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​​Compliance Officers: When Is It Time to Move On?

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Compliance Officers: When Is It Time to Move On?

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No business would survive without its people. Employees are the engine of any firm, driving its growth agenda and helping it soar. And because engines constantly need to be looked after, HR departments around the world implement strategies to make sure employees are well taken care of - and are planning to stay with the business.

​While companies usually want to keep their employee turnover low, there are exceptions to the rule. Our latest Leadership Series conversation with David Young, a senior Compliance, risk and governance specialist, sheds a light on why longevity isn't necessarily the way to go in compliance within financial services. As explained below, for compliance officers, it is a balancing act between staying long enough to have a meaningful impact on a firm's ways of doing things, but not to the point of getting too close to the business.

David - would you say there is such a thing as staying too long at a firm as Compliance Officer?

In my opinion, yes. I think there is such a thing. I believe it is healthy for a firm to bring in new blood - not necessarily just at Chief Compliance Officer level as it is quite difficult and expensive, but also at other levels in the compliance team.

​I think ideas need to be refreshed and teams must bring on board new experience. And when it comes to a permanent Head of Compliance that has been in post for a long time, one must remember that there is a risk that they might fall foul of groupthink, or that they start to think that whatever they are doing must be the right thing because it’s always been done this way.

After all, we always think we are right, don’t we? This reflex in itself is a risk: you become way too embedded in habit.

On the flip side, though, at the core of compliance roles is the need to build strong relationships: rapid turnover is therefore equally wrong and risky, as well as being extremely expensive. It’s all about finding a balance between the two.

Would it then be over simplistic to assume that a certain number of years is good and over that number is too long?

Or is it a case by case situation?I have thought about this in the past, as I have from time to time been asked if I would take a permanent role. Self knowledge has led me to decline every time.​

Without actually discussing my age, I felt like it was an important factor to consider when making these decisions. Firms need to recruit compliance officers who are going to be prepared to stay with them for at least five years I think - when you are in the later stages of your career, you can't really consider such a move.

After all, it takes a good few months for a compliance officer to get under the skin of a firm, understand what makes them tick and establish their position within the business. The latter is incredibly important, as you need to optimise your influence. All this time is well invested if you are willing to stay at a firm for a few years, or if you are there as an interim to close a gap. But if you are permanent, to hop around or jump ship within a year or two is not an economic use of time.


Genevieve Higgins-Desbiens is the Head of Marketing & Talent Acquisition at Rutherford, the executive compliance, financial crime, legal and cyber security specialists in London, UK.

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