A day in the life of a compliance officer at a boutique investment firm

Damion SmithCompliance and Money Laundering Reporting Officer, Damion Smith, never went to university. Instead, he started his finance career straight from school 29 years ago, and has worked his way up through the ranks – working in sectors as varied as Funds, Banking, Insurance and Trust within the Isle of Man and for institutions such as the Bank of Bermuda, Allied Irish Bank and Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Today he works for the boutique investment firm Creechurch Capital and lives on the Isle of Man.

What time does your alarm go off? 

At 6.35, I’m not a morning person so that’s early enough.

When do you usually arrive into the office? 

That depends on the day, and can be anytime from 8.30 to 9am – but I have a home login so I usually check emails and see what the day may entail before I arrive at work.

What’s the first thing you do once you arrive?

Look at my to-do list. That said, the role is very diversified which means the list quickly gets updated to encompass new tasks that crop up.

Describe your morning…

The compliance officer role encompasses a wide range of tasks – and in compliance you get used to the saying, “There is no typical day!” Even the best planned days still throw up new challenges. Many compliance officers liken the role of keeping up with the varying tasks to that of a plate-spinning act: you’re trying to keep momentum in each task without dropping one.

…and what about your afternoon?

A morning or afternoon may consist of the following tasks:

> Giving advice regarding, or interpretation of, the regulations that our company has to abide to.

> Answering questions from colleagues that begin with “Can we…”

> Undertaking and planning in relation to monitoring of the business’s activities against our own procedures and the regulatory environment we operate in.

> Constantly assessing the regulatory risks the business faces and the controls it has in place to mitigate them.

> Reviewing client files and the due diligence requirements.

> Reviewing marketing material and press releases prior to them being released.

> Regulatory reporting, preparation of compliance reports for the board, senior management team and attending the regular meetings.

> Undertaking screening of clients and sanctions checking. Preparation and provision of training and guidance on compliance and anti-money laundering (AML).

Phew, wow. What happens at lunchtime?  

Time for a quick break and a walk through the street in Douglas.

And how do you assess your progress for the day, when you have so much on? 

Well, not by just ticking off an item from the to-do list, which after a very busy day can be an achievement in itself, but by reflecting on a piece of work carried out, or advice on a regulation given that has made a difference to the company or assisted a fellow colleague.

What’s the best thing about what you do?

It’s the varying tasks and things that come my way, there’s never a dull moment. After 29 years of working in the finance sector, and 19 of them as a Compliance Officer and MLRO, there are still things to learn and new challenges presented. Every day is a school day.

Are there any downsides? 

It can be a high-pressure environment with some tight timeframes, sometimes. Interpreting and applying the various rules and regulatory requirements that face a company can be daunting too. However, with planning and analysis it’s less so – and I enjoy a challenge!

What time are you usually home? 

Around 6 to 6.30pm. I’m lucky to have a short commute.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you were leaving school? 

That it’s important to work towards a relevant qualification straight out of school, as this will help you progress towards a long and rewarding career. Also, to always be prepared to learn new things! But most importantly, that’s important to enjoy your chosen career, whatever you do.

What single piece of advice do you have for graduates planning to work in the compliance sector? 

Don’t be put off by people who may see the job as dull; it’s far, far from that. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my journey in the compliance world so far – it’s an engaging and, most importantly, a crucial area of business. And in an ever-changing landscape, you’re kept on your toes and constantly learning. Anyone thinking of a career in compliance should be prepared to study for a related qualification such as the ICA Compliance Diploma.

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