Do you work in the middle office in Asia? Would you be keen on a career change into a newly hot job function where banks are now short of talent and are offering candidates 20% pay rises?
Try conduct risk. Hiring in the function – which controls the behaviour of banks and their staff towards clients and market counterparties (mis-selling of products being an obvious example) – is taking off like never before in Hong Kong and Singapore, say recruiters.
“The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority took a lead on conduct risk which is now resonating in Hong Kong via the HKMA,” says Siddharth Suhas, head of Hong Kong and Southern China at recruiters Hudson. “Until recently the focus on conduct risk has been gradual in Asia, but it will be key for the next few years. Several heads of compliance at banks in Asia are planning a headcount expansion this year as regulators increase pressure for strong internal controls.”
Most of the conduct risk jobs in Hong Kong and Singapore are at large Western banks, some of which have been hit by big regulatory fines since the financial crisis. Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, J.P. Morgan, Standard Chartered and UBS have all been hiring over the past few months, says a recruiter in Hong Kong who asked not to be named. “And BNP Paribas is among those actively recruiting right now in conduct risk,” he adds.
Because the demand for conduct risk candidates in Asia has only increased recently, there is a shortage of people with experience in the function, says Rouella Landicho, manager of risk, legal and compliance at recruiters Morgan McKinley in Hong Kong. “In Asia this is a new role in most banks.”
Given the dearth of talent, Landicho says base salary rises of between 15% and 20% are common for conduct risk candidates who move firms.
But banks are also casting a wider net for talent. “We see people coming from other areas of risk and risk policy, compliance, audit and from regulatory backgrounds,” says Nick Lambe, group managing director at recruitment agency Links International in Hong Kong.
“Banks have also created conduct-risk teams internally by combining front-office people with compliance managers who have experience in regulatory, control-room, personal-account dealing, or product compliance,” says Landicho.
She adds: “More and more candidates in Asia are open to making the switch into conduct risk jobs, especially if they have transferable skills. You need a strong understanding of the business and products to pinpoint where the risks are, and you need to understand regulation.”
Specialising in conduct risk may make you a sought after candidate, but the job is often stressful as it essentially involves policing the conduct of your colleagues. “It’s highly investigatory – you’ll be identifying potential conduct that might result in poor outcomes for the bank and its clients,” says Lambe.
Most conduct risk job descriptions call for people who are able to deal with and sometimes challenge senior management. “You advise, educate and instruct in order to get the senior front-office guys to take ownership of their staff conduct,” says Landicho.
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