Investment Banking Compliance Career Guide

In Middle/ Back Office by Charlie LeardUpdated On:

Before I began my career in Compliance, I wondered “if Compliance in Investment Banking (IB) is my end goal, how do I get there?” A simple question which many ask when making decisions for their career. I will try to answer this and set out my own journey, the skills needed and an average week for me. Spoiler alert, it’s not just about your parents, this is something anyone can do with the right application.

Qualifications & Education

In deciding which qualifications to take, I thought about what my skills were and how I could leverage those to meet my goal. I completed a Politics and International Relations degree at university, try to remember playing to your strengths and studying something that complements your skill set, helps to bring out your best. It’s worth mentioning that university isn’t for everyone and that there are a whole multitude of ways out there to begin a career in Finance without a college education, such as through apprenticeships.

 A good education is a starting point, but thinking how many students every year are graduating, what makes you stand out? Real world experience. All through my time at college I continued working a retail job on weekends, it doesn’t sound like much, but I credit this to helping me develop. It improved my people skills in a way not possible without experience, dealing with challenging customers or difficult colleagues are skills that will set you up well. It comes together to prepare you for the next jump, Internships.

Selection Process

It’s no secret that for many their way into Finance is through Internships. These have become massively competitive in recent years, but there are ways to improve the odds in your favour. One piece of advice that I give is – don’t be picky. Everyone wants that Goldman Sachs internship, but don’t limit yourself by applying to just a select few big firms. Apply to as many as you can. There is real value to be had in playing the market here, something that I found was rejection is going to come at you hard and fast, but never let it get on top. By applying to a multitude of programmes you increase your chances of getting that all important interview where you can shine. Much better to be in a position of having a multitude of offers to pick from rather than none at all.

 Whether getting that big interview for an Internship as a college student, or an Apprenticeship without a degree, this is probably the most vital stage in beginning your career, getting your foot in the door. The following advice and experience is valid for both situations.

 Depending on the firm, the style of interview will differ. I was given materials 24 hours in advance to prepare a case study. I put hours into this, analysing the data from multiple different angles and preparing my deck. You need to try and distil down your key points, I found having 5 or 6 was the real key to my argument. Also, do not underestimate the art of getting your point across to a multitude of different people as not everyone is going to see everything the same way as you. Working in retail really helped me with this. 

Understanding how the information you are presenting fits into the wider Compliance, Finance and macro-economic picture shows a broader understanding. If there is regulation being discussed, think where this has come from and why it is in place? Regulation isn’t just there for fun so it’s key to show that you know why this is important.

For me, the analysis part of my interview was followed up by the more traditional 1-1 with a senior in Compliance. I have seen plenty of exemplary candidates freeze when speaking to a senior, don’t make that mistake. These interviewers are there to get the best out of you. Be confident in what you are saying, even to be at this stage you would have put in hours of hard work and it’s about showing that off.Be concise in responding, know your CV by heart and finally, show them your style. No one wants to hire a robot.


My internship was a 9 week programme in 2018. Not being from a finance background, everything was a learning curve., Never overwhelming, just an opportunity to take it all in. One thing I learned very quickly was that other interns aren’t the enemy, and I learned a lot from listening to and engaging with my peers over the programme. Coupled with an ethos of trying to speak to everyone, I found myself well set up for the Internship. I sought to put time in with as many people as possible, both in Compliance and the business. That was how I learned so much about financial products in such a short space of time – both equities and fixed income. For me and many others, the internship was effectively a 9 week interview to come back the following year as a graduate. Treat it as such and give it absolutely everything and show them why the firm needs you.

 The early days

Beginning my Graduate scheme was the real start of my career, a permanent and stable footing in Finance. It is also where you can begin to build your career and progress in the direction that suits you best. My programme was rotational like many others, the real advantage of this is picking up lots of new insights into both the business and procedures of the firm. Much like an Internship, it is the perfect opportunity to speak to people across the firm. As a grad, this is expected of you so people will be accommodating. This had the added advantage of giving me a chance to focus  on an area I wanted to take that next career step in. For me, that was IB Compliance

 During my Internship and Graduate programme, I was not placed into the IB Compliance team. This meant that when a role became available, I did not have that network or deeper understanding to fall back on. However, I made sure that I did my homework including getting to grips with the basic principles of debt capital markets and derivatives, then in drilling down on key examples of work that I had done previously which demonstrated my key skills best. Technical understanding can be taught to a new joiner, but what is much harder to bestow is the skills making you effective in a role and communication with other people. All the hard work paid off as I landed the role as junior in the team.

What a typical week looks like

A standard week for me is varied. The backbone of what I do is working hand in glove with the business, this could be supporting on new transactions coming to market, reviewing various procedures and standards, or dealing with ad hoc queries. No two transactions or scenarios are the same, and the Compliance consideration for each will mean that speaking to the business regularly is required to resolve the issue effectively, to not hold up the transaction for the client. Every firm will have in place various standards and procedures used to manage risk, part of my role is to review these and test against them to ensure they are effective. Equally, if there are any regulations coming into force, then we are responsible for ensuring that the required control framework is in place.


Salaries will differ from firm to firm, but an entry level graduate in the US can expect to earn $75k. Following that, a permanent role could be closer to $100K. From there your career can carry on within Compliance in the same firm or moving to another, this really will depend on your individual circumstances and the job market at the time. If you feel you are not being recognized appropriately at your current firm then never be afraid to move, be that to somewhere else or another part of the business.

Skills to Succeed

In terms of skills needed, 3 spring to mind:

  • Communication
  • Critical analysis 
  • Personal management

Communication is always going to be vital, the ability to convey your views to all your stakeholders has always been the best way of managing risk.,Making clear to the business just what your concerns are and how to best remedy them as a team. 

Critical analysis is needed to best understand problems faced. The current procedures must be understood and adhered to so that risk can be managed to achieve the best outcome for the business. 

Personal management means two things: managing expectations and also time management, I cannot emphasize enough from experience the importance of delivering items on time whilst managing the expectations of key stakeholders. If there is a setback out of your hands, and it will happen, it is how you deal with it.

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About the Author

Charlie Leard

Charlie Leard (LinkedIn) has spent 4 years managing Compliance risks across a multitude of business areas within Banking, including Investment Banking and sanctions Compliance. He has worked at Barclays Investment Bank, a global investment bank ranking within the top 6 of league tables globally. Here he has engaged in due diligence within the Banking business assisting the firm’s debt capital markets teams. He had also competed his Internship within Barclays Compliance and prior to that a Politics and International Relations degree at the University of Kent.