The GRIP Files: Stephanie Paparizos, compliance and risk expert

Stephanie discusses her career to date, offers advice to people starting out, and considers the big risks for financial services firms.

We spoke to Stephanie Paparizos, an independent compliance and risk expert, whose previous experience includes roles as Global Head of Financial Crime Compliance and MLRO roles at banks and trading firms.

Tell us about yourself

I have worked for several firms throughout my career, from accountancy firms to multinational banks to FinTechs. My expertise and passion is financial crime.

Stephanie Paparizos.
Photo: Private

I started working at Grant Thornton and then moved to Arthur Andersen, where I qualified as a certified accountant. From there I moved to Deloitte and Touche as part of their regulatory consulting practice. This was my first job looking into regulations and checking to see whether a firm was complying with them. The bulk of these initial reviews were pensions mis-selling, and that job led to a secondment to the Personal Investment Authority.

My next role was at NatWest stockbrokers, working in compliance and AML. That started my Financial Crime Compliance (FCC) career as after that, I specialized in FCC. I have worked for Aviva, almost 10 years at Barclays, four-annd-a-half years at HSBC, and four years at FXCM.

My last few roles have been challenging! I am currently searching for my next role where I can make a real difference to a regulated firm.

What are your areas of expertise?

I like to say that I am a risk and governance expert, but my passion is financial crime. My main areas of expertise here are:

  • risk assessments;
  • compliant policy and procedures;
  • controls testing – highlighting control failures;
  • managing projects in order to ensure that remediation plans are carried out effectively and compliantly.

What has been the proudest moment of your career?

Leading an FCC team to mitigate risks and controls in a skilled persons report to ensure that there was no regulatory censure or fines at the end of the review.

“Have the power of your own convictions. Learn lots from peers and those above you. Do not be afraid to try new challenges.”

What advice would you give to a person starting out in compliance?

Learn the ropes, ask lots of questions and never feel afraid to say your opinion if you feel something is wrong or not in line with policy. Find out which part of compliance (AML or compliance) takes your interest and aim to pursue that line. You will need to work hard and be able to adapt in order to enhance your career.

As an MLRO you need to know your business well, know the risks, it’s also important to be very approachable so that people are willing to raise issues and concerns to you.

What can compliance do to prepare for regulatory horizon scanning?

Currently the biggest risks are the continually updated sanctions lists and the approach to cryptocurrency,

I always look for new regulations. Having worked in global teams I know keeping your eyes shut is not a defence. You need to keep looking out for new regulations and how they will affect both your risk assessment and your controls to mitigate that risk.

Compliance needs to be prepared by reading regulatory updates daily and searching for any new regulations that are on their way or have been published. Pay particular attention to reports required and reporting deadlines.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Have the power of your own convictions. Learn lots from peers and those above you. Do not be afraid to try new challenges.

What are your hobbies and interests?

In my younger years I was an athlete and then progressed to officiating. Currently my hobbies are walking my Beagle and catching up with friends. I also enjoy travel.

I love reading and I am thankful for Kindle on my iPad. I can have thousands of books which do not take up room in my house.

Can you recommend a  good book?

SAS: Rogue Heroes by Ben Macintyre tells the story of how the SAS was formed. It appealed to me as it showed people thinking outside the box and taking on new risks that they had never undertaken before.