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Five reasons why you should want to work in compliance, courtesy of Goldman Sachs

Late last month, we detailed all the reasons you wouldn’t want to work in compliance, despite the fact that big banks like J.P. Morgan and HSBC are hiring in droves. The job can be boring yet stressful, and the pay isn’t all it’s cracked up to be (so we’re told).

That’s one side of the coin. In their most recent career webinar aimed at graduating students, Goldman Sachs employees offered their pitch as for why you should be dying to work in compliance. Below are the key points. Do you agree?

It’s a great entry point: Two current Goldman Sachs compliance officers were asked whether the firm would consider entry-level candidates without a finance background or a deep knowledge of compliance. The answer was yes.

“With compliance, you can come in with a non-traditional background and just dig in,” said one of the employees who majored in international relations and diplomacy. “Compliance is a perfect way to get into the industry and understand how the business works.”

The same certainly can’t be said about senior people. Banks want direct comparable experience for senior positions, so if you’re eyeing a career in compliance, you’ll likely need to get in on the entry-level front.

Goldman recommends candidates follow the headlines as they prepare for a potential interview. Compliance issues like the J.P. Morgan “Whale” scandal or FX rate manipulations dominate the news. Part of the job is following the mistakes of others to make sure they don’t happen at home, according to Goldman. Much of the rest can be learned.

Exposure to senior folks: Even junior people in the compliance office get to interact with senior thought leaders, said one of the officers. Compliance workers tend to specialize in a particular reporting rule or regulatory issue, meaning you’ll be the go-to person when a certain concern pops up. “You’re well-respected and well-regarded as a junior person,” said one of the employees. “Sometimes I’m thinking: is this person really speaking to me?”

Mission-critical tasks: While some of the work can appear menial on the surface, and it’s not a revenue-generating role, compliance officers will often work on headline-making projects. One of the employees was working in the office last year when Greg Smith published his op-ed in which he essentially destroyed Goldman Sachs. She was in charge of collecting data on some of the claims he made and, hours later, found herself at the “big table” presenting in front of senior people.


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The work is always changing: New rules and regulations hit Wall Street on seemingly a daily basis, so the work stays fairly fresh. One of the employees is working on a large trader reporting rule that was just updated on Friday, for example. You also get to joke around about Wall Street watchdogs, apparently. “Regulators are a big fan of giving us rules that haven’t been completely written yet they ask us to comply with them,” one employee said (with a laugh).

Job security: Goldman Sachs didn’t discuss job security, but it’s worth mentioning. The demand for experienced compliance professional currently outweighs the supply. And it’s not just banks. The average hedge fund spends as much as 10% of its operating costs on compliance, with most of the money going to the people who are overseeing the initiatives. Nearly nine out of 10 financial services executives find it a challenge to recruit skilled compliance workers. Compliance is a pretty good sector to be in if you want job security and a healthy paycheck.

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AUTHORBeecher Tuttle US Editor
  • an
    7 November 2013

    Goldman doesn't respect their own employees who have the Compliance skills they claim to be looking for. We are 2 of the top IT data modelers in Compliance and Reference Data in New York City. We used to work for Goldman. Between the 12 hour days, small bonuses and frequent layoffs, we fled. Now, another top firm has the benefit of our skills.

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