Compliance and risk and are both, of course, hot jobs within Asian banking. But career success within these functions no longer just depends on your regulatory knowledge or risk-management expertise.
When banks in Singapore and Hong interview new middle-office candidates or consider existing staff for promotion this year, they are increasingly prioritising people who have “business partnering” skills, say recruiters. This is about the ability to build strong relationships with and influence the decision-making of other (mainly front-office and managerial) departments.
“As the compliance function matures in Asia, banks are now developing a compliance culture that focuses on partnering with the business rather than policing it,” says Kate Reid, an associate director at recruiters Eximius Group in Hong Kong.
She adds: “Compliance professionals have been tasked with driving this cultural change, but frustrations are increasingly arising at banks in Asia as not enough compliance folks here are skilled enough in business partnering, and they haven’t been trained in similar skills like stakeholder management and relationship building.”
[efc_twitter text="The focus on business-partnering skills is apparent within risk management"]. “These days risk candidates need to be engaging and have strong people skills and not just be technical specialists,” says Daniel Warwick, managing director of recruiters Eames Consulting Group in Singapore.
Banks in Hong Kong and Singapore are now reacting to this skill shortage when they recruit. “When interviewing compliance candidates this year, hiring managers will be looking more at their business-partnering skills. And this isn’t just a requirement for business-facing or product-aligned roles – it applies to all compliance jobs across the bank,” says Reid.
She advises compliance and risk candidates in Asia to pay more attention to their “communication style” during job interviews. Your responses mustn’t just be technically correct, they must be delivered with an air of authority, as if you are dealing with the front office. “So I suggest practising answers on a situation-task-result basis. If you merely describe the task you delivered you are reducing the interview’s perception of you having been a business partner because you’re not thinking about the business need or result.”
Junior risk and compliance professionals in Singapore and Hong Kong who show a flair for interacting with other departments can also improve their promotion chances. “You need to demonstrate the confidence to develop strong relationships outside of your immediate team,” says Reid.
The difficulty for juniors is getting that first opportunity to establish a track record of successful business partnering, says Warwick. It pays, therefore, to forge a mentor-type relationship with someone senior in your team who’s already proven themselves. “It will take time, but you should be able to step up by assessing that person’s innate responses to their business partners, learning from them on the job,” he adds.
[efc_twitter text="Working on multi-department projects is another way to stake your case as a business partner"]. Reid also recommends joining employee groups at your bank that have a cross-disciplined membership, for example a women’s network. “By attending their events or getting actively involved you’ll be developing your communication skills and your relationships within the bank.”
Business partnering is also about developing an interest in your bank's wider business objectives, beyond those that immediately affect your day job. "A compliance professional with deep product and system expertise, alongside business-competition and strategy knowledge will likely be perceived as a true partner and high-potential employee. Having a CFA or an MBA may also help," says Reid.