• Top internal concerns include business costs (36%), profitability (34%) and increasing regulatory issues (22%)
  • Top external concerns include the national economy (54%), the global economy (50%) and the competitive environment (22%)
  • Anti-money laundering (33%), disclosure or reporting requirements (31%) and privacy requirements (23%) have had the biggest impact in terms of regulatory change

London, 2 July 2013 – A new global research report1 from leading recruitment specialist Robert Half Financial Services, shows that more than nine in 10 (94%) Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) and Chief Operating Officers (COOs) within UK financial services businesses find the regulatory regime either 'somewhat' or 'very' challenging to manage. Compared to 88% of firms globally, only Hong Kong executives (96%) find regulatory change more taxing than the UK financial services sector.

The report is based on a survey developed by Robert Half Financial Services, the world’s first and largest specialised recruitment consultancy and includes videos and an infographic. It is based on responses from 1,100 CFOs and COOs from the major global financial centres including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Singapore and Hong Kong.

More than half of UK respondents (54%) report that their budget for managing regulatory change will remain the same in the next 12 months, underlining the challenge that firms face in balancing expenditure and profitability. Only 26% of companies predict that their budget will rise, compared to 49% of industry leaders in Singapore and 46% in Hong Kong – and suggesting that investment over the past two years has already addressed many of the structural changes that needed to be made in the UK.

Despite that, regulation has increased the day-to-day financial workload for UK financial services companies. More than six in 10 (61%) report that financial workload has 'somewhat' or 'significantly' increased. To manage, one in three (33%) global firms will hire contract or interim staff and one in four (23%) will increase their permanent headcount to accommodate the additional regulatory workload.

When asked which department is leading their response to regulatory change, a quarter of UK firms (24%) said finance, 19% said risk and 17% said compliance. A further 11% respectively said their in-house legal team or technology department was leading the charge while audit was named by 10% of organisations. The majority (91%) of UK financial services organisations say they have now adopted an Integrated Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) Programme with the primary benefits including reduced compliance costs (46%), improved business performance (29%), optimised risk-return outcomes (25%) and increased shareholder value (25%).

The extra work created by regulation is having an additional effect on the availability of relevant skills for financial services companies. More than nine in 10 (91%) UK CFOs/COOs report that they find it 'somewhat' or 'very' challenging to find the right skilled professionals. The same percentage of companies (91%) in Germany finds it difficult to source skilled professionals, but the figure rises to 95% in Hong Kong and 93% in Singapore. Companies in the US find it slightly easier to source the right people (84%).

Neil Owen, Global Practice Director, Robert Half Financial Services said: "The global financial crisis of 2007 – 2009 marked the beginning of an era of significant change for the financial services industry. The crisis forced organisations to focus on corporate restructuring, cost-cutting and managing institutional risk, all under the watchful eye of regulatory bodies and general public scrutiny. Our research shows that even though UK financial services have done much of the ‘heavy lifting’ when implementing new processes and cost-cutting, the regulatory environment continues to create day-to-day challenges, including finding and retaining professionals with the right skills to cope with the extra workload."

UK financial services companies are broadly positive about their own outlook for the future with three in four (75%) confident in their firm’s business outlook compared to 80% globally. Top internal concerns include business costs (36%), profitability (34%) and increasing regulatory issues (22%). Top external concerns include the national economy (54%), the global economy (50%) and the competitive environment (22%)2.

The areas of regulation that have had the most impact on UK financial services companies include anti-money laundering, identified by a third of companies (33%), disclosure or reporting requirements (31%) and privacy requirements (23%)3.

Owen continues, "Today’s financial services executives are facing unprecedented challenges including emerging regulatory issues, business threats and talent shortages. Firms that proactively address these issues and develop a long-term strategy are best positioned to succeed in the future."

- ENDS -

Notes to editors

1 The Robert Half Financial Services Global Report: Navigating Change in an Evolving Regulatory Landscape includes results from a survey conducted by an independent research firm and includes responses from 1,100 CFOs and COOs from financial services, banking and insurance firms across the major financial markets in the US, Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Singapore and Hong Kong. The report, videos and infographics can be accessed at roberthalf.co.uk/financial-regulations.

2 Top 3 responses permitted

3 Top 3 responses permitted