How much am I worth? Compliance Surveillance Officer, leading international bank

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A panel of headhunters gives its assessment of typical London pay packages: Basic salary: about 30,000 (€44,000); bonus of between 20%-25%.

Since bankrupting Barings and serving time in a number of prisons, Nick Leeson has opted for the quieter life; he is by all accounts a different person, sorry for the devastation caused by his recklessness.

The old Nick Leeson still haunts large investment banks however, with regulators and investment managers unable to forget how he was able to build up and conceal vast trading debts, unchecked until it was too late.

All large financial institutions have since beefed up internal regulatory systems; close monitoring of those in investment or asset management is standard, while the Financial Services Authority (FSA) has also done its best to ensure there is never another scandal of this magnitude.

For compliance surveillance officers, however, this newfound caution has only been good news: although they will never earn anything close to what those they monitor earn, they know that however bad business gets they will always have a job. Though middle office, they are an invaluable part of the business.

Mark Holmes, a compliance recruiter at Finance Partners, part of the Partners Group, says, 'The market for surveillance officers is increasing and evolving at the same time: with banks now using sophisticated software packages, the need for staff with a broad skill set to monitor breaches of regulations is high.'

Peter Breeze, a consultant at Morgan McKinley's Legal & Compliance Division, agrees. 'We are seeing a sustained demand for compliance monitoring/surveillance analysts and officers at all levels. Demand is partly due to steady business growth and regulatory changes and we expect hiring volumes to continue at this pace for the rest of 2004,' he says.

So what does the typical compliance officer do? In essence, his role is to observe what asset and investment managers are doing and ensure that nothing untoward is, or appears to be, taking place. He will review any exceptions generated by the organization's monitoring system and determine whether a breach of FSA regulations, internal procedures or a client's investment agreements has occurred.

Typically, a compliance officer will have a keen eye for detail, have excellent communication skills - vital for liaising between staff and senior managers - and be punctilious, willing to learn both the business of the company along with all the relevant rules and regulations.

Rachel Young, also a consultant at Morgan McKinley's legal & compliance division, says, 'A typical role can involve any number of the following: identification, assessment and development of a risk-based review programme, issuance of compliance audit reports; conducting theme-based and ad-hoc reviews, and overall, ensuring regulatory changes are fully integrated into the business."

Given the importance of the role - and perhaps the difficulty of getting one's head around what are usually rather dry and unforgiving technical reports, seemingly drafted to cure the worst insomnia - the typical surveillance officer is degree educated, ideally in a legal or finance discipline. Securities Institute diplomas are seen as useful but not essential by employers.

And salaries? Holmes of the Partners Group reckons the typical individual will get a starting base salary of between 25-30,000, reaching 40,000 with bonus, with more experienced individuals earning at least 45,000 in basic. Morgan McKinley broadly concur.

'Salaries for compliance surveillance officers can range from 30,000 at the more junior end, up to about 55,000 at the more senior level. Bonuses will be dependant on experience as well as individual and company performance,' says Breeze.

There is good news, too, on the pay horizon. As investment management business picks up, and banks start making more money, Holmes says bonuses are expected to increase. Eager to keep Nick Leeson's ghost at bay, most institutions will consider it money well spent.

Figures and commentary by The Partners Group and Morgan McKinley

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