Banks are struggling to find candidates for a wide range of risk and compliance jobs in Singapore, Hong Kong, China and Australia – their task not made any easier by a recent wave of compliance professionals quitting the banking sector.
Some middle-office roles in Asia Pacific are, however, even more in demand than others.
We spoke to risk and compliance recruiters across Asia Pacific to get an overview of the job market and to find out the most sought after middle-office skills in their countries.
“The job market in middle-office banking in Hong Kong is more active than we expected this month – normally some hiring managers are away in August,” says Carol Cheung, manager of financial services at recruitment firm Robert Walters in Hong Kong. “All types of banks in Hong Kong are expanding, but relatively speaking bulge-bracket ones have fewer openings.”
Another recruiter in the city, who asked to remain anonymous, says that HSBC has been building its middle-office headcount and causing a “flurry of job changes and gaps to be filled at other banks”. HSBC chairman Douglas Flint noted in the bank’s half-year results earlier this week that regulatory change was “hugely consumptive of resources that would otherwise be customer facing”.
Aside from vanilla regulatory roles, there is now strong demand for project managers and business analysts within regulatory-transformation and operational-risk teams, says Kate Harper, an associate director at recruiters Eximius Group in Hong Kong.
“FATCA continues to make an impact on job-market buoyancy – there’s even demand for senior folks to pin together regional Asian programmes of FATCA work,” says Harper. “Continued development of anti-money laundering divisions is also keeping the job market busy – people are moving in this area.”
While corporate banks like Citi, HSBC and Standard Charted are Asia’s largest overall recruiters in the middle-office right now, in Singapore private banks are also bulking up. “Singapore is the world’s fastest-growing wealth management centre, so there is confidence in the job market which is creating middle-office jobs as well as front-office ones,” says Chris Mead, regional director of recruiters Hays in Singapore.
Earlier this year, we reported that banks were resorting to hiring “washed-up traders” for compliance jobs in Singapore. Now there are facing a shortage of client-onboarding/know-your-customer professionals as the battle for corporate and private customers intensifies.
“There is significant demand for client-onboarding functions, but the talent pool in Singapore is limited as the regulations are constantly changing and it's increasingly difficult to find experts,” says Mead.
Take the compliance job market in Hong Kong and Singapore and turn up the skill-shortage dial a few times for mainland China. Demand is highest in China for those with anti-fraud and anti-money laundering skills, Thomas de Mendonca, director of recruiters Michael Page in China, told us earliest this year.
“Regulations change frequently in China, often without warning, so candidates with an ability to react to what regulators want, particularly those who are adept at a communicating directly with regulators, are most required,” he says.
Foreign banks in China are continually poaching from each other’s middle offices. And it’s not just the likes of HSBC and Citi who are hiring: firms including BNP Paribas, ANZ and OCBC are building their client-facing mainland teams and also need more middle-office support as they win new customers. As was the case last year, risk and compliance professionals who move between banks in China can easily clinch pay rises of at least 25%.
Credit risk is another hot middle-office job on the mainland. “This is because banks need to do more risk assessment of their clients in the current economic situation,” says Laura Yu, manager of financial services and banking at Robert Walters in Shanghai.
As in Singapore and Hong Kong, the banking sector in Australia has suffered offshoring of operational jobs into lower-cost locations over the past two years. “The roles that have remained onshore have been middle-office and business-facing and have a compliance, risk or regulatory focus,” says Adrian Oldham, regional director of Michael Page in Sydney.
Middle-office banking jobs in Australia are mainly found at ANZ, CBA, NAB and Westpac – the country’s “Big Four” local banks – as international firms are focusing their Asia-Pacific recruitment on the key regional markets of Hong Kong and Singapore. “The number of internal moves to Australia within global firms has been significantly lower of late,” says Oldham.
It’s not uncommon, however, for top-performing risk and compliance staff at global firms in Australia to find jobs at domestic banks. “Regulatory experts with local markets knowledge remain sought after – especially if they have business-partnering and analytical skills,” adds Oldham.