Given Neal Weston’s career as a compliance professional, his work usually stays behind the scenes. Now, however, Weston is taking the spotlight as the winner of the Investment Industry Association of Canada‘s (IIAC) Top Under 40 Award for 2014.

Weston, 35, is the new vice president, chief anti-money laundering officer and privacy officer with the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ (Canada) Ltd., a Schedule II foreign bank that deals strictly in banking and has offices in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. (The firm is not licensed by the Toronto-based Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada [IIROC].)

The award, sponsored by the Smarten Up Institute (SUI) and presented by the IIAC, both of which are based in Toronto, honours an individual in the financial services sector who is under the age of 40 and has had a positive influence on his or her firm and the sector as a whole. As the award winner, Weston will work with an industry leader for one week as part of the SUI’s Mentor Program and can enrol in an SUI course or a class at a SUI-partner university or college.

At the time of the award’s nomination process, Weston was vice president of financial markets compliance in Toronto with Montreal-based National Bank Financial Ltd. (NBF). Weston held that position from 2011 until this past May and worked on the institutional side of the business.

Weston views his award as not just a personal honour but also as recognition for compliance officers at large – especially given the changing regulatory environment. “We’re often the cog in the big giant machine of the firm,” he says. “You often toil away with little to no fanfare.”

The runners-up for the award, which was presented in September, were David Clarke, vice president, sales, in the Calgary office of Toronto-based Bank of Montreal (BMO); and Gary Ng, chairman and CEO of Toronto-based Chippingham Financial Group.

Weston has spent his entire career in the financial services sector, starting as a teller with Toronto-Dominion Bank in 1999 after graduating from high school. In fact, Weston has worked at almost all the Big Six banks in different divisions, from banking to online brokerages. Working at BMO’s discount brokerage, Weston says, gave him broad knowledge of the business and experience in working with clients in stressful situations.

Weston began in compliance in 2008 as a compliance officer with Royal Bank of Canada’s capital markets division, a role he held until 2011, when he joined NBF. But compliance isn’t just a day job for Weston; he has been a volunteer with IIROC’s compliance and legal section education subcommittee and at its annual conference since 2009.

In 2013, Weston became the IIROC subcommittee’s chairman and began focusing on widening its reach. To do so, he spearheaded an initiative to host educational seminars in addition to the annual conference. As well, Weston encourages other professionals, such as those in law enforcement, to attend the annual IIROC event.

“It was really interesting to see that breadth, the wide scope, of attendees,” Weston says. “And I chalk that up to thinking outside the box and really kind of blowing it wide open [regarding] how we could make [the conference] bigger and better.”

Weston’s ability to bring together different professionals and industry members is one of the reasons he was nominated for the IIAC award.

“[Weston is] somebody who has respect and [shown] willingness to unite all relevant parties to try to relieve the regulatory burden,” says Sam Webster, president of Toronto-based Portfolio Aid Inc., who nominated Weston for the award.

Webster got to know Weston through the latter’s work with IIROC’s annual conference. For the two years that Webster has known Weston, the latter’s professionalism, commitment to education and industry involvement made him stand out.

Outside of the financial services sector, Weston volunteers as treasurer of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts (RCA) Foundation. The RCA supports and celebrates Canadian artists and designers through mentoring, scholarships and awards.

“There are great people there fighting,” Weston says, “[to] make sure Canadians have some point of reference for artists who come from this country.”

Weston’s connection to the RCA is personal. He first became involved with the RCA to get his artist mother’s abstract work showcased. Although Weston’s mother was inducted into the RCA, she passed away in 2011 before she could see her art displayed.IE

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