One tough compliance officer job
Nothing is tougher than being tasked with maintaining compliance in an organization that takes a negative view of the discipline.
At the risk of stereotyping the culture of a garden variety Wall Street firm, I note an interview from The Guardian with a compliance officer dedicated to a trading floor. It offers some telling anecdotes about how traders would yell something like "compliance on the floor" whenever he showed up, which would ensure complete silence as long as he was present.
"Compliance is an ambivalent function. On the one hand you are seen as the regulators' ally inside the investment firm; overseeing the implementation of their regulation. On the other hand, you are paid by the investment firm and part of their culture and hierarchy. You might say 'front office' (traders making the money) looks at compliance the way compliance in turn looks at the regulators," the interview notes.
The compliance officer view of regulators is somewhat less than flattering.
"My impression was that regulators were not always alive to how things work in practice. The ones I dealt with were often economists, essentially philosophers who had learned to build models. When you talk about practice to them, what they think of is statistics."
And then there are the times when the officer was tasked with preparing an employee for an interview with a regulator, basically to help ensure the bank stayed out of trouble.
No one said being a compliance officer in such environment was easy. You are caught between a rock and hard spot, with few friends outside of the department. But the discipline is essential, and deep down people know it.
- here's the interview