Skills investment banks want from risk and compliance professionals

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Risk managers often need to make difficult decisions and may ruffle a few feathers, particularly with traders who feel they should be able to increase their risk tolerance. In practice, this means having a keen eye for detail, and questioning perceived wisdom within the organisation – and speaking out when you know that something is wrong.

Risk management is also a technical discipline, so it helps to come armed with applied mathematics skills, an understanding of differential equations and financial modelling expertise. You have to apply these skills to a real-life situations though, so banks also look for keen problem-solving skills. “There are also opportunities for those who have studied a diverse range of subject areas, depending on the function, and it’s important for any graduate to understand the different roles and where your skills might fit,” says Balbir Bakhshi, managing director, group head of operational risk management at Credit Suisse.

Despite the specialist nature of operational, credit and market risk, Bakhshi says the “diverse range of challenges” is what he likes best about the profession. “As well as looking at the bank’s overall risk appetite and strategy, I deal with governance issues, risk processes and the IT supporting it. I feel like I’m making a real impact and that my work is helping ensure the long-term stability of the bank,” he adds.

Some of the core skills that banks demand in compliance are similar to those in risk – both professions require building stronger relationships with the rest of the business. “Graduates need intellectual curiosity, the ability to interpret information quickly, attention to detail and good communication skills,” says Charles Eve, head of compliance, EMEA at Goldman Sachs.

In compliance, you’ll need detailed knowledge of regulations (hence those with legal backgrounds often thrive in the sector) and for advisory-focused jobs you’ll need to know how those regulations apply to particular products, like equity derivatives, for example. The ability to review and analyse large amounts of data to determine whether an individual and/or the bank is in compliance is also crucial. And because compliance professionals support departments throughout the firm you must have an intimate practical knowledge of other jobs and functions, such as sales and trading.

“We look for analytical individuals with excellent project management skills and a keen interest in financial markets, products, and securities laws and regulations,” says Eve. “Compliance in recent years has become a key function for the investment banking industry. It demands high standards and a high level of accountability.”

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