Want Job Security? Jump the Street to the SEC. It's Hiring

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The merits of stricter regulations on Wall Street can and will be argued over the coming years. What can’t be debated is the number of compliance and regulatory jobs that are being created from laws like Dodd Frank, in both the private and public sector.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has had to be particularly active, growing its workforce alongside the compliance offices of large banks. The SEC doesn’t always target former Wall Streeters, but it hires plenty of them. We talked to Lacey Dingman, the director of the office of human resources at the SEC, to find out what they’re looking for.

What kind of candidates are you typically looking for?

We are looking for talented, experienced and committed individuals principally in five main job classifications: accountants, economists, attorneys, information technology professionals and compliance examiners.  We also offer positions in other niche roles.

What exactly are compliance examiners?

These are people who inspect the firms we regulate, including stock exchange, brokerages and investment advisers.  Our examiners review operations, study financial statements and ensure compliance. No one is based at any firm full-time, although it may seem like that, but examiners can spend months at a particular firm. There is heavy travel involved, obviously.

Do candidates need experience on Wall Street?

Not necessarily, although for some roles you do. Candidates applying to examiner and IT roles, for example, may just need some kind of related financial background, whether it's having worked at a Big Four accounting firm, or having conducted risk reviews.  We're open to a lot of career paths as long as the experience is relevant.

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How easy is the transition from the private to the public sector? Do you see more people moving now after the financial crisis?

We've definitely seen an uptick in the number of applicants, and since Dodd Frank we've been able to hire more people. The one challenge we have on the transition front can be the pay. People who work at large consultancy firms, for example, will work 14-hour days and expect to get paid for it. We don't run 14-hour days, although we are running more often than not.  It's very fast-paced.  People who work at the SEC are more driven by the mission, the job satisfaction and the work experience they receive.  So we feel we can compete for the best talent, but with different motivators.

What is the culture like at the SEC? Any stigma of being a watchdog to Wall Street?

I've been in the industry for 15 years - five in private sector and 10 at the SEC. I honestly haven't seen any difference in terms of how the SEC is perceived.  Wall Street understands that investor confidence is dependent on a strong and vibrant SEC, and that people who are working at the SEC are truly committed to its mission--not to make people's lives miserable but to make sure markets are fair and efficient.

Any job pressures?

In the federal government, there is always more work to be done. You can always be doing more. There is always another call to take. And even though we're funded by fees on Wall Street, and not taxpayers, we have a duty to make sure we spend our resources efficiently and effectively.

Can experience at the SEC help someone find work on Wall Street?

No more than solid experience can help any candidate in any field.  And it's important to remember that many come to work at the SEC and decide they want to stay here.  From my own point of view, I think it would be a mistake for someone to come to the SEC solely with the hopes of using it as a stepping stone.  Because if you don't have a passion for our work, and don't distinguish yourself here, you're not going to stand out to prospective employers.

Any advice you can give to people applying for work at the SEC?

People need to be cognizant of the hiring process. It's not typical of the private sector and frequently there are areas of frustration. Everyone in private sector has one to two page resumes. In the federal government, the resume is used as primary tool for screening candidates.  People often send in a private sector resume and are deemed not to be as qualified. Anyone who wants job with us should read how the process works on our careers website.

For example, if I'm going to apply to an accountant opening, I need to provide a transcript that shows my accounting hours. If you don't include the transcript, you won't be considered. Lawyers need to show they have passed the bar. Three bullet points on a resume is not enough. If you're applying for a federal job, expound as much as possible on your resume. If the resume doesn't say it, we can't assume it.

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