Last year, an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Compliance Officer: Dream Career” discussed the massive growth of compliance jobs, emphasizing hiring for new compliance positions in the financial services industry. Just last month, New York Comptroller Tom DiNapoli identified hiring in compliance as driving growth in Wall Street employment in the first half of 2015.
Employment opportunities in financial services compliance are booming for two interrelated reasons.
First, compliance work and compliance professionals are most needed in companies operating in highly regulated environments. Although the financial services industry has been subject to legal regulation for many years, the intensity of such regulation changed dramatically in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis of 2008. Domestically, Dodd-Frank and other federal- and state-level reforms in banking, securities, and insurance regulation have radically altered the regulatory landscape – extending and deepening oversight of financial institutions of all types and sizes. Globally, there have been similar developments, including Basel III and a flood of pronouncements from oversight agencies.
Second, enforcement of the laws governing the financial services industry has been transformed. The legal reforms mentioned above are backed by greater and more intense enforcement at all levels, pressing financial firms to invest more to ensure compliance to avoid civil and criminal sanctions. But the focus of the enforcement on compliance efforts themselves has magnified this effect. Indeed, a number of recent, large settlement agreements between government enforcement agencies and financial institutions require companies to invest heavily in compliance infrastructure, resulting in a tremendous demand for qualified compliance professionals.
Moreover, a central theme in regulators’ messages to the financial services industry is that companies must devote significant resources to compliance because such “self-regulation” is key to preventing downstream misconduct.
For example, in July of this year, Mary Jo White, Chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, highlighted the role of compliance work in ensuring the integrity of the financial markets:
The work you perform as compliance professionals is critically important to investors and the integrity of the markets. You are on the front lines working to create, implement, and enforce a strong and comprehensive set of policies, procedures, and systems to govern and supervise firm employees. Your work helps ensure that investors are armed with the information they need to make fully-informed decisions. Importantly, you help prevent problems from occurring in the first place and, if and when problems do arise, you use those experiences to inform your future work to promote early detection and remediation.
She then connected this emphasis directly to her agency’s approach to enforcement:
Our enforcement program also emphasizes the importance of a strong compliance program. We do this by highlighting in our orders situations where a compliance program operated effectively in identifying misconduct; by bringing enforcement actions when those programs have failed, particularly in the investment adviser realm where there is a specific requirement for compliance policies and procedures; and by requiring independent consultants in appropriate cases to ensure that compliance policies are crafted to guard against misconduct recurring.
This focus on financial services companies’ self-regulatory efforts, backed by significant legal sticks and carrots, has helped produce thousands of new financial compliance jobs in the United States and abroad.
Furthermore, these jobs are not limited to financial services companies alone: consulting, auditing, and law firms that serve financial industry clients also are seeking qualified compliance professionals. And the demand for talent in this area will remain strong for the foreseeable future.
In part because of how new the financial services compliance field is there are relatively few degree programs designed specifically for professionals in the area. Moreover, given the nature of the work, compliance departments are seeking to hire not only lawyers in larger numbers, but also those with other backgrounds – e.g., accounting, technology, auditing, mathematics, and human resources, as well as varied experiences in the financial industry – who demonstrate an understanding of and interest in legal compliance work.
Seton Hall Law recognized this increased need for compliance expertise and focused on legal compliance education in both its master’s degree and JD programs for those in or seeking to enter financial services compliance. We paired our compliance knowledge with our internationally known corporate law faculty, and developed a fully-online Master of Science in Jurisprudence degree (M.S.J.) with a concentration in Financial Services Compliance.
This online master’s degree program is designed for nonlawyers from the various backgrounds described above who work or plan to work in compliance for investment and depository banks, brokerage firms, insurance companies, and other financial services companies and those partnering with such companies. It addresses in-depth the laws and regulations governing the financial services industry, how to apply that knowledge to real-life situations, how to respond to and analyze financial compliance issues, and how to work effectively with counsel and business leaders to problem solve and craft effective compliance policies and procedures.
In addition, recognizing the tremendous need and, relatedly, compliance opportunities for new and experienced lawyers, the law school now offers a compliance concentration for our JD students. Students who pursue the concentration as part of their JD course of study benefit from being able to demonstrate an interest and skill set in compliance-related work in one or more fields, including finance-related areas. They also are able to take advantage of hands-on compliance and regulatory experiences in New Jersey and on Wall Street.