Compliance staff in demand as banks step up crime detection

A view of highrise office buildings at the Raffles Place financial business district in Singapore.
A view of highrise office buildings at the Raffles Place financial business district in Singapore. PHOTO: AFP

The search for compliance staff in Singapore continues to intensify as banks and financial institutions remain under pressure to improve crime detection, said a leading recruitment firm.

Astbury Marsden told The Straits Times that the growing demand has led to salaries for financial crime compliance roles rising an average 6 per cent to 10 per cent in the past 12 months.

Its research showed that the average annual basic salary for an assistant vice-president in financial crime compliance is $95,000.

That doubles to $190,000 for a vice-president role in the same area, and $300,000 for a director.

The firm noted that, in some cases, salaries for niche roles such as anti-money laundering transaction monitoring, sanctions and screening for "politically exposed persons" have risen by an average 15 per cent over the same period.

Ms Kate Silaeva, risk and compliance manager at Astbury Marsden, said: "Financial crime is now firmly at the top of the agenda for financial institutions across the world - and Singapore is no exception.

"The introduction of new regulations has caused a steady increase of compliance staff in Singapore's banks and financial institutions as they look to grow their compliance functions; and with demand increasing, so too are the salaries for these roles."

The firm highlighted a recent report about Singapore by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a Paris-based inter-governmental body tackling money-laundering threats to the global financial system.

While government bodies here are working well together to fight money laundering and terrorism financing, they can still improve, said the FATF report.

Recent actions and investigations by Singapore into complex transnational cases, such as the 1Malaysia Development Berhad case, show that there is "the need for financial institutions in Singapore to increase their protection against financial crime", said Astbury Marsden.

The recruitment firm added that the Monetary Authority of Singapore has already taken steps to tighten regulations to reduce the risk of financial crime.

It also said the Government has introduced professional conversion programmes, allowing professionals to move into areas of demand, such as compliance.

Ms Silaeva said that such programmes mean that "financial service professionals can benefit from salary increases by reskilling for more in-demand areas".

She added: "Not only is financial crime increasing but it is also getting more complex and, therefore, firms are looking to recruit compliance, risk and technology professionals with a range of expertise and backgrounds."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 28, 2016, with the headline 'Compliance staff in demand as banks step up crime detection'. Print Edition | Subscribe