Staff trying to keep banks on the right side of regulators are in high demand
COMPLIANCE OFFICERS are the killjoys of finance. To bankers and traders keen to let rip, they are the po-faced types who, while generating no revenue themselves, frown at any transaction that might breach this rule or contravene that regulation. A recent episode of “Billions”, a television drama about Wall Street, captured the rainmakers’ frustration: so fed up is “Dollar” Bill Stern with having his wings clipped by Ari Spyros that the veteran trader rams the side of the compliance chief’s Porsche (pictured above) when he pulls out of the car park of their hedge fund, Axe Capital.
But pity not finance’s in-house policemen, for they have had a golden decade since the crisis. While swathes of banking has laboured under cutbacks and stiff capital requirements, compliance departments’ headcount and clout have grown. Banks clobbered by fines for aiding corruption, money-laundering and sanctions-busting have beefed up their compliance, risk, legal and internal-audit teams. Compliance officers will never be the rock stars of finance, but they have moved from drums to rhythm guitar. And though some banks hint at having reached “Peak Compliance”, staffing and investment are likely to remain well above pre-crisis levels.