Talent crunch? Not in risk and compliance this year.

By Robert Half on 1 January 2024

Talent shortages in risk and compliance departments across Hong Kong has seen banks become more open to hiring those with relevant skill sets.

As a result, risk and compliance departments are being spared the current talent purge taking place in banks across the region.

As executives with backgrounds in risk management, compliance, internal audit and information technology continue to be highly sought after as banks double the size of their teams in these areas to combat increased regulation.

Anti-money laundering (AML) and countering the financing of terrorism (CFT) skills make up over 60% of vacancies in compliance hiring, according to Andrew Glover, the regional director for International Compliance Association (ICA), a professional membership body.

Companies are also seeking to fill the talent shortage with staff training. “The most popular areas we are asked to provide training for include AML and CFT vulnerabilities in trade-based finance and correspondent banking along with sanctions risk, conduct risk and customer due diligence. Fraud and cybercrime are also increasingly making the news,” Glover adds.

Transferable skill sets

The talent crunch has also seen more companies open to hiring those with transferable skill sets that are relevant to risk and compliance.

A strong knowledge on business processes helps with the increasing need to implement new regulations and risk standards across various business in banks.

Ei Lee Giam, Deloitte Southeast-Asia FSI risk and regulatory compliance leader

“Employers are also looking for [candidates] with transferable skill set such as audit and internal control. There is a need to have more review and investigation capability within compliance,” she adds.

Accuracy, attention to detail, and high levels of both ethical and professional behaviour standards are also among the skill sets that candidates should possess.

Glover believes that communication and interpersonal skills are extremely important. Whilst project management skills are increasingly in demand as financial institutions constantly update and manage multiple layers of complex and interactive operations.

Robo-compliance too?

Even with all these efforts, the limited pool of talent means that hiring costs are skyrocketing. With pay hikes of 20% to 25% are fairly common for new talent.

Technology may provide some relief. Giam says that banks have been rethinking their compliance model and adopting technology and analytic systems to manage regulatory risk.

“[In this instance,] information technology (IT) knowledge is a useful transferable skill because there is a need to implement systems and applications to support risk and compliance processes.

“The rise of adoption in digital financial solutions by financial institutions also creates opportunities for IT talents. Financial institutions need candidates with strong understanding of the technology to manage associated risks,” says Giam.

Multi-track career progression for risk and compliance

Being in a high-growth area means that there are good career prospects all the way to the board level. Other potential specialisations for risk and compliance professionals include financial crime, cyber-attacks and Basel-related initiatives.

“Compliance is a discipline that has so many parts. There are multiple roles across all levels of an organisation’s infrastructure and good quality staff is often fast-tracked into more senior roles,” says Glover.

As regulators in the region also start increasing their requirements, risk and compliance professionals may also look further ashore. “There are also good opportunities to expand work scope beyond just Hong Kong with the regional regulators [including Singapore] introducing new and enhanced regulatory requirements,” Giam adds.

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