The inexorable rise of the compliance officer

TOMORROW'S JOBS: How to clean up as a 'business referee'.

by Andrew Saunders
Last Updated: 27 Mar 2017

Why

Reading the regulatory runes is an increasingly onerous task these days. From HR to H&S, from data protection to environmental standards, the number of legal banana skins on which the unwary, ignorant - or occasionally just the downright crooked - can come a cropper only seems to get larger.

Throw in spiralling multimillion pound fines and public opprobrium for those found to be in breach and it has all got too much for the poor old directors to handle. A new breed of professional has thus emerged to police the ever-expanding corporate rulebook - say hello to the compliance officer.

What?

Box tickers have been around for decades but it took the financial crisis of 2008 for them to really escape from their, er, box. Now making sure that everybody sticks to the letter of the law has gone from being a backwater to one of the hottest career prospects around, especially in the City.

Tens of thousands of jobs have been created in the last few years and there are plenty more to come.

How?

Compliance officers are a specialised form of risk manager, and their job is really about quantifying the risk of non-compliance (ie knowing who is breaking which rules and how much it will cost if they are found out). A background in law or accountancy is common, as is time spent at an industry watchdog.

A penchant for detail and a strong moral compass also come in handy. In return you can expect to make decent money, with salaries for top compliance jobs in excess of £100,000. Some hedge funds even offer a percentage of profits.

The small print

You need a thick skin - reining in trading behaviours which are inherently risky can mean you end up like a football referee, stuck in the middle when things get heated. And it's hardly a glamorous calling - there aren't many eightyear-olds who dream of being compliance officers (at least we hope there aren't).

Compliance officer not futuristic enough for you? How about nanomedic, emoji designer or data scientist?

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