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Should compliance professionals be more protected?

Posted by: Laurence Simons 20/11/15

Can it be true that most compliance officers want to quit their jobs?

According to a study from the British Bankers’ Association and LexisNexis Risk Solutions, regulatory, compliance and anti-money laundering staff are worried that if they fail in their task to stop rogue colleagues breaking the law, they could end up in prison with them. Because of this, 54% of respondents would leave the profession if an alternative opportunity arose.

The legislation changes within the banking sector have been unprecedented. Not only have rules been brought in to abolish Libor manipulation, but there are now also tougher restrictions on bonuses, stricter anti-laundering laws and tighter controls on mortgage criteria, amongst other regulation revisions. This comes in the face of such scandals as the PPI miss-selling, which cost British banks over £24bn – and that total is still rising.

International banks, on average, spend roughly £700m to £1bn per year on financial crime compliance – opportunities are aplenty, yet there is still dissatisfaction amongst the ranks of professionals within the sector. As Chrisol Correia, LexisNexis Risk Solutions’ anti-money laundering director, explains: “British banks are on the front line in the battle against financial crime. Both the nature of their business and regulatory design has positioned them as the first line of defence against money laundering, terrorism funding, and an expanding array of other illicit activities. Speaking to those who dedicate their careers to tackling financial crime reveals genuine fears about the ability of banks to continue to perform this function in the future, however.”

So what needs to happen? Many would argue that more protection needs to be put in place to safeguard unfortunate compliance officers against colleagues’ malpractice. But could lowering the stakes render the discipline less effective? Perhaps not. But one thing is certain; in a climate of specialist skills shortages, changes must be implemented in order to retain the top compliance talent.

So, what’s the solution?