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We speak to Ian Sutherland about his career in regulatory change & transformation.
Ian Sutherland is a senior Regulatory Change manager who has significant experience in managing complex change programmes for banking & financial services firms. He talks to Lawson Chase about his career to date and thoughts on the regulatory change sector.
Entering the world of Regulatory Change was not so much a decision as a natural flow. Not only has the volume of regulatory change grown significantly in recent years and taken a more prominent place on any firm's change agenda, but as a consultant it makes sense for me to ensure that my skills best match market demand.
When I look back through my career in complex and transformational business change I have been involved in regulatory work one way or another for 30 years. I created a spreadsheet to calculate capital adequacy back in the mid-'80s, then I wrote procedures manuals for a Corporate Finance department in response to a regulatory requirement. I designed and implemented KYC and AML processes for a trading operation before leading a programme looking to take advantage of a regulatory changes in the world of financial advice. I then managed a regulatory risk mitigation programme for a private bank and touched on Solvency II before entering the world of EMIR, AIFMD and MiFID II.
After studying Physics I joined the City as an Operations Management Trainee with a large US Bank. The training I received there was both broad and deep and along with a year or so as an internal auditor has proved to be a great foundation for the rest of my career. My initial focus was on managing operational departments, but even then it was all about change; I set one operation up, closed another and "fixed" a third after it had made some serious mistakes. As a matter of interest "Compliance" as a function did not exist back then.
I was introduced to project management in the late '80s and had a spell as a internal change consultant before becoming what would now probably be called COO for a trading business. I looked after all things that were needed to support this major activity for six years. This included a lot of regulation, change and finance.
I then took on the challenge to lead the creation of one of the first global reference data functions in the City. This was part of an ambitious BPR initiative to create a truly single back office for a major investment bank and was ground breaking stuff, from the technology and development techniques to the business processes we designed and implemented. My team achieved a lot in 2 years and I was very proud of their efforts. Unfortunately it was all undone when that bank was bought by another at the turn of the century.
At this point I realised I was no longer an operations manager and could not compete in the market as such, but that I was a business change professional. I styled myself as that for the next 10 years, working mainly for buy-side and wealth firms, managing projects, creating and implementing change methodologies and PMOs. I worked as a project and programme manager, managed the change portfolio of a major investment house and built global capability into a major real estate investment operation.
Up to this point despite the many and varied engagements I have recounted I had been almost entirely a salaried staff member. Now I embarked as a independent consultant because that was where the interesting work was and indeed still is. In the last 5 years I have worked with a leading investment manager running their regulatory change programme and provided real-life regulatory expertise to two major investment banks and another investment manager
I have always liked a challenge and I have had plenty of that. I also like variety - something you can see present in from the previous answer. Above all that I enjoy working with bright, motivated people and that has been present in spades throughout my career. I have learnt a lot from the people I have worked with and I hope that I have managed to leave some learning behind too.
In short I like making a difference to people, to organisations and to the general business ecosystem. The most rewarding times have been when I have achieved all three and fortunately there have been a few.
I said from the start that I studied physics and through that I am comfortable with technology both personally and professionally. Along the way I have created one CRM system from scratch and managed the implementation/upgrade of a couple more systems, but I have never worked for IT. While I never say never I have a half baked ambition to retire (a few years away yet) without working for IT. Instead I have always worked for the business or in a specialist change group. To me that is the only way to really tackle complex business change where moving hearts and minds is essential.
If anyone asks me if I regret not using my degree after university I quickly correct them and tell the that I use it every day. Most of my work has involved solving problems and that was one of the key skills I learnt studying physics.
I have two key pieces of advice, one relevant to compliance and regulatory change and the other to work in general.
The first is to remember that regulation and compliance is not an end in itself no matter what others may say. Always remember that there is and has to be a business behind it. No business - no regulation - no compliance.
Why do I say this? Well because you will always find someone (often a lawyer) who will dissect a regulation semantically. They will find any bad drafting or loopholes and that may be what some sponsors want. Despite that I think a good regulatory or compliance change person can answer the "so what?" questions. So what was intended, So what does it mean for me? So what do we do about it? Etc.
I remember when Compliance Departments were first created and the only staff they could really attract other than a few lawyers, were people from the business. Nowadays Compliance is a career stream in itself, with people joining straight from university. Not only have they never worked in the business, many do not aspire to.
So make yourself stand out and ensure that you understand the business too. As I often say, join the dots.
The second piece of advice is "If you don't enjoy it, don't do it!" Nothing is for everyone and that is as true of regulatory and compliance change as anything else. If you enjoy what you do, you will inevitably perform better and, in the long term at least, attract better reward.
Some change professionals far prefer the world of technology or working within a different industry and there is nothing wrong with that. Personally I am happy to leave them in their domain of expertise and continue doing the work I enjoy. That said I am more than ready to reinvent myself again if I need to.....retirement still seems some way off!