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Building The Financial Compliance Dream Team

The second of two blogs exploring qualities to look for and roles to fill when pulling together a compliance team

In last week’s StarBlog, The Modern Compliance Officer’s Ideal Skillset, we explored the capabilities compliance team leaders look for when hiring compliance professionals. We heard from two veteran team leaders: one from a large US asset manager and one from a large UK asset manager. Both agreed that being tech savvy as well as data savvy is more important that ever.

But they also spoke to the continuing need for the kind of basic communications skills that allow compliance officers to communicate firm policies clearly and concisely to the general employee population, and their compliance concerns firmly and precisely to the CRO or CCO. Thoughtfulness and an innate curiosity were also called out as important. Compliance officers are, after all, investigators. With that in mind, we now consider what roles are most important to fill on any modern compliance team.

Our US compliance team leader starts things off: “I look for three or four different types of people, and I can group them into buckets. The first group I’d want are the “data stewards,” people who understand the information we have access to.” A company may have numerous data feeds coming into it. It’s the “data stewards,” then, whose job it is to know precisely what’s coming in on those feeds, all the elements in play, and perhaps how to combine them with other data feeds in order to achieve a particular result. These data stewards would also be the team members to turn to when a data feed fails.

“The next group of people I’d want would be communicators: the people who are able to take what they see and communicate it clearly and concisely it back to other people.” A good compliance officer can connect all the right dots and draw all the correct conclusions from what she sees, but if she can’t get her point across to the CRO or an employee’s supervisor, all the tech, data, and experience in the world won’t end up doing you or the firm much good. These naturally gifted communicators will also be perfectly suited for conducting employee training on your code-of-conduct and financial compliance basics.

“The third group is news junkies. A lot of what we do, metaphorically speaking, is take a look out our window onto the rest of the world. We see what we can see, and we ask what kind of shadow that casts on the rest of the world. I need people that are interested in what’s going on.” Compliance officers, at the core, are investigators. A good investigator is always on the alert, trying to pick up signals from any source she can, and trying to piece those data points together to divine trends. The data points can come from compliance software, an overheard conversation, a mainstream media source, or a well-honed intuition.

And this on the subject of leadership from our UK compliance officer: “The first priority is to get a line-level team leader in place, someone to oversee the day-to-day tasks, because there’s enough higher-level stuff that needs sorting out. And that’s your job as overall team leader.” The line-level team leader takes care of the day-to-day items, leaving you free to focus on more strategic concerns. The line-level leader will also help you figure out exactly what the team needs in terms of additional personnel, niche expertise, and job specialization.

As you look to administer and complete your firm’s compliance dream team, then, keep the following people priorities in mind:

  • Data stewards
  • Communicators
  • News junkies
  • Line-level leaders

The firm’s maturity scale also matters a great deal. You can have a very simple compliance function or a very complicated one. Again, our UK team leader: “Compliance means different things to different firms. In some places, it means employee conflicts monitoring. In others, managing regulatory relationships. It varies. But one thing you can be sure of: in this day and age you’ll need subject matter experts. Just be sure you know exactly what those subjects are so you can place the right people in the right roles.”