The finance professionals in Singapore and Hong Kong who turn down big pay rises

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Candidates for compliance jobs in Singapore and Hong Kong are in high demand and are potentially able to pick up big pay rises when moving to a new bank. But when deciding between competing offers, they are increasingly not opting for the best-paid compliance jobs, say recruiters.

“Compliance professionals in Asia very often get multiple offers, especially those with strong product exposure and experience working with local regulators,” says Winnie Leung, an associate director at Pure Search in Hong Kong.

While their skills may be sought after, compliance professionals tend to resist the obvious temptation to play off employers against each other to force up pay, says Will Russell, director of recruiters Ambition in Singapore. “Of course compensation is important, but as long as they are receiving a competitive salary, which benchmarks well against the market, it’s usually not the deciding factor in the compliance space,” he adds.

“In contrast to many others in the banking sector, compliance officers are actually making strategic career decisions based on developing their market value through developing their coverage and skills,” says Kate Harper, an associate director at recruiters Eximius Group in Hong Kong. “This makes them choose the most interesting job as opposed to the best paid one.”

The complexity of compliance projects on offer is also often a decisive factor when choosing a compliance job, says Harper. In a rules-based function like compliance you should seek out a position which challenges you and develops your technical expertise, rather than one which relies completely on your current skills, adds Russell from Ambition. This will help you career in the long term as employers want to see a track record of continuous regulatory learning.

Compliance jobs in Asia: culture is key

Leung from Pure Search says comparing the “compliance culture” of banks is now the key priority for job seekers. “This means the resources the team is getting and how compliance is seen within the bank – is it viewed as a business partner or just a gatekeeper to stop them from doing business.”

Candidates are therefore increasingly trying to find out whether the compliance team they are thinking of joining has a recent track record of successful policy implementation. “Regulations are changing on a daily basis, so compliance people want to be in a team that can react fast and has senior management’s blessing to implement change,” says Leung.

Some compliance pros prefer to join smaller financial institutions where they may be paid less but don’t need to navigate “thousands of managerial approval layers”, says Leung. “They are also looking more carefully into whether it’s an open and innovative environment that allows them to achieve best practice and be recognised within the bank for it,” explains Harper from Eximius.

So how do you find out if a compliance job in Asia offers all of the above? “Ask questions at job interviews which help you understand the team’s workflow,” advises Leung. “Meeting the business side, the front office, is also important as you will be working closely with them.”

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