Wanted: Skilled Financial Services Candidates

The financial services industry continues to go through an extended period of evolution and change. Since the financial crisis of 2008, banks have had to address their business models, risk exposure and levels of capital, all under the watchful eye of regulators. These challenges have resulted in an increased demand for highly skilled candidates, particularly in the areas of compliance and regulatory control.

Changing business models

In the United States and around the world, banks and other financial services companies have recognized that the industry's way of doing business needs to change in order for it to continue functioning.

"The business models that were in place before the financial crisis of 2008 are no longer robust enough for banks to continue trading," said Neil Owen, global practice director for Robert Half Financial Services. "The entire landscape needed to be changed to allow the industry to continue in an ethical, consistent and sustainable manner."

A Robert Half Financial Services Global Report highlighted many of the changes the industry has undergone over the last decade and gathered input from global leaders about where the industry stands.

Regulatory changes cause shift in recruiting focus

Regulations such as the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, which was implemented by the U.S. government to, as stated in the act, "promote the financial stability of the United States by improving accountability and transparency in the financial system," have profoundly affected financial services recruiters and job candidates in the United States. The act has increased the need for regulators and financial services companies to work together to implement a significant amount of change, spurring strong demand for skilled candidates in core areas of financial services, including:

  • Compliance
  • Anti-money laundering
  • Financial crime
  • Compliance advisory services
  • Regulatory control

In addition, changes in technology, operating procedures and reporting requirements have put additional stress on compliance teams to hire individuals with a wide range of skills.

In-demand financial services skills 

"Experience in fund accounting, regulatory reporting, financial control, and, clearly, risk and compliance is very much in demand," says Owen, regarding the top skills financial services recruiters are seeking today. “Candidates who have developed a strong understanding of new regulations and have been able to build relationships with regulators are very much sought after."

According to Owen, candidates entering the field must have a genuine interest in the financial services industry and a background in economics, business or accounting. "Those with legal backgrounds are also in demand because, at many companies, the compliance team is closely aligned with the legal team,” he said. “A legal degree can offer an advantage to job candidates looking to enter the financial services arena."

Although experience is strongly preferred in the compliance and regulations areas of financial services, Owen encourages recent graduates to take comfort in knowing that some larger companies are open to hiring graduates directly out of school and offering the training and senior leadership necessary for them to be successful.

Nontechnical skills important to financial services recruiters include attention to detail, strong organizational skills, and an analytical eye that can help employees improve company processes and find ways to save money.

Compensation trends

Businesses are facing increased competition for candidates who can help them balance compliance demands with profitability goals. As a result, organizations are offering higher salaries in an attempt to woo top talent. According to the 2014 Salary Guide from Robert Half, the following financial services positions are among those seeing the greatest gains in starting pay. Included are average starting salary ranges for each position, as well as the percentage increase over 2013 levels.

  • Anti-money laundering specialist — $68,500 to $92,000 (+4.2%)
  • Financial analyst — $52,500 to $76,750 (+4.2%)
  • Internal auditor (3 to 5 years) — $62,250 to $84,250 (+4.2%)
  • Internal auditor (1 to 3 years) — $51,500 to $69,500 (+4.1%)
  • Chief compliance officer (firms with $25M to $250M in sales) — $126,000 to $176,000 (+4.0%)
  • Compliance officer (firms with $250M+ in sales) — $98,500 to $131,500 (+4.0%)
  • Compliance officer (firms with up to $25M in sales) — $72,000 to $97,000 (+4.0%)

Download the 2014 Salary Guide for additional insight into financial services hiring trends and starting salary ranges for more than 85 positions.

Ready to jumpstart your career in financial services? Take a look at our current job openings.