Talent Spotlight Series: Compliance Analyst

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Today we are talking with Manny Batalla about his role as a Compliance Analyst at Zevenbergen Capital Investments.


Manny and I used to work together when we both worked for a local finance firm in Camas, WA. The thing I loved most about working with Manny was the time and attention he gave to everyone he met. He was always willing to help, problem-solve a challenge, and had a knack for getting the job done. It's such a joy to see him flourishing in his career! I hope you love learning about Manny's current career, but also the amazing work he has done in his community that set the stage for all of his success.

Now let's learn more about Manny...


Name: Manny Batalla


Current Position: Compliance Analyst


Time in Current Position: 1 Year


Where Can You Connect with Manny?

Connect on LinkedIn!



What does a day in the life of a Compliance Analyst look like?


I work in a boutique investment advisory business specializing in aggressive growth equity portfolios for individuals and institutions. I help maintain the firm’s day-to-day compliance functions and processes.


The development or maintenance of compliance policies is usually driven by internal events such as the introduction of new technology, an increase in staff, or process improvements. Sometimes it's driven by external events such as new or amended regulations. Collectively, these policies are generally referred to as a firm’s Compliance Program which the Securities and Exchange Commission requires investment advisers to maintain. As you can imagine, the government wouldn't want advisers handling large pension funds or individuals' life savings without thinking through these sorts of details.

  • So what does my day-to-day look like?

As you can imagine, I spend a lot of time reading and trying to stay up to date with developments in the regulatory space and ensuring we’re interpreting and applying the laws and regulations appropriately. The latter of which takes the most brain power. A lot of these regulations contain legal jargon typed up by attorneys working at the SEC. While interpreting the regulations is challenging, this is the part of the role I find the most fulfilling.


I also help monitor client portfolios and ensure their portfolios are following all of the client's desires. For example, some individuals don’t want any stocks in tobacco companies or military weapon companies. Again, this is something that investment advisers must have processes around in order to meet clients’ wishes.


Marketing and advertising for this industry are where the rubber meets the road. The creation of marketing materials is heavily regulated in this industry b/c numbers can be sliced and diced in a variety of ways to make them look better or worse, depending on the context. “Cherry picking” is a big concern where advisers could only present their best-performing accounts to the public and sweep those bad-performing accounts under the rug. I collaborate on the review of marketing materials to ensure they are following all applicable laws/industry best practices, are factually correct, and are transparent enough for the intended audience to understand what message/information is being delivered.


Lastly, I’m someone who thrives on improving existing processes. I stop at least once a day to research at least one task I am completing to see if there are other methods to make the process faster. I am a huge Excel nerd - vba macros, power queries, DAX, etc. - I rely heavily on this interest and skill set to see where I can free up hours of doing manual data entry. In my experience, repetitive data-oriented tasks can be done by a computer. A lot of the Microsoft products “talk to each other” so I have found that whatever I create in Excel, can work alongside other Microsoft products. Most recently, I’ve learned the basic scripting language of the accounting software used at the firm. Combining this language with my knowledge of Excel has dramatically sped up some of the old manual processes.


What roles did you have prior to your current role?


Prior to this role, I was a regulatory consultant focused on marketing material creation, investment operations, and industry best practices. I had a specific focus on the underlying mathematics and accepted methodologies of investment performance returns.


As part of the role, I’d also oversee what I would describe as “audits” of performance returns and inputs. I also maintained the relationship as the primary contact for these advisors. I worked with about 30+ different asset managers from across the industry, some of which were based outside the U.S. or operated like multinational entities with offices located domestically, in Europe, Asia, and Australia.


Fisher Investments


Prior to that role, I worked at Fisher Investments. It was a great role after college. School taught me the theoretical and academic side of finance, but my experience at Fisher taught me how cash and securities actually moved from point “a” to “b” around the global financial ecosystem. It's surprisingly nothing but paper forms and often faxes - yes, people still rely on these to move hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars around. In this role, I learned to articulate thoughts clearly over the phone to high-net-worth clientele and juggle expectations from an enthusiastic sales culture. I believe these experiences helped set me up for success in the industry. The company was also really open to new ideas. I was able to practice an excel macro-based solution for my team while at the company. (If I would have only known the impact my business school prerequisites would have had on my career years later...)


Internships

During school, I had a couple of industry-related roles but a volunteer tax preparation internship I took for a tax season was the most impactful.


While in school, I was still learning about how the finance and accounting subjects intersected and where they differed.


I decided to volunteer to help provide the low-income community with free tax preparation services after learning from a friend who’d found it very rewarding and helpful with her Spanish language goals. I had not done actual tax preparation outside of TurboTax for myself, but this gave me an opportunity to learn on the job the basic concepts surrounding credits, deductions, and benefits the government provides to small business owners through the tax code. Many of the clients that visited the office primarily spoke Spanish, and as a native speaker, I was also able to help translate and help them understand concepts that may have otherwise been hard to fully understand in their non-native language.


