Compliance Officers: What They Do and Why They’re in Demand

Compliance Officers

As businesses work to meet an array of complex compliance requirements — from anti-money laundering laws and regulations to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act — the demand for compliance specialists, such as compliance officers, is rising. And that trend is likely to continue, considering that half of the companies surveyed for the latest Benchmarking the Accounting & Finance Function report from Robert Half and the Financial Executives Research Foundation (FERF) said they expect their compliance burden to increase over the next three years.

Starting compensation for compliance professionals is growing, too, according to Robert Half’s latest Salary Guide for the accounting and finance profession. Base salaries for all compliance positions tracked in the guide, including compliance officers, compliance directors and compliance analysts, are expected to increase by at least 3.8 percent in 2017.

The guide reports that compliance officers working in financial services organizations can expect to see some of the most significant gains in base salary in 2017 — as much as 4.2 percent, depending on the size of the organization. Compliance officers working in corporate accounting departments are likely to see a 4 percent increase in starting compensation.

Highly skilled professionals like compliance specialists can be hard to find in today’s hiring market. That’s a key reason why many firms are prepared to offer in-demand candidates higher salaries for these roles. Many firms are also enhancing their benefits packages to attract top talent and retain valued compliance staff.

If you want to know what salaries employers are typically offering for regulatory compliance jobs in your local area, use the Robert Half Salary Calculator available in our Salary Center.

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What are the typical duties of compliance officers?

Compliance officers are responsible for ensuring their organization complies with government regulations — domestically as well as globally, if applicable — and avoids missteps that could result in hefty fines, legal ramifications and reputation damage. Compliance officers also need to make sure that employees are following internal compliance policies.

Along with assessing financial risks and creating a game plan to handle those potential issues, compliance officers also provide regular reports on the effectiveness of a business’s compliance measures. They also advise business leadership on any actions or changes that should be implemented. In many organizations, senior management expects the compliance officer to collaborate as a partner, and demonstrate how compliance is a business priority and can help drive strategy.

Here’s an overview of some typical duties for compliance officers:

  • Developing, implementing and managing an organization’s compliance program
  • Coordinating with federal and state regulators
  • Planning, implementing and overseeing risk-related programs
  • Creating and coordinating proper reporting channels for compliance issues
  • Developing company compliance communications
  • Coordinating and scheduling required compliance training for employees

Skills compliance officers need to succeed

Whether they’re working in a full-time role or on a consulting basis, compliance officers must have strong knowledge of federal and state regulatory guidelines and standards. They also need to monitor accounting and regulatory guidelines as they relate to financial reporting and documentation. In addition, compliance officers should possess knowledge of compliance standards and policies, audit techniques, regulatory issues, and operations and procedures that relate specifically to the company.

Businesses hiring compliance officers seek professionals with excellent analytical, project management and organizational skills. Candidates should have a minimum of three to five years of experience in regulatory compliance. A bachelor’s degree in accounting, business, finance or a related field is required. Many employers also value a master’s degree in business administration or an in-demand certification such as certified public accountant (CPA).

While both financial and business acumen are necessities for compliance officers, these professionals should also have a solid mix of soft skills, including leadership abilities. Expert communication and public speaking skills are needed to facilitate better organizational understanding of complex regulatory standards. Integrity and a history of ethical decision-making are also essential.

Professionals seeking compliance officer roles will find that employers in highly regulated business sectors such as financial services often prefer to hire candidates who have relevant industry experience. Details of specific compliance mandates can be learned. But candidates who understand the broader regulatory landscape of an organization’s industry are especially well-positioned to provide insight that can benefit the business.

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Interested in regulatory compliance jobs or another type of consulting? See the “Consultants” section of our website for information about different career paths in consulting, the benefits of consulting, and why a consulting career might be the right opportunity for you.

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