Your bank is watching you, and hiring more people to do it

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It’s either an unlucky coincidence, or perfect timing, that Goldman Sachs released a role for an ‘ecommunications analyst’ to monitor the emails of its employees on the very day that Fabrice Tourre was found liable for misleading investors over Abacus.

Tourre’s bilingual “love letter” emails to his girlfriend were cited extensively in the case against him, suggesting that he was being consumed by an ethical dilemma over his involvement with the Abacus deal. Goldman is clearly stepping up its efforts to uncover other dodgy communications that could fall foul of regulators or “internal firm policy”.

If only Goldman were alone. Investment banks are stepping up their efforts to bring in specialist compliance staff to keep an eye on employees’ email. UBS wants someone to “assess compliance and adherence to regulations and internal e-communications policies”. This includes instant messenger on Bloomberg. Deutsche Bank was also hiring, while Morgan Stanley and State Street also have monitoring and surveillance roles.

“It’s always been a requirement for banks to monitor and record the electronic communications of their staff, but most firms have tended to favour automated systems,” said Stephen Bonner, partner in the information security team at KPMG and previously a managing director of information risk management at Barclays. “However, with regulations becoming heavier, more manual intervention is required, which is why banks are hiring more compliance staff in this area.”

It’s not just a case of trying to uncover market manipulation or insider trading, most banks will also expect their employees to adhere to high ethical standards, said Bonner. Goldman Sachs already has a three-year-old ban on employees using swearwords in email, text or Twitter.

Not that banks’ employees can use anything other than official channels at work – there’s a blanket ban on Gmail, Facebook, Twitter and music and video streaming sites.

Although more of these monitoring jobs are emerging, recruiters suggest that banks are not exactly escalating pay for the email police – senior roles pay anything from £80-100k, specialist compliance headhunters suggest.

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