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What’s it like to work in compliance in financial services?

Considering a move into compliance? We speak with IOB member Claire Breen, Head of Audit Finance and Treasury with AIB, about what a compliance role entails and how compliance expertise can be beneficial for all financial services professionals.

Claire Breen is an experienced financial services professional with extensive experience in roles within external audit, prudential supervision and, within her current position with AIB, internal audit for finance and treasury. Throughout her career, compliance and risk management has been a key aspect in all of Claire’s work.

Most financial services professionals will require knowledge and expertise on relevant regulations and policies as part of their work. For Claire, studying compliance helped her to excel in her work and put customers at the forefront of her considerations.

Compliance is one of the fastest growing career areas in financial services, yet the discipline is often still misunderstood and undersubscribed. We speak with Claire about what compliance work entails and why it’s such a dynamic career path that offers great opportunities for learning, collaboration and progression.

What is compliance?

Compliance is the practice of ensuring your financial services organisation adheres to relevant laws, regulations and best practices that govern how it conducts business and supports customers. Regulation is constantly evolving to improve consumer protection and ensure fiscal stability.

If you’re working in financial services already, you could already be assisting with compliance. Claire explains “I don’t think people realise, that what they do in their everyday jobs probably is hitting off a lot of compliance and regulation.”

In fact, this was the reason Claire initially studied the Professional Diploma in Compliance with IOB. While not working in a compliance role at the time, Claire’s supervisor recommended the programme to provide useful context for her role – working in prudential supervision with the Central Bank of Ireland. She explains, “To do my job I needed to know certain laws and regulations. However, to perform my role effectively, I needed a base grounding in a wider array of laws and regulations.”

There’s nothing to fear

Compliance roles can carry significant responsibilities. Claire believes this can scare people off from exploring compliance as a career. “Most jobs now, there is an element of compliance. So, there should be a natural crossover into compliance roles. I do think people are a little scared of compliance roles… But most people are responsible for elements of a law no matter what they do.”

Compliance roles are also usually focused on specific areas of responsibility. “In compliance, you rarely have responsibility for compliance with every piece of regulation and legislation out there. You’re a specialist in an area a lot of the time. Compliance is a very broad word, and that’s why it can scare people I think,” Claire explains.

It’s a great way to collaborate and meet new people

On an average day in a compliance role, you work with people across all levels and departments within the organisation. “You get to know so many people… The fact that you have an opportunity to network in this job, it’s massively beneficial to your career. People go to networking events all the time. You don’t really have to do that if you work in compliance, as you’re networking every single day!”

Compliance has a reputation as being a tick box – but it really isn’t it. Claire argues that it’s much more personable than that. “To really understand if you’re being compliant, you have to understand the processes and the people working in them.”

It’s dynamic

One of the reasons Claire loves working within a role related to compliance is the dynamic nature of the profession. The regulation is constantly being updated to reflect lessons learned or new best practices within financial services. While this requires compliance professionals to keep up to date with evolving regulatory requirements, it also keeps the work new and interesting. “They’re constantly trying to make policies and procedures better for consumers and for financial stability as well. It’s great to be involved in that,” Claire explains.

You will learn a lot about your organisation

Given the collaborative nature of compliance work, compliance professionals develop extensive knowledge of the organisations they work for. Claire says “Even in a big organisation like a bank, you get to see what’s going on across the whole organisation. You’re in less of a silo than you would be in other parts of the organisation. If you want an overview of what a bank does – it’s a very good role to see that.”

It’s a career path with growing opportunities

It’s an incredibly busy market for compliance roles. We recently spoke with Donal Whelan, Director of Compliance, Risk and Financial Services with Lincoln Recruitment Specialists, who shared great insights on how best to navigate the current recruitment market. Donal spoke about the strong opportunities for compliance professionals to progress within the profession.

Claire echoes this, she says, “If you want to progress your career, compliance is one of the quickest areas in financial services where you can do that at the moment.”

What’s a good first step towards a career in compliance?

If you are interested in exploring a career in compliance or gaining more expertise, IOB’s Professional Diploma in Compliance is a great place to begin. Claire found the flexible nature of the programme helpful.

“It was the first thing I had done that considered compliance from all the different angles – not only the prudential side, but also the conduct side… There were four modules, and you could pick and choose when to do them. I completed them within a year, but I was able to pick and choose when I sat the exams. That flexibility is a real plus for the PDC.”

Claire has found the knowledge and expertise that she gained through the programme really beneficial for her career. “It has been instrumental in my ability to carry out my role in both internal audit and the compliance function.”

Start or progress your career in compliance with IOB

The Professional Diploma in Compliance has received international recognition and was awarded the Triple “E” accreditation, by the European Banking Training Network (EBTN). The programme equips graduates to take on roles in the compliance profession in Ireland.

To undertake the programme, students must be members of the Compliance Institute. Upon successful completion of the programme, as well as gaining accreditation from UCD, graduates will be invited to take up the Licentiate of Compliance (LCI) designation. The LCI designation is recognised by the Central Bank of Ireland under the minimum competency code. Explore our full suite of compliance programmes to take the next step on your career.