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  • Head of Compliance – Banking

    A foreign bank in Tokyo needed to replace their Head of Compliance, and had some specific prerequisite experience in mind: Asset Management, Commercial Banking, big team experience and FSA inspection experience were at the top of the list.

    They also had a firm budget that was slightly below what we viewed as the going market rate for compensation, and they wanted full bilingual ability — a very tall order.

    We told them immediately that there were no more than three or four people in the entire market, and even those people didn’t meet all the prerequisites of the job description. We asked for an exclusive but they said it was company policy not to work exclusively with recruiters. We said fine, and introduced three of our four candidates (the other was not interested) while other recruiters peppered them with mostly irrelevant CVs.

    Our three candidates went through the process and two were selected to proceed, but because they didn’t check all the boxes, the Asia Head of L&C wasn’t confident about making a decision and wanted to see more candidates. We told them that the market was the market and there was nothing else we could do for them unless they were willing to increase the salary or compromise on the experience.

    They seemed a little annoyed. However, we don’t make the market, but we can tell you what the market is with reasonable confidence. If our client couldn’t compromise on salary or experience prerequisites then there were no other relevant candidates in the market. It was simple and our job was done, with the exception of one important task — keeping the two candidates warm and informing the client if either of the two were in danger of disappearing. And that was hard work. We know what to do – regular communication with all parties – but the results are largely out of our hands.

    Keeping the search from going cold

    Against our advice, the client enlisted more recruiters and some of them contacted the two individuals already “in play”. The optics here did not look good. The job was being broadcast across the entire industry and the only two qualified people for the job could only reason that that bank did not think of them as strong candidates or a good fit. Not the best situation if you want the option to consider the two as candidates going forward.

    We had our work cut out for us. We spent our time mollifying the two candidates with face-to-face meetings, and making excuses for our client’s actions – all true and upfront information so they fully understood the situation. We also arranged meetings with people we knew within the organization who could give some third-party confirmation about the culture, the people and that indeed the bank remained interested in their candidacy. We focused on keeping both sides in constant communication so there was no misunderstandings and no feelings were hurt.

    This went on for months, but finally the client felt confident enough one the two original candidates.

    There was a difficult dance to agreement on salary, title and reporting line. But because we had remained in regular contact while the bank conducted it’s own due diligence, the individual had a good sense of the company culture. And in turn, the bank really respected the individual’s patience. This allowed for a positive environment where significant give & take negotiations occurred and both parties walked away happy.

    The lesson:

    Style points matter.

    We knew exactly where things stood on Day One, but that didn’t matter. Success was won by providing constant attention to the individuals who needed to feel like they were respected. Sometimes that’s tough for a big organization to do — especially when the decision maker is overseas and busy — but that’s our job. We understand how things can go wrong before they go wrong and provide a counterbalance.

    It doesn’t always work as since human beings make up their own minds. But when it does work, it’s a beautiful thing! We did another search about six months later for this client. This time it was exclusive, and it was closed within three months of starting.

    What’s even more satisfying is that they now regularly call upon us for market information and our advice.