Guest Blog - Women in Risk & Compliance: Deborah Mercieca, Aura

To celebrate International Women's Day on March 8th, this week we will be bringing you a series of guest blogs from leading senior females in Risk and Compliance. They will be discussing their success, career-defining moments and what advice they would give to another female looking to pursue a similar career. This is what Deborah Mercieca, Chief Risk & Compliance Office at Aura had to say.

deborah mercieca

Profile: Deborah has been in the financial services industry for almost 18 years, working in large institutions such as AMP, BT/Westpac and UBS. She has also spent time at ASIC as the Senior Executive Leader Financial Advisers, where she was involved in the origination of the FOFA legislation, designing monitoring and supervision models of licensees and developing criteria for the assessment of financial advice. Working through the GFC at ASIC provided Deborah a very broad and challenging remit to deliver commercial solutions in a very fast paced environment.  

Deborah began her career as a lawyer in private practice and has worked in various roles in-house and has also undertaken roles in regulatory affairs, where she was responsible for lobbying government for change and managing the relationship with the regulators.

Prior to joining Aura, Deborah was UBS Wealth Management’s Executive Director – Chief of Staff, implementing major projects across the business including the successful operation of the enforceable undertaking and other major business projects to simplify the business operations.

What are the key habits that you feel make you successful?

The most important habit is to always stay abreast of what is happening around you, whether that is in your office, in your company, with your company’s peers in the industry or in the regulatory space. You need to keep abreast of everything so that you can generate new ideas and pre-empt the risks and issues that will be relevant for your business.

Embrace change, make it your friend and help your business to see change as a good thing. Train yourself to be comfortable with change and not just do things because it is the way everyone else does it.

Be mindful of being good to your staff. Treat them with the utmost respect. I am always looking to give them the most from my knowledge and help them grow so that they can have a successful career. People are prepared to do things for the team if they feel valued and respected. Don’t be afraid of their success.

What's the most valuable piece of advice you have received in your career and how did it help you?

I have been fortunate to have worked for some amazing people and they all shaped me in one way or the other. I am a principled person who is passionate about giving good advice so I think what I have learned over the years from the various different people is that you need to know where your role starts and ends. You are an adviser not the business owner of the decision. You should never allow yourself to become the fall guy. That is too easy. Know when to say yes and when to say no. In the end it all comes good.

 What's the most challenging situation you have faced in your career and how did you overcome it?

One of the entities I worked for had received an enforceable undertaking prior to me joining and I was responsible for overseeing and implementing the project to remediate the issues. There had been no real engagement previously with the advisers as the project team before me was busy preparing project plans and hitting documentation deadlines for the regulator. So I realised when I took over that I needed to engage the people who were the most impacted by the EU and get them to understand what went wrong and how it was going to change. So I organised some sessions with all the advisers at times that worked for them. As I faced each group I could see how angry they were at having received the EU, for not being consulted on the issues, for not being heard when they were telling management that something different needed to be done before they got the EU. Understanding that what they were really saying was that no one listened to them. So I did. I let them all get angry and have their say. I let them trust that I knew what I was doing, that I valued their views and would take all of that on board and deliver them something that was meaningful to them and ultimately their clients. I earned their trust by letting them vent.

How do you approach making a difficult decision?

You need to have people around you who are really good sounding boards that you trust and value their input. Don’t be afraid to ask other people their views and don’t feel it is only you who can solve the problem or make the decision. Gather the different views and then apply that to all of the knowledge you have on the decision to be made. This will help to give you perspective on the problem and draw you out of the minutia of details and enable you to make a better decision.

What do you believe will be the most in demand skills over the next 10 years within Risk and why?

As legislators and regulators keep driving legislation and expecting it will change behaviour, people in the Conduct Risk space will be invaluable. This is very evident in the Financial Services space particularly with Financial Advice. Over the 20 years I have worked in this industry the legislation has continually reacted to the bad behaviours and mishaps by trying to legislate how they should behave. And the response from the industry has been to try to process map compliance and therefore manage the risk resulting in the conduct not changing and a perception that compliance is just an additional administrative task. A new skill set will be needed of people who understand what drives the behaviour and how to manage the risk that people will not behave properly and how to change the outcome.

Join in on the conversation on Twitter for this years' International Women's Day using the hashtag #BalanceforBetter

Maria Konstantinou's picture
Business Manager | Risk Management & Compliance
mkonstantinou@morganmckinley.com.au