The demand for London-based compliance professionals in the finance industry remained strong last year as firms adjusted to tougher regulatory scrutiny, according to a jobs market survey from recruitment agency Barclay Simpson.

“During the last twenty years it is unlikely that there has ever been a better time to be working in compliance,” the agency said in its survey, “2011 Market Report: Compliance.”

Demand for compliance staff among the 30 financial institutions surveyed by the firm was at unprecedented levels and there is no sign of it diminishing, the Barclay Simpson report said.

But an “endemic” shortage of people with the right skills and experience is being exacerbated by the fact that employers mostly want candidates who can make an immediate impact, it added.

That means employers are increasingly pigeonholing compliance professionals into narrow specialist areas, the report said. “Many candidates, not unreasonably, believe that the core elements of compliance are the same across different sectors. However, employers generally disagree and prefer to recruit the exact skills they are looking for.”

People with the specific skills that employers need have seen rapid pay increases. Salaries for those with experience of client money regulations increased from around £75,000 ($118,911) at the start of the year to nearer £100,000 ($158,540) at the end, the agency said.

The number of new compliance vacancies among financial firms surveyed by Barclay Simpson was broadly similar in the second half of 2010 to the first, but 100 percent up on the comparable period in 2009.