A Day in the Life of an APAC Head of Compliance
For this week's 'A Day in the Life', we're heading over to our APAC region to look at Hannah Puganenthran's role as the 'Head of Compliance APAC'. Find out more below:
How long have you been with Wirex?
Since September 2021.
Why did you join Wirex?
After working in payments for a few years, I wanted to move into the crypto space as I was really interested and wanted first-hand experience of working in the industry. I saw that Wirex was hiring and I liked the idea of working with a small team in APAC, with support from a wider global team. I also really enjoyed the interview process and it gave me a sense of the people I would be working with. Needless, to say, I made the right choice!
What is your background?
I started out as in-house counsel in a shipping/oil and gas company, and then ended up at an e-commerce business that was building its payments arm. That was really where I fell into the fintech/payments space and I have loved it ever since.
What is your job now and how long have you been doing this job?
I am Head of Compliance for the APAC region, and I have been doing this job for as long as I have been with Wirex. I’ve been working in compliance since 2017, but my role at Wirex is definitely larger and definitely my most exciting one yet.
When you left School or University what did you want to be when you grew up?
Having gone to law school, I guess I should say I wanted to be a lawyer but that’s not entirely true. I have always leaned towards the creative space and I really thought I was going to end up building/designing websites or editing magazines for a career (something I actually did in my first job in Singapore as a Production Assistant!). Looking back, I have no regrets in my career and I’m really grateful for all the opportunities that I’ve been given.
What industry's industries does your job apply to?
I’d like to think every industry needs compliance in some way or another! Compliance is a very versatile job because almost all industries have some form of regulation or another, and the job of compliance is to make sure that the business has the infrastructure and tools it needs to comply with those regulations and manage any risks that come with it. My current role may be more relevant to the financial services space, but from my previous experience in working in oil and gas and e-commerce, businesses always need a function that will help them navigate the applicable laws, hold them accountable internally, and keep tabs on their processes and policies.
What kind of education and/or training did your career require?
I honestly don’t think there is any specific area of education or training that you NEED because there are so many different areas of compliance that nothing can really prepare you for what the job is actually like. I think having some legal background does help with regulatory compliance, but I do believe its something anyone can pick up regardless of your education or experience. I think skills like analytical thinking, problem solving, managing people and having a practical approach are more important than just theoretical learning. And of course, experience.
How do you become a Head of Compliance?
Honestly, I would say, start small. I think all of the compliance experience that I got in the past 5 years really helped in preparing me for this role. When you get really hands on and do the nitty gritty work yourself, it helps you understand the job, the risks, and the issues your team on the ground will face. The problems and the challenges you will actually have to deal with will also help you see things from a different perspective than someone who has always had a high-level view of things. This helps you manage your team and come up with solutions as a manager.
Also, work well with people, respect the people you work with, and learn how to relate across functions and roles. It will help you understand where you fit in in the bigger picture.
Lastly, apply for the job!
What skills are required in your daily work?
People skills are pretty important, as you deal with a lot of different stakeholders with different interests. I think also being adaptable, and practical as you constantly have to move with a changing regulatory and business landscape and need to find a balance between the two. Knowing how to work efficiently and effectively is also important when coming up with processes and managing operations.
Please describe a typical day of work:
There really is no such thing! Because the work I do covers areas of regulatory compliance, financial crime, AMLCFT, and risk management, different days require me to focus on different topics depending on the issues which have surfaced, the projects my team is working on or regulatory developments. I am most productive when I do deep work in blocks so I may focus all of my attention to one or two major topics that I have prioritized for that week, while addressing some of the more business-as-usual items in between.
Do you mostly work alone or with others?
It is sometimes a mix of both, but mostly with others.
How has Wirex helped you get to develop your skills and career?
I think one of the most significant ways has been the access to my very capable and talented peers and managers. For most of my career in payments I have been the first of my team and have had to figure things out on my own, so I can’t say I have received the level of support, mentorship and guidance anywhere else, the way I have at Wirex. Being able to learn from other people, bounce ideas and discuss issues has really been one of the most rewarding things about working here. I think the opportunity to get involved in different projects and workstreams have also helped me learn hands-on in a lot of areas that were new to me when I first started.
What do you wish you would have known about your job before starting?
How different leading a team is from simply being part of a team. It has definitely been a change from being very hands on in my previous compliance roles, to now being responsible for the management of an entire team. There has been so much to learn in terms of strategic planning, horizon scanning, and management reporting, as well as supporting my team in their career goals and creating opportunities for them to shine within the organization.
What would you like to tell someone who’s interested in applying for a Compliance position to know?
Keep an open mind, be willing to learn, and stick to your principles.
What Career progression is there in your role and/or Wirex?
The next step from this would probably be Chief Compliance Officer, or a compliance role with global oversight. But who knows what other opportunities may come up.
What do you love the most about your job at Wirex?
My team. I truly could not ask for a better, more capable group of people to work with. The other thing I do love is that I have a voice here. I feel like I am empowered to give ideas and work with the business to solve problems. I really enjoy bouncing ideas off other people, and unpacking a problem that the business may be facing to see how we can address it from a compliance perspective.
If you could give one piece of career advice, what would it be?
If you have a dream job, apply for it. Even if you think you’re not qualified or don’t fit the description. And if you get called for an interview, just take it. There have been times where I have done interviews for roles far beyond my qualifications or experience, but I always feel like I come out a winner even though I don’t get the job because I learn so much about the job, the skills I need, and the thought process of being in the role, just from the questions that I am asked from interviews. I find that it helps me identify the stuff I don’t know from the difficult questions – fun fact: I learned about the travel rule and its application from an interview! I also sometimes learn a lot more about the industry and what it takes to fill the role I want from speaking to interviewers. So yes, if you see a role you want, apply for it. Even if you don’t get the job, it will at least give you an idea of what you need to work on to get there!