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​How to Be a Great Compliance Officer

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How to Be a Great Compliance Officer

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Compliance recruitment is Rutherford’s raison d’etre. For more than a decade, our team of compliance recruitment specialists has been meeting the best compliance officers in financial services from all over the world. Our extensive network has allowed us to have in-depth conversations with the finest compliance talent there is on the market: we can therefore confidently share some of the tips we learned from la crème de la crème.

Discover below advice from top Compliance Specialists in the market on how to be a great Compliance Officer.

1. Know the Strategic Direction

You need to know the strategic direction to know what your boss, or the deal team, actually want.

They may come to you with one question, but if you don’t know how it fits into the overall strategy, you’re going to find it hard to answer the question properly. ​

Think of it a bit like a chess game: you want to visualise the other player’s moves into the future and strategically mitigate any potential roadblocks.

2. Say Yes as Much as Possible, Say No When You Have To

If you know what the front office really wants, you can tell them how to get there safely; possibly not the way they envisioned it in the first place. ​

To say yes more often, it is important that you have the creativity and breadth of knowledge to enable a solution. If you know the strategic direction, you may have already seen the problem coming and have an answer ready; even better.

​But there will always be situations where you have to say no. After all, compliance officers don’t get the reputation for no reason. You are there to make sure the business can be conducted safely while meeting its commercial goals. This is why you have been hired. ​

In order to say no effectively, without excessive resentment, you need to have support from the team.

3. Be Human, Engender Trust and Make Alliances

Compliance officers sometimes get a bad rep – let’s just say the presumption of ‘humanity’ is not onside. It is important to get across to your superior and colleagues that saying no to things isn’t your sole purpose in life: you need to show them that you, too, are a human being. ​

This means making time for the small talk, asking questions, and making the time to get to know your colleagues. That’s not to say you should be shaking hands and making friends while the house burns down. But if the house isn’t burning down, then yes, do that. ​

While you need to keep critical distance for your job, you won’t be able to do your job effectively if you don’t have the trust of the team. A good way of getting there is by targeting key players in the business who are sympathetic to compliance’s goals. The higher up the better. Get them to reinforce compliance with reward.

4. Be Forward Looking and Hold the Line

Your firm and the people in it could face huge fines and imprisonment if they’re doing the wrong thing. You need to make sure that you’re protecting the business, not just for now, but for 5 years’ time, that’s when the axe really comes down. The deal team might see a quick money grab, but if it doesn’t pass muster, it shouldn’t be approved.

​When things are tough, remember that you are part of a large network of compliance officers who have gone through tough times. It can be a contact sport sometimes. If you’re facing really tough challenges, call an external lawyer for some confidential advice.


Felix Blumer is an ex-lawyer and a Consultant at Rutherford, the executive legal and compliance recruitment specialists.

Contact us for a confidential search, send us an email to or see our latest vacancies.

About Rutherford

Rutherford is a boutique search firm that specialises in legal, financial crime and compliance recruitment within the financial services and legal sector, with London and New York being the main focus. We use our carefully curated relationships, networks and market knowledge to find the best fit for the clients in hand. We work with a wide range of clients, spanning from advisors, corporate and commercial banks, brokers, exchanges, MTFs and financial tech, through to global investment managers, hedge funds, private equity firms and investment banks.

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