7 Important Traits to Look for in Your Next Senior Compliance Hire

Crisis often creates fertile ground for fraud. The chaos that has arisen from the COVID-19 pandemic has created economic upheaval, and with that, a slew of criminals looking to exploit peoples’ desperation. Ensuring your business has an effective compliance program is essential to preventing cyber attacks, identifying fraud, and preventing revenue loss. Your Senior Compliance Officer not only needs to be an expert in their area, but they also need to have the leadership skills to manage a team of Compliance professionals effectively. When approaching this essential hire, here are seven things to look for to identify a stand-out Senior Compliance Officer candidate.


1. Strong communications skills

A Senior Compliance Officer must be able to communicate effectively not only with their own team of Compliance professionals, but also with other internal stakeholders. To other functional teams, Compliance may seem like a box-ticking exercise. A strong candidate should know how to communicate the importance and value of the Compliance team. They should also demonstrate trustworthiness and integrity, which will naturally earn them respect amongst their peers and direct reports.

Interview question:  What was the most difficult compliance or ethics issue you’ve faced? How did you deal with and resolve that issue? Would you have done anything different if approached with that same problem again?

2. Detailed project manager

Senior Compliance Officers are in charge of maintaining, monitoring, implementing, and training employees on new compliance programs. Neglecting to update training materials when regulatory changes occur could mean putting your business at serious risk. Hire an individual with a proven track record of managing projects without letting anything slip through the cracks.

Interview question: Have you ever experienced a situation where something has gone wrong for you or a team that you were part of in compliance? What did you do to fix it? What did you put in place to ensure that it didn’t happen again?

3. Understands the big picture

A candidate with a broad range of experience will have seen the ways in which Compliance contributes to the growth of a business. Compliance risk could stall mergers and acquisitions, and opening and closing bank branches can impact your CRA performance. Compliance analyses can also help identify underexplored markets. 

Interview question: How did you contribute to the growth of the business in your previous role? What systems did you put in place to ensure your business was set up for success?

4. Must speak “noncompliance”

The language and endless acronyms related to compliance (AML, KYC, BSA, SEC, FINRA, CFTC, NFA, OFAC, 206(4)-7, Investment Company Act of 1940, The Advisers Act, Securities Act of ’33, Securities Exchange Act of 1934, Reg M, Securities Act Rules 138 and 139, etc.) can be confusing to internal stakeholders. A strong Senior Compliance Officer speaks compliance but is also able to effectively explain the goals of the Compliance team to other internal teams like Product and Engineering without the use of Compliance jargon. 

Interview question: Describe a time when you needed to communicate a complicated Compliance issue to someone who was unfamiliar with Compliance terminology. How did you effectively get your message across?

5. Performs well under pressure

Whether your business is a small financial institution, an investment bank, an asset management firm, or anything in between, situations will arise with high stakes. A strong candidate will be able to offer examples of high pressure situations and talk through how they were able to remain calm and assess all possible outcomes before making a move. 

Interview question: Describe a time when you dealt with a stressful situation (like a data breach or cyber attack). How did you keep your cool and what strategy did you use to resolve the issue?

6. AML experience

A stand-out candidate will have experience in this area, particularly if you have a small compliance team without a dedicated AML (anti-money laundering) analyst. The risk of bad transactions can be reduced significantly when you have someone onboard that is trained to identify suspicious patterns and bank transactions.

Interview question: What has been your experience as an AML analyst, and do you have any certifications that prove your proficiency? 

7. Understands complex technology

Does your business have the best technologies in place to protect their data and evaluate risk? A strong Compliance candidate will be able to tell you whether or not you’re using best practices. This individual will also know how to use technology to capture, manipulate, and analyze data that save your business from huge profit losses.

Interview questions: What technologies did you use in your previous role? What programs, systems, or policies did you integrate in your last role that helped make the Compliance team more efficient or productive?

Looking to hire a Senior Compliance Officer in the Greater New York City area? Email Robert Moseman, Manager, Compliance & Legal Recruitment at Robert Walters New York at

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