Alternative legal jobs with FINRA: An interview with Susan Schroeder, Deputy Chief, Enforcement Dept

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is an independent non-profit organization, independent of the government, working to protect investors through regulation of the securities industry.  FINRA’s independent regulation plays an important role in America’s financial system by enforcing high ethical standards for broker-dealers and their associated persons.  At no cost to the taxpayer, FINRA brings the necessary resources and expertise to regulating and enhancing safeguards for investors and ensuring that broker-dealers are operating with integrity.

FINRA writes and enforce rules governing broker-dealer activities, examine firms to ensure that they are complying with those rules, foster market transparency, as well as educate investors.

While some positions at FINRA do not require a law degree, a law degree could be an advantage.  A J.D. candidate or lawyer could find that their legal training offers easily transferrable skills to help enforce FINRA’s mission.  Specifically, a J.D. could be helpful in the position of an Investigator or Examiner.  The Examiner reviews or investigates risk areas of broker-dealers and allegations of wrong-doing or other non-compliant conduct to protect investors.  The Investigator, on the other hand, plans investigations for fraud or potential violations of FINRA’s rules and federal securities laws.

To learn more about the Examiner and Investigator positions, I interviewed Susan Schroeder, Deputy Chief of the enforcement department.

Why FINRA?  For new graduates or someone looking to make a career switch to a non-traditional legal career, why is FINRA an attractive place to work?

FINRA offers both an intellectually challenging work environment and, importantly, an opportunity to do good.  There is a reward in knowing that you’ve helped an investor recover money that she thought was lost because of a company’s fraudulent activity.  It is a fulfilling experience and a rewarding place to work.

What skills/educational requirements are necessary for the Investigator/Examiner position?

It is helpful if the potential candidate has a background in Accounting, Business Administration or Securities Law.  For JD candidates, hone in on those skills you learned in law school.  Having strong analytical skills and the ability to spot issues are also helpful because in these positions, the candidate will need to spot potential rule violations.

What is the interview process?

A candidate interested in working in either position may apply through FINRA’s website.  FINRA only does on-campus interviews on some undergraduate colleges, so someone interested in applying for either position must do so through FINRA Careers.

What is the typical day at work like for an Investigator/Examiner?

There is a travel component in these positions, but examiners also spend a fair amount of time in their home office preparing before they go offsite to conduct the audits, or analyzing the data they collected while at the firm.

Although some travel is expected, can one enjoy a good work/life balance in these positions?

Yes.  You will not usually find yourself working 20 hour work days.  We work hard but we also respect the value of a well-rounded, happy staff.  There is some travel, but in general, there is a fair work/life balance while working for FINRA.

What aspect of the positions do employees enjoy the most?

Employees enjoy the satisfaction of the intellectual challenge.  When we investigate, we piece together what happened by looking at a firm’s financial audits or trading data or correspondence.  We are trying to determine whether the firm is meeting its obligations, following the rules – or in the worst case, if it is hiding wrongdoing.  When we do find the worst case, the fraud or theft, then we have the satisfaction of knowing that we have helped to protect investors and ensure market integrity.

What aspect of the positions do employees find most difficult?

Employees in these positions must be able to keep up with all the moving parts.  This is a constantly evolving industry and employees must be able to keep up with the challenge of constantly learning new material to regulate the industry.

Do you have any suggestions that could help someone break into this field?

It is helpful to have the education profile and work experience that each position requires.  Interning or work experience at a broker dealer firm is also helpful.

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