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Why nobody wants to work as a banking accountant in Singapore

accountant

If you know anything about accounting jobs at banks, you’ll know that most of them go to so-called ‘product controllers’ – the people who keep track of the profit and loss made on banks’ trading desks. In Singapore, these accountants in banks are increasingly concerned about their jobs.

Product controllers in Singapore are worried that still more roles will be offshored away from the Republic in the near future. As a result, experienced candidates are in short supply. Apply now and you won’t face much competition, but your job may not last for very long.

Product control was one of Singapore’s hottest banking functions from 2005 to 2010 as firms such as Barclays, Credit Suisse and Standard Chartered moved jobs away from Europe and into Singapore.

Earlier this decade, as local operating costs rose, the same banks offshored hundreds of lower-level PC positions from Singapore into emerging markets like Malaysia, the Philippines and India.

This year, recruiters say there’s been a minor hiring surge in Singapore as banks try to find candidates for the kind of managerial or front-office-facing PC roles that they are reluctant to offshore in the short term.

“There are still at least 1,500 people employed in this field in Singapore and right now banks need experienced product controllers with exposure to the front-office to perform roles deemed critical by the MAS,” says Christine Wright, managing director of recruiters Hays in Asia.

In the wake of recent offshoring, however, many candidates believe that even these more skilled PC jobs come with a “time limit on how long they can stay in Singapore”, says Kyle Blockley, managing partner of recruitment firm KS International. “Why would anyone join a bank knowing that their role may only exist for six or 12 months? Banks are testing processes for new products in Singapore but then offshoring the role to a lower-cost location.”

“It was always difficult to find good all-rounded product controllers – those with both technical skills and an understanding of the market. But now it’s not just finding these skills that’s challenging, it’s finding people willing to still work in function,” says Blockley. “The intelligent product controllers make sure they get diversified experience within their bank so they can get transferred to different departments.”

A senior product controller at a global bank, speaking on condition of anonymity, says PC in Singapore is “no longer a stable career for anyone” and that he and many of his counterparts are looking for jobs in fields such as risk and compliance.

Fortunately, as we reported earlier this month, banks in Singapore – notably DBS and Stan Chart – are expanding their internal mobility programmes, especially in the middle office. Product controllers are prime candidates for middle-office roles because these jobs call for for similar oversight and governance-focused skills.

While product controllers are keen to escape, candidates from other areas of banking are unwilling to shift into product control. “PC jobs are particularly hard to fill because candidates have recently become wary of the potential downside of specialising in this field,” says Wright from Hays.

“The offshoring of roles, the perceived pigeon-holing of employees who stay long term, and the competition among current employees to leave the space are all contributing to fewer people wanting to enter the sector,” she adds.

Image credit:  loonger, Getty

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