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Volunteer in the Spotlight: Colin Pickard

'Volunteer in the spotlight' is a regular feature which shares the stories of some of our alumni volunteers.

This month is the turn of Colin Pickard (Economics & Politics 1997). Currently working at EY as a Director in the Financial Crime team, he has helped many students find their career paths through the Career Mentor Scheme and coming back to Exeter to give career talks. 

What do you do and where do you work?

I have been working with EY in London as a Director in the Financial Crime team since 2011. The role includes providing advice and guidance to firms, mainly financial institutions (banks, insurers and asset managers), on how to comply with commercial and regulatory matters relating to money laundering, terrorist financing, bribery, corruption, sanctions and in some cases, fraud risk. Client engagements can range from simple conversations to large-scale transformation projects. Working with EY I have been involved with:

  • Developing policy and procedure for a global bank
  • Major remediation of bank client customer files in various parts of the UK and Europe
  • Acting as MLRO for a major asset manager
  • Supporting a major insurer to develop an new approach to IT compliant with UK regulation
  • Supervised internal audit of financial crime control programmes in several banks, asset managers and insurers
  • Interim Head of Financial Crime at a leading UK and international insurer

 In addition to this, I support a number of other people, reviewing reports, developing new thinking – particularly around fraud risk and virtual currencies.

How did you get into working in your field?

I was extremely fortunate both in my education at Exeter University and the luck that I have had with my career since then. My first (pre-University) “career” job was as a police officer. I enjoyed the process of investigation and forensic discovery. Everything else in my career stemmed from that initial choice of a role I thought would be interesting and fulfilling. Moving into the private sector investigation world (post-University) meant that I left behind some undesirable aspects of forensic investigation (shiftwork!) and retained others (IT, interview and case management). I move into the private sector working for a major consultancy (now PwC) initially assessing insurance claims and then international investigations into fraud, grey markets and other disputes (property title). This is when I moved to London although now there is work of this type in most UK cities.

Most of my clients were banks and I joined one, Credit Suisse, as an internal consultant to their investment bank business. This was the start of eight eventful years developing compliant processes to take on and manage client relationships in an era in which regulation was changing and expanding at different rates in different countries. I had several new challenges while I was there including transfer of work off-shore (mainly to India) and specific regulatory challenge that required amendment to process and controls covering client classification, bribery and corruption and operational issues around sanctions compliance. This has been my field of work since in both the corporate and consulting sectors.

Hindsight can make the progression or series of events since look like a plan – it was not. Because I have enjoyed my career to date I have stayed in broadly the same area throughout. Changes in employer have been a mixture of chance and necessity (redundancy).

What is it like working in your role?

What do you enjoy the most? The role is varied. Sometimes I can go over a month without seeing my own desk. Other times the work is balanced between supporting teams at a number of clients and meetings with potential clients considering new work. There is a level of uncertainty which can be uncomfortable for some people – but provide a frisson of excitement for others. I like the relative independence, the confidence clients place in you and your guidance and the sense that I am responsible for my own future and progress.

What are your top tips for getting into working in your field?

The most straight-forward ways are either work in the public sector (e.g. police, HM Customs and Revenue) or direct entry to a major consultancy or, increasingly, a financial institution. There are many graduate entry level roles with financial institutions seeking to develop their capability to fight financial crime including fraud. A law enforcement background is absolutely not required, but for an investigation role, the training is excellent.

 And finally, what inspires you to volunteer your time to help Exeter students?

The competition for jobs is intense and the apparent asymmetry of knowledge and power between an employer and potential employee is certainly daunting. More information about what employers are looking for and how desperately they need the right person for them can only help new entrants to the market see that they are not powerless. Confidence in ones skills and ability and willingness to test an employer to see if they are the right “fit” for you can help. Winning the wrong job doesn’t help either the employer or the employee so being confident that you will like the place you work, your future colleagues, the activities you will undertake and the brand of the company is important. If you have covered this kind of thinking in your interview preparation it will help. I find it very rewarding to use my experiences to help current students with their career planning’. 

Date: 23 March 2015

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