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Compliance no longer the forgotten area of banking

In the days before regulators grew teeth, being a compliance officer was a thankless task. Now that regulators bite, those days are long gone.

As is the case elsewhere, getting in line with the Basel II Accord is a top goal for local and foreign banks in Singapore. At the same time, regulators have become stricter at enforcing rules that govern the trading of financial products. Little surprise, therefore, that the demand for compliance professionals is increasing.

"Traditionally, compliance was an area of banking considered a bit boring," confesses John Tomnay, managing director of executive search outfit Tomnay Noble in Singapore. "However, with risk management a growing priority, legal and compliance departments are exerting more influence, working with various departments to make sure the business is in line with regulations."

Conventionally, compliance professionals have had a legal background. However, as compliance officers have had to become more business-focused, it's no longer unusual to see bankers move across into such roles from profit-driven divisions. Former regulators also make suitable candidates.

According to Tomnay, there are a sufficient number of qualified locals to fill Singapore's compliance positions, although occasionally bankers are brought in from Hong Kong or Sydney.

A head of compliance at a bank can earn between S$200k (US$131k) to S$250k a year, he adds. The recent salary survey from recruitment firm Robert Walters suggests an analyst or associate working in compliance in Singapore can earn a salary of up to S$60k, while an associate vice president can command a salary of up to S$140k.

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