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The second-tier banks now offering stable careers in Asia

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The attraction of so-called second-tier banks is on the rise in Asia, as finance professionals increasingly seek stable employers offering career-progression opportunities.

“There is no doubt that the larger banks have been subject to restructuring and look set to continue to do so, but some second-tier banks are pursuing very aggressive growth plans,” says Jake Bridge, APAC contracts director at recruiters Phaidon International.

As we noted earlier this week, recruiters in Asia say candidates are increasingly looking to join banks they perceive as offering stable platforms to advance their careers – the size of the bank is less important. Career progression is the number-one reason that Asian finance professionals joined their current companies, according to a survey from eFinancialCareers, released earlier this week.

Several Asian-headquartered banks – including UOB, KGI Ong Capital among others – have announced expansion plans this year. European banks beyond the tier-one ranks, most recently ING and Natixis, are also recruiting in the region.

The Dutch bank has set a new target to expand the contribution of Asian commercial banking to its global commercial-banking business to 20% of its income from the current 13%. Meanwhile, French bank Natixis is prioritising Asian expansion in its three-year plan and wants to take on senior staff in commodity trade finance.

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Recruiters in Singapore and Hong Kong have noticed an uptick in hiring mandates from both firms this year. Somewhat surprisingly, given that Natixis and ING were both forced to restructure their businesses following the financial crisis, candidates in Asia generally view the firms as being stable employers.

“They are now actually seen as solid, niche employers in Asia and their current growth stories in the region help that, coupled with the fact that the bigger banks here have kept on making more redundancies,” says a recruiter in Singapore who asked not to be named.

However, because Natixis and ING are expanding in competitive sectors of Asian banking, they are having to offer market-beating remuneration packages, say recruiters.

“For Natixis, the chunk of hiring will be in Singapore and Hong Kong as they want to do more trade finance,” says Jason Tan, a partner at search firm Being & Associates. “But this space is rather crowded considering that BNP, Soc Gen, Citi, Standard Chartered and Asian banks are looking to gain market share.”

“The focus is most likely to be in the areas like structured finance and commodity-related finance, but this is no different from larger banks, which are trying to refocus away from their markets and investment-banking businesses,” says Pan Zaixian, general manager of Singapore search firm Kerry Consulting.

Natixis and ING have not yet responded to requests for comment on their Asian hiring plans.

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