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​How to Manage Stress in a Compliance Role - Leadership Series

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How to Manage Stress in a Compliance Role - Leadership Series

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​Rutherford is proud to introduce its Leadership Series, a new series of interviews with key players within the compliance, legal and financial crime sectors. These informal conversations will serve as an opportunity for professionals in the financial services industry to get insights on what topics are trending within their field.​

We recently sat down with a top Head of Compliance in the financial services sector, who has worked in the past at a major hedge fund and a big corporate bank, to get their thoughts stress management for Compliance Officers. The high-pressure role often comes with its fair share of stress - how can you then effectively manage stress when in a compliance role? Here are some tips to help you keep a level of equanimity in your life and not bring this stress at home.

“It’s important to remember that you didn’t create the hedge fund: that was someone else’s dream.”

Anonymous Head of Compliance

The Importance of Escalation

If there are things that are outside of your power, then don’t let them get to you. If there are conflicts that are too difficult to manage, you can always put the onus on your boss to fix the problem. Not everything should be on you all the time. ​

You can get to a point when you have to remember that you're a compliance officer and you can only do so much to manage a problem or an issue. After that, it becomes someone else’s problem.

Get the Executive Buy-In

If the CEO or senior management doesn’t respect your function, you may be involved in a Sisyphean task, because if you can’t convince your boss that it’s important, then convincing the front office is going to be even harder.

​In order to get buy-in from the top, you need to engender trust. If you haven’t established this trust, I would suggest reading a previous article on Advice for New Compliance Officers’.

​In the end, if the business fails to take the proper steps to protect themselves, then they must be prepared to receive the appropriate fines. You can only show people the way, you can’t force the way. If they stray down the wrong path, at some point it will come time to wash your hands of it.

Your Health Comes First

This can’t go unnoticed.

​Meditate, go for runs, sleep, stop eating Tesco pizzas with a whole bottle of white wine on a Monday et cetera, et cetera.

​I’m sure you know the drill, just a gentle reminder that if your physical health isn’t reasonable, your mental health will likely suffer.

Moral Injury, What to Do

A compliance officer’s job can be confusing and stressful, it can be difficult to balance competing interests to remain ‘commercially driven’. If the interests of the business constantly clash with a person’s moral structures, this can lead to what some have coined ‘Moral Injury’. ​

Classically materialising as anger, disorientation, shame, guilt and anxiety. The compliance officer might not agree with the moral grounding of the investment strategy, this can very well mean that they are more likely to jump the fence at the first opportunity.​

The good news is that a lot of asset managers are beginning to embrace more ethical strategies like Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) investing. ESG rating is a way of measuring an investment product’s impact, it takes into account the product’s effect on things like sustainability, climate change, diversity, human rights, consumer protection, animal welfare, employee relations and corporate governance.

​The takeout from this is that you may be feeling ‘wrong’ because you’re involved in something that isn’t in line with your core values. This disparity can be harmful and sometimes can’t be fixed.

Seek Advice

If things are really bad at your firm and you can’t resolve a conflict internally, it may be time to call a trusted external lawyer for some confidential advice.

​It may also be time to call your favourite headhunter at Rutherford.


Genevieve Higgins-Desbiens is the Head of Marketing & Talent Acquisition at Rutherford, the executive legal and compliance recruitment specialists.

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


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