Army


I spent four years on active duty with the Army as Intelligence Analyst. Depending on where I was stationed, the role would entail sourcing information from various reporting sources with the goal of providing actionable data to senior leadership. During normal base operations, I’d facilitate requests for access to sensitive government information by helping staff fill out extensive screening questionnaires about their financial, family, and personal information. I’d help prepare and send these sensitive pieces of documentation to the appropriate government agency for processing. In this role, I developed an ability to distinguish requirements needed to avoid delays or denials of security clearances during the approval process. Time was of the essence for many of these forms as they were often required for promotions or an increase in responsibility.


How did your experience in previous roles help you succeed in your current position?


My military experience exposed me to a wide spectrum of personalities and a fast-paced workplace. My internships and first job out of school gave me the real-world experience I needed to succeed in this industry. It also gave me practice in communicating effectively and concisely with the end client.


Is there any specialty training or area of expertise needed to succeed in your current role?


There are many attorneys who focus on federal securities law as part of their academic training but I know that isn't the only type of specialty training one can take to enter this field. Aside from formal legal training, a background/experience in accounting and/or investments definitely helps with understanding the nuances behind the types of securities and strategies in the industry.


For example, I majored in Business Admin with a focus on Finance. I started out in the investment industry communicating directly with the end client but then pivoted towards a compliance role after spending 5 years in a consulting role. This role really increased my understanding of the industry and gave me new perspectives on the challenges within regulatory compliance.


There are also multiple paths to areas of training and specialization. Folks with professional backgrounds as Certified Public Accountants (CPA) or Chartered Financial Analysts® (CFA®) would be able to use their areas of expertise in this field. I completed a Certificate in Investment Performance Measurement® (CIPM®) & the Investment Adviser Certified Compliance Professional (IACCP) Designation which focus on the mechanics behind investment return calculations and holistically on federal securities laws. There are a lot of options to gain expertise for this role!


How do you think your job will change in the next 5 years?


I think my job will become more challenging as the volume of legislation increases. We are seeing more generational interest in socially responsible investments (commonly known as ESG in the industry), diversity initiatives, cyber security, and public interests in digital assets. Compliance professionals will be asked to fit the needs of their firms and public interest without handcuffing future business development.

What parts of your job do you find most challenging?


The level of ambiguity is definitely something that is a challenge on a daily basis. Regulatory agencies and the laws they enforce seldom tend to lay out an “instruction manual” on exactly what you can and cannot do to meet the requirements of the rules they enforce. This can lead to different interpretations and different procedures in the industry. This level of constant mental engagement is something that keeps me on my toes, but it’s also one of the key things I love about my job.


Which seasons of the year are toughest in your job?


I'd say that most advisers are busy every quarter. But year-end can be one of the busiest times as it follows regulatory and other general reporting cadences. Some examples include public companies reporting their earnings each quarter, large institutional investors conducting quarterly or annual due diligence inquiries, tax filings, etc.


What skills make you successful in your career field?

  • Critical Thinking - I have to swim through oceans of gray.

  • Social Intelligence - I have to convey tough messages at times to salespeople, executives, and marketers.

  • Written Communication - I frequently communicate with external auditors, regulators, and c-level executives.

How did you find this career field?


Well, it definitely wasn’t from college. I don’t ever recall hearing the word “compliance” in any of my finance or business admin classes.


I learned about the legal and compliance side of things when I started doing consulting work.


I had an old colleague from a prior job that introduced me to the world of compliance beginning with the Global Investment Performance Standards (“GIPS®”). GIPS® is the industry standard for presenting investment returns. After specializing in consulting for 5 years, I decided to branch out and return to work for an adviser where the focus was not only understanding the requirements of GIPS®, but the rest of the federal securities laws and other regulations a registered investment adviser must abide by.

What’s the most interesting thing about you that we wouldn’t learn from your resume?


Well, I don't know how interesting it is, but it may be hard to guess from looking at my professional background. I’m a pretty hands-on type of person. Growing up my dad would do his own car repairs and would bring me along to show me the ropes. I think this is where my curiosity of understanding how things work together started. Right around the time I started tagging along on these projects with my dad, I remember trying to do my own “repairs” on the family computer. I took it upon myself to take apart the computer to see how it worked and if I could fix whatever was bugging me at the time…I will just say that my mom wasn’t too happy with me when I couldn’t put it back together correctly. You live and you learn, right?

 

Want to learn more about Manny?


Feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn. There is a direct link at the top of the blog!


If you would like to be featured on the Talent Spotlight Series, please contact me here!

I would love to share your career journey!


References:

https://www.cfainstitute.org/en/about/governance/policies/trademark-usage-guide-for-cipm-certificants

https://www.cfainstitute.org/en/about/governance/policies/trademark-usage-guide-for-cfa-charterholders



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