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Senior Asian banking jobs staffed by people from second-rate schools

Senior bankers in Asia come from second-rate universities

Second-tier is OK in Asia

Wall Street wants Ivy League. The City of London wants Oxbridge or LSE. If you want to make it to the top jobs in Singapore or Hong Kong, is there an ideal university? Yes. Your degree will almost certainly be from outside of Asia, but not from one of the top-ranked universities.

According to the eFinancialCareers CV database, at a senior level (10 years’ experience or more) just 4.7% of Singapore and Hong Kong-based finance professionals have degrees from the top-30 non-local universities – the likes of MIT, Cambridge, Imperial College, Harvard or Oxford.

As the chart below shows, the vast majority (74.6%) of experienced people in Singapore and Hong Kong do have international degrees, but from universities outside the elite group. This suggests that expats are occupying some of the senior positions in the two cities, but they are not necessarily cream-of-the-crop talent.

Expatriate finance professionals, who typically perform managerial roles in Singapore and Hong Kong, are disproportionally represented at a senior level and they usually come equipped degrees from their home countries – but not always from exclusive institutions. Likewise, Singaporean and Hong Kong nationals now holding senior positions would have attended university in the middle of the last decade (or earlier) – before the recent surge of Asian students into Ivy League colleges.

Degrees from the top-30 universities outside of Singapore and Hong Kong are indeed more popular among recent graduates (those with one to five years’ experience) – 11.5% of this group went to top universities, more than double the percentage of their senior counterparts. As these young elites climb the career ladder, people from second-tier schools may find it tougher to secure senior banking jobs in the future.

Right now, if you want a junior financial services job in Singapore or Hong Kong, a degree from a local university will still stand you in good stead. Young financial professionals overwhelmingly (72.9%) have qualifications from the National University of Singapore, Hong Kong University and 15 other mainstream tertiary institutions based in the two cities, according to the eFinancialCareers CV database. Just 20.7% of those boasting ten years’ experience or more have studied locally, as the chart above shows.


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