Finance sector staff unprepared for new compliance norms: Survey

PHOTO: Finance sector staff unprepared for new compliance norms: Survey

SINGAPORE - Many Singapore staff in the finance sector are unprepared to cope with new financial regulations that have emerged in recent years, a new survey has found.

These new regulations include anti-money laundering requirements, International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and anti-corruption requirements.

And they are all having a significant impact on Singapore's banking and finance sector, recruitment firm Robert Half said.

Only 19 per cent of the finance leaders surveyed by the firm said their teams were very knowledgeable on the new requirements.

Another 51 per cent said their teams were somewhat knowledgeable.

But of most concern is the 30 per cent of finance leaders who believe their employees are not very knowledgeable or have no knowledge, compared with 26 per cent globally, the firm said.

Ms Stella Tang, director of Robert Half Singapore, said the survey confirmed how difficult it is for Singapore's financial services industry to stay on top of rules when changes happen rapidly.

"Banks and financial services companies are faced with a barrage of different financial regulations that are both broad in their scope and rapid in their introduction. So it is no surprise that Singapore finance leaders are struggling to cope," she added.

"The challenge of regulatory change is made more difficult if your team is not up to date. Some companies may need to bring in people with the right skills and knowledge, or invest in training their existing employees."

Anti-money laundering requirements topped the list as the global regulation that had the most significant impact on their businesses, cited by 46 per cent of those surveyed.

Earlier this year, Singapore tightened safeguards against money laundering and terrorist financing, in line with recommendations by the Financial Action Task Force based in Paris.

As a result, complying with these requirements has emerged as a major issue, Robert Half said.

The IFRS was second with 39 per cent while anti-corruption requirements were No. 3 with 35 per cent of respondents here saying they impacted them.

Complying with privacy requirements was the second most common concern globally, but it was nominated as only the fourth most pressing issue in Singapore.

Ms Tang noted that the increase in both national and international regulatory requirements has resulted in a strong demand for people with regulatory, compliance, risk and anti-money laundering backgrounds.

"Many of the functions of compliance officers were previously outsourced to law firms. However, the trend in recent years is for companies to improve their internal capabilities and controls, resulting in increased demand for these specialists," she said.

Ms Penelope Lepeudry, managing director at Kroll Advisory Solutions South-east Asia, said the volume of new regulations in the past two years - some of them cumbersome and difficult to interpret - means that most major financial hubs also find these new changes a challenge.

"Even though compliance team sizes are being increased, it still takes time to train people," she added.

Anti-money laundering requirements could also be a key concern owing to a recent turn of events where large financial institutions have been taken to task.

This might have made it a hot topic, high on the awareness list of many, Ms Lepeudry said.

HSBC and Standard Chartered were fined a total of US$2.6 billion (S$3 billion) recently by US authorities over money laundering and sanctions law breaches.

The survey asked more than 600 financial services leaders, including 150 in Singapore, to nominate the top three global regulations which are impacting the way they do business.