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The changing role of compliance in the modern business landscape

Graham Saunders our consultant managing the role
Posting date: Oct 17, 2019

Should we be rethinking the role of compliance?

Compliance has been playing an increasingly important role in the financial services industry since the financial crisis of 2008. Since then, the focus on regulation and regulatory change has intensified to a greater extent than it has in living memory.

The contemporary corporate environment has come under increasing scrutiny, faced significant digital disruption and had to quickly adapt to extensive regulatory change such as MiFID II, the Market Abuse Regulation and the Anti-Laundering Money Directives.

Businesses must pay closer attention to compliance than ever – meaning there are also more opportunities for professionals seeking compliance monitoring and management roles.


The approach towards the compliance function with many businesses are changing.

Major, turning-point events such as the financial crisis, mis-selling of payment protection insurance and the Libor interest rate manipulation scandal have resulted in stricter regulations and added to the pressure on organisations to remain compliant at all times. No one wants to be caught out or be part of the business that sparks the next major scandal.

With more scrutiny, compliance professionals are under heightened pressure to understand regulation and ensure that their businesses put processes and policies that keep them compliant. They will also be expected to provide regulatory support and advice on the fly, being able to respond to change quickly.


Financial institutions are increasingly revisiting their service offering to ensure their solutions are creative, flexible and responsive to changes in regulations and rules. For many, this has meant moving towards an increasingly digital world.

RegTech has already made a big impact on the world of regulatory compliance. Providing technology-driven solutions to compliance and regulatory issues, the global RegTech market was worth US$4.3 billion in 2018 and is predicted to hit US$12.3 billion by 2023. This is being driven by increased compliance costs, low barriers for entry for SaaS-based offerings and the regulator’s sandbox approach (which allows firms to ‘stretch’ regulatory boundaries to see if they can discover ways of working that produce better outcomes).

We live in a world in which cloud computing, artificial intelligence, big data and machine learning are employed regularly within the compliance space, providing faster, more precise solutions and enhancing transparency.

Financial institutions should weigh up the pros and cons of different technological solutions in their organisations before implementing them, as many come with a significant price tag which will add to the already high cost of compliance. Piloting technologies on a small scale can be a safe first step.

Compliance professionals should certainly have no fear about their place within this market. Computers are yet to be able to make the sort of creative decisions that are needed in this space. While new technologies are certainly aiding many aspects of compliance, specialist human skills and knowledge remain critical for this industry.


Functions like compliance which were previously seen as highly technical and bureaucratic are now being rightly viewed as business-critical roles which can form part of the overall business strategy – at least by savvy C-suites. This is, in turn, creating an abundance of lucrative opportunities for the right calibre of candidate.

Compliance professionals can, today, help to shape the culture and ethics of an organisation as well as help them get to grips with the technical elements of business compliance and regulatory change. This is an exciting time for candidates who want a broader role with greater responsibility, as well as room for their influence to take shape. This is resulting in higher quality applications for available roles.

This has become particularly visible in the wake of the Senior Managers and Certification Regime’s introduction, as there is now a more pressing need for management to be provided with an overarching, holistic view of potential risk by compliance officers. We have spoken before about the broad range of change areas emerging as a response to this regulation, and we can expect to see specialist contractors continuing to be in high demand for years to come.


Now that the compliance function is viewed as a crucial extension of senior management oversight, there is the risk that the function’s responsibilities become blurred. Roles and tasks may begin to seep into the compliance office from other areas of the business. To mitigate this, organisations should take time to re-establish lines of accountability and divisions of responsibility.

Independent compliance functions are one way to approach this, as is a ‘three-lines-of-defence’ compliance approach. Businesses undertaking change initiatives could consider taking on a strategic independent advisor with a broad overview of risk, while the Chief Compliance Officer may take on a more active role in the senior management team or Board.


Whether you’re looking for compliance managers for your financial services organisation or you’re a candidate looking for your next compliance monitoring job, we’d love to help. As a leading governance, risk management and compliance recruitment consultancy, we have a comprehensive understanding of the current landscape and deep knowledge of market trends and predictions. Find out more about our compliance function here.



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