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Severe slump in compliance market, but superstars still wanted

Compliance recruitment has come crashing down in Japan. Demand for compliance officers at the major international banks is much lower than even a month ago, says Matt Anderson, a manager at recruiters Legal Futures.

It seems that compliance is not the recession-proof industry that some assumed it to be. “We’re only at about 20% of the hiring levels we saw this time last year. There are far fewer vacancies. The pressure has come from head offices in Europe and the US to reduce costs,” adds Anderson.

Recruiter David Swann from Robert Walters says while the banks aren’t yet cutting compliance staff, some have hiring freezes in place. “Subprime hasn’t impacted in Japan as much as elsewhere but we’ve had to take our fair share of the global cuts.”

While recruitment is in the doldrums, a talent shortage and the small size of the compliance labour force means banks might still consider CVs from senior pros, says Swann. “The real superstars are hard to find,” he adds.

Compliance covers a number of standalone roles – such as trade surveillance and product area specialists – and it’s difficult to move between them, according to Swann. Banks are often limited to poaching from the same job function in a rival firm.

Anderson says the job rotation system at Japanese banks means their compliance officers are often generalists who may find it hard to pick up a specialist position in the bulge bracket.

But it’s not all doom and gloom as far as wages go. They’ve gone up enough that lawyers are no longer averse to considering compliance careers, says Anderson. A head of compliance at a global bank in Tokyo should expect between 65m and 100m in total compensation (with about a 50/50 split between base and bonus).

And some compliance jobs can even be sexy. Anderson explains: “A front-office advisory role, when you’re on the trading floor answering questions on the hop, can be exciting.”

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