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​The Most Important Skills Compliance Officers Need to Have

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The Most Important Skills Compliance Officers Need to Have

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How to Become a Compliance Officer

Paul McNulty, the former US Deputy Attorney General once famously said that "if you think compliance is expensive - try non-compliance".

With nearly £200 million in fines handed out to UK companies in 2020, failure to take financial compliance seriously is certainly not viewed favourably by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). The role of the Compliance Officer has now developed into one of the most important positions within a financial organisation.

Ensuring that the ethical integrity of an organisation remains intact requires a diverse and defined compliance skill set which each Regulatory officer needs to constantly develop.

We will briefly explore below some of the most important Compliance Officer skills needed to ensure a strong culture within their firm. Whilst the below provides a brief overview of the key requirements, a comprehensive conversation with one of Rutherford's compliance recruitment specialists will help you assess whether there are any additional skills you must have for the compliance role you are looking for.

Compliance Skills

Skills needed to be a successful compliance officer include: strong communication, conviction, problem-solving skills, regulatory knowledge, continuing education (seminars and certification programs); and networking with other professionals in the industry.

Compliance officers must be held to high standards of integrity and accountability in order to effectively adhere to laws, regulations, and ethical standards. With the right set of skills and a passion for playing by the rules, a successful career as a compliance officer is possible.

  • Regulatory Knowledge and Expertise

    Compliance officers need Regulatory Knowledge and Expertise to ensure their organization is up-to-date on the latest regulatory developments, understand the implications of new laws, rules and regulations, and stay in compliance with existing requirements.

    Regulatory Knowledge and Expertise helps compliance officers determine which laws, rules and regulations apply to their organization, identify areas of risk related to regulatory compliance and develop strategies to mitigate those risks. In addition, Regulatory Knowledge and Expertise assists in the assessment of existing procedures, policies and processes that might need to be updated or modified due to new regulations.

    It also helps compliance officers stay informed on international regulations, interpret complex statutory language, understand the broader implications of specific requirements, develop education.

  • Communication Skills

    It seems almost cliché as practically every job profile requires a candidate to possess strong communication skills. However, for the Compliance Officer, it is essential. The individual in this crucial position needs to be able to effectively communicate to all levels in the business, from front office to the CEO to the board of directors.

    It goes without saying that one can have all the required knowledge in the world, but if it cannot be communicated effectively to the wider business then this expertise will ultimately add little value.

    The ability to interpret and clarify regulatory changes, train members of staff on how to ensure compliance within their departments and being able to field time-sensitive questions with clarity are just a few of the things the Compliance Officer needs to be able to communicate professionally and without offending any members of the business.

    All of Rutherford's compliance recruitment Consultants will pay close attention to this - assessing whether or not an interlocutor has this skill from the first phone interaction. Therefore, if you find yourself being approached by a compliance recruiter, make sure to convey your communication skills from the get-go, as clients ask their compliance headhunting firm if proposed candidates can clearly communicate.

  • Relationship Building and Networking

    Compliance officers need to be able to build strong relationships with colleagues and other professionals in their industry in order to stay on top of developments in their field.

    Relationship building skills are essential for compliance officers to be able to adequately understand and keep up with the latest regulations and laws affecting their organizations, and identify potential issues before they become a problem. Networking with other professionals in the industry can help strengthen relationships and ensure that businesses and organizations remain compliant.

  • The Courage of Conviction

    Should one be serious about developing their career within compliance, it is worth realising sooner rather than later that the Compliance Officer will at some point need to make difficult decisions that will have an impact on the business.

    Making these challenging choices, which certain functions within the business may find unfavourable, requires significant strength of character. Most importantly, standing by these decisions and avoiding being influenced by internal relationships or opinions is a core priority of every Compliance Officer, particularly those with a higher level of seniority and authority.

    The individual's decisions and interpretation of the regulation may be challenged, and it comes down to the Compliance specialist to understand that appeasing the few at the expense of far greater complications in the future must not take place. A compliance recruitment Consultant will most likely ask you in initial conversations examples of when you were challenged by peers and how you managed the situation.

  • The Ability to Problem-Solve: Analytical Thinking, Time Management and Prioritization

    Problem solving requires a host of specific attributes. Creative and analytical thinking, the ability to multitask within tight timeframes and strict attention to detail are a few of the qualities that make up the melting pot of being able to solve problems effectively.

    Whether the Compliance Officer is interpreting vague yet consequential forthcoming regulation, managing resistance to internal policy changes to ensure wider regulatory compliance or ensuring that a firm's risk framework is up to a suitable standard, they will usually tend to be putting out a host of proverbial fires.

    Quick reactions coupled with sufficient management of these problems will ensure each difficulty is handled professionally whilst minimising potential risk. Again, expect a compliance recruitment professional to ask you questions about this when they reach out to you: previous examples will help draw a better portrait of your background for potential employers.

  • Ethical Awareness and Integrity

    Compliance officers need Ethical Awareness and Integrity in order to effectively uphold the standards of ethical conduct required by their organization. Ethical Awareness helps compliance officers identify any potential ethical issues that may arise, while Integrity ensures that they uphold the core values of their organization.

    With higher levels of awareness and integrity, compliance officers are better able to ensure the ethical standards of their organization are being met.

Of course, the above is only a limited set of skills the modern-day Compliance Officer needs to hold to ensure the obligations of the compliance function are met. Like any profession, skill sets are broad and take several years to truly develop.

While the Compliance Officer's role within financial services can occasionally be rather stressful and pressurised, it can provide the right individual with a rewarding and certainly well-respected career. For more information about your potential career within the space, get in touch with Rutherford's compliance recruitment specialists for a discreet conversation.


Tevia Kretzmer is a Compliance and Legal Consultant at Rutherford, the executive legal, financial crime, cyber security and compliance recruitment specialists.

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