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Compliance officer shortage hurts Singapore banks

Along with New York, London, and Hong Kong, Singapore now ranks as one of the world’s most important financial centers. And to protect its new-found status, the tiny Southeast Asia country has cracked down hard on money laundering.

It now takes three months or longer to open a bank account. It used to take a few days. Some foreign businesses give up before completing the process.

The problem — not enough compliance officers to handle the stringent know-your-client checks the Monetary Authority of Singapore now requires.

“Compliance jobs were considered unattractive until a few years ago when the top dollar went to investment bankers and traders,” a Reuters report said.

After the 2008 financial crisis, the global demand for compliance officers exploded. They now expect a 30 percent pay raise for changing jobs, the report said.

The shortage of compliance professionals is hitting Singapore banks hard.

“It’s never easy to find the right people, and it’s tougher than ever before — it’s a war for talent as far as we are concerned,” Conrad Lim of LGT Bank (Singapore) told Reuters.

Bankers in Singapore report that compliance departments have doubled or even trebled in size over the past few years.

The Thomson Reuters 2015 Cost of Compliance Survey found that 69 percent of global respondents expect the cost of senior compliance professionals to increase in 2015. In Asia, 78 percent of the survey’s respondents expect compliance costs to rise.

“The competition for experienced professionals is fierce. The rapid growth of some markets is making it even harder to secure the right talent in this area,” Lito Camacho at Credit Suisse in Singapore told Reuters.

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.

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