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Six ways banks are cracking down hard on candidates

Threatening words for foreign companies that try to bypass local labour rules

Threatening words for foreign companies that try to bypass local labour rules

For job seekers in Singapore, 2013 is proving to be yet another challenging year. Good opportunities are scarce across the banking sector, with redundancies and cautious hiring combining to make the job market very challenging.

On the flip side of the coin, hiring managers are having to jump through more internal hoops to gain sign-off on any new hire, replacement or otherwise. Now more than ever, banks are looking at all recruits from a return-on-investment perspective, resulting in the job description typically being an up-skilled version of the previous employee.

This is resulting in far more stringent selection criteria across the board. While obvious factors such as relevant experience and (in many cases) local market knowledge, remain important, we are seeing the candidate-selection bar being raised even higher this year.

Here are some of the additional requirements that banks are looking for in Singapore right now:

1) Sales and relationship managers

In more than 90% of cases, banks are looking for candidates with a strong track record of beating their sales targets, in addition to an existing and transferable client portfolio. Banks are not willing to compromise in these areas, and this is the case right across the sector, including wholesale, investment and private banking.

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2) Back-office operations and trade support

Operations and trade-support staff at analyst and associate levels who understand and have exposure to risk and control concepts, in addition to the end-to-end trade-management processes are first choice. Specialists who only possess knowledge of one product are finding the going tough.

3) Compliance

Banks are seeking candidates with a strong knowledge of local regulations in addition to those who can interact and develop working relationships with both internal and external stakeholders. Communication skills are key. The new benchmark also includes people who have gained a working knowledge of new global regulations that are now impacting banks in Singapore.

4) The “loyal employee”

Candidates with a history of job hopping every few years are struggling in 2013. Even in hot areas such as compliance, a jumpy resume is just not going to cut it. Hiring managers are under an enormous amount of pressure this year and they won’t take a chance on recruiting a candidate whose average tenure is less than four years with each organisation.

5) Best fit

Close enough in many cases is not good enough in 2013. In previous years, we have seen banks compromise on specific experience for someone with the potential to perform the role. Not this year. It’s very difficult to transition into a new role now if you have not performed the role previously or if you do not possess highly relevant experience within the sector or job function.

6) Based offshore? Maybe wait till next year…or the year after

In 2013, there is a very strong preference to hire from the local market. The banking sector is now very mature in Singapore and the majority of skills and experience can be sourced from the local market. This should not be confused with a “locals only” preference; that’s not the case at all. Candidates based in Singapore possessing experience in the local market are the preference this year due to the added cost and risk associated with relocating someone from offshore.

Craig Brewer is a director of banking and financial services at the recruitment firm Hudson in Singapore.

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