Compliance is still among the most sought-after functions at banks across Asia Pacific, even as the same banks invest more in regulatory technology. In our survey last week of vacancies at local Hong Kong banks, 10% of all jobs were in compliance.
But compliance professionals aren’t doing enough to tailor their careers to take full advantage of the demand for their services, say recruiters. If you work in APAC compliance, here’s how to build your career over the long term.
“Develop the right product, regulatory and managerial skills for the role you ultimately want to take on,” says Jacob Smith, director of recruiters JS Careers in Sydney. “If you want to become a country head of compliance, you might limit yourself if you step into specialist jobs too soon. But you could increase your marketability by developing your understanding of as many product lines and regulatory obligations as possible throughout your career – equities, FICC, IBD, control room and AML, for example.”
It’s also becoming more viable in APAC to forge a career within one area of compliance, especially if you don’t have ambitions to become a managerial generalist. “In financial crime compliance, for example, there are increasing opportunities in niche roles – such as sanctions, and anti-bribery and corruption – which can provide fulfilling long-term careers,” says Smith.
Banks in APAC desperately want to retain their compliance talent rather than engage in costly recruitment, so don’t hold back on your requests for more training. “More professionals in compliance are increasing their regulatory and financial knowledge outside their current job description,” says an in-house recruiter at an investment bank in Hong Kong. “Some even take this to an academic level, like undertaking the daunting and expensive CFA.”
Building up your technical knowledge isn’t enough, however. “Compliance isn’t just about regulations anymore; it’s about your ability to influence stakeholders in the business. Banks are looking for the ability to forge deepened relationships. The greater your relationships, the more valuable you’ll be, even when markets are less buoyant,” says the recruiter. “Use professional networks and mentoring programmes within your bank to create relationships and negotiate with your manager to gain exposure to bank-wide projects outside your day-to-day-responsibilities.”
Keeping abreast of regulatory change – even if it doesn’t directly affect your current work and even if it is yet to be implemented – will help you when you next look for a job. “In most compliance vacancies I’ve handled this year, questions about current regulatory change have been raised during the interview process,” says Smith. “Just this week a candidate interviewed with a major global bank and was asked about a new ASIC consultation paper. Thankfully he’d researched the topic and provided an impressive response, but it’s surprising how often regulatory change is overlooked by candidates.”
The compliance function is also becoming more specialised on a business-level, says Orelia Chan, an associate director at Pure Search in Singapore. While corporate banking and investment banking compliance specialists remain in demand, the largest percentage increase in new staff is within the burgeoning private banking sector. “US and European private banks are shifting their focus to Asian markets at the same time as regulators here are beefing up controls to comply with international standards.”
Regulators are adapting their regimes as more fintech start-ups are launched in Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia. “Any compliance professional, particularly those working in consumer banking, should ensure they remain abreast of both the changing product suite being offered by start-ups and how the regulator is engaging with this part of the finance sector,” says Smith from JS. “ASIC, for example, is working with with companies developing products in marketplace lending, crowd-funding, robo-advice, payments and blockchain technology.”
Image credit: fotogal, Getty