IT Compliance professionals in demand

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Investment banks need IT specialists with an appreciation of the technology needed to meet new regulatory requirements.

Regulations like Sarbanes Oxley, Basel II, and the raft of new money laundering legislation, have been a boon for compliance professionals, many of whom have received pay rises as a result. IT staff with compliance knowledge are quietly benefiting too.

Recruiters working with investment banks report strong and ongoing demand for anyone who can translate new regulations into computer systems. "There are a lot of roles in banks for IT auditors," says Chris Rowbotham, a recruiter at Robert Walters in London. "Banks need people to assess whether existing IT systems are adequate to meet new requirements."

Michele Davies, head of compliance recruitment at McGregor Boyall Associates, says there are plenty of jobs for compliance-focused business analysts: "There is a significant trend amongst our clients to create a variety of hybrid compliance and IT roles. This is all about ensuring IT systems and the risk frameworks are capable of meeting regulatory demands for improved controls and more streamlined processes."

Mark Holmes, a consultant at recruitment firm Finance Partners, is currently advertising for a head of projects and IT for an investment bank in London. He agrees compliance-related technology roles are on the increase. "There's a real need for people to act as the interface between the compliance department and IT. Compliance departments are increasingly using technology and people are needed to manage the introduction of new transaction monitoring systems, for example."

The trend looks set to continue. In a report of banks' IT spending plans by Celent, the finance-focused technology research firm, 39% of respondents said compliance-related IT projects will top their agenda for 2006. This is hardly surprising, said the report's author, Axel Pierron, the deadline for implementation is fast approaching. Foreign firms with US listings must comply with the Sarbanes Oxley rules by July 2006 and Basel II compliance is due by December 2006.

Two hats needed

Unsurprisingly, the ideal candidate needs an appreciation of both compliance and IT disciplines. "We're looking for people from IT who have worked on compliance and risk-related projects before," says Holmes at Finance Partners, "They can be tricky to find."

Pay is generous, but not outstanding. At senior levels, Holmes says it is typically on a par with pay for senior IT project managers at programme managers. Rowbotham says a junior analyst with one or two years' experience working on compliance related projects can expect a salary of around 50,000, plus a nominal bonus.

The downside according to Rowbotham is that junior compliance-related roles can be boring: "It's mostly about checking systems are compliant and is not very exciting" he cautions. By comparison, Holmes says senior roles offer excitement and prestige: "These are high profile roles which bring people close to the business. They are more interesting and offer more responsibility than a straightforward IT role."

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