Talk to me about compliance

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lawyercs1013

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Talk to me about compliance

Post by lawyercs1013 » Tue Jul 07, 2020 11:14 am

I graduated last year and am currently clerking in state court. I am considering taking a compliance offer at a mid-size bank. Can anyone share any insight as to the pros and cons of compliance and what I can expect in regards to career path etc?
I don't need biglaw money right now but I would at some point in my career like to make $150k. Is this realistic in compliance after 8-10 years?
What most attracts me to the compliance arena vs. actual practice is the work-life balance. I have little kids and the idea of being a slave to the billable hour doesn't really appeal to me. I have a spouse who makes a good salary in a stable field and have some law school debt but its definitely manageable.
Does anyone have any insight?

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Re: Talk to me about compliance

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Jul 07, 2020 12:42 pm

I worked in compliance for three years at a bulge bracket bank in NYC, clearing about 150k when I left (for a law firm near my family). Work-life balance was good (8-5, maybe three late evenings a year, no weekends, people took their vacation). If I had stayed, I probably could have made a good career of it but I was really not happy. Nobody likes the compliance department, you're dealing with all the crap and you have to make sure it happens so you can't just ignore it like everyone else. You are the nag. A lot of people I worked with have been laid off. Banks do rounds of layoffs and compliance is a cost center that feels less important than legal (in my opinion). A lot of the work is also boring and repetitive; which may be perfect if you want to focus on your family and collect a paycheck.

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Pomeranian

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Re: Talk to me about compliance

Post by Pomeranian » Tue Jul 07, 2020 12:51 pm

Once you go into compliance, it can be hard to break back into legal roles (at least that's what I've heard).

lawyercs1013

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Re: Talk to me about compliance

Post by lawyercs1013 » Tue Jul 07, 2020 12:53 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Jul 07, 2020 12:42 pm
I worked in compliance for three years at a bulge bracket bank in NYC, clearing about 150k when I left (for a law firm near my family). Work-life balance was good (8-5, maybe three late evenings a year, no weekends, people took their vacation). If I had stayed, I probably could have made a good career of it but I was really not happy. Nobody likes the compliance department, you're dealing with all the crap and you have to make sure it happens so you can't just ignore it like everyone else. You are the nag. A lot of people I worked with have been laid off. Banks do rounds of layoffs and compliance is a cost center that feels less important than legal (in my opinion). A lot of the work is also boring and repetitive; which may be perfect if you want to focus on your family and collect a paycheck.
Thanks for responding! My main question on your post is regarding the layoffs. Most of the other compliance posts on TLS said it was a pretty stable field and there wasn't a lot of "Lathaming" in compliance, which is another reason I like it. Is that not true?
And yeah, I have no problem doing repetitive work to collect a decent paycheck. But I've also heard there are some interesting compliance roles. Do you know anything about that?

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Re: Talk to me about compliance

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Jul 07, 2020 9:06 pm

I wouldn't say it's on par with Lathaming, but the team I was on has less headcount than it did when I started, maybe by 20%, and other areas lost more. It ebbs and flows but at big banks decisions are made way up the ladder. They also periodically moved an entire team to a cheaper geographic area.

Some roles are better than others, but you'll have to be able to sell them on why your skillset is a good fit. My thoughts on this would also be specific to the bank and areas I worked in. Also, all of them have significantly more bureaucracy than a firm.

ETA: Regarding Pomeranian's comment, it's harder to jump to legal but I have lots of anecdotal exceptions, including myself and several others who are at V100s now, and a friend who went from compliance to legal within the same FI.

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Re: Talk to me about compliance

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jul 08, 2020 11:40 pm

Worked in compliance at a bank and then a private equity fund for years. Bank compliance is pretty chill but definitely not as prestigious as being at a fund or regulator. Not a dead-end by any means (I know several people who moved into law firms). Happy to answer any questions you have about different areas of compliance, as I had many different roles. Specifically as regarding layoffs at banks, it can be bad. As others have noted, decisions are made up the chain, you have little to no transparency, and every time leadership changes they try to shake things up (usually by hiring or firing). I would shoot for an "advisory role" in which you interact directly with the business. Short of being senior, this is your best bet to not getting laid off. If you are the problem-solver for the money-makers, they will fight to keep you. You want to avoid doing a role like project management, AML, policies and procedures, compliance testing, risk-related roles, really anything that is "core" compliance at a bank. Those roles are vulnerable. There are a lot of you and unless you are senior, you don't stand out.

Go for a role that requires hard substantive knowledge, sits with the business team, and provides direct support day-to-day for ongoing compliance matters. Those roles are fun, dynamic, and still much less stressful than law firm life. They usually pay better too and have better exit options. Even if you are in line for a layoff you'll be able to land somewhere else.

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Re: Talk to me about compliance

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jul 08, 2020 11:44 pm

Same anon from above. I forgot to mention that as regarding comp, 150k is not high for an advisory role if you have experience. It may be high for a mid-sized bank hiring you with one year of experience. 150k is typical base salary for advisory fund work with 3 or so years of experience. A mid-sized bank may shoot for closer to 100k at your level, depending on the bank. Negotiate the best comp you can coming in the door. Bank raises are historically TERRIBLE and the only way you will get a significant raise is by leaving.

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