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Risk and compliance offer jobs bonanza

Published on Sunday, 08 Sep 2013
Tony Pownall
Mark Enticott
Mark Andrews

Hong Kong’s risk management and compliance professionals can celebrate – it’s a job candidates’ market. Those who play their cards right can look forward to a substantial rise in pay if they find the right job, headhunters say.

Despite the occasional seasonal blip, demand is high for risk management and compliance professionals in the banking and finance industry, from retail and commercial enterprises to investment and private banks, says Mark Enticott, Hong Kong managing director for recruitment firm Ambition.

“The whole of that area is very hot at the moment,” he says. “I would say banking and financial services have one of the highest demands for candidates. The areas which are hot are AML [anti-money laundering] and KYC [know your clients]. The private banking area has been busy too.

“It’s a great space to be if you are the candidate. If you’ve got the skill set, it’s not going to change in the foreseeable future. You have job stability and there’s going to be high demand for it. Senior management wants to make sure they get risk management and compliance right, because not only will you have to face the regulatory repercussions, but it’s also highly embarrassing for the organisation if they get it wrong.”

Unlike other parts of banking, which have seen substantial focus on cost amid the subdued environment, financial services firms aim to increase headcount to deal with continually evolving regulations. Also, because as risk management and compliance become more high profile, there’s top-down support in organisations. “This is something that’s driven from the top. If senior managers are saying that it requires additional resources, then make it happen and hire people,” Enticott adds. 

Demand is most apparent for managers and senior managers earning HK$45,000 a month or more. Those with the right skill sets and experience can command pay rises of 15 to 30 per cent, if willing to change jobs – a remarkable figure given the current climate in financial services, he says.

Tony Pownall, Hong Kong general manager for recruitment firm Hudson, agrees that demand for risk management and compliance professionals has been across the board. “While hiring in different areas of financial services across the front middle and back offices has been a bit more subdued, what we have seen in compliance and risk is a standout focus on bringing in additional headcount,” he says, adding that demand stretches to include insurance and asset management firms.

Demand has outstripped supply to such an extent that there’s a shortage of talent for anyone with more than three to five years of experience in their respective fields, he adds. He sees candidates from associates and assistant vice-presidents attracting 10 to 15 per cent increases, and possibly even slightly higher for more senior roles. “I don’t see it slowing down anytime soon, to be honest,” he says.

From a competency point of view, firms seek candidates who see risk management and compliance as less of a policing role and more of a business partnership, says Hudson’s director of banking and financial services, Mark Andrews. This includes a focus on not only complying with regulatory change, but also on how to support front-office colleagues in closing deals.

“Candidates are expected to have a slightly broader, more commercial view of the world, rather than looking narrowly at the regulatory issue,” he adds.

And while there are many professional qualification marks available to practitioners in both fields, he adds that employers tend to look at a candidates’ work experience – banks are more likely to hire a candidate who has worked in a similar sector in banking.

Besides financial institutions, Andrews says that there has also been demand for risk management and compliance professionals from consulting – which are typically called upon by financial services firms to advise on how to deal with new regulatory announcements.

“In our experience, we see more demand from financial firms rather than consulting firms, but that may not be true of the greater industry. It’s just where our clients are,” Andrews says.

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