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Compliance Bonuses for 2015 Revealed

Over the coming months, HR departments in banking and financial services will be liaising with senior management and other stakeholders in the business to decide what bonuses (if any) will be paid to compliance staff for their efforts for the year.

Compliance bonuses for 2015
Cooper Fitch Dubai
Cooper Fitch Dubai
Cooper Fitch Dubai
Cooper Fitch Dubai

With this in mind, Cooper Fitch looked back at average bonus payouts for senior compliance staff earlier this year. For some banks, 2015 marked an excellent year of growth and unexpected profits. For others, the 2015 financial year has its challenges where some financial institutions experienced the full wrath of the regulator which directly impacted bonuses.

We looked at Central Bank regulated firms, as well as the DFSA and ESCA, regulated entities. Local, international, and Islamic banks were considered along with private banking and brokerage firms.

When are compliance bonuses typically received?

For the most part, banking and financial services firms in the UAE will pay out bonuses in February or March time. In some cases and to a lesser extent some firms will opt to pay bonuses at the start of the calendar year in January or mid-year in June.

What factors most influence my bonus payout?

There are many internal and external factors that affect bonus payments.

Internal:

  • Overall company performance for the calendar year
  • Individual's performance of the employee against agreed targets
  • Superior’s notes and recommendations 
  • Cross-function feedback from colleagues
  • Internal audits and inspections

External:

  • Falling oil prices
  • Record with the Central Bank and DFSA regulator.
  • Higher bonus payouts due to relaxing of UAE labour laws.
  • Inflation and the cost of living in the Emirates.
  •  Loss of key personnel to competitors

How can I maximize my compliance bonus?

Ensuring the organisation has a clean record with the respective regulator is essential (Central Bank,  DFSA, ESCA). While front office employees will be judged on deal transactions and their revenue generating capabilities, compliance professionals will be judged on their revenue protecting capabilities and complying with rules and regulations in the UAE.

How compliance cases are handled as opposed to the number of cases solved will have a higher value. Compliance officers must make sure that all escalated reports are submitted to the regulator in a timely fashion e.g. AML annual return, risk assessment of clients. Internal and external inspections should be passed with minimal correction points with the regulator. Any regulator suggestions, comments, recommendations or changes can play a role in bonus determinations by the employer. Compliance professionals will be judged on their development of policies and procedures be it in AML, sanctions, client onboarding, KYC etc. The ability to communicate these policies and offer robust training in compliance across the business will affect the employee score or bonus rating. How they handle compliance cases as oppose to the number of cases solved will be valued higher. Participating in extra compliance forums to learn of the most up-to-date changes in regulation. Going above and beyond agreed goals at the start of the year as well as adhering to the organisations values will result in a high-end bonus rating.

Will I get a signing-on bonus from the new employer if I leave my current organisation and forfeit the bonus I would have received if I stayed?

In most cases, the answer is no. With compliance salary increases operating at 17% to 21% for 2015, banks can ill afford to buy out bonuses for new hires particularly at the officer and managerial level.  In previous years, this might have been a different case. In fewer cases, senior compliance heads may negotiate a bonus compensation package to minimise any losses occurred in changing employers.

What were the average bonus payments for senior compliance professionals in the banking and financial services sector in the UAE for 2015?

Analysis and Trends:

Local banks in the UAE continue to set the pace regarding compliance bonuses nationally. This reflects the strong year they have had but it also demonstrates the continued challenge of retaining staff and dissuading talent from moving to competitors.

Private banking bonuses averaged at two to two and a half months in the DIFC with one private bank having their bonuses suspended following DFSA investigations which are ongoing. Investment banking bonuses ranged from a low of 1.5 months bonus up to a high of 7 months basic for one investment bank. This final average of five month's basic salary takes into account a suspension of bonus in one particular entity. One leading brokerage firm in Abu Dhabi, with plans of opening an investment bank, had a generous six months bonus package at senior compliance level.

Cooper Fitch partners with top-tier banks, private equity firms and brokerage houses across the GCC region to help recruit the very best talent in compliance and risk.

Alan Hynes By Alan Hynes

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