How do you go from a specialist AML or Conflicts role into a broader AML & Conflicts role or more generalist compliance role?

The desire to move from a specialist AML or conflicts role into a broader AML & conflicts role or more generalist compliance role is a very common situation indeed! For people interested in a career in law firm risk and compliance, the hardest thing in the first instance is just getting your foot in the door. Not everyone can land in a perfectly balanced compliance role covering all of business acceptance, general compliance and more, and neither do you need to, however as you progress if you start out in a niche role there are a few important things to consider. 

You don’t know it all

If you only work in one area, it doesn’t matter how much you have discussed other parts of compliance with colleagues and friends, it can vary enormously from firm to firm. What’s more, even if you decide that something, for example conflicts, is not for you, that doesn't mean that the experience might not be crucial for your long term plans.

If you are an AML analyst and you want to continue to specialise in AML and financial crime then that is great, but make sure you have thought about your long term aspirations and whether they marry up with specialising early.

You are becoming more expensive

Hopefully as you progress your career you are getting paid more, which is great! But do remember who is paying and what that means as you decide how to plan your career path. If you have decided that you want to build a wider skill set or at least get exposure across the whole of BAU, then you have to appreciate that there is going to be a steep learning curve when you are given that opportunity. Whether you are a conflicts professional looking for AML exposure or vice versa, any firm that gives you the opportunity to learn is going to be investing time, energy and money in training you. This is fine of course, but what it means is that if you have been making progress with your salary then you will quickly start to look like an expensive hire for firms who are going to have to consider training you from scratch in either AML or conflicts.

Typically at £40k + most firms who are running dual function business acceptance teams will be ideally looking for candidates with experience across AML & conflicts. This means we will often come across candidates who have happily been promoted closer to 45/50k on AML or conflicts focused roles who are now looking for a broader opportunity, but are seriously struggling to find anything, being outcompeted by generalist candidates.

What steps can you take to deal with this issue?

Plan your career

The first thing to do is to make sure you understand all the various career paths available to you in this space and the skill sets required. This is no mean feat as firms vary so much in the way they grow their functions and things are changing all the time. Even if you have a good grasp from friends as to how things are set up at 4-5 firms you are unlikely to have a proper view of the whole space.

If you are money driven, think about the long term

A pay rise now might feel fantastic, and at the early stages of your career they can be the most meaningful in terms of impacting your lifestyle, but be aware of becoming an expensive specialist if you are looking to move into a generalist role at some point in your career. 


If you are an AML analyst interested in conflicts, don’t keep this to yourself. Some firms are in a position to help their employees get this broader experience and you are not going to get the chance to get this wider involvement unless you ask for it. 

Don’t get hung up on title

This is a big topic, but the main point here is that if you are going to prioritise moving from analyst to “senior analyst” over gaining the right experience you are likely to short change yourself in your long term career. Your value when you are really working at the senior end is going to be based on the skill sets you have picked up and the exposure you have had, not the titles you have bagged.

Posted by: AJ Fox Compliance