Industries such as financial services basically operate on trust, but that trust is supplemented by government regulations, which aims to preserve the financial well-being of consumers, as well as investors, and the economy, as a whole. The compliance officer, or compliance department, within an organisation is charged with ensuring that the various regulatory processes, and procedures – those defined internally, and externally, say, by the FSA ("Financial Services Authority") – are carried out, such that the organisation operates within the law, and the best interests of it customers are preserved at all times.
A compliance officer should, therefore, understand how compliance relates to an organisation – in terms of the current regulatory framework – and be able to develop, and monitor, compliance procedures accordingly. This will, inevitably, involve a process of determining where an organisation is, and where it wants to be, in terms of compliance – a process otherwise known as "gap analysis" – after a certain period of time. Another aspect of the role of compliance officer involves management, and support, of the procedure for handling customer complaints within an organisation. This involves liaison with senior management, and other employees, to ensure that any customer complaint is dealt with professionally, in a timely fashion, and in keeping with regulations.
In a larger compliance department, a compliance officer may also be responsible for a certain amount of "man management", delegating tasks to other members of a compliance team, supporting them in their duties, and reviewing their progress – and, indeed, his, or her, own – in relation to specified targets.
Skills & Qualifications
Compliance officers are often recruited internally, or through a graduate induction scheme. A good Bachelors' degree – that is, a 2:1, or better – in an appropriate discipline is usually a prerequisite, as are appropriate professional qualifications, such as a Financial Planning Certificate (FPC), or a Certificate in Mortgage Advice and Planning (CeMAP) as a minimum, although this may vary according to the specific position for which you are applying.
Equally, you should have a background of, at least, 3 years in a financial services environment, be highly numerate, as well as computer literate, with strong problem-solving skills. Knowledge of FSA Regulations, as they relate to the various products and services across the industry, and previous success in a compliance-related field are also highly desirable.