Money Moves

Corporate-compliance professionals in high demand

by Ada Poon

Sally Cheng, group HR & administration manager
Simsen International Corporation Limited
Photo: Nolly Leung

To meet fast-changing market scenarios and tightening measures by the Securities and Futures Commission, corporate compliance is a core element in sustaining a healthy operation and increasing customer confidence in brokerage houses.

According to Sally Cheng, group HR & administration manager, Simsen International Corporation Limited, the battle for corporate compliance professionals is becoming as fierce as that for experienced asset managers.

"In the past, there were no personnel dedicated to corporate compliance in securities companies. It was not until five or six years ago that the role of compliance manager emerged in brokerage houses, although the banks had been doing it for years."

Compliance managers check and review all company documents, reports and processes to ensure that all information and actions taken are compliant with the rules, and rectify any potential problems or loopholes. Their daily tasks can include listening to playbacks of telephone conversations between sales representatives and customers, visiting branch offices, and auditing the Securities and Futures Financial Resources Rules (FRR) reports, among others. Simsen's compliance department was established about eight years ago to support its commitment to maintain a high standard of corporate governance and it now consists of a team of four people.

A position in corporate compliance requires professional knowledge in accounting, relevant laws, the latest rules and regulations and, most importantly, a thorough understanding of the unique operation processes and practices of each individual company. Unlike many other jobs, no single academic programme is currently available to train professionals in corporate compliance.

As market demand and the battle for talent increase, remuneration for compliance professionals is becoming more competitive. A fresh graduate typically starts as an assistant with a monthly salary in the region of HK$10,000. Moving up, top performers can become officers, assistant managers and then compliance managers. A monthly salary for a managerial-grade position generally falls somewhere between HK$35,000 and HK$50,000, plus a guaranteed bonus.

For many brokers, this investment is worthwhile to ensure that changing regulations are strictly followed, as failure to do so can cause huge damage to a company's name and business.

Simsen is currently setting up a new asset management subsidiary to keep up with market trends and respond to customers' needs for a one-stop shop of wealth management services. Its existing business units will continue to serve clients who look for specialist service relating to individual products, such as securities, bullion, futures and foreign currency. The company aims to recruit 100 staff to support the new operation in the long term.

"Degree holders who are interested in financial markets, keen to listen, active and outgoing, results-oriented, and have a broad people network are highly suitable for the role," Ms Cheng says.

As an employee of Simsen, Ms Cheng has received generous subsidies to further her studies as part of a corporate management programme to obtain a professional membership of The Hong Kong Institute of Chartered Secretaries. To attract high-calibre employees and retain existing staff, Simsen will continue to provide employees with in-house and external training to support people development and create career prospects. This strategy is widely supported by the company and an annual fund of HK$300,000 has been allocated to support the related initiatives.

Taken from Career Times 10 August 2007, p. A11
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