Time to step up compliance hiring?

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Could it be banks have failed in their 30-year crusade against insider trading?

Yes, according to one senior banker. Last month, Caliburn chairman Peter Hunt was reported in the Melbourne Age as saying, "Unusual price movements ahead of takeover announcements and capital raisings in this market are frustratingly commonplace."

Hunt's frank comments follow hot on the heels of the SocGen fiasco and trader suspensions at Credit Suisse. Will banks now rush to bolster compliance functions as a result? Local recruiters aren't betting on it.

Recruiter John Coles, CEO of Executive Group International, says compliance departments are pretty much at "full bottle now". Macquarie Bank, for example, recently reported it had increased headcount across the group by a couple of thousand employees in 2007. But in risk management and compliance, the i-bank only hired around 20 additional staff.

"I think you'll find the banks are fully populated with lawyers in every second room," says Coles. "I don't think there's an increase in hiring. We did a ring around and everybody seemed pretty happy with the people they had employed in that area."

However, Bob Olivier, a director at the Olivier Recruitment Group, says banks are re-examining the issue in the wake of the trading scandals. "It's made them look at what happened and whether they're covered properly.

"From a recruitment perspective, it's created more focus for compliance. In the past, compliance professionals have been overlooked as backroom boys. However, they now have more punch at the higher levels and a compliance director can command a salary of AU$200k to AU$300k annually."