Hong Kong Compliance Salary Survey & Guide 2016

Hong Kong Compliance Salary Survey & Guide 2016

about 3 years ago by Aquis Search

We are pleased to present our Hong Kong Legal Salary Survey for 2016.

Please click here to view a pdf version.


Aquis Search is pleased to present our Hong Kong Compliance Salary Survey & Guide 2016. This survey provides an overview of current compensation levels and offers insight into how we see the market shaping up over the coming year. Our information has been researched and collated with the help of our clients and candidates in addition to our working knowledge of the market. As with all surveys we represent the mainstream, and recognise there will be individual situations that fall outside of the data published. This survey is therefore a guide to the general movement in the sectors we recruit in. Please contact us for further information.




Market Overview

2015 remained an exciting time to be working in the compliance sector as recruitment activity remained buoyant. Budgets continued to increase due to widespread regulatory pressure on the industry and the number of headcounts increased more than in other areas of corporate governance. The second half of the year was still very active despite less favourable general economic conditions such as falling shares prices, the sinking oil price, Chinese stock market concerns and the World Bank warning of stormy times ahead. Senior compliance professionals continued to be in high demand because they are being held more accountable and the roles are at higher risk. Most hiring managers reported that they had to recruit externally in the last 12 months to fill senior roles.

For professionals, employment prospects are the best they have been for a while. We have seen the most number of promotions within the compliance sector to date. Base salary adjustments and bonus paid out remained very steady and relatively attractive compared with their colleagues in back to middle office roles. Clients have, however, remained selective. We found that candidates who have the ability to present themselves confidently, with strong communication skills, leadership skills and who are able to work with the business well, will find themselves breezing through the interview process. In terms of compensation, base salaries for compliance experts have broadly increased at about 12 to 18% across all sectors. Bonuses ranged from 3 to 6 months of annual salary.

The question continues to be where will clients look for their compliance experts? As the sector continues to grow, professionals are recruited from outside of the discipline to fill the skills gap. It has become difficult to source stable candidates as most compliance practitioners have moved within the past 12 months. Most firms admitted that they are understaffed and they need to hire immediately by going through an efficient recruitment process. Counter offers are very common, as organisations contemplate the difficulties involved in finding replacements. This translates to vigorous competition between employers for those in the limited talent pool. 


Sector Analysis


Investment Banking

In the investment banking sector we have seen movement predominantly around replacement roles at manager and director level in product compliance, research, investment banking divisions, control room and trade surveillance. Roles relating to regulatory developments such as regulatory affairs, central compliance, regulatory compliance, regulatory conduct, and compliance projects are also in high demand due to the regulatory pressures from SFC and HKMA. 

Reputation remained an important consideration for professionals who sought to move. Banks with poor reputations failed to attract top available talents in the market despite their ability to offer attractive salaries. 

Private Banking

Most banks view their wealth management and private banking sectors as their key focus for 2015 to 2020. They have recognised the need to expand and consolidate their compliance departments by continuing to increase head counts. As a result we saw the most hires in this sector to date.


Competition for the best available professionals is fierce, and most employers looked to recruit candidates from retail, consumer or commercial banking in the hope that they can leverage off their experience with HKMA. Banks had the opportunity to attract quality candidates from other sectors, who are looking to make a move into private banking. Having said this, there was still a shortage of candidates. Most private banks need to understand they need to go outside of their usual salary bandings to hire the right candidates. Increments ranging from 25 to 35% on base salaries were not unusual in 2015. This has created musical chair effect where we have seen senior candidates move around within the sector.


Asset Management

Movement within the asset management sector continued to be very active even though many candidates had already moved in 2014. Firms experienced greater movement with senior professionals, due to their initial stability which was attributed to natural job attrition. There was also speculation of the discretionary bonuses being between 3-6 months with average increments exceeding the norm of 3-6%. This leads to some difficulty in segregating junior and mid- level professionals for hiring purposes thereby shrinking the talent pool for candidates with this experience type and level.

Boutique firms had the edge in retaining junior and midlevel candidates due to the well-rounded nature of the roles they offered. Firms that separate their investment and business compliance teams found it difficult to retain their staff, as compliance professionals sought different challenges or additional experience. Candidates fully utilised their bargaining power to gain the best compensation package when moving roles. Experts in niche areas of compliance expected at 20-25% increments when they made a move.



As global regulators hit banks with billion-dollar fines, the battle against financial crime is creating cutting-edge jobs in Hong Kong. There has been a notable spotlight on financial crime compliance (FCC) and hiring has been made from the big banks, regulatory bodies and international consultancy firms.

