New Singapore crack-down on money laundering a boost to AML roles

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News that Singapore’s government wants to bolster its anti-money laundering (AML) efforts is like to step up demand for professionals in this area.

The authorities conducted a risk assessment at the behest of banks and the police after an increase in 2013 in the number of cases of fraudsters using residents’ account to funnel illegal funds.

The results of the assessment, published last week, revealed that the Monetary Authority of Singapore may enhance existing regulations to reduce any risks posed by remittance agents, money changers and some Internet-based payment systems.


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A number of financial institutions in Singapore are currently hiring for a range of AML roles, driven in part, says Audrey Neo, senior manager of Michael Page Banking & Financial Services in Singapore, by the banks not being able to offshore or outsource this function as a result of requirements set by local regulators to have someone 'on site'.

Neo says demand for these professionals will continue to expand in the coming years, but she doesn’t believe it will be at the same ‘exponential pace’ as before.

Sarah Ellis-Goldsmith, a manager in legal and compliance at Robert Walters Singapore says, however, that there are limited numbers of experienced candidates with these attributes in the Singapore market.

“However, with increasing regulations we are seeing a growing junior candidate market as companies are trying to develop internal talent to tackle market shortages.” 

Chris Mead, Regional Director of Hays in SIngapore has a slightly different view. “There are quite a lot of candidates in the market who have these skills. AML has been in high demand for a while now, and as such more and more people are acquiring these skills. But these people are usually quite happy in their current jobs, as they are well looked after due to the fact they are performing more and more business critical roles. Therefore, whilst there are a lot of people who have the skills, finding those that are currently looking for new opportunities is more difficult.”

Salaries for AML roles range from SG$80,000 to SG$170,000 per annum for AVP and VP roles, while the top positions can command SG$250,000 or more.

Ellis-Goldsmith says that compensation for AML roles in Singapore is on a par with those in other parts of Asia Pacific, as well as in London and New York.  And as Mead points out,  the lower tax rate in Singapore means the take-home package is higher.

Many of the banks are targeting Singaporeans for AML roles, due to their knowledge of local regulations and the Government’s urging to consider locals.

Ellis-Goldsmith says the majority of AML roles are being filled by Singapore nationals. “At the senior end of the market we do see some hiring of expats but most of those individuals hired have been working in Singapore for some time and have significant local experience. It is still a candidate-short market and the industry will need to develop more people into compliance careers.”

Hays’ Mead points out that historically many of the roles would go to expats. “This is because there was usually not a lot of room to train people in these teams, as they were generally run quite leanly. Therefore it was important to take on people who could hit the ground running and bring in previous experience.”

But, he adds, there has been a bit of a change over the last year or so, as locally based banks continue to expand or create compliance functions.

“More and more people who are locally based are gaining exposure to these skills, meaning that there is now less reliance on overseas based candidates.”

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