Encouraging the progression of women in Compliance

James Batters 21.08.2018

I have been speaking to various senior level female Compliance professionals to gain an understanding of the perception of women and their potential for progression within the industry.

The views of senior female Compliance professionals

Below I have compiled the views of various women in Compliance including: 

  • Head of Financial Crime Monitoring & Controls at the UK entity of a medium sized emerging markets bank 
  • European Head of a leading Compliance Certification Association
  • Liz Kyrianou, Associate Director of Customer onboarding/due diligence at British Arab Commercial Bank

Are you aware of any initiatives that your or other firms are running to help close the gender pay gap?

“Our bank did a salary review and it resulted in upgrades of pay for a lot of staff members so they were more in line with market rate, regardless of gender. That review made it clear that there was a lot of disparity in the pay of women and men, myself included - I was not remunerated fairly compared to my male colleagues at the time.”

“Personally, I’m not aware of a huge gender pay gap in Compliance. Our organisation held a financial crime leaders panel in Europe where global heads of Compliance for Tier 1 banks came together, 2 of which were women. Further to this, I know many women who hold senior positions within Compliance.”

“There are none that I am aware of, however, with BACB I’m not sure that a gap exists. All salaries are banded and pay increases are meritocratic. For the first time, and since joining my current firm, I feel fairly remunerated.”


In the past, there has been substantial disparity in pay between men and women in compliance. Whilst some firms may not explicitly be implementing initiatives to reduce the gender pay gap, there has been a recent shift to ensure women are fairly remunerated and are more able to reach senior level positions.

Are firms proactively doing anything to aid women in reaching senior roles within Compliance? 

“It is noticeable not just in Compliance, but our CEO is very keen to make sure women reach the executive committee of the bank. So far the progress has been strong and a 50/50 male/female split has been achieved. This has happened through deliberately interviewing women for the jobs, in some instances only women, and then putting them into training courses for the roles. For example, the current Chief Compliance Officer was supported and funded to reach her SMF certification.”

“I haven’t noticed a whole lot of activity in this respect, and whilst there are a lot of women in Compliance, the gender is not represented at the higher level positions.”

“Our CEO is a woman, which is great. She was also previously our CFO and Company Secretary., Flexible working is taken into consideration and is offered where possible.


There are already women in senior level roles at some firms, and those that are in this category should become the aspiration of firms that are not doing enough to aid female progression. This is not a case of simply hiring women into the top level roles, it is the opportunity to foster their careers which empowers them to progress through the ranks internally.

Is there anything else you think the industry could do?

“It would be great to see more work to promote and develop women at lower levels rather than just focusing on the top level by headhunting and some specific training. Focus on grassroots and continued development of women in the workplace and we will see far more women who work their way through the profession and progress to fill senior positions.”

“Now is the opportunity to leverage the full glamour of diversity and it should be embraced by firms so they can create opportunities where people can apply without discrimination. This provides more opportunity for individuals to invest in themselves. Smaller institutions without huge learning & development support will need to communicate more with their workforce, and ensure that each and every person is taking time to invest in themselves. As a result, the cream will then rise to the top, regardless of gender.”

“I don’t think a firm of our size needs a female steering committee, but I can really see how this would benefit some of the larger banks. I think all institutions should be encouraging women to join relevant compliance work-groups and industry meetups. In the past we have encouraged both current and potential future female leaders to attend Women in Banking events or seminars focused on raising their profile & visibility. This has proved valuable in terms of providing a forum to share experiences and focus their development.


With such current exposure on reducing the gender pay gap, not only within compliance but across all sectors, now really is the time to push forward with any initiatives and start groups to really push the focus on progression from bottom to top. Once this is in place and ingrained in firms’ structures, we will start to see the best female talent more regularly reaching senior level positions. 


On reflection, it looks as though the position of women in compliance is in a much better place than it was, compared to even the recent past. In the last couple of years, more firms have been proactively looking at themselves and assessing whether they could do more to help women grow their careers. On the whole, it appears that they are also, one bank at a time, looking to diminish the gender pay gap in one swift review. It’s important that they continue to run these regularly to ensure that gender pay does not drift apart once again.

Looking forward, banks must put more effort into grassroots development - not just look to hire ‘ready made packages’ from elsewhere. Instead, they need to work with women from the start of their careers, encourage them to go to industry meetups and events in order to expand their horizons, and continue to actively consider female candidates, even if on paper they may not ‘tick every box’ for a role. 

Women in Compliance event - 18th October

On the above subject of Women in Compliance, Morgan McKinley is holding a Women in Compliance event on the 25th October 2018. If you would be interested in attending and registering your details for this event please register here. This is going to become an annual networking event for women in compliance across the city. If you are not in a position to register your interest yet, but would like to know more about this event please contact Caleb Hawkins directly on chawkins@morganmckinley.co.uk

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