UK finance firms fear compliance staff shortages-survey

LONDON Sun Jan 20, 2013 7:01pm EST

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LONDON Jan 21 (Reuters) - British financial firms are worried about not having enough staff to deal with compliance and regulatory issues and believe this shortfall could dampen their prospects in coming months, a survey found.

Nearly a third of financial companies said staffing constraints would likely cap business this year, the highest level citing such a concern since March 2006, a survey by lobby group the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and accounting and consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) showed.

Specialists in compliance and financial regulation are in particularly high demand, after the debt crisis exposed huge gaps in regulation and standards and led to a swathe of new controls and stipulations affecting the sector.

"There is rising concern that staff shortages are likely to limit business and investment over the next year, as well as the challenge of raising finance," said Matthew Fell, director for competitive markets at the CBI.

Yet financial companies are still expected to keep shedding jobs in other areas this quarter, the survey published on Monday showed.

Banks, insurers and investment managers in the UK have cut tens of thousands of jobs in the wake of a global financial crisis and the number of people approved to work in the country's finance industry has fallen to an eight-year low.

A balance of a quarter of respondents expect to cut staff in the three months to March. A balance of nearly a third said they had reduced numbers in the three months through December.

Yet profits among financial companies increased in the last quarter of 2012 and optimism improved despite a further fall in business volumes.

A balance of 27 percent of firms were more optimistic, the highest level since March 2012, with a balance of 34 percent expecting business volumes to rise this quarter.

"It's encouraging that firms are more optimistic about their business situation than they were last quarter and expect volumes to rebound strongly in the three months ahead," said Fell.

Some 50 percent of firms expect to invest over the coming year to expand capacity, but some 15 percent cited the cost of finance as an investment constraint, the highest level in two years.

Over a quarter said the ability to raise funds would constrain business levels in 2013, the highest level citing such a problem since December 2008.

A balance of 30 percent of firms said they expected to increase spending on marketing.

However, a balance of nearly a third said they would spend less on land and buildings and a balance of 39 percent said they would spend less on vehicles and machinery in the year ahead.

The survey of 94 companies was conducted between Nov. 19 and Dec 6.

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