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Singaporean banks flex muscles in second-half hiring

muscles

Two home-grown banks, DBS and UOB, are starting to dominate the market for transaction banking jobs in Singapore, poaching candidates from global rivals and ensuring that smaller foreign firms don’t steal their thunder.

In the first half of the year foreign banks from Australia and the Middle East were the most aggressive recruiters within transaction banking.

“Until recently, firms like the National Bank of Abu Dhabi and Westpac were in hiring spree, but now the favourites include UOB and DBS,” says Anamika Singh, principal consultant, banking and financial services at recruitment firm Charterhouse Partnership in Singapore.

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Singh’s analysis of the current job market suggests that DBS is carrying out its plans, outlined in an interview with eFinancialCareers in June, to expand its global transaction services (GTS) team during the second half of the year. Lum Yin Fong, managing director of GTS, cash and trade, told us that DBS would be hiring in cash management and trade financing for both product-sales and product-structuring roles.

Earlier this week DBS announced that it had hired veteran banker John Laurens, HSBC’s Asia-Pacific head of global payments and cash management, as its head of GTS. The division generated a record high income of S$1.48 billion for DBS last year and contributes more than 30% of the revenue of the firm’s institutional banking group.

Meanwhile, UOB, the second largest Singaporean bank by market capitalisation, announced last week that it had recently been recruiting in transaction banking, with new hires in Singapore, Hong Kong and New York taking the department’s headcount to 250, according to Singapore’s Business Times. In August the unit reported a 28% year-on-year increase in revenue for the first half of this year.

“UOB has managed to change its perception in the job market from a local, family-owned business to a growing Southeast Asian bank. It has hired people, both on cash and trade side, from JPMorgan, Standard Chartered and RBS,” says Singh. UOB recently topped an Asiamoney poll as the best local cash management bank for 2014. “Winning that award has actually helped it attract more candidates,” she adds.

Transaction banking candidates are increasingly willing to leave global firms to join Singaporean banks, says Farida Charania, Asia Pacific CEO of search firm Nastrac Group in Singapore. “They are using their competitive positioning in Singapore – solid balance sheets and heavy capital backing – to lure staff from larger banks. Importantly, these days they also pay well,” Charania explains.

Hot transaction banking jobs in Singapore

Both Singaporean and global banks – in particular HSBC and RBS – are hiring in trade and supply-chain finance and structured trade, according to Singh from Charterhouse. “Local banks are also recruiting for regional cash-management sales, financial-crime compliance, trade-risk and trade-surveillance jobs,” she says.

Wholesale transaction-banking revenues in Asia Pacific are expected increase to US$139 billion by 2022, from US$46 billion in 2012, according to a report by Boston Consulting Group last year. Banks in the region are chasing steady income streams from globalising Asian companies and trying to compensate for comparatively low revenues in investment banking.

“With high demand in transaction banking but limited supply of good candidates, hiring managers in Singapore are open to considering candidates from other functions of banking,” says Singh. “Corporate-banking, credit, risk or even client-services professionals can be a good fit. For cash side of the business, the logical flow would be from IT, projects liquidity or risk.”


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