Scandinavian risk managers reaping reward of growing influence

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Risk and compliance jobs were one of the highlights of last year, and 2010 looks set to be no different, with boardrooms and senior management now taking much more notice of what risk managers and executives are saying - and prepared to pay good money for rock-solid advice.

Danske Bank rounded off last year by establishing a new chief risk officer function, reporting straight to chairman Peter Straarup.

The importance attached to the role was also highlighted by Danske's decision to appoint a veteran "safe pair of hands" in the shape of Peter Rostrup-Nielsen, currently head of strategy within group finance and previously head of performance and financial management and head of investor relations at the bank.

"The new group risk function will work with the existing risk organisation to strengthen focus on risk across the organisation," said Straarup.

At a conference on risk in Geneva in December, leading bankers from HSBC, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, among others, suggested chief risk officers increasingly had the ear of the chief executive and the board, a far cry from pre-meltdown days.

Unsurprisingly, this senior-level recognition of the value of risk and compliance has extended to Nordic banks, says Peter Billing, senior consultant at recruiter Alexander Hughes in Stockholm.

"There has definitely been a bigger focus on risk at much higher levels. There is a focus on seniority, experience and integrity," he explains.

"The banks are looking for much greater transparency and protection from sudden risks. So there have been greater opportunities and salary levels are probably increasing because of higher demand, particularly for roles such as head of compliance, head of regulatory department, head of risk and so on," he adds.

Last year saw salary levels for many senior risk managers rise by 15-20%, agrees Johan Wingren, of Michael Page in Stockholm. This year they will probably rise again, though perhaps not quite so sharply, he predicts.

"All the banks have been expanding their risk departments and looking at creating new models. A lot of risk people have recognised that their market value has gone up quite significantly," he adds.

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