(The Economist | May 2019) Excerpt from the article Rise of the No Men The past decade has brought a compliance boom in banking. A recent episode of “Billions”, a television drama about Wall Street, captured the rainmakers’ frustration: so fed up is “Dollar” Bill Stern with having his wings clipped by Ari Spyros that the veteran trader rams the side of the compliance chief’s Porsche when he pulls out of the car park of their hedge fund, Axe Capital.
“Some financial firms, particularly small ones, are outsourcing compliance functions or specific projects. Compliance Risk Concepts, an American firm that takes on such work, has seen demand for its services grow by over 30% a year, says Mitch Avnet, its managing partner.”
But pity not finance’s in-house policemen, for they have had a golden decade since the crisis. While swathes of banking have labored under cutbacks and stiff capital requirements, their headcount and clout have grown. Banks fined for aiding corruption, money-laundering and sanctions-busting have beefed up their compliance, risk, legal and internal-audit teams. Compliance officers will never be the rock stars of finance, but they have moved from drums to rhythm guitar. And though some banks hint at having reached “Peak Compliance”, staffing and investment are likely to remain well above pre-crisis levels.
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