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Woman with highly sought-after skills lands top job at OCBC

OCBC has appointed Rachel Lew as head of anti-money laundering for consumer financial services as the job market for senior AML staff in Singapore continues to boom. Lew, however, doesn’t come from a rival bank – she spent the previous three and a half years at the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), most recently as a deputy director in the insurance department, according to her LinkedIn profile.

Although demand for generalist compliance professionals is in decline, it remains strong in AML, Grant Torrens, regional director of recruiters Hays in Singapore, told us earlier this year, adding that salaries are still rising in the field.

Lew’s new firm, OCBC, currently has five AML-related vacancies on its careers site. Recent senior AML hires at OCBC include Henry Mok, formerly of Stan Chart, who joined the Singaporean bank earlier this year as head of digital transformation for AML and operational risk. Last year OCBC recruited Beaver Chua from HSBC as head of group policy governance and AML.

It hasn’t all been one-way traffic, however. Other banks – in particular DBS, UOB, Citi, HSBC and Standard Chartered – have also been increasing their AML recruitment in Singapore. As we reported in November, Kelvin Kairong Toh, OCBC’s head of group sanctions for AML, moved to HSBC as head of financial crime sanctions for Singapore.

The small pool of senior AML professionals in Singapore means banks can’t always poach people away from competitors. Lew’s old employer, MAS, is an obvious alternative headhunting ground because ex-MAS employees have extensive networks within the regulator and bring the latest regulatory knowledge with them. Banks sometimes also hire from overseas for niche senior AML jobs.

Hiring in AML 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 last year, 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.

New OCBC recruit Lew hasn’t always worked in the finance sector. She started her career in 1999 as an investigation officer in the commercial affairs department of the Singapore Police Force, according to her public profile. Lew worked in insurance between 2005 and 2011, latterly as a senior compliance manager at Aviva. She then joined Citi in a regional compliance role and moved to MAS in 2016.

Image credit: RomanBabakin, Getty

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AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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