The majority of hiring was by Asia- focused British and European banks that are subject to regulatory fines and binding. Banks faced fines that ran into hundreds of millions of dollars that has spurred their compliance departments into undergoing major transformations. This hiring spree is set to continue, largely focused on Asia. Some large British banks in Hong Kong have made multiple senior appointments in order to strengthen their FCC function, while other banks that are under scrutiny by a global regulator also experienced a double digit increase in its financial-crime headcount, mostly in junior roles.

Hiring Trend for 2016

From a candidate perspective, the compliance recruitment market for 2016 looks likely to remain attractive as it will continue to thrive. However, early indications of a market slow down mean that the internal salary adjustments and bonuses paid out do not look as promising compared with the previous two years. Most employers will look for internal candidates first before they reach out to external candidates. Companies are also working on graduate recruitment programmes to beef up their existing compliance teams while meeting costs. 

Candidates can add value to their existing compliance expertise by attending regular compliance seminars and keeping themselves well connected and up to date with the market. We also advise that candidates should be well prepared for tougher interviewing processes as clients become more selective. It is likely they will target candidates who have strong communication skills and can work well with business stakeholders. 

Overall, compliance practitioners do expect a significant increment in salary but the foreseeable market volatility suggests that percentages will be relatively less than 2015. Offers would range between 15-20% increments compared to 20-25% in 2015. Bonuses will be impacted and could fall from 3-6 month averages to 2-4 month averages.

Investment Banking  Analyst (1-2)  Associate (3-6)  AVP (6-9)  VP/ D (10-14) ED (15 +) 
Global Markets Compliance (FICC/Equities) 300K to 360K  420K to 560K  600K to 900K 1.2M to 1.8M  2M to 2.5M
 IBD / Research Compliance  300K to 360K  420K to 560K  600K to 900K 1M to 1.6M 2.2M to 2.5M 
Monitoring & Surveillance  240K to 300K  360K to 480K  500K to 800K 1M to 1.4M 1.6M to 2.0M 
Control Room Compliance  300K to 360K  420K to 560K  600K to 900K 1.2M to 1.8M 2M to 2.5M 
Registration & Licensing  180K to 240K  300K to 360K  420K to 720K 900K to 1.3M 1.5M to 1.8M 
Regulatory Affairs  180K to 240K  300K to 360K  420K to 720K 900K to 1.3M  1.8M to 2.5M
AML Advisory 300K to 360K  420K to 560K  600K to 900K 1M to 1.8M  2.2M to 2.8M 
 AML Transaction Monitoring  180K to 240K  300K to 360K  420K to 720K 900K to 1.3M  1.6M to 1.8M 
Compliance Monitoring/ Testing 180K to 240K 300K to 360K 420K to 700K 900K to 1.3M 1.5M to 2.0M


Retail & Corporate Banking  Analyst (1-2)  Associate (3-6)  AVP (6-9)  VP/ D (10-14) ED (15 +) 
Regulatory Compliance  240K to 300K 360K to 540K  540K to 720K 800K to 1.3M 1.5M to 2.2M 
AML Compliance  300K to 360K  420K to 540K  540K to 840K  900K to 1.3M 1.6M to 2M 
Compliance Monitoring & Testing 180K to 240K 300K to 360K 420K to 700K 800K to 1.2M 1.3M to 1.5M


Private Banking & Wealth Management  Analyst (1-2)  Associate (3-6)  AVP (6-9)  VP/ D (10-14)  ED (15 +)
Regulatory Compliance  300K to 360K  420K to 600K  750K to 900K  1.4M to 1.8M  2M to 2.5M 
AML Compliance  200K to 300K  350K to 420K 600K to 750K  1M to 1.2M  1.6M to 2.2M 
Investment Suitability N/A 400K to 550K 600K to 800K 1.2M to 1.6M 1.8M to 2M


Asset Management  Analyst (1-2)  Associate (3-6)  AVP (6-9)  VP/ D (10-14)  ED (15 +) 
Business Compliance  240K to 300K 360K to 540K  700K to 850K 1.2M to 1.5M  1.8M to 2.5M 
Investment Compliance  240K to 300K 380K to 600K 700K to 850K 1.2M to 1.5M 1.6M to 1.8M


Insurance Analyst (1-2)  Associate (3-6)  AVP (6-9) VP/ D (10-14)  ED( 15 +) 
  200K to 240K 360K to 480K 520K to 700K 800K to 1M 1.2M to 1.6M


Consultancy Firms Analyst (1-2)  Associate (3-6) AVP (6-9)  VP/ D (10-14)  ED (15 +) 
 Regulatory and Risk 260K to 350K 400K to 500K 560K to 800K 840K to 1M 1.1M to 1.5M