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It pays to be in control

Product controllers aren’t exactly the most high-profile people in the banking sector, but they do have something that many front-office hotshots would kill for: comparatively safe jobs.

Low-level outsourcing aside, redundancies remain rare in product control (PC), but the hiring market is slow and banks are demanding senior candidates with near-perfect skill sets.

“It’s a critical function so it’s been resilient. Replacement hiring is still happening, but there is about half the number of vacancies that there were 12 months ago,” says Neil Dyball, director of banking and finance at Robert Walters.

Although PC recruitment is down, volumes in other number-crunching roles – such as financial and management accounting – have declined much more rapidly, says Martina O’Brien, manager of banking and finance at Ambition.

Demand is still comparatively strong in the eight to 15-year experience range. “Senior-level candidates who have experience in a broad range of products, and how they are accounted for,” explains Dyball.

O’Brien agrees that banks have recently raised the bar when recruiting product controllers. “They don’t just want people who do daily P&Ls in a process-driven environment. They want leaders with commercial acumen, who can analyse risk and maximise profit, and who can liaise effectively with the front-office,” she adds.

Banks are now less likely to compromise on a candidate’s product knowledge. “For example, for a specialist PC role in equity derivatives, you must have derivatives experience,” says O’Brien.

And firms aren’t keen on juniors either. Candidates with less than two-years’ post-qualification experience – who come straight from the Big Four accountancy firms, or from non-PC roles at other banks – are currently struggling to find jobs, says Dyball.

Outsourcing of junior-level positions also poses a threat. Deutsche Bank is moving process-related jobs to the Philippines, while retaining its more technical PC professionals in Australia. Credit Suisse has shifted roles to Singapore.

But for experienced Australian product controllers, Asia is an opportunity, rather than a threat. Banks in Singapore, the region’s PC hub, sometimes consider Aussies for top PC jobs. “They are in demand because of their end-to-end skills. Our product controllers are often more experienced as they deal with everything from pricing, risk and commentary, to full financial close,” adds Dyball.

At VP level, domestic banks in Australia pay between $135k and $150k, while the VP pay range for international firms – which have more technical products – is $150k to $185k, says Dyball.

Comments (4)

  1. Product Control = Washed up bankers

  2. I do not think the consultants really get it. The reason why investments banks are not getting job through consultants is because they experienced poor candidates from you. In the last past five years you have supplied IB with product controllers that did not really contributed to the operational risk development of the banks. Mostly because you hired junior candidates for them and the definition of junior candidates is not on the years of experience but more strongly the achievements that these candidates demonstrated in the past. Candidates that came from various fields of relevant experience and skills transferable are more likely the perfect candidate. However you continue to flood them with wrong candidates.

    I will disagree that front office envy the product controller in fact it is the most critical and stressful job in IB right now. No front office staff will trade their role for a product controller role.

  3. On the contrary it is advantageous for the front office to have inexperience controller. It opens them to access in taking risky bets that are not meaningful to the bottom line of the IB. But this will not happen going forward because regulatory bodies will be tougher this time.

    One of the big systematic issues in financial banking resource is recruiter not really understanding the role.

    In fact the role of a product controller need to be broken down and a new role need to be created. Risk management tasks should be separate from general ledger entries. This is to enhance integrity of exposure approval.

  4. I agree to so,me extent with CityBoy that product controller can wash up bankers but this is on of the must be risk control role in the IB. Sustainable growth is a must to inestment banks.

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