Outlook on the Job Market for Risk Professionals


Australia is experiencing a prolonged period of transformation of its risk management, governance practices and culture. The Royal Commission, which was a catalyst for this much needed change, has left companies grappling with significant regulatory pressure and some are quite simply struggling to keep up. This situation, whilst challenging and often stressful, actually bodes well for the risk community from the perspective of utilisation and future opportunity.

Banking and wealth seem to be experiencing a secondary wave of turn-over as some of their senior risk leaders come to market looking for a refresh after years of gruelling transformation. Recruitment within the insurance sector has been extremely active recently, drawing talent from the banks to inject much needed insight and resources into their change programs. Some companies are in panic or remediation, others in more considered transformation and uplift – but no one is static. What is clear is that there is a long road ahead. 

So, what does that mean for risk leaders and professionals now? In short, it’s a great space to be in for the foreseeable future. Scrutiny and pressure bring focus and importantly funding for resources.  It’s evident that across many of our client's organisational structures, a large percentage of open roles are centred around the risk management function. Supply and demand remain a factor. High calibre domestic resources are limited and cannot meet the demands in certain verticals, consequently competition for people and retention strategies are both high priority topics. International talent is certainly on the agenda with companies looking to tap into resources from more mature markets - financial crimes and regulatory change being two examples.

Let us quickly tackle the impact of COVID19 on the hiring market specific to risk management.  The regulators are certainly not letting corporate Australia off the hook due to a “COVID defence”. Consequently, smart boards and executives are quickly jumping back onto their risk programs with resourcing a matter of priority. A career move now has no additional risk than pre COVID, in many respects this market presents some unique opportunities. Setting aside the obvious challenges of interviewing, on-boarding and remote working, companies are getting to grips with this new world.

Heading into the latter part of 2020 we are seeing hiring momentum returning gradually to pre-COVID levels. Our Executive CRO network seems to agree that the needs are still broad and varied with many verticals remaining in high demand - technology and data risk, controls and assurance, anti-financial crimes, regulatory change to name a few. The fundamentals of operational risk and compliance at both line 1 and 2 also remain busy. As you might expect, there is a bulk of junior to mid-level roles with major institutions needing bodies and numbers, however we are also seeing movement at the risk leadership and executive level.

What are companies looking for beyond the technical SME? Feedback from our executive network suggest a number of crucial traits and capabilities are sought after. Commercial savvy and business understanding are high on the priority list. Versatility and adaptability are now more important than ever with the sheer breadth of topics and their interrelationship, and the speed of change. An ability to understand strategic, enterprise and emerging risks and be a genuine sounding board to the leadership, is an important role of an executive risk professional.   

The risk advisory and consulting sector has again woken up. COVID brought about a slowing of hiring and some fall out, despite this most groups remained busy. It seems clear that the major banks and insurers are going to underwrite a huge amount of forward opportunity, and hiring intent has returned. The challenge is to keep pace with the salaries being offered by the corporates in hot spot functions such as financial crimes, risk advisory and regulatory consulting.  As one senior Partner put it “we are extremely busy and can see a huge amount of opportunity, however we must balance loading up the teams to take advantage of client demand with a degree of cautiousness and consideration to the unusual market due to COVID”.

Our advice is to carefully explore and research your options. It’s important to understand a company’s commitment and strategy for change, is risk supported by the Board and Executive and does risk have a seat at the table. Those extra dollars will mean nothing if it comes with poor resourcing or an overly reactive and panic-stricken environment.  On the flip side, hiring decisions should be validated and qualified to ensure they are sustainable.

In summary, risk management has certainly become one of the more sustainable and robust careers across many industries with hiring often driven by outside influences such as regulatory pressure. The subject of risk dominates the board rooms and executives head space, contemporary skills and thinking in this arena will continue to be valuable and in high demand for years to come.

NEO Talent can provide quality and informed advice, whether you are considering a career move or looking to acquire high calibre staff for your team.  We can ensure your decisions are supported and help you navigate this complex sector.

Andrew Wood

Managing Director – Neo Talent