Compliance has been recognised as a distinct discipline in the world of finance only in comparatively recent times.
The legal department of major institutions might previously have handled the relevant issues, but specialists in compliance are now making up for lost time. Their expert skills are needed to cope with the increasing complexity of international business and to ensure the legal frameworks governing it are respected.
The more standard compliance roles usually deal with legal requirements, ethical practices and the revenue-generating side of a business. It may also involve oversight of adherence to trade or industry regulations, frontline trading activities and back-office financial operations.
'The Basel II accord has provided major impetus. It will require organisations operating in different regions to build a complete risk management infrastructure,' BNP Paribas senior compliance officer Daniel Au said. This will have to include hardware, software and processes to comply with risk calculation requirements. Mr Au said the Hong Kong Monetary Authority requested that banks comply with these standards by mid-2007.
One knock-on effect is that compliance managers will have to be more than competent in all phases of the operations and analysis of information technology systems. This need for systems security and data integrity will inevitably create new openings for those with the necessary technical and management expertise.
Compliance or risk managers must be skilled in finding practical ways of ensuring legal and regulatory requirements are correctly applied. This means anyone planning a move into the sector should be hands-on, analytical and possess the foresight to anticipate possible problems.
A law degree or experience in internal or external auditing is often the ideal foundation for a successful career in the field.
'Ethical standards are also important, especially when dealing with frontline personnel, such as traders who are motivated by quotas and bonus concerns,' Mr Au said.