Compliance officers hold their companies to account.
With a robust knowledge of policies, both within an organisation and those held by the government, they make sure businesses do the job they claim to do.
What is a Compliance Officer?
Compliance Officers usually sit within the human resources department of an organisation. They know their company’s policies inside out, from data protection to rules around pension contributions, as well as those enforced by the UK government, such as those protecting employees against discrimination. They’ll regularly audit the work of their company, sitting in on board meetings to answer the common managerial question of ‘am I compliant’, and assessing workplace procedures to ensure that everyone is doing their job properly.
Risk and compliance jobs cover almost every industry you can imagine. They exist fundamentally to protect individuals, but also to avoid businesses being sued for breach of policies.
A compliance officer salary depends on the industry in which you work, the location of your employer, and the company size.
You could work in any sector from the NHS through to technology firms and marketing companies. Within compliance you can also specialise in particular areas, depending on the type of company you work for and the work they usually conduct. You could cover financial compliance, data protection, or even health and safety.
The daily responsibilities for compliance professionals highly depend on their company and specialisms.
There are some common expectations of the role, such as:
- Having a good knowledge of company policies, as well as taking part in the creation of policies.
- Keeping track of compliance breaches, creating action plans for how to resolve any issues that have come up as a result.
- Maintaining a robust knowledge of government policies, feeding back updates to relevant team leaders.
- Regularly auditing company procedures against policies.
- Researching and action risk assessments, such as assessing data protection risks for employees working remotely.
- Reviewing materials that are likely to be distributed outside of an organisation such as promotional or marketing materials.
- Training up new employees on areas of policy relevant to their work, as well as offering refresher sessions for different departments within larger organisations.
A compliance officer salary depends on the industry in which you work, the location of your employer, and the company size. The average salary for jobs in risk and compliance is around £35,000.
Starting salaries for compliance officers, compliance administrators and compliance assistants can range from around £20,000 to £35,000. With experience and career progression, you could become a compliance manager, overseeing various areas of compliance within your company, such as anti money-laundering, finance and data protection.
The training you take on during time as a compliance associate will depend upon your industry.
Roles like this can fetch anywhere between £35,000 and £70,000. Head of Compliance jobs within large companies have been known to fetch in excess of £100,000.
There aren’t any formal qualifications required to apply for compliance officer jobs. However, an undergraduate degree is increasingly expected by employers. Many start their roles in compliance as part of a graduate scheme, which trains them up within a large company.
Degrees that would particularly suit a compliance role include:
As degrees aren’t formally required, there aren’t any set courses that align you directly with compliance roles. However, you’ll want to choose a subject that includes high level analysis, as well as legal procedures. This will give you experience of the kind of thinking required from a compliance officer. As compliance officers work in a huge variety of different industries, it’s worth considering what particular industry you’re most interested in and choosing a degree connected to it.
Training and development
The training you take on during time as a compliance associate will depend upon your industry. Compliance officers working within the NHS, for example, will require very different training than those working for an accountancy firm. Either way, your training will most likely be covered on the job as part of in house training sessions.
As compliance is a new and growing sector, you don’t necessarily need direct work experience shadowing compliance officer roles.
As you progress through the ranks, you’re likely to specialise in a particular area of compliance. You might take specialist courses in these areas, such as those in accountancy or health and safety. These could be carried out by your employer, or offered by external organisations which your employer pays for you to attend. Examples of external training providers include the International Compliance Association (ICA) and the Chartered Institute of Securities and Investment (CISI). Providers like these also run seminars, webinars and conferences sharing recent changes to the profession, information on ICA compliance or CISI compliance, as well as offering membership to enhance your credibility as a compliance professional.
The skills you’ll need in a compliance officer role often depend on what sector you work in, though the focus is around having an analytical approach and a good understanding of your sector.
The most common skills needed to become a compliance officer are:
- A good understanding of the operations of your sector, whether that be healthcare, finance or accountancy.
- An ability to closely analyse individual cases, making judgements based on your overall knowledge of the area.
- An analytical approach - you’ll need to know the right questions to ask to get the bottom of an issue.
- Great communication skills - you’ll need to feedback your results from audits and risk assessments, often to departments who have limited experience of compliance.
- Presentation skills - you’ll be training up different departments on the policies that inform their practice.
- Problem-solving skills - your work will usually involve being given lots of pieces of information, often conflicting, and it’s your responsibility to piece them together.
As compliance is a new and growing sector, you don’t necessarily need direct work experience shadowing compliance officer roles. Equally, some firms won’t allow shadowing of their compliance team, as they’re handling sensitive information about the company. When it comes to building up relevant experience, the focus is more on transferable skills.
You’ll want to prove that you are able to closely analyse scenarios and find a solution that suits everyone, as well as showing problem solving skills.
You’ll need to be a great communicator and one that confidently presents your findings. Roles that fulfil these criteria vary from those in law to accountancy, the police force, and even teaching.
Compliance Officers usually sit within the human resources department of an organisation.
Graduate schemes are another great way of building up relevant experience needed for a compliance officer role. Some large companies offer direct graduate schemes in compliance, with the aim of recruiting you into graduate compliance jobs at the end of the scheme. These are great opportunities if you’re currently studying a degree or considering university.
Compliance covers a real breadth of industries. With this in mind,it makes sense that a career in this area could take you in a variety of directions. The industry is developing fast, so there’s plenty of opportunity for progression.
With experience in your company you can move from a junior compliance officer position to compliance manager jobs, overseeing several officers or several areas of compliance itself.
You could also step sideways within your employer, moving to other areas of policy like data protection or health and safety. Alternatively, you might take on a role that incorporates compliance as part of a wider agenda. There’s a growing demand for workers in anti-money laundering jobs (AML jobs), or you could even cross over to work in government as a DWP Compliance Officer (Department for Work and Pensions) or HMRC Compliance Officer.