Compliance explained

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Compliance officers are responsible for ensuring that a firm's policies and procedures comply to all requirements of any applicable regulation. So, the greater the volume of regulation, the more complex and demanding the role of the compliance officer.

The burden of the UK compliance officer is considerable, following the government's announcement in 1997 that it would merge nine regulatory bodies to create a single regulator, the Financial Services Authority, for all financial markets in the UK.

The FSA's remit is focused on the increasingly global nature of the investment management business and compliance officers attend conferences all over the world.

The day-to-day role of the compliance officer is akin to that of an investigator - officers must interview colleagues, check that procedure and policies are carried through, and not necessarily accept the first answer given as true.

Training is usually both in-house and external. Most banks have compliance departments of at least five or six, with the big investment banks having a dozen or so compliance officers.

The FSA has guidelines, policy documents and procedures that it promotes with seminars and conferences.

Many enter into the compliance profession after qualifying in law or accountancy, or after having direct experience of a trading department of a bank. Salary levels for graduate trainees are in the high teens.