Our Managing Director, Corporate Governance, was recently interviewed by DOJÖ, a unique global trade compliance outsourcing business that "helps companies take their customs & trade compliance operations off their plate and onto DOJÖ’s".
Jamie offered his insights on the topic of compliance recruitment trends, challenges and in-demand skills, as well as tips for trade compliance experts who may be on the lookout for their next move.
Here is a full transcript of the interview.
DOJÖ Interview – Jamie Browne, Leonid Group
We will regularly ask direct questions to experts active in fields related to customs & trade compliance management. And today we are starting with Jamie Browne, Director of the Corporate Governance division of the Leonid Group - (one of the few) recognised agencies specialised in recruiting professionals in ethics, trade & compliance. Michelle (Sleiman) from our Team asked Jamie for his opinion on the recruitment market in trade compliance, and his vision for the future.
Michelle: What are the biggest challenges today for you in recruiting trade compliance experts ?
Jamie: In simple terms, the demand for goods and services is surpassing the available supply. Alongside the broader economic challenges and increasing inflation, the high demand compared to supply puts upward pressure on salaries. However, only a few companies are able to keep up with the rising salary levels. Regardless of our expertise in finding the ideal candidate for the perfect role, if there is a significant gap between what a company is willing to pay and what the candidate expects, we are unable to bridge that divide.
Furthermore, trade compliance is a rapidly evolving field. The skill sets that were in demand last year may not be the same this year, necessitating our constant vigilance to remain relevant to our clients. Consequently, candidates find companies that offer continuous personal development training highly appealing.
This enables them to stay updated with consistent changes in the regulatory environment and maintain their relevance.
Michelle : What are the top profiles that companies are seeking currently?
Jamie : Over the past 18 months, there has been an increasing demand for expertise in sanctions due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Companies that previously relied on external counsel or consulting firms have come to realize the necessity of having in-house expertise. The situation is unfolding in a singular direction and is anticipated to become even more intricate
Another highly sought-after skill set is data analytics. Traditionally, many individuals in trade compliance have backgrounds in logistics and supply chain, possessing a comprehensive understanding of business operations. They excel at translating trade compliance policies and procedures into a language understandable by frontline staff. However, the next phase of program development requires proficiency in analyzing operational efficiency, calling for data analytics expertise.
Identifying individuals who possess a suitable combination of trade compliance and data analytics experience proves challenging, yet it aligns with the needs of our clients.
When recruiting on behalf of a client, an often overlooked aspect is comprehending the maturity of the tech/IT landscape, which varies across organizations. One's experience in data collection and utilization of tools, both for analysis and visualization, remains subjective. Candidates from companies with fully automated trade compliance systems and implemented SAP GTS modules throughout the business may struggle to adapt to organizations that have yet to undergo such automation and still rely on diverse systems and manual processes.
Michelle : How would you describe today's recruitment market for trade compliance experts in the EMEA Region?
Jamie : Trade compliance has long been a specialized market with a limited pool of candidates. However, an increasing number of companies are now vying for access to this same pool of candidates.
Moreover, companies must recognize that the hiring process is a two-way street. They need to offer a unique selling proposition (USP) to attract talent. The individuals in my network are not actively seeking new opportunities; they are currently employed and still find their work engaging and challenging. However, they rely on me to present them with intriguing opportunities that make sense as a logical progression in their careers. Therefore, when working with clients, we must be discerning in choosing which mandates to pursue. If a role, team, or company lacks a distinctive edge or fails to excite, why would someone leave their current position to join it?
This highlights the importance of partnering with an external specialist in the trade compliance field. Only consultants with a profound understanding of the trade compliance landscape can effectively recruit and attract passive candidates. By translating the unique selling points of their clients into a context that resonates with the market, these consultants can successfully appeal to the top 1% of talent.
Michelle : What tips would you give to trade compliance experts who want to stand out in the competitive job market and enhance their chances of being selected for top positions?
Jamie : It's almost tempting to flip the question around and emphasize that companies must distinguish themselves in a fiercely competitive candidate market. However, there are several actions trade compliance experts can take to enhance their prospects. One such action is avoiding excessive specialization in their roles.
While it's understandable that one may focus more on a specific area of trade compliance, such as sanctions or export controls, it's beneficial to seek exposure to other domains. This broadens one's understanding of trade compliance, enabling effective management of experts in those areas as they progress in their careers.
This principle also applies geographically. It's important not to restrict oneself to a single country, at least in the long term. For instance, in the UK, there has been a tendency for individuals to become deeply engrossed in Brexit-related matters, causing their broader focus on Europe, the US, or APAC to decline. While this intense focus was necessary during the Brexit period, it's crucial to maintain a global perspective in trade compliance.
Trade compliance is a global issue, and having the ability to lift one's gaze and consider the broader geographical picture is essential.
Michelle : How do you anticipate the recruitment market for trade compliance experts evolving in the coming years?
Jamie : It is now nigh-on impossible for companies to not prioritise trade & customs compliance due to the potential significant impact of geopolitical trends on the bottom line of businesses.
As trade compliance evolves into a recognized profession, with the consulting firms establishing dedicated departments and individuals pursuing careers in trade compliance, there is a growing amalgamation of backgrounds within trade compliance teams. These teams now consist of professionals with diverse expertise, including lawyers, logistics and supply chain specialists, data analysts, consultants, and project managers, among others.
Another notable trend is the shifting reporting structure within trade compliance departments. Approximately five years ago, about 50% of these departments reported to supply chain/logistics, 10% to finance/tax, and 40% to legal/compliance. However, the landscape has transformed, with approximately two-thirds now reporting to legal/compliance, 30% to supply chain/logistics, and less than 5% to finance/tax. Furthermore, matrix reporting structures are emerging, with customs often reporting to supply chain and export controls/sanctions falling under the purview of legal.
These changes reflect the growing recognition of trade compliance as a crucial aspect of business operations, necessitating diverse expertise and alignment with legal and compliance functions to navigate complex regulatory landscapes effectively.