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How easy is it to get into the FSA?

Way, way back in March, stung by criticism of its handling of Northern Rock, the FSA declared its intention to up its intake of former bankers, including quant types to work on its frontline supervision teams, focusing “on the complex models used by banks to gauge financial risk” (FT).

Its timing was impeccable. With thousands of banking employees subsequently let go and Lehman’s entire risk, compliance and trading teams on the market, the FSA must now be spoilt for choice.

A spokeswoman for the regulator confirmed that it’s still hiring, but declined to comment on whether it’s also being swamped with more applications than it can possibly handle.

One ex-structurer, who interviewed there unsuccessfully, says they’re definitely fussy. “I was quite surprised I didn’t get the job,” he confides. “The feedback I got was that I fell down on evidence of using teamwork or solving technical problems. I guess they want people who tick all their boxes rather than understand the market.”

Richard Aldridge, head of compliance recruitment at Robert Walters, hires into the FSA. He confirms they’re highly selective: “They’ve started doing assessment days and are churning through the people that want to work there.”

The good news is that Aldridge says the FSA is keen to talk to people from the business side, rather than simply compliance types.

The bad news is that it may not go much further than that. “Interviewing with them was more about information gathering than anything else,” says the ex-banker. “They kept asking where I thought the next hole was going to be. They seem to have been given a blank piece of paper when it comes to hiring, but I’m not sure they know how to fill it.”

Comments (8)

  1. The FSA should be hiring whoever it can get its hands on. It won’t have access to this calibre of person again for a long, long time.

  2. FSA needs deep understanding of complex financial instruments and procedures. A bit like expert witnesses in court cases. They also need to educate the public in these things. America’s Henry Paulson, love him or hate him, is from a financial background and can bring that experience to his position. Even the police have IT specialists helping out to catch child-porn downloaders and financial specialists for fraud investigations.

    Simply employing office-types was OK when the market was rising. Maybe they can start to attract some people from recently ‘distressed’ finance houses.

  3. The FSA need experts from all disciplines – Front Office through to change management. A botched change programme can be just as bad financially as a toxic CDO. I agree with J Malone, given the current meltdown and overwhelming pessimism, many talented individuals will be forced to leave the industry and so the talent pool is currently reducing more rapidly than ever before. The Financial Services industry is creating a secondary crisis that will hit in 12 to 18 months – a skills and experience shortage. I’ve mentioned before about the derivatives specialist IT guy working for BAe, take note. It may not seem so at the moment, but hirers, including the FSA need to act quickly and they need to plan more than 3 months in advance for a change.

  4. The FSA? Aha ahaha ahahahahah. No thank you.

  5. they can’t pay => they can’t /won’t get people with proper experience => they will always be crap

    IT support pays better

  6. i think the above comment is misinformed. They pay relatively well based on experience. If you take yourself our of the banking world then their pay is of a reasonable standard. Of course, there is the added influence of risk/reward. The rewards are far higher in banking, but of course the risks are obvious as we know from recent weeks. FSA can argue they offer security and a fertile ground for development. In a bank the expectations are higher, but then so is the pay. Some of the numbers I see on here regarding investment bank salaries are unrealistic. The massive remunerations in IB are the top percentile, but the good majority, which I know from experience and my peers are on a salary which is not a million miles away from the FSA’s pay scale.

  7. I do hope i am not going to come across like Henry here, but RMB – i do not understand your argument as a response to mine…
    How can a regulator regulate if it doesn’t understand fully the things it regulates? How can they improve? Hire people who work on the things the FSA wants to regulate. Simple.
    I am sure FSA pays well versus the nation’s average wage but (and i agree with you that some numbers thrown around on this site are not quite true) this is STILL no where close to a banker’s salary (comps blown to oblivion if you allowed for bonus) A typical VP on trading and sales side where a regulator should really want to hire from, gets greater than 120k on salary alone easily.
    I can only go on eveidence. What has happened over time? Great product people will not leave product for FSA, the same reason why all the great people in credit agencies went to banks. You can talk about non pay related benefits but history has shown that these are simply not valued, in particular, in cases where you the banker is young.
    The FSA can pull people from all industries but not banking and law (who earn just the same), but what would be the point?

  8. a typical vp gets 120 k basic…??? i think that most of us can think of at least 2 well known nvestment banks where the basic salary for a vp is certainly less than 120k yes with bonuses it can go exponentially higher..but basic….No
    actually a colleague has just mentioned a 3rd bank that does not pay vp’s 120k basic

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