HSBC hires new head in Singapore as poaching reaches fever pitch

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The hiring boom in financial crime compliance (FCC) in Singapore has reached new heights as HSBC becomes the latest bank to poach from one of its main rivals. Kelvin Kairong Toh joined HSBC from OCBC earlier this month as head of FCC sanctions for Singapore, according to his online profile.

Toh had been with OCBC for just over a year and was latterly the bank’s head of group sanctions for anti-money laundering (AML) and combating the financing of terrorism (CFT) compliance. The OCBC job gave him wide responsibilities, including ensuring that the firm’s compliance programme kept pace with “evolving regulatory developments” such as the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.

As we noted in April, although demand for generalist compliance professionals has fallen in Singapore over the past 18 months, it remains strong for senior FCC specialists like Toh.

Hiring across the FCC sector is partly driven by banks in Singapore stepping up their efforts to detect money-laundering activities in the wake of the 1MDB scandal, which involved several banks in the city state. In May, for example, the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Industry Partnership – a pact formed in 2017 between the government and financial firms – recommended that banks share a standard format of data submission with regulators.

Toh is not the only senior FCC specialist to have recently changed jobs. As we reported just last week, DBS has recruited Hardy Singh from National Australia Bank as group head of transactions surveillance, financial crime and security services.

The merry-go-round in local FCC is dominated by five Asia-focused banks that use Singapore as a compliance hub: DBS, HSBC, OCBC, Standard Chartered, and UOB. In July, for example, Beaver Chua, a police officer-turned compliance expert, moved in the opposite direction to Toh when he left HSBC to become OCBC’s head of group policy governance, and anti-money laundering and counter financing of terrorism for Singapore.

Toh started his regulatory career in 2007 at the Monetary Authority of Singapore, a popular breeding ground for banks to hire compliance staff from. He supervised a “portfolio of Malaysian and Taiwanese banks” at MAS before moving to UOB as an AVP in group compliance in 2011, according to his public profile. Toh rose steadily up the ranks at UOB and was the firm’s sanctions team head and team leader for AML/CFT advisory when he left to join OCBC in September last year.

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