The Future of Compliance Talent, with Jo Sykes, Founder of EyeSpy Recruitment

Compliance is business-critical for operators and suppliers active in regulated markets, with many looking to strengthen their compliance teams with experienced professionals. But a recent surge in demand for compliance specialists has seen the balance between supply and demand shift towards the latter. This means it is now taking organisations much longer to find the best candidates to fill compliance roles.

We sat down with Jo Sykes, Founder & Director of Executive Talent Acquisition at iGaming recruitment agency, EyeSpy Recruitment, to find out more about how the industry can address this skills shortage.

Does demand outstrip supply for quality compliance staff? How has this situation come about?

“Yes, definitely. Demand for strong compliance professionals with UK market experience began in earnest following the COVID-19 pandemic but continues to this day. The entire sector saw a rapid increase in online players due to the closing of retail gambling venues and, as a consequence, more compliance and fraud breaches. A lot of operators found it hard to be compliant in this environment, as evidenced by tier-one operators such as Betway and Caesars Entertainment UK hitting the headlines when both were forced to pay more than £10m for breaching AML and problem gambling requirements. As a recruitment firm, we saw an unprecedented demand from operators looking to build out their compliance teams and introduce far more robust and larger internal structures and teams encompassing compliance, safe gambling and AML positions.”

What impact is this skill shortage having on operators and suppliers right now?

“Operators are absolutely seeing it take longer to hire compliance specialists, and they need to factor this in when planning their recruitment roadmap. What may have previously been a four-month timescale, taking into consideration a three-month notice period, is now running at a time of five to six months to hire. Often this means operators do not have full headcounts in departments and this, rightly, can be cause for concern when it comes to responsible gambling and compliance. It’s a fiercely competitive market and in this environment retention and keeping hold of employees is also a challenge operators must contend with. Their existing teams will be targeted with often inflated salaries so a proactive approach to retention is also needed.”

How can this skills shortage be overcome?

“It must start with nurturing talent internally. If they are not already, operators should be offering clearly defined career paths and training programs that enable migration from more operational departments into the compliance team. There is also a big gap with graduates not necessarily viewing a career in iGaming compliance as a brilliant option with opportunities to grow and develop during every step of their career. Compliance in the iGaming industry is always going to be a key skill set required in both B2C and B2B businesses, and across all regulated markets. Building relationships with universities and ensuring graduate programmes are in place would be a good future-proofing option.”

Can talent be brought in from outside the industry? What sectors in particular?

“This is not an easy solution as the essential skills required are very specific to iGaming, licensing and individual jurisdictions. This means that industry knowledge and experience of and relationships with regulators is key to being an effective compliance specialist, so it’s a complex skill set that is required. Junior talent could be considered in some instances but for all other roles, we have found industry experience to be essential – hence the supply and demand issues we face.”

How can companies make sure they are onboarding quality compliance candidates? What qualities should they look out for?

“A strong compliance candidate has a solid, consistent career with relevant compliance qualifications. The best candidates have experience in both B2C and B2B. They will have deep-seated knowledge across multiple markets and keep abreast of all new regulatory developments. A compliance professional is knowledgeable and passionate about their subject matter and has a strong sense of accountability. They also need to be able to work effectively and efficiently with key stakeholders, senior management and regulators. It’s also key they have a strong commercial mind whilst working as a partner to the wider business.”

Any final thoughts?

“Compliance spans multiple areas across a business including regulatory, technical and product; and demand is continuing to grow from clients. I think the most important piece of advice that I could give right now would be for companies to be mindful of the supply/demand situation. Typically, compliance candidates have a three-month notice period. In a very competitive market, operators and suppliers should have a realistic recruitment plan and commence their recruitment drives ahead of schedule to be able to secure the talent they require with as little knock-on effect to their business. Counter offers are a real concern as employees are keen to retain such key talent. When they go to market with a role, they must ensure a competitive salary/bonus/benefits package in addition to competitive working conditions (hybrid/remote) and communicate that there is support from senior management for best practice compliance protocols and processes.”

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