The brinksmanship in compliance recruitment

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There’s a game of cat and mouse being played in the compliance recruitment market. On the one side, you have expansionary banks and recruiters offering perks and big pay rises to top compliance staff to move jobs. On the other, banks’ HR teams are busy counteroffering to avoid having to replace top people in a tight job market.

Compliance staff trying to move jobs can, on average, expect their employer to counteroffer up to 20%. Those doing the recruiting are factoring this into their offers, but it doesn’t always work out.

“We had one recent case of a head of compliance in the UK, where the client couldn’t go over £150k,” says one compliance recruiter who declines to be named. “They knew the candidate was going to be counter-offered more than this, so they rushed through an alternative.”

The result was an intensive interview process – eight interviews in five days – followed by an offer of £130k, plus a guaranteed bonus of £30k. The candidate’s previous salary was £103k.

“In the last few months, we have seen a number of examples of in-demand Compliance candidates moving for as much as a 20-30% increase,” says Luke Davis, vice president of Robert Half UK. “There is the shortage of compliance professionals in the market right now, supply can’t keep up with demand.”

Particularly desirable currently are sanctions specialists, anti-money laundering experts and, as banks shell out hundreds of millions in fines related to bad behaviour, conduct risk specialists.

“I know one individual who went from earning £60k, to a new job for £100k and then finally £130k in another position – in less than a year,” says the recruiter.

More often than not counter-offers are coupled with promises of increases in responsibilities and promotions. “Not all of these promises are kept though and this can often lead to someone leaving when they realise the progression is not likely to happen,” says Davis.

Compliance has become increasing pressurised, with senior compliance professionals signing up for counselling or burning out entirely, as both the demands and complexity of the job have increased. But with pressure comes power and prominence within the business. One compliance 'guru' told Bloomberg this week: "You’re usually involved with all the big dogs in the company. Your visibility is huge," he says.

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