After Years of Hiring Campaigns, Job Recruiters Vary on Whether Compliance Market Has Slowed

Some of the largest financial institutions in the United States are scaling back their efforts to hire anti-money laundering staff, four professional recruiters told ACAMS, though sources differed as to how extensive the slowdown has been.

The apparent decline follows years of high-profile enforcement actions and prosecutions that carried heavy monetary penalties, and required or otherwise compelled banks and other financial institutions to add more compliance personnel in efforts to convince regulators they were implementing robust AML programs.

As a result of their previously vigorous hiring campaigns and greater focus on compliance, some financial institutions now believe they face less risk of incurring large penalties for AML or sanctions-related failures, Grant Beighley, a recruiter with SEBA International said.

That several financial institutions already operate with mature and seemingly effective AML programs also reduces the possibility for ambitious compliance professionals to implement new systems from scratch, further cooling the job market, Beighley said.

Banks have typically hired droves of new compliance officers to implement a range of changes in response to enforcement actions.

In the wake of its 2012 deferred prosecution agreement with the Justice Department, HSBC hired thousands of compliance staff as part of a broader overhaul of its transaction-monitoring systems.

Deutsche Bank’s anti-financial crime unit began increasing its staff numbers by 50 percent this year, adding some 400 employees following multiple investigations by U.S. and U.K. regulators, according to Bloomberg

The apparent downturn in hiring may also be spurred in part by the friendlier tone towards the financial services industry taken by the administration of President Donald Trump, who has advocated repealing many banking regulations, according to Jack Kelly, a New York-based recruiter and cofounder of the Compliance Search Group.

Boards of directors are now more likely to view AML and sanctions-related compliance as an area to cut costs, while compliance officers are less inclined to seek better pay and position by jumping firms, Kelly said.

Other sources countered that compliance-related hiring remains prolific, and characterized any apparent slowdown as a natural ebb and flow of the job market.

“There haven’t been many big hires at the senior level. Recruiting has fallen off at that level, but not at the mid-level of compliance officer,” a senior compliance officer said. “This might be because there haven’t been any really big enforcement actions, but that can change.”

Zachary Plotkin, a compliance recruiter with Infinity Consulting Solutions, estimated that the vast majority of AML candidates would still jump positions for a 20 to 30 percent increase in base pay.

The estimate also accounts for candidates who deliberately seek employment at banks targeted by an enforcement action under the rationale that those institutions will pay above market rate for seasoned compliance staff, Plotkin said.

Regardless of whether overall compliance-related hiring trends have dampened, several New York-based financial institutions are competing for candidates willing to work in satellite offices in cheaper locales such as Delaware, North Florida, Tennessee, Texas and Arizona.

HSBC, for example, has moved “a significant portion” of their AML staff from the New York area to Illinois, according to Grant Hall, a New York-based senior hiring consultant with Michael Page.

Whether in New York or elsewhere, the roles institutions are most keen to fill tend to be increasingly specialized, Hall said, citing a growing demand for professionals well-versed in complying with sanctions administered by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control and other restrictions, Hall said.

An HSBC spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

After a trend that saw prominent compliance roles filled by former law enforcement officials, firms are now seeking to acquire more expertise in analytics and machine learning in efforts to automate compliance functions typically overseen by individuals, sources told ACAMS

August 7, 2017

By Daniel Bethencourt



James Nangle