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.