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Compliance Officer Details Page


Centralised operations centres, head office.


All the major banks, building societies and insurers.

Where does the role fit in?

The financial services industry is built on trust; customers must know their best interests are being protected. In many parts of the industry, trust has been supplemented by lots of government regulation aimed at protecting customers, investors and the economy.

The compliance department ensures that internal controls and regulatory processes are carried out, that records are kept and that issues are identified before a customer’s interests are damaged, or the regulator takes action.

Compliance staff monitor many different procedures and processes, which break down into a number of categories.

Regulated products and processes

The selling of mortgages and investment advice are both regulated areas of business. This means that the people selling these services must have the right qualifications and the sales processes must be carefully documented, so that any mis-selling can be identified at the earliest opportunity.

Compliance plays a very important role in ensuring that the selling of these services and the processes behind them comply with regulatory requirements and with the financial services company’s own standards. No bank or other financial services company wants to be hit by a mis-selling scandal.

Other regulation

There are a great many other regulations that banks and insurers need to apply to their operations, including the following:

  • Anti-money-laundering regulations — all financial services institutions have to have processes in place to prevent criminals from depositing money gained through crime in the banking system with the aim of making its origins untraceable; in other words, from turning 'dirty money' into 'clean money' (hence the term 'money laundering'). All institutions, especially the banks, have big departments using advanced computer modelling techniques to spot money laundering. While this unit will often be closely associated with the fraud department and the credit risk department, it will usually be managed by the compliance department.
  • Data protection rules — banks and insurers have to comply with data protection laws. This is often a difficult balancing act, because while data protection rules may require certain types of information to be deleted when no longer in use, banks and insurers need to keep records for as long as it is possible for a claim of mis-selling to occur. Consequently, there can be a conflict between the two requirements.

General good practice

Financial services institutions have many other compliance procedures they must manage:

  • General duty of care — all banks and insurers have a general duty of care to their customers, in order to ensure that customers are sold the right product for their needs. In addition, this general duty has been supplemented by industry rules and, more recently, by specific legislation:
  • Banking Code — this is the code that all banks must follow in order to ensure that customers receive good service. It is particularly important in areas such as bank accounts, which are not regulated products.
  • Treating Customers Fairly – this is new legislation that formalises the duty of care. It requires banks and insurers to put in place specific compliance procedures to ensure that the products customers are sold are appropriate for them.

Closely associated with all of these rules and processes are many other compliance procedures and checking processes. To be honest, the list is endless!

What you do

The role of compliance officer can encompass a huge range of tasks, including:

  • checking individual sales to ensure all customer protection procedures have been carried out
  • carrying out anti-money-laundering and anti-fraud procedures (usually undertaken by a sub-unit of the compliance department)
  • ensuring proper credit checks are carried out
  • dealing with customer complaints using the Banking Code and TCF (Treating Customers Fairly) rules
  • dealing with the relevant industry ombudsman and the Financial Services Authority — if any complaint gets that far
  • developing new compliance procedures
  • auditing current processes and practices to make sure they conform to regulations

What you need to get the job

Compliance is one of the fastest-growing areas in the financial services industry, and has opportunities at all levels. As a result, compliance is an important career path for many people.

Traditionally, it has tended to be staffed by people with plenty of first-hand experience at the sharp end of financial services. Indeed, this is still often the case — not surprisingly, since the best person to create and manage a compliance procedure is someone who knows the processes in question well. Think poachers and gamekeepers!

However, many compliance departments now recruit directly in order to get the numbers they need. The jobs they recruit for include the following:

  • Compliance administrator — usually working in major operational centres and call centres. This role involves approving a sale or handling an initial complaint. Often, people already working in the call centre move into this area, but school leavers are also recruited directly into compliance administration. You will need good GCSEs.
  • Anti-money-laundering officer — very similar to compliance administrator but carrying out procedures designed to prevent financial crime. Again, good GCSEs are required.
  • Compliance officer — deals with the development of compliance processes and major complaints. Usually recruited internally or through the graduate scheme — if the latter, you will probably need a 2:1.
  • Specialist positions will often be filled by people with law degrees or professional legal training, as responding in detail to a new regulation often requires legal knowledge.

In all cases, good communication skills are important, particularly writing skills, since you will be preparing lots of reports. More important still is an eye for detail — you must be able to spot the things other people miss. Most important of all, however, is absolute trustworthiness. Remember, the role of compliance is to protect the institution that employs you, its investors, and most importantly its customers, from mistakes or, worse, deliberate attempts to defraud them.

Qualifications and career progression

This is an area where qualifications are encouraged. People in compliance must understand the operations that they are auditing.

Compliance administrators will be expected to take qualifications. To show your awareness of the general financial services and customer care environment in the UK, you could be expected to take ifs University College University College's Certificate in Regulated Customer Care (CertRCC) , with its emphasis on Treating Customers Fairly (TCF).

In addition, if you work in a compliance department dealing with regulated products, you will probably be expected to take the same regulatory examinations as the sales staff. These could include ifs University College University College's Certificate in Mortgage Advice and Practice (CeMAP®) qualifications for mortgage advice and Diploma for Financial Advisers (DipFA) for financial advisory roles.

Compliance officers will often be encouraged to take part in ifs University College's degree programme, which ultimately leads to the awarding of a BSc Hons degree — see BSc (Hons) in Banking Practice and Management.

The structure of this course allows students to gain certificate-level, diploma-level or degree-level professional qualifications. This means that you can still achieve professional qualifications without necessarily having to go all the way to degree level, although this is certainly recommended for anyone wanting a senior career in banking. Indeed, a number of 'executive' or 'fast-track' programmes actually require you to pass the full degree.


This can vary greatly, as there are so many different operations roles. The following is only a guide.

Starting salaries

These vary by role, but are in the region of:

£10,000 - £14,000 for a new compliance administrator.

£18,000 - £24,000 plus potential for joining bonuses on entry (in the region of £2,000), plus the potential for further bonuses during training of up to 20% of salary for a graduate entry scheme compliance officer trainee.

Career incomes

These also vary according to the role, but can be quite substantial:

£18,000 - £24,000 for a trained compliance administrator or anti-money-laundering administrator.

£20,000 - £30,000 as a compliance team leader.

£30,000 - £60,000 plus bonuses for a compliance officer.

£50,000 - £80,000 plus bonuses for a senior compliance officer.

£80,000+ for an associate director in compliance.

£90,000+ for head of compliance.

Many banks will offer a 'large town allowance' for people who need to live in expensive areas or to commute. Where this is paid outside London, this will be around £1,000-2,000. In London you can expect an extra £2,000-3,000.

Of course, banks and insurers also offer good packages of pensions and other benefits. These may not be of much interest to you now but in the future they will be important to you.