The urgency to plug the skills gap in governance and regulation in Asia has never been as compelling as it is today. Banks are increasing their “governance” hiring in compliance, internal audit and risk – in that order – and are targeting talent with local work experience. I expect this trend to continue for the rest of this year as firms in Asia grapple with new requirements, restrictions and guidelines surrounding credit, liquidity and other areas.
As uncertainty continues around global financial conditions, banks need specialists who can monitor their operations for safe practice and compliance with regulations such as Dodd-Frank, Basel III and FATCA.
Over the last six months, the compliance space in Asia has benefited the most from banks' continued focus on governance issues. Despite cost cutting and redundancies in many financial services companies, employers are still hiring in compliance. In fund management firms, for example, compliance officers are being recruited to both boost existing compliance teams and establish new ones.
This demand is unlikely to buckle for rest of the year, although I expect a steady recruitment drive across the industry rather than a sudden spurt like the one we experienced in 2009/2010 in the wake of the financial crisis. In general, experience of about three to seven years will be looked upon favourably because new compliance hires are expected to hit the ground running.
The need for regulatory-compliance advisory officers will be high across the banking sector. Anti-money laundering and know-your-customer (KYC) compliance officers will be particularly sort after in private banking, as will product-compliance specialists in wholesale and investment banking.
Internal audit has recently showed the most interesting shift within governance job functions, which is surprising as it is a more mature market in Asia than either compliance or risk. Financial institutions in Asia have begun to move away from general internal auditing and are now trying to hire internal auditors with sector experience. This allows them to receive expert reviews on specific areas of their business and it bridges the gap between the governance and operational functions.
This shift towards specialist skill requirements in internal audit is still in its infancy, but it will no doubt continue in the coming months and years. It will be interesting to see just how quickly this change affects existing structures and frameworks.
While not as active as internal audit or compliance, the demand for risk officers who specialise in a number of areas – in particular market, credit, technology and operations – has been steadily increasing over the last few years. In Asia, the requirement for risk personnel will continue into the second half of the year, especially for those with skills in credit and market risk, given that these two areas typically form about 70% of an organisation’s risk focus.
Technology-risk professionals will also be particularly sought after here in Singapore, following recent changes in regulations by the Singapore Monetary Authority, the country's financial regulator, aimed at improving IT security in the following areas: data-centre protection and controls; mobile and internet banking; and ATM platforms.
For operational risk jobs, employers also consider candidates with have strong governance and controls skills gained from other roles, in particular internal audit, product control and operation control. But most of these people are placed via in-house transfers.
With the second half of the year already upon us, the recruitment outlook in Asia does seem bright for governance recruitment, but employers will still approach hiring with care and deliberation, given the constantly changing regulatory landscape in this sector.
Mark Li is a senior consultant at recruitment firm Michael Page in Singapore.