JustJobs interviews professionals working in a variety of fields. The good folks there have given me permission to post some of their interviews here. So if you’re wondering what it’s like to work in a specific field, you might want to check in here frequently. I’ll be posting interviews as I get them.
With 12 years of experience, this professional shares the satisfactions of his job, as told to DiversityJobs.com – Street Smart, a collection of true stories, told by Hispanic professionals from a licenced counselor to a customer service manager.
I am a Licensing and Compliance Analyst for a mortgage lender. I have previously worked in the same capacity at a major title insurance company and also at one of the largest real estate franchises in North America. I started my career in the compliance field while working as a paralegal for a large international restaurant franchise. I was invited to apply for an internal position in franchising which required me to learn the laws and regulations each franchisee must adhere to while operating in a certain jurisdiction. That was almost 12 years ago.
During a typical day at the office, I am in charge of reporting to our company’s Legal Department the level of compliance we have achieved in a jurisdiction. As a mortgage lender, we have offices in various cities across the United States. Each office and each individual mortgage broker who works for us is subject to the laws and regulations of one or more states, counties, and municipalities. There are also Federal statutes and regulations that must be observed. For example, if the company wishes to open a branch in California, I must first consult the California Finance Lenders Law to see what type of licensing is required. Then the application process would begin with the preparation of documents and fees to be submitted to the Department of Corporations and the Department of Real Estate. I would then check with our Operation Managers to see where exactly they would like to obtain a lease. There will invariably be permits to obtain and taxes to pay to the counties and municipalities. Then each Loan Originator who works for us must be properly licensed and registered with the State Regulators. I may have to arrange for initial education, testing, registration, fingerprinting, background information, etc. If we are to establish telephone contact with borrowers, we may have to look into telemarketing permits. During all this process, I must keep the Legal Department up to date on the progress, the cost, and the feasibility of our efforts. I often have to meet deadlines and bring projects below the allocated budget.
As Latin male, I have never experienced any type of discrimination at work. I am fluent in English and Spanish, and this has helped me in certain instances. With the passing of the different free-trade agreements with Latin American nations, some of the companies I’ve worked for have expressed interest in expanding their operations overseas. I’ve also helped in translating disclosure documents and applications for the Spanish-speaking consumers in the United States. When we recently opened an office in Puerto Rico, my knowledge of Spanish was most helpful.
Job satisfaction for me has varied over the years. On as scale of 1 to 10 I would rate my current satisfaction a 10 because my company is deeply concerned about staying compliant and provides me with every tool necessary to achieve the highest level of compliance possible. In the past I’ve worked at companies that were not too concerned with compliance or that even wished to cut corners. A company’s attitude towards regulatory compliance will ultimately reflect upon how they conduct business and how they treat their customers. The Legal Department I currently report to is highly pragmatic and respectful of the law. They are not fond of micromanagement and allow me a high level of oversight over my own work.
Something that I’ve had to learn the hard way in the compliance field is that no matter how well organized you think you are, there will always be something that you missed. Maybe you forgot to mail out the correct licensing fee, or you sent a loan originator to take an exam he should not have taken, or you forgot to pay the tax assessment fees, or you misreported foreclosure figures. The key to avoid such mishaps is to double and triple check your work and stick to a system that will advise of events, milestones, and deadlines. Systems such as Microsoft Project and Outlook Calendar are very helpful in this respect.
I’ve always thought that the best way to learn about the compliance field is through on-the-job training. My education came from the University of Florida Legal Assistant Certificate Program, which taught me a lot and it helped me land my first job in a corporate legal department. To learn the intricacies of licensing, compliance, and permits in different fields such as finance and insurance I had to become acquainted with the proper statutes and rules. In every corporate legal department I’ve worked I have enjoyed the benefit of a subscription to legal reference systems such as Thomson and LexisNexis. It is very important to recognize that laws and regulations are extremely dynamic and constantly subject to change. To this extent, I’ve learned to track legislative projects and bills in order to take proper action whenever they are signed into law.
My first exposure to licensing and compliance came when I had been working as a paralegal in the corporate legal department of a major fast food retail chain. I started to learn all of the intricacies involved in operating a corporate fast food restaurant. After a few months working in that capacity I was asked to join the franchising team. This move increased my exposure to the world of compliance since owner-operators of the restaurant franchises now looked up to me to ensure that they remained compliant. I was extremely lucky to have had a wonderful mentor in my new department, and although my Legal Assistant educational background came in handy, I truly believe that anyone who is willing to pay attention and learn could walk in my shoes.
Working in a corporate legal department is not as exciting as being a NASCAR driver, although the job does have its occasional moment of oddness. You may one day be talking on the phone with a state regulator who weeks later becomes a gubernatorial candidate. Or you may find that one of your loan originators is wanted for identity theft in several states. The most exciting and satisfying aspect of my job is that it is driven by clear objectives. Whenever a license arrives in the mail, or a regulator calls you to welcome your company into their jurisdiction, it feels pretty good.
There are times when my job can get stressful; especially during those times when I’ve taken too long to accomplish something, when I have too much on my plate and no one is available to help, or when I am pressured by my supervisors to speed up a process which is not under my control. It is essential to maintain proper work-life balance when working in this capacity. While it is ok to go the extra mile and spend extra hours at the office in order to get things done, it isn’t healthy to live half of your life at the office. Corporate legal departments are known to be life-consuming, so it is crucial to let your supervisor know when you have too much on your plate.
As far as pay and vacations go, you’ll find that there is a great disparity between job to job. With more than 10 years of experience in the field, I am comfortably making $38 thousand per year and I currently get 10 days of paid vacation. I have drawn greater salaries in the past, but considering the current landscape of employment and compensation in the United States I consider myself lucky. There are junior attorneys in my legal department who are only making slightly more than I am. We get most national holidays off, but I find myself coming into the office during those days in order to catch up with work.
I have learned to love my job over the years. I enjoy being the person who others in the company come to when they have a question about compliance. “Can we do this?” is a question I hear time and time again. I tell other people, especially those looking at careers in the legal field, to strongly consider compliance. It is simply essential to doing business in today’s economic environment. I have often thought about law school but seeing the challenges that young attorneys are facing with competition and inflated school loans, I think I am ok for now.
I’ve also thought about working as an independent consultant due to the sheer amount of knowledge, experience, and political contacts I’ve amassed through the years; but the type of work I do requires the supervision of an attorney who is in good standing with the local bar association, otherwise it would be considered unauthorized practice of law. Working in corporate America has been a rewarding experience, but anyone who wishes to enter this world should know that layoffs and job insecurity are par for the course.