Leaders in the banking and financial services industry are facing a global shortage of skilled professionals, according to a study done by recruitment firm Robert Half.

The survey of 1,100 financial services leaders in seven countries revealed that 89 per cent of respondents worldwide report recruiting difficulties, and 83 per cent said they are concerned about losing top performers to other opportunities this year.

The difficulties and concerns come amid a changing regulatory landscape in the industry globally. Said Stella Tang, director of Robert Half Hong Kong: "Competition for the industry's top talent has intensified, particularly risk and compliance professionals who continue to be in high demand as companies navigate unprecedented regulatory shifts while growing their core business."

In addition to risk and compliance, the report also highlights that recruitment for professionals in accounting and finance, operations support, and revenue generation has intensified in tandem with an improving market.

Said Neil Owen, global practice director of Robert Half Financial Services: "Combined with an improving job market for financial services professionals in specialised roles, the growing need for regulatory expertise and the substantial operational changes taking place in the sector will likely exacerbate current retention challenges."

Compared to the other countries surveyed, Singapore came out tops when it came to recruitment and retention fears. Forty nine per cent of respondents here find it "very challenging" to find skilled financial services professionals, and 50 per cent of respondents said that they are "very concerned" about losing top performers. Hong Kong came in second with 38 per cent and 40 per cent respectively.

"Employers will need to enhance their efforts, including offering salary increases and progressive perks, to keep their most valued employees in an increasingly tight manpower market," said Ms Tang, adding that recruitment and retention challenges are "only going to get harder".

Financial institutions The Business Times spoke to recognise the importance of sustaining a strong talent pool. Said Catherine Chia, managing director of talent management and business human resources at United Overseas Bank (UOB) Group: "Our strength-based job rotation and promotion opportunities enable us to attract and retain staff looking to build long-term progressive careers." She added that the bank's management associates programme continues to attract talent yearly.