How did you get into compliance?
I initially started by doing an economics degree, but transferred to a law degree as my original plan was to become a lawyer. I really liked the idea of working in the City however, so I wrote a letter to the human resources departments in most of the large banks.
Was compliance your first career choice?
As mentioned, my aim was to become a lawyer.
How did you obtain your first job in compliance?
A partner in a law firm recommended that compliance was an up and coming area. I sent out many CV’s explaining my interest in this new area called Compliance. Meanwhile I worked as an assistant to a firm of accountants in a large Bank fraud case. Two years after sending the application letter to a Merchant Bank I received a call inviting me to interview for a compliance position.
What were you doing before?
During my studies I had worked in a number of hotels and restaurants. This gave me excellent experience in learning how to deal with awkward customers and situations. It also developed my emotional intelligence by always trying to consider the ‘customer as “always right”’, when very often they were very wrong. This has helped in my compliance career enormously.
What attributes do you think have made you successful in your career?
I have an inquisitive mind-set. I’m always interested in new ideas, new businesses and new challenges. I also kept my compliance experience broad which gave me well rounded experience covering all areas of compliance. I have always been prepared to work in the uncomfortable zone.
Do you look for candidates with a particular educational background or particular qualifications?
I tend to look for candidates with a balance of a good education, but also practical experience. The skill set required is so broad that people can come from a variety of backgrounds. I’m most interested in what candidates have either excelled in or how they have overcome some kind of adversity.
What advice would you give to a junior starting their career?
Speak to as many people as possible to understand the role and the different areas of compliance, which all require slightly different skill sets and personalities. Admit and attempt to conquer your weaknesses, be intellectually curious and learn about the different areas of business.
What advice would you give to a mid-level professional?
Decide whether to become an SME or to keep your experience broad, if you’re looking to move into a senior management position.
What advice would you give to a number two?
Be comfortable delegating. Be honest about yourself and your capabilities to others and work on your weaknesses without beating yourself up.
What do you see as the growth areas of compliance in the next 18 months?
Further development of the first-line control oversight, the next generation of electronic surveillance and governance.
Who is the person or persons who have had the biggest impact on your career?
Sandy Robertson, who gave me my first opportunity in Compliance, due to the value for money that I represented as a young graduate with a new family. Also Jeannette Lichner, who gave me the opportunity to move around in compliance and try different aspects of the role, mid-career.
Last, but not least, when you’re not in work, how do you unwind?
I enjoy off-roading and good food.