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The revolving door of compliance hiring in China

With international banks expanding their business in China and the local regulators placing more emphasis on compliance issues, demand for compliance professionals is on the rise. However, due to a limited pool of experienced talents, the turnover rate for these position is high and banks are having to lure them with financial incentives.

Since the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) issued the Guidance on Compliance Risk Management in Commercial Banks in 2006, compliance officers have been increasingly in demand.

International banks need qualified compliance professionals who can not only interpret guidelines from the regulators, but can also maintain good relationship with them. Experience at another foreign firm is also a precondition.

These requirements make the candidate pool very small. Compliance professionals often end up moving fairly frequently between the global banks.

“International banks most commonly find candidates from competitors. They usually don’t recruit compliance officers from domestic banks as they are used to a different corporate culture and mindset,” says Rita Dong, general manager of Wang & Li Asia Resources.

Rory Farquhar-Thomson, a senior director at the Shanghai branch of a European bank adds: “If you are setting up a new branch here, you are choosing a compliance officer from the 30 to 40 people working at other international banks.”

As a result, says Farquhar-Thomson, “banks are continually recruiting compliance professionals, and these professionals come and go. It is almost like a revolving door.”

Alistair Ramsbottom, managing director of recruitment firm The Blacklock Group, sees candidates who change job almost every two years. “When I read their resume, I sometimes see a shopping list of banks they have worked for. It is surprising how much movement they have had in their compliance career.”

In order to get a qualified compliance officer, international banks are upping their compensation. “It has not been uncommon for compliance professionals to receive salary increases of between 40 to 50 per cent when changing jobs,” says Ramsbottom.

Farquhar-Thomson adds: “They are very much sought after, and the only incentive you can give is a financial incentive.”

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