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Welcome to the year of the compliance professional

China is continuing to create compliance jobs more quickly than it can find candidates.

Chinese regulators, such as CBRC, PBOC and SAFE, are enhancing their control measures this year in response to banks expanding into new locations and developing more complex financial products. One of the more high profile recent moves was the PBOC imposing further restrictions on bank lending last month.

“Banks have to hire compliance professionals in order to comply with these regulations. Apart from general compliance, they also require candidates for anti-money laundering, product compliance and anti-fraud roles,” says Rio Goh, manager, Michael Page Financial Services.

Both local and foreign banks are searching for compliance people. For example, Citibank is building its team and Agricultural Bank of China has been hiring across its branches since last year, according to a recruiter who asked not to be named.

Where are the workers?

There is a talent shortage in China because compliance is a relatively new function and the candidate pool is small. Although banks prefer candidates who have relationships with regulators and/or experience of working for a regulator, they are becoming more flexible about who they hire.

“Some operations candidates are asked to take on the role as they have a strong understanding of the back office and are able to review regulations from an operational point of view,” adds Goh.

Candidates can build regulatory contacts upon joining. “When a bank has a good relationship with regulators, anyone with a strong legal, operations or compliance background could potentially perform well. Their main challenge is how to build further relationships, and have a pro-active mindset like a business advisor.”

How about pay? Depending on job responsibility and the industry – commercial or investment banking – a professional with at least 10 years’ experience should get a “very competitive package”, says Goh.

But while compliance is becoming more important to banks, “there is a limit to what they can pay, and I feel we will reach this limit soon”.

Compliance candidates who apply to foreign banks in China should bear in mind that their teams are less established than those in local firms. International banks also expect their senior compliance staff to support the business. They should be able to identify potential regulatory breaches and other problems in advance, rather than just resolving them after they have happened.

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