Regulatory scrutiny has ramped up in recent years, meaning that the need for financial organisations to employ highly skilled compliance professionals has become more pressing than ever before.

The greatest compliance challenges that firms expect to face in the next 12 months are budget limitations and keeping up with regulatory change, according to Thomson Reuters’ Fintech, Regtech, and the Role of Compliance Report 2021, which states that just 15 percent of firms have invested in specialist skills for their risk and compliance functions.

“A challenge for firms, authorities and consumers alike is to build the necessary knowledge and expertise to benefit from digital technologies,” the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) said in July 2020. However the development and adoption of such technology is often resource-intensive and requires specialist skillsets. Adopting RegTech solutions within the compliance function will require most organisations to change their business practices and cultures and acquire additional skills in data science. This is a long-term effort for most.


The Changing Role of the Compliance Officer

Compliance is not traditionally viewed as an “exciting” career for ambitious professionals, given its perception among some historically that it can be a hindrance, or bottleneck, to business development. Research by SWIFT, Dow Jones and ACAMS found that having enough properly trained anti-money laundering (AML) staff was a concern for 57 percent of the AML professionals surveyed.

The advent of RegTech in recent years has given compliance and risk functions a way to automate many of the ‘manual’ processes once carried out by the compliance officer through the use of artificial intelligence, robotics and machine learning. Rather than a ‘box-ticking’ exercise, the compliance career path is increasingly presenting the compliance professional with the opportunity to leverage cutting-edge technology to drive real change within the business – from a technical and a cultural perspective. In this respect it can be extremely rewarding for high-performing staff.

The compliance officer of tomorrow will have the soft skills to forge meaningful relationships with the Board and C-suite, to think creatively to overcome organisational blockers, to analyse, test and implement new RegTech solutions and to demonstrate cost-efficiency to the business. They must possess strong digital and analytical skills and the gravitas to pave the way internally for the adoption of new platforms.


Getting Your Talent Acquisition Strategy Right

Companies are increasingly challenged to find skilled compliance staff amidst a limited talent pool at a time when skills requirements and job responsibilities in this area are expanding. If you want to attract forward-thinking, creative and influential talent into your division, it’s imperative that you present the compliance role as one that is central to the business operation. Below are some pointers for how organisations can work towards this:

Select from a wide talent pool: Due to the relative scarcity in risk and compliance candidates across several markets, organisations should be open-minded in their selection criteria, for example exploring professionals with common credentials such as experience in audit, financial reporting, product governance or operational activities.

Focus on employee wellbeing: COVID-19 has led many people to reassess their lifestyles, especially having proven that that they can work without needing to be in the office 9-5, five days a week. Wellbeing and flexible working are now among the top three motivators for candidates so it’s important to have a competitive and well-documented offering.

Consider the contract sector: Now that organisations are adapting to the new IR35 regulations and there is less uncertainty over budgets meaning projects are being picked back up, Q2 of 2021 has seen many to turn to the contract industry for compliance personnel, especially those with knowledge in regulatory dealings and product consulting. Having a robust workforce strategy around hiring contractors is key to ensuring you attract and retain the best talent.

Provide adequate compensation: With the demand for compliance and risk professionals on the rise, to consistently attract the top talent it’s important to research and align your pay package with the industry standard.

Take into account the global marketplace: Due to talent shortages in the UK, many businesses have had to search overseas to find the knowledge and skills they need. Applicants from overseas can bring with them a broader view of global regulatory dynamics which may be especially useful if they are placed within a foreign or multinational company.

Provide a clear career path: Have a clear and compelling employee value proposition and career development roadmap to support with your recruitment efforts, and explain it to prospective employees during the interview process. This may be the deciding factor for ambitious candidates.

As outlined in our 2021 Salary Survey, candidates are doing more in-depth due diligence and research on potential employers prior to accepting offers of employment. This means firms looking to hire in 2021 will need to have a strong recruitment process to attract the best talent. They will need to articulate a clear strategy on Brexit, COVID and post-COVID, as well as policies around wellness and work-from-home in order to stand out amongst competitors.


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