Banking, insurance and financial services

Kevin Hughes

Degree subject LLB Law, Queen’s University Belfast; MSc Management & Corporate Governance, University of Ulster; passed the New York State Bar Exam
Job title Assistant Compliance Officer
Employer Brandeaux Administrators Limited

After completing my undergraduate law degree, I then did a business-related MSc, which proved particularly helpful in giving me a good insight into how companies operate before I started working full time. My first job was for Walbrook Trustees in Guernsey, and I applied to them because it offered me a unique opportunity to work offshore in an area that was quite niche: corporate and trust administration. After that, I travelled a fair amount, working first in London, then the British Virgin Islands, and finally in Dublin to see if I would like to settle here and be nearer family.

My company specialises in fund administration and we look after all related areas such as compliance, due diligence and anti-money-laundering (AML) on behalf of our partner company, whose main clients include high net-worth individuals. They bring the work to us and we deal with the legal side of their investments. The team in which I am based is quite small and I am the only person looking after compliance. It’s been a steep learning curve but I have the full support of the CEO, which helps a lot.

My key skill would have to be attention to detail, and it’s one that I use every day to review all manner of documentation: contracts, deeds, minutes and resolutions. If I get something wrong, it can affect the implementation or terms and conditions of an agreement, which obviously could have serious repercussions. Developing this skill requires lots of practice, patience and continuous oversight from managers. Their feedback is very important as they can quickly survey a document and know where to look for mistakes.

My major career highlight was passing the New York State Bar in May 2009. Rather than attend lectures, I book a book and taught myself while I was working full time, hitting the books every evening and during the weekends for six months, before taking the final exams in Manhattan over two days. But the advantages were great: I completed a well established and respected qualification for less money than it would have cost in the UK.

My biggest challenge to date has been settling into new countries and new working environments. I have become accustomed to this as I’ve done it so much but still every move involves learning new legislation, dealing with different work practices and coming across new personalities. I discovered that my usual work habits often were at odds with the cultural norms of foreign work places and had to quickly adapt to fit in.

Whilst everyone always has something that they don’t particularly like doing in a job, it’s important to try to look for new areas and openings so you can learn new skills, gain knowledge, and make contacts. Hopefully you might also find something you will really enjoy too!

Advice for graduates

My biggest piece of advice is: don’t be afraid to ask questions. People often assume that lawyers know everything so it can be difficult to admit when you just don’t know the answer. But it’s vital to swallow your pride and ask someone who does know, sooner rather than later. Don’t waste time hoping that you will find out – ask a colleague for help. Everyone I have met has been great and supported me through all my learning… and still do.

Kevin was interviewed for Ireland's 100 leading graduate employers 2012/13