* Compliance jobs see biggest salary hikes
* Adverts for Asia risk jobs rise 22 pct this year
* Roles going in-house, talent shortage a concern
By Rachel Armstrong
SINGAPORE, Nov 26 Tough regulations aimed at
banks have jolted demand for compliance, risk and legal
officers, creating one of the few bright spots in an otherwise
dismal job market for the financial industry.
Traditionally one of the least glamorous jobs in the sector,
these staff are in hot demand at a time when nearly all other
parts of the banking industry are getting cut.
"It used to be a really tough job to sell as people saw it
as boring," said Sonia Fuller, director of recruitment firm KS
Consulting in Singapore, who said some risk and compliance
candidates are asking for raises of up to 50 percent when they
With demand outstripping supply, recruiters say compliance
staff can be hard to find, and are asking for the biggest salary
hikes across the financial industry.
Recruitment firm Robert Half says compliance salaries in
Singapore have gone up 10 percent on average in the past year,
one of the biggest year-on-year increases across the finance and
Annual basic pay for an experienced professional in
Singapore is now around S$200,000 ($164,000) although head
hunters say some candidates are managing to get around S$250,000
- not far from the base salary of a top banker.
Risk officers in banks focus on keeping trading and lending
activites within safe limits, while compliance officers ensure
the company is meeting the plethora of industry regulations,
which have mushroomed in the wake of the financial crisis.
"Now that risk is really briefing the board at every
meeting, the risk officer has to be a much more senior level
hire with more gravitas, with more influence and communication
skills," said Lisa Zonino, a principal at recruiter Egon Zehnder
in New York.
Jobs website eFinancialCareers reports that advertisements
for risk management roles have seen the sharpest rise in the
Asia Pacific region across the financial sector, up 22 percent
from last year.
An Ernst & Young survey shows European asset managers
increased their compliance staff by an average of 8 percent this
year. Anthony Kirby, Ernst & Young's director or regulatory and
risk management, said companies are mostly moving existing staff
into the compliance positions.
"We had a team of 70 plus growing by 20 percent," Kirby
said, referring to one of the companies surveyed.
The regulation explosion, along with a string of high
profile scandals, means banks and fund managers are setting
aside more money to improve their compliance and risk functions,
which includes spending on risk technology and financial fraud
Compliance operations are being taken in-house, rather than
being outsouced to law firms and freelancers as they often used
to be prior to the financial crisis.
Craig McNicol, manager of the credit, risk and quantitative
finance team at the London office of recruitment firm Morgan
McKinley, said risk functions had traditionally been filled by
contractors commanding more than 1,000 pounds ($1,600) a day.
"The market is shifting towards demand for permanent hires,"
HSBC, reeling from money laundering problems at its
Mexican subsidiary, for which it has set aside $700 million to
cover fines, has doubled its annual spending on compliance since
2010 to more than $400 million.
"We've heard numbers of anywhere from 10 to 25 percent of
non-discretionary, non-risk-related budgets being reassigned to
the risk function," said Michael Versace, Research Director
at IDC Financial Insights.
In addition to new laws, a driver behind the hiring spree is
a desire to avoid ending up on the front page of the newspapers
for the wrong reasons.
The Libor scandal, along with Standard Chartered's
recent run-in with U.S. regulators over Iran transactions -- not
to mention a rogue trading scandal at UBS -- mean
boards are more willing to sanction increased spending on
compliance, despite it generating no revenue.
A Thomson Reuters survey found 65 percent of compliance
officers expected their budget to be higher this year than in
But finding the right candidates to fill the new job
vaccancies has not been easy.
Some head hunters say professionals who have worked at
regulators are in hot demand, although others say deep
experience as a financial risk and compliance staffer is the
"There are a lot of firms which are having to hire people
that haven't had a dedicated compliance function before," said
Philippa Allen, chief executive of consulting firm
ComplianceAsia. "There is a talent shortage."