Bull Bear Report Oct 19 2010

How to Get a Job in Compliance

By julie steinberg

Community banks, hedge funds and private equity firms will be bulking up their compliance staff over the next several months, which means it's time to start thinking about your application if you hope to snag one of these jobs. What are firms looking for and what can you do to increase your chances?

Related: Banks, PE Firms and Hedge Funds All Hiring for Compliance

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Depending on the company, there's demand for both junior level and senior level compliance professionals. Because most college graduates don't veer toward compliance, many junior level talent "metamorphosize from finance, legal or operations areas," said Chad Champion, a senior recruiter at the Mergis Group. Still, for junior staff, firms expect industry licenses in the brokerage business, like a Series 7 or Series 24 certification.

"Having different licenses, like the Series 7 or a CFA, always helps," said Michael Karp, managing partner at the Options Group.

Senior level talent may find more opportunities at smaller community banks, according to Karen Thomas, senior executive vice president for government relations and public policy at the Independent Community Bankers of America. "Smaller departments may want to round out their staff with seasoned professionals," she said, but also warned that hiring needs are likely to be institution-specific.

Karp said that a legal background, combined with at least five to seven years of experience, is a must. Champion agreed: "In a top level executive role, most of my clients would prefer a law degree, especially in a chief compliance officer.

Hone Your Soft Skills

Besides the technical qualifications, firms are also looking for those elusive soft skills. Companies want relationship-oriented individuals who will know how to serve as liaison to federal agencies -- and have experience doing so. Officers who can "interface with a regulator then report back to the business," are in top demand. Essentially, "they're looking for diplomats, said Champion.

Firms are also looking for officers who can specialize, said Jack Kelly, managing director of Compliance Search Group. "It's become a very specialized-driven niche."

A firm won't merely hire a generic compliance person -- it wants someone who does anti-money laundering, for example, or someone with equities derivatives experience to be on the desk. "They're looking for people who have that intellectual capital," he added.

Go With the Flow

One last important trait? Flexibility, especially when it comes to geography. Many smaller firms aren't located in big hubs, Kelly pointed out, so it may be hard for them to attract talent. "How do you entice someone to come from L.A. and New York to a smaller market?" he said. You'll have a better chance of scoring a job if you're willing to work in places other than traditional financial centers.

Write to Julie Steinberg

Related: Banks, PE Firms and Hedge Funds All Hiring for Compliance

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