avoid compliance jobs from the outset, or work somewhere that invests heavily in compliance and has sufficient technology to manage compliance tasks efficiently.

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AUTHORBertrude Soslan Insider Comment
  • Lu
    Luis Alfaro
    7 June 2024

    It is so unfortunate that you feel that way. My experience is definitely different and i find working at compliance quite rewarding. It gives you a perspective of all areas of a company and offers quite a variety of challenges.

  • Ag
    7 June 2024

    Well, as someone with multi-industry experience (healthcare, finance (including startup environment), biotech), I'm not 'stuck' anywhere. In fact, I'm evolving into a founder and CEO to do what I do on a larger scale. So I'm definitely not stuck.

    I don't believe that compliance environments are generally crappy because compliance chiefs don't own them. When I became a compliance chief (as someone who has had every job in compliance), it's the first thing I changed. I wanted my teams to enjoy their compliance work, and from I understand, they have enjoyed it.

    Compliance, as a career, doesn't have to feel like quicksand. But, to avoid the illusion, compliance chiefs have to create and sustain the environment. People want more than just money, they want to enjoy their compliance roles.

    I've recreated compliance environments across three companies now across three different instructors (all companies with revenue in excess of $100 million). There's no reason for compliance to feel like quicksand. I don't thinks the job.

    Just sayin'.

  • an
    6 June 2024

    According to a survey published by efinancialcareers some time ago, compliance works the shortest hours.

  • Vo
    6 June 2024

    You are not wrong, but that is only part of the story. I have been in financial services compliance for 30 years. I didn’t start out to do this, but I find it intellectually satisfying and I like to help people.